Wednesday, November 24, 2010

16 Atheists / Agnostics and Me: Sounds Like a Good Ratio! Further Adventures at an Atheist "Bible Study" Group

By Dave Armstrong (11-24-10)

Last night I attended for the third time an "atheist Bible study" group in metro Detroit led by Jon, a former evangelical and friendly fellow, with whom I have debated the Galileo issue. He has a blog called Prove Me Wrong. The first time I went there, several months back, I was invited as a guest speaker. It was simply a Q and A, "grill the apologist" session (due to my dislike of lecturing as my own method of communication), mostly devoted to the usual garden-variety questions about Catholicism. Jon later described the night as follows:

I run a bible study. It's for those interested in understanding the Bible from a secular perspective. We're mostly atheists but we do have some Christian participation. A couple of times instead of studying the Bible I've simply brought in a religious person. So once Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong came. A lot of atheists regard Christian belief as extremely easy to debunk and I thought it would be fun to bring in someone that has thought through common objections and is able to turn it back on atheists. Make them exercise their brains a bit. We had a great time with Dave.

That time, there were eleven atheists and myself. It was the most enjoyable and challenging evening I have ever spent as an apologist in almost 30 years of apologetics. Several of the people said that I had won their respect, by simply showing up and being cordial and willing to answer their questions and do some back-and-forth. For their part (save for just one person who was later kicked out of their group) they were very cordial and friendly.

This is not the stereotypical "angry atheist" group (example: John Loftus' Debunking Christianity blog), with (irrational, self-contradictory) anger against God and Christianity upfront and dominating everything, complete with ubiquitous personal insults towards Christians. No; Jon, to his great credit, is trying to do something different, and to actually seek to better understand Christianity and Christian arguments and to have some real dialogue.

I went a second time and enjoyed some great discussion around a campfire (mostly with the guy who had given me the hardest time in the first meeting: insinuating that I was dishonest or ignorant or both). Then I invited Jon to my house to do a presentation on the nonexistence of Jesus (a position he holds tentatively). That went well, too, and Jon gave the following description of his experience:

I had the opportunity last Friday to sit down with some Catholics and just spend an evening discussing some of our disagreements. It was me along with another atheist (who I met for the first time) and a few Catholics. It was put together by Dave Armstrong. I really appreciate Dave. He's one of those people that is able to sit down and disagree with me strongly, but do it in a way that makes for productive and friendly dialogue. Not all Christians can do this, nor can all skeptics.

Apparently, Jon has a somewhat more favorable view towards my reasoning abilities these days, compared to 26 March 2010, when he wrote (I tease him about this):

As far as apologists go I kind of like Roman Catholics. Dave Armstrong may be extremely irrational. But he's always been fairly charitable.

Last night, the person doing the presentation was a guy who goes by "DagoodS": another former Christian who runs a blog called Thoughts From a Sandwich. He is an attorney; a very animated, thoughtful, academic type (the sort of person I particularly love talking to and learning from). He talked about how Christians defend the resurrection of Jesus; playing "Christian" most of the time. It was historiographically dense (with many "footnote" references to "what scholars today think"), interesting enough, and entertaining on its own level, but ultimately not to my own taste because it was a professorial-type lecture (complete with the white board and markers). It was like being in a graduate-level history class (or maybe a Unitarian Bible study). I want to dialogue (as is well-known to my readers by now), and that never occurred. We all have our preferences.

One of the few critiques I was able to get in at all had to do with the relentless, dogmatic presuppositional skepticism of atheists. DagoodS asked the group (17 including myself) how many believed that miracles occur. I was the only one to raise my hand. Then he asked how many believed that miracles might possibly occur. Jon raised his hand, and possibly one other. Only one or two even allowed the bare possibility. This exactly illustrated the point I was to make.

DagoodS was saying that it is more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace. True enough as far as it goes. But I said (paraphrasing), "you don't believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for you to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact you don't believe in any miracles whatsoever." No response. I always try to get at the person's presuppositions. That is my socratic method.

This being the case, for an atheist (ostensibly with an "open mind") to examine evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is almost a farcical enterprise from the start (at least from a Christian perspective) because they commence the analysis with the extremely hostile presuppositions of:

1) No miracles can occur in the nature of things.

2) #1 logically follows because, of course, under fundamental atheist presuppositions, there is no God to perform any miracle.

3) The New Testament documents are fundamentally untrustworthy and historically suspect, having been written by gullible, partisan Christians; particularly because, for most facts presented therein, there is not (leaving aside archaeological evidences) written secular corroborating evidence.

Some atheists (like Jon) even claim (or suspect) that Jesus didn't exist at all (making such a topic even more absurd and ludicrous (given that premise) than it already is in atheist eyes. Yet they think that such an examination of the Resurrection is an objective endeavor on their part, as if they will come to any other conclusion than the foregone one that they have already decided long since, upon the adoption of their atheism? And we are the ones who are constantly excoriated for being so "inflexible" and "dogmatic" and "closed-minded" to any other truths besides Christian ones?

The lecture went on for two hours in the library room where the group met, and then we went to a restaurant. Over there, I wasn't seated next to either Jon or DagoodS (there were about 13 people present), so further discussion with them wasn't possible. Instead I talked a lot about the problem of evil and God's supposed serious deficiencies, with a third person, with the person on the other side of me asking me intermittently about purgatory and limbo and indulgences.

