J (Protestant Evangelical): Second Rebuttal
Since I defined what the Christian church is in my opening remarks, why would P say:
<< After reading J's opening statement a number of times, I keep asking myself: what is the TC? If it's not the RCC, what Church is it? What Church was it? Where is it? Where was it? J does not attempt to answer that question directly. >>
Not only did I define the Christian church, but I also cited numerous passages of scripture to support what I was arguing. Why didn't P respond to any of the arguments I made from 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc.? He ignored every passage I cited, then criticized me for not discussing what he had ignored.
He then goes on to repeat arguments I had refuted in my opening remarks. He cites Ephesians 5:27 as a reference to the Catholic Church, even though I explained that Ephesians describes the church as consisting only of believers. How could a passage like Ephesians 4:16 or 5:29-30 apply to a denomination that consists of believers and unbelievers?
P cited John 16:13 as a reference to the Catholic Church, but said nothing in response to my discussion of that passage. He cited James 5 in support of priestly confession, without interacting with what I had said about that passage in my opening remarks. He argued that doctrines like the papacy and priestly confession existed in seed form during the time of the apostles, even though I documented the Catholic Church referring to a tree, not a seed, existing in the first century. The Catholic Church refers to an oak tree, but P tells us that we should only expect to see an acorn. And when the alleged acorn looks more like an apple seed to us, we're told that we can't trust our own judgment. We need the Catholic Church to tell us whether the evidence supports the Catholic Church.
P said that he wants to discuss the general characteristics of the church. He wants to discuss things like whether the church is infallible and whether it's visible. He thinks discussion of doctrines like the papacy and the Immaculate Conception should take place later, after a discussion of the general characteristics of the church. Then why did P ignore so much of what I said about the general characteristics of the church in my opening remarks? He comments:
<< I only have 5000 words >>
Actually, P went about 300 words over the word limit he had set for the debate (in addition to giving me his opening remarks two days late), so he didn't limit himself to 5000 words. If he wanted more space to defend his views, then why didn't he eliminate some of the less relevant material he included in his first rebuttal? He spent a few hundred words discussing prayers for the dead in response to my discussion of prayers to the dead. He used hundreds of words to discuss how some Protestants have viewed Mary, such as a quote from a seventeenth century pastor. Why would P include such material while ignoring what I said about the general characteristics of the church in my opening remarks? I discussed doctrines like the papacy and the Immaculate Conception, and I discussed the general characteristics of the church. P made a few attempts to refute what I said about doctrines like the papacy and priestly confession, but he ignored what I said about the church in general. He quoted some portions of what I said, then claimed that I wasn't giving him any alternative to his own view of the church, despite what he had just quoted. Why quote me, as though he's responding to me, if all he's going to do is deny that there's anything to respond to?
Why would a Catholic apologist come away from my opening remarks with the idea that I hadn't given him an alternative to the Catholic definition of the church? Because P apparently wants the church to have the characteristics he described in his opening remarks. The only alternative to the Catholic Church that he'll accept is one that has the general characteristics he described (infallibility, etc.). When I reject the idea that the church has such characteristics, P concludes that I must therefore have no explanation of what the church is. P asserts that his definition of the church is correct, without giving a reasonable defense of that assertion, then he expects me to either go along with that definition or concede that I have no concept of what the church is.
Let's keep in mind what sort of evidence P has been citing for his definition of the Christian church. He's cited John 16:13, a passage in which Jesus speaks to His disciples. P also cited Luke 10:16, a passage spoken to 70 people who were sent out on a mission during Jesus' earthly ministry. He cited Matthew 28:20, a passage about Jesus promising to always be with His disciples. None of these passages even mention the Roman Catholic hierarchy, nor do they logically lead to the conclusion that the Christian church must be infallible, must be one worldwide denomination, etc. Nobody who honestly and intelligently reads a passage like Luke 10 or John 16 is going to think that the text is referring to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. People arrive at such interpretations as a result of preferences they bring to the text. When other passages of scripture say similar things about some other entity, such as Israel or individual Christians, Catholics reach a different conclusion. Why the inconsistency?
