Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Did Martin Luther Suffer From Neurosis? Some Protestant Biographers Think So

1) Mark U. Edwards, Jr., in Donald K. McKim, The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), p. 205:

Most scholars freely concede the unusual and perhaps even abnormal aspects of Luther's personality, without accepting the diagnosis that attributes these traits to an underlying psychosis. By most standards, Luther was a neurotic man who, later in life, suffered from bouts of depression. Given all the evidence of productivity, clarity of thought, and ability to work with others, however, it is highly doubtful that he can be properly diagnosed as a psychotic.

2) Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2nd edition, 1914 ), Preface to the Second Edition, p. viii:

Of Luther's early life and development prior to 1517 I have now arrived at a somewhat different conception from that set forth in the present biography. Sturdy as was the Saxon's constitution, a neurotic vein may be detected in his violence of language, in his obsession by the devil, and, one is tempted to add, in that conception of God as a cruel and capricious tyrant, which he himself confessed was repugnant to natural feeling.

3) R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, revised edition of 1997; paperback edition of 2000), p. 78:

Luther's chronic stomach troubles have also been linked to a psychosomatic problem. His neurotic phobias all seemed to go directly to his stomach, destroying his digestion.

4) Michael A. Mullett, Martin Luther (Florence, Kentucky: Routledge, 2004), p. 101:

. . . the kind of extreme scrupulosity that Luther himself had known over trivial offenses . . .

[Overscruposity is considered a neurosis]

Addendum: My Strong Disagreement With Attempts to Classify Luther as a Psychotic, Madman, Demon-Possessed, or Insane

[written in reply to a Catholic who thinks this]

We have some disagreement on Luther. I think he suffered from cyclical depression and overscrupulosity. I don't think he was "nuts," though. Manic-depression or bipolar disorder (even if he suffered from that, and I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility, though I don't positively assert it) is more of an emotional malady than a mental one. One doesn't usually lose touch with reality. It is emotional highs and lows. I minored in psychology and know a little bit about this stuff.

Neurosis is a different thing. We know that Luther was overscrupulous, from the reports of his ridiculously detailed confessions as a Catholic monk. Talking to the devil doesn't necessarily prove anything. Jesus did that. I'm sure many saints have as well. It could possibly be a weird thing, but not necessarily.

I don't see the benefit of arguing that he was nuts. It is only seen as a personal attack. I prefer to stick to his false theology and ideas. That's where the heart of the discussion lies. As for this other stuff, I go with what almost all Protestant biographers believe: he suffered from periodic serious depression and had some other eccentricities.

We need not regard a man as either evil or insincere (let alone nuts or demon-possessed) because he taught some false theology. He was still a Christian.

Related Reading:


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Surprised by Truth": Interviews on the Radio With Talk Show Host Al Kresta: Audio Collection From Dave Armstrong

[see the Catholic Apologetics Audio Resources Page for the introduction to this series and information about my entire audio output]

"Surprised by Truth": Three Radio Interviews With Al Kresta

[Eight mp3 files (256kbps) / About 90 Minutes Total ]

Only $9.95

Purchase from Payloadz
/ Instant Download

This is a collection of radio interviews with my good friend Al Kresta: fellow author (Why Do Catholics Genuflect?, Why Are Catholics So Concerned About Sin?, and Moments of Grace) and well-known, nationally syndicated talk show host. Al used to be my pastor for a time when I was an evangelical Protestant, and we have known each other since 1982. He is a "revert" to the faith, and my story and his were the last two of the first volume of the series, Surprised by Truth (1994). I received permission from Al to sell these.

1) "My Conversion Story"

Al Kresta Show Live / WDEO 990 AM Ann Arbor, MI

(8 September 1997)

Length: 28 minutes [one mp3 file: "Armstrong Conversion (9-8-97)" ]

[see also the transcript of this interview]

This is the most "informal" and conversational version of my conversion story. Other versions have been published in Surprised by Truth (edited by Patrick Madrid, San Diego: Basilica Press, 1994), The Latin Mass magazine, and The Coming Home Journal.

2) "Discussion of My Book: A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, and Further Aspects of My Conversion to Catholicism"

Kresta in the Afternoon / WDEO 990 AM Ann Arbor, MI

(30 April 2002)

Length: 40 minutes total. Five files:

1. 11:54 in length [ "BiblicalDefenseOfCatholicism-1 (4-30-02)" ]
2. 8:14 [ "BiblicalDefenseOfCatholicism-2 (4-30-02)" ]
3. 8:28 [ "BiblicalDefenseOfCatholicism-3 (4-30-02)" ]
4. 11:12 [ "BiblicalDefenseOfCatholicism-4 (4-30-02)" ]
5. 0:48 [ "BiblicalDefenseOfCatholicism-5 (4-30-02)" ]

Al gives some good plugs of my book and we discuss how it came to be written, the methodology employed, and reasons why I converted: particularly the topic of contraception. I also field some telephone calls: including one from an anti-Catholic Protestant, where Al Kresta joined in and vigorously defended the Catholic view.