I was able to get in at least one important point with Jon at the restaurant. He was making fun of the popes taking many centuries to decide the dogmatic question of the Immaculate Conception of Mary [1854]. So I noted (with some vigor) that people (not just atheists but also Protestants) are always criticizing popes (and the Church as a whole) for supposedly declaring things by fiat and with raw power, apart from rational deliberation and intellectual reflection (which is a myth), yet on the other hand, if they take centuries to let the Church reflect and ponder important issues (this example, Mary's Assumption [1950], papal infallibility [1870]), by not yet declaring something at the highest levels of authority, then they get blasted for being indecisive and wishy-washy and lacking authority.

It was a classic case of the Catholic Church always having to be criticized, even if there are simultaneous contradictory criticisms taking place. It's the amusing, ironic spectacle of people illogically falsely accusing us of being illogical. If we do one thing we are wrong and stupid and illogical because of thus-and-so. If we do the exact opposite and contrary of that, we are still wrong and stupid and illogical for reasons that utterly contradict those of the prior criticism. And so on and on it goes. The only thing that critics of Catholicism "know" is that the Catholic Church is always wrong. That is the bottom line. We seem to be everyone's favorite target and "whipping boy."

DagoodS' specialty (like that of many atheists of a certain sort; especially former Christians) is relentlessly trying to poke holes in the Bible and dredging up any conceivable so-called "contradiction" that he can find. It's the hyper-rationalistic, "can't see the forest for the trees" game. As I've often said, such a person approaches the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog. Their mind is already made up. If they go looking for errors and "contradictions" they will assuredly always "find" them.

And if a Christian spends the great deal of laborious, tedious time required to debunk and refute these in order to show how they are not, in fact, contradictions (as I and many others have done), they simply ignore that as of no consequence and go their merry way seeking out more of the same. It never ends. It's like a boat with a hundred holes in the bottom. The Christian painstakingly patches up the last one while the atheist on the other side of the boat merrily drills another one to patch. I'll play the game for a while and every now and then but it is never to be taken too seriously because it is, quite literally, just a game in the end.

I have actually debated DagoodS several times in the past on the Internet, and have critiqued his deconversion story (atheists invariably despise the unmitigated gall of a Christian daring to do that!).
Now that I have met the man, and had no chance to interact with him last night for more than 90 seconds, I may try to set aside some time in my busy schedule to debunk more of his skeptical excursions undertaken for the purpose of undermining the trustworthiness and inspiration of the Holy Bible. In all likelihood, judging from his past responses, any such replies will have no effect on him, but they can help Christians see the bankruptcy of atheist anti-biblical arguments, and those on the fence to avoid falling into the same errors of logic and fallacious worldviews built upon such errors.

And that is the whole goal of apologetics, and particularly the dialogical apologetics that I specialize in: to help people (by God's grace) avoid theological and philosophical errors and to be more confident in their Christian and Catholic beliefs, by understanding solid intellectual rationales for same. We remove obstacles and roadblocks. What the person will do with that information is a function of their minds and free wills and God's grace, and that is out of the apologist's hands.

Related Posts From Others

Atheism and Miracles: Is It Really About Evidence? (Stan Williams)

Dave Armstrong vs. the Atheists (Protestant apologist Cory Tucholski)

[features much participation of "DagoodS" in the combox, and my own as well, including lengthy discussions concerning what occurred at the atheist meeting dealt with in the post; what I was claiming and not claiming about his presentation, etc.]

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dialogue on Errors Regarding God's Characteristics and Geocentrism (vs. Robert Sungenis)

By Dave Armstrong (11-19-10)

Catholic "traditionalist" apologist Robert Sungenis wrote to me and ask that I post this. I am happy to oblige. What follows (black print) is from Robert Sungenis; my replies are in blue and in brackets.

* * * * *

First, I’ve only skimmed the immense dialogue taking place on this blog, and I do wish I had time to answer some of the questions that have been posed here. In lieu of my involvement, it looks like John Martin is quite capable of fielding most of the questions and objections, and I want to commend him for his efforts. John is from Australia, I believe, and we sent him the two volume set of Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right a while ago. By the looks of what John has written on this blog, he is positive proof that someone can read the books, comprehend what is being said, and then ably defend our historic Catholic doctrine of geocentrism. I trust John will continue to do a good job.

Second, early in this blog dialogue, Mr. Armstrong tried to divert the discussion into one concerning the contention he has with me about God’s immutability, suggesting that this was more important than geocentrism.

[I wasn't trying to "divert" anything. I simply put up earlier dialogues that had been removed by gentleman's agreement. Since Bob wanted to start critiquing my views on Galileo, it was fair game to put back up what had always been a perfectly legitimate concern. It has always been my policy (at the same time) to not debate the issue of geocentrism. But God's immutability and other characteristics are topics that are infinitely more important than the issue of geocentrism and heliocentrism, because that is theology proper (the theology of God Himself), as opposed to scientific speculation, which is not directly a matter of Catholic dogma, apart from the basics of asserting that God created; there is a primal pair of human beings, God creates each soul supernaturally, etc.]
Mr. Armstrong is accusing me of not holding to the Church’s teaching that God is immutable. Allow me to take this opportunity to clear the air. I FIRMLY BELIEVE IN GOD’S IMMUTABILITY, AND I FIRMLY BELIEVE IN THE CHURCH’S TEACHING ON THIS SUBJECT.

