Saturday, April 27, 2013

Books by Dave Armstrong: Catholic Converts and Conversion



[237 pages. Completed on 8 April 2013 and published by Lulu on the same day]

--- for info. on purchasing a paperback or e-book, go to the bottom of the page ---


INTRODUCTION


The early 1990s were a very exciting time in the Catholic world, in terms of an increasing flow of converts into the faith, and the advent of the "modern apologetics movement." Dr. Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian minister (and anti-Catholic) was received into the Church at Easter 1986, and immediately started making a splash with his exciting conversion testimony: delivered in a way that only a former evangelical pastor can do it!

Meanwhile, Karl Keating, trained as an attorney, began publishing The Catholic Answers Newsletter in August 1986 (evolving into the magazine, This Rock, four years later). In 1988, his book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press) was published, and shortly thereafter, he formed Catholic Answers: the largest and (by far) most influential Catholic apologetics organization.

Thus, 1986 may be regarded as the starting-date of the current "Catholic apologetics / influx of converts revival" -- with Hahn and Keating as the two founding fathers (Hahn being the convert and Keating the lifelong, or "cradle" Catholic). It is now 27 years old and flourishing, with the massive help of the Internet: another innovation of the 1990s, EWTN, and Catholic radio.

But these two "fathers" were by no means alone. Many more became involved in apologetics outreach; notably, Patrick Madrid and Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas (cradle Catholics), and Jimmy Akin, Mark Shea, Thomas Howard, and Peter Kreeft (all converts).

Also, during this period, in 1993, Marcus Grodi began The Coming Home Network. It provided pastoral support for Protestant clergy and others who were becoming Catholics or already convinced. Many are familiar with Marcus' EWTN television show, The Journey Home. I later worked for CHN (2007-2010) as a staff moderator on their Internet forum.

Moreover, the Defending the Faith conferences at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, provided a fertile meeting ground for all of these connected movements to network together.

In metro Detroit, where I grew up and still reside, we had a little apologetics / conversion revival of our own. I became convinced of Catholicism by October 1990; and my non-denominational pastor from 1986 to 1989, Al Kresta (now a Catholic radio talk show host and author), returned to the Church a few years later, followed not long after by the conversion of Steve Ray, who is well-known as an author, public speaker, and host of the Footprints of God video series.

I had been friends with both men since 1982. We were all rapt admirers of the Presbyterian popular apologist, Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984). Steve had personally studied with him, Al portrayed him in a play, and I named my Protestant campus ministry after a phrase of his ("true truth"). How odd and completely unexpected that we now all found ourselves in the Catholic Church!

Al and I were privileged to have our conversion stories included as the last and second-to-last entries in Pat Madrid's huge bestselling book, Surprised by Truth (San Diego: Basilica Press, 1994), while Steve told his story in his volume, Crossing the Tiber (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997).

Apologist, author, and cradle Catholic Gary Michuta was also active in southeast Michigan by the mid-90s (when I first met him), giving talks and publishing a magazine, Hands-On Apologetics, that might be described as Michigan's version of This Rock.

It's been a long and exciting journey for all of us in the apologetics movement, and especially for those who are converts or "reverts." I'll tell my story at some length in Part II of this book. Part I is devoted to various analyses of the conversion process, while Part III consists of a collection of older conversion stories (now in the public domain) that have a timeless quality: highlighting reasons for becoming Catholic (that is, apologetics).

This book provides (from many different angles and approaches) explanations of "how and why" men and women become Catholics or return to the Catholic Church after having left it. I hope and pray that this book will be an encouragement and aid to faith and confidence to those already Catholic, and a persuasive tool, by God's grace, for those who are on the road to the Catholic Church, or who may yet to be persuaded to embark on that narrow but exceedingly bright road.


DEDICATION


To my fellow Michigander apologists, who are converts, have returned to the Church, or experienced a great personal revival as Catholics: Al Kresta, Steve Ray, and Gary Michuta. I treasure your friendships and the wonderful work that you do for Holy Mother Church. Carry on, brothers!

I was received into the Catholic Church (and Judy returned to it), on 8 February 1991 (I was 32), by the eminent catechist and author, Servant of God,  Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J.


