Dave Armstrong vs. James White (1995)

Is Catholicism Christian? A Correspondence, Now a Book!


Is Catholicism Christian? My Debate With James White (Dave Armstrong vs. James White from 1995)

Debating James White by Dave ArmstrongJames White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries and a visible and active opponent of the Catholic Church (perhaps the most influential and cleverest such opponent at present, though not invincible by any means). He is the author of several books against Catholic teaching, including The Fatal Flaw (1990) and The Roman Catholic Controversy (1996). He also does some good and useful work, such as countering silly claims that the King James Version of the Bible is the only valid one, and refuting various heretical cults such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. But like so many in his broad denominational outlook (he is a Reformed Baptist), he classifies the Catholic Church as a sub-Christian, essentially deceptive organization.

The following debate (scanned and uploaded with express permission from Mr. White -- e-mail letter of 2 February 2000) came about in 1995 when I wrote a ("snail-mail") form letter to several counter-cult researchers, including White (it occurred almost a year before I went online). He responded and I replied twice. My final installment-- a densely-argued tome of 36 single-spaced pages-- was left completely unanswered, and remains so to this day. My challenge to James White to refute my reasoning there and elsewhere remains intact, and I would be absolutely delighted if he changes his mind as to my "unworthiness" to receive any reply from him.

This dialogue is one of the most in-depth and intense debates I have ever engaged in....At one point (23 January 2002) I edited the letters to remove personal, off-subject, insulting, inflammatory, ad hominem-type remarks (and responses to same), on both sides. I confess to my part in this, and would answer differently in many places today. In fact, I later apologized to Mr. White on more than one occasion for uncharitable comments on my part (no such apology has ever come from him). But I have decided to restore the original debates, completely unedited, warts and all. I apologize for any offense caused to any readers due to inflammatory language.

Mr. White has curiously always refused to link to this debate on his website, even though he claims to have been victorious and chides his Catholic opponents when they are reluctant to make their debates available to the public.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. My 2-page letter of 23 March 1995
  2. Dr. White's 7-page letter of 6 April 1995
  3. My 16-page letter of 22 April 1995
  4. Dr. White's 17-page letter of 4 May 1995
  5. My 36-page letter of 15 May 1995
  6. Dr. White's 1-page letter (fax) of 10 November 1995

23 March 1995

To: James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries


Dear Mr. White,

I am a cult researcher (#248 in 1993 Directory of Cult Research Organizations, Tolbert & Pement) and Christian apologist, who converted to Catholicism in 1990 after ten years of committed evangelicalism (including five as a campus missionary). I am disturbed by the tendency among cult researchers and other leaders in Protestantism to regard the Catholic Church as "apostate" and/or non-Christian, since it supposedly denies the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not worthy of men of your stature and theological training, and is also uncharitable, since it is slanderous and schismatic.

I'd be interested in dialoguing with you or anyone you might know (with perhaps more time on their hands) who would be willing to do so, about this matter and any or all of the theological issues which sadly divide us (enclosed is a list of my tracts and a few samples). I have been published in The Catholic Answer and This Rock, two of the leading Catholic apologetic journals, and will soon have a book out, The Credibility of Catholicism (possibly published by Ignatius Press), which is a defense of Catholicism from Scripture, the early Church, and reason, as well as a very extensive critigue and examination of the so-called "Reformation" (I prefer the objective term "Revolt").

Catholicism is not only Christian -- it is far superior to Protestantism on biblical, historical, and rational grounds. Secondly, I would say that a position maintaining that Protestantism is Christian while Catholicism is not, is self-defeating, incoherent, and intellectually dishonest, if thought through properly (which is rarely the case). I never had this outlook as a Protestant for these very reasons.

Among the many insuperable difficulties of anti-Catholicism:

1) The Canon of the Bible was determined by the Catholic Church. Thus, "sola Scriptura" necessarily requires a Tradition and Catholic (conciliar and papal) Authority. Not to mention the preservation of Bible manuscripts by monks.

2) At what moment did Catholicism become apostate? At John's death? In 313? With Gregory the Great and the ascendancy of papal power? In the "Dark Ages" of c.800-1100? With the Inquisition or Crusades? Or at the Council of Trent? And how can anyone know for sure when?

3) 23,000 denominations and the scandalous organizational anarchy, schism, and theological relativism inherent therein virtually disproves Protestantism in and of itself.

4) Protestantism has only been around for 477 years!

5) If the Inquisition disproves Catholicism, then the Witch Hunts and killings of Anabaptists, the suppression of the Peasants' Revolt, and early Protestantism's horrendous record of intolerance (at least as bad as Catholicism's by any criterion) disproves Protestantism as well.

6) Protestantism inconsistently and dishonestly appeals to indisputably Catholic Church Fathers such as St. Auqustine (above all) St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus, St. Justin Martyr (also, later Catholics such as St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas a Kempis).

7) Likewise, it inconsistently appeals to Church Councils which it likes (generally the first four) and ignores the rest, on questionable theological and ecclesiological grounds. Development of doctrine is accepted to an extent, and then incoherently rejected. This is largely what made me a Catholic, after reading Newman's Development of Doctrine.

8) Funny how an "apostate" Church has uniquely preserved traditional Christian morality such as the indissolubility of marriage, gender roles, the prohibition of contraception, euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, etc., while Protestantism is compromising these with frightening rapidity.

"Sola fide" is not the gospel. If so, then there wasn't a gospel to speak of for 1500-odd years, since "sola fide" was a radically novel and unbiblical interpretation of justification and sanctification. The God I serve is greater than that-- His hands weren't tied until Dr. Luther figured everything out! Related to this is the slanderous assertion that Catholics are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian and believe in salvation by works. Nothing could be further from the truth. We merely refuse to separate works from faith in a dichotomous relationship as Luther did (which is why he wanted to throw out James-- so clear was its Catholic teaching). Catholicism condemned Pelagianism at the 2nd Council of Orange in 529 A.D., almost 1000 years before Luther. The very first Canon on Justification in the Council of Trent states:

"If anyone saith that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema."

This would seem to be sufficient to put the matter to rest. But blind prejudice and anti-Catholicism stubbornly persist.

Many other biblical proofs for Catholicism are in my apologetic works, if you're interested. Thanks for your time.

Sincerely, your brother and co-laborer in Christ,

Dave Armstrong


April 6, 1995

To: Dave Armstrong


Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I am in receipt of your letter of March 23rd, which, it seems, was sent to a number of ministries listed in the Directory of Cult Research Organizations. I quote what seems to be the thesis statement of your letter:

"I am disturbed by the tendency among cult researchers and other leaders in Protestantism to regard the Catholic Church as "apostate" and/or non-Christian, since it supposedly denies the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not worthy of men of your stature and theological training, and is also uncharitable, since it is slanderous and schismatic."

I am enclosing two books I have written on this subject. The thesis of the first, The Fatal Flaw, is seemingly, from your perspective, "uncharitable" and "slanderous and schismatic." However, I stand by the thesis, and insist that truth is only uncharitable, slanderous and schismatic to those who have embraced a belief that is not in accordance with God's revelation. I'm sure the teachers in Galatia felt Paul was being most uncharitable in writing Galatians, but that did not stop him from doing so.

Personally, Dave, I find the Roman church's anathemas, contained in the dogmatic canons and decrees of the Council of Trent, as well as those of Vatican I, to be most uncharitable. What is worse, since they are in direct opposition to the truth, I find them to be most reprehensible as well, and much more accurately entitled "schismatic," since that term can only be meaningfully used with reference to a departure from the truth.

Before you dismiss my response as merely the ruminations of a fundamentalist "anti-Catholic," let me point out that I have studied the Roman position quite thoroughly. Indeed, I have engaged in seventeen public debates against Roman apologists such as Dr. Mitchell Pacwa, Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Gerry Matatics, and a friend of yours, Patrick Madrid (my copy of Surprised by Truth is even autographed!). I will be debating Robert Sungenis and Scott Butler at Boston College in a matter of weeks. I know the arguments of Catholic Answers quite well, I assure you.

Your story in Surprised by Truth is almost predictable, Dave, no offense intended. Your rejection of Roman theology was not based upon a knowledge of why, and hence was ripe for refutation. You admit you rejected the tenets of the Reformation when you say, "I had always rejected Luther's notions of absolute predestination and the total depravity of mankind." And your involvement in Operation Rescue simply gave you the opportunity of seeing that Roman Catholics can be real nice folks who really believe in the teachings of the Church in Rome. And the feeling of "brotherhood" created by standing against a common evil, joined with the simple fact that you were not truly a Protestant to begin with, is reason enough to explain your swimming the Tiber.

You wrote in your letter,

"Catholicism is not only Christian -- it is far superior to Protestantism on biblical, historical, and rational grounds. Secondly, I would say that a position maintaining that Protestantism is Christian while Catholicism is not, is self-defeating, incoherent, and intellectually dishonest, if thought through properly (which is rarely the case). I never had this outlook as a Protestant for these very reasons."

I'm sure you believe that the Roman position is superior on biblical grounds, but, of course, how could you believe otherwise? Rome claims final authority on biblical interpretation to begin with, so surely once you have accepted the claims made by Rome to ultimate religious authority, how could you believe anything other? Yet, I have to wonder about claiming biblical superiority when, in point of fact, entire dogmas, like the Immaculate Conception, Bodily Assumption of Mary, and Papal Infallibility lie, quite obviously, outside the realm of the Scriptures. Oh yes, I know all the arguments -- see my refutation of Patrick's attempt to come up with a biblical basis for the Immaculate Conception in our journal, Pros Apologian (I am enclosing a copy for you), and my debates with Dr. Fastiggi on Papal Infallibility and the Marian doctrines. What really strikes me as being "not worthy" of someone such as yourself, Dave, is stating that a system that could produce a document like Indulgentiarum Doctrina is in fact "biblically superior" to a system that could produce something like Hodge's Commentary on Romans or Edwards' sermons on the sovereignty of God.

As to being superior on "historical" grounds, I again have to beg to differ. I well know how easily Roman apologists cite patristic sources as if the early Fathers would have been subscribers to This Rock. However, I have found a woefully consistent practice of "anachronistic interpretation" in Roman apologetic works. I have found that normally the Roman apologist will find a phrase, say, having to do with Peter, and will read into that phrase the fully developed Roman concepts that, quite honestly, did not even exist at the time of the writing of that particular Father. What is worse, many such apologists are dependent almost completely upon what I call "quote books." For example, when I debated Gerry Matatics for more than three hours on the patristic evidence regarding the Papacy in Denver during the Papal visit, he did not have any original source materials with him. Instead, he was utilizing compilations, such as Jurgens. This often led him to grave errors. Indeed, one time he stood before the audience counting index entries in Jurgens and telling the audience that such-and-such number of early Fathers supported his position, and that on the basis of index entries in Jurgens! An amazing sight to behold, I assure you. Be that as it may, I believe it would be relatively easy to dispute such a broad statement as the one you made in your letter.

As to the use of the broad term "Christian" with reference to Roman Catholicism, such a term, due to its ambiguity in this situation, is less than useful. Faithful in preaching the apostolic message of the gospel? Certainly not, and that is the issue, Dave. If you feel a communion that replaces the grace of God with sacraments, mediators, and merit, can be properly called "Christian," then please go ahead and use the phrase. But please understand that if a person shares the perspective of the epistle to the churches of Galatia they will have to hold to a different understanding, and hence may not be as quick to use the term "Christian" of such a system.

You then listed a number of what you called "insuperable difficulties of anti-Catholicism." I would like to briefly comment on each one.

1) The Canon of the Bible was determined by the Catholic Church. Thus, "sola Scriptura" necessarily requires a Tradition and Catholic (conciliar and papal) Authority. Not to mention the preservation of Bible manuscripts by monks.

That is a common argument, but it is a sadly misinformed argument, Dave. The canon of the NT may have been recognized by the Christian Church (note I specifically limited that statement 1) to the NT, as the OT canon long pre-existed the Christian church, and 2) to the passive voice, "recognized" not "determined" as you used it), but that is a long stretch from the point you and your compatriots not only would like to make, but must make to establish your position. First, the canon of the NT pre-existed either Hippo or Carthage, see Athanasius' 39th Festal Letter for just one example. Secondly, your entire argument falls apart when we ask if your theory holds true for the Old Testament. If the OT did not require conciliar and papal authority, why would the NT? And what is more, please note how easily, and yet without any basis, you insert the capitalized form of Tradition into your argument. Are you saying the canon is an apostolic tradition? If so, which apostle gave the canon? If not, are you not admitting that it was derived at a later time? Roman apologists take all sorts of different positions on these topics, especially when it comes to the nature and extent of tradition. In light of your third point I think you might seek to do some "house-cleaning" before condemning Protestants for their variety of opinions. Oh, one other item: the Catholic Church of the fourth century was a far cry from the Roman Catholic Church of the 20th, wouldn't you agree? I mean, you constantly mentioned Newman's theories in your Surprised by Truth article, and it would seem to me that anyone who recognizes the necessity of embracing Newman's hypothesis recognizes the vast differences between primitive and modern beliefs on many important subjects.

2) At what moment did Catholicism becomes apostate? At John's death? In 313? With Gregory the Great and the ascendancy of papal power? In the "Dark Ages" of c.800-1 100? With the Inquisition or Crusades? Or at the Council of Trent? And how can anyone know for sure when?

What's even more important, why does it matter? It was obviously a process, just as the papacy developed, changed, and grew over time. Do we know for sure when the Pharisees became corrupt? Do we need to know? Of course not.

3) 23,000 denominations and the scandalous organizational anarchy, schism, and theological relativism inherent within virtually disproves Protestantism in and of itself.

Does the theological relativism in modern Roman Catholicism disprove it on the same grounds, Dave? Does the fact that you can get about as many opinions from Roman priests as you can get from Protestant ministers mean something to you? As you well know, the Watchtower Society makes a similar claim. Why is their claim invalid and yet yours is not?

4) Protestantism has only been around for 477 years!

And modern Romanism, replete with such theological novums as Papal Infallibility and the Bodily Assumption of Mary, has been around for less time than that, Dave. It really doesn't seem like your arguments are very consistent, does it?

In your fifth point you mention the Inquisition "disproving" Catholicism. The problem with your point is this, Dave: we Protestants don't claim infallibility. Rome does. There is a big difference. Please note the following comparison:

IV LATERAN COUNCIL

Convicted heretics shall be handed over for due punishment to their secular superiors, or the latter's agents. . . . Catholics who assume the cross and devote themselves to the extermination of heretics shall enjoy the same indulgence and privilege as those who go to the Holy Land.

VATICAN II

This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs.

Not only do we see the obvious conflict between these two ecumenical" councils, but we see that the IVth Lateran Council specifically taught that those who would take up the cross in the effort to exterminate heretics would enjoy the same indulgence as those who went to the Holy Land. Now, Dave, surely you can see the vast difference between the silliness of, say, a "Protestant" like Benny Hinn teaching his ideas as facts, and an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church teaching that indulgences would be given to those who took up the cause of exterminating the heretics (i.e., simple Christian folks who were slaughtered at the behest of the Roman hierarchy). What is more, is not the granting of indulgences based upon the exercise of the keys? Does this not then touch upon the very faith of the Roman church? I believe it does.

Your sixth point was little more than a statement that you feel Protestants "inconsistently and dishonestly appeal" to various of the early Fathers. Well, I feel that Roman Catholics "inconsistently and dishonestly appeal" to the very same Fathers. So? What do you do with citations such as the following?

Regarding the Papacy itself, and Matthew 16:18, Oscar Cullmann said: "He who proceeds without prejudice, on the basis of exegesis and only on this basis, cannot seriously conclude that Jesus here had in mind successors of Peter. . . . On exegetical grounds we must say that the passage does not contain a single word concerning successors of Peter . . . The intent of Jesus leaves us no possibility of understanding Matthew 16:17ff. in the sense of a succession determined by an episcopal see." (Peter: Disciple, Apostle, and Martyr (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), 207, 236.)

On page 162 of the same work Cullmann said: "We thus see that the exegesis that the Reformation gave . . . was not first invented for their struggle against the papacy; it rests upon an older patristic tradition.

Johann Joseph lgnaz von Dollinger, in his work The Pope and the Council (Boston: Roberts, 1869), 74, asserted:

"Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages in the Gospels (Matt 16:18, John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter's successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these texts, yet not one of them whose commentaries we posses -- Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas -- has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter! Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church of the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peter's confession of faith in Christ; often both together. Or else they thought Peter was the foundation equally with all the other Apostles, the twelve being together the foundation-stones of the church (Apoc. xxi.1 4). The Fathers could the less recognize in the power of the keys, and the power of binding and loosing, any special prerogative or lordship of the Roman bishop, inasmuch a -- what is obvious to any one at first sight -- they did not regard the power first given to Peter, and afterwards conferred on all the Apostles, as any thing peculiar to him, or hereditary in the line of Roman bishops, and they held the symbol of the keys as meaning just the same as the figurative expression of binding and loosing."

Karlfried Froehlich wrote,

"The earlier exegetical history of Matt. 16:18-19, Luke 22:32, and John 21:15-17 was largely out of step with the primatial interpretation of these passages. . . . The mainstream of exegesis followed an agenda set by patristic precedent, especially Augustine, but also other Western Fathers. . . . The understanding of these Petrine texts by biblical exegetes in the mainstream of the tradition was universally non\-primatial before Innocent III . . . . It was the innovative exegetical argumentation of this imposing pope which began to change the picture." (St. Peter, Papal Primacy and the Exegetical Tradition 1151-1350). Found in Christopher Ryan, ed., The Religious Role of the Papacy: Ideals and Realities 1150-1300 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 1989), 42, 4.)

One truly wonders about blanket statements regarding Protestant misuse of patristic sources, Dave.

As to point number seven, I would direct you especially to my discussion of the "development of doctrine" in the enclosed book, Answers to Catholic Claims, pp.63-73. I would also like to ask if you have read Salmon's refutation of Newman in his work, The Infallibility of the Church?

Finally, do you really feel point number eight carries sufficient weight to establish anything?

You write that sola fide is not the gospel. Yet, it is the clear record of the NT that it is the gospel. Let's say you are right that there wasn't a gospel around for 1500 some odd years for the sake of argument. Would this be sufficient reason for you to reject the NT witness to that gospel, Dave? You are, of course, not right to say that there was no gospel for those 1500 years. Even if you were to ignore Wycliffe and Hus, and all those murdered by Rome in the intervening centuries, what do you do with Clement of Rome?

"They all therefore were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous doing which they wrought, but through His will. And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, whereby the Almighty God justified all men that have been from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Epistle of Clement of Rome, 32)

You then repeated some well-worn slogans regarding Luther along with the first canon of the Council of Trent on justification, and concluded, "This would seem to be sufficient to put the matter to rest. But blind prejudice and anti-Catholicism stubbornly persist." The problem, Dave, is that you need to also quote canons 4, 5, 9, 12, 14, 1 5, 1 7, 24, 30, 32, and 33. I quote just a few of these:

Canon 24: If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.

Canon 32: If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema.

Canon 33: If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema.

This kind of teaching has led Roman Catholic theologians to conclude:

"Man, for his part, in order to arrive at full sanctification, must cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit through faith, hope, love of God and neighbor, and prayer; but he must also perform other 'works.' It is a universally accepted dogma of the Catholic Church that man, in union with the grace of the Holy Spirit must merit heaven by his good works. These works are meritorious only when they are performed in the state of grace and with a good intention." (Matthias Premm, Dogmatic Theology for the Laity, p.262).

"We have shown that according to the Holy Scripture the Christian can actually merit heaven for himself by his good works. But we must realize that these works have to be performed in the state of grace and with a good intention." (Ibid., p.263).

Again we find that having an allegedly "infallible guide" does not result in unanimity of opinion. The point that you seem to have missed as a "Protestant," Dave, and now miss as a Roman Catholic, is that the Reformation was never about the necessity of grace. Did you ever read such monumental works as Calvin's Institutio when you were a Protestant, or as you were seeking "answers" to the claims of Rome? If you had, you would know that no one has ever said that Rome teaches that grace is unnecessary. That is not the issue. The issue, Dave, is the sufficiency of God's grace apart from man's works. That, my friend, is the issue that you still have to face (see pp.36-37 of The Fatal Flaw).

Just today my seventh book came out, The King James Only Controversy. I will be quite busy for some time due to the release of the book. However, I may be making an East Coast swing to do some debates with KJV Only advocates, and I am always willing to engage Roman apologists as well. Would you be willing to defend the statements you made in your letter in public debate, Dave? Your letterhead included the phrase "Catholic Apologist" (I note in a font very reminiscent of that used by Catholic Answers). If that is the case, might you be interested in engaging in some very practical apologetics? I would be happy to debate sola scriptura, the Papacy, justification by faith, the Marian doctrines, etc. Shall we discuss the possibility?

I am sending this letter to you along with the noted materials in the US Mail. However, I am also going to fax it to you so that you will receive it quickly. I am also sending a copy to Eric Pement, should anyone contact him regarding your mailing to the individuals in the cult directory. In fact, I would be more than happy to make this letter available to anyone who wishes to see a brief response to the claims you made in your letter.

I have added your name to our mailing list. Our next Pros Apologian will be a full-length rebuttal of Patrick Madrid's article, The White Man's Burden, replete with a defense of the doctrine of sola scriptura. That edition has already been written, and is simply in the proof-reading stage.

I am sure, Dave, that you are quite happy right now in the bosom of Rome. There is a wonderful feeling, I'm sure, that accompanies being told with infallible certainty what to believe. But I simply hope, Dave, as I hope for those who have embraced the same kind of authoritarian claims from the Prophet in Salt Lake City or the Governing Body in Brooklyn, that you will realize that your decision to embrace that allegedly infallible authority was in and of itself not infallible. You might well be wrong. Think about that my friend.

Justified by faith and hence at peace,

James White
Recte Ambulamus ad Veritatem Evangelii


22 April 1995

To: James White

Dear James,

I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you very much for your extensive reply (dated April 6, 1995) to my letter -the most in-depth response I've yet received from a Protestant after more than four years as a Catholic (not for lack of trying, believe me). Let me commend you on one of the many areas of agreement which we do indeed share-- your work with regard to the King James Only crowd. Gail Riplinger is a true nut. I'm happy that you've taken on this serious error. Keep it up! Would that all of your "crusades" were so worthwhile and useful for the Body of Christ.

I agree with your first point about "uncharitability" and "schismatic" words and actions. Truth is often seen as uncharitable. We feel similarly about each other's outlook. I claim your views possess this trait precisely because I believe them to be untrue. You return the favor. If indeed I'm a Christian, then your words about my beliefs violate several clear biblical injunctions, such as, "Thou shalt not bear false witness."

Thus we are inexorably brought back to square one: What is a Christian?, Is "sola fide" the gospel?, Is "sola scriptura" the eleventh commandment ("Thou shalt have no authority except Scripture")?, Is sacramentalism idolatrous and Pelagian?, etc. One major distinction, however, should be duly noted. We Catholics-- notwithstanding harsh Trent language-- still officially regard Protestants as our "brothers in Christ," whereas so many of you regard us as non-Christians. Thus, the issue of charity would seem to favor us, at least at first glance.

Thank you for your three books and newsletter. I always (sincerely) appreciate free reading materials. You showed great perception in perhaps realizing that I would never spend a dime on an anti-Catholic book, even at the used-book sales I like to frequent. One has only so much time and money, and edifying, intellectually-sound and worthwhile pursuits are much-preferred (e.g., I don't read cultic or Marxist literature except for strictly research purposes). I'll read your stuff provided you're willing to interact with my refutations. I can confidently defend all of my works and always welcome any critiques of them.

I'll admit that you're by far the most intelligent of the anti-Catholics, which is, however, not saying much (as you yourself admit in your comments on anti-Catholics on pp. 20-21 of Fatal Flaw, yet even so you paradoxically enlist that towering intellect brother Brewer for your Foreword!). At least you seek to achieve some modicum of objectivity by citing leqitimate sources, to your great (almost unique) credit. How you misinterpret and misunderstand and argue against these sources constitute your own logical "fatal flaw." James Akin, in his critique of your book ("Fatally Flawed Thinking," This Rock, July 1993, pp.7-13) points out several of the book's many egregious errors, even in the basic understanding of Catholic positions (see, e.g., p.13).

Let me point out that I too have studied the Wittenberg and Genevan and Amsterdam and Tulsa and Downers Grove and Grand Rapids position(s) quite thoroughly; and have lived (some of) them wholeheartedly for ten years, half of which as an intensely-committed evangelist willing to endure great hardships and misunderstanding for the sake of Christ and His call on my life. So we're even there, too. Again, I think I get the edge since I've actually been on both sides of the fence, whereas you haven't (this isn't to say that one cannot know a position from the outside-- e.g., my Jehovah's Witness research). I, too, have written a book (750 pages -- possibly to be published by Ignatius Press) and tons of shorter apologetic materials.

