The Grand Poobah and Fearless, Unvanquishable (Oral) Debater
Lately, I've been accused up and down of being a coward and a hypocrite and all-around wascally wascal, for my decision (now over two years and running) to no longer engage anti-Catholics in theological debate. Of course I did do those debates for many years, and have built up the most extensive web page of critiques and debates of anti-Catholic Protestantism (to my knowledge) on the Internet.
Nevertheless, my anti-Catholic critics (lately, e.g., "Turretinfan," Defective Gene "Troll" Bridges, and Steve Hays) are convinced that fear is the reason, rather than my conclusion that they are not worth my time, as unworthy opponents who are unable to maintain basic civility and substantiveness in a debate without stupidity, viciously circular logic, relentless prejudice, profouns closedmindedness, and personal insult. They've stated that I am a scaredy-cat many times. I won't bother to document it. I've spent enough time on their vapid inanities lately. But I'd like to draw an analogy to how anti-Catholic Grand Poobah James White has approached various potential Catholic debate opponents (including myself).
James White: "About Debating Certain Roman Catholic Apologists" (c. 2000 or so):
We'd like to set the record straight. There are exactly two Roman Catholic apologists who need not contact us about doing a public debate: Vinney Lewis and Dr. Art Sippo. The reason that we would have no interest in doing debates with these folks is quite simple: we have concluded they are not capable of acting in a sufficiently gentlemanly manner for a meaningful debate to take place.
James White: 9 August 2005 on his blog:
Art Sippo Declines Debate Challenge: I Am Not Nice Enough
. . . So, finally, I challenged Sippo to debate me on the topic he himself demands we debate. I arranged a local venue, right there where he lives. He doesn't even have to take a day off of work, doesn't have to pack a bag. We even do the video taping, and provide him, free of charge, an unedited master to distribute far and wide! After all these years of calling me a coward, a fraud, referring to me as "Pseudopodeo" (an alteration of one of my old AOL screen names), lying about me without even bothering to check facts, I finally get fed up and see a chance to combine an already scheduled event (lecture series on New Perspectivism in the St. Louis area) with the debate Sippo has repeatedly said I am afraid to engage in. So, what's the result? Well, it's really quite simple: Art Sippo says I'm not civil enough."
James White: 22 May 2006 on his blog:
Evidently he [Art Sippo] thinks nine months is sufficient time for his followers to lose all memory of his running from a perfectly legitimate debate challenge (here is the last article I wrote about that particular issue) and who knows, maybe it is? But the Internet has a long memory, and documentation is documentation.
James White: 3 July 2008 on his blog:
But for some odd reason, Art isn't pounding on my door. In fact, the last time I said I'd come right to his own back yard and debate him on the only topic he said he would debate on...he said I was just too mean!White took the exact same approach to me in our first exchange, on 4 May 1995:
Over the years I have attempted to establish "standards" to guide me in how I should invest my very limited time. Working, as I do, with Mormons, JWs, and now Roman Catholics and even KJV Only folks, I have to attempt to be balanced. It is not an easy task. Normally, I will admit, your letter's tone would be sufficient for it to be dismissed. I have learned to recognize sophistry when I see it, and as I grow and mature, I have learned to ignore such argumentation as falling under Paul's prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:23. The number of simple misrepresentations, and gross caricatures, of my letter to you and the position I espouse was enough to do almost irreparable damage to your credibility and keep me from investing any of my limited time in responding to you.Despite this, he still challenged me to a public debate in the same letter:
. . . Might I suggest to you, Mr. Armstrong, that it might be because some of us have standards with reference to the behavior of those with whom we correspond? I will not debate Vinney "85% of those who hear me think I'm a lunatic" Lewis, either, and there's a reason for that: he is not worthy of being noticed on that level. Seemingly you have taken at least some of your cues from Mr. Lewis, . . .
In light of this, your reasons for declining a public debate are left rather hollow. Perhaps you will reconsider your refusal? I have no idea who Gary Michuta [whom he later debated on the deuterocanon] is, what his position is, what he's written, what his background is, or anything else. You wrote to the folks in the cult directory. You have the stationery that says "Catholic Apologist." You claim to eat Protestant apologists for lunch. I think you need to defend your position in a scholarly manner.
Yours Truly in 1995
In his fax of 10 November 1995, declining to answer my final 36-page installment, he wrote:
. . . sadly, I can't suggest anyone else who would be willing to invest their time in responding to such materials, either. Most folks I know are too busy doing constructive things with their lives. . . . So, Dave, I'm sorry to have to inform you that I have far more pressing issues to address than your letter and its extensive flights in illogic and personal attack.Later he challenged me at least two times to an oral debate. I declined, as I always do, for principled reasons based on my critique of that methodology.
