Monday, July 20, 2009

Waiting for the Mother Ship

I’m reposting some comments here which I originally make over at the blog of the upstanding and long-suffering James Swan:

steve said...
Dave Armstrong said...

“Steve Hays has called me ‘evil’ through and through.”

For making defamatory comments about James White and his dad when Armstrong is in no position to confirm who’s telling the truth. Yes, that’s evil.

“And claimed that I advocate letting known pedophiles back with children.”

Actually, that’s not limited to Dave. Most Catholics, whether lay or clerical, are complicit in that scandal. If you support the system, you support the systemic byproducts.

Dave tries to excuse himself by condemning the abuse. But you can’t detach the effect from the cause. The evil outcome is the predictable and inevitable result of a terminally corrupt institution.

“When I do the same thing, I'm paranoid, an ego-maniac, narcissistic, with a martyr and persecution complex. I'm furious and hyper-sensitive.”

Well, if you do a spot-on impersonation of someone who’s hypersensitive, paranoid, an ego-maniac, narcissistic, with a martyr and persecution complex, then how are we supposed to tell the difference between the person and the impersonation? The make-up, inflection, &c, is just uncanny.

“I don't suffer fools easily.”

Which must make it very hard for Dave to live with himself. Maybe that’s the source of the problem. He doesn’t suffer fools easily, so the only way for him to alleviate his suffering is to smash all the mirrors in his home.

“But the latest two aren't, because they go too far. Satire has to be far more subtle than that to work and be humorously effective. Now he has me comparing myself to God and saying heaven ain't big enough for both of us, etc. It's just plain dumb.”

That wasn’t satire. That was completely straight.

“The folks on my blog are so bored with it they don't even comment.”

Maybe because they’re embarrassed by your antics. Better to say nothing at all.

“It doesn't work with me because my temperament (as anyone who has met me can confirm, I think) is quite even and not prone at all to loss of temper (which is another humorous myth about me that these guys repeat endlessly). I'm so used to anti-Catholic insults, anyway, after a constant stream of it for 14 years, I doubt if there is anything that could be said that would cause me to ‘lose it’.”

That would be a mite more convincing if he didn’t churn out reams and reams of material trying to convince us that he isn’t bothered by what other people say about him. His practice belies his words.

“I don’t care what you say about me, and just to prove it I’m going to do post after post on my own blog, update my posts every half hour, quote everything everyone ever said about me, which I keep on file, and post comment after comment on other blogs.”

Hmm. For someone who doesn’t care what other people say about him, Dave does a spot-on impersonation of someone who cares what other people say about him.

For that matter, have you ever encountered a self-obsessive individual who admits to being a self-obsessive individual? Don’t we expect a self-obsessive individual to deny how self-obsessive he is? A self-obsessive individual spends endless amounts of time talking about how he’s not a self-obsessive individual, which, of course, is just another way of talking about himself–over and over again. Does that ring a bell? Sound like anyone you know? Maybe a Detroit-based spa salesman and lay epologist?

“I’m not self-obsessed! How dare you call me self-obsessed? And you to prove what a slanderous liar you are, I’m going to spend the next 20 pages talking about myself to refute the charge that I’m obsessed with myself!”

Not only is Dave an idolater, but a self-idolater. He has sculpted an idol in his own, precious image. A singular, autobiographical personality cult.

steve said...
Dave Armstrong said...

"According to Hays, if a man is falsely accused and gets on the stand to defend himself against false charges, he is proved to be a self-obsessed, self-absorbed narcissist."

Of course, that statement contains a question-begging antecedent ("If a man is falsely accused."). So Dave's conclusion is predicated on the tendentious premise that he was falsely accused.

steve said...


It doesn't work with me because my temperament (as anyone who has met me can confirm, I think) is quite even and not prone at all to loss of temper (which is another humorous myth about me that these guys repeat endlessly). I'm so used to anti-Catholic insults, anyway, after a constant stream of it for 14 years, I doubt if there is anything that could be said that would cause me to lose it.”


I'm not supposed to respond to any of this. I have to be a perfect saint, turning the cheek every time. Sorry; I haven't arrived at that level of sanctity yet, and I'm the first to admit that.


It doesn't work with me because my temperament (as anyone who has met me can confirm, I think) is quite even and not prone at all to loss of temper (which is another humorous myth about me that these guys repeat endlessly). I'm so used to anti-Catholic insults, anyway, after a constant stream of it for 14 years, I doubt if there is anything that could be said that would cause me to “lose it.”


Mostly I have accused anti-Catholics, where I do get fed up with them…

But "Defective Gene" is unconscionable. We all know that. Then there are Hays' literal avalanche of sweeping insults and character judgments.

