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):


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.


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.

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.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Is There Any Legitimate Musicological Basis for Comparing the Beatles to Schubert?

Steve wrote:

I have to quibble with the "modern Schuberts" moniker [this is how I described the Beatles underneath a photo]. As gifted of tunesmiths as Paul, John & co. were, they don't compare to Schubert or any other classical master. There is an immense gulf in the level of craftsmanship between, say Schubert's 9th Symphony and Sgt. Pepper (especially as the craft in that album largely came from George Martin). The Beatles main schtick was introducing more diatonic, folk-influenced melodies and harmonies to the largely blues / rockabilly based popular music of the late 50's & 60's. But the comparison with classical music is off base. The Beatles are no more the modern Schuberts as Cole Porter is the modern Bach or Burt Bachrach is the modern Beethoven. They are all very talented musicians, but I would look to composers such as Part, Schnittke, Penderecki, post-war Stravinsky or Wuorinen (all either Catholic or Orthodox and significant composers of sacred music by the way) as my candidates for the "modern Schubert".

I reply:

Again, this is not just my judgment, but that of many musicologists and music critics, who would be the ones qualified to make such a favorable comparison. Nor does the comparison imply some sort of one-on-one parallel between classical and rock music, as if they are on the same plane (which would be silly), or of "craftsmanship." Schubert is known, of course, as the greatest melodist of all time (only one aspect of many, of classical music). This is the specific connection. Paul and John (and George more and more, as time went on) arguably hold that position in the pop world. If you know music, you can, e.g., see some very complex chord progressions in Beatles music, which are usually not found in non-jazz popular music. The only real competitor to their status in this regard would be Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, in my opinion.
Here's evidence of my claim:

William Mann wrote in The Times that Lennon and McCartney were 'the greatest songwriters since Schubert'; . . .


For a wonderful, in-depth analysis of the unique musical aspects of the Beatles, see the article, "Words and chords: The semantic shifts of the Beatles' chords," by Ger Tillekens. Here are a few excerpts:

The flat-VI, a real Beatles' favorite, has often been called the Buddy Holly chord, though Buck Owens also has been honored as the main source of inspiration. This chord belongs to the cluster of parallel Majors: flat-VI, flat-III and flat-VII — sometimes also referred to as Neapolitan chords. In the abundance of these chords in the Beatles' songs Steven Porter (1983: 72) finds evidence for a strong Classical influence on the group's compositions. He has to admit, however, the flat-VI is behaving quite otherwise — indeed, according to its role in the diagonal grid, as a substitute for the iv. "All My Loving," a composition of McCartney, showing a free combination of turnaround and turnback, offers a another good example of these chords, the flat-VII (example 3). Just like the flat-VI in "I Saw Her Standing There," this chord turns the context of the lyrics toward the private side of display and the individual side of realization, thereby making the word "true" coming from deep within, sounding sincere and privately voiced.

Our last example, the verse of "All I Got To Do" with its exceptional length of 11 measures, is again a Lennon' composition (example 5). It illustrates the function of parallel minors in locating a semantic position in the matrix of conversation. In this particular case the work is done by the minor subdominant. Semantically this chord has the same function as the minor fifth that's facilitating the modulation in "I Want To Hold Your Hand." It is important to notice that these minor chords do not sound sad. The "sadness" of parallel minor keys is still a standard in music theory. It does apply to the work of Mahler or Schubert, often referred to in this context. In the Beatles' songs — and Pop Rock music in general — another feeling, however, is attached to these chords. With the parallel Major chords the parallel minors share the location of private space, making utterances sound sincere and deeply felt. As
these minor chords point toward the collective side of realization they give the lyrics a more convinced and determined sound.

Also, see Ian Hammond's article, "Virtuosos Need Not Apply," where he makes many interesting observations such as the following:

You won't find many classical performers who are expected to write and arrange their own material. You'll very few who are expected to sing while they perform on their instruments. Yes, some jazz musicians sing while they play, but they fall into three categories: (1) many of them stopped playing their instrument when they sang; (2) others sang rather perfunctorily; (3) the small remainder were usually Pop Jazz musicians. Fats Waller is a superb example. His atypical small combo is a great model for the rock 'n' roll band (the Beatles performed his Your Feets Too Big).

See his larger site: Beathoven: Studying the Beatles. He makes a direct comparison of the Beatles to Brahms and Beethoven and other composers, in terms of use of chords in his pieces, The Chromatic Subtonic (1) and The Chromatic Subtonic (2).

Alan W. Pollack's "Notes on ..." Series is a musicological analysis of every single Beatles song. Here's an article about it: A Beatles' Odyssey: Alan W. Pollack's musicological journey through the Beatles' songs, by Ger Tillekens.

In the website, Vocalist .org, this statement is made (echoing mine above):

1. Differentiate form and genre in music

Form relates to structure and genre to style. Schubert and the Beatles used similar forms in writing their songs yet, they could hardly be considered the same genre unless you consider structure to be the essence of communication. One could say that the underlying genteel nature of song form created more similarity between the Beatles and Schubert separating both from Beethoven and his more tormented personality demonstrated in his use of the more dialectic form of sonata-allegro . . .

One could go on and on with this (I found all these sources in just a half-hour search on Google ("Beatles Schubert"); I think my point is well-established as one far beyond my own speculation. It was precisely because I was already familiar with this comparison having been made by musicologists, that I made it, in brief form.

Round III With Ed Babinski On Profound Christian Ignorance, & Every Subject Under the Sun Except the Topic (The Psalms) -- Expanded


How and Why Discussions With Agnostics and Atheists Often (Sadly) Collapse / The Many Logical Fallacies of Ed Babinski and Friends (Was [and occasionally still touches upon]: Discussion on the Psalms)


Here's the latest development in this strange exchange, with yet more parties entering in (as I said, "make yourself at home"). Sharon Mooney, Ed's webmaster, has now started writing to me. Her words will be in green:

[E-mail of 12-22-04]

Months ago I requested of Ed, if he were engaging in correspondence, to please let me know about it, so that it might end up on his site. Namely, because I'm not a mind reader, and having no way to know what he's posted around the internet. It may seem simple to you that he would post on your blog -- and that all his acquaintances visit and read, if so, you can't appreciate my/our schedule. Speaking for myself, normally, I am in college, and sometimes it is weeks that I'll save an email (article) from Ed, before I get it on the web. I'm out of college right now for break, but using the time to catch up on other work. I asked him specifically to forward or carbon copy me everything he writes that qualifies for web material (even the seemingly insignificant stuff). You probably want skeptics to read your web page I presume, then how would they know about it, unless carbon copied in an email? I've been distracted by a good number of other issues, and haven't had time to focus on Ed's debate with you -- not yet, not right now, though I did get one web page on the site yesterday.

