Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Goode Defense of "Sola Scriptura" the Best? We Shall Examine It and See!

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (6-27-12)

In my eternal and perpetually disappointing search for Protestants who actually try to make a serious rational defense of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura from Scripture itself, I have now (almost desperate to find something; anything!) arrived at William Goode (1801-1868): an English evangelical Anglican. His relevant work is, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, originally two volumes in 1842, and then revised and enlarged to three volumes in 1853. I have located them online (Vol. 1Vol. II / Vol. III), and of course they are in the public domain.

Recently, I was crushed yet again when I discovered that David T. King, despite the title of his book (A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura), did not make such a case from Scripture, apart from a few (very weakly argued) instances, which I replied to.

I've already done an 18-part reply to the work of William Whitaker, a highly-touted 16th century advocate of sola Scriptura. No doubt this will be a book at some future date: my replies to both Whitaker and Goode [see later note below].

As we would expect, Goode, like Whitaker -- both Protestant "champions" over against the lowly, wicked papists -- , receives glowing accolades from today's Protestants (particularly the fringe anti-Catholic ones) who follow sola Scriptura, and/or seek to justify it themselves:

But of all the treatments dealing with sola Scriptura, the work of William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, has never been surpassed. (David T. King, ibid. [2001], p. 17)

. . . classical works on . . . sola scriptura, such as William Whitaker’s late 16th century classic, Disputations on Holy Scripture, or William Goode’s mid 19th century work, Divine Rule of Faith and Practice. (James White, blog post, 8-18-10)

I heartily commend to your reading William Goode's The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice  . . .  a genuinely scholarly work on sola scriptura.  . . . Everywhere I turn, William Goode is referenced in the literature. (D. Phillip Veitch, Anglican message board, 3-20-09)

I will be examining these volumes specifically to see how Goode makes his case from Scripture. That is my sole interest. I will offer up rebuttals to any significant biblical argument that actually deals with the heart and stated definition or essence of sola Scriptura: the notion that only Scripture is the sole infallible guide for the Christian: to the exclusion of an infallible tradition or infallible Church (the latter two notions both accepted by Catholics). I have no interest in arguments for inspiration or material sufficiency or other relative side issues, because Catholics already agree with those.

The five installments of this series are listed below:

Reply to William Goode, Contra Sola Scriptura, Part 1 (Definitions and Premises; Ezekiel 3)

Part 2 (Concession That the Bible Contains No Precise Statement of SS; OT Jews Accepted SS?; Jesus vs. Tradition?)

Part 3 (Oral Tradition in the NT; Fathers vs. Tradition?)

Part 4 (Goode Denies the Infallibility of the Church; Is the Bible Its Own Judge, Minus the Church?)

Part 5 (Perspicuity; Goode's Logic & Standards for All Doctrines [Minus SS] Self-Destruct)

Book Planned:

As I hinted at above, I have decided to create a new book about sola Scriptura, incorporating my replies to Goode, with earlier ones responding to William Whitaker; adding additional material, mostly about sola Scriptura "prooftexts" used by Protestants. The title of the book is Pillars of Sola Scriptura: Replies to Whitaker, Goode, & Biblical “Proofs” for “Bible Alone”. As currently conceived, it contains 26 chapters: 15 devoted to Whitaker, five for Goode, and six additional ones, including a detailed, lengthy reply to Keith A. Mathison: widely renowned as the best and most sophisticated defender of sola Scriptura today. I'm not sure when it will come out, due to various factors, but eventually it will in one way or another.

* * *

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rebuttal of David T. King's Defense of "Sola Scriptura" from Romans 16:15-16 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (6-26-12)

Pastor King's words from his book will be in blue.

* * * * *

My normative policy of time-management or stewardship of my time under God, and maintenance of sanity for nearly five years now is to refuse to waste time debating theology with the small fringe group of anti-Catholic Protestants (i.e., those who deny that Catholicism as a system of theology and spirituality is Christian, and who claim that in order to be a good Christian, one must reject quite a few tenets of Catholicism). I do, however, make exceptions on rare occasions.

