Friday, August 18, 2006

Dialogue on Catholics' Supposed Arrogance, and "Triumphalism"

By Dave Armstrong

[originally compiled on 31 January 2000, from public list debates. My Protestant opponent's words will be in blue]

* * * * *

The RC claim to be right about everything does put you in that spot.

Why believe in a Church, set up by God, and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth; headed by the Word of God, the Word of Truth, if one doesn't accept it in its totality? I know that the Protestant game (in some of its forms, at any rate, and not even the most respectable ones at that) is always to have a foot in the door of epistemological skepticism and rationalism (in the bad sense of that word). But Christianity is not philosophy, my friend. Our goal is to love and serve God and our fellow man, not to spend our entire lives trying to "figure out the truth" as an atomistic individual (a laughable and arrogant proposition from the get-go). The very thought of that (for a Christian) is (or should be) ridiculous.

Because you have chosen to approach Christianity and faith in that way (to some extent), it doesn't surprise me in the least that you find it hard to comprehend a religion which is "bold" enough to claim that it is the fullness of Christianity. But most Christians of any stripe believe their version of Christianity to be true. Why anyone would be shocked about that fact of reality is beyond me. It's easy for you to stand outside all these endeavors and throw stones at, and mock and deride, those who have managed by the grace of God to attain a level of faith which you lack, for whatever reason. Note that I don't attack your sincerity, but rather, your overly-polemical and skeptical approach.

You can argue with me, but the apostolic doctrine is that we have to commend ourselves to every man's conscience, as Paul wrote. Nobody who works the way I've seen you, the Mormons, and the JWs work can commend himself to the conscience of anyone who disagrees with him and believes in truth. That's much of what you yourselves find odious in the cults, and why you call them dishonest.

This is nonsense. I urge everyone on this list not to succumb to the simplistic reasoning which [name] is trying to put across, which relies on caricature, garden-variety anti-Catholic mythology, excessive rhetorical flourish, and radical individualistic sectarianism (itself grossly unbiblical).

Dave spoke of dogmas and behavior being apples and oranges. This sharp distinction is precisely what brings upon us the just criticism from Judaism that Christianity is a religion of creeds rather than deeds, as opposed to Judaism and, in fact, New Testament Christianity as revealed especially in the gospels.

Since [name] doesn't trouble himself with the burden of actually interacting with my particular argument here, I had to take more of my own time to look up what I wrote. It should be pointed out that I actually agree with [name] in his main point. I trust that the reader will comprehend the nuanced answer I gave, and the distinction I was trying to make. This is a classic example of the shortcomings of the "mutual monologue" methodology of discussion. [Name] picks out one statement of a multi-faceted paragraph, itself knit together with surrounding context, and from that, concludes that I have - in effect - brought down the house of Christianity, leaving something with little resemblance to the NT Church.

He doesn't bother to address this argument of mine, or any other. I am extremely unimpressed, to put it mildly. And so it always seems to go: the person who fancies himself quite the "reasonable fellow" looks down his nose at the gullible, weak-brained "people of faith" - all the while becoming quite irrational in his own thinking (sort of the Jesse Ventura school of theology and philosophy). Reason (i.e., the work of dialogue, wrestling - no pun intended - with details and premises, comparing competing truth-claims, testing falsifiability and plausibility, etc.) is disdained in the very process of supposedly championing reason over against the incredulity and "triumphalism" of the dreaded and despised (and slandered) Catholic Church.

I used to think much like [name] before I converted, so I can relate to it from experience. I had a very secular upbringing and education. After I became an evangelical, I hated infallibility above everything else (even the Marian dogmas), and fought it tooth and nail. But at least in my case I read and interacted with the best Catholic thought - eventually arriving at Cardinal Newman and finding myself unable to counter his reasoning, and therefore compelled to convert because of that (and some other reasons as well). [Name], on the other hand, doesn't offer us Catholics even the courtesy of grappling with our arguments. They are far too silly, trite, and beneath him, for him to spend much time on them. Is this not obvious?

So here is the earlier exchange:

. . . The glory of Roman Catholicism in recent years has been best demonstrated not by turning out to be right about this and that but by coming to repentance from the practice of religious persecution, hatred of the Jews and other errors like these.

Yes; I agree. But those are errors in practice and lack of love, not of dogma. Apples and oranges. God can't force us to be moral all the time, without annihilating our free will. So those things happen, and need to be repented of, even corporately. But He can preserve His truth, even with fallible, frail, sinful men, just as He did with the Bible itself. We merely extend that principle to the Church and Tradition, in its important beliefs.

