Saturday, June 12, 2004


Would His Eminence, the Right Reverend Bishop James White find anything done in a satirical or otherwise humorous way about him "funny"? I highly doubt it, seeing that he was not amused at all about this simple (not even satirical) stretching out of his photo I did a few years back. No "blood" here, no "violence", no ridiculously alleged "hatred" or "Mansonesque" or "Columbine" qualities (I used to call him the atrociously malicious, vicious title, "King James White," because of his work against KJV-Only advocates -- he was offended by that, too); just good, clean, harmless fun. Yet he was offended! Maybe he thought I was trying to make him out to be Yoda or something . . . Now he himself puts up caricatures ("without the slightest hint of violence") of well-known Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid being stoned as a Golden Calf idolater, and of me (in all my mythical "hatred" of him) poking needles into a White doll, Voodoo-style, yet complains about take-off caricatures that are up all of three hours before I apologize and withdraw them. Go figure . . . (if anyone can understand such "logic," please explain it to me). Click on the photo to see the size of the original on my website.


Transcript of James White's Eight-Minute Rant About My Supposed Profound Ignorance, on His Dividing Line Webcast (4-20-04) 

I will reproduce White's words in the following partial transcript of this show (which I downloaded last night), with some commentary of my own (in blue), where matters of simple factuality need to be clarified. I use brackets ( [ ] ) to indicate laughter, etc., on James' part. His words speak loudly and clearly for themselves, and are self-refuting.

The one-hour broadcast (MP3 format) is available for purchase for $1.00 at White's website. To get right to the "commentary" on yours truly, go to the 1:59 mark. It runs till approximately 10:45 (almost nine minutes). The text below is a complete, absolutely unedited transcript for this portion of the show. All italics represent White's own frequent emphasizing of words:
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Those of you who have been following the blog, uh [laughter], just, I don't know, what do you do with someone like Dave Armstrong, you know? I mean, really, it is a question that you face, because, just simply by being out there, I mean, uh, if you read his materials, he's very very high on himself and, uh, makes sure that you know how many books he's written.

Simply advertising one's books (I am in full-time ministry, after all, have to support a wife and four children, and don't get all the speakers' fees that White receives) is automatically arrogant? If so, then James is far more arrogant than I am; his books are all over his website.

Of course, they're vanity published,

This amounts to a baldfaced lie. I have exactly one book in print that is "vanity published," by 1stBooks Library -- now AuthorHouse -- and that is More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. A Biblical Defense of Catholicism was published a year ago by Sophia Institute Press, a very reputable Catholic publisher which deals with mostly classics. It is rated at a 39,026 sales rank on amazon.com today, whereas White's The God Who Justifies, published at about the same time (by Bethany House) as my preliminary publishing of my first book, is at a 96,191 rank. My second book with Sophia, entitled, The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants, will be coming out this very month. Dr. White knows this because I dealt with one of his own arguments in the book, and informed him of it; even offered to include his reply in the book. I have written all the notes for the Catholic Answer Bible, published by Our Sunday Visitor, the largest Catholic publisher (61,832 sales rank on amazon today). I wrote one of eleven conversion stories in Surprised by Truth, which has sold some 200,000 copies and was the biggest Catholic bestseller after the Catechism (20,554 on amazon, after almost ten years); not to mention numerous articles in all the major apologetic magazines, and appearances on two nationally-syndicated Catholic talk shows. This is hardly merely "vanity" publishing, but it's a great-sounding one-line lie, and put-down, isn't it?

but how many books he's written, and uh, you read the top of his page, and it's [mocking tone] exegesis and history and apologetics and philosophy and all this stuff, and you know, in your heart of hearts, that this fella, uh, bless his soul, has no idea what he's talking about. He's read some books, but the important foundational stuff that allows you to actually make sense out of all that stuff, he's clueless; he has no idea what he is talking about, but he writes constantly!

Why, then, has Dr. White, challenged me to debate him live some 5-6 times now, through the years (from as far back as 1995 -- and he was insulting me back then already, just as he does now), if my thought is so utterly worthless? Does he seek out the very worst opponents he can find? What does that make him, then?

I mean, he must live on two hours of sleep and must type at 130 words a minute. That's the only way that you could possibly produce the kind of verbosity, uh, that he produces. So what do you do? Cuz, it's sorta, sort of; it's really disturbing to me, uh, that I hear from people, and they go, "well, well, whaddya think about what he said about this?" And I sorta, I sorta; I, it's really hard for me to go, "well, have you really thought about, you know, the foundation of this argument, and the background of this argument?" People need to learn how to examine argumentation! And see through fluff! Uh, see through stuff that shouldn't even be called an argument; it's complimenting it way too much to call it an argument! And [sigh] it's just, how do you deal with folks like that?

I mean, uh, you know, he posts this horrific image of me, with an arrow sticking out of my head; blood everywhere, and tries to say, well [mocking, derisive tone] "you had that Angel cartoon about Patrick Madrid and you were stoning him!" Actually, you know, I think Patrick, not only, since he's in Envoy Magazine and they use cartoons all the time, but I think he would be, he -- if you really got him on an honest moment -- he would have to admit that that's one of the best caricatures of himself he's ever seen. I mean, he looks good in that! He really does! He looks better than, well, I think I look alright in mine, too, but he looks good! He looks really good. There's no arrow sticking out of his head. There's no blood anywhere. And everyone knows that it was a part of the debate
that we specifically talked about whether Moses would have stoned you, had you used this kind of argumentation.

Whether someone "looks good" or not is absolutely irrelevant. I looked good in mine; this Angel is a very talented caricaturist (as I have already said several times), and I love visual caricatures. The point we objected to was the message being sent. White tried to deny that his caricatures had even a "hint" of violence. I think most people would say that stoning is more than a "hint" -- with all due respect to White's awesome argumentative prowess. Thoughts conveyed in these pieces go beyond what is literally portrayed. In less than a second, the nine or so rocks being flung at Pat's head would bash his brains out (there would even be -- GASP!!!! -- blood!!!!). It would not be a pretty sight. White literally believes that Catholic practices and dogmas would have merited such capital punishment under Mosaic law (in this, he simply follows Calvin; it is no new charge). That's far more ugly and offensive than anything I've done. The artistic quality is not at issue; it is the lies promulgated in these caricatures which are troublesome.

[Richard Pierce, President of White's Alpha and Omega Ministries] He looks better than Spurgeon did in the one with Dave Hunt.

Well, uh, but see, now Spurgeon was just a background thing there. I think . . .

[Pierce] Well, he's also being strangled.

[laughter] He was not being strangled; he had a gag in his mouth, but
uh, uh, no, I mean, he really looks good! This; I'm sorry, but Mr. Armstrong's artist isn't an artist. He has no; he shouldn't be doing what he's doing, okay? He's not good at this. Angel is a professional. He knows what he's doing, and he's good at it, and he's making a point. There's no point in anything Mr. Armstrong, in his disgusting little graphic, has produced. But he's got a new one; I mentioned last night on the blog, he's got a new one; they took the blood off. [laughter] It's still the same thing, and [laughter] if anyone's . . . do you know what they could have done, and this is so simple; this would have actually maybe communicated something. And it might have been funny.

But they blew it. Uh, what they could have done, is, if you look at my graphic, the one that's on my blog, the first one that Angel did for me, do you notice something about those little arrows? They're little play arrows. They have the little rubber suction cup on the end. If they had just taken the Roman Catholic one, with a suction cup and stuck it to my forehead. No blood, and then just slightly change, the, uh, visual of the face, to one of surprise or "duh" or something like that, it might have been funny! It might have actually, you know, maybe you coulda made a point with it or something.

I totally agree -- though my long, sad, experience with White gives me no reason whatsoever to believe that he would ever find anything having to do with him "funny" --, which is why I withdrew the original counter-caricature after all of three hours, and apologized for the offense that the blood caused. I wrote very candidly on my blog, that I would have preferred a caricature (I can't draw, myself) almost exactly like what White describes. But you would never know all that, listening to White's extended ad hominem attack on his webcast. Furthermore, White denied that our caricature made any point at all. It was obvious what the point was, and this is proven by White's comments above. He knows what we were trying to say (nothing complicated; it was simply a take-off of his caricature, with our "arrow" hitting its mark; no rocket science here . . .).

But he couldn't see past the blood; he wouldn't acknowledge my public apology and removal of the caricature, and he went beyond all that and accused me of hatred, using deliberately provocative, alarmist, hysterical, propagandistic adjectives like "Charlie-Mansonesque" and "Columbine" in describing our caricature (and he has the nerve to attack the low nature of political discussion, below?! LOL). It is Dr. White, not I, who emerges from this mostly unnecessary controversy with all the mud on his face. He is still obliged as a Christian to extend forgiveness to me, as I apologized, and he knows full well that I did. For all the details on this tempest in a teapot, see my Anti-Catholicism Page, section for Dr. White. Our new cartoon there by Rhys Tuck (totally original), is a satirical comment on White's ludicrous sub-Christian-level behavior throughout this whole ridiculous fiasco. White, quite predictably, was not amused by it, but mocked it in a few sentences on his blog as the work of a childish mentality. Heaven forbid he would ever grasp any point or argument I ever make. Oh, sorry; I forgot that I am incapable of constructing any rational argument. Forgot my place there, for a second . . .


[Pierce] Yeah, but there's only one problem with that.

Uh, what?

[Pierce] The problem is that it would have required him to have some original artistry.

[laughter] That's true!

[Pierce ] And I would like to point out that, as the President of the organization . . .

[laughter]

[Pierce] . . . [clears throat] at the bottom of the page where that appears . . .

It's got a little copyright there.

[Pierce] Copyright . . .

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[Pierce] So in fact, Mr. Armstrong had to steal it, and modify it.

Yeah, well, he's done that before, and I've pointed out to him that he shouldn't do that, but anyway, that's, that's, aaah, whatever. I'm not overly concerned about that.

I was unaware that it was (potentially) a violation of copyright law to do any parody of other work at all. Once I was made aware of that, I immediately removed even the second version of the caricature without the blood. White is concerned with far more than simply "stealing." He wouldn't even give me permission to post his own artist's caricature of himself that is permanently at the top of his blog.

Um, but I am, the point is, that would have been funny; that would have been, "oh, ha ha ha", coulda got a little chuckle about it, but the fact that Mr. Armstrong can't see what the first one was all about, and refuses to acknowledge, [mocking tone] "you know, that was really dumb to post that, that was . . ", you know, he just won't do that.

I won't? Why, then, did I remove it, apologize, and publicly comment that it is not the way I would have ideally done the caricature? Three hours! You would think it had been up for three years, with all the stink White has tried to create from this. What I opposed mainly was White's refusal to let the issue drop, and accept my apology, and his absurd, groundless accusation that the caricature proved some sort of malicious hatred or contempt on my part. All this shows is that White either doesn't read my blog, even stuff concerning him, doesn't remember what he reads, or is deliberately lying about what has been discussed at extreme length on my blog. I allow plenty of criticism on my blog of myself -- and I get more about dealing with White than about any other subject -- but White's blog doesn't allow feedback, so he is immune from such trivialities.

That illustrates, then, what happened in my response to his writings. When you respond to him, and I don't know if anyone followed it, if they went to his blog -- we provided some of the links and stuff -- but, I went through, I provided, I quoted from his book, and then I quoted from the article I had written. And the whole point was to illustrate the difference in exegetical methodology. I have one. He doesn't. And he doesn't because he doesn't know the field. He's just; he doesn't know what he's doing! I mean, that would be like my trying to, to, write to a CPA and criticize uh, an audit that he's done on a major corporation. I'm not trained in that. I don't know the terminology. I don't know the basics, the foundational rules that you're supposed to do and why you put this in this ledger and why you put that -- I don't know that stuff. It's not my area, I; you can go to school and learn those things. Uh, but he hasn't done so.

And so, I just provided as an example. Well, he writes this response which has nothing to do with the text; it has nothing to do with exegesis; it just simply proves my point, but that's one of the things [mocking me] "see, he just ignores this." Well, okay, yeah, I did, because it wasn't worth responding to! I mean, it's just that bad! So, I did respond to it, after he said I wouldn't, and so I responded to it, demonstrated that it had no connection with reality whatsoever, it was really really bad, and his response to that was basically to accuse me of attacking him, and all the rest of this stuff, which for him means, I pointed out that he doesn't know what he is talking about.

