More insight coming from the responses being offered by Roman Catholics to some brief observations posted here regarding problems within Roman Catholic theology and practice. First thing is, the vast majority of folks who are willing to comment about what I say are also unwilling to actually listen to anything I have said in the past. While Reformed apologists review Roman Catholic apologists’ talks and articles and books with regularity, the “they aren’t there, we don’t care” attitude reigns supreme on the far side of the Tiber. No matter how accurately you may represent Rome’s teachings, how often you may cite their dogmatic teachings, they simply refuse to reciprocate on the level of accuracy and fairness. This is the reality of the situation.
I noted the absurd identification of a pile of chocolate drippings as an appearance of Mary, and we got a number of replies that were nothing more than pure emotionalism clothed with a thin veneer of “We are the true church, you heretic! We’ve been around for 2,000 years! You’ll roast in hell with all the rest of the Arians!” etc. and etc. Nothing containing the slightest bit of substance or rational refutation—then again, trying to defend chocolate drippings as a divine sign from heaven is something most of Rome’s apologists aren’t interested in anyway. Here is an example that came into our website as I was writing this blog entry:
Mr. James White, As a proud Roman Catholic and believer in the savior of man our Lord Jesus Christ is saddens me that Protestants have the desire to covert us to the many divsions and false teachings of many Protestant faiths. Let me ask you for those who argue for KJV for biblical study only. Why is it that the King James book is based after the the Latin Vulgate translated by St. Jerome. Why do Protestants use a Catholic book to ridicule the institution that gave you the Bible. King James was a sodomite with no religous authority much like King Henry the VIII false political church. His wife made the right choice she was Catholic.
Our regular readers cannot help but chuckle at the irony of such e-mails, especially since my stand on the KJV issue is so well known and would, of course, be easily discovered by anyone with the slightest desire to know. But in any case, these kinds of replies which show not the first bit of familiarity with our own position are standard fare.
The constant phenomena of “Marian sightings” is a relevant issue for Rome’s apologists, and that is why we’ve been trying to get Tim Staples, now of Catholic Answers, to debate the Marian dogmas for a couple of years now. He’s cranking out multiple CD sets (like the one pictured here), books and talks and the like, on the topic, but for some reason, when he’s been asked, repeatedly, to debate the topic in the Great Debate Series, he’s been “unavailable.” Of course, if you listen to Catholic Answers Live you’ll hear humorous commercials advertising his availability to come speak in your parish, so you do have to wonder just a bit. Anyway, the issue is quite relevant to Rome’s refusal to be submitted to biblical authority, and to the fact that her tradition “makes void” the Word of God in vital issues such as the nature of worship and that fact that there is no biblical basis for differentiating between latria and dulia as Rome does.
Next, either I am a horrific writer, utterly incapable of communicating a simple point, or the other side is unwilling to actually deal with what you are saying. I noted the CNN article regarding Rome’s priests in Africa engaging in obviously unChristian behavior and idolatry. One of the contributors to Jimmy Akin’s blog, Michelle Arnold, wrote a response titled “Anti-Catholic Snobbery.” Don’t you love the double standard? Can you imagine the howls that would arise if I replied and referred to “anti-Protestant snobbery”? Ah yes, well, that’s the nature of things. And so do we find Michelle providing a scintillating response to the latria/dulia issue, perhaps examining the use of db;[‘ and related terms and most especially the LXX usage that comes into the New Testament, demonstrating that in fact there is a clear and purposeful delineation between latreu,w and douleu,w and their related word groups? Well, not exactly. Do we even find her actually focusing upon the issue I raised, that being my oft-repeated phrase, “theology matters,” that is, here we have an issue even Rome says is a problem but, in reality, the issue is produced by Rome’s own stubborn refusal to obey God’s Word? No, of course not. It is far more useful to rally the troops with time-honored insults like “anti-Catholic” while throwing out irrelevancies that completely miss the point. Remember, apologetics is a very utilitarian, very pragmatic thing on their side of the Tiber. As long as it makes your followers happy and reflects well on Mother Church, all is well. Does it completely miss what that anti-Catholic (repeat this phrase often, no matter how silly it actually is, no matter how disrespectful to define someone’s entire ministry based solely upon your beliefs it might be) was actually saying? Doesn’t matter. They are just anti-Catholic snobs anyway, right?
