Swimming the Tiber 40: The End?

When I started this series, my goal was simple: I wanted to explain myself. That is, I wanted to detail the changes my faith underwent over the years, to justify how I started my adult life as a Southern Baptist and am now a Roman Catholic. I haven’t addressed every possible issue (at some point, I want to talk about the beginning and end of the universe), nor have I talked about every aspect of Catholic theology that I like (I want to write another short series on prayer), but I’ve certainly hit the highlights. Almost every post in this 40-part series covers some aspect of theology or interpretation that is integral to my faith as a Catholic. (Not all of these aspects involved changes; such exceptions include original sin, abortion, and marriage, although certainly my understanding of each was clarified significantly.)

In that sense, this series is definitely an apology, but it was never meant to be a work of apologetics. I didn’t set out to convince anyone of the Catholic faith–only to explain my own. I think I’ve done that. If, by some chance, this discourse has piqued your interest in the Catholic Church, I want to encourage you to consider it further. Far better folk than I have made an earnest defense of the faith, from the second century to the fifth to the seventeenth to the twentieth and even into the twenty-first. Catholicism has been around for just shy of two thousand years now; the answers to your questions about it are out there, but you need to be willing to go to the source.

In case you have not caught on, this post concludes my Swimming the Tiber series. As I mentioned above, I do want to continue posting about my faith, but I will no longer strive to keep this rigorous pace (and I think my family shall thank me!). I will also endeavor to work again on things I have let go–the sequel to my first novel, 31 Prayers books, my translation of the New Testament (still in Romans). I might even find time to read again (perhaps once I’m done with graduate classes at the end of this year).

Of course, I’m happy to try to answer any questions you have for me, whether about my own faith life or about the Church. If nothing else, I hope you have learned something through my journey. If you’re not Catholic, I do hope you’ll keep your heart open to the Church. Not everyone who stands by her is perfect, and you will no doubt meet plenty of people who disagree with her doctrines; her authority has been abused in the past, but she has never taught error. Her primary purpose is to save your soul, and to do that, she points in every possible way to Christ. Becoming Catholic isn’t about choosing the right church, which makes you the final arbiter of faith; rather, it’s about becoming obedient to Christ and embracing the unity he desired for us by joining the Church he instituted.

So I guess I kind of took ten months to say this: I didn’t choose the Church. The Church clings to the Truth, the Λόγος. I had a professor once who explained how the Church holds the Truth: Scripture is the written Word; Tradition is the spoken Word; the sacraments are the enacted Word; and Jesus Christ, who comes to us in his whole Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist, is the living Word.

I will never settle for anything less than the whole Truth.

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Marian Study, Not Marian Apologetics

Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of GodHail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled with my selection of a star rating for this book; I vacillate between liking and disliking it. I liked it because it’s very forthright, very dedicated, very committed; I disliked it because Mr. Hahn allowed that dedication to surpass good judgment and good argumentation.

Before I get started with the major things, let me offer up very minor things. First, some people like puns; others don’t. If you don’t, you may not appreciate Mr. Hahn’s section titles–this is your fair warning. There are also a few typos and poor word choice that affect the flow of the prose, but nothing grammatically offensive.

Let me begin the meatier section with the good points. This is a good book for Catholics who want to know more about the history and basis of Marian devotion and Marian theology. It answers questions that Protestant objectors tend to raise, and it presents information based on Scripture and Tradition to back up those answers. It does all of this with the impassioned voice of someone who truly adheres to the teachings of the Church on these matters, which are often difficult for non-Catholics to consider.

But this is not a good apologetic book, and it should not be given to Protestants.

We (human beings) are emotional creatures. In many ways, and at many times, we allow our emotions to influence our judgment. A book that is poorly worded, or a book that chooses phrasing and imagery that is insulting from an opposing point of view, loses almost all the ground it may gain through good sourcing and effective argumentation. “Hail, Holy Queen” suffers from this problem. One main trouble is not that Mr. Hahn did not know his Bible, or that he did not know his papal documents or council documents or Augustinian writings–the trouble was that he, on more than one occasion, made statements that would be emotionally objectionable for a disagreeing reader. He also made several key errors in argumentation, which I will address as I come to them.