I have continued to interact with historic Protestant anti-Catholic works, and I did, e.g., in the case of William Whitaker, a prominent 16th century advocate of sola Scriptura (an entire book). I also have lots of material (including two books) concerning major Protestant figures Luther, Calvin, Chemnitz, Zwingli, Bullinger, and others.

The self-published, three-volume set (one / two / three) on sola Scriptura by David T. King and William Webster (2001) is clearly relevant in relationship to my current book, 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura. Volume One (A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura) is virtually a polar opposite of my title. I say the Bible opposes the notion; he maintains that it supports it. That makes for some good debate (and as anyone who knows me is aware, I immensely enjoy debate). It's stimulating and fun, and educational, all at the same time.

I had originally intended to do a multi-part rebuttal, as I did with Whitaker, but I have discovered that King scarcely makes any arguments from the Bible, for the purpose of establishing sola Scriptura proper; thus this will be my sole reply. I will have to seek out another work that actually tries to prove the doctrine from Scripture. That is what interests me: not more circular logic and man-made traditions spewed endlessly.

Pastor David T. King is a Presbyterian, and graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He is pastor of  Christ Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Elkton, Maryland, and was formerly affiliated with PCA.

Unfortunately, most of the books that deal with this topic in the greatest depth (e.g., others by Keith A. Mathison, Bishop "Dr." (???) James R. White, and R. C. Sproul), come from anti-Catholics. Be that as it may, we can handily refute these arguments from a Catholic and thoroughly biblical perspective.

Now onto King's few biblical arguments in favor of sola Scriptura:

If unwritten tradition was . . . intended to function perpetually as an authoritative norm alongside Scripture, why did Paul fail to mention such a concept when speaking of 'the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began?' (p. 44) [see Rom 16:25-26]

He doesn't have to, anymore than he can write the following extended treatment of many important aspects of the Christian life without ever mentioning Scripture:

Ephesians 4:11-16 (RSV) And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, [13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. [15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. 

I stated along these lines in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (2003):

The "exclusivist" or "dichotomous" form of reasoning employed by Protestant apologists here is fundamentally flawed. . . . Note that in Ephesians 4:11-15 the Christian believer is "equipped," "built up," brought into "unity and mature manhood," "knowledge of Jesus," "the fulness of Christ," and even preserved from doctrinal confusion by means of the teaching function of the Church. This is a far stronger statement of the "perfecting" of the saints than 2 Timothy 3:16-17, yet it doesn't even mention Scripture.

Therefore, the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves too much, since if all nonscriptural elements are excluded in 2 Timothy, then, by analogy, Scripture would logically have to be excluded in Ephesians. It is far more reasonable to synthesize the two passages in an inclusive, complementary fashion, by recognizing that the mere absence of one or more elements in one passage does not mean that they are nonexistent. Thus, the Church and Scripture are both equally necessary and important for teaching. This is precisely the Catholic view. Neither passage is intended in an exclusive sense. (pp. 15-16)

We can play this word game with Pastor King further, if he insists (since he wants to make an issue of it). It so happens that I did an exhaustive study of St. Paul's word usage in his epistles, comparing his mentions of Scripture with those pertaining to Church authority and tradition. The results were quite fascinating, and devastating to any notion that Paul subscribed to sola Scriptura, or had Scripture always in the forefront of his mind at all times, over against apostolic tradition and the authority of the Church. Here are just a very few highlights from the lengthy article:

The words "Scripture" or "Scriptures" appear 51 times in the New Testament. Yet in eight of his thirteen epistles (2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon) St. Paul (it may be surprising to learn) never uses either of these words. He uses it only 14 times altogether: in Romans (6), 1 Corinthians (2), Galatians (3), 1 Timothy (2), and 2 Timothy (1).

