Friday, June 04, 2004

Eric Svendsen's & Other Anti-Catholics' Inconsistent Use of Anti-Evangelical as a Description of Catholics

Ever since I have dealt with anti-Catholics (particularly after going online in March 1996), I have heard the objection ad nauseam that use of the term anti-Catholic is either a mere epithet (like calling someone a "moron" or an idiot" or a "bigot") or else that it is used inconsistently and arbitrarily, with complete subjectivity, exclusively by Catholics, in order to avoid real, substantive discussion. Also, some seem to think that its use is justified only in referring to political or violent agitation (that they would also wholly oppose), such as with the "Nativism" or the "Know-Nothing" movements of 19th-century America, where Catholics were run out of town, denied civil rights, or subjected to church-burnings, etc. Indeed, the latter is often the case, but this doesn't rule out a doctrinal, theological use.

This usage is, in fact, quite prevalent among historians and sociologists. I have compiled a lengthy paper which not only details the proper definition and use of the description anti-Catholic (i.e., in its theological / doctrinal sense), but also documents use of the term by no less than 55 such scholars, book titles, etc. (virtually all of them non-Catholic, insofar as their affiliation could be determined): Use of the Term Anti-Catholic in Protestant and Secular Scholarly Works of History and Sociology.
Briefly, the definition I have used for years, both as a Protestant and a Catholic, is:

Belief that the Catholic Church and its set of doctrines and beliefs is a non-Christian institution; not worthy to be regarded as Christian. Those Catholics who manage to attain to real Christianity must do so despite Catholic teaching, not because they fully adhere to it. In other words, you can't be a good, faithful, obedient Catholic and be a Christian theologically or doctrinally.

That paper was prompted by comments such as the following by "Romans45" (one Ronnie Brown), a prominent anti-Catholic Internet figure. These are typical of what one might hear from many anti-Catholic luminaries, and "drove me over the edge" to document the falsity of such charges once and for all. The drone is very familiar:

There is no standard definition of "anti" in reference to religious denominations. It is a made up term and therefore individuals make up their own definition . . .

Make no mistake about there is no standard definition. Every Catholic that uses it defines it according to their own whims.

. . . some even defined it so that it basically includes any and everyone who disagrees with them . . .

I think it is totally meaningless and only used as a prejudicial term . . . Everybody uses it, but few agree on what it really means, few use it consistently, . . .

I don’t accept the loaded definition that Catholics use and neither does any dictionary or any other objective reference work. It is only a prejudicial term invented by Catholic apologists.

They can define whatever they want, but that doesn’t make it the standard definition even when they disagree amongst themselves about what it means.
Furthermore, no one has to accept their definition especially since it is only defined by a few apologists who have no real authority even over those in their own camp.

. . . anyone who arbitrarily makes up a prejudicial definition and then claim it is a standard definition.

. . . it is an irrational position . . .

After I produced some 50 scholarly examples to the contrary, Ronnie at least admitted this much:

OK, maybe the term is not invented by Catholic apologists, but the prejudicial way in which they use it is a novelty.

Now, this being the case, one would think that the anti-Catholics would refrain from using the term "anti-Evangelical" or anti-Protestant or anti-Christian (when used of a Catholic, implying that he is "against" Christianity when he critiques Protestants), since the use of anti-Catholic is so decried by them as an invalid description and alleged purely irrational, prejudiced insult. But this is not the case (as usual, a double standard must apply in the anti-Catholic mentality). And exhibit #1 is Dr. Eric Svendsen:

Eric Svendsen

Writing about the rules for his NTRMin Areopagus board:

"Forum Rules--please read BEFORE posting for the first time"
3/6/03 10:08 am

[the bolding is my own emphasis, as throughout]

. . . the board offers a forum for asking about, and/or answering anti-Christian (read, anti-Evangelical) arguments posed by other religious groups, or even non-religious groups. It is not a forum for non-Evangelicals to air various antagonistic anti-Evangelical agendas . . .

7. All posters are asked to show respect for the views of the host site, whether you happen to agree with those views or not. For a detailed list of those views, click the "Beliefs" link in the navigation bar to the left. To those who feel they cannot comply with this rule, please feel free to visit another discussion board where you may be more comfortable. This applies especially to non-Evangelical posters who have a history of antagonism against Evangelicalism . . .

9. Thou shalt not post links to Roman Catholic apologetic sites, or any other site that has an anti-evangelical agenda.

Referring to same:

"Re: forensic justification"
1/6/04 1:01 pm

. . . I think you had better take some time to read the Forum Rules regarding anti-Evangelical agendas before posting in this forum again.

In a response to Tim Enloe, a Presbyterian with whom he had a falling-out:

"Tim Enloe's blog" 4/1/04 12:14 pm

. . . known anti-Evangelical antagonists like Dave Armstrong . . .

In a post about Reformed scholar Paul Owen:

"The Coppersmith in Paul Owen"
4/2/04 10:32 am

. . . one who decided to send the critique to an anti-Evangelical antagonist . . .