I have no problem with this. That's fine. What I object to is this impromptu gathering of critics, who prefer to talk about me and at me, rather than directly to me (not to mention all the unnecessary put-downs and insults -- the inevitable ad hominem attacks, in full force here). You (as far as I know) did not participate in that sort of thing, so my remarks had nothing to do with you. If Ed posts this (via you, as webmaster), wonderful. That's more than I can say for most of my dialogical opponents. I'm delighted if that many more agnostics and atheists can read my arguments. Thanks!

It seems to me if you had the intention of being fair you'd do it with your blog or by email. Already from the first paragraph of reading, it's apparent to me, you're being quite biased.

I see, but of course, Ed and the "Group" are not doing that at all, in their numerous fallacious digressions and non sequiturs, as I have been chronicling.

I plan to get the correspondence between yourself and Ed on his site, if he still wants it that way. But if you insist on being unfair, I don't know that Ed or myself would care.

Yes, I know the feeling, believe me, except that I post what happens regardless of the outcome. That's what free speech and the open exchange of competing ideas and facilitation of critical thinking in the undecided is about.

If you wanted to do the right thing you'd remove that web page you sent us the URL to and start over again with something a lot more polite. Ed is far too nice of a person for the way you're criticizing him in that web page.

I'm sure Ed is very nice. I've always found him to be so, personally. My objection is strictly to how this dialogue is proceeding methodologically. It's not personal. It's based on notions of fair play and consideration of the other, benefit of the doubt, and those sorts of concepts that I have always assumed and believed are common to atheists and Christians alike, as they are fundamental. When one sees the sort of things I am accused of, or compared to (which have nothing to do with the argument at hand), then all of a sudden, this nice man, Ed, has become a little bit not-nice insofar as his rather insulting assumptions about me, a Christian, are concerned. I haven't done that to him. As a prominent example, note how Ed condescendingly characterizes me, as if I am a mindless, intellectually bankrupt special pleader, because I believe in biblical inspiration:

The point is that Dave adores the Bible it is his beloved, a letter from God. He will defend it all, from Eden to the Flood, from the tower of Babel to the slaughter of the Canaanites, with poetry, hyperbole, and metaphor if he has to, in fact, anyway he can, to make even the vilest shit in it smell like it should be served at communion to the heavenly choir. Therefore, you can't really argue with a person whose perception is that caught up in a single book.

Or how about this gem of strikingly prejudicial, sweeping observation about all Christians, not just myself (as a proud member of that class):

Religion is a puddle from which a gnat may drink and in which an elephant may bathe. And even the weakest disputant is made so conceited by what he calls religion, as to think himself wiser than the wisest who thinks differently from him.

Try to imagine, Sharon, if these sentiments were flipped over and applied to you as an agnostic (or whatever you are; I don't know). Would you continue to say that I am the only one being unfair and impolite? This is clearly poisoning the well; a classic, textbook case (as I clearly demonstrated, right from Copi). This sort of thing is the real "vile (manure)" that is going on here . . .

The next e-mail -- also of 12-22-04 -- was sent by Sharon just to Ed and I. Since she considered it "private," I won't cite it, but I will summarize it as her questioning whether our dialogue should be put on his website because of my alleged lack of politeness and supposed slandering of Ed as "dishonest" in debate (I did no such thing). My last response was described as "awful" and her decision to post or not was conditioned upon removing it. The next letter on the same day informed the "Group" that there was one posted section now on Ed's website concerning our discussion. This section is entitled Dave Armstrong Correspondence. It states a falsehood about me (only slightly qualified, but clearly believed by Sharon herself, in her correspondence), thus poisoning the well before anyone reads a word: "This section of Ed's site was set up following a visit to Dave Armstrong's blog, which appears to malign Ed as employing dishonest debate tactics."

The first link on this page is called Dave Armstrong - Edward Babinski debate at Dave's blog site, and features the following (I think, congenial and fair) introduction from Ed which seems to suggest that he has not found me as "impolite" as his webmaster Sharon has:

Catholic convert and web-pologist Dave Armstrong has produced a massive pro-Catholic website over the years. The story of his conversion to Catholicism appears in a bestselling book of similar converts (mostly former Protestantism I think), and he has published numerous books of Catholic apologetics, all available at, that strive to make Catholicism and its various unique doctrines and practices appear in as rational a light as possible, as well as having published in-depth counters to both Protestantism and Modernism. Dave recently composed a long web piece at his blog-site criticizing one of my shorter pieces on the psalms. He continues to write in a pretty friendly fashion and invite my response, as well as the responses of any readers of the debate, and he publishes them all at his blog-site. Most folks who read Dave's blog are Christians and respond in kind. His blog could probably use just a few non-Christian responses or even moderate Christian responses from moderate Christian university profs, to balance matters out a tad.

I agree! Note that I have repeatedly invited Ed and even his friends to come onto my blog and comment and engage in a real conversation with a real Christian. They can outnumber me ten-to-one if that is what it takes, I don't care; the more the merrier (though, again, I find this to be a dubious method of discourse when a supposed one-on-one dialogue is occurring). But thus far, they have not, preferring to chat amongst themselves and to send me the third-person observations about me. I find this less-than-ideal or (if you will) "polite" dialogue method. It's fine if observers want to enter in, but they should talk directly to me, not about me. That's the distinction I object to. I urge both agnostics and "moderate" (i.e., liberal) Christians to come around and dialogue on my blog. The water's warm, and we don't bite.

