A look at the arguments of Dave Armstrong that Catholicism is biblical and Protestants are wrong to say it is unbiblical

Dave Armstrong is a reasonably well-known defender of Catholicism against Protestant objections.

He clears up some "misconceptions" about Catholicism in general.

Here we consider some ideas from his book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism.

Armstrong approvingly quotes Ronald Knox as saying that it is to be expected that the Church as the holiest thing on earth can produce the worst sinners simply because “of the principle that the corruption of the best is the worst.”

Response: It is certain that he articulates the mind of the Church in this.  The main reason to follow a religion is that it must be the holiest thing available.  Armstrong is just making an excuse for the Church failing to function as a good hospital for sinners.  Any religion can say what he says.  Scientology can try to make its failures out to be proofs that it is true too.  You don't have to be the best to be the worst.  A religion that needs you to rationalise that way is not a good religion in itself and if the people in it are good that is not down to it but down to them.

The Church implicitly and explicitly would say the same as Knox but that is exactly what a religion that produces bad people and knows it but does not want to take the blame would say.

The argument "the holiest religion will have the worst sinners for Satan will corrupt the best and make that his priority" is plainly trying to stop you seeing that the religion does not work.  Also, it is implying that other religions or secular groups that seem far better are in fact not.  It's a very divisive and bigoted and obstinate standpoint.

It also is a clear example of, "I am good and perfect and if I have hurt somebody the Devil made me do it!"  That is gross superstition and abhorrent.  It is as likely as Satan to have the holy person feeling it's hopeless and then becoming a profligate.

The doctrines are examples of religious immaturity, nothing else.

The Catholic Church has been caught lying that Jesus called Peter rock and referred to that rock as what he would build his church on. Jesus calls Peter Petra, pebble, to contrast him with the Rock, Petros.  Petros is thought to refer to Jesus himself who is sometimes called rock in in the Bible.  Armstrong challenges this truth.  He says that Jesus is not the foundation of the Church but the builder so he could not have meant himself by the word Petros.  Armstrong appeals to Ephesians 2:19 to 22 where the apostles and prophets are called the foundation not Jesus. Jesus is simply called the cornerstone here.

Response:  Peter is described as first pope but since when even if he were the rock the Church was built on does that mean he is monarch of the Church? 

Peter was the first to get people baptised into the Church. He was in a sense the starter of the Church as a social structure.  Even if Peter were the rock of the structure he is not necessarily rock of the religion for the social side of religion and the spiritual side can be distinguished.

I'll put this in capitals.  PETER WAS THE BUILDER!!

Armstrong forgets that Jesus is using symbolism so he can be rock and builder. 

If Peter is the foundation then why does Ephesians deny he was just the foundation?  It says the apostles and prophets were collectively the foundation.

The word pope means father.  The text 1 Corinthians 4:15 tells them that they have countless guides in Christ but not many fathers for he, Paul, became their father through the gospel.  Peter is never called father as far as we know so we have no basis for saying he was the first pope.

The Catholic Church teaches that as God is capable and chooses the pope, the pope will not lead the Church into grave error.  It is believed that Jesus being God and man is a core doctrine and if you deliberately reject it there is no salvation.  Armstrong says that Pope Liberias if he caved in and signed an Arian, "Jesus is not God" statement then he was forced under threat of being put to death or tortured.

Pope Honorius is also supposed to have used his role to try to lead the Church into error - contradicting Catholic doctrine that no pope can do that for God prevents them.  Armstrong says that Honorius did not define heresy for the whole Church for he only expressed his heresy in what it calls “private letters, not public official teaching”.

Response:  Until proof that Liberius was forced arises we have no right to assume that he was.  We need somebody to be holding a knife to his throat.

 In those days the bishop of Rome made no difference between private and public.  Even private letters were of extreme importance in an age where communication was hard and every snippet was guarded like gold dust.  Honorius was guilty of a serious heresy - that Jesus was not fully man.

Armstrong points out that to argue that God and Jesus had to choose men for priesthood only because the culture would not accept women “lies in a lack of faith in God, or in falsely accusing God himself”.

Response: He is right - assuming priests were part of his vision.  They were not.  Priests were a novelty in later Christendom.  Now Jesus could have chosen female apostles, apostles meant "people sent by me with my message."  He didn't.

It does not make sense to argue that God runs all things and had to make do.  The claim that God and Jesus are yesterday and today and forever the same is saying that the message they give and stand for needs no updating or changing or fixing.

The priesthood is based around giving bread that is supposed to be Jesus' body and wine that is supposed to be his blood to the people for their spiritual nourishment.  Many religions at the time banned the eating of pigs and dirty animals for it was thought that you become what you eat.  So if you eat a pig you become a pig of a kind and you behave like one.  You lose your full right to be considered human and treated as human.  Just like stabbing a doll was thought to harm the person the doll looked like, so food was thought to have occult and magical effects.  Because the priesthood is really an occult system and because it is a novelty it should be dismissed as nonsense.  Don't forget that the magical ideas soon lead to notions like, "If you mix with that ethnicity you will incur bad luck."

Armstrong denies that the golden calf was an image of God for the text says the people wanted other gods and Aaron gave them the calf.

Response: This is an attempt to make the story fit Catholic doctrine that images of angels and saints are allowed.  Nothing in the Bible indicates the existence of the Catholic God who is non-physical and the maker of all out of nothing.  Catholics say that idolatry is anything that fails to have that vision of God.  But nobody did not even Jesus.  By another god the Israelites may have meant an image of God.  Technically if God is against idols and images then it is another God even if it is an image of him.  If the Catholic doctrine that the communion wafer is Jesus is false then worshipping this wafer and kneeling before it is idolatry.

