Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mormons-as-Protestants: Is it Standard Catholic Apologetic Practice to Regard Non-Trinitarian Heretical Sects as "Protestants"?

The inimitable LCMS Lutheran Josh S.; stated on his blog (my counter-responses follow, with Tom R's contributions [blue] later on):

I thought that according to Catholic apologists, even Mormons are "Protestant."

(6-8-07, 6:49 PM in the combox for a Henry VIII thread)

Please name one. I don't believe I've ever seen this.

I thought the term "Protestant" captured every false, quasi-Christian religion dating after the 16th century.
Could you kindly document even one example of this, just for my own education? As an old counter-cult researcher (dating as far back as 1981), that would be quite fascinating to me.

Of course (if it even needs to be pointed out), one mere example is not able to be generalized to the entire class of Catholic apologists . . . but false stereotypes have never been particularly avoided by you.

For one of many examples of the "Mormonism is just an extreme form of Protestantism" meme, see these two - both by Catholic priests:

[1] Fr Paul Stenhouse (MSC, PhD), Catholic Answers to "Bible" Christians (New South Wales, Chevalier Press, 1993):

[1.1] "What can a reasonable person make of the differences between [sic] the more than 25 branches of the Lutheran church in America, the 16 kinds of Mennonites, the 9 versions of Presbyterianism, the 17 kinds of Baptists, the 20 kinds of Methodists, the various forms of Anglicanism, Mormonism, the disciples of Christ, the 9 kinds of Seventh-Day Adventists, 6 versions of Plymouth brethren, 3 kinds of Moravians, 5 kinds of Dunkers, 4 kinds of Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Swedenborgians (Church of London), Universalists, United Brethren, etc, ?" (p 10)

(Well, actually, my own response would be to think "Gee, that list sounds like the confusing multitude of opposing factions within pre-Reformation Christendom that Umberto Eco outlined in The Name of the Rose ").

[1.2] Stenhouse complains about door-knocking evangelists who "bombard the child, or adult as the case may be, with [‘]texts’], which [‘]prove’] that the Mormons, or Jehovah's Witnesses, Evangelical Anglicans, Seventh Day Adventists, Plymouth Brethren, Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, or Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church, or ...) is right and the Catholic Church is wrong." (p 54)

[2] From "Father Roberts Answers Fundamentalists". I found this at URL ten years ago (no longer at that URL:

[2.1] "Let's suppose now that just as the manufacturer canned the beans, TRUTH was also canned. Here we have rows and rows of cans labelled TRUTH, and each denomination has put its label on them. We have Methodist truth, Lutheran truth, Jehovah's Witness truth, Mormon truth, Jewish truth, Baptist truth, Greek Orthodox truth, Roman Catholic truth, and, yes, even Reverend X truth - and it goes on and on..."

[2.2] A table showing when each denomination was founded, by whom, and where:

[...] Disciples of Christ - 1827 - Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Kentucky

Mormons - 1830 - Joseph Smith - New York

Salvation Army - 1865 - William Booth - London

Christian Science - 1879 - Mary Baker Eddy - Boston

Four Square Gospel - 1917 - Aimée Semple McPherson - Los Angeles

Catholic - 33 - Jesus Christ - Jerusalem

(I assumed Fr Roberts would be unimpressed if someone tried to convert him to Shintoism by adding a row that went: "Shinto - 5,000 BC - Jimmu Tenno - Mt Fuji." As the bumper sticker goes: "CATHOLICISM: INSTITUTIONALLY OLDER THAN PROTESTANTISM, YET MORE CONSISTENT WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT THAN JUDAISM, TAOISM OR HINDUISM")

So, Dave, please crack out the colour-coded fonts and publish a retraction. Thanks.

Frigg'n sweet.

I don't see that Fr. Stenhouse called Mormons or JW's et al "Protestants" in your citations. Opposing sectarianism is not the equivalent of opposing Protestantism (because it is a larger phenomenon than just Protestantism).

Perhaps you can direct me to something I may have missed or provide another quote. Maybe he does state somewhere what you claim. But if so, he is wrong, and doesn't represent the consensus among apologists. In any event, Josh's original claim (with his usual hyper-exaggeration) has not been established at all. Yet you claim there are "many examples".

The second example appears to suffer from the same fallacy. Again, he may have made this equation (and would be clearly wrong if he did) but it isn't proven by your excerpt, because to oppose denominationalism or sectarianism per se is not the same as opposing Protestantism. Here is the fallacy:
1. I oppose Protestant sectarianism.

2. I oppose all sectarianism.

3. Therefore, Protestantism is the sum total of all sectarianism, and no sectarianism exists which is not Protestantism.
#3 does not follow from #1 and #2. There is not enough information in #1 and #2 for anyone to conclude that #3 is true, or that it follows from either #1, #2, or both together.

In other words, the information in what you have provided is logically and factually insufficient to prove your assertion.

Certainly if this is such a widespread tendency, with "many examples" obtainable, you can provide us with an unambiguous proof. But as I have said, just because you may produce one (I suspect that you could if you tried hard enough) doesn't prove that it is standard MO of Catholic apologists to make such ludicrous equations of Mormonism as a species of Protestantism.

