Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Catholic Answers Cruises and the Inevitability of Capitalistic "Business Models" in Catholic Non-Profit Lay Apostolates (and Apologetics)

By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong (6-24-14)

I briefly paraphrase comments from three different people, that I was responding to in a friends-only thread (in brackets and blue color).

* * * * *

I don't oppose in principle the idea of a cruise, for reasons I have given. The reasons given in the latest bashing surely are inadequate to sink a cruise (pun intended). I'd like to see someone respond to Karl Keating's defense of their cruises. That's what a real discussion would look like.

I find the whole discussion rather silly and simple-minded: along the lines of the old saw about "why do you Catholics build these expensive cathedrals when all that money could go to the poor?" Now the answer that any apologist would give to that is a similar apologia that could be given for these cruises (and has been given, by Karl Keating himself).

[Karl's argument there bears too much troubling similarity to the snake-oil salesman televangelist tactics. Lay apologists can't claim that they deserve to be paid based on "the laborer is worth his hire." 99% of Catholic Answers followers can't afford this cruise they are offering. "Business models" of this sort and catering to upper middle class markets are antithetical to Catholicism altogether.]

That's silly. If you are working there, you're qualified for that job, and it deserves remuneration like any other skilled job: just as every DRE or youth minister gets paid by a parish. If they are qualified, they get hired and get paid. Where's the beef?

I was qualified enough to have my books published nine times by five different publishers. So I get paid by 'em (though not much, since it is a 12% cut). Why are these things knocked all the time (by folks who should know better)?

CA begs; so does public TV and Catholic radio and a host of non-profit entities. So why do we have to hear all the moaning and groaning and complaining about CA, as if they are supposed to be ashamed about raising money for a good cause?

For heaven's sake: St. Paul Street Evangelization, that you are involved with (and I am an advisor and edited most of the tracts) solicits fund, too. Are they supposed to be ashamed of that because they are involved with filthy lucre? 

Every non-profit uses a business model to some extent. I probably do less than almost anyone (though I sell books and have a site devoted to that), yet I still don't buy it that all this stuff is somehow intrinsically evil and ought to be bashed in public posts.

[selling products to a Catholic market seems insufficiently "Catholic".  Marketing should play no role in Catholic apostolates. A lot of this mentality comes from evangelical Protestantism. Organizations like CA are a new thing we haven't really seen before.]

So you think Sheed and Ward in the good ol' days did no marketing to sell their books? How stupid would a publisher be not to do so? And what is wrong with it? Every diocese makes "business" and administrative decisions. They have appeals for missions and social services. They have to decide if a parish is losing money, up to possible closure.

You can't escape it. I happen to be personally very uncomfortable with many of the things you observe, myself, yet I don't see how a coherent argument can be made to remove all business and marketing altogether from a publisher who sells books or even an apologetics apostolate.

I cam tell you from firsthand experience (12 1/2 years of full-time apologetics) that selling books or other products is not enough to get by. The market is too small, so any Catholic apostolate has to also solicit funds, just as, e.g., public TV does or charitable endeavors do (like the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for medical purposes).

[Dave, you ought to make much more money than you do for all your hard work, but you are only getting scraps from the Catholic market, while others (with fewer children than you have) are making much more money for far less work. And it's distressing to me that you have to be on your best behavior in front of these guys, lest the Catholic fatcats blacklist you, as they have done to others.]  

I appreciate your concern, and I agree that I deserve a higher income for the work that I do. But now you're talking business, ain't you? "Market"? I need to sell books. My booksite is out there, but sales are slow. That has nothing to do with Keating or Madrid or Hahn or any of the others. It has a lot to do with the fact that thinking Catholics who want to read and grow are a small number of people.

But God has provided my family's needs for over a dozen years, and will continue to do so. I'm not worried, and I'm not unhappy. One is always happy if he follows the call that God has for him or her.


You don't know how much another man works, or the dues he has paid.

I don't have to "do" anything. I'm beholden (i.e., in the sense you claim) to no one (one of the few perks I do have, being self-employed). I argue what I do here because it's what I believe, as always. I can't be bought because having lots of money is not a goal of mine.

I have argued against Kevin Tierney's related comments and yours because they make no sense, or else have an implicit double standard in them, because the same standards are not applied in other areas. Yet you guys wanna bash the Catholic cruises, and now go after Keating personally?

People will work in secular jobs and help make companies many millions of dollars of profits and they see nothing wrong with that. That's fine and dandy, and I see no posts on Facebook decrying those jobs. All the vitriol is reserved for a wonderful Catholic apostolate like Catholic Answers because it offers cruises.

And if someone dares to defend the idea (as I do), now I am in bed with them and can't speak freely lest I will supposedly be blacklisted? I had this whole discussion with Michael Voris in person. It's sheer nonsense.

If you want to see someone kissing up and brown-nosing shamelessly, watch the two Michael Voris "Mic'D Up" interviews with geocentrist and anti-Semite Robert Sungenis and his sidekick Rick  DeLano.

[this sort of work used to be done mainly by priests and nuns. Now we see married laypeople doing it. The only laypeople who did stuff like this in the past were (pretty much) academics. But groups like CA and others today do their work independent of parishes, dioceses, or schools. And they do marketing techniques. It's not all bad, but it is a legitimate concern to address.]

It's not new at all. I've written about this myth. Ever heard of G. K. Chesterton (married layperson) or Frank Sheed? Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote:
In the first age laymen were most commonly the Apologists. Such were Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, Aristides, Hermias, Minucius Felix, Arnobius, and Lactantius. In like manner in this age some of the most prominent defences of the Church are from laymen: as De Maistre, Chateaubriand, Nicolas, Montalembert, and others.

(The Idea of a University, Part II, ch. 4, sec. 4: “General Religious Knowledge,” 1856)

Some other examples of prominent lay apologists are Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853), Guy Lefèvre de la Boderie (1541-1598), and Justus Baronius Calvinus (1570- after 1606), as well as, more recently, Arnold Lunn (1888-1974), Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), and Catholic historian / apologists, such as Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) and Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953).

See my paper:  "Catholic Lay Apologetics: a Long and Noble "Magisterially Approved" History "

As for being supposedly "independent of parishes, dioceses, or schools," this is untrue. For example, in my case, I write for The Michigan Catholic, the official paper of the archdiocese of Detroit. I have received an Imprimatur from my own bishop. I had the express recommendation of Fr. Hardon, whose residence was in Detroit. I'm connected with several Catholic organizations: all of which are supported by many priests and bishops.

The Catholic Church is all for lay apostolates. It's nothing new and it is encouraged and sanctioned by Holy Mother Church. Those are the facts. And we will not be made to feel ashamed for what we do, as if we are doing some terrible thing.

Now, both of you qualified your remarks somewhat, but many others who argue similarly, do not do so, and I've heard these complaints over and over (and have refuted them many times as well).

[The issue isn't profit or fundraising per se,  but mixing business with Catholic outreach, and trying to reach markets, just like any other business. The problem is with priorities and proper proportion. It's like a big club, and you, Dave, have worked very hard, yet make a pittance, compared to what others are making.]

Ah, but that is itself thinking according to a business model. I don't care if I have all that money. It's not my goal. That may be hard for folks to believe in America, but that is the truth. I'm a radical and advocate of simple living, and a distributist. So if I'm perfectly content, living the life I wanna live, why should you care, as if I am somehow being shorted?

God is providing my needs. What more is needed? Sure, I'd like to sell more books, but as long as I can pay my bills, I'm doin' fine.

[again, the problem is not solicitation of donations, but access for rich people only to intimately interact with Catholic speakers and to go on fabulous cruises, whereas most folks cannot. This is an unacceptable partiality.] 

So how does that work? CA is supposed to say that "if you make above a certain amount of money, we can't accept your donations (insofar as they receive money from the profit of a cruise) because that would be unfair to the people who make less money than you do"?

Businesses (even non-profit ones) have always catered to the wealthy, because that is how they can really fund their work. It's the same in any line of work. I love music as much as anyone on the planet. But I can't get those backstage passes for concerts where you meet the band or the singer. It's only the rich people who can do that (or family members, etc.). One time I was blessed that a friend of mine with basketball connections got us 4th row seats for the Pistons (the tickets each said it would have cost $750). Got to meet Pistons Hall-of-Famer Joe Dumars, too. I could never have done that. But the person with connections made it possible.

