Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Wow....Why DID We All Wear Those HUGE Glasses?
04/30/2010 - James WhiteLooking at Ergun Caner's glasses in the preceding article reminded me of my own spectacles from the early 1980s. What WERE we thinking anyway? Well, here's an example I just ran across on Twitter. I didn't know this was available on line, but, here it is! A Marian debate with Robert Fastiggi from...back when I sported a full beard, had hair, and had, if I recall correctly, just gotten into cycling. And, it seems, I had stolen Ergun Caner's glasses for the day...
Catholic Answers' New Advert
04/29/2010 - James WhiteJames Swan pointed out that Catholic Answers is running a new banner ad in their forums:
I confess, I wonder how many of Catholic Answers supporters have started to wonder, "Hey, why doesn't this ministry I support do formal public debates anymore? I mean, this isn't even a debate, it's a radio program from 1995...fifteen full years ago." Yes, and its a radio program where, in the second hour, Jimmy Akin (by rather careful counting) received 65% of the discussion time. Yeah, a real "debate."
Of course, this is the same Catholics Answers who recently had their head of apologetics finally do a debate---on the Dividing Line. You all may recall the recent debate with Tim Staples on purgatory. Yet, I wonder why we don't see banner ads for that debate? Probably because they have yet to even mention it on Catholic Answers Live. And though I have tried numerous times to get Tim Staples to respond to the e-mail I sent after the debate (sent to the very same e-mail address I used before the debate, to which Tim always responded in a fairly timely manner), so far all is silent at the CA headquarters about ever, ever making that debate available. Ironically, it was a real debate, with even amounts of time, a single topic, cross-examination, etc. We can continue to hope that someday we will see a banner ad for that debate, too, but, let's hope we don't have to wait fifteen years for that to happen.
So, Jimmy Akin, Tim Staples---all you fellows over there. Fifteen years is a long time. Just think of how far video has come in all those years! Sola scriptura! Purgatory! The Papacy! The Priesthood! Wouldn't your supporters love to hear those topics debated? We stand ready.
Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Then and Now
04/28/2010 - James SwanIts been over twenty years since Roman Catholic apologist Karl Keating's book Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1988) was released. This book was one of the catalysts for the resurgence of Roman Catholic apologetics today. Keating had already founded Catholic Answers a few years prior, but this book catapulted his efforts dramatically. I've heard more than a few converts to Roman Catholicism mention the importance of this book in their swim across the Tiber. Catholic Answers now asserts, "This book is so insightful that it has been used as a college textbook in theology classes across the country. Yet it is so full of heart that it has inspired and guided Catholics everywhere to defend their faith."
I've had this book for some time now (for reference purposes when studying Romanism). Recently I revisited sections of it and came across an interesting commentary that applies to the current practices of Roman Catholic apologetics.
Keating documents some of the counter-Roman Catholic ministries popular in the 70's and 80's. He goes into great detail of a particular ex-priest turned "fundamentalist," highlighting how this man used his conversion story as an apologetic against Roman Catholicism (pp. 51-57). He then mentions the materials produced by these organizations included testimonials from ex-Catholics (p. 59). He then documents some of these stories, along with some of the other methods for evangelizing Roman Catholics "testimonies of former priests... testimonies of former nuns... testimonies of former Catholic laymen... miscellaneous tracts, most of them on particular Catholic doctrines or practices" (p. 63).
Keating is not a convert to Roman Catholicism. It is obvious from reading his book that the tactics used by those tempting his comrades away from Rome greatly disturbed him. As one raised in Roman Catholicism, he saw the methods used on his fellow churchmen as lacking in facts, playing to the emotions of the potential convert. Keating spends the majority of his book attempting to present the factual basis for Romanism. He concludes, "The key, then, is instruction- and not just in the proper approach to the Bible, but to all aspects of the faith. Almost without exception, Catholics returning to the Church from fundamentalism report they never would have left had they been well catechized... Fundamentalist neighborliness, however freely accepted, would not have resulted in the acceptance of fundamentalist doctrines" (p. 341).
