Tuesday, January 17, 2017

_______ GREAT DEBATES 2017: COSTA VS. SUNGENIS___________

The Main Event: The Immaculate Conception of Mary

(Announcer, Howard Cosell) 

In the right side of the ring we have Catholic apologist, Dr. Robert Sungenis, the heavyweight champion and the man who made the earth stand still. And across the ring, we have his international challenger, Protestant (Reformed Baptist) apologist, Dr. Tony Costa, all the way from Canada, whose forte is fighting Muslims, but tonight will be attempting a knock-out punch of the Virgin Mother of God, Mary. 
Can Costa's Christian crusade against Our Blessed Mother be contained?  Will Sungenis succeed in sparing or will he only shoe shine? We shall see....

As they enter the ring, I take note of something. It seems no one else is seeing this--but Dr. Costa is not wearing his normal boxing garb. The change is subtle but Costa has donned the bowtie of the infamous Luis-Resto-of-Protestant-apologists, Dr. James White. Is this a portent of the haymaker's strategy? Will it be a flurry of fast-foot work and shadow boxing? Is Costa trying to make Sungenis look like a palooka?

What is the Immaculate Conception?
December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX, in the Constitutional, Ineffabilis Deus, declared ex-cathedra and  dogmatized the long-believed teaching that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from" the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

The First Round:

With his guard dropped, Dr. Sungenis openhandedly moves from his corner to the center, searching out Costa. From the podium, he sets up the point at which Dr. Costa will spend the rest of the evening throwing punches. 

Dr. Sungenis explained why it is absolutely necessary for Mary to have been conceived without sin.

He uses science and logic, to which there is no knock-out Biblical counterpunch.

Fundamentalists wrongly assume that Catholics reject Biblical literalism. The problem is that Catholics are Biblical literalists on different passages than Protestants.

Catholics are dogmatically literal that the second person of the Godhead actually overshadowed the young maiden Mary and encountered her in a physical way. It was not spiritual hocus-pocus, it was not symbolic. There was an actual, material encounter of God with Mary. And many stories in scripture imply that a sinful human encounter with a holy God would kill the sin and the sinner. 

God gave Israel many ritual laws to make them righteous enough to have the Temple in their midst. God encountering Mary would have killed her if she had not been spotless and without stain. Then, carrying the holy, perfect, unborn Christ for nine months, again, could not have been possible in a sinful womb.

To take this scientifically a step further, Catholics teach that Christ literally received His human nature from His mother; 100% of His human DNA was from her. Therefore, if she had original sin literally, indelibly staining her chromosomes, sin would have been genetically passed on to Jesus. And we know from scripture, Christ was sinless. Therefore, logically, Mary had to be sinless.

Protestants have never addressed the literal, scientific problem of Jesus receiving human DNA from His mother. Many Protestants simply assume that, like a fairy-tale, God was magically birthed from a sinful woman without sin. Catholic theology takes a more literal, scientific stance.

Dr. Sungenis touches upon many other objections-- such as explaining that Mary was not sinless of her own doing, but it was a grace given to her in order that she may be the mother of our Lord. She is never to be worshipped or adored. She is fully human and was in need of a Savior, like all humans. But in this one instance, grace was given prophylactically as a preventative measure before Mary fell into sin rather than as a therapeutic measure that God ordained for the rest of us. Jesus' atonement was for Mary too, but she was saved from sin before she sinned, so that she could carry our Savior.

Going from specific to general, Sungenis brings in why the Catholic Church has the authority to make such a pronouncement, based on Church history and science, even if there is not an explicit Bible text stating that Mary was without sin.

Costa, believing Sungenis to be pawing, dances to the podium, ready with Bible-in-hand and quotes from various Church Fathers--with what he believes will be a knock-out punch to the immaculately-conceived Mother. 

He points to Protestant understanding of texts that make it seem that Jesus disrespected and belittled His mother. (Even though Jesus would never break the commandment of "Honor thy father and mother.") Costa quotes the early Ecclesiastic historian, Tertullian and Church Fathers such as Ireneaus, Origen, Basil, Augustine, Ambrose, Bernard and Aquinas, claiming they were unsure if Mary was sinless or argued that she became sinless sometime after conception. 

Costa argues that if there was any opposition to the sinlessness of Mary among the early Christians  then, de facto, it could not have been true. 

Sungenis later makes a counter jab by pointing out that many church dogmas were arrived at by debate rather than having a perfect consensus among the early church leaders, citing the Trinity doctrine, the two wills and two natures of Christ, etc. 

Costa throws a combination of claims that these great theologians and early church leaders who were uncertain of Mary's sinlessness would be heretics in today's world for their beliefs. Sungenis hits back by pointing out that no one can be considered a heretic before a dogma is pronounced. (In fact, on theological points where the contemporary church decided against these same men, the men acquiesced to the church. So in fact, they were first Catholic and then secondly had their own private opinions.) 

