By Dave Armstrong
[Eric Svendsen's words will be in green; another Protestant's in purple]
The exchange with James White that took place at the same time is now available only in my book, Debating James White: Shocking Failures of the “Undefeatable” Anti-Catholic Champion (ch. 2).
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Dave A. wrote:
- But what of, say, contraception? Luther and Calvin thought it murder, and all Christians opposed it until 1930, but now it is a perfectly moral "choice" in the opinion of the vast majority of Protestant sects. Thus, "orthodoxy" changed, and on the flimsiest of grounds (faddism and moral compromise).
What year did contraception become a sin, Dave?
- At this point, I'd accept ANY interpretation. Again, I reiterate: at least Luther and Calvin had the strength of their convictions to excommunicate other Protestants for dissidence, because they truly believed in their own brand of Christianity. There is something to be said for that.
So now, Dave, you would like us to have the courage of conviction to anathematize our brothers who disagree with us on all points of dogma. And once we do that, we will have earned your respect and praise for acting upon our conviction?!
I take it you finally see the force of my point that John 17 does not refer to doctrinal disagreement, but to oneness in love.
No Dave, I am not going to anathematize a brother in Christ for believing wrongly on the issue of baptism or the Lord's Supper. I will certainly disagree with him, and point out his error.
Maybe we're not that far apart after all, then. But you miss the fact that I was asking for James White's answer as to what the Apostles believed on my 18 points. The original context of my challenge was for James to define his own terms. His reluctance (and everyones') is heartening to me at least to the extent that Protestants are squeamish about their own disunity, chaos, and relativism, as evidenced by the fear of dealing with it straight-on in answering a friendly Catholic critic. One tries to avoid dilemmas that might possibly be fatal to one's position. Understandable. But I will not cease my probing, especially as long as you guys accuse or misunderstand my Church. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
It occurs to me that it is exceedingly strange for Protestants to relegate the Eucharist to relativism and relative insignificance, when our Lord (yes, ours, despite John MacArthur's insistence that I worship a different one) made it a point of division Himself. John 6:66 tells us of "many of his disciples" forsaking Him. Now, if the Eucharist were just minutiae on the grand scale of matters theological, why didn't Jesus beg and plead with these people to stay? If your view is correct, it seems reasonable that Jesus should then have said, "Hey, don't go: this isn't a matter which should divide us - we agree that I am God. Who cares about what happens in the central act of Christian worship!" And we know also that Jesus said "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53). But that's "secondary," "non-essential"? I'm sorry, but I can't give my assent to such an incoherent and unbiblical viewpoint. Call me obtuse if you like.
And of course, Scripture intimately relates baptism with both repentance and salvation (for the latter, see e.g., Acts 2:38, 1 Pet 3:21, Mk 16:16, Rom 6:3-4, Acts 22:16, 1 Cor 6:11, Titus 3:5). But no matter, "us Protestants value a false, pick-and-choose unity rather than biblical truth." Or so it seems to this observer, one who has lived a committed Christian life in both worlds. Now I will give you a multiple choice test. Please mark an "x" in the appropriate boxes (Protestants can have more than one right answer, Catholics only one):
YOU.....BIBLE .....APOSTLES.......CHURCH HISTORY
Belief in the Real Presence
Belief in the Eucharist
Belief in infant, regenerative baptism
Now, for your homework tonight, I'm asking you to explain why (if you differ from either the Bible, the Apostles, or the vast majority of Christians for 2000 years), your belief diverges from that of the others. In 500 words or less. Thank you. Protestants will be graded on a scale, so that most of them will get an "A" no matter what their answers are . . .
NOTE: I want all of you Protestants out there to take this test, not just Eric. You've ignored my questions long enough, and it is getting downright rude! [none answered]
But love covers over a multitude of sins, it does not quickly condemn (contra the historic practice of the Roman church).
- Thus, you guys went from one extreme to the other: baptism once meant everything; now it means virtually nothing.
Gee, I wonder if the Catholic "old man" has its share of these? Let's see, at one time Catholics were killing and condemning to hell all Protestants who opposed Rome's authority, denying them salvation. Now, suddenly, we are "means of salvation."
- (how could it, since you are divided into five camps?). So your sinful divisions lead to compromise on doctrine.
Who has compromised doctrine? Not I.
But if your suggestion is that I join the Catholic church for the sake of unity
- then, indeed, I would be compromising doctrine.
Certainly no more than you and yours are now! It'll be a giant step up!
There certainly is virtue in unity of belief.
