Thursday, October 28, 2004

Analysis of the Polls a Fortnight Before the Election, and My Exact Predictions

I shall look at the "battleground" states, and compare the current polling with two previous listings. Bush leads will be in blue; Kerry leads in red; ties in green. New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Florida are now also considered toss-up states, and so have been added to my analysis.

From Rasmussen state-by-state polls of electoral votes:

Pennsylvania (21)

47%-47 (Oct. 2 poll)
Kerry 47 Bush 46 (Oct. 13)
Kerry 49 Bush 46 (Oct. 24)

Ohio (20)

Bush 48 Kerry 47 (Oct. 3)
Bush 49 Kerry 47 (Oct. 14)
Bush 50 Kerry 46 (Oct. 26)

Michigan (17)

46-46 (Sep. 30)
Kerry 49 Bush 46 (Oct. 13)
Kerry 51 Bush 46 (Oct. 24)

Wisconsin (10)

Bush 49 Kerry 46 (Oct. 1)
No new poll for my second post
Kerry 48 Bush 47 (Oct. 18)

Minnesota (10)

46-46 (Sep. 26)
No new poll . . .
Bush 49-46 (Oct. 26)

Colorado (9)

Bush 48 Kerry 44 (Oct. 2)
No new poll . . .
Bush 50 Kerry 45 (Oct. 20)

Iowa (7)

Bush 48 Kerry 45 (Sep. 26)
Kerry 50 Bush 46 (Oct. 12)
Bush 48 Kerry 46 (Oct. 24)

Nevada (5)

Bush 47 Kerry 45 (Sep. 24)
No new poll . . .
Bush 49 Kerry 47 (Oct. 27)

New Mexico (5)

46-46 (Aug. 18)
No new poll
Bush 48 Kerry 44 (Oct. 27)

Florida (27)

Bush 48 Kerry 48 (Oct. 25)

New Hampshire (4)

Kerry 49 Bush 47 (Oct. 20)

Hawaii (4)

No information.

Rasmussen currently has Bush leading the electoral college 222-203 (538 total; 270 needed to win), and among likely voters 48.9% to 46.9%.

I'm predicting that Bush will take Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Florida. Kerry will take Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Hawaii. Assuming the other projections in Rasmussen stay the same, that is a Bush victory: 296-242 (54 points and 32 states to 18; I predicted a 60-point margin of victory and 32-18 on September 10th). If Bush loses Florida (with all else the same), it's a tie: 269-269. If he loses Minnesota, Iowa, and New Mexico, he wins 274-264. If he loses Florida and Minnesota, he loses: 259-279. If he loses both Florida and Ohio he loses 249-289. But that seems unlikely. If he loses Ohio and Minnesota, he loses: 266-272. But he can reverse that by taking either New Hampshire or Hawaii (winning, 270-268).

If Kerry can manage to take Minnesota, Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico, with all else the same in my prediction, that would be a tie too. Bush grabbing New Hampshire or Hawaii could break either tie (273-265). The House determines who wins in a tie, and it is controlled by Republicans. But I am sticking to Bush winning both Florida and Ohio. The most likely battleground states that he would lose are Minnesota and Iowa. This would still be a victory for him: 279-259. Kerry needs some major victories and upsets to pull this off, if Rasmussen polling is a good indication of actual voting. Florida is clearly the most important state still up for grabs. If Kerry can "steal" Florida from Bush, with all else the same, it is a tie (but then Bush would win with a House vote).

My actual predictions for each state, then, are as follows:

President George W. Bush (32 states; 296-242 in the electoral college, or +54 points; September 10th prediction: 32-18 [states not specified], and +60 points; I also predicted on that date a 53-45% margin of the popular vote, with 2% for Nader, and I am sticking to it. Vice-President Cheney predicted 52-47 a few days ago)

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
West Virginia
Wyoming

Senator John Kerry (18 states and Washington D.C.)

California
Connecticut
Delaware
Washington D.C.
Hawaii
Illinois
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Vermont
Washington
Wisconsin

I have long predicted that Bush would carry the South. Now I will predict that he will take every single Southern state. The only reason Florida is even close is because of the large transplanted liberal Northern retiree population. All Kerry can win are the liberal east and west coast states and industrial midwestern states with large cities and lots of factories (labor unions) and working class people and minorities (which usually vote Democratic).

