Sunday, January 31, 2010

Anti-Catholics Steve Hays, Peter Pike, & TAO Regurgitate the Old Groundless "Vow-Breaker" Charge About Yours Truly; Challenged to "Put Up or Shut Up"


It happened, ironically enough, in a thread ("Broken Resolutions") where an Arminian Protestant, William Watson Birch, was accused of being a hypocrite, in some remarks of his about Bishop James White's treatment of yet another fellow Protestant (but alas, one of those clueless, wicked non-Calvinists!), Ergun Caner. Hays couldn't resist throwing out The Lie one more time:
Of course, it’s always possible that he’s a graduate of the Dave Armstrong School of Oaths, Vows, and Resolutions.

I shall now document the back-and-forth that then occurred in the combox. Steve Hays' words will be in blue; Peter Pike's in green; Turretinfan's (aka The Anonymous One or TAO) in red; Bishop James White's in purple; Gene Bridges' in orange; Eric Svendsen's in brown. All the biggest luminaries of the anti-Catholic world online wanna get in on this one, like moths flying into the flames of a campfire.

* * * * *

The only vow I've ever made, of course, is when I got married, and that is still going strong after 25 years.

All the garbage spouted by anti-Catholics that I am a vow and oath breaker are bald-faced lies. Bearing false witness is a very serious sin, as Pilgrimsarbour stated above.

And we'll see if this comment gets censored, too, like several others of mine have been on this site recently. (2-16-10)


"All the garbage spouted by anti-Catholics that I am a vow and oath breaker are bald-faced lies. Bearing false witness is a very serious sin, as Pilgrimsarbour stated above."

Actually, these are easily documentable allegations.

"And we'll see if this comment gets censored, too, like several others of mine have been on this site recently."
Some of your comments from a previous thread were deleted because, true to form, you wanted to change the subject from substance to a never-ending discussion of your all-time favorite topic–Dave Armstrong. However, the rest of us don't share your self-infatuation. (2-16-10)

* * *

Actually, these are easily documentable allegations.

Do it, then, liar. You and your cronies have been corrected on this so many times you can't possibly not know that it is a lie.

Of course, I am assuming you actually know the essential difference between a vow and a resolution. With your record of sophistry and slander, that may be a very charitable, presumptuous assumption indeed.

Assuming that, now all you have to do is go to my blog, use the search function, and find any instance where I have ever made a "vow" or an "oath" (apart from my marriage), and have violated it.

I currently have 2559 papers posted. My blog is fully searchable. Certainly if I have made some imaginary "vow" or "oath" and have broken it, it is easy as pie to document. But for some strange reason, every time this scurrilous accusation is made, it never is documented.

Some of your comments from a previous thread were deleted because, true to form, you wanted to change the subject from substance to a never-ending discussion of your all-time favorite topic–Dave Armstrong. However, the rest of us don't share your self-infatuation.

Right; just like now, eh Steve? I have made the subject myself, out of the blue. I came here and wanted to talk about myself. I didn't come here and comment on your ridiculous blog because you have again lied about a simple matter of fact. You didn't bring up my name, I did. It's 1984 and doublespeak all over again.

I have no right whatsoever to protest against the lie, even though I know it to be untrue, since it involves me.

If I don't respond, the lie goes out (for the umpteenth time now) unopposed, and this is a form of gossip and bearing false witness. If I respond, then you use your usual tactic of diverting the discussion to the usual nonsense that I am full of myself, simply because I don't put up with lying that has no relation to fact.

Either way, you "win." But in reality, you have lost, because lying never does anyone any good. You are the one who has to stand accountable to God for lying.

The best you can do is pull up the old 2001 half tongue-in-cheek quote from me that White and others have used. This was, of course, a resolution, and I obviously changed my mind. That proves nothing whatever. All it proves is that I changed my mind. Big wow. That's a universe away from breaking a vow or an oath under God.

Mr. Birch is now defending himself against your charges, so obviously he must be a narcissist, too. When Edward Reiss (whom I have defended against your slanders) protested against your relentless calumnies, he was full of himself, as well. It is your standard reply to anyone who disagrees with your Profound Wisdom. It goes beyond your anti-Catholicism. Those two guys ain't Catholics, but they are fair game simply because they disagreed with you.

You can delete this if you like. It won't make any difference. I'll still put it up on my blog, and I get just as many hits as you do, so folks will be made aware once again that you have chosen the path of deliberately lying, because it is in the service of your ongoing attacks against me: the one who is "evil" and who has an "evil character." Anything goes against the EVIL person, right Steve? NT ethics no longer apply: they have no relevance. (2-16-10)

Some of your comments from a previous thread were deleted because, true to form, you wanted to change the subject from substance to a never-ending discussion of your all-time favorite topic–Dave Armstrong.

This is a lie as well. Here is some of what actually was deleted (because I noted it at the time). Let's see if you delete this as well, and pretend that it was just me talking about myself (as you think is all that I do). I described it in a post of mine:

Just now, I noticed that he deleted a reply I made responding to an atheist, who decried the Christian infighting (i.e., relentless attacks on Catholics, including myself) on Hays' blog. He had written:

"Atheists have no need to point out the supposed foolishness of Christianity: you guys do a great job of illustrating it yourself.

"I feel like I'm reading playground taunting games."

I wholeheartedly agreed, said that I decried it as much as he did and was trying to oppose it by condemning it, but that it is easy to get pulled down in the mud, when you try to pull someone out of a mud pit. I said that I had had many pleasant conversations with atheists, but could never manage to do so with anti-Catholics, because of the combination of ignorance, stubbornness, and hostility. I also stated that I would bet good money that his own ethical standards were considerably higher than Hays' own low standards, as proven by the latter's conduct on his blog. I predicted that this comment would make me even more unpopular on the blog than I already was.

Hays confirmed that by hitting the delete button . . . :-) :-)

I have now noticed that several other comments of mine are missing.

That was a criticism of you and your lamentable tactics and ethics, not "talking about myself."

This is part of what you chose to delete. Now you have to even revise that history and lie about the actual facts of the matter. (2-16-10)

I can't help noticing that Armstrong always "refutes" the charge of self-obsession by generating reams of self-obsessive denials. (2-16-10)

Right, Steve. You love playing this game, I know. Anyone with an IQ above that of a pencil eraser sees right through it.

I still await your compelling proof of the extraordinary charge that I have supposedly broken a vow. Where is it? You said it was easy to prove. Do it, then, or stand exposed as a liar (and an intellectual coward as well).

I already know you are a liar where I am concerned. I'm only doing this to prove it to everyone else who believes the claptrap you regularly churn out about other human beings. (2-16-10)

It appears Dave Armstrong has a significantly different view of what constitutes an oath than what Jesus and James did.

Let's play semantics. Suppose we agree that Armstrong's only vow he ever made was to his wife (note he has apparently never made a vow to God). He still repeatedly claims to be done with anti-Catholics and promises to never interact with them again because it's a waste of time, etc. I see that Steve Hays is on Dave Armstrong's page of Anti-Catholics (and somehow even *I* got there). Thus, Armstrong has said he would not interact with either Steve or me (amongst many others). Which makes it highly ironic that he's complaining that we deleted his comments. (How did we delete that which wasn't there to begin with?)

In any case, Armstrong is here now, which also disproves his promise to be done with Anti-Catholics. (2-16-10)

Okay, Peter, I'll play your game, too.

What is your position on what the Bible says about vows and oaths? What exactly are they? Are they different from resolutions or a "promise" (your word)? Is there any essential or qualitative difference there at all?

I am assuming you are familiar with dictionaries and their purpose, and also the fact that different words DO have different meanings. And I think you know what a Bible dictionary is. Utilize these resources. I think you have a lot to gain from them.

I know fine distinctions and nuance are not your strong suit but we gotta start somewhere.

You say I have made what you and Steve describe as a "vow" or an "oath" of a particular nature. Okay; where is it? Please produce this for me. 2559 papers online. 19 books: many of which are heavily excerpted online or can be accessed by Google Reader. No problem at all to prove this. Or do you not know how to operate a simple Google search, either?

