Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dialogue on Authority II - The Convo Turns Ugly

Let me remind everyone that while this event was inspired by an actual conversation, the characters (except Catholic) do not directly represent any real person. Some, if not all, of what they say has been said to me at different times by different Protestants and I've chosen the best of the best I think, to be fair. I did get a little carried away with this one, but if you ever read a post on my blog that doesn't go too far - you should probably suspect someone has hacked my account.

When we last left our hero: Catholic, there seemed no hope left. Objector had pulled "the Holy Spirit card". Was there any way Catholic could maneuver his way out of this one? Would he be shown to be a worshiper of Mary and false idols rather than Christ? Can he deny Objector's logic without "quenching the Spirit"? Stay tuned for this exciting episode of... D. O. A. (Dialogue on Authority) Queue theme music...

Catholic: You said that the Holy Spirit will spiral the true believer closer and closer into a perfect interpretation of Scripture. So why has the Holy Spirit spiraled you (Presbyterians) faster or more effectively than say the Pentecostals?

Objector: Come on…

Catholic: I think it’s a valid question.

(A mutual friend, Simplicio, joins the conversation)

Simplicio: Hi guys what’s the topic?

Catholic (eyes squint as he assumes a distant, and profoundly heraldic expression): Simplicio you attend a contemporary mega “church”, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

Simplicio: But I just…


Objector: Let him be.

Catholic: ….Fine. Where were we? Let me rephrase the question. Surely Christ left us some sort of objective measure of how we can know Truth. I don’t think your view of the Holy Spirit helping the individual achieve exegetical perfection is a supplement to your conception of “Church authority”, I think it’s a poor way of sidestepping the circular argument we’ve already demonstrated you to be using. In reality, it creates only a small circular loop within your overarching circular argument. What is a Church? - It is whichever group preaches Biblical doctrine. How do we know what Biblical doctrine is? The Holy Spirit helps us. So now here’s my question to show we have firmly returned to our circular track: how do we know whom the Holy Spirit is helping and whom He isn’t?

Objector: Well, as I said, this isn’t something that can be put in a test tube and experimented on.

Simplicio: Guys, Jesus said “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life”. I don’t see where that says we need to worship the saints.

Objector: Ok I change my mind, Simplicio… you’re out of your element.

Simplicio: What? I just quoted Scrip..

Objector: Simplicio you EMBARRASS ME!

Catholic: Ok, now I’m not talking about performing scientific tests on the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about knowing what Christianity is in an objective way. Your view does not allow that. It is reduced to either circular logic or a non-falsifiable subjectivity depending on how we approach it. We cannot know what “Church” is since your definition is circular. We can add the Holy Spirit to the me-Jesus-and-the-Bible trio but then we end up with subjectivity. Answer me plainly, is it possible to know the gospel objectively?

Objector: The gospel, at least the essentials, are evident in Scripture. In this way, Scripture is an objective method. We can call it “my opinion” of Scripture or “your opinion”. But we don’t need the Pope to tell us the plain meaning of the essentials of Christianity found in Scripture.

Simplicio: Yea!

Catholic: Oh really? So then per James 2:24 you agree that we are justified by faith and works and not faith alone?

Simplicio: The Scriptures do not say that.

Catholic: Yuh huh.

Simplicio: Nuh uh.

Objector: You’re taking it out of context.

Catholic: By whose estimation?

Objector: Look..

Catholic: Just answer the question. Again, your interpretation says that I’m taking it out of context. Your ecclesial community has a given interpretation here which openly mutilates the plain meaning of it according to my personal estimation (and that of what I consider to be the Church). We’re back to square one AGAIN. How can you not see how circular this is? We have seen that even in the simplest, basic fundamentals of Christianity, we cannot come to an agreement on the meaning of a text because we do not agree on an objective means by which to know the truth of it for certain.

Objector: …

Catholic: If Christ did establish a visible Church, what would she look like, or how would we know it?

Objector: I haven’t denied the visibility of the Church.

Catholic: The “Church” you call visible was founded at a specific date in time. June 11, 1936 to be precise. How can this be the one Christ founded?

Objector: I’m impressed you knew that date.

