Is Catholicism Christian?: My DebateWith Dr. James White

Dave Armstrong vs. Dr. James White

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Dr. James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries and a visible and active opponent of the Catholic Church (perhaps the most influential and cleverest such opponent at present, though not invincible by any means). He is the author of several books against Catholic teaching, including The Fatal Flaw (1990) and The Roman Catholic Controversy (1996). He also does some good and useful work, such as countering silly claims that the King James Version of the Bible is the only valid one, and refuting various heretical cults such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. But like so many in his broad denominational outlook (he is a Reformed Baptist), he classifies the Catholic Church as a sub-Christian, essentially deceptive organization.

The following debate (scanned and uploaded with express permission from Dr. White - e-mail letter of 2 February 2000) came about in 1995 when I wrote a ("snail-mail") form letter to several counter-cult researchers, including White. He responded and I replied twice. My final installment - a densely-argued tome of 36 single-spaced pages - was left completely unanswered, and remains so to this day.  My challenge to Dr. White to refute my reasoning there and elsewhere remains intact, and I would be absolutely delighted if he changes his mind as to my "unworthiness" to receive any reply from him. I would gladly post any such exchange.

This dialogue is one of the most in-depth and intense debates I have ever engaged in. Dr. White's words throughout shall be in dark blue. The letters (as of 23 January 2002) have been edited to remove personal, off-subject, insulting, inflammatory, ad hominem-type remarks (and responses to same), on both sides. I confess to my part in this, and would answer differently in many places today. In fact, I later apologized to Dr. White on more than one occasion for uncharitable comments on my part. My desire is to better preserve and present the substantive issues herein (and there are many) without offensive and unnecessary "fluff." All such deletions will be indicated by either (. . . ) --brief, or ( [ . . . ] ) -- lengthy edits. I have the complete paper copies of the exchange in my possession, and every word which does remain is unchanged from the original correspondence. I have added some relevant and convenient links. Various Catholic responses to Dr. James White's materials can be found on my Anti-Catholicism page.

TABLE OF CONTENTS (Hyper-linked)

(with original lengths: all single-spaced pages)

23 March 1995

James White

Alpha & Omega Ministries

Dear Mr. White,

I am a cult researcher (#248 in 1993 Directory of Cult Research Organizations, Tolbert & Pement) and Christian apologist, who converted to Catholicism in 1990 after ten years of committed evangelicalism (including five as a campus missionary). I am disturbed by the tendency among cult researchers and other leaders in Protestantism to regard the Catholic Church as "apostate" and/or non-Christian, since it supposedly denies the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not worthy of men of your stature and theological training, and is also uncharitable, since it is slanderous and schismatic.

I'd be interested in dialoguing with you or anyone you might know (with perhaps more time on their hands) who would be willing to do so, about this matter and any or all of the theological issues which sadly divide us (enclosed is a list of my tracts and a few samples). I have been published in The Catholic Answer and This Rock, two of the leading Catholic apologetic journals, and will soon have a book out, The Credibility of Catholicism (possibly published by Ignatius Press) [it was published as A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, in October 2001], which is a defense of Catholicism from Scripture, the early Church, and reason, as well as a very extensive critique and examination of the so-called "Reformation" (I prefer the objective term "Revolt").

Catholicism is not only Christian - it is far superior to Protestantism on biblical, historical, and rational grounds. Secondly, I would say that a position maintaining that Protestantism is Christian while Catholicism is not, is self-defeating, incoherent, and intellectually dishonest, if thought through properly (which is rarely the case). I never had this outlook as a Protestant for these very reasons.

Among the many insuperable difficulties of anti-Catholicism:

1) The Canon of the Bible was determined by the Catholic Church. Thus, "sola Scriptura" necessarily requires a Tradition and Catholic (conciliar and papal) Authority. Not to mention the preservation of Bible manuscripts by monks.

2) At what moment did Catholicism become apostate? At John's death? In 313? With Gregory the Great and the ascendancy of papal power? In the "Dark Ages" of c.800-1100? With the Inquisition or Crusades? Or at the Council of Trent? And how can anyone know for sure when?

3) 23,000 denominations and the scandalous organizational anarchy, schism, and theological relativism inherent therein virtually disproves Protestantism in and of itself.

4) Protestantism has only been around for 477 years!

5) If the Inquisition disproves Catholicism, then the Witch Hunts and killings of Anabaptists, the suppression of the Peasants' Revolt, and early Protestantism's horrendous record of intolerance (at least as bad as Catholicism's by any criterion) disproves Protestantism as well.

6) Protestantism inconsistently and dishonestly appeals to indisputably Catholic Church Fathers such as St. Auqustine (above all) St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus, St. Justin Martyr (also, later Catholics such as St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas a Kempis).

7) Likewise, it inconsistently appeals to Church Councils which it likes (generally the first four) and ignores the rest, on questionable theological and ecclesiological grounds. Development of doctrine is accepted to an extent, and then incoherently rejected. This is largely what made me a Catholic, after reading Newman's Development of Doctrine.

8) Funny how an "apostate" Church has uniquely preserved traditional Christian morality such as the indissolubility of marriage, gender roles, the prohibition of contraception, euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, etc., while Protestantism is compromising these with frightening rapidity.

"Sola fide" is not the gospel. If so, then there wasn't a gospel to speak of for 1500-odd years, since "sola fide" was a radically novel and unbiblical interpretation of justification and sanctification. The God I serve is greater than that - His hands weren't tied until Dr. Luther figured everything out! Related to this is the slanderous assertion that Catholics are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian and believe in salvation by works. Nothing could be further from the truth. We merely refuse to separate works from faith in a dichotomous relationship as Luther did (which is why he wanted to throw out James - so clear was its Catholic teaching). Catholicism condemned Pelagianism at the 2nd Council of Orange in 529 A.D., almost 1000 years before Luther. The very first Canon on Justification in the Council of Trent states:

This would seem to be sufficient to put the matter to rest. But blind prejudice and anti-Catholicism stubbornly persist.

Many other biblical proofs for Catholicism are in my apologetic works, if you're interested. Thanks for your time.

Sincerely, your brother and co-laborer in Christ,

Dave Armstrong

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April 6, 1995

Dave Armstrong

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I am in receipt of your letter of March 23rd, which, it seems, was sent to a number of ministries listed in the Directory of Cult Research Organizations. I quote what seems to be the thesis statement of your letter:

I am enclosing two books I have written on this subject. The thesis of the first, The Fatal Flaw, is seemingly, from your perspective, "uncharitable" and "slanderous and schismatic." However, I stand by the thesis, and insist that truth is only uncharitable, slanderous and schismatic to those who have embraced a belief that is not in accordance with God's revelation. I'm sure the teachers in Galatia felt Paul was being most uncharitable in writing Galatians, but that did not stop him from doing so.

Personally, Dave, I find the Roman church's anathemas, contained in the dogmatic canons and decrees of the Council of Trent, as well as those of Vatican I, to be most uncharitable. What is worse, since they are in direct opposition to the truth, I find them to be most reprehensible as well, and much more accurately entitled "schismatic," since that term can only be meaningfully used with reference to a departure from the truth.

Before you dismiss my response as merely the ruminations of a fundamentalist "anti-Catholic," let me point out that I have studied the Roman position quite thoroughly. Indeed, I have engaged in seventeen public debates against Roman apologists such as Dr. Mitchell Pacwa, Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Gerry Matatics, and a friend of yours, Patrick Madrid (my copy of Surprised by Truth is even autographed!). I will be debating Robert Sungenis and Scott Butler at Boston College in a matter of weeks. I know the arguments of Catholic Answers quite well, I assure you.

Your story in Surprised by Truth is almost predictable, Dave, no offense intended. Your rejection of Roman theology was not based upon a knowledge of why, and hence was ripe for refutation. You admit you rejected the tenets of the Reformation when you say, "I had always rejected Luther's notions of absolute predestination and the total depravity of mankind." And your involvement in Operation Rescue simply gave you the opportunity of seeing that Roman Catholics can be real nice folks who really believe in the teachings of the Church in Rome. And the feeling of "brotherhood" created by standing against a common evil, joined with the simple fact that you were not truly a Protestant to begin with, is reason enough to explain your swimming the Tiber.

You wrote in your letter,

I'm sure you believe that the Roman position is superior on biblical grounds, but, of course, how could you believe otherwise? Rome claims final authority on biblical interpretation to begin with, so surely once you have accepted the claims made by Rome to ultimate religious authority, how could you believe anything other? Yet, I have to wonder about claiming biblical superiority when, in point of fact, entire dogmas, like the Immaculate Conception, Bodily Assumption of Mary, and Papal Infallibility lie, quite obviously, outside the realm of the Scriptures. Oh yes, I know all the arguments -- see my refutation of Patrick's attempt to come up with a biblical basis for the Immaculate Conception in our journal, Pros Apologian (I am enclosing a copy for you), and my debates with Dr. Fastiggi on Papal Infallibility and the Marian doctrines. What really strikes me as being "not worthy" of someone such as yourself, Dave, is stating that a system that could produce a document like Indulgentiarum Doctrina is in fact "biblically superior" to a system that could produce something like Hodge's Commentary on Romans or Edwards' sermons on the sovereignty of God.

As to being superior on "historical" grounds, I again have to beg to differ. I well know how easily Roman apologists cite patristic sources as if the early Fathers would have been subscribers to This Rock. However, I have found a woefully consistent practice of "anachronistic interpretation" in Roman apologetic works. I have found that normally the Roman apologist will find a phrase, say, having to do with Peter, and will read into that phrase the fully developed Roman concepts that, quite honestly, did not even exist at the time of the writing of that particular Father. What is worse, many such apologists are dependent almost completely upon what I call "quote books." For example, when I debated Gerry Matatics for more than three hours on the patristic evidence regarding the Papacy in Denver during the Papal visit, he did not have any original source materials with him. Instead, he was utilizing compilations, such as Jurgens. This often led him to grave errors. Indeed, one time he stood before the audience counting index entries in Jurgens and telling the audience that such-and-such number of early Fathers supported his position, and that on the basis of index entries in Jurgens! An amazing sight to behold, I assure you. Be that as it may, I believe it would be relatively easy to dispute such a broad statement as the one you made in your letter.