While Mr. Hahn’s knowledge of Scripture and Tradition seems well-established, so far as I can tell, his Roman history is somewhat lacking. It seems a crucial point, for example, that he interpret the beast of the sea (in Revelation) as the Roman dynasty that empowered the Herodian dynasty to oppress the Christians–but he says that there were “10 Caesars” from Julius Caesar to Vespasian. It should be pointed out that the dynastic view of the Roman emperors does not run from Julius to Vespasian, but from Julius to Nero, and from Galba to Domitian, and from Nerva to Commodus, and so on. Furthermore, the name “Caesar” truly belonged to Julius Caesar, but in classic Roman style, it was applied to nearly every emperor until the 4th century (to the point where “Caesar” became synonymous with “emperor,” which is why the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was called the Kaiser and the emperor of Russia the Czar). It only stopped in the 4th century because, by then, it was the job title instead of a name. One of the exceptions to this naming custom, of course, was Vitellius–the emperor immediately preceding Vespasian. Nevermind that Octavian (“Caesar Augustus”) was, at best, adopted by Julius Caesar, but still had to win a civil war to become emperor himself.

From time to time, Mr. Hahn also made statements that eroded his own position. He quoted Tertullian, for example, to summarize Catholic Mariology–and immediately pointed out that Tertullian’s Mariology is mostly flawed and erroneous. This almost nullifies the quote, and one must wonder: could there not have been a better quote, from a more reputable source?

Chapter 5 is something of a turning point in the book. In the first four chapters, Mr. Hahn is focused on establishing Mary as the culmination of a number of Old Testament types. In Chapter 5, he finally addresses, in so many words, the Marian doctrines of the Catholic Church (the perpetual virginity, the Immaculate Conception, and the Assumption). Yet it is here that he begins to struggle with clear argumentation. He proposes that Mary (as a person) be the focus of this study, since she is not merely a collection of ideas–yet the ideas are what must be discussed, because there is no serious historian who denies the existence of the person of Mary. More than once, Mr. Hahn makes blanket statements and broad assumptions, declaring as fact things that are not in evidence and have not been established earlier in the book, ostensibly to establish Mary as a “person”–an establishment which no one will controvert, though they will certainly controvert the assumptions.

He first makes bold claims, and asks his reader (who may have doubts about Mary and Marian doctrine) to establish Mary (as taught by the Catholic Church) as the goal of the discussion–not to discuss the doctrines and how she might fit them, but to run towards those doctrines as though towards a finish line. This is counterproductive to the discussion, because the opposing mind will simply refuse, and no ground will be gained. He uses the earlier chapters of the book to justify his assumptions, but those earlier chapters have not yet been proved to the doubtful reader–making these new statements all the more dubious. He even uses emotional arguments from popular belief and popular historical opinion.

None of these arguments are effective, but rather, they are counterproductive to the intended goal of increased understanding of Marian doctrine and greater devotion to Mary as our exemplar.

At one point, Mr. Hahn seems to suggest that the doctrine of perpetual virginity arose, not from fact or historical understanding or theological necessity, but from an oversimplification caused by creedal speech (i.e., that “born of the Virgin Mary” equivocates Mary with Virginity). He uses the more ambiguous term “brethren” to translate adelphoi–probably because it sounds more gender inclusive, but it comes across as intentionally avoiding the “from the [same] womb” literal translation that Mr. Hahn insists upon in later chapters.

