Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A New Convert Answers the Top Ten List
08/26/2007 - James WhiteI am thankful to TurrentinFan for noting this response to my blog article providing ten questions for a potential convert to answer regarding their conversion process to Romanism.
I have often pointed to the highly emotional nature of the vast majority of conversion stories to Rome, and have discussed the fact that conversions, per se, do not surprise me in the last. The less biblically sound and grounded post-evangelicalism becomes, the more common such movement in the various religions of men will be. Given how widely disseminated that one little blog post was (it even made the front page of monergism.com!), a brief review of this one convert's response may assist others in evaluating the relevant issues.
10) Have you listened to both sides? That is, have you done more than read Rome Sweet Home and listen to a few emotion-tugging conversion stories? Have you actually taken the time to find sound, serious responses to Rome's claims, those offered by writers ever since the Reformation, such as Goode, Whitaker, Salmon, and modern writers? I specifically exclude from this list anything by Jack Chick and Dave Hunt.
This just seems so insulting. Mr White has interacted with so many converts. I doubt he really listens to any of them. I wrestled with these questions for years. I did seek out debates.It was hard tofrom many of the protestants I respect the most because they either ignore the questions altogether or they give a shallow response that has beenrefuted many times.The ones I did find were just not convincing. James White is one of the few that has frequently debated Catholics. I was frustrated by him because his skill was in ducking the questions and not answering them. He would sound good but whenyou reflect on what he said you realized he didnt really answer the difficulty. He just smoothlythe rhetorical pin.
Notice how the very first response bristles with emotion. The convert is intent upon taking everything personally, looking to be offended, so as to avoid, it seems to me, the actual force of the questions themselves. Now, in essence, the response here is "I couldn't find any decent answers." I'm sorry, but that is really hard to believe. Surely it might be that this person struggled to locate good resources, for surely, they are not exactly lining the shelves of the local Christian bookstore (which probably wouldn't carry them anyway anymore). But anyone who can simply dismiss a Whitaker or a Goode or a Salmon as "shallow" is not really engaging the subject meaningfully. And as to the accusation against me, once again, as we had with Guardian's rhetoric which required him to request 90 days to come up with some substantiation to his allegations, we are given the accusation, but no examples. I post videos of the cross-examinations we do right here on the blog. If I was "dodging" questions all the time, why would I do that? But if it is actually my opponents doing the dodging, well, that changes the picture. So without examples, we only have the one side, which makes the debates available for all, and the other side's unsubstantiated accusations.
Now here is a fascinating assertion! Obviously, I was referring to an objective history that is not simply seeking to substantiate one particular viewpoint. But it is fascinating to see this kind of radical skepticism being applied even to Scripture, so that "every view of Scripture is subjective." That is, evidently, Scripture has no objective meaning! I wonder how far our convert will be able to take this radical skepticism of his?9) Have you read an objective history of the early church? I refer to one that would explain the great diversity of viewpoints to be found in the writings of the first centuries, and that accurately explains the controversies, struggles, successes and failures of those early believers?
This just does not exist. Every view of history is subjective. Just like every view of scripture is subjective.
I did seek out debates. I never like debates about the fathers because the protestants would always embarrass themselves.Now there is an objective, fair, unbiased, unprejudiced conclusion! Aside from my debates, who else might be in view? Eric Svendsen? Again, no examples are provided. I have often written to converts who have written to me and in 98% of those encounters my challenge to provide examples in support of this kind of accusation goes unanswered.
Even the terms of the debate were revealing. Often it would involve one father on one issue both chosen by the protestant. Essentially claiming there was a puddle of Protestantism in the ocean of early church Catholicism. Then they would even fail to defend that claim. They would just get creamed in debate.It is very hard to figure out what our convert is talking about here, and without even a single example, we are truly left with little grounds for response. But it did inspire me to break out the 1998 debate on the Papacy, which contained a fair amount of patristic discussion, and record the following clip, just to let the readers have a taste of just how horrible and bad we Protestants are when it comes to church history:
8 ) Have you looked carefully at the claims of Rome in a historical light, specifically, have you examined her claims regarding the unanimous consent of the Fathers, and all the evidence that exists that stands contrary not only to the universal claims of the Papacy but especially to the concept of Papal Infallibility? How do you explain, consistently, the history of the early church in light of modern claims made by Rome? How do you explain such things as the Pornocracy and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church without assuming the truthfulness of the very system you are embracing?
History was a huge factor for me. I could not make sense of history while assuming the truth of Protestantism.
Why? I would love to find out what this convert thinks that claim actually means.
So I was willing to assume the truth of that system but it didnt hold up. Too many beautiful, biblical Christians ending up nowhere near what was supposedly biblical truth.What does a "beautiful, biblical Christian" look like who is nowhere near supposedly biblical truth? How do you define "biblical" in that claim?
