Tuesday, March 30, 2004

My Radio Interview (4-2-04) / The Catholic Answer Bible 

This coming Friday (4-2-04) I will be interviewed by my good friend Al Kresta on his radio show, Kresta in the Afternoon, concerning my apologetic notes in The Catholic Answer Bible (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2002). Al and I go back to 1982, when we were both Protestants (I met Steve Ray the next year). He was my pastor for a few years, and we were in the rescue movement together, and have very similar interests in many ways.

My story and his were the final two conversion stories in Pat Madrid's bestseller, Surprised by Truth (1994), for a "double Michigan" ending. I've been on his radio show twice before, giving my conversion story.

This radio show is syndicated in various places, besides southeast Michigan, where it is broadcast from (e.g., Omaha, Buffalo, LA, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh). You can see the radio stations and showtimes (usually 4-6 PM) on Ave Maria's Al Kresta Page.

The Catholic Answer Bible is doing quite well (figures, since I received a one-time fee rather than royalties). According to its page on, it is currently ranked at 38,438 in sales (the lower the number the better). The show's producer told me there was a "buzz" about it going around. My first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, is doing even better, at a 27,850 sales rank.

It is also interesting to note that my name never appears in the Bible as the author of the 44 one-page apologetic "inserts" (!!!) I suppose this is good for cultivation of my humility, but it doesn't help in the sense of advertising and promotion. So the word has to get out through the grapevine. Even my friend Al apparently wasn't aware that I was the author of the notes. I should seek some extra work as a ghost writer . . .

In the future, I will be posting on this blog various of the 44 inserts from this Bible, as they would make nice little compact posts, for discussion.

I also have a published pamphlet for OSV, called Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked, which is selling quite well, too. Blessedly, I receive royalties on that, and I have made a good profit. And my name is even on that product, for an extra bonus. LOL

But (not to worry) I am in no danger of becoming wealthy anytime soon. Virtually all the money I receive as part of my paltry income is immediately designated for bills. I had $3 left in my bank account, last time I paid a bill (and yes, if at this time you considered a tax-deductible donation to my apostolate, I would be most thankful and appreciative; half of my meager income -- sole support of a family of six -- derives from donations; the other from royalties).

I'm not in this line of work for the money (I'd be an utter fool if that were the case) but I have to have money to live on. If YOU (yeah, YOU! LOL) think my work is valuable and worth supporting financially (and I think my recent thread about "Lousy Catholics" leaving the faith gives one very good reason why it is quite worthwhile and necessary today), I need YOUR help. Thanks!

Tim Enloe Thread, Pt. II (Conciliarism, Etc.) 

The old thread reached its limit of 50 comments in BlogBack.

Another "Lousy Catholic" Convert to Protestantism 

We converts to Catholicism are often told that we didn't understand Protestantism before we left it (and that was, of course, why we left -- we were dupes of Rome and her nefarious, deceitful apologists because we were so stupid in the first place). In most conversion stories to Catholicism that I have seen, this isn't the case at all.

In fact, the exact opposite is usually true: it was the commitment to Protestant Christianity and all that is good in it which made these inquirers study and ponder a further move into Catholicism, with its sacramentalism, Mariology, Tradition, papacy, etc. We saw the move as a simple progression upwards; not a reversal or revolution or rejection of what we had already learned.
We were committed Protestants, "good" Protestants; who really believed in the system and tried to live it out.

In any event, the argument is made that we converted because we were either ignorant, or non-observant, already-compromised Protestants. We were never really part of the club: we had the smells and bells and attraction to mysticism and the goddess-Mary and a perverse desire to give up our mind and submit to every jot and tittle of the pope's utterances (including when we should blow our nose and what color socks to wear in the morning) in our warped souls, and so were easy-pickin's for Rome. I exaggerate, of course, but to read some cynical observations of Catholic converts, they aren't all that different from this scenario.

This is -- for the most part -- all a bunch of nonsense, of course (as those of us who are converts are well aware). But how often and how much do we hear about similarly ignorant converts from Catholicism to Protestantism? Did they really know their faith before they left it? Were they dupes of the anti-Catholic Protestant apologists and sophists? Or did they have an inexorable, irresistible attraction for private judgment and sola Scriptura in their souls from the beginning, and an irrational longing for whitewashed walls and plain clapboard churches and 90-minute hellfire-and-brimstone sermons and altar calls with the sinner's prayer and the King James Version or interminable pentecostal worship sessions where the people say "Praise God" and "Hallelujah" and "Thank you Jesus" 742 times without engaging in "vain repetition" and the same person goes up front to get "saved" for the 6th time in seven weeks? See how silly the rhetoric sounds if we turn the tables?

If we can cast doubt on Catholic converts due to ignorance and compromise in their former faith-lives, why not apply the same standard to Protestant converts? Yes, why not? But, as I have shown here over and over, anti-Catholics are nothing if not admirers of double standards.

Now, I do wish to note that the Catholic Church bears a great deal of blame insofar as atrocious, abominable catechesis has been scandalously widespread for well over a generation now. Liberalism (along with many other cultural and sociological factors) has made ignorance and nominalism almost the norm.

Yet the individual remains responsible for his own soul, too (Catholics are not just a bunch of mindless clones: we must learn on our own also). A proper understanding of Catholicism is no further away than a couple of books (or even several solid, "meaty" articles): either apologetics or catechetical material. Now with the Internet it is even easier to learn. Within a solid week of study, anyone could have a working knowledge of what they are required to believe as a Catholic, and why they should believe it. And this is why I do what I do and am so passionately committed to it. The more educated Catholics are, the more likely they will remain Catholics, and confident, spiritually-thriving ones. The less-educated they are, the more likely they will leave the faith.

I shall now provide one example of a convert to Protestantism who was thoroughly ignorant of Catholicism, from Eric Svendsen's NTRMin Board. Note well what has happened here! The bolding is added:

3/1/04 1:18 pm


i've lurked here a long time, but will take this opportunity for intro, in case i decide to post.

my name's rich. i've posted under the name rswood in the past on julie staples' board.

i converted from catholicism 2 years ago now. i was a cradle catholic, but somehow managed to avoid many of the catholic distinctives because they felt inherently wrong. i never prayed to saints or mary, didn't really believe purgatory was real, didn't believe i needed a priest to confess my sins and for most of my time there didn't believe in transubstantiation (although for a season i did).

reading my bible during high school and college only convinced me further that something was amiss. years later i began taking these queries seriously. i was not content in being a lazy catholic. i would research the rcc's claims--if true, i would give up and submit and be a rosary-praying, flesh-eating catholic. if not, i would leave the rcc.

i read works by sungenis and hahn, and listened to every debate of james white's over and over. the slam-dunks for me were salmon's "infallibility of the church" and webster/king's series (yes, i even pored over every endnote). your book on mary was also very helpful, eric! far moreso than, say, hahn's.

i've lurked here for over a year, and am still reading a ton and gaining in knowledge. the next issue for me is going to be coming to terms with the doctrines of grace, although it seems a foregone conclusion that i already believe them--i will however probably give hunt/geisler some last words on it to see if i can be convinced otherwise.
3/1/04 4:39 pm

"huh? ha!"

oh i forgot to mention i'm californian, 29, and married almost 6 years. my wife converted with me--interestingly she was a cradle-catholic who went to catholic school and the whole nine yards and somehow avoided all the same errors, independently. i'm convinced there are Sheep in the rcc--despite the catholic church. i can think of no other way in which someone can be dunked in families of rosaries and prayer cards and not get wet, yet emerge with the three solas without evangelical interference or even knowing what the solas are. our own experience actually has really helped us understand the doctrines of grace.
3/5/04 2:50 am

"i've also heard"

of people who claim a pure faith who stay in the rcc to win souls.