And then look at what is said about me, especially by Steve Hays, who now exceeds all others in venom and vitriol and judging of hearts. There simply is no comparison whatsoever.

steve said...
Dave Armstrong said...

“But I know my own heart, intentions, etc. a lot better than you do, don't you agree?”

Why would I assume that? Moral self-delusion is a common phenomenon. Do you think Bill and Hillary Clinton are honest with themselves (to take one example of many)?

steve said...
Dave Armstrong said...

“So what do you call my profession, then, seeing that I am a staff member of The Coming Home Network…”

Let’s see. That was founded by an ex-Presbyterian minister who converted to Catholic. So the fact that one lay Catholic and convert anoints another lay Catholic and convert makes Dave a real, honest-to-goodness apologist.

How does that differ from an ordination in some Appalachian church where they lay hands on a 10-year-old preacher-boy cuz he’s got da fire?

“If one writes books that are published, that are bestsellers in their field.”

Yes, popularity equals respectability. Just look at Paula White, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and Creflo Dollar–not to mention Fr. Alberto Cutie.

“You can lie like Whopper Hays and Controversialist Enloe have done, in pretending that I am merely ‘self-anointed’ or ‘self-appointed,’ when in fact I had the support of one of the major Catholic catechists of the 20th century and candidate for possible sainthood, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., from the very beginning of my apologetic writing career.”

So a Jesuit priest is in a position to confer on Armstrong the position of a professional apologist? Is Hardon a bishop? Or cardinal? Did he give Armstrong a job in the Curia? What did he appoint Armstrong too, exactly?

steve said...
Dave poses a good question. Of course, he frames the question in a way that conveniently coincides with his own “qualifications,” so we can’t allow the answer to be bound by the self-serving terms in which the question is cast.

1.I don’t know why the standards for a Catholic apologist should be any lower than the standards for a Catholic theologian. Just as a Catholic theologian is licensed to teach Catholic theology, a Catholic apologist should be licensed to teach Catholic apologetics.

2.Indeed, why doesn’t the Vatican have an apologetic counterpart to the Pontifical Biblical Commission or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Popes would appoint the members.

3.Put another way, where is the counterpart to Cardinal Bellarmine in 20-21C Catholic apologetics?

4.Or, to approach the question from another angle, consider Armstrong’s running commentary on Calvin’s Institutes. What he apparently does is to sit down with his laptop, pull up an online copy of the Institutes, then type an interlinear commentary.

Now, seriously, what are his qualifications to write a commentary on the Institutes? More generally, what qualifications would you need to write a commentary on the Institutes?

For one thing, you’d need to know your way around the primary sources. A fluent command of Middle French and Neo-Latin.

You’d also need to be conversant with the secondary literature on Calvin and 16C European church history in various modern languages, viz., French, German, Italian, Dutch.

Not only does this require an easy command of the requisite languages, but access to a research library with the relevant primary and secondary literature.

To write a competent commentary on the Institutes calls for a very specialized knowledge of Calvin’s life and background–as well as 16C European church history.

steve said...
Dave Armstrong said...

“I am asking basic questions: what is a professional and an apologist, and an author. That presupposes nothing, and it is scarcely even a Catholic-Protestant difference.”

To the contrary, there ought to be a difference since Catholicism makes higher claims about institutional certainty. That should carry over into the way Catholic apologetics is conducted.

“It's not for you to say. It's not your prerogative to determine. The Catholic Church has decided that within its system there is such a thing as a legitimate lay apologist, even one not formally trained.”

It’s my prerogative to point out that your church lacks logical, consistent standards of competence in the promulgation and defense of the faith. Why should the teaching of Catholic theology be regulated while Catholic apologetics is a free-for-all? For one thing, you can’t draw a bright line between dogmatic theology and polemical theology.

“An apologist is not necessarily either a scholar or a theologian, though he can be both.”

In which case there’s no quality control mechanism. Indeed, there’s no assurance that what a Catholic apologist says is even orthodox by Catholic standards.

So we end up with spokesmen whom even you disapprove of, like Matatics and Sungenis.

“All that is necessary is that lay apologetics has magisterial approval, as it certainly does.”

That’s equivocal. Aside from what I’ve already said, there’s a difference between abstract approval of the general idea of lay apologetics, and concrete approval for the specific work of any lay apologist in particular.

Where is the direct supervision? Where is the accountability system?

You have this authoritarian, high-church ecclesiology, but whet it comes to popularizing Catholic theology, even giving Catholics advice on the finer points of moral theology, lay Catholic apologetics is like a storefront psychic who reads your palm or casts your horoscope. Rent a building, put up a hand-made sign, and you’re in business.

“[the question of who can comment on Calvin's Institutes is secondary, and so I pass over it. Obviously, as I claimed, mine was simply a popular approach, not a scholarly one.”

So if you toss in the “popular” disclaimer, you don’t have to be competent.

