Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Baptist Pastor Ken Temple Proves that St. Paul Was a Blasphemer (Mariology and Synergistic Soteriology)

By Dave Armstrong (4-29-08)

This comes from a combox concerning Mariology. Ken's words will be in blue. The title and some of my humorous remarks are, of course, tongue-in-cheek and "turning-the-tables" or reductio ad absurdum rhetoric.

* * * * *

Ken wrote, citing Catholics (dunno who, though, because he provided no primary documentation):

The Flowery language of praise in prayer is wrong and she is made too much of and exalted beyond what the Scriptures say. Praying to Mary is much more than just "asking her to pray for us":
Prayer: O Mary, no one receives any favor except through you. Help me to ask you each day for the graces I need to remain faithful in my state of life."

O Mary, your holy name is great and brings us salvation. Let me strive to speak it with true love, boundless joy, and complete confidence."

O Mary, you are our Mother and our Teacher, instructing us in how to live. Help me to heed your inspirations and follow your Divine Son more closely.
pp. 98-99 Mary Day by Day, 1987 Catholic Book Publishing, Nihil Obstat: Daniel V. Flynn . . . Imprimatur: Patrick J. Sheridan, D.D. Vicar General, Archdiocese of NY.

"Mary brings salvation!" What more evidence do we need of exalting her above the Lord and only Savior, Jesus Christ? All of these facts and this blasphemous statement and prayer alone should keep any thinking Evangelical from being duped into converting to Rome by the tricks of always raising doubt and skepticism as to how do we know for sure who are in the right church, historical church, Newman's "to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant" arguments.

Very well, then, Ken. Great! You have succeeded in proving that the Bible and St. Paul both are blasphemous and exalt the Apostle Paul above Our Lord Jesus, since we have these passages in Scripture:

1 Corinthians 9:22 I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

[Paul "saves" other people, thus clearly placing himself above God, and blaspheming, right, Ken?]

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

[Good grief! What blasphemy! After his own outrageous claims, St. Paul now thinks that Timothy can save himself (the Pelagian heresy) and those who hear him. Doesn't he know that only God can save??!!!]

Philippians 2:12b-13 . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

[Paul again blasphemously teaches Pelagianism, or works-salvation. Folks are taking the place of God by working out their own salvation???!!!! If someone says that God is mentioned in the second part, the Calvinist "monergist" still has to explain how a human being can participate at all in what only God can do (according to the monergist) ]

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it [his many sufferings: 4:8-12,17] is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
Ephesians 3:2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you...
Ephesians 4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.

[Paul distributes divine grace, just as we believe Mary does, and teaches that others can do the same]

St. Peter also joins in this folly of teaching that Christians can distribute divine grace to each other:

1 Peter 4:8b-10 . . . love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.


So much for papal infallibility, huh???

Even the angels help to give grace:

Revelation 1:4-5a John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ . . .

[it was nice of John to add in Jesus Christ at the end, along with his own and the angels' giving of grace, just so we'll remember that there is but one mediator of God's grace. Not a lot of "monergism" there, I reckon . . .]

In fact, Paul is so gung-ho on the notion of his distributing grace to folks, that he mentions this at the beginning of practically every epistle that he wrote. I wrote in another paper of mine:
Grace, however, is also referred to in Scripture as in some sense "quantifiable". Lutherans and Protestants in general try to deny this; they usually view grace as simply "God's favor"; that which saves one, in a non-quantifiable sense (as in, e.g., Rom 6:14; Eph 2:8-10). The biblical usage is more complex and nuanced than that, . . . [many examples given]

In fact, it can be plausibly argued, that when Paul and others use the common greeting of "grace to you" (e.g., Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2; Phlm 1:3; Rev 1:4) it is in the same quantifiable sense: i.e., "may God give you more grace." It doesn't make sense if it is intended only in the broad Protestant meaning (that we agree with as far as it goes) of "you are saved by grace alone".

Why wish, after all, that someone should have or receive what they already clearly possess? If "grace" only means "the free favor by which we are saved" then the Christians to whom Paul is writing his epistles already have this grace (since Protestants believe in a past salvation that is already accomplished). So why would Paul say "grace to you"? It would be like telling a man who has a daughter "I wish you the blessing of a daughter from God" or a man with a nice mansion: "best wishes to you for a nice mansion." That makes no sense. Rather, it seems fairly clear, I think, that st. Paul is stating that he hopes and prays that his readers will receive more grace from God, as in the sense of 2 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 4:7, James 4:6, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2, etc.
Good work, Ken! It's not every day that a Baptist pastor proves by his own words that the Apostle Paul is a blasphemer (along with -- as a special bonus -- John, Peter, and Timothy) . . .

"Work Out Your Own Salvation with Fear and Trembling" (Philippians 2:12): Consistent with Protestant Soteriology? (vs. Ken Temple)

By Dave Armstrong (4-29-08)

Baptist pastor Ken Temple is a regular on my blog. His words will be in blue. I used this passage in a paper demonstrating synergism and human cooperation with the distribution of salvation and grace.

* * * * *

Philippians 2:12b-13 (RSV) . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

My original (non-satirical) comment about the passage in the other paper was: "If someone says that God is mentioned in the second part, the Calvinist 'monergist' still has to explain how a human being can participate at all in what only God can do (according go the monergist)."

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote, concerning this passage:
In truth, the two doctrines of the sovereign and overruling power of Divine grace, and man's power of resistance, need not at all interfere with each other. They lie in different provinces, and are (as it were) incommensurables. Thus St. Paul evidently accounted them; else he could not have introduced the text in question with the exhortation, Work out or accomplish your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh or acts in you. So far was he from thinking man's distinct working inconsistent with God's continual aiding, that he assigns the knowledge of the latter as an encouragement to the former . . . It is quite certain that a modern Predestinarian never could have written such a sentence [as Philippians 2:12-13].

(Sermon: "Human Responsibility," 1835 [his Anglican period] )
This verse says, "work out your salvation", not "work for your salvation".

Of course. I never claimed otherwise. When I implied this it was a use of sarcasm, according to the purpose of reductio ad absurdum in the previous paper (that is, not something I actually believe; I was making fun -- with my notorious dry wit -- of what many Protestants mistakenly think Catholics believe).