3) "Discussion of My Book: The Catholic Answer Bible and General Catholic Apologetics"

[this volume has since been expanded as The New Catholic Answer Bible, with co-author Dr. Paul Thigpen, but the original version had only my own apologetics inserts: without my name mentioned anywhere, oddly enough]

Kresta in the Afternoon / WDEO 990 AM Ann Arbor, MI

(2 April 2004)

Length: 22 minutes total. Two files:

1. 10:22 [ "CatholicAnswerBible-1 (4-2-04)" ]
2. 11:00 [ "CatholicAnswerBible-2 (4-2-04)" ]

Several apologetic topics are covered and more enthusiastic plugs of the book are given. Al admits that we are friends (I am the godfather of one of his sons), but says that if he didn't like my books he wouldn't have me on the air talking about them!

* * *

Purchase from Payloadz
($9.95) / Instant Download


Monday, April 26, 2010

Loving Ourselves as God Loves Us

Here's something a bit different from my usual writing. It came about on the CHNI forum. One woman was expressing her fears about "measuring up" as a Catholic and of being lukewarm and not fully surrendering to God; not being "perfect," etc. I had a few thoughts on that:

* * * * *

It's all about God's mercy and love. We are all part of the fall, and we struggle with concupiscence, temptation, and various manifest shortcomings in our lives every day. But God loves us now: not some ideal of what we will be one day by His grace. Therefore, it is foolish for us to have higher standards for ourselves, in order to love and accept ourselves (faults and sins notwithstanding), than God Himself does.

It is the case with most of us that our heads can understand these things, but not our heart. All we can do is truly fall on our faces and rely on God's mercy. If we keep doing that, as a deliberate act of the will, eventually it does indeed filter down to our hearts, and we begin to feel it, too.

Human beings are that way. Many times in life we have to decide to do something because it is right (or true). And so we make an act of the will. If we keep doing that, it becomes a habit. If we keep up the habit it becomes a virtue, and eventually it becomes part of us and is as natural as breathing.

I think that is the case here. We have to keep "conditioning" ourselves that God loves us as we are. We have to get out of the mold or rut we have gotten into, and start looking at things from God's perspective.

You (and anyone else) can do this! And you can because if you know it is right you can decide to start thinking in a different way so it becomes part of your heart in due course. And you can do all this primarily because God gives you the grace and strength to do anything He wants you to do.

Even on a human level we can observe such a dynamic. My wife, for example, had some problems in terms of self-image and what she had often been told in her life before I met her. I rejected these. I told her that they were not true: that she was not what folks thought, in certain aspects. Well, lo and behold, after some years of having her husband positively reinforce her, now she no longer believes those things. It was a matter of reinforcement and thinking about something in a different way.

I see the same thing in my children. Sometimes they don't feel loved (due to discipline) or feel that one is being favored or whatever (typical sibling, children stuff). But we just keep telling them how much we love and admire them for who they are, and eventually it sinks in and they feel better about themselves.

One of my sons in particular had some self-image issues because he was strong-willed and hence, was disciplined a bit more than the others. But he has come out fine. Yesterday, in fact, he just got an award for outstanding service of young people in their churches. Out of 12 parishes, only six young people were given this award (and just one other young man), and there was my son (16yo): one of them. I was so proud I think I busted three buttons on my shirt. And of course my wife felt just as I did. It was wonderful.

That's like God, "rooting" for us and loving us unconditionally. All we have to do is learn to trust in His mercy and love. If we keep doing that, our own opinions will change, too.

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 (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 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, 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.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview for Catholic Books and Gifts / Catholic Free Shipping
Dave & Judy Armstrong: December 1991: I was a father, a Catholic, and had a driving / delivery job (all new things in that year). My first published article (in The Catholic Answer) was just 13 months away. I had already written by this time my conversion story in Surprised by Truth and portions of my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism

Please visit Catholic Books and Gifts and purchase their products. You can see this interview on that website, too.

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1. What influenced you to take up apologetics?

Initially it was exposure to C. S. Lewis in the late 70s that pushed me in that direction. I read Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters and enjoyed them all very much. I was in college at the time and concerned, as an evangelical Protestant, about being able to defend my faith in a rational manner, over against all the secularism that one gets in colleges these days. I wanted to integrate faith and reason; religion and rationality: to love God with my mind as well as my heart, soul, and strength (as our Lord Jesus Himself commanded us to do). But my Christian faith was still forming at that time: having been very secularized and indeed, almost nonexistent for the previous ten or so years.