The second page featuring our debate is called Biblical Mercy, and features Ed's patented mile-long digressions into subject matter not directly on-topic. But that's fine, as long as I don't have to deal with the digressions (I skipped over most of them because I am pretty strict about sticking to the subject, and will not be distracted, because I think that considerably lowers the fruitfulness of a discussion). But Ed's posting of his complete epic-length replies allows people to see a sadly typical agnostic conversational ploy (as I have debated many in my time and can speak from experience): hitting a Christian with 50 things from the Bible at once, as if this offers some bogus appearance of strength. This is, in fact, not a matter of strength or weakness of argument or evidence at all, on either side, but about how one person can only do so much at a time, and how dialogue (like any college course) can only progress if it is narrowed down. This is a huge pet peeve of mine, but, I think, quite justified, and not at all unreasonable or over-demanding.

The short page Psalm 91 features a little snippet of our dialogue. The introduction on the main point misses what I was trying to accomplish in my replies and distorts my argument: "Inappropriate Psalm used at the funeral of a woman who died young which promises 'long life' as part of Jehovah's favor -- none of which Becca received. Dave refused to address Ed's questions which were on topic, and relevant."

To which I say, "hogwash!" I urge other biblical skeptics and agnostics to read my response. Perhaps they can offer a counter-reply that Ed has yet to produce. But I directly addressed his concerns, and defeated them, as far as I'm am concerned.

The next page, Thoughts on the Psalms, is introduced with a similarly jaded and wildly distorted comment, which only proves that Sharon either didn't read my response, or never understood the very nature of it: "Psalms and the foolish concept that worshipping Jehovah and alone Jehovah will guarantee a long fruitful life vs. a short non-prosperous one." I specifically made arguments showing that the Bible did not take this simplistic view that Ed attributes to it. Phil (here in brown; previously green) seems to think I am polite enough, contra Sharon's impressions:

Well, if we're grading, I would give both of you "A's" for "amiability, " impassioned and thought provoking discussions. I would give an "F" to the guy who sent you (Ed) the "burn in hell" hate mail posted on your site . . .
So would I. I know nothing about it. But I detest such rhetoric, and almost always regard it as arrogant and judgmental. We're not God. We don't know who will be damned. Then Thomas Cook (purple) adds (followed by Ed's comment):

Ed, Armstrong and his gang are just too mean! Talk origins is propaganda? Why isn't the stuff they write considered propaganda? I thought none of the Christians treated you with kindness. Every response was belittling to you. Perhaps Steve could also take them on? Is he still debating with Turkel? Are you going to continue to reply to Armstrong?

I thought it was interesting that in his first reply to me, Dave began with this line: "Ed's skeptical take on this is clear already: God's promises are null and void, and obviously vacant: just look at this poor woman; she was a Christian, and trusted God, but did that help her? No! Quite the contrary. God didn't do a darned thing to save her . . . Etc." Dave begins by picturing me as questioning "God," when I never said that I believed "God" wrote the psalms. I was contrasting what Psalm 91 said and promised (whether the psalms and their promises were inspired by "God" or not is another question), with what actually happened to Becca. Dave's response seems to have demonstrated Christianity's built-in defense system at work, namely that if you question the meaning, propriety, overblown pomposity/hyperbole, interpretation, or intent of a Biblical work or writer, then you are directly questioning "God" Himself.

Sheer nonsense. Ed thoroughly misunderstands the nature of my response. Of course he doesn't believe in God; he is an agnostic. What I assumed in my response is that Ed is making an argument from internal inconsistency and absurdity (a sort of reductio ad absurdum). So when I mention "God" in this context, it is as an agnostic or atheist talks about God (and they do, quite a bit, even though they don't believe in Him, and it is in precisely this sense). So again, Ed assumes I am far more ignorant than I am. In fact, my thought-process here was much more sophisticated and familiar with philosophical argument and logic than he seems to have been aware. Hopefully, now he will understand these types of statements in context. I understand full well that Ed's attempt is to paint the Psalms as incoherent, absurd, and (overall) unworthy of belief. My argument was that this was not the case, and that Ed misconstrued rather simple factors in how to interpret such literature and how in fact, the Jews historically did interpret it. Does Ed really believe I am so stupid and unfamiliar with agnostic reasoning vis-a-vis the Bible, that I would actually think either that (1) he believed in God, or (2) he believed that God wrote the Psalms? If so, then I confess that I am dumbfounded at how far off the mark he is in grasping how I argue, and what I know. But stranger things have happened. Ed reiterates the obvious (that skeptics like him are "sure" the Bible is stock-full of contradictions and moral monstrosities): 

A long-time friend of mine, Bruce Wildish, who has studied theology (though he is not a theologian), had a discussion with me years ago about certain broad differences between the theological views found in different parts of the Hebrew Bible, differences that Dave might disagree exist, or attempt to harmonize away, but which seem plain to a lot of religion professors whom Bruce has read. Whether or not you believe in "God" is not the point. The point is that the Bible remains a book whose origin and interpretations remain contested even by the world's greatest living religion professors.

The point is that we would expect these divergent interpretations, for a variety of reasons. But the bottom line is that one's presuppositions have a lot to do with how one approaches the text. The agnostic usually approaches the Bible the way a butcher approaches a hog, whereas the Christian approaches it the way that a music lover or orchestra musician or conductor views Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart.That's a world of difference. And while I freely admit that this predisposition causes a considerable bias in favor of a harmonious Bible, and hence, some special pleading and bad arguments too often among Christians, I rarely see agnostics admitting that their predisposition of hostility to the Bible often wreaks havoc on the logic or plausibility of their interpretations. Beyond that, they usually try to set forth the pretense that they know far more about the Bible than we Christians who have intensely studied it for many years (27, in my case). And that is a double standard. I freely admit that everyone is biased, and that it is foolish to deny it. But it doesn't follow that this precludes all intelligent biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, on either side. Bias is the human condition, and we will never get rid of it. I generally think agnostic biblical analysis is atrocious and filled with basic errors of fact and logic (Ed's included, in the present case), but it doesn't have to be (just by virtue of being what it is). Ed then cites Bruce, giving the usual anthropological-type, modernist take on the Old Testament. While worthy of a long discussion itself, such topical material is off the subject. I find it humorous that when I was actually on-topic, discussing how to properly interpret Psalms, Ed accused me of not answering him. But he seems to think that soliloquies about the broad range of Old Testament literature (when coming from a fellow agnostic) are quite on-subject.

