Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You’ve Made It To Rome! Catholic Apologetics Greeting Committee Welcomes You!

I’ve been following the conversion story of “A Presuppositional and Brilliant Calvinist Convert to Rome.” This event interests me, simply because the convert claims to be some sort of former presuppositionalist and former Calvinist. Checking his blog, I noticed that Catholic apologist Scott Hahn greeted him on his arrival across the Tiber:

“I was pleasantly surprised to have received an e-mail from a certain Scott Hahn, today. I was more surprised when he called my cell phone. We spoke for about 45 minutes. I must admit that it was one of the most refreshing and encouraging conversations I have had in a while. As if great couldn't get better, he will be sending me a number of books. PS- My family was invited to spend a few days with Mr. Hahn and his family in Ohio. We are seriously considering the idea but would need to plan it around school, the pregnancy and our wanting to visit other friends who happen to live in the same state.”

I can’t help but wonder how Scott Hahn came to officially greet this convert. This is purely speculation, but I wonder if my blog entry, which James White linked to, was the reason Scott Hahn came upon this new convert. This would mean of course, Scott Hahn reads James White’s blog, which would not surprise me.

Meanwhile, over on Craig French’s blog, a discussion about Rome, infallibility, and defined Biblical texts is underway. In the comments section, a person nicknamed “Jargon” posted a few comments. This is probably the same guy mentioned who asked the new convert, “Where would one attend church during the first 1,500 years of church history?” I pointed out the flawed nature of this question here. Anyway, take a look Jargon’s comments from 1/30/07 on Craig’s blog, and note the hidden presuppositions:

“Infallibility is certainly not a necessary condition of knowledge or truth, but it is a necessary condition of *binding* doctrine and characteristic feature of whatever has been taught by God.”

Says who? Who determines an infallible binding doctrine? Why, it’s none other than whichever sola ecclesia group one places their faith in. In other words, one begins with placing their faith in a particular group/person.

“There is a difference between making a (private) judgment and formulating doctrine carrying divine authority, the extra-Scriptural principle of Sola Scriptura and Protestant ecclesiology can and have never produced the latter. No statement produced or interpretation delivered by Protestant bodies carries divine authority.”

But a statement produced by a sola ecclesia group does carry divine authority, because they say so.

But my favorite argument is the following:

“Infallibility is rooted in Divine Power. The Church can be and the Scriptures are infallible by virtue of it. If the Church cannot possess the divine charism or power of infallibility simply because it is human, then we do not have an ecclesiological problem, we have a Christological problem. The fact that the Church is human does not mean that it cannot be infallible anymore than the fact that Christ was human means that Christ is fallible. Are the divinity and humanity of Christ opposed? Does the Divinity suppress or empower the humanity of Christ? Is the humanity of Christ extrinsic to Him or part of who He is? If the Church is merely human then Christ is not Divine. If the Church cannot be infallible then the humanity of Christ is extrinsic to Christ rather than part of who He is.”

First one must ask, on what basis does one determine the church is infallible? I submit, it is merely assumed, all sola ecclesia groups assume their authority. In regards to Rome, when asked how the Roman Catholic Church can establish her authority, they answer sometimes that it is proved by the testimony of the Scriptures. Hence, the Roman Catholic uses a circular argument: they prove the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures. Other Catholics, realizing the viciousness of this circle, simply assume it being the case that Rome is infallible.

The second aspect of this argument compares the divinity/humanity of Jesus with the divinity/humanity of the Church. It is argued that just as Christ was infallible and human, so the church can be infallible and human. Yet, the argument forgets that Christ in His humanity, was perfect in every aspect of that humanity. Is the church perfect in every aspect of its humanity? I submit, no Roman Catholic would argue it is. The Roman Catholic Church has many blots on her record. Christ has none. Thus, the analogy is a false analogy.

And lastly,

“It is must be noted that it is intellectually dishonest to deny that a persuasive case can be made for Rome and that this does nothing but show an inability or unwillingness to engage the principled reasons and arguments that people give for making that move and validity of which is not dependent upon the person's character or psychological state(s). Unless one can say that his understanding of Catholicism is the result of studying the relevant primary sources and representative texts/theologians, then one cannot claim to have done his homework or that his opinion deserves to be taken as seriously as one who has.”