You get the edge on debates. I've sought in vain to engage Protestants in both conversation and by letter, but no one has yet shown the willingness to continue after reading any of my in-depth critiques of Protestantism. Perhaps you'll be the first. I would have relished just this opportunity when I was Protestant, so I'm truly perplexed at the weak knees of evangelicals. My perspective is constructively ecumenical, not destructively adversarial. Evangelicals are fairly decent at published self-criticism, but apparently not very willing to face biblical, historical and reasoned critiques from across the Tiber. This is most unfortunate and curious.

I know the arguments of anti-Catholicism quite well, I assure you (also those of ecumenical Protestant apologists). Your arguments in Fatal Flaw and your letter are almost predictable, no offense intended. Let me respond to the latter, if I may. You claim I didn't have an adequate knowledge of "Roman" theology, hence I was open prey for clever, devious papists who easily reeled me in by means of Babylonish guile, because I had indeed already "rejected the tenets of the Reformation" and was "not truly a Protestant to begin with." Boy, where to begin with such inanities!

First of all, your information as to the state of my knowledge of Catholicism prior to my conversion is far too inadequate to justify your wild speculations, based as they are on a twelve-page conversion story (the shortest in the book). What do you know about the extent of my studies, or how well-read I am, or who I've talked to? Next to nothing. I know it's necessary for you to come up with wishful and baseless theories, since it's unthinkable for you to accept the possibility of a thoughtful and genuine conversion to Catholicism based on Scripture, Church history and reason.

But this doesn't make said theories hold any water if they lack the appropriate facts and analysis. Your "reasoning" here is exactly analogous to that of outright atheists who "explain" away Protestant conversions, ignoring the sincere self-reports of people who have undergone "born-again salvation" (they think God a crutch, rather than infallibility). Having personally experienced both types of conversions, I need not denigrate either one by means of foolish speculation. I merely reinterpret the first theologically. You could do that, too, but instead you resort to unfounded, condescending scenarios of my alleged ignorant gullibility.

Secondly, you denigrate my being impressed with Catholics in Operation Rescue. Now, how is this any different from the observance of committed "born again" Protestants, talked about all the time in the "testimonies" of evangelical circles as a means of "getting people saved," of "being a good witness," "walking the walk," "letting your light shine," being "epistles read of men," etc.? There is no difference. It's silly for you to criticize this element in my odyssey when it is so much a part of your own evangelistic, conversionist theology and ethos, as you are surely aware.

As I stated in my book, I had never seen such commitment among Catholics. It is to be expected in order for one to believe in any way of life which claims to transform human beings. But this was only one fairly minor factor. The primary initial reasons for my change were the moral bankruptcy of Protestantism (e.g., contraception and divorce), its anti-historical essence (as shown in Newman's Development), and the absurdity and unbiblical nature of Luther's many novel fancies (gleaned from reading his own words).

The only possible way in which I could formerly be described as some sort of "Catholic" would be my longstanding beliefs in (like Wesley) progressive sanctification, and (like the best Protestant scholars such as Geisler, Colson, Lewis, and Pelikan) strong advocacy of both history and reason, elements largely frowned upon by Protestantism. But clearly you don't accept my story at face value. Instead, like a true ideologue in the worst sense of that term, you grasp for straws in order to bolster your interpretation of what you would like to believe about my supposed journey from semi-Pelagianism to Pelagianism, rather than from dim to bright light, as I see it, or from skeletal, "mere" Bible Christianity to full-bodied, historical, incarnational Christianity grounded in Tradition and a real Church, not merely subjective whims and fancies, abstractions, and countless arrogant counter-charges and self-proclaimed "authorities."

Thirdly, it's news to me that belief in supralapsarian double predestination and total depravity (man is a worm on a dunghill) constitutes the quintessence of true Protestantism and hence, Christianity. This opens up a gargantuan can of worms both theologically and logically. Akin pointed out how (as I suspected) your Five-point Calvinism leads you to exclude from the Body anyone denying even limited atonement alone (p.8). Then, he recounts (p.9, note 12) how you tried to weasel your way out of the unavoidable implications of your own position by denying this. Which is it? Was I a Protestant or not, since I most certainly denounced "such things as the Mass, purgatory, and indulgences," which you told James Akin were necessary for Christianhood?

I was in very good company as a Protestant: Melanchthon (whom Luther hailed as the greatest theologian that ever lived, and his Loci as second only to the Bible) rejected Luther's denial of free will as early as 1527 in his Commentary on Colossians), and did not include this falsehood in the Augsburg Confession (1530), the authoritative Lutheran document approved by Dr. Luther himself. Strange, then, if he wasn't a Christian. John Wesley is thought by most Christians to be among their number -- at least as eligible as you, if I do say so. Likewise, Charles Finney, and C.S. Lewis, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Newman, Chesterton, Knox and Richard John Neuhaus before their conversions. I believe all of these men were Arminian.

Whole denominations, such as Methodists, Lutherans, the majority of Anglicans, Free Will Baptists, most pentecostals and many non-denominationalists are also out of the fold, by your definition. Even Keith Tolbert, a major cult researcher and now sole author of the Directory, is an Arminian (Assembly of God). So I guess he isn't a Christian either, and is in danger of becoming a papist (which prospect would be quite surprising to him, I'm sure!). Why, then, don't you write books about all these erring non-Christians too, since people will go to hell, according to you, by following their Pelagian doctrines just as us poor papists will? What's good for the goose . . .

Spare me. No reputable pastor or evangelist openly presents Five-Point Calvinism as the gospel. Billy Graham (whom I greatly respect) tells me I merely need to give my life over to Christ to be saved. It's ridiculous enough to present "sola fide" as the gospel (as Sproul, MacArthur and Ankerberg do), let alone TULIP, which excludes the great majority of Christians at all times through history. Besides clear scriptural counter-evidence, TULIP is false because, simply put, it transforms God into a demon-god who creates people solely for the reason of damning and torturing them for eternity, through no fault or choice of their own, and makes Him the author of evil.

This is absolutely blasphemous and one of the most abominable lies from the pit of hell ever devised. That's why I always rejected it, but this had no bearing on my former firm beliefs in "sola Scriptura" and "sola fide." Those are the two true (albeit weak) pillars of Protestantism, as illustrated in the very rallying-cries of Luther and other "Reformers." Who ever cried "Predestination to hell alone for the reprobate"?! I've always held that Calvinism was consistent, but unscriptural and wicked.

Because of the dreadful, ghastly teachings of Calvinism, men could not suffer it for long, so that, typically, error in turn bred even worse error. We see this clearly in the history of New England, where the Puritans evolved into Unitarians by 1800. Host of the founders of the cults, such as Russell, Eddy, Joseph Smith, and Wierwille, started out as Calvinists and found the teachings so revolting that they went to the other extreme and embraced Pelagianism and rejected the Trinity. Both the Lutherans and (most) Anglicans came to their senses and rejected Calvinism early on.

But another insuperable difficulty remains with this intolerable position of yours. Who are you to say whether I am a Christian or not? You're just one little old cult researcher with a pulpit, a para-church ministry and a Master's from Fuller -- hardly in the same league with the many stalwart figures mentioned above. Are you a Magisterium of one? Are you your own pope (which, I argue, is pretty much true for every individual Protestant)? Why should I trust your word on this (and my eternal destiny) rather than that of Wesley, or C.S. Lewis, or the "great" Melanchthon, or a host of others, not to mention Augustine, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Ignatius, Aquinas and the massive structure of the Catholic Church, the Fathers, Christian Tradition, the Councils, etc.?

Thus you subtly set yourself up, for all intents and purposes, as the sort of Infallible Guide you chide me for embracing ("there is a wonderful feeling, I'm sure, that accompanies being told with infallible certainty what to believe"). Your whole enterprise presents a quite humorous (but tragi-comic) episode in self-delusion and blindness to the absurdity of one's own position. Can't you see it? Your argument collapses on your own head (but since it is a house of cards in the first place, I guess it won't hurt too much!).

You say, "You might well be wrong." Of course! What else is new? But the point is, I'm in a helluva lot better company (no pun intended) than you are. I'd much sooner place my trust in Catholicism (in terms of human authority -not meant to exclude Christ!) in all its glory than in the foul-mouthed, emotionally-unstable and contradictory Luther and the calculating, self-righteous and ruthless Calvin, both of whose teachings are full of holes theologically, lacking precedent historically, and gravely deficient morally.

Everyone trusts in someone or something, whether it's Tradition or Protestant "Reformation mythology" ("Luther lit a candle in the darkness...") or Billy Graham or an infallible Bible (but which interpretation?) or Pastor Doe down the street or J. Vernon McGee, or whatever I feel the "Spirit" is telling me up in my attic, surrounded by the infallible, "perspicuous," and trustworthy guidance of the Bible and James White books, which refute all others. The Protestant position is self-defeating, indeed full of "organizational anarchy, schism, and theological relativism," as I write in my letter. Who could fail to see that? You yourself admit in your book that most evangelicals have gone astray (as if this is something unexpected!).

You make a silly remark about "how could you believe otherwise?" about the superiority of Catholic biblical support since I am not permitted to doubt this as a Catholic. The reply is simple. If I'm shown otherwise, then most certainly I will renounce Catholicism, just as I left evangelicalism for higher things. You assume I am shackled like a prisoner in a "Roman" dungeon for all eternity. But we believe in free will-- you are the ones who deny that. You act like I accept the proposition that Catholicism is more biblical only because I am taught this from Mother Church, and not on the basis of actually considering the merits of each side.

In a sense this is true because the Catholic is not arrogant enough to assume that he is the arbiter and final judge of all truth given him from any source (see my arguments above about the inevitability of trusting something outside oneself). We submit to a Tradition which includes all the great Christian minds who have reflected upon that Deposit of Faith, received from Jesus and the Apostles and developed as a result of battle with heretics for nearly 2000 years. I am very proud to do this, and not in the least ashamed.

I did accept the authority of the Church initially because of clear superiority over the absurdity and historical implausibility of the Protestant a-historical, Docetic-like, "mystical" conception of the Church and its Tradition, and desperate reliance on "sola Scriptura," an unbiblical, man-made, self-defeating, arbitrary tradition. But once I thoroughly familiarized myself with all the apologetic literature and biblical arguments for the Catholic distinctives I could find (in the 4-year course of writing my book), I became absolutely convinced that Catholicism is the most biblical position, as I stated in my letter.

I guess you'll just have to read some of my book (with your consent, you might start with the "sola fide" and "sola Scriptura" chapters), to understand why I believe as I do, and feel fully justified intellectually and biblically in placing my trust in the Church for doctrines I may not yet totally understand as well as those which I do grasp (see Newman's Grammar of Assent for the full treatment of Catholic intellectuality). My challenge to you is to refute my arguments therein and elsewhere.

Ever since I studied Socrates (from whom I derive my preferred method of discourse) in college in 1977 I have consistently sought to strongly believe in ideas, based on evidence, unless and until I am shown otherwise -- and I am always willing to change my mind in such cases, as I have done on numerous occasions throughout my life (which is one reason I am a Catholic, pro-life, politically conservative, and against divorce and contraception -- all views which I used to oppose). In this aspect I haven't changed a whit since "poping." How can you blame me for remaining Catholic when no Protestant has shown a willingness for over four years to show me how my apologetic arguments fail?

Where is the concern for my soul from these people, if indeed I'm on a terrible hellbound path, as many of them think (or at least drastically wrong on many points, if not "unsaved")? I'd be glad to encounter and confront any of these opposing views in continuing dialogue, if only I could find an evangelical who isn't, frankly, a "chicken." It looks like you might be that person. I'll have to wait for your response to see if this is the case. So, I am open-minded in every sense of the word. Are you willing to convert to Catholicism if shown that it is superior to Protestantism? If not, then it is you who have profoundly "blind faith" (or, stubborn pride), not me. As the saying goes, "a man convinced against his will, retains his original belief still."

As for recourse to the Fathers, there can be no doubt that Protestants (like their fathers Luther and Calvin) are selectively dishonest-- no question whatsoever. I myself engaged in this same tactic when fighting for Protestantism in 1990. I tried to squeeze the Fathers into my own mold, for my own polemical purposes. This was devious, but it is done all the time by evangelicals, particularly in espousing St. Augustine as one of their own, which is patently ridiculous. Although what you describe as "anachronistic interpretation" among Catholic apologists happens, I'm sure, at times (all people being biased), usually the Protestant misunderstands the concept of development, in which any given doctrine is not required to be in place in its fullness in the first, second, or sometimes third and even fourth centuries.

Rather than trading horror stories of "patristic abuse," I would prefer to actually pick a topic and see what the Fathers indeed taught. I've compiled this evidence in all my theological chapters in my book, so I'm already prepared for such a debate. How about the Eucharist, or the authority of Bishops, for starters? I stand by Newman's statement, "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." In this sense I was predestined to become a Catholic, as I have always loved history (including Church history). As soon as I studied the Fathers, it was all over.

Your letter goes from bad to worse at the bottom of p.2. Now "sacraments . . . replace the grace of God"!!! How preposterous! What lunacy! You are again on the slippery slope of excluding almost all Christians who disagree with you from Christianity. Even your hero and mentor Calvin (Inst., IV, 14,1) defines a "sacrament" as, "a testimony of divine grace toward us," and cites St. Augustine in agreement: "a visible form of an invisible grace," which is, of course, the standard Catholic definition, known to any Catholic child with any catechetic instruction whatever. Luther, of course agrees. Even in his Babylonian Captivity, a critique of Catholic sacramentalism, he still upholds the Catholic view for baptism and the Eucharist, and in this case is much closer to my view than yours.

He regards baptism as a regenerative sacrament, in opposition to your typical Baptist anti-sacramental opinions:

"[Infant] Baptism is a washing away of sins . . . the sacrament of baptism, even with respect to its sign, is not a matter of the moment, but something permanent . . . We must therefore beware of those who have reduced the power of baptism to such small and slender dimensions . . ." (Three Treatises, Fortress, Philadelphia, pp.191-2).

For Luther, baptism not only does not "replace the grace of God," it imparts it sacramentally in a most real and profound way, even to an infant, and "washes away sins," as Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians (the last two in a somewhat lesser, symbolic, but still sacramental sense) believe. Again, why don't you write books condemning all these folks (including your two primary Founders) for "adding to the completed work of Christ on the Cross," etc.?

Luther, of course, believed in the Real Presence as well (and even -- egads -- adoration of the Host -- see, e.g., Table Talk, ed. Hazlitt, no. 363, p.207). Thus, according to you, Luther must be both a "works-salvationist" and an idolater (even Calvin called him "half-papist" for this very reason), not to mention his belief in the Immaculate Conception and other "unbiblical" Marian doctrines (see my enclosed article). One of Luther's two favorite works (along with, appropriately, Bondage of the Will) was his seminal Commentary on Galatians. Yet you would now have me to believe that the correct perspective on this book, contrary to Luther's, excludes the use of sacraments! Your theological landscape is indeed a strange one, full of mysterious and unexpected detours and astonishingly contradictory backwaters.

Do you mention these beliefs of Luther when you extoll him in Fatal Flaw, chapter 1, and leave the impression that he was opposed to the "Roman system" in toto? Of course not, because such straightforward honesty would be fatal to your case and would fail to rouse the anti-Catholic "ignorant armies of the night" (Luther is misused just as much as the Fathers are). This is "anachronistic interpretation" par excellence, and it happens all the time.

For precisely this reason I was really shocked to learn about Luther's errors and considerable shortcomings as well as his many agreements with Catholicism. I had swallowed the myth, spoon-fed from Protestant legatees who in turn have taken in the fairy-tales with their mother's milk for 474 years (the Diet of Worms remains that to this day!). The truth is always more interesting, and particularly so in Luther's case.

Your treatment of the Canon of Scripture misses the point, which is that the Catholic Church, and "extrabiblical authority" was necessary for you guys to even have your Bible, let alone construct with tortured "logic" myths such as "perspicuity" and "sola Scriptura" from this book which you would never even have but for the Catholic Church, which, inexplicably, preserved it even though it supposedly destroys that same Church's belief system-- evident to any "plowboy." My paper on "sola Scriptura" deals with this.

It's the oldest rhetorical trick in the book to simply dismiss an important question as irrelevant, when one can't answer it, as you did with my query as to when Catholicism became apostate. You say, "do we need to know? Of course not." Of course every anti-Catholic does need to know, in order for his "Church history," to the extent that he has any at all, to have any shred of plausibility. There must have been a Church all those years when all "true believers" waited with baited breath for Messiah-Luther to be born in Eisleben (no less improbable than Nazareth for such a momentous figure, I guess).

You have no case, pure and simple, since all the Catholic distinctives appeared early, at least in kernel form, as far as records reveal to us (already strikingly so in St. Ignatius and St. Clement). Anti-Catholics are so desperate for a quasi-history, that, e.g., Dave Hunt is ready to embrace the Cathari and Albigensians as brothers before he would ever think of accepting me!

Ken Samples writes in a recent Christian Research Journal (Spring 1993, p.37) that if Catholicism is a cult,

"...then there was no authentic Christian church during most of the medieval period. Contrary to what some Protestants think, there was no independent, nondenominational, Bible-believing church on the corner (or in the caves) during most of the Middle Ages. Additionally, the schismatic groups who were around at the time were grossly heretical. So much for the gates of hell not prevailing against the church (Matt. 16:18)."

I couldn't agree more. For you to blithely ignore this massive crack in the facade of your anti-Catholicism (it's no problem for ecumenical Protestants, as I once was) with, in effect, a smirk and wave of the hand is, at best, quixotic, and at worst, intellectually dishonest. The burden of proof for this remains with you, and so my challenge still awaits a reply, rather than an evasive dismissal.

Likewise, you scoff at my disdain for the indefensible existence of 23,000 denominations. You don't dare admit that this is a valid point against Protestantism (perhaps your "fatal flaw") because you would obviously then be in big trouble. Yet it certainly is without question (e.g., Jn 17:20-23, Rom 16:17, 1 Cor 1:10-13, Gal 5:19-21 and many other passages). Thus you are bound by the outrageous and scandalous situation of Protestant sectarianism, in clear opposition to Scripture. About all Protestants can do here is mutter incoherently about agreement on "central issues," which falsehood I deal with in my refutation of Geisler's defense of "sola Scriptura" (also enclosed), or else they can take the path of citing the existence of liberals within Catholicism.

This won't do either, for the simple reason that we have dogmas and Councils and papal encyclicals and infallible utterances which constitute our teaching-- definite, observable, and documented for all to see, even the most wild-eyed liberals such as Kung and Curran and McBrien. It doesn't matter a hill of beans what these people say they or the Catholic Church believe. I could care less. I despised liberal Protestantism when I was among your number and I have even more contempt for Catholic liberalism, as it has far less excuse. Your side, of course, has neither any authority nor a sensible, workable method for determining truth in doctrine. In rare instances where someone is disciplined, they just go to another sect or start a new one (e.g., Swaggart). In Catholicism, on the other hand, a liberal like Kung can be (and was) authoritatively declared as no longer a Catholic theologian, and not to be trusted for correct doctrine. By the nature of the beast you guys can't do that. Hence my apt description of "anarchism" and "relativism." This is why your analogy is like comparing apples and oranges. It simply won't wash.

As for the Watchtower, it denies both the Bible and consistent Christian Tradition and many beliefs which even you and I share, such as the Trinity, bodily resurrection of Christ, the omnipresence and omniscience of God the Father and the fact that He is a Spirit (they think He has a body), etc. Obviously, there is no comparison. This is why their claim is invalid, along with their paltry 115-year existence, which is only 359 years less than the existence of your religion -- both being grossly inadequate in terms of passing on the true apostolic Tradition (without Catholicism).

Since you brought up the cultic comparison, I will also note that both cults and Protestantism are man-centered, whereas Catholicism is Christ-centered. Even your names betray this: Lutherans, Calvinists, Wesleyans, whereas ours simply means "universal." Where our sub-groups bear the name of individuals (Franciscans, Thomists, Benedictines, etc.) this is clearly understood as a branch of the larger tree, not as mutually-exclusive (in important aspects) systems, as in Protestantism. Luther and Zwingli and their ilk start new religions. St. Francis and St. Ignatius Loyola merely start orders, always in obedience to the Catholic Church.

Your remark about the supposed recent origin of "modern Romanism" is yet another instance of the incomprehensibility of development to the Protestant dichotomizing, "either-or" mind (which Luther had already perfected to a tee). It's pointless to respond to it other than to refer you to my various tracts about development or to Newman's essential work on the subject.

You gleefully note the divergent views of Lateran IV and Vatican II on religious tolerance. Yes, there has been a change of opinion here, but unfortunately for you, the teachings involved are not religious dogmas of the faith, but rather, disciplinary measures. I detest as much as you corruptions in the Inquisition, the indefensible sacking of Constantinople in 1204, etc., indeed all persecution. This argument was my main one against Catholicism when I was still fighting against it.

The Church has learned from its errors, as have the Protestant sects, which have an even worse history of intolerance and persecution, since your crimes are greater and more inconsistent with your supposed "freedom of conscience" for all to follow God in whatever way is deemed best by the "individual with his Bible alone" (see my treatise and synopsis on this subject which will provide copious documentation, lest you doubt this). If all Christian groups who have persecuted are ruled out of the faith, then about all that is left are the Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish, and whoever else descended from the Anabaptists. You may count yourself among these, but your theological fathers are still Luther and Calvin, who are horribly stained with the blood of dissenters. Your Founders were guilty of abominable crimes, whereas no one in Catholicism (even popes) have a place as high and lofty as these Protestant Super-Popes, who dictated infallible revelations which had to be believed under pain of death (yes, literally).

So, as almost always, what you think is a knockout punch to your detested "Romanism" rebounds back to you with much more force, for the reasons just recounted. What I call the "reverse Inquisition" argument stands accepted Protestant mythology on this topic on its head and shocks the daylight out of evangelicals who are invariably ignorant of the history of their own group (which is par for the course). The documentation for my contentions is so compelling as to be denied only by someone with his head in the sand. The "out" here is to simply deny that one is a "Protestant." "I'm not one of them," you often hear, "I'm a Bible Christian." But this will not do, as it is intellectually-dishonest to a nauseating degree in its a-historical delusion, which is a trademark of classic Protestantism. You love to claim you're "one" when it comes to denominationalism, but not when it comes to the skeletons in your closet.

As for your lengthy attempted refutation of papal claims and their biblical justification, I refer you to my chapter on the papacy and infallibility, which runs 98 pages, single-spaced. Again, you ignore the factor of development, which is nowhere more apparent and necessary than in the understanding of the evolution of the papacy. Your three long quotes, which you obviously thought were so unanswerable, have little or no force against my position.

You blithely dismiss my points 7 and 8 with your by-now familiar hit-and-run tactic of glib avoidance when you have no answer. Your section in your Answers book on development has little to do with the specific question I raised-- the inconsistent appeal to Councils. Funny, too, how I managed to find and read both Salmon and Dollinger's books when I was vigorously fighting infallibility in 1990. Now how could this be if I wasn't a Protestant and was already some sort of proto-Catholic mutation, according to your theory? Somehow I found the very books that you are enamored with. If you had communicated with me then, I think you would have found me quite a kindred (Protestant) spirit, with Salmon and good old Dollinger under each arm (Dollinger, by the way remained doctrinally Catholic in every sense except in accepting papal infallibility and in submitting to the Magisterium), even though I never denied that Catholicism was Christian.

For, in the anti-Catholic mentality, every co-belligerent against the great Beast and Whore is accepted as a brother almost without question (witness Dave Hunt and the Albigensians), much like your "feeling of 'brotherhood' created by standing against a common evil," which you posited as a reason for my conversion.

Salmon consistently misinterprets development to mean "evolution" in the sense of the essential change of doctrines, which of course it is not. He states,

"The old theory was that the teaching of the Church had never varied..." (p.33).

I got news for Salmon and you -- it still is the teaching, i.e., the essence never changes, but the subjective understanding and binding authority can. Development was clearly taught at least as far back as St. Augustine and St. Vincent of Lerins. In the latter's work, the concept is found in the same context as his famous statement (which Salmon loves to cite): "everywhere and always the same," thus proving that the two concepts are harmonious and complementary -- another difficult concept for the Protestant to grasp -- not contradictory, as Salmon seeks to prove, with great rhetorical flourish and straw-man triumphalism.

He doesn't, however (much like you), actually deal with Newman's brilliant analogical arguments, which comprise the heart of his classic work, since they are unanswerable from the Protestant perspective. I was honest enough (and granted enough light and grace) to accept this, and it was a crucial component in my conversion, as you correctly note. Salmon, on the other hand, is content to quixotically repeat over and over something which isn't even relevant, in a mere appearance of strength.

