Devin Rose’s book, “The Protestant’s Dilemma,” is one of Catholic Answer’s latest attempts at advancing Roman Catholicism. If this is the best they can muster, perhaps this explains why there have been so few debates by Catholic Answers apologists in the last few years.
Overall, the book tends to treat truth as a post-modernist: truth needs to be defined by community. The book suggests that Protestantism lacks a sufficiently unified community to provide any definitive truth. The book then argues that the alternatives are therefore either every man defining his own truth or relying on the Roman Catholic community defined truth.
The post-modern premise to Mr. Rose’s book is wrong. Truth is an objective reality. While an individual can benefit from a community and from God-ordained leaders in that community, such as parents, elders, and teachers, an individual is ultimately responsible to God on an individual basis. Accordingly, an individual has responsibility for judging the truth of doctrines, accepting what is right and rejecting what is wrong.
The Bible is not written from a post-modern perspective, but from the perspective of objective truth. The Scriptures are, as they claim, God’s self-revelation. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7) Furthermore, the Scriptures were not written merely as a tool for the community but for the benefit, conversion, and comfort of individuals:
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
1 Corinthians 10:11
Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
1 John 5:13
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Rose’s book is organized into thirty-four chapters on various topics, grouped into four categories: the Church of Christ, the Bible and Tradition, the Sacraments and Salvation, and Christian History and Practice. Since Mr. Rose has described these as thirty-four arguments, it makes sense to refer to them that way in this review/response.
The book begins on a hopeful note, with reference to the need for “dialogue.” Little dialogue follows, sadly.
Argument 1 is “Divine Authority”
“If Protestantism is true, Christ revoked the authority that he gave to the Church when he founded it.”
No, Christ gave authority to the apostles not “to the Church.” The fault in Devin’s argument arises from a faulty assumption about the recipient of Christ’s authority. The apostles taught authoritatively, and left behind them Scriptures, not more apostles.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Argument 2 is “The Papacy”
“If Protestantism is true, after centuries of its existence, God decided to eradicate the office of the papacy.”
No, God never established the office of the papacy. The papacy was an office that men created – one that gradually developed. Instead, the head of the church is Christ:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
We don’t have a “papa” or “holy father” on earth, but instead we have one father in heaven:
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
Argument 3 is “Ecumenical Councils”
“If Protestantism is true, ecumenical councils somehow no longer have the authority they used to have.”
No, the authority of ecumenical councils has not changed. They were never infallible. Nicaea was right – not infallible. Ariminum was a larger council than Nicaea, but it was wrong.
Augustine (354-430 AD) put it well:
The Father and the Son are, then, of one and the same substance. This is the meaning of that “homoousios” that was confirmed against the Arian heretics in the Council of Nicaea by the Catholic fathers with the authority of the truth and the truth of authority. Afterward, in the Council of Ariminum it was understood less than it should have been because of the novelty of the word, even though the ancient faith had given rise to it. There the impiety of the heretics under the heretical Emperor Constantius tried to weaken its force, when many were deceived by the fraudulence of a few. But not long after that, the freedom of the Catholic faith prevailed, and after the meaning of the word was understood as it should be, that “homoousios” was defended far and wide by the soundness of the Catholic faith. After all, what does “homoousios” mean but “of one and the same substance”? What does “homoousios” mean, I ask, but the Father and I are one (Jn 10:30)? I should not, however, introduce the Council of Nicaea to prejudice the case in my favor, nor should you introduce the Council of Ariminum that way. I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicaea. By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witnesses for both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason.
John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J., Answer to Maximinus, Book II, XIV – On the Sameness of Substance in the Trinity, Section 3 (New York: New City Press, 1995), pp. 281-82.
Argument 4 is “The Four Marks of the Church”
“If Protestantism is true, the meaning of the four marks of the Church fundamentally changed during the Reformation.”
