Saturday, January 01, 2005


The infallible wise one speaks!: I am guilty of "knowing deception"!!!!!

James White's Critique (?) of My Book "The Catholic Verses" (?): Part V: White's Befuddlement and My "Knowing Deception"

I know what many of you are thinking (scratching your head and shaking it in amazement): "this nonsense is a critique of Dave's book???!!!" Yes, all of this personal attack is in the midst of a supposed "critique." It is an exercise in intellectual self-destruction. The latest installments are his Quick Thought Regarding DA and Exegesis, where he expresses his confusion and clueless noncomprehension of the replies I have been giving. Here are some highlights:

. . . it seems to be pretty difficult to follow where he's going.

. . . [he] simply assumes the Roman interpretation, ignores the need to do any exegesis at all, and after all that, does not avail himself of counter-exegesis when it is only two pages away from passages he cites in his book . . .

I'm confused as well by the fact that when I mentioned looking for an exegesis of Romans 4:6-8 (which seemingly is not forthcoming: I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like to see Mr. Armstrong's exegesis of the text) in A Biblical Defense of Catholicism he accused me of changing the topic; but now I am told to look there for the positive exegesis of these passages from the Roman Catholic side. Which is it? Sorta hard to figure out, isn't it? Indeed it is.

To which I reply: read my explanations again. It'll come to you if you keep trying. Moving on, the next post White has blessed his readers with, is Armstrong's Reading List, in response to my last post, where I had to prove that I had done some serious reading as a Protestant (!!!). This is an absolute classic gem of White's finely-honed art of personal attack, obfuscation, and sophistry. I shall cite it in its entirety:

Mr. Armstrong has provided a reading list on his blog.

No; I provided a list of books I had read, and which are in my library: heavily-used for research (because White had ridiculously denied that I was well-read as a Protestant).

In essence, this means that instead of blaming ignorance for his very shallow misrepresentations of non-Catholic theology and exegesis, we must now assert knowing deception.

At this point, White has descended into virtual self-parody and high comedy. Having seen that his contention of my "ignorance" was blown out of the water by a simple citation of the books I have read and/or own, he faced a dilemma: the choice was (1) "admit that Armstrong actually knows something about Protestantism, so that I have been lying about him all these years," or (2) "deny that he is telling the truth about his reading and books." He chose (1) (well, the first clause, anyway), and decided to switch to the tactic of accusing me of "knowing deception," so as to "save face" (so he thinks).

So far, DA has been unable to provide even the slightest meaningful defense of his own published statements and their refutation.

No refutation has occurred (White has almost totally ignored the arguments in the book); what need of defense, then? So, mostly I have been clarifying simple logic and facts.

Which is really only marginally relevant to the real issue: hopefully, aside from demonstrating the exegetical bankruptcy of The Catholic Verses, . . .

Can I help it is White continually shows his inability to grasp the very nature and purpose of the book?

. . . answers are being given to all those observing and learning how to speak the truth to those who likewise would handle the Word from the vantage point of tradition rather than allowing it to speak for itself with its own voice.

Failing any logical argument, simply distort the other's belief and assert your own radically circular position . . .

==========================================================

Total words: White: (minus his citation of my words): 492
Total words: Armstrong: 377 (or 77% as many as White's)
Grand Total thus far: White: 4762 / Armstrong: 2001 (or 42% as many as White's words, or White outwriting Armstrong by a 2.38 to one margin)
My percentage of words over against White's, compared to his "average" prediction: 0.04% (2001 actual, compared to a predicted 47,620 / 24 times less)

Note Bishop White's statement on 12-29-04, in commencing this present discussion: "Now, of course, DA will respond with text files (liberally salted with URL's) that will average 10x the word count of anything I have to say. That's OK. I shall . . . let him take home the bragging rights to verbosity and bandwidth usage."

Friday, December 31, 2004

James White's Critique of My Book "The Catholic Verses": Part IV: Shots at My Former Protestant Knowledge and Reading

In Part I of Mr. (Bishop) White's three-part treatment of penance (ostensibly a "critique" of my book), he took the following utterly ridiculous potshots at me (in blue):

One other thing to remember before we move to Armstrong's comments. Armstrong is identified as a "Protestant campus missionary" on the back of his book prior to his conversion. I do not know what that involved, but one thing that it probably did not involve was a great deal of study of the Puritans, reading of Edwards, or even of someone like Spurgeon.

Calvinist or Reformed theology is not the whole of Protestantism. It is White's position which is ludicrous, since I have demonstrated that, by his very statements, C.S. Lewis, Philip Melanchthon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Wesley, even Martin Luther himself and St. Augustine, could not be Christians at all (according to him, they denied both sola fide and sola gratia)!!! With intellectually-vacant baggage like that (which he has never explained), it is beyond laughable for him to accuse me of ignorance and insufficient former "Protestant" status (as he has before), due to not reading, e.g., the vehemently anti-Catholic Spurgeon (I did, however, have some of his books in my library).

So when we encounter his views of "suffering" in Protestantism, we need to remember that they are not coming from someone who was, in fact, much more than a layperson, and one who has given very little evidence, in fact, of having done a lot of serious reading in better non-Catholic
literature to begin with. In fact, I would imagine Armstrong has done more reading in non-Catholic materials since his conversion than before. In any case, this lack of background will resound loudly in the comments he offers, to which we will turn in part 2.


