Anti-Newman Rhetoric in Anti-Catholic Polemics

Anti-Newman Rhetoric in Anti-Catholic Polemics April 20, 2018

Anti-Catholic author David T. King has tried to cast aspersions on Cardinal Newman, by citing his former anti-Catholic opinions and suggesting (ever so subtly) that he “should have known better” (wink, wink) than to convert.

He does this in a paper called “A Discussion on Newman’s Pre- and Post-Conversion Positions on the Historical Legitimacy of Roman Catholic Patristic Work” — originally from a discussion on Eric Svendsen’s NTRMin Areopagus Discussion Board. Here’s a sampling:

Newman came to realize that Rome’s claims could not be substantiated on the basis of patristic evidence or the history of the early Church. Thus he found refuge in his “development of doctrine,” which got Rome off the hook from having to substantiate its claims by means of the early Church.

Translation of the condescending rhetoric: “Newman (sharp as he was) knew the Fathers and the early Church precluded belief in Catholicism, so he came up with this rationalization and canard of ‘development of doctrine’ to explain away facts which should have kept him Protestant”.

But if development proceeds from the seed to the tree (e.g., acorn to the Oak), there has to be the seed from the beginning. But the anachronistic planting of seeds that were never there in the first place is just as barren as the field in which they are imagined.

Translation: “I will engage in self-serving circular reasoning and simply deny that there were even seeds of Catholic doctrines in the early Church, and forget by an act of willful blindness that if I am looking for absence of beliefs in the early Church, my own Protestant view vis-a-vis Church history is doomed to shipwreck. But we mustn’t ever apply the same standards to ourselves as we do to dreaded, deceitful Rome.”

This is the same guy who was trying to argue (quite laughably and ridiculously) that Cardinal Newman was a modernist and that Pope St. Pius X thought him to be so. That was, until I showed up and produced a letter from the saintly pope proving otherwise. And this is the guy who wrote about Catholics in Svendsen’s forum:

I already have a very low view of the integrity of non-Protestants in general, and you aren’t helping to improve it.

[M]ost of you are too dishonest to admit what you really think. (4-15-03)

[T]hose who wish to ignore the evidence of the fathers themselves, which I have repeatedly found to be typical of the average Roman apologist like yourself. Ignore the evidence and belittle it. I guess that’s what works in the world of Roman apologetics. (6-3-03)

It is a typical Roman Catholic tactic to misrepresent one’s opponent purposely in order to “name and claim” a victory. (6-5-03)

Finally, I have collected dumb things that anti-Catholics have stated about Cardinal Newman. Some highlights:

Dr. Eric Svendsen:

[Newman’s theory of development is] a concept pulled out of the hat by Newman . . .

William Webster:

[T]his clear lack of patristic consensus led Rome to embrace a new theory in the late nineteenth century to explain its teachings — the theory initiated by John Henry Newman known as the development of doctrine.

George Salmon:

Romish advocates . . . are now content to exchange tradition, which their predecessors had made the basis of their system, for this new foundation of development . . . The starting of this theory exhibits plainly the total rout which the champions of the Roman Church experienced in the battle they attempted to fight on the field of history. The theory of development is, in short, an attempt to enable men, beaten off the platform of history, to hang on to it by the eyelids . . . The old theory was that the teaching of the Church had never varied . . . Anyone who holds the theory of Development ought, in consistency, to put the writings of the Fathers on the shelf as antiquated and obsolete . . .

The Rt. Rev. Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White:

You said that usually the Protestant misunderstands the concept of development. Well, before Newman came up with it, I guess we had good reason, wouldn’t you say? . . . those who hang their case on Newman and the development hypothesis are liable for all sorts of problems . . . And as for Newman’s statement, “to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant,” I would say, “to be deep in Newman is to cease to be an historically consistent Roman Catholic.

Pastor David T. King:

I think Newman’s theory is rejected by Pius X. And simply assuming he’s not condemning the theory of development of dogma under the language of “the evolution of dogma” is avoiding reality. I can’t play in that kind of fantasy world.

Contrast Newman’s theory of development with the words of Pius X as given in The Oath Against the Errors of Modernism . . . You’ll do your best to explain away these words of Pius X, and do you want to know why? Because you have a precommitment to your erroneous theory, and no amount of historical evidence is going to pry you loose.

It’s a case [of] historical reality vs. historical fantasy. You keep making claims you know nothing about, . . . repeated exposure of grandiose claims made in ignorance . . . It’s this kind of posture that is so typical of the average Roman apologist.

You can weave the web all you desire, but the theory of development is denied and condemned under the language of “the evolution of dogma” by Pius X.

Jason Engwer:

[T]o be deep into history is to cease using the arguments of Cardinal Newman. If Roman Catholicism is as deeply rooted in history as it claims to be, why do its apologists appeal to development of doctrine so frequently and to such an extent? . . . The argument for development of doctrine, as it’s used by today’s Catholic apologists, is unverifiable, irrational, and contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a nebulous excuse for Roman Catholic teachings being absent and contradicted in early church history.

So much nonsense (filled with factual errors and misrepresentations of Catholic teaching) from small minds, against a great man and theological genius . . .

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(originally 9-27-05)

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