The next phase was to become acquainted with the historical apologetics of Josh McDowell: his book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. The name of my old website (1997-2007) and current blog is derived from that book: Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. I was also highly influenced by the Presbyterian apologist Francis Schaeffer in the early 80s. I started reading a lot, doing "Bible research" projects like studying the biblical rationale for the Trinity and deity of Christ, and also learning about heretical sects like the Jehovah's Witnesses and doing outreach to them along with street witnessing: particularly at the Ann Arbor Art Fair all through the 80s.

Also, I got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship in college. From 1985 to 1989 I did campus outreach and evangelism at the University of Michigan, sponsored by my churches. So I was trying to cultivate a "thinking man's evangelicalism" in those years. Once I became a Catholic in 1990, it was natural to progress right along to Catholic apologetics as well. I still do general Christian apologetics, but now I also defend the teachings of the Catholic Church, and especially try to show that they are as grounded in the Bible as any Protestant denomination.

2. What is the hardest part about apologetics? Easiest? The most satisfying? The most disappointing?

The hardest part (and most disappointing) is when you come up against a will or a mind that is immune to argument and reasoning: as with the fringe group of anti-Catholics or many atheists, and some other categories that I won't name! I find that very difficult when I feel that a person has a closed mind because of the environment he is in. It's immensely frustrating. I have seen many times the dynamic of the old saying: "a man convinced against his will retains his original beliefs still." Of course, the Holy Spirit has to break down the will that is opposing the truth. But hopefully, He uses us apologists -- weak vessels that we are -- to help "remove roadblocks" and eliminate groundless objections.

The easiest part of it is doing what I love and showing how falsehoods are untrue. In other words, if the truth is on our side it is a lot easier to defend that than to defend opinions that are false in the first place. It's like being an attorney with a terrible case to try to win: where the person truly seems guilty of the crime.

The most satisfying aspect of apologetics is to see people come into the fullness of the Catholic Church and to observe the joy and enthusiasm they have at that time and thereafter. I work part-time at The Coming Home Network, on their forum, and this Easter we had at least 30 people enter the Church. That's why I do what I do. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. This is what God called me to do with my life. I want to do my part to help Catholics be happier, more fulfilled, and confident in what they believe, so that they can in turn effectively share their faith, and the "pearl of great price" with others. The harvest is ready . . .

3. What is the most common question you find yourself defending?

The basis of Catholic beliefs in the Bible (far and away), and especially the basis of Catholic authority (which gets into the areas of sola Scriptura -- i.e., the Protestant notion of "Scripture Alone" as the only infallible authority -- and the papacy and various aspects of Sacred Tradition). That's convenient for me because that has always been my deliberate emphasis in my apostolate: showing the biblical rationale for Catholic beliefs. One can see that theme in my books. The Bible is the common ground that we share with our Protestant brethren, so if we wish to persuade them, we have to argue from that ground. They don't accept what "some pope said 200 years ago." That is not their authority. But if one makes a solid argument from the Bible, they have to grapple with that; they can't casually dismiss it as what they see as "arbitrary authority."

4. What advice would you give to a person who is struggling with accepting a tenet of their Catholic faith?

I would tell them first to pray about it: ask God to reveal to them that it is true (if indeed it is, and they already suspect that it is or they wouldn't be struggling), since faith is not merely about reason. It is supernatural and a gift from God. Therefore, we have to exercise faith and pray. Secondly, I would direct them to resources (including my own) that can explain exactly what it is we believe as Catholics (catechetics) and how and why we believe it (apologetics). And I usually direct them to free information on the Internet. If they are mightily struggling with one particular thing, then I recommend books that I think can help them to reach certitude, in faith. I feel that solid answers can be given for anything to do with the Catholic faith: if not from my own body of work, then certainly from someone else: including the great saints and Doctors of the Church.

5. What are your thoughts on recent events in our Church, namely with the attacks on Benedict XVI and health care?

I think the Holy Father is being treated abominably. The sexual scandal is not his fault at all. He is probably doing more than anyone else in the Church to stop this horrific abuse from taking place. Yet he is the target. I think the enemies of the Church know full well who to attack if they want to minimize the impact of the Church. But it will backfire, as these attempts always do. It reminds me a lot of how Pope Pius XII is treated over the Holocaust issue. It is estimated that he was responsible for saving 800,000 Jews: a lot more than any secular group, for sure. Yet he is the one who is lied about and pilloried. It is a gross injustice. We need to defend our popes when they are innocent of these absurd charges.