Indeed, Owen seems to enjoy rubbing shoulders with heretics. He has been invited to write articles in Mormon journals, and he has befriended one of the most vitriolic anti-evangelical Roman Catholic epologists that exist [John Pacheco].

. . . opted instead to send it to an anti-Evangelical Roman Catholic . . .

I submit that if Eric doesn't like the term anti-Catholic, he ought to stop using its equivalent, anti-Evangelical. Or if he wants to keep using it, he (and those who follow and surround him, including Ronnie Brown and others who have complained about the term anti-Catholic) should have no objection to anti-Catholic (rightly-understood). He should get with his good friend James White, who is at least consistent, and refrains from using these sorts of terms in describing Catholic critics of various aspects of Protestantism. He is equally wrong in his analysis of the meaning and use of anti-Catholic, but at least he doesn't hypocritically do that which he condemns. Fellow anti-Catholic and associate and moderator on Svendsen's NTRMIn Areopagus board, Jason Engwer, seems not to be aware of that board's own terminology in its rules and the use by his boss Eric. He points out that James White doesn't use the term anti-Evangelical (thus implying it is wrong or at least unhelpful to do so), yet is oblivious to the repeated use by Eric Svendsen:

"Re: Hmmm"
11/3/03 5:18 pm

The term "anti-Catholic" has a history, not only in online apologetics, but also in politics and elsewhere. Roman Catholics use that phrase much more than Evangelicals use the phrase "anti-Evangelical". Often, Evangelical ministries will refer to Roman Catholic apologists as "Roman Catholic", whereas Roman Catholic ministries will refer to Evangelical apologists as "anti-Catholic". I think the term "anti-Catholic" is used, and in fact abused, much more than the term "anti-Evangelical". While the term "anti-Evangelical" could be abused in some contexts, the history of the term's use so far seems to be much less questionable than the use of "anti-Catholic".

One illustration I would point to is James White's interaction with Roman Catholic apologists over the years. He's been involved in discussing Roman Catholicism in many public forums for more than a decade, and there's a long trail of literature we can trace between him and Roman Catholics responding to him. He has frequently been referred to as "anti-Catholic" by Roman Catholics, whereas I don't recall him ever applying the term "anti-Evangelical" to Catholics he disagrees with. If he has ever used such terminology, it's at least rare enough that I've missed it or forgotten it, despite having read so much of his material and listened to so many of his debates.

Another example I would cite is my own web site. I've been writing articles in response to Catholics for years, and I don't think I've ever used the term "anti-Evangelical". I've frequently been called "anti-Catholic", though.

(complete post)

In another post shortly afterwards, Jason asks:

How many Evangelical apologists can you think of who frequently use the term "anti-Evangelical"? I can think of many Roman Catholics who have used the term "anti-Catholic" against me and against other people. Catholic Answers, for example, uses it a lot.

("Re: Persecution complex" / 11/3/03 5:51 pm)

Well, to answer his question, I am happy to direct Mr. Engwer to his comrade Eric Svendsen, who owns the very board he was writing on, and is a published full-time anti-Catholic Protestant apologist with a doctorate. Engwer is trying to make one point about relative frequency of use. That is one thing. But implied in his argument is that use of anti-Catholic is wrong in principle. If we grant that and accept his reasoning, then clearly (again, by his own standards and criteria), anti-Evangelical would be equally wrong, whenever used, no matter how infrequent. What's wrong is wrong. Thus Svendsen (and others documented above and below) would be guilty of the same shortcoming and ought to be condemned with equal vigor if the very term is inherently objectionable. This is about internal inconsistency and double standards.

Moderator "Hilasterion" jumped in and offered a lame reply when a Catholic pointed out the inconsistency that I note (misspellings corrected):

As I said, the term anti-evangelical is NOT used in the same way anti-catholic is. Thus the terms are no more than superficially similar . . . The argument is easy to maintain. We use anti-evangelical to describe, as the rules state, antagonistic postings. Whereas anti-catholic is bandied about with such frequency as to be little more than a slur. You show lack of discernment in not noting the difference.

("Re: Persecution complex" / 11/4/03 7:47 am)

This simply begs the question. He states what he assumes but does not demonstrate it or make some sort of plausible, logical argument to back up his contention. I could go into greater logical detail, but I trust that the reader can go read the remarks by Svendsen and others and deduce that there is little or no difference in the usage. If one is wrong, then so is the other.

Of course it needs to always be pointed out that so-called "anti-Evangelicals" such as myself do not regard Protestants as non-Christians. I have the greatest respect for them, and write papers about that. I have a million links to Protestant websites. Eric doesn't even allow a link to a Catholic site on his Areopagus discussion board. He doesn't think Catholicism is Christian. That's why we call his belief-system in that regard anti-Catholic, because it denies the reality that Catholicism is Christian, and is a big lie. Others fall into the same mistake and hypocrisy:

John F. MacArthur, Jr., Pastor, Grace Community Church and host of the radio ministry, Grace to You.