In other words, my opponent argues, "how can any group claim to have the fullness of truth [hidden premise: cuz they are sinners]?!!!!!!" My answer: They can because truth and shortcomings are two different things. God can preserve propositional truth by many means, whereas he can't force human beings to be perfect, given human free will. So that is the sense in which I described the two aspects as "apples and oranges." But that doesn't mean that, therefore, they are to be separated in the day-to-day life of the Christian. I agree totally with him in that regard (it is a thoroughly Catholic and biblical outlook: keep faith and works, orthodoxy and orthopraxis, together, as much as possible). I could easily cite a hundred passages from my web papers in this vein (see, e.g., any of my papers on justification).

Jesus said that prophets and teachers - specifically in their doctrines - are known by their fruits, namely how they live. 2 Peter 2 makes the same point. It's quite clear in Jesus that if the tree is bringing forth bad fruit, it's a bad tree.

Then why does St. Paul continue to regard, say, the Corinthian or Galatian churches as truly Christian and Catholic, despite the host of grave, serious problems that are evident in his letters to them? Why does Jesus regard the seven "churches" (note that they are called "churches") in Revelation in the same fashion? The "sin argument" (as a supposed disproof of a group's truth claims) simply doesn't wash. It is unbiblical, and untrue to reality.

Again, the question of truth claims is distinct from the inevitable presence of shortcomings and sin in any Christian group. It must be; otherwise, the "nice" Mormons must have the truth because they have a great family life, and don't drink alcohol, etc. (and some have very nice smiles and teeth LOL). Or the Amish are the true Church because they maintain an admirable sense of community and cultural and moral traditionalism. The rigorist Montanists and Donatists also possessed the fullness of truth, etc. This battle was fought 1500 years ago in the Church. But since the Protestants brought back this foolish, utopian, anti-sacramental, anti-clerical notion of "perfection" as a prerequisite to the possession of any ecclesiastical authority, we still have to deal with this tendency today.

Good doctrine brings forth good behavior and bad doctrine brings forth bad behavior - that's how Jesus said doctrine is known, not by the cleverness of our arguments or the traditions and authorities we can muster in their defense.

So you deny apostolic succession, as do most Protestants. I could defend that, too, but am not much inclined to do so at the moment, since I figure you will ignore my arguments, as you have done in this paper. I refer readers to my Church page if they want to pursue that issue in greater depth. But let me ask you: where is this "perfect church" which has all "good fruit," therefore "all good doctrine?" It doesn't exist, huh? So you are on your own; have to fend for yourself? And you call that a biblical scenario? If the true Church was to disappear from the earth (a la Mormonism, and many strains of the anti-Catholic-type of Protestantism), then surely the Bible would have foreseen that, and offer some instruction with regard to authority. But it does no such thing. It presupposes everywhere a Church (imperfect) and a united community of faith which will perpetually operate in its apostolic authority.

You may convince yourselves and your audience to the contrary, but God, alas, has made our fellow humans to think as I'm telling you, so if we wish to commend ourselves to them, we'll have to show ourselves commendable. And we can show ourselves commendable only as we actually get to know God as He is and that reality becomes evident in our lives. So as long as we're not living the life as Jesus indicated in Matthew 5-7, our doctrine is impure and all our arguments to the contrary are nonsense, because we are showing ourselves not to be under God's authority as Jesus was, and as the centurion understood.

This is an impossible, hopelessly utopian demand. There is no perfect Christian group, behavior-wise. So the individual is left with himself. But there is no perfect individual. Therefore, we are left with nothing (like peeling an onion all the way down), and Christianity is some sort of cosmic joke or divine mockery. [Name] is his own pope! :-) Or maybe he thinks he is perfect, so that he is in a position to dictate to the 2000-year-old Catholic Church what is true Christian doctrine and what is not.

Very simply, your claim to be infallible in your dogmas conflicts with how Jesus said dogmas are judged, which is how those who hold them behave. We know your dogmas are impure, like other people's, because your behavior is impure like other people's.

Therefore, there is no dogma? As usual, you don't take your own skeptical premises to their proper conclusion. Rather, you foolishly attempt to pontificate as to Christian truth, even while lashing out against true, biblical papal infallibility. That reduces your whole endeavor to the height of folly and hilarious absurdity. While you lambast Catholic authority, you take it upon yourself, with infinitely less justification and biblical rationale, as a sort of tragi-comic "theological Atlas." You're "sure" what isn't true (Catholicism), and you're "sure" what is true (your own opinions, judging from the confidence with which you ostensibly "preach" them).

In response to my opinion that the perpetual virginity of Mary is just not that big a deal, Dave went into a discussion of how given to private interpretation I am, and I didn't even follow the reasoning.

I didn't expect that you would. My argument was that it was a big deal to the entire Christian Church up to 1517, and retained even by Luther and Calvin and all the Protestant Founders (and many non-Catholics since, even up to our own time). But why should that matter to you? You "rise above" all that "tradition" and create your own "pure, NT" brand of Christianity.

