Friday, August 12, 2005

A Day in the Life of an Anti-Catholic: Steve "Whopper" Hays

Check out this wonderfully insightful, charitable comment, made by Steve Hays on "Pedantic Protestant's" blog, on 8-12-05:

Perhaps we've been wrong about this. Perhaps we should cut dear old Dave a little slack. After all, it's a high and lonely calling to be Dave Armstrong. Yes, the importance of being Dave. Imagine the sheer weight of responsibility--of living up to such exalted expectations. This is not a job everyone can do. Not just any Joe Six Pack can be Dave Armstrong. The job qualifications are just too daunting. So, by process of elimination, there is only one individual with the unique combination of unique abilities to aspire to the awesome and lonesome vocation of Davedom.

But remember, as he once explained to me on my own blog, that he's doing it for us, you know--for all the little people who would be like lost and straying sheep without the guidance of this sage and selfless shepherd. St. Dave, pray for us now, and at the hour of our death!

Does anyone still wonder why I have neither time nor patience any longer to try to seriously dialogue with people who express themselves in such an idiotic fashion? Yet Steve expects me to dialogue with him and to take him seriously. He's ticked off because of my policy of ceasing attempts at dialogue with anti-Catholics (oops! I forgot: there is no such category: only "anti-Protestants," as James White has once again reiterated on his blog. Sorry for the slip).

Since he's in that category, this policy includes (or should I say, excludes) him. I can't help it if he takes it personally and so has to lash out in a juvenile manner. That's his problem. He chose to be an anti-Catholic Protestant, which is his perfect right, and I chose to no longer try to dialogue with those holding a position which I consider ridiculous, self-defeating, utterly incoherent and indefensible, and intellectual suicide, which is my perfect right, especially given all the different topics I write about, and the usual time constraints (an 80-hour work week, a wife and four young children, etc.).

In any event, I haven't been able as of yet, to refrain from the urge of responding to such tripe with humor, so here I go again (heaven help me!):

A Day in the Life
(original lyrics by Lennon and McCartney, 1967)

I read the blogs today oh, boy
About the lying men who made the grade
And though the lies were rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the polygraph*

He blew his mind out; how bizarre!
He didn’t notice that the truth had changed
A crowd of groupies stood and stared
They’d heard his lies before,
Nobody was sure if he was from the house of the Lord.

I saw some bilge today oh, boy
The anti-Catholics had just lost the war
A crowd of papists turned away
But I just had to look
Having read White's book,
I’d love to turn your hearts...

--- The Hallucination ---
Woke up, got born again,
Ripped a Rosary to shreds
Found my way downstairs and read Steve Hays,
And looking up I knew that I was saved.

Found Bishop White and joined his chat
Started lyin' in seconds flat
Found my way back home to incense smoke,
Steve Hays spoke and he went into a scream

"Ah poor St. Dave, poor St. Dave, dear Old Dave.
We must get him saved, get him saved, get him saved."
I read the lies today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Steve Hays' reasoning
And though his facts were rather small
He tried to count them all,
Now they know how many lies it takes to make the papists fall.
I’d love to turn your hearts...

* Lie detector machine

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"How Does One Decide Which Church is True?"

BWL attends a Lutheran church. This was drawn (slightly-edited, with typos removed) from comments threads below. His words will be in blue. My old words will be in green.


The argument you are making is that sola Scriptura doesn't work because of the divisions among those who claim to adhere to it and the absence of any way (and especially any authority) to end said divisions. But churches who deny sola Scriptura and claim to adhere to Tradition are also in the same boat.

First of all, let everyone note what was done here (which is usually done): rather than deny the assertion and show that Protestantism does indeed have a way out of the dilemma, you immediately switch the matter back to Catholicism. That's fine in and of itself. Fire away! But it is no answer to an internal suggested problem of Protestantism to simply point out a possible internal problem of Catholicism. This is a variation of the old "your dad's uglier [or just as ugly] as mine" approach."

And that's part of what I mean when I say that Protestants never address the thorny problems of sola Scriptura head on. Almost always it is a diversionary tactic, or recourse to Honorius or the sexual scandal or some such ploy to avoid dealing with severe problems inherent in sola Scriptura. Just look at how the Protestants in this forum are acting when the topic comes up: they're all squirming: even outwardly so (don't get me wrong: I greatly appreciate the honesty of admitting that one is troubled by something). In any event, there is no doubt that it remains a huge problem for Protestants to resolve for themselves.

That said, I strongly deny that we are all "in the same boat" in this regard.

So the same question could be asked of you: how do non-Protestant Christians decide between Catholicism, Orthodoxy, the Coptic church, the Old Catholics, etc.?

The arguments are long, complex, and elaborate. There are no simple answers to be given that anyone should be convinced by. But I think that with proper study of all sides, one can be given enough information to make a good comparison of competing viewpoints and make the most plausible choice. I've shown, I believe, that the papacy is explicitly biblically-grounded, and that it developed in a consistent, sensible manner throughout Church history. It was part of Church policy and organization and the bulwark of orthodoxy. So to simply cut it out and separate from it doesn't make sense to me because it is not a consistent development of what was before. The same holds true of ecumenical councils. Orthodox and Protestants (to differing degrees) value the early Church councils. Everyone speaks of one Church in those days, yet later on it somehow gets split. Well, who is it that continues to have a pope and ecumenical councils, just as in the first millennium? It ain't the Orthodox or the Protestants! So, although it might still be argued that something fundamental changed so that Vatican II is a completely different species than Nicaea, at least we HAVE councils. A group that doesn't has to explained why they were normative before but not now (except in Catholicism).

I don't know much about the Copts, and so I can't speak about them. The Old Catholics refused to accept papal infallibility, which wasn't invented in 1870, but rather, was in place (practically-speaking) for a long time, and was a perfectly consistent development of papal supremacy. The Council decided that this was to be a de fide dogma (just like the early councils). The Church spoke. The Old Catholics didn't like it and split, just as all the heretics through the centuries had done: they knew better than the Church. It's rather obvious, then, that they are not the "mainstream" because (again) they changed what had been received Tradition. Continuity is the key. That's apostolic succession and development of doctrine. It's how we know what the Church and True Christian Tradition is. Thus taught St. Paul and the Fathers, and the Catholic Church today.

Etc., etc., etc.

And it's worth pointing out that at least for the RC, EO and Copts, they all were around before the Reformation (meaning divisions were not new before then) and all claim to be "the church" as well.

I think the Orthodox are certainly part of the Church. They don't have a correct view of the papacy, from our perspective, but they are part of us. There are other issues — many of which are highly abstract or merely cultural — but that is the basic difference.

In addition, if Protestantism is wrong, how is a Protestant suppose to decide between these churches who are all ancient and all claim Tradition?
I've given a "nutshell" answer. The long answer is found in many many of my papers. Like I said, it is too serious an issue to trivialize by trying to give short, pat answers to it.

I don't think that I would have the time to engage all of your arguments. I do have a job after all and this is just something I do on the side.

That's fine, but it remains true that in order to decide vexing, complex issues, we all have to devote considerable time, just as we went to school for thousands of hours to learn things. Theology, Bible study, and historical study are no different. It's irrelevant to me whether you work through all these things with me or not, but I contend that you must work through them in depth in some fashion if you hope to resolve these difficulties that you frankly admit exist in your viewpoint.

I really don't know how you write as much as you do sometimes. Honestly it's quite impressive. Maybe you just drink more coffee than I do:)

Actually no: it gives me a headache. I take bee pollen and eat naturally-sweetened stuff. I write very fast. Most subjects I've dealt with before, so the thoughts are already floating around in my head. I do this full-time (I do my second part-time job on top of the full-time hours). I can cut-and-paste many times. I love what I do, which makes it easier and faster. I get stimulated by opposing arguments, and that motivates me to write and brings up new thoughts and ideas.

That is the bottom-line issue that both sides need to address, but if one side refuses to engage the most serious critiques of its fundamental principle and rule of faith, then what does that tell us? To me, it indicates that it is an indefensible system, with false premises, and that is not something I would want to be a part of. I would either seek to defend and uphold it or get out and adopt a more feasible and plausible position.

Well, I'm not so sure about this. James White frequently goes around crowing about how Catholics haven't properly addressed his critiques, etc.

Except with me (and several others I know of). In my case, he flees for the hills and tries to pretend that I haven't refuted him time and again. It remains a simple, indisputable, easily-documented fact that no Protestant has sustained a defense of sola Scriptura in the face of one of my critiques. This includes at least two people who wrote master's theses on the topic, one who was the editor of the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (brother of a good Baptist friend of mine), folks like Keith Mathison (who has a doctorate), and others of like education (though that was recent; frankly, I don't expect him to be any different; maybe he'll pleasantly surprise me. I hope so).

