Saturday, October 27, 2007

Response to Dave's "Debate/Informal Discussion" Offer

I) Whereas at sundry times, mostly recently,

1) Dave Wrote: "Tyhe debate ain't about justification, but about why anti-Catholics think Catholicism ain't Christian." (all errors/irregularities in original)

[But of course the issue of justification is central to Christianity proper.]

2) And again: "I will resist all attempts to pigeonhole this into yet another Reformed preaching crusade, whether it be focused on TULIP or sola fide or anything else. This is about why y'all claim that Catholicism as a system theology does not deserve to be classified as Christian." (all errors/irregularities in original)

[But of course sola fide is a core Christian doctrine of justification.]

3) And again: "I couldn't care less about all the formal nonsense of how to set up a debate. It's just an informal discussion (I think, between Christians who have an honest disgareement; you think, between a Christian and an infidel / apostate). My opponent gets to grill me for 90 minutes. I grill him for 60."(all errors/irregularities in original)

[Although I had been led by the previous title to suppose that I had been challenged to a debate, not to an informal discussion.]

4) And likewise: "Technically speaking, the debate won't be directly about doctrine, but about the definition of "Christian" and why "Catholicism" supposedly is excluded from that category. Doctrine will surely be discussed as a part of that large discussion, but no particular doctrine would be the main thing in focus, or to be debated. But, of course, whoever I debate will try to talk about doctrines, because that is what Protestants almost always do. They get inside the self-contained circle of their own thought and fire away, never dreaming that there might be something outside the circle that is also Christian." (all errors/irregularities in original)

[But of course it is doctrine, namely the Gospel, that defines Christianity.]

II) And whereas, as best understood, the following will, in essence, be Dave's argument:

1) To wit, first:
The contradiction, however, lies in the assertion that great men of the past "agreed with Rome on almost everything" yet were still somehow Christians. Today, the standard anti-Catholic line is that in order to be a good Christian, a man has to be a bad Catholic; i.e., dissent on any number of doctrines that Protestants don't like. If I am a good Christian, then I can't possibly believe all that Rome teaches, or I am no Christian at all. And those who are regarded by these same folks as likely or possibly Christians who are Catholic are invariably the ones who dissent and don't fully accept Catholic doctrine, because it is thought that the Council of Trent anathematized the gospel and defined Catholicism (as a theological system) out of Christianity.

(all errors/irregularities in original)
2) And, to wit, second:
Or, of course, people like Martin Luther (due to his beliefs in the Real Presence and baptismal regeneration), John Wesley, C.S. Lewis, and entire denominations such as Methodists, Anglicans, Lutherans, Churches of Christ, various Pentecostal groups, and the Salvation Army can be read out of the Christian faith due to their "unorthodoxy," as defined by the self-proclaimed "mainstream" evangelicals such as Baptists, Presbyterians and Reformed (even so the last two groups baptize infants, although they vehemently deny that this causes regeneration, whereas Baptists don't). Since most Protestants are unwilling to anathematize other Protestants, perspicuity dissolves into a boiling cauldron of incomprehensible contradictions, and as such, must be discarded or at the very least seriously reformulated in order to harmonize with the Bible and logic.

(all errors/irregularities in original)
III) And whereas I have carefully reviewed Dave's web site the best that I can, and I have not seen any definition of Christianity in anything close to explicit terms,

IV) And whereas Dave asserts contrary to many Roman Catholics that Scripture does not have equal (link) or lesser (link) but instead (like a Protestant) asserts that Scripture has greater authority;

V) And whereas Dave asserts
(like a Protestant) contrary to many Roman Catholics that salvation is sola gratia (link);

VI) And whereas Dave asserts
(like a Protestant would about the God whom Protestants worship) contrary to many Roman Catholics that Muslims do not worship the same god as Roman Catholics (link) (or CCC 841);


1) If it's not to be a debate, I guess I have not been challenged to a debate;

2) If the point is to be able to label me as an "anti-Catholic" the debate is pretextual;

3) Any debate on the Christianity (proper) of Catholicism must involve a discussion of the specific doctrinal reasons for excluding Catholicism from Christianity;

4) The Gospel is summarized by: Repent and Believe and Trust in Christ, or Perish for Your Sins!

5) Dave has never, to this author's knowledge defined Christianity to the exclusion of other religions;

6) Dave's apparent line of argument would attempt to refocus the debate away from the central issue to a claim of hypocrisy;

7) Dave's defense would not be a defense of Roman Catholic dogma but a Protestantized version thereof (especially considering Dave's apparently anti-Tridentine acceptance of Reformed Christians as Christians rather than as anathema),


I ask the reader to judge, what would be the point of the debate at this time?

