Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Biblical Passages Supporting Communion of Saints: Anti-Catholics Again Show a Dense Inability to Grasp Elementary Logic as Applied to Exegesis


"Mr. Incredible": one of the logical and exegetical giants that populate
anti-Catholic Douglas Mabry's Gojira's Stomping Ground blog.

I never cease to be amazed by anti-Catholic tunnel vision and irrationality. These people frequently miss the most elementary logical and exegetical distinctions, but then turn around and accuse Catholics of the stupidity that is actually descriptive of what they are doing, since their very response literally proves that they failed to grasp the argument made by the Catholic in the first place.

Recently I showed that this was very much the case with even the renowned anti-Catholic apologist James White (whose anti-Catholic polemics are supposedly so invulnerable and unanswerable), who (deliberately or not) distorted my arguments for invocation of saints and presented a pathetic caricature of my very argument to mock and "refute." He was guilty of basic, fundamental logical errors.

In an even more striking and humorous instance of the same shortcoming, Douglas Mabry (aka "Gojira") -- quite possibly -- based on circumstantial evidence -- the author of the notorious "fake blog" done in my name a few years back -- and some of his friends committed the same basic mistakes in reviewing my response to White. I suggest that in the future they try a bit harder to understand and grasp opponents' actual argument before setting out to mock it and making fools of themselves.

But if an anti-Catholic insists on making himself look ridiculous (by no means an infrequent event), I can do little or nothing to stop it except to write posts like this exposing their manifest follies, in dim hopes that they will benefit from reflection on their mistakes and learn their lesson.

First of all, as a preliminary, let me explain again the logical structure of biblical arguments in favor of the communion of saints and invocation of the saints in heaven. I did some of this in my response to White because he often couldn't comprehend exactly what I was arguing for with a
particular argument and often confused my method and purpose, in his rush to show how supposedly "unbiblical" my arguments were, and how allegedly (logically) circular:
1. We ought to pray for each other (much biblical proof).

2. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects (James 5:16-18).

3. Therefore it makes eminent sense to ask more righteous people to pray for us (implied in same passage).

4. Dead saints are more alive than we ourselves are (e.g., Mt 22:32).

5. Dead saints are aware of what happens on the earth (Heb 12:1 etc.), and indeed, are portrayed as praying for us in heaven (Rev 6:9-10).

6. Dead saints are exceptionally, if not wholly, righteous and holy, since they have been delivered from sin and are present with God (21:27, 22:14).

7. Therefore, it is perfectly sensible and wise to ask them to pray on our behalf to God.
In my refutation of White's "review" of my book, The One-Minute Apologist (section on communion of saints), a closely related issue came up that often does in such criticisms: whether God desires contact at all between those on earth and those in heaven (a larger category than simply invocation of the saints). This is a presuppositional issue that is related to invocation of the saints. The mini-argument would run as follows:
A. God desires contact between those in heaven and those on earth (this is a prior, or hidden assumption lying behind #7 above).

B. A is a necessary prerequisite for the notion of invocation or intercession of the saints. In other words, if A is untrue, then B also will be, since B is a sub-group or subset of A.
Note, then, that to support A with biblical examples, as I did, is not at all the same as supporting the full-blown doctrine of the invocation of the saints. Far from it. It is only supporting the necessary prior premise or antecedent premise. This is a fundamental logical distinction. James White expressly denied A above, in these words:
[T]he prohibition of contact with the dead is specifically in the context of people living on earth seeking to have contact with those who have "passed from this world"! This kind of argumentation leaves the prohibition of contact with the dead meaningless and undefined.
This can be annihilated with one biblical example, from St. Peter, who contacted the dead when He raised Tabitha, saying, "Tabitha, rise" (Acts 9:36-41). Who was he talking to? Well, Tabitha, of course: a dead person! You can't get much more straightforward and plain than that. Therefore, the Bible offers explicit proof that we can have contact with the dead in a certain sense, essentially different from necromancy, use of mediums, and so forth. The opposite argument against invocation of saints, then, from this perspective, is as follows:
X. God prohibits and forbids all contact between those in heaven and those on earth (passages against necromancy, occult arts, etc. are advanced as proof of this).

