Sunday, April 25, 2010

Anti-Catholic Luminary Eric Svendsen: Is His Active Online Presence Kaput? A Fond Remembrance of His Antics and Follies



[NOTE: Svendsen's blog is still available online, albeit with the last post dated 4-12-09, but his website and discussion boards appear to be offline, as announced by anti-Catholic sites Aomin.org (Bishop James White) and Boors All]

There was a time (the early years of the 21st century) when Eric Svendsen (of "NTRMin" fame), a former Catholic, was (by all appearances) the second most influential anti-Catholic to be found online, after Bishop James White. I first ran across him in 1996 when I participated in an e-mail list discussion group on sola Scriptura, hosted by Bishop James White himself, that he was also part of. In those days, Eric and I could actually have a civil dialogue (!!!). I thought he was a friendly sort: a bit different from the typical and sadly numerous vitriolic, axe-to-grind, obnoxious, know-it-all (about Catholicism) anti-Catholics online.

But in time everything goes the way of the dinosaur, and our relations inevitably soured (because of his anti-Catholicism). I posted some of our dialogues from that time and place later, and he accused me of deliberately slanting them, to be biased and unfair to him. I offered to work with him to edit them whatever way he wished -- trying to be as conciliatory and fair as I could -- , but he refused.

Svendsen decided in the late 90s to cease debating Catholics in writing, and hence, refused my offer to take him on in such debate (which is ironic, since I am regularly mocked by anti-Catholics for my 2007 decision to cease trying to debate them any longer). He wrote on Steve Ray's discussion board in December 2000:

. . . "no written debates" became a personal policy for me a couple of years ago.

This was a matter of time stewardship for him, as he went on to explain (just as it largely is for me, too). This may also be the key to the demise of his website and blog (it would be my best guess as to his own reasoning). He's a pastor of a church, after all, and I believe he has some sort of business that has brought him considerable wealth. Hence, he wrote in a letter to me, dated 1-13-01:

I do not think you've fairly considered all the things I do that prevent me from engaging in ongoing online discussions. Ministry comes first to me, but I have to choose my battles carefully and focus on those things that make the most efficient use of my time.

That's a perfectly legitimate, sensible reason. Yet if we refuse to do oral debates with anti-Catholics (as I have always done for several good reasons: none of which include fear or inability on my part), we are always accused of concealing our "real" reasons for doing so. Hence, Eric had to cynically spin and wax condescendingly as follows in a piece from December 2000:

I think the general opposition to oral debates on the Roman Catholic side is not what you assert it is, Dave. I think rather it stems from the fact that Roman Catholics don't fare well in that venue. . . . The real reason the Evangelical side fares better in these debates is because--surprise!--it is easier to fare better when you hold to a view that is actually supported by the evidence. It's just that simple. In public debates, anti-Evangelical apologists end up spending their alloted time engaging in highly dubious exegesis that results in convoluted conclusions based on passages that are strung together in patchwork fashion. By the end of the debate, it becomes painfully obvious that they are promulgating untenable positions. Heck, If I had to do that, I wouldn't want to debate publicly either!

Despite this stated antipathy to online discussions and debate, Svendsen -- a year or two later -- nevertheless opened up his NTRMin discussion board, called The Areopagus, claiming (on an old -- also defunct -- prominent Catholic discussion board) that it would be a place where free discussion took place, and no nonsense allowed (right . . .). Within a few weeks it was the same old same old: massive double standards of what anti-Catholics could say, vs. what Catholics could utter; arbitrary bannings (myself being one, very quickly), absurd fact-challenged rantings from Eric and resident "enforcer: David T. King; very few actual dialogues.; patronizing lectures, and so forth. When I and fellow Catholic apologist Scott Windsor were banned, Svendsen had the following to say:

We stopped interacting with them because trying to explain their errors to them became much like trying to explain physics to a five-year old. You can explain these things in vain only so many times before the principle of diminishing returns comes into play. (Areopagus, 3-22-04)


I observed Eric behaving in exactly the opposite way of his stated intentions of charitable, civil discourse, expressed to me in a relatively friendly, irenic letter (the last such one from him) of 1-13-01:

I would like to apologize to you for the way in which I communicated my disinterest in an online debate . . . my method of communicating all that to you was caustic and unbecoming a Christian apologist, and for that I apologize. I intend to treat my opponents fairly, and with respect and dignity, and to the extent that I failed to do that, I apologize.

The same goes for my dialog with Mark Shea . . . I came on strong because I felt he took some swipes at my credibility and capabilities as an apologist. In short, I felt he disrespected me . . . I would never dream of calling my opponent's views "stupid" in a public forum . . . I think such terminology, if not an ad hominem attack, is nevertheless highly insulting. However, in spite of the extent to which Mark wishes to diminish me by labeling my views as "stupid," I should have continued along the high road that I had been taking since I heard of his comments several months ago. Again, I apologize. From this point on I have resolved not to lower myself to be moved by that kind of insult.

Svendsen would never dream of calling someone "stupid" -- that is, until 4-27-03 on his discussion board:

After a while one just gets tired of the stupidity of some people. Some people have emotionally hysterical fits when you tell them there is both an objective and a subjective element to determining the canon. Why? Well, because that makes it more difficult for them pin you against the wall with their grubby little hands so that they can do everything in their power to destroy you. That is, after all, why some on this board persist with the nonsense they do . . . They persist in taunting and flaunting and hounding that they weren’t satisfied with my answers; but neither one of them can make a simple case for their own views . . . To give them even more answers at this point would be to dignify their inane responses and to throw pearls before swine. I decline to do that.

Before we knew it, our hero was even condemning folks to hell and expressing wonderfully irenic, charitable sentiments like the following:

RC apologists will do or say just about anything--true or not--to advance their cause. They engage in the strategy of deception regularly. (Areopagus board: 4-27-03)
[W]e have experience with those who use the "strategy of deceit" to mislead people down the road to a false gospel. (Areopagus board: 6-4-03)

These perceptions are subjective, but I thought that Svendsen seemed to sour and take on a very bitter, angry, sourpuss persona over time. I think that some people are simply not cut out for Internet dialogue, or dialogue, period, with folks who are different from them. A certain cast of mind (presumably insecure in some fashion) has to demonize virtually all opponents. Unfortunately, anti-Catholic ideology accentuates these shortcomings.

And this is particularly true of the Calvinist brand of Protestant anti-Catholicism, with its doctrines of Limited Atonement, Total Depravity, etc. Too often, Calvinists are quick to relegate someone to the category of the non-elect (therefore, damned), even though John Calvin himself stated several times that we can't know who is in the elect and despite the fact that one can be fully opposed to Catholic doctrine without trashing and insulting individual Catholics. But such an unsavory attitude is very prevalent.

Apart from absurd, slanderous statements such as the above, Svendsen through the years has been given to ridiculous histrionics; the most famous and notorious being his ludicrous 1999 offer of $100,000 to anyone who could give proper answers to 18 of his "tough questions" for Catholics. My friend, Catholic apologist Phil Porvaznik took him up on that and answered all of them, but to my knowledge, the $100,000 wasn't delivered (my, what a shocking surprise!).

Eric later explained (with more spinning than a spinning wheel) that it was done in humor: the point being that Catholics can't possibly answer these things, so that the money could be offered in the first place: there being no conceivable eventuality of any necessity to deliver it to dumb, dense Catholics who would never be able to reply.