More thoughts on the Psalms and God's Will feature sections that I have already included in my version of the dialogue (and replied to -- when on-topic). Agnosticism and the Christian World View consists mostly of rabbit trails. I've dealt with whatever part of it was relevant. What Catholics once Believed offers a litany of untold horrors in that religion. What this has to do with our topic remains a mystery to me. But I suppose it could be utilized as a variant of the Genetic Fallacy: "Dave is a Catholic. Catholics believe weird things, now and in the past. Therefore, we can dismiss Dave's arguments and not deal with them rationally, without fallacies and obfuscation such as this." Profound reasoning, isn't it?

The web page Bibles offers more endless tidbits and anecdotes apparently thought to be collectively damning to the rationality and believability of Christianity, but off-topic. And we have more non sequitur and noncomprehension of my arguments:

Ah yes, Phil, as you say, the need to be right. Men will die simply for ideas, and the need to justify their own, either with words or swords. I could say that Dave was the first to fire the long shot over my bow, responding to something I wrote and telling me that I was "questioning God!" I know what I was doing, and it had as little to do with "God" as I believe that particular psalm did. To Dave I am questioning "God," but in my opinion, no one has yet shown that "God" is the author of everything in the Bible. Not even moderate Christians believe that.

This silly business that I was somehow assuming that Ed believed in God or was arguing against Him has been dealt with above. Hopefully, he will "get" this now. He is just making himself look silly, the more he pursues this felt "zinger" that is 100% off-mark.

Phil chimes in with more ad hominem mockery:

He did indeed "draw you out" (as if you were some slimy Leviathan and He was Yahweh) and then try to lay the ground rules in his court -- where he reasons as a Socratic along with some "revelation" knowledge -- who can argue with that?

Ed-as-the-slimy-beast and yours truly as God. Really objective analysis . . . as stated previously, my argument does not depend at all on a presumption of the truthfulness of divine inspiration of the Bible, but rather, upon logic, sensible interpretation, historical Jewish hermeneutic and religious worldview, and internal consistency.

Revelation solves everything. Not that everybody agrees on what particular revelations say or mean or how each of them are to be applied.*smile*

Is there an actual rational argument in this that I have missed? I'll keep looking; maybe I'll locate one. Not content with ridiculing Christians, Ed at length takes on the Christian conception of God, in what I'm sure he thinks is a hilarious, knee-slapping piece of ridicule (and according to him, I take passages like this as evidence that Ed believes in God himself LOL):

Those Bible verses about God "smelling the soothing aroma" do make ya wonder though, whether God still lusts after the scent of burnt animals. Today, if He did, He'd probably have to settle for a barstool at a steak house with Zeus, Odin, Marduk and Baal by His side, chatting about the good old days, all sneaking a whiff of that old "soothing" stuff.

Course, maybe God's addiction just kept getting worse, from flaming farm animals, to His son, and now He's probably addicted to "smelling the soothing aroma" of whole planets filled with living creatures exploding into cosmic fireballs. Wait, isn't that mentioned in the book of Revelation? Quick! Call the Pope to arrange an intervention, we gotta get God into rehab! And tell Outback to double my order.

No bias at all here, of course. Ed and his cronies are utterly objective, sensible, and reasonable, while Christians are always (or almost always, at the very least) subjective, senseless, and irrational. That about covers Ed's "Armstrong Page" for now.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Beatles Recordings: Chronological Master List (Including Alternate Mixes)

This large reference paper -- which I've been having great fun working on for the past week --, lists all Beatles recordings in order of recording date, noting different mixes and versions, stereo, "fake stereo," mono, what album songs appear on, dates of UK and US release, singles information, etc. Also included are many links to the same sort of material in websites and books, plus some general Beatles websites. Definitely a "must" for any Beatles fan, especially if you are a semi-collector and Fab Four Fanatic like myself.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Review of my Book, "The Catholic Verses" (by Jonathan Prejean)

Review of The Catholic Verses by Dave Armstrong (link to Jonthan's blog entry)
Jonathan Prejean

"Irenic" is not the first word that ordinarily comes to mind when a book is subtitled "95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants," but in this case, it's just proof of the old adage about judging books by their covers. The only beliefs that come under attack in this book are the ones that have been frustrating ecumenical dialogue and poisoning discussions with anti-Catholic stereotypes for far too many years. For Catholics, this book will come as a reassurance that Catholicism is firmly rooted in the Scriptures. For Protestants, it will provide a valuable opportunity to reexamine the hard questions that every faithful Protestant should be able to answer. But for all readers, the lesson is that those who gloss over serious study of Scripture in making reckless attacks on fellow Christians do so at their own peril.

One feature that distinguishes this book from many other works is the genuine respect that Armstrong bears for the other side of the aisle. He cites arguments by famous Protestants from Calvin to Luther, Wesley to Kelly, not to tear them down but to demonstrate the amount of effort they put into forming their own conclusions. The point of these demonstrations is to illustrate that even thoughtful, devoted, and scholarly men can reason their way to different conclusions about these passages, and that in most cases, the Catholic view is no less thoughtful or reasonable an explanation. In an attitude of genuine intellectual humility, Armstrong constantly repeats a simple theme: "recognizing that reasonable men can disagree, here is why I believe what I do." Exercising the rare poise found in such writers as Jaroslav Pelikan, Armstrong makes his case strongly and convincingly while maintaining a profound respect for his opponents' intelligence.

The book covers a number of Catholic distinctives that frequently arise in Protestant-Catholic dialogue, such as ecclesiology, the role of tradition, the papacy, and justification. On these issues, there is no new ground covered that has not been discussed at length in a number of places, but the advantage here is that the presentation is clear and concise, focused particularly on developing the strength of the Biblical argument. This is extremely helpful for beginners in Catholic theology, but it also reminds more advanced students just how effective it can be to make a simple, focused Scriptural argument that goes back to basics. Time and time again, Armstrong demonstrates the power of such arguments to convey the Catholic message.

