menu
September 27, 2015

. . . Protestants say it is, and that there is no necessity for an infallible Church or Tradition, yet they don’t and can’t agree on a million things . . . 

WaterClear

[public domain / Pixabay]

[from a February 2014 Facebook post; I wrote this on the website of my friend Jerome Smith: with whom I have been arguing about sola Scriptura. It’s one of my standard arguments against both sectarianism and sola Scriptura, that I developed in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism in 1996]

* * * * *

I have always found the Bible to be clear and essentially “self-interpreting” whenever I studied it. But in fact, people do not agree on what its clear teachings are.

This is self-evident in the massive internal contradictions of Protestantism. You guys claim that the Bible is self-interpreting enough to arrive at truths, yet you can’t agree as to what they are.

Thus, Protestants split into five camps on a question as basic as baptism:

1) Infant regenerative (e.g., Lutherans, Anglicans).

2) Infant non-regenerative (e.g., Presbyterians).

3) Adult regenerative (e.g., Church of Christ; Disciples of Christ).

4) Adult non-regenerative (e.g., Baptists, Assemblies of God).

5) Not necessary at all (e.g., Quakers, Salvation Army).

[Note: The Salvation Army allows its members to be baptized or partake of communion elsewhere if they so choose, but it does not itself baptize or offer communion, and regards both as unnecessary and non-essential to Christianity]

So which is the true view? Which is clearly taught in Scripture, through cross-referencing?

I say #1 is the answer, and that it is clearly taught in Scripture (as I have shown, myself, many times); but I have church teaching and early Church teaching (tradition) to solidly back me up.

You choose another (I believe your position is #2 or else #4), and claim it is clearly taught in the Bible, but since you don’t have an authoritative Church or Tradition to back you up, the next Protestant contradicts you, and appeals to the Bible as well; so it is a vicious circle and can’t be resolved. If you opt for #2, men as great as Luther and Wesley and C. S. Lewis disagree with you. If you choose #4, both Luther and Calvin are against you, and in fact, both advocated death on grounds of sedition, for those holding such a position.

And so on and on it goes in Protestantism: always arguing and never arriving at the truth in so many areas. This reminds one of what the Apostle Paul warned about:

2 Timothy 3:6-7 (RSV) For among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, [7] who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

If Protestants can’t figure out and agree on what is true on a host of issues such as baptism, how is the system a whit better than these “weak women” Paul describes, or those he describes elsewhere as “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles” (Eph 4:14)?

* * *

Protestants instinctively know there is no answer to my query above, and so the only recourse is to silly “your dad’s uglier than mine” arguments that are thrown at the Catholic Church.

I assume we can all agree that there is one truth about baptism that remains to be found. We have different methods to get at it. Ours is self-consistent; the Protestant method is not, and leads to contradictory positions where all but one are necessarily wrong, according to logic.

There is no good Protestant answer to this argument, folks. I’ve never seen it in my 25 years as a Catholic, and I don’t think I ever will. One must at some point appeal to Church and Tradition on this, just as is the case with the canon of Scripture and many other issues.

This argument can be repeated with about 20 other doctrines. A Protestant can possibly forsake perspicuity and self-interpretation, but I would argue that sola Scriptura virtually requires them without an authoritative Church or tradition, because there are no other options that make sense.

Either the individual can figure out stuff from the Bible or he has to fall back on historical tradition or institutional Church authority. Protestants deny that Church authority is infallible, so that creates their problem. There are scores of competing, contradictory denominational traditions: most of which are wrong on any given disputed issue; and we know where falsehood comes from: who is the father of that.

Once in a while I give Protestants a real hard time: play a little hardball. Sorry guys. I love ya!

Moreover, baptism has a lot to do with salvation itself (as the Bible presents it), since it’s tied to regeneration (but even that is denied by a good chunk of Protestants).

Now Lutherans, for example, agree with Catholics on this issue of baptism, and they appeal to the Church fathers as we do (and as Luther did). And that is why it is the true position, because Bible, Church, and traditional teachings line up (which is exactly my point: how truth can be determined self-consistently).

But without that, issues can’t be resolved within Protestantism, and to me, that is a major problem. 

September 4, 2015

BibleCatholicism

[Pixabay released under Creative Commons CC0]

I was on “Meet the Author” with Ken Huck today, talking about my new book, Proving the Catholic Faith is Biblical. He had sent me ten questions, so I could prepare some notes for the interview. We covered maybe 7 or 8 of them in our 23 minutes, but even then I didn’t always use all the material for any given question, so I thought I would make a paper out of it. I spent about two hours preparing it.

* * * * *

1.  You are known as a Catholic apologist.  Many people misunderstand what an apologist does. You address this as your final essay in the book, but I want to talk about this up front.  What is a Catholic apologist?

It’s one who defends the Catholic faith, and tries to show that it is reasonable and plausible. It’s focused on reasons for faith. The word, “apologist” doesn’t mean “saying you’re sorry” all the time. The original meaning comes from Plato’s Apology, which was an account of the trial of Socrates in ancient Greece. He defended himself from false charges. So it had the connotation of elaborate self-defense, rather than “I was wrong and I’m sorry . . .” But even in our usage now, we often will give an explanation, when an apology is given. The same Greek word is a biblical term. It appears in 1 Peter 3:15 (a big passage for apologists). In RSV it reads: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you . . .”

One way apologists like to describe our work is to say that it removes roadblocks to faith or belief in particular doctrines. We seek to remove those difficulties and so help people be more assured and confident in their faith. But the main thing is always faith and God’s grace. It’s like that old saying: “you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” God’s grace enables a person to drink, so to speak. The apologists help to get the person to the place where they want to drink and understand why they should drink.

2.  Many of your books rely on the proving that Catholicism is in fact a very Biblically based faith.  Does this focus come out of your background as an Evangelical Christian?
Yes and no. It does in the sense that we tried to prove everything from the Bible, as Protestants. It was always front and center; so there is that influence from my past. I think it’s a very good influence, and I have written about how Catholics ought to read and understand the Bible a lot more than they do.

But it wasn’t why I actually became a Catholic (this was back in 1990). I had three main reasons: one moral and two historical ones:

1) the contraception issue,
2) development of doctrine,
3) studying the 16th century advent of Protestantism from both sides: not just reading Protestant accounts.
None of those reasons had much to do at all with biblical analysis or arguments. What happened was that I started writing after my conversion, to explain to my Protestant friends why I had become a Catholic, and to do that, the most sensible way is to use a lot of biblical support, because all Christians accept the inspiration of Scripture (and Protestants are always claiming that Catholic beliefs are so unbiblical). So I started writing long essays about major topics where Catholics have distinctive beliefs, over against Protestants, and that became my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. That was a bestseller, so I have written several more along the same lines, which were popular, too, but I do write about lots of other things, too; especially Church history. My current book follows the method that I am most known for.But showing how Catholicism is in harmony with the Bible is not the same as accepting the false notion of sola scriptura, or Bible Alone: the view that Scripture is the only infallible authority. It’s simply using a method of argument that Protestants will respect. If we quote to them papal encyclicals and ecumenical councils, it means little to them, because they aren’t accepted as their authority. You have to find common ground; or a common premise. So I specialize in Scripture because I specialize in outreach to Protestants, and that’s what they “hear.” St. Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, that by any means I might save some of them.”
3.  Maybe you can explain to our Catholic listeners why the Bible is so extremely important to many non-Catholic Christians?
They make it their entire rule of faith, or authority in terms of how they determine truth. They do that with very good reason: because it’s God’s inspired revelation, and we fully agree with them about that. But Catholics think it’s an incomplete rule of faith, and that you have to also have an authoritative Church and tradition, within which correct interpretation of the Bible can happen. It’s when you deny the authority of the Church and apostolic tradition, that you get hundreds of competing theologies. I always say that when contradictions are present, someone’s gonna be wrong, and that the devil is the father of lies and falsehood.

The myth is that all we have to do is read the Bible, and it’ll be so crystal clear to anyone who is willing to accept it, that all will agree, and there will be a wonderful harmony. Luther talked about how a plowboy can understand Scripture. I agree that Scripture is clear in many things; yet well-intentioned, holy people have disagreed about a lot of doctrines. The history of Protestantism has shown that! We still need an authoritative guide in order to have unity.
4.  Let’s talk about the new book.  It is a series of short essays.  Tell us about how the book is arranged?
The idea was to deal with each topic in a very concise manner: hitting the major points about it, and to show how the Bible supports the Catholic position. Many of the chapters came from articles that I had written for two magazines or newspapers: The Michigan Catholic and Seton Magazine (which is a homeschooling publication). Those were either 800 or  1000 words, so they fit right into the plan for this book. Some of the chapters are even shorter than that: just one or two pages. I was just trying to present something about each topic that would make people think or challenge them, or maybe be something “new”: if indeed there are any apologetics argument that are actually new. Usually someone else thought of it hundreds of years ago.

Of course, we’re in an age where people like quick, easy, instant answers; Twitter and the sound byte and so forth. My natural tendency and preference is to write at length about things, but apologists have to recognize what their audience wants, and so I now have five books that provide “short” answers, like The One-Minute Apologist (also with Sophia Institute Press), and The New Catholic Answer Bible (from Our Sunday Visitor). 
5. With your extensive experience as an apologist do these 80 areas cover most of the most common objections that non-Catholic Christians have toward Catholicism?
That’s what I tried to do. Most of them came originally from papers I had written for my website, either from dialoguing with Protestants or replying to some claim they made. My emphasis is usually on how a Protestant would think about theological issues, and what would convince them that the Catholic Church had the correct answer.
But I had a few, too, that were mostly replies to atheists or what I would call  “philosophical defense,” such as chapters called, “A Perfect God Creating an Imperfect World” and “Can God be Blamed for the Nazi Holocaust?” I sort of negotiated with the publisher to keep those in (even though they weren’t strictly “biblical”) because I thought it was important to hit upon the Problem of Evil, which a lot of people (including lots of Christians) struggle with.
6. Tell us about a few of the essay subjects, and the Catholic biblical defense?
Here’s a few in a nutshell. Protestants often say that we shouldn’t call priests “Father” because Jesus said, “call no man your father” (Mt 23:9). But passages have to be understood in context, and in relation to other similar passages. Jesus was using hyperbole or exaggeration, as He often did. The argument I made was that it couldn’t be an absolute prohibition since Jesus Himself referred to “your father Abraham” (Jn 8:56). James 2:21 also refers to “Abraham our father.” St. Paul used the same title for Abraham twice in Romans 4, called Isaac “our forefather” in Romans 9:10, and called himself a “father” to his followers (1 Corinthians 4:15). It’s a classic example of how you can’t just use one supposed “prooftext” in isolation.
Another argument that I think is kind of fun is concerning worship of God through images. Now, many Protestants (esp. Calvinists) tell us that this is absolutely not permitted, and is idolatry, like worshiping the Golden Calf (remember that in the old Ten Commandments movie with Charlton Heston?). The problem is that this is not an absolute in Scripture. In the Old Testament, we see that God revealed Himself in a pillar of cloud and of fire, when the Hebrews were wandering through the wilderness. That is an image, and it is physical matter (water vapor and fire). We also have a passage in Exodus 33:9-11. Part of that reads: “when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the door of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship.” Likewise, in 2 Chronicles 7:1-4, it talks about the “glory of the Lord” descending upon the temple. That was either fire or a cloud , so it says that when the children of Israel saw that, “they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped.” Sounds sort of like eucharistic adoration, doesn’t it?
Another chapter was about biblical analogies for Marian apparitions. I gave several examples, like Samuel appearing to Saul, right before the latter was killed, the prophet Daniel’s extensive visions, Moses and Elijah appearing at the transfiguration (I got to visit that spot last October; it’s amazing), and Paul having a vision in Acts 16:9 where he saw a man saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” I love finding stuff like that, where it’s a little out of the ordinary. So the argument is that there are instances of visions or appearances that are not unlike Marian apparitions.
7.  One of my favorite subjects is the arguments for the Authority of the Church.  What I find interesting, is that many Protestants come into the Church because of the authority.  In other words, they see the fracturing of Christianity because of the last of authority.  So perhaps this topic is as much for Catholics who reject Church authority, but explain the Biblical basis for Church authority.
That’s one of my own favorite chapters (chapter 8), called, “Three Biblical Arguments for the Authority of the Church.” Briefly, they are Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus gives St. Peter the keys of the Church, which he calls “My Church”, says that the devil won’t prevail against it (what we call indefectibility of the Church), and gives priests the power to bind and loose, which means imposing penance and granting absolution. 

The second is one I love to bring up in debates. In Acts 16:4 it says that St. Paul in his missionary preaching, went around and “delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.” That is the Jerusalem Council, which is described in Acts 15. That is sublime Church authority. Everyone was bound to these decisions. It’s as far from Scripture alone as can be imagined.

The third is 1 Timothy 3:15: “the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” When you unpack the meaning of that, it’s a very strong argument. The Church can’t be a “pillar” of the truth without containing all truth (in other words, being infallible). And that is a Catholic notion: one that Protestants have to grapple with.
8.  What is one of the most common challenges you hear as an apologist?
From Protestants, it is that the Catholic Church contradicts the Bible (hence, my specialty, showing that it does not). From atheists, it’s the problem of evil. From Catholics, it’s usually complaints about the Church and people in it. The answer to that is to note that there have always been sinners in the Church, as seen in the early churches of the Corinthians and Galatians, and the seven churches of Revelation that Jesus roundly rebuked. If we’re all sinners, then obviously there will be sinners in the Church, including her leaders!
9.  In recent years the existence of Hell has fallen out of favor with Christians, and many seem to think that if Hell exists then only Hitler and a couple other people actually end up there.  What does the Bible say?
In Matthew 25 is pretty decisive. It’s about judgment day and God is separating the sheep and the goats. Matthew 25:46 couldn’t be any clearer than it is: “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” It states similarly in Revelation about the Lake of Fire, which is hell, and its eternal torments. There is also the theme of the “book of life,” and passages say that people whose name are in it go to heaven. If someone’s name isn’t in it (some passages say names are “blotted out”), they will go to hell, by their own choice of rejection of God. Jesus also talked about “narrow is the way, and few who find it,” implying that a lot of people will be lost. There is a lot of misunderstanding of hell. It’s always a big topic. But we can pray for any individual to be saved, and should desire that all men be saved (like God does), even while knowing that they won’t be in fact, because of their rebellion.
10. Many RCIA programs are just beginning for the year.  I know a lot of people who are in RCIA may come from other faith traditions and continue to have reservations that the Church is faithful to scripture.  I think this book would be an excellent resource to give to someone is that position, or as a resource for RCIA instructors to help answer those hard questions?  What do you think?
You won’t get any disagreement from me about that! I think also that my book, The One-Minute Apologist (2007) would serve the same purpose. It has about sixty topics: each dealt with in two pages, in a standard format and structure somewhat similar to the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. My current book seeks to be accessible to a wide variety of readers, making the arguments in a straightforward and concise fashion, while still providing readers with something to think about and ponder in each chapter. I’m trying to write to the common man, the person considering Catholicism (especially its biblical basis), and ones who love the Bible as I do, and who like to learn as much about it as they can.

 

April 13, 2015

(vs. John Hallman)

PresbyterianChurch

Presbyterian church building in Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia, 1826 [Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0]

***

(4-13-15)

***

This occurred in the combox of an article I did at Catholic365: What to Do About Mediocre, Milky Homilies at Mass (4-11-15). John Hallman’s words will be in blue.

* * * * *

Read the Bible, and teach it, and you can’t go wrong.

I agree! And teach it within the framework of approved Catholic apostolic tradition, so there is no error, since the devil is the father of lies.

Dave Armstrong LOL! Approved by the church fathers. Men, in other words, who still to this day create new “scripture”? Er, no thanks. I understand that to Catholics, the church takes precedence and must be obeyed but as a non-Catholic, I take my authority from God rather than men. That way, I can avoid those sticky things like purgatory, holy water, Mary as a co-Redemtrix and assumed into heaven. these kinds of things require some pretty agile Bible gymnastics, and my back just isn’t into it. Carry on, though Dave!

I feel like a mosquito in a crowded locker room: where to begin?

1. No new Scripture has been created. Where you got such a silly notion, would be fun to find out. Only Holy Scripture is inspired. No dif there.

Apologies, just seems like it with the seeming hierarchy of beliefs that are non-Biblical.

Thanks for the apology, but “seems like it” is inadequate to make such a charge. You must document such [outlandish] charges. Once I called you on it, you realized you couldn’t, and retracted it, which is admirable.

2. The Church doesn’t take “precedence’; rather, we believe in a “three-legged stool” rule of faith: Bible – Church-Tradition. None is “above” the other, and all harmonize with each other. In Protestantism, it is a free-for-all, with hundreds of denominations (a completely unbiblical concept) offering contradictory interpretations and doctrines: including several that can’t be traced back to the early Church or the Bible.

Apart from the (false) slam at Protestantism (great try, you’re very funny!), you are entitled to equating the church men with the Bible, but I would politely disagree that there is basis for equivalency there. Not to be trite, but when you equate “God says it”, with “man says it” and “we’ve always done it this way”, it just seems like something is a wee bit amiss.”

Nothing I said about Protestantism above is false. It’s all demonstrably true. No Protestant can deny that there are massive internal contradictions, causing confusion among the flock and (logically necessary) error, in cases of contradiction. Falsehood is not from God; it’s from the devil. You have yet to prove falsehood in Catholicism. But everyone knows that falsehood is present in Protestantism somewhere — simply from the presence of contradiction. It’s there, and it has a bad effect, as all untruths do.

I merely noted that in our thinking, the Church isn’t above the Bible. That is the standard false stereotype. We believe that the Church and tradition are necessary as frameworks for the proper, unified interpretation of the Bible.

You’re the one who claimed you were simply following “God rather than men” (standard Protestant boilerplate rhetoric). I showed that it is not as simple as it sounds: that you still must interpret, and when Protestants do that, they invariably disagree with each other, and so someone is therefore wrong.

3. God gave men authority in His Church to represent Him, starting with Peter. False dichotomy, but a very typical one.

I’ve read those manly interpretations of the Bible verses, and feel that they are still wrong. There is no apostolic succession if you understand what an apostle was. False assumption to justify the popes, but a very typical one.

Really? So Jesus was wrong, when He said, “You are Peter [Rock] and upon this rock I will build my Church”? [Matthew 16:18] Many of the best Protestant commentators concur that Peter (not just his faith) is the Rock. Thus, God gave men authority over His Church. There are also bishops in the Church, as the Bible repeatedly states. Who is your bishop?

You misunderstand apostolic succession. We’re not saying that bishops are apostles, but that they succeed the apostles. This is based on explicit biblical example (Acts 1:20-26, where Judas was replaced). In Acts 1:20, “office” (KJV) is “bishopric” in KJV (derived from the Greek, episkopos). Paul also appears to pass his authority on to Timothy. And so it goes down through history.

4. You don’t get your authority “from God” but rather, “from God via some particular Protestant denominational tradition.” You then say that is “from God” — but it assumes a fallacious premise.

Nice try, incorrect, but nice since it is what you have to work with. Let’s go for 120,000 denominations, shall we? It’s not correct, either, but using hyperbole gives you certain flexibility.

You have not offered any reply to what I wrote. I didn’t say “120,000 denominations.” I said “hundreds.” [in my #2 above] For over ten years now, I have argued against using the large numbers, because they are based on wrong categories. Any number of “churches” or “denominations” beyond ONE is unbiblical. There is but one Church.