This stunt was pretty much the end of Svendsen's credibility in the eyes of most Catholic apologists. I remember the inimitable Mark Shea having a field day with this, after Svendsen had challenged him to public debate; in several hilarious reply-posts (the cardinal sin, dontcha know, of the Catholic apologist is to not instantly jump at the chance to do an oral debate with an anti-Catholic Protestant apologist). I recorded some of Mark Shea's retorts:

* "Bottom line: four posts full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Eric offers $100k to the winner. Eric shoots. Eric misses. Eric makes self referee. Eric declares self winner. Eric keeps the $100K. Yay Eric. Eric is invincible!" (6 October 2000)

* "Eric is dismissive and gives verbose accounts of his dismissiveness. But the fact is, you and I know beforehand that the game is rigged. Eric is bound and determined, in advance of and in the teeth of all evidence, to arrive at the conclusion he arrives at, no matter what." (6 October 2000)

* "Go back and tell your Master Eric that this "challenge" is one of the best things to happen to Catholic apologetics in many a day! Please urge him to keep boasting about how he remains unconvinced! It's too perfect!" (6 October 2000)

* "Don't you--doesn't Eric--see what a deeply, incredibly stupid blow to anti-Catholic apologetics this "challenge" is?" (6 October 2000)

* "Have you ever tried to point out to him how deeply stupid and damaging his "$100,000 challenge" is to his own case" (6 October 2000)

* It's not my problem if you chose a silly tactic in an attempt to score a rhetorical point. It remains a silly tactic whether I debate you or not. . . . You never, under any circumstances whatever, had any intention of ponying up said cash. Making yourself judge and jury of whether you should pony up such cash and then loudly announcing that nobody had convinced you to do so simply made it clear that you are a more-than-usually self-interested opponent of the Church. The fact that you still don't seem to see that elementary point is now simply funny. (December 2000)

Another astonishing statement was when, on his discussion board on 17 January 2004, he described Catholics as:

. . . those who would raise Mary to the status of the Trinity and proclaim a false gospel that condemns.

Challenged by Reformed Protestant theologian Paul Owen to prove this absurd description, Eric retorted on 19 January 2004:

If what you mean by this is that you'll find no official RC statement that says "we elevate Mary to the status of the Trinity," then I'm happy to agree. Of course you're not going to find anything as overt as that. What you'll find instead is that Mary is [laundry list of Catholic titles for Mary given] . . . With titles like these, who in the world needs an explicit statement that Mary is on par with the Trinity?

Since Owen dared to disagree with Svendsen and defend the Catholic Church against ridiculous and utterly false charges, he had to be pilloried as a traitor to the cause. Thus, Dr. Owen -- a fellow Protestant; even a Reformed one -- was supposedly all of the following things, as stated by Eric Svendsen on his discussion board:

1) of questionable motivation.
2) of questionable adherence to Reformed Protestantism ("claims").
3) has "no knowledge about that which he addresses.
4) is locked up in "an ivory tower."
5) is insincere when he claims he wants to engage in discussion with different viewpoints.
6) dares to befriend a Catholic apologist!
7) "entertains idolatrous beliefs".
8) rubs shoulders with "Judaizers".
9) undermines "evangelistic efforts of others."
10) is equivalent in character to Alexander the Coppersmith.
11) is "emotionally disturbed."
12) is "extremely divisive."
13) has "an unhealthy interest in quarrels."
14) is a "cowardly antagonist."
15) is obsessed with "slander" (of Svendsen).
16) wants to destroy ministries that proclaim the gospel.

So much for Svendsen's stated intentions of 1-13-01:

I intend to treat my opponents fairly, and with respect and dignity, . . . I would never dream of calling my opponent's views "stupid" in a public forum . . . I think such terminology, if not an ad hominem attack, is nevertheless highly insulting.

Even more unbelievable, perhaps, was his mocking of the looks of a theological opponent (yes, you read that right) -- one who happens to be a medical doctor --, in a piece on his website (around May 2004, I believe, since that was when I documented it):

I've included here a photo of Artie Sippo to help the reader get a sense of the situation. Artie's physical appearance would be completely irrelevant were it not for his "brave" comments above. . . . [It] begins to make profound sense once we take into consideration his physical appearance. While it pains me to point this out, it's entirely necessary in understanding Artie. Artie is a portly little fellow who somewhat resembles Radar O'Reilly on the hit TV series M.A.S.H. I have seen this phenomenon quite a bit on the Internet. Those who are the most bombastic, the most threatening, those who engage in the most swaggering and in the most bravado, and those who claim to be the "bravest" on the Internet, usually turn out to look a lot like Artie. My personal theory is that it’s an alter-ego issue. Men who share Artie's physical traits were usually the victims of bullies in childhood. Now that Artie is grown up, he must redeem himself for having allowed bullies to push him around in school the way they did. He feels guilty and angry for not sticking up for himself then; and he has resolved that he will not allow it anymore. To compensate for being bullied, he has now become the bully. The Internet provides Artie with a faceless forum in which to swagger and threaten with impunity; in which to live his dream of being a real "macho-man," completely without fear of the physical retribution he so dreaded as a child. In short, it gives him a chance to "get even" with his perceived superiors. What is so embarrassingly obvious is that someone who looks like Artie would never dare use words like "sissy boy," "coward," and "yellow" to another man’s face in a private room with no one else around—that would be far too harrowing an experience for him. But he is quite willing to do it from cyberspace where no harm can be done to him for spouting such nonsense. Artie Sippo is a very sick, very disturbed individual who is obviously still working through a good deal of baggage that he brought in from childhood. He is to be pitied, and I feel sorry for him. . . . Artie is portly little fellow, who bears an uncanny resemblance to . . . a well-known stuttering cartoon character (see his photo above).

How is that for uncharitable quack psychoanalysis? It is almost beyond rational comprehension, that this came from an educated man -- indeed, a pastor -- with at least one advanced degree in theology. But there it is. This is how low the man is willing to sink.

Another notable highlight in Eric's Internet tenure was his National Enquirer-type spoof (click for the large photograph at one of the following Internet archive locations: one / two / three / four / five / six), primarily directed towards traditionalist Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis. Note the swipe at me on the bottom right (not my face there), and supposed association with CAI (a myth) and with Holocaust denial (an outrageous lie, of course). This was removed in fairly short order, but with neither a retraction nor an apology: public or private.

Svendsen mocked Blessed Pope John Paul II when he died, on his discussion board on 4-4-05, falsely claiming that he taught universalism and seriously questioning if he went to heaven:

Don't you know by now that the Evangelical way is to come to Christ by faith alone, give personal testimony that God and God alone saved you by his own grace and apart from any good thing you have done, insist in your testimony that you merely believed in Christ and trusted in him alone for your salvation, forsaking any good works as a means to your salvation—and then forget all that and confidently assert that the pope, who spouted Roman Catholic reliance on good works, baptism, the sacraments, Mary and the saints, and believed in a universalism, has "gone home to be with the Lord" and is now in heaven? What's wrong with you anyway? It doesn't have to be logical, as long as it sounds spiritual!

This is how anti-Catholics "argue," folks. If their theological case is so superior (as they claim and brag about till the day is long), why is it that they have to resort to and soil themselves with such silly, juvenile behavior?

Eric Svendsen, like White, Steve Hays, "Turretinfan," and other active online anti-Catholics, often exhibited a huge double standard, in objecting to our use of the (quite scholarly and common) term anti-Catholic, while at the same time using his own "anti" terms in the other direction. I documented his own rank hypocrisy on this score in June 2004 and again in June 2oo5.

To be fair, sometimes Eric Svendsen has been unfairly attacked by Catholics, too, and Catholic apologists. I defended him in the case of one attack that occurred on the Crowhill discussion board, in which it was denied that Eric believed in the Incarnation and the Trinity. It was said that he wasn't a Christian at all.

And to his credit, Svendsen issued the following blanket apology, on 4-30-05 on his blog ("Towards Higher Ground"):

Waddling in the muck of Internet apologetics eventually takes its toll. I'm moving on to higher ground. While I'll continue to point out the errors of errant theological systems (such as Roman Catholicism), as well as the mis-steps of certain evangelical leaders who seem to walk a bit too close to the edge of the heretical cliff, I am going to pass on the mud-wrestling challenges from Internet e-pologists. To that end, I have deleted a previous entry written in rash response to Dave Armstrong, to whom I apologize along with any others I may have mud-wrestled in the past. While I may continue to check in on their various blogs from time to time, any response to them will be a tempered and measured one.

I accepted the apology to me and apologized in turn for an error in characterizing certain of his remarks. But he never acknowledged my apology, and in the past had said -- more than once -- that my apologies are insincere.