[Yes, that's what Bob always says, but various positions about God and His actions that he takes directly contradict this assertion (as his former associate Ben Douglass has noted in the past). It is simply illogical thought to an extraordinary degree]

What, however, Mr. Armstrong has decided to conclude on his own is, because I also believe Scripture when it says that God changes his mind upon the repentance or appeasement from man (e.g., Amos 7:1-6; Exodus 32:9-14), that I am contradicting the Church’s doctrine of God’s immutability. My answer is, NO I AM NOT. I believe both the Church’s teaching on immutability and the Scripture’s teaching on God changing his mind upon the repentance of man. The two are not mutually exclusive and there is no Church teaching that says they are. The Church has simply not addressed the statements in Scripture that say God changes his mind. You can prove this for yourself. Here listed are all the places in Denzinger that the Church teaches on God’s immutability (254, 346, 428, 462, 463, 703, 1701, 1782, 321, 1784, 2184, 706, 1655, 72, 143, 144, 327, 344, 257, 429, 462, 1463). In none of these does the Church ever teach that God cannot change his mind, or that divine immutability forbids God to change his mind. Why? Because the Church never has and never will contradict the face value, literal words of Scripture. If you examine the citations in Denzinger you will see that immutability simply means that the essence or substance of God does not change, not that God cannot change his mind. We combine the two by simply noting that God’s immutability foresees that he will act one way or the other when confronted by the free will decisions of man, and the Church has never taught anything differently (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 600). If, to the contrary, Mr. Armstrong can find any place in the official teachings of the Catholic Church which states that God, because he is immutable, cannot change his mind, then I will give him $1000 and retract my proposition. Note, we are not interested in Mr. Armstrong’s opinion, or the opinion of this or that theologian as to whether God’s immutability forbids him to change his mind. We are only interested in official Church teaching that says precisely that God’s immutability is mutually exclusive from God changing his mind and that the former will not allow the latter. The ball is in Mr. Armstrong’s court.
[it's all very simple: the doctrine of immutability (reiterated by the Church over and over, and de fide dogma) excludes all change whatever from God. God changing His mind is a change; therefore it cannot happen, according to the same doctrine. It also contradicts the notion of an omniscient God, as I have demonstrated. This is not rocket science (no pun intended). But if one gets into a habit of profoundly illogical thinking, as Bob has, then they will miss the obvious logical fact]
I would say, however, that Mr. Armstrong’s opening up this dialogue with a picture of Apollo 15 on the moon is, if not a “personal attack,” is very close to one, and definitely one that tries to poison the audience against me before they read what I have to say.

[it's not a personal attack; it is simply bringing to the fore a related, highly eccentric position, that is relevant in determining whether a person is trustworthy as an expert in scientific or specifically astronomical / cosmological matters. It's completely relevant]

It follows the usual demagoguery that has been used against me by Mr. Armstrong and my other ideological enemies on a continual basis, another one being the accusation that I am “anti-semitic,” which is a total falsehood. I am simply not afraid, and will not be intimidated, to speak against Jewish politics, religion and social mores.

[I haven't brought the Jewish issues that Bob is so incessantly concerned with into this at all. I've always avoided all of that controversy. From what I've seen, I think he is persistently wrong on that score, too, but since I haven't brought it up at all, it is irrelevant to the present discussion, and is, thus, a mere polemical diversion]

Be that as it may, as an American citizen, I do have the right, so says my government, to question, doubt or reject things that the American government says or does. It’s called “Freedom of Speech.” Hence, I do have the right to doubt whether the American government had the capability to send a man to the moon and bring him back to earth. I don’t have any question that the US could send a rocket to the moon, but sending a man and getting him back safely is another question altogether.

[sure: Bob can believe whatever he wants to believe. And we are free to believe that certain of his views are absurd, eccentric, and unworthy of acceptance. That's free speech too]

Hence, I think it is grossly misleading and totally unCatholic for Mr. Armstrong to poison the well by these antics.

[how is that the case by simply noting that he believes in such a thing? It's relevant to a consideration of whether one knows how to "do" science, to note that he believes that the moon landings were possibly not what they appeared to be. People need to know that. It is altogether relevant to the whole discussion. If a person is applying for a position as an English teacher and someone is brash and presumptuous enough to point out that the applicant is illiterate, that is not "poisoning the well"; it is, rather, an altogether relevant fact to consider as to qualification. It's a deal-breaker]

The only real and relevant question on this blog is: is Mr. Armstrong able to defend his staunch rejection of geocentric cosmology?

[whether I can or not; many others are able to do so, and I have appealed to them by linking to their analyses]

All the diversions of moon landings and God’s immutability are not going to answer that basic question. So, I would implore Mr. Armstrong to stay on topic and answer the questions put forth to him.

[again, immutability is not a diversion (it has nothing directly to do with whether geocentrism is true), but a separate problem in Bob's theology that needs to be addressed straight on. I have helped to put pressure on him. Hopefully others in much higher places will censure his opinions on these scores as they ought to be, lest unsuspecting readers get led astray into heresy regarding God's attributes]

Fourth, I see some discussion on this blog, mainly from Phil Vaz, that a few years ago Ken Cole gave an irrefutable proof for heliocentrism with his satellite trajectories. This is simply not the case, and if anyone would like to revisit this issue, I would happily oblige. Mark Wyatt at can be contacted about this. Mark gave the definitive proof against Cole’s thesis, and it was shortly after that that Cole took his website and his arguments down, and they have not been put up by Mr. Cole since, more than five years ago. It was easy to refute Mr. Cole’s arguments, since Mr. Wyatt showed what we have always known, i.e., any movements in the heliocentric system are identical to those in the geocentric system, since all the distances and proportions are exactly the same. The only difference between the two systems is what is used as the center.

