By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong (2-13-14)
Jerome Smith is an acquaintance: the brother of a good friend of mine, Martin Smith. The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (1992) is a marvelous resource, though with an excessive evangelical Protestant bias in the notes. Despite that flaw, it is probably the single best source to cross-reference words and phrases in the Bible (better than standard concordances in many ways). Jerome also compiled Nelson's Cross-Reference Guide to the Bible (2007).
I ran across his mention on his website that he had "refuted" me and we struck up a conversation. It has become very long by now. The original exchanges can be found on his site under two of his posts (one / two). Here I have edited somewhat or length and subject matter and presented it in a more "user-friendly" back-and-forth format, as is my custom (so readers can better compare and contrast the two views). To see the original format, simply follow the two links above.
His words will be in blue.
His words will be in blue.
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Clearly, 2 Timothy 3:17 declares the opposite of what Cardinal Newman stated, for God’s Word says the Bible is given so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. That is an express statement asserting the sufficiency of Scripture. Any church or denomination that denies this truth is a false cult. The evil influence of Cardinal Newman continues today, long after his death. That is why I am so strident in my criticism of people like him that teach falsehood.
[I have added material above in brackets and made corrections on 2-9-14 based on the input from Dave Armstrong's comments which may be read below; I am thankful for his kindness in responding to this post almost immediately after it was posted!]
Hope you are well! I saw your brother on New Year’s Day.
I noticed that one of your tags for this [article] is called, ” Dave Armstrong–Roman Catholic Apologist refuted”. That’s very interesting, because I don’t see any direct refutation of any of my arguments here. What you have written certainly doesn’t refute either myself or my arguments, since they are utterly ignored.
My thinking at the time when I thought up that “tag” is this. Cardinal Newman is mistaken in his assertions pertaining to what is taught and what is meant by what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Considering that you were greatly influenced by Cardinal Newman’s writings to convert to Roman Catholicism, and considering that you agree with his teaching about this verse, if I refuted him, I refuted you.
I’ve now written two entire books about sola Scriptura: 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura, and Pillars of Sola Scriptura: which critiqued the biblical arguments (what I was most interesetd in) of the prominent historical defenders of this doctrine, William Whitaker (1548-1595) and William Goode (1801-1868); also a portion of a third book, and chapters in several other books. I also have a very extensive web page on the topic (the one I’ve written more about than any other).
Most of that was available online for free, but you didn’t touch any of it, yet you claim that you have “refuted” me. I’d be happy to send you both of my books in e-book form (pdf, mobi, or ePub) via e-mail for free, if you like. You are also free and welcome to be the first Protestant to attempt to refute any part of either book. There’s always a first for everything . . .
Mr. Armstrong says several times in his books that he is thankful he is no longer a Protestant, because now he can go by the official teaching authority provided by his new-found faith in the Roman Catholic Church [without having to deal with conflicting positions of other authorities]. The problem I see with that is that such a stance directly violates what is taught by 1 Timothy 3:15-17.
Your readers are entitled to know (in fairness, and full disclosure) that I have also very often expressed public thankfulness and great appreciation for my Protestant background. For example, I have had a paper up almost six years, entitled, "Gratefulness For My Evangelical Protestant Background." Sounds very hostile, doesn’t it?! In it I write things like the following:
I greatly admire and respect conservative, orthodox Protestantism. I once was an evangelical Protestant, and praise God for that experience, which was exceedingly beneficial to my spiritual advancement and theological education.
That in turn led me to considerable reflection upon the evangelical Protestant period of my life (1977-1990): how much it taught and formed me; the innumerable blessings and benefits I received, and how many wonderful Protestant teachers contributed to my Christian life, and even (indirectly) to my present Catholic apostolate of apologetics and evangelism. It is always good to ponder our experience and the paths through which God has led us, in His mercy and by His grace.
The paper is filled with effusive praise for this period of my life and the teachers I was blessed to have, and all that I learned.
Now imagine yourself writing that much praise about the Catholic Church (had you ever been part of it)! You couldn’t do it, because your view of my communion is infinitely lower than mine of Protestantism. I have great respect for it, but in your eyes I am barely still a Christian, if at all.
His [Cardinal Newman's] teaching directly led to the falling away from the truth of the Bible [or at least from his original Protestantism] of a personal acquaintance of mine, Mr. Dave Armstrong, who has subsequently become a major apologist for the Roman Catholic Church.
[When I responded to this, the bracketed comment above wasn't there. Jerome later added a note: "I have added material above in brackets and made corrections on 2-9-14 based on the input from Dave Armstrong's comments."]
I’ve done no such thing. I follow the Bible more so than ever, love and venerate it, teach from it all the time, accept all that it teaches. I’m even presently putting together a version of the New Testament, edited from six existing versions, called Victorian King James Version. I’ve just learned some new things that I was never taught as a Protestant, that are in there, too.