[See the resulting paper: Comparative Exegesis of Hebrews 8 / Sacrifice of the Mass]

When do, where do you draw the line? I mean, it would be so much easier to just ignore all these people, but the problem is, we're one of those few folks that actually gets out there and we get our hands dirty. We actually take on these, these individuals, and show where the argumentation's bad, and you're gonna end up with dirt on your hands, and on your face, when you wallow with some of these folks, and we try to figure out where the line is. This guy [sigh], sadly, there are people who write recommendations of his stuff! I mean, you got Scott Hahn, all these folks, which amazes me. Uh, because you [laughter] look at some of his books, and it's just like "wow! there's just no substance here." It's just rattle rattle rattle rattle, and quote John Henry Cardinal Newman and that's the end of the subject. And there's no meaningful argumentation going on at all.

Where do you draw the line, because eventually, I have to trust that the people who are reading these things, and are concerned about these things can eventually go, "hey, wait a minute, that wasn't even a response; that's not even a meaningful argument," without my having to hold their hand and show that to them. But, sadly, in a postmodern world, where, for a lot of folks, if you can produce a response, and spell it right, that somehow means something. The view of logic, rationality, the ability to examine argumentation; let's face it, folks, listen to the political dialogue in our nation! There's not a whole lot of meaningful discussion going on there! And yet you get people all excited; you know, I could play my Howard Dean .wav [audio file] here, you know. [laughter] It's just like, "whoah!" People, people look at this kind of stuff and as long as your mouth is moving, somehow you're making a point! Instead of going, "you know what? That person didn't answer that question, either!, that person didn't answer that question, either," wow! you know, all the rest of that kind of stuff . . . it is, it is, it's a daily battle as to how to decide what you respond to and what you don't.

Well, on a much higher level; on a much much much higher level; uh, on a, on an extremely much higherly [sic] level [derisive laughter], . . .

Then White moved on to another subject.
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[Both my words and White's will now be in black again; with his indented]

Of course, even White's fellow Protestants (even other Reformed folks) receive the same treatment when they disagree with him. For example, Presbyterian Kevin Johnson has recently often been the target of the same sort of derisive, condescending mentality from Dr. White (it ain't just me, folks, not by a long shot). On the very day I am posting this, White wrote about Kevin on his blog (6-12-04):

"Another Response from Johnson that falls below the level of warranting blog space."


I have provided the link (as White himself did) for the reader to decide if the material is worthless or not. Likewise, on 6-9-04, White wrote about Kevin Johnson:

I do not know if Mr. Johnson is just being difficult or just does not understand much of what I am saying, but it would be a great exercise in futility to go back over each of the many "no, you completely missed the entire point of what I just said" portions of his response.


And in a lengthy response to that which (of course) doesn't deserve any response (6-1-04), White replies in his usual condescending, patronizing manner, to Kevin:

One of the main problems with this new breed of "Reformed Catholicism" is that it uses lots of buzz phrases and flowery words that, in the real "space time world," mean nothing. I am reminded of the "ecclesiastical text" view that sounds so fine, but cannot answer a single textual question put to it.

. . . I simply refuse to follow you, for you cannot offer me the first meaningful biblical reason to follow you.

. . . Note the shift: The first statement is broad and general, as rCism always is; when challenged, now we look to particular incidents of failure. I know most of our readers can see that kind of false argumentation quickly, but some of those more heavily influenced by modern American "sound bite" thinking struggle to see it, hence I point it out.

. . . Have I "dismissed outright" Mr. Johnson's position, or have I demonstrated inconsistencies an identified those places where his argument is made up solely of his own ipse dixit? Let the reader decide.

. . . Mr. Johnson may wish to curb his enthusiasm for rCism and stop lumping everyone into a big pile and blasting them with the rC Mantra Gun in the future: it is hard to defend universals such as those that fill his statements (as documented before).


Further such examples could be multiplied indefinitely . . .

Friday, June 11, 2004


John Calvin (1509-1564). Engraving from the original oil painting in the University Library of Geneva that is considered the best likeness.

John Calvin's View of the Catholic Church 

[all words except bibliographical information are from John Calvin. Added emphases are bolded]

From: Reply to Jacopo Cardinal Sadoleto

(September 1, 1539; translated by Henry Beveridge, 1844; reprinted in A Reformation Debate, edited by John C. Olin, New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966; citations from pp. 57, 59-65, 72-76, 82-83, 88-89)

. . . when they threw off the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff; in order that they might establish among themselves a better form of Church, you call it a desertion from the Church.

. . . I have also no difficulty in conceding to you, that there is nothing more perilous to our salvation than a preposterous and perverse worship of God . . . In short, we train them, by every means, to be contented with the one rule of worship which they have received from his mouth, and bid adieu to all fictitious worship.

Therefore, Sadolet, when you uttered this voluntary confession, you laid the foundation of my defense For if you admit it to be a fearful destruction to the soul, when, by false opinions, divine truth is turned into a lie, it now only remains for us to inquire which of the two parties retains that worship of God which is alone legitimate . . . You are mistaken in supposing that we desire to lead away the people from that method of worshipping God which the Catholic Church always observed. You either labor under a delusion as to the term church, or, at least, knowingly and willingly give it a gloss. I will immediately show the latter to be the case, though it may also be that you are somewhat in error.

. . . For what similitude is there in appearance between the Pope and the Anabaptists? And yet, that you may see that Satan never transforms himself so cunningly, as not in some measure to betray himself, the principal weapon with which they both assail us is the same. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency certainly is to sink and bury the Word of God, that they may make room for their own falsehoods. And you, Sadolet, by stumbling on the very threshold, have paid the penalty of that affront which you offered to the Holy Spirit, when you separated him from the Word.

. . . our agreement with antiquity is far closer than yours, . . . all we have attempted has been to renew that ancient form of the Church, which, at first sullied and distorted by illiterate men of indifferent character, was afterwards flagitiously mangled and almost destroyed by the Roman Pontiff and his faction.

I will not press you so closely as to call you back to that form which the Apostles instituted, (though in it we have the only model of a true Church, and whosoever deviates from it in the smallest degree is in error), but to indulge you so far, place, I pray, before your eyes, that ancient form of the Church, such as their writings prove it to have been in the age of Chrysostom and Basil, among the Greeks, and of Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine, among the Latins; after so doing, contemplate the ruins of that Church, as now surviving among yourselves. Assuredly, the difference will appear as great as that which the Prophets describe between the famous Church which flourished under David and Solomon, and that which under Zedekiah and Jehoiakim had lapsed into every kind of superstition, and utterly vitiated the purity of divine worship.

. . . The truth of Prophetical and Evangelical doctrine, on which the Church ought to be founded, has not only in a great measure perished in your Church, but is violently driven away by fire and sword.

. . . your nefarious profanation of the sacraments I cannot think of without the utmost horror. Of ceremonies, indeed, you have more than enough, but, for the most part, so childish in their import, and vitiated by innumerable forms of superstition, as to be utterly unavailing for the preservation of the Church.

. . . Ceremonies we have in a great measure abolished, but we were compelled to do so, partly because by their multitude they had degenerated into a kind of Judaism, partly because they had filled the minds of the people with superstition, and could not possibly remain without doing the greatest injury to the piety which it was their office to promote.

. . . As to our doctrine, we hesitate not to appeal to the ancient Church.

. . . sophistry so twisted, involved, tortuous, and puzzling, that scholastic theology might well be described as a species of secret magic.

. . . But, in regard to the intercession of the saints, we insist on a point which it is not strange that you omit. For here innumerable superstitions were to be cut off; superstitions which had risen to such a height, that the intercession of Christ was utterly erased from men's thoughts, saints were invoked as gods, the peculiar offices of Deity were distributed among them, and a worship paid to them which differed in nothing from that ancient idolatry which we all deservedly execrate.

. . . I will not permit you, Sadolet, by inscribing the name of Church on such abominations, both to defame her against all law and justice, and prejudice the ignorant against us, as if we were determined to wage war with the Church.

. . . Indeed, in attacking, breaking down, and destroying your kingdom, we are armed not only with the energy of the Divine Word, but with the aid of the holy Fathers also. That I may altogether disarm you of the authority of the Church, which, as your shield of Ajax, you ever and anon oppose to us, I will show, by some additional examples, how widely you differ from that holy antiquity. We accuse you of overthrowing the ministry, of which the empty name remains with you, without the reality.

. . . We are indignant, that in the room of the sacred Supper has been substituted a sacrifice, by which the death of Christ is emptied of its virtues . . . in all these points, the ancient Church is clearly on our side, and opposes you, not less than we ourselves do.

. . . impiety so stalked abroad, that almost no doctrine of religion was pure from admixture, no ceremony free from error, no part, however minute, of divine worship untarnished by superstition.

. . . We, indeed, Sadolet, deny not that those over which you preside are Churches of Christ, but we maintain that the Roman Pontiff with his whole herd of pseudo-bishops, who have seized upon the pastor's office, are ravening wolves, whose only study has hitherto been to scatter and trample upon the kingdom of Christ, filling it with ruin and devastation.

. . . those shadowy prelates, by whom you think the Church stands or perishes, and by whom we say that she has been cruelly torn and mutilated, and brought to the very brink of destruction, can bear neither their vices nor the cure of them. Destroyed the Church would have been, had not God, with singular goodness, prevented.

. . . Owing to this supine state of the pastors, and this stupidity of the people, every place was filled with pernicious errors, falsehoods, and superstition. They, indeed, called thee the only God, but it was while transferring to others the glory which thou hast claimed for thy Majesty. They figured and had for themselves as many gods as they had saints, whom they chose to worship. Thy Christ was indeed worshipped as God, and retained the name of Saviour; but where he ought to have been honored, he was left almost without honour. For, spoiled of his own virtue, he passed unnoticed among the crowd of saints, like one of the meanest of them.

. . . lo, a very different form of doctrine started up, not one which led us away from the Christian profession, but one which brought it back to its fountain head, and, as it were, clearing away the dross, restored it to its original purity.

. . . It was when the world was plunged in ignorance and sloth, as in a deep sleep, that the Pope had risen to such an eminence; certainly neither her appointed Head of the Church by the word of God, nor ordained by a legitimate act of the Church, but of his own accord, self-elected.

. . . the true order of the Church had then perished . . . the kingdom of Christ was prostrated when this primacy was reared up.

From: Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, With the Antidote

(1547; translated by Henry Beveridge, 1851; reprinted in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Vol. 3: Tracts, Part 3, edited by Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1983; citations from pp. 38-39, 46-47)

. . . the doctrine of salvation, which they have wholly adulterated by their impious and abominable fictions . . . the sacraments which they have utterly vitiated, and which they prostitute to a vile and shameless trafficking . . .

. . . We complain that the whole doctrine of godliness is adulterated by impious dogmas; that the whole worship of God is vitiated by foul and disgraceful superstitions; that the pure institution of the sacraments has been supplanted by horrible sacrilege . . . that nothing is seen in the Christian Church that is not deformed and debased; that the grace of Christ not only lies half-buried, but is partly torn to pieces, partly altogether extinguished.

. . . Is it honour to the saints to rob God of his honour and transfer it to them, that they may be worshipped promiscuously with God? . . . they allow the saints to be worshipped indifferently with God . . . In all these things the Papists go beyond the Israelites . . . a block of wood will be our Father in heaven.

I say nothing more than that it will be at once plain how just our grounds are for bewailing the destruction of the Church, and calling for the restitution of its fallen state . . . What agreement or affinity is there between their whole hierarchy which they proudly extol, and the government of Christ and the Apostles? Nay, in what point are they not utterly opposed to each other?

