Saturday, July 09, 2005

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha") in Mark and Luke (RSV)

Derived from pp. 800-804 of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th edition (Novum Testamentum: Graece et Latine, published by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; see the web page from Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, which reproduced the list. NT passages listed in Nestle-Aland will be in blue, and Deuterocanonical passages in red. Alleged references listed by verse only at the end were deemed (by myself) dissimilar and questionable or non-convincing enough to not reproduce.

[Bible passages were retrieved from the RSV Bible, with Apocrypha, from the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center]



1a) Mark 4:5

Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil;

1b) Sirach 40:15

The children of the ungodly will not put forth many branches; they are unhealthy roots upon sheer rock.

2a) Mark 4:11

And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables;

2b) Wisdom 2:22

and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls;

3a) Mark 5:34

And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

3b) Judith 8:35

Uzziah and the rulers said to her, "Go in peace, and may the Lord God go before you, to take revenge upon our enemies

4a) Mark 9:48

where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

4b) Judith 16:17

Woe to the nations that rise up against my people! The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment; fire and worms he will give to their flesh; they shall weep in pain for ever.

5a) Mark 14:34
And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch."

5b) Sirach 37:2

Is it not a grief to the death when a companion and friend turns to enmity?

6a) Mark 15:29

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days,

6b) Wisdom 2:17s

Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;


1a) Luke 1:17

and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli'jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

1b) Sirach 48:10

you who are ready at the appointed time, it is written, to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury, to turn the heart of the father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

2a) Luke 1:19

And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.

2b) Tobit 12:15

I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One."

3a) Luke 1:42
and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

3b) Judith 13:18

And Uzziah said to her, "O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth, who has guided you to strike the head of the leader of our enemies.

4a) Luke 1:52
he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree;

4b) Sirach 10:14

The Lord has cast down the thrones of rulers, and has seated the lowly in their place.

5a) Luke 2:29

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;

5b) Tobit 11:9

Then Anna ran to meet them, and embraced her son, and said to him, "I have seen you, my child; now I am ready to die." And they both wept.

6a) Luke 2:37
and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.

6b) Judith 8:6

She fasted all the days of her widowhood, except the day before the sabbath and the sabbath itself, the day before the new moon and the day of the new moon, and the feasts and days of rejoicing of the house of Israel.

7a) Luke 6:35
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.

7b) Wisdom 15:1

But thou, our God, art kind and true, patient, and ruling all things in mercy.

8a) Luke 7:22
And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.

8b) Sirach 48:5

You who raised a corpse from death and from Hades, by the word of the Most High;

9a) Luke 9:8
by some that Eli'jah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen.

9b) Sirach 48:10

you who are ready at the appointed time, it is written, to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury, to turn the heart of the father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob. [Elijah: see v. 4]

10a) Luke 10:19

Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.

10b) Sirach 11:24 [incorrectly listed by Akin (or Nestle?) as 11:19]

Do not say, "I have enough, and what calamity could happen to me in the future?"

11a) Luke 12:19
And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.'

11b) Tobit 7:9 [incorrectly listed by Akin (or Nestle?) as 7:10]

So he communicated the proposal to Raguel. And Raguel said to Tobias, "Eat, drink, and be merry;

12a) Luke 12:20
But God said to him, `Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'

12b) Wisdom 15:8

With misspent toil, he forms a futile god from the same clay -- this man who was made of earth a short time before and after a little while goes to the earth from which he was taken, when he is required to return the soul that was lent him.

13a) Luke 13:27
But he will say, `I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!'

13b) 1 Maccabees 3:6

Lawless men shrank back for fear of him; all the evildoers were confounded; and deliverance prospered by his hand.

14a) Luke 13:29
And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.

14b) Baruch 4:37

Behold, your sons are coming, whom you sent away; they are coming, gathered from east and west, at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing in the glory of God.

15a) Luke 14:13
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind,

15b) Tobit 2:2

Upon seeing the abundance of food I said to my son, "Go and bring whatever poor man of our brethren you may find who is mindful of the Lord, and I will wait for you."

16a) Luke 18:7
And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?

16b) Sirach 35:16-17 [incorrectly listed by Akin (or Nestle?) as 35:22]

He whose service is pleasing to the Lord will be accepted, and his prayer will reach to the clouds. The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds, and he will not be consoled until it reaches the Lord; he will not desist until the Most High visits him, and does justice for the righteous, and executes judgment.

17a) Luke 19:44b
. . . because you did not know the time of your visitation."

17b) Wisdom 3:7a

In the time of their visitation . . .
18a) Luke 21:24
they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
18b) Tobit 14:5
But God will again have mercy on them, and bring them back into their land; and they will rebuild the house of God, though it will not be like the former one until the times of the age are completed. After this they will return from the places of their captivity, and will rebuild Jerusalem in splendor. And the house of God will be rebuilt there with a glorious building for all generations for ever, just as the prophets said of it.
18b) Sirach 28:18
Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not so many as have fallen because of the tongue.
19a) Luke 21:25
"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,
19b) Wisdom 5:22
and hailstones full of wrath will be hurled as from a catapult; the water of the sea will rage against them, and rivers will relentlessly overwhelm them;
20a) Luke 24:4
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel;
20b) 2 Maccabees 3:26
Two young men also appeared to him, remarkably strong, gloriously beautiful and splendidly dressed, who stood on each side of him and scourged him continuously, inflicting many blows on him.
21a) Luke 24:31
And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.
21b) 2 Maccabees 3:34
And see that you, who have been scourged by heaven, report to all men the majestic power of God." Having said this they vanished.
22a) Luke 24:50
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.
22b) Sirach 50:20s
Then Simon came down, and lifted up his hands over the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, to pronounce the blessing of the Lord with his lips, and to glory in his name;
23a) Luke 24:53
and were continually in the temple blessing God.
23b) Sirach 50:22
And now bless the God of all, who in every way does great things; who exalts our days from birth, and deals with us according to his mercy.
See also (from Nestle-Aland list):

Mark 1:15 and Tobit 14:5
Mark 6:49 and Wisdom 17:15
Mark 8:37 and Sirach 26:14
Mark 9:31 and Sirach 2:18
Mark 10:18 and Sirach 4:1 (?)
Luke 10:17 and Tobit 7:17 (?)
Luke 10:21 and Sirach 51:1
Luke 13:25 and Tobit 14:4
Luke 15:12 and 1 Maccabees 10:29 [30]
Luke 15:12 and Tobit 3:17

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Most Influential and Meaningful Books In My Life

This survey or "meme" has been making the rounds, and everyone's doing it, so here is my shot (I'm curious about your answers, too; please share):

How many books do I own?

. . . virtually all used or purchased at a deep discount; I once got a bunch for free from a Catholic library which was scaling down. I've been attending the AAUW used book sales every year since 1985, and we also have some great used bookstores around here, such as the one mentioned below. A Baptist pastor friend of mine used to have a great used Christian bookstore, too.

The most spectacular purchase I ever made was at a suburban library sale that I only attended this one time. It was about ten years ago, and they had a complete set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1985 edition) for $75. Wow!

Another great "book story" occurred two years ago at one of the AAUW sales. I was particularly looking for primary Luther works, and the Lord provided, as He so often has these many years, book-wise (knowing that I couldn't afford new books, and that I needed books for my apologetics and research purposes). Sure enough, after I waited a good hour and a half to get near the front of the line at the beginning, I looked down and there were thirteen volumes from Luther's Works, the 55-volume set in English. I had never seen any of them used before. So I swooped them up. I was sitting on the floor looking through them and a lady came up to me and asked me who Luther was. Then I noticed that they were not priced. So I asked one of the workers what they would cost. She told me $1.00 each. We had to pay cost-and-a-half the first day, so each cost $1.50 for a big, long hardcover (even many other similar books at the same sale were priced $5 or more). They go for about $20-$25 used on the Internet. I got 13 of 'em for $19.50: less than the price of one new hardcover. Now that is good stewardship of one's money!