All I ask is that if you claim to have “refuted” me, that you do me the courtesy of actually interacting with arguments that I made. Jut presenting your view may be compelling and wonderful, but it’s not automatically a refutation of someone else. As it is, what you have provided above, I’ve seen a hundred times and have refuted most of it several times over in scores of papers and in ten or more books of my 43.
May God bless you abundantly,
Your brother in Christ,
As an experienced champion high school (Cass Technical High School [where I attended too: we both grew up in Detroit], won city championship, which back then included teams from the whole region of southeastern Michigan) and university (where I participated in the debate program at Bob Jones University, earning my letter in debate and won the men’s championship), I determined to present the evidence as strongly for each claimed-to-be-Biblically-supported side of the issue. I have attempted to present the strongest case possible for each of several conflicting views.
I’m delighted that you won all these debating awards in the past. It would take someone like that to give the defense of the altogether indefensible sola Scriptura a shot. I’ve yet to see a biblical argument that establishes its central tenets and definition to the slightest degree.
You can give it the old college try, like hundreds of Protestants for 500 years, but no one (no matter how skillful at debate) can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
So, if you are a Baptist and believe in immersion, you will want to study my note at Romans 6:4 which presents the strongest case in behalf of that mode.
If you don’t believe in immersion, and favor sprinkling, you will want to study my note at Colossians 2:12.
If you are of the Roman Catholic persuasion, and want to see an instance when the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church (the Magisterium?) is absolutely in error, you will (or maybe you won’t!) want to thoroughly study notes and references given at John 3:5. I find it very strange and telling that a Church would proclaim infallibility and then teach a mistaken interpretation of this text.
Now, what did the Catholic Church say regarding John 3:5? Canon II on baptism, from the Council of Trent condemned anyone who “saith that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism.” It then notes that John 3:5 is wrongly used metaphorically toward that end (denial of the necessity of water for baptism), and forbids such use.
Thus, what the Church required Catholics to believe, is something that is noncontroversial: that you would agree with yourself. Water is necessary for baptism. Duh!!! I’m unaware of any Christian group that would deny this, excepting those that don’t (quite absurdly) baptize at all. Therefore, your “argument” here against this teaching of the Church is much ado about nothing.
It might be a good thing that they have not ventured to provide very many such official interpretations of specific verses that all Roman Catholics are required to believe. Yet, since that is the case (you documented that in one of your books I have in a quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia), that really tends to take away the supposed advantage of following a one true church that provides all the answers so you don’t have to flounder between differing opinions like the Protestants do with their alleged 20,000 different denominations (or whatever the figure might now be–the number is irrelevant to the issue of whether the Bible is truly understandable and can be definitively interpreted in a manner which can be shown is correct).
Yes it is, which is why Catholic Answers put out a short tract entitled, Are Catholics free to interpret Bible verses without the Church’s approval? It explained that only seven (and possibly nine) verses have been required to have a certain meaning. Big wow. The Church is not standing over every Catholic, making sure they interpret single verses in a certain way. That’s one of the 3,876,198 myths about us.
An older tract from Catholic Answers, called, "Scripture Passages Definitively Interpreted by the Church" listed seven: John 3:5 (baptism), Luke 22:19 and I Corinthians 11:24 (Eucharist), John 20:22-23 and Matthew 18:18 (confession and absolution), Romans 5:12 (original sin), and James 6:14 (sacrament of anointing). It ended by also noting:
In addition, the decree of Vatican I about Christ establishing Peter as head of the Church — which cites Mt 16:16 and John 1:42 — is a defined doctrine, even though the phrasing about the use and interpretation of the scripture cited is more implicit than explicit, by comparison with the above Scripture passages.
Any Protestant worth his salt, who studies Protestant special pleading about sola Scriptura, is, in effect, “required” to believe in certain interpretations of those prooftexts, under pain of being “against the Bible” or not a bona fide “Bible believing Protestant” if they do not. Try arguing, for example, with a Calvinist about his (their) interpretation of Romans 9. You think they’re not required to believe certain things about that chapter? Do you think they’re not “required” to believe that the numerous passages on apostasy and falling away mean a certain (eisegeted) thing, contrary to far more plausible, sensible Arminian / Wesleyan interpretations?
It’s the same with any Protestant denomination; the only difference is which prooftexts are favored, or which are the “pet verses.” So there is really no difference here. It’s a double standard to think that there is. I have every bit as much freedom to exegete the biblical text as you do. And I’ve done so, on a popular level, for 33 years now, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic.