Y. X is a necessary prerequisite for the notion of invocation or intercession of the saints. Therefore, because X is untrue, Y is also untrue, since Y is a sub-group or subset of X. Case closed; there is no invocation of the saints, according to the Bible.
Besides the Tabitha example, I provided many more in my response, that would utterly contradict and overthrow the claim (White's claim, and that of most Protestants) of X:
A) 1 Samuel 28:12,14-15 (Samuel): the prophet Samuel appeared to King Saul to prophesy his death. The current consensus among biblical commentators (e.g., The New Bible Commentary, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary) is that it was indeed Samuel the prophet, not an impersonating demon (since it happened during a sort of seance with the so-called "witch or medium of Endor"). This was the view of, e.g., St. Justin Martyr, Origen, and St. Augustine, among others. Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 6:19-20 reinforces the latter interpretation: "Samuel . . . after he had fallen asleep he prophesied and revealed to the king his death, and lifted up his voice out of the earth in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of the people."

B) Matthew 17:1-3 (the Transfiguration: Moses and Elijah): . . . Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (see also Mark 9:4 and Luke 9:30-31)

C) Matthew 27:52-53 (raised bodies after the crucifixion): . . . the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

D) Revelation 11:3,6 (the "Two Witnesses"): And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days . . . they have power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall . . . and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague . . .

These two witnesses are killed (11:7-9), were raised after "three and a half days" and "stood up on their feet" (11:11), and then "went up to heaven in a cloud" (11:12). Many Church Fathers thought these two were Enoch and Elijah, because both of them didn't die; thus this would explain their dying after this appearance on earth. Some Protestant commentators think the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah, because of the parallel to the Transfiguration, and also similarities with the plagues of Egypt and the fact that Elijah also stopped the rain for three-and-a-half years (James 5:17).

We must conclude based on the above passages that contact between heaven and earth is God's will; otherwise He wouldn't have permitted it in these instances. The Catholic belief in more interconnection between heaven and earth cannot be ruled out as "unbiblical". One has to try other arguments to refute our beliefs in this regard.
With that background in mind, let's now examine how some anti-Catholics butcher my arguments, misrepresent them, and engage in a classic, downright quixotic example of flailing away against mere straw men:

First, let's take a look at a post ("A Quick Reply to the One Minute Man") from Douglas Mabry himself, who cites my biblical evidence of A-D above:

[in response to my refutation of White's "review"] Let’s take a quick look at his first. His major problem here is question begging. He is assuming something he actually didn’t offer any evidence of, which, of course, is building a case for invoking the intercession of the saints.

Nope. Absolutely not. I'm not question-begging in the slightest. I'm simply producing biblical data that contradicts the assertion of proposition X above (as opposed to trying to prove the whole notion of invocation of saints from this one passage and other related ones). X claims that God doesn't desire any contact between heaven and earth. The example of Samuel appearing contradicts that. I make my intention for this argument very clear in the way I introduced it:
But White is assuming here something that is quite unbiblical itself: the notion that God wants us to have no contact at all with those who have died. Why would he think this? I provided much evidence to the contrary in one of my papers:
So I guess Mabry suffers from poor reading comprehension and logical acumen, since I plainly laid it all out for the reader but he missed it.

What he does offer is if this was actually Samuel or not. That, however, is not the primary importance he should be concerning himself with in regards to this passage.

To the contrary, it is supremely important, because if a Protestant attempts to claim that this was not Samuel, but only an impersonating demon, then my argument (i.e., my actual one, not Mabry's twisted caricature) would be undercut. Therefore, it is relevant to establish that it was literally Samuel the prophet, appearing to Saul.

He first needs to establish whether or not it is even ok for Saul to seek the consultation of the dead or not. Consulting the dead is condemned in the Law, as is witchcraft and necromancy.

I don't need to "establish that because I already believe it. I condemned the occultic sort of "consultation of the dead" in the very section of my book that White was critiquing, that I cited in my reply under consideration. It's not at issue. What Catholics are saying is that not all "contact with the dead, or those in heaven" is of the same nature as this prohibited sort. Anti-Catholics usually assume that the occultic type of "contact" is a category that takes in all conceivable contact whatsoever. But it is not.