White merely exhibits here his profound ignorance of my background, and usual condescension. He knows virtually nothing about this (and has forgotten whatever I did tell him). In fact, I read many many good books as a Protestant, including the following by Protestant authors (asterisked writers are Reformed / Calvinist, as far as I recall and know offhand):

Have-Read List:

Bernard Ramm (Baptist), Eastman, Walvoord, Michael Green, R.C. Sproul*, Stott, Van Impe, Hal Lindsey (6), C.S. Lewis (5), Josh McDowell (5), A.W. Tozer, Duane Gish (young earth creationist), Henry Morris (young earth creationist), Francis Schaeffer* (7), Harold Lindsell (2), Os Guinness, Roland Bainton -- leading biographer of Luther (2), LaHaye, A. Skevington Wood (biographer of Wesley), Sider, Franky Schaeffer* (2), Merrill Tenney, James Montgomery Boice*, Neuhaus (when Lutheran), Lorraine Boettner* (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination), Dave Basinger (editor: Predestination and Free Will), Oswald Allis*, George Marsden* (2), J. Gresham Machen*, Howard Snyder, Kierkegaard (Lutheran philosopher) (3), John MacArthur*, J.I. Packer*, Billy Graham, Walter Martin. I also listened to many tapes from Walter Martin, as I was involved in counter-cult research, and a ton of Christian talk radio, went to many many Bible studies and other Christian talks and conferences, etc. I was friends with three Baptist pastors: one of whom was a Reformed Baptist.

These are just people whose books I have read in their entirety (in my Protestant period). I have many many more Protestant books in my library to this day. I may not have read every page of these, but I used them a lot for research, then (1977-1990) and since my conversion (reading very large portions; oftentimes the lion's share of the book):

General:

G.C. Berkouwer* (3), F.F. Bruce (11), D.A. Carson, Gerhard Maier, Ryken, Edersheim (2), R.D. Wilson, Wenham, Arndt, Ladd (2), Albright (biblical archaeologist) (5), Augustus Strong, Charles Hodge*, D. Guthrie, Archer (2), Woodbridge, Jack Rodgers, John Gerstner*, A.A. Hodge*, Warfield*, Dunn, Alford, Westcott, Oswald Chambers, Richard Foster, Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Niebuhr (4), Goodspeed (2), Paul Maier (3), J.B. Lightfoot (5), Peter Berger (6), Os Guinness (3), Enroth (2), Walter Martin (2), Thomas Oden (4), Ankerberg, Billy Graham (4), Dobson (6), Bonhoeffer (13), John Wesley (6 about him), Jonathan Edwards* (two of primary material and one biography), Ronald Nash*, Carl F.H. Henry, R.C. Sproul* (2), LaHaye, Charles Colson* (9), Swindoll, Yancey (3), John Macarthur* (2), J.I. Packer* (2), Sire (2).

Church Historians (emphasizing the 16th century):

J.N.D. Kelly, Roland Bainton (4), Jaroslav Pelikan (4), Philip Schaff (4), Kenneth Scott Latourette (9), Dillenberger (3), Martin Marty (3), Oberman (2), McGrath (2), A.G. Dickens (2), Hillerbrand (2), Harbison (2), Pauck (2), Spitz (2), Henry Chadwick (2), Steinmetz, Rupp, Althaus, Owen Chadwick, Perry Miller (perhaps the leading scholar on Puritanism) and other works about Puritanism (8)

Primary and Secondary "Reformation" Literature:

Martin Luther: 13 volumes from Luther's Works, + 15 more primary works or collections, and 15-20 books about him.
John Calvin: 10 large primary works (Institutes, Letters, Commentaries, etc.), + four biographies.
Melanchthon: two collections of primary writings.
Zwingli/Bullinger: important primary writings.
Anabaptists: important primary writings.
Book of Concord (Lutheran).
Book of Common Prayer (Anglican).

Apologists and Philosophers:

C.S. Lewis (virtually every book by and about him -- my favorite writer --, filling up an entire large bookshelf), Norman Geisler (7), William Lane Craig, J.W. Montgomery (5), Josh McDowell (7), Cornelius Van Til*, Bernard Ramm (3), Alvin Plantinga* (2), J.P. Moreland, Gary Habermas, Kierkegaard (18), Dorothy Sayers (2), Carnell (2), J.N.D. Anderson, Strobel (2).

Scholarly References:

25 or so versions of the Bible, A.T. Robertson (Word Pictures, + one additional), Vine, Vincent (Word Studies), Kittel, Thayer, Gesenius, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Nave's Topical Bible, New Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Eerdmans Bible Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Oden; 3 volumes), Dictionary of Christianity in America (IVP), Strong's and Young's Concordances, NRSV Concordance.

Suffering:

I have these Protestant books in my library concerning suffering (and I read the Lewis, Plantinga, and Silvester books):

The Problem of Pain (C.S. Lewis)
Arguing With God (Hugh Silvester)
God, Freedom, and Evil (Alvin Plantinga)
Theodicy (Leibniz)
Till Armageddon (Billy Graham)
Portraits of Perseverance: 100 Meditations From the Book of Job (Henry Gariepy)
Good Grief (Granger E. Westberg)
A Grief Observed (C.S. Lewis)
A Loving God and a Suffering World (JonTal Murphree)
God on the Witness Stand (Daniel T. Hans)
How to Find Comfort in the Bible (Herbert Lockyer).