Fast-forward to our present day. Now twenty years later, Roman Catholics have come to embrace many of the methods, if not all, which Keating so clearly portrayed as tools of manipulation back in 1988. Catholic Answers sells tapes and books of conversion stories. There is a long running EWTN show specific to conversion stories. On the Catholic Answers radio program I've heard them more than once recommend Patrick Madrid's Surprised By Truth conversion story books as witnessing tools. Roman Catholic organizations have found that the use of a good conversion story... sells.
Keating's book makes an excellent point which I wonder if he'd make today with the same vigor:
"Now it may well be that a man leaving one religion for another can write fairly, without bitterness, about the one he left behind. After all John Henry Newman did just that in his autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua. But it stands to reason that most people who suddenly think they have an urge to write about their change of beliefs just want to vent their frustrations or justify their actions. Their books should be read with discretion, and they should not be used at all as explanations of the beliefs of their old religion if the books betray the least hint of rancor" [Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 33].
Indeed, as I've been through at least one hundred or more Roman Catholic conversion stories, their testimonies in many cases are vented frustrations and attempts to justify actions. When I hear or read ex-Calvinists, ex-Lutherans, or ex-Evangelicals explain their old beliefs of their old religion often if not always, the former religion is ill-portrayed or misunderstood. Perhaps it isn't outright rancor, but it's at least an explanation with a hint of mockery.
Who watches over the proper use of the conversion story for Roman Catholic apologetics? It certainly isn't the Vatican. This apologetic use of the conversion story is directly borrowed from Protestantism. As the "fundamentalists" Keating wrote about read his book, they swam the Tiber, bringing their methods with them to the shores of Rome. They brought their vocabulary and their communication skills- Roman Catholic apologetics had been rejuvenated using the very practices Keating critiqued in 1988. What was once the tactic of the enemy became the evangelism method of choice for Roman Catholic apologetics.
The Latest E-Mail Support Request from Catholic Answers
04/26/2010 - James SwanLast year I bought a product from Catholic Answers, and since then I've been bombarded with e-mail support requests. Here is the latest:
From: Patrick Coffin
Subject: Front row seat to a high-powered debate
The Bible Answer Man Debate: Imagine having a front-row seat to a high-powered debate between a Fundamentalist Bible teacher and a Catholic apologist. Donate to our Spring 2010 Radio Club Drive by May 3, 2010, with a pledge of just $18 or more per month, or a one-time gift of $200, and you'll receive The Bible Answer Man Debate between James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and Catholic Answers' own Senior Apologist Jimmy Akin.
This unique debate happened on Protestant turf, with radio host Hank Hanegraaff ("The Bible Answer Man") serving as moderator. In this three-CD set, Jimmy Akin and James White- as Hanegraaf admits, without rancor or ad hominem attacks- get down to the nitty-gritty on what still divides Catholics and Protestants, and how Catholics can best approach objections to the Catholic faith, whether the issue is Mary, justification by faith alone, points of Church history, or interpretation of Scripture.
The Bible Answer Man Debate is informative for Catholics and a real eye-opener for other Christians- a must-have for any apologetics library! A $29.99 value, it's our gift to you when you join by May 3, 2010 . . . our way of saying "Thank you" for partnering with us!
There are a few interesting things about this e-mail. First, Dr. White is described as a "Fundamentalist Bible teacher." Now, while Dr. White holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, "Fundamentalist Bible teacher" means something quite different these days. Dr. White is a Reformed apologist, the author of more than twenty books, a professor, an accomplished debater, and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church." Fundamentalist Bible teacher" refers to those that Karl Keating's books (Catholicism and Fundamentalism) are written against: typically independent Arminian evangelicals.
