"Live Chat" Question and Answer Dialogue: Theological Presuppositions, Patristic Consensus, Development of Doctrine, & Private Judgment

Dave Armstrong (Catholic) vs. Tim Enloe (Reformed Presbyterian) and Dr. James White (Reformed Baptist)

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The following live exchange (with an "audience") occurred in the chat room of the website of Reformed apologist Dr. James White, on 29 December 2000, after much negotiating as to format and guidelines. Tim and I mutually decided on a structure of each asking the other questions which must be answered, for an hour. There were no topic restrictions. Afterwards, Dr. White jumped in for a few rounds (which was absolutely spontaneous and not pre-planned at all).  I was unable to cut-and-paste excerpts from my website while I was in the room (nor did I wish to: I wanted informality and discussion as it would occur in someone's living room, over tea and crumpets). I have also recorded some of the informal chat which occurred in the room after the dialogue was over. The numbers to the left indicate the time. My words will be in black, Tim's in blue, Dr. White's in red (JanHuss = Dr. White), and those of others in brown, green, and purple.

The banter before and after the dialogue (the dialogue includes the exchange with Dr. White) has been edited in order to delete extraneous discussions; the dialogue itself will not be, excepting chronological changes to make it clear what question a reply was responding to, comments about time limits and rules, and inadvertant factual error (e.g., Dr. White cited Ignatius when he meant Irenaeus). I will add some commentary and links separately from the actual chat at the bottom of this paper, footnoted and hyper-linked to the dialogue text, so that later elaboration will be easily distinguishable. Tim has a website, too; I would encourage him to do the same, from his perspective.

TABLE OF CONTENTS (hyper-linked)

Pre-Dialogue Banter
Formal Dialogue: Dave Questions Tim
Formal Dialogue: Tim Questions Dave
Spontaneous, Unplanned Dialogue Between Dave and Dr. James White
Post-Debate Discussion: Open Floor
Post-Debate Correspondence Between Tim and Dave: 23-25 January 2001
Footnotes to the Dialogue
Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism
Luther on Baptism
The Fathers' Eucharistic Views
Private Judgment
Early Patristic "Extra-Biblical" Citations
The Fathers on Mary's Sinlessness
Development of Doctrine in General
Lack of Patristic Consensus on the NT Canon
Pre-Dialogue Banter

<JanHuss> Mr. Armstrong, are you on line and ready?
<DaveA> greetings all and sundry. I am me!
<TimE> hi Dave.
<JanHuss> Mr. Enloe, sir?
<DaveA> I wish all a blessed new year and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.
<JanHuss> Any questions from either of you before we begin?
<DaveA> hi Tim. I was just answering your last post to me on Steve Ray's board...warming up LOL.
<TimE> well we need to figure out who's starting. Dave, my questions are pretty much from our epistemology discussion... I didn't think most people here followed that.
<DaveA> hello to all the observers, especially my friends. Okay; did you wanna start questioning me, or vice versa?
<JanHuss> OK, who goes first then?
<TimE> you want that honor, Dave, since you are the guest?
<DaveA> I can question first, if you like.....Oh, I wanted to thank Dr. James White for the opportunity to have this discussion, and my friend Tim, whom I have enjoyed dialoguing
with in writing. But a quick summary.......
<TimE> fine with me.
<DaveA> we have agreed to a Q & A session, each one questioning the other for 45-60 minutes. The recipient must give some answer, or claim ignorance. No subject restrictions........After that, we will mutually decide on a topic for a back-and-forth discussion for about another hour, then Q & A from the observers, maybe to him, then me, etc. I would like people to identify at least their theological affiliation, if not name, for any questioners of me, if that is okay. No ad hominem attacks.....all of this goes on my website, too. That's about everything, right Tim?
<TimE> yes, sounds right.
<DaveA> ok.....ready to go then?
<TimE> yes.

Formal Dialogue: Dave Questions Tim

[19:08 - 9:08 PM EST] <DaveA> If a pagan who knew nothing other than reading, say, the book of John, asked you where to go to attend the one true Church begun by Jesus, what would you tell him?
[19:09] <TimE> I would tell him he could begin with any church that preached the same Gospel as what he had read in John.
[19:10] <DaveA> you wouldn't attempt to name any particular current-day version of Christianity?
[19:11] <TimE> well, being a Presbyterian, I would naturally invite him to my church, but I wouldn't attempt to overwhelm him with questions of the one true visible institution. I would feel comfortable with him going to a Reformed Baptist church, too.  :)
[19:11] <DaveA> so you would think that was too advanced for his level of learning?
[19:11] <TimE> possibly.  It would depend on his level of learning, I suppose.
[19:11] <DaveA> let him try out the waters...that sort of thing?
[19:12] <TimE> in essence, but I wouldn't be "relativistic" about it.  I wouldn't say "just go anywhere."
[19:12] <DaveA> fair enough. Please define gospel then.
[19:13] <TimE> oh boy...in 20 words or less? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will saved.
[19:13] <DaveA> the length is up to you I guess. :-) Then that definition would include Arminians (it being pretty "minimalistic")?
[19:14] <TimE> if they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, sure.
[19:14] <DaveA> so Catholics also possess and promulgate the gospel as you have defined it?
[19:15] <TimE> they believe and promulgate the minimal truths relating to the person of Christ and the facts that he died, was buried, and was resurrected, yes.
[19:16] <DaveA> Please distinguish for me and our audience the distinction between semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism?
[19:17] <TimE> To my present state of knowledge, on the issue of grace and free will, I do not think there is a difference.  But I am still studying that issue.
[19:17] <DaveA> so in your present state of knowledge, you would say that all non-Reformed (Arminian) Protestants are semi-Pelagian by definition?
[19:18] <TimE> yes, generally speaking.  Obviously not many would even have ever heard of such categories of thought, let alone thought about them.
[19:19] <DaveA> ok; define semi-Pelagianism then?
[19:20] <TimE> I can't give a technical definition, but I would summarize it as teaching that salvation (in terms of justification, at least) is ultimately up to man's "free will" cooperation with grace. That's my answer.
[19:22] <DaveA> would you agree with the following definition [of semi-Pelagianism] from the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church?:

...while not denying the necessity of grace for salvation [these adherents] maintained that the first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that grace supervened only later.
[19:24] <TimE> Given my present limited state of knowledge on the topic, yes.
[19:25] <DaveA> so it is your position (provisionally) that Arminian Protestants such as Methodists, Lutherans, and others, believe that man makes the first step towards salvation, before God provides grace for that purpose?
[19:26] <TimE> well there may need to be some clarification of terms such as "salvation" and "Christian life", but yes. Arminians in particular often speak of "seekers" after God, without saying that such are being drawn by the Father. [Footnote 1]
[19:26] <DaveA> Please define Christian.
[19:27] <TimE> any true follower of Christ, who has been born again.
[19:28] <DaveA> define born again. :-)
[19:28] <TimE> regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
[19:28] <DaveA> what did the fathers believe about regeneration and when it occurred?
[19:29] <TimE> to the best of my knowledge, they believed it occurred simultaneous with water baptism. [Footnote 2]
[19:30] <DaveA> but you claim that Reformed are a consistent development of patristic and early Church thought. How can that be (on this particular issue)?
[19:30] <TimE> well, my thinking on that subject is that the essence of the doctrine of regeneration is not tied to the outward form of water baptism... in other words, the early Fathers who spoke to this issue did not necessarily see things as clearly as later generations.
[19:31] <DaveA> did Luther believe in baptismal regeneration?
[19:31] <TimE> yes.
[19:31] <DaveA> is that heresy, from your point of view?
[19:32] <TimE> not necessarily...especially not given Luther's die-hard commitment to Sola Fide.  He would not have seen baptism as a human work effecting regeneration. But it is possible that Luther was not consistent. [Footnote 3]
[19:33] <DaveA> so if he was wrong about the nature of regeneration, would that not cast doubt upon his own status as a Christian, as you have defined the word above?
[19:34] <TimE> no, because I know of very few Reformational Christians who insist that proper understanding of how salvation occurs is necessary in order for one to be saved. The only biblical stipulation is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
[19:34] <DaveA> so Luther just lacked proper understanding about a crucial element of Reformed soteriology: regeneration?
[19:35] <TimE> possibly, sure.  It was a very tumultuous time.  No reason to be perfectionistic about the Reformers' own understandings. Semper reformanda, remember?  :)  [Footnote 4]
[19:35] <DaveA> well, I certainly believe "on the Lord Jesus Christ," so then I am both a Christian and saved (according to the above definitions), right?
[20:02] <TimE> If you have faith in Christ as the ground of your justification apart from your own works, yes.  But I can't see your heart; I can only attempt to be charitable based on your profession and what I may know about your life (which is pretty much nothing, by the way).  :)
[20:02] <DaveA> hey, that's infinitely more charitable than I got on the Reformed List. LOL What did the Fathers teach about Eucharist/Lord's Supper?
[20:03] <TimE> to my knowledge, they did not monolithically teach one specific doctrine.
[20:03] <DaveA> what was the mainstream, then?
[20:03] <TimE> I have read of debates on the Real Presence all the way up through the 9th century. I don't know if there was a "mainstream" outside of "the Real Presence", however it was defined; there were multiple definitions.
[20:04] <DaveA> so you don't want to commit yourself to an answer of realism, symbolism, or an intermediate position in the Fathers?
[20:05] <TimE> no, because my surveys have not revealed any consistent position. [Footnote 5]
[20:05] <DaveA> Is there such a thing as a bishop in NT ecclesiology?
[20:05] <TimE> sure, an "overseer"...all throughout the pastoral epistles.
[20:06] <DaveA> a bishop in the NT is not above a pastor/priest, or whatever you would call the local clergyman?
[20:07] <TimE> not to my knowledge.  The Apostles were above local pastors (bishops).
[20:07] <DaveA> how does one define "heresy" in the Reformed position?
[20:08] <TimE> well, there might be different understandings of that.  One author I know, Harold Brown, says it isn't possible to speak of "heresy" in these post-Catholic days. I'm not sure I can give you a technical definition.[Footnote 6]
[20:09] <DaveA> give me five examples of a "secondary doctrine" concerning which it is permissible for Christians to differ?
[20:10] <TimE> eschatology would be one, sacramentology, to a limited extent, soteriology (I think semi-Pelagians can be saved). [Footnote 7]
[20:10] <DaveA> Is the Bible perspicuous with regard to baptism, particularly the infant vs. believer's baptism debate?!!!!!
[20:11] <TimE> I believe the Bible is perspicuous regarding the doctrine of baptism, yes.
[20:11] <DaveA> so why do people err in espousing adult baptism?
[20:12] <TimE> I assume you mean believers-only baptism?
[20:12] <DaveA> yes.
[20:13] <TimE> it could be for many reasons.  I am not sure there is only one all-embracing reason for errors on baptism. But I won't commit to saying it's "sin", which I presume you want me to say.  :)
[20:14] <DaveA> on your premise that the Bible is clear, don't you find it curious that there would be such differences? Does that not cast any doubt on the perspicuity doctrine?
[20:14] <TimE> No, that doesn't follow. [Footnote 8]
[20:14] <DaveA> Is it conceivable that God could preserve an institutional Church from error, just as He preserved the Bible?
[20:15] <TimE> sure it is conceivable, but the question is did He? Lots of things are conceivable.  :)
[20:15] <DaveA> so it isn't a priori impossible or unbiblical or implausible for God to do?
[20:16] <TimE> not a priori, no.  The biblical data must be examined, and then the historical data. [Footnote 9]
[20:16] <DaveA> ok, fair enuff. My time is up.
[20:16] <TimE> okay.