TABLE OF CONTENTS 
 [possibly to be revised as I proceed]
 

Dedication (p. 3) [read above]

Introduction (p. 5) [read above] 


PART I:
ANALYSES OF CATHOLIC CONVERSION


1. Conversion to Catholicism: Is it Usually Reactionary and Emotional, or Proactive and Rational? (p. 11) [online excerpt: Facebook]


2. Catholic Mariology, Authority, and Various Other Qualms of Protestants Considering Conversion (p. 21)


3. Dialogue on Irrational Hostility to Catholic Conversion Stories (Particularly Scott Hahn's) (p. 31)


4. Conversion and Historical Ecclesiological Arguments (p. 39) [read original dialogue online]


5. Replies to 101 Questions for “Romanist” Converts (p. 45)


6. St. Augustine's Confessions as the Prototype of Today's Better-Known Catholic Conversion Stories (p. 61) [read online]


PART II:
MY OWN CONVERSION SAGA 


7. My Journey: From Clueless Spiritual Curiosity through Heartfelt Evangelicalism, to the Fullness of Catholicism (p. 69) 

[early life] ["Great Depression" spiritual crisis] [books read while evangelical] [description / summary of this section] [all four excerpts were posted on Facebook]


PART III:
TIMELESS CONVERSION STORIES
(EMPHASIZING APOLOGETICS ELEMENTS) 


8. Dom John Chapman (p. 145)
9. James Britten (p. 151)
10. Dom Augustin Daniels (p. 157)
11. W. T. Gorman (p. 163)
12. Hartwell de la Garde Grissell (p. 169)
13. George Hare Patterson (p. 173)
14. C. Kegan Paul (p. 181)
15. Walter Croke Robinson (p. 189)
16. W. O. Sutcliffe (p. 199)
17. C. J. Watts (p. 203)
18. Charles Fisk Beach, Jr. (p. 207)
19. Harriet Brewer Churchill (p. 215)
20. Susan L. Emery (p. 219)
21. Julia G. Robins (p. 223)
22. Justine Bayard Ward (p. 233)

BACK COVER
 St. Edith Stein

PURCHASE INFORMATION


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Last Updated on 17 April 2014.



Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Books by Dave Armstrong: Biblical Catholic Apologetics: A Collection of Essays


[completed on 22 March 2013: 236 pages; published by Lulu on the same day]

--- for information on purchasing a paperback or e-book, go to the bottom of the page ---

INTRODUCTION


As anyone who has followed my apologetics work through the years knows (I've been published in print since 1993 and online since 1996), I have a great number of posts on my blog (2,483, as of writing). Periodically, I collect many of these and re-read and re-edit them, for use in my books. The previous effort most similar to this volume was More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism (Lulu, 2002), since it included multiple topics: sort of similar to a collection of newspaper articles from political commentators, compiled into a book. Several other books of mine, devoted to one general area, were mostly or wholly composed of existing blog papers as well.

The carefully selected "essays" presented here were originally written and posted on my blog between the years of 2000 and  2013. I consider them to be some of my best: the "cream of the crop" of what has not yet been published in a book. A few have been condensed down from their original dialogue formats. Per the subtitle, I'd like this collection to be more along the lines of essays per se, with less written-out Bible verses: a bit more readable and flowing, so to speak. A good deal of my apologetics writing or research is more for the purpose of reference / documentation rather than "straight reading" .
 
The 23 chapters will be organized under seven broad topics. In order, they are: 1) Observations on Catholic Apologetics, 2) Bible and Tradition / Rule of Faith, 3) Justification and Salvation, 4) Sacramentalism, 5) Purgatory, 6) Prayer and the Communion of Saints, and 7)  The Blessed Virgin Mary.

I make no attempt to be systematic, and no necessary relation exists between one chapter and the next. This is, after all, a collection of diverse articles. But I think each one stands up on its own and has enough specific content and substance to warrant being included. Throughout, I presuppose in readers an above-average interest in apologetics and a certain amount of basic theological knowledge. Some particular chapters may not interest individual  readers, and can be skipped over.


As always, my goal is to present writing that is characterized by the "three E's": edifying, educational, and enjoyable. By God's grace, I hope I succeed, and I'd like to thank each reader from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me the privilege of sharing and defending the truths of the Catholic faith. Thanks especially to those who have followed my work for some time, and have purchased and read one or more of my books. You'll never know how much I appreciate that, but rest assured that I do, very much so. All glory to God!