The “answers” that the Catholic Church provides are doctrines and dogmas that it proclaims to be true: something not all that different from what every Protestant denomination does: they all have creeds or confessions or statements of belief. We just have more that are required, and they are binding in a way that, technically, they are not in Protestantism (given the theoretical — in practice, rarely actually allowed — ability of every Protestant to dissent on the grounds of Bible Alone).
But it’s beyond silly to chide us because we supposedly have some infantile system whereby no man need think about anything or study the Bible (I know what is thought about my Church: maybe not by you, but by many many Protestants), simply because the Church requires beliefs in various dogmas.
The Calvinists were extremely dogmatic against the Arminians at the Synod of Dort, weren’t they? There was no latitude of interpretation or freedom there. Yet all we hear about is the (assumed arbitrary, outrageous) dogmatism of the Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms in 1521, because she refused to bow down and kiss Luther’s feet and acknowledge that he was right in 50 areas or more (as I have documented) where the Church was allegedly wrong.
Lutheranism (despite all the Bible alone rhetoric at its inception) has its Book of Concord with all of its dogmas, which is believed to be fully in harmony with Scripture (and is binding on Lutherans who actually try to uphold that tradition). The Calvinists have the Westminster Confession and 39 Articles. Assemblies of God have their “16 Fundamental Truths” (and I always denied the “enduement of power” clause — where all must speak in tongues to “prove” that they are filled with the Spirit –, which is unbiblical, which is why I never became a member of that denomination, even though I got married there and attended for four years).
There is plenty of “dogma” and “non-options” in Protestantism, too, yet it’s the Catholic Church that is derided because we have dogmas and beliefs, too, that are required to be believed. And that is, of course, because many of ours are falsely regarded as “unbiblical” or “excessive” or “corruptions.”
Well, my very career specializes in showing that our beliefs are far more able to be supported from Holy Scripture than any set of Protestant beliefs can be.
Of the five views you suggest, here is the score card based on careful study of the relevant texts of Scripture and their cross references that pertain to each:
1. Infant regenerative. Incorrect. Baptismal Regeneration is a mistaken view; the physical rite has no regenerative value. Consider notes and references at Acts 2:38 and Galatians 3:27 for starting points, or any other supposed proof-text thought to support this doctrine. See also my note at Mark 16:16 and cross references.
2. Infant non-regenerative. CORRECT. See Acts 16:15 notes and references.
3. Adult regenerative. Incorrect. See number 1.
4. Adult non-regenerative. CORRECT. Acts 8:38 and cross references.
5. Not required at all. Incorrect. See Matthew 28:19 where the command is given but never retracted elsewhere in Scripture.
So the other guys get it wrong because they don’t study enough, as you did? Yet the Bible remains self-interpreting and perspicuous?
I maintain that the other guys indeed get baptism wrong because they have not studied the issue carefully and closely enough. Anyone who has not fully investigated the philological considerations that pertain to the original Greek word(s) underlying our English word used in translation (actually, almost transliteration), namely “baptism,” will come up short when discussing this issue.
Then, one must carefully consider the idioms of Greek grammar and usage to get it right. Those who believe in immersion think that the English expression describing Jesus as going down to or into and coming up out of the water prove immersion. Such expressions found in English prove no such thing in Greek. There is a Greek construction (used in John 20:6, for example) that if used in conjunction with a baptismal narrative would clinch the argument for immersion–but that construction is NEVER used in connection with water baptism.
That's not self-interpreting and perspicuous, but requires in-depth, scholarly research, clearly out of the reach of the average Bible reader, which in turn, rather spectacularly confirms my position, and the Catholic one: that without serious guidance (Church authority and/or such scholarship), the Bible can easily be misinterpreted (for various reasons and motivations), as indeed it is (leading to the multiple hundreds of mutually contradictory Protestant denominations).
You can't have it both ways: talk the time-honored but timeworn, inane rhetoric of sola Scriptura, perspicuity and self-interpretation, while at the same time noting that for the issue of baptism alone, one is required to "fully investigate[d] the philological considerations that pertain to the original Greek word(s)" and "carefully consider the idioms of Greek grammar and usage" in order to "get it right." This is absolutely classic! Thanks so much for the illustration, which pretty much nails down my contention in this case (one which is typical of dozens of doctrines). I couldn't have argued it better myself. You've made it awful easy to establish this point.
If you want cross-texting for John 3:5, sure; I’ve done that, in a paper years ago:
Titus 3:5: he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Compare this to John 3:5:
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (cf. 3:3: “unless a man is born again …”)
The two passages are almost exactly parallel:
Titus: “saved” / John: “enter the kingdom of God”
Titus: “washing of rebirth” / John: “born of water”
Titus: “renewal by the Holy Spirit” / John: “born . . . of the Spirit”
What is “washing” in one verse (with two other common elements) is shown to be “water” in the other. Thus, baptism is tied to salvation, in accord with the other verses above. The evidence is strong. 1 Corinthians 6:11 is also similar to Titus 3:5:
And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
So the “justified” is the parallel of “kingdom of God” and “saved” in Titus 3:5 and John 3:5; “washed” goes along with “washing of rebirth” and “born of water,” and all this was done by the “Spirit.” Once again, it is a striking parallelism (now for three passages).
