By Dave Armstrong (12-9-04)
This is a counter-reply to a response to my best-selling pamphlet for Our Sunday Visitor, "Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked." It is found on a web page called "The Preacher's Files," for Berryville church of Christ in Arkansas (be sure to see Part Two also). In the two-part paper, all ten of my topics (which I only covered very briefly, of course, as this was merely a pamphlet), were allegedly "refuted." An audio tape of this sermon (how often am I mentioned in a Church of Christ service?!) is also available. Mr. Cauley writes in another paper from his website, "Is the Church of Christ a Cult?" (I agree, by the way, that it is not, by any reasonable doctrinal or sociological definition of that word, since these are trinitarian, baptized Christians -- they believe in baptismal regeneration, too):
Christians, true Christians, have nothing to fear from those who are teaching the Bible. However, those who are not teaching the Bible have everything to fear from those who are. I challenge you, dear reader, to examine all the doctrines that all the different "churches" are teaching and compare them to the Bible. You will find that the Bible is always right, and those who are following the Bible are clearly recognizable.
I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly, and anyone who follows my writing and ministry knows that perhaps my biggest theme (and one of my very favorites) is to demonstrate the harmony of Catholicism and the Bible, and that Catholicism is the "Bible religion par excellence." So this ought to be an excellent and informative debate. Mr. Cauley has been gracious enough to come to my blog and invite me to further discussion, so we can assume that he is willing to engage in a more in-depth dialogue. I look forward to it.
Also, on an educational background note, the churches of Christ see themselves as distinct from Protestants as well as Catholics, often issuing blistering critiques of Protestant denominations in sermons or pamphlets. They view themselves as uniquely the biblical church, and strive to do everything in accordance to strict biblical guidelines (so I always ask them if they worship in a church building? -- which practice is not found in the New Testament). Along these lines, on the same Preacher's Files website, in the article, "When Was the Church Established?," G.E. Watkins writes in conclusion:
The church of Christ, the real thing, was established nearly 600 years before Roman Catholicism and 1600 years before the first Protestant denomination, that is, on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, Acts 2.
Of course, the group can be largely historically traced to the teachings of Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), originally a Presbyterian minister from Scotland who came to the United States in 1809 (though there were other similar key figures at the dawn of the movement). Thus, Watkins, though denying that this is the origin of the "church" as he defines it, states:
1. In the late 1700's, Thomas Campbell came to America and began studying his Bible as the ONLY source of unity among professed believers.
2. In 1809 Thomas' son Alexander Campbell came to America determined to explain to his father how he had turned to his New Testament and found the seed of the kingdom.
3. Both men, by independent study had come to the same conclusions: division is sinful; creeds, doctrines, traditions and commandments of men cause division; and the New Testament ALONE, taken strictly, can produce unity!
4. Out of a careful study of the New Testament, the slogan which can unite all humanity came: Speak where the Bible speaks; be silent where the Bible is silent; call Bible things by Bible names; and do Bible things in Bible ways: In matters of faith unity; in matters of opinion liberty; in all things charity (love).
5. This did NOT - NOT - NOT produce a new denomination, but by this pure New Testament seed, the original church of Christ was restored!
Hence, the group is often known as "Campbellites." The Disciples of Christ also flow from this same denominational stream. Like many Protestant denominations (and like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Anabaptists et al in the 16th century), the Churches of Christ claim to be merely hearkening back to apostolic, primal Christianity. The historical case for this claim cannot be sustained for a moment. But that is another long discussion. Also note that this position adopts the extreme solo Scriptura rule of faith, which is quite different from, and a distortion of, the not intrinsically a-historical or anti-institutional or anti-traditional or anti-creedal classic Protestant position of sola Scriptura, rightly-understood. For a brief Catholic treatment of the Churches of Christ (or reasonable facsimile thereof), see: "Disciples of Christ" (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910).
Mr. Cauley's words will be in blue. Previous words of mine from the pamphlet will be in red.
SUBJECT: False Doctrine
TITLE: Catholicism Refuted (Part 1)
PROPOSITION: To look at the brochure "Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked" and compare the answers to the Bible.
My name is never mentioned in this discussion of my pamphlet. I find this curious and objectionable. I also get a chuckle out of the too-frequent practice of not letting me know when something of mine is "refuted." This sermon dates from 10-19-03, so it is over a year old. Likewise, the last paper I did, a reply to Ankerberg and Weldon on the "Apocrypha," dealt with an article of theirs which expressly mentioned me, and cited my words at length, yet I was never informed of it. I found both of these efforts by accident, in unrelated searches on Google.
