Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Early Protestants Were Ecumenical? NOT! (vs. Dr. Paul Owen)

Reformed Protestant / "Reformed Catholic" Dr. Paul Owen (words in green) stated in recent discussion on this blog:
. . . you need to be a bit more realistic about the way human discourse functions in the real world. I am not saying that context gives an excuse for duplicity, but the tone and emphasis of a presentation is going to be determined by the target audience and context. This is precisely why you continue to misunderstand Calvin and Luther. They were emphasizing their polemical criticisms of Rome (in the quotes you are always dredging up), in the context of frustration with a stubborn, immoral and theologically aberrant ecclesial hierarchy which had been shutting its ears to cries for moral and theological reformation for centuries. In other contexts (such as the ecumenical conferences at Leipzig, Hagenau, Worms, Regensburg, and Poissy) the Reformers were able to communicate with Roman Catholics on an entirely different level. You seem not to want to acknowledge this for some reason, I guess because it somehow serves your purposes to present the Reformers as ignorant anti-Catholics.

Later, he added:
I'm sorry but you just don't get it. There is no way to go through those dumb quotes of Calvin and Luther and explain what they "really" mean, because you just don't seem to understand the way human discourse functions. You seem to have no sensitivity to the nature of rhetoric, though you use it yourself all of the time. You just can't take a criticism of Catholic theology by Luther or Calvin that is fueled by frustration and uttered in the midst of bitter conflict, and calmly analyze it as though each insult embedded within the criticism has a direct, one-on-one correspondence to some theological truth. ("Now, I call the Papists 'dogs' for three reasons . . .") You are asking for wooden explanations of heated statements which do not lend themselves to point-by-point explanations.

I'm sorry that you just can't get the point that the Reformers were human beings, and so their emotions fueled their criticisms of the Roman Church just as much as purely "doctrinal" differences . . . If Calvin and Luther and other Reformers really despised all things Roman Catholic, to the degree that some of their more outlandish quotes would seem to indicate, then the sort of attempts at doctrinal compromise which played themselves out on at least five occasions during the years 1539 to 1561 would never have even been contemplated. Think about it Dave. Would Svendsen, King or White even THINK of participating in something like Regensburg? No, they would want NOTHING to do with such spineless "dialogues." After all, in their view there is really no common ground to "dialogue" about. Either the Catholics will abandon their false doctrines or they will not. That was NOT the view of Reformers like Bucer, Melanchthon, and Calvin, who were willing, at least in theory, to engage in such discussions, and try to draw up compromised theological statements.

After I offered my feeble replies to the above, Dr. Owen came back with:
Give me a break. Are you really so incapable of grasping a simple point? I am not saying that "emotion" means that we can't construct any kind of idea of what the Reformers believed; I am making the rather obvious point that historical conditions shaped the rhetoric and severity of tone within which those theological views were expressed.

And then came the disappointing personal insult which shut the discussion down just as it was beginning and when it very well could have produced some constructive result:
As for interacting with your voluminous internet postings, I will take your advice and not "bother." I simply have not found you to be a reasonable partner in dialogue, and I am not going to waste any more time attempting to have discussions with you. For some reason you have a vested interest in portraying the Reformers in the worst possible light, and you are continuing that tendency in your interactions with me and others (like Wilson). You seem terribly offended that I am not dropping all of my course preparations and research projects and spending the next six months urgently engaging in your important internet writings. Maybe if you had demonstrated the capacity to empathetically evaluate the opinions of others I would have been more motivated to at least make some attempt. As it is, I can only shake my head and leave you to your endless keyboard blubbering.

Whether this characterization is the case or not is for others to judge; I nevertheless press on. Despite the personal rudeness and unwillingness to substantiate his points, Dr Owen did raise some interesting issues that I would like to touch upon. I strongly disagree with his contention that when the early Protestant leaders railed against the Catholic Church and her doctrine, they were (merely) writing in sheer "frustration" and therefore made "heated statements." Of course that was the case sometimes, even much of the time (indeed, on both sides), but all of the time? That's what I rejected. And so I deny that my citations along these lines, showing that these men were anti-Catholic, or quasi-anti-Catholic, are "dumb" (as Dr. Owen described them) and able to be breezily dismissed, as of no import or relevance whatsoever.

Furthermore, I deny his second contention, that there were times when they became ecumenical, in the sense of wanting to compromise, and that this has to be counterbalanced against their "heated" statements, as if they were anything fundamentally different. Hence he writes:
In other contexts (such as the ecumenical conferences at Leipzig, Hagenau, Worms, Regensburg, and Poissy) the Reformers were able to communicate with Roman Catholics on an entirely different level.

And:
If Calvin and Luther and other Reformers really despised all things Roman Catholic, to the degree that some of their more outlandish quotes would seem to indicate, then the sort of attempts at doctrinal compromise which played themselves out on at least five occasions during the years 1539 to 1561 would never have even been contemplated.

Contrasting today's anti-Catholics (Svendsen, King, and White) to the early Protestant leaders, he states:
Either the Catholics will abandon their false doctrines or they will not. That was NOT the view of Reformers like Bucer, Melanchthon, and Calvin, who were willing, at least in theory, to engage in such discussions, and try to draw up compromised theological statements.

I assert, then, the following propositions and opinions, contrary to the above:
1) The attitudes at these "ecumenical" conferences was NOT "entirely different."

2) "Doctrinal compromise" was never seriously considered, save for a few minor concessions willing to be made by the more temperamentally and theologically "moderate" persons, such as Melanchthon and Bucer.

3) "Reformers like Bucer, Melanchthon, and Calvin DID try to force Catholics (in the name of "compromise" to give up their false doctrines, rather than seek true compromises with them.

I have written about some of these conferences in the past:

The Real Diet of Augsburg (Protestant Intolerance in 1530)

Diet of Regensburg (1541) & Colloquy of Poissy (1561): Protestant "Ecumenical" Efforts at Christian Unity?