I got to go on a very nice large sailboat (twice) that friends of ours own. I could have never dreamt of having any such thing, etc. There are a host of examples. The Coming Home Network paid for a nice hotel for my wife and I, and wonderful food at a conference (way above my pay grade) because I was a staff member. We got to stay in the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island as guests, and were treated like a king and queen, because my wife's mother sent them a picture and told a story that moved the owner. That room would have cost $700 a night. So we were "rich for a day" in all these instances.

It's fine to have all this "righteous indignation" and liberal-type feelings of about the more well-to-do folks getting to do stuff we can't, but I don't see how a solid argument can be made against it, given the reality of how capitalism works, and how we are all tied up in that one way or another (whether we like it or not).

I'll guarantee that wherever you and [Name] work (if it is a business, which it's always gonna be), there are the big shots that have all kinds of luxuries and conveniences because of the labor of you and the others who work there. You allow that to be possible by your participation. It's how corporate capitalism works.

In my profession, I am the direct cause of publishers making tons of money off of my own work, while I get a pittance (usually 12-14%), or in one notorious case, no ongoing royalties at all, while the publisher makes multiple thousands of dollars for decades off of the work that I did.

What am I supposed to do?: say that that is so unfair that I will stop writing my books (or trying to get them published in a way other than self-publishing, which I also do)? That would be negligent of my calling before God.

Class envy is a Marxist / liberal concept. Me, I don't envy the money that people make or the privileges attached thereto because I don't seek that level of income in the first place. Therefore, I can write fairly objectively about business issues of this sort without any personal stake in the matter.

[how come when issues like this are brought up, folks always wanna channel it into  "class warfare"? If CA would simply provide equal access to all, this would cease to be an issue at all.]

Why don't you or [Name] answer all the various arguments I made? That would be quite the novelty, wouldn't it?

I am saying that this is always the way it is, and that it is absurd to argue as you guys are doing: to say that "CA can't do a cruise unless
they allow the janitor and waitress as well as the bank executive to have all the fun that such cruises provide. If they don't, it's unethical, and they are idolizing filthy lucre."

Of course, Kevin Tierney's original point wasn't so much all this "high" bleeding-heart concern for the poor and how they miss out on all the goodies and perks that upper middle class America enjoys, but rather, a rant that Keating and Madrid have done nothing of relevance for ten years, and have been merely spouting talking-points for 20 (insinuation: they don't deserve to be listened to by anyone, on a cruise or anywhere else, cuz they are washed-up and irrelevant).

So let's see: if Keating and Madrid go on a nationwide tour that is free admission, and sit all day and do a meet-and-greet and personally converse with people of all classes, then your concerns are adequately met and it's okay that they do a cruise, since now the "unfairness" that you see has been rectified?

[you haven't dealt with what I am saying at all; hence, I have nothing to respond to. The price of these cruises is absurdly high and excludes most people from being able to go on them. Comments being made on the CA Facebook page  concerning the cruise make that clear.  Talks are given by people [Keating and Madrid] who haven't done much lately, which makes it a farce, like all those 60s and 70s band reunions. No need for a big free tour: just show that poor people can have access just like the rich folks. We can't accept the capitalistic status quo; we're called to a much higher standard than that.]

Right. Well, at least you haven't blown your top or fled to the hills as you usually do, and give some semblance of a "reply" with your usual preaching rants -- but it isn't rational interaction with what I have written, and certainly no refutation of same.

[why should I do a rebuttal to a treatise on unicorns? Sorry; that's a waste of my time.] 

If you want to engage in mere shallow, sloganistic-type rhetoric and polemics (tying into the familiar themes of Marxist and class envy), and ignore (and mockingly dismiss) opposing arguments, you can do so, but no one who tries to examine issues in depth will be impressed by that.

Reference was made to discussion on the CA Facebook page. Catholic Answers replied as follows to one such complaint:

Most of what we do is for free. Our radio program, handing out booklets at events like World Youth Day, magazines for seminarians and prisoners, producing free apologetics articles on our web site, etc. We put on events like this to raise money to facilitate all these outreach efforts.

That's true for me, too. I have over 2,550 posts on my blog available for free. I have 15 radio interviews available to download for free. Then I have my books, which cost something.

We get criticized for whatever we do. I get blasted because I am supposedly self-published only (I'm not: I have nine "official" books out, and I do many more on my own). I get blasted for making money with my "official" books, as if I am not supposed to make any money at all, with a family of six. I get criticized because not all my books have an Imprimatur (but some indeed do). If an apologist makes good money (however that is defined) he is obviously in the work only for filthy lucre and ill-gotten gain. If we make relatively little (more my category!), then we get accused of being negligent of our families and forcing spouses to live like paupers, as we indulge our unethical and obsessive fantasies of being an apologist.

We can't please everyone, no matter what we do. And why would anyone expect that, anyway? Jesus was accused of being filled with demons and being a blasphemer. Why would His laborers today expect any better treatment? He said that His followers would be hated by all, because they hated Him first.

It doesn't matter. There is always someone who will bash outreach efforts in some fashion, while they (mostly) sit on their butts and do nothing.

* * * 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Preface to the 3rd Revised 2015 Edition of Dave Armstrong's Book, "Orthodoxy and Catholicism: A Comparison"

By Dave Armstrong (6-11-14)

The original edition of this volume was completed in July 2004, and was drawn largely from writings, including debates, from the previous seven years online. It has been one of the few books (at least on a lay level or among the apologetics community) to examine Orthodoxy from a Catholic perspective, and has had some degree of influence as such. The Coming Home Network has purchased two large bulk orders and Logos Bible Software included it in its large collection of theological works (with nine other books of mine, as of this writing).

Most notably, in June 2011, I received a letter from His Excellency, Ladislav Hučko: Bishop - Apostolic Exarch of the Greek-Catholic Church, in Prague (Byzantine Rite). He asked for permission to reprint up to 200 copies of my book (already translated into Czech) for his priests and fellow Czech bishops.

There are eight Bohemian bishops in the Czech Republic and five Moravian bishops. The country has eight dioceses and an Apostolic Exarchate. In the Archdiocese of Prague alone there were (in 2011) 378 parishes with 216 priests, serving 370,000 Catholics. It wasn't clear exactly who was to receive copies of my book, but it appeared to be all the bishops in the Czech Republic and many priests as well. I received no remuneration, but that was rather beside the point.

But to return to the reasons for this revision: in 2004, though I sought to be ecumenical scarcely any less than I do now, I seemed to mostly run across Orthodox online who were of an “anti-Catholic” or “anti-Western” nature, and the book reflected that.

I have become concerned that readers do not come away from this book with a mistaken perception that I am “anti-Orthodox” or that I think most, or the majority of Orthodox Christians are anti-Catholic or anti-Western. I know (from much personal experience) that some – likely, many – of them are. What percentage of the whole are of that mindset, I have no idea. But I know that there are also ecumenical Orthodox.

It has been my strong desire for some time now to revise my book in order to emphasize ecumenism and unity proportionately a lot more than in the first edition. I basically stopped debating theology with the Orthodox around 2001 or so. I only debated on rare occasions when someone strongly challenged some aspect of Catholicism, or when I felt Catholic views were being distorted and had to be defended, as part of my duty as an apologist.


I was much more interested in finding common ground, and that desire and passion has grown in the ensuing years. I've also learned a thing or two about Orthodoxy over the past decade. I want my book to reflect that, and to be able to read by Orthodox and also Eastern Catholics, without having seizures or going into apoplectic fits (caused by either my ignorance, or overly polemical or biased writing). I exaggerate, of course, but perhaps not by much!

Toward that end I have enlisted a very qualified Byzantine Catholic friend to participate in the revised edition: Fr. Deacon Daniel G. Dozier. He has immeasurably improved the original manuscript, in a very exciting and insightful way and has made it far more “Eastern-friendly” in a way that I never could have done on my own.

