Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#5)
12/17/2007 - James WhiteAs I have looked over my archives I see that almost three months have passed since my last installment in response to Steve Ray's attempt to defend the concept of the Bodily Assumption of Mary from Scripture. Of course, this 30 page pdf, cobbled together from various sources, is only partly on the subject of the Assumption. A large portion is but a shallow attack upon Ray's straw-man rendition of sola scriptura, another example of the very essence of the modern Roman Catholic apologetics movement. As I noted in my last installment, Ray has dismissed my replies, ignoring them completely, dismissing me as irrelevant and unimportant. Which explains, of course, why he wrote the original article! His evident inconsistencies aside, I still wish to finish the lengthy project of response, and in particular, to respond to the attempt to turn a simple incident in the narrative of the life of Solomon into a proof text for the Assumption. Simply presenting the Roman claims in their stark reality is normally enough to convince the thinking reader of the excesses of Roman "interpretation."
Turning again to Ray's article:
Are these Marian dogmas explicitly spelled out in the Bible? No. But ask yourself this: are all Protestant dogmas clearly spelled out in the Bible? No. There is often a double standard thrown in our faces. You Catholics cannot prove your doctrines from the Bible alone! You made them up!This kind of argumentation works well amongst those who have a strong desire to continue to believe in Rome's teachings, but they are next to useless in the apologetic arena (which is why you don't see Steve Ray actually engaging that arena directly, i.e., putting himself in the place of actually debating these issues). Ray continues to assume that his own background, which he admits was itself shallow and filled with ignorance, is the standard "evangelical" viewpoint, and he seems incapable of breaking out of that mold to provide more meaningful responses. Of course, Ray thinks such things as eschatological speculations are actually "Protestant dogmas," and in the circles from which he arose, maybe they were! But such is hardly relevant to a meaningful apologetic.
But good grief, where do they find their favorite doctrine of sola Scriptura explicitly stated in Scripture? We certainly have more warrant for trusting the authority of the Church and the need for Tradition (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6, etc.), than they have to prove their unbiblical doctrine of sola Scriptura. Where do we find their intricate Rapture theologies clearly stated? It is obvious they are not clearly stated because there are as many permutations on that Fundamentalist doctrine as there are heads. Where is the word trinity in the Bible, or where do we see it explicitly stated and explained.Again we can only smile as Ray demonstrates his inability to show meaningful understanding of the positions he denies; what is more, allegedly he was responding to me in this article, so why would he even comment on such things as "intricate 'Rapture' theologies"?
I am uncertain how many times I have heard someone on the sidewalk in Salt Lake, or at the doorstep on a Saturday morning, say, "But the word Trinity isn't in the Bible!" I can understand why the 19 year old Mormon missionary, or the wide-eyed Jehovah's Witness, would throw out this canard, but Steve Ray pretends to be a professional, doesn't he? How can he reproduce this kind of tripe and expect it to be accepted and have an impact, unless, of course, he is only writing for the kind of audience who finds this kind of rhetoric encouraging and likely to produce donations.
The fact is, there are multitudes of Protestant Magisteriums and independent competing petty popes developing their own theologies---many of which cannot be found explicitly in the Bible. There confusion and fragmentation can be demonstrated simply by the utter lack of uniformity among them. They disagree on just about everything. And when they read this they will probably cover their eyes and ears shouting "No, it is only Catholics who do that!"It is a common ploy of the less honest Roman Catholic apologists to over-play their hand. "There (sic: Their) confusion and fragmentation" is made to make it sound as if the major non-Catholic denominations are all preaching different gods, let alone different gospels. But as it has been demonstrated many times in the past, this involves 1) gross exaggeration and 2) a comparison of apples and oranges. The fact that there is broad and deep historical agreement on such doctrines as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the person and deity of the Holy Spirit, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the resurrection, etc., amongst those who reject Rome's self-proclaimed authority speaks loudly to the power of the Scripture, when they are believed, to produce substantial and meaningful unity on the central matters of the faith. But as Eric Svendsen has rightly pointed out, Ray is comparing apples to oranges once again when he compares a single group/denomination (Rome) to all non-Catholic denominations. A valid comparison would involve comparing all groups that believe and seek to practice sola scriptura to those who believe in an inspired Bible plus an infallible interpreter/magisterium that is necessary outside of the Bible. This would put Rome in the group with the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others. And which produces the most unanimity and harmony? Surely not the "Bible +" category---they can't even agree on God's nature, let alone much of anything else.