They were in the position to give the best answer. But even they couldn't do so. That's not because they are ill-equipped. It's because you can only get so much mileage out of something that isn't TRUE. When you have to make a case out of something so incoherent, it is extremely hard work. I don't blame anyone for not wanting to do so. But I eventually blame them if they refuse to acknowledge the problem and don't try to rectify it in their own spiritual life and theological outlook.

Granted, he is a real blowhard, but this is what a lot of people on both sides say.

Yes, they do. I can document everything I say. Many people have learned this the hard way. :-) Like Dizzy Dean used to say, "it ain't braggin' if you can DO it!"

My case, however, is a bit more complicated. My wife and family aren't too thrilled with Lutheranism, much less Catholicism. So part of the reason I'm Protestant is not simply because of certain doubts about Catholicism (which are much fewer than about Baptistic Evangelicalism), but because of worries about maritial/family problems that would ensue if I ever left Protestantism.

That's between you and God, and your family. Speaking for myself only, I would always maintain that an individual must follow his conscience, no matter what, and should convince others that he or she ought to be allowed to do so, but there are many situations, and wisdom and prudence dictate different responses or speeds of certain "moves" in different circumstances (also I didn't have to face these difficulties in my conversion, and so don't feel that it is my place to "lecture" others about it). May God bless you as you seek God in deciding what is best for your family. Only God knows all the variables and factors. No one else does. I'm just an apologist making my defense of what I believe. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit and cannot be coerced or forced or made to happen "before its time," so to speak.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha") in the New Testament (RSV)

Here are the links to the complete, eight-part series:


Mark and Luke

John and Acts


1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians

Philippians Through Titus

Hebrews and James

1 Peter Through Revelation


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.

Possible 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]

Recently, a Reformed Protestant wondered aloud what the purpose of collecting these possible references would be (if not apologetic in nature, as some sort of "proof" of the canonicity of the Deuterocanonical or so-called "Apocryphal" books). I agree with Jimmy Akin's comments in the above-cited web page:

I get a lot of requests for a list of the references the New Testament makes to the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, giving a list is not such a simple affair since it is not always obvious whether something is a genuine reference.

Hebrews 11:35 is an indisputable reference to 2 Maccabees 7, but many are not so clear as there may be only a single phrase that echoes one in a deuterocanonical book (and this may not be obvious in the translation, but only the original languages).

This is the same with New Testament references to the protocanonical books of the Old Testament. How many New Testament references there are to the Old Testament depends in large measure on what you are going to count as a reference.

As a result, many scholarly works simply give an enormous catalogue of all proposed references and leave it to the individual interpreter to decide whether a given reference is actual or not.

I will follow the same procedure . . .
So will I. This project is not, strictly-speaking, an exercise in apologetics, but rather, an aid in Bible study or a Bible "reference" tool. Furthermore, it is obvious (and crucial to understand) that many (if not most) of these proposed or real "references" are not literally citations, but rather parallels or strong similarities in language of a word or a phrase (or in thought, expressed with different terminology). Thus, this listing more often than not provides cross-referencing to such words and phrases in Deuterocanonical passages, just as most reference Bibles do: providing a cross-reference to similar words and phrases in other biblical books, or like a Biblical Concordance does with words, or a reference work like The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge does with phrases.

It is true that discovering all of these cross-references provides the Bible student with a fuller sense of the background of biblical texts, including the Deuterocanon (so neglected in Protestant circles because of the denial of the canonicity of these books). This is valuable whether one accepts the Deuterocanon as part of inspired, infallible Holy Scripture or not (just as cultural or linguistic background factors also are), but for those who do, it will provide a greater sense of the interrelatedness of the Deuterocanonical books with the other biblical books, and a better understanding of the Hebrew background of the thoughts and doctrines of the New Testament; perhaps even some measure of evidence for the canonicity of these disputed books (however indirect).

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha"): 1 Peter Through Revelation (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) 1 Peter 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1b) Sirach 16:12
As great as his mercy, so great is also his reproof; he judges a man according to his deeds.

2a) 1 Peter 1:7

so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2b) Sirach 2:5

For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.


1a) 2 Peter 2:7
and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked

1b) Wisdom 10:6

Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities.

2a) 2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2b) Sirach 35:19

till he repays the man according to his deeds, and the works of men according to their devices; till he judges the case of his people and makes them rejoice in his mercy.


1a) Revelation 1:18
and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

1b) Sirach 18:1

He who lives for ever created the whole universe;

2a) Revelation 2:12
"And to the angel of the church in Per'gamum write: `The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

2b) Wisdom 18:16

carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth.

3a) Revelation 7:9
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

3b) 2 Maccabees 10:7

Therefore bearing ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place.

4a) Revelation 8:2
Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

4b) 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."

5a) Revelation 8:3
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne;

5b) Tobit 12:12

And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you.

6a) Revelation 8:7
The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, which fell on the earth; and a third of the earth was burnt up, and a third of the trees were burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

6b) Sirach 39:29

Fire and hail and famine and pestilence, all these have been created for vengeance;

6c) Wisdom 16:22

Snow and ice withstood fire without melting, so that they might know that the crops of their enemies were being destroyed by the fire that blazed in the hail and flashed in the showers of rain;

7a) Revelation 9:3
Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth;

7b) Wisdom 16:9

For they were killed by the bites of locusts and flies, and no healing was found for them, because they deserved to be punished by such things;

8a) Revelation 9:4
they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads;

8b) Sirach 44:18 etc.

Everlasting covenants were made with him that all flesh should not be blotted out by a flood.

9a) Revelation 11:19
Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

9b) 2 Maccabees 2:4-8

It was also in the writing that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. 5: And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. 6: Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. 7: When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: "The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. 8: And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated."

10a) Revelation 18:2
And he called out with a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird;

10b) Baruch 4:35

For fire will come upon her from the Everlasting for many days, and for a long time she will be inhabited by demons.

11a) Revelation 19:1
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

11b) Tobit 13:18

all her lanes will cry `Hallelujah!' and will give praise, saying, `Blessed is God, who has exalted you for ever.'"

12a) Revelation 19:11
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

12b) 2 Maccabees 3:25

For there appeared to them a magnificently caparisoned horse, with a rider of frightening mien, and it rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its front hoofs. Its rider was seen to have armor and weapons of gold.

12c) 2 Maccabees 11:8

And there, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white and brandishing weapons of gold.

13a) Revelation 20:12-13
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. 13: And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.

13b) Sirach 16:12

As great as his mercy, so great is also his reproof; he judges a man according to his deeds.

14a) Revelation 21:19-20
The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20: the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.
14b) Tobit 13:17

The streets of Jerusalem will be paved with beryl and ruby and stones of Ophir;

See also:

1 Peter 2:25 and Wisdom 1:6
1 Peter 4:19 and 2 Maccabees 1:24 etc.
1 Peter 5:7 and Wisdom 12:13

2 Peter 2:2 and Wisdom 5:6
2 Peter 3:18 and Sirach 18:10

1 John 5:21 and Baruch 6:72

Jude 13 and Wisdom 14:1

Revelation 2:10 and 2 Maccabees 13:14
Revelation 2:17 and 2 Maccabees 2:4-8
Revelation 4:11 and Sirach 18:1 and Wisdom 1:14
Revelation 5:7 and Sirach 1:8-9
Revelation 8:1 and Wisdom 18:14
Revelation 17:14 and 2 Maccabees 13:4
Revelation 19:16 and 2 Maccabees 13:4

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"NeoCaths" and Old Liberal Nonsense: Challenges to Fr. Joseph O'Leary's Trashing of Orthodox Catholic Apologetics

Once again we have witnessed the spectacle of a liberal Catholic (this time, sadly, a priest: Fr. Joseph O'Leary) trashing the apologetics movement ("The Rise of the Neocaths"), complete with the obligatory use of the term fundamentalist ("They argue by proof texts, in complete contempt of biblical scholarship and hermeneutics. Their ingenuity in defending their fundamentalist stances is extreme"), mocking of established Catholic sexual morality ("They insist that masturbation is mortally sinful, and have an especial enthusiasm for the teaching that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered and that homosexual acts can never be countenanced"), and use of a semi-novel pejorative descriptive: Neocaths.

