Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Bryan Cross places the Cart before the Horse, Theologically Speaking (With Additional Commentary by James White)
09/23/2010 - Tur8infanOver at Called to Communion, in the comment box, Bryan Cross wrote:
In the first century, no one needed to confess that Christ is homoousious with the Father. But after the fourth century, to deny the homoousious is to fall into [at least material] heresy.This is dead wrong and gets things exactly backwards. It has always been heresy to deny the Son's divinity. Arius was a heretic before Nicaea, and the Nicene council simply affirmed (with respect to Arianism) what was always the teaching of the Bible.
The church does not make up orthodoxy. When the church does its job correctly, it merely recognizes the truth that was already once delivered to the saints. There was no new delivery in the fourth century or any of the succeeding centuries.
Of course, Romanists have to put the cart before the horse, because they've added to the gospel. If they tried to claim that it was always heresy to deny the Immaculate Conception, they'd have to treat Augustine, and the Augustinians down through Aquinas as heretics. So, they place the cart before the horse and say that it is only heresy to deny the Immaculate Conception after "the Church" makes that doctrine part of the gospel.
The absurd result is the one that Bryan Cross has illustrated above, where the Son's divinity becomes something that it was ok to deny before 325 A.D.
Amazing - absolutely amazing.
Additional Commentary from James White:
Amazing indeed. The very nature of truth itself is now determined by Rome's anachronistic reading of history and the proclamation of her own pretentious claims to spiritual authority.
The past few weeks have been rather eye-opening for me. Debating two of the three most recent dogmatic definitions from the Roman See has illustrated the reality that while Rome may claim revelation ceased with the last of the apostles, functionally, that is pure mythology. The Immaculate Conception is so utterly foreign to divine revelation and the beliefs of the early church that it makes a mockery of the claim that Rome often makes that she is guided by Scripture and Tradition, since neither could ever "guide" anyone into defining such mythology as dogma. While her arguments for other of her false doctrines manage to hide this fundamentally authoritarian character (believe it because we tell you to), there is simply no way to paper over these Marian dogmas with a plausible pretense of Scripture and Tradition.
Cross confuses the fact that Christian truth is capable of being communicated in ever widening circles of language, culture, and worldview (a truth) with the idea that Rome's definitions (and Rome had almost nothing to do with Nicea, I note, and even the Nicene symbol had to fight for acceptance, and did so on the basis of its fundamental truthfulness, not on the basis of Roman support) determine the truth. If Rome speaks the truth, she does so only derivatively, after-the-fact, not because she has any authority whatsoever to determine such things. Rome says there is one God: well and good, that revelation was given long before the city of Rome arose from the cow pastures. Rome says Jesus is truly God: once again, very good, but that revelation was made by God himself in history in the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and recorded for us in the warp and woof of the New Testament revelation. To make that truth dependent upon a man in Rome is a reprehensible denial of the Holy Spirit's power to speak with clarity in His own divine revelation.
A Few Miscellaneous Notes on a Wednesday
09/22/2010 - James WhiteRandy wrote:
Regarding today's Dividing Line, you *do* use "Anti-Calvinist" quite a bit, along with "Anti-Trinitarian," and "Anti-Reformed" rather than calling them by their "postive" terms. So, stay consistent as to whether people should be defined by what they are positively (Arminian, Oneness believers) or whether it's fair game for folks to call each other Anti- whatever. Because, you do it too, which I've found unfortunate at times.I note that David Armstrong, Catholic Apologist and Graphic Distorter Extraordinaire, likewise did a search for "anti" on my website.
Of course, what I was referring to is the use of the term "anti-Catholic" as a buzz term meant to poison the well. When I refer to Roman Catholic apologists I refer to them as just that: Roman Catholic apologists. I refer to Mormon apologists, Islamic apologists, etc. I do not make my position the norm and then define everyone else thereby. While there are some who could be rightly described by such very limited phraseology (those who never make a positive presentation of their own positions, and are focused solely upon a single "error" to which they respond constantly), the Roman Catholic use of this phrase "anti-Catholic" is so constant and so transparently meant to conjure up images of Jack Chick that I feel my meaning was quite plain.