I think that is altogether relevant data. You like to match Bible words up (so do I; I love it); well, why not ideas as well, and these three passages seem to have close parallels.
As a matter of fact, I like your connections. They are in the New Treasury (at least the expanded one I’m working on). I am planning, at your good suggestion, to supply the Ephesians 5:11-15 reference at 2 Timothy 3:17 with a contrast sign (%), a symbol often used, to designate a passage relevant but on a different aspect of the subject.
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I am enjoying our exchange of ideas.
Thank you for furnishing considerable context for the Newman quotation which until I received help from you I had no access to.
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I think you may have missed my most essential point here: Jesus never appeals to so-called Tradition like the Roman Catholics do.
I made an exhaustive study of what the New Testament teaches about tradition. In a nutshell, Jesus always condemns it. When the word appears in the epistles it has reference to teaching, teaching which the recipients of the epistle had heard when Paul was with them and teaching them.
I find nothing in the New Testament which would justify the use Roman Catholics make of Tradition, the substance, or the term.
Jesus condemns the traditions of men, not tradition per se. This is two different things in Scripture. One is good and extolled, the other bad, and condemned. Note in the following examples, that every time Jesus mentions tradition, He qualifies it (thus showing that He didn't condemn all tradition, but only false and distorted versions of it). If tradition in and of itself were intrinsically a bad thing, I contend that He wouldn't qualify it every time He used it:
Matthew 15:3 He answered them, "And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"
Matthew 15:6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God.
Matthew 15:9 "in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."
Mark 7:8-9, 13 You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men."  And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! . . .  thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do."
Now, you'll say, "okay, but He doesn't mention 'tradition' in a good sense in these passages, either." Not the word itself, but He does mention the concept. He juxtaposes men's tradition against the "commandment of God" and "the word of God" and "doctrines". So you'll say, "so? That's still not tradition!" Ah, but it is, because these terms, upon close examination, are essentially synonymous. You basically admitted as much yourself, above: "When the word appears in the epistles it has reference to teaching." Exactly! I showed this in my first book:
Tradition, Gospel, and Word of God are Synonymous
It is obvious from the above biblical data that the concepts of tradition, gospel, and word of God (as well as other terms) are essentially synonymous. All are predominantly oral, and all are referred to as being delivered and received:
1 Corinthians 11:2 [RSV] . . . maintain the traditions . . . . even as I have delivered them to you.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 . . . hold to the traditions . . . . taught . . . by word of mouth or by letter.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 . . . the tradition that you received from us.
1 Corinthians 15:1 . . . the gospel, which you received . . .
Galatians 1:9 . . . the gospel . . . which you received.
1 Thessalonians 2:9 . . . we preached to you the gospel of God.
Acts 8:14 . . . Samaria had received the word of God . . .
1 Thessalonians 2:13 . . . you received the word of God, which you heard from us, . . .
2 Peter 2:21 . . . the holy commandment delivered to them.
Jude 3 . . . the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
In St. Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians alone we see that three of the above terms are used interchangeably. Clearly then, tradition is not a dirty word in the Bible, particularly for St. Paul. If, on the other hand, one wants to maintain that it is, then gospel and word of God are also bad words! Thus, the commonly asserted dichotomy between the gospel and tradition, or between the Bible and tradition is unbiblical itself and must be discarded by the truly biblically-minded person as (quite ironically) a corrupt tradition of men.
Moreover, we have the evidence of Matthew 23:1-3:
Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples,  "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat;  so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.
"Moses' seat" is not an Old Testament concept. Thus, Jesus appeals to an extrabiblical tradition. Secondly, He appeals to the extrabiblical tradition: a sort of "succession of the teaching office" not unlike apostolic succession, to ground pharisaical authority even over His own disciples. Thirdly, He grants this authority even if the Pharisees are bad examples (He goes on to excoriate them for hypocrisy and legalism right after this).
Thus, He appeals to tradition, and uses the same tradition to establish the authority even of Jewish leaders over Christians (whereas you claim that not even binding Christian authority is in the New Testament, and that Jesus totally dissed tradition). Paul also called himself a Pharisee twice and acknowledged the authority of the high priest during his trial.
In my book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths (you're welcome to a free e-book copy of that, too, if you like), I also demonstrated how there are other terms as well for the true apostolic tradition, besides gospel, word of God, commandment, and the faith. There is also the truth, the doctrine, teaching, the message, and new covenant.
