As noted earlier, I ran across a blog entry titled “James White annoys me to no end.” When I read the article, I quickly typed up a few basic questions, designed to do nothing more than point out yet once again the double-standard that seems to define Roman Catholics on the web these days. I did not take the time to read the person’s bio, scan through old messages or anything else. I was mentioned by name. I was attacked personally. I asked that the person consider what they wrote. Nothing more.
Well, turns out the blogger is a young convert, and of course, many of the rather “screeching” side of the conflict have commented about how terrible it is that I would dare to ask someone honest, sound questions about their personal attacks upon me! How dare I do such a thing! If you are a Protestant, or more so, a Calvinist, don’t you realize folks can misrepresent you, attribute every possible evil motive to you out of gross ignorance, and you are to remain completely silent? Well, yes, that seems to be the climate of things today, sad to say.
In any case, Kacy replied to my questions (which I posted earlier). I here provide her response, and my thoughts as well.
With this being said, I believe it is important for me to respond to the comments James White left in response to my previous post. I have read Dr. White’s blog on a few occasions, but never visited it regularly due to the overall defensive and polemical tone it often takes. However, because I did reference Dr. White’s statements when writing my post, I will respond to his request for further elaboration. I do this because it is the respectful and right thing to do, while realizing that by doing so I am opening myself up to the possibility of public ridicule on his blog. Because I am not a trained apologist, I do not wish to continue further dialogue with Dr. White. Thus, if he so chooses, he can have the “last word.”
I am forced to wonder yet again…why can folks make vague accusations against me without providing specifics? When Kacy reads Galatians, does she speak of its “overall defensive and polemical tone”? If not, why not? I simply seek consistency here.
I had asked Kacy:
May I ask, please, that you take the time to show me where, in my article, I in any way, shape, or form, “slandered” Dr. Beckwith? Could you explain, from my own words, please, where I even *implied* anything about “politics”?
1. I found it uncharitable that you would announce Dr. Beckwith’s reversion on your blog before Dr. Beckwith made this public himself. Due to the sensitive nature of Dr. Beckwith’s particular situation, I found your post inconsiderate.
The only way such an action on my part could be considered “uncharitable” was if 1) I had been asked not to talk about it (I had not), or 2) one thinks this is just a personal matter (it isn’t: Frank Beckwith’s position makes it a very, very public thing, similar to the head of the Republicans in the Senate becoming a Democrat, for example), or 3) one thinks this is all about persons (it isn’t: this is about the gospel and how men are saved). So, there is no logical or rational ground upon which to complain that the President of ETS (a position of honor entrusted to him by others based upon particular facts, including his claimed profession of faith) would be “off limits” from having his conversion noted, and discussed, along with its ramifications.
2. This statement implied political reasons for conversion: I do not believe such a person has the right to overthrow the intentions of the founders of the organization just to make a point or promote his new religious ideologies…
Here you imply that Dr. Beckwith somehow had political motivations in mind for converting while president of ETS. In my response, I was simply trying to say that from my understanding of the situation, this was not the case. As, Dr. Beckwith’s post shows, he was careful in evaluating the time of his return to the Church and what that would mean for ETS.
Kacy is simply in error to read such concepts into my words. The portion from which she quotes came immediately after the following:
I would like to very seriously propose that any person who, while in the leadership of such an organization, choses to abandon the faith he professed when elected, and embrace a faith substantially different (which clearly the founders of the ETS intended to exclude the views of Roman Catholicism), should by any meaningful ethical standard step down from his position. The very fact that he was elected as one standing in a particular theological spectrum who, then, abandons that position in a substantive, directly relevant way, would be enough to bring a moral imperative to bear upon him.
Please note that I was referring to “any person,” not just to Frank Beckwith. Further, evidently, Dr. Beckwith agreed, for he even made a similar comment in his own blog entry. So, there is no rational reason to read into this statement anything more than what it says: I do not believe a person who converts to Catholicism as President of ETS should remain in that position. Why read anything more into the statement than its clear meaning warrants?