“But this is, of course, irrelevant, because hostile Protestant wishes for what our Church should be or what Catholic apologists ought to be, or how they are defined, has no bearing on what they actually are within our system. That is determined by the Church herself, not you.”

To the contrary, it’s fine with me if the one true church is utterly indifferent to the quality of the spokesmen who presume to represent her for popular consumption. That’s just one more yawning chasm between high-church rhetoric and high-church practice. One more evidence that your church can’t live up to her lofty pretensions.

“Its all wishful thinking. You haven't consulted what the Catholic Church says about what an apologist in her ranks is, or is required to be.”

Once again, it’s fine with me if your church has low standards or no standards for Catholic apologists. If that’s how she wants to be judged, if she’s content to have outsiders judge the reliability of her claims by unreliable apologists, then I’ll take her up on the offer.

steve said...
Dave Armstrong said...

“This is more of the same extraneous arbitrariness. ‘Ought’ according to you in this context is utterly irrelevant. We decide in our system what an apologist properly is and is not, not you. Surely you don't deny that any given institution can define its own terms in its own internal affairs, and not some outsider who thinks it ‘ought’ to be otherwise.”

This is more of the same extraneous arbitrariness. "Ought" according to you in this context is utterly irrelevant. We Moonies decide in our system what a Christian properly is and is not, not you. Surely you don't deny that our Unification Church can define its own terms in its own internal affairs, and not some outsider who thinks it "ought" to be otherwise.

This is more of the same extraneous arbitrariness. "Ought" according to you in this context is utterly irrelevant. We Mormons decide in our system what a Christian properly is and is not, not you. Surely you don't deny that our LDS Church can define its own terms in its own internal affairs, and not some outsider who thinks it "ought" to be otherwise.

This is more of the same extraneous arbitrariness. "Ought" according to you in this context is utterly irrelevant. We Dianeticists decide in our system what God properly is and is not, not you. Surely you don't deny that our Church of Scientology can define its own terms in its own internal affairs, and not some outsider who thinks it "ought" to be otherwise.

“Why are the laws of physics what they are? Why do Calvinists think that God predestines people to hell? Why do zebras have stripes? Why is 2+2=4? Why do you keep asking ‘ought’ questions, when the subject at hand is objective definitions?”

You want to arbitrarily restrict the discussion to purely semantic issues rather than “ought” questions because you can’t defend your church’s practice at the “ought” level. It’s funny to see a Catholic “apologist” run away from the “ought” questions.

“This has nothing to do with anything…”

To the contrary, in order to teach Catholic theology in the name of the church, your church must license the theologian. Hans Küng lost his license when he went too far afield.

Yet a Catholic apologist covers the very same ground as a Catholic theologian. Because apologetics is interdisciplinary, a Catholic apologists ends up expounding dogmatic theology, moral theology, &c.

“We have all sorts of internal quality control (including a great deal of oversight and approval from bishops).”

Really? So Dave Armstrong sends a draft copy of whatever he intends to publish or post to his bishop for prior review to obtain official permission before he presumes to publish it or post it on his blog.

“There is a reason, for example, that Gerry Matatics is an outcast from the apologetics community, and that others have been reprimanded and no longer have much credentials within the movement.”

I see. Matatics has been excommunicated by the Magisterium of Lay Catholic Epologists. Whatever the community of lay catholic epologists binds on earth shall be bound in heaven.

We always knew you were acting like a parallel papacy. Thanks for making it official. Do you also have your own tiara and papal slippers? Should we address you as the Holy Father?

“Matatics is not even a Catholic.”

Of course, he’d say the same thing about “Counterfeit Catholics” like yourself.

“Nope. It's a fact. Sorry the reality isn't as you long for it to be. That's not how objective reality works, I'm afraid. I hate to break the bad news to you so suddenly.”

That’s a funny statement coming from somebody who just resorted to Kuhnian relativism. According to you, every institution has its own framework which is incommensurable with the framework of every other institution.

Ironically, you undercut the very basis for Catholic apologetics by resorting to Kuhnian relativism. For you mustn’t pose “ought questions” of non-Catholic frameworks.

“Those are separate questions with little bearing on basic definition and category. You love to evade, but I'm calling you on it.”

You love to evade the substantive question.

“That's your cynical take, as a hostile observer. It has no bearing on the Church's opinion of lay apologetics or on our actual subject.”

That's your cynical take, as a hostile observer. It has no bearing on the Unification Church's opinion…

That's your cynical take, as a hostile observer. It has no bearing on the Church of Scientology’s opinion…

That's your cynical take, as a hostile observer. It has no bearing on the LDS Church’s opinion...

“No; you have to be competent and informative on a popular level.”

Fine. So what qualifications would you need to write a competent commentary on the Institutes? A mastery of the primary and secondary literature.