The revision remains an apologetic for Catholicism and respectful critique of Orthodoxy, but now it also includes friendly ecumenical discussion and dialogue: feedback and input from the Eastern Catholic theological perspective. The overall tone and tenor is considerably different.

I first revised it on my own, according to my expressed goals. I remain the final editor, but now, additionally, Fr. Deacon Daniel Dozier contributes his thoughts at the end of each chapter, and I counter-reply: mostly in cases of any disagreement. (sometimes in cases of enthusiastic agreement). In cases where I don't offer a reply, readers may correctly assume that I am in agreement with my friend's thoughts. I hope that readers will be able to “resonate with” a genuine, friendly, mutually respectful dialogue. I still believe in it (ever the hopeful idealist).

Fr. Deacon Daniel Dozier also wrote a new chapter at the end of the book, where he discusses matters close to his heart and of concern or importance to him.

The revision has, I think, a different spirit and ultimate goal: to foster unity as well as to defend Catholic views when they are strongly critiqued by the Orthodox.

In participating in the project of revision, I have learned many things, greatly expanded my horizons in the dialogues, and thoroughly enjoyed both the fellowship and additional theological input. My deep hope and prayer is that readers will be blessed and edified by the final product of our combined efforts.

I'm particularly gratified to be able to combine in one book two aspects that are very dear to my heart: respectful dialogue, and a blending of apologetics and ecumenism in such a way that it is clearly seen that the two endeavors are complementary and not contradictory. I believe that Orthodoxy and Catholicism are ultimately harmonious, too, and that is what the deeply hoped-for reunion is all about.

May God greatly bless you, the reader, and I'd like to express my deep, profound thanks and appreciation to Fr. Deacon Daniel G. Dozier for his generous and very educational, edifying, and enlightening participation.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Did John Calvin Believe in Mary's Perpetual Virginity? (Debate with Tim Staples + Anti-Catholic James Swan's Usual Nonsense)

By Dave Armstrong (6-5-14)

[John Calvin's words will be in blue; Tim Staples' words in green; anti-Catholic Reformed polemicist James Swan's words (appropriately for a clown) will be in red and purple]

Tim Staples has a new book out about Mariology, entitled, Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines.  On 10 October 2014 at the Catholic Answers blog, he wrote a related post, entitled, "Apologists Make Mistakes, Too!" Well, of course we do (as far as that goes)! No argument there. I am questioning, however, whether we have been (hugely) mistaken on this particular point.

First of all: I'm not trying to make this some big stink between Tim and I. Not at all! It's a friendly dispute about a fascinating question. Tim's a great guy. I like his stuff; he appears to like my writing. We first met in 2011 at the Catholic Answers office in California.

I think it is important to respond to this article, in particular, because it's already (quite predictably) being exploited by anti-Catholic Reformed apologist James Swan. I wrote on the CA thread about that:

It's all the more important that we get this issue nailed down, since vitriolic anti-Catholic Protestants like James Swan is already trying to exploit your post, to make Catholic apologists look stupid. He immediately seized upon it in his post, dated 10-11-14:

This is another issue that's been on this blog for many years now. . . . I look forward to utilizing Staples here the next time one of Rome's apologists bring this up. . . . I've accused Rome's defenders for years of sloppy and inaccurate historical work on the Protestant Reformation, especially the Reformers' Mariology. At times it's been like shooting fish in a barrel. . . . It's enough for me that one of Rome's popular defenders is now saying some of the same things I've been saying for years.

Thus, he is using the old tired tactic of pitting one Catholic apologist (whom he thinks is relatively more smart) over against the rest of the massive lot of dummies that he thinks we are as a class, in order to mock both Catholic apologists and the faith they defend. He despises all of us. He's only trying to "use" your post in order to make his point that Catholic apologists en masse are sloppy researchers and not to be trusted (except, of course, when they reach the same conclusion that he does).

It's important, then, that we determine where the truth lies here. . . . I believe I and others (and you, formerly) have been correct in stating that Calvin accepted the PVM. This is not a faux pas (or worse) that we have to rectify, in public or in private.

So what exactly is the dispute under consideration? Here are the standard passages from Calvin that are used to demonstrate (though not with absolute conclusiveness; I agree) that he believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary:

Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s "brothers" are sometimes mentioned. (Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, sec. 39 [Geneva, 1562], vol. 2 / From Calvin’s Commentaries, translated by William Pringle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55)

[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called "first-born"; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107)

Under the word "brethren" the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, [7:3] )

Some Protestants have argued that these texts are insufficient to determine what Calvin believed, or that he himself was agnostic and took no position on this issue, or in fact, opposed the notion that she was a perpetual virgin. Tim wrote in his recent post:

I also point out some errors going in the other direction. Well-intentioned Catholics—even some Catholic apologists—have presented things concerning Protestant beliefs that are just plain wrong.
And error is error no matter the source.

. . . Calvin Did NOT Believe in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

This second myth is even more widespread.  . .

The error seems to have stemmed from misunderstanding some few comments from John Calvin’s 3-volume set, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Transl. by Rev. William Pringle (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2009). In his commentaries on Matt. 13:55 and Matt. 1:25, in volume 1, he takes Helvidius to task for assuming Mary had other children because of the mention of the “brothers of the Lord,” in Matthew 13:55, and for assuming “Joseph knew her not until…” meant that Joseph then was being said to have known Mary conjugally after Christ was born.
Calvin correctly and sternly (in good Calvin fashion) teaches the "brothers" of the Lord may well be a Hebrew idiom representing "cousins" or some other extended relative. And he also points out that the "until" of Matt. 1:25 really says nothing about what happened after Mary gave birth. It was used there to emphasize the virginity of Mary up "until" that point.
. . . unfortunately, many Catholics have taken these two sections of Calvin's commentary out of context and claim it to mean he agreed with the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. But in fact, he never says that. He simply concludes these Scriptures to be silent on the matter. They prove neither yeah nor nay when it comes to Mary's perpetual virginity.

Tim produces as evidence for his claim, Calvin's commentary on Luke 1:34:

The conjecture which some have drawn from these words, that she had formed a vow of perpetual virginity, is unfounded and altogether absurd. She would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage . . . 

He added:

Notice here, he not only denies this text could be used to prove the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, but he denies the doctrine itself as a possible consideration.

Now, at first glance, this evidence did seem fairly compelling for Tim's position. But I knew (because I had documented it previously) that many Calvinist  scholars and other Protestant experts on Calvin agree that he did accept the perpetual virginity, and so I wondered why that is, if Tim is correct, and I started digging for more information. I found another related citation, that I think affirms what I and others have been arguing, lo, these many years.

Max Thurian, in his Mary: Mother of All Christians (translated by Nevill B. Cryer, New York: Herder & Herder, 1963, pp. 39-40) -- I have a hard copy in my library -- notes a sermon of Calvin's on Matthew 1:22-25, published in 1562 in the shorthand notes of Denys Ragueneau. Here is his citation:

There have been certain strange folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! for the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company. There we see that he had never known her person for he was separated from his wife. He could marry another all the more because he could not enjoy the woman to whom he was betrothed; but he rather desired to forfeit his rights and abstain from marriage, being yet always married: he preferred, I say, to remain thus in the service of God rather than to consider what he might still feel that he could come to. He had forsaken everything in order that he might subject himself fully to the will of God.

And besides this, our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second. Thus we see the intention of the Holy Spirit. This is why to lend ourselves to foolish subtleties would be to abuse Holy Scripture, which is, as St. Paul says, "to be used for our edification."

From this we learn several things:

1. It serves as a further interpretation or clarification of his allegedly "agnostic" commentary on Matthew 1:25, as actually affirming perpetual virginity.

2. It shows that his denial of a vow of perpetual virginity from Mary is not necessarily and not in fact the same as a denial of her perpetual virginity.

3. Calvin does indeed believe in the traditional doctrine, as we see in his statement: "not because there was a second or a third" and his assertion that Joseph never dwelt with Mary. Mary had no further children. This is why he habitually refers to her as "the virgin" in his writings, much like Catholics have through the centuries. It implies perpetual virginity.

4. Since they never lived together, according to Calvin, obviously they had no children together. Thus, Mary was perpetually a virgin.

5. Moreover, it wasn't a question of corrupting marriage, per his comment on Lk 1:34, since for him, they never lived together and thus were not "united." Thus, the difficulty for the belief that he held to the PVM, suggested prima facie by his comment on Luke 1:34 vanishes. For Calvin, both things are true: Mary didn't make such a vow and they didn't live together in a chaste fashion, since he thinks they didn't live together at all.

This 1562 sermon may be one reason why many Protestant (including Calvinist) scholars agree that Calvin adhered to Mary's perpetual virginity, as I noted in my paper (alluded to and linked above) over four years ago now:

David F. Wright, in his book, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989, pp. 173, 175), stated:
. . . his more careful biblicism could insist on only Mary’s refraining from intercourse before the birth of Jesus (i.e., her virginity ante partum). On the other hand, he never excluded as untenable the other elements in her perpetual virginity, and may be said to have believed it himself without claiming that Scripture taught it. . . . [Calvin] commonly speaks of Mary as "the holy Virgin" (and rarely as simply as "Mary" preferring "the Virgin", etc.).

Thomas Henry Louis Parker, in his Calvin: an Introduction to his Thought (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), concurs:
. . . the Virgin Birth, which Calvin holds, together with the perpetual virginity of Mary. (p. 66)
He is the author of several books about Calvin, such as John Calvin: A Biography (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), and Oracles Of God: An Introduction To The Preaching Of John Calvin (Lutterworth Press, 2002), Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (S.C.M. Press, 1971), Calvin’s Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press, 1992), Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), and several other Calvin-related volumes, and translator of Calvin’s Harmony of the Gospels in its 1995 Eerdmans edition.

Presumably, he knows enough about Calvin to have a basis for his beliefs about this matter and Calvin's own position.

The article “Mary” (by David F. Wright) in the Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (edited by Donald K. McKim, Westminster John Knox Press,1992, p. 237), proclaims:
Calvin was likewise less clear-cut than Luther on Mary’s perpetual virginity but undoubtedly favored it. Notes in the Geneva Bible (Matt. 1:18, 25; Jesus' "brothers") defend it, as did Zwingli and the English reformers . . .
Donald G. Bloesch, in his Jesus Christ: Savior and Lord (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2006, p. 87), joins the crowd:
Protestantism . . . remained remarkably open to the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Among others, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wollebius, Bullinger and Wesley claimed that Mary was ever-virgin (semper virgo). The Second Helvetic Confession and the Geneva Bible of the Reformed faith and the Schmalkald Articles of the Lutheran churches affirm it.
Geoffrey W. Bromiley in his article, “Mary the Mother of Jesus” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: K-P (edited by Bromiley, revised edition of 1994 published by Eerdmans [Grand Rapids, Michigan], p. 269), wrote:
The post-partum or perpetual virginity concept is held by some Protestants and was held by many Reformers (e.g., Calvin in his sermon on Mt. 1:22-25) . . .
Note that this refers to the sermon I cited above, not just Calvin's Commentaries. And this is from the revised ISBE: not a source one can easily dismiss.

Derek W. H. Thomas, writing in A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes: Essays and Analysis (edited by David W. Hall & Peter A. Lillback; Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing [Calvin 500 series]: 2008, p. 212), makes a casual reference: "a perpetual virgin in Calvin's view!"

He is a professor of systematic and pastoral theology at Reformed Theological Seminary.  His doctoral dissertation was devoted to Calvin's preaching on the book of Job.

Timothy George concurs, with slight qualification:

To be sure, there is nothing theologically problematic about affirming Mary's perpetual virginity. This venerable tradition, first given dogmatic sanction at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553, was affirmed by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin during the Reformation, though Calvin was more agnostic about this belief than the other two reformers.

(in Mary, Mother of God, edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub. Co.: 2004;  p. 109)

Dr. George is the dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, teaches Church history and serves as executive editor for Christianity Today. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Southern Baptist Convention, has written more than twenty books, and regularly contributes to scholarly journals. His book Theology of the Reformers is used as a textbook in many schools and seminaries.

J. A. Ross MacKenzie wrote: "Calvin, like Luther and Zwingli, taught the perpetual virginity of Mary" (in Alberic Stacpoole, editor, Mary's Place in Christian Dialogue, Wilton, Connecticut: Morehouse-Barlow, 1982, 35-36).  Dr. Mackenzie was a professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and has translated or written more than twenty theological books.

Robert H. Stein, professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also agrees:

If one believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary, a teaching held not only by Roman Catholicism but also by Greek Orthodoxy, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, then the Helvidian view must be rejected. (Mark [Commentary], Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic: 2008, p. 187)

Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza argued that Catholics and Protestants agreed on the perpetual virginity of Mary, at the Colloquy of Poissy in 1561 (see William A. Dyrness, Reformed Theology and Visual Culture: the Protestant Imagination from Calvin to Edwards, [Cambridge University Press, 2004], pp. 86-87).


* * * * *

Tim Staples gave a long reply in the combox that I don't think (with all due respect) refuted the heart of my objection at all: what Calvin flat-out stated in his sermon. Nor did he explain why so many Protestant and/or Calvinist scholars hold that he accepted the perpetual virginity of Mary. It's one thing for us as Catholics to look at a few texts and render our opinions. The Calvinist or the Calvinist or otherwise Protestant Calvin scholar who has an opinion on such a matter will be far more informed, as both a specialist and an advocate of Calvinism, as the case may be, than we would be (generally speaking).

He would also know a lot more than a quack Reformed polemicist like James Swan who regularly makes pronouncements on such matters as if he is some sort of scholarly expert who should be trusted as much as actual scholars. I back up my contentions with scholars, as much as possible. Swan makes his (often quite dogmatic) contentions (complete with the ubiquitous mocking of Catholics and Catholicism that is his stock-in-trade) whether scholars agree with him or not.

Such Protestant scholars also would generally disbelieve in many of the Marian doctrines, so if they assert that Calvin believed this, chances are he did, since their bias would be towards a stance that he did not. In that sense, they are sort of "hostile witnesses."

James Swan then chimed in with his usual one-note tune, first writing on his blog about my comment in the thread:

A comment was left for Mr. Staples giving (among other things) a Calvin citation from a secondary source (that is, no original or complete context) documenting a sermon from Calvin (a citation from Calvin in English which was translated from the French, originally from shorthand notes), taken from a French journal, not the original sermon (that is- the secondary source utilized a Calvin quote from a journal). 

Then on the thread itself, he replied:

If I recall, Max Thurian wrote his book in French. It was then translated to English. If one checks Thurian's documentation for his Calvin quote, it doesn't appear to me that he actually utilized a primary source, but rather took his citation from La Revue réformée 1956/4, pp. 63-64. In other words, the Calvin quote in question that is presented in English came from the French, and was taken from a French journal. Where did the French journal get it? Did the journal article use the primary source? These are the questions I would ask immediately. Without reading something in context, making pronouncements on what Calvin did or did not believe may not be the best thing to do. 

. . . These are the basic things I ask when looking into texts. It may indeed be the case that there was not any distortion from what Calvin originally said to the presentation from Thurian. A careful person though should make sure to examine the trail of evidence before making dogmatic conclusions.

Once again, for those not familiar with Swan's modus operandi (which I've observed and interacted with for over twelve years), he appears objective and without an ax to grind. To act with his usual stripes would not be to his purpose, so he "behaves." His insinuation is that Tim Staples is "careful" whereas the vast majority of Catholic apologists are not. And that is what Swan has been contending for years, with particular animus against my views of Martin Luther's Mariology. It's the "divide and conquer" routine. He's simply cynically using Tim Staples' views as a means to make the same anti-Catholic and anti-Catholic apologist point he always tries to make.

The fact remains that Swan can talk about "context" all he wants, and make out that even non-scholars must always read the original context in the original language (which he doesn't do himself) to decide anything at all. He's no scholar. The men I cite are scholars, and for some odd reason they conclude (over against mere blogger Swan) that Calvin believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

This is why scholars exist in the first place: to specialize in things that most of us have neither the ability nor the desire to specialize in. We consult them for the answers to such things. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (unlike Swan) is such a scholar,  and in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (edited by himself: revised edition of 1994) he stated:
The post-partum or perpetual virginity concept is held by some Protestants and was held by many Reformers (e.g., Calvin in his sermon on Mt. 1:22-25) . . .

Somehow he thinks this sermon is solid evidence that Calvin believed in Mary's perpetual virginity.  Somehow another scholar like Thomas Henry Louis Parker, the very editor of Calvin's Commentaries, and author of some ten works about him, agrees with Bromiley. Why is that? Did they, too, take things out of context, or lack "care" with the primary sources? Did they jump to dogmatic conclusions, when they would be inclined by predisposition not do? I think not.

In such disputes about historical fact, one should consult the scholars who are most familiar with the person whose opinions are being discussed. Tim Staples is not a Calvin scholar and not an historian. Neither is James Swan. Neither am I. But I consult the scholars who are in a position to decide such things, whereas both Tim and Swan have (regarding this question) thus far ignored that relevant evidence, for some inexplicable reason.

Another internal argument based on Calvin's own commentaries can be produced. I alluded to it in on page 60 of my 2010 book, "The Catholic Mary": Quite Contrary to the Bible? In his Harmony of the Gospels (Vol. II, p. 65; "translated from the original Latin and collated with the author's French version, by William Pringle), Calvin is commenting on Luke 8:19 ("And his mother and his brethren came to him"), and  casually mentions that the parallel passages of "the other two Evangelists . . . represent Christ's mother and cousins as having come . . ." (my italics). The other two passages are the following (RSV):

Matthew 12:46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him.

This is fascinating. Calvin is not being neutral or agnostic here at all, as to the specific meaning of adelphos in these instances. He has taken a definite position: it means "cousins." He believes that Jesus doesn't have siblings and that these instances of adelphos / adelphe / "brothers" / "brethren" do not prove otherwise (as countless contrary arguments against perpetual virginity falsely assume is the case). Calvin adopted the classic "cousins" theory as to the meaning of "Jesus' brothers" in Scripture (which is the usual view that Catholic commentators take).

This directly contradicts what Tim Staples claimed (above) about Calvin's views. He wrote:

Calvin correctly and sternly (in good Calvin fashion) teaches the "brothers" of the Lord may well be a Hebrew idiom representing "cousins" or some other extended relative. . . . But unfortunately, many Catholics have taken these two sections of Calvin's commentary out of context and claim it to mean he agreed with the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. But in fact, he never says that. He simply concludes these Scriptures to be silent on the matter. They prove neither yeah nor nay when it comes to Mary's perpetual virginity.

This has now been shown to be untrue, by both the 1562 sermon and the Harmony of the Gospels, at Luke 8:19, where Calvin definitely opts for the meaning of "cousins." Therefore, he does indeed "say that" in this other place in his corpus of Bible commentary. He's either taking the position of perpetual virginity or at the very least a view perfectly consistent with it (Jesus' described "brothers" were his cousins / He had no siblings). But what it clearly is not, is an agnostic or neutral position (at least regarding these uses of adelphos / adelphe), as Tim claims it is. Later, he wrote in comments (replying to me):

I believe Calvin rejected the Perpetual Virginity of Mary in his commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke and that I think many of us have taken this work out of context over the years. . . . the use of his commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, specific to his comments on Matt. 13:55 and especially Matt. 1:25 is misguided, in my opinion.
When you consider that Calvin explicitly takes a position in between Helvidius and Jerome in his commentary on Matt. 1:25 and he says as much, he says the text does not conclude either way, and then he footnotes his own work in Matt. 1:25 when he comments on Matt. 13:55 that the "brothers of the Lord" could be a Hebrew idiom for some other extended relation, that seems to me to be more agnostic than declaratory of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

It's no longer agnostic, when Calvin interprets both the passages in Matthew and Mark (and by strong implication, also in Luke) as meaning "cousins." Again, I'm sure this data is part of the reasoning for why so many Protestant, and specifically Calvinist scholars believe that Calvin held to the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Nor is there any hint of "waffling" on Calvin's part, as far as I can tell, in all of this information, taken together. My take is a perfectly plausible and self-consistent explanation for all of it, in line with what the Calvin scholars also say: he believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. He didn't "waffle" on it; he didn't appear to change his view over time, He simply wasn't quite as explicit as Luther and others were, on this question. It requires a little digging to ascertain his position (which we have done).

I also don't think that Calvin was "neutral" or "agnostic" regarding Matthew 1:25 and the notorious "until" argument of those who deny perpetual virginity. That text neither asserts nor denies perpetual virginity in and of itself. That far, we all agree, I think. What detractors of the doctrine do is insinuate that "until"  implies sexual activity on Mary's part after the birth of Jesus. Calvin firmly responds that it does no such thing. He shoots down this very common argument, made by Protestants all the time today. He responds precisely as a Catholic apologist would: arguing that the text doesn't in any fashion  prove what it is claimed that it supposedly proves.

To me, that is not an agnostic or uncommitted position at all. It is in favor of perpetual virginity (or if we want to nitpick) totally consistent with it, and inconsistent with one of the most common biblical arguments made against it. The "brothers" argument is the other most common (and thoroughly fallacious) argument made. Calvin points out that the word doesn't have to always mean "siblings." He's exactly right.

But if that sounds neutral or agnostic at his commentary on Matthew 13:55, it ain't when he comments on Luke 8:19 (and also on Mathew and Mark) and says that the meaning of "brothers" in the parallel passages is "cousins". He is no longer neutral or undecided or uncommitted or agnostic. He has taken a position. And it is exactly what we would expect him to argue, if indeed he holds to the perpetual virginity of Mary, as I believe he did.

I think Tim's argument collapses in all respects (sorry, Tim!). The 1562 sermon was one decisive blow. It explained that Calvin's objection to a vow of virginity did not mean he denied the perpetual virginity of Mary, as explained above. He blew that off by saying that Calvin's commentary is much more to be trusted than the sermon. Very well, then: if we (rightly or wrongly) want to give some "priority" to the Commentaries, now the comment on Luke 8:19 has to be dealt with, and it does not favor Tim's position. It has undermined the very essence of it (repeated over and over by Tim): that Calvin allegedly took no stand and merely discussed a range of possibilities.

In another instance of Calvin interpreting a "brother of Jesus" as a cousin, we have his commentary on Galatians 1:19 ("But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother."):

Except James. Who this James was, deserves inquiry. Almost all the ancients are agreed that he was one of the disciples, whose surname was “Oblias” and “The Just,” and that he presided over the church at Jerusalem. (33) Yet others think that he was the son of Joseph by another wife, and others (which is more probable) that he was the cousin of Christ by the mother’s side: (34) but as he is here mentioned among the apostles, I do not hold that opinion. Nor is there any force in the defense offered by Jerome, that the word Apostle is sometimes applied to others besides the twelve; for the subject under consideration is the highest rank of apostleship, and we shall presently see that he was considered one of the chief pillars. (Galatians 2:9.) It appears to me, therefore, far more probable, that the person of whom he is speaking is the son of Alpheus. (35)
Footnote 35 elaborates:

This is fully consistent with the opinion commonly held, that Alpheus or Cleopas was the husband of the sister of Mary, the mother of our Lord, and consequently that James, the son of Alpheus, was our Lord's cousin-german.

All of this is perfectly consistent with, if not direct evidence of, Calvin's belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Tim made another reply in the thread, consisting mostly of reiterations of what he has already said (which is never a good sign of the vigor and strength of an argument: it should be able to defend itself against critiques). I replied:

In fact, if you want to add to your case file, I would recommend Calvin's commentary on Gal. 1:19,

I already made that argument in comment #26 [right above his comment where he stated this]. But glad to see that you found that, too.

All of these are great for Catholic apologetics, but I don't believe they are definitive proof that Calvin believed in the PVBVM.

Again, you completely ignore the opinions of Calvin scholars: that he did believe in it. Why? Why do they think that? Why are you so sure that they are wrong? So you really think that a guy like Thomas Henry Lewis Parker is completely out to sea when he affirms this; that he is not familiar with all the relevant texts in Calvin, and his understanding of all that is inferior to yours? He is the author of:

Calvin: an Introduction to his Thought (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995).

John Calvin: A Biography (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007).

Oracles Of God: An Introduction To The Preaching Of John Calvin (Lutterworth Press, 2002).

Calvin’s Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press, 1992).

Editor of Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (S.C.M. Press, 1971),

Editor of Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993)

Translator of Calvin’s Harmony of the Gospels (1995 Eerdmans edition).

He translated Calvin's commentaries on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians in 1965 and his Commentary on John (1959-61).

According to you, The Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith is dead-wrong.  Donald G. Bloesch is wrong. Geoffrey W. Bromiley in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is wrong.

Derek W. H. Thomas, writing in A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes: Essays and Analysis (edited by David W. Hall & Peter A. Lillback; Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing [Calvin 500 series]: 2008, p. 212), makes a casual reference: "a perpetual virgin in Calvin's view!" He is a professor of systematic and pastoral theology at Reformed Theological Seminary.  His doctoral dissertation was devoted to Calvin's preaching on the book of Job. But he's wrong, too.

Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, and executive editor for Christianity Today is wrong. Robert H. Stein, professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is dead-wrong. Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor, was wrong in asserting that Calvinists accepted the doctrine, in an attempted ecumenical council in 1561, during Calvin's lifetime.

You ignore all this. All these scholars are incompetent in their own field of expertise. I guess you think they have been quoting Calvin out-of-context, too, just as (if you are right) dozens of Catholic apologists have been doing (such as Jimmy Akin, Scott Hahn, Fr. Stravinskas, various EWTN articles, etc.). The Catholic Answers tract Mary: Ever Virgin agrees with my take:

Today most Protestants are unaware of these early beliefs regarding Mary’s virginity and the proper interpretation of "the brethren of the Lord." And yet, the Protestant Reformers themselves—Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli—honored the perpetual virginity of Mary and recognized it as the teaching of the Bible, as have other, more modern Protestants.

So now that has to be revised, too?

Your argument (that you merely repeat here; nothing new) from Calvin's commentary on Luke1:34 was refuted by the sermon of 1562. Calvin thought Mary and Joseph didn't even live together. Thus, the "difficulty" you find compelling, vanishes.

You dismiss the sermon on inadequate grounds (therefore you make no attempt to counter-reply to that relevant additional consideration). How is it, then, that Geoffrey Bromiley, in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, seems to think that it is strong evidence?: "The post-partum or perpetual virginity concept is held by some Protestants and was held by many Reformers (e.g., Calvin in his sermon on Mt. 1:22-25)".

You can ignore this relevant data from Calvin scholars a third or fourth time if you wish, but it won't help your case. Every doctoral dissertation reviews the literature, to see what the consensus of scholars on a particular question is. It's not considered the fallacy of "appeal to authority" when they do that. And it isn't, because that's not all they produce. They also make the argument in their dissertation, just as I am making various arguments from primary Calvin texts, but also noting the consensus of the Calvin scholars and professors of history, etc. who have examined the matter. This is not insignificant at all. Yet when it comes to what the scholarly experts say, you want to completely ignore and dismiss that.

You certainly don't have a consensus of scholars on that contention.

I'm the only one in this discussion who has actually cited scholars! I don't think you have cited a single one (I may have missed it, and it may be in your book; just not here). At best, some of them note that Calvin was less explicit than Luther (which  I agree with in the first place). Thus, David F. Wright says: "Calvin was likewise less clear-cut than Luther on Mary’s perpetual virginity but undoubtedly favored it."

That's not saying that the opinion is tentative, or that he waffled, or was agnostic, or only open to the possibility, or changed his mind in later years, etc. It says what it says: "undoubtedly favored it." Timothy George wrote: "affirmed by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin during the Reformation, though Calvin was more agnostic about this belief than the other two reformers." Yep; I agree. He was less direct than Luther (most people are!), but he still, according to Dr. George,  "affirmed" it.

They're all looking at the same evidence that you and I have seen. This is the conclusion they come to. I think they're right, and that Catholic apologists have been right about this, and anti-Catholic polemicists like James Swan wrong.

I have no problem noting when Protestant "reformers" get things wrong, or when they change their minds later on. Hence, I modified my view of Luther's view of the Immaculate Conception, which he changed later on in life. I call his position "immaculate purification," because he no longer placed it at her conception. I changed my mind in part because of some arguments produced by anti-Catholics. Truth is truth, wherever it is found.

But I changed my mind, and wrote about it almost exactly four years ago. I wrote about the same thing in a recent article for Seton Magazine. So you're not the only Catholic apologist who can change their mind if the facts warrant it (lest the enemies of the faith like James Swan start saying that you are a "lone voice" in this regard). I've done it many times.

But as I mentioned at first, anti-Catholics like Swan are only going to exploit your article (he already has), since it says that almost all Catholic apologists have been wrong about this for years, and you become in effect the "whistleblower" for integrity and truth.

That's a shame; especially when I don't see that your argument succeeds.
Tim replied at length again in the thread. Here is my response:

I would love to go with these Protestant scholars you've cited. It would make my life easier. But how can I when I read the above that I've given to you?

By accepting the 1562 sermon as the most "definitive" word on the topic that we have (far as I can tell)!

An appeal to the authority of Calvinist scholars is good and interesting, but can you at least see why that would not be enough for me?

Technically, I'm not appealing merely to their authority, or saying, "believe it because these experts believe it, and no one can do otherwise." I understand logical fallacies very well, as the veteran of well over 700 online debates and apologetics arguments for 33 years now.

My challenge to you was a more subtle form of argument: "Why do you think these guys all seem to agree that Calvin held to the PVM, if in fact (and in your mind) it is so unclear and so fuzzy and indefinite?" Bias doesn't explain it, because their natural bias would be to oppose it, since they likely don't hold to it themselves (most of 'em; though I read that even Kuyper believed in it). You question the validity of the 1562 sermon, but Bromiley didn't, and made it his stated proof.

To me it's a curiosity: how could a guy that eminent in academia conclude that Calvin believed in the PVM, on the basis of something you will hardly even consider? The most plausible reason to me would be that he thinks it is genuine and does indeed reflect Calvin's thought, two years before his death. The scholar has to defend what he asserts to his peers, and will be hung out to dry if he can't. The stakes are a lot higher for them, in everything they argue.

I must say this as well. I am enjoying this back-and-forth quite a bit. Hopefully, all who are reading this will do the research and make up their own minds.

Yeah, it's fun, and that is the utility of dialogue. I've found new arguments that I think help my side, in being challenged to back it up more fully. And it looks like you have done the same from your side.

I really appreciate Dave's attention to detail in this matter. Would that all involved in the work of apologetics were as intense.

Thanks, and likewise.

And I have yet to hear a response for my concerns from these other statements.

I've said at least twice now that what Calvin said in his sermon, can account for that, I believe. He sees it as not a "regular" situation at all. He assumes that Joseph and Mary don't even live together. Therefore, there is no "monstrosity" of a man and a woman being under the same roof, and also chaste. They aren't together in the first place! If he wants to die on the hill of saying that without consummation there cannot possibly be a marriage, then Joesph and Mary weren't married at all in his eyes, though the Bible says they were, and it seems to me that he puts his opinion above even the Bible at that point.

But that's how I answer your whole line of argument about Calvin and the absolute necessity of sexual relations for a marriage, in his mind. You obviously disagree, but it is some kind of counter-reply, agree or no. So it's incorrect to say that I have not replied to that. I incorporate the sermon into what I think is a consistent interpretation that takes all of the data into account, whereas your method is to dismiss the sermon as inauthentic or of dubious overall relevance.

I would say: "utilize all the resources and connections available at Catholic Answers and find out more about this sermon; get the original, and find some guy who knows Latin or French (whatever the original is), so that all that can be settled." You guys have the money and 40 or so people. I have very little money and am just myself. :-)

I've searched and searched online and can't find out any more info. about it. If it goes down, I would agree that your case is relatively more plausible, though I still believe that he held to the PVM, from all the evidence, even without the input of the sermon. If it is determined to be absolutely authentic, then I think you have to deal directly with it, and explain how it doesn't prove that he held to the PVM.

And especially in the case of Matt. 1:25, Calvin explicitly says the text cannot be used to conclude either position.