Devin is referring to the expression, “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” That statement refers to a church defined by faith, not walls. That sense did not change during the Reformation. Jerome said the same thing:
The Church does not consist in walls, but in the truths of her teachings. The Church is there where there is true faith. As a matter of fact, fifteen and twenty years ago, all the church buildings belonged to heretics, for heretics twenty years ago were in possession of them; but the true Church was there where the true faith was.
Fathers of the Church, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 46 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 344.
Argument 5 is “Protestantism’s View of the Catholic Church”
“If Protestantism is true, Catholics are at best in serious error, and at worst non-Christian cultists.”
Roman Catholicism teaches another gospel. Those who follow any other gospel are as lost as “cultists.” Thankfully, people may be in the Roman Catholic church without following what Rome teaches.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Those were just Judaizers who wanted to add the Mosaic law to the gospel. Rome not only insists on works, but adds idolatry in the form of worship of God through images and in the form of religious worship to created things and to non-existent things.
Argument 6 is “Doctrinal Reliability”
“If Protestantism is true, we’re stuck without a trustworthy guide to Christian truth.”
On the contrary, we have the guidance of the Spirit:
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13)
Ephesians 1:15-17 (more quoted above)
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
“Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25:5)
“The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Psalm 25:9)
“For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3)
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8)
“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48:14)
“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:24)
“For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,” (Psalm 95:7)
“To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” (John 10:3)
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (John 10:27)
We have the Scriptures.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
“I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:99)
Furthermore, there are other trustworthy guides. Of course, they are not infallible, but something fallible can still be trustworthy.
Argument 7 is “Martin Luther and the Canon”
“If Protestantism is true, it’s okay to remove books from the New Testament canon if you judge them to be non-inspired.”
Why does Devin think that the Shepherd of Hermas and 1 Clement aren’t in the New Testament? They’re not in it because they’re not inspired. Reformation Protestantism doesn’t say that we create the reality of inspiration, but rather that we recognize it. There may be some postmodernists who think that canon is the product of community, but that’s not the Reformed view of the canon.
James Swan has previously addressed issues related to Martin Luther and the canon and so I would direct the readers to a more complete discussion of that issue, as addressed by him.
Argument 8 is “The Deuterocanonical Books”
“If Protestantism is true, God allowed the early Church to put seven books in the Bible that didn’t belong there.”
Some early Christians mistakenly put the Shepherd of Hermas and 1 Clement in the New Testament where they didn’t belong, and others mistakenly put in not only the books that Rome puts in, but also other books like 1 Enoch. So, it plainly did happen that God let some people in the early church get the Old Testament canon wrong. On the other hand, folks like Jerome recognized the non-inspiration of the Apocrypha and opposed them.
Argument 9 is “The Self-Authenticating Canon”
“If Protestantism is true, the canon of Scripture is subject to every Christian’s personal discernment.”
This is more or less a re-hash of argument 7, and has the same false premise of post-modernism. While each Christian may need to exercise discernment regarding the canon, the canon is an objective fact. Either Christians recognize it or they do not, but the canon is the 66 books God inspired, whether anyone else but God recognizes it.
Argument 10 is “Identifying the Canon”
“If Protestantism is true, the Bible is a ‘fallible collection of infallible books.'”
The collection process was fallible, certainly – and many Christians did fail, as noted above. Indeed, Devin has to concede this point, unless he wants to agree with Jerome and us that the Old Testament canon should be that of the Hebrew, not the longer canon that Rome adopts, or the still longer canon that some other churches adopt.
Devin clearly likes Trent’s allegedly infallible definition of the canon of Scripture. Yet Devin doesn’t seem to recognize that the Bible was useful as the Bible before Trent. The Bible didn’t suddenly become useful after 1500 years, just because Trent claimed to infallible say which books and parts are to be included in the canon. The Bible was functional as a rule of faith long before then.
Argument 11 is “Sola Scriptura and Christian Unity”
“If Protestantism is true, Protestants should be united in their interpretations of the Bible.”