One brother of a friend of mine (the editor of the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge), also made much of Salmon and early on waxed eloquently about his debating ability. When I gave him my "sola Scriptura" paper and informed him that I had not only read but would also devour Salmon for lunch, he promptly vanished, never to be heard from again, presumably crushed because his champion was not unanswerable. Oh well, such is life for a lonely Catholic apologist. I also tried for four long years to "recruit" Protestants into my ecumenical discussion group, but failed. Apparently the prospect of being refuted by Catholics, who aren't supposed to know anything of the Bible or the Christian life, is horrifying. But if we're so wrong, where was the evangelistic zeal to save our souls?

You pass off my point number 8 with a 14-word sentence. Yet it is absolutely crucial. How, indeed, could such an anti-Christian system be so dead-right about morality-- far better than any particular Protestant sect and immeasurably superior to Protestantism as a whole, which is profoundly compromised, especially on sexual, marital and gender issues. The very fact that you don't regard this as of any "weight" merely confirms in my mind the Protestant tendency of unconcern for holiness and morality (also clearly observed in Luther's life and teachings-- e.g., the bigamy of Philip of Hesse), one of the primary reasons for my abandoning it. Here again you are radically a-historical and anti-incarnational. I suppose your reason would be that my statement is not immediately scriptural, therefore, of no import for "Bible alone" followers. Or, as I suspect, because you don't know how to answer it. One or the other.

I'm delighted that you cite St. Clement of Rome on justification, as if he was a "faith alone" adherent. Nothing he says here is against Catholic teaching whatsoever, as proven by Trent's Canon I on Justification, which I cited, and the decrees of Second Orange. I included this very passage in my book when I dealt with justification. But I went on to quote from the next two sections as well, where St. Clement talks about good works ("the good worker receives the bread of his labor confidently"-- 34,1). Later, in 58,2 he states that the ones who have "kept without regret the ordinances and commandments given by God" will be "enrolled and included among the number of those who are saved through Jesus Christ." So this is what I "do" with St. Clement, whose letter is just as easily interpreted as in harmony with Catholic teaching as Protestant (I think more so).

He merely reiterates the ("works-salvation"?) teachings of Jesus (Mt 5:20, 7:16-27, 25:31-46, Lk 18:18-25), which Protestants so downplay when they talk about justification, bypassing the Lord and immediately rushing to St. Paul, who is made out to be a proto-Luther figure. But St. Paul, like St. James' "epistle of straw," also stresses the organic connection between faith and works in our salvation, as in Catholicism (Rom 2:5-13, 1 Cor 3:8-9, Gal 5:6, 6:7-9, Eph 2:8-10, Phil 2:12-13, 3:10-14, 1 Thess 1:3,11, 1 Tim 6:18-19). Evangelicals, in their propensity for selective presentation of verses and neglect of context, conveniently ignore all these passages when talking about justification.

Your Canons 24, 32 and 33 from Trent and others, and comments about the "sufficiency of God's grace apart from man's works" prove nothing. These Canons are in harmony with the one I quoted and others in that same vein. When will you Protestants stop making your false dichotomies when there is no necessity to do so? This is so irritating because it's almost impossible to convince you that you are constantly doing it. You can believe in all your "solas" and contradictions if you so desire. But please understand that our view does not operate on those principles. So in Trent's Canons on justification, faith and works, God's preceding grace and man's cooperating action are not seen as contradictory, as you believe.

You act like merely adding up numbers of decrees with which you disagree, over against mine, with which you may agree, somehow proves that the Church is Pelagian (which it has always condemned) rather than Christian. This is not reasonable. It isn't even your methodology with Scripture. Neither the Virgin Birth nor Original Sin are mentioned very often there, yet they are firmly believed by all evangelicals. Why? Because they are true, and harmonize with the rest of Scripture. Likewise with the Immaculate Conception, yet you rail against it by virtue of its implicit presence in Scripture. In order to overcome the "dichotomous tendency of Protestant thought," I highly recommend Louis Bouyer's The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, which also has an excellent treatment of the absolute preeminence of God's preceding and enabling grace in Catholic soteriology, over against your misguided assertions here.

Since you brought up the Fathers, how about St. Ignatius, writing about 14 years after St. Clement:

"May none of you be found a deserter [so much for Calvinism] . . . Let your works be as your deposited withholdings, so that you may receive the back-pay which has accrued to you." (Letter to Polycarp, 6,2).

Gee, I used to think that Catholics only learned to talk like that in the corrupt era of Tetzel and Eck, with all the drivel about the "treasury of merits" and all, so irrefutably demolished in Luther's Feces. If Clement and Ignatius were heretics and Arminians, then the Church was already off the rails within a generation of John's death! How quickly do things collapse! What a shame! And this is how the Protestant attempt to co-opt the Fathers always ends up -- an entirely futile and fruitless endeavor.

You also mention Wycliffe and Hus as purveyors of the "gospel," certainly the favorite "proto-Protestants" of the Middle Ages, second and third only to St. Augustine in this regard, who is Luther and Calvin's favorite "Protestant." As usual, there seems to be little effort to actually study the opinions of these fellow "anti-Catholics." They are seized upon because of their rebellious beliefs. Indeed Wycliffe comes about as close as you will get, but according to the learned Protestant historian Latourette in his A History of Christianity, vol. 1, (p.664), Wycliffe believed in a type of Real Presence (remanence) in the Eucharist (his view was similar to Luther's), seven sacraments (although he denied the necessity of confirmation), and purgatory. These views are more than enough to exclude him from "Christianity" and the "gospel," as defined by you, but no matter-- you inconsistently cite him anyway because his legend is a revered Protestant tradition-- all anti-Catholics must be canonized and venerated as saints in Protestantism.

You might say, "heck, nine out of ten correct beliefs ain't bad," but this misses the point. If even your best examples of "Protestants" in the B.L. so-called "dark ages" era of history ("Before Luther") fail to meet the "gospel" criterion, then what becomes of your overall case for non-Catholic Christian continuity for 1500 years? I don't think you're ready to espouse Eastern Orthodoxy as the answer to your dilemma! Your a-historical view clearly fails miserably, for extreme lack of evidence, which comes as no surprise to anyone acquainted with this period of Church history. Hus, too-- generally regarded as less radical than Wycliffe-- believed in sacramental baptism and Transubstantiation, and held, according to Protestant Roland Bainton (Christendom, vol. 1, p.239) that "the sacraments at the hands of the unworthy are nevertheless valid and efficacious" (Catholicism's ex opere operato), so he's outside "orthodoxy" as defined by . . . you. You keep cutting off the limb you're sitting on by your extreme judgments as to who is and isn't a Christian, making many of your own positions utterly contradictory, if not downright nonsensical.

Why would you send your reply to my letter to Eric Pement? Don't you think that my arguments can easily be overcome by your cult research comrades? Why would they need your reply if my arguments are often so insubstantial as to merit one or two-sentence "refutations," as you believe? I take this as a (probably unintended) compliment-- thank you. In fact, it may help my cause, since if they mention your "rebuttal," I could then send them this (otherwise I wouldn't have).

Finally, I am delighted and (I think) honored that you are eager and "happy" to debate me in public. I love debate, but much prefer informal, conversational Socratic dialogue or written point-counterpoint exchanges to the mutual monologues and often antagonistic and disrespectful affairs which pass for "public debates." I am not particularly skilled as an orator and lecturer, nor do I have the requisite desire to participate in that type of forum. That said, I would not want to publicly represent the Church to which I give my allegiance, but would rather defer to someone with more abilities for formal debate than I possess, so that we are best represented.

I am pleased to report, however, that my friend Gary Michuta, another apologist who started our group called "Thy Faith," which puts out a magazine called Hands On Apologetics (similar to This Rock), immediately and enthusiastically accepted this challenge when I inquired about it yesterday. His phone number and fax are the same as my fax number: [deleted], and he can be reached at the following address: [deleted]. He eagerly awaits your reply.

I must, regretfully, inform you of another reason for my declining: the widespread intellectual dishonesty, evasiveness, and uncharitability of anti-Catholic debaters. Akin in his article on your book starts out by recalling how you have refused to shake hands with your Catholic opponents, or even pray the Lord's Prayer with them. This is contemptible, petty behavior. Madrid's article "The White Man's Burden" concurs, by citing your rude treatment of him and of Dr. Art Sippo, whom apparently you no longer wish to debate, having been "beaten," according to Pat's account, anyway. Like Dave Hunt, who recently "debated" Karl Keating in my area and evaded in cowardly and embarrassing fashion the topic ("Was the Early Church Catholic") all night (not even quoting a single Church Father, to my recollection!), you refused, by and large, to attempt to prove "sola Scriptura" from the Bible, which was your topic of debate.

I find these incidents intellectually offensive and insulting to the debate opponent, the audience, and a decent sense of "fair play." Likewise, even in video presentations such as James McCarthy's Catholicism: Crisis of Faith, dishonest and unethical tactics were used (see Keating's article in This Rock, May 1993, pp.8-17), particularly with regard to the reprehensible treatment of Fr. Richard Chilson. I also heard Keith Fournier recount on the radio very poor treatment he received at the hands of disingenuous anti-Catholics, who more or less preyed upon his good will and trapped him by inviting him to a talk which turned into a "debate" and inquisition against him (I can't remember who these people were, but my point is still valid). [Note: Fournier actually did quite well against Dave Hunt, which is the "debate" from early 1992 we are talking about here -- P].

Four strikes and you're out. I will not subject myself to this kind of asinine behavior and disrespect, which is an insult to the whole idea of fair, open-minded debate. If your case is so superior to ours, then "put up or shut up." The fact that these unsavory tactics regularly occur convinces me all the more that you have no argument and are reduced to empty rhetoric and ad hominem attacks, etc. (much like liberal politicians today).

Lest you think I'm trying to evade you, however, I am perfectly willing, able, ready, and eager to engage you in debate on any topic you so desire either by letter or in your newsletter (if the latter, I would require prior editorial consent, due to the unscrupulous tactics recounted above). I would demand equal space in your newsletter, so that the fair inquirer could make up his own mind. You've observed my debating abilities in this letter and other writings I've given you, so I think you'll agree that timidity and fear are not my reasons for declining public oratorical debate.

Your newsletter is just as "public," and probably reaches even more people than a one-night debate would. Your next reply is crucial and will likely set the tone for the future course of your dealings with me. I hope that (at long last) you are the Protestant who will dare to actually confront my arguments, especially my numerous critiques of Protestantism. If you aren't, I will start thinking that such a person does not exist. So, I eagerly anticipate your reply, and (I hope) request for whatever of my papers you would most like to debate. I've much enjoyed writing this.

Yours, sincerely, in Christ & His Church,

Dave Armstrong


May 4, 1995

To: Dave Armstrong

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

Over the years I have attempted to establish "standards" to guide me in how I should invest my very limited time. Working, as I do, with Mormons, JWs, and now Roman Catholics and even KJV Only folks, I have to attempt to be balanced. It is not an easy task. Normally, I will admit, your letter's tone would be sufficient for it to be dismissed. I have learned to recognize sophistry when I see it, and as I grow and mature, I have learned to ignore such argumentation as falling under Paul's prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:23. The number of simple misrepresentations, and gross caricatures, of my letter to you and the position I espouse was enough to do almost irreparable damage to your credibility and keep me from investing any of my limited time in responding to you. However, it almost seemed to me that you were hoping that would be the result of your arrogant letter, so I guess part of my reply to you is based upon a desire to deny you that very accomplishment.

Allow me to take a moment to concentrate, in one paragraph, just some of the kind, helpful, truly "Socratic" comments you included in your letter: "Would that all of your 'crusades' were so worthwhile and useful for the Body of Christ"; "Is 'sola scriptura' the eleventh commandment"; "that towering intellect brother Brewer"; "Boy, where to begin with such inanities!"; "your wild speculations"; "wishful and baseless theories"; "you resort to unfounded, condescending scenarios of my alleged ignorant gullibility"; "like a true idealogue in the worst sense of the term, you grasp for straws"; "You're just one little old cult researcher with a pulpit, a para-church ministry and a Master's from Fuller"; "Your whole enterprise presents a quite humorous (but tragic-comic) episode in self-delusion and blindness to the absurdity of one's own position"; "I'm in a helluva lot better company than you are"; "You make a silly remark"; "Your letter goes from bad to worse"; "How preposterous! What lunacy!" "Messiah-Luther"; "You have no case, pure and simple"; "You gleefully note"; and so on.

Do you find the use of bluster and bombast helpful, Mr. Armstrong? Does it aid your case? Or is it a cover for an inability to honestly face the issues? You lamented the unwillingness of "Protestants" to correspond wth you. Seemingly you have decided that this is because you are so great, so intelligent, so well-informed and so well-read that there is none who can even begin to respond to your arguments. Might I suggest to you, Mr. Armstrong, that it might be because some of us have standards with reference to the behavior of those with whom we correspond? I will not debate Vinney "85% of those who hear me think I'm a lunatic" Lewis, either, and there's a reason for that: he is not worthy of being noticed on that level. Seemingly you have taken at least some of your cues from Mr. Lewis, though, of course, you seem to disagree with him (and these days, Gerry Matatics) on the issue of the "separated brethren." Anyway, if you wish to get people to engage in extended conversation, Dave, try not insulting them and misrepresenting them in every other paragraph.

I mentioned above the many misrepresentations in your letter. Let me enumerate some of them for you. First, you wasted a large number of key-strokes beginning at the top of page 4. First, it didn't seem to occur to you to consider the possibility that James Akin and Patrick Madrid are fallible folks with an agenda. I have fully responded to James Akin's article (and to Patrick's blast as well), and pointed out the errors he made with reference to both my position and my actions in the past (more on that later). You are in error, as he was in error, to say that I exclude people from the kingdom on the basis of their acceptance or rejection of limited atonement.

Such is a caricature, and is unworthy of anyone who wishes to be taken seriously as an apologist. It is a misrepresentation, and if you continue to use it, you only convict yourself of dishonesty. Then you make the incredible leap (hoping no one notices the shift in terminology, perhaps?) from the term "Protestant" to the term "Christian" for the rest of this page, and on the basis of this dishonest shifting of terms, attack me on all sorts of issues, none of which are even worthy of response. This kind of argument is a mere wasting of time and effort, Mr. Armstrong. Those who have something meaningful to say don't waste their time on such things.

The exact same kind of silliness is to be found on page 7, where you write in the best style of Gail Riplinger, "Your letter goes from bad to worse at the bottom of p.2. Now 'sacraments... replace the grace of God'!!! How preposterous! What lunacy!" And I might add, "What dishonesty on your part!" Did you think I don't keep copies of my letters, Mr. Armstrong? I've gotten used to finding out what Mrs. Riplinger deletes with those ellipses, so did you think I would not look at what I originally wrote to see why you had to edit my words? As we both know, I wrote the following:

"Faithful in preaching the apostolic message of the gospel? Certainly not, and that is the issue, Dave. If you feel a communion that replaces the grace of God with sacraments, mediators, and merit, can be properly called 'Christian,' then please go ahead and use the phrase. But please understand that if a person shares the perspective of the epistle to the churches of Galatia they will have to hold to a different understanding, and hence may not be as quick to use the term 'Christian' of such a person."

I can certainly see why you needed to edit the "quotation," Dave, as what I originally said, in its original context, was neither preposterous or marked by lunacy, but was perfectly understandable. That you chose to misrepresent my own letters not only indicates to me that you might have a difficulty defending the concept of mediation and merit in Roman theology (the two elements you conveniently deleted), but it again indicates to me that if you will dishonestly use my own words, what might you be willing to do with Irenaeus or Tertullian? Personally, Dave, I feel you not only owe me an apology for such behavior, but you have some serious work to do to restore your credibility as an honest apologist and researcher.

Finally, I mentioned the arrogance that marked your letter. I will note examples as I provide responses to your points, but one sentence that stuck in my mind came toward the end of your letter, from page 12:

"One brother of a friend of mine (the editor of the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge), also made much of Salmon and early on waxed eloquently about his debating ability. When I gave him my "sola Scriptura" paper and informed him that I had not only read but would also devour Salmon for lunch, he promptly vanished, never to be heard from again, presumably crushed because his champion was not unanswerable. Oh well, such is life for a lonely Catholic apologist. I also tried for four long years to "recruit" Protestants into my ecumenical discussion group, but failed. Apparently the prospect of being refuted by Catholics, who aren't supposed to know anything of the Bible or the Christian life, is horrifying."

You are kidding, right? I mean, the above paragraph simply drips with an arrogance that I've seen displayed publicly by the likes of Vinney Lewis and Art Sippo, and in writing by folks like Patrick Madrid. I have to keep reminding myself that you are the same person who has declined my challenge to publicly debate. If you would "devour Salmon for lunch," Mr. Armstrong, wouldn't that make me a mere before-dinner snack, given my obvious inferiority to Salmon as a scholar? Sort of makes your protestations about not being an orator rather empty, don't you think?

Well, having spent nearly three pages on materials that should not have even been included in a letter such as yours, I turn to responding to the actual assertions made therein. You noted that, "If indeed I'm a Christian, then your words about my beliefs violate several clear biblical injunctions, such as, 'Thou shalt not bear false witness.' " No, that would only be true if what I said about Roman theology was in fact untrue, and you did not even begin to demonstrate that anything I said was inaccurate on that account.

Next you noted, "We Catholics -- notwithstanding harsh Trent language -- still officially regard Protestants as our 'brothers in Christ,' whereas so many of you regard us as non-Christians." Yes, I'm sure the Council of Constance considered Jan Hus a "brother in Christ" as they burned him at the stake, Dave. And I'm sure the Waldensians of the Piedmont Valley were quite comforted by the fact that they were being raped and slaughtered by "brothers in Christ." I am reminded of a radio program I did on WEZE with Gerry Matatics, formerly of Catholic Answers (and now, seemingly, accusing them of dishonesty and libel). He called back after the program just to make sure that I understood that since I am anathema, that means that I do not have eternal life and should I die today, I would go to hell. He can quote dogmatic works just like you can, Dave. That's the nature of conflicting teachings in the supposedly infallible Magisterium. You can ignore such contradictions if you like, Dave, but that won't make them go away.

I found your next comment most fascinating: "You showed great perception in perhaps realizing that I would never spend a dime on an anti-Catholic book, even at the used-book sales I like to frequent." Really? May I respectfully suggest you remove the term "apologist" from your letterhead, then, for it is simply not possible for a person to be a serious apologist who would harbor such an attitude. I have spent literally thousands of dollars on books that attacked my faith -- I have a very respectable Roman Catholic library, a huge LDS library, shelves of Watchtower publications, books from Prometheus, even the Soncino Talmud! How in the world are you to defend your faith if you do not take the time to invest in acquiring the works of those who would refute you? You noted reading Salmon. How did you do that, if by not obtaining the book? If you borrow from a library, you are limited to how much use you can make of the book. I'm sorry, but such an attitude is very strange coming from one who claims to be an apologist.

I suppose I should take your next comment as a compliment: "I'll admit that you're by far the most intelligent of the anti-Catholics, which is, however, not saying much (as you yourself admit in your comments on anti-Catholicism on pp.20-21 of Fatal Flaw, yet even so you paradoxically enlist that towering intellect brother Brewer for your Foreword!)." Just a few things: 1) I'm a Protestant apologist, not an anti-Catholic. When you start calling yourself an anti-Protestant, I'll allow you to get away with calling me an anti-Catholic. 2) Bart Brewer may not measure up to your standards of a "towering intellect," but I'll take his humility, dedication to Christ, and simple kindness over your attitude any day, Mr. Armstrong.

You noted, "Again, I think I get the edge since I've actually been on both sides of the fence, whereas you haven't." Why do you find this to be an advantage, Mr. Armstrong? Gerry Matatics has often made much of the same concept, yet, I have to wonder why someone would think that way. Obviously, from my perspective, you are, to use the proper term, an apostate. To make one's apostasy a badge of honor, and to say that this gives you an "edge," bewilders me. Scripture says a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways, and we are warned about those who are blown about by every wind of doctrine. I noted the many, many churches that someone like Bob Sungenis was in prior to his move to Rome (Gerry Matatics, too, moved through a number of different positions, just as he has in Roman Catholicism since his conversion), and I just have to point out that such instability is not an edge, but a distinct disadvantage, wouldn't you say?

You referenced your book a number of times in your letter, even using it as reference source and saying things like, "See my chapters on such and such." Yet, as you wrote, it may be published by Ignatius Press (though getting a 750 page book published is pretty unlikely these days -- that's a pretty hefty book and would be most costly). How, may I ask, can I make reference to a book that is yet to be published and is not available to me?

In regards to your use of the phrase, "constructively ecumenical," what do you mean? One Roman apologist (who asked to be "off the record") confided to me just recently that "ecumenical dialogue is a joke. The only reason we are talking to you is to bring you back to Rome, nothing else." I think he has a good basis in history for such a statement, don't you?

Next I encountered another example of misrepresentation. You wrote the following: "You claim I didn't have an adequate knowledge of 'Roman' theology, hence I was open prey for clever, devious papists who easily reeled me in by means of Babylonish guile, because I had indeed already 'rejected the tenets of the Reformation' and was 'not truly a Protestant to begin with.' Boy, where to begin with such inanities!" Indeed, where does one begin? How you got that perspective from the two sentences I actually wrote in my letter is difficult to figure out. Here's what I wrote:

Your story in Surprised by Truth is almost predictable, Dave, no offense intended. Your rejection of Roman theology was not based upon a knowledge of why, and hence was ripe for refutation. You admit you rejected the tenets of the Reformation when you say, "I had always rejected Luther's notions of absolute predestination and the total depravity of mankind."

Funny how you can change the above sentences into a diatribe replete with terms like "papist" and "Babylonish guile." Inane was a good word, but it only describes your caricaturization of my statements, nothing else.

Now, am I to conclude, Dave, that I should not take what Roman apologists say at face value? I mean, you did write the article in Surprised by Truth, right? And if you did, could you be so kind as to show me where in that article you give the slightest evidence of being familiar with, say, Calvin's discussions on sola scriptura or sola fide? You mentioned such biggies as Charles Colson and Hal Lindsey, but where did you give me even the slightest indication that you were, in fact, fully aware of why Roman theology was to be rejected? Where did you tell us that you had read, say, the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, or maybe Hardon's works? If it is in your article, Dave, I must have missed it. Could you cite the page numbers to me that would give me any reason to retract what I said above? I'd appreciate it.

You asked me, "What do you know about the extent of my studies, or how well-read I am, or who I've talked to? Next to nothing." Indeed. Do forgive me for taking your own conversion story as being reflective of your actual experience. I'll try to remember not to take such writings at face value in the future. They must be meant only to lead people to consider Roman Catholicism, not to tell the truth about your background or experience.

As to the idea that a person would convert to Rome based upon Scripture, Church history and reason, such a conversion will take place only when a person makes the final epistemological leap in submitting to (I might say "succumbing to") the absolute claims of Rome. Once that decision is made, the rest falls into place naturally enough. And since you gave me no reason to believe that you had ever encountered the claims of Rome in any meaningful way prior to your conversion, I can only repeat what I said before: you were ripe for conversion. I guess I should modify that a little: the Watchtower makes the same kind of final epistemological claim upon its adherents, so you had encountered it, just not dressed in the liturgy and history of Rome.

Next we find you saying, "Secondly, you denigrate my being impressed with Catholics in Operation Rescue." Really? Well, let's see if I denigrated anything at all:

"And your involvement in Operation Rescue simply gave you the opportunity of seeing that Roman Catholics can be real nice folks who really believe in the teachings of the Church in Rome. And the feeling of 'brotherhood' created by standing against a common evil, joined with the simple fact that you were not truly a Protestant to begin with, is reason enough to explain your swimming the Tiber."

I'm sorry, Dave, but again I fail to find any evidence of "denigration" in the above sentences. Where is it? Or might you be hyper-sensitive, as I've found other folks who wrote in Surprised by Truth? You see, Dave, I, too, was involved for a while with Operation Rescue. I left the movement because of the issue of Romanism and the implicit statement that I had to overlook fundamental differences on the gospel itself "for the good of the movement." Maybe, just maybe, it is you, Dave, who jumped to "condescending scenarios"?

In regards to desiring in-depth, give and take correspondence, I simply point out that the constant use of bombastic language is hardly commensurate with such a desire. Note your words at the bottom of page 3, wherein you liken my faith to "merely subjective whims and fancies, abstractions, and countless arrogant counter-charges and self-proclaimed 'authorities.' " Personally, I'd see such a sentence being applicable to the modern state of Roman apologetics in the U.S. today, but that's another issue.