Perhaps Mr. Hahn’s most egregious mistake is to use language and arguments that would be emotionally charged for a Protestant reader–especially a reader looking for any reason to discount this book, and all it contains, as hogwash. He uses terms like “unfamiliar,” “non-issue,” and “amateur” to describe anyone who would disagree with the interpretation of Scripture that he posits. He oversimplifies the nature of sin by equating it to an auto mechanic overcharging for services. He says outright in two different places that one’s acceptance of the Gospel can be measured by one’s acceptance of Marian doctrine. He engages in poor word choice, talking about the “union” of Mary’s human will with God’s divine will–clear enough to a theologian that understands the distinctions between that “union” and, say, the hypostatic union of Christ, but unclear to someone who may think Mr. Hahn is again trying to deify Mary. At one point, he seems to say that the Church is only the spouse of Christ and the mother of the faithful (a common point of agreement between Catholics and Protestants) only because Mary was those things first (and so Mr. Hahn removes the common ground he might otherwise have had). He frames Mary and the Church in opposition, saying that Mary is over there with God, and the Church is over here, trying (in vain) to emulate her. This, indeed, seems to be the only case of genuine overreach on Mr. Hahn’s part–going beyond the Mariology that seems acceptable to suggest that Mary is exterior to the Church, rather than an exemplary part of it, and that the Church is merely a type of Mary.

He closes the argumentative portion of the book (prior to the final chapter, which advocates caution and love in the face of opposition, and the appendix, which is, in many ways, a redeeming passage) with the declaration that the Church should not put ecumenism before Mariology; he surely did not mean it as such, but at this point in the book, it almost sounds like justification for his occasionally uncharitable tone.

All that to say, I vacillated between liking and disliking this book. Clearly, I had more negative things to say than positive, but that usually happens when I take notes. This book is very good for Catholics who want to know more about Mary, but I maintain that it is not a good work of Marian apologetics.

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Effective or Fallacious?

OrthodoxyOrthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A re-read is sometimes a wonderful thing. It’s especially useful when I have attained a greater depth of understanding for the work that I am re-reading. This book is one such case.

Chesterton’s work is rightly praised by Christian readers everywhere. His honest approach to the agnostic and atheistic arguments of his day is compelling and persuasive. His prose is entertaining, his thoughts illuminating, and his conclusions reasonable.

All of this, of course, is such to a Christian audience.

The only negative things I can think to say are these: Chesterton tends to simplify his opponents’ arguments; and he tends to ridicule his opponents themselves.

From a pro-Chesterton perspective, he is distilling opposing arguments to their root beliefs, pointing out that necessary (if unspecified) premises are false, and ultimately destroying the agnostic and atheistic conclusions by those means. From an anti-Chesterton perspective, he is committing either the reductio ad absurdum or the straw man fallacy.

From a pro-Chesterton perspective, he is treating his opponents’ ideas with the incredulity and disdain they deserve. From an anti-Chesterton perspective, he is committing the ad hominem fallacy.

Ultimately, I think the book works very well and succeeds where many other apologetics works have failed (in no small part because it is a chronicle of personal experience and not a work of apologetics)–but I can see how some of Chesterton’s then-and-now intellectual opponents would severely disagree.

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“If Protestantism Is True,” Part Deux

Recently, I wrote about a book entitled “If Protestantism Is True,” by Devin Rose. Even more recently, Mr. Rose replied to my review with comments of his own. This is the exchange that followed:

Nathaniel,

In fact, most people – especially religious and spiritual people of the evangelical Christian variety – think in purely emotional terms.

Yes, and that’s a problem. Mormons feel the bosom-burning and think Mormonism must be true. People have to learn to reason, and my book encourages them to do that. So it is not that I “didn’t realize” Evangelicals are often emotion-driven but that appealing to emotions is not the right way one should go about discerning where God’s truth is found.

The book does not engage with genuine issues, but mocks straw men.

This assertion is false as I will demonstrate by responding to your criticisms.

He emphasizes over and over against a series of arguments from origin, implying or claiming that if someone accepts the teachings of one person or group (such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, or the Anabaptists), that someone must accept all other teachings of that person or group as well.