DEDICATION


For all those who would be greatly blessed and made more confident in their faith, if they could only come into contact with Catholic apologetics. I pray that they will realize this, first of all, and then find the appropriate orthodox Catholic material to read. Knowledge is power. As someone stated, "the heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false." Nor can we appreciate and benefit from doctrines that we don't even yet understand. Apologetics is, therefore, crucial in the attainment and maintenance of a solid and robust faith.



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

 

Dedication (p. 3) [read above]

Introduction (p. 5) [read above] 


OBSERVATIONS ON CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS


 1. Internet Apologetics and Practical Advice Regarding Evangelism (p. 11)

 2. A Defense of Lay Catholic Apologetics a la Chesterton and Lewis (p. 39)


BIBLE AND TRADITION / RULE OF FAITH


 3. Luther's Lie:  Was the Bible Utterly Obscure Before His Translation? (p. 67) [read online] 

 4. Did St. Athanasius Believe in Sola Scriptura? (p. 79)

 5. Does Extensive Use of Biblical Arguments Reduce to Sola Scriptura? (p. 89)

 6. Private Judgment vs. Catholic Epistemology (p. 101)

 7. Is Private Judgment Inconsistently Applied in Accepting Catholicism? (p. 111)



JUSTIFICATION AND SALVATION


8. Justification is Not by Faith Alone and is Ongoing (p. 119) [read similar and expanded version online]

9. St. Paul's Use of "Gift" and Infused Justification (p. 129)


SACRAMENTALISM


10. St. Augustine's Acceptance of Seven Sacraments (p. 139) [read online] 

11. Sacramentalism, Relics, and the Pious Use of Physical Items in Worship (p. 147) 

12. Does the Catholic Mass Re-Sacrifice Jesus? (p. 155) [read longer original dialogue version online]
 

PURGATORY


13. John Wesley's View of Purgatory: a Classic Case of Ironic and Inadvertent Approximation of the Very Catholic Teaching Ostensibly Being Opposed (p. 161)

14. Martin Luther's Assertion That Purgatory is "Quite Plain" in 2 Maccabees (p. 173) [read online]


PRAYER AND THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS

15. Biblical Evidence for Prayers of the Righteous Having More Effect and Power (p. 179) [read online]

16. Does the Bible Forbid All "Talking to Dead Men"? Lazarus and the Rich Man as a Counter-Argument (p. 189)

17. "Vain, Repetitious Prayer": Jesus Illustrates What This Does Not Mean (p. 195) [read online]

18Should we Invoke Mary at Our Death, and Does This Minimize Jesus? (p. 201)


THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

19. Catholic Mariology and its Biblical Basis: Reply to a Lutheran Scholar (p. 209) [read original dialogue]

20. The Annunciation: Proof that Mary was Already in a Sublime State of Grace? (p. 219) [read original dialogue]

21. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Argument from the Analogy to "Holy Ground" (p. 223)

22. A Biblical Defense of the "Our Lady of Perpetual Help" Devotion (p. 227)

23. Theosis and God's Role for the Blessed Virgin Mary (p. 231)


* * * * *

BACK COVER




PURCHASE INFORMATION





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Updated on 17 April 2014.


***** 



Faith and Works (But Not Protestant One-Time Justification) in Isaiah Chapter One

Isaiah (Rembrandt)

Isaiah 1 provides a case study in taking passages out of context, to bolster up preconceived notions. Ironically, it was a longtime Baptist friend of mine, on the phone last night, who called my attention to this. He's good Protestant (in no "danger" of becoming Catholic whatsoever), but unlike many Protestants, doesn't try to systematically omit the importance of good works in the Christian life. He doesn't separate faith from works, as James and Paul in many places urge us not to do. He's right. This is the biblical teaching.

The passage usually cited by Protestants is Isaiah 1:18 (RSV, as throughout, when I cite Scripture):

Come now, let us reason together,
says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

This is reminiscent of Psalms 51:2, 7, 9-10 and King David's repentance:

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin! . . .

[7] Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . .

[9] Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
[10] Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.


Protestants (of a certain sort) don't and won't hesitate to cite the Old Testament as authoritative if they think a passage supports their theology. When it doesn't, then the tendency is to dismiss it as irrelevant, because, well, it is the Old Testament. Quite often (if not, typically), evangelical and Reformed and fundamentalist Protestants cite Isaiah 1:18 in isolation as a prooftext for one-time justifiction and/or instant salvation. Here are some examples:


What will happen when you repent and believe? God will forgive your sins, as He said, "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins." (Isaiah 43:25) and He also says, "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, " Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) . . .

