Friday, May 1, 2009

Review of called to communion

Adventism is a general group of denominations that came out of William Miller's groups like the Seventh Day Adventist (16million), Jehovah's witnesses (7m), and another 2 dozen smaller sects that are around another million people.

In many ways you can create a continuum from more less catholic:
Catholicism -> Episcopalian -> Presbyterian -> Congregationalist -> Baptist -> Adventist
they are sort of the opposite extreme when it comes to creeds and the traditions of the church.

To pick an example Presbyterians hold on to most church teachings, most evangelicals believe in the first 7 ecumenical councels. Adventists deny the legitimacy of every one directly deriving their interpretation from scripture and the second largest group (Jehovah's Witnesses are explicitly Arian) openly disagreeing with the first ecumenical council. William Miller had rejected the Catholic dates for various holidays and went back and used a Karaite Jewish calendar and many of the groups today won't use catholic dating for various Christian holidays. His followers called themselves "the Remnant" believing that the vast majority of the church has fallen into apostasy; that mainstream Christianity was a hindrance not a help to salvation. Through the last 150 years the Adventist heritage has included some pretty sharp language towards the Catholic church even after it went out of fashion among the rest of evangelical Christianity. Adventism has always held that the biblical prophecies regarding "Rome" aren't about the Roman state but the Roman church (as in Roman Catholic Church). They deny any connection other than a negative one to Rome. I'll link off here to the article from Catholic answers on Adventism since I think its right and gives the theme.

So another way of looking at this is these groups are not just less Catholic in practice but less Catholic in ideology. Across the board they reject key principles of the Catholic faith. It is my contention that the history of Protestantism is moving further and further away from Catholicism, seeing Catholicism as an ancient and defective form of Christianity to be replaced with a modern and more and more seeing it as a historical artifact, a form of hard supersessionism taken one step further. They have in the last 20 years also been very effective in moving out of the United States. For example the Seventh Day Adventist is roughly 80% international and growing at over 10% annually.

If one looks at Baptist theology in the last 300 years they also have had similar ideas, identifying themselves in spirit with groups like Bogomils, Albigensians, Montanist, etc.... (see History of the Baptists for a sample). "Baptists are not Protestants" was a common theme a hundred years ago. In the last hundred years with the rise of "evangelical Christianity" Protestants more and more have become baptists often in all but name and the vast majority of evangelical Christianity agrees with the baptists on every major doctrine. And the baptists themselves have moved closer to the Adventists, it is not at all unusual to hear a evangelical degraded "traditions of men", or talk of Jesus not religion. So the movement is towards denying any kind of meaningful belief in "One holy Catholic and Apostolic church". Moreover while the ties to these earlier groups from Christianson in principle are denied in practice the theology has been edging ever closer, as has been commented on multiple times (see Against the Protestant Gnostics for a good book on the convergence).

So we have a Protestant ecumenical movement that looks to make the Catholic church just another denomination. Conversely, Catholic ecumenicism seeks to reunify the churches, that is convert everyone back to Catholicism. The Protestant movement is quite popular and the view of the catholic church that is friendly while denying all of its particular claims, is popular. I was curious about how this would work in practice given these countervailing trends.

So I thought I would engage in discussion at a Catholic ecumenicalism blog entitled "Called to communion", that I had assumed would represent a good sample of the ecumenical group. Perhaps, they do, but what I found was this blog combines pride in hillbilly know nothingness with insane level of arrogance and hold that up as the grace of the infallible church. By the end of a few days on it I felt like making a donation to Jack Chick in their honor. It put me in a "Who would ever want to unify with that?" frame as far as the church. This blog is an anti-apologetic if ever I saw one. So my review is short and sweet. Stay away. This is an ecumenical blog with no interest in discussion, no intent at dialog where the people are to put it bluntly assholes.

On issue after issue after issue they were simply dead wrong on the fact. On issue after issue after issue they projected a view of the Catholic church as inherently and obviously superior. Further they actually believed themselves to be personally superior, a "we are the catholic elite". I literally had somebody tell me on the blog I had to earn the right to discuss stuff, "prove myself". Oh like the thousand plus pages I've written on church doctrine, law and history aren't proof?

Specifically their argument of the canon fell apart on dates multiple times, they had things dependent on other things that happened after; their argument on translation fell apart; and at the end their was absolute assertion that virginity pledges were part of the Jewish faith. In other words, simply factual lies defend with personal insults and attacks. A disgrace to their church. Mind you I wasn't the only one, the other protestant was having similar problems getting them to actual engage with material. There is a definite belief that a poor apologetic presented rudely becomes a better apologetic. But ultimately the specifics weren't the real problem; the real problem is that after 500 years conservative Catholics aren't willing to admit that there were structural problems that led to the reformation. A complete failure to understand that Protestants in general are happy with the outcome of the reformation, and that reunification is going to require addressing reform.