Writing in a review of a book by Eric Svendsen:

A chorus of squawking trumpets is playing many uncertain sounds these days, and the evangelical movement is in desperate need of a clarion blast that will rise above the din. Eric Svendsen's Evangelical Answers sounds just such a note. This is a perceptive, intelligent, and solidly biblical reply to the recent barrage of Roman Catholic anti-evangelical propaganda. If you have been confused by the claims of modern Catholic apologists and are looking for reliable answers on a rock-solid biblical foundation, I urge you to read this book.

Even reputable 19th-century Church historian Philip Schaff joins in, though he (unlike Svendsen and MacArthur) continues to regard Catholicism as a Christian system of belief (thus is nor to be classified as an anti-Catholic):

Mediaeval Catholicism is pre-evangelical, looking to the Reformation; modern Romanism is anti-evangelical, condemning the Reformation, yet holding with unyielding tenacity the oecumenical doctrines once sanctioned, and doing this all the more by virtue of its claim to infallibility . . . Catholicism and Protestantism represent two distinct types of Christianity which sprang from the same root, but differ in the branches.

(The History of the Christian Church, Volume VII: HISTORY OF MODERN CHRISTIANITY THE REFORMATION. FROM A.D. 1517 TO 1648. CHAPTER I. ORIENTATION. § 2. "Protestantism and Romanism")

The famous 19th-century Calvinist preacher Charles Spurgeon can also be added to this list:

We have nowadays around us a class of men who preach Christ, and even preach the gospel; but then they preach a great deal else which is not true, and thus they destroy the good of all that they deliver, and lure men to error. They would be styled "evangelical" and yet be of the school which is really anti-evangelical.

("Gems From Spurgeon," compiled by James Alexander Stewart)

Prominent anti-Catholic Richard M. Bennett, in his article, "The Alignment of New Evangelicals With Apostasy," where he rails against ecumenical efforts, outdoes all the others in all his dramatic use of (usually irrational) "anti" language:

The real effect of the New Evangelical compromise with the Gospel is to put a stop to the evangelization of Roman Catholics across the world. If this compromise of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is accepted, then Bible believing churches will refrain from evangelizing Catholics. The impact on the true church in third world Catholic countries in Central and South America, in Africa, as well as in Spain, Portugal, and the Philippines, is already apparent. If this anti-Evangelical trend continues unchecked it will become ruinous to the spiritual welfare of millions of souls. But this is exactly the policy the ECT signers promulgate . . .

. . . Neuhaus’ anti-Scriptural words . . .

J. I. Packer like a modern Pied Piper is leading many thousands of Evangelicals astray. Charles Colson, Bill Bright, Mark Noll, Pat Robertson, Os Guinness, Timothy George, and T.M. Moore to mention just a few of the more prominent New Evangelicals have publicly denied the Gospel in endorsing the anti-biblical terms and erroneous doctrinal concepts of the Church of Rome. All together, they are falsely identifying Catholics as “our brothers and sisters in Christ”, thereby reinforcing the tragic and catastrophic delusions of these poor souls and denying them the substance of saving truth! . . .

One who goes by the nickname "A.believer" launched into an attack on yours truly (in the process lying about and grossly misrepresenting the goals and nature of my Luther research), using the same flawed terminology, on Christian Forums (7-24-03):

Anyone who's been involved in discussions about issues related to the Reformation with people who have a vested interest in believing and in having others believe that the Reformation was the result of a wicked, unstable, and debauched reprobate seeking to undermine legitimate, God-ordained authority, has probably been confronted with certain isolated quotes by, and "facts" about, Martin Luther that caused him or her to raise an eyebrow. RC convert, Dave Armstrong, for example, has a whole section of his website dedicated to proving the "instability" and "immorality" of Luther. It isn't difficult to discern, when confronted with one or two sentence quotes such as Mr. Armstrong has posted on his website, when no recourse to the original documents from whence they came is provided, that something fishy is going on. Even so, one wonders, where do people get these things from and what, if any, basis in truth might they have?

I was recently made aware of a long tradition of "anti-evangelical" authors who sought to poison the well against Luther and the other Reformers, with the intent of a priori closing peoples minds to honest consideration of the truths that sparked the Reformation--a tradition that began most notably with a man by the name of Johannes Cochlaeus--a contemporary of Martin Luther. Author Cochlaeus apparently had no compunction about ripping Luther's words completely out of context and juxtaposing these quotes onto his anti-Luther pamphlets in order to make Luther appear as a fairly demonic lunatic, and he showed no restraint in airing his opinion that Luther was, indeed, a "child of the devil."
Facts are facts. Related papers of mine contain nothing even remotely "anti-Evangelical", let alone "anti-Luther." They were simply concerned with Luther's historical belief pertaining to Mariology.

Michael Hamblin, -- also seemingly not an anti-Catholic himself -- in a page entitled "Evangelical Resources on Roman Catholicism," writes:

. . . Few are as "anti-Protestant" as the professional Roman Catholic apologists . . .

This ought to be sufficient to establish my contention . . .

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