Likewise, "word of God" appears 43 times in the New Testament, and many of these (as in Old Testament prophetic utterances) are intended in the sense of "oral proclamation" rather than "Scripture" (especially apart from the Gospels). St. Paul uses the phrase only ten times, in nine different epistles. And it is by no means certain that any individual instance refers without question specifically to Holy Scripture, rather than to oral proclamation of apostolic tradition. I suspect that it is much more likely the latter sense in most or all cases. . . .

If we survey "Body (of Christ)" in Paul we find 19 appearances . . . And . . . "Church" / ekklesia (in more than merely a local sense of congregation or building) in his epistles (20 total times) . . . 
Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Titus, and Philemon neither mention "Scripture" nor cite the OT, and Philippians doesn't mention the word and makes just one OT citation. . . . even in Romans, Church /tradition notions appear eight times, which is more than "Scripture" / OT citations appear in nine epistles, and tied with 2 Corinthians.

We can argue in this fashion if someone wants to, but I can assure readers that it will not go well for the sola Scriptura position. It's not how it is "supposed" to be according to that man-made tradition.

Moreover, why would he omit extrabiblical tradition as a norm when addressing Timothy on the sufficiency of Scripture in his second epistle? (p. 44) [see 2 Tim 3:16-17]

The answer is that he didn't omit it in the overal (even immediate) context. He referred to authoritative tradition in the immediately preceding context, in 2 Timothy 3:10, 14:

Now you have observed my teaching . . . [14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

Of course, the person Timothy learned it from was Paul himself: passing down oral tradition, as seen in the previous two chapters also:

2 Timothy 1:13-14 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; [14] guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. 

2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 

Paul also casually refers to the extrabiblical tradition Jannes and Jambres in 3:8. He casually assumes that such oral (or at least non-biblical) traditions possess authority. Thus, there is no particular need to mention tradition again in 3:16-17. He already had done so, at least five times, in a short letter. King's demand is unreasonable and irrational: not everything has to be discussed at all times. But the data is completely consistent with a Catholic Scripture + Tradition + Church "three-legged stool" model of authority. All King and other sola Scriptura defenders can fall back on is the notion (never biblically established) that the tradition shall cease as soon as Scripture is complete. Thus King states:

. . . Protestant Evangelicals do affirm the binding authority of apostolic tradition as delivered by the apostles. What they preached and taught in the first century Church was authoritatively binding on the consciences of all Christians. However, we reject Roman Catholic claims that extrabiblical, apostolic traditions have been preserved orally apart from the Scriptures. (pp. 55-56)
Non-Protestants assume (without proof) that what the apostles taught orally differed substantively from that which was later inscripturated. (p. 59)

. . . Protestants have always accepted apostolic teaching that was oral in nature and which preceded its inscripturation. But apostolic revelation which God desired to preserve has been inscripturated in its entirety. (p. 71)

Did you notice the curious absence of any scriptural verification for such a notion? Yes, so did I . . . Just a minor quibble . . .

King notes on pp. 82-83 that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reveals Scripture to be "profitable" in the areas of:

1. 'For doctrine'
2. 'For reproof'
3. 'For correction'
4. 'For instruction in righteousness'

Quite true; we agree. But, none of these things are exclusive to Scripture (including several instances in both letters to Timothy):


Romans 16:17 . . . the doctrine which you have been taught . . . [no mention of Scripture; it likely refers either to Paul, or Paul and other local teachers]

1 Timothy 1:3-4 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, [4] nor to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith; [Timothy passes on and authoritatively enforces Paul's "doctrine" and "divine training" (i.e., tradition); Scriptural reference is absent]

1 Timothy 4:6 If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed. ["word of God": not necessarily Scripture, is mentioned in the preceding verse, yet the "doctrine" or tradition here seems to refer to a general body of teaching received: not only from Scripture]