Formal Dialogue: Tim Questions Dave

[20:16] <TimE> as I said, my questions are mostly from our previous discussions.  Please be patient since you think you've already answered them sufficiently.  :) [Footnote 10]
[20:17] <DaveA> :-)  Not "live" before though. :-) It must feel something like those lawyers at the Supreme Court. LOL
[20:17] <TimE> 1. In our e-mail discussion on epistemology, you said that Church history is clear if only we will "let it speak for itself".  How do we let Church history speak for itself?
[20:19] <DaveA> We do our best to look at Church history and to see which "theory" it best lines up with. Of course we are all biased, but one can only try, just as one seeks to be open-minded in biblical exegesis, so as not to eisegete. As I wrote recently, Newman's theory was meant as a provisional hypothesis, to be tested by the facts of history. He felt that the conclusions supported his theory and the Catholic Church.
[20:19] <TimE> Okay, so would you agree that we must read history with a mind to try to allow the writers to define their own terms?
[20:21] <DaveA> Can you rephrase that? I'm not exactly sure what you mean.
[20:22] <TimE> Okay, for instance, when we read a Church Father (doesn't matter which one), should we attempt to see if he defines his crucial terms in his own writings? And if so, we should be bound to interpret his thought in line with his own definitions?
[20:23] <DaveA> yes; of course I would add that in order to learn history's lessons, we would look at the Fathers (or the medievals) as a whole, not only in isolation, in order to locate the "mind of the Church."
[20:24] <TimE> okay, fair enough.  But what I am getting at is that we shouldn't interpret a Father's terminology based on what the Church said later, right?
[20:24] <DaveA> yes, broadly speaking, unless he happens to be in error on a particular point (e.g., Chrysostom believing that Mary sinned).
[20:24] <TimE> okay, and how do you determine that he is in error?
[20:25] <DaveA> we interpret him in his own right, as a matter of intellectual honesty, and also in context with other of his writings. E.g., recently, you cited St. Vincent's dictum "everywhere and always." I replied that he discussed development in the very same context, so that they were obviously not mutually exclusive, even in his mind. Error is determined by patristic consensus and "orthodoxy" as determined by Ecumenical Councils and Roman primacy, backed up by Scripture at all times, of course.....:-)
[20:27] <TimE> so are you saying that determining what constitutes legitimate development is a matter of exegeting the writings themselves, or of appealing to an external interpreter?
[20:32] <DaveA> basically we interpret the writings in their own right....
[20:32] <TimE> which means....?
[20:32] <DaveA> especially in the Newmanian sense, [it] is an attempt to determine tendencies and "laws" of Church history, just as we determine schools of thought and doctrines in Scripture. History, of course, is not as "objective" as Scripture, thus it allows for diverse interpretation.
[20:33] <TimE> Okay, so you think it is mainly a process of exegeting the writings themselves? I am assuming that you take them altogether, not in isolation.
[20:33] <DaveA> ummmmmm.......I don't think we have to interpret them without the normal requirements of context and the writer's previous thoughts, but development is a larger phenomenon that the particular Father may not be aware of, as they couldn't always know what the future held in store. E.g., could Ignatius of Antioch have fully understood Chalcedonian trintarianism and Christology? I think not.
[20:36] <TimE> okay, so there is some necessary sense in which we must allow the interpretive intervention of an outside source (e.g, "the Church")?
[20:37] <DaveA> Every school of Christianity creates interpretations of Church history.
[20:38] <TimE> so how can the ordinary layman like you and me navigate this maze of competing interpretations?
[20:40] <DaveA> we ultimately cannot. That's one reason I am a Catholic. I accept that there are entities and realms in theology and spirituality far higher than my own private judgment, to which I bow, in faith. [Footnote 11]
[20:41] <TimE> ah, and your own faith commitment is not an exercise of "private judgment"?
[20:42] <DaveA> no, no more than it was for the Fathers who appealed to apostolic Tradition.
[20:42] <TimE> Did you or did you not interpret Church history for yourself as you went through the process of converting to Roman Catholicism?
[20:42] <DaveA> submitting to a higher authority is the very opposite of private judgment, properly defined.
[20:42] <TimE> okay, define private judgment.
[20:43] <DaveA> an epistemological system in which the individual is the ultimate arbiter, in this case, of theological (and ecclesiological) truth.
[20:43] <TimE> okay then....
[20:43] <DaveA> he may appeal to traditions and schools, but he decides in the end, doesn't he?  (rather than bow to what he feels is the apostolic Tradition, passed down continuously, from the Apostles).
[20:43] <TimE>  Did you or did you not interpret Church history for yourself as you went through the process of converting to Roman Catholicism?
[20:44] <DaveA> to an extent, yes, but no more (in essence) than the Fathers when they said "the Church has always taught thus-and-so, and if you deny that you are a heretic."
[20:45] <TimE> Why is this "bowing to what he feels..." NOT an instance of private judgment?
[20:46] <DaveA> because it is accepting that a certain set of teachings has been passed down through history (and can be verified), as opposed to sitting there and determining what one will believe about doctrines x,y,z, as if that were permissible, given history of doctrine.
[20:47] <TimE> but one has to use his own judgment to determine what that "certain set of teachings passed down through history" is, right?
[20:49] <DaveA> no, because you are accepting what has been passed to you, not making up your own mind at every turn. We don't reinvent the wheel every generation in the Church.
[20:49] <TimE> who is accepting?
[20:49] <DaveA> the Church as a whole and the faithful Catholic. Or the Reformed or Lutheran, for that matter, who thinks they can make a historical case for their belief-system.
[20:50] <TimE> but you weren't a Catholic when you accepted this "teaching handed down" were you? Were you not, in essence, standing at your very own Diet of Worms passing judgment on all of Church history?, e.g, what to accept and what to reject?
[20:50] <DaveA> once I accepted it, I was a Catholic, in essence, in presuppositions. No, because Luther at that time rejected what had been passed down, to a large extent. I reject nothing which has been passed down as part of apostolic Tradition.
[20:51] <TimE> okay, but since you did the accepting, was this not your private judgment?
[20:52] <DaveA> no, because - again - private judgment is not the mere acceptance by an individual, but a whole system of making the individual the arbiter of truth.
[20:51] <TimE> but how do you determine what has been passed down? How do you know what is error and what is not? Weren't you--the individual--arbitrating what was true as you looked at history? You had to determine somehow what had "been passed down," right?
[20:52] <DaveA> one determines that by studying the Fathers, if you are to approach it strictly historically. Christianity is inherently historical, and established on historical grounds (Resurrection, miracles, prophecy, etc.).
[20:53] <TimE> okay, well, I think my point has been made...I'm moving on to another question.
[20:53] <DaveA> yeah, I think you bolstered my case quite nicely. :-) [Footnote 12]
[20:53] <TimE>  In another discussion we had, you said that a "moral willingness to accept the truth" must be present if we are to know the truth. How do you determine whether someone is "morally willing" to accept the truth?
[20:54] <DaveA> good question.......we can't know for sure, since we can't read hearts.......I think it is more of a process of observing whether a person shows signs of an ongoing closed-mindedness or unwillingness to subject his beliefs to scrutiny or falsification.
[20:55] <TimE> okay, so how can you justify treating other Christians who read Church history and do not convert to Roman Catholicism with condescension?  What makes your reading of history better than theirs?
[20:56] <DaveA> who says I treat them with condescension?....I deny that. I would disagree with their analysis of history to the extent that I think it does violence to the facts as I understand them, or shows an absurd denominational bias, in the face of compelling evidence.
[20:56] <TimE> how can you be sure that you are morally willing to accept the truth?
[20:57] <DaveA> we can only examine our own hearts, can't we? I do know that I have changed many of my opinions. To me that suggests open-mindedness and willingness to be persuaded based on the facts, revelation, etc.
[20:57] <TimE> And is this opinion of yours a private judgment? I'm going in circles.  :)
[20:58] <DaveA> indeed, you are arguing in a circle. LOL We have different definitions of private judgment...we have been through this. Didn't you read that last paper of mine on the subject? :-) You define it as simply making any decision whatever,,,,but that ain't what it is, even in Protestant definitions (Pink, Bruce, in my paper).
[20:59] <TimE> Alright then, are you willing to consider that the Reformers did not hold to the definition of private judgment that you hold to?
[21:00] <DaveA> I would suspect that they do, but perhaps Protestant thought has developed in that area. I've seen nothing myself to suggest differently to me.
[21:01] <TimE> Well, I must concede that I have lost my train of thought due to the nature of this forum...I wish to concede the rest of my questioning time and open this up for discussion.
[21:02] <DaveA> if you prefer...you sure?
[21:02] <JanHuss> Mr. Armstrong, care to dialogue a bit?
[21:02] <TimE> yes, because I am rambling.
[21:02] <DaveA> :-)
[21:02] <TimE> there is no need to waste everyone's time. I apologize to the audience.
[21:03] <DaveA> aw, Tim, don't be so hard on yourself! The original plan was to dialogue with me and Tim for an hour, but if Tim wants to change that, I have no objection.
[21:03] <JanHuss> Tim had mentioned 45 minutes at one point, which is what has transpired.....
[21:03] <TimE> my stuff always looks better on paper than when I do it in real life.  :)
[21:03] <DaveA> I do think you are more impressive in your writing. :-)
[21:04] <JanHuss> Ouch.
[21:04] <DaveA> (Tim and I are used to ribbing each other, folks. I do respect him a lot).