From: The True Method of Reforming the Church and Healing Her Divisions

(1547; translated by Henry Beveridge, 1851; reprinted in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Vol. 3: Tracts, Part 3, edited by Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1983; citations from pp. 264-268)

We certainly deny not that the Church of God has always existed in the world; for we hear what God promises concerning the perpetuity of the seed of Christ. In this way, too, we deny not that there has been an uninterrupted succession of the Church from the beginning of the gospel even to our day; but we do not concede that it was so fixed to external shows -- that it has hitherto always been, and will henceforth always be, in possesion of the Bishops . . . if the Church resides in the successors of the Apostles, let us search for successors among those only who have faithfully handed down their doctrine to posterity.

. . . we deny the title of Successors of the Apostles to those who have abandoned their faith and doctrine . . . What effrontery then, is it to use the name of the Church herself as a cloak for oppressing the Church? . . . Wherein does Succession exist, if it be not in perpetuity of doctrine? But if the doctrine of the Apostles has been corrupted, nay abolished and extinguished by those who would be regarded as their successors, who would not deride their foolish boasting?

. . . But when the name of the Church is usurped by those who, as far as in them lay, have utterly destroyed it, how dastardly were it not to reclaim at least against the present evil?

. . . Next comes the right of interpreting, in support of which, as belonging to their fancied Church, the mediators adduce the testimony of Peter . . .

. . . while they, in the mean time, rob the Church of what was given her by Christ, does not their deceit deserve to be exposed?

From: Commentary on John

(1553; translated by William Pringle in 1847; this comment is on John 9:15)

When an opportunity occurs, we must endeavor, as far as lies in our power, to oppose the wicked attempts of those who, actuated by false zeal, reproach and slander the gospel. If no defense, however just, shut their mouth, we have no reason to be discouraged, but ought to trample under foot, with boldness and magnanimity, that eagerness to slander by which they wish to oppress us. They take up maxims which we readily grant to them, that we ought not to listen to those who revolt from the Church, and break up the unity of the faith. But they pass by, and pretend not to have observed -- that which ought to form the principal subject of inquiry, and which we have explained clearly in many passages -- that nothing can be farther removed from the Church than the Pope with all his band; that a medley composed of lies and impositions, and stained by so many superstitious inventions, is widely distant from the purity of faith. But with all their furious arrogance, they will never hinder the truth, which has been so frequently and so firmly maintained by us, from being at length successful.

From: Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets

(1559; translated by John Owen, 1848)

Commentary on Habakkuk

[2:19; Lecture 114]

Moreover, whatever is here said against idols, most certainly applies to the superstitions of popery. They deny that they give divine honors to their idols; but let us consider what the Prophet says. They indeed sacrifice to gold and silver, and then bend their knees before their images, and do not think that God is near them, except in these figures. Let them show, then, that the Prophet reasons here foolishly, or let them be held guilty according to the declaration, as it were, of the Holy Spirit, when they thus present their prayers before idols.

Commentary on Zephaniah


[1:5; Lecture 119]

This evil has been common in all ages; and it prevails still at this day under the Papacy. They swear by the Virgin, by angels, and by the dead. They do not think that they thus take away anything from the sovereignty of the only true God; but we see what he declares respecting them. The Papists therefore foolishly excuse themselves, when they swear by their saints: for they cannot elude the charge of sacrilege, which the Holy Spirit has stamped with perpetual infamy, since he has said, that all those are abominable in the sight of God who swear by any other name than his own

Commentary on Zephaniah

[1:6; Lecture 119]

The same is the case at this day with the Papists: for though they may glamour a hundred times that they seek to worship God, it is quite evident that they willfully go astray; inasmuch as they so delight themselves with their own inventions, that they do not purely and from the heart devote and consecrate themselves to God.

Commentary on Zechariah

[11:17; Lecture 159]

We must also bear in mind, that when the extreme rigour of God prevails, there still remains some evidence of his favor, for some seed, though few in number, is still perpetuated; for the Church is never so completely abolished as not to leave any remnants, for whose safety God is pleased to provide when he executes his vengeance, inasmuch as he stretches forth his hand at the same time against the ministers he has employed, because they had cruelly abused their power. So also at this day the milted bishops shall be made to know how precious to God is the safety of his Church; for though almost all the people and almost every individual are worthy of the most tyrannical cruelty, yet we know that some are found in that labyrinth for whom God has a care. Though then they who at this day possess power under the Papacy think themselves innocent, while they are robbers and wolves, they shall yet find that God is a righteous judge, who will visit their abominable cruelty: for the disorder of the Church is not its destruction, as God ever preserves some remnant.

From: Institutes of the Christian Religion

(1559 edition; translated by Henry Beveridge, 1845)

1. Among heretics and false Christians, Christ is found in name only; but by those who are truly and effectually called of God, he is acknowledged as a Prophet, King, and Priest. In regard to the Prophetical Office, the Redeemer of the Church is the same from whom believers under the Law hoped for the full light of understanding.

THOUGH heretics pretend the name of Christ, truly does Augustine affirm (Enchir. ad Laurent. cap. 5), that the foundation is not common to them with the godly, but belongs exclusively to the Church: for if those things which pertain to Christ be diligently considered, it will be found that Christ is with them in name only, not in reality. Thus in the present day, though the Papists have the words, Son of God, Redeemer of the world, sounding in their mouths, yet, because contented with an empty name, they deprive him of his virtue and dignity; what Paul says of "not holding the head," is truly applicable to them (Col. 2:19).

(II, 15, 1)

Book IV: Of the Holy Catholic Church
Chapter II: Comparison Between the False Church and the True
Link for IV, 2, 1-12.

1. . . . Where lying and falsehood prevail, no Church exists. There is falsehood wherever the pure doctrine of Christ is not in vigour.

But as soon as falsehood has forced its way into the citadel of religion, as soon as the sum of necessary doctrine is inverted, and the use of the sacraments is destroyed, the death of the Church undoubtedly ensues, just as the life of man is destroyed when his throat is pierced, or his vitals mortally wounded . . . it is certain that there is no Church where lying and falsehood have usurped the ascendancy.

(IV, 2, 1)

2. This falsehood prevails under the Papacy. Hence the Papacy is not a Church. Still the Papists extol their own Church, and charge those who dissent from it with heresy and schism. They attempt to defend their vaunting by the name of personal succession. A succession which abandons the truth of Christ proved to be of no importance.

Since this is the state of matters under the Papacy, we can understand how much of the Church there survives. There, instead of the ministry of the word, prevails a perverted government, compounded of lies, a government which partly extinguishes, partly suppresses, the pure light. In place of the Lord's Supper, the foulest sacrilege has entered, the worship of God is deformed by a varied mass of intolerable superstitions; doctrine (without which Christianity exists not) is wholly buried and exploded, the public assemblies are schools of idolatry and impiety . . . But by what arguments do they prove their possession of the true Church?

(IV, 2, 2)

In the present day, therefore, the presence of the Romanists is just the same as that which appears to have been formerly used by the Jews, when the Prophets of the Lord charged them with blindness, impiety, and idolatry. For as the Jews proudly vaunted of their temple, ceremonies, and priesthood, by which, with strong reason, as they supposed, they measured the Church, so, instead of the Church, we are presented by the Romanists with certain external masks, which often are far from being connected with the Church, and without which the Church can perfectly exist . . .

. . . so many who were born and brought up in servitude confidently boast that they are the sons of God and of the Church; nay, while they are themselves degenerate, proudly despise the genuine sons of God. Let us also, in like manner, when we hear that it was once declared from heaven, "Cast out the bondmaid and her son," trust to this inviolable decree, and boldly despise their unmeaning boasts. For if they plume themselves on external profession, Ishmael also was circumcised: if they found on antiquity, he was the first-born: and yet we see that he was rejected.

[1960 McNeill / Battles edition: "bastards" instead of "degenerate"]

. . . They have, therefore, no longer any ground for proceeding to make a gloss of the name of the Church, which we regard with due reverence; but when we come to definition, not only (to use the common expression) does the water adhere to them, but they stick in their own mire, because they substitute a vile prostitute for the sacred spouse of Christ. That the substitution may not deceive us, . . .

(IV, 2, 3)

4. Whatever the Papists may pretend, there is no Church where the word of God appears not.

In this way the Romanists assail us in the present day, and terrify the unskilful with the name of Church, while they are the deadly adversaries of Christ. Therefore, although they exhibit a temple, a priesthood, and other similar masks, the empty glare by which they dazzle the eyes of the simple should not move us in the least to admit that there is a Church where the word of God appears not. The Lord furnished us with an unfailing test when he said, "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (John 18:37). Again, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." A little before he had said, when the shepherd "putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers" (John 10:14, 4, 5). Why then do we, of our own accord, form so infatuated an estimate of the Church, since Christ has designated it by a sign in which is nothing in the least degree equivocal, a sign which is everywhere seen, the existence of which infallibly proves the existence of the Church, while its absence proves the absence of everything that properly bears the name of Church?

(IV, 2, 4)

9. Hence the Papists act unjustly when they would compel us to communion with their Church. Their two demands. Answer to the first. Sum of the question. Why we cannot take part in the external worship of the Papists.

Now then let the Papists, in order to extenuate their vices as much as possible, deny, if they can, that the state of religion is as much vitiated and corrupted with them as it was in the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam. They have a grosser idolatry, and in doctrine are not one whit more pure; rather, perhaps, they are even still more impure . . . But in these men, I mean the Papists, where is the resemblance? Scarcely can we hold any meeting with them without polluting ourselves with open idolatry. Their principal bond of communion is undoubtedly in the Mass, which we abominate as the greatest sacrilege.

(IV, 2, 9)

With regard to the second point, our objections are still stronger. For when the Church is considered in that particular point of view as the Church, whose judgment we are bound to revere, whose authority acknowledge, whose admonitions obey, whose censures dread, whose communion religiously cultivate in every respect, we cannot concede that they have a Church, without obliging ourselves to subjection and obedience. Still we are willing to concede what the Prophets conceded to the Jews and Israelites of their day, when with them matters were in a similar, or even in a better condition. For we see how they uniformly exclaim against their meetings as profane conventicles, to which it is not more lawful for them to assent than to abjure God (Isa. 1:14). And certainly if those were churches, it follows, that Elijah, Micaiah, and others in Israel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and those of like character in Judah, whom the prophets, priests, and people of their day, hated and execrated more than the uncircumcised, were aliens from the Church of God. If those were churches, then the Church was no longer the pillar of the truth, but the stay of falsehood, not the tabernacle of the living God, but a receptacle of idols. They were, therefore, under the necessity of refusing consent to their meetings, since consent was nothing else than impious conspiracy against God. For this same reason, should any one acknowledge those meetings of the present day, which are contaminated by idolatry, superstition, and impious doctrine, as churches, full communion with which a Christian must maintain so far as to agree with them even in doctrine, he will greatly err. For if they are churches, the power of the keys belongs to them, whereas the keys are inseparably connected with the word which they have put to flight. Again, if they are churches, they can claim the promise of Christ, "Whatsoever ye bind," &c.; whereas, on the contrary, they discard from their communion all who sincerely profess themselves the servants of Christ. Therefore, either the promise of Christ is vain, or in this respect, at least, they are not churches. In fine, instead of the ministry of the word, they have schools of impiety, and sinks of all kinds of error. Therefore, in this point of view, they either are not churches, or no badge will remain by which the lawful meetings of the faithful can be distinguished from the meetings of Turks.

(IV, 2, 10 [complete] )

11. Although the Papacy cannot properly be called a Church, still, against the will of Antichrist himself, there is some vestige of a Church in the Papacy, as Baptism and some other remnants.

Still, as in ancient times, there remained among the Jews certain special privileges of a Church, so in the present day we deny not to the Papists those vestiges of a Church which the Lord has allowed to remain among them amid the dissipation. When the Lord had once made his covenant with the Jews, it was preserved not so much by them as by its own strength, supported by which it withstood their impiety. Such, then, is the certainty and constancy of the divine goodness, that the covenant of the Lord continued there and his faith could not be obliterated by their perfidy; nor could circumcision be so profaned by their impure hands as not still to he a true sign and sacrament of his covenant. Hence the children who were born to them the Lord called his own (Ezek. 16:20), though, unless by special blessing, they in no respect belonged to him. So having deposited his covenant in Gaul, Italy, Germany, Spain, and England, when these countries were oppressed by the tyranny of Antichrist, He, in order that his covenant might remain inviolable, first preserved baptism there as an evidence of the covenant;--baptism, which, consecrated by his lips, retains its power in spite of human depravity; secondly, He provided by his providence that there should be other remains also to prevent the Church from utterly perishing. But as in pulling down buildings the foundations and ruins are often permitted to remain, so he did not suffer Antichrist either to subvert his Church from its foundation, or to level it with the ground (though, to punish the ingratitude of men who had despised his word, he allowed a fearful shaking and dismembering to take place), but was pleased that amid the devastation the edifice should remain, though half in ruins.