If you can't, why do you make the charge? If you can, why the delay? Prove your point before the world once and for all. Put up or shut up. Empty words and lies don't cut it anymore.

If you're dense enough to actually want to jump on this bandwagon of a trumped-up charge that neither you nor Steve can document, then you, too, can be exposed as a liar. The choice is up to you. I sure wouldn't want to be in your shoes right now.

How ironic, given the original intent of this very thread. (2-16-10)

Oh, one more thing for Peter's sake. I believe he was the one who claimed here (being one of my biggest fans and lifelong supporters) that I delete lots of material in the cynical attempt to hide my past statements.

Yep; 2559 papers posted. Obviously I have heavily utilized the delete button.

But you obviously have me mixed up with Steve Hays. He is the king of the delete button lately.

You may think I have made such a "vow" and then covered it up by getting rid of the "evidence." There is also such a thing as Internet Archive. I'd be happy to dig up any old paper of mine you remember seeing in the past. Most of them are still available over on that excellent resource. In fact, one of your anti-Catholic buddies uses that resource quite a bit to find old papers of mine in areas where I have specifically stated that my views in one area have become fine-tuned and somewhat modified over time. He does it; so could you.

If you can't figure out how to use that, either, then I'll be more than delighted to aid you to find any old paper of mine that your heart desires, so you can locate my imaginary "vows" that you clowns regularly refer to in an attempt to smear my name.

You guys need to come up with your "proof" once and for all, that I am a huge liar, vow-breaker, along with being "evil" and nuts and all the rest that you nattering nabobs say and believe.

Here is your golden opportunity to absolutely prove one of your bogus charges and lies. Seems like you would jump at the opportunity. I am even offering to help you do it! (2-16-10)

Here is Pike making his "delete" charge, just for the record (I know I'm "weird" around here insofar as I actually document things, rather than assert them without evidence):

Armstrong's already "disappeared" a bunch of stuff that he posted on his own blog, and now we get to pretend it never happened (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

It shows his caliber anyway. He writes knee-jerk screeds condemning other people for what he does himself, and after his hypocrisy is pointed out to him he apparently feels enough guilt to obscure the evidence, but not enough to actually change his behavior.

(comment of 1/21/2010 11:28 PM)

Again, Pike has it exactly wrong. Steve Hays is the one who has been doing this.

I not only not delete Hay's rantings; I help to broadcast them to the world on my site. I'm doing him a great service! His pearls of wisdom in saying, e.g., 732 times (in many different ways and styles) that that Edward Reiss or Scott Windsor are liars got plenty of coverage on my site!

When he says that I am "evil" and of "evil character" I put that on my site, so folks can benefit from learning those facts about my character. It's the very opposite of deleting. I even have a video of Howlin' Wolf singing Evil in honor of Hays' profound observations.

I'll be documenting this whole thread, too. So it is the furthest thing from covering up anything. (2-16-10)

Still waiting for the documentation of the charge. It ain't rocket science. I say I have 2500 papers online not to puff myself up, but to make the point that it is super-easy to find such a thing if I ever said it. Any fool could see the point there. But because the playbook dictates that everything I say must be from pride and narcissism, further dumb remarks are made. Rationality and factuality are thrown to the wind.

[I was responding above to yet another commenter: "Natamllc" -- who had written: Is not that a direct, "look at me and my accomplishments" statement about yourself, of course, distinguishing yourself as someone far more important than Steve or Patrick?]

You guys can play games and obfuscate and engage in obscurantism and evasion and sophistry all day long, but it won't change the fact that you are duty-bound to produce the goods to prove that I have supposedly ever broken a vow made under God, with all that that entails.

Your easiest way out is to simply admit that you don't know the difference between vows, oaths, and resolutions. But pride will probably dictate that even that route is unthinkable. Instead, it'll just be more personal attacks on my person.

Anyone can see through that. If you guys want to dig your own grave and set the noose to hang yourselves, be my guest. That doesn't further your cause.

The choir will cheer you on no matter what you do or say. But any halfway neutral observer whom you hope to convince will see the nature of what so often takes place in this sewer of a blog.

Even atheists can see that. (2-16-10)

* * *

Almost two years ago (February 23, 2008) I called it: [Dave had written]

I'll be ignoring you and other anti-Catholics (barring exceptional circumstances; particularly if it involves defending someone else from anti-Catholic smear campaigns).

When he breaks his near-promise to ignore his opponents, I expect him first to rely on the "exceptional circumstances" portion of his statement, and then later deny that this was ever a promise in the first place. Let's see what time will tell.

(my report) (2-16-10)

And that is what you call a vow or an oath? Just for the record . . . You, too, don't know the difference?

I'm here now because I was again called a liar publicly, and you guys are attempting to smear William Birch, just as you did with Edward Reiss and Scott Windsor (so it's now four of us just in the last month). And that is exactly what I said, didn't I?: "particularly if it involves defending someone else from anti-Catholic smear campaigns."

Likewise, I temporarily suspended my policy of not debating theology with anti-Catholics (which I have been faithfully following for over two years now), when I took on Jason Engwer, because David Waltz had cited his influence as one reason why he now rejects conciliar infallibility. That was more than enough good reason.

Rules are made for man, not man for rules. Jesus said this about rescuing the sheep in the pit on the Sabbath. The legalistic person would let the sheep suffer, but the compassionate person recognizes that the Sabbath was made for man, not vice versa.

Any man has a right to defend his name against public lies and character assassination and defamation. I can hardly not talk about myself when the very charge in question is whether I am a vow-breaker or not. How can I deny the charge, yet do so without talking about myself?

It would be like saying, "The Lions are the worst team in the history of football" (a claim I would be quite prepared to accept!) without talking about the Lions. Yet if I mention myself at all, then I am supposedly this huge narcissist.

This is why I don't play your game by the self-serving, lopsided, double standard rules that you guys set for the game, so you can continue on in your smear campaigns.

The first considerations for everyone ought to be truth and love. The truth has to do with what the facts of the matter are. If the charge is true, it can be proven. Love involves treating others with charity and not accusing them falsely, without even proper reason to do so. (2-16-10)

It's always double standards with you guys. TAO wants to cite an old post of mine? I'm delighted that he did so, because in that very post I cited some resolutions ("vows") that Bishop James White made. Why is it that he is not called a "vow-breaker" on the same grounds that you claim I am one? Here is what the good bishop wrote:

I have done all I could since then in light of certain aspects of your behavior to avoid interaction like the plague.

My website contains nothing about you for that very reason. . . . I apologize for even considering the idea of having any contact.

I have to trust God's Spirit to lead His people as He sees fit. I have had a number of folks contact me about your posting of my letters and actually warn me against "casting pearls before swine" in doing what I am doing even now. I had three people say to me this morning, "You are wasting your time." I will have to accept their counsel after this response.

Mr. Armstrong, I have no interest, whatsoever, in continuing this with you. I don't like you, and I don't believe you like me. Until a few weeks ago I had followed the path of wisdom and avoided every entanglement with you. I erred in moving from that path. . . .

Continuing to attempt to reason with you is likewise foolish: if you write an angry e-mail, like yesterday, and I reply to it, the next day you'll use the calm, rational response, and upbraid me for being nasty. No matter what I do, the end is the same. I knew this years ago. My memory must be failing or something for even making the attempt.

I'm going to ask you to join me in promising to stay as far away from each other as possible. I'm not asking you to not respond on your own website to what I write or doing whatever you want to do when speaking, etc. I am talking about personal interaction. Stay out of #prosapologian. Don't write to me. Don't ask to do dialogues, debates, or anything else. You just do your thing, and I'll do mine. OK?

White later challenged me to do an oral debate in 2007; in fact he did it again right before he wrote the above; when I declined, this was his "sour grapes" response.

