TWO HUNDRED QUESTIONS!
A reader e-mailed me a question, and I actually know how to answer!
Thanks Phillip! This is a Comparative Religion website, so I’ll answer by first comparing Protestantism (more accurately, “Bible-only” Christianity) with Catholicism.
When Protestants ask questions (stumpers), they normally don’t ask questions that are designed to encourage a Catholic to think. They ask loaded questions such as, “Why do you worship Mary when the Bible doesn’t tell us to?” Of course, Catholics don’t worship Mary, but the Protestant doesn’t care about the facts; the question is designed to imply how Catholics don’t understand the Bible and are more interested in “traditions of men”. Or, Protestants will ask questions that are so based in fantasy that a Catholic can’t even begin to answer. Most often, they will want you to answer their questions using the “Bible only”—demand that you answer the way they want you to answer. Ultimately, they want to tell you what you believe, and then tell you how you’re wrong. Basically, Protestantism is a theory; it requires a short sales pitch and little thought. Catholicism engages the mind. In contrast to how CofC-ers evangelize a caricature of Catholicism, try to address the facts of CofC beliefs (if, of course, they can even be nailed down. “True doctrine” isn’t written; it’s simply in the minds of their most influential members). In other words, we should be like St. Paul and familiarize ourselves with the beliefs of our CofC neighbors.
As Catholics, we of course wish for all Christians to come into the fullness of the Faith, but not all Protestants are ready. We don’t need to use tricky questions to force a pro-Catholic answer; we simply wish for Protestants to use basic scriptural and historical reasoning. For example, I asked a couple of Church of Christ preachers a single, simple question: “When did sola Scriptura begin?” (recorded here) The somersaults and evasion of the question was so clear than anybody could observe how the ministers were not interested in truth; they cared about the preservation of their religion. So it would be like “casting pearls to swine” to try to engage in reasonable dialogue with people who simply don’t care. Move on, shake the dust from your feet—there are many CofC-ers who aren’t as sociologically attached to their religion.
Good evangelism involves the asking of quality questions. If Protestants can be reasonable, then proceed. An example of a great question is, “Why won’t you become Catholic?” That’s a great question to ask! That kind of question allows for and invites a real discussion! If the Protestant’s objection is based in reality, you can then address that objection and move forward. It is very important to ask questions that are not loaded, that are designed to force Protestants to actually think and not react. Our questions should haunt them.
Back to the email: Phillip asked me for a few “stumpers”. Instead, I have listed TWO HUNDRED questions that I’ve used in person, on this blog, and in my books. (hundreds more are available in my books). They are all designed to capture a Protestant’s intellectual honesty. If they don’t answer, refuse to respond, or avoid the self-evident implications of the questions, then they simply don’t want to be thinking Christians; they are not ready. Love them anyway. I too was an anti-Catholic “militant CofC-er”; some of us are slow!
Don’t be like Protestant “machine gun” evangelists; one question at a time! These questions are best read in order.
The Church of Christ Pre-Dates the Bible
•Can you not understand that the ontological priority of a sacred library of books must be a sacred body with the authority to have recognized it as such and to label it as such, that an inerrant text requires an inerrant author, that the Spirit that aided the writing is the same Spirit that interprets—that you would have no reason to believe that the books that comprise the New Testament are inspired if it were not for the authority of a Sacred Tradition?
•Jesus was tented in Mary’s womb, thus she was the first Christian, but was she a believer in Protestant-styled sola Scriptura as members of the Protestant Church of Christ are at this late time?
•If “Bible-only” Christianity is true, should we not, then, assume that the nascent Church, with its fledgling ecclesial structure, was illegitimate and with no authority at all—that the structure the Apostles created was not Jesus’ intention simply because there was no detailed New Testament scriptural mandate?
•Are we to believe that if the primitive Church leaders had never decided to write the New Testament—if doing so was not good to the Holy Spirit and to them—that there would be no true Church today?
•Was St. Paul a “Bible-only” Christian?
•Was the authoritative Church designing its own undoing by creating the Bible?
•Would its authority and status as the pillar and foundation of truth cease because it would create New Testament Scripture?
•Was the pattern of ecclesial authority usurped? If so, and if “Bible-only” Christianity or sola Scriptura is true (Jesus’ intent) then should we not expect such an important truth regarding the Faith to be presented somewhere within Scriptura?
•Can an honest student argue that St. Peter and St. Paul would find communion with the Protestant Church of Christ—a collection of communities that originated in 19th century Kentucky, who were not called, but rather, promoted themselves as inerrant interpreters of another Faith’s book? (CofC-ers, of course, will call this a loaded question. Demand that they show you how they existed before the 19th century.)
•Has your group ever provided any reason why anyone should believe your patternistic theories and conclusions?
•Why are your group’s patternistic insights correct?
•Who in your midst has the extra-biblical authority to provide such a stamp?
•How is it that you have somehow determined the proper pattern from which to imitate and bind your fellow believers?
•Can you not realize that a pattern presupposes a Church that was already in existence—that an actress is self-evidently not who she is pretending to be?