Work it out, what God has put in you; make it manifest by obedience, because God is in you.

No problem with that. I only object to the insinuation that this process has nothing to do with salvation. It clearly does, because Paul uses the word "salvation." What could be more clear than that? One can read in theological presuppositions if they wish, but that is eisegesis, and not the way to properly interpret Holy Scripture.

Monergism is only passive at the beginning point of regeneration. After that you make real choices because the heart has been set free. Monergism is not talking about sanctification. It is not passive once the heart and soul are regenerated. You still believe and choose and have to strive for holiness, etc. You make real choices. You believe; only because God first awakens the heart, makes the heart alive, (Ephesians 2:1-4), opens the heart (Acts 16:14) shines the light (2 Cor. 4:5).

I understand all that. My recent post detailing Luther's true teaching about the necessity of good works proves this. Again, your mistake lies in relegating this passage to sanctification, when that is not what the text says. Your position holds that sanctification has nothing formally, directly to do with salvation. But the text uses the word "salvation"; therefore, your position that it is about sanctification rather than salvation is utterly incoherent.

We are co-laborers with Christ. I Cor. 3:9 Monergism does not preclude our choices and will and actions and deeds and efforts in sanctification in manifesting the reality of salvation that God works in the heart, both to will and to work His pleasure. Again, monergism is only about the fact that God alone regenerates at the beginning because the soul is dead; like a dead battery. "you were dead in your trespasses and sins." Ephesians 2:1

No need to reiterate this. I understand it. But it is helpful to readers who are unacquainted with the Calvinist position.

Once God makes your heart alive, you must choose to obey and He give you the power and motivation to do that.


See Ezekiel 36:26 also, When God takes the stoney heart out and replaces it with a new soft pliable heart; then He causes them to walk in His statutes.

That's right.

The only problem, Ken, is that the verse does not separate sanctification and justification, as Protestants arbitrarily do. It is saying, rather, that we have the salvation and we also have to "work it out."

If we didn't have the salvation in some sense (we would call it regeneration or initial justification), then we wouldn't be able to "work it out." On the other hand, If we have it and we are working it out, then it is impossible to separate this "working" from salvation itself and put it into a little neat airtight compartment called "sanctification." And it is impossible to act as if the salvation was already obtained in one instant of justification, and thus assured forevermore. The Bible has a word for sanctification that could easily have been used here if indeed that is what Paul actually meant. He uses the other word himself, elsewhere.

If you're working out salvation, then obviously, the "working out" has to do directly with the salvation. According to your theology, the verse ought to say:
Work out your sanctification, in which you are grateful to God for your salvation and justification.

(RFB: Revised Fundamentalist Version)
But of course it does not. So in order to avoid the implications you have to play with the text and eisegete, and force it into an unbiblical Protestant soteriology. And this is only one of many many such passages.

Moreover, if this is merely the usual Protestant scenario of "doing good works in obedience and gratefulness for the justification already obtained by God's free gift of grace and imputed justification" then for what reason is the person "in fear and trembling"? What is he afraid of, or worried about, or vigilant to obtain? If you're simply doing good deeds to show God how much you love and thank Him for the irrevocable past gift of salvation, that you are absolutely sure you have already, why would you be scared and trembling?

It makes no sense; no more than would the analogy of a child who pleases his mother or father by washing the car or doing the dishes doing so in fear and trembling. Not at all. There is nothing to fear! The child is in fear and trembling when he or she fears being punished or displeasing parents, not when doing something nice for them, in love.

I think it is rather obvious, then, that Paul is teaching a vigilance in staying in a state of grace with God, lest we fall out of it (precisely as Catholics -- and to a large extent, Protestant Arminians -- hold). That is more than enough cause for "fear and trembling." Hence, Paul writes, along the same lines:

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 10:7-12 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance." We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
Galatians 5:1, 4-7 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. . . . You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
Philippians 3:8-17 Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us.
Colossians 1:21-23 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, . . .
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 5:15 For some have already strayed after Satan.

Exchange with Protestants on the Meaning of "Unanimous Consent of the Fathers": Does it Allow Any Exceptions?

By Dave Armstrong (4-29-08)

Baptist pastor and blog regular Ken Temple's words will be in blue. "Interlocutor"'s words will be in green.

* * * * *

Mary was without sin even while on the earth,

You are just assuming that. Romans 3:23 "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

I'm not assuming anything because I have backed up these views with Holy Scripture, in my paper:

"All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?)

* * *

Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Basil, Hillary – 6 of the Early Church fathers who taught that Mary had sinned.

So what?

Well, there goes "unanimous consent" of the fathers. Rome defines a dogma based on Tradition. We examine history and see there's actually conflicting views amongst the fathers. Is 1 father good enough as a witness for a dogma/Tradition, 10, 50? . . . It basically seems to come down to, Rome says it, so we'll believe it, even if the evidence to support it seems lacking which is problematic to most Protestants. "Unanimous consent", the "constant teaching of the church", etc. etc. basically boil down to "trust our authority, you're not reading history or scripture correctly". Is there then anyway to test traditions/teachings as Christ instructed? Not really - the faith in Rome is a priori.

The early church fathers who believed that Mary sinned, . . . completely destroys this idea of "the unanimous consent of the fathers", a completely non historical claim. What does it mean?

Well, there goes "unanimous consent" of the fathers.
Not at all, because you fail to understand that that term (used in this particular ecclesiological / patristic context) does not mean "absolutely every" -- as it is used today, but rather, "consensus of the vast majority" in line with the magisterium of the Church. See a short paper by Steve Ray that explains this.

On the unanimous consent of the fathers issue: Steve Ray and your argumentation just don't fly with logic, reason, normal use of language; nor history. It is a modern attempt to escape the implications of this; for if your church is wrong on one thing; the whole thing falls. And it is wrong on many things, especially the Marian dogmas and the "unanimous consent of the fathers" statements -- these things fell your Infallibility dogma and the whole RCC system like a giant oak tree falling down.

To the contrary, Your Dictionary.com gives the following as synonyms:

unanimity Synonyms


accord, unity, unison, concord, consensus, harmony, concordance, sympathy, congruence, conformity, correspondence, apposition, compatibility; see also agreement 2.

