"Apologetic Masochism": A Case Study of Interaction with the Anti-Catholic Mentality

Dave Armstrong vs. Phillip R. Johnson (phil@spurgeon.org)

Phillip Johnson: my greatest supporter (<G>)

The following "dialogues" took place on Dr. James White's Sola Scriptura discussion list, 1-2 June 1996, and then again on the Reformed-dominated (and equally anti-Catholic) Theology List: 25 and 28 November, and 28 December 1996. One can see the obvious affection and respect that Mr. Johnson has for me. :-) We seemed to really hit it off <GGG> He had even more choice words for me in private letters, but I shall stick to his public judgments against my views and my character. His words will be in blue.

Phillip Johnson is the Executive Director of popular expositor John MacArthur's Grace to You radio and tape ministry, and oversees extensive theological web pages, including the Hall of Church History.

But I think there must be SOME sort of clearly delineated boundaries. E.g., Eric Svendsen brought up the Mary as Mediatrix issue. Certainly you don't claim THAT is relevant to the present discussion, do you?

[this particular list being supposedly one devoted to sola Scriptura]

It kind of depends. I don't think it's as far-fetched as you suggest. As I recall, Eric was merely asking whether this doctrine falls under the rubric of infallible Tradition. I'm curious about that myself. I had always assumed it was one of those things Catholics are required to "adhere to with obedient faith."

Case in point. If this is accepted, then all of Catholic doctrine is up for discussion in this group, in which case I should post my entire 293-page book, A BIBLICAL DEFENSE OF CATHOLICISM! Right, James?

If so, this is an issue I would expect you to hit head on. If it is true that Mary is the Immaculate Mediatrix, and the faithful must adhere to this doctrine with reverent belief, then this would be a doctrine that is very significant, if not essential, to genuine Christianity.

Yes. Contrary to you guys, we hold that all Christian doctrines are important, and to be preserved with the utmost care and reverence. But I still say that such subjects are outside the purview of this group, unless we rename it, "A discussion of Catholic dogma." Why is it so difficult for you guys to stay focused? Jame [White] does it in his debates! It's not impossible. I guess James prefers the scattershot approach in these discussions to order and form. This is an old tactic of anti-Catholics: blow the shotgun at the Beast and hope that one or two of the pieces will "stick." Never get too in- depth on one particular topic, lest the bankruptcy of the Protestant position become embarrassingly apparent. This group reminds me of "The Emperor's Clothes." You keep lookin' for 'em but they never show up, and no one's bold enough to admit it, so everyone pretends. :-)

Here would be powerful evidence of the deficiency of sola Scriptura: an essential truth nowhere explicated in Scripture.

Which: the Mediatrix or sola Scriptura? :-) Actually, there is more on the former (little as that is), than for the latter (zilch)! This provocative statement might keep us going for months itself! :-)

(Indeed, it's virtually the antithesis of what the typical reader would conclude from the data of Scripture alone).

Yes: I agree this is the case with regard to sola Scriptura. Good!

In fact, this is precisely the Roman Catholic argument, as I understand it. You view sola Scriptura as a danger to our souls because it provides no grounds whatsoever for certain beliefs the Church has declared essential. And the Marian doctrines would seem to head the list of examples.

A little biased, to put it mildly. We view sola Scriptura as a "danger" because it ain't true, pure and simple. It is neither biblical, nor historical, nor reasonable, nor practical. Some Marian doctrines are pretty difficult to "ground" in Scripture (e.g., Assumption, Mediatrix). Others are very clear (Virgin Birth, Theotokos, Perpetual Virginity). Still others are clear only when extensive exegesis (and deduction) is brought into play (Immaculate Conception, Spiritual Motherhood). But I maintain that all Marian doctrines are present, at least in kernel, or implicit form. So I deny your sweeping statement of "no grounds whatsoever."

In any case, I certainly don't think it's wholly irrelevant to the issue of Scripture alone vs. Scripture and Tradition. . .

Now, I'll be glad to send you one of my papers on Mary: I have a 2-page overview, a 9-page outline, or my 28-page chapter from my book (all ASCII). What's your pleasure? I want to encourage any Protestant who's willing to read about Catholicism - so rare is that occurrence!

