Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Answering Fundamentalist Objections To Catholicism

Things have been a little slow over at Candy's blog, at least as far as Catholicism is concerned. Plus, it's summer, so people have better things to do than surf around on blogs for theological discussion. Still, I hate to go too long between posts, so I thought I'd dust off these two articles from Catholic apologetics magazine This Rock, which I've been saving for a slow time.

In The Heretical Roots of Fundamentalism, Carl Olson writes about a few topics of Catholicism which always raise the ire of fundamentalists. He uses Candy's favorite site, Jesus-Is-Lord as a starting point.

Recently I visited an anti-Catholic site ( whose home page proclaimed in bold letters: "God HATES images. ANY kind of image. . . . It is idolatry to venerate images. We are not even supposed to make them." This sums up the common Fundamentalist attitude towards the use of images to aid the believer in worshiping God. It is linked with a demand for stark simplicity in their meeting places. Fundamentalist services are noteworthy for lengthy sermons and impromptu prayers, led mostly by the pastor, while the congregation sits in an unadorned meeting place. The goal is freedom from distractions in order to focus on the sermon. There is a strong fear of idolatry, similar to the fear behind the Iconoclasm of the eighth and ninth centuries and the stripping of Catholic churches by the Reformers seven hundred years later.

The Catholic position is simple: If Jesus really is true God and true man, and if he has existed physically in this world, then he can be represented in visual arts. The Old Testament decrees against images were made when mankind was just beginning to understand who Yahweh was and how he related to humanity. The "fullness of time" had not yet been realized—humanity had much to learn before God would come as man and dwell among us. . .

For Fundamentalists, a visual aid is something placed between man and God, removing us further from a "personal relationship" with the Creator. Ironically, while God became man so we might know how to relate to him in a truly personal way, the Fundamentalist misses this by insisting on knowledge gained only through "spiritual" means, as though the humanity of the God-man has no effect on the entire person. "By avoiding the dangers of magic and idolatry on the one hand," writes Thomas Howard, a former Evangelical, "Evangelicalism runs itself very near the shoals of Manichaeanism on the other—the view, that is, that pits the spiritual against the physical. . . . But by denying to the whole realm of Christian life and practice the principle that it allows in all the other realms of life, namely, the principle of symbolism and ceremony and imagery, it has, despite its loyalty to orthodox doctrine, managed to give a semi-Manichaean hue to the faith" (Evangelical Is Not Enough, 5).

In She Just Knows Catholics Are Wrong, Karl Keating replies to a letter from an angry woman which he received. She makes several points which Candy has made before.

"Get the book A Woman Rides the Beast by Dave Hunt. It will open your eyes!"

Indeed it will. It will show the open-minded reader how poorly argued the anti-Catholic position can be. Dave Hunt, an inveterate anti-Catholic, has written many books, about half of them against the New Age movement and half against Catholicism. (Actually, I should rephrase "written": He has his name on books that were ghostwritten for him.) In a public debate he and I had five years ago, and in radio debates we had earlier, he never failed to use a technique perfected by Cato the Elder (234-149 B.C.). Cato ended every speech before the Roman senate with the admonition, "Carthage must be destroyed!" It didn't matter what the issue at hand was. The senators might have been talking about farm subsidies, but Cato always threw in his trademark line. Eventually Rome did destroy Carthage, perhaps partly to keep Cato quiet.

In his public remarks, Dave Hunt never seems to leave out "the Catholic-Nazi connection." The topic at hand might be the Immaculate Conception, but Hunt will make a side comment to the effect that the Catholic Church backed the Nazis and thus can't be believed on any doctrinal matter. His claim is groundless, of course. For a refutation of A Woman Rides the Beast, see James Akin's "Hunt-ing the Whore of Babylon," This Rock (September and October 1994).

"We do not claim Mary is not the mother of God. She is. She had children after Jesus-is that a perpetual virgin? She was a good and holy woman, I agree, but no better than we who try to live our lives according to the gospel. Matthew 13:55: 'Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James and Joses and Simon and Judas?' (Four brothers here.) Luke 11:27-28: 'And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee and the paps which thou has sucked. But he said, Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.' (We are blessed also, same as Mary.)"

There is an odd element of self-complacency here, maybe even presumption. "We are blessed also, same as Mary." If so, then it doesn't seem that Mary was very highly blessed-not if she was like the rest of us. After all, we tend to be more remarkable for our failings than our sanctity. It seems not to have occurred to Debra that God might have provided, as the mother of the Savior, a woman at least as heroic in sanctity as the other great women of the Bible, a standout among women, someone blessed in a way unlike the rest of us. It seems not to have occurred to her that Gabriel's greeting-whether translated as "Hail, full of grace" or as "Hail, highly favored daughter"-implies in its formulation a singularity: Yes, we may be blessed, but not the "same as Mary."

Both articles cover several other topics, so click through to the links, if I've peaked your interest.

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Deeny said...

Thanks for posting those articles, especially the first one. I have read quite a bit from CA but hadn't come across that particular article before. It was very good I thought. Thought this might interest you, if not thats ok. I read a blog called the Trail Home. The author is a former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Pastor who has returned to the Catholic Church. He Tells his story entitled appropriately The Trail Home which is the first blog post (oldest post) on his blog. He also as many good insights and has written many great posts in addition. This is his latest and I found it very insightful. This is his current blog post THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2008
The Dark Side of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’

Thanks again for posting the articles.
PS: My Hubby was confirmed and accepted into full communion into the Catholic Church this past sunday yeah! :-)
Have a great day.

Kelly said...

Congratulations, Deeny! Or to your husband, I should say.

Thanks for the blog link. I look forward to looking over it later. I might post it as an entry.