Of course Protestants pick and choose what they believe, but my point is that it is ad hoc to pick and choose one thing from an authority while rejecting another. Protestants look to the Reformers as authorities, accepting various doctrines based on their authority, yet when confronted with other teachings of the Reformers, they reject them because they are too Catholic, or seem unpleasant, etc. What I do in the book is to help Protestants realize where their particular beliefs first originated (say, for instance, purely symbolic communion championed by Zwingli), so that they can think critically about how and why they came to accept that belief.

Beyond that, he also lacks studious knowledge of Protestant theological doctrines. Some Protestant groups, for example, support prima Scriptura, the idea that Scripture is first among theological authorities, and that all other (potential) authorities must be measured by it.

It can and has been shown, deductively, prima Scriptura is really sola Scriptura and sola Scriptura reduces to solo Scriptura–that is, under Protestantism, that the individual is the ultimate interpretive authority of the Scriptures. So it is not that I “lacked studious knowledge of Protestant theological doctrines,” but rather that prima Scriptura is a semantic illusion that really reduces to sola Scriptura.

Regarding public revelation’s closure, you said:

Clearly, he hasn’t read Revelation 22:19 or the many relevant interpretations thereof.

I have read that passage, and the book of Revelation as a whole, many many times. That passage in Revelation is referencing the Book of Revelation itself. As the previous verse states: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.” Note, “this scroll” and the plagues recounted therein. A similar thing is said in Deuteronomy 4:2 yet no one thinks that subsequent inspired books that were written violated that command. It was specific to that part of Deuteronomy.

So again, you are quite mistaken, both about what I have read and in how well I understand Protestantism.

In one place, he is quick to point out that the Scriptures did not exist as such until long after the death of the last Apostle – and yet, in another place, he acts as if John knew that his letters would become sacred Scripture, and that Apostle neglecting to include information in that letter meant that Tradition must be true.

Please cite where I “point out that the Scriptures did not exist as such until long after the death of the last Apostle.” I assume you are referring to some part of the canon of Scripture chapter. But I have never said the Scriptures didn’t exist–of course they existed the moment they were written–but it did take the Church centuries to discern the complete canon.

The Apostle Paul wrote four letters to the church in Corinth, yet Scripture preserves only the first and the fourth (which we now call 1 and 2 Corinthians). If the Church left certain apostolic writings out of the canon, might it not be that God intended for a certain sermon to be left out? So may go a Protestant counter-argument.

You don’t understand sacred Tradition. Those sermons are lost to Protestants, but they are not lost to Catholicism, because their content was absorbed as part of sacred Tradition, through the local Churches that read the letters.

Ironically, Mr. Rose concludes his book by encouraging his readers to follow the Protestant model of authority, and decide for themselves where the fullness of truth resides.

You make an error here. The difference between choosing to become Catholic or Protestant does NOT lie in the fact that a person uses his intellect to study and research the data to make a decision. We as rational beings cannot help but do that, and we should do that, because that is how God made us. So my recommendation to study and decide is not the Protestant model of authority. The Protestant model of authority is making oneself the ultimate interpretive authority of Scripture (and indeed, choosing which books to accept as inspired in the first place). The difference between becoming Catholic vs. remaining Protestant is what is discovered (or not) in the search. The person who becomes Catholic discovers the Church that Christ founded, the living Church that even today is guided by God “into all truth.” The person can submit to this Church as he submits to Christ, believing that Christ will only lead him to truth and good. The person who does not become Catholic fails to discover anything outside of his own opinion about what is the content of divine revelation. He thus remains his own ultimate interpretive authority.

Finally, note that the book was written for both Catholics and Protestants, and many have remarked to me how helpful it has been in their lives, even those who have not (yet) become Catholic.

God bless,
Devin

I replied:

Dear Mr. Rose,

I appreciate the time and effort you have applied in critiquing my response to your work. As a writer myself, I understand how important it is that others view one’s work accurately and do not twist it for their own purposes.