Which is interesting because the last time I was exposed to Catholic apologetics, while I thought that blog was perfectly polite my respect for the Catholic church also went down. This was due to exposure to their apologetics which I find weaker than Protestant apologetics when examined. Interestingly, one of the posters was the same on both blogs, on his own site he was capable of acting like a normal human being, but not on Called to Communion. Which ties this back to the current topic, we are discussing the negative effects of small groups with similar ideology in the previous post and I think this blog may provide an example of how this plays out. While each of these people on their own may be arrogant, limited in their breadth of theology and coming from a similar background I suspect normally they are capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation. By constructing a group composed of all people with the same frame they actually enhanced these negatives. From their own perspective they are "supporting one another" but the net effect is to make their group entirely dysfunctional for its supposed goal, which is outreach not support. So as a case study in the current topic, how small cohesive groups become abusive and oblivious to their failings, the Called to Communion blog might be of value.


See also


Brian said...

Can you provide some examples of what you are talking about? I have been reading Called to Communion for a couple of years, and it has been, by far, the best blog I have read in terms of conduct, intellectual honesty, and all-around pleasantness.

Brian said...

(This comment is just to subscribe.)

CD-Host said...

It has been a few years and I'm not as angry as I was 3 years ago about these incidents. I read CtC off an on but I haven't been active there in years.

I'd say go to any thread where there is a Protestant poster that doesn't crumble immediately to the combination of historical mistruth. The issue I've seen it the most on, of the rise of the papacy. Lots or Protestants are very focused on showing that the bishops were local till the 4th century and quite often bring in secular sources look at what happens.

That being said... an example would be this thread regarding the vulgate's canon (link) I presented overwhelming evidence that the Catholic canon, at least as understood by the Catholic population had changed.

As I had presented overwhelming evidence for this it shifted to a personal attack... "This forum is for sincere inquiry and dialogue, not for anonymous persons to make jokes at the expense of the Catholic Church, and our time." Anonymous persons maybe but it is pointing back to a well known bible blogger. "Not sincere" I run a religious blog.

Now that wouldn't be a problem but I got censored for showing a little pique at that comment, which is a frustrating inequality that is standard fare for that site.


There was a thread on Ecclesial Deism where a lot of what I wrote was altered after the fact. Which to my mind is completely beyond the pale. You can still reconstruct the discussion though it has been butchered. The original argument was made towards a woman Joyce that there had not been a large scale debate about apostolic succession in the early centuries and hence there was no evidence that it was a doctrine that was being introduced rather than going back to the apostle's themselves.

I of course pointed out that there was in fact a huge argument and we have a body of records of the argument. The response basically was that those people don't count because they didn't agree with apostolic succesion and for me personally if you rejected the CTC confession of faith, you couldn't post (a comment which has since been removed). Of course I reject Catholicism, I'm posting for Protestant side! I love how the confession of faith came out of nowhere to justify massive censorship of a clear cut disproof of apostolic succession being the universal opinion of Christians in the 2nd century.

Another one was I was being dishonest, "I don’t know [Dyan Elliot] or her work. You said the concept didn’t exist in Judaism – I disproved your statement. I’m not interested in sophistry." (link)
the statement in question being his claim that there is such a thing as perpetual virginity in Judaism because Judges 11 mentions a girl who happens to be virgin (i.e. hadn't had sex yet). And of course when I pointed out extremely politely given how stupid this argument was, that every girl ever born starts as a virgin and in that no way proves that every culture that has ever existed has vows of perpetual virginity, especially cultures that view virginity as a negative state I get told about my moral failings and threatened (link).

Just on and on and on. The threads a seas of this sort of perverse misconduct. Until I dug through the past I had forgotten how dishonest those people really were.

Well written articles, terrible terrible community.

CD-Host said...

Brian --

Was responding to another blog and it reminded me of kika. I'm still thinking about your question and can't believe I forgot this incident, but it was after this post. This doesn't really address dishonesty since they weren't in any way dishonest with her. But it is an example of an outreach failure and my general moral disapproval of their activities.

I think she was 18 or 19 when she posted to CtC. She used to hang out on Church Discipline because I was non-judgmental but older and she was putting her life together after leaving a physically abusive home. She was exploring her options she was definitely leaving her IFB/Pentecostal church and wasn't sure whether to quit being Christian, whether to switch to a liberal church, become Catholic or non-Christian. Went to CtC off a link on my blog, and made a point that all people are fallible including the apostles.

