I was directed to another set of replies to the top ten questions I posted a few days ago in answer to a question sent in by e-mail. I don’t get the feeling they were offered in an overly serious manner, so I will skip most of them. But I did find some of the comments left on the blog indicative of the mindset of many Roman Catholics, and of converts thereto. Note this one:

I had seen the excitement over White’s questionaire [sic] floating around the blogosphere. I really wasn’t interested in it enough to visit his site, since I was pretty confident it would be nothing more than one of his typical attacks on Catholicism. I’m glad you posted it on your blog; that’s the only way I would have ever read it. Interesting stuff!

   Well thank you so much! The same open-minded fairness can be heard in these comments:

Though I am not a Roman Catholic, there is much to embrace and their [sic] is much mis-representation coming from the Protestant side. I did not care for James White’s smug questions.
Joseph, Don’t bother with his site, I have seen enough of Mr. White to be completely turned off. I have never seen someone so sure he is right in pretty much all theological matters.

   Yes, well, we wouldn’t want to be confident in our beliefs now! Post-modern Westerners want you to exhibit “epistemological humility,” i.e., don’t proclaim the gospel with confidence. Don’t say one thing is right and another is wrong. But anyway, these kind comments aside, our writer had the following to say:

8) Have you looked carefully at the claims of Rome in a historical light, specifically, have you examined her claims regarding the “unanimous consent” of the Fathers, and all the evidence that exists that stands contrary not only to the universal claims ofthe Papacy but especially to the concept of Papal Infallibility? How do you explain, consistently, the history of the early church in light of modern claims made by Rome? How do you explain such things as the Pornocracy and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church without assuming the truthfulness of the very system you are embracing?

I believe I have looked carefully. I do not know what Mr. White means by unanimous consent.

   The phrase is used by Rome at the 4th Session of the Council of Trent, in these famous words:

Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,–in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, –wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,–whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,–hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published.

   Vatican I used similar language:

…we, therefore, for the preservation, safe-keeping, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approval of the sacred Council, do judge it to be necessary to propose to the belief and acceptance of all the faithful, in accordance with the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church, the doctrine touching the institution, perpetuity, and nature of the sacred Apostolic Primacy…

At open variance with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture as it has been ever understood by the Catholic Church are the perverse opinions of those who, while they distort the form of government established by Christ the Lord in his Church, deny that Peter in his single person, preferably to all the other Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction;

   Note the words of Satis Cognitum (June, 1896): “Wherefore, in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion is set forth, but the venerable and constant belief of every age.

If he means that 100% of church fathers have to believe something for the Catholic claims to be valid, that would give, ex post facto, a limitless veto power to any one father (who would not have realized he was wielding this power when he wrote). I do not know if he means Papal Infallibility the way I have read it defended.

   I mean unanimous consent isn’t really unanimous consent, and that while Roman controversialists like to use it in its “big” sense in passing, they then have to make it “not so unanimous” and, in the very doctrines Rome uses it most, admit that “well, unanimous might actually be less than 50%.”

I do not know what remains to be explained about the Pornocracy et al.

   My questions were not really intended for those willing to accept any “explanation” no matter how stretched or shaky it might be, to be honest.

The Catholics claim that the church is not free from sinful people; they say the Church is semper reformanda.

   Of course, no one has ever claimed that impeccability is required. But anyone who has read about the history of the Papacy knows there is a difference between impeccability and basic, simple regeneration. And for a lengthy period, the Papacy was held by men the lost world itself considered reprobates. Evidently, when it comes to the Papacy, no amount of immoral behavior, false teaching, or general improper behavior, is sufficient to overthrow the ever-strong desire for a king.

7) Have you applied the same standards to the testing of Rome’s ultimate claims of authority that Roman Catholic apologists use to attack sola scriptura? How do you explain the fact that Rome’s answers to her own objections are circular? For example, if she claims you need the Church to establish an infallible canon, how does that actually answer the question, since you now have to ask how Rome comes to have this infallible knowledge. Or if it is argued that sola scriptura produces anarchy, why doesn’t Rome’s magisterium produce unanimity and harmony? And if someone claims there are 33,000 denominations due to sola scriptura, since that outrageous number has been debunked repeatedly (see Eric Svendsen’s Upon This Slippery Rock for full documentation), have you asked them why they are so dishonest and sloppy with their research?