Devin is mistaken. Nothing about Sola Scriptura promises that all believers (much less all Protestants) will be united in all their interpretations of everything in the Bible. Nor does it even promise that there will be a general consensus on most things in the Bible. Instead, as Chrysostom expressed it, what Sola Scriptura teaches is:
Tell me then, I beseech you, if now, when we are all present some one entered, having a golden girdle, and drawing himself up, and with an air of consequence said that he was sent by the king that is on the earth, and that he brought letters to the whole city concerning matters of importance; would you not then be all turned towards him? Would you not, without any command from a deacon, observe a profound silence? Truly I think so. For I have often heard letters from kings read here. Then if any one comes from a king, you all attend; and does a Prophet come from God, and speak from heaven, and no one attend? Or do you not believe that these things are messages from God? These are letters sent from God; therefore let us enter with becoming reverence into the Churches, and let us hearken with fear to the things here said.
What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. But because ye are hearers for pleasure’s sake, for that reason also you seek these things. For tell me, with what pomp of words did Paul speak? and yet he converted the world. Or with what the unlettered Peter? But I know not, you say, the things that are contained in the Scriptures. Why? For are they spoken in Hebrew? Are they in Latin, or in foreign tongues? Are they not in Greek? But they are expressed obscurely, you say: What is it that is obscure? Tell me. Are there not histories? For (of course) you know the plain parts, in that you enquire about the obscure. There are numberless histories in the Scriptures. Tell me one of these. But you cannot. These things are an excuse, and mere words. Every day, you say, one hears the same things. Tell me, then, do you not hear the same things in the theaters? Do you not see the same things in the race-course? Are not all things the same? Is it not always the same sun that rises? Is it not the same food that we use? I should like to ask you, since you say that you every day hear the same things; tell me, from what Prophet was the passage that was read? from what Apostle, or what Epistle? But you cannot tell me—you seem to hear strange things. When therefore you wish to be slothful, you say that they are the same things. But when you are questioned, you are in the case of one who never heard them. If they are the same, you ought to know them. But you are ignorant of them.
NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Second Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, Homily III, Comments on 2 Thessalonians 1:9, 10.
Argument 12 is “the Principle of Individual Judgment”
“If Protestantism is true, we all decide for ourselves what God’s revelation means.”
Again, Reformed Protestantism is not postmodern. While we may each seek the truth of God’s revelation it’s not as though we get to “decide for ourselves” in some other sense.
Argument 13 is “Interpretive Authority”
“If Protestantism is true, all we have is fallible opinions about infallible books.”
We are still fallible human beings, whether we have Scripture alone or Scripture plus allegedly infallible “Tradition.”
Argument 14 is “Misinterpreting the Great Commission”
“If Protestantism is true, today’s Protestant missionaries are misinterpreting the Great Commission.”
Devin’s argument here needs some explanation. He claims that the Reformers were opposed to missions, and thought that only the apostles were called to be foreign missionaries. It may be that the Reformers thought that the Great Commission was uniquely to the apostles, but the Reformers were active in missions work and taught the need for the gospel to be preached to the nations.
Calvin’s commentary (Vol. 3 of the Harmony of the Gospels, at Matthew 28:20) states:
Teach all nations. Here Christ, by removing the distinction, makes the Gentiles equal to the Jews, and admits both, indiscriminately to a participation in the covenant. Such is also the import of the term: go out; for the prophets under the law had limits assigned to them, but now, the wall of partition having been broken down, (Ephesians 2:14,) the Lord commands the ministers of the gospel to go to a distance, in order to spread the doctrine of salvation in every part of the world. For though, as we have lately suggested, the right of the first-born at the very commencement of the gospel, remained among the Jews, still the inheritance of life was common to the Gentiles. Thus was fulfilled that prediction of Isaiah, (49:6,) and others of a similar nature, that Christ was given for a light of the Gentiles, that he might be the salvation of God to the end of the earth.
Moreover, it should be evident that the Reformers made effort to reach those beyond the walls of their home towns. Giovanni Diodati, for example, translated the Bible into Italian from Hebrew and Greek in 1607, not out of idle curiosity, but to spread the gospel in Italy.
