Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Evidence of Simplicity

Somewhere along the road of life, I became mostly convinced that anything true can be summarized in a simple way. That is, whatever is true can be stated so simply that virtually anyone with their head on straight should be able to understand it plainly.

Catholicism's simple but irrefutable proofs convinced me of her truth. There is no simple Protestant response to the charge that sola scriptura fails on account of its non existence in the Bible. If there were, Protestant apologists would have picked it up a long time ago. There is no simple reason why Protestants have as much claim on early Church history as Catholics do. If there were, the apologists would have all latched on to it. Instead, every apologist has a different (faulty) reason. Some say that Peter being in Rome meant nothing. Some say that he was never in Rome. Some say Peter himself is irrelevant. Some say the first Christian generation apostatized. Some say it wasn't until the 5th century. In fact, none of these silly theories have attracted a large number of anti-Catholic intellectuals. It reminds me of the Jesus debate. Whereas there are large numbers of anti-Christian intellectuals who deny Christ, there isn't any sort of consensus on a plausible alternative to the truth of the gospels while Christians have simple and powerful reasons to trust them. It should be no surprise then that there are large numbers of anti-Catholic intellectuals with a similar lack of consensus against His bride.

I have run across people (especially reformed) when their theology is refuted by these simple truths, they rebut "you don't understand the reformed faith". I've heard that charge at least four times against former Reformed Christians (who knew their faith well). But if the Reformed theology is so complex that even seminary graduates and former pastors can't understand it enough to defend it against simple Catholic claims, then how true is it anyhow?

If "truth is harmonious", then it shouldn't be any surprise to us that all truth can be expressed in simple terms and in its simplicity, it can withstand even complex attempts at refutation. If any doctrine becomes too complex for comfort, as long as we understand it, an analogy may reduce the truth to the simplest of terms. This is why things which are really true can always be explained to men, (even simple minded men).

But there are simple minds and great minds in all faiths, one will object - and this is true. But we are not, at present, dealing with what caliber of minds a particular teaching has attracted but whether or not its fundamental doctrines may be expressed (and defended) in simplicity. Again, the doctrine of sola scriptura may be stated simply "the bible is the only infallible authority" but there is no simple defense of its refutation - "the bible itself does not say so". Similarly, sola fide may state simply "we are saved by faith alone" but it cannot defend itself in simplicity against the arguments of James - particularly "the demons also believe" and "you are not saved by faith alone" (the latter of which is especially difficult to deal with in simplicity).

Therefore I maintain that Catholicism, in her simple, powerful truth refutes all charges against her and that her simplicity itself speaks of her truth. The complexities and confusion of her enemies speak of against them. I say this because God is not the author of confusion and to recall what Jesus prayed "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."


Kim said...

But if the Reformed theology is so complex that even seminary graduates and former pastors can't understand it enough to defend it against simple Catholic claims, then how true is it anyhow?

YES! It IS complex. Too complex for a person of even average intelligence (like me) to understand. I felt like my mind was going to explode trying to understand it.

If any doctrine becomes too complex for comfort, as long as we understand it, an analogy may reduce the truth to the simplest of terms. This is why things which are really true can always be explained to men, (even simple minded men).

You weren't thinking of my clothes analogy before I deleted it at Bryan's blog, were you? I wasn't sure if it was too silly or not, so I deleted it.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Well it was Bryan's post and a certain accusation against him that gave me the idea for this post but I didn't see your comment. I only saw three comments deleted by the author. Hehe.

Kim said...

Yeah, me, myself and I. lol The third one was a spelling correction.

Which accusation? The IM's?

Tim A. Troutman said...

It was Pastor Stellman's accusation that Bryan Cross didn't understand reformed theology. It's the same thing that R.S. Sproul (I believe it was) said of Scott Hahn. I'm thinking, geez if Scott Hahn and Bryan Cross aren't smart enough to understand Reformed theology, what hope do I have?

Catholicism seems to be plainly accessible and simple minded wanna be theologians like me can understand her theology. This isn't the only reason I think she is true but it's one of them!

Kim said...

Ah, yes, I remember that. I had always thought that Reformed theology was pretty cut and dried. Turns out it's far more nuanced than that.

Victor said...

It's true! There is something to be said that you can find Rocket Scientist all the way to Janitors in the catholic faith. Each one serving a purpose in the Body. Each one loved and valued by God. Yet, each one saying the same thing. One voice, one Body.

Mike Burgess said...

Amen, Tim, Amen.

Rob said...


Does this mean "stand down" Simplico may have a chance of becoming Catholic?

Phil Snider said...

I really can't resist this.