I have applied the same standards to all my analysis, thank you for asking. Regarding circular logic, I believe the Romanist would say that Christ promised us that he would give his Holy Spirit, and the Book of Acts records this very event. This, and Christs commissioning of the Apostles should give us some reason to believe that their claims to authority could be valid, certainly valid enough to identify which texts this same Holy Spirit inspired.

   No one questions the authority of the Apostles, but what does this have to do with Honorius, I might ask? Or Innocent III? If the last portion of the last sentence has something to do with a claim regarding canonization, why would it take 1546 years to accomplish this task, I am forced to wonder?

Rome’s claims do not nearly produce harmony.

   Well, I am not sure what this means, but it does remind me of an off-the-cuff remark one of my debate opponents made years ago. I really dont think he meant to say whathe said, but it was an honest remark. I pointed out that there was a whole stream of Roman Catholic opinion different than his own on an important point, and sort of absent mindedly he said, “Yes, there are a lot more opinions since we stopped the Inquisition.” Uh, yeah, I guess so. Rome’s claims…and her political power…surely did produce a form of “harmony,” if you consider that a meaningful use of the term. I would say harmony that is produced by anything other than the Spirit of God applying the truth of God from the Word of God is not true harmony. Today I would invite this writer to visit Boston College sometime and see just how harmonious Rome really is. When Rome starts bringing discipline to bear on the wild-eyed liberal wackos who parade under the banner of “Roman Catholic scholarship” then we can talk about “harmony.” Till then, I find the claim significantly less than compelling.

   Many walked away from Christ when he explained that His flesh had to be eaten for salvation.

   Funny, when you actually read the text, it says they walked away because He kept saying, “And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’ As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” That looks like it says “as a result of this,” but one might need the Pope to explain the actual grammatical construction. Oh, wait…I don’t believe this text has been infallibly interpreted yet. If Jimmy Akin is correct, and only eight texts have been infallibly defined, that’s one text every…two hundred and fifty years. Well, I guess we could hold out and hope that by 2250 this text will be the next one infallibly determined, but the chances are not overly good.

Rome’s criticism (in observing the factionalism of Protestantism) is that our claim that the Bible is a sufficient sole rule of faith has been disproved by reality, as we are in such wide disagreement on its interpretation, even in essential matters.

   So, the realistic factionalism of Rome would prove the magisterium insufficient, yes? Or, is the entire argument that a sufficient rule of faith is supposed to banish the sinfulness of man? Man’s ignorance? Rebellion? Traditions? Given that there were false teachers in the days of the Apostles, and no one would argue that they were an insufficient guide, why is it assumed that the existence of false teachers in the days of the Scriptures means they are insufficient? Of course, these issues have been addressed many times, so I wonder if this writer has, in fact, read Goode or Whitaker or Salmon?

There may not be harmony, or even obedience in Catholicism about the use of, say, the Pill (an abortifacient), but at least everyone understands that their Church has spoken against it.

   As if that is the only area where Roman Catholics disagree! Given that the literary mass of the teachings of Rome is far larger than that of the Bible, upon what logical basis are we to believe that it is easier to interpret that body of literature than it is the Bible?

Incidentally, and speaking of essentials, I believe Calvin would say that Mr. White’s Reformed Baptists are not part of the true church, since they do not properly attend to the Sacraments.

   I haven’t any idea why this shot was included, but while that would have been true (does he think I am unaware of this?), what does it have to do with anything? I hold Calvin to the same standard I hold anyone else to–the very standard he would have had me use, if he could be allowed to be consistent given his historical situation. I have recently provided what is, I think, an excellent example of how this works in my debate with Bill Shishko on baptism.

Regarding Indulgences and Paul’s doctrine of Grace, this textual criticism does not account for the Catholic defense that Indulgences are able to relieve only temporal punishment. Eternal punishment is cured by Christs grace alone (Cf. Paul’s doctrine of grace taught to the Romans).

   It may be quite convenient to make such a distinction so as to dismiss the words of Indulgentiarum Doctrina,but the fact is the text speaks of God’s grace as God’s grace in words that would make any mind trained in apostolic doctrine as revealed in inspired Scripture jolt in revulsion. You can do your best to get around this kind of abhorrent material, butit is part and parcel of Rome’s literary production, and more importantly, a part of her theology.

Yes, still weighing them, thank you. I have read those passages in light of Romes teachings, and continue to pray about this. These are hard passages that could be taken different ways. I am poorly qualified to judge individually what they mean. This reading makes me doubt the sola Scriptura claim of the perspicuity of scripture.