Trent already anathematized (literally, not figuratively) sola-fideans, and sola fide is the Gospel. Can Dave argue with that now?

Does Dave now have a definition of Christianity that would include those anathematized by Rome?

Why doesn't Dave now agree with many Roman Catholic on issues that would be core to any debate?

My conclusion is that Dave is not now prepared to do a debate, and consequently I will await information suggesting that Dave has either stopped calling himself a Roman Catholic (in which case I will decline the debate, because I have no desire to debate whether Roman Catholicism is Christian with someone who is not fully Roman Catholic), or until Dave has accepted that:

  • Trent denied Sola Gratia by Denying Sola Fide;
  • Trent, Vatican I, and/or Vatican II exalted the authority of the church to at least the level of Scripture; and
  • Vatican II asserted that Roman Catholicism worships the same god as Islam,

and until Dave has provided

  • some counter-definition for what is Christianity proper, that includes (apparently) those who are under Rome's Anathema and the wrath of "God," "Peter," and "Paul."

Before anyone launches the usual "You just don't know what Catholicism is" and/or "Catholicism is inscrutable to outsiders like yourself," (go here, if that's your opinion) I ask that such a person ask themselves what they think makes them a better interpreter of Roman Catholic documents than me? Does being an American make you a better interpreter of the U.S. Constitution than a Frenchman (or vice versa)?

Why is your opinion about what Roman Catholic documents mean more authoritative than what other Roman Catholics think, or even than what educated outsiders think?

Why should we reject Rome as apostate if she is not? Do we anathematize all who disagree with us on any point? Why would I pass up gaining one billion brethren? Do we not accept a vast number of denominations as Christian, even when they disagree with us on many points? You, dear reader, know the answer.

The answer is that we give primacy to Scripture and consequently reject as innovations many of the doctrines and traditions of Rome that are not taught by Scripture. But that still does not force us to assert apostacy, only corruption, arrogance, and deception.

What is more significant, though, is that we reject the gospel of Rome, because it is not the Gospel of Christ: the answer to "What must I do to be saved," is not simply "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" in official Roman Catholic soteriology.

That is not to say that there are no priests or bishops of Rome who follow Scripture on this matter rather than Roman Catholic dogma, and praise be to God if such is the case. On the very issues identified in my post, while many Roman Catholics follow the official church dogma, many do not. As Dave's comments above seem to indicate, there may well be "bad Catholics" who are Christians.

Far from being "anti-Catholic" we continue to call on Rome to reform her ways, remove the corruption, and embrace the gospel of Christ. We call those Christians who are in the Roman Catholic church to consider whether Reformation is still possible, and - if not - to leave for an evangelical church, where the gospel is preached.

To God alone be the Glory for my salvation, by grace alone not cooperation therewith,


P.S. Thanks to the many folks who provided advice and encouragement. Obviously, for now, the debate is on hold, pending Dave's decision about whether to follow Roman Catholic dogma or not label himself Roman Catholic. I sincerely hope that Dave chooses the latter approach, because there is only one way to heaven: by grace through faith in the gracious God revealed in Scripture. That is the truth whether anyone accepts or not.

UPDATE (6 December 2007): Dave continues to lie about the matter (and insult the present author) here (link) and here (link). Dave wishes I would refuse to debate him, but wishing doesn't make it so. (FURTHER UPDATE: Dave has subsequently edited his posts (linked to earlier in this paragraph, with an apology for their being overly harsh. While I appreciate that apology, I continue to stand by my original point that I have not refused to debate Dave, and I wish he'd stop trying to claim that I did. There are some things that need to be ironed out before a debate takes place, and Dave has actually made progress, by posting an attempted defense of Vatican II's comment regarding Islam. That has actually reduced the barriers to meaningful discussion.)


Saint and Sinner said...

Amen. There's no way to get to the question of whether RCs should be considered true Christians or not without getting to the gospel.

We are saved by fiducia alone, but not by assensus alone.

Albert said...

Amen also. Muslims do not believe in the God of the Bible because they reject His Son, Jesus Christ. So the assertion that Muslims also worship the one God is not true. Here's the position of the RCC.

"-- The position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document "Nostra Aetate": "The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even his inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God."

Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his virgin mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting" (no. 3)."


Scripture says,

"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also." - 1 John 2:23 (NKJV)

Carrie said...

I think you have flushed out the issues well and made a wise decision.

Kyl said...

