Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Dave Armstrong: The One Minute Apologist
06/13/2007 - James WhiteDave Armstrong has a new book out (anyone who has visited his website for many months is well aware of this fact). It is titled, The One-Minute Apologist. There isn't much new here (Armstrong is not an original thinker, he just collates what others say and repeats their arguments, normally in very inflated forms), but the format is interesting. Each section is only two pages long. Now, that kind of format is very challenging, especially for someone like Armstrong, whose most effective weapon is verbal flooding. He is well known for doing text-based core dumps, filled with links to his own writings. But this format does not allow that. Instead, to do this well, you must master the art of providing the quick, accurate, insightful, communicative reply. You must choose your words carefully, and most importantly, you must reply to the objections to your claims by showing an in-depth knowledge of "the other side." On the other hand, if you might be better off working in another field, attempting this kind of project will illustrate that, too.
Many of Armstrong's suggested objections and answers are either aimed at the most dismally ignorant of those who oppose Rome's claims (a common element of much of the literature produced by the wide spectrum of their apologists) or against people I honestly have never met or heard of. So a number of the sections really are not relevant to a serious non-Catholic reader. It is hard to decide which are which, because of some of the tremendously obvious errors Armstrong makes. For example, on page 17, Armstrong attempts to present a "Protestant" objection relating to the offices of the church:
The Bible teaches that bishops, elders, and deacons are all synonymous terms for the same office: roughly that of a pastor today. It doesn't indicate that bishops are higher than these other offices.Just who believes this, I wonder? I have never read any work by any Protestant theologian of any note who has ever made this argument. So, is Armstrong just ignorant of Protestant ecclesiology, or, has he run into some tiny sect someplace that has come up with some new wacky viewpoint? Given that he was once non-Catholic, it is hard to believe he could be so ignorant of the reality regarding the fact that bishop and elder refer to the same office and are used interchangeably in the New Testament, but that this office is clearly distinguished from that of the deacon. But, he does not show any knowledge of the biblical arguments in his presentation in this book (though any brief review of my debate with Mitch Pacwa on the subject of the priesthood would have provided him with a very useful outline). I will demonstrate the circularity and failure of his arguments for the priesthood later.
But in the majority of presentations, Rome's position is assumed, not actually demonstrated. The circularity of Armstrong's writings is plain for all to see. He falls into the category of apologists who believe that arguing for the possibility of Rome's position is sufficient to establish her ultimate authority claims. But that kind of argumentation is only effective for those who already want to believe and are simply looking for a reason to continue to do so. It surely has no impact upon the one who continues to demand some kind of substantive response.
The One Minute Apologist illustrates the same problem I have documented in the majority of the rest of Rome's apologists: they do not have any desire to interact with the strongest criticisms of their position, but, for some reason, are more than content to repeat the same worn out arguments that have been offered, and refuted, over and over again in the past. And when they represent the "objections," they do not present the best, the strongest, but the most mundane, the least compelling, as normative for "the other side."
For example, Armstrong does not even seem to be aware of fundamental and fatal objections to his favorite arguments. He repeatedly asserts that Jesus gave the keys to Peter alone. On page 34 we read, "Peter alone is given the 'keys of the kingdom of heaven'--a symbol of stewardship and supervisory capacity over the house of God, or the Church." A footnote is attached pointing us to Matthew 16:19: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." But there does not seem to be any recognition on his part of what I brought out over a decade ago in The Roman Catholic Controversy:
This statement is followed by the promise to, at some time in the future, give the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter, so that what he binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever he looses on earth will be loosed in heaven. I emphasize this is a promise, for the verb is future in tense. Yet, when we see this authority given in Matthew 18:18, it is given not to Peter alone, or even primarily, but to all the apostles, and that using the exact same language, regarding binding and loosing. If someone wishes to say that Peter receives the keys in distinction from the other apostles, as their superior, they are also forced to admit that the giving of these keys is never recorded for us anywhere in Scripture, a strange thing indeed for something supposedly so fundamental to the constitution of the Church.So I took the time to scan Armstrong's materials to see if he had addressed this issue elsewhere. I checked his The Catholic Verses and found that the discussion of the Papacy (55-61) is almost identical to what is found in this new book, but there is no recognition, or discussion, of the fact that you cannot cite Matthew 16:19 as indicative of Pater alone receiving the keys, and that despite the fact that my book is cited in the bibliography. So I googled his website (http://ic.net/~erasmus/) and his blog for any references to "future tense" so I could see where he had addressed this topic. Nothing came up (amazingly) on the ic.net address, but three hits came up on "future tense" for the blog. One was in reference to a dialog with Jehovah's Witnesses, and is not relevant. The other two, likewise, are not relevant to Matthew 16:19. So I would ask Armstrong: where in Scripture do we see the giving of the keys to Peter alone, as he claims? We all know this is the Roman claim. Outside of the self-serving interpretations of the bishops of Rome, upon what basis are we to accept this claim? And if Armstrong wishes to be taken seriously as an apologist, why does he not write in such a way as to indicate a growing, deepening knowledge of the critics of the position he espouses?