(IV, 2, 11 [complete] )

12. The name of Church not conceded to the Papacy, though under its domination there have been some kind of churches. Herein is a fulfilment of Paul's prophecy, that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God. Deplorable condition of such churches. Summary of the chapter.

Therefore, while we are unwilling simply to concede the name of Church to the Papists, we do not deny that there are churches among them. The question we raise only relates to the true and legitimate constitution of the Church, implying communion in sacred rites, which are the signs of profession, and especially in doctrine. Daniel and Paul foretold that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:4); we regard the Roman Pontiff as the leader and standard-bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom. By placing his seat in the temple of God, it is intimated that his kingdom would not be such as to destroy the name either of Christ or of his Church. Hence, then, it is obvious that we do not at all deny that churches remain under his tyranny; churches, however, which by sacrilegious impiety he has profaned, by cruel domination has oppressed, by evil and deadly doctrines like poisoned potions has corrupted and almost slain; churches where Christ lies half-buried, the gospel is suppressed, piety is put to flight, and the worship of God almost abolished; where, in short, all things are in such disorder as to present the appearance of Babylon rather than the holy city of God. In one word, I call them churches, inasmuch as the Lord there wondrously preserves some remains of his people, though miserably torn and scattered, and inasmuch as some symbols of the Church still remain--symbols especially whose efficacy neither the craft of the devil nor human depravity can destroy. But as, on the other hand, those marks to which we ought especially to have respect in this discussion are effaced, I say that the whole body, as well as every single assembly, want the form of a legitimate Church.

(IV, 2, 12 [complete] )

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Just Reward for the Most Satanic Pope and His Cardinals -- from the series mentioned below. Luther's accompanying text reads: "If the pope and cardinals were to receive temporal punishment on earth, their blasphemous tongues would deserve what is rightly depicted here." In the pathetic anti-Catholic treatise accompanying these outrageous woodcuts, Luther wrote:

Next one should take the pope, cardinals, and whatever servants there are of his idolatry and papal holiness, and rip out their tongues at the roots (as blasphemers of God) and nail them on the gallows. . . Next, let them hold a council or whatever they want on the gallows or in hell among all the devils.


Writing about this book to his friend Amsdorf on 14 April 1545, Luther stated: "But you know my nature, that I am not accustomed to attend to what displeases many provided that it is pious and useful and that it pleases the few good . . ."





Birth and Origin of the Pope; one of a series of eight pieces of "art" commissioned by Martin Luther, by the artist Lucas Cranach, for Luther's work Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil (March 1545). Luther told Cranach what to depict, and wrote a rhyming verse for each plate. Mark Edwards, from whose book I found this "art" (see post below) wrote, describing this travesty:

[It] shows the Pope and three cardinals being expelled from the anus of a female devil while three furies are nursing and caring for three infant popes . . . a graphic echo of Luther's assertion in his treatise that the pope had been born from the devil's behind.


Luther's (and Calvin's) View of the Catholic Church 

Recently, in my post, I Like and Appreciate "Reformed Catholicism" a Lot, BUT . . ., about "Reformed Catholicism," I asked what I thought was an important question (and it was certainly sincere, with a desire to learn from my Protestant friends):

Meanwhile, Paul Owen, over on the Reformed Catholicism blog, cites Luther and Charles Hodge saying nice stuff about the Catholic Church. This is all well and good (and I'm glad to see it); however, I myself do not understand how it is possible to synthesize these remarks with many others by Martin Luther which suggest quite otherwise. I have compiled many of them in my paper:

Did Martin Luther Regard the (Roman) Catholic Church as a Non-Christian, Apostate Institution?: Featuring dozens of citations from Luther's own writings; particularly On the Councils and the Churches (1539) and Against Hans Wurst (1541)
Perhaps someone can help me understand this. The same would apply, of course, to John Calvin. I see the reformed catholics citing his positive remarks about Catholic baptism and so forth, but I have seen much else where he excoriates the Catholic Church in the most offensive terms (especially when dealing with the Mass, which is, after all, our central act of worship every Sunday).

. . . How can one consider another a Christian "brother" when that person's weekly worship is regarded as "abomination," "blasphemy," and "idolatry"? . . . These are some of the many questions I would (with all due respect and appreciation) ask "Reformed Catholics."


Dr. Owen cited Luther in the above-mentioned post:

We confess that under the papacy there is much Christianity, yea, the whole Christianity, and has from thence come to us. We confess that the papacy possesses the genuine Scriptures, genuine baptism, the genuine sacrament of the altar, the genuine keys for the remission of sins, the true ministry, the true catechism, the Ten Commandments, the articles of the Creed, the Lord's Prayer. . . . I say that under the Pope is the true Christendom, yea, the very elite of Christendom, and many pious and great saints.

--Martin Luther (cited by Schaff, History of the Christian Church, VII. 530)


One suspects that this is from an early period. But people's views develop and change over time. We don't have the primary citation, but as Schaff is available online I shall retrieve it. Schaff (see his section, §85. Enlarged Conception of the Church. Augustin, Wiclif, Hus, Luther) informs us that it is from his "controversy with the Anabaptists (1528)." This is where one would most expect to find such utterances, since when Luther opposed the Anabaptists he was most likely to appeal to longstanding Catholic Tradition.

But note what else Schaff says, in the immediate context:

Nor did Luther or any of the Reformers and sensible Protestants doubt that there always were and are still many true Christians in the Roman communion, notwithstanding all her errors and corruptions, as there were true lsraelites even in the darkest periods of the Jewish theocracy.


This is merely saying that true Christians can be found amidst the massive heresy and error, in spite of Catholic teaching, not as a result of it, or flowing consistently from it, like pearls among the swine, or a diamond in the mud. That's not granting all that much! Indeed, it is precisely the anti-Catholic position. Even men like James White and Eric Svendsen freely grant this. But it is an insult to all Catholics. If indeed we are brothers in Christ, then our system itself must be granted as a Christian system, so that we are consistently Christians when we fully adhere to it, despite whatever supposed errors we are accused of (just as Arminians and other non-Reformed Protestants are regarded as Christians, and their beliefs as broadly Christian. If reformed catholics cannot grant this much, then they really aren't at bottom all that different from the anti-Catholics, despite the internecine battles the two camps engage in presently. Schaff continues:

For proof he refers, strangely enough, to the very passage of Paul, 2 Thess. 2:3, 4, from which he and other Reformers derived their chief argument that the Pope of Rome is Antichrist, "the man of sin," "the son of perdition." For Paul represents him as sitting "in the temple of God;" that is, in the true church, and not in the synagogue of Satan. As the Pope is Antichrist, he must be among Christians, and rule and tyrannize over Christians.


Fair enough. That might hold true for Luther's earlier opinions, but I cite him below from works of 1539 and 1541, from within seven and five years of his death. By that time he was definitely classifying the "papal system" as unChristian and indeed, the "synagogue of Satan," just as Schaff was denying was the case for Luther. Hence from 1541 (see the fuller quotes below):

We have proved that we are the true, ancient church . . . Now you, too, papists, prove that you are the true church or are like it. You cannot do it. But I will prove that you are the new false church, which is in everything apostate, separated from the true, ancient church, thus becoming Satan's synagogue.

. . . You have silenced and obliterated the remembrance of Christ . . . [this] makes you a new apostate heretical church, yes, the arch-whore of the devil and the synagogue of hell.


Schaff elaborates, showing the true colors of this supposed "ecumenical" view of Luther:

Luther came nearer the true position when he said that the Roman Church might be called a "holy church," by synecdoche or ex parte, with the same restriction with which Paul called the Galatian Christians "churches," notwithstanding their apostasy from the true gospel.


Now how Christian can Catholicism be if it lacks even the "true gospel" -- a constent theme in both Luther and Calvin? Thus much of this "acknowledgement" is so trivial as to be almost meaningless.

But -- bless his heart (and why I love to cite him so much) -- noted Protestant historian Schaff shows himself to be true to historical fact, as always, and illustrates how Luther's doctrine represented a radical departure from Catholic precedent in many respects (precisely as I have been arguing for 13 years now):

But tradition, at least from the sixth to the sixteenth century, strongly favors the belief in transubstantiation, and the sacrifice of the mass, both of which he rejected. And if the same test should be applied to his doctrine of solifidian justification, it would be difficult to support it by patristic or scholastic tradition, which makes no distinction between justification and sanctification, and lays as much stress on good works as on faith. He felt it himself, that on this vital point, not even Augustin was on his side. His doctrine can be vindicated only as a new interpretation of St. Paul in advance of the previous understanding . . . he felt the difference between the patristic and the Protestant theology. The Continental Reformers generally thought much less of the fathers than the Anglican divines

Yet with all his sympathy, Luther could not find his "sola fide." Augustin, he says, has sometimes erred, and is not to be trusted. "Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in the true faith, as well as the other fathers." "When the door was opened to me for the understanding of Paul, I was done, with Augustin" (da war es aus mit ihm. Erl. ed., LXII. 119) . . . As to Jerome, he had to admit that he was the greatest Bible translator, and will not be surpassed in this line (Erl. ed. LXII. 462). But he positively hated him on account of his monkery, and says: "He ought not to be counted among the doctors of the church; for he was a heretic, although I believe that he was saved by faith in Christ. I know no one of the fathers, to whom I am so hostile as to him. He writes only about fasting, virginity, and such things" (LXII. 119sq.). He was tormented by carnal temptations, and loved Eustochium so as to create scandal. He speaks impiously of marriage. His commentaries on Matthew, Galatians, and Titus are very thin. Luther had no more respect for Pope Gregory I. He is the author of the fables of purgatory and masses for souls; he knew little of Christ and his gospel, and was entirely too superstitious. The Devil deceived him, and made him believe in appearances of spirits from purgatory. "His sermons are not worth a copper" (Erl. ed., LI. 482; LII. 187; LX. 189, 405; XXVIII. 98 sqq.; Bindseil, III. 140, 228) . . . He could not agree with Melanchthon's favorable judgment of Basil the Great. He thought Gregory of Nazianzen, the eloquent defender of the divinity of Christ during the Arian ascendency, to be of no account ("Nazianzenus est nihil." Bindseil, III. 152). He speaks well of Theodoret's Commentary to Paul's Epistles, but unreasonably depreciates Chrysostom, the golden preacher and commentator, and describes him as a great rhetorician, full of words and empty of matter; he even absurdly compares him to Carlstadt! "He is garrulous, and therefore pleases Erasmus, who neglects faith, and treats only of morals. I consulted him on the beautiful passage on the highpriest in Hebrews; but he twaddled about the dignity of priests, and let me stick in the mud (Bindseil, III. 136; Erl. ed. LXII. 102).

. . . upon the whole he hated the schoolmen and their master, "the damned heathen Aristotle," although he admits him to have been "optimus dialecticus," and learned from him and his commentators the art of logical reasoning. Even Thomas Aquinas, "the Angelic Doctor," whom the Lutheran scholastics of the seventeenth century highly and justly esteemed, he denounced as a chatterer (loquacissimus), who makes the Bible bend to Aristotle (Bindseil, III. 270, 286), and whose books are a fountain of all heresies, and destructive of the gospel ("der Brunn und Grundsuppe aller Ketzerei, Irrthums und Verleugnung des Evangeliums." Erl. ed. XXIV. 240). This is, of course, the language of prejudice and passion.


[see my related papers:

St. Augustine: Which Christian Body is Closer Theologically to His Teaching?: Reformed Protestants or Present-Day Catholics?

