Thursday, January 14, 2010

James White is Correct About One Preferable Aspect of Oral Debate (Relevant to Jason Engwer's Recent Systematic Fleeing from My Opposing Arguments)

In my recent exception-to-the-rule six-part debate with anti-Catholic Protestant apologist Jason Engwer (Parts 1-4 / part 5 / part 6), I noted in Part 6 how, in his last two installments when I was still around to engage him, he ignored 88% and 87% of my words. He was citing my words to respond to, and giving a pseudo- appearance of socratic debate (i.e., what I did, when I responded to every word of his, six straight times).

But in fact, he was evading huge amounts of essential material. His excuses (and those of others made for him) thus far have been lack of time and necessity, and that my comprehensive replies nevertheless supposedly lacked substance to a great extent. Readers may make their own conclusions.

[after this paper was written, Jason made the following yawningly predictable reply. His usual civility seems to have gone by the wayside (must be hanging around Steve Hays a lot). It is standard anti-Catholic talking points now in response to me, that I write a lot, but no matter, since, you see, my writing has no content. Watch Jason spin like a top and play that game:

I would suggest that people compare the quality of my material to the quality of his on those matters both of us have addressed so far. Dave keeps complaining that I haven't responded to more of his material, but consider the difference in quality in what has been addressed to this point. How difficult is it to write a lot when you're writing in the manner in which Dave does? . . .

I didn't leave the recent discussion with Dave. He did. I'm going to continue responding to his material. Ask yourself how well his claims about Papias, the canon at Nicaea, development of doctrine, and other subjects have held up so far. And note how well his claims hold up as I continue to respond to them.

Comrade-in-arms and master insulter Steve Hays fell right in line with the talking points too:

The problem with Armstrong’s response is that he didn’t offer a point-by-point reply. Rather, he offered a point-by-pointless reply.]

Anti-Catholic apologist Bishop James White has long advocated the superiority of oral over written debate. I have disagreed with him on that from Day One. Though he thinks I am a clueless imbecile (as he states innumerable times), yet he has challenged me to formal oral debate at least three times: in 1995, 2001, and 2007 (I always refuse on principle, based on my reasoning regarding the serious flaws of oral debate in his sense of the word).

One has to ask why he desires a debate opponent whom he considers to be a witless dunce? Doesn't it make sense to pursue the most worthy opponents, rather than the ones one thinks the least of? So his bluster furiously contradicts his supposed debate prowess. I don't buy it, and few others do, either, once they know all the facts of the matter.

I think written debate is superior in many, many (indeed most) respects. But on one point of suggested superiority of the oral, formally moderated medium (with prearranged format), I have to agree with White. In that scenario, a person is forced to answer questions, and cannot evade them. He has to give some sort of answer.

If it is bad and unprepared, the debater can potentially look rather ridiculous (and instances of this by the Catholics in White's many debates, are, no doubt, a great motivation for him, and a source of endless taunting and boorish chest-puffing behavior). Of course, White no doubt, has his own numerous instances of insufficient or embarrassing replies in oral debate (he never discusses those), and also innumerable evasions and wholesale ignoring of opponents in written debate and fleeing for the hills (especially with me), but we won't get into that at the moment. He is a writer, too, after all, with voluminous posts and many books to his name.

Anyway, in written exchanges, the other person can't be forced by rules and on-the-spot audience "social pressure" to answer any given question. And we see how Jason has conveniently used this "loophole" to evade large portions of my arguments, so that it was not ever a true debate to begin with (precisely why I am now done with it: I refuse to participate in an ongoing double standard: two contrary sets of rules). I answered all of his arguments in some fashion (whether poorly or well is for readers to decide). He ignored 87.5% of mine. And he has always done this, back when I regularly debated anti-Catholics (not necessarily in that proportion, but always to some significant degree).

It's interesting, then, to apply fellow anti-Catholic James White's aversion to folks who want to evade the intellectual responsibility of answering all questions thrown at them, to this scenario, and to Jason Engwer. Note, for example, how Bishop White makes the following remark at my expense:

Armstrong continues to refuse to debate man to man in person, and wishes only to hide behind his keyboard where he knows that no one, and I mean no one, can possibly force him to answer a direct question. As long as you can use the written forum, you can avoid the very essence of debate, the heart of debate, which is answering direct questions that test your position for consistency. Armstrong knows he is simply constitutionally incapable of the task, but he refuses to admit it, . . .


White is right about people not being forced to answer questions in debate, in written form. I just went through that with Jason Engwer. He's wrong, of course, about my willingness to do so. I challenged him twice to a live chat room debate, with big time handicaps in his favor: the second being in a double cross-examination format. He wanted no part of that. Why? Because he would have to answer whatever questions I asked him (!). And (quite ironically, given his above remarks) he avoids that prospect like the Bubonic Plague.