“That's YOUR hostile judgment, not the Church';s as pertaining to who is an apologist and who is not. As such, it is irrelevant. The Church says what I do is legitimate from within OUR framework (not yours).”

That's YOUR hostile judgment, not the Unification Church's as pertaining to who is a Christian and who is not. As such, it is irrelevant. The Unification Church says what Moonies think or do is legitimate from within OUR framework (not yours).

That's YOUR hostile judgment, not the LDS Church’s as pertaining to who is a Christian and who is not. As such, it is irrelevant. The LDS Church says what Mormons think or do is legitimate from within OUR framework (not yours).

“More irrelevant appeals to hypocrisy rather than dealing with fundamental definitional issues.”

What about dealing with the fundamental substantive issues?

“We're not talking about quality, but category.”

That’s what you want to talk about. You don’t get to dictate what I’m allowed to talk about. Your priorities don’t coincide with my priorities. Indeed, they don’t even intersect.

And the fact that you don’t want to talk about quality is quite revealing, in a self-incriminating sort of way. Which is why you run screaming from the normative question.

steve said...

No project, however, may claim the name "Catholic" unless it has obtained the consent of the lawful Church authority.

Special care should be taken to select priests who are capable of promoting particular forms of the apostolate of the laity and are properly trained…Through continuous dialogue with the laity, these priests should carefully investigate which forms make apostolic activity more fruitful.

In dioceses, insofar as possible, there should be councils which assist the apostolic work of the Church either in the field of evangelization and sanctification or in the charitable, social, or other spheres, and here it is fitting that the clergy and Religious should cooperate with the laity. While preserving the proper character and autonomy of each organization, these councils will be able to promote the mutual coordination of various lay associations and enterprises. Councils of this type should be established as far as possible also on the parochial, interparochial, and interdiocesan level as well as in the national or international sphere.

A special secretariat, moreover, should be established at the Holy See for the service and promotion of the lay apostolate. It can serve as a well-equipped center for communicating information about the various apostolic programs of the laity, promoting research into modern problems arising in this field, and assisting the hierarchy and laity in their apostolic works with its advice. The various movements and projects of the apostolate of the laity throughout the world should also be represented in this secretariat, and here clergy and Religious also are to cooperate with the laity.

In addition to spiritual formation, a solid doctrinal instruction in theology, ethics, and philosophy adjusted to differences of age, status, and natural talents, is required. The importance of general culture along with practical and technical formation should also be kept in mind.

steve said...
Dave Armstrong said...

“You both (like our gracious, intellectually brilliant host)…”

Well, that’s one thing we agree on. Unfortunately, it’s downhill from there.

“More irrelevant pseudo-analogies. And this is quite obvious. The question, of course, is not what a ‘Christian’ is or what ‘God’ is, but what a Catholic apologist is. You completely changed the topic. Clever, but atrocious logic, and typical of your usual obscurantism in ‘debate,’ unfortunately. We're not discussing those things.”

i) You either can’t follow your own argument or else, having lost the original argument, you are rewriting history. This is how you chose to frame the “question”:

“Surely you don't deny that any given institution can define its own terms in its own internal affairs, and not some outsider who thinks it ‘ought’ to be otherwise.”

Notice that you chose to frame the question in completely generic terms. How institutions in general define terms in general. You didn’t frame the question in terms of how the Catholic church defines “apologist.”

Rather, you treated that as a special case of a general prerogative which any institution enjoys to define its own terms.

ii) Moreover, you used normative adjectives like “proper” and “legitimate” to describe this process. Therefore, according to you, any institution can “properly” or “legitimately” define its own terms, according to its own “framework” or “internal criteria.”

Hence, by the way you set the stage, cults like Mormonism or Scientology can “properly” define theological terms. Their own framework or internal criteria “legitimate” that usage.

Therefore, I drew some simple parallels based on the way you chose to frame the question.

“Thus, the proper analogy would be whether a Moonie can decide what a Moonie apologist is, rather than a Calvinist or Catholic deciding it for him.”

No, the proper analogy would be how any institution defines its own terms. That’s how you yourself set up the comparison. I’m holding you to your own framework.

“Therefore, it is irrelevant if you decide what a Catholic apologist is, while ignoring Catholic internal criteria within the Catholic system.”

I never confined my discussion to what a Catholic apologist is. You’re the one who’s trying to confine the discussion to a purely semantic question.

And even at that level, you don’t actually cite where your church defines a “Catholic apologist.” At most, you cite where your church defines an “apostolate.”

“Yes, of course, because that is what definitions are: fundamentally semantic issues!!! LOL”

Then the laugh is on you. To say that “definitions” are fundamentally semantic doesn’t mean the relevant issues are fundamentally semantic. That’s just your bait-and-switch tactic.

