Wednesday, October 27, 2004

And so it begins . . .

The words of Matthew Schultz in response to Dave Armstrong's comment on yesterday's blog entry could not be profounder (is that a word?). When Dave Armstrong enters the fray, one thing is certain--there will be no shortage of words. No hard drive on earth is big enough to store the trillions of loosely-strung-together words that Dave Armstrong could write about any issue one cares to raise. "Dave's got words!" No doubt about it. And he will string together as many words as it takes to wear down his opponent. Then, just when his opponent is certain he can't type one more character from his keyboard-blistered fingers and his midnight-fatigued, bleary-eyed soul, Dave rises like a phoenix at 1am, strings together fifty-three pages of words, posts them on his blog as his "final" response, and waves his fists in victory for the Roman Catholic cause.

We at Real Clear Theology have a slightly different approach. We recognize that people like Dave Armstrong might need some help with theology. Hence, our blog motto: "We do theology for you . . . so you don't hurt yourself." However, we also recognize that some people just want to hurt themselves. And so we'll try to straighten them out once; but if they ignore it, there's not a lot more we can do. And so, just to be very clear, I will give one correction/clarification and one correction/clarification only to the Dave Armstrongs of the world. Here goes:

When I saw the comment from Dave Armstrong in my email this morning, I never would have guessed he was responding to yesterday's blog entry. I didn't have him in mind there at all. I thought he was responding instead to this blog entry, and in particular, to this point:

INCOMPETENCE! (This one is especially applicable to a certain Roman Catholic epologist that many of us know :)

Here's what I had in mind for yesterday's blog entry (Link). In addition to travel expenses, the speaker fees for each apologist speaker is listed along with his bio in the link menu to the left of the linked page, but those speaker fees range from $800 to $1800 for a one-hour talk (most of the speakers charge about $1200 for the first talk). If you want them to talk for a second hour that same day, there will be an additional fee of $700 to $900 for each additional hour-long talk. I can't emphasize enough, this is in addition to traveling expenses.

When Dave Armstrong comes to the defense of such things by claiming that 2 Cor 2:17 doesn't apply in these cases since they aren't presenting the "gospel" (a statement with which I couldn't agree more, but probably for different reasons than Dave has in mind), he fails to take into account that they are presenting essential Roman Catholic beliefs (eucharist, papacy, Mary, etc.). Further, when Paul uses the word "gospel," he often means the entire apostolic deposit, not just instructions on how to be saved. The Corinthians already knew that much. What is in mind in 2 Corinthians 2 is the entire gamut of teaching regarding the "good news" about Christ. Hence, Dave Armstrong's defense amounts to so many words.

Next Dave Armstrong thinks there is no difference between a church financially supporting the work of the apostolic ministry in proclaiming the gospel ("those who preach the gospel should get their living by the gospel"; 1 Cor 9), and charging a speaker's fee, and withholding that "gospel" until they pay up! And, just to be clear, the phrase in 1 Cor 9 has to do with providing the necessities of life for an "apostle"--lit., "one who is sent"--someone who traveled a lot and could not therefore hold down a normal job; it's not about charging an astronomical speaker's fee!

Dave then compares the "honorarium" of an RC apologist with the pay of an actor or an athlete or a rock star, and asks whether the former are worthy of more since the work they do is more important. But this is exactly the situation Paul is addressing. Itinerate "preachers" of all religions used to wander the cities and countrysides of the Roman empire, evangelizing and making converts to their false religion--and they charged their listeners a speaker's fee for it (John alludes to this practice in 3 John). Paul could not have said "unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit" if the same charge could have been leveled against one of the other apostles: "Yeah? Well, Peter does."

If the members of a local church decide they want to honor their pastor or another speaker, they are right to do so--men who labor in the word are deserving of it, and I have always advocated that practice to the churches of other pastors and teachers. But a pastor does not determine his own salary--that's the decision of the elders, or the deacons, or the congregation (depending on the polity of the church). And I know of no pastor who would "charge" a speaker's fee--let alone one that is $1200 per hour! And I know of no traveling Evangelical evangelist who would do that either. And if they do, I will just as vehemently disagree with that practice--in fact, more so, since they bear the true gospel.

Now, let's talk about the "perks" Dave Armstrong thinks I get as an apologist. I'm supposed to be "independently wealthy" (I wish my accountant was aware of that so he'd quit bothering me about how I plan to pay the bills). Dave Armstrong apparently thinks that if a business generates $200,000 a year (his words), that means the business owner must have $200,000 at his disposal. I'm not going to go into long explanations about the money that is dedicated to paying corporate taxes, employee wages, FICA, paroll taxes, unemployment insurance, medical benefits, necessary business expenditures, marketing and sales efforts, office equipment, office supplies, the building lease, etc., and how all of those things typically outweigh the income. I'm just going to point out the obvious--Dave Armstrong knows nothing about owning a business.

As for the cruise; I'm not on the cruise, mainly because I can't afford it--it's not included in the huge "speaker's fee" I'm charging for my conference presenation (I believe when I last checked, that speaker's fee was still zero). I am not complaining about that, because I know the venue is not free just because it's a Christian cruise. I think it's a wonderful way for Christians to spend their vacations together if that's what they choose to do and they can afford it. Furthermore, there is a nominal fee--a nominal fee--to attend the conference and debate ($38.00 I believe), that is completely waived for those who are staying at the hotel where the conference and debate are being held. Hotel ballrooms are not cheap--especially in Los Angeles (I am a professional seminar and conference speaker in my business industry, so I know this first-hand), and charging a nominal fee to cover the cost of venue is reasonable and fair. This is not what these RC apologists are doing. They are not paying for the venue to speak. Their speaking fee is in addition to any travel or venue expenses. To compare the two is worse than comparing apples to oranges.

We fund the NTRMin ministry from contributions that my business makes to it (which is why I have the business in the first place), and from contributions made by generous donors who see value in what we do. All books are free of charge if someone requests it and or can't afford them (there used to be a disclaimer to that effect on the old shopping cart--with the adoption of the new shopping cart, that disclaimer got lost in transition--it is valid nevertheless). In fact, we have lost money on books, because we sell them practically at cost, if not at cost, and we give more away than we sell.

Ok; that's Real Clear Theology for Dave Armstrong. He won't listen to it, of course, because Dave Armstrong isn't a listener--he's a talker. But a bunch of loosely-strung words do not a coherent thought make. And Dave Armstrong is certainly not one to be outdone in the number of words one can post on a blog. And so, while "and so it begins" may be an appropriate way to characterize Dave Armstrong's response to my blog entry, "it ends here" is a much more appropriate phrase to characterize my response back.

Perhaps I should close off the blog to members only. Then I could charge each member $1200 for the intial blog entry of the day, and an additional $800 per each subsequent blogentry that same day. Hmm . . . my own pet rock.