The term Neo-Catholic is (somewhat ironically) normally used by "traditionalists" (equally improperly, as I have written about). This disdain for orthodox Catholicism and the sort of condescending, patronizing attitude shown, is a disturbingly frequent occurrence. One paper of mine along these lines was Apologia for Apologists and Apologetics. It was my meager addition to the response of several Catholic writers and apologists, including Mark Shea, Patrick Madrid, and Amy Welborn, to the article, "Do We Need a New(er) Apologetics?," by Richard A. Gaillardetz, Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Toledo, Ohio. Note his similar charge of "fundamentalism":

The apologetical refutations of fundamentalist assaults on Catholicism often mirror the very methodology they condemn in their opponents. Many of the new apologists enter too willingly into “Bible wars,” in which Protestant biblical proof-texts are simply parried with a Catholic proof-text in support of a particular Catholic teaching or practice.
But this overlooks crucial, fundamental distinctions (pun intended) between the Protestant methodology of sola Scriptura, and the Catholic apologetic and/or exegetical use of Scripture within the overall framework of Sacred Tradition and the Church's teaching. I explained how engaging a Protestant's proof texts and offering counter-textual evidence, is not merely or necessarily a descent into that which we oppose (sola Scriptura and Protestant hyper-proof-texting), in my paper: Dialogue on Whether Extensive Use of Biblical Arguments Reduces to a Quasi-Sola Scriptura Position?

In 1997, Karl Keating firmly dealt with similar criticisms from Fr. Thomas P. Rausch, S.J. (see his book, Reconciling Faith and Reason: Apologists, Evangelists, and Theologians in a Divided Church, and also his 2002 article, "Another Generation Gap") in his "No Apology From the New Apologists" (see also his related paper, "No Apology Necessary: Vatican II and the New Apologetics"). Fr. Rausch, to his credit, had softened a bit through the years:

I have come to be more sympathetic to some of the new apologists’ concerns. There is no question that they are addressing some real needs for a considerable number of contemporary Catholics, for example evangelization and religious illiteracy. I too have become increasingly interested in evangelization, partly as a result of my involvement over the last 15 years with Evangelical Protestants and partly because I have long had a sense that Catholics are not very evangelical as a church—in spite of the great efforts of Pope John Paul II since the beginning of his pontificate to call the church to a greater sense of its evangelical mission. And after almost 30 years of teaching in a Catholic university, I have become increasingly concerned about the enormous religious and theological illiteracy of so many young Catholics today, something many of us experience even in our own families . . . The great popularity of the new apologists among conservative Catholics is evidence that they are addressing some very real needs. Many people have come back to the church through their influence.
And let's not forget Fr. Andrew Greeley's February 2004 article for The Atlantic Monthly: "Young Fogeys: Young reactionaries, aging radicals-U.S. Church's unusual clerical divide" (Fr. O'Leary makes reference to this article in his).

Related to this general outlook is the fashionable false antithesis between scholars and apologists, which I dealt with in my paper: A Defense of Amateur Apologetics a la C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. So this mentality is alive and well, and shows up every now and then. It needs to be vigorously opposed.

My friend Pedro Vega has done that in his six-part series, in response to Fr. O'Leary: A Neocatholic Strikes Back (Parts two / three / four / five / six). Kudos, Pedro!

My friend Christopher Blosser also has provided a penetrating critique: "The Perplexing Sayings of Fr. O'Leary."

His father, Dr. Phillip Blosser (what a powerhouse father and son Internet team, huh?), has written several papers documenting and opposing Fr. O'Leary's theological liberalism and heterodoxy:

Fr. O'Leary's unorthodox "hot tub" Christology (Part I)
O'Leary in the dock ...

Fr. O'Leary on the Resurrection

Recent convert to the Church and former Anglican priest Al Kimel has also chimed in with "Is the “spirit of Vatican II” Christian?"

Last but not least, fellow apologist Apolonio Latar III has issued "Response to Fr. Joseph O’Leary’s “Dogma and Religious Pluralism” Part 1 (+ Part II).

Friday, August 05, 2005

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha"): Hebrews and James (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) Hebrews 1:3

He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

1b) Wisdom 7:26

For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.

2a) Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

2b) Wisdom 18:16 (see also Wisdom 7:22-30)

carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth.

3a) Hebrews 5:6

as he says also in another place, "Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchiz'edek."

3b) 1 Maccabees 14:41

"And the Jews and their priests decided that Simon should be their leader and high priest for ever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise,

4a) Hebrews 7:22
This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant.

4b) Sirach 29:14-19

A good man will be surety for his neighbor, but a man who has lost his sense of shame will fail him. 15: Do not forget all the kindness of your surety, for he has given his life for you. 16: A sinner will overthrow the prosperity of his surety, 17: and one who does not feel grateful will abandon his rescuer. 18: Being surety has ruined many men who were prosperous, and has shaken them like a wave of the sea; it has driven men of power into exile, and they have wandered among foreign nations. 19: The sinner who has fallen into suretyship and pursues gain will fall into lawsuits.

5a) Hebrews 11:5
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.

5b) Sirach 44:16

Enoch pleased the Lord, and was taken up; he was an example of repentance to all generations.

5c) Wisdom 4:10

There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up.

6a) Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

6b) Wisdom 10:17

She gave holy men the reward of their labors; she guided them along a marvelous way, and became a shelter to them by day, and a starry flame through the night.

7a) Hebrews 11:10
For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

7b) Wisdom 13:1

For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works;

8a) Hebrews 11:17

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,

8b) 1 Maccabees 2:52

Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?

8c) Sirach 44:20

he kept the law of the Most High, and was taken into covenant with him; he established the covenant in his flesh, and when he was tested he was found faithful.

9a) Hebrews 11:28
By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the first-born might not touch them.

9b) Wisdom 18:25

To these the destroyer yielded, these he feared; for merely to test the wrath was enough.

10a) Hebrews 11:35

Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.

10b) 2 Maccabees 7:20-29 ( see entire passage: 6:18-7:42)

The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. 21: She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman's reasoning with a man's courage, and said to them, 22: "I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. 23: Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws." 24: Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his fathers, and that he would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs. 25: Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. 26: After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. 27: But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. 28: I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. 29: Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers."

11a) Hebrews 12:9
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

11b) 2 Maccabees 3:24

But when he arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, then and there the Sovereign of spirits and of all authority caused so great a manifestation that all who had been so bold as to accompany him were astounded by the power of God, and became faint with terror.

12a) Hebrews 12:12
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,

12b) Sirach 25:23

A dejected mind, a gloomy face, and a wounded heart are caused by an evil wife. Drooping hands and weak knees are caused by the wife who does not make her husband happy.

13a) Hebrews 13:7
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.

13b) Wisdom 2:17

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


1a) James 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greeting.

1b) 2 Maccabees 1:27

Gather together our scattered people, set free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look upon those who are rejected and despised, and let the Gentiles know that thou art our God.

2a) James 1:2
Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials,

2b) Sirach 2:1

My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation.

2c) Wisdom 3:5

Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;

3a) James 1:13
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one;

3b) Sirach 15:11-20

Do not say, "Because of the Lord I left the right way"; for he will not do what he hates. 12: Do not say, "It was he who led me astray"; for he had no need of a sinful man. 13: The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear him. 14: It was he who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. 15: If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. 16: He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. 17: Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him. 18: For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; 19: his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. 20: He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin.

4a) James 1:19
Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,

4b) Sirach 5:11

Be quick to hear, and be deliberate in answering.

5a) James 1:21
Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

5b) Sirach 3:17

My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.

6a) James 2:13
For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.

6b) Tobit 4:10

For charity delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness;

7a) James 2:23
and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God.

7b) Wisdom 7:27

Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets;

8a) James 3:2

For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

8b) Sirach 14:1

Blessed is the man who does not blunder with his lips and need not suffer grief for sin.

9a) James 3:6
And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.

9b) Sirach 5:13

Glory and dishonor come from speaking, and a man's tongue is his downfall.

10a) James 3:10
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.

10b) Sirach 5:13

Glory and dishonor come from speaking, and a man's tongue is his downfall.

10c) Sirach 28:12

If you blow on a spark, it will glow; if you spit on it, it will be put out; and both come out of your mouth.

11a) James 3:13
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

11b) Sirach 3:17

My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts

12a) James 4:11
Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

12b) Wisdom 1:11

Beware then of useless murmuring, and keep your tongue from slander; because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul.

13a) James 5:3
Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.

13b) 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.

13c) Sirach 29:10

Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost.

14a) James 5:4
Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

14b) Tobit 4:14

Do not hold over till the next day the wages of any man who works for you, but pay him at once; and if you serve God you will receive payment. "Watch yourself, my son, in everything you do, and be disciplined in all your conduct.

15a) James 5:6

You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.

15b) Wisdom 2:10

Let us oppress the righteous poor man; let us not spare the widow nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.

15c) Wisdom 2:12

"Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.

15d) Wisdom 2:19

Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance.