With that in mind, I intend to clarify what I have said, especially in those areas where I may have been more personal in my remarks than focused on the content. (Please bear in mind that, by now, it has been some time since I read your book, and my memory is a faulty thing.)

*

I completely agree with your assessment of the problem of pathos-based philosophy. It is neither the most efficient nor the most accurate means of determining truth. But given that so many are enrapt by that method, it behooves us to engage them on a level they comprehend. “Be all things to all men,” as St. Paul writes to the apologists and evangelists that follow him. We may present a profound and coherent logical argument for the Catholic Church, but if our audience speaks only in emotion, we have accomplished little. That, in essence, was my objection: I am concerned that your treatment of the subject matter is more logical than that from which the average reader may benefit.

*

In my experience, both as a Protestant and in conversation with Protestants, those who think about their faith enough to accept one teaching and reject another do not make that assessment on any basis of authority. That decision comes, rather, from a judgment of the theory or position as it relates to the beliefs they already hold. For those who operate in this manner, an appeal to authority is quite meaningless, since they hold to no authority but their own. I am certain that, for those who adhere to the teachings of Calvin or Luther (or their intellectual descendants) as taught and without variation, yours is an extremely effective argument. But that does not apply, as I have seen it, to the majority.

*

Logical reductionism may very well present prima Scriptura as sola Scriptura, and sola Scriptura as solo Scriptura. The same methods may also reduce agnosticism to atheism, and atheism to nihilism, but no agnostic will appreciate such an argument. Again, my concern is that apologetics should approach readers where they see themselves, not only where we see them. I do not disagree that prima Scriptura and sola Scriptura are functionally similar, if not identical, but there are many Protestants who disagree with that notion; it is better, I think, to acknowledge that and work with it than to dismiss it out of hand.

*

On the closure of public revelation, two quick points.

First, I am not arguing for the Protestant interpretation of the passage in Revelation, but pointing out that it exists. In your book, you declared (without even mentioning the passage in Revelation) that Protestants have no Scriptural basis for claiming the closure of public revelation, but a Protestant familiar with that doctrine would be quick to bring up Revelation 22 (as I did). It would have been better, I think, to address that possible interpretation (and point it out as fallacious) than to pretend it does not exist.

Second, as to whether there are any who believe Scripture ended with Deuteronomy… I am not certain that they based their belief on Deuteronomy 4:2 (although it would surprise me if they did not), but I do know that many Biblical scholars hold that the Sadducees limited their canon to the Torah (thereby eliminating certain doctrines to which the Pharisees adhered), both on the authority of Josephus and on evidence regarding their beliefs in the New Testament. I do not argue that either Protestants or Sadducees are correct in this regard, but I will not hesitate to point out that they certainly believe it.

*

I confess that I have misplaced the page reference for the earlier of those two assertions. I want to clarify, however, that neither your work (nor my representation of it) asserts that Scripture did not exist, but rather that it was not, in public view, the corpus of Scripture held today (which is quite accurate). The issue I took with this was that if there was no New Testament, then John could not (or should not) have presumed that every letter he wrote to one (little-C) church would be canonized. The argument that his obviation of certain teachings proves Tradition is a viable support of the doctrine, but not very convincing to those who disagree with it.

*

Curiously, you make my point for me here. Protestants, as a rule, do not understand the doctrine of Sacred Tradition. Their argumentation, therefore, falls along the lines I have indicated: if such-and-such written by the Apostles wasn’t good enough for Scripture (in their vision, the ultimate measure of faith), then the “lost” sermons are equally irrelevant. The Catholic position, on the other hand, is that neither the sermons nor the letters were lost, but that everything beneficial and productive was retained in Tradition.

There is a fundamental disconnect between these positions, allowing Protestants to produce counter-arguments such as the one I have postulated–a counter-argument against which you prepared no defense in your book. (That cannot, of itself, be judged, since no one can predict all possible counter-arguments to one’s position, and if you tried, your book would never end. But I thought this one particularly poignant.)