. . . they are still IN the rcc physically, but know Jesus apart from Rome's errors. one of the greatest things i came to understand as i learned rcc doctrine was how few in the rcc have a clue really what they're supposed to believe. time and again i talk with catholics who think it's ok to ignore a ton of catholic doctrine, and by so stripping themselves of romanism, end up purely though imperfectly Christian. by imperfect i mean that they aren't being fed, lack knowledge.

so that's just it--they don't tolerate rome's teachings, instinctively (most haven't been taught to avoid these things). they sit in the pews, partake of communion without understanding what they are assenting to when they say "Amen" before receiving it, pray without any mediator to their mediator, confess their sins in private, and so on. i feel like it's my job now to tap them on the shoulder and get them into the Scriptures, and ultimately into a church that will feed them properly. i have a brother and friend in just this position. by God's grace it's just a matter of time til they come out of the rcc entirely because in most senses they aren't there anyway. -------------------

So who were the key players in causing this person to convert? All the usual suspects: James White, George Salmon (a 19th-century anti-Catholic Anglican), Eric Svendsen, William Webster, and David T. King.

I've refuted most of these folks over and over and they have never overturned my reasoning (in virtually all cases they totally ignored it, which seems to be the usual modus operandi of the anti-Catholic in the face of serious critique). This person was taken in by specious reasoning. He felt that he had to choose between light and darkness. Catholicism was the non-Christian system of darkness and Protestantism was the Christian light. So of course, thinking that, he had no choice but to become a Protestant. This is the lie that the anti-Catholic apologists try to put across.

Here are some refutations of these guys (perhaps another victim of their sophistries and slanders and inaccuracies and misrepresentations and anti-rational rantings can be saved):

A Refutation of the Fallacies and Circular Reasoning of Dr. James White Regarding "Moses' Seat," Authentic Tradition, and Sola Scriptura

Is Catholicism Christian?: My Debate With Dr. James White

"Man-Centered" Sacramentalism: The Remarkable Incoherence of Dr. James White: How Can Martin Luther and St. Augustine Be Christians According to His Definition?

Refutation of William Webster's Fundamental Misunderstanding of Development of Doctrine

Refutation of Protestant Polemicist William Webster's Critique of Catholic Tradition and Newmanian Development of Doctrine

Protestant Contra-Catholic Revisionist History: Pope St. Pius X and Cardinal Newman's Alleged "Modernism" (Dave Armstrong vs. David T. King)

Dialogue on "Tradition" in the New Testament (vs. Eric Svendsen)

Debate on the Nature of "Church" and Catholicism (vs. Eric Svendsen)

Dialogue on the Alleged "Perspicuous Apostolic Message" as a Proof of the Quasi-Protestantism of the Early Church (vs. Eric Svendsen and James White)

My Old Anti-Catholicism Page

The Church and Infallibility: A Reply to Anglican Polemicist George Salmon (B.C. Butler; includes much material dealing with Newman, the papacy, and development)

And here are two web pages showing how Svendsen and King (and others) are almost masters at launching ad hominem attacks and personal insults against Catholics:

Hurry, Hurry; Read All About it! My Harshest Anti-Catholic Protestant Critics' Opinions of Me and My Work

Response to Protestant Apologists Eric Svendsen's and David T. King's Public Charge of My Alleged "Deceit" and Inability to Debate

I have provided abundant examples here recently of James White's overwhelming tendency for personal attack; I need not belabor the point. Anyone who doesn't see this would have trouble looking up and seeing the sun at high noon on a clear summer day.

William Webster doesn't personally attack; I am happy to acknowledge that, but he is remarkably ignorant of many facets of Church history (and of certain aspects of Vatican I), as I have shown in my two papers.

Monday, March 29, 2004

The Protestant Sacramentarian Controversies (Calvin vs. Luther vs. Zwingli) 

An "outtake" from my upcoming book: The Catholic Verses. It was too historical, and the emphasis of the book is biblical ("the editor hath spoken!"). But this is interesting historical information, I think (at least for a history buff / nut like me), so I saved it for "blog consumption":

Martin Luther’s eucharistic theology was much closer to Catholic than to Calvinist or Reformed theology (or the purely symbolic conception, which took it a step further). He believed in the Real Presence, although he denied transubstantiation and rejected the Sacrifice of the Mass. Luther (according to his nominalistic, anti-Scholastic leanings) didn’t want to speculate about metaphysics and how the bread and wine became the Body and Blood of Christ. He simply believed in the miracles of the literal presence of Jesus’ Body and Blood “alongside” the bread and wine (consubstantiation). In this respect, his position was similar to the Eastern Orthodox one.

It is enough for me that Christ’s blood is present; let it be with the wine as God wills. Before I would drink mere wine with the Enthusiasts, I would rather have pure blood with the Pope.

(Early 1520s; in Althaus, 376; LW, 37, 317)

The glory of our God is precisely that for our sakes he comes down to the very depths, into human flesh, into the bread, into our mouth, our heart, our body.

(in Althaus, 398; LW, 37, 71 ff.)

John Calvin didn’t think much of Martin Luther’s opinion in this regard:

. . . if Luther has so great a lust of victory, he will never be able to join along with us in a sincere agreement respecting the pure truth of God. For he has sinned against it not only from vainglory and abusive language, but also from ignorance and the grossest extravagance. For what absurdities he pawned upon us in the beginning, when he said the bread is the very body!
And if now he imagines that the body of Christ is enveloped by the bread, I judge that he is chargeable with a very foul error. What can I say of the partisans of that cause? Do they not romance more wildly than Marcion
respecting the body of Christ? . . .

(Letter to Martin Bucer, January 12, 1538; in Dillenberger, 47)

Note the arrogance and disrespect inherent in this letter, seeing that Calvin was 28 at the time, and writing about Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, who was 54. It is not only Catholics who are guilty of slander where Luther is concerned.

Protestant divisions and the perpetual creation of little competing “kingdoms” (along with the usual petty jealousies present in most such situations) existed from the very beginning of the movement, much as they tried to hide this fact from Catholics, knowing that it was scandalous. It will be instructive to briefly examine the “eucharistic controversies,” as they were typical of much of Protestant internal strife throughout history, and illustrate a certain exegetical confusion regarding the Eucharist.

Calvin was very concerned about the public perception of Protestantism. He could be discreet and wise in public pronouncements but he couldn’t hide his true opinions.

In their madness they even drew idolatry after them. For what else is the adorable sacrament of Luther but an idol set up in the temple of God?

(Letter to Martin Bucer, June 1549; in Bonnet, V, 234)

In 1544, Luther blasted the “Sacramentarians” (those who denied his doctrine of consubstantiation and opted for a symbolic Eucharist):

. . . Zwingli, Karlstadt, Oecolampadius . . . called him a baked God, a God made of bread, a God made of wine, a roasted God, etc. They called us
cannibals, blood-drinkers, man-eaters . . . even the papists have never taught such things, as they clearly know . . .

For this is . . . how it was accepted in the true, ancient Christian church of fifteen hundred years ago . . . When you receive the bread from the altar, . . . you are receiving the entire body of the Lord; . . .

(Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament, September 1544; LW, 38, 291-292)

In this work, Luther calls Zwingli, Karlstadt, Oecolampadius, and Caspar Schwenkfeld (on whose name Luther does a play on words throughout his tract, making it mean “Stinkfield”) -– and by implication those who believe as they do -- “fanatics and enemies of the sacrament” (LW, 39, 287), men who are guilty of “blasphemies and deceitful heresy” (39, 288), “loathsome fanatics” (39, 291), “murderers of souls” (39, 296), who “possess a bedeviled, thoroughly bedeviled, hyper-bedeviled heart and lying tongue” (39,
296), and who “have incurred their penalty and are committing ‘sin which is mortal’,” (39, 296), “blasphemers and enemies of Christ” (39, 302), and “God’s and our condemned enemies” (39, 316).

He described Zwingli as a “full-blown heathen” (39, 290), and wrote: “I am certain that Zwingli, as his last book testifies, died in a great many sins and in blasphemy of God” (39, 302-303). Zwingli had already taken a few swipes at Luther; for example:

May I be lost if he does not surpass Faber in foolishness, Eck in impurity, Cochlaeus in impudence, and to sum it up shortly, all the vicious in vice.

(Letter to Conrad Sam of Ulm, August 30, 1528; in Grisar, III, 277)

His successor in Zurich, Heinrich Bullinger, was equally critical:

Everyone must be astonished at the harsh and presumptuous spirit of the man . . . The opinion of posterity will be that Luther was . . . a man ruled by
criminal passions.