3. If you do not passionately love the truth, God is under no obligation to continue to allow you to possess it.
This comment struck me as particularly slanderous and “annoying” because you were implying that Dr. Beckwith is not a lover of truth. This bothered me because you were questioning the intentions of Dr. Beckwith as well as his intelligence in seeking out answers in matters of faith.
Here we truly encounter the heart of the response we have been seeing on the part of Roman Catholics to my comments. Evidently, theological constructs, based upon exegesis of the text, cannot be brought to bear upon personal situations. For most Roman Catholics, that is simply taboo. So, in the above statement, I was drawing from a direct biblical text, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. The context is:
In any case, as sad as it always is to read of someone abandoning the gospel for the false pretenses of Rome, it really does not surprise me when it happens. Why? Because we live in a day when the faithful are being tested as they were in Elijah’s day. If you do not passionately love the truth, God is under no obligation to continue to allow you to possess it. And how many do we see in the post-evangelical world who are truly passionate about the truth of the gospel?
Now, once again, it seems that Kacy does not believe that I have the right to believe that the gospel of grace that marked the Reformation is “the truth,” while the gospel of Rome that marked Trent and Vatican I and the Papal Syllabus of Errors, etc., is “false.” If what I believe is true, then what Frank Beckwith, Scott Hahn, Mark Shea, Gerry Matatics, Robert Sungenis, etc., have embraced, is false. Therefore, logically, I would believe that their actions would fall into the general category I was discussing of “evangelicals” who do not have a deep, abiding, passionate love of the gospel of grace. The fact that they are willing to abandon that gospel is pretty strong proof of the statement. It is hardly a rational response for a Roman Catholic to say, “That is mean, since I believe our gospel is true!” Well of course, but that is hardly relevant to what I was saying, is it? That is why we have debated the topic of the gospel, numerous times, in the past. But given my beliefs, what I said is not “slanderous” nor “annoying.” To be consistent, Kacy would have to allow me to say that her posting her conversion story is “slanderous” and “annoying” as well, but, of course, I do not find converts overly consistent at this point.
By the way, it is difficult to understand how someone can impute to me a questioning of Dr. Beckwith’s “intelligence.” He may well lack fundamental facts of knowledge regarding key issues in church history, or exegesis (he is a philosopher by training), but even that is far removed from a question of the man’s intelligence. Once again, it is very faulty thinking to confuse the spiritual matter of the danger of apathy toward the truth of the gospel and an accusation of a lack of intelligence.
I had asked the following question:
May I likewise ask you to please explain to me how you think someone such as myself, committed whole-heartedly to the gospel of the grace of God, should respond to Dr. Beckwith’s actions?
By “gospel of grace” I take it you mean sola fide and monergistic salvation. I would think someone who holds this position would be in a tricky position from which to judge conversions to the Catholic Church. These judgments would probably employ questions regarding the convert’s initial election. “Is this person really a child of God, or one destined for destruction?” This question inevitably comes up within strict Calvinist circles. Such questions led Jonathan Edwards to write The Religious Affections, and Calvinists have always had a hard time understanding why people leave their ranks. In this sense, I can understand why you would have a hard time trying to make sense of Catholic conversions. However, there is another way to look at Catholic conversions from a Calvinist perspective: What if God, in order to make His glory known, predestines some to become Catholic?
By gospel of grace I refer to is the Triune, self-glorifying act of the mighty God who, in eternity past, chose to exalt Himself through the redemption of an undeserving people through the Incarnate Son. The fact that it is God-centered, and hence monergistic, flows from its nature; sola fide along with the other solas likewise flow consistently from its God-centeredness. And the entire divine work is to be contrasted, specifically, to the man-centered sacramentalism of Rome.
It is common for those who leave the Reformed faith to offer caricatures of it in their apologetic for their move in theology. Obviously, God has not deemed it proper to provide to us a certified list of the names of “the elect.” Therefore, speculations on the topic are not worth the investment of the time. God has revealed His prescriptive will in His Word, and we are responsible only to that, not to the secret will of God. As to why people fall into all sorts of error, such as returning to Rome, or becoming a Mormon, or just abandoning faith altogether, I am uncertain why Kay thinks I would have a “hard time” understanding such things. The Lord Jesus warned us in the parable of the soils that not all who professed faith would be true to that faith; Paul names individuals who had gone back to the world; John speaks of those who went out from us so that it might be shown that they were not truly of us. God has His purposes for allowing the church to struggle against false teachers who “creep in” and cause havoc.