In point of fact, the live chat includes the social pressure of the oral debate, because people are there observing (and there would be plenty in a match-up of myself and White). It was the cowardice of White and five of his anti-Catholic comrades: all refusing to do a live chat room debate like this, on the question of definition of "Christian" that made me decide (over two years ago now) I had had more than enough of attempted rational discussion with anti-Catholics. The cowardice (despite bragging claims to the contrary) and the unwillingness to even discuss the most fundamental issues, were the clincher.

I made an exception in the last few weeks for Engwer because of a struggling Catholic apologist who cited one of Jason's papers as a reason why he started having doubts; but we see what happened: 87.5% of my arguments were ignored, so that the "dialogue" became a farce and running double standard. I won't tolerate that ridiculous state of affairs; sorry Jason. It's an insult to my intelligence and that of my readers. But I don't regret trying to help a fellow apologist (and others) see through Jason's errors, that run rampant through his apologetic posts.

Bishop White has often, through the years, mentioned this motif, over and over, of folks "hiding behind their keyboards." By that he means exactly what we see in his words above: he charges them with being afraid to answer direct questions. I obviously wasn't afraid in this way with Jason. I answered everything he threw out. But he answered 12.5% of my arguments. Therefore, Jason was (by White's criterion) "hiding behind his keyboard," by refusing to answer tons and tons of stuff. I did not. Here are other White utterances along these lines:

Meanwhile, tomorrow morning, 11am PDT is another chance for ol' Doug C. or CatholicDude or GAssisi or any of the other "My I am brave behind a keyboard but please, please, please don't ask me to actually defend my slanderous writings since I can't really do that and I know it" folks to back up their claims in the only venue that matters: one where the truth can be told. The number is 877-753-3341. I'll be here, waiting. (4-11-05)

. . . you will never see Enloe facing myself or Eric Svendsen or David King or anyone else in public. This kind of bravado only exists behind a keyboard that is located in the wilderness of Idaho: ... (9-7-05)

Today I discussed the recent explosion of anti-Calvinism on the part of various Lutherans like Paul McCain and Josh S. [Strodtbeck], and gave them the opportunity to defend their bravado behind a keyboard. They declined, of course. One Lutheran did call, . . . (12-6-05)

Dr. Stauffer: Brave Behind the Keyboard, Unwilling to Defend His Assertions [title] (3-25-06)

It is so odd that folks will accuse me of being "brave behind the keyboard" when I host a program twice a week with a toll free number, and when I challenge them to put feet to their accusations, well, all of a sudden they are so very busy whenever the DL is on, they just can't pick up that phone! (6-19-06)

The Internet creates "thugs," bullies with a lot of hot air but zero substance who thrive on acting out their childhood playground fantasies from behind a keyboard. (3-13-07)

So I'd like to add Mr. Hoffer's name to the list of folks I am inviting to call The Dividing Line so as to give them the opportunity of doing what any honest person must do who has made public accusations against me: step up and back up what these men are willing to say from behind the relative anonymity of the keyboard. (7-15-07)

What an incredible example of why written debates are only worthwhile if both sides are committed to the ultimate and highest level of clarity and perspecuity. [Paul] Hoffer has provided a wonderful example of why cross-examination is necessary (and why he won't call, obviously), for if he were to try such an obvious trick live, on the air, or in a debate, he would be challenged, and stopped, right then and there. (7-16-07)

Phil [Porvaznik] has a major problem standing up and being counted when he is challenged to do something more than sit behind a keyboard. He won't do debates, won't call in to programs where he would be challenged, etc. (11-14-07)

Armstrong knows he only has one "safe" place in this world, behind his keyboard: he will never, ever venture out in the real world to face those he so confidently mocks in real debate. (7-11-08)

. . . the small cadre of hypers [Hyper-Calvinists] out there, some of whom live behind a keyboard. (11-8-08)

There are far too many folks who hide behind a
keyboard on web forums . . . (2-3-09)

Those who have not been on the frontlines find it amenable to sit in their comfy computer chairs and opine away at the keyboard. They know they will never be called upon to present a consistent defense of the faith, especially in the face of competing world religions. (3-18-09)

Jason's deliberate policy of ignoring most of his opponent's arguments goes way back, as I have mentioned. For example, I complained in a "dialogue" of ours in February 2002 (see if this sounds familiar):

My job as an apologist would be a piece of cake if I concluded that all other arguments were without any merit; not even worth spending any time at all on. I could sit on my hands all day and revel in the superiority and unbreakable strength of my own position. That's very easy.
If, however, Jason wishes to truly be acknowledged as an able apologist and respectable critic of the Catholic viewpoint, he will have to, at some time in the future, decide to engage opponents' arguments in the depth which is required to qualify as a true, comprehensive rebuttal, as opposed to merely spewing out rhetoric, far too many topic-switching non sequiturs, and subtle mockery. He is even claimed to be an expert on the papacy on the prominent contra-Catholic website where he is now an associate researcher. But if he refuses to adequately interact with my material (e.g., tons of citations in my last exchange with him, from Protestant scholars on Peter, which he has pretty much ignored in terms of direct interaction), I certainly won't spend any more of my time in the future interacting with his writing, because I am interested in dialogue, not mutual monologue.
* * *