It isn't "wholly irrelevant" but we have to have some limitations if we expect to make any progress and learn anything in this group. The main thing I've learned about Protestants here is that they're intransigent when it comes to taking a look at their own deficiencies (with one exception). I think the brain-power, theological ability, and education is here. You are very capable as a group. But unless you will to be forthright, it ain't gonna happen. When I was still a Protestant, I would have fought harder for my beliefs than anyone here, by far, as I did in 1990 for a full year. When I saw that my arguments were insufficient, I was honest enough with myself to concede defeat, and so I converted (of course, James would just say I was ignorant before, so this means little :-) - dream on, James!).

. . . unlike the point you were trying to make about rhetorical questions in the front matter of Ankerberg's book.

It's not rhetorical. You know as well as I what MacArthur thinks of Catholicism. I've seen him on Ankerberg's dog and pony show, and read him in CHRISTIANITY TODAY. You feel it appropriate to discuss Mary's role as Mediatrix in a discussion on sola Scriptura, yet think it out of bounds when I take offense at a ridiculous statement which charges that I worship a different Lord entirely! And further, you try to make out that it doesn't mean what it clearly does.

Like the Old South and black people, it seems that anything goes when it comes to lies about Catholicism and Catholics. If we utter the slightest protest, we are being "uppity." That's not allowed, because "everyone knows" that Catholics are inferior and need the help of the superior Protestants at every turn. I'm sick and tired of this condescending, patronizing attitude, and I won't put up with it for a second, wherever I'm at. If that offends anyone, too bad - I can't help it.

And when secularists (or Catholics) lie about my Protestant brethren, I am just as passionate in your defense, believe me. I hate lying and bigotry wherever it is found, in whatever form or content. I once defended Dave Hunt, of all people, against slander, at great cost to my own estate as a missionary. Clearly I had no self-interest at the time; quite the contrary. MacArthur knows better than this. I loved his GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS. Ironically, it was quasi-Catholic in its approach to the faith/works relationship. MacArthur is a very good expositor and teacher. But the fact that he can be so utterly ignorant and bigoted where Catholicism is concerned, only goes to show the tragic extent and magnitude of the divide sadly begun in 1517.

You miss the fact that I was asking for James White's answer as to what the APOSTLES believed on my 18 points. The original context of my challenge was for James to define his own terms. His reluctance (and everyones') is heartening to me at least to the extent that Protestants are squeamish about their own disunity, chaos, and relativism, as evidenced by the fear of dealing with it straight-on in answering a friendly Catholic critic. . . . [etc., etc.]

[see my paper from this group context: Dialogue on the Alleged "Perspicuous Apostolic Message" as a Proof of the Quasi-Protestantism of the Early Church]

1. I don't know if you're really as mulish as you seem, or if you honestly don't get it.

A little "mulish," I confess (the Scottish Presbyterian in me), but primarily a seeker of truth and admirer of frankness and openness.

If you want someone to spell out the truth Protestants hold as infallible, this can only be done in the God-breathed words of Scripture.

Very well, then. Quote the Scripture on my 18 points if you insist.

By asking James White to state infallible truth in his own words, you're asking for the very thing we don't believe. Clue: Protestants don't claim to have ex cathedra authority to speak infallibly.

Come on now; this is absurd. Because Protestants claim no infallibility (which everyone already knows), therefore they can't speak authoritatively at all? If you'll read the very statement of mine which you cite above, you'll see that all I'm asking for is James White's belief as to what the Apostles believed on 18 points which are bones of contention among Protestants. Later, you may recall, I said I would accept five out of the 18. Just a simple list of five items, and what the Apostles believed. This is an historical question. What in the world does it have to do with ex cathedra and infallibility? And you chide ME for not "getting it"? Man oh man!

Why can't you just acknowledge that we Catholics see things differently? There's no need to stoop to personal remarks. Perhaps I've been guilty of this too. If so, I apologize for it to the whole group. But I always intend to critique ideas, not persons. Now I've been called "blind," etc. Why is that necessary? If you asked my opinion, I would say that it is anti-Catholicism which produces such hostility, because it causes one to have such little respect for a fellow Christian. Rather than facilitate a "horizontal," equal-to-equal relationship, anti-Catholicism creates a superior-subordinate scenario, which is contrary to both charity and humility.

3. You have certainly not shown yourself to be a very "friendly" critic. You sound like a fairly rabid--and unreasonable--"anti-Protestant" to me.