What impressed me most, though, was Armstrong's handling of sensitive moral issues in the final three chapters. In discussing clerical celibacy, contraception, and divorce, he bring an optimistic and idealistic perspective centered firmly in Christ to areas that have become overwhelmingly dominated by cynicism. Armstrong's positive view of human nature and the human condition is a refreshing change from the modern worldview that envisions people as being doomed to gross moral failings. His presentation is an excellent example of how sound moral teaching founded in the Gospel can truly be a light to the world.

I recommend this book without reservation, and I encourage my fellow Catholics to take the study of these verses to heart and to commit them to memory. They are excellent reminders of how the Catholic faith is rooted in the Word of God.

Thanks so much to my friend Jonathan. I was deeply moved and touched by these remarks, and think they were far too kind (I kept thinking, is he reading my book?). But hey, if I must err in one direction, I would hope that I am perceived as overly-charitable rather than overly-judgmental. That is precisely the goal I have in my writing. As far as I am concerned, I fail to achieve it too often, but it is heartening and encouraging to see that at least one reader has (rightly or wrongly) that impression. It's virtually impossible to render a critique of anyone or anything without being perceived by many as "condemnatory" or "lacking respect" (again, whether it is actually true in fact or not). This balance is one of the most difficult things to achieve in apologetics. If I have accomplished it in some measure it is by God's grace. I praise our Lord for allowing me to be a vessel of His truth, insofar as it is found promulgated in the Catholic Church and in the Holy Bible.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Catholic Refutation of "Catholicism Refuted" (by Church of Christ Preacher Kevin Cauley): Complete Five-Part Listing

Here are the URL's for the complete series of rebuttals:
Part One: Introduction

Part Two: Bible and Tradition / Papacy

Part Three: "Father" / Praying for the Dead / Statues / Confession

Part Four: The Blessed Virgin Mary / Eucharist

Part Five: Purgatory / Salvation (below)

IV. "If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?"

1. Catholicism says,
1) "…To enter heaven, one must be perfectly holy."
2) "The cleansing and purifying of any remaining sin, which makes us fit for God's holy presence, is what Catholics call purgatory."
3) They cite 1 Corinthians 3:13, 15 as justification for this doctrine.
2. The Bible says,
1) The blood of Christ perfectly cleanses us from all sin, not purgatory.
a. Hebrews 9:14 "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge "
b. Hebrews 10:14 "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
c. To suggest that somehow the blood of Christ does not take away all of our sins and that we need to go to purgatory to have them completely cleansed away is complete and utter heresy.

Absolutely not. Purgatory has no relation to the notion that Jesus' work for us is somehow incomplete. Everyone who is in purgatory is saved already. Purgatory does not save them. It only prepares the saved soul for heaven. So all of the above is a moot point. If Mr. Cauley doesn't like purgatory, then let him argue against the biblical evidence offered for it, rather than declaim and proclaim what he would like to be true, without dealing with the biblical passages that Catholics have offered in defense of this doctrine. 1 Corinthians 3 is a very striking and explicit proof indeed (I guess that's why Mr. Cauley refused to explain it in a way other than I did).

2) That the faithful who die go to "paradise" and the wicked go to torments.
a. Luke 23:43. Paradise.
b. Luke 16:23. Rich man in torments.

The Bible teaches that even those who are saved will undergo a trial or a purging of their sins. It's very clear. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 teaches this:

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble - each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
If that isn't good enough, there is 2 Corinthians 5:10, which Mr. Cauley himself cites below:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

3) That one day, all will be raised from the grave to be judged.
a. Acts 24:15 resurrection of the just and unjust.
b. 2 Cor.5:10 All appear before judgment seat of Christ.

No argument there . . .

4) 1 Cor.3:13, 15 is not speaking of our own personal works of salvation. That passage is in reference to those who we bring to Christ--other people.

Why does Mr. Cauley believe this? Until he gets more in-depth with his exegesis than one-line proclamations, why should I waste more of my time trying to dispute the meaning of passages with him?

5) There is no indication in scripture that anyone will ever go to a place called "Purgatory" or "Limbo" or any other such place than paradise or torments, and then eventually, heaven and hell.

Then let Mr. Cauley or someone else who believes this grapple with the abundant biblical indications, compiled in my papers from my Purgatory Index Page.

V. Are you saved?
1. Catholicism says…

1) "Catholics can be as sure as anyone else that they are in God's good graces."
2) "Likewise, St. Paul does not regard salvation as a one-time event, but as a goal to be sought after, one that can be lost…."
2. The Bible teaches
1) Yes we are saved! Acts 16:30.

This doesn't prove instantaneous salvation, because the word for "believe" in Greek (pistuo) also incorporates actions and work on our part. Many passages warn against falling away. See my papers:

Assurance of Salvation

Catholic Exegesis of Biblical Passages Allegedly Suggesting Absolute Assurance of Salvation

"Certainty" of Eternal Life? (1 John 5:13 and John 5:24)
2) We are saved by Grace. Ephesians 2:8. We don't merit our own salvation.

Catholics agree with this. Hence, the decrees from Trent:

CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

3) When we obey the gospel of Christ, then we are accepting the grace of God in our lives.2 Cor.6:1 "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."


4) Catholics teach the truth regarding the possibility of apostasy.
5) However, Catholicism teaches salvation of merit based on works.

This is untrue. What Mr. Cauley describes is the ancient heresy of Pelagianism, which we reject.

See my papers:

Dialogue on the Alleged Semi-Pelagianism of the Catholic Catechism (vs. Frank Turk)

Merit: Catholic Doctrine vs. Caricature (James McCarthy's Distortions)

Soteriology and Creation (Man's Cooperation, Pelagianism, Nature and Grace) (vs. Peter J. Leithart)

For many further papers on all aspects of salvation, soteriology, faith, justification, etc., see my Justification Page.