James Good’s “Famous Missionaries of the Reformed Church” documents Reformed missionaries, beginning with a trip by Reformed ministers to the New World in 1555 (Peter Richer and William Chartier) (here’s an excerpt discussing the point). So, while the Great Commission may indeed have been specifically for the apostles, and not necessarily applicable in the same sense to all Christians or to all Christian ministers, the early Reformers were pro-missions.
Argument 15 is “the Closure of Public Revelation”
“If Protestantism is true, there’s no reason to believe that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle.”
Actually, there are great reasons to think that special revelation ended – not just “public” but also “private.” Paul prophesied that the extraordinary gifts would cease:
1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Likewise, the anonymous author of Hebrews explains that Jesus is the final revelation:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Notice that in the second passage, the confirmation signs and wonders are already past (“was confirmed”), helping to demonstrate this apostolic age is already passing.
Moreover, it is important to understand the purpose of revelation. Once one understands that the purpose of New Testament revelation was to form the New Testament church, it becomes understandable that when the first generation was past, the revelation would cease. In other words, when we realize that revelation is not just a cool magic trick, but actually a part of a providentially arranged history of redemption, then we see that its purpose is served once the New Testament is delivered.
Argument 16 is “the Role of History and Tradition”
“If Protestantism is true, Christians have zero need to understand even their own history or tradition.”
What a curious criticism from a person whose religion’s commands are chiefly to hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days (Compendium of the CCC 289); to fast during Lent; to go to confession once a year (Compendium of the CCC 305); to receive Holy Communion at Easter (Compendium of the CCC 290); and to provide material support to the church. Study of history and tradition are not even particularly commended in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its discussion of the “lay faithful” (CCC 897-913 and 940-43). Indeed, the compendium puts it this way:
432. What are the precepts of the Church?
They are: 1) to attend Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation and to refrain from work and activities which could impede the sanctification of those days; 2) to confess one’s sins, receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once each year; 3) to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season; 4) to abstain from eating meat and to observe the days of fasting established by the Church; and 5) to help to provide for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.
In any event, while the study of history and tradition is not necessary for salvation, we do commend the study of history and tradition. It is useful and beneficial for Christians to know about church history. This very post demonstrates one use: to respond to false accusations from enemies of the faith!
Argument 17 is “Doing what the Bible Says”
“If Protestantism is true, Christians must follow even the seemingly absurd commands of Scripture.”
Yes. The alternative is what, exactly? Ignoring or disobeying the seemingly absurd commands? It is interesting that amongst the “seemingly absurd” commands Devin identifies are the use of headcoverings by women in worship, generosity to the poor, and issues of divorce and remarriage. Devin seems to be arguing that many Protestants don’t actually obey these commands, but doesn’t seem to view them as seemingly absurd.
Argument 18 is “the Communion of Saints”
“If Protestantism is true, asking for the prayers of the saints in heaven is a sort of idolatry.”
More precisely, it’s a combination of superstition since the people being asked are passed on and consequently cannot hear, necromancy as an attempt to communicate with the deceased, and first commandment idolatry in that it involves religious veneration of a creature rather than the creator. We have communion and fellowship amongst the saints we see. We bear one another’s burdens and pray for one another. We lose that reciprocal relation at death, but look forward to its restoration when we join them in heaven or in the final resurrection if that comes first.
Argument 19 is “Baptismal Regeneration”
“If Protestantism is true, the purpose and meaning of baptism are anyone’s guess.”
There is an objective truth as to what the purpose and meaning of baptism is. “Protestantism” is such a broad category that it includes a variety of different views on what the purpose and meaning of baptism is. That doesn’t mean all of the views are equally valid, or that the issue is not worth studying. It just means that calling it “anyone’s guess” is misleading.
Argument 20 is “Infant Baptism”
“If Protestantism is true, we don’t know for sure whether infants should be baptized– not only dividing churches potentially imperiling millions of souls.”