OK (sigh): I define "anti-Catholic" as one who believes that the Catholic Church is not Christian (with varying degrees of hostility and disinformation - deliberate or otherwise). I am not an "anti-Protestant" in my definitional terms because I acknowledge all Protestants as fellow Christians, brothers and sisters in the Lord, etc., as indeed all Catholics must, according to - most notably - Vatican II. Now does this mean that I don't criticize Protestantism as a system? Of course not! Of all the people in the world, you in this group know that full well!

I am an ecumenist in the proper sense, who looks for commonality, but doesn't shrink from critique and frank disagreement either (the apologetic function). I respect and admire evangelical Protestants very much. I used to be one, after all, and I remember full well what motivated me, and how I thought and felt about things then. Catholic converts, as a rule, don't hate Protestantism as a system just because we are Catholics now. It is a very different dynamic from the Catholic-to-Protestant odyssey, which more often than not, it seems, results in a true anti-Catholicism. As for "rabid," I don't know what that means - it is very subjective. And "unreasonable" - well, that can only be demonstrated by the force of counter-argument. You're welcome to do that at any time.

Please show me where MacArthur has "insisted" on this.

I did already, from the foreword to Ankerberg and Weldon's book:

It is clear enough. There is no way, it seems to me, that any other interpretation makes sense. Even if it were only rhetorical, and not indicative of MacArthur's own views, it was a stupid, dumb, inexcusable remark to make, period. And yes, it was wicked. Now, if you go and ask John tomorrow if he thinks I worship the same Lord, and he says "yes," (not just me as a former evangelical, but every Catholic who knows Catholic teaching at all), I'll be truly delighted, and will readily admit that I blew it, and will eat humble pie. So, go do that, if you disagree with me. What's preventing it?

But even then, I will never believe that his statement should have been made. If he says differently, I would still vigorously maintain that the statement ought to be expurgated from future editions. Slander is a very serious sin. Of the seven things that the Lord hates (Pr 6:16-19), three have to do with this remark, I think: "a lying tongue," "a lying witness who testifies falsely," and "one who sows discord in a family" (NRSV).The Body of Christ is, of course, a "family." Now, if you want to think I am anti-Protestant, I challenge you to search my writings from A to Z (and they are voluminous). You will never find any statement remotely approaching the magnitude of this one - that somehow I worship a different Lord. Conversely, you'll find that I often sincerely compliment Protestants and Protestantism, as I have done here again (not the first time in this forum, either).

Still a brother to you (and what's YOUR view of MY Christian status, by the way?),


I answered half of this post and was about to delete it. But it occurred to me that Dave Armstrong would probably read some sinister significance into the fact that I didn't reply to his whole post. So I said to myself: What the hey? Go for it. This was the result:

You needn't have troubled yourself. No such thought ever entered my mind........

I think this is a huge overstatement. I realize you get tingly all over when you hear a Protestant criticize Luther, but it really isn't all that rare.

Nonsense (about my tingliness). All I'm calling for is consistency, intellectual honesty, and a recognition of one's spiritual/historical origins, which I find it to be sadly rare among Christians of any stripe. I was just as incensed about it as a Protestant as I am as a Catholic. And I also got mad at "cafeteria Catholics" (pick and choose) then as I do now. This is not a Catholic vs. Protestant issue per se, but a matter of integrity.

We don't deem him infallible--even in matters of faith and practice. And while I might criticize him on certain important points, I would still point out . . .

Again, you miss my point, which was just explicated. It has not a WHIT to do with "infallibility." I WOULD assert, however, that Luther ought to bear serious examination, since he is the Founder of Protestantism, no matter what anyone says to the contrary (it is simply an indisputable fact), and he DID introduce most of the Protestant distinctives. As such, he ought to have been of the most exemplary character, as the Bible does not oppose wisdom to righteousness, truth to holiness, as Protestants so often casually do, when it comes to their very fallible Founders.

1. Luther was nowhere near the scoundrel several of your "infallible" Popes were, and I would hope you would be honest enough to admit that. (Shall I name names?)

Go ahead. I don't care. We have never denied that they exist, and I hope you know enough to know that impeccability and infallibility are two distinct concepts. I even loaned The Bad Popes to a Protestant friend of mine once. Sin never comes as a surprise to me. However, the crucial difference is that no pope is the Founder of Catholicism, as Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, Menno Simons, etc. are with respect to branches of Protestantism. In that sense, Luther et al are, practically speaking, considered "infallible" in a sense, because their "word" is believed over against the entire preceding Christian Tradition (where there is disagreement).

