Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Greetings from Toronto! (Armstrong Update)
09/07/2007 - James WhiteI have once again made it across the border, and look forward greatly to meeting the saints here in Toronto. My flights were in the main uneventful, but now I am rushing to make some major changes to my presentations in light of some studying I was doing on the way up here. I am thankful for the technology to be able to do so (i.e., I remain very thankful for a working, wonderful laptop computer). At the same time, I will need to focus upon this task first and foremost, which may mean that an article or two I had hoped to write today for the blog will be delayed until after my travels are over.
Part of my morning routine involves scanning through the blogs I have in my RSS feed. Most of the time that is useful and even edifying, as there are some fine resources out there. I enjoy reading what Tom Ascol has to say over on the Founder's blog, and our own James Swan has been posting some great things on his blog regarding Rome's inability to meaningfully interact with Islam (a fact I have seen over and over again as I have been moving deeper into that field of apologetic work). But given the nature of my work, I likewise have to read, or at least take note of, a lot of highly unpleasant stuff. It comes with the territory I believe is the colloquial phrase. In any case, a few easy Google searches that you can save and make a part of your iGoogle home page make keeping up with what can only be called the ranting and raving of some on the net fairly easy.
I do not have time to spend on this today, so I shall be brief. This morning Roman apologist (see my discussion of the difference between a Roman Catholic apologist and a Romanist from a few weeks ago) Dave Armstrong has posted yet another inane attack upon me based upon the most ridiculous play-on-words. It is as embarrassing as his "See, Peter spoke to a dead girl, so that means we can pray to saints" argument from back in June, or his "explicit biblical evidence for indulgences" piece a few days ago. Now he and a few other Romanists have decided that if I object to the application of the title "Vicar of Christ" to the Pope, this means I would logically have to subordinate the Spirit in a heretical sense. And the reason for this? It's easy: pick a single meaning for "vicar/vicarious" to fit your absurd assertion, ignore the original context, and voila! You have yet another wonderful apologetic argument. Childish? Of course. Absurd and laughable? Obviously. Unworthy of anyone with the slightest modicum of concern for the truth? Without doubt. Meant only as a joke? Sadly, no. For Armstrong and those like him, this kind of twisted argumentation is the substance of their religion.
The serious reader knows that my objection to the term "Vicar of Christ" is based upon the fact that it is the Spirit who is sent by the Father and the Son into the world so that believer are not "left alone," as Jesus promised in John 15-16. To give that role and title to a man is blasphemous; and what is more, it would be very easy to develop the point even further, demonstrating how often Rome has claimed authority over the church that only the Spirit of God Himself could ever truly bear and wield. But to take a different meaning of "vicar" that is utterly outside of the range of meaning that I myself have used and then turn it into an implicit charge of Trinitarian heresy is simply despicable, let alone ridiculous, especially coming from a man who has never, to my knowledge, stood before an audience in defense of the Trinity against those who would deny it, nor has he produced anything of any meaningful scholarly substance on the topic that is not a mere re-hash of the sources he cherry-picks for his interminable writings.
But more than the absurdity of the specter of Dave Armstrong pretending to be the great defender of Rome is the fact that he is aided in this by the entire Roman Catholic apologetics community. Just where are the honest, concerned Roman Catholic apologists today? You see, if you are not consistent in pointing to the problems "in house," you have no credibility with me. I have taken huge hits over the years for daring to demand that if we are going to point the finger at false religion we better be consistent "in house" as well. I have long pointed out the errors of Jack Chick, for example. I denounced the Alberto comics back in the 1980s as unworthy of those who desire to speak the truth about Roman Catholicism. I have honestly criticized the really, really bad apologetics materials that you can find in "Christian bookstores," and I have publicly criticized men like Dave Hunt for their less-than-scholarly assertions in many fields. I have played clips from debates and honestly admitted when the other side had the better point, and when "our guy" tripped up. Why? Because you have to to be able to look at yourself honestly in the mirror in the morning, that's why. It's called consistency. And if you claim to follow Him who is the Truth, you better have the highest view of truth, and practice it yourself. Sunday evening I will be preaching on that topic from Psalm 15, where we read these sobering words, Ab)b'l.Bi tm,ªa/÷ rbeîdow>, which I translate, "speaking truth in his inner-most being." Who can dwell in God's presence? The one who speaks truth--consistently--in his heart--in his mind--when no one else is looking. The man who does not engage in self-deception. Ah, the glory of God's Word.
If Roman Catholic apologists want to be taken seriously, they need to realize they have to clean house. Now, of course, if their ultimate authority is Rome, and their ultimate goal is the promotion of Rome, and nothing else, then they have no reason to worry about men like Armstrong. Let him rant and rave and put out Jack Chick level materials in defense of Rome. Who cares? But if those on the far side of the Tiber manning the defensive works actually claim to love the truth, then why are they so deathly silent in the face of the likes of Armstrong? Why are converts like Steve Ray given a complete pass to throw out the most shallow, easily refuted arguments? Is it because "hey, they get some results, and something is better than nothing!"? Is it all just pragmatism? Where are the websites denouncing the behavior of an Art Sippo? Where can I find the Roman Catholic who apologizes for the hit and run tactics of a Phil Porvaznik? If they are there, they are well hidden. I can't seem to find them.
