What do you do when documentation is provided that you have clearly, repeatedly promoted falsehood in defense of your faith? The honest man admits his mistake. But the politician spins the facts. “Oh, I didn’t mean it that way.” “But you said….” “Let’s not be focused on the past!” We see it every day as politicians demonstrate that truth is not their highest goal. And we see it when proponents of false religions spin the truth in the service of falsehood.
Steve Ray has begun the spin process on his blog in an effort, it seems, to avoid the obvious conclusion that he has been in error, repeatedly, in claiming that sola scriptura has lead to 33,000 denominations since the Reformation, and citing the World Christian Encyclopediaas his source. This source does not say this. No reading of this source could ever lead anyone to this conclusion. It is simply deceptive. Ray may well have been misled by someone else, and simply did not bother to look it up himself. It doesn’t matter. It’s a falsehood, and that has been documented beyond all question.
So what will Steve Ray do now? Well, he could come clean, admit the fact, and move on. But Steve Ray’s personal animosity toward me evidently precludes that path. So instead, it seems at least a part of the spin is going to come in the form of, “Oh, so 9,000 denominations is OK?” Evidently, the hope is that no one will care that the number he’s been using is over three times larger than the listed number—its still big enough, when compared to our wonderful undivided unity! Why do I say this is one of the directions he is going to go? Well, because he has said so on his blog:
Enjoy this article as a preface to my upcoming response to the charge that all of us apologists are liars and deceivers who are naughty because we say the number of Protestant denominations is very high and that the huge numbers of competing, sheep-stealing denominations is damaging the integrity of the Christian faith in the world today.
Did you catch that? Notice how Ray has shifted from “33,000 denominations due to sola scriptura from the Reformation” to “the number of Protestant denominations is high.” Are these equivalent statements? Surely not. But, of course, no one would argue that the number of Protestant denominations is a good thing, anymore than anyone would argue the massive range of views expressed within Roman Catholicism is a good thing, either. But let’s keep our eye on the ball: even if you accept the much smaller number listed in the book of actual Protestant denominations,it would be dependent upon Ray to demonstrate that it was the consistent application of sola scriptura that resulted in these divisions. One of the groups listed by Barrett/Kurian/Johnson under Protestants is “Oneness Pentecostal/Jesus Only.” These are the non-Trinitarians who arose out of the Assemblies of God. Is Ray going to argue that it is the fault of sola scriptura that non-Trinitarians promote a heresy today that preceded even the Council of Nicea in church history?
I might pause here a moment to note an interesting theory that has been put forth by some Roman Catholics regarding the 242 Roman Catholic denominations number. They have asserted that this refers to nations, i.e., one Roman Catholic church per nation. This may well be the case. And if it is, lets apply this to the Protestant numbers. This would mean that Protestant groups with less than 242 denominations listed would not be world-wide in their distribution; those with more would have more than one denomination in certain countries. This seems to make some sense in reading the data given by Barrett/Kurian/Johnson. But think about what this means as well: if taking this into consideration reduces the Roman Catholic numbers down to in essence one, it would likewise greatly reduce the Protestant numbers as well, would it not? In fact, if that is the case, then the actual number of Protestant denominations would be less than a hundred. Only 27 groups are listed under Protestant in this source. Most of these have very small numbers, i.e., they are very limited in their distribution. Few have more than 242 denominations listed. Hence, though merely dividing 8,973 by 242would give us too low a number (this results in 37), the realistic number would be between this number and about 100 or so, using the same logic by which the Roman Catholic number is reduced to one.
Returning to Ray’s spin, here is where he signals clearly the direction he is going:
A certain antagonist, who remains unnamed, says apologists are naughty and ought to apologize for saying there are 33,000 denominations. He stated in a recent blog that statistics state the number of denominations are actually only about 9,000 which apparently is a an [sic] acceptable number to him.
Duhh, as if the staggering number of 9,000 the scandalous escalation fragmentation acceptable in God’s eyes. So, it’s OK to have “only” 9,000 competing, sheep-stealing, chaotic denominations who disagree on just about everything and disregard the expressed desire of Jesus the we be one, like He and the Father are one “perfected in unity.”
Of course, now if we apologists use the number is well with the world and Christendom (and our Antagonist If we reduce our number down a bit — say,down to 9,000 — it will all be OK in God’s eyes. God will sleep better tonight knowing it is only 9,000.
How many more than “one body, one church” is too many? Ask Our Lord!
See the spin? It is not done very well, but when you’ve been so clearly refuted, there is not much more you can do than to play games like this. Notice he never once accurately represents even his own words (how difficult it must be to engage in such self-deception!) he is the one who has said that there are 33,000 Protestant denominations, not just 33,000 denominations. The term naughty is his own lame attempt at mockery as a means of avoiding admission of his error.
But the real smoke-blowing spin attempt is clearly seen here: he is actually so desperate that he is willing to dishonestly assert that I somehow am arguing that 9,000 denominations is acceptable. Of course, I never made such a statement, and no honest person could ever bring himself to say such a thing, but as I have pointed out, it is the essence of Romanism to defend Rome at all costs, and one’s personal integrity and honesty is surely the first casualty.
And so we see Steve Ray giving us a glowing example of what it is like to give your all in defense of Rome. How far will this go? It is hard to say. The facts are not in dispute, but will Ray ever actually deal with the facts in an honest fashion? Given what we’ve seen from him so far, there is little reason to hope for much better.
I wonder where the honest Roman Catholic apologists are? Why aren’t they writing to Ray, encouraging him to honestly admit his error, apologize, and withdraw his claims? I’d like to think someone is doing that, but if they are, I don’t know about it. I’ve surely seen no public calls from the other side of the Tiber for honesty here. If someone knows of any, please let me know.
Surely, if we get this kind of spin from Ray on a simple factual matter that can be documented from a source that is modern and widely available, one has to wonder how much spin the rest of Ray’s work exhibits? Well, we shall surely find out as I begin my response to his thirty-page reply on the Assumption topic. Those who have read it know that only a portion of it is directly on the topic of the Assumption. The rest is prolegomena. But it is interesting, and useful, to respond to it as well. So, we will be dealing with Ray’s many misrepresentations of, and irrelevant arguments against, sola scriptura.
There is one thing to keep in mind, however, as we review Ray’s response. Rome has defined the Assumption as a dogma not a pious suggestion. There is a difference. We will start by defining that difference and pointing out the standards that dogma would put upon the defender of Rome, and how nothing Ray has provided comes close to providing the foundation needed for a de fide dogma.