Thus I have often called them "Super-Popes," only half tongue-in-cheek. No pope ever possessed remotely the authority Luther arrogantly delegated to himself to proclaim and overturn doctrines by his own will (which he, of course, equated with God's), even to the extent of presuming to judge severely biblical books, and denying the apostolicity of NT books such as Revelation [see my paper: Luther vs. the Canon of the Bible]. By the way, Luther had many grievous, very serious faults, and I would certainly rank him up near the worst popes, once all the facts are considered (of course I have a copiously-documented paper on Luther [Martin Luther: Beyond Mythology to Historical Fact] for anyone who is curious about it). I do think he had many fine qualities as well, including a profound religious passion and sincerity, and rich devotional life, in case anyone thinks I am on a vendetta and smear campaign.

2. Even my harshest criticisms of Luther do not diminish the deep respect I have for him. He certainly said and did some unwise things. But Luther and the rest of the world in his day were only beginning to emerge from the darkness into which medieval Roman Catholicism had thrust all of Christendom.

Yes, that's always the comeback. The "Dark Ages"......Even secular historians now generally concede that that is a gross misnomer, flowing from a jaundiced view of the actual High Middle Ages. When did this "darkness" you speak of begin? I've yet to receive an answer from even prominent anti-Catholic zealots like James White, so I'll ask you in hopes of receiving one.

(Well, remember who his teachers were.)

Nice try, but this only shows that you again miss the point entirely.

1. I don't think it's quite accurate to suggest that Luther "introduc[ed] sola Scriptura." As far as I know, he never used that term.

I didn't mean the term, but the concept. I maintain that he did introduce it as a last resort against his unwillingness to submit to Catholic Tradition. Failing that, he could only fall back on his own self-proclaimed tradition, which he then immediately proclaimed to be the true biblical one (but then Zwingli disagreed, and Calvin, and Bucer, and the Anabaptists, and Carlstadt and Muntzer, ad infinitum, and it was off to the dog races, so that Luther despaired, "there are as many beliefs as there are heads." Now why would that be........?

2. With regard to sola fide, Luther and the other Reformers made their case biblically for this doctrine. No true Protestant believes in sola fide on Luther's authority. This is what Catholics never seem to grasp: It is you who think mere men can be infallible. We have never claimed that for Luther. So the fact that he (like Solomon in the OT) committed acts of idolatry has no bearing on whether he spoke truth in other contexts.

Yes, I get it, believe it or not. I understand the Protestant principle, having been a very avid proponent of it for years myself. Again, my point is, how could the whole Church have missed such a fundamantal, allegedly "clear" biblical teaching, because even Protestant scholars like Norman Geisler and Alister McGrath admit that sola fide was essentially entirely absent from Church history from Paul to Luther. I find such a scenario (granting Protestant premises) absolutely ludicrous, and believe it logically and scripturally entails a radical questioning of God's ability to keep His Church pure, and a denial of the "incarnational principle," insofar as the Church is Christ's Body (see esp. Eph 1:20-23).

3. But what does your argument here suggest? That if a man is grossly wrong on a crucial point of doctrine he is not entitled to be viewed as an infallible authority in all matters of faith and practice?

No, that he loses credibility as the proponent of radically-new docrtrines which overthrow 1500 years of unbroken, apostolic Tradition. Thus, Protestantism is far more man-centered than Catholicism ever was, or ever will be.

I certainly agree with that. So how do you account for Roman Pontiffs who signed Arian creeds, or Popes who were open fornicators?

Which creed and which pope (but I'm not gonna get into historical tit-for-tat battles, as I find them quite tedious and prefer to stick to scriptural arguments if possible)? 2nd part: men are sinners (big revelation, huh!!!!!!!!). And Luther sanctioned bigamy and Zwingli was an inveterate adulterer. They founded new schismatic denominations. Popes merely are the custodians of a received Tradition, which they are not entitled to change. If you wanna play the "who has more and bigger sinners?" game, I can match you blow-by-blow, but what would be the point of that? I'm willing to argue strictly Bible in this forum. I wrote a whole book along those lines, and so am quite content to engage in that enterprise.

