Apologetics for the Masses #225 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

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General Comments

Hey folks,

Just wanted to let you know that I gave a new talk this weekend here in Birmingham that we recorded.  It's title is: "Genesis and Evolution (What Do Catholics Believe?)."  I should be picking up the master copy of it in the next day or two, so, if there are no problems with the recording, I hope to make it available sometime in the next few weeks.  In it I talk about Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Theistic Evolution, and Atheistic Evolution.  The folks who heard it live seemed to like it, so I hope you will as well. 

The only speaking engagement I have lined up between now and Christmas is at St. Jude's in Sylacauga, Alabama, on Wednesday, December 11th.  If you're in that area, just call the church and they can give you the particulars.


This week I'm continuing with my book, Blue Collar Apologetics (subtitle yet to be determined).  I'm spending a lot of time on chapter 1 - Authority - because it is, as I say in the book, at the very heart of all the differences between Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians.  Again, this is a first draft, so the finished product, while it should look similar, may not be exactly as presented here.  If you wish to read the rest of what has been written, simply go to: www.biblechristiansociety.com, click on the "Newsletter" page, and scroll down to the last few issues. 

Blue Collar Apologetics - Chapter 1, Authority (cont'd)

That’s the Best You Can Do

The fact that the individual Protestant’s belief system is based on his, or someone’s, fallible opinion of the Bible is a very important point to make in your discussion with any Protestant.  I have had discussions about the Catholic Faith with numerous Protestant ministers.  One in particular that I want to bring up here, as an example of what I’m talking about, was with a minister of an “independent Bible church.”  Not five minutes into the conversation, I asked him, “Are you infallible?”  “Absolutely not,” he said, “no man can claim infallibility.”  “So,” I continued, “that means, under your set of beliefs, our discussion here is basically your fallible opinion of Scripture vs. my fallible opinion of Scripture.  That’s the best you can do, right?”

Now, he never would admit to that directly, but he did finally admit to it indirectly when he said, “Well, by your own words, the best you can do is your fallible opinion of Scripture vs. my fallible opinion of Scripture.”  “No,” I replied, “I never said anything of the sort.  You see, the best that I can do in this conversation is the infallible teaching of the Church founded by Jesus Christ vs. your private, fallible opinion of Scripture.”  Now, that of course, did not sit too well with him and he immediately starting talking about how the Catholic Church had contradicted itself at least twice, that he knew of, during the last 2000 years and so it couldn’t be infallible and so on.  I told him that the Catholic Church had never contradicted itself in terms of it’s doctrinal or moral teaching.  I then asked what those two contradictions were that he was referring to.  Guess what?  He could not recall them right off hand...hhhmmm.

The point is, though, that I had him thinking about his fallibility.  I had him thinking that he just maybe he could be wrong on some of the things he was saying to me.  Now, he never actually admitted that out loud, but I knew by the direction of our conversation that I had him at least considering the possibility.  I made him realize that his theological system - the theological system of all of Protestantism, actually - is basically one in which no one can ever have an answer that they are absolutely, 100% sure of...no one!  A seed was planted.  Was it a seed that fell on good soil?  I don’t know, but I know it was planted.

Infallibility and Authority

The experience I had with that independent Bible church pastor highlights why the question of infallibility is so important in any discussion related to authority.  If no one has the ability to teach infallibly on faith and morals as the pastor claims, and as pretty much all of Protestantism claims; if no one can infallibly decide what is an authentic Christian doctrine and what is not; if no one can infallibly decide disagreements between Christians in the areas of faith and morals; then what are we left with?  We are left with a theological system wherein the best possible scenario we can ever have in a dispute over what is and is not authentic Christian teaching, is the scenario I presented to that pastor: My private fallible interpretation of Scripture vs. your private fallible interpretation of Scripture.  That’s the best we can possibly hope to do.  

Which means, according to Protestant theology, God basically left each one of us on our own to decide what is right and what is wrong when it comes to Christian teaching.  All of Protestantism is essentially built on the belief that God gave us no authoritative means by which to be able to have a certain knowledge of the truth of His teachings.  Oh, He gave us an inspired and inerrant book, but He didn’t give us anyone who could authoritatively tell us whether or not we have properly interpreted and understood that book.  He didn’t give us anyone who could authoritatively decide a dispute between Christians who disagree as to what this or that passage of that book means.    

Now, do most Protestants ever say such a thing?  No, they don’t.  They don’t, because most Protestants have probably never even thought about infallibility from this particular perspective - they have never been made to think this infallibility question all the way through.  I know that Bible church pastor I just mentioned had never thought about it in the way I presented it to him.  

So, two men disagree on a particular interpretation of the Bible.  One believes, for example, the Bible teaches once saved, always saved - eternal security.  The other believes the Bible does not teach eternal security - that one can indeed lose one’s salvation.  They are both Protestant Christians.  They are both God-fearing men.  They both love Jesus.  They both pray to the Holy Spirit.  They both cite Scripture passages to back up their belief.  Yet, they have completely different and contradictory interpretations of Scripture in this matter.  Is there a way to know with absolute certainty who is right and who is wrong?  No, there isn’t.  At least, not within Protestantism.

