2nd Live Chat w Matt Slick. Oops! He Cancelled….


Pre-debate negotiations revealed one party utterly unwilling to be flexible.

We just agreed to do a live chat (typing in an Internet chat room) last night. I have previously engaged in a written “dialogue” with Matt Slick: head of the large and influential (anti-Catholic) CARM discussion forum. And I have described our first live chat “debate.” After my challenge to engage in debate on the topic of “Is Catholicism Christian?”was turned down by Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White and his sidekick James Swan (complete with the usual childish insults), I went to CARM to see if anyone there would be willing to subject their anti-Catholic views to the scrutiny of close examination, on this fundamental issue. Here is the exchange on the debate over there. Matt’s words will be in blue; his assistant administrator Diane S’s in green:

* * * * *

If a Protestant anti-Catholic wants to maintain that Catholic theology is not Christian, I want to know why they think this. But I’ve never found one in 16 years that has been willing to do a sustained discussion on that. Furthermore, I want to see how he defines the term and how it does not apply to other forms of Protestantism as well as Catholics. The position has insuperable difficulties, believe me. And these would be rather easy to demonstrate in intense cross-examination; easy as pie, actually.

I’ve maintained for years that it anti-Catholicism is intellectual suicide. It can’t stand for a minute when properly scrutinized. So it is of paramount importance that the anti-Catholic never allow that to happen, or the illusion and intellectual self-delusion would vanish.

Hey Dave, Matt said OK, if it is not a written debate and is done in live chat format, he will do it.
He didn’t want to do a long written debate but chat he can do. He said he can use his voice recognition thing, so he doesn’t have to do a lot of typing. So, he said yes. If you pm or email Matt, you can set up the time. 

This will be fun to read!

* * *
Excellent. I commend Matt for being willing to participate in this important discussion. I will give my general suggestions for format here, and then after he reads this, he could just e-mail me with time slot suggestions and any modifications of the format or other details that he would like, or else do it publicly on this forum, like I’m doing now (either way is fine with me). We’ll work together on all that. For time, I like 9PM EST on a Friday or Saturday night so west coasters could view it, and people can stay up later, without work the next day (maybe 8 PM if that is too late for Matt and others).Also, a week or two of advertising here and on my site would be good. If you think a week of notice is enough, we could do it as early as next weekend. Your call. I’ll pin a notice near the top of my blog, too, as soon as we finalize the details, and tell folks they have to register with CARM to gain access to the chat room that night. Is there any limit to how many can be in there at one time?I suggest a “double cross-examination” format: one person questions the other for an hour and then vice versa. Perhaps afterwards we could chat back and forth for an additional hour (on the same topic): a straight discussion, but a lot “looser”. But maybe that is best left to be decided at the time, as we could very well both be “mentally exhausted” after the intensity of two hours of examination.

No other person is allowed to comment during the two or three hours. No moderator is really needed. I’d be happy to stay afterwards and chat with other people and/or Matt (me being an inveterate nighthawk). I reserve the right to post any of those post-debate exchanges on my blog, too, so anyone who comments: please be aware of that possibility. Whenever I spend time doing anything online (save private letters, of course), I always want to post it for wider reading.

The topic is: “What is a ‘Christian’? / Is the Catholic Church ‘Christian’?”

By that I mean the doctrinal definition of Christian and parameters of orthodoxy: e.g., we both agree that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians because those theological systems deny the Trinity and have deficient views of Jesus Christ (JWs think He was created). That is doctrinal. It’s not in the realm of saying “they haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and so they are not Christian.” It’s a doctrinal criteria.

That’s what I want to center on here: not whether 22% of Catholics might be saved because they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior one night and dislike Catholic doctrine on Mary and the pope and purgatory (hence might slip into real Christianity through the back door). That’s not doctrinal: that is experiential (i.e., the first part: accepting Jesus), and not nearly as easily debated.

Probably some of that will inevitably be brought into the discussion, but I just want to make it clear that there is a way to approach it on a purely theological level, as Matt does himself when it comes to the cults (and I agree with that). And that is what I want to discuss, for my part (at least in my questioning period).