Simplicio: Objector, you wouldn’t be so impressed if you realized that you’re a mere figment of his imagination and that he paused the very sands of time in our nonexistent world while researching the matter on Google. (Squints his eyes at the Catholic)

Catholic (stunned): Simplicio, that’s the most profound thing that’s ever come out of your mouth.

Objector: Well, you have strong arguments Catholic; I’ll give you that. But at the end of the day what really matters is whether or not we are serving Christ and whether we can embrace each other in unity.

Simplicio: Yes, Jesus prayed for us to be one. And it’s like Peter said “you know I love You Lord”. God knows our hearts. He knows we are trying to serve Him the best we can.

Catholic: !!!

Objector: He also said “I give you the keys to the kingdom”. We have the keys to Christianity, Jesus promised them to us.

Catholic: !!!!!!!!!!

Objector: Catholic? Are you ok? You’re turning red!

(Ambrose Anglican takes a seat at the table. The plot thickens…)

Objector: Oh, let me introduce my friend Ambrose Anglican, his friends call him Anglo. He just flew in from Manchester.

Anglican (thick British accent): Cheerio then.

Catholic: Hi.

(Simplicio is mysteriously found to be missing…)

Anglican: Pardon my ignorance but were there not three of you lads?

Objector: He was a Bapti.. I mean non denominationalist. He must have been raptured. Too bad we’re “left behind”.

Anglican: It is rather difficult to secure a ticket on a train one doesn’t believe exists.

Catholic: Ok Objector, Simplicio quoted from John 17 and then John 21 and then you quoted from Matthew 16. These are all Catholic proof texts for the papacy! First Jesus prays that the Church will be one. Also in John 10, Jesus prophesies that there will be one Shepherd and one flock. Then in John 21 He explicitly tells Peter to “feed my Sheep”.

Objector: Well that’s reading a bit much into the text.

Catholic: Back to square one! According to you and your 70 year old ecclesial community it is, but according to mine it’s not. I need a bell to ring every time we return to square one you know. Now again, you quoted Jesus giving the keys to Peter.

Anglican: Were they given to Peter or to the disciples?

Catholic: To Peter. The Greek is singular there and the following “you” is plural “whatever you bind and loose” etc… Is it so hard to conceive that the Church which has demonstrably existed for 2000 years with provable succession from the Apostles and remaining until this day in communion with the successor of Peter is really the visible Church that Christ founded?

Anglican: If I may, it is possible to believe in the visible Catholic Church without assenting to the Primacy of Peter (I mean beyond honorary primacy of course). I am Anglo-Catholic you know.

Catholic: No. You’re not Catholic in any meaningful sense of the word.

Anglican: Oh poppycock!

Catholic: See, a real Catholic would never use such a word.

Objector: Anglican is right, reading the papacy into those verses is stretching the text beyond credibility.

Catholic (rings a bell loudly): I actually happened to have this in my pocket. Square one Objector! Square One! That’s about 17 too many return trips to square one. I know of only one way to settle this circular hermeneutico-babble. I learned this one from jolly ol’ Saint Nick.

Catholic stands up abruptly and throws the table aside. Without hesitation he punches Objector square in the jaw, knocking him out cold.

Anglican (evil chuckle): You fool. I was stationed in both Japan and China during my missionary days as an evangelical. There I mastered the art of Kung fu and later became a ninja for side money (missionary pay is terrible you know, and Tokyo is really expensive).

Catholic: A British ninja? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Anglican: Silence! Prepare to duel, papist!

Where will this end up? Will Catholic be able to repel the ruthless attacks from the anglo-ninja? Or will he be able to suit up with the full armor of Christ? Is a Catholic even able to wear spiritual armor since it was Paul who first mentioned it? Join us next time to find out the conclusion to this ridiculous mini series.

Don't say I didn't warn you. You know I can only go so far with some of these arguments on their lips while still retaining some level of fairness. If I could keep going forever, well I'd probably still be a Protestant. I run into brick walls all over the place when I think as a Protestant. If anyone wants to add Protestant arguments, just toss em' in the com box and I'll weave it into the next one (assuming I make another).


Rene'e said...

You crack me up.

Do not leave me hanging....


