Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Trials and Tribulations (but Mostly Joys) of Being an Apologist

By Dave Armstrong (10-14-04)

Jose Molina asked in BlogBack,

Dave, can I ask you a question? How are you able to do what you do?

By God's grace! "God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). I love this work, because God put that desire in me. This is what I am here on this earth to do. Everyone has a vocation. They just have to be willing to discover it and to pursue it for the sake of the Kingdom.

I'm Catholic and I love Jesus, the Bible, and the Church very much, but I cannot imagine doing apologetics or being a theologian. It seems like a tedious, nuanced, and perhaps frustrating vocation.

Sometimes, but most of the time it is very enjoyable. I have the freedom to pursue whatever motivates me at the time, and to follow my theological interests. There always seems to be something at any given time: doors or opportunities to do more apologetics. I simply walk through them. It's not like being a professor who has to do certain things, give lectures that maybe bore him, or write a paper he doesn't feel like doing. I do have that luxury, though, of course, I get relatively little remuneration.

You must peruse obscure books and chase ideas and beliefs down rabbit holes

Naw, I enjoy it. It's fun, because, like I said, I do whatever interests me at the time. If I am challenged, I get extremely motivated, because I love challenges.

and what do you get for all your hard work? You get people leveling insults like the following: [several examples given from my sidebar]

LOLOL. Every job has its frustrations. I'm sure all of you who have a boss looking over your shoulder, or boring work you don't enjoy, or weird co-workers, or who haven't been promoted or appreciated at work as they should be, or who are struggling with running your own business, have more frustrations than I do.

Opposition proves that I am hitting nerves and that I must be saying something that is effectively getting out my message. This is always the case (excepting those times when we really do screw up and cause people to get angry through our own fault). Virtually all the insults come from anti-Catholics. That's par for the course. They act that way with almost anyone who opposes (or exposes) their falsehoods about the Church or about people (personal attacks), and their false theology. I'm delighted about that, because it strongly indicates that I am doing something right.

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


Jesus told us we would have opposition, and would be hated (and to even rejoice when we are persecuted). The sad, tragic thing is that it so often comes from fellow Christians. This is how Satan divides the Body of Christ and conquers. I receive far less insults and ad hominem nonsense and slanderous bilge from atheists than I do from anti-Catholic Protestants.

I get a lot "back" from my work. I know I am helping people, because they are nice and considerate enough to let me know that. That's very rewarding and fulfilling because it is what I am trying to accomplish. It makes you feel good, and makes all the trials worth it. This is a "service" profession. I know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, under God.

There's nothing like being right in the center of God's will. That's how life is supposed to work, and we aren't happy if we step outside of that "circle." I get to do what I enjoy doing (writing, dialoguing, research, sharing the gospel and the fullness of Catholic truth). I even get paid for it (something, anyway; I can always use more; the bills and debts seem to never end).

The personal attacks are more than made up for by kind folks like you and many others, who have encouraged me and said that they appreciate my labors. You can see those positive remarks on my sidebar and in my two papers, "Catholic Accolades for This Website" and "Non-Catholic Accolades . . ." That's enough for me. I know what is behind the personal attacks, so they are ultimately of little concern. Sometimes I get upset, because I am a human being and hate to be lied about and misunderstood, like anyone else, but mostly I consider them almost a joke; a source of humor. When I read the stuff I posted on my sidebar, I bust a gut laughing, it is so funny to me. My wife, of course, plays a crucial role in helping me deal with that junk, too, as I noted in my post about my 20th anniversary. I couldn't have done this without her.

It was much, much harder as a Protestant campus missionary from 1985-1989, because then I got virtually no positive feedback at all from anyone (except my wife Judy). I was doing all this work and only getting negative feedback, and was poor as a dog (at one point we even had to move in with my parents for a year, as a married couple). Two churches I was attending essentially did hardly anything to support me financially (though both gave me reason, initially, to believe that they would). I didn't seem to be accomplishing anything (this was before the Internet and I was confined to passing out paper materials).

It was a very difficult experience to go through. I never questioned God, but I sure didn't understand what was happening to me. It seemed absolutely absurd and ludicrous. I became quite cynical for a while; again, not about God, but about those who call themselves Christians, and who claim to "have a heart for missions." Now it is vastly different, because I have published books, and my website, and blog, and published articles in journals. Everyone needs to have that encouragement on the human level. I couldn't have done what I tried to do in the 80s very long (which is why I gave up in late 1989, thinking that I had been a total failure and not having any idea what I would do for a living).

But that was God's will. Everything is in God's Providence. We must rest in that, whether it is good or bad from our perspective. I think it is fairly obvious in retrospect that He was testing me to see how much I really was committed to my calling. This is how life and the Christian walk is. I had to go through that living hell to get to the fairly good place (humanly-speaking) where I am now. It's never "perfect." But if I pass whatever tests God has for me now, maybe it will be better in the future. Maybe not, too. I (like most of us) will probably have to endure many more trials before the end of my earthly sojourn. I want to accept whatever God has planned for me in the future. We all need to follow the light that He has revealed to us.

All in all, then, I am very happy doing this work. I love to get to my computer and do some more writing and sharing. I always loved ideas, long before I was ever serious about Christianity, and have an insatiable intellectual and theological (even historical) curiosity, so God used those desires (which were ultimately from Him, anyway) to lead me to the field of apologetics.Thanks for asking and for your encouragement! I appreciate it very much. And now I have another "paper"! LOL

Debate on the War in Iraq (vs. Secret Agent Man)

By Dave Armstrong (10-14-04)

I have tremendous respect for my (Catholic) friend "SAM"'s thinking and writing skills. That's why I am highly interested in this discussion. I will respond to comments he made in the "St. Blog's Parish Hall" Main Forum. I don't claim to know all the ins and outs of just war theory and various legal-ethical criteria for when war is justified, but I do have some general thoughts on the matter which I would like to try to convey (and see if they can stand up to scrutiny). SAM's words will be in blue:

[comments made on 11 September]

How do you "stop" someone from doing what you suspect that he might do in the future?

By disabling his capability to do what can be reasonably surmised that he will do, given the chance. If you catch a dirty old man with thousands of pictures of nude boys and a list of phone numbers of young boys (and he has a record of past molestation), you stop him from acting further and doing what anyone can see that he will likely do (after all, they nail men who are going to meet some young girl, by police officers pretending to be young girls on the Internet; that's preventive; a "preemptive strike").

If you catch a drug dealer with $10,000,000 of cocaine or some other drug, you confiscate the drugs. They weren't going to be used to create a fake white sand beach.

Likewise, if you have sufficient reason to believe that Saddam Hussein has nuclear capabilities, and the will to use such horrible weapons, and great hostility towards the US (and many of his own people), and connections to terrorists, you take action before something terrible happens.

As you indicate, the menace must be sufficiently immediate so as to justify dispensing with nice concerns about misinterpretations, future changes of heart, unanticipated events which may remove the threat altogether, etc.

I don't see how it has to be "immediate" so much as reasonably certain given present capabilities and will.

. . . did Iraq present that degree of immediate menace to the United States on March 19, 2003. I don't think it did.

Tyrants getting hold of nuclear weapons have been a legitimate concern for almost 60 years now. Again, "immediacy" is less ethically important and relevant than deleterious longterm consequences and likelihoods.

I think Iraq was a legitimate subject of great anxiety, but great anxiety about being burglarized isn't the same thing as waking up to find a stranger in your bedroom at 3:00 o'clock in the morning.

Obviously, we had an idea who might "burglarize" us or cause a possible proliferation of WMD to terrorists. It isn't like we are in our "bed" fantasizing about a completely fictional, paranoid "attack" that never comes. No; the proper analogy is to find a burglar out on the lawn (or even on the other side of the state) with plans to invade your house (or other houses with people you know and care about), and connections to other bad guys, and lots of weapons, and a criminal record (etc.). The anxiety thus becomes grounded in highly rational, deductive reality and straightforward prediction (in other words, compelling circumstantial evidence).

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


If I may be permitted to use Aristotle's distinction, that a "tyrannical" regime is one run for the personal benefit of the ruler to the exclusion of the common good, I think it's arguable that no regime is ever entirely "tyrannical."

I see, so then we are never (or only very rarely) justified in overthrowing tyrants and dictatorships because they don't exist by definition? This is an odd way to define away problems and to justify inaction. I know that is not your intent, but the result comes out practically the same, far as I can tell.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (a/k/a Planned Parenthood), Saddam Hussein's abortion laws were far more restrictive than our own.

So were Adolf Hitler's . . .

Of course Saddam Hussein had no regard for the dignity of womanhood, mothering, or children. The man was, as Christopher Hitchens says, the head of a sociopathic crime family. But is it possible to portray Iraq under his rule as a society where the common good did not, in any respect, exist? I don't think so, . . .

I don't see that these fine-tuned distinctions are all that relevant, given all that we do know about Saddam . . . Again, one could say that about Hitler: all the good stuff he did for Germany and the German people.

So, what do we mean when we talk of "tyrannical regimes" which may be legitimately abolished by the unilateral decision of a foreign power?

It was not unilateral; it was sanctioned by the UN, and some 30 other countries have participated with us. But we mean regimes which are notoriously in violation of human rights, which are led by malevolent rulers, who have the will and capability of developing and using WMD, and who have known links to terrorists.