See also:

Hebrews 2:5 and Sirach 17:17
Hebrews 11:10 and 2 Maccabees 4:1
Hebrews 11:27 and Sirach 2:2
Hebrews 12:4 and 2 Maccabees 13:14
Hebrews 12:17 and Wisdom 12:10
Hebrews 12:21 and 1 Maccabees 13:2
Hebrews 13:7 and Sirach 33:19

James 3:9 and Sirach 23:1, 4
James 4:2 and 1 Maccabees 8:16

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha"): Philippians Through Titus (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) Philippians 4:13
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.

1b) Wisdom 7:23

beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent and pure and most subtle.

2a) Philippians 4:18
I have received full payment, and more; I am filled, having received from Epaphrodi'tus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God

2b) Sirach 35:6

The offering of a righteous man anoints the altar, and its pleasing odor rises before the Most High.


1a) Colossians 2:3
in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

1b) Sirach 1:25

In the treasuries of wisdom are wise sayings, but godliness is an abomination to a sinner.


1a) 1 Thessalonians 3:11

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you;

1b) Judith 12:8

When she came up from the spring she prayed the Lord God of Israel to direct her way for the raising up of her people.

2a) 1 Thessalonians 4:13

But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

2b) Wisdom 3:18

If they die young, they will have no hope and no consolation in the day of decision.

3a) 1 Thessalonians 5:1

But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you.

3b) Wisdom 8:8

And if any one longs for wide experience, she knows the things of old, and infers the things to come; she understands turns of speech and the solutions of riddles; she has foreknowledge of signs and wonders and of the outcome of seasons and times.

4a) 1 Thessalonians 5:3
When people say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape.

4b) Wisdom 17:14-15

But throughout the night, which was really powerless, and which beset them from the recesses of powerless Hades, they all slept the same sleep, 15: and now were driven by monstrous specters, and now were paralyzed by their souls' surrender, for sudden and unexpected fear overwhelmed them.

5a) 1 Thessalonians 5:8
But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

5b) Wisdom 5:18

he will put on righteousness as a breastplate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet;


1a) 2 Thessalonians 2:1
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren,

1b) 2 Maccabees 2:7

When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: "The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy.


1a) 1 Timothy 1:17
To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1b) Tobit 13:7, 11

I exalt my God; my soul exalts the King of heaven, and will rejoice in his majesty. . . . Many nations will come from afar to the name of the Lord God, bearing gifts in their hands, gifts for the King of heaven. Generations of generations will give you joyful praise.

2a) 1 Timothy 6:15
and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

2b) 2 Maccabees 12:15

But Judas and his men, calling upon the great Sovereign of the world, who without battering-rams or engines of war overthrew Jericho in the days of Joshua, rushed furiously upon the walls.

2c) 2 Maccabees 13:4

But the King of kings aroused the anger of Antiochus against the scoundrel; and when Lysias informed him that this man was to blame for all the trouble, he ordered them to take him to Beroea and to put him to death by the method which is the custom in that place.


1a) 2 Timothy 2:19
But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity."

1b) Sirach 17:26

Return to the Most High and turn away from iniquity, and hate abominations intensely.

2a) 2 Timothy 4:8
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

2b) Wisdom 5:15-16

But the righteous live for ever, and their reward is with the Lord; the Most High takes care of them. 16: Therefore they will receive a glorious crown and a beautiful diadem from the hand of the Lord, because with his right hand he will cover them, and with his arm he will shield them.

3a) 2 Timothy 4:17

But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the message fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.

3b) 1 Maccabees 2:60

Daniel because of his innocence was delivered from the mouth of the lions.

See also:

Philippians 4:5 and Wisdom 2:19

1 Thessalonians 4:6 and Sirach 5:3
1 Thessalonians 5:2 and Wisdom 18:14s

1 Timothy 2:2 and 2 Maccabees 3:11 / Baruch 1:12
1 Timothy 6:15 and Sirach 46:5

2 Timothy 2:19 and Sirach 23:10 / Sirach 35:3

Titus 2:11 and 2 Maccabees 3:30
Titus 3:4 and Wisdom 1:6

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Novel and Unbiblical Doctrine of Sola Scriptura, Part I (vs. Lutheran Steve Parks)

This is the first installment of what will be a lengthy, multi-part reply to an eleven-part series of papers by Lutheran Steve Parks, which critiqued Catholic arguments in opposition to sola Scriptura, entitled "The New Sophists." Steve is a student at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, seeking a Master of Divinity degree, with plans to become a Lutheran pastor. He runs a blog called Sceleratissimus Lutheranus, meaning, as he explains: " 'the most villainous Lutheran' . . . [a description] 'awarded' to Martin Chemnitz by his Roman Catholic adversaries after the publication of his exhaustive critique of the Council of Trent."

I found his series (despite the less-than-complimentary title -- but then mine is pretty provocative too!) to be of exceptionally high quality, which is very rare these days, at least on the Internet. Because this work is well-written, well-documented, and challenging, and because of the foundational importance of the subject matter in Catholic-Protestant discourse, I thought it would be worthwhile to devote significant time replying to it (besides, it is mostly directed towards the class of Catholic apologists, of which I am a member -- although I am never mentioned by name in the paper).

Steve (whose words will be in blue) is, of course, most welcome to come to this blog to defend his arguments, any time. I strongly urge everyone to welcome him and treat him with the utmost respect as a Christian brother and future clergyman, should he decide to do so. We've had very pleasant private correspondence.


While the doctrine of justification has always been the primary issue over which confessional Lutheran and Roman opponents have spilled the majority of their ink, a gradual shift has occurred in contemporary debates, and a growing number of Roman Catholic apologists (many of whom are themselves converts from Protestantism) are increasingly targeting the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura . . .

This is true. The reason for that was alluded to above: sola Scriptura is central to the huge difference in the rule of faith of Protestants and Catholics. The 16th-century sea change to sola Scriptura was a far greater and potentially wide-ranging difference between the two broad Christian outlooks than justification has ever been (where the differences are actually far less than is usually imagined, because of widespread misunderstanding of Catholic soteriology). To be a Protestant, clearly one must fully comprehend and be able to defend sola Scriptura; and to be a Catholic, one must understand it equally well and be able to explain why it is rejected, on biblical, historical, logical, and practical grounds.

Catholics are not "against" the Bible; nor are most Protestants "against" tradition or historical precedent per se. That needs to be established up front (and I think Steve would join me in granting this "premise"). But there is plenty to critique in sola Scriptura, no matter how subtle and sophisticated its defense may be, from any given individual proponent of it. I've written more about this topic as a Catholic apologist for now 15 years, than any other, so I think I am in a good position to make a halfway decent response to Steve's critiques of Catholic apologetic method and defenses of sola Scriptura. I think both sides can greatly benefit from an exchange between two able defenders of the respective positions. If nothing else, at least both parties can better understand the other, and that is always a good thing and an important goal.

The doctrine of sola Scriptura, which is a Latin ablative for “through Scripture alone” (The ablative case in the Lutheran principle of sola Scriptura must not be overlooked. Scripture is not an autonomous authority crudely detached from Jesus, but is rather authoritative only because it is the living Word of Christ.

So far we agree.

However, since there are no prophets and apostles extant today, we may only know what Christ has said through His written Word. Thus, the ablative through retains its proper force. Christ is the only authority in the church, but He exercises His infallible authority through the Scriptures alone)

This begs the question. That's alright, since it is still early in the discussion, but all of this will have to be able to withstand scrutiny, as we continue on. Steve (at least at first glance) seems to simply assume that there is no infallible tradition or infallible Church. The Bible itself doesn't teach this, and it also never asserts the principle of sola Scriptura, which is quite strange and ironic, seeing that the doctrine under consideration has to do with the nature of biblical authority, and is made to be the centerpiece of Protestant authority and theology.

was elucidated by the sixteenth century Lutheran Reformers as follows: “We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and guiding principle according to which all teachings and teachers are to be evaluated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testament alone” (The Formula of Concord, I.I, as found in Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord [Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000], 486).

The way in which the authority of the Church and Tradition was demoted or discounted by the first Protestants is fascinating (not to mention tragic in result), and not at all invulnerable to massive criticism and skepticism.

A century later, the Reformed divines defined the doctrine in a similar fashion: “The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, I.X, as found in Philip Schaff, ed., The Creeds of Christendom with a History and Critical Notes, vol. 3: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, rev. David S. Schaff [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1931], reprint, 1993, 605-606).

How (in a very important practical sense) can a "Judge" be a book? As soon as two Protestants or two Protestant sects disagree on something, and each appeal to the Bible -- the "Supreme [Doctrinal] Judge" -- then the problem in this approach can be readily observed. Someone has to decide who is rightly interpreting the Bible and who is not. Because Protestantism ultimately has no principle by which to do this, it is helpless in the face of ever-proliferating denominations. It has no sufficient principle of unity and authority. Simply appealing to the infallible authority of "the Bible" (which Christians of all stripes agree with in the first place) in super-pious language just won't do. Human beings also have to decide things, and to have a true, binding authority in the Church, not merely ceremonial or symbolic, such as that of the Queen of England.