Now if you have repented and believe in Yeshua, you are saved and have been given His Holy Spirit who will always be with you, . . .

("When you die . . . are you ready?," Hallsville Baptist Church; my bolding)


In the Book of Isaiah the concept of [Protestant] justification is stated beautifully - Isaiah 1:18.
(WikiChristian: "Justification")

. . . not that pardon of sin takes sin out of the hearts and natures of men, nor changes the nature of sin, or causes it to cease to be sin; but this is to be understood of the persons of sinners, who hereby are made so white, yea, whiter than this, (Psalms 51:1) as they are considered in Christ, washed in his blood, and clothed with his righteousness, which is fine linen, clean and white; God, seeing no iniquity in them, has thus graciously dealt with them, and they being without fault, spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.

(John Gill's Exposition of the Bible)

None of these comments seem to give the slightest attention to context. When we do that, we see that works are part and parcel of what is being dealt with. The immediate context is most striking (and jolting for those who hold to Protestant soteriology). Here are the two verses preceding Isaiah 1:18:

[16] Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
[17] learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
defend the fatherless,
plead for the widow. (cf. 1:23)

Isn't it fascinating how God, through His prophet, includes the actions of the penitent in the whole equation? Protestants tell us nothing can be done by man prior to justification (what many of them equate with a "salvation" that can't ever be lost once truly granted). We actually agree with them, insofar as we are talking about initial justification or regeneration. Those are entirely works of God's grace, and this is the clear teaching of the Council of Trent.

But then, the context of this passage doesn't fit into that scenario. Here, man is clearly doing something: quite a bit: and it can't be separated from God's pardon. Catholics simply say that it may be an instance of justification after the time of initial justification, because we don't see justification as a one-time thing (see my paper, Justification is Not by Faith Alone (Romans 4 + James 2) and is Ongoing, as Seen in Abraham's Multiple Justifications). Protestants will have to offer some other explanation concerning the context, or cease using Isaiah 1:18 as a prooftext for justification (as they define it).

God says, "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean" and two verses later, we see the result: "your sins . . . shall be as white as snow." But Protestants want to ignore all of the actions of men in the overall passage. All of a sudden in Isaiah 1:17, God is talking about a bunch of works again! "Good," "justice," battling "oppression," helping fatherless children and widows . . . How reminiscent this is of the judgment passages, where Jesus says that the key to salvation is not faith alone, but rather (you guessed it), works:

Matthew 25:34-36 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; [35] for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 

The same thing (works and obedience) is seen in the two passages following 1:18:

If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
[20] But if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Everything is conditional ("if . . ."). It's the furthest thing from an irrevocable unconditional promise. The entire chapter is about the nation of Israel, but generally such passages are regarded as having a double application to the Christian believer (as God's "chosen," etc.). How about Isaiah 1:27? Does it talk about faith alone as the prerequisite of justification and one-time salvation? Hardly:


Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
and those in her who repent, by righteousness.

Redeemed by "justice"? Hmmmm. Why that is salvation by works! That can't be! "Redeem" and "redemption" are good Protestant words, and they refer to God's actions only, not our own. But there it is in front of our face. Works, works, works, actions of men, cooperation with God, obedience, "working out your own salvation,": all of that terrible, idolatrous Catholic supposed "works by salvation," semi-Pelagian stuff.

It's the same everywhere in the chapter. There is no respite for the Protestant who dares to read the whole thing, and to interpret 1:18 in context, rather than atomistically isolated: as if it were merely a saying on a poster, to be repeated without any examination.

[4] Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
sons who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the LORD,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
they are utterly estranged.

If Israel represents the individual sinner or the Christian, here we have a nation (by double application, person) that once knew the Lord, but now no longer does. You can't "forsake" something or someone without having formerly followed them.  Yet by Calvinist and Baptist and evangelical "perseverance" and "eternal security" thinking, this is not possible. One can't fall away. Grace is irresistible and election is unconditional. Thus we have to choose between what the Bible teaches and what men teach, in contradiction of it.