Readers can consult those papers if they are interested enough in the topic. For present purposes, I shall summarize their contents and add some new material further below (Luther's words will be in red; Calvin's in blue; Melanchthon's in purple):

Diet of Augsburg (1530)

1) The Lutherans "would have nothing to do with the Swiss and Strassburgers, although they agreed with them in fourteen out of fifteen articles of faith" (Philip Schaff).

2) "Early in July the bishops presented their complaints to the Diet of the plundering and destruction of churches, seizure of monasteries and hospitals, prohibition of Masses, and attacks on religious processions by the Protestants. When Charles called upon the Protestants to restore the property they had seized, they said that to do so would be against their consciences. Charles responded crushingly: 'The Word of God, the Gospel, and every law civil and canonical, forbid a man to appropriate to himself the property of another.' He said that as Emperor he had the duty of guarding the rights of all, especially those Catholics unwilling to accept Protestantism or go into exile, who should at least be allowed to remain in their homes and practice their ancestral faith, specifically the Mass; the Protestants replied that they would not tolerate the Mass . . ." (Warren Carroll)

3) On July 6 Melanchthon made the incredible dissembling statement:

"We have no dogmas which differ from the Roman Church . . . We reverence the authority of the Pope of Rome, and are prepared to remain in allegiance to the Church if only the Pope does not repudiate us."

4) Luther wrote on the very same day: "Remember that you are not dealing with human beings when you have affairs with the Pope and his crew, but with veritable devils! . . ."

5) "On the 13th [of July] Luther announced from Coburg that the Protestants would never tolerate the Mass, which he called blasphemous, and said of the Emperor:

'We know that he is in error and that he is striving against the Gospel . . . He does not conform to God's Word and we do' . . .

"Luther stated in a letter to Melanchthon August 26:

'This talk of compromise . . . is a scandal to God . . . I am thoroughly displeased with this negotiating concerning union in doctrine, since it is utterly impossible unless the Pope wishes to take away his power.'

"In subsequent letters he declared that no religious settlement was possible as long as the Pope remained and the Mass was unchanged . . ." (Warren Carroll)

6) ". . . no Catholic of spirit and courage could be expected, let alone morally required, to give up all his religious rights without a struggle; and few Protestants, at this point, would allow Catholics to exercise those rights if the Protestants were strong enough to deny them. These were the irreconcilable positions taken by the two sides at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, which made those long and bloody years of conflict inevitable." (Warren Carroll)

7) "The city council [of Augsburg], however, set itself up in opposition, recalled (1531) the Protestant preachers who had been expatriated, suppressed Catholic services in all churches except the cathedral (1534), . . . At the beginning of this year a decree of the council was made, forbidding everywhere the celebration of Mass, preaching, and all ecclesiastical ceremonies, and giving to the Catholic clergy the alternative of enrolling themselves anew as citizens or leaving the city. An overwhelming majority of both secular and regular clergy chose banishment; . . . In the city of Augsburg the Catholic churches were seized by Lutheran and Zwinglian preachers; at the command of the council pictures were removed, and at the instigation of Bucer and others a disgraceful storm of popular iconoclasm followed, resulting in the destruction of many splendid monuments of art and antiquity. The greatest intolerance was exercised towards the Catholics who had remained in the city; their schools were dissolved; parents were compelled to send their children to Lutheran institutions; it was even forbidden to hear Mass outside the city under severe penalties." (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Diet of Regensburg (1541)

1) ". . . the conferees took up their differences on the Mass and the sacraments, which were absolutely irreconcilable. The Catholic Faith cannot be practiced without the Mass, and the Protestants had totally rejected the Mass. Just a week after the illusory agreement on justification, Cardinal Contarini wrote that he had been astonished to discover that the Protestants rejected both the Real Presence and veneration of the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass. On May 16 Contarini wrote to Rome: . . . 'strife proceeds neither from the Holy See nor from the Emperor, but from the obdurate adherence of the Protestants to their errors.'" (Warren Carroll)

2) ". . . the Protestant rejection of transubstantiation was more serious and Bucer, unlike Melanchthon at Augsburg, was very insistent on the rejection of papal authority. Union failed . . ." (Roland Bainton)

3) So we see that the Catholic side was willing to "compromise" on the Protestants' leading ("cardinal") concern: justification, but the Protestants would not flinch on matters of supreme importance and "non-negotiability" for the Catholics: transubstantiation and papal authority. We see almost the same exact dynamic and Protestant inflexibility at the Colloquy of Poissy in 1561 . . . it was far more objectionable for the Protestants to be totally dogmatic about their "new stuff" than for Catholics to be totally dogmatic about their "old stuff." (Dave Armstrong)

Colloquy of Poissy (1561)

1) ". . . The colloquy itself began September 9 with another speech by [Chancellor] l'Hopital urging religious unity and pledging that the government would no longer persecute the Calvinists. But . . . the Colloquy of Poissy was no exercise in 'ecumenism.' Even less than the Lutherans were the Calvinists interested in ecumenism, Like all revolutionaries, they would accept it only on their own terms. On this first day of discussion Beza threw down the gauntlet with the explicit and shocking denial of the Real Presence . . .:
If we regard the distance of things (as we must, when there is a question of His corporeal presence, and of His humanity considered separately), we say that His body is as far removed from the bread and wine as is heaven from earth." [September 9, 1561]

. . . The Real Presence, like the Incarnation, is a doctrine on which there can be no compromise for a serious Catholic . . . (Warren Carroll)

2) "Theodore Beza was given unrestricted opportunity to state the Protestant case. In so doing he not only failed to conciliate the Catholics but succeeded also in alienating the Lutherans by stating in the baldest terms the Calvinist doctrine of spiritual communion only in the Lord's Supper, seeing that the body of Christ is as far from the bread and wine as heaven from earth. Agreement on any such basis was of course out of the question." (Roland Bainton)

And now some new material:

Colloquy at Hagenau (June 1540)

"In January 1540 Luther, Melanchthon, and Zwingli's Successor Bugenhagen signed a statement declaring that religious peace could be established simply by the Emperor and the German bishops renouncing 'their idolatry and error,' and that 'even if the Pope were to concede to us our doctrines and ceremonies, we should still be obliged to treat him as a persecutor and an outcast, since in other kingdoms he would not renounce his errors.' It was the first explicit public announcement that the ultimate goal of the Protestants was the total destruction of the Catholic Church throughout the world. The German religious conference finally opened June 12 in the little town of Hagenau . . .