“That is the discussion.”

Only according to your unilateral attempt to dictate the parameters of the discussion.

“I understand that this is one of your pet arguments, but it is off-topic.”

You don’t get to decide for the rest of us what’s on-topic or off-topic.

Dave then spends some time repeating himself. Moving along:

“Sure. A Catholic theologian who teaches at a school must have the proper credentials in order to speak for the Church. He must be orthodox. That's why Kung is no longer a Catholic theologian. But an apologist is not a theologian.”

I appreciate your admission. So, according to you, although a Catholic theologian must have proper credentials to speak for the church, a Catholic apologist can speak for the church without having proper credentials. As I say, the Catholic church has illogical standards.

“The major apologetic organizations have oversight from bishops (and that is their job), which is sufficient.”

Dave uses the word “oversight,” but he doesn’t unpack what that alleged oversight actually amounts to.

"So you're saying that there can be no catechists at a local parish without a license and a degree from some Catholic college? A Catholic mother or father cannot teach their children the Catholic faith without the pope being present at all times making sure they are orthodox? You can see where this ‘reasoning’ leads.”

Yes, it leads to functional Protestantism. Welcome to the club. Now make your membership official.

“Catholic apologetics works in the same way. It's not required to have particular oversight on everything, as long as there is general oversight and self-policing, which there certainly is.”

In other words, the bishop is like an absentee landlord. Ultimately, Catholic apologists police themselves. Thanks for the candid admission.

“Tim Enloe has been doing it for years, with his extreme comments about the papacy and dumb comments about conciliarism being supposedly an orthodox Catholic option throughout the Middle Ages.”

Well, at least Tim Enloe can read Medieval history and theology in Medieval Latin. And he also has access to the pertinent secondary literature. So if I had to choose between your opinion and his, he’s obviously better informed than you are. It’s a tactical error for you to compare yourself with Enloe. That comparison doesn’t work in your favor.

“You don't seem to be able to comprehend that we Catholics do lots of stuff without papal guidance. I blew my nose this morning. I didn't have to call the pope to get permission. I chose a pair of socks on my own, etc.”

A Catholic apologist is a de facto teacher of Catholic theology. If you reduce that to the level of blowing your nose, then why don’t you join the Plymouth Brethren or the Strict & Particular Baptists?

“Likewise, even we Catholics can teach an adult formation class or give lectures about apologetics, or write articles, without direct oversight from bishops and the pope at all times. To think otherwise and to make out that this is somehow contrary to Catholicism, is pure fantasy and ignorance.”

Which is unresponsive to what I said. The question at issue isn’t limited to what may or may not be contrary to Catholicism. Rather, does the Catholic church have consistent standards?

“That's not what I am talking about.”

Naturally. The moment we press you on the details, your claim evaporates into thin air. When we peel back the label (“general oversight”), there is nothing underneath.

“This level is not required. There is general oversight of the leading organizations.”

If the bishop isn’t reading what an apologist writes, then his supervision is meaningless. Like an editor who never reads his own newspaper.

“He incurred latae sententiae (automatic excommunication), based on cc. 751 and 1364 of the Code of Canon Law. The first states: the aforesaid canons defines schism as ‘refusal of subjection to the Roman Pontiff, or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him’. The second states that the penalty for is automatic excommunication.”

i) Of course, that simply begs the question. If Benedict the XVI is an antipope, then refusal of subjection to an antipope is hardly an excommunicable offense.

Mind you, that intramural issue is of no concern to me. To me, every pope is an antipope. I’m merely highlighting the utterly lame nature of your argument.

ii) BTW, Dave, as long as we’re on the subject, which you initiated, can you point me to an official, infallible list of the popes? After all, a Catholic can only be in subjection to the Roman Pontiff if that’s an object of knowledge. So please point me to an official, infallible list of the popes.

“See how the reductio no longer works, now that it is proven that it is based on wholesale ignorance? I can't thank you (and our gracious host) enough for the opportunity to clearly demonstrate this sort of stuff that you and your anti-Catholic buddies are continually guilty of.”

I can’t thank you enough for begging the question. And I can’t thank you enough for opening a fresh can of worms. But perhaps you can reseal the can when you produce an official, infallible list of the popes. If you claim apostolic succession, then produce a list commensurate with your church’s pretensions of indefectibility.

“That's irrelevant. He doesn't set Catholic definitions and criteria; the magisterium does. And by that legitimate standard, he is out, by his own choice.”

But you just told us that Catholic apologists police themselves. Did Matatics arrest himself? Is he serving time in the pokey?

Last time I checked, he is still running a Catholic blog and doing his “mega-tour.” I guess that’s one of the fringe benefits self-policing. Since you have the keys to the jail cell, you can let yourself out whenever you want to.