I did not find the same problem with consistency in the Catholic view of history.What is the "Catholic view of history"? The anachronistic insistence that you read modern Roman teachings back into history while ignoring such issues as the Donation of Constantine, the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, the Pornocracy, Babylonian Captivity of the Church, the Arian ascendancy after Nicea, Canon 28 of Chalcedon, etc.?
I did learn about the issues Mr White mentions here. They are often attempts to make infallibility more than what the catholic church says it is. Once I understood what it is and what it is not the issues were easy to resolve. For example, what does unanimous consent mean?
You would think that someone who has come up with sound answers to these issues might be able to offer them here. Something tells me these were issues that were swept under the rug. I sense a good bit of hesitancy here, discomfort, in essence. But I would surely like to know---what does unanimous consent mean? Non-unanimous consent, perhaps?
7) Have you applied the same standards to the testing of Romes ultimate claims of authority that Roman Catholic apologists use to attack sola scriptura? How do you explain the fact that Rome's answers to her own objections are circular? For example, if she claims you need the Church to establish an infallible canon, how does that actually answer the question, since you now have to ask how Rome comes to have this infallible knowledge. Or if it is argued that sola scriptura produces anarchy, why doesn't Rome's magisterium produce unanimity and harmony? And if someone claims there are 33,000 denominations due to sola scriptura, since that outrageous number has been debunked repeatedly (see Eric Svendsen's Upon This Slippery Rock for full documentation), have you asked them why they are so dishonest and sloppy with their research?
This is just more assuming what you are to prove.I have no way of understanding what this sentence means.
I would say I was much, much more generous with the protestant position than I was with the catholic one. The church was claiming to speak for Christ and I wanted to be sure it was the case before I accepted it.was also calling me to accept some doctrines and practices I found distasteful. There was a huge swallowing of pride in accepting teaching as true. In fact, Ivery close to setting the bar so high was inconvincible. Much like some people want absolute proof before they will accept Jesus as their Lord and saviour. Could I open the door a crack? Once I did the light came shining in and that was scary.Again, while this is interesting biographical information, it is not really a response to the question. The question was about using the same standards, not about whether one was humble enough to accept truth.
As far as the canon goes it is again a misstating of the Catholic position. The church gets its authority from Jesus. By that authority it defined the canon. I wasn't even that convinced by that. I agreed that it was somewhat arbitrary to limit the churchs authority to just the canon of scripture. Still, why should I accept everything they did?This is again a rather confusing response. Of course Rome claims Christ's authority. That's hardly a point of dispute. This doesn't change the substance of the epistemological question. I have the idea that our convert may not be fully aware of the issues involved in this particular point.
6) Have you read the Papal Syllabus of Errors and Indulgentiarum Doctrina? Can anyone read the description of grace found in the latter document and pretend for even a moment that is the doctrine of grace Paul taught to the Romans?
I guess you if you don't want somebody to convert one way is to give them impossible reading assignments. It seems like every question involves a ton of research.
Impossible reading assignments? Two relatively short documents is an impossible reading assignment? Goodness, the two together can't be as long as the book of Romans, and that is impossibly long? I guess our answer to this question is, "No, never heard of them before."
Most of the time I have done some similar research. I don't think these are infallible documents but they are hard to read.
Hard to read? What is hard to read about either one? Indulgentiarum Doctrina is not "hard to read," and what it teaches about grace is repulsive. Of course, that makes it hard to read in the sense that reading heresy and false teaching is never enjoyable, but I doubt that is the context in which our convert is speaking.
What is more the last one is on indulgences and we need to mention those because they have a lot of emotional baggage. I did dig into all the Catholic doctrines including indulgences. They are actually not a big deal once you understand temporal and eternal consequences. It is an interesting question because there is always one more document you have not read. Even if you have read all the infallible teachings there could be a new one tomorrow. Accepting infallibility is not just about accepting the list of doctrines defined that way. It is about accepting the next one whatever it might be. You need to trust God that He wont lead you wrong. So in that sense this is a good question. Have you come to a point where you know the magesterium won't teach error definitively?I hope my readers will "hear" this convert at this point. It is, indeed, an abandonment of oneself to the ultimate authority claims of Rome. Rome might indeed have another infallible document tomorrow, maybe even a new teaching! Maybe Ratzinger will shock everyone and pronounce on the fifth Marian dogma! Unlikely? That's not the point. Once you've given yourself over to Rome, it shouldn't matter anymore. You've given yourself to her power, to her authority, and if she says Mary is co-redemptrix, well, Mary is co-redemptrix. Now you need to change the reality of history and of Scripture to fit the new paradigm announced by Rome. That's how it works, and here you see it in the words of a newly minted follower of Rome.
I will continue my review and response in a later article.
---in the defense and confirmation of the gospel