Doesn't that depend on how I've come to that opinion? I've come to that belief by believing the apostolic doctrine, which in 1 Cor. 15 lists a number of things that are of first importance, and nothing about Mary is there. Granting that this list is not exhaustive, I don't see any other apostle's list which includes anything about Mary except that she was a virgin when Jesus was born. Now if I've missed something there, all anyone has to do is point it out to me and I'll change my opinion to whatever you show me from the apostolic doctrine.

What truly isn't in the Bible at all - zero, zilch, zip, nada - is sola Scriptura, which is your very principle of authority. But you wouldn't see an inherent conflict in that self-defeating scenario, would you? Mariology is simply a matter of development. The early Church nailed down its Christology, then Mariology began to rapidly take form (after Ephesus in 431), from the seeds of apostolic Christianity, including the Bible.

Now this expression, "private interpretation," is derived from 2 Peter 1:20-21, is it not? When we actually read it, we find that it says simply that we can't interpret the Scriptures by our own understanding because they are not the product of man's understanding. They came by revelation, so they can only be understood by revelation. There's nothing here to say that if the human understanding is the Pope's or that of some council that that works any better, so long as it's human understanding.

Nor is there any passage in the Bible anywhere establishing private judgment as a principle of arriving at truth over against proper apostolic, ecclesiastical authority.

So how do we know it's revelation and not human understanding?

By doing Bible study, praying, and consulting what the great Fathers and Doctors and saints and theologians of the Church have taught with regard to any given matter. That is the biblical, Pauline way of determining Christian truth. It is the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and to a large extent, Reformed and Lutheran and Methodist way as well. In other words, the vast, vast majority of Christians through history approached the issue of truth and authority in this manner. But that means little to you? You are happy to rely on yourself - the silly "me, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit" mentality?

In the gospels we find that revelation is not known by its being the consensus of tradition or the declaration of some high priest or council, do we?

We sure do find that! See my many debates on the subject and related ones on my Scripture and Tradition page. See. e.g., the Church Council in Acts 15. And of course the early Church settled issues routinely by conciliar (and papal) means. The Bible itself was determined in its parameters by this method, for heaven's sake! How much more blind or apathetic could anyone be to Church history?

In that case, Jesus would have taught the received tradition and told people to believe whatever they were told by Annas and Caiaphas the priests.

He did do that to some extent. Jesus kept the Law Himself (Mt 5:17-20) and was generally in the Pharisaic tradition, despite his anger at the hypocrisy of many (not all) of the Pharisees. See, e.g., Mt 23:1-3.

Then He would have sounded like any other good scribe - He would have sounded like some of you.

In this case, I'm most pleased that I have been found to sound like Him! LOL You sound very unlike our Lord on this point.

No, in Jesus we recognize revelation in the inability of his opponents to refute anything he said, and the testimony of every man's conscience that His words were truth.

That's easy to say (and virtually any Christian will readily agree). The hard part is to determine the particulars, and you know full well that Christian sectarianism has been an abysmal failure in that enterprise. Your way - far from bringing men en masse to truth - leads, rather to sectarianism, theological relativism and minimalism, nominalism, liberalism, and ecclesiological and epistemological chaos.

They recognized that "no one spoke like this man" when they came to arrest him. It was the same way with the apostles when they were dragged before the Sanhedrin, or with Stephen, which is why they stoned him.

Well, of course. But now we have to get down to brass tacks about the nature of this apostolic deposit which we all ostensibly agree was passed down from Jesus and the Apostles. Your method breaks down at the first disagreement, at which point you resort to calling your opponents "sinners," as if that solves the huge epistemological problem.

You can cobble together any justifications and dusty genealogies you want to prove that you are the people and your dogmas the straight poop, but it remains true that if that were so you'd be reminding the rest of us of the likes of Stephen and the apostles - and you don't.

I've already dealt with this "perfection" argument. It is unbiblical, and impossible to consistently maintain. Should we be perfect? Yes. Will we be perfect? No. Does this prove that the Catholic Church is not the fullness of apostolic Christianity? No, not at all - no more than David's adultery and murder "proves" that his biblical writing is not divinely-inspired, or Peter's betrayal of Jesus "proves" he was not an Apostle and pope. Moses was a sinner; so was Abraham, and Jacob, and Noah, and Isaiah, and Jonah, and Solomon, and Matthew - even the mighty and marvelous Elijah wavered in his faith (the Bible makes a point of highlighting the shortcomings of all these men). I trust that the point is made by now.

Neither do your opponents, you'll be swift to say, but does that vindicate you? If the Saduccees were wrong did this make the Pharisees right?