5. Ah yes: the obligatory laundry list of despised Catholic doctrines. I defend all at great length, offering many biblical arguments.

I’ll check out your blog, thanks. Should be interesting, if my back can hold up to the gyrations needed to justify these.”

I’ll pray that God will give you patience to be able to “withstand” so much truth. :-)

6. If you are willing to believe ALL the Bible: not just those portions that are predigested and regurgitated back to you via Protestant preaching and man-made denominational tradition, come talk to us in the Catholic Church.

I pray that you do the same, and read the Bible.

I’ve been reading the Bible and defending it intensely for over 37 years. I even produced my own NT “version”.

I’ve been a Catholic, for many years, and absorbed all the teaching.

You have shown me scarcely any indication that you understand Catholic teaching, or its rationale. Did you ever read Catholic apologetics while you were a Catholic, so you could grasp why you believed what you did as a Catholic?

And believed it, at least until I started reading the Bible and learning a lot more, and in depth.

. . . and took in Protestant interpretations of it, that stem from man-made traditions, insofar as they contradict Catholic teaching.

Then I realized what the true Word of God is, and what salvation is.

What you realized was a particular Protestant version of all that: elements of which are novel and unbiblical and can’t be found in the early Church.

These are not incompatible with Catholicism,

Glad to hear you say that. It shows that you are not [theologically] anti-Catholic and totally immune to reason.

but the Catholics put so many things on it, so many rules, regulations, traditions, and yes even made up stuff, that it seems they’ve gotten away from the message of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, for our salvation.

So you say. I’ve defended all these things you deny. It’s what I do for a living, and my specialty is “biblical evidence for Catholicism.” Catholicism is a deeply biblical religion. It delves into Scripture in far more depth than any form of Protestantism ever has, because we believe ALL of Scripture and don’t arbitrarily ignore large portions. Protestants must do that because many things in the Bible don’t fit into their belief-system, such as, e.g., denominations, Scripture Alone, imputed justification, denial of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and denial of baptismal regeneration.

We can freely accept and rejoice in all of Scripture, because nowhere does it contradict Catholic teaching.

Thanks for the exchange.

* * *

Someone else commented:

Amen… but is there any other way for us to reach these Protestants rather than telling them how wrong they are??

Jesus told the Pharisees how wrong they were, in no uncertain terms; substituting their own traditions of men for God’s true tradition.

John came in with “guns blazing,” and sure enough, is a former Catholic; therefore, he needs to be shown that the false traditions and premises are not in Catholicism, but in the Protestantism that he has adopted. That may come off sounding “negative” but it is exactly what he needs to hear, and so it is loving. It’s tough love.

He likely won’t accept it now, or even soon, but it never hurts to plant seeds. God can work on Him through His grace, in due course.

In the meantime, many others can read how I respond to him. So it’s good all-around.

* * * * *

 

June 6, 2014

AngryWoman
Photograph by Josh Janssen, “Angry-Ann” [Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 license]

***

(6-6-13)

***

The following exchange occurred on a Facebook discussion. One “Binks Webelf” (a non-Catholic who says he is considering becoming a Catholic) took it upon himself to take issue with some of my arguments.  His words will be in blue. He ends with the obligatory personal attacks against me, precisely as ended the previous exchange three days ago with a radical Catholic reactionary who classified me as a Neo-Catholic.
* * * * *

[to a friend] I don’t allow radical Catholic reactionaries on my FB page (which is why it has a consistently congenial atmosphere), so such “interaction” would have to occur on others’ pages. You can argue with these guys. I don’t waste my time with unserious thinkers.

That’s my policy on Facebook [to block]! I’m more lenient on my blog, but they have to make an actual argument, not just insult or troll . . .

Shooting the messenger and name-calling again? Must be a “neo-Catholic” thing.

Is that supposed to be a rational “argument” Binks? I merely pointed out an inaccuracy and made an observation about how Kooky Terms often derive from folks with Kooky Ideas.  [referring to Matatics and the paper above; he now believes there are no valid Masses anywhere]

Mr. Armstrong: me no brain good, but I do note that the people doing the most name-calling, online yelling, job-threatening, and refusing any “rational argument” about the irregularities of your current Pope 

I haven’t yet found any; wrote a book about it . . . 

are also the people who are still spending time hating on Hilary [White]. 

I don’t hate anyone. Disagreeing with a false position that one has is not the same as hate, unless one presupposes a silly subjectivist secularism, where no one can disagree with anything, because all is relative; therefore, to do so is, ipso facto, to be intolerant and “hateful.” Don’t fall into that. It’s not a Christian outlook. I don’t hate you, either (since you are included in the category of “anyone”).

Of course, if we correct someone who is manifestly in error, that is the opposite of hate; it’s an act of love, because all lies are of the devil; therefore, we have led the person to a much better place with regard to the false thing he or she used to believe, before being corrected in love.

As I’ve said . . . via FaceBook in light of this recent episode, I genuinely believe this reveals a failure of Christian charity, Catholic inclusiveness (the real kind), and open-heartedness. 

I agree. To classify orthodox Catholics who disbelieve nothing that the magisterium teaches, as liberals, modernists, Neo-Catholics is the height of uncharity and divisiveness. I just had this happen to me a few days ago. Challenged to come up with something, anything that I supposedly believed, against the Church, my critic could not come up with one thing, and instead resorted to insult, saying all I cared about was filthy lucre.

Oh, and that old Book, too: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.” . . . where, exactly, is it written (say, in the NT, or Gregory The Great, Liber regulae pastoralis) that the best way to confront, convince, or convert erring people is by name-calling, hounding, and suchlike? In this, are you following Francis’ snarky and unfatherly example.

Equally, for you, Dave, where can you show me that your policy “I don’t waste my time with unserious thinkers” is Biblical, Patristic, or pastoral? I can’t find Jesus saying that anywhere, as he preached and taught. (1) You only talk to people who think and talk like you? (2) Or, is it that people who don’t think and talk like you are “unserious” and unworthy of your rational arguments?  

You haven’t read your Bible very closely, I’m afraid, if you don’t know these rather elementary things. That’s okay; we all are learning all the time. But after reading what I will give you, below, you will then be responsible for knowing it. Glad to oblige with nine relevant Bible passages:

A) 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (RSV, as are all) I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; [10] not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. [11] But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber — not even to eat with such a one. [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? [13] God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

B) Romans 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. [18] For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.

C) 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 20 If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, [4] he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, [5] and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. . . . [20] O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge,

D) 2 Timothy 2:14-17 Remind them of this, and charge them before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. [15] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. [16] Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, [17] and their talk will eat its way like gangrene. Among them are Hymenae’us and Phile’tus,

E) 2 Timothy 3:2-9 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, [4] treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, [5] holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. [6] For among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, [7] who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. [8] As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith; [9] but they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

F) Titus 3:9-11 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. [10] As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, [11] knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

G) Matthew 7:6 Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.

H) Matthew 18:15-17 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

I) Lastly, Paul recommends community shunning for the purpose of repentance and restoration:

1 Corinthians 5:3-5 For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment [4] in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, [5] you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Later, Paul relaxed the temporal punishment for this particular person and urged that the man be welcomed back into fellowship (which is the equivalent of an indulgence, and the Church’s practice of excommunication is based on this and other related passages):

2 Corinthians 2:6-11 For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; [7] so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. [8] So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. [9] For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. [10] Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, [11] to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Is that enough Scripture for you, or do you wish to fight against inspired Holy Scripture as well as against Pope Francis and apologists like myself, and those who have a deep concern for Christian unity and truth, and so necessarily have to oppose those who clearly don’t, since they wish to name-call and be divisive? St. Paul roundly condemned that; so do we. Jesus and Paul recommended separating in extreme cases, so do we.

I follow them, and the Church, not the (secularized) false traditions of men, such as those you are currently spouting.

(3) Or is it only “radtrads” (i.e., your brothers and sisters in Christ, Roman Catholics who don’t think and talk like you)? This is all puzzling, sad, and does no credit to the church you say you love and belong to (and to which I ponder conversion). There you are, and there you go.

I don’t use the term radtrads. I coined radical Catholic reactionaries precisely in order to separate these more radical Catholics from legitimate “traditionalists”: with whom I have much in common.

Note that the word “Catholic” was specifically included in that so as to avoid the silly insinuation that you make: that I think such folks aren’t Catholics.

Wow. Very winsome and inviting and humble, that. So: I’m silly. Plus Biblically ignorant… also, fighting against the Pope and you, and I spout secularized false traditions of men, and silly insinuations. No doubt I also foment coprophagia, too. “I wrote a book about Francis, so who ya gonna trust, me or your lying eyes”? Seriously: I don’t know what your books may be like, but your poor online manners and seeming presumptuousness really leave something to be desired, dude. Don’t bother responding– I’ll just keep chatting with those of my RC friends and clergy who don’t see fit to be so combative, bilious, unpleasant, and puffed up. With welcomers like you at the door of the Church….

I figured you wouldn’t deal with the relevant Scripture. Par for the course. Others can read and figure out what’s going on here and what the Bible says about such issues.

So, in warring against what you wrongly characterize as hatred, and extolling the advantages and rightness of charity, you employ all the following insults against me:

1) Very winsome (sarcastic use)
2) inviting (sarcastic use)
3) humble (sarcastic use)
4) poor online manners
5) seeming presumptuousness
6) combative
7) bilious
8) unpleasant
9) puffed up
10) With welcomers like you at the door of the Church…. (sarcastic use)

Superb display of hypocrisy! Thanks for the classic, textbook example . . .

Unless this was a deliberate joke: a humorous caricature of a person being a hypocrite . . . That is a distinct possibility. 

* * * * *
February 13, 2014

 . . . the Protestant Editor of The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
CodexAlexandrinusRomans
Codex Alexandrinus, manuscript of the New Testament 088a – Romans 1 (5th century) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
***

(2-13-14)

***

Jerome Smith is an acquaintance: the brother of a good friend of mine, Martin Smith. The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (1992) is a marvelous resource, though with an excessive evangelical Protestant bias in the notes. Despite that flaw, it is probably the single best source to cross-reference words and phrases in the Bible (better than standard concordances in many ways). Jerome also compiled Nelson’s Cross-Reference Guide to the Bible (2007).
I ran across his mention on his website that he had “refuted” me and we struck up a conversation. It has become very long by now. The original exchanges can be found on his site under two of his posts (one / two). Here I have edited somewhat or length and subject matter and presented it in a more “user-friendly” back-and-forth format, as is my custom (so readers can better compare and contrast the two views). To see the original format, simply follow the two links above.

His words will be in blue.

* * * * *

Clearly, 2 Timothy 3:17 declares the opposite of what Cardinal Newman stated, for God’s Word says the Bible is given so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. That is an express statement asserting the sufficiency of Scripture. Any church or denomination that denies this truth is a false cult. The evil influence of Cardinal Newman continues today, long after his death. That is why I am so strident in my criticism of people like him that teach falsehood.

[I have added material above in brackets and made corrections on 2-9-14 based on the input from Dave Armstrong’s comments which may be read below; I am thankful for his kindness in responding to this post almost immediately after it was posted!]

Hi Jerome,

Hope you are well! I saw your brother on New Year’s Day.

I noticed that one of your tags for this [article] is called, ” Dave Armstrong–Roman Catholic Apologist refuted”. That’s very interesting, because I don’t see any direct refutation of any of my arguments here. What you have written certainly doesn’t refute either myself or my arguments, since they are utterly ignored.

My thinking at the time when I thought up that “tag” is this. Cardinal Newman is mistaken in his assertions pertaining to what is taught and what is meant by what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Considering that you were greatly influenced by Cardinal Newman’s writings to convert to Roman Catholicism, and considering that you agree with his teaching about this verse, if I refuted him, I refuted you.

I’ve now written two entire books about sola Scriptura: 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura, and Pillars of Sola Scriptura: which critiqued the biblical arguments (what I was most interesetd in) of the prominent historical defenders of this doctrine, William Whitaker (1548-1595) and William Goode (1801-1868); also a portion of a third book, and chapters in several other books. I also have a very extensive web page on the topic (the one I’ve written more about than any other).

Most of that was available online for free, but you didn’t touch any of it, yet you claim that you have “refuted” me. I’d be happy to send you both of my books in e-book form (pdf, mobi, or ePub) via e-mail for free, if you like. You are also free and welcome to be the first Protestant to attempt to refute any part of either book. There’s always a first for everything . . .

Mr. Armstrong says several times in his books that he is thankful he is no longer a Protestant, because now he can go by the official teaching authority provided by his new-found faith in the Roman Catholic Church [without having to deal with conflicting positions of other authorities]. The problem I see with that is that such a stance directly violates what is taught by 1 Timothy 3:15-17.

Your readers are entitled to know (in fairness, and full disclosure) that I have also very often expressed public thankfulness and great appreciation for my Protestant background. For example, I have had a paper up almost six years, entitled, “Gratefulness For My Evangelical Protestant Background.” Sounds very hostile, doesn’t it?! In it I write things like the following:

I greatly admire and respect conservative, orthodox Protestantism. I once was an evangelical Protestant, and praise God for that experience, which was exceedingly beneficial to my spiritual advancement and theological education.

That in turn led me to considerable reflection upon the evangelical Protestant period of my life (1977-1990): how much it taught and formed me; the innumerable blessings and benefits I received, and how many wonderful Protestant teachers contributed to my Christian life, and even (indirectly) to my present Catholic apostolate of apologetics and evangelism. It is always good to ponder our experience and the paths through which God has led us, in His mercy and by His grace.

The paper is filled with effusive praise for this period of my life and the teachers I was blessed to have, and all that I learned.

Now imagine yourself writing that much praise about the Catholic Church (had you ever been part of it)! You couldn’t do it, because your view of my communion is infinitely lower than mine of Protestantism. I have great respect for it, but in your eyes I am barely still a Christian, if at all.

His [Cardinal Newman’s] teaching directly led to the falling away from the truth of the Bible [or at least from his original Protestantism] of a personal acquaintance of mine, Mr. Dave Armstrong, who has subsequently become a major apologist for the Roman Catholic Church.  

[When I responded to this,  the bracketed comment above wasn’t there. Jerome later added a note: “I have added material above in brackets and made corrections on 2-9-14 based on the input from Dave Armstrong’s comments.”]

I’ve done no such thing. I follow the Bible more so than ever, love and venerate it, teach from it all the time, accept all that it teaches. I’m even presently putting together a version of the New Testament, edited from six existing versions, called Victorian King James Version. I’ve just learned some new things that I was never taught as a Protestant, that are in there, too.

All I ask is that if you claim to have “refuted” me, that you do me the courtesy of actually interacting with arguments that I made. Jut presenting your view may be compelling and wonderful, but it’s not automatically a refutation of someone else. As it is, what you have provided above, I’ve seen a hundred times and have refuted most of it several times over in scores of papers and in ten or more books of my 43.

May God bless you abundantly,

Your brother in Christ,

Dave Armstrong

Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote a piece declaring there is no verse in the Bible that teaches the sufficiency of Scripture. By the “sufficiency of Scripture” is meant that the Bible contains all that is necessary to know to experience salvation and eternal life. Since Cardinal Newman denies this, that is good evidence he does not know how to read. Well, he’s dead now, or I’d offer him a chance to use my reading program. Clearly, 2 Timothy 3:17 declares the opposite of what Cardinal Newman stated, for God’s Word says the Bible is given so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. That is an express statement asserting the sufficiency of Scripture. Any church or denomination that denies this truth is a false cult. . . .


This text of Scripture [2 Tim 3:16-17] teaches the Bible is sufficient to equip the man of God, and sufficient to bring a person to salvation. Cardinal John Henry Newman is attacking a “straw man” and himself asserting a false claim. This is an example of the heresy Paul warned us against (Ac 20:29, 30). The Church is not our teacher: the Bible is. That is not to say that a church may not teach about Jesus Christ, for genuine churches focus upon the balance of truth given us in the New Testament and Scripture as a whole, but we are to test the truthfulness of all teaching by checking it against what is written in the Bible. Cardinal Newman further states: “It is quite evident that this passage furnishes no argument whatever that the sacred Scripture, without Tradition, is the sole rule of faith; for, although sacred Scripture is profitable for these four ends, still IT IS NOT SAID TO BE SUFFICIENT.” (Newman, Inspiration, p. 131).

Apparently, Cardinal Newman simply did not know how to read the Bible accurately. The very passage Cardinal Newman is discussing is the central Bible text which asserts THE ABSOLUTE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE! For him to flat-out deny the teaching of this text shows he simply had an axe to grind, and was not properly conveying the meaning and teaching of this Bible text. This is the chief text in the entire Bible on the subject of the sufficiency of Scripture. To deny this, as Cardinal Newman did, shows an inability to read the Scripture and take it for what it most plainly says. The claim of the Roman Catholic Church to possess additional teaching from Jesus Christ in the form of unwritten Tradition not found in the New Testament is not true (2 Th 2:15n). Such a claim by the Roman Catholic Church is heresy. It is also a lie.


Here you confuse material sufficiency of Scripture with formal sufficiency. Cardinal Newman and all Catholics deny formal sufficiency, because that is basically equivalent to the rule of faith of sola Scriptura, or the notion that Scripture is the only infallible and final, absolutely binding authority in Christianity. We deny that because the Bible never teaches it (nor did the Church fathers), and the Bible teaches much about the authority of the Church and tradition.

It is my contention, as you well know, that the Bible itself does teach sola Scriptura, the notion that the Bible is the only infallible and final, absolutely binding authority in Christianity.

Your second sentence, however, describes the material sufficiency of Scripture, and Newman and Catholics generally do believe in that (I do, myself). So when you claim he denied material sufficiency, you falsely represent his thinking. As the editor of The Quotable Newman, I happen to have passages on hand that prove you are wrong about this:

. . . at least as regards matters of faith, it does (as we in common with all Protestants hold) contain all that is necessary for salvation; it has been overruled to do so by Him who inspired it. By parallel acts of power, He both secretly inspired the books, and secretly formed them into a perfect rule or canon. . . . It is enough that Scripture has been overruled to contain the whole Christian faith, and that the early Church so taught, . . . (Tracts for the Times #85, Sep. 1838)

Doubtless, Scripture contains all things necessary to be believed; but there may be things contained in it, which are not on the surface, and things which belong to the ritual and not to belief. Points of faith may lie under the surface, points of observance need not be in Scripture at all. (Tracts for the Times #85, Sep. 1838)

The Tracts nowhere say that anything need be believed in order to salvation which is not contained in, or [cannot] be proved from Scripture. (Letter of 4 March 1843)

Of no doctrine whatever, which does not actually contradict what has been delivered, can it be peremptorily asserted that it is not in Scripture . . . It may be added that, in matter of fact, all the definitions or received judgments of the early and medieval Church rest upon definite, even though sometimes obscure sentences of Scripture. Thus Purgatory may appeal to the “saving by fire,” and “entering through much tribulation into the kingdom of God;” the communication of the merits of the Saints to our “receiving a prophet’s reward” for “receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet,” and “a righteous man’s reward” for “receiving a righteous man in the name of a righteous man;” the Real Presence to “This is My Body;” Absolution to “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted;” Extreme Unction to “Anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord;” Voluntary poverty to “Sell all that thou hast;” obedience to “He was in subjection to His parents;” . . . (Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Part I: ch. 2)

Nor am I aware that later Post-tridentine writers deny that the whole Catholic faith may be proved from Scripture, though they would certainly maintain that it is not to be found on the surface of it, nor in such sense that it may be gained from Scripture without the aid of Tradition. (Ibid., Part II: ch. 7, sec. 4)

Again, there is another principle of Scripture interpretation which we should hold as well as you, viz., when we speak of a doctrine being contained in Scripture, we do not necessarily mean that it is contained there in direct categorical terms, but that there is no satisfactory way of accounting for the language and expressions of the sacred writers, concerning the subject-matter in question, except to suppose that they held concerning it the opinion which we hold,—that they would not have spoken as they have spoken, unless they held it. For myself I have ever felt the truth of this principle, as regards the Scripture proof of the Holy Trinity; I should not have found out that doctrine in the sacred text without previous traditional teaching; but, when once it is suggested from without, it commends itself as the one true interpretation, from its appositeness,—because no other view of doctrine, which can be ascribed to the inspired writers, so happily solves the obscurities and seeming inconsistencies of their teaching. (Difficulties of Anglicans, ii, Letter to Pusey, ch. 3, 1865)

I’m glad you found my little blog! I appreciate your taking time to leave some comments! Despite any disagreements theologically we may have, I keep you and your family in my prayers. I always enjoy receiving the beautiful Christmas greetings you send out each year too.