My lengthy paper, Christian Replies to the Argument From Evil (Free Will Defense): Is God Malevolent, Weak, or Non-Existent Because of the Existence of Evil and Suffering?, draws heavily on the work of Leibniz, Lewis, and Plantinga.

I think, then, any reasonable person will lay to rest White's asinine assertion that I have shown "very little evidence, in fact, of having done a lot of serious reading in better non-Catholic literature." I don't think this is a bad showing at all for a non-formally-trained layman who has had relatively little money to invest in books through the years (most of these having been obtained used). I may not spout my knowledge of all these writers all the time (like someone else I know, who also talks constantly about his vaunted -- but questionable -- educational credentials), but that doesn't mean I have not incorporated what they taught me into my overall Christian worldview. I owe these writers a tremendous debt and deep gratitude for my formation in Christian theology and apologetics. Who could be anti-Protestant with all these treasures to be had? But White manages to dismiss all the wonderful Catholic literature and scholarship, as of little or no value. My position is that both Christian traditions can learn a great deal from each other, in many ways. Those who take the exclusivistic, tunnel-vision approach greatly impoverish their learning and understanding of the totality of Christianity and the Lord's working on this earth and through salvation history.

=======================================================

I consider this a "footnote" so I won't do the word count thing this time. This (necessary) aside illustrates, however, how difficult it is to reply with less words than one's opponent, when said opponent is lying through his teeth about one. To say that I have shone "very little evidence, in fact, of having done a lot of serious reading in better non-Catholic literature," takes all of 18 words. Lies are like that. How can you disprove this in less than 18 words? To refute the ludicrous charge clearly takes many more words (and effort; I've just blown a few hours). In this case, I had to list the books I read or have partially-read and used for study and research. If White will stop the needless, groundless personal attacks and ignorant stupidities like this, maybe we can get back to his compelling critique that scarcely even interacts at all with what it purportedly critiques! :-)

James White's Critique of My Book "The Catholic Verses": Part III: Massive Ad Hominem Tactics

[White's URL] I reproduce his entire post (in blue):

Interesting Replies

DA has replied to my first comments on his book
[see: previous installment]. They were...predictable. Armstrong says his book is not "primarily" exegetical. Quite true. It is not secondarily exegetical. It is not exegetical in a tertiary manner. It simply isn't exegetical at all.

It does contain some exegesis, but here's the heart of my purpose (from my Introduction):


. . . only rarely do they seriously engage the biblical texts utilized by Catholics to support their positions . . . . critique of common Protestant attempts to ignore, explain away, rationalize, wish away, over-polemicize, minimize, de-emphasize, evade clear consequences of, or special plead with regard to “the Catholic Verses”: 95 biblical passages . . . ultimate incoherence, inadequacy, inconsistency, or exegetical and theological implausibility of the Protestant interpretations . . . (pp. xii-xiv)
But, that's the whole point. The book pretends to "confound" Protestants with biblical passages, remember? I did not choose the title, Mr. Armstrong did.

Technically, I am not trying to "confound" anyone. It is the Bible which gives Protestants difficulty. I'm merely documenting exegetical bankruptcy, confusion, or irrationality.

And the only way to do that is to provide a meaningful interpretation of those passages.

That's logically distinct from critiquing Protestant exegesis. Biblical evidence for Catholicism is dealt with in my first two books.

And unless Mr. Armstrong is willing to just come out and say, "Hey, Rome tells me what these passages mean, I can't even begin to handle the biblical text myself," then some kind of argument is going to have be offered from the text itself.

That is a separate project. Catholic exegetes are no more bound to "official" interpretation of verses than Protestants. See: The Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete.

And what I'm demonstrating is that when most "Dave Armstrong" level RC apologists . . .

Who else would be in this "level"?

quote a passage, they honestly have no idea what the passage is actually saying in its native context. They are eisegetically misusing the text, as I am documenting in regards to Armstrong. And that's the whole point of this exercise.

Why respond to silly, false accusations?

Armstrong also informs us that he doesn't read my books. That's OK. If he wishes to remain ignorant of the exegetical arguments presented against his position, I have no reason to encourage him to do otherwise.

This book is about failed Protestant attempts to refute Catholic biblical prooftexts. White has yet to deal with those.

It is just odd to me that someone would wish to put arguments into print that have already, and recently, been refuted. ignoratio elenchi.

White's arguments are not the sum and essence of Protestant exegesis. He has quite the inflated view of his own importance.

When I invited Armstrong to provide us with a meaningful, contextual examination of Romans 4:6-8, his response was classic:


Why should I go off on White's rabbit trail, after he has systematically ignored my critiques of his material for almost ten years? If he actually tries to interact with some of mine, then he will find me much more willing to go off on tangents of his own choosing. But I won't bow to either (1) a double standard, or (2) diversion tactics to avoid dealing with the topic at hand (which he himself chose, in the present case, oddly enough).
Well, OK. I guess we will be left to wonder if, in fact, Dave Armstrong can exegete that passage or not.

Wonder away. It is off-topic. Period.

Maybe someone else can ask and not get that kind of response.

When it is the topic, sure!

But again, I just state the obvious: the author of A Biblical Defense of Catholicism and The Catholic Verses seems, anyway, by his initial responses, to be exceptionally unwilling to engage in exegesis of the text of Scripture. I don't know, maybe that strikes someone else as odd?

White's continual dense inability (or unwillingness) to offer a logical and coherent critique is what amazes me.