I still think it is very, very clear that a debate should happen with you two. Dave Armstrong is respected by a lot of prominent thinkers. As many know, he has written a lot of books that are related to Protestant and Catholic topics. It is undeniable that Dave’s thinking abilities are remarkable. If a person said that Dave wasn’t enormously intelligent, that would seem obviously incorrect to me and many others. However, there are also enormously intelligent people that think that Catholicism isn’t Christian. As a Catholic, I was hoping to learn more (from the debate) about the views you and others hold. What books (i.e., books, etc., that show why people shouldn’t be Catholic) would you recommend for Catholics and others? I think that it is important for people to honestly study both sides of an issue in great detail. Thanks for any recommendations that you give. Since people can learn a lot from high quality material, people should also be reading the best Catholic apologetic books, etc. I also think it is very important for all Christians to put a lot more effort into refuting secular humanism. Secular humanism has influenced the medical communities, legal communities, philosophical communities, and many others. There are definitely some Christians that are doing some extraordinary apologetics in regards to refuting secular humanism, etc.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Kyl,

In principle a debate would be good.

Whether one happens is really mostly up to Dave.


GeneMBridges said...

I also think it is very important for all Christians to put a lot more effort into refuting secular humanism.

This is true, but it's rather odd that there are Roman Catholic apologists on the web right now whose epistemology, for example, reduces to atheism. Jonathan Prejean is a fine example of that. Steve Hays has documented this on Trialogue.

The occasional atheist drops by DA's comments too and he makes common cause with them against "Calvinists, presuppositionalists" and other such ogres.

I'd also point out that oftentimes, I've seen Catholic apologists, like their Arminian counterparts, answer the problem of evil by conceding it to the atheist by admitting that gratuitous evil exists.

Carrie said...

What books (i.e., books, etc., that show why people shouldn’t be Catholic) would you recommend for Catholics and others?

Try "The Bible".

sorry, couldn't resist :)

Turretinfan said...

Other than the Bible, I think Boetnner's "Roman Catholicism" is quite frequently recommended.

Frankly, in view of Vatican II and certain attempts to ecumenicism with Lutherans and Islam(!), a new book would be helpful.


TheoJunkie said...

I am glad to see you have not succumbed to the temptation to fear a man.

Kyl said...


I’m glad to hear that you think that people should put a lot more effort into refuting secular humanism. People at Biola University are doing a lot of the most effective work in regards to refuting secular humanism. For example, William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Norman Geisler, Peter Kreeft, Gary Habermas, Scott Rae, Alvin Plantinga, and Francis Beckwith are making a huge impact in regards to refuting secular humanism. Some of the aforementioned people are teaching at Biola. I would also like to encourage readers to study the information at Scott Klusendorf’s Life Training Institute. Scott Klusendorf is an incredible pro-life teacher!! In addition, read Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice by Francis J. Beckwith (Cambridge University Press, 2007). According to the Amazon book description “Defending Life is the most comprehensive defense of the prolife position on abortion ever published” If we study particular information, we can make a greater impact.

GeneMBridges said...

While I don't reject their work en masse, I would point out that part of the problem with some of those to whom you refer is their commitment to Libertarianism.

WLC is an apologetic minimalist. He's pandering to the humanist by trying to find "common ground." In short, he's removing the gospel as a whole from discussion and trying to engage the humanist on "rational grounds." There is no such ground. Scripture depicts the mind of man as clouded with sin. Sin is irrational, not rational.

Likewise he and the others have a commitment to libertarian freedom that is not built on Scripture. WLC openly admits that the evidence for Molinism in the Bible is extremely thin (in fact I would say nonexistent). His argument, as in the case of the others, when it comes to the problem of evil is to concede that gratuitous evil does in fact exist. So, in "refuting secular humanism" he concedes the problem of evil along with the others by using the free will defense.

I'm sorry,Kyl, but I have to say that this is simply more proof that,when the chips are down, too many popular apologists are on shaky ground, such that, when we see the cards on the table, there is little there that is not convertible with atheism itself.

Anonymous said...

"6) Dave's apparent line of argument would attempt to refocus the debate away from the central issue to a claim of hypocrisy;"

A bit off topic - this is a problem I have with James White's approach to Shabir Ally. He's not refuting Shabir (and Ehrman, etc.) directly, just accusing Shabir of not following the same interpretive principles with regards to Islam, which would be ok if he reformulated the thesis of the debate.

Anonymous said...

btw, I do understand that Ally is not really interested in debating the historical merits in Christianity and merely wants to proselytize. But to keep things above board, White should move observations about Ally's inconsistency to passing chiding remarks- not make it central.

Turretinfan said...

I think Dr. White's point is that S.A. is quoting a source who S.A. doesn't himself believe, and whose methods S.A. would not apply to the Koran. In other words, the only way that S.A. can oppose Dr. White is inconsistently.