The The Real Clear Politics website polls for the battleground states are now as follows (after my two previous listings):

Penn.

Kerry 49 Bush 45
(same)
Kerry 49 Bush 47 (average: 10/22-10/28)

Ohio

Bush 49 Kerry 47
Kerry 48 Bush 47
Kerry 48 Bush 46 (average: 10/20-10/28)

Mich.

Kerry 49 Bush 46
Kerry 50 Bush 44
Kerry 48 Bush 45 (average: 10/20-10/28)

Wisc.

Bush 49 Kerry 44
Bush 47 Kerry 44
Bush 47.2 Kerry 46.6 (average: 10/14-10/28)

Minn.

46 46
Kerry 47 Bush 43
46 46 (average: 10/19-10/28)

Colo.

Bush 50 Kerry 45
(same)
Bush 49 Kerry 45 (average: 10/14-10/27)

Iowa

Kerry 48 Bush 47
(same)
Bush 47 Kerry 46 (average: 10/23-10/28)

Nev.

Bush 49 Kerry 45
(same)
Bush 50 Kerry 46 (average: 10/19-10/27)

N.M.

47 47
(same)
Bush 48 Kerry 45 (average: 10/15-10/28)

Florida

Bush 49 Kerry 46
Bush 49 Kerry 47 (average: 10/20-10/28)

New Hampshire (4)

Kerry 47 Bush 45 (average: 10/14-10/21)
Hawaii (4)

Bush 45 Kerry 44 (average: 10/13-10/20)

RCP currently has Bush leading the electoral college 232-207 and among likely voters 48.4% - 46.1%.

RCP's last five major polls listed all favor Bush:

Reuters/Zogby (1206 LV)
10/25 - 10/27
48% - 46% - 1% (Nader) Bush +2

ABC/Wash Post (1747 LV)
10/24 - 10/27
49% - 48% - 1% Bush +1

TIPP (792 LV)
10/24 - 10/27
47% - 44% - 2% Bush +3

ICR (741 LV)
10/22 - 10/26
48% - 45% - 2% Bush +3

CNN/USAT/Gallup (1195 LV)
10/22 - 10/24
51% - 46% - 1% Bush +5

Notable Bush Trends in Some Recent Polls for the Battleground States

Fla.

Zogby (10-28) 48-47
Quinnipiac (10-26) 49-46
LA Times (10-26) 51-43

Pa.

Quinnipiac (10-26) 49-47

Iowa

ARG (10-27) 48-47
CNN/USAT/Gallup10/23-26 50-46

Minn.

Zogby (10-28) 46-45
Humphrey Inst (10-27) 47-44
Rasmussen (10-26) 49-46

Mich.

Zogby (10-28) 47-45

N.M.

Zogby (10-28) 49-43

Nevada

Zogby (10-27) 51-44

Hawaii

SMS Research (10-20) 46-45
Honolulu Advertiser (10-18) 43.3-42.6

Possible Bush "upsets" in Michigan or Pennsylvania could change the outcome considerably, as those states have 17 and 21 electoral votes, respectively.

Real Clear Politics states in its October 25th commentary on the electoral college:
Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Mexico are fully in play: eight days before the election Bush holds leads in the RCP State Averages in all four of these states. This is seriously complicating Kerry's strategy in getting to 270 Electoral Votes. Conventional wisdom for months, including RCP's, had been that whoever won two of the "big three" Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida would almost certainly become President.

While it may still be likely that whoever carries two out of those three will win the election, it is not the cut and dry proposition it was earlier. President Bush can offset a loss in Ohio (and New Hampshire) by carrying Wisconsin and either Iowa, New Mexico or Minnesota. He can offset a loss in Florida (and New Hampshire), by winning three of those four states. Winning Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine's 1 Electoral Vote and holding New Hampshire would also allow President Bush to gain reelection while losing Florida.

. . . The problem for Senator Kerry is he has no backup plan to not winning in either Florida or Ohio. The problem for President Bush is that Kerry is still very much alive in both those states. All of Bush's backup Electoral scenarios will be irrelevant if he loses FL and OH and Kerry hangs on to PA and MI.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

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

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.