=======================================================

Total words: White: 423
Total words: Armstrong: 271 (or 64% as many as White's)

Grand Total thus far: White: 4270 / Armstrong: 1624 (or 38% as many as White's words, or White outwriting Armstrong by a 2.63 to one margin)

My percentage of words over against White's, compared to his "average" prediction: 0.04% (1624 actual, compared to a predicted 42,700 / 26 times less)

Note Bishop White's statement on 12-29-04, in commencing this present discussion: "Now, of course, DA will respond with text files (liberally salted with URL's) that will average 10x the word count of anything I have to say. That's OK. I shall . . . let him take home the bragging rights to verbosity and bandwidth usage."


Thursday, December 30, 2004

James White's Critique of My Book "The Catholic Verses": Part II: Rabbit Trail Diversion

[White's URL] His words will be in blue:

The Protestant Verses: Can Dave Armstrong Exegete This Passage?

I'd like to ask Dave Armstrong to provide a biblically solid, textually grounded, linguistically accurate, contextually sound interpretation of Romans 4:6-8:

Romans 4:6-8 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD will not impute sin."

I scanned through The Catholic Verses and couldn't find a reference to this passage (I may have missed it);


Obviously, then, it has nothing to do with any argument in my book!

I looked at the Scripture index to A Biblical Defense of Catholicism and it is not listed.

That being another book, it obviously has nothing to do with a critique of my present book, either . . .

I tried googling Armstrong's blog and website, but got no hits on various ways of listing the passage. If Armstrong has already written something that fits this request, I will be glad to look at it upon referral. But, failing that, I would simply ask: "Who is the blessed man of Romans 4:6-8 in Roman Catholic theology?"

Why should I go off on White's rabbit trail, after he has systematically ignored my critiques of his material for almost ten years? If he actually tries to interact with some of mine, then he will find me much more willing to go off on tangents of his own choosing. But I won't bow to either (1) a double standard, or (2) diversion tactics to avoid dealing with the topic at hand (which he himself chose, in the present case, oddly enough).

I would assume Armstrong possesses a copy of The God Who Justifies . . .

He assumes wrongly. I haven't read any of his books. The only ones I even have are those he sent me for free back in 1995 (thanks again, James!), and one (The Roman Catholic Controversy) that I found for a quarter at a used book sale (I'm willing to pay that much for anti-Catholic material; if it was a dollar, though, I would have thought twice).

(though it is not referred to in his new book, which is especially interesting regarding the 24 page chapter on James 2:14-24 that Armstrong neglects in his book),

Again, White strangely assumes that I always have to deal with his arguments, when my purpose was mainly to examine historic Protestant commentary, from major figures in its history (or does White claim to be that?).

but should he not, allow me to reproduce the exegesis I offered of this section. I would be very interested in a response-in-kind from Mr. Armstrong. (Please forgive any formatting issues, the lack of italics, and of the footnotes that are in the original. Please refer to the published work
for those details):


See my third response previous to this one. I am curious why White is suddenly so interested in my opinions, though, since he has always argued (and still in our previous round) that they have no substance whatsoever.

[deleted his entire citation, due to its being off-topic]

My book is about how Protestants rationalize, special plead, avoid, obfuscate, etc. regarding biblical verses which (from our perspective) suggest some distinctive in Catholic theology. White's aim above, on the other hand, is to exegete a passage which he considers a strong proof text for Protestantism. Apples and oranges. Perhaps a future book of mine can be devoted to showing how Protestant proof texts are utterly inadequate and able to be sufficiently refuted from a Catholic point of view and dismissed (sounds like a fun project to me). But that time is not now, in the context of the ongoing critique of my book, and also given White's past utter contempt and ignoring of my arguments. I've always refused to play this game of topic-switching (with White and everyone else). I would do that even if we had the most cordial of relationships and he had answered my past writings and challenges to him. And that is because I maintain strong principles of how to go about a good dialogue properly and in an orderly, constructive fashion.

White, in fact, follows very similar principles himself. In a recent blog post ("Regarding Theological Dialogues") he stated that one must take one's time with serious theological topics, and not rush things. This is very good (nice to agree with White occasionally). Likewise, my principle and determination here is to not go off the previous topic in order to immediately treat some entirely different subject. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the worthiness and importance or value of the particular discussion itself. In fact, I show much respect towards it by maintaining this principle, because I am saying that serious topics ought to be considered one at a time, carefully and deliberately. And that can't be done by rushing off on some rabbit trail, because the opponent thinks he has a slam dunk (while double dribbling and missing all his shots in the present "refutation / dialogue" that he seeks to avoid for the moment with a diversion). So, nice try . . .

======================================================

Total words: White: 2910
Total words: Armstrong: 630 (or 22% as many as White's)

Note White's statement on 12-29-04, in commencing this present discussion: "Now, of course, DA will respond with text files (liberally salted with URL's) that will average 10x the word count of anything I have to say. That's OK. I shall . . . let him take home the bragging rights to verbosity and bandwidth usage."

James White's Critique of My Book "The Catholic Verses": Part I: The Binding Authority of Tradition

[White's URL] I reproduce his entire argument (in blue):

The Catholic Verses: 95 Reduced to 91

Dave Armstrong lists four verses that "confound Protestants" under the subtitle of "The Binding Authority of Tradition, According to St. Paul," beginning on page 37 of The Catholic Verses. They are:

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

There is a tremendous amount of literature on the subject of "tradition" in the New Testament, and a very large portion of it would challenge the rather simplistic assumptions Mr. Armstrong presents in his discussion.