That means - again - that there is neither Christian truth, nor a Christian Church (defined in any way), as no Christian or Christian group is perfect. This is the counsel of despair and "unfaith"; the disbelief in God's promises, Providence, and omnipotence. The trouble is that the Bible presupposes a continuing existence of the Church. You resort to most unbiblical criteria. I'm sticking with the Bible, thank you.

Avoiding private interpretation is one of those things which really is of first importance, according to apostolic doctrine, so I want to avoid it.

Yet you choose it at every turn in your letter, whenever you happen to disagree with some Catholic teaching, which then immediately becomes fodder for your insults and condescending attacks, based on the authority of . . . ? ? ? ?

The only way I see to avoid it is to seek truth unconditionally, following Truth wherever He goes, and being prepared to be proven wrong all the time as I put everything to the test.

I happen to believe (along with many here) that Truth was best followed by becoming (or remaining) a Catholic. Do you wish to question our sincerity and intellectual honesty? You disagree; big wow! Who are you? You don't carry any authority which I or anyone else is bound to as a Christian. I am nobody, either, of course, but when I appeal to Scripture, in line with apostolic Tradition, then I am merely the messenger of the authority which has always been in place. I'm no better than Balaam's ass. Truth is truth. But you have a grossly deficient and unbiblical means of attempting to arrive at it.

I would find it helpful if I saw more of that attitude among you, and that would make you more persuasive to others too.

I can only speak for myself in these sorts of highly subjective matters, but I have always followed truth wherever I believed it led me. Otherwise, I wouldn't have gone from pro-choice to pro-life, liberal to conservative, feminist to traditionalist, believer in the Sexual Revolution to believing in abstinence before marriage, practicing occultist to evangelical to Catholic, evolutionist to creationist, etc.

Where we differ is that I think there is an end to the searching. I have found the fulfillment of virtually all my developing ideas of Christian truth in the Catholic Church (of course I was dead-wrong on some, as would be expected). E.g., I became pro-life in 1982, but I discovered in 1990 that only the Catholic Church was fully and consistently pro-life (i.e., it is against contraception, which inevitably leads to the abortion mentality). I was eventually against divorce, and female clergy, and feminism, and found that the Catholic Church had the most developed and traditional thought in those areas, as well as in many others (social, philosophical, theological, cultural, etc.). The truth of the Catholic Church might be regarded as evidenced by means of a cumulative argument. I gave 150 reasons in one of my papers, why I think it is true.

Now concerning Christology, Dave accused me of Nestorianism, and of believing that Jesus sinned like us. As to being Nestorian, even Nestorius apparently didn't believe what he was accused of, so we'll see.

He repented and recanted shortly before he died.

But is it not ludicrous to accuse me of believing Jesus sinned, considering that the Scripture I cited against the docetism of your Marian doctrine says explicitly that Jesus was without sin?

I didn't say that; my objection was that you blasphemously subject our Lord Jesus, God incarnate, to original sin and the possibility of actual sin. Neither can happen to the all-holy God, which is Who Jesus is.

As to whether Jesus could have sinned, let's start with something much simpler: could the soldier have broken His legs on the cross?

Theoretically, of course. In actuality, no, because prophecy had foretold the fact that indeed it wouldn't happen.

John says the soldier broke the legs of the other two, but that when he saw Jesus was dead, he didn't break His legs but just stuck a spear into his side, so that blood and water came out. Jesus did not have titanium shins, and in that John says the soldier didn't break them because he saw that Jesus was dead already, it's evident that he could have.

However, the Scripture says that not a bone of Him would be broken, so it was not possible for that soldier to break the legs of Jesus. Although nothing stopped him from doing it, and Jesus's legs were just as breakable as anyone else's, it was more likely that the soldier could have moved the earth out of its orbit than that he could have broken the legs of Jesus, because as Jesus said, heaven and earth will pass away before any of His words. Although His legs could be broken, the Scripture could not be, and so it was impossible that His legs could be broken.

Good for you.

Accordingly it should be clear that we can believe the plain testimony of Scripture that Jesus took on exactly the same corruptible nature that we have, was tempted at every point just like us, and was just as much in danger of sin as we are, since otherwise temptation would have lacked the terrifying dimension it does for us and therefore would not have been such as we face - it being nonetheless impossible that He should sin.

If indeed this were the plain testimony of Scripture, then sure, we should believe it. But it is not. Nor is it the belief of any major Christian group that I am aware of, except for the ones now theologically liberal (i.e., having forsaken even their own denominational "orthodox" traditions). As always, you blithely ignore the biblical arguments I gave, and merely re-state your contention, as if that is a rational argument.