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

James White's Response to My Open Letter

[Link to my Open Letter]

Posted on his blog, 10-14-04:

10/14/04: Quick response to Dave Armstrong’s “Open Letter.”

Dave: Regarding your suggestion that you and I spend an hour on the DL “chatting” and getting to know each other: I don’t believe that would be a proper investment of an hour of our webcast. While at times we do less than serious things for portions of the show, I don’t think “getting to know your local Roman Catholic apologist” has ever appeared on the proposed topics list (not that I generally make one anyway). My conversation on the Dividing Line to which you refer was about people who have no knowledge of my writings or my debates making absurd but deeply personal accusations based fully and completely upon ignorance. And the caller, aside from having said I was yellow-bellied, had no “history” with me that goes back for years and is less than pleasant, including, in just the past few months, illegally altered and utilized copyrighted materials. One does not simply sweep such history under the rug and “make nice.”

If you wish to come on The Dividing Line, then we shall surely seek to accommodate you. However, I would wish to discuss the issues that separate us. You say Roman Catholicism is biblical. I say it is not. Most of the material on the web just keeps repeating the same old things over and over again. Shall we address key exegetical issues, relating to justification, election, atonement, the New Covenant, etc.? This is the kind of interaction the listeners of The Dividing Line appreciate and can utilize. If you would like to do this, we can make arrangements.

Regarding a written debate (something about which you have written often on your blog), I am currently under contract for two books, wish I had time to be working on a third, and have three major articles to write before January. I am teaching a Jan term class, and have been traveling more than ever in my entire life (and more than I really would like). Over the next 18 months or so I am tentatively scheduled to visit England, Singapore, and Israel, all in a teaching capacity. Unless you could suggest a topic that would truly offer something widely useful and helpful that is not covered elsewhere, I do not see how I would be wise to invest time in such an adventure.

Sincerely,

James

==========================================================

I will not be commenting on this any further, since I desire to "end" our often-ugly interaction on a positive note. I made what I thought was a very reasonable and constructive, positive offer. You see the response to it above.

People can, of course, comment as they wish here. I will likely not agree with everything stated below (just so James won't think my silence means consent to all opinions expressed). But I am certainly curious about the reactions of Catholics, as I also am in the reactions of James' circle of friends and admirers (though not sure where to see those in written form -- unless they are expressed here).






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

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).

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).

================================
I believe that SAM has written quite a bit more on this topic, but I can't quickly locate it, and it is 2:40 anyway. So I will stop for now, and reply to other similar arguments as I find them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

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

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.

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

"Christianity Today" Magazine Likes my Muggeridge Web Page

Cool! Here's what one writer for perhaps the leading evangelical Protestant periodical stated:

Meanwhile, the best web site from which to explore Muggeridge is hosted by Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong.

(Chris Armstrong, Christian History Corner: 'St. Mugg' and the Wrestling Prophets; CT, 3-22-04)

I know that this magazine has also recommended my C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton pages. I always appreciate the further exposure, and it's especially gratifying, coming from my Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Electoral College & "Swing States" Again Key in 2004 Presidential Election

The race is so close in this sense that either candidate moving decisively ahead in a few key "swing" states could turn the election. This is where all the "action" is at the moment, and why Bush and Kerry keep visiting these states (including my own Michigan; I have already attended a Bush rally). The Rasmussen state-by-state rundown of projected electoral votes gives a good idea of the state of the race at present.

This polling data (as of 10-11-04) gives Bush 240 projected electoral votes, compared to 194 for Kerry, leaving 104 (nine states) as "toss up" status (270 are needed to win). Remember, it is the electoral college which ultimately decides the election, not the popular vote. As most of you probably recall, Al Gore actually received more popular votes in 2000, but he lost in the electoral college (271-266), so he was defeated (after desperately trying to cheat in Florida).

I found it quite humorous then and now that if he had simply won his home state, Tennessee, he would have won, 277-260. But alas, he lost it by four percentage points. I was in an elevator at work the day after the election and heard two liberals bellyaching about how Gore couldn't win his home state. One said, "I was really surprised by that." I piped in (trying hard to conceal a triumphant smile), "it doesn't surprise me at all." The other one then looked at me (having figured out my wry humor), and said, "You're a Bush supporter, aren't you?" LOL I quipped, "the state that knows and loves Gore the best: Tennessee."