Summary statements are not arguments, nor are derogatory remarks about arguments (especially when the latter are not even adequately presented or cited).

He writes, "Catholics believe that there is such a thing as a binding, authoritative Sacred Tradition and that it is explicitly indicated in the Bible (notably in the above passages)." So, we here have Armstrong wedding himself to these passages as "explicitly" presenting Rome's full-blown (capital "S" capital "T") Sacred Tradition.

That's not my argument. Biblical tradition is not absolutely identical to "Rome's" defined Tridentine Tradition of 1500 years later, just as Chalcedonian trinitarianism is more complex than biblical trinitarianism of only 400 years earlier. Both are entirely consistent with the less-developed biblical theology.

But given the hesitation of many a Roman Catholic scholar, it is quite possible Mr. Armstrong has over-reached himself just a bit.

Correctly-understood, not at all.

The mere presence of the term "tradition" is hardly sufficient to establish the position enunciated by Armstrong.

White clearly doesn't know what my position is. That's rule #1 for any good refutation.

How a Protestant is "confounded" by these passages is difficult to determine, at least, if meaningful exegesis of the text is the standard.

Binding tradition not identical to Scripture is logically contrary to sola Scriptura, the Protestant rule of faith.

And the first thing to note about Armstrong's work at this point should have a rather familiar ring to it if you have been following the Dave Hunt series: there is no meaningful exegesis offered to substantiate these grand claims by Armstrong. Examine pp. 38-40 for yourself, and you will find no discussion of grammar, lexicography, syntax, or anything else relevant to meaningful exegesis.

I make no pretense of being a professional Bible scholar. My book is strictly popular apologetics. But even an amateur exegete like me can (like Balaam's ass) point out lousy, irrelevant "arguments" from "professional" exegetes like John Calvin (a primary purpose of the book). All I contended for here was the existence of binding tradition in Scripture (and the incoherence of Protestant alternatives). White hasn't disproven this at all.

Instead, Armstrong depends upon secondary sources, and even then, the conclusions offered by secondary sources. He quotes Thomas More, but then focuses upon John Calvin, evidently seeking, it seems to me, to prejudice the reader through the use of quotations using language that was common in the day but is considered harsh and even non-Christian today.

I cited Calvin's remarks in his Commentaries (presumably an "exegetical" work) for 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:15. If he provided no cogent analysis, but only "harsh" language, that is his (and White's) problem, not mine.

Indeed, one can judge the character of the discussion by noting these telling words: "Be that as it may, it is scarcely possible to discuss that issue constructively, because (in my opinion) Protestants are so afraid that any serious discussion of Tradition will cast doubt on sola Scriptura and lead to undesired 'Catholic' consequences." I'm sorry, but such rhetoric detracts from the work, at least for any serious minded reader.

I simply gave my opinion from much firsthand experience, as an accompanying thought distinct from the argument itself.

Armstrong moves into a dialogue after this that again offers nothing in reference to exegesis of the texts themselves, and in fact has only a marginal connection to the issue of the meaning of "tradition" in the Pauline corpus. How one leaps from para,dosij in Paul to Sacred Tradition as
defined by modern Rome is left unanswered.

How White moves from making no argument and not interacting with mine, to his triumphant conclusion is a mystery to me too. Note his fallacy in the last sentence: I never argued that the biblical para,dosij was the same as fully-developed Catholic Tradition. This is what is known as a "straw man" in logic.

Now what was particularly odd, I thought, is the fact that immediately after this section Armstrong goes into his Matthew 23 discussion (pp. 43-53, arguably his most strenuous effort at what comes closest to what can be identified as textually-based exegesis),

Why is that "odd"? The next section was about "oral and extrabiblical tradition."

which he had sent to me prior to the publication of the book.

. . . which Bishop White (as usual) never replied to. Instead, he offered personal insults and then silence.

He cites my comments from The Roman Catholic Controversy in this section rather extensively. So, I wondered if he would attempt to respond to the exegesis of 2 Thessaloninans 2:15 that I offered in the same work. I would expect that at least the substance of that section would have to be refuted for Armstrong to feel he had at all proven his case.

Why does White in particular have to be refuted to prove my case? The book was mostly about historic Protestant exegesis. Most folks would think Calvin is a bit more important and influential historically than White, so I dealt with him. White dealt in depth with the issue of "Moses' Seat," so I cited him thusly, in that section.

But no effort at all is put forth to respond to the exegesis of the passage provided in TRCC. The fact that this is a present command, that the tradition referred to had already been delivered, in fulness, to the entirety of the church at Thessalonica, is not noted.

If I ever read one of White's books and get in the mood to refute it some day, then I will do exactly that. As it is, this is supposedly a critique of my book, and one doesn't do that simply by complaining that one's own book (one of many) was not refuted in some particular! Nice try at topic evasion, though . . . maybe next time we'll be blessed with White's reply regarding Moses' Seat (which argument I did thoroughly refute in my book).

(This observation would require the RC apologist to trace the content of his alleged oral tradition back to Thessalonica, and, as they well know, that cannot be done for the major elements of that alleged tradition as Rome has defined it).

As my argument does not at all require such a thing, this is a non sequitur.

The immediate context of the passage and its relevance directly to the gospel (and hence to the content of the "tradition" delivered by Paul) is likewise ignored. In essence, nothing presented in regards to the meaning of 2 Thess. 2:15 in context is addressed by Armstrong. It is hard to
believe Armstrong has read the comments on pp. 99-101 of TRCC but he hasn't read pp. 95-98.