"The chief Protestant spokesman at the conference was Martin Bucer. Luther had always regarded religious negotiations of any kind with Catholics as bargaining with the Devil. Melanchthon, known like Bucer for his willingness to seek verbal formulas of concord which to some extent would cover up enduring fundamental differences, was absent; he sent word that he was ill."

(Warren Carroll, The Cleaving of Christendom [A History of Christendom, vol. 4], Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press, 2000, 176)

Colloquy at Worms: November 1540

"Undismayed by the failure of the Hagenau conference, the emperor made more strenuous efforts for the success of the coming colloquy at Worms. He dispatched his minister Granvella and Ortiz, his envoy, to the papal court. The latter brought with him the celebrated Jesuit, Father Peter Faber. The pope sent the Bishop of Feltri, Tommaso Campeggio, brother of the great cardinal, and ordered Morone to attend. They were not to take part in the debates, but were to watch events closely and report to Rome. Granvella opened the proceedings at Worms, 25 Nov., with an eloquent and conciliatory address. He pictured the evils which had befallen Germany, "once the first of all nations in fidelity, religion, piety, and divine worship", and warned his hearers that "all the evils that shall come upon you and your people, if, by clinging stubbornly to preconceived notions, you prevent a renewal of concord, will be ascribed to you as the authors of them." On behalf of the Protestants, Melanchthon returned "an intrepid answer"; he threw all the blame upon the Catholics, who refused to accept the new Gospel.

"A great deal of time was spent in wrangling over points of order; finally it was decided that Dr. Eck should be spokesman for the Catholics and Melanchthon for the Protestants. The debate began 14 Jan., 1541. A tactical blunder was committed in accepting the Augsburg Confession as the basis of the conference. That document had been drawn up to meet an emergency. It was apologetic and conciliatory, so worded as to persuade the young emperor that there was no radical difference between the Catholics and the Protestants. It admitted the spiritual jurisdiction of the bishops and tacitly acknowledged the supremacy of the pope by laying the ultimate appeal with a council by him convened. But many changes had taken place in the ten intervening years. The bishops had been driven out of every Protestant territory in Germany; the Smalkald confederates had solemnly abjured the pope and scorned his proffer of a council; each petty territorial prince had constituted himself the head and exponent of religion within his domain. For all practical purposes the Augsburg Confession was as useless as the laws of Lycurgus. Moreover, as Dr. Eck pointed out, the Augsburg Confession of 1540 was a different document from the Confession of 1530, having been changed by Melanchthon to suit his sacramentarian view of the Eucharist. Had the theologians at Worms reached an agreement on every point of doctrine, the discord in Germany would have continued none the less; for the princes had not the remotest idea of giving up their lucrative dominion over their territorial churches."

(Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910, "Religious Discussions")

Calvin to Melanchthon: June 18, 1550:

This is the sum of your defence: that, provided purity of doctrine be retained, externals should not be pertinaciously contended for . . . But you extend the distinction of non-essentials too far. You are aware that the Papists have corrupted the worship of God in a thousand ways. Several of those things which you consider indifferent are obviously repugnant to the Word of God . . . You ought not to have made such large concessions to the Papists.

(in Schaff, History of the Church, Vol. VIII, Ch. 11, § 90. Calvin and Melanchthon)

Calvin to Farel: March 15th, 1539

The King [Henry VIII of England] . . . retains the daily masses; he wishes the seven sacraments to remain as they are: in this way he has a mutilated and torn Gospel, and a Church stuffed full as yet with many toys and trifles.

(in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters: Letters, Part 1, 1528-1545, vol. 4 of 7; edited by Jules Bonnet, translated by David Constable; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House [a Protestant publisher], 1983, 125-126; reproduction of Letters of John Calvin, vol. 1 [Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858] )

Calvin on the Dissembling of Martin Bucer and Philip Melanchthon
 
If we think that Martin dissembles, why do we not thoroughly draw him out? Let us simply assent to the teaching of the Scripture, and we shall either win him over, with or against his will, to the light; or he certainly will not be able to use evasion, but will disclose whatever poison may be in his heart. But since we have not fully found out his opinion, we even shrink from confessing the truth, lest we may seem to assent to his views.

(Letter to Zebedee, May 19th, 1539, in John Dillenberger, editor, John Calvin: Selections From His Writings, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor, 1971, 49-50)

. . . in the most important matters, catching at the approbation even of the philosophers, he [Melanchthon] openly opposes sound doctrine; or lest he should provoke the resentment of certain persons, he cunningly, or at least, with but little manliness, disguises his own opinion. May the Lord endow him with a more courageous spirit, lest posterity suffer great detriment from his timidity.

(Letter to John Sleidan: August 27th, 1554, in Dillenberger, ibid., 52)

Calvin Calls Lutheranism "Evil"

I am carefully on the watch that Lutheranism gain no ground, nor be introduced into France. The best means, believe me, for checking the evil, would be that the conbfession written by me in the name of the Price of Conde and the other nobles should be published . . .

(Letter to Heinrich Bullinger: July 2nd, 1563, in Dillenberger, ibid., 76)

Protestant Suppression of the Mass

(see sources and further related documentation in my paper: The Protestant Inquisition: "Reformation" Intolerance and Persecution)

1) Zwingli's Zurich banned the Mass in 1525. Churches and monasteries were destroyed.