The Church's position on health care is exactly right, in my opinion. It is concerned for availability of health care to all; providing for the poor, but in a way that does not promote either abortion or socialism. The Church favors subsidiarity: things ought to be run on as local a level as possible, and truly helping all people, including the smallest and oldest and weakest among us. The Church, as so often, teaches and preaches a "third way" that is neither conservative nor liberal, in political terms.

6. What are you working on now?

I've been doing some writing on Calvinism, preparing some audio collections on themes (basically reading of Internet papers), and will soon be working on a revision of my book on sola Scriptura, for likely publication with a major Catholic publisher. In the next six months I'd also like to compile books on the biblical evidences for Catholic soteriology (theology of salvation) and Mariology.

7. What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy when not writing books?

I absolutely love the outdoors and travel. We are planning a family trip out west, which will be our third such trip in five years, and it is no small project, starting from southeast Michigan. We camp and take a lot of our own food, to save money, and avoid expensive museums! I'm a nature freak and also an avid music lover and collector (many kinds of music, including classical, and I can play about nine instruments). My third great non-theological love is sports. I still play softball, tennis, ping pong, pool, basketball, like swimming, and have taken up bowling recently. I once went hang gliding, and have been in gliders, small planes, and a helicopter. I also went whitewater rafting on one occasion. I have a daredevil aspect of my personality. I love good movies and documentaries (we watch TV as a family almost every night: strict quality control of what we watch!), and playing chess. I like group discussions and "heavy" dialogues (not just about theology). I love history and philosophy, and they often tie in with my work. And of course I love books of all sorts!

8. Who is your Confirmation Patron Saint, and why did you choose him/her?

It was a little different. I chose John Henry. By that I meant Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, because he was the biggest intellectual / theological influence on my conversion. I had read his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and that put me over the edge. Development remains one of my very favorite sub-topics in apologetics, but it is generally very difficult to discuss, since people often have a poor understanding of it, and confuse it with the heretical "evolution of dogma".

9. What is your favorite book in the Bible? Verse? Biblical figure?

The book is probably John. I love Isaiah in the Old Testament: sweeping, majestic language. My favorite verse is Romans 8:28: "all things work together for good . . . " That's wonderful: a whole philosophy of life right there . . . And my favorite biblical figure (after our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, I suppose) is the Apostle Paul. I love him, and I am constantly thinking about his reasoning and writings in doing apologetics. It is said that Paul could have been the greatest philosopher of his time if he weren't an apostle. I think he is one of the most extraordinary thinkers who ever lived. He's amazing.

10. Name a Catholic person you admire who provides a positive and inspiring model of our faith, and why.

St. Francis of Assisi. I immensely admire him because he was totally committed to God, and had such a beautiful approach to life: a gentleness and holiness and simplicity (of exactly the right sort) that is immediately striking and "draws one in." That kind of complete dedication has always appealed to me, and I should be more than happy to attain one-tenth of the zeal that he had.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Biblical Evidence Against Double Predestination From Lack of Parallelism in Descriptive Terms for the Damned + Non-Calvinist Exegesis of Romans 9

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Hats off to blog regular Maroun for citing a great argument of this sort in an open forum combox, from St. John Chrysostom, who wrote:

Of what honor, of what blessedness are these words? And He said not, Take, but, “Inherit,” as one’s own, as your Father’s, as yours, as due to you from the first. For, before you were, saith He, these things had been prepared, and made ready for you, forasmuch as I knew you would be such as you are.

And in return for what do they receive such things? For the covering of a roof, for a garment, for bread, for cold water, for visiting, for going into the prison. For indeed in every case it is for what is needed; and sometimes not even for that. For surely, as I have said, the sick and he that is in bonds seeks not for this only, but the one to be loosed, the other to be delivered from his infirmity. But He, being gracious, requires only what is within our power, or rather even less than what is within our power, leaving to us to exert our generosity in doing more.

But to the others He saith, “Depart from me, ye cursed,” (no longer of the Father; for not He laid the curse upon them, but their own works), “into the everlasting fire, prepared,” not for you, but “for the devil and his angels.” For concerning the kingdom indeed, when He had said, “Come, inherit the kingdom,” He added, “prepared for you before the foundation of the world;” but concerning the fire, no longer so, but, “prepared for the devil.” I, saith He, prepared the kingdom for you, but the fire no more for you, but “for the devil and his angels;” but since ye cast yourselves therein, impute it to yourselves. And not in this way only, but by what follows also, like as though He were excusing Himself to them, He sets forth the causes.