Lastly, if Mr. Armstrong would like to have an open and public debate, at my expense, on either the subject of geocentrism or God’s immutability, I would most happily oblige. All he needs to do is give the word and we will set it up.
Robert Sungenis
[I have made all my arguments in the papers linked to above. Bob minimized and ignored them at the time of our initial exchange (January 2009), saying I wrote too much and it was merely my logic (exactly as he is doing now). So it is his choice whether he wants to interact now with the argumentation or not. No skin off my back or loss to me if he again declines. But I don't engage in public oral debates. I do serious written debate, which is infinitely superior to the other format, for my money (everyone is entitled to their opinion on methodology). If Bob wants to do a "James White" and refuse all written debates and imply that all who use and prefer that format are intellectual cowards, let him. It has no effect on my personal opinions as to how best to engage in serious discussion. I'm not influenced or swayed by name-calling and chest-puffing tactics]

* * *

Bob wrote a second reply that I received on 11-20-10. I will again make some response. I received two more replies from him on 11-22-10 that have also been incorporated. I have now asked Bob to please post anything further on his site.

* * *

I’m not going to spend much time responding to Dave, but I will address a few loose ends that I believe need to be clarified.

[As usual; Bob took a pass on discussing immutability issues in January 2009; and he chooses to do so again here, while chiding me for not taking up my valuable time to argue about whether the earth rotates or not, or is 10,000 years old, or the center of the universe, etc.]

Bob (11-22-10): Dave, I’ll discuss God’s immutability anytime you want, especially since you have made this an issue of my credibility. As for whether the earth rotates and is less than 10,000 years old, well, in case you didn’t notice, that’s what all the Fathers said, all the medievals, about a half dozen popes, and no one in the Catholic Church has officially rescinded that position. So if you think this is an “odd” and “eccentric” view, it’s only because you don’t realize how far away you are from the Tradition of the Church and that’s because you’ve made popular science your ultimate authority, not the Church.

Dave (11-22-10): [the last clause is sheer nonsense]

* * *

First, if, as Dave claims, he didn’t respond to my critique of the chapter in his book because he thought “geocentrism is a ludicrous position,” then why does he bother putting up what he believes are proofs of heliocentrism on his site (including the proof of the orbiting satellite taking pictures of a rotating earth), and inviting others to put up their proofs as well? Somehow, when it comes to Robert Sungenis directly challenging David Armstrong on these issues, David goes into the “No Mas” posture. I find that rather perplexing.

[Why in the world would it be thought that one person has to personally engage in dialogues or write about about absolutely anything and everything under the sun? We all make choices of what we will spend time doing. I posted arguments from others and I have allowed geocentrists to also make their case on my site. So where's the beef?]

Bob (11-22-10): The beef? Obviously it’s that you try to answer everyone else’s arguments but mine, Dave. Yes, you made a choice to answer them and not me. Yes, it was your choice. I’m only pointing out the contradiction in that logic.

Dave (11-22-10): [The only problem is that it is not a "contradiction" at all to simply decide to spend time doing one thing or another. A real contradiction would be saying, for example, that I will reply to absolutely every challenge and critique that I receive, and then not do so. Since I have never stated the former, it is not an issue of contradiction at all. As I have pointed out in a related combox, I have always had a policy of deciding that certain things are not worth the effort to reply to or debate. This happens to be one of Bob's obsessions, so that offends him, but that is not my problem. I'm not gonna change the policy that works best for me simply because he is dissatisfied with it. The fact is, that I don't "answer everyone else’s arguments". Bob's premise is wrong; therefore he falsely thinks contradiction is present in my policy. There are many dozens of critiques of my work from anti-Catholics that I ignore. There are additional ones from Catholic "traditionalists" and others that I have no time for, either]

* * *

Second, as for David Palm’s and Jordanes’ claim that Galileo and geocentrism are not “magisterial issues,” that’s quite an amazing statement. To me it is proof that they refuse to deal with the reality of the situation. How much more “magisterial” could it be? Pius V taught us geocentrism in the Tridentine Catechism; Paul V accepted the conclusion of his Sacred Congregation that heliocentrism was a “formal heresy” and told Galileo never to teach it again; and Urban VIII said the same under a canonical trial and commanded all his papal nuncios to prohibit the teaching of heliocentrism; and Alexander VII put Galileo, Kepler and Copernicus on the Index; and Benedict XIV kept them on the Index. Bellarmine staked his claim on the consensus of the Fathers, and Trent taught that when the Fathers are in consensus we must hold to their conclusions. Palm and Jordanes only WISH it was not magisterial.

[Right. Well, if Bob is so confident, then let him write more endless tomes responding to them, too, rather than merely taking potshots. And it won't be here; it will have to be on his site]

Bob (11-22-10): Dave, just answer the question. If you believe “Jordanes and Palm did such a good job in showing that Galileo and geocentrism was not magisterial,” then the burden is on you, not them, to defend their position. How can you defend it when we have a list of at least a half-dozen popes dealing with the issue directly and making decisions on it?