   Another fascinating statement: “I must need the bishop in Rome to tell me what these mean, even though he’s only gotten to eight texts in 2000 years of history. But that’s better than having to believe that we can actually understand what these texts say.” This kind of radical skepticism which robs the Word of its ability to speak is symptomatic of something far more than a really bad case of epistemological jitters. This kind of statement sheds bright light on the soul.

4) Have you pondered what it means to embrace a system that teaches you approach the sacrifice of Christ thousands of times in your life and yet you can die impure, and, in fact, even die an enemy of God, though you came to the cross over and over again? And have you pondered what it means that though the historical teachings of Rome on these issues are easily identifiable, the vast majority of Roman Catholics today, including priests, bishops, and scholars, don’t believe these things anymore?

Second point first, so many people doubt. As all of John 6 made clear, many of the disciples, people who walked with Christ and heard him directly, doubted and walked away.

   They didn’t doubt. They rejected. Major difference.

Judas did not believe his teachings. The O.T. Jews, entrusted with the very Oracles of God (Rom. 3:2) did not believe (but this does not disprove the Abrahamic faith!). So no surprise that many Catholics do not believe their Church even if it is (hypothetically) right. How many use the pill? Its still an abortifacient, so an evil sin.

   I was referring to bishops and theologians and the very people who teach the faithful, priests, all across the world today. Any person who closes their eyes to the rampant inclusivism and universalism in Rome today is simply engaging in self-deception.

First point second, of course we can all die impure even though we come to the cross over and over again.

   Thankfully, that’s untrue for all those clothed in the righteousness of Christ as their sole standing before God. Here we see the Grand Disaster: failure to differentiate between justification and experiential sanctification results in the reduction of the cross to a mere theory, the imputation of His righteousness to a “legal fiction.”

1 Cor 11 seems to support such a possibility nicely if you eat of the flesh in an unworthy manner, you are eating judgment on yourself! I think this question mischaracterizes the re-presentation theology of the mass. But Mr. White may be more of a eucharistic scholar than I am.

   Isn’t the power of tradition fascinating to observe? Paul does not speak of eating “the flesh in an unworthy manner.” His words are, “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” But even if this was relevant, how is this a response to the soul-crushing fact that Rome reduces the finished work of Christ down to a never-perfecting, repetitive act that still allows for the purification of satispassio before a person is finally ready to stand in God’s presence?

3) Have you considered what it means to proclaim a human being the Holy Father (that’s a divine name, used by Jesus only of His Father) and the Vicar of Christ (that’s the Holy Spirit)? Do you really find anything in Scripture whatsoever that would lead you to believe it was Christ’s will that a bishop in a city hundreds of miles away in Rome would not only be the head of His church but would be treated as a king upon earth, bowed down to and treated the way the Roman Pontiff is treated?

   I have considered it, and I don’t like it one bit. The Catholics would say Mr. White confuses holy father with Heavenly Father here. I note the use of “father” and “fathers” in Stephen’s speech in Acts, incidentally.

   A truly facile reply: everyone knows that when the Pope is called “Holy Father” it is done in a religious context of veneration; it is joined with such terms as “Vicar of Christ on earth.” Language has meaning; adding multiple terms together has meaning. There is no comparison, obviously, between Stephen’s references to the fathers of the Jews (i.e., the patriarchs) and the religious veneration and obeisance offered to the bishop of Rome.

2) Have you considered how completely unbiblical and a-historical is the entire complex of doctrines and dogmas related to Mary? Do you seriously believe the Apostles taught that Mary was immaculately conceived, and that she was a perpetual virgin (so that she traveled about Palestine with a group of young men who were not her sons, but were Jesus’ cousins, or half-brothers (children of a previous marriage of Joseph), or the like? Do you really believe that dogmas defined nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Christ represent the actual teachings of the Apostles? Are you aware that such doctrines as perpetual virginity and bodily assumption have their origin in gnosticism, not Christianity, and have no foundation in apostolic doctrine or practice? How do you explain how it is you must believe these things de fide, by faith, when generations of Christians lived and died without ever even having heard of such things?

This question is a sort of litany of doubt,

   Yeah, those pesky questions about made-up doctrines that have no historical or biblical grounding always tend to inculcate doubt in the minds of those who are serious about the truth. That’s a good thing.

perpetuating much confusion and clouding a clear ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. I think it is imprudent.

