Friday, August 26, 2005

Ears to Hear?

So recently, on my other blog, Grace for the Wayward Heart, I held an Open Question & Answer forum fielding any and all questions about Catholicism. It was prompted after I was visited by a Protestant minister at my blog, who left some kind words about my analogy between Paintballing and the Armour of God described in Ephesians 6:10-18. I decided to check out his own blogsite, and I found some good articles about focussing on Christ.

He was lamenting that Christian churches today don't focus enough on Christ, but have allowed themselves to drift into more psychological and self-focussed teachings. I made it a point to say that the Catholic Church has retained in its doctrine a clear focus on our Lord, and that every teaching of the Catholic Church, no matter what subject it is on, points to a truth about Christ and His salvation in our lives. This claim was not well received, and I was told that I needed to provide proof for such a claim, which I would gladly do, but the doctrines of the Church are so vast and all-encompassing, that it would take many hours to fully peruse them all and demonstrate the Christocentric nature of them all. So I suggested that he and others could ask any question they had about any teaching of the Church that didn't obviously seem to point to Christ. Thus, the Open Forum.

I am not writing this post to argue for Catholicism. You can read the Open Forum for that. However, after a forum of 180 comments, I wanted to reflect on a line from Scripture that came in Loren's last post:

"He who has ears, let him hear."

Honestly, it was funny coming from him. Between Mary, the Saints, the Papacy, and a number of cursory issues, I demonstrated how Christ is Lord, and He operates through His Church--that you cannot have one without the other. Repeatedly I demonstrated that A) this affirms and strengthens Christ's role in our lives, B) without the Church we wouldn't have Christ in our lives, and C) denying this fact has led to disunity and schisms galore in the protestant churches.

I provided ample Scriptural, logical, and historical support for my argument. Instead of interacting with those arguments, the minister, and a few other Protestants present, ignored my Scriptures and my arguments, and kept side-stepping issues. I, for my part, went through their posts point-by-point, repeating thier entire posts and making my comments within theirs, so I would not miss anything. I thoroughly countered each point before moving on.

And I must say, very rarely did they extend the same courtesy. Probably because when they did, in my opinion, their arguments collapsed and failed miserably!

So, did this convince any of them of the truth of the Church? Don't bet on it.

"He who has ears, let him hear" indeed! It's frustrating to spend so much time on a project and to have it bear such meagre fruit. It's like talking to brick walls--except these bricks often made ludicrous charges in reply (and once, implied that I myself didn't have a relationship with Christ! That pissed me off)!

I can understand an unwillingness to be taken in. I can understand a reluctance to reexamine your own position (no matter how "open" you claim to be to that proposition). I can even understand arguing against a position with well-formed, well-reasoned disagreements, even if you happen to be wrong--if you are convinced by the logic of an argument, then more power to you if you can demonstrate it.

What I cannot fathom is what occurred: Misrepresentation of the other side's ideas, so that they end up teaching the opposite of what the teaching is, and re-stating the same argument again, without changing or advancing it, as if the more times you repeat that "idea A" is wrong, the more wrong "idea A" will be.

For example, on the blog we were discussing Matthew 16:18, and its implications for the papacy. In it, Jesus says, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." The issue is what is meant by "on this rock." Jesus has just changed Simon's name to Peter, a name which means "Rock". Then He says, in the same sentence, "on this rock, I will build My Church." Quite honestly, it doesn't get any plainer than that.

So, my opponent says, "Not so! In the Greek, the word for Peter is "petros" and the word for rock is "petra"! Aha! They're two different words! Thus, Jesus isn't saying that He will build His church on Peter!"

Riiiight.

His argument follows that "petros" is a small stone, or a chunk of the rock, while "petra" is a large rock or cliff. However, this distinction had only occurred in secular Greek poetry at least a century before Jesus said this, and by the first century, this distinction had faded away, so that "petros" and "petra" were synonymous--merely a masculine and a feminine form of the same word. Thus, the only reason for the difference in words in this passage, is because "petra" is a feminine noun (think "le" and "la" words in French), and Peter, being a guy, wouldn't be called a feminine word for his name. Thus, "petra" would be "petros".

Incidentally, the running gag was that the protestant minister's name was "Loren". I said, "Calling Peter "Petra" would be like someone calling you, "Lauren" or "Lorraine"." Apparently my humour, and my point, was lost on him, because after explaining this to him, he proceeded to make the exact same argument! So I proceeded to demonstrate that "petra" was always used as a large rock, as he said, but "petros" never was used anywhere in the Bible as a "small stone" as he asserted. The Bible makes numerous mention of smaller stones. When I did a search at Blue Letter Bible, I found that there were 60 times that the word stone was used in 55 New Testament verses. Each time, the same word was used, and it wasn't "Petros". It didn't even sound like "Petros". The word for small stone was "Lithos" every single time. In fact, I made sure to point out that the only time that "Petros" was used in the Bible was as Peter's name.

Having for a second time demolished the argument, what happened? Did he acceed victory? Did he say, "you win"? Did he at least admit maybe I had a point? No. He repeated the argument! The exact same argument! But this time, he added a new argument--that saying Peter was the rock takes away from Jesus. This argument might have merit, except that Jesus Himself called Peter the rock!.

It was just absurd! And really frustrating! I began wondering if he was even reading my replies!

I made a rule at the forum not to engage in Ad hominem attacks (basically, insults). But seriously, it was really getting hard to pass them up! If you won't listen to reason, at least give a good reason why not!

On a plus note, my Lutheran friend joined in the discussion. He has an open, inquisitive, and very sharp mind. Had he opposed Catholic teaching, I would have been a goner for sure! But he nobly saw the reason behind the Catholic position, and is looking closely at the Church--despite his current studies to be a Lutheran pastor! God bless you and your family, Chris!

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