Sunday, July 03, 2005

Pride, Unregenerate Blather, and Going to the Dark Side (All in a Day's Appraisal of My Work)

Or to quote Errol Flynn (a movie actor from the 30s, for all o' y'all young whippersnappers), "my wicked, wicked ways" . . . I ran across this when looking over the blog of one Kerry Gilliard, who I once considered a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance (when I was on his discussion board some years ago). At one point he was considering whether Catholics were Christians. Alas, at length he adopted a negative assessment. Sad, isn't it? So here (quite predictably, given his newfound viewpoint) is what he wrote about yours truly (in its entirety, lest I be accused by our subject of cynical use of ellipses), on his blog (wonderfully charitable stuff; very Christlike and reflecting well upon the Reformed tradition, isn't it?):

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05/01/05

Noah gettin' drunk off his own grapes.....

09:28:55 pm, Categories: life and stuff, theology and stuff, 680 words

Dave Armstrong.
http://ic.net/~erasmus/ and http://socrates58.blogspot.com

There's a name I don't mention much because I don't feel like responding back to a 30-page 'debate' where he'll cite one article about 700 words in length, divide it up by sentences and type 200-1000 words in response to each sentence and call it a 'debate'. I first encountered Dave in 1998, when he joined my apologetics discussion list in my pre-Calvinistic days. Discussions with Dave are part of the reason I created the RCC-Evangelical discussion list on the site. If you check the 99 archives, you'll see many articles from his site dumped on the list as well as much argumentation from him during the life of the list.

Dave's generally a nice guy most of the time. I've seen him get quite nasty with folks, likewise, I've seen folks get nasty back at him. Likewise, I've seen some of his arguments have truck-sized holes in them (and no, I haven't taken the time to interact with them because I don't have the time to...), but that's typical of most Catholic apologists whose works and articles I've read through.

Anyway, hitting his blog and his apostolate website tonight, I looked at the amount of endorsements from both Catholic and non-Catholic folks that he had posted in the margins of his blog as well as on separate pages dating all the way back to 98 on his site. Some of the ellipses on some of the comments draw a raised eyebrow from me (because folks...can make... you say.... anything.... with dots in-between....), but that aside, I was reminded of a conversation I had with Tony earlier today.

In his wisdom, he told me that one of the major fights that most pastors have is against pride. "Watch out for people who love you TOO much" he told me. Watch out for it because what they're doing is elevating you and treating you like you can do no wrong. Likewise, if people start to 'like you'.... be careful. It's only one small step between being liked and believing it. He told me "Once you start believing that you ARE good, you'll begin your downfall and it will be a very fast one at that."

Pondered these thoughts much, I did. Read portions of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith at Borders' today, I did. Many parallels between Anakin and what Tony told me, did I see.

And Dave's blog reminded me of them tonight.

Whether Dave is saved or not isn't my place to pass judgment. I do highly doubt that someone who fights so ardently against sola fide can be saved, but that's just my scripture from my soteriological grid talking.

Me, being a natural attention seeker, I do have a bit of an ability to spot pride - even pride shrouded in false humility ("Look at how HUMBLE and willing to dialogue I am! Look at what others say about me! My writings speak for themselves!"). Just an observation - and a right one, I think. If Dave's unregenerate....well, that would explain a lot. If he is, but just woefully misled and misleading others into Catholicism... that would explain a lot too.

I debated recently (but decided not to) on putting up comments I get via e-mail from folks praising my work on TC dot Com and givin' me props. After all, what man doesn't need affirmation ? I decided no. Though the site is my ministry given to me by the Lord for the purpose of spreading His name and glory, it's not my ministry. It ain't about me at all.

The first duty of the Christian - to serve God and enjoy Him forever. It's all about Him. So Glory to God alone for whatever help my ministry site can be to folks. If I died in an accident today, the advancement of the kingdom is no way dependent upon me nor am I not replacable. God will and can raise up people from the ashes of the books on my shelves who can do a much better job than I.

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Of course I could respond to much of this, but why bother, you know? I'm finally learning that it is futile to do so. Kerry's mind is made up, or else he wouldn't have published such a judgmental, substanceless (he, of course, having no time to actually refute anything I write), purely prejudicial rant. Of what use is it to argue against a charge that has no rational basis, anyway, and is based wholly on subjective feelings and prior sectarian bias? And if I did try to answer all the nonsense above, Kerry would likely simply answer: "see how prideful Dave is because he is defending himself?! He can't accept any correction!!!!" It's all very convenient: all wrapped up in a nice little box with a snazzy bow.