What’s the last book I bought?

The Beatles: Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn, 1988 (used for $15; like new condition, at the marvelous John King Books in Detroit, which has four floors and 900,000 or so books)

What’s the last book I read?

Chrionicles, Vol. 1, Bob Dylan, 2004.

What an amazing poetic and "romantic" mind . . . When you see how the man thinks and describes things, you realize the extraordinary imagination he draws from, for his lyrics. He makes connections between things and free associations that would never have crossed my mind in a million years. That's why, of course, the book was so interesting to me ("I couldn't put it down"), because of trying to enter into another mind so different from mine. I definitely have a romantic and semi-mystical outlook, too, but I could never put certain non-rational, ethereal aspects of it into words as Dylan does. That's the genius of poetry: to give word and expression to deep longings and feelings of a non-rational sort. The closest I can get to that deep wellspring is in certain nature photographs I have taken (some of which I have posted on this blog).

What are the five books that mean the most to me?

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis (1952)

Lewis is my favorite writer. I read this in the late 70s, before I seriously started my own apologetic writing and evangelism. It has influenced so many. The role it played in my own life was to give me a simple but thoughtful introduction to a "thinking man's Christianity." Thus it was a key step prior to apologetics proper; rather, it showed me how rationality and faith were not antithetical to each other (one of the foundational principles of the apologetics enterprise). At the time I was in college and was attending an evangelistically oriented Lutheran church, which was great for newly-committed Christians of the low church evangelical variety (this particular church was far more "evangelical" than Lutheran) but not quite as good for developing the Christian mind (though it did have a great little bookstore of numerous Lewis and Bonhoeffer books). Moreover, the book influenced my nascent ecumenism, since it was an attempt to present what all Christians had in common. This always stuck with me, in my Protestant days, and since my conversion to Catholicism. I have emphasized ever since (it has even become one of my leading "themes") that ecumenism or Christian unity and apologetics are harmonious and complementary, not in contradiction.

Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell (1972)

. . . the book that atheists and agnostics love to hate (and also some Christian apologists or apologist-bashers who mock it because it is introductory in nature). But an introduction is just that; one shouldn't expect more from something than what it purports to be. Everyone has to start somewhere, so I find such attitudes rather condescending and unappreciative. As it was, this book (which I read in 1981) almost singlehandedly provoked an explosion of interest on my part, in historical apologetics (previously I had read only the more philosophical style of apologetics, of C.S. Lewis, and Francis Schaeffer in 1980 when I was attending Inter-Varsity in college: Wayne State University in Detroit).

Thus, this work profoundly influenced what turned out to be my career. After I read this, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Before that time, I didn't, at age 23 and with a relatively worthless (both ideas- and job-wise) degree in sociology nearly completed. 15 years later, I completed my first book of Catholic apologetics, entitled A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. It was originally modeled (especially in its early version, which compiled a lot of other peoples' apologetics) after McDowell and also James Cardinal Gibbons' book, Faith of Our Fathers. It was intended to provide "biblical evidence for Catholicism" (the name for my website, begun in 1997), in the same way that McDowell had marshaled historic evidence on behalf of Christianity in general, because people think the Bible is opposed to Catholicism, the way they often think that history disproves Christianity itself.

The Gravedigger Files, Os Guinness (1983)

In the vein of Lewis's wonderful Screwtape Letters, this book by a brilliant evangelical thinker takes the concept of that book one step further by applying a searing analysis to various pitfalls and shortcomings in modern Christianity, from a profoundly Christian and historically long-sighted sociological perspective (influenced a lot by the well-known Lutheran sociologist Peter Berger). When I read this in the early 80s I was already involved in cult research and apologetics and street apologetics. In 1982 I had written an extensive critique of the "name-it-claim-it, hyper-faith / God always heals movement in charismatic circles (now on my website). I had also majored in sociology in college, so I could relate to the analysis. But the courses I took were thoroughly secular. Needless to say, Christian sociology is infinitely more thought-provoking and explanatory (not to mention, interesting) than the secular variety.

The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam (1928)

The best introduction to Catholicism, in my opinion, if one is looking for a treatment of wide scope and vision (also the assessment of Lutheran-then-Orthodox historian Jaroslav Pelikan). It draws you in and doesn't let you go. It's irresistible. I doubt that an anti-Catholic would allow himself to be thus enraptured, but for someone with an open mind on the subject, this book will provide a sense of the majesty and profundity of the Catholic Church's teaching. It played a key role early in my journey towards the Church in 1990. I described it in my conversion story in Surprised by Truth as "a book too extraordinary to summarize adequately. It is, I believe, a nearly perfect book about Catholicism as a worldview and a way of life, especially for a person acquainted with basic Catholic theology."

Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, by John Henry Cardinal Newman (1845)

This is the book which put me over the edge and convinced me to become a Catholic. It is widely considered the leading treatment on the subject of development of doctrine (my favorite area of theology, and a large emphasis in my apologetics), particularly in its Catholic application or interpretation. I wrote about this book, too, in my published conversion story:

This book demolished the whole schema of Church history which I had constructed. I thought, typically, that early Christianity was Protestant and that Catholicism was a later corruption (although I placed the collapse in the late Middle Ages rather than the usual time of Constantine in the fourth century).

Martin Luther, so I reckoned, had discovered in Sola Scriptura the means to scrape the accumulated Catholic barnacles off of the original lean and clean Christian "ship." Newman, in contrast, exploded the notion of a barnacle-free ship. Ships always got barnacles. The real question was whether the ship would arrive at its destination. Tradition, for Newman, was like a rudder and steering wheel, and was absolutely necessary for guidance and direction. Newman brilliantly demonstrated the characteristics of true developments, as opposed to corruptions, within the visible and historically continuous Church instituted by Christ. I found myself unable and unwilling to refute his reasoning, and a crucial piece of the puzzle had been put into place -- Tradition was now plausible and self-evident to me.

In another paper recounting my conversion from a more technical theological / historical perspective, I wrote, following Newman's analogical reasoning:

One need not posit an absolute break of continuity in order to equate the present Catholic Church with the "Church" of the early centuries. One need only understand the true nature of development, whereby doctrines can grow in the sense that they are more clearly understood, and more deeply and thoroughly explicated, while not undergoing any essential transformation. But Protestantism requires a radical change of principle, and hence, fails the test of what constitutes a true development, in Newman's analysis. Besides, corruption can just as easily consist of subtraction as addition. Corruption entails a departure from normalcy and precedent.

Furthermore, it is instructive to realize that what we now consider orthodox in early Christianity, is simply the position of the Roman apostolic see, which was proven right again and again on this score, far beyond coincidence, given the multiplicity of heretical sects in the early centuries, and the thousands of competing Christian denominations today.

Honorable mention: G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy, (written, incidentally, 14 years before GKC's conversion to Catholicism), Louis Bouyer: The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, Thomas Howard: Evangelical is Not Enough.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Eric Svendsen Hits The Nail on the Head (Extreme Critics) / Condemnation of Pathetic Personal Attacks Against Svendsen

For once I wholeheartedly agree with anti-Catholic apologist Eric Svendsen (one of my very harshest critics); except for the word "hate," which I almost always think is too strong and inappropriate in all but the most extreme situations. Of course, this observation will be greeted by his cohorts as profundity and proof of the worth of his own ministry.

But (dare I say this?) when I express similar things about ludicrous attacks coming my way (and it is rather obvious that I have been personally attacked -- especially in the last year -- as much as Svendsen or James White or any other apologist I know: Catholic or Protestant), it is "proof" that I am filled with pride, utterly lacking in humility, a narcissist, suffering from a persecution complex, etc. In any event, apart from that curious double standard (not to mention also that Svendsen himself engages in the much the same kind of personal attacks that he decries when others do it to him) and the "hate" rhetoric, the following observations are dead on:

The God of All Comfort

. . . Defending the faith can be a thankless, discouraging job. The people who happen to disagree with your views somehow feel at liberty to engage in hate-fests against you personally. To respond back only incites them further in a never-ending and futile attempt to get them to read your views rightly (gasp!) rather than constantly distort them as they always do. . . .