Surprisingly, many Protestant converts to Roman Catholicism cite the doctrine of sola Scriptura as the primary reason for their defection.

This is true (but I don't find it "surprising" at all, seeing that sola Scriptura -- after a thorough examination -- is such an utterly incoherent and inconsistent theory). For the record, however, this was not at all a major cause in my own conversion. My main reasons were:

1) Moral theology: particularly contraception.
2) An increasing recognition, after historical study, of the revolutionary, rather than reformatory nature of many (not all) aspects of the Protestant revolt.
3) A much better understanding of development of doctrine (with the help of Cardinal Newman).

It is true, though, that all three factors had to do with the authority of the Christian Church, whatever that may be. Insofar as that authority runs counter to the principle of sola Scriptura, rejection of the latter influenced my conversion. In any event, I thought it was uncontroversial during my conversion process, that there was such a thing as a "Church" and that this "Church" had authority and continuity, even if not infallible (at first I fiercely resisted infallibility; more than any other Catholic doctrine). I had always been "historically-minded" as a Protestant (more than most of my Protestant friends seemed to be), so that factor played a key role (another huge discussion in and of itself).

Reportedly, after careful consideration, many died-in-the-wool Protestants have come to the conclusion that sola Scriptura is unbiblical, unhistorical, and just plain unworkable.

I hope to demonstrate that all of this is true, in due course. Protestants, proceed at your own peril! If you don't like having one of your most fundamental premises scrutinized, critiqued, and rejected, then stop reading now. Rest assured that you'll be quite miserable if you don't stop. But if something is true (or untrue), then it is, and we must conform ourselves to it if we claim to be seeking truth and following God. And we must do that no matter how painful and unpleasant the journey to certain unexpected conclusions may be.

As a result, many have jumped ship and hazarded the perilous waters of the Tiber (See for example Patrick Madrid, Surprised by Truth : 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic [San Diego, CA: Basilica Press, 1994]).

My story is the second-to-last in that book. My longtime friend, fellow Michigander, and (for a time) pastor Al Kresta wrote the last conversion story. I didn't find the Tiber's waters perilous at all, and I have found the "country" on the other side of it quite fulfilling in every way. I'm delighted to be where I am, and I would urge my Protestant friends to consider making the same move if you feel the Spirit leading you in this direction. Let everything I write here (and anywhere else) be tested by the Bible, Church history, and your own Christian reason and conscience. Then if it all seems true to you, have the courage to make the jump into the "Tiber." You won't regret it. But enough of my "preaching" . . .

I can't resist pursuing the metaphor of "jumping ship" a bit. What, pray tell, is the Protestant "ship" in the first place? There is no such ship, because the doctrine of the Church has been changed. There is no authoritative, binding Church; therefore, it is inappropriate to talk of jumping one "ship" for another. Rather, Protestantism is more like thousands of individual one-man rafts or even logs, floating around in the ocean, each with one person in or hanging onto it. Everyone is ultimately on their own. The "ship" is the Catholic Church, which has been sailing through the seas of Church history intact (whatever one may think of her). The convert from Protestantism decides that he has had enough of being his own sailor, and gets aboard the ship where there is real authority, and a real captain, and a solid, established way of doing things. The mutineers against such authority left 500 years ago, and established their new rule of sola Scriptura, but the Catholic ship sails on and can more than hold her own in rough seas.

For example, Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian pastor dubbed “Luther in reverse” (Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1993], 48), notes that in his own conversion to Catholicism, the issue of sola Scriptura “was larger than all others, and nobody had an answer” (Hahn, 54).

Although this was not my own reason to convert, certainly in the many dozens of dialogues on this topic that I have engaged in for almost 15 years, I, too, have found that "nobody had an answer." In my universal experience (no exceptions), the Protestant argument with regard to sola Scriptura always broke down, if analyzed closely enough, and Protestant defenders (even -- in my dialogical history -- authors of books or master's theses on the subject or related ones) eventually (usually pretty soon) ceased defending what can no longer be defended. If one keeps asking the necessary, hard questions, it seems that the Protestant champion of sola Scriptura eventually recognizes (whether he openly admits it or not) that there is nowhere else to go but to exit the discussion. That's how weak the case is. The Catholic simply needs to know where the considerable vulnerabilities of the position lie, and vigorously go after them. The "pail" of sola Scriptura cannot hold water. No pail with 20 holes in it can.

David Currie, another convert from Protestantism, contends that “The Protestant problem with scriptural authority showed me why I could never remain a Protestant, Evangelical or no” (David Currie, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1996], 51). Tim Staples, a former Assemblies of God pastor, likewise cites sola Scriptura as his primary reason for abandoning Protestantism: “I think the key was the idea of the authority of the Church and sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura was a given for me…The authority of the Church I would say was the biggest, but after that I would say that justification was an issue” (Tim Staples, “The White Horse Inn,” 24 November 1996. Christians United for Reformation). All of the above men, and many others not mentioned here, all cite a lack of biblical, historical, and logical evidence for the doctrine of sola Scriptura, leading them to conclude that “Protestant theologians…take the Protestant view concerning Scripture by faith” (Currie, 56).

There is a reason for all these people rejecting sola Scriptura. It becomes more clear the more one deeply examines the position. As an admirer of defenders of lost causes, however, I must say that Steve has made a valiant attempt to defend the indefensible. It's too bad that he doesn't have a better case to argue. Someone's gotta do it, though, since sola Scriptura has been taking such a tremendous beating as of late.

Are such criticisms valid?


Can sola Scriptura stand up to rigorous biblical, historical, and rational scrutiny?


The Reformers certainly believed it could.

They were wrong, and they provided even worse rationales for accepting this false doctrine than its defenders today do. Basically, most of these revolutionaries merely assumed its truth, because it was the only practical alternative to the Catholic Church, which they so despised. This was particularly true of Martin Luther, who was more or less forced to adopt the position under the pressure of being debated into an inescapable corner. But "anything but the dreaded x" is, of course, no legitimate reason for being "anything but the dreaded x." There has to be something beyond reactionary, desperate measures for avoiding another position; some positive argument or defense for one's own position.

These questions and related issues will be considered in this series of posts.

I eagerly look forward to it. I hope open-minded, inquisitive, thoughtful readers will, too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Possible References to the Deuterocanon (aka "Apocrypha") in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians (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) 1 Corinthians 1:24
but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1b) Wisdom 7:24-25

For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. 25: For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.

2a) 1 Corinthians 2:16

"For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

2b) Wisdom 9:13

For what man can learn the counsel of God? Or who can discern what the Lord wills?

3a) 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23

"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything.

"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up.

3b) Sirach 37:28

For not everything is good for every one, and not every person enjoys everything.

4a) 1 Corinthians 10:20
No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.

4b) Baruch 4:7

For you provoked him who made you, by sacrificing to demons and not to God.

5a) 1 Corinthians 15:29
Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

5b) 2 Maccabees 12:44-45

For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45: But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

6a) 1 Corinthians 15:32
What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

6b) Wisdom 2:5-6

For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow, and there is no return from our death, because it is sealed up and no one turns back. 6: "Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.


1a) 2 Corinthians 5:1, 4

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens . . . For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

1b) Wisdom 9:15

for a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

2a) 2 Corinthians 12:12
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.

2b) Wisdom 10:16

She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord, and withstood dread kings with wonders and signs.


1a) Galatians 2:6
And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) -- those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me;

1b) Sirach 35:13

He will not show partiality in the case of a poor man; and he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged.


1a) Ephesians 1:16-17

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

1b) Wisdom 7:7

Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.

2a) Ephesians 4:14
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.

2b) Sirach 5:9

Do not winnow with every wind, nor follow every path: the double-tongued sinner does that.