But what you don't seem to be grasping here is that it is no virtue to hold to uncompromised unity of belief if that belief is in error!
Or is there a consistent double standard being played here? It seems as long as there is disagreement among Protestants, then sola Scriptura is a failure, but if there is disagreement among Catholics, there are only dissenters. The same standard you apply against the Protestant is even more so applied to you...with a 4x4. Sorry Dave, I can only see your argument as valid as long as it does not apply to you. If it is true, then your own argument condemns you.
You place an infallible interpreter to explain an infallible authority (whichever you believe-partim-partim or material - I can never tell from one post to the next) and still end up with differing interpretations over what the infallible interpreter meant.
All in all, personally I see this "partim-partim" debate as boring and irrelevant (that's not to say that others can legitimately think differently). I think we need to determine what Tradition(s) were in fact believed by Christians through history, and whether these can be found to possess a scriptural basis, and I consider Church history as evidence of God's hand, working to sustain and protect His Church (however that is defined) from error. I approach these things (i.e., the sola Scriptura/Tradition debate) from an historical and pragmatic perspective (and of course, biblically, as do we all), rather than more philosophically. I'm all for philosophy, but since the nature of authority is a very practical matter, I think it is better to stick to a pragmatic method in this case.
- Now when James White says that Arminians are not true Protestants (and hence, by deduction from his own premises, not true Christians, either), who am I (or any inquirer) to believe, and why? What "Catechism" or "papal figure" would I appeal to in that case?
- The obvious retort is: of what use is "one" written "tradition" when it produces doctrinal chaos? What is gained by that? It's as if you have one ruler, but everyone has different systems of measuring with it!
But, ironically, you have succinctly and, no doubt, inadvertently described the Roman system in your very last sentence. Admittedly then, the Roman system has just as much chaos as does Protestantism (but this theme is perhaps more appropriately covered further down the road).
They were in conflict with what mom actually said, in spite of the leprechaun in big brothers pocket that interpreted moms words otherwise.
If Paul teaches it directly from his mouth then, yes, that teaching is authoritative. If Paul verifies someone else who also teaches the same thing then, yes, that teaching is authoritative. But this is not to say that the oral tradition of that message is authoritative.
I teach communication skills to corporations for a living. One of the exercises I love to do to illustrate the ineffectiveness of a message that has gone through many hands is this: I whisper a sentence to one of the participants in the seminar, and then have that person whisper the same message to the person next to him, and that person in turn whispers the same message to the next person, and so on until the message has made its way around the room (approx. 30 people). Then I have the last person to receive the message stand and recite it - invariably to the roaring laughter of the rest of the class who cannot believe how much the sentence has changed in the process! (try it sometime). The simple fact is, we will botch up the message every time. That, my friends, is why God chose to commit the essential teachings to writing in the first place.
Yes, I've heard this. But using it to shore up sola Scriptura is a classic example of the fallacy behind Protestant presuppositional objections to Tradition: they assume that (Catholic) Tradition is merely human, and therefore subject to all the foibles of that weak vessel, whereas we assert that it is guided by the Holy Spirit and hand of God, in order to preserve it from error (by means of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church). You assert that God could produce an infallible Bible by means of fallible, sinful (mostly Jewish) men (such as David, Matthew, Peter & Paul), and confirmed in its parameters also by fallible, sinful (Jewish and Catholic) men, and translated by fallible, sinful (mostly Catholic) men, and preserved for 1500 years before Protestantism was born by fallible, sinful (mostly Catholic and therefore apostate, according to James White) men, too. We contend that God can and does likewise create and sustain an infallible Church and Tradition, which is not a whit less credible or plausible.
As I've stated many times, we are discussing Christianity (which requires faith and a belief in the supernatural, God's Providence, etc.), not epistemological philosophy. Ours is a faith position, but no more than yours (I would say less so). James argues like an atheist when he tries to pretend that our view is largely irrational blind "faith in Rome," whereas Protestantism is altogether scriptural, reasonable, and not requiring faith in any institution outside one's own radically individualistic, subjective, existential "certainty" (perhaps also, in his case, Calvin). One must examine premises, and their relative merits. That's why I like to dwell on the foundations of belief-systems, knowing that if they are found weak and crumbling, the superstructure resting upon them will necessarily collapse. The two pillars of Protestantism are sola Scriptura and sola fide. Like Samson, I pushed the two pillars down, and the house of Protestantism collapsed upon my head, killing me as a Protestant, but luckily, a coherent Christian alternative existed, so I was resurrected. :-)