P's first rebuttal repeated some of the logical errors I discussed earlier. For example, P said:
<< J seems to base his faith not on submission to any authority from God as the Scripture teaches us (Matt 28:18-20; Luke 10:16; 1 Thess 2:13; Heb 13:7,17; Rom 10:17; etc) but on his own perceived "probabilities" or "knowledge" or even biblical or historical "evidence" or his own "conclusions" about doctrine. Is true Christianity about submission to an authority established by God, or is it about submitting to our own private preferences for doctrine?... Is true Christianity a "pick and choose" kind of Christianity? Has it ever been? No. >>
I wonder why P would participate in a debate such as this one if he doesn't believe in things like knowledge, evidence, and choosing. How can you know that being a Christian doesn't involve knowledge? How can you choose to believe the claims of Catholicism rather than the claims of other groups without choosing? P refers to "submission to an authority established by God", but how does one know that there is such an authority, then identify the authority and obey it, without using things like knowledge, personal judgment, and choice? If P can "pick and choose" Catholicism over Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Mormonism, Islam, etc., then why can't evangelicals "pick and choose" also? He can't say that evidence leads him to distinguish between Catholicism and other belief systems, since he condemns any reliance on personal judgment of evidence. P is being irrational and inconsistent. He relies on his personal judgment, but he condemns other people for doing the same.
P tells us:
<< As I've explained in my opening statement, "Sola Scriptura" as a doctrine itself was not practiced by Jesus, His apostles, or their immediate successors in the first century... Where is the ignorant, the simple, the illiterate believer to go to learn the truth? From the Bible alone? What if the person cannot read? What about those who lived before Bibles were accessible (i.e. before the printing press)? >>
Adam and Eve didn't adhere to the Roman Catholic rule of faith. Not only did they have no Bible, but they also had no Pope or magisterium. Should we conclude that the Catholic rule of faith is therefore false? No, since the issue is what our rule of faith should be today, not what it was for people living under different circumstances. If the apostles had unique authority, and the scriptures are the only apostolic material we have today, then sola scriptura logically follows.
Objections of practicality can be raised against the Catholic rule of faith also, not just against sola scriptura. How was an "ignorant, simple" person living during the Great Schism supposed to know who the Pope was? How can an "ignorant, simple" person know that his priest is teaching what the Pope and the magisterium have taught? If somebody is born and raised in Utah, with Mormon parents, is he supposed to accept whatever Mormonism teaches him? What about somebody born in an Islamic nation?
God gave us minds to use, and He holds us accountable. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 was addressed to all Christians, not just to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Acts 17:26-27 tells us that God has put people in times and places where He's accessible to them. If they don't find Him, it's their fault. God can supernaturally bring the gospel to people, or bring people to the gospel, as we see with Cornelius in Acts 10.
The truth is the truth, regardless of its popularity or accessibility. If somebody is illiterate, that doesn't mean that he's incapable of adhering to sola scriptura (1 Thessalonians 5:27). It would be more difficult, but difficulty isn't impossibility. God is sovereign. If He puts some people in times and places where they have less access to the truth than I have, He has reasons for that. For all we know, those people would have rejected the truth no matter how much access they'd had to it. If the evidence supports sola scriptura, it makes no sense for me to reject sola scriptura because it's impractical to some other people. I doubt that an idol worshiper in Africa or an atheist in China would consider the Catholic rule of faith to be practical. How many Catholics during the Middle Ages were familiar with all of the evidence about who was a Pope and who was an antipope, which council rulings were infallible and which weren't, when the Pope was speaking ex cathedra and when he wasn't, etc.?