I assume it can be done in the CARM chat room. The necessary precondition is also that I am free to post every word of it (completely unedited) on my blog. I am promising to do that, no matter what the outcome. Matt can post or not post it as he wishes, in his collection at CARM. I’m not demanding that; it’s his business, not mine.

There is no such thing on my end as not posting something because I perceive that I “lost.” But even if I thought I did a poor job (and that is always very subjective), I want folks to see both sides of the issue. This is my constant emphasis in my apologetics: read both sides and decide for yourself.

I’m far more interested in clarity and clarification and greater understanding being achieved than to “annihilate” an opponent or try to make him look bad. Nope; I don’t care about that (many in apologetics on both sides, unfortunately do). What I want is an honest, amiable, frank-but-courteous discussion about this issue, that is crucial to understand. I hope both sides can come away with a better understanding of the other. I’m very happy to be able to have this discussion at all. I believe it can be done in complete cordiality and friendliness.

There are probably ways here to preserve the complete dialogue, right? But I would also want several people (volunteers?) to cut-and-paste the complete text manually, for backup purposes (in case of technical glitches or something), so that it is preserved one way or another.

Of course, we should always stay strictly on the topic and avoid all personal attacks and nonsense. Both sides can refrain from answering a particular question if they feel it is straying too far from the topic, or maybe say “I’ll answer that but I don’t want to go off on that tangent,” but I would want that to be a rare occurrence on both sides.

We are also allowed to cut-and-paste material from our existing writings, if it doesn’t take too long.

Matt can choose to question first or second: either way is fine with me. There should probably be an official timekeeper to measure exact one-hour periods.

That’s about all I can think of. Most of these suggested details are negotiable.

* * * * *

Matt Slick declined to do anything near what I proposed, two days later:
You wanted a structured “debate” with time limits, cross examination times, etc.
not interested.
chat room is chatting…
I’d be glad to chat with you for a couple hours, letting it flow where it may…
it isn’t a big deal.

btw, just to make it clear. I believe catholicism is apostate.

This is unacceptable to me, for reasons I expressed in comments for this post. In a nutshell: it favors to a great degree the Protestant apologist because they invariably seek to control the conversations and the questioning without limits and constraints.

Also, Protestantism is far more agreeable with the “sound-bite” mentality: short, slogan-type replies. Unless there is a structure placed on such an exchange, a Catholic can virtually never achieve a fair amount of time or accomplish much at all.

* * * *

Matt gave further reply on 3-12-07:

Excuse me but I’m having a problem understanding your hesitancy to participate in a chat dialog. You say that Protestant apologists want to control the conversation without limits and constraints. I can’t speak for other Christian apologists, but I agreed to limits and constraints. First of all, I agreed to a two-hour limit. The constraints would be that of normal politeness, which I have shown you and will continue to show you. So, you’re in error there.
I’m not sure what you mean by soundbite mentality. Perhaps you could write an article on what that really means and explain how Protestants are guilty of it as you assert. But to me it seems that you’re not taking the issue of discussion seriously. I quote Scripture, ask for scriptural support of the opponents position, listen to their arguments, and find holes in them. I like to you Scripture and logic. If that is a soundbite mentality, then I’m guilty of it.
I could just as easily say that there will be no debate. Dave Armstrong is not interested in this format. 
What format? The format of chatting back and forth about the validity of Roman Catholicism, whether it is Christian, etc., with a two hour time limit. I thought that was what you were interested in. Remember, this is a chat room that you want to have a discussion in. There’s nothing to prevent cutting and pasting material, citing resources, and having a nice polite dialogue. I’m perfectly capable of doing that as I suspect you are. Surely you have chatted in chat rooms before. The dialogue is fluid and both parties can ask questions, answer questions, refute, expound, et cetera. It isn’t difficult at all.
In fact, I think it would be very beneficial and I think it would be a great example of what it means to dialogue with the Roman Catholic. The dialogue would, of course, be posted on CARM — if it were to occur.
But, if the situation doesn’t suit your preference, that’s your prerogative.
Nevertheless, there is always my radio show. I politely offer the challenge for you to call in anytime to discuss the validity of Roman Catholicism. Perhaps we could compare it to Scripture sometime over the air, live, if you’re interested. 
I always am…
By the way, Mark Bonocore and I have been having some very enlightening conversations with the past few months on my show. In my opinion, I treat him well.