Antonyms disagreement*, discord*, dissonance.
Note that "consensus" is included: precisely as I have stated. Not every term must mean "absolutely every." Roget's Thesaurus gives similar synonyms:

unanimity (520.5; under general category, "Assent")

like-mindedness, meeting of minds, concurrence, consent, accord, general agreement, consensus, consensus of opinion, general acclamation. [partial list]

(New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 3rd edition, 1962, p. 339)
Steve Ray wrote another article on this topic in Envoy Magazine. The Latin phrase is unanimem consensum Patrum . Note St. Vincent of Lerins' famous passage:
In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that Faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense ‘Catholic,’ which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one Faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

(Commonitory, 2)
See how he qualifies it at the end? This passage is often used polemically against Catholics. So if it is to be so used, then let our detractors at least understand its meaning properly. The same book is also the most explicit exposition of the notion of development of doctrine in the Church fathers.


Answers.com gives the same meaning:
Thesaurus: unanimity


The quality or condition of being in complete agreement or harmony: consensus, unanimousness. See agree/disagree.
If one follows the link to "consent" one finds:


1. An opinion or position reached by a group as a whole: “Among political women . . . there is a clear consensus about the problems women candidates have traditionally faced” (Wendy Kaminer). See Usage Note at redundancy.

2. General agreement or accord: government by consensus.

[Latin cōnsēnsus, from past participle of cōnsentīre, to agree. See consent.]
Thesaurus.com offers the same:

Main Entry: unanimity
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: The quality or condition of being in complete agreement or harmony.
Synonyms: consensus, unanimousness
Source: Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition
by the Editors of the American Heritage® Dictionary.
Copyright © 2003, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Now, if we follow the same source (Dictionary.com) for the definition of "consensus", we get the following:
1.majority of opinion: The consensus of the group was that they should meet twice a month.
2.general agreement or concord; harmony.

[Origin: 1850–55; <>consent
(īre) to be in agreement, harmony (con- con- + sentīre to feel; cf. sense) + -tus suffix of v. action]
Many say that the phrase consensus of opinion is redundant and hence should be avoided: The committee's statement represented a consensus of opinion. The expression is redundant, however, only if consensus is taken in the sense “majority of opinion” rather than in its equally valid and earlier sense “general agreement or concord.” Criticism of consensus of opinion has been so persistent and widespread that the phrase, even though in common use, occurs only infrequently in edited formal writing. The phrase general consensus is objected to for similar reasons. Consensus is now widely used attributively, esp. in the phrase consensus politics.
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.
Perhaps someone wants to quibble with the meaning of the word synonym? That won't work, either, according to Dictionary.com:

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)


1.a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the language, as joyful, elated, glad.
2.a word or expression accepted as another name for something, as Arcadia for pastoral simplicity; metonym.
3.Biology. one of two or more scientific names applied to a single taxon.

[Origin: 1400–50; <>synōnymum
<>synnymon, n. use of neut. of synnymos synonymous; r. ME sinonyme < class="luna-Img" src="http://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.png" alt="" border="0">]

Online Etymology Dictionary - Cite This Source - Share This


1432 (but rare before 18c.), from L. synonymum, from Gk. synonymon "word having the same sense as another," noun use of neut. of synonymos "having the same name as, synonymous," from syn- "together, same" + onyma, Aeolic dialectal form of onoma "name" (see name). Synonymous is attested from 1610.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper

- Cite This Source - Share This


two words that can be interchanged in a context are said to be synonymous relative to that context [ant: antonym]

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.What was it you claimed again?: "Steve Ray and your argumentation just don't fly with logic, reason, normal use of language; nor history".

Nice try. I rest my case. Your negative characterization of this point falls flat. The meaning as used by Catholics is completely possible by the rules of etymology and definition, as I have just demonstrated. You want to quibble? Then go after dictionary and thesaurus; it's no longer my problem, but your war with established, documented usage.

* * *

I'm aware of that view which is why I didn't bring forth Irenaeus and some of his views on Jesus' age and millenialism. That's why I mentioned the numbers - what percentage comprise a "vast majority"? We have 6 listed so far denying it, however many affirming her sinlessness (though they may admit they are speculating or that it's a matter of pious opinion), and however many silent on the issue. Do you think the Assumption has the "unanimous consent" of the fathers then, given you would not be able to bring forth a "vast majority" of fathers writing on it (and Epiphanus admits he is mainly speculating) and in light of the Joussard quote *? Or, if you think that is sidetracking the issue from the IC, where are the critical responses from others to the writings of the fathers who did not hold to the IC if this was the general belief of the "vast majority"? (This is simply a reversal of the "argument from silence" that Ray promotes for the papacy).

* Now I have not read this work (so maybe context helps), but came across this citation which seems to gel with many non-RC concerns over Tradition (here with the Assumption, but could deal with the IC reasoning as well as many other RC teachings): Joussard cited in Carol's Mariology:
A word of caution is not impertinent here. The investigation of patristic documents might well lead the historian to the conclusion: In the first seven or eight centuries no trustworthy historical tradition on Mary’s corporeal Assumption is extant, especially in the West. The conclusion is legitimate; if the historian stops there, few theological nerves will be touched. The historian’s mistake would come in adding: therefore no proof from tradition can be adduced. The historical method is not the theological method, nor is historical tradition synonymous with dogmatic tradition.
Ken has produced six who denied the sinlessness of Mary. I have 61 fathers listed in my book on the fathers. I have documented for many of these, that they accepted Mary's sinlessness.

The Assumption was a very slowly developing doctrine and difficult to find at all in many fathers, but that gives me no pause over against Protestantism, since the two pillars of Protestantism, sola Scriptura and sola fide, are scarcely found at all among the fathers (I devoted over 100 pages to the utter lack of the first concept in my book), and the canon of Scripture is a completely "unbiblical" doctrine, where the Protestant has to inconsistently rely on the infallibility of Catholic Church tradition.