I would hope that the first thing we mean is that we're willing to discuss a level of criminality, evil, and abusiveness that we're willing to stomach before we decide to destroy another state.

Saddam's regime had that in great abundance. But note that taking down a tyranny is not the same as "destroying a state." Did we "destroy" Germany in WWII?

If any evil justified such a war, we should have to invade Sweden because of this. [he linked to a Christianity Today article]

This is curious reasoning. You think we could justifiably attack Sweden because one man was jailed for a month for supposed "hate speech" against homosexuals and suppression of freedom of religion and speech, yet mass murder of one's own people and designs to develop WMD and connections to worldwide terrorist networks are not sufficient? Wow . . .

If we decide not to invade Sweden, we've committed ourselves to accepting the continued existence of a regime that punishes or imprisons Christians for spreading the Gospel.

There are all sorts of sins and evils in the world. I don't see how giving one example of some tyranny in one state automatically means that we shouldn't attack any tyrannous regime. I've never understood this reasoning. One can't do everything. But that doesn't mean that one does nothing. If we couldn't do good acts simply because we are being so-called "hypocritical" by not doing every conceivable analogous good act, then we would do nothing at all, for to do anything would constitute automatic hypocrisy, which is a sin. So it is a vicious circle (and a rationalization for doing nothing, which is a sin of omission). In scale of evil, I see no comparison between Sweden and Iraq. Perhaps this was merely a reductio ad absurdum on your part (I'm not sure), but I don't think it succeeds in that purpose, either, because the comparison is too weak.

After that, it's a question of how much punishment, how frequently, how terrible, etc., a regime has to inflict on Christians before we'll act.

If genocide or other systematic mass murder is involved, I think we should act. We should act, therefore, in the Sudan. As for Iraq, we know Saddam killed his own people by the many thousands, and we had every reason to believe he would do much worse to outward enemies, if he had the power to do so.

Is America's addiction to abortion on demand, a never-ending river of pornography, and an exploitative economic system sufficiently "tyrannical" to qualify as a regime that should be destroyed? More people have died at the hands of American abortionists than Saddam and all his henchmen.

This is why I argued right after 9-11 that America was far past sufficient evil to warrant divine judgment. But you and I had a very spirited dispute about that and even recently you reiterated that you still disagreed with me. So what is it that you don't agree with in that belief of mine? That America should be judged? But you seem to argue that here (or something similar) -- at least by rhetorical analogy -- , so I am confused. I do confess that I would have to think quite a bit about why we shouldn't be destroyed as a regime. For one thing, there are no very large nations that are not themselves committing genocide against the preborn, are there? So who would destroy us? According to biblical history, God can use one wicked nation, however, to judge another. I argued that this may indeed have been what was happening in 9-11, even though it was an unspeakably evil act. But you vigorously disagreed, and still do (somehow). So please enlighten me as to where we agree and disagree here. Yet even if we are a "wicked" nation (and I argued that we are quite arguably the most wicked one, because we have more knowledge of what is right), God could still use us to judge another wicked nation, just as Babylon judged Israel.

[see my paper, The Judgment of Nations: Biblical Passages and Commentary]

The concept of tyrannical regimes that demand obliteration at our hands (or anyone else's) is a very dangerous idea.

That may be, but if we never did that, the world would be far worse than it is now. Were you against the Cold War, too? Were we to simply allow Communism to flourish unchecked because it is "difficult" and "dangerous" to ethically decide when to act to counter such tyranny and despotism? I think your position will ultimately create more problems than you think it solves (just as pacifism does).

It's true that, when we invaded Iraq, Saddam had used nerve gas to kill thousands and thousands of innocent people. But we weren't attacking Iraq to save those people. No use of American military power in 2003 could have saved them. They'd been dead for years before the first M1 rolled into Iraq.

Obviously. But this misses the point, which is precisely that if Saddam had the willingness to do such a thing to his own people, he would certainly do it against us and others (like Israel), especially since we had already defeated him in the Gulf War. So you see relevant facts but you analyze them wrongly. But beyond all that, I do happen to believe that it is a good thing to liberate peoples from tyrants like Saddam and the Taliban. Call that "naive idealism" or whatever you like, but I think it is very much in line with the many biblical injunctions to rescue the oppressed and to save those who are being led to slaughter. We talk about loving everyone in the world abstractly, as Christians, yet so often we'll do nothing to help rescue those being led to slaughter, simply because they are from another country, and due to all the UN- or French-type legal "diplomatic" and Chamberlain-like jargon that prevents much good action.

Should we have used military power at the time? I think, arguably, we (or someone else) should have.

Apparently you are forgetting that the UN and international mandate that we were operating on then forbade us from getting involved in internal Iraqi affairs. That's what we get when we depend totally on an international mandate: it prevents actions which you yourself think are justifiable. So you can't have it both ways: you can't be opposed to our more (not totally) "unilateral" action, and be in favor of the previous scenario in the Gulf War, which was designed only to get Saddam out of Kuwait (and possibly Saudi Arabia). We played that game then, and that's how it worked (Kerry talks the same game now, yet voted against the Gulf War which had every element he is demanding for the present war). Whatever one thinks of that situation, many thousands of Iraqis died at the hands of Saddam after we left. Thus, it has been argued that the present war is a continuation of the former, which met just war criteria more strictly (and "classically") than the present war.

But we didn't, and we're not entitled to do a selective rewind of history to justify present policy according to situations which have passed into history.

That's beside the point again. Saddam's killing of the Kurds showed what an evil man he is. We don't want such a man and regime getting hold of nuclear and biological weapons, because he would use them, and/or deliver them to terrorists who are even more willing than he is to use them (and to also kill themselves in so doing, if that is what it takes). But if our going there prevented more innocents from being slaughtered, then I say we did the right thing in that regard, too. We're using the military might that we have, not to conquer land, but to liberate people from tyranny and to prevent horrible use of WMD.

Shall we next invade Turkey and give the Armenian genocide as our justification? It's an absurd argument, . . .

Yes it is, but the only problem is that it is not the proper rationale for why we are there. I'm not sure anyone in government has argued in this way (though they may have). The example is used to show that Saddam is evil; it indirectly confirms that he should have been taken out because of his horrendous potential for even greater evil.

and President Bush's use of it does nothing but erode his own moral credibility.

You would have to document exactly what he said. I suspect that if he could clarify, that it would be in the sense I have argued, not in the sense of what you criticize as "absurd." In fact, we already know this, because Bush's rationale was 1) possession of WMD (or plans for same, which we KNOW he had for sure), and 2) probable links to terrorist networks.

On what moral basis would we justify choosing to save the people of Iraq, while leaving the people of Syria and North Korea in the same or similar amount of suffering?

Because 1) one can only do so much at any given time. This is especially true since Bill Clinton had gutted the military by nearly half. 2) Because Saddam had the greater willingness, capability, and means of delivering WMD, and connection to terrorists. 3) It was more related to our national security interests at this time, since there was a proximity to the terrorists and the oil reserves. That's the difference. I would favor taking some serious steps with the other two tyrannies, too. Absolutely. But one thing at a time. Again, because we can't do everything at once doesn't mean we do nothing and let the civilized world go to hell (as it was in grave danger of doing in the 30s and 40s).

I don't really know the answer to all this, except that I think civilization might be better served by a healthy prudence about invading and conquering "morally unacceptable nations."

So you tell me when we should invade? Only when they are bombing cities like London? Even then we had to be an ally with another tyrant who had killed (starved to death) 10 million of his own people (Ukrainians) in the previous decade. One might be able to make an argument that Hitler couldn't have been defeated without Russian help. Welcome to Realpolitik. I don't like it anymore than you do. But the real world involves such crazy scenarios. I'm all for prudence. I think plenty was exercised with regard to Iraq and Saddam. he had the entire 90s to straighten up his act. He did not. We were extremely prudent and patient (if not too much). I don't see how we could have been any more than we were.

Everyone's morally unacceptable, when you get right down to it. And there are higher values which can only be served by restraint and alternative strategies such as internal solutions.

So we just sit on a mountaintop and wish the bad guys away (much like Gandhi wanted to do with Hitler)?

Two wrongs don't make a right. If, having committed one wrong (an unjust attack on Iraq), one finds oneself in a position either to do good (like install a more civilized government) or compound the error (by restoring Iraq to the mercies of a sociopathic crime family), one must do the good.

But that's just it. You admit that installing the decent government is a good thing, yet you fail to see that we had to do what we did in order to accomplish that secondary benevolent goal. You think it was a bad thing to do that which we had to do to get to the good thing. I don't believe it was a "bad thing." I don't believe in "the end justifies the means" anymore than you do. I think it was fully justified by traditional just war theory which is properly developed in light of present nuclear and terrorist capabilities. Many Catholic thinkers have elaborated upon this argument (Weigel, and Novak for two, as I recall).