1. To embrace someone as a "brother" who denies the gospel is also a sin, according to Galatians 1:8-9 and 2 John 9-11.

Please define the "gospel."

2. I hardly need to point out the irony here: You, a Roman Catholic, feel you're in a position to reprimand Protestants about the sinfulness of anathematizing people? Give us a reasonable explanation for six centuries of Roman Catholic Inquisition, and I'll consider taking you seriously here.

How many topics do you expect me to deal with at one time? As usual, when a Catholic enters a Protestant environment, he must deal with 4,657 questions, on as many topics, simultaneously. I'm doing my best, but I'm currently debating four people and taking up whole evenings of my time. But briefly: anathemas are one thing, a bigoted, misguided, self-defeating belief that Catholics aren't Christians is quite another. The former is an explicit scriptural concept [see my paper: Anathema and Excommunication], the latter a sin of slander and schism.

[Big snip. I note that you boast you have "demolished" the argument abut Israel and the golden calf. All I can say is that you evidently have not grasped the significance of the commandment against graven images.]

That was never in dispute. The issue was whether they were worshiping it as God Himself, rather than another god.

[see my paper: Is the Mass Equivalent to Golden Calf Worship?]

Do you guys have a list of Boettner's most egregious errors? I'm eager to know why you think he's so far off the mark, and I don't really want to have to wade through an outdated book looking for errors, especially if you already have a list of them somewhere. Would you mind forwarding that list to me?

I don't have it, since I don't waste my time reading anti-Catholic books, any more than black people peruse KKK literature, or Jews neo-Nazi drivel. Someone in Catholic apologetics probably does, though.

[See the links:

Dave G. Armstrong replies to my comment about the darkness of medieval Roman Catholicism:

In Genesis 3. But as far as the NT church is concerned, signs of serious and widespread deviations from true apostolic teaching were clearly evident even before the NT was complete. Some of the very errors later canonized by the Catholic Church first manifest themselves in the legalism of the Judaizers in Galatia.

How about "avoid those who cause division?" Does that sound familiar in YOUR circles? Protestants have certainly "canonized' division and schism, almost making it a central principle! And of course, this is scandalously unbiblical, contrary to Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper (John 17). There is no way out of that conclusion. Most Protestants will admit the scandal, but still not feel compelled to question the system which institutionalizes and even honors such division, by its very nature. Eventually, I got tired of rationalizing this insurmountable problem away.

Other Catholic errors mirror the Old Covenantalism the writer of Hebrews was confronting. So it's hardly surprising that even in the earliest Church Fathers (who were uninspired and fallible, by the way) . . .

No kidding? Gee, thanks for teaching me that, Phillip! :-)

. . . we see errors. I suspect there are even a few esteemed Church Fathers whom you would hesitate to endorse without qualification.

They are human, after all, are they not? Only popes and ecumenical Councils are guaranteed freedom from doctrinal error, as a special charism from God, and that only in limited circumstances. Tertullian is a prime example of such a Father, although Protestants (especially charismatics) are wont to quote him from his semi-Montanist and Montanist periods, when it suits their purpose.

However, it is clear that an accelerated decline started about the time Constantine the Great began to dabble in church affairs. In the 60 years after Constantine convened the Nicene Council to address the Arian heresy, virtually the whole church became Arian! It was then that even the bishop of Rome, Liberius, signed an Arian creed. (This he did for reasons that were no doubt political, not genuine matters of personal conviction--and that's how the Roman Catholic version of history attempts to exculpate him from the charge of heresy, claiming he signed under duress).

Yet less than 100 years later it was Pope St. Leo the Great at Chalcedon in 451 who made the pivotal contribution to our understanding of the Two Natures of Christ - something all Christians accept today. How could that be? And in the same century, these corrupt Catholics managed to somehow figure out despite themselves and their "pagan," "Pelagian" ways - the proper books of the Bible!!!! Bible and Jesus: sounds pretty "Protestant" and "evangelical" to me!

The Liberius incident is by no means as clear-cut and damning as you would love to believe. But I am not willing to engage in historical tit-for-tat over all the "bad popes," etc. at this point. I find it exceedingly boring and almost always an exercise in futility, as people (on either side) never seem to budge from their initial views anyway. It takes far too much work and time and offers little hope of success! Rest assured that Catholics have solid replies to all these ubiquitous charges.