The Ambiguous Relationship of Luther and the Early Protestants to St. Augustine (Dave Armstrong and Edwin Tait) ]

But Luther was a good "reformed catholic," only wishing to continue longstanding Catholic Tradition, so we are told. I find that an astonishingly simplistic reading of Church history and Luther's relationship to it in his overall doctrine -- with all due respect.

The most direct (albeit brief) response I received to my question about Luther's strong, ostensibly "anti-Catholic" utterances was from Paul Owen, responding in the same thread:

The harsh rhetoric of the Reformers is in no way inconsistent with this acknowledgment of ecumenical unity. Think of the harshness with which the prophets criticized the Jewish nation in times past. Were they thereby denying their Jewish heritage? Of course not. Likewise, the mainstream Reformers were not attempting to disconnect themselves from the historic Church in criticizing the apostasy they believed to surround them in their day.


I can appreciate this analogy and answer and it makes some sense to me. However, I don't think it is sufficient to explain the utter venom and disdain for the expressed opinions of the so-called "Reformers." It's difficult for me to read the following excerpts which I shall cite from Luther (from the paper noted above) and believe that Luther accepted Catholics as equals in Christ. Granted, the man was often contradictory. He could easily write things elsewhere which contradicted these. But that is not the case with Calvin, who is usually quite self-consistent and systematic.

I noticed that many of my reformed catholic friends discussed this very issue on Tim Enloe's blog three days before my post was published (Texts Without Contexts Are Pretexts), which is somewhat disconcerting because if they are talking to each other about the same issue, why not to someone who is pretty much an "ally" and one who is seeking answers to sincere questions where he doesn't fully understand their point of view? I'm not particularly impressed with a methodology that talks about how "the other guys" are quoting out of context and not understanding something, while at the same time not trying to reply to sincere questions from one of the same folks.

It should be pointed out that Tim in this post was writing primarily about other Protestants, who were engaging in illegitimate prooftexting and neglecting context, but speaking for myself (a "Catholic Catholic"), I gave tons of context in the above paper, as anyone can see. If my friends believe that context provides an interpretation of Luther's utterances at variance with what seems to me to be the prima facie reading of his rhetoric, I am all ears. I would simply challenge the reformed catholics to -- by all means -- make their argument from context (i.e., in particular terms), rather than simply talking about it (with each other) in sweeping terms, and "preaching to the choir." The argument is not advanced when the recourse is merely to generalities and platitudes.

James White and David King and their legions of followers may have a vested interest in Luther and Calvin being absolutely opposed to the Catholic Church, because they are anti-Catholics. But I do not. If anything, my "vested interest" as an ecumenist is to be convinced that Luther's and Calvin's remarks were not as bad as they appear at first glance. That would certainly be my desire, whether or not I am convinced of the actuality and factuality of that. I would be utterly delighted to be convinced that this is the case. So it is not an instance of trying to convince someone who is unwilling to be persuaded (we all know how futile and frustrating that is).

At this point I will cite words from Tim's post and the feedback. I will follow those with words from Calvin (in red) and Luther (in blue), which need to be explained to me as harmonious with the notion that they accepted Catholics as fellow Christians in every sense of the word. At the very least, could my reformed catholic brothers at least acknowledge that these words are severely offensive to Catholics, excessive, uncharitable in the extreme, and not exactly conducive to warm relations between the two camps? Can Catholics be blamed for not taking too kindly to such venomous rhetoric?

Tim Enloe:

Several vocal critics have recently adopted the tactic of merely pasting from their files all manner of scathingly damnatory citations about "Papists" and "idolatry" and so forth from Calvin and other 16th century Protestants . . . How, our critics wish to know, can we honestly claim to be following in the footsteps of the Protestant reformers when we do not essentially treat our Roman Catholic discussion partners as "dogs" and "pigs" and and "idolators" and "Papists", and twenty other dirty words selected at random from Calvin's Institutes, Letters, and Commentaries, and Luther's voluminous polemics?

. . . Let it be said that there's nothing wrong with citing polemical passages from our forefathers. We must acknowledge our heritage openly, of course, for it is what has made us what we are. The problem is with how these men understand these quotes they are citing and the extent of the heritage which they are willing to bring to bear upon their interpretation of these quotes. Typically what we see in their quote-fests are really "hot" passages simply thrown out there as if their meanings and contexts are simply self-evident to anyone who bothers to read the "literal" words--that is, as if these quotes are self-evidently imbued with the same spirit and connotations as these Modern polemicists themselves exhibit towards Roman Catholics. Missing from these "self-evident" prooftexting sessions is any indication that the deeper and broader issues of historical and theological and cultural context are understood by these men.

. . . their brand of anti-Romanist spin on Calvin and Luther's polemics simply does not partake of the same catholic spirit as Calvin and Luther themselves . . .

. . . It is very difficult to understand how men can cite damnatory clauses from Calvin and Luther without taking serious looks at the deep desire for the preservation of unity with Rome that Calvin and Luther held, . . .


Kevin Johnson:

. . . they are quoting Calvin with neither the appropriate historical/theological context in mind nor are they interested in really understanding what it was that Calvin was really criticizing as well as what it was he really valued. In short, Tim, your comments as usual are right on the mark.


[another post]

I think whether we are speaking of Calvin's view of either Anabaptists or Roman Catholics, we should obviously consider such groups and his view in its proper historical context.

But the whole problem Tim notes is still valid and the fact that Calvin's view of Anabaptists is never mentioned simply shows how out of context and inappropriate their use of Calvin is as well.

Those who choose merely to quote Calvin's view of Roman Catholicism or its hierarchy to score points for a position that Calvin clearly would have disagreed with are taking his words out of context, forbidding the context to speak to the matter, and not allowing Calvin to speak for himself.

It is a troubling method in our day to see mature writing and theological commentary by Reformers like Calvin turned into bumper-sticker like quotes designed merely to buttress an already faltering view of ecclesiology that doesn't in any real way represent the view of the one being quoted.


I certainly have done this, so I cannot be charged with this fault. I have an entire post about Luther's adopting the position of death for the Anabaptists, on this blog. I've had a paper on my site for years which details Protestant persecution, mostly of other Protestants, including Anabaptists: The Protestant Inquisition. One wife of a pastor in the LCMS tried to deny this, but after I cited Roland Bainton (the most famous biographer of Luther), she promptly disappeared and ceased denying this. I haven't studied Calvin nearly as much as Luther, but I have a section about him in Section 6, Part VII of that paper. For more on Calvin's views, see below. I also have in my library, the book, Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals, by William Balke (tr. William Heynen, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981, from the Dutch edition of 1973 -- the author's doctoral dissertation).

Now I shall cite John Calvin's letter to the Duke of Somerset, England, Edward Seymour, who was a key figure in the establishment of Protestantism in England. The letter is dated 22 October 1548. Note that the people Calvin criticizes are Catholics, as that was the religion of England before Henry VIII came in and did his hatchet job (figuratively and literally) on the national religion:

. . . the superstitions of Antichrist, having taken root for so long a time, cannot easily be uprooted from men's hearts.

. . . by nature they are wholly given to hypocrisy, they cannot bear to be brought to the clear light of the word of God, which lays bare their baseness and shame, nor to be drawn forth out of their superstitions, which serve them as a hiding-hole and shady covert. It is nothing new, then, if we meet with contradiction when we attempt to lead men back to the pure worship of God.

. . . Albeit, however, the wickedness and opposition of men may be the cause of the sedition and rebellion which rises up against he Gospel, let us look to ourselves, and acknowledge that God chastises our faults by those who would otherwise serve Satan only. It is an old complaint, that the Gospel is the cause of all the ills and calamities that befall mankinid. We see, in fact, from history, that shortly after Christianity had been everywhere spread abroad, there was not, so to speak, a corner of the earth which was not horribly afflicted . . . In like manner we have ssen in our times, since the Gospel has begun to be set up, much misery . . .

. . . there are two kinds of rebels who have risen up against the King and the Estates of the Kingdom. The one, a fantastical sort of person, who, under colour of the Gospel, would put all into confusion. The others are persons who persist in the superstitions of the Roman Antichrist. Both alike deserve to be repressed by the sword, which is committed to you, since they not only attack the King, but strive with God . . .

. . . The Papists, in endeavouring to maintain the corruptions and abominations of their Romish idol, shew themselves to be open enemies of the grace of Jesus Christ, and of all his ordinances. That ought likewise to occasion great sickness at heart among all those who have a single drop of godly zeal . . . they do not set a proper value on the doctrine of salvation.

. . . under the Pope there is a bastard sort of Christianity, and that God will disavow it on the last day, seeing that he now condemns it by his word. If we desire to rescue the world from such an abyss . . .

. . . you have begun to bring back Christianity to the place which belongs to it, throughout the realm of England.


(from Jules Bonnet, 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], 184-188, 192, 196)

Now, do my Protestant "reformed catholic" friends want to make an issue out of context? I hope they do, and I hope they make their argument about this citation. I have the book in front of me, from which I quote. It is from one of the standard collections of Calvin's letters, published by Calvinists. I have two more volumes also in my library. If I have cited out of context, then I am more than willing to be corrected. I welcome it; positively encourage my friends to make their case. Otherwise, if this is Calvin's "brotherhood" and "ecumenism" then it is quite unimpressive. It seems to me that Calvin was an anti-Catholic in all but the extreme minimalist view of our baptism being valid (though our very worship every week swarms of blasphemies, abominations, idolatries, and superstition), so that the only choices his followers today have are to also be so (as indeed many Calvinists are), or to admit that Calvin was wrong in this regard and that today's Calvinists have progressed beyond his calumnies and distortions of Catholic doctrine. Calvin obviously didn't understand that Catholics fully accept the "Gospel" -- rightly defined -- and sola gratia. See, e.g., my paper: 1 Corinthians 3:9 and John Calvin's Distorted Understanding of the Council of Trent's Doctrine of Grace. We find similar lying nonsense in Luther:

From: On the Councils and the Churches (1539)

Source: Works of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: A.J. Holman Co. & The Castle Press, 1931, vol. 5, 133-136, 264-265, 269, 272, 276-277, 284, 286, 289-292; Introduction and Translation by Charles M. Jacobs -- from the Weimar edition of Luther's Works,509-653)

. . . They know and confess that, on many points, they are wrong, and have the Scriptures and God against them besides; and yet they would force their way through against God, and knowingly defend wrong as right . . . God reigns on our side, and the devil on theirs.

. . . they would rather have the devil himself as god and lord, than have Christ and lay aside even a little of their idolatry. Not satisifed with that, they would compel us poor Christians, with the sword, to join knowingly in their worship of the devil and blasphemy of Christ . . . here are men who under Christ's name, and as Christians, nay, as the highest of Christians, puff themselves up and arm themselves against Christ . . .

. . . they exclude themselves from the Church, and openly proclaim that they are, and will continue to be, the Church's worst enemies. For he who says that he would rather that the Church should be destroyed than that he should let himself be improved, or should yield on any point, confesses thereby that he is not only no Christian and does not want to be in the Church . . . but also that he will do what he can for the destruction of the Church . . .

. . . the Church has remained, and must remain, in spite of them . . . they have made us out heretics and cursed us and slain us, because we would not listen to them as though they were the Church . . .

. . . The pope . . . and his will let the Church be destroyed. Thus he has turned himself out of the Church . . . He is out; he has bidden the Church good-bye . . . we are the Church, or in the Church, which the papists would let go to destruction . . .

. . . the bishops, priests, and monks are not a holy Christian people, for they do not believe in Christ, do not lead holy lives, and are the devil's wicked, shameful people. He who does not rightly believe in Christ, is not Christian or a Christian, and he who has not the Holy Ghost to resist sin, is not holy. Therefore they cannot be a Christian, holy people, that is sancta et catholica ecclesia . . .

. . . That, then, is Christian holiness. The pope will not have it; he must have a peculiar holiness that is far holier. Men must be taught . . . monkery, nunnery, masses, saint-worship, and countless other points about external, bodily, transitory things. That one lives among these things without faith, fear of God, hope, love, and the other works of the Holy Ghost . . . but substitutes for them misbelief, uncertainty of heart, doubt, despising of God, impatience toward Him, a false trust in works (which is idolatry!) instead of a trust in the grace of Christ or His merits, making one's own satisfaction by works . . .

