Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blast From the Past

Okay, the subject of this post isn't exactly hot off the presses in the blogosphere. But since it came up again in conversation recently, I think it's worth revisiting.

Back in October, Dave Armstrong challenged several folks to a debate. Dave's challenge was rejected by them all, but Turretinfan wasn't content to simply reject the challenge. Instead, he issued a mocking response concluding with this:

My conclusion is that Dave is not now prepared to do a debate, and consequently I will await information suggesting that Dave has either stopped calling himself a Roman Catholic (in which case I will decline the debate, because I have no desire to debate whether Roman Catholicism is Christian with someone who is not fully Roman Catholic), or until Dave has accepted that:

  • Trent denied Sola Gratia by Denying Sola Fide;
  • Trent, Vatican I, and/or Vatican II exalted the authority of the church to at least the level of Scripture; and
  • Vatican II asserted that Roman Catholicism worships the same god as Islam,

and until Dave has provided

  • some counter-definition for what is Christianity proper, that includes (apparently) those who are under Rome's Anathema and the wrath of "God," "Peter," and "Paul."
When it was pointed out to him that to say he will only debate if absurd conditions are met is the same as to refuse to debate at all, his response was ... non-responsive. I referred him to his blog (where his conditions were published) for the details, but perhaps it's worth pointing out a few things here.

First off, it would be worth looking at Dave's actual challenge, which can be found here. There's a lot of preliminaries, but the actual suggested terms can be found in the paragraph that starts with "My suggested terms and parameters and format for the debate are as follows..." One very interesting thing to note is that - if Dave supposedly was challenging them to a "formal" debate and then changing his mind about it, as Turretinfan claims - there is no suggested resolution to be argued. We may conclude either of two things from this: either Dave wasn't particularly worried about a "formal" debate, or that he was open to suggestions as to what that resolution ought to be. In either case, the fact that Dave's terms were declared to be suggestions unquestionably show that he wasn't trying to box anyone into a corner. And in my opinion, the fact that Dave said "There will be no rules, no moderation, no format other than previously agreed-to time limits, and absolute inadmissibility of personal attack" (emphasis added) shows that he wasn't trying to arrange a "formal" debate - since he was calling for "no format". So if Turretinfan didn't understand things, he could have read Dave's actual terms more closely, or he could have asked for clarification. Alternatively he might have simply asked that things be made more specific, if that's what he wanted. Either way, his mocking response was uncalled for.

But let's now go back to TF's comments above, and we shall see that his conditions are absurd, just as I said. First, he wants Dave either to claim that he (Dave) is not Catholic, or else admit to TF's ideas about Catholic doctrine.

Well, the first of these is plainly ludicrous: we may as well say that up is down and down is up as to say that Dave's not Catholic. I'm not aware of any orthodox Catholic who questions Dave's Catholic bona fides, and TF is hardly qualified or competent (in the sense of "possessing standing to pass judgment") to decide for us all whether Dave is Catholic. Since we accept Dave as our Catholic brother, I submit that it would make a lot more sense for TF to accept the fact that Dave is Catholic than to fantasize otherwise.

The other option TF offers here is that Dave has to accept TF's opinions about Catholic doctrine. But once again, this is absurd. Why on earth should a Catholic consent to have his orthodoxy measured by a hostile non-Catholic witness - and one who, it ought to be said, thinks that the Church has broken continuity with the past Magisterium?

Does anything more need to be said? Are these reasonable conditions? Not even close, in my opinion. Or would TF consent to having his standing as a Reformed Protestant measured by a Catholic? Heh!

Personally I didn't and don't see the point in the debate (or any debate, for that matter) anyway. I think they're pointless, and I for one don't consider TF or anyone else to be a "coward" nor his views to be false simply because of a refusal to debate. But I think that a better way that TF might have handled Dave's challenge would have been to offer an actual resolution (if he wanted a formal debate) - since Dave didn't offer one - and/or to make suggestions for how Dave's suggested parameters might be modified to suit himself. These actions would have suggested to me that TF was willing to debate. But to say that Dave must either agree with TF's views of Catholic doctrine or deny that he is Catholic before TF will debate him is ridiculous, and in my opinion these are such obviously outrageous conditions that it seems clear that TF did not actually want to debate Dave. He would have been better off saying so.