Spontaneous, Unplanned Dialogue Between Dave and Dr. James White

<DaveA> so what's the plan now? First we have to see if Tim agrees to open the floor up.
<TimE> sure.
<DaveA> okay.
<TimE> is it free for all now? Because that will get to be a big mess in a hurry.
<JanHuss> That's OK, everyone knows that part. :-)
<DaveA> it may be a free-for-all all right! LOL
<JanHuss> Actually, moderation is still on at the moment.
<DaveA> who are you Huss?
<JanHuss> I own the channel, Dave. :-)
<DaveA> oh, James White?
<TimE> okay, Dave, are you okay with talking to Dr. White rather than me?
<DaveA> sure. I thought Jan was a girl. Sorry LOL
<JanHuss> No, Jan Huss was the evangelical Christian burned at the Council of Constance. :-)
<JanHuss> "no, no more than it was for the Fathers who appealed to apostolic Tradition." Remember that staement Dave?
<DaveA> yes.
<JanHuss> Dave: The earliest reference in all patristic writing to something "passed down from the Apostles" that is not in Scripture is Irenaeus' insistence that those who knew the Apostles confirmed that John 8 teaches that Jesus was more than 50 years of age at his death. Rome has rejected this idea. [Footnote 13] If "tradition" can be corrupted in its first instance, upon what basis do you affirm the idea that such doctrines as the Bodily Assumption, without witness for over 500 years, is truly apostolic? [Footnote 14]
<DaveA> who claims that this is the first instance of Tradition passed down? Now we are in areas that require research to answer, so I can hardly do that on the spot.
<JanHuss> Well, if you can find an explicit statement that is earlier, I'd like to see it. To my knowledge, it is the earliest example.
<DaveA> I doubt that.....the principle is explicitly biblical in the first place. If indeed the notion [Tradition passed down] is in the Bible, then that is the earliest instance, not Irenaeus.
<JanHuss> I'm sorry, I must have been unclear: I was referring to a statement by an early Church Father concerning an alleged extra-biblical tradition passed down from the Apostles. And I believe Irenaeus' claim is the earliest....but that point aside....
<DaveA> Okay, that may be (I don't know).
<JanHuss> I assume, then, you are not familiar with this particular issue? Okay, then let us use another example. Basil said that it was an apostolic tradition to baptize three times, facing east, forward. Upon what basis do you reject his testimony, if you do?
<DaveA. It would be determined by patristic consensus, not one Father's opinion.
<JanHuss> Patristic consensus over what period of time? For example, the "patristic consensus" through the end of the fourth century was that Mary had committed acts of sin. That is no longer
the "view" taken by Rome.
<DaveA> the patristic period is generally considered to go up to John Damascene, no?
<JanHuss> That all depends. :-)
<DaveA> no; some Fathers thought she sinned, but I don't believe they were the majority, by any means.
<JanHuss> Would it follow, then, that you believe the "patristic consensus" up through John Damascene supports such doctrines as the Immaculate Conception and the Bodily Assumption?
<DaveA> Can you name 5 or 10 who thought that?
<JanHuss> Yes. Origen, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Basil. Big names. :-) Even Anselm held Mary was born with original sin.
<DaveA> how about western fathers? Those are all eastern guys. :-)
<JanHuss> Anselm isn't. :-)
<DaveA> Anselm was not a father.
<JanHuss> Let's hope not. :-) He was under orders.... just kidding.
<DaveA> all you're doing now is helping to support Roman primacy and orthodoxy. The east had a host of errors. They split from Rome five times, and were wrong in every case by [the criteria of] their own later "orthodox" beliefs. [Footnote 15]
<JanHuss> Hmm, so you are switching now to a Western "consensus"?
<DaveA> no, but your citing of only eastern fathers hardly suggests that this is overall "patristic consensus," does it?
<JanHuss> I would dispute that, actually, but I'd like to stick to the issue I've raised here. Is it your belief that these two dogmas are apostolic in origin?
<DaveA> first name me western fathers who thought Mary sinned, since you brought this up.
<JanHuss> Actually, Augustine's influence regarding the universality of original sin had to be overcome for the Immaculate Conception to be contemplated and codified, sir. :-)
<DaveA> but that's a separate issue. Did Augustine think Mary sinned?
<JanHuss> No, not in her personal life. But he did believe she contracted original sin, correct?
<DaveA> There is the distinction between actual sin and original sin in Mary's case.
<JanHuss> Do you consider Tertullian a Western?
<DaveA> yes.
<JanHuss> Would you include Hilary? J.N.D. Kelly lists them both in that category. I think that makes six, does it not?
<DaveA> I'm not sure, but you started by discussing acts of sin, now you are switching to original sin.
<JanHuss> Actually, for both Tertullian and Hilary, it would be acts of sin.
<DaveA> okay, so you have two?
<JanHuss> Yes, two. May I ask how many you have that positively testify of the later Roman belief in the same time-period?
<DaveA> one second....consulting some papers.
<JanHuss> Be that as it may, does it not follow from these considerations that there is no positive consensus upon this issue? The only relevant answer to that would be to ask, "Who wrote on the specific question of Mary's sinlessness? Not many."
<DaveA> was this in Tertullian's Montanist or semi-Montanist period? About how many fathers were there, in your estimation?
<JanHuss> The Tertullian citation is De carne Chr. 7. [Footnote 16]
<DaveA> how many say she was without sin? That's what you are asking? Actual sin?
<JanHuss> I think you can see my point, can you not, Mr. Armstrong? If these concepts were, in fact, passed down through the episcopate, how could such widely differing church leaders be ignorant of these things?
<DaveA> the same way Luther was ignorant about baptismal regeneration, and Calvin of adult baptism. :-) Neither got it right, according to you.
<JanHuss> Well, it would seem that if you wish to substantiate a dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the task would be rather easy to demonstrate a positive witness to the belief in the patristic period, would it not?
<DaveA> I think this can be done, but probably not to your satisfaction.
<JanHuss> Does it follow, then, that you parallel individual Reformational leaders with the early Fathers, the very ones entrusted with "apostolic tradition"? Or was that rhetorical?
<DaveA> I was making a point about noted leaders and teachers differing. We would expect that in the Fathers to an extent, being human; nevertheless, there is still overall consensus.
<JanHuss> Have you ever listened to my debate with Gerry Matatics on the subject of the Marian dogmas, Mr. Armstrong?
<DaveA> no. Did you win that one? :-)
<JanHuss> It's on the web.....Gerry said I did, actually. :-) As did Karl Keating. Does that count?  :-)
<DaveA> I can name names as to who believed in sinlessness, but I don't have it at my fingertips......
<JanHuss> Be that as it may, during the course of the debate I repeatedly asked Gerry for a single early Father who believed as he believes, dogmatically, on Mary. I was specifically focused upon the two most recent dogmas, the Immaculate Conception and the Bodily Assumption.
<DaveA> of course, if you are looking for a full-blown doctrine of Immaculate Conception, you won't find it. [Footnote 17]
<JanHuss> How would you answer my challenge? Did any early Father believe as you believe on this topic?
<DaveA> the consensus, in terms of the kernels of the belief [i.e., its essence], are there overall. I would expect it to be the case that any individual would not completely understand later developments.
<JanHuss> So many generations lived and died without holding to what is now dogmatically defined? [Footnote 18]
<DaveA> Did any father of the first three centuries accept all 27 books of the NT and no others?  [Footnote 19]
<JanHuss> Three centuries.....you would not include Athanasius?
<DaveA> I think his correct list was in the 4th century, but at any rate, my point is established. How many fathers of the same period denied baptismal regeneration or infant baptism?
<JanHuss> The issue there would be how many addressed the issue (many did not). But are you paralleling these things with what you just admitted were but "kernels"? [Footnote 20]
<DaveA> if even Scripture was unclear that early on, that makes mincemeat of your critique that a lack of explicit Marian dogma somehow disproves Catholic Mariology.
<JanHuss> I'll address that allegation in a moment. :-) [Footnote 21] By the way, would you like that specific Irenaeus reference to look up? Just in passing?
<DaveA> I can look it up...I have enough resources. The question of this dialogue is whether we are gonna address topics which require heavy research..... That is more appropriate for a paper. If I were answering all your questions in a paper I would have spent a good three hours already.  [Footnote 22] A guy like Joe Gallegos could instantly address questions about particular Fathers' beliefs....... but I'll still give you names who taught Mary's sinlessness, if you like.
<JanHuss> I was thinking of the others looking on. :-) It is chapter 22, section 5, of Irenaeus' work, Against Heresies, Book 2, I believe....
<DaveA> so where do we go from here?
<JanHuss> Anyway....You seem to think that if there is disagreement on any issue, this means the Scripture is unclear, correct?
<DaveA> no; rather massive disagreement on many issues seems to me to fly in the face of this alleged perspicuity. I think Scripture is clear, by and large, actually, but human fallibility will lead to "hermeneutic relativism," thus requiring authoritative interpreters.
<JanHuss> What do you do with Peter's words? 2 Pet 3:15-16:

and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (NAS)
<DaveA> a good description of many Protestants! How does this bolster perspicuity?
<JanHuss> If the untaught and unstable distort the Scriptures, then what can the taught and stable do, of necessity?
<DaveA> it doesn't follow logically that if the unstable distort the Scripture, that the stable will always get it right, does it?

Post-Debate Discussion: Open Floor

Users on #prosapologian: DaveA captwade SBCReform IrishKing NSAstudnt Calvinist anothen @Syzygus @NA27 @Stephanos @Brando @Logos @JanHuss Mfibo^ xiphos Deanr speaksoft Nina^`^ Hendrik BigScott RonDelDon Jason1646 Chairo aleko^ katy_099 amylu tatrbrain sherbrn djjr24 MarkE22 FrJim AKAJerry proverita PC_Dude Lucius BrandX Xob @monergon TIPS Dilaf Xarminian @X