Luther’s rude hostility might be allowed to pass would he but leave intact respect for Holy Scripture . . . What has already taken place leads us to apprehend that this man will eventually bring great misfortune upon the Church.

(Letter to Martin Bucer, December 8, 1543; in Grisar, V, 409 and III, 417)

Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s right hand man and successor, writing to Bullinger on August 30, 1544, described Luther’s Brief Confession (a work on the Eucharist) as "the most atrocious book of Luther " (atrocissimum Lutheri scriptum, in quo bellum). He had increasingly forsaken his earlier position on the Eucharist and adopted a view closer to
Calvin’s, scornfully referring to his former view and that of Luther as “bread worship.”

Ironically, he now adopted a position that he thought should be punished by death earlier in his life (and Lutheran areas had the legal power and Lutheran sanction to carry out the sentence). At length Calvin wrote to Melanchthon:

When I reflect how much, at so unseasonable a time, these intestine quarrels divide and tear us asunder, I almost entirely lose courage . . .

(Letter to Philip Melanchthon, January 21, 1545; in Bonnet, IV, 437)

Calvin wrote his one and only letter to Luther (a conciliatory and respectful one) on the same day, via Melanchthon, but it was never delivered, because – Melanchthon told Calvin – Luther “takes up many things suspiciously” (see Bonnet, IV, 440). Five months later (June 28, 1545), Calvin again wrote to his friend, stating:

I confess that we all owe the greatest thanks to Luther, and I should cheerfully concede to him the highest authority, if he only knew how to control himself. Good God! what jubilee we prepare for the Papists, and what sad example do we set to posterity!

(in Schaff, VII, The German Reformation, Chapter 7, §109)

Calvin, despite his friendship with the Lutheran Melanchthon and (sometimes) avowed respect for Luther, wrote 18 years later:

I am carefully on the watch that Lutheranism gain no ground, nor be introduced into France. The best means, believe me, for checking the evil would be that confession written by me . . .

(Letter to Heinrich Bullinger, July 2, 1563; in Dillenberger, 76; emphasis added)


Althaus, Paul, The Theology of Martin Luther, translated by Robert C. Schultz, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966.

Bonnet, Jules, editor, John Calvin: Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters: Letters, Part 1, 1528-1545, volume 4 of 7; translated by David Constable; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983; reproduction of Letters of John Calvin, volume I (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858).

Bonnet, Jules, editor, John Calvin: Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters: Letters, Part 2, 1545-1553, volume 5 of 7; translated by David Constable; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983; reproduction of Letters of John Calvin, volume II (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858).

Dillenberger, John, editor, John Calvin: Selections From His Writings, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co. (Anchor Books), 1971 (Calvin’s letter to Martin Bucer in 1538 was translated by Marcus Robert Gilchrist).

Grisar, Hartmann, Luther, translated by E.M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, six volumes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1915.

Luther, Martin, Luther's Works (LW), American edition, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (volumes 1-30) and Helmut T. Lehmann (volumes 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (volumes 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (volumes 31-55), 1955.

Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, New York: Charles Scribner's sons, 1910, eight volumes; from Volume VII: The German Reformation, available online:

James White: The "Accuser" -- His Ridiculous Blog Post About Me 

Alas, Dr. James R. White has actually "responded" to me on his blog (3-28-04). Of course it is 100% rank insults and entirely subjective judgmentalism, and so there is no possible way to "reply" to it (if anyone thinks of one, please let me know). It does, however, have great comedic value. White reduces serious theological discourse to the intellectual level of a fight with rotten eggs in a kindergarten lunch room. One truly wonders why he does this.

He makes a fool of himself, since one readily sees how much he despises me personally and how worthless he thinks my work is (and how remarkably silly and substanceless a man with a doctorate can be), yet (as I noted in my last post about him) he keeps challenging me to a live oral debate. Anyway, here it is (enjoy!, and you may need to take a sleeping pill to prevent yourself from laughing to death -- or crying, as the case may be).
3/28/04: Dave Armstrong

It is good to know that even on weekends the ever-vigilant Dave Armstrong is reading my blog. :-) Seriously, only a few hours after posting my response to TGE [Tim Enloe] below, DA (as he is so affectionately known by so many) posted a long, rambling response that, to be honest, has almost nothing whatsoever to do with what I said. I normally try to avoid DA when I write, since he seems to have no end of time nor any interest in actually focusing upon any one topic in his writings. In fact, he has written so much that it seems to be approaching critical mass, and may soon crash the internet due to all of his self-congratulatory self-citation. Anyway, if you dare mention him you will get a minimum of ten times the amount of text in return (witness this situation), and there is simply no end to the verbiage that can be pounded out on a keyboard connected to one of today's high-speed computers.

Be that as it may, what I said was 1) DA lacks the ability to engage the text of the Scriptures in a meaningful fashion, and 2) DA will use anything to attack the truth. Unwittingly he has proven the second proposition true in his lengthy response and the argumentation it contains. As to the first, I simply direct anyone to the "exegesis" presented in A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, his 2001 publication. The book is a monument to how to ignore context, avoid grammar, shred syntax, and insert the traditions of Rome willy-nilly into any passage you cite. Sadly, given how rare it is for anyone to honor the Word by engaging in serious AND believing exegesis these days, few in the pews have the process modeled for them consistently in the pulpit or the Bible Study room, and hence are impressed by even this kind of rambling eisegesis. DA thinks himself a modern Socrates, yet, his writing takes wild leaps from topic to topic, inserts endless (and often gratuitous) irrelevant material that serves only to cover the shallow nature of what is being said, and in the end requires one to possess the skill of nailing jello to a wall to be able to respond to it for its utter lack of substance. Take away his quotes from the CCC and Newman, and there would be little left.

To demonstrate this with clarity, let me provide a contrast. DA has published a book in which he seeks to give a "biblical defense" of his theology (it is much more of a defense offered by selective citations of Newman than anything else). It struck me this evening that he "explained" issues regarding Hebrews 7 and Christ's priesthood in his book, and I am writing an article for a journal on the same topic. So, the best way to substantiate what I have said is to just allow the reader to decide. Below I reproduce DA's comments, and after that, my own as they will be published in an upcoming journal article. Click here for the comparison.

[Note: the link White provided actually does offer a rational theological argument, but it is mutual monologue; not really a response to my excerpts. Nevertheless, I will reply to his exegesis in due course -- and expect to receive back only nonsense and juvenile put-downs, such as the above post]

Saturday, March 27, 2004

More White Lies (+ Svendsen & King Lies) 

James White is just too much! What does this guy think he will gain by writing screeds like the following? In the very process of lambasting Tim Enloe for his supposed lack of substance, he comes after me (obviously overlooking the high comedy and irony of this) with a ridiculous slander that is no argument at all, but merely a sweeping rank insult and lie. Does he not see the hypocrisy of this? On his blog today (3-27-04), the good Bishop wrote:

It is very hard to take this kind of stuff seriously, but sadly, far too many folks are. Why even note this kind of silly medievalist rhetoric, especially when it is so far removed from reality itself? Easy: not only does it impact the work of seeking to set forth the gospel to Roman Catholics (those influenced by such rhetoric will not believe it necessary to do so, since we are all brothers in the common quest of establishing the Second Christendom anyway, so lets just grab everyone by their baptisms and move forward toward a glorious future!), but Roman Catholic apologists like Dave Armstrong, who lack any meaningful ability to engage the text in a serious manner, have no compunctions about grabbing anything to use as a bludgeon against the truth.

Seems like this bit about Catholic apologists not giving a whit about the truth has become a rather common theme in these rarefied and hallowed anti-Catholic circles, used by those with doctorates and pastorates alike. I am reminded, for example, of the similar utterances by Bishop White's dear friends, Dr. Eric Svendsen and Pastor David T. King:

RC apologists will do or say just about anything--true or not--to advance their cause. They engage in the strategy of deception regularly.

(Svendsen, 4-27-03, on his own Areopagus discussion board)

Yes, most of you are too dishonest to admit what you really think. But one has only to visit your web boards and read to see how you folks really regard us. I don't play the hypocrite about what I think of you folks in general.

(King, 4-15-03, on the Areopagus discussion board)

I already have a very low view of the integrity of non-Protestants in general.