This was from personal correspondence, and was dated 12 January 2001. Further details can be obtained by following the link in my paper above. We all know how White has studiously avoided mentioning my name or dealing with me since that time, over nine years ago. (2-16-10)

I've written about all this nonsense several times. There is no mystery as to my positions on it, and I've shown time and again that I never broke a "vow" at any time:

James White's Reply to My Recent Critique / The "Vow Breaker" Bum Rap (4-4-07)

Clarification of Why I No Longer Attempt Debate With Anti-Catholic Protestants (7-4-09)

My Basis For Refusing to Debate Anti-Catholics Any Longer Exactly the Same as James White's, For Refusing to Debate Certain Catholics (7-7-09)

In the latter paper I noted, for example, how James White used to say he would never debate Dr. Art Sippo, because of objections to his behavior. But sure enough, later on he did challenge him to debate, just as he did to me, twice (2001 and 2007) after he said he would never do so in 1995 because I was an insufferable dumbbell: so sez Mr. White.

I've done nothing that James White hasn't done himself, except that I am consistent with my principles, and I don't have to lie about other fellow Christians in order to live by them. I merely changed my mind on one extreme, half-humorous statement I made in 2001 that went too far. So what. James White has done far worse than that. I can't absolutely avoid all interaction whatever with anti-Catholics (sub-debate stuff) as a Catholic apologist.

For example, right now in documenting how you guys lie in order to supposedly further your goals, I'm "dealing" with you. But I am not debating theology. And that is what I decided to stop doing in October 2007. This is an ethical discussion, and an exposure of the almost non-existent NT ethics of anti-Catholics, where it comes to treating others, even fellow Protestants (Reiss, Birch et al; White's treatment of Caner, Craig, etc.; just about anyone who has a principled disagreement with him).

But I have engaged in an actual debate only once (recently with Jason Engwer, under special exempted circumstances) since October 2007 when I decided I was through with attempted debate, after my challenge to debate in a chat room about the definition of Christianity was turned down seven times by six anti-Catholics, including TAO and Gene "Troll" Bridges (twice by Bishop White). That was the final straw. If even that fundamental premise-issue can't be discussed, there is no hope for any intelligent discourse. This farcical "discussion" proves that yet again.

It's probably the best time-management decision I have ever made since starting my full-time apologetics ministry in December 2001. (2-16-10)

There's no pleasing Dave.

Dave then: "Still waiting for the documentation of the charge."

Dave now: "TAO wants to cite an old post of mine?"

Dave put it this way "there is no hope for any intelligent discourse" and perhaps we ought to leave it at that. (2-16-10)

And for a second time I ask: how does this thing you cite prove that I broke a VOW? Recall that the insinuation in this instance and many times through the years is that I have broken a VOW, not just a promise or a resolution.

You haven't shown that. I have shown that what I've done is not one whit different from what Bishop White himself has done.

But you want to ignore that. I know why you do, because you have no case.

You keep proving that the charge is groundless. Is this your "evidence"? (2-16-10)

Jesus said, "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one" (Mt 5:37).

Armstrong said: "Let your 'yes' be maybe or maybe not." (2-16-10)

Not at all. I refuse to believe that you can't comprehend the distinctions to be made here. I just don't believe it. Your personal dislikes blind you, if you are blinded at all. That is the most charitable interpretation possible.

Jesus was not simply about law and legalism (that was the Pharisees' thing); He was about intelligent application of law in conjunction with justice and mercy and love of God and neighbor: the "weightier elements" of the Law. Hence, like I said, He recognized that there can be exceptions to the rule(s): rescuing a sheep on the Sabbath if necessary; eating the showbread, like David did, even though only the priests were technically allowed to do so.

There are perfectly reasonable exceptions to rules. My own "rule" was self-imposed to begin with. So I made an exception to it. Everyone understands that. It is only anti-Catholics who have to smear the Catholic no matter what he does, who don't understand it.

Then there is the essential difference between vows and oaths on one hand, and resolutions and promises on the other [note: later (see below) I recognized after further reflection, that a "promise" is closer to an oath or vow]. Reasonable, intelligent folk understand that exceptions and even reversals can be made in the latter instances, whereas oaths and vows are far more serious and binding, and don't allow for such reversals. That is true both in the biblical understanding and in the cultural / dictionary-level understanding. No one holds a person to a new year's resolution to lose 15 pounds, as if to not do it is a "lie" or "breaking a vow." That's why vows are so utterly serious in the first place, and made only after the utmost consideration.

It's obvious to me (because these distinctions are so self-evident for anyone who does the least amount of study on it) that you guys want to deliberately blur the distinctions in the service of the smear campaign against Catholic apologists like myself.

You have to find a way to discredit what we do, and indirectly, Catholicism (or Arminians or Lutherans or whoever else the target is at the moment), so you do whatever it takes, including lying. You know that "breaking a vow" sounds far more serious than "changing a resolution" or "changing one's mind on a former resolution" so you simply repeat the charge no matter how many times it has been refuted and exposed for what it is.

Anything goes in service of "Mother Anti-Catholicism." Any lie against a Catholic or Catholicism is permitted because it is for a good cause. The ends justify the means. (2-16-10)

Moreover, you wink at and ignore it when people like James White make resolutions scarcely any different than my own and routinely break them as if they didn't exist. You wink and nod at his constant insults of others, and don't protest that. But as soon as one dares to speak out against that, then it is Chicken Little.

You wink at someone like TAO stating on White's own blog, about Steve Ray (on 4-10-09):

That makes you a liar. That's not an insult, that's not a personal attack, though it is a criticism of the way you've been acting. If we could clean up your act by giving you a nice fresh bar of antibacterial soap, we would, but the kind of truth-telling problem is a sin, and requires a stronger soap . . . clean up your act. Get right with Christ now. The soap that fullers used to use (think bleach) is not strong enough to remove your sins, . . .

Bishop James White can write about Dr. Art Sippo:

Art Sippo Lies About Thursday's Debate (post title of 6-12-05)

I honestly hope Bill Rutland will write to him and rebuke him for posting such outrageous lies, I truly do. . . . This is an outrageous lie. There is not a shred of truth in it, and I can document it. Sippo, of course, cannot, but documenting his outrageous claims has never been one of his strong points anyway. . . . This alone exposes Sippo's lie . . . After posting this abject lie, . . . You can see Sippo's aversion to truth extends to his theology as well as his dishonest relating of past events. . . . The only sad part of all of this is that once again folks . . . will blindly believe whatever Sippo says, despite the fact he could never prove his allegations and we have all the documentation.

[wow; how familiar that sounds!]

White also goes after Bill Rutland (8-8-05):

It is sorta hard to avoid the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, behind that is the idea that "Hey, maybe we should have the freedom to say anything we want in this forum and no one should have the right to expose what we say, even when it involves blatant, documentable lies about others, in any other way." Sorta sounds like that is the idea, but let's hope not. . . . I simply refer the reader to the unanswered documentation of the lies posted by Sippo (he has never retracted them) and the sad collusion of Rutland with his personal attacks here.

I see that literacy isn’t your strong suit. This is what I actually said (verbatim), in the very post you presume to comment on:

“…the Dave Armstrong School of Oaths, Vows, and Resolutions.”

Then there’s the title of my post (Hint! Hint!).

Of course I realize that you like to compartmentalize the obligation to keep your word into different, airtight categories with various escape-hatches. (2-16-10)

Now we have the sophistry and obscurantism of backing off the original accusation. Since I have easily shown that the charge itself is groundless, by challenging the liars to back it up and prove it with something I ever said, now you retreat to word games and the pretense that I have not been accused of breaking vows in the first place.

You know this not to be the case. It has been taking place for years. Eric Svendsen used this charge; James White often has; now TAO and Hays and Bridges and Pike have followed suit. It's the classic Big Lie: you simply repeat it enough times like a mantra and ignorant followers who trust your judgment will believe it. After all, it has been stated 179 times, right? It must be the truth! But when you and your fellow slanderers are called on it and challenged to put up and shut up, you can't do so, and have to retreat back to juvenile word games and sophistry.

So, e.g., on this blog not long ago, official contributor Gene "Troll" Bridges wrote, on 7-9-09:

You've also taken an oath to stop interacting with "anti-Catholics", and yet here you are wanting us to interact with you. I, for one, take the Law on making vows seriously, and I am not going to contribute to you sin before God in violating your word.

Ironically, Bridges knows full well what a real oath or vow is, because he also wrote about that on this blog (2-27-08):

From the Second London Confession:

23. Lawful Oaths and Vows

1. A lawful oath is an act of religious worship, in which the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calls God to witness what he swears, and to judge him according to the truth or falsity of it.