What are you so afraid of? In the very motion of railing against people who don't want to follow truth, you ignore at all costs any particular argument that challenges your beliefs. I welcome challenge, precisely because I want to follow truth wherever it leads. If I ever find that the Catholic Church teaches something I can't stomach whatsoever, then I will have a problem of sorts. Thus far, I haven't had to worry about that scenario, because it hasn't occurred yet. And I have defended virtually every major distinctive Catholic doctrine on my website. I haven't flinched from any challenge which has come my way. I know you can't fathom this. If you wish to question my honesty or sincerity, go ahead . . .

Of course if Jesus had a different, nicer, human nature than we do, this salvation has really not taken place for us, and that's why I object to your docetic understanding of His and Mary's nature.

Are you capable and/or willing to actually set forth a biblical argument for your heretical contentions here (as I did, though not extensively), or are you restricted to self-produced philosophical meanderings not particularly related to any historical Christian tradition (excepting some early heresies)?

Now [name - a Catholic] raised a couple of good points worth answering - her argument in brief being that if it's wrong to treat your doctrines as the Jehovah's Witnesses do theirs, deciding ahead of time that they're true and twisting everything around to prove that,

I doubt this is what she argued! This is your jaded, cynical notion of what you think Catholics habitually do (viz., special plead and equivocate based on prior irrational and arbitrary dogmatic considerations). You again set up a straw man and knock it down, thinking you have accomplished something of some value. All you have done is expose your own folly and hostility and extreme contra-Catholic bias.

then what happens to doctrines like the sinlessness of Jesus if we treat them in an honest and straightforward manner, toughly enough to satisfy any skeptic?

Thank you for confirming my suspicion! The Christian's task is not to adopt the skeptic's epistemology and method (like a spineless Republican Senator kow-towing to the Democratic liberals), but to show how it itself is inadequate and ultimately fallacious, and to present apostolic truth to them in the most effective way possible (being "all things to all men").

As you would have it, honesty and being straightforward necessarily reduces to belief in heterodoxy. But that is, of course, circular reasoning - precisely what you accuse us of. You say we presuppose our belief and then proceed to twist and special plead. But clearly you accept certain premises as well, and defend them at all costs, and interpret anomalous ideas accordingly, through that "interpretive grid." Therefore, your outlook is philosophically no better than ours, and woefully inferior when the Bible and Tradition are brought in as justifying criteria for belief.

Before I address these, let me point out that that's exactly what we must do to commend ourselves to that skeptic's conscience - and in order to preach the gospel to every creature as we're commanded, nothing less is permissible. Remember, we can no longer rely on Theodosius or some other secular hard boy to beat up our opponents or vandalize their churches if we can't persuade them, as the "Fathers of the Church" could and did do.

No; we don't have to adopt views which are antithetical to Christianity in order to defend Christianity. The very notion is ludicrous - robbing Peter to pay Paul. We do need to effectively defend our views in terms which our opponents can understand - as Paul did at Mars Hill in Athens. In doing so, he didn't have to compromise his beliefs merely to communicate them to outsiders. What he did was utilize true elements in pagan philosophy and poetry which were consistent with Christian revelation. And that is what we do in both apologetics and ecumenism.

A final point worth mentioning is Dave's amazing argument that the brothers of Jesus could not possibly have been Mary's sons, because if so they would never have permitted John to take her into his care.

Another straw man. I did indeed make this argument (which is a traditional one of long standing), but I didn't frame it in the strong terms in which you caricature it ("not possibly", "never", etc.). Again, you ignore all my actual biblical arguments, distort my position, and then triumphally "knock it down." It is getting pathetic at this point. Why would anyone want to waste time arguing with someone who so twists their statements, ignores the substance of their argument (esp. the Bible), and continually mocks and derides their beliefs? I certainly wouldn't, but for the opportunity to expose some of your atrociously-inadequate arguments and methodologies and false premises, for the pedagogical sake of readers of this "dialogue" (which will also end up on my website).

Dave is about as smart as I am, maybe smarter, and he certainly works harder. If the testimonies of the Lord make wise the simple, what am I supposed to think of doctrine which in this way renders insensate the intelligent?

You are to consider that maybe you are wrong. You claim to be so open-minded, and you strongly imply that you are far superior in integrity, honesty, and intellectual refinement than we are. Therefore, I challenge you to truly interact with our arguments, if they are so weak and insubstantial. You may think you have, but I don't think so at all, from where I sit. You apparently think you have hit a home run. I think you have struck out. If your case is so superior to ours, then by all means make it (and it will be read by visitors to my website). But you have appealed to precious little Bible or Tradition in all this. Your "verdict" rests on nothing higher than your own (admittedly) fallible self, and you have given me no reason to believe why I should place more trust in your speculations than in the unchanging 2000-year-old apostolic Tradition of the Catholic Church.