3a) Ephesians 6:14
Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

3b) Wisdom 5:18

he will put on righteousness as a breastplate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet;

See also:

1 Corinthians 2:9 and Sirach 1:10
1 Corinthians 4:13 and Tobit 5:19
1 Corinthians 4:14 and Wisdom 11:10
1 Corinthians 6:2 and Wisdom 3:8
1 Corinthians 6:13 and Sirach 36:18
1 Corinthians 6:18 and Sirach 23:17
1 Corinthians 7:19 and Sirach 32:23
1 Corinthians 9:19 and Sirach 6:19
1 Corinthians 9:25 and Wisdom 4:2
1 Corinthians 10:1 and Wisdom 19:7
1 Corinthians 11:7 Sirach 17:3 and Wisdom 2:23
1 Corinthians 11:24 and Wisdom 16:6
1 Corinthians 15:34 and Wisdom 13:1

Galatians 4:4 and Tobit 14:5
Galatians 6:1 and Wisdom 17:17

Ephesians 1:6 and Sirach 45:1 and 46:13
Ephesians 4:24 and Wisdom 9:3
Ephesians 6:12 and Wisdom 5:17
Ephesians 6:16 and Wisdom 5:19, 21

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Is Purgatory a "Place"?: Misconceptions From Fr. Ambrose About My Opinion (and the Church's View) / Also: Development & Alleged Historical Revisionism

One Fr Ambrose (Orthodox -- his words will be in red) has been on my case yet again at the Catholic Answers Forum. In this instance he (to be as charitable as I can) misunderstands my position on purgatory: as to whether it is a state, condition, or place, or all of the above, or whether the Church has rendered a decision one way or the other. I always seek, of course, to conform my own theological beliefs to that of the Church, and this particular topic is no exception. As far as I know, I have not taught or written anything contrary to what the Church has held, concerning purgatory (or anything else, as far as I know, though I could certainly be inadvertently wrong on some things somewhere, like anyone else). In any event, Fr. Ambrose has not demonstrated that I have done so. He has simply made an unsubstantiated (false) claim about my opinion. Here is what he wrote on 22 July 2005 (post #41 in this thread):

. . . Btw, Dave Armstrong teaches that Purgatory is both a place and a condition. Why then is it always strongly denied on this Forum that Purgatory is a place? You can see how confusing this is for outsiders when Catholics themselves contradict one another.

(emphasis in original)

"Maccabees", a Catholic, in post #54 casually assumes that this report of my belief is correct and comments:

Dave Armstrong is simply wrong here as he conflicts with the pope on this as well as Aquinas. I think John Paul II and Saint Thomas Aquinas the great doctor of the church trumps a catholic website run by a well intentioned layman but without vatican endorsement. I am sure I can find some things you would disagree with written by and EO layman.
Of course he is correct in his general principle of how Catholic authority works. If I clash with John Paul the Great or St. Thomas the Doctor of Theology, I lose; I concede; I surrender immediately. But have I in fact clashed with them concerning purgatory? The question of fact is the problem here. I deny it, and shortly I will prove that this report is false. Maccabees cites a report on a talk by Pope John Paul II:

In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him.

"Incorporeal things are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us." [St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Supplement, Q69, a1, reply 1]
[see documentation]
Amen! Absolutely! I have no problem with any of this at all; not in the slightest, and I've not taught differently, anywhere. Now, why don't we take a few minutes to examine what I have actually written, and get beyond innuendo. And then, we must ask ourselves: "how did Fr. Ambrose come to the conclusion that he came to? On what basis, if it can't be found in my writing?"

In my Biblical Overview on Penance, Purgatory, and Indulgences, I cite Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., who was my initial mentor into the Church, and a major orthodox Catholic catechist, prolific author, and a close advisor to both Pope Paul VI and Mother Teresa:

The place or condition in which the souls of the just are purified after death and before they can enter heaven.

[from: Modern Catholic Dictionary, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1980, 452, "Purgatory")

Note that Fr. Hardon (like the Church herself) has not stated the matter dogmatically, one way or the other. As for my own words in the paper, I never used the word place at all. Now, if someone wants to contend with the wording of Fr. Hardon's statement, then I would note that the very same phrase "place or condition," is used in the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910. Furthermore, St. Thomas Aquinas himself -- when discussing purgatory -- sometimes used the terminology of place in his Summa Theologica:

Nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory, nor is it possible to offer convincing arguments on this question. It is probable, however, and more in keeping with the statements of holy men and the revelations made to many, that there is a twofold place of Purgatory. one, according to the common law; and thus the place of Purgatory is situated below and in proximity to hell, so that it is the same fire which torments the damned in hell and cleanses the just in Purgatory; although the damned being lower in merit, are to be consigned to a lower place. Another place of Purgatory is according to dispensation: and thus sometimes, as we read, some are punished in various places, either that the living may learn, or that the dead may be succored, seeing that their punishment being made known to the living may be mitigated through the prayers of the Church.

Some say, however, that according to the common law the place of Purgatory is where man sins. This does not seem probable, since a man may be punished at
the same time for sins committed in various places. And others say that according to the common law they are punished above us, because they are between us and God, as regards their state. But this is of no account, for they are not punished for being above us, but for that which is lowest in them, namely sin.
(Supplement, Appendix 2, Q1, A2)

To paraphrase "Maccabees," "I think Saint Thomas Aquinas the great doctor of the church trumps an opinion by a well intentioned Catholic layman on a forum run by well intentioned Catholic laymen." Note that in (the report of) Pope John Paul's remarks, the language of place is not so much condemned as false, but rather, described as inadequate to sufficiently describe spiritual realities. This is often the case (particularly with regard to the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Eucharist), so it is not to be unexpected that human language would exhibit some shortcomings with regard to the intricacies of the afterlife.

After all, we refer all the time to angels or unresurrected souls being "in heaven," and they have no bodies. The Bible refers to "souls" in heaven which are "under the altar" (Revelation 6:9). God the Father (an invisible Spirit-Being) is referred to (spatially) as "sitting on a throne," and so forth. It's simply a manner of speaking.

In fact, Pope John Paul II spoke in the same fashion, in his catechesis at the General Audience of 21 July 1999: (emphases added)

Heaven is the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God

Metaphorically speaking
, heaven is understood as the dwelling-place of God, who is thus distinguished from human beings (cf. Ps 104:2f.; 115:16; Is 66:1). He sees and judges from the heights of heaven (cf. Ps 113:4-9) and comes down when he is called upon (cf. Ps 18:9, 10; 144:5). However the biblical metaphor makes it clear that God does not identify himself with heaven, nor can he be contained in it (cf. 1 Kgs 8:27); and this is true, even though in some passages of the First Book of the Maccabees "Heaven" is simply one of God's names (1 Mc 3:18, 19, 50, 60; 4:24,

The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend, as we see in the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (cf. Gn 5:24) and Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11). Thus heaven becomes an image of life in God. In this sense Jesus speaks of a "reward in heaven" (Mt 5:12) and urges people to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (ibid., 6:20; cf. 19:21).

As long as the theology behind the concept is correctly understood, and clarifications made (as I have done), this is not a theological problem or "difficulty" at all, let alone fodder for the annoyingly frequent off-the-mark polemics of Internet discussion boards.

In the same paper, I also made clear my position on purgatorial "fire" (a sub-topic which was also brought up in the same Catholic Answers Forum thread, though not in connection with my own views):

The Catholic Church has not declared dogmatically whether or not there is "fire" in purgatory, and the "fire" might be metaphorical, yet the idea of refinement is present either way.
Now, I don't expect Fr. Ambrose to have a copy of my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (Sophia Institute Press, 2003), but if he did, he would (or should I say, "could"?) quickly discover that I am not in any disagreement with the Church on this matter at all, since I state on page 120 of that book:

The Catholic Church has not defined whether Purgatory is a place or a process,
or whether it contains real fire.
Period. End of sentence. The Orthodox value keeping an open, non-dogmatic mind on theological matters that cannot be determined with certainty, so I should think that Fr. Ambrose would be happy to learn that the above is both the Catholic Church's position and my own. But let's continue our survey of my papers on purgatory to try and determine where it was that Fr. Ambrose received this mistaken notion of my view. In my Dialogue on Different Aspects of Purgatory and its Relation to Baptism and Penance, again, the word place (as a description of purgatory) never occurs. In A Fictional Dialogue on Purgatory, I use the phrase, "a third place or state," which is precisely the usage of Fr. Hardon, St. Thomas, and the older Catholic Encyclopedia; reserving dogmatizing judgment as to whether purgatory is definitely one or the other thing, and recognizing the limits of human language, where such sublime spiritual matters are concerned. Thus, I write in this vein also, in my Short Exposition on Purgatory:

The souls in purgatory are spirits without bodies, so the suffering is a spiritual, "mental" chastisement from God (a very common biblical theme) in order to purify us and make us holy, not physical torture.
This doesn't mean that I am positively asserting that purgatory is a literal place. No. Context and overall theology must also be taken into account. If asked whether purgatory is more of a place or a state or condition (or if clarifying, as presently), I immediately affirm, like Pope John Paul II, that it is more properly understood as a state or condition of an immaterial soul (which does not have spatial qualities, hence, technically, cannot be in a "place"). Yet in common language, this is how we talk, because it is our experience. Since the Bible does the same (it uses phenomenological language according to a human perspective, such as in, e.g., many anthropomorphic descriptions of God), it's a big non-issue. Once again, as is distressingly common in theological discourse (and also biblical exegesis and prooftexting), the context and nature of language has been misinterpreted, and an inappropriate "either/or" mentality utilized to make a polemical "hit."

