Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The case for Catholicism

1. I recently watched a roundtable defense of Catholicism by the best and the brightest:

2. On the one hand Tomaszewski is unusual among Catholic apologists in having gone to Catholic seminary. On the other hand he's a RadTrad, so his position is out of step with establishment Catholicism. He's a throwback to antimodernist Catholicism. So he's not a representative spokesman for post-Vatican II Catholic theology.

3. They appeal to the tradition of communal interpretation–a living oracle. Don't go it on your own. Rely on authority.

But that generates a Catholic dilemma: if unaided reason is that unreliable then you preemptively disqualified yourself from assessing the evidence for Catholicism.

4. They draw a parallel with the authority of Jewish tradition (oral torah) and the religious establishment (Mt 23), which repudiated Jesus. By that logic, Christians ought to submit to the rabbis and reject Jesus.

5. Tomaszewski mentions Japanese Catholics separated for 200 years, no priests, catechism, just some Bibles on hand.

6. The alleged flaw of sola scriptura is that the canon is not internal to scripture. So Protestants must arbitrarily trust the church regarding the canon. But that's incorrect. We go by evidence for the canon.

Catholic apologists operate with a topdown model where to know or have warranted belief in something you must be explicitly given the right answer. Knowledge by description, propositional information.

An alternative is knowledge by acquaintance. Fostering justified belief by putting someone in the right epistemic environment. In that setting a person will believe the right thing. God guided them to that conclusion. It's more providential, organic, bottom-up. A process by which God cultivates certain beliefs. It's a reliable process because God intended the result. Intended that to be truth-conducive.

7. Not a question of trusting the church but sifting multiple lines of evidence. Internal evidence for the canon based on authorship; external evidence from Jewish sources; from collections of the canon circulating in smaller units (e.g. the Gospels, the Pauline epistles); historical testimony from early or well-connected church fathers; hostile testimony.

i) You don't need a list to know everything. Suppose I'm on prescription meds. Do I need a list? Not necessarily. The pharmacist needs the list. I just need the meds. If those are the only meds I have, no more or less, I just take what I have.

Knowledge by description compared with knowledge by acquaintance. How do I know my parents aren't squatters? In principle, I could see the title deed, but that might be forged. Yet if we've never been evicted, that's evidence that we're not squatters. We pay property taxes. So there's no presumption that we're squatters. Indeed, there's a presumption to the contrary.

ii) How do I know my parents are my biological parents? A birth certificate would be official evidence. But other lines of evidence include family resemblance, shared character traits, and DNA.

iii) If I'm a local, a native, I don't need a street map. I just know where things are by experience, even though there can be ways to back that up through corroborative evidence. When I drive to a familiar location I'm not consciously thinking of directions. That's been internalized.

Suppose the Protestant canon is correct. Suppose I know the canon of Scripture because God raised me in a church with Protestant editions of the Bible. That's my table of contents. That's one reason God raised me in or directed me to that particular church. That's the true canon, and God meant for me to discover the true canon by that means.

8. In Jn 14,16, Jesus never said the Spirit will guide the church into all truth; in context the disciples in the Upper Room are the immediate recipients. Certainly nothing about Roman bishops

The church fathers are not analogous to founding fathers. The founding fathers drafted the Constitution. The church fathers didn't draft the NT.

9. Koons confuses eternal security (19C innovation) with perseverance of the saints. To my knowledge, eternal security was promoted by certain Dispensational Baptist circles in the 20C. It's not equivalent to perseverance.

10. Koons raises the stock objection objection to sola fide as a legal fiction. If so, that reduces the treasury of merit to a legal fiction. At the same time it leaves no room vicarious atonement–much less penal substitution. Yet the distinction is no more fictional than the distinction between ascribed status and achieved status. The royal son inherits the throne by virtue of his relationship with his father.

11. Koons accuses evangelicalism of theological innovation, which is self-defeating inasmuch as Catholicism is rife with theological innovation and reversal.