So as far as I'm concerned her interest in Catholicism was genuine, though CtC was over her head, she had less education that most (all?) of their posters, at that point only high school and not a terrific high school education. You would think the kind of person they would want to at least redirect to an age / education appropriate resource, like a young adult group if they were actually doing outreach. Rather they went for the instantly insulted and deleted. Worked well to cement her idea that "Catholic ministers" were the same kind of "violent judgmental assholes" she was used to from her home church.

I would think that grown adults with children with normal adult problem solving skills and basic human compassion seeing a juvenile from a blog called "Church Discipline" would at least find out who they are dealing with before they whip their moral superiority on her, and treat her bad, regardless of what they thought of me.

I was floored at the time. One of the anonymously came back over here a few months later to take another pot shot at her while mainly going after me. She never saw it, thankfully.


And to cut off the two questions / points of debate.

1) I don't know what she meant by "Catholic ministers". I know she knew about Priests, Nuns and Friars but that was the terms she used for the CtC people. I suspect a "minister" is someone who runs a ministry in a church while a "reverend" or "pastor" is a paid employee.

2) I don't agree with her "violent" comment.

Brian said...

One thing I have noticed in reading the threads in which you have participated is that I do not agree with you on what is a personal attack or ad hominem. So I do not think they were being rude, but one thing I do agree with you is the editing of posts. That's not cool.

I would encourage you to contact them privately and cite in succinct way where you've be wronged.

CD-Host said...

First off the personal wrongs are just the ones that most easily come to mind. As I've said before you can see the same thing on just about every thread.

Lets just pick the latest the OPC thread. There was an argument going on between the CtC crowd and Ed Dingiss where I think Adriane and Mateo toed over the line a bit I don't want to get distracted. A guy by the name of Rev Jones made a historical point in support of Ed Dingiss. The response starts with a
you gotta be kidding me, because the author of the book is not a Christian (Freeman is in fact an active British Humanist). BTW the Protestant I think addresses Freeman fairly link, that the book is likely historically accurate but is effectively preaching something that would nullify Christian orthodoxy. then a personal attack, "It would be interesting to know just what sort of church recognizes you as 'Reverend.'" The post goes on to argue that Reverend Jones is clear lying because a real Reverend would never fall for the arguments in A.D. 383. That is Reverend Jones is both stupid and a liar. Can you imagine what would have happened if a Protestant had written a similar post about one of the Catholic posters? Ed is cautioned when he responds to sarcasm with sarcasm. Reverend Jones had gone after Frank with this sort of language...

And BTW as a matter of fact Charles Freeman is a member of the Royal society of the Arts and has had his books reviewed in academic journals and well regarded mainstream newspapers (NY Times, Washington Post, Atlantic Journal-Constitution...) They are definitely considered popular history, but they are not objectively viewed as fringe secularism the way say someone like DM Murdock is. I could easily imagine anyone from the PCUSA having no problem at all with the conclusion in AD 383 and I could imagine someone in the PCA using such a book with caution.

So the comment was entirely false in addition to way outside the bounds of acceptable dialogue.

CD-Host said...

(part 2)

Another, though less serious example is two points made by Adrienne. She focuses heavily on Ed Dingiss' personal moral failing of arrogance. lacking submission and accusing him of muscle flexing. Ed incidentally does object to her first post and pulls the conversation back to Luther's action. The context here is a blistering attack by Mateo on Luther for having an entirely ungodly arrogance. So in context I think what Adrienne is saying to Ed Dingiss is that he agrees with Luther because he is similar morally deformed.

And I could keep drawing like this. What is important to note that is that if a Protestant ever shows any pique at this subtext they are immediately warned about how things like sarcasm don't advance the dialogue.

The reason this post stands is not because my feeling were hurt three years ago, but because I think caution is needed when using this excellent resource. I think I'm giving the correct advice in "read but don't engage". And this comes up in other contexts. For example there are a lot of CtC related topics that come up in Evangelical / Mormon dialogue and so I link over but caution people, since I think both groups would be likely to be mistreated.

And secondly the wrongs were intentional in my particular case and in others. They weren't denying them they agreed they were doing them. There is no disagreement on the facts. If I accidentally bump into someone and break their nose that deserves conversation. It I intentionally break someone's nose while stealing their wallet, what is there to say?

Why did Frank suddenly jump in with that sort of truly off the wall attack in response to Reverend Jones? The goal of CtC is to present a first class version of the Neumann apologetic. There are well known classic counter apologetics that one finds in some of the most important and most influential Protestant classics like Foxe's book or Martyrs and Darby's lectures. They aren't unaware of these arguments. And so the goal is to prevent anyone from presenting a reasonable defense. The goal is to give the false impression and the Neumann apologetic is unrebuttable. So once someone starts to bring in materials outside the Magisterial Reformation... they go personal.

I'm not sure what there is to talk about.