Rarely do Roman apologists begin with what I look for in a compelling argument: the revealing of initial, unproven, faith claims. No, they keep these hidden away, buried under citations of church fathers and complicated arguments. Here’s an analogy. When I went to see Lord of the Rings, all the evidence and information made sense. The ring had to be destroyed. It was the only way to save Middle Earth. Now, I could engage in all sorts of arguments about which way Middle Earth could’ve been saved better, and devote my life to proving my theories. I could live my living devoted to Middle Earth. What must I assume to do this? That Middle Earth is a real place. In the same way, much of the Catholic argumentation may appear to make sense once the first point is believed, that Rome is infallible. This claim though, is unproven- it is assumed. Thus, like Middle Earth, it is a system of fantasy, not reality. But if one accepts the first point, all the others follow. With Rome, even though the points follow, the argumentation which appeals to history and Scripture is not compelling anyway.


Anonymous said...

This may be slightly off the topic, but - and I ask this to Mr. James White as well - why aren't well-established former Reformed Protestants every taken into consideration in ya'lls accounts. Take Dr. Kenneth Howell, for example, who taught Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Hermeneutics at Reformed Theological Seminary. Here are some of his academic credentials:


Ph.D., Lancaster University, United Kingdom (1995) History of Christianity (esp. Catholicism) and its relations to Science

Ph.D., Indiana University (1987) Linguistics and The Philosophy of Science

M.A., University of South Florida (1982) Linguistics and Philosophy

M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary (1977) Systematic Theology and Biblical Languages

B.A., University of South Florida (1974) Linguistics and German

Teaching Experience:

2005: Visiting Professor of Theology, University of Sacramento

2003: Adjunct Instructor, Parkland College

2001-present: Adjunct Associate Professor, Program for the Study of Religion, University of Illinois

2000-present: Director & Fellow, The John Henry Newman Institute of Catholic Thought, University of Illinois

1998-2000: John Henry Newman Scholar-in-Residence, The Newman Foundation, University of Illinois

1994-1998: Adjunct Associate Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University

1991: Adjunct Instructor in Philosophy, Belhaven College

1991-1994: Associate Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature, Reformed Theological Seminary

1988-1991: Assistant Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature, Reformed Theological Seminary

1984-1985: Visiting Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary

1982-1984: Associate Instructor in Linguistics, Indiana University

1981-1982: Teaching Assistant in Linguistics, University of South Florida

The rest Dr. Howell's credentials can be found on Dr. Hahn's website under staff.

Anonymous said...

Pope said:
why aren't well-established former Reformed Protestants every taken into consideration in ya'lls accounts.

Could be because no one's creditials are infallible. Frankly, if you're basing your beliefs off of other people's creditials, you're in a world of hurt.

Anonymous said...

My first thought as I read the list, Wow, this guy can't hold a job!


FM483 said...

The question posed about why you should take into serious consideration people who have converted to Roman Catholicism from other belief systems is interesting. In my lifetime I have met many brilliant people from all walks of life. And yet one thing I have discovered is that while a person may be a brilliant mathematician or businessman, when it comes to theology most people are very weak and unable to distinguish between the two ways God speaks: Law and Gospel.

Frank Marron

Anonymous said...

I suspect that there are intriguing conversion stores on both sides. One of the more interesting ones that comes to mind is that of the brothers William and John Rainolds in the sixteenth century. The traditional account has probably been embellished, but it is said that the former was once a zealous Protestant and the latter a zealous RC. In their eagerness to witness to each other, both managed to win the other over to his side. William traveled to Rome, where he publicly recanted, and later helped translate the Rheims Testament. John became tutor to Richard Hooker and later made the proposal at the Hampton Court Conference that led to the Authorized Version.

pilgrim said...

DO not get me started on the complete lack of respect and suspicion with which I hold Scottt Hahn.

Gojira said...

"My first thought as I read the list, Wow, this guy can't hold a job!"