How you can miss all this in your exhaustive comparisons of biblical words is extraordinary. But I understand that one's presuppositions so color one's conclusions and methodologies, that it is quite possible to miss even though it is plain as day in Scripture.
I am still in the process of learning. That is why I appreciate your input. It is always good to upgrade my education. . . .
Please do not feel offended if I criticize the Roman Catholic Church. It is my position that we are to commend those who are right as long as they are in the right, and correct or challenge those who are mistaken in a position taught by the Bible. There are many good things to be said about the Roman Catholic Church. So far, the Roman Catholic Church has maintained a very Biblical stance on the so-called “right-to-life” issue. It otherwise teaches a very high moral standard pretty much in accord with the Bible on related issues. I wish more Roman Catholics had heeded the pleas of their Bishops to not vote for a party that was restricting the religious freedom of the Roman Catholic Church and its related educational, etc., institutions with regard to “Obama Care” provisions requiring insurance coverage for practices utterly discountenanced by the Roman Catholic Church and the Bible.
In all cases, I much appreciate your gracious input. It is always enlightening.
Jesus never appeals to so-called Tradition (like the Roman Catholics do) or to an official teaching authority like both the Roman Catholics and the Jehovah’s Witnesses do. On that basis I think these groups are false to the Scripture, and possibly false cults, . . . [12 February 2014]
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Our "time" will soon draw to a close, because my policy since 2007 has been not to debate theology with anti-Catholics (which it has been amply confirmed that you are, from my searching your site today), since little constructive ever comes of it. The premise (Catholicism isn't Christian) is so utterly absurd and viciously circular for a Protestant to assert (as I proved at length in my lengthy 1995 debate with James White: that he ran, terrified, from), that it reveals extremely serious distorted, fallacious, wrongheaded thought at the level of many premises, making true dialogue impossible.
None of that is a "personal" judgment at all. It's strictly a matter of principle and time-management and wise stewardship of time under God. R. C. Sproul, for example, told James White (as the latter reports) that Catholics aren't worth debating because they don't deserve that serious of a consideration. They disagree on that. He's applying the same principle, though with false premises.
I think there are arguments not worth the trouble getting into (minus any personal vitriol towards the persons involved), because I am a proponent of classical dialogue, along the lines of Socrates and Plato: who held that a dialogue really only succeeds in the end if the two people are friends and have some degree of respect for each other's positions. We may be friendly acquaintances, but you have no respect for my position and falsely, unjustly put me in a box as a Pelagian, idolatrous infidel on my way to hell if I continue to accept all Catholic teachings, as I do (by your own stated criteria, as I examined today).
That makes constructive dialogue impossible. I've enjoyed it, as you have, so far, but we're basically just talking past each other, not influencing each other in the slightest.
I have dozens of past debates and dialogues on my Anti-Catholicism page, lest anyone thinks my reasoning here is either fear or inability (and of course those charges have been made). If James White, the king of anti-Catholics, thinks my refutations of his garbage are so terrible and insufficient, he is welcome to try to refute them. But thus far, not a word; not one peep out of him.
However, the exception to my policy that I am willing to make is if someone makes a serious and on-topic attempted refutation of one of my books. I'll always defend my books unless it is a crazy wild goose chase, where the person replying is all over the ballpark with his preaching and sanctimonious condemnations of Catholicism.
If someone actually stays on topic and provides replies to my actual arguments in my books (in this case, on sola Scriptura), including you, then I will reply back, showing how the counter-argument fails, or if it succeeds, conceding that it does in that instance. Since I have 100 arguments in my one book, if one is shown to be fallacious or contrary to fact, there are still 99 more to contend with: not the end of the world or reason for me to go back to Protestantism. The critique hasn't collapsed if 1% of it is shown to be no good.
So I will do that with you , if you like, on the topic of sola Scriptura only, because that is your specialty, and one of mine (that I've written more about than anything else in my apologetics, by quite a margin).
Since you have expressed high interest in both of my books on the topic, perhaps that will be an agreeable arrangement to you.
I believe God calls us to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). I believe God calls us to warn anyone we see who is in danger or is mistaken or is going astray (Ezk 3:18, 19; 33:8, 9; Le 19:17; Ac 20:31). Therefore, I have not been anti-catholic, but anti-error, which as I read my Bible is exactly what God calls us to be. I have indicated, on my part, complete openness to correction should it be found I am mistaken in what I believe the Bible teaches or of what I understand or misunderstand about the Roman Catholic church.
I have repeatedly commended the doctrinal and practical living stances the Roman Catholic Church proclaims when they are in full agreement with the Bible. . . .
Never have I ever suggested to any Roman Catholic that they ought to choose a different church to attend. I leave those decisions to God and the individual as the Holy Spirit may lead them. Now, if this to you represents me being anti-Catholic, so be it. But God will judge differently, I’m sure.