I take it that the sheriff exercises “general oversight” of the jail block–from a sunny beach in Tahiti.

Catholicism has such an impressive accountability system, don’t you think? Not like those libertine Protestants who just do their own thing.

BTW, is Robert Sungenis another successor story in allowing Catholic apologists to police themselves?

“Nope. When it comes to the definition of Christianity, denominations cannot redefine that (which is why your previous pseudo-analogies to these groups in that sense, were non sequiturs, as we agree).”

Dave is radically scaling back his original claim. I only have to cite a few, obvious counterexamples, then sit back and watch him rewrite his original argument.

Kind of like a thief who discovers that he accidentally stole a traceable object. Now he has to return the incriminating object before the curator discovers that it’s missing and reports it to the police. Will he get it back in time? It was hard enough to break into the museum undetected the first time. Now he has to go back and do it again. And, unbeknownst to Dave It-Takes-A-Thief Armstrong, we’re watching the whole thing unfold on a hidden security camera. He tripped a silent alarm on the way in.

“But when it comes to defining what an apologist is for a particular group, that is purely an internal affair and not at all like the other scenario.”

Notice how Dave willy-nilly decides what is internal or external for the rest of us–as if he had the authority to do so. Of course, a Moonie or Scientologist could to the very same thing.

“Apologists usually don't have time to read vast numbers of books on particular topics, because that is what scholars and academics are paid to do.”

Which disqualifies you from writing a commentary on the Institutes.

“Apologists interact with real people, day-to-day, with real crises of faith and real questions about difficulties in living and believing a given (Christian) faith. It's a far more practical, concrete enterprise than academic theology.”

Does writing a commentary on the Institutes fall under that rubric or not?

“Calvin, of course, has the big advantage going in, in such a ‘debate.’ He's the famous and extremely influential theologian and scholar, with tons of education, rhetorical and literary ability in droves, and a remarkable encyclopedic knowledge in many areas. I'm just a lay Catholic apologist with a degree in sociology, and no formal theological education (but with lots of informal theological education for over thirty years). I rather like that. I love to play David over against a ‘Goliath.’ I relish the challenge.”

Unlike King David, you don’t have any stones in your slingshot. Just cotton balls.

“Why should it bother you and Tim whether I respond to Calvin or not.”

It doesn’t bother me when you go wading into waters which are way out of your depth.

“If, on the other hand, I hold my own or prevail…”

Since you lack the background to even interpret Calvin, the entire exercise is vacuous.

“Calvinists who are considering Catholicism might like to consider both sides in this fashion, to see which is more plausible and biblical and historical.”

Since you’re hardly competent to even write a commentary on the Institutes, they’d scarcely be getting “both sides” of the argument.

“Catholics who encounter Calvinist friends might like to consult this for reference purposes.”

So Catholics who are incompetent to evaluate Calvin should consult a Catholic epologist who is equally incompetent to evaluate Calvin.

Richard Muller might be qualified to write a commentary on the Institutes. Roger Nicole might be qualified to write a commentary on the Institutes. Paul Helm might be qualified to write a commentary on the Institutes. There are probably some Catholic scholars who would be qualified to do so as well.

You are not. Your commentary on the Institutes is an exercise in self-conceited charlatanry.

“All that said, in my opini9on, you try to fightr against such an effort on my part, primarily because you don't like what I am arguing, and Calvin is your sacred cow, so that the prospect of someone picking him apart in this fashion, is a spectre too dreadful to countenance for even a moment. We mustn't have a free, systematic, substantive exchange between a Calvinist and a Catholic!”

i) A 20C American with a degree in sociology can’t simply jump into a 16C document. Imagine if Armstrong were to write a commentary on the Divina Commedia by Dante or the Quaestiones Quodlibetales by Duns Scotus.

ii) I’ve posted very little on Calvin over the years. And other Reformed theologians like Owen, Turretin, Cunningham, and Warfield are equally worthwhile.

iii) If you were serious about having a dialogue with a literary representative of Calvinism, you’d at least choose someone who’s closer to your own cultural frame of reference.

“Steve evaded that central burden of the discussion the entire time.”

i) You and I never negotiated the terms of this impromptu debate. There was no prior, mutual agreement on the topical parameters. This is not a formal debate.

ii) And even within your unilateral, self-serving, and artificial constraints, what you’ve accomplished is to demonstrate that any looser or Google-scholar can “properly” or “legitimately” be treated as a Catholic apologist.

Fine. That authorizes the rest of us to judge the claims of Rome by some hack apologist who takes it upon himself to speak in the name of Catholicism.

“Right. Nice try. It won't work. My readers will see through your asinine tactics in a second. You couldn't defend our host's assertions against me, and so you changed the subject. Pure and simple.”

Because your flank is so vulnerable, the only way you can defend yourself is to limit your exposure. Pure and simple.