Catholic Refutation of "Catholicism Refuted" (vs. Kevin Cauley), Part Four (Mary / Eucharist)

II. "Why do you worship Mary?"

1. Catholicism says,
1) "Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her because she is the mother of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ."
2) "Catholics believe that Mary is the highest of God's creatures because of her exalted role."
3) "We believe that God saved her by taking away all stain of original sin at the moment of her conception (the Immaculate Conception).
2. The Bible says,
1) We ought not to worship anyone but God.
a. Revelation 22:8, 9 says, "And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God."

I guess that would be why we don't worship Mary!

b. Only God's name is revered. Psalm 111:9 "holy and reverend is his name."

The Hebrew word here for reverend is yare (Strong's word #3372). In the KJV it is translated "fear" 242 times, "be afraid" 76, "terrible" 24, "reverence" twice. It is usually applied to God, but not always. In Leviticus 19:3, for example, the same word is applied to one's parents. In Joshua 4:14 it is applied to Joshua and Moses:

On that day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him; as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.

(RSV; KJV: "fear"; cf. Joshua 3:7)

The same word is applied to the sanctuary (Lev 19:30) and an oath (1 Sam 14:26). Also, the Hebrew word for exalted here ("magnified" in the KJV) is gadal. Here it is applied to Joshua. In 1 Chronicles 29:25 and 2 Chronicles 1:1 it is a description of Solomon. Yet in Psalms 34:3 and 69:30 it is applied to God.

c. Veneration is just another name for worship. It comes from the Latin word VENEROR which means to adore, reverence, worship, revere.

d. So this is merely a smoke and mirror explanation.

This is sheer nonsense. Mr. Cauley clearly has no clue what he is talking about here. Catholic theology differentiates between the notions of dulia and latria; the second being adoration or divine worship. Are these terms biblical? Absolutely!: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd ed., edited by F.L. Cross & E.A. Livingstone, Oxford Univ. Press, 1983, 430, "Dulia"), states:

(Latinized form of Greek douleia, 'service'). The reverence which, according to Orthodox and RC theology, may be paid to the saints, as contrasted with hyperdulia, which may be paid only to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and latria (Gk., latreia), which is reserved for God alone.

This is consistent with the Catholic understanding. This dictionary goes on to define latria as follows (p. 803):

As contrasted with dulia, that fullness of Divine worship which may be paid to God alone.

Douleia can also be located in Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, in volume 1, p. 139, under "Bondage," and latreia in volume 3, p. 349, under "Service, Serving." Douleia is Strong's word #1397. It appears five times in the NT, and is translated "bondage" in the KJV (Rom 8:15,21; Gal 4:24, 5:1; Heb 2:15: none referring to God). Latreia is Strong's word #2999. It appears 5 times in the NT, and is translated "service" or "divine service" in the KJV - in reference to God (Jn 16:2; Rom 9:4, 12:1; Heb 9:1,6). It appears 21 times in the NT. So, as usual, so-called exclusively "Catholic" words are found to have a completely biblical basis, and to follow the distinction even present in the pre-biblicalGreek etymology, since the Latin dulia and latria are directly derived from the Greek. As for the notion of veneration in general, I wrote in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (pp. 103-104):

We honor the saints in heaven, who have more perfectly attained God's likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18), strive to imitate them, and ask them for their efficacious prayers on our behalf and that of others. All honor ultimately goes back to God, whose graces are the source of all that is worthy of veneration in the saints . . . it is God Himself Whom we praise when we celebrate in music, painting, and poetry His flowers, stars, sunsets, bald eagles, forests, mountains, or oceans. It is the painter who receives the accolades when his masterpiece is praised; likewise God with His creation, including the saints.

. . . We address judges as "Your Honor" and are commanded by God to "honor" our mothers and fathers (Ephesians 6:2), widows (1 Timothy 5:3), Christian teachers (1 Timothy 5:17), wives (1 Peter 3:7), fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 12:12-26), and governing authorities (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17). A spirit of honoring those who are worthy of honor is to typify the Christian (Romans 12:10, 1 Peter 2:17).

. . . A sound biblical basis for the veneration of saints can be found in the Pauline passages where the Apostle exhorts his followers to "imitate" him (1 Corinthians 4:16, Philippians 3:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9) as he, in turn, imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:6). Also, we are exhorted to honor and imitate the "heroes of the faith" in Hebrews 6:12 and chapter 11, and to take heart in the examples of the prophets and Job, who endured suffering (James 5:10-11).

2) Mary is no more higher creation than any man in general.

a. Psalm 8:5, 6 "For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:"

On the contrary, Mary was "full of grace" (Luke 1:28). She is a creature, but the very greatest one; the Theotokos ("God-bearer" / Mother of God). Because of this exalted honor, God preserved her from all stain of original sin, and she chose to never sin, her entire life. Thus, she was the "New Eve": the second Eve who (unlike the first one) chose to never sin. The Fall of Man was not inevitable. It could have been otherwise. I wrote in my book (p. 177) about this passage:

Whichever translation one prefers (this is not necessarily an either/or proposition), it is certain that kecharitomene [RSV: "favored one"; KJV: "highly favoured"] is directly concerned with the idea of "grace," since, as Vine noted, it is derived from the root word charis, whose literal meaning is "grace." Charis is translated by the King James Version, for example, 129 times (out of 150 total appearances) as "grace."

Likewise, Word Pictures in the New Testament, by the renowned Protestant [Baptist] Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, expounds Luke 1:28 as follows [Vol. 2, 13]:

"Highly favoured" (kecharitomene). Perfect passive participle of charitoo and means endowed with grace (charis), enriched with grace as in Ephesians. 1:6, . . . The Vulgate gratiae plena "is right, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast received'; wrong, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast to bestow'" (Plummer).

b. She was blessed. Luke 1:42 "And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." But many people were blessed by the Lord in the Bible.

Amen! Sure, many were blessed, but who else speaks in these terms: "henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:48)?

3) There is no indication in scripture that God specially took away Mary's sins at the moment of her conception.