If you think 5-10% dissent in the fathers regarding particular issues is a problem for us, why is not 95-100% dissent in the fathers and complete absence in Scripture as well (canon, Bible alone) not a problem for you? Goose and gander.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Links to Articles Concerning the Catholic Sexual Scandal

By Dave Armstrong (4-22-08)

* * * * *

For general background information (but not from a specifically Catholic source), see;

Roman Catholic sex abuse cases (Wikipedia)

* * * * *

The Uses of Clerical Scandal (Philip Jenkins / First Things) [February 1996]

Entangled on the Web (James Hitchcock) [April 2001]

The Price of Priestly Pederasty (Dan Michalski / Crisis) [October 2001]

Lawlessness In Boston: On Bernard Cardinal Law (William F. Buckley, Jr.) [2-12-02]

Public Response to Those Who Left the Church Due to the Scandal (Mark Shea) [2-13-02]

More Viewer Reaction to the Boston Travesty
(Letters and Reply by Mark Shea) [2-19-02]

Should Cardinal Law Step Down? (Two letters and Reply by Mark Shea) [2-21-02]

Wages of Relativism: A Catholic priest responds to an NR cover story (Benedict J. Groeschel) [2-28-02]

The Myth of the Pedophile Priest (Philip Jenkins) [3-3-02]

Catholics and Scandals: What is happening to the clergy? (William F. Buckley, Jr.) [3-15-02]

Should Gay Priests Adopt? (Ann Coulter) [3-21-02]

The Pope's First Statement (Peggy Noonan) [3-22-02]

Catholic bashing and pedophile priests (Michael Medved) [3-25-02]

How should the Church respond? (Alan Keyes) [3-25-02]

Dark Hour (Mark Shea) [3-29-02]

Can the Church Survive? (William F. Buckley, Jr.) [4-1-02]

Scandal Time (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus / First Things) [April 2002]

A Time for Redemption (David Reinhard) [May 2002]

Scandal Time (Continued) (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus / First Things) [July 2002]

Shaken by Scandals: Catholics Speak Out About Priests' Sexual Abuse (book edited by Paul Thigpen) [July 2002]

Scandal Time: What the Dallas Meeting of Bishops Was Really About (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus) [8-20-02]

Scandal Time III (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus / First Things) [September 2002]

Q&A: Understanding the Priest Scandal (Catholic Answers / This Rock) [November 2002]

Catholic Scandals: A Crisis for Celibacy?: The Real Story Behind Clerical "Pedophilia" & What It Really Means (Leon J. Podles / Touchstone) [2002]

Answering Scandal with Personal Holiness (Fr. Roger J. Landry) [2002]

10 Myths about Priestly Pedophilia (Crisis) [2002]

Don't Get Mad, Get Holy: Overcoming Evil with Good (Leon J. Suprenant, Jr.) [2002]

Courage in Scandal (George Weigel) [2002]

Editorial Says Cases of Priest Pedophilia Exaggerated (Catholic Exchange) [2-27-03]

Loving the Church in a Time of Scandal (Tom Allen) [4-17-03]

Lay vs. Clergy Perceptions of the Scandal (Mark Shea) [5-28-03]

Dissecting the Anatomy of the Sexual Scandal (Joseph A. Varacalli / Homiletic & Pastoral Review) [January 2004]

Golden Opportunity (Russell Shaw) [2-23-04]

Something I've Been Puzzling Over For Some Time (Mark Shea) [7-1-04]

Reply to Allegations That Then-Cardinal Ratzinger "Obstructed" a Sex Abuse Inquiry (Jimmy Akin) [4-29-05]

Truth and Tolerance, Again (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus / First Things) [November 2005]

All in the Family: Responding to the USCCB Call to Prevent Child Abuse (Heidi Hess Saxton) [4-11-08]

Pope Benedict among Americans (Russell Shaw) [4-17-08]

My old argument with Rod [Dreher] (Mark Shea) [4-17-08]


Pope Benedict XVI's Remarks on the Scandal to US Bishops: 16 April 2008

Among the countersigns to the Gospel of life found in America and elsewhere is one that causes deep shame: the sexual abuse of minors. Many of you have spoken to me of the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior. As you strive to eliminate this evil wherever it occurs, you may be assured of the prayerful support of God’s people throughout the world. Rightly, you attach priority to showing compassion and care to the victims. It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged.

Responding to this situation has not been easy and, as the President of your Episcopal Conference has indicated, it was “sometimes very badly handled”. Now that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures and to promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people. While it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of clergy and religious in America do outstanding work in bringing the liberating message of the Gospel to the people entrusted to their care, it is vitally important that the vulnerable always be shielded from those who would cause harm. In this regard, your efforts to heal and protect are bearing great fruit not only for those directly under your pastoral care, but for all of society.

If they are to achieve their full purpose, however, the policies and programs you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context. Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person. This brings us back to our consideration of the centrality of the family and the need to promote the Gospel of life. What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike. All have a part to play in this task - not only parents, religious leaders, teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well. Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit from it. Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish. It falls to you, as pastors modelled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this scourge is found not only within your Dioceses, but in every sector of society. It calls for a determined, collective response.

Priests, too, need your guidance and closeness during this difficult time. They have experienced shame over what has occurred, and there are those who feel they have lost some of the trust and esteem they once enjoyed. Not a few are experiencing a closeness to Christ in his Passion as they struggle to come to terms with the consequences of the crisis. The Bishop, as father, brother and friend of his priests, can help them to draw spiritual fruit from this union with Christ by making them aware of the Lord’s consoling presence in the midst of their suffering, and by encouraging them to walk with the Lord along the path of hope (cf. Spe Salvi, 39). As Pope John Paul II observed six years ago, “we must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community”, leading to “a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate and a holier Church” (Address to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002, 4). There are many signs that, during the intervening period, such purification has indeed been taking place. Christ’s abiding presence in the midst of our suffering is gradually transforming our darkness into light: all things are indeed being made new in Christ Jesus our hope.

At this stage a vital part of your task is to strengthen relationships with your clergy, especially in those cases where tension has arisen between priests and their bishops in the wake of the crisis. It is important that you continue to show them your concern, to support them, and to lead by example. In this way you will surely help them to encounter the living God, and point them towards the life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks. If you yourselves live in a manner closely configured to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, you will inspire your brother priests to rededicate themselves to the service of their flocks with Christ-like generosity. Indeed a clearer focus upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer. When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes and sustains the life of the whole community.

