Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Young Guns" in Catholic Online Apologetics: How Different Are They from the "Old Guard"? / Apologetics is Always a Difficult Spiritual Battle

 With fellow apologist Jimmy Akin at my house in 2004. We met again at the Catholic Answers offices this last May

This is a reply to an article by Devin Rose on the VirtuousPla.net site, entitled, Young Guns. My name was graciously mentioned in it. I had some thoughts in reply, that I posted there.
* * * * *

People are people. Catholic apologists are Catholic apologists. Zebras have stripes, etc. I don’t think it is that different. The fringe anti-Catholic wing of online Protestantism despises, e.g., the folks at “Called to Communion” (especially Bryan Cross) just as much as they detest us “older” apologists. I can attest to that, having seen many disparaging remarks. Whoever defends the Church will be in for the same treatment no matter how saintly and non-confrontational they act. That’s just how it goes.

If one is loved by one and all, I question whether they are vigorously defending Holy Mother Church, because many people get offended when you disagree with them (believe me, I know, after 30 years of apologetics in both the Protestant and Catholic worlds). This is a dynamic that hold true in all times and places because it is the perpetual struggle of truth over falsehood; right over wrong. We don’t want to be despised because we are truly jerks and uncharitable (because of our own poor behavior), but if we are loathed because we proclaim Catholic truth, then that is exactly what our Lord predicted would happen. It does not necessarily reflect badly upon how well we did our job, at all.

I have (friendly) quibbles with some of the characterizations: drawing contrasts where I don’t see much of that, myself. You clarified on the charity thing. Good. As for Point 2, Scott Hahn doesn’t interact online much (he doesn’t debate), but all the other “old guard” named are very active in this fashion. We’re all on Facebook and we all interact. Pat Madrid has 5000 Facebook followers; Jimmy Akin is up to 4581. I have 2500 in just eight months’ time. I think most are on Twitter, too (I am). Most use radio and TV and various other media. I’m the least “public,” by far (I just write away in my own home), but I have been on the radio about a dozen times.

As for Point 3 (being systematic), that’s nothing new to me at all: I have over 2600 posts on my blog, categorized in over 50 separate web pages. I deal with everything: atheists, science, sexual issues, war ethics, ecumenism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, anti-Catholics, Orthodoxy, Catholic traditionalism, Church fathers, development of doctrine, romantic theology a la Lewis and Tolkien, conversion and converts, you name it. So that is not “different” from me. The Catholic Answers website is quite systematic; so is Pat Madrid’s stuff, and Scott Hahn’s website(s).

I’m not trying to toot my own horn, or that of the “older guys” or create some kind of silly rivalry (not at all); I’m merely making the point that I don’t see the strong contrast that is drawn in the article, and question the accuracy of using the adjectives “new,” “new era,” “new wineskins,” “different,” “new media.”

Obviously, with each new wave of apologetics and outreach efforts there will be innovations and fresh approaches. I want to see “new guys” who are doing a good job, get more exposure and recognition. More power to all of ‘em. I commend any such efforts and rejoice to see them. But I don’t think there is any essential (or even very great) difference here.

We’re all in this together and can all learn from each other. If someone learns something from me I am flattered and give the glory to God; but I hope to always be open to learning from others, too, including the so-called “young guns.” I don’t want to ever become the “old dog” (at the ripe old age of 53) that can never learn “new tricks.”

* * *

As an example of some of what I was contending above, see the feature article on the anti-Catholic Beggars All site, by John Bugay, entitled, "The Bryan Cross Method Alert" (5-10-10). After all kinds of swipes taken, Bugay concludes at length that Cross's "method of argumentation is inherently dishonest." Earlier in the article he characterized Cross's style as "knowingly to convey a misleading impression to another person." It's the old "jesuitical casuistry" charge. Bugay in the combox expressly states this: "I've pulled out my copy of Pascal's 'Provincial Letters,' and I'm going to give them a look, on the topic of 'casuistry.'"