•Does “X” become “Y” by imitation?
•Does stumbling upon a proper invisible interpretation of a book somehow create the visible structure established by Christ Jesus?
The Church Is Built on Rock
•Was Jesus attempting to confuse people when He used a word rich with paternal authority when He named Simon Bar-Jona “Rock”?
•Why do you believe anyone should have any reason to entertain your message when you cannot provide any ordinary nor extraordinary credentials?
•Was Jesus giving Himself the keys? Was Jesus assigning binding and loosing powers to Himself? And of course, how is the rock that Jesus was referring to actually be Himself, when, as your ministers also teach, was St. Peter’s “confession of faith”?
•If the Keys opened the doors to heaven, and if Mt. 16:16-19 was a prophecy of Acts 2 (Pentecost), as your apologists teach, then why does the Bible offer no hint of your belief?
•Why do you believe your ministers never show you the link between Isaiah 22:22 and Matthew 16:16-19?
•Why don’t you follow the biblical pattern of priests acting in persona Christi, forgiving sins? (John 22:21-23)
•If you lived in the first century, would you have submitted to the leaders ordained by the Apostles?
•If you lived in the first century, would you have confessed your sins to the Apostles as Jesus commanded? (cf. John 20:23)
•Are not the Apostles mediators? Was Mary not the mediatrix who allowed Jesus to become our Mediator—the deliverer of our Deliverer? Were not the writers of the Holy Scriptures mediators? Were not the men (bishops) who collected the New Testament writings and discerned the canon of Scripture mediators? Is not their final product, the Bible, a mediator? Are not your loved ones who pray for you mediators?
Church Plantings / Hierarchy / Extra-Congregational Authority
•Were the elders at Ephesus not subordinate to St. Paul? (Acts 20:17)
•Should any elder or layperson in Ephesus, then, disregard St. Paul’s epistle written specifically to them?
•Was St. Paul usurping the local elders’ authority?
•Should any modern local assembly not, then, disregard Acts 20, disregard his letter to the Ephesians, and disregard any of his other letters or instructions as extra-congregational non-Scripture?
•Is anything other than a hierarchy of sorts reflected within this example?
•Does the passage not portray a dynamic of a practicing hierarchical structure?
•How then, are the local churches “autonomous” when they are dependent on an external elder for instruction?
•And how, of course, are your modern congregations “autonomous” when they too rely on external elders for their instructions—their letters that the hierarchy stamped as Scripture and provide the material for your group to argue against the hierarchy?
•Do your congregations install their elders by their own self-assigned authority, or do they allow the hierarchy to install them according to the biblical pattern?
•Is Jesus’ prayer for unity found within the broad umbrella of non-Catholic Christianity detectable?
•Is it not obvious that in order for a man to raise his Bible overhead and plant a congregation that believes just as he believes, that he must first insist and persuade others that the hierarchy is a hoax? Is the hubris not obvious?
•The early proto-Protestant heretics of antiquity, with whom you would largely, but not fully, disagree with doctrinally, were at least as credible as your restorers. Why should we not believe that they, and not you, represent the true Church?
•Was the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) fumbled, just to be recovered by any sect?
•“Faith” was not the Bible; the “Faith” created the Bible, so is it not more reasonable to consult the body that created the Bible than any community that merely adopted an abridged version of it?
•How do you know that your group rightly interprets the Bible, or contains the correct Faith?
•What is the source of that pride, pride that insists that the Faith once for all delivered does not include the Sacred Tradition, was not once for all delivered, and was not delivered to the saints, but to you instead, or to any modern, self-promoting group?
•Do you not believe Jesus when He told St. Peter, You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)?
•Did the Petrine Ministry—to feed my sheep (John 21:17)—die? Did Jesus only care about the first generation of sheep?
•Is your theory of Apostasy more powerful and more meaningful to you than Jesus’ promise to be with you always, to the close of the age (Matthew 28:20), or does your wish to be right trump His Church’s ability to remain faithful?
•Is your modern community, somehow, more capable of remaining more faithful than the ancient body that Jesus chose, and gave the Counselor to be with them for ever (John 14:16)?
•Did the Spirit of truth that dwells in the Church die as well, and thus, prove Jesus wrong by leaving us desolate (v. 17)?
•Does death shall not prevail against it, always, and to the close of the age mean anything to you, or does the conspicuous absence of your group’s presence in history somehow override the promises of God?
•So when did it happen? Can any of your elders or ministers suggest a day, a decade, or even a century when the Apostasy began—when the Church was weakened to a point that it needed to be reborn by men from Kentucky many centuries in the future?
•If toppled, would not a structure built on such a mighty foundation create an echo of some sort?
•A fact of this importance must surely have left a fingerprint, so where is the evidence?
•The real Church is of God, and it was not overthrown. Our King does reign, but how could the King reign for ever and ever (Hebrews 1:8) without a kingdom?
•And is not the Church His kingdom?
•And does not the angel Gabriel tell our Lady that Jesus will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:33)?
