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.2) And, to wit, second:
(all errors/irregularities in original)
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.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,
(all errors/irregularities in original)
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.)