Nothing new under the sun. If Cross is using some kind of "new" method that is distinguishable in any significant way from older ones, the net result in the anti-Catholic's eyes is exactly the same. It's not a whit more effective in convincing people who are fundamentally hostile, than anything that has been done in the last 20 years online. Bugay attacks Cross again in an article dated 3-25-11, saying,

Bryan is one of those individuals in search of “the correctly marketable term,” a new phrase he can coin and throw out there to “the academy,” which will have his name attached to it, and for which people will fawn over him. . . . Maybe, someday, Bryan can be known, like Bultmann, for having discerned “the separation of the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith.”

These dynamics are inevitable. Called to Communion and Bryan Cross are relatively well-known, among the "young guns." Therefore, they are being increasingly attacked and savaged. The same thing will happen to anyone else who crosses paths with the leading anti-Catholics. The closer you get to the "front lines" and the longer you stay there, the more attacks will come (and with them the altogether human temptation to respond in kind, or to act in ways quite differently from a sweet, saintly demeanor). It's the nature of spiritual as well as military warfare.

Once a few points are scored in debate, then the anti-Catholic fangs come out and it is never the same again.  I guarantee that the young guns will not fare any differently, the more they engage these folks. And there is a time for a rebuke and strong language, too, if it is warranted. Jesus did that with the Pharisees; St. Paul did with various opponents (some of whom are named in his letters), and with entire churches (Galatians, Corinthians). Sometimes when a person is rightly rebuked, then the one doing it gets accused of engaging in the same behavior that was rebuked (I know from much personal experience!).

Any apologist who thinks that his work can and will always be "nicey-nicey" and "smiley" and all wrapped up in a pretty bow will have to learn the hard way, and may be in for some major disenchantment or disillusionment (I've seen many people "burn out"). If difficult scenarios and strong (personal) opposition aren't encountered, then (sorry), I don't think an apologist is fully doing his job. Opposition (and hence unpopularity) is inevitable.

With Protestants who are ecumenical, though, there is no problem achieving amiable, cordial, constructive debate. It's like night and day. Therefore, I contend that the essential difference is not some supposedly significantly "new" apologetic method vs. older ones, but rather, the difference in how an anti-Catholic Protestant responds, vs. how a Protestant who considers Catholics brothers in Christ will respond, and how the former responds, in direct proportion to how familiar he is with a Catholic opponent, and how many times he has been bested in argument by same.

Precisely the same dynamic also applies to apologetics in exchanges with atheists. There are the angry, irrational, "anti-Christian" ones (unfortunately the majority), and also the ones who can talk sensibly with those who differ from them. Nothing works with the former, but it is easy to dialogue with the latter. Again, the key is not the method of the Catholic, but the prior outlook of the particular atheist. This is crucial to understand. We won't be "successful" with everyone.

Our task as apologists is to vigorously share and defend the truth, with charity and gentleness and wisdom. The results are up to God, since it is only His grace that moves any heart closer to Him in the first place. Sometimes we are opposed and seem to achieve no result whatever (like Jeremiah); other times there is abundant visible fruit (as on the day of Pentecost or with St. Francis de Sales, winning back many thousands of Calvinists). Jeremiah was not at fault; nor could St. Francis claim final credit for "his results."

The spiritual battle for hearts and souls is being waged on a scale and height infinitely beyond whatever (good or bad) methods we may bring to the table. Our first and always most important task is to be obedient to our call and to be proper witnesses of Christ. If our Lord and many (if not most) saints were persecuted and killed; we will, at the very least, be personally savaged and attacked. We can expect this; if it is not present, we ought to seriously examine ourselves to see why that is.

We mustn't be naive enough to actually think that Satan and his demons won't put up a vigorous fight against anyone who is effectively sharing and defending God's truth and the fullness of the Catholic faith. We can count on it. It's not peaches and cream and all method and PR and getting folks to like us. Apologetics is ultimately spiritual battle. We can be friendly, nice, charming; all that (and I sure hope we all strive to be that way), but that doesn't nullify the fact that it is, bottom line, a battle (thus, "young guns" is a very apt metaphor indeed!).

* * * 

Devin Rose replied, and I counter-reply:

Thanks for chiming in. I did not intend my portrayal of the positive traits of the young guns to imply a lack of those qualities with you and the other more experienced apologists I mentioned.