Thank you for offering to send me an electronic version of a couple of your books that have a bearing on these issues.

I have purchased perhaps ten of your books as a set or collection in conjunction with Logos Software. [see the link for that set] You have come out with another title since then that was included in a subsequent collection that featured other authors. I was most interested in your title then, but did not believe the other works by other authors would assist me that much in my studies.

Last year I visited Barnes & Noble bookstore in Port Huron. Pastor Moss had mentioned a new edition of the Bible called The Catholic Answer Bible. The store did not have it in stock, but I bought it and they mailed it to my home when became available. It is nicely done. I wish there were a fine Bible edition instead of just a paperback available. In any case I have it on the shelf of the end table right by my reading chair in the living room and I have been looking at it. It has a number of references to the new(er) official catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. So, on my next trip to Barnes & Noble, I bought a hard-bound copy for reference to use in conjunction with your Catholic Answer Bible.

I have been contemplating doing a series here at this website in a new category to be titled “The Catholic Answer Bible Answered.”

Currently I am in the midst of a large project to greatly expand the cross references beyond what I provided in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. I am as far as 2 Peter 1:11 this evening.
So, it will be a short while before I engage in major new debate, but I am ready and willing. I am better equipped with information than I was in 1992. But as you know, I am always excited to learn more, and to be corrected when I am in error.

Thank you for your input on this thread.

That would be quite a feat, to “greatly expand the cross references beyond” your book! It would surely be an all-time record for Bible references.

I’ll send you files of my two books on the topic to your e-mail.

Thanks for purchasing my other books, by the way.

I would love to receive the two books in ePub format and/or PDF format so I can study them and be one of the first Protestant readers to attempt to refute your position, if it should prove to be incorrect.

Not “one of the first” but the first, in terms of these two books.

I’m glad there is no evidence in the Bible that we all have to pass a final examination in systematic theology in order to enter heaven! That way, as we both trust in Christ for our salvation and believe the Bible to be God’s Word, there is real hope for both of us. Do you suppose God will send at least some of us to “re-education school”? I must admit I don’t have “chapter and verse” for that idea!

It has been a blessing today to hear from you again. I shall continue to keep you and your family in prayer that the Lord’s guidance and richest blessings be upon all of you.

Thanks so much for your prayers.It will be sort of fun in heaven, I think (and fascinating and humbling) , as we all learn definitively what is true and what isn’t.  I look forward to seeing the change of behavior of not a few folks who have claimed I am going to hell, when they see I’m there (assuming that I make it) and will be for eternity: how they now then act completely differently (sin being disallowed). And I’m sure it will work the other way around, too. If I see a mass murderer who underwent a deathbed conversion to Christ, then that will take some getting used to as well!

It will be wonderful to see people acting the way God always intended for them to act, and to see the transformation in ourselves, as sins are purged away.

To the best of my certainly fallible recollection, I do not recall that I have furnished at 2 Timothy 3:15-17 any cross references to such matters extraneous to this text as “authority,” “apostolic Tradition,” or the “Church.”

Perhaps you have some Scripture references you are willing to share with me for my consideration. I’ll take them into consideration even if I determine they are not exegetically relevant to the explanation of this passage.

We likely differ on the matter of authority. I assert that doctrinal authority resides in the text of Scripture. 

Of course it does. No one is saying it doesn’t.

Paul asserts in this very passage that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine.

Of course it is. No one is saying it isn’t.

I suspect you would place authority in an institution, namely, the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, the Orthodox Greek Catholic Church might differ with you about which Church (if any, in my estimate) goes back to the original Apostolic Church, such that the Roman Catholic Church, for years the equivalent of a missionary outpost of the Eastern Church, is surely a “Johnny-come-lately.” . . . 


The Catholic view of authority is what we call the “three-legged stool”: Bible-Church-Tradition: all harmonious with each other; no contradictions. What the Church teaches and what true apostolic tradition teaches (as opposed to false traditions of men) is, we believe, in compete harmony with Scripture. We don’t feel the slightest need to pit any of these three against each other, as Protestants do. Holy Scripture, after all, teaches that there is an infallible Church and a binding apostolic tradition. We don;t believe in sola ecclesia, or put the Church in the position that you guys place the Bible. These are all myths and misconceptions.

The Protestant-Catholic discussion on authority is not “Bible vs. Church” (with you guys on one side and us on the other); the issue is, rather, whether Church and tradition are also infallible authorities, in conjunction with the Bible. Catholics don’t deny biblical authority. We believe it is inspired revelation, just as you do. We’re the ones who compiled the Bible, canonized it, and preserved it for 1500 years before anyone ever heard of Protestantism. There were even 14 translations into German in the 70-odd years between the invention of the movable-type printing press and Luther’s Bible (to smash one myth about that).

That’s why all these “proof texts” for sola Scriptura are almost always completely irrelevant, because the argument made is one that Catholics already agree with (the Bible is inspired , great, wonderful, able to teach and correct, etc., etc.). No one ever said otherwise, so this doesn’t prove anything with regard to sola Scriptura as the rule of faith.

Sola Scriptura is not equivalent to “biblical authority” or “love of the Bible.” One can love and revere the Bible (as Catholics do), accept that it is revelation and wholly inspired and reject sola Scriptura, on the grounds that the latter is not itself taught in the Bible, and was a late-arriving false tradition of men, 15 centuries after Jesus Christ. That’s what my two books on the topic are about.

The church surely would always be the living teacher. But where do the teachings Christ commanded be taught reside? In our time, the only authentic teachings of Christ are preserved in those pesky 27 primary source documents we call the New Testament, no where else. While it is certain that Christ spoke many more words in terms of word-count than are recorded in Scripture, the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the New Testament to record what God willed for us to know. The writers expressly state that while much more could have been written, yet “these are written” that “ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). So, yes, this fits your term, “material sufficiency.”

But what Cardinal Newman wrote, best as I can figure from the very limited context Google Books permitted me to view at the time I searched to document this quotation cited on several Roman Catholic websites–none of which cited any more words than I have from this context in Newman’s book on Inspiration. But his words have no direct bearing on the meaning of what Paul expressed in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, except to contradict them by positing a “straw man argument” not relevant to the text.

Cardinal Newman further states: “It is quite evident that this passage furnishes no argument whatever that the sacred Scripture, without Tradition, is the sole rule of faith; for, although sacred Scripture is profitable for these four ends, still IT IS NOT SAID TO BE SUFFICIENT.” (Newman, Inspiration, p. 131).

Perhaps Cardinal Newman had reference to a special meaning for the term “sufficient,” a meaning akin to your “formal sufficiency.” It would not have been possible for me to discern this from the limited context I was permitted to see online via a Google Books search. But even if he meant “formal sufficiency,” a term he did not use here, he is still mistaken.

Virtually everything Cardinal Newman wrote is available online, for free, at The Newman Reader.

As for the Newman quote you reference above, I submit that even the little you have of context makes it clear what he is talking about, which is “the rule of faith” (formal sufficiency) : not whether all true and necessary doctrines can be found in Scripture (material sufficiency). In other words, he’s saying that Scripture is not the sole infallible authority. Again, that has to do with the rule of faith, which is called “formal sufficiency” of Scripture.The four things he was referring to are in the passage itself: 1) instruction or teaching, 2) refuting errors, 3) rebuking men of corrupt morals, and 4) forming men in righteousness.

I cited a larger portion of the passage in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, which was partially written all the way back in the early 90s, and completed in May 1996. Here it is:

It is quite evident that this passage furnishes no argument whatever that the sacred Scripture, without Tradition, is the sole rule of faith; for although Sacred Scripture is profitable for these four ends, still it is not said to be sufficient. The Apostle requires the aid of Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Moreover, the Apostle here refers to the Scriptures which Timothy was taught in his infancy. Now, a good part of the New Testament was not written in his boyhood: some of the Catholic Epistles were not written even when St. Paul wrote this, and none of the books of the New Testament were then placed on the canon of the Scripture books. He refers, then, to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and if the argument from this passage proved anything, it would prove too much, viz., that the Scriptures of the New Testament were not necessary for a rule of faith.

It is hardy necessary to remark that this passage furnishes no proof of the inspiration of the several books of Sacred Scripture, even of those admitted to be such . . . For we are not told . . . what the Books or portions of “inspired Scripture” are.

[Footnote] Newman, John Henry Cardinal, “Essay on Inspiration in its Relation to Revelation,” London: 1884, Essay 1, section 29. Emphasis in original. In Newman, On the Inspiration of Scripture, ed. J. Derek Holmes and Robert Murray, Washington, D.C., Corpus Books, 1967, 131.

I made my own (possibly original?) analogical and cross-referencing argument right after this, in that book:

In addition to these logical and historical arguments, one can also differ with the Protestant interpretation of this passage on contextual, analogical, and exegetical grounds. In 2 Timothy alone (context), St. Paul makes reference to oral Tradition three times (1:13-14, 2:2, 3:14). In the latter instance, St. Paul says of the tradition, “knowing from whom you learned it.” The personal reference proves he is not talking about Scripture, but himself as the Tradition-bearer, so to speak. Elsewhere (exegesis), St. Paul frequently espouses oral Tradition (Romans 6:17, 1 Corinthians 11:2,23, 15:1-3, Galatians 1:9,12, Colossians 2:8, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6). The “exclusivist” or “dichotomous” form of reasoning employed by Protestant apologists here is fundamentally flawed. For example, to reason by analogy, let’s examine a very similar passage, Ephesians 4:11-15:

Ephesians 4:11-15 [RSV] And his gifts were that some should be apostle, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are able to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

If the Greek artios (RSV, complete / KJV, perfect) proves the sole sufficiency of Scripture in 2 Timothy, then teleios (RSV, mature manhood / KJV, perfect) in Ephesians would likewise prove the sufficiency of pastors, teachers and so forth for the attainment of Christian perfection. Note that in Ephesians 4:11-15 the Christian believer is equipped, built up, brought into unity and mature manhood, knowledge of Jesus, the fulness of Christ, and even preserved from doctrinal confusion by means of the teaching function of the Church. This is a far stronger statement of the perfecting of the saints than 2 Timothy 3:16-17, yet it doesn’t even mention Scripture.

Therefore, the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves too much, since if all non-scriptural elements are excluded in 2 Timothy, then, by analogy, Scripture would logically have to be excluded in Ephesians. It is far more reasonable to synthesize the two passages in an inclusive, complementary fashion, by recognizing that the mere absence of one or more elements in one passage does not mean that they are nonexistent. Thus, the Church and Scripture are both equally necessary and important for teaching. This is precisely the Catholic view. Neither passage is intended in an exclusive sense.

I made a similar argument, in analyzing Paul’s use of words, in a later paper: “Sola Scriptura vs. Ephesians 4 & St. Paul’s Word Selection: Scripture(s), Tradition, and Church (+ Body).” You’re a big cross-reference guy. You might want to give this a read. I think you’ll be surprised by Paul’s choice of words, and the relative frequency of what he talks about. It sure doesn’t suggest sola Scriptura, I’ll tell ya right now . . . so you can brace yourself before reading.

As for the material / formal sufficiency distinction, here is some material from Protestant sources (one / two / three / four / five).

Thank you, Dave, for your kindness in furnishing such good links to further resources. Looks like I’ll have enough material to upgrade my education!

I took a peek at the online resource to Cardinal Newman’s writings. I found the volume pertaining to the inspiration of Scripture. I found this statement from that volume most interesting:

 

15. Surely, then, if the revelations and lessons in Scripture are addressed to us personally and practically, the presence among us of a formal judge and standing expositor of its words, is imperative. It is antecedently unreasonable to suppose that a book so complex, so systematic, in parts so obscure, the outcome of so many minds, times, and places, should be given us from above without the safeguard of some authority; as if it could possibly, from the nature of the case, interpret itself. Its inspiration does but guarantee its truth, not its interpretation. How are private readers satisfactorily to distinguish what is didactic and what is historical, what is fact and what is vision, what is allegorical and what is literal, what is idiomatic and what is grammatical, what is enunciated formally and what occurs obiter, what is only of temporary and what is of lasting obligation? Such is our natural anticipation, and it is only too exactly justified in the events of the last three centuries, in the many countries where private judgment on the text of Scripture has prevailed. The gift of inspiration requires as its complement the gift of infallibility. (On the Inspiration of Scripture, 1884)

Note particularly this part of his statement:

as if it could possibly, from the nature of the case, interpret itself.

Now on this point I differ in opinion and experience as to whether the Bible can interpret itself. I have stated repeatedly that the Bible is a self-interpreting Book. One way to both see and experience this is to make use of cross references in Bible study. Studying the Bible in this manner will let you see to how great a degree–surely far more so than is commonly supposed–the Bible explains itself.

I would suppose that Cardinal Newman may never have made use of The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, though it was certainly available in his day.
See the remarks of Bishop Horsley I have given elsewhere on this site about the vital usefulness of consulting cross references in Bible study as a sure guard against being led astray by false teachers. [link] He pointed out that once a person has experienced learning from the study of Scripture itself (by consulting all the related Scriptures), such a person will not easily be convinced of another, later, wrong interpretation offered by someone else. It is a preventative against being “carried about with every wind of doctrine” spoken of by Paul at Ephesians 4:14.

I have always found the Bible to be clear and essentially “self-interpreting” whenever I studied it. Cardinal Newman, however, is referring mostly to the fact that people do not agree on what it’s clear teachings are.

This is self-evident in the massive internal contradictions of Protestantism. You guys claim that the Bible is self-interpreting enough to arrive at truths, yet you can’t agree as to what they are.

Thus, Protestants split into five camps on a question as basic as baptism:

1) Infant regenerative (e.g., Lutherans, Anglicans).

2) Infant non-regenerative (e.g., Presbyterians).

3) Adult regenerative (e.g., Church of Christ; Disciples of Christ).

4) Adult non-regenerative (e.g., Baptists, Assemblies of God).

5) Not necessary at all (Quakers, Salvation Army).

So which is the true view? Which is clearly taught in Scripture, through cross-referencing? I say #1 is the answer, and that it is clearly taught in Scripture (as I have shown, myself, many times); but I have church teaching and early Church teaching (tradition) to solidly back me up).

You choose another (I believe your position is #2 or else #4), and claim it is clearly taught in the Bible, but since you don’t have an authoritative Church or Tradition to back you up, the next Protestant contradicts you, and appeals to the Bible as well; so it is a vicious circle and can’t be resolved. If you opt for #2, men as great as Luther and Wesley and C. S. Lewis disagree with you. If you choose #4, both Luther and Calvin are against you, and in fact, both advocated death on grounds of sedition, for those holding such a position.

And so on and on it goes in Protestantism: always arguing and never arriving at the truth in so many areas. This reminds one of what the Apostle Paul warned about:

2 Timothy 3:6-7 (RSV) For among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, [7] who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

If Protestants can’t figure out and agree on what is true on a host of issues such as baptism, how is the system a whit better than these “weak women” Paul describes, or those he describes elsewhere as “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles” (Eph 4:14)?

I am glad you chose to use the issue of baptism as an example of many viewpoints of various Protestant or non-Roman Catholic groups disagree on.

I have studied this issue most thoroughly, and likely could win a debate, hands down, against any position which is not true to the plain teaching of the Bible (in its original language, not just English translation). [recounts history of his extensive studies on baptism]

As an experienced champion high school (Cass Technical High School [where I attended too: we both grew up in Detroit], won city championship, which back then included teams from the whole region of southeastern Michigan) and university (where I participated in the debate program at Bob Jones University, earning my letter in debate and won the men’s championship), I determined to present the evidence as strongly for each claimed-to-be-Biblically-supported side of the issue. I have attempted to present the strongest case possible for each of several conflicting views.

I’m delighted that you won all these debating awards in the past. It would take someone like that to give the defense of the altogether indefensible sola Scriptura a shot. I’ve yet to see a biblical argument that establishes its central tenets and definition to the slightest degree.

You can give it the old college try, like hundreds of Protestants for 500 years, but no one (no matter how skillful at debate) can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

So, if you are a Baptist and believe in immersion, you will want to study my note at Romans 6:4 which presents the strongest case in behalf of that mode.

If you don’t believe in immersion, and favor sprinkling, you will want to study my note at Colossians 2:12.

If you are of the Roman Catholic persuasion, and want to see an instance when the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church (the Magisterium?) is absolutely in error, you will (or maybe you won’t!) want to thoroughly study notes and references given at John 3:5. I find it very strange and telling that a Church would proclaim infallibility and then teach a mistaken interpretation of this text. 

Now, what did the Catholic Church say regarding John 3:5? Canon II on baptism, from the Council of Trent condemned anyone who “saith that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism.” It then notes that John 3:5 is wrongly used metaphorically toward that end (denial of the necessity of water for baptism), and forbids such use.

Thus, what the Church required Catholics to believe, is something that is noncontroversial: that you would agree with yourself. Water is necessary for baptism. Duh!!! I’m unaware of any Christian group that would deny this, excepting those that don’t (quite absurdly) baptize at all. Therefore, your “argument” here against this teaching of the Church is much ado about nothing.

It might be a good thing that they have not ventured to provide very many such official interpretations of specific verses that all Roman Catholics are required to believe. Yet, since that is the case (you documented that in one of your books I have in a quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia), that really tends to take away the supposed advantage of following a one true church that provides all the answers so you don’t have to flounder between differing opinions like the Protestants do with their alleged 20,000 different denominations (or whatever the figure might now be–the number is irrelevant to the issue of whether the Bible is truly understandable and can be definitively interpreted in a manner which can be shown is correct).

Yes it is, which is why Catholic Answers put out a short tract entitled, Are Catholics free to interpret Bible verses without the Church’s approval? It explained that only seven (and possibly nine) verses have been required to have a certain meaning. Big wow. The Church is not standing over every Catholic, making sure they interpret single verses in a certain way. That’s one of the 3,876,198 myths about us.

An older tract from Catholic Answers, called,  “Scripture Passages Definitively Interpreted by the Church” listed seven: John 3:5 (baptism), Luke 22:19 and I Corinthians 11:24 (Eucharist), John 20:22-23 and Matthew 18:18 (confession and absolution), Romans 5:12 (original sin), and James 6:14 (sacrament of anointing). It ended by also noting:

In addition, the decree of Vatican I about Christ establishing Peter as head of the Church — which cites Mt 16:16 and John 1:42 — is a defined doctrine, even though the phrasing about the use and interpretation of the scripture cited is more implicit than explicit, by comparison with the above Scripture passages.