2) William Farel abolished the Mass in Geneva in August 1535, and seized all the churches and monasteries. Iconoclastic riots occurred and Church money (10,000 crowns) was stolen.

3) "Martin Bucer . . . though anxious to be regarded as considerate and peaceable . . . advocated quite openly 'the power of the authorities over consciences' . He never rested until, in 1537 . . . he brought about the entire suppression of the Mass at Augsburg. At his instigation, many fine paintings, monuments and ancient works of art in the churches were wantonly torn, broken and smashed. Whoever refused to submit and attend public worship was obliged within eight days to quit the city boundaries. Catholic citizens were forbidden under severe penalties to attend Catholic worship elsewhere . . . In other . . . cities Bucer acted with no less violence and intolerance, for instance, at Ulm, where he supported Oecolampadius . . . in 1531, and at Strasburg . . . Here, in 1529, after the Town-Council had prohibited Catholic worship, the Councillors were requested by the preachers to help fill the empty churches by issuing regulations prescribing attendance at the sermons." (Hartmann Grisar)

4) In 1529 the Council of Strassburg also ordered the breaking in pieces of all remaining altars, images and crosses, and several churches and convents were destroyed (Janssen, V, 143-144). Similar events transpired also in Frankfurt-am-Main (Durant, 424). At a religious convention at Hamburg in April, 1535 the Lutheran towns of Lubeck, Bremen, Hamburg, Luneburg, Stralsund, Rostock and Wismar all voted to hang Anabaptists and flog Catholics and Zwinglians before banishing them (Janssen, V, 481). Luther's home territory of Saxony had instituted banishment for Catholics in 1527 (Grisar, VI, 241-242).

5) [In] Constance, on March 10, 1528, the Catholic faith was altogether interdicted . . . by the Council . . . 'There are no rights whatever beyond those laid down in the Gospel as it is now understood' . . . Altars were smashed . . . organs were removed as being works of idolatry . . . church treasures were to be sent to the mint. (Janssen, V, 146)

6) In Scotland, John Knox and his ilk passed legislation in which "It was . . . forbidden to say Mass or to be present at Mass, with the punishment for a first offence of loss of all goods and a flogging; for the second offence, banishment; for the third, death." (Hughes, 300)


Sunday, November 07, 2004

Quasi-Anti-Catholicism & Baptism as Minimalist Cause of Catholic Inclusion in the Covenant / Mary to be Promoted to the Godhead? (vs. Douglas Wilson)

Lately, with the much-ballyhooed debate between two Reformed Protestants: Douglas Wilson and "Dr." [?] James White, concerning whether Catholics are Christians or not, renewed discussion on the legitimacy of Catholic baptism (and thus, no need for rebaptism of a convert to Protestantism) has arisen in Protestant (particularly, Reformed) circles. Wilson says Catholic baptism is valid, while White denies it (but of course, White is a Baptist, so he would deny the validity of all infant baptism, including all Reformed and other Protestant varieties). Wilson thus asserts that Catholics are part of the "Covenant community" and therefore, "brethren in Christ," while White denies that also. Both men try to enlist the "Reformers" in support of their positions (I believe Wilson is backed-up to a greater degree by the historical facts than White is, in this regard).

What interests me the most, however (as an ecumenical Catholic and opposer of anti-Catholicism) is how little (not how much) the more "ecumenical" side is willing to grant to the Catholic Church. So we are "brethren in Christ" and can be called "Christians." That's surely worth something, and is a considerable improvement. But when one looks at the overall context and opinions of those (at least this one person: Douglas Wilson) making these "concessions," it is clear that they can still be categorized as "quasi-anti-Catholics," if not anti-Catholics (since the most widely-used definition amongst Catholics and historians and sociologists of all stripes is one whereby it means that Catholicism is considered a sub-Christian faith altogether).

I have found this to be true of both Calvin and Luther also, in the course of my studies on this issue. They may acknowledge baptism, yet on the other hand, they maintain the whole range of arguments against Catholicism, based on a host of misunderstandings and incoherent examinations, both theologically and historically. In other words, they hold to a contradictory position, whereas true-blue anti-Catholics are at least consistent (though far more wrong and distant from the overall truth of the matter, insofar as they hold to more falsehoods and errors).

Despite the "minimalistic" (too often quite condescending and patronizing) acceptance of Catholicism on a bare-bones level as Christian, these men state in a hundred different ways that the complete system of Catholic theology is abominable, idolatrous, etc. This is especially true in Calvin's opinion on the Sacrifice of the Mass (and to a lesser extent, Luther's), and both men's reactions to the communion of the saints. It goes without saying that both had a very dim understanding of Catholic soteriology, thus leading to a host of distortions and straw men that have plagued that discussion ever since.

But my immediate point is to reiterate that even with the concessions of this relatively more "ecumenical" position, it is still far closer to outright anti-Catholicism in spirit than to a full-fledged ecumenism such as that seen in Vatican II and the ECT statements and the ongoing Lutheran-Catholic discussions. Luther, Calvin, and men like Douglas Wilson and those who call themselves "Reformed Catholics" today still (generally-speaking) view Catholics as fundamentally "lesser" (often accompanied by much sheer prejudice and ignorance) in a way that they would not view fellow Protestants. They treat scarcely any other Protestant group with the suspicion and apprehension that they bring with them when they approach Catholics.