Mind you, if Catholicism was so simple as you depict, everyone would still be Catholic, n'est pas?

who is kind of amused that the Church of Augustine, Aquinas and Benedict XVI can be perceived as simple.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Rob - hah! I may need to bring them back yet.

Phil - You're assuming a priori that humans would all gravitate towards the simplest religion and or that humans always make the right choice.

On Augustine, Aquinas & Benedict, per my recent post on the Catholic Faith and how her paradoxes testify of her:

"Her [the Catholic Church's] theology is complex enough to frustrate the greatest minds and simple enough to be understood by a child."

Phil Snider said...


Actually, I`m not. I was demonstrating that someone could take it that you were. That's why I made the tongue-in-cheek comment that I made.

Yet, my real point is that someone could write an entry very much like your own for Reformed theology and make as much sense. It would have the same persuasive power. I really think your rhetoric got away from you. Your suggestion that I'm assuming that humans take up the simpliest religion is merely evidence against what you are arguing.


Tim A. Troutman said...

Phil, I'm not following your argument. But as for whether a Reformed apologist could make the same point or not, I'll believe it as soon as I see it demonstrated.

Ashley Weis said...


I agree, that the Truth must be able to be understandable to even the simplest of minds. The Gospel should ABSOLUTELY be understandable.

I don't know if this is usual or not, and I'm not sure what you will say to this, but I am curious... my friend Ralph (you might recall from an old post of mine) said to me after I commented how beautiful the Lord is... he responded, "Yes He is, and he's right here in my heart". This guy is Catholic, and his statement almost made me cry. He is such a simple person, but his understanding of the indwelling spirit of God in his life was impressive and beautiful.

Again, I haven't even touched much on the doctrines that surround this (in Catholicism) but I thought it was rather interesting.


I don't even know if that statement

Phil Snider said...

I think the guts of the argument is something that you're likely to agree with: there are simple easy to understand wrong answers. The fact that, in your view, that Catholicism has simple proofs (I'll leave the irrefutable for another time- let me just point out that that is rather in the eye of the beholder) doesn't mean that they are necessarily right. The criterea, I'm sure we'll agree, isn't simplicity, but truth.

That said, I do think the Catholic position has a lot going for it. I just think that the proofs are neither simple nor irrefutable.


Tim A. Troutman said...

Phil, if my reason for being Catholic was that she has simple proofs then I think I would agree with your objections here. But I think you're treating it as if this were what I based my claim on. Taken in context, this is just one small argument among many.

In my previous post on the probability of the Catholic Church, I didn't even mention this as one of the reasons to believe in the Catholic Church. That should put into perspective how strongly I would lean on this point.

It is like a theist pointing out the beauty of a rainbow as evidence of God's existence and an atheist demolishing his argument on particular scientific arguments "here's what really happens chemically and here's why you think its beautiful". He may even have valid points but if he treats the theist as if he is a theist because of the beauty of a rainbow then he is selling the theist short. Even though you and I can imagine what sort of arguments the atheist would have (and they may be well grounded in truth), I think we would both agree that it is still evidence of God's existence - just not the kind that would be convincing to an atheist. It's the kind of subtle proof only a believer can appreciate. I think of this point in the same way.

Phil Snider said...


Please do keep in mind that I'm really only replying to this post, not to all your reasons for converting. On the subject of this (admittedly) small argument, I just don't carry your point. That is only what I'm saying.


arturovasquez said...

I don't mean to rain on the lovefest here, but to say that Catholicism is completely simple begs a ton of questions. First, it levels very complex theological and historical questions into neat little packages into which they simply don't fit. Secondly, it presupposes the essence of what Catholicism is. Is there anything simple about purgatory, indulgences, scapulars, and the monastic tonsure? Do all of these derive seamlessly from very simple principles, to the point that they make perfect sense to our brethren separated from the Church? I really don't think so.

It also assumes that Protestants cannot have a simple faith, and that is definitely not the case. Just because the Scottish herder in the countryside of yesteryear didn't know the intricacies of TULIP didn't mean that he was any less a Protestant or any less a Calvinist. Even those who clinged to the simple Word of God as they understood it I would think were clinging to it in good faith, unless I am led to believe otherwise. This would be the csae even if they were illiterate. Some of the people with the simplest faith that I have know were Protestants. Does that mean that their reading of history or their theology makes sense? Of course not. Does that mean that our theology and vision of history is any less complex or filled with nuances? Not by a long shot.

So if we speak, we should speak clearly. I am convinced that polemicists on any side of an interdenominational debate always overly simplify some things. I think many self-anointed Catholic apologists practice a certain form of historicist fundamentalism that doesn't help facilitate any form of meaningful discussion. Before we start hi-fiving each other and giving each other a pat on the back, we would best ask ourselves what the purpose of opening our mouths (or laptops) really is.