Next you wrote, "Thirdly, it's news to me that belief in supralapsarian double predestination and total depravity (man is a worm on a dunghill) constitutes the quintessence of true Protestantism and hence, Christianity." Of course, what I had said was that since you rejected predestination and total depravity, you were not a true Protestant (speaking in the historical sense -- you connected Luther with the beliefs, as you will recall), and I stand by the statement. Surely you recall Luther's admission to Erasmus that he, above all of Luther's other foes, had focused upon the real issue, that being the concept of "free will" versus the bondage of the will, and that, of course, brings up both predestination and total depravity. Luther was not systematic enough to get into debates about supralapsarianism or infralapsarianism -- such is not the issue.

If you always denied that man's will is bound to sin and that God has predestined a people unto himself, you may have been attending a Protestant church and may have been in the majority of what is called Protestantism today, but the fact remains that as to the Reformation and the heritage thereof, you were a traitor, more at home in Rome's semi-Pelagianism than in Paul's Augustinianism (to create a wonderfully anachronistic phrase that speaks volumes). Not that you were alone: the majority of "Protestantism" today is treading water in the Tiber on that issue. Of course, I said all of that (possibly not with the same colorful terminology) in The Fatal Flaw. And as I mentioned, you are simply wrong to say I exclude those who reject limited atonement from the Christian faith.

Just a quick note: "Spare me. No reputable pastor or evangelist openly presents Five-Point Calvinism as the gospel." You are kidding, right? Well, given the twisted, contorted, Jack Chickian-Gail Riplingeresque view of the Reformed position you present in this very paragraph (page 4, at the bottom), maybe you aren't. I shouldn't expect you to know the historical realities of people like Jonathan Edwards, or Charles Haddon Spurgeon, or Whitefield, but you even mentioned Sproul, who, of course, is Reformed. You probably didn't read much of Gerstner as a "Protestant," nor would I expect you to know such names as Albert Martin. Well, anyway, I'll have to tell my pastor that you believe he is not reputable. I'm certain he will be most disappointed. :-)

I would like to quote your words regarding the Reformed position:

"Besides clear scriptural counter-evidence, TULIP is false because, simply put, it transforms God into a demon-god who creates people solely for the reason of damning and torturing them for eternity, through no fault or choice of their own, and makes Him the author of evil. This is absolutely blasphemous and one of the most abominable lies from the pit of hell ever devised."

I get the distinct feeling, Dave, that you don't like the Reformed gospel. No surprise, given your love for Roman theology. Those who have never realized their own helplessness often hate the gospel, I've discovered. I've seen similar paragraphs from other Roman Catholics, from atheists, from Mormons, and even from some "Protestants," too. I have to really focus my attention just to realize that the authors of such diatribes are actually referring to the gospel of grace, so plainly presented by Paul in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 through 9: it's hard to recognize that, given how twisted is the torturous presentation. Of course, if I were to present Roman theology in such terminology (without a single reference to a single Roman source) I would be dismissed as a raving "anti-Catholic." But, I've rarely found Roman apologists to be consistent in their arguments, so I shouldn't be surprised that you would use such a double standard here, either.

Again, as a historian, I find your comments about Puritanism "evolving" into Unitarianism quite humorous (you did mean that to be a joke, right?). As a student of Jonathan Edwards I must say I would be one of the few folks who would get such a joke. I can tell this is a joke because of your statement that Joseph Smith began as a "Calvinist." Again, your research couldn't be that bad, so I must take this as a joke, too, though a not overly amusing one.

You then noted, "You're just one little old cult researcher with a pulpit, a para-church ministry and a Master's degree from Fuller-- hardly in the same league with the many stalwart figures mentioned above." I have no idea which stalwart figures you might be referring to, but it makes no difference. A few corrections: I'm not really that old, and I don't have a pulpit. Other than that, yup, you are very much on the money. Just one little fellow out here enjoying God's blessings and being used by Him to help people see through false claims, whether those claims come from Salt Lake City, Brooklyn, Gail Riplinger, or yes, Rome itself. Of course, you, too, are just one little fellow, a novice convert to Romanism, eyes bright with the zeal of a convert, but far too young in your journey with Rome to even begin to have the whole story. I simply have to say, "So?"

Now, you managed, sadly, to miss the point of nearly every objection I raised (and, I note in passing, you skipped entire sections of my letter in your response, too). In your rush to characterize my ministry as "a quite humorous (but tragic-comic) episode in self-delusion and blindness to the absurdity of one's own position," and to claim just about all the early Fathers as your own, and join yourself with "the massive structure of the Catholic Church, the Fathers, Christian Tradition, the Councils, etc." (p.5), you missed the weight of my objection. When I pointed out that "you might be wrong," you responded, "Of course. What else is new? But the point is, I'm in a helluva lot better company (no pun intended) than you are." I'm sure you wish that to be the case, Dave, but again, how do you know you are in company with, say, Athanasius or Ignatius or lrenaeus? In the final analysis, is it not because Rome tells you so?

Oh, I know, I read the rest of your letter (even your vented hatred of Luther and Calvin) -- I know you claim to be able to analyze Rome's claims, yet, you also admitted that, "in a sense" I am right in stating that you cannot really question Rome's pronouncements. As you said, "In a sense it is true because the Catholic is not arrogant enough to assume that he is the arbiter and final judge of all truth given him from any source." Does that mean, Dave, that you are not responsible before God for what you believe? That once you sign over the title-deed to your mind to someone else (teaching magisterium, Prophet, Governing Body, whatever) you can no longer be held responsible for the truth? I wonder why the Pharisees didn't point that out to the Lord when He held them directly responsible for God's revelation to them?

Well, we can't question Rome, of course, for Rome has all authority. Instead, we must repeat what we've been taught, sort of like our mantra: "We submit to a Tradition [make sure to capitalize this term.] which includes all the great Christian minds who have reflected upon that Deposit of Faith, [not only capitalize these terms, but make sure to ignore all those Fathers who directly contradicted Roman dogmas and teachings], received from Jesus and the Apostles [but never engage in public debate to defend that statement!] and developed as a result of battle with heretics for nearly 2000 years [but don't bother to tell anyone why the term Roman Catholic, aside from being an oxymoron (how can something be limited-Roman-and "universal"?), is not something that the early Fathers ever thought of using to describe themselves]." Then say that you are very proud to repeat this statement of faith. I hope you are not too offended if I say, Dave, that I see precious little difference between that kind of statement and the "testimonies" of the Mormon missionaries who speak with such enthusiasm and honesty about their trust in Joseph Smith and the living Prophet and the Book of Mormon.

I'm glad you realize that your decision to embrace Roman authority is a fallible one. That means that every time you assert Roman infallibility you will be honest and say, "I think Rome is infallible, but I'm not really certain of that." Most Roman apologists don't come right out and say things like that. They seem to want their audience to think that you really can have absolute and infallible certainty about Roman authority.

It's sort of hard for me to believe, Dave, that the following paragraph is really reflective of your conversion process:

"I did accept the authority of the Church initially because of clear superiority over the absurdity and historical implausibility of the Protestant a-historical, Docetic-like, 'mystical' conception of the Church as its Tradition, and desperate reliance on 'sola scriptura,' an unbiblical, man-made, self-defeating, arbitrary tradition."

That's pretty reflective, wouldn't you agree? You weren't using such terminology as that in 1990, that's for certain. Be that as it may, does it make you feel better to pile on the epithets when making such speeches, Dave? I mean, we all give in to the temptation once in a while, I'm sure, but again, do you find such unsubstantiated accusations worthwhile when writing to someone who has defended sola scriptura in public debate and who is a recognized expert in that particular subject? Patrick Madrid, the editor of Surprised by Truth, even called me upon hearing my debate against Gerry Matatics on that very subject and said, "For the first time I have to admit that a Protestant clearly defeated a Roman Catholic in a debate on sola scriptura." Of course, I would not be the first person to suggest that you trust Patrick's opinions -- his errors in "The White Man's Burden" fill more than 20 pages of small-print, triple-column text.

Be that as it may, I again have to note that your high words sound, well, a bit "tinny," in light of your unwillingness to defend those statements in public debate. It is easy to hide behind a word-processor, Dave. You can always blow smoke in written debates -- of course, you can do the same in formal debates, too, but without as much ease, that's for certain. It surely struck me as strange that you would talk about Protestant apologists as "chickens," yet you end your letter by referring me to someone I've never heard of before to defend your position. You say, "My challenge to you is to refute my arguments therein and elsewhere." Again you challenge me to respond to an unpublished book that I've never seen. How am I supposed to do that, Dave? I mean, I have no idea which of the various Roman Catholic views of "tradition" you espouse. Matatics takes one view, Madrid another. There are all sorts of different takes on the topic. You seem really enamored with Newman, so is that your view? How am I supposed to know?

You asserted that Protestant use of the Fathers is "selectively dishonest -- no question whatsoever." I do hope you don't mind my being very Protestant and questioning your pontification (pun fully intended). How about some examples, drawn, logically, from my own writings, my own debates? Surely you have listened to these debates, right? You said that you had engaged in this activity yourself in 1990. How so? Where did you do this? Did you put any of this in writing? You said evangelicals do this all the time. Such as? Who? I don't know too many evangelicals who bother to cite patristic sources to begin with, do you? Might I suggest that if you'd like to impress this upon me, you might wish to paint with a little finer brush? I've heard these arguments before, as I think you'd admit.

You said that usually the Protestant misunderstands the concept of development. Well, before Newman came up with it, I guess we had good reason, wouldn't you say? But, does that mean that those Roman Catholics I know who don't like Newman are actually Protestants, too? I'm kidding of course, but those who hang their case on Newman and the development hypothesis are liable for all sorts of problems, your eating of Salmon for lunch notwithstanding. Might it actually be that the Protestant fully understands development but rightly rejects it? I addressed development and Newman in my book (written before I engaged in all the debates I've done since then), and personally, I don't think your brief dismissal was, well, worthwhile. And as for Newman's statement, "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant," I would say, "to be deep in Newman is to cease to be an historically consistent Roman Catholic." I can only shake my head as I look at Newman's collapse on papal infallibility and chuckle at his "deep in history" comment. He knew better.

Next we have this paragraph:

"Your treatment of the Canon of Scripture misses the point, which is that the Catholic Church, and 'extrabiblical authority' was necessary for you guys to even have your Bible, let alone construct with tortured 'logic' myths such as 'perspicuity' and 'sola Scriptura' from this book which you would never even have but for the Catholic church, which, inexplicably, preserved it even though it supposedly destroys that same Church's belief system-- evident to any 'plowboy.' My paper on 'sola Scriptura' deals with this."

First, I hope you are not referring to the brief paper about CRI that you sent me on sola scriptura, because if you are, I'm very disappointed. Your comments on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 are easily refuted, as I will demonstrate later. Hopefully you are referring to some other paper as yet not entered into evidence in this discussion (though you keep referring to such items). As to "my treatment" of canon issues, which treatment? In the book, in debates, in written materials, what? I've debated Patrick Madrid, Robert Sungenis, and James Akin in the sola scriptura folder in America Online, accompanied by my co-belligerent Gregory Krehbiel, and I will simply point out that those Roman Catholics aren't there anymore. And there's a reason for that, I'd say.

Next we read, "It's the oldest rhetorical trick in the book to simply dismiss an important question as irrelevant, when one can't answer it, as you did with my query as to when Catholicism became apostate." No, the oldest rhetorical trick in the book is to ignore the central parts of your opponent's arguments while accusing him of doing the same thing (that's the important part). Your question remains irrelevant. First, it is an improper question, since it is based upon the identification of Roman Catholicism with the earlier Catholic Church, and, as anyone knows, that is an improper identification. Secondly, it assumes something that is not true: that apostasy always takes place in a single act or definition of doctrine, and such is not always the case. Personally, I believe that there were believers within what even called itself Roman Catholicism for a long time -- in fact (are you sitting down?), there still are, by God's grace. So again, your question was irrelevant, and my brief response was based upon a recognition of that irrelevance.

Next you commented, "Likewise, you scoff at my disdain for the indefensible existence of 23,000 denominations. You don't dare admit that this is a valid point against Protestantism because you would obviously then be in big trouble." Do you really think, Dave, that I have not encountered this argument before? I mean, do you think that you are the only Roman apologist brilliant enough to come up with the ol', "Well, look at all the disagreements among Protestants, that proves sola scriptura doesn't work!" argument? You truly do flatter yourself. But to show you that you are not the first on the block with your arguments (and that your arguments are not particularly compelling), I provide you with the text of a post from America Online written in response to James Akin and his use of the very same argument:

James Akin of Catholic Answers wrote: [missing text here]

"....sola scriptura and hence of Protestantism itself....."

On one point I certainly agree with Mr. Akin: Catholic apologists often DO use this argument. But is it a valid argument? Let's examine it.

First, and very briefly, it seems to me to be an inconsistent argument: that is, it refutes the position of the one using it. It presupposes the idea that if (in the case of Protestantism) the Scriptures are meant to be the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church, then it must follow that the Scriptures will produce an external, visible unity of doctrine on all fronts. As Patrick Madrid put it, Presbyterians and Baptists would not be in disagreement about infant baptism if the Bible were able to function as the sole rule of faith for the Church. I say this is an inconsistent argument because the solution offered to us by Rome -- namely, the teaching Magisterium of the Roman Church, replete with oral tradition and papal infallibility -- has not brought about the desired unity amongst Roman Catholics. I have personally spoken with and corresponded with Roman Catholics -- individuals actively involved in their parishes, regular attendees at Mass, etc., who have held to a WIDE range of beliefs on a WIDE range of topics. One need only read the pages of This Rock magazine to know that you have conflicts with traditionalists over every conceivable topic, from the Latin Mass to modernism in Rome. I've been witness to debates between Catholics on canon laws and excommunications and Father Feeney and other items that rival any debates I've seen amongst Protestants. And I haven't even gotten to the liberals in the Roman fold! Obviously I don't need to do that, as the point is made. If sola Scriptura is disproven by the resultant disagreements amongst people outside of Rome, then Roman claims regarding the Magisterium are equally disproven by the very same argument.

But my main reason for adressing the common argument made by Roman apologists is that it reveals something important about Rome's view of man himself. Dr. Cornelius Van Til often commented on the errors of Rome regarding their view of man, and how these errors impacted every aspect of their theology, and he was quite right. We see an illustration right here. Rome's semi-Pelagianism (I am talking to a Roman Catholic right now in another venue who makes Pelagius look like a raving Calvinist) leads her to overlook what seems to me to be a very fundamental issue. Let me give you an illustration: Let's say James Akin writes the PERFECT textbook on logic. It is completely perspicuous: it is fully illustrated, completely consistent, and it provides answers to all the tough questions in plain, understandable terminology. It covers all the bases. Now, would it follow, then, that every person who consulted this textbook would agree with every other person who consulted this textbook on matters of logic? Well, of course not. Some folks might just read one chapter, and not the rest. Others might read too quickly. and not really listen to Mr. Akin's fine explanations. Others might have read other less-well-written textbooks, and they might importy their understandings into Mr. Akin's words, resulting in misunderstandings. Most often, people might just lack the mental capacity to follow all the arguments, no matter how well they are expressed, and end up clueless about the entire subject, despite having read the entire work.

Now the question I have to ask is this: is there something wrong with Mr. Akin's textbook if it does not produce complete unanimity on questions logical? Is the problem in the textbook or in the people using the textbook? In the real world it is often a combination of both: a lack of clarity on the part of the textbook and a problem in understanding on the part of the reader. But if the perfect textbook existed, would it result in absolute unanimity of opinion? No, because any textbook must be read, interpreted, and understood.

Let's say the Bible is perspicuous, in the sense that Westminster said, that is, that "those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation. are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them." Does it follow, then, that there must be a unanimity of opinion on, say, infant baptism? Does the above even say that there will be a unanimity of opinion on the very items that "are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation"? No, obviously, it does not. And why? Because people -- sinful people, people with agendas, people who want to find something in the Bible that isn't really there--people approach Scripture, and no matter how perfect Scripture is, people remain people.

Now, Roman apologists may well way, "See, you've proven our point. You need an infallible interpreter to tell you what the Bible says because you are a sinful person, and hence you need a sinless, perfect guide to tell you what to believe!" Aside from the fact that such a concept itself is absent from Scripture, and is in fact countermanded by Scripture (did not the Lord Jesus hold men accountable for what GOD said to THEM in SCRIPTURE?), we need to observe that Rome is not solving the problem of fallible people. Once Rome "speaks" the fallible person must still interpret the supposed infallible interpretation. The element of error remains, no matter how much Rome might wish to think it has been removed. Indeed, beyond the problem of interpreting the infallible interpreter, you still have the fallible decision of following Rome's absolute authority rather than, say, Brooklyn's, or Salt Lake's, or Mecca 's, or whoever's -- That remains a fallible decision, and hence the longing for that "infallible fuzzy" that comes from turning your responsibilities over to an "infallible guide" remains as unfulfilled as ever.

Finally, the argument put forth (plainly seen in the arguments used by Karl Keating in Catholicism and Fundamentalism) is even more pernicious, in that it attacks the sufficiency of Scripture itself. We are seemingly told that the Holy Spirit did such a poor job in producing Scripture that while the Psalmist thought it was a lamp to his feet and a light to his path, he (the Psalmist) was in fact quite deluded, and was treading very dangerously. Instead of the glorious words of God spoken of in Psalm 119, we are told that such basic truths as the nature of God, including the deity of Christ or the personality of the Holy Spirit, cannot be derived solely from Scripture, but require external witnesses. And why are we told this? Well, it is alleged that arguments can be made against these doctrines on the basis of Scripture passages. Of course, one could argue against ANYTHING if one is willing to sacrifice context, language, consistency, etc. But are we really to believe the Bible is so self-contradictory and unclear that we cannot arrive at the truth through a whole-hearted effort at honestly examining the biblical evidence? That seems to be what those across the Tiber are trying to tell us. But it is obvious that just because the Scriptures can be misused it does not follow that they are insufficient to lead one to the truth. Such is a flawed argument (no matter how often it is repeated). The real reason Rome tells us the Bible is insufficient is so that we can be convinced to abandon the God-given standard of Scripture while embracing Rome's ultimate authority.

I never saw a response from Mr. Akin to that post, either, but I could have missed it, too. I'd be interested in a meaningful (i.e., not bombastic, not filled with line after line of meaningless epithets) response from you to this post.

You wrote,

"This won't do either, for the simple reason that we have dogmas and Councils and papal encyclicals and infallible utterances which constitute our teaching-- definite, observable, and documented for all to see, even the most wild-eyed liberals such as Kung and Curran and McBrien. It doesn't matter a hill of beans what these people say they or the Catholic Church believe. I could care less."

Well, that's quite interesting. Yes, you have dogmas -- you have to pick and choose what you will call dogmas (like, killing heretics to receive indulgences isn't a dogma, though indulgences themselves are), but you have dogmas. You have councils, too -- you have to pick and choose what of the earliest councils you will and will not accept (Canon 6 of Nicea, Canon 28 of Constantinople, for example), and even what councils were "good" and which ones weren't (you don't want Sirmium or Ariminum, for example), but you have councils. The fact that councils were called seems to cause you a problem, and the fact that they were obviously not considered infallible, even by those who attended, also causes a problem, and of course the fact that no one thought the bishop of Rome had to call councils, confirm councils, or even have an active role in councils for the first few hundred years is yet another problem, but, like I said, you have councils. And yes, you have papal encyclicals -- oodles of them, in fact, though which ones are infallible and which ones are fallible, and who is to tell, and just how binding such encyclicals are, is anyone's guess.

You say you have infallible utterances, but again, I have yet to find a simple way of finding out exactly which utterances are infallible. I have found lots of folks who want to say that Christ's Vicar has spoken infallibly an average of once a millennium, but there are all sorts of other folks who would say there are many more infallible pronouncements, though they don't infallibly known how many infallible pronouncements there are, which makes the whole infallibility issue a real mess at times. I'm sure wild-eyed liberals think of you as a wild-eyed conservative, what's even worse, the traditionalists probably think of you as a wild-eyed liberal! Ah, but I must remember: Rome is united in all things. Just ask Patrick Madrid and Gerry Matatics. Everyone is one big, happy family. No disagreements, no confusion as to what is, and what is not, infallible teaching. How truly wonderful.

Of course, all of that just points out that having an "infallible interpreter" solves nothing. Once you have an infallible interpretation, you then need an infallible interpretation of the infallible interpretation. You've simply moved your epistemological problem back a step, nothing more.

I have to mention that your "I could care less" reminds me of a comment Gerry Matatics made on a radio station in Denver less than two years ago now while he and I were discussing various things. Someone asked about some Roman Catholic writers who were not quite as conservative as Gerry and in response he said, "Well, I call folks who believe like that Protestants." Hey, that's very convenient. "We are all unified as Roman Catholics -- and if you don't agree with me, you aren't a Roman Catholic." I like how that works, don't you?

You made a statement on page 10 that made me wonder. With reference to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society you said that they deny God's omnipresence, deny that He is a Spirit, and say that He has a physical body. Really? Could you give me some references to Watchtower sources where they say this? I know the Mormons do all those things, but it's news to me that the Witnesses do that, too.

You wrote, "I will note that both cults and Protestantism are man-centered, whereas Catholicism is Christ-centered." Really? The church that allows its followers to venerate saints and Mary, instructs them to do penances lest they suffer in purgatory, directs them to priests and intermediaries, preaches indulgences, "re-presents" the sacrifice of Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice over and over again, and makes a man the Vicar of Christ on earth is "Christ-centered," while the church that cries "Christ alone," that speaks of the sufficiency of both His work and His Word, that proclaims that He alone is worthy of worship, veneration, service (latria, dulia, etc.), and says that one can have true and lasting peace with God solely through Him, is man-centered? Well, if you say so, Dave. Personally, I don't find a particle of truth in your statement.

I see a rather glaring double-standard in your sentence, "It's pointless to respond to it other than to refer you to my various tracts about development or to Newman's essential work on the subject." To which I have to respond, "Newman I know, but who is this Armstrong fellow?" :-)

I can only guess that you have a hidden TV camera in my office, Dave, because all through your letter you noted my mental state when making various comments. For example, on page 10 you write that I "gleefully note the divergent views of Lateran IV and Vatican II on religious tolerance." Gleefully, Dave? And how do you know how gleeful I might be? Be that as it may, yes, these two councils disagreed on this topic. And, of course, because you have to, you say, "the teachings involved here are not religious dogmas of the faith, but rather disciplinary measures." Really? How is that? Who told you that? You aren't engaging in "private interpretation" and providing me with a "magisterium of one" are you, Dave? Where has Rome officially said this? I'd like to see this infallible pronouncement.

What is more, where does Vatican II say, "This discussion of religious tolerance has nothing to do with faith and morals, this is a disciplinary thing"? And you utterly ignored the entire point of my argument at this point, Dave, by saying, "So, as almost always, what you think is a knockout punch to your detested 'Romanism' rebounds back to you with much more force, for the reasons just recounted." That was, quite simply, Dave, a very lame reply. Since this section seemed to fall right out of my letter to you, let me try it again and see if you are up to providing a meaningful response:

In your fifth point you mention the Inquisition "disproving" Catholicism. The problem with your point is this, Dave: we Protestants don't claim infallibility. Rome does. There is a big difference. Please note the following comparison:

IV LATERAN COUNCIL

Convicted heretics shall be handed over for due punishment to their secular superiors, or the latter's agents. . . . Catholics who assume the cross and devote themselves to the extermination of heretics shall enjoy the same indulgence and privilege as those who go to the Holy Land.

VATICAN II

This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs.

Not only do we see the obvious conflict between these two ecumenical" councils, but we see that the IVth Lateran Council specifically taught that those who would take up the cross in the effort to exterminate heretics would enjoy the same indulgence as those who went to the Holy Land. Now, Dave, surely you can see the vast difference between the silliness of, say, a "Protestant" like Benny Hinn teaching his ideas as facts, and an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church teaching that indulgences would be given to those who took up the cause of exterminating the heretics (i.e., simple Christian folks who were slaughtered at the behest of the Roman hierarchy). What is more, is not the granting of indulgences based upon the exercise of the keys? Does this not then touch upon the very faith of the Roman church? I believe it does.

Now, Dave, why didn't you deal with what I wrote to you? Where is your discussion of the difference between an organization that claims infallibility and Protestants who admit their fallibility? And where do you deal with the offering of indulgences for the extermination of heretics, and the fact that the granting of indulgences involves the use of the keys? And do you really want to say that statements like this are irrelevant to faith and morals? Personally I think most folks can see through this, don't you? I mean, you say your church is infallible with reference to faith and morals, so when faced with evidence to the contrary you simply define those errors as having nothing to do with "faith and morals." Where can I find an infallible definition of faith and morals, Dave? It must be a pretty narrow definition, wouldn't you agree? There must not be a whole lot in the field of "faith and morals" if killing people who are "heretics" (defining who is and who is not a heretic has nothing to do with faith and morals, Dave?) and gaining indulgences for so doing is simply a "disciplinary" thing.