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Elaboration Upon One Biblical Argument for Purgatory (Matthew 5:25-26)

By Dave Armstrong (10-13-04)

In my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, I cited Matthew 5:25-26 and then St. Francis de Sales' excellent commentary on it, in my chapter on purgatory. Here is that portion (pp. 129-130 of the current Sophia Institute Press edition, but the footnote numbers are different):

Matthew 5:25-26 [RSV] Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

(see also Luke 12:58-59)
St. Francis de Sales:
Origen, St. Cyprian, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine say that the way which is meant in the whilst thou art in the way [while you are going with him to court] is no other than the passage of the present life: the adversary [accuser] will be our own conscience, . . . as St. Ambrose expounds, and Bede, St. Augustine, St. Gregory [the Great], and St. Bernard. Lastly, the judge is without doubt Our Lord . . . The prison, again, is . . . the place of punishment in the other world, in which, as in a large jail, there are many buildings; one for those who are damned, which is as it were for criminals, the other for those in Purgatory, which is as it were for debt. The farthing, [penny] . . . are little sins and infirmities, as the farthing is the smallest money one can owe.

Now let us consider a little where this repayment . . . is to be made. And we find from most ancient Fathers that it is in Purgatory: Tertullian,11 Cyprian,12 Origen,13 . . . St. Ambrose,14 St. Jerome15 . . . Who sees not that in St. Luke the comparison is drawn, not from a murderer or some criminal, who can have no hope of escape, but from a debtor who is thrown into prison till payment, and when this is made is at once let out? This then is the meaning of Our Lord, that whilst we are in this world we should try by penitence and its fruits to pay, according to the power which we have by the blood of the Redeemer, the penalty to which our sins have subjected us; since if we wait till death we shall not have such good terms in Purgatory, when we shall be treated with severity of justice.16

11 The Soul, 100,10.
12 Epistle 4,2.
13 Homily 35 on Luke 12.
14 Commentary on Luke 12.
15 Commentary on Matthew 5.
16 St. Francis de Sales, CON [The Catholic Controversy], 372-373.

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


Recently, a Lutheran pastor wrote to me. He had read material from two of my books on purgatory (and is increasingly convinced of the truthfulness of it), and was asking about this passage in particular. He asked me:

If we could nail down what the full range of experience was concerning debtor's prison in Jesus' day then perhaps I would find the clincher here. What I'm seeing from writings on other periods of history though is that there was little if any expectation of persons gaining freedom from debtor's prison. Couple that with Jesus' words in these passages which sounds like a warning to avoid debtor's prison (because by implication it doesn't sound like a comforting place given Jesus' comments) I'm not sure that one can put a positive spin on "...you will not get out until you (the sinner) have paid the last penny."

Here was my reply, in full:

My responses for now (without a great deal of additional study) would be the following:

1) First of all, there is an assumption by Jesus that it is possible to get out of this place: "you will never get out till . . . " This motif of being able to get out of debtor's prison is repeated by our Lord Jesus in Matt 18:30: ". . . put him in prison till he should pay the debt" (repeated in 18:34). This could not be said about hell at all, because no one can get out of hell. We wouldn't say of, e.g., a corpse in a casket: "he will never get out of there till . . . " To say such a thing presupposes the possibility of leaving the place. If one can't leave, it wouldn't be described in such a fashion. Therefore, if we apply the passage to the afterlife at all, it must refer to purgatory and not hell.

2) Secondly, purgatory is not all that "comforting." It is a place of punishment for temporal sins, and purging. We have hope, of course, because everyone there is saved and not damned, and it may be even more pleasant than this life, for all we know, but that doesn't make it all that "comforting" in an immediate sense, because we know from this life that purging ourselves of sins and sinful tendencies is not an easy process. We have plenty of analogies for purging in our earthly existence. So I don't see how this is a disproof at all. If one was trying to apply the passage to heaven, I could see that, but not if it is said to be a description of purgatory.

3) As for Jesus warning us to avoid this place (purgatory, as we believe), that makes perfect sense. No one has to go to purgatory, if they achieve sufficient sanctity by God's grace in this life. It is a good thing to avoid purgatory if we can. That's what Jesus is saying.

4) It can't apply to hell, either, because the "debts" are metaphorical for remaining sins on our soul. We don't get saved from hell by paying off our debts (in Catholic theology, by penance for temporal sins). We get out by means of the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross on our behalf. It is sheer mercy, not a mere debt-paying process (because none of us could ever pay off the debt in that case). This is good Catholic theology, too, I assure you. We don't gain salvation by our good works. That is the heresy of Pelagianism.

Jesus often uses the metaphor of "debt" for sins and the necessity of forgiveness (e.g., Mt 6:12-15, 18:23-35, Lk 7:36-50, 11:4). Therefore, it makes much more sense (granting these theological premises) that the passage refers to purgatory, since the "debts" are sins that we are still being purged of. We're not being punished eternally in this instance for the sins, but having them purged from us because we are already saved. That's why Jesus says that we can get out of the place or state. Again, we don't gain heaven and eternal life by paying off debts ourselves, because this would never be sufficient. But we can gain the entrance to heaven (having already been saved by the cross and God's mercy and forgiveness and election) by purging our sins entirely in purgatory by this painful process.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [a Protestant work], in its article on "Debt, Debtor" (vol. II, 814-815) states:

Debt and debtor are used in a moral sense also as indicating the obligation of a righteous life which we owe to God. To fall short in righteous living is to become a debtor. For this reason we pray, 'Forgive us our debts' (Mt 6:12).

Now, again, in Catholic theology, this is sensibly spoken of penance and purgatory, not of hell or of salvation. The above description fits very nicely with the Catholic (and biblical) concept of purgatory. We "owe God a righteous life"; not in order to be saved (as both Protestants and Catholics agree that we can be saved while still possessing actual sinfulness and less than perfect sanctity), but in order to (already saved) enter heaven, where no sin is allowed (Rev 21:27; implied also by the tenor and content of Isaiah 6:1-8, where the prophet Isaiah comes in contact with God).

5) Jewish tradition held to the practice of forgiving debts every seven years (Deut 15:1 ff.; cf. Ex 23:10-11, Lev 25, Neh 10:31). This was not always heeded (Amos 2:6-8, 4:1), but nevertheless, it is an indication that the notion of a debtor's prison was not always (or usually, it seems to me) a lifetime sentence. Otherwise, Jesus simply wouldn't talk in this manner. We must assume that His thought here represents the common understanding of that time and culture. There was also the Jubilee Year, whereby all debts were forgiven every 50th year (Lev 25:9,13,28, Num 36:4). Even slaves (enslaved due to debt) were to be freed (Lev 25:10,39). Properties were also restored to their original owners (Lev 27:17-29, 48 ff., 27:19).

6) The fact that Israelites at various times became corrupt, or that the poor were excessively oppressed by the rich and powerful (condemnations throughout the prophets), or that the Jubilee Year was not always properly observed, does not eliminate the applicability of the metaphor. Every analogy to human existence will be flawed to some extent because of human sin, but that doesn't wipe out the principle that our Lord was trying to put across by means of these metaphors. Men might oppress unduly (including debtor's prisons) but we know that God is just, and He will let us out when we "pay" what we owe.

7) Tertullian wrote around 212 A.D., concerning this passage:

. . . it is most fitting that the soul, without waiting for the flesh, be punished for what it did without the partnership of the flesh . . . if we understand that prison of which the Gospel speaks to be Hades, and if we interpret the last farthing to be the light offense which is to be expiated there before the resurrection, no one will doubt that the soul undergoes some punishments in Hades, without prejudice to the fullness of the resurrection, after which recompense will be made through the flesh also.

(The Soul, 58,1)

Hope that is helpful to you! I found it a very interesting study, myself. I love delving deeper into the Bible. It is always a great blessing and a further education.

May God abundantly bless the fruitfulness of your pastoral ministry,

Dave

Friday, October 08, 2004

Is Sola Fide (Faith Alone) a Legitimate Development of Patristic and Augustinian Soteriology?

By Dave Armstrong (24 November 2000)

Heresy can only be defined as the apostles and Church Fathers defined it, according to the ancient principle of apostolic succession. In a nutshell, heresy is that which has not been passed down from the beginning, from the apostles and our Lord Jesus. If something is novel and cannot be traced back, it is heresy, and to be utterly rejected, according to St. Paul in particular. All other definitions are ultimately circular:

X What is heresy?
Y That which is false and wrong according to the Bible (i.e., as interpreted by Calvin/Luther/whomever)
X And where do they get their authority to state that?
Y From God, but they would trace their beliefs to the early Fathers, particularly St. Augustine.
X But Catholics also trace their beliefs from St. Augustine. Who is correct?
Y If you look at Augustine's teachings, you will find that the Reformed are his true legatees.

Applying this oft-stated Protestant principle, I then appeal to Protestant scholars Alister McGrath and Norman Geisler, with regard to the historical basis of sola fide (faith alone and extrinsic, imputed justification), one of the pillars of the Protestant Reformation:

Whereas Augustine taught that the sinner is made righteous in justification, Melanchthon taught that he is counted as righteous or pronounced to be righteous. For Augustine, 'justifying righteousness' is imparted; for Melanchthon, it is imputed in the sense of being declared or pronounced to be righteous. Melanchthon drew a sharp distinction between the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous, designating the former 'justification' and the latter 'sanctification' or 'regeneration.' For Augustine, these were simply different aspects of the same thing . . .