What is more, there is, obviously, a world of difference between identifying a statement by someone as "anti-Reformed" (as you can identify many such statements from the likes of Dave Hunt or the leadership of Calvary Chapel) and engaging in the mantra-like repetition of "anti-Catholic" that one hears on EWTN. This is a simple matter of contextualization and not engaging in basic category errors.
Next, we get some real doozies when it comes to e-mails, especially from our Roman Catholic friends. Months ago I got this one, was going to post it, but never go around to it. Since I got another interesting one this morning, I thought I'd dig it up. Julie wrote in:
ALthough Mr. White has a fair amount of knowledge, it is quite apparent (not only from his writings but from watching him speak) that his spiritual life is not very deep and is over reliant on emotion. Interestingly, the famous Carl Jung said "I have treated many hundreds of patients, the larger number, being Protestants, a smaller number Jews and not moire than 5 or 6 believing Catholics". His observations where confirmed by others: Catholics who followed their faith had less anxiety and turmoil inside then Protesants. You all need the sacraments, my friends. The Last Supper was prefigured by the wedding of Cana; a substantial change happens at both. Jesus was very anxious to have SUPPER with his disciples, not just to talk with them. It is a memorial of his sacrifice, for the pain and lacerated body are not present on the altar at Mass, but His glorified body, presenting his sacrifice forever to the Father. Jesus wants to get as close to your heart as He can. You are what you eat. Mr. White can become another Christ, but it is his chose. His calvinism probably psychological influences his lack of decision on this matter. Some of his arguments are sound, but in general he is wrong and leading people astray. May God have mercy on his soul...I wasn't aware Rome granted to its followers the ability to read hearts and minds! In any case, this next one came in this morning from a "proud convert to the Universal Church of Christ" (ever noticed how rarely these folks talk about being converted to Christ, but instead, to Rome?) named Charles:
I notice that at the top of your page you cite Luther's 5 solas. Does Mr. White also believe in the real presence of the Eucharist, Baptismal grace, and the Immaculate Conception? From my reading this website I would say not. So if not Luther, who has interpreted the Bible without error? Anyone? Are only those who are as smart as Mr. White able to discern what the Bible really means? At one point, Mr. White has to realize that he is fighting a war, not for God, but for his own personal beliefs about God. What makes him feel good inside is what must be the truth. I for one, thought not nearly as educated as Dr. White, am happy to follow, without question, a Church that at least states that Christian Dogma has little to do with an exercise of the mind, but rather an exercise of the soul and heart.One can only hope and pray such glib blindness will be removed by sovereign grace so that the gospel of Jesus Christ may become clear to Julie and Charles.
A Proud Convert (2 years) to the Universal Church of Christ.
This website is just plain ridiculous in it's premise that the Catholic Church hasn't gotten anything right. I'd rather trust the Holy Spirit than a man, no matter how brilliant and well-researched his positions.
The Assumption of Mary: An Analysis of the Recent Debate with Robert Sungenis
09/21/2010 - James SwanOn Friday, September 10, Dr. White debated Roman Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis on the assumption of Mary. Dr White Discussed this debate on Iron Sharpens Iron. You can listen to it here.
Other recent ISI shows:
Jamin Hubner: The Atheist vs. Christian Debate on 'Is the New Testament Evil': One Christian's Analysis
TurretinFan: The Debate on the Immaculate Conception & Sinlessness of Mary: One Protestant's Analysis (part one)
TurretinFan: The Debate on the Immaculate Conception & Sinlessness of Mary: One Protestant's Analysis (part two)
It's not 33,000 Protestant Denominations, But Millions
09/18/2010 - James SwanThere seems to be a new conversion story every day of a lost Protestant finding his way across the Tiber. Based on these testimonies, one may be tempted to think the Roman church is growing while Protestant churches are dwindling. Haven't Rome's defenders been doing such a stellar job with apologetics, so that the conversions are coming fast and furious? Shouldn't the number of Protestant churches therefore be going down?
