Reply to Hays’ “Catholicism” #9

Reply to Hays’ “Catholicism” #9 May 18, 2023

Rule of Faith; Catholic Mariology 

The late Steve Hays (1959-2020) was a Calvinist (and anti-Catholic) apologist, who was very active on his blog, called Triablogue (now continued by Jason Engwer). His 695-page self-published book, Catholicism a collection of articles from his site — has graciously been made available for free. On 9 September 2006, knowing full well my history of being condemned and vilified by other anti-Catholics (and his buddies) like James White, Eric Svendsen, and James Swan, Hays was quite — almost extraordinarily — charitable towards me. He wrote then:

I don’t think I’ve ever accused him of being a traitor or apostate or infidel. . . . I have nothing to say, one way or the other, regarding his state of grace. But his sincerity is unquestionable. I also don’t dislike him. . . . I don’t think there’s anything malicious about Armstrong—unlike some people who come to mind. In addition, I don’t think I’ve ever said he was unintelligent. For the record, it’s obvious that Armstrong has a quick, nimble mind. . . . The term “apostasy” carries with it a heavy presumption that the apostate is a hell-bound reprobate. I think it’s unwarranted to assume that all Catholics or converts to Catholicism are damned.

Two-and-a-half years later, starting in April 2009 and up through December 2011 (in the following quotations) his opinion radically changed, and he claimed that I have “an evil character,” am “actually evil,” “ego-maniac, narcissist,” “idolater,” “self-idolater,” “hack who pretends to be a professional apologist,” given to “chicanery,” one who doesn’t “do any real research,” “a stalwart enemy of the faith . . .  no better than [the atheists] Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens,” with an intent to “destroy faith in God’s word,” “schizophrenic,” “emotionally unhinged,” one who “doesn’t trust in the merit of Christ alone for salvation,” “has no peace of mind,” “a bipolar solipsist,” “split-personality,” and a “bad” man. He wasn’t one to mince words! See more gory details.

I feel no need whatsoever to reciprocate these silly and sinful insults. I just wanted the record to be known. I’ve always maintained that Hays was a very intelligent man, but habitually a sophist in methodology; sincere and well-meaning, but tragically and systematically wrong and misguided regarding Catholicism. That’s what I’m addressing, not the state of his heart and soul (let alone his eternal destiny). It’s a theological discussion. This is one of many planned critiques of his book (see my reasons why I decided to do this). Rather than list them all here, interested readers are directed to the “Steve Hays” section of my Anti-Catholicism web page, where they will all be listed. My Bible citations are from the RSV. Steve’s words will be in blue.


[Chapter 2: Exposition]

Catholicism in the dock, part 2

Why . . .  even bother with the text of Scripture when the Catholic distinctive[s] derive, not from Scripture, but from church fathers, church councils, &c? Scripture doesn’t contain the specific claims of developed Catholic theology. [p. 74]

He’s assuming what he needs to prove: “begging the question” or petitio principii fallacy.  On the other hand, I deny his false premise: why does he think everything has to come from Scripture, or perhaps (qualifying a bit) explicitly therefrom? Where in the Bible does it teach that this is a requirement? If it’s not taught in Scripture, it’s merely a Protestant extrabiblical tradition. And if that is the case, by Protestant criteria it can’t be infallible; therefore no one is bound to accept it. But Hays is freed from all of this consideration of reason. He simply accepts with blind faith and a complete arbitrariness the notion that “every Christian truth must be laid out in the Bible.”

It’s also a truism that Scripture doesn’t lay out claims of a theology that has undergone up to 1950 years of development. How could it? It can, however, contain the more primitive versions and the essence of doctrines that later came to be more or less fully understood. Even the Holy Trinity and divinity of Jesus, which are very well expressed in the Bible, nevertheless took 500 years to fully develop (as most Protestant Church historians would agree).

That’s why he must supplement the sacred text with extrabiblical texts that do. [p. 74]

Just as Protestants accept many extrabiblical tenets and doctrines. I just explained one of them above. Sola Scriptura, sola fide, and the canon of the New Testament are other ones.

But in that event it’s the extrabiblical texts that actually teach Catholic distinctive. [p. 74]

In my 33 years of Catholic apologetics, I have been able to find, fairly easily, biblical justification for every single Catholic doctrine. It’s one of the major themes of my apostolate, and probably what I am most known for. In those same 33 years, I have yet to see biblical justification for Sola Scriptura and sola fide: the two “pillars” of the so-called Protestant Reformation. In those instances, Protestants simply accept an unbiblical tradition and labor under the illusion that they are taught in the Bible (“somewhere,” as it were). The usual falsehoods employed are equating material and formal sufficiency of the Bible, and equating salvation by grace alone with salvation by faith alone. Lately, I’ve noticed Protestant apologists refreshingly conceding that sola Scriptura is not taught in the Bible itself:

I don’t think the Bible directly, explicitly teaches sola scriptura. Rather, I think sola scriptura is an implication of Biblical teaching. . . . I don’t think 2 Timothy 3:15-17 is saying that Timothy or anybody else at that time should have abided by sola scriptura. Rather, when we combine 2 Timothy 3 with what other sources tell us about scripture and what we know about other factors involved (e.g., ecclesiology), we arrive at the conclusion of sola scriptura.” (Jason Engwer, “How To Argue For Sola Scriptura,” 1-10-18)

I think the question that we have is: do we have to find a particular Scripture that says Scripture is the only authority? And I just don’t think we have to. We don’t. There’s nothing in — you can’t find — in any of Paul’s letters, for example, . . . “by the way, Scripture is the only authority and traditions are not an authority and there is no magisterium that is given some kind of infallible authority to pass on infallible teachings.” (Jordan Cooper, “A Defense of Sola Scriptura, 3-12-19; from 1:39 to 2:14 on the video)

At best, the biblical texts are merely consistent with subsequent developments, without affirming or entailing subsequent developments. [p. 74]

That’s perfectly consistent with the nature of development of doctrine. Once again, Hays shows that he doesn’t understand the basic definition of development of doctrine. He thinks it is evolution of dogma: a false belief that the Catholic Church has roundly condemned.