Here's yet another documented instance of Jason's intellectual cowardice and wholesale ignoring of arguments, from a paper of mine, written on 30 September 2003:

VII. Jason Engwer's Systematic Ignoring of Protestant Scholarly Support for Catholic Petrine Arguments
To illustrate very concretely how Jason constantly ignores my arguments (even when I cite reputable Protestant scholars -- indeed, some of the very best -- , such as France, Carson, Dunn, and Bruce), here are the eleven Protestant scholars and standard reference works (plus the ancient Church historian Eusebius) which I cited in favor of my arguments in some fashion, in my last reply to Jason on this topic:
F. F. Bruce
James Dunn
Donald Guthrie
New Bible Dictionary
Eerdmans Bible Dictionary
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
J. B. Lightfoot
Norman Geisler
Jaroslav Pelikan
Martin Luther
R. C. Sproul
With modern computer technology, it is easy to do a word search of a document. So (just out of curiosity -- though I pretty much knew the answer), I thought I would search Jason's last reply to me (the paper I am now counter-responding to, and his reply to the paper above, with those scholars in it), "A Pauline Papacy", to see if he ever mentions any of these scholars and works (after all, it's quite difficult to respond to something if one doesn't mention it at all). Sure enough, it was a clean sweep: not a single one appears in Jason's paper.
Jason is clearly not interested in dialogue and interaction with his opponents. He cares not a whit about their arguments; he shows scarcely any consideration or respect for them at all; they are merely fodder for his ongoing effort to make Catholic positions (i.e., his caricatures of them) look farcical and ridiculous. This is exactly the opposite of my approach. I deeply, passionately believe in dialogue as a way to arrive at truth. I believe in interacting with opponents comprehensively and trying to, in fact, see if I can overthrow my own arguments by seeking the best critics of them. I am a Socratic; I think that this is an excellent way to sharpen one's critical faculties and to arrive at truth and new understanding.
If there remains any doubt about how Jason conducts his apologetics endeavors with opponents, let's do the same search in Jason's paper, Dave Armstrong and Development of Doctrine, which was in turn a response to my paper, Dialogue on the Nature of Development of Doctrine (Particularly With Regard to the Papacy). In the latter, I cited the following 41 non-Catholic scholars and works:
William Barclay
Protestant Expositor's Bible Commentary
Wycliffe Bible Commentary
Martin Luther
R. C. Sproul
Henry Alford
John Broadus
C. F. Keil
Gerhard Kittel
Oscar Cullmann
William F. Albright
Robert McAfee Brown
R. T. France
D. A. Carson
New Bible Dictionary
Encyclopedia Britannica
D. W. O'Connor
C. S. Mann
Peake's Bible Commentary on the Bible
K. Stendahl
Marvin Vincent
John Meyendorff (Orthodox)
St. Gregory Palamas (Orthodox)
Gennadios Scholarios (Orthodox)
William Hendrickson
Gerhard Maier
Craig L. Blomberg
Albert Barnes
Herman Ridderbos
David Hill
Robert Jamieson
Andrew R. Fausset
David Brown
T. W. Manson
Eerdmans Bible Dictionary
Eerdmans Bible Commentary
Adam Clarke
J. Jeremias
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
F. F. Bruce
Vladimir Solovyev (Orthodox)
A search in Jason's "reply," entitled Dave Armstrong and Development of Doctrine, yielded a second clean sweep: again, none of the 41 sources were ever mentioned. Well, actually he did mention D. A. Carson once, but with regard to another work of his in support of some contention; Jason didn't respond to my citation of Carson. It's easy to understand, then, why Jason issued a disclaimer at the outset of his "response." One must admire, at least (in a certain perverse sense), even marvel, at the chutzpah of a person who would deliberately ignore all that massive documented scholarship and then describe what he is willingly passing over in his "reply" as follows:
In replying to Dave Armstrong's article addressed to me, I'm not going to respond to every subject he raised. He said a lot about John Newman, George Salmon, James White, etc. that's either irrelevant to what I was arguing or is insignificant enough that I would prefer not to address it.
I need not waste more of my time searching additional Engwer papers. The point is now well-established.



Ryan said...

Ironically, if Jason ignored 87.5% of this post, I bet he could still respond to the essential argument you're making.

Chest-puffing indeed.

Dave Armstrong said...

This is what we have come to expect from you clowns. Thanks for the classic example. Double standards abound . . .

Doug Benscoter said...

