Sunday, January 13, 2008

Postcard From the Edge

Dave Armstrong has decided to attempt to mount a reply to my rebuttal of his Scripture citations with respect to holy water.

There is very little here of substance, because if you'll note, he doesn't bother to exegete a single passage of Scripture to demonstrate his assertions.

Instead he tries to salvage his original "argument" if it can be called an argument. The basic problem here is that nothing he says touches what I said.

He tries to call me "illogical." Poor Dave, if that's true, it is only because I was responding to him on his own level, on the terms that he himself laid out. If my argument is "illogical" it is only because his is illogical to begin with.

In dealing with proposed Old Testament examples of holy water or reasonable facsimiles thereof, "Illogical" Bridges writes
I've put a particular phrase in bold. Here is what he originally stated:

Believe it or not, there are examples of holy water in Scripture:
Poor Dave can't seem to follow his own argument. He never argued for "reasonable facsimiles" he argued that the texts in Exodus, Numbers, and 2 Kings were all examples of "holy water." That said, how, exactly are these "reasonable facimiles" of "holy water?" One is a promise of God blessing water for ordinary use as a blessing of the covenant, as is the last. The middle two are related the OT ceremonial law, which has passed away. What Dave lacks is a supporting argument.

Do you see how this can be annihilated logically? Take a moment to consider this, and see if you come up with what I am about to demonstrate. The argument presupposes that in order to be a prototype or forerunner of something else, there must be absolute equation in all particulars. But clearly, something that is a prototype or forerunner is not required to be absolutely identical, nor could it be, by definition.
Except, of course, nothing about this sort of thing is in his original argument. Dave, I responded to what you wrote, not what you didn't write. Try following your own argument. If you'd like to insert caveats not present in your original, you are welcome to do so, but I'm afraid that you'll now need to demonstrate by exegesis of the texts how these are "forerunners." Where is the supporting argument?

As I stated above, however, prototypes or forerunners or more primitive kernels of later developments do not have to have all particulars in place in order to be validly pointed to as forerunners. Protestants fully acknowledge this themselves, because they have long used various Old Testament indications of the Trinity to argue for that doctrine, even though the Trinity is by no means made clear in the Old Testament, and even though all Jews deny that it can be found in OT texts. According to "Illogical" Bridges, Christians must either throw out the Trinity or at least stop using Old testament proof texts to support it, because not all elements are in place.
Of course, this is obviously disanalogous, since the Trinity is made clear in the New Testament, and the argument for OT precursors is used in tandem with what the New Testament says. That's how systematic theology is done; that's how exegetical theology works. The explicit makes clear what is implicit. In contrast, the argument for "holy water"is dependent not on the exegesis of Scripture, but on a specific set of inferences derived from Roman Catholic dogma itself. This in turn, is read back into the text when false teachers like Dave Armstrong need to find some sort of straw upon which to clutch to justify their superstitions.

This horrendously absurd fallacy is found throughout the first part of "Illogical" Bridges' post, and so we need not delve into those examples in detail. They rest on a manifestly false premise. For example, "Illogical" Bridges writes: "God Himself is here blessing the water, not a priest." In other words, it can't be used as any evidence for holy water because not all NT and "Catholic" particulars are present in the example.

1. The Roman concept of "holy water" is, as it happens dependent on the actions of an ecclesiastical class, which, I would argue is directly contrary to the New Testament witness, and is also a pale imitation of the OT class, which has, of course, passed away as an ecclesiastical class.

2. I wrote that with respect to the text in Exodus. My argument is not that it is out of bounds simply because God is the one blessing it Himself, but that His blessing is simply a covenant promise. The water is not "holy water" set aside for a specific use, but pure, ordinary, and plentiful water for ordinary everyday use. Nothing in this text is useful for anything at all relative to "holy water."

3. Just to drive this home, here is what I stated in full:

The point of the text is that God will bless the nation with food and water - ordinary sustenance - on the condition that they are faithful to His covenant.

From Keil & Delitzch: Exodus 23: 20 - 33Relation of Jehovah to Israel.—The declaration of the rights conferred by Jehovah upon His people is closed by promises, through which, on the one hand, God insured to the nation the gifts and benefits involved in their rights, and, on the other hand, sought to promote that willingness and love which were indispensable to the fulfilment of the duties incumbent upon every individual in consequence of the rights conferred upon them. These promises secured to the people not only the protection and help of God during their journey through the desert, and in the conquest of Canaan, but also preservation and prosperity when they had taken possession of the land.