34 comments:

Turretinfan said...

RdP,

I've repeatedly pointed out that I did not reject Dave's challenge.

Why you (and he) are so insistent on saying I did, baffles me.

Dave never intended to debate, as is evident from his own comments.

Asking Dave to take the Roman Catholic position is hardly an "absurd" or unfair request.

-Turretinfan

Turretinfan said...

Incidentally, if you use "mocking" to describe the response, what word would you use to describe the challenge?

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Turretinfan,

The post contains the information you are seeking (in both your comments).

- RdP

Dave Armstrong said...

Excellent analysis, Reginald (and thanks very much for posting this). I couldn't have done any better, in examining the absurdity of The Anonymous One's refusal to debate (and his spinning it that I actually refused). It was one of the most remarkable displays of sophistry I have yet encountered.

I will note this on my blog. I hope it brings you a bit of traffic.

Richard Froggatt said...

Dave should also have to prove that his name is really Dave and that the newspaper he used to deliver was printed with real ink and that the car he used on his route was not fueled with illegal moonshine and...

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your kind words (and for the publicity). I appreciate it. :-)

Richard - lol!

- RdP

Turretinfan said...

Richard,

Those actually would be absurd conditions. Asking that Dave advocate the position that I would argue against is hardly unfair. If Dave agrees with me, why should I argue with him?

-Turretinfan

Jamie Donald said...

I find this very interesting.

TF writes (above)

"Asking that Dave advocate the position that I would argue against is hardly unfair. If Dave agrees with me, why should I argue with him?"

But he also stipulates that Dave adopt three specific positions; namely,

1) Trent denied Sola Gratia by Denying Sola Fide,
2) Trent, Vatican I, and/or Vatican II exalted the authority of the church to at least the level of Scripture; and
3) Vatican II asserted that Roman Catholicism worships the same god as Islam.

Since TF would argue AGAINST Dave's position and Dave must (according to TF) take the above positions, we can discern what postions TF would argue simply by inserting a "not" in the three above assertions.

Thus, TF must want to argue that;

a) Trent did not deny Sola Gratia by denying Sola Fide,
b) Trent, Vatican I, and/or Vatican II did not exalt the authority of the church to at least the level of Scripture, and
c) Vatican II does not assert that Roman Catholicism worships the same god as Islam.

Turretinfan said...

Jamie: that's not quite right.

Keep in mind that our proposed topic was something to do with Catholicism being "properly" or "rightly" (or something to that effect) classified as "Christian."

To lay out the proposed negative presentation:

1) Here's what the Catholic church (via Trent, V1, and V2) teaches.
2) Here's why that's not properly classifiable as Christian.

Whereas, I would expect Dave to defend the teachings of Trent, V1, and V2 as properly calssifiable as Christian.

Of course, if I am wrong and the Catholic Church doesn't teach those things, then the first debate we would need to have would be over the proper interpretation of Trent, V1, and V2, before we could get to the classification question.

In that debate, I'd be adopting the three points that I was expecting Dave to admit, and Dave would be the one adding the "not" in each case.

Do you follow?

-Turretinfan

Richard Froggatt said...

TF,

Your argument appears to be something like this: Catholicism teaches X therefore it's not Christian. Dave denies X, therefore he's not Catholic so you cannot debate him for this reason.

However, contrary to what you've said "Of course, if I am wrong and the Catholic Church doesn't teach those things, then the first debate we would need to have would be over the proper interpretation of Trent, V1, and V2, before we could get to the classification question."; the debate would go something like this: Catholicism Teaches X therefore it's not Christian: Dave replies; Catholicism does not teach X therefore it is Christian. Then you can move on to the other points.

You want Dave to concede the debate before it begins.

Dave Armstrong said...

Actually, TAO's demands amount to a requirement that I adopt as "Catholic" his caricature of Catholicism (which he knows more about that I do myself), so that he has the opportunity to debate the usual straw man of what he wrongly thinks Catholicism is, rather than true Catholicism.