I was left overwhelmed yet once again by,

"As for your lengthy attempted refutation of papal claims and their biblical justification, I refer you to my chapter on the papacy and infallibility, which runs 98 pages, single-spaced."

First, my comments were not lengthy -- they were a mere drop in the bucket. Secondly, I don't have your book which may be published by Ignatius Press, so how I'm supposed to refer to it is just a bit beyond me. I may someday publish a full-length work on sola scriptura, but till then I'm not going to be referring people to a source they can't even read. I could have simply said to you, "As to the papacy, simply see my debates against Gerry Matatics (Phoenix, 1990, Denver, 1993), Dr. Robert Fastiggi (Austin, 1995) and Butler/Sungenis (Boston, 1995)." Now that would have accomplished a lot! And as for your 98 single-spaced pages, I have to admit this is the one line in your letter that made me chuckle more than anything else.

You see, Patrick Madrid boasted about his being able to "bury me" under 50+ pages of quotations from the Fathers on sola scriptura, and Scott Butler crows about his 91 citations from Chrysostom proving Petrine primacy, and you have your 98 single-spaced pages on the papacy and infallibility. Well, that surely finishes the debate! I mean, 98 pages! I mentioned that to a friend of mine and his response truly amused me: "Tell him to shrink his font so that you can fit more than a few words on each page and go from there." Really, Dave, think about it. If I said, "I have 196 pages of material in small print with condensed spacing that proves the papacy to be in error," would you be overly impressed? I mean, I would have twice the material you do! Wouldn't that end the debate? No, of course not. I know JW's who have "hundreds of pages documenting the Trinity is a pagan invention," too, but I have not stopped adoring the Trinity on the basis of such high-powered testimony.

You dismissed von Dollinger with a mere wave of the magical developmental wand, Dave. Your words were, "Your three long quotes, which you obviously thought were so unanswerable, have little or no force against my position." All I can say is, you might be wise to avoid publicly debating that issue if that is all you can come up with.

In light of the above it was rather hypocritical of you to then write, "You blithely dismiss my points 7 and 8 with your by-now familiar hit-and-run tactic of glib avoidance when you have no answer." Well, I'll let you think I have no answer, if you like, Dave. That's to my advantage.

Just a few more items. With reference to various moral issues you wrote, "The very fact that you don't regard this as of any 'weight' merely confirms in my mind the Protestant tendency of unconcern for holiness and morality. . . ." Having studied the lives of various of your popes, Dave, and having observed the huge mass of nominal Catholicism all around me here in the U.S., I can only remind you of the old adage about throwing stones while living in glass houses. I guess you probably didn't read Packer's A Quest for Godliness.

If you are going to engage in patristic debate, Dave, I would suggest sticking to contextual citations. You attempted to get around my citation of Clement's epistle by citation of 58.2. Unfortunately for your position, I'm one of those few Protestant apologists who happens to have a pretty good patristic library, a good grasp of Greek, and enough experience as a professor of church history to make me dangerous. The entire sentence is:

[seven lines of Greek text which didn't scan]

To which I add my own hearty "amen" indeed. But why did this supposed Pope of Rome (of course, he was probably just the scribe for the body of elders that existed in Rome at the time) use such terminology as "the elect" like that, Dave? Perhaps he wasn't nearly as opposed to that concept as you are, maybe?

You then dismissed the central canons from Trent with yet another wave of the hand, saying they "prove nothing." Really? They prove nothing? Of what good are they then, Dave? Are they just a waste of paper or do they have some meaning? The rest of your paragraph only indicated to me that you are not very clear on the issues revolving around justification, grace, and the like. I'm tempted to say, "See my debate against Dr. Mitchell Pacwa on justification" but that wouldn't be nice. :-)

You then turned to Ignatius for a quotation, and again, demonstrated that context for the Roman apologist is an inconvenient problem. "Let none of you be found a deserter" to which you add, "so much for Calvinism." Huh? Would you mind explaining the connection here, Dave? I mean, please show me how the context here has the slightest to do with anything like the Reformed faith. Show me where Ignatius, in writing to Polycarp, refers to the bishop of Rome as the center of the Church, and that we are not to desert him. Good luck, as there was no single bishop of Rome at the time, which may explain why Ignatius doesn't ever refer to the bishop of Rome while writing to the Romans. If your 98 pages of material on the papacy partakes of the same kind of "here's a sentence I like, who cares if the context is relevant or not" type of citation, well, it would probably not be worth the effort of going through it, wouldn't you agree?

There is more I'd like to get to, but I've put far too much time into this already. Let me close with three items. First, I am going to import into this letter my reply to Akin's article that you don't seem to have seen. Then I will import some of the written "debate" between myself and Robert Sungenis on 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I simply don't have time to rewrite all of this for your benefit, and, given the use of the patristic sources I just went through, I have to wonder about the benefits of such an effort in the first place. You will note these posts are not exactly ancient history, as they were written fairly recently. I will attach these as sort of an "addendum" following the close of this letter, though they will be consecutively numbered along with the letter. I will close with your blanket accusations against Protestant apologists. You wrote,

"I must, regretfully, inform you of another reason for my declining: the widespread intellectual dishonesty, evasiveness, and uncharitability of anti-Catholic debaters. Akin in his article on your book starts out by recalling how you have refused to shake hands with your Catholic opponents, or even pray the Lord's prayer with them. This is contemptible, petty behavior. Madrid's article 'The White Man's Burden' concurs, by citing your rude treatment of him and of Dr. Art Sippo . . ."

Of course, I feel that Roman Catholic debaters (note I don't have to define them as "anti-Protestant debaters") are far more guilty of intellectual dishonesty, evasiveness, and uncharitability than any Protestant debater I know. A few examples. You cite Akin's errors (he's admitted errors in his statements to me personally) about my not shaking hands with opponents. I refused to shake hands with Art Sippo, PERIOD. I have shaken hands with Gerry Matatics after every debate; the same with Dr. Mitchell Pacwa, Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Scott Butler, and Robert Sungenis. Ask them. I refused to shake hands with Dr. Sippo because he was a liar, plain and simple. He was also incredibly rude I might add. He walked off the stage while I was speaking (why should he listen to what I have to say? He didn't care what my position was to begin with), made faces at the audience, and during the question and answer period sat on his desk swinging his legs and making mocking gestures. Talk about rude! (He hasn't changed, by the way. Just this morning I received an Internet message from him, the first by that medium, that started with this line: 'Orthopodeo' . . . oh, come now, James. Isn't that handle a little bit presumptuous? It sounds to me like someone boasting of their own righteousness. But don't worry. Those of us who really know you always think of you as 'Pseudopodeo' anyway." Yes, a very kind and gracious man.)

Next, with reference to the Lord's Prayer, that is quite true. However, if you put it in context, you might find it far less problematic. The incident took place at Boston College, April, 1993. It was at the end of the second of two debates against Gerry Matatics. The first debate had been on justification, and we had both made it quite clear that the other's position was anathema in our opinion. The second debate was on the Apocrypha. At the very end of the debate, during audience questions, a man got up and said, "I think these debates tend toward disunity. I'd like us all to stand and say the Lord's Prayer together." I explained that I could not do that for a number of reasons. First, we didn't have the unity such a prayer would pretend we had; secondly, the night before we had both agreed that the other was preaching a false gospel, and you can't sweep that under the rug with a prayer; and finally, prayer is an act of worship, and must be undertaken in spirit and truth, and this was not the context for that. Matatics, having already moved into a very traditional perspective, simply said, "If you want to know what I think about it, ask me afterwards." The moderator led in the prayer, and I, and most of the Protestants I knew of in the room, remained seated.

As to Madrid's accusations, they are groundless. I did not mistreat him in any way. He did not offer me his hand after the debate, so he says. I thought we had shaken hands, but he says we didn't. Fine, the only reason was because, as he admits, we were both surrounded as soon as the debate was over. There was nothing more to it than that. As to your assertion that I refused to attempt to prove sola scriptura from the Bible, that is simply untrue as well. If you are relying solely on Madrid's article, you should at least get the tape and show some level of honesty in your comments. Anyone who listens to the tape or reads the transcript finds a world of difference between Patrick's almost fantasy-like recollection and the reality of what took place.

In light of this, your reasons for declining a public debate are left rather hollow. Perhaps you will reconsider your refusal? I have no idea who Gary Michuta is, what his position is, what he's written, what his background is, or anything else. You wrote to the folks in the cult directory. You have the stationery that says "Catholic Apologist." You claim to eat Protestant apologists for lunch. I think you need to defend your position in a scholarly manner.

Sola scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria,

James White
Recte Ambulamus ad Veritatem Evangelii


15 May 1995

To: James White

Dave's 36-page reply of 15 May 1995 and James White's final 1-page "reply" of 10 November 1995

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."  (Hamlet, Act III)

"I have to attempt to be balanced." (James White, letter of May 4, 1995, p.1)

"I'll make a prediction. This letter will be filled with personal attacks and will accuse me of being scared to debate."
(Dave Armstrong, to his wife Judy, right before opening James White's letter of 5-4-95, at the dinner table)

"Answer not an anti-Catholic according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Answer an anti-Catholic according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit."

    ( Proverbs 26:4-5, Armstrong Amplified Paraphrased Version )

Dear James,

Greetings in Christ and His Church! I respond in the paradoxical spirit of Proverbs 26:4-5. Are you sure you're not a Democratic congressman, James? Rather than desiring to starve children and cut off the elderly from Social Security and health care (and pull the wings off of flies), I stay up late at night at my word processor devising diabolical ways to distort and misrepresent your views. You could be put to work in the Democratic party dreaming up ferocious diatribes against Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. Such a prodigious talent for fatuous, vapid rhetoric (who's a "sophist"?) must not be wasted on rookie Catholic converts, but must be utilized on the grand scale. Maybe Bill Clinton needs a speech writer. Just substitute Catholic apologists for talk show hosts and it's off to the dog races.

Seriously, though, one wonders and grapples with (as a conscientious Christian) how to deal with your unfortunate and swift descent into the slime-pit of personal invective and ad hominem attacks. I've decided to make a few general comments presently. Other than that, I will try (hard as it is) to ignore all individual swipes at my character, integrity, supposed lack of scholarly acumen, etc., as they are not worthy of any attention whatsoever, and because I refuse to be drawn into tit-for-tat catfights which are totally off the subject which I initiated in my first letter (you at least didn't resort to personal attack in your first letter). The only exceptions will be on those occasions where yet another character attack is so mixed in with your argument that it can't be totally avoided (kind of like thorns on a weed).

I've been through this whole routine before, at least three times. The opposing party started out making some outrageous, sweeping charge against myself or my views (in your case, you read out of the Body of Christ nearly one billion professing Catholics, based on profoundly incoherent and unscriptural arguments). I replied with strong critiques, not without sarcasm and harsh (perhaps overly so at times) criticism of arguments (fully justified by the condescension introduced by the other party). I tried my utmost each time to avoid personal attacks. Being human and fallible I'm sure I usually didn't altogether succeed. Yet my letters did not approach by any stretch of the imagination the level of ad hominem assault that the next letter I received invariably reached.

In all four cases, the reply was clearly and unmistakably judgmental and beyond the ken of Christian ethics, as far as I'm concerned. They also seemed to contain a great deal of projection. Your forays into this sub-rational territory are far too numerous to respond to, even if I had the desire to do so. I need not give even a single example. Nor is it necessary to quote the many biblical injunctions warning against an unbridled tongue. My other three correspondees ignored them. You give me little reason to believe you'd act any differently. But I hope you'll prove me wrong.

I'm almost forced to believe as a result of these experiences that there is some almost universal perverse tendency in human beings (whether totally or predominantly depraved) to recoil against strong, rational criticism with such force as to lose all sense of proportion and propriety. So painful is it (for many people) to face the prospect of one's own fallibility and other shortcomings, that the other person who suggests this possibility must be demonized. His motives must be attacked, his heart judged, and integrity impugned at all costs. This is only my own speculative theory, mind you, but the parallels and the uncanny resemblances must be explained in some fashion.

It couldn't be -- in these instances-- that I merely saw something in a different light, that I had a sincere, thought-out disagreement. Animosity never needed to be introduced. It seems as if the other parties suffered down deep (again, sheer guesswork) from a marked lack of confidence, and an existentially troubling insecurity, even though in two out of the four cases (including yours) the opponent outwardly appeared quite confident and ready to take on all comers with a smile and a self-assurance which are the furthest thing from the "ad hominem mentality."

In light of the above, I conclude with the utmost sincerity and lack of malice, that I must have hit a nerve with you, and you simply can't deal with the possibility of your wrongness without lashing out like an angry dog cornered and trapped (note here that I use an analogy. Based on what I've seen, you're capable of protesting that I called you a dog -- insert smiley face here :-). Your absolutely astonishing habit of repeatedly ignoring my arguments altogether (including several which I felt were the hardest-hitting and best of the bunch) confirms this. Unless and until you show some forthrightness in facing my arguments (out of common courtesy if nothing else), then can you blame me, James, for thinking that you have no answer in those cases? What better hypothesis explains this evasive behavior?

One more thing before I move on to the actual arguments (I would have loved to have skipped all this if you would only have refrained from ad hominem guerrilla warfare). You will get nowhere quick trying to convince me that the use of sarcasm (or even just very pointed, acerbic criticism) is ethically impermissible, and essentially equivalent to arrogance. Again, this happened in every case of my four big run-ins with should-be friends. They all (with you) made a laundry list of my supposedly horrible, inexcusable "invective" or "epithets," usually not taking into consideration context, style, perhaps justified anger, my constant qualifications and limitations, and oftentimes even plain dictionary meanings of words. Then they immediately launched hypocritically into far-worse invective themselves! For example, right after you do this, you state that I think I am

"...so great, so intelligent, so well-informed and so well-read that there is none who can even begin to respond to your arguments...."

This is not even fit for the bathroom graffiti of an elementary school! You chide me for using phrases which look like love letters compared to this childish outburst of yours (not an isolated example). You are too intelligent and biblically literate to be unaware of the use of such sarcastic "tactics" by Jesus Himself. Perhaps you can add such utterances as the following "Socratic" comments (do you think Socrates himself never used irony either?!) to your list:

". . . ye devour widow's houses . . " (Mt 23:14)
". . . hypocrites . . . ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." (Mt 23:15)
". . . blind guides . . " (Mt 23:16)
"Ye fools and blind . . " (Mt 23:17)
". . . ye . . . have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith . . ." (Mt 23:23)
"Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." (Mt 23:24)
". . . full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness" (Mt 23:27)
"Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Mt 23:28)
". . . ye are the children of them which killed the prophets" (Mt 23:31)
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Mt 23:33)

Much like the Pharisees, you, too, attempt to bind men to your own "Reformed," legalistic "criteria" for entrance into the Christian faith, and ignore the "weightier matters" which all Christians believe in common. You, too, can't see the log in your own eye when you hypocritically banish me (and all real Catholics) from Christianity but don't have the consistency to treat Luther, Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. (not Vincent, whoever he is) Lewis, Wycliffe, Hus, even Calvin, in the same fashion, when they fail your various (infallible?) tests of "orthodoxy" miserably too. I am not attacking your character here. Your opposition to Catholicism is no mystery. I am merely offering a scathing attack on the false and, I believe, wicked tenets of anti-Catholicism.

Gerry Matatics notwithstanding -- the true Catholic teaching is that you are a Christian, a "separated brother." But you won't extend such graciousness to me and millions of other Catholics. Hence my disgust and anger. Just try to imagine for a moment, that you are wrong about the sub-Christian status of Catholicism. Wouldn't my anger at your schismatic and judgmental attitude towards us be completely justifiable and understandable? I know it must be difficult for you, but try to get inside my head for just a minute on just this one point. My concern is with the sinfulness of the entire anti-Catholic mentality of judgmentalism and a deluded sense of "spiritual superiority," so to speak, that is exemplified in it. My concern is the unity of the Body, which Jesus valued enough to make it a central theme of His prayer at the Last Supper (Jn 17:21-23). If you're wrong, you will have an awful lot to account for at the Judgment on this matter. As you say, "think about that, my friend."

Finally, I can now get to both your actual rational arguments, as well as numerous caricatures and misunderstandings of my positions. I will try, by the way, to keep my pungent, earthy language (a la Muggeridge, Chesterton and, occasionally, Newman) to a minimum, since you are apparently quite insecure about that (1 Cor 8:9 may apply here). But one can only change one's style so much. I would only ask in return that you please consider my thoughts in their totality and context, rather than getting caught up in isolated words which stun, baffle, or offend you. Perhaps I'm not quite the Philistine and unscholarly barbarian that you make me out to be (often a tactic used by people as a convenient rationalization for ignoring opposing arguments altogether, and terminating correspondence or conversation -- again, all too familiar to a battle-scarred Socratic like myself).

Okay, James, so you don't "exclude people from the kingdom on the basis of their acceptance or rejection of limited atonement." Very well then, I accept this correction of Akin's perspective of your belief. But I will call your bluff. Why don't you now tell me what are your criteria, so we can clear up this misunderstanding once and for all? I've already seen how I wasn't a Protestant according to you because of my rejection of the notion of a predestination to hell without the reprobate sinner's will being involved at all, and total depravity. So I ask you again, just to make sure, and to avoid being accused for the nth time of dishonesty: this is your position, is it not? If so, then I merely proceeded, on this assumption, to mention other well-known Protestant Christian figures (and whole groups) who were also thereby excluded based on your own litmus test of belief: Melanchthon, Wesley, Finney, Lewis, Bonhoeffer, and, for fun's sake, cult researcher Keith Tolbert.

I fail to grasp the nature of your complaint here (see the quote from Hamlet). What am I missing? I will restate my arguments in basic syllogistic formulas here and elsewhere, so as to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am (and always was) proceeding logically on the basis of your own stated premises, and using the famous argumentum ad absurdum (which infuriates most people -- you apparently being no exception):

P1) Dave Armstrong was never a Protestant because he rejected absolute predestination and total depravity. {White (JW), 4-6-95, pp.1-2}
A1) But Melanchthon rejected absolute predestination and total depravity as well.
A2) Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney & Bonhoeffer also rejected absolute predestination and total depravity.
C1) Therefore, according to James White, Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney & Bonhoeffer are not Protestants, nor is Keith Tolbert, author of the Cult Research Directory, on the same grounds.

P2) White says Catholics (and, so it would seem to follow, Orthodox) and cults such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christians.
C2) Therefore, Protestants are the only Christians, and since Arminians are not truly Protestants (C1), then only Calvinists are Christians.
C3) Therefore, according to James White, Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney, Bonhoeffer, Keith Tolbert, and Dave Armstrong (before and after poping) cannot be Christians.

[Note possible logic error here: While it may follow from the above, James White does not believe only Calvinists are Christians. Conclusion (C2) is not White's position. White does reject true orthodox and faithful Roman Catholics (and presumably Greek Orthodox) as Christians, but will admit that other Protestants who disagree with him, are true Christians [see his later formal debates (post-1995) with fellow Protestants who disagree with him, on infant baptism, and predestination/Calvinism, and with Douglas Wilson on whether 'Roman Catholics are Christians.'] White wrote in his April 4, 1995 letter to Dave:  "...I think you might seek to do some 'house-cleaning' before condemning Protestants for their variety of opinions..." i.e. White acknowledges there are 'Protestants' who don't agree with him, although they are apparently not truly 'Protestant'....[Speaking of Dave] "...the simple fact that you were not truly a Protestant to begin with..." and ... "Your rejection of Roman theology was not based upon a knowledge of why..." and ... "You admit you rejected the tenets of the Reformation...[such as Luther's and Calvin's]...absolute predestination and the total depravity of mankind....." i.e. White thinks Dave, before his conversion to Catholicism, being an Arminian and not agreeing with White's Calvinism, was not truly a Protestant.... Contradiction? Yes, but White acknowledges the major branches of  "Christianity" are either Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, so he would have to put Arminians and other non-Calvinists in the "Protestant" camp. They are neither Roman Catholics, nor Orthodox (nor non-Christian 'cultists'). There is no other category for these non-Calvinists but "Protestant". -- P ]

P3) Calvinists are those who must accept all five points of TULIP (which are all consistent with each other).
A3) One of these five points is limited atonement.
A4) It then follows that anyone denying limited atonement is not a Calvinist.
A5) Anyone who is not a Calvinist is not a Protestant (C2).
A6) And anyone who is not a Protestant is not a Christian (C2).
C4) Therefore, anyone who denies limited atonement is not a Christian.

[Note: same problem with (A5) and (A6). White would say non-Calvinists are Christians, and Protestants, but not 'truly' (according to him) Protestant. -- P ]

P4) But James White says {5-4-95, p.2} that C4, which flows from his premises, is untrue, and is a "caricature" of his position, and "unworthy" of an apologist, a "misrepresentation," and, in fact, a position which, if used, would "convict" one of "dishonesty."
C5) Therefore, due to the contradiction of C4 and P4, White must be either illogical, or dishonest, or perhaps wishy-washy and "double-minded."

A7) We will assume James White is an honest and mentally- and emotionally-stable guy (unlike his treatment of Catholic apologists).
A8) Assuming, then, that he is illogical, he must deny or modify one or more of his premises in order to eliminate the fatal flaw in his reasoning on this point.
Hypothetical C1) If White denies P1 (and A5 logically stands or falls with P1), then Dave Armstrong was indeed formerly a Protestant, and is owed an apology for misrepresentation and slander.
A9) By the same token, Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney, Bonhoeffer, and Keith Tolbert are also Protestants.
A10) Yet White wants to have his cake & eat it too, by maintaining implicitly & inconsistently (by an argument from silence) that Melanchthon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Finney, Bonhoeffer, and Keith Tolbert are Protestants (hence, Christian) whereas, Dave Armstrong before poping was not.
A11) White also contradicts himself (C2) when he claims {5-4-95, p.2} that equating the terms "Protestant" and "Christian" is an "incredible leap" and "dishonest shifting of terms."

HC2) If, in order to rectify this contradiction, White overturns P2, he stands his anti-Catholicism on its head, in which case he must repent, and apologize to Patrick Madrid, Robert Fastiggi, James Akin, Art Sippo, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Robert Sungenis, Karl Keating et al (and all his debate and newsletter audiences). He must also renounce his book The Fatal Flaw and take it off the market.

P5) White maintains that Methodists, Lutherans, the majority of Anglicans, Free Will Baptists, most pentecostals and many non-denominationalists are Christians {5-4-95, p.2}, since Dave Armstrong's argumentum ad absurdum to the contrary {4-22-95, p.4} is rejected as not even "worthy of response," "a mere wasting of time and effort," and not "meaningful."
P6) But P5 contradicts P1, C1, C2, C3, P3, A4, & A5.
C6) Therefore, either P5 or (P1, Cl, C2, C3, P3, A4, A5) is false. If the former, then James White needs to write books which rail against Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans, & other "semi-Pelagian" "Protestant" groups. If the latter, then Dave Armstrong was a Protestant prior to poping, and Calvinists are not the only Christians.

Final Conclusion: James White has severe reasoning disabilities, of which he is apparently blissfully unaware. Yet when Dave Armstrong points this out, his reply is characterized {5-4-95, p.2} as "misrepresentation" and White states in parting that "those who have something meaningful to say don't waste their time on such things." Perhaps, then, James White finds basic syllogistic logic neither helpful nor "meaningful." Whether this is a conscious rejection or not, Dave will not rashly speculate, as it is up to James to sort out this confusion of thought and present to Dave a revised, non-contradictory system, as well as a definitive list of who is and isn't a Christian, so Dave won't be forced to make guesses obfuscated by James' frequently convoluted and inexplicable illogic.

Do I make myself clear this time? Enough to escape more of your derision upon my supposed lack of reasoning ability? One can only hope so. I am most eager to accept any clarification on your part which will explain the above seemingly insurmountable absurdities. The easy way out would be to simply admit that you blew it and have to do some major rearranging of your schema of Christian orthodoxy. I pray that you will recognize the wisdom of that course of action.

The very next paragraph makes it necessary for me to engage in some more step-by-step logic in order to explain my position to you (which was clear enough, I think).

P1) James White believes that: ". . . a communion that replaces the grace of God with sacraments, mediators, and merit," cannot "be properly called 'Christian."' {4-6-95, p.2 / 5-4-95, p.2}
A1) Dave merely reverses the order of this sentence, singling out "sacraments" for the sake of argument, time, and space, and deleting one "s": "sacraments . . . replace the grace of God" {4-22-95, p.7}.