What can one do? One can only explain and clarify, as I have done. Hopefully, that will be sufficient to put the matter to rest. In any event, no one likes to have their views misrepresented. This is particularly true of a Catholic apologist, who seeks to (or should be seeking to) always teach and defend doctrine in accord with the Mind of the Church. And it is also disturbing to all orthodox Catholics to see Catholic teaching on any given topic pilloried and caricatured, as is occurring in the thread under consideration. So maybe -- hopefully -- this effort on my part has "killed two birds with one stone," so to speak.

On 7-25-05, Fr. Ambrose, made aware of my reply, made another remarkably obtuse "counter-reply." Here it is:

Gracious, I don't have time at the moment to read such a lengthy monograph.

Here we go again with this nonsense of any substantive response (in this case, trying to correct misrepresentation, which always takes some significant space, by its very nature), being too "lengthy". At least he qualified his disagreement with "at the moment." Perhaps he will make time in the near future to trouble himself to read my clarification, including this second one (and to actually adequately reply to it as well, would be a nice bonus, too, but one can't have everything these days . . .).

In the meantime, Fr. Ambrose, who has written 4,836 posts, according to the forum tally, has written no less than 26 posts on this topic (out of 78 total, as of this writing, or 33%), in this thread. Including his citations of others' words (by his reasoning below, they somehow become "his own" anyway), his word count thus totals 5,038. Yet my "lengthy monograph" of 1,832 words (a mere 36% of his grand total) is somehow objectionable, when I attempt to clear up a falsehood that he was spreading about my views. Nice try at dodging the issues at hand . . .

Now Fr. Ambrose has been thoroughly corrected, but chooses to continue (typical of many vociferous opponents of the Catholic Church):

But I see he makes an attempt to rebuke me:
"As for my own words in the paper, I never used the word place at all."
Dave Armstrong wrote just as I quoted him and he certainly uses the word

"The place or condition in which the souls of the just are purified after death and before they can enter heaven. The souls are purified by atoning for the temporal punishments due to sin by their willing acceptance of suffering imposed by God....."

Board member "Ghosty" makes the appropriate reply:

Fr. Ambrose, you need to be more careful in your accusations . . . You fail to mention that this quotation in question comes from a citation of John Hardon's work, not anything written by Dave Armstrong himself. . . . You say you don't have the time to read "such a lengthy monograph", but perhaps that's exactly your problem. If you don't have the time to read and/or research what people actually say/believe/teach, perhaps you should refrain from commenting on them based on your limited perusal.

Precisely! Fr. Ambrose didn't have time to read a post in its entirety (while writing 26 of his own in one thread, most critical of the Catholic Church on a Catholic forum, that he apparently expects everyone else to read), but nevertheless he made enough time to distort my clarification my beliefs which he distorted. He has plenty of time to do that, but not to properly respond or be corrected on a simple matter of fact as to what someone else believes.

I made it very clear that I favorably cited Fr. Hardon, using "place" in a very specific (non-exclusive) sense, that is also used by St. Thomas Aquinas. I then distinguished between the citation and "my own words." This isn't rocket science. But again, when you are looking to refute someone else regardless of the actual evidence at hand, none of that seems to matter. Logic and fact alike go by the wayside. Fr. Ambrose continues his folly:

The whole doctrine is confusing enough for outsiders without a Catholic apologist of his renown denying or changing or maybe simply forgetting what he has written.

Now this gets into even more outrageous territory, close to outright, deliberate lying, which is particularly scandalous in a priest, and even for a layman, since bearing false witness violates the Ten Commandments. I neither denied, nor changed, nor forgot what I have written. What I have done is clarified my belief and my exact meaning, which has not changed at all and is perfectly clear, once explained, as far as I am concerned. But to read his cynical "take," I am now trying to fudge or obfuscate or explain away my own writings, rather than be "corrected" by him. There is no need to do so, as my belief is perfectly understandable. I can see misunderstanding something once, but not twice, after the writer himself has taken the time to carefully clarify. To continue on with the bogus accusation now is inexcusable.

This leads me to believe that there is a strong bias here which is clouding Fr. Ambrose's judgment. Indeed, this is borne out in reading some of his other posts in this thread:

Not even Catholics are agreed on Purgatory any more. This is quite evident when you read other threads here about Purgatory where Catholics are arguing with Catholics.

Their primary problem seems to be the changes in the teaching after Vatican II.

If you are offended by that statement, then read through the Purgatory threads where Catholics themselves speak of this. The older Catholics have retained a teaching from before Vatican II and the younger Catholics have never been exposed to it and they refuse to accept that it was ever taught. When statements from previous Popes and Councils are offered, younger Catholics exhibit a need to negate them or to re-interpret them so as to squeeze them into the modern teaching.

So yes, it is very likely that I do not understand the teaching.

This is the typical "traditionalist" Orthodox or Catholic distortion and old wives' tale of doctrine supposedly being radically changed at Vatican II. It did not at all. I explained the discussion about "place vs. condition." But Fr. Ambrose didn't have time to read that, so he will likely continue on with misrepresentations, not only of my own position and writing, but of the Catholic Church's position on this and who knows what else? What is really going on here, in my opinion, is the usual, garden-variety rejection, and/or inadequate grasp of the nature and fact of doctrinal development (also distressingly common in "traditionalist" and anti-Catholic circles). What is merely a development is, therefore, seen as a reversal in doctrine or a contradiction.

I did a search of the forum to see what Fr. Ambrose has written elsewhere, and indeed my strong suspicion was confirmed:

The Church has no doctrine of the development of doctrine. Whatever existed in the apostolic age is normative for us.

The Orthodox approach may be found in the exquistely beautiful words of one of the holy Fathers of the West, Saint Vincent of Lerins . . .

(post of 4-21-05)
He then goes on to cite famous passages from this saint, from his Commonitorium. The trouble is, in the same exact work, St. Vincent gives us the most explicit patristic treatment of doctrinal development. He sees no disconnect whatsoever between doctrines staying essentially the same and being unchanging in that respect, while developing in terms of our deeper understanding and comprehension of them. So why is he cited as a supposed witness against development when he teaches it more clearly than any other Father (Cardinal Newman used his words as a virtual starting-point for his famous Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine)? This is a very common error: used by, for example, anti-Catholic Protestant William Webster (I refuted him at length twice, when he used this tactic to go after Vatican I and its doctrine of papal infallibility).

It's also a myth to act as if Orthodoxy has no development of doctrine, whereas Catholicism does, and its development is tantamount to "evolution" or reversal (hence the muddleheaded charge that Vatican II fundamentally changed things in the Catholic Church). So it is a miscomprehension in both ways: redefining Orthodox development as non-development or nonexistent and Catholic development as corruption of what came before.

In any event, Fr. Ambrose's curious cynicism where I am concerned, is nothing new. It's not surprising that he would cast doubt on the sincerity of my own explanations for my own words, since he has written in the past:

I must say that not everybody is keen on Dave Armstrong nor Fr Hardon. As Catholic polemicists they sometimes misrepresent the teachings and practices of
non-Roman Catholic Churches and downplay the historical evidence which is
inconvenient to the modern Roman Catholic position.

(post of 6-3-05)
Of course, no documentary evidence was given here, either. Do I detect a certain pattern? yet elsewhere, Fr. Ambrose refers to me as "the world's eminent Catholic apologist" (4-29-05, message #197) and "someone recognised as one of the most competent Catholic apologists alive and someone who is in the position to have his finger on the pulse" (4-28-05, #165) and "one of Catholicism's greatest apologists, . . . I trust his extensive and hands-on knowledge of the Catholic Church" (4-28-05, #184). If that is the case (of course it is not!) and I distort and misrepresent my own positions, and even cynically change them when confronted with my allegedly devious practices, then Catholic apologetics is in a very sorry state indeed, since its preeminent representative is essentially a dishonest sophist, according to Fr. Ambrose. With "friends" like these, who needs enemies, huh?


This sad tale keeps getting more pathetic. Fr. Ambrose is obstinately keeping up his false charges in the face of all logic and evidence:

Please READ the article. It is Dave Armstrong's and he gives the words as his very own words in the second paragraph.

"BIBLICAL OVERVIEW OF PENANCE, PURGATORY & INDULGENCES: "Saved As By Fire" Written by Dave Armstrong in 1994. Uploaded on 22 August 2001.