The importance of this development lies in the fact that it marks a complete break with the teaching of the church up to that point. From the time of Augustine onwards, justification had always been understood to refer to both the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous. . . .

The Council of Trent . . . reaffirmed the views of Augustine on the nature of justification . . . the concept of forensic justification actually represents a development in Luther's thought . . . .

Trent maintained the medieval tradition, stretching back to Augustine, which saw justification as comprising both an event and a process . . .

(Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993, 108-109, 115; emphasis in original)

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


This spectacularly confirms that sola fide was a novelty and corruption, and that infused, intrinsic justification was the ongoing tradition, and that of St. Augustine, supposedly the great forerunner of Luther's "faith alone." Norman Geisler makes the exact same point:
For Augustine, justification included both the beginnings of one's righteousness before God and its subsequent perfection -- the event and the process. What later became the Reformation concept of 'sanctification' then is effectively subsumed under the aegis of justification. Although he believed that God initiated the salvation process, it is incorrect to say that Augustine held to the concept of 'forensic' justification. This understanding of justification is a later development of the Reformation . . .

Before Luther, the standard Augustinian position on justification stressed intrinsic justification. Intrinsic justification argues that the believer is made righteous by God's grace, as compared to extrinsic justification, by which a sinner is forensically declared righteous (at best, a subterranean strain in pre-Reformation Christendom). With Luther the situation changed dramatically . . .
. . . one can be saved without believing that imputed righteousness (or forensic justification) is an essential part of the true gospel. Otherwise, few people were saved between the time of the apostle Paul and the Reformation, since scarcely anyone taught imputed righteousness (or forensic justification) during that period! . . . . .
(Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, with Ralph E. MacKenzie, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995, 502, 85, 222; emphasis in original)

Much the same demonstration can be made with regard to sola Scriptura and other Protestant distinctives. To summarize, then: the only (biblical, logical) way to determine heresy and orthodoxy is the historical criterion of apostolic succession. Any other method is circular, with no way to resolve competing claims.

Sola fide cannot be a legitimate development, because it is different in essence from infused justification. If some Reformed Protestants claim that our view is Pelagianism or a false gospel of works, etc. because of its difference from the Reformed extrinsic, forensic, external, imputed righteousness, then how can their view be said to be merely a "development" of ours, via Augustine and others?

A development cannot proceed from an entirely false view to a true one, or change in its essence. This violates the very definition of development, on any coherent theological view of what the word means. It is not simply random evolution or change, but consistent change: consistent with what has come before it, not radically divergent.

That would be like saying that orthodox Chalcedon trinitarianism could have "developed" from Arianism, Sabellianism, or Monophysitism. Therefore, sola fide must be considered as a corruption of Augustinian (and patristic) soteriology, because it is entirely novel in essential aspects, as my two Protestant citations showed.

St. Augustine rejected double predestination, perseverance, imputed justification, and accepted free will, sacramentalism, baptismal regeneration, the Real Presence of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass, the central authoritative roles of the Church and Tradition, as well as Scripture, the papacy, purgatory, penance, intercession of the saints, an exalted role of Mary, and human merit. In other words, he was a good Catholic. As if this were some amazing revelation . . . .

How, then, can a Reformed Protestant claim on the one hand that his views are descended from St. Augustine, yet on the other hand assert that Catholics are heretics, Pelagians, and adherents of a false, idolatrous gospel, for believing the same sort of things that St. Augustine also held? If I am a heretic and not a Christian, then neither was Augustine. If he was one, then so am I.

Without too much trouble, one can find Catholic distinctives in St. Augustine's classic, The City of God. For example, the great Doctor appears to be talking about purgatory in XX,25-26 (". . . at the judgment those who are worthy of such purification are to be purified even by fire; and after that there will be found in all the saints no sin at all . . . "). Cf. XXI,13.

He clearly rejects the Lutheran/Calvinist "bondage of the will" (V,10 and XII,7). He teaches the sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (X,5,20; XXI,25), baptismal regeneration (XIII,7; XX,6), development of doctrine (XVI,2), authoritative Tradition (XVIII,38), and prayers for the dead (XX,9; XXI,24).

How is it "outside" of God's working to simply reject His working? This is absolutely illogical and nonsensical. How does a prisoner's refusal to accept a governor's pardon somehow make the pardon null and void, or change the essence of the fact that the governor does all: all pardon comes from him, but a free agent can reject it if he so chooses? This is what Augustine states in City of God, V,10:

It does not follow, because God foreknew what would in the future be in our will, that there is nothing in the power of our will.

He doesn't create a false dichotomy, which is so characteristic of Protestant thought. He accepts the paradox and mystery (not contradiction) of divine sovereignty and human will, as Scripture also does.

Let me put it in capital letters: (in Catholic, Tridentine teaching) GOD DOES THE ENTIRE WORK OF GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION. MAN MERELY GOES ALONG WITH IT, OR REJECTS IT. Even merit is God rewarding His own gifts, as Augustine accurately puts it. God's grace is always primary and initiatory. Once one is walking in that grace, there is merit, yes, but it must also be understood as ultimately initiated and entirely caused by God.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

"It was twenty years ago today . . . " (High Praise for my Wife Judy on our 20th Anniversary)

By Dave Armstrong (10-6-04)

20 years! It's unbelievable how one's perspective of time changes as you get into your 40s. 20 years now seems like 5 did when I was 20 or 25.

I think it is neat that today it is a sunny, gorgeous fall day in the Detroit area, with temperatures in the low 70s. This is exactly how it was on our wedding day. Then we went down to the Smoky Mountains for our honeymoon and hit the fall colors at exactly the peak. It was truly breathtaking and spectacular, and perfect for Autumn worshipers like we were then and now. We went hiking in the woods today in the middle of writing this. It was glorious. There are some great woods near Henry Ford's mansion, only a few miles from our house.

Where do I begin? This is my "open anniversary card" to my wonderful wife Judy. Usually, private cards are the norm, but once in a while I think it is appropriate to publicly sing praises to one's spouse and to share with the world the love and pride that you feel. I am delighted to do so.

I do love her with all my heart and consider myself a very happy man, and blessed to have such a woman for my wife. This was the second-best decision I ever made in my life (second after the God-ordained choice to become a serious disciple of Jesus in 1977). Judy is, I think, everything that God intended women to be: gentle, sweet, very compassionate towards others (when she hears of some tragedy, she will often start crying, even if it involves a stranger), understanding, exceedingly wise, yet innocent and childlike in exactly the right sense of those words, feminine, patient (after all, she lives with me!), a good listener, sympathetic, a lover of good art and music and nature, romantic (in all senses of the word), fun-loving, a marvelous mother, forgiving and merciful, soft-spoken, passionate and principled about Christian truths and beliefs. The list is endless.

What made me fall in love with Judy back in March of 1984 was (apart from her obvious beauty) the fact that she was a godly, caring woman (as seen in the above listed traits). That, to me, says it all. But there is a story here, and I would like to briefly recount it, because I think it might have some value for young people today who are in the process of selecting a lifelong mate.

Judy and I are very compatible and happily-married. We like so many of the same things, it is amazing. I'm not saying we have the perfect marriage, or trying to claim some great credit for ourselves. We both have faults (I am stubborn, too critical, often compulsive, a workaholic, and a creature of sometimes too-inflexible routine and habit, among many other faults, and my wife has a bit of a temper, though no one seems to know that except me :-), and we fight sometimes. But on the rare occasions that we do, we usually resolve it "before the sun goes down" (as the Bible recommends) and we are very careful not to lash out in those hurtful-type words that can cause long-lasting emotional damage, lodge in one's memory, and erode trust. Our "fights" are what many people would call merely "mild disagreements." We both know how to say we are sorry when we need to.

Our compatibility and happiness are not our own doing, or to our credit. All the glory goes to God. But it is true that we were both very careful in how we chose a marriage partner. Even that is by God's grace, yet God (in some mysterious way) gives us the freedom to choose, in matters of marriage as well as spirituality. As we look back, we think the "secret of our success" are the following factors:

1. We were platonic friends first, for a year-and-a-half.
2. We both prayed very hard for our mate, and didn't rush into a new "rebound" relationship after both of us had been hurt in previous relationships.
3. We both waited on God and for the right person, tried to trust Him, and were very selective; allowing God to guide and confirm the choice that we made. This involved a great deal of loneliness and hardship for both of us (believe me!), but it worked out in the end.
4. We didn't have sex until we were married.
5. A realization that what may appeal at first to our senses or in a purely erotic way may not always be the best choice in the long run.

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


These are all very difficult paths to follow; make no mistake about it. But we believe that this is how God designed the love and marriage relationship between a man and a woman. If you fall "madly" in love "head over heels" right away (#1), obviously you don't gain an accurate understanding of the nature and character of the person you may eventually intend to marry. You know: "love is blind." This is no way to enter into the possibility of one of the most important and far-reaching choices one makes in life. Now, granted, such things happen sometimes and we have relatively little control over them. Yet we can take steps to avoid a total domination of the powerful instincts of "new love." We have the power to limit time together and so forth, so that a more rational decision-making process can occur. Judy and I didn't have this "animal attraction" right away, as it happened. But as far as we are concerned, that was better. We got to know each other very well, and then the "serious / romantic" feelings and desires started to naturally follow.