Any Protestant worth his salt, who studies Protestant special pleading about sola Scriptura, is, in effect, “required” to believe in certain interpretations of those prooftexts, under pain of being “against the Bible” or not a bona fide “Bible believing Protestant” if they do not. Try arguing, for example, with a Calvinist about his (their) interpretation of Romans 9. You think they’re not required to believe certain things about that chapter? Do you think they’re not “required” to believe that the numerous passages on apostasy and falling away mean a certain (eisegeted) thing, contrary to far more plausible, sensible Arminian / Wesleyan interpretations?

It’s the same with any Protestant denomination; the only difference is which prooftexts are favored, or which are the “pet verses.” So there is really no difference here. It’s a double standard to think that there is. I have every bit as much freedom to exegete the biblical text as you do. And I’ve done so, on a popular level, for 33 years now, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic.

The “answers” that the Catholic Church provides are doctrines and dogmas that it proclaims to be true: something not all that different from what every Protestant denomination does: they all have creeds or confessions or statements of belief. We just have more that are required, and they are binding in a way that, technically, they are not in Protestantism (given the theoretical — in practice, rarely actually allowed — ability of every Protestant to dissent on the grounds of Bible Alone).

But it’s beyond silly to chide us because we supposedly have some infantile system whereby no man need think about anything or study the Bible (I know what is thought about my Church: maybe not by you, but by many many Protestants), simply because the Church requires beliefs in various dogmas.

The Calvinists were extremely dogmatic against the Arminians at the Synod of Dort, weren’t they? There was no latitude of interpretation or freedom there. Yet all we hear about is the (assumed arbitrary, outrageous) dogmatism of the Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms in 1521, because she refused to bow down and kiss Luther’s feet and acknowledge that he was right in 50 areas or more (as I have documented) where the Church was allegedly wrong.

Lutheranism (despite all the Bible alone rhetoric at its inception) has its Book of Concord with all of its dogmas, which is believed to be fully in harmony with Scripture (and is binding on Lutherans who actually try to uphold that tradition). The Calvinists have the Westminster Confession and 39 Articles. Assemblies of God have their “16 Fundamental Truths” (and I always denied the “enduement of power” clause — where all must speak in tongues to “prove” that they are filled with the Spirit –, which is unbiblical, which is why I never became a member of that denomination, even though I got married there and attended for four years).

There is plenty of “dogma” and “non-options” in Protestantism, too, yet it’s the Catholic Church that is derided because we have dogmas and beliefs, too, that are required to be believed. And that is, of course, because many of ours are falsely regarded as “unbiblical” or “excessive” or “corruptions.”

Well, my very career specializes in showing that our beliefs are far more able to be supported from Holy Scripture than any set of Protestant beliefs can be.

Of the five views you suggest, here is the score card based on careful study of the relevant texts of Scripture and their cross references that pertain to each:

1. Infant regenerative. Incorrect. Baptismal Regeneration is a mistaken view; the physical rite has no regenerative value. Consider notes and references at Acts 2:38 and Galatians 3:27 for starting points, or any other supposed proof-text thought to support this doctrine. See also my note at Mark 16:16 and cross references.
2. Infant non-regenerative. CORRECT. See Acts 16:15 notes and references.
3. Adult regenerative. Incorrect. See number 1.

4. Adult non-regenerative. CORRECT. Acts 8:38 and cross references.
5. Not required at all. Incorrect. See Matthew 28:19 where the command is given but never retracted elsewhere in Scripture.

So the other guys get it wrong because they don’t study enough, as you did? Yet the Bible remains self-interpreting and perspicuous?

I maintain that the other guys indeed get baptism wrong because they have not studied the issue carefully and closely enough. Anyone who has not fully investigated the philological considerations that pertain to the original Greek word(s) underlying our English word used in translation (actually, almost transliteration), namely “baptism,” will come up short when discussing this issue.

Then, one must carefully consider the idioms of Greek grammar and usage to get it right. Those who believe in immersion think that the English expression describing Jesus as going down to or into and coming up out of the water prove immersion. Such expressions found in English prove no such thing in Greek. There is a Greek construction (used in John 20:6, for example) that if used in conjunction with a baptismal narrative would clinch the argument for immersion–but that construction is NEVER used in connection with water baptism.

That’s not self-interpreting and perspicuous, but requires in-depth, scholarly research, clearly out of the reach of the average Bible reader, which in turn, rather spectacularly confirms my position, and the Catholic one: that without serious guidance (Church authority and/or such scholarship), the Bible can easily be misinterpreted (for various reasons and motivations), as indeed it is (leading to the multiple hundreds of mutually contradictory Protestant denominations).

You can’t have it both ways: talk the time-honored but timeworn, inane rhetoric of sola Scriptura, perspicuity and self-interpretation, while at the same time noting that for the issue of baptism alone,  one is required to “fully investigate[d] the philological considerations that pertain to the original Greek word(s)” andcarefully consider the idioms of Greek grammar and usage” in order to “get it right.” This is absolutely classic! Thanks so much for the illustration, which pretty much nails down my contention in this case (one which is typical of dozens of doctrines). I couldn’t have argued it better myself. You’ve made it awful easy to establish this point.

If you want cross-texting for John 3:5, sure; I’ve done that, in a paper years ago:

Titus 3:5: he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Compare this to John 3:5:

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (cf. 3:3: “unless a man is born again …”)

The two passages are almost exactly parallel:

Titus: “saved” / John: “enter the kingdom of God”
Titus: “washing of rebirth” / John: “born of water”
Titus: “renewal by the Holy Spirit” / John: “born . . . of the Spirit”

What is “washing” in one verse (with two other common elements) is shown to be “water” in the other. Thus, baptism is tied to salvation, in accord with the other verses above. The evidence is strong. 1 Corinthians 6:11 is also similar to Titus 3:5:

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

So the “justified” is the parallel of “kingdom of God” and “saved” in Titus 3:5 and John 3:5; “washed” goes along with “washing of rebirth” and “born of water,” and all this was done by the “Spirit.” Once again, it is a striking parallelism (now for three passages).

I think that is altogether relevant data. You like to match Bible words up (so do I; I love it); well, why not ideas as well, and these three passages seem to have close parallels.

As a matter of fact, I like your connections. They are in the New Treasury (at least the expanded one I’m working on). I am planning, at your good suggestion, to supply the Ephesians 5:11-15 reference at 2 Timothy 3:17 with a contrast sign (%), a symbol often used, to designate a passage relevant but on a different aspect of the subject.

* * *

I am enjoying our exchange of ideas.

Thank you for furnishing considerable context for the Newman quotation which until I received help from you I had no access to.

* * * 

We are not obligated by Scripture to follow some supposed official “teaching authority.” I find no Scripture justification for such a notion.

Is that so? What do you call the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, then, if not Church authority? What do you do with Paul and Silas’s actions in Acts 16:4 (RSV)?:

As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.

It’s pretty tough not to see that as “teaching authority” of the Church. But if you have blinders on and refuse to see certain things in Scripture because of false presuppositions, it’s possible to miss the glaringly obvious.

That was then. This is now. We have no living inspired Apostles among us now who have the kind of authority the original apostles possessed. What we all have now is an inspired Book, which they wrote under divine inspiration, now complete, which contains all we must know to be saved and to live the Christian life.

Certainly every church and denomination has its system of authority which it exercises over its members. But should the exercise of authority violate the teaching of the Bible, in that case the Bible is the final authority.

But note carefully here, the issue is not merely authority, but official teaching authority.

I stand by my statement that today we have no such divinely authorized teaching authority inherent in an institution, only a Book, the Bible.

* * *

I think you may have missed my most essential point here: Jesus never appeals to so-called Tradition like the Roman Catholics do.

I made an exhaustive study of what the New Testament teaches about tradition. In a nutshell, Jesus always condemns it. When the word appears in the epistles it has reference to teaching, teaching which the recipients of the epistle had heard when Paul was with them and teaching them.

I find nothing in the New Testament which would justify the use Roman Catholics make of Tradition, the substance, or the term.

Jesus condemns the traditions of men, not tradition per se. This is two different things in Scripture. One is good and extolled, the other bad, and condemned. Note in the following examples, that every time Jesus mentions tradition, He qualifies it (thus showing that He didn’t condemn all tradition, but only false and distorted versions of it). If tradition in and of itself were intrinsically a bad thing, I contend that He wouldn’t qualify it every time He used it:

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

Matthew 15:6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God.

Matthew 15:9 “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

Mark 7:8-9, 13 You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” [9] And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! . . . [13] thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.”

Now, you’ll say, “okay, but He doesn’t mention ‘tradition’ in a good sense in these passages, either.” Not the word itself, but He does mention the concept.  He juxtaposes men’s tradition against the “commandment of God” and  “the word of God” and “doctrines”. So you’ll say, “so? That’s still not tradition!” Ah, but it is, because these terms, upon close examination, are essentially synonymous. You basically admitted as much yourself, above: “When the word appears in the epistles it has reference to teaching.” Exactly! I showed this in my first book:

Tradition, Gospel, and Word of God are Synonymous

It is obvious from the above biblical data that the concepts of tradition, gospel, and word of God (as well as other terms) are essentially synonymous. All are predominantly oral, and all are referred to as being delivered and received:

1 Corinthians 11:2  [RSV] . . . maintain the traditions . .  . . even as I have delivered them to you.2 Thessalonians 2:15  . . . hold to the traditions . . . .  taught . . . by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Thessalonians 3:6  . . . the tradition that you received from us.

1 Corinthians 15:1  . . . the gospel, which you received . . .

Galatians 1:9  . . . the gospel . . . which you received.

1 Thessalonians 2:9  . . . we preached to you the gospel of God.

Acts 8:14  . . . Samaria had received the word of God . . .

1 Thessalonians 2:13  . . . you received the word of God, which you heard from us, . . .

2 Peter 2:21  . . . the holy commandment delivered to them.

Jude 3  . . . the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

In St. Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians alone we see that three of the above terms are used interchangeably. Clearly then, tradition is not a dirty word in the Bible, particularly for St. Paul. If, on the other hand, one wants to maintain that it is, then gospel and word of God are also bad words! Thus, the commonly asserted dichotomy between the gospel and tradition, or between the Bible and tradition is unbiblical itself and must be discarded by the truly biblically-minded person as (quite ironically) a corrupt tradition of men.

Moreover, we have the evidence of Matthew 23:1-3:

Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, [2] “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; [3] so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.

“Moses’ seat” is not an Old Testament concept. Thus, Jesus appeals to an extrabiblical tradition. Secondly, He appeals to the extrabiblical tradition: a sort of “succession of the teaching office” not unlike apostolic succession, to ground pharisaical authority even over His own disciples. Thirdly, He grants this authority even if the Pharisees are bad examples (He goes on to excoriate them for hypocrisy and legalism right after this).

Thus, He appeals to tradition, and uses the same tradition to establish the authority even of Jewish leaders over Christians (whereas you claim that not even binding Christian authority is in the New Testament, and that Jesus totally dissed tradition). Paul also called himself a Pharisee twice and acknowledged the authority of the high priest during his trial.

In my book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths (you’re welcome to a free e-book copy of that, too, if you like), I also demonstrated how there are other terms as well for the true apostolic tradition, besides gospel, word of God, commandment, and the faith. There is also the truth, the doctrine, teaching, the message, and new covenant.

How you can miss all this in your exhaustive comparisons of biblical words is extraordinary. But I understand that one’s presuppositions so color one’s conclusions and methodologies, that it is quite possible to miss even though it is plain as day in Scripture.

I am still in the process of learning. That is why I appreciate your input. It is always good to upgrade my education. . . .


Please do not feel offended if I criticize the Roman Catholic Church. It is my position that we are to commend those who are right as long as they are in the right, and correct or challenge those who are mistaken in a position taught by the Bible. There are many good things to be said about the Roman Catholic Church. So far, the Roman Catholic Church has maintained a very Biblical stance on the so-called “right-to-life” issue. It otherwise teaches a very high moral standard pretty much in accord with the Bible on related issues. I wish more Roman Catholics had heeded the pleas of their Bishops to not vote for a party that was restricting the religious freedom of the Roman Catholic Church and its related educational, etc., institutions with regard to “Obama Care” provisions requiring insurance coverage for practices utterly discountenanced by the Roman Catholic Church and the Bible.

Me, too.

In all cases, I much appreciate your gracious input. It is always enlightening.

***

Jesus never appeals to so-called Tradition (like the Roman Catholics do) or to an official teaching authority like both the Roman Catholics and the Jehovah’s Witnesses do. On that basis I think these groups are false to the Scripture, and possibly false cults, . . . [12 February 2014]

On June 19th last year [2013], you were more sure of the status of Catholicism: Well, that is another subject I am looking forward to delving into more completely here in a future series on “The Catholic Answer Bible Answered.” I really do not like to step on people’s toes, but sometimes it is necessary in the interests of maintaining the truth of the Bible against heresy and false cults.

You were also quite sure of your position on November 7, 2010:

On the basis of what the Bible itself teaches, I believe the Bible officially declares the Roman Catholic Church to be a false cult, for the Roman Catholic Church directly denies what the Bible clearly and absolutely declares.

Today [13 February 2014], you wrote:

I agree with you, the JWs are a false cult without question. What I intended to mean was that while JWs are a false cult, the Roman Catholic Church may not be, though because the Roman Catholic Church adds Tradition to Scripture, and because Roman Catholicism does not appear to me in my limited studies so far to adhere to the world-view represented in the 27 primary source documents of our New Testament, I must conclude that the Roman Catholic faith preaches a “different gospel” than the New Testament does.


I certainly concur with the Roman Catholic Church in believing the doctrine of the Trinity. I concur with the Roman Catholic Church in believing in the divine inspiration of Scripture. I concur with the Roman Catholic Church in believing that upon physical death the soul or spirit continues in a conscious state. I concur with the Roman Catholic Church that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.

. . . on the other hand, as best as I’ve been able to learn (as to the official position of the Roman Catholic Church), the Roman Catholic Church denies the doctrine of the literal pre-millennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ to reign upon this earth forever from Jerusalem. This doctrine is sometimes called Chiliasm. This is the doctrine of nearly the whole of the first three centuries of the Christian church as documented by the writings of the church fathers or early Christian writers. It certainly is the teaching of the New Testament, and the Old Testament as well. If I am correct about the position of the Roman Catholic Church on this matter, then it is clear that the Roman Catholic Church has departed from the original apostolic teaching of the first three centuries.


So Catholicism isn’t Christian (unless you define “heresy and false cults” a lot differently than I do). But if you went from “heresy and false cult” last June to possibly false cult” and may not be” a “false cult” now, this indicates progress, and doubt as to whether we’re not Christian or not. Thus, I congratulate you on your progress on that point.

I also found a fascinating comment of yours from August 31, 2012. I’d like to make a few comments:That study group resulted in the conversion of Dave Armstrong to Roman Catholicism. He had been an Evangelical Christian, well acquainted with the Bible, before this happened.
 
And I’m far more acquainted with the Bible now than I was 24 years ago.In fact, shortly before his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, he had presented on my former student Pastor Emery Moss’s radio program a very well-done apologetic defense of Biblical Christianity in answer to the Jehovah’s Witnesses which I happened to hear.

Thank you! That was my first major radio appearance.

It is my belief that while there may be some Roman Catholics who are genuinely saved because they have truly placed their faith in what our Lord Jesus Christ did for them on the Cross, I suspect most Roman Catholics have followed the teaching of their church, which I believe is utterly mistaken on salvation matters.

This is classic, textbook anti-Catholicism. I’ve often described it as: “in order to be a good Christian, you must be a bad Catholic [i.e., reject several of its teachings]; if you are a good Catholic [i.e., accept all Catholic teachings] then you are a bad Christian [i.e., no Christian at all].”

I wholeheartedly accept all Catholic teachings, that the Church decrees as binding upon Catholics. Therefore, according to you I can’t be saved and can’t be a Christian.

Only the Lord knows the hearts, and Paul cautioned us to “judge nothing before the time” (1 Corinthians 4:5), but I am most concerned that for anyone to turn from Biblical Christianity to belief in the Roman Catholic faith is tantamount to committing apostasy.

I haven’t turned from “biblical Christianity” because I am far more “biblical” now than I ever was as a Protestant. I accept the inspiration and truthfulness of all Scripture, not just carefully selected prooftexts, according to preconceived notions that were held before the Bible was ever consulted. I have come to believe that Catholicism is the fullness of the Christian faith, so in your eyes I must be an apostate.

The Roman Catholic Study Group held at Dave Armstrong’s home resulted in the conversion of Mr. Al Kresta, a very popular and effective radio talk show host for the program, Talk from the Heart, on WMUZ-FM in Detroit, to Roman Catholicism.

This is untrue. Al had been attending Catholic Mass for years before I had the slightest interest in Catholicism at all. He was closer to conversion than I was for many years, but was slower to take the final step. My study had some slight influence on him but was by no means the big cause. Those causes were detailed by him in a lengthy talk given at my house, that explained the reasons (and in his written account in Surprised by Truth, which never mentions me, as I recall).

Many of them were related to his experiences as a pastor, and how Protestantism is a chaotic system. He mentioned one case of an elder at his church who was committing adultery. He asked him to step down as a result. Then he discovered that he went over to a large Presbyterian church (you would know the name) and was accepted as an elder there: no problem! This was after Al had informed the pastor of the adulterous shenanigans.

This is Protestantism.

I transcribed Al’s “conversion talk” at my house:  “Why I Returned to the Catholic Church: Including a Searching Examination of Various Flaws and Errors in the Protestant Worldview and Approach to Christian Living.”

So I wasn’t a major cause of his conversion, but I have been an influence — by God’s grace, as I am just a poor vessel — in many hundreds of conversions to Catholicism, based on the letters I receive.

I believe Al Kresta was a pastor of a local Protestant church, but I do not know what denomination it was.
 
It’s non-denominational; charismatic. It was called Shalom House. The founder of that outreach to young people, Joe Shannon, has also returned to Catholicism as well (no relation to me there, either). The pastor after both of them, remains firmly Protestant.

It may be that Al Kresta was converted back to Roman Catholicism, for if I recall correctly, he had been raised in the Roman Catholic faith by his parents.

That’s not the reason. There were many reasons: all valid and perfectly sensible. But for a thinker like Al, merely having been something at one time is not the reason he does things.

One of my own Sunday school class members, who was raised Roman Catholic, but found Christ as his personal Savior, has returned to his former Roman Catholic faith.

I found Christ as my “personal Savior” (a phrase never found in the Bible, though I would argue that the concept is, rightly understood) in 1977. Now I’ve also found the Church that He founded, which is how Christianity was always intended to be.

I am very concerned that there is a lack of solid Bible teaching and apologetics in our Evangelical, Bible-believing churches.
 
Yeah, me, too. It’s the same in the Catholic Church, which is why I’ve devoted my life to changing that, in both camps.

I believe I should have done more than I did in teaching my high school Sunday school class about apologetics, for while I answered the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Christ most thoroughly, I did not delve as deeply into Roman Catholicism.
 
I can see that. You have much to learn about it.

I did share with my class some reading material pointing out the apostasy of Roman Catholicism, but I did not dwell on the issue.

Good!

In particular, I shared the content of a booklet titled “Why Protestants and Roman Catholics Must Forever Remain Apart,” or something very similar. The main point the booklet addressed had to do with the fact that Roman Catholicism has an entirely false salvation plan, for it teaches the grace of salvation is received only through the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.
 