Related Papers

"Scandalous Sexual Misconduct Committed by Protestant Clergy" (edited by Dave Armstrong)

"'It Ain't Just Catholic Priests': More Resources on Shocking Statistics of Sexual Abuse and Molestation by Protestant (and Orthodox & Jewish) Clergy"

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Reformation" Theft of Catholic Church Properties and Supposed Catholic Apologetic "Blind Spots"

By Dave Armstrong (4-20-08)

See my original post, "How the Early Protestants Stole Thousands of Catholic Churches and Monasteries and Called it 'Reform'". The present article was originally a response to critiques of the former article.

* * * * *

I wrote:

It's been the standard response through the years of Protestants to play up and grossly exaggerate the sins of the Catholic Church to justify the sins of the Reformers.
I wasn't "lambasting" the Reformers per se here, but rather, historical revisionism ("standard response through the years") of Protestants, up to the present period.

At the same time, he wants to rail about historic Catholic sins that no one denies. Note that many Protestants frequently do that (I don't care if they do, one way or the other; let them rail against sin. I have no problem with it), yet if anyone dares make a similar analysis of Protestant scandals and sins, we hear cries of "foul." This is rather common (almost a knee-jerk reaction) among those who set out to defend historic Protestantism, if I do say so.

I would like to suggest to those who love to highlight historic Catholic sins, and educate folks about them, not be so reticent about doing the same regarding Protestant historic sins. No one is gonna buy the scenario that only one side is guilty of these.

As for the "Reformers" themselves playing up Catholic sin, there is simply no question about this. Martin Luther, in particular, is notorious for these sins of bearing false witness. Examples are innumerable, but here are just a few examples for good measure:

. . . the popes . . . are bitter enemies of the church . . . Pope, cardinals, bishops, not a soul of them has read the Bible; 'tis a book unknown to them. (#429, p. 243)

. . . The pope and his crew are mere worshippers of idols, and servants of the devil. (#446, p. 249)

(Table-Talk, translated by William Hazlitt, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society: n.d.)

. . . The sum of it all is that pope, devil, and his church hate the estate of matrimony, as Daniel says [17:37]; therefore he wants to bring it into such disgrace that a married man cannot fill a priest's office. That is as much as to say that marriage is harlotry, sin, impure, and rejected by God; and although they say, at the same time, that it is holy and a sacrament, that is a lie of their false hearts, for if they seriously considered it holy, and a sacrament, they would not forbid the priests to marry. Because they do forbid them, they must consider it unclean, and a sin, as they plainly say . . .

. . . the noises made by monks and nuns and priests are not prayers or praises to God. They do not understand it and learn nothing from it; they do it like hard labor, for the belly's sake, and seek thereby no improvement of life, no progress in holiness, no doing of God's will.

(On the Councils and the Churches [1539], Part II. From: Works of Martin Luther, Philadelphia: A.J. Holman Co. & The Castle Press, 1931, Vol. 5. Translation by Charles M. Jacobs)
It's equally obvious and manifest that Thomas Cromwell and his ilk in the English "Reformation" offered similar ridiculous exaggerations of what was going on in the monasteries, as a pretense to seize them for their own (and the king's) enrichment, as I documented in my paper. Many historians can be produced to back this up. This isn't just "militant Catholic apologetics." It is historical fact.

No one (last of all, myself) denies that bad things were done by many Catholics. It doesn't follow from this that Catholic Church properties were not Catholic, and that Protestants were perfectly justified to seize them. That makes no sense. Say, for example, that a church was built with funds obtained by sinful means, amounting to 38% of the total cost of the building. Okay, now the Protestant ragtag armies of righteousness and noble virtue come to steal this same property. But do the Protestants distribute 38% of its value to the Catholic parishioners? Of course not. Not a chance. That ain't part of the plan. All of those ignorant people are idolaters and don't deserve anything but to be banished from the territory.

Even Luther noted and decried the greed of some of the folks who "appropriated" property (with his usual naivete in denying that his own words played any role in bringing about such theft in the first place). So Protestants can rant and rave about corruption in building projects while under Catholic auspices, but it doesn't justify Protestant theft and plunder: not in the least. This is elementary ethics: Christian Morality 0101. And by the same token, I have every "right" to highlight Protestant sins that virtually no one has ever heard about at all. Why is that so objectionable?

It's an indisputable fact, especially in England, that the monasteries served as a vast network of social support for the peasants. This was all destroyed in the space of a year or less, and nothing replaced it. That's not just my little old opinion: it is historiographical consensus. It was a similar situation in Germany, which is a major reason why the Peasants' War took place. Once the bishops were replaced by the greedy princes (that Melanchthon so despised), the peasants were far worse off than before. This is part of the huge wickedness of the theft on a grand scale. The lives of many thousands of people were made a lot more miserable than before.

Evil bishops must be replaced with the pure and saintly Henry VIII and selfless German princes? That wasn't the will of the English people, since the vast majority of them remained Catholic (even in 1558 when Elizabeth continued the revolution, even deepening it). Melanchthon realized the huge mistake of fleeing to princes rather than retaining the episcopacy. He regretted it to the end of his life.


I cited Erasmus in my paper, right at the beginning:
I greatly wonder, my dear Jonas, what god has stirred up the heart of Luther, in so far as he assails with such license of pen the Roman pontiff, all the universities, philosophy, and the mendicant orders . . .

Perhaps there were some who out of honest zeal favored calling the orders and princes of the Church to better things. But I do not know if they are those who under this pretext covet the wealth of the churchmen. I judge nothing to be more wicked and destructive of public tranquility than this . . . This certainly is a fine turn of affairs, if property is wickedly taken away from priests so that soldiers may make use of it in worse fashion; and the latter squander their own wealth, and sometimes that of others, so that no one benefits.

(in Christian Humanism and the Reformation, [selections from Erasmus], edited and translated by John C. Olin, New York: Harper & Row, 1965, 152, 157-159, 161-163; Letter to Jodocus Jonas, from Louvain, May 10, 1521)
Erasmus also wrote:
It is part of my unhappy fate, that my old age has fallen on these evil times when quarrels and riots prevail everywhere. . . .

This new gospel is producing a new set of men so impudent, hypocritical, and abusive, such liars and sycophants, who agree neither with one another nor with anybody else, so universally offensive and seditious, such madmen and ranters, and in short so utterly distasteful to me that if I knew of any city in which I should be free from them, I would remove there at once.

