If I spent my days responding to everything that is written about me on a daily basis on the web, my wife would forget my name, and my children would think they were orphans. It is never ending. And I have learned that expecting serious, exegetically based, consistent replies to the refutation of the errors of Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, the Watchtower Society, et. al. is a sure way to experience disappointment. It just won’t happen.
Take the incident from last week that took place in our chat channel, #prosapologian. First we encountered a person who was posting a URL to a message written by Martin Smart, a JW apologist, allegedly (after about a year’s worth of time) refuting some comments made to him regarding John 17 in the same channel. The person claimed to be a “Christian who likes to debate.” While I was away from home at the time (teaching for GGBTS), I stopped what I was doing and attempted to provide the person with some brief replies. The person claimed to have cited me in this group and then found themselves “thoroughly refuted” by Martin Smart who was citing my friend, Dan Wallace. So I asked for some specifics, and about all I got was that Wallace says the imperative can be used in prayers. I went over and dug out my Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics CD to check the citation, and while the program was firing up, the person said something that made me very suspicious. It was getting more and more obvious that the person was desperate to get me to give him some kind of quotation to be used in this group. All of a sudden it hit me: this is a JW acting like a Christian. So I asked, “Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” “I’m a Christian who likes to debate” came the reply. So I repeated myself, “Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” The person kept dodging, and then, realizing his cover was blown, triumphantly said “Martin Smart was right!” and left the channel. I messaged the person and confirmed that they are, in fact, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For all I could tell it was Martin Smart himself, who knows? One thing was for sure, whoever it was seemed more interested in finding a way around John 17 than they were in obeying the Scriptural command “you shall not lie.” And I might note in passing, after the person left, I laughed as I looked at the citation from Dan Wallace’s grammar: he does not cite John 17:5 as an example, nor, I would think, would he agree with such an application.
But, less than five minutes after the dishonest JW left, someone else came in, claiming to be a Protestant Christian, by the name of Faxsem. He claimed to be a Protestant Christian, part of a group that had agreed to do a debate with a Roman Catholic. Instantly some in the room were suspicious, and the thought in the back of my mind likewise made me wonder, but, I like to err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt, so we attempted to help the person. As soon as he said he was debating Brother John Mary, I said, “Drop the debate. John Mary is irrational. You can’t reason with him. You made a mistake getting into it, so drop it.” But the person was relentless. The question he was asking was utterly irrational: they demanded the name of someone in the 9th century that wasn’t a Roman Catholic. We tried to explain that the very term was oxymoronic, that nobody in the 9th century believed as modern Roman Catholics do, but again, he would not be satisfied. When we mentioned Gottschalk of Orbais, the poor soul who was publicly beaten for believing as Augustine in double-predestination, the person scoffed since he had to be a “Catholic” to be a monk. The idea that modern Roman Catholicism is fundamentally different today than previous generations simply wouldn’t fly. At this point one of the channel operators, concluding (rightly) that this person was utterly irrational, removed the person from the channel. Immediately he began messaging me, and guess who it was? “Brother John Mary” himself. Two liars in one night, within five minutes of each other! One truly wonders why such folks even bother.
Sometimes the utter nonsense that is put out by those who oppose the biblical faith causes serious Christians to wonder about all apologetic efforts. But just because there are those who are not serious about what they are saying or profess to believe does not mean that the effort to respond to the common claims of the opposition. Just because every movement has its equivalent of a Jack Chick or a Tony Alamo doesn’t mean they do not likewise have serious apologists. And hence we have to put up with some silliness in order to get to the meat of the matter.
Recently I have written two articles that have mentioned Stephen Ray, Catholic apologist. We have noted Mr. Ray’s unwillingness to debate publicly on the issues he so confidently addresses in his written works and on his website. And we have asserted that his style of historical argumentation is sub-scholarly and sub-truthful. In a recent main-page article I replied to an ad-hominem laced e-mail message he had sent out addressing William Webster and myself. My articles have been fairly short, fairly focused on specific issues. But it has been fascinating to note Mr. Ray’s replies.
A number of “regulars” in our chatroom likewise read things on Mr. Ray’s message board. One reported to me that Ray had posted a message, “A silly little piece full of faux pas and mistakes– like he’s bending over asking me to kick him. (http://www.catholic-convert.com/wwwboard/messages/46.html)” This kind of rhetoric is common amongst this genre of RC apologist.