It didn't take long, unfortunately, for Svendsen to go against his newfound resolve. Exactly five days later he endorsed a fake blog that was purporting to be written by yours truly: a blog that engaged in wholesale lying, mockery, and smear tactics. He wrote on his discussion board:

. . . while I don't normally endorse anonymous blogs, the parady [sic] at the "I'm a Moron, But I Love Myself" blog captures the DA phenomenon exactly [smiley-face icon].
(Focusing on the Follies of Dave Armstrong, 5-4-05, 4:41 am)

I guess "narcissistic moron" is well within Svendsen's self-imposed ethical restrictions as "a tempered and measured reply." Wonders never cease. George Orwell's "doublespeak" and "doublethink" live in all their glory, well past the year 1984! I observed on the same day:

Wow. So now we have observed the sad spectacle of one of the most well-known and influential Protestant anti-Catholic apologists endorsing a blatantly unethical (and probably illegal and legally actionable) attempt of using someone's name under false pretenses on a fake blog, for the purpose of relentlessly lying about them and harming their reputation. What a world . . .
n the meantime, we'll continue to chronicle the descent of mainstream anti-Catholic apologetics . . . into the abyss of wholesale smear campaigns and deliberate lying about those persons whom they theologically oppose.
[the fake blog was removed by the end of the day on 4 May 2005]

The funniest incident between Eric and I came in January 2005. I had some technical problems for a few days, and he concluded that I had fled in terror from the Internet, cowering in fear from the prospect of daunting, invulnerable critiques from the likes of Bishop James White and himself. He wrote on his blog (original URL intact in the date):

It appears that direct and substantive critiques of his work have proved too much for Dave Armstrong. He has pulled the plug on his little blog experiment gone bad (Read). It seems Dr. White, in his critiques of Armstrong's arguments that supposedly "confound Protestants," ended up "confounding" Armstrong himself . . . Wasn't it Dave Armstrong who criticized me for closing the comments section of my blog . . .? Wasn't it Armstrong who criticized James White for not opening a comments section on his blog? Wasn't it Armstrong who criticized Tim Enloe for closing the comments section of his blog. And now, as poetic justice would have it, Dave Armstrong is not merely closing the comments section of his apologetic blog--he's getting out of the apologetic blog business entirely! Wow; bravo James [White]! If we had only known earlier that it would take only five consecutive exegetical critiques of Armstrong's argument to shut him up (Tit 1:10-11), many would have done this a long time ago. Well done! : ) (1-4-05)

How ironic that here I am five years later standing over what may be the "grave" of his website and discussion board. Perhaps it is only a temporary glitch (or ditch, should I say?). I at least allow that to be a possibility (unlike his silly response when my blog went down for a day or two). In this instance, a fellow anti-Catholic and rapt admirer of Svendsen has also announced their probable demise (on James White's blog and mirrored at the smear-fest site, Boor's All), so it looks like it is indeed the case.

But (oddly enough) Svendsen had claimed he was done with Internet apologetics before: on 2 November 2005, on his blog. Perhaps this gives a clue why his sites are now down (possibly for good):


It's Official

After more than a decade of being involved in Internet apologetics, I am packing it in. I guess I could blame it on the fifty-plus hours of work that I am putting in weekly. But it's much more than that. My absence from this forum over the past few months (with only occasional exceptions) has given me a renewed sense of appreciation for the importance of doing ministry in and through the local church. The comparison between a focus on that kind of edifying ministry and a focus on constantly correcting the incorrigible and vitriolic pooling of ignorance that comes from self-styled "apologists," each promoting his own version of a false gospel, is staggering; and it is something that no longer holds a modicum of attraction for me. I have recently been commissioned by the elders of my church to revamp the church's educational program, and I am eager to get started on it. All the spare time I would otherwise have dedicated to Internet activity will be devoted to that task. I have enjoyed getting to know many, many fine people through this venue over the past decade, and I wish them well. The website, discussion forum, and blog will remain open, and will continue as always. It's just that I won't be contributing to it as I once did. I do not anticipate returning to this kind of venue in the future, though there is always that possibility. I would ask the friends of NTRMin.org to pray for me as I refocus on those things that are truly and biblically relevant.

Eric Svendsen has put out several anti-Catholic books with small publishers. They are not selling well at all, at least not according to the sales ranks at amazon.com, given below:


Evangelical Answers: A Critique of Current Roman Catholic Apologists (Reformation Press, 1999) #1,227,649

Who is My Mother? (Calvary Press: 2001) #1,784,588

Upon This Slippery Rock (Calvary Press: 2002) #1,405,677

My own dialogues with and critiques of Eric Svendsen's views can be found in his section of my Anti-Catholicism page.

Anti-Catholics everywhere are bemoaning Svendsen's departure. They will be wearing black for the next week (perhaps mixed with sackcloth and ashes). I think they have it exactly backwards. Far from being a tragedy, this is great news for the anti-Catholic cause, since Svendsen was one of the most notorious examples of the "angry, irrational anti-Catholic." Hence, his Internet presence and his tirades and whoppers hindered the movement and caused many inquirers, no doubt, to look elsewhere, since they would have figured that the truth doesn't need to be "defended" by such nefarious means. Eric was "bad PR," in other words. His absence represents a net gain in that sense for anti-Catholicism.

But, rest assured, there are others to take his place and to exhibit the sneering, hissing mentality when any Catholic is within a country mile (sophist extraordinaire Steve Hays immediately comes to mind). So the proud tradition continues and Svendsen's legacy is alive and well: perpetuated in his followers and his fan club. For those who want to continue to desecrate New Testament ethics and Christian unity: to trample upon the Golden Rule and the Royal Commandment alike, this is good news. For the rest of us, it is a disgrace.



53 comments:

Ronnie said...

LOL!! Oh brother, you are a hoot sometimes.

Dave Armstrong said...

If documenting this sort of serious ethical error and calumny towards fellow Christians is a "hoot" then I am guilty as charged and proud to be so.

Adomnan said...

Svendsen: "correcting the incorrigible and vitriolic pooling of ignorance that comes from self-styled 'apologists,' each promoting his own version of a false gospel,"

Adomnan: ... as opposed to Svensden's version of a false gospel.

Dave, thanks for letting us know that this solafideist cultist is devoting himself to misleading a small group of deluded people ("the local church") instead of trying to deceive large numbers on the Internet. One down. Let's hope he stays down.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

My theory is that after the heos hou fiasco, thoroughly discrediting him and his "doctorate," his ministry went into immediate decline and never recovered.

He put all his credibility on the line with heos hou - as can be seen in the long and drawn out responses to his critics - attempting to discredit Mary's Perpetual Virginity, and he lost everything.

His doctorate was a total sham, and made claims that would make most conservative Protestant scholars blush.

He was so anti-Catholic* that it led him to even made claims such as openly stating the Council of Ephesus was wrong and Nestorius was right!


*I use the term anti-Catholic here because in this case, he hated Catholicism so much that it led him to the most outlandish extremes, "adopting" whatever he had to in order to 'kill' Catholicism. But stuff like Perpetual Virginity and Nestorius are not even critical doctrines among Protestants, so why put everything on the line when even Protestant scholars see no merit? Answer: Anti-Catholicism blinded him.
(That said, the danger of Pride is always present and doesn't discriminate along religious lines, and I've seen otherwise good men fall and fall hard because they couldn't even admit small faults.)

Nick said...

I should note that James Swan over at Beggars All has posted the closing down (permanently?) of Svendsen's online ministry:
http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/05/thank-you-eric-svendsen-for-ntrminorg.html

In the combox over there, I address my theory there, and think a lot of people see my point.

Adomnan said...

Nick: My theory is that after the heos hou fiasco, thoroughly discrediting him and his "doctorate," his ministry went into immediate decline and never recovered.

Adomnan: I hope you're right about that, Nick, but I have my doubts.

My experience is that these anti-Catholic Fundamentalist types have no intellectual integrity at all. You and I, for example, have refuted their central thesis -- the absurd and blasphemous doctrine of penal substitution -- over and over. They'll make weaker and weaker arguments defending it and then just sort of slink away, but five minutes later they'll be proclaiming their false gospel of penal substitution as if it had never been challenged and was taken for granted by everyone, just as Turrentinfan did following your debate with him.

Blind, they care nothing for the truth. Truth washes over them like water off a duck's back. I only dispute with them for the benerfit of third parties (and sometimes for fun).