One last example and I must get to work on pressing duties. James Swan sent me an e-mail he had received from Sophia Institute, an organization that publishes some of Dave Armstrong's books. Now, to my knowledge, Dave Armstrong has never been hired by an institution of higher learning to stand before a class and teach on a scholarly subject. To my knowledge, prior to his conversion, he was an amateur "apologist," like the guy at church who reads Walter Martin books. To this day I do not believe he has ever been hired as a professor anywhere; if he reads Greek or Hebrew I have never seen the first bit of evidence of it (and by "reads" I do not mean "has BibleWorks, can left click a mouse"). I have never seen his articles published in any journals, and the level of "scholarship" in his books is, quite simply, secondary, derivative, and shows no first-hand capacity. So with that in mind, I give you here a wonderful example of the Roman Catholic tendency to turn all converts into Paul, i.e., the Paul Syndrome. I have documented other instances of this in the past. Gerry Matatics loves to claim that he was an "anti-Catholic" before conversion---which simply means he was a consistent Protestant. I asked him once, "Gerry, what books did you write against Rome before your conversion." "I didn't." "What debates did you do?" "I didn't." "What articles did you write?" "I didn't." "What tracts did you write and distribute against Rome?" "I didn't." "What classes did you teach, outreaches did you do?" "I didn't." "So why do you call yourself a former anti-Catholic?" "I was very opposed to Roman Catholicism." Well, duh. Follow the logic of that one through. In any case, here are the opening paragraphs of an e-mail promoting Dave Armstrong's books from Sophia Institute as sent to James Swan:
A lifelong Protestant Scripture scholar has recently brought forth evidence that Catholicism is the only Christian religion that agrees completely with the Bible --- evidence that's so compelling it led him to become a Catholic!This would have made a funny parody on a Protestant site, but given that this is being used to try to bilk people out of their money, it is not humorous at all. If young Dave Armstrong was a "lifelong Protestant Scripture scholar" then the US is filled with literally millions and millions of "lifelong Protestant Scripture scholars" and the phrase no longer has meaning. In fact, my small church has dozens of them. My youth group is filled with lifelong Protestant Scripture scholars.
Dave Armstrong's odyssey began decades ago when disputes among his Protestant brethren launched him on a quest to discover the true Bible-based church. The closer he looked at Scripture, the more he found key teachings that were denied by this Protestant sect or ignored by that one.
Worse: his hard-core Protestant convictions were shaken by mounting evidence that of all the Christian churches today, only one --- the Catholic Church --- is thoroughly biblical. Says Armstrong: "That was entirely contrary to what I had so cavalierly assumed as an Evangelical Protestant."
Not one to make hasty decisions, Armstrong undertook nearly two-decades of study to resolve, once and for all, the core issues that divide Catholics and Protestants.
Next, is someone going to seriously argue Armstrong has come up with anything that is 1) unique, and 2) even slightly viable on a scholarly level? I would surely hope not. When Armstrong produces something that has any kind of accuracy to it, he is just borrowing from what he's read from others. And when he blows a fuse and comes up with something like "Peter raising folks from the dead proves we can pray to saints" that may be unique, but it is also silly.
Trying to produce the "Paul Syndrome" is not easy. Armstrong has indeed been writing for decades---but the advertisement makes it sound like he spent decades studying the issue first, and then was forced to the point of conversion only after this deep, scholarly study. The fact is Armstrong has spent the past decade and more desperately trying to defend his conversion, nothing more. This isn't an advertisement. It's a travesty. But, it does provide an insight into the mindset of those who market Romanism.
Could it be that Armstrong has deceived Sophia Institute? I suppose. Or, could it be that some over-zealous copy writer for Sophia Institute went off on a tangent and Armstrong is not responsible for it? Sure. And if that is the case, I'm sure I will see an article on DA's website tomorrow correcting the advertisement. But the chances of that are about as good as my finding a retraction and apology for his absurd accusation of implicit Trinitarian heresy based upon his inane handling of a single Latin term. Where, oh where, is the Roman Catholic apologist with the courage of his professed convictions who will stand up and say, "Enough of these silly converts who can't argue their case! Here is our best, and we apologize for all these folks who are clearly seeking to do nothing more than make a living off of our gullible members!"? I will keep searching.
UPDATE: Dave Armstrong has posted a letter to Sophia Institute asking them to explain the inaccuracies in the book-promotion e-mail noted above. I speculated on the possibility that an over-zealous copy writer was to blame, and according to Armstrong, that's the case. I have no reason to question him. His letter seems sincere. Sadly, he still can't bring himself to admit that his "vicar" argument is as empty as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's eschatology, but that is just part of the "persona," as is the wacked-out picture he has included in his reply (another warped picture of yours truly).