As to the use of the broad term "Christian" with reference to Roman Catholicism, such a term, due to its ambiguity in this situation, is less than useful. Faithful in preaching the apostolic message of the gospel? Certainly not, and that is the issue, Dave. If you feel a communion that replaces the grace of God with sacraments, mediators, and merit, can be properly called "Christian," then please go ahead and use the phrase. But please understand that if a person shares the perspective of the epistle to the churches of Galatia they will have to hold to a different understanding, and hence may not be as quick to use the term "Christian" of such a system.

You then listed a number of what you called "insuperable difficulties of anti-Catholicism." I would like to briefly comment on each one.

That is a common argument, but it is a sadly misinformed argument, Dave. The canon of the NT may have been recognized by the Christian Church (note I specifically limited that statement 1) to the NT, as the OT canon long pre-existed the Christian church, and 2) to the passive voice, "recognized" not "determined" as you used it), but that is a long stretch from the point you and your compatriots not only would like to make, but must make to establish your position. First, the canon of the NT pre-existed either Hippo or Carthage, see Athanasius' 39th Festal Letter for just one example. Secondly, your entire argument falls apart when we ask if your theory holds true for the Old Testament. If the OT did not require conciliar and papal authority, why would the NT? And what is more, please note how easily, and yet without any basis, you insert the capitalized form of Tradition into your argument. Are you saying the canon is an apostolic tradition? If so, which apostle gave the canon? If not, are you not admitting that it was derived at a later time? Roman apologists take all sorts of different positions on these topics, especially when it comes to the nature and extent of tradition. In light of your third point I think you might seek to do some "house-cleaning" before condemning Protestants for their variety of opinions. Oh, one other item: the Catholic Church of the fourth century was a far cry from the Roman Catholic Church of the 20th, wouldn't you agree? I mean, you constantly mentioned Newman's theories in your Surprised by Truth article, and it would seem to me that anyone who recognizes the necessity of embracing Newman's hypothesis recognizes the vast differences between primitive and modern beliefs on many important subjects.

What's even more important, why does it matter? It was obviously a process, just as the papacy developed, changed, and grew over time. Do we know for sure when the Pharisees became corrupt? Do we need to know? Of course not.

Does the theological relativism in modern Roman Catholicism disprove it on the same grounds, Dave? Does the fact that you can get about as many opinions from Roman priests as you can get from Protestant ministers mean something to you? As you well know, the Watchtower Society makes a similar claim. Why is their claim invalid and yet yours is not?

And modern Romanism, replete with such theological novums as Papal Infallibility and the Bodily Assumption of Mary, has been around for less time than that, Dave. It really doesn't seem like your arguments are very consistent, does it?

In your fifth point you mention the Inquisition "disproving" Catholicism. The problem with your point is this, Dave: we Protestants don't claim infallibility. Rome does. There is a big difference. Please note the following comparison:

Not only do we see the obvious conflict between these two ecumenical" councils, but we see that the IVth Lateran Council specifically taught that those who would take up the cross in the effort to exterminate heretics would enjoy the same indulgence as those who went to the Holy Land. Now, Dave, surely you can see the vast difference between the silliness of, say, a "Protestant" like Benny Hinn teaching his ideas as facts, and an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church teaching that indulgences would be given to those who took up the cause of exterminating the heretics (i.e., simple Christian folks who were slaughtered at the behest of the Roman hierarchy). What is more, is not the granting of indulgences based upon the exercise of the keys? Does this not then touch upon the very faith of the Roman church? I believe it does.

Your sixth point was little more than a statement that you feel Protestants "inconsistently and dishonestly appeal" to various of the early Fathers. Well, I feel that Roman Catholics "inconsistently and dishonestly appeal" to the very same Fathers. So? What do you do with citations such as the following?

Regarding the Papacy itself, and Matthew 16:18, Oscar Cullmann said: "He who proceeds without prejudice, on the basis of exegesis and only on this basis, cannot seriously conclude that Jesus here had in mind successors of Peter. . . . On exegetical grounds we must say that the passage does not contain a single word concerning successors of Peter . . . The intent of Jesus leaves us no possibility of understanding Matthew 16:17ff. in the sense of a succession determined by an episcopal see." (Peter, Disciple, Apostle, and Martyr (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), 207, 236.)

On page 162 of the same work Cullmann said: "We thus see that the exegesis that the Reformation gave . . . was not first invented for their struggle against the papacy; it rests upon an older patristic tradition.

Johann Joseph lgnaz von Dollinger, in his work The Pope and the Council (Boston: Roberts, 1869), 74, asserted:

Karlfried Froehlich wrote,

One truly wonders about blanket statements regarding Protestant misuse of patristic sources, Dave.

As to point number seven, I would direct you especially to my discussion of the "development of doctrine" in the enclosed book, Answers to Catholic Claims, pp.63-73. I would also like to ask if you have read Salmon's refutation of Newman in his work, The Infallibility of the Church?

Finally, do you really feel point number eight carries sufficient weight to establish anything?

You write that sola fide is not the gospel. Yet, it is the clear record of the NT that it is the gospel. Let's say you are right that there wasn't a gospel around for 1 500 some odd years for the sake of argument. Would this be sufficient reason for you to reject the NT witness to that gospel, Dave? You are, of course, not right to say that there was no gospel for those 1500 years. Even if you were to ignore Wycliffe and Hus, and all those murdered by Rome in the intervening centuries, what do you do with Clement of Rome?

You then repeated some well-worn slogans regarding Luther along with the first canon of the Council of Trent on justification, and concluded, "This would seem to be sufficient to put the matter to rest. But blind prejudice and anti-Catholicism stubbornly persist." The problem, Dave, is that you need to also quote canons 4, 5, 9, 12, 14, 1 5, 1 7, 24, 30, 32, and 33. I quote just a few of these:

This kind of teaching has led Roman Catholic theologians to conclude:

Again we find that having an allegedly "infallible guide" does not result in unanimity of opinion. The point that you seem to have missed as a "Protestant," Dave, and now miss as a Roman Catholic, is that the Reformation was never about the necessity of grace. Did you ever read such monumental works as Calvin's Institutio when you were a Protestant, or as you were seeking "answers" to the claims of Rome? If you had, you would know that no one has ever said that Rome teaches that grace is unnecessary. That is not the issue. The issue, Dave, is the sufficiency of God's grace apart from man's works. That, my friend, is the issue that you still have to face (see pp.36-37 of The Fatal Flaw).

Just today my seventh book came out, The King James Only Controversy. I will be quite busy for some time due to the release of the book. However, I may be making an East Coast swing to do some debates with KJV Only advocates, and I am always willing to engage Roman apologists as well. Would you be willing to defend the statements you made in your letter in public debate, Dave? Your letterhead included the phrase "Catholic Apologist" (I note in a font very reminiscent of that used by Catholic Answers). If that is the case, might you be interested in engaging in some very practical apologetics? I would be happy to debate sola scriptura, the Papacy, justification by faith, the Marian doctrines, etc. Shall we discuss the possibility?

I am sending this letter to you along with the noted materials in the US Mail. However, I am also going to fax it to you so that you will receive it quickly. I am also sending a copy to Eric Pement, should anyone contact him regarding your mailing to the individuals in the cult directory. In fact, I would be more than happy to make this letter available to anyone who wishes to see a brief response to the claims you made in your letter.

I have added your name to our mailing list. Our next Pros Apologian will be a full-length rebuttal of Patrick Madrid's article, The White Man's Burden, replete with a defense of the doctrine of sola scriptura. That edition has already been written, and is simply in the proof-reading stage.

I am sure, Dave, that you are quite happy right now in the bosom of Rome. There is a wonderful feeling, I'm sure, that accompanies being told with infallible certainty what to believe. But I simply hope, Dave, as I hope for those who have embraced the same kind of authoritarian claims from the Prophet in Salt Lake City or the Governing Body in Brooklyn, that you will realize that your decision to embrace that allegedly infallible authority was in and of itself not infallible. You might well be wrong. Think about that my friend.

Justified by faith and hence at peace,

James White

Recte Ambulamus ad Veritatem Evangelii

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22 April 1995

James White

Dear James,

I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you very much for your extensive reply (dated April 6, 1995) to my letter -the most in-depth response I've yet received from a Protestant after more than four years as a Catholic (not for lack of trying, believe me). Let me commend you on one of the many areas of agreement which we do indeed share - your work with regard to the King James Only crowd. Gail Riplinger is a true nut. I'm happy that you've taken on this serious error. Keep it up! Would that all of your "crusades" were so worthwhile and useful for the Body of Christ.

I agree with your first point about "uncharitability" and "schismatic" words and actions. Truth is often seen as uncharitable. We feel similarly about each other's outlook. I claim your views possess this trait precisely because I believe them to be untrue. You return the favor. If indeed I'm a Christian, then your words about my beliefs violate several clear biblical injunctions, such as, "Thou shalt not bear false witness."

Thus we are inexorably brought back to square one: What is a Christian?, Is "sola fide" the gospel?, Is "sola scriptura" the eleventh commandment ("Thou shalt have no authority except Scripture")?, Is sacramentalism idolatrous and Pelagian?, etc. One major distinction, however, should be duly noted. We Catholics - notwithstanding harsh Trent language - still officially regard Protestants as our "brothers in Christ," whereas so many of you regard us as non-Christians. Thus, the issue of charity would seem to favor us, at least at first glance.