2. Only by the name of God can a righteous oath be sworn, and only if it is used with the utmost fear of God and reverence. Therefore, to swear vainly or rashly by the glorious and awesome name of God, or to swear by any other name or thing, is sinful, and to be regarded with disgust and detestation. But in matters of weight and moment, for the confirmation of truth, and for the ending of strife, an oath is sanctioned by the Word of God. . . .

3. Whoever takes an oath sanctioned by the Word of God is bound to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and affirm or confess to nothing except that which he knows to be true. For by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked and because of them this land mourns.

4. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words. without equivocation or mental reservation.

5. A vow, which is not to be made to any creature but to God alone, is to be made and performed with all the utmost care and faithfulness.

Bishop James White wrote about me on 4-6-07:

He is not stable. He swings from pillar to post, and if we did, in fact, arrange a formal debate today, how could anyone trust that next week he won't have yet another change of heart, make another vow to avoid anti-Catholics, and bag out?

TAO wrote on 7-12-09 (also on this blog):

. . . he made the following vow: 'I'll be ignoring you and other anti-Catholics . . .' . . . since that vow was made. . . . But now the vow has morphed.

You play the same word-games, slipping back and forth between "vow" and "resolution" as if they were the same thing:

When he suspends a resolution, it’s only temporary. . . . yet he remains resolute in his punctilious fidelity to every solemn vow. His word is his bond. He never ever goes back on his word, except whenever he happens to go back on his word–which, however, is not to be confused with breaking a promise.

This is what liars do, of course. The equivocation and ambiguities and word-games and so forth . . . this is what Bill Clinton did, with his playing around with what "is" means. That's your game. My position, on the other hand, is very straightforward:

1) A vow or oath made to and under God is far more serious than a mere self-imposed, self-referring resolution.

2) I never made a vow concerning anti-Catholics.

3) Yet I have been falsely accused of making such a vow.

4) Even what I did do is constantly misrepresented as supposedly ruling out all interaction whatever, when in fact I stated I was done with actual theological debate with anti-Catholics.

5) When I protest about being characterized as a vow-breaker, and challenge my accusers to put up or shut up and prove that I am guilty of this, they revert to the very sort of word games and obfuscation that they falsely accuse me of doing.

Witness the present case. When called on your having charged -- with your buddies -- that I have broken a vow, you revise the history and pretend that you have only objected to my breaking resolutions.

Just keep doing that, Steve. You're making a fool of yourself in front of everyone. Anyone with an ounce of fairness can observe what is going on here. You wouldn't have a prayer in a court case with a jury. They would see right through your nonsense and asinine word-games. (2-16-10)


It's always double standards with you guys.

This is an ethical discussion, and an exposure of the almost non-existent NT ethics of anti-Catholics, where it comes to treating others, even fellow Protestants (Reiss, Birch et al; White's treatment of Caner, Craig, etc.; just about anyone who has a principled disagreement with him).

So if we apply the very same standard to fellow Protestants, then that’s a double standard? (2-16-10)

You apply it to Arminians, and slander them without cause. But you won't apply the same supposed standards to real instances of Calvinist and anti-Catholic hypocrisy and sins of bearing false witness.

The thing is to lie about and smear whoever disagrees with you: be they Catholic, Arminian, Lutheran, Orthodox, or three-toed, red-haired, blue-eyed Rastafarian dog catchers. (2-16-10)

Steve Hays, too, knows what a real vow is, and he thinks that even a vow is not absolutely absolute, if there are mitigating circumstances (precisely what I have been saying with my reference to the sheep on the Sabbath and the showbread):

1.Vows are not moral absolutes. They are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end.

The end is the point of principle, whereas the means are pragmatic.

A process is not a moral absolute. It is not a value in itself. Rather, a process is a means to an end.

This is not a question of morality, but prudence.

2.Even in the case of moral absolutes, in a fallen world we may often be confronted with conflicting obligations. In that event, a higher duty overrules a lower duty. . . .

As I said before, vows are not moral absolutes.

1.The Mosaic law distinguishes between lawful and unlawful vows (e.g. Num 30).


So we have the bizarre situation of Hays and others accusing me of breaking a vow. But Hays says sometimes vows can indeed be broken in extraordinary circumstances.

My position is that vows are binding, apart from extremely extraordinary circumstances. But I have not made any vow concerning anti-Catholics, anyway. I have made resolutions. And they certainly can be changed and modified, as circumstances warrant.

But Hays wants to deny that, so he continues on with his mocking, even though he has stated the above possibility of being non-binding, even about vows.

Don't try to find moral or even logical consistency on this site . . . It's a lost cause. (2-16-10)

* * * * *

"Pilgrimsarbour," an ecumenical Calvinist (OPC), with whom I have had great dialogues, wrote on Steve Hays' blog:

It seems to me that there is no meeting of the minds between Dave and the Triabloguers as to the precise definitions of vows, oaths, resolutions and promises.

See what* has to say about the word "vow." I have put in bold the various words in question that have come up in the combox:

Main Entry: vow
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: promise

Synonyms: affiance, assertion, asseveration, oath, pledge, profession, troth, word of honor

breach, break

Main Entry: vow
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: make a solemn promise

affirm, assure, consecrate, covenant, cross one's heart, declare, dedicate, devote, give word of honor, pledge, plight, promise, swear, swear up and down, testify, undertake solemnly, vouch, warrant


The words vow, oath, promise all seem to carry the same meaning. The only word I don't see here is resolution which upon further study doesn't connect any of the three words above to it, but carries the meaning declaration, determination, intention.

While I think Dave's precise delineations of the three words are overwrought in relation to modern English usage, it seems to me likely that he had previously made a resolution (determination, intention) to not interact with "anti-Catholics" (unless by stated exception necessity) but not a promise, oath or vow.

* Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition
Copyright © 2010 by the Philip Lief Group. (2-16-10)


What a breath of fresh air. Whew . . .

And that is all I have been saying. But my friends here can't admit this simple fact because it goes against the playbook and spinning talking points for "Dear ol' Dave."

Admitting that a Catholic may be right around here (about anything) and that his critics may be wrong is itself a naughty no-no.

You, being a very fair-minded reasonable guy, can declare the obvious. Kudos and bravo to you for having the courage to do it in this environment. (2-16-10)

I do think that "promise" is more like an oath or vow than a resolution is, so upon reflection and seeing the above definitions I agree with pilgrim on that. I just threw it out in the midst of 10,000 words on this mess today.

All along I have stated that I made resolutions (the most recent in October 2007). The one in 2001 was too strong and I later changed my mind on it. Since it never was a vow or oath, there is no sin in that.

Besides, as I've shown, I have acted hardly any differently from James White, who said he was through with me in 2001, too. (2-17-10)

The person who is truly utterly confused about the proper distinctions between oaths and resolutions, is Eric Svendsen. In a post of 14 January 2005, devoted to blasting me up and down as a liar and oath-breaker, he shows an incredible ignorance of the distinctions, since he uses the two terms interchangeably (talking about the same exact thing, using these terms; my bolding):


1) Here are the statements from his many “solemn oaths” again.

2) If you don't think this constitutes a clear violation of a solemn oath, . . .

3) DA has adequately demonstrated that his oaths are meaningless.

4) Or are you in such a defensive posture that you fear "all would be lost" if you did the right thing by calling DA to task for his oath-breaking practices?


1) Did DA “keep this resolve” . . .

2) Those were the terms of his resolution.

3) He has broken that resolution over and over again.

4) Indeed, the resolution itself was . . .


1) . . . a solemn oath resulting from a “RESOLUTION STATEMENT”—let alone three identical solemn oaths resulting from three separate “resolution statements” taken over a period of five short years!

He also used "swear" and "swore" once each: which to most ears, I think, have that feel of the courtroom or the "oath of office" and so forth.

We can only conclude, then, that Dr. Svendsen is unfamiliar with these basic definitions that were helpfully presented above. He doesn't know the difference between a resolution and a "solemn oath."