The Kingdom of Heaven
Catholics often cite passages of scripture as evidence for Catholic doctrine just because some aspect of the passage sounds like something close to what Catholicism teaches. We've seen some examples in this debate. P cites Luke 10:16 as evidence of the authority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, since the passage refers to some people being given some authority by Jesus. But when we read the larger context, we see that the passage isn't referring to any church hierarchy, much less exclusively the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic denomination. P cites John 6 as a passage about the eucharist, even though the eucharist wasn't instituted yet. Since Jesus tells people to eat His flesh and drink His blood, P cites the passage. It sounds like something close to Catholic teaching, even though the details of the passage and the context don't support his interpretation. Catholics will cite Revelation 12:1 as evidence of the Assumption of Mary, since it refers to a woman who gave birth to Jesus, and this woman is associated with objects in the sky. The objects in the sky identify the woman as Israel, not Mary (Genesis 37:9), and the remainder of Revelation 12 associates things with the woman that never occurred in Mary's life. But as long as some portions of the passage sound like something close to Catholic doctrine, Catholics cite it.
P uses this same sort of unreasonable scripture interpretation in identifying the kingdom of Heaven mentioned by Jesus in the gospels. P claims that the kingdom of Heaven is the Roman Catholic denomination. If you're just looking for a phrase over here and a concept over there to pull out of context in order to make Catholicism seem Biblical, then the kingdom of Heaven parables are ripe for abuse (2 Peter 3:16).
Just as there was no Roman Catholic hierarchy at the time of Luke 10, and there was no eucharist at the time of John 6, and there was no Christian denomination of any type at the time of Matthew 18, there also was no Roman Catholic Church at the time Jesus spoke about the kingdom of Heaven. Yet, Jesus speaks of the kingdom existing in the present during His earthly ministry (Matthew 12:28, 23:13, Luke 17:21). (The kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God apparently are the same or largely similar. See Matthew 13:41 and 19:23-24, for example.) Jesus also speaks of the kingdom as something in the future, such as at the end of this life (Matthew 5:19, 8:11-12, 25:34). The kingdom seems to represent various phases of God's sovereignty in human affairs. It's not a reference to the Catholic Church or any other such organization.
P cited the works of some non-Catholic scholars on the subject of Matthew 16, then he gave us his own summary of what those scholars said. He didn't quote any of the scholars. He just gave us his own summary.
I have before me one of the books P cited, R.T. France's commentary on Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999). France sees no papacy in the passage, but he does refer to Peter being "the spokesman, the pioneer, the natural leader" (p. 254). He says that the Roman Catholic view of Matthew 16 "of course has no foundation in the text" (p. 254). France views Peter as being unique, a leader, the rock of Matthew 16, etc. without concluding that Peter and the bishops of Rome have universal jurisdiction. On page 256, France cites Matthew 18:18 as evidence that the other apostles had as much authority as Peter. On the same page, France rejects P's claim that the kingdom of Heaven is the Christian church. Thus, R.T. France rejects some of what P has argued, and their agreements are too vague to have much significance.
Do some non-Catholic scholars agree with some parts of the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16? Yes, but who ever denied that? You can view Peter as the rock of Matthew 16, view the keys as a symbol of authority, etc. without arriving at the doctrine of the papacy.
As I explained in my opening remarks, the question isn't whether the keys of Matthew 16:19 represent authority. The question is what authority they represent and whether that authority is exclusive to Peter and the bishops of Rome. There are numerous beings in scripture described as possessing keys, and none of them were Popes as a result of having a key. The religious leaders in first century Israel, for example, possessed a key (Matthew 23:13, Luke 11:52), but taught false doctrine anyway (Matthew 16:12). P seems to be aware that the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16 is logically indefensible, so he just makes vague references to some non-Catholic scholars agreeing with some parts of the Catholic interpretation.
I discussed a lot of passages other than Matthew 16, but P only discussed that passage. He hasn't refuted anything I said about the papacy in my opening remarks.