[he then provides the URL]

Well, I've read the article. I can even top that. I wrote it! Moreover, amazingly enough, I even know what I meant!, and (oddly enough) when I was citing someone else and when I was not! And I reiterate again that this assertion is simply untrue. Apparently, Fr. Ambrose is unfamiliar with the method of indented citations. I used that "technique" in this paper. I cited Fr. Hardon, in an indented passage, followed by his name: "{John Hardon}". Since it was a short overview I didn't provide full documentation (relatively rare for me) ; yet the indentation made it clear that it was a citation. I never cite anyone in this paper without using indentation. I did, however, provide full documentation above, in this present clarification (thus proving that Fr. Ambrose has not yet read this paper; not even the initial part that he has started "responding" to). The other three instances of indentation are also all citations as well: from Ludwig Ott, Trent (full documentation) and C.S. Lewis (name of book and page number).

Fr. Ambrose does claim to have at least read the old paper under consideration:

I read the entire article which we are discussing and from which I took the
quote.. and I feel entitled to comment accordingly.

Apparently, however, unless he reads my clarifications in the present paper or has someone on that board mention them to him, he will continue misunderstanding how an indentation different from most of the text (as in general usage) means that someone else is being cited. This is highly strange, since the very board on which he writes uses the same method. It indents citations and puts them in a box, and doesn't utilize quotation marks.

"Ghosty" comments on this bizarre ongoing misrepresentation:

I'm not trying to be rude to you, I'm trying to correct a serious error in your citation. You are attributing to Dave Armstrong a quote that is not his, and one that he does indeed cite. He is rightly perturbed at your misrepresentation of his beliefs, whether or not you came by it innocently.

I'm certainly not trying to be rude when I say that you must be MUCH more careful in your citations and attributations if you intend to continue arguing about Catholic theology. It only leads to further misunderstandings on both sides.

Finally, he does get it, after the second or third reading:

Yes, you are right and David Armstrong has lifted the passage from John Hardon. He has incorporated it into his article as his own belief. It is not possible to say that views are being attributed to Armstrong which he does not hold himself.

That's correct (as many or most citations -- including this one -- imply agreement with the writer utilizing them), as explained above, but then the question becomes: how do we interpret the language "place or condition" (particularly, "or") in context. That is another major aspect of this discussion, and one that I delved into at significant length, above. Hopefully, it won't take two or three readings to grasp this argument of mine also. But it's very frustrating to carry on some semblance of dialogue, or even clarification, when one party isn't willing to give one the courtesy of addressing their concerns and explanations, yet wants to continue making unwarranted charges. Fr. Ambrose continues in the same post:

Do you think that since 1994 when Armstrong wrote his article and calls Purgatory a place he has changed his belief on the matter? Presumably he held this belief up until at least 2001 which is when the article was uploaded to the Net.

As noted above (how many times must I repeat this?), I wrote in 1996 (when I finished the manuscript of my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism: "The Catholic Church has not defined whether Purgatory is a place or a process, or whether it contains real fire." This trumped-up "controversy" is getting so ridiculous that I actually went to consult my original typewritten manuscripts for the first draft of my book, which was completed in 1994. It absolutely proves that I haven't changed my mind at all on this matter, as fr. Ambrose keeps insisting I must have done.

For in this 59-page treatise, completed on April 21, 1994 (of which my overview was an abridgment), I not only cited Fr. Hardon's words that appear in the overview, but also (in agreement) a more lengthy citation of his from The Catholic Catechism (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1975). This book happens to be one which he himself gave to me, and it was the required reading in order to be received into the Church by Fr. Hardon, in February 1991.
One must interpret anyone's words in the context of their overall thought; especially if there is some misunderstanding or controversy. So what does Fr. Hardon write in this book?:

In spite of some popular notions to the contrary, the Church has never passed judgment as to whether purgatory is a place or in a determined space where the souls are cleansed. It simply understands the expression to mean the state or condition under which the faithful departed undergo purification.

(pp. 274-275)

Fr. Hardon thus states that the Church hasn't decided the matter. That was his view, and I received my initial understanding of it from him and accepted his opinion. It has remained my opinion from then until now. I accepted what he wrote in his book when I read it in early 1991 and have seen no reason to change my views. Therefore, to claim that I have either changed my view or am seeking to revise the history of my own opinions since 1994 (or 1991 as it were), is utterly absurd. I have the proof. Must I send Fr. Ambrose a photocopy of my original manuscript? Or will he question the authenticity of that, too?

Quite ironically, I actually cited another portion of this same exact citation recently, when asked by "BWL" on my blog about purgatory and masses for the dead. That can be seen in the recent Q & A thread, in a post of 7-23-05. I had the citation handy because it is sitting in a file. I have been uploading various portions of my original 750-page recently, and this was to soon be uploaded (e.g., one on Tradition, which was the post immediately preceding this one). If I had happened to do this paper before this present controversy, it would have provided further proof of my actual views.

"Maccabees" at this point realized what was going on and issued an admirable statement of regret for earlier comments (for which I am grateful, and sorry if I was too harsh in my reply to his comments), first citing Fr. Ambrose (I have corrected a few typos):

Gracious, I don't have time at the moment to read such a lengthy monograph. But I see he makes an attempt to rebuke me:

Actually it is shorter than your (Father Ambrose) typical monograph that we are forced to read daily. You have clearly misrepresented the man and I apologize to him because I assumed you (Father Ambrose) were quoting the man in context and not misrepresenting Catholic teaching.

Undaunted, Fr. Ambrose carries on his increasingly surreal campaign:

David Armstrong lays out his position very clearly in the paragraphs with which he commences his article. He believes that Purgatory is "a place and a condition."
Please read his article uploaded to the Net in 2001. There are multiple links
to it above.

He absolutely IS MISREPRESENTING ME !!! I've explained till I am blue in the face how this language of "place" OR "condition" (per St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Hardon, and the old Catholic Encyclopedia) is to be understood and properly interpreted. But he can't even reproduce what Fr. Hardon wrote, that I cited, correctly. Fr. Hardon wrote: "place OR condition," not "place AND a condition." The difference is crucial. And now I have cited him from elsewhere, explaining exactly what his position was on this. He asserts that "place" has never been dogmatically declared by the Church, and opts more for the notion of "state" or "condition." End of story. End of controversy . . . Lord grant me patience!

"Maccabees" then posted (again, I corrected some typos):

I read his blog; he clearly clarified what he meant by place; it is in the same context [as in] Aquinas which is entirely acceptable for the modern Catholic. Sorry I have no qualms with the man; he clarified where he stands and where your polemics have misrepresented him.

Pope John Paul II, in a talk in 1999, clarified how language is difficult in discussing sublime spiritual realities. This doesn't overturn anything in Catholic dogmatic tradition; it merely develops what has always been believed:

In the context of Revelation, we know that the "heaven" or "happiness" in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit.

It is always necessary to maintain a certain restraint in describing these "ultimate realities" since their depiction is always unsatisfactory. Today, personalist language is better suited to describing the state of happiness and peace we will enjoy in our definitive communion with God.

The Holy Father makes the same distinction when discussing hell (General Audience of Wednesday, 28 July 1999). Interestingly, the English translation included the phrase, "Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy." Catholic apologist Andrew Solt, on whose page this talk was reproduced, noted (italics and bolding added):

[The original Italian says, "(PiĆ¹ che) More than a place, hell indicates..." This suggests correctly that although hell is not essentially "a place," rather the definitive loss of God, confinement is included. Thus, after the general resurrection the bodies of the damned, being bodies not spirits, must be in "some place," in which they will receive the punishment of fire.]

Pope John Paul II discussed purgatory in his General Audience of Wednesday, 4 August 1999; one heading stated: "Purgatory is not a place but a condition of existence." The meaning of this has been explained above: spirits do not possess dimension or spatial characteristics, so in that sense one cannot speak of "place." Yet in the English language, "place" is sometimes used as a synonym for "condition" or "state" and perhaps this also explains some of the confusion. For example, in my Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary (Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1968; 2289 large pages), no less than 25 definitions of place are given, including the following:

16. (another's) situation or state; as, you would have acted quite the same if you were in my place.

In common English, this sense is used; for example:

I came to a place in my life where I stopped worrying so much.

Or (even more poetically or metaphorically):

A loving relationship is a place where one can fully express one's feelings and trust another.

Note that this is a use of place for an ultimately non-material entity: human relationships or love.

Thus, again, we see that this is a matter of context and language. Place in this sense can be used as interchangeable with "state" or "condition" so that there is no contradiction, rightly-understood. It's all much ado about nothing. When older Catholic writers use the term "place" for purgatory (just as John Paul II did with regard to heaven and hell also) it is in this sense. Nothing has changed. The doctrine has remained the same. But in the rush to find Catholic contradiction and equivocation all of this is ignored.