Is Armstrong right that Catholic teaching suggests that if a woman intentionally has an abortion that her baby gets a baptism of blood and goes to Heaven?

Response: Catholic doctrine says that only baptism gets you to Heaven but if you are martyred for God, die for religious reasons, you get some of the effects of baptism if you are not baptised.  You get enough to let you into Heaven.  They say God has bound the sacraments to him but has not bound himself to the sacraments. So the baby does not get a baptism of blood.  It might if the father forced her to abort for he did not want his baby raised Christian. 

Armstrong thinks that the Bible teaches that priests forgive sins.

Response: 2 Corinthians 2:10 is a text where Paul says that anybody who the Corinthians forgive he also forgives. He says that what he has forgiven he has forgiven for their sake in the presence of Jesus Christ.    Notice how this is like what Jesus said, the sins you forgive of any are forgiven.  Nobody thinks Paul meant that man can forgive sin or that he can forgive for the people of Corinth.  Jesus meant that he would forgive with the Church not that the Church could act for him and give his forgiveness as if it were him!

Armstrong considers texts such as 1 John 5:18 which says that anybody who is God’s born child does not sin. He says it is proverbial and not literal for it is obvious we all sin. If so then John expected us to use our commonsense.

Response: There is no right then for somebody to say that they follow Jesus thus they have no sin.  John meant you sin but you don't dedicate yourself to it if you are really of God.  You just keep making as many new starts as you need.

Armstrong says James 2:10 which says that whoever breaks the law of God breaks it all does not mean that all sins are equally worthy of condemnation for James teaches that all sins are not the same for he spoke of how you could get judged more harshly if you are a teacher of the gospel. It simply means that to break the law is to insult the whole thing not to become automatically the same as a person who breaks every single command.

Response: Catholicism teaches that mortal sin cuts God out of your heart so that if you die you will die cut off from him and live forever in sin and evil and in Hell.  But it still says there is a difference between the hell-deserving sin of robbing a bank and killing millions for fun.  So James does not deny that all sin leads to Hell.  Sin has the rejection of God side and the preferring of something else side.  Each sin has two sides.  All sin could deserve equal punishment in Hell in so far as it is a rejection of God.  But in so far as it is preferring something that is not God it might not be as bad as another side.  There is a difference between preferring to take somebody's gold and their life.

Catholic doctrine is that Mary never had any trace of sin. Armstrong tries to assure us that texts in the Bible that say all have sinned are poetic and so do not prove that Mary could be a sinner.

Response: But one thing for sure is that the author is of those texts meant that if any human being could read them they would be reminded that they are sinners. Are we to think Mary could read it and consider herself an exception? Catholic doctrine is that Mary was not concerned in original sin while the rest of us were. But even if she were sin free at conception that does not mean she could not have done an Eve and sinned despite being made sinless.  That would make her a very grave sinner indeed.  The Church says that the sin of Adam and Eve because it started off sin in the world and led to so much destruction was worse than anything their descendants could commit.  If Mary is the new Eve as tradition says then if she sinned she was top human sinner number 3.

Armstrong says that formally declaring that a person has left or went outside the Church is the purpose of excommunication and it's done to make the person rethink and is not about trying to send somebody to Hell forever. The person loses fellowship in the Church and the right to the sacraments except in danger of death. Armstrong says that calling such a person anathema is to warn others about him and not to imply that he is for Hell.

Response: The person is called anathema which is an extreme term.  Anathema is a hate term.  Why is the person not just labeled as religiously dubious instead of as anathema or accursed?  It is the person who is anathema not their heresy.  The Church decrees, "Let him be anathema" not, "Let his doctrine be anathema".

Catholic teaching is that Hell is technically exclusion from the people of God.  The Church on earth is considered to be the same Church as the one in Heaven so whatever it excludes has to be excluded by the Church on earth.  And Jesus did say it is possible to set yourself in stone against God forever even in this life.

Outside the Church there is no salvation is an essential Catholic doctrine.  It is according to Armstrong not aimed at individual Protestants or people who are not Roman Catholics but who are Christians but at rival churches that leave the Roman Catholic Church.

Response: Who defines Church?  Christians describe small groupings as churches of a sort.  Catholic doctrine is that each family is in many respects a Church.  And a husband and wife are a family so it comes too close to abusing individual Protestants.

What you have with this doctrine is a rephrasing of love the sinner and hate the sin.  You are supposed to hate the errors that lead people to Hell and love them by looking for them to be one in the one true Church, Catholicism.  What doctrines like that do is pick out say LGBT and a religious group usually Protestants and mean only those when you say you love them and hate their sins.  This is a form of psychological transference.  You hide your hate and make it look good by pretending it is something other than hate.  You even pretend it is love.  "Love the sinner and hate the sin" is insincere when you cherry pick what group you are going to apply it to.  If you say it about those who kill those of a different race and not of those who kill your own it is clear that you really hate the other race.  You are a racist.  It is an excuse for marginalising others while getting the rewards of being thought of a nice good person.  It is creating marginalisation and also entrenching it.  Sin is a thing.  Sinner is being.  Or sin is a thing and sinner is a person.  Loving the sinner and hating the sin means the real target is the person.

Armstrong defends the Catholic notion that the death of Jesus for our sins is made present for us at Mass.

Response: Armstrong quotes verses such as 2 Corinthians 4:10 where we are told we carry the death of Jesus in our bodies and also his life and Galatians 2:20 where Paul says he is a crucifixion of Christ. He does not comment on how Paul talks about this subject like Catholics talk about the sacrifice of the cross being present at Mass. Paul did not mean it literally.  When he used Mass talk of himself and the people but not the communion service it says it all.  The Christian communion service is not the Catholic Mass.  It is not a sacrifice.

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