According to one of Rome's apologists, the opposite is true. There has been an increase in Protestant church bodies. It no longer is 33,000 Protestant denominations. John Martignoni says there are now millions:
There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Protestant denominations, and the main reason for this is sola scriptura. Now, I admit that my "experiences" constitute anecdotal evidence, but I have found nothing to dissuade me from the notion that my anecdotal evidence is not indicative of a much more widespread phenomenon. And, for clarity's sake, I define a Protestant denomination as a religious unit of one or more persons that has: 1) A particular set of beliefs on matters of faith and morals, which may or may not be unique to that group; and 2) Has its own structure of authority that ultimately answers to no human being outside of the denomination.
John's statistical conclusions come from his use and gathering of "anecdotal evidence." He's delved into his wealth of subjective experience and arrived at a conclusion about reality. That's quite a rigorous apologetic presentation, similar to a Mormon missionary arguing from a burning in the bosom.
Aside from the fact that his estimate of millions of Protestant denominations has no real evidence to back it up, there are a few other problems with his burning in the bosom apologetic conclusions. His subjective feelings have informed him that sola scriptura is the culprit. This reminds me of someone who blames a situation on one idea or a particular group of people at the expense of other factors that should figure into an equation. Secondly, his feelings don't seem to be moved when it comes to evaluating divisions within Romanism. Is sola scriptura the culprit for that as well? The irony is that this very statement from Mr. Martignoni was not written in response to a Protestant, but to Roman Catholics stating the 33,000 denominations argument should be abandoned. That is, Martignoni's is at odds with the conclusions of another Romanist. It's one Romanist opinion against another. Perhaps sola scriptura is responsible for this as well? No, Romanists are allowed to disagree with each other simply because they say they say they are able to do so.
Mr. Martignoni then gave his personal opinion of what constitutes a Protestant body. This also appears to be based on his burning in the bosom apologetic conclusions. Is this Rome's official definition? No, it's once again, John's personal opinion. Interestingly, the guys over at Triablogue have been revisiting this same subject. In this post, it is pointed out that dumping 33,00 denominations into one big pile can only be done consistently if they actually share something in common: "So the very objection to Protestant diversity tacitly assumes that all Protestant denominations have a common denominator. They must have something essentially in common that makes all of them Protestant." In other words, the 33,000 different denominations actually share at least one thing in common in order to be classified together. This post also points out inherent difficulties with Romanist argumentation and is worth a look at.
When it comes right down to it, Roman Catholic apologists like Martignoni suffer from gross double standards in their methodology. Many of their arguments and conclusions stem from their own subjective feelings and private interpretations of Romanism and the Bible. They don't even begin to point their same arguments back on their own worldview to see how consistent they are.
Current Happenings in Roman Catholic Apologetics
09/17/2010 - James SwanMy busy schedule has left me little time to write, however, I do still check in on a number of Roman Catholic apologists each day. Here's what I found today.
In some cases, there really isn't anything new under the sun. Take for instance Gerry Matatics. Gerry updates his website a few times a year, if that. His recent offering is entitled, Gerry Matatics Still Alive! It's typical Gerry- an apology for not updating his site, and then information on his latest tour. Gerry's latest insights include the following against a particular brand of Roman Catholic clergy (somewhat reminiscent of Harlod Camping's view of the church):
"I have been stunned to discover by my in-depth research over the last two years into sacramental theology, moral theology, and canon law, that most such clergy today do NOT possess this mission and jurisdiction, and to discover that because such unauthorized clergy culpably violate God's law in these matters they are NOT authentically functioning to bring the graces they claim to bring to Catholics during the current crisis."
Over on Francis Beckwith's blog, he re-posted his conversion story. In case this wasn't enough, he also posted another entry with a link to his story which aired on the Journey Home a year ago. Why? How many times does his story need to be told? Well, the "story" is a main Romanist apologetic tool (if not the main Romanist apologetic tool), so I would speculate he'll continue to post it, often. My take on these stories can be found here.