Nevertheless, you're doing an excellent job over on that other blog of once again demolishing Svendsen's "heos hou" canard. Svendsen's thesis is highly improbable on the face of it: How likely is it that a grammatical construction will completely switch off one of its established meanings for a hundred years (or six months or whatever Svendsen was reduced to claiming in the end) and then mysteriously switch it back on?

Let's face it. If these people were objective, intellectually honest and psychologically healthy, they wouldn't be Protestant Fundamentalists in the first place. Therapy might help them, or grace; disputation not so much.

scotju said...

Dave, IMHO, the reason why Svendsen is quiting is that he's a burn out. I've seen this phenomonom either in the cults I used to belong to or I've resd or seen it in books or articles I've read. A member or a minister is full of zeal for the cause at the start of his commitment to it. They expend all of their energy in promoting the cause. In doing so, they neglect taking care of their own real emotional and spiritual needs. They pull away from their real selves. All of their other responsiblities in life, (father, husband, next door neighbor etc) are turned away from. But something happens to the people caught up in this spiral. They start seeing contradictions and lies in their cause. When this happens they have two choices. They can admit they've made a mistake and start anew, or they can go into cognitive dissonance and rationalize it. Needless to say, the poor victim must drive himself with higher and higher levels of fanaticism to maintain his beliefs and ideas. Some can do it untill the day they die. Many however, because their minds and bodies can no longer produce the energy required to maimtain the zeal for the great cause. They burn out. Some will stay in the group, but they'll just go throgh the motions. Some will drop out. Some of the drop outs will disbain any kind of great commitment to any cause. A lucky few will carefully consider what they have done, and turn their lives around. Hopefully, Eric Svendsen might be one of the lucky ones. He (and the folks who read this blog) should read a book by another Eric. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer helped me to understand the mentality that nearly destroyed my life.

Dave Armstrong said...

Scot,

The only problem with this theory is that he is still a pastor, so there might be an Internet burnout, but not a total one.

* * *

For the record, I do not myself claim that Svendsen cares nothing for the truth, is insincere, or that he preaches a false gospel (depends how "gospel" is defined, and I think I am going by the Bible there).

I think he has some false theology, based on false premises, and has often acted uncharitably, and has an anti-Catholic view that I consider intellectual suicide. But I don't have to go this extra distance and start questioning the state of his soul.

I leave those kinds of ultra-uncharitable judgments to the anti-Catholics. I don't think we gain anything by stooping down to that level of calumny of others. I would hope that we could be different and exercise as much charity as we can.

Dave Armstrong said...

I also have never gotten involved in the heos hou dispute. I'm strictly neutral. I figure that he is probably wrong -- wouldn't be a bit surprised if he was --, but I myself took no stand and it formed no part of my critique of him.

I also thought some of the criticisms of him during that went over the top, along the lines of what I am criticizing above.

Adomnan said...

Dave: For the record, I do not myself claim that Svendsen cares nothing for the truth, is insincere, or that he preaches a false gospel (depends how "gospel" is defined, and I think I am going by the Bible there).

Adomnan: Suppose we define the gospel the way Protestant Fundamentalists and Internet "Calvinists" do, as the news that the Father transferred their sins to Jesus and punished Jesus in their place, thus satisfying His wrath (which had to be satisfied one way or another)?

Any Calvinists out there, am I getting your gospel wrong? Isn't this what you believed to be saved? Isn't this the object of your "faith alone"? Isn't this what Svendsen believes?

Dave Armstrong said...

The gospel, for both Protestants and Catholics, is the incarnation, redeeming death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

It shouldn't be a dividing point at all. We can agree on sola gratia and agree that semi-Pelagianism is heresy.

Defined correctly, Svendsen still holds to a saving gospel. He just gets particulars wrong of how that saving gospel is applied to us, and the more minute points. Many Calvinists make the mistake of collapsing the gospel to TULIP.

But it doesn't follow that they deny the gospel (the Good News) insofar as its actual definition, drawn from the Bible itself.

Adomnan said...

Dave: The gospel, for both Protestants and Catholics, is the incarnation, redeeming death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

Adomnan: Sure. That is the gospel, and it's the gospel for you and me. But it's not the gospel for Svendsen. He might assent to the words that you wrote above, but he would define "redeeming death on the cross" to mean that the Father punished Jesus for the sins of the elect, and so he wouldn't actually believe the same thing we do. Similarly, he would understand the incarnation as providing the Second Person with a human nature so that He could be punished both as a man and as God, which he probably thinks is necessary for penal substitution to "work."

These are not "minute points."

Besides, if Svendsen is doing just fine as a Fundamentalist, why should he become Catholic? To get the "fullness" of Christianity? Well, as long as he has the gospel and a ticket to heaven, fullness, which he feels no need for down here, can wait. He'll get it up there.

No Fundamentalist will ever be convinced to become Catholic if they're told they already have the saving gospel where they are now. All they care about is being "saved." Why jeopardize a sure thing? And why even bother to argue about the "particulars" and "the minute points"? Reasonable men can differ on such things, and it doesn't matter who is right because they don't amount to much anyway.

Dave Armstrong said...

The issue of penal substitution (that you talk about all the time) is (as I have noted before) not particularly a concern of the Church, relative to many many other more pressing issues of theology and morality.

Secondly, it was Vatican II (not myself, as if it were some novel thing) that expressly stated that trinitarian Protestants possess the gospel:

Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio, 21 November 1964)

those who invoke the Triune God and confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They do this not only as individuals but also as members of corporate groups in which they have HEARD THE GOSPEL . . . The sacred Council gladly notes all this (1)

. . . in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared . . . for which, often enough, men of BOTH SIDES were to blame. However, one CANNOT CHARGE WITH THE SIN OF SEPARATION those who at present are born into these communities and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with RESPECT and AFFECTION as BROTHERS. For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. (3)

all who have been justified by faith in baptism are INCORPORATED INTO CHRIST [footnote cites Council of Florence, Session 8, from the year 1439]; they therefore have a right to be called CHRISTIANS, and with good reason are accepted as BROTHERS by the children of the Catholic Church. (3)

Moreover, some, even very many, of the most significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist OUTSIDE the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements. ALL of these . . . COME FROM CHRIST and lead back to him . . . (3)

The brethren divided from us also carry out many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. In ways that vary according to the conditions of each Church or community, these liturgical actions most certainly can truly engender a LIFE OF GRACE, and, one must say, can aptly GIVE ACCESS TO THE COMMUNION OF SALVATION. (3)

the separated Churches and communions as such . . . have been by no means deprived of significance and IMPORTANCE IN THE MYSTERY OF SALVATION. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as a MEANS OF SALVATION which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church. (3)

=====================

We proclaim the fullness of faith that is found in Catholicism because one is always better off within her fold than without it. Those who are saved are saved because of and through the Church. It's always better to possess more spiritual and theological truth than less so. That brings more assurance of being saved in the end and making it to heaven.

Therefore, we share this message of fullness and completeness with our Protestant brethren. We don't have to relegate them to non-Christian status in order to do so. That's not required (neither logically nor dogmatically). Holy Mother Church has made this clear.

And that is more than enough for me.

Dave Armstrong said...

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

DOCTRINAL NOTE
ON SOME ASPECTS OF EVANGELIZATION

(3 December 2007)

"The Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 6 October 2007, approved the present Doctrinal Note, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication."

Catholics, “avoiding every form of indifferentism or confusion, as well as senseless rivalry, through a common profession of faith in God and in Jesus Christ before all peoples – insofar as this is possible – may collaborate with their separated brethren in social, cultural, technical and religious matters in accordance with the Decree on Ecumenism”. . . .

Ecumenism does not have only an institutional dimension aimed at “making the partial communion existing between Christians grow towards full communion in truth and charity”.[46] It is also the task of every member of the faithful, above all by means of prayer, penance, study and cooperation. Everywhere and always, each Catholic has the right and the duty to give the witness and the full proclamation of his faith. With non-Catholic Christians, Catholics must enter into a respectful dialogue of charity and truth, a dialogue which is not only an exchange of ideas, but also of gifts,[47] in order that the fullness of the means of salvation can be offered to one’s partners in dialogue.[48] In this way, they are led to an ever deeper conversion to Christ.