It’s a prudent tactic on the part of a field commander who finds himself hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered. Since he can’t win, the best he can do is to avoid losing. He minimizes contact to minimize damage.

“I'm quite pleased with what we have managed to accomplish, despite all. I think it will be extraordinarily educational for my readers, especially as a classic demonstration of anti-Catholic obfuscation and gross ignorance of Catholicism.”

Have you ever noticed that Armstrong is like a very small dog with a very loud bark? Observe the dimorphic relation between the earsplitting intensity of the triumphalist rhetoric and the diminutive stature of the supporting arguments. The smaller the dog, the louder the bark.

steve said...
Dozie said...

“Are you then suggesting that Dave Armstrong is the Church to whom you should be showing your great logic about the Church's lack of logic? Otherwise, are you not simply doing blah blah blah?”

Either you think Dave is an accurate mouthpiece for Catholic dogma or not.

If so, then by exposing his lack of logic, I expose the illogic of his church.

If not, then he has no business representing the beliefs of his church. Take your pick.

“And, if the Church is so illogical in her structures, what is the logic of whining about DA's qualifications to perform certain functions in the Church? If you actually knew that the Church is illogical and inconsistent, why do you think it is logical to lay much burden on DA regarding his qualifications to present himself as a professional Catholic apologist?”

You’re making excuses for Dave that he doesn’t make for himself. It’s like excusing the rude behavior of a friend because he’s had one martini too many.

“Either the Church is logical in what she allows or does not allow or it is so disorganized that it is foolishness to ask someone why he does not have your self-imposed credentials from a non-existing agency of the Church.”

What can’t you deal directly with the question of whether or not your church has illogical standards? Is it because you can’t defend the standards, so you resort to this diversionary argument?

“You seem after all to have significant confidence in the Church.”

How does that follow from what I said?

“However, the structure of the Church is not DA’s responsibility.”

He has taken it upon himself to defend the structure of the church. So he has assumed that responsibility. Are you accusing him of being irresponsible?

“Your question should logically be directed to those in the Church who have responsibility for the organization of the Church.”

Fine. Give me Benedict XVI’s email address and I’ll take it up with the boss.

“DA is a Catholic apologist and we are happy with his work.”

Which is a revealing comment about your own standards…or lack thereof.

“Finally, you should be reminded that you are too outside to be demanding how the Church should be organized.”

A Moonie, Mormon, or Scientologist would say the same thing. You’ve just disqualified Armstrong from commenting on any religious tradition other than his own. I guess Dave will have to hawk more miracle-water hot tubs to supplement the loss of income.

steve said...
Dozie said...

“We are talking here about the Catholic Church and in this Church there are, thankfully, structures.”

In the LDS church there are “structures,” too.

“If DA is not teaching in accord with the Catholic Faith, there are structures in the Church to point him out to the flock. Until then, we are happy with his work.”

i) Since he doesn’t submit his writings to his bishop for prepublication review, how would these “structures” be in a position to know? Do the “structures” of the Catholic church routinely monitor Catholic bloggers?

ii) But since you have so much faith in the “structures” of the Catholic church, then shouldn’t all Catholic bloggers list the contact info. for their parish priest and local bishop so that we can report anything dubious to their religious superiors?

“First of all, you would have to demonstrate that you understand the Catholic faith or know how to find information about what she teaches.”

i) Of course, that cuts both ways. You’d have to demonstrate the same thing as well.

ii) You’d also have to demonstrate that I don’t understand the Catholic faith or know how to find information about what she teaches.

“Without this understanding, you are likely going to fumble in your judgments about the Church and DA. You may however continue to assume the superiority of your logic. But I find that you are having a hard time distinguishing DA from RCC.”

All we’re getting from you are airy-fairy abstractions. You haven’t actually offered a single specific counterargument. Instead, you retreat to the safety of low-content platitudes.

“I happen to express belief in the One…Church. I believe in the Church and in her judgments and she is not to be measured against anything in Protestantism.”

Of course, you haven’t given us a single reason to share your belief. What you’ve given us, instead, is an autobiographical window into your state of mind. That’s a sorry substitute for anything resembling objective evidence.

“There are several anti-Catholic Protestants who are simply Christopher Hitchens wannabes. They want to be to the Catholic Church what Christopher Hitchens is to any religious system. They raise up all kinds of ‘troubling’ arguments which they worship in the name of being ‘logical’. One can point to the works of Matt Slick, Gene Cook, Michael Horton, Jack Chick, Robert Morey, Steve Hays and many others as typifying what is being referred to here. The irony however is that Mr. Hitchens has far better reasonable logic and far more serious questions than the imitators.”

i) You’re substituting assertions for arguments. However, the fact that you think the author of “god is not Great” is logical or reasonable goes a long ways in explaining why you’d be impressed with Armstrong in particular or Catholicism in general.