[My opponent at this point wouldn't reply directly to my counter-replies to his posts (preferring to take silly potshots about how "gullible" I am), so I was forced to respond to his responses to others.]

But when I ask Dave to show me how Marian doctrine is one of the first things according to apostolic doctrine, he says, oh well, that's development of doctrine.

Here we go mentioning me in posts to others again, to the exclusion of actually dialoguing with me! :-))))) I suppose that is sort of a left-handed compliment . . . At any rate, I don't just chant some ctach phrase or slogan ("development of doctrine") in order to evade my opponent. Far from it! As many on this list ought to know by now, I have extensive writings and many links concerning just about any subject I write about here. So there is an entire argument (and a very strong one) behind this passing reference of mine. [Name] can ignore this if he chooses (it is his unfortunate habit), but if he wishes to get serious and honest with himself about this debate, then I would be more than happy to go through the biblical, historical, and dogmatic basis for the notion of development of doctrine. That would be a different thread, of course.

I'm supposed to believe this because people have been saying it a long time, even if the apostles never got around to writing anything like that.

No; we don't argue as you do - this is your method; just repeat something enough out of your own head, and we are supposed to be bowled over by your extraordinary "biblicality" and cease to become Catholics on that basis . . .

But people have been saying a lot of nonsense for a long time.

Indeed! I couldn't agree more! :-)))))

Actually Jesus speaks pretty specifically to this development of doctrine in his refutations of how they handled all the traditions of the elders in the days of His flesh. That wasn't all written to fill up space or give us people to sneer at -it was written for OUR instruction.

That's right; He excoriated corruptions of doctrine, traditions of men. True developments are precisely the opposite of those, and can easily be historically shown to proceed in an organic development from the original apostolic "seed." Cardinal Newman extensively argued how one distinguishes a corruption from a legitimate development. You make the common mistake of believing that Jesus and Paul condemned all traditions as "traditions of men," but this is not at all the case.

In the example you give, your aim is quite obviously to prove what you already believe, as demonstrated in Dave's ludicrous argument that the brothers of Jesus couldn't possibly be Mary's sons because they would in defiance of Jesus have taken Mary away from John.

I already dealt with this. Briefly, I never argued this, in this fashion. It was a straw man from the beginning. But - as usual - [name] has ignored my counter-reply and gone on to simply repeat the lie again. Well, I am here to expose this wicked methodology (and it is wicked to continue to slander a brother in Christ no matter how much he shows that it is a slander and a lie). A relatively minor point and argument, granted, but a large ethical principle is at stake, and so I register my protest at such an asinine, unChristian tactic, repeatedly used.

Now if we take seriously Paul's statement that we all (including him) see in a mirror dimly, we realize that our primary task in any discussion is never to prove we're right but in some way to become a little less blind ourselves.

Here we go again with the "super-pious" preaching. One can either recite such platitudes (which most of us here would readily accept) endlessly, or they can decide to actually engage the argument. Truth itself (an objective entity), and approaches to truth, spiritual and intellectual growth, humility, correction, and willingness to learn are different things. We can hold strongly to what we believe is a truth, or set of truths, and at the same time, maintain always a willingness to change it if persuaded otherwise by evidence and reasoning. The two are not mutually-exclusive.

The Biblical apologist aims in each argument less to persuade people than to be persuaded more of God's truth, which in turn will make us more persuasive, not only persuading people but also improving our chances of persuading them of the right things.

What sense does it make to defend something (which is what "apologist" means) if we are out trying to be persuaded all the time, and never persuading? This is theologically-liberal gobbledygook; it is certainly not biblical or apostolic Christianity. Paul wasn't out to be persuaded; he was out to proclaim the Good News and apostolic Tradition of which he was absolutely certain. We are to imitate him. We, too, have a message to proclaim, and we contend that it is the same message of Paul, passed-down faithfully and preserved most completely (in more developed form) by the Catholic Church, and in large part to more or less degrees by other Christian communions as well.

[Name] speaks so much of this attitude of openness - preaches it to others quite vociferously - but when, pray tell, has he shown any evidence that he has changed any of his views, or shown himself to be willing to? Perhaps he has, but I haven't seen it, at least in my "quasi-exchanges" with him. So I could argue that - once again - his charges redound upon himself, and that it is an instance of log-in-the-eye disease.

Perhaps he is just playing some sort of rhetorical game, and is deliberately saying silly things, in order to test the mettle of others on the list. I have wondered about that. That would explain a lot. I myself much prefer straightforward openness, not intellectual mind games (if indeed this is what is going on). One can state their thesis and proceed to play devil's advocate, for the sake of argument and pedagogy.