I don't read White's books, so why is this surprising? If the man can't do a simple written dialogue properly, why waste my time? I dealt with Calvin's "exegesis," and White has totally ignored that, so he is simply not critiquing my book thus far.

Now, if the standard of being "confounded" involves presenting a compelling, exegetically sound, contextually derived interpretation of a passage resulting in a clear vindication of the Roman Catholic reading . . .

The book was not primarily exegetical; rather, it was designed to show the shortcomings and inadequacies of Protestant commentary when it comes to these passages. One can point out holes in an opposing position without (technically) engaging in the same thing (exegesis proper). If, for example, someone made a simple logical error in an extremely complicated theory in physics that I knew nothing whatsoever about, it would still be rational and acceptable for me to point it out. I made all this very clear in my Introduction, which can be read online. Once White figures out my goal and purpose in the book, perhaps his critiques will have some relevance and not descend into straw men and non sequiturs. As it is, he hasn't made a single extended argument against any particular argument of mine in this section.

(though, how Dave Armstrong, a private Catholic, could actually know the "official" Roman understanding of a passage without engaging in "private interpretation" is difficult to say anyway),

Off the subject . . . nor is this required of Catholics, anyway.

then we need to re-work the sub-title to "91 Bible Passages that Confound Protestants."

. . . and White's "response": "Four Straw Men That Purport to be Rational Replies."

Next we will look at Armstrong's handling of the passages he presents regarding Penance.

Great. Perhaps White can actually make a counter-argument next time. Let's hope and pray.
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Total words: White: 937
Total words: Armstrong (new replies; not counting citations from White's article): 723 (or 77% as many as White's)

Note White's statement yesterday: "Now, of course, DA will respond with text files (liberally salted with URL's) that will average 10x the word count of anything I have to say. That's OK. I shall . . . let him take home the bragging rights to verbosity and bandwidth usage." And one of his admirers stated on my blog, regarding White: "He doesn't just say 'read my books', rather he does his best to actually answer questions." We see above that he practically did just that: he turned a supposed critique of my book into a gripe about how I didn't deal with his. And he did his best to ignore all actual arguments of mine. He merely dismissed them as "simplistic" and deficient for "any serious minded reader."

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

James White Takes Up a Critical Review of My Book, "The Catholic Verses" (!!!)

Contrary to his usual "principle" (if one can call it that), Bishop White has actually shown himself willing to take on some of my arguments in writing. This marks a new turning-point in our warm relationship and Christian fellowship. Prior to now, by and large, White has ignored my written arguments and has stuck to mockery of how long and irrelevant and substanceless my papers allegedly are, etc. He did do a critique of my radio appearance on Catholic Answers Live, concerning Bible and Tradition, on several of his Dividing Line webcasts. I showed how shallow that was, by delving at length (I know, "ha ha") into one particular example of his "argumentation" there (unresponded to, of course). See: The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:6-30) vs. Sola Scriptura and James White.

My own suspicion (just a speculation, mind you) is that the "Armstrong writes meaningless sentences, full of sophistry and non sequitur, a million pages long" excuse rhetoric may be wearing thin among some White supporters (such as those he gabs with in his chat room). Perhaps a few of them have urged White to take me on, since (from their perspective) I am doing such harm to "the gospel" by my "verbose" rantings and ravings. After all, someone's gotta stop me, right, before I lead further uninformed, poor souls astray with my abominable Catholic apologetics, in defense of lies, the Antichrist, etc.? This excuse of his to avoid rational (and for the anti-Catholic, necessary) theological dispute just doesn't cut it, even by the rock-bottom, illogical, incoherent standards of discourse and evidence that characterizes the anti-Catholic mindset. So here we go.

Even so, I expect that he will write his thing, I'll respond, and then it'll be over (i.e., for that particular sub-topic; presumably one of the Bible passages I write about). That's how it has been since 1995 with White and I , since our lengthy postal exchange that he prematurely departed. But hey, he has now decided to change his policy of never engaging me in writing (except to mock and ridicule and dismiss), so maybe we'll be blessed with another radical innovation in his methodology: going more than one round in a written debate. Here is White's entire blog entry (12-29-04): ===============================================

The Catholic Verses: Introit

I sometimes feel sorry for ancient artists. Their work gets plastered all across the covers of modern books, but they never get a dime for their efforts. It's a shame. That odd observation aside, I picked up a copy of Dave Armstrong's The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants (Sophia Institute Press, 2004, 235 pp.), which sports said ancient art (a di Bondone painting) on its cover. I'm a Protestant, and I have yet to be confounded by Dave Armstrong, so I thought it might be interesting to invest some time in using it as a resource here on the blog.

Likewise, I was listening to a debate between a Church of Christ minister and Bill Rutland, another Roman Catholic apologist, yesterday. I was fascinated by Rutland's bold assertions about the Greek language (I'll be addressing him in time). When RC apologists like Armstrong and Rutland promote arguments in their writings and debates that are, in fact, invalid, we have a duty to respond to them, even if we have, in fact, responded to similiar kinds of errors dozens of times in the past. Why? Because the folks you may be seeking to win to the gospel may have a copy of The Catholic Verses on their nightstand, or a CD of Rutland's in their car.

