Monday, January 14, 2008

The Watered-Down Illogic of Gene M. Bridges (Re: Holy Water)

Local "Wangateur", Dave "Mundunugu" Armstrong, According to Gene Bridges

This is the guy who compared me to Castro and the dictator of North Korea (and the nut in Iran) in our last go-around, based on his outrage at my unmitigated gall in challenging him to a chat debate on an anti-Catholic blog rather than privately in e-mail (gasp!!! what's the world coming to??!!). Needless to say, he turned me down. ("It's [sic] announcement was not in an email to me . . . Sorry, but that tactic earns you an automatic 'No,' since you lacked the integrity to simply email. You had your chance, and you blew it.").

In his latest round of juvenile tomfoolery he compares me to some kind of witch doctor (see the illustration above). I rather enjoy this latest portrayal: it proudly takes its place among other classic depictions of yours truly, such as Dr. Eric Svendsen showing "me" in a National Enquirer-type spoof with a child coming out of my chest and supporting Holocaust deniers, and James White's artist friend Angel Contreras' depiction of me as a sadistic voodoo practitioner; something to add to my collection! And once again, I sadly confess, I was foolish enough to think that the catalogue of anti-Catholic insults had just about been exhausted. Obviously, I greatly underestimated anti-Catholic ingenuity and inventiveness, which knows no bounds.

Gene "Illogical" Bridges takes on some arguments for holy water, as summarized in my post on the topic. The debate is really Nick Hardesty's (vs safely-anonymous "Turretinfan"), so I won't get heavily involved (being busy with lots of other things, as usual), but I couldn't resist pointing out a few, at least, of the relentless and utterly simplistic lapses in logic in Bridges' post. It just wasn't in me to totally avoid it. In so doing, I am utilizing Bridges' own methodology:

Note, I am not evaluating the total argument. . . . Rather, I am, for my own purposes examining specific texts cited. . . . I will not address each and every text. Rather, I will select some particularly egregious errors . . . So, with that in mind, let us take a quick look.

In dealing with proposed Old Testament examples of holy water or reasonable facsimiles thereof, "Illogical" Bridges writes:

So, let us be clear here, the argument appears to be that these texts are examples of holy water itself being used. That seems to me to be quite a stretch. "Holy water" itself is water that has been blessed. The concept is predicated on the Roman Catholic priesthood. Not just any water will do, it has to be blessed by a particular person, and the Roman priesthood is itself dependent on a valid chain of holy orders. So, if we are to connect these examples to "holy water" in the Roman sense, we have to make a set of connections. Does the text support these connections?

Do you see how this can be annihilated logically? Take a moment to consider this, and see if you come up with what I am about to demonstrate. The argument presupposes that in order to be a prototype or forerunner of something else, there must be absolute equation in all particulars. But clearly, something that is a prototype or forerunner is not required to be absolutely identical, nor could it be, by definition. So it is a logical sleight-of-hand from the outset. Bridges hopes that the reader won't notice his dumb, viciously circular premise and blithely proceeds on, building a house of cards. Just one example will suffice:
1. Abraham exercised faith in the LORD and it was reckoned unto him righteousness (Gen 15:6; cf. Gal 3:6).

2. But Abraham didn't have the benefit of Paul's teaching on faith alone (Romans, Galatians), which is required for fully understanding the Protestant notion of sola fide. Oh, and maybe a few of Jesus' teachings on faith and the gospel, too . . .

3. He didn't even have the earth-shaking revelations of Martin Luther, that recovered the gospel from centuries-old obscurity.

4. Therefore (using Bridges' singular mode of "logic"), Abraham couldn't have exercised true saving faith because he lacked the prerequisites of understanding this faith (Paul teaching Luther's doctrine, and Luther coming along to verify that he did).
The "logic" works exactly the same way. Let's now apply it back to what "Illogical" Bridges does above with holy water:
1. "Holy water" in some sense is mentioned in the OT.

2. But current Catholic "cootie-, er, so-called "holy water" has to be blessed by a Catholic priest.

3. And a Catholic priest is dependent on the antecedent notion of apostolic succession and holy orders.

4. Therefore, the OT examples cannot truly be holy water because the apostolic succession and priests that are prerequisites were not present.
As I stated above, however, prototypes or forerunners or more primitive kernels of later developments do not have to have all particulars in place in order to be validly pointed to as forerunners. Protestants fully acknowledge this themselves, because they have long used various Old Testament indications of the Trinity to argue for that doctrine, even though the Trinity is by no means made clear in the Old Testament, and even though all Jews deny that it can be found in OT texts. According to "Illogical" Bridges, Christians must either throw out the Trinity or at least stop using Old testament proof texts to support it, because not all elements are in place.