* * * * *

More from Diane S, the administrator at CARM. She has (to her eternal credit) spoken out against and expressed her deep disappointment over the “feeding frenzy” against yours truly that took place on the thread at CARM, but she is also criticizing me, on largely mistaken grounds, trying to make out that I have been utterly unreasonable and inflexible. This is from a post of 3-12-07:

Matt did not back out, Dave did.It is improper to speak of an alleged “backing out” of Person A when Person A made a debate challenge and Person B didn’t care for the terms. Folks can have honest, legitimate disagreements over terms and conditions of any mutual endeavor; that’s fine. What actually seemed to occur was that Matt agreed to do a “debate” with me, but hadn’t (by all appearances) bothered to read my proposal (openly expressed on the CARM Catholic board), so there was all sorts of confusion for two days. Now that he has troubled himself to read it (I am assuming; he may still not have done so), he and Diane act as if I had made increasing “demands”, whereas I was clear from early on what I was interested in.

First Dave demanded that it be a written debate and listed his demands. 

A challenge or debate proposal is not a “demand.” It’s a standard procedure in the realm of debate. This is not a “negotiation” — where I am holding a kidnapped hostage and making “demands.” Rather, it is: “would you be interested in doing a debate of this sort?”

We offered radio or oral discussion where Dave can call anytime to speak with Matt Slick on the air live. 

That’s nice of them, but I stated from the beginning that this wasn’t what I was interested in. I did a live talking conversation with Matt in 2003, on PalTalk, and it was, in my opinion, a farce.

Mark Bonocore [Catholic apologist] has done 11 one hour shows with Matt. There is no way that Mark B. was ever refused any topic of discussion. 

Different people like different things. If they had good, non-insulting exchanges, then I am delighted to hear it.

Dave then insisted it be a written chat, which Matt Slick agreed to. 

Here we go with the deliberately cynical language again. This was simply part of my initial proposal. The only “insisting” was from Matt, who “insisted” that this could not be a standard written debate (whereas I had proposed a real time live chat debate). He has never agreed to do that with me, though he stated that he might in the future, after the 2003 PalTalk encounter, and never followed through with it.

Matt also agreed to a chat room back and forth. 

This gets back to Matt and Diane either not reading what I proposed, or not reading carefully enough, and failing to comprehend it. I never wanted a back-and-forth, but a mutual cross-examination, where one controls the questioning for a time, and then the other does (more like a lawyer and a witness on the stand). So Matt couldn’t “agree” to something I didn’t propose in the first place. The proper description would be “alternate suggestion.” I did, however, suggest early on that a third hour could be this strictly back-and-forth easy-going format that Matt likes.

Dave wants it his way. 

No; Dave proposed a particular format. Dave is happy to hash through details of the format, but Dave has certain things that Dave considers non-negotiable, just as Matt has. Goose and gander . . .

Dave does not want to talk, but only written which Matt agreed to. 

Matt does not want to do a written debate, but only a live chat, which Dave agreed to. The devil’s in the details.

Then Dave insists that he receive 60 minutes of cross examination and questioning of Matt.

“Then”? This was my proposal from the beginning. Diane acts as if I added all these additional strict conditions, as the discussion went on, becoming more and more stubborn and intransigent. That’s hogwash. I made a proposal that I assumed would be read and understood and then agreed to or not. Instead I get comments two days later that suggest that Matt didn’t have a clue what I was asking for in the first place. Once he finally seemed to have comprehended it, now we immediately see revisionism, intended to paint me as a childish, completely inflexible, “demanding” person, whereas Matt was this paragon of compromise and reasonableness. Nice try.