(Homily 78 on Matthew 25:1-30; NPNF 1-10]

This put in my head the idea of doing a Scripture study of "prepare" and "called" and "predestined" and other similar terms, in relation to heaven, to see if these are ever used in a parallel fashion of hell as well, so that there is an equivalence: "prepared (etc.) for heaven" / "prepared for hell." Matthew 25 shows that this is not the case. What do other related passages teach us about this?

* * * * *

[all Bible passages: RSV]

Green highlighting = allusions to heaven or election
Blue highlighting = "prepare" motifs
Red highlighting = hell or damnation motifs

Matthew 25:34, 41 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world';. . . [41] Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels';

Matthew 20:23 He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."

Mark 10:40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.

John 10:27-28 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; [28] and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.

John 14:2-3 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [3] And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 17:2-3 since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

Acts 13:46, 48 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. . . . [48] And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

We see precisely what the Catholic Church -- and Orthodoxy and Lutheran and Arminian and Wesleyan Protestantism -- teaches, and what Calvinism rejects: God didn't select the damned from all eternity; they judged themselves by rejecting the gospel, making themselves "unworthy of eternal life." But those who would attain eternal life were ordained or predestined to that, though not without their free will consent.

Romans 1:6-7 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; [7] To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: . . .

Romans 2:6-8 For he will render to every man according to his works: [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; [8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.

Note the lack of equivalent descriptions: to the elect God will "give eternal life." But for the reprobate "there will be wrath and fury": a more neutral description that doesn't on the face of it seem to imply predestination from all eternity.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, we see a lack of parallelism: the fate of the damned is more passive in relation to God's hand in it, whereas the predestination of the elect is the positive "free gift of God".

Romans 8:28-30 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 9:23-24 in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, [24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Romans 11:2, 5 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. . . . [5] So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

1 Corinthians 1:2, 9 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: . . . [9] God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:24 . . . those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, . . . (cf. 7:20-22, 24; Eph 4:1, 4; Col 3:15; 1 Thess 4:7; 1 Pet 1:15; 2:9, 21; 3:9; 2 Pet 1:3)

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,"

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. [5] He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Galatians 1:15 . . . he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,

Yet Galatians 1:6 shows that this call and grace is not irrevocable or irresistible; i.e., not ordered by God apart from our free will, since it can be deserted: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel".

Ephesians 1:3-8 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. [5] He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace [8] which he lavished upon us. (cf. 1:9, 11-12)

Ephesians 1:17-20 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Colossians 3:12 . . . God's chosen ones . . .

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you;

1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

The latter passage might be interpreted as implying the possibility of being predestined to damnation, and indeed this is logically possible, but it doesn't necessarily follow from this language. In the absence of positive assertions elsewhere in Scripture of predestination to damnation (along with positive ones about election: see, e.g., Acts 13:48; Rom 8:29-20; Eph 1:4-5; Rev 13:8 elsewhere in this paper) , it is more plausible to interpret this as simply saying, "God did not do x in our case" -- theologically extrapolated in light of the absence of cross-reference corroboration to, "God does not do x."

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, [8] inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. [9] They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

The damned are in that horrible state not only because of the fall of Adam and Eve and God's decree from all eternity, but precisely because they did "not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." Judgment as to whether one is saved or not is consistently rendered on this basis in Scripture. I found, in fact, 50 passages asserting this notion; this not only asserts aspects of Calvinism and TULIP, but also the sola fide doctrine of larger Protestantism. Cf. Heb 5:9: "he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him".

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. [14] To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

This is very interesting insofar as the calling seems to take place at the time the confession is made, rather than from all eternity; there can be different senses of "call" in the Bible, as with most words, but it is fascinating that "eternal life" seems directly tied with individual acceptance rather than God's predestination. Again, we see the mysterious paradoxical existence of free will alongside predestination. Both are asserted in Scripture, so the Bible student must accept both; not rule one out because some man-made tradition dictates it.

2 Timothy 1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago,

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Hebrews 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

1 Peter 1:1-2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappado'cia, Asia, and Bithyn'ia, [2] chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: (cf. 2:4, 9)

1 Peter 5:10 . . .
the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ . . .

Jude 6-8 And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; [7] just as Sodom and Gomor'rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. [8] Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones.

Behavior and rejection of God is the cause for damnation, not a predestined decree by God that made it impossible for the fate of the damned to be otherwise.

2 Peter 2:1, 15 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.. . . [15] Forsaking the right way they have gone astray . . .

This contradicts Calvinism all over the place (a very fitting thing for the first Catholic pope to do!). If these are people who never were saved (as a Calvinist would say), then how can it be stated that Jesus "bought them"? That would refute Limited Atonement, since Jesus only "buys" those who are indeed saved and of the elect, and Perseverance as well, since they were bought by Jesus but yet later denied Him. Secondly, they are here sentencing themselves and in effect casting themselves into hell (with free will and post-Fall rebellion against God), rather than God decreeing and ordaining and predestining and deciding that from all eternity.