This horrendously absurd fallacy is found throughout the first part of "Illogical" Bridges' post, and so we need not delve into those examples in detail. They rest on a manifestly false premise. For example, "Illogical" Bridges writes: "God Himself is here blessing the water, not a priest." In other words, it can't be used as any evidence for holy water because not all NT and "Catholic" particulars are present in the example. But the commonality and point of the prooftext isn't absolute equation; rather it is sharing a key characteristic: the concept of water being blessed in the first place. But "Illogical" Bridges casually commits the same fallacy in his next example:

One wonders if Rome today practices the adultery test. If this is "holy water" in the Roman sense, why do we not find Dave and Nicholas advocating its use as outlined in this text?

By this "logic" every Christian ought to try to sacrifice his first son, because Abraham did that and he was the father of the faithful. Virtually no arguments from the Old Testament (as prototype examples of Christianity) could be used. Not content with making a fool of himself now twice, "Illogical" Bridges insists on doing it a third time, regarding yet another example:

If this is an argument for the use of holy water, it proves too much, for if so, why not do the rest of what is stated? Does Dave the Wangateur believe the ceremonial law is still in effect?

Wow. And -- shameless and blissfully ignorant of his errors -- he does it a fourth time:

God cleanses the water, showing mercy, and these waters are purified for use for something other than planting and yielding no crop; rather the water is purified for human consumption and the land is made to bear fruit. There is nothing here about "holy water." Once again, Dave and Nicholas have abused the Word of God.

"Illogical" Bridges' blog comrade, Steve Hays is not nearly as skittish about forerunners and prototypes and archetypes and typology as he is, though:
Jesus reaffirmed the heterosexual archetype and prototype of marriage (Mt 19:4-6). (10-23-04)

Elijah was the forerunner to Christ. (1-22-05)

How is the absence of parallel cases relevant to the historicity of the resurrection of Christ? It is presented in Scripture as a miraculous and unprecedented event, the archetype and prototype of an eschatological resurrection of the just at the end of the church age. (12-31-05)

As Paul goes on to explain in v16, he was shown mercy as a prototype of those who are saved by exercising faith in Christ. (3-15-06)

The whole point of this chapter is to repeatedly stress the physicality of the glorified body, with the Risen Christ its archetype and prototype. (5-11-06)

By “typology” I mean the thematic progression and convergence of otherwise disparate theological motifs as we arrive at the NT. (5-23-06)

Biblical symbolism, as a rule, takes its point of origin from history. Put another way, Biblical symbolism is a form of typology, in which one entity prefigures another. We would therefore expect the Sabbatarian motif in Gen 1-2 to foreshadow the Sabbath in a constitutive sense rather than a figurative sense. (7-2-07)

So given that the genre of prophecy and typology is, by definition, future-oriented, it is not anachronistic to interpret a prophecy with the benefit of hindsight. The fulfillment completes the prophecy, for the prophecy involves an internal relation between the past and the future. Although prophecy is prospective, the interpretation of prophecy is—of necessity—retrospective, since the fulfillment is after the fact.

. . . Moreover, there are many messianic candidates who might seem to fulfill a particular messianic motif. What would distinguish the true heir to the messianic promises from the pretenders is precisely the degree to which all of the messianic promises are fulfilled in his person and work. So the complete theological construct is directly germane to the true identity and historic arrival of the Messiah. That is how you know when The One Who Is to Come is The One Who Has Come.

Furthermore, typology is an intra-Testamental feature as well as an inter-Testamental feature. For example, you already have a new Eden motif as well as a new Exodus motif in the later OT writers. So it’s not as if NT typology is alien to the OT perspective.

. . . Ironically, it’s liberals like Fitzmyer, with their secular historiography, who easily succumb to anachronistic interpretations. Because they don’t believe in genuine prophecy or typology, they reinterpret the Bible consistent with their closed-system viewpoint. (7-14-07)

[citing renowned exegete D.A. Carson approvingly] Moreover, if this new king-priest is modelled on ancient Melchizedek, himself a priest-king, there is also an anticipation of this arrangement as far back as Genesis 14. In other words, where one pays attention to links that depend on historical sequencing, one has laid the groundwork for careful typology. The argument in Hebrews 3:7-4:13 similarly depends on reading the Old Testament texts in their historical sequence: the fact that Psalm 95, written after the people have entered the Promised Land, is still calling the covenant people to enter into God’s rest, demonstrates that entry into the land was not itself a final delivery of the promise to give them rest. Moreover, the reference to "God’s rest" triggers reflection on how God rested as far back as Genesis 1-2—and thus another typological line is set up, filled in with a variety of pieces along the historical trajectory. (8-11-07)