Under Catholic principles, on the other hand, no problem at all! Men can fall away from grace, and be restored to it through repentance and absolution and additional justification. Our view is perfectly consistent with what we find here. No special pleading or rationalization necessary; no need to force our prior view into the text in a hackneyed, arbitrary, implausible fashion (what is called eisegesis).

Prayer and worship and rituals and calling God for salvation are worthless unless we repent from the heart and indicate it by our good works:


Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies --
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
[14] Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
[15] When you spread forth your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.

Here as everywhere in Scripture, faith and works are together. Man cooperates with God after receiving initial justification and regeneration (which come entirely by God's grace). So next time you see a Protestant prooftext for anything, be sure to check out the context. It's always a good and helpful policy to abide by.

See my related papers:

St. Paul's Teaching on the Organic Relationship of Grace / Faith and Works / Action / Obedience (Collection of 50 Pauline Passages)

Final Judgment in Scripture is Always Associated With Works And Never With Faith Alone (50 Passages)

The Interpretation and Exegesis of Romans 2-4 (Justification and Works of the Law) (Includes Very Extensive Patristic Commentary and Definitional Citations from three Protestant Bible Dictionaries)

 The "Obedience of Faith" in Paul and its Soteriological Implications (Justification and Denial of "Faith Alone") [from Ferdinand Prat, S. J.; Facebook]

Dialogue on Justification in James

Biblical Evidence for the Nature of Saving Faith (Including Assent, Trust, Hope, Works, Obedience, and Sanctification)

Biblical Evidence for "Power" as a Proof and Manifestation of Infused (Catholic) Justification

Martin Luther: Strong Elements in His Thinking of Theosis and Transformational Sanctification Closely Allied with Justification

Is Christ's Righteousness Imputed to Believers?: Catholic vs. Reformed Protestant Understanding ("Adomnan" vs. John Bugay)

Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Justification and "Faith Alone" ("Adomnan" vs. Nathan Rinne)

"Work Out Your Own Salvation With Fear and Trembling" (Philippians 2:12): Does It Harmonize With Protestant Soteriology? (vs. Ken Temple)

Martin Luther Despised the Widespread Antinomian Distortions of His Teaching on Faith Alone and Did Not Reject Mosaic Law

Church Fathers vs. the "Reformation Pillar" of Faith Alone (Sola Fide) [Including "Revised Protestant Standard" Variant Readings]

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

John Calvin Taught That Good Works Are Part of Every Christian's Life and the Inevitable Manifestation of a True Saving Faith and Justification


***** 


Monday, April 08, 2013

"Free Speech": Am I Obligated to "Debate" and Seriously Engage Fringe, Kooky Positions Like Holocaust Denial? / Shunning Unrepentant Sinners and Contentious Folks: Is it Biblical?

 
My answers to the questions in the title are "no" and "yes." I've been catching some flak today on my Facebook page because I blocked three Holocaust deniers and/or radical Catholic reactionary (RadCathR) Catholics.  Some people tell me I can't do that: that it isn't Christian; that it violates "free speech"; in other words that I am supposedly obligated to spend my time interacting with any and every wacko, lunatic position imaginable.

My policy is clear; always has been from Day One online. It is expressed quite clearly in a post linked on my blog sidebar, and has remained essentially the same for many years. I don't moderate every comment on my blog and I virtually never ban people there, as I stated in this post. I even took a poll once on my blog about how to treat clear trolls. Here is what happened:

We just voted on the trolls issue. The "let them stay and ignore them" proposition won by a 62-38% margin. That's always been my policy, and now I know that 6 of 10 of my readers agree with it.

But I am sensitive to the other 40% too, who wanted to ban the trolls. They often gave very good reasons for their position on this matter, too. It seems to me that there is another level of annoyance and obnoxious, insufferable behavior that deserves immediate banning, above and beyond the troll issue. Everyone recognizes that a person coming and speaking rank vulgarities and profanities, should not be allowed free speech. And we all accept that the person who yells "fire!" in a crowded theater should be escorted out and even possibly charged with a criminal act.

Well, it seems to me that a similar line is crossed with people whose sole intent in coming onto this blog is to insult its host, who (as they know full well) has always let them speak up till now.

Thus, my one exception was someone who could only insult me on my blog, and do nothing else.