Dave (11-22-10): [They have made a good case. If they wish to defend it further, that is up to them, not me. Why Bob would think it is my burden to defend their arguments rather than theirs, is, I confess another mystery and curiosity of his thinking]

* * *

Third, Dave says concerning the issue of God’s immutability, the following conclusion: “it's all very simple: the doctrine of immutability (reiterated by the Church over and over, and de fide dogma) excludes all change whatever from God. God changing His mind is a change; therefore it cannot happen, according to the same doctrine. It also contradicts the notion of an omniscient God, as I have demonstrated. This is not rocket science (no pun intended). But if one gets into a habit of profoundly illogical thinking, as Bob has, then they will miss the obvious logical fact.”

Did I not say in my challenge to Dave that I wasn’t interested in his opinion?

[It's not even my "opinion"; it is a very simple application of classic deductive logic. The fact that Bob doesn't grasp this virtually self-evident truth is sadly indicative of the serious problems he has in his thinking, leading to a number of erroneous conclusions]

Bob (11-22-10):

Huummm. So here is Dave’s “deductive logic”:

Premise 1: Scripture says God is immutable;

Premise 2: Scripture also says God changes his mind;

Conclusion 1: Scripture’s statement in Premise #2 is false.

Ah, so we just proved that Scripture is errant. That’s what Dave’s “classic deductive logic” leads to.
Dave (11-22-10): [so ridiculous and silly, in light of my past statements, that it is its own refutation]
* * *

Unfortunately, he continues to ignore this request and thus we arrive at an impasse every time this subject comes up. Let me say it again. I’m not interested in Dave’s logic or what he thinks the magisterium believes. I’m only interested in the official and explicit teaching of the magisterium.

[Yes, exactly]

So here it is again: Does the magisterium, when it teaches on God’s immutability, say also that God cannot, therefore, change his mind as Scripture says he does in passages such as Amos 7:1-6 or Exodus 32:9-14?

[Absolutely; it follows inexorably from what the magisterium has definitively stated]

Bob (11-22-10): And where did the Church officially say: “Absolutely; it follows inexorably from what the magisterium has definitively stated”? Answer: Nowhere. It only follows in Dave’s head because Dave thinks he’s more logical than the clear propositions of Sacred Scripture.

Dave (11-22-10): [more of the same ridiculous and silly stuff]

* * *

This is not rocket science. The answer is a clear and unequivocal NO. If Dave believes otherwise, I’ve offered him $1000 to find such a statement from the Church but apparently he can’t find it, and thus he has to fall back on his own human “logic” for a defense.

[Right. Logic is what it is . . .]

Come, let us reason together.

[That would be nice, wouldn't it? But with Bob's trashing of logic, he has made it impossible from the get-go]

Bob (11-22-10): “Trashing of logic”? Hardly. I just recognize its limitations when we are dealing with an infinite, triune and incarnate God. My preferred “logic” is to take Scripture for what it says, even if my logic can’t explain it.

* * *

If we had to prove our Catholic faith only by what is logical to the human mind, we’d have to throw out the majority of our religion. Is it logical that three beings who are all God are actually one God? Is it logical that a being can be both God and man at the same time? Is it logical that a piece of bread only looks like bread but is actually God? We can add many more such examples. Human logic will only take us so far. We depend on faith for the rest.

[Great. That would explain many of Bob's eccentric positions on things, if he takes such a dim view of logic, as applied to theology, and adopts virtually a fideistic outlook]

Bob (11-22-10): So is Dave telling us that he can explain the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Real Presence by human logic? If so, then he is the first person in history to do so.

Dave (11-22-10): [As has often happened in these sorry, pitiful exchanges, Bob doesn't grasp my position. I had already stated last time: "I have no problem whatever accepting paradox and beliefs that ultimately go beyond man's comprehension (while not involving self-contradiction)."]

* * *

So if Scripture says God is immutable and also says God changes his mind, then the “logical” position, if you will, is to believe both; and the “illogical” conclusion is to make one proposition true and insist the other is false.

[I see; so God is immutable and is also mutable, too. Makes perfect sense in "Bob-logic" . . . ]

Bob (11-22-10): Don’t put words into my mouth, Dave. I did not say that God would be “mutable” if he changed his mind upon man’s repentance. The truth is, God would be mutable if he DID NOT change his mind, since God has already said that he would forgive man if man repents of his sin. If he reneged on the forgiveness, then he would be mutable. How’s that for logic? You didn’t realize that it cuts both ways, did you?

* * *

Incidentally, Dave’s “I won’t believe it unless it is acceptable to human logic” approach is precisely what led Luther and Calvin to their heretical views on absolute predestination, since they could not accept by human logic that God could predestine and predetermine all events and yet give man a free will.

[Not the point at all. Bob is completely out to sea. I'm not the one to explain elementary logic to him. I don't have the patience]

Bob (11-22-10): Ah, the “No Mas” argument again.

* * *

But the Catholic Church rejected the “logical” approach of Calvin and Luther and said that Scripture is true on both predestination and free will, regardless of whether we can “logically” explain it; and to this day the Catholic Church has not given an official explanation as to how the two can be joined together since her religion is not required to pass the human logic sniff test in order to be true.

[I have no problem whatever accepting paradox and beliefs that ultimately go beyond man's comprehension (while not involving self-contradiction). I have written about that many times. My epistemology is infinitely more complex and nuanced than Bob gives me credit for (largely following Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's thought in his Grammar of Assent). I do have a huge problem, however, with flat-out contradiction: of the sort that Bob wants to espouse on this matter. Biblical paradox and contradiction are two very different things]

Bob (11-22-10): So what Dave is telling us then, is that when Scripture says God is immutable and also says God changes his mind, then Scripture is giving us a contradiction? Perhaps the “contradiction” is in Dave’s hermeneutic.