Dave Armstrong is either unaware of, or completely disregards, the witness of the Law in this matter. It does not take a brain surgeon to see that. In fact, that would be the first thing that anyone remotely familiar with the scriptures would point out.

This is where the humorous and dense, obtuse nature of this critique starts to become quite apparent (and it only gets worse, folks), since I dealt with this very thing in the same reply that Mabry is critiquing. So now he is mocking me for being a fool and an idiot because I supposedly am "unaware of" the very thing that I expressly address and condemn in the same paper! A curious methodology indeed . . . One is forced, then, to conclude either that:
1) Douglas Mabry did not read my reply in its entirety,


2) Douglas Mabry is deliberately lying about me when he writes asinine things like this that are disconnected from reality.
As I always extend the benefit of charity, I opt for #1: Mabry doesn't bother to read what he is critiquing (which is silly and absurd enough, of course). Here is what I cited from my book again, since Mabry obviously missed it the first time around:
A Protestant Might Further Object:

It is not clear how these Catholic practices are any different from the séances, magic, witchcraft, and necromancy forbidden by the Bible. When you come down to it, Catholics are still messing around with dead spirits.

The One-Minute Apologist Says:

Catholics fully agree that these things are prohibited, but deny that the Communion of Saints is a practice included at all in those condemnations.

The difference is in the source of the supernatural power and the intention. When a Christian on earth asks a saint to pray for him (directly supported by the biblical indications above), God is the one whose power makes the relationship between departed and living members of the Body of Christ possible. The medium in a séance, on the other hand, is trying to use her own occultic powers to “conjure up” the dead -- opening up the very real possibility of demonic counterfeit. Catholics aren’t “conjuring” anyone; we’re simply asking great departed saints to pray for us. If they are aware of the earth, then God can also make it possible for them to “hear” and heed our prayer requests. If this weren’t the case, then saints and angels in heaven wouldn’t be portrayed as they are in Scripture: intensely active and still involved in earthly affairs.

(p. 121)
Merely introducing this passage in the way Armstrong has is as desperate as it is humorous.

I'm willing to let readers make their own decision whether the humor and desperation here originates with me or with Doug Mabry.

Comments under this post are equally dense and obtuse and out to sea:

"Scribe": Dave Armstrong's "One Minute" apologies are more like light years of sychophantic [sic] discourses . . . it is funny how Dave tries to impose a methodological prescription out of wicked King Saul's reprehensible act of necromancy...that brother is "reaching".

Gordan illustrates the same exact logical fallacy I have highlighted above:
On the Mount of Transfiguration, the most that is proved is that Moses and Elijah are "alive to God" as you said in the post. Again, the question is begged: if the old saints are alive, heck, it must be okay to pray to them. But nothing could be plainer: this passage says not a scribble at all about praying to saints. It doesn't even hint at it.

Exactly! DUH!!!!! Never said that it did . . . see the above explanations of how the larger biblical argument works, and the function and scope of this particular sub-argument.

Emboldened by Mabry's profound critique, "Mr. Incredible" (see photo above) writes a guest post that is likewise filled with marvels of illogical thinking. He cites my use of the Mount of Transfiguration passage, then Gordan's comment on it, and writes:
Amen. One would be hard pressed to find anywhere in the text where either Moses or Elijah spoke anything at all to Peter, John, or James.

That's irrelevant to my argument, which had to do solely with "contact between heaven and earth". But even if the point were relevant, in my other three references to similar events, there is much communication: Samuel talks to Saul, the Two Witnesses in Revelation preach and testify, and the bodies raised from the dead after the Crucifixion "appeared to many" (and it is quite reasonable to assume they spoke and communicated, rather than just walking around like a bunch of deaf and dumb zombies or Frankenstein).

And of course, the opposite is true as well -- you do not see either Peter, John or James approaching Moses or Elijah. It is kind of a
Duh thing to build a case for prayers to the saints using this passage when Peter, John, or James didn't actually asked [sic] anything or converse with Moses or Elijah to begin with.

See my logical explanation at the beginning of my post. It's passing ridiculous and ludicrous to accuse me of making stupid "duh" arguments, when the person making the charge doesn't have a clue as to what I was actually arguing for in this instance. Again, we have dirt-poor reading and logical prowess exhibited in spades (pun half-intended).