They were once "in" the "right way," otherwise they could not be described as "forsaking" it. Nor can one go "astray" from a state one was never in. Peter states in 2:17 that "for them the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved," but this is not the same as saying it was predestined for eternity that they should go there. This is one of many many cases where the Bible teaches one thing, Calvinism another. Later in the chapter, Peter makes a very strong denial of Perseverance of the Saints and Irresistible Grace:

2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. [21] For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. [22] It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.

These people escaped "the defilements," meaning they were in good graces with God by means of Jesus' work. They went from a "bad" state to a "good" one. They left their "vomit" but then later returned to it. When Peter says "they are again entangled in them and overpowered," it is yet more proof that they were in the pool of the saved and the justified, but went back to their old ways. If indeed this was not possible: that no one can ever go from one state to the other, then the very words "again" and "escaped" and "turned back" comparisons of one state over against another (with these folks having been in both camps) would be perfectly senseless; literally nonsense. But we can't accuse inspired Scripture of that, so it must be Calvinism that is the nonsense.

While we're on the theme of additional disproofs of Calvinism, here is another refutation of Limited Atonement:

Acts 3:26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.

God doesn't select just a few for His elect and let the others go to hell by His non-action. He desires to save "every one".

Revelation 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.

Revelation 17:8 . . . the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world . . .(cf. 17:14: "called and chosen and faithful")

There is no "book of death," as if that were predestined from all eternity, too. There is only a "book of life": positive predestination for the elect, but not predestined reprobation, or negative predestination (or, double predestination).

See also the biblical use of "elect" -- referring to those who will be eschatologically saved and attain heaven, but never applied to the damned (Matt 24:22, 24, 31; Mk 13:20, 22, 27; Lk 18:7; Rom 8:33; 11:7; 2 Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet 1:10).

There are only a few passages I could find in my fairly comprehensive scriptural survey that imply that God predestines the damned to their fate:

Romans 11:7-10 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, [8] as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day." [9] And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; [10] let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs for ever."

This language of "hardening," I have explained adequately, I think, in several past papers, showing that it is pungent Hebraic idiomatic language for God's Providence. He utilizes men's sin for His purposes and plan, but it doesn't follow that He Himself hardens anyone apart from their own previous free will decision (or that He ever is the author of sin and evil). See:

Supposed Contradiction Between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 (God or Satan as Cause?)

Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? (Does God Positively Ordain Evil?) (vs. [atheist] "DagoodS")

Reply to a Calvinist Critique Concerning the "Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart" (vs. Colin Smith)

Even beyond the argument from use of biblical language and anthropomorphic language with reference to God, this cannot logically apply to predestination from eternity anyway, unless it is applied to a supralapsarian scenario, whereby God predestined even the fall of man (rather than it being a free choice). Supralapsarianism is rejected by the majority of Calvinists throughout history. Many Calvinists claim that even John Calvin rejected it (my position is that he was indeed a supralapsarian).

If it is an eternal decree of hardening, it had to apply to the state of man before the fall, because at that time he was good, since God created him good. But this would entail a good God after a good creation deliberately decreeing that certain of his good created men would be damned. They were created to be damned. This would clearly make God the author of evil and cast serious doubts on His character as a loving, merciful God and His justice. That is supralapsarian, and we can readily see why even most Calvinists, historically, and presently, reject it.

The same Scripture cannot apply to infralapsarianism because after the fall, the whole of humanity was in sin and fallen; therefore, men (all men) already were hardened and He couldn't have chosen from the whole group to harden some. If they already were in such a state, then God couldn't have decreed that some should attain to that, unless He had in fact decreed it before the fall ever took place, or (more accurately, if we want to get technical) as applied logically to pre-fallen man.

Romans 11:28-32 As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. [29] For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. [30] Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, [31] so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. [32] For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. (cf. 1 Peter 2:8)

This looks like a very difficult passage for a Calvinist to explain according to his system. The Jews are described as "enemies of God" insofar as they largely rejected the gospel. Yet they are also described as of the elect, since "the call of God" is "irrevocable." If this call of God can never be affected by free will, then it looks like Paul is here teaching that all Jews will be saved, since they are elect and chosen. But we know that to not be the case. Therefore, Paul's type of language and idiom must somehow explain his thought otherwise. To top it off, he says that "God has consigned all men to disobedience" (that is, they all fell). That doesn't work with Calvinism, either, because according to them, He only consigned some to that. Nor does having "mercy upon all" fit into the Limited Atonement schema. For the Calvinist, God doesn't even desire of decree mercy for all; He does so only for some: the elect.