Prayers to the Dead
I discussed prayers to the dead in my opening remarks, but P responded by discussing prayers for the dead. I don't object to prayers for the dead, and it wasn't what I discussed in my opening remarks, so P's response is largely irrelevant. But he did use one argument that's relevant to prayers to the dead. He argued that passages like Deuteronomy 18 are referring only to practices such as consulting mediums and spiritists. But, as I explained in my opening remarks, the language in these passages is too broad to not include prayers to the dead. Phrases such as "call up the dead" (Deuteronomy 18:11), "consult the dead" (Isaiah 8:19), and "ghosts of the dead" (Isaiah 19:3) are used. In Deuteronomy 18, the one who "calls up the dead" is listed after mediums and spiritists, suggesting that it's another category. The logic Isaiah uses in Isaiah 8:19 contrasts consulting God with consulting the dead. There is no third category of consulting the dead with God's approval. The language in these passages is far too broad to not include prayers to the dead. When a Catholic prays to a deceased person, he's calling up the dead (Deuteronomy 18:11), consulting the dead (Isaiah 8:19), and seeking after the spirits of the dead (Isaiah 19:3).
I want to repeat the question I raised in my opening remarks. Why do none of the hundreds of Biblical passages on prayer encourage praying to the dead? Why is the practice absent in hundreds of contexts spanning thousands of years of history? The faithful Catholic prays to the dead (prayers to Mary, etc.) every day, yet we don't find even one such prayer anywhere in the Bible.
Confession of Sins
Regarding the Catholic practice of confessing all sins privately to a priest, P said:
<< As for confession of sins privately to a priest, we have a whole biblical book about that: Leviticus.... When I sin, I not only sin against God and myself, but against the entire Body of Christ -- the Church. >>
The Catholic form of confession isn't found anywhere in Leviticus. Besides, there's much in Leviticus that has already been fulfilled in Christ. Christians don't practice animal sacrifice, for example. Where did Jesus and the apostles cite Leviticus as a justification for privately confessing all sins to a priest throughout church history?
Can the sins of an individual be considered sins against the Christian church in some way? Yes. They can also be considered sins against all other humans. But we don't conclude that we should therefore confess all of our sins privately to every other human being.
P can't defend what the Catholic Church teaches about confession. It's a historical fact that the earliest generations of Christians didn't practice private confession of all sins to a priest. Compare what P has admitted on this subject with what the Catholic Church has taught (emphasis added):
<< The exact form of the sacrament has changed, but it was there from the beginning. (P) >>
"If any one denieth, either that sacramental confession was instituted, or is necessary to salvation, of divine right; or saith, that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church hath ever observed from the beginning, and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, session 14, "Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance", canon 6)
The Catholic Church includes the "exact form" as part of what existed "from the beginning". P is contradicting what the Catholic Church has taught. The facts of history led him to do so. What does that tell us about the reliability of the Catholic Church?
P didn't respond to any of the passages of scripture I cited about Mary. But he did tell us what some people living over a thousand years after the apostles believed about her. Even his discussion of those people's beliefs was misleading. The Catholic scholar Michael O'Carroll, in his Theotokos (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988), describes how the Protestant reformers viewed Mary. While they agreed with some of what the Catholic Church teaches about her, they also rejected some of it. On pages 94-95, O'Carroll discusses John Calvin's view of Mary, which is almost identical to the mainstream Protestant view today. Luther and Zwingli were closer to the Catholic view than Calvin was, but what does that prove?
<< I only have 5000 words so I can't spend all of them defending the Marian doctrines from Scripture or the early Church. >>
He spent hundreds of words discussing how people living over a thousand years after the apostles viewed Mary. But he doesn't have enough space to discuss the passages of scripture I cited? He doesn't have space to explain where doctrines like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary are in the Bible? The Catholic Church claims that the Immaculate Conception doctrine was always held by the Christian church. Pope Pius XII claimed that the Assumption of Mary doctrine was approved by Christian worship even in the most ancient times. The Catholic Church claims that Mary is God's greatest creation, the dispenser of all grace, etc. Why is the Biblical view of Mary so different from the Catholic view? Wouldn't you think P would respond to at least one of the Biblical passages I discussed on this subject? This is a debate about Biblical evidence, after all. Maybe he could have discussed a passage like Mark 6:3-4 or Luke 2:48-50 instead of discussing things like how a seventeenth century pastor viewed Mary.