Just one thing, though (I couldn't resist): as a matter of simple comparison (rather than defending myself against charges that I am filled with pride). Kerry likes James White's blog, along with Eric Svendsen's and Steve Hays' blogs (wow, what a surprise and shock). One thing James White has written quite a bit about lately is irrational attacks on him, of a purely personal nature (which I have publicly denounced more than once, and thoroughly disagree with, as sinful). Among these attacks are accusations of a wanton pride. Here are some examples of such asinine attacks on White's person and character, from some Catholic fool with a "wild tongue," who goes by "John6jmj" [White's words will be in blue; his various critics' and slanderers' words will be in red]:

He can't answer those questions because he thinks he is a god. He is a pretex evangelist. Any obedient Catholic in this forum can defeat James White in a debate using the Catechism. James White IS a straw man with no moral courage.

(John6jmj's Weekend MeltDown, 6-25-05)

White responded in the same article (quite rightly and justifiably, in my opinion):

. . . this fellow says I can't answer these questions because I think I'm a god? If there is a semi-rational person left on Envoy, someone would have to say, "Excuse me, but are you not feeling well, john6jmj? You are acting rather...odd." But no, that kind of inane accusation will be allowed to stand. All in service of mother church, you know.


So far so good. But then White couldn't resist indulging in a little judging himself, immediately after he points out that this is wrong (the very next sentence and section):

Apolonio Latar then chimed in. Apolonio is a young man. I guess he's studying
philosophy in college. He has entered into the "Put the name of a famous philosopher, and then an obscure one, in at least one out of three sentences" phase of being omniscient (remember being omniscient when you were in college?). There is a reason why "sophomore" means what it means.

The very word "pride" has been used to describe White, as he chronicles (this time from a Catholic who uses the nick "Scholastic"):

IMO, this man has some serious issues, especially with his pride.

(To the Catholic "Scholastic" on PlanetEnvoy, 4-16-05)


White again answers properly:

Why is it that you folks are so consistent in 1) not citing anything from my published works, but 2) always including personal ad-hominem by 3) people who do not know me? You do realize that such tactics reveal, to the serious minded person, anyway, that your case is weak?

Then Catholic Dr. Art Sippo makes the same charge (which White describes as "losing control"):

Patrick, go tell White I think he is a BIG BABY! A WIMP! That will get him to debate because he is so full of pride.

(The Brave RC Apologists at Envoy, 6-10-05)

Now my question to my old "friend" Kerry is this:

Why is it wrong for these three Catholics to accuse James White of "pride," being a self-perceived "god," etc., whereas it is perfectly acceptable and right and proper for you to accuse me of the same sin?


White described this as "ad hominem," which is certainly the case. Why does it somehow cease to be that simply because a Calvinist makes the charge against a so-called "unregenerate" Catholic? Whether I am "saved" or not by his criteria is irrelevant to the ethical question before us. It's wrong, no matter whom the charge is directed against. That's why I condemn it when it is directed towards White (even though he hypocritically makes the same charge, such as against my friend Apolonio Latar, above). Those in Kerry's party ought also to condemn it when it is wrongly used by those in that camp. But when it comes to Catholics, anything goes.

Oh, and another thing: didn't Kerry (the "natural attention seeker," so he says) notice all the negative comments about myself that I also publish on my blog sidebar? And that is something that White habitually does, too, as seen above. He knows that apologetics always breeds harsh (usually unjust) criticism. The point is that "controversial" people (i.e., those who take a strong stand on anything) will always elicit strong opinions, both pro and con. The Bible says that leaders in the Church ought to be spoken well of, but also that Jesus' disciples would be lied about and persecuted: that they should fully expect this and rejoice. We see both things. The sad part is that today much of this immoral conduct is by Christians attacking other Christians (and reading them out of the faith before they do so). What a great victory for the devil!

In any event, the mere fact that I post comments of both sorts proves nothing (let alone profound pridefulness and hubris) other than that I am fulfilling both biblical expectations. Some people won't like what I write, or myself, personally (thus suggesting that I might be doing something right, per Jesus), and others will (thus suggesting that I might be doing something right, per Paul). And if I am doing something right (if indeed, this is so), that might perhaps persuade a few more folks to read my blog (which is the goal of any blogmaster and apologist and writer, after all; maybe Kerry wants no one to read his, but he would be in a lonely minority)!