On my blog a few weeks ago I tipped my hat to you for engaging in discussion with the more virulently anti-Catholic Protestant apologists. You have continued to engage them for many years, which is a service to people, since it is important work to do but often frustrating and even odious.

You are right that apologetics doesn’t change in its essentials. The arguments we make were put quite well by St. Francis de Sales in the Catholic Controversy four hundred years ago. But we put old wine in new wineskins, addressing the particular issues that are important to our separated brethren today. And each new generation has a different perspective on this, and new voices to add. There are contributors on this site, over a decade my junior, and when I read their posts I realize, I would never have said something in that way–it simply would not have occurred to me given my background, experience, and even my particular “generation” (I’m somewhere between generation X and the “millennials”).

Just time for one more comment. Certainly all of us apologists seek to be systematic, but the Called to Communion guys roadmap takes it, in my opinion, to a new level. The way they designed the articles to build on one another, as well as the quality of the writing and the arguments, is unexcelled in my experience. That is not to take away from your work, mine, or any other apologist’s; it’s simply an admirable strength that they exhibit as a group.

God bless your work for the Kingdom.

I am enjoying the intellectual stimulation (leading me to write so much in reply). Good topic.

I did not intend my portrayal of the positive traits of the young guns to imply a lack of those qualities with you and the other more experienced apologists I mentioned.

You clarified that in your remarks on charity
[he had written previously:
I almost left that part out because it implies that the “older” generation is uncharitable, which is not true at all. Also, many of us (myself included) fall to temptation to be uncharitable or trade punch-for-punch, so it is not an all or nothing kind of thing. Sometimes we do better and other times we do worse.
It might be helpful to say instead that the young guns know how to come across better in blog discussions. To be honest I don’t see many of the older generation engaging in comments on blogs, even though they have blogs.]

and again here, and I gladly accept your report, but I think some of the language used in the article actually does logically imply this, if we take the remarks literally, because you emphasize all this “new” stuff, and talk about new wineskins and so forth; then you said “what’s different about these young guns [?]” and “Something is different here,” and mention three aspects: charity, new media, being systematic. If you say they are “different” in these ways, then that logically goes back to us old guys that you mention earlier, since they have to be “different” from someone or something, and that was the referent. See what I’m saying?

All you would have to do to change the logical thrust would be to say that the new guys are characterized or typified by thus-and-such, without the judgment of “different” (from what came before).

There seems to be some subtle negative insinuation against the “old guard” in other choices of words and metaphors; e.g., “hacked through the tangled jungle of apologetics with machetes” (doesn’t sound like very subtle, fine-tuned apologetic work LOL) and “took part in heated debates . . .” The implication is thus left that newer apologists are vastly different in these respects (which I deny is the case).

Again; you say you didn’t intend to draw this stark contrast. I believe you, but sometimes imprecise language can leave an impression that the writer didn’t intend to convey.

I wholeheartedly agreed with the rest of your comments.



Randy said...

Interesting stuff. I do think that spiritual strongholds are coming down. So the newer apologists look more effective because the movement towards Catholicism has more momentum. The guys at CtC are doing some exciting work. I have learned a ton. Reading your website years ago got me interested in Catholic theology. Reading theirs has gotten me interested in Catholic philosophy. It is truly beautiful.

They do have some knowledgeable and charitable protestants on their site. You used to have that here. I have not noticed it lately. Those things come and go. But you need that for a solid dynamic. It can't be just a mutual admiration society. There needs to be some tension.

Sean Patrick said...


This low level Called to Communion contributor has learned a lot from your site over the years. Seriously, whenever I read a non-Catholic apologist cite some little known document from church history and tries to wield it against the Church, as part of my research I check your site and nine times out of ten you have answered that particular charge.

While I agree that it is very hard to always remain charitable against some of the people out there who work against us, it is important. It is a witness which, at times, hits with a heavy impact. When somebody reads something from their side and then reads something from our side, they notice the difference.

On CTC, practically speaking, we manage this by moderating comments (a heavy task) and having posting guidelines which apply equally to all comers. Having said that, many of the usual suspect apologists out there have made comments on CTC but if you notice their behavior is quite different than what they express on their particular blogs. That is a credit to them (they are playing by the rules). Nobody wins when things get ugly.