In this connection, it needs also to be recalled that if a non-Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of Catholic truth, asks to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion. In such a case, it would not be a question of proselytism in the negative sense that has been attributed to this term.[49] As explicitly recognized in the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, “it is evident that the work of preparing and reconciling those individuals who desire full Catholic communion is of its nature distinct from ecumenical action, but there is no opposition between the two, since both proceed from the marvelous ways of God”.[50] Therefore, the work of ecumenism does not remove the right or take away the responsibility of proclaiming in fullness the Catholic faith to other Christians, who freely wish to receive it. (section 12)

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20071203_nota-evangelizzazione_en.html

Dave Armstrong said...

Ven. Pope John Paul II (the Great), Ut Unum Sint

(25 May 1995)

Nevertheless, besides the doctrinal differences needing to be resolved, Christians cannot underestimate the burden of long-standing misgivings inherited from the past, and of mutual misunderstandings and prejudices. Complacency, indifference and insufficient knowledge of one another often make this situation worse. Consequently, the commitment to ecumenism must be based upon the conversion of hearts and upon prayer, which will also lead to the necessary purification of past memories. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Lord's disciples, inspired by love, by the power of the truth and by a sincere desire for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, are called to re-examine together their painful past and the hurt which that past regrettably continues to provoke even today. All together, they are invited by the ever fresh power of the Gospel to acknowledge with sincere and total objectivity the mistakes made and the contingent factors at work at the origins of their deplorable divisions. What is needed is a calm, clear-sighted and truthful vision of things, a vision enlivened by divine mercy and capable of freeing people's minds and of inspiring in everyone a renewed willingness, precisely with a view to proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of every people and nation. (sec. 2)

The Council calls for personal conversion as well as for communal conversion. The desire of every Christian Community for unity goes hand in hand with its fidelity to the Gospel. In the case of individuals who live their Christian vocation, the Council speaks of interior conversion, of a renewal of mind (15)

This is what Pope John XXIII believed about the unity of the Church and how he saw full Christian unity. With regard to other Christians, to the great Christian family, he observed: "What unites us is much greater than what divides us". The Second Vatican Council for its part exhorts "all Christ's faithful to remember that the more purely they strive to live according to the Gospel, the more they are fostering and even practising Christian unity. For they can achieve depth and ease in strengthening mutual brotherhood to the degree that they enjoy profound communion with the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit". (20)

Finally, fellowship in prayer leads people to look at the Church and Christianity in a new way. It must not be forgotten in fact that the Lord prayed to the Father that his disciples might be one, so that their unity might bear witness to his mission and the world would believe that the Father had sent him (cf. Jn 17:21). It can be said that the ecumenical movement in a certain sense was born out of the negative experience of each one of those who, in proclaiming the one Gospel, appealed to his own Church or Ecclesial Community. This was a contradiction which could not escape those who listened to the message of salvation and found in this fact an obstacle to acceptance of the Gospel. (23)

Dave Armstrong said...

Relations between Christians are not aimed merely at mutual knowledge, common prayer and dialogue. They presuppose and from now on call for every possible form of practical cooperation at all levels: pastoral, cultural and social, as well as that of witnessing to the Gospel message. (40)

An overall view of the last thirty years enables us better to appreciate many of the fruits of this common conversion to the Gospel which the Spirit of God has brought about by means of the ecumenical movement. (41)

In an atmosphere of joy, mutual respect, Christian solidarity and prayer I met so very many brothers and sisters, all making a committed effort to be faithful to the Gospel. Seeing all this has been for me a great source of encouragement. We experienced the Lord's presence among us. (72)

With increasing frequency Christians are working together to defend human dignity, to promote peace, to apply the Gospel to social life, to bring the Christian spirit to the world of science and of the arts. (74)

For Christians, this cooperation, which draws its inspiration from the Gospel itself, is never mere humanitarian action. (75)

How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians? However true it is that the Church, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and with the promise of indefectibility, has preached and still preaches the Gospel to all nations, it is also true that she must face the difficulties which derive from the lack of unity. When non-believers meet missionaries who do not agree among themselves, even though they all appeal to Christ, will they be in a position to receive the true message? Will they not think that the Gospel is a cause of division, despite the fact that it is presented as the fundamental law of love? (98)

I think of the grave obstacle which the lack of unity represents for the proclamation of the Gospel. A Christian Community which believes in Christ and desires, with Gospel fervour, the salvation of mankind can hardly be closed to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who leads all Christians towards full and visible unity. (99)

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint_en.html

Maroun said...

Hi Dave.
It`s not that i disagree with the things which you quoted from pope John Paul II and pope Benedict XVI,or vaticanII ,or anything,on the contrary,i agree with them.But i do have a question,dosent these statements lead to relativism?i mean we do know and the church teaches , that we catholic,orthodox ( christians ) especialy about some sacraments like holy orders,sacrament of penance with confession and absolution and so on,i just dont get it,if in order for us,when we commit a mortal sin,must receive absolution thrue a priest,because it was our Lord himself which gave this authority to his priests ( John 20:21-23 ) to remit or not to remit sins.Then how could the protestants,receive absolution for mortal sins without these two sacraments?If we do say,that because they dont believe that they have to confess to a priest in order for them to receive absolution,and that is why God will forgive their sins personaly whenever they repent and confess them.Then honestly i only see relativism and idolotry,as if God will treat me the way i understood things and not the way things are...(whish bible ) ...And if we say that no,without the sacrament of penance,no one will receive absolution,then how are they going to be forgiven from their mortel sins?
GBU

Dave Armstrong said...

That's why we strive to get them into the Catholic Church: to attain the fullness. In the meantime, we can work together in the cause of the gospel, where we agree.

If the Church is teaching this, then it is not "relativism and idolatry." The Catholic must trust that God knows what He is doing through the magisterium, guided by the Holy Spirit. This is the Mind of the Church:

Work together where you can; rejoice in common ground, and proclaim Catholic fullness without compromise. Both/and, not either/or.

Ken said...

Eric's blog is still up, though he hasn't posted for a while.

Lots of good articles there.

And he is a 4.5 Calvinist, not a full blown 5 pointer.

Interesting. Look on the side bar and see his argumentation.

http://ntrminblog.blogspot.com/2005/01/when-does-our-union-with-christs-death.html

Adoman,
Although the Father did punish Christ for our sins, Christ, the second person of the Trinity from all eternity, the eternal Son of God; willingly and voluntarily out of love was willing to do just that; out of love. (You always leave that part out of your critiques of penal substitutionary atonement.) The Father was also willing to cause this suffering and pain in order to bring about a greater good. It was temporary. He was not afraid of physical death; it was the separation from the Father that caused His anxiety (My soul is troubled) and quoting Psalm 22:1. (John 12:27-28; Luke 22:42-46; Hebrews 12:2 "the joy set before Him" was the joy of being re-united with the Father after the work of redemption was accomplished.)

But we have debated that before.

Both pure love for the sinner was demonstrated at the cross; and pure justice against sin was demonstrated. Romans 3:25-26; I John 2:2; Isaiah 53:6; 53:10

The Lord was pleased to crush Him, if He would render Himself a guilt offering.

Anselm also wrote of the payment to justice, and developed the proper understanding of the atonement, which Protestants later developed further, based on sound exegesis of all these texts I am citing.

The wrath of God against sin is God's pure justice.

Christ took that justice for us - it was substitutionary.

Those who don't trust in His death in their place will face the wrath of God in hell.
Rev. 14:10
John 3:18
John 3:36
Romans 1:18
Romans 5:9 ( believers are saved from the wrath of God.)
Ephesians 2:1-4
Rev. 20:10-15
I Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9

Nick said...

Adomnan,

It's a tough call as to whether I'd say they have no intellectual integrity or even deliberately malicious. On one hand, there's evidence that such has taken place, repeatedly. On the other hand, one one is blind to the fullness of Truth, they'll be attacking phantoms - which are genuine evils in their mind.

It's easy for me (and most of us) to get into the mind set that "if I just present the more logical argument, they'll break down and convert," but I often forget there's the critical "Divine Component" that is the ultimate deciding factor in conversions, and I cannot directly supply it. With this, I recall Dave's immortal words: Never engage in debate with non-Catholics thinking you will change their mind, otherwise - you'll be spinning your wheels. All we can do is plant seeds.