As I predicted (in a general way) in my September 10th post, 2004 Presidential Election Predictions, Bush is in control of every single one of the Southern states, and he also has leads in most of the western states, excepting those on the west coast, Hawaii, and New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado (all toss-ups). Near-western Iowa is still up for grabs (7 electoral votes).

Kerry (again, quite predictably) controls all the northeastern states and (of course), Washington D.C., making this election almost able to be characterized (thus far, anyway) as "east and west coasts vs. the south and the rest of the west." He also is leading in Illinois (Chicago obviously being key there). What it comes down to, then, are the mostly midwestern states, particularly Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes), Ohio (20), Michigan (17), and Minnesota and Wisconsin (10 each). Of these nine "battleground" states, Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio voted for Bush in 2000; the rest for Gore. If Bush takes the same three again, he would win, assuming he maintains the other 240 projected electoral votes. He is leading by a projected 46 votes already, so much more pressure is on Kerry (if Rasmussen is correct in its existing projections).

The Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New Mexico votes were all close in 2000 (within two percentage points). Michigan and Pennsylvania were both five points in favor of Gore, while Ohio went five for Bush. Nevada and Colorado went four and nine points for Bush, respectively.
Here is how Rasmussen is polling each of the remaining "undecided" states:

Pennsylvania (21) 47%-47 (Oct. 2)
Ohio (20) Bush 48 Kerry 47 (Oct. 3)
Michigan (17) 46-46 (Sep. 30)
Wisconsin (10) Bush 49 Kerry 46 (Oct. 1)
Minnesota (10) 46-46 (Sep. 26)
Colorado (9) Bush 48 Kerry 44 (Oct. 2)
Iowa (7) Bush 48 Kerry 45 (Sep. 26)
Nevada (5) Bush 47 Kerry 45 (Sep. 24)
New Mexico (5) 46-46 (Aug. 18)

The good news is that Bush leads every time there is a lead. If we give Bush all the states where he leads, and Kerry all the tied states (assuming the others stay as they are projected), Bush handily wins, 291-247 (I predicted a month ago that Bush would win by 60; this is 44). Kerry (judging by Rasmussen projections) thus has an uphill battle, because this last assumption is letting him win Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota, and also New Mexico, and he still loses by 44 electoral votes. Even if he took Ohio, too, along with those states, he would still lose, 271-267. If he took all five of the states with 10 or more electoral votes (which isn't likely, by the odds), he would eke out a close win: 272-266. But with Bush leading in two of those, and a dead heat in the others, that isn't likely. Bush will likely take the remaining toss-up western states, leaving Kerry with the unenviable task of having to gain all five of the midwestern and northern states.

The Real Clear Politics website has an interesting compilation of various polls for the "battleground states." Here are their findings:

Penn. Kerry 49 Bush 45
Ohio Bush 49 Kerry 47
Mich. Kerry 49 Bush 46
Wisc. Bush 49 Kerry 44
Minn. 46 46
Colo. Bush 50 Kerry 45
Iowa Kerry 48 Bush 47
Nev. Bush 49 Kerry 45
N.M. 47 47

If we give Kerry all these states where he leads, and also the two where it is a dead heat, and add the existing Rasmussen projections, Bush still wins 284-254. So once again we see that, although it is close in these states, Kerry is the one who has the uphill struggle, not Bush.

As of October 8th, USA Today / CNN / Gallup polling for these states concludes as follows:

Wisc. Bush 49 Kerry 46
Colo. 49 49
N.M. Bush 50 Kerry 47

My own prediction (more specific now than my earlier one of a month ago) is that Bush will take all the battleground / swing / toss-up states where he leads in the Rasmussen polls, and also New Mexico and Minnesota. Kerry will take Michigan and Pennsylvania. By current Rasmussen projections, that means that Kerry loses 306-232, or by 74 electoral votes (again, my prediction a month ago was a Bush victory by 60 points). That would give Kerry 18 states and Bush 32: exactly what my prediction was on September 10th (but what I believed at least two months before that, in early July, as I noted in that post). We'll see how close my predictions are (I will do a post the day after the election examining that). So far, I seem to be uncannily close to the mark in many ways.