You, see, Dozie, if you measure a midget with a 3-inch ruler, the midget is a giant. To an ant, a mouse is an elephant.

ii) Incidentally, I once published a fairly long review of Hitchens. To judge by your performance thus far, you’d be impotent to rebut a single one of his anti-Christian claims.

“More often, Mr. Hitchens also has better manners than our Protestants.”

I doubt that Fr. Rutler would agree with your assessment:

“You can’t be a serious Protestant anti-Catholic apologist and not know how to find basic information about the Church.”

I was responding to your statement that “Your question should logically be directed to those in the Church who have responsibility for the organization of the Church.”

Is it your position that Benedict XVI is not responsible for the organization of the Church? Sounds like you’re dangerously close to becoming a sedevacantist, which–according to Armstrong–triggers automatic excommunication. Perhaps I should report your seditious opinions to the “structures” of the church.

“It is often the case that when you cut off the tail of an animal, the animal runs around in circles. I find that Protestants have cut off the tail that connects them to the Church and are prone to running around in circles.”

You have failed to present a single argument or concrete piece of evidence to substantiate any of your rhetorical assertions. What sets you apart from a member of the Heavens Gate cult?

steve said...
Dozie said...

“You seem close to getting the point - debating with anti-Catholics is a serious waste of time. Anyone who tries it quickly finds out. I follow in the footsteps of Pope Benedict; he has not wasted any of his time, as far as I have been paying attention, talking to Protestants.”

i) We’ve see the results of that attitude in Latin America, where cultural Catholicism is unable to compete with Protestant missionaries.

ii) Ratzinger’s outlook is predictably provincial. He’s a Bavarian Catholic. All his family, friends, and neighbors were Bavarian Catholics. He attended a clerical boys school from the age of 12.

So Ratzinger is a Catholic by default. That’s the only thing he knew throughout his formative years. He’s product of his insular social conditioning. It’s no different than a pious Muslim boy whose intellectual horizons coincide with the four walls of the madrasah.

“The structures of the Catholic Church are different from what is obtainable in any Protestant system and I made the point that it was juvenile thinking to stay on the outside and demand that the Catholic Church operate in a certain way.”

If outsiders can never comment on insiders, then you uproot the basis of Catholic apologetics. Your argument is self-defeating.

“I made that argument quite well but I am not responsible for how much of it you grasped.”

I rebutted your argument. You offered no counterargument to my rebuttal. Instead, you simply repeat yourself.

“I assume you have heard most of the arguments for Catholicism.”


“I also assume that there are Catholic “apologists or teachers or authors that you respect.”


“All the arguments you have heard or read about, from however many Catholics that you respect, have not made a difference in your view of Catholicism.”

When you’ve read the best Catholic spokesmen make their best case for Catholicism, and the best of the best is still that defective, then the only difference it makes is to confirm your original assessment.

“Somehow, you seem to be in need of more arguments.”

Why not try starting with two or three good arguments.

“My duty is to tell you that logic has its limits and that the Church you are looking for (the Catholic Church) is probably located on your street already.”

You sound just like a Mormon missionary. Did you attend a Missionary Training Center?

All we have to do is substitute a few nouns (“LDS” for “Catholic”) and the basic technique is interchangeable.

“By the way, the Catholic Church has no lack of good thinkers and is probably the only religious system that has the ability to engage the world of thinkers in any known field of human activity.”

In that event, why is that when somebody like Bart Ehrman or Richard Dawkins writes a book attacking the Christian faith, it’s usually a Protestant who writes a rebuttal?

“While Protestants apologists are big on logic, their systems very rarely produce renowned world thinkers or body of knowledge.”

Given your chronic inability to actually make a case for what you believe, your appeal to great Catholic thinkers is purely cosmetic.

“However, if you want to be impressed, go and pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and start reading from page 1.”

That’s an exposition of the Catholic faith, not a defense of the Catholic faith.

“If you end up not being impressed, go and whine some more; I can’t help you.”

Given your inability to give one good reason, it’s quite true that you’re perfectly useless to anyone who doesn't already share your cult-member mentality.

The Mother Ship is hovering behind the Hale-Bopp comet to pick you up and take you to the Next Level. Don’t be late. Give my regards to Bo and Peep.


  1. "Waiting for the Mother Ship"

    You sunk the Mother Ship with your repeated broadside torpedo blasts of snarky logic.

    Which was rather funny to read. Like watching a 7th-degree blackbelt toy with a smart-alecky green belt.

  2. "Not only is Dave an idolater, but a self-idolater. He has sculpted an idol in his own, precious image. A singular, autobiographical personality cult."

    I had to stop at this statement: it was so spot on, it deserved its very own comment.