Because we have done so many debates against leading Roman Catholic apologists over the past decade, we are often asked a rather simple question: why haven’t you debated such-and-such a person? Most of the time, we are asked why we don’t offer debates with Scott Hahn or Karl Keating. Some are just wondering if we have in fact debated these folks, but don’t have the tapes. Others are wondering if we are unwilling to debate them, and others are directly asserting that we are afraid to debate them.
We’d like to set the record straight. There are exactly two Roman Catholic apologists who need not contact us about doing a public debate: Vinney Lewis and Dr. Art Sippo. The reason that we would have no interest in doing debates with these folks is quite simple: we have concluded they are not capable of acting in a sufficiently gentlemanly manner for a meaningful debate to take place. James White did two radio debates with Vinney Lewis in 1996 and we believe these debates fully exemplify what we mean. James likewise debated Dr. Art Sippo in 1991 in Toledo, Ohio, on the subject of justification. A brief discussion of that debate will be found in another article on this page regarding Catholic Answers. See also the partial recording of the debate with Art Sippo by clicking here.
It follows, therefore, that we would be more than happy to debate the following men: Dr. Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, Mark Shea, David Currie, Stephen Ray, and David Palm. We would likewise be more than happy to receive challenges from those we have debated in the past, including Tim Staples, Patrick Madrid, James Akin (we haven’t actually debated Mr. Akin formally outside of radio “discussions”) and Mitchell Pacwa. In the case of David Currie, and David Palm, we have never officially (or unofficially) contacted these men to discuss the possibilities. However, in the case of Dr. Hahn, Karl Keating, Stephen Ray, and Mark Shea, we have, in fact, openly challenged each one to public, moderated debate.
Mark Shea is the author of By What Authority, a book that attempts to undermine sola scriptura through an attack upon the canon of Scripture. Unfortunately, the book is based upon a tremendous amount of circular reasoning and flawed information. We have attempted to dialogue with Mr. Shea, but the result has always been the same: vitriol and ad-hominem. Recently we attempted this in the bit.listserv.catholic newsgroup, but were met with nothing but frustrating tactics and insults. Our challenge, however, remains open to Mr. Shea to debate, publicly, the issue of the authority of Scripture and the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
Karl Keating has had a challenge from us to debate sola scriptura and a wide variety of other topics since October of 1990. While willing to debate others, Mr. Keating has shown no interest in engaging us. Patrick Madrid, while Vice-President of Catholic Answers, indicated that Mr. Keating is not the best debater, preferring prepared talks to off-the-cuff remarks. Our challenge, however, stands as firm today as it was in 1990. [Update as of 3/00: Catholic Answers continues to claim to be out-front, and is now attempting to raise money by boasting about how they will go into “anti-Catholic” meetings to “give the Catholic answer.” In light of this activity and attitude, we have again pointed out Mr. Keating’s refusal to “give the Catholic answer” in the face of prepared and studied opposition. See the articles: our initial challenge, a second discussion.]
Dr. Scott Hahn’s challenge to debate was delivered personally by James White following a debate in San Diego in January of 1991. James White had first met Scott Hahn at a debate between White and Gerry Matatics in Phoenix, Arizona. Hahn then moderated a debate on the Papacy the next evening. The next month White debated Dr. Mitchell Pacwa on justification and the Mass. Following one of these debates, White challenged Hahn, in front of a number of witnesses, to a public debate. That was in January of 1991—over six years ago now. So far, Hahn has been unwilling to debate.
In late 1996, James White received an invitation to participate in a Roman Catholic/Protestant dialogue/debate in Dallas, Texas, scheduled for April of 1997. White gladly accepted the invitation, and sent out a number of books and debate tapes to those who invited him. However, the very next day, White received a phone call, dis-inviting him. He was told that when Dr. Hahn was told he (White) had been invited, he became quite upset, and indicated that if White was going to attend, he would not. Since they already had a contract with Hahn, White’s invitation was rescinded.
For those, then, who would like to see how individuals such as Mark Shea, Karl Keating, and Scott Hahn, would respond to the challenges put forward by James White, we can only suggest one thing: contact these men and ask them to engage in such a public exchange.