* * *

Bob (11-22-10): Dave, take a good look at what you wrote in this present piece and you will see a lot of statements that could easily be viewed by someone as personal attacks. Take this one, for instance: [“Oh, there are plenty of "nuts" in the world who believe all manner of conspiracy theories. On that I heartily, happily agree with Bob! But it is rare to find so many such theories in any one place, such as one finds on Bob's site. It's almost encyclopedic when it comes to conspiracy theories”]. I suggest you stop projecting onto other people the very fault you have yourself.

Dave (11-22-10): [This is not a personal attack at all. The use of "nut" is rhetorical, because Bob was using it sarcastically, which is why I put it in quotes there. I was not calling him a nut at all. I was merely pointing out that conspiracy theories abound on Bob's site, which is not saying anything that he doesn't glory in himself by immersing himself in them. Anyone can search his site for "conspiracy" and related notions and see that]

. . . let me deal with this issue of the mirror on the moon. Somebody wrote in and said: “Has Sungenis not read his own book? "When a Lunar Laser Ranging experiment is performed, a laser beam is first aimed at the moon toward retro-reflectors placed on its surface previously by astronauts. The retro-reflectors have an ingenious design, which always reflects the captured beam exactly back along the path of the incoming ray. If any light beam strikes the reflector surface, it will return on the same path; there’s no deviation in direction, no correction angle. (Galileo Was Wrong, Vol. 1, p. 827). So, he uses data gained from mirrors placed on the moon by astronauts in order to prove geocentrism, but he doesn't really believe astronauts made it to the moon?”

The answer is simple. I didn’t write that section of the book. Dr. Bennett did. And it doesn’t come from page 827 since there is no page 827 in the book. If come from page 440.

[Ah; dissent in the ranks . . . geocentrists lack unity as to whether the moon landings really happened or not! A healthy diversity of opinion . . .]

Bob (11-22-10): No personal attack here, Dave? Ah huh.

Dave (11-22-10): [How in the world is that a "personal attack"? I was merely having some tongue-in-cheek fun with the fact that Bennett and Sungenis disagreed with each other]

* * *

And on the moon landing issue, Dave says: “how is that the case by simply noting that he believes in such a thing? It's relevant to a consideration of whether one knows how to ‘do’ science, to note that he believes that the moon landings were possibly not what they appeared to be. People need to know that. It is altogether relevant to the whole discussion. If a person is applying for a position as an English teacher and someone is brash and presumptuous enough to point out that the applicant is illiterate, that is not ‘poisoning the well’; it is, rather, an altogether relevant fact to consider as to qualification. It's a deal-breaker.”

RS: Yes, I guess this argument would have some impact if I was the only nut in the world who doubted the moon landings. You can check the Internet for yourself. Not only are there many people who have doubts, they have advanced degrees in science and photography to demonstrate their case. My Lord, if it were the case such that we had to accept everything our government told us without question, we Catholics would all be aborting our babies because the US government now tells us it’s OK.

[Oh, there are plenty of "nuts" in the world who believe all manner of conspiracy theories. On that I heartily, happily agree with Bob! But it is rare to find so many such theories in any one place, such as one finds on Bob's site. It's almost encyclopedic when it comes to conspiracy theories]

Bob (11-22-10): Really Dave? “encyclopedic”? [the original was a typo: "encyclopedia" -- so I changed Bob's word to reflect my original boo-boo] No personal attack intended? And you’re just an impeccably cool guy who always believes what he sees on the NEWS, right? You have no doubts, much less reject, anything your government tells you, right? Wow, what a wonderful world you live in. Gee, Dave, if that’s the case, I have this land in the Florida everglades you might be interested in…..

Dave (11-22-10): [Yes, really; many conspiracy theories are on Bob's site and discussed ad nauseum. How that fact leads him to think I supposedly have total trust in everything the US government does is also beyond me]

* * *

Be that as it may, let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. On his website Dave was recently making the claim that we know the Earth rotates because cameras on satellites were taking time lapse photography of its rotation. Time and time again we pointed out to Dave that this illustration did not prove his case, since he couldn’t first prove that the satellite wasn’t rotating around the Earth by being carried in rotating space. But this went right over his head and he insisted that the satellite camera proved the Earth was rotating. So, by the same logic that Dave wouldn’t hire me as an English teacher if I was illiterate, I wouldn’t trust him to give any convincing arguments against geocentrism if he couldn’t even reason that a satellite taking pictures of the Earth does not prove that the Earth is rotating.

[I wasn't claiming any particular expertise myself in making arguments against geocentrism. So if I did indeed blow this argument (others may judge that), I did. Big wow. If so, it wouldn't prove anything one way or the other as to the entire issue at hand, since it doesn't rest on one measly little argument to begin with]

Bob (11-22-10): Right. So the next question is: what other proof do you have for heliocentrism, Dave? I would like to give you a “Big wow” if you could produce such a proof rather than the “No Mas” argument.

Dave (11-22-10): [I already declined to enter such a discussion. I am not hounded into discussions that I think are worthless by schoolyard tactics of taunting and chest-puffing]

* * *

Bob (11-22-10): Patience? Come on, Dave. How many blogs have you devoted to nothing more than attacking me since 2004?