That was a good one!

Carrie said...

Hi James,

I love your blog.

This interaction with Scott Hahn is quite interesting and not at all surprising. When I have been in discussions with RCs and another RC seems to waver in their beliefs, they start circling like sharks. There really is a cult-like feeling to the RCC.

It is all very sad though. I cannot understand how someone who is saved and has the witness of the Holy Spirit within them could ever fall for the fallacy of Rome. Personally, I don't think it is possible.

Keep up the great work you are doing here.

FX Turk said...

David's comment is about dead-on, of course.

However, there's a curious phenomenon going on in the world which the Catholic apologist always seems to overlook. It has two prongs.

The first is the trend – what I would say is the trajectory of Vatican II – to minimize the differences between Roman Catholicism and conventional evangelical faith (let alone robust Reformed faith) as represented by this essay. It’s an interesting trend because it doesn’t really fall under the umbrella of accepting that Protestant faith is valid worship of Christ, or admitting that the anathema against Protestants was mistaken or actually false. It falls under the umbrella that allows the Roman Catholic Church to say things like Muslims and Jews today worship the God of Abraham, and therefore worship the triune God.

The second is the fact that in the West, Catholicism is declining. Globally, they are making some headway in the Third World, but in Europe and the U.S., they cannot sustain their numbers relative even to population growth.

So one guy who used to be a Protestant and a Calvinist and a Blogger who converts – he’s big news. He’s the exception, not the rule – and one wonders why he would bother, given the CCC acceptance of his place among the people who worship God.

Paleocrat said...

In response to a question you asked a few blog posts ago...

I spoke with my pastor towards the end of the process. Of course, he disagreed with me. Unfortunately, there was nothing brought up in the conversation that I had not personally mulled over for months. This is not to demean Pastor Craig. I still have great respect for his knowledge and sincerity of heart.

Did I seek out knowledgeable people? Sure, though not via e-mail, and certainly not over the radio. I hit the books. I read Boettner’s book on Roman Catholicism as well as material written by Gerstner and Sproul. I also re-read portions of Calvin’s Institutes. I practically lived on Alpha Omega for a while. I printed off as many pages of debate and argumentation that I possibly could. Actually, I used all of my ink from our computer doing this! My wife was pretty ticked off about the whole affair.

I also bought numerous audio debates from Alpha Omega involving James White, Matatics and Madrid. I also bought the debate between White and Wilson over whether or not Catholics are brothers in Christ with Protestants. I also bought a radio debate involving Bahnsen, Matatics and another Catholic theologian. I listened to these debates 3 or 4 times each, some of them more.

Beyond this, I kept the matter pretty close to home. My father, my pastor, my wife and my best friend were the only Protestants to know of my thoughts on the matter. My wife knew that I was going to convert 2 months before I made the decision public. It was quite personal for me. Does this mean that it was done without counsel? No. I just didn’t believe that every Tom, Dick and Harry should be privy to my pilgrimage.

I hope that I have answered your question. Feel free to comment on my site as well. I am not promising you that I will answer your questions or remarks (I am staying away from contentious debate for a while), but I promise I will read them.

PS- I am glad to see that you are reading and commenting on Antipelagian's site. He is one of the best men that I have ever known.

Al said...

Famous guys have converted to Rome in the past. Smart guys too. I hate to bring up history to the Popish ones among us, but there was one really smart and influential guy I read about once... he embraced Rome and what a homecoming!
Of course when the burned him his last words were: ''This hand hath offended.''

History - Full of irony. I love the taste of irony.

History is still writing the story of David King and Jeremiah, the one from Battle Creek not Jerusalem. Hey, Jeremiah's xanga account still lists him as "Protestant-Reformed."

Now, don't go reading Freud. One might convert and read too much into that.

al sends

Al said...

"they" not "the" burned him...


al sends

Anonymous said...

I only brought up former Reformed Protestant theolgian, Kenneth Howell, becasue whenever a Protestant converts to the fullness of the truth, one of the questions is, "Was he a garden variety Protestant?" If they were then they are immediately discredited. Of course, when they are far from being "garden variety," like Dr. Howell, well, then you get these kinds of responses.