(King, 4-15-03, on the Areopagus discussion board)

Svendsen (a guy with a doctorate, no less) has taken his childish shots at me personally, too (behind my back, of course):

Armstrong's . . . whining doesn't surprise me, though. God has reserved a special place for martyrs; but He's reserved a different place for those with a martyr's complex.

(6-30-03, on his Areopagus discussion board)

He has described my work as "just a bunch of words strung together to form nonsensical sentences" (Areopagus, 7-26-03), and wrote about me: "I keep forgetting that some people still take 'Joe Camel' seriously" (Areopagus, 6-4-03). In explaining why he banned me and fellow apologist Scott Windsor from his sycophant forum (I had already left in disgust, anyway), he wrote:

We stopped interacting with them because
trying to explain their errors to them became much like trying to explain physics to a five-year old. You can explain these things in vain only so many times before the principle of diminishing returns comes into play.

(Areopagus, 3-22-04)

This is all very sad and lamentable in light of the fact that as recently as 1-13-01, Eric Svendsen wrote to me and stated:

I would like to apologize to you for the way in which I communicated my disinterest in an online debate . . . I do not think you've fairly considered all the things I do that prevent me from engaging in ongoing online discussions. Ministry comes first to me, but I have to choose my battles carefully and focus on those things that make the most efficient use of my time. However, my method of communicating all that to you was caustic and unbecoming a Christian apologist, and for that I apologize. I intend to treat my opponents fairly, and with respect and dignity, and to the extent that I failed to do that, I apologize.

The same goes for my dialog with Mark Shea . . . I came on strong because I felt he took some swipes at my credibility and capabilities as an apologist. In short, I felt he disrespected me . . . I would never dream of calling my opponent's views "stupid" in a public forum . . . I think such terminology, if not an ad hominem attack, is nevertheless highly insulting. However, in spite of the extent to which Mark wishes to diminish me by labeling my views as "stupid," I should have continued along the high road that I had been taking since I heard of his comments several months ago. Again, I apologize. From this point on I have resolved not to lower myself to be moved by that kind of insult.

This was a private letter, written to me and also to Mark Shea, but in light of the sort of things that Eric has stated about me publicly since that time, I don't think it is unethical to point out his own wise words about how he ought to treat opponents. Obviously, no one in his own community is correcting him; or if they are, they have not succeeded in making him cease his rank insults and slanderous comments.

So I decided to quote his own words back to him (or to others who know him, who may read this), in order to get him back on the "high road" that he himself said he wanted to take. If that is unethical, then it is certainly no more so than the garbage he has publicly stated about me (almost always when I am not around). At least these thoughts are edifying, charitable, and true. If only he would apply them to his own behavior . . . This is the Eric I used to know (we first "met" in 1996 on James White's sola Scriptura list). It looks as if all the apologetics battles have taken their toll on him and have made him a bitter man (so it seems, anyway). That can happen, if one isn't careful and lets the devil get a foothold.

Oh, and honorable mention (since we are discussing insults) goes to Frank Turk (aka centuri0n) also, who wrote about me on this very blog (on 2-16-04):

YOU are dishonest. You . . . The amateurs at CARM are not dishonest: they are misled by people like you. They have a single false belief that allows or coerces them to accept ridiculous statements as true in order to support that one false belief which they dare not reject . . . you're a troll, a person who baits and runs, an advocate who, like some Catholic advocates (you guys do actually learn some things infallibly), cannot stay on topic and cannot complete a discussion without making a million paper-cut sized errors . . .

Yet Frank wonders to this day why in the world I would ever think he has insulted me (where would I ever get that idea in my dishonest head, pray tell???), and why I have ceased interaction with him!

As an incorrigible lover of irony, I must note also that, in a blog post the day before this one (3-26-04), White applauded Sam Shamoun, a Reformed Protestant, for his work of contra-Muslim apologetics (which is indeed excellent; I link to it on my sidebar). It so happens that Sam and I met a few months ago and engaged in some contra-Muslim apologetics by attending a meeting with Muslims and Christians, discussing the Trinity. We get along quite well, and like each other (we talked for hours afterwards at a restaurant, with several friends of his). Sam also does some work against the Jehovah's Witnesses (a subject I have studied since the early 80s: I have two huge papers on them on my website: a large-scale refutation and a debate with a JW about the deity of Jesus. Last July, Sam wrote to me:

[I] write for the web site: [the same one White highly recommended]. We actually link to your Trinity and Jesus is God articles, which I thought were superb, by the way. I wanted to say that I have looked over your material and am truly impressed.

In December he wrote:

This is why I am reading your stuff since I think it is the most thorough and perhaps the best defense of Catholicism out there.

And in January, replying to someone else:

I have read all his stuff on the Deity of Christ and the Trinity, which I thought was quite superb, masterful.

White writes glowingly of Sam (as he should):

We are not a big "links" website (barely have time to keep up with stuff as it is), but we gladly and heartily recommend to you, and especially the resources offered by Sam Shamoun. Sam is a good friend of the ministry, and just an all around good guy, despite his looks.

Who could fail to note the extreme irony in all this? Here White praises Sam for his ministry to the Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses, and his website. He's one of the "good guys" in White's book, on the side of the light (whereas I am, of course, in spiritual darkness, as a lowly Catholic idolater, apostate, and Pelagian blasphemer). But Sam's own website links to my research on the Trinity and Deity of Jesus, and Sam describes it as "quite superb, masterful" (I am a great fan of his work, too). He also thinks my Catholic apologetic is "the most thorough and perhaps the best defense of Catholicism out there." And we worked together in sharing trinitarianism with some friendly Muslims.

White, on the other hand, has compared me to Jack Chick and has described my work as "surface-level assertions and the misuse of facts" and "endlessly irrelevant diatribes." Now we learn that I supposedly "lack any meaningful ability to engage the text in a serious manner" and "have no compunction[s] about grabbing anything to use as a bludgeon against the truth."

Merciful heavens! How could one person be described in such vastly contradictory ways?:

1. White thinks Sam does great work and links to it.

2. Sam thinks my work is "superb" and "masterful" and maybe the best Catholic apologetics available, and links to my articles on trinitarianism [thus White inadvertantly and indirectly directs people to some of my work].

3. But White thinks I am a Catholic equivalent of Jack Chick, a compulsive liar, and enemy of the truth.

So which is it? LOL Obviously, someone is wrong here, or else I am the biggest split personality in world history, akin to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But I have been tremendously entertained by this, given my Muggeridgean appreciation for the absurd, for folly, and for irony.

It seems that even those whom White calls his friends do not have nearly as low an opinion of me and my work as he does. But this is what resentment and prejudice causes to happen in a person. I may be dumb as a box of nails, but I'm not so dumb to not be aware when a person has some severe attitude problems in approaching me.

Nevertheless, even though White thinks I am a Catholic Jack Chick, an inveterate liar, and not to be taken seriously for a moment -- let alone interacted with when I critique his work -- for some odd reason he challenges me to an oral debate almost every year. That's fascinating, since it reveals what sort of debating partner he is looking for: not those whom he thinks are the most worthy opponents he can find, but those he considers the very worst. So what does that make him, if he wants to debate a guy whom he thinks is on the stupefied intellectual, truth-challenged level of Jack Chick? If I went around looking for flat-earthers, KKK-types, and conspiracy nuts as debate partners and representatives of Protestantism, would people think very highly of my debating and apologetic abilities?

On the contrary, I have challenged James White to a written debate for nine years now precisely because I think he is a sharp guy (apart from the bankruptcy of his anti-Catholic outlook), ever since his ill-fated performance in our first "postal debate" (where my final 36-page installment -- which I thought devastated his position -- went completely unanswered by him). He wants no part of it, nor will he respond to any serious critique I do of his work.

He prefers to merely engage in name-calling, and make himself ridiculous by trying to categorize me as a foaming-at-the-mouth liar with the IQ of a pencil eraser: a ridiculous charge that even his friends can see through as utterly groundless.

It doesn't work, James. Give it up. You're better than this, and I hope some of your friends whom you respect enough to listen to will rebuke you for these tactics, one of these days, for your own spiritual sake.

And how do I react to this? Well, by putting it on my blog and expressing my amusement (hopefully by entertaining you reading this as well), and looking at the bright side by applying Matthew 5:11-12:

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven . . .

All these harsh critics (and all of us) should seriously and soberly ponder James 3:8-10:

but no human being can tame the tongue -- a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.

Debate on Abortion, Part II (Dave & Sogn) 

Sogn sent me this in e-mail:

General reply to Dave on the subject of abortion:

For the last two weeks, since I last posted in the mode of dispute over abortion, I've been wrestling with profound misgivings and, with considerable pain, trying to reevaluate my beliefs. I've reached some provisional conclusions, which I will now disclose.

I have come to believe that abortion is invariably the destruction of an innocent human person regardless of whether the fetus has developed sentience yet. This means that virtually all abortions are wrongful killings and may legitimately be proscribed by law, with the exception of certain rare cases. I am thus recanting more or less the entirety of my previous contentions on this subject, with further details to be addressed below.

One item I found especially helpful in this reconsideration process was an essay by Peter Kreeft, which I found among Dave's many links on the topic: 'Human Personhood Begins at Conception'. It is a good analysis of the moral and philosophical crux of the dispute between pro-choice and pro-life partisans: Functionalism, i.e. "defining a person by his or her functioning or behavior." I have realized that, in one context or another, such as this one, I have embraced functionalism for decades - since college, in fact. I have come to realize that there is an irreparable disconnect between my functionalism and my Christian beliefs. It was the growing sense of this conflict that provoked the second thoughts I experienced almost immediately upon initiating this dispute a few weeks ago.

I have also realized that certain powerful prejudices have biased my thinking on this volatile subject for a very long time - again, since college. When I was almost 20 I had a quasi-religious (in terms of emotional intensity) conversion to radical feminism while reading a play on the subject of abortion. This dovetailed with my inherent personality traits in such a way that I became a zealous androgynist, or what has been pejoratively called, by some conservative pundits, unisexist. By that I mean that I despised the very idea of gender-based or -specific roles, and, in particular, I viewed the fact that childbearing was the unique role of women as one of nature's more grotesque injustices. I wanted men and women to be as role-interchangeable as physical reality would permit, and I assumed it would permit a great deal, especially if women could be freed from the encumbrance of unplanned pregnancy. Hence my passionate commitment to the pro-choice perspective.

Along with that ideological development I gravitated naturally to the functionalist view of personhood. I never engaged in dishonest claptrap about what was being aborted - e.g. that it was just "a clump of cells" or just "part of a woman's body." I always acknowledged the humanity of the victims of abortion, though not their personhood (functionalism again), and viewed abortion as a tragic necessity, a lesser evil when the interests of an autonomous woman (and full-fledged person) clashed with the interests of the marginally sentient proto-person within her. The liberty and autonomy of each woman was a non-negotiable, bottom-line imperative in my thinking. I wanted nothing - and no one - to get in the way of a woman - a rather abstract woman! - pursuing her dreams or her vocation.

However, like so many pro-choice ideologues, I don't believe I could ever have endorsed the abortion of my own child. The issue never arose, but neither my wife nor I could have chosen abortion (with a possible exception to be addressed later). Yet I viewed the legality of abortion as a sacrosanct prerequisite for women's autonomy and equality with men. I was edging toward the popular "I'm personally opposed but let's keep it legal" point of view. That was clinched when I embraced the cause of animal liberation. My empathy with the suffering and vulnerability of helpless creatures made it absurd to harden my heart to the plight of preborn humans. I was definitely opposed to abortion - personally - yet I could not take the further step of renouncing legal abortion. I did, however, begin to regret the unlimited abortion right bequeathed to us by the Roe v Wade decision, and I embraced the idea of some restrictions. I was especially aghast at the legality of late-term abortions. Apart from extraordinary circumstances I didn't think abortion should be legal beyond the first trimester.

One comment on Roe v Wade: From the moment I read that ruling in its entirely, I never affirmed it as constitutionally legitimate. It was transparent hocus-pocus, inventing an ad hoc "right" that has no basis in the constitution. (IMO, any time a jurist invokes a word like "penumbra" should be enough to set off the klaxons in our minds!) I had always believed that abortion should have been legalized through legislative due process, as had already happened in several states prior to the 1973 judicial fiat.

Earlier I mentioned "prejudices" - plural - that biased my thinking on abortion. One was the androgynist feminist ideology I've already mentioned (which hinged on a quasi-utilitarian functionalist view of personhood). The other, particularly ignoble, factor was my loathing of the religious right and all its self-appointed spokespersons (e.g. Phyllis Schlafly above all, for her anti-ERA stridency, as well as people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and all the usual suspects on that side what later came to be called the culture war). I also held the Catholic Church in very low esteem as one of the preeminently retrograde forces retarding the march of human progress, but evangelical Protestantism (from which I was apostate) was no better in my eyes. I was a militant atheist for most of the years I was most zealously pro-choice, and I yearned for the thorough secularization of human civilization.

Then along came God, who, in His typically unscrupulous manner, began to undermine my atheism. The first blow came when my conscience was convicted concerning animals, culminating in my embrace of vegetarianism and the broader philosophy of panzoism. A sufficiently compartmentalized mind might have been able to sustain atheistic panzoism indefinitely, but I've never been that good at isolating some parts of my mind from other parts. My emphatic rejection of ethical relativism followed closely upon my embrace of panzoism, and an ensuing chain of cogitative events culminated a few years later in my re-experience of God and renunciation of atheism. Yet I retained my repugnance of traditional, conservative religion, and my concept of God lay within the metaphysical ballpark known as process theology. I called myself a deist.

I was quite content as a deist, but God was apparently not satisfied with that status quo in which He was loving and benign but fairly safe and domesticated. Deism proved to be a kind of halfway house for me. God is always up to something, and in due course He impertinently maneuvered me into confronting the claims of Christ, whom I had thought safely dispatched to the realm of inspiring but inert myth. I had embarked upon a process of study intended to solidify my case against Christianity, but something went awry and I eventually saw the error of my apostasy. I humbly returned to faith in Christ seven years ago on March 27th (which fell on Thursday of Holy Week that year). As I noted previously (I think in the panzoism discussion) I did not convert to a church, as some Christians do; mine was a quintessentially Protestant conversion, in the sense that I was going one-on-one with Christ. As far as I was concerned, the subject of the "One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church" of the Nicene Creed was a wide open field awaiting investigation.

Conversion may begin in a definite moment, but it's also a painstakingly gradual process that never ends, at least in this life. When I returned to faith in Christ I carried some shoddy baggage. I retained some of the faulty philosophy (e.g. functionalism) and prejudice (e.g. against some of the more conservative elements of Christian tradition) from before. Dealing with these issues has been a very slow and sometimes unpleasant process. I'm only now getting around to the practical business of baptism, and I'm only now piecing together a more sound position on the moral status of abortion. I've been persuaded that functionalism is incompatible with fundamental principles inherent in Christian faith and discipleship. For that and other reasons, the thesis I defended only a few weeks ago is untenable.

I hope I will be pardoned for this lengthy autobiographical introduction to the resumption of our earlier dialogue, but I deemed it worthwhile to provide some background to what I have to say. It might also be interesting for some people who have never been anywhere near the pro-choice side to have a glimpse into how one fellow Christian, starting from a distant point, has been led on a long journey to the other side.

Dave: Of course, I am ecstatic over your change of mind and heart on this issue, and I express my deep admiration for your willingness to not only admit you were wrong but to write so candidly and openly about it. Way to go, brother! You have gained my respect in a profound way. I also agree with you that it is a great opportunity for those of us who have never interacted much with a "pro-choice" position to see how it is self-understood, and how it relates to Christian faith -- where that is also present. I appreciate, as always, your amiable, yet substantive writings, and I always welcome your feedback.
Note: there was much more in Sogn's letter, which I will post in the BlogBack, so as not to make my front page too long. He responds to our previous dialogue. I'll post his remarks without additional comment first. Then I will respond to some things in the next entry.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Detroit "Blue-Eyed Soul": Bob Seger 

As a native of Detroit and lifelong resident in the city or close suburbs (I currently live right outside the southwest side of the city, where I grew up), there are things we are extremely proud of, music-wise: Motown (of course), Aretha Franklin (the Queen of Soul), John Lee Hooker, and Bob Seger (born in 1945), recent long-overdue inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Eminem and Kid Rock? Yuck!)