But that means they’re consistent with disaffirming subsequent developments. They’re consistent with more than one theological trajectory. [p. 74]

Theoretically, before the fact, yes. But in actuality, after the fact and in retrospect, no.

There’s a sense in which you could say Mary is the new Eve. By the same token, there’s a sense in which you could say Noah’s wife is the new Eve. [p. 75]

I don’t see how. Noah’s wife didn’t say “yes” in a way that Mary’s “yes” reversed the “no” of Eve. There is simply no analogy there. Nor did Noah’s wife bear the incarnate God, which is the whole point of why Mary was greeted by an angel, who said, “Hail, full of grace” and informed Mary that she would bear God the Son. No one claims that Noah’s wife was sinless, either, which was “fitting” for the Mother of God the Son.

A sense in which Noah is the new Adam . . . [p. 75]

There is no such sense, seeing in this case that Holy Scripture itself calls Jesus Christ the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45; cf. the parallelism of 15:22). That’s not even deductive. It flat-out states it.

[T]hat illustrates the risks and limitations of these facile parallels. [p. 75]

His example of Noah as the second Adam certainly is quite “facile.” Even if it was an intended reductio ad absurdum, it was dumb ,because it completely overlooked the refuting passages of 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45. But the “new Eve” motif goes back to at least St. Irenaeus in the second century.

[Pious Catholics are intoxicated by the idea of Catholicism. Swept away by appealing ideas. (Appealing to them.) [p. 75]

As if zealous Protestants are not intoxicated with the “idea” of Protestantism? Well-known Protestant historian Alister McGrath wrote a book entitled, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution (2007). The blurb on the Google Books page gushes: “The radical idea that individuals could interpret the Bible for themselves spawned a revolution that is still being played out on the world stage today.”

There’s nothing in the Gospels about Mary interceding for sinners. [p. 76]

She intervened, on behalf of the hosts of the wedding reception, for Jesus to miraculously make wine. That’s fairly analogous to intercession. Even Hays state on page 77, half-conceding this very point, that Mary’s intervention “precipitated a public miracle, thereby initiating his ministry, . . .”

Here’s we see the process of legendary embellishment right before our eyes. Notice that [the Catholic] argument [regarding Luke 1:28 and “full of grace” is explicitly dependent on the wording, not of the original text of Luke, but the Vulgate. He’s not even conscious of the problem when he departs from the Greek text to draw his inference from a nuance in the Latin translation that can’t be traced back to the text that Luke actually wrote. That’s not what it means in the Greek–or even the Latin. [p. 76]

I already dealt with this at considerable length in Reply #7 (Hays is dead wrong) but here’s a little more. I cited the linguistic scholars Blass and DeBrunner (Greek Grammar of the New Testament) [pp. 166, 175], and H. W. Smyth (Greek Grammar — Harvard Univ. Press, 1968) in footnote number 188 in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (2003, Sophia Institute Press, page 178). I wrote on the latter page: “It is permissible, on Greek grammatical and linguistic grounds [footnote], to paraphrase kecharitomene as completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace.” That’s based on Smyth describing kecharitomene as a perfect passive participle, that shows a “completed action with permanent result” and denotes continuance of a completed action (pp. 108-109, section 1852:b).

If you identify Mary as the referent in Rev 12 because she’s the biological mother of Jesus, then you can’t suddenly drop that principle and say she’s the metaphorical mother of Christians, or a symbol of the church. For if the depiction is metaphorical, then you can’t infer that the referent is the mother of Jesus because Mary is his biological mother. The interpretation needs to be consistently literal or consistently figurative on the same plane. The referents must operate on the same level of literality or figurality. If the woman is figuratively the Church, then the manchild can’t literally be Jesus. In this passage, Mary doesn’t personify the church. Rather, the church/Israel is personified by a woman. In the OT, Israel is personified as a mother in labor. [pp. 77-78]

There is no inviolable hermeneutical rule, let alone scriptural prohibition of possible multiple meanings or applications of prophetic-type biblical literature, as I have written about. I explained it to an atheist. I wouldn’t have thought it would be necessary to have to point this out to an educated Calvinist apologist. As for the exegesis of Revelation 12, I have dealt with it many times:

Virgin Mary: Woman of Revelation 12? [4-1-09]

Dialogue on the Woman of Revelation 12 (Mary?) [8-16-11]

Blessed Virgin Mary & Revelation 12: Debate with a Protestant [5-28-12]

Vs. James White #12: Mary the Woman of Revelation 12 [11-7-19]

The Queen Mother & the Bible (vs. James White) [10-8-21]

Although the passage alludes in part to Gen 3, the serpentine/dragonesque imagery also derives from passages in Isaiah and the Psalter regarding the Red Sea crossing (e.g. Ps 74:13-14; Isa 27:1). So that’s not just about Eve, but Israel and the Exodus. [p. 78]

No one denied that it did. It has multiple applications, like many — if not most — prophecies do.


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Photo credit: The Whore of Babylon (workshop of Lucas Cranach): colorized illustration from Martin Luther’s 1534 translation of the Bible [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


Summary: The late Steve Hays was a Calvinist and anti-Catholic writer and apologist. This is one of my many critiques of Hays’ “Catholicism”: a 695-page self-published volume.

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