In Christ and His Bride,
Pope St. Peter

Paleocrat said...


Thanks for the heads up on my profile. Then again, it still had my pipe listed as a prized possession. I quit smoking about 5 months ago.

Acolyte4236 said...

I have posted a response here->

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at the arrogance of you folks. There are 1000 ways Scott Hahn could have found out about somebody's conversion. Somehow the only one you can think of is he reads your site every day. He is probably obsessed with you.

I knew about this conversion a while back when Amy Welborm posted it on her blog (maybe you think she sits on your blog and clicks refresh all day as well). How many students at Steubenville are active on the net? All it takes is for one to see it and go tell Dr Hahn.

Anonymous said...

The Protestant-Catholic road is a two-way street. My conversion to Catholicism confounded some friends and relatives. Since then, my mother, my sister's pastor, and my cousin's husband became Catholic. Some of my friends and family have similar issues with Protestant teachings but have not taken such a radical view as to see the Reformation as unnecessary. (However, one good friend embraced Eastern Orthodoxy and feels more estranged from evangelical Protestantism than I.)

Likewise, every Catholic family I know has some Protestant relatives and friends. In some cases, there is pain for all involved. In other cases, people simply agree to disagree and live on.

I remember when Tom Howard became a Catholic. In my circle, we thought he was nuts. The tendency was to reduce his momentous decision to some sort of personal quirk or character flaw. There was an assumption that no one as intelligent as Tom Howard, who knew C.S. Lewis, who wrote eloquently on J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams and others, who grew up Plymouth Brethren, who attended Wheaton, who taught at Wheaton and Gordon, and who is Elisabeth Elliot's brother, could convert to Catholicism except by some acrobatic act of self-deception akin to mental illness.

It is unfair to discuss anyone's religion with such condescension and broad strokes, and just about everyone posting here would resent such chatter. Herman Hesse became a Buddhist. Do I believe him wrong? Yes. Can I simplify this decision into something that can fit on a bumper sticker? No.

As a Catholic, I believe in the fellowship of all those baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (The Church recently clarified its teaching as to why Mormon baptism is not valid, though most other Protestant baptisms are considered valid.) Moreover, Protestant worship is not considered invalid in the sense that Protestants offer their best to God in song, teaching, and prayer (and usually sing better). The Catholic Church recognizes this Protestant worship as true worship. Protestant ministry is not considered invalid in the sense of calling on those ordained to live sacrificial lives for those they serve and equipping them in some mystical way to follow that calling.

What the Catholic Church will not recognize is any supposed equality of Catholic and Protestant eucharistic sacraments and sacramental authority because Protestants do not believe in the Eucharist in the same sense. Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, just as Jesus taught us in John 6 (and caused many of his disciples to leave at this difficult teaching). Protestants, with few exceptions, do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, so the Catholic Church refuses to recognize the eucharistic prayers of Protestant ministers as having the same effect. If the Catholic Church taught that a Protestant minister who said the proper eucharistic prayers affected transubstantiation in the Bread and Wine, the Protestants of the Reformed tradition would cry heresy. If the Catholic Church, however, taught that whatever happens when Protestants share Holy Communion is exactly what happens when we go to Mass, we would be denying our own teaching because Protestants, with few exceptions, don't believe much happens that doesn't fit the description of symbol. Ss. Thomas More, John Fischer, Edmund Campion, and others died for the Eucharist and integrity of sacramental authority. If they believed the Eucharist was merely a symbol that could be consecrated by anyone with sincere intention, they would have lived to become old men.

If you think Scott Hahn or any other Catholic convert is sincerely wrong, we live in a free country. The ad hominem attacks, however, are unfair, whether made by Catholics or Protestants about the other.

Scott Hahn studied covenantal theology intensively and concluded that covenantal theology requires the parallel practice of sacramental worship and the perpetuation of a sacramental priesthood. That is a very powerful idea that deserves attention of intelligent Christians without ad hominem attacks or presumptions of Satanic delusion. I came to a similar conclusion and swam the Tiber River myself.