(in Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Volume VII: History of Modern Christianity, Chapter IV, section 71, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910)
Luther responded to Erasmus with his usual detached rationality and accuracy:
Erasmus of Rotterdam is the vilest miscreant that ever disgraced the earth . . . He is a very Caiaphas.

(Table-Talk, translated by William Hazlitt, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society: n.d., #667, 350-351)

Shame upon thee, accursed wretch! . . . Whenever I pray, I pray a curse upon Erasmus.

(Ibid., #668, 351)

Erasmus was poisoned at Rome and at Venice with epicurean doctrines. He extols the Arians more highly than the Papists . . . he died like an epicurean, without any one comfort of God.

(Ibid., #675, 355)

This I do leave behind me as my will and testament . . . I hold Erasmus of Rotterdam to be Christ's most bitter enemy . . . the enemy to true religion, the open adversary of Christ, the complete and faithful picture and image of Epicurus and of Lucian.

(Ibid., #676, 355)

Erasmus writes nothing in which he does not show the impotence of his mind or rather the pains of the wounds he has received. I despise him, nor shall I honor the fellow by arguing with him any more . . . In future I shall only refer to him as some alien, rather condemning than refuting his ideas. He is a light-minded man, mocking all religion as his dear Lucian does, and serious about nothing but calumny and slander.

(Letter to Montanus About Erasmus, May 28, 1529; from Preserved Smith, Letters of Martin Luther, New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1911, 211)
Protestants love to cite Erasmus when he talks about Catholic corruptions and vices, but not when he turns his critique on Luther and the "Reformation." Why the double standard? What is so difficult about admitting and openly acknowledging (and detesting) Protestant sin? We have no problem about admitting ours. This is a distressingly common hypocrisy in Protestant polemics that I will expose until the day I die.

Thanks, Tim! I guess that is the closest I get to a compliment from my good friend.

. . . for it would show some sense of chastened humility and responsibility on the part of the Catholic.

I'm deeply touched . . .

It is argued that the "Reformation" was God's judgment against Catholic sins. That scenario is entirely possible (in a merely hypothetical sense). The only problem is that such agents of so-called "reformation" do not automatically become righteous. God used them for His plans, just like He uses the devil (in the case of Job, for example). But no one would assert that the devil became righteous simply because He was a pawn in God's plan. Nebuchadnezzar was judged by God, after he was used as his agent of judgment against Israel. The Assyrian invasions involved nations warring against each other. In the "Reformation," however, the Protestants were warring against fellow Christians. That is the sin of schism.

The people in England were, for the most part, perfectly content with the Church and all the social and spiritual benefits of the monasteries. So it has to be asserted against fact that the corruption was so great and intense that this would qualify as a plausible scenario for God's judgment, with the bloodthirsty tyrant and Clintonian adulterer Henry VIII as God's agent. St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher and St. Edmund Campion and the other hundreds of martyrs who were butchered were the bad guys being judged. Perhaps we can extend this hypothetical to the Russian Revolution too (the historical event that most resembles the English "Reformation")? The Russian Orthodox Church and the czars were so corrupt that God had to enlist Lenin as His agent to come butcher priests and bishops and steal all the Orthodox churches? Makes about as much sense . . .

The monasteries in England were the charitable system of England at the time. Henry VIII didn't give a damn about the fate of the peasants after all these properties were stolen. Cobbett (no Catholic) writes at the greatest length about these things. The Anglicans butchered at least 1375 innocent people, as I have documented. This is the sort of mentality that caused Luther to chuckle at the executions of More and Fisher, and wish that there were more kings who could murder saints as Henry VIII had done.

The "Reformers" stole thousands of Catholic properties. Henry and Elizabeth and other Protestant kings tortured and murdered well over 1300 pious Catholics. Henry was an adulterer. Luther sanctioned adultery in Philip of Hesse's case, and said polygamy was not forbidden in the Bible. The Protestants watered down the criteria for divorce, and started allowing it, and removed matrimony as a sacrament. Henry VIII had to massively lie about the monasteries in order to seize them. He lied to the leaders of the massive Catholic social uprising, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace about beneficial promises, and had them all summarily executed. Luther had to massively lie about Catholic teachings and practices, and spread propaganda far and wide (including vulgar woodcuts) in order for his movement to succeed at all.

It is preciously ironic and pathetic that Protestants blow way out of proportion the abuses of indulgences and rant and rave about how this was exploiting poor people, then they turn around and try to justify the theft of thousands of Catholic churches and monasteries and the removal of a vast network of social services for the poor, as either justifiable outright or an instance of judgment analogous to Assyria or Babylonia judging idol-ridden ancient Israel. They decry theft in one instance and then defend and rationalize a theft a hundred or a thousand times greater magnitude than the first sin.

As we can see, every sin that is attributed to ancient Israel in this judgment prophecy is far more true of the "Reformers" than of the Catholic Church.

The monks of the English monasteries were all godless? This is the false claim made. I guess that justifies stealing their properties and ripping out their intestines and hearts while they are still alive, and chopping off their limbs and putting them up on city gates. Makes perfect sense to me. If they are "godless" then anything whatever can be done to them. They essentially become demons to be pitilessly slaughtered.

Those who have the audacity (or ignorance) defend the outrages and hellish brutalities of the English "Reformation" act as if Bede would be right in league with Cromwell and Henry, standing there while Fisher and More were beheaded, etc. This is as ridiculous as it is outrageous. Nothing like this had ever happened, since the time of the pagan Viking pillaging, or Genghis Khan or the ancient Roman persecutions. And this had the added hypocrisy of Christians stealing from and slaughtering other Christians. Toooften, however, Protestants will go to excuse and explain away absolutely anything that happened as part of their endlessly glorified and whitewashed "Reformation".

Yet it doesn't cost Protestants anything to admit historical wrongs. They don't have to cease believing what they do in good faith, based on these factors alone. No Catholic is telling Protestants that they must become Catholics simply because Protestantism is guilty of institutionalized sin in the past. And we only have greater respect for those Protestants who freely admit that there were plenty of sins on both sides, rather than continue the pretense that Catholics were supposedly exponentially more sinful than Protestants.