That being said, I certainly do not take issue with your response in asking Dr. Beckwith to resign from his position with ETS. This was not what annoyed me about your post, rather it was the overall tone and statements listed above.
It is, of course, impossible to defend yourself against the emotional reading of your words. “Overall tone” is a pretty vague concept. If I wished to wear my emotions on my sleeve I could claim slander and ridicule and lack of charity on the part of literally hundreds of people each day from just about every religious perspective. But nothing would be served by my constantly taking offense in such a fashion.
I had written:
If a Cardinal of the Roman Curia became a Baptist tomorrow, tell me, how would you respond? Would you think this is an “equally valid” expression of the faith? Would you “rejoice” with him?
If this were to happen, I would be confused and curious about his reasons for converting. If I knew him personally, I would ask him to explain what led him take this particular path. I would not assume to know his reasons before he told me himself or made them public. However, if I received information about his new Baptist beliefs from friends or acquaintances, I would assume that this person was following his conscience and trying to develop a deeper relationship with Christ in this action, however misguided. With regards to conscience, the Catechism states:
1785: In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path;
we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also
examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of
the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the
authoritative teaching of the Church.
1786: Faced with a moral choice,
conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the
divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.
1790: A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his
conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.
Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous
judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.
I would believe that it is better for this hypothetical Cardinal to follow his conscience, however misguided it is, than to practice a religion which he no longer believes to be true.
It is also important to note that I have not heard of any Cardinals becoming Baptist. I read a few stories about Catholic priests who later became Charismatic or Presbyterian, but no stories about Cardinals becoming Baptist. If you know of any, I’d be curious to read their story. It is ironic that you compare Dr. Beckwith’s conversion to that of a Cardinal becoming Baptist. From my understanding of Protestant doctrine, there is a strong belief in the priesthood of the believer, which is taken to mean that each individual Christian is of equal authority. Baptists, especially are known for their lack of hierarchical structure. Thus, although I see that you were trying to make your point by creating a question based on analogy to leadership, the comparison is simply not equivalent.
Kacy has completely missed my point here, unfortunately. The point was to ask her to be consistent in reference to someone denying the “truths” she herself holds dear. The parallel was, in fact, to leadership roles.
I had asked:
Is there anything I have said in response to this that is in any way, shape, or form, inconsistent with what I have said in writing, in preaching, and in debate, since I first engaged Gerry Matatics in debate in Long Beach in August of 1990? If so, what is it?
I am sorry. I have not read these debates, and I’m thus not qualified to answer this question. I also never said you were inconsistent.
By the way, doesn’t Gerry Matatics reject Vatican II and belong to one of those heretical Catholic groups that are not in communion with the pope?
If what I have been saying all along is perfectly consistent, I see no reason for the kind of “annoyance” she expressed in her article. That was my point. And I am hardly surprised that she has not taken the time to listen to or view any of the debates we have done. Very, very few of my most vociferous critics have done so. I think Kacy would be shocked if she were to sit down and watch some. In fact, I would be glad to send her my debates with Fr. Mitch Pacwa, if she would like them. All she has to do is but request.
As to Gerry Matatics, as far as I know he is now one of Mel Gibson’s favorite theologians. Of course, he was once the darling of Catholic Answers. I will leave others to figure out why “disunity” is an argument against sola scriptura when it is not an argument against the disunity that appears in Roman Catholic circles.
I had written:
I truly do not understand why my words are subject to such uncharitable, imbalanced, and grossly unfair readings. I, at least, attempt to accurately understand the words of those in the Roman communion, why do you not seek to do the same in return?