(Dave freely admits that perhaps it would have been more advisable -- especially in retrospect, given White's now manifest propensity to attack opponents' motives-- to not rearrange the phrase in one set of quotation marks, but regards this as a trifling issue, and not "dishonest" whatsoever, certainly not intentionally, as will be demonstrated below).

P2) White calls this rephrasing "silliness," "in the best style of Gail Riplinger" (whom Dave called a "nut" {4-22-95, p.1}), "dishonesty," "misrepresent[ation]," so bad that White feels Dave "owe[s] me an apology for such behavior," and that Dave will "have some serious work to do to restore" his "credibility as an honest apologist and researcher." {5-4-95, p.2} Wow!!!
A2) Yet Dave's rephrasing and isolation of "sacraments" doesn't violate the meaning, logic, or intent of White's sentence in the least, because, in White's thinking:
A3) [Catholicism] "replaces the grace of God with sacraments , mediators, and merit," thus is not Christian.
A4) It follows then that Catholicism replaces grace with mediators.
A5) And that Catholicism replaces grace with merit as well.
A6) And that, as in Dave's argument, Catholcism replaces grace with sacraments.
A7) One can rephrase A6 as: "sacraments replace grace."
C1) Thus, A2 and Dave Armstrong's argument are both true, given White's premises, and P2 and White's offense are false and improper.

If you don't comprehend this, let's try an analogy:

P3) Calvin replaces the Tradition of Catholic Christianity with sola Scriptura, sola fide, and private judgment.
A8) It follows then that Calvin replaces Catholic Christianity with sola Scriptura.
A9) And that Calvin replaces Catholic Christianity with sola fide as well.
A10) And that Calvin replaces Catholic Christianity with private judgment.
A11) Thus sola Scriptura, sola fide, & private judgment all replace Catholic Christianity.
C2) Therefore, sola Scriptura replaces Catholic Christianity.

A12) But James White would object that C2 is a dishonest distortion of P3.
C3) Therefore, either C2 or P3 or both are false, and Calvin's views must be presented in an alternative fashion.
C4) But if this is the case, the same reasoning applies to P1 and A7, & a central tenet in White's beef against Catholic Christianity is false, & sacraments are not contrary to the grace of God.
C5) If this is true, then if other misunderstood doctrines like mediators and merits can be explained as Christian also, Catholicism may indeed be Christian & White's anti-Catholic worldview collapses in a heap of ashes. Good riddance!

P4) Dave Armstrong, operating from White's P1, and A7 -- which has been shown to logically flow from P1 -- then proceeds to make the following argumentum ad absurdum (completely ignored by White):
A13) Calvin believes that sactraments do not "replace" grace, but are a "testimony" of it, citing St. Augustine, who gives the standard Catholic definition of "sacrament." {DA, 4-22-95, p.7}
A14) Thus Calvin disagrees with White on P1, and agrees with Dave on the worthwhile nature of sacraments.
A15) But Calvin is James White's mentor, and therefore must be a Christian.
C6) But Calvin cannot be a Christian according to White's P1 and its corrolary A7. Therefore, White is inconsistently following a non-Christian while at the same time railing against Catholics for being non-Christian and believing in a view of sacraments not unlike Calvin's!
C7) Dave submits as a solution to this dilemma, that Calvin is indeed a Christian, albeit a grossly deficient one, and, rather, that James White is in error concerning the propriety & validity of sacraments.

Furthermore:

A16) Luther believes in sacramental, regenerative infant baptism {DA, 4-22-95, p.8}, essentially in agreement with Catholic Christianity:

"We should be even as little children, when they are newly baptized, who engage in no efforts or works, but are free in every way, secure and saved solely through the glory of their baptism . . . Infants are aided by the faith of others, namely, those who bring them for baptism . . . Through the prayer of the believing church which presents it, the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by inpoured faith. Nor should I doubt that even a godless adult could be changed, in any of the sacraments, if the same church prayed for and presented him, as we read of the paralytic in the Gospel, who was healed through the faith of others [Mk 2:3-12]. I should be ready to admit that in this sense the sacraments of the New Law are efficacious in conferring grace, not only to those who do not, but even to those who do most obstinately present an obstacle." { Babylonian Captivity, Three Treatises, Philadelphia: Fortress, rev. 1970, p.197 / emphasis added }

A17) But sacraments, according to James White, replace grace (P1, A7).
A18) Whoever replaces grace with sacraments or any other "work," cannot be a Christian.
C8) Therefore, Luther (and Calvin) cannot be Christians, for this reason, as well as Luther's views on the Real Presence, Adoration of the Host, and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, among other things.
A19) But Luther founded Protestantism and originated almost all of its distinctives (with Calvin putting the icing on the cake).
A20) And only Protestants are Christians (White's P2 & C2 on p.5 above).
A21) And White is a Protestant, therefore a Calvinist, therefore able to be called a Christian. But how can non-Christians found true Christianity?
C9) Current-day anti-sacramental, "Baptist-type" Protestants have severe logical and historical problems, which are either ignored, minimized, or rationalized away by anti-Catholics such as James White, who, true to form, totally ignored the above argument as presented in Dave's letter of 4-22-95, pp.7-8. They love to cite Luther & Calvin with evident pride and respect, except where they agree with Catholic Christianity. These instances are usually hidden from the initiate lest the evident double standard and intellectual dishonesty of this position become evident. This allows professional anti-Catholics to rail against Catholic sacramentalism and Marian devotion, but not, e.g., Lutheran (esp. Luther himself) & Anglican sacramentalism and Marian devotion. Catholics like Dave Armstrong, on the other hand, need not hide anything on these scores, & can examine the issues openly & without pretense, fear, and evasiveness.

All of the above nearly five-page treatment of basic logic would have been unnecessary if you had only given my arguments the thought and consideration that they indeed deserved in the first place, rather than taking the easy fool's course of evasion and name-calling (sorry, but you thoroughly deserve this criticism). It's your positions which are irreparably contradictory here, rather than my arguments from absurdity from your premises being "dishonest," etc. You ought to either clarify or modify them.

Well, I'm at all of page 2! I got a big kick out of your fanciful interpretation of my encounter with the editor of the New Treasury. Yet your own commentary precisely proves my point. A little background is in order, as with your "handshaking" incidents. Let me explain: Here's a guy who edits an extraordinary reference work on Scripture, which book I greatly admire (and say so in my book at one point). We invite him to our ecumenical discussion group to give a presentation, and give him all the time in the world. He ends up talking about himself for far too much of the time, including much about his great debating abilities, honed at his high school's debating club (arguably the finest high school in Detroit, which I also attended). It so turns out that he is an anti-Catholic, and this can be gleaned from various polemical sections in his book. I thought to myself, "well, if he extolls his own debating ability in public, then surely he'll be willing to engage in a little dialogue with me."

He did write me a few brief letters, and even later invited me to a talk he gave at a pentecostal church (at which I had worshiped in the past, and even manned the prayer line on one occasion) about his book. I went, and endured more of his "waxing eloquent" about his debating skills. I mingled with the crowd (including his wife) afterwards, not causing a ruckus, nor intending in any way, shape, or form to be "controversial," etc. (i.e., respecting the surroundings I was in). After some small talk, I did simply mention to a few people that I was a Catholic, and received the usual bemused, dumbfounded responses.

I also met again the amiable assistant pastor whose radio talk show I was on in November 1989, discussing Jehovah's Witnesses (the only time I've been on the radio as an "expert"). He knew that I had converted and expressed great interest in discussing this with me. I also gave him my sola Scriptura treatise. He said he was shortly going to conduct a class on Catholicism and would like to get my input. I was delighted. At last, I thought to myself, friendly, courteous, ecumenical discussion without the usual hostility. I also talked with the speaker briefly, and, so I thought, amiably. Well, I later got drift that the Treasury editor had spread a false rumor about me supposedly deliberately disrupting this gathering, spreading "Romish" propaganda, etc., etc. My heart sank and I was extremely angry, since there was not a shred of truth to this accusation, not one iota by any stretch of the imagination (does this not sound like some of your recounted experiences?).

After all, he invited me in the first place -- otherwise I wouldn't have even known about it! After this he totally ignored me. I wrote him another letter a year or so afterwards, with no response. Furthermore, to my amazement, the assistant pastor, who had formerly respected me, and who I thought was a friendly acquaintance (I was fond of him, too), was never heard from again either! I left him a phone message shortly after the talk, with no reply. About a year later, I wrote him another friendly letter with a few short tracts, asking if he was still interested in dialogue, and if he had perhaps forgotten about his own stated interest in this. Stony silence. Shortly after that I happened to see him by chance at a theology class a good Protestant friend of mine invited me to. He ignored me as if I wasn't there (I know he saw me). I didn't go up to him, wishing to spare him embarrassment.

These are but a few of my experiences with "knowledgeable" Protestants, yet you chide me for venting some of my frustration and felt injustice for this asinine treatment with a little sarcasm, and are certain that this is arrogance rather than an implied rebuke of a person who -- in light of the above -- is far more accurately characterized as "arrogant" than myself. I was gracious and ecumenical at all times, but you see how he treated me. Again, he started, like you, with the assumption that I was not a Christian, and was an apostate from the truth, as you say.

Now, as to your comment, let me show you how it applies much more to him, not me: If the Protestant Bible expert can devour Catholics for lunch (as he constantly implies in his book), wouldn't that make Dave Armstrong easy work as an hors d'oeuvre, a mere warm-up for the big meals like Pacwa, Akin, Madrid, and Keating, given my obvious (and admitted) inferiority to them as a scholar? Sort of makes his proclamations of being a great debater rather empty, don't you think? And what about the concern for my eternal soul from these Christian experts? Shouldn't that be of paramount concern to them, rather than guarding their own (I speculate) pride?

As to your gratuitous swipe at my declining oratorical debate, this is a vapid accusation for the following reason: you falsely assume that public spoken debate is the only (or at least far preferable) kind of debate. Even after I told you that this was not my forte, desire, or preference (what's wrong with that? Do you demand that everybody be just like you?), you persist in implying that I am scared to debate! As I anticipated { 4-22-95, p.16 / 5-15-95, p.1 } you would take my refusal as a product of fear rather than principle and preference. Well, writing is also debate, James. We are doing it right now (me writing and you reading this). Haven't you ever heard of Luther's debate with Erasmus on Free Will? Or Calvin's famous interchange with Cardinal Sadoleto? Are these not debates, according to you? And were Luther and Calvin "chickens" for not debating their foes publicly and with the spoken word? Pretty silly, wouldn't you agree, James?

Besides, the comparison falls flat (even apart from my revulsion at unethical anti-Catholic tactics) since my two Protestant former acquaintances are unwilling to engage me in any format whatsoever, whereas I will gladly take you (or them, or Robert Morey, etc.) on by correspondence or in your newsletter on any theological topic (excepting NT Greek grammar!) at any time. I think this is a vast and obvious difference-- between my confident, open outlook and their (I dare say) evasive and fearful (?) approach. Remember, both of them initiated the process and sent out signals that they were willing or able to debate, not me. This makes a huge difference. You can interpret my confidence in defending my position and disgust at Protestant braggadocio and "superior" attitudes (yet simultaneous reluctance to dialogue) as my own arrogance if you like.

If so, it is clear that you have profoundly misunderstood me and my motives. To the extent that you keep doing that and keep ignoring my own first-hand accounts and expressions of opinion, we will never engage in true debate-- precisely one of the reasons why I will not oratorically debate an anti-Catholic (you refuse to engage Sippo and Lewis for very similar reasons). For in the spur of the moment at one of these (usually farcical) debates, I could never come up with the carefully-and tightly-reasoned responses which I have produced here as a result of hours of thought and work (I can't think of many who could, not even you yourself). Thus the audience might get the false impression that you have great reasoning at your command, whereas the truth is quite the contrary on major points under discussion, as I've clearly demonstrated (and only in your first three pages, yet!).

You claim (p.3) that I "did not even begin to demonstrate that anything [you] said [about Roman theology] was inaccurate." This is an outright falsehood (a synonym of falsehood is "lie"-- it need not be deliberate). You have indeed borne "false witness" (I do not claim deliberately). I showed you that your view of sacraments "replacing" the grace of God is false, according to your own heroes Luther and Calvin. True, this was not so much a theological argument (with which I deal in my Eucharist treatise) as an analogical argumentum ad absurdum, which I love to use (if you haven't noticed that already). But it still demonstrated that what you said created insuperable problems not only for Catholicism (assuming your correctness) but also for the Christian status of Luther, Calvin, Anglicanism, Wycliffe, Hus, etc. as well.

Likewise, I demonstrated the same thing concerning free will. It is a simple matter of logic once again (I've always admired Calvinists for their logic, at least-- such frequent lapses on your part are exceedingly curious to me). If you state that the denial of one or more parts of TULIP is non-Christian, then you are indirectly dealing with "Roman" theology, which opposes this in major ways. Ditto also for denominationalism (p.9). In attacking that (and citing four biblical passages among many) I was criticizing your view that this was okay and that the opposite view (the "oneness" of Catholicism) is troublesome, since it supposedly creates clones who parrot back "Roman" infallible teachings by rote, rather than with biblical and patristic support.

Thus I was indirectly demonstrating that what you said about "Roman" theology was indeed inaccurate. My comments on St. Clement (who was, by the way, a bishop. Do you have a bishop? If not, why do you claim St. Clement as one of your own when he himself would say you weren't- 44:2, 59:1?) also delved into questions of justification, with much scriptural citation (p. 13), thus critiquing your assertions about the bankruptcy of "Roman" theology. Furthermore, I enclosed my critique of Geisler's article on "sola Scriptura," (a counter to the Catholic idea of Tradition), and my article on Luther's devotion to Mary, which is contrary to your assertions as to what is and is not proper for a good Protestant to believe and do.

So your statement at the top of this paragraph is obviously false. Apparently, by all appearances, when you ignore an opponent's argument (except for rabid pontifications about its "dishonesty," etc.), you convince yourself that it isn't there at all (kind of an Orwellian tactic of "doublethink").

I do not at present have the materials to delve properly into the vexed and complex question of the status of heretics throughout history, and how this might relate to infallibility. I'm sure Catholic apologists have dealt with this in the depth which you are (rightfully so) demanding. Perhaps you can ask your friends Patrick Madrid or Karl Keating for reading suggestions.

I do know that it is current Catholic teaching that all validly-baptized Protestants are indeed "incorporated into Christ," "Christians," and "brothers" (VII, Dec Ecumenism, I, 3). You ought to rejoice that this is the case. But I guess, given your anti-ecumenical and schismatic mentality (e.g., rampant denominationalism is no problem-- 4-6-95, p.3), it rather saddens you that the Beast regards you as more of a brother than an enemy.

Since this is our official teaching, you can only repeatedly cite people like Gerry Matatics, who, apparently (and sadly) has become a schismatic. For you to insist that separatists and anti-Vatican II types are still Catholic is almost as silly as me saying that The Way International is Protestant since it still operates on the principles of private judgment and sola Scriptura. It just ain't so. It doesn't take much for the essence of a position to change. Many outward factors may still remain the same, just as in the Protestant sects. A "Catholic" who rejects a true Ecumenical Council is dishonestly using the name, and ought to become a Protestant, since he has adopted private judgment as his final arbiter.

How can I possibly not read anti-Catholic books since I am a Catholic apologist? Very simple! I employ the same reasoning that you use with regard to Vinney Lewis:

"Might I suggest to you . . . that . . . some of us have standards with reference to the behavior of those with whom we correspond? I will not debate Vinney Lewis either, and there's a reason for that: he is not worthy of being noticed on that level." { 5-4-95, p.1 }

You make similar remarks about Art Sippo on p.16 (apparently with some justification). Well, I am merely extending such reluctance to the written page. You yourself say that there are

"...far too many 'anti-Catholic' books and works around that show little or no concern for accurate citation or presentation." { Fatal Flaw, p.20}.

Why should I waste my time in reading such material when you were tempted to cease writing to me and wasting your "limited time" because of my alleged "almost irreparably damaged credibility?" Until you debate Sippo and Lewis again, I will not read Chick, Alamo, Boettner, Hislop, Hunt, Ankerberg, or Brewer. Catholic Answers staff do that because they have made it part of their function (for obvious reasons). But not every Catholic apologist is so constrained (thank God!). I content myself with going back to the roots of Protestantism and reading Calvin and Luther. You surely can't be asserting that one must read anti-Catholics in order to understand either Protestantism or its disagreements with Catholicism!

Of current writers I will read people like Geisler, Samples and Miller, Pelikan, Tolbert, the Passantinos, Packer, etc. (i.e., on Catholicism) since they are ecumenical and immeasurably more logical than the anti-Catholics. I would certainly eagerly purchase and read their works, with the greatest interest. You are pretty much in a class by yourself (perhaps also Morey & Ankerberg)-- anti-Catholics who show some measure of concern for sources and accuracy, and some semblance of respect for the mind and Christian history (even cogent theology). I already stated I would make an exception for your works, since they are obviously far and away the best of a bad lot, and since you were nice enough to send them to me free, provided you'll interact with my rebuttals.

Again, you should be pleased about that, rather than criticizing me unduly and saying that I may therefore not be an apologist. Tsk, tsk, James. As for Salmon, I read him because he was perfect for my needs at the time as an evangelical Protestant apologist-- a scathing attack on infallibility (i.e., I was on his side when I read the book). I would certainly snatch up his book today if I saw it since (like your stuff) it is about the best you guys can come up with and not immediately dismissable as absurd and laughable hogwash. I am still proud today that as a Protestant I did not rely on blithering idiots (i.e., on Catholicism) like Boettner and Chick for my polemics, but rather, the smartest anti-Catholics, Dollinger and Salmon (I would have utilized you, too, if I had been aware of you).

I use the term "anti-Catholic" in a very basic sense -someone who is opposed to the Catholic Church (not its members per se) and does not consider it as Christian. He may or may not regard it as a consciously heinous Beast and Whore (the spectrum runs the gamut from Jack "Jesuits killed Lincoln" Chick to Dave "1 million Reformation martyrs" Hunt to you). There is nothing improper or offensive in this usage whatsoever. It is the objective stating of a fact, such as the term "anti-abortion activist" (I accept that description, though I much prefer "pro-life"). It's curious that you reject a title which so accurately portrays what you are. But I guess I'd be embarrassed too to be in the fraternity of Catholic-bashers you're in.

Throughout my book and tracts I argue that anti-Catholicism is almost (but not quite) essential for all Protestants (in order to justify their own very existence). You go on to compare apples and oranges by stating that I should consistently call myself an "anti-Protestant." C'mon, James, you're smarter than this (so many pages and hours taken up-- for both of us-- in all these corrections of fact and logic). I say you're a Christian; you say I'm not, therefore there is no logical symmetry here. I'm not anti-Protestant by my own criterion above. I'm a seriously ecumenical Catholic who does, however, criticize Protestants as rebellious sons within the family, not enemies.

You might call me a Catholic "polemicist" or "controversialist," but not an anti-Protestant, at least according to my objective definition of terms. If merely disagreeing with Protestant positions makes me "anti-Protestant," then the denominations would have so many "anti-Lutherans," "anti-Arminians," "anti-pentecostals," etc. as to be utterly countless. With me, it's a family squabble and in-house fight, whereas you are taking on the foreign infidels, whose views are well-nigh worthless and contemptible. This leads to two entirely different attitudes, which may explain why you continually rip my character and motives, while I try to stick to the arguments, to the extent that your diatribes against me and my patience allow. I'm quite willing to call you a Protestant apologist too. The two titles are not mutually exclusive.

As for Bart Brewer, I've seen his little letters in This Rock, read about him there, heard him on tape, and seen his comically condescending personal letter to a convert friend of mine (questioning his Protestant pedigree, etc., much like you -- this guy was a dyed-in-the-wool Baptist who even studied with Francis Schaeffer!). Nothing I've seen indicates "humility" or "simple kindness" on his part (although I will not flatly deny it exists, since I don't know). My impression is quite to the contrary. And his reasoning is by no means compelling. There is only -- again, as far as I've seen-- lightweight, cliched salvos, to the effect that Catholics never hear the gospel, ad nauseum. This type of "argument" is inane, asinine, and insipid (sorry!). So my description stands.

On the surface it might appear arrogant, but when it is understood in the context of being directed at a person who brashly contends that I am an infidel and heaps all kinds of slanderous and unsubstantiated abuse on my Church and, by extension, on me, it is guite justified, just as Jesus' descriptions of the Pharisees (for much the same attitude) are, and also St. Paul's hard-hitting descriptions of various wayward individuals.

Being on both sides of any major disagreement is self-evidently a benefit (this was a minor point of mine and I did take pains to qualify it). The very fact that you guys trot out your Bart Brewers ("he was a Catholic priest for xx years," etc.) proves that you agree with this. Much is made of Luther's having been a monk and "understanding the Catholic position from the inside" too. Not all of us are so enlightened or blessed with the right upbringing so as to arrive at theological truth at such an early age, and stick with it through thick and thin, as it would appear from your remarks about others, you believe about yourself (a "cradle Calvinist"?). Real or so-called "traitors" are always despised by the groups they leave. That's why civil wars are the bloodiest. This is human nature, I suppose.

I might add as a parting shot that if anything is "double-minded," it is your numerous contradictory views and selective double standards of criticism, as painstakingly exhibited throughout this letter (these could rightly be called "wavering" -Jas 1:6). I would never say this unprovoked, but since you stoop to it, I only point out that one might see some hypocrisy in you using this charge. Merely changing positions, even repeatedly, is not necessarily "double-minded," nor hypocritical nor "unstable," provided there is a true developmental progression from lesser truth to greater truth, and an increase in knowledge and wisdom. I would say that the phrase "double-minded" refers more to the simultaneous holding of contradictory views, or vacillation, such as in your two letters, as I've proven several times already.

Another trivial matter: I referred to my book since I gave you (unless I overlooked this) my list of tracts, which describes it. Obviously, I was speaking in the sense of the potential for you to read various chapters as an answer to your arguments. Why should I reiterate views which I have already expressed elsewhere? Whatever you want to read, I will give to you (several are already enclosed). I didn't want to bombard you with hundreds of pages-- I just wanted you to know that I've done this work and that it is at my disposal in manuscript form should it become necessary to refute your assertions. Better yet, if you want, I'll give you the whole kit and kaboodle on two computer disks (ancient Wordstar 5.00).

By "constructively ecumenical" I mean striving for increased understanding among Christians. I don't know what apologist told you ecumenism is a "joke" (although I agree much of what passes for ecumenism indeed is). I'd like to hear the context of that remark, and what he thinks of the documents of Vatican II. If the only reason I talked to Protestants (particularly of the anti-Catholic bent) was to convert them, I'd be one frustrated camper indeed, as the only ones I've helped to pope were already my friends. No, my immediate, realistic goal (aside from simple, innocent friendliness) is simply to build bridges, and to engage in the ceaseless and almost thankless task of explaining Catholicism and defending it from the ever-present disinformation and prejudice with which we Catholics have to deal as a matter of course. In this, my attitude is little different from my campus evangelist days. I was content to let the Spirit do the work of conversion-- it was my privilege to be used in some small way as a vessel of Christian truth.

Likewise, in my attempts at bridge-building, perhaps occasionally someone will convert, which I regard as a great improvement in one's spiritual status, of course, since more truth is espoused than formerly. This was also the philosophy of my ecumenical discussion group, and it never changed, even though I started it as a Protestant (the dynamic is the same on either side). Lacking that, I would be ecstatic to convince Protestants with obvious zeal and abilities such as yourself that Catholicism is Christian. This would be fulfilling the "mandate" of John 17-- a quite worthwhile endeavor and the primary purpose of ecumenism. Strictly speaking, if I am actively seeking to convert someone (which is rare, anyway) I am functioning as a Catholic evangelist and apologist. When I am seeking to understand others and to explain my views (i.e., almost all the time), I am playing more the ecumenist's role. This involves no duplicity or contradiction. Anyone with strong views wishes that others could be convinced of them, too. But given inherent divisions, we all have to get to know each other's opinions also, and charity demands this.

Okay, James, so I took some liberties in speculating on your opinions as to the means and process of my conversion (er, apostasy). Perhaps my acerbic wit got the best of me. But you go beyond that. You must accuse me of (what else?) "misrepresentation." But this time I was not attempting to quote you directly, and thought that you would realize I was writing "tongue-in-cheek," being the sharp guy (I mean that sincerely) that you are. Mainly, I was reacting to the condescension of you thinking that you know so much about my theological knowledge (or lack thereof) prior to poping, which was a bit much to take-- hence the sarcasm. You'll note that almost always when I utilize wit, sarcasm, parody, etc. I am either reacting to arrogance, rash presumption, or rank hypocrisy from the other party (again, just like Jesus does). It's always provoked in some manner. I do not initiate it.