I'd truly be an idiot if I agreed to those stacked conditions. The first requirement in any intelligent debate is to understand the opponent's position. TAO not only does not do that; he takes his profound, perhaps invincible ignorance and wishes to bind his opponent to it before the thing even gets off the ground.

This is so absolutely asinine that I truly wonder if it is merely a sophisticated ruse and big joke on TAO's part. Perhaps he is trying to deliberately play the role of a caricature of a Jack Chick-type anti-Catholic just for the fun of it?

It's hard for me to believe that he really can't grasp the elementary points we are making.

On the other hand, it could be a case study of the profound effect of false premises on one's reasoning abilities. I've always said that false premises wreak havoc on cogent thought in almost singular fashion (which is one reason I am a Socratic in method).

In that instance, this would be a striking example of that shortcoming, plain for all to see (except for TAO himself, who is blind to his fundamental mistake).

Turretinfan said...

Dave,

We clearly disagree about what the RCC teaches.

Now, it's easy to make accusation-riddled comments like yours above, and it is much harder to substantiate such comments.

What always amuses me is how you seem to suppose that you must be right and I must be wrong when we disagree about what Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II teaches.

It's almost as though you think your own pontifications are necessarily infallible.

No, Dave, those aren't straw man caricatures - whether or not you, in your private, personal judgment adopt them.

Richard,

Your proposal suffers from the logical fallacy of the denial of the antecedent. Do you require further explanation?

-Turretinfan

Jamie Donald said...

TF,

Of course I follow. When I quoted you, it was a response you gave to this blog - where reginald asserted that Dave must adopt three points. It is your responsibility to provide your own context when it is outside the specific confines of the current article. You did not do that until you responded to me. Thank you for clarifying.

Now a question for you. In your "If I am wrong ..." statement, are you proposing a topic to debate and/or a further refinement of Dave's original request? You are not entirely clear on that issue.

Jamie said...

Minor correction (poor wording and typing on my part)

Not "where reginald asserted ..." but rather "where Reginald asserts that you, TF, demand that Dave adopts 3 points ..."

I hope this reads a little bit better. My apologies for any confusion or lack of clarity.

Turretinfan said...

Jamie:

I'd be happy discuss those issues, and I have even posted a few short blog articles on some of them.

I'm fairly sure that Dave will not debate me on them, but nevertheless I don't ascribe that to fear.

I'd be happy to work out a mutually acceptable debate format for discussing this. Presumably, since the three main issues have little to do with one another, they could be handled separately.

And it doesn't have to be Dave, Jamie. If you want to be the person debating, it could be you instead of him.

-Turretinfan

Dave Armstrong said...

What always amuses me is how you seem to suppose that you must be right and I must be wrong when we disagree about what Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II teaches.

It's almost as though you think your own pontifications are necessarily infallible.


I'm glad you find them amusing. We all need humor to get through the day. I speak as a published, credentialed apologist (regardless of what Steve Hays et al may think). You don't know what you are talking about and are bound to the categories of your own making (presuppositionalism proper) so that you can't even comprehend how one can possibly believe in sola gratia without simultaneously adopting sola fide. You're a prisoner of your arbitrary and false assumptions.

Why do I have to be infallible? I simply know far more than you do about the Church that I have devoted my life to defending. You are ignorant of some things. We would fully expect this, just as I know very little about Turretin: your big hero. I don't have to pretend that I am not ignorant, as you do about Catholicism.

Using your ridiculous methodology, I could just as well reason as follows:

1) TAO claims to be a Protestant and to represent Protestantism.

2) But I know better than he does, what Protestantism is.

3) For example, Martin Luther was the founder of Protestantism, so he certainly knew what it was.

4) But Luther would think anyone who denied the Real, Substantial Presence in the Eucharist was no Christian at all (let alone good Protestant).

5) In fact, he stated this about Zwingli and Oecolampadius, for precisely that reason.