The Great Calvinist Bible Argument: their favorite by far, and one trumpeted endlessly, is Romans 9. Here is the portion that Calvinists employ to defend their theological system of TULIP:

Romans 9:6-24 But it is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, [7] and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." [8] This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants. [9] For this is what the promise said, "About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son." [10] And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, [11] though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, [12] she was told, "The elder will serve the younger." [13] As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." [14]What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! [15] For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." [16] So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy. [17] For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." [18] So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. [19] You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" [20] But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me thus?" [21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? [22] What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, [23] in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, [24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

This seems very strong and invulnerable, but it is also almost unique in the Bible, in its pattern of argument or presentation, as we can see from all the other scriptures collected above. Is there a way to exegete this in a fashion that is consistent with a non-Calvinist interpretation of predestination and election, over against the distinctive Calvinist doctrines of TULIP?

One possible (and to me, quite plausible) way of providing a non-Calvinist take of Romans 9 came from Protestant apologist James Patrick Holding, drawing in turn from scholar Marvin Wilson's Our Father Abraham, and the notion of Hebrew "block logic". Wilson's writings include A Workbook for New Testament Greek: Grammar and Exegesis in First John and Dictionary of Bible Manners and Customs (with highly respected Evangelical scholars Edwin Yamauchi and R. K. Harrison). Holding writes:

Let me state further that Wilson's "block logic" comment is further substantiated by points made in Pilch and Malina's Handbook of Biblical Social Values, which describes the ancient mind as one practiced in dualistic thought. Put another way, there is no "middle ground" where neutral value is assigned, and expressions are made in terms of "black and white". I would add that Wilson is far from my only source; nor are Pilch and Malina, as indeed in the same article I go on to relate the matter to Ecclesiastes, based on solid OT scholarship. . . .

Hebrew "block logic" operated on similar principles. "...[C]oncepts were expressed in self-contained units or blocks of thought. These blocks did not necessarily fit together in any obviously rational or harmonious pattern, particularly when one block represented the human perspective on truth and the other represented the divine. This way of thinking created a propensity for paradox, antimony, or apparent contradiction, as one block stood in tension -- and often illogical relation -- to the other. Hence, polarity of thought or dialectic often characterized block logic." Examples of this in practice are the alternate hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God, or by Pharaoh himself; and the reference to loving Jacob while hating Esau -- both of which, significantly, are referred to often by Calvinist writers.

Wilson continues: "Consideration of certain forms of block logic may give one the impression that divine sovereignty and human responsibility were incompatible. The Hebrews, however, sense no violation of their freedom as they accomplish God's purposes." The back and forth between human freedom and divine sovereignty is a function of block logic and the Hebrew mindset. Writers like Palmer who proudly declare that they believe what they read in spite of what they see as an apparent absurdity are ultimately viewing the Scriptures, wrongly, through their own Western lens in which they assume that all that they read is all that there is.

What this boils down to is that Paul presents us with a paradox in Romans 9, one which he, as a Hebrew, saw no need to explain. "..[T]he Hebrew mind could handle this dynamic tension of the language of paradox" and saw no need to unravel it as we do. And that means that we are not obliged to simply accept Romans 9 at "face value" as it were, because it is a problem offered with a solution that we are left to think out for ourselves. There will be nothing illicit about inserting concepts like primary causality, otherwise unknown in the text.

. . . as we have noted, expression in extremes is not a characteristic of Hebrew thought alone.

Second and more importantly, Paul was a Hebrew; he quotes from sources in Hebrew . . . and communicating in Greek changes neither of these points. Indeed, lingusitic studies by such as Casey indicate . . . that bilingual interference points to Paul preserving his Hebrew linguistic and thought-forms, even as he communicates in Greek. . . .

It remains that Paul is not making a logical argument, any more than God made one (or had to) before Job. Indeed, the example of Job points to what I am talking about, and what Wilson otherwise relates: The Hebrews had experienced God personally at Sinai; it would be absurd to come to such people and say (for example), "You need the logic of the kalam cosmological argument to prove that God exists." . . . Romans 9 is no "answer" at all in the Western sense; like the book of Job, it is God from the whirlwind saying, "That's none of your concern."

. . . I agree that mercy and compassion -- the offering of covenant kinship and consideration -- are free. It is once we are within that relationship that rewards and punishments begin to come into play . . . Nevertheless this does not prove in any sense that God did not create people with certain characteristics that suited His purposes. . . . And yes, there does remain a contrast, in my view, between mercy and hardening: It is the stark contrast between covenant concern and non-covenant disregard. And yes, the will of God is to decide who He enters into kinship relationships with. But no, this still doesn't eliminate characteristics as a factor in God choosing people for specific assignments; and it does not eliminate free choice of humans as a factor in salvation . . .