Now, of course, DA will respond with text files (liberally salted with URL's) that will average 10x the word count of anything I have to say. That's OK. I shall win the award for brevity and concise expression, and let him take home the bragging rights to verbosity and bandwidth usage. Thankfully, there are folks "in channel" who can help me find out if there is, in fact, anything at all of substance in said replies, and if there is, I will seek to note it, again for only one reason: the edification of the saints both in their confidence in the gospel and in their preparation for the task of proclamation.

So we will begin with one of the classic passages in the Catholic/Protestant debate: 2 Thessalonians 2:15. I will start there in the next installment simply because Armstrong notes The Roman Catholic Controversy in his book, hence, his section on the verse should "confound" my own exegesis of the text. Does it? We shall see. ================================================

Yes we shall. I think we'll "see" quite a bit if White intends to take up this discussion in earnest. Just for fun, I may even write less words than he does (if indeed it is possible, seeing that his analyses are so filled with errors and misrepresentations -- especially of my own arguments -- that "brevity" is quite the gargantuan task and an exercise in extreme self-control, for one literally surrounded by falsehoods to be responded to briefly). That will provide a true challenge from White, for a change (if only indirectly), which would be nice.

Open Discussion Forum / Q & A (Brief!)

I offer a forum like this periodically so that people can bring up whatever is on their mind, rather than always have to discuss what is on my mind at any given time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Chestertonian "Goofball" Motivated by Filthy Lucre?: High Praise From the Usual Suspects

Just when you think you've seen the most ridiculous things imaginable from our anti-Catholic friends, yet another comes along and "raises the bar," so to speak. As a longtime fan of the absurd, the surreal, and the ironic (and folly in general; in an "entertainment" sense), you can imagine that I would have busted a gut laughing uproariously after having stumbled upon the following absolute gems from one "cynthial", writing in Eric Svendsen's Areopagus forum (had it not been 2:30 AM with all my family sound asleep). I hope you enjoy this as much as I did (bolding is my own, except for post titles):
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Roman Catholic apologists
12/20/04 3:40 am

This is a general thoughts thread, so here goes...

Apologists. Catholic apologists. They seem to be goofballs at their core. I mean, whether Chesterton or a Dave Armstrong (goofballs in different ways, at different scale of course) they are just goofballs.

I'm sure Mr. Armstrong is a very nice man with a wonderful family he loves and that loves him and he's probably most likely a very upstanding member of his community and yada ya ya da, but...

Is he operating on a trust fund? None of myyyy business, and I don't mean it that way, more power to him however he gets along, but...man. You can't write what he writes just in volume (not to mention HTML formatting) and not be at a computer 12 hours or more a day.

. . . Which brings me to my basic point: these people are goofballs.

Calvinists are debating goofballs. Albeit dangerous goofballs (when they get control of the power of the state), but, at their core simple goofballs.

(OK, Peter Kreeft may not be a goofball, but he is a philosophy professor, which is a profession with a high goofball population...)

(First time in my life I've written 'goofball' let alone numerous times. But...fits.)

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having the Spirit as a guide
12/20/04 4:12 am

Doesn't the presence of the Holy Spirit within an individual pretty much have the say whether that person is going to see the truth? I mean, you've got to be pretty detached from any kind of serious pursuit of the truth to assent to Mormon teaching. Same with RC theology (not to mention their history). JWs, etc.

. . . You can see how not-serious people are regarding their understanding of the Bible who stay in unorthodox churches and environments. They don't have the Holy Spirit. . . . An RC might ask me: "Why aren't you a Catholic?" Well, because when I just touched a volume of Foxe I wanted to nail RCs to the stakes of their Protestant victims and watch them rot alongside their burned corpses?

It's like being American League or National League, except in this case it's either Kingdom of Christ or Kingdom of Satan. You might as well ask me: "Why are you not a part of the Kingdom of Satan?"

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that explains that
12/20/04 4:39 am

Hmm. That explains that. (Can you feed a family on those royalties and donations though? Well, again, more power to him however he gets along.) I would have to say, then, though, that that might be a factor that would prejudice a person towards their own cause? I mean, one thing academia gives a professor/scholar (in theory) is freedom to not have to hold to one opinion or another to secure their livelihood. Scratching out a living as an apologist through the internet would just force one into maintaining a worldly motivation to hew fast to your cause what e'er betide...And, so...what would be the point in debating such a person... It's like arguing that his store should go bankrupt and his kids should go shoeless...

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gets back to the need of having the Spirit
12/20/04 6:32 am

Maybe this gets at the general Biblical wisdom/advice to not engage in disputations and related type activity. To attempt to give the truth to a person twice but then to leave him be. A person needs the Spirit in them to see the truth. If this Dave Armstrong individual ever sees the truth it won't be as the result of a 'debate'.

So, evangelizing is the thing to do. Not debating. (Regarding being the potential agent in God converting souls.)

An evangelist doesn't beg anybody to see the truth; he gives them the truth, maybe more than once; but then he leaves them be. If the seed grows (only God can make it grow) then it does, but it won't because the evangelist hangs around begging the vain fool to see the truth.

When I was a vain fool [was???!!!] I got a sharp rebuke that was as good an evangelization of the truth to me as it gets. Just one event. It had its effect. In time. Not at the moment it happened, but in time.

Apology isn't a Biblical activity (correct me if I'm wrong). Teaching yes, but apology is only partly teaching. I observe that apology gives a person alot of 'stage' to indulge some of our more immature traits, such as all the vain, belittling nonsense you see going on in these 'debates' between apologists. Behaviour I associate with immature environments in the halls of academia, and which is beneath - or should be - Christian men.