<JanHuss> Well, anyway....thanks for the work, NSA. [Tim Enloe]  ()()() James is Away. Lord willing, he will return. :) ()()()
<Kerry [Gilliard]> 1546 we're heretics and schismatics, 2000, we're separated brethren. Gotta love 'development'!
<DaveA> so I guess the formal discussion is over, eh? Schism = separate, no? LOL
<Kerry> riiiggght, Dave. :) 1546, yes. 2000, no.
<DaveA> but one must interpret "outside" of course.
<Kerry> What did folks do before 'invincible ignorance' Dave?
<DaveA> hey Lutherans have developed too: 1521: pope is antichrist. 2000: we have signed agreements on justification.
<Kerry> which pretty much don't declare too much more than what was already agreed upon. Justification by grace alone.
<DaveA> it's s start though, ain't it? Better than name-calling.
<Kerry> What is in question is what is meant by 'grace'....
<RonDelDon> Hey Dave, I have a question.
<MarkE22> Dave: I believe the term for what the Lutherans have done is apostasy, not development.
<katy_099> I was positively impressed by the civility shown in this discussion, and I appreciate it.
<RonDelDon> Hey Dave, is it wrong to use "private judgment" as you have defined it?
<DaveA> not according to A.B. Bruce and A.W. Pink, both highly-esteemed by Calvinists. Hi katy...glad you liked the discussion. I really enjoyed it.
<JohnV [Lutheran]> If James White follows early church fathers what does he say about infant baptism, baptismal regeneration and the real presence of the eucharist?
<DaveA> [He] denies all three. Precisely my point in one of my replies.
<JohnV> I caught that.
<Dilaf> well, I liked it very much. Dave, do you still have the names of the Fathers who supported
Mary´s sinless[ness]?
<DaveA> fathers who taught Mary's sinlessness: "Latin Patristic authors unanimously teach the doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary" (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma). I call that consensus myself...a few eastern Fathers denied it.....
<Dilaf> he named Tertullian and Hilary.
<DaveA> six fathers don't disprove any patristic consensus.
<JohnV> I think his point Dave was that even at 400 AD there was certainly not a consensus on the sinlessness of Mary.
<DaveA> but there was! Only six exceptions among all the fathers???? And Tertullian may have been from his heretical period.
<RonDelDon> Hey Dave, is it wrong to use "private judgment" as you defined it ?
<JohnV> If this is apostolic tradition how could even one deny it? It must not have been passed on as Sacred Tradition.
<DaveA> same definition as Calvinists Pink and Bruce, Ron.
<RonDelDon> Dave, I just asked you if it is wrong to use it ? N/Y ?
<DaveA> the definition is correct. The concept is erroneous. What's your point? Private judgment is a fundamental Protestant error, in my opinion. And I say that it unites virtually all Protestants.
<RonDelDon> Can you give me a direct answer ? Is it wrong to use Private Judgment as you have defined it ? Y/N
<DaveA> I've answered you Ron. I don't interact with parrots who can't engage in interactive discussion.
<RonDelDon> Was you answer yes or no ? I don't remember seeing it?
<DaveA> scroll up Ron......it's difficult for me to go back. the screen keeps changing.
<tatrbrain> so you think the council was right in killing John Huss DaveA?
<DaveA> no, I think he should have been granted safe passage. Do you think Henry VIII was wrong in slaughtering thousands of Catholic monks and nuns and laypeople? Or that the Catholic faith was forbidden in England from the 1530s to 1829? All branches of Christianity except for Mennonites and Anabaptists have exercised capital punishment for heresy. No one's hands are clean, but there is a case to be made for this, in a sense (e.g., R.C. Sproul)
<RonDelDon> I'm asking is it wrong to use "private judgment" as DaveA defined it ? Y/N You see Dave, if that type of "private judgment" is wrong then you must insist that a Jehovah's Wiyness should never question the WatchTower.
<DaveA> the WatchTower has no apostolic succession. It was a revival of the Arian heresy, itself not traceable beyond Arius in the 3rd-4th century.
<RonDelDon> So is "private judgment" only wrong if you are part of the Catholic church ?
<DaveA> it's always wrong in theological matters. That's what I maintain. It is a denial of apostolic succession and Sacred Tradition, and ultimately a denial of the Scripture which teaches Tradition and denies Bible Only.
<RonDelDon> Therefore, it is wrong for Jehovah's Witnesses to use "private judgment" in theological matters. In other words they should all submit to the WatchTower, right ? Dave,did you see my last response?
<DaveA> Ron: you don't listen very well, do you? One submits to the apostolic Tradition which has been passed down in unbroken succession historically. Arianism has no such lineage, neither from the Apostles to the 4th century, nor from the late patristic period to the 1870s when the Jehovah's Witnesses began.
<RonDelDon> Therefore, you must use "private judgment" to determine when to stop using "private judgment", right?
<DaveA> private judgment is not simply making a choice with your mind. It denotes a system of thought and an epistemology.
<RonDelDon> OK, but it is right for a JW to use it in their system of thought and epistemology, right?
<DaveA> I accept what has been passed on to me, just as Paul did (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6, 2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2; cf. Jude 3). JWs follow a different religious system than we do.
<RonDelDon> So ?? Is it wrong or not ? Or is it only wrong if you are part of the RCC ?
<Loukas> DaveA said it is always wrong to think?
<DaveA> yeah, I'm against all thinking. I'm a Florida Democrat. LOL Ron, like Tim, doesn't show that he comprehends the standard definition of the term private judgment. It is the prior philosophical presumption behind sola Scriptura. Without it, sola Scriptura would be impossible to hold, especially in its implications for hermeneutics.
<RonDelDon> DaveA did you say "private judgment" is always wrong as you defined it ?
<DaveA> Ron, I told you I don't interact with chirping parrots. Tim and James offered excellent dialogue. You do not (nothing personal). All you do is keep repeating things ad nauseum. We answer and you come back with the same question. You're like Al Gore trying to get his vote result against any and all evidence to the contrary. LOL

Post-Debate Correspondence Between Tim and Dave: 23-25 January 2001

I've included Tim's words unedited, except for very short excerpts not relevant for public consumption. Everything pertaining to our discussion is included. I have significantly edited my replies because they delved at some length into some personal-type or private issues between Tim and I which I believe are of little interest to the general reader, and irrelevant to the issues at hand. Also, I have "tightened up" my responses, not because I have second thoughts, but in order for the dialogue to flow better, and so my points would (in my opinion) be more effective. Tim can add what he likes at any time, if he should so desire. This paper is long enough by now, anyway, and Tim often complains about my long answers. :-) Tim's first reply was written to a third person (Catholic; words in green) who commented favorably on my performance in a joint letter to both of us, thus accounting for the use of the third person in Tim's reply and my first counter-reply (almost like feuding spouses in divorce court, trying to win over the judge :-).

 I read your "Live Chat" Question and Answer Dialogue: Theological
 Presuppositions, Patristic Consensus, Development of Doctrine, & Private
 Judgment with James White/Tim Enloe which is on your website.  You were
 truly guided by the Holy Spirit in these debates and I thank God for the
 talents he has given you and thus to the Church.
Well, he was guided alright, but not by the Holy Spirit--rather, by his stubborn refusal to acknowledge what should be obvious to anyone who reflects on these issues a bit more fairly than Dave does.

Of course; the same old story: I am unfair and obtuse simply because I disagree with Tim and see things differently. This is most disappointing. Tim is capable of much better. When he sticks to the issues, he is a pleasure to dialogue with. But when he speculates about these sorts of things (beyond the actual topic at hand), he can be quite annoying and a pain.

After the discussion, another Protestant participant in the chat room forwarded me the following
comments from a Catholic observer with whom he was chatting in Instant Message:

After reading the debate I think Dave did not explain himself well and did
not answer Tim's questions correctly.  I think I could see what Tim was
driving at and Dave either didn't see it, or tried to evade it.  I'm not sure
which.  I'm really surprised by it actually since if Dave really doesn't
understand the issue then I wonder how he writes all these papers.  There was
nothing unreasonable about Tim's question (which he repeated several times),
which Dave did not directly answer.  Instead he gave a philosophical
definition of "private judgment" which is what we discussed in chat
(absolute relativism).  That had nothing to do with Tim's question, so I'm a
bit puzzled.
Why should I deal with a third-hand report of what some Catholic thought? If that person wants to write to me, I'll be altogether glad to deal with his criticisms. I hope Tim gets back to him through his "sources" to let him know that. I think - with all due respect, and hopefully, humility on my part - that he is wrong.

I second this Catholic's opinion.  Dave completely misunderstood / failed to answer the essence of my questions about "private judgment", because he is attempting to present the idea that he is standing on some sort of superior epistemological / philosophical / theological bedrock.  His agenda of supposed "neutrality" constantly gets in the way of the mutual understanding he claims to be so earnestly seeking with his various dialogue partners.

I have dealt with this times without number, but all to no avail. It is Tim who just doesn't "get it" on this point. The truth is precisely the opposite of what he would have us all believe. The fact of the matter is that we clearly have a definitional dispute, as to what "private judgment" means in the first place. Now, when that happens, the usual procedure is to work through the arguments about definition, in order to achieve at least a workable solution agreeable to both parties. But that ain't good enough for Tim. Rather than try to see the other side, he assumes his definition as self-evident; therefore whoever denies it (i.e., the obvious) must be playing games, and engaging in non sequitur rhetoric and sophistry, etc. This kills discussion faster than anything. And Tim wonders why we are so stalled in our discourse.

So this deluded "certainty" as to the definition of "private judgment" causes not only these foolish charges, but also a seemingly total unwillingness to even entertain the possibility that my definition of the term is the more accurate and widely-used one. Prior to this letter, I have dealt with this issue in one of my lengthy debates with Tim, in another large paper solely devoted to the subject, in which I cited Calvinists A.B. Bruce and A.W. Pink (a book by the latter is presently featured on Dr. James White's home page), and in the notes to the "live chat" itself (#12 below).

All that, yet Tim remains intransigent, and refuses to admit that I may have a legitimate gripe about how he is using the term; thus was not "stubborn" or "evasive" or dim-witted at all in the live chat. I am using it precisely as Bruce and Pink and also Catholics such as Cardinal Newman use it. Tim wants to redefine it to his own liking, as, basically, "any exercise of one's rational faculties whatever" (rather than a sub-variant of sola Scriptura, which is the standard usage). We see him demonstrate this definition in practice below. "No one is so blind as he that will not see."

But if he refuses to discuss this issue calmly and rationally, what can I do? I dealt with his claims by citing Calvinists. He deals with my contentions on the matter by, . . . . well, by insulting my intellectual honesty (or however else he would describe his depictions of me in this present jeremiad of his). He certainly offers no arguments related to the topic at hand.

Think about it--what can one achieve if one truly and deeply believes that he is "neutral" and "objective" while his opponent is hopelessly "biased"?

I don't believe I have ever asserted such a thing (certainly not in the broad, general, sweeping sense Tim implies above). It is a long-held opinion of mine that everyone is biased, and I'm sure I have stated this more than once in various of my writings. Objectivity (like subjectivity) is a matter of widely-varying degree, true. Nevertheless, I think everyone can be more or less fair, if they make a decent effort at being so, even given their inevitable biases. But if Tim thinks I have made such a claim, anywhere on my website, or in the live chat itself, I wish he would point it out to me so that I can promptly remove it (or clarify), because I believe no such thing. I have a search function on my website . . . .

The only thing one achieves is the rather nice, emotion-laden rhetorical effect known as the "sympathy vote".  After all, who wants to believe irrational, bigoted "Anti-Catholics" when the other side is so obviously the heroic champion of "open-mindedness", "fairness", and "tolerance"?  Why believe "Infamous and Notorious Catholic-Bashers" such as "His Eminence, the Right Reverend Bishop (Dr.) James White", when one could instead listen to the humble and objective layman, Dave Armstrong?

This is one of Tim's glaring rhetorical faults, one which I have observed several times now. In decrying my supposed rhetorical excesses (in some cases, clearly humorous ones), to the detriment of both fairness and logic, he provides a spectacular example of he himself engaging in precisely what he condemns. He grotesquely exaggerates any claims I have ever made, and then shoots them down. I believe that is what we call a "straw man" (another term from logic, in case Tim is unaware of it; I know he has taken Rhetoric classes; dunno if he has had Logic 0101 yet).

As for "Bishop White," James White called himself a "bishop" in a letter to me, so I am merely applying a little humor to the situation, "illustrating the absurd by being absurd" (as Rush Limbaugh would put it). And I was doing satire years before I ever heard Rush (just for the record). E.g., I (with an artist-friend) produced a satirical comic tract on skeptical theories of Jesus' Resurrection way back in 1985, which is now distributed by Grotto Press (and formerly by Catholic Answers).

Now don't get me wrong.  I am not saying anything bad about Dave as a person.

Oh no (who would ever think that??!!!); just that I am an obtuse, stubborn, intellectually dishonest person, who isn't "fair" in debate, and who can't see the "obvious" (among other complimentary descriptions).

Although Dave and I got off to a very rough start, personally, I have come to choose to believe Dave's stated self-portrait that he is honest in his apologetic dealings.   I don't impugn his secret motivations (which I can't know anyway) or (generally speaking) take undue offense at his rather strong rhetoric.  But I flatly refuse to discourse with him from the supposed standpoint of his "objectivity" and my "bias".