R. E. Aguirre. said...

Personally, I don't have the patience to go back and forth talking over eachothers head's ad infinitum.

Like Tim pointed out, it becomes a vicious circle. In a sad way, it's like arguing with a "Jehovas Witness". No matter how much evidence from history, Scripture, or philosophical deduction, they can't believe it because they will not to believe it.

The standard reply (also from the heretics) is to argue in a circle as follows;

* "You can cite all the fathers you want, or present as much of the Greek grammar and syntax as you want, but they do not mean what they appear to say. The fathers are actually saying (for example, they believe in justification by faith alone) and all the instances where they appear to believe otherwise must be read in light of this fact. Oh and by the way, Scripture is to be read this way also. It does not mean what it appears to say but it must be understood in this fashion..."

When someone is stuck in thus awful rut the best that you can do is to pray for them.

Rene'e said...

r. e.

You said it…. Prayer.

There is a saying “The definition of insanity, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

I have spent many days, after trying to explain Catholicism to others, standing in a corner (so to speak) banging my head on the wall out of frustration. Expecting the wall to finally collapse. It never does.

Tim’s dialoque on Authority, shows me how it could go on for infinity. Unless, one is willing to concede to the other.

After stripping away all the “excuses” and giving clear explanations for Catholicism, what it comes down to as Tim has said: AUTHORITY.

It does not matter if Jesus explicitly gave His authority to men, one in particuliar.

People have a hard time excepting authority. They have a much easier time, excepting in their own minds, authority from God Himself, than from another person, whom they consider to be no different from them .It could be due to Pride or Fear, or possibly something else for some.

The point is, those who have issues with authority can only resolve it within themselves and with prayer.

In the meantime, Tim’s dialogue caused me to stop banging my head on the wall for just a moment to see the humorous and never-ending side of something which has caused me so much despair and has severely tested my patience.

I do not mean to be insensitive to others, I just have a “headache” which is finally starting to go away. :)

Rene'e said...

Something else:

God has always gave His authority to specific men. Throughout the Bible it clearly shows this.

Jesus was sent as a man . He did not have to come as a man.

Jesus passed His authority to a man.

There is divine reasoning for this. It must be extremely important.

I do not see in the Bible, where God’s authority bestowed upon a man, was relinquished and no longer required by Him.

In fact, I see the opposite.

Gretchen said...

"This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."

Great post and had me laughing out loud!

Phil Snider said...

Entertaining as always, although a little unfair in its humour in its part. I'm not that worried about it, mind you, but all too often the other side's arguments are harder to refute with real live opponents rather than composed ones.

Given my own position argued here fairly often, I wouldn't even try to argue any of the positions cited here because I already know the answers to them (some of which are right and some don't work so well, in my opinion). What I'd like Tim to work up is an explanation of why it is the Roman Catholic Church which is the true heir to the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church of the patristic and mediaeval ages. That is, given the fragmentation, why should we believe one Church has always managed to get it right all the time and that one Church is the Roman Catholic Church.

My own opinion is that, while I agree that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, this is an escatalogical hope, not a present reality (given the thousands of denominations and more coming each day, I think that is a given!). This fragmentation is the result of sin, I'm sure we'll both agree, but, given all of our human propensities to sin, the dishonours are rather spread around. Is there not a possiblity that the Roman Catholic Church has made errors which it has not yet dealt with and, if so, can it be said, right now, to be the true, catholic church?

I'm sure you'll find a way around this and all, but have fun with it.


andrew preslar said...

Ah... well... Ah... I say...

Um, yes, this was fabulously awesome. The wit, the verve, the going too far...

Absolutely enjoyable.

andrew preslar said...

I must say, you remind me here of an all-time hero of mine (together with aquinas and darth vader): the fabulous, the wealthy, the bombastic, the inexorable Mr. Toad! When you produced that bell from your pocket, I was overcome with a sensation I have not felt since I last read that bit where Toad suddenly and provocatively reveals his true identity while taking yet another motor car to the extreme end of finitude (poop, poop!). Going too far indeed....

Tim A. Troutman said...

Well I can breathe easier now knowing this was received well. I wasn't sure if it was genius, retarded or somewhere in between.