. . . they lead all the souls in the world astray . . . just as they reject all the fathers and theologians from their canons, so we reject them from the Church and the Scriptures . . . Now they want to put us out of the Church and the Scriptures, and they cannot get in themselves! . . .

. . . the noises made by monks and nuns and priests are not prayers or praises to God. They do not understand it and learn nothing from it; they do it like hard labor, for the belly's sake, and seek thereby no improvement of life, no progress in holiness, no doing of God's will.


Pamphlet: How to Anoint a Right Christian Bishop (January, 1542)

. . . We poor heretics have committed a great sin against the hellish unchristian Church and against the most hellish father the Pope by anointing a bishop at Naumburg without ointment, butter, suet, bacon, grease, or smoke.

Table-Talk

(translated by William Hazlitt, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society: n.d.)

I care not at all for an open enemy of the church, such as the papists . . . for by them the true church cannot receive hurt. (#677, p. 356)

. . . The Sadducees were infinitely more pious than the papists . . . (#429, p. 243)

I cannot imagine how there should be peace between us and the papists . . . 'tis an everlasting war, like that between the woman's seed and the old serpent . . . we cannot depart from the Gospel, nor will they desist from their idolatry and blaspheming; the devil will not suffer his feet to be chopped off, nor will Christ have the preaching of his Word hindered; therefore I cannot see how any peace or truce may be between Christ and Belial. (#447, p. 249)

It is impossible for a papist to understand this article: "I believe in the forgiveness of sins" . . . (#292, p. 175)

. . . The God of the Turks helps no longer or further, as they think, than as they are godly people; in like manner also the God of the papists . . . But a true Christian says: "I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour" . . . So that we plainly see, the true Christian faith is far different from the faith and religion of the pope and Turk . . . (#292, p. 176)

Seeing the pope is antichrist, I believe him to be a devil incarnate . . . 'Tis a monstrous blasphemy for a human creature to presume, now Christ is come, to exalt himself in the church above God. (#427, p. 242)

. . . the popes . . . are bitter enemies of the church . . . Pope, cardinals, bishops, not a soul of them has read the Bible; 'tis a book unknown to them. (#429, p. 243)

. . . The pope and his crew are mere worshippers of idols, and servants of the devil. (#446, p. 249)

. . . The pope may well be, and is, the head of the false church. (#457, p. 254)

They that do not hold the sacrament as Christ instituted it, have no sacrament. All papists do not, therefore they have no sacrament; for they receive not the sacrament, but offer it . . . The sacrament is God's work and ordinance, and not man's . . . (#344, p. 208)


Wider Hans Wurst, or Against Jack Sausage (1541)

From: Luther's Works, 55 volumes, Philadelphia: Fortress Press (also Concordia Publishing House), 1955 -, General editors: Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) / Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55)

This is a polemical piece against the Catholic (and corrupt) Duke Heinrich (or Henry) of Braunschweig / Wolfenbuttel, written between February 19 and April 4, 1541. It contains much revealing and plain-spoken "reasoning" concerning the true vs. the false Christian church, and the status of the Catholic Church, its sacraments, the spiritual and moral estate of its adherents, etc. It is reprinted in Volume 41 of Luther's Works, pp. 179-256; translated by Eric W. Gritsch.

. . . all devils, papists, and all their crew . . . as befits devils and the devil's lot, lie shamelessly . . . fear and mourn, you who lie and revile Christ and his followers, for your damnation is great in hell. (p. 189)

They allege that we have fallen away from the holy church and set up a new church . . . since they themselves boast that they are the church, it is for them to prove that they are . . . But if they cannot prove it . . . they are not the church and . . . we cannot be heretics since we have fallen away from what is not the true church. Indeed, since there is nothing in-between, we must be the church of Christ and they the devil's church, or vice versa. Therefore it all turns on proving which is the true church . . . One part must be false and untrue . . . The Lord Christ commands us not to embrace the false church. (pp. 193-194)

We have proved that we are the true, ancient church . . . Now you, too, papists, prove that you are the true church or are like it. You cannot do it. But I will prove that you are the new false church, which is in everything apostate, separated from the true, ancient church, thus becoming Satan's synagogue. (p. 199)

You do not hold to the original, ancient baptism, for you have invented many other new baptisms, teaching that the original baptism is subsequently lost through sin . . . For where there is no baptism,the sacraments, the keys, and everything else are of no avail. (p. 199)

Who can tell all the abominable innovations you have devised in the sacred and holy sacrament of the body and blood of Christ? . . . You have silenced and obliterated the remembrance of Christ . . . [this] makes you a new apostate heretical church, yes, the arch-whore of the devil and the synagogue of hell. For this thing is so hopelessly and abysmally evil . . . the vilest cesspool that the devil has on earth. (pp. 201-202)

The private mass is one of the worst abominations . . . with it you have built the devil a new church and worshiped him, thereby turning into murderers of souls, just like Moloch, the devourer of children. (p. 203)

We too were formerly stuck in the behind of this hellish whore, this new church of the pope . . . we regret having spent so much time and energy in that vile hole. But God be praised and thanked that he rescued us from the scarlet whore. (p. 206)

The church of the pope . . . represents the jaws of hell . . . (p. 206)

You were indeed all baptized in the true baptism of the ancient church, just as we were, especially as children. Now if a baptized child lives and then dies in his seventh or eighth year, before he understands the whorelike church of the pope, he has in truth been saved and will be saved -- of that we have no doubt. But when he grows up, and hears, believes, and obeys your preaching with its lies and devilish inventions, then he becomes a whore of the devil like you and falls away from his baptism and bridegroom -- as happened to me and others -- building and relying on his own works. (p. 207)

She is the true arch-whore and the true whore of the devil [mentions Ezekiel 23] . . . You should read that if you want to know what kind of whore your church is. (p. 208)

God . . . will damn the arch-whore for eternity. (p. 209)

We acknowledge not only that you have, with us, come from the true church and been washed and made clean in baptism . . . but also that you are in the church and remain in it . . . But you are no longer of the church, or members of the church, for in this holy church of God you are building your own new apostate church, the devil's brothel, with limitless whoredom, idolatry, and innovation. (pp. 209-210)

It is true that the true ancient church with its baptism and the work of God still remains with you, and your god, the devil, has not been able to obliterate it entirely. (p. 210)

If they are not the church but the devil's whore that has not remained faithful to Christ, then it is irrefutably and thoroughly established that they should not possess church property. (p. 220) [that was certainly acted upon quickly enough: with widespread theft or destruction of church property]

They are impenitent and blinded, delivered to the wrath of God. We must give room to the wrath and let God's judgment run its course. Nor shall we any longer pray for their sin (as St. John teaches us), but pray about them and against them, and to the praise and glory of God we shall sing the Judas song . . .

". . . O damned papists, is this your deed,
That no true Christian life you were willing to spare? . . . " (pp. 255-256)


Mark U. Edwards, Jr., author of Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-1546 (Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1983), wrote about this filthy polemic:

It was within the terms of this larger struggle between the true and false churches that Luther placed the controversy with Duke Heinrich. Moreover, he fully believed that the struggle was reaching its climax in his own time. As with his other polemics against Catholics, 'fanatics,' Turks, and Jews, this conviction allowed him to direct his attack more against the devil allegedly motivating the opponent than against the man himself. (p. 152)

It becomes difficult to escape the impression that Against Hanswurst represented an escalation in the coarseness and abusiveness of the controversy . . . Heinrich Bullinger of Zurich . . . did characterize it in a later letter to Bucer as 'unbecoming, completely immodest, entirely scurrilous, and frivolous,' but his evaluation remained private. Melanchthon, who generally disapproved of Luther's more passionate efforts, had nothing but praise for the work. As for Luther himself, he wrote Melanchthon that, upon rereading the treatise, he wondered what had happened that he had written so moderately against the duke . . . [this] may be another case of Luther's drier humor. Or, on the other hand, he may have actually believed that he had been unreasonably restrained in attacking what he believed was simply another of the devil's minions. The devil, of course, deserved all the abuse that could be heaped upon him. (pp. 154-155)


Contrary to my reputation in some circles as a "Luther-basher" or even "Luther-hater," I am quite inclined to be convinced of a more "favorable" interpretation in matters concerning Luther (and his view of Catholicism), if only shown. After all, I have defended him against the charge of deliberately inciting violence in the Peasants' Revolt, against the (rather silly) view that he was an antinomian and somehow opposed to works altogether, and have written at great length about how his Mariology is remarkably close to that of the Catholic Church. I don't think he was a "bad man" or that he had nefarious motives, as I have stated repeatedly on my website. Thus, I would be more than willing to be convinced that he regarded Catholics as more or less equals in Christ. But in light of the above I am not there yet, and need help in accepting this point of view. Is anyone out there willing to provide such help?

I think Luther's trash-talk and flat-out lying and scurrilous accusations ought to be renounced (along with Calvin's similar bilge) as black marks and errors in their founders, by "reformed catholics" rather than be dismissed as basically irrelevant citations taken out of context and not signifying much of anything. They accuse the anti-Catholics of reading their agendas into such quotes, but I am not so sure it is the anti-Catholics who are misinterpreting here. They might be with regard to the one question of baptism, but as we have seen, Luther makes even that remaining connection dubious or exceedingly minimalistic. Why would one not be justified in concluding that it is the reformed catholics who are special pleading here and making out that Luther and Calvin are more congenial towards the Catholic Church as a Christian institution than they in fact were??

What else do these men have to say, for heaven's sake, to prove that they were "anti-Catholic"? It seems to me that Luther says almost every conceivable thing that would lead one to the conclusion that this is what he believed. I can't even imagine what more could be said. So to basically claim that all this is taken out of context, is, I believe, a blatant instance of special pleading, in the effort to claim Luther and Calvin for one's own cause. All the reformed catholics have to do, to alleviate this difficulty is to admit that Luther and Calvin were grievously in error at this point. Anti-Catholics think they were right on. But if "reformed catholics" truly seek to build bridges towards Catholic Catholics like me, then they must renounce it, not try to deny that it exists by the tired recourse to the rhetoric of "quoting out of context." Like I said, if someone wants to challenge me on my quotes, I have all the context imaginable, and would be more than willing to engage that discussion.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Socrates: the great conversationalist, intellectual gadfly, street-philosopher, and the pagan I admire the most

Open Discussion 

C'mon folks! Gettin' kinda slow around here. Remember, I don't always reply in this forum like I do in the Q & A ones, but someone will, if a question is thrown out for discussion. What's on your mind?

Ronaldus Magnus. May his soul rest in peace. And let's help George W. Bush to "win one for the Gipper" this year.

John Wesley's death-mask (this amounts to a "photograph"). Anyone with a great nose like that can't be half-bad! I am of Methodist lineage on both sides and one of my uncles (d. 1964) was an Anglican priest.

John Wesley: a "Catholic Methodist"? 

Since discovering very "Catholic" things about various Protestants seems to be quite the thing these days, I was fascinated by this information I picked up today on Pontificator's blog, from Alastair Roberts, frequent visitor to this blog. I love Wesley! But now I think he is even cooler than I did before:
------------------------------------------------------------------------

I came across this interesting letter a few months back. It is addressed to Wesley’s wayward brother-in-law, Westley Hall.

December 30, 1745.

DEAR BROTHER,—Now you act the part of a friend. It has long been our desire, that, you would speak freely. And we will do the same. What we know not yet, may God reveal to us!

You think, First, that, we undertake to defend some things, which are not defensible by the Word of God. You instance three: on each of which we will explain ourselves as clearly as we can.

1. ‘That, the validity of our ministry depends on a succession supposed to be from the Apostles, and a commission derived from the Pope of Rome, and his successors or dependents.’

We believe, it would not be right for us to administer, either Baptism or the Lord’s Supper, unless we had a commission so to do from those Bishops, whom we apprehend to be in a succession from the Apostles. And, yet, we allow, these Bishops are the successors of those, who are dependent on the Bishop of Rome. But, we would be glad to know, on what reasons you believe this to be inconsistent with the Word of God.

2. ‘That, there is an outward Priesthood, and consequently an outward Sacrifice, ordained and offered by the Bishop of Rome, and his successors or dependents, in the Church of England, as vicars and vicegerents of Christ.’