Furthermore, Jason Engwer, on Svendsen's blog, described my statements as "resolutions" (not oaths or vows):

Prejean's decision to "retire" probably is about as lasting as Dave Armstrong's "resolutions".


As I said in a previous article, Jonathan Prejean's recent claim to be "retiring" from "proselytizing" was about as credible as the "resolutions" of Dave Armstrong.
(8-24-05) (2-17-10)

TAO shows the same sort of confusion as to what in fact I have claimed (more proof that you guys are just "winging" this and have little idea what you are talking about, let alone knowledge of dictionary definitions):

You made the decision/vow/whatever to ignore Reformed apologists. That's no one's fault but your own. But I'll tell you what - I'd have a little more respect for your refusal to answer a simple question if you had something you yourself considered a "vow" not to do it. You draw a line between "vows" and something apparently equal so binding that it leaves you in between a rock and a hard place where you are a speudo-vow-breaker or a coward (by your own analysis).


Part of your on-going campaign in support of your resolution/promise/vow/whatever to be "ignoring you and other anti-Catholics".

(7-16-09) (2-17-10)

Seriously, Dave. They make medication for this type of thing.

Note too that for all his wasted words, Dave actually does get around to admitting everything that Steve and I have said about him, not just in this thread but in many other posts.

Also, personal note for Dave: does your priest know that you wrote 1/10th of a novel on Triablogue comments during the course of a single day? I just wonder if you might consider telling him, so he can help you with your vow/promise/oath/resolution/suggestion/ideal/hypothesis/perhaps-yes-perhaps-no "I'm never gonna interact with anti-Catholics" pledge/affirmation/creed/hope/statement thing. After all, if you had put that much energy into Hail Mary's and Our Fathers, your Purgatory sentence could have been reduced to only several thousand years. But now you've squandered that time and it's forever irredeemable. (2-17-10)

It's remarkable that after all this, the supposed "proof" that I ever made a vow or oath about anti-Catholics and broke it remains nowhere to be seen. There is altogether good reason for that. It doesn't exist. Not even anti-Catholic myth-making and revisionist history can pretend that it does.

Instead we have mocking, evasion, and obfuscation.

One rational, fair-minded (Protestant) soul actually tries to bring objective sanity into the discussion and considers the dictionary definitions of words, and he is ignored.

We can't have that! We must play games with words and define them our own way, so that the despised Catholic apologist can't possibly ever be right about anything! That goes against the Playbook. It can't be allowed to happen. What would James White say??!!

Words don't matter; ethics don't matter; NT injunctions of how others should be treated, and how we ought to admit it when we are wrong, go out the window. Anything goes, because of the wicked "evil" Catholic who must never be right on anything whatever. (2-17-10)

Wait, Dave is seriously suggesting that we need to provide a source for where he said he wouldn't interact with anti-Catholics anymore, after he linked us to his article titled "Clarification of Why I No Longer Attempt Debate With Anti-Catholic Protestants"? And in that clarification, he nowhere says "I don't mean I won't ever do it" but instead repeatedly asserts "this is why I won't ever do it."

This is beyond hubris and deep into the realm of insanity.

I can't wait for DA's dodge that writing 6000+ word responses on a site he says is run by an anti-Catholic doesn't constitute "debate" because it's not conducted by a debate society or whatnot. . . .

So it's clear there is no clear-cut line between "debate" and "dialogue" in Dave's mind. I trust readers can see through his veneer and see that this simply means "I don't talk to anti-Catholics who won't let me win." (2-17-10)

Wait, Dave is seriously suggesting that we need to provide a source for where he said he wouldn't interact with anti-Catholics anymore, . . .

Nice try, and another excellent example of how what I say has been fundamentally distorted by anti-Catholic Protestants.

Of course, what I have been demanding throughout this thread is for my critics to show where I ever made a "vow" or an "oath" to do these things. Eric Svendsen is so clueless about definitions, that he can't even distinguish between a "solemn oath" and a "resolution," as I showed. Let him run that by his wife: that he made a "resolution" at their wedding rather than a vow, and see how well that goes over. But that is how stupid his reasoning was when it came to me.

It hasn't been shown that I made and broke a vow because it doesn't exist. That's why all the mocking and idiotic demeanor keeps taking place, precisely because it is indeed known that the proof is not to be had, and an anti-Catholic would rather be impaled than ever admit that a Catholic was right about anything. If it existed, surely it would have been produced by now, rather than every anti-Catholic in this thread making an ass and fool of himself (and John Calvin and Shakespeare both used the word "ass" [donkey] as I just did, so don't even start with that crap).

I have stated repeatedly that yes, in the past I have made statements that upon reflection were too extreme and impossible to abide by, being an apologist. One of these that has been cited was from 2001. I have no problem admitting that I made a mistake there. I'm not like the anti-Catholics on this thread who seemingly can never admit to being wrong about anything. It was no sin, but it was dumb in its extremity. I've done lots of dumb things in my life, and I suspect I will do many more before I leave this earth. I'm not perfect like anti-Catholics are. But it's one thing to do something dumb; quite another to be an alleged vow-breaker and oath-breaker, which I have never done.

It was no vow or oath, which is the main point, and the point under consideration. Thus, it is not a violation of a "solemn oath" (Svendsen) or breaking of a vow, to change one's mind on such a thing. It is exactly because of my high view of vows and oaths (following the biblical view) that I was very careful not to use those words, because that was not how I perceived what I did at all.

In that very statement, I specifically used the word "resolve". It's simply not a vow or an oath. My critics have been lying about that for now nine years and running. That is a serious sin. They continue to lie, even though I have repeatedly demonstrated that there is nothing to it, and that there is considerable hypocrisy and inconsistency among my critics on the same score.

Now the game is to be legalistic and ridiculous about what I have chosen to do and not do with regard to anti-Catholics, as if that is not my prerogative to decide in the first place. If I say I am not debating out of a principle (explained till I am blue in the face), I get the accusation that I am really doing it (wink, wink) because I am a coward. Or it is stated that I have run from anti-Catholics all along (a one-minute perusal of my Anti-Catholicism, James White, and Contra-Catholicism web pages puts the lie to that immediately).

If I decide to make an exception (for excellent reasons) to my usual policy to debate Jason Engwer, I am mocked for supposedly being untrue to my word, as if no exceptions whatever are ever justifiable. Then when I cease doing that and go back to my regular work (just as I said I would) I am mocked as a coward, as if no one is aware of my own resolution, that they mocked when I entered the debate. Absolutely nothing I do makes any difference. This is how bigots and those who despise other human beings act. (2-17-10)

But pilgrimsarbour [himself not an anti-Catholic -- like Peter Pike --, but a sensible Presbyterian Christian] raises a good point:

My advice--don't make "statements of intent" of any kind on your blogs. Just pray that the Holy Spirit leads you to do what is pleasing and honouring in His sight, and that He grants you the grace and strength to follow through as consistently as possible.

I think this is good advice, generally speaking. But it occurred to me that one of the reasons folks like myself have been led to make such statements (and I was goaded into my 2001 statement made on Steve Ray's discussion board by anti-Catholic polemicist "Ronnie" and it was partially in reaction to the similar resolution that James White had already made regarding myself, that I have cited above) is precisely because if we choose not to interact with anti-Catholics, because it is always a futile effort and nothing is ever accomplished, and it usually descends into pure insults on their side (just as we see in this thread), we are accused of being cowards.

That's not at all the case with me, since I have a proven track record of debating virtually all the leading online Catholics. James White has ignored (or, "run from," from one perspective) far more of my critiques than I have ever avoided of his.

So we feel led to make statements of this nature in large part to make it clear that it is a principled decision to avoid certain folks with whom we believe no constructive dialogue is possible. But if I say that I am called a liar; misrepresenting my true motives. Fine; say what you will. I am still responsible under God to make responsible use of my time and efforts, as a matter of stewardship. I happen to think it is pointless to engage at any length folks who say you are "evil" or "beyond hubris and deep into the realm of insanity," as Peter Pike just delightfully observed.