The factors of #2 and #3 are related. We think it is supremely important to be willing to wait and suffer for the right person to come along, and to trust God for that eventuality. I KNOW how difficult this is. I lived it for many years (I had hardly any dates between my senior year in high school and age 25; I was so selective). I probably took the principle of "pickiness" too far, in retrospect, but I am still happy that I was too selective rather than not enough, so that I avoided possibly getting "hurt" and "burned" many times, or hurting someone else.

#4 is self-evident (or should be, but is less and less, these days, in our culture), and much has been written about it from a Christian perspective (see, e.g., my paper, "Dialogue: Is Premarital Sex Wrong?"). No one who is having sex with someone else is in any state of mind to make such a serious life-choice as marriage. Sex is too dominant and powerful to allow for rational deliberation. That's precisely why God designed it solely in the context of a lifelong, committed relationship, where it belongs. Apart from that, it is highly dangerous and destructive. Over 40 years of the vaunted sexual revolution has demonstrated that beyond any doubt, for all who care to see.

My only direct advice to young couples is to make sure you pick someone who shares your values in this regard. Otherwise, forget it. The temptation is too strong to be resisted unless both people are in absolute agreement that premarital sex is wrong. We know that very well from our own experience, because abstaining with someone I knew I was going to marry, in the passionate throes of young love, was perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever willingly chosen to do in my life (thus one I am quite proud of). C.S. Lewis wrote that it is the person who resists temptation who understands far more of its power than the one who readily gives into it.

The factor of #5 has caused much misery and unhappiness, I think. It is simply untrue that we can know that we are compatible with a person at first glance. Sexual attraction and "chemistry" and "hitting it off right away" are not the final barometers of "our type" of girl / guy. I know for a fact that the type of woman I am naturally attracted to (the very outgoing, vivacious, "bubbly" type) would not have been the kind of personality that works best with me in a marriage situation. Given the choice on my own, apart from the more serious considerations above, I would have chosen that type of personality, but I am convinced that I wouldn't have been nearly as happy. This holds for me alone, with my own particular temperament and personality and lifestyle. Everyone has to determine this for themselves. But I have often heard that we ought to get to know a person for at least a year until we can conclude that we know them very well at all. After all, everyone "puts their best foot forward" at first in relationships. That is not a reliable guide for what a person will be like 10, 20 years down the line.

I hope my "preaching" is not taken the wrong way. I'm just trying to share a few things that I think I have learned about love and marriage, by God's grace, in order to perhaps help a few young couples avoid needless hurt, misery, and heartbreak. No one seems to talk very much about these things, but I think they are extremely important, because a wrong choice in this area can have the effect of changing one's entire life, and determining whether it will be essentially a "happy" or an "unhappy" one -- at least in terms of the marriage relationship and related family matters. I am convinced, more than anything else, that to achieve such happiness, one must choose the person who is best for their particular personality and compatible in all the important areas: religious commitment (above all), attitude towards children and child-rearing, interests, moral values, attitude towards money and life goals, etc.

Getting back to praising my lovely wife Judy; I want to publicly thank her and express my gratefulness for some things that I appreciate the most about her. First of all, she is wonderfully understanding. This means everything to me, as a person who often felt misunderstood, growing up, and even too often in adulthood. Being misunderstood has always been a heavy cross for me to bear (and I think it is for many). We all need someone who will truly know us (the real "us": with the good and the bad, not just a "yes man" or an enabler), and not have any number of misconceptions and false notions in their head about us. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

No matter what anyone else wrongly thinks (and I get my fair share of bum raps in my line of work, because I oppose a lot of false ideas and people don't care for that), I know that at least one person in the world really does deeply know me and love me as I am, with an unconditional love. God does, too, of course, but we need human beings to also do so. And it is also all the more special when the one who understands you the most is the one who knows you far better than anyone else: the one with whom you share all of yourself and your deepest desires, fears, and aspirations.

The second thing I am deeply grateful for is Judy's correct understanding of the whole vexed issue of the "headship of the husband." This has never been a "big deal" for us because we get along so smoothly and easily. We always do things as partners. We don't force each other to do anything, and we are secure enough to let the other do what they want, without fear and mistrust. It is voluntary cooperation and working together. I understand that some (many?) couples are not as compatible as we are (we are blessed in that way), and that this wouldn't be nearly as easy for them, as more disagreements arise. But that is the case in our marriage, and I am very glad about it. She respects me as the husband, and that is how God designed marriage (as revealed in the Bible); it's how the so-called "male ego" works.

It's not a silly "the guy's always right, no matter what" scenario -- far from it -- but rather (to briefly express a very important aspect of men), a respect that men need in order to be men. There is a reason that the Bible states, "Wives, be subject to your husbands" (Ephesians 5:22), and "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). This is not a stupid, rationalized, male chauvinist domination; it is simply an acknowledgement of the reality of God-created gender: men and women are surprise!) ontologically different, and don't have identical needs and strengths. We complement each other and make each other whole and complete.

In the same passage (as Pope John Paul II has often pointed out), Paul also teaches us to "Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ" (Eph 5:21). After all, husbands and wives are fellow believers in Christ in relation to each other, before they are man and wife. The idea is to approach each other in Christian love and self-sacrifice, with all that that entails (1 Corinthians 13, etc.). Men are not to "Lord it over" their wives. Quite the contrary; St. Paul writes: "Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies . . . For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church" (Eph 5:28-29). So the basis of proper love of a wife rests on the two principles of 1) the analogy of Christ and His Church, and 2) the analogy to the natural love of self.

My friend Al Kresta has a delightful way of expressing how God intends for this to work. He says that if a man foolishly says something to his wife, like, "submit, woman!" that the wife ought to shoot back with "get crucified, buddy!" The man actually has a harder task, since he is commanded to be like Christ, whereas the wife is commanded to simply submit. It comes down to, again, the selection of a mate. No woman would object to a man who acted like our Lord Jesus Christ more often than not. The point is to find the right man, then the often-dreaded and disparaged "submission" is no problem at all. That's how God designed it.

The third area where I deeply love and respect Judy is her skills as a wonderful mother and homeschooler. I see my four children developing every day in godliness and character, and I know this is mostly due to her, since she is with them more than I am, as the teacher. As they say, the father may be said to be the "head" of the household, but the mother is its "heart" and "soul."
 
Fourth, I admire her strength and perseverance. Judy has a meek and mild temperament (phlegmatic, according to the classic four temperaments). But (like Jesus Himself) this is not to be mistaken for weakness or "being taken advantage of." We have done many things in our married life which were "nonconformist" or considered "radical" (or worse, by some of our critics). These include homeschooling, involvement in the pro-life activism of Operation Rescue (1988-1990), my leaving a full-time job and entering full-time campus ministry in May 1985, as a Protestant, choosing to go on a sugar-free diet (in 1984), and converting to Catholicism in 1990. In each case we were in full agreement.

Apparently, some folks can't comprehend that a couple would agree on such things, and falsely assume that one must be "forcing" the other to do what they really don't want to do. This wasn't the case with Judy (and I am not a person who "forces" anyway: I'm quite easy-going and soft-spoken: I am a melancholy / phlegmatic temperament). She enthusiastically agreed on all these things. It is no "weak" person who would sit at abortion clinics to block the doors so some preborn babies can live and not be slaughtered, or who would go witnessing on the streets of inner-city Detroit (not to mention childbirth!). And when we disagreed for a short time on whether to home-school or not (I wasn't as enthusiastic about it), she didn't try to quarrel and nag in order to get her way. She prayed and waited and used persuasion and I eventually came around.
 
Lastly, tied into this has been her total willingness to support my vocation as an apologist and evangelist, from the beginning, which has involved tremendous financial sacrifices and insecurities, waiting many years to be published, terrible misunderstandings and even betrayals in some cases, conflict with one Protestant congregation, petty jealousies, slander at times, lack of support when promised it (both by individuals and churches), a few lost friendships, and so forth. It is no picnic. She has always absolutely believed (as I do) that I was called by God to do this work. It may be a cliche, but there is no way I could have endured the frustrations and disappointments and stress that has come with this work without Judy. I would have quit long ago (especially if I knew beforehand what it would entail).

In fact, in 1988 when I was struggling as an evangelical campus missionary and apologist (I finally was basically forced by circumstances to give up in late 1989, and felt that I had been a complete failure with no future to speak of, and no other career aspirations, at age 31), I went through a significant depression. 

I would have certainly thrown in the towel at that time, except for Judy's encouragement and confirmation that I was called to do what I was doing, and had to persevere, no matter what. Little did I know that God's plan for me was to convert to Catholicism and to (slowly, over years) begin my apologetic career anew. Even then it was no bed of roses. We have been through many difficulties and great disappointments. But through it all, Judy has always believed in what I was doing with all her heart. She doesn't do all this because she "has" to, or because of some imagined coercion that I put onto her (as some husbands do). It is her free choice, and she doesn't believe in forsaking a path that has been made clear through God's guidance and discernment of His will by many means. She's not a quitter; she's in it for the long haul.


This is of incalculable, priceless worth for anyone in Christian ministry. You don't have to waste resources of emotion and energy fighting half the time with your spouse. That's all settled, and when trials come, they can be endured together as partners who willingly endure it for the sake of the Kingdom.