For more on this sort of analysis of Hebrew "block logic" and Hebrew thought in general, see:

The Hebrew Mind vs. the Western Mind (Brian Knowles)

Hebrew Thought Compared to Greek (Western) Thought (N'tan Lawrence)

The Bible Idea of Time: How Archaic Hebrew Thought Is Constructed Differently than Our Thought Today (Kerry A. Shirts)

Biblical Paradox: Does Revelation Challenge Logic? (David Basinger, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 1987, 205-213)

St. John Chrysostom interpreted this passage in a non-Calvinistic fashion also:

Paul says this in order not to do away with free will but rather to show to what extent we ought to obey God. We should be as little inclined to call God to account as a piece of clay is."

Homilies in Romans 16, NPNF 1 11:467)

God does nothing at random or by mere chance, even if you do not understand the secrets of his wisdom. You allow the potter to make different things from the same lump of clay and find no fault with him, but you do not grant the same freedom to God! . . . How monstrous this is. It is not on the potter that the honor or dishonor of the vessel depends but rather on those who make use of it. It is the same way with people - it all depends on their own free choice."

(Homilies on Romans 16.46; NPNF 1 11:468)

Methodist commentator Adam Clarke provides another plausible non-Calvinist take on Paul's mention of Jacob and Esau:

Verse 12. The elder shall serve the younger] These words, with those of Malachi, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated, are cited by the apostle to prove, according to their typical signification, that the purpose of God, according to election, does and will stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; that is, that the purpose of God, which is the ground of that election which he makes among men, unto the honour of being Abraham's seed, might appear to remain unchangeable in him; and to be even the same which he had declared unto Abraham. That these words are used in a national and not in a personal sense, is evident from this: that, taken in the latter sense they are not true, for Jacob never did exercise any power over Esau, nor was Esau ever subject to him. Jacob, on the contrary, was rather subject to Esau, and was sorely afraid of him; and, first, by his messengers, and afterwards personally, acknowledged his brother to be his lord, and himself to be his servant; see Gen. xxxii. 4; xxxiii. 8, 13. And hence it appears that neither Esau nor Jacob, nor even their posterities, are brought here by the apostle as instances of any personal reprobation from eternity: for, it is very certain that very many, if not the far greatest part, of Jacob's posterity were wicked, and rejected by God; and it is not less certain that some of Esau's posterity were partakers of the faith of their father Abraham.
. . . Verse 21. Hath not the potter power over the clay] The apostle continues his answer to the Jew. Hath not God shown, by the parable of the potter, Jer. xviii. 1, &c., that he may justly dispose of nations, and of the Jews in particular, according as he in his infinite wisdom may judge most right and fitting; even as the potter has a right, out of the same lump of clay, to make one vessel to a more honourable and another to a less honourable use, as his own judgment and skill may direct; for no potter will take pains to make a vessel merely that he may show that he has power to dash it to pieces? For the word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work upon the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. It was not fit for the more honourable place in the mansion, and therefore he made it for a less honourable place, but as necessary for the master's use there, as it could have been in a more honourable situation. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation-to build and to plant it; is it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them. The reference to this parable shows most positively that the apostle is speaking of men, not individually, but nationally; and it is strange that men should have given his words any other application with this scripture before their eyes.
Verse 22. What if God, willing to show his wrath] The apostle refers here to the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and to which he applies Jeremiah's parable of the potter, and, from them, to the then state of the Jews. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were vessels of wrath-persons deeply guilty before God; and by their obstinate refusal of his grace, and abuse of his goodness, they had fitted themselves for that destruction which the wrath, the vindictive justice of God, inflicted, after he had endured their obstinate rebellion with much long-suffering; which is a most absolute proof that the hardening of their hearts, and their ultimate punishment, were the consequences of their obstinate refusal of his grace and abuse of his goodness; as the history in Exodus sufficiently shows. As the Jews of the apostle's time had sinned after the similitude of the Egyptians, hardening their hearts and abusing his goodness, after every display of his long-suffering kindness, being now fitted for destruction, they were ripe for punishment; and that power, which God was making known for their salvation, having been so long and so much abused and provoked, was now about to show itself in their destruction as a nation. But even in this case there is not a word of their final damnation; much less that either they or any others were, by a sovereign decree, reprobated from all eternity; and that their very sins, the proximate cause of their punishment, were the necessary effect of that decree which had from all eternity doomed them to endless torments. As such a doctrine could never come from God, so it never can be found in the words of his apostle.
(Clarke's Commentary)