P told us:
<< The Catholic has no need to deny Genesis 15:6 refers to Abraham believing God and crediting that faith to him as righteousness (Romans 4; James 2). However, salvation also includes such things as the Eucharist (John 6:51ff) and Baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Rom 6:3ff). This is not either/or but both/and. >>
But there is no eucharist, baptism, or any other work in Genesis 15:6. Abraham just believes God. That's all. Faith alone. Similarly, passages like Mark 2:5, Luke 7:50, Luke 18:10-14, and Acts 10:44-48 show us people being saved before doing any works. Salvation through faith alone is the only view of salvation that can be reconciled with all of scripture.
I address baptismal regeneration in an article at my web site (http://members.aol.com/Jte/baptism.htm). Some of the passages P is citing aren't even relevant. The eucharist didn't exist when John 6 was spoken. And viewing 1 Peter 3:21 as a passage about attaining eternal life is about as reasonable as viewing 1 Timothy 2:15 as a passage about justification through childbirth. The term "saved" is used in different ways in different contexts. The context of 1 Peter 3:21 is sanctification, not justification.
Paul said that not even an apostle or angel could add to the gospel (Galatians 1:8-9, 3:15). Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has taught that people must obey the Pope, attend mass on particular days, avoid eating particular foods, go through Mary to receive grace, etc. in order to be saved. The Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly placed itself under the anathema of Galatians 1:8-9. The scriptures offer eternal life as a free gift received directly from God (Romans 6:23), but Catholicism offers eternal life through a frequently changing system of meritorious works, dietary laws, penance, attending mass, the intercession of Mary, etc.
P continues to make many claims about post-Biblical history, even though this debate is about the Biblical evidence for Catholicism. Just as P's Biblical arguments are largely false or misleading, so are his comments about post-Biblical history. Here's another example from his first rebuttal:
<< Catholics point to biblical Petrine evidences and the actual wielding of authority by renowned popes such as St. Leo the Great (440-61) and St. Gregory the Great (590-604), honored as saints even by the Orthodox >>
What about the failure of Roman bishops to stop major portions of the Christian world from disagreeing with them during the Easter controversy of the second century and the baptism controversy of the third century, for example? Catholic historian Klaus Schatz explains:
"Rome did not succeed in maintaining its position against the contrary opinion and praxis of a significant portion of the Church. The two most important controversies of this type were the disputes over the feast of Easter and heretical baptism. Each marks a stage in Rome's sense of authority and at the same time reveals the initial resistance of other churches to the Roman claim." (Papal Primacy [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1996], p. 11)
Instead of just discussing Roman bishops like Leo and Gregory, why not also discuss a Roman bishop like Vigilius, who was excommunicated by an ecumenical council, which claimed authority over him, then was excommunicated by other churches in the West as well? Discussing a Roman bishop like Vigilius would give us a much different picture of church history than the one P wants to paint for us. P seems to think that if a Roman bishop claims authority over other bishops, his claim must be true. But when other bishops claim authority over the bishop of Rome, P just ignores it or dismisses those bishops as rebels against the truth. Not only must P ignore or dismiss bishops who claimed authority over the bishop of Rome, but he also must ignore or dismiss many Roman bishops throughout church history who are now classified as antipopes. P has no verifiable, consistent standard in sorting through these things.
Since there are numerous contradictory groups that claim some sort of succession from the apostles, P has proposed some standards by which to distinguish Catholicism from these other groups. He dismisses Anglicanism, for example, on the basis that Anglicans don't have enough unity with each other. But where is P getting this standard of unity? How much is enough? Since some Catholics are atheists, some practice voodoo, some believe that John Paul II is an antipope, etc., are we to believe that Catholics are more united than Anglicans? If P wants to argue that these Catholics I've referred to aren't true Catholics, then Anglicans could argue that some of the members of their denomination aren't true Anglicans.