Titus 1:7, 9 For a bishop, as God's steward, . . . [9] he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it. [bishops; magisterial authority of the Church, which is alongside Scripture]

Titus 2:1, 7-8, 10 But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine. . . . [7] Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, [8] and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. . . . [10] nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. [Titus as teacher; no mention of Scripture here or anywhere in the letter]

2 John 1:9-10 Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. [10] If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; [a generally received (by Christians) "doctrine"; cf. "the truth" (1:1-2, 4); "commandment[s]" (1:5-6) ]


Proverbs 1:23 Give heed to my reproof; behold, I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you. [King Solomon]

Proverbs 9:8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. [anyone]

Proverbs 24:25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will be upon them. [anyone]

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. [parents]

1 Timothy 5:20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. [Timothy]

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. [Timothy]

Titus 1:13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, [Titus]

Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. [Titus]

2 Peter 2:16 but [Balaam] was rebuked for his own transgression; a dumb ass spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness. [a donkey]


2 Timothy 2:24-25 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, [25] correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, ["the Lord's servant"]

 Instruction in Righteousness

Proverbs 1:1-3 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: [2] That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight, [3] receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity;

John 16:8-10 And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: [9] concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; [10] concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; [the Holy Spirit]

Hebrews 12:9-11 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? [10] For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. [11] For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. [God and earthly fathers]

Even if Scripture were the only source of all these things, it's still a far cry from that to assert that it is the only infallible authority today. None of this proves that at all, even granting King's false premise. But as we have seen, his premise is untrue in the first place. Remember, this text is almost universally considered the very best prooftext for sola Scriptura. But King can't even remotely prove or even support the notion from it. It's downright embarrassing to observe. And this is always the case, as I've observed in over 21 years of active Catholic apologetics. It's always special pleading from the get-go.

Ever see that soup commercial where they say, "it's in there!"? Well, in this case, sola Scriptura ain't in this verse or any other that can be brought to bear. It's completely absent from Scripture, which has, however, many counter-indications and refutations of it.

* * *

As for the clause, "that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:17), this is not exclusive to Scripture, either:

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. [God; no mention of the Bible necessarily being the means of this]

2 Timothy 2:21 If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work. [self-discipline]

King offers up a clever, but nevertheless rather tame and fallacious rationale to explain away these parallels:

. . . with respect to each occurrence of 'every good work' in the Pastoral Epistles (or elsewhere in Scripture for that matter), it needs to be noted that these passages are all Scripture, and as such form and norm moral behavior . . . we find Scripture fulfilling the very purpose for which it was given as described in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, namely, informing and norming for us 'instruction for righteousness . . . for every good work.' The question is not whether these disciplines are necessary, but what is the source of revelation which reveals them as necessary? (pp. 85-86)

This is true insofar as Scripture is sufficient to teach these things (which no one denies); however, it misses the present point altogether, and in a rather striking fashion. The argument at the moment is not about whether we can accept and abide by anything that Scripture teaches us, but rather, whether it exclusively does so, and whether it points to other sources outside of itself that do some things that it itself does (including sacred tradition and the Church). We have seen in the outlining of the four elements above that there are many other sources of that which is described as attributes of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3.

Whether Scripture is the source that informs us of this is irrelevant to the discussion about sola Scriptura; the relevant thing is that there are indeed other sources. Holy Scripture, as inspired, can be trusted absolutely in terms of confirming that this is the case, but it is not absolutely necessary even in that respect.

The Bible was clearly not necessary for men to be able to do "every good work"; that is, to achieve goodness; to be good men, or righteous, to obtain grace and exercise true faith, or to be saved in the end, since we know from the Bible itself that some men were good, after the fall (by God's grace, as always) before there ever was a thing as the Bible at all (i.e., before Moses). Moreover, this could be discerned before there was a Bible; the knowledge didn't have to be confirmed by Scripture (seen especially in Hebrews 11:4 below):

Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.  (cf. 5:21)
Genesis 6:8-9 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. [9] These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.