Thank you for your three books and newsletter. I always (sincerely) appreciate free reading materials . . . I'll read your stuff provided you're willing to interact with my refutations. I can confidently defend all of my works and always welcome any critiques of them.

I'll admit that you're by far the most intelligent of the anti-Catholics . . . At least you seek to achieve some modicum of objectivity by citing legitimate sources, to your great (almost unique) credit. How you misinterpret and misunderstand and argue against these sources constitute your own logical "fatal flaw." James Akin, in his critique of your book ("Fatally Flawed Thinking," This Rock, July 1993, pp.7-13) points out several of the book's many egregious errors, even in the basic understanding of Catholic positions (see, e.g., p.13).

Let me point out that I too have studied the Wittenberg and Genevan and Amsterdam and Tulsa and Downers Grove and Grand Rapids position(s) quite thoroughly; and have lived (some of) them wholeheartedly for ten years, half of which as an intensely-committed evangelist willing to endure great hardships and misunderstanding for the sake of Christ and His call on my life. So we're even there, too. Again, I think I get the edge since I've actually been on both sides of the fence, whereas you haven't (this isn't to say that one cannot know a position from the outside - e.g., my Jehovah's Witness research). I, too, have written a book (750 pages - possibly to be published by Ignatius Press) and tons of shorter apologetic materials.

You get the edge on debates . . . My perspective is constructively ecumenical, not destructively adversarial. Evangelicals are fairly decent at published self-criticism, but apparently not very willing to face biblical, historical and reasoned critiques from across the Tiber. This is most unfortunate and curious.

I know the arguments of anti-Catholicism quite well, I assure you (also those of ecumenical Protestant apologists). Your arguments in Fatal Flaw and your letter are almost predictable, no offense intended. Let me respond to the latter, if I may. You claim I didn't have an adequate knowledge of "Roman" theology, hence I was open prey for clever, devious papists who easily reeled me in by means of Babylonish guile, because I had indeed already "rejected the tenets of the Reformation" and was "not truly a Protestant to begin with." Boy, where to begin . . .!

First of all, your information as to the state of my knowledge of Catholicism prior to my conversion is far too inadequate to justify your wild speculations, based as they are on a twelve-page conversion story (the shortest in the book). What do you know about the extent of my studies, or how well-read I am, or who I've talked to? Next to nothing . . .

But this doesn't make said theories hold any water if they lack the appropriate facts and analysis. Your "reasoning" here is exactly analogous to that of outright atheists who "explain" away Protestant conversions, ignoring the sincere self-reports of people who have undergone "born-again salvation" (they think God a crutch, rather than infallibility). Having personally experienced both types of conversions, I need not denigrate either one by means of foolish speculation. I merely reinterpret the first theologically. You could do that, too, but instead you resort to unfounded, condescending scenarios of my alleged ignorant gullibility.

Secondly, you denigrate my being impressed with Catholics in Operation Rescue. Now, how is this any different from the observance of committed "born again" Protestants, talked about all the time in the "testimonies" of evangelical circles as a means of "getting people saved," of "being a good witness," "walking the walk," "letting your light shine," being "epistles read of men," etc.? There is no difference. It's silly for you to criticize this element in my odyssey when it is so much a part of your own evangelistic, conversionist theology and ethos, as you are surely aware.

As I stated in my book, I had never seen such commitment among Catholics. It is to be expected in order for one to believe in any way of life which claims to transform human beings. But this was only one fairly minor factor. The primary initial reasons for my change were the moral bankruptcy of Protestantism (e.g., contraception and divorce), its anti-historical essence (as shown in Newman's Development), and the absurdity and unbiblical nature of Luther's many novel fancies (gleaned from reading his own words).

The only possible way in which I could formerly be described as some sort of "Catholic" would be my longstanding beliefs in (like Wesley) progressive sanctification, and (like the best Protestant scholars such as Geisler, Colson, Lewis, and Pelikan) strong advocacy of both history and reason, elements largely frowned upon by Protestantism. But clearly you don't accept my story at face value. Instead, . . . you grasp for straws in order to bolster your interpretation of what you would like to believe about my supposed journey from semi-Pelagianism to Pelagianism, rather than from dim to bright light, as I see it, or from skeletal, "mere" Bible Christianity to full-bodied, historical, incarnational Christianity grounded in Tradition and a real Church, not merely subjective whims and fancies, abstractions, and countless arrogant counter-charges and self-proclaimed "authorities."

Thirdly, it's news to me that belief in supralapsarian double predestination and total depravity (man is a worm on a dunghill) constitutes the quintessence of true Protestantism and hence, Christianity. This opens up a gargantuan can of worms both theologically and logically. Akin pointed out how (as I suspected) your Five-point Calvinism leads you to exclude from the Body anyone denying even limited atonement alone (p.8). Then, he recounts (p.9, note 12) how you tried to weasel your way out of the unavoidable implications of your own position by denying this. Which is it? Was I a Protestant or not, since I most certainly denounced "such things as the Mass, purgatory, and indulgences," which you told James Akin were necessary for Christianhood?

I was in very good company as a Protestant: Melanchthon (whom Luther hailed as the greatest theologian that ever lived, and his Loci as second only to the Bible) rejected Luther's denial of free will as early as 1527 in his Commentary on Colossians), and did not include this falsehood in the Augsburg Confession (1530), the authoritative Lutheran document approved by Dr. Luther himself. Strange, then, if he wasn't a Christian. John Wesley is thought by most Christians to be among their number - at least as eligible as you, if I do say so. Likewise, Charles Finney, and C.S. Lewis, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Newman, Chesterton, Knox and Richard John Neuhaus before their conversions. I believe all of these men were Arminian.

Whole denominations, such as Methodists, Lutherans, the majority of Anglicans, Free Will Baptists, most pentecostals and many non-denominationalists are also out of the fold, by your definition. Even Keith Tolbert, a major cult researcher and now sole author of the Directory, is an Arminian (Assembly of God). So I guess he isn't a Christian either, and is in danger of becoming a papist (which prospect would be quite surprising to him, I'm sure!). Why, then, don't you write books about all these erring non-Christians too, since people will go to hell, according to you, by following their Pelagian doctrines just as us poor papists will? What's good for the goose . . .

Spare me. No reputable pastor or evangelist openly presents Five-Point Calvinism as the gospel. Billy Graham (whom I greatly respect) tells me I merely need to give my life over to Christ to be saved. It's ridiculous enough to present "sola fide" as the gospel (as Sproul, MacArthur and Ankerberg do), let alone TULIP, which excludes the great majority of Christians at all times through history . . .

. . . I always rejected it, but this had no bearing on my former firm beliefs in "sola Scriptura" and "sola fide." Those are the two true (albeit weak) pillars of Protestantism, as illustrated in the very rallying-cries of Luther and other "Reformers." Who ever cried "Predestination to hell alone for the reprobate"?! I've always held that Calvinism was consistent, but unscriptural . . .

Because of the dreadful . . . teachings of Calvinism, men could not suffer it for long, so that, typically, error in turn bred even worse error. We see this clearly in the history of New England, where the Puritans evolved into Unitarians by 1800. Host of the founders of the cults, such as Russell, Eddy, Joseph Smith, and Wierwille, started out as Calvinists and found the teachings so revolting that they went to the other extreme and embraced Pelagianism and rejected the Trinity. Both the Lutherans and (most) Anglicans . . . rejected Calvinism early on.

[ . . . ]

Everyone trusts in someone or something, whether it's Tradition or Protestant "Reformation mythology" ("Luther lit a candle in the darkness...") or Billy Graham or an infallible Bible (but which interpretation?) or Pastor Doe down the street or J. Vernon McGee, or whatever I feel the "Spirit" is telling me up in my attic, surrounded by the infallible, "perspicuous," and trustworthy guidance of the Bible . . .

You make a silly remark about "how could you believe otherwise?" about the superiority of Catholic biblical support since I am not permitted to doubt this as a Catholic. The reply is simple. If I'm shown otherwise, then most certainly I will renounce Catholicism, just as I left evangelicalism for higher things. You assume I am shackled like a prisoner in a "Roman" dungeon for all eternity. But we believe in free will - you are the ones who deny that. You act like I accept the proposition that Catholicism is more biblical only because I am taught this from Mother Church, and not on the basis of actually considering the merits of each side.

In a sense this is true because the Catholic is not arrogant enough to assume that he is the arbiter and final judge of all truth given him from any source (see my arguments above about the inevitability of trusting something outside oneself). We submit to a Tradition which includes all the great Christian minds who have reflected upon that Deposit of Faith, received from Jesus and the Apostles and developed as a result of battle with heretics for nearly 2000 years. I am very proud to do this, and not in the least ashamed.

. . . once I thoroughly familiarized myself with all the apologetic literature and biblical arguments for the Catholic distinctives I could find (in the 4-year course of writing my book), I became absolutely convinced that Catholicism is the most biblical position, as I stated in my letter.

I guess you'll just have to read some of my book (with your consent, you might start with the "sola fide" and "sola Scriptura" chapters), to understand why I believe as I do, and feel fully justified intellectually and biblically in placing my trust in the Church for doctrines I may not yet totally understand as well as those which I do grasp (see Newman's Grammar of Assent for the full treatment of Catholic intellectuality). My challenge to you is to refute my arguments therein and elsewhere.

Ever since I studied Socrates (from whom I derive my preferred method of discourse) in college in 1977 I have consistently sought to strongly believe in ideas, based on evidence, unless and until I am shown otherwise - and I am always willing to change my mind in such cases, as I have done on numerous occasions throughout my life (which is one reason I am a Catholic, pro-life, politically conservative, and against divorce and contraception - all views which I used to oppose). In this aspect I haven't changed a whit since "poping" . . .