   I apologize for having truth, the gospel, etc., as my highest priority, rather than “clear ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants.” I mean, why on earth should I be concerned about a religious group adding to the gospel of Christ entire doctrines unknown to the apostles, never to be found in Scripture, unknown to the early Christians, and yet now supposed to be believed as a very part of the gospel? How unkind and unloving and uncharitable of me to point out that the Emperor has no clothes! I should be so much more concerned about people who meet and produce long papers about our common ground than I am about the gospel itself! Shame on me!

The origin of these teachings is not within Gnosticism, and much of Marian teachings (if not all) developed as Christology developed to refute Gnosticism and other early heresies.

   Oh? Is that so? So when the first sources promoting the perpetual virginity of Mary, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Odes of Solomon, and the Protevangelium of James we will be able to read these sources and find that they are actually orthodox apologies against Gnosticism? Really? I think not, and anyone familiar with the sources thinks not as well. And just what error of “Gnosticism” is the Bodily Assumption supposed to be battling when it is defined in 1950?

I seriously believe the Apostles could have taught Marys perpetual virginity, if it was true.

   I seriously believe the Apostles could have taught anything that was true. It does not follow that such reasoning has almost anything at all to do with what the Apostles did, in fact, teach, and how we know what it was, specifically, that they taught. I seriously believe the Apostles could have taught the proper methodology for formatting a hard-drive, if it was true. But since I have no reason to believe for a second that such was a part of the context of their ministries and teachings, I have no reason to believe that they ever taught such a thing, and no Roman Catholics has any more reason to believe they ever taught the bodily assumption of Mary, either.

I would not have slept with the woman who carried the Christ in her womb if I were Joseph.

   An amazingly absurd thing for someone to say who pretends to honor marriage, to be sure. More of Rome’s anti-marriage bias seeping into even the one who is still wading in the Tiber, perhaps?

Calvin and Luther believed this doctrine. Anyway, this litany of doubt raises only secondary issues to the primary issue of church authority.

   Calvin showed next to no interest in the subject, and, had he lived today with the data available now, and with Rome’s further exaggerations in the past, you can bet he would have been just as politically incorrect in denouncing such myths as I am. Probably more so.

And the number 1 question I would ask of such a person is: if you claim to have once embraced the gospel of grace, whereby you confessed that your sole standing before a thrice-holy God was the seamless garment of the imputed righteousness of Christ, so that you claimed no merit of your own, no mixture of other merit with the perfect righteousness of Christ, but that you stood full and complete in Him and in Him alone, at true peace with God because there is no place in the universe safer from the wrath of God than in Christ, upon what possible grounds could you come to embrace a system that at its very heart denies you the peace that is found in a perfect Savior who accomplishes the Father’s willand a Spirit who cannot fail but to bring that work to fruition in the life of God’s elect? Do you really believe that the endless cycle of sacramental forgiveness to which you will now commit yourself can provide you the peace that the perfect righteousness of Christ can not?

I was actually offended by the first part of this question.

   I find this fascinating—the number one response when someone asks a potential apostate why they are committing an act of apostasy is to be offended that someone would question the reality of their initial “claims.” I think there is much more here than meets the eye. I think this question gets to the real heart of the situation, and hence the “offense.”

If I claim to have once embraced the gospel of grace (followed by Mr. Whites definition of what that means), how could I embrace a system that does not give the peace of assurance of salvation?

   Exactly. Wrote a book about this once. Sort of went through how Rome’s gospel cannot give you peace, etc.

Would such a system have been right to assure Judas that his selection as an apostle set in motion that good work that would result in his salvation?

   I hope the reader will allow this Tiber-swimmer’s response to speak for itself at this point. The meaning of the question is clear, is it not? And if someone responds with Judas as an example, the very Son of Perdition himself, what does this tell you about how seriously the writer is interacting with the question itself?

I think the Catholics would teach that God’s elect are preserved by the Holy Spirit, but that the rebellious are damned. Why else would Paul beat his body into submission? Why was Paul so concerned with running the race with perseverance, lest he should lost hold of the prize (1 Cor 9:27)? This is not cut and dry.

   It is my understanding that our writer is/was Presbyterian or Reformed in his current/soon to be abandoned/former position, so I am left to conclude that he has to know exactly what I was talking about in my question, and simply does not wish to deal with it. Then again, being Reformed in confession does not mean you are Reformed in possession. One who held a theology in the mind but who can trade away the soul-satisfying truth of the perfection of Christ’s work for Rome’s empty promises and hamster-wheel of endless sacraments is surely one of the many who line the pews on Sunday morning whose spiritual reality is far removed from the outward display.

—in the defense and confirmation of the gospel

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