One thing that is obvious is that no one likes to be considered so unserious and lacking in intellectual acumen that others will decide they are not worth spending the time debating. That's a blow to human pride. I believe this is what is really at the bottom of the extreme disdain and insults thrown my way, because I have often (not always) abided by this policy in my 14 years online.

No one wants to think that their position is the mental, intellectual equivalent of a flat earth or geocentric cosmology, or Holocaust denial. But my view of the fringe movement of anti-Catholic Protestantism is scarcely any higher than my view of those things. I've always thought it was a viciously self-defeating system. I have dealt with it only because it was part of my job as an apologist, to oppose error.

Beyond that basic view of the position, there is the further fact of how anti-Catholics I have attempted to debate, when I had no resolution otherwise, have conducted themselves. And that is, of course, uniformly disgraceful behavior, that is an insult to the very notion of dialogue.

After years of trying off and on to try to have a rational discussion, I gave up. When I made an exception for Jason Engwer recently, he was a gentleman, as he usually is, but he systematically ignored much of my argumentation (as I demonstrated, to the tune of ignoring 87 and 88% of my words, when he cited them back to reply to). So that was no debate. He didn't offer insults outwardly, but in his utter disregard for his opponent's arguments, he showed quite a bit of disdain.

So which is better: pretending to debate without really seriously trying to do so, as he did, or stating upfront that you don't consider a certain strain of thought of sufficient seriousness to spend time debating and interacting with (which is my position)?

I spent yesterday and a small portion of today exposing the nefarious tactics used by anti-Catholics, the lack of ethics, and pitiful "logic."

That's enough. Now I need to get back to serious work. (2-17-10)

One thing that is obvious is that no one likes to be considered so unserious and lacking in intellectual acumen that others will decide they are not worth spending the time debating.
[this was my debate challenge on the question of the definition of Christianity] (2-17-10)

Exactly, TAO! Thanks for proving my point. The challenge was precisely to demonstrate that anti-Catholics are so unserious that they will refuse to defend their views, even in its most basic aspects. And so seven of y'all did just that. You wanted no part of a double cross-examination format.

I knew it was 99.99% certain when I made the challenge that no one would be willing to take me up on it (because no one had in the previous eleven years online), and sure enough, that is what happened. So, far from proving anti-Catholics are worth any time debating, it demonstrated the opposite. No one should take them seriously because they won't defend their fundamental premises, like any self-respecting intellectual does.

Just like this thread: even the most elementary requirements are scorned and mocked. No one cared about the definitions of the words in dispute, which is always fundamental to any serious discussion. The only one who did was Pilgrimsarbour, and he's not anti-Catholic. Because he isn't, and is a serious thinker, I can easily have good discussions with him (and have had several). Theologically, he is a Calvinist. He agrees with you guys. But he also cares about ethics and talking about basic premises in a way that no one else in this thread has.

The other basic thing lacking is the notion of "innocent until proven guilty." The anti-Catholic principle for a Catholic is "guilty until not proven guilty." So I supposedly am a vow-breaker and liar. When challenged to prove why this allegedly is the case, you clowns come up with absolutely nothing; zero, zilch, zip, nada.

Therefore, you thumb your nose at the basic requirements of what you need to do to prove your case: 1) define terms properly, and 2) produce solid evidence that the accused person did what was charged.

This is only one of 10,000 reasons that I don't take anti-Catholicism seriously. I never did. The only reason I have dealt with it at all is to show that it is gravely mistaken in many areas. I can still approach the anti-Catholic in the sense that he is a brother in Christ, which is huge common ground, but because I am not considered that, it never works. It's doomed from the outset. (2-17-10)

* * *

Now having inevitably reached the stage of the surreal and absurd, as always in the anti-Catholic fantasy world of nonsense, my powers of rationality have exhausted themselves, and we must descend to humorous satire.

In honor of the occasion, I present the classic Fiddler on the Roof scene with the engaged couple who "gave each other a pledge."

Now we can add "pledge" to the roster of oath, vow, resolution, and promise. Enjoy! ROFL (2-17-10)

Imagine if President George W. Bush Had Made a Mispronunciation This Stupid (and Three Times) . . .

Without further ado, here is the video . . .

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dialogue With a Catholic on the Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture, and the Definition of Christian in Relation to the Holy Trinity

Evangelizing Mormons (as a Protestant),in the summer of 1989 at the Ann Arbor Art Fair (the only known picture where I am actually doing apologetics and/or evangelism)

This is a follow-up discussion to the paper, Clarifying Some Points of David Waltz's Present "Doctrinal Limbo" Status (Including Discussion of the Holy Trinity and the Definition of "Christian"). Rory (nickname "Lisamck") is a friend of David Waltz's, and was his sponsor for his reception into the Church in 2002. He thinks that Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are properly classifiable as Christian, and we also have different degrees of confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture for refuting heresies like Arianism (current-day Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, and The Way International). He thinks my views amount to a version of sola Scriptura (or at least go down that road). I vehemently disagree on all these points, and give the reasons why (though later on we discovered we weren't as far apart on these issues as I first thought, and Rory made some important concessions). It's a good, civil discussion. The discussion occurred in the combox of a recent David Waltz post, starting with his comment. His words will be in blue.

* * * * *

1) Fr. Chilson would not probably change my mind on whether Mormons or others who deny the proclamations of an ecumenical Council should qualify as Christian. Certainly, everyone has a different definition in mind. I am inclined to accept under the broad umbrella of "Christian" anyone who can accept the historical facts of the Apostles' Creed. Of course, like most Protestants, Mormons do not give assent to belief in the holy Catholic Church or communion of saints. 2) Most Protestants and Catholics who would apply a standard that would exclude Mormons from being Christian are in my opinion, too optimistic about sola scriptura in the case of Protestants, or the material sufficiency of Scripture in the case of Catholics. As a Catholic I believe the Scriptures are materially sufficient to show plausibility of the true doctrine but not implausibility of the false doctrine.

This is a very interesting way of putting it, and I think you may be onto something; but on the other hand, if true doctrine can be shown in the Bible as plausible (as I certainly believe), are not the false doctrines shown to be implausible by virtue of being contrary to the manifestly plausible true scriptural doctrines?

In other words, to use an example, by demonstrating the Trinity (and particularly the deity of Christ), Arianism is thus shown to be false (therefore, also implausible, since false). I'm not sure one thing can be separated from the other.

My view of material sufficiency allows that without the authority of the Catholic Church to resolve biblical controversy, heretics could never be silenced because the Scriptures are intended to have a complimentary authority, not a sole authority. Apart from the Catholic Church, I think it is very unlikely that I would arrive at Catholic doctrine, and especially not the Nicene Trinity by reading it in a vacuum. Those Catholics who think the Scriptures are materially sufficient to silence studious Arians seem to forget that they had the Scriptures in 325 and they weren't sufficient by themselves. Scripture alone has not been adequate historically to resolve the major biblical controversies.

I think they are quite sufficient to disprove Arianism. I even did so myself in the early 80s (as an evangelical), as one of my first major theological research projects was studying and refuting Jehovah's Witnesses.

It is clearly not sufficient to silence or prevent heretics from being heretics. That is the aspect of formal sufficiency, and where the need of a Church comes in. But even a true Church is not capable of preventing all heresy in practice (since they will merely separate) but only to show how and where they are in error.

The Church's value (with regard to authority and in relation to Scripture) lies in interpreting Scripture, forming dogmas, and showing how the dogmas are consistent with Scripture and Tradition.

I suppose I will find myself alone among the Protestants and Catholics both who will suggest that the Arians were just wicked, stubborn, or stupid. I don't believe it is necessarily so. I think some of them were smart, sincere, and even devout. The devout would of course, have yielded to Holy Mother Church after the Council. While I hold that the Scriptures must be materially sufficient to support the plausibility of Catholic doctrine, this is not enough to withhold the title of Christian from people who believe in the birth, death, and resurrection of God's Son while having doubts about later creeds of Christendom.

I don't know enough of the particular history to make any solid claims, but in general I tend to think that people's errors are (at least quite often) brought about by false premises or illogical thinking. They have been sold a bill of goods: some false teaching, and sincerely believe in it, but the thing itself is wrong from the outset. Have we not all experienced this in our own lives?