Eventually Ray posted his second response to my articles. I asked one of the regulars in our chat channel, Tim Dudek, to do me a favor and read through both articles Ray had posted and put together a file of comments that represents the slice-and-dice, ad-hominem style of argumentation that identifies Stephen Ray’s work. He said it was a difficult task, only because the arguments were so fallacious and the rhetoric so obviously beneath civility. But there are many who are utterly unaware of the kind of writing that zealous Catholic apologists find compelling. So below we provide the citations culled from Ray’s last two articles as evidence of the kind of behavior one can expect from this realm of RC apologists. We might note that other apologists frequent Ray’s board, such as David Palm, and we are unaware of any public rebuke offered by these other apologists for this kind of writing. And so, we now allow Stephen Ray to speak for himself:
As a world renowned expert on the “real truth” of the Catholic Church and God’s gracious gift to all Christians (kinda like the 20th century Martin Luther, eh?), he seems to have become a self-proclaimed expert not only of the Fathers of the Church but on the brain cells inside Karl Keating’s head and my own. (Kinda scary, eh? Kinda sad too.)
You can marvel at his world-class scholarship for yourself at http://www.aomin.org/Sermo131.html (make sure you bring some popcorn).
There is a weak new movement among a few misinformed Protestant apologists which attempts to quickly master the Church Fathers and twist them anachronistically (I love this word, especially since it is one of our critic’s favorite words) to fit their Protestant traditions and wishes. Many Protestant apologists, and often the anti-Catholics in complicity with them, simply parrot the likes of William “Bill” Webster, but Webster proves to be much better at it than the parrots.
Note: In the second article he will claim he never said you were trying to turn the fathers into Protestants.
Are there a bunch of Catholic “ecumenical scholars” willing to give away the ship? You bet, and those who oppose the papacy place great stock in these “scholars” concessions. They love to refer to them as “Catholic historians” as though they are the final word. There are some who have good things to say, but at the same time collapse at crucial points. Much could be said here, but this is not the topic of our discussion.
Note: Again he contradicts something he will say in the second article.
I have no animosity toward our angry critic. at the unprovoked and unnecessary nastiness of the article and the perception that the critic can read my mind and intent, as well as my words. This is all very interesting in light of our critic’s recent Joint Agreement co-signed with Bob Sungenis (http://www.aomin.org/JointStatement.html). (If it is no longer exists at this link it is probably because our critic violated it and it had to be removed.)
[Note: You’ll find the article right where the link is: since it is Ray who refuses to function in such a fashion, as these citations prove, why should we remove the article?]
Lastly, since I really don’t take this kind of criticism too seriously (especially after reading it and knowing its source)
I now crumble because this critic sneers at my book later in his article– because it contradicts his view (his legend)?
However, to see the extent the critic goes to twist history, read the last two appendices and compare them with our critic’s analysis earlier in his article.
I wonder if our critic has actually read my book upon which he makes such a caustic and seemingly infallible criticism. I would venture a guess that he only read the portions which related to him, but didn’t read the entire book and the development of the thesis and argument to understand the full content, or he has taken passages out of context (which is exactly what he has done here in his critique) and twists them.
I would respect our critic a bit more if he would provide a fair presentation the book instead of just attacking the pages he happened to flip to or the passages that contain his name.
He hopes his readers will buy his prattle hook line and sinker.
I wish our critic had read the Fathers and not just “proof-texted” them.
Obvious? Maybe to someone who has already put the blinders on but not quite so obvious to an objective reader and historian.
His very attempt to discredit my book is fueled by his “desperate attempt” to force his Protestant views into early history (and the Bible for that matter).
If the critic had actually read my book instead of just grandstanding with passages taken out of context (I hope he doesn’t “do the Bible” this way; oh my) he should explain to his reader that I have already explained my method and reasons. An author can get frustrated when critics spout off but demonstrate (even if it isn’t actually the case) an ignorance of the book upon which they purport to judge. And here it seems that the infallible critic can also see into ones heart and knows the purposes and “deceitful” intent behind the book. The only thing worse than someone who thinks they can read you mind is someone who does a darn poor job of it.
First, what is the problem? I relay the exact words of Augustine as I explain in the footnote. It would do the reader well to read the whole footnote, not just the few lines taken out of context by our infallible critic.