I do believe I have so far successfully met and refuted your position on the sufficiency of Scripture and related or illustrative issues you brought forward.
First, I must suspend my judgment regarding the distinction you make regarding “material sufficiency” and “formal sufficiency.”
Cardinal Newman in his work as cited does not use the term. I at present have no way of knowing if he was aware of the term in his day. So, taking his word at face value, it appears to me he is in direct denial that 2 Timothy 3:17 teaches the sufficiency of Scripture.
The distinction between “material sufficiency” and “formal sufficiency” might be an example of the rule of interpretation I have called “necessary inference.” At present I do not think it is. An example of a Bible doctrine which is a proper example of “necessary inference” would be the doctrine of the Trinity. It can be derived from and proven from Scripture.
Until I learn more about it, I would judge that “material sufficiency” and “formal sufficiency” are arbitrary material constructs which exhibit the fallacy in interpretation sometimes called “over-reading” into the text that which is not really there.
I am glad you do accept “material sufficiency” as something taught by the Bible. As far as I understand the term “formal sufficiency,” I think I would consider that a valid Bible doctrine arrived at by necessary inference.
Now, you kindly brought forward as an example of apparently irreconcilable differences that cannot be settled definitively by Scripture alone the subject of baptism.
I thanked you for your choice of issue, a choice not affected by any prompting from me. It is a subject I have carefully studied. I am still studying the issue. I have signed up at Logos for a large set of classic Biblical studies on the subject, and am eagerly awaiting the time they become available to me. I have also signed up for many Roman Catholic studies some months ago, and several of those have apparently gone into production this week. It will still be a while before I receive them, I’m sure.
In further discussion of the baptism issue, you brought forward John 3:5. You further supported the variations in approach to baptism that are supposedly not reconcilable by direct approach to Scripture itself by citing the interpretation of noted Presbyterian scholar Marvin Vincent given in his useful work on Word Studies.
I refuted Mr. Vincent, noting what was there in the text that he totally overlooked, and what was elsewhere in Scripture that he also did not properly take into account, rendering his interpretation unsatisfactory if not incorrect. I provided you a summary statement of what the correct interpretation must be.
You countered with the observation that my interpretation proves your point, that John 3:5 can only be correctly interpreted by an appeal to careful scholarship from outside the text of Scripture itself, therefore justifying an official designated teaching authority, such as is provided by the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. I had pointed out, and you verified in precise detail, that the Roman Catholic Church has most wisely refrained from making very many pronouncements about interpretations of particular texts of Scripture which must be received by Roman Catholics. One of those few texts is John 3:5.
The problem with the interpretation required to be believed for John 3:5 is that it is a mistaken reading of John 3:5. What the Roman Catholic Church asserts of baptism, that the physical element water must be employed in ritual water baptism, is most certainly true. The problem is that John 3:5 is not about ritual water baptism at all, but is about real baptism accomplished by the Holy Spirit apart from any physical water or an administrator of the rite.
So, what has now been demonstrated?
First, it is possible to go to the Scripture itself and by as much careful study as needed, arrive at a correct interpretation and understanding of an otherwise disputed passage of Scripture. I demonstrated that by refuting Vincent. . . .
My conclusion is, . . . that the interpretation of John 3:5 I have provided is more adequate and more supportable from the text, the immediate context, and the whole of Scripture than either that of respected scholar Marvin Vincent or generally respected Biblical scholarship of the Roman Catholic Church’s official position on this verse.
Bottom line: on this point at least, noted and respected Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong stands refuted–as I originally suggested in my “Google tag” for this post.
Nevertheless, I count Dave Armstrong as fully a dear brother in Christ, and highly commend his written works and his stand for Bible truth and the Word of God.
As I already mentioned, please let me know if you critique one or both of my books on sola Scriptura. I must respectfully disagree with your claim that you have refuted the arguments I’ve made in our recent exchanges. In many instances, you simply stated your positions with little or no relation to mine, which is neither dialogue nor debate, since there was little or no direct interaction with the opposing position.
The “Jesus vs. Tradition” topic provides the classic illustration of this. I gave my counter-argument to your negative claims, and you “replied” by simply restating the standard “anti-tradition” arguments, with no reference to the arguments that I had just provided . It’s understandable. We Christians tend to be preachy proclaimers. We have truths to share as we deeply believe them, and would rather proclaim than defend. And we tend to fellowship with folks who believe as we do, so we’re not used to hearing other views.
I’m an apologist, so I engage in dialogues and defense all the time. I naturally fall into that mode, rather than the preachy thing. I’ve never been a “preacher”. This is why I rarely give talks. I’d rather dialogue with people; talk to them, do the back-and-forth. Even when I’m on the radio (as I have been, some 25 times now: several of those being live national shows with calls), I do interviews, not straight talks. Preaching and proclamation are fine. God likes those, too, and wants us to do them. But they are not dialogue and debate.