We knew of Seger's greatness 10 years before the rest of the country caught on, with the albums Live Bullet and Night Moves in 1976. Seger's music was all over Detroit (and nearby Windsor, Ontario, with its legendary station CKLW, the "big 8!") radio. He put out a single in 1967 called Heavy Music that was one of the wildest, most raucous R&B or soul-style songs ever heard on vinyl from a white guy, up to that time (and to this day). Seger was influenced by Motown, as all the white rock and rollers in Detroit at that time were (Mitch Ryder, Grand Funk Railroad, Ted Nugent, etc.), but the even larger influences on his music were actually the Southern soul sounds of James Brown and Wilson Pickett.

He was what is called a "blue-eyed soul" singer: a white man influenced mostly by black music, rather than the prevailing trends in the white rock world. Others along these lines would be Joe Cocker (whose biggest influence was Ray Charles), Eric Burdon of the Animals, Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart (who idolized Otis Redding and above all, Sam Cooke), the Rascals, The Righteous Brothers, Michael McDonald, John Fogerty, and Robert Plant.

Bob Seger had a mildly successful nationwide hit, Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, in 1968, but had rotten luck hitting it big (on two occasions, his record company folded right at the time his single came out). In the early 70s, he would play as many as 265 concert dates a year; many in dinky bars, doing things like driving 25 hours straight from Detroit to Florida. Then back in Detroit he could play an arena or even a stadium. What was wrong with the rest of the country?! Didn't they get it?

He wrote some of the best anti-war songs of the late 60s and early 70s, like the passionate 2 + 2 = ? (1968) and Lookin' Back (1970), and recorded scorchers like Lucifer (1970), Turn on Your Lovelight (1972), Back in '72 (1973), and Get Out of Denver (1974), featuring his incredible raspy, Fogerty- and Little Richard-like vocals (in my opinion, one of the very best in rock history: also very expressive in ballads).

He even made an album of all ballads, Brand New Morning (1971), but it didn't go over very well, even in Detroit, and he (a sensitive man) was hurt by that failure. Even great fans like myself can admit that Seger ballads don't always succeed. There are, no doubt, many brilliant ones (Turn the Page, Beautiful Loser, Mainstreet, Ship of Fools, and the Van Morrison-inspired Against the Wind) but also others which are mediocre at best (especially, I think, in more recent albums, which I find quite uneven quality-wise).

He finally caught on with the rest of the country, after his recording Live Bullet, one of the two best live albums ever made (along with The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East). It was so brilliant that it couldn't be denied any longer that Seger was a force to be reckoned with. I remember riding a train back in 1978 out to the Grand Canyon (I hiked to the bottom) and the west coast, and these two guys were playing Bob Seger in the train. I was thinking to myself (filled with Detroit pride), "well, they finally figured out how good he is."

Big-time commercial success then followed. Some of my favorite songs of this period are the magnificent Night Moves (1976), arguably his greatest song (it is to him what Good Vibrations is to Brian Wilson: the career masterpiece), Sunburst, The Fire Down Below, Come to Poppa (all 1976), Old Time Rock and Roll (1978), Fire Lake, Shinin' Brightly (1980), Roll me Away, Makin' Thunderbirds, and House Behind a House (all 1983).

From his 1991 album, I like the title cut, The Fire Inside and The Real Love; and from his 1995 album my favorites are Hands in the Air and 16 Shells From a 30-6.

Seger remains the quintessential "midwest rocker" (along with John Mellencamp; but Seger's songwriting -- I submit, recognizing my bias -- is much better and more wide-ranging). He is also often compared to Bruce Springsteen (pretty favorably, I think).

He's a great songwriter. As an example of a typical Seger lyric (sort of a mix of Midwest down-to-earth, no-nonsense or frills realism and semi-Romanticism), I offer a portion of You'll Accompany Me (1980):

I've seen you smiling in the summer sun
I've seen your long hair flying when you run
I've made my mind up that it's meant to be
Someday lady you'll accompany me
Someday lady you'll accompany me
Out where the rivers meet the sounding sea
You're high above me now
You're wild and free ah, but
Someday lady you'll accompany me
Someday lady you'll accompany me

Some people say that love's a losing game
You start with fire
But you lose the flame
The ashes smoulder
But the warmth's soon gone
You end up cold and lonely on your own
I'll take my chances babe
I'll risk it all
I'll win your love
Or I'll take the fall
I've made my mind up girl
It's meant to be
Someday lady you'll accompany me
Someday lady you'll accompany me

Seger's usual lyrical quest is not for paradise and Utopia, but for normalcy and contentment. He recognizes the inherent risks in life, but he wants to "go for it," and he believes he will succeed eventually and "get it right," even if he must endure several failures. He never loses hope, and never becomes cynical or a run-of-the-mill game-player. These are the classic midwestern values (decency, perseverance, enjoyment of good things earned through hard work and struggle), born of his working-class upbringing (which included the crushing blow of his father abandoning the family).

Roll me Away (1983) is another example of Seger's uniquely midwestern yearnings and aspirations. It is about simply taking off and riding a motorcycle out west; "getting away"; feeling the freedom and the wind in your hair. The ending of that song is classic Seger:

Stood alone on a mountain top starin' out at the Great Divide
I could go east I could go west it was all up to me to decide
Just then I saw a young hawk flyin' and my soul began to rise
And pretty soon
My heart was singin'

Roll roll me away I'm gonna roll me away tonight
Gotta keep rollin' gotta keep ridin' keep searchin' till I find what's right
And as the sunset faded I spoke to the faintest first starlight
And I said next time
Next time
We'll get it right

Bob Seger is said to be one of the most genuinely "nice guys" in the music industry. He's never been comfortable with the whole "big star" routine, doesn't seek the spotlight, and is basically (like so many artists in music and acting) a shy sort. He's quite the family man these days (apparently happily married), and (like John Lennon from 1975 to 1980) decided to get out of the touring / recording rat race and concentrate mainly on spending time with his two children after his last album in 1995. He still lives near Detroit and has season tickets for the Pistons (I will be looking for him in the stands when I attend a game on April 4th!).

Seger has a new album coming out this fall. I also hope there will be a box set eventually, because there are some excellent early recordings which are quite rare and hard to find, which deserve a wider hearing (going right back to his debut 1966 single, East Side Story, which I believe I have heard exactly once on the radio, when the local Detroit classic rock station, WCSX, did one of their "Seger A to Z" marathons).

So here's to you, Bob, the hometown Detroit hero (virtually legendary around here -- in his last concert tour something like 100,000 tickets were gone in one hour), for a classy career and a well-earned, well-deserved spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I'm proud as I can be, and very happy for this recognition that you have achieved. This was one time nice guys didn't finish last.

For further Bob Seger information, see:

The Bob Seger File Seger and the Silver Bullet Band Fan Site

Bob Seger mailing list

Lyrics to 75 of his songs

Oral history of his rise to fame (Detroit Free Press)

VH1 Bob Seger Page

Photographs and Pictures

Rolling Stone Seger Page

89 Lyrics Online

MIDI Files

NPR Report on Seger in the Hall of Fame

Bob Seger News

Tim Enloe Said it, Not I! 

From his blog, Societas Christiana today. Tim is a Presbyterian:
My two cents: what's the virtue in claiming to be "Reformed" if all it means is being paranoid about what some of my Catholic friends have termed "the Great Romish Bogeyman", and hand-in-hand with such fear-mongering nonsense engaging in a fundamental watering down of historic Reformed sacramentology so as to make it fit the insipid, man-made religious expectations of the "Evangelical" crowd? . . . A hundred years ago our Reformed fathers had to fight Liberalism as a different religion masquerading as Christianity. These days, the more I encounter the rabid, pharisaical, history-ignorant, culture-despising fulminating of the "Evangelicals" and the paranoid superstition that their theology and apologetics cling to like Linus' blanket, the more I begin to feel that in our day the bigger threat to the Reformed faith is found in Evangelicalism and not in St. Peter's Square. Maybe "Evangelicalism" is the different religion that we have to face today. If only Machen were here.