The second thing to note is the debate advertised is from 1995. It's fifteen years old. Has Catholic Answers not done anything more current worthy to gain support? Well, Alpha & Omega also offers that debate for far less $$. Dr. White also did an in-depth review of the debate.
The third thing to note is that one of the top apologists at Catholic Answers did recently debate James White. Dr. White debated Tim Staples back in January on Purgatory and 1 Corinthians 3. How frequently does Catholic Answers advertise this recent debate? Never. I've yet to find any mention of it either in a support letter or on Catholic Answers Live. It's like the debate that never was in the reality of Catholic Answers. So why does Catholic Answers continually use a 15 year old debate to gain support? Listen to Dr. White's in-depth review to find out.
That Catholic Answers continues to call this discussion a debate is humorous and hypocritical. The discussion ran 3 hours. During the second hour, Jimmy Akin was given much more time. During the entire broadcast, Dr. White wasn't even given a chance to respond to many of the claims being put forth. It appears Catholic Answers would rather offer a product in which an opponent is not given a fair chance to respond, rather than the recent timed debate with Tim Staples. I can't read the hearts of those in charge of Catholic Answers, but their tactics in providing "answers" via the materials they promote are highly questionable. Recall what Solomon stated long ago, "The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight" (Proverbs 11:1).
Augustine on Images and Idolatry
04/26/2010 - James SwanIn Book IV of The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin commented that history shows church councils have disagreed with church councils (IV, 9:9). In his comment, he makes a passing curious reference to Augustine and the debate over the use of images in church and worship:
Need I then recount how councils disagreed with councils? And there is no ground for anyone to murmur against me that of the two that disagree one is not legitimate. For by what shall we judge such a case? By this, unless I am deceived, that we shall determine from Scripture which one's decree is not orthodox. For this is the only sure principle on which to distinguish. It is now about nine hundred years since the Council of Constantinople, convened under the Emperor Leo, decided that images set up in churches should be pulled down and smashed. A little later, the Council of Nicaea, which the Empress Irene, in hatred toward the first council, assembled, decreed the restoration of images. Which of these two shall we acknowledge as legitimate? The latter, which gave images a place in churches, has subsequently prevailed among the people. But Augustine says that this practice involves an ever-present danger of idolatry.While not noted by Calvin, The Institutes cites "Augustine, Psalms, Psalm 1 13. 2. 5 (MPL 37. 1484; tr. LF Psalms [Psalm 115] V. 287 f." as a reference. The comment from Augustine is indeed fascinating:
5. Does anyone worship or pray with his eyes fixed on the image, without being persuaded that the image is hearing his petition and without hoping that it will give him what he wants? Probably not. So thoroughly entangled do people become in such superstitions that they often turn their backs on the real sun and pour out their prayers to the statue they call Sun; or again, while the sound of the sea is battering them from behind they batter the statue of Neptune with their sighs as though it were conscious, that statue which they venerate as representative of the actual sea. What causes this error-almost forces the illusion on them, in fact-is the human likeness with all its bodily parts. The minds of the worshippers are accustomed to living with their own bodily senses, and so they judge that a body very similar to their own is more likely to be responsive than the sun's orb, or the wide waves, or any other object clearly not built on the same plane as the living creatures they are used to seeing.
6. It may be objected that we ourselves have many vessels and other accessories made of similar metals, which we use in the celebration of the sacraments. They are consecrated to divine service and are called holy in honor of him who is worshipped through their use for our salvation. Such vessels and implements are obviously the work of human hands: what else could they be? But do they have mouths that will never speak, or eyes that will never see? And does the fact that we make use of them to offer our supplications to God mean that we are begging anything from them? Of course not.
The principal cause of insane, blasphemous idolatry is this: a form resembling that of a living person- a form that by its lifelike appearance seems to demand worship- is more powerfully persuasive to the emotions of its wretched suppliants than the plain fact that it is not alive and ought to be scorned by anyone who is. The evidence of mouths, eyes, ears, nostrils, hands, and feet in the idols has more power to lead an unhappy soul astray than the evident inability on their part to speak, see, hear, smell, handle things, or walk has power to bring such a soul back to the truth.