We believe there is and always was, in every Christian Church (whether dependent on the Bishop of Rome or not) an outward Priesthood ordained by Jesus Christ, and an outward Sacrifice offered therein, by men authorized to act, as Ambassadors of Christ, and Stewards of the mysteries of God. On what grounds do you believe, that, Christ has abolished that Priesthood or Sacrifice?

3. ‘That, this Papal Hierarchy and Prelacy, which still continues in the Church of England, is of Apostolical Institution, and authorized thereby; though not by the written Word.’

We believe, that, the threefold order of ministers, (which you seem to mean by Papal Hierarchy and Prelacy,) is not only authorized by its Apostolical Institution, but also by the written Word. Yet, we are willing to hear and weigh whatever reasons induce you to believe to the contrary.


But don't break out the champagne yet. Alas, there is some bad news, too. Dr. William Tighe added this sobering bit of information:

Well, yes, but when did John Wesley write this? In later life, he abandoned his earlier belief in the apostolic succession of bishops, and came to believe that presbyters and bishops were the same office; hence his consecration of Asbury & Coke as “superintendents” for American Methodists in (when? 1782?); subsequently they termed themselves “bishops.” Charles Wesley, who had not, like John, abandoned his earlier beliefs about Catholic Church Order, reproached John bitterly for these “consecrations.” Wesley, like Luther, changed some of his ideas as time went on – and for both of them the changes were away from historical Catholicism, not towards it.


It's a bummer, but this is what Protestantism tends to do, doesn't it? Move away from historic Catholic Christianity . . .

Alastair replied:

Yes, I was aware of that. However, this letter from Wesley does come 7 and a half years after his evangelical conversion. Wesley certainly did not see his evangelical convictions to be incompatible with his high ecclesiology for many years.


And this is an excellent consideration, assuming that Wesley did adopt a "lower" ecclesiology later in life. He managed to believe this "Catholic" stuff for seven years after adopting an evangelical stance and undergoing a profound personal experience of the Holy Spirit, and saw no radical inconsistency in that.

There are all sorts of examples of this, where the beliefs of prominent Protestant figures don't fit into the modern ("post-modern"?) evangelical mold: Luther's belief in the Immaculate Conception and baptismal regeneration, Bullinger's seeming acceptance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, Wesley's quite Catholic notions of sanctification and rejection of sola fide, Keble, Pusey, Newman and the Tractarians, C.S. Lewis' casual acceptance of purgatory and prayers for the dead, widespread Protestant belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary and the wrongness of contraception until very recent times (and a growing movement going back to that stance today), etc. G.K. Chesterton made one of his perceptive analogies between Protestant "borrowing" or continuing lots of different Catholic beliefs and practices, to Robinson Crusoe going out to the wrecked ship again and again to retrieve more things.

I think Protestants ought to ask themselves why that is. Is it not rather obvious that Rome remains, and indeed always has been the standard for the parameters, nature, and shape of historic Christianity? Time and again, Protestant movements discover (or I should say "rediscover") some "new" truth, only to realize that we Catholics had held it all along, from the beginning. It's shipwrecked Crusoe going back to the "ship" of historic Catholicism, which is still sitting out there. Once this happens over and over, I think some folks (like myself in 1990) will start thinking of converting to this remarkable Church which seems to somehow (despite all its outward warts and flaws and laxity and/or ignorance of many of its members) "get it right" over and over. Ronald Knox made the journey across the Tiber. He wrote in his recounting of that odyssey:

I read . . . Milman's (soundly Protestant) History of Latin Christianity . . . he comments upon the extraordinary precision with which, time after time, the Bishops of Rome managed to foresee which side the Church would eventually take in a controversy, and "plumped" for it beforehand . . . Each time Rome . . . thinks today what the world will think tomorrow . . . the Catholic party is the party in which the Bishop of Rome was, and nothing else . . . The Papacy seemed to be the thing which medieval Christendom was certain about . . . I had taken no new intellectual step: I saw the same set of facts, and my intellect made an entirely different report of them . . .

I had been . . . fully prepared to find, that the immediate result of submission to Rome would be the sense of having one's liberty cramped and restricted in a number of ways . . . My experience has been exactly the opposite. I have been overwhelmed with the feeling of liberty . . . You can carry a weight so long that you cease to feel it; instead, you feel an outburst of positive relief when it is withdrawn. The suppressed uncertainty of mind was like a dull toothache that had been part of my daily experience . . . It was not till I became a Catholic that I became conscious of my former homelessness . . . I now found ease and naturalness, and stretched myself like a man who has been sitting in a cramped position . . . Nor do I feel cabined and cramped because intellectual speculation is now guided and limited for me by actual authority, as it had been . . . . by my own desire for orthodoxy.

(A Spiritual Aeneid, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1950 ed., 192-196, 218-220, 222)



A Fond Farewell to President Ronald Reagan 

See P. Andrew Sandlin's excellent article on WorldNetDaily.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Bishop White Chimes in on Our Cartoon 

From his blog: 6-7-04:

Oh, I finally saw Dave Armstrong's graphic about me. Here it is. It is properly copyrighted, "Rhys Tuck (c) 24 May 2004." The only thing missing is, "Rhys Tuck, Age 9, 3rd Grade, Detroit Elementary School, Mrs. Klingenhoffer's Class." Wow, folks, like Rush says, leave that kind of stuff to the professionals!

Eric Svendsen's Satire (including of me) 

This National Enquirer-type piece, which contains some funny stuff but also lies, seems to have now been removed from public view (though I don't recall Eric issuing any public apologies; I may have missed it). By the miracle of Internet technology and the marvelous Internet Archive, however, I have retrieved a copy still "out there" on the web. This is not a real picture of me, by the way (I don't have a red mustache). Just thought some people might be curious about the sort of satire our anti-Catholic friends engage in. The world is a strange place.

2004 NBA Finals: Game One: Pistons Whip Lakers 87-75 

Detroit: 87, LA: 75. YES!!!!

We had to listen to the (to Detroit ears like mine) smug, confident commentary before the game that "no one" has picked Detroit to win this series, and "many" expected an LA sweep. The Lakers (so the announcers repeat so often) have four future Hall of Famers, while the Pistons have no real superstars (a two-time defensive player of the year and an All-Star [Ben Wallace] is not that?). Blah blah blah. Well, they don't seem to understand that a good defense usually will overcome a good offense, in almost all sports (a point I made in my last basketball post). This was my pre-series analysis: the Lakers ain't the Lakers we all know and love when they have to face the best defensive team in the league. This is bound to make a difference, and it did.

I predicted that Shaq would still get his points (no one in the league can really stop him) but that we could win anyway. As it was, Kobe got his share, too, but our defense shut down the rest of the team (which was shooting 28% near the end of the game, so we were told). So Shaq and Kobe get their points, and (surprise!) Rip Hamilton (who has scored over 20 in every or almost every playoff game this year) got only 10. We were in their court, and we won by 12. The Lakers had not lost a game in the playoffs at home this year.

I thought we could split the games in LA. I didn't think we would win so handily without Hamilton getting 20 and Kobe having his usual game (and it could have been more of a blowout if we hadn't missed so many easy shots and made a lot of turnovers). So it is even better than I thought . . . There might indeed be a sweep in this series. The only thing the pundits got wrong is who would be the team to do the sweepin', if it happens. I predict Pistons in 7, but it might very well be six. The Lakers will probably win Game 2. They will win one of three in Detroit. And then we will win one of the last two in LA. We'll either win Game 6 out there or Game 7. In any event, it will be a great series now; that's for sure. If we do lose, it already looks like we'll at least do a heckuva lot better than the other anemic Eastern teams since Jordan's invincible Bulls (New Jersey and Philadelphia and Indiana) have done in the Finals.

Sunday, June 06, 2004


[Martin Luther as a Monk, 1520; engraving by Lucas Cranach the Elder] Was Luther a Catholic Reformer or a Protestant Revolutionary?

I Like and Appreciate "Reformed Catholicism" a Lot, BUT . . .  

. . . my friend, "Pontificator" (a traditionalist Anglican) has made, I think, some important criticisms of the movement, with which I largely agree. They deserve careful consideration from those in the self-titled "Reformed Catholicism" movement. This present paper of mine -- I hasten to add -- does not at all undo or clash with the expressly ecumenical effort of my recent post responding to (indeed, mostly loudly applauding) Joel Garver. He was dealing mostly with soteriology. In that area, I think there is remarkable existing agreement, and great potential for more as discussions continue. But -- sadly --, other issues do not present such a bright and rosey prospect for actual agreement.

I am both ecumenical and an apologist for Catholicism (a religious point of view that we don't feel needs any qualifier: people know what you are talking about when you say simply "Catholic"). That makes me distinct from "Reformed Catholicism" or "Anglo-Catholicism" or any other "x-Catholicism" that exists (either with a big "C" or a little "c"). But I am happy to find whatever common ground I can with all these brothers and sisters in Christ. People seem to be enamored with this word "Catholic" (and well they should be, because it implies a oneness and universality of the Church. This is the biblical and historic Christian concept).

The two endeavors do not contradict at all (as I have been arguing for 13 years now). They are not mutually exclusive (much as many people -- caught up in an "either/or" mentality and modality -- would like to believe). One can adhere to one set of beliefs and defend them against all comers, and also simultaneously seek unity with other Christians of different stripe, insofar as possible without denying one's own theological and doctrinal identity and distinctives. Apologetics is good, and unity and appreciation with other Christian traditions is good; I refuse to dichotomize the two).

With that disclaimer out of the way, I shall now post Pontificator's paper on his blog: “Reformed” + “Catholicism”–Water and Oil? in its entirety, with my responses in blue:
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It’s been a pleasure discovering various sites on the internet devoted to the advancement of catholicity among the Protestant churches.

Indeed; I am quite pleased about this development also.

I’m not just talking about Anglo-Catholic groups within Anglicanism, but catholic groups among real Protestants.

So Anglicans are "unreal" Protestants? Just teasing . . .

Pontifications readers are probably already quite familiar with the splendid work of Thomas Oden. Oden is an evangelical Methodist who is seeking to reground Protestantism within the consensual tradition of the Church. Given the Anglican sacramentalism of John Wesley, and given Methodism’s distance from the 16th century Reformation, I have not found it surprising to find Oden and other Methodists (Geoffrey Wainwright immediately comes to mind) recalling the Church to its patristic roots.

One would hope they would be consistent with the roots of their own heritage, beginning with John Wesley (one of the Protestants in history I admire the most, particularly for his extraordinary evangelistic zeal), so this shouldn't be surprising at all (at least among those more historically-minded and -conscious within Methodism, which tends to be the scholars). But Protestant denominations have a bad habit of developing in directions quite foreign to the conceptions and goals of the founders of said groups.

But I admit I have found it surprising to find a Reformed Catholicism movement within the churches of Geneva. Reformed Catholicism? Is it an oxymoron? The Reformed-catholics obviously do not think so.

One could quibble with the category distinctions in play here, but beyond that, I think it is commendable to build bridges between these two camps, since historically there has existed such extreme antipathy between them.

It’s clear, however, that what these catholic reformers mean by catholicism is very, very different from what Orthodox and Catholic Christians–and even Anglo-Catholics–mean by that word.

Well, I agree. The goals may be very laudable, but when one gets down to closely analyzing terms and definitions, then one runs into (in my opinion) several thorny issues which can hardly be resolved by simply using words which "the other guy" tends to use more than our own tradition.

The contributors of Reformed Catholicism are emphatic in their insistence that Reformed Christianity is catholic, not sectarian; but I wonder what historical ecclesial reality they are speaking about. It’s not a matter of counting up the number of times the word catholic is used in the Reformed catechisms and confessions. It’s a question of the compatibility of Reformed teaching with the historic beliefs and practices of catholic Christianity.

Exactly. Well-stated. This has long been a criticism of mine against certain sectors of this movement. It seems to me to make little sense ultimately unless there is some concrete, institutional, historically-continuous body or communion where it is embodied and instantiated. This is where the Catholic or Orthodox views are, I think (agree or disagree), far more internally coherent. And this criticism would apply to Anglicanism as well (as Pontificator is painfully aware, as a traditionalist in a rapidly liberalizing denomination, which shows itself presently excited about compromising with the blatantly non-Christian cultural zeitgeist).

