Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Theological debates and anti-Catholicism

To get the ball rolling over here at Get Into the Boat, I wanted to reproduce a debate that I had with a Southern Baptist youth minister over whether or not the reformation was and is still necessary. This post was the introduction to that, followed by seven parts. This version was originally published at Three Nails, a blog where I and a friend of mine rant about stuff on occasion. Since it didn't really fit on the Youth Ministry blog Grace for the Wayward Heart, I had posted it at Three Nails. With the advent of this blog, it seems the debate has found a more suitable home. This introductory post will be edited and updated slightly, as may be the case with the subsequent posts.

For those of you who read my other blog, Grace for the Wayward Heart, you might have noticed in a thread from last October, on the origins of Hallowe'en, a rather heated exchange between "Risen_Soul", Christopher, and myself.

Risen_Soul, also known as Jacob, is a Southern Baptist youth minister. He's stopped by the blog on a couple of occasions both to encourage and to criticise. Jacob is what could be considered an "anti-Catholic", at least by Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong's standard definition, which is simply one who denies that Catholicism is a valid form of Christianity. Jacob has said on more than one occasion on his own blog that we preach a false Gospel, and those who believe it are not saved. He recently began a debate with me over what are known as the "pillars" of the Protestant reformation. By pillars, I mean two doctrines that hold up the whole Protestant system, and if they are proven to be false, then Protestantism as a whole is shown to be a system in error. These two doctrines are Scripture Alone is the sole rule of faith, and Faith alone is what saves us.

The debate, title by him, "Why the Reformation was and still is Necessary" argues for these doctrines, claiming a)that Catholicism should believe them, and b)does not. So the Reformation is still necessary because as a Catholic I continue to believe and preach a "false Gospel."

I won't go into the details except to say my position is quite the opposite of his. Not only do I believe that the Bible nowhere teaches Sola Scriptura (which, if Sola Scriptura is true, has to itself be taught in the Bible!) or Sola Fide--but more, actually contradicts those two doctrines! Further, I would contend that the Reformation was neither necessary then nor now, and is instead a sinful scandal on Christian unity!

I'm not expecting great things from this debate. I don't think I'll prove to him my position, and he'll most surely not even demonstrate his position to me, let alone prove it.

I say this for two reasons: 1--He has yet to offer anything resembling convincing proof for Sola Scriptura in the Bible (and according to the stipulated thesis of what it would take to prove Sola Scriptura, that is only the first step. My thesis that he has to prove to make his case runs thus:

"The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate a) that Sola Scriptura is actually taught in the Bible, b) why the Church somehow missed this teaching for nearly 1500 years, if indeed it is so clear in the Bible, and c) that it is in fact a workable theory in the promotion of Christian truth and unity, despite the glaring evidences to the contrary."
Even if he could show me in Scripture where it says that Scripture is to be our sole rule of faith, and that every Christian doctrine must be found there [including SS itself!], he would still have to explain points b and c. So you can see that the deck is rather stacked against him!)

2--He has such a poor grasp of the truth of Catholic teaching (not that it is true, but rather, what Catholicism actually does teach) that every time he says "Catholicism teaches this," he invariably has been wrong.

Add to that the fact that as a Pentecostal, I believed the exact same things about Catholicism that he currently does, but after more than 3 years of intensely researching the faith with an open mind and a prayerful attitude that God would show me the truth of the matter, I converted to Catholicism! I've seen both sides of the issue. He can't possibly bring up something I haven't considered.

Why do I say all this? Because it brings me to the issue of theological debates. If I'm so set in my ways, and he is so set in his, what is the point? Well, short of God's grace, there would be no point at all to proclaiming the Gospel. Without His grace, no one would come to Him! So when I say I have little hope for this debate--I mean that I have little hope of my human ability to convince him. But with God, all things are possible!

Moreover, it was through reading different debates that I was brought closer to accepting Catholicism. They weren't the sole factor, but they did certainly help. As such, if I can help a reader, who has not made up his or her mind, to decide--or can at least aid them on their way, then this debate will have been worth it. So who will win the debate? That's up to you, the reader, to decide. Weigh the evidence presented, reason through the issues, and most of all, pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten your hearts with the truth.

I guess that's about all I had to say.
God bless

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations)


Gavin said...

So because Jacob attempted to dialogue on Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide and failed he is the loser and you are the winner? Does that necessarily make your position right, and his position wrong? Could it be that if someone was more familiar with a) the doctrines noted above, b) debating that then it would have been a better discussion?
I am not saying that he who wins the argument is right, but perhaps it would have become a better dialogue if someone had chosen a different base to begin it on.

CJFreeman said...


First, Jacob didn't attempt to dialogue and fail. He did dialogue, and failed to support his position. In a debate that makes him the loser, yes. Does it mean that the doctrines he was upholding are of themselves wrong because he didn't have the erudition to ratify them? No. Does it mean that he lost the debate to Gregory? In a word, yes. Gregory had a stronger, more logical presentation and, based on that, he is technically the winner.

Second, if someone had a better grasp of the doctrine sola Scriptura then, yes, it could have made for a more rousing debate.

So, yes, you are right that winning an argument doesn't mean that the position the winner defends is ontologically correct; it simply means that their position was better represented.


Gregory said...

Gavin, because Jacob could not in my opinion offer a reasonable defence of Sola Scriptura, I feel that I won the debate. Once I've posted the rest of the seven parts to the debate, you may or may not agree. I know Jacob himself does not think that I won or was particularly convincing.

Does that mean that Sola Scriptura is therefore wrong? No, obviously not. If I believed Sola Scriptura, but took the Con approach in this argument, I humbly submit that I still could have won the debate. :)

I'm posting the debate here, first and formost, because I was a part of it, and it fit better on this blog than on the one I had it on. Secondly, I post it because it is a Catholic apologetic exercise, and this is a Catholic Apologetics blog. Finally, and this one is key in my mind, I'm posting it because I personally do not feel it ever was properly discussed throughout the course of the debate, and I hope that there are more intellectually agile opponents of Catholicism out there that would pick up the discussion here (in, of course, a charitable manner).

I do certainly believe your points a and b, that if there was a person more knowledgeable about the doctrines and a more logical debater, then it would have been a much better discussion. As such, I reissue that challenge. I will expressly do so in the conclusion of the debate, once I finish logging it here.

Thanks for visiting Chris' and my new venture! I hope your participation can and will lead to some fruitful discussion!

God bless