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:18-20

Indeed, the "world" in many of these instances refers not to the secular world at large, but to the religious world. . . .

"Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets." Luke 6:22.

I was going to respond to the grossly uninformed hate-fest that is taking place against me at the Crowhill discussion forum--where both Roman Catholics and Roman Catholic wannabees are dining sumptuously on slander and gossip--but Pedantic Protestant beat me to it.
Having been subject myself to a huge "slander-thread" filled with personal attacks, on the same board, some months ago (led by an Orthodox polemicist who goes by "Nevski", who thinks I don't work for a living and pretend to be a scholar when I am not), I'm curious as to what is taking place over at the Crowhill board. Let's go look (c'mon over there with me). If Svendsen is being lied about the way, for example, that James White is often ridiculously lied about and slandered by some Catholics (as if he is the devil incarnate and drinks bat's blood every night), I will defend him too (just as I did, James White). It doesn't matter to me what Svendsen thinks of me. If something is wrong, it's wrong, and ought to be condemned.

So what do we find? First, "dormitantius" ("Moderator" no less! Catholic):

And a little child (Eric Svensen) shall lead them, right? Not quite; Svensen is just too goofy to be taken seriously.

[mere ridicule and character-assassination rather than argument]

Then, "Retro Rosco III" (Anglican, I believe)

. . . folks like White and Svendsen . . . I'd wager that there is more idolatry and works-righteousness in their system than one could ever dream of in Rome. Why should anyone ever take them seriously?

[ditto; also, we shouldn't be accusing others of Pelagianism and idolatry when we Catholics and Anglicans are often falsely accused of the same]

. . . For example, I think the evidence is overwhelming that because of their views on baptism (not to mention communion) White and Svendsen's claims to unhold the soteriology of the reformers is "untenable." They clearly have another Gospel.

[Baptist soteriology is different; yes, but this is an erroneous definition of the gospel, which, biblically speaking, is (literally) the "Good News": the life, death, atonement and propitiatory sacrifice for our redemption on the cross, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus, not fine-tuned soteriological theology]

. . . he not only has betrayed the Reformation, but he is not even a orthodox christian in the most basic sense (i.e. affirming the Incarnation and the Trinity).

[I have little patience for Svendsen's errors, especially about the Blessed Virgin Mary, and (of course) his anti-Catholicism, but this goes way too far. He affirms the Incarnation and Trinity, even though there might be some quasi-Nestorianism* there, from what I have seen. Let's have some semblance of accuracy and fairness to theological opponents, for heaven's sake!]

*"Jesus is both God and man; therefore, we must use the proposition some of Jesus is God....Mary cannot be said to be the mother of all of Jesus, but only of his humanity...Mary is the mother of some of Jesus; for Mary could very well be (and indeed is) mother of only the non-God part of Jesus....The fallacy again lies in not making the proper distinction between the humanity and deity of Christ. No one in the first century worshiped the body of Christ per se, but rather the person of Christ who happened to be embodied...." (Eric Svendsen: Evangelical Answers, pp. 179, 242 --- Svendsen defender John Bugay replies: "This quote is an accurate quote, but it is taken within the context of a 'logic exercise.' And as I pointed out, he apologizes for using such terms as 'some of Jesus.' " -- [7-5-05])

"Quickbeam of fangorn" (Catholic) then writes concerning the last quote: "I have to agree with your post."

Quickbeam: "If he rejects them [statements on the Theotokos] he is not a christian." (7-5-05)

Retro Rosco III: "Well, at a minimum the phrase 'some of Jesus is God' is bad logic, even in a 'logic exercise.' If he affirms the phrase as true, QB is right, he simply isn't a christian. And if he has to apologize for such terms, why did he use them in the first place? . . . a heretic by the standards of basic christian orthodoxy . . . And not just heresy by the standards of Catholicism, but of Classical Protestantism as well.." (7-5-05)

[I submit that Svendsen's problem is not that he isn't a Christian, but that (perhaps due to reflexive anti-Catholicism) he doesn't properly understand the notion of the Theotokos and fine points of orthodox Christology, or else doesn't know how to write about it without lapsing into unintended serious heresy, or at least what might be understandably interpreted as prima facie heresy. this was true of some orthodox Church Fathers, and even popes at times (such as Honorius). It is indeed possible that he has strayed far enough to be considered a Christological heretic (anything's possible for us fallen men), but to publicly question even whether he is a Christian at this point is, in my opinion, a rather rash judgment, to put it mildly]

Sadly, this is a typical three-days' work in character assassination and slander on an Internet Discussion board, which is why I have participated virtually nil on any board (Catholic, Protestant, or Rastafarian) for coming up to two years now. It happens on all sides, and we should condemn it on all sides. Only when folks start protesting against lack of charity and fairness to opponents amongst their own parties can we hope that anything will substantially change on Internet discussion boards.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Theological / Epistemological "Either/Or" Reasoning and C.S. Lewis's "True Myth"

Here is an exchange with an Orthodox acquaintance of mine:

I don’t have the book with me (I usually to quote from things when name-dropping), but the general point is that Lewis had two different modes, or phases, when it came to truth. One was the “true myth” idea that Tolkien used on him that was the turning point in his becoming a believer, and the other was this either/or liar/devil thing. The either/or thing was a function of his getting involved in apologetics, but he didn’t come to believe in Christianity because of the liar/devil thing, he came to believe because of the “true myth” thing.

In any case, the either/or argument doesn’t appeal to me whether it’s the deity of Christ, the papacy or Reformed doctrines. While reason is necessary, I don’t find such harsh logic either attractive or appropriate when it comes to discerning Christian truth. But that may just be me. I realize it appeals to a lot of other people.

It’s interesting that you adopt the “either/or” reasoning in the very act of condemning it (or at least frowning upon it in your own case). You can’t knock it on the one hand and then turn around and use it in the very act. What you have done in effect is create yet another dichotomy that doesn’t have to exist. It isn’t necessary. You don’t have to choose (by adopting “either / or”) between “either / or / liar / devil” and “true myth.” And the reason is that they are two equally valid modes of reasoning (which is why Lewis used them both).

God used the “true myth” insight for Lewis because he was interested in mythology and romanticism and was (apparently, by God’s grace) looking for connections between that interest of his and the claimed truths of Christianity. So he came to see that the Resurrection could be a true occasion of that particular “phoenix” or “gods becoming / interacting with men” motif in mythology. By the same token, that doesn’t men he had to rule out the laws of contradiction. The fact of Jesus’ Resurrection doesn’t necessitate accepting every such instance. One has to be discriminating as to evidence and credibility, and now we are smack dab back into the “either / or” that you claim you don’t care for (while using it to make your statement of protest and choice).

It seems to me that the Orthodox approach would be much more like what I am describing: accepting various modes of reasoning and reflection (along with non-rational mysticism, etc.) and not forcing one to make unnecessary choices and pit things against each other unnecessarily. It’s the Protestants who specialize in that (as Fr. Louis Bouyer argued at length in his classic, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism).

Maybe that’s another dividing line between those who become Orthodox and those who become Catholic. There are things which some people demand an either/or for,
It’s not so much that people demand it, but that the laws of logic and of thinking do not allow any other way for rational men. You act as if logic is a mere arbitrary choice of human beings. But then you use it throughout this response because there is no other way to rationally communicate and make arguments, where various truth claims are concerned.

whereas Orthodox are more than happy to shrug and say, “I don’t know.”