This is untrue on several counts:

1) We accept the validity of Protestant trinitarian baptism as a genuine sacrament, causing one to become part of the Body of Christ.

2) We accept the validity of all the sacraments of Eastern Orthodoxy.

3) We accept the sacramental validity of the marriage of two lifelong Protestants (not formerly married).

4) We believe in a baptism of desire in some cases, whereby one can be saved without baptism. Martyrdom can also work the same way.

5) We believe that “invincibly ignorant” non-Catholics can be saved.

One would think that anyone who understood the difference between the two systems or plans of salvation would never fall prey to the false apologetic of Roman Catholicism. But this sacerdotal heresy still represents a very fatal danger to those who fall victim to its false reasoning.

I’ve written 43 books and over 2,500 papers explaining why Catholicism is altogether biblical; harmonious with Scripture, and that Protestantism is not. That’s why I’m where I am, because I’ve loved and studied the Bible for nearly 37 years now.

* * *

Our “time” will soon draw to a close, because my policy since 2007 has been not to debate theology with anti-Catholics (which it has been amply confirmed that you are, from my searching your site today), since little constructive ever comes of it. The premise (Catholicism isn’t Christian) is so utterly absurd and viciously circular for a Protestant to assert (as I proved at length in my lengthy 1995 debate with James White: that he ran, terrified, from), that it reveals extremely serious distorted,  fallacious, wrongheaded thought at the level of many premises, making true dialogue impossible.

None of that is a “personal” judgment at all. It’s strictly a matter of principle and time-management and wise stewardship of time under God. R. C. Sproul, for example, told James White (as the latter reports) that Catholics aren’t worth debating because they don’t deserve that serious of a consideration. They disagree on that. He’s applying the same principle, though with false premises.

I think there are arguments not worth the trouble getting into (minus any personal vitriol towards the persons involved), because I am a proponent of classical dialogue, along the lines of Socrates and Plato: who held that a dialogue really only succeeds in the end if the two people are friends and have some degree of respect for each other’s positions. We may be friendly acquaintances, but you have no respect for my position and falsely, unjustly put me in a box as a Pelagian, idolatrous infidel on my way to hell if I continue to accept all Catholic teachings, as I do (by your own stated criteria, as I examined today).

That makes constructive dialogue impossible. I’ve enjoyed it, as you have, so far, but we’re basically just talking past each other, not influencing each other in the slightest.

I have dozens of past debates and dialogues on my Anti-Catholicism page, lest anyone thinks my reasoning here is either fear or inability (and of course those charges have been made). If James White, the king of anti-Catholics, thinks my refutations of his garbage are so terrible and insufficient, he is welcome to try to refute them. But thus far, not a word; not one peep out of him.

However, the exception to my policy that I am willing to make is if someone makes a serious and on-topic attempted refutation of one of my books. I’ll always defend my books unless it is a crazy wild goose chase, where the person replying is all over the ballpark with his preaching and sanctimonious condemnations of Catholicism.

If someone actually stays on topic and provides replies to my actual arguments in my books (in this case, on sola Scriptura), including you, then I will reply back, showing how the counter-argument fails, or if it succeeds, conceding that it does in that instance.  Since I have 100 arguments in my one book, if one is shown to be fallacious or contrary to fact, there are still 99 more to contend with: not the end of the world or reason for me to go back to Protestantism. The critique hasn’t collapsed if 1% of it is shown to be no good.

So I will do that with you , if you like, on the topic of sola Scriptura only, because that is your specialty, and one of mine (that I’ve written more about than anything else in my apologetics, by quite a margin).

Since you have expressed high interest in both of my books on the topic, perhaps that will be an agreeable arrangement to you.

***

I believe God calls us to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). I believe God calls us to warn anyone we see who is in danger or is mistaken or is going astray (Ezk 3:18, 19; 33:8, 9; Le 19:17; Ac 20:31). Therefore, I have not been anti-catholic, but anti-error, which as I read my Bible is exactly what God calls us to be. I have indicated, on my part, complete openness to correction should it be found I am mistaken in what I believe the Bible teaches or of what I understand or misunderstand about the Roman Catholic church.

I have repeatedly commended the doctrinal and practical living stances the Roman Catholic Church proclaims when they are in full agreement with the Bible. . . .

Never have I ever suggested to any Roman Catholic that they ought to choose a different church to attend. I leave those decisions to God and the individual as the Holy Spirit may lead them. Now, if this to you represents me being anti-Catholic, so be it. But God will judge differently, I’m sure.

I do believe I have so far successfully met and refuted your position on the sufficiency of Scripture and related or illustrative issues you brought forward.

First, I must suspend my judgment regarding the distinction you make regarding “material sufficiency” and “formal sufficiency.” 

Cardinal Newman in his work as cited does not use the term. I at present have no way of knowing if he was aware of the term in his day. So, taking his word at face value, it appears to me he is in direct denial that 2 Timothy 3:17 teaches the sufficiency of Scripture.

The distinction between “material sufficiency” and “formal sufficiency” might be an example of the rule of interpretation I have called “necessary inference.” At present I do not think it is. An example of a Bible doctrine which is a proper example of “necessary inference” would be the doctrine of the Trinity. It can be derived from and proven from Scripture.

Until I learn more about it, I would judge that “material sufficiency” and “formal sufficiency” are arbitrary material constructs which exhibit the fallacy in interpretation sometimes called “over-reading” into the text that which is not really there.

I am glad you do accept “material sufficiency” as something taught by the Bible. As far as I understand the term “formal sufficiency,” I think I would consider that a valid Bible doctrine arrived at by necessary inference.

Now, you kindly brought forward as an example of apparently irreconcilable differences that cannot be settled definitively by Scripture alone the subject of baptism.

I thanked you for your choice of issue, a choice not affected by any prompting from me. It is a subject I have carefully studied. I am still studying the issue. I have signed up at Logos for a large set of classic Biblical studies on the subject, and am eagerly awaiting the time they become available to me. I have also signed up for many Roman Catholic studies some months ago, and several of those have apparently gone into production this week. It will still be a while before I receive them, I’m sure.

In further discussion of the baptism issue, you brought forward John 3:5. You further supported the variations in approach to baptism that are supposedly not reconcilable by direct approach to Scripture itself by citing the interpretation of noted Presbyterian scholar Marvin Vincent given in his useful work on Word Studies.

I refuted Mr. Vincent, noting what was there in the text that he totally overlooked, and what was elsewhere in Scripture that he also did not properly take into account, rendering his interpretation unsatisfactory if not incorrect. I provided you a summary statement of what the correct interpretation must be.

You countered with the observation that my interpretation proves your point, that John 3:5 can only be correctly interpreted by an appeal to careful scholarship from outside the text of Scripture itself, therefore justifying an official designated teaching authority, such as is provided by the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. I had pointed out, and you verified in precise detail, that the Roman Catholic Church has most wisely refrained from making very many pronouncements about interpretations of particular texts of Scripture which must be received by Roman Catholics. One of those few texts is John 3:5.

The problem with the interpretation required to be believed for John 3:5 is that it is a mistaken reading of John 3:5. What the Roman Catholic Church asserts of baptism, that the physical element water must be employed in ritual water baptism, is most certainly true. The problem is that John 3:5 is not about ritual water baptism at all, but is about real baptism accomplished by the Holy Spirit apart from any physical water or an administrator of the rite.

So, what has now been demonstrated?

First, it is possible to go to the Scripture itself and by as much careful study as needed, arrive at a correct interpretation and understanding of an otherwise disputed passage of Scripture. I demonstrated that by refuting Vincent. . . . 

My conclusion is, . . . that the interpretation of John 3:5 I have provided is more adequate and more supportable from the text, the immediate context, and the whole of Scripture than either that of respected scholar Marvin Vincent or generally respected Biblical scholarship of the Roman Catholic Church’s official position on this verse.

Bottom line: on this point at least, noted and respected Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong stands refuted–as I originally suggested in my “Google tag” for this post.

Nevertheless, I count Dave Armstrong as fully a dear brother in Christ, and highly commend his written works and his stand for Bible truth and the Word of God.

As I already mentioned, please let me know if you critique one or both of my books on sola Scriptura. I must respectfully disagree with your claim that you have refuted the arguments I’ve made in our recent exchanges. In many instances, you simply stated your positions with little or no relation to mine, which is neither dialogue nor debate, since there was little or no direct interaction with the opposing position.

The “Jesus vs. Tradition” topic provides the classic illustration of this. I gave my counter-argument to your negative claims, and you “replied” by simply restating the standard “anti-tradition” arguments, with no reference to the arguments that I had just provided . It’s understandable. We Christians tend to be preachy proclaimers. We have truths to share as we deeply believe them, and would rather proclaim than defend. And we tend to fellowship with folks who believe as we do, so we’re not used to hearing other views.

I’m an apologist, so I engage in dialogues and defense all the time. I naturally fall into that mode, rather than the preachy thing. I’ve never been a “preacher”. This is why I rarely give talks. I’d rather dialogue with people; talk to them, do the back-and-forth. Even when I’m on the radio (as I have been, some 25 times now: several of those being live national shows with calls), I do interviews, not straight talks. Preaching and proclamation are fine. God likes those, too, and wants us to do them. But they are not dialogue and debate.

So there are methodological differences between us. But in any event, I can’t agree that I have been refuted, seeing that many of my arguments went unresponded-to. The debater must respond to opponents’ arguments! Certainly you know that, with your background, so it is doubly curious and puzzling to me why you haven’t applied that knowledge of what a true debate entails, to my arguments. But if you are willing to do so in the future, you have my 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura to play with.

My old argument (from the early 90s) about five views of baptism, that I brought up, wasn’t for the purpose of debating baptism itself. It is a classic example of Protestant disunity on basic Christian doctrines (and practices) and how nothing Protestants can do within their system is able to overcome it. Whether you think you have proven your view of baptism or not has nothing whatever to do with my point there. It was just one illustrative example of many similar ones that could have been used. You simply say that the other guys are wrong, you are right, and that’s the end of that!

But of course, it doesn’t solve the problem (that I was driving at) at all, because there are other folks equally as “certain” as you are about their views, and there is no way to resolve it since all parties appeal to the Bible. And that was the whole essence of my argument. If you can’t see that you haven’t resolved the difficulty in the least (haven’t even tried), others surely will: which is the beauty of presenting opposing views and letting readers decide which is more plausible and worthy of belief.

When you disagreed with Cardinal Newman, you dismissed him cavalierly, saying that he can’t read [the Bible]. But you didn’t give any indication that you even grasped what his argument was in the first place. You weren’t aware, first of all, of the basic distinction between material and formal sufficiency, that (as I showed, with six examples), many Protestants understand and write about. Thus, you misunderstood and (undeliberately) misrepresented Newman, and I proved early on that he made this distinction and accepted material sufficiency (with several of his own statements, compiled in my book of his quotations), whereas you denied that.

Like many Protestants, you seem thoroughly confused as to the status of Catholicism. In several of your past papers, you were sure that it is a “false cult.” Lately, you seem less sure, and present contradictory remarks on the topic. You say I am “fully a dear brother in Christ,” which I appreciate and am delighted to see (for your sake), and of course reciprocate, as Catholics regard all baptized trinitarian Protestants in the same way.

You say that you “highly commend [my] written works and [my] stand for Bible truth and the Word of God.” Yet, when we began, just a few days ago, you stated: “His [Cardinal Newman’s] teaching directly led to the falling away from the truth of the Bible [or at least from his original Protestantism] of a personal acquaintance of mine, Mr. Dave Armstrong, . . .”

How can I be criticized for falling away from the Bible a few days ago, yet now I am commended for standing for Bible truth and the Word of God? Perhaps you can explain these wildly divergent interpretations of the course of my spiritual / theological life.

Your other statements about Catholicism that I found on your site provide further internal difficulties in your position. In August 2012 you wrote:

“It is my belief that while there may be some Roman Catholics who are genuinely saved because they have truly placed their faith in what our Lord Jesus Christ did for them on the Cross, I suspect most Roman Catholics have followed the teaching of their church, which I believe is utterly mistaken on salvation matters.”

Alright. You can’t have it both ways. If the Catholic Church is “utterly mistaken on salvation matters” and someone accepts wholeheartedly all its teachings, as I do, I don’t see how that person can be saved or be a brother in Christ, because they have a false soteriology and understanding of what is required to be saved: i.e. (by this erroneous thinking), a “different gospel.” One has to reject that in order to be a good Christian (to be a good Christian you have to be a bad Catholic, and if one is a good Catholic, he can’t be a [good] Christian).

Of course I have fully placed my faith in our Glorious Lord and Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and His death on our behalf on the cross. I did that in 1977. This is Catholic teaching. Your problem is that you don’t realize that it is Catholic teaching (minus the false element of supposed “instant salvation”), so that to believe this (grace alone / non-Pelagianism) is no contradiction at all to anything the Catholic Church teaches.

You said Cardinal Newman has an “evil influence.” He’s my “theological hero.” His arguments were crucial in my conversion (though not the biblical ones; rather, his historical analyses about development of doctrine). So how can I love his writings so much, yet escape from the same negative description that you give him? You even claimed that you refuted me because you (supposedly) refuted him; precisely because you know that I like his thought so much. Yet he has an “evil influence” and I am a “fully a dear brother in Christ”? Is Cardinal Newman that also?

I wholeheartedly accept all Catholic teachings, that the Church decrees as binding upon Catholics. Therefore, according to you (or at least your writings within the last few years) I can’t be saved and can’t be a Christian. How could I be, if Catholicism teaches a false soteriology and I accept it? Is Catholicism a Christian system, just as all the Protestant systems are, or not? Unless you make that determination, your analyses on this topic will continue to be hopelessly muddled and self-contradictory.

As a professional apologist, I can assure anyone that the Catholic Church teaches salvation by the work of Christ through faith in Him and grace alone; but most people understand so poorly what we teach, that they continue to falsely claim that we believe in salvation by works, or Pelagianism.

Again, in August 2012, you wrote specifically about me: “I am most concerned that for anyone to turn from Biblical Christianity to belief in the Roman Catholic faith is tantamount to committing apostasy.” So which is it? Am I an apostate or dear brother in Christ? At that time, you didn’t sound very delighted that anyone would become a Catholic. But now you say, “Never have I ever suggested to any Roman Catholic that they ought to choose a different church to attend.”

How can you say that to become a Catholic is to forsake biblical teaching and commit apostasy, and to adopt the views of a communion that is “utterly mistaken” about salvation, yet also say that Catholics are fully brothers in Christ and that Catholics shouldn’t leave the Catholic Church? Either your views have changed or this is vicious self-contradiction. And again, being a master debater, you know what internal inconsistency is.

You referred to “the apostasy of Roman Catholicism” and “Roman Catholicism has an entirely false salvation plan” and “the Roman Catholic faith preaches a ‘different gospel’ than the New Testament does” and “I believe the Bible officially declares the Roman Catholic Church to be a false cult, for the Roman Catholic Church directly denies what the Bible clearly and absolutely declares.” Yet here I am in that Church and you say I’m a good Christian who teaches the word of God and should stay here (because you would never suggest otherwise)? You concluded:

“One would think that anyone who understood the difference between the two systems or plans of salvation would never fall prey to the false apologetic of Roman Catholicism. But this sacerdotal heresy still represents a very fatal danger to those who fall victim to its false reasoning.”

Okay! Either you are one very confused man (regarding Catholicism and the relationship of individual Catholics to biblical truth and salvation) or you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. I don’t conclude the latter for even a second, in charity; therefore, the former seems to be the only other possibility: unless and until you clear up these massively contradictory statements. And I don’t see that you can do so; thus, you ought to follow the direction that you seem to be pulled in (that Catholicism is a fully Christian system and one can be saved if they accept all of it).

The latter position has the distinct advantage of being true rather than false. That’s always a good thing when one is bandying about different opinions. . . . Truth (in proportion to how much of it we espouse) has a way of eliminating internal contradictions.

If I understand your statements immediately above, you were saved in 1977. That of course is well more than a decade before you converted to Roman Catholicism.
I said:

 

It is my belief that while there may be some Roman Catholics who are genuinely saved because they have truly placed their faith in what our Lord Jesus Christ did for them on the Cross, I suspect most Roman Catholics have followed the teaching of their church, which I believe is utterly mistaken on salvation matters.

I don’t have at my command all the technical theological terms or labels that pertain to this issue. Nevertheless, it is my current understanding that in the Roman Catholic Church the grace of salvation is dispensed by the Roman Catholic Church, so that salvation is received by partaking of the sacraments. This might be called sacerdotalism.

For example, years ago, if I were to ask a Roman Catholic if he is saved, he would say “Yes.” If I asked further about the basis for believing he is saved, he would respond, “I was baptized Roman Catholic.” Or, if I were to ask a Roman Catholic, “Are you born again?” he would answer, “Yes, I was baptized.” At least back in those days, few if any ever responded with a statement reflecting what most Evangelical Christians would respond, “I have accepted Christ as my Savior, and have a personal relationship with him.”

Now perhaps these limited interchanges I had years ago are not representative of the actual case at large. But then, and until now unless shown otherwise, it would seem that the Roman Catholics I encountered had a faith based on grace received by participating in the sacraments, through which as the Roman Catholic Church apparently teaches, the needed or necessary grace is received.

Now in my reading of the New Testament, I see the Evangelical position reflected directly on its pages, but I do not see a system of ritual ordinances we call sacraments as a means of receiving the grace of salvation there at all.

That is why I have stated I believe many Roman Catholics are actually genuinely saved, born-again Christians in the Evangelical sense. Though they are undoubtedly faithful Roman Catholics loyal to their church, participating regularly in the Roman Catholic sacraments, yet that participation is not what the Bible in the New Testament sets out as the way an individual comes to know Christ, comes to be “in Christ,” comes to possess the everlasting life Jesus promised in John 3:16 and John 5:24.

Therefore, I have concluded that many in the Roman Catholic Church are saved in spite of rather than because of the program of sacraments set forth by the Roman Catholic Church as the means of grace. I would suppose, based on what little I know or have experienced by direct contact with Roman Catholicism, many Roman Catholics have yet to experience the joy and assurance that comes from having a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, though I am surely thankful for every Roman Catholic who has had this blessed experience.