Dave Armstrong said...


Anyone is welcome to post on my blog: even the anti-Catholics. I have made it known that I don't debate the latter, though, because it is a futile effort. I'm responsible as a steward of my time under God: to use it wisely.

Not many Protestants seem willing to debate theology anymore. I've noticed this as an online trend for many years now. In several encounters I have gotten into lately (mostly on Facebook), they left before it started to get any depth.

There have been some recently here, though. Nathan the Lutheran has been interesting and cordial. Pilgrimsarbour (Calvinist) comes around regularly and we have had several dialogues. He wants to interact on the new project of critiquing William Whitaker on sola Scriptura.

I just keep writing and doing my work. If someone wants to interact, great. If not, I write my own stuff.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Sean,

I agree 100%. We have to be charitable. When things get "ugly" in my dialogues, it is invariably with anti-Catholics or extreme "traditionalists"; sometimes with atheists. They come to the table with hostility.

If they start to lob severe personal attacks, I don't put up with that (I've had my family life attacked, my profession mocked, as if I am not an apologist or author, called schizophrenic, psychotic, evil, narcissist, etc.).

It is good and admirable if someone wants to turn the other cheek in all such situations, but it's not biblically required. Paul defended himself against false charges in his trial. Cardinal Newman wrote an entire book defending his reputation against ridiculous charges that he had been a two-faced liar for 20 yars as a Catholic (Apologia pro Vita sua).

As with Newman, the most important issue was not he himself, but the faith that he represented. I am attacked because I defend Holy Mother Church. By trashing me, these people think they can run down the Church. Precisely because I know this is their aim, I don't put up with it, and expose the lying that goes on. It's not about me in the end, it is about the Church and the truth.

But people see me rebuking the attacks and not putting up with crap and then they often conclude that my rebukes are exactly of the same nature as the attacks. Of course this is untrue.

All of that is with anti-Catholics, almost exclusively. With Protestants who are not of that mentality, I get along fine; always have and always will. The proof of it is in all my dialogues online.

It is true that moderation is usually necessary. I haven't had to implement it here in over seven years, and almost everyone acts charitably in my comboxes, but that is a rare case.

I was moderator at the Coming Home network forum for three years and we absolutely disallowed any personal attacks. The moderation has to be fair across the board, which almost never happens. If you guys have managed to do that, hats off to you.

I stopped visiting discussion boards online about eight years ago because I was sick of all the nonsense and personal attacks and unfair moderation. And I included in my dislike Catholic sites as well. Almost universally, they were not places that were conducive to rational, charitable discussion.

Occasionally I visit other blogs. Blogs seemed to offer a better environment for a while, but now they usually suffer from the same defects, as do Facebook discussions (I don't do groups there, either).

CTC is drawing Protestants, probably because it is a "former Reformed" site and the Reformed are most active in defending their side. It is "where stuff is happening" now, so everyone flocks to it. This is good: you can use the present opportunity to the fullest to share and defend our faith.

I should visit there more often. I've been concentrating on book projects in recent months, but I'd like to free up time for possible dialogues.

Turretinfan said...

Are you still excluding "anti-Catholics" from possible dialogues?

Dave Armstrong said...

Yes. I expose antics and talk about some peripheral issues (such as, e.g., how good of a Catholic D'Souza was, with Hays recently), but not any multi-round theological debate. It's a hopeless waste of time, and I value my time very highly.

When I was still willing to debate you guys, back in 2007, and about the definition of Catholicism, you and about six others turned me down, and that is when I gave up altogether attempting to debate with y'all.

If the basic premises cannot be discussed; if no one is willing to do even that, then there is no hope. It will only be ships passing in the night, without ironing out fundamental issues of definition. And that is a waste of time. If it ain't constructive dialogue, I'm not interested.

Dave Armstrong said...

And why is it that you still question the validity of the description anti-Catholicism (implied by the quotation marks), while at the same time your buddy James White writes posts entitled "The Dark Side of Anti-Calvinism" (8-21-11)? Always the double standard. You can use your "anti" terms but we cannot. Ours is improper; yours is perfectly kosher.

Dave Armstrong said...