It seemingly largely remains the case that whoever is a "true Christian" in Catholic circles, must be so despite all of Rome's "errors." They are Christian insofar as they sound like good evangelicals or Reformed Protestants. They can't be a good Christian by being a good (orthodox) Catholic. And that is the condescension and difference in how Catholics are regarded, over against other species of Protestants, by both schools (who are debating each other presently). I shall show examples of how Douglas Wilson regards Catholics in his recent opening statement in the debate mentioned above (his words will be in blue), and then give a few examples from Luther (green) and Calvin (red). Bracketed comments are my interjections:
Before proceeding to my argument, I would like to begin with an assertion so there will be no confusion about my position concerning the Church of Rome. I detest the errors of Rome, and I pray for the day of her repentance. Among those errors I would include the idolatry of the Mass, the use of images in worship, their profound confusion on the matter of faith and works, Purgatory, Mariolatry, merit, the saints, the papacy, and much more. In preparation for this debate, I read James White’s book The Roman Catholic Controversy, which I thought was quite good. Judging from that book, I do not know of any distinctive Roman doctrine concerning which James White and I would disagree.

[note that he accuses Catholics of idolatry in three ways: the Mass, and veneration of images and of Mary]
I want to begin by setting a scriptural pattern, and I want to show how this pattern can be seen as culminating in a specific apostolic warning to the Church at Rome, which is the subject of our proposition being debated tonight.
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:29)
The book of Hebrews was written to a new covenant people, and it was written in order to head off a looming apostasy. That is what the entire book is about.

[Thus Wilson equates institutional Catholicism with an apostate organization supposedly being discussed here, with scarcely any warrant from the immediate textual considerations]
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted (1 Cor. 10:1-6)
In short, our fathers are our examples, and with a number of them God was not well pleased. But what does all this have to do with the Roman Catholic Church? Rome has fallen into the errors it has because she has refused to heed the warning explicitly given by the apostle Paul to that specific church-a warning very much like the ones we have just been considering.
[Isn't this a wonderfully edifying and ecumenical sentiment? Wilson casually assumes that Paul was discussing the historic Catholic Church here. He doesn't prove it; he merely assumes it. In so doing, Catholics are equated in moral and discipleship terms with the disobedient Jews in the wilderness, and those who lust after evil]
The apostle Paul saw (with remarkable prescience) that the Church at Rome was going to be a problem, and he addressed it forthrightly. And the only thing that is more remarkable than the Church of Rome ignoring these Pauline warnings aimed
straight at her besetting sins is that fact that Protestants have also largely ignored the fact that these warning were directed at Rome.

[he goes on to cite Rom. 11:16-22]
[I submit, rather, that the quasi-anti-Catholic Douglas Wilson argues with remarkably circular logic and eisegetically . . . ]
In the past I have maintained (although I cannot find where I said this) that Rome was guilty of a final apostasy at Trent, where in solemn ecumenical council she anathematized any who faithfully held the biblical gospel. This is no longer my position, and if my worthy opponent has found a quotation of mine that says this, and returns to this point to press me with it, I will merely say, "I changed my mind, and it is a practice I commend to you." It is nevertheless still my position that what happened at Trent deserved removal from the olive tree, that is, from the catholic church. But I am now convinced that such a removal has not yet occurred. God does not always give us what we deserve.
[Absolutely classic example of a distinction without a difference . . . Further comment -- and I could make several -- would be entirely superfluous and an insult to readers' intelligence]
The Roman church is shot through with theological liberalism, which Machen correctly identified as another religion entirely.
[As if Protestantism isn't? But the crucial difference is that liberalism (which we received from our Protestant brethren in the first place as an extrinsic "hostile worldview") has not been enshrined or legitimized or sanctioned in Catholic dogma to the slightest degree, whereas we see Protestant denominations -- most notably, Anglicanism (particularly in England and America) -- institutionally changing, compromising, and caving to liberalism all over the place. Therefore, this criticism is far more damaging to Protestantism and its faulty principles of authority which have arguably caused the massive institutional apostasy of Protestant liberalism, than to the Catholic Church]
Couple this with feminism, the appeal of Mariolatry to the natural man, and it is quite possible that Mary will eventually get her big promotion, and people will be baptized into the name of a Quaternity.
[Oh, really? Now Wilson lowers himself to the surreally ridiculous levels of an Eric Svendsen or David T. King. Mary (it is "quite possible") is to be promoted to membership into the Godhead and the Holy Trinity. Wow; it's weird that I, as a Catholic apologist, have completely missed this turn of events . . . Wilson has now lost all credibility in my opinion, as any sort of "expert" on Catholicism. This is shocking and saddening to me, as I thought some progress was being made. But at least this (rather spectacularly) proves my point about ignorance, distortion, and so forth. Who cares if he acknowledges our baptism, if he can argue on an absurd level like this, and have these ludicrous views of Catholic Mariology? To make matters worse (and more illogical) Wilson tries to place this in the context of an encroaching liberalism. But it is precisely liberalism which cares less and less about Mary (let alone Marian dogmas). The ones who are devoted to the Blessed Virgin and development of Mariology are the orthodox Catholics: who would be the very last persons to compromise trinitarianism and the nature of the Godhead]
When the creedal core has rotted out, the liturgy cannot remain indefinitely the same. We see this in the mainline denominations which abandoned the faith in substance, but kept the old triune form for a time, a form which we should receive.
[This serves to prove my point about Protestant liberalism, too. Stuff like this happens in their ranks all the time, but there is no sign that it has occurred in Catholicism. And that should give folks like Mr. Wilson some significant pause, as to why that is the case. Individual stray, heterodox, dissenting Catholics may reject the Trinity, but that has nothing to do with what the Church teaches. Yet Wilson fears that the Catholic Church may switch from a Trinity to a Quaternity (I wonder if he is scared of the boogeyman "getting him" every night, too?). I swear that I have rarely seen such a ridiculous and empty-headed argument from an otherwise intelligent man, who should know far better]

Moving on to the so-called "Reformers," Martin Luther wrote (emphases added):

From: Wider Hans Wurst, or Against Jack Sausage (1541); in Luther's Works, 55 volumes, Philadelphia: Fortress Press (also Concordia Publishing House), 1955 -, General editors: Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) / Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55)