6) Therefore, if TAO denies the Real Presence (which denial includes the Calvinist "dynamic presence" view, according to Luther), he is no Christian or Protestant, according to Luther. Luther even stated that he would rather partake of Holy Communion with a Catholic than a person with such beliefs.

7) Therefore, he cannot sensibly defend a position he doesn't hold himself.

8) Ergo, it is a non-starter proposition to debate him as a representative of Protestantism, since he isn't one himself. Unless he adopts Luther's terms for what a Protestant is, he has no basis for defending what he doesn't understand even as well as I (and Luther) understand it.

The logic here works exactly the same as your own, except for my appeal to Martin Luther as the founder of the thing I am talking about, whereas in your case, you simply appealed to your own pontifical knowledge about other belief-systems, that you assume is superior even to those who devote their lives to studying and defending the systems that you oppose (and have plenty of credentials to back themselves up).

Dave Armstrong said...

I wrote the following on my blog, and it fits here too:

------------------

I'm done with this. There is nowhere else to go with it. Just so everyone knows (incl. TAO) that I have said I am through discussing it, so as not to appear rude . . . TAO can say whatever he likes but I am done. It's already wasted too much of my time today.

Turretinfan said...

Dave,

I see you dodged the main issue, namely your falibility when it comes to interpreting Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II.

All the biting sarcasm and misleading analogies in the world don't help you to escape that problem.

-Turretinfan

Jamie said...

TF,

I appreciate the offer and may take you up on it in the future. But for the moment I will decline.

I know that you read and comments on Dave's blog (as do I). I don't know if you've ever noticed or made the correlation, but I tend to have periods of a few days - maybe even a week - where I have time to comment. But these periods are short and separated by rather lengthy timespans when I don't have time to put down my thoughts at all - even in a simple combox.

Today happens to be one of those days when I have time. However, I fear that the demands of family and work (which requires a lot of travel for me) will keep me from properly engaging you on the topic.

If the future affords me the opportunity - and you are still willing at that time, I will contact you so that we can adequately dialog.

Thank you.

Turretinfan said...

Jamie,

Thanks for your kind response.

In the event that you find time for it, I'll look forward to our discussion.

-Turretinfan

Reginald de Piperno said...

Well, Your Host has been unable to participate in the discussion all day. My apologies, and thank you all for visiting.

Turretinfan, you said:

What always amuses me is how you seem to suppose that you must be right and I must be wrong when we disagree about what Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II teaches.

I have to agree with Dave's reply to this. If you think that Trent denied sola gratia you simply don't know what you are talking about. For my own offerings on this (whatever they may be worth), see here, but especially here and here and here.

As far as I can see, the only possible construction wherein you could possibly have anything like an actual argument is if you insist that sola gratia necessarily entails sola fide. There is no such necessary connection. Trent and the Church have always taught that any merits we have come by grace from Christ, so that (as St. Augustine says) God crowns his own gifts when he crowns our merits.

In any case, your insistence that Trent and the Catholic Church deny sola gratia - despite the fact that they do not, but rather affirm it - makes it clear that you do not understand what the Church teaches. You may disagree with the particular formulation of its teaching concerning this, favoring one that entails sola fide, but that hardly amounts to anything like a demonstration, and it certainly does not invalidate the truth of the Catholic doctrine.

The fact that you consider VII and the Magisterium since then to be discontinuous with the prior Magisterium once again shows that you do not understand Catholic doctrine. Sorry, but that's how it is. Pointing (as I think you have done) at sedevacantists in defense of your views of the Church isn't much different from some non-Protestant appealing to liberal PCUSA'ers as representative of the Reformed wing of Protestantism.

You said, over at Dave's: Ordinarily, people don't go around saying that the other side "refused" to debate simply because one is unhappy with the conditions that the other side is asking for.

If I told you I would only debate you on a snowy July day in Houston, would you consider that "condition" to represent a serious interest on my part to participate in a debate with you?

Of course not.

So...when you say you'll only debate Dave if he stops calling himself a Catholic, or if he consents to your constructions of what the Church teaches...how is that any different from the snowy June day in Houston? Why on earth should he (or anyone) accept your characterization of his status as a Catholic? Why on earth should he (or anyone) accept your characterization of what it means to be a Catholic?

