Common - but bad - Apologetic Arguments

I’m sure this has probably been discussed before but - what the heck…

There seem to be a number of common apologetic arguments out there that (IMHO) are just not very good and should be avoided. Two that pop to mind are…

  1. The argument about “graven images” and the defense that these are OK since “most people were illiterate” and that "Books were expensive and so the stain glass (or whatever) was a way to tell the stories… The problem I find with this argument is that most people were likely illiterate in the OT times as well. Literacy does not seem to play into the prohibition or the relaxing of the prohibition on images.

  2. The (seemingly) popular 33,000 protestant churches…The study on which it is based is flawed and while certainly it is good to try to make the point that there are just too many conflicting belief systems out there, this number only serves to divert the conversation from useful paths.

Comments? other arguments that are commonly used that are problematic???


My take: An image is graven based on the person looking on it. The act of false worship lies with the worshiper not the image. The scandal of division among Christians is just that, scandalous. It isn’t God’s will but human who so whatever comes to mind.

Occasionally I use the second in talking with others who try to state that maybe God meant for all these different places (the Protestant denominations) to exist so He could reach different types of people where they were, etc. and try to justify all of these places away.


World Christian Encyclopedia by Barrett, Kurian, Johnson (Oxford Univ Press, 2nd edition, 2001) does say 33,000 denominations, but not all of them are Protestant. According to this source there are 242 Roman Catholic denominations and 781 Orthodox denominations and 168 Anglican denominations included within the 33,000. Obviously, there is some problem here with what is meant by the term denomination.
There were 217 denominations listed in the 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. That would mean that there are about 200 or so Protestant denominations or traditions in North America as the word denomination or tradition is more commonly used.

But I can name at least 15 independent non-denominational (which, really, is an oxymoron) churches located within 20 miles of me. So, I do think that 217 is GREATLY underestimating the varying doctrinal systems among Protestants. I’d say that the number 33,000 more accurately describes the various splintering groups of Protestants out there.

So, back to the original question, I don’t have much of an opinion about the graven image apologetics, but I don’t always think it’s bad (or good, for that matter) to bring up the sheer number of different Protestant denominations. It all depends on circumstances surrounding the discussion.

“The Bible is a product of the Catholic Church” is really bad apologetic. You are not going to get anywhere with this.

The non Catholic hears the word “Bible” and thinks of the sacred texts themselves. He knows that 75% of the sacred texts were written by Jews before Jesus even walked the earth and knows that the primary source of the sacred texts is God and concludes therefor that the Catholic is out of his mind.

It is more productive to say that the canon of scripture was determined by the Catholic Church.


I think the point of the 33,000 churches argument is to contradict the claim that all theology is self-evident from the Bible.

If theology was all self-evident, than all Protestant would believe the same thing. But there are many different beliefs; therefore theology is not always self-evident (and Catholics would say requires an interpreting authority).

The argument would be the same if there were 10 Protestant churches. (The 33,000 is just used for dramatic emphasis).

There are a whole lot of differences among Catholics even Roman Catholics not counting the Eastern Catholics. But I wouldn’t say that each difference implies the existence of a separate denomination. To take some examples of Catholic differences:
Communion in the hand
Communion received by kneeling
Filioque in the creed
Puppet Masses
Charismatic Masses
Altar girls
Blood is shed for all
For thine is the kingdom and power and the glory. For ever and ever. Amen.
Communion of both species.
Altar railing
Turn the other cheek
Is it moral to use the atomic bomb on a city in a war.
Capital punishment
Just because there are differences does not imply that each separate difference would constitute a separate denomination.


I understand the concerns about that Encyclopedia. Yet, what is a reasonable estimate?

I bet we could find a boatload just in our two yellow pages…

We really don’t get very far with the one about how the Catholic Church had the authority to write/compile the bible, so therefore they STILL have the authority to interpret scripture, even for protestants.

Problem is that the protestants will all tell you that they are unified in their belief that the CURRENT Catholic Church no longer has that authority. They lost it somewhere along the way.

Personally I don’t much care for “dramatic emphasis” in such discussions. My experience has been that drama only begets drama and does not advance an argument.

I would suggest that what you just said is a much better tack to take. One can simply get out the book (yellow pages) and use that as the jumping off point.


I agree. :thumbsup:


Hello Tomdstone.

What does it matter how they count them. The truth be told, the is only supposed to be ONE CHURCH! That was and still is God’s will.

I think the folks who do the counting of denominations at Oxford have the best resource for this.


Glenda - I believe it matters simply because it can (and many times does) divert the conversation from the point you make above (there should be one Church) to where the 33,000 number comes from and whether the count is accurate (due to the way they were counted). It just becomes an unnecessary diversion.
I really like Randy’s suggestion of just pulling out the yellow pages…how many denominations are listed there…


Copying of the Bible thru the centuries, and passing it down thru generations, has been the reason we have the bible today in our hands. But who is responsible for this? The Catholic Church.

Late fourth century and continuing until the very early fifth century, the Catholic Church met at a number of councils where the canon of the Bible was debated. These councils produced canons which were identical to the current 73 books of the Bible.

Accordingly, the N T Bible can be considered to be two things … it is younger than the Catholic Church and it is the product of the Catholic Church. This means that the Bible is not the only rule of faith for Christians, but rather “the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth”.

Therefore to understand the history and production of the bible, more is needed than the “canon of scripture”. The “canon” is an important part, but only a part of the whole picture…to see it’s mother, the Catholic Church, and their life together.

This is where we may have to agree to disagree.

Blessed be God who comforts us in all our efforts together.

I’m not arguing with anything you say. I’m saying that it is bad apologetic to argue that the Bible is a product of the Catholic Church, that’s all.

What the non-Catholic hears is that we claim the Church to be the source of the written word of God. That just isn’t going to fly. Most will not take you seriously.


Your first point hasn’t been discussed, so I’ll dive in with this one. :tiphat:

Actually, and as you know, there is no prohibition against making images in the Bible. Indeed, images were commanded to be made by God, such as the angels on the Ark of the Covenant and the viper held up on a pole when Israel was being plagued by snakes. Rather, images were not to be made to be worshiped as gods. The difference is huge and needs to be acknowledged by all who take the Bible for what actually says.

But it can be a very good apologetic if they understand the history of the N T.

There was a person on EWTN who said this was one of the bits of info pointed out to them that helped them into the church.

It dosen’t have to be a lengthy explaination, but just enough to point out the importance of the church in bringing the Bible to us. It is one of those ideas that make people stop and think, then realize what this means.

May God our Father give you great grace and peace.

You wrote it exactly correctly, pointing out the Church’s role in bringing the Bible to us.

Thank you for not claiming that the Church wrote the Bible.


It seems we agree to agree after all.


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