These are some of the reasons I love my wife Judy so much. I truly believe she is the best woman in the whole world (at least "for me," if we must qualify that), and I can't imagine being married to anyone else. I am very thankful to God for the privilege and joy of being married to such a woman, and to be able to raise our four precious children and go through life together. Suffering and tribulations will come (and they have in our lives, for sure), but it is a lot easier to endure them with a true partner and soulmate.

I wish my beautiful wife Judy the happiest of anniversaries. I love you with all my heart and soul, and thank you so much for putting up with this poor sinner and all my "shenanigans" (as I half-jokingly say to her), and sharing your life with me.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete

By Dave Armstrong (9 May 2002). 
Addendum: 14 September 2003.

Contrary to the bogus claims of some Protestant polemicists I have run across (particularly, Frank Turk, aka "centuriOn"), Catholics are not at all obliged to read the New American Bible translation (nor the revised English Vulgate, such as the Ronald Knox translation). My own preferred translation is the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which has been approved in a Catholic edition with extremely few clarifications (I think it is only something like three passages that were deemed too biased to be acceptable to Catholics). I read the whole Bible (twice) as a Protestant in the NASB and KJV. I enjoy Phillips, NEB, Williams, and Barclay for paraphrased versions, and the NKJV is pretty cool too (I like the old KJV style, but purged of archaisms).

Pulling out my (dusty) copy of the NAB with the revised 1986 NT (Nelson, 1987), with the imprimatur (which doesn't, sadly, always mean that much, anymore), I cite the preliminary article, "The Purpose of the Bible" (p. xii):

When Pius XII issued his Encyclical 'Divino Afflante Spiritu' in 1943, the door was opened for new Catholic translations that were not dependent on St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate. Because of the great increase in the knowledge of the ancient biblical languages, official translations directly from them were encouraged . . . The Revised Standard Version is the least interpretative of all . . . The Jerusalem Bible and the New English Bible strive for even more contemporary language . . . The New American Bible . . . is the first American Catholic translation to have been based on the original languages, or on the earliest existing form of the text, rather than on the Vulgate.
Pope Pius XII, in the above-mentioned 1943 papal encyclical, writes:

Nor is it forbidden by the decree of the Council of Trent to make translations into the vulgar tongue, even directly from the original texts themselves . . .

Being thoroughly prepared by the knowledge of the ancient languages and by the aids afforded by the art of criticism, let the Catholic exegete undertake the task, of all those imposed on him the greatest, that, namely of discovering and expounding the genuine meaning of the Sacred Books. In the performance of this task let the interpreters bear in mind that their foremost and greatest endeavor should be to discern and define clearly that sense of the biblical words which is called literal.

(sections 22, end, and 23, beginning)

Likewise, Vatican II, Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum):

Access to sacred Scripture ought to be wide open to the Christian faithful . . . the Church, with motherly concern, sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into various languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books. If it should happen that . . . these translations are made in a joint effort with the separated brethren, they may be used by all Christians.

(ch. 6, sec. 22)

So that takes care of use of different translations. Nor do Catholics have to interpret every verse of the Bible according to some dogmatic proclamation of the Church. This is another ridiculous (and highly-annoying) myth that we hear from our esteemed Protestant friends all the time. Indeed, the orthodox, faithful Catholic must interpret doctrines he derives from Scripture in accordance with the Church and Tradition, but so what?

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


Every Protestant does the same thing within their own denominational tradition. No Five-Point Calvinist can find a verse in the Bible which proves apostasy or falling away, or one which teaches God's desire for universal, rather than limited atonement (and there are many such passages). He can't deny Total Depravity in any text, or Irresistible Grace. We all have orthodox and dogmatic boundaries which we abide by. The Catholic exegete is bound by very little, and has virtually as much freedom of inquiry as the Protestant exegete. The online (1910) Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Biblical Exegesis" states:

(a) Defined Texts

The Catholic commentator is bound to adhere to the interpretation of texts which the Church has defined either expressly or implicitly. The number of these texts is small, so that the commentator can easily avoid any transgression of this principle.

Catholics are allowed to translate from the Greek, according to the latest textual and archaeological knowledge, to use different translations, and to even cooperate in ecumenical translation projects, such as the RSV and NEB. We can do all the stuff that Protestant biblical exegetes do. And I am allowed to freely interpret almost any text on its own, provided I don't go against a dogma of the Church (I couldn't, e.g., say that John 1:1 does not teach the deity and Godhood of Jesus).

Addendum:

(from Catholic Answers)

Scripture Passages Definitively Interpreted by the Church

Many people think the Church has an official "party line" about every sentence in the Bible. In fact, only a handful of passages have been definitively interpreted. The Church does interpret many passages in Scripture to guide her teaching. Other passages are used as the starting point and support of doctrine or moral teaching, but only these few have been "defined" in the strict sense of the word. Even in these few cases the Church is only defending traditional doctrine and morals.

It is important to realize that the parameters set by the definitions are all negative, that is, they point out what cannot be denied about the meaning of a passage but do not limit how much more the passage can be interpreted to say. In other words, the Church condemns denials of a specific interpretation of the text, without condemning meanings over and above but not contradictory to it.

All of the following passages were definitively interpreted by the Church at the Council of Trent, for each has to do with justification or the sacraments, issues that divided Catholics and Protestants.

1. John 3:5 "Unless a man is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God."

The Church condemned the denial that the words of Jesus mean that real (natural) water must be used for a valid baptism. At the time, the Anabaptists contended that water baptism was unnecessary because the mention of water was merely a metaphor. Other symbolic meanings in addition to the literal sense of real water can be found in the text, perhaps, but none are acceptable that deny the need for real water at baptism.

2. Luke 22:19 and
3. I Corinthians 11:24-- "Taking the bread, he gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying 'This is my body given for you: do this in remembrance of me."

The Church condemned the interpretation of these passages that denied that Jesus, in commanding his apostles to "Do this in memory of me" after instituting the Eucharist, conferred priestly ordination on them and their successors enabling them to offer His body and blood. More could be understood by the command to do this in remembrance, but that much could not be denied or contradicted by other interpretations.

4. John 20:22-23-- "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they areforgiven; whose sins you do not forgive, they are not forgiven," and
5. Matthew 18:18-- "Whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

The Church condemned the denial that in these two passages Jesus conferred a power exclusively on the apostles authorizing them and their successors in the priestly office to forgive sins in God's name, and condemned the proposal that everyone could forgive sins in this sense.

6. Romans 5:12-- "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned..."

The Church condemned the denial of original sin to which all mankind is subject and which baptism remits, citing this passage to be understood in that sense.

7. James 6:14-- "Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord."

Definitively interpreting these passages, the Church condemned the denial that the sacrament of the anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ and promulgated by the apostles against those who deemed it a human invention of the later Church.

In addition, the decree of Vatican I about Christ establishing Peter as head of the Church -- which cites Mt 16:16 and John 1:42 -- is a defined doctrine, even though the phrasing about the use and interpretation of the scripture cited is more implicit than explicit, by comparison with the above Scripture passages.

Oral vs. Written Apologetic Debates: Which Format is More Substantive?

By Dave Armstrong (January 2001) 

Elsewhere, I have explained in great detail why I think that public oratorical debates between Catholics and anti-Catholics are unfruitful, unhelpful exercises, for many reasons. I collected my thoughts on the topic in my paper: "Interacting With Sophists: Reflections on "Debates" With Anti-Catholic Polemicists." I think it is possible to overcome these pitfalls in written exchanges. My view of such public debates has remained constant for at least five years now.

I refused "King James" White when he challenged me to a live oratorical formal debate in 1995 (yes, he asked me first -- I have the snail mail letter), and also when he asked me again in January 2001. My reasons are laid out in the paper cited above ("Interacting With Sophists . . . "). I think it is past strange myself that anyone who writes and/or has a book published would frown upon written exchanges, while glorifying these largely farcical, propagandistic, sloganistic circuses which pass for "public debate." Different strokes, though, I guess. Two Protestant researchers who run anti-Catholic "ministries"/websites have expressed this opinion to me; both also declined my invitation to do a "live chat" in an IRC Internet room.

If a person is unwilling to subject their views to scrutiny I am not particularly impressed (to understate it). I think all solid views must be subjected to criticism and analysis, and I am always willing to allow my own writings to be so examined. That's the dialogical spirit; that is being open-minded, and willing to change one's own viewpoint, as warranted (or, at the very least, to modify one's own particular opinions where errors are pointed out -- as I have done many times, to the extent of even removing papers from my website on several occasions).

Imagine if the academic world restricted itself to the "canned" and artificial, self-serving, "anti-humble" atmosphere of oral "debates." Every critique of some new paper would have to be in an oral debate with zealous partisans on both sides "rah-rah"-ing and eating popcorn. LOL In my opinion, that would make a mockery of the very enterprise of the exchange of ideas and the academic undertaking of expanding our intellectual horizons. Yet some now want to frown upon written dialogue (Plato would be surprised to hear that) altogether. I find that very odd. In effect, this means that none of their views can be scrutinized except in a public debate. That is not a willingness to be examined. For my part, I now have 251 debates on my website, where everyone can read the other side of any given issue and make up their own minds. That reaches many thousands more than public debates do, I think.

