Since early-August, we’ve been examining the 95 Bible verses presented by Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong, in his book, “The Catholic Verses,” that allegedly validate Catholicism and “confound Protestants.” This week, I thought we’d take a break from the 95 verses and examine a bit of a paradox regarding the author that came to my attention a couple of weeks ago.
In his defense of the Catholic doctrine of penitential suffering, Armstrong criticized some Protestant Pentecostals and charismatics who propagate the health and wealth, name it and claim it, prosperity gospel (see here) and who blatantly ignore Bible passages that contradict guaranteed temporal health and wealth for the believer. Our sister at Biblical Beginnings commented that Armstrong’s criticism of the prosperity gospelers was inconsistent because of the popularity of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement, which boasts over 160 million followers. I responded that while Catholic charismatics do share many of the beliefs and practices of Pentecostals and charismatics regarding glossolalia, prophecy, and healings, they generally don’t focus on accumulating wealth and still value suffering as expiatory and penitential. However, Armstrong’s criticism of the prosperity gospel brought to focus an apparent contradiction based upon some of his other articles.
Many/most conservative Catholic apologists dismiss Pentecostalism’s gifts of the spirit as a Protestant novelty. For instance, apologist, David Anders, regularly dismisses Pentecostalism as an innovation begun by Charles Parham in 1900. Pentecostalism began its infiltration into the Catholic church at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh in 1967 and blossomed into the CCR. While Anders is careful not to condemn the practices of Catholic charismatics because popes and prelates have tolerated the CCR and looked upon it as a valuable tool for ecumenism, he views the movement as a departure from Catholic tradition with roots in Protestantism and with the very real potential for heterodoxy.
Unlike most of his fellow conservative Catholic apologists, Dave Armstrong, the author of “The Catholic Verses” is quite at home with the CCR. He admits to attending charismatic and healing Masses occasionally.* I did a little research and discovered that Armstrong was a member of a Pentecostal church before he converted to Roman Catholicism.**
The interesting paradox is that Armstrong views Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli as rebellious and dangerous heretics, yet is very comfortable with the non-Catholic innovations of Charles Parham and William J. Seymour, the pioneers of Pentecostalism! Does not compute my friends. It is contradictory for Armstrong to attack the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, and yet embrace the experiential practices that originated with Parham and Seymour in the early-20th-century outside of Catholicism.
*Catholic Charismatic Renewal: A Defense
**Is Catholicism Christian? My Debate With James White (Dave Armstrong vs. James White from 1995)
Full disclosure: I’m a cessationist regarding the apostolic gifts of the Spirit. I believe the “showy” gifts were given to verify the authority of the apostles and ended after the apostolic era.