Why not?  Because there is no one in all of Protestantism who has the authority to decide the matter with absolute certainty...to decide the matter...infallibly.  Having an infallible authority is absolutely necessary in a situation such as this because without the guarantee of infallibility, then how can any decision between two such positions ever be binding on all Christians?  

Who, among Protestants, if they have a disagreement with their pastor over the interpretation of a particular verse or verses of the Bible, will say to themselves, “Well, even though I believe my interpretation of the Bible is the correct one, I’m going to believe what my pastor says on this because he has been given binding authority over me?” I dare say few, if any, would ever say such a thing.  Why not?  Because the same things they say about the Pope, and Catholic priests in general, apply to their pastors:  “Who does he think he is?”  “He’s no different than I am.”  “God hasn’t set anyone apart in the Body of Christ, we are all members of the priesthood of believers.”  “The Holy Spirit guides all believers into the truth, not just him.”  

If there is no Protestant minister who can teach infallibly on faith and morals - no Protestant minister who can infallibly interpret each and every passage of Scripture - then there is no Protestant minister whose teachings and decisions cannot be questioned as possibly being wrong.  The same is true for all Protestants, pastors or otherwise.  There is no Protestant whose beliefs cannot be questioned as possibly being wrong.  Again, for the Catholic, this ought to give you a great deal of confidence when talking to Protestants because, ultimately, the best they can say is, “Well, I believe your fallible interpretation of Scripture is wrong and my fallible interpretation of Scripture is right.”  To which you can always answer, “But, since you’re fallible, you could be wrong, right?”  

However, as I have previously said, it will be a rare moment when you actually have the Protestant - minister or lay person - actually admit they could be wrong.  I have asked the question, “Are you infallible?” of probably hundreds of Protestants in the last few years, and you would not believe the verbal gymnastics some folks will go through to not admit that.  And, again, I usually ask this question after they have denied that the Pope is infallible, and oftentimes after they have denied that any man is infallible.  Yet, they have difficulty just coming right out and saying that they are infallible.  Why?  Because they know exactly what the implication of their answer is.  If they admit they are not infallible, then they are de facto admitting that anything and everything they just said or are about to say about the Catholic Church, the Bible, their own faith - could be wrong.  And they just don’t want to go there.

I have had, though, a small percentage of people to whom I have asked that question, like the independent Bible church pastor mentioned above, who have been honest and open enough to admit, “No, I am not infallible.”  But, from that small percentage of people who will admit they are not infallible, I have had only a small percentage who would actually admit that they are fallible and could possibly be wrong in their interpretations of the Bible and could possibly be wrong in what they are saying about the Catholic Church.  It’s been a fascinating phenomenon to witness.  I encourage you to ask these questions of every Protestant you know who has ever told you the Catholic Church is wrong in this or that teaching.  Ask them: “Are you infallible?”  And see if they admit to not being infallible.

If they admit that indeed they are not infallible, then follow up with: “So, since you admit that you are not infallible - which is the same thing as admitting that you are fallible - that means you could, possibly, be wrong in any of your interpretations of Scripture and in regard to what you are saying about the Catholic Church, right?” But, it seems to be much easier to admit, “I am not infallible,” than to admit, “I could be wrong about my interpretations of Scripture and about the Catholic Church,” even though the first admission absolutely implies the second.  I need no more than one hand to count all of those that I have asked these questions of, who actually answered, “Yes, since I am fallible, I could be wrong about my interpretations of Scripture and about the Catholic Church and its teachings.”  

What you will likely have happen when you start asking these questions, is something along the lines of what happened during my conversation with the aforementioned Bible church pastor.  After declaring very strongly that, “No man can claim infallibility,” he then proceeded to expand on that declaration.  I listened to what he had to say, and then I simply asked, “Well, since you said no man is infallible, that would include you, correct?”  He took a moment or two to think about the question, and then he said, “Yes, that would include me.  No man is infallible.”  “So,” I continued, “that would mean that your interpretation of those verses you just gave me could be wrong, right?”      You would think, at least I would think, that someone who is trapped by logic in such a  situation, would just go ahead and admit that, yes, they could, theoretically, be wrong.  But, as I’ve said, that rarely happens.  They might admit to not being infallible, but they rarely admit to being wrong.  They say they are not infallible, but they act as if they are.  So what happened?  After I asked him if his interpretation of the Scripture verses he mentioned could be wrong, he started talking to me about how he was guided by the Holy Spirit when reading the Bible, and how it was the Holy Spirit that was leading him to the understanding of those verses that he had come to.  To which I replied, “But, now I’m confused, if the Holy Spirit is guiding you in your interpretations of Scripture, then you are indeed infallible, are you not?  I mean, after all, the Holy Spirit doesn’t commit any error, does He?”  