Dave (11-22-10): [None that I am aware of. Again, Bob seems to have me mixed up with someone else]
Bob (11-22-10): And when I confront you directly you always retreat into the “No Mas” zone or claim you “lack patience.” The truth is, we have discovered that you have no magisterial statement that proves your case against me on the issue of God’s immutability, so perhaps you will be kind enough to retract your diatribe at the beginning of his blog that casts me as some inept theologian. And it looks like you will not proposition Jordanes or Palm to engage me in a debate on geocentrism, even though you were so confident that they had totally trounced my claims of the Magisterium’s involvement on the geocentric issue. C’est la vie. Thanks, Dave. I can now rest easier tonight. When you want to deal with me and the issues directly, you have my email address.

* * *

This is all I’m going to say. I’ll close by reiterating my challenge to Dave. (A) If he can find an official magisterial statement that says God cannot change his mind (e.g., Amos 7:1-6) because he is immutable, I’ll give him $1000 dollars. And (B) if he, or even Jordanes or Mr. Palm, want to have an open and public debate about geocentrism, I will arrange the debate at my expense. Just give me the word. I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. Is Dave Armstrong, Jordanes or Mr. Palm?

[I have devoted enough time to all this. Given Bob's cluelessness even on something as simple as straightforward deductive logic, I have exhausted my own patience. More power to those who are willing to pursue such absurd "discussions" with him, where even logic itself is under direct assault]

* * *

I wrote to Bob on 11-22-10 (indented portions below) after receiving his latest reply, with his third response, incorporated above:

Hi Bob,

Okay, I'll do it [i.e., post it] one more time (and probably make a few more replies). I'll tack it on to the existing paper.

After this, though, it'd be better for you to post on your own site. I have both sides on mine: yours and that of your supporters such as johnmartin and Rick Delano. You have nothing of my recent stuff on your site, so no one would even know if and how I responded. Yet here you are asking me to post your words again on my site. I'm happy to do that, but after this you're on your own.

I've devoted far more than enough time to this. Again, we see that no true dialogue is taking place. You are unwilling.

Bob (11-22-10): I am more than willing, Dave. It is you who has demonstrated the "no mas" position on geocentrism, and you who continues to depend on your own logic rather than the Magisterium for the immutability issue. Bottom line: if you want to have a dialogue, I'll give you a dialogue. Start a thread on either subject on your blog, and I'll contribute to each of your responses.

Dave (11-22-10): [I have already made all the arguments about immutability issues in posts that have been on my site since January 2009. Bob took a pass then, and he continues to do so now, by making the silly, vapid "argument" that it is merely my own logic, rather than inexorable conclusions from clear magisterial statements. Someone else will have to do this debate with him now. I ain't interested. I have documented his errors on theology proper. That's been my role. Someone else will have to persuade him to cease and desist in promulgating these ideas]

Bob (11-22-10): . . . I only dealt with your erroneous [sic] about the Galileo affair. That's all. I only opened up a new discussion when I saw your pitiful treatment of the Galileo issue in a book store I just happened to be browsing one day.

Bob (11-22-10): . . . I only want the truth, Dave. If you have it, speak it. If not, I'm not interested.

Bob (11-22-10): I couldn't resist the temptation when you called your book the "One Minute Apologist" and spent what appeared to be exactly one minute on the Galileo issue, but then prided yourself on having answered all the important questions about it. The way I see it, Dave, is that you refuse to deal with the big questions on the Galileo issue and prefer to stuff it all in a box labeled "absurd and eccentric: no need to bother with this." God has given me something with which I intend on changing the world, and I'm not going away. The conference was just the start of what I and my associates are planning. You can either join us by supporting our Catholic tradition, or you can support the anti-biblical conclusions of status-quo science.

Dave (11-22-10): [Note the extreme disdain of anyone who disagrees with Bob: to do so is to not support "Catholic tradition" and to support "anti-biblical conclusions."]

Bob (11-22-10): Bottom line: If you want a dialogue, start one, and I will oblige. In the meantime, let's be gentlemen about it.

Dave (11-22-10): [I've always been a "gentleman" towards Bob. I have bent over backwards to be charitable to Bob. He happily admitted this in January 2009 when we made our gentleman's agreement and I removed public materials, even though I hadn't changed my mind on his serious theological errors. Rick DeLano concurred by saying that I had acted in a classy fashion, etc. I have all the e-mails. I do think he has very serious deficiencies in several areas of his thinking, and too-often manifested problems in understanding logic and how language (particularly biblical language) works. I was willing to discuss immutability in January 2009. Bob didn't want to and he has already offered the same evasive, condescending claptrap now in response to my arguments. Let him. I'm no longer interested. I have exposed and documented his errors. What he does now is up to him. If he seeks "dialogue" on this it will have to be with someone else, I'm afraid, because my patience (as well as any interest I may have once had) is altogether exhausted]


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Books by Dave Armstrong: "Biblical Catholic Salvation: 'Faith Working Through Love' "

[completed on 25 October 2010; 187 pages]

-- to purchase (paperback or e-book), go to the bottom of the page --

[cover design by Dave Armstrong]

Featuring 379 biblical passages fully written out (RSV), for the convenience of the reader and 115 pages (seven chapters) devoted specifically to a critique of Calvinism and "TULIP".