When it comes to Penal Substitution, I believe the reason why it's lasted is two fold: First, those who *dont* know about it are kept in the dark, for fear they will awake to the true horror of Sola Fide. Second, those who do know the 'dirty details' don't like it, but they know Sola Fide hangs in the balance and at that point (as I jokingly say), Jesus can go hell before they'll even question Sola Fide.

The same thing goes with them not speaking out when one of their own makes clear blunders or acts uncharitably, for to do so would weaken their cause. It's not uncommon for folks like White to respond to uncharitable or fallacious Catholic remarks with "All is fair when serving Mother Rome," but the fact is, there is clear history of the same thing going on on his side of the fence. The advantage of being Catholic though is that bad arguments and uncharitable remarks are often regularly called to the carpet, because we know we can do better than that.

With this in mind, I've learned to be far more laid back in discussions (because I truly believe I have better arguments on my side) and know not to get tangled in hostile debate.

The good thing is, I believe Protestantism is dying off, largely due to online apologetics, and I believe it will be gone within our lifetime. Not that every denomination will disappear, but rather all the 'intellectual' types will leave, causing the original movement to officially be abandoned, leaving nothing but social clubs behind.

Nick said...

Now, on the flip side, while Protestants and Catholics should respect one another, we should take extra care to avoid false ecumenism.

This is why it's not good for Catholics and Protestants to 'join forces' in any way takes focus off of the two principles that divide: Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. With these, it causes Protestants to even define Sola Gratia differently in a way Catholics cannot accept.

Protestants are only Brothers in Christ as far as they have valid Baptism and believe in the Trinity, putting them in the category of material heresy at the very least (which I believe is where most Protestants are). But material heresy rises more and more towards formal heresy when they knowingly (even if ignorantly) and willfully attack Catholic dogma and formally assent to their Protestant heresies.

And with this we must take care not to think we should not hold ecumenism with folks like White and such because they are "extremist" Protestants, for what they are in fact doing is simply defending the actual Protestant doctrines.

Dave Armstrong said...

Ecumenism, insofar as it would entail working with anti-Catholic Protestants is impossible, anyway, since they don't even regard us as brothers in Christ. So working with them is out of the question. It takes two willing parties, and it presupposes that both sides are Christian.

This is one of many reasons why their activities are often wicked: the deliberate division from Catholic Christians (and why I oppose the same attitude coming from our side, as I did above).

Adomnan said...

Dave: The issue of penal substitution (that you talk about all the time)

Adomnan: Yes, I talk about it all the time, because no one else does (except for Nick).

The Catholic apologetic effort strikes me as being like the legendary Trojan War (before the Wooden Horse), which lasted ten years: endless skirmishes where a little territory is gained, just to be lost again in the next skirmish.

I'm not interested in this skirmishing. I think we should go for the Fundamentalist jugular, which is -- you guessed it! -- penal substitution, a false doctrine, insulting to God.

If, per impossibile, the Fundamentalists/Calvinists were right about penal substitution, they would be right about TULIP, right about "faith alone," right about the "imputed righteousness of Christ," and right about the Catholic Church teaching a false "gospel that condemns," as Svendsen put it.

If, on the other hand, they are wrong about penal substitution, then they are the ones preaching a false gospel that condemns.

Dave: (Penal substitutio) is (as I have noted before) not particularly a concern of the Church, relative to many many other more pressing issues of theology and morality.

Adomnan: That's because the Vatican doesn't care much about American fundamentalism and pays little attention to it. But I live in America, and I choose to pay attention to a religious strain that is so pervasive here that it's hard to ignore. (Yes, sometimes I wonder why I bother.)

I'm sure that if you surveyed the pronouncements of the Vatican (especially), but even of the American bishops over the past fifty years, you'd fine few references to American-style evangelical Protestantism at all. That's fine. They can be serene and above the fray, if they want to be. But those who participate in blogs and other on-line fora are inevitably involved in disputes with these people. If we take part in these discussions at all, we can hardly remain above the fray.

As for the documents on ecumenism that you posted, I agree certainly that the great majority of Protestants, those in mainline churches, the Anglicans, Methodists and Lutherans (few of whom believe in penal substitution), do indeed share the same gospel with us. I would not, however, extend that ecumenism to the gangrenous anti-Catholic conventicles that proliferate in this country, of which Svendsen's fellowship is a typical example. Besides, the baptisms of these latter groups, to which they themselves attach no saving efficacity, are probably invalid.

The Church does not require us to regard everyone who calls himself a Protestant as a brother in Christ. I know that I am no brother of someone who professes a false gospel that undermines everything that the Bible teaches. I couldn't imagine that we believed in the same gospel even if I tried. But why should I try?

Adomnan said...

Ken: Those who don't trust in His death in their place will face the wrath of God in hell.

Adomnan: There, you see, Dave. Ken does regard the belief that God punished Jesus for others' sin as the gospel. This is what you have to believe, according to him, to be saved.

But this is lie. Yet Ken believes it. Can Ken be saved by believing in a lie? If we can be saved by believing in lies, then what's the point of God's revelation and what's the point of believing in the truth?

Can the faith that justifies be faith in a lie?

Dave Armstrong said...

The Catholic apologetic effort strikes me as being like the legendary Trojan War (before the Wooden Horse), which lasted ten years: endless skirmishes where a little territory is gained, just to be lost again in the next skirmish.

Many thousands have come into the Church as a result of apologetics. I think that is good fruit. I've heard about several hundred myself, that cite my work as a partial cause.

Dave Armstrong said...

That's because the Vatican doesn't care much about American fundamentalism and pays little attention to it.

That's not true. Pope John Paul II worked directly with Campus Crusade for Christ in Poland:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/11/remarkable-joint-cooperation-of-pope.html

I agree certainly that the great majority of Protestants, those in mainline churches, the Anglicans, Methodists and Lutherans (few of whom believe in penal substitution), do indeed share the same gospel with us.

Good.

I would not, however, extend that ecumenism to the gangrenous anti-Catholic conventicles that proliferate in this country, of which Svendsen's fellowship is a typical example.

So being an anti-Catholic ejects one from the circles of Christianity. This doesn't follow. It's a dumb, stupid, clueless position insofar as they misrepresent and poorly understand Catholicism, but they still have the minimum requirements to be considered Christians.

Besides, the baptisms of these latter groups, to which they themselves attach no saving efficacity, are probably invalid.

On what basis? Because they also accepted penal substitution? :-)

The Church does not require us to regard everyone who calls himself a Protestant as a brother in Christ.

No; only those who are trinitarian and baptized properly. You understand that the latter is required, so now you simply claim that anti-Catholic baptism is invalid. But I'd like to hear your reason why.

I couldn't imagine that we believed in the same gospel even if I tried. But why should I try?

Because Holy Mother Church says you should (based on the biblical definition of the gospel) and because it is right.

Adomnan said...

You know, Ken, you're returning to that annoying habit you have of piling up Biblical references without bothering to quote them or explaining why you think they are relevant. In fact, none of your references have anything to do with penal substitution, which is a false teaching completely absent from the Bible.

Ken: And he is a 4.5 Calvinist, not a full blown 5 pointer.

Adomnan: I don't care if he's a supralapsarian two-seed-in-the-spirit patripassian utraquist.

Ken: Although the Father did punish Christ for our sins, Christ, the second person of the Trinity from all eternity, the eternal Son of God; willingly and voluntarily out of love was willing to do just that.

Adomnan: Um. Where is this in the Bible?

Ken: You always leave that part out of your critiques of penal substitutionary atonement.

Adomnan: I leave it out because it's not in the Bible, and it's false.

Besides, if a judge punishes an innocent man for others' sins, then that is unjust -- Proverbs 17:15 calls it an "abomination" -- whether the innocent man is willing to be punished or not. It doesn't make it any less unjust or ridiculous to posit that Jesus wanted this.

There are a couple of fundamental facts that you can't seem to get, Ken. One is that the idea that you can get justice for sins committed by punishing the wrong person is NONSENSE. Understand? NONSENSE! The second (surprise!) is that this NONSENSE isn't taught in the Bible.