In short, progress in the Christian life consists of losing arguments with God, so we should be glad when it happens.

I sure am; this is why I converted to Catholicism. I lost a host of arguments when I faced up to that!

When we are easily exasperated by those that don't see it our way, it's pretty clear that this mind is not in us.

I'm beginning to wonder if I am in a humanist or New Age psychiatrist's office . . .

And the apostles didn't teach oral teachings divorced from the existing body of truth in the Law and the Prophets - they taught the Law and the Prophets as Jesus had opened them to them. That's why their opponents who held them to the Law and the Prophets were left with nothing to say.

Of course we agree with this, so there is nothing to argue here. But [name] thinks we don't, so he has created another non-problem for himself to foolishly mull over.

But more specifically, the apostles did not preach themselves but Jesus Christ, as Paul makes clear for instance in 2 Corinthians, whereas you do not cease to preach yourselves and your church.

Now [name] pits the Church (the Body of Christ) against Christ. This is manifestly absurd, for there is no need to make such a dichotomy. Biblical documentation at the moment is superfluous: all that is needed is evidence in divine revelation that one Church was to exist in perpetuity and to possess real, true, and binding authority. That is easily-enough established from Scripture. At that point, we need to examine competing claimants for the title of "the True Church." We believe we are it, of course, But it is beyond surreal to imply that the very claim itself of being The Church is somehow unbiblical, arrogant, and vain. That would make Jesus and Paul equally vainglorious as they set up, and spread the One Church, respectively.

An apostolic church would not display the Marcionite tendency to theologize apart from the Hebrew Scriptures, going so far in your case as to assert that the early Church was not subject to the Scriptures but subjected the Scriptures to their own oral tradition.

The two are of a piece - there is no separation. Tradition is both preserved in Scripture and in Tradition, and this view itself is clear in the Bible.

An apostolic church would surprise me as Jesus surprised His disciples on the road to Emmaus by opening the Law and the Prophets to them concerning Himself, instead of amazing me as many of you have with how much more ignorant of the Scriptures you are even than I am - and that's alarming to me, because when I look at the writings of the apostles they astonish me with how clueless I am about everything. Remember here, please, that this is not an anti-RC polemic - it's the ruinous condition we're in wherever we look.

I'm sorry that you believe we are so ignorant of the Scriptures. Assuming for a moment that you are correct, wouldn't it be incumbent upon you to show us where we are wrong, since you have superior knowledge? You can start with my arguments above. If I am wrong, then show me. If I am right, then follow your own incessant preaching and come join us. Otherwise, I wish you would cease and desist, as I (and I think, many others) find your polemics and rhetoric quite offensive and irritating, on several levels.

You want to dogmatically preach to us, while largely, or totally (as in my case) ignoring our replies and refusing to make your case from Holy Scripture. Yet you reserve the "right" to mock and deride us, and demand of us an "airtight" (i.e., by your own arbitrary and peculiar standards) demonstration, which you hypocritically refuse to apply to yourself. Rarely have I seen such a display of intellectual arrogance from a fellow Christian. I often observe it in secular academia and the media, but it is shocking to see in the Body of Christ.

You call it "development of doctrine." Since you made up the expression to justify your doing so, may I leave this is as an exercise for you?

How much more of this vapid ludicrosity can one take? :-) No, you refute my papers on development (since you have mocked my espousal of it as well), which notion goes back explicitly at least as far as St. Vincent of Lerins, in the 5th century. This is not some novel concept that we "made up." E.g., the Lutheran scholar Jaroslav Pelikan (now Orthodox) wrote a renowned 5-volume history of the development of doctrine (The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Univ. of Chicago Press, starting in 1971). Mind you, this was a Lutheran, not a Catholic. The concept of development is more-or-less universally-understood by theologians and Church historians. Of course the particulars can be argued about, but by no means is the concept itself dismissed or disregarded.

In fact most of the things Paul spoke of were matters of choice in the way you speak - notably being a Pharisee and a persecutor of the Church. But it's immaterial whether you're boast is in your racial identity or in some product of your choice: your boast is still in yourself and in your own righteousness.

This is curious. So to believe in an apostolic Church, One Church, is - ipso facto - to be arrogant. Anyone who does this is acting and believing arrogantly; therefore, there is no such thing as a Church, since to believe in it necessarily entails sin (which state of affairs God would never countenance). So the NT is turned upside-down. We are all to become [disciples of my opponent], rather than Christians, since this is a radically-new doctrine. Even the most institutionally-hostile "radical reformers," such as the Zwinglians or Anabaptists, believed in at least an invisible Church.

Now it seems to me peculiar that anyone reading this should wish to deny that this is a problem for him too, because Paul as he wrote it was saying he didn't have this issue as straight as he should, so who are we?

