A recent blog entry from Catholic apologist Mark Shea demonstrates the difference in purpose between Catholics and Protestants. Mark took some shots at Dr. White’s work on the recent Jesus Tomb controversy. Shea writes,
“James is now stuck with thousands of copies of his laborious prose sitting in boxes in his garage. So he naturally tries to make lemonade from lemons by turning his blunder into yet another proof of the heartlessness of the Romanist Deception. In his earnest, anything-for-a-rhetorical-point way, he asks (in a piece called “Apologetics Roman Style”): ‘Let’s say the scholarship in The Lost Tomb of Jesus is laughable. So what? Do you respond to laughable scholarship with…laughter?‘ Um, yes. You do.Or, at any rate, normal people do. See, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the Nine Day Wonderhood of this story was a given when the story broke, when I saw the lame nature of the “evidence” adduced, so I laughed it off as I generally laugh off news ofthe absurd. Life’s too short.”
For Reformed Christians with a love of the Scriptures, the Gospel, and a heart for the lost, the Jesus Tomb controversy was yet another opportunity to proclaim God’s Word and Christ’s resurrection. It was also another opportunity to demonstrate the reliance of the Bible to an unbelieving world. By Dr. White’s careful research, he once again equipped Christians to discuss current issues in an understandable way with those who are lost. He also helped demonstrate how recent anti-Biblical scholarship attempts to malign the Bible by its use of Gnostic and missing books. Shea shouldn’t be so naïve. He should go down to his local big-chain-bookstore and note how many books on the Gnostic writings are being put forth as comparable to the Bible. He shouldn’t be so naïve to think this is the end of such attacks on Christianity. Knowing how important it is for those against the faith to destroy it, the Jesus Tomb will probably be re-packaged again. For the next time, much of the work has already been done by Dr. White.
Shea though thinks a correct response to the Jesus Tomb is to laugh it off. This tells me that whatever Shea’s apologetic pursuits are, they are not concerned with taking any fact or current situation and using it to proclaim God’s truth. Perhaps this is simply the distinction between Catholic and Protestant apologetics. Catholic apologists work to get you to join their church, even though if you’re a Protestant, you are only a separated brother anyway. Protestants see apologetics as a means of proclaiming the Gospel. It is the desire to honor God and proclaim His truth to a world enslaved to sin. For those who are interested in laughing off arguments, I simply must ask how much you actually care about the lost.
A Note from JRW:
I was going to write a brief note about Shea’s article myself, so I will just tack a few thoughts on here. There is definitely a vast chasm between the attitude of Shea and his compatriots (check out the insightful, mature, relevant comments on the article) and myself. I can only conclude that Shea has never run into someone who had been influenced by the burgeoning body of “if the gnostics said it, it must be right” literature. That seems hard to believe, since this kind of material is ubiquitous in the hallways of academia today. But as James Swan has pointed out, the glory of God in the proclamation of His truth is not the goal for this kind of RC apologist anyway: submission to Mother Church is all that matters.
The head-in-the-sand mentality of Shea and those like him is nothing new. When Holy Blood, Holy Grail first came out, opening the flood of gnostic-inspired tales, many responded in the same way. “Oh, that’s just silliness” may work in some contexts, but look what happened over the decades. That work, and those like it, led directly to The Da Vinci Code. Sure the entire theory was silly when it first appeared, and it remains silly today. In the ultimate scheme of things, any mechanism man uses to rebel against his Creator is “silly.” But explaining why it is silly is the problem. Giving an answer that then opens the door to the proclamation of the Gospel, well, that takes a little more than a good guffaw.
It’s been a little while since Shea bothered to bare his fangs my direction, but this is surely not the first time.