7. The inevitable result is the deterioration the psalm goes on to describe: May those who fashion them become like them, and all who put their trust in them. Let people with open and seeing eyes gaze at images that neither see nor live, and let their minds become closed and dead as they worship.
[John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 19, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 99-120, Exposition 2 of Psalm 113.5 (Psalm 114) (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2003), pp. 315-316].
Note first, the skepticism on Augustine's part, where he anticipates the Roman objection that people are not praying to the image itself, but to the thing/person represented by the image. Second, often Rome's apologist argue "we keep pictures of our family and loved ones as a way to remind us of them, we also keep statues and images in our homes and churches as a way to help remind us of our Lord and the heroes of the faith: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints, and the angels" [Patrick Madrid, Where is That in the Bible? (Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2001 ), p. 132]. Madrid leaves out the fact that Roman Catholics also pray to these saints, asking for their help and intercession.
Augustine though states the obvious:
Does anyone worship or pray with his eyes fixed on the image, without being persuaded that the image is hearing his petition and without hoping that it will give him what he wants? Probably not. So thoroughly entangled do people become in such superstitions that they often turn their backs on the real sun and pour out their prayers to the statue they call Sun... The principal cause of insane, blasphemous idolatry is this: a form resembling that of a living person- a form that by its lifelike appearance seems to demand worship- is more powerfully persuasive to the emotions of its wretched suppliants than the plain fact that it is not alive and ought to be scorned by anyone who is.
Chantal Epie's The Scriptural Roots of Catholic Teaching (New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2002) states, "The saints did not allow themselves to be worshipped like God. Yet they did not chase away those who came to them asking for miracles. In accordance with His promise, God granted many favors through their intercessions" (p. 257). While Romanists may claim they aren't placing their faith in a saint, one can't help but agree with Augustine's caution. Rome's apologists can balk against this charge all they want, but they should consider the source from which it comes, and as Calvin states, "the ever-present danger of idolatry."
A Further Comment on One of Dave Armstrong's Arguments
04/22/2010 - James WhiteTurretinFan is providing responses to a series of arguments put forward by Dave Armstrong. In today's installment TurretinFan was responding to this argument:
Is every Christian in the world able to find enough time, and become educated enough and familiar enough with Scripture to be his own theologian? And if he consults other ones, wise enough to always get it right when he chooses?
I was reminded of my closing statement from the debate with Mitch Pacwa where I pulled out a pile of Roman Catholic magisterial documents and asked the simple question as to whether this huge pile of material (often requiring knowledge of Latin) clarified, or muddied, the words of Romans 5:1, "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The answer is obvious, and it surely exposes the above arguments' error. If it is a relevant argument that no one has enough time or education to "be his own theologian," how is adding to the deposit of faith an answer? If there is not enough time in life to become an expert on Scripture, there is enough time to become an expert on the much larger, much more difficult to master body of Magisterial documents, which likewise make reference then to Scripture? The problem is compounded by the fact that the interpretation of those magisterial documents changes from decade to decade depending on the current make-up of the Magisterium itself. So the Roman Catholic offers a problem to which he posits no meaningful solution, unless you are willing to accept the time-honored position, "I believe whatever the priest tells me to believe." And that is surely something we have all seen, over and over again.
Sola Scriptura and Unity Debate
04/13/2010 - Tur8infanThe debate below took place April 10, 2010, between William Albrecht (Roman Catholic) and myself, TurretinFan. The resolution was: "Does Sola Scriptura foster disunity and division in the [Christian] body?" This resolution was originally proposed by Steve Ray. Albrecht took the affirmative position and I took the negative position. While the constructive speeches may be of interest, I think both sides will most appreciate the lengthy cross-examination segments, which make up 4/7 of the debate.
If the above doesn't work: