Dave Armstrong has offered the following reply, if you can call it that, to my rejoinder:
<< Here are Mr. Hays' two "replies": http://triablogue… http://triablogue…
[Note the insulting, childish nature of the URLs]
Needless to say, there is nowhere to go with this, as Hays is now revealed to be an anti-Catholic. Constructive discussion is never possible with them, and I don't try to do it anymore. It's a complete waste of time. Even a cursory reading of his replies quickly illustrates the futility. The illogical (not to mention, insulting) nature of most of it is astonishing.
Here are my comments on his blog:
1. Is this your entire "reply"?
2. Do you accept the Catholic Church as a fully Christian institution, so that one can be saved if one accepts all its teachings, as opposed to only being able to be saved (if indeed it is possible at all for a Catholic) despite its teachings?
Oops, my mistake. I discovered your earlier response, upon scrolling down. A fan of yours on my blog had linked to the short reply, so I thought that was all there was at first.
Further reply could have been a good thing, but when one consults the ferociously illogical nature of your earlier post, one quickly realizes that this is not the case.
That same post (and another, "Papal Bull") clearly demonstrate [sic] that you are an anti-Catholic (one who denies that the Catholic Church is fully Christian). That being the case, our short-lived "dialogue" is over, as I no longer waste my time arguing with anti-Catholics.
Have a great day, and may God bless you abundantly,
Here is the proof on his blog that Steve Hays is an anti-Catholic (which I strongly suspected, given his rhetoric):
. . . In addition, it was only natural, under this arrangement, to funnel the grace of God through the sacraments-like a magic potion. Indeed, magic was another fixture of pagan priestcraft. Twas but a short step from a heathen cultus (e.g. Acts 14:13) to the sacrifice of the Mass. It is no great leap of logic to go from belief in magic spells and incantations to the belief, in Russell's words, that a man can change a piece of bread into the Body of Christ by speaking Latin to it.
What we have in Catholicism is a classic case of syncretism, whereby NT concepts and categories were assimilated to preexisting pagan concepts and categories. To some extent, this operates at a subliminal level. A convert associates the new and the unknown with the old and the well-known.
A textbook example is the "conversion" of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24). Or just consider the seamless transition from patron gods to patron saints, as well as the continuum from Magna Mater to Mater Dei. Superstition is subconscious. When it becomes self-conscious, it ceases to be superstitious. Unfortunately, the Church of Rome has canonized superstition.
Alas, he, too, shows himself ignorant as to the relationship of development of doctrine and tradition (like so many anti-Catholic Protestants; e.g., William Webster and David T. King):
For example, Catholicism used to stake its claim in oral tradition (at Trent and Vatican I). But, over time, this became unsustainable. It was codified at Trent, but quietly abrogated at Vatican II, to be supplanted by the development of dogma, a la Newman.
("Papal bull") http://triablogue…
Hey, I know we all have a lot to learn, all the time. Mr. Hays is no exception. But the trouble comes when the person who is, in fact, ignorant, thinks he knows even more than the ones who might be able to teach him a few things about their belief system that he so misunderstands. That's classic anti-Catholicism. These guys know everything about Catholicism, and no Catholic can tell them anything. Mr. Hays feels himself qualified to caricature what I and others do in our apologetics, and make fun of our viewpoints on the Church (which are simply orthodox).
Strangely enough, the same dynamic is present in atheists, also. They often claim to be experts on the Bible, more than the Christians who devote their lives studying it. Human pride knows no boundaries of affiliation . . . >>
As the reader can see, Armstrong's reply, from start to finish, consists of ad hominem invective. One looks in vain for a single counterargument, a solitary piece of contrary evidence to contradict my many specific arguments, supported--as they are--by specific references to Catholic authorities.
Let us grant Armstrong's contention that I'm a complete ignoramus. If I'm laboring under the double handicap of incompetence (“ferociously illogical”) and incomprehension (“ignorant,” “so misunderstands”), then Armstrong should be able to wipe the floor with me in no time flat.
But to judge by this reply, whenever Armstrong gets into a dogfight he can't win, he pushes the little red button on his ejector seat labeled “anti-Catholic,” and parachutes out of his flaming, nose-diving plane.
This is exactly the same tactic that is used by liberals to smear conservatives and duck out of an honest debate over the issues. They resort to slur words like “homophobic,” “sexist,” “racist,” and the like.
Anyone can play this game. A Mormon would say that I'm anti-Mormon. A psychic would say that I'm anti-astrology. That's a great bullet-dodging device.
Armstrong has a highly idiosyncratic definition of interfaith dialogue. Unless the prospective dialogue partner stipulates in advance to the “fully Christian” identity of the RCC, then Armstrong will not deign to engage in dialogue. In other words, unless I already agree with everything he believes in, he will not talk to me.
I would just note in passing that this is yet another specimen of Armstrong's a la carte Catholicism, for that is assuredly not the prerequisite for Catholic ecumenism in the post-Vatican II era. And it is the abdication of apologetics.
There is no doubt that Mr. Armstrong could do much better than the likes of me. But I'm the one he chose to respond to.
He's says that I'm anti-Catholic. Well, what is Trent if not anti-Protestant?
Am I anti-Catholic? Depends on what you mean. I'm not hostile to Catholics. This isn't personal.
I am opposed to the Catholic belief-system, just as Armstrong is opposed to the Reformed belief-system.
Do I believe that the RCC is a fully Christian institution? Obviously not, otherwise I'd be Roman Catholic.
For the record, I believe the RCC to be an apostate church. The Council of Trent marks the irreformable repudiation of the gospel of grace, while Vatican II marks the official triumph of modernism. And let us remember that Rome returned the favor by formally anathematizing Protestant theology.
Armstrong asked me, before he decided that he didn't want to hear the answer, if I “accept the Catholic Church as a fully Christian institution, so that one can be saved if one accepts all its teachings, as opposed to only being able to be saved (if indeed it is possible at all for a Catholic) despite its teachings?”
I've already answered the first clause. As for the rest, that is not how I would pose the question.
To be a Christian is to be, among other things, a Christian believer. One must believe certain things, and not believe certain other, contrary things. On the one hand, some dogmas are damnable dogmas. On the other hand, the Bible lays out certain saving articles of faith.
This is God's criterion, not mine. I didn't invent it. By the same token, how God applies that criterion in any individual case is up to God, not to me. I'm not the judge, God is the Judge.
To take a concrete example, Scripture teaches sola fide (Romans; Galatians). I'm saved by faith in Christ. And I'm saved by the sole and sufficient merit of Christ.
But in Catholic dogma, one is saved by the merit of Christ plus the merit of the saints plus one's own congruent merit. And this results in a divided faith.
Now, in Reformed theology, we draw a distinction between a credible profession of faith and a saving profession of faith. For purposes of church membership, since we cannot know of a certainty who is or isn't saved, we only require a credible profession of faith.
A Catholic qua Catholic cannot offer a credible profession of faith. But whether a Catholic can offer a saving profession of faith is a different question. The answer varies on a case-by-case basis. It is easier to say who isn't saved than to say who is.
Because the stakes could not be higher, I don't wish to leave this at a purely abstract level. So let's take the case of Joseph Fitzmyer. Fitzmyer sits on the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Fitzmyer has written a book entitled A Christological Catechism (Paulist Press 1991). This book has received the Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat, and Imprimatur. Here is a sample of Fitzmyer's Christology:
“Anyone reading the story today [Mk 9:14-29] recognizes the boy to have been epileptic…A demon is invoked to explain the cause of the sickness or disaster that people of that time could not otherwise explain or diagnose properly…Recall, too, how Jesus is said to 'rebuke' the fever of Simon's mother-in-law (Lk 4:39; cut cf. Mk 1:31; Mt 8:15), i.e., he is regarded as having rebuked the spirit protologically considered to be causing the high fever. Similarly, he 'rebukes' the winds and the waves (Mk 4:39 and par.), i.e. he is regarded as having rebuked the demon or spirit causing the squall. Undoubtedly Jesus shared some of the protological thinking himself, being a child of his time.
Having thus demythologized some of the fantasy and the protological thinking found in some of the miracles stories, we are left with a still more basic problem. For if, in reality, Jesus did not exercise a demon, but cured a mentally-ill person, was it less of a miracle?” ibid. 59-60.
This is not the place to rebut Fitzmyer's position. For that, a good place to start would be G. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist (Hendrickson 1993).
The immediate point is what this says about the faith of Fitzmyer, and what that, in turn, says about the state of the church for which he is a well-accredited spokesman. Fitzmyer doesn't feel bound to believe what Jesus believed.
This is the real face of modern Catholicism, the business end of Catholicism, of what is actually taught or sanctioned by the Magisterium, and not the Disneyfied version of a quaint old popularizer like Frank Sheed or a cafeteria Catholic like Armstrong.
Now, in my book, you can't be a Christian unless you believe in Christ, and you cannot believe in Christ unless you believe in what he taught. In my book, whatever else Fr. Fitzmyer may be, a Christian he is not--for he has parted ways with the teaching of Christ. And I would say the same for any like-minded person, whether Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian-or what have you.
For his part, I leave it to Armstrong to continue affirming the fully Christian character of an institution which openly and blatantly disaffirms the divine authority of Christ.
Because Catholic tradition is so diverse, it is possible to find the gospel in Catholicism. But the trick is to isolate the residual of truth from the negation of error.
One of the ironies of modern Catholicism is that you have Catholic laymen who study the Bible for themselves, and often have far more faith in the veracity of Scripture than their priest or bishop.
Incidentally, Armstrong is getting confused when he supposes that “Papal bull” is a reply to him. As was said at the outset of that essay, it is a response to the death of JP2.
Finally, Armstrong accuses me of pride. Now, when it comes to impugning my personal motives, Armstrong is on safer ground, for I am, indeed, a sinful man, and if Armstrong knew me better he could greatly extend the inventory of my moral failings.
But as far as pride is considered, the Church of Rome has erected an entire edifice upon the reeking foundation of spiritual pride. As the First Church of the Merit-Mongers, she has turned the sin of pride into a spiritual industry, and a very lucrative industry at that.
So the pressing question is whether we entrust ourselves to a belief-system that humbles our pride and gives all glory to the grace of God and the merit of Christ, or to a belief-system which divides the glory between a holy God and fallen man. Armstrong rightly says that human pride knows no bounds-of which the Church of Rome is Exhibit A.