I would disagree that "Evangelicalism" is a different religion. It is not; it is a form of Protestant Christianity (usually Arminian, though there is overlap of terminology) -- provided it is trinitarian and adheres to something approximating the Nicene Creed. But Tim was probably exaggerating to make a point, in his characteristically passionate mode of expression.

It is true, on the other hand, that evangelicalism today is often on the skids towards theological liberalism (as the late great Francis Schaeffer (a huge influence on my own Christian life and thought) pointed out twenty years ago in his masterpiece, The Great Evangelical Disaster). Everyone has their liberal compromisers to contend with (we Catholics certainly do). Former evangelicals like Clark Pinnock are now process theologians. I have heard that John R.W. Stott and others are starting to deny the reality of eternal hellfire. So we all need to be vigilant in upholding historic Christian orthodoxy.

"The Lost Liguori": The Nefarious Protestant Conspiracy to Conceal St. Alphonsus' Christocentric Mariology (vs. James Swan) 

Largely (but not totally) derived from the following paper, where all the documentation can be found:

Does St. Alphonsus de Liguori, in The Glories of Mary, Teach That Mary is "Above God" and Can "Manipulate God"?: Corrections of Protestant Misunderstandings of Catholic Mariology (Dave Armstrong vs. Len Lisenbee)

The direct responses to James Swan and various other comments are new to this paper.

Almost invariably, whenever I make a "textual" argument in my dealings with Protestants (especially of the anti-Catholic variety) -- whether from the Bible or Martin Luther or the Church Fathers -- I get accused of "quoting out of context." Some of my nemeses and sworn "enemies" (e.g., centuri0n and BJ Bear) have almost made a career out of constantly insinuating that I am guilty of butchering context, and, therefore, dishonesty.

It is fascinating, however, to note that when these people try to construct arguments about Catholic teachings they disagree with, very frequently they neglect context and select only what they wish to present in order to "expose" the trumped-up, distorted cardboard caricature of Catholicism that is a creation of their own wishful imaginations. You know: a half-truth is no better than a lie.

This is never more the case than with Mariology, and within the perpetually-controversial sphere of Mariology, no Catholic is more maligned by our vociferous critics than St. Alphonsus Liguori [often misspelled "Ligouri" by the anti-Catholic intellectual titans -- even James White did so dozens of times in a book about Mary] (1696-1787), a Doctor of the Church.

Recently, centuri0n accused Pope John Paul II of "obvious idolatry" because he believes that Mary was the Mediatrix of all graces (or, "co-Redemptrix").

This is, incidentally, an idea which can be traced in its development all the way back to Justin Martyr -- and analogous biblical arguments can also be made. Now, an "idolater" is one who places someone in the place of God, and worships it (or he or she) as only God should be worshiped. It goes without saying that no orthodox Catholic has been an idolater with regard to Mary. It is simply untrue that she is elevated to Godlike status and worshiped as God, according to orthodox Catholic Mariology and Theology Proper.

Nor is this the case with St. Alphonsus, in his "notorious" book, The Glories of Mary. Here are some examples (from a recent CARM thread) of how Protestant critics talk about St. Alphonsus, from my friend James Swan (that rarest of birds: the friendly anti-Catholic):

I can't get away from Mary . . . Indeed, the more I look at Roman Catholic Mariology, the more I agree with the notion of "outrageous."

. . . Another random thought. I came across these quotes from St. Liguori (whose name I can never remember exactly how to spell):

[he got it right, but the normal usage is either "St. Alphonsus" or "St. Alphonsus Liguori" -- just as we don't refer to "St. Aquinas" or "St. de Sales"]

"Mary is called . . . the gate of heaven because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her."

"The Way of Salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary."

"Our salvation is in the hands of Mary ... He who is protected by Mary will be saved, he who is not will be lost."

. . . Another random thought. I heard Mary referred to as "the spouse of the Holy Spirit" and finally I had a chance to do a web search. My MSN search returned 916 hits. I would have never imagined this! The pages were of various intelligence. I tried to find one that actually presented the phrase from an RCC perspective that sought to present it "apologetic-ly" [sic] . . . outrageous.

Well, James can consider whatever he likes to be "outrageous", as long as he includes the patron saint of Calvinists, St. Augustine in his indignant outrage, since the great Father wrote:

Mary was that only one who merited to be called the Mother and Spouse of God.

(Sermon 208)

Protestants love to cite St. Anselm when it comes to the incarnation and the atonement and the ontological argument (which he pretty much originated), but for some reason (perhaps having some slight relation to the present question of context) we never hear statements from him such as:

The divine Spirit, the love itself of the Father and the Son, came corporally into Mary, and enriching her with graces above all creatures, reposed in her and made her his Spouse, the Queen of heaven and earth.

(De Excell. Virg. c.4)

For more on this particular question, see my treatment of patristic and medieval evidences of it (section IX).

In one of his papers on Martin Luther (later cited in my reply), James asserted, with regard to medieval Catholic Mariology:

Mary had taken the role of intercessor, co-redeemer, and had been elevated to the status of a “goddess” who would defeat Satan. She had become an idol. In the worship of idols, there is no salvation.

Mary takes on the attributes of Christ and thus becomes an idol . . .

I even went through much of my present reasoning with James at that time, but to no avail. He continues to misrepresent St. Alphonsus' thought, as is being demonstrated presently. James (in the recent CARM paper) refers to Catholic Mariology as supposedly making "Mary as a key player in the Godhead." Len Lisenbee, who first wrote to me, challenging me on this very issue, stated:

Take the Catholic Church's position on Mary, for instance. They feel she is above God, can manipulate God, can get things for Catholics from God that Jesus can't . . .

I challenged him to prove this from Catholic documents, and responded at great length, showing that he was distorting St. Alphonsus' teaching by consistently neglecting context (see the above-mentioned paper). He was never heard from again.

These are merely a few examples among countless ones in the anti-Catholic "playbook." Here are a sampling of the quotes from The Glories of Mary that we hear about over and over and over, as indicative of an alleged "obvious" idolatry or Mariolatry:

Len Lisenbee cited:

"Mary is our life . . . Mary in obtaining this grace for sinners by her intercession, thus restores them to life" (p.80).

Here, the word "is" is inserted; it is not in the text; ", then," also is deleted after the second appearance of "Mary." This is very shoddy citation. And the passage's meaning changes somewhat when not cited in its proper context. The entire paragraph reads as follows:

To understand why the holy Church makes us call Mary our life, we must know, that as the soul gives life to the body, so does divine grace give life to the soul; for a soul without grace has the name of being alive but is in truth dead, as it was said of one in the Apocalypse, Thou hast the name of being alive, and thou art dead. [Rev 3:1] Mary, then, in obtaining this grace for sinners by her intercession, thus restores them to life.

Grace obtained through prayer and intercession is an altogether biblical concept. Hebrews 4:16 reads: Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Grace is even distributed (mediated?) by the "seven spirits" near God's throne, so that they not only "obtained it," but dispensed it as well: . . . Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne. (Revelation 1:4)

Let's examine one of James Swan's citations (note that this is from a man who once made a great deal about ellipses in a Luther quote of mine which I proved were derived from Will Durant, and from someone who writes papers with over 200 footnotes):

"Mary is called . . . the gate of heaven because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her."

He gives no documentation whatever (again, odd, from a man who has bugged me on more than one occasion to thoroughly document every jot and tittle I cite from Martin Luther). I tracked down the quote from my copy of the book (edited by Rev. Eugene Grimm, two volumes in one, fourth reprint revised, Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931). By omitting the context entirely, the impression is given that Mary is replacing the sole prerogatives of Jesus Christ. When the anti-Catholic isolates the quotation, the wrong impression can be given (whether deliberately or inadvertantly, but in either case, it is an abominable neglect of context) that Mary is some sort of goddess, and that Jesus' totally unique and primary role in redemption can be ignored as part of St. Alphonsus' teaching. Here is the larger context:

. . . St. Bonaventure: "As the moon, which stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever it receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this world the heavenly graces that she receives from the divine sun of justice."

Again, the holy Church calls her "the happy gate of heaven;" for as the same St. Bernard remarks: "As every mandate of grace that is sent by a king passes through the palace-gates, so does every grace that comes from heaven to the world pass through the hands of Mary." St. Bonaventure says that Mary is called "the gate of heaven, because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her."