This one is truly a mystery to me. Robert Sungenis is posting a link to an mp3 of Dr. White's recent debate with Christopher Ferrara on The Immaculate Conception & Sinlessness of Mary. After listening to this debate, I can't believe any Roman Catholic apologist would think this debate was any sort of triumph for Romanism. Here's an irony for those of you who've heard the debate. Mr. Ferrara repeatedly appealed to the absolute trustworthiness of Rome. If the quote below is from the same Christopher Ferrara, he doesn't trust his ultimate authority when it comes to Fatima:
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ten years after the Vatican divulged one of the church's best-kept secrets -- the third part of the message of Fatima -- a small band of skeptics and critics are still questioning the official explanation. More than 100 of them gathered at a hotel not far from the Vatican in early May for a week long conference on such topics as "Fatima and the Global Economic Crisis," "The Present Need for the Consecration of Russia" and "Is There a Missing Text of the Third Secret?" For those in attendance, the answer to that last question is a no-brainer. "The evidence points to only one conclusion: that something has to be missing," said Christopher A. Ferrara, a U.S. attorney and Catholic commentator who spoke at the conference. Ferrara pointed to what he described as a series of incongruities and inconsistencies in the Vatican's version. Among people truly familiar with the events at Fatima, he said, only a minority "cling steadfastly to the notion that an ambiguous vision of a bishop dressed in white outside a half-ruined city is all there is to the third secret."
Art Sippo is still saying things like, "EVERYONE experiences themselves as having free will (except psychotics and Calvinists)". Steve Ray is poking fun at modern evangelical services, but leaving out the fact Roman Catholics have wacky Church services as well. Perhaps he missed the episode of Catholic Answers in which Tim Staples explained why he left a particular Roman Catholic Church he attended because the priest had his congregation do "the wave."
These are just a few of my recent cyber stops. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
Quick Report from Santa Fe
09/11/2010 - James WhiteIt's a beautiful morning here in Santa Fe. I have become accustomed to arising early in the mornings of late, but this morning---I didn't. It takes quite a while to wind down after two full debates (on two widely divergent topics), so I didn't get to bed overly early either. In any case, I'm 4/6ths of the way through the "month of uber debating." The audio of both debates has already been posted by the church here. We will post them at aomin.org next week. The church video recorded the debates as well (it helps with all the citations I presented, especially in the Bodily Assumption debate) and we hope to have the DVDs and mp4s up before long.
I do believe that the person who charts out debates (i.e., does a flow chart following lines of argumentation, testing for consistency and logic) will find the first debate very enlightening. I tried as best as I could to untangle Dr. Sungenis' use of terminology to try to bring clarity to the issue, but it was difficult. Though Robert claims to understand Reformed theology, I leave it to the listener to discover if that is a sustainable conclusion. In any case, a very clear contrast between a once-for-all, God-centered gospel and a theoretical, man-centered system of synergism was presented. I wish I had asked the question I gave at the end of my closing statement during cross-examination, for Dr. Sungenis did not understand or answer the question. But I think that in and of itself spoke clearly to the real answer and hence to the resolution of the debate.
The second debate was truly eye-opening. First, I think I should point out that Robert Sungenis is the only Roman Catholic out there that I know of who will actually stand in public debate to defend the Bodily Assumption--the "big names" know better! They know there is no meaningful way to defend this concept outside of saying, "Look, the Roman Church says it, believe it!" That is all Rome has, really, and that does not hold up well to examination. But I think the Bodily Assumption is the single clearest illustration of the fact that all of Rome's apologists are simply dishonest (or deceived, or both) when they proclaim fealty to "Scripture and Tradition." The Bodily Assumption is found in neither, which is why Sungenis had to take the route, "We don't need Scripture or Tradition." Think how many times you've heard Staples, Akin, Keating, Madrid, et al talk about Scripture and Tradition, and yet in reality, neither is relevant to the dogma of the Bodily Assumption. This dogma is a shining example of sola ecclesia, the Roman Church, and in this instance, the Roman bishop, as the final and ultimate authority. What the listener will find fascinating here is that the Roman Catholic position is left fighting desperately not only against sound exegesis (as it always is), but against a cadre of sound, contextually accurate patristic citations as well. This debate is one of the clearest exposures of Rome's true nature I've ever participated in, right up there with the Stravinskas debate on purgatory.
Since I'm down to only one Flip video unit, I recorded only the cross-examination periods of both debates, which I provide here:
I will be speaking here in New Mexico through Sunday morning, and then home for the Unitarianism debate on the Jewish Voice Broadcast on Tuesday. The race continues on!