11 comments:

BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

You know, this is the second time I've read this and I keep forgetting to leave a comment. :)

BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

Wait....that was the publish button, not the preview button, wasn't it ?

Oy.

Anyway, comment: I honestly don't have enough time to respond to some of your stuff. Even less 6 years later (marriage in 09', work responsibilities picked up....etc....). I'm barely updating my own blog. LOL

But it's an observation. I refrained from officially calling you saved or unsaved - underneath all of the defenses of Trent, you may actually be clinging to Christ's righteousness and only His righteousness.

You have a few legit observations about me. I'll consider them (all observations have a bit o' truth to them, even when we disagree with them) and adjust accordingly (if I haven't already).

Otherwise, hope all is well with you.

-KG

Adomnan said...

KG: "You may actually be clinging to Christ's righteousness and only His righteousness."

If that's what it takes to be saved, then Paul wasn't saved. After all, Paul never even mentions Christ's righteousness -- not a whisper -- and so he could hardly have been "clinging to it."

Still, I know that doesn't matter to you, because you're a Calvinist; and Calvinists don't care what the Bible says or doesn't say. That's because they can "interpret" it to mean anything they want! They call it "preechin'."

They merely assert that Paul was all about "Christ's righteousness." What Paul actually wrote is wholly beside the point.

And spare us tedious sophistries about how Paul really did cling to something and only to something that he never bothered to mention. (Hint: "The righteousness of God," which Paul does mention, is not Christ's personal righteousness. It's God's faithfulness to His promises.)

Trent merely restated the Pauline and Biblical teaching on justification. If you reject this teaching for something concocted by Calvin, then you're not justified, or saved.

Dave Armstrong said...

Good to see ya, KG. I hope life's treating you well these days. Congrats on your marriage.

Ben said...

Adomnan,

Thought you might find this interesting, especially the following section (my emphasis):

***
"The charge of legal fiction as explained above deals with the fact that God, who is Truth itself, cannot call someone righteous, who is not righteous. Even if imputation were a reality, the fact remains that the individual being called righteous is not truly righteous.

"The righteousness of an individual who is not righteous interiorly, but only exteriorly, is an artificial righteousness. It is the SAME KIND OF RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT JESUS CONDEMNED IN THE SCRIPBES AND PHARISEES when He said:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, BUT INSIDE THEY ARE FULL OF EXTORTION AND RAPICITY."

What did Jesus command of them?

“You blind Pharisee! First CLEANSE THE INSIDE OF THE CUP AND OF THE PLATE, that the outside also may be clean.”

"Jesus is concerned with the INTERIOR of man, as He says in another place: “there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.”

"You might say that by these verses alone, “sola fide” is condemned. This is so because “sola fide” proponents say we are STILL DEFILED ON THE INSIDE after we become saved, that is via imputation.

"Thus, the one to whom Christ’s righteousness is said to be imputed, IS STILL DEFILED IN THE EYES OF JESUS. This then, would make Jesus the biggest hypocrite of all. He who commands the Scribes and the Pharisees TO DO SOMETHING, (cleanse the inside first) doesn’t command it of His own disciples. Yes, the concern of our God is to clean up the interior of man first, then worry about what is on the outside, the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of the Protestant ‘imputation’ theory."
***

Wonder if these words of JESUS are the reason Protestants never actually appeal to JESUS, but rather to St. Paul, for thier "gospel"?

Dave and everyone,

Might find this little tibit interesting.

See more at Amazon "look inside".

We need to pass this book along to our Protestant friends! :)

Adomnan said...

Thanks for that article you linked, Ben.

I was struck by the following statement made by R.C. Sproul, the well-known Calvinist minister/author:

"Neither Christ’s righteousness nor its imputation to us is a matter of fiction."

Christ, of course, was righteous; and so, as Sproul says, His righteousness is no fiction. However, what Sproul overlooks is that Paul never mentions Christ's righteousness. Thus, the issue is not Christ's righteousness per se, but rather whether Christ's righteousness figures in Paul's teaching on justification. And the fact is that, since Paul never mentions it, it doesn't.