12. Tomaszewski asked what the manna/eucharist stands for if we deny the real presence. In what is that fulfilled? The answer is the crucifixion. In that regard the manna is forward looking while the eucharist is backward looking.

13. They say vicarious atonement is inferior to actual righteousness. What's required is a reversion to status quo ante. But that overlooks how a fallen and redeemed world is so much richer than a world that never fell.

14. They trot out the last rites, but it's not as if everyone anointed by a priest on their deathbed receives physical healing.

15. The participants are confused on the sufficiency of Christ's work. They fail to distinguish between the forensic work indexed to his redemptive sacrificial death and renewal through the regeneration, sanctification, and glorification by the Spirit. We're not saved by the work of Christ alone but in conjunction with the work of the Father and the Spirit. There's a division of labor in the economy of salvation.

16. There is no Petrine office in Lk 22 or Acts. There's Peter in his apostolic office, just like the other apostles. A generic apostolic office.

17. It doesn't occur to them that, in context, sitting on the throne of Moses (Mt 23) is sarcastic. Conversely, if we take it a face value, then we should be rabbinic Jews rather than Christians. Christian laymen lack the authority to make those judgments. So that appeal disproves Catholicism.

18. There's no exegetical evidence that the beloved disciple is a stand-in for the church in Jn 19.

19. Pace Tomaszewski, there's no exegetical evidence that Mary is omnipotent by grace (whatever that means), so that God cannot deny her or refuse her.

20. Technically it's true that natures don't have mothers. In context, nature is shorthand for a concretized nature or property instance that exemplifies nature.

21. Even if it happened as described, the "miracle of the sun" is not in itself a Marian apparition. Rather, it's reported in association with purported Marian apparitions at that time and place. Wasn't Lúcia dos Santos the only surviving witness to the apparition proper?


  1. Powerful case. You convinced me!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. "...brevity is the soul of wit..."- Shakespeare [Hamlet Act 2 scene 2]

    Now I'd like to see a debate book between Steve and former atheist turned Catholic news commentator Michael J. Knowles who wrote the classic book, Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide. Wiki says, //It became the number one best-selling book on[2][3]

    Critic Roger Kimball wrote a long review in The Weekly Standard, asserting that "Knowles has matched matter and message with rare economy" and that "it is for the substance of his analysis that Knowles's study will be remembered." [4]

    On April 17, 2017, President Donald Trump mentioned the book on Twitter, calling it "a great book for your reading enjoyment."[5][6][7]//

    1. I also remember reading in the 1980s the book, Everything Men Know About Women

      It's still selling as of 2013. Here's a Youtube video on the 25th Anniversary Edition:

  4. is there any good resources to counter this?

  5. If you don’t see anything, it’s because the case was transubstantiated.

  6. For anyone who might be confused by the comments- the blog post initially showed up entirely blank.

    1. Blogger recently change all their controls around, do it would be easy to post a title with a blank text form here.

  7. //19. Pace Tomaszewski, there's no exegetical evidence that Mary is omnipotent by grace (whatever that means), so that God cannot deny her or refuse her. //

    Solomon spares Adonijah in 1 Kings despite his trying to usurp the throne. But in the next chapter.....

    1 Kings 2:13-25
    13 Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, "Do you come peacefully?" He said, "Peacefully."
    14 Then he said, "I have something to say to you." She said, "Speak."
    15 He said, "You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother's, for it was his from the LORD.
    16 And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me." She said to him, "Speak."
    17 And he said, "Please ask King Solomon---he will not refuse you---to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife."
    18 Bathsheba said, "Very well; I will speak for you to the king."
    19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king's mother, and she sat on his right.
    20 Then she said, "I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me." And the king said to her, "Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you."
    21 She said, "Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife."
    22 King Solomon answered his mother, "And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah."
    23 Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, "God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life!
    24 Now therefore as the LORD lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today."
    25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he struck him down, and he died.