Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
As Simply as I Can Put It
08/03/2007 - James WhiteRecently Dave Armstrong has been, once again, melting down. Our favorite dendrophilic apologist (my thanks to TQuid for that wonderful term, and please note, "dendrophilic apologist" is abbreviated "da," so, it is doubly fitting) has, of late, become rather free in his insults, racking up an impressive list of ad-hominem commentary, which puts his oft-proclaimed ecumenical kindness in a bit of a bad light. But those of us who have known Armstrong for years are hardly surprised. If you address him, and begin to examine his claims, he responds either in this fashion, or, with the "I'm so hurt, I will never talk to you, or about you, again" ploy, all of which is designed to allow him to avoid having to do serious research and argumentation. His recent use of Peter's addressing the body of a dead girl and commanding her to rise (Acts 9:40) as defense for communication with the dead is just the most recent example of the kind of "apologetic" material he produces.
In any case, Armstrong is so impressed with his own standing that he seems to think he can make up definitions for words as he goes along. It has been his practice for some time to arbitrarily define the phrase "anti-Catholic" so that he can use it of others but, due to a modern reading of Roman doctrine so as to allow for "separated brethren" to be called "Christians" while still anathematizing their theology, he can't be called an anti-Protestant. So, he arbitrarily defines the phrase so that since I deny Rome's gospel saves, I am an anti-Catholic, but since he can affirm, in some inconsistent and nebulous fashion, that I am a "Christian," then he is not an anti-Protestant.
Aside from the less than impressive coherence of such arbitrary definitions, Mr. Armstrong has, once again, in his zeal, and in his anger, missed the point. Let me see if I can clarify it, if not for him ("ears to hear"), at least for someone else.
There are anti-Catholics in the world. That is, their entire "ministry," their entire theology, is defined by their negative reaction to Catholicism. In the same way, there are anti-Mormons, anti-Jehovah's Witnesses, anti-Muslims, anti-Hindus, etc. and etc. Such folks are rarely stable in their faith, and are rarely deeply involved in the worship and service of the church, either. Most are ex-members of the groups that continue to define their lives. I've met them. We all have. And, may I add, there are anti-Protestants as well. There are Roman Catholics who are so focused upon denouncing non-Catholic theology and perspectives that they clearly can be identified with this phrase.
Now, I am a Protestant apologist. As the term Protestant is so very widely defined today, I prefer a little more specificity: I am a Reformed Baptist apologist. What I do I do not because I am focused upon any one group, but because I am focused positively upon my own profession of faith, and, I consistently defend that positive profession against those who deny its truthfulness. I am an elder, involved in the regular ministry of the church and the teaching of the Word. I have written numerous books on a wide variety of topics. I have defended Christianity in debate against Muslims and atheists; I have defended the Trinity against Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostals. I have taught, in formal seminary settings, such courses as Systematic Theology, Christology, Philosophy of Religion, Church History, Greek, Hebrew, special studies in Patristics, and numerous apologetics classes. Anyone who would insinuate that my life, my ministry, my writing, my entire ministry, is somehow defined by a negative stance toward a particular religion, or by Roman Catholicism in particular, is engaging in clear and gross falsehood.
Further, to be consistent, anyone who would insist upon calling me an "anti-Catholic" would have to likewise refer to me as an anti-Mormon, anti-Jehovah's Witness, anti-Muslim, anti-unitarian, anti-fill-in-the-rest. But who does this? And even if someone were to do so, would the effort not prove, by its ridiculous nature, that it would be far more logical to identify such a person positively by what motivates them and defines their teachings and ministry?
So, just as I refer to Roman Catholic apologists, Mormon apologists, Islamic apologists, etc., the honest person will refer to me as a Reformed Baptist apologist. As soon as you hear a person, or group, doing the "let's define our critics by our own theology" routine, you need to consider that they may well be using such language not to aid in understanding, but to diminish it through poisoning the well, prejudicing the thinking of especially their own supporters and followers. That is what Catholic Answers is up to. That is what Dave Armstrong is up to. And this activity says much about their motivations and the truthfulness of their teachings.