This is essentially a rehash of number 19. If Protestantism is defined by “Sola Fide” though, then the salvation of millions is not in the balance because justification is by the instrument faith not the instrument of baptism. So, while there may be some groups classified as “Protestant” on other grounds that would insist that unbaptized people are unsaved people, that charge doesn’t really apply to the historic “five solas” protestants.
Argument 21 is “Sanctification and Purgatory”
“If Protestantism is true, when we die, God waves a magic sanctification wand over us wretched, filthy sinners to make us suddenly fit for heaven.”
The expression “magic sanctification wand” is obviously mocking, but yes – we believe that the souls of believers are made perfectly righteous by God at their death. While this glorification (as it is called) is very wonderful, calling it “magic” just seems so bizarre for a Roman Catholic who thinks that Baptism infuses justifying and sanctifying graces or that bread becomes the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. It’s the sort of objection one might expect from an atheist, not a professed supernaturalist.
Argument 22 is “Marriage as a Sacrament”
“If Protestantism is true, marriage is not an outward sign of an inward grace wrought by God, even though Protestants sometimes act like it is.”
Right. While marriage does provide an illustration of Christ and the church, marriage is for both believers and unbelievers (though not to each other). While marriage is a great blessing from God, and while marriage is ordained by God, and while marriage can help people develop maturity, marriage is not a sacrament of the new covenant, just as it was not a sacrament of the old covenant.
Argument 23 is “Anointing of the Sick”
“If Protestantism is true, the anointing of the sick is not a sacrament, even though the Bible attests to it in multiple places.”
The Bible attests to the practice of anointing the sick, but does not describe it as a sacrament. Protestant ministers continue to visit the sick, despite Devin’s claims that “the Reformers ended this practice.”
Argument 24 is “the Eucharist”
“If Protestantism is true, Christ may be present somehow in the Eucharist, or it may be a purely symbolic and even optional ritual. Or it may be a demonic form of idolatry.”
The options are really only the first two – either it is purely symbolic or Christ is somehow present. The idea that it is “optional” doesn’t smell of Protestantism. The point regarding “idolatry” is not that the Eucharist itself is idolatry, but that the Roman Catholic practice of worshiping the bread and wine is giving the worship due to God to a created thing.
Argument 25 is “Confession”
“If Protestantism is true, the power that Jesus gave men to forgive sins died with the apostles.”
No, the power to proclaim forgiveness of sins in the gospel of Jesus Christ continues. It was always only in the power of God to forgive sins in the sense that Rome means, but the gospel that Jesus gave the apostles, they passed on to us in Scripture.
Argument 26 is “Holy Orders and Apostolic Succession”
“If Protestantism is true, anyone who accurately interprets and teaches from the Bible has authority in Christ’s Church.”
Not exactly. Both parental authority and authority within the church do not depend strictly on whether the parent or elder is correct. An elder is an overseer even when the elder is wrong, just as a father is a father even when he errs. The Scriptures, however, are the supreme authority in the matters they address. Thus, when obeying the Bible and obeying a parent or elder comes into conflict, we have to obey God, rather than man.
Argument 27 is “Sexual Morality”
“If Protestantism is true, sexual morality is culturally conditioned and thus subject to change.”
That’s certainly not a tenet of Protestantism. There may be “Protestant” churches that hold to such an idea, but it should be plain that many would reject that idea.
Argument 28 is “Other Moral Issues”
“If Protestantism is true, Christian moral teachings are subject to change based on a majority vote.”
Actually, that sounds more like Roman Catholicism, in which conciliar decisions are a matter of majority vote. This is just another case of Devin treating Protestantism as though it is equivalent to post-modernism, in which communities define truth, rather than truth being an objective external reality. Devin is wrong to equate post-modernism with Protestantism.
Argument 29 is “the Disintegration of Mainline Protestantism”
“If Protestantism is true, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a church based on your tastes and interests rather than God’s truth.”