Dave, I too am sympathetic to written debate. Part of the reason is that I've never been a great public speaker, but more importantly, written debate has the distinct advantage of allowing each side to reflect on some point for a longer period of time before answering. This allows the best replies possible. The only drawback is what you and White stated - namely, that there isn't any way to guarantee that each side will answer direct questions.

On the other hand, it was just today that I was watching TV and the host asked his guest at least three times a very simple yes/no question, but couldn't get an answer. So, I think this is also a problem in oral debate. It's just that many of us often have a tendency to avoid tough questions. I don't think you've avoided any questions or arguments, though.

Finally, I will say that many (but certainly not all, and probably not most) users in forums and blogs do "hide behind a keyboard." Some of the rhetoric we read on forums would never be spoken aloud in a live setting.

Dave Armstrong said...

Good point. The atrocious ethics on the Internet in so many venues is in large part because of a certain disembodied anonymity and the lack of face-to-face communication.

And in the oral debate situation, a skilled sophist or obscurantist like James White can always give an answer that is really no answer at all, but sounds good to many people.

But at least he has to say something, and can't ignore 88% of the opponent's argument, Engwer-style.

Dave Armstrong said...

I added an update of Jason's reply, as of 12:30 AM EST, 1-28-09 (see after the second paragraph).

Dave Armstrong said...

I also added (at 1 AM) an old comment of mine from a dialogue I had with Jason in February 2002, decrying his same old tired tactics of ignoring most of his opponent's arguments.

Some things never change.

Dave Armstrong said...

At 1:15 AM, I added to the end of the paper further documented evidence of Jason's ongoing policy of intellectual cowardice in "debate."

I showed how (back in 2002-2003) I had cited eleven Protestant scholarly sources in one of my replies to him, and Jason ignored every one of them.

If that weren't absurd enough, I then showed how I named 41 Protestant scholars or reference works in another paper: ALL of whom were summarily ignored by our highly esteemed debate partner, Jason Engwer. It's even worse than I had thought (I had forgotten details like these over time)

He can protest and attempt to spin and obfuscate all he wants now, but this sort of cowardice has been evident in his apologetics all along. I knew it then; I know it now. It's nothing new. I detest his pitiful methodology. It's a disgrace to legitimate dialogue.

I merely called him on it again in the recent debate, and showed that I wasn't scared to deal with all of his arguments, whereas he runs from some 88% of mine.

He had his chance to do a real debate and answer challenges like a man and a thinker, and he refused, so I have better things to do. He forfeited by acting in this way. He never engaged the discussion, nor nearly nine-tenths of my argument.

Let him write all he wants now, and lie that I supposedly "ran" because of the profundity of his arguments (i.e., what few he made in reply). He doesn't warrant anyone's attention when he acts like this. I don't consider him a serious thinker, or one who has the courage of his convictions: enough to defend them under scrutiny.

If my arguments were as atrocious as he now claims, then he could have easily refuted them. But he chose not to.

He ignored 88% of my arguments in one paper; he ignored 87% in the next. Eight years ago, he systematically ignored 41 Protestant scholars.

I don't do mutual monologue; nor do I waste time with fools and cowards. I want to interact with people who can actually defend what they believe.

Dave Armstrong said...

And I should add that my interaction with Jason was strictly a temporary thing, anyway: an exception to my rule (and one can again clearly see in this farce the wisdom of that rule: of not wasting time wrangling with anti-Catholics).

I made that very clear from the beginning. Yet I was again mocked by Steve Hays and others at Tribalblogue, as supposedly a man who can't keep his word, by a man who recently stated that I was "evil" and shouldn't even be lampooned or satirized anymore; then turned around within a few days and started doing it again (and has ever since).

So all this asinine nonsense is going on, yet Jason and Steve and all their witless sycophants are over there blasting me as a supposed coward simply because I ceased my temporary suspension of my normative resolve these past two years and three months: and that, after Jason ignored 88% and 87% of my arguments, and pretended that he was "answering" me?

Let them prattle on. It's good entertainment, and it shows the intellectual bankruptcy and atrocious lack of ethics of the anti-Catholic mindset.

Ryan said...

You did read the multiple times - even in his most recent post - that Jason said he would respond to you over time, right? Notwithstanding my earlier point, do you actually expect him to reply to everything at once? Why?

It just seems to me like you posted a huge reply to him knowing that he couldn't possibly address everything instantly. Then, at the first opportunity, you dismiss what he has responded to and, to save face, you arbitrarily claim he must do an all-or-nothing response.

Dave Armstrong said...

I don't need an "all-or-nothing" response. That's the ideal, but in most debates, most people do not answer comprehensively. I have probably over 600 posted dialogues by now. You can rarely find me complaining about anyone like I do about Jason, because he does this all the time, and one gets tired of it after a while.

But if not 100% of my arguments dealt with, something more than 12% and 13% would seem not unreasonable to expect, no? How about 30%-40%? Is that do-able? 51%?