Jehovah would send an angel before them, who should guard them on the way from injury and destruction, and bring them to the place prepared for them, i.e., to Canaan. The name of Jehovah was in this angel (v. 21), that is to say, Jehovah revealed Himself in him; and hence he is called in Ex. 33:15, 16, the face of Jehovah, because the essential nature of Jehovah was manifested in him. This angel was not a created spirit, therefore, but the manifestation of Jehovah Himself, who went before them in the pillar of cloud and fire, to guide and to defend them (Ex. 13:21). But because it was Jehovah who was guiding His people in the person of the angel, He demanded unconditional obedience (v. 21), and if they provoked Him (tammeir for tameir, see Ex. 13:18) by disobedience, He would not pardon their transgression; but if they followed Him and hearkened to His voice, He would be an enemy to their enemies, and an adversary to their adversaries (v. 22). And when the angel of the Lord had brought them to the Canaanites and exterminated the latter, Israel was still to yield the same obedience, by not serving the gods of the Canaanites, or doing after their works, i.e., by not making any idolatrous images, but destroying them (these works), and smiting to pieces the pillars of their idolatrous worship (matseivot does not mean statues erected as idols, but memorial stones or columns dedicated to idols: see my Comm. on 1 Kings 14:23), and serving Jehovah alone. Then would He bless them in the land with bountiful provision, health, fruitfulness, and length of life (vv. 23-26). “Bread and water” are named, as being the provisions which are indispensable to the maintenance of life, as in Isa. 3:1; 30:20; 33:16. The taking away of “sickness” (cf. 15:26) implied the removal of everything that could endanger life. The absence of anything that miscarried, or was barren, insured the continuance and increase of the nation; and the promise that their days should be fulfilled, i.e., that they should not be liable to a premature death (cf. Isa. 55:20), was a pledge of their well-being.

Conclusion: Dave and Nicholas have successfully ripped this text out of its context and utterly misapplied it. This does not bode well. Indeed, they should be ashamed for their abuse of God's Word in this manner.
By this "logic" every Christian ought to try to sacrifice his first son, because Abraham did that and he was the father of the faithful.
This is obviously disanalogous, because I'm not the one arguing that the text of Numbers is an example of the Romanist concept of "holy water." So, Dave needs a supporting argument that it is, and this, of course, not forthcoming. Note he never exegeted the text at all.

He then quotes Steve Hays on biblical typology, and later myself. Of course, the problem here is that we're talking about what the Bible itself says and itself licenses. The substance of what we were quoted saying is dealing with the concept of progressive revelation. That's a cornerstone of the discipline of biblical theology. So, at the critical point of comparison, Dave's criticism of me falls short of the mark, yet again. Steve and I are more than happy to argue for biblical typology - where the text itself makes the connections. If Dave wishes to muster Steve and I to support his own argumentation, then he'll need another argument supporting the notion of progressive revelation after the time of enscripturation itself, or, absent that, an argument the New Testament has a clear doctrine of "holy water" (in the Roman sense) that can then be used to find the OT precursors the same way that Christological prophecies in the OT were made plain by the NT authors and the NT teaching on the Trinity sheds light on the OT.

Unbelievable. Now we go beyond manifest logical deficiencies to difficulties in simple reading comprehension. My first section title was: "God Uses Created Things In Order to Produce Supernatural Effects In Our Lives." This is setting up a prior or antecedent premise that will support a later premise. The first sentence in this section was:
There are many examples in Scripture where Jesus and the apostles use created things to produce supernatural effects in the lives of human beings.
So to spell it out for "Illogical" Bridges with an appropriately simple chart:
1. First premise: "God Uses Created Things In Order to Produce Supernatural Effects In Our Lives."

2. Biblical examples of the first premise are given.

3. Second premise: "In Scripture, Water is Used to Cleanse, Purify, and Heal Human Beings."

Biblical examples of the second premise are given.

And the conclusion is that this licenses the Roman concept of holy water, Dave's conclusion.

The problem the conclusion does not follow from the premises, either major or minor, and as I pointed out, I spoke to the texts he selected, not his overall argument. His criticism here is a diversionary tactic; and notice even here he never mounts any supporting/exegetical argumentation. His conclusion and the validity of his argumentation depends on supporting arguments and exegesis, none of which was given. It was merely assumed without argument.
Now, is this rocket science? I don't think so. It's quite simple. I think my six-year-old daughter could easily grasp the concept and the logic involved, but anti-Catholic blinders preclude such a possibility, I guess.
I agree, Dave's logical argument is something a six year old could understand. It's also one a six year old might offer. Go figure.
Nice touch there. So because snake oil salesmen pervert and corrupt a Bible verse for nefarious ends, I must be tainted because I also cite it legitimately. This is the old trick of guilt-by-association: yet another logical fallacy.
1. Guilty as charged, I think there is some common ground between these "snake oil" salesmen and Dave Armstrong.

2. But I never used "guilt by association" rather, I don't write for Dave's ego or benefit, but the benefit of others - and that includes people other than those involved in Roman Catholicism. I chose this one because it is a common one for those persons, one to which they might wish to find a response. Dave, of course, ignored what I said next: I somehow doubt Dave and Nicolas believe that getting a prayer cloth as a "point of contact" is a valid use of holy water.
No one is denying this, in the sense of ultimate cause. It is a non sequitur. It's also a rather ignorant remark to make in light of the fact that the Bible states over and over that people healed others (i.e., they were God's instruments of healing, just as the text above states: "God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul"): Acts 8:7; 10:36-42; 28:8; 1 Cor 12:28,30; James 5:14-16. Not only that; Jesus also virtually commands His disciples to "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons" (Matthew 10:8).
1. Dave doesn't demonstrate the nonsequitur.