I appreciate the benefits of the doubt here offered (which are extremely rare, coming from Calvinists: all the more credit to Tim); however, he is still under an illusion as to my alleged double standard of an imaginary claim I have made that I am completely objective while all my opponents are hopelessly biased. I hereby challenge Tim: document this, or else I will show it to be the false charge that it is.

My discussions with Dave have stalemated time and time again because he simply refuses to play the game on the same ground as me and according to the same rules.

If this means adopting a definition which is contrary to standard usage and even Calvinist usage, then yes, I will not play by those rules, and justifiably so.

Time and time again, Dave misses points and skews issues because, whether he realizes it or not, he is seeking to win by means of rhetoric rather than argument.  He is honest, but he is honestly WRONG in both his methodology and many of his conclusions.

That's right; I never offer any arguments. I like to use rhetoric to the detriment of argument. And I pull the wings off of flies and drive through puddles fast so I can get an old lady soaking wet and muddy . . . All humor (and Tim's desperate folly) aside, I submit that I am doing far more logical arguing presently, while Tim engages in pot shots and obscurantism (and I'm just talking about this letter, not the entire corpus of Tim's work, as he wishes to suggest with regard to my work).

For instance, I firmly believe that the vast majority of Dave's polemics . . .

See what I mean about his pot shots at my entire body of work? Shame on Tim!

. . . stand or fall on his incorrect and unfair evaluation of the "private judgment" issue.

As I stated above, I have dealt with this issue at great length. Tim continues to ignore my arguments. And that is not very respectful of one's dialogical opponent, is it? I deal with all of his arguments, and I say that is a mark of at least a minimal amount of respect accorded to one's (friendly) opponent.

How does one spell evasion and lack of respect for one's opponent (or also children, for that matter):

"N  O      T    I    M     E"

This works every time. No one can argue with it, and it relieves the person of all intellectual duty to clarify his false charges or even to demonstrate them in the first place.

Alas, after extensive e-mail correspondence and the chat room discussion, I have failed to get him to acknowledge what is really and truly undeniable--that he is in precisely the same boat epistemologicaly / philosophically / theologically as every other person on this planet when it comes to the "private judgment" issue.

Typically, Tim has to put a disagreement in these highly melodramatic terms. His position is "really and truly undeniable." If I dare to disagree with his exalted opinions, it is obviously a problem of my intellect, excessive rhetoric, etc. (as there couldn't possibly be another respectable position). It can't be that he misunderstands my viewpoint from the outset. But why should it be so difficult for him to figure this out? Bruce and Pink argue just as I do! Why am I pilloried for simply taking the same position on this issue that Tim's Calvinist cronies and "heroes" do? I find this beyond weird.

Just like that mean 'ol Dr. Luther whom Dave loves to rail against, Dave, too, had a "Diet of Worms" experience wherein he looked all external authority in the face and boldly said, "Here I stand; God help me, I can do no other."  Luther's experience happened before the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1521 when he passed judgment on all of Church history through the various interpretive lenses available to him in his day. Dave's happened in the solitude of his own study in ca. 1990 when he read Cardinal Newman and passed judgment on all of Church history through the lenses that Newman provided him. There is ZERO essential difference between these two things, no matter how much Dave postures about his "objectivity" or derails the discussion by bringing in authority quotations from Luther that sound outrageous to our modern ears.

I've dealt with precisely this argument (which Tim repeats ad infinitum) at great length in our longer debates. But Tim (like his friend Bishop James White) blithely continues on making the same time-worn argument, as if he is utterly unaware that I had ever offered a counter-reply. In a true dialogue, one deals with an opponent's replies and also counter-replies. Tim is doing neither, while I am replying to his claims at great length, as I always do.

Finally, don't be fooled into thinking that the dialogues Dave presents you on his website are the final word.

Of course they aren't! LOL But insofar as they are in agreement with Catholic dogma, they are the final word for a Catholic. I submit all my opinions to the proper Catholic authorities.

Dave's website is truly impressive for its size and breadth of topics, but these things alone don't add up to "thorough devastation of all opponents and unequivocal victory for the Catholic faith".

Who said it did? But at least I grant my theological opponents the courtesy of dealing comprehensively and honestly with their objections, even though I'm sure I am quite as busy as you are (I am married and have three small boys, a regular job, and I do all this for free in my spare time).

When one considers that it takes several hours just to read through one of his enormous dialogues (let alone even begin to compose a response!) one sees that it would take vast amounts of time to create a mirror website to Dave's exposing his voluminous epistemological errors and bad arguments.  Now, Dave will no doubt mockingly reply, "Well put your money where your mouth is, Tim, and issue some replies".  But alas, it just can't be that way.

Life is tough. I have put in the time, which even Tim respects me for. All Tim has to do presently is show me how I (along with Pink and Bruce) am wrong about the definition of "private judgment." I'm sure he can find one night to do that (skip a movie or bowling night or something). And, by the way, many of my papers are shorter. Mine is one of the few websites I have seen that lists the length of all original papers.

Most of us, myself included, don't have the kind of time that Dave puts into his internet ministry.  It's obviously a labor of love for him, and I commend his zeal and dedication.

I thank Tim. I find it hard to believe he doesn't have the time to clarify the definition of one term. He'll never convince me of that.

Nevertheless, while I'd love to provide a counter-version of the discussion on my own website, complete with exhaustive rebuttals of Dave's unfair footnotes about me and my words, I simply don't have time.

It took me one night. I guess I write a lot faster than Tim does. That's not a shot at him at all, just an acknowledgement that people write at different speeds, like Mozart and Beethoven composed at greatly differing speeds. I hope he does make time for a version on his site. That would be fun to see. He can copy the dialogue from mine, and just add some notes.

At present, I'm too busy reading books about late medieval Nominalism, Luther's theology of the cross, the eastern view of papal primacy, and various works by Augustine, Cyprian, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Turretin, etc., etc.

Yet Tim made time for this letter, didn't he? I submit that a clarification of definition would not take that much longer than this did.

The discussion in #prosapologian was entertaining and diverting for one night, but I don't fancy that it either makes or breaks my case for Protestantism, so the responses I would just love to make are on the back burner indefinitely.

I'm happy to let readers decide who made the better case for themselves. I haven't made any public claim as to the outcome, but obviously I am confident enough to let people read both sides (as I habitually do on my site). It would be fun to do another live chat, but alas, I have now been excommunicated from #prosapologian by Bishop White. Maybe in another similar room, if Tim can come up with one free night.

Suffice it to say that while Dave thinks he demolished me, I think he didn't even scratch the surface.

I made no claim as to "demolishing" Tim. In any event, it is a fact that he quit abruptly, saying he was "rambling," and that he apologized to the audience (commendable in and of itself), and that he didn't go on to the back-and-forth dialogue we had planned, or questioning from the audience, preferring to let Bishop White do his arguing for him. I will say that I think he does far better at writing (which is probably true in my case as well). I enjoyed the night very much, and especially the civil tone (unfortunately not carried into Tim's present letter).

So, unfortunately, I will simply have to live with the fact that people who visit Dave's website and think it's just the greatest thing going will come away with a skewed understanding of me and my words.

Again, that's the nature of intellectual discussion and dialogue. Tim must face up to it, live with it, and get over it.  He can always respond at his leisure, and I will either paste it or provide a link.

Thanks for writing, [Name].  This is the first chance I've had to say anything much about the discussion Dave and I had.  Likely it will be the last, too, for quite some time.

Semper Reformanda,

Tim Enloe

I will post this on the page for the live chat, unless Tim thinks his words are not suitable for a public presentation (I'll wait to see how he responds). I think it is important that people see how he is approaching this matter, and his interpretation of what happened.

Your brother in Christ,



Well now I'm sorry I even responded to [Name].  I meant you no offense, but I see that you took great offense.  I suppose that I will now have to put everything else in my life on hold so I can "document" my perception of your tactics with copious citations from your own website, as well as producing my own "version" of the #pros discussion complete with my own original footnotes
and footnotes about what is wrong with your footnotes.  And all of this so that you don't feel like your integrity has been slandered in private correspondence and throw all your considerable efforts into publicly refuting such "vilification".

. . . Once again, I meant you no offense, and I tried to indicate this by making several favorable statements about you.  I never said you were "intellectually dishonest" or anything of the sort.  I said you were "stubborn", but so what?  Am I not entitled to my opinion without being subjected to a diatribe about how I am engaging in "ad hominem" and getting close to "forcing" you to take me to task publicly?  Your honor and integrity are not under attack, here, Dave.  Why do you so frequently take criticism this way?

I'm sorry you chose to take offense at my letter.  No offense was meant. Hopefully I'm not on my way back onto your "Infamous and Notorious Catholic Bashers" page......

:-)   :-)   :-)   :-)


Hi Tim,

I didn't "take offense" at all in the silly, personal, hyper-sensitive way you and Dr. White always seem to think I react. This just shows that you don't know me very well (which seems quite common in these relatively impersonal Internet exchanges). I acknowledged the compliments (and I have given you quite a few through the months, too), but nevertheless, you persist in making these sweeping indictments of my writing, which go beyond particular critiques, and are very close to ad hominem attacks, though I would agree that technically they might not be regarded as such.

That is what I objected to (especially since you levied this charge in the absence of any rational argumentation). It is not a personal thing AT ALL, but a LOGICAL and BIBLICAL thing. My passion is strictly in the realm of the ideas. It is a simple matter of differing definitions. Will you deal with that or not? How about if I paid you $20.00? Would you do it then? LOLOL Look at it as a part-time job. LOL

I think [these letters] have relevance to our live chat. Since you cut it so short and only asked me questions in two major areas (this business and development), our current correspondence is, in effect, a continuation of it. I don't make any of these dialogues personal issues. Good heavens! I wouldn't last six months as an apologist, if I took everything as personally as you and the Bishop think I do!

I have always expected much more of you. You're the best Calvinist debater I have come across so far. Now, once again: Will you please respond to my arguments (and the one paper) about the definition of "private judgment" or not? Take all the time you need . . . I don't care about that. I just want to know if you are willing to deal with it at all, rather than to continue dishing up this tripe that I am totally in the dark, applying an epistemological double standard, blah blah blah.

You make a big deal about how Catholic apologists are so unwilling to deal with various issues, and all their supposed or real blind spots. They drive you so batty you vow to leave the [Steve Ray] bulletin board time and again, out of sheer exasperation. Well, here is an instance where you are engaging in the same sort of evasion, for whatever reason. I have argued in the past that this was possibly due to your Reformed epistemology of presuppositionalism; that perhaps you can't look beyond your own premises for even a second, to better understand what someone from outside them is arguing. Just a speculation, but as good a guess as any. That was part of the paper I wrote which you say you have been responding to for months now, which you are "almost done with."

If you simply said "I'll be glad to look at your argument - it's a valid point -, but I am very busy right now," that would be fine (no one ever objects to that). But you chose to belittle my point of view instead, as if it has less than no validity at all, then you appealed to your lack of time once again. The choice is yours: you can simply deal with the issue I have raised (either soon or in due course), the issue which you have made central, both in the live chat and now, OR, you can play the game of searching through my site and all it's alleged "350K" papers, as you love saying (actually the longest paper is 291K, and that was my debate with Bishop White, which he says is no debate at all LOL), to document all my shortcomings and gross hypocrisies.