Typology is future-oriented, but what the fulfillment supplies is not new meaning, but the historical referent. Indeed, it's precisely because the meaning is fixed in the past that we can identify the future referent when it comes to pass. (9-22-07)

But the final state of man is a reembodied state, due to the general resurrection. And Jesus himself, at the time he spoke, would soon be the archetype and prototype of glorification. We don’t have much experience with the glorified body, but we have a paradigm-case in Jesus. (12-3-07)
But (perhaps feeling left out), even "Illogical" Bridges gives a nod to the concept, despite his seeming extreme disdain of it when it comes to holy water:

Thus, where there is a tent of meeting/temple, there is a covenant underwriting it. It would not make sense to divorce these tabernacle images from the concept of the covenant yet unite them to covenants elsewhere. All of this points toward God and His covenants in this text as well, because of the typology of the Garden as the tent of meeting.
. . . None of this is an exegetical stretch, for, given the common authorship of the Pentateuch, it is not surprising that Moses has woven a number of literal and literary analogies into one theological tapestry. Underlying these interpretations is the principle of typology, in which one historical event foreshadows another, or even a number of events—like a row of dominoes—until the final domino falls flat. So the NT isn't reading anything into Gen 3 and neither am I or others here when we say that the preponderance of the evidence here favors this being a covenant. The question is not whether or not a covenant exists, but what the nature of that covenant is. (7-27-06)

Then it gets even more fun, as "Illogical" Bridges scales the very pinnacle of folly in his next round of "argumentation":

Other texts cited include:

John 9:6-7 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
One problem here is that we are left to wonder how we get from this to "holy water." This would be "holy mud." Further, Jesus is using his own saliva.

Unbelievable. Now we go beyond manifest logical deficiencies to difficulties in simple reading comprehension. My first section title was: "God Uses Created Things In Order to Produce Supernatural Effects In Our Lives." This is setting up a prior or antecedent premise that will support a later premise. The first sentence in this section was:
There are many examples in Scripture where Jesus and the apostles use created things to produce supernatural effects in the lives of human beings.
So to spell it out for "Illogical" Bridges with an appropriately simple chart:
1. First premise: "God Uses Created Things In Order to Produce Supernatural Effects In Our Lives."

2. Biblical examples of the first premise are given.

3. Second premise: "In Scripture, Water is Used to Cleanse, Purify, and Heal Human Beings."

Biblical examples of the second premise are given.
Now, is this rocket science? I don't think so. It's quite simple. I think my six-year-old daughter could easily grasp the concept and the logic involved, but anti-Catholic blinders preclude such a possibility, I guess. Thus "Illogical" Bridges asks, dumbfoundedly: "One problem here is that we are left to wonder how we get from this to 'holy water.' " I just showed how one does that. But he asks: "This would be 'holy mud.' Further, Jesus is using his own saliva." Obviously, "Illogical" Bridges is confusing the categories of #2 and #4 above. If he had troubled himself to read my subtitles for the sections and had given them even a moment's reflection as to meaning, he wouldn't have made this embarrassing mistake. But instead he barges ahead and pretends (straw man warning!) that I was trying to argue that "holy mud" was the biblical equivalent of "holy water." I did no such thing. My argument was, rather:

1. God uses created things in order to produce supernatural effects in our lives.

2. One such example was
Jesus' use of His own saliva mixed with dirt, utilized as an instrument to heal a blind man.

3. Therefore, we see a scriptural "sacramental" background to the more specific notion of
water being used to cleanse, purify, and heal human beings, since water is one specific example of a created thing and is likewise used to heal in Scripture.
That's completely different logic from "holy water is the exact equivalent of 'holy mud'; hence the latter constitutes a biblical proof for or example of the former". But "Illogical" Bridges continues:

The emphasis on the means is not the point of the text. The emphasis is on the identity of the Healer.

Why can't it be both? What is striking is that Jesus healed in this way at all, and that created things are consistently used in Holy Scripture for sacramental purposes: to convey grace or healing. So "Illogical" Bridges can try to minimize what he doesn't care for, if he likes, but the fact remains that this is a persistent motif in the Bible and can't be discounted merely because one is prejudiced against it, due to the man-made tradition of anti-sacramentalism or Docetic-like antipathy to matter, that runs rampant through a certain sector of Protestantism.