This is a polemical piece against the Catholic (and corrupt) Duke Heinrich (or Henry) of Braunschweig / Wolfenbuttel, written between February 19 and April 4, 1541. It is reprinted in Volume 41 of Luther's Works, pp. 179-256; translated by Eric W. Gritsch.
They allege that we have fallen away from the holy church and set up a new church . . . since they themselves boast that they are the church, it is for them to prove that they are . . . But if they cannot prove it . . . they are not the church and . . . we cannot be heretics since we have fallen away from what is not the true church. Indeed, since there is nothing in-between, we must be the church of Christ and they the devil's church, or vice versa. Therefore it all turns on proving which is the true church . . . One part must be false and untrue . . . The Lord Christ commands us not to embrace the false church. (pp. 193-194)
We have proved that we are the true, ancient church . . . Now you, too, papists, prove that you are the true church or are like it. You cannot do it. But I will prove that you are the new false church, which is in everything apostate, separated from the true, ancient church, thus becoming Satan's synagogue. (p. 199)
You do not hold to the original, ancient baptism, for you have invented many other new baptisms, teaching that the original baptism is subsequently lost through sin . . . For where there is no baptism,the sacraments, the keys, and everything else are of no avail. (p. 199)

You were indeed all baptized in the true baptism of the ancient church, just as we were, especially as children. Now if a baptized child lives and then dies in his seventh or eighth year, before he understands the whorelike church of the pope, he has in truth been saved and will be saved -- of that we have no doubt. But when he grows up, and hears, believes, and obeys your preaching with its lies and devilish inventions, then he becomes a whore of the devil like you and falls away from his baptism and bridegroom -- as happened to me and others -- building and relying on his own works. (p. 207)

We acknowledge not only that you have, with us, come from the true church and been washed and made clean in baptism . . . but also that you are in the church and remain in it . . . But you are no longer of the church, or members of the church, for in this holy church of God you are building your own new apostate church, the devil's brothel, with limitless whoredom, idolatry, and innovation. (pp. 209-210)
These words are quite self-explanatory. I would only note that Luther's view of baptism is even "stronger"(i.e., more sacramentally "powerful" or irrevocable) than the Catholic view. He decries the fact that we believe that mortal sin can in effect undo the positive graces of baptism, whereas he seems to think nothing can do that (which is why he attacks the Catholic doctrine).

How about John Calvin? He said Catholic baptism was valid, right, so is that the end of the story? No. Like Luther, he can't simply pause at making this a point of agreement. He has to still disagree somehow. So in his Antidote to Trent (1547), Calvin rails on and on, disagreeing substantially with many of the decrees of Trent concerning baptism. As an example, Trent's Canon III on Baptism reads as follows:
If anyone saith that in the Roman Church . . . there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of Baptism; let him be anathema.
Calvin replies to this particular canon:
But our writings clearly shew that the whole doctrine of Baptism, as taught by them, is partly mutilated, partly vicious. Now, while they are unable to refute our arguments, it is vain to think of hiding themselves under the flash of an anathema!

(in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Vol. 3, Tracts, Part 3, edited and translated by Henry Beveridge, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1983, 179; reprinted from edition published by the Calvin Translation Society, Edinburgh: 1851)
He writes similarly when treating of the general character of sacraments; for example:
Here, indeed, they disclose their impiety, not only more clearly, but also more grossly. The device of opus operatum is recent, and was coined by illiterate monks, who had never learned anything of the nature of Sacraments. (Antidote to Canon VIII on the Sacraments, ibid., p. 176)
Their fable of an indelible character is the product of the same forge. It was altogether unknown to the Primitive Church, and is more suited to magical charms than to the sound doctrine of the gospel! (Antidote to Canon IX on the Sacraments, ibid., p. 176)

With regard to Calvin's denial of the sacramental principle of ex opere operato, it is he who is out of step with the ancient Church and St. Augustine, and in line with the Donatist schismatics. As usual, when he appeals to history, he has his facts wrong. Thus, Lutheran (later, Orthodox) Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan writes:
The Augustinian theology of grace was thus obliged . . . to commit itself to the principle that the efficacy of the sacraments, and especially of baptism, was assured "ex opere operato," by the sheer performance of the act, rather than "ex opere operantis," by the effect of the performer upon the act, . . .

(The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition {1200-600}, University of Chicago Press, 1971, 312)
The reputable Protestant scholar J.N.D. Kelly, in his discussion of the patristic view of baptism, makes it clear that a host of benefits (Calvin's reference to "indelible character") were believed by the Fathers to be attained through baptism. It is clear that Calvin can easily be shown to be mistaken as to the earliness (or lateness) of that aspect of baptism and sacraments also. After discussing the sacramental views of many Fathers, he concludes that their opinions:
. . . go a long way towards the so-called ex opere operato doctrine of sacraments, i.e., that they are signs which actually and automatically realize the grace they signify.

(Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: HarperCollins, revised edition of 1978, p. 427; larger context referred to: pp. 422-432)
Likewise, Protestant historian Philip Schaff characteristically presents an accurate picture of ancient Christian doctrine, while disagreeing with it himself. He amply refutes Calvin in both respects:
Augustine also makes a distinction between a transient and a permanent effect of the sacrament, and thereby prepares the way for the later scholastic doctrine of the character indelebilis. Baptism and ordination impress an indelible character, and therefore cannot be repeated . . . The popular opinion in the church already inclined strongly toward the superstitious view of the magical operation of the sacrament, which has since found scholastic expression in the opus operatum theory.