An ancient author, probably St. Sophronius, in a sermon on the Assumption, published with the works of St. Jerome, says "that the plenitude of grace which is in Jesus Christ came into Mary, though ina different way;" meaning that it is our Lord, as in the head, from which the vital spirits (that is, divine help to obtain eternal salvation) flow into us, who are the members of the mystical body; and that the same plenitude is in Mary, as in the neck, through which these vital spirits pass to the members.

(pp. 159-160)

Far from Len's charge that Catholics place Mary above God, or James' description of the supposed Catholic view of Mary as "a key player in the Godhead", or centuri0n's that this is "obviously idolatry"; we believe that this was merely God's chosen method of distribution of His grace, which derives from Him alone; it was His will. God can do whatever He wants to do. He could have chosen to make all the light which reaches the earth from the sun bounce off the moon and come to us as moonlight. Likewise, He can choose to distribute His grace through Mary, as the creaturely moon which merely reflects His Divine sun. Why should the very notion be thought "impossible" or "blasphemous"? Again, one can agree or disagree with the theological belief of Mary Mediatrix, but these standard accusations go far beyond that. He is claiming that Catholics make Mary a goddess, above even Almighty God. This is sheer nonsense.

James Swan offers a second completely undocumented quote: "The Way of Salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary." [it is from p. 169 of my edition] But what he neglects to do is offer the context of the immediately preceding paragraph (and in so doing a wrong impression is created):

Remark, by the by, that this writer does not scruple to address these words to Mary: "Save us, we perish;" as does a certain author already noticed, and who says that we cannot ask Mary to save us, as this belongs to God alone. But since a culprit condemned to death can beg a royal favorite to save him by interceding with the king that his life may be spared, why cannot we ask the Mother of God to save us by obtaining us eternal life?

(p. 168)

And now to examine James Swan's third quotation from St. Alphonsus:

"Our salvation is in the hands of Mary ... He who is protected by Mary will be saved, he who is not will be lost."

[pp. 169-170 in my version]

First of all , "Our" is not capitalized in my text. It is in the middle of a sentence, as part of a citation from Richard of St. Laurence. But that is a minor point. I only make it because this is the sort of thing that James would readily call me on, if I committed such an error concerning Martin Luther. Technically, then, the quote isn't directly from "St. Liguori" but from Richard of St. Laurence. No one would know this, reading James' undocumented citation.

Secondly, this comes not long after (half a page) the previous citation, so that the larger context includes a Christocentric observation.

But enough of the illegitimate anti-Catholic distortions and absurdly selective and "anti-contextual" prooftexting. Let's now move on to "the lost Liguori files": the Christ-centered words from this same book that you rarely ever find in anti-Catholic rants about "Mariolatry" and the abominable, "blasphemous" excesses of Catholic Mariology. All of the following words come from The Glories of Mary:


My most loving Redeemer and Lord Jesus Christ, I, Thy miserable servant . . . I know not, however, to whom I could better recommend it than to Thee, who hast her glory so much at heart. To Thee, therefore, do I dedicate and commend it . . . this
Immaculate Virgin in whom Thou hast placed the hope and whom Thou hast made the refuge of all the redeemed . . .

And now I turn to thee, O my most sweet Lady and Mother Mary. Thou well knowest that, after Jesus, I have placed my entire hope of salvation in thee; for I acknowledge that everything good -- my conversion, my vocation to renounce the world and all the other graces that I have received from God -- all were given me through thy means. (p. 23)

And now many more statements throughout the book:

"And now, to say all in a few words: God, to glorify the Mother of the Redeemer, has so determined and disposed that of her great charity she should intercede on behalf of all those for whom his divine Son paid and offered the superabundant price of his precious blood in which alone is our salvation, life, and resurrection."

On this doctrine, and on all that is in accordance with it, I ground my propositions . . . the plenitude of all grace which is in Christ as the Head, from which it flows, as from its source; and in Mary, as in the neck through which it flows. (p. 26)

. . . it is one thing to say that God cannot, and another that he will not, grant graces without the intercession of Mary. We willingly admit that God is the source of every good, and the absolute master of all graces; and that Mary is only a pure creature, who receives whatever she obtains as a pure favor from God . . . We most readily admit that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of justice . . . and that by his merits he obtains us all graces and salvation; but we say that Mary is the mediatress of grace; and that receiving all she obtains through Jesus Christ, and because she prays and asks for it in the name of Jesus Christ . . . (pp. 156-157)

. . . the mediation of Christ alone is absolutely necessary; . . . (p. 162)

. . . Jesus now in heaven sits at the right hand of the Father . . . He has supreme dominion over all, and also over Mary . . . (p. 179)

Jesus has fastened all your sins on the cross with his own lacerated hands, and having satisfied divine justice for them by his death, he has already effaced them from your souls . . . " . . . What do you fear, O ye of little faith?

(pp. 200-201)

"Either pity me," will I say with the devout St. Anselm, "O my Jesus, and forgive me, and do thou pity me, my Mother Mary, by interceding for me" . . . my Jesus, forgive me; My Mother Mary, help me. (p. 79)

. . . in us she beholds that which has been purchased at the price of the death of Jesus Christ . . . Mary well knows that her Son came into the world only to save us poor creatures . . . therefore Mary loves and protects them all. (pp. 60-61)

Thou, after God, must be my hope, my refuge, my love in this valley of tears. (pp. 55-56)

Jesus our Redeemer, with an excess of mercy and love, came to restore this life by his own death on the cross . . . by reconciling us with God he made himself the Father of souls in the law of grace . . . (p. 47)

Whoever places his confidence in a creature independently of God, he certainly is cursed by God; for God is the only source and dispenser of every good, and the creature without God is nothing, and can give nothing. But if our Lord has so disposed it, . . . that all graces should pass through Mary as by a channel of mercy, we not only can but ought to assert that she, by whose means we receive the divine graces, is truly our hope. (p. 174)

. . . not as if Mary was more powerful than her Son to save us, for we know that Jesus Christ is our only Saviour, and that he alone by his merits has obtained and obtains salvation for us . . . (p. 137)

The Eternal Word came from heaven on earth to seek for lost sheep, and to save them he became thy Son. And when one of them goes to thee to find Jesus, wilt thou despise it? The price of my salvation is already paid; my Saviour has already shed his blood, which suffices to save an infinity of worlds. This blood has only to be applied even to such a one as I am. And that is thy office, O Blessed Virgin. (pp. 140-141)

No one denies that Jesus Christ is our only mediator of justice, and that he by his merits has obtained our reconciliation with God . . . St. Bernard says, "Let us not imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the great praise we lavish on the mother; for the more she is honored, the greater is the glory of her Son." (p. 153)

The angelical Doctor St. Thomas [Aquinas] says [Summa Theologica 2. 2. q. 25, a.1, ad. 3], that we can place our hope in a person in two ways: as a principal cause, and as a mediate one. Those who hope for a favor from a king, hope it from him as lord; they hope for it from his minister or favorite as an intercessor. If the favor is granted, it comes primarily from the king, but it comes through the instrumentality of his favorite; and in this case he who seeks the favor is right in calling the intercessor his hope. The King of Heaven, being infinite goodness, desires in the highest degree to enrich us with his graces; but because confidence is requisite on our part, and in order to increase it in us, he has given us his own Mother to be our mother and advocate, and to her he has given all power to help us; and therefore he wills that we should repose our hope of salvation and of every blessing in her. Those who put their hopes in creatures alone, independently of God, as sinners do, and in order to obtain the friendship and favor of a man, fear not to outrage his divine Majesty, are most certainly cursed by God, as the prophet Jeremias says. (pp. 109-110; cf. p. 220)

I trust, O Lady, that in the first place through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then through thy intercession, I shall be saved . . . "Jesus is my only hope, and after Jesus the most Blessed Virgin Mary." (pp. 117-118)

. . . who art, after thy Son, our only hope . . . (p. 197)

Good grief! I never heard so much about our Glorious Lord Jesus Christ and His work for us on the Cross as our Savior in any Protestant sermon I ever heard . . .

The nefarious conspiracy and cover-up (which would put the Watergate cover-up to shame) is now exposed!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?