Again, Devin has seized on a slice of “Protestantism” and read it into “Protestantism” as a whole. This is an invalid approach. I would point out to Devin that these days RCs do the same thing with respect to their selection of parishes, particularly in urban areas where there are many options. Devin may see a difference between selecting amongst parishes and selecting amongst different “affinity group” churches, but the perception by these church shoppers is the same – they don’t see a doctrinal difference between the two.
Argument 30 is “Pastoral Authority”
“If Protestantism is true, you never know which leaders, if any, have true authority.”
Devin seems to associate “true authority” with the threat of consequences for contravening the authority of the leaders. In some “Protestant” churches there may not be any elders or church discipline. If so, that’s very sad. In the Reformed churches, however, the elders are overseers and do discipline the flock. Can people find ways around their authority? Certainly – but that only shows that they have relatively weak power, not that their authority is not real.
Argument 31 is “the Missing Saints”
“If Protestantism is true, most of Christianity’s saints believed in a corrupted gospel.”
On the contrary, if Protestantism is true, those who followed another gospel were not saints at all. What Devin is implying is that the gospel followed by Christians of the patristic era is the same gospel as Rome proclaims today. We don’t agree with his historical claim.
Argument 32 is “Martin Luther’s Virtue”
“If Protestantism is true, you wouldn’t expect Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, to have been an anti-Semite and polygamy supporter.”
The claim that Luther was a “polygamy supporter” is one that James Swan has ably rebutted (link to discussion).
The claim that Luther was an anti-Semite is an interesting charge. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) had a number of canons that would be considered “anti-Semitic” today. Moreover, they were allegedly an infallible ecumenical council, not a merely fallible and sinful man. Lateran IV:
Summary. Jews should be compelled to make satisfaction for the tithes and offerings e churches, which the Christians supplied before their properties fell into of the Jews.
Text. The more the Christians are restrained from the practice of usury, the more are they oppressed in this matter by the treachery of the Jews, so that in a short time they exhaust the resources of the Christians. Wishing, therefore, in this matter to protect the Christians against cruel oppression by the Jews, we ordain in this decree that if in the future under any pretext Jews extort from Christians oppressive and immoderate interest, the partnership of the Christians shall be denied them till they have made suitable satisfaction for their excesses. The Christians also, every appeal being set aside, shall, if necessary, be compelled by ecclesiastical censure to abstain from all commercial intercourse with them. We command the princes not to be hostile to the Christians on this account, but rather to strive to hinder the Jews from practicing such excesses. Lastly, we decree that the Jews be compelled by the same punishment (avoidance of commercial intercourse) to make satisfaction for the tithes and offerings due to the churches, which the Christians were accustomed to supply from their houses and other possessions before these properties, under whatever title, fell into the hands of the Jews, that thus the churches may be safeguarded against loss.
Summary. Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province must be distinguished from the Christian by a difference of dress. On Passion Sunday and the last three days of Holy Week they may not appear in public.
Text: In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress. Particularly, since it may be read in the writings of Moses [Numbers 15:37-41], that this very law has been enjoined upon them.
Moreover, during the last three days before Easter and especially on Good Friday, they shall not go forth in public at all, for the reason that some of them on these very days, as we hear, do not blush to go forth better dressed and are not afraid to mock the Christians who maintain the memory of the most holy Passion by wearing signs of mourning.
This, however, we forbid most severely, that any one should presume at all to break forth in insult to the Redeemer. And since we ought not to ignore any insult to Him who blotted out our disgraceful deeds, we command that such impudent fellows be checked by the secular princes by imposing them proper punishment so that they shall not at all presume to blaspheme Him who was crucified for us.