*

On the close of the book: the Protestant model of authority is to make oneself the ultimate authority on everything. My point, though not well-established, was that in order to become Catholic, Protestants must sacrifice that authority and submit to the authority of the Church. In order to make that judgment, however, they first must utilize the very authority which they must abandon. It is a paradox, a mystery, and exactly the sort of method I find agreeable in the God Who chose to die so that death itself may die.

I apologize for characterizing that as a judgment on you.

*

My only comment on the issue of audience is that the introduction of your work might have been more effective with a clear declaration of your audience; if only there had been a statement in an early chapter, explaining that you were writing to both curious Protestants and doubtful Catholics, I think many of my objections would have been softened. My frustration was that, lacking a declared audience, Protestants alone were the apparent audience, and that led to some confusion and irritation on my part, and for that, I apologize.

I apologize, too, for the personal rancor reflected in several of my remarks in my original review. I admit that I often become overzealous in my comments, which may lead to hurt.

Finally, I want to express how overjoyed I am that your work has brought others closer to Christ. There is, in my estimation, no greater praise than that your efforts have benefited an endangered soul, and I rejoice with you that you have received such praise.

Sincerely,
Nathaniel Turner

And, graciously, Mr. Rose replied,

Nathaniel,

That is a gracious response, kind and charitable. I see the validity in your points and agree that the book could have been better in those regards. Specifically, you are right that many Protestants do not care a wit what Luther and Calvin say, even if many of their beliefs stem directly from those men.

God bless and thanks again!
Devin

From Apologetics High to Apologetics Low

If Protestantism is True If Protestantism is True by Devin Rose
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After reading Francis de Sales’ work on essentially the same topics, this book was very disappointing. I have very little good to say about it, to the point that I have to intersperse my positive comments among my negative comments. I shall endeavor to be as succinct as possible.

There are a number of typos in this book; there is inconsistent capitalization of divine pronouns (at one place “he,” at another “He,” both referring to God or Jesus Christ), missing prepositions, mistyped words (“is” instead of “it” or vice versa), and even one place where “whom” is written, but it really should be “who.” And in the title itself, “is” should be capitalized. (For anyone grammatically minded, the title is not otherwise incorrect; even though Mr. Rose did not use the subjunctive “If Protestantism Were True,” he poses his arguments as factual, not counterfactual, so the indicative “If Protestantism Is True” is correct.)

Other than typography, there are two root issues in this book which pervade its content and produce every other complaint I have. These are the problems of audience and rhetoric.

Mr. Rose cannot seem to decide on his audience. Superficially, he is writing to curious Protestants, trying to convince them of the truth of Catholicism, but very little of the book seems effectively geared toward this purpose. In many places, it is much better suited to convincing Catholics to remain Catholic (i.e., not to become Protestant). Elsewhere, he seems to be admonishing Catholic educators for their shortcomings, and exhorting them to improve the catechesis of the faithful. In no place does he seem assured of his audience; if he doesn’t know to whom he’s writing, how can I know if he’s writing to me?

The second root issue is his rhetoric. This stems from the nature of his argumentation. Everything seems framed in a system of skepticism and incredulity, logically questioning every thought and doctrine until it proves itself. Probably, this comes from Mr. Rose’s youth as a staunch atheist, as well as the process by which he became Christian, then Catholic specifically. While that is unsurprising, Mr. Rose should realize that very few people fit into this mold. In fact, most people – especially religious and spiritual people of the evangelical Christian variety – think in purely emotional terms. “How does this make me feel?” they ask, or, “Does this offend my sensibilities?” Most people do not stop to consider the logical ramifications of their position, because to do so would often be unpleasant.

In short, this book is the author’s personal conversion experience masquerading as rhetoric.

