A bad argument for purgatory

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I’ve started listing to Pints with Aquinas very recently. So recently that I only just listened to episode four today. But you’ve had a few too many pints with Aquinas if you think the host’s argument for purgatory is a good one.

The podcast is well made and easy to listen to, and Matt Fradd presents it well. His dedication not only to his audience but to Christ is evident, and his passion is contagious. But I don’t know how long I’ll be listening. Time will tell. In today’s episode (ie the one I listened to today), I rolled my eyes as Matt repeated as fact the chestnut that all of the books used in the Catholic Bible were accepted by Christians until the Reformation, when Protestants started throwing out books that contradicted their theology. Nobody faithfully representing history in an informed manner would say this, as I’ve shown in the past. Is the podcast going to turn out to just be another bad Catholic apologetics ministry? I hope not. As I said, time will tell. The podcast might turn out to be my all-time favourite! Continue reading “A bad argument for purgatory”

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Support your local

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I understand the appeal of looking for that perfect church that is the “right fit” for you. I’ve engaged in that search, too. But as much as I understand that drive, I’ve been getting pushback against that from my own thoughts and growing convictions. In engaging in this sort of quest for the church that’s “just right for me,” we’re short-changing ourselves, we’re short-changing the local church we aren’t participating in, and we’re potentially distorting the wider Church. Continue reading “Support your local”

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Anglican Renewal

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“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C S Lewis

Interesting – and wonderful – things are happening in the Anglican Communion. I’ve been slow to acknowledge – actually, slow to see – that these are not isolated events, but part of a wider movement.

There are a couple of things I want to say about some of these recent developments. Some of it is on the more sorrowful side, as we see ugly outpourings of bitterness, misrepresentation, and ill-will from some quarters (sadly, from the leaders of the Church to which I belong) as they see the reach of their power shrinking and God’s Church growing beyond it. But that can wait. First, I want to hesitantly and cautiously invite you to rejoice and give thanks. I’m hesitant and cautious only because I’m only just beginning to see and to realise how good these developments are – I am sure that my confidence will grow. Continue reading “Anglican Renewal”

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Calvin and the Marian Doctrines

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Calvin did not accept the Marian doctrines. Without wanting to sound too rancorous, I have to say that anti-Protestant polemics can be the worst.

I’m sorry. I know that’s a very one-sided thing to say, but I encounter anti-Protestant polemics more than anti-Catholic polemics, because I’m not Roman Catholic. Sometimes the phenomenon goes by the name “Catholic apologetics,” as though it’s really a pro-Catholic thing, but that’s not how some of these warriors-for-Rome present themselves. They’re about claiming scalps in arguments.

I love some Catholic theologians and philosophers – and Catholic people in general. So I’m not going to refer to these people as just “Catholic scholars.” It would be unfair to Catholic scholars in general to lump them all together, which is why I keep open a category for anti-Protestant polemics, separate from Catholic scholarship. It’s a let-down for me, because some of the finest work in philosophical theology today has been produced by Roman Catholic Scholars (think Brian Leftow, Brian Davies, Edward Feser – EDIT: My mistake, Brian Leftow is not Catholic. He’s Anglican. But he sure writes like the best Catholic philosophers), so to turn from such fine minds and work to online blunt-axe-swinging warriors is a bit like swallowing the cheapest bourbon and cola money can buy after sampling a fine port.

That somewhat frustrated preamble aside, here’s what moved me to write this post. The other day I saw yet another anti-Protestant polemicist make the familiar claim: “Most Protestants would be surprised to learn that all the early Reformers accepted the Marian doctrines.” That’s not a direct quote, but it’s close (the part about all the early Reformers was central to the claim), and I’ve seen the claim made numerous times.

Continue reading “Calvin and the Marian Doctrines”

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This is the way. Walk in it.

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Oh, rebellious children, says the LORD, who carry out a plan, but not mine…
For they are a rebellious people, faithless children, children who will not hear the instruction of the LORD;
who say to the seers, “Do not see”; and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions,
leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”…
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your silver-covered idols and your gold-plated images. You will scatter them like filthy rags; you will say to them, “Away with you!”

(Isaiah 30)

For all the love I have of the Anglican tradition (which I describe as an ancient, evangelical and catholic tradition), it does have those pockets of soft, new-age intellectual goo that remind me there’s work to do. Continue reading “This is the way. Walk in it.”

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How are Anglicans Different from Catholics?

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No, Anglicans are not basically Catholics. So what’s the difference?

Some time ago when I publicly commented that I could easily consider “going Anglican,” one of the comments I got was from a Catholic, telling me that I would have come “half-way home.” Since then as many of you know, I have gone Anglican and when I have told people about it, I’ve heard remarks suggesting that some people really aren’t sure if there’s a difference between Catholics and Anglicans. I’ve had people ask me things like: Don’t Anglicans venerate statues of Mary? Don’t they have confessionals? Don’t they believe in Purgatory? The answer to these questions is no, but I know that there are people out there asking these and similar questions. Continue reading “How are Anglicans Different from Catholics?”