My website is easily located in any Google search (one need only type in my name and my blog and website are the first things which show up), and my e-mail is on the home page, so the possible "excuse" of "we didn't know how to contact you," would be a rather lame one, if attempted, I'm afraid. For my part, I have already informed Ankerberg and Weldon of my reply, less than 24 hours after it was posted, and I would have done the same with Mr. Cauley, but alas, he appeared on my blog. It's simply common courtesy, and standard procedure when something or someone is critiqued. Give them a chance to reply, for heaven's sake . . .
OBJECTIVE: Each hearer should be able to understand primary Catholic dogma and be able to refute it from the scriptures with the goal in mind of being able to teach our Catholic friends the truth of God's word.
Aim: To show that Catholicism is a false religion so that those who are in it will repent.
Fair enough. Let the discussion proceed, then!
1. Read: 1 John 4:1
[KJV -- which Mr. Cauley links to: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."]
I agree. Praise God for spiritual and theological discernment. We would be in big trouble without it.
2. About the Text:
1) The Bible says to "test the spirits" to see whether they are from God.
2) Tonight we want to look at Catholicism.
3) Catholicism is unique in that the Bible contains very distinct prophecies regarding their false teaching.
It does? This should be very interesting -- especially in how Mr. Cauley attempts to prove that the Catholic Church was specifically in the mind of the biblical writers in these passages.
4) Some of these passages are 1 Timothy 4:1ff and 2 Thess. 2:3, 4
[1 Timothy 4:1-3: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4: Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.]
Mr. Cauley simply assumes that these passages are about Catholicism. He makes no attempt to prove it; seemingly thinking that it is self-evident from these descriptions. So this is no argument; it is merely circular logic and assuming what one is purporting to prove. Since his stated "aim" is "to show that Catholicism is a false religion," one would think that he would take this opportunity (being a "solo Scriptura guy") to exegete these key passages in his "arsenal" in order to drive home his point. But he does no such thing.
Rather, he depends on the anti-Catholicism inherent in his denomination and similar-thinking circles (especially prevalent -- as any Southern Catholic well knows -- in the South, where there are few Catholics; his congregation is in Arkansas). He knows (either consciously or sub-consciously) that the anti-Catholic and Campbellite presuppositions of his fellows will cause them to automatically assume that biblical passages such as these "obviously" or "self-evidently" refer to the Catholic Church. But then, that is why dialogue is so helpful, isn't it? There is nothing like having a person from a belief-system being critiqued, to provide a counter-reply, thus exposing the errors and lapses in logic and fact that may be lying just under the surface. There are a host of them in the assumption that the above Bible passages are referring to Catholicism as their direct object:
1) One has to define the faith. That would be rather difficult for Mr. Cauley to do, by the nature of his own belief-system, which eschews creeds and confessions altogether. But the Apostle Paul knew exactly what was in his mind when he referred to "the faith."
2) One has to prove that Catholics have departed from that very general term. It would mean that we have departed from Christianity altogether
3) The word Christian has to be defined, too.
4) "Doctrines of devils" would presumably be thought to be any false doctrine. Now, I'm sure Church of Christ devotees would readily agree that there are plenty of those to be found in all denominations except their own (of course). Whenever two Christians have an irreconcilable, contradictory difference, someone is necessarily espousing falsehood (possibly both), and falsehood and lies are (we all agree) from the devil. Everyone has their opinions as to where error lies. But to make this apply exclusively to Catholicism is simply not warranted from the text (or history or Christian theology, by any reasonable application) -- even granting anti-Catholic presuppositions and "lens" from which one (unfortunately) might approach the text.
5) Catholics are peculiarly liars and hypocrites? I don't think we have a monopoly on those faults and sins, either.
6) Catholics are unique in having their "conscience seared"?
7) We don't forbid anyone to marry! That is between them and God, in discernment of His will for their life. We have a requirement of celibacy for priests in the western, Latin rites (not in the eastern rites, which are equally Catholic). That is not "forbidding to marry," either. No one is saying to a potential priest, "you cannot marry; we forbid it!". All we're saying is: "our requirements for the priesthood require you to be a single man, since St. Paul taught that those who are single can more easily devote undistracted attention to the Lord (1 Cor 7:35), having less responsibilities and anxieties (1 Cor 7:32-34) and that is what we are looking for in a priest." The requirement, then, is a thoroughly biblical one. Paul himself was single (as were Jesus and most of the earliest disciples), and urged others to remain that way, too, if they were not married (1 Cor 7:26-27), and even stated that singleness is a better state than marriage (7:38). It is Paul, not the Catholic Church, who comes close to making a general statement urging singleness on all Christians, not just the tiny class of prospective priests or clergymen. He goes far beyond the Catholic requirement for priesthood. And he wrote the clause under consideration in 1 Tim 4:1-3, after all, so he must have not had his own statements in mind. I believe he was teaching about the sort of Gnostic sects which forbade marriage altogether as an evil thing (and later, we have some Protestant groups like the Shakers who were entirely celibate). This is the furthest possible position from Catholicism, which regards marriage as a grace-giving sacrament. The Catholic Church merely desires to select her priests from among the class of those who are already called by God to be single (1 Cor 7:17,20,35; cf. Matthew 19:12: "eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom"). How is it wrong, then, to merely apply very clear biblical teachings about the goodness of singleness for the purpose of serving God with less distraction and more devotion (in the sense Paul describes)? All of a sudden our position becomes eminently biblical. How many single preachers can be found in the Churches of Christ, I wonder, who are following Paul's and Jesus Christ's teaching on the goodness and utility of that state for ministry purposes? How closely is that plain, indisputable biblical, Pauline, divine teaching followed and urged upon those to whom it applies (Mt 19:12 again)?