Costa thinks he had Sungenis against the ropes when he also points out that Marian apparitions disagreed--one claiming she was the Immaculate Conception, one saying she was not. (Which the Catholic Church historians have found no proof of the latter claim.)

Round Two: Rebuttals

 Then Dr. Sungenis dealt with the obvious text glaring down upon the debate, screaming to be addressed. (The audience expected someone to take a dive on this text):

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless;there is no one who does good, not even one.Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.The poison of vipers is on their lips.Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. 
Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways,and the way of peace they do not know.There is no fear of God before their eyes.... There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:10-23

The Syllogism Clinch

Costa had earlier feinted a punch using the syllogism: 
All humans have sinned, Mary is a human; therefore Mary sinned. 

Sungenis now answers back that Costa's syllogism is a logical fallacy because we cannot place Christ, who was also 100% human, into that syllogism for Christ was a human who never sinned. Therefore St. Paul meant the statement as a general rule that could be broken. And it was broken for Jesus and Mary.

Costa wonders if that wasn't a cover-up.

Sungenis deflects Costa's blow with quoting Hebrews 9:27, "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this is the judgement." 

So the Catholic heavyweight makes his own false syllogism, but as an orthodox hit: 
If all men must die, and Enoch and Elijah are men, therefore Enoch and Elijah must die. 

Which he shows is, of course, untrue. According to the infallible Word of God, they both were taken to heaven before death, showing that all general rules can have their Biblical exceptions. Therefore, if St. Paul made the exception for some in Hebrews, he also could have made exceptions for his letter to the Romans. Jesus, Mary and many unborn children who died sinless prove that St. Paul was not directing his message to every single soul, but making a general statement.

Costa, blow-by-blow, points out that Pope Pius claimed that the Immaculate Conception was always taught by the church, claiming that since the Bible is silent on the subject and the Church Fathers showed no consensus, that Pope Pius was in error to dogmatically pronounce Mary was immaculately conceived. 

This moves the debate from proving Mary was indeed sinless, to the legitimacy of how the dogma was developed. Costa implies that the teaching could be debunked based solely upon the length of time it took to be dogmatized. 

Sungenis did a Bob-and-weave showing that many dogmas took centuries to formulate including the Trinity (dogmatized in the fourth century) and specifically that the Bible itself was not developed until the fourth century and it's canon (individual books) not dogmatized until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. (Most Catholic teachings are not dogmatized until a heresy is widely spreading.) 

The Eight Count

In the end, I suspect the audience believed that the referee called the match for the fighter from their own religious preference. 

Costa (to the disappointment of the crowd uses some of Dr. James White's tired and faulty straw-man arguments, such as "theopneustos") did the absolute best that the Protestant fighter can do. Costa is a good man, an excellent apologist--no theological lightweight--and his punches seem hard and fast and accurate. 

But, Sungenis won, for he has something Costa doesn't. And that is the fullness of the truth found in the pillar and foundation of truth--that is the Church that Christ started--the Catholic Church. It is His Body and His Bride. 

And Mary is Jesus' mother. Anyone throwing a punch at her will not go away unscathed.

You see, I have watched and listened to many, many debates through the years and it always, without exception, comes down to the same premise: not what does God say in scripture, but who has God's authority to explain what He meant

Catholics believe Christ gave the Holy Spirit to the Church to teach what God meant in His Holy, God-breathed, infallible scripture. Protestants, in general, believe the Bible is so plain and self-interpreting that each individual Christian is guided by the Holy Spirit to understand God's meaning in scripture. 

Howard Cosell puts down his mic. 

Sungenis and Costa leave the ring, both knowing they will fight each other again someday, for the fighting seems to never cease. 


Unknown said...

Hi Teresa

Is this debate available online somewhere?


Teresa Beem said...

I will keep checking to see, but as of yet, I don't see it posted.

Alexandre said...

You folks can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wus6CrzleRw

God bless you.


Unknown said...

It was a good debate, I think this was the best debate for Sungenis yet, it was clear he was the veteran debater and thoroughly clobbered Costas. Especially during cross examination, Bob was in control both of the ref and the examination. Bob was particularly crafty in throwing a verbal punch after the bell, when the ref would call foul, he would give fighters defense, "I thought you wanted a debate!?". A trick of the trade only veteran can pick up. Though, Costas wasn't without his occasional verbal eyepoke - a joke at Bob's expense. It seemed during the closing remarks Bob could have thrown a knockout punch, but seemed to let up instead.

Teresa Beem said...

I have never seen a debate Robert didn't win. He can hardly relate to people because he has so much more knowledge. And he is a very nice, open man. I thought by the second round of rebuttals that he knocked Costa out. Dr. Costa was forced to pull out Dr. James White's tricks as his face was being pressed to the mat. Having said that I do really like Dr. Costas. He seems a good man too. He was just overwhelmed by the strength of the truth.