(History of the Christian Church: Vol. III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity {A.D. 311-600}, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, reprinted, 1974; of the fifth revised edition of 1910; p. 476)
So we see that Schaff would agree with Calvin as to how sacraments should be understood, yet he shows that Calvin was dead-wrong on his opinion of these fundamental elements of sacramental theology being late-arriving novelties. They were not. And so it always goes, when one examines Calvin's claims about the Fathers, over against some Catholic doctrine that he disagrees with. Once again (and as always) the early Church agrees in substance with the Catholic position, and against the Protestant innovations.
I submit that if Calvin's research and scholarship is this sloppy when dealing with what the Fathers and the ancient Church believed, that it is likely that he will be found distorting Catholic theology as well, in addition to giving shabby, fallacious arguments against it. I have often found this to be the case in the past, and I'm sure I will continue to do so in the future, as I study Calvin further (and offer refutations of his faulty, wholly inadequate arguments). The same applies to Luther. And thus current-day arguments built upon the arguments of these men will tend to show the same inaccuracies that were present the first time around. The apple only falls so far away from the tree, after all. Douglas Wilson is no exception. I would class him, along with Luther and Calvin, as "quasi-anti-Catholics"; only slightly distinguishable from outright anti-Catholics. I conclude this with no pleasure at all (in fact, sadness and great disappointment), but I don't see how it can be denied, given all the data above, and much more that could be brought to bear.

New "Eric the Yellow" Svendsen Theme Song: "I Am a [the] Rock"

This song is from Simon and Garfunkel (1965; see lyrics). With just a few changes in the words, it perfectly describes the "flee for the hills and hide, so as to avoid any rational critique" mentality and tactics of anti-Catholic luminary / "apologist" Eric Svendsen. Other songs I considered for this parody included The Great Pretender (The Platters) and Running Scared (Roy Orbison), but I didn't think people would be as familiar with those older songs (it's funnier to read the words below with the tune going along in your head, with some knowledge of the original words). So here goes!:
---------------------------------------------------

Reformation Day
In a deep and dark October; (1)
I'm alone on my "real Christian" blog,
Gazing from sublime heights on the damned below (2)
And a freshly written Catholic loudmouth's "show." (3)
I am The Rock, (4)
I am an Anti-Catholic.

I’ve built walls, (5)
And sophistry (6) deep and flighty,
That not one dissent may penetrate.
I have no need of dialogue; listening causes pain.
It’s reason and it’s logic I disdain.
I am The Rock,
I am an Anti-Catholic.

Don’t talk of Mary (7)
But I’ve heard the name before;
Her blind worshipers are idolaters.
I won’t disturb the slumber of defenses that are dead.
If I'd never lied I never would have fled. (8)
I am The Rock,
I am an Anti-Catholic.

I have my Bible
And my sophistry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room (9), safe within my tomb, (10)
I talk with none and no one rebuts me.
I am The Rock,
I am an Anti-Catholic.

And The Rock feels no shame;
And the Catholics always lie.

Footnotes

(1) Reformation Day is October 31st. Eric shut down the comments section on his blog on November 1st; less than five days after my first dissenting argument, against falsehoods he had written earlier about supposedly money-grubbing Catholic apologist speakers.

(2) Eric is notorious for proclaiming with a deluded, self-righteous certainty the eternal destiny of other folks: Catholic and Protestant alike. Here is an example from the CARM (Protestant) discussion board, on 15 April 2003:
I recognize that some people--and you are one of them--have rejected truth, distorted facts, and hardened their hearts to the point that they cannot believe and be saved, no matter what. I alluded to this before when referring to your spiritual blindness (2 Cor 3) and to the fact that your apostasy showed you were really never of us to begin with (1 John 2:19). It's sad, to be sure; but it's the cold, hard reality. My job is not to wring my hands until I have convinced you otherwise, contrary to what you may believe. Rather, my job is to be the "fragrance of life to those who are being saved and the stench of death to those who are perishing"(2 Cor 2:15-16). God must grant you repentance to life, and apparently he hasn't done that. God is glorified either way. To you, I am the stench of death; and if you are not among the elect of God, that's just as it should be. God is glorified even by your obstinate, hardened heart. Your increasingly entrenched responses indicates to me that you are simply storing up wrath for yourself in the Day of Judgment.

(3) I'm the "loudmouth," of course. Eric doesn't think much of the integrity of Catholics, generally speaking, let alone apologists like me (the lowest scum of what is already the "bottom of the barrel"). Here are some of his sweeping remarks about such people:
RC apologists will do or say just about anything--true or not--to advance their cause. They engage in the strategy of deception regularly.

(
4-27-03; emphasis his own)

Apologetics is exhausting and time-consuming work. Five percent of your time is spent propagating the truth, and the other 95% is spent defending your work and correcting the errors, misrepresentations, mischaracterizations—and, yes, lies—of those who seemingly have dedicated their very lives to distorting the truth and deceiving the uninformed. They always seem to come up with an “answer” to any truth statement issued from the Evangelical side. As I’ve indicated in previous articles, however, “answers” are not to be equated with meaningful and substantive responses. The former flows like water over the Niagara in the Roman Catholic apologetic world, while the latter always seems to be conspicuously absent.

(
"Reports of the Witch's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated," November 2003)
(4) I.e., rather than St. Peter.

(5) No comments allowed anymore on his blog!!

(6) Sophistry = "unsound, misleading, specious, but clever, plausible, and subtle argument."

(7) In letters of 1-17-04 and 1-19-04, posted as part of a paper on his website, Eric described Catholics as "those who would raise Mary to the status of the Trinity and proclaim a false gospel that condemns" and described Catholic Mariology as follows: "With titles like these, who in the world needs an explicit statement that Mary is on par with the Trinity?" For further reading, see my paper: Dr. Eric Svendsen Sez Catholics Raise Mary to the Level of the Holy Trinity.

(8) . . . from defending his own false assertions in the wake of my extensive refutations of them.

(9) I.e., his two discussion boards or "rooms," one of which is for Protestants only (which is fine), but the other ("The Areopagus") is supposedly for anyone who will follow the rules. Yet Catholics who get the better of Eric or fellow anti-Catholic zealot (and incorrigible slanderer) David T. King are quickly, routinely banned. Thus, Eric is again "safe" from the terrifying burden of having to actually defend his ludicrous assertions.