The pretentious double standard is the reason why I write these sorts of papersNOT as a result of any supposed desire to "bash" Protestants and make them out to be singularly wicked. I say over and over that sinfulness is universally to be found. That's why we Christians believe in original sin: the most obviously demonstrable notion that one can find in the Bible.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Books by Dave Armstrong: "Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise"

[completed on 17 April 2008; published by Lulu on the same day]

--- To purchase, go to the bottom of the page ---

[Lulu cover designed by Dave Armstrong]


Dedication (p. 3)

Introduction (p. 5) [available online]


1. Was Martin Luther a “Revolutionary” Who Had Many Fundamental Disagreements With the Catholic Church? (p. 11)

2. Martin Luther’s Extraordinary (and Arbitrary) Claims Regarding His Own Authority (p. 39)

3. Martin Luther and the Canon of Holy Scripture (p. 47)

4. Luther and Salvation Theology: “Getting to a Gracious God” and the “Snow-Covered Dunghill” (p. 63)

5. Soul Sleep and Luther’s Rejection of Purgatory (p. 105)

6. The Extent of Luther’s Blame Regarding the Tragedy of the Peasants’ Revolt (1525-1526) (p. 117)

7. Martin Luther’s Religious Intolerance and Ironic Espousal of Capital Punishment For Heresy (p. 161)


8. Sacraments: Baptismal Regeneration, Real Presence in the Eucharist, Adoration, Absolution, Confirmation, Anointing (p. 175)
Excerpts available online:

Martin Luther On the Sacrament of Absolution (and Private Confession)

Martin Luther's Opinion of (the Catholic Sacrament of) Confirmation
9. Mary: the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God (p. 207)

10. Other Catholic “Remnants”: Good Works and Sanctification, Authoritative Church Tradition, Crucifixes, Images, Etc. (p. 231)
Excerpts available online:

Martin Luther on Sanctification and the Absolute Necessity of Good Works as the Proof of Authentic Faith

Martin Luther on Crucifixes, Images and Statues of Saints, and the Sign of the Cross
Bibliography of Sources (p. 259)


* * * * *

Review by Fr. Peter Stravinskas, in The Catholic Response (Jan / Feb 2009, Vol. V, No. 4, pp. 31-32):

The author is a fine apologist and has often demonstrated how Luther (and other Reformers) were much more Catholic than their spiritual heirs today. In scholarly, critical, and ecumenical fashion, the reader is led through the theological musings of a very complex and confused/confusing man. Where Catholic truth is at stake, Luther's inadequacies are highlighted; where there is coincidence, that is happily shown. Particularly worthwhile is the treatment of Luther's Eucharistic theology and his Mariology, where contemporary Protestants could profit greatly from their spiritual forefather.

* * * * *

Purchase Options

Paperback (List: $20.95 / 20% Lulu Discount: $16.76)





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Last revised on 18 July 2015.



Introduction to My Book: "Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise"

By Dave Armstrong (4-17-08)

The question always arises with regard to a work such as this, written from a Catholic perspective: why write about Martin Luther at all? Such an endeavor is viewed in many quarters as “stirring up a hornet’s nest” or as an unnecessary provoking of undesirable tension between Christians. Life is tough enough without further quarreling, we are told. We are supposed to be beyond all that, seeing that this is an “enlightened” age of tolerance and ecumenism.

My question in return is: “why are we required to pit legitimate ecumenism and the honorable quest for Christian unity against honest, critical analysis of competing theological claims and historical inquiry?” I’m a thoroughly ecumenical Christian, and readers may rest assured that I have great respect for my Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ. Indications of this on my blog (see the front pages of this book) are innumerable. Thus I need not “prove” my “ecumenical good faith”.

That said, I fail to see how it is improper -- or in any way unbiblical -- to contend for one’s own Christian position, or to engage in apologetics (my own vocation). The effort need not be acrimonious at all. It can be done with the utmost cordiality. I try very hard to do so -- not that I always succeed.

In fact, Martin Luther himself – it seems to me -- would not frown upon a vigorous advocacy of a theological position (since he often did that). He certainly disagreed strongly with other viewpoints if he felt they were in error, and was not all that inclined to accept criticism of himself or his own opinions, but I doubt that he would ever say that a person shouldn’t state their disagreement or principled theological positions at all, for fear of being accused of creating yet more division amongst Christians.

That is a peculiarly modern perspective. And it derives, in my opinion, mostly from the fact that people (as a general trend of the last two hundred years or so) have a less robust Christian faith, compared to their theological ancestors. Therefore, they have less motivation to contend for the relatively few things they continue to strongly believe. In other words, the fewer theological tenets one accepts, the more they tend to make the abstract of “tolerance” the highest goal, rather than the concrete goal of pursuit of truth. This can frequently be observed today.

Indeed, all of the original Protestant leaders would have strictly opposed such a mentality. They contended for their distinctive viewpoints with great enthusiasm and a felt sense of vision. It was rare in the 16th century to hear of the current fashionable notions of “secondary doctrines”: where all parties concede that they cannot be resolved one way or the other (so that they should be ignored or consigned to relative irrelevance).


The subject matter and positions taken in this book will, no doubt, be offensive to some or even many Protestant readers. It is difficult to write about such a delicate topic: one that elicits deep feelings of allegiance. But this work is not meant to be an “attack” on Martin Luther. Apologetics isn’t political campaigning (an apt analogy in this presidential election year in America). It is, rather, a very straightforward examination of Martin Luther: the founder of Protestantism, with a concentration on massive citation of his own words.

Some “controversy,” although painful at times, is necessary and useful for the purpose of determining the relative merits of competing truth claims. I think it is self-evident that Martin Luther, as the founder of an important and influential movement within Christianity, should be held up to the utmost scrutiny, given the fact that so many basic Protestant assumptions originate (largely or solely) from him. This work is, accordingly, an analysis of the roots of present-day Protestant theology.

It is foolish for any Protestant (some of whom reject even the appellation “Protestant”) to deny the inescapable link between current-day denominational Protestantism (even beyond Lutheranism) and Martin Luther. To do so is to be uninformed about a crucial element in Protestant thought: its own root presuppositions. Any Christian body claiming to be a (or the) legitimate manifestation of historical Christianity must have a coherent story to tell. This necessarily involves historical study and some kind of theological interpretation of the history of one’s own group.