When I stopped debating anti-Catholics, I did, however, make it clear that I would still interact with the arguments of the classic guys (Calvin, Luther et al). Hence, I have books about those two (and lots of articles), I have interacted with Martin Chemnitz, and will soon be taking on William Whitaker and sola Scriptura.

If you can't find Protestants of that same mind today willing to intelligently dialogue, minus the nonsense and personal insults, then you have to go to the dead guys to find solid arguments and to stick to the topic and avoid the sideshow. That's fine with me, since I want my readers to see the substance, and the best exponents of opposing views, not the worst.

Turretinfan said...


You know it is not true that I turned you down. We've been over this before. Are you just trying to get under my skin by repeating that falsehood?


Reginald de Piperno said...

Are you just trying to get under our skins by pretending that your preposterous conditions didn’t constitute turning down Dave’s offer?

Ken said...

"anti-Roman Catholicism" or "anti-Romanism" or "anti-Papalism" is more accurate and is better than calling us "anti-catholics", since that later term is about people and poisons the well so that Roman Catholics would not even listen.

It's like the left that constantly calls almost every conservative a "racist", even though it is about issues and policies and ideas, not about race or racial prejudice.

So at least "the dark side of Anti-Calvinism" is about doctrine, not about people.

Dave Armstrong said...

The term IS about doctrine, not people, as I have reiterated 3,976,483 times. "Calvinist" (or "Protestant" and "Catholic" are similar terms; thus, one can say "anti-Protestant" (meaning against Protestantism) or "anti-Calvinist" (meaning against Calvinism) and also "anti-Catholic" (meaning against Catholicism).

But it's not just against Catholicism, but taking it a step further and reading Catholicism out of the Christianity altogether, which is an absolutely ludicrous, self-defeating, and intellectually suicidal position for any Protestant to take.

Dave Armstrong said...

Besides, you again exercise a double standard. James White uses "anti-Calvinist" all the time, as a search on his blog quickly reveals:


Hence he has an article, "Anti-Calvinist Derangement Syndrome" (7-4-10)


But how DARE Dave Armstrong use the wicked term "anti-Catholic"!!!! That can never be. It might OFFEND the folks who sit there and say outrageously that a good catholic cannot possibly be a Christian or be saved, if he accepts and lives by all that the Catholic Church teaches.

Dave Armstrong said...

Here's Bishop "Dr." (???) White:

"anti-Calvinist piece" (12-21-10)

"George Bryson and his anti-Calvinist materials" (12-22-06)

"I find it ironic that Shea will use the 'anti-Catholic' moniker frequently, yet, it is his attitude that is most accurately described as 'anti-Protestant' or anti-Calvinist or however else you'd like to express it." (7-15-09)

"anonymous anti-Calvinist blogger 'Charles' (3-7-06)

"Liberty and its anti-Calvinist crusade" (12-8-06)

"the Hyper Anti-Calvinist crowd" (8-18-11)

"So we will be following the pattern we have established in reviewing anti-Calvinist sermons" (10-10-05)

"the current anti-Calvinist movement in the SBC" (6-8-06)

As usual, Ken, you hang yourself in your own logic (or illogic, I should say).

Or you throw logic and consistent standards to the wind and have one standard for your anti-Catholic Protestant cronies and another for us "Romanists."

Turretinfan said...


It seemed quite reasonable to me that if I'm going to argue that "X" isn't Christian, Dave should be arguing that "X" is Christian, otherwise there wouldn't be clash in the debate.

Why is that preposterous?


Ben said...


I was perusing William Goode’s “The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice” recently and noticed he gave an imcomplete and misleading quotation from Augustine. See this.

A quick search then gave instances of other Protestants - yourself included - doing likewise. See this and this.

Now bizzare as this is, I’m not saying it's deliberate; people do make mistakes...

But mistakes when found ought to be corrected. Yes? And especially when the seeming implication for Protestants is that Augustine somehow countenanced separation, not only from an erring bishop (or group of bishops), but even from the unity of the Church itself – and this in a treatise on the “UNITY of Church” for heaven's sake!!

In any event, I know you aren’t responsible for what others do, but now that you are aware of the problem, shouldn't you at least amend your blog to faithfully reflect Augustine's true meaning? You can find what you need here.