 Greek: dw,sw, future of di,dwmi
 Note a comparison of the words of the Lord Jesus in Mathew 16:19 and 18:18. The only differences are due to the use of the singular in 16:19 and the plural in 18:18; the root words are identical:
Matthew 16:19: o] eva.n dh,sh|j evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai dedeme,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/j( kai. o] eva.n lu,sh|j evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai lelume,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ
Matthew 18:18: o[sa eva.n dh,shte evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai dedeme,na evn ouvranw/|( kai. o[sa eva.n lu,shte evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai lelume,na evn ouvranw/|Å
Now, I did find the two references to "future tense" that came up on Armstrong's blog interesting enough to comment upon here. The first is found in an entry here:
It makes little sense to me to keep referring to Jesus as a "priest" in the present tense when He is (according to most Protestants) no longer doing at all what a priest does (sacrifice). Jesus sacrificed Himself as the Lamb of God. That was His priestly act (this is stated explicitly in 7:27, so it cannot be doubted).Here again, Armstrong shows no development in his apologetics or theology. Was the High Priest less of a priest when he entered the Holy of Holies with the sacrifice? He was not, at that point, sacrificing, so, should we not call him a priest once he is presenting the offering before the mercy seat? Or is it obvious that the act of offering before the mercy seat is just as much a part of the duty of the High Priest as the sacrifice, and hence, Armstrong's understanding of the role of priest in the old covenant is sadly lacking? And is this not the point that I have made regarding the work of Christ over against the Roman Mass since the publication of The Fatal Flaw in 1990? The fact that Christ stands as the lamb slain in the presence of the Father, interceding for those united to Him in light of His finished work, is not a separate work from His priestly actions, but the necessary continuation thereof.
But if that was strictly a past tense and not perpetual, why keep calling Him a priest after He is glorified in heaven? It would seem much more sensible to refer to His one-time priestly act, rather than continuing to call Him something denoting a characteristic activity that He is no longer performing.
If He is actively saving men -- present and future tense -- (as is undoubtedly true), but is doing so as a priest then He is presently saving by the sacrifice of Himself (i.e., the priestly act) which is an act made eternally "now". Thus we are right to the heart of the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the same concept. Jesus saves us as a priest. The sacrifice is of both an ongoing and salvific nature. This is the Mass!
This single consideration does away with the rest of his presentation. Note he inserts into the work of Christ the "priestly act" of the Roman Catholic priest in the Mass, a concept utterly without basis in inspired Scripture. Not only does the Roman concept destroy the apologetic point of the writer to the Hebrews, but since there is no foundation for the entire idea of priests in the Scriptures either, the corrupt nature of the Roman dogma is plainly seen.
The other reference to "future tense" was also interesting:
Then he goes on in 6:11 to teach that the way out of this is to be baptized ("washed"), justified, and sanctified (past tense, whereas Protestants believe it should be future tense only and - technically - not related to salvation at all).First, note the easy assumption that "washed" is "baptized." Then, Armstrong shows how little he knows of the theology of those he critiques when he says that "sanctified" should be "future tense only and - technically - not related to salvation at all." This is simply ludicrous. I suppose one might dig up a Hodges/Wilkinite who might come up with something as odd as that, but "Protestants" have been very clear on defining sanctification, recognizing its multiple uses in the NT, and its intimate connection to salvation. One truly has to wonder at Armstrong's ability to claim to have read meaningful Protestant works of theology and yet remain so functionally illiterate in the subject.
The moral to the story: one must read the Bible correctly, recognizing the type of literature and the context, and also incorporating a broad knowledge of the Hebraic outlook and related scriptural cross-references. Proof-texting without these necessary elements leads to illogical and false conclusions, as in your "proofs" above.
In any case, as I did a few years ago with his The Catholic Verses book (remember, "95 Bible Passages that Confound Protestants"), I will try to find enough substantive material to make it worth the while of my readers to address.