But finally, after all of the"pre-game activities," Ray says he is getting around to trying to substantiate his original claims regarding the Bible and the Assumption.
So, what about Mary? The Church has defined certain doctrines about the Mother of Our Lord. Does everything they define have to be explicitly stated in the Bible? No. The Church defined the extent of the New Testament canon with nothing in the canon itself to direct them. The Bibles Table of Contents is not inspired. Protestants should acknowledge that they piggy-back off the Catholic councils in order to know what books comprise their New Testament though Reformer John Calvin had his own inadequate theories to avoid the obvious.Is this an argument that "we made the canon, so we can define anything we jolly well want"? It is hard to say. Obviously, I do not believe for a second that the Roman church "defined the extent of the New Testament canon" or any such thing, and as I have gone into that subject at length elsewhere, I will not do so again here. Surely, Ray's dismissal of Calvin's comments on the topic is only indicative of an inability on his part to meaningful interact with them, especially since his own background would not be one that would include any deep reflection on canon topics (let alone much respect for Calvin in the first place).
I will now advance to the matter specifically at hand: does Scripture deny or forbid the idea of Mary being assumed into heaven as Queen. Or, just as importantly, is there warrant within Scripture to support the understanding of Mary as the Queen of Heaven, having been assumed by her Son to a throne in heaven.Note the dual standard that defines the massive chasm that separates Rome from those who look to the Bible as God's Word alone: the Bible does not, directly, deny or forbid any number of beliefs. The Bible does not, by name, deny the Book of Mormon is Scripture. It does not, by name, deny the Qur'an is divine revelation, either. And the very idea that it would have to do so is patently absurd as well, of course. These things came after the time of enscripturation, so to ask the Bible to deny revelations or dogmas or teachings that were utterly unknown at that time is an exercise in silliness. But even when Ray rightly identifies his only meaningful goal, that of whether the Scriptures are supportive of his position, he sets himself far too low a standard. Remember, Rome does not suggest this as a possible interpretation of events after the time of the Scriptures. Rome is not saying it is pious, or acceptable, to believe Mary was assumed into heaven. No, as I pointed out at the start, Rome's standard of proof here is absolute, for she has defined as a dogma this belief. Therefore, the standard of proof for this teaching is the very same as that to be had for proving the Trinity is a divine revelation determining the very heart of worship itself. If a dogma defines the very faith itself, and if one's eternal destiny is to be determined by one's obedience to such revelations, then presenting mere possibilities, analogies, or the like, will fail the test, to be sure.
Unfortunately, even here, Ray is not actually ready to get to his subject. As is the case with so much of this kind of writing, a good, strict editor could cut down the size of the volumes these men produce to a booklet if all the extraneous fog-making devices were to be removed. And such is the case here. Even when Ray claims he is getting to his point, he is actually just getting to the point where he repeats the standard Roman Catholic claims regarding every other Marian belief except the one he is allegedly defending. Specifically, we get page after page after page of "Oh look, we think we see something about Mary over here, and you might see a parallel over there, and oh, this scholar notes this word could be significant over here, look at all the bright pretty Marian baubles all over the place, isn't it wonderful?" Again, this works wonders for the already believing, it only makes the person seeking some evidence of sincerity and truthfulness on the part of Roman Catholic apologists mourn for the wasted ASCII code that goes into such charades. Normally, I would simply skip past all of this stuff, having responded to all of it repeatedly over the years, but since we are now around Christmas time, I think it might be good to at least stop long enough for another brief visit to the claims Ray makes about Revelation 12. At least in this case we can find some solid ground upon which to set up a few fans to blow away all the smoke and dust and see if Steve Ray can come up with something other than another example, to use James Swan's fine description, of a "footnote attack." To that I shall turn in the next installment.