When you read portions of my book, you'll find that I rarely engage in sarcasm and try to maintain a scholarly tone of understatement (I make no claim to being a scholar, however). The typical instances of my sarcasm are in response to arrogant comments from Luther, Calvin, or some other anti-Catholic which thoroughly deserve a response ("be all things to all people"). Calvin is as arrogant as they come, and I indulge myself a little bit at his expense, as well as Luther's (how would you expect a Catholic to react to their outrageous accusations?). Now, having accepted your rebuke on this point, why don't you then elaborate on what you meant by my lack of knowledge of the "why" of "Roman" theology, and the supposed "ripeness" of my views for "refutation." Since you (quite presumptuously) feel you know so much about this, I'd like to know what you know about me too, then I won't have to speculate excessively.

I'd be especially delighted to learn that you in fact don't regard the Catholic Church and its proponents as "clever," "devious," and characterized by "Babylonish guile." These are classic anti-Catholic charges, perfected in our day by Dave Hunt (following Pope Luther-- Babylonian Captivity...). If you disagree with this, I wish you'd write to Hunt and set him straight. We could use a guy like you to run interference for us on occasion. If you do accept this description, then where's the beef with my witticisms?

As for the precise written content of my conversion story, how in the world is that relevant here, or even any business of yours? A conversion story is just that-- a conversion story, not a treatise on theology or a library list or pro-Protestant controversialism (my prior stance), just as the Gospels have a specific purpose, and Proverbs and Psalms and Amos all have their own raison d'etre too. This is getting really ridiculous, and you force me to go back to my flow charts:

P1) Dave Armstrong writes a 12-page conversion story in Surprised by Truth (the shortest in the book).
P2) James White apparently thinks that it does or should present an exhaustive survey of Dave's grasp of Catholic theology prior to his conversion. In so thinking, James assumes that Dave would list all or most of what he has read and studied about Catholicism and Protestant critiques in this 12-page story.
C1) James White thereby concludes that whatever is not listed has not been read or studied by Dave Armstrong.
C2) White further concludes that this means Dave had not read Calvin's diatribes and defenses, nor Trent, nor even the catechisms of Fr. John Hardon prior to conversion.
C3) White concludes, with little grounds, that Dave Armstrong therefore was quite lacking in his understanding of Protestantism & why it opposes Catholicism, hence was "ripe for refutation" theologically.
C4) In other words, Dave was so lacking in knowledge of his own prior beliefs that his "conversion" is of little significance. In fact, Dave wasn't Protestant at all, since he was never a five-point Calvinist, which is the litmus test.

So then, what was I, anyway? A Pelagian? A Druid? A Rastafarian? All this based on 12 pages and a few short tracts and letters. You still don't know what and how much I've studied, yet you persist in this fatuous analysis and say things like, "am I to conclude, Dave, that I should not take what Roman apologists say at face value?" Why are you so concerned about this factor, anyway? Is it not simply a diversionary tactic? You can try to poke holes in my conversion odyssey if you like (I rather enjoy these analyses for humor's sake, much as musicians despise and chuckle at dead-wrong critical reviews of their work), but this won't get you off the hook of refuting what I know now, regardless of what I knew or didn't know then.

I didn't even mention Surprised by Truth in my first letter (strange, if I'm as arrogant as you think). You started this whole line of reasoning. But I fail to see how it is relevant. If you keep trying to prove that you were not presumptuous, I don't believe it is likely you will succeed. Now, if you'll pay me labor costs, I'll write a 300-page autobiography on the precise nature of my theological knowledge and progress at every step of the way from 1977 to 1990, so I can "tell the truth" about my "background" and "experience." It would make pretty dull reading, I think, to reel off scores of book titles so as to satisfy your strict requirements for self-revelation! But if you paid me, I would do it. C'mon! I wish we'd get to some real issues. I value my time as much as you do yours, I'm sure. I want some real, substantive dialogue.

As for "epistemological leaps" (you must have taken some philosophy, too), Protestantism is replete with them-- for starters, sola Scriptura, a-historicism, private judgment, a stultifying tendency of dichotomizing ideas unnecessarily, anti-sacramentalism, anti-materialism, anti-clericalism, paper (without papal) infallibility, perspicuity, assurance of salvation, etc. You keep railing against infallibility, as if it is a totally untenable position. Well, which bucket would you pick: the one with one hole (easily patched up by Catholic apologist handymen), or the one with ten (which are denied by the Protestant apologists, who just keep filling up the bucket regardless of its leaks)?

Yes, I stand by my opposition to how you paint the picture of my being impressed by Catholics in Operation Rescue. It's not a matter of seeing "nice folks" who are sincere and consistent in their beliefs (big wow; if that was it, I'd surely be either a Mormon or a conservative Methodist!). No, it's being impressed with godly men and women of great Christian integrity. I dealt with this adequately on p.3. I find another thing very troubling. You would rather insist on evangelizing Catholics at every opportunity rather than standing together with them against the greatest evil of our age (which you admit). You think this "principle" more important than (given the reasonable opportunity at a Rescue) the very saving of babies' lives (Ecc 3:7 applies, I would say).

I can think of many legitimate reasons for not participating in Rescues (I haven't since 1990 myself), but yours is certainly not one of them. I regard it as an astounding and indefensible instance of tragically-blind legalism to the exclusion of the "weightier matters" of love and compassion for both the babies and the state of both a divided Christianity and a decadent civilization. It is as morally contemptible as Corrie Ten Boom saying that she would not assist in saving Jews unless she could convert them, too.

It's disgusting and abominable that Protestants such as Bill Gotthard, John MacArthur and even Norman Geisier (who said on a talk show that he would not save a five-year-old from a legal death camp down the street unless it was his own), cannot even give sanction to the tactic of Rescue, let alone (God forbid) sit with Catholics in them. MacArthur said on Ankerberg's anti-Catholic series of broadcasts recently that we should not even participate together in non-Rescue pro-life activities! Perhaps this is your view, too. Divide and conquer.

You didn't have to compromise or "overlook" anything as a Rescuer. I didn't compromise my evangelicalism. All you had to do was shut your mouth at the clinic entrances and in the jails. Was that really too much to ask of you for the sake of the babies about to be killed? Couldn't you just pray for the infidels (and, egads, with them) and be a shining example of a righteous Calvinist? I talked at length with the Catholics in other venues. No one could stop me from engaging in dialogue elsewhere. The leaders only had authority over me at the Rescues, not in my private life. Even in the jails, though, I talked theology, but since I was ecumenical rather than anti-Catholic, this was no hindrance to the movement. I had a Socratic attitude of being willing to learn, not just to share everything I knew with poor, ignorant papists. It's all in the approach.

If you think that the situation of 23,000 denominations is the equivalent of the "modern state of Roman apologetics in the U.S. today" I would love to see you elaborate on this contention with some real arguments, not just desperate salvos for lack of any real reasoning or response. And please leave out the separatist "Catholic" examples, if you would, for my sake, since I don't buy it.

I challenge you once again (I am at your p.6): please tell me who is and who isn't a Christian. Are Arminians Christians? You mention "Protestantism." Who are these Protestants-in-quotes? It would seem that, at a bare minimum, Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans, pentecostals, some Baptists, and many non-denoms are excluded right off the bat, as I earlier stated. Please tell me for sure so I can know. Surely you know, since you are quick to read others out of the faith (like the early "Reformers," especially Luther).

And again, I declare to you: if these Protestants-in-quotes are not Christian, then they are far more wicked than us poor papists, under the yoke of Rome, as there is a strong element of deception (from your standpoint) in their position. They are fake Protestants, fatally-compromised, hypocritical and nominal Protestants, "treading water in the Tiber." And who are those who reject limited atonement yet remain Christians? I'm especially curious as to Melanchthon and Wesley. Finally, St. Paul wasn't a Calvinist any more than St. Augustine was. This is made clear in my "sola fide" treatise.

Very well, then, James. I'll call your bluff again. Please send me an example (please pay close attention to what I am requesting) of a sermon intended for evangelization and as a prelude to an altar call whereby people get "saved," where TULIP is presented as the center and essence of the whole enterprise. If you can produce one (preferably more) of these, I will recant this position (it isn't as though my whole worldview rests on it, anyway). The key words were "openly presents" and I was referring to missionary-crusade type settings (or sermons, anyway), obviously not to the fact that someone might believe in TULIP. Even if you are correct on the factual point, I would still deny theologically that TULIP is the gospel. I maintain that it is a schema of heavily philosophical theology.

The gospel, as I have always believed, is, as W.E. Vine defines it,

"...the good tidings of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension, e.g., Acts 15:7; 20:24; 1 Pet 4:17." { Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, under "Gospel" }

As a (")Protestant(") evangelist, I located the apostolic proclamation of this gospel in Acts 2:6-11, 3:13-15,18-21,26, 4:8-12, 5:30-32, 10:34-43, 13:23,26-33,38-39, 16:31, 17:22-31, and 22:3-16,21 (my tract, "The Gospel, as Preached by the First Christians"). One can hardly by any stretch find TULIP in these presentations, and this was my point. It's strange to me that sola Scriptura adherents would redefine the gospel message when it is clearly defined in the pages of Scripture, by example of both preaching and teaching.

In the midst of an extraordinary array of ad hominem, "bombastic" language at the bottom of p.6, you lament my "double standard" of not quoting a source in my jeremiad against the wickedness of Calvinism. I assumed you were quite familiar with my line of argument. I can't imagine a Calvinist who wouldn't be, so I thought documentation superfluous. Being, as it was, a purely philosophical and moral observation, I didn't feel compelled at all by your present demand for citations. As is so often the case, you ignore my argument here with mere rhetoric instead of a substantive reply. Is this not objectionable, when you again and again regard practically every other argument I make ("every other paragraph"-- p.2) as too stupid (?) to even be worthy of a reply, and only deserving of insult and obloquy? I submit that this attitude could be far more accurately described as "arrogant" than anything I've written to you.

When I don't know how to respond to (or defend) something, I admit it, as in the Protestant-as-heretic-or-brother issue, as specifically related to infallibility, and below, concerning Joseph Smith and his background and motivations vis-a-vis Calvinism. Nevertheless, as you wish, I will now give you a little documentation (and hope again for you to actually respond rationally to my argument):

The conditional nature of Positive reprobation is demanded by the generality of the Divine Resolve of salvation. This excludes God's desiring in advance the damnation of certain men (cf. 1 Tim 2:4, Ez 33:11, 2 Pet 3:9). St. Augustine teaches:

"God is good, God is just. He can save a person without good works, because He is good; but He cannot condemn anyone without evil works because He is just" (Contra Jul. III, 18,35)

St. Augustine, to whom the opponents of this doctrine [free will] appeal, never denied the freedom of the will in relation to grace. In defence of the freedom of the will he wrote, in the year 426 or 427, the work, De gratia et libero arbitrio, in which he seeks to instruct . . . those, "who believe that free will is denied, if grace is defended . . ." (I, 1).

Justification is not only a work of grace, but at the same time a work of the free will:

"He who created thee without thy help does not justify thee without thy help..." (Sermo 169, 11,13) . . .

"His mercy comes before us in everything. But to assent to or dissent from the call of God is a matter for one's own will..." (De spiritu et litt., 34,60).

{ from Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 1954, pp.246-7 }

So much for Calvinism in St. Augustine, the "proto-Protestant" par excellence, and the mistaken, intellectually-dishonest constant appeal to him in Calvin and Luther (the latter eventually refrained somewhat, realizing the futility of it). Or so it would appear to the unbiased eye, I think. When will you guys stop claiming the "best and brightest" Catholics as your own, when it is clear that they are not? Again, St. Augustine was a bishop, who believed in Ecumenical Councils and the authority of the pope, and, of course, the sacraments, and many other doctrines you find reprehensible and unChristian. Do you have a bishop? Or sacraments? Do you believe in Ecumenical Councils? How could he possibly be a "Protestant," even one of your fake ones in quotes? To claim him as one of your own is sheer ludicrosity.

And the same is true of all the other Fathers, if the truth be known (with the possible exception of Tertullian in his heretical Montanist period). You might better and more consistently embrace (at least partially) the Donatists, Montanists, Novationists, Nestorians, Marcionites and even the Orthodox as your forerunners, if someone must be found to fill in the missing links of 1500 years. This constant dishonest recourse to the Fathers (e.g., your implication that you are more "in company" with St. Athanasius, St. Ignatius, and St. Irenaeus than I am-- p.7) only goes to show that thoughtful Protestants recognize the incumbent necessity of finding some figment of an historical "church" during the so-called "dark ages" (whenever that began-- you don't want to tell me).

The evolution of Unitarianism in New England is an indisputable fact of history. You can only attempt (legitimately) to deny the direct causal connection. You're welcome to do so with my blessing. The same thing happened to English Presbyterianism at the same time. As to my "joke" (you miss much of my intended humor) about Puritanism evolving into Unitarianism, I cite in my defense no less a reputable scholar of Puritanism than Perry Miller:

"By the middle of the 18th Century there had proceeded from it [Puritan philosophy] two distinct schools of thought . . . Certain elements were carried into the creeds and practices of the evangelical religious revivals, but others were perpetuated by the rationalists and the forerunners of Unitarianism . . . Unitarianism is as much the child of Puritanism as Methodism . . . Descendants of the Puritans who revolted against what they considered the tyranny and cruelty of Puritan theology . . . substituted taste and reason for dogma and authority." { The Puritans, NY: Harper & Row, vol.1, rev. 1963, pp.3-4; from Intro. by Perry Miller }

I guess if my views here are a "joke," then Miller's are, too (I'll bet you even have his biography of Jonathan Edwards. I do. Surprised?). So why don't you write to him (if he's alive) in the same mocking manner about the same topic? His research couldn't be that bad, could it?

Warning: another of my arguments from historical implausibility: If Calvinism is so great, and so guided by God's Providence, why is it so hard to find, both historically in Christian history, and geographically at present? Where are the great numbers of Calvinists today, even in Scotland, the Netherlands (where euthanasia is touted) and Switzerland, its historical "strongholds" (if any areas can be so described)? Are you reduced to western Michigan and Grand Rapids these days, in terms of any significant and palpable strength? If you guys are the only Christians, yours is a miserably and pitifully small "church" indeed, with scarcely little staying power (i.e., as a significant influence). This is hardly a plausible nor convincing evidence of the hand of God, in my opinion. Catholicism, on the other hand, flourishes in full splendor, as it always has (even surviving several bleak periods, humanly speaking). Much more could be said, but you don't seem to appreciate very much my historical and analogical arguments, so I'll stop.

Good news and bad news! I concede that I made a (partial) boo-boo, but the bad news is that it is an exceedingly minor point in our overall discussion. You're right about Joseph Smith not starting out as a Calvinist. I did not phrase this quite as accurately as I should have. In my book, in the "Protestant errors" chapter, I put it this way: "many founders of religious cults had Calvinistic backgrounds." Stated this way, my remark to you is at least half-true. Brushing up on my research (which wasn't originally mine on this point, since I first heard and "inherited" the argument from a prominent evangelical Protestant cult researcher friend), I couldn't confirm that Joseph Smith himself was a card-carrying Calvinist. As it turns out, he may not have even tiptoed through TULIP.

Yet I found some things that likely led to the origin of this whole argument: Four members of Joseph Smith's family became officially associated with Presbyterianism; his mother, brothers Hyrum and Samuel, and sister Sophronia, according to his own account (as confirmed by documentation: Hoekema, Four Major Cults, p.9 / Millet, Robert L., ed., Joseph Smith: Selected Sermons and Writings, NY: Paulist Press, 1989, p.13 (Introduction) / Hill, Marvin S. & James B. Allen, eds., Mormonism and American Culture, NY: Harper & Row, 1972, p.30). Furthermore, Joseph Smith's ancestral background was Puritan, according to Kenneth Scott Latourette:

"Joseph Smith was born in Vermont of old New England stock. So far as the family had a religious background it was Puritan." { The 19th Century Outside Europe, NY: Harper & Row, 1961, p.113 }

As to my whole scenario of his reacting against Calvinism, etc., I will suspend judgment on that until such time as I see some proof (I do recall, however, this being a significant factor in C.T. Russell's heretical development, so it does happen among the heresiarchs). So, although partially inaccurate, I think this point of mine is a bit more worthy than, again, a "joke," as you characteristically mock it. I'd like to see you back up many of your contentions with any evidence, let alone as much as I present for even my partial errors.

I'm dumbfounded by your apparent utter misunderstanding of my intent and meaning in the bottom paragraph of my p.5. The point was emphatically not to put you down, as if you're a nobody or something along those lines. I can't help but suspect once again that you are not seriously reading my letters with an attempt to accept them at face value and an earnest effort to understand and either learn from or refute them. I mean what I say and say what I mean. How many times do I have to point this out? Like any writing, you must place my words and phrases in context. Someone reading your isolated "juicy" quotes of mine out of context in your p.7 (top) would surely think me to be a real scoundrel. But if they read (and grasped) my whole paragraph to which you refer, they would get an entirely different impression.

I feel like Rush Limbaugh (who also loves, as I do, the argunentum ad absurdum, and is a master of it) after reading an article about himself in the Washington Post. The best thing for you to do would be to just read my paragraph again (maybe two times). I'll give you a big clue as to its meaning: it is one massive argument from absurdity, throwing your infallibility critiques back in your face, showing that your position of everyone-is-his-own-pope is both untenable and unworkable. The "stalwart figures" are Melanchthon, Wesley, Finney, C.S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, and pre-conversion Newman, Chesterton, Knox and Neuhaus, who were mentioned a page before.

"Little old" is a figure of speech (for Pete's sake!). I could tell how old you were from the picture on one of the flyers you sent me! (I also read Madrid's article where he stated you were "barely out of your twenties"). I deduced that you had a pulpit from the back of Fatal Flaw, where you are described as an "ordained Baptist minister." What "Baptist minister" worth his salt doesn't have a pulpit! But one might say you are "preaching" via your books, newsletter and tapes. It's all the same difference. The fact that I am indeed a "little fellow," a "novice," "far too young to have the whole story," etc. is precisely the point I was making on p.5. I couldn't have put it any better myself (I admit as much in the Introduction to my book). I won't give the argument again. Why should I have to? Just read it again, and then perhaps you'll answer it for a change, instead of either misunderstanding, mocking or trashing it.

Duh, whose this Gerstner guy? Did'nt he start a baby food cumpany? Gee, i did'nt know he dun some theeoligy, too. But i do too know who Jonathan Edwards is! He had a hit song in 1971 called "Sunshine." So there! And Whitfield is da guy who produced some a da Temptations' songs (only a Detroit naytiv coulda knowed dat one). Glad to hear your'e a music fan like i is. As for Carp Haddock Sturgeon, that sounds pritty fishy ta me. So i ain't near as dumm as ya think.

I get the distinct feeling, James, that you don't like the apostolic, biblical, patristic, historical and Catholic gospel. No surprise, given your love for Calvinist theology. Those who have never realized their own helplessness often hate to submit to the ecclesiastical authority established by Christ, I've discovered. I've seen similar paragraphs from other "Protestants," from snake handlers, Shakers, Quakers, Dake-ers, the Bakkers, fakers, tithe-takers, TULIP-makers, Coplandites, Mennonites, Scofieldites, "Israel"-whites, Swaggartites, Church of Christ, Church of God, United Church of Christ, Church of God in Christ, Disciples of Christ, and the Christian Church, and eponymous "Christians," even from some "Catholics" too.

Your whole diatribe in the bottom paragraph of p.7 has already been dealt with quite adequately by the entirety of my contentions on pp.5-7 and comments on the Catholic Fathers above. I can add nothing substantial to that, and so desist for space and time's sake. What is this: a Jeopardy game, where I give the answer first and then you ask the question that the answer already answered?

Your second paragraph on p.8 is an absolutely astonishing rapid-fire assault on my (and others') character. I should ignore it, but I'll comment due to its incredible nature:

1) You say I wouldn't have talked (or written) a certain way in 1990 ("that's for certain"-- because you have my 12-page story to prove it, I guess you'd say).
2) You object to my use of epithets, in the midst of your use of countless ones yourself!
3) Then you brag about your abilities in defending a logically indefensible position.
4) You throw in some gratuitous digs at Madrid and Matatics for good measure (I'd love to see your 60 pages of refutation of Madrid's 5-page article. Gee, I wonder if there are any "epithets" in there? What tedium it must contain!).
5) Then it's back to my style, which is "tinny" (I've been called much worse, thank you).
6) The "scared-to-debate" charge rears its ugly head again. I've already disposed of that above.
7) I "hide behind a word-processor" (so asinine that my satirical affinities fail me this time).
8) I "blow smoke" (exactly what you're doing here).
9) Then it's back to the "but how can I read your book if I don't have it?" lament.
10) Then there are multiple views of Catholic "tradition" (how many? 23,000? Why don't you be precise when you make these wild charges, for once?). Are Kung's and Dollinger's and Curran's and Wilhelm's and McBrien's views included in your tally? Is Newman's view of Tradition mine? Yes, since his is the Catholic view. I really don't think Patrick Madrid disagrees with Newman, who will in all likelihood be a saint one day and possibly a Doctor of the Church. Again, if Matatics is a schismatic, his view is irrelevant to my work as a Catholic apologist. If 90 to 95% of Protestants-in-quotes don't speak for you, then don't make schismatics speak for me and my Church. This is silly. You say there are many views of Tradition. I say there is only one, and you can discover it in the standard Catholic sources. If you think there are "all sorts of different takes" on Tradition, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate this, not just talk about it for rhetoric's sake alone.

All of this in one paragraph. Yet you wonder why I refuse to engage a person who "argues" in such a way in public debate. You can rail against me all you want about that (it will fall on "deaf ears" from now on), but I'll tell you one thing. You're sure gonna get a run for your money in this writing debate. Your constant resort to vilification of me and the ignoring of many of my arguments only proves that your oft-proclaimed debating abilities are already failing you. Call that statement pride if you want. I don't care.

I've only heard one of your debates -- with Fr. Pacwa on sola Scriptura, but I don't have a copy of it. Rather, since you issued the challenge, I will make a similar type of argument to those I utilized earlier with flow charts:

P1) X, Y, & Z are regarded by all as Church Fathers.
P2) James White thinks X, Y, Z are either outright Protestant or more so than Catholic, & therefore are not Catholic, & can't be "claimed" by Catholics.
A1) But X, Y, & Z's views on A, B, & C, etc. are contrary to White's conception of what Christianity is, & ought to be.
C1) Therefore, X, Y, & Z are in fact Catholics, as in Dave Armstrong's view.
A2) But this contradicts White's P2.
C2) Therefore, White must either give up citing X, Y, & Z as "his own" & consider them infidels or apostates or else become a Catholic so as to avoid historical contradictions.

We will select (a random choice), the three Fathers you cited on p.7:

"How do you know you are in company with, say, Athanasius or Ignatius or Irenaeus? In the final analysis, is it not because Rome tells you so?"

We will examine some of their "unprotestant" and "Romish" views. Now, if I was out of the fold of Protestantism due to the rejection of just T and U of TULIP, then the multiple errors in the views of these Fathers which I will prove certainly render them infidels all the more so. I'm pleased you want to do this, since I asked for it on p. 7, 2nd paragraph. All emphases will be added. The battle can finally be joined. Amen!

St. Ignatius (c. 110 AD)

1) Denominationalism:

  • "It is, therefore, advantageous for you to be in perfect unity, in order that you may always have a share in God." (Eph., 4,2)
  • "Let there be nothing among you which is capable of dividing you . . ." (Mag., 6,2)
  • "Flee from divisions, as the beginnings of evils." (Sm., 8,1)
  • "Focus on unity, for there is nothing better." (Pol., 1,2)
  • "If anyone follows a schismatic, he will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Ph., 3,3)

2) Bishops:

  • "Whoever does anything without bishop and presbytery and deacons does not have a clean conscience." (Tr., 7,2)
  • "You must all follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father . . ." (Sm., 8,1)
  • "Cling inseparably to Jesus Christ and to the bishop . . ." (Tr., 7,1)
  • "Let everyone respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, just as they should respect the bishop, who is a model of the Father, and the presbyters as God's council and as the band of the apostles. Without these no group can be called a church." (Tr., 3,1)
  • "It is good to acknowledge God and the bishop. The one who honors the bishop has been honored by God; the one who does anything without the bishop's knowledge serves the devil." (Sm., 9,1)
  • "It is obvious, therefore, that we must regard the bishop as the Lord himself." (Eph., 6,1)

3) Real Presence:

  • "I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ." (Rom., 7,3)
  • "Participate in one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup which leads to unity through his blood. . .)." (Ph., 4,1)
  • "They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ." (Sm., 6,2).