Scripture or "Fitness" - Two Standards Compared
09/09/2010 - Tur8infanAugustine wrote:
It is by these manners of speech, when we speak of things that do not happen to God as though they did, that we acknowledge it is he who makes them happen to us, those things at least that are praiseworthy, and these only to the extent that scriptural usage allows it. I mean, we certainly ought not to say anything of the sort about God, which we do not read in his scriptures.- Augustine, Commentary on the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book IV, Chapter 9, Section 17 (PL34:302); translation in The Works of Saint Augustine: a Translation for the 21st Century, Part I (Books), Volume 13, On Genesis, p. 251 (New City Press, Hyde Park, NY: 2002)
Latin Text: His locutionum modis, cum ea quae non accidunt Deo tamquam illi accidant loquimur, eum facere agnoscimus ut nobis accidant; ea duntaxat quae laudabilia sunt: et haec quantum Scripturarum usus admittis. Neque enim nos temere aliquid tale de Deo dicere debemus, quod in Scriptura eius non legimus.
Augustine would say that we should not say things about God that we do not read about in His Scriptures, yet we see Rome trying to create extra-biblical traditions about God and what God has done, all the time.
We see it in the Immaculate Conception dogma and the Assumption of Mary dogma. These dogmas cannot be defended from Scripture. Nevertheless, Rome (through many of her apologists) attempts to defend these dogmas on the grounds of fitness.
It is very nice to say that something would be “fitting,” but would it not be as “fitting” to preserve Mary entirely from having to watch her firstborn child (Matthew 1:25 & Luke 2:7) be crucified? Would it not be “fitting” for God to preserve Mary from the sword piercing her heart (Luke 2:34-35 & Mark 3:21-35)?
If you think it would not be fitting for his mother to be a sinner, how much less fitting that his maternal grandparents be sinners? How much less fitting that he be descended from the illicit tryst of Judah and Tamar (Matthew 1:3 & Genesis 38:6-30), or from the illicit union of Lot and his eldest daughter (Matthew 1:5; Ruth 4:10; and Genesis 19:29-38) ?
If you think it would not be fitting for such a great woman as Mary to be assumed into heaven, how does the end of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:6-11 & Mark 6:21-28) square with you? To have his head lopped off as the prize for an exotic dancer? Why should not the greatest of all the prophets (Matthew 11:11 & Luke 7:28) meet an end like Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24 & Hebrews 11:5) or Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-14)?
Man's ideas of "fitness" are an untrustworthy and reliable measure of things. God himself declares, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9) The proper measure is God's revelation of himself through Scripture. Even so, let us measure, rather than harkening unto fables and judging things according to our weak sense of "fitness."
Roman Myths: Example 127,956. "Packing" the Audience
09/06/2010 - James WhiteEvery few weeks a thread pops up on the Catholic Answers forums relating to yours truly. Most are normally "eye-rollers" involving the penchant of folks to only want to listen to one side, find a quick and easy rebuttal that has little to do with truth, and move on. But recently one has popped up regarding the issues relating to Peter Stravinskas and the proposed debate that ended up being done by Christopher Ferrara (on the Immaculate Conception). Here was my last commentary on the situation. As you may recall, Stravinskas was threatening to take legal action over utterly un-actionable statements on my part simply announcing the cancellation of the debate, and why (that being his demand to control what would, and would not, be posted on line as far as clips from the debate---a demand never made by anyone before, and a demand I will never allow). During the course of our interaction, Stravinskas has been arrogant, unkind, and insulting. But given that he lives in a world where everyone calls him "Father" and defers to him, I doubt he is even aware of his behavior. In any case, he has made a false allegation against me, and I would like to point out that he, and everyone else repeating it, is once again showing their predilection for falsehood.
Stravinskas had originally claimed that I had in some sense packed the audience with my followers. This false assertion is picked up by "bona fides," one of the forum members:
But it was very clear to me from the video in the #2 link that White had salted the audience with deeply studied Protestant "experts" and that the audience was overwhelmingly stacked against Fr. Stravinskas.