Genesis 7:1 Then the LORD said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.

Genesis 15:6 And he [Abraham] believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 18:19 . . .  I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.
Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil.(cf. 1:8)
Hebrews 11:1-4 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. [2] For by it the men of old received divine approval. [3] By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. [4] By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking.
Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. [cf.  Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab in subsequent verses of this chapter]

None of this righteousness came about due to a "norm" of Scripture. It was within these people as a result of God's grace and revelation of Himself to them. This was before the Bible was known, but the same also remains true today in cases of cultures that are ignorant of the Bible or true Christian teaching:

Romans 2:5-16 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] For he will render to every man according to his works: [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; [8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. [9] There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, [10] but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. [11] For God shows no partiality. [12] All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. [13] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. [14] When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. [15] They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them [16] on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

* * *

Was C. S. Lewis' Belfast Childhood a Key to Why He Didn't Become a Catholic? (Kreeft, Pearce, Tolkien?, and Derrick Think So)

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (6-26-12)

This is a discussion from a Facebook thread on a recent Anglican convert. I've known Rob Corzine for almost 20 years. He currently works with Scott Hahn as a Program Director for the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. His words will be in blue. I have presently added or modified a few things, and added relevant links as well.

* * *

C. S. Lewis was raised in Belfast, and by his own frank admission to his good friend  J. R. R. Tolkien, this had more than a little to do with his never "poping." 

I can't really buy the "just couldn't shake the residual childhood anti-Catholic bigotry" argument for why CSL never became Catholic. It's psychologically tempting, especially for those of us who benefited so much from his wisdom on our journey into the Church. He saw so much, he was obviously much better read in the Tradition than us, he was also a man of prayer and clearly submitted to the Lord. It seems to call for some extraordinary explanation that he never came the whole way home. After all, how could it possibly be that I was graced to see farther than the great teacher?

But the Ulster argument fails, I think, on at least two grounds. First, I think it wrongs him. Let's grant that his friendship with the Catholic Tolkien was old and based on other grounds. His long correspondence published as Letters to an American Lady was always respectful of her Catholicism, but it was hardly a relationship of equals and perhaps he was just being charitable and polite. But look again at his correspondence with Blessed Giovanni Calabria; where's the bigotry there? or the dissimulation?

If the first ground is a notable absence of evidence (for his residual anti-Catholicism), the second ground could be called evidence from absence--absence that is of any developed ecclesiology in his entire body of writing. There is a lovely, if fleeting, reference to the Church across the ages in Screwtape. Then there is the (wholly inadequate and unbiblical) image of a great house with many equally serviceable rooms in the introduction to Mere Christianity

Can you think of any others? It is a curious lacuna in such a relatively extensive ouevre. Add to that his strained and evasive responses (the only piece of really poor reasoning that I can recall from his adult pen) when H Lyman Stebbins confronted him directly with the claims of the Teaching Church, and I think a more plausible answer appears. Lewis never found the Church because he never looked for her; he was quite content (and to be fair, not entirely incompetent) to be his own Magisterium.

At the end of the day, I think we just have to admit that David Mills is right and Joseph Pearce is stretching the data. Lewis, sadly, remained a Protestant until November 22, 1963 (though I've no doubt whatever that he is a Catholic now).

This theory comes from Tolkien's report of what Lewis said to him.

I do agree, though, that he had a very weak ecclesiology.
Catholic author and talk show host Al Kresta as noted that his Mere Christianity was woefully deficient, insofar as it eliminated as basic what is essential to two of the three great divisions in Christianity: the Church. It presupposes Protestant relative ecclesiological minimalism.

I can accept a two-part theory of Lewis' refusal to pope: a Belfast background and your theory. That seems quite plausible to me. But I can't discount Tolkien (assuming that story is true): especially given his role in Lewis' adoption of Christianity and their close friendship.