You don't think these are absurd conditions?

You can't see that so far you're the only one here who doesn't think they're absurd?

Perhaps you haven't measured properly what significance your proffered conditions would carry among Catholics. But that again would only show: you don't seem to know what we believe as well as you'd like to have us think you do.

Sorry, but that's how I see it. I'm willing to believe that your conditions were well-intended, but rather than defend them in the face of the sort of response you have received, I would think that it might be better to approach things from a less controversial angle than suggesting that you know better than Dave what we Catholics believe. That dog won't hunt. :-)

Peace,

RdP

Turretinfan said...

Reginald,

I realize that you and I have different interpretations of Trent, and I'm ok with that.

A comment like "when it snows in Houston in July" would be more like "when Hell freezes over" than like "when you decide to advocate the Catholic position." The tone and context determine how one would take the comment. Surely you can see the difference.

If Dave was interested in debating, he would have tried to negotiate something. You and I both know that. That's how its done. He stopped negotiating, because he had already lost interest in debating, if he ever had interest in debating.

I could have legitimately refused the debate for many reasons. I chose not to do so. Instead, I wanted to leave open the option for Dave to make his live debate debut. He declined.

One legitimate reason would be comments like: "... his caricature ... the usual straw man ... he wrongly thinks ... rather than true ... his profound, perhaps invincible ignorance ... a sophisticated ruse and big joke ... a caricature of a Jack Chick-type anti-Catholic ... he really can't grasp the elementary points ... the profound effect of false premises on one's reasoning abilities ... false premises wreak havoc on cogent thought in almost singular fashion ... blind to his fundamental mistake..." (and that's taken from just one of his comments).

But I did not seize that or any of the other legitimate reasons.

The icing on the cake insult, though, is the implication that I am unaware that I refused to debate, and that Dave has infallible interpreted my comment saying that the debate is on hold until Dave clarifies his position as a refusal to debate.

I could understand someone insisting that they were more of a credentialed expert at interpreting Trent, but to say that there is someone who is more expert at interpreting TurretinFan than me takes real ... what's the word ...

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Turretinfan,

Surely you can see the difference.

I can see the difference in tone, obviously. The difference in effect is inconsequential.

He stopped negotiating, because he had already lost interest in debating, if he ever had interest in debating.

If in some fanciful dreamworld I was inclined to participate in a debate, and I was offered conditions which included a demand that I deny either that I'm Catholic or that the Catholic Church teaches sola gratia, I would say, "You've got to be kidding!" Such an offer of terms isn't credible, TF. It's no different in principle than asking you to debate on condition that you either that you're Reformed or that you admit the truth of the Federal Vision gang's views. You wouldn't take that as a serious offer to debate.

Frankly I don't know why this is even controversial, and that's disappointing.

Peace,

RdP

Turretinfan said...

Reginald,

If I were faced with that option (either deny that I'm reformed or agree that reformed = FV), I would decline. I would not go around telling people that the other guy refused to debate.

That would be silly and pointless, unless my whole reason for offering to debate was to obtain a refusal.

-Turretinfan

Reginald de Piperno said...

err...that's supposed to be:

It's no different in principle than asking you to debate on condition that you either deny that you're Reformed or that you admit the truth of the Federal Vision gang's views. You wouldn't take that as a serious offer to debate.

Sorry for the confusion... - RdP

Dave Armstrong said...

Instead, I wanted to leave open the option for Dave to make his live debate debut.

As a point of fact, this is incorrect. At the end of 2000 I debated Tim Enloe live in James White's chat room. Tim decided to depart from our prearranged format, and James White stepped in spontaneously and so I also debated him with no preparation, no notes and no ability to cut-and-paste.

I also interacted with Matt Slick live on Pal Talk in 2003. The latter was not recorded, so I could only summarize it. The first was. I have discarded the Tim Enloe portion at Tim's request, but the White portion remains on my site:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/live-chat-dialogue-on-patristic.html

White's arguably poor performance no doubt contributed to his reasons for refusing twice to ever do such a live chat again with me, even when I gave him a huge advantage in time allowed.

