"Persistence Pays Off for Catholic Apologists"
An Open Challenge to Karl Keating, President, Catholic Answers

 

 


Addition made 8/24/99:

Catholic Answers Announces Budget of $3,300,000.00 for the Year 2000

This huge budget includes $350,000.00 for administration, and $350,000.00 for fund-raising!  Why is this relevant?  Well, in light of the information contained below, and Catholic Answers' constant claim to be on the "front lines" giving the "Catholic Answer," it strikes us as a bit strange that the President of that organization, the single individual on their staff with the most experience doing debates, an attorney by training, would continue to ignore a decade old challenge to "give the Catholic answer" in the face of a well-reasoned Reformed answer offered by James White.  Catholic Answers has twenty times the staff that we have; Catholic Answers' year 2000 budget is fifty-five times larger than our own.  They will spend almost six times our entire budget just on fund raising next year!  Quite simply, on an organizational and financial basis they dwarf this small, Reformed ministry.  So why do we continue to hear nothing but silence from Catholic Answers to our repeated invitation to debate these vital issues at no cost to them whatsoever?  As you will see below, we have a very nice church in San Diego (their home base) that is more than willing to sponsor a debate between myself and Mr. Keating.  What possible reason, in light of the debates we have already done against Patrick Madrid, Tim Staples, Gerry Matatics, Robert Sungenis, Scott Butler, Art Sippo, and Mitchell Pacwa, could be hindering Mr. Keating from accepting our challenge?  


This challenge posted June 29, 1999

Original Challenge:

The card-sized envelope arrived at my home.  It was hand addressed, so, I immediately opened it.  Inside I found yet another fund-raising plea from....Catholic Answers.  I'm not sure how I got on the list (I once subscribed, and buy lots of Catholic books, so I guess that's the explanation), but I am often on the receiving end of materials from many Catholic groups, Catholic Answers included.

One of the most interesting pieces of mail I received of late was the Spring, 1999 issue of Inside Catholic Answers.  This publication is subtitled, "Spreading and Defending the Catholic Faith."  As I read through the issue, I was most interested to note what can only be called the "aggressive/triumphalistic" attitude it portrayed.  For example, on the front cover we have an article titled, "How We Foiled Anti-Catholics in St. Louis" (Catholic Answers refers to themselves as Catholic apologists, but anyone opposed to Rome is just an anti-Catholic).  On the second page is the title, "Trading Tracts, Fighting Fakes, Saving Souls" (nice alliteration!).  Page three has the title "Shredding Error."  But most interesting were the two short articles on page 4.  The first was titled "Persistence Pays Off for Catholic Apologists," and the second, "Thanks, Guys, and Let's Keep Up the Pressure."

The first article speaks of how two Catholic Answers staffers, Johnny Hochgraefe and Jason Evert, attended a meeting presented by "prominent anti-Catholic speaker" Bart Brewer in the San Diego area.  The article says that "we couldn't let such opportunities pass by" so the two staffers went "to both meetings to ensure that Catholic teaching got a fair hearing."  Of course, the first thing I thought of was, "I suppose if you had someone who attended meetings of Catholic Answers so that 'Protestant teaching got a fair hearing' they would be called.....anti-Catholics, perhaps?"   Well, anyway.

What was most fascinating was how the newsletter recounted the affair:

After Bart's fact-flawed presentation was over, the floor was opened to questions.  This is when Jason Evert stood up.  He suggested he give the Catholic answer to questions the attendees might ask, but Brewer rejected this offer.   That didn't end things.

I would really like to offer my services to Catholic Answers.   The next time they do a seminar in Phoenix, I will gladly show up and do what Mr. Evert offered to do: I will give the Protestant answer to the questions asked during the Q&A session.  Indeed, I'd be happy to do that any time I have the opportunity to be in the same city with the Catholic Answers folks.  But as they said, this didn't end their participation:

Later, when Johnny and Jason went through the crowd giving out Catholic Answers tracts, people asked them for the answers Bart wouldn't let Jason give. For many of them this was the first time they had a chance to hear the Catholic side.   Several people gave our staffers their phone numbers and addresses and asked them to keep in touch.

I have to wonder what kind of article would appear in the pages of This Rock magazine were our volunteers to start showing up at Catholic Answers events, asking to be able to address the audience, and then going about passing out tracts to their people?  Would we be described as "anti-Catholics who were attempting to disrupt our seminar"?  The article continues:

A week later, at the second talk, Jason took a different tack.   He knew Brewer wouldn't let him talk about Catholicism, so he asked questions about Protestantism, putting Brewer on the defensive.  Brewer wouldn't answer the questions.  He just changed the subject, again and again.  Soon it became clear that he didn't have the answers and that Jason did.

Finally, as more and more people sought answers, Brewer relented and let Jason give the audience the Catholic position.  That was all they wanted, after all.