. . . Are you willing to convert to Catholicism if shown that it is superior to Protestantism? If not, then it is you who have profoundly "blind faith" . . . not me. As the saying goes, "a man convinced against his will, retains his original belief still."

. . . usually the Protestant misunderstands the concept of development, in which any given doctrine is not required to be in place in its fullness in the first, second, or sometimes third and even fourth centuries.

Rather than trading horror stories of "patristic abuse," I would prefer to actually pick a topic and see what the Fathers indeed taught. I've compiled this evidence in all my theological chapters in my book, so I'm already prepared for such a debate. How about the Eucharist, or the authority of Bishops, for starters? I stand by Newman's statement, "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." In this sense I was predestined to become a Catholic, as I have always loved history (including Church history). As soon as I studied the Fathers, it was all over.

Your letter goes from bad to worse at the bottom of p.2. Now "sacraments . . . replace the grace of God"!!! . . . You are again on the slippery slope of excluding almost all Christians who disagree with you from Christianity. Even your hero and mentor Calvin (Inst., IV, 14,1) defines a "sacrament" as, "a testimony of divine grace toward us," and cites St. Augustine in agreement: "a visible form of an invisible grace," which is, of course, the standard Catholic definition, known to any Catholic child with any catechetic instruction whatever. Luther, of course agrees. Even in his Babylonian Captivity, a critique of Catholic sacramentalism, he still upholds the Catholic view for baptism and the Eucharist, and in this case is much closer to my view than yours.

He regards baptism as a regenerative sacrament, in opposition to your . . . anti-sacramental opinions:

For Luther, baptism not only does not "replace the grace of God," it imparts it sacramentally in a most real and profound way, even to an infant, and "washes away sins," as Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians (the last two in a somewhat lesser, symbolic, but still sacramental sense) believe. Again, why don't you write books condemning all these folks (including your two primary Founders) for "adding to the completed work of Christ on the Cross," etc.?

Luther, of course, believed in the Real Presence as well (and even . . . adoration of the Host - see, e.g., Table Talk, ed. Hazlitt, no. 363, p.207). Thus, according to you, Luther must be both a "works-salvationist" and an idolater (even Calvin called him "half-papist" for this very reason), not to mention his belief in the Immaculate Conception and other "unbiblical" Marian doctrines (see my enclosed article). One of Luther's two favorite works (along with, appropriately, Bondage of the Will) was his seminal Commentary on Galatians. Yet you would now have me to believe that the correct perspective on this book, contrary to Luther's, excludes the use of sacraments! . . .

Do you mention these beliefs of Luther when you extoll him in Fatal Flaw, chapter 1, and leave the impression that he was opposed to the "Roman system" in toto? Of course not . . . This is "anachronistic interpretation" par excellence, and it happens all the time.

For precisely this reason I was really shocked to learn about Luther's errors and considerable shortcomings as well as his many agreements with Catholicism . . . The truth is always more interesting, and particularly so in Luther's case.

Your treatment of the Canon of Scripture misses the point, which is that the Catholic Church, and "extrabiblical authority" was necessary for you guys to even have your Bible, . . .  which you would never even have but for the Catholic Church, which, inexplicably, preserved it even though it supposedly destroys that same Church's belief system - evident to any "plowboy." My paper on "sola Scriptura" deals with this.

It's the oldest rhetorical trick in the book to simply dismiss an important question as irrelevant, when one can't answer it, as you did with my query as to when Catholicism became apostate. You say, "do we need to know? Of course not." Of course every anti-Catholic does need to know . . .  There must have been a Church all those years . . .

You have no case, pure and simple, since all the Catholic distinctives appeared early, at least in kernel form, as far as records reveal to us (already strikingly so in St. Ignatius and St. Clement). Anti-Catholics are so desperate for a quasi-history, that, e.g., Dave Hunt is ready to embrace the Cathari and Albigensians as brothers before he would ever think of accepting me!

Ken Samples writes in a recent Christian Research Journal (Spring 1993, p.37) that if Catholicism is a cult,

I couldn't agree more . . . The burden of proof for this remains with you, and so my challenge still awaits a reply, rather than an evasive dismissal.

Likewise, you scoff at my disdain for the indefensible existence of 23,000 denominations. You don't dare admit that this is a valid point against Protestantism (perhaps your "fatal flaw") because you would obviously then be in big trouble. Yet it certainly is without question (e.g., Jn 17:20-23, Rom 16:17, 1 Cor 1:10-13, Gal 5:19-21 and many other passages). Thus you are bound by the outrageous and scandalous situation of Protestant sectarianism, in clear opposition to Scripture. About all Protestants can do here is mutter incoherently about agreement on "central issues," which falsehood I deal with in my refutation of Geisler's defense of "sola Scriptura" (also enclosed), or else they can take the path of citing the existence of liberals within Catholicism.

This won't do either, for the simple reason that we have dogmas and Councils and papal encyclicals and infallible utterances which constitute our teaching - definite, observable, and documented for all to see, even the most wild-eyed liberals such as Kung and Curran and McBrien. It doesn't matter a hill of beans what these people say they or the Catholic Church believe. I could care less. I despised liberal Protestantism when I was among your number and I have even more contempt for Catholic liberalism, as it has far less excuse . . . a liberal like Kung can be (and was) authoritatively declared as no longer a Catholic theologian, and not to be trusted for correct doctrine . . .

As for the Watchtower, it denies both the Bible and consistent Christian Tradition and many beliefs which even you and I share, such as the Trinity, bodily resurrection of Christ, the omnipresence and omniscience of God the Father and the fact that He is a Spirit (they think He has a body), etc. Obviously, there is no comparison. This is why their claim is invalid, along with their paltry 115-year existence, which is only 359 years less than the existence of your religion - both being grossly inadequate in terms of passing on the true apostolic Tradition (without Catholicism).

Since you brought up the cultic comparison, I will also note that both cults and Protestantism are man-centered, whereas Catholicism is Christ-centered. Even your names betray this: Lutherans, Calvinists, Wesleyans, whereas ours simply means "universal." Where our sub-groups bear the name of individuals (Franciscans, Thomists, Benedictines, etc.) this is clearly understood as a branch of the larger tree, not as mutually-exclusive (in important aspects) systems, as in Protestantism. Luther and Zwingli and their ilk start new religions. St. Francis and St. Ignatius Loyola merely start orders, always in obedience to the Catholic Church.

Your remark about the supposed recent origin of "modern Romanism" is yet another instance of the incomprehensibility of development to the Protestant dichotomizing, "either-or" mind (which Luther had already perfected to a tee). It's pointless to respond to it other than to refer you to my various tracts about development or to Newman's essential work on the subject.

You gleefully note the divergent views of Lateran IV and Vatican II on religious tolerance. Yes, there has been a change of opinion here, but unfortunately for you, the teachings involved are not religious dogmas of the faith, but rather, disciplinary measures. I detest as much as you corruptions in the Inquisition, the indefensible sacking of Constantinople in 1204, etc., indeed all persecution. This argument was my main one against Catholicism when I was still fighting against it.

The Church has learned from its errors, as have the Protestant sects, which have an even worse history of intolerance and persecution, since your crimes are greater and more inconsistent with your supposed "freedom of conscience" for all to follow God in whatever way is deemed best by the "individual with his Bible alone" (see my treatise and synopsis on this subject which will provide copious documentation, lest you doubt this). If all Christian groups who have persecuted are ruled out of the faith, then about all that is left are the Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish, and whoever else descended from the Anabaptists. You may count yourself among these, but your theological fathers are still Luther and Calvin, who are horribly stained with the blood of dissenters . . .

So, as almost always, what you think is a knockout punch to your detested "Romanism" rebounds back to you with much more force, for the reasons just recounted. What I call the "reverse Inquisition" argument stands accepted Protestant mythology on this topic on its head . . . The "out" here is to simply deny that one is a "Protestant." "I'm not one of them," you often hear, "I'm a Bible Christian." But this will not do, as it is . . . a-historical delusion . . . You love to claim you're "one" when it comes to denominationalism, but not when it comes to the skeletons in your closet.

As for your lengthy attempted refutation of papal claims and their biblical justification, I refer you to my chapter on the papacy and infallibility, which runs 98 pages, single-spaced. Again, you ignore the factor of development, which is nowhere more apparent and necessary than in the understanding of the evolution of the papacy. Your three long quotes, which you obviously thought were so unanswerable, have little or no force against my position.

You blithely dismiss my points 7 and 8 . . . Your section in your Answers book on development has little to do with the specific question I raised - the inconsistent appeal to Councils. Funny, too, how I managed to find and read both Salmon and Dollinger's books when I was vigorously fighting infallibility in 1990. Now how could this be if I wasn't a Protestant and was already some sort of proto-Catholic mutation, according to your theory? Somehow I found the very books that you are enamored with. If you had communicated with me then, I think you would have found me quite a kindred (Protestant) spirit, with Salmon and good old Dollinger under each arm (Dollinger, by the way remained doctrinally Catholic in every sense except in accepting papal infallibility and in submitting to the Magisterium), even though I never denied that Catholicism was Christian.

For, in the anti-Catholic mentality, every co-belligerent against the great Beast and Whore is accepted as a brother almost without question (witness Dave Hunt and the Albigensians), much like your "feeling of 'brotherhood' created by standing against a common evil," which you posited as a reason for my conversion.

Salmon consistently misinterprets development to mean "evolution" in the sense of the essential change of doctrines, which of course it is not. He states,

I got news for Salmon and you - it still is the teaching, i.e., the essence never changes, but the subjective understanding and binding authority can. Development was clearly taught at least as far back as St. Augustine and St. Vincent of Lerins. In the latter's work, the concept is found in the same context as his famous statement (which Salmon loves to cite): "everywhere and always the same," thus proving that the two concepts are harmonious and complementary - . . . - not contradictory, as Salmon seeks to prove, with great rhetorical flourish and straw-man triumphalism.