I dealt with that earlier. Proponents of the "brothers" follow Helvidius and argue that the famous "until" here proves sexual relations. Calvin states firmly that it does not do so at all. To me, that is more so defending tradition, even if he also says or implies that no one can conclude either way based on that alone. But he does assert that the "pro" argument fails at this point -- he shoots it down and virtually insults those who make it -- , and that is quite significant itself, seeing that this is one of the centerpieces of their argument.

I think it all goes together. This argument; the fact that he states twice that adelphos meant "cousins" and not sibling-"brother"; the sermon, the use of "holy virgin," the testimony of Beza, the seeming consensus of Reformed scholars. It's a cumulative argument, with the sermon as the clincher, in my mind, but still strong and plausible even without it.

But (here is your strength) without what he says in the sermon, your argument from his views on marriage would be a lot more compelling, since they wouldn't be countered and overcome by what he stated in the sermon. So the sermon seems to be in the center of the whole debate, and we must learn more about it: if for no other reason than satisfaction of curiosity!

I acknowledge that your argument (at the end) is more compelling if the sermon is irrelevant. But what do you say if it is backed up by scholarship and shown to be absolutely authentic and late in his life as well?

Thanks for the friendly discussion!
* * * *

I then went searching for the sermon in question. I had an idea where it might be found, and wrote in the thread:

I think the sermon would likely be part of the Corpus Reformatorum, since volumes 29-87 are devoted to his works. It's in Latin (unless some stuff is French). We just have to figure out what volume it's in. Many volumes are available in Google Books. 

I started looking through online volumes; went to the index volume and found "Sermons on the Nativity" in Volume 46. I then wrote:

I'm almost certain I found it. Go to this link and download the pdf of vol. 46 ("Tome 46") of the Corpus Reformatorum. It's called "Sermon 22" on the Harmony of the Gospels, dealing with Matthew 1:22-25, and runs from pp. 259-272. It's in French.

I did that, and cut-and-pasted the entire sermon.  Google and Babylon translation pages revealed that it was indeed the sermon in question, based on a comparison to the Thurian version (above). I then posted it on a separate web page, and asked on Facebook if anyone could translate the last portion of it. Gregory Fast did so.

Now fortunately, we are incredibly blessed to have James Swan, an anti-Catholic blogger, who does not know French, as far as I know, to announce (on the CA thread) that he also ran across the sermon and that "The translation from Thurian's book is accurate." Whew! That settles that! Now we can all rest easy at night, knowing that a non-French speaker and non-credentialed blogger with a penchant for classifying professional Catholic apologists as "psychotic" -- has authoritatively proclaimed that the portion of a Calvin sermon conveyed by native French speaker Max Thurian, who was born in Geneva, the city of Calvin, is "accurate." Thurian's citation wasn't good enough for Swan. He had to make a judgment, himself, in all his wisdom, before he trusted it. Now he does, and so we can all go through the day with a spring in our step, knowing that Swan has confirmed a citation as authentic.

Swan is the one always harping on and on with his one-note tune about going to the original sources and doing "ad fontes" research, endlessly mocking Catholic apologists (or those who pass themselves off as such). He talks a good game (man, he sure does talk it!), but he doesn't follow his own advice. He only applies it selectively to Catholic apologists, whom he despises and detests. He wrote in the thread:

I have located the sermon, as well as the place in the text Thurian's quote is from. The translation from Thurian's book is accurate. . . . The sermon itself was not all that difficult to locate, and the place in the French text is easy to spot.

Uh huh. Is that so? I just found out about the sermon a few days ago, and already, last night, I located it in its primary source, with no help from Swan, who alluded to having found it in the thread, but didn't post the reference, as I did. Swan, however, has known about at least a portion of this sermon for over seven years. Why, then, has he not dug it up until now, since, as he said last night, that it "was not all that difficult to locate"? He goes on and on about going to the original sources, and takes almost eight years to find this one, amidst his eight or so articles about Calvin's Mariology?

On 17 January 2007, Swan wrote an article on his blog entitled, "Bibliographic Tedium on the Reformers and Perpetual Virginity." In it he rails (as he has 39,584 times) about how stupid Catholic apologists are. He cited a portion of this sermon that one of them posted on the anti-Catholic CARM discussion board:

Calvin: "There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what a folly this is!Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25, Published 1562

Alongside this were ostensible citations from Luther and Zwingli. Swan goes into deep detail about the sources of those, but ignores the Calvin quote. He then condescendingly lectures and insults in his usual boorish fashion:

Normally when I interact with someone on this topic, the person quoting this stuff becomes silent when ask for a little more bibliographic information. I do so to find out if the person putting forth the information has actually read Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli, or if the information is a cut-and-paste job taken from Catholic apologetic web sites. . . .
it’s the Internet, and anything goes. I strongly doubt I’ll get the bibliographic material I asked for. I only point out tedium like this to show that many times, people are putting forth information as if they’ve actually studied a subject, and made an informed decision. For most people though, it seems one makes a conclusion and then looks for information to support it. Such is the normal folly of the defenders of Rome.

Why, then, didn't Swan follow his own advice and show that the quote from Calvin's sermon was not authentic? It took him over seven years to do so, in the context of Tim Staples writing about the topic and my disagreement with him (and his attempted exploitation of same for purely polemical and slanderous purposes). All of a sudden, now Swan can figure out how to find the original primary source. If it "was not all that difficult to locate," why did it take him almost eight years? It took me two days. I guess that is one of the many profound differences between the Inimitable Mr. Swan and meself.

In his article, he mocks the Catholic who produced these quotes because he said it might be a couple of weeks to find further sources, because he was moving and his materials were in boxes (
"It will be [a] long couple of weeks. Now this takes guts, . . ."). Almost eight years later, Swan looks up the same source, and pronounces the Thurian portion of it (that the Catholic he chided, cited) as "accurate."

How could we all make it through the day without such a profoundly intelligent, wise, nuanced, always-thoughtful, always eminently fair and charitable and "scholarly" fellow brother in Christ, who thinks we are all in spiritual darkness and an inch away from hell, being lowly "Romanists?"

* * *

After posting the translation of a portion of the sermon onto the CA thread, I wrote:

So where does that leave the friendly discussion and debate now, Tim? Do you agree (first of all) that it is an "authentic" source, to be duly considered in the overall mix? Does it change anything? Does it make it more plausible for those of us who think Calvin accepted the PVM to believe it, even if you remain unpersuaded? Can we now move from a status of being classified as those who cite Calvin "out of context" in order to promulgate a "myth" to ones who hold a respectable position that can be solidly believed in good faith (equally reasonable and thoughtful folks honestly disagreeing), given the evidence we have produced?

Tim replied:

I think it leaves the discussion friendly, but perhaps it makes the title of my blog post all the more appropriate, but for a different reason. I stand corrected. I think this leaves no doubt that Calvin, at least at the point of writing this sermon, believe[d] in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. I can now say definitively that Calvin waffled on this. And this is reasonable. The PVBVM was believed universally for 1,500 years in the Church. It was believed by men like St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Bernard, all of whom Calvin respected. I will modify my post to include the "waffling" part. I appreciate the back-and-forth and all involved. We live and learn.

I'll take note of Tim's modifications of his post when he changes that. It's been a great discussion. Kudos to Tim Staples, Director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers, for being able to be partially persuaded of a different view. He now thinks Calvin "waffled" on the perpetual virginity of Mary and believed it at least in the last years of his life. I think Calvin believed it consistently all along, and that nothing in his statements that we have found is inconsistent with that interpretation. He merely became more explicit, so as to leave no room for doubt, in the late sermon.

And for these reasons (I submit), the numerous Protestant scholars and Calvin scholars I have cited take the position that he did indeed believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. The ones who think he did not believe it are folks like, well . . . . noncredentialed anti-Catholic polemicist and blogger James Swan . . . . Not very impressive . . . .

* * *

Tim revised his initial post as follows:

This second myth is even more widespread, but I must qualify it. There can be no doubt that John Calvin, at least at some point in his career, believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. But to place him on the same level of Luther, Zwingli and Wesley is misguided. It is not to paint the entire picture accurately. And this is why. . . .