I got curious, because you are always moaning and groaning about my lengthy papers. Right now I have 492 separate pages altogether (including some 55 or so topical index web pages - not "papers" per se; so we'll say I have 437 actual papers). Here are the numbers concerning length:

40-99K: 94 papers
100K or more: 23 papers

That leaves approximately 320 papers which are less than 40K (the majority much less), or 73% of all my papers. So papers of 40K or more make up only 27% of all papers, and those of 100K or more only comprise 5%. So much for your perception of most (?) of my papers being "350K" (in fact, none are). It so happens that several of the papers exceeding 100K are dialogues with you (for various reasons; mainly because you offer a lot of arguments, and I actually take the trouble to reply to them, and you also counter-respond). You have to remember that some 40-50% of the text in those papers consists of your words, so if you subtract those, then the amount of my replies is only 50-60K. Of course this is true for all of the many dialogues I have posted. When one shows courtesy to opponents and publishes their arguments on one's own website, this takes up some space! Simple enough . . .

Have a great day (and I don't have a ferocious scowl on my face, as I get the impression you seem to think I do during these discussions; I'm calm as a cucumber and content as a sleeping cat),



I see you've already started numbering these e-mails as seems to be your practice when compiling new "dialogues".  Look, I'm not interested in giving you material for yet another "dialogue" on how misunderstood you are by Reformed apologists.  You have plenty of that stuff already on your site (actually, way too much in my opinion).  You complain about my frequent complaining about the silliness of commonplace RC apologetics, but you seem to spend just as much time defending
yourself and your "honor and integrity" against the "slanders" of Reformed apologists as I spend complaining about the obtuseness of RC apologists.  So I don't know what your beef with me is on that score.

[Tim seems to imply that I am paranoid or hypersensitive.  As always, in my writing - especially with regard to this unpleasant but altogether necessary sort - I am concerned about the ethical principles (or lack thereof) involved in such methodologies, not my own personal pique]

Anyway, further replies to you are going to be delayed yet again.  My computer crashed last night and I have not been able to get it up and running again.  I am writing this from the public library internet station.  I don't know how long my computer will be down, which means I don't know when I'll have access again to the replies I was working on to your private judgment / Sumo-wrestling posts of a few months ago.

Two nights ago I read over my in-process summary response to the private judgment one, and saw that the only thing I have still to do on that one is reply to the Pink / Bruce comments.  If I can get my computer back up soon, I'll finish that and send it along so you don't continue to accuse me of making charges without documentation . . .

Chiefly the reason it takes me so long to respond is that I try to be careful and thorough in what I write.  Also sometimes I have to stop and do research on some particular aspect of some question you've asked.  For instance, I've been uncovering lots of things in Luther's Works lately that completely demolish your slanderous portrayal of the man in many of your papers.  These things take time to dig out and type in to the computer, and then it takes even more time to figure out the best places to use the quotes in replies to you and others.

And then, of course, there is your radical misunderstanding of presuppositionalism and your mistaken belief that I am a "pure" presuppositionalist in my apologetic.  These things also take time to write about in a manner that is clear and concise enough to actually warrant being read.

Lament my slowness if you want, but at least I am trying to be thorough and fair.  Surely you can understand that . . .


I'll let Tim have the last word here, and I look forward to his long-overdue reply about "private judgment," which (it is now confirmed) will be completed in due course.

Footnotes to the Dialogue (hyper-linked to the text)

--- use the "back" browser button to return to the text after consulting a footnote ---

1. Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism Tim's position here (like that of many Calvinists) is hopelessly contradictory and incoherent, with regard to the soteriology of Arminianism and/or Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. The definition of the latter is as follows (from two highly authoritative non-Catholic sources):

     [Semi-Pelagianism], while not denying the necessity of Grace for salvation, maintained that the
     first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that Grace
     supervened only later.

     {Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross, Oxford Univ. Press, rev. 1983, p.1258}

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1985 ed., vol. 10, p.625) states:

     The result of Semi-Pelagianism, however, was the denial of the necessity of God's unmerited,
     supernatural, gracious empowering of man's will for saving action . . . From [529] . . .
     Semi-Pelagianism was recognized as a heresy in the Roman Catholic Church.

Indeed, the Catholic Church - despite constant bogus and astonishingly uninformed claims by Calvinists - has vigorously opposed Pelagianism in all forms from the time of St. Augustine. The Second Council of Orange (529 A.D.), accepted as dogma by the Catholic Church, dogmatically taught in its Canon VII:

     If anyone asserts that we can, by our natural powers, think as we ought, or choose any good
     pertaining to the salvation of eternal life . . . without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy
     Spirit . . . he is misled by a heretical spirit . . . [goes on to cite Jn 15:5, 2 Cor 3:5]

Likewise, the ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-63): Chapter V, Decree on Justification:

     . . . Man . . . is not able, by his own free-will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto
     justice in His sight.

And Canon I on Justification:

     If anyone saith that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through
     the teaching of human nature or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ;
     let him be anathema.

Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott describes the Catholic view:

     As God's grace is the presupposition and foundation of supernatural good works, by which
     man merits eternal life, so salutary works are, at the same time gifts of God and meritorious
     acts of man.

     {Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974 (orig. 1952), p.264}

St. Augustine wrote (and the Catholic Church wholeheartedly concurs):

     What merit of man is there before grace by which he can achieve grace, as only grace works
     every one of our good merits in us, and as God, when He crowns our merits, crowns nothing
     else but His own gifts?

     {Ep. 194,5,19; in Ott, p.265}

The concept of merit and its corollary reward is well-supported in Scripture: Mt 5:12, 19:17,21,29,
25:21, 25:34 ff., Lk 6:38, Rom 2:6, 1 Cor 3:8, 9:17, Col 3:24, Heb 6:10, 10:35, 11:6, 2 Tim 4:8,
Eph 6:8. Trent must be understood in this light, and nothing in it contradicts 2nd Orange, Scripture, or the doctrine of all grace as originating from God, not man. Thus, neither Trent nor Catholicism is Pelagian or semi-Pelagian.

But Tim was primarily making false claims about Protestant Arminians in our dialogue. He simply does not understand (or has never familiarized himself with) their views with regard to the initiation of salvation (though he admirably admits a measure of ignorance). Arminianism derives, classically, from the Remonstrance of 1610, a codification of the teachings of Jacob Arminius (1559-1609). Here are the 3rd and 4th articles of five (emphasis added):

     III.That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the working of his own free-will,
     inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can for himself and by himself
     think nothing that is good--nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is,
     above all else. But that it is necessary that by God, in Christ and through his Holy
     Spirit he be born again and renewed in understanding, affections and will and in
     all his faculties, that he may be able to understand, think, will, and perform what is
     truly good, according to the Word of God [John 15:5].

     IV.That this grace of God is the beginning, the progress and the end of all good; so
     that even the regenerate man can neither think, will nor effect any good, nor
     withstand any temptation to evil, without grace precedent (or prevenient),
     awakening, following and co-operating. So that all good deeds and all movements
     towards good that can be conceived in through must be ascribed to the grace of
     God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of operation, grace is not irresistible; for it is written
     of many that they resisted the Holy Spirit [Acts 7 and elsewhere passim].

Much more documentation from the many Arminian denominations could easily be produced. But two shall suffice at this point. John Wesley and the Methodists have long been a target of Calvinist suspicion and disdain. Wesley's Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (1784), considered normative for Methodists, states in its Article VIII ("Of Free Will" - virtually the same as Article X of the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles); emphasis added:

The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he can not turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.
         {in Creeds of the Churches, ed. John H. Leith, Garden City: NY: Doubleday Anchor, 1963, p.356}

Likewise, in the Lutheran Formula of Concord (1580), the distinction between Melanchthonian Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism could not have been more clearly stated (emphasis added):

We also reject the error of the Semi-Pelagians who teach that man by virtue of his own powers could make a beginning of his conversion but could not complete it without the grace of the Holy Spirit.

{Part I: Epitome, Article II: Free Will, Antitheses: Contrary False Doctrine, section 3; cf. Solid Declaration, Article II: Free Will, error #2: "coarse Pelagians"}

Error #3 presents a critique of a twisted straw man version of Tridentine Catholicism's soteriology, supposedly semi-Pelagian, which only serves to reinforce the fact that confessional Lutheranism indeed vigorously opposes semi-Pelagian doctrine.

2. Baptismal Regeneration Tim correctly answered. See links:

"Born Again" in the Fathers (ed. Joe Gallegos)
3. Luther on Baptism  No major trinitarian Protestant denomination that I am aware of sees it as a "human work" which somehow forces God's hand to give grace (perhaps this is more of Tim's unfortunate s projecting of Pelagianism onto non-Calvinist Christians). But here is what Luther said about baptism: Likewise, in his Large Catechism (1529), Luther writes: 4. Luther and the Definition of "Christian" Earlier, we had gone through the following exchange:
 <DaveA> Please define Christian.
 <TimE> any true follower of Christ, who has been born again.
 <DaveA> define born again. :-)
 <TimE> regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
So born again means regeneration, but by the Holy Spirit, not baptism (as Luther and the Fathers held). Thus, by Tim's reasoning, Luther (not to mention the Fathers) didn't even understand the key element of the very definition of born again, and hence of Christian. The Founder of Protestantism didn't really know what a Christian was? Yet - oddly - this gives Tim no pause.

5. The Fathers' Eucharistic Views Tim's assertion concerning the Fathers' eucharistic views is nothing less than a spectacular factual error. And one need not appeal to Catholic scholars to back up this contention. I shall cite only well-known Protestant historians (emphasis added):

A) Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, v.3, A.D. 311-600, rev. 5th ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rep. 1974, orig, 1910, pp.492, 500, 507:

Note: Schaff had just for two pages (pp.498-500) shown how St. Augustine spoke of symbolism in the Eucharist as well, but he honestly admits that the great Father accepted the Real Presence "at the same time." This is precisely what I would argue. Catholics have a reasonable explanation for the "symbolic" utterances, which are synthesizable with the Real Presence, but Protestants, who maintain that Augustine was a Calvinist or Zwingian in his Eucharistic views must ignore the numerous references to an explicit Real Presence in Augustine, and of course this is objectionable scholarship. B) F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford Univ. Press, 2nd ed., 1983, pp.475-476, 1221: C) Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971, pp.166-167: D) J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco:Harper & Row,1978, p. 447, provides this statement on the heels of Augustine's Ennar 98: See my papers:
History of the Doctrine of the Eucharist: Nine Protestant Scholarly Sources
St. Augustine's Belief in the Real Presence
6. The Criteria for Heresy A highly curious remark. How can a Christian body understand what is orthodox (correct doctrine), if it has no criteria for what is heretical? It seems that one would logically follow from the other, based on the law of contradiction, if nothing else.