[See the links:

In any case, there were some very bright lights, such as Athanasius and Augustine (neither of whom were infallible, either).

Ah! Thanks for reminding me again (lest I forget). But St. Augustine believed in both the Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as I will show in an upcoming post [St. Augustine's Belief in the Real Presence], as well as many, many other present and perpetual Catholic doctrines, so his light has been "put out," I think. But it seems that no amount of presentation of the "real" Augustine is sufficient for Protestants to stop curiously citing him as one of their own: some sort of forerunner for their peculiar and novel views. This is part and parcel of the inconsistency of the Protestant recourse to the Fathers - a desperate search to find something, anything, that will even appear to offer a semblance of distinctive Protestant doctrines. And some material can indeed be found, here and there, by the very reason of the Father's fallibility, but not nearly enough to establish that the Fathers were not therefore "Catholic" (or "catholic," if you insist).

But, as you'll recall, poor Athanasius spent his whole life fighting heresy that was being propagated by the rest of the bishops of the Catholic Church. The "infallible magisterium" of the church didn't fare too well in the mid-fourth century.

Not quite. My memory is remarkably different. In a Council at Antioch in 341, the majority of 97 eastern bishops subscribed to a form of semi-Arianism, whereas in a Council at Rome in the same year, under Pope Julius I, the trinitarian St. Athanasius was vindicated by over 50 Italian bishops. The western-dominated Council of Sardica in 343 again upheld Athanasius' orthodoxy, whereas the eastern Council of Sirmium in 351 espoused Arianism, which in turn was rejected by the western Councils of Arles (353) and Milan (355). Likewise, Donatism began in about 311 and was promptly condemned by Pope Miltiades (r. 311-314). Nice try.

At this time, we also see multiple Arian or semi-Arian eastern Patriarchs:

Constantinople: Eusebius 341-2; Macedonius 342-360 (semi-Arian); Eudoxius 360-370; Demophilus 370-c.380. Antioch: Eulalius c.322; Euphronius c.327-9; Leontius 344-58; Eudoxius 358-60; Euzoius 361-78; Dorotheus 378-81. Alexandria: George 357-61.

On the other hand, no pope can be conclusively shown to have officially espoused or promulgated Arianism or semi-Arianism, including Liberius. The contrast of officially-orthodox Rome is striking indeed. Yet you can make the atrociously false statement above, which has now been disposed of.

Still, that was only an early time of dusk, compared to the thick darkness that was followed the Fourth Lateran Council (1215)--the Council that launched the Crusades and the Inquisition and put its dogmatic stamp of authority on the abominable doctrine of transubstantiation.

Shall I post my notorious paper on Protestant intolerance and persecution, so as to offset any notion that such crimes were unique to Catholicism? Again, we see all the time a double standard in anti-Catholic circles of always trumpeting this stuff, but either totally ignoring or just giving lip service to, corresponding horrendous Protestant crimes against humanity (in my opinion, far worse by several criteria). So if Protestantism brought "light," whence comes such continued intolerance, murder, duplicity, and corruption?

[See also the papers and web page:

There's much, much more that could be said in chronicling the onset of medieval darkness. Philip Schaff does a fair job of recounting the slow but steady apostasy of Roman Christianity. It takes him four full volumes (vols. 3-6) to tell the whole sordid tale, but it's there if you want to read all the shameful details.

No, I'd prefer a horror movie myself. Maybe the Loch Ness Monster. Kinda like the Beast of Babylon..........

1. The fact that you would characterize James White as a "prominent anti-Catholic zealot" surely speaks volumes about where you are coming from.

"Zealot" can be a neutral term, meaning one with zeal (look it up). At least that's how I intended it (granted, I could have found a better word). If I called myself "zealous" (which I would), I would be saying the same thing about myself. Would you deny that about James White? He is prominent in that field, is he not? And I use the term "anti-Catholic" referring to one who regards Catholicism as non-Christian, as I've already carefully explained in this forum. James White fits that bill. So I fail to see the objection. All the more so when you consider what James says about my Church and about Catholic apologists, of whom I am one.