Where did he say this? I see nothing but confidence and certainty in Paul, with regard to the existence of an identifiable apostolic deposit and unitary, institutional Church.

There is no question that I'm hearing a lot of confidence in the RC thing when I would expect an apostolic witness to concern our Savior Jesus Christ. I think that's a problem, and I think it's pretty obvious that the Scriptures say so too.

You have it exactly backwards. The problem lies in your unbiblical pitting of the Body of Christ (the Church) against Jesus Christ, God the Son. It is His Church, for heaven's sake! He set it up! Yet to make that claim is somehow against Christ!? You may claim that the Catholic Church isn't the one Jesus commissioned when He proclaimed Peter the Rock and leader, but that is another question altogether, involving much discussion of Church history, ecclesiology, and development of doctrine. But to contend that the claim itself (that a Church exists, and is in God's will and under his guiding hand) is totally unacceptable is very weird and strange (and - I would say - intellectually desperate and intensely anti-biblical).

Doubtless when the Church dissented from Christ in various plainly documented ways,

Which are those? And again, by what criteria do we judge? Who judges this?

we grieved the Holy Spirit and thereby forfeited the unity of the Spirit.

I see; so the existence of heresy and division somehow proves that there is no Church? How does that follow? That would be like saying that because Dennis Rodman dyed his hair yellow and pierced his belly button (and who knows what else), and no longer plays for the Chicago Bulls, that therefore the Chicago Bulls do not exist - because of the "division" of formerly unified players.

Also, in the Patristic period when controversies came up, the principals generally repudiated forbearance and love and sought in controversies an avenue for selfish ambition - a thing already happening in Corinth when Paul was writing to them, so nothing to be astonished at after the death of the apostles.

Assuming your "take" on this for a moment (which I would dispute), it is interesting that you use this example, since Paul nowhere offers the slightest hint that the Corinthians ceased to be part of the One Church due to sin. So you depart from Paul's perspective when you use this analogy as a means of denying the institution of the Church.

When they tried to establish unity, it was commonly around some doctrinal statement, but doctrinal statements can't give unity. Nothing less than Jesus can, as we see when Jesus was with them in the flesh, and to expect in formulas, even if correct, to find this unity was idolatrous. In short the word of Ezekiel 34 was fulfilled, and here we are today.

More pious platitudes (now it is Jesus vs. Doctrine and Creeds) - radically, tragically wrongheaded and unbiblical. But I have dealt with them already.

. . . but when some of you call the Church the Rock, although Jesus Christ is the Rock, that's just rank idolatry.

Who said this? Jesus called Peter the Rock. So Jesus is an idolater Who didn't know Who He was? That would follow from your watered-down Nestorian views already expressed on numerous occasions.

And all idolatry consists of giving glory to something which God has given us, because God has given it all.

No one is worshiping the Church. We are merely submitting to it as God's divinely-ordained vessel of Christian authority and truth.

That's the way we curse the things we love, because anything we turn into an idol becomes a cursed thing.

Sounds to me as if you have made private judgment, radical individualism, and your own mind your idols (at least as much as you claim we have made the Catholic Church ours). You don't countenance anything which runs contrary to those things. You special plead, just as you say we do. The difference is that you are sitting in thin air while you do it, whereas we sit on the barque of Peter, which has always "sailed" through history unvanquished by heresy.

Christians worshipped the Roman Empire and equated it with the kingdom of God - and so God had to destroy it.

This is too weird and bizarre to even try to refute, so I won't.

Christians have worshipped the USA in much the same way - and here we go again. So if you love the Church, why don't you preach Christ instead of the Church, and since God knows who are His, not you, why don't you be a little more careful about figuring the RC Church is it - after all, the Orthodox and all sorts of other people are just as clever as you at saying, "We are the people.",

Okay; let's try a different approach: you tell us where the Church can be found. If it cannot, then what becomes of the NT doctrine of the Church? Do you claim that was to disappear after, say, 100 A.D. (or 313, or whatever revisionist mythology you happen to be fond of), and then we would all be on our own? If so, why does the Bible not plainly tell us this? You demand explicit testimony for every Marian belief; why not apply the same standard to your novel and heretical notions of the Church (or the "unChurch," as the case may be)?

How about the Vicar of Christ, which the apostolic teaching says is the Holy Spirit.

Now we have the earthly head of the Church against its heavenly Head. Endless false and unbiblical dichotomies . . . Why, then, did Jesus appoint Peter to be the head of the Church (Matt 16:18-19) if there is this alleged inherent contradiction? Why are there bishops, for that matter? Every bishop is in competition with the Holy Spirit? Every priest, too, even though Jesus expressly said that they would "bind and loose" and forgive sins in His name?

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