7. Are Sacraments "Primary" and Indispensable Doctrines? If sacramentology is not a central doctrine, and not absolutely required in Protestantism, then what of Jesus' statement, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life . . . (John 6: 53-54; RSV)? The Eucharist is a sacrament (in most Christian communions), but if groups are at liberty to differentially define it (some opting for pure symbolism; some - e.g., the Quakers and Salvation Army - ditching it altogether), is that not very possibly endangering souls, based on Jesus' own stern words, which seem clearly to indicate that partaking of the Eucharist is closely tied to spiritual and eternal life, and thus, to salvation itself? Tim is even willing to some extent to (in effect) "relativize" soteriology: the doctrine of salvation. Sure, one can be saved without getting every detail of doctrine right, but is it not supremely important (and "central") that each Christian know the proper Christian teaching as to how one is saved?

8. Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture What Tim's conclusion amounts to is a denial that there is any conceivable falsification for the notion of perspicuity (the clearness of Scripture), for if Protestant denominational chaos and inability or unwillingness to come to unanimous consensus on virtually every doctrine is no disproof, what is? That being the case, it looks as if this is one of the many Protestant axioms, held without rational proof, either from the Bible, or in terms of the concrete reality of doctrinal agreement (in other words, if something were true, we would expect it to demonstrate some significant verifying consequences in the real world). For a basic critique of the fallacies of perspicuity, see:

The "Perspicuity" (Clearness) of Scripture
Dialogue: John Calvin's Letter to Philip Melanchthon Concerning Protestant Divisions: Its Nature, Intent, and Larger Implications
9. The Visible and Infallible Church Good for Tim. :-) Oftentimes, Protestants will rule out the possibility of a visible Church (let alone an infallible one) without even beginning a scriptural and/or historical examination to investigate which current Christian body might qualify as such a Church. Catholics maintain that an honest, open-minded undertaking of this sort will strongly support the Catholic Church as the One True Church established as an institution by Jesus Christ, and thus preserved from doctrinal error, on that same (supernatural, divine) basis.

10. Christian Epistemology Indeed I have, but Tim seemed blissfully unaware of that fact, based on the fact that he continues to rehash the same old questions.

11. Patristic Authority and Christian Orthodoxy  For further thoughts on the issues of the determination of orthodoxy and the authority of the Fathers, see:

Insurmountable Practical Problems of Sola Scriptura (and the Plausibility of the Catholic Church as an Alternative Rule of Faith)
Dialogue: Rome = Theological Orthodoxy
A Primer on the Church Fathers (Joe Gallegos)
Catholic Encyclopedia: FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
12. Private Judgment Again, Tim (surprisingly) demonstrates virtually no awareness of my previous painstaking replies to him on the topic of private judgment: what it is, and what its consequences are, despite my considerable efforts in several papers (one hopes that one's opponent at least understands one's viewpoint, and thus interacts in a fashion commensurate with such prior understanding - and I have always regarded Tim as a very sharp, perceptive guy). I explained in detail my position on this (the standard one among Christian scholars) in our dialogue cited in Footnote #10, then I greatly expanded upon it in the following exchange, bringing in corroborating evidence from prominent Calvinists:
Dialogue: Catholic vs. Protestant Conceptions of the Meaning and Consequences of Private Judgment (Including Lengthy Citations From Reformed Protestants Arthur W. Pink and Archibald Bruce) (Dave Armstrong vs. Tim Enloe)
But Tim continues to use the term as if it meant simply "an exercise of choice on the part of the individual - regardless of ecclesiology or view of Christian authority" (in a word, simply "thinking," or "rational examination," so that Catholics - and any thinking person - would obviously exercise it also). But it does not mean that, in standard theological usage. Renowned Calvinist Arthur W. Pink (Reformed Baptist: 1886-1952), in his chapter 11, entitled "Private Judgment," from his book Practical Christianity (Part III: "Authority in the Christian Practice"), defines it precisely in agreement with how I have been using it, as (emphases added, and with my commentary in brackets). For him, it is clearly a corollary of sola Scriptura and perspicuity of Scripture (both notions which Catholics deny, by definition):
. . . But we must now turn to that part of our subject which more especially concerns the child of God and his spiritual interests. There are three basic truths which the battle of the Reformation recovered for Christendom: the sufficiency and supremacy of the Scriptures, the right of private judgment, and justification by faith without the deeds of the law . . .
[if it is claimed that Protestantism "recovered" private judgment, then obviously - i.e., in this mentality - Catholicism had ditched it, so that it wouldn't apply to all Catholics, as Tim argues]
. . . Having shown the very real need there is for each person to form his own judgment of what God’s Word teaches, we now turn to consider his God-given right to do so. This is plainly signified or clearly implied in many passages . . .
[the classic Protestant teaching of sola Scriptura and its root assumption of perspicuity, or clearness of Scripture for all and sundry to interpret - obviously an anti-traditional and anti-ecclesiological principle and one denied by the Catholic Church, as well as the Bible itself, which teaches apostolic succession, an authoritative episcopacy and papacy, and the existence of an ongoing apostolic Tradition binding upon all Christians]
. . .  every Christian has the God-given right to think for himself, to form his own opinion of what Scripture teaches, and to decide what he considers is most pleasing and honoring unto God.

. . . Now this right of private judgment, and the duty of each person to determine for himself what God’s Word teaches, is categorically denied by Rome, which avers that "ignorance is the mother of devotion," and that the highest form of service is that of "blind obedience" . . .

[based on the unstated assumption that binding ecclesiastical authority must be arbitrary, autocratic, and rationally blind. Assertions such as these, which seek to cast aspersions on such a huge institution as the Catholic Church and its members, are exceedingly difficult to prove. They are highly subjective and prejudiced by their very nature, and thus carry little weight, except in the eyes of virulent anti-Catholics, for which the Catholic Church can do no right]
 . . . In those countries ruled by the emissaries of the Vatican, God’s Word has ever been, and still is, withheld from the people, and they are forbidden to read or hear it read under pain of the Pope’s anathema. All known copies of it are seized and committed to the flames . . .
[sheer falsehood and nonsense: a bigoted and woefully ignorant statement. Even the preface of the King James Bible referred to the centuries-old practice of the Bible being translated into English or its forerunner Saxon - obviously reaching back to Catholic England. Has Pink never heard of Bible translator King Alfred the Great (849-899), for heaven's sake? See my paper: Catholic Reverence for the Bible]
. . . we are not to be the serfs of any ecclesiastical tyranny. "Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Matt. 23:8, 9). Those words contain very much more than a prohibition against according ecclesiastical titles unto men; yea, it is exceedingly doubtful whether such a concept is contained therein; rather is Christ forbidding us to be in spiritual bondage to anyone . . . Be regulated only by the teaching of God’s Word . . .
[anti-ecclesiastical and anti-authoritarian garbage which Tim would also decry and disavow, I believe. Pink is here getting into areas radically and demonstrably unbiblical; but this shows again that an important premise lying behind the use of the term private judgment is a pronounced animus against Church authority and Tradition; now rampant within larger Protestantism - Calvinists do somewhat better in this regard, at least relative to other Protestants]

{available on the Internet at: http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Practical/prac_11.htm }

Essentially, then, to summarize: Tim's entire 45-minute questioning of me was devoted to this single issue of what private judgment means, and how supposedly Catholics hypocritically engage in the same methodology and epistemology as Protestants, in seeking Christian truth (a topic itself already dealt with by both of us in several long dialogues - obviously to no avail). But since he was utilizing a false definition and premise from the outset, his entire questioning - in my opinion - was one giant fallacy and failure.

13. Early Patristic "Extra-Biblical" Citations Without too much trouble, I managed to find what I believe to be an earlier reference, in this instance, to what the writer describes as "Scripture" (I assume he would hold that the Bible was "passed down from the Apostles" and that Dr. White would grant the point). The writer is St. Clement of Rome, in his Letter to the Corinthians (aka First Clement), dated 95-96 A.D. In 23:3, he writes:

Let this Scripture be far from us where he says . . . .
Then he proceeds to cite a passage which is not in present-day Scripture (it is also cited in 2 Clement 11:2-4 - not considered to have been written by St. Clement, but perhaps the oldest Christian sermon extant: c.100 A.D. -, where it is described as "the prophetic word"). The famous Protestant scholar J.B. Lightfoot speculated that it was from the lost book of Eldad and Modat mentioned by Hermas (Vis. 2.3.4). Now how is it that a prominent Church Father in the first century can be so ignorant as to the contents of "Scripture," when Dr. White and Protestants must believe Scripture to be apostolic in order for it to be inspired and the rule of faith, over against both Tradition and Church?

But Dr. White's argument suffers from an additional fallacy, viz., what shall we consider to be "scriptural" or conversely, "extra-biblical" in the first place? How do we ultimately determine that? This inevitably becomes at least partially a subjective affair. In addition to not properly knowing what Scripture is, St. Clement also urges his readers to conform to the glorious and holy rule of our tradition (7:2). Dr. White, of course, rejects any "tradition" as a rule of faith; Scripture Alone is the rule of faith, according to Protestants. So St. Clement, by White's criterion, is referring to an "extra-biblical" notion. In point of fact, however, Sacred Tradition (even oral Tradition) is indeed an altogether biblical and Pauline concept (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6, 2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2, 2 Pet 2:21, Jude 3).

Furthermore, moving on about a dozen years later to the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch, dated c.105-110 A.D., we find a host of doctrines which Dr. White would consider "extra-biblical." Again, it is a matter of definition as to what is biblical, and what should be considered "orthodox" in Christianity. In our extensive 1995 debate by US Mail, Dr. White wrote:

Well, I submit that my Catholic views are far closer to those of Ignatius than are Dr. White's Baptist views. If allegedly "extra-biblical" views are so prevalent among the earliest Church Fathers, what becomes of Protestantism's vaunted, mythical "early (quasi-Protestant and 'biblical') Church"? So let us briefly examine a few of the "extra-biblical" teachings of St. Ignatius (emphasis added, with my comments in brackets):


[Dr. White can't even agree with Tim Enloe about infant baptism or the proper form of Church government, or with Protestant Founder Martin Luther, concerning baptismal regeneration and the Real Presence in the Eucharist and the Immaculate Conception of Mary, or with John Calvin concerning the legitimately Christian and covenantal status of baptized Catholics, let alone attaining "perfect unity" and abolishing sinful denominational divisions. Quite unbiblical, or "extra-biblical". . . ]


[Dr. White, being a Baptist, of course doesn't believe in bishops, which is strange, seeing that it is an explicit biblical office. He can hardly call this an "extra-biblical" idea. Why, then, does his affiliation expunge it? Perhaps, then, we should invent the term "sub-biblical" or "anti-biblical" to describe the myriad subtractions and omissions of various Protestant Christianities?]

Dr. White later strongly objected to the paragraph above, as an inaccurate statement, in his mind proving that I knew "nothing" about either "biblical" or Baptist ecclesiology (he is not renowned for understatement). I, of course, offered a counter-response. The further "dialogue" between us on this point was recorded in the paper:

Bishops in the New Testament and the Early Church (Do Baptists Believe in Bishops?) (Dave Armstrong vs. His Eminence, the Rt. Rev. Bishop [Dr.] James White) 47K
Real Presence
[Dr. White denies the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. How could St. Ignatius become so "extra-biblical" in such a short space of time from the Apostles?]