* * * * *


November 8, 2006

BibleRosary
Photograph by Chris Sloan, 28 Nov. 2009 [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]
*****

Table of Contents

* * *
I. Relationship of the Bible to the Church
*
II. Tradition (Apostolic)
*
III. Sola Scriptura (Scripture as the Only Infallible Authority)
*
IV. Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture
*
V. Material and Formal Sufficiency of Scripture / Rule of Faith
*
VI. The Canon of Scripture
*
VII. Deuterocanonical Books (So-Called “Apocrypha”)
*
VIII. Biblical Accuracy / Alleged Biblical Contradictions and Difficulties
 *
* * * * *
I. RELATIONSHIP OF THE BIBLE TO THE CHURCH
***

Why Do Christians Believe in Biblical Inspiration? (Archaeological, Prophetic, and Manuscript Evidences) [1987]

An Introduction to Bible Interpretation [1987]

Apologetics-Oriented Biblical Commentary on Philippians (RSV) [1998]

Apologetics-Oriented Biblical Commentary on Colossians (RSV) [1998]

Laymen’s Greek & Hebrew Bible Resources for Free [1-22-02; linked sources added on 11-28-16]

“Why Don’t Catholics Read the Bible?” [6-26-02]

Catholic “Three-Legged Stool”: Scripture, Tradition, & Church: Dialogue with an Anglican on the Catholic Rule of Faith (vs. Jon Jacobson) [10-31-02]

The Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete / Interpreter + Bible Passages that the Church has Definitively Interpreted [9-14-03]

“Biblical Evidence” from the Catholic Point of View [2-1-08]

Bibles & Catholics, Sunday School?, Memorization, Etc. [9-25-08]

Books by Dave Armstrong: Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths: A Source Book for Apologists and Inquirers [4-18-09]

Why Folks Like the New Catholic Answer Bible (+ Clueless Anti-Catholic Attacks On It) [4-5-09; slightly revised on 8-5-21]

How Do Catholics Approach & Interpret Holy Scripture? [6-17-09]

Catholic Interpretation of Scripture (Hermeneutics / Exegesis): Resource List (Links) [6-28-09]

Were Vernacular Bibles Unknown Before Luther? (Luther’s Dubious Claims About the Supposed Utter Obscurity of the Bible Before His Translation) [6-15-11]

Reply to a Lutheran on Tradition & the Patristic Rule of Faith [1-10-12; additions on 2-20-18]

*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Dialogue on Authoritative Bible Interpretation in the New Testament (vs. Reformed Baptist Elder Jim Drickamer) [1-14-17]
*
Was the Catholic Church Historically an Enemy of the Bible? [National Catholic Register, 3-27-17]
*
Church Fathers and Sola Scriptura [originally July 2003; somewhat modified condensation: 4-5-17]
*
Catholics R More Biblical Than Protestants? (Dialogue) (vs. Dustin Buck Lattimore) [5-3-17]
*
*
The Analogy of an Infallible Bible to an Infallible Church [11-6-05; rev. 7-25-15 and 6-7-17; published at National Catholic Register: 6-16-17]
*
*
*
*
Why Are Catholics So Deficient in Bible-Reading? [National Catholic Register, 11-22-17]
*
*
*
*
*
*
Catholic Biblical Interpretation: Myths and Truths [National Catholic Register, 12-3-18]
*
*
*
Martin Luther on the Exact Nature of Being “Biblical” [11-10-14; revised and expanded on 1-5-20]
*
Vatican II Upheld Biblical Inerrancy (vs. David Palm) [4-23-20]
*
*
*
*
*
*
No, Pope Innocent III Did Not Prohibit the Bible in 1199 [National Catholic Register, 8-2-21]
*
*
 
II. TRADITION (APOSTOLIC) 
 
***
*
*
Dialogue on “Tradition” in the New Testament (vs. Dr. Eric Svendsen) [1996]
*
*
Dialogue on “Perspicuous Apostolic Teaching” (vs. James White) [May-June 1996]
*
“Tradition” Isn’t a Dirty Word [late 90s; rev. 8-16-16]
*
*
*
“Moses’ Seat” & Jesus vs. Sola Scriptura (vs. James White) [12-27-03]
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*

Biblical Evidence for True Apostolic Tradition (vs. “Traditions of Men”) [6-23-11]

*
*
*
 “Tradition” Is Not Always a Bad Word! [written specifically for children: 12 or younger; 2-12-14]
*
*
*
Church Fathers and Sola Scriptura [originally July 2003; somewhat modified condensation: 4-5-17]
*
Tradition is Not a Dirty Word — It’s a Great Gift [National Catholic Register, 4-24-17]
*
Dialogue on Oral Tradition & Apostolic Succession (vs. John E. Taylor) [5-17-17]
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
The Bereans and Searching the Scriptures: Sola Scriptura? [National Catholic Register, 5-5-19]
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
In the Bible, “Word of God” Usually Means Oral Proclamation [National Catholic Register, 12-17-19]
*
Martin Luther on the Exact Nature of Being “Biblical” [11-10-14; revised and expanded on 1-5-20]
*
*
2 Thessalonians 2:15 & Tradition (vs. Steve Hays) [5-12-20]
*
*
*
*
*
The Bible Alone? That’s Not What the Bible Says [National Catholic Register, 3-5-21]
*
*
*
*
 III. SOLA SCRIPTURA
***
*
*
*
*
*
*

Debate: Church Fathers & Sola Scriptura (vs. Jason Engwer) [8-1-03]

Ten Church Fathers & Sola Scriptura (vs. Jason Engwer) [8-1-03]

Sola Scriptura: Unbiblical!: Refutation of Dr. Richard Bennett [9-15-03]

Refutation of Dr. John MacArthur’s Sola Scriptura Defense: “The Sufficiency of the Written Word” [9-15-03]

Biblical Argumentation: Same as Sola Scriptura? [10-7-03]

Quick Ten-Step Refutation of Sola Scriptura [10-10-03]

“Moses’ Seat” & Jesus vs. Sola Scriptura (vs. James White) [12-27-03]

Sola Scriptura and Private Judgment Are Logically Circular [1-28-04; slight modifications and abridgment on 9-5-17]

Difficulties of Authority: Luther, Calvin, & Protestantism [4-11-04]

Sola Scriptura is Self-Defeating and False if Not in the Bible (vs. Kevin Johnson) [5-4-04]

Jerusalem Council vs. Sola Scriptura [9-2-04]

Analyzing Luther / Protestant Traditions of Men Inevitable [9-29-04]

Dialogue: Lutherans, Sola Scriptura, & the Church Fathers [5-29-05]

*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Papal Infallibility Doctrine: History (Including Luther’s Dissent at the Leipzig Disputation in 1519) (Related also to the particular circumstances of the origins of sola Scriptura) [10-8-07]
*
Sola Scriptura Debate (vs. C. Michael Patton) [10-19-08]
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
10-Point Biblical Refutation of Sola Scriptura [National Catholic Register, 12-11-16]
*
Church Fathers and Sola Scriptura [originally July 2003; somewhat modified condensation: 4-5-17]
*
Catholics R More Biblical Than Protestants? (Dialogue) (vs. Dustin Buck Lattimore) [5-3-17]
*
*
*
3 Effective Biblical Refutations of Sola Scriptura [National Catholic Register, 11-12-17]
*
David T. King Ignores Sola Scriptura Biblical Disproofs (Incl. lengthy analysis of 2 Peter 1:20: “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation”) [11-13-17]
*
*
The New Testament Canon is a “Late” Doctrine [National Catholic Register, 1-22-18]
*
*
* 
*
*
*
*
*
The Bereans and Searching the Scriptures: Sola Scriptura? [National Catholic Register, 5-5-19]
*
*
*
*
*
In the Bible, “Word of God” Usually Means Oral Proclamation [National Catholic Register, 12-17-19]
*
Martin Luther on the Exact Nature of Being “Biblical” [11-10-14; revised and expanded on 1-5-20]
*
IV. PERSPICUITY (CLEARNESS) OF SCRIPTURE
***

Baptismal Regeneration: Central Doctrine, According to Luther & Lutheranism [1996]

Dialogue: Clearness (Perspicuity) of Scripture and the Formal Sufficiency of Scripture (vs. Carmen Bryant) [6-8-00]

Dialogue: Church Fathers on Perspicuity & Sola Scriptura [6-11-00]

The Sufficiency & Perspicuity of Scripture & the Trinity [6-16-03; slightly revised on 1-20-04]

The Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version (RFBV) [5-18-04]

Is the Bible in Fact Clear, or “Perspicuous” to Every Individual? [2007]

Luther: Scripture Easily Grasped by “Plowboys” [11-1-08]

Erasmus’ Hyperaspistes (1526): Sola Scriptura and Perspicuity of Scripture [2-12-09]

25 Brief Arguments Regarding Biblical “Clearness” [2009]

The Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture: A Summary [1-22-10]

The Anglican Newman (1833-1838) on the Falsity of Perspicuity (Clearness) of Holy Scripture [3-7-11]

Bible: Completely Self-Authenticating, So that Anyone Could Come up with the Complete Canon without Formal Church Proclamations? (vs. Wm. Whitaker) [July 2012]

Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture (vs. Wm. Whitaker) [July 2012]

The Bible: “Clear” & “Self-Interpreting”? [February 2014]

Perspicuity (Clarity) of Holy Scripture [11-21-15]

Protestant Unity on “Central” Doctrines?: Baptism as Test Case (vs. Methodist Philosophy professor Jerry Walls) [1-9-17]

Dialogue on Authoritative Bible Interpretation in the New Testament (vs. Reformed Baptist Elder Jim Drickamer) [1-14-17]

The Clearness, or “Perspicuity,” of Sacred Scripture [National Catholic Register, 11-16-17]

Biblical Interpretation & Clarity: Dialogue w an Atheist [5-26-18]

Is Inspiration Immediately Evident in Every Biblical Book? [National Catholic Register, 7-28-18]

Bible “Difficulties” Are No Disproof of Biblical Inspiration [National Catholic Register, 6-29-19]

“Difficulty” in Understanding the Bible: Hebrew Cultural Factors [2-5-21]

An Omniscient God and a “Clear” Bible [National Catholic Register, 2-28-21]

Did Pope Innocent III Forbid the Bible in 1199? (+ Does the Bible Itself Teach That it Should be Read Without Need of Any Authoritative Interpretation?) [5-11-21]

*

V. MATERIAL AND FORMAL SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE / RULE OF FAITH
***
*
*
The Sufficiency & Perspicuity of Scripture & the Trinity [6-16-03; slightly revised on 1-20-04]
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Church Fathers and Sola Scriptura [originally July 2003; somewhat modified condensation: 4-5-17]
*
*
*
Martin Luther on the Exact Nature of Being “Biblical” [11-10-14; revised and expanded on 1-5-20]
*
*
1 Timothy 3:15 = Church Infallibility (vs. Steve Hays) [5-14-20]
*
****
VI. THE CANON OF SCRIPTURE
***
*
*
*
Development of the Biblical Canon: Protestant Difficulties [2-26-02 and 3-19-02, abridged with slight revisions and additions on 7-19-18]
*
*
*
*
*
Were Apostles Always Aware of Writing Scripture? (6-29-06; abridged on 9-25-16)
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
The New Testament Canon is a “Late” Doctrine [National Catholic Register, 1-22-18]
*
Is Inspiration Immediately Evident in Every Biblical Book? [National Catholic Register, 7-28-18]
*
*
*
*
*
VII. DEUTEROCANONICAL BOOKS (SO-CALLED “APOCRYPHA”)
***
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
How to Defend the Deuterocanon (or ‘Apocrypha’) [National Catholic Register, 3-12-17]
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
VIII. BIBLICAL ACCURACY / ALLEGED BIBLICAL CONTRADICTIONS AND DIFFICULTIES   
[see also related papers in the Atheist and Agnostic section]
 
Master Lists and  Resources 
 
***
*
*
General 
***
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Jesus 
***
*
The Resurrection: Hoax or History? [cartoon tract with art by Dan Grajek: 1985]
*
*
*
*
*
Atheist “Refutes” Sermon on the Mount (Or Does He?) [National Catholic Register, 7-23-17]
*
*
*
What Does “Turn the Other Cheek” Mean? [National Catholic Register, 7-20-19]
*
*
*
The Signs Of His Coming (David Palm, 1993) [Master’s Thesis on whether Jesus thought the end times were coming during the lifetime of His hearers] 
*
Gerasenes, Gadarenes, Pigs and “Contradictions” [National Catholic Register, 1-29-21]
*
*
*
Miscellaneous
***
Dialogue with a Skeptic of Christianity (vs. Charlie Kluepfel) [5-2-99]
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Vatican II Upheld Biblical Inerrancy (vs. David Palm) [4-23-20]
*
Who Caused Job to Suffer — God or Satan? [National Catholic Register, 6-28-20]
*
God in Heaven & in His Temple: Contradiction? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-23-20]
*
*
Genesis, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, & Other Early Figures
***
*
*
*
Defending the Historical Adam of Genesis (vs. Eric S. Giunta) [9-25-11]
*
*
Adam & Eve of Genesis: Historical & the Primal Human Pair? (vs. Bishop Robert Barron) [11-28-13]
*
“Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?” (Dr. Dennis Bonnette, Crisis Magazine, 11-24-14)
*
*
*
*
*
*
The Genesis Creation Accounts and Hebrew Time [National Catholic Register, 7-2-17]
*
New Testament Evidence for Noah’s Existence [National Catholic Register, 3-11-18]
*
*
*
*
Orthodox Interpretation of Genesis and the Serpent [National Catholic Register, 11-19-18]
*
*
Moses & Aaron & Their Staff(s): Biblical Contradictions? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-21-20]
*
Golden Calf & Cherubim: Biblical Contradiction? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-23-20]
*
A Bible Puzzle About the Staff of Moses and Aaron [National Catholic Register, 1-14-21]
*
*
*
*
Bible and Science
*

Modernism vs. History in Genesis & Biblical Inspiration [7-23-18]

Scripture, Science, Genesis, & Evolutionary Theory: Mini-Dialogue with an Atheist [8-14-18; rev. 2-18-19]

The Bible and Mythical Animals[National Catholic Register, 10-9-19]

The Bible is Not “Anti-Scientific,” as Skeptics Claim[National Catholic Register, 10-23-19]

*

Massacres and Wars of Annihilation / God’s Judgment
***
*
*
*
*
Last updated on 3 September 2021
*****
April 10, 2021

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  I have replied to his videos or articles 45 times as of this writing. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (from 8-1-19 to 4-10-21). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, the atheist author, polemicist, and extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the ultra-insulting Debunking Christianity blog. Dr. Madison made his cramped, insulated mentality clear in a comment from 9-6-19:

[T]he burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked. . . . I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.

Only preaching to the choir from Dr. Madison! One can’t be too careful in avoiding any criticism or challenge. John “you are an idiot!” Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, so that he and Dr. Madison could avoid replying to yours truly, or even see notices of my substantive replies (er, sorry, rants, rather). He wrote in part:

Some angry Catholic apologist has been tagging our posts with his angry long-winded responses. . . . If any respectful person has a counter-argument or some counter-evidence then bring it. State your case in as few words as possible and then engage our commenters in a discussion. . . . I talked with David Madison who has been the target of these links and he’s in agreement with this decision. He’s planning to write something about one or more of these links in the near future.

Needless to say, I still await these long-promised replies to any of my critiques from good ol’ Dr. Madison. His words will be in blue.

Presently, I am replying to his article, “Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 6″ (11-27-20).

*****

Question Two: How Would Anyone Acquire Knowledge of a Miraculous Conception?

“Well, God told the authors, didn’t he?” This works for those who believe the Bible is God’s inspired word. But they react with proper skepticism when other religions claim the same thing for the Qur’an and Book of Mormon—which they don’t accept for a moment. Historians know very well that “God told them” doesn’t work; it’s faith-bias out of control, claiming far more than can be objectively known. John Loftus pointed this out in his Christmas day post in 2016: 

How might anonymous gospel writers, 90 plus years later, objectively know Jesus was born of a virgin? Who told them? The Holy Spirit? Why is it God speaks to individuals in private, subjective, unevidenced whispers? Those claims are a penny a dozen.

You may fervently believe within your heart, but there are no data by which virgin birth can be confirmed; it is a feature of ancient folklore. . . . 

How many Catholics have paused their adoration of Mary long enough to ask: How do theologians know what was happening in the womb of a first century Galilean teenager? . . . 

This theology thrives among those who never ask—who have been taught not to ask—How do you know all this? All this is fueled by theological imagination, and a fair amount of craftiness too, that is, digging for texts that can be construed to support flights of fantasy. Why do people take it seriously? 

I doubt that theology can be grounded in reality; objective evidence for god(s) has never been found. . . . superstitious folklore that gods use virgins to beget human children.  

Wow. Really? Is Dr. Madison truly this fantastically clueless and, well, stupid? Just a moment’s thought (no more) will provide any sentient being with an IQ higher than a rusty nail enough time to figure this one out. It’s not rocket science, but it is science of a rather obvious, straightforward type: the science of biology and specifically reproduction, to be exact.

How would anyone know that they were the carriers of a baby who was not conceived by man, but by God? Here’s how it works (perhaps Dr. Madison — i.e., if he ever read any opposing opinions ever — and his equally zealous buddy John Loftus will have to read this three times to grasp it):

1) Mary is visited by an angel (the Annunciation: recorded in Luke 1:26-38).

2) This angel (Gabriel) informs her that “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son” (Lk 1:31).

3) Mary asks the logical and reasonable question: “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” (Lk 1:34). She was a farm girl. She knew how babies came about in both animals and human beings.

4) The angel explained to her that she would bear the Messiah and the Son of God / God the Son (Lk 1:32-33, 35) by means of a miraculous virgin birth: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35).

Now, how could anyone possibly find out about such a miracle? Well, we can by listening to Mary’s own testimony about it, which got to Luke either directly, or through oral tradition.

How can we possibly verify such a miracle? How can we “know”? After all, Dr. Madison in his infinite wisdom, has informed us that “there are no data by which virgin birth can be confirmed” and that it’s mere “folklore” and is simply “imagination” and “craftiness” and “flights of fantasy.” Why (Dr. Madison passionately inquires), would anyone “take it seriously”? It’s not “grounded in reality.”

Now, we all realize that we’re dealing with an atheist (and apostate) who rejects all biblical texts as inaccurate and untrustworthy: especially if they express a supernatural event that the atheist redefines out of existence before even fairly examining it. But that’s rather beside the point. Here, as in all his innumerable bashings of the Bible and Christianity, Dr. Madison is making the point that it is internally incoherent, and ought not be believed by any rational and “scientific” person.

He’s not asking the question: “why should we believe the account of Luke 1 as historical?” He’s asking a much more philosophically fundamental question and an epistemological one: how could such a thing as a virgin birth be known at all, by anyone? That’s why he frames it as “how would anyone acquire” such knowledge? In other words, how it is possible even in a theoretical or hypothetical sense, to know this and to pass it on to another chronicler like Luke? He thinks the entire thing (believe it or not believe it) is impossible and absurd from A to Z: totally ridiculous and nothing but. And so he taunts us Christians to explain this event that to him is utterly inexplicable.

With that runaround introduction, let’s get back to the second question: How can we possibly verify such a miracle? Well, again, it’s very simple:

1) In due course, it will be physically evident that she is indeed pregnant, and in nine months she delivers the baby Jesus.

2) She knows for a fact that she has not been intimate with a man at any time before Jesus was born, nor (most Christians through history have believed) at any time in her life.

3) Therefore, she has rather compelling proof that a miracle did indeed occur. She was impregnated by the Holy Spirit and not a man, precisely as the angel told her.

She not only “knows” this for sure, but she knows it with a certainly perhaps as compelling as that for any miracle ever, since babies can only come about by one natural process, which did not occur in her case. 

So how can we “know”? How can anyone “confirm” or “take” the virgin birth “seriously”? I just explained it. It happened to a human being, and the most reasonable explanation is to accept that what the angel told Mary was absolutely true: since the obvious miracle has to be explained somehow.

Once Jesus was born and lived His life, performed many extraordinary miracles, claimed in many ways to be God in the flesh, and ultimately rose from the dead, even visited His followers after His death, then it was also confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt that He was God.

The entire process is verifiable and empirical at all stages: the virgin birth is a physical event that’s proven by a pregnancy occurring without intercourse. Jesus proves Who He is by performing verifiable miracles (a lame man walks, a blind man sees, a demon-possessed man is liberated; dead people are raised; Jesus Himself rises from the dead. He meets with His disciples after death and shows that He has a resurrected body, by eating fish and having Thomas feel the wound in His side. 500 people see Him after death. They go out and transform the world with His gospel message of salvation: many of them dying for their faith.