Pray for a Bush victory. John Kerry in the White House would likely be a repeat of Clinton administration incompetence and anti-military cuts. Ultra-liberal Kerry as of late is repeating obscurantist rhetoric about terrorism not being the threat that it clearly is (consistent with his anti-military opinions and voting record ever since he left Vietnam). Clinton (busy with other more pressing matters such as; well, you know) passed up an offer by the Sudanese to turn over Osama Bin Laden (I remember hearing about him before 9-11, and wondering why no efforts were made to capture this evil man), as well as other opportunities (see: article 1 / article 2 / article 3 / article 4 / article 5 / article 6 / other articles).

Kerry and the Democrats are showing that they are as dense and ignorant about terrorism as they were concerning the Communist threat (post-McGovern). Reagan was the one who basically won the Cold War (with great help from the pope). The elder Bush won the Gulf War. Bush and subsequent Republican presidents will have to be the ones who win the War on Terror, given the usual, altogether predictable, Chamberlain-like Democratic leftist head-in-the-sand intransigence on the issue.

Friday, October 08, 2004

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

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. Melanchthon's concept of forensic justification diverged radically from this. As it was taken up by virtually all the major reformers subsequently, it came to represent a standard difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic from then on . . .

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)

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:

. . . 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! . . . . .

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 . . .

. . . a feature in Augustinianism which Protestants will no doubt find interesting is that God may regenerate a person without causing that one to finally persevere [City of God, 10.8] . . .

Augustine does not deny the freedom of the human will . . . He resisted the notion of double predestination, which argues that God not only decides to elect some to eternal life but also actively predestines others to eternal destruction . . .

. . . the distinction between justification and sanctification -- which came to the fore in the Reformation -- is almost totally absent from the medieval period . . .

Like Augustine, Aquinas believed that regeneration occurs at baptism . . . he held that not all the regenerate will persevere . . . Aquinas believed that humankind is unable to initiate or attain salvation except by the grace of God . . . he is completely dependent on God for salvation . . .

Whereas the Reformers distinguished forensic justification and progressive sanctification, Augustine and Aquinas did not . . .

Augustine never held the doctrine of 'double' predestination . . . and actually argued against it . . .

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 . . .

(Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, with Ralph E. MacKenzie, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995, 502, 85, 89, 91-93, 99, 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.

[originally uploaded on 24 November 2000; very slightly-revised]

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Making Fun of Myself: "Paperback [Blogosphere] Writer"

Since it seems to be a recurring theme (or complaint, depending on one's perspective) that I write so fast and so much, I thought it was high time that I do a parody of myself (besides, it's just a lot of fun). Here it is; a take-off on the Beatles' 1966 rocker, Paperback Writer (see original lyrics):

Blogosphere Writer
Dear sir or madam, can you read 12 books?
They took me days to write, will you take a look?
Inspired by the writings of a man named Lewis*
And it is my job, so I want to be a blogosphere writer,
Blogosphere writer.

It’s a controversy with a Catholic man
And some Protestants just don't understand.
My sons are working for the daily news**,
It’s a steady job but I want to be a blogosphere writer.
Blogosphere writer

Blogosphere writer

Here's a thousand pages, give or take a few,
I’ll be writing more in an hour or two.
I can make them longer if you like the style,
I can crank 'em out and I want to be a blogosphere writer,
Blogosphere writer.

If you really hate it we can have a fight***,
I could write a million pages overnight.
If you must reject it, you can leave my blog
Cuz you need a break and don't want to be a blogosphere reader,
Blogosphere reader.

Blogosphere writer

Blogosphere writer - [background vocals] blogosphere reader
Blogosphere writer - [background vocals] blogosphere reader

*C.S. Lewis has been my favorite writer for many years now, and I regard him as one of the major influences in my desire to learn more about apologetics and to follow that line of work as my vocation.

**my three sons, wife and I all work (to various degrees -- I do it every day, as the main guy) delivering newspapers, as an additional part-time job to make ends meet (me being your stereotypical "starving author / apologist" -- well, not literally, but you get my drift . . . we're not exactly "rolling in dough" around here, even with the needed extra income. Rumors bandied about in some quarters of folks supposedly converting to Catholicism in order to make more money are greatly exaggerated!)