I'm sure Tollers' report is trustworthy, but I'm not familiar with it. Where does it appear? Does it give any evidence that he really wrestled with the question of the Church? Or is it more a matter of "I'm from Belfast; why would I ever pick that room to make my home in?". It might also make a difference to know when in his life it was.

I heard it from the premier Catholic apologist and philosopher, Peter Kreeft (author of several books about Lewis: one / two / three / four / five / six) in an interview on Al Kresta's talk show. As I recall, Kreeft said that Tolkien asked Lewis why he wasn't a Catholic, and Lewis replied (paraphrase from memory), "If you had grown up in Belfast, you would understand and wouldn't ask me that question." 

If this is a true report, I think it is admirable of Lewis to so honestly admit his biases, and to acknowledge that they had a sort of irrational effect on his position: sort of like Aldous Huxley admitting with remarkable candidness, that he adopted some of his views merely for the sake of sexual freedom.

Tracking down some hard evidence on that incident would be a real find. I know I have seen snippets in Lewis that seem borderline bigoted where Catholicism is concerned, so it did seem plausible to me, but of course that is no proof of its accuracy in the first place.

Joseph Pearce, in his C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 2003) takes a nuanced, moderate position on this:

. . . we will be doing him a grave injustice should we fall into the trap of translating Puritania's importance into a presumed omnipotence. It is important but it is not that important. 

In essence, although Puritania remained a powerful presence in Lewis's life, it was by no means an all-powerful presence. It would be truer to say that Puritania cast a shadow across the length of his life. . . .

In summary, Lewis's religious upbringing seems to have been characterized by an inherited anti-Catholicism, whether implicit or explicit, combined with a tepid low-church Anglicanism spiced with Presbyterianism. (pp. 3, 5)

In searching on this topic, I found a remark of my own from the Coming Home Network forum (where I was a moderator for three years):

I'm convinced Lewis would be a Catholic now if he were still alive. As it was, I heard a story from Peter Kreeft that Tolkien asked Lewis one day why he wasn't yet a Catholic. Lewis reputedly said something to the effect of, "if you had grown up in Belfast, you would understand why."

That's about it, I think. The leap was simply too great and wasn't "thinkable" for Lewis. But today, with all the nonsense in Anglicanism, I think it would be a very different story. He would have been an outcast in his own communion. He sort of was, anyway, because there were plenty of Anglican liberals, then, too.

Here's some more. Kreeft states in a 2003 interview:

The fault is that that is the only subject Lewis didn't want to talk about, even with his friends, much less in public -- the differences between the churches, especially the differences between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. He addressed issues within his own church and demolished Modernism, which infected (and still infects) all the churches. But he refused to deal with 1517 (or 1054, for that matter.)

Why? Both Christopher Derrick, Lewis's student [author of C. S. Lewis and the Church of Rome: Ignatius: 1981], and Joseph Pearce, Lewis's biographer, give the same answer: he was born in Belfast and knew his prejudices sat deep.
But he [generally avoided this question] for two good reasons. This is true even if the above constitutes a bad reason. For we must take him at his word in Mere Christianity when he says that the reason why he does not address the issues between the churches are these: first, he is not a professional theologian but an amateur whose "expertise" is in the "basics." Second, that he thought God wanted him to address the "basics" because most Christian writers were not doing so; they were fighting on the flanks while the center was going undefended.
He also made very clear, in the preface to Mere Christianity, that "mere Christianity" is not an alternative to any church, nor itself a church. It is like a hall, from which different specific doors lead out, and only beyond those doors, only in the concrete churches, is there food and fire and bed.

Thus, both authors who wrote books specifically devoted to Lewis and Catholicism, give credence to this theory, and a major Lewis scholar today, Peter Kreeft, concurs with it. All three men are or were Catholics (Derrick died in 2007). But I have not as yet found any additional confirming evidence of Tolkien saying what I heard Kreeft on Al Kresta's radio show report him claiming about Lewis, Belfast anti-Catholicism, and Catholicism. 