Scribe then returns for another shot in the dark. He goes after my use of Matthew 27:52-53 (dead bodies rising and walking around):

How one can extrapolate any form of prescription as a modus operandi for communion with the dead from this passage is beyond me.

Me too! Shows the same stupefaction in elementary logical matters . . . There is nothing like a person who is, in fact, ignorant and/or grossly misinformed about something, thinking he is wiser than someone else whom he mistakenly portrays as an ignoramus and mocks and pillories, with condescension. It's equal parts sad and hilarious, as so much of anti-Catholicism.

One would have to foist upon it a prejudicial theological bias foreign to its contextual basis.

Indeed one would if they were to actually argue as the caricature presented here suggests.

[omitted comment having nothing particularly to do with my argument]

Bottom line: this verse has nothing to with Armstrong's eisegetical assertions that would posit a position in favor of his view...

All it has to do with is a refutation of assertion X, noted above. No more, no less.

Armstrong ultimately butchers the Matthew 27:52,53 to arrive at a conclusion that is simply not there . . .

Is that so? Repetition is a great teacher. So let's now go over for the third time what I claimed for the text, and ask whether this was unreasonable or controversial to the slightest degree:

My claim for the passage I cite:

"But White is assuming here something that is quite unbiblical itself: the notion that God wants us to have no contact at all with those who have died."

Passage cited as counter-evidence for White's denial and evidence for my assertion:

Matthew 27:52-53: . . . the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Perhaps these critics can tell me: how does Matthew 27:52-53 contradict in the slightest the claim I actually made for it (as opposed to the imaginary, mythical things these guys wrongly believe that I made)? I don't see how it is even arguable. About all that White and these anti-Catholic cronies of his might be able to do with this is sophistically argue that God doesn't want us to seek contact with dead saints, but does, however, initiate such contact Himself in extraordinary instances and situations (i.e., to somehow distinguish the two as completely different in essence, with one being "bad" and the other "good").

But that breaks down, too, because Peter deliberately initiated contact with the dead Tabitha, when he talked to her and told her to rise from the dead. That is not rebuked anywhere in the Bible (where, alas, was James White to rebuke Pope Peter when he needed to be rebuked and upbraided for his "unbiblical" practices?).

And it is implausible anyway to say that, on the one hand, God doesn't want us to contact the dead, when it is a plain fact that He Himself caused it to happen on at least four occasions, exactly the sort of "contact" that is (morally) indistinguishable from instances of our initiating contact. In other words, the following association of propositions and events do not exactly fit together with all that much coherence:
1. God wants no one to initiate contact with dead saints.

1A. Yet He sent the dead Samuel to rebuke Saul for his sins.

1B. Yet He sent Moses and Elijah to meet with Jesus on a mountain, in plain sight of Peter, James, and John.

1C. Yet He allowed dead bodies of the departed to resurrect and walk around Jerusalem appearing to many after the Crucifixion.

1D. Yet He will send at the end of the age the Two Witnesses referred to in Revelation (thought by many commentators to be either Moses and Elijah or Enoch and Elijah) to talk to many people for three-and-a-half years (!!!).
This is, technically, an argument from plausibility, not absolutely necessary logical connections (imagine how our anti-Catholic friends will distort this if I don't spell it out from the outset), but it still has considerable force. I would say that if #1 above were indeed true, as White and Mabry and anti-Catholics assume and assert, it would be (arguably or speculatively) implausible for God to allow 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D to occur, as they send a message quite arguably at odds with proposition #1.

To illustrate by analogy, it would be like saying, as a parent, "children shouldn't seek to have ice cream, because that is an altogether evil thing, and therefore forbidden by parents." But then the same parent gives the children ice cream twice a week. Would it really make sense to claim that it was evil for the children to seek an "evil" thing, while the parents themselves provide the "evil" thing themselves, that they told the children never to seek, on grounds that it was wicked to do so? Is that not a radically mixed message, and a bit incoherent?

Likewise, in the present case. Therefore, there is an indirect relation between these events and invocation of saints. But I only claim as much as I originally did: this biblical evidence unarguably, indisputably disproves the claim that God wants no such contact or communication at all.

--no different than the Charismatics misinterpretation and appropriation of the book of Acts to spuriously support their wild-eyed conceptions about the function of the Holy Spirit.