I was perfectly sincere when I was into the occult, was pro-abortion, a sexual liberal, etc. (all that changed by the early 80s, just for the record!).

Great comment. You stimulated much thought in me; hence my three replies.

* * *

What I have never understood is why Catholics . . . seem inclined to disregard Restoration movements such as Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam, or Bahai, as though they are even less tenable then Protestantism. If I weren't Catholic, I would consider the Restorationists as more viable candidates for my religious affiliation than any Protestant group that believes the Nicene Creed, but rejects the right reason for believing it.

It's a trifling, minor matter called the Holy Trinity. In other words, the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian.

My comment . . . which favored Islam, Mormonism, or Bahai claims were regarding the viability of Restoration vs. Reformation claims. My presumption was for the searcher who is for one reason or another, not considering the Catholic claim.

I find it an extraordinary position, especially having studied Jehovah's Witnesses in great depth (without ever dreaming of joining them), and having familiarity with evangelicalism and Catholicism both, from firsthand allegiance.

My reply intended no disrespect to the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. I am glad that most thoughtful Protestants accept it.

That's good to know. Yet by taking this position, you appear to lower the relative importance of the Trinity. That is what baffles me about it.

What I was saying is that if I was similarly seeking the true faith, I would have to dismiss Protestantism because of the way they claim to arrive at Nicene dogma.

Since when is the way we arrive at a truth more important than attaining to the truth itself? It's more important to accept and understand trinitarianism than it is to possess some semblance of tradition in one's view. One has to do with the very nature of God Himself; the other with a rule of faith and authority. To me, it is no contest between the two., if I am not mistaken, I recall that you would be in agreement with them, that even apart from Catholic authority, you would arrive at Nicene dogma from Scripture alone.

I didn't say exactly that. This is a complex issue. I've written more about it than anything else, including a book recently, critiquing sola Scriptura.

My position, briefly stated, is the following:

1) Scripture, is, by and large, clear, in its treatment of theological doctrines. The truth can be obtained by proper study. I've done this myself, many times, in Scripture study on various topics, and my experience has always been the same, for thirty years now.

2) Scripture is materially sufficient: it contains all Christian doctrines, either explicitly, implicitly, or by direct deduction from doctrines in the above two categories.

3) But Scripture is not formally sufficient (i.e., it is not alone the rule of faith). Formal sufficiency is the position of sola Scriptura; material sufficiency is distinct from that.

4) Massive use of Scripture in apologetics or systematic theology is not identical to sola Scriptura (making it the only formal and infallible authority). I specialize in biblical evidences for Catholic doctrine. But it is a serious mistake to assume that by dong this, somehow I am adopting anything remotely like the principle of sola Scriptura. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm doing what the fathers did: they usually argued from scripture first, in fighting heresy, but ultimately they appealed to tradition and the Church and apostolic succession as their ace in the hole. I don't appeal only to Scripture in my apologetics, because I also specialize in development of doctrine, history of doctrine, and have written books about the fathers, Luther, and Calvin also.

5) Though I think Scripture is clear on doctrine, for the most part, and definitely I think Arianism and other errors of that sort can be amply refuted from it, alone, nevertheless on the practical level of folks having different interpretations of Scripture, the Church is also necessary to authoritatively interpret. And this is done in the framework of tradition and apostolic succession.

6) With regard to, e.g., Arianism, clearly, many people through history have misinterpreted Scripture and have come to that conclusion. They can be refuted from Scripture (I have done so, and would be happy to do so again here, if someone wishes to defend Arianism), but because Scripture Alone has proven to be a failure through history, the Church also has to proclaim orthodoxy.

7) I also acknowledge that we all come to Scripture via a preexisting grid or bias, and that we benefit from hindsight. We have 2000 years of apostolic succession and Catholic pronouncements. Someone in the third or fourth century was much less equipped to know all that we know now. Trinitarianism was far less developed, so when they approached Scripture, it was that much more likely that they would come to an erroneous conclusion. And so they did. Arianism was refuted by Nicaea and the few councils afterwards.

I could go on and on about this, but that will suffice for now, as a summary of my position. I vehemently reject sola Scriptura, and perspicuity in the exact form that Protestants conceive it. But I think Scripture is pretty clear overall. If it were not, systematic theology would be very difficult for anyone to do.

It is becoming clearer to me why most faithful Catholics, including you, think Reformation movements are more viable options than the Restoration movements. It is because of a shared belief in a higher degree of confidence than I currently have regarding the clarity of Sacred Scripture, when Apostolic Tradition and the Catholic magisterium are set aside.

You may lack confidence in Scripture. Perhaps you have studied it relatively less (I don't know), but in any event, you have not properly understood my own position (and so perhaps you may possibly be misunderstanding other Catholics on this score). I haven't lowered tradition and the magisterium at all. I simply specialize in use of Scripture in my apologetics.

I'm a student of the Bible. I love it. Nothing gives me more joy than studying it, in greater and greater depth. I was collecting this very day, passages about the general resurrection. It's wonderful. I wouldn't trade my life as a writer and apologist for anything. I have the luxury of the time to study the Bible a lot as part of my vocation.

For my part, I have already expressed how I deny that we can prove the implausibility of heresy except with Scripture and Tradition (ratified by the authority of Christ's Church).

I believe in ratifying through Church authority, as I stated last time. But people can reject the Church, just as they reject Scripture. They are both authorities, and people want to often go their own way. David Waltz has now rejected the Church as infallible because it doesn't interpret theology and history (or ecclesiology or whatever) in the way that he thinks it should.

Having adopted the position that the Church had true authority, and was higher than individuals in determining the truth, and protected by God so as to be able to be infallible, now for some odd reason he has put himself higher than the Church. He has adopted private judgment. So what will be his standard of truth and orthodoxy now? Scripture? Arians believe in sola Scriptura. But I digress . . .

I thought I spotted an internal inconsistency in your own position (that you have not addressed). You stated:

I believe the Scriptures are materially sufficient to show plausibility of the true doctrine but not implausibility of the false doctrine.

And I replied:

if true doctrine can be shown in the Bible as plausible (as I certainly believe), are not the false doctrines shown to be implausible by virtue of being contrary to the manifestly plausible true scriptural doctrines? In other words, to use an example, by demonstrating the Trinity (and particularly the deity of Christ), Arianism is thus shown to be false (therefore, also implausible, since false).

If this is true (as I think it is), then the doctrine of Arianism can indeed be disproven by Scripture. But like I said, heretics will reject a correct reading of Scripture, and they will reject a Church if the Church tells them otherwise. So you and I can agree that the Church is necessary as the safeguard, but it can't stop heretics, either, if they are intent to leave the Church and no longer be under her infallible guidance.

In any event, I don't see how you can hold that Scripture can teach truth, but not by the same token condemn error, when that error is directly contrary to the truth that is able to be proved therein. You can't have one thing and not the other, if these conditions hold.

It would be difficult I think to persuade me that it is infidelity to deny the Nicene Trinity, the Assumption and Immaculate Conception of our Lady, pedo-baptism, or Transubstantiation from the Scriptures alone.

I disagree in the case of the Trinity. It is too obvious, from literally hundreds of Scriptures. The divinity of the Holy Spirit is relatively more difficult to establish, but it still is able to be demonstrated, with enough cross-referencing. I did it myself, as I said, way back in 1982:

The Holy Trinity: Biblical Proofs

Jesus is God: Biblical Proofs

I agree that the Assumption and Immaculate Conception are very difficult to see in Scripture Alone, but I have constructed wholly biblical arguments for both [follow the links in this sentence]. It takes some doing, but it is not impossible.

Infant baptism is not that hard to show (from the baptism of entire families and the analogy to circumcision).Transubstantiation is a much higher development of Real Presence, which is itself easy to demonstrate in Scripture: especially from John 6.

For me, your position draws too near to sola scriptura.

Then you have not understood it properly. Perhaps (hopefully) you better understand it now, after I have clarified. Protestants don't "own" Scripture, and I will refuse to my dying breath, to adopt the notion that anyone who concentrates on Scripture study must necessarily adopt sola Scriptura or even elements of it. Even thinking in these terms plays into Protestant errors.