Agnosticism is a far different thing from denying the laws of logic which are inherent to a sensible, non-absurd thinking process. You can claim to not know something, or claim that it canot be known by anyone, without knocking knowledge itself and how it must ordinarily be arrived at by us mere mortals.

. . . Anyway, like I said before, you can’t scratch an itch you don’t have. This is why I appreciate you documenting your journey [a recent convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism], because I can compare it to my own journey, compare it to my own Burning Questions and/or lack of having similar Burning Questions as you, and better understand why you became this and I became that.

Indeed; that’s why all conversion stories are helpful to those in all parties. They help us sort out our own beliefs and things we might be questioning or otherwise wondering about.

. . . In the end, though, the biggest problem is that if things are going to be put this way, then I don’t see what sort of meaningful discussion can take place between Catholics and non-Catholics.

Claiming that one thing is or might be or probably is true somehow mitigates against constructive discussion? How, pray tell? I think the choice is either to think in logical terms or to not attempt discussion with those who differ from us at all (this is what Lewis would say: to argue is to presuppose the laws of logic and there is your “either / or” again: if by that — broadly speaking — we mean the law of contradiction, a=a, and a is not b). If logic is tossed because it is “divisive” then inter-communication becomes as meaningless and futile as arguing why my preference for chocolate ice cream proves that yours for vanilla is “wrong.” If everything is relative like that, or (I should say: pun intended) merely a matter of personal taste, then we simply can’t talk. Why would anyone bother to do what is done here or on any such forum? All we can do is sit and enjoy our ice cream the way we want it, and leave everyone else to theirs. All choices are equally valid. Individual choice would be bliss. I don’t think theology works like that, and I doubt that you do, either.

We aren’t forced to make a rigid choice. My example of how to communicate to the non-Christian or non-Catholic (as the case may be) has always been St. Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Note how he made various connections with his hearers: to find common ground. That is an example of the “true myth” or more “ecumenical” mode of persuasion or thinking. But then he started narrowing down choices to the one true God (the either/or or apologetic and generally “rationalistic” mode). He had to do that to avoid religious relativism. He couldn’t just say, “you have your gods, and I have my one God and isn’t it wonderful and let’s all get along. It’s all equally great and true and happiness-producing” He had to confront them with the error of their ways, and proclaim the truth that they needed to hear. So he used both approaches. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

It’s just so dam[n] combative and I think the combativeness is part of the reason we all find ourselves in this position in the first place.

There is a good combativeness and a bad combativeness (if you know what I mean). What we all surely know is what lousy, disrespectful arguing and apologetics on the Internet looks like. But the problem there, 90% of the time (I would venture to guess — it has sure been my own experience with lots of folks) is lack of charity, not a too-rigid approach to logic. It’s not logic that turns people off (rightly-understood) but a certain “cold logic” which is not accompanied by charity, and is accompanied by judgmentalism and condescension. That is perceived (rightly so) as pompous and arrogant and therefore, the person will not be open to hearing what the presenter is trying to share. But we mustn’t throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater.

So, in all things charity, but also we must argue our positions. Why? Well, biblically speaking, because this is our model. Both our Lord Jesus and St. Paul engaged in very serious, “controversial” discussion. They gave reasons for things, and opposed false positions, and made no bones about it. Both were also ecumenical (which defeats another false dichotomy: the “apologetics vs. ecumenism” canard). Paul spoke of those who hadn’t heard the gospel being judged by their consciences (Romans 1 and 2). Jesus was very kind and complimentary towards the Roman centurion and Samaritan woman at the well, etc. He told the parable of the Good Samaritan. He said that the kingdom would be given to the Gentiles as well as to His own group: the Jews. He was inclusivistic, not exclusivistic.

I think the causes of lack of religious certainty or assurance ultimately lie elsewhere (in many places). Some people seem to feel quite confident in their beliefs (I am numbered among those, in case anyone didn’t know that :-), and others struggle more. That doesn’t make them lesser persons or inferior; it is just something that is their cross, by temperament, experience, education, position in life and pressure of friends and peer groups, or whatever it might be. One might say having less certainty leads to greater humility. I don’t think it is an ironclad connection, but there is certainly some truth to that.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble. Hopefully, I’ve added something to the discussion.

You may have missed it in [another post] when I said:

And I apologize for the way I put my original statement. I shouldn’t have called it “flawed.” I should have just said it didn’t appeal to me or something. Didn’t mean to be contentious.

It seems to me that the Orthodox approach would be much more like what I am
describing: accepting various modes of reasoning and reflection (along with
non-rational mysticism, etc.) and not forcing one to make unnecessary choices and pit things against each other unnecessarily.

Yup. And I simply felt like the article was forcing me to make an uneccessary choice. That was the only point in my posting.

Orthodox-Catholic Reunion: Some Preliminary Thoughts

This is a brief exchange from the Pontifications blog, with a person of unknown affiliation (presumably non-Catholic) and an Orthodox:

Can you envision any way that communion could be achieved between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy that does not entail the Eastern Orthodox being in submission to Rome?

Sure: an arrangement which basically allows the Orthodox to give at least hypothetical “lip service”, so to speak, to papal primacy and supremacy and infallibility (?), while in practice it basically governs itself with little interference — much like Pope John Paul II has already proposed. It might be somewhat similar to the Queen of England, who is “sovereign” but who has little real political power.

I think the main thing in a reunion is an acknowledgement by both sides that distinctives and variations in theology and liturgy are permissible. I think there is a way that, e.g., the filioque can be harmonized with an Eastern understanding, just as several early Eastern Fathers had no trouble doing. Nor do we have to quibble about the fine points of the consecration or purgatory, etc. — i.e., on the broader ‘ecumenical” plane. We need to first acknowledge each other as more or less equal brothers in Christ. As far as I am concerned, the Catholic Church has pretty much already done that with regard to the Orthodox, without compromising its self-understanding. It is many of the Orthodox who want no part of the West, having inherited a particularly vehement anti-Western, anti-Catholic outlook. That can only be cracked by God’s grace, as it goes far beyond mere theology.

I’m sorry Dave but these montras [sic] really don’t give any explanatory role as to the separation.

They weren’t intended to. The question was specifically about the pope’s role in a reunion (”Can you envision any way that communion could be achieved between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy that does not entail the Eastern Orthodox being in submission to Rome?”).

You just don’t understand the philosophical theology that separates the two bodies.

If I don’t, you have not demonstrated this, so yours is simply the usual unsubstantiated charge (which seems endemic on the Internet among all schools).

Until you get there, you’re never going to see the filioque as anything else than “verbal trifles.”

But of course I said no such thing. Here is what I wrote:

I think there is a way that, e.g., the filioque can be harmonized with an Eastern understanding, just as several early Eastern Fathers had no trouble doing.

When you see the Neo-Platonic grid, much like Arianism, that the filioque is built on, then just maybe you’ll understand the Orthodox objection, till that time, you’ve provided little-to-no competency in the subject to be able to make a judgement.

I stand by the above statement. If prominent Eastern Fathers agree, then I think it is possible for Orthodox today to do so, if only they are willing. “A man convinced against his will retains his original belief still.”

This anti-western and anti-catholic charge only holds in order to discredit or to stave off making an argument.

Why would anyone think any Orthodox are “anti-western”? Surely nothing in, e.g., your post, would ever give such an impression, right?

Nothing more than poor rhetoric in order to hide behind poor argumentation.

Believe what you will. I think reunion is possible; I long and hope and pray for it, and I gave my opinion as to what it might conceivably look like. But if you wish to think that Catholics are so far gone that reunion is not possible, then I think you are part of the problem, not the solution. God would not want to see His One Church divided: that much is clear. So we must work towards ending the scandalous division as much as it is possible.

. . . I see it as providential that all the theology just was done in the East, and they had the privilege of working through these issues. Where the West, in adopting Augustinianism as its model by the various Frankish theologians (and the subsequent tradition), lapsed back into the sickness of religion instead of its cure.

