Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Musings On Anti-Catholicism
01/11/2008 - James SwanIt's all too easy to get caught up in rhetoric and ad hominem with someone presenting a counter position. Paul instructs Christians to slander no one, and to be peaceable and considerate as we strive to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:2). This goal can be easily forgotten. Particularly in written dialog, things we write not intended as offensive can come across as such when analyzed by those being written to or about.
I've recently been dialoging with a Catholic apologist over historical citations and context accuracy. During this discussion, levels of frustration have been met on both sides. I wonder if sometimes that level is reached because we build a picture of a person within our minds, and then read everything they write according to that image. Of course, this is simply human nature, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. God has given us reason, and we are to use that reason. However, I think humility requires we sit back at times and makes sure our characterization of our opponents is based in reality.
I have found that Roman Catholics have developed a notion of "anti-Catholic," and once that label gets slapped on, whatever one may write against Rome is interpreted in the worst possible way. I stand firmly with those who believe Rome teaches a false gospel. Therefore, what may come across to Catholics as anti-Catholic, I view as defending my faith against those I believe are putting forth material not glorifying to Jesus Christ. When I say this, I am not in any way implying that I hate Catholics. I do not agree with what they stand for, but this does not mean I hate them collectively, including their zealous apologists.
In this particular recent dialog with a Catholic apologist, I found a section in which the "group think" of the Roman Catholic mind came clearly to the front. I could see how my writings against Catholicism were viewed with distrust, and that my motivations were taken in the worst possible way. This particular apologist had taken snippet-sentences of my writings, and had made some striking conclusions as to my nature and intent. Here are two examples, with an explanation of what I meant, as well as the Catholic interpretation.
I stated once, "Won't somebody in Catholic apologetics do the right thing?", "Here I was said to be implying a "moral lapse" in Catholic apologists. However, if you read the context of this comment, I then went on to explain, "I have stated more than once, that these Catholic apologists, when going to print with their books, claiming to be deep in history is to cease being Protestant, should live up to their standards. If they make a historical statement, they should go deep into history to validate that statement when challenged." The charge was directed towards a particular apologist who would not admit he had hadn't actually read the source he had quoted, and how those within Catholic apologetics involved in this dispute would not admit his mistake.
I stated once, "One may think I'm nitpicking, and this is an isolated incident. . . . The current trend in Catholic apologetics is to throw Luther quotes in, regardless of what Luther actually said." The analysis given to these words was that I assert "absolute incompetence bordering on culpable irresponsibility." Note particularly the "..." These little dots mean something was left out. I was responding to Steve Ray's 11 page PDF response to my charges, and if you were to just read this little snippet, you would never realize I was quoted out of context. I actually said, "After sifting through eleven pages, I still doubt that Steve Ray cares about his methodology. Rather than simply admitting he hasn't read 'Epis. ad. Zwingli' and has no idea as to what Luther actually said on this or where he said it, I received back eleven pages of obfuscation. One may think I'm nitpicking, and this is an isolated incident. I recently checked another Luther quote used by Mr. Ray and came up with the same conclusion- Mr Ray didn't actually read what Luther said. The current trend in Catholic apologetics is to throw Luther quotes in, regardless of what Luther actually said." One can see, I noted a trend, and made specific assertions of a Catholic apologsit in particular. Interestingly, the Catholic apologist mis-citing my words above agreed with me that Steve Ray hadn't read the context of the quote he was using.
So in the mind of this particular Catholic apologist, my words are taken and morphed into something not intended. In my treatments of Luther and the Catholic usage thereof, he views my purpose to be none other than to chastise Catholics as "incompetent or even dishonest" and that I have a "strong polemical purpose to run down Catholic apologists." Obviously, this particular Catholic apologist failed to remember the paper of mine he used to link to approvingly on his website: The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther (Part Two). In this paper, I pointed out "There is a wealth of Roman Catholic authors whose opinions and research are worthy of a close look." Even more recently in a discussion with Catholic apologist Art Sippo on Luther biographies, I had to defend Catholic historian Joseph Lortz against the vitriol of Sippo. Obviously, I'm not the awful Catholic-hater I'm being painted to be.
For those you engaged in the evangelizing of Roman Catholics, keep in mind that your words might not make it to home plate so to speak. It's easy to get frustrated when a negative caricature is put forth about your motivations. Go into each discussion prayerfully and humbly, and most of all have the discussion for no other reason than to bring glory to God. This means that while the temptation to bite back may well up inside, consider that as Christians we're to expect strong opposition. You're getting back exactly what you're supposed to get back. God uses us, the weak vessels we are, to be salt and light. Pray that in each situation, you will be exactly that.