1. Initial Justification Originates Solely From God (Catholic Non-Pelagian Soteriology)…..……….................………….….……….….7

2. Grace Alone (Sola Gratia): Perfectly Acceptable Biblical and Catholic Teaching..…………….…..........…………………………….19 [15 completely written-out Bible passages: RSV] [read excerpts]

3. Catholic Revivalism in Comparison to Evangelical Protestant Efforts at Evangelism: Why the Difference?.….….......……………25

4. Biblical Evidence for the Nature of Saving Faith: Assent, Trust, Hope, Works, Obedience, and Sanctification..……....................…….29 [59 Bible passages] [see original complete, comprehensive exposition]

5. More “Catholic Verses” and Biblical Defenses of Catholicism: On Sanctification as Part of Salvation, and Merit………................……...43 [16 Bible passages]

6. Merit and Differential Grace: Biblical Evidences and the Analogy to Prayer.…………………………................…………………49 [39 Bible passages]

7. Biblical Evidence for Annihilation of Sin (Infused Justification)...…..…………………………………………….59 [30 Bible passages]

8. Philippians 2:12: “Work Out Your Own Salvation With Fear and Trembling” and Protestant Soteriology.….…….................….………63 [9 Bible passages] [read original dialogue]

9. Biblical Teaching Regarding Mortal and Venial Sin.....67 [4 Bible passages]

10. Biblical Evidence Against the Reformed Protestant Doctrine of Total Depravity…….….….……...........……..…………………….73 [36 Bible passages] [excerpts: one / two / three / four]

11. Biblical Arguments Against the Reformed Protestant Doctrine of Limited Atonement….…….…........................………..…………103 [47 Bible passages] [excerpts: one / two]

12. Biblical Evidence Against the Reformed Protestant Doctrine of Irresistible Grace………….………..................…….………………….115 [22 Bible passages] [read excerpt]

13. Catholic Answers to “Prooftexts” for the Myth of Absolute Assurance of Salvation...……….…….….….…..............…….…….….131 [26 Bible passages]

14. Biblical Evidence Against God Predestining the Damned to Hell Apart from Their Free Will Decision...….…..................……………145 [37 Bible passages] [read excerpt]

15. The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart and Other Similar Instances of God Supposedly Causing Evil........…................….….……159 [12 Bible passages] [excerpts: one / two / three]

16. Catholic (and Arminian) Exegesis of Romans 9…...173 [27 Bible passages] [read excerpt]

Links to the photographers (see immediately above) whose photos were used on the front and back covers:

[ Front ] [ Back ]

* * * * * * * * * *

Purchase Options:

Paperback (List: $19.95 / 25% Lulu Discount: $14.96)



Part of a ten-book package deal: able to be incorporated into Logos Software search capabilities

Last updated on 18 July 2015.


Books by Dave Armstrong: " 'The Catholic Mary': Quite Contrary to the Bible?"

(completed on 11 September 2010; 189 pages; many typos removed on 20 May 2014; cover redesigned on 18 July 2014)

[cover design by Dave Armstrong]

-- to purchase (paperback or e-book), go to the bottom of the page --


Dedication (p. 3)

1. Mary’s Carol (A Christmas Poem) (p. 7) [read online]

2. Mary’s Knowledge of Jesus’ Divinity (p. 9)

3. The Imitation of Mary (p. 13) [read online (slightly different)]

4. Was Mary’s Immaculate Conception Absolutely Necessary? (p. 19)

5. Biblical Argument (From Analogy and Plausibility) for the Immaculate Conception of Mary (p. 21)

6. Is the Material Sufficiency of Scripture Inconsistent With Belief in the Assumption of Mary? (p. 29) [read excerpts]

7. Mary as “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”: Biblical Analogies and Evidences (p. 33) [read excerpt]

8. Why Catholics Believe in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and Make it a Dogma (p. 41) [read excerpts]

9. Replies to Alleged Biblical Disproofs of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary (p. 47) 

10. Traditional Protestant Belief in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary (p. 67) [excerpts: one / two / three / four]

11. Why Do Catholics Ask Mary to Pray for Them, Rather Than Praying Directly to God? (p. 83)

12. Reflections on the Rosary (p. 87) [read excerpt]

13. Mary as a Guide and Model of Holiness (p. 95) [read excerpts]

14. Biblical Evidence Regarding Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (p. 103) [read excerpts]

15. St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary: Is Mary Placed Too High and Jesus Too Low? (p. 109)

16. Does St. Alphonsus de Liguori, in The Glories of Mary, Teach That Mary is “Above” God and Can “Manipulate” Him? (p. 121) [read original dialogue]

17. St. Maximilian Kolbe’s “Flowery” Marian Veneration Explained and Defended (p. 141)

18. Biblical Evidence for God Using Creatures to Distribute His Grace and Salvation (p. 153)

19. Biblical Evidence for Creatures Extending the Comfort, Peace, and Strength of God: Implications for Mariology (p. 157)

20. Mary as Part of the Holy Trinity?: Case Study of a Botched, Out-of-Context “Quotation” from Pope Pius XII (p. 167)

21. Is Mary’s Anxiety in Looking for Young Jesus a Sin?: Reply to a Misguided “Exegetical” Argument (p. 185)

Purchase Options

Paperback (List: $19.95 / 25% Lulu Discount: $14.96)



Part of a ten-book package deal: able to be incorporated into Logos Software search capabilities

Last updated on 18 July 2015.