. . . Every major heresy hunter holds to my view and not to Rome’s: Irenaeus, Athanasius, Basil, Cyril, Maximus, John of Damascus, Photius, and Gregory Palamas. These are the men I stand with.

. . . 1) I’ve read your interactions with various Orthodox writers on your website, and they are truly, well…let’s just say you don’t have a grasp of the problem, or you have not demonstrated so yet in writing. More specifically, the grid that surrounds the Greek Triadological model and the essence/energy distinction.

That may be, but again, it has little or nothing to do with the subject at hand.

2) Christ’s Church is not divided. You cannot divide Christ’s Church no more than you can divide up Christ. As St. Augustine says in the Tractates on the Gospel of John, Christ and his Church make up one whole Christ.

I couldn't agree more.

3) None of the Eastern Fathers, except perhaps those who were still in some sense a slave to Origenism, could be profited forth as a defense of the filioque. Collapsing the Nous into the One as a first principle in order to make the Nous the cause of a divine person as a way to stave off Gothic Arianism is not the solution. It is the same presuppositions as Arianism: deity is defined as causality. The Neo-Platonic system is flexible enough to license such a move. Tweak it a little bit here or a little there and you think you’ve solved the problem, where in actuality it is only resituated.

From the paper, A Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue on Filioque, by William Klimon (hosted on my site since 1997):

[I then cited a great portion of that paper: mostly about the patristic understanding of the filioque and related matters]

Is this the sort of analysis from my website that led you to conclude: "let’s just say you don’t have a grasp of the problem," and is all this consistent with your claim: "None of the Eastern Fathers, except perhaps those who were still in some sense a slave to Origenism, could be profited forth as a defense of the filioque"? I eagerly look forward to your reply.

5) I’m sorry to see Dave that you confuse argumentation and debate with being anti-western.

Hardly. Argumentation is what it is. Anti-western bias and anti-Catholicism is what it is. It is perfectly consistent for an anti-Catholic, anti-western type to make arguments. They may be good or bad ones (usually the latter), which is a separate question, but he can make them. And he can also try to answer our arguments. Now there's the rub, and that which made me tire of trying to reason with the anti-Catholic variety of Orthodox long ago. They have always ignored truly grappling with Catholic arguments, in my experience. True dialogue cannot take place unless a person truly understands the opponents' view and attempts to seriously interact with it. It helps, of course, for there to be mutual respect. I have tremendous respect for Orthodoxy (always have), but anti-Catholic Orthodox (NOT ecumenical Orthodox) do not return such respect and good will, and so dialogue becomes impossible.

I guess we can label people what we want as long as they don’t hold to our view eh?

The point is not arbitrary labeling but descriptive, reasonable ones. There is such a thing as anti-Catholicism, and it affects how people reason (or, "reason"). You are clearly anti-western, as shown by such statements as in your reply to Diane: "Where the West, in adopting Augustinianism as its model by the various Frankish theologians (and the subsequent tradition), lapsed back into the sickness of religion instead of its cure."

Or perhaps when someone believes they have good reasons for thinking that Rome fell from the True Church they can be called anti-western too.

Indeed, because this is a ridiculous, unsustainable position, and is specifically anti-western and pro-eastern. The catholic (little c) Church is just that: neither eastern nor western, but universal. That's how it was in the first millennium.

Perry [Robinson] and I have written plenty on our blog (that is down right now) and have had very good dialogue with just about everyone that has participated there.

Great. I don't see "good dialogue" here; sorry.

So anyone is free and able to see the free interaction that is given without participants falling into sad polemic of “anti-western” or “schismatic.”

You have introduced the polemics and divisiveness. I am trying to find common ground between east and west; Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Mine is essentially a positive, ecumenical endeavor, but you are seeking to perpetuate sad, unnecessary divisions and mutual recriminations.

In fact, I don’t think those words have ever been used there. Why is that Dave?

You don't have to use the word if you have the concept. If you give me your URL, I could easily prove that. But you already have in your responses here, so it isn't necessary.

6) I believe re-union is possible too, but only when Rome is ready to let go of parts of Augustinianism that they have dogmatized [mistakenly] as part of the deposit of faith.

Good for you (first part); the second part is debatable as to whether it occurred and whether it needs to be a matter of controversy in a reunion.

Your brother in the One Church (which includes both Catholicism and Orthodoxy in some mysterious fashion),



For a thorough examination of anti-western (not to mention schismatic) tendencies in the east and in Orthodoxy, see the series of articles by Dr. Philip Blosser:

Petrine jurisdiction exercised in the ancient Church

The Eastern Schism revisited

The Eastern Schism: a postscript

Eastern Orthodoxy's Witness to Papal Primacy: The Acacian Schism of 484-519

Papal Primacy and the Photian Schism of 879-880

Also, see my three papers:

A Response to Orthodox Critiques of Catholic Apostolicity

Dialogues on Orthodox Anti-Catholicism, Fr. Seraphim Rose, and Ecumenism

Indefectibility and the Anti-Ecumenical Orthodox Claim to Exclusive Ecclesiological Preeminence

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Pride, Unregenerate Blather, and Going to the Dark Side (All in a Day's Appraisal of My Work)

Or to quote Errol Flynn (a movie actor from the 30s, for all o' y'all young whippersnappers), "my wicked, wicked ways" . . . I ran across this when looking over the blog of one Kerry Gilliard, who I once considered a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance (when I was on his discussion board some years ago). At one point he was considering whether Catholics were Christians. Alas, at length he adopted a negative assessment. Sad, isn't it? So here (quite predictably, given his newfound viewpoint) is what he wrote about yours truly (in its entirety, lest I be accused by our subject of cynical use of ellipses), on his blog (wonderfully charitable stuff; very Christlike and reflecting well upon the Reformed tradition, isn't it?):



Noah gettin' drunk off his own grapes.....

09:28:55 pm, Categories: life and stuff, theology and stuff, 680 words

Dave Armstrong. and

There's a name I don't mention much because I don't feel like responding back to a 30-page 'debate' where he'll cite one article about 700 words in length, divide it up by sentences and type 200-1000 words in response to each sentence and call it a 'debate'. I first encountered Dave in 1998, when he joined my apologetics discussion list in my pre-Calvinistic days. Discussions with Dave are part of the reason I created the RCC-Evangelical discussion list on the site. If you check the 99 archives, you'll see many articles from his site dumped on the list as well as much argumentation from him during the life of the list.

Dave's generally a nice guy most of the time. I've seen him get quite nasty with folks, likewise, I've seen folks get nasty back at him. Likewise, I've seen some of his arguments have truck-sized holes in them (and no, I haven't taken the time to interact with them because I don't have the time to...), but that's typical of most Catholic apologists whose works and articles I've read through.

Anyway, hitting his blog and his apostolate website tonight, I looked at the amount of endorsements from both Catholic and non-Catholic folks that he had posted in the margins of his blog as well as on separate pages dating all the way back to 98 on his site. Some of the ellipses on some of the comments draw a raised eyebrow from me (because folks...can make... you say.... anything.... with dots in-between....), but that aside, I was reminded of a conversation I had with Tony earlier today.

In his wisdom, he told me that one of the major fights that most pastors have is against pride. "Watch out for people who love you TOO much" he told me. Watch out for it because what they're doing is elevating you and treating you like you can do no wrong. Likewise, if people start to 'like you'.... be careful. It's only one small step between being liked and believing it. He told me "Once you start believing that you ARE good, you'll begin your downfall and it will be a very fast one at that."

Pondered these thoughts much, I did. Read portions of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith at Borders' today, I did. Many parallels between Anakin and what Tony told me, did I see.

And Dave's blog reminded me of them tonight.

Whether Dave is saved or not isn't my place to pass judgment. I do highly doubt that someone who fights so ardently against sola fide can be saved, but that's just my scripture from my soteriological grid talking.