He doesn't, however . . . actually deal with Newman's brilliant analogical arguments, which comprise the heart of his classic work, since they are unanswerable from the Protestant perspective . . . it was a crucial component in my conversion, as you correctly note. Salmon, on the other hand, is content to quixotically repeat over and over something which isn't even relevant, in a mere appearance of strength.

[ . . . ]

[Link concerning Anglican anti-Catholic George Salmon:

The Church and Infallibility: A Reply to Salmon's The Infallibility of the Church (B.C. Butler) ]

You pass off my point number 8 with a 14-word sentence. Yet it is absolutely crucial. How, indeed, could such an anti-Christian system be so dead-right about morality - far better than any particular Protestant sect and immeasurably superior to Protestantism as a whole, which is profoundly compromised, especially on sexual, marital and gender issues . . . Here again you are radically a-historical and anti-incarnational. I suppose your reason would be that my statement is not immediately scriptural, therefore, of no import for "Bible alone" followers. Or, as I suspect, because you don't know how to answer it. One or the other.

I'm delighted that you cite St. Clement of Rome on justification, as if he was a "faith alone" adherent. Nothing he says here is against Catholic teaching whatsoever, as proven by Trent's Canon I on Justification, which I cited, and the decrees of Second Orange. I included this very passage in my book when I dealt with justification. But I went on to quote from the next two sections as well, where St. Clement talks about good works ("the good worker receives the bread of his labor confidently" - 34,1). Later, in 58,2 he states that the ones who have "kept without regret the ordinances and commandments given by God" will be "enrolled and included among the number of those who are saved through Jesus Christ." So this is what I "do" with St. Clement, whose letter is just as easily interpreted as in harmony with Catholic teaching as Protestant (I think more so).

He merely reiterates the ("works-salvation"?) teachings of Jesus (Mt 5:20, 7:16-27, 25:31-46, Lk 18:18-25), which Protestants so downplay when they talk about justification, bypassing the Lord and immediately rushing to St. Paul, who is made out to be a proto-Luther figure. But St. Paul, like St. James' "epistle of straw," also stresses the organic connection between faith and works in our salvation, as in Catholicism (Rom 2:5-13, 1 Cor 3:8-9, Gal 5:6, 6:7-9, Eph 2:8-10, Phil 2:12-13, 3:10-14, 1 Thess 1:3,11, 1 Tim 6:18-19). Evangelicals, in their propensity for selective presentation of verses and neglect of context, conveniently ignore all these passages when talking about justification.

Your Canons 24, 32 and 33 from Trent and others, and comments about the "sufficiency of God's grace apart from man's works" prove nothing. These Canons are in harmony with the one I quoted and others in that same vein . . . So in Trent's Canons on justification, faith and works, God's preceding grace and man's cooperating action are not seen as contradictory, as you believe.

You act like merely adding up numbers of decrees with which you disagree, over against mine, with which you may agree, somehow proves that the Church is Pelagian (which it has always condemned) rather than Christian. This is not reasonable. It isn't even your methodology with Scripture. Neither the Virgin Birth nor Original Sin are mentioned very often there, yet they are firmly believed by all evangelicals. Why? Because they are true, and harmonize with the rest of Scripture. Likewise with the Immaculate Conception, yet you rail against it by virtue of its implicit presence in Scripture. In order to overcome the "dichotomous tendency of Protestant thought," I highly recommend Louis Bouyer's The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, which also has an excellent treatment of the absolute preeminence of God's preceding and enabling grace in Catholic soteriology, over against your misguided assertions here.

Since you brought up the Fathers, how about St. Ignatius, writing about 14 years after St. Clement:

Gee, I used to think that Catholics only learned to talk like that in the corrupt era of Tetzel and Eck, with all the drivel about the "treasury of merits" and all . . . If Clement and Ignatius were heretics and Arminians, then the Church was already off the rails within a generation of John's death! How quickly do things collapse! What a shame! And this is how the Protestant attempt to co-opt the Fathers always ends up - an entirely futile and fruitless endeavor.

You also mention Wycliffe and Hus as purveyors of the "gospel," certainly the favorite "proto-Protestants" of the Middle Ages, second and third only to St. Augustine in this regard, who is Luther and Calvin's favorite "Protestant." As usual, there seems to be little effort to actually study the opinions of these fellow "anti-Catholics." They are seized upon because of their rebellious beliefs. Indeed Wycliffe comes about as close as you will get, but according to the learned Protestant historian Latourette in his A History of Christianity, vol. 1, (p.664), Wycliffe believed in a type of Real Presence (remanence) in the Eucharist (his view was similar to Luther's), seven sacraments (although he denied the necessity of confirmation), and purgatory. These views are more than enough to exclude him from "Christianity" and the "gospel," as defined by you, but no matter - you inconsistently cite him anyway because his legend is a revered Protestant tradition - all anti-Catholics must be canonized and venerated as saints in Protestantism.

You might say, "heck, nine out of ten correct beliefs ain't bad," but this misses the point. If even your best examples of "Protestants" in the B.L. so-called "dark ages" era of history ("Before Luther") fail to meet the "gospel" criterion, then what becomes of your overall case for non-Catholic Christian continuity for 1500 years? I don't think you're ready to espouse Eastern Orthodoxy as the answer to your dilemma! Your a-historical view clearly fails miserably, for extreme lack of evidence . . . Hus, too - generally regarded as less radical than Wycliffe - believed in sacramental baptism andTransubstantiation, and held, according to Protestant Roland Bainton (Christendom, vol. 1, p.239) that "the sacraments at the hands of the unworthy are nevertheless valid and efficacious" (Catholicism's ex opere operato), so he's outside "orthodoxy" as defined by . . . you. You keep cutting off the limb you're sitting on by your extreme judgments as to who is and isn't a Christian, making many of your own positions utterly contradictory, if not downright nonsensical.

Why would you send your reply to my letter to Eric Pement? Don't you think that my arguments can easily be overcome by your cult research comrades? Why would they need your reply if my arguments are often so insubstantial as to merit one or two-sentence "refutations," as you believe? I take this as a (probably unintended) compliment - thank you. In fact, it may help my cause, since if they mention your "rebuttal," I could then send them this (otherwise I wouldn't have).

Finally, I am delighted and (I think) honored that you are eager and "happy" to debate me in public. I love debate, but much prefer informal, conversational Socratic dialogue or written point-counterpoint exchanges to the mutual monologues and often antagonistic and disrespectful affairs which pass for "public debates." I am not particularly skilled as an orator and lecturer, nor do I have the requisite desire to participate in that type of forum. That said, I would not want to publicly represent the Church to which I give my allegiance, but would rather defer to someone with more abilities for formal debate than I possess, so that we are best represented.

I am pleased to report, however, that my friend Gary Michuta, another apologist who started our group called "Thy Faith," which puts out a magazine called Hands On Apologetics (similar to This Rock), immediately and enthusiastically accepted this challenge when I inquired about it yesterday. His phone number and fax are the same as my fax number: [deleted], and he can be reached at the following address: [deleted]. He eagerly awaits your reply.

[ . . . ]

Lest you think I'm trying to evade you, however, I am perfectly willing, able, ready, and eager to engage you in debate on any topic you so desire either by letter or in your newsletter (if the latter, I would require prior editorial consent . . .). I would demand equal space in your newsletter, so that the fair inquirer could make up his own mind. You've observed my debating abilities in this letter and other writings I've given you, so I think you'll agree that timidity and fear are not my reasons for declining public oratorical debate.

Your newsletter is just as "public," and probably reaches even more people than a one-night debate would . . . So, I eagerly anticipate your reply, and (I hope) request for whatever of my papers you would most like to debate. I've much enjoyed writing this.

Yours, sincerely, in Christ & His Church,

Dave Armstrong

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

May 4, 1995

Dave Armstrong

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

[ . . . ]

I mentioned above the many misrepresentations in your letter. Let me enumerate some of them for you. First, you wasted a large number of key-strokes beginning at the top of page 4. First, it didn't seem to occur to you to consider the possibility that James Akin and Patrick Madrid are fallible folks with an agenda. I have fully responded to James Akin's article (and to Patrick's blast as well), and pointed out the errors he made with reference to both my position and my actions in the past (more on that later). You are in error, as he was in error, to say that I exclude people from the kingdom on the basis of their acceptance or rejection of limited atonement.

[ . . . ]

The exact same kind of silliness is to be found on page 7, where you write . . ., "Your letter goes from bad to worse at the bottom of p.2. Now 'sacraments... replace the grace of God'!!!" . . . As we both know, I wrote the following:

I can certainly see why you needed to edit the "quotation," Dave, as what I originally said, in its original context, was neither preposterous or marked by lunacy, but was perfectly understandable. That you chose to misrepresent my own letters not only indicates to me that you might have a difficulty defending the concept of mediation and merit in Roman theology (the two elements you conveniently deleted), but it again indicates to me that if you will dishonestly use my own words, what might you be willing to do with Irenaeus or Tertullian? . . .

[ . . . ]

I turn to responding to the actual assertions made therein. You noted that, "If indeed I'm a Christian, then your words about my beliefs violate several clear biblical injunctions, such as, 'Thou shalt not bear false witness.' " No, that would only be true if what I said about Roman theology was in fact untrue, and you did not even begin to demonstrate that anything I said was inaccurate on that account.

Next you noted, "We Catholics - notwithstanding harsh Trent language - still officially regard Protestants as our 'brothers in Christ,' whereas so many of you regard us as non-Christians." Yes, I'm sure the Council of Constance considered Jan Hus a "brother in Christ" as they burned him at the stake, Dave. And I'm sure the Waldensians of the Piedmont Valley were quite comforted by the fact that they were being raped and slaughtered by "brothers in Christ." I am reminded of a radio program I did on WEZE with Gerry Matatics, formerly of Catholic Answers (and now, seemingly, accusing them of dishonesty and libel). He called back after the program just to make sure that I understood that since I am anathema, that means that I do not have eternal life and should I die today, I would go to hell. He can quote dogmatic works just like you can, Dave. That's the nature of conflicting teachings in the supposedly infallible Magisterium. You can ignore such contradictions if you like, Dave, but that won't make them go away.