(10) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matthew 23:27-28; RSV).

Further Reading
(the sad recent exchanges that led me to do this parody)

Eric Svendsen: Catholic "Epologists" Are Getting Rich While Protestant Evangelists Preach the Gospel Selflessly For Free (Huh?)

Counter-Reply to Eric Svendsen on the "Unscrupulous & Greedy Catholic Apologists" Charge

Eric Svendsen's Use of The Didache to Condemn Catholic Apologist Talks Proves Too Much: No Paid Ministers At All?

"Exhorbitant" Catholic Answers Speaking Fees Compared to Other Speakers (Including Self-Described "Christian" Ones)

Eric Svendsen's Opposition to Free Speech, "Rc and rC epologists," & Free Exchange of Ideas (+ Response to a Bogus Charge by James White)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Prophetic Prowess (Poll-Pondering, Punditry, Predicting Presidencies)

Now I will exercise a bit of "bragging rights." I had a lot of fun following the polls this year and making my predictions for the election. I thought I did remarkably well. Here's how close I came:

In my first post on it: 2004 Presidential Election Predictions, of 9-10-04, I stated that I actually believed my predictions two months before that (7-10-04). So I was holding to my initial predictions almost four months before the election, before all the up-and-down trends of the conventions, debates, swift vet ads, the missing ammo, the frenetic ad campaigns of both candidates, Bin Laden's pathetic video, the weather, moon cycles, bad hair days, and all the rest.

My predictions were:
Bush: 53%
Kerry 45%
Nader 2%

Bush: 32 states
Kerry: 18 states

Bush: advantage of about 60 electoral college votes (no "Florida fiasco" this year)

The actual results were:

Bush 51%
Kerry 49%

Bush: 31 states
Kerry: 19 states

Electoral college: 286-252 (34 point spread)

And there was no "Florida fiasco"; not even in Ohio, where Bush led by some 130,000 votes (rather than 500-something) before all the provisional and overseas and all the other kinds of ballots were considered.

I also wrote on 9-10-04:
The Southern vote will be key in the electoral college. The South has voted increasingly Republican since 1968 . . . Bush will take almost all of these states.

Bush won every single Southern state. I also noted that sitting Senators usually don't win, and that northeast liberals don't, either (one has to go back to FDR to find that -- and he wouldn't have been nearly as socially liberal by today's standards).

In my Update on Presidential Polls (10-15-04), I predicted states more specifically; Michigan and Pennsylvania to Kerry, Ohio and Florida to Bush (all correct in the actual vote counts).

My last post on the election was: Analysis of the Polls a Fortnight Before the Election, and My Exact Predictions (10-28-04). I stuck with my percentage prediction (53-46-1), and the states tally (32 to 18). But I added predictions of every single state. I was wrong on just one: Minnesota (I thought Bush would "steal" it, based on several polls). I predicted 49 correctly. My "revised" (or, fine-tuned) electoral prediction was 296-242, or a 54-point victory. The actual count was 286-252 (34 points). If I had simply gotten Minnesota right, I would have hit the electoral college results right on the nose (both the number and who took what state). If I hadn't been going on poll data, I would have indeed given Kerry Minnesota, based on past elections, and the liberal heritage of Minnesota (Humphrey, Mondale, etc.). I did (at the last minute) switch my opinion of Minnesota and Wisconsin. At first I had Bush taking the second and losing the first. Either way I would have gotten one state wrong, and missed by 10 points. I wrote about all the "battleground" or "toss-up" states:
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.

I also wrote:
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).

All of this was exactly right. So I did darned good for a mere amateur who hasn't really followed politics all that closely (but have in the past at various times, depending on current events). It's fun to compare my amateur predictions with some professional conservative commentators and writers from The Weekly Standard:

William Kristol

Bush wins

Popular Vote: 52% Bush - 47% Kerry
[almost identical to mine]

Electoral College: 348 Bush - 190 Kerry
[missed winning count by 62; I missed by ten]
Fred Barnes

Bush wins

Popular Vote: 52% Bush - 47% Kerry
[almost identical to mine]

Electoral College: 306 Bush - 232 Kerry
[missed winning count by 20; I missed by ten]

Jonathan V. Last

Bush wins

Popular Vote: 54% Bush - 46% Kerry
[almost identical to mine]

Electoral College: 293 Bush - 245 Kerry
[missed by 7; beating my 10]
Terry Eastland
Bush wins

Popular Vote: 50% Bush - 49% Kerry
[within one point of the actual; beating me]

Electoral College: 296 Bush -242 Kerry

[identical to mine]

Of the other writers listed, three thought Kerry would win. Several others who said Bush would prevail, got quite close on the percentage (50-50, 50-49 [3], 51-49 [bingo!], 51-48, 52-47). So they generally did better than I did in that respect, but then, they were predicting on 10-28-04, with all the polling data, whereas I stuck to my 9-10-04 predictions for percentage (that I actually had believed on 7-10-04). If I hadn't included Nader in the mix, my prediction would have been 53-47.

As for the others on the winning electoral college number (including those who predicted a Kerry victory), they were off by 39, 33, 43, 16, 17, 3, 15, 5, 12, 11, with one hitting it on the nose. So, of the 15 writers, my prediction was closer (within 10), than ten of the fifteen, with four doing better (one guessing it exactly), and one predicting as I did.

Not bad, if I do say so! I should have taken some bets on this . . . :-)

For an interesting electoral map, where you can see results in any state by using your cursor, see: Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004.

I looked around a bit on Google for another state-by-state prediction to see if anyone got to 49 out of 50. I couldn't find anything. I am, of course, far more happy about Bush winning than I am about how close my predictions were, but it was a way to have some fun in a stressful election year, with very high stakes.

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).

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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.