Me, being a natural attention seeker, I do have a bit of an ability to spot pride - even pride shrouded in false humility ("Look at how HUMBLE and willing to dialogue I am! Look at what others say about me! My writings speak for themselves!"). Just an observation - and a right one, I think. If Dave's unregenerate....well, that would explain a lot. If he is, but just woefully misled and misleading others into Catholicism... that would explain a lot too.

I debated recently (but decided not to) on putting up comments I get via e-mail from folks praising my work on TC dot Com and givin' me props. After all, what man doesn't need affirmation ? I decided no. Though the site is my ministry given to me by the Lord for the purpose of spreading His name and glory, it's not my ministry. It ain't about me at all.

The first duty of the Christian - to serve God and enjoy Him forever. It's all about Him. So Glory to God alone for whatever help my ministry site can be to folks. If I died in an accident today, the advancement of the kingdom is no way dependent upon me nor am I not replaceable. God will and can raise up people from the ashes of the books on my shelves who can do a much better job than I.


Of course I could respond to much of this, but why bother, you know? I'm finally learning that it is futile to do so. Kerry's mind is made up, or else he wouldn't have published such a judgmental, substanceless (he, of course, having no time to actually refute anything I write), purely prejudicial rant. Of what use is it to argue against a charge that has no rational basis, anyway, and is based wholly on subjective feelings and prior sectarian bias? And if I did try to answer all the nonsense above, Kerry would likely simply answer: "see how prideful Dave is because he is defending himself?! He can't accept any correction!!!!" It's all very convenient: all wrapped up in a nice little box with a snazzy bow.

Just one thing, though (I couldn't resist): as a matter of simple comparison (rather than defending myself against charges that I am filled with pride). Kerry likes James White's blog, along with Eric Svendsen's and Steve Hays' blogs (wow, what a surprise and shock). One thing James White has written quite a bit about lately is irrational attacks on him, of a purely personal nature (which I have publicly denounced more than once, and thoroughly disagree with, as sinful). Among these attacks are accusations of a wanton pride. Here are some examples of such asinine attacks on White's person and character, from some Catholic fool with a "wild tongue," who goes by "John6jmj" [White's words will be in blue; his various critics' and slanderers' words will be in red]:

He can't answer those questions because he thinks he is a god. He is a pretex evangelist. Any obedient Catholic in this forum can defeat James White in a debate using the Catechism. James White IS a straw man with no moral courage.

(John6jmj's Weekend MeltDown, 6-25-05)

White responded in the same article (quite rightly and justifiably, in my opinion):

. . . this fellow says I can't answer these questions because I think I'm a god? If there is a semi-rational person left on Envoy, someone would have to say, "Excuse me, but are you not feeling well, john6jmj? You are acting rather...odd." But no, that kind of inane accusation will be allowed to stand. All in service of mother church, you know.

So far so good. But then White couldn't resist indulging in a little judging himself, immediately after he points out that this is wrong (the very next sentence and section):

Apolonio Latar then chimed in. Apolonio is a young man. I guess he's studying
philosophy in college. He has entered into the "Put the name of a famous philosopher, and then an obscure one, in at least one out of three sentences" phase of being omniscient (remember being omniscient when you were in college?). There is a reason why "sophomore" means what it means.

The very word "pride" has been used to describe White, as he chronicles (this time from a Catholic who uses the nick "Scholastic"):

IMO, this man has some serious issues, especially with his pride.
(To the Catholic "Scholastic" on PlanetEnvoy, 4-16-05)

White again answers properly:

Why is it that you folks are so consistent in 1) not citing anything from my published works, but 2) always including personal ad-hominem by 3) people who do not know me? You do realize that such tactics reveal, to the serious minded person, anyway, that your case is weak?

Then Catholic Dr. Art Sippo makes the same charge (which White describes as "losing control"):

Patrick, go tell White I think he is a BIG BABY! A WIMP! That will get him to debate because he is so full of pride.

(The Brave RC Apologists at Envoy, 6-10-05)

Now my question to my old "friend" Kerry is this:

Why is it wrong for these three Catholics to accuse James White of "pride," being a self-perceived "god," etc., whereas it is perfectly acceptable and right and proper for you to accuse me of the same sin?

White described this as "ad hominem," which is certainly the case. Why does it somehow cease to be that simply because a Calvinist makes the charge against a so-called "unregenerate" Catholic? Whether I am "saved" or not by his criteria is irrelevant to the ethical question before us. It's wrong, no matter whom the charge is directed against. That's why I condemn it when it is directed towards White (even though he hypocritically makes the same charge, such as against my friend Apolonio Latar, above). Those in Kerry's party ought also to condemn it when it is wrongly used by those in that camp. But when it comes to Catholics, anything goes.

Oh, and another thing: didn't Kerry (the "natural attention seeker," so he says) notice all the negative comments about myself that I also publish on my blog sidebar? And that is something that White habitually does, too, as seen above. He knows that apologetics always breeds harsh (usually unjust) criticism. The point is that "controversial" people (i.e., those who take a strong stand on anything) will always elicit strong opinions, both pro and con. The Bible says that leaders in the Church ought to be spoken well of, but also that Jesus' disciples would be lied about and persecuted: that they should fully expect this and rejoice. We see both things. The sad part is that today much of this immoral conduct is by Christians attacking other Christians (and reading them out of the faith before they do so). What a great victory for the devil!

In any event, the mere fact that I post comments of both sorts proves nothing (let alone profound pridefulness and hubris) other than that I am fulfilling both biblical expectations. Some people won't like what I write, or myself, personally (thus suggesting that I might be doing something right, per Jesus), and others will (thus suggesting that I might be doing something right, per Paul). And if I am doing something right (if indeed, this is so), that might perhaps persuade a few more folks to read my blog (which is the goal of any blogmaster and apologist and writer, after all; maybe Kerry wants no one to read his, but he would be in a lonely minority)!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Theological and Apologetics Links From Wikipedia

Wikipedia entries:

Scott Hahn

Peter Kreeft

Jimmy Akin

Karl Keating

Patrick Madrid

William Lane Craig

Norman Geisler

Gary Habermas

Francis Schaeffer

Josh McDowell

Walter Martin

Lee Strobel

Catholic Answers


Presuppositional Apologetics


Philosophy of Religion

Christian Philosophers

Arguments for the Existence of God

Arguments Against the Existence of God

Cosmological Argument

Teleological Argument

Ontological Argument

Moral Argument

Transcendental Argument

Problem of Evil







Roman Catholic Church

Catholic Reformation

Papal Infallibility

Second Vatican Council

Pope John Paul II

History of Christianity

Church Fathers

Eastern Orthodoxy

Eastern Orthodox

Protestant Reformation


Martin Luther

John Calvin



Christian Evangelicalism



Traditionalist Catholic

Catholic Traditionalist Movement

Lapsed Catholic

Indult Catholics

Catholic Charismatic Renewal

G.K. Chesterton [excellent overview]

C.S. Lewis [equally excellent]

John Henry Newman [fabulous]

Ronald Knox

Hilaire Belloc
Development of Doctrine

St. Augustine

Thomas Aquinas

Malcolm Muggeridge

Blaise Pascal

John Wesley
Christian Writers



Is America the Wickedest Nation Ever? Yes (a Strong Biblical Case Can be Made)

Excerpts from a much longer paper written in 2001:

The most rebellious nations (by definition), and the most worthy of judgment, are the most Judaism- or Christianity-saturated nations. They are all the more accountable for their rebellion, just as ancient Israel became an abomination to God time and time again because she was given so much, and rejected it. We know from revelation that God clearly judges nations in direct proportion to how much moral truth they know and deliberately reject.

One might argue that mass media (now including the Internet), literacy, centuries of further development of moral and theological teaching, more awareness of the gospel and Christianity; more familiarity with its good fruits and blessings resulting therefrom; revivalism, stated belief, and any number of additional factors would be criteria for determining which countries today might possibly be "ripe" for judgment, having rejected so much true knowledge of the faith and of God and His teachings and moral laws. It is the contrast or relationship between how much of Christianity a nation knows and has rejected, which is the key factor, and what that nation has done or permitted (legally or otherwise) since having rejected it as a culture.