So there are methodological differences between us. But in any event, I can’t agree that I have been refuted, seeing that many of my arguments went unresponded-to. The debater must respond to opponents’ arguments! Certainly you know that, with your background, so it is doubly curious and puzzling to me why you haven’t applied that knowledge of what a true debate entails, to my arguments. But if you are willing to do so in the future, you have my 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura to play with.
My old argument (from the early 90s) about five views of baptism, that I brought up, wasn’t for the purpose of debating baptism itself. It is a classic example of Protestant disunity on basic Christian doctrines (and practices) and how nothing Protestants can do within their system is able to overcome it. Whether you think you have proven your view of baptism or not has nothing whatever to do with my point there. It was just one illustrative example of many similar ones that could have been used. You simply say that the other guys are wrong, you are right, and that’s the end of that!
But of course, it doesn’t solve the problem (that I was driving at) at all, because there are other folks equally as “certain” as you are about their views, and there is no way to resolve it since all parties appeal to the Bible. And that was the whole essence of my argument. If you can’t see that you haven’t resolved the difficulty in the least (haven’t even tried), others surely will: which is the beauty of presenting opposing views and letting readers decide which is more plausible and worthy of belief.
When you disagreed with Cardinal Newman, you dismissed him cavalierly, saying that he can’t read [the Bible]. But you didn’t give any indication that you even grasped what his argument was in the first place. You weren’t aware, first of all, of the basic distinction between material and formal sufficiency, that (as I showed, with six examples), many Protestants understand and write about. Thus, you misunderstood and (undeliberately) misrepresented Newman, and I proved early on that he made this distinction and accepted material sufficiency (with several of his own statements, compiled in my book of his quotations), whereas you denied that.
Like many Protestants, you seem thoroughly confused as to the status of Catholicism. In several of your past papers, you were sure that it is a “false cult.” Lately, you seem less sure, and present contradictory remarks on the topic. You say I am “fully a dear brother in Christ,” which I appreciate and am delighted to see (for your sake), and of course reciprocate, as Catholics regard all baptized trinitarian Protestants in the same way.
You say that you “highly commend [my] written works and [my] stand for Bible truth and the Word of God.” Yet, when we began, just a few days ago, you stated: “His [Cardinal Newman's] teaching directly led to the falling away from the truth of the Bible [or at least from his original Protestantism] of a personal acquaintance of mine, Mr. Dave Armstrong, . . .”
How can I be criticized for falling away from the Bible a few days ago, yet now I am commended for standing for Bible truth and the Word of God? Perhaps you can explain these wildly divergent interpretations of the course of my spiritual / theological life.
Your other statements about Catholicism that I found on your site provide further internal difficulties in your position. In August 2012 you wrote:
“It is my belief that while there may be some Roman Catholics who are genuinely saved because they have truly placed their faith in what our Lord Jesus Christ did for them on the Cross, I suspect most Roman Catholics have followed the teaching of their church, which I believe is utterly mistaken on salvation matters.”
Alright. You can’t have it both ways. If the Catholic Church is “utterly mistaken on salvation matters” and someone accepts wholeheartedly all its teachings, as I do, I don’t see how that person can be saved or be a brother in Christ, because they have a false soteriology and understanding of what is required to be saved: i.e. (by this erroneous thinking), a “different gospel.” One has to reject that in order to be a good Christian (to be a good Christian you have to be a bad Catholic, and if one is a good Catholic, he can’t be a [good] Christian).
Of course I have fully placed my faith in our Glorious Lord and Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and His death on our behalf on the cross. I did that in 1977. This is Catholic teaching. Your problem is that you don’t realize that it is Catholic teaching (minus the false element of supposed “instant salvation”), so that to believe this (grace alone / non-Pelagianism) is no contradiction at all to anything the Catholic Church teaches.
You said Cardinal Newman has an “evil influence.” He’s my “theological hero.” His arguments were crucial in my conversion (though not the biblical ones; rather, his historical analyses about development of doctrine). So how can I love his writings so much, yet escape from the same negative description that you give him? You even claimed that you refuted me because you (supposedly) refuted him; precisely because you know that I like his thought so much. Yet he has an “evil influence” and I am a “fully a dear brother in Christ”? Is Cardinal Newman that also?
I wholeheartedly accept all Catholic teachings, that the Church decrees as binding upon Catholics. Therefore, according to you (or at least your writings within the last few years) I can’t be saved and can’t be a Christian. How could I be, if Catholicism teaches a false soteriology and I accept it? Is Catholicism a Christian system, just as all the Protestant systems are, or not? Unless you make that determination, your analyses on this topic will continue to be hopelessly muddled and self-contradictory.