What more does one need? Nothing except faith. The atheist lacks that and immediately shrugs off all such evidence (usually with accompanying smirks and mockery). There are many possible causes for why they might do so: but none of them derive from a fair, objective examination of Christian claims, or a rational, logical analysis. We see how utterly irrational and laughable this objection was.

***

Photo credit: The Annunciation (1644), by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Atheist anti-theist sophist Dr. Madison asks how Jesus’ virgin birth could possibly be “confirmed”? How can anyone “know” it happened? Very simple: listen to Mary’s own report. This ain’t rocket science. But it is biological science.

***

Tags: alleged biblical contradictions, anti-Christian bigotry, anti-theism, anti-theists, Atheism, atheist exegesis, atheist hermeneutics, atheists, Bible “contradictions”, contradictions in the Bible, critiques of Christianity, David Madison, Debunking Christianity, Madison Malarkey, virgin birth, Mariology, Annunciation, Blessed Virgin Mary, John Loftus 

***

December 12, 2018

This exchange with the atheist “Dagoods” (words in blue) occurred in the original Blogspot combox of Dialogue w Atheist: Joseph of Arimathea “Contradictions” (??) (Lousy Atheist Exegesis Example #5672). Later, a second atheist chimes in.

*****

Commenter Robert wrote:

DagoodS, Aristotle gave the standard definition of a contradiction. Two statements are contradictory if they cannot both be true and also they cannot both be false. (His explanation is a bit more involved, but this is sufficient). For instance “it rained yesterday and it is sunny today” is not a contradiction and neither is “he said it is raining today but I say it is hot today”.

What is the standard or method you use to determine a contradiction?

Robert provided a useful quick definition from Aristotle. For extreme depth on the matter, see: “Contradiction” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

What’s your method, DagoodS? Any slightest shade of difference in a text, or one not mentioning something or adding another detail, is automatically a “contradiction”? It would seem so, from the flimsy “reasoning” you have offered us in the present case and the weak, highly debatable conclusions you draw from same.

I want to make sure I have this clear. Last time trouble arose because I relied upon the exact same link above.

1) Is your method that contradictions can be resolved by any logical explanation? (such as indicated in the link) OR

2) That contradictions exist by weighing to see if there is a plausible (not just logical) explanation that can account for it and defeat the suggestion of contradiction. And not just plausible, but more plausible and believable than the opposing view?

As to my method…I’m wondering whether you could help me out, here. I puzzle as to my communication skills, to see how well I have expressed it. We have discussed this multiple times, I have consistently stated my method repeatedly over the years and numerous blog entries.

What do you think I claim my method is?

If you don’t know—that’s fine—I am curious how well I have communicated it.

That’s all ring around the rosey; sorry. You are assuming going in, that there is a logical contradiction in these passages. As far as I am concerned you have not come within a million miles of showing that there is. I deny your premise, in other words (it always comes down to that with us, so it seems).

You would be laughed out of every introductory logic class in the world if you come around saying that it is a contradiction for me (or the Gospel writers) to say that Joseph is rich in one statement, and a disciple in another, and a council member in a third.

You understand logic (in the sense we have defined it above), because you wrote in your piece, “Is Christianity Logical?” (10-23-07):

Yet one area in which the Bible must bend to the human is in the area of philosophy. People, including Christians, would like to be assured their belief is logically coherent. That their worldview is consistent. . . .

Take the very basic premise of logic—the law of non-contradiction. “A ≠ non-A.” Simply put, something cannot both be something, and at the same time NOT be the very same thing. We cannot exist and non-exist at the same moment. 0 cannot equal 1 (or “non 0” if you prefer.)

The reason for this premise is both for consistency in living out reality, as well as ability to communicate. When I say “The apple is in my hand” if “A = non-A” this sentence could mean:

“The apple is out of my hand.”
“The orange is in my hand.”
“The orange is out of my hand.”
“The apple is in my mouth.”
“The orange is out of my mouth.”

While some those statements could also be true, the point of the statement “The apple is in my hand” is to communicate a certain fact consistent with the words I am proclaiming. If logic fails, we are unable to consistently communicate, because words can have a variety of meanings, inconsistent with each other. We’d never know what the other person was saying.

Exactly. Thank you. So why do you want to play games with ridiculous candidates for supposed biblical “contradictions”? And why do you hide under sophistical, evasive counter-questions and rabbit trails when challenged, rather than simply interact with the critique and overcome it?

If I’m wrong, show me where and how. We agree on what logical contradiction is, based on what you wrote in this post in 2007. Or have you now ditched classical syllogistic logic along with Christianity? That would explain a lot, if so.

I am attempting to get clarification, that’s all. Can’t I ask the question? Don’t you want me to avoid creating strawmen about your position? All I want to know is what method you use to determine a contradiction.

1) Is your method that contradictions can be resolved by any logical explanation? (such as indicated in the link)

A true logical contradiction cannot be resolved, by the nature of the case (thus the very question is confused and silly). It is what it is. A contradiction cannot become a non-contradiction because that would be a contradiction! LOL

OR

2) That contradictions exist by weighing to see if there is a plausible (not just logical) explanation that can account for it and defeat the suggestion of contradiction. And not just plausible, but more plausible and believable than the opposing view?

If you don’t want to answer my question—if you don’t want me to be clear on your position—you are quite, quite free to say, “I won’t answer your question.” I assure you, I will wander off and not bother you again on this issue.

And for the second time, this is a rabbit trail and an obfuscation and I refuse to go down that road (I’ve touched on it in the past, including in person, and it was to no avail anyway. We both know what a logical contradiction is. You showed that you do by the post I cited of yours.

Your task was to show some contradiction in the Joseph of Arimathea accounts, and you haven’t done so. Period. If you were so confident in your case you would counter-reply and refute my post. Your “reasoning” here may have impressed your atheist friends who are already predisposed against the Bible, but no one else, I highly suspect.

Once it is exposed for the shoddy piece of polemical reasoning that it is, it looks rather foolish.

Nothing personal . . .

There has been a tremendous misunderstanding regarding my method of determining contradictions in accounts. I think you utilize a different method. In order to avoid committing the same misunderstanding, I wanted to first make sure what your method was. I have repeatedly asked a genuine question towards that end, and you don’t want to answer it.

That’s poppycock. You wanted a definition of “contradiction” and I agreed with the short one from Aristotle and then gave a link to a long article. I also cited your own words in a past article, thus proving that you understand the same definition.

I enjoy biblical and theistic discussions. But this…I don’t know what this is. You won’t provide clarification,

I did, as explained in the last post. That is quite sufficient. There is nothing at all suspicious, fishy, awry, with the four passages about Joseph. There is no indication that dishonesty or text altercation is in play. Yet you think there is something wrong about them. You haven’t shown it.

you (and your readers) apparently believe I am a blithering idiot

To the contrary, I have said several times that you are very intelligent. You have some false premises that lead you astray (like we all do at times; only a matter of degree).

(Seriously? You believe I am so stupid to claim it is logically impossible to be both rich and a council member? Really?) and you dislike the manner I respond.

Yet you make out that there is something suspicious about the passages. You’re the one who throws around the word “contradiction”. People have a definite idea of what the word means. The atheist polemic about Bible “contradictions” has a long pedigree. Don’t insult our intelligence by making out that we don’t know what you are trying to imply with your arguments there.

I once had a professor explain the value of charity in arguments. It is to FIRST assume I didn’t understand my opponent’s position BEFORE believing they are wrong. By doing this, often questions and clarity resolves many perceived differences before focusing on the issues.

Not seeing any of that here; not even seeing an attempt.

I clarified in three different ways what I mean by “contradiction” and you keep asking, and now accuse me of lack of charity.

You just don’t like being disagreed with.

So…have fun. Write with whatever derogatory terms you want, utilize invectives, insults and feigned umbrage.

Right . . . another atheist who can’t take any criticism and has to lash out at the Christian making it . . . how boring.

Make up whatever strawmen you would like about my position.. Avoid my attempts to clarify and explain. Don’t use charity towards my arguments, nor charity toward me.

And don’t ever engage the actual argument I made; just obfuscate and beat words to death, as if folks don’t know what the word “contradiction” means.

In short, do to me that which you don’t like done to yourself. (I thought you guys had a rule regarding that.*grin*) Knock your socks off. 

Have fun.

If I think it is worthwhile to refute further of your “alleged biblical contradictions” posts I will do so, whether you respond or not. Your choice. You chose to get all hot and bothered about all this.

Are you determined to make me agree with my friend Stan about your ego, after I defended you and eschewed personal remarks?

Problems with you only arise (as I see it) when you are embarrassed that shoddy reasoning of yours has been shot down. That’s not supposed to happen, so when it does, you don’t like it, and obfuscate by playing word games, bring it down to a personal level, or just split without reply (as in the abortion go-around).

It’s not that we think you are stupid (I certainly don’t). Usually it is the other way around: atheists routinely regard Christians as dumb and clueless about many things (including logic). Thus, you think that your criticisms of our faith, God, the Bible, will go unanswered, as if there is no possible answer. But we’re not gonna lay down and die (at least not apologists like myself). If you give a bad argument, then it’ll be responded to and refuted.

The hope is that you could recognize that you blew it and admit it. But no; instead we get all the histrionics and bitter renunciations of those oh-so-uncharitable Christians.

If you’re gonna write publicly about the Christian faith, then you can’t be so sensitive to any criticism. If you don’t want public exchanges with Christians, then just write privately to your buddies. It’s real simple.

DagoodS is now whining about how we Christians think atheists (and he himself) are stupid. I have never said that. I don’t think such a sweeping statement could be found in any of my writings (I critique individual arguments). Nothing in my writing against atheism remotely approaches the caustic, prejudiced nature of the following statement of DagoodS on his blog:

Look, we think theism is wrong. As wrong as a geocentric solar system. As wrong as a 6000-year-old, flat earth, global-flood, demon-possessing, Mary-in-a-Grilled-Cheese, geocentric solar system.

Which, like people wearing tin-foil hats to protect themselves from government rays, we would normally laugh off and let live their lives in peace. But Christians don’t stop there. They take these beliefs and discriminate against homosexuals, and attempt to push prayers on those who don’t believe as they do, and demand money (oh the money) and privileges to maintain these beliefs.

At that point I say, “No.” And they cry, “Intolerance.” (“New Atheism,” [7-9-10] )

This is how low he regards theism on the scale of things: like belief in a flat earth or someone wearing a tin foil hat, etc. He said it. I don’t see why we should doubt his word.

Now, if you think someone is this much of an idiot, why would you waste time debating him? Hence, DagoodS takes a pass in debating me. He’s consistent. I don’t waste my time debating flat-earthers. I don’t even debate geocentrists (as my readers well know from recent conflicts!).

As another example of DagoodS approach in debate, we went back and forth on the Bible’s view of women: Dialogue with Atheists: Sexist, Misogynist Bible? (9-20-10). His words were in purple. It was extremely involved, but in the end he left me in a position where I had to either be dishonest or admit that the Bible sanctions wife-beating or the-wife-as-a-slave. I wrote:

[DagoodS’] final post . . . left me the choice between being an advocate of wife-beating in practice and in the Bible, or being a dishonest, special pleading sophist, because I vehemently deny that what DagoodS claims is clear biblical teaching is what the Bible teaches at all. When those are the choices one is given (the two cages or rubber rooms they are forced into), constructive discussion has long since ceased to exist, because the opponent in effect “demands” that one be an evil or at the least, deliberately dishonest person.

True discussion becomes literally impossible under those loaded conditions. I refuse the choice and deny and reject both things. [DagoodS] thinks I can’t do that. Great; then [DagoodS] has exploded any possible discussion. His choice . . . not mine. I think even he knew that because he said he was done in the thread, and that insinuates that he believes I can’t possibly give any reply that would be worth any more of his time, because, well, I’m either violently evil or dishonest, and his position is self-evidently true (or at least infallible after he states and argues it). Makes perfect sense if one adopts the absurd and fact-torturing premises involved . . . But the inconvenient fact is that I don’t accept them.

This is how discussions with DagooDs end. We see how the present one did. This is how that one did. In our recent discussion on abortion in the Bible he simply said he had lost interest and was bored.

He doesn’t like being disagreed with. He’s not alone in that trait. Most people are like that, I find. He loves to lecture and put down Christianity (and sometimes Christians); he ain’t nearly as interested in the discussion once a Christian deigns to offer replies to his arguments.

In short, it’s DagoodS’ way or the highway . . .

I will talk to anyone who is willing, and I will do so cordially. But if the other party isn’t willing to do the same, good dialogue can’t happen.

***

Mutual friend and atheist Jon Curry then joined in the discussion (his words in green below):

Here’s a concrete example.

One biblical text says that Judas died by hanging himself. Another says that he died falling headlong over a cliff and his guts spewed upon the rocks.

By one standard (any logically possible reconciliation resolves the contradiction) this is not a contradiction. He could have hung himself on a springy branch that somehow broke and flipped him over to where he fell headlong over a cliff. But by that standard no two accounts of his death would be contradictory.

No; it is simply one speculative explanation for these two accounts.

If one said he was shot in the head and the other said he drowned you could say he was shot but survived long enough to make it to water and he drops his head in.

That’s entirely possible. One person could see someone shot and then fall, but not see him go into the water (obstructed vision). A second could miss the shot part, but see him go into the water and drown. Both are correct; both are incomplete as to the entire cause.

Die in a car accident and fall off a building. You could reconcile these in absurd ways. Not contradictory.

Nice failed attempt at reductio. Obviously there are degrees of plausibility, but you guys place the bar too high when it comes to the Bible: far higher than non-biblical matters.

By another standard (what is more plausible, the far-fetched reconciliation or that the two authors didn’t believe the same things) it is a contradiction. DagoodS uses this latter standard and Dave uses the former.

If they actually contradicted you would have a point, but they simply do not. You are predisposed to see biblical conflicts and clashes and “contradictions” so you see them. Our presupposition is biblical inspiration so we don’t see these like you do.

There are whole books about biblical difficulties to work through; we know that. But we don’t approach the Bible with a hostile outlook, just as a scientists is not against a scientific theory otherwise solid, but for some anomalies in it that can’t yet be worked out.

Is it really worth it to talk about [how atheists are] forgettable, use “flimsy reasoning”, come to “weak conclusions,” etc.? 

I can critique bad arguments, sure. Nothing wrong with that. It is only thought to be wrong by folks with thin skins who can’t seem to handle criticism. It’s nothing that yo guys don’t say about us all the time. So why the double standard? I can’t say that something is a weak conclusion? LOL

Dave, you say that you shouldn’t insult atheists like DagoodS and your next post says he would be “laughed out of introductory logic classes” 

He would be, with regard to this particular argument of his. I can’t help it if he uses lousy reasoning in discussing what a “contradiction” is.

He is just as shoddy in presenting basic NT facts, as I gave examples of a few comments up.

He says about Christians that we are fundamentally illogical and that theism is the equivalent of belief in a flat earth. Why don’t you condemn that in all your righteous indignation at insults (real and imagined)? But no, you gotta stick by your atheist friend (who refuses to defend his own arguments and instead wants to play word games and express outrage at how he is treated).

You guys can dish it out but you can’t take it. That much is very obvious.

Maybe Joseph of Arimathea doesn’t rise to the level of contradiction on the second standard of evaluating it. But why not at least acknowledge clearly that you are following a different standard? 

A contradiction is what it is, and is understood widely to be what it is. I refuse to yield up a definition that is so universally held (by atheists and Christians and three-toed green-eyed moth catchers alike).

Why don’t you and DagoodS simply reply to my arguments? Is that so difficult and incomprehensible? Instead you do the time-honored “method” of insulting the person you are unable or unwilling to reply to: go after the person rather than dispute his arguments.

and address J of A based on that revised standard. Do you think the insults are helpful? 

When you guys stop “insulting” what you think are lousy Christian arguments and beliefs I will do the same. Deal? I’m not one to mince words. If you can’t handle a “ridiculous” or an “absurd” here and there in my writings, then don’t read them. It’s a free country.

We all have to accept critiques and man up and defend our arguments in the teeth of them, or else retract and concede.

On 3-29-10 you wrote:

The present Pope appears to have had a hand in covering up child rape. Why not leave that organization and do good as part of another religion? Eastern Orthodox could use more members. They might do more good with additional support, and in that case maybe you’re not backing a wicked hierarchy.

So I either have to get out of Catholicism or I have little integrity and am an advocate of child rape. Very charitable and reasonable, isn’t it?

Meanwhile the atheist is accountable to no one: not even a God, Whose very existence he is foolish and brazen enough to deny.

Intelligent, non-belligerent atheists aren’t going to stick around very long in this environment.

You can split if you like. It’s irrelevant to me. I will continue to critique public statements of atheists (attacking my Christian faith and the Holy Bible) that don’t hold up under scrutiny. You can choose to respond to the critiques or not. If you do, then I’ll keep dialoguing with ya. If you don’t, then the reading public will see my critique with no reply from y’all and can make up their own minds.

This is usually how it goes. It’s nothing new. People of all persuasions (not just atheists) don’t like being disagreed with, and so they have various ways to escape being in that situation. I’ve seen ’em all, having been an apologist for thirty years. I know all the methods people use; all the techniques; all the post facto rationalizations.

I love dialoguing personally with people and trying to be friends with atheists (per my earlier comment) but if you can’t take criticism and must make every critique an ad hominem affair and digress into tedium about method (complete with glaring double standards), and then take your ball and bat and go home, then you do what you must, Jon.

I will keep presenting both sides on my site (since there is plenty of atheist material out there), make my arguments, and respect readers of all persuasions enough to follow the truth, as best they can ascertain it by reading both sides of an argument, not just one.

If someone royally dishes out strong criticism it is reasonable to assume that they can handle a vigorous reply. You guys are trashing my religion and faith and what I regard as an inspired document from God. I’m trying to be as nice as I can be about it, but given the insults that are inherent in all such atheist critiques, I should think that you would have a little bit of a thick skin in taking into account how outrageous these critiques are from a Christian perspective.

I still didn’t insult DagoodS as a person. I critiqued his arguments. Strong language there, sure, but nothing any whit worse than what virtually every atheist post blasting Christianity entails. So why is it that we cannot make any reply without the charge of being insulting, whereas atheists can always be as insulting as they wish? Why the glaring double standard?

You and DagoodS both made out that I called him “stupid” when I did no such thing. One of my friends did that, and he made a general statement (“the stupidity of atheists”). I immediately objected to it.

But you are right. We can go elsewhere. 

Yes you can. If you can’t take the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen.

I wonder if you don’t know this, but you come across very differently in written word as opposed to spoken. 

That can hardly be avoided in apologetics. It’s an occupational hazard. We’re always judged harshly because we disagree with folks. The reason is that writing is far, far more substantive and has infinitely more detail. I can critique things to the nth degree if I want to. In-person communication is vastly different. Even if I wanted to make the same points I do in writing, I would never have any remote chance to do so in a crowd of 8-16 atheists. I’m never allowed to talk that long: especially with DagoodS. I’m lucky to make the slightest argument about anything, let alone a sustained, elaborate one.

So I’m seen as a nice guy because I am courteous. But you want to make out that I am so vastly different in writing. I’m not. I’m just able to express more content, so that makes you angry because the Christian is never supposed to have an adequate answer to atheist profundities and wisdom. We’re always supposed to be the gullible dumbbells who believe in talking snakes and donkeys (as you delightfully pointed out in a moment of candor) and the cosmic equivalent of Santa Claus, etc.