Better for a nation to not even claim to be Christian than to pretend it is while, for example, slaughtering babies by the millions, or sanctioning legally and culturally a host of sexual sins and other sins not harmonious with traditional Christianity. To whom much is given, much is required. This is utterly obvious, given God's treatment of His own chosen people, the Jews, throughout history. They knew much more than the Gentiles, so God judged them accordingly. The presence of many good things in a nation would not necessarily comprise any sort of disproof of this opinion. The very fact of undeniable and great amounts of good supports the contention that a nation has been especially blessed by God's grace (for where else does good come from?). That nations fall so low despite that is their indictment, much like ancient Israel.

Our Lord reasoned precisely in this way, in condemning Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum, in relation to Tyre and Sidon (Luke 10:13-15). There, the idea is that the former places knew more; therefore they were more culpable for rebellion: . . for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon . . . (10:13) In fact, our Lord mentions Sodom in contrast to those towns which reject the disciples' message, in Luke 10:12 (compare to Ezekiel, chapter 16, and Romans, chapters 1 and 2). All quite biblical, all quite divine, being from our Lord.

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nin'eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

(Matthew 12:40-42)

Natural law is also binding on all persons and cultures. The key lies in Romans 1 and 2. Those two chapters refer specifically to individual culpability, rather than national. But they can also be applied by extension or analogy, to nations. It all depends on what one knows of God's law and/or natural law. All men have the potential for knowing how to act morally, in the main, even without revelation, and they are judged accordingly, as St. Paul explicitly informs us. So the following theoretical/philosophical scenario would apply, I think. I don't pretend to know how one would quantify degrees of sin in all particulars. That is for God to ultimately determine (in terms of both judgment and individual salvation), not men, but here is my scenario :

1. Nation X has "degree 99" of knowledge about revelation/Judaism/Christianity and has (institutionally, and in terms of societal norms) rejected 85% of it.

2. Nation Y has "degree 0" of knowledge about revelation/Judaism/Christianity - therefore it cannot reject it (insofar as revelation goes beyond the moral knowledge achievable through natural law).

3. Nation X has "degree 50" of the sins of abortion, materialism, oppression of the poor, racism, lack of piety, sexual sin, etc.

4. Nation Y also has "degree 50" of the sins of abortion, materialism, oppression
of the poor, racism, lack of piety, sexual sin, etc.
Now which nation is more worthy of judgment? Clearly, Nation X, because it knew more, having received and accepted more of God's revelation, therefore incurring a higher culpability, than Nation Y, which received none. The sin and hypocrisy is proportionate to how much the nation knew and rejected. One can argue, of course, over degrees and culpability, as it is a largely subjective matter, but the bottom line principle of to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48) stands, I think. The context of this saying of our Lord was the parable of the faithful and wise steward (Luke 12:41-48). Here is its conclusion: verses 47-48 (RSV):
And that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act
according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.
The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) makes a very similar point. It is noteworthy that the servants received different amounts of talents: 5, 2, and 1, to each according to his ability (25:15). The servants with 2 and 5 talents multiplied them by the same amount (25:20,22), while the servant with one did nothing. He was damned (25:30), while the others were greeted with well done, good and faithful servant (25:21,23). So they were judged by what they did with what they had, just as those with and without the law are judged by what they know and (more importantly) do (Romans 2:12-16). James makes the same point in another fashion:

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.

(James 3:1; cf. Romans 2:17-24)

Jesus echoes this same thought in his conversation with the Roman centurion, where he contrasts his strong faith with the spiritual hypocrisy of the disobedient among the Jews who knew more but who would be damned (Matthew 8:5-13; cf. 21:28-32). That said, I believe there could indeed be (and often have been) nations which were so exceedingly wicked, even never having received or accepted any significant knowledge of revelation (but still being responsible for moral law and conscience), that they are worse than a nation receiving revelation and rejecting part of it. So e.g., I would say that the ancient Aztecs, with their human sacrifice, were worse as a society than Rome in 430, or America in 1960, or even France in the throes of "Enlightenment" tyranny in 1795. No contest.

But once (particularly) the millions of slaughtered babies start adding up in so-called Christian countries, with legal and societal sanction ("all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke), then I say that the latter countries are far worse, according to Scripture, just as an individual who truly didn't know what abortion entailed, and had one, is far less guilty than one who committed this horrible sin, knowing full well what it was, and perhaps even knowing that it is utterly contrary to the Bible and Christianity.

One must think about these matters biblically, as opposed to being a fish wholly contained by the "aquarium" of their own culture and how it predominantly thinks; beholden to the currently fashionable zeitgeist. It is always an ongoing task for Christians to think "biblically" and "Christianly" in the midst of an overwhelmingly secular culture, whose influence affects us all. Oftentimes, unfortunately, people come from a perspective of sheer emotionalism or arbitrary opinion, rather than from a biblical worldview, with regard to this matter of when God might be construed as "judging" or "chastising."

That is quite understandable (as it is an unpleasant, frightening topic), but at the same time, it is the duty of the Christian apologist to explain and defend a biblical worldview, especially if it is being snickered at, attacked, and dismissed as of little import, or relegated to the sole domain of "fanatics" or so-called "fundamentalists." God doesn't change. He judged nations in the past; He still does today, and He will judge the entire world and everyone in it at the End of the Age.

Oftentimes in the Old Testament, the prophets would give a conditional prophecy: "If you act righteously you will win battle X with nation Y. But if you continue in your idolatries [substitute any serious sin], you will be defeated, and led away with hooks in your noses, [etc.]" So repentance was urged, without being thought of as a substitution for military action against enemies. Prophets (as I recall) didn't say very often, if at all, not to fight, but rather, to repent so that the battle would be successful. The evil nature of the enemy did not change, whatever Israel decided to do with regard to its own sins:

but if you will not hearken to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the
commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your

(1 Samuel 12:15; cf. 2 Chronicles 7:11-22)

Nations are as contradictory as every human being is: we are mixtures of radical good and radical evil, due to original sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Alexander Solzhenitsyn correctly noted: "the line between good and evil runs through every human heart." Nations are much the same. Many of the inhabitants of a country could be very righteous and perform many good works, but there is a common motif in the Old Testament, whereby God ceases to even acknowledge the goodness of spiritually or morally good, pious acts, if enough evil is tolerated that even the pious acts become overtly hypocritical.

Many Christians today apparently think that God no longer judges, or does in a fashion much different than what He did in the Old Covenant. This is simply false, for anyone who accepts the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible in toto. God doesn't change. The short answer to this is found in Jesus' words in His Sermon on the Mount:

Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.

(Matthew 5:17, RSV; cf. 5:18-20)

Revelation 19:11-16, which speaks of Jesus judging the nations at the end of the current age, should disabuse anyone of the "meek and mild Jesus" stereotype, which is thoroughly unbiblical.

Does God not love the countries He judges? Of course He does love them. Likewise, we can love our own country even while believing that it might be ripe for judgment, just as Jeremiah did, just as Jesus did as He wept over Jerusalem:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! . . . . . Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.

(Matthew 23:37a,38)

To deny that, one would have to believe that Jesus didn't love His country, the Chosen People of Israel, because He pointed out their grievous sins and predicted that their Temple would be destroyed within a generation. Jesus didn't often emphasize all the good things that had occurred in Jerusalem. He dwelt on the bad things (which is the function and purpose of preachers and prophets), thus causing (according to the fashionable psycho-babble of today) irreparable harm to their self-esteem. Jesus spoke of an Israel that featured prophet-killing, hardness of heart, money-making in the Temple, hyper-legalism, and nationalistic pride. As He said, He "came not for the righteous, but for sinners."