And let us not forget the immortal words of our friend James ...

"Context"! "Context"! ;)

Turretinfan said...


Would you please explain to me what exactly has been left out of the context by Goode (or any of us) that changes the meaning?


Turretinfan said...

Remember that Goode has provided the quotation you identified in support of this thesis: "And in his controversy with the Donatists, he invariably appeals to Scripture as the sole Judge fit to decide which was the true Church."

Ken said...

As usual, Ken, you hang yourself in your own logic (or illogic, I should say).

I will concede that point; that we all should be more careful and it would be better to say things like
"that person makes arguments against Calvinism"
"his book or articles are against Calvinism as a system"

"that Evangelical Protestant argues against Roman Catholicism as a system" or "against the doctrines of Romanism", etc.

But I can also see that it is much shorter and easier for both sides to say or write, "anti-Calvinist" or "anti-Catholic"; but I sincerely wish that the focus is on doctrine and arguments rather than people. Somehow, "anti-Catholic" sounds more against people, whereas "anti-Calvinist" sounds more against doctrine. Admittedly, that is just a feeling I get.

But we are all human and not one of us is infallible, as is your Pope; he is not infallible either.

Ken said...

However, the apostle Paul did call false teachers names to their faces -
Acts 13:8-10
"you son of the devil"

And something similar - Polycarp to Cerinthus -
in Irenaeus
(I think)

So, there is Scriptural basis for that also, and historical tradition, it seems.

Randy said...

Remember that Goode has provided the quotation you identified in support of this thesis: "And in his controversy with the Donatists, he invariably appeals to Scripture as the sole Judge fit to decide which was the true Church."

The point is that "sole" and "invariably" don't follow from the quote. Catholics appeal to the scriptures. It does not make them Sola Scriptura people at heart. St Augustine was the same way. Catholics today also point out that no true Catholic can hold an opinion contrary to scripture. We accept scripture as the inspired word of God. So St Augustine's words there should surprise nobody. But the idea of scripture as the "sole" judge just isn't there.

In fact, debating which is the true church is a very Catholic question to debate. Protestants never want the question framed that way. They want to ask what is the true meaning of scripture. Asking which is the true church assumes there is a one, visible church to be found. Just asking that question denies Sola Scriptura. It shows St Augustine's thinking was very different from modern protestant thinking and very similar to modern Catholic thinking. In other words it shows exactly the opposite of what Goode was implying.

Dave Armstrong said...

That's progress, Ken! Praise God (i.e., the One that you serve and that I supposedly know nothing of, being unregenerate and mired down in pagan idolatry and ignorance and works salvation)!

Dave Armstrong said...

I was sarcastic (though this is really what is thought of Catholics), but I am sincerely glad that progress was made on the linguistic front, and that you see that your side does the exact same thing that it has been accusing us of doing these past 16 years (since I first debated White through the mail).

You're just one person, though. Maybe you will cease and desist from irrational objections to "anti-Catholic" and "anti-Catholicism" but I doubt that White, TAO, "Whopper" Hays, Doe and all the rest will do so. It's too ingrained. It's gone on so long that I can't envision it ever changing. But hey, anything's possible.

White and others have been saying that I am a bigot, simply because I use an objective term that has been commonly used by scholars (historians, sociologists) since time immemorial. And they give themselves a pass for doing exactly the same thing. I've documented how all these guys use "anti" terms. Bishop White's hypocrisy on this (typically) surpasses that of others by a wide margin.

The right use of language and proper definitions of terms are extremely important.

Dave Armstrong said...


You are still, unfortunately, missing the fine point of the theological definition of "anti-Catholic". We don't use the term simply for someone who disagrees with Catholic doctrine (Geisler does that, but I don't classify him as an anti-Catholic).

It refers to the notion that Catholicism is not Christian at all, and the view that a good Catholic (one who believes all that the Church teaches and is obedient to it) cannot be a good Christian, or a Christian. period; the idea that we teach a false gospel, and salvation by works, accompanied by all the other lies told about us, implying that we are sub-Christian.

THAT is anti-Catholicism: the utterly unfounded denial that a thing is what it is (Catholicism is Christian).