2. Notice that this what Dave originally posted to preface his citation of Acts 19:
Paul’s handkerchiefs cured disease and expelled evil spirits
That's it. I respond to what people write as they write it.
The virtue was not found in the materials themselves - that would be witchery - it was in God and the faith of the recipients.

Of course. No orthodox Catholic ever argued otherwise. But this doesn't wipe out the fact that materials were used: and that is all we are arguing.
Of course, here is what Dave actually had stated:
The bones of his apprentice, Elisha, brought a man back to life:

Elijah’s mantle parted the Jordan

Paul’s handkerchiefs cured disease and expelled evil spirits
I am glad Dave has provided a helpful corrective, but in doing so he has overturned the subject/predicate relationship in his original statements. His original statements state that a mantle, a handkerchief, and bones were what did these things. These are all materials themselves. His need to refine his argument could have been obviated if he'd done something more than list some texts without exegeting them and/or included some supporting argumentation.
Catholicism as gross paganism and heathenism . . . every Catholic miracle is from the devil (and if "Illogical" Bridges is a cessationist, every Protestant and post-apostolic miracle also is from the devil or never happened at all). They said the same about Jesus, remember: that He was casting demons out by the name of Beelzebub (Luke 11:14-23; Matt 12:22-37). He predicted that His followers would receive the same treatment (Matt 10:24-25). This has been fulfilled yet again, above. In the same context that Jesus speaks about being falsely accused of performing demonic miracles, He warns about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32).

Gene Bridges endangers his soul to the extent that he denies miracles from God simply because they may have come through the instrumentality of a Catholic vessel. He is already bearing false witness against brothers in Christ (by denying that we are brothers and fellow disciples of Jesus), which violates the Ten Commandments and fosters the very serious sin of schism. So he is in very deep and perilous waters, spiritually-speaking. He'll laugh this off as a "threat" no doubt, but I am quite sincere (all polemical ribbings and tweakings aside) about warning him of the inherent dangers of such spouted falsehoods. It's his soul. I would suggest that he think very seriously about these matters.
1. Dave, you are obviously unregenerate, so you need to cast yourself on the merits of Christ alone and repent of your ecclesiolatry - period. I have no reason to think you are a brother, because (a) you are a false teacher and (b) you simply give no evidence that you are regenerate, and you give us no reason to think you are with every passing stroke of the pen. I make no apology for this statement. My trust, Dave is in Christ alone. I assure you that my soul is not the one in danger.

2. I take Trent @ face value. It says that the things I affirm are "anathema." So, it's your communion that has stated that I am not a brother. I'll take the information your hierarchy provides over your ipse dixit any day.

3. The Eastern Orthodox don't seem to think there can be a sin of "schism."

I'll take their word for it over yours any day.

4. It is true that the Pharisees said Christ cast out devils by diabolical means. However, the proof that this was untrue is found in Christ's preaching as a whole, not simply his intrinsic authority or his claim. Note that Christ did not make a simple claim to be the Messiah the way Rome makes simple claims to apostolic succession to verify its claim to cast out demons by the power of God. Rather, Christ's works were verified by the content of His teaching and vice versa. Given the inaccurate and cavalier manner in by which Dave has defended his position from Scripture, it should be manifestly apparent that if he raises this objection, he is merely mirror-reading. Rome is a false church, a synagoge of Satan, and an agent of death preaching a false gospel of works righteousness. It's claim to cast out demons by God's power is controverted, not confirmed by its message. The error of the Pharisees was not in believing that demons could be cast out by diabolical means; rather their error was in mismatching that with the content of Jesus' message and His identity. They had more knowledge of the Scriptures than any in their day and they knew full well who Jesus really was, yet in attributing the power of the devil to His works, they were committing apostasy from the covenant. This is not true of our attribution of the power of demons to the work of Rome, for she is certainly apostate, and you, Dave are her willing thrall.


  1. [Dave Armstrong] “Gene Bridges endangers his soul to the extent that he denies miracles from God simply because they may have come through the instrumentality of a Catholic vessel.”

    Compare this with some of Rahner’s cautionary statements about miraculous claims:

    “Genuine apparitions certainly will not resort to blackmail, threatening with punishments from heaven anybody who is not prepared to yield unqualified assent to everything,” Visions & Prophecies (Herder & Herder 1963), 10.

    “The principle always remains valid that supernatural agency is not to be presupposed but must be proved…With such occurrences, therefore, there is more danger of error in credulity than in scepticism…” ibid. 81.

    Moving along:

    “He is already bearing false witness against brothers in Christ (by denying that we are brothers and fellow disciples of Jesus), which violates the Ten Commandments.”

    This simply begs the question in favor of Catholicism. And it’s not as if Trent is giving Protestants the benefit of the doubt.

    “And fosters the very serious sin of schism.”

    Once again, this merely begs the question in favor of Catholicism. Separating oneself from an apostate denomination is not only not a sin, but a moral and spiritual duty. Cf. 2 Cor 6:14-18.

  2. In case you're interested, here is an update on the holy water debate:

    Pax Christi,
    Nicholas Hardesty, aka "phatcatholic"