Over on the Puritan Board a plea went out for help with a person struggling with the presuppositional claims made by Roman Catholics:
“I have a friend who is very very well read. He has been a Calvinist for years, presuppositional and all around brilliant. He started reading Francis De Sales book called The Catholic Controversy, and he's really being thrown through a loop...primarily when it comes to authority and who has it. Keep in mind he's read a ton of Bahnsen on Romanism and has heard numerous debates with Bahnsen and also James White dealing with this...I am at a loss as to what to tell him.”
A response was given by David King, co-author of Holy Scripture, the Ground and Pillar of Our Faith A Defense of the Reformational Principle of Sola Scriptura. David said in part:
The difficulty in dealing with the claims of Roman controversialists and apologists is not that they are so difficult to answer, but because they make so many of these grandiose claims that one is confronted with what appears to be a mountain of evidence against Protestantism on behalf of Rome. They employ these tactics in their attempt to overwhelm the Protestant position before the contest, as it were, even begins. But these arguments only appear to be a mountain of evidence because when you begin to examine the evidence for each of these claims, one finds that they cannot be sustained against the testimony of either Scripture or history. Thus the strength of their apologetic is only served by, indeed depends upon, the ignorance of their audience. This is true of de Sales’ work, The Catholic Controversy, for when one begins to examine each of his claims one by one, they do not carry the weight they appear to carry with the uncritical and unwary reader. For instance, on p. 158 of my copy of de Sales’ work, he makes this claim on behalf of Rome for the infallible interpreter of Scripture...
But it is impious to believe that Our Lord has not left us some supreme judge on earth to whom we can address ourselves in our difficulties, and who is so infallible in his judgments that we cannot err.
I maintain that this judge is no other than the Church Catholic, which can in no way err in the interpretations and conclusions she makes with regard to the Holy Scripture, nor in the decisions she gives concerning the difficulties which are found therein. For who has ever doubted it?
Here de Sales would have his reader to believe that he has access to this “supreme judge on earth to whom we can address ourselves in our difficulties,” as if this grandiose claim were true. In other words, he assumes the very thing he wishes to claim without proof, as though it’s never been doubted. Apart from the impracticality of the claim that people may simply find recourse in their local priest for Rome’s interpretation every time they encounter some difficulty with understanding Holy Scripture, no such source exists even for the members of the communion of Rome. A present day analogy would be that of a politician declaring a crisis, the threat of which is a danger for all, but in reality has been invoked for the purpose of special pleading; “Never fear! I have the solution for your problem!” Rome has no infallible list of infallible interpretations. This is easily proved from their own sources. Almost all of them will tell you that when a scriptural proof is adduced for proof of a dogma, it is only the dogma itself that is regarded as “infallible” and not the exegetical proof drawn forth for its support.
David went on to cite multiple sources to prove his point. See his original post found here.
So what became of the "presuppositional and all around brilliant Calvinist" struggling with these issues? He did decide to embrace Roman Catholicism, as announced on his blog, here. I'm not intending to be mean or uncharitable, but I do have serious doubts about the “brilliance” of this 29-year-old man. He pointed out the heart of the matter in his “conversion”:
“Much of it also boiled down to a question I had been very fond of asking others during debates: by what standard? That question was the clincher in virtually any theological debate. It forced my opponents to grapple with the concept of authority vs. autonomy. Problem was that this question turns out to be a smoking gun in the case against Protestantism. By what standard do we deem one worldview Christian and another non-Christian? The Bible? By what standard do we deem one interpretation of the Bible to be the Christian worldview while excluding another interpretation? Furthermore, by what standard do we deem one book canonical and another extra-biblical? By what standard? Who’s authority? Where did they get it from? How is their conclusion binding?”
The Catholic answer posits an initial faith claim that God gave the Roman Church authority to be the standard being asked for. That’s it, plain and simple. It is a beginning unproven “faith” claim. Now, that claim should be applied to both Scripture and history as a template to explain reality to see if it works. As I’ve pointed out here on this blog, and as David King points out above, it doesn’t. I’ve often said people make these type of decisions from the heart. There are more factors going on than simply a historical and scriptural search to determine “truth”. I’m sure if I were to sit and talk face to face with this man for an hour, “heart” factors would emerge. Now though, he has the task of coming up with ways to tape and pin biblical and historical facts together to make his new template for reality work. He will have an arduous task, and I don’t envy him.