Vicarious Atonement (A Species of Penance)

[Dr. White would consider these beliefs outrageously "extra-biblical." So here is yet another instance of such teaching occurring very early on. Were there no "evangelical Christians" to be found at such an early date?!!]

14. Development of the Doctrine of Mary's Assumption This is a false analogy, because by Dr. White's criteria of "orthodoxy," "tradition" could not possibly have been first corrupted by St. Irenaeus. But be that as it may, I have dealt with the question of the slowly-developing tradition of Mary's Assumption elsewhere. White's rapid-fire questioning and constant switching of topics and subtle changing even of terms within topics hardly allowed me to deal adequately with such a complex subject, so I refer readers to my papers (including a previous exchange with Dr. White, from 1996):

Dialogue on Whether the Assumption and Immaculate Conception of Mary are Legitimately Part of Apostolic Tradition (Dave Armstrong vs. Dr. James White)
Dialogue on Mary (esp. the Assumption & Development)
15. Eastern Heresy / Roman Orthodoxy See my paper: A Response to Orthodox Critiques of Catholic Apostolicity.

16. The Fathers on Mary's Sinlessness Sure enough, The Flesh of Christ (dated 208-212 A.D.) is from Tertullian's semi-Montanist period. Protestants often fail to note the different theological periods with regard to citing Tertullian. Many will conveniently ignore this if a Tertullian quote suits their purpose (or else some are ignorant of the dating and/or of his later heresy altogether). Whichever the case with Dr. White, he failed to answer my question during the dialogue, thus illustrating another reason why these clarifying notes are important and useful. What I suspected turned out to be true. Whether Dr. White knew this beforehand or not, we don't know, as he didn't say.

As for Hilary of Poitier's views concerning the Blessed Virgin, in the book Mary and the Fathers of the Church, by Luigi Gambero (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999, p. 186) the author (a priest with background in philosophy and also author of a 4-volume work on Marian thought) wrote:

Hilary always considered it normal for Mary to have had some small imperfections . . . Our author does not mention any specific defect or imperfection in Mary's conduct but seems to hold that some such flaw exists, if even Mary must face the judgment of God. However, this is an isolated observation [Tractatus super Psalmum 118,12; PL 9,523], to which Hilary does not return.
So Dr. White offers one western father (who held a quite "mild" opinion on the subject - not exactly a spectacular, bold dissent), and another in his heretical period, plus four eastern fathers (which I was already generally aware of - one always finds exceptions to the rule). This is what he considers a "patristic consensus." I consider that a pathetic argument. Ludwig Ott states that the western patristic consensus was "unanimous." Thus, Dr. White is trapped by the facts of history, not any rhetorical brilliance on my part. To view the opinions of the fathers concerning the sinlessness of Mary, see:
On the Immaculate Conception (ed. Joe Gallegos)
Newman on Mary as the New Eve (part I)
As for Church Fathers who refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Eve (Eve was originally sinless or immaculate), Second Eve, sinless, spotless, pure, without stain, immaculate, the Ark of the Covenant, or (negatively) who never attributed any actual sin to her, we find the following:

Hippolytus, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory Nyssa, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Athanasius, Jerome, Eusebius, Ephraim, Ambrose, Augustine, Proclus, Theodotus, Peter Chrysologus, Andrew of Crete, Fulgentius, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Germanus, John Damascene.

That makes at least 22 fathers in the affirmative, compared to 5 who attributed sin to Mary (not counting the Montanist heretic Tertullian). By this broad reckoning, that is about 81% of the fathers (and these are only the major ones), which is more than enough to achieve a "consensus," as even the phrase "unanimous consent of the fathers" never literally meant all of them, as Catholic apologist Steve Ray explains in his paper: Unanimous Consent of the Fathers.

17. Development of the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception Nor would we expect to, according to the normal course of doctrinal development. See my paper: Dialogue on the Immaculate Conception.

18. Development of Doctrine in General As is, unfortunately, so often the case with Protestants, Dr. White betrays a great lack of understanding of development of doctrine. The topic is too complex to fully delve into here, so I will refer those interested in learning more about this crucial aspect of the history of Christian doctrine to several of my papers and other links on the subject:

Overview of Development of Doctrine (Transcript of a Television Interview)
How Newman Convinced Me of the Apostolicity of the Catholic Church
Refutation of William Webster's Fundamental Misunderstanding of Development of
Doctrine (with particular reference to the papacy, Vatican I, Pope Leo XIII, St. Vincent of Lerins, and Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman)
The Development of Doctrine: Apologetic Index Page
In my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, I wrote:
Doctrines agreed upon by all develop, too. The doctrine of the Godhood, or Divinity of Jesus Christ was not formally defined until the Council of Nicaea in 325, and the Divinity of the Holy Spirit was proclaimed at the Council of Constantinople in 381. The dogma of the Two Natures of Christ (God and Man) was made official at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. We've already seen how the Canon of the New Testament was also very much a "developing doctrine" itself, finalized only in 397. Original Sin was a slowly developed belief. Many other examples could be brought forth.
And I cited the great Protestant apologist C.S. Lewis:
Change is not progress unless the core remains unchanged. A small oak grows into a big oak; if it became a beech, that would not be growth, but mere change . . . There is a great difference between counting apples and arriving at the mathematical formulae of modern physics. But the multiplication table is used in both and does not grow out of date. In other words, whenever there is real progress in knowledge, there is some knowledge that is not superseded. Indeed, the very possibility of progress demands that there should be an unchanging element . . . I claim that the positive historical statements made by Christianity have the power, elsewhere found chiefly in formal principles, of receiving, without intrinsic change, the increasing complexity of meaning which increasing knowledge puts into them . . . Like mathematics, religion can grow from within, or decay . . . But, like mathematics, it remains simply itself, capable of being applied to any new theory.

{From:, God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970, pp.44-47. Originally from "Dogma and the Universe," The Guardian, March 19, 1943, p.96 / March 26, 1943, pp.104,107}

Furthermore, the "kernels" or essential elements of all the Catholic Marian beliefs can be found in Holy Scripture, to a much greater extent than most Protestants would ever imagine, and often fairly explicitly. If this is indeed the case, then these beliefs are all quite apostolic and early: all deriving from the first century A.D. or earlier. See my papers:
The Imitation of Mary
"All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?)
Catholic Marian Doctrines: A Brief Biblical Primer
A Biblical and Theological Primer on Mary as Co-Redemptrix
And to see how "Catholic" a Protestant can get, with regard to Mariological views, see: Martin Luther's Devotion to Mary.

19. Lack of Patristic Consensus on the NT Canon This is precisely the point. Dr. White thinks he has found a "patristic consensus" when a mere five Church Fathers claim that Mary sinned. That supposedly shoots down Catholic Mariology in one fell swoop. Yet when I point out that no father from 0-300 A.D. accepted all 27 books of the New Testament and no others, as inspired and part of the Bible (Bible Alone being a crucial pillar of Protestantism - one cannot have the Bible without knowing which books belong to it), he offers no reply - and for very good reason, as there is none. The canon of the New Testament is necessarily dependent on Church Authority. Even the well-respected Calvinist R.C. Sproul admits that Protestants possess a "fallible collection of infallible books." The analogy is an exact parallel, and devastating: if five fathers disprove Catholic Mariology, then not a single father getting the NT right for 300 years refutes sola Scriptura. So Dr. White must either drop his fallacious argument, or his acceptance of sola Scriptura, and with it, his Protestantism, which rests upon that formal principle. Silence was a wise course in the midst of such a serious dilemma.

That being the case (and I think he knew it full well), he asked, rather, whether I included Athanasius in this period (the "first three centuries," as I stated). Well, no, since he lived from 296-373. He first listed our present 27 New Testament books as such in 367 A.D. (which is more than 300 years beyond even the death of our Lord Jesus). Disputes still persisted concerning several books after that, almost right up until 397, when the Canon was authoritatively closed at the Council of Carthage, so that the present-day "perspicuous" NT canon took longer to finalize than trinitarianism and the divinity of the Holy Spirit! But I guess a "consensus of one" in the year 367 is good enough for Dr. White, provided that it is harmonious with his own largely 16th-century-derived Baptist version of Christianity. This is all doctrinal development, pure and simple. But Protestants - for some odd reason - so often wish to ignore it when it touches upon their own peculiar doctrines.

How is it that Dr. White is so concerned about five fathers attributing fairly minor and very rare sin to the Blessed Virgin Mary, while in the "late" period from 250-325, the "perspicuous" biblical books of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation were still being widely disputed in the Church Universal? Is that state of affairs not far more fatal to Protestant claims concerning Scripture Alone, than minor dissent on Mary is to the Catholic position? For further information on the crucial canon issue, see my paper: The New Testament Canon (based largely upon the historical research of Protestant apologist Norman Geisler).

20. Fathers' Unanimity on Baptismal Regeneration Dr. White cleverly avoided the issue I was raising, in terms of the live chat, but he can't escape the logic of it, for the fathers taught baptismal regeneration with virtually literal unanimity. Yet White, of course, rejects both infant baptism (over against Calvin and the great majority of all Christians of all times) and baptismal regeneration (over against Luther and Wesley and Anglicanism, as well as Orthodoxy and Catholicism). It doesn't seem to trouble him that no one in the whole patristic period could "get it right," just as we saw was the case concerning the canon of the NT and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. On the other hand, his non-answer perhaps suggests that he is troubled - down deep - by all these "little" historical anomalies in his position, which I am discourteous and rash enough to point out. Otherwise, he would confront the arguments of Catholic apologists head on, rather than ignoring them, as is his usual course of action, shown again in this dialogue.

21. The Unanswered Challenge I wish he would have. That might have been very interesting. But soon, there were some technical problems with the Undernet; Dr. White departed and never returned, even though I hung around for perhaps an hour or more after our exchange ended. But I'm thankful for the time I was able to spend with him in dialogue. I think his answers and non-answers strengthened the Catholic case considerably. :-) A few days later, Dr. White refused to debate me in any format, about anything  (even though I offered to let him question me all night long, if I could question him for 90 minutes), and stated that he wanted nothing to do with me anymore (see Note #13 above - section on "Bishops"). So we'll never know what his larger case might have been.

22. Written vs. "Oral"/"Live" Dialogue Indeed, I've spent a good many more hours than three preparing these notes, and I think they are all quite relevant to the questions dealt with in the dialogue. My point, then and now, is that the written and "oral" (or "live") dialogue formats are vastly different. Dr. White seemed to require me to give rapid answers to his lightning-quick and ever-changing technical questions concerning particular patristic beliefs. That was not possible (I wouldn't be able to type fast enough even if I had all the answers in my head), but I believe I managed to "de-fang" him by the use of analogy, which has been fleshed out to full effect in these notes.

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Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 9 January 2001 (minor additions: 16 January 2001; post-debate correspondence added on 25 January 2001), from the live chat of 29 December 2000.