Monday, October 13, 2014

Platonic marriage

A friend recently drew my attention to a spat between lay Catholic  pop apologist Dave Armstrong and a more prominent Catholic apologist. In case you're interested, here's some background:

I'll make a few brief comments of my own. The entire tactic is ludicrous, unscrupulous, and self-defeating:

i) Dave is trying to use the alleged position of the Protestant Reformers as a wedge issue. But even if they believed what he imputes them, a wedge splits a log in two. So which side does it prove?

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. 

ii) The people who were in a position to know firsthand (or even secondhand) whether Mary and Joseph had conjugal relations constitute a very very small circle. Calvin isn't in that circle. Luther isn't in that circle. Zwingli isn't in that circle. Aquinas isn't in that circle. Nor church fathers. 

Quoting the opinion of people who have no source of knowledge concerning the claim in question is utter make-believe. 

It's like a medieval map of the world. Would you consult that to find out if the Bahamas existed? 

iii) It's pointless in another respect, too. It comes as no revelation that the Protestant Reformers agreed with the Latin Church and (some) church fathers on a number of issues. There's continuity as well as discontinuity. So it wouldn't be some great coup to discover points of agreement between Luther or Calvin with the Latin Church or some church fathers. That was never in dispute. 

At best, this would just be one more minor point of agreement. And that's no more or less significant than all the major disagreements. 

iv) Finally, there's a substantive theological issue. If Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage, then it was never a real marriage (by Jewish standards). In that event, Jesus is not the legal stepson of Joseph, in which case he can't trace his family tree through either the Matthean or Lucan genealogies. 

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