[See my paper - filled with examples from James' own website and writings -:

But, I forgot momentarily, us Catholics are never supposed to speak up in our own defense against calumny, slander, misrepresentation, out-and-out lies, etc. Kinda like being black in the Old South. Sorry........ I will expose lies about ANYTHING I'm aware of, be it directed towards Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, or anything else. It makes no difference to me. A lie is wrong, regardless of the relative worthiness of the target of it. I once defended Dave Hunt (in 1986) against slanderous remarks by my own pastor, at great personal cost (as I was a supported missionary at the time). I had nothing whatsoever personally to gain from that, but it was a matter of principle, as is this. Now I think little of Hunt's reasoning on a variety of topics, but if he were slandered again, I would defend him now, just as then. And James White, too, for that matter.

Anyone who has the least knowledge of James White and the character of his ministry will see at once that this is grossly inaccurate and uncharitable.

Quite the contrary, as I've just shown. There is nothing either inaccurate or uncharitable. There IS a great deal of drama and exaggeration in your response, tho! :-)

This sort of posturing--coming from someone who claims to despise "bigotry" as loudly as you do--is the very height of hypocrisy.

OK, do you feel better now, having unloaded your emotional burden and once again insulted me on inadequate and misguided grounds?

2. I happen to have archived a post from James White, from a list to which you were subscribed, where James did respond to this very question--posed either by you or by one of your Catholic friends on that list. The question then was phrased like this: "At what point do you think theology went 'off-track' in the RCC"? James replied:

No, I continue to maintain that this was no answer, because he denies that Catholicism EVER was "on-track," which is inexplicable given that it formulated the doctrines of the Trinity, Christ, original sin, the Bible, etc., etc. while being apostate! 1215 (or 600) is just as arbitrary as any other date given for the "beginning" of the Catholic Church. And the lack of consideration of development of doctrine (which is absolutely crucial to understanding Catholic "growth") is missing throughout the reply. In other words, I think the answer to this question necessarily involves a refutation of Newman's arguments for development. That's just my opinion. You can take it or leave it.

I understand how you guys might think this IS an answer to my question, but I DON'T. Do I possess the right to disagree on that, since I asked the question in the first place? But I will give James some credit. He is one of the few professional anti-Catholics to have even discussed development at all, which he did in his The Fatal Flaw, if I remember correctly. And I have told him he is in the upper echelon of anti-Catholics (how's that for a left-handed compliment, huh?). I've also repeatedly told him I consider him a very intelligent man, and complimented him on his work against Mormons and KJV-Only nuts, whereas he has NEVER, to my recollection, EVER complimented me at all.

But I think James is subscribed to this list now. I guess others will be able to see for themselves whether he's the sort of wild-eyed zealot your comment suggests.

Yes, and all can now observe how "civil" and charitable he will be towards me, too. :-) Note, everyone, that "wild-eyed" was not my term, but Phil's. A bit of overly-zealous rhetoric there, Phil? :-)

Addendum of 14 August 2000:

Since Mr. Johnson wished to cast aspersions on my character with regard to a simple description of Dr. James White ("anti-Catholic zealot"), let us examine how in fact Dr. White behaved towards me shortly thereafter. Following an unfortunate incident where I mistakenly posted a private remark of Dr. White onto this list (fully-explained in the above-mentioned paper concerning Dr. White's incessant ad hominem attacks), Dr. White chose to attribute to me the lowest motives and character and wrote to me, in a letter dated 3 December 1996:

Well, I think anyone who has visited my website would agree that I have done quite a bit of apologetic "work" since that time, including scores of dialogues and debates. Unfortunately, Dr. James White has consistently refused to engage in any meaningful dialogue. I  issued a standing challenge to debate Dr. White in writing on any theological topic, in mid-1995, but he has never been willing to take me up on that. Instead, he has chosen to repeatedly slander me on public lists, as I have thoroughly documented. So I submit that Phillip Johnson has it exactly backwards. When I was excessive in my language towards Dr. White, I apologized, more than once, and publicly (even in the paper where I documented his unsavory words). Dr. White, however, has never apologized to me for anything, and continues to rebuff my efforts at reconciling with him. I shall let the readers judge which is the more Christian attitude and code of ethics.

In the meantime, readers can also peruse, if they wish, the one true debate I have engaged in with Dr. White, before he refused ever after. Even in this debate, he didn't answer my final 36-page installment, so I guess I won by default, by any reasonable, fair criteria of determining who dealt with the issues head-on, and comprehensively, without evasion or obfuscation, or personal attacks, or simple refusal to answer at all.