Keeping in mind this disconnect in argumentative style (logical versus emotional), what Mr. Rose intends to be distant and methodical comes off as a harsh invective against Protestant theology. He uses evocative and emotional terms to describe (or, more accurately, ridicule) theological points. He does, on occasion, show a great deal of respect for Protestants and their efforts, but his manner of doing so reminds me of the old saying, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” He often praises Protestant endeavors to expand and strengthen the Kingdom of God (although it seems to me he should have opened the book with that praise, but he did not). Yet at the same time, much of the book (especially any paragraph that follows the phrase, “If Protestantism is true,” in italics) is a reductio ad absurdum for nearly every Protestant belief or argument. The book does not engage with genuine issues, but mocks straw men. This sort of under-the-belt treatment suggests that Catholicism is not strong enough to stand on its own, but must be defended by “fighting dirty” with fallacious arguments.

Another downside of this book being based entirely on his personal experience is his ignorance of Protestant belief. According to this book, he spent approximately one year as a Protestant, and since that time has been a Catholic for ten years. He has done extensive reading on the subject, but he barely lived his Protestant beliefs day-to-day. As a result, he does not understand the way born-and-bred Protestants think (or, at least, not as well as he thinks he does).

A major issue is his inherent misunderstanding of the Protestant view of authority. As suggested by his conclusion, most of the book is enforcing the notion that authority must exist, and must be followed. He emphasizes over and over against a series of arguments from origin, implying or claiming that if someone accepts the teachings of one person or group (such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, or the Anabaptists), that someone must accept all other teachings of that person or group as well. For example, if one rejects the perpetual virginity of Mary, as some Anabaptists did, one must also deny discussion of the Trinity, as some Anabaptists did. This is directly contrary to the very notion of Protestantism, i.e., that each Christian must decide for him-/herself what to believe.

Beyond that, he also lacks studious knowledge of Protestant theological doctrines. Some Protestant groups, for example, support prima Scriptura, the idea that Scripture is first among theological authorities, and that all other (potential) authorities must be measured by it. This is separate and distinct from sola Scriptura, which Mr. Rose ascribes to all Protestants, but more accurately describes only the Anabaptists and their intellectual descendants.

In another place, he points out that Protestants attest that public revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle, but claims that they do so with absolutely no Scriptural backing (and he spends two pages admonishing them for this). Clearly, he hasn’t read Revelation 22:19 or the many relevant interpretations thereof.

And then, ironically, he accuses Protestants at large (and even mentions one by name) of being as ignorant and insulting as he is.

There are still more rhetorical blunders among the pages of this small book. Let me close with just a few:

While it is emotionally and spiritually painful to consider, the idea that your opponent’s position would condemn millions of souls to Hell is not, in and of itself, an argument – yet Mr. Rose uses it as such on numerous occasions.

In one place, he is quick to point out that the Scriptures did not exist as such until long after the death of the last Apostle – and yet, in another place, he acts as if John knew that his letters would become sacred Scripture, and that Apostle neglecting to include information in that letter meant that Tradition must be true. There are reasoned, Scriptural arguments in favor of Tradition; this isn’t one of them.

On a related note, he claims that Protestants dismiss unwritten sermons as “unknowable,” that their content was unimportant and therefore irrelevant. In so doing, Mr. Rose ignores that the Catholic Church, when deciding the New Testament canon, had certain writings of the Apostles (notably Paul) and determined them to be unnecessary for sacred Scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote four letters to the church in Corinth, yet Scripture preserves only the first and the fourth (which we now call 1 and 2 Corinthians). If the Church left certain apostolic writings out of the canon, might it not be that God intended for a certain sermon to be left out? So may go a Protestant counter-argument.

Ironically, Mr. Rose concludes his book by encouraging his readers to follow the Protestant model of authority, and decide for themselves where the fullness of truth resides.

Mr. Rose’s work is indicative of the mindset many Catholics have toward Protestant Christians. While this book may be useful to convince Catholics not to fall away from the Church, it is not likely to be effective among Protestants who are not already questioning everything they believe.

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