If any of you Lewis fans out there finds anything, please let me know, in the combox below: I'm extremely interested and curious about this.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Recommended Catholic Apologetics Links

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (6-25-12)

Links list updated on 10 March 2014, with defunct or inactive links removed, and others updated where necessary.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Violence in Films and Whether Young Teens Should View It ("The Book of Eli" as an Example)

Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (6-23-12)

Recently, my wife Judy and I decided that our 15-year-old son shouldn't watch the movie, The Book of Eli (rated R) at a "movie night" with his friends. We came to that conclusion after reading a Christian movie review. Many Christians seem to think it is okay for viewing, presumably because of the strong Christian themes (also praised in this same film review). That may be for adults, but with young teens I think it is a different story. We cannot agree that such an amount of violence, sex, and language in a film is appropriate for a 15-year-old.

The review, even after praising Christian elements in the film, notes:

Regrettably, extreme caution is advised for the movie’s excessive amount of extreme, brutal violence as well as some scenes of implied rape and attempted rape, and an unnecessary amount of foul language. It may be difficult for many viewers to sit through a few of the scenes because the violence is at times so abrupt and unexpected, almost shocking. Please see the content section for a more complete explanation of the objectionable material.

Personally, I don't think these things need to be included. It could easily have been a PG-13 without all this explicit stuff. It's not necessary. But that's my opinion from an artistic perspective, of how to do a film. I know that reasonable and good folks can differ on that. The question comes down to what is gratuitous, unnecessary sex, violence, and language in a movie.

Even Hollywood recognizes that there is an appropriate age differential for movies (hence the rating system); it's not like it is some novel concept. Nor do we apply it absolutely or legalistically. Our son has seen The Passion of the Christ; I have no problem with him watching For Greater Glory, or the older Glory; possibly even Saving Private Ryan, if he can stomach it: all R-rated. I don't think those have gratuitous violence or sex or bad language. That's the key to the discussion. Those movies are also all about real events, and a discussion can be had about the propriety of showing things as they really occurred.

If The Book of Eli had been made in 1960 it could have been just as good without the foul language, sexual innuendoes, gory violence, etc. That's unnecessary to the plot or the impact, in my opinion. The movie doesn't have to be made that way. I could construct a reductio ad absurdum argument about a film about the woman caught in adultery in the Bible or Bathsheba, which includes a half-hour scene of graphic intercourse, in order to show "realistically" what these women (or their lovers) went through. I think that illustrates the flaws in that sort of reasoning.

There are lines that can be drawn, in rational Christian (or even purely secular) argument, and opposition to such things is not mere (or necessarily) prudery or excessive "puritanical" legalism. Beyond this, I would contend that our culture continues to become more and more coarse and permissive as to what is fit in public. We've seen that in all these ways: language, sexuality, and portrayals of violence. It's not silly or "old-fashioned" to engage in sensible philosophical, Christian-influenced discussion as to how far is too far. It's not about "censorship"; it's about intelligent and moral choices concerning how we spend our time with entertainment or reading / viewing materials. Reasonable and good people can differ (very good friends of ours do). I'm just saying that a discussion about it is helpful and should take place, and that my view on this can be fully defended on several levels.

I don't think The Passion has gratuitous violence. I think a cogent argument can be made for that, and I agree with it. The same applies to Saving Private Ryan. It was, I think, necessary to the plot to give viewers a jarring idea of the actual traumatic, horrifying experience of D-Day. Thus, we can experience in some sense "exactly" what Jesus went through and what the brave soldiers in Normandy endured, in order to preserve our freedoms. I personally appreciated that very much, for the purpose of empathy and better understanding. Schindler's List falls into this category, too, though bottomless scenes in Auschwitz were gratuitous, in my opinion, and I remember a single friend of mine objecting strongly to that at the time (with full justification, I think).

