Best of JCM: Comment Section Facepalm
I have decided to put a quarter in the Wayback Machine and revisit my top 10 most viewed posts of all time. This considers only posts and excludes blog pages.
First up, the current most-viewed post is a reply to Matthew Bellasario, the self-proclaimed “Catholic Champion.” It highlights one of the starkest differences from the blog’s early years to now. When I first started it, I was staunchly anti-Catholic. As time wore on, I became much more neutral toward my former faith. And now? I’ve reclaimed most of it, my kids go to Catholic school, and I’ve even started praying rosaries.
I still agree with the points I make below about ad hominem arguments. Mr. Bellasario and his crowd of commenters can’t have their cake and eat it, too. If Protestantism is devoid of correct theology due to its leadership, then so is Catholicism because there’s been quite a bit of moral problems in the handling of many major scandals.
Reading the comment section of this post from the Catholic Champion blog, the only appropriate response is a resounding facepalm.
The main problem I had with the post is how misleading it is. The headline implies that more Protestant denominations are caving on homosexuality (a sin, to be sure). The linked article shows the opposite: the United Methodist Church is not caving on homosexuality; but a large number of former bishops are pressuring it to do so. The article is applauding the denomination for being one of the few mainline Protestant denominations for standing on biblical ground when it comes to this sin.
That aside, I come to an interesting comment from a user called scotju. It was in reply to the following comment from Neil Parille:
I don’t think this is a very good argument against protestantism. The protestant reformers (and in this case Wesley) opposed homosexuality. So I don’t find it any more significant than some catholic priest or bishop dissenting from church teaching.
And the catholic church has become pretty liberal on some issues. The current pope doesn’t believe the opening chapters of Genesis are historical and one member of the PBC compared Gen. 1-11 to Little Red Riding Hood.
Personally, I don’t like using the arguments of specific personages because then scotju is free to make this (facepalm-worthy) reply:
Neil, Protestantism was started by men who were sexually immoral or who winked at sexual immorality. Luther, the founder of the tribe, ‘had’ to marry Katherine Von Bora to shut the mouths of his critics who were claiming he and Cathy were getting it on. Lther later endorsed a bigamous marriage for Philip of Hesse. That scandal left a permanent black mark on his reptation. Calvin, according to some authorities sch as St. Alphons Ligouri, was a vicious sodomite. Zwinghi lived with a mistress, and while a Catholic priest, had the gall to ask his bishop for permission to marry his live-in! The sexal immorality of the ‘reformers’ is pretty good proof God never used them to renew the church. Rather, it’s merely proof that they were heretics behaving as it was to be expected of such men.
But this reply strikes out. It’s pure ad hominem, and doesn’t touch any of the actual arguments that these men made. This is the first of three logical fallacies that scotju will make today. Attacking Protestant founders’ character implies that God doesn’t make use of immoral men. Is that true?
- Peter denied Jesus three times, a clear sin by Matthew 10:33 (Mk 14:68-72).
- Peter continued to behave as a Jew around Jews, despite knowing that was wrong (Mt 15:11; Acts 10); he had to be publicly corrected by Paul (Gal 2:11-14).
Sorry to pick on Peter, but the Catholics consider him the first Pope. So it’s significant to point out that he screwed up. A lot. But so did all the apostles (including Paul, who was a cold-blooded killer prior to his conversion and even afterward referred to himself as the world’s foremost sinner [1 Tim 1:15]). Let’s look at other examples:
- Israel itself had a pattern of disobedience and repentance seen throughout its history, particularly in Judges and both books of Kings.
- The wandering cycle described in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy also show an obstinate Israel repeatedly forgiven by God.
So much for the first Pope, and Israel as a nation. Let’s look at some other noteworthy individuals, and their personal sins:
- Abraham lied twice about his marital status to save his own skin, since Sarah was apparently a Bronze Age hottie (Gen 12:10-20 and 20:1-18).
- Jacob deceitfully obtained his brother’s birthright (Gen 25:29-34), and then lied to Isaac to became heir to the estate (Gen 27:1-46).
- Moses tried to argue with God that he wasn’t the man for the job (Ex 3:1-4:17), and then later disobeyed God (Num 20:2-13).
