My response to GotQuestions

If you haven’t been following this, I’ve had an ongoing correspondence with GotQuestions.org ministry. I criticized an article they wrote on annulments (a very slightly reworked version can be found here), and later, an article they wrote on sola Scriptura (the comment here is my e-mail to them, and it included links to that post). Shea from GotQuestions responded snarkily here, focusing on my original annulment criticism, and s/he acknowledged that GotQuestions intended to prejudice readers against Catholicism (yeah, s/he actually said that). Today, I finally responded to Shea’s e-mail, also focusing on the original annulment e-mail.

Shea,

I understand that you can’t possibly please everyone, and can appreciate the fact that members of various religious groups will want to “correct” your views on given issues. So I can understand your annoyance with me. I also respect that you have what you feel are principled differences which need separate you from the Catholic Church: I don’t doubt that these views are held in good faith. But I think one can disagree with the Catholic Church without trying to (a) prejudice readers who are looking for Biblical truth; and (b) resorting to factual distortions.

You conclude your e-mail by saying, “Even if we spent the time to read the articles you requested we read, and then edited our ‘annulment’ article, it would still not be satisfactory to you because it will still argue against the Catholic views of both marriage and annulment.” This fundamentally misunderstands my criticism. The point of my original e-mail to you was not, “Everyone needs to believe in annulments,” but, “in your article opposing annulments, there are material misstatements and glaring factual errors.” It’s the difference between saying, “I don’t believe in Christ because I can’t get past the problem of evil in the world,” and “I don’t believe in Christ because He said we have to all kill our parents.” The first is subjectively wrong (they’re making a bad choice, but they at least understand the choice they’re making); the second is objectively wrong (they’re making a bad choice upon factually incorrect grounds). So you’re free to disagree with the Catholic Church on the issue of annulments or any number of other issues, but the commitment to the Truth which Christianity imbues should compel you to at least do so accurately.

In this case, I make four primary points: first, that nowhere else in the New Testament does porneia ever mean “adultery” as your article asserts; second, that if adultery were the intended meaning of the passage, there was an available word, moicheia; third, that porneia is used elsewhere in the New Testament to mean illegitimate unions; and fourth, that reading porneia as “adultery” instead of “unlawful sexual unions” causes the Bible to contradict itself.

You don’t have to be Catholic to accept this. In fact, your own article says: “If we read the Bible at face value, without a preconceived bias for finding errors, we will find it to be a coherent, consistent, and relatively easy-to-understand book. Yes, there are difficult passages. Yes, there are verses that appear to contradict each other,” but “a difference is not a contradiction. It is only an error if there is absolutely no conceivable way the verses or passages can be reconciled.” Reading porneia as “unlawful sexual unions” means that there’s a difference (Matthew is including additional information which Mark and Luke neglected to include), but reading porneia as “adultery” means that there’s a contradiction (Mark and Luke say “no divorce EVER,” and Matthew says, “no divorce except…”). So your own commitment to reading the Bible in such a way as not to create or imagine contradictions should compel a re-examination of this passage. You don’t have to be Catholic – you just have to be committed to the word of God.

The issues I’ve raised are either factually true or not: I’m not saying, “The Pope says we should change the Bible.” I’m saying, “these terms are used throughout the New Testament, and they never mean what your author claims they mean.” If what I’m saying is untrue, it should be simple to disprove it. If what I’m saying is true, though, you have a moral impetus as a Christian to correct your error.

Yours in Christ,

Joe.

UPDATE: I heard back from Shea, who thanked me for the clarification, apologized for seeming short, and promised to review/edit the annulment article within the week.

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