God judges. He has the power of life and death in His hands. Jesus implied that Israel was to be judged because of its disobedience. The Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Now, according to the reasoning of some, it would then follow that Jesus must have positively willed this destruction, and that the Roman troops were therefore "good guys." But this simply doesn't follow. God doesn't positively decree evil. He cannot do so. Such a view is rank blasphemy. He merely uses it for His ends.

Evil is evil. How could God have used Judas to betray His own Son? How could He have devised the plan of redemption whereby the Crucifixion occurred at the hand of evil men? The Roman Emperor Nero was not exactly a Boy Scout troop leader. Plenty of Christians died under him, and this was God's plan, too, because martyrs' blood is the seed of the growth of the Church. The Assyrians or the Babylonians (or for that matter, the Nazis and Communists) are no less evil than any agents of judgment today that God might use (in the sense of passively permitting the evil they devise). God used all these stooges and buffoons as shadows in the "screen" of history, in His Providence.

People tend to see the situation they themselves are in as intrinsically different because they are in the midst of it, and often, still grieving and suffering from it. We should no more expect a people to see the overall picture of what may be happening to them, than we would expect Job to understand his sufferings while they happened, or the disciples to understand the Cross while it was happening. Job never was told why he suffered so much. He was told to trust God, who set the universe in motion, etc. All we can go by in such a matter is biblical revelation, example, and precedent.

Finally, it is almost inconceivable to imagine an official Catholic teaching, declaring that such-and-such an act against nation X or individual Y unquestionably constituted divine wrath, judgment, or chastisement. The Church doesn't even declare that any given individual is in hell (not even Judas). Catholics don't even believe in the absolute assurance of personal salvation, let alone thinking that we know for sure that God is judging in any particular context. In that sense, judgment is similar to the fulfillment of prophecy. As with the judgment of nations, it is a very tricky business indeed to determine if it is actually taking place in any given circumstance.

In any case, it is far more biblically correct to say that God still judges nations and to speculate (with all due self-reflection and willingness to repent) on which nations might be so liable, than to deny that God still does this (with little or no biblical basis) and to say it is illegitimate to talk about at all, simply because we can't achieve philosophical certainty of the highest order (which can't be attained in most fields of inquiry, anyway). Therefore, I think this line of thought leads to a rhetorical and philosophical dead-end.

I don't claim to understand why certain nations seemingly worthy of judgment have been spared (including my own). I can imagine, however, any number of reasons why they might be spared, in theory, in "God's mind." E.g., they might be needed to judge other, more wicked nations, or someone might be born there who would cure cancer, or help cause a revival which would have far-reaching, positive consequences (a guy like John Wesley). Only God sees all things, and the whole of history, being out of time.

I'm simply trying to grapple with the biblical data and anomalies such as a country like ours -- admirable in so many ways -- which can live with 44 million deliberately-inflicted executions, while mourning, weeping and wailing and achieving extraordinary unity over some 7000 deliberately-inflicted executions.

The current casualties [from 9-11] are a mere 0.000159% of the legal deaths in America at the hand of abortionist "doctors." Yet we as a nation have a hundred, a thousand times more grief over that than we do about the mountains of dead babies, now over seven times as large as the number of Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust. We look down our noses at the terrorists, who deny the "sanctity of life" (as if we don't, as a society). We despise Hitler, while we have murdered five, six, seven times more than he did (depending on how the casualties of WW II are figured in).

We are even approaching Mao's estimated 60 million murders of his own people. He killed his own without Christ and Christian revelation. We kill ours with those spiritual benefits. We even allow mothers to kill their own children. God help us. This is the sort of utter, abominable moral hypocrisy that I have been trying to point out. I know it is difficult to see, but it is undeniable.

We certainly can know what nations are particularly worthy of judgment, based on their sins. America is worthy, I have little or no doubt, based on legal abortion alone, as well as a host of other evils, including soon-to-be-institutionalized homosexuality (which reminds me just a wee bit of Sodom and Gomorrah). Does this prove therefore that September 11th was in fact divine judgment? No, not at all. Yet a belief that it was is not at all implausible or incoherent or impermissible, given the biblical data on the topic.

Also, God may choose to exercise His mercy at any time, even if a nation is worthy of judgment. He did that with Israel repeatedly; so I believe He continues to do (as He does not change). Determining actuality, on the other hand, is a quite different proposition, due to the complexity of Providence and the place of evil in it. I think it is every bit as hard to determine as fulfilled prophecy, if not more so. Hypocrisy is surely a prominent motif in Scripture, for those who know more of revelation, and it is by no means confined to nations possessing revelation. God is not mocked. The scales will be made right in due course, whether in history or at the end of it.

If one wishes to quibble with a person stating that September 11th was "definitely" a judgment, I can see that, but to not even allow one to believe it is a plausible possibility: that I can't comprehend. Nor do I accept the proposition made by some Christians that God no longer judges, and has changed somewhere in the period between the Old and New Testaments.

We are already far beyond worthiness for judgment, as far as I am concerned. What does it take (I ask anyone who denies this)? I haven't seen anyone who denies this possibility arguing as to how 44 million savage executions of children are somehow not serious enough to merit judgment. Would 100 million be? Would one billion? Or maybe blowing up the whole earth and killing 7 billion or whatever it is now? We rightly detest the evil of 6 million Jews being killed in the Holocaust . . . Obviously, little people are placed out of the category of people (even by many Jews, who ought to know better, one would think), just as blacks and Indians and Jews and other groups were placed historically. Otherwise, our culture wouldn't think in these radically contradictory and absurd terms.

I shall now re-state my "thesis on judgment" briefly and more precisely, and draw some additional distinctions which might be helpful to promote further discussion and thought on this issue:

1. Significant amounts of institutionalized evils or illegitimate, immoral social norms in a nation/society (whether "Christian" or pagan) render it worthy of judgment, according to biblical teaching.

Nations which possess relatively more revelation and reject it, will tend to be more spiritually hypocritical and rebellious in degree (thus more worthy of judgment, according to "to whom much is given, much is required") than nations not possessing revelation which also have institutionalized evil and illegitimate, immoral social norms, though there may be exceptions to the rule in the case of extraordinarily wicked nations which had never been Christianized or "Judaized."

2. Being worthy of judgment is determined by lack of adherence to biblical and natural law morality, whereas a possible scenario of being in fact judged by God cannot be determined with certainty, since many other factors with regard to Providence and the "timing" of God's actions must be taken into account, and man doesn't have enough information to render such a conclusion beyond all doubt (and no biblical information, excepting some extraordinarily clear prophecies).

3. Given #1 and #2, it is altogether permissible and proper to believe that it is plausible or possible that a given nation is in fact being judged or chastised, based on its disobedience to moral law and/or spiritual hypocrisy (which God clearly disapproves of in the strongest terms in Scripture).

4. Repentance on an individual level and in a corporate sense (e.g., as the Ninevites did in response to Jonah) is consistent with either an acceptance of moral failure, based on #1, or belief that judgment may in fact be taking place, as in #3, or both. Belief that judgment is indeed occurring (like a belief that the End of the Age or the Second Coming is near) often produces deep repentance among those in the society who are still spiritually "reachable." Even if that belief is mistaken, the repentance based wholly or in part on that belief is still a positive social good. And of course it is good (at all times) for a nation to examine itself and its laws and norms and moral teachings. History teaches us that this usually doesn't happen unless and until some serious calamity occurs.

Addendum: One might also possibly argue (I'm basically thinking out loud and exploring this notion) that since whole nations do not usually repent unless serious calamities occur (and/or revivals), that therefore, the presence of widespread repentance and self-examination might be taken as evidence (given what history teaches us) that indeed judgment or revival had occurred. The purpose of judgment (unless it is final) is to purify a nation, so increasing moral purity in turn might lead one to reasonably suspect that the judgment that usually produces it was present.