[ . . . ]

I suppose I should take your next comment as a compliment: "I'll admit that you're by far the most intelligent of the anti-Catholics . . ." Just a few things: 1) I'm a Protestant apologist, not an anti-Catholic. When you start calling yourself an anti-Protestant, I'll allow you to get away with calling me an anti-Catholic . . .

You noted, "Again, I think I get the edge since I've actually been on both sides of the fence, whereas you haven't." Why do you find this to be an advantage, Mr. Armstrong? Gerry Matatics has often made much of the same concept, yet, I have to wonder why someone would think that way. Obviously, from my perspective, you are, to use the proper term, an apostate. To make one's apostasy a badge of honor, and to say that this gives you an "edge," bewilders me . . .

[ . . . ]

In regards to your use of the phrase, "constructively ecumenical," what do you mean? One Roman apologist (who asked to be "off the record") confided to me just recently that "ecumenical dialogue is a joke. The only reason we are talking to you is to bring you back to Rome, nothing else." I think he has a good basis in history for such a statement, don't you?

[ . . . ]

Now, am I to conclude, Dave, that I should not take what Roman apologists say at face value? I mean, you did write the article in Surprised by Truth, right? And if you did, could you be so kind as to show me where in that article you give the slightest evidence of being familiar with, say, Calvin's discussions on sola scriptura or sola fide? You mentioned such biggies as Charles Colson and Hal Lindsey, but where did you give me even the slightest indication that you were, in fact, fully aware of why Roman theology was to be rejected? Where did you tell us that you had read, say, the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, or maybe Hardon's works? If it is in your article, Dave, I must have missed it. Could you cite the page numbers to me that would give me any reason to retract what I said above? I'd appreciate it.

[ . . . ]

As to the idea that a person would convert to Rome based upon Scripture, Church history and reason, such a conversion will take place only when a person makes the final epistemological leap in submitting to (I might say "succumbing to") the absolute claims of Rome. Once that decision is made, the rest falls into place naturally enough. And since you gave me no reason to believe that you had ever encountered the claims of Rome in any meaningful way prior to your conversion, I can only repeat what I said before: you were ripe for conversion. I guess I should modify that a little: the Watchtower makes the same kind of final epistemological claim upon its adherents, so you had encountered it, just not dressed in the liturgy and history of Rome.

Next we find you saying, "Secondly, you denigrate my being impressed with Catholics in Operation Rescue." Really? Well, let's see if I denigrated anything at all:

I'm sorry, Dave, but again I fail to find any evidence of "denigration" in the above sentences. Where is it? . . . You see, Dave, I, too, was involved for a while with Operation Rescue. I left the movement because of the issue of Romanism and the implicit statement that I had to overlook fundamental differences on the gospel itself "for the good of the movement" . . .

[ . . . ]

Next you wrote, "Thirdly, it's news to me that belief in supralapsarian double predestination and total depravity (man is a worm on a dunghill) constitutes the quintessence of true Protestantism and hence, Christianity." Of course, what I had said was that since you rejected predestination and total depravity, you were not a true Protestant (speaking in the historical sense -- you connected Luther with the beliefs, as you will recall), and I stand by the statement. Surely you recall Luther's admission to Erasmus that he, above all of Luther's other foes, had focused upon the real issue, that being the concept of "free will" versus the bondage of the will, and that, of course, brings up both predestination and total depravity. Luther was not systematic enough to get into debates about supralapsarianism or infralapsarianism -- such is not the issue.

If you always denied that man's will is bound to sin and that God has predestined a people unto himself, you may have been attending a Protestant church and may have been in the majority of what is called Protestantism today, but the fact remains that as to the Reformation and the heritage thereof, you were a traitor, more at home in Rome's semi-Pelagianism than in Paul's Augustinianism (to create a wonderfully anachronistic phrase that speaks volumes). Not that you were alone: the majority of "Protestantism" today is treading water in the Tiber on that issue. Of course, I said all of that (possibly not with the same colorful terminology) in The Fatal Flaw. And as I mentioned, you are simply wrong to say I exclude those who reject limited atonement from the Christian faith.

Just a quick note: "Spare me. No reputable pastor or evangelist openly presents Five-Point Calvinism as the gospel." You are kidding, right? . . .  I shouldn't expect you to know the historical realities of people like Jonathan Edwards, or Charles Haddon Spurgeon, or Whitefield, but you even mentioned Sproul, who, of course, is Reformed. You probably didn't read much of Gerstner as a "Protestant," nor would I expect you to know such names as Albert Martin. Well, anyway, I'll have to tell my pastor that you believe he is not reputable. I'm certain he will be most disappointed. :-)

[ . . . ]

I get the distinct feeling, Dave, that you don't like the Reformed gospel. No surprise, given your love for Roman theology. Those who have never realized their own helplessness often hate the gospel, I've discovered. I've seen similar paragraphs from other Roman Catholics, from atheists, from Mormons, and even from some "Protestants," too. I have to really focus my attention just to realize that the authors of such diatribes are actually referring to the gospel of grace, so plainly presented by Paul in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 through 9: . . .

Again, as a historian, I find your comments about Puritanism "evolving" into Unitarianism quite humorous (you did mean that to be a joke, right?). As a student of Jonathan Edwards I must say I would be one of the few folks who would get such a joke. I can tell this is a joke because of your statement that Joseph Smith began as a "Calvinist." Again, your research couldn't be that bad, so I must take this as a joke, too, though a not overly amusing one.

[ . . . ]

Now, you managed, sadly, to miss the point of nearly every objection I raised (and, I note in passing, you skipped entire sections of my letter in your response, too). In your rush to . . . claim just about all the early Fathers as your own, and join yourself with "the massive structure of the Catholic Church, the Fathers, Christian Tradition, the Councils, etc." (p.5), you missed the weight of my objection . . .  how do you know you are in company with, say, Athanasius or Ignatius or lrenaeus? In the final analysis, is it not because Rome tells you so?

Oh, I know, I read the rest of your letter (even your vented hatred of Luther and Calvin) -- I know you claim to be able to analyze Rome's claims, yet, you also admitted that, "in a sense" I am right in stating that you cannot really question Rome's pronouncements. As you said, "In a sense it is true because the Catholic is not arrogant enough to assume that he is the arbiter and final judge of all truth given him from any source." Does that mean, Dave, that you are not responsible before God for what you believe? That once you sign over the title-deed to your mind to someone else (teaching magisterium, Prophet, Governing Body, whatever) you can no longer be held responsible for the truth? I wonder why the Pharisees didn't point that out to the Lord when He held them directly responsible for God's revelation to them?

Well, we can't question Rome, of course, for Rome has all authority. Instead, we must repeat what we've been taught, sort of like our mantra: "We submit to a Tradition [make sure to capitalize this term.] which includes all the great Christian minds who have reflected upon that Deposit of Faith, [not only capitalize these terms, but make sure to ignore all those Fathers who directly contradicted Roman dogmas and teachings], received from Jesus and the Apostles [but never engage in public debate to defend that statement!] and developed as a result of battle with heretics for nearly 2000 years [but don't bother to tell anyone why the term Roman Catholic, aside from being an oxymoron (how can something be limited-Roman-and "universal"?), is not something that the early Fathers ever thought of using to describe themselves]." Then say that you are very proud to repeat this statement of faith. I hope you are not too offended if I say, Dave, that I see precious little difference between that kind of statement and the "testimonies" of the Mormon missionaries who speak with such enthusiasm and honesty about their trust in Joseph Smith and the living Prophet and the Book of Mormon.

I'm glad you realize that your decision to embrace Roman authority is a fallible one. That means that every time you assert Roman infallibility you will be honest and say, "I think Rome is infallible, but I'm not really certain of that." Most Roman apologists don't come right out and say things like that. They seem to want their audience to think that you really can have absolute and infallible certainty about Roman authority.

It's sort of hard for me to believe, Dave, that the following paragraph is really reflective of your conversion process:

That's pretty reflective, wouldn't you agree? You weren't using such terminology as that in 1990, that's for certain . . .

Be that as it may, I again have to note that your high words sound, well, a bit "tinny," in light of your unwillingness to defend those statements in public debate. It is easy to hide behind a word-processor, Dave. You can always blow smoke in written debates -- of course, you can do the same in formal debates, too, but without as much ease, that's for certain. It surely struck me as strange that you would . . . end your letter by referring me to someone I've never heard of before to defend your position. You say, "My challenge to you is to refute my arguments therein and elsewhere." Again you challenge me to respond to an unpublished book that I've never seen. How am I supposed to do that, Dave? I mean, I have no idea which of the various Roman Catholic views of "tradition" you espouse. Matatics takes one view, Madrid another. There are all sorts of different takes on the topic. You seem really enamored with Newman, so is that your view? How am I supposed to know?

You asserted that Protestant use of the Fathers is "selectively dishonest -- no question whatsoever." I do hope you don't mind my being very Protestant and questioning your pontification (pun fully intended). How about some examples, drawn, logically, from my own writings, my own debates? Surely you have listened to these debates, right? You said that you had engaged in this activity yourself in 1990. How so? Where did you do this? Did you put any of this in writing? You said evangelicals do this all the time. Such as? Who? I don't know too many evangelicals who bother to cite patristic sources to begin with, do you? Might I suggest that if you'd like to impress this upon me, you might wish to paint with a little finer brush? I've heard these arguments before, as I think you'd admit.