Now let’s educate our critic a bit. He already has a Ph.D. he says, but I’m sure he’s willing to admit there is more he can learn. I’m sure he will admit he can learn a thing or two once in a while, unless of course he claims omniscience (insert throat-clearing here).
We’re not impressed. Loud squawking in italics and jumping up and down don’t impress me or my learned readers.
or with our “world-renowned”, impeccably educated critic who received his “degree”¾ well, we’ll not discuss that here.
The facts may be clear to our critic, as clear as much of the other wishful thinking that he day dreams about.
Now you have an idea of how shoddy Protestant apologetics can create mythical Protestant history (legends) and how Protestant apologists often self-destruct when their legends are carefully analyzed.
When men like White and Webster use the Fathers the way they do, it requires a response and a few hours of my time is worth the effort, at least in my estimation.
If he really has my book and has read it thoroughly as he implies, I would suggest that he should prove his erudition and attention to detail by at least getting the name correct.
The link between me and the Mormons seems to loosely be that our critic has a persecution complex and feels that people are out to get him–to “dehumanize” him.
He even says we “dehumanize him”! What a foolish and blatant exaggeration! What a paranoid and neurotic comment.
This claim by our critic seems VERY bizarre to me–childish. And to say I have attacked him (where is the evidence in his recent article?) and not the issues makes me wonder if he ever read my response to his first article.
So do I use ad hominem arguments (arguments against the man). Yes and no. I address the man in this rebuttal, but not the man alone or primarily.
If I did not say what our critic claims and if I have been made guilty by association, I wonder if our critic will be a big enough man to admit his mistake and correct it. Our critic is really slipping. Maybe he is overworked–single-handedly saving God and the world from the scourge of Catholics and others who don’t agree with his parochial views–or maybe he isn’t getting enough sleep.
Again, we find a glaring example of sloppy writing and obscure allegations without substantiation or the ability to verify.
This wouldn’t surprise me if our current critic has done the same since it is their typical method of doing research. It also seems he likes to parrot his friend Webster often enough without doing his own research.
I am afraid you can explain things to some people over and over again and if there is no desire to deal with the truth or willingness to admit a their faults it goes in one ear and zoom, right out the other one. Then they wonder why folks like me¾and their fallen-away disciples¾stare at them with puzzled looks in our faces after a while.
To continue whining about something that was not an issue to begin with (since it is fully discussed in my book) and that has already been explained on my website to the perfect satisfaction of objective readers, would seem to bring the critic’s comments and comprehension skills into question.
This last comment makes one wonder if our critic has had enough sleep lately. Delusions and loss of contact with reality often accompany lack of sleep. Just wondering . . .
Thus, our critic “uses” the Fathers to bolster his view of the Trinity, for example, but rejects them when it comes to the doctrines he is unwilling to accept because he is so choked by his Fundamentalist traditions and presuppositions.
Bringing St. Athanasius into this discussion at this point is not wise. White has been refuted on this over and over again. He reminds me of the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going and going and going, pounding his little drum as if nobody had ever corrected him on this matter. Even now, in responding to him I feel like I’m poking at a mad dog. I question whether it is merciful to do so. It seems our critic doesn’t want to be confused with the facts. Our critic can proof-text and twist the Fathers to supposedly express Protestant sentiments, if, and only if he divorces them from the full context of their writings and times.
[It strikes us that if we are a “mad dog” being poked with a stick, Mr. Ray would jump at the chance to demonstrate this in public debate before microphones and television cameras. Yet, he declines to do so.]
Does St. Augustine reject Church councils and customs, Sacred Traditions and Roman primacy? Of course not and our critic knows it.
You don’t see Augustine say, “[On the matter of the Pelagians] two local Bible teachers have already decided and sent their conclusion to Phoenix, and Phoenix has sent us “his” private interpretation back in writing so the matter is at an end.” Humph! How silly! The more I read and interact with men like our critic the more I revel in the joy and sanity of being Catholic!
Our critic is a funny man sometimes. He accuses me of doing something and then turns around it does it himself with utter abandon and doesn’t even realize it.
Maybe our critic was hasty, maybe careless, I don’t know. But, it is good for our readers to realize that this latest little piece on his website is not only sloppy and incorrect but is fraught with errors and Fundamentalist presuppositions to which the Fathers, unfortunately, are expected to conform. It is an embarrassment to Mr. White whether he realizes it or not.