Now, the second part of Sproul's statement -- that the imputation of Christ's righteosness is no fiction -- is false. It is indeed a fiction. The only time that Paul speaks of "imputation" (or "crediting," "reckoning") is in Romans 4. In Romans 4:9,11 Paul writes that FAITH is imputed to us as righteousness, thus directly contradicting Sproul's assertion (and standard Protestant doctrine). Our own faith is something quite different from Christ's personal righteousness. And Paul tells us that our faith, not Christ's righteousness, is what is imputed to us in justification.

To sum up, Sproul's statement is all wrong. While Christ's righteousness is real, Paul never mentions it and so it is beside the point in any discussion of Pauline justification. Moreover, the "imputation of Christ's righteousness" is indeed a fiction. The only thing Paul says is imputed to believers is their own faith, not Christ's "alien" righteousness.

I can't stress enough that these key Protestant teachings are absent from the Bible.

Thanks, too, Ben, for alerting us to the existence of that new book on Origen's teaching on justification. While Origen's teaching is essentially the same as Trent's, I am under the impression that this ancient father was somewhat confused about the meaning of Paul's "works/works of the Law," maintaining that the expression sometimes referred to Jewish practices (Law as Torah) but sometimes carried a broader meaning (Law as Greek "natural law"), depending on whether the definite article was used in Greek before "law" (ho nomos versus nomos). In fact, the use of the article makes no difference, and Paul's "works/works of the Law" refer solely to specifically Jewish practices like circumcision. If Origen did make this error -- which, by the way, the first review of the new book on Amazon appears to contest -- then he is in part "responsible" for furthering a futile debate on Paul's views of "faith and works." In reality, Paul had an issue only with works of the Law understood as Jewish practices, not "works" understood as moral acts or acts of charity.

Ben said...

The only thing Paul says is imputed to believers is their own faith, not Christ's "alien" righteousness.

Yes! So how does Protestantism miss this??

Now here’s something else to note from the “History of Justification”:

See also this, but compare to this (N.B. Vermigli attempts to co-opt the Fathers. But, taking just one example, compare St. Basil’s sermon “On Humility" p. 479 here with Vermigli's selective quotation. Has he been faithful to Basil’s meaning? I don’t think so.

Also, note how Origen talks about fulfilling the commandments here, an idea which gives some Protestants (take my word!) all kinds of fits! ;)

Finally (and for a bit of amusement), contrast Origen with this gem:

“Why would you teach you have to observe the commandments in order to get salvation”?

– Matt Slick (becoming a bit frantic apparently at the prospect of having to keep the commandments, or do good works) in a discussion with Bob Sungenis.

See about the 22:50 mark here .

Slick's, uh, "theology," followed to its logical conclusion: 1, 2 !!

Man, after those last two, I think I need some 70's music...and maybe a drink! ;)

Adomnan said...

Ben: Yes! So how does Protestantism miss this??

The simplest way to put it is that they are in denial.

But I can elaborate:

They miss it because they are not really interested in the text of the Bible, but only in the interpretations they impose on it.

Generally, when I point out to Protestants that Paul says that our faith, not Christ's righteousness, is imputed to us as righteousness, they are somewhat surprised because they had never noticed this. They had always assumed the Bible said Christ's righteousness was imputed to believers, because that's what they'd been told. I think they even thought Romans 4:9 was a prooftext for this view, so much so that when they heard it read, gliding over it, they supplied what was missing in their minds, more or less substituting "Christ's righteousness" where Paul wrote "faith." This kind of mishearing or inadvertence occurs all the time when people have strong presuppositions and are close-minded.

However, I find that even when one brings the actual wording to their attention so that they cannot skim over and avoid it, they will dismiss it. Their belief in the imputation of Christ's righteousness is so important to their self-identification as "Christians" that they will insist it is in the text even though it plainly isn't.

I had a long discussion with Ken Temple, who used to frequent this blog, about this matter. In the end, he simply asserted that, even though Paul had written that "faith is imputed as righteousness," what he really meant was that "faith is NOT imputed as righteousness, but that Christ's righteousness, which Paul never mentioned, is."

Ah, the magic of Protestant interpretation!

Now how do you counter that?

All you can do is point out the facts and hope (and pray) that a few of them wake up.

Adomnan said...

Ben: "See also this, but compare to this (N.B. Vermigli attempts to co-opt the Fathers. But, taking just one example, compare St. Basil’s sermon “On Humility" p. 479 here with Vermigli's selective quotation. Has he been faithful to Basil’s meaning? I don’t think so."