He then started talking about how Protestants “exegete” Scripture while Catholics “eisegete” Scripture.  In other words, he was trying to avoid directly answering my question.  And he very kindly explained to the ignorant Catholic that to exegete Scripture means to simply let Scripture speak for itself.  To take the message of Scripture as Scripture gives it, and not “add anything to it, as you Catholics do.”  He also explained to me that to eisegete Scripture means to make Scripture say what you want it to say.  To come to Scripture with pre-set beliefs and force those beliefs into the Scripture by adding things to Word of God, “as you Catholics do.”  

But then I just brought it all back to the beginning, “But, if you’re fallible, then you could be wrong in everything you just said, right?”  (By the way, I use the word “right” a lot when talking directly to Protestants, because that one word turns a statement into a question.  A statement: “But if you’re fallible, then you could be wrong in everything you just said,” does not necessarily call for a response.  By adding, “right?” to the end of that statement to turn it into a question, you are essentially demanding a response.)

Again, he refused to admit that he could be wrong.  He even, at one point in the conversation, asked me if my interpretation of a particular verse that I had just given him, could “possibly” be wrong.  I said that I would admit my interpretation could “possibly” be wrong, if he would admit that his interpretation of that same verse could “possibly” be wrong.  He said that he would not admit to the possibility.  To which I said, “Again you have me confused, because you said you were not infallible, but you are acting as if you are infallible.  Which is it?”  Which caused him to move off into yet another direction.  

I could continue with pages and pages more about this particular conversation, but I think I have shown enough to demonstrate my point: Almost every single Protestant I have ever disputed with on matters of faith and morals, even though they believed that no man is infallible, acted as if they were indeed, as an individual, infallible.  Fallible in theory, infallible in practice.  Why?  Because they know, implicitly, that a fallible authority is essentially no authority - at least, when it comes to faith and morals.  If you have a fallible authority teaching you, and you are allowed, by the very fact that this authority is fallible...it could make mistakes...it could be in error...to doubt, challenge, disagree with, and ultimately reject the teachings of this authority, then that authority is essentially no authority.  If that authority cannot bind you to believe what it teaches, then it is an authority only as long as you allow it to be.  Which means it really isn’t an authority at all.  And the only way that authority can be binding on you in the areas of faith and morals is if it is infallible in what it teaches.  

Which is why the rejection of infallibility within Protestantism has led to the rejection of binding authority within Protestantism, which is why we see, thousands upon thousands of times over, so many divisions within Protestantism.  This is why I said that the infallibility issue is the Achilles heel of Protestantism.  No infallibility, no binding authority.  No binding authority, no actual authority.  No actual authority, disunity.    

Which is also why we see such confusion and illogic and inconsistencies in the beliefs of Protestantism, as evidenced by my conversation with the Bible church pastor.  He claimed to not be infallible, yet he would not admit that he could be wrong in his interpretations of the Scripture verses we were hashing over because he was guided by the Holy Spirit in those interpretation.  Well, if you’re guided by the Holy Spirit in your interpretations of Scripture, then you are indeed infallible in those interpretations.  But, as he said, no man is infallible.  There is a disconnect in Protestant belief, a contradiction, that flows from its rejection of the idea that any man could be infallible.    

I have, however, as mentioned earlier, had one person, and one person alone, who answered my first question: “Are you infallible?” in the affirmative.  I had a guy come down from a rural part of Alabama - he was the pastor of some non-denominational Bible church - who called me to set up an appoint with me because he wanted to save me from the Roman Catholic Church. The very first thing he wanted to talk about was how the Pope was not infallible...how no man could make the claim of infallibility.  

A few minutes later he was giving me his interpretation of a Scripture verse I had brought up.  When he finished saying what he had to say, I looked him square in the eyes and said, “Are you infallible?”  He froze like a deer in the headlights.  He just stared at me for nine or ten seconds or more.  I could see the wheels spinning in his head.  He knew that if he said he was not infallible, that I would then say, “So, you could be wrong in your interpretation of that verse.”  To which he could not admit.  But, he also knew that he could not say he was infallible since he had declared moments earlier, very vociferously, that it was an abomination for any man to claim he was infallible.  So he just sat there staring at me.  

Finally he said, “Yes, I am infallible, in my interpretation of that particular verse.”  To which I just bust out laughing.  Couldn’t help myself.  I turned to the priest who was there with me and said, “Father, this is indeed a glorious day...we have the Pope here with us!”  This contradiction that the rejection of infallibility causes within Protestantism, is what caused this guy to first say that no man is infallible, but then to admit that he is indeed infallible, although, only in interpreting that one particular verse.  I’m telling you, folks, it is fascinating to watch.  


I hope all of you have a wonderful and holy Thanksgiving holiday, and also that this approaching Advent Season prepares you spiritually for the coming of the Christ! 


Apologetics for the Masses