So just what do we find from Michelle? Well, first, for some odd reason, though I have debated the issue of the priesthood and argued strongly that the very concept of a celibate priesthood with sacramental authority and powers is utterly contrary to the divine form of the church set out in holy Scripture (anyone want to take bets on whether Michelle has even listened to that debate with Mitch Pacwa?) she seems to think that I would be disposed to find something positive in Rome’s trying to get her priests not to moonlight as witch doctors. We read, “…does he sigh with relief that the Catholic bishops are defending Christianity or does he immediately start to wonder why the Catholic bishops are complaining?” Well, of course, since I do not believe these bishops are, in fact, defending Christianity, why would I have such a thought? My point is that Rome has no reason to complain about such obvious idolatry amongst her priests when…she promotes idolatry in her official dogma. So we do not exactly start out with a great insight here. Of course, she says it was a rhetorical question anyway, but good rhetorical questions actually illustrate something relevant to your argument, and this one only plays to the crowd.
Next, we are told that there is a “distinct lack of charity toward the bishops who are addressing the problem.” How so? Where have I been anything but completely clear in my statement that Rome does not possess the gospel, and therefore is not a “true church with problems,” but a false church? Have I not written on this subject for years? Have I been unclear at some point? Did I not write a point/counter-point article in the CRI Journal years ago illustrating this very point against a fellow Protestant? So, if I have been consistent in my conclusion that Rome’s gospel does not save, and therefore Rome is a false church, exactly what would “charity” look like in speaking to someone who falsely claims to represent Christ while promoting a false gospel and false worship? Would I pander to such men, encouraging them in their promotion of the false worship enshrined in Rome’s Marian dogmas, her promotion of prayers to saints and angels, or would true Christian charity speak the truth plainly, warning others against being deceived and led into falsehood? Isn’t it more truly charitable to show a much higher standard of accuracy in representing Rome’s teachings on this subject (you will note Rome’s apologists have rarely even attempted to interact with my formally published works [here and here are two exceptions] and rare is the documented accusation of mis-citation) than Rome’s apologists do in representing us? Where is the “charity” in Michelle’s reply, I wonder? But then we get to the “snobbery” accusation:
but there is a boatload of snobbery toward people of other cultures who this apologist presumes do not have the intelligence to know the difference between the Blessed Virgin Mary and “tribal deities” or between hyperdulia and idolatry, and snobbery even toward a “rural priest” presumed not to know how to teach the Christian faith in third-world cultures.
Now, is it “snobbery” to say what I said, which was,
Given Rome’s violation of biblical teaching regarding prayers to saints and angels, and in particular, given Rome’s exaltation of the humble handmaid of the Lord to the Queen of Heaven, isn’t this rather understandable? I mean, put yourself in the sandals of the person attending the Roman Church in the bush of Africa somewhere. All you’ve known has been tribal religion, but you also hear about this religion called Catholicism. And so you go to the services and they are sacrificing their god upon an altar and praying to this exalted woman named Mary (could you differentiate between her and one of your tribal deities? Could you? You really think pleading the meaning of ‘hyperdulia’ is going to work here?) and to spirits like Michael and they are lighting candles and bowing and praying toward a box with something the priest consecrated and put in their and toward images and statues—just what should we expect folks are going to think? And put yourself in the position of the priest in that rural location. Is he going to really be in a position to attempt to engage in the kind of double-speak Rome’s apologists have to use to get around the Bible’s prohibition against the very kind of spiritism that is part and parcel of the surrounding culture?
You note Michelle does not respond to the foundational platform of the argument: Rome’s teachings about worship. Instead, she just glosses over this, referring to them as “the Christian faith.” That sort of misses the point, doesn’t it? Just a bit. Instead, she attempts to make it look like I am being a “snob” toward folks who…evidently, out in rural areas of Africa, are supposed to have access to the finely tuned arguments of Catholic Answers regarding the alleged (and false) distinctions between latria, dulia, and hyper-dulia. It is snobbery to think that such Latin distinctions might just be lost on most folks whose entire religious experience has been in tribal African religion? Well, do forgive! Something tells me most would agree with my observations, actually, and Michelle might want to consider the constant, well-documented problem of syncretism within her own communion in Mexico, Brazil, and in those very African nations, before lobbing the “snobbery” bomb my direction.
The reality is, Michelle Arnold failed to respond to what I said, completely. This is just another example of the pragmatism of Rome’s apologists. Give an answer that makes the home team cheer (remember the fellow at the 1996 Staples debate yelling out “the Eucharist!!!” as if it had some kind of apologetic value in and of itself?) but don’t give a second thought as to whether it actually addresses the point being made. Don’t worry, be Catholic. Surely more popular than our approach, but it all comes down to one question: who are you trying to please, anyway?
But, I should give Michelle some kudos anyway. While writing this note another good son of Mother Church, Bill Guentner, wrote to me. “Re you article on Rome’s Priests in Africa. B******T” Ah yes, I’m feeling the “charity,” aren’t you?