How about Jason grappling with 3 out of the 41 Protestant scholars I brought to the table, back in 2002? Would that have put him out, too?

Ryan said...

I would think it just depends on the temperament of and time constraints on the individual. What he responds to will depend on what he thinks is essential to his argument, and the reader can decide for himself whose position is the more sound. I don't think percentages convey as much as you think it does; a point-by-point response certainly isn't necessary to cover the essential information, I would think you'd agree, and for those of us who prefer to read one section of an argument at a time to better evaluate quality, Jason's method is, in fact, preferable. I wouldn't attribute this to an unwillingness to engage, especially if one has already said he plans to respond to more.

Dave Armstrong said...

If he lacks time (and I accept his word on that), then he should (as I have stated before) take one portion and answer that properly, not with this stupid hyper-selective method that he does.

He chose what he wanted to deal with. He centered in on Papias, out of all the material that was on the table. So I went along with that, and patiently answered his paper point-by-point. He decided to cite 12% of my words and reply to those, ignoring the rest.

Nevertheless, I replied point-by-point again. He came back, dealing with 13% of my words and arguments.

He has since written several new papers. He managed to find time to write those, so why couldn't he simply devote all that time and energy to answering properly for a change?

Do you expect me to believe that he intended to answer 12% of one paper of mine now (for lack of time), and then he would answer another 12% in a week: stuff in-between the other replies, and 12% a week after that, and so forth? He was never gonna go back to what he skipped over.

No; clearly, he thinks most of my writing is not worthy of a reply, so he ignores it. It is not consciously fear on his part: it is much more likely arrogant condescension (but in the end, unwillingness to defend one's own positions likely come down to inability). He is now hinting at that in his latest reply, by repeating the line that all my words have little substance, so why bother with them?

He now states subtly what Hays has been stating openly for weeks, and James White for 15 years (while challenging me to oral debate three times: in 1995, 2001, and 2007).

And that gets back to the whole reasoning for not even trying to debate you guys anymore: there IS no debate. It's because you are not serious enough about doing it from the outset, because we are, in your eyes, dumb, stupid, clueless Catholics, not worth spending any time seriously interacting with. Many of you say this openly. Jason is more subtle, but the end result is the same. He says the same by what he doesn't interact with (88%).

I stopped debating anti-Catholics (after scores and scores of attempts) because of this sort of thing and the related reason that you guys refuse even to discuss the most basic fundamentals: what is a Christian, and is Catholicism Christian?

Failing that, there is no hope. We get insults, obfuscation, obscurantism, sophistry, ignoring 88% of what we write (or 100%, as in White's case, again and again and again). You refuse to defend your positions under scrutiny.

Who has time for that? I always held that anti-Catholicism was a worthless, viciously self-refuting position, so my opinion on that is clear, and always has been.

But I am always willing to give my opponent the consideration and minimal respect to at least make reply to everything he writes, or his main arguments, at the very least: not arbitrarily skipping over large portions.

It seems to me that this is the thinker's and debater's responsibility. We don't decide on the spot that "this section is too ignorant and stupid to waste my time on." If it is that bad, then we can demolish it without mercy. That's not how debate works.

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I am interested in serious DEBATE, not games and evasion tactics and the ubiquitous condescension that we always get with anti-Catholics.

Dave Armstrong said...

Lastly, if I am truly so ignorant and stupid as White, Hays et al are always saying, and shouldn't be taken seriously by anti-Catholics (or indeed any sentient being), then why does Jason bother answering my stuff at all (even 12% of it)? Does that mean I am 12% serious and 88% stupid? 12% of the time I say something that makes a lick of sense, and can thereby be replied to?

Why does he not simply ignore my stuff, just as I have been refusing to waste time trying to debate anti-Catholics on theology for over two years?

This is the disconnect. It's like the guy (a real person) who says over and over he doesn't take me seriously, and hasn't for years, yet has written 110 papers mainly or largely about me.

The two don't go together. Either ignore a person considered that dumb altogether, or cease making the insulting comments, to get consistent! Isn't that obvious?

Then I hear sometimes that I am "answered" because I may be leading poor unsuspecting souls astray. By that I conclude that you must consider the anti-Catholic masses out there far dumber and stupider than I am: in order to be swayed by my arguments, that no rational person should take seriously for a second.

And there is some common ground where we can meet: the anti-Catholic masses are intellectually inferior to me, since they can be persuaded by my laughable, contentless arguments. Otherwise, why the felt need to protect the flock from my nefarious influence?

Jason Engwer said...

As Ryan has noted, this thread is itself an illustration of the fact that a person doesn't have to quote and respond to anything close to 100% of what Dave has written in order to address Dave's essential argument. Notice, too, that Dave repeatedly responded to Ryan without quoting anything Ryan had said. Yet, Dave measures my responses to him by how much I quote from his posts. Using Dave's reasoning, should we conclude that his second post in the comments section of this thread, for example, wasn't replying to anybody? After all, he didn't quote anybody in that post.