Turretinfan said...


Thanks for your contribution. There is plenty of evidence for the fact that Augustine was a Sola Scriptura person at heart. My question for Ben was a little different.

My question for Ben was for him to explain his assertion that Goode "gave an incomplete and misleading quotation from Augustine". What was left out of the quotation that would have changed its meaning in the context in which Goode was using it?


Ben said...


Would you please explain to me what exactly has been left out of the context by Goode (or any of us) that changes the meaning?

Remember that Goode has provided the quotation you identified in support of this thesis:

"And in his controversy with the Donatists, he invariably appeals to Scripture as the sole Judge fit to decide which was the true Church."

Augustine’s meaning - which has absolutely nothing to do with Sola Scriptura and everything to do with Church UNITY - is fundamentally altered by leaving out his all important remarks on - you guessed it - unity and charity.

Beyond that, there’s the rather curious spectacle of Protestants citing Augustine in support of Sola Scriptura while, incredibly, omitting from said citation Augustine’s own important appeal to Scripture!!

Go figure.


Your comments were exactly right.

Turretinfan, I hope you’re taking notes! ;)

Sean Patrick said...

"There is plenty of evidence for the fact that Augustine was a Sola Scriptura person at heart."

That is true as long as one ignores Augustine's ecclesiology.

But then again, you could read Benedict 16th or John Paul the II or the catechism of the Catholic Church and if you ignore ecclesiology there than it will also seem that these men are also 'sola scriptura people at heart.'

Sean Patrick said...

"Several publications by evangelicals have argued that the doctrine of sola scriptura was practiced, though implicitly, in the hermeneutical thinking of the early church. Such an argument is using a very specific agenda for the reappropriation of the early church: reading the ancient Fathers through the leans of post-Reformational Protestantis...Scripture can never stand completely independent of the ancient consensus of the church’s teaching without serious hermeneutical difficulties...the real question, as the patristic age discovered, is, Which tradition will we use to interpret the Bible?"

- D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition & Renewing Evangelicalism

Dave Armstrong said...

Great quote. Thanks!

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi all,

Many Augustinian scholars deny or seriously doubt that Saint Augustine wrote "De unitate ecclesiae" given the fact that it is not mentioned in his Retractions and it contains much that is ocntrary to Saint Augustine's real theology. That probably explains why no one has bothered to translate it up to this point.

That said, it saddens me that TF chooses to exercize a double standard in critisizing Catholics who cite to doubtful or spurious authorities but then defends William Goode, John Bugay and David T. King for using them in maligning the Catholic faith.

BTW, here is a quote from Augustine that is not a dubium or spurius:

"A man cannot have salvation,except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church, he can have everything, except salvation. He can have honor, he can have Sacraments, he can sing alleluia, he can answer amen, he can possess the Gospel, he can have and preach faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; but never except in the Catholic Church will he be able to find salvation." Sermo ad Caesariensis ecclesiae plebem Enerito praesente habitus.

It would be easier for me to believe that John Calvin wore tutus in private than to believe that Saint Augustine was a sola scripturist.

God bless!

Ben said...

Hi Paul,

Great quote from Augustine!

Now even if it turns out Augustine didn't write "De unitate ecclesiae," his other anti-donatist writings make clear his essential teaching on unity, viz, that the true church MUST be in communion with the apostolic churches. See this snippet from the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 1. And see this.

Further, Augustine’s anti-donatist Psalm (which is genuine and, so I just discovered, has a new translation in the works) argues essentially the same ideas as those presented in "De unitate” and all his other anti-donatist writings.

And even if sola script were true (which it could not be), it would only be true in the context of Catholic unity and continuity, which must be tracable back to apostlolic days.

Protestant churches have no way of doing this.

And isn't it ironic that our Protestant friends, who boast of their fidelity to Scripture, and whose favorite book - withoug question - is Romans, neverthelss refuse communion with the actual Church of Romans, whose faith btw, still is, and ever will be, proclaimed throughout the whole world! Rom 1:8

Ben said...

"Young Guns" in Catholic Online Apologetics:

And speaking of "young guns"...

Off topic, I know, but entertaining nevertheless!

And who'd a thunk it? ;)