Turretinfan said...

Dave,

Ok, fine. If you'd like to say it would have been your third/fourth live debate, I'm ok with that. I don't think Dr. White considered your chatroom discussion a "debate," and I somehow suspect that Matt Slick has a similar take (though I lack interest to contact them and ask). Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if Tim Enloe didn't consider that discussion a "debate" for that matter. What were the resolutions? Who was affirmative? What were the rules?

But please don't pretend that Dr. White's lack of interest in chatroom "debates" with you has anything to do with "performance."

-Turretinfan

Dave Armstrong said...

But please don't pretend that Dr. White's lack of interest in chatroom "debates" with you has anything to do with "performance."

I don't have to pretend anything. It is a fact, based on:

1) His relentlessly poor replies (or lack thereof) in our many written exchanges.

2) His fleeing from our initial exchange, refusing to answer hard questions and my last 36 pages (single-spaced typewritten).

3) His two refusals to debate me in the chat room, even when I gave him a decided advantage of time and adopted his favorite format of "double cross-ex."

4) His poor performance in our lone live chat debate.

It's the furthest thing from "pretending" or even speculation. There is a record here, and it is not difficult at all to interpret what it means.

What White is scared of is (quite obviously) not all debate, but rather, the extended cross-examination, lack of formal debate rules, and being subjected to questioning precisely where his position is extremely weak (and I think, deep down, he knows this, so that he avoids it like the plague).

He can control all of these variables in pre-planned oral debates (and on his webcast), but he wouldn't be able to in a spontaneous exchange with me. He is only confident insofar as he can control the situation so that relentless difficult questions (cross-ex) cannot be asked of him.

He knows where I would go on the topic of "Is Catholicism Christian?" because I already did it in our first long exchange in 1995, and have touched upon it in several papers since. He has no answer to those arguments, and so he must run and refuse.

It's not difficult to understand at all. It only is for you because you accept the vaunted myth of Bishop White's supposed unvanquishability in debate with Catholics. The man has never intimidated me at all: not from the beginning, and at no time since. The more I see him avoid defending his beliefs, the weaker of a debater I think he is. He lacks the courage of his convictions (at least insofar as they would be proven in a chat debate with me).

If he stuck to Mormons, liberals, and Muslims, where he does excellent work (which I link to on my blog), he would do far better. With Catholicism, however, he (like you) is out to sea.

Turretinfan said...

Dave,

Wow. That's very very far from the truth.

Dr. White has explained his reason for rejecting your offer of an unstructured computer chatroom-style argument:

"In other words, Armstrong continues to refuse to debate man to man in person, and wishes only to hide behind his keyboard where he knows that no one, and I mean no one, can possibly force him to answer a direct question. As long as you can use the written forum, you can avoid the very essence of debate, the heart of debate, which is answering direct questions that test your position for consistency. Armstrong knows he is simply constitutionally incapable of the task, but he refuses to admit it, opting instead for this kind of rhetoric. " (source)

-Turretinfan

Dave Armstrong said...

LOL Right . . .

the very essence of debate, the heart of debate, which is answering direct questions that test your position for consistency.

And this is exactly what I offered him (the last time exclusively so) and he turned it down twice. I know it's tough to face the weaknesses of your hero, but c'mon! Let's have a reality check.

Turretinfan said...

It's amazing what decontextualizing text does, don't you think.

That part of the sentence you quoted began:

As long as you can use the written forum, you can avoid

and yet your offer that you falsely claim is "exactly what [you] offered him," is actually a written forum.

Truly amazing that you manage to chop a piece out of the sentence and make it sound like you gave him what he wanted.

-Turretinfan

Dave Armstrong said...

Cross-examination is what it is, whether it is in written form or oral. The live chat format is far more like oral debate than it is like written.

Be well.

Turretinfan said...

Live chat is a written format.

Reginald de Piperno said...

No offense to either of you gentlemen, but it seems pretty clear that you're not going to agree about this. :-)

Reginald