To which she replies:
It was never my intent to be uncharitable, which is why I qualified my use of the word “slander” as possibly being too strong. I do attempt to accurately understand the beliefs of those within Protestant churches. Being a former Reformed Baptist myself, I am familiar with the Biblical hermeneutic and strains of Christian history you use to justify your critiques of Catholicism. At the same time, I must question how well you are attempting to understand what the Catholic Church teaches, as various statements on your blog represent a gross representation of what the Church teaches. I address some of these below:
I simply note that 1) I see no evidence Kacy has read any of my books on the topic, and, as she noted, she has not watched any debates, and 2) I would like to inquire as to what Reformed Baptist Church she was a member of.
1. Now, I personally have little interest in the Lenten argument (outside of noting the gross abuse of such an idea inherent in Mardi Gras and the insight that provides into the thinking of many in the Roman communion)
This glib remark about Mardi Gras shows a problem in your understanding of Catholicism, or at least in your presentation of it. The tradition of Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, began when Christians needed to get rid of their extra yeast and oil to prepare for lent. Lenten fasts in some cultures were much stricter than they are today, and these people cooked pancakes and had a feast to get rid of foots one couldn’t consume during Lent. This prevented people from wasting food. Mardi Gras excesses are certainly not condoned by the Church, and I have no idea what you mean when you say that this provides insight “into the thinking of many in the Roman communion.”
Glib remark? I’m sorry, but while I have never exposed myself to Mardi Gras, let’s be honest: what takes place in New Orleans is not Christian. Call it what you will, it is pure paganism, and my point in the passing comment was to address the reality that many, many, many in Rome today have the mindset of “sin today, confess tomorrow.” Surely no one can argue that this is not the case! Surely the “official” position would be opposed to the debauchery of Mardi Gras, but the reality is to be seen on our television screens if we want to expose ourselves to it! Will someone actually argue that you could not walk down the streets of New Orleans and interview Roman Catholic after Roman Catholic who is happily ogling the bare-chested women above while plastered out of their minds on alcohol who will be in confession the next day, “making it all right”? And is that not what I said? If so, how is it a misrepresentation?
2. “How can Rome’s claims, built as they were historically, upon such a wide variety of fraudulent documents, stand today in light of her own history?”
What fraudulent documents are you talking about? This is an unsubstantiated claim. Are you talking about documents from Church councils?
I am referring to such documents as the Donation of Constantine and the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. Bill Webster provides an overview here. So far, not a single “misrepresentation” has been documented.
3. Do you really believe you can approach the Mass 20,000 times in your life and still die impure, and that this re-presentation is the same sacrifice as the perfect work you once professed to embrace?”
I don’t know why you phrased your question in this way.
This is quite surprising. If Kacy had read my books, or listened to my debates, there would be no confusion. But more so, I cannot imagine any Reformed person missing the point, either.
There are really two issues being addressed here. First, the attending the mass does not save people, only Christ does. The mass is one means that God uses to give grace to the faithful, especially when Christ is made present in the Eucharist. Other important means of grace are found in the sacraments, but God is not bound by the sacraments. He can give grace and bring about a person’s salvation in other ways. At the same time, a person must be open to receiving this grace, but even this openness is an act of God working within the individual. Grace can be freely accepted or rejected, and this includes all graces associated with the mass. Thus, it does not matter how many masses people attend if they have closed their wills to the reception of this grace.
The point of the statement is clear: Rome claims the Mass is the re-presentation of the one sacrifice of Calvary, yet in an “unbloody” fashion. But here, let me allow the wonder of video to explain it, since I did so in this response to Fr. Mitch Pacwa:
In the second part of this question, you imply that because the mass is performed repeatedly, it cannot be the same sacrifice as Christ’s completed work on the cross. However, the Catechism states:
1367: The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single
sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the
ministry of priests, who the offered himself on the cross; only the manner of
offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated
in the mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the
alter of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner… this
sacrifice is truly propitiatory
There is mystery involved in this celebration so that although the manner of Christ’s paschal sacrifice and the mass are different, they are united in this mystery and made one.
Yes, that is what the Catechism says. That is the heart of Rome’s error. It is the Catechism against the Bible, Rome versus Scripture. That’s the whole point. And if Kacy would like to read the biblical presentation I have made on this topic in such published works as The Roman Catholic Controversy, I’ll be glad to send it to her!