I also have more debates with all types of folks online than anyone I have ever seen (some 650 or so by now: I stopped counting some time ago). Of all the absurd charges I've had to put up with: the one that I am "scared" to debate or somehow wish to shut down free exchange of ideas is surely one of the most manifestly ludicrous.

But I have chosen (as a matter of time stewardship) to no longer attempt debate with some folks who have shown themselves persistently, relentlessly unable to engage in civil, constructive debate. Hence, I stopped attempting it with the fringe anti-Catholic wing of Protestantism in 2007.

On Facebook, however, it is necessary to follow a stricter guideline with regard to "free speech." I do not apply my usual (virtually unlimited) free speech advocacy there. The reason is simple: I have nearly 5,000 friends and my posts are all set to "public." This means that anything posted is seen by potentially a lot of people. Certain extreme, fringe, kooky folks are too extreme to warrant being granted any attention at all. Holocaust deniers would be among them. Neo-Nazis or Klansmen would be, too. I completely agree with what Simcha Fisher stated in an article in the National Catholic Register today:

. . . once you publicly deny the Holocaust, you are no longer allowed to say anything, about anything, ever. Shutting up: that's what's for you, from now on. The end, goodbye to you and farewell to thee.


I think belief in a flat earth or geocentrism fits into extreme kook category, too, though it doesn't involve a despicable hatred as these other views. I also will not countenance RadCathR Catholics (i.e., those who want to tear down the pope and Vatican II and the Novus Ordo ("New") Mass and can do little else.

No one is obliged to offer absolutely unlimited free speech on a Facebook page or a blog. This is immediately obvious to most people. For example, vulgar sexual talk is understood to not be allowed in Christian venues (and even, for the most part, in secular venues). That's understood. It's a limit; it takes away so-called "rights" for people to say anything they want, of this nature, in public. It may no longer be the case on TV and in the movies, but it is on Christian Internet sites. The classic instance of such a limit is yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.

My purpose on my Facebook page and blog is to be a Catholic teacher and apologist. I want as many people to visit and read as I can get, and I want them to feel that it is a congenial place, minus all the rotgut and fighting and sheer nonsense that is so prevalent on the Internet. I want it to be different; an example of what discussion can be online if people cultivate an atmosphere for it to take place; applying a higher standard. Many thousands are completely fed up with the Internet and the low level of discourse that is so widely found. I hear the complaints all the time.


Also, one must distinguish between debating someone in some neutral place vs. the same person coming in and commenting in an obnoxious manner, or trying to dominate (trolling) on a Facebook page, which is one's own "territory" or domain. It's akin to an unwanted person coming in and dominating a party in your home and offending lots of people there. No one is obliged to entertain such a person indefinitely under the guise of so-called "free speech." Crucial distinctions must be made in this regard.

The only way to create a good atmosphere for discussion and learning (in Facebook) is to block the wackos (or defriend them if posts are "friends only"). Its really that simple. It's not ideal (in a sense), but it's the only practical way to do it. Nor is there anything in the slightest bit "wrong" or "unjust" about this. People can get to a place (because of fringe, extremist notions) where they aren't welcome in venues where thoughtful, conscientious people gather to engage in constructive, civil, charitable discussion about issues.

Now, here are some exchanges today on this issue from my Facebook page. my debate opponent's words will be blue.

[after blocking three Holocaust deniers and/or RadCathRs] These goofballs have free speech on their own pages. They don't have the "right" to be idiots and scumbags on my page. I have quality control. It's why people are comfortable here. They know we have adult Catholic or otherwise Christian conversation, minus insults and nonsense.

Most "deniers" are actually "revisionists", people who believe the numbers remain inflated. Shall we make pariahs of Catholic "Inquisition Deniers", who downgrade the numbers of people killed in the Inquisition from 200 millions over 200 or so years to something much smaller? Shall we shun the Stalin-purge deniers--I read one several months ago, by a New York Times commentator I believe, who cut the estimated number of dead under Stalin to about 5% of the usual number. 

In any case, this practice of cutting off dialogue and conversation with reasonable people who happen to hold theories you disagree with is un-Christian. It is anti-Catholic. It is un-American. And it is illiberal. The Christian, the American way of things is to lay out ones case, to hear out the other side in a reasonable respectful dialogue--putting aside so far as possible any emotional investment in the discussion--and go forward from there. And holding minority views, eccentric views,even unpopular, eccentric minority views on one topic never renders one's opinions on some other subject invalid. Or reduces one to the status of pariah. Christians know no pariahs. Not ever. Not nowhere. Not nohow. 