[Note by Schroeder: In 581 the Synod of Macon enacted in canon 14 that from Thursday in Holy Week until Easter Sunday, .Jews may not in accordance with a decision of King Childebert appear in the streets and in public places. Mansi, IX, 934; Hefele-Leclercq, 111, 204. In 1227 the Synod of Narbonne in canon 3 ruled: “That Jews may be distinguished from others, we decree and emphatically command that in the center of the breast (of their garments) they shall wear an oval badge, the measure of one finger in width and one half a palm in height. We forbid them moreover, to work publicly on Sundays and on festivals. And lest they scandalize Christians or be scandalized by Christians, we wish and ordain that during Holy Week they shall not leave their houses at all except in case of urgent necessity, and the prelates shall during that week especially have them guarded from vexation by the Christians.” Mansi, XXIII, 22; Hefele-Leclercq V 1453. Many decrees similar to these in content were issued by synods before and after this Lateran Council. Hefele-Leclercq, V and VI; Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century, Philadelphia, 1933.]
Summary. Jews are not to be given public offices. Anyone instrumental in doing this is to be punished. A Jewish official is to be denied all intercourse with Christians.
Text. Since it is absurd that a blasphemer of Christ exercise authority over Christians, we on account of the boldness of transgressors renew in this general council what the Synod of Toledo (589) wisely enacted in this matter, prohibiting Jews from being given preference in the matter of public offices, since in such capacity they are most troublesome to the Christians. But if anyone should commit such an office to them, let him, after previous warning, be restrained by such punishment as seems proper by the provincial synod which we command to be celebrated every year. The official, however, shall be denied the commercial and other intercourse of the Christians, till in the judgment of the bishop all that he acquired from the Christians from the time he assumed office be restored for the needs of the Christian poor, and the office that he irreverently assumed let him lose with shame. The same we extend also to pagans. [Mansi, IX, 995; Hefele-Leclercq, III, 7.27. This canon 14 of Toledo was frequently renewed.]
Summary. Jews who have received baptism are to be restrained by the prelates from returning to their former rite.
Text. Some (Jews), we understand, who voluntarily approached the waters of holy baptism, do not entirely cast off the old man that they may more perfectly put on the new one, because, retaining remnants of the former rite, they obscure by such a mixture the beauty of the Christian religion. But since it is written: “Accursed is the man that goeth on the two ways” (Ecclus. 2:14), and “a garment that is woven together of woolen and linen” (Deut. 22: ii) ought not to be put on, we decree that such persons be in every way restrained b the prelates from the observance of the former rite, that, having given themselves of their own free will to the Christian religion, salutary coercive action may preserve them in its observance, since not to know the way of the Lord is a lesser evil than to retrace one’s steps after it is known.
But Luther made some very insulting and offensive comments about Jewish people. Perhaps actually actively persecuting the Jews is worse than what Luther is alleged to have done.
And should we set Luther’s virtue alongside that of the late medieval popes to provide a basis for comparison? Pope Alexander VI was pope from 1492 to 1503. He was so notoriously bad that his immediate successors denounced him. Machiavelli in, “The Prince,” uses Alexander VI as an illustration of the worst of the worst of the papacy – a pope who reigned by the use of money and force and who was a deceiver like no other.
Argument 33 is “Ongoing Reform”
“If Protestantism is true, nothing can stop a new ‘Reformation’ from overturning traditional Protestant doctrines.”
This question seems to have the same post-modern core premise we’ve seen in a lot of the other questions. Still – think about it — if Roman Catholicism is true, what’s to stop yet another Reformation from breaking out? It didn’t stop it in the 1500s, did it? And if the Reformation was not the “fault” of Roman Catholicism, why would this hypothetical “new Reformation” be the fault of the Reformation? It’s just not logical.
Argument 34 is “the Corruption of Celibacy”
“If Protestantism is true, the ancient practice of celibacy meant the Church was corrupted from the very beginning.”
Yes, there were ascetic influences that negatively affected the early church. The asceticism didn’t always go to the heart of the gospel, but it certainly did have negative effects. That’s why from the very beginning, Paul warned Timothy against this asceticism:
1 Timothy 4:1-5
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Mr. Rose’s arguments are far from compelling. Most of them appear to be a misrepresentation of Protestantism, typically based on assuming “Protestantism” is post-modern and truth is to be determined by community, rather than simply revealed by God in Scripture. Reformed Christians have ready answers to these arguments, as illustrated above.