Dave has acknowledged that he sometimes ignores my articles, and that he did so early in the present exchange, prior to his decision to leave the discussion. He's also replied partially to some of my material without responding to all of it. See, for example, the "ADDENDUM" section of his article here. Or my discussion with him last year on the doctrine of justification, in the comments section of the thread here. Or the eighth comment in the thread here, in which Dave replies to some of my comments without quoting them, but doesn't reply to the remainder.

Let's say somebody writes twenty sentences on a topic. Three sentences introduce the topic, five make the central point of the discussion, and the remaining twelve reiterate what's already been said. Why would all of the sentences have to be quoted in a response? Why quote even half of them? And why can't somebody respond to the sentences without quoting them, much as Dave has repeatedly responded to Ryan in this thread without quoting him? For example, if I respond to Dave's claims about my use of scholarship without quoting what Dave said on the subject, or I quote one representative comment he made without quoting fifteen similar comments from him, does it follow that I'm "ignoring 88%" or more of what he said on the subject?

Jason Engwer said...

Regarding our discussion in 2003, here's what I wrote in response to Dave at the time, concerning the citation of scholars:

"Dave's latest article also criticizes me for allegedly not interacting enough with his citations of scholars. At some points in his article, he gives lists of scholars he had cited, then he criticizes me for not interacting with those citations. But Dave didn't interact with all of the scholars I cited (D.A. Carson, Leon Morris, Robert Eno, Roger Beckwith, Michael O'Carroll, William La Due, Klaus Schatz, J.N.D. Kelly, Philip Schaff, F.F. Bruce, Raymond Brown, etc.). And, as I explained to Dave in an earlier article, I agree with a large portion of what he's cited from these scholars, so why would I interact with citations that I don't disagree with? I told Dave that I agree with him that there's a scholarly consensus that Peter is the rock of Matthew 16, and I said that I consider that interpretation a reasonable one, so why would Dave expect me to write responses to scholars who say that Peter is the rock? I've also said that I think Isaiah 22 is relevant to Matthew 16, though I disagree with some of the implications Dave draws from the relationship between those two passages. The Protestant scholars Dave cited, as well as many Roman Catholic scholars, also disagree with Dave's conclusions about how the two passages relate. If I agree with Dave that Matthew 16 should be interpreted in light of Isaiah 22, why should I post responses to scholars saying the same thing? In a previous article on the papacy, in the context of discussing 1 Peter 5:1, Dave cited some scholars regarding the Petrine authorship of 1 and 2 Peter. Since I never disputed Petrine authorship of either book, and 2 Peter isn't even relevant to what we were discussing regarding 1 Peter 5:1, why would I write responses to those scholars Dave cited? It's absurd for Dave to list these sources that I didn't interact with when Dave has failed to interact with so much of what I've cited and there's so much of what he's cited that I agree with. If Dave isn't going to interact with a citation I give from William La Due, for example, then why should I interact with a citation he gives from Norman Geisler? And if I agree with something he cites from Donald Guthrie or R.T. France, for example, why should I write a response to it? I think Dave ought to be more reasonable in the standards he applies to other people, and he ought to be consistent with his own standards, whatever they may be."

In his more recent articles, the ones earlier in the current discussion, Dave often discusses what men like David King and William Webster believe and discusses how my views might or should relate to theirs. He cites scholars making points I don't disagree with. Etc. Why should I be expected to quote and interact with all of that?

I will be replying to more of Dave's material. But, for now, contrast the quality of what each of us has written on the subjects addressed by both of us so far.

Dave Armstrong said...

I've made my points, and readers can judge the relative merits, and whether Jason was justified in ignoring so much of my argumentation.

I have to get back to work that is directly related to my income (books and audio projects), seeing that I am a full-time apologist. I do have to bring home the bacon just like anyone else.

I have plenty of time, yes, but I have to be wise and responsible in my stewardship of it, so I don't have unlimited time to play ring around the rosey: arguing about discussion and how it should be undertaken.

One must understand the key distinction between how one participates in a discussion as it is in process and how one decides to stop participating in one (for what could be many good and perfectly legitimate reasons). When I left the discussion Jason and I had recently, this is how I ended it:

"We could go round and round on this forever, and keep trying to poke holes in each other's arguments. Again, I think you have answered very well from within your paradigm. You can have the last word. Thanks for sticking entirely to theology and avoiding any hint of personal attack. How refreshing, and a model to be emulated."

But Jason has made it clear that the main reason he ignores my arguments is not even time limitations (that we all struggle with), but disdain for my arguments themselves, and his charge (echoing White and Hays) that the content of what I write is vacuous. He indicated as much in 2002 and 2003 as our discussions stopped, and is doing so again now. Nothing has changed.

