Monday, July 13, 2009

Challenging William Webster

Jennie at Pilgrim's Daughter has been using William Webster as a resource lately. I am reposting this for her.

Challenging William Webster

In the article by Mary Ann Collins which Candy recently posted, the primary source for information was a book called The Church of Rome at the Bar of History by William Webster. Although Mary Ann Collins says in the article that "primary sources about Catholic doctrines and history come from the Catholic Church" this book is not written by a Catholic, but by a former Catholic.

She mentions several times in her article that she recommends recourses which are "respectful and gentle" in their approach. I appreciate that, in this article at least, some of the wilder anti-Catholic claims do not appear. William Webster is certainly a better alternative to Dave Hunt and Jack Chick.

William Webster is a former Catholic who converted to Evangelical Christianity. Since that time, he has written quite a lot about Catholicism, and he has come to the attention of Catholic apologists.

Stephen Ray, who is himself a convert TO Catholicism, has gotten into a sort of convert vs. convert battle of words with Webster. In his book, Upon This Rock, Ray challenges Webster's book and charges Webster with selective editing.

I wrote to William Webster and asked him if he knew of any Church Father who denied the primacy of Peter or of his successors. Mr. Webster's response was very telling, and I wish he had been forthright about this matter in his book. His return E-mail stated, "No father denies that Peter had a primacy or that there is a Petrine succession. The issue is how the fathers interpreted those concepts. They simply did not hold to the Roman Catholic view of later centuries that primacy and succession were 'exclusively' related to the bishops of Rome." [2] What an extraordinary admission; what an extraordinary truth. Many of the Fathers were in theological or disciplinary disagreement with Rome (for example, Cyprian and Irenaeus), yet they never denied Rome's primacy. They may have debated what that primacy meant, or how it was to work out in the universal Church, but they never denied the primacy.

Webster then wrote an article, refuting Ray's book. Ray now has a 17 part debate with Webster on the issue of papal primacy on his website. At this point, Dave Armstrong (another convert to Catholicism) weighs in with two different articles refuting William Webster.

One article which Webster wrote was regarding the development of the Bible canon, which the Catholic Monarchist responds to here:

As the article continues, Webster displays a most serious ignorance when it comes to the use of the terms "canonical" and "non-canonical." He makes use of quote after quote of church figures in the act of explaining that the deuterocanonical books are "noncanonical," supposedly to prove that they were not considered part of the Bible, but the reader can distinguish for himself what the terms actually mean, because Webster helpfully gives him the definition in this quote from one Cardinal Cajetan:
Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the bible for that purpose.
The Cardinal has explained it: Non-canonical doesn't mean "not in the Bible." It means "not confirming matters of faith." By this rule, of course Tobit and Judith and such are not canonical. But look at what he says a breath before the definition: "and any other like books in the canon of the Bible." So he has just called them canonical BEFORE calling them non-canonical--which means that he does NOT mean they are not to be included, but rather that they do not confirm the faith.
John Betts writes about the same article on his website, but from a different angle.

Another article, on Sola Scriptura and the Early Church is tackled by the American Catholic Truth Society.

While Mary Ann Collins does quote from it, William Webster wrote another book with David King titled Holy Scripture: Ground and Pillar of Our Faith. Phil Porvaznik writes about the misrepresentations in it here.

There are lots of resources available about William Webster, but this is plenty to get you started.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Elena said...

Great job Kelly and very interesting.

It tickles me that folks like Jennie and Candy, who think pretty much alike, refer to the same resources and give them so much credence!

Barbara C. said...

Do you all have any information on the development of "Once Save Always Saved"? That seems to be another one of Jenny's big problems with the Catholic Church--that we don't believe OSAS. (See how I just pass the heavy lifting off to you two?)

While Jennie is like Candy in her theological thought-processing, Jennie seems like a much nicer someone you could be friends with as long as you both agreed not to talk about religion.;-)

Kelly said...

I'm trying to remember if we've done a full article on OSAS before or not. I think we might have only done it in the comments section.

I'll take a look, and put it on the To Do list.

Clare said...

If you do decide to tackle OSAS, John Martignoni has a very good talk about it here:

I have a catholic friend who has a somewhat hybrid theology and believes in OSAS ( she listens to lots of our radio and tv preachers and picks up stufff there)
I found his talk really helpful when I was discussing this with her.

Jennie said...

Hi ladies,
I just stopped by to check the amillennialism post and saw you are talking about OSAS. I don't believe the bible teaches OSAS in the way that many evangelicals do. I believe we can know we are saved, and that nothing can snatch us out of His hand, as Jesus says, but that we can depart from the faith by deliberate rebellion and be apostate. So 'once saved', we must remain in Him.