R.E. Aguirre - I don't really have the patience either. In fact, I was starting to piss myself off in this self absorbed debate. I almost resorted to ad hominem attacks against myself!

Renee - I'm glad it was helpful (and somewhat entertaining).

Phil - I'm glad it's only the humor that was unfair - and even some of that I tried to be fair too you know - Objector scolded Simplicio too - this shows that Objector isn't a fundamentalist. :)

Phil - those are some great points to toss into the mix. This is pretty challenging for me. It's a nice debating when I can control both sides! You would think it makes it easier - but really it makes it more difficult. I have to come up with good reasonings on both ends if I am to try and be fair. Sure I could have used Simplicio as a straw man to make fun of Protestantism like Galileo used him to poke fun of the Pope, but I think I'm actually having more difficulty answering Protestant charges from my own mouth than I would if it were a real Protestant in front of me. (Another way to say it, and this might sound arrogant, I think I could probably make a better argument for Protestantism than most Protestants could).

But I'm going to enjoy the challenge of tossing your ideas in the mix, it won't be easy. I may have to introduce a new character into the mix for this to happen.

Andrew - glad you liked it but I don't know who Mr. Toad is.

Kim said...

*snort* This was ridiculous and oh, so funny! Tim, how many beers did it take to write this? :-P)

andrew preslar said...

Mr. Toad once lived, still lives, for all I know, in England. He was friend and neighbor, and perpetual nuisance, to Rat, and Mole, and Badger. He was mortal enemy to weasels. This couragous man, er, Toad, is a poet and a man of adventure. I have no doubt that he would do battle with any sort of ninja whatsoever. His story is told (in part, no doubt) by Kenneth Graham in The Wind in the Willows. I cannot speak to Toad's religion, but I have no doubt that he would thoroughly approve of your most martial method of defending the Catholic faith.

George Weis said...


I was thoroughly entertained. An excellent commercial for Roman Catholicism ;) No, it was really funny!


Nirvanic Warrior said...

I have a great proposal for you my Catholic brothers and sisters -

I understand you dislike the "intellect" such as logic and "realistic" thinking.

But I have found the truth... which I wrote a book on, it is the universal truth, that which applies to all beings no matter what their belief system is.

It enables all people to be free and choose whatever path they wish.

Together with this freedom, we are able to pursue our own paths and destinies (religions, personal gains, happiness) and work together to remove limitations...

limitations are the cause of all suffering.

So we can get rid of the concepts of what history shows, that your religion was made by romans, and we can form it up the way you want it... that Jesus indeed is sacred.

And all of us together, with all of our belief systems and paths can work together on Earth, in this universe and achieve Heaven on Earth.

Do you Catholics want to help us?

May your God and the Holy Spirit prosper and give you strength.

-Nirvanic Warrior

R. E. Aguirre. said...

The responses to this post are getting stranger and stranger.

@ Phil. The answer to you're question about why the "Roman" Catholic Church is the true single heir to the ancient holy and apostolic Church of the Nicene Creed is for the following reasons.

1. It most conforms to the doctrines of the patristic fathers en toto. It is a continuity of the fathers without picking and choosing what to believe, what to reject, or what to merely frown upon, a la, Anglicanism for example.

2. The Catholic Church is an exemplification of the Church visible and militant (see my post of Fr. Neuhaus explanation of the nature of the Church on my blog site). The Church is a concrete entity that was established in the first century A.D. and was promised by it's chief and builder never to be erased. There is no need to set up pet theories (such as eschatological, invisible, elite-intellectual, pneumatological) for the nature of the Church (which the early Catholics were quick to deny and reject contra the heretics such as the Gnostics).

It is the same Catholic Church of St. Irenaeus, St. Methodius, St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, centered around Rome (the only of the ancient first century Churches to providentually still exist) who today - continues to battle the truth claims of the heterodox sects.

R.E. Aguirre

Joseph said...

Nirvanic Warrior,

Do I have to drop a hit of acid to learn the secret, or can I just get really drunk?

andrew preslar said...

Dear Nirvanic warrior,

I suspected that you were a Protestant, till I visited your website and realized that you have not even risen to the dignity of error.

However, if it comes down to, as you suggest, historical revisionism, I think the Anglican ninja could take you down.