Ken: The Father was also willing to cause this suffering and pain in order to bring about a greater good.

Adomnan: How does punishing the wrong guy bring about a greater good? If letting someone off without punishing him is bad (which, if so, would preclude all forgiveness), then punishing an innocent man for the failures of a guilty man is even worse. It is, in fact, the greatest perversion of justice possible, which is why GOD calls it an "abomination." It's not just I who call it an abomination. It's God. (Proverbs 17:15)

Ken: Hebrews 12:2 "the joy set before Him" was the joy of being re-united with the Father after the work of redemption was accomplished.

Adomnan. Oh, yeah. That's like totally obvious. Why didn't I see that before? /sarc off

Ken: pure justice against sin was demonstrated.

Adomnan: Yep. What purer justice can there be than to condemn the innocent? Our sense of fairness is always gratified when we see that happening. /sarc off

Ken: The Lord was pleased to crush Him, if He would render Himself a guilt offering.

Adomnan: The Lord was pleased to crush Job. Therefore it follows that the Lord transferred others' sins to Job and punished Job in their place. I don't think so.

But who am I? I'm just someone who's interpreting the Bible with the Bible.

Ken: Anselm also wrote of the payment to justice, and developed the proper understanding of the atonement.

Adomnan: Anselm did not teach penal substitution. Anselm did not teach that the Father punished the Son. Anselm taught that Jesus did such a great thing by his willing self-sacrifice that He compensated for all the sin in the world. That's something totally different. I don't think Anselm's theory is biblical, myself, but I don't think it's blasphemous either, as the Protestant doctrine is.

Given that you wrote that one must believe in penal substitution to be saved, Ken, I take it that you agree with me that your gospel depends entirely on the truth of this proposition, right?

Adomnan said...

Dave: Many thousands have come into the Church as a result of apologetics. I think that is good fruit. I've heard about several hundred myself, that cite my work as a partial cause.

Adomnan: That's true, certainly, and a very good thing.

However, I'm convinced that the Fundamentalist enterprise would collapse in fairly short order if the absurdity of their gospel (penal substitution) were brought home to them. It's their Achilles' heel (another allusion to the Trojan War). I believe Nick agrees with me.

Dave: That's not true. Pope John Paul II worked directly with Campus Crusade for Christ in Poland.

Adomnan: Then it's unlikely that Campus Crusade for Christ was teaching American Fundamentalism in Poland.

Dave: On what basis? Because they also accepted penal substitution? :-)

Adomnan: No. Penal substitution causes those who are validly baptized to apostasize later on.

I think Fundamentalist baptisms are probably invalid for two reasons:

1) Many of them probably don't pronounce the baptismal formula at the same time the person is being dunked, and so the form is incorrect and invalid.

2) If a baptism is done in a movie or play, it wouldn't be valid even if the form were correct, because the actors wouldn't have the intention of truly baptizing. Sects that teach that baptism is a purely outward ritual that has no effect are essentially the same as the actors in a play. They don't intend to confer the sacrament.

For example, if a preacher were to say, just before baptizing someone: "We are carrying out this ceremony to mark an occasion, however the ceremony has no effect, unlike what the Catholics teach." Would the following ceremoney then actually have an effect, despite his explicit intention? I can't get my head around that one.

I realize that the intention of the minister doesn't matter when he is representing a body that teaches baptismal regeneration. However, if his sect disavows baptismal regeneration, then I can't see the "intention to do what the Church does" anywhere.

The notion that there are millions of unintentionally regenerated people walking around, totally ignorant of the effect of their baptism and indeed insisting that the rite had no effect, is a bit of a stretch, don't you think?

Adomnan said...

Nick: It's a tough call as to whether I'd say they have no intellectual integrity or even deliberately malicious. On one hand, there's evidence that such has taken place, repeatedly.

Adomnan: We're faced with a dilemma here, Nick, as you suggest. Both of us know that penal substitution is insane. What then can we think about people who insist on believing it even when the doctrine's insanity is pointed out to them?

If someone is unwilling to examine his beliefs, if someone claims to be biblical and cannot see that penal substitution is unbiblical, then that person either lacks intellectual integrity -- because there is nothing hidden or subtle about the truth in this case -- or else is simply intelligent.

I realize that there are many who never question penal substitution because they just take it for granted without examination. When I speak of a lack of intellectual integrity, I am thinking mostly of those who do examine the doctrine -- or ought to examine it because of their profession of biblicism -- and yet fail to repudiate it.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adomnan said...

Nick: The good thing is, I believe Protestantism is dying off, largely due to online apologetics, and I believe it will be gone within our lifetime. Not that every denomination will disappear, but rather all the 'intellectual' types will leave, causing the original movement to officially be abandoned, leaving nothing but social clubs behind.

Adomnan: You may be right about this, Nick. I hope so. The New Perspective on Paul is undermining the intellectual foundations of, at least, fundamentalist/Calvinist type Protestantism.

However, don't you think we could move this dissolution along a little bit by not taking the "I'm okay; you're okay" approach that anti-Catholic fundamentalism has a saving gospel despite its shortcomings?

Ken said...

Ben M wrote:

And then what, live any way we please, . . . ?

Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσῃ; 2 μὴ γένοιτο· οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ἐν αὐτῇ;

Ken said...

Adomnan,
Do you believe faith in Christ includes His death and resurrection?

You were soundly defeated when you said "faith" is just accepting facts; even Dave showed the trust aspect of it.

Faith is trusting in Him, all that He is; and all that He did in redemption; the atonement.

Simple faith in Christ is childlike faith in all that Christ is, His Deity, His teachings, His incarnation, His death, His resurrection, etc.

Without faith in Christ, people go to hell, the place where the wrath of God is poured out forever - Mark 9:48 - where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.

Christ died for our sins. I Cor. 15:1-9

the just for the unjust - 1 Peter 3:18

Our sin was laid on Him - Isaiah 53:6

The Messiah willingly became a guilt offering - Isaiah 53:10

Jesus voluntarily gave His life - John 10:18

Don't tell me it is not biblical - it is clearly there. It is you who just resists the truth of it.


Someone may truly be trusting Christ and His atonement for their sins, without understanding or knowing about the penal substitution aspect of it, or being able to articulate it.

Mark 1:15 - repent and believe the gospel.
I Cor. 15:1-9 - the gospel - Christ died for our sins; was buried, and rose again from the dead, victorious over sin, death, and Satan.

So faith includes trusting in His death. He died so that I would not be punished. He took our place.

Adomnan said...

When I wrote in my post above "that person either lacks intellectual integrity -- because there is nothing hidden or subtle about the truth in this case -- or else is simply intelligent," I meant to write "is simply UNintelligent."

Adomnan said...

Ken: Do you believe faith in Christ includes His death and resurrection?

Adomnan: Yes.

Ken: You were soundly defeated when you said "faith" is just accepting facts; even Dave showed the trust aspect of it.

Adomnan: Actually, Dave's survey of the material showed that faith in the New Testament is overwhelmingly "just accepting the facts." Trust was more important in the Old Testament.

By the way, unlike you, I wouldn't care if I were "soundly defeated" in some discussion, as long as the truth came out. I'm not in this for my ego. Sometimes I put forth a point of view worth considering just to get a good exchange going. I certainly don't always have to be "right," and I don't give a whoop what you think of me or my arguments.

Ken: Faith is trusting in Him, all that He is; and all that He did in redemption; the atonement.

Adomnan: Actually, in the New Testament, what you're talking about is generally called "hope." Do I have to "trust" that water is wet? So why do I have to trust that God will do what He promised to do?

In any event, this faith versus trust thing, while interesting, is something of a sideshow. Whether you believe in the atonement or "trust" in it, the atonement still has nothing to do with any penal substitution.

Whether you believe in a lie or trust in a lie, it's still a lie.

Ken: Simple faith in Christ is childlike faith

Adomnan: By childlike, I take it you mean "dumb." But didn't Paul say we should be prepared to defend and give reasons for our faith? Children don't do that.

Or are you just using the word "childlike" to sound sanctimonious, with that typical Fundamentalist appeal to simple stupidity when all else fails?

Ken: Without faith in Christ, people go to hell, the place where the wrath of God is poured out forever - Mark 9:48 - where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.