Why should he bother at all with me, then? But anyone with a shred of fairness or objectivity, of whatever theological stripe, can see that I would be a fool, too, to spend more time engaging a person who systematically ignores much of my argumentation that I have spent hours constructing (because he thinks it is worthless). No one expects anyone to do that.

Jason will keep on replying, so he says. That's fine. It is precisely because I am now being accused of running in fear, that it was important that the reasons I stopped had to be made clear: to demonstrate beyond doubt that Jason decided not to do what can be construed as a mutually respectful dialogue, by any remotely feasible definition. It simply can't take place with 88% of one's arguments (containing important and essential arguments) being flatly ignored. I would be an idiot if I bowed to such a ridiculous state of affairs.

And it all takes place, too, accompanied by the most juvenile and ridiculous insults being slung about on Hays site, by the Big Cheese himself, and by nattering nabobs like Bridges and Pike and others. I always refuse any ongoing discussion under those conditions, because it is a disgrace to the very notion of dialogue, and an example of exactly
what turns people off of Christianity itself: the endless infighting and stupid insults.

Anyone can note that there is no such equivalent here. No one here is calling Jason "evil" or an inveterate liar or vow-breaker, or idiot, etc. We have an honest disagreement and obviously differ vastly in methodology.

I appeal to readers to figure out why there is such a vast difference in the actual demeanor and method during discussion, and in the atmosphere of our two blogs. It's no big mystery at all.

Dave Armstrong said...

There is at least one person at Tribalblogue (Raymond) who sees the extreme silliness and counter-productive nature of Steve Hays' latest hit piece:

(note that he is no fan of mine, which gives his criticism much more force):

"While I agree that Dave Armstrong is in his own right a sophist, I don't see the wisdom in 'stooping down' to his level.

"Wouldn't it be a more powerful witness to simply engage in his ideas at a high level without peppering comments with name calling and sophistry? If the goal of some of this work is to draw Catholics into the truth than I might suggest that a loving approach would be more successful. Imagine a Catholic coming to this blog and on any given day and the first thing he/she sees is a thread like this? Do you think they’ll want to read more? Do you think they’ll take you seriously?"

Dave Armstrong said...

Matthew D. Schultz stepped right up to defend it, on the grounds that I am, in effect, the equivalent of the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (yep, that's me):

"posts like these remind me of Elijah and his comments to the false prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:27 or Jesus' rather personal attacks on the character of the Pharisees. It seems it is sometimes appropriate to engage in this kind of behavior."

John Bugay gives the "DA talking points" from the James White Playbook. He is well-trained:

"If those unsound patterns of thinking just happen to be laughable, then laughing at them is an appropriate response."

Raymond replies:

"Shouldn't we pray and lament for apostates rather than mock them and laugh at them? Is it your position that it is prudent to mock and laugh at them so long as you are lamenting and praying for them?"

John Bugay again:

"I don't need to defend Steve's sense of humor; but if you've spent the least amount of time here, you know that this is not a blog that's devoted to tearing people down. My point is that Dave Armstrong's responses are so laughable that sometimes you just have to laugh at them."

Exactly. Why does Jason waste his time on my "laughable" replies: so absurd that they are as fit to be mocked as the false prophets of Baal? Doesn't he have anything better to do?

In another thread devoted to me, an atheist makes exactly the observation I noted in my last comment:

"As an atheist toying with the idea of theism, I feel compelled to point out how so much of Christian apology reads like a playground argument. All I see on this site after scrolling through a few posts is ad hominem arguments."

Dave Armstrong said...

I wrote over there:

"Catholicism, of course, being the moral, theological, and intellectual equivalent of Baal-worship . . ."

And the utterly predictable replies:

Matthew D. Schultz

"Did I say that? No. And it doesn't have to be equivalent for the point to stick. We're talking about precedents and principles. If the kind of behavior Elijah engaged in was acceptable, it can serve as a case-study of appropriate behavior. Just what contexts that behavior is appropriate in is a different question, but I am addressing the raw issue of whether it is always wrong to mock, taunt, etc. It doesn't seem to be the case."

Turretinfan (the one and only TAO)

"I'd love to see Dave try to enunciate the moral, theological, and intellectual distinctions between his religion and that of Baal, particularly in view of Lumen Gentium."

Semper Reformanda

"That sounds about right, yes."

So one guy makes a valid logical point, and two agree that you and I worship Baal, or engage in a religion no better than that. I counter-replied:

Dave "follower of Baal" Armstrong

Thanks for perfectly illustrating my point, guys. You fell right into my "trap" as it were. Yes, your own logic doesn't absolutely require that Catholicism = Baal worship (though two folks have now opined that there is indeed an equivalence there), and yes, there is permissible mocking and satire in Scripture, as I have noted many times through the years, using Elijah as one of the prime examples.