4) Vicarious Atonement (A Species of Penance):

  • "I am a humble sacrifice for you." (Eph., 8,1)
  • "Grant me nothing more than to be poured out as an offering to God while there is still an altar ready." (Rom., 2,2)
  • ". . . I might prove to be a sacrifice to God." (Rom., 4,2)
  • "May my spirit be a ransom on your behalf." (Sm., 10,2)
  • "May I be a ransom on your behalf in every respect." (Pol., 2,3)

5) Justification:

  • "Those who profess to be Christ's will be recognized by their actions. For the Work is not a matter of what one promises now, but of perseveringto the end in the power of faith" (Eph., 14,2)

6) Infallibility:

  • "The Lord accepted the ointment upon his head for this reason: that he might breath incorruptibility upon the church." (Eph., 17,1)

St. Irenaeus (c. 130 - 200)

1) Sola Scriptura / Tradition: see my Sola Scriptura treatise, pp.19-20.

[since James made a great fuss about my not immediately providing him with my manuscripts, I will now cut-and-paste from the cited sections]

  • "The Church . . . has received from the Apostles and from their disciples the faith." {Against the Herestics, 1,10,1}
  • "The Church, having received this preaching and this faith . . . guarded it . . . She likewise believes these things . . . and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth . . . the authority of the tradition is one and the same." {Ibid., 1,10,2}
  • "Every Church throughout the whole world has received this tradition from the Apostles." {Ibid., 2,9,1}
  • "Polycarp . . . was instructed . . . by the Apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ . . . He always taught those things which he had learned from the Apostles, and which the Church had handed down, and which are true." {Ibid., 3,3,4}
  • "The true gnosis is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world . . . and the very complete tradition of the Scriptures." {Ibid., 4,33,8}

2) Real Presence:

  • "The bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of (the) Lord, and the cup His Blood." {Ibid., 4,18,4 / cf. 4,18,5; 4,33,2}

3) Justification: see my Sola Fide treatise, p.42.

  • "[Paul], an able wrestler, urges us on in the struggle for immortality, so that we may receive a crown, and so that we may regard as a precious crown that which we acquire by our own struggle, and which does not grow on us spontaneously. And because it comes to us in a struggle, it is therefore the more precious." {Ibid., 4,37,7}

4) Penance:

  • Ott cites his mention of backsliders re-accepted after public confession and penance {Ibid., 1,6,3; 1,13,5; 4,40,1).

5) The Blessed Virgin Mary:

  • "Mary . . . by obeying, became the cause of salvation both for herself and the whole human race . . . What the virgin Eve had tied up by unbelief, this the virgin Mary loosened by faith." {Ibid., 3,21,10}

6) The Preeminence of the Church of Rome (i.e., Catholicism): see "Papacy & Infallibility" treatise, p.53.

  • ". . . Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church . . . the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition.
  • "The blessed Apostles, having founded and built up the Church, they handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul makes mention of this Linus in the Epistle to Timothy [2 Tim 4:21]. To him succeeded Anencletus; and after him, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement was chosen for the episcopate . . .
  • "In the time of Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome sent a very strong letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace and renewing their faith." {Ibid., 3,1,1; 3,3,2-3}

St. Athanasius (c. 296 - 373)

1) Real Presence:

  • "After the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ." {Sermon to the Newly Baptized}

2) Justification (Arminianism): see Sola Fide Treatise, p.44.

  • "Since we are sons and gods because of the Word in us, so also, because of the Spirit's being in us,-- the Spirit who is in the Word which is in the Father,-- we shall be in the Son and in the Father . . .
  • "Therefore, when someone falls from the Spirit through any wickedness-- that grace indeed remains irrevocably with those who are willing to repent after such a fall. Otherwise, the one who has fallen is no longer in God, because that Holy Spirit and Advocate who is in God has deserted him." {Discourses Against the Arians, 3,25}

3) The Papacy: see Papacy Treatise, p.34 (by strong implication).

I rest my case. Is this a "fine" enough "brush" for you? St. Ignatius and St. Irenaeus each fail six of your litmus tests for bona fide Christianity, and St. Athanasius three. All this was found in my limited patristic resources (Lightfoot and Jurgens-- I may get the whole set for $300 from CBD one day). This enterprise is so patently unnecessary as to be almost absurd-- so self-evident is it that the Fathers were Catholic. When will this ridiculous game of desperate Protestant pretense cease? I don't look at all kindly on historical revisionism, especially in the cause of schism. I'll be looking forward eagerly to your Protestant interpretation of the above data. Good luck! You'll need it.

I wrote much (115 pages) in 1990 against Catholicism (see Surprised by Pelagianism, pp.245-6. For me, a "research project" always involves writing). But I will not show any of this to you for two reasons: 1) you will most likely use it against me (!), and cite it as proof that I-- like Newman-- am wishy-washy and "unstable" because I had a sincere change of mind. I don't have the patience for that sort of tactic; 2) I don't want to further strengthen you in your various errors, especially with regard to the Fathers (my reasoning then is so similar to yours now that this is a distinct possibility). If not for these factors, and if you would just retract the insult that I wasn't Protestant, I might send some of it to you. I think you'd find it extremely interesting. I was almost your counter-ego (I re-read some of it just now). My blistering attack on the Inquisition and its implications for infallibility could have been part of your two letters, verbatim, and in my letter to Keating in early 1990, I make an extended analogy between Catholicism and Jehovah's Witnesses (sound familiar?).

I am enclosing my treatise on development in order to deal with that subject. You certainly understand development better than most Protestants and "Protestants," but given several of your remarks (to which I've previously made reference), I suspect you have a great distance to go to achieve a fully developed comprehension (pun intended).

I suppose Newman was dishonest with himself and others, too over the issue of papal infallibility? Not quite, James. He was what is called an "inopportunist" before the definition-- one who thought that the time was not right for it. Primarily, he was opposed to the ultramontane faction. The definition was actually a triumph of the center or the moderate viewpoint, so to speak, since it limited infallibility quite a bit and gave it very specific criteria. Newman had full liberty as a Catholic to question the possible future dogma before it was defined, and in so doing, showed great courage, concern for the well-being of the Church, and integrity. In fact, I believe (I'd have to verify this) he questioned only a more sweeping definition, as proposed by the ultramontanes.

He was just as consistent and honest when he submitted (what you call a "collapse"-- I used to make the same argument, by the way, after Salmon) to the definition afterwards because this is how Catholicism operates. Those are the rules of the game, and those who can't abide by them (such as Dollinger and millions of liberals today) ought to get out of the game and play another one where they can avoid being disingenuous, to put it mildly. What Newman did was no different than opposing a proposal for a change in a civil statute but then agreeing to obey it if it becomes law.

I suppose one can never make a square peg fit into a round circle, and it will always be well-nigh impossible for the "free" Protestant, with his "Christian liberty" to grasp the idea of submission to Church authority. This act is regarded as a crutch and wimpish intellectual suicide, when in actuality it is simply the common-sense realization of one's own clear limitations and the simultaneous acknowledgment of a much greater, corporate, divinely-instituted, Spirit-led Church. I've never understood how Protestants can (often slavishly) follow either their own fancies or those of their pastor, oftentimes thoroughly ignorant of, and divorced from Church history, yet excoriate Catholics for showing the same deference to the pope and the whole grand Tradition of the Church. Our view is by no means less plausible, even on the face of it. My "Papacy" paper gets into much more of this.

I referred to your "treatment" of Canon issues in your letter of 4-6-95, p.3. I will refrain from commenting on your computer debate with Akin because it is multi-faceted and nuanced and because I am at 30 pages. Perhaps I'll take it up later at some time. The validity of Ecumenical Councils is determined by their approval (in entirety or in part) by the pope, not my own particular preferences. Otherwise we do indeed have a certain chaos and indeterminism, as you note (the Orthodox have this very difficulty). Refer to my "Papacy" paper, pp.62-71 for a treatment of the relationship of popes and Councils.

I have a simple suggestion for you to fiqure out what Catholics are bound to believe: pick up the new Catechism. Whatever you find in there is -- you can rest assured -- Catholic teaching. As for the various levels of doctrinal certainty, read Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. When he describes a doctrine as "de fide," it has been infallibly defined, usually by a Council, sometimes by a pope. "How truly wonderful" indeed. By the way, is TULIP infallible? On what grounds? And if it is, along with so many other Protestant dogmas (such as your "epistemological leaps" which I listed on p.19 above), how is your philosophical stance any less "problematic" than ours? If TULIP isn't infallible, then why did I flunk Protestantism 0101 for not espousing it? Hmmm?

Who are you to be criticizing Matatics for saying someone wasn't a Catholic, anyway? People in glass houses . . .

If Protestantism isn't man-centered, why do congregations all too frequently have one heaven of a time coping when one man -- the pastor -- leaves? At three of the churches with which I had ties: a Lutheran, an Assembly of God, and a non-denominational church, there occurred severe "succession crises" -- twice at the latter (I took no part whatsoever in any of these civil wars, in case you're wondering). Now, why would this be, unless they were man-centered? What's the big deal about one man moving out and another moving in? All of these instances were typified by great animosity, lack of commitment among many members towards the church (with them leaving), and petty, backbiting politics. And you guys talk about us and our "sacerdotalism," etc. Also, the mentality of selecting a church based on ear-tickling doctrines (which is so easy to do in Protestantism -- the spectrum runs the gamut) -- is also man-centered. Pragmatism, experientialism, worldliness, antinomianism, "cheap grace," materialism, narcissism, public relations, church growth rather than individual growth in spiritual maturity -- all these trends are strong.

What would you expect, though, from an outlook that made individualism supreme, even over against truth, when they conflict? All Catholic doctrines which you think detract from Christ do not at all, rightly understood. You are again the unconscious victim of the "dichotomous mentality" which Louis Bouyer talks about with such keen insight.

Funny that you chide me for noting your "mental state" when writing, after constantly accusing me of "dishonesty" and (one suspects, deliberate) "misrepresentation" of your views, and of being "scared" to debate you (I hope 36 hard-fought pages will put that one to rest once and for all).

I noted above that I don't have the (technical) materials to delve into this obsession you have with Lateran IV and persecution of heretics. But even if I did, I would not answer until you dealt with the same type of persecution within Protestantism, and what it does to your lofty claims of spiritual superiority to us (see enclosed tract on that). You've absolutely ignored this thus far (do I detect a pattern here? Might it be called . . . evasion?). As usual, the Protestant has to create a double standard when comparing the rival claims. It's okay to talk about Catholic historical shortcomings, but not Protestant ones, and conversely, it's alright to extoll the virtues of Protestantism (and there are many), but we must not note anything good about "Romanism." That's too dangerous. I agree, you don't claim infallibility, but you do claim superiority. That being the case, there is good reason to be suspicious of super-pious claims from the Deformers, when one learns about the horrible crimes committed and/or sanctioned by them.

At last! Something with which we can agree and cooperate in opposing: various Jehovah's Witnesses heretical doctrines of the Godhead. What a breath of fresh air. God's Omnipresence is denied in Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, p.665:

"The true God is not omnipresent, for he is spoken of as having a location. His throne is in Heaven."

Judge Rutherford even went so far as to state that the Pleiades is the place of the eternal throne of God. {Reconciliation, 1928, p.14}

As for "Jehovah's" body:

God is a person with a spiritual body . . . They will then see God . . . and also be like him (1 Jn 3:2). This, too, shows that God is a person, and that he has a body. { You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 1982, pp.36-7 }

The bodies of spiritual persons (God, Christ, the angels) are glorious. {Aid . . ., 1971, p.247}

They deny God's omniscience as well: Aid, p.595; Watchtower, 7-15-84, pp.4-5. But they'll contradict themselves elsewhere, too, as I'm sure you're well aware.

"I'm not going to be referring people to a source they can't even read." Well now you can read it! You had to wait all of a month or so (I know how excited you are to receive my arguments, which are fatal to your position). Your comments on the "98 pages" are the hysterically funny ones, if you ask me. If you'll go back to my p.11 you'll find that I make a simple, unadorned statement of fact, i.e., that I have written extensively on the papacy, and that this will provide my answer to your arguments on that subject. There is neither pride, nor any implication that thereby the debate is "finished," as you comically reply. I merely make reference to my paper. Eight lines are obviously not "all [I] can come up with." Get real! This is the whole point: that if you want to delve into the papacy and infallibility (which is probable), you can read my paper (the longest in my book). Did you think I would keep it from you?! I'm trying to save space (and my eyes and fingers) by referring to completed works.

[Note: an abridged 293-page version of my original 750-page manuscript, entitled A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, has been accepted for publication by Basilica Press]

You, on the other hand -- it must regrettably be pointed out -- constantly drone on about all the people you've debated and how they were all beaten, etc., and how much you know about sola Scriptura ("a recognized expert") as, e.g., in your raving paragraph on p.8.

It could only be your apparent unfounded assumption that practically every critical comment I make is motivated by conceit, ignorance, or an intention of sophistry, that makes you construct an elaborate scenario of my mindset out of a reference (much like a footnote) to an existing paper. I belabor this minor point because I think it illustrates well the difference in how you regard me versus how I view you. I think you're sincerely misinformed and wrong about Catholicism, with a considerable bias against it which often blinds you, and that you have many (I believe unconsciously held) contradictory views.

I make no negative judgments as to your motivations, intelligence (which I have praised several times), honesty (excepting intellectual dishonesty, which I consider, again, largely unconscious anyway), or character. If it ever appears that I do, please be assured this is not my intention and interpret overly harsh words in light of this statement of belief and purpose. I try my utmost to critique your ideas, not you (and these observations can be quite scathing, as you know). You, on the other hand, indisputably question my character and competence, in terms of intellectual ability, deliberate (I believe this is your view) misrepresentation of your opinions, a supposed marked arrogance, a false charge of cowardice, and many other personal descriptions and slander which have no place in a reasoned debate. As I dealt with these elements early on I will leave it at that and plead for more detached, "scholarly" objectivity from you in the future.

You go on to assert that I am hypocritical since I supposedly avoided your argument but accuse you of the same tactic. You are again making a false analogy. I referred you to the longest chapter of my book, which you now possess on paper. This is no avoidance whatsoever; quite the contrary. If anything, it is overkill! You, conversely, did indeed "blithely dismiss my points 7 and 8" of my first letter. True, for #7 you (like me) referred me to your book for an answer, but I replied that the specific question I raised was not dealt with there (the inconsistent Protestant appeal to Councils). Since you have not answered #7 to the slightest degree in this letter, it remains unanswered, like so many other of my challenges to you. #8 was conveniently dismissed as irrelevant with, as I noted, a 14-word sentence. I clarified my intent in my last letter (p.13, top) but to no avail. It, too, awaits a real answer, and I submit that some kind of reply, however short, would be a requirement of both courtesy and a healthy, self-confident intellect (which you do possess).

You think that my query is answered by an attack on Catholic popular morals and the bad popes, and a mention of Packer's A Quest for Godliness, as if any of this has the slightest relevance to the original question #8. To parody you, I do think you have no answer, and that is indeed to my advantage in this debate, since it confirms my opinion on this matter. Yet you accuse me of hypocrisy. How many examples of this sort of thing do I have to point out to you? They are the primary reason why this letter is 36 pages! (I pray that I am near the end. I'm trying -- I really am).

If you have a good patristic library and know Greek and history, all the more pathetic are your claims that the Fathers were Protestant (or perhaps "Protestant" in some cases; but I know for sure you don't consider them papists). My examples of the three fathers you brought up above are a case-in-point. I literally can't wait to see what you do with that information.

I don't know Greek, so what am I to do with your lengthy Greek quote? Stay up all night with my Englishman's Greek Concordance deciphering its literal meaning? Maybe I'll have my friend, who teaches Latin, transcribe my next letter, so you can do some similar work. Fair is fair, after all. Uh oh! St. Clement used the term elect?! Really?! Egads! Now, I'll have to rethink my whole position! This is a classic case of your Protestantism (and Calvinism in this case) blinding you to objective truth. You think that Catholics must somehow avoid and rationalize away the very word "elect" in order to prevent grave danger to our doctrine. This is sheer nonsense and foolishness, and ought to embarrass you. Obviously -- eklektos being a prominent NT word -- it has been dealt with by Catholic scholars down through the ages, believe it or not. We don't have to ignore biblical words and entire biblical sub-strata, as Protestants constantly do.

The cogent point here is whether or not free will is wiped out by the concept of divine election, since that's the primary bone of contention, as Luther himself states. I think it is not, and St. Augustine agrees with me on that point, not you and Calvinism (I'm eagerly awaiting your reply to those quotes above, too). "St. Paul and St. Augustine and Melanchthon and Wesley and C.S. Lewis I know, but who is this White guy?"

Next (3rd par., p.15), you counter my substantive arguments of pp.13-14 with banalities, non sequiturs, a personal insult of my intelligence, and a failed attempt at humor. I await with a severely-tested patience a reasoned reply to those arguments (the list is getting longer and longer).

Oh, the tedium! Have mercy on me! And, may the Lord grant me the forbearance to answer these questions. St. Ignatius is referring to the desertion of God, not the bishop (the parallels to Eph 6:10-18 are pretty unmistakable, I think). Jurgens uses the Divine pronoun in 6:2: "Be pleasing to Him whose soldiers you are . . ." Now, I think my original point was clear enough. But that's only my opinion. Maybe it wasn't. Since the context is the use of military metaphor, as in St. Paul, desertion, it would seem to me, is a metaphor here for falling away from the faith. Since Calvinists presuppose the impossibility of this, they can only postulate that such a soldier was never really in the ranks to begin with (i.e., never among the elect). But this is clearly nonsensical and does violence to the metaphor. A soldier is a soldier. The notion of military desertion assumes that the soldier had to desert from something.

Likewise with the many scriptural admonitions warming against "falling away," etc. This is why I said, "so much for Calvinism," since St. Ignatius' word-picture seems to me to run counter to U, I, and P of TULIP. I think this is as sensible an interpretation as any. How is context "an inconvenient problem" for me here? Lacking a lucid response, you instead again resort to tired insults of my intellect, and employ a diversionary tactic of switching the subject to the papacy, whereas my point clearly had to do with justification and perseverance. But you are welcome, as always, to give me your alternate explanation. If you can't give me anything else, you're no better in this instance than the Democrats squawking about the Republican budget while offering nothing themselves. It's always pretty easy to run down the other guy's position; something else again to produce a better one.

How ironic that your next sentence contains the statement: "I've put far too much time into this already." I believe I am about to close, too, if you don't come up with anything else outrageous (hence requiring a rebuttal) in your last 1.3 pages.

I will postpone any reply to your additional materials, as I want to get this out and have to do some other things (painting, for one) before I can devote more time to that endeavor. I'd appreciate it if you don't accuse me of ignoring that stuff because I am merely putting off my reply!

I didn't make "blanket accusations against Protestant apologists" but against "anti-Catholic debaters," which is quite different and a vastly smaller fraternity. I came up with three examples, plus an unremembered individual or group. How many anti-Catholic debaters can there be? So this is justification enough, I think, for the description "widespread," referring to the "dishonesty, evasiveness, and uncharitability" (the last two being much in evidence in your letter of 5-4-95). After all, I haven't made a study of the same (as you recall, I won't even read these books), but have noted this tendency in the normal course of my studies in apologetics and reading of This Rock, etc.

I went over the "anti-Catholic" terminology bit already. If the "Catholic" debaters are separatists, then they are "anti-Protestant" in the same sense in which I use "anti-Catholic." If they are true and consistent Catholics (who accept Vatican II, including its Decree on Ecumenism), they are not "anti-Protestant," any more than ecumenical Protestants are "anti-Catholic."

I accept your version of the incident with Art Sippo (not having any other information). I can't resist adding, though, that you yourself exhibit many of the traits that so offend you with regard to Sippo. Your repeated ignoring of, and snide remarks about my arguments might be compared to "walking off the stage while I was speaking" and being "rude" and "making mocking gestures." Do you think you were very "kind and gracious" to me in your last letter? You object to him saying you are "boasting" about your own "righteousness," yet turn right around and make blanket, unqualified statements about my alleged "arrogance," call my entire letter "sophistry," and accuse me of "an inability to honestly face the issues." I've seen how you describe other Catholic apologists, too. Forgive me if I suggest a diagnosis of at least the beginning stages of log-in-the-eye-disease in your case. There is still time to get cured.

I disagree with you about the "Lord's Prayer" incident. I don't accept your first reason. I think, rather, that communion requires, and is the sign of, unity, and don't think any pretense is involved here. But then, again I am an ecumenist and you're not. I would hesitate only in praying with someone who was invoking an entirely different God or some lesser entity, as in eastern religion. I guess that's how you see Catholics, so, given this premise, I suppose you couldn't pray with them. Your third objection is legalistic and proves too much (do you object to invocations at graduations and in the Senate, and grace at family reunions, too?). But I'll grant you the consistency of your convictions, even though, at bottom, I find the premises and attitude reprehensible, as I do anti-Catholicism in general.

I don't know what to make of your interpretation of the Madrid debate. Perhaps there was a subjective misinterpretation on his part as to your willingness to shake hands. I even considered that possibility when reading the account. This is a plausible enough scenario, all things being equal. But knowing Pat a little bit, and your reasoning and general negative attitude towards Catholic apologists pretty well by now, I would have to defer to his account if all the evidence I have is your word versus his. One thing I'm absolutely sure of: he is not the compulsive liar and buffoon you make him out to be, with your "20 pages of small-print, triple-column text" (to refute his errors) remark concerning his article. This is a very low blow, and, having experienced your venom towards myself, I would not be at all surprised if much of your objection consists of non sequiturs there as well.

Sure, I'll listen to your debate, but I fully expect to find exactly what was described by Madrid and Akin because I've observed how you often ignore or irrationally misunderstand my challenges and how Protestants in general have a massive blind spot with regard to sola Scriptura, and, indeed, almost all of their serious deficiencies (a fish doesn't know it's in water, either). I also watched Dave Hunt make an ass of himself in "debate." He wrote to me and said he didn't have to quote the Fathers to show what the early Church was like, but only the Bible!!!!!

I will ignore your cheap shots at my honesty (twice), courage, and scholarly abilities. I told you who Gary Michuta is, so your remarks about him are plain silly. Why should you care what Catholic you debate if we're all idiots, idolaters, Pelagians, and fools, anyway?

You also completely ignored my arguments about Wycliffe and Hus on pp.14-15. I'll accept in good faith your word on p.15: "There is more I'd like to get to . . ." and assume that you do have some sort of answer to this contention of mine as well as the twenty or so other unanswered ones to be dealt with, and will respond in due course.

You are also silent with reference to my question concerning why you felt compelled to send your letter and mine to Eric Pement. Why bother? Very few are answering anyway (which fits into my stated theory as to why Protestants will not correspond with Catholics or talk seriously with them -- because of the bankruptcy of their case). Morey sent a form for possible debaters which is to be considered by his board (no personal letter). Wessels sent a friendly, preliminary note, saying he might want to do something in the future. One more said he was too busy right now (he didn't seem anti-Catholic). Other than that, zilch. Par for the course.

In Christ & His Church, with Scripture & Tradition, Faith that Works, Grace & Sacraments, Mary & the Saints, Penance & Purgatory, Pope & Bishops, Peace & Truth, Love & Mercy,

Dave Armstrong


11-10-95

To: Dave Armstrong

"Catholic Apologist and Free-Lance Writer"

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I am in receipt of yet another of your letters [I couldn't locate these in my files, but as I recall I did become overly-agitated by White's continual refusal to respond] designed to distract and goad me into investing time in answering your letter of 5-15-95. I confess, you have me. I have never figured out how to answer letters that are filled with whining, crying, complaining, and general substanceless meandering. And sadly, I can't suggest anyone else who would be willing to invest their time in responding to such materials, either. Most folks I know are too busy doing constructive things with their lives. Personally, I'm busy teaching for Golden Gate and Grand Canyon, writing a book on Roman Catholicism for one of the largest Christian publishers in the U.S., and producing chapters like the one I am attaching for you that will appear in the upcoming Soli Deo Gloria publication on sola scriptura, along with chapters by John MacArthur, John Gerstner, and R.C. Sproul. My travels will soon be taking me to British Columbia, and hopefully, to New York to debate Gerry Matatics yet once again, sometime early next year. So, Dave, I'm sorry to have to inform you that I have far more pressing issues to address than your letter and its extensive flights in illogic and personal attack. I hope you enjoy the chapter.

Sincerely,

James White

Uploaded from the 1995 snail-mail debates by Dave Armstrong on 4 February 2000, with express permission from James White.


Selected Books by James White:

   

also

The Fatal Flaw (Crowne Publications, 1990)
Answers to Catholic Claims (Crowne Publications, 1990)

Selected Recent Books by Dave Armstrong:

   

also

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (Sophia Institute Press)
The Catholic Verses (Sophia Institute Press)
One-Minute Apologist (Sophia Institute Press)
Bible Conversations (Lulu.com)
Development of Catholic Doctrine (Lulu.com)


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