I challenged him twice to a live chat debate, giving him massive advantages. He declined twice. He has fled from extended rational (written) dialogue / debate with me ever since, claiming that it is not really debate (even though he has done it himself in the past), and that it amounts to me "hiding behind my keyboard".
We did have one lone live (recorded) encounter in his chat room, on 29 December 2000. White's pattern was exactly the same in Art Sippos's case and in mine (and in the case of Gary Michuta):
1) First White sez we are too dumb and/or nasty and/or unknown for him to waste time debating.So he goes back and forth on whether he wants to engage certain Catholics. The reasons he gives are lack of charity and knowledge on the part of the Catholics he refuses to debate. I simply say that in my opinion, based on many many years of previous experience, anti-Catholics as a class are not worth spending any time debating. The negative experience when I tried was universal.
2) Then he later (14 years in Sippo's case, about ten in Gary's, and an hour or two in mine) can't resist and challenges us to oral debate.
If White can decide not to debate certain people based on their behavior and alleged profound stupidity, so can I, by the same token. If he is not blasted and lambasted and pilloried as an alleged coward for taking such a course, neither should I be. But I'll continue to be. I'll have oddballs like "Turretinfan" relentlessly baiting me into debate, by asking the same question (literally) 60 times or more.
I don't debate these clowns anymore because I think their position is intellectual suicide. Period. End of story. I demonstrated that, I think, in my first written debate with James White (part two), that he fled from. The immediate cause of my decision about two years ago now was the refusal of seven of them (including Bishop White) to debate the fundamental question of what a Christian is. I figured that if they refuse to discuss such a basic, elementary issue, then there is no hope, and they have less than no confidence even in their own logically-impossible position. So I gave up for good at that exact time. That was their last chance, as far as I was concerned. Either "put up or shut up." I always did utterly despise the position (as opposed to the people), but now I am done trying to engage these folks on any substantive theological matter. As I wrote in my combox today:
I never enjoyed at any time debating anti-Catholics. I always despised the position as intellectual suicide and scarcely superior to something like flat-earth beliefs or wacko conspiracy theories. I did it for years because I felt it my apologetic duty. Now that I have tons of stuff on the topic posted, I no longer have to. I have the luxury of following my own preferences and avoiding them (i.e., in terms of any debate on theology).This is all perfectly understandable and comprehensible, I think, regardless of how hostile an anti-Catholic might be to it. They don't like how we consider their thinking on a par with flat-earthers, and intellectual suicide? Well, we don't appreciate being classified as non-Christian, unregenerate, Pelagians, semi-pagans, idol-worshipers, or being regarded as spiritual neanderthals and ignoramuses, biblical illiterates, gullible nutcases who follow any imaginable goofy Marian apparition, anti-biblical, pedophile enablers, etc. Life is tough. They'll get over it. The sky won't fall down if "dear old DA" stops debating these fools. They'll manage to find someone else to have their fun and games with.
Meanwhile I am the steward of my time under God. If I am so unimportant and not to be taken seriously at all, etc. (as many of them claim, following White's playbook lead)), then one would think these nitwits would ignore me altogether. But that doesn't seem to be in the cards anytime soon. So they say one thing and act in ways contrary to what they claim.
Lastly, I recall readoing on Bishop White's old website way back when (c. 1999; couldn't find it today on his site) an encounter he recalled, with R. C. Sproul, where the latter disagreed with his own policy of debating Catholics. Sproul said that this gave the Catholics a credibility they don't deserve, and White noted that they had an honest disagreement on this.
I've said for years that if Sproul can take that position, as reported by Bishop White from a firsthand encounter, why is it that I am not allowed to take the same position from the opposite side of the spectrum? It's perfectly analogous, but there always has to be a double standard. When Sproul takes that position, he is being noble, sensible, wise, and prudent; a good steward of his time. When White takes the position regarding no debate with Dr. Art Sippo (temporarily) or towards me (temporarily) or Vinney Lewis, he is being (yep, you get it) noble, sensible, wise, and prudent; a good steward of his time.
But when I do the same exact thing with regard to all anti-Catholics, based on universal negative experience with them (and the relentless ad hominem insults, etc.) in hundreds of exchanges over 16 years or so (that I continue to have posted online for all to see), I am a coward, scared, fearful, hypocritical, and all-around unsavory, arrogant, condescending jerk. See how it works? If this is how you think, too; if you believe that it makes perfect sense, then anti-Catholicism is for you! If not, then you have a good idea of much of e reason I don't have time for them anymore, in terms of debate on theology.