For example, one can check out the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, "Mormonism". The word "Protestant" never appears in the article.

Likewise, the article "Protestantism" in the same work. I may have missed it, but I didn't see any equation of Protestantism with Trinity-denying cults like the Mormons. It's certainly not what I'd call an ecumenical piece, but it doesn't go to this extreme.

Please provide the required documentation, or (more sensibly) stop trying to defend Josh's outrageous contra-Catholic and contra Catholic apologetics whoppers that he obviously feels he can get away with in a Lutheran environment (and why that is would be another fascinating discussion in and of itself).

* * *
For example, one can check out the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, "Mormonism"... The word "Protestant" never appears in the article."
Dave, you do realise that if the Vatican secret service catches you arguing "This particular authoritative Catholic document is silent about X, so therefore Catholics are not bound to believe X," they'll cancel your Apologist registration and pulp all copies of your book An Evangelical Discovers the flaws in Sola Scriptura: Just Read This Book to Discover the Truth that You Can't Discover the Truth Just By Reading a Book (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1987).

LOL Good one!
I don't see that Fr. Stenhouse called Mormons or JW's et al "Protestants" in your citations.
Well, he doesn't say in as many words "Mormons are Protestants", just as the US Constitution doesn't explicitly outlaw triple jeopardy, But when he makes long lists of denominations, all of which (bar LDS) are agreed (by both of us) to be "Protestant", all in the context of "this is where you get when you interpret the Bible without the Catholic Church", then it's grasping at straws to deny the obvious implication.

(I grant you, Fr Roberts' inclusion of "Jewish truth" is a small deviation from this, but his "table of denominations" sheds light on what he really thinks.)

Humor aside, though, you're still not making any sense. There is "argument from silence" and there is, in contrast, crucial omissions that we would fully expect to see in this place if your reasoning is correct.

We would expect, I think, to see something along the lines of "a Protestant sect that deviated further in its theology . . . ", because "Protestant" is the catch-all category of which it is a part (according to your mistaken view of Catholic categorization).

Hence, if we check out other Christian groups in articles of the same name in the same work [The Catholic Encyclopedia], we find what we would expect (if I am right in this):

"The religious belief held by the oldest and in Europe the most numerous of the Protestant sects, founded by the Wittenberg reformer, Martin Luther." [first sentence]

[ . . . ]

"In doctrine official Lutheranism is part of what is called orthodox Protestantism, since it agrees with the Catholic and the Greek Churches in accepting the authority of the Scriptures and of the three most ancient creeds (the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed)."


". . . the name given to one of the groups of ecclesiastical bodies that represent the features of Protestantism emphasized by Calvin. "


". . . the Anglican Reformation, [that] brought the nation within the great Protestant movement of the sixteenth century."

". . . There can be no doubt that the English Reformation is substantially a part of the great Protestant Reformation upheaval of the sixteenth century, . . ."


"A group of six American Protestant sects . . ." [first clause of first sentence]


"A Protestant denomination of Europe and America which arose in Switzerland in the sixteenth century and derived its name from Menno Simons, its leader in Holland."
The term for this principle of interpretation is "noscitur a sociis", a.k.a "words of a feather flock together". If I were to write, eg, "Many Evangelicals fall away into pseudo-Christian cults. A large number have recently become Mormons, JWs, Christian Scientists, Roman Catholics, Scientologists, or Unitarians", it would be jesui- ... er, it would be talmu-... umm, it would be really, really quibbling if I then turned around and said "No, I never actually said 'Roman Catholicism is a pseudo-Christian cult'!"

This illustrates exactly how you are being illogical. In your analogy, your illustration is straightforward and undeniable, in both logic and English syntactical grammar:
"Pseudo-Christian cults [assumed premise: examples of which are] . . . Mormons, JWs, Christian Scientists, Roman Catholics, Scientologists, or Unitarians"
Therefore, Catholics are specifically categorized as one such pseudo-Christian cult. There is no argument here because there is nothing to disagree about, as to what a person who uttered such words would reasonably be interpreted to mean.

But the examples from the Catholic priests are not like this. The logic and syntax there don't work the same way, because Fr. Roberts clearly uses "denomination" in a very broad (practically sociological) sense. In fact, he even includes Catholicism as a denomination also, meaning "a religious body of some sort".

So your argument proves too much. If being simply a "denomination" implies that one is Protestant, then by the same token, Catholics and Orthodox must also be Protestant, since they were mentioned too in the same context.

Your argument, then (at least for Fr. Roberts) completely collapses.

The most foolish part of your argument, though, is your claim that there are "many examples" of Catholics who believe as you say. Yet these are your silver bullet examples that you think proves your case, and not just that it happens at all, but is supposedly standard belief among Catholic apologists?

And you claim I am being "jesuitical" by simply pointing out glaring logical fallacies in your presentation?

You're gonna have to do far better than this. And I am posting this stuff on my site, just to let you know, in courtesy, should you wish to respond there.

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