•Did His kingdom with His ministers change the unchangeable characteristics of the Church by ceasing to be a mustard seed, by ceasing to be bread without yeast (cf. Matthew 13:31-35), by putting its lamp under a bushel (Matthew 5:15)?
•Were the centuries of anticipation as revealed in the Old Testament thwarted so early after Jesus’ passion?
•Was Daniel describing a temporary Church when he wrote, And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever (Daniel 2:44)?
•Should we believe that Jesus was referring to His Church when He said, Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up (Matthew 15:13)?
•Did salvation history end with the death of Christ’s Bride at some undetermined moment that escapes even your “true church’s” recollection, only to be brought back to life by your “true church’s” interpreting power?
•Were your restorers better than Jesus, because they resuscitated her while He left her to die?
•Were your restorers more instrumental than the Apostles, because they assigned themselves the more difficult task of restoring (re-creating) what the Apostles were only assigned by Jesus to maintain (perpetuate)?
•Were your restorers greater than the supposed apostate fourth-century Catholic fathers who matter-of-factly discerned the canon of Scripture and compiled the Bible for the world-wide Church, because they took her Holy Writings for personal and sectarian gain, and essentially propagated the blasphemy that someone greater than God had snatched the Church out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29)?
•Is there any record of a remnant community that practiced what could be construed as Protestant Church of Christ Christianity? Sure, you might superficially associate yourself with fringe groups such as the Lollards or Albigensians, but any examination reveals the gap between your theological tenets.
•Presumably, your ancestors were literate, because they would surely have been “Bible-only” Christians; which would be difficult, because the printing press had not been invented in the western world until the fifteenth century. So what version of the Bible did your remnant use?
•So did the remnant utilize the Catholic canon, or did it utilize the abridged Protestant canon that was created in the sixteenth century—the canon that you since adopted yourselves, but still deny that you are Protestant?
•And that raises another question: Where are the remnant’s Bibles?
•Would not your group, which claims to be the true Church, which is a “Bible-only” community, if it were anchored in some way to the nascent Church, be able to supply a single Bible, or even a single fragment of Scripture of any kind, instead of relying, again, on Catholic labor?
•Where, physically, were your remnant ancestors?
•Would not the Church resemble Daniel’s prophecy: the Church became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:35)?
•Where is your earth-filled mountain? Would a person not see a mountain, even from a great distance? If the remnant Church filled the whole earth, why was the earth so empty of it? Would we not see the mountain’s lights, or did your ancestors keep their candles under a bed (cf. Mark 4:21)?
•Is not Christ’s kingdom a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28), and did the Church not pray for the servants of God to speak his word with all boldness (Acts 4:29), and did they not receive that gift (cf. v. 31)?
•Have you no saints that lived after the Apostles, yet before your latter-day figures, who are worthy of mention? If so, do they not deserve bronze busts on your university campuses alongside your nineteenth century restorers?
•Can you not understand how transparent a group (such as yours) is when it claims that God’s Church left the earth simply because they have determined that history has not aligned itself with its modern-day revelation or private interpretation of the Bible? Can you not acknowledge how any cult might establish itself as “true” in the same way? Can you not question first your own worldview?
•So was the man of lawlessness (2 Thes 2:3) the pope or not? Which pope? If the man of lawlessness is the pope, and if the mystery of lawlessness is [in St. Paul’s day] already at work (v. 7), then would you admit that a pope existed in St. Paul’s day—was already at work? And if you are able to admit it, then who was that evil pope? Are you, then, able to admit that St. Peter must have been that evil Pope—the evil Pope that you, of course, would not be in communion with!
•Has your group decided when to retroactively damn Christ’s Bride? Would you agree with the Calvinists who reached back 1,000 years into their collective fantasy and decided that St. Gregory of the sixth century was the Antichrist? Would you consider every pope after St. Gregory to be the Antichrist? Would you be willing to change the Holy Scripture to read, “men (not man) of lawlessness?” Has Antichrist’s supposedly shortened (Matthew 24:22) reign continued through to this day, passing through the supposed Restoration / reincarnation of God’s true Church?
•Can you isolate some bit of Scripture that identifies the Church’s reincarnation as a body that would build itself out of ashes, or out of its own self-grabbed authority, out of its own self-supporting theory or interpretation?
•Does it not challenge your group’s collective intellectual and moral dignity to use the Catholic Church’s Scriptures to argue against the Catholic Church, and to use them to prop up a community that is founded only on an ecclesiological theory?
•Is it not possible that God has sent your members a powerful delusion to make them believe what is false (2 Thessalonians 2:11)?
•Every generation has its destruction, and every generation has its own group of heretics who go out from the Church (1 John 2:19), and thus, by their own choosing, apostasize themselves from the existing Church—which of course is Catholic; a person cannot leave a new (Protestant) body to create an old (Catholic) body. Did Protestants not go out from the Catholic Church? And did your group not go out from the original Protestants? Is your family tree not self-evidently entropic?
•Is it not obvious how your group adds to the Protestant resemblance?
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths (2 Timothy 4:3,4).