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


As a related aside, I have always held that degrees and credentials (though I respect them very much and have a B.A. of my own - sociology/psychology with much history and philosophy) amount to little if one has no coherent case in the first place. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. And anti-Catholicism is nothing if not self-defeating and utterly illogical (and often radically unbiblical as well as a-historical) from A to Z, as I have pointed out at great length, in many ways. Even Einstein wouldn't be able to convince anyone that 2 + 2 did not equal 4. His brilliance cannot overcome the truth. And an imbecile or a trained parrot can say "2 + 2 = 4" and the truth will be just as profound and irrefutable as if a genius had uttered it. Truth is truth, and it has its own inherent power, and glory from God, Who is Truth.

It is said that in a public, oral debate, obfuscation, or "muddying the waters" is minimized by the other person's ability to correct errors immediately, and to "call" the opponent on this, that, or the other fact or argument. But this assumes that immediate, spur-of-the-moment corrections are more compelling than a correction which resulted from hours of careful research with primary sources, Scripture, etc. Weird . . .

Funny, too, that Protestants are the ones so devoted to "written only" in their notion of sola Scriptura, whereas when we jump up to the present day they reverse that principle and wish to switch over to "oral Tradition," so to speak.

It is said that in a live oral debate, factors are present to prevent tangents and rabbit trails. Yet there is not much to prevent various rhetorical tricks and "ambushing" tactics. E.g., in my brief live chat with Bishop James White (though I did think it was a good exchange overall, and I enjoyed it) he immediately confronted me with dense, historically complex claims about the Fathers and what they believed about Mary. I did my best "on my feet," but I replied that if I had to come up with a list of fathers who denied the sinlessness of Mary, that would take a little time, as I didn't have a source at my fingertips (and looking for one would bore the observers). Someone later described this technique perfectly as "quotes without quoting."

That is the sort of tactic and strategy which I find very annoying and unfair, bordering on unethical in some instances. Clearly, spontaneous, unexpected questions about patristic consensus, so-and-so's views on x, y, and z and so forth are much more appropriate either for experts in that area, or for written papers, where the non-expert and non-historian has the time to look up the sources from people who do study this for a living.

It is said that live oral debates are a better use of time; that things can be said quicker than they can in writing. But I respond that truth takes time to find and communicate. Propaganda, on the other hand (such as the norm of today's political rhetoric) is very easy to quickly spout. Evangelicalism lends itself far more easily to shallow rhetoric and slogans; Catholicism does not. It is complex, nuanced, and requires much thought and study. And thought takes time, no matter how you slice the cake. Again, truth and the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom requires time. I understand if someone doesn't have that time: we all struggle with prioritizing. We all do what we can do, hopefully devoting time to theology as our Lord makes a way, within the pressures of daily living (turning off the idiot box as much as possible, etc.). But that is a separate issue: time pressures vs. the relative constructiveness of writing vs. speaking. Apples and oranges.

It is claimed that there is more interest in oral public debates. I'm not so sure about that, especially with the advent of the Internet, but perhaps this is true. In any event, that has no bearing on my own objections. It is not public debate per se I am opposed to, but the perversion of it by unworthy tactics and methods, which is the usual result when one is dealing with anti-Catholics. So I am actually supporting what I consider to be true debate, not the pale imitations of it which pass for "debates."

It is asserted that it's harder to get away with lies and half-truths in the public arena. Quite the contrary, I would maintain; it is much easier to disinform and misinform, because one can put up an appearance of confidence and truth very easily, through rhetorical technique, catch-phrases, cleverness, playing to the crowd, etc. (like Jesse Jackson or "slick" Bill Clinton habitually do, or guys like Hitler, who were quite spectacular orators). These things are by no means as "certain" as avid proponents of oral debate make them out to be.

It is said that evasion and switching topics occurs much more in written exchanges, and cannot be pulled off in oral debates. Well, I do admit that this happens, and indeed I looked forward to that aspect in my "live chat" (in my opinion, more like a public oral debate than a written exchange, even though carried on in writing) with Bishop White. I asked him to name me one Church Father who knew what all 27 New Testament books were, in the first three centuries. He could not, and cited Athanasius, whom -- I pointed out -- came to the age of reason in the 4th century (c. 296-373), as I am sure he is well aware.

This was an analogical response to his demand of me to name names of fathers who believed Mary was sinless. He named me four eastern fathers who denied this and claimed this proved a patristic consensus. I challenged him (he being supposedly far more versed in the fathers than I, and a credentialed scholar) to give me some western fathers. First he cited St. Anselm (c. 1033-1109), who, of course, though western, was not a Church Father. More rhetorical and desperate silliness . . . .

Later he came up with Hilary and Tertullian, and expected me to respond on the spot, as if I were a patristic scholar (so much for the inherent superiority of oral debate). So I asked if this was from Tertullian's Montanist period. He did not answer, but cited his work The Flesh of Christ as the primary source. Later, I looked it up and, sure enough, it is from his semi-Montanist period. Hilary made his claim once and very mildly, according to Luigi Gambero (a priest with background in philosophy and also author of a 4-volume work on Marian thought), in his book Mary and the Fathers of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999, 186).

So we have one western father in a very subdued fashion, and another in his heretical period, plus four eastern fathers. This is what James White considers a "patristic consensus." I find that a pathetic argument, and I think I did pretty well, given the ridiculous limitations of the situation I was in, forced to name a bunch of names when I had already made it clear that I couldn't cut-and-paste while in his chat room. But names there assuredly are. I believe I did pretty well, given that White is considered a master of live debate, and I confine myself almost exclusively to writing (but I think fast on my feet, I think). He was trapped by the facts of history, not any rhetorical brilliance on my part. This example, in my opinion, demonstrates clearly the limitations of this "spontaneous exchange" -- supposedly so superior to writing and hard, well thought-out and documented research.

It's true that people abuse written dialogue just as they do oral. I have no problem agreeing about that (it's self-evident). Good dialogue, in whatever form, is always a rare thing, to be treasured when found. But in public oral debate the debater always has to be right; he can never admit he is wrong because that would not "go with the program." But there's no shame in that.

I attended a debate between Dave Hunt and Karl Keating, have listened to other similar ones, and have also attended political debates and creationist-evolutionist ones. I know the atmosphere very well. I am also thoroughly familiar with how anti-Catholics conduct themselves on lists and bulletin boards. These opinions do not arise from nothingness; they are backed up with scores of experiences (and wounds, in some extreme cases).

It is stated (by anti-Catholics) that Catholics don't fare well in public oral debates. Under my thesis, I could readily agree with that. It is true that the Catholic faith is not conducive to an environment where sophistical carnival-barker, used-car salesman types try to distort, twist, and misrepresent it at every turn (and this need not be deliberate at all: it matters not -- the end result is the same). Nor is it required of us to engage unworthy, uninformed opponents. Bishop James White (on his website) recounted how R.C. Sproul told him that he thought all Catholics were unworthy to debate. If one such as Sproul (whom I admire and like very much, by the way) can take such a view, why can we not take precisely the same view with regard to anti-Catholic debaters?


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Importance of Studying Luther / The Inevitability of Protestant Tradition and "Human" Authority

By Dave Armstrong (9-29-04)

Steve (Catholic -- words in red) wrote:

This seems to be the summary of the argument between Catholic and Protestant views of Luther:

C: Luther was a flawed and complex character therefore one should not trust his theological pronouncements and certainly not follow him out of the Church

That's not my perspective (but there is some overlap). First of all, I am interested in Martin Luther, because I am interested in Church history, and particularly history of doctrine, and Luther is obviously a key figure in that regard. He is an influential figure; therefore it is worthwhile to better understand his reasoning and viewpoints. He's also the founder of Protestantism. In my mind, it is self-evident why it is important to study Luther.

As to the sainthood bit, the Bible has definite, rigorous requirements for being a bishop. Luther in effect claimed much more for himself than that. He claimed to be a Reformer of the whole Church and restorer of the primitive purity of the gospel of the early Church. My Bible (over against the attempt of many Protestants try to rationalize and dismiss Luther's flaws as irrelevant) tells me that wisdom and righteousness go hand in hand. This is why Catholic reformers are almost always saints as well, because a great deal of truth and wisdom is accompanied by strength of character, virtue, and sanctity, which God grants by His grace along with the truths that a person brings to light.

This being the case, I do think a certain problem needs to be faced. Luther founded Protestantism and gave it most of its distinctive doctrines and approaches. If we can show that he had a lot of kooky and untrue views, and curious reasoning, this is highly relevant, because (again, whatever Protestants say), he was the one who started the wheels of Protestantism in motion, and if the foundation is weak, chances are that the superstructure built upon it will be also.

P: Luther was a flawed and complex character as we all are therefore we can take heart and learn from his struggles for sanctity and the solutions he came up with.

Protestants are so often blind to the pedigree of their own ideas. Studying Luther and Calvin (and Zwingli and Bucer and Bullinger and the early Anglicans, and the Anabaptists) helps all of us to better understand why and how Protestantism got to where it is today. Many Protestants like to play the game that they have no tradition at all, and that they are simply returning to the Bible, etc., etc. I could write for days about the resulting absurdities of this tunnel vision outlook.