8) As for abstaining from meats, that was only for abstinence and fasting purposes on Fridays (and now absolutely required only during Lent), to commemorate our Lord's death on the cross for us by some sacrifice. Does Mr. Cauley wish to argue that fasting and abstinence and almsgiving are unbiblical practices? I would love to see him try to do that . . . As it is, this is also an eminently biblical practice. The prophetess Anna continually fasted (Lk 2:37). It's right in the good old Bible! Jesus assumed that His disciples would fast (Mt 6:16-18). Fasting was utilized when choosing missionaries and elders (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23); Paul refers to his own fasting (2 Cor 6:5, 11:27). Pretty "biblical," huh? I think it is fairly clear, that paul was referring, then, to extreme prohibitions of never being able to eat meat. That is not the Catholic position, of course, but Mr. Cauley might better aim his accusations at a group such as Seventh-Day Adventists, which maintain certain OT dietary laws, and adopt vegetarianism.
9) As for the pope calling himself God or exalting himself above God, (along with being the Antichrist, etc.), I am unaware that any pope has ever done this, so it is an absurd "argument." If Mr. Cauley thinks otherwise, then let him produce some evidence. Otherwise, this "proof" is not worth spending any more time on. I did have one debate with a person who claimed the same thing (Paul Mansbacher). I must say that this was far and away the most ridiculous debate I have ever gotten myself into: so absurd were my opponents' contentions. But stranger things have happened, and one can find people who will believe any ludicrous thing, no matter how literally "unbelievable." So here is Mr. Cauley making the same extraordinary accusation with no proof whatsoever (and none able to be produced at all).
5) So let's look at what Catholicism says in answer to their top ten questions.
6) Information in this lesson is taken from a tract titled, "Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked" copyright 2002 by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
Again, my name (which is right on the cover) is not listed, for some reason (even though the publisher is). Is it a fear that some poor, unsuspecting soul might come to my website and be led astray? If so, that would be ironic, since Mr. Cauley twice thanked me for providing advertising for his. I'm not afraid at all that people will be convinced by his kinds of "arguments" if they have mine as a counter to them, and they are open-mindedly trying to read both sides of the debate. But perhaps Mr. Cauley is afraid to have anyone read my material? if not, then why the reluctance to simply give my name and/or provide a link to my website (standard procedure in Internet debates), so people can see my arguments fleshed out and elaborated at much greater length? Fear is not from God. There will always be people who believe in false doctrine no matter what. Neither Mr. Cauley in his capacity and function as a preacher and teacher, nor I as a teacher / apologist can prevent that from happening in some sad cases. But I believe in free and open discussion between those who disagree, so that truth can be attained in greater measure. That's why I am doing this, because I am utterly confident that the Catholic position will prevail, and this is another opportunity for me to explain why I think it should prevail, and why it is true.
7) Our desire is for those who are in this religion to repent and be restored to God.
This implies a willful sin and rebellion against truth. Clearly, not all who believe in false teaching (of any sort) -- as Mr. Cauley thinks we do -- are guilty of sin. That only applies if they truly know what the truth is and willfully, deliberately reject it, and follow error for some nefarious motive. So even if Catholicism was 100% garbage and falsehood, it wouldn't be possible to make a blanket statement that everyone in it should "repent", because there are all sorts of factors which mitigate culpability. Secondly, it is insinuated that we do not follow God or are all out of communion or good graces with Him. This is outrageous, of course, and again, even granting false doctrine for the sake of argument, it is not clear to me that a person is automatically excluded from God and His fellowship and friendship. This is a huge topic itself, and beyond our purview here (perhaps another time, my lack of patience with extreme folly such as this permitting), but I merely note the rather spectacular and uncharitable, unChristian judgmentalism of this (false) statement. I freely grant that Mr. Cauley's motives are sincere, but his judgment as to truthfulness and the state of other men's souls is atrocious and abominable (wholly apart from the bankruptcy of the highly-questionable theological contentions that he makes in his paper).