This is simply absurd on its face. The debate was widely advertised on WMCA radio. Chris Arnzen did everything in his power to get both Catholics and Protestants to attend. Does this writer seriously think I was running about Long Island looking for "deeply studied Protestant experts" to attend the debate and ask audience questions? Most folks know I do not find audience questions particularly useful, and do not think a debate would be missing anything at all if that time was given to the prepared speakers instead of the unprepared audience members, who, 85-90% of the time are not even asking a question, they just want to join in the argument! When I debated Hamza Abdul Malik just a few years before on Long Island, and 80% of the questions were by Muslims or non-Trinitarians, had I just forgotten to "salt" my audience that night? When a group of little old Catholic ladies sat on the front row during the priesthood debate with Mitch Pacwa, verbally "participating" regularly, was Pacwa then to be charged with "salting" the audience? I might well consider that allegation when it comes to the amazing audiences we encountered in Fullerton in our two debates with Tim Staples, including the ever-popular "Eucharist!" shouting argument used there (and the repeatedly whispered "Heretic!" that my children heard coming from those seated around them)! But it is just absurd beyond comment to accuse me of "salting" or "packing" the audience. I had absolutely nothing to do, whatsoever, with the composition of the audience. I spoke at various churches, people attended. I assume Stravinskas did (or could have done) the same thing. ...
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TurretinFan on Iron Sharpens Iron at 8PM
09/06/2010 - James WhiteOur very own TurretinFan will be on Iron Sharpens Iron at 8PM EDT here to continue examining the claims of Christopher Ferrara regarding the truth about Mary. I just learned about it, so I'm blogging the announcement as quickly as I can.
Did Augustine Teach the Sinlessness of Mary?
09/06/2010 - Tur8infanI recently received an email from someone who was trying to argue that Augustine "clearly" taught that Mary was immaculate conceived. The person writing to me provided the following quotation (emphasis is his):
To which I reply:
"Now with the exception of the holy Virgin Mary in regard to whom, out of respect for the Lord, I do not propose to have a single question raised on the subject of sin -- after all, how do we know what greater degree of grace for a complete victory over sin was conferred on her who merited to conceive and bring forth Him who all admit was without sin -- to repeat then: with the exception of this Virgin, if we could bring together into one place all those holy men and women, while they lived here, and ask them whether they were without sin, what are we to suppose that they would have replied?" (On Nature and Grace, or De natura et gratia, Migne PL 44:267)
a) In this quotation, Augustine is refusing (at the time) to address the question of whether Mary had sin. He does not assert that she was sinless.
b) Augustine is saying that there is one (Jesus Christ) who certainly had no sin.
c) Augustine is addressing the issue of actual sin, not original sin.
Moreover, just a short time before writing "On Nature and Grace," Augustine wrote "On Merits and Forgiveness of Sins," in which he spoke more clearly: ...
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How Many Popes Does it Take to Deny the Immaculate Conception?
09/03/2010 - Tur8infanDuring Dr. James White's debate with Christopher Ferrara on the alleged sinlessness and Immaculate Conception of Mary, Mr. Ferrara questioned the fact that a half dozen popes taught or held a position contrary to the dogma that was later defined as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Dr. White provided a citation to Schaff, the respected church historian, who identified seven popes, and in turn cited an earlier scholar. I've provided a more detailed discussion on my personal blog (here), but the following abridged version should address the main points of interest. Schaff wrote:
Even seven Popes are quoted on the same side, and among them three of the greatest, viz., Leo I. (who says that Christ alone was free from original sin, and that Mary obtained her purification through her conception of Christ), Gregory I., and Innocent III. [FN233 The other Popes, who taught that Mary was conceived in sin, are Gelasius I., Innocent V., John XXII., and Clement VI. (d. 1352). The proof is furnished by the Jansenist Launoy, Prœscriptions, Opera I. pp. 17 sqq. ...(Creeds of Christendom, Volume 1, Chapter 4, Section 29)
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Tune in Iron Sharpens Iron Tonight!
09/02/2010 - James WhiteTurretinFan will be discussing my debate with Christopher Ferrara on Iron Sharpens Iron tonight, 8pm EDT (5pm PDT). TurretinFan wrote a helpful article after the debate, and has another he's working on as well, so it should be a great program. You can listen here. Why am I not going on? Because I have four debates in 22 days coming up, that's why. Working on my presentation on the Bodily Assumption of Mary for Santa Fe right now.