Protestants like to comb through the Fathers and look for places where they use "faith alone" in connection with justification. Vermigli was playing that game in those links you provided. Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, in his commentary on Romans, provides a list of such citations from the Fathers.

However, when you read them in context, they never carry the implications that Protestants give to "faith alone."

Rather, if I may use a homely example to make a grammatical point, the situation is comparable to this: If you were preparing a soup, and you asked the chef, "Should I put pepper and salt in it?" The chef's answer might be "only pepper" or "pepper alone." This does not imply that there is nothing in the soup but pepper -- only that, of the two ingredients you mentioned, only pepper should be added.

Well, the same thing is true of the Fathers' use of "only faith." When the question is, "Are faith and Jewish practices (works of the Law) necessary for Christian justification?" The answer is "only faith" or "faith alone;" that is, of the two possible prerequisites for justification about which you asked, only faith is necessary. This does not, of course, mean that faith alone procures justification -- any more than that there's only pepper in the soup -- but only that Jewish practices are excluded from justification.

I find this is invariably the point the Fathers are making when they speak of "only faith." They are merely excluding the alternative under consideration ("faith along with Jewish practices") and not making any broader point.

By the way, in Greek and Latin, there would be no distinction between "faith alone" and "only faith."

Adomnan said...

Ben: "See also this, but compare to this (N.B. Vermigli attempts to co-opt the Fathers. But, taking just one example, compare St. Basil’s sermon “On Humility" p. 479 here with Vermigli's selective quotation. Has he been faithful to Basil’s meaning? I don’t think so."

Protestants like to comb through the Fathers and look for places where they use "faith alone" in connection with justification. Vermigli was playing that game in those links you provided. Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, in his commentary on Romans, provides a list of such citations from the Fathers.

However, when you read them in context, they never carry the implications that Protestants give to "faith alone."

Rather, if I may use a homely example to make a grammatical point, the situation is comparable to this: If you were preparing a soup, and you asked the chef, "Should I put pepper and salt in it?" The chef's answer might be "only pepper" or "pepper alone." This does not imply that there is nothing in the soup but pepper -- only that, of the two ingredients you mentioned, only pepper should be added.

Well, the same thing is true of the Fathers' use of "only faith." When the question is, "Are faith and Jewish practices (works of the Law) necessary for Christian justification?" The answer is "only faith" or "faith alone;" that is, of the two possible prerequisites for justification about which you asked, only faith is necessary. This does not, of course, mean that faith alone procures justification -- any more than that there's only pepper in the soup -- but only that Jewish practices are excluded from justification.

I find this is invariably the point the Fathers are making when they speak of "only faith." They are merely excluding the alternative under consideration ("faith along with Jewish practices") and not making any broader point.

By the way, in Greek and Latin, there would be no distinction between "faith alone" and "only faith."

Ben said...

Adomnan,

The simplest way to put it is that they are in denial.

Yes, so it would seem.

Generally, when I point out to Protestants that Paul says that our faith, not Christ's righteousness, is imputed to us as righteousness, they are somewhat surprised because they had never noticed this.

Do they ever explain why the “spirit” (whom they claim “guides” them into all truth) failed to reveal to them this rather important truth??

They had always assumed the Bible said Christ's righteousness was imputed to believers, because that's what they'd been told.

Sounds like a tradition! ;)

they even thought Romans 4:9 was a prooftext for this view, so much so that when they heard it read, gliding over it, they supplied what was missing in their minds, more or less substituting "Christ's righteousness" where Paul wrote "faith." This kind of mishearing or inadvertence occurs all the time when people have strong presuppositions and are close-minded.

Key phrase: “they supplied what was missing in their minds.” And this, I suspect, is exactly what happens when they read verses like 2 Tim 3:16:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

There are (at least) two ways in which this passage is unconsciously distorted:

1. “All” is mentally replaced with “only,” thus: “Only Scripture is…”

2. After the word “all”, the phrase “you need is” (or “one needs”) is mentally inserted, thus: “All you need is Scripture…”

And behold! Presto chango, one now has “sola scriptura” – all conveniently based, of course, on the “plain words” of Scripture!

Protestants like to comb through the Fathers and look for places where they use "faith alone" in connection with justification…. However, when you read them in context, they never carry the implications that Protestants give to "faith alone."

For example … Augustine!