This is no argument, but merely a poor attempt at guilt-by-association.

More can be touched on regarding my misgivings concerning the interpretation offered by Armstrong but this is supposed to be a "quick reply" to Mr. Armstrong. ;-)

I'm sure much more could be written. But will it make any sense at all? That's the obvious question, having seen the atrocious, pathetic "arguments" offered thus far. I struggled with whether I should give these "critiques" the dignity of any reply at all, but they were such classic cases of anti-Catholic lack of comprehension of Catholic arguments, and thoroughly illogical thinking, that I simply couldn't resist.

Watch to see if our misguided anti-Catholic friends respond any further. Will they attempt to wiggle out of the trap they have set for themselves by logic (that I simply pointed out) and make a counter-argument to truly overcome mine, or will they simply mock and yuck it up amongst themselves, in back-slapping ignorant bliss, and pretend that nothing I have argued makes any more sense than their gibberish? You know which scenario I think is far more likely. :-)

I would urge my readers, though, not to just laugh at how lousy these "arguments" are (no one can fault you for doing that!), but to also incorporate the analysis of these "logical whoppers" into your approach when you run across anti-Catholics in the future. Always be on the lookout for these basic errors. What may appear to have some strength at first can quickly be turned around and shown to be completely fallacious and illogical.

* * *
These people frequently miss the most elementary logical and exegetical distinctions, but then turn around and accuse Catholics of the stupidity that is actually descriptive of what they are doing, . . .
One would be hard pressed to find just where I had called Catholics stupid. My reply, as well as those that followed, were directly to one person. This is Dave making a smoke screen by use of dishonesty. Can he point to any one place where I said Catholics are stupid?

Sure, I'd be happy to:

Dave Armstrong is either unaware of, or completely disregards, the witness of the Law in this matter. It does not take a brain surgeon to see that. In fact, that would be the first thing that anyone remotely familiar with the scriptures would point out.
Now, as usual with anti-Catholics, one must become legalistic and nitpickingly ridiculous to even waste one's time playing these word games. Like the JW who thinks he has a great argument by noting that the word "Trinity" isn't in the Bible, Doug thinks that because he didn't use the word stupid, I am being dishonest in describing what he wrote with regard to myself in that way. But the remark above qualifies quite nicely: I'm so stupid I don't even know that the Bible condemns necromancy (even though I noted that in the same entry in my book that White criticized, and cited those words).

"It does not take a brain surgeon to see that."
In other words, this is a sarcastic way of saying that anyone with any brains at all would know it (i.e., assuming that I am "
remotely familiar with the scriptures"), so if I (allegedly) don't, well now, that makes me pretty stupid, doesn't it?, and it follows that I am not up on biblical teaching to the most elementary degree. Yet Doug objects to my describing these words as calling me "stupid" and indeed, accuses me of "dishonesty" in so arguing.
Indeed, I have taken a couple of rebukes (and rightly so) for being infantile in trashing Mr. Armstrong, but unless he is vain enough to equate himself as the totality of all Catholics, his dishonest antics are of an infantile level that I have not even descended.

Doesn't take long for anti-Catholics to locate nefarious motives and unsavory methods in any Catholic reply to their asinine nonsense.

This is how cunning Dave is.

Yes, gotta watch us clever, devious, "jesuitical" Catholics!

. . . and after naming me stupid in about three different ways . . .

In describing how you have densely mischaracterized and misunderstood my argument and have engaged in name-calling and claimed that I am being dishonest, I would describe that as "stupid" any day of the week, because sin is the stupidest thing one can do. I make no bones about calling that stupid, but you try to deny what you really think about Catholics (and myself as one of that species), and if I call you on it, then you immediately claim I am dishonest.

Get a life. I do admit that I was stupid to even respond to your puerile inanities in the first place, but I suppose there is some value in showing a typical example of anti-Catholic "argument."

* * *

And here is Doug's reply, amply confirming my opinion that it was foolish to deal with him at all (what else is new with anti-Catholics? Is it ever otherwise?):

What stupendious [sic], unrefutable [sic] response has Mr. Armstrong given my reply? Well, he simply has a meltdown: [then he cites my two paragraphs above as proof-positive of my supposed "meltdown"]

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