Luke 1:28 is the clearest indication. I've argued this point in many papers:

Dialogue with an Evangelical Protestant on Catholic Mariology (including an explicitly biblical argument for the Immaculate Conception, from Luke 1:28, related exegesis, and the meaning of grace) (Dave Armstrong vs. Jack DisPennett)

Luke 1:28 (Full of Grace) and the Immaculate Conception: Linguistic and Exegetical

"All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?)

a. First, the doctrine of inherited sin is false.

a) Sin can only be committed by those who practice lawlessness. 1 John 2:4 "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."
b) Rom.5:12 "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"
c) Sin doesn't come from without, it comes from the heart. Matthew 15:19 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:"
b. Second, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is only in place because of the doctrine of original sin.
c. One of the problems with the doctrine that sin is inherited is that Jesus would have had to inherit it.
d. The "Immaculate Conception" is the way Catholicism tries to get around the implications of this doctrine.

Mr. Cauley even preached a whole sermon about this crucial doctrine: The Argument Against the Doctrine of Original Sin, where he made such statements as the following:
There is no greater threat to practicing true Christianity than the doctrine of original sin (also known as the doctrine of total hereditary depravity).

[This is inaccurate, because not all Nicene, orthodox Christians accept total depravity. That is a Calvinist doctrine, which amounts to a more profound fall than can be warranted from scripture. Catholics, Orthodox, and Arminians hold to a less total fall -- and Orthodox differ with Catholic doctrine considerably]

. . . the doctrine of original sin lies at the heart of almost every false doctrine in the "Christian" religious world today. The Bible does NOT teach this false doctrine. Reason will not support this false doctrine.

This is heterodox doctrine, according to virtually all Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox communions. Original sin is a very important Christian dogma. If the church of Christ denies it, then it is a quasi-cultic group, just barely orthodox, according to the Nicene Creed and historic trinitarian Christianity in all its forms (along with a group like the Seventh-Day Adventists, which deny the reality of eternal hellfire). See my paper: The Biblical Evidence for Original Sin.


III. "Why do you worship wafers?"

1. Catholicism teaches:
1) "A consecrated host or wafer at a Catholic Mass is the true Body and Blood of Christ, not merely bread; so Catholics are worshipping Jesus, not a wafer."
2) They cite John 6:51-56 to support this teaching.
3) They also cite 1 Cor.10:16 and 11:27.
4) Finally they state, "In the last Supper passages (Mt.26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-2), nothing suggests a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation."
2. The Bible teaches:
1) Transubstantiation is the doctrine that during the Lord's Supper the bread and fruit of the vine change into the literal body and blood of Jesus.
2) First, John 6:51-56 is not referring to the Lord's supper. The context indicates this.
a. John 6:35 "And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."
b. John 6:45 "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
c. John 6:48, "I am that bread of life."

Here is a bunch of context and exegesis concerning John 6 (more than enough for another sermon from Mr. Cauley), from my book, More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism (pp. 42-47):

As for John 6 and Jesus repeatedly commanding the hearers to “eat my flesh and drink my blood,” it is known that such metaphors were synonymous with doing someone grievous injury, in the Jewish mind at that time (see, e.g., Job 19:22, Psalms 27:2, Ecclesiastes 4:5, Isaiah 9:20, 49:26, Micah 3:1-3, Revelation 16:6).

Therefore, it isn't plausible to assert that Jesus was speaking metaphorically, according to the standard Protestant hermeneutic of interpreting Scripture in light of the contemporary usages and customs and idioms.

. . . When His hearers didn't understand what He was saying, the Lord always explained it more fully (e.g., Matthew 19:24-26, John 11:11-14, 8:32-34; cf. 4:31-34, 8:21-23). But when they refused to accept some teaching, He merely repeated it with more emphasis (e.g., Matthew 9:2-7, John 8:56-58). By analogy, then, we conclude that John 6 was an instance of willful rejection (see John 6:63-65; cf. Matthew 13:10-23).

Only here in the New Testament do we see followers of Christ abandoning Him for theological reasons (John 6:66). Surely, if their exodus was due to a simple misunderstanding, Jesus would have rectified their miscomprehension. But He did no such thing. Quite the contrary; He continually repeated the same teaching, using even stronger terms (as indicated by different terms in the Greek New Testament). All of this squares with the Catholic interpretation, and is inconsistent with a symbolic exegesis.

Furthermore, Protestants often (ironically) interpret John 6:63 literally, when in fact it was intended metaphorically:

It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (RSV)

Protestants claim that this establishes the symbolic and metaphorical nature of the whole discourse. What they fail to realize is that when the words "flesh" and "spirit" are opposed to each other in the New Testament, it is always a figurative use, in the sense of sinful human nature ("flesh") contrasted with humanity enriched by God's grace ("spirit").

This can be clearly seen in passages such as Matthew 26:41, Romans 7:5-6,25, 8:1-14, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 7:1, Galatians 3:3, 4:29, 5:13-26, and 1 Peter 3:18, 4:6. In other words, Jesus is saying that His words can only be received by men endowed with supernatural grace. Those who interpret them in a wooden, carnal way (equating His teaching here with a sort of gross cannibalism) are way off the mark.

. . . Many non-Catholics often argue that Jesus was not referring to the Eucharist at all in John 6. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek words eucharistia, eucharisteo, and eucharistos [Strong's words #2168, 2169, and 2170]. Together these occur 54 times in the New Testament, so obviously Eucharist is an eminently biblical word. Its meaning is thanks, thankfulness, or thanksgiving. But how is that related to the Last Supper, or Lord's Supper, or Communion? It's very simple (all verses: RSV):

Matthew 26:27-28: And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, . . .”
(cf. Mark 14:23, Luke 22:17,19)

There is a fascinating parallel between this language and that with regard to the feeding of the 4000 and 5000. Scripture records that Jesus "gave thanks" on those occasions, and then "broke" the fish and the loaves and "gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds" {Matthew 15:36; cf. Mark 8:6}. Likewise, we see the same progression in the accounts of the Last Supper:

Luke 22:19: And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
(cf. Matthew 26:26, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:23-24, Acts 2:42, 20:7)

So we have already established a parallel between the Last Supper and the ritual initiated by Jesus there (which is the central essence of the Mass), and the miraculous feeding of the crowds with bread and fish. In John 6, the same miracle occurs, except that this time the biblical writer records that Jesus ties the two together explicitly. First, we have the narrative concerning the feeding:

John 6:11: Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks [eucharisteo], he distributed them to those who were seated . . .
(cf. 6:23)

John 6:22 informs us that the rest of the story took place on the following day. But Jesus had a rebuke for the people who sought Him out on this occasion:

John 6:26-27: “. . . you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you . . .”