I think this apparent disagreement between us about the perspicuity of Scripture alone on the subject of the Blessed Trinity

It would be interesting to me to see exactly what you think Scripture does teach about the Blessed Trinity, if you think it is so unclear on the matter. Do you think it is difficult to find explicit proofs even of Jesus' divinity, wit passages like, e.g., John 1:1 and Colossians 2:9, along with many others, and every attribute of God the Father also attributed to Jesus (excepting, of course, the possession of a body)?

explains why, if we put the Catholic Church out of the equation, I could more easily be LDS, while you could more easily be Methodist (or whatever). It is probably also at the root of why I would consider Mormons Christian, and you wouldn't. I find their radical departure from Catholic teaching to be a more likely scenario if I am looking for the one true church, than the Trinitarian Protestant who rejects the reason I am Trinitarian.

Okay. But again I see an inconsistency in your position. You're telling me we need the Catholic Church to proclaim dogmas, that we supposedly couldn't find ourselves in the Bible without her aid. So in that sense you grant to Holy Mother Church a profound authority. Yet you don't want to follow her guidance when it comes to the definition of what a Christian is. It is clear that trinitarianism is indispensable in that regard.

It is not Mormons who were referred to as separated brethren: that was Protestants. There is an essential difference. Protestants remain Christians because they have the correct theology of God, and they have true sacraments (baptism and marriage). Mormons have an incorrect doctrine of God, and their baptisms are invalid, because (as the Church has now made more clear) they have an erroneous understanding of trinitarianism.

So what makes you think that you can arbitrarily reject how the Church defines "Christian" and "separated brethren" on the one hand, yet claim to follow her tradition and authority all down the line, over against a fellow like me who is supposedly too close to the Protestant position, in how I approach Scripture? You're still picking and choosing what you will believe (from the Church) and what you will not believe, by her authority.

Even the WCC and NCC, as I understand it, didn't allow Mormons for many years, to be members, precisely because they were not trinitarian (I think they do now; I briefly looked some of that up). It's not as if only we Catholics have been saying this through the years.

Perhaps I have arrived at my position too subjectively.

Objectivity does have its place!

As a Protestant, I had always been able to be persuaded favorably of multiple theological systems reasoning from the Bible alone.

I think each false system can be decisively shown to be so, from the Bible. The fact that you were persuaded of many things, proves neither that:

1) Scripture is in fact unclear, nor

2) that the reasoning employed in each case was not shot through with self-contradiction, nor

3) that the ones arguing in each case were doing so fairly; taking all relevant Scripture into account.

I had been everywhere from ultra-dispensationalism to Wisconsin Synod Lutheran (and other stuff in-between). I was tossed to and fro by every wind, and I can still in my opinion defend the plausibility of the beliefs I once held from Scripture alone.

I think if we as individuals find ourselves being in five, ten, twenty different camps, then we have to start looking at ourselves: we may indeed qualify as one whom Paul described as being "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles" (Ephesians 4:14; RSV). Scripture is not to be blamed because a thousand different competing claims are supposedly derived from it. In effect, then, we would be blaming Scripture for our own shortcomings in discernment of theological truth.

It was in great part, the frustration of trying to discern between the claims of Hodge and Calvin, over against Spurgeon and Chafer, over against Luther and Chemnitz. Sola scriptura decided nothing for me. It drove me into the arms of Holy Mother Church as it offered a way of discerning truth that did not depend on my own abilities to expose the errors of biblical exegetes whose work seemed and still seems plausible, cut off from Catholic Tradition.

There is a lot of truth in that; I agree, but it still doesn't follow that Scripture is not clear. People simply need to become more familiar with it, and learn how to properly interpret it, within the framework of Holy Mother Church and supernatural faith.

I am willing to reevaluate my position. I will renounce my position if anyone can demonstrate that my negative view of the perspicuity of Scripture is incompatible with what the Catholic Church has proclaimed regarding the relationship between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

The Church relates those two to each other. What it doesn't do is require a given interpretation for every passage in Scripture. There are only seven such passages.

On the question of perspicuity in particular and what the Church teaches, I'd have to look up things to determine that. I don't know offhand. But I would contend that even citing a lot of Scripture (CCC, VII, any theology book or catechism or encyclical) presupposes that each verse is sufficiently clear to be cited as a more or less evident proof, without further comment.

Thanks for your consideration.

It is enjoyable discussion, though we disagree a bit. I firmly believe that dialogue can lead both participants closer to the fullness of truth.

I would like to add that between you and me, what I discussed above is an academic exercise. I think faithful Catholics can disagree until the Church further clarifies Her understanding of how Scripture and Tradition properly interact.

I think the Church has stated plenty about that. The Church will never disconnect herself from being a guide in Scriptural theology. There is no debate on that. But how relatively clear Scripture is regarded to be is probably an area where Catholics can disagree.

I do not know, but for David W., this question might have some importance as to how he was eventually led to where he finds himself now.

Perhaps. I've been waiting now for two weeks or so to see his reasons for his decision. Obviously, as Catholic apologist, in my opinion, there is no sufficiently good reason to leave the Catholic Church. And I can back up my statement with argument; I don't merely assert it as if I consider it an unarguable maxim.

I am not privy to any great details regarding my friend's departure from the faith into which I sponsored him in 2002. He kept most of it to himself and we have had only a brief but very amiable phone conversation since he broke the news. I am still wildly curious about the way he began to doubt papal/ecclesiastical infallibility.

Me, too. But I think I have a clue, with all these allusion to Arianism and Mormonism floating around, and having discovered that David has had very serious interaction with both Mormons and "anti-Mormons."

I think we could get sidetracked if we read too much into your questions he did not answer. I suggest that his reasoning for accepting Mormons as Christian might be similar to mine.

I don't see how it can stand proper scrutiny.

Further, if he is not Catholic, I tend to think he would be as I am with regard to whether we can dismiss Arianism from the Scriptures alone. I know you disagree with it, but I am hoping you can follow the line of thinking that may lead him to be open to Arianism or inclusive with a word that can be defined in multiple ways and which to my knowledge has never been formally defined by the Church.

The word "Christian"? If that is what you mean, it has been defined by direct implication of which groups are considered "brethren in Christ." Obviously Muslims are not in that category; nor are Jews. Nor are Mormons and Arians and Unitarians, etc. They are outside the parameters of Christianity.

According to CCC #818 (citing the Decree on Ecumenism, 3, 1, from Vatican II, which itself cites the Council of Florence in 1439), those who are baptized "have a right to be called Christians." Since Mormon baptism has been rejected as invalid, because of the rejection of orthodox trinitarianism, and the trinitarian formula (along with correct intention) is essential to baptism; therefore, the Trinity is a necessary element in the definition of the word "Christian."

Isn't that clear enough? Baptism is required, and legitimate baptism requires belief in trinitarianism, in the way that the Church teaches it; therefore, belief in the Trinity is essential to the definition of "Christian."

The Decree on Ecumenism in section 1 is even more explicit. It refers to "the restoration of unity among all Christians. Taking part in this movement, which is called ecumenical, are 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 the corporate groups in which they have heard the Gospel . . . "

Thus, again, trinitarianism is central in the definition of a Christian, and this is in a document from an ecumenical council: even within the portion that was specifically ecumenical. Being ecumenical doesn't require watering down doctrines or pretending to believe things that we don't believe.

In what sense is this insufficient to immediately resolve the question for a Catholic who is giving assent to all that the Church requires?

Thank you for your comprehensive examination of my post of a few days ago. I promise to give it a lot of thought.

I got into a little debate . . . Sunday night and this question of definition of Christian came up (he taking your position). I had already seen that The Catechism of Pope Pius X insists upon valid baptism. I will probably concede that this is the official Catholic definition. But then I will add some things that you still won't like. Heh. I said...I'll be thinking about your whole reply and will try to respond before Dave returns (around Saturday). I bet we'll get something by next week at this time from him. Thanks again.

Well, thanks for taking the whole thing in good spirits. Sometimes folks are offended by my vigorous style of discussion. It's just love of dialogue and debate, not intended to be "personal."

God bless.