Adomnan: Faith in penal substitution is not faith in Christ, as you'll discover someday to your everlasting regret.

Ken: Christ died for our sins. I Cor. 15:1-9

Adomnan: Yep. No penal substitution here, of course.

Ken: the just for the unjust - 1 Peter 3:18

Adomnan: Yep. The just, not someone who has sins imputed to him, making him unjust. No penal substitution here.

Ken: Our sin was laid on Him - Isaiah 53:6

Adomnan: The Jerusalem Bible has "YHWH brought the acts of rebellion of all of us to bear on him." This just means that Jesus suffered because of human sin, just as a crime victim bears the acts of a criminal. It doesn't mean that the victim is regarded by the law as the criminal. No penal substitution here.

Ken: The Messiah willingly became a guilt offering - Isaiah 53:10

Adomnan: Right, which means He wasn't a scapegoat. The guilt offering was not the scapegoat. And no guilt was transferred to the guilt offering as happened with the scapegoat. This proves that penal substitution can't be true: there's no punishment of a guilt offering -- sacrifice isn't punishment -- and no transfer of sin to a guilt offering, as the Epistle to the Hebrews makes crystal clear. Try reading it.

Ken: Jesus voluntarily gave His life - John 10:18

Adomnan: And this fact proves penal substitution -- how exactly?

Ken: Don't tell me it is not biblical - it is clearly there. It is you who just resists the truth of it.

Adomnan: You're delirious. None of this comes anywhere near proving that God had wrath He had to discharge, that He couldn't just forgive people without punishing someone, that it didn't matter who He punished as long as he took His wrath out on someone, that Jesus was the perfect patsy for this because He was totally innocent. I'm sorry. I just don't see all this in "Jesus voluntarily gave His life." You must be reading between the lines somehow.

Adomnan said...

Ken: Someone may truly be trusting Christ and His atonement for their sins, without understanding or knowing about the penal substitution aspect of it, or being able to articulate it.

Adomnan: Or maybe they're familiar with the theory and rightly regard it as absurd, unbiblical and blasphemous. That's also a possibility.

Ken: Mark 1:15 - repent and believe the gospel.
I Cor. 15:1-9 - the gospel - Christ died for our sins; was buried, and rose again from the dead, victorious over sin, death, and Satan.

Adomnan: This is all true, but none of it is penal substitution.

Ken: So faith includes trusting in His death. He died so that I would not be punished. He took our place.

Adomnan: Actually, no. He died so that you could have a new life in the Spirit, not just to get you off the hook. Besides, you must mean "He was punished by the Father so that the Father wouldn't punish me," because you do die, and so he hardly took your place in dying, now did He?

But that's okay. Don't worry about about coherence and consistency. I realize you're just being "childlike."

Adomnan said...

Ben, the following quote from Ken is Romans 6:1-2:

Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσῃ; 2 μὴ γένοιτο· οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ἐν αὐτῇ;

As far as I can tell, Ken is trying to say that Luther's approval of uncle-niece incest means that Luther wasn't a Christian (i.e., hadn't "died to sin"). However, Ken is being cryptic again. So who knows? It's Greek to me.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Armstrong said...

Okay, guys: if we are off on the penal substitution dog race again, that has nothing to do with this post, please take it over to the Open Forum. Thanks.

Maroun said...

Ken: Although the Father did punish Christ for our sins, Christ, the second person of the Trinity from all eternity, the eternal Son of God; willingly and voluntarily out of love was willing to do just that.

Ken , i dont know if you know it or not,but you are a Nestorian,because you want to make Jesus 2 different persons.How would God punish God?How would the Father punish the Son?because you have to know if you are not a Nestorian that Jesus is one person with two natures and not two persons.Anf if you do admit that Jesus is truly God and truly Man,then plz plz plz explain to us,how did God punish Himself?and why for being obedient till death,and death on the cross?or because He loved the Father and loved us?because He never sinned ?why and how was He punished?and if He was punished instead of us,then why do we still die?and what you dont realise is that instead of accepting the hundreds and hundreds of verses which explains to us that the Holy Spirit transforms us,and now we are a new creature,and must obey God with the help of the Holy Spirit,and live a spiritual life and stop satisfying the flesh,and love the others,and forgive the others,and now we have a new heart because God did take away our heart of stone and gave us a new heart of flesh. And again,now we are all over again transformed into the likeness of the immage of God which is our Lord Jesus...and so on....
So you ignore all the warnings and everything,and then you say that Jesus died on your behalf anf now God wont look anymore at your sins...Listen my friend,God will look at our sins and will judge our sins and us with them if we dont repent.
In the creed we pray for us men and for our salvation,and not instead of us men and for our salvation.So our Lord Jesus died for us and not instead of us...
GBU

Ken said...

John Piper answers all of your questions better than I can.

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/10/249_How_Is_It_Right_to_Justify_the_Ungodly/

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/10/793_God_Vindicated_His_Righteousness_in_the_Death_of_Christ/


http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/10/1078_The_Demonstration_of_Gods_Righteousness_Part_1/

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/10/1079_The_Demonstration_of_Gods_Righteousness_Part_2/

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/10/1080_The_Demonstration_of_Gods_Righteousness_Part_3/

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/10/1081_Justification_by_Faith_is_the_End_of_Boasting/

Maroun said...

Hi Ken.
Your piper sounds like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Adomnan said...

Ken, just admit you can't defend your position. Otherwise, I'll see you on the open forum!

Ken said...

Ken, just admit you can't defend your position.

No; I just don't time anymore to repeat it all to you; or convince you. Only God's Spirit can change your heart. You have not demonstrated anything against the doctrines of Grace. (God's Sovereignty in election and salvation; justification by faith alone; substitutionary atonement; propitiation of the wrath of God against sin.)

Listen to all of Piper and read it and meditate in the Scriptures.

Neither of you had time to digest it all.

Dave Armstrong said...

Second time: stuff that has nothing to do with this post, please take to the Open Forum. Thanks.

I'll start deleting any more of this if it is posted in this combox.

Labarum said...

I think it is fascinating that he just dropped off the scene like that and it seems completely out of character. Normally, one would give some announcement or perhaps allow someone of like mind to take over the site. I think the "burned out" theory is a possibility. Is anyone sure he is still in the pastorate at all? It's rather odd.

Dave Armstrong said...

Yeah; he's still a (senior) pastor. I linked to his church site in the paper. He also has a business where he makes good money.

So it ain't financial problems, whatever it is (that's MY area of problems LOL). He just got tired of all the "stupid" people, as he himself explained.

CrimsonCatholic said...

The best Eric Svendsen story I have was in our argument over his "New Roman Catholic Apollinarimonophysites" on the term "Mother of God," which I argued was completely Nestorian. Even though I had been reading the Cyrillian scholarship and he was relying on decades-old survey work from his class with Harold OJ Brown, he still had the nerve to accuse me of being an ignoramus who didn't know the history. A little more than a year later, Paul Clayton published the definitive work on the Christology of the Nestorian Theodoret of Cyrus. Clayton cited Theodoret making exactly the same arguments as Svendsen, including the same false accusations of Apollinarism and Monophysitism based on the term "Mother of God," and Clayton then rigorously demonstrated that they were the inexorable result of a Nestorian Christology that was logically incompatible with orthodox Christology. Suffice it to say that few victories are sweeter than having an argument you spent time crafting then vindicated by the people who have dedicated their lives to studying the problem. The fact that Svendsen was so badly outgunned in that exchange really drove home Newman's aphorism that "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant."

Nick said...

Yes, Jonathan, it was your blog work where I originally saw Svendsen blatantly affirming Nestorius was orthodox...all to salvage his position.

Jordanes said...

Many thousands have come into the Church as a result of apologetics. I think that is good fruit. I've heard about several hundred myself, that cite my work as a partial cause.

Yep. I'm one of them -- Catholic 10 years and counting, thanks be to God!

~aSplendidTime~ said...

Thanks Dave, your work was highly recommended to me, by some friends who have returned to the Catholic church. I am plainly and thoroughly convinced not to buy any of your books!

*whew*

Dave Armstrong said...

One can never be too careful what they read. God bless you.