The Catholic will play up Luther's flaws to press his point while the Protestant will acknowledge the flaws but place them in the context of a greater interior spiritual struggle.

If they do it in the more sophisticated way I have been arguing, it is valid, I think. One can't say, "see, Luther was a scoundrel; therefore, Protestantism is false." That's ridiculous. I don't even argue that he was a scoundrel. I don't believe it (though I have huge problems with some things he did and said). But it is a sound argument to say that "Luther had some goofy ideas which cannot be squared with the Bible, the early Church, or reason; therefore, we can question whether his views are automatically superior to the Catholic ones, a return to the early Church, more biblical, etc." That moves the discussion to another more complex, nuanced (and I would say, "real") plane, forcing the Protestant to re-examine his presuppositions (which they are rarely challenged to do).

In my opinion this argument will never go anywhere.

As you characterize it, you are right. But my own treatment of Luther is based on a much different rationale and premise.

To quote Louis Bouyer:

It is a typical mistake of Catholics to think that Protestants, particularly those most attached to their heritage, look on Luther as a saint… Luther is not looked on as a model in every detail of his life and teaching, but only in the manner which, at a certain period of his life, he resolved a particular spiritual problem.
Of course they don't think he was a saint. They don't get into saints, because they see that as a detraction from a focus on God, the giver of all holiness and sanctity (it isn't, of course, anymore than appreciating a great painting is an insult to the painter). I used to be a Protestant, so I know this full well.

Luther was a great hero of mine. Many Protestants think the same (they do believe in heroes, if not saints). And he is the hero precisely because they think (to more or less degrees, depending on whether they are anti-Catholic or ecumenical) that he "rescued" Christianity from the darkness of Catholicism. He stood up to the great Beast and told it the truth. So he is very highly regarded by those who have any historical sense at all and sense of their own spiritual heritage.

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


For example, in my recent research, I recall a quote by a Protestant scholar who said that it was good that Luther had so many faults, because he was in danger of idolizing him -- he admired him so much. This hit the nail on the head. It's not a "veneration of the saint" thing, but it is most definitely a "tremendous admiration for the reformer of [so-called] corrupt Catholic Church" thing.

And because of this there is a lot of mythology and misinformation about Luther. This is another reason I do what I do. If the situation is such that all you hear about is all this wonderful stuff about Luther and hardly any criticisms, then there must be some balance.

My papers provide that by giving the other "side" of the story: the perception of the same man and the same life through Catholic eyes. That is a service to folks who care about these issues in the same way that a conservative political commentary balances a liberal one (this was expressed to me, in fact, by a Baptist pastor friend of mine who had a large impact on my spiritual life in the early 80s -- he appreciated my work even though he disagreed because he wanted to hear how a Catholic thought about Luther, and why). Both sides have their natural biases, but by carefully considering both, one can perhaps figure out where the truth lies.

So again, the issue isn't whether Luther was a saint or not (he clearly wasn't! And he would be the first to admit that), so much as it is his basis for his radical innovations, and whether it is plausible to simply believe a man like him (indeed, any man) when he is in confrontation with a lot of received Christian tradition (and literally change Catholic dogmas because he denounced them). In any event, the bottom line is the ideas, not him. Are they true or false, and on what basis?

So in my paper on Luther and the canon, I tried to demonstrate that it was outrageous to accept what he said over against tradition, and that he hardly had any reasoning in the first place to do so, other than the fact that he held the views as some quasi-prophet with a particular line to God and the truth (which he did claim at times; I can document that, too). He did not have adequate reasoning and support at all, and that is part of the Catholic critique of the whole notion of so-called Protestant "reformers."

They did NOT have any authority to overturn Catholic Tradition. They were not reformers in the sense that they simply returned to views of the early Church that had supposedly become corrupted by Catholicism [i.e., those where the two parties differ]. Rather, they were revolutionaries when they introduced doctrines that had never historically been held (e.g., symbolic baptism and Eucharist, faith alone, sola Scriptura, imputed justification, denial of apostolic succession, denigration of Church authority and Sacred Tradition, rejection of five of seven sacraments and communion of saints, purgatory, penance, the papacy, episcopacy, etc., etc. ad nauseam). Thankfully, they also retained the "basics" of Christianity, where we can agree, but there was a lot of radicalism indeed in the early days.

Alexander (Calvinist -- words in blue) wrote:

I second the Louis Bouyer quote above. Protestants don't care about personalities, we care about the Word of God.

Yeah, so do we. That's precisely why I have examined Luther and found him wanting on many levels and areas. Not only by biblical standards does he fall short, but also on an historical and rational basis. All Christians love the Word of God, but we can't manage to agree as to what doctrine and theology it teaches, can we?

In the case of my discussion of the canon, that is a problem that cannot be resolved by the Bible at all, because the Bible never lists its Table of Contents. The canon is logically prior to the Bible, because it determines the extent and specificity of what books are in what we call "the Bible" in the first place. So the "Word of God" doesn't do much good there, does it? Christian Tradition has to decide. And for a Christian worldview that does not allow for an infallible Tradition, that is a HUGE problem indeed, and at the level of the very fundamentals of Protestantism: you can't have sola Scriptura if you don't have a non-circular, non-traditional rationale to determine what the Bible is that is to have sole infallible authority. I've always said that sola Scriptura and the canon issue are the two "Achilles' Heels of Protestantism.

Our authority doesn't come from a human personality but from the Word of God.

That's impossible to do (in a practical sense). The book doesn't interpret itself (though Protestants claim that it does). Furthermore, this "Bible vs. authoritative human beings in the Church" mentality is not the view of the Bible itself, which refers to Church authority and a binding tradition. So (ironically) to claim to be following simply the "Bible Alone" is to land right back into a Catholic notion of ecclesiology and authority. It's inescapable.

For Roman Catholics authority comes from humans, so they assume a Luther or Calvin to be a rich target to exploit when attempting to discredit Protestant beliefs or doctrine.

Every Christian tradition is passed down through men. We freely acknowledge this. You and many Protestants want to play the silly game of pretending that you rely on no human authority. You certainly do. I can trace every belief you have back through some theological and/or denominational tradition. It always breaks down at a certain point. The question always reduces to: which Christian tradition has the most plausible claims of authority (because everyone has to choose some humanly-mediated tradition, or their own new tradition-of-one)?

Due to the Protestant experience of effectual calling and belief in the Word of God as sole authority

This is a distortion of the classic Protestant understanding of sola Scriptura (and is more accurately described as SOLO Scriptura). In the former conception, Scripture was the sole infallible or ultimate authority, but not the sole authority, period.

most every 'attack' from Roman Catholics can usually only be met with a bemused grin.

Go ahead, try to avoid this discussion and grin if you must. That won't give anyone any confidence in your position who doesn't already accept it on some other basis.

God has His elect. All we can say to those who don't understand what Protestants know is faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Humble yourself before the Word of God. Engage it, absorb it, don't negotiate it down to your level. Leave your self-will, vanity, and worldly pride aside when you open the pages of Scripture…

Thanks for the platitudes. It doesn't move the discussion along one whit. People on my blog cannot get by simply on preaching. Their premises and presuppositions will be challenged and I expect folks to be able to defend themselves or else have the honesty to question their own belief-system if it can't withstand scrutiny.

I as a Protestant don't care what Luther said about this or that, including his opinion - historically accurate or not - of any one book of the Bible.

That's typical of the rampant a-historicism in Protestantism. I could even argue that I have far more respect and admiration for Luther than you do, because I care enough about him to grant him his historical importance and do a great deal of research about him (which is, by the way, not always critical; many times it is in agreement or a defense of Luther). But if you claim you don't care about Luther, it is still true that you got your own particular tradition from somewhere, just like everyone else. There is that famous saying, "the most dangerous philosophy is the unacknowledged one." Substitute "theology" for "philosophy" and we have what you and many Protestants try to do: pretend that theological truth descended from on high right from God to them in their atomistic bubble: completely immune from all historical, traditional, or personal influences. It's sheer nonsense and a pipe-dream.

When a Calvin or a Luther were right they was elucidating pure Biblical doctrine.

How do you know when they are right and wrong? By what criterion do you decide? The Bible? How do you know who is right about the Bible when different Protestants disagree? By the "inner witness" of the Spirit? Now we are back to pure subjectivism again . . . But that was where Calvin was ultimately coming from, so we expect it from one who writes in his name; from his particular Christian tradition.

When they were off (as in Calvin's case in his ecclesiology as many Protestants discern) Protestants, the many who disagreed with him there, followed their understanding and conscience.

Yes, exactly. Well, the Bible you and I both love and desire to accept and to model our Christian lives after, tells me that the devil is the father of lies. Whenever two Protestant traditions contradict each other, someone MUST be wrong, by simple logic. They may both be wrong, but they can't both be right, so someone is in serious error. Now that (error) is from the devil, who is the father of all lies and falsehood, and that ought to trouble you. But instead you can bask in the sunny seclusion of exclusive "certainty" and possession of truth, and "know" that you are right and they are wrong. That's not the biblical view of authority and spiritual certainty, needless to say, and certainly not how the Body of Christ is supposed to work, according to that same Holy Bible.