Dave has stated it is his way or he will not participate.

Dave has stated that the cross-examination is a necessary element, for reasons Dave explained at length, failing which, Dave is not interested in the chat, because Dave thinks it would be futile. I don’t see why this simple principle has to be treated as if I am a child who can’t play left field and so takes his bat and ball, pouts, and goes home. It’s clever, but it is stupid, utterly one-sided, and not accurate as to what actually happened.

Matt Slick agreed to a two hour chat back and forth, discussion and questioning each other. Dave refused. 

Here we go again acting as if I am unreasonable simply because another person didn’t like my terms and I stuck to my guns.

Dave wants his format of chat room, Dave wants his time limits, Dave wants the terms to be totally his way or not at all.

Dave wants a constructive discussion. Dave thinks time limits are sensible, just as virtually all those engaged in debates perfectly understand. So why is Dave being painted as a petulant five-year-old who always has to get “his way”? Who am I, Frank Sinatra?

. . . The person that refused is Dave not Matt. Dave did not accept Matt’s terms, though Matt gave in to almost all of Dave’s requests. No one is ever going to give Dave all his terms and all his way, life doesn’t work that way…….Dave refuses any compromise at all to the debate format……

This is sheer nonsense, and Diane knows it, because I sent her two letters in the instant messaging system at CARM before she wrote this (perhaps she didn’t read those, either: seems to be going around at CARM as an annoying habit). I’m willing to do Matt’s method as long as mine is also done. But Matt is the one who is completely unwilling to do my method. Here are the two letters I wrote (on 3-12-07, at 2:51 and 3:23 PM):

I saw it [Matt’s reply on the board]. It’s already posted on my blog post about the challenge. Based on that, I decided that no debate could take place; obviously because Matt doesn’t see it as a debate at all, and in my opinion, double cross-ex[amination] is absolutely essential and non-negotiable, for reasons I have stated several times now.

So as it stands Matt turned down the challenge and his alternate is not agreeable to me.

* * *

He doesn’t like double cross-ex and I see it as essential, so there is no compromise, as it stands. I was willing to do what he prefers in the third hour (I would even go four hours and do the last two hours his way), but he wants no part of my preference: cross-ex with one person questioning for a predetermined time and the other only answering.

If he changes his mind and agrees to the original proposal or the modified tentative one above (two hours cross-ex and two hours free conversation) then he can write to me and we’ll set it up.

I expressed this a little differently in comments below this post:

I wrote to CARM administrator Diane that if Matt changes his mind and agrees to my format:1. One hour questioning: A to B.

2. One hour questioning: B to A.

3. Tentative (mutually decided at the time) one hour free back-and-forth discussion, still on-topic.

. . . . that I would be happy to do the debate.

I also suggested that I would be willing to do a format:

1. One hour questioning: A to B.

2. One hour questioning: B to A.

3. Two hours free back-and-forth discussion, still on-topic.

(#3 could also be done on a second day, if preferred).

This would give him his preference (#3) and I get mine (#1, #2): two hours each: completely fair.

I’m willing to do his format, as long as mine is also included, and done first.

He is (thus far) not willing to do my format at all.

So it’s at an impasse for now; perhaps indefinitely. To claim that I’m the one who “refuses any compromise at all” when I am willing to do it Matt‘s way (half the time) but he is unwilling to do it my way (cross-examination) at all, is stretching it, to put it mildly. I had already stated that this was simply a gentleman’s disagreement and that no one was at fault, but now the “spin” from the CARM folks is that somehow I must be blamed for the debate not occurring due to my alleged extreme inflexibility and childish unreasonableness. The record shows otherwise. If I am “inflexible”at all, in some unsavory sense, it is  certainly no more than Matt, and demonstrably less so, I would contend. So it is foolish and silly (and a cynical attempt at “spinning”) to paint me in this way, once the facts are correctly understood.


(originally 3-10-07)

Photo credit: Bert Lahr: the “Cowardly Lion” from The Wizard of Oz (1939) [Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons license]


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