I could never be a Roman Catholic apologist. It is just not in me to know that my arguments have been shredded repeatedly and yet to continue on repeating them, relying the whole time on the bare hope that the people I’m talking to just don’t care enough to look closely enough to know I’m selling them used and expired goods. I don’t know how they do it, but with just a few exceptions, the most popular of their lot act as if the only people responding to their claims are Jack Chick and the late Alberto Rivera, and as long as those arguments have been debunked, well, their work is done!
Mark Shea is one of those Roman Catholic apologists who seems to think that Rome’s position is bettered when it is defended by nastiness and harsh language. His response to my documentation of errors on his part a few weeks ago only demonstrates once again the nature of Rome’s defenders in our day. Today he gave a great example of “how to not really answer an objection but how to pretend you did anyway” argumentation in a blog article titled “For My Money, One of the Weakest Arguments Against the Immaculate Conception.” He attempts to address a rather simple observation: Rome teaches that Mary was protected from the stain of original sin through a preemptive application of the merits of Christ. Of course, the fact that not rational person could ever derive such a concept from the pages of Scripture is pretty much a given. That’s why most of Rome’s serious theologians view such dogma as “development” over time, or assign it to the realm of “apostolic tradition” that did not leave the slightest evidence of its existence in the canon of Scripture or in the first generations of Christian writings. That way they can simply dismiss all the counter evidence found even in the patristic writings, string together quotes from here and there, and voila! a dogma for all! In any case, if Mary was, in fact, protected from the stain of original sin, as Rome dogmatically defined more than a millennium and a half after the fact, then why would she have pain in childbirth, since, obviously, that is part of the curse itself (Genesis 3:16)?
Now, the argument is but one of many to be raised against Rome’s abuse of the apocalyptic imagery of Revelation 12. But it is a perfectly valid issue to raise, since it is Rome, not the objector, who is forcing the imagery to “walk on all fours” and to serve as one of the few texts the Roman Catholics can use as support of its clearly unbiblical complex of Marian dogmas. Shea quotes from his three volume set of books in response to this, and in so doing shows us again just how viciously circular an authoritarian system like Romanism can be. Having built up a dogma out of fairy dust, Shea has the audacity to talk about arguments from “increasing(ly) frail evidence.” Anyone defending the Marian dogmas should blush to use such phraseology, but Shea is not daunted by such things as consistency and truthfulness. He writes,
Even to me, who had deeply assumed there was something in Scripture contradicting the Immaculate Conception, this was an exceedingly weak claim. By the logic of this argument, it would also be possible to indict Jesus as a sinner since he suffered, toiled, sweated, and died, just like Adam (cf. Gen. 3:17-19).
Of course, Jesus did what He did voluntarily, while not under the curse, so as to redeem God’s elect people. Is it Shea’s argument that Mary, too, voluntarily suffered in childbirth for some hitherto unrevealed reason? This leads us again to consider the absurdity of the Roman position, for who can say with a straight face that the Mary of history, the faithful servant of the Lord recorded for us in but a few passages in sacred writ, actually believed, herself, the dogmas defined by Rome centuries and centuries later? When Mary speaks of God as her Savior in Luke 1:47, are we to seriously think that she had in mind Rome’s complex of doctrines, so that what she really meant was, “I rejoice in God my Savior by the preemptive application of the merits of my Son whose mission I do not yet understand and really will not until the Spirit comes”? In the same way, are we to think the pure maiden of Israel voluntarily chose to suffer in giving birth for some…redemptive purpose, maybe, something related to her being co-redemptrix with Christ? I mean, once history, revelation, Scripture, logic, and rationality, have been thrown to the wind, why not start connecting all these things together for the fun of it? There is no end to where you can take such thinking!
So how is Shea’s response relevant, once we realize that Christ entered into human flesh voluntarily and hence suffered, not as a result of being under the curse, but as a result of His choosing to bear the penalty of our sin in Himself as our Savior? But he continues on:
But more fundamentally, there’s a peculiar tone-deafness to the argument. It’s like saying, “Okay! I grant that Mary is the Cosmic Queen of the Universe, crowned with twelve stars, clothed with the majesty of the sun, and treading the moon under her feet with the awesome glory that God has bestowed upon her! But what’s this? Is that a thread I spy hanging loose on her garments that outshine the sun?” It’s a very silly argument, particularly since the language used by Revelation is so close to the imagery of the “birth pangs of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:8) used by her Son and can easily be taken to refer to the “sword” that pierced her soul at the Passion, not to physical labor pains.
Did you follow that? There are numerous reasons, biblically and historically, to reject Rome’s later identification of Mary in this text. No one is saying, “Oh, I grant all that, but look at this one objection.” It is part of a complex of problems Rome’s eisegesis creates with the apocalyptic text. And if you want another example of the “context doesn’t matter, Rome does” method of biblical manhandling (shades of Harold Camping!), the beginning of birth pangs in the destruction of Jerusalem is somehow related to this imagery in Revelation, so that the term “birth” becomes the valid means of connection? Ah, the glory of Rome’s “interpretation” of the Bible. Of course, we have to point out: where has Rome actually infallibly interpreted the Matthew text? I’m still waiting for that official list of infallibly interpreted texts. Aren’t you?
In the same batch of RSS feeds I ran across this note from Patrick Madrid. Now, you probably remember that we spent quite some time starting in September of last year on the Dividing Line going through both of my debates with Patrick, meticulously taking his arguments apart piece by piece. You know that Patrick has been informed of those programs. But do we see any advancement in Madrid’s argumentation? Any recognition of a need to step up to the next level? Nothing. In fact, in looking back over my blog entries, I see that in 2005 he was making the same mistakes he continues to make in 2009. No advancement. No learning. No improvement. Just repeat the same ol’ arguments over and over and over again.
Evidently, as long as Rome’s pop apologists are looking only to satisfy a “core” constituency, they will continue to use the same tired, worn-out arguments. And yes, I know they say the same in reverse: the difference is, of course, that I play their arguments, in full, on my program, and interact with them. I invite them to call, to debate, to interact. They know my number. They don’t call me. You don’t hear them playing contextualized and full portions of my teachings or debates on their programs, do you? Why might that be? I think the answer is obvious.