Monday, January 13, 2014

Is the Canon Really The Most Major Issue in Dealing with Roman Catholics?

Somebody tweeted to folks like myself that we needed to hear James White's interview with Michael Kruger about the canon of scripture on his internet Dividing Line program.  I am interested in canon issues.  It's an interesting subject.  People who care about the Bible will think about it.  I want to read a few of Kruger's books on the canon.

So I listened to a big chunk of the program.  It started with twenty minutes from a Roman Catholic radio call-in program in which the canon subject came up from a caller.  Before White started into his interview with Kruger, he said, "This (the canon) is the key apologetic issue when dealing with Roman Catholicism."  The canon question is a subject debated in the realms of scholarship.  How many people are those?

Don't get me wrong.  I think it's important to understand what you believe on the canon.  I think you should have that nailed down.  Pastors should have an explanation.  I do.  I've written on it myself.  I wrote the chapter on the canon in Thou Shalt Keep Them.  However, is this the essential point requiring resolution for Roman Catholics?

I evangelize several people a week.  I don't believe that I would be exaggerating to say that I have had at least 2,500 separate conversations with Roman Catholics in the last 25 or so years.  I believe the number is low, that I'm being very conservative, because that would be about 100 a year, and it could be double or triple or even ten times that.  Some days I have five or more separate conversations with Catholics in one day.  I don't keep track.  I'm not saying 2,500 Roman Catholics, but 2,500 conversations.  It's hard to judge the number, but this is a very Roman Catholic area, especially because of the Hispanics and Filipinos.  Then there are the European Catholics.  In the towns or cities here, there are one or more Catholic churches, and I can visualize right where ours are in my mind.  I see St Patrick in Rodeo, St Joseph in Pinole, and St Calistus in El Sobrante, St Paul in San Pablo, St Mark in Richmond, etc.  St Joseph's in Pinole is packed every week.  We have Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Islamics, as well, and more, but it isn't unusual to go door-to-door and have Catholic, Catholic, Catholic, Catholic, Catholic, right in a row.

Out of all the Roman Catholics who I have ever talked to, I got very few substantive conversations.  The most thorough dealing I ever had was in a huge debate by private email I got into with the late Joseph Sobran, one time editor of National Review.  I wrote to correct Sobran, and I kept writing with him because I wanted to evangelize him.  I had written him in answer to one of his columns.  It dealt with Catholicism and I thought he got the history wrong, so I emailed him.  He emailed me back and we did that for several weeks.  At one time, I bundled those emails together into a booklet of a few dozen pages, and they were available.

Now get this.  In all the dealings I have had with Roman Catholics, I have never had one talk to me about the canon.  Not one.  The smartest and best informed Roman Catholics I have ever talked to have never brought it up.  I'm not doubting that White has discussions with Catholic apologists about the canon, but Roman Catholics, including Sobran, never bring it up.  That's not even a concern for them.

Is it really helpful to hear the canon is the major and key issue for Roman Catholics, and it isn't?  I understand that White is saying that he's referring to their apologists, but that's not who you'll talk to out there.  So you'll be all loaded for bear on the canon issue, begin to talk to a Roman Catholic and never hear it.  I don't think you need to bring it up.  You shouldn't bring it up.  The Roman Catholics, who are even prepared to argue about anything, don't mention it.

White says that pastors and educators and leaders need the books on the canon, intimating that this is preparation for dealing with Roman Catholics, that they'll really need this.  Believe me.  You won't need that in talking to Roman Catholics.   Then that has me wondering?  What is the point of James White debating these Roman Catholic apologists?   This is a very normal debate for James White, to debate Catholic scholars.  They go round and round, really never coming to any kind of conclusion.   When someone argues with a Roman Catholic scholar does it sound anything like what an evangelism opportunity with a Roman Catholic sounds like?  No.  Not at all.  You need to know that.

But do I really know?  I can't say I know, but I'm pretty sure that James White doesn't do much in the way of going out evangelizing every week.  For him to say that "canon" is the key, the chief issue, indicates ignorance on his part.  No Roman Catholic I've every talked to will bring it up.

OK, so what is the problem for Roman Catholics?  First, Roman Catholics don't believe they can have forgiveness of sins throughout all eternity.  They don't believe Jesus has done enough for them to be saved.  Roman Catholics add works to grace.  They don't have a Jesus who can save them throughout all eternity.

Do Roman Catholics believe the Bible?  They don't.  However, if you ask a Roman Catholic the following question -- If you took the Bible and then you took Roman Catholicism, and the two contradicted each other, would you believe the Bible or Roman Catholicism? -- what answer do you think you get?  I've talked to so many, that at this point, it's scientific.  More than 90 % say "the Bible." Once you explain the Bible to a Roman Catholic, then you get the problem that most people have who don't get saved.  Pride.  Worldliness.  Materialism.  Roman Catholicism is a religion that doesn't require your whole life -- you can get by with some ritual and you'll be set (sort of).  Catholics like that.  They reject biblical Christianity, the true Jesus, for themselves.  Their selves is the problem, like it is with so many people.

Family is an issue to Catholics.  Roman Catholicism is a family religion.  It's not really an apologetic type of religion, because it doesn't come from the Bible.  Catholics don't want to cause waves in the family.  So even if the Bible is true, they won't want to disappoint mama in so many cases.

James White will probably have some answer to explain why he says the canon is most important.  It isn't to rank and file Catholics and even the more knowledgeable ones.  He's wrong on that, and it isn't the best thing to tell people that the canon is the best Catholic argument.  You won't hear it out there.  I've never heard it from a Catholic.


Anonymous said...

Bro. Brandenburg,

I have actually discussed the canon with a JW, and touched on it with a Mormon. Never with a Catholic. It just doesn't come up.

You mentioned that you had a correspondence with Joseph Sobran. I used to really enjoy reading his columns. He was an incisive thinker. Would you be willing to make that available again?

Chris L

George Calvas said...


I have spoken as well to over 1000's of Roman Catholics in the past 25+ years and the issue of the Canon has come up in less than 1 out of 100 of my conversations. The comment from more astute Catholics is ususally, "The bible was put together by Constatine or Catholics around 300AD".

Other than that, many Catholics are just as you said, ignorant of what they believe, are ritualistic, family oriented (a good thing), but just like any religionists, traditions of men that allow a strong pride in what they can do to be accepted by God in "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof".

Most are proud knowing nothing of true biblical Christianity.

I am beginning to approach many of my personal contacts with the lost by asking them if they are a Christian (In my experience in America, the typical response is YES, 3 out of 4 times). If they say they are, I then ask them, "Are you a Christian by name or are you a Christian by biblical conviction?"

From there, you can easily get to the heart issues.