It’s a question of what kind of churches actually emerged from the theologicical and ecclesiological teachings of Calvin & Company.

Bingo! Sorry for my Catholic bias in terminology there . . .

Isn’t “Reformed Catholicism” talking about an idealized church that has never existed?

Quite arguably, yes. I would like to hear their responses to this criticism, which has very much been my own, when the (wishful) attempt is made to find a supposedly close affinity between historic, patristic, medieval Catholic Christianity and later Protestantism.

Double predestination, the denial of the Eucharistic real presence and sacrifice, the restriction of the number of the sacraments to baptism and the Supper, the abandonment of the historic Episcopate and the apostolic succession of the ordained ministry, forensic justification, sola scriptura, the denial of the infallibility of the Church, the rejection of the veneration of images, the rejection of the invocation of the saints–these characteristic teachings of the Reformed tradition all dramatically depart from the faith of the Fathers.

Sadly so. And the fact that a small number of high-minded, well-intentioned, ecumenical Reformed Christians seek to modify some aspects of some of these tendencies or dogmatic positions, does not, and cannot alter or alleviate this huge difficulty of historical continuity and grounding in the Fathers. They are betwixt and between as long as they follow this course: the majority of their own Calvinist brethren will reject much of what they say, and their beliefs can never become identical to Orthodoxy or Catholicism or even Anglo-Catholicism in some respects. I hate to come off sounding like a naysayer, but what can I do? This is my sincere opinion.

The appeal to the Vincentian canon rings hollow on Reformed lips.

When closely-scrutinized, I agree. Cardinal Newman couldn't even synthesize St. Vincent with Tractarian Anglicanism, let alone "Reformed Catholicism."

The Calvinist Reformation was not a conservative return to Patristic Christianity; it was a revolutionary recreation of Christianity–with the consequent destruction of Catholic culture–in the futile attempt to bypass fifteen hundred years of Church history to repristinate an apostolic Church that never existed.

This might be a harsh way of describing it, but I essentially agree. I think that Luther and Calvin were by essence revolutionaries, not "reformers." They maintained some things, true, but in many many respects they were novel innovators. And I don't simply state that because I am a Catholic. My apologetic writings have, I think, demonstrated the factuality of these contentions time and again. Most of what was distinctive in Luther and Calvin and other early Protestants was an innovation and a novelty in terms of previous Church Tradition. What was not an innovation was simply a preservation of what already existed (thus they deserve no particular credit for that). So the distinctives that make Protestantism what it is cannot be accepted by Catholics and Orthodox because they clash with received Tradition and apostolic succession. Protestantism was simply a different animal, because they had "switched the rules" whereby theological and doctrinal truth are determined.

Particularly unconvincing, I’m afraid to say, is the interpretation of Calvin’s doctrine of Eucharistic presence as catholic. While I readily grant that John Calvin’s understanding of the Eucharist is superior to the views that became representative in the Reformed churches, it still denies the fundamental Eucharistic realism that is found in the Fathers–and that includes St Augustine, who is perhaps closer to Calvin than the other Church Fathers. Contra Mr. Johnson, Calvin certainly cannot be rightly interpreted as being an authentic return to the Eastern view of Eucharistic transformation as found in St Cyril of Jersusalem.

I agree. I have written about that already on my blog, in a general sense (and dialogued with some reformed catholics), and I hope to soon examine the eucharistic theology of St. Cyril of Jersusalem and compare and contrast it with that of Calvin, since this particular claim has been made. From what I have seen in briefly examining St. Cyril, it looks like the claim will be shown to be insufficiently established.

For the Orthodox Christian, the consecrated elements are the Body and Blood of the Lord and are thus worthy of true adoration. For the Reformed, such a belief, and certainly all acts of prayer and adoration directed to the elements, is idolatrous.

Yes. Calvin has some very choice words for the Mass, which would hardly be able to be harmonized with the Fathers.

Darwell Stone’s A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist remains the classic treatment in English on this subject. And if I may, I also refer the brethren to my own humble attempts to discuss this subject, Eating Christ and Sacrament of Presence.

Thanks for the references.

I applaud the intent of these catholic-minded Reformed reformers–may their tribe increase!

As do I.

–but their project is unconvincing and doomed. Catholic movements within Protestantism have always been short-lived. The Mercersburg theology of Nevin and Schaff is a good example. The Tractarian movement was a different kind of movement, because it lacked all sympathy for the Reformation and sought to recall Anglicanism to a pre-Reformation identity; but it too failed.

History seems to show this, yes. Again, it is not pleasant to have to be a "prophet of doom", so to speak, but I am skeptical that our friends will succeed in changing much. If anything, they will (ironically) simply succeed in creating yet another denomination which will itself undergo the usual process of decay and revival and more decay, which has typified virtually all Protestant movements for 500 years. But having said that, I do commend them for their ecumenical effort, for the seriousness with which they approach Christian history and things like baptism and the Eucharist, and for their refreshing ecumenical attitude towards Catholics and welcome opposition to the massive structure of Protestant Anti-Catholicism. I would like to personally thank them for these things and more, and they have my deep respect.

To be Protestant is by definition to be non-catholic.

I agree with this. It is, after all, built into the very word, isn't it? What are they protesting? Well, obviously Catholicism. A Protestant might object: "No! Not Catholicism, but the corruptions which crept into Catholicism over hundreds of years." But once one analyzes what those corrupstions are considered to be, it is clear that most of them are part and parcel of Catholicism, so that, in the end, it is the Catholic system which is being attacked or rejected, in those areas where Protestants dissented. This is easily demonstrated in particulars.

To be Protestant is to be a denomination, ruled by private judgment. That is part of the Protestant DNA. Whether that is a good or bad thing each person must decide for himself.

I agree again. It has not been demonstrated to my satisfaction, over the course of many dialogues on this general topic of authority, for almost 14 years now, that Protestantism can overcome its inevitable recourse to private judgment. It is part and parcel of what it is. There are only so many options in matters of authority. If you reject episcopacy, apostolic succession, councils, the papacy, a binding Tradition, and the Rule of Faith as practiced by virtually all Christians for the first 1000 years and (if we exclude the papacy) by all for another 500 after that, then necessarily the final court of appeal winds up in the individual. People can protest and complain about that characterization all they want, but I have not seen any cogent disproof of that scenario. The last time I discussed it, I was told by two people that they intended to reply. They have not as of yet. I hope they do, because I consider this the most damaging argument against their claims.
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[The following will be my words, in black, unless otherwise noted]

Another Anglican friend of mine, Edwin Tait, responded in the comments section of this post:

Pontificator, I’m not sure I accept your definition of “Protestant DNA,” or even that there is such a thing as “DNA” in Protestantism. By definition, Protestants have altered their DNA once in becoming Protestants. There is nothing necessarily preventing Protestants from altering their “DNA” again in a more Catholic definition, it seems to me. I admit that in practice this is a very difficult project–more so among the Reformed than among Anglicans or Methodists (the two Protestant traditions with which I currently have the most contact). But I wonder what solid basis you really have for dismissing it as impossible? This is a very live issue for me. If the project of “reformed catholicity” in its Anglican and Methodist variants is an impossible one, then clearly I must become Catholic or Orthodox. And I recognize that you’re facing a similar situation as you work through these issues.


If there is a "DNA" in Protestantism, then it is sola Scriptura and private judgment, since these are the aspects that all Protestant groups I am aware of hold in common. To yield up these principles of the rule of faith would be to ceas to be Protestant. It would be like trying to play baseball without a bat. It is simply too central. If there is nothing at all which can be regarded as a "non-negotiable" in Protestantism, then we are really talking about nothing. But we are talking about something that exists: this thing called Protestantism.

Meanwhile, Paul Owen, over on the Reformed Catholicism blog, cites Luther and Charles Hodge saying nice stuff about the Catholic Church. This is all well and good (and I'm glad to see it); however, I myself do not understand how it is possible to synthesize these remarks with many others by Martin Luther which suggest quite otherwise. I have compiled many of them in my paper:

Did Martin Luther Regard the (Roman) Catholic Church as a Non-Christian, Apostate Institution?: Featuring dozens of citations from Luther's own writings; particularly On the Councils and the Churches (1539) and Against Hans Wurst (1541)

Perhaps someone can help me understand this. The same would apply, of course, to John Calvin. I see the reformed catholics citing his positive remarks about Catholic baptism and so forth, but I have seen much else where he excoriates the Catholic Church in the most offensive terms (especially when dealing with the Mass, which is, after all, our central act of worship every Sunday).

In the fourth century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem speaks of "the spiritual Sacrifice, the bloodless worship," and the "propitiatory victim." (Catechetical Lectures, 23, 8, 10) St. Ambrose believed that "It is He Himself that is offered in sacrifice here on earth when the Body of Christ is offered." (Commentaries on Twelve of David's Psalms, 38, 25) And later in that century, and early in the fifth, St. John Chrysostom writes:

Have reverence before this table, of which we all participate, before Christ, who was slain for us, before the sacrifice, which lies on the table.

(Homilies on Romans, 8, 8)

Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of His death; and this remembrance is one and not many . . . Since the Sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere . . . So too is there one Sacrifice.

(Homilies on Hebrews, 17, 3. See also The Priesthood, 3, 4, 177; Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 24, 2)


The venerable St. Augustine taught that "Christ is both the Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim." (City of God, 10, 20) He applies Malachi 1:11 to the Mass, calling it the "Sacrifice of Christians," and also cites the precedent of Melchizedek. (Sermon Against the Jews, 9, 13. Cf. Questions of the Hepateuch, 3, 57) Referring to this priest-king of Salem in his famous work, The City of God (16, 22), he writes: "The sacrifice appeared for the first time there which is now offered to God by Christians throughout the whole world."

Martin Luther, although accepting a weakened form of the Real Presence, relegated the Mass (somewhat inconsistently) to the status of a mere memorial. As usual, he made a number of polemical remarks on the subject, calling the Mass "the abomination standing in the Holy Place." (Against Henry VIII, [1522]; referring to Daniel 9:27) Luther's successor Philip Melanchthon felt certain that "the cruel raging of the Turks is inflicted now as a punishment for the idolatry in the Mass." (Loci Communes, 1555 ed., chapter 22. From translation of Clyde L. Manschreck, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1982 [Oxford Univ. Press ed. of 1965], 221).

John Calvin, arguably more influential for later Protestantism than Luther himself, unleashed his full fury against this long-standing Christian belief:

The height of frightful abomination was when the devil . . . blinded nearly the whole world with a most pestilential error - the belief that the Mass is a sacrifice . . . It is most clearly proved by the Word of God that this Mass . . . inflicts signal dishonor upon Christ, buries and oppresses his cross, consigns his death to oblivion, takes away the benefit which came to us from it . . .

This perversity was unknown to the purer Church . . . It is very certain that the whole of antiquity is against them . . . Augustine himself in many passages interprets it as nothing but a sacrifice of praise . . . Chrysostom also speaks in the same sense . . .

But I observe that the ancient writers also misinterpreted this memorial . . . because their Supper displayed some appearance of repeated or at least renewed sacrifice . . . I cannot bring myself to condemn them for any impiety; still, I think they cannot be excused for having sinned somewhat in acting as they did. For they have followed the Jewish manner of sacrificing more closely than either Christ had ordained or the nature of the gospel allowed . . .

The Mass . . . from root to top, swarms with every sort of impiety, blasphemy, idolatry, and sacrilege.

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1559 ed., Book IV, chapter 18, sections 1, 9-11, 18. From translation of Ford L. Battles [edited by John T. McNeill], Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 2 volumes, 1960, vol. 2, 1429-1430, 1437, 1439-40, 1446)


How can one consider another a Christian "brother" when that person's weekly worship is regarded as "abomination," "blasphemy," and "idolatry"? Calvin even errs on the
plain facts of early Church history, as demonstrated in the proofs from the Fathers presented above. These are some of the many questions I would (with all due respect and appreciation) ask "Reformed Catholics."

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