Such "in your face" activity seems to be the main element of this newsletter from Catholic Answers.  The second half of the article, titled "Thanks, Guys, and Let's Keep Up the Pressure" ends with, "So long as these seekers seek answers from the wrong sources, there will be a need for Catholic Answers to show them the way to the truth.  We plan to keep showing up at anti-Catholic gatherings, God willing."

Now, of course, we think it is just fine to be "out front" in your work.  We go directly to Salt Lake City and pass out tracts at the gates of the Temple.  Likewise, we went to Denver and stood out in the rain right in the middle of the World Youth Day activities and passed out our tracts during the Papal visit in 1993.  (Interestingly, Catholic Answers didn't like that, and tried to have us removed by security.  Indeed, they didn't want us standing near their booth, talking to folks there, or anything!  Seems a bit like a double standard!).   There is certainly nothing wrong with being up-front in your activities.

The Main Problem

What does strike us as particularly strange is the fact that while Catholic Answers portrays itself as out "doing battle with the anti-Catholics," we keep getting turned down, cold, by the President of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, when we ask him to basically do what Mr. Hochgraefe and Mr. Evert did as recorded in the newsletter: give the "Catholic answer."  In fact, we offer him the podium with equal time to give the Catholic answer: in a moderated, formal debate. But each time we are turned down.  Why?

Each year we do the "Long Island" debate series, and Mr. Keating has been invited.  When it first came up, he was very interested: up until it was made known that his opponent would be me.  A few years back we invited Catholic Answers to debate us during the Papal visit in Denver, but they declined, indicating it was not a time for debates.  However, as soon as it was known we had arranged to debate Gerry Matatics (click here for those debates), they arranged a debate with two Protestant apologists who were simply not ready for such a challenge.  We could not be there since we were busy debating elsewhere.

As it stands today, we have no current, formal debates with any Catholic Answers representatives.  Indeed, though we have often debated Gerry Matatics, it almost seems as if Catholic Answers would like to forget that he was once their main apologist, engaging in debates on a regular basis.  We have twice engaged James Akin, but neither was a formal, public debate: one was a radio program on eternal security, the other the Bible Answer Man Show.  Mr. Akin was scheduled to debate us on the Mass this year on Long Island, but declined and asked Robert Sungenis to take his place.

It just seems to us that in light of the recent issue of Inside Catholic Answers, the time has come for Mr. Keating to "step up" so to speak and accept the challenge that has been his since 1990: debate James White, in public.  People ask us why this has not happened all the time, and all we can say is that we have a standing challenge that is now nearly a decade old.  If Mr. Keating says that they plan on "showing up" at "anti-Catholic" gatherings in the future, why not "show up" at a debate where he would be given equal time to "give the Catholic answer"?  Why should it matter who is giving the Protestant answer?  James has done 25 such debates: anyone can listen for themselves to these debates and know that they are done in a proper, scholarly, respectful manner.   If the "Catholic answer" is solid and true, why not offer it when a knowledgeable Protestant is prepared to interact with it?

Catholic Answers is located in San Diego, California.   We have a very nice church in the San Diego area that is more than willing to host a debate between myself and Mr. Keating.  This would be to Mr. Keating's advantage, since, of course, they would have a corps of local people to help with their side of the debate (advertising, for example), and there would be no travel involved. There are a number of topics (all covered, in one way or another, in Mr. Keating's book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism) that would be most useful.  For example, Roman Catholic apologists have often debated against sola scriptura.  But it is very difficult to find such an apologist who will defend the Roman position on the same subject: the infallible Church, or, closely related, the infallibility of the Pope.   In the same way, Roman Catholic apologists love to debate against sola fide (justification by faith) but would Mr. Keating be willing to defend the thesis, "We are justified by faith and meritorious works done in a state of grace"?   Rome has dogmatically defined two dogmas in the past century and a half: the Immaculate Conception and the Bodily Assumption of Mary.  Would Mr. Keating defend the assertions he makes about these topics in his book?

We would very much like to ask Mr. Keating to respond to us and, if he will not debate, tell us, directly, clearly, exactly why.  We would also ask, if Mr. Keating was being asked to debate Dave Hunt or Bart Brewer in the same place on the same subjects, would he not jump at the chance to do so?  Has he not engaged in debates since 1990 with other people?  We ask Mr. Keating rather to step up and accept our challenge.  Our friends in San Diego are very excited about the possibility.  At the very least, we will be showing up in San Diego to present a seminar on issues relevant to Roman Catholicism (Catholic Answers would call that an "anti-Catholic" gathering).  Mr. Keating (I believe he wrote the articles in the newsletter) says they will show up at such meetings to give the "Catholic answer."   We invite him to do so: to step up and engage in a full-length debate.


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