My deeper point, however, is that the very reason it is seen as perfectly justified to mock my person and my opinions and/or argumentative prowess, etc. (whether I worship Baal or not), is precisely why dialogue never could possibly have proceeded normally in the first place. It is this rock-bottom aversion to Catholicism (right or wrong: even that is beside my present point) that precludes all dialogue from the outset.

Jason took me no more seriously than any of you guys do. Yet you think I'm supposed to spend many more hours of my time trying to debate him? It's literally impossible. It's dumb enough to not know that Catholicism is a species of Christianity: dumber still to expect that any sane, self-respecting person would continue pseudo-"dialogue" (ha ha!) under these ludicrous conditions.

Even an atheist can see that, but the folks here cannot. In any event, I'm delighted that you confirmed yet again the rightness of my decision to no longer engage Jason, or anti-Catholics, generally speaking. You always do.


While I was writing this, a thirde person, "natamllc" also opined that we are no better than Baal-worshipers:

"it would be of particular interest to me if Mr. Armstrong would do just that, as you have requested>"

So that's now three people (I think: natammllc not being a particularly coherent or understandable writer). I'm sure many more will register their voices in hearty agreement.

Again, let the children play . . . adult thinkers have rational conversations minus the foolishness and playground antics.

Dave Armstrong said...

Raymond again provides a refreshing ray of light at Tribalblogue:

"I would say that the context of the mocking to the Baal worshiping was quite different than the context we have in front of us.

"To that end, I don't think that calling Catholics 'Baal worshipers' is going to impress very many converts to leave the Catholic Church.

"CS Lewis managed to write some of the most compelling and effective apologetic works without name calling.

"If we want to invoke and live by scripture maybe best to also take into account that the meek inherit the earth along with the warning about our tongues and how we use them in James?"

natamllc said...


"....While I was writing this, a thirde person, "natamllc" also opined that we are no better than Baal-worshipers:

"it would be of particular interest to me if Mr. Armstrong would do just that, as you have requested>"

So that's now three people (I think: natammllc not being a particularly coherent or understandable writer). I'm sure many more will register their voices in hearty agreement....".

For one not being particularly coherent or understandable, I would observe, what you wrote above addressing Jason's remarks, dodged them instead, instead of addressing them.

Now, let me ask, how coherent is that of you to do that?

As of my particular remarks, I never made any reference to Baal worship and you. How coherent is it of you to make such an incoherent remark as you have of my remarks?

Why not do as TF requested?

Have you read the 64 doc in play in the request? Or, rather, as it seems to me again, you have dodged another one??

And as for preclusions, you seem to be doing a fine job in here dialoguing your thoughts putting them in writing over here about things you preclude doing over there. Why is that?

natamllc said...

Oh, and one more thing, that Indian running, I happened to have met him several times at various Native American gatherings and I can assure you, he's no runner, personally. He was being paid to do that in a movi; he was just playing acting. Looks like a fierce warrior to me, doesn't he? He really is a soft hearted push over! :)

Dave Armstrong said...

Like I said, it wasn't entirely clear what you were saying, so we have two for sure comparing my religion to Baal-worship. I'll take you off the list. Glad to hear it.

I love Native American culture. In summer 2008, I stood on top of the mountain where Crazy Horse had his visions, and visited several of the sites of his most famous battles. We also visited where they believe Sacajawea lived before she met Lewis and Clark.

natamllc said...

In the spirit of goodwill and that interest, you have to be careful with crazy horses. Mine, well, he went crazy while I was riding him one day and because of that I got to see what one of my arm bones looked like. Ouch! My father, a good teacher, Indian, that he was, after getting me to the hospital to have my broken arm reset and cast, when I refused to ride that crazy horse again, told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to ride him again because no crazy horse was going to defeat one his sons!

I wish those Lakotas well, even though, having been there too, to the Dakotas, they still say I am as crazy as he!

So, that's my little way of saying I understand just how incoherent I can be, at times, crazy or not! :)

Turretinfan said...


On what moral basis do you justify characterizing my indication of enjoyment in seeing you try to distinguish your religion from Baal as an expression of agreement that you "worship Baal, or engage in a religion no better than that"?


Dave Armstrong said...

Hi bye TAO.

Dave Armstrong said...

I wouldn't want to see one of my arm bones. OW!!!!

I even have a paper about what Crazy Horse looked like (two drawings):

Turretinfan said...

So then, I should not be looking forward to any retraction or apology for your misrepresentation?

Dave Armstrong said...

If I told someone my name, you would say I misrepresented somehow. Don't you have anything better to do than throw around inanities?

Turretinfan said...

I'll take that as a no. It is (unsurprisingly) yet another misrepresentation.

Is your name really Dave Armstrong?

Dave Armstrong said...


James Rinkevich said...

James White is incorrect again. You can avoid the question even in oral debate. Just look at political debates. They do it all the time.
More illogic from Mr White.