*** tongue-in-cheek reference to my love of challenging, feisty (particularly socratic) dialogue / debate.

Friendly Open Letter and Proposal for James White

Dear James,

Hope you are well today. I listened with great interest last night to your lengthy, amiable conversation with a Catholic who goes by the nickname "Jonathan Prejean" -- on your Dividing Line webcast (October 5th, 2004). It was very encouraging and heartening to hear a Catholic and a Protestant simply talk as "normal human beings," without all the rhetoric and polemics that so often happen on both sides.

I couldn't agree more with your impassioned complaint about people not getting to know you, and rather, resorting to childishly attacking you personally when they know next to nothing about you. I have also tried to simply talk with folks who are some of my severest critics, but they were not willing (I have had very similar experiences to yours on the Internet, though not on the scale you have gone through, no doubt). I agree with Jonathan that you seem to be a good family man and committed Christian. I have never stated or believed otherwise. You mentioned, for example, that no one tries to get to know anything about your family. Your daughter Summer is extremely impressive (I've read some of her writing, posted on your blog). I can only hope my four children (all 13 and younger) turn out nearly as wonderfully. Yesterday was my 20th wedding anniversary, and I wrote a lengthy praise of my wife Judy on my blog. So I am very devoted to my family, too.

You said that you get along fine with Fr. Mitch Pacwa. Yes, we all get along better with some people than with others. I have that experience, too. I was so impressed with the conversation that I got the idea that you and I ought to try something similar, rather than always fighting with each other about theology and apologetics (and sometimes descending into personal material, or something close to it -- on both sides). If you want people to get to know you better personally, I am completely willing to do so, and always have been.

My name was brought up on the show and you claimed that you used to take me seriously, but then I got "odd" (I think that was the word used) and you decided to take a humorous approach, where I am concerned (though your recent multi-part critique of one of my radio talks did not appear to me as merely humorous, at all).

Well, I could (and would) make the same complaint that you make: we have never really gotten to know each other as men; as human beings with feelings and a "real life" outside the Internet; as guys who love to have fun and joke around (you obviously possess that trait, too, as I do); as family men who are in ministry. You don't know me personally any more than I know you on that level. I can only get hints of it here and there, such as your show yesterday. I always knew you were a "human being", you can rest assured (since you said some critics of yours seem to not know that). Hopefully, you know that about me, too. :-)

It's not like I haven't tried something alone these lines in the past. I've apologized to you some dozen or more times now, for past statements of mine. I've tried (in vain) to achieve reconciliation through a mutual friend (Catholic) who was getting along better with you, and attaining some level of personal communication beyond the outward polemics. I've said nice things about you on many occasions and urged others to refrain from personal attacks and to stick to the subject. I've defended you publicly when others were far more critical of you than I have ever been, even accusing you of being demon-possessed (!) in some instances. I've publicly praised your work on defense of the Holy Trinity, against Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, and King James-Only advocates, and in the areas of pro-life and opposition to homosexual "marriage." I was willing to engage in a lengthy question-and-answer session with you in your chat room. Perhaps you have apologized and said nice things about me, too, but if so, I am not aware of it; maybe you can direct my attention to a writing where you have done so.

Here is an example, from the very paper (now removed) where I was most critical about your methods and (what I perceived as) personal attacks against several Catholic apologists:


I also call equally upon Catholic apologists to repent of any slanderous remarks about Protestant polemical opponents, such as those casting aspersions upon motives, honesty, basic reasoning ability, supposed hidden sins, deliberate "twisting of Scriptures," etc. We are not faultless in this matter, either, and I certainly include myself in this - very much so. I have seen many instances of pitiable rhetoric in looking over some exchanges of Catholic apologists and Dr. White.

Looking back at some of my own remarks about him in private correspondence (and on lists), I can see that they were indeed reprehensible and wicked, and that he was understandably angered and upset by their unpleasant and overly-extreme and at times arrogant nature (and was right to rebuke me at the time). It is with shame that I openly confess that I have done my share to contribute to the alienation and ill will between Dr. White and myself. I have not always acted with love and compassion and patience, as I should have, as a Christian. I have failed far too often, as a man and as an apologist. May God help me do better in the future.