As a professional apologist, I can assure anyone that the Catholic Church teaches salvation by the work of Christ through faith in Him and grace alone; but most people understand so poorly what we teach, that they continue to falsely claim that we believe in salvation by works, or Pelagianism.
Again, in August 2012, you wrote specifically about me: “I am most concerned that for anyone to turn from Biblical Christianity to belief in the Roman Catholic faith is tantamount to committing apostasy.” So which is it? Am I an apostate or dear brother in Christ? At that time, you didn’t sound very delighted that anyone would become a Catholic. But now you say, “Never have I ever suggested to any Roman Catholic that they ought to choose a different church to attend.”
How can you say that to become a Catholic is to forsake biblical teaching and commit apostasy, and to adopt the views of a communion that is “utterly mistaken” about salvation, yet also say that Catholics are fully brothers in Christ and that Catholics shouldn’t leave the Catholic Church? Either your views have changed or this is vicious self-contradiction. And again, being a master debater, you know what internal inconsistency is.
You referred to “the apostasy of Roman Catholicism” and “Roman Catholicism has an entirely false salvation plan” and “the Roman Catholic faith preaches a ‘different gospel’ than the New Testament does” and “I believe the Bible officially declares the Roman Catholic Church to be a false cult, for the Roman Catholic Church directly denies what the Bible clearly and absolutely declares.” Yet here I am in that Church and you say I’m a good Christian who teaches the word of God and should stay here (because you would never suggest otherwise)? You concluded:
“One would think that anyone who understood the difference between the two systems or plans of salvation would never fall prey to the false apologetic of Roman Catholicism. But this sacerdotal heresy still represents a very fatal danger to those who fall victim to its false reasoning.”
Okay! Either you are one very confused man (regarding Catholicism and the relationship of individual Catholics to biblical truth and salvation) or you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. I don’t conclude the latter for even a second, in charity; therefore, the former seems to be the only other possibility: unless and until you clear up these massively contradictory statements. And I don't see that you can do so; thus, you ought to follow the direction that you seem to be pulled in (that Catholicism is a fully Christian system and one can be saved if they accept all of it).
The latter position has the distinct advantage of being true rather than false. That’s always a good thing when one is bandying about different opinions. . . . Truth (in proportion to how much of it we espouse) has a way of eliminating internal contradictions.
If I understand your statements immediately above, you were saved in 1977. That of course is well more than a decade before you converted to Roman Catholicism.
It is my belief that while there may be some Roman Catholics who are genuinely saved because they have truly placed their faith in what our Lord Jesus Christ did for them on the Cross, I suspect most Roman Catholics have followed the teaching of their church, which I believe is utterly mistaken on salvation matters.I don’t have at my command all the technical theological terms or labels that pertain to this issue. Nevertheless, it is my current understanding that in the Roman Catholic Church the grace of salvation is dispensed by the Roman Catholic Church, so that salvation is received by partaking of the sacraments. This might be called sacerdotalism.
For example, years ago, if I were to ask a Roman Catholic if he is saved, he would say “Yes.” If I asked further about the basis for believing he is saved, he would respond, “I was baptized Roman Catholic.” Or, if I were to ask a Roman Catholic, “Are you born again?” he would answer, “Yes, I was baptized.” At least back in those days, few if any ever responded with a statement reflecting what most Evangelical Christians would respond, “I have accepted Christ as my Savior, and have a personal relationship with him.”
Now perhaps these limited interchanges I had years ago are not representative of the actual case at large. But then, and until now unless shown otherwise, it would seem that the Roman Catholics I encountered had a faith based on grace received by participating in the sacraments, through which as the Roman Catholic Church apparently teaches, the needed or necessary grace is received.
Now in my reading of the New Testament, I see the Evangelical position reflected directly on its pages, but I do not see a system of ritual ordinances we call sacraments as a means of receiving the grace of salvation there at all.
That is why I have stated I believe many Roman Catholics are actually genuinely saved, born-again Christians in the Evangelical sense. Though they are undoubtedly faithful Roman Catholics loyal to their church, participating regularly in the Roman Catholic sacraments, yet that participation is not what the Bible in the New Testament sets out as the way an individual comes to know Christ, comes to be “in Christ,” comes to possess the everlasting life Jesus promised in John 3:16 and John 5:24.
Therefore, I have concluded that many in the Roman Catholic Church are saved in spite of rather than because of the program of sacraments set forth by the Roman Catholic Church as the means of grace. I would suppose, based on what little I know or have experienced by direct contact with Roman Catholicism, many Roman Catholics have yet to experience the joy and assurance that comes from having a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, though I am surely thankful for every Roman Catholic who has had this blessed experience.
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