My wife Judy would never watch The Passion (nor The Book of Eli) because she is too sensitive to that. She'd have nightmares for weeks. I'm not sensitive or opposed in that sense (squeamishness or "fragility"); I'm simultaneously making both an artistic (filmmaking philosophies and techniques) and "parental" argument.

Here's a second evangelical review of The Book of Eli with the same sorts of concerns:

It's got loads of violence, and we know violence isn't exactly the healthiest stuff to consume in a media diet. But evangelicals have always been a bit more at peace with violence in film than, say, bare bosoms, . . .

And I understand the appeal: Washington's Eli is, literally, on a mission from God—protecting the last Bible on earth with all the vim and vigor his gun-toting, blade-thwacking self can muster. It's got just scads of really powerful, really positive messages and lots of ideas to discuss. . . .

It has the sort of spiritual themes I'd love to show and discuss with my teenage kids—if it wasn't for all the flying blood and hacked limbs and cannibalism and such.

In my review, I essentially said that Eli's violence doesn't nullify Eli's message. But neither does Eli's message excuse its violence. The tension between these two elements made it a particularly tricky film for me to review.

Another one praises the Christian theme, details the violence to the nth degree, and concludes:

Despite the heavy violence, mature thematic content, and offensive language, “The Book of Eli” is a thought-provoking film that has much to offer mature audiences, as it asks viewers to reflect upon their own commitment to Christ. [my bolding]

Exactly, "mature" audiences . . . he doesn't get into my more philosophical argument about how much violence is necessary in a film to get the point across, but does recognize that it is for "mature" viewers.

I saw a reference where Steven Greydanus, the respected Catholic reviewer, simply called the film a "dim-witted quasi-religious apocalyptic thriller . . ."

Common Sense Media offers parental reviews, and notes that out of 21, 81% thought language was an issue, and violence, 67%. One says that it is "certainly not appropriate for younger children and younger teens." Another called his review, "17 and up." A parent of a 15-year-old wrote:

I made the mistake of going into this movie without checking the reviews and I regret taking my son to it. He kept his eyes covered and 30 minutes into it, asked if we could leave. I completely agreed. Extreme violence/gore, nudity, vulgar language, etc. As much as I love Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman, I really couldn't stomach this one.

Wikipedia notes that reviews were highly mixed. Entertainment Weekly, e.g., rated it as a "D" -- without any overt anti-Christian bias that I could see.

I've gone back and forth as to whether I will watch The Book of Eli myself. At first I was inclined to; now I am leaning against watching it, based on several reviews I have read. But I haven't fully decided yet. If someone says that it is silly to judge a movie without watching it (should I decide not to), I reply that this is what movie reviews (like book or music album reviews) are for: to help potential customers make an intelligent choice as to how to spend their time, up to and including a refusal to watch / read / listen.

I'm not a big fan of "action" flicks, anyway (what I derisively refer to as "cars overturning and flying around every minute" movies). A product has to earn the "right" (so to speak) to be experienced: for folks to spend money enjoying it. Otherwise, who cares about a review, if it has no effect on our decision, pro-or con? They would be perfectly irrelevant: like one person preferring vanilla in ice cream, and another chocolate (me!). 

I agree that it is quite obvious that a person will know more about a film by watching it rather than not doing so, but I disagree with some who think that it is irrational to refrain from watching, based on reviews, or to come to a negative conclusion based on same; because this is the purpose of a review: to help people make wise choices as to how to spend their time.

As an author myself, I have to do my best and work hard in order to write a book that earns a good review (and I do get good reviews most of the time on amazon and elsewhere), thus causing relatively more people to purchase and buy. I can't just sit here and say that everyone must read my book to have any informed opinion about it at all (if reviews exist and can be accessed), if it is not a quality work. No! Quality and worthwhile (in my case, educational and edifying) material has to be present, and that comes by hard work and earning approval. It's not automatic. No one is required to read any of my books anymore than I am "required" to watch The Book of Eli.

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