In other words, Jesus is contrasting the utility of physical food with eucharistic, sacramental food (His own Body). He continues, getting more and more explicit as He goes along:

John 6:35: . . .” I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger . . .”
(cf. 6:33)
John 6:51: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
(cf. 6:48-50)

John continues:

John 6:52: The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Does Jesus then say, "look guys, settle down; you misunderstood Me! I was just talking symbolically; don't be so literal!" No, not at all. Rather, He reiterates His point in the strongest (and most literal) language:

John 6:53-58: . . .”unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, . . . For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him . . . he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

When Jesus told parables, He always explained them, lest their meaning be lost on the hearers (and us readers of the Bible). Here he does no such thing, even though many of these people forsook Him as a result of His difficult teaching (6:60-61,64, 66-67). The symbolic interpretation makes no sense at all.

I think it is quite obvious that Jesus is referring to the Eucharist in John 6, for these reasons:

1) The parallelism between the miraculous mass feedings and the Last Supper.

2) The use of eucharisteo in the descriptions of both instances, in the same fashion.

3) The repeated reference in John 6 to His Body (i.e., eucharistically; sacramentally) giving eternal life to the recipients (John 6:27,33, 50-51,54,58). This is clearly not merely referring to belief, since if that were the case, explicit references to His Body and Blood would be entirely superfluous. He could have just spoken in terms of "belief" rather than eating and drinking His flesh and blood (which He did in many other instances: e.g., John 12:44-46, 14:10-12).

4) The equation of (what appeared to be) bread and His Body in both John 6 and the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:23-24,27,29, John 6:33,48,50-51,53-58).

5) The equation of (what appeared to be) wine and His Blood in both John 6 and the Last Supper (Matthew 26:27-28, Mark 14:23-24, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:25,27, John 6:53-56).

3) The fact is that the wafer does not change into literal flesh and the wine does not change into literal blood.

We are not claiming that it does. It is a miracle of change of substance, while the outward qualities remain the same. This is why one must have faith to believe this. One can't accept it based on scientific verification (just as with the divinity of Christ, which couldn't be proven by examining His flesh).

The fact that priests often get drunk from the consecrated wine should prove such.

They do? Often, huh? There are no doubt some alcoholic priestrs, but that is neither here nor there. The point misconstrues the nature of Catholic eucharistic belief, anyway.

4) 1 Cor.10:16 "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" But notice verses 17, 18 "For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?"
a. Would we, the church, also be the literal body of the Lord?

We are the Body of Christ in a different sense. Paul's language in his passages concerning the Eucharist is very literal. Martin Luther thought this passage was compelling in and of itself:

Even if we had no other passage than this we could sufficiently strengthen all consciences and sufficiently overcome all adversaries . . . He could not have spoken more clearly and strongly . . .

(Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments, 1525; LW, 40, 177, 181)

. . . The bread which is broken or distributed piece by piece is the participation in the body of Christ. It is, it is, it is, he says, the participation in the body of Christ. Wherein does the participation in the body of Christ consist? It cannot be anything else than that as each takes a part of the broken bread he takes therewith the body of Christ . . .

(Ibid., LW, 40, 178)
b. The example of the Israelites who offered sacrifice, did they literally eat the altar?

No; they ate the "Lamb of God" during Passover. Jesus was the Passover Lamb. He is the sacrifice that was prefigured by the Jewish system of sacrifice.

5) 1 Cor.11:27 says, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."

a. They suggest that if we sin against a symbol that is not being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
b. But note the example of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1ff); also note Uzzah (2 Sam.6:1ff). They sinned against symbols and God took it very personally. Were they guilty of sinning against God, or of against mere symbols?

This is wrongheaded. The argument was not that it is never wrong to sin against a symbol, but rather, that doing so is not the same as being "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." It is the literalness which is so striking. In the Old Testament, they didn't believe in the Incarnation, as Christians do. For the Jews, then and now, God is a spirit, and has no body. So these analogies don't hold any water. Luther was very insistent about this passage also:

It is not sound reasoning arbitrarily to associate the sin which St. Paul attributes to eating with remembrance of Christ, of which Paul does not speak. For he does not say, “Who unworthily holds the Lord in remembrance,” but “Who unworthily eats and drinks.”

(Ibid., LW, 40, 183-184)

6) In Matthew 26:26-29 we read: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

a. Note: If everything here is literal, then the disciples MUST drink the cup itself.

No; that would only hold by a ridiculous, impossible understanding of how English grammar works. A "literal" reading would have the blood being the transformation of the wine in the cup, not the wine plus the cup. If someone offers us some lemonade in a cup on a blazing hot day, as we're out workin in the yard, and says, "here, drink this," do we assume that he is referring to drinking the cup as well as the lemonade (the latter of which is quite literal, and not metaphorical, as is the cup)? Of course not. But that doesn't stop Mr. Cauley from making himself look downright ludicrous when he desperately tries to explain away a Catholic prooftext. "Reasoning" like this only shows the heights and lengths of absurdity that folks supposedly so "biblical" will go, in order to reinterpret a passage so that it won't read "Catholic" at all. I dealt with dozens of such instances by Protestant exegetes (but none, I confess, as silly as this particular "exegesis" of Matthew 26) in my latest book, The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants.

b. If everything here is literal, then Jesus said that the cup was just fruit of the vine. But he had already blessed it. He should have said, "Blood." Jesus, therefore, didn't know the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

When all the relevant passages are considered together in a coherent fashion, and without preconceived notions, I think the case for Catholic belief here is very strong indeed.