- David committed adultery and then conspired to kill his mistress’s husband (2 Sam 11:1-27).
- Elijah ran like a little girl when God ordered him to face down Jezebel (1 Kgs 19:1-8).
- Three of the four women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy were particularly awful sinners:
- Tamar tricked her father-in-law Judah into having sex with her by pretending she was a prostitute (Gen 38:12-26).
- Rahab was a prostitute (Josh 2:1-24).
- Bathsheba, as we mentioned previously, was an adulteress (2 Sam 11:1-27).
As we can see from these examples, God made the most delicious lemonade from the sour lemons he had to work to work with. That is why any argument against the character of the Protestant Reformers falls apart. The moral character of most heroes in the Bible (perhaps better thought of as antiheroes) is questionable at best.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, scotju goes on. His foot might actually be in his esophagus and halfway to his stomach by now. Let’s see if he gags on it:
The liberalism of some Catholic leaders doesn’t prove your point. It’s comparing apples with oranges. The Catholic Church was founded by Christ. In spite of the liberalism in the Catholic Church, the truth will prevail and like the other heresies, such as Arianism, liberalism will be a thing of the past. Alas, in the Protestant churches, history shows that heresy begets more heresies. Except for a few small churches and sects that are trying to hold on to some historical Protestant beliefs, mainline Protestantism is dead. That’s what happens when a branch breaks off from the vine.
Liberalism of Catholic leaders versus liberalism among Protestant leaders is only comparing apples to oranges if you accept the premise that the Catholic Church is right apart from its leaders and Protestantism is wrong because of its leaders. But we don’t accept that, and scotju seems unlikely to prove it since we’ve already seen that his arguments suck. This is called “begging the question,” the second of the three logical fallacies that scotju will argue with today.
I agree that the catholic church was founded by Christ, but what scotju fails to see is that we are all the catholic (universal) church. Catholic (lowercase, meaning “universal”) church is not synomomous with “Roman Catholic Church” (capital, denoting a specific denomination), which teaches heresy weather its ardent defenders believe that is so or not.
Somewhere, I have covered that personal belief is independent of truth. Even if you think Einstein’s theories concerning nuclear fission were total crap, an atomic bomb will still incinerate you if it blows up in your front yard. In other words, this is real life, folks. No rolling a twenty-sider while telling some joker behind a cardboard screen that you disbelieve. That doesn’t work here.
The rest of these claims beg the question even more seriously than the last one. Liberalism has been creeping into the Catholic Church over the years, and isn’t going away anytime soon. The liberal priests of today will be the leading bishops of tomorrow, which means that the Church will continue to inch along and develop more and more heretical doctrines. And no Catholic can deny that there has been doctrinal development. Doctrinal development is one way to date New Testament documents as early or late! Nothing like the Catholic Marian Dogmas can be seen until the sixth century. Priestly vestments didn’t appear until the tenth century. Catholic Sacred Tradition has evolved over the centuries, and will continue to evolve.
Neil answers the “heresy begets more heresy” charge quite well:
The claim that “heresy begets heresy” might be true in some general sense, but I think it is misplaced in this case. Ultimately people have minds of their own.
Were the morals of Martin Luther worse than the popes of the renaissance?
If the head of the Southern Baptist Convention kissed the Koran or held an Assisi event, how long do you think he would remain in office?
The only answer to that was for scotju and Bellisario to cry that this is ad hominem. Ironic, since they absolutely rely on ad hominem to beat down Protestant doctrines by pointing to the filthy lives of the Reformers. Then they have the nerve to shame Neil for it when he points out the clerical sexual abuse scandal. To scotju and Bellisario, it is perfectly acceptable to reject Protestantism based on the lives of its founders and thinkers; however, when Neil points out that the same types of behavior are evident in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy, he is told that is a poor reason to reject Catholicism.
Can’t have it both ways, guys! That is called special pleading, which is the final logical fallacy scotju uses today.
Scotju’s concluding remark is that mainline Protestantism is dead. Based on what? Numbers? It’s true that the intellectual elite of Protestantism are swimming the Tiber for Rome. But the average Joe in the pew is swimming to our side. For every Ph.D. former president of the ETS the Catholics get, we get 100 or more laymen. Protestantism is far from dead.