I will stop with this one:

Acts 19:11-12 And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
I've chosen this because it is a favorite of the Word of Faith snake oil salesmen.

Nice touch there. So because snake oil salesmen pervert and corrupt a Bible verse for nefarious ends, I must be tainted because I also cite it legitimately. This is the old trick of guilt-by-association: yet another logical fallacy. Of course, I wouldn't expect "Illogical" Bridges to be aware that I was opposing the serious errors of the Word of faith people over 25 years ago, in 1982, when I was a Protestant, and that one can read that paper on my blog today.

I somehow doubt Dave and Nicolas believe that getting a prayer cloth as a "point of contact" is a valid use of holy water.

He is "somehow" right for a change (but alas, for the wrong reasons). He is again confusing categories of #2 and #4.

God is the healer, not Paul, though Paul has the authority of Jesus Himself, being an Apostle.

No one is denying this, in the sense of ultimate cause. It is a non sequitur. It's also a rather ignorant remark to make in light of the fact that the Bible states over and over that people healed others (i.e., they were God's instruments of healing, just as the text above states: "God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul"): Acts 8:7; 10:36-42; 28:8; 1 Cor 12:28,30; James 5:14-16. Not only that; Jesus also virtually commands His disciples to "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons" (Matthew 10:8).

Readers may choose whether to follow the warped, stunted "either/or" mentality here or, on the other hand, explicit biblical descriptions. I don't think anyone can go wrong accepting the plain words of Holy scripture, but they can sure go wrong in following the false, anti-biblical traditions of men.

The virtue was not found in the materials themselves - that would be witchery - it was in God and the faith of the recipients.

Of course. No orthodox Catholic ever argued otherwise. But this doesn't wipe out the fact that materials were used: and that is all we are arguing. Just as my subtitle clearly states: "God uses created things in order to produce supernatural effects in our lives".
How do we get from this to "holy water?" There are several links in that chain. To connect such things to Acts is also to confound an example with a command or an example given as a normative practice to be followed for all ages. Like the Word of Faith crowd, they simply assume what they need to prove and make no supporting argument. This is atrocious and shameful handling of Scripture and it is for this reason that I have intentionally tarred Dave with the descriptions in the opening statement here - and, for his benefit I will add that this is equally true of those who hawk handkerchiefs, prayer cloths, and "holy water" on late night television. It is hardly an issue that is a problem from Roman Catholics. If you're going to advocate such things, whoever you are, you may has well just call up a Voodoo priestess to do your bidding.

Sure; that sounds fun! How would I go about contacting such a person?

I'll not address the other texts. They generally seem to fall short for similar reasons. Others can comment on them.

Wise choice; he has embarrassed himself almost beyond repair in his "arguments" so far.

Do demons sometimes flee at the gesticulations of priests, crucifixes, and "holy" water? No doubt they do, but they could well do so because, as my Protestant forefathers said, Satan likes to make a show of it for such, for he delights in keeping men in bondage through such false miracles. Indeed I am quite sure that the diabolical one is active among pagans to this very day, and it is not without reason that witch doctors do their work,and it no doubt has some effect - for the same reason, to keep men in bondage to sin and death. The Bible, you know, has a doctrine of false miracles as well as true. The message of Rome is a false gospel, so any miracles done by her representatives is confirmation of that gospel. Beware false teachers. A miracles must match the message to be from God.

Catholicism as gross paganism and heathenism . . . every Catholic miracle is from the devil (and if "Illogical" Bridges is a cessationist, every Protestant and post-apostolic miracle also is from the devil or never happened at all). They said the same about Jesus, remember: that He was casting demons out by the name of Beelzebub (Luke 11:14-23; Matt 12:22-37). He predicted that His followers would receive the same treatment (Matt 10:24-25). This has been fulfilled yet again, above. In the same context that Jesus speaks about being falsely accused of performing demonic miracles, He warns about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32).

Gene Bridges endangers his soul to the extent that he denies miracles from God simply because they may have come through the instrumentality of a Catholic vessel. He is already bearing false witness against brothers in Christ (by denying that we are brothers and fellow disciples of Jesus), which violates the Ten Commandments and fosters the very serious sin of schism. So he is in very deep and perilous waters, spiritually-speaking. He'll laugh this off as a "threat" no doubt, but I am quite sincere (all polemical ribbings and tweakings aside) about warning him of the inherent dangers of such spouted falsehoods. It's his soul. I would suggest that he think very seriously about these matters.

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