P's dismissal of Eastern Orthodoxy is almost as arbitrary as his dismissal of Anglicanism. He gives us five standards by which he judges Orthodoxy to be in error, and none of those five standards were taught by Jesus and the apostles. P doesn't even attempt to cite scriptural support for most of the five standards. The one exception is his claim that Orthodoxy's rejection of the papacy is contrary to "biblical Petrine evidences". As I've documented in this debate, these "biblical Petrine evidences" don't exist. Peter is never referred to as having papal authority. The other apostles had no concept of Peter having authority over them (Luke 22:24, Galatians 1-2). Roman bishops aren't even mentioned in the Bible, much less are they referred to as exclusive papal successors of Peter. Aside from a vague and erroneous reference to "biblical Petrine evidences", P just gives us his own preferences concerning what the church should be like. He tells us that Orthodoxy isn't unified enough, hasn't had enough doctrinal development, etc. But how unified are Catholics? And why couldn't Eastern Orthodox argue that Catholicism has had too much doctrinal development?
We know that having a list of bishops going back to the first century doesn't assure doctrinal correctness, because it hasn't assured doctrinal correctness. The Anglicans, the Copts, the Eastern Orthodox, and other groups, not just Roman Catholics, claim some sort of succession from the apostles. But these groups contradict each other. Even within the Catholic list of Roman bishops, there are contradictions. One Roman bishop will say that Mary was conceived in sin. Another will say that Mary's conception without sin is a doctrine that's always been held by the Christian church. One Roman bishop will deny that 1 Maccabees is part of the canon of scripture. Another Roman bishop will claim that 1 Maccabees is part of the canon. If apostolic succession produces so many contradictions between groups and within a group, why should we conclude that these alleged apostolic successors have the authority of the apostles?
What if the religious leaders of Jesus' day had used arguments like the ones we hear from today's Roman Catholic apologists? Andrew, Peter, Thomas, and the other disciples shouldn't have followed Jesus until they'd had approval from the religious leaders in Israel. If Jesus cites a passage like Psalm 110 as a reference to Himself, we shouldn't rely on an examination of the text itself. What we should do is see how people living after the time of Psalm 110 interpreted the passage, even if they lived hundreds of years later and often showed bad judgment in how they interpreted other passages of scripture. Then, the religious leaders of Jesus' day would infallibly declare which interpretation is correct. Doesn't Jeremiah 31:35-37 refer to Israel never being destroyed? Doesn't Isaiah 43:10 refer to the Israelites as God's witnesses? Doesn't 2 Chronicles 33:4 say that God's name will be in Jerusalem forever? Then there must be an unbroken succession of infallible religious leaders in Israel throughout history. How can Jesus and the disciples cite scripture against the Pharisees and Sadducees? Don't they know that such private judgment is unacceptable, and that the religious leaders of Israel are the ones who gave us the scriptures? How could Jesus and the apostles know what the canon of scripture is without tradition? And if they're going to accept that tradition, then they must also accept the Corban rule, hand washing rituals, the Pharisaic interpretation of Psalm 110, and every other tradition of the religious leaders of Israel. You can't accept the canon while disagreeing with them on other issues. And so what if the Sadducees and Pharisees contradict each other? What's more important is that they agree on some issues, and they have a succession. Besides, just ask the Sadducees, and they'll give you their Five Arbitrary Standards That Prove We're Superior To The Pharisees. And the Pharisees can give you their Five Arbitrary Standards That Prove We're Superior To The Sadducees. If you want to know who's correct, ask them to interpret the evidence for you. What alternative do you have? You're fallible. You might make a mistake in your judgment. What is an illiterate, ignorant Israelite to do? It just wouldn't be practical for you to think through Jesus' arguments yourself. You need somebody to study the scriptures for you and to tell you what to believe. Becoming a Christian without the approval and guidance of the religious leaders just wouldn't be practical.
5000 words approx
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