When we’ve met you’re always very charitable and easy to have a discussion with. For instance I don’t think I have ever felt like you were being insulting.

Then if you thought about it long enough you would figure out that I wasn’t being insulting to DagoodS in this exchange. You should understand that, having met me.

If he would simply have answered my critique with a counter-argument, just as he does every day in his legal work, then we could have been discussing the issues rather than having this same stupid “meta-discussion” about how to talk and how I supposedly insulted his person when I did not.

I’m far more disgusted about all the “meta-discussion” and hyper-analysis of words than I was with the original argument itself. I want to discuss the issue (that DagoodS initiated and I critiqued), not all this garbage.

***

(originally 1-7-11)

Photo credit: geralt (9-2-17) [PixabayCC0 Creative Commons license]

***

September 7, 2021

The Sad and Slanderous Promotion of a “False Narrative” Concerning Pope Francis’ Supposedly Massive Errors

[originally posted on my Facebook page on 9-6-21. You can see some further discussion there. I’ve expanded it presently.]

***

One of my Facebook friends wrote: “Pope Francis is a cause of a lot of confusion! That’s why you are writing about it!”
*
This is my reply:
*
The confusion arises because he is 1) massively lied about, and 2) massively misunderstood. And those things happen because many people won’t take the time to be fair and open-minded and read two sides of any given “controversy”. It’s very much like President Trump in that respect . . . It’s groupthink: sheep jumping on the bandwagon; clones . . . There is also the problem of the “false narrative” that has been created. I wrote on 3-5-21:
*
The problem, then, seems to be that folks . . . aren’t willing in charity to withhold scathing judgment of the pope, until the full story of any given [almost always trumped-up] “incident” is heard. They’re lightning quick to judge. . . .
*
As with so many people today, otherwise good Catholics . . . have bought a cynical, hostile, outrageously false narrative regarding Pope Francis: against which mere facts and reason — within this mentality — are oblivious and irrelevant, almost disallowed.
*
If someone doesn’t like my (or anyone else’s) defenses of the pope (and to me the defenses are perfectly plausible and sensible), they can go and knock themselves out showing that they are invalid, point-by-point. But no one ever wants to do that, because that takes work and actual thinking, rather than the easy way out of the quick accusation, moaning and groaning, simply parroting the gossip of others, and furthering the false narrative about the Holy Father. Anything but actual rational analysis and interacting with different points of view.
*
And on 4-26-16:
*
More and more people have jumped onto the narrative and bandwagon of “Pope Francis as a liberal and loose cannon” and they interpret accordingly. But the foundational premise is wrong. . . .
*
I’m saying that they are the ones (for varying reasons) who are beginning to increasingly buy into the narrative that there is something fundamentally, seriously wrong with Pope Francis, whether he is (at best) maddeningly inarticulate (the mildest form) or ignorant of basic tenets of theology and moral theology (more severe criticism) or flat-out heterodox / modernist (the strongest bashing).
*
*
I can understand someone being confused. There are many reasons for it. They might listen to the liberal media, or the radical reactionaries, or liberal Catholics who think the pope is one of them, or the increasing bandwagon chorus (among orthodox Catholics) of the pope’s detractors (what I have called “the [false] narrative”). They don’t study or don’t have time to.
*
Lots of folks are confused about Catholicism itself, and believe many lies about it. Is that Catholicism‘s fault, too?
*
Lots of folks are confused about — and sometimes even downright distort and twist — the Bible. Is that the inspired, infallible Bible‘s fault (God’s revelation) or theirs? The cults don’t get it right. They can’t even grasp the obvious biblical teachings of the divinity of Christ and the Holy Trinity.
*
Atheists play the game of coming up with “700” bogus so-called “contradictions” in the Bible and sit there and say, “there just so many of ’em; how can I believe this Bible?” Someone like me comes along and systematically debunks scores and scores of those (just as I do with slanderous lies against this pope), but it has no effect. They simply say “there are still 601 left that you haven’t solved.” It’s a game; it’s intellectual dishonesty and special pleading (richly fed — let no one doubt it — with an obstinate, relentless ignorance) so that they don’t have to be accountable to God or anyone.
*
Lots of folks didn’t grasp what Jesus said, either. . . . They didn’t have “ears to hear.” “No one is so blind as he who will not see.”
*
1 Corinthians 2:6-8, 12-14 (RSV) Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. [7] But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. [8] None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. . . . [12]  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. [13] And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. [14] The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
*
In other words, the mere presence of “confusion” does not prove that Pope Francis is responsible for it. It may very well be coming from the other “end”: his innumerable loudmouthed critics. I say it flows from their hostility and bias (not to mention intellectual laziness) far more than it does from the things themselves. Simply saying, “I have heard about 39 things where Pope Francis said or did something stupid / heretical / incomprehensible” [take your pick] doesn’t prove diddly squat and doesn’t cut it. It’s rumormongering, gossip, and slander. Each accusation has to be specifically examined.
*
I save people the work of doing that by spending my time as a professional apologist, either showing, myself, that they are groundless charges, or providing almost 300 articles from others that explain all of these supposedly “incomprehensible” or “confusing” things. But if people aren’t fair-minded or honest with themselves enough to read them, then I am helpless to dissuade them from their illusions and delusions.
*
The attainment of truth and wisdom takes work (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”: Philippians 2:12 / “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own”: 3:12 / “for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. [14] But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil”: Hebrews 5:13-14.).
*
One doesn’t achieve that by simply following what is fashionable at any given moment. We need to stop being afraid to death of what other people think, and start seriously worrying about what God thinks of our behavior and our words, with regard to the Supreme Head of the Catholic Church, protected from ever binding the faithful to heresy (so said Vatican I in 1870, with the highest authority).
*
Related Reading
*
***
*
Photo credit: geralt (5-22-18) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]
*
***
*
Summary: I take on the boorish canard that “Pope Francis is so confusing!” It’s automatically assumed that he is to blame, not the critic. I show in many ways how this is a lie & shoddy thinking.
*
August 25, 2021

Protestant anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer has attempted several of these sorts of arguments against the papacy. I have (I think) refuted him many times along these lines, especially after he sought to overthrow some of my own arguments in favor of the papacy:

Dialogue on Development of Doctrine (Esp. the Papacy) [2000]

Dialogue on Doctrinal Development (Papacy & NT Canon) [2-26-02]
*

*
*
*
*
*
My own basic biblical defenses of the papacy can be found (most concisely) in the following papers:
*
*
*
*
*
*
Papal Succession: A Straightforward Biblical Argument [4-28-17]
*
See many many more related articles on my Papacy web page.
Jason Engwer has been so soundly refuted over and over in these matters, that it’s difficult to come up with anything fresh and new that hasn’t already been presented, but I’ll give it the old college try. His recent attack is entitled “The Widespread Absence Of A Papacy” (Tribalblogue, 8-8-21). His words below will be in blue. I reproduce his entire article.
*
One of the reasons for rejecting the papacy is the lack of justification for it. There are apparent contradictions of the concept of the papacy in some New Testament documents and other early sources, but the lack of evidence for the office would be enough reason to not accept it, even if such contradictions didn’t exist.
*
Funny; I see evidence all over the place, per my various biblical and patristic / historical arguments along these lines.
*
However, Protestants often focus on too narrow a range of contexts in which the papacy is absent in the early sources. A lot of attention is given to passages about Peter in the gospels and Acts and material about church government in the early sources, for example, but we ought to think more broadly about where a papacy could have been mentioned if it existed. A papacy wouldn’t have to be mentioned at every conceivable opportunity. But the larger the number and variety of contexts in which a papacy could have been mentioned, but wasn’t, the more likely it is that the office didn’t exist. What I want to do in this post is provide a few examples of contexts that are often neglected.
*
Jason is great at producing skeptical summary statements like the above (where he can create his own little thought-world, disconnected from biblical and Christian reality). When he actually attempts to make arguments to establish his erroneous cases, however, he does far less well. Here is basically presenting arguments from silence over and over again, and they never hold much weight. As the Wikipedia article on this form of argument bluntly states: “arguments from silence themselves are also generally viewed as rather weak in many cases; or considered as fallacies.”
*
The apostles sometimes discussed their upcoming death, what was being done to preserve their teachings, and how Christians should conduct themselves going forward (e.g., Acts 20:17-382 Timothy 3:10-4:82 Peter 1:12-21). If the papacy was considered the foundation of the church, the infallible center of Christian unity throughout church history, the absence of any mention of such an resource in passages like these is significant.
*
Acts 20 is from St. Paul: the same Paul who submitted to Church authority, including Peter: “James and Cephas [Peter] and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship” (Gal 2:9, RSV). Paul was no “lone ranger.” He had been commissioned by the Church at Antioch as well:
Acts 13:1-3 (RSV) Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre’ne, Man’a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. [2] While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” [3] Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Paul was again sent by the Church at Antioch (Acts 14:26-28) — “appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question” [of who was required to be circumcised]: Acts 15:2. This was the Jerusalem Council. All that Paul and Barnabas did there: that we know from the record, in any event, was give a “praise report” of their missionary activities (15:4, 12). St. Peter: obviously of much more authority, gave the primary address (15:7-12). He quelled the debate (15:7), resulting in “silence” in the assembly (15:12). James, the bishop of Jerusalem, stated: “Simeon [i.e., Simon Peter] has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
And with this the words of the prophets agree . . .” (15:14-15).
*
After all, it was St. Peter who had already received a revelation from God about all foods being clean (Acts 10:9-16). For some reason God thought it was more important to give him this vision rather than St. Paul. Then in the same chapter, St. Peter’s encounter with the righteous Gentile Cornelius, shows him that non-Jews were to be fully accepted into the Christian community, with the implication that they were not bound to keep the entire Mosaic Law (10:17-43).
*
The Jerusalem Council then commissioned Paul and Barnabas and Silas (15:22, 25, 27, 30), who made “their way through the cities” and “delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem” (16:4).
*
In sum, then, Paul is receiving an awful lot of Church and papal (Petrine) guidance, as we see above. Just because he may not have mentioned Peter in one discourse (argument from silence) does not wipe out all of this relevant information. The same applies to his discourse in 2 Timothy 3:10 ff. All that is, is an example of apostolic succession: from Paul to Timothy. It has no implications for papal succession, which is based on other biblical grounds. A fallacious argument from silence cannot overcome that.
*
Jason gives us also the example 2 Peter 1:12-21. This was written by St. Peter. Protestant scholars D. A. Carson et al, in their Introduction to the New Testament (first edition, 1992, pp. 434-435, 437) state:
Generally speaking, conservative authors have held to the Petrine authorship . . .
*
The letter plainly indicates that Peter was the author. . . .
*
Church Tradition [subtitle] Such tradition uniformly ascribes the letter to Peter. There is no other name linked with it in the tradition. . . .
*
No conclusive reason has been given for denying that the letter is by the author it claims as its writer. None of the objections can be sustained, and it seems better to accept it at face value, as a genuine writing of the apostle Peter.
Very well, then; this question of authorship out of the way, does the letter read like something a self-understood “pope” would have written? Yes. St. Paul’s letters are to local churches of individuals. But this one is to all Christians (“To those who have obtained a faith . .”: 1:1). He continues to write to all Christians, in asserting: “Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall” (1:10). It makes perfect sense for Peter to exhort all Christians, since, after all, our Lord Jesus told him specifically (and no other disciple) to “Feed my lambs . . . Tend my sheep . . . feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).
*
So here (in 2 Peter) is Peter doing just that, as he was shown doing all through the first half of the book of Acts: the primary account of the very earliest Church. He states: “I intend always to remind you [all Christians!] of these things . . . to arouse you by way of reminder” (1:12-13). Likewise, Jesus had also said to him, specifically: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32). Once again, St. Peter is commissioned as the indefectible leader of the Christian Church: whose faith would never again fail as it did when he denied his Lord three times. Nor does (importantly) Holy Scripture record Jesus praying for any other of the disciples, individually, as it does in this passage. And when He does so, it is regarding the pastoral office of the papacy: strengthening the Christian brethren with an unfailing faith. These passages have been defended and explained to Jason in the past.

*

In the very passage that Jason thinks indicates a lack of a papacy, Peter expressly says: “we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this” (1:19). What more does he require? All agree that the Bible must be interpreted by considering it as a whole, and especially all passages on a theme, so as to get the whole picture. This is the Petrine picture. He’s the leader of the Church, and he knows it and acts like it, as my 50 NT Petrine Proofs shows over and over and over.

Another group of relevant contexts is the imagery used to refer to relevant entities, such as what imagery is used to refer to the apostles or the church. We get twelve thrones without Peter’s throne being differentiated (Matthew 19:28), three pillars without Peter’s being differentiated (Galatians 2:9), twelve foundation stones without Peter’s being differentiated (Ephesians 2:20Revelation 21:14), etc.

This is absolutely classic Jason Engwer pseudo-“argumentation”: which means that it is a classic instance of fallacy and taking things entirely out of context. The essential problem is the typically Protestant “either/or” outlook; whereas the biblical and Hebrew worldview is “both/and.” Not everything has to be mentioned every time. There is more than enough biblical indication of the papacy (see my papers on that; I need not repeat everything), without it having to be noted in every remotely “ecclesiological” context.

The Bible massively teaches that Peter was the leader of the twelve disciples and the early Church. I just showed two passages where Jesus clearly treated him as preeminent. Two more famous ones are Jesus building His Church upon Peter, whom He renamed “the Rock” (Mt 16:18), and His giving Peter (and him only) the “keys to the kingdom” (16:19). The above considerations do not nullify all this. It’s “both/and.” Then there is the aspect of peter being singled out in lists of the disciples and apostles, which I have already dealt with, directly in reply to Jason.

Jesus had just conferred these extraordinary responsibilities and the office of papacy on St. Peter in Matthew 16, but says that twelve disciples will sit on twelve thrones in Matthew 19:28, just three chapters later; and Jason concludes, therefore, that Petr is not a white different from the other twelve. It simply doesn’t follow. Jesus Himself elsewhere refers to “the twelve” (Mk 14:20; Jn 6:70) without singling out Peter; yet in other passages He does precisely that. “Both/and.” In fact, Judas is included in “the twelve”: and sometimes mentioned by name as included in their number (Mt 26:14, 47; Mk 14:10, 43; Lk 22:3, 47; Jn 6:71), including by Jesus Himself (Mk 14:20; Jn 6:70).

Therefore, if Jesus and the Bible can repeatedly refer to “the twelve” [disciples], yet this number can include an evil betrayer, Judas; then by the same token and logic it can include the leader of the twelve, who is often differentiated or singled out in other lists of the disciples (Mk 1:36; Lk 9:28, 32; Acts 2:37; 5:29; 1 Cor 9:5). The same goes for the list of foundation stones. It’s not a “contradiction.” It’s biblical “either/or” thinking.

If Jason wants to press the point of a supposed “egalitarianism” and lack of hierarchy, we can also point to examples of Jesus making Himself “equal” to His own disciples, even though we know He was God and infinitely higher than they were. He calls them “friends” (Jn 15:15) and notes that to be “first” is to be “be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35); He washes their feet (Jn 13:3-16). He submits Himself as a child to Joseph and Mary (“obedient to them”: 2:51). Even in one of Jason’s examples (Eph 2:20), Jesus includes Himself with the disciples as of the foundation stones: “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,”. Obviously, He is not lesser than they are; yet He includes Himself.

If He can be described in such terms, and talk in such terms, then all the more so can St. Peter as one of the twelve disciples. It’s much ado about nothing, as always in Jason’s anti-Catholic polemics and sophistry.

St. Paul wrote:

Philippians 4:2-3 I entreat Eu-o’dia and I entreat Syn’tyche to agree in the Lord. [3] And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers,

Note that Paul commanded Eu-o’dia and Syn’tyche “to agree in the Lord.” So he was higher in authority than them. Yet he calls them (along with Clement) “fellow workers”. Doe this “prove” then, that Eu-o’dia, Syn’tyche, St. Paul, and St. Clement are all “on the same level”: because they are “fellow workers”? No, of course not.

The early Christians often interact with the objections of their opponents. The gospels respond to the charge that Jesus performed miracles by the power of Satan, Paul responds to his critics in his letters, Justin Martyr wrote a response to Jewish arguments against Christianity, Origen wrote a response to Celsus’ anti-Christian treatise, and so on. See here regarding the lack of reference to a papacy in such contexts.

It’s important for Protestants (and other opponents of the papacy) to bring up considerations like these, since the absence of early references to a papacy becomes more significant when the absence occurs across a broader range of contexts. If only two pages of early Christian literature were extant, the absence of a papacy (or whatever other concept) would be much less significant than its absence across two million pages. The number of pages matters (assuming the usual diversity of topics you’d get with an increase in such a page number).

One of the reasons why it’s become so popular for Catholics to argue for the papacy by an appeal to something like typology or Old Testament precedent is that there’s such a lack of evidence in the New Testament and the early patristic literature. So, there’s a turn to other sources to try to find what isn’t present where we’d most expect to see it.

Jason acts as if there is nothing to indicate the papacy in early patristics. But in fact we have a fabulous, clear example of St. Clement of Rome, the fourth pope, who reigned from approximately 88-99 AD. The Corinthian church wrote to him for advice and guidance. It so happens that I wrote about this just about a month ago, and discovered some very striking facts:

Why is it that Clement is speaking with authority from Rome, settling the disputes of other regions? Why don’t the Corinthians solve it themselves, if they have a proclaimed bishop or even if they didn’t claim one at the time? Why do they appeal to the bishop of Rome? These are questions that I think [a Protestant] needs to seriously consider and offer some sort of answer for.

St. Clement writes (I use the standard Schaff translation: no Catholic “bias” there!):

You therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue. For it is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honourable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, you should be cast out from the hope of His people. (57)

If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; . . . (59, my bolding and italics)

Joy and gladness will you afford us, if you become obedient to the words written by us and through the Holy Spirit root out the lawless wrath of your jealousy according to the intercession which we have made for peace and unity in this letter. (63, my bolding and italics)

Clement definitely asserts his authority over the Corinthian church far away. Again, the question is: “why?” What sense does that make in a Protestant-type ecclesiology where every region is autonomous and there is supposedly no hierarchical authority in the Christian Church? Why must they “obey” the bishop from another region (sections 59, 63)? Not only does Clement assert strong authority; he also claims that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are speaking “through” him.

That is extraordinary, and very similar to what we see in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:28 (“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things”: RSV) and in Scripture itself. It’s not strictly inspiration but it is sure something akin to infallibility (divine protection from error and the pope as a unique mouthpiece of, or representative of God).

The Jerusalem Council was an example of a pope presiding over but acting jointly in concert with bishops and even regular elders (much like ecumenical councils function). But Pope St. Clement was acting unilaterally, which popes can also do. The Jerusalem Council claimed divine guidance and de facto infallibility for the collective group. St. Clement, however, applies it to himself as an individual. If that’s not the papacy in action I don’t know what it would look like. What else could Jason possibly demand as proof? Here we have the papacy in full color and authority even before the first century was over with, and part of the Bible (Revelation) was possibly still being written.

***

Photo credit: Lawrence OP (8-10-09). 19th-century depiction of St Peter holding the keys of the kingdom of heaven. This window is in the crypt of a chapel of the Upper Basilica in Lourdes [Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license]

***

Summary: Protestant anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer attempts to establish the “absence of a papacy” in the NT & in early patristic literature. He’s dead wrong on both counts, as I demonstrate.




Browse Our Archives