And I don't even have a Protestant bone in my body.

Jason Stellman said...


It was Pastor Stellman's accusation that Bryan Cross didn't understand reformed theology.

Where did I ever say that?

Tim A. Troutman said...

Phil - If you were an atheist would you follow the rainbow argument?

Pastor Stellman, I guess you didn't say that he didn't understand it, just that he "misrepresented" it. Which would entail either him deliberately doing so or not understanding it correctly (or maybe just being sloppy). But that post only sparked my imagination to write this, I've heard it said of others outright that they didn't understand the Reformed faith.

Arturo - I never said the Catholic faith itself is simple, just that it can be defended in simplicity. There are powerful yet simple defenses of her truths whereas I don't think this is true of the alternatives.

This isn't only the case with Catholicism but with any thing which is really true. I think, if you can't state something simply or at least give a semi-adequate analogy, then it probably isn't true. If there isn't any simple defense of sola scriptura, there probably isn't any true defense at all. The simple argument in these cases does not need to contain all the minute details of course. We may well have the need to expound for further discussion, but the simple premise itself should hold its own during the discussion.

If I state the simple anti-sola scriptura argument and my interlocutor doesn't follow it, I could certainly expound on it and show in detail why it must be true. But my argument remains the same simple premise.

Jason Stellman said...


Pastor Stellman, I guess you didn't say that he didn't understand it, just that he "misrepresented" it. Which would entail either him deliberately doing so or not understanding it correctly (or maybe just being sloppy).

That's what I figured you were referring to.

First, his characterization that "we get to heaven even though we remain unrighteous" is without question a misrepresentation (just ask anyone who is Reformed, and they will tell you that they don't recognize Bryan's characterization as their position). He may think that's what our view logically demands we say, but he has repeatedly said that we must allow those who love a view to tell the rest of us how to state it, which he obviously did not do.

Second, you have now misrepresented me. I'm used to it, but it still grieves me to hear that I am accusing someone whom I respect, like Bryan, that "he doesn't understand Reformed theology."

More caution is needed all around, including by me.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Pastor Stellman, please accept my apologies for misrepresenting you.

Jason Stellman said...

Apology accepted.

PS - We miss you over at DRD. I will wrap up the sola fide discussion soon, and I hope to interact with the early fathers a bit (though I feel in over my head with the historical stuff).

Tim A. Troutman said...

Pastor Stellman, I thoroughly enjoy interacting with you not merely because you are consistently irenic but because you have no hesitation about meeting an argument head on and dealing with it squarely. This is a rare trait in my experience.

I fatigue quickly when it comes to apologetics and I have only a small appetite for discussion with those whose center of theological gravity is so far from mine (for lack of a better analogy). I am not speaking of you, but some of your regulars. That said, I'll pop in from time to time.

Mark said...

The Reformed faith bashing requires a serious answer. Firstly, if it's confusion you want to talk about, please explain the unbiblical notions of purgatory and indulgences etc. Or we could even touch on that most confusing tradition of the papacy which involves binding innocent Christians to the stake and burning them. The Roman church has slaughtered innocent men, women and children thoughout history, for wanting to worship according to their own convictions. Albigensians, Cathars, Waldenses and of course the Protestant reformers, met a bloody end at the hands of the papacy and her inquisitions. The teachings of the Lord are simple and clear. When did the Roman church ever love its neighbour, let alone its enemies? And when did the papacy ever turn the other cheek? the slaughter of innocents carried out by this church shows clearly that the traditions of men can be corrupted and are to be feared by all followers of the Lord Jesus. My faith is simple, it begins and ends with Jesus and his Word. Ponder the question: who's work was being done when countless men, women and children were put to death for the way in which they chose to worship God? Christs! I mean no offence to anyone, but i am genuinely interested in how someone of the Catholic faith can begin to excuse what has been done in their name. Ask your priest why innocent human beings where tortured, drowned or burnt, all in the name of Christ. Jesus did not teach persecution, torture and death. These are the teachings of his adversary - Satan.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Mark, you accuse me of "reformed faith bashing" when I did no such thing. I merely offered reasons why I think the Catholic Church is true, but then you turn around and bash the Catholic Church. What gives?

Your arguments are pretty standard ones that I shared with you at one time but I now realize are false. should provide a good resource for quick, simple and valid points of refutation for each of your objections to Catholic Christianity.

After that, if you want to discuss things in an irenic manner, I'm open to doing so. But, I say this with as much charity as I am able to muster: you need to do your homework first.