Wednesday, November 28, 2007

RC Apologists and semantic arguments

Well, I was really awfully busy the last few months, so there was no blogginf, and I only had limited time to do anything else besides work. But I should be posting more regularly now.

Anyway, there seems to be a lot of RC apologists who like "shock" quotes from Reformation figures. Here is one from Steve Ray's blog. It is just a bare quote:

Persons who persist in the superstitions of the Roman Antichrist [Catholicism] . . . deserve to be repressed by the sword.
Now, on Theology web, some RCs and at least one Orthodox too issue with James Swan's interpretation of this quote, that Ray's citation of Calvin was meant to imply that Calvin thought RCs should be put to death. The RC/EO claimed that being repressed by the sword does not necessarily mean the death penalty, and that to assert such is to read too much into Ray's citation. This is technically true--repress by the sword can mean any number of things besides death, it could mean pretty much any use of force. However, it seems to me that this is a weak counter argument. As one of the protestant posters pointed out, if a child said "he was molesting me", that carries a connotation different from "he was disturbing me". The same is true with "repressed by the sword". It is a purely semantic argument to claim we don't know Ray did not necessarily mean the death penalty, even though it is technically possible.

The problem is, that many RC apologists reply to critiques of RCism with just this type of argument, "it does not necessarily mean that". This happens with infused grace--something infused but it is not really a thing, even if it is described as a thing--e.g. it is God's life. You end up in an endless semantic loop, where nothing means what it actually says. I suppose that could serve the purpose of "proving" the need for an infallible interpreter.