You said that usually the Protestant misunderstands the concept of development. Well, before Newman came up with it, I guess we had good reason, wouldn't you say? But, does that mean that those Roman Catholics I know who don't like Newman are actually Protestants, too? I'm kidding of course, but those who hang their case on Newman and the development hypothesis are liable for all sorts of problems, your eating of Salmon for lunch notwithstanding. Might it actually be that the Protestant fully understands development but rightly rejects it? I addressed development and Newman in my book (written before I engaged in all the debates I've done since then), and personally, I don't think your brief dismissal was, well, worthwhile. And as for Newman's statement, "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant," I would say, "to be deep in Newman is to cease to be an historically consistent Roman Catholic." I can only shake my head as I look at Newman's collapse on papal infallibility and chuckle at his "deep in history" comment. He knew better.

Next we have this paragraph:

First, I hope you are not referring to the brief paper about CRI that you sent me on sola scriptura, because if you are, I'm very disappointed. Your comments on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 are easily refuted, as I will demonstrate later. Hopefully you are referring to some other paper as yet not entered into evidence in this discussion (though you keep referring to such items). As to "my treatment" of canon issues, which treatment? In the book, in debates, in written materials, what? I've debated Patrick Madrid, Robert Sungenis, and James Akin in the sola scriptura folder in America Online, accompanied by my co-belligerent Gregory Khrebiel, and I will simply point out that those Roman Catholics aren't there anymore. And there's a reason for that, I'd say.

Next we read, "It's the oldest rhetorical trick in the book to simply dismiss an important question as irrelevant, when one can't answer it, as you did with my query as to when Catholicism became apostate." No, the oldest rhetorical trick in the book is to ignore the central parts of your opponent's arguments while accusing him of doing the same thing (that's the important part). Your question remains irrelevant. First, it is an improper question, since it is based upon the identification of Roman Catholicism with the earlier Catholic Church, and, as anyone knows, that is an improper identification. Secondly, it assumes something that is not true: that apostasy always takes place in a single act or definition of doctrine, and such is not always the case. Personally, I believe that there were believers within what even called itself Roman Catholicism for a long time -- in fact (are you sitting down?), there still are, by God's grace. So again, your question was irrelevant, and my brief response was based upon a recognition of that irrelevance.

Next you commented, "Likewise, you scoff at my disdain for the indefensible existence of 23,000 denominations. You don't dare admit that this is a valid point against Protestantism because you would obviously then be in big trouble." Do you really think, Dave, that I have not encountered this argument before? I mean, do you think that you are the only Roman apologist brilliant enough to come up with the ol', "Well, look at all the disagreements among Protestants, that proves sola scriptura doesn't work!" argument? You truly do flatter yourself. But to show you that you are not the first on the block with your arguments (and that your arguments are not particularly compelling), I provide you with the text of a post from America Online written in response to James Akin and his use of the very same argument:

James Akin of Catholic Answers wrote:

<Catholic apologists often appeal to the doctrinal chaos that reigns in Protestant circles--even conservative. Evangelical Protestant circles--as evidence for the unworkability to the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura and hence of Protestantism itself. >

On one point I certainly agree with Mr. Akin: Catholic apologists often DO use this argument. But is it a valid argument? Let's examine it.

First, and very briefly, it seems to me to be an inconsistent argument: that is, it refutes the position of the one using it. It presupposes the idea that if (in the case of Protestantism) the Scriptures are meant to be the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church, then it must follow that the Scriptures will produce an external, visible unity of doctrine on all fronts. As Patrick Madrid put it, Presbyterians and Baptists would not be in disagreement about infant baptism if the Bible were able to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church. I say this is an inconsistent argument because the solution offered to us by Rome--namely, the teaching Magisterium of the Roman Church, replete with oral tradition and papal infallibility--has not brought about the desired unity amongst Roman Catholics. I have personally spoken with and corresponded with Roman Catholics - - individuals actively involved in their parishes, regular attendees at Mass, etc., who have held to a WIDE range of beliefs on a WIDE range of topics. One need only read the pages of This Rock magazine to know that you have conflicts with traditionalists over every conceivable topic, from the Latin Mass to modernism in Rome. I've been witness to debates between Catholics on canon laws and excommunications and Father Feeney and other items that rival any debates I've seen amongst Protestants. And I haven't even gotten to the liberals in the Roman fold! Obviously I don't need to do that, as the point is made. If sola Scriptura is disproven by the resultant disagreements amongst people outside of Rome, then Roman claims regarding the Magisterium are equally disproven by the very same argument.

But my main reason for adressing the common argument made by Roman apologists is that it reveals something important about Rome's view of man himself. Dr. Cornelius Van Til often commented on the errors of Rome regarding their view of man, and how these errors impacted every aspect of their theology, and he was quite right. We see an illustration right here. Rome's semi-Pelagianism (I am talking to a Roman Catholic right now in another venue who makes Pelagius look like a raving Calvinist) leads her to overlook what seems to me to be avery fundamental issue. Let me give you an illustration: Let's say James Akin writes the PERFECT textbook on logic. It is completely perspicuous: it is fully illustrated, completely consistent, and it provides answers to all the tough questions in plain, understandable terminology. It covers all the bases. Now, would it follow, then, that every person who consulted this textbook would agree with every other person who consulted this textbook on matters of logic? Well, of course not. Some folks might just read one chapter, and not the rest. Others might read too quickly. and not really listen to Mr. Akin's fine explanations. Others might have read other less-well-written textbooks, and they might importy their understandings into Mr. Akin's words, resulting in misunderstandings. Most often, people might just lack the mental capacity to follow all the arguments, no matter how well they are expressed, and end up clueless about the entire subject, despite having read the entire work.

Now the question I have to ask is this: is there something wrong with Mr. Akin's textbook if it does not produce complete unanimity on questions logical? Is the problem in the textbook or in the people using the textbook? In the real world it is often a combination of both: a lack of clarity on the part of the textbook and a problem in understanding on the part of the reader. But if the perfect textbook existed, would it result in absolute unanimity of opinion? No, because any textbook must be read, interpreted, and understood.

Let's say the Bible is perspicuous, in the sense that Westminster said, that is, that "those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation. are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them." Does it follow, then, that there must be a unanimity of opinion on, say, infant baptism? Does the above even say that there will be a unanimity of opinion on the very items that "are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation"? No, obviously, it does not. And why? Because people -- sinful people, people with agendas, people who want to find something in the Bible that isn't really there--people approach Scripture, and no matter how perfect Scripture is, people remain people.

Now, Roman apologists may well way, "See, you've proven our point. You need an infallible interpreter to tell you what the Bible says because you are a sinful person, and hence you need a sinless, perfect guide to tell you what to believe!" Aside from the fact that such a concept itself is absent from Scripture, and is in fact countermanded by Scripture (did not the Lord Jesus hold men accountable for what GOD said to THEM in SCRIPTURE?), we need to observe that Rome is not solving the problem of fallible people. Once Rome "speaks" the fallible person must still interpret the supposed infallible interpretation. The element of error remains, no matter how much Rome might wish to think it has been removed. Indeed, beyond the problem of interpreting the infallible interpreter, you still have the fallible decision of following Rome's absolute authority rather than, say, Brooklyn's, or Salt Lake's, or Mecca 's, or whoever's - That remains a fal1ible decision, and hence the longing for that "infallible fuzzy" that comes from turning your responsibilities over to an "infallible guide" remains as unfulfilled as ever.

Finally, the argument put forth (plainly seen in the arguments used by Karl Keating in Catholicism and Fundamentalism) is even more pernicious, in that it attacks the sufficiency of Scripture itself. We are seemingly told that the Holy Spirit did such a poor job in producing Scripture that while the Psalmist thought it was a lamp to his feet and a light to his path, he (the Psalmist) was in fact quite deluded, and was treading very dangerously. Instead of the glorious words of God spoken of in Psalm 119, we are told that such basic truths as the nature of God, including the deity of Christ or the personality of the Holy Spirit, cannot be derived solely from Scripture, but require external witnesses. And why are we told this? Well, it is alleged that arguments can be made against these doctrines on the basis of Scripture passages. Of course, one could argue against ANYTHING if one is willing to sacrifice context, language, consistency, etc. But are we really to believe the Bible is so self-contradictory and unclear that we cannot arrive at the truth through a whole-hearted effort at honestly examining the biblical evidence? That seems to be what those across the Tiber are trying to tell us. But it is obvious that just because the Scriptures can be misused it does not follow that they are insufficient to lead one to the truth. Such is a flawed argument (no matter how often it is repeated). The real reason Rome tells us the Bible is insufficient is so that we can be convinced to abandon the God-given standard of Scripture while embracing Rome's ultimate authority.

I never saw a response from Mr. Akin to that post, either, but I could have missed it, too. I'd be interested in a meaningful . . . response from you to this post.

[See the following papers:

The Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture
Fictional Dialogue on Sola Scriptura  ]

You wrote,

Well, that's quite interesting. Yes, you have dogmas -- you have to pick and choose what you will call dogmas (like, killing heretics to receive indulgences isn't a dogma, though indulgences themselves are), but you have dogmas. You have councils, too -- you have to pick and choose what of the earliest councils you will and will not accept (Canon 6 of Nicea, Canon 28 of Constantinople, for example), and even what councils were "good" and which ones weren't (you don't want Sirmium or Ariminum, for example), but you have councils. The fact that councils were called seems to cause you a problem, and the fact that they were obviously not considered infallible, even by those who attended, also causes a problem, and of course the fact that no one thought the bishop of Rome had to call councils, confirm councils, or even have an active role in councils for the first few hundred years is yet another problem, but, like I said, you have councils. And yes, you have papal encyclicals -- oodles of them, in fact, though which ones are infallible and which ones are fallible, and who is to tell, and just how binding such encyclicals are, is anyone's guess.