I strongly contend that no Protestant can deny an organic relationship to Martin Luther, any more than a Catholic can disavow all ties to the historic papacy, the Crusades and Inquisition, etc. Both sides must have the courage to fairly acknowledge their own shortcomings and the other side’s positive, godly attributes. We’re all products of the past.

The views set forth here are certainly one-sided, and purposely so, in order to form a conscious counter-argument to the accepted Protestant “mythology,” so to speak, of Martin Luther. His many commendable qualities are well covered in any Protestant biography (and some can be rightly classified as virtual “hagiographies”).

The objective Christian student of Church history needs to consult works written from a critical Catholic perspective as well, in order to foster a closer examination and perhaps a partial reappraisal of Luther. The full, multi-faceted, complex truth concerning important historical figures is invariably more fascinating than the usual myths that circulate about. I aim to present Luther as he was: no more, no less: as fairly as I can, but “warts and all,” too.

Lastly, the reader may wonder (in all fairness) about my own personal opinion (as a committed orthodox Catholic, and Catholic apologist) of Martin Luther. I’m happy to comply with such a desire. I disagree with the man’s theology (that is, where he departs from Catholic orthodoxy) and some of the ways in which he went about things. But I do not regard Luther (like many Catholic biographers and critics throughout history) as an essentially “evil” or “bad” man. I don’t deny his good intentions and sincerity at all (though I often question his wisdom and foresight, as will be evident).

I actually admire Martin Luther in many ways. I love his passion and boldness and bravery in standing up for what he believed. I always admire people who do that, unless the stand they take is unquestionably evil. One can respect such a person without necessarily agreeing with the specific cause or belief that he or she espouses. One can be wrong for the right reasons, and right for the wrong reasons.

I’ve written extensively about Martin Luther, and maintain perhaps the largest web page on the Internet devoted to Luther and Lutheranism, from a Catholic perspective. It may surprise some to learn that among these many papers (written over the past seventeen years) are about twenty, as of writing, where I defend Luther against myths and bum raps, cite him in agreement, or take a fairly neutral stance towards his opinion.

In one fictional, Plato-inspired dialogue I even portrayed Martin Luther quite positively (and downright affectionately), as a sort of (saved) “wise old man”. I’ve even – on occasion -- received unsolicited letters of commendation from Lutheran pastors for such efforts. These aspects of my research will be utilized in the Part Two “praise” section of this book (which runs 83 pages, or about 34% of all the material -- 245 pages -- from Chapter One to the Bibliography).

I’ve engaged in many cordial dialogues with Lutheran scholars or pastors or informed layman, and enjoyed them very much. I’ve defended Lutheranism as well, against false charges from other Christians (for example, the bogus accusation of semi-Pelagianism, or unfounded criticism from Calvinists).

So this book is not about “Luther-bashing” or attempted “historical revisionism” or any such thing. It is simply a Catholic examination of Martin Luther: critical where I feel I must be so, in light of my own heartfelt theological adherence as a Catholic, but also appreciative of the several areas where I can wholeheartedly agree with Luther, and rejoice in those instances where he is an eloquent proponent of a position that Catholics also hold.

9 Out of 10 Free Throws: Twice!!

By Dave Armstrong (4-17-08)

Now, for a little typically male athletic bragging. Today was the first time this spring I got out to the backyard to shoot some hoops. My 6'1" 14 yo (who beats me about two out of three in one-on-one now) and 11 yo who is not bad himself, have been out there for weeks. I can hear the bouncing balls from my library / office upstairs in our house.

So I go out there and we do the ten foul shots routine. I was terrible at first. I got 4-for-10, then 3-for-10. I even got as low as 2-for-10 (BOO!), which really stinks. I had no rhythm in my shots or the right spin, or enough arc. My 14 yo son got 7-for-10. Even my younger boy got 5 out of ten. But I took it all in stride. I knew I had to warm up, and I knew I wasn't that bad overall. It was only my first time this year.

The older boy (I know him well and he has my intense competitive spirit) started getting smug and thinking it would be a slam dunk beating me this year one-on-one. But wait! The old man (50 in July) was just getting warmed-up! Eventually I got my shooting rhythm (it can't be held down forever!) and I made 9-for-10. This was higher than my son had ever done. His highest ever was 8. So that made for more than a little friendly teasing. Then a little later I did it again. So I did twice in my first day out playing, what he had never done. Later I went to play chess with my younger son (he won, because he is a whiz at chess), and the other son kept shooting to try to match me. He eventually sunk 9, but then, of course, I could still playfully "brag" about having done it twice today. Gotta love it!

Moreover, I have the all-time "Armstrong back yard" record for free throws. I made 10-for-10 almost exactly four years ago (as I wrote about). The 14 yo, who was ten and about five feet tall in those days, was already making 7-for-10 even then. In October 2006, I kicked a 30 yard field goal (punt style) in regular gym shoes. That was a thrill too (never having done that much).


For those who don't follow basketball much, 90% free throw shooting is about as good as it gets. The NBA leader for 2007-2008 (with just a game or two left), Peja Stojakovic, shot 92.6% (126 for 136). Chauncey Billups of my beloved Detroit Pistons was second (91.7%), but with many more attempts (399 for 435). So for those two stretches of time and 20 shots, I made 18 and was at 90%: the same distance from the basket and the same height of the basket: just as in the NBA.

That's pretty rewarding stuff for a fun-loving competitive jock like me, trying to hang on to "youth" as I approach the dreaded half-century mark. This will be a fun sports year, with backyard basketball, and an informal pick-up softball team I'll be on every two weeks. I'm still pretty good at baseball (which has always been my favorite sport). I slaughter my big son in strikeout (a couple years ago it was, like, 33 to 3 in just a few innings), but he has become dominant in one-on-one basketball (he's a tremendous defender, complete with many blocked shots), so it is a big challenge to me to try to beat him. I have to shoot well and defend pretty good too or there is no chance at all. I'm just glad I can still play after all these years and provide some decent competition. It's a great father-son activity that will provide lots of good memories for years to come.

Now, no doubt, I'll be out there in the next few weeks trying to get to 10-for-10 again . . . and you'll know if I do!