My thanks to Dave Armstrong for pointing out to me something I did not know. There is a sermon that John Calvin preached on the Harmony of the Gospels (sermon 22) where he explicitly defends the PVBVM, but this occurred earlier in his career [?: my understanding is that it is from 1562: two years before his death]. So again, there is no doubt that Calvin at least earlier in his career believe[d] this Catholic dogma.

Swan continued to comment in the thread. I disputed one thing he stated:

If one really wanted to give Calvin's opinion on this issue, it is to simply say that Calvin did not think it correct to speculate. This isn't the answer polemicists want to hear, but it is letting Calvin be Calvin.

Nor is it the answer numerous Calvin scholars (including T. H. L. Parker, mentioned above [by Swan himself], who appears to be the leading Calvin scholar in the world, judging by his books) want to hear. They are letting Calvin be Calvin and they think he held to the PVM. Period. Some temper it a bit in terms of emphasis and explicitness (and I agree, as I have said; Calvin is not Luther), but they still say he held it. I could hardly find anyone who said what Tim believes about him. I'm open to hearing about those. I didn't find them myself, in some very intense and laborious searches.

That's not proof, of course, but it does prove that one can hold that Calvin believed in the PVM for non-"polemical" purposes. These guys think he did because they think he did. DUH! No other motives other than arriving at historical fact: just as are my motives and Tim's alike (despite being ignorant, lowly, Pelagian, half-pagan, unregenerate papists who don't know what the gospel is). Folks can honestly disagree on some things.

Calvin already did "speculate" about the issue at hand by stating that there were no second and third sons besides Jesus, and by interpreting adelphos / adelphe as "cousins" in at least two instances. That is taking a stand (of some sort), whereas most of those arguing against PVM today almost automatically use the tired, dumb "brothers" argument and also the "till" argument of Matthew 1:25 that Calvin also says proves not a whit of what they casually assume it proves.

To me, that's taking a stand on it. I don't think it's neutral or noncommittal at all. Technically, Jesus being an only child and Mary being a perpetual virgin are different, but it works out basically the same, in terms (specifically) of the arguments commonly used. One party says these "brothers" are siblings and the other denies it. Calvin is in the latter camp. Seems to me, anyway. And all these scholars I have cited somehow come to the same conclusion.

I remain the only person who has cited scholars that back up what my position is, as a non-scholar and non-historian. If someone thinks otherwise, then please produce the scholars that agree, and say that Calvin either denied or waffled on the PVM. I'm all for it. That would make the "agnostic" case stronger and more respectable. As it is now, I truly believe that my position is the most plausible to interpret in  harmonious fashion all of the data I am aware of.

"Why Bring Up the Marian Views of the Early Protestant Leaders At All? Of What Relevance is It?"

This is a question often raised by Protestant apologists, who misunderstand the reason why Catholics note these historical facts about the Protestant founders' beliefs and aspects of "distinctive Catholicism" that they retain.

Primarily, it is a matter of historical fact or absence of evidence for same. Hence I wrote in the thread at CA:

In this instance, no dogma is involved. It's purely a matter of historical fact: did Calvin believe in the PVM or not? Whether he did or not has nothing to do with Catholic belief. We do hold to it in any event, as dogma.

If one is interested in the history of theology, development of doctrine, and history of ideas (as I am, very much so), these sorts of questions are interesting, in and of themselves, wholly apart from apologetics or personal adherence one way or the other. Along these lines, it's fascinating to see how the earliest Protestants differ from present-day ones, which is a matter of internal Protestant development (or departure, as the case may be). These approaches are as much sociological as they are historical, but not directly related to apologetics or "partisanship."

 I also think, however, that such questions are tangentially or potentially also apologetical ones in some respects. If a Protestant founder like Luther or Calvin believes in the PVM and at the same time believes in sola Scriptura, then (assuming self-consistency) they obviously think they have biblical rationale to believe it, rather than merely Catholic authority or an argument from extrascriptural tradition

This then becomes a question in apologetics, insofar as a Protestant tries to claim that Catholics believe in it (as they habitually claim) only due to extrascriptural tradition. At that point we say that it is entirely possible to accept it within a sola Scriptura rule of faith, since Luther or Calvin or Zwingli or whoever, did the same. This undercuts the argument against such-and-such detested Catholic doctrines based on thinking they are "traditions of men" or corruptions. And that is undoubtedly apologetics and/or "polemics." Anti-Catholic polemicist James Swan understands this, since he wrote on his Boors All blog, on 10-15-14:
What I've found is that the alleged Mariology of the Reformers has been used by the defenders of Rome to show that the Reformers practiced sola scriptura and held to distinctly Roman doctrines.

Having gotten this right  (this is partially what we are attempting to do, per the above explanations), he then goes on to draw conclusions from that, that we do not use in our arguments in this respect. But kudos to Swan for getting part of his analysis right. He has consistently shown himself to be equally clueless about both Catholicism and Catholic apologetics over the dozen years I have observed his pathetic antics.

Anti-Catholic polemicist Steve Hays, writing on his Tribalblogue site on 10-13-14, demonstrates, on the other hand, that he doesn't get all of this at all (which is not an infrequent occurrence for him), in writing (after referring to the discussion with Tim Staples on the CA blog):

Suppose the Protestant Reformers agree with Rome on this issue. If that's an argument from authority in support of Rome, then by converse logic, when they disagree with Rome, that's an argument from authority in opposition to Rome. The argument from authority cuts both ways.

He's completely out to sea here, and about to drown. It never was an argument from "authority" in the first place (what non-Catholics believe has no bearing at all on what the Catholic Church teaches as binding doctrine: zero, zip, nada, zilch). He only thinks it is because he doesn't analyze Catholic thinking and apologetics deeply enough: not even as deeply as James Swan does (and that's setting the bar very low indeed!).

And he does not do so because it is a general rule that what one utterly despises, one doesn't accord enough respect to study and research and present accurately. Therefore, when such a person sets out to battle against the dreaded Beast that he detests so deeply, he inevitably ends up fighting a straw man. Hays has virtually made a "career" (insofar as one can say that at all about a mere blogger, as he is) out of such foolish activities.

Protestant apologists typically claim that such beliefs among their founders are mere unfortunate remnants of their former Catholic affiliation, which they haven't yet managed to shake off because they were still early in the game of Protestant history, and this is "understandable," etc., etc. This is the "spin" that indicates, I think, a definite measure of embarrassment that the heroes and founders of the Protestant Revolt continued to believe a fair amount of "Catholic stuff" that now your average Protestant "Tom, Dick, or Harry" immediately "knows" from Scripture Alone, are abominable false doctrines. Luther and Calvin hadn't yet arrived at that basic state of "Bible knowledge" (a ridiculous contention if there ever was one, once one sees how learned and "soaked in the Bible" both men were).

The "remnant" explanation is possible; however, it's an entirely subjective argument, very difficult to prove. It's a distinction without a difference. How would one prove that so-called "Reformer X" believed in the PVM because of the continuance of arbitrary Catholic tradition, or because he truly thought it was warranted from the Bible? I don't see any way to do it. So the claim is arbitrary and made based on wishful thinking and special pleading, rather than solid ascertainable fact. It's an interpretation superimposed on the facts as can be determined, to "explain away" what is thought to be anomalous or embarrassing or inconvenient in the course of anti-Catholic and/or pro-Protestant apologetics and polemics.

 In any event, all parties are responsible to try to determine the historical facts of any given matter, whichever way they turn out. I think  I've shown that I am trying my best to be objective as to these sorts of facts, by changing my mind about some aspects of Luther's opinion of the Immaculate Conception. He later placed this act of grace at the time of Jesus' conception rather than Mary's, so, accordingly, I have renamed his belief, "Immaculate Purification."

This showed that I am perfectly willing to go where the facts lead, even if the persuasive evidence was partially provided by anti-Catholic sources, as it was in that instance, because truth is truth wherever it is found. Tim Staples has also shown that he is willing to retract some things and modify his position, as more facts become available. That's what it's all about: we ought to go to wherever the truth leads us, as can best be determined by diligent study. It was that pursuit of truth that led both Tim and I into the Catholic Church, which entailed changing our minds on a host of matters.

[For further discussion, about this final section in particular, see my Facebook thread]