You say you have infallible utterances, but again, I have yet to find a simple way of finding out exactly which utterances are infallible. I have found lots of folks who want to say that Christ's Vicar has spoken infallibly an average of once a millennium, but there are all sorts of other folks who would say there are many more infallible pronouncements, though they don't infallibly known how many infallible pronouncements there are, which makes the whole infallibility issue a real mess at times. I'm sure wild-eyed liberals think of you as a wild-eyed conservative, what's even worse, the traditionalists probably think of you as a wild-eyed liberal! Ah, but I must remember: Rome is united in all things. Just ask Patrick Madrid and Gerry Matatics. Everyone is one big, happy family. No disagreements, no confusion as to what is, and what is not, infallible teaching. How truly wonderful.

Of course, all of that just points out that having an "infallible interpreter" solves nothing. Once you have an infallible interpretation, you then need an infallible interpretation of the infallible interpretation. You've simply moved your epistemological problem back a step, nothing more.

I have to mention that your "I could care less" reminds me of a comment Gerry Matatics made on a radio station in Denver less than two years ago now while he and I were discussing various things. Someone asked about some Roman Catholic writers who were not quite as conservative as Gerry and in response he said, "Well, I call folks who believe like that Protestants." Hey, that's very convenient. "We are all unified as Roman Catholics -- and if you don't agree with me, you aren't a Roman Catholic." I like how that works, don't you?

You made a statement on page 10 that made me wonder. With reference to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society you said that they deny God's omnipresence, deny that He is a Spirit, and say that He has a physical body. Really? Could you give me some references to Watchtower sources where they say this? I know the Mormons do all those things, but it's news to me that the Witnesses do that, too.

. . .  The church that allows its followers to venerate saints and Mary, instructs them to do penances lest they suffer in purgatory, directs them to priests and intermediaries, preaches indulgences, "re-presents" the sacrifice of Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice over and over again, and makes a man the Vicar of Christ on earth is "Christ-centered," while the church that cries "Christ alone," that speaks of the sufficiency of both His work and His Word, that proclaims that He alone is worthy of worship, veneration, service (latria, dulia, etc.), and says that one can have true and lasting peace with God solely through Him, is man-centered? Well, if you say so, Dave. Personally, I don't find a particle of truth in your statement.

I see a rather glaring double-standard in your sentence, "It's pointless to respond to it other than to refer you to my various tracts about development or to Newman's essential work on the subject." To which I have to respond, "Newman I know, but who is this Armstrong fellow?" :-)

. . . the divergent views of Lateran IV and Vatican II on religious tolerance." . . . yes, these two councils disagreed on this topic. And, of course, because you have to, you say, "the teachings involved here are not religious dogmas of the faith, but rather disciplinary measures." Really? How is that? Who told you that? You aren't engaging in "private interpretation" and providing me with a "magisterium of one" are you, Dave? Where has Rome officially said this? I'd like to see this infallible pronouncement.

What is more, where does Vatican II say, "This discussion of religious tolerance has nothing to do with faith and morals, this is a disciplinary thing"? And you utterly ignored the entire point of my argument at this point, Dave, by saying, "So, as almost always, what you think is a knockout punch to your detested 'Romanism' rebounds back to you with much more force, for the reasons just recounted." That was, quite simply, Dave, a very lame reply. Since this section seemed to fall right out of my letter to you, let me try it again and see if you are up to providing a meaningful response:

In your fifth point you mention the Inquisition "disproving" Catholicism. The problem with your point is this, Dave: we Protestants don't claim infallibility. Rome does. There is a big difference. Please note the following comparison:

Not only do we see the obvious conflict between these two ecumenical" councils, but we see that the IVth Lateran Council specifically taught that those who would take up the cross in the effort to exterminate heretics would enjoy the same indulgence as those who went to the Holy Land. Now, Dave, surely you can see the vast difference between the silliness of, say, a "Protestant" like Benny Hinn teaching his ideas as facts, and an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church teaching that indulgences would be given to those who took up the cause of exterminating the heretics (i.e., simple Christian folks who were slaughtered at the behest of the Roman hierarchy). What is more, is not the granting of indulgences based upon the exercise of the keys? Does this not then touch upon the very faith of the Roman church? I believe it does.

Now, Dave, why didn't you deal with what I wrote to you? Where is your discussion of the difference between an organization that claims infallibility and Protestants who admit their fallibility? And where do you deal with the offering of indulgences for the extermination of heretics, and the fact that the granting of indulgences involves the use of the keys? And do you really want to say that statements like this are irrelevant to faith and morals? Personally I think most folks can see through this, don't you? I mean, you say your church is infallible with reference to faith and morals, so when faced with evidence to the contrary you simply define those errors as having nothing to do with "faith and morals." Where can I find an infallible definition of faith and morals, Dave? It must be a pretty narrow definition, wouldn't you agree? There must not be a whole lot in the field of "faith and morals" if killing people who are "heretics" (defining who is and who is not a heretic has nothing to do with faith and morals, Dave?) and gaining indulgences for so doing is simply a "disciplinary" thing.

I was left overwhelmed yet once again by,

First, my comments were not lengthy -- they were a mere drop in the bucket. Secondly, I don't have your book which may be published by Ignatius Press, so how I'm supposed to refer to it is just a bit beyond me. I may someday publish a full-length work on sola scriptura, but till then I'm not going to be referring people to a source they can't even read. I could have simply said to you, "As to the papacy, simply see my debates against Gerry Matatics (Phoenix, 1990, Denver, 1993), Dr. Robert Fastiggi (Austin, 1995) and Butler/Sungenis (Boston, 1995)." Now that would have accomplished alot! And as for your 98 single-spaced pages, I have to admit this is the one line in your letter that made me chuckle more than anything else.

You see, Patrick Madrid boasted about his being able to "bury me" under 50+ pages of quotations from the Fathers on sola scriptura, and Scott Butler crows about his 91 citations from Chrysostom proving Petrine primacy, and you have your 98 single-spaced pages on the papacy and infallibility. Well, that surely finishes the debate! I mean, 98 pages! I mentioned that to a friend of mine and his response truly amused me: "Tell him to shrink his font so that you can fit more than a few words on each page and go from there." Really, Dave, think about it. If I said, "I have 196 pages of material in small print with condensed spacing that proves the papacy to be in error," would you be overly impressed? I mean, I would have twice the material you do! Wouldn't that end the debate? No, of course not. I know JW's who have "hundreds of pages documenting the Trinity is a pagan invention," too, but I have not stopped adoring the Trinity on the basis of such high-powered testimony.

You dismissed von Dollinger with a mere wave of the magical developmental wand, Dave. Your words were, "Your three long quotes, which you obviously thought were so unanswerable, have little or no force against my position." All I can say is, you might be wise to avoid publicly debating that issue if that is all you can come up with.

[ . . . ]

If you are going to engage in patristic debate, Dave, I would suggest sticking to contextual citations. You attempted to get around my citation of Clement's epistle by citation of 58.2. Unfortunately for your position, I'm one of those few Protestant apologists who happens to have a pretty good patristic library, a good grasp of Greek, and enough experience as a professor of church history to make me dangerous. The entire sentence is:

[seven lines of Greek text which didn't scan]

To which I add my own hearty "amen" indeed. But why did this supposed Pope of Rome (of course, he was probably just the scribe for the body of elders that existed in Rome at the time) use such terminology as "the elect" like that, Dave? Perhaps he wasn't nearly as opposed to that concept as you are, maybe?

You then dismissed the central canons from Trent with yet another wave of the hand, saying they "prove nothing." Really? They prove nothing? Of what good are they then, Dave? Are they just a waste of paper or do they have some meaning? The rest of your paragraph only indicated to me that you are not very clear on the issues revolving around justification, grace, and the like. I'm tempted to say, "See my debate against Dr. Mitchell Pacwa on justification" but that wouldn't be nice. :-)

You then turned to Ignatius for a quotation, and again, demonstrated that context for the Roman apologist is an inconvenient problem. "Let none of you be found a deserter" to which you add, "so much for Calvinism." Huh? Would you mind explaining the connection here, Dave? I mean, please show me how the context here has the slightest to do with anything like the Reformed faith. Show me where Ignatius, in writing to Polycarp, refers to the bishop of Rome as the center of the Church, and that we are not to desert him. Good luck, as there was no single bishop of Rome at the time, which may explain why Ignatius doesn't ever refer to the bishop of Rome while writing to the Romans. If your 98 pages of material on the papacy partakes of the same kind of "here's a sentence I like, who cares if the context is relevant or not" type of citation, well, it would probably not be worth the effort of going through it, wouldn't you agree?

There is more I'd like to get to, but I've put far too much time into this already. Let me close with three items. First, I am going to import into this letter my reply to Akin's article that you don't seem to have seen. Then I will import some of the written "debate" between myself and Robert Sungenis on 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I simply don't have time to rewrite all of this for your benefit, and, given the use of the patristic sources I just went through, I have to wonder about the benefits of such an effort in the first place. You will note these posts are not exactly ancient history, as they were written fairly recently. I will attach these as sort of an "addendum" following the close of this letter, though they will be consecutively numbered along with the letter . . .

[ . . . ]

. . .  your reasons for declining a public debate are left rather hollow. Perhaps you will reconsider your refusal? I have no idea who Gary Michuta is, what his position is, what he's written, what his background is, or anything else. You wrote to the folks in the cult directory. You have the stationery that says "Catholic Apologist." You claim to eat Protestant apologists for lunch. I think you need to defend your position in a scholarly manner.

Sola scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria,

James White

Recte Ambulamus ad Veritatem Evangelii

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Link to Dave's 36-page reply of 15 May 1995 and Jame's White's final 1-page "reply" of 10-November 1995

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Uploaded from the 1995 snail-mail debates by Dave Armstrong on 4 February 2000, with express permission from Dr. James White. Edited to remove inflammatory materials on 23 January 2002.