On the other hand, I have apologized to Dr. White on several occasions -- oftentimes on public lists . . . we had two particularly intense conflicts, and I am sure I did not conduct myself in a Christlike fashion at those times, either. But I did ask for forgiveness, and presently I sincerely ask Dr. White's forgiveness once again for all that I may have written which misrepresented or hurt him or caused undue harm in any way, shape, form, or fashion.

It was never my intention to utter any deliberate falsehoods or slanders against Dr. White (or anyone else, for that matter). In the heat of "apologetic battle," unkind things are often said (and that's putting it mildly!). I am sure that this present paper contains some unfair or false accusations as well. If any false allegation can be shown to be just that, I will immediately apologize and retract it.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that this paper can accomplish its purpose: to minimize unworthy, destructive rhetoric in theological and apologetic discourse, and to convict us all of falling short in taming our tongues. We all fail in this; the difference lies in those who allow the grace of God to enable them to improve in this area and to learn more and more to avoid "foolish talk."
This was written on 9 March 2000. I believe it is possible for us to get along much better than we do now. You mentioned Fr. Pacwa as a clear example of what is indeed possible. My friend Steve Ray said that you were a nice (and funny) guy when you two met at the debate on Long Island earlier this year. I say that we should cut through all the nonsense and make an effort to get to know each other personally, too. My complaint is very similar to yours. I think people don't make the effort to become at least personally acquainted with each other as fellow human beings, before launching into rhetoric and disagreeing. I have made that criticism of the Internet for years. In fact, I have become so fed up with Internet discussion boards (including Catholic ones) that I no longer participate on them (or lists) at all. Without the personal element as a foundation, those exchanges often (and quickly) become ugly.

My proposal, then, is this: You often state how you want people to come onto your Dividing Line webcast and simply talk. I heard a great example of that last night. I think it is possible to do this, even in our case. So I am proposing this: how about if I come on and we talk for the whole hour, in a similar manner to your almost half-hour long discussion yesterday with Jonathan (amiable, cordial, good-natured, conciliatory, non-polemical)? It would not be about things where we disagree. We would actually be on the same side.

This is true, of course, in many areas: fighting the cults (Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons: I have opposed the former as an expert of sorts for 23 years now, and have debated Mormon elder Dr. Barry Bickmore), pro-life, defense of the Trinity, conservative politics, opposition to theological liberalism and higher criticism of the Bible, defense of the Resurrection and the Bible, responses to Islam (I have done a debate on that, too, now), other areas of general Christian apologetics (I write about all kinds of things), etc., etc. We could talk about our family lives and about the difficulty of life in ministry, and of how frustrating it is to deal with personal attacks from folks who know next to nothing about us. We have a lot of things in common. Why not truly get to know each other better; doing something edifying for listeners (and readers)? You were calling for that yesterday on your show. I couldn't agree more that it is a great need today with all the impersonal and ad hominem material on the Internet.

So why don't we agree to do something positive like that for a change, that people on discussion boards on both sides can try to emulate? Let's set a good example together, and show that it can be done. I think it would be wonderful and very constructive and helpful for apologetics and Protestant-Catholic relations in general. You have wanted me to come on your webcast for years. I would be happy to, but I want to get to know each other first. After that groundwork is laid, perhaps eventually (after some trust is built up) we can also talk about things where we disagree and do some apologetics.

What do you say?

Sincerely, in Christ,

Dave Armstrong

P.S. I would even extend this proposal to other well-known figures in apologetics and severe critics of mine, such as your friends David T. King and Eric Svendsen. If they are up to it, by all means, I would invite them to engage in conversation with me (on your webcast, if you are agreeable).

P.P.S. I sent the following letter (via e-mail) to James White at approximately 5:50 PM EST on 7 October 2004:


Hi James,

I have written an open letter to you on my blog [URL given], about a possible talk we could have on your Dividing Line webcast. See what you think. If you respond, I'll post your words on my blog (you may want to post them on yours, too). This is totally public, not private (like your letters to Dr. Seifrid).

Thanks and have a great day,

Dave Armstrong

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

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

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.

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.