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This Is My Body: Using discernment when reading the Church Fathers on the Lord’s Supper

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I’ve gotten tired of apologetics efforts against Protestants that offer “A million bazillion scattered quotes from the Church Fathers that clearly, obviously prove that they thought X.” Proof-text warfare is easy, but generally worthless, and the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was the issue of what the Fathers believed about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. No more, please. That is not a respectful way to treat the Fathers on this or any subject. Continue reading “This Is My Body: Using discernment when reading the Church Fathers on the Lord’s Supper”

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Going Anglican: An (only somewhat) Unexpected Journey

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I’m coming out. Yes, I’m going Anglican, no, I haven’t lost my mind, and here’s roughly how and why it happened (and is still happening).

As I indicated in my last blog post (on entering the Anglican fray on marriage), my family and I have begun to attend the Anglican Church. I say “attend” because nothing has been signed in blood and no dark ceremonies have been performed to make anything official, but I’m sure that will happen in due course. I’ve even redecorated the blog in honour of this move.

This will be a surprise to some people. Continue reading “Going Anglican: An (only somewhat) Unexpected Journey”

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A Plea for Honesty about the Canon of the Bible

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Please stop saying that Protestants engaged in a novelty by tossing out seven books of the Bible that until then Christians had always treated as part of it. That is neither true nor fair.

Recently a friend of mine posed the question of whether or not it might be acceptable for any reason to add to the sixty-six books of the Bible. As you will likely be aware, the canon (i.e. the list of books that belong to the Bible) used by Protestants contains sixty-six books, but the canon used by Catholics contains seventy-three books. It didn’t take long for a Catholic friend of my friend to arrive on the scene and to reject the presupposition that the Bible contains sixty-six books: Continue reading “A Plea for Honesty about the Canon of the Bible”

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How not to argue against Protestantism

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Several months ago a Catholic friend of mine made a comment about a church. It was an Anglican church that every year seeks attention by putting up potentially offensive posters that have been known in the past to mock tradition Christian theology (the church has a reputation as being theologically liberal). My friend did not suggest that this showed that Anglicanism itself was wrong (it’s important to add that).

In a rather unfortunately display of something I see far too often when churches and their mistakes are being discussed, a fellow came along and suggested that (my paraphrase) this is what happens when churches abandon God’s true church that Jesus founded, the Catholic church, and they don’t follow the papacy, which is the true repository of apostolic teaching.  Then the argument was clearly stated: Without the English Reformation and the Anglican Church, the above incident would not have happened, and hence the Anglican church shouldn’t exist and the Reformation was a mistake.

So I replied to this stranger:

Greg, maybe a course in philosophy would help here, but the fact that A would not exist without B, and A is bad, does not mean that B should not exist. Sex abuse by Catholic priests would not exist if the Catholic Church did not exist. But clearly that does not mean that the Catholic church shouldn’t exist. Your partisanship is clouding your reason. Put down that hobby horse.

Of course the same is true of any church: Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists and so on. Churches, just like any organisation, provide a place where people can do the same bad things people would do no matter where they were. But this fellow was Catholic, so the above example was more appropriate.

Now what happened next? Was I offered a reason to re-think the logic of this counter-example? No. I received a message from Mr Matheson telling me that he didn’t “like” my comment, and asked that it be removed. Naturally, I declined. The only reasons to dislike the above statement might be that one sees that it undercuts their argument but can’t think of a good way to respond (as I believe was the case here), or one misunderstands the statement to mean its opposite, namely that sex abuse in the Catholic church does show that the Catholic church shouldn’t exist – although I struggle to see how anyone could honestly believe that this is what was meant.

Imagine my surprise then, when I logged into Facebook today and saw this:

There’s no recourse to this – no way of appealing or objecting to this bizarre decision, so that’s really the end of the matter – not that I mind. It’s just a Facebook conversation with a stranger after all. You can read Facebook’s community standards here, where I think you’ll see that in fact my comment doesn’t get close to violating any of them. As far as I can see this is nothing more than a case of intellectual cowardice in the utmost: Running scared from a rebuttal and then having it hidden from public view so that nobody sees how one’s argument was undermined.

But if this incident highlights anything, it offers advice to my Catholic friends: Don’t argue against Protestantism (or anything else) this way. Yes, the Reformation, like the counter-reformation, like Vatican II, like movements within medieval Catholicism, like movements within Protestantism, the scientific revolution, and indeed like the very existence of the Catholic church itself, may have made some unfortunate things possible. But that never, by itself, shows that something is wrong, that it should not exist, or that it should not have happened. If you do, you may end up with somebody offering a response that you really wish the world couldn’t see.

Glenn Peoples

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