I do believe that I more than held my own in the portions where we actually did dialogue (before he opted out of the debate), as well. Not bad for someone with no formal theological training, against someone who has a doctorate degree in theology, if I do say so. I posted the debate on my website, after all. Dr. White could easily link to it if he believed he bested me in this debate, but he has not done so, as of yet. Since he has charged that Catholics have lost debates with him on the basis of their reluctance to distribute their debate, therefore I conclude that he lost this debate, since he won't link to it, which is simple-enough to do.

Is Catholicism Christian?: My Debate With Dr. James White (291K)


Finally, I shall post excerpts from Phillip Johnson's absolutely sizzling, nauseatingly self-righteous diatribe against me on the public Theology List (28 December 1996). For more civil and substantive (though no less anti-Catholic) portions of the same overall discussion, see my paper: Dialogue on Catholic Soteriology (Specifically Grace).

{From: "Phillip R. Johnson" <phil@spurgeon.org> Organization: The Spurgeon Archive To: theology@ICLNET.ORG Date: Sat, 28 Dec 1996 19:33:44 -800 MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT Subject: Re: SYNERGY IN THE NT Priority: normal X-mailer: Pegasus Mail for Win32 (v2.42a) Sender: owner-theology@iclnet93.iclnet.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: theology@ICLNET.ORG}

Sorry, I forgot you often ignore the simplest logic.

. . . Hmm. I think there's a carload of lumber in your eye, Dave. In fact, let's consider your incessant attacks on my pastor [John MacArthur]. I said:

You reply:

I'm not going to dignify it with any further answer, Dave. I tried answering you patiently when you first brought it up months ago on another list, but you merely stepped up the rancor and emotion in your comments, so I finally let it drop.

By the way, this sort of repeated personal attack from you, syruped over with occasional pleas for mutual respect and ecumenical unity, is precisely why your constant whining about being accused of hypocrisy evokes no sympathy whatsoever from me. If you'd stop behaving like a hypocrite, people might stop suggesting that you are one.

Instead, you continue this sort of needling:

I was never embarrassed by it. I had the opportunity to edit it before it went into print. I stand with him completely and unashamedly. But I'm fed up with your attempts to divert the focus of our dialogue onto him. That's why I said,

To which you now respond thus:

In point of fact, this is nothing more or less than what Protestants have always affirmed. It's why we are Protestants. It was the main reason for the Reformation. It's also why your church pronounced a hundred anathemas on us at the Council of Trent. It's why Catholics murdered thousands of Huguenots on St Bartholomew's day--with the Pope's consent! [a patent falsehood; see the paper below]

I'll remind you that my comments--and my pastor's--have been nothing more than doctrinal critiques of Roman Catholicism. For you to suggest that this is sinfully intolerant--while defending your own church's record of "toleration"--is incredibly brazen, Dave.

[See my papers:

However, I repeat:

That does not mean I dislike Roman Catholics, any more than it means I dislike Mormons. I have great love and concern for people trapped in the darkness of both systems.

You say:

See 2 John 9-11.

[Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God . . . NRSV]

What about John Wesley, or C.S. Lewis, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Soren Kierkegaard? Are they equally as suspect in your eyes, on the same grounds? Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi quite possibly in hell . . . ? This is so absurdly asinine, one wonders how to respond. I haven't figured it out yet, obviously so in my dealings with you!

I'll leave it to Christ to sort out individual cases (Jn. 5:22). But your argument here sort of falls apart in light of what happened to the Hebrew Magisterium, doesn't it? People in Jesus' day were asking how such a large majority of the Eminent Rabbinical Doctors could possibly have been so wrong. Paul gave a clear answer: "They being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3). That is precisely what I would say is the fallacy of Roman Catholicism.

I don't regard these issues lightly or think them funny, Dave. As far as I am concerned, you are an apostate from the truth. Worse, you have abandoned the truth with full knowledge of what you are rejecting. Now you are on this list with the express purpose of drawing other people into Rome with you. For me to embrace you warmly and greet you as a dear brother would be the moral equivalent of Judas' kiss (see Gal. 1:8-10). Sorry to be so blunt, but I rather suspect that is what you were probing for anway.

Phillip Johnson

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Compiled by Dave Armstrong on 14 August 2000.