Holocaust deniers or minimizers or belittlers (choose your term) are not reasonable. Not ever. Not nowhere. Not nohow. This is most of the point!

As to the rest of your analysis, in my opinion you put Americanism and absolute free speech ideals: that come more from the so-called "Enlightenment" than from Christianity (even though those guys guillotined prominent scientists rather than give them free speech) above biblical teaching. You seem quite unfamiliar with the abundant biblical teaching in this regard.

St. Paul repeatedly urges Christians to not associate with (or separate from) divisive, sectarian-type folks:

Romans 16:17 (RSV) I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.

1 Corinthians 5:11 But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber -- not even to eat with such a one.

2 Timothy 2:23 Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

Titus 3:9-11 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. [10] As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, [11] knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

St. Paul's advice to separate was not written only to bishops. He was writing to the Roman and Thessalonian and Corinthian congregations. Romans, for example, is written "to all God's beloved in Rome" (1:7); 1 Corinthians "to those sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1:2). Thus his recommendation / command to "avoid" difficult, contentious people is a general one in application: it applies to all Christians by logical extension.

When writing to the Corinthians above, Paul is scandalized that a serious unrepentant sinner had not already been removed by the assembly. He noted that he had told them to remove such a person, but they hadn't done so
. But they can make that call. Paul gave the general teaching: "
not to associate with any one who . . . " They apply it specifically to individuals.

Excommunication and anathematizing is perfectly biblical and Christian:
Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:19-20 . . . By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenae'us and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Some things are so extreme and wicked that the person removes himself from reasoned, civil discourse. Simcha was exactly right in her article. This Holocaust stuff is one of them. If someone doesn't like it, they can lump it. Anyone is free not to participate in my discussions if they don't care for them, or for the "quality control" / moderation I exercise on my own page. It's perfectly justifiable according to the biblical teachings above.


We should absolutely debate ideas (and I do), except for the most extreme, wicked, idiotic positions that don't deserve the dignity of a response. Someone wants to debate Holocaust deniers? They can go right ahead. No one will prevent them from doing so. I am under no obligation to do so.

No one can tell me that I have to spend time countenancing wackos and extremists on my page. I have ample biblical warrant for not doing so. If someone else wants to do so, they can learn the hard way how many normal people will visit their page and participate.


[further lengthy comments from my friend]

And once again (as always so far), you have completely ignored all the Scripture I brought to bear on the topic. You want to go by fashion and secular libertarianism rather than Christian guidelines. Scripture is objective, inspired teaching. Your own opinions on this carry no particular weight (nor do mine). But God's revelation and Catholic tradition following it is entirely different.

Again, you state: "engaging those whose ideas we know to be wrong so long as they will engage us reasonably." But a Holocaust denier is anything but reasonable. Your assumption there is entirely debatable. Even your statement of it has a loophole a mile wide: "so long as they . . ." I say they don't do so, and we saw it in this very thread today.

All that said, you still have to ignore Paul's repeated injunctions to avoid unsavory people of many different types. At least you finally bring in some semblance of Bible teaching:
Ultimately, we need to be like Christ, who made an apostle of a tax collector, received prostitutes and lepers as friends, and generally refused to give in to the impulse to make pariahs of others.
 
But you cite one motif in Jesus' actions while ignoring another. The same Jesus also stated:


Matthew 10:13-14 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. [14] And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

Stubborn people don't listen to the apostles; Jesus tells them to shake the dust off their feet and leave; not to keep engaging them forever out of some false notion of pseudo-"charity".


My biblical rationale for this remains unresponded to. It's diametrically opposed to what you are saying. Even your example of Jesus eating with sinners doesn't apply, because they were open to what He was saying, whereas Paul talks about those who are obstinate, contentious, divisive people who are deliberately being "oppositional."

We all have to conform to biblical teaching, and this one is quite clear. The only dispute is how to apply it. I say a Holocaust denier applies in spades, because he is a liar and is exercising the height of uncharity.

Jesus didn't spend time reasoning and being meek and mild with the moneychangers, either, did He? Here's what He did:

Mark 11:15-17 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; [16] and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. [17] And he taught, and said to them, "Is it not written, `My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." 

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