(It's the one element in Mr. White's approach that I wish he would tone down, but I'm nobody's boss...)

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I had a feeling I'd stand corrected on that...
12/20/04 7:44 pm

I had a feeling when I wrote that that apologetics was [not] Biblical. I think I had just read one of the Epistles of Paul - in my general Bible reading - that was talking about less helpful 'disputing' with non-believers, and that is how I see many of the debates with a Dave Armstrong type. It's true as you say though that the listening audience provides a reason for the effort. God help you if you're locked in a private email debate with that type... Unless you're going to publish it I guess . . .
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Just to clarify (this is me, now, the goofball): I write very fast, as fast as I can get the thoughts in my head onto the computer screen (and I think pretty fast, too, because I've been in this field so long and one gets better with practice). It's a gift from God (so I am told). I never learned to properly type; I use a four-finger method (mostly two). But I have gotten pretty fast, and the computer editing capabilities make it easier.

Income? I survived two-and-a-half years as an absolutely full-time apologist (meaning, my sole job and income), from royalties and donations. My wife home-schools, so she is not a source of further income. But it could get very hairy and nerve-wracking some months, believe me, so since last June I have taken on an additional part-time job that consumes some 30 hours a week. I simply do my apologetics on top of that (still "full-time" in the sense of 40 hrs +), adding up to a good 70-80 hours of work every week, depending on what projects I am doing. My extra job starts at 11 AM weekdays, so I am still able to stay up late, when I do most of my typing, as a dyed-in-the-wool nighthawk.

So if we do the math: there are 168 hours in a week. Take away 30 for my 2nd job and 49 for sleep, and that leaves 96 hours. Cynthial thinks I type 12 hours a day. That would leave five waking hours left in the whole week for leisure time (including all meals). Its true that there are days that I do type 12 hours, but not every day (today I've been at it about 9 hours). Once I talked 12 hours straight to a Buddhist I was witnessing to. It's called commitment. It's called boundless energy for what one loves, what motivates one, and what one is called to.

I don't beg for money, but I have no problem simply announcing what my needs are. Sometimes people respond; usually they don't (as a generalization). I can testify that God has provided our needs (not that it is always easy and a breeze, on a human level; I worry about money all the time, and I'm not a worrier by nature). But our needs have been met, and that is a fact. Praise God! He is good to His word! Since I am dead-set against high-pressure, emotion-tugging begging, I am much more comfortable doing the Pauline "tent-making" method of "fund-raising." St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 taught that Christian workers are worthy of their wage. That's the biblical teaching. Yet people don't seem to realize that. They support pastors and priests (with a bit of gentle coercion), but seem to place missionaries in a separate category, as if we exist on an ethereal, disembodied plane, liberated from earthly concerns about finances. Would that that were so . . .

So I took on the second job, and started working even more than I had been, because nothing will cause me to forsake my calling, no matter how tough it gets. But of course I am in it mainly for the money and my own ego, as "cynthial" and other anti-Catholics would have us believe. Yeah, right. Anyone with a giant ego would never have put up with (1) the money problems we have endured through the years, as a result of being in ministry and taking the more or less radical (and difficult) position of refusing to beg and plead for funds, or (2) the countless insults I receive, as evidenced by the above, and the remarks I have collected on my sidebar in red. I find them funny, and enjoy them, but that's just the point. It is because I don't have a huge ego or a severe problem with pride (as my -- almost always anti-Catholic -- critics assert) that I react that way. Someone who did would never put up with it. Think about it; it's very simple psychology.

So, nice try, but it makes no sense. As to the "goofball" charge; well, I leave that to my readers to decide. I would be highly interested indeed to hear cynthial's reasoning for why she (?) would think such a thing. But perhaps that is an extravagant expectation, given the poor (albeit hugely entertaining and funny) quality of her posts. Providing actual, substantive reasons for opinions seems to be more and more a sheer novelty these days, especially in anti-Catholic circles, where beliefs are espoused virtually in inverse proportion to the amount of reason or facts or evidence in support of them.

My three-year-old daughter thinks I am a "goofball", and I wouldn't have it any other way . . . I'm ultimately interested only in what God and my family think of me. They know me the best. God is my judge, and my family is my witness. Those who tell me that my work (always solely by and because of God's grace) has positively impacted their faith life and confidence in what they believe (in order to more effectively share it with others) provide the evidence and "fruit" and testimony that indeed I am called to do what I am doing (so do the folks who get mad when they can't offer a rational response).

And as long as that is occurring, for what possible reason would I be adversely affected by such nonsense and bilge as we see from cynthial, James White, Eric Svendsen, or others who seem intent on dismissing my work (and my person) with the most juvenile, silly, ridiculous insults? Even that is cause for rejoicing, according to Jesus, if we are striving to follow Him and to do what is right. So I rejoice at this very moment! Thanks, cynthial! May God bless you abundantly and cause you to see the fullness of Christianity in Catholicism one day. I go to bed tonight overjoyed and humbled and thankful that I am in a blessed position to be mocked in such an irrational, senseless way, by simply following my calling. You keep on doing that, cynthial (and all you anti-Catholics reading this) and I'll keep on doing what I do. We'll see how it all works out in the end. We'll either be apart or together for eternity. If the latter, then we might as well start treating each other with dignity and love now. Why not start earlier rather than later?