The Problem with Quotes

Years ago I had the opportunity to trace some quotes in a cut-and-paste “proof” of a particular theologian’s position. Since then, at times, I have traced a few more, but mostly I ignore what a CAF poster has posted when trying to prove some theological point by massing a long list of quotes in favor of his or her position. This goes for Catholics as well as Protestants. I’m trying to explain myself here rather than going on the attack against anyone in particular. I think it is a problem that people on forums should be aware of, and I want to give my reasons for this position.

  1. In general, don’t trust anything if the only place you can find it is on the internet.
  2. People seem to be fond of quoting theologians I have never heard of. There are many theologians out there, and sometimes I have no idea where someone is coming from. Few, on the other hand, quote Hitler to prove a theological point.
  3. Usually a sentence needs to be read in its context. It is all too easy to lift something out of context and use it as a proof text to show something the author never said.
  4. I suspect there are quotes that have been quoted from other quoters numerous times, and I suspect the actual origin of the quote.
  5. Some, like Luther, use sarcasm and hyperbole and it is easy to use their quotes - particularly if you have not read the original - in “the worst way possible”.
  6. Others, like Augustine, are incredibly nuanced and complex and it is almost if not impossible to express their full position with one pithy killer quote.
  7. I don’t have time to track down your killer quote in its original context and see if that individual really agrees with your point. Really.
  8. Using a killer quote from an assumed authority is the worst of all arguments. St. Thomas Aquinas said that. Look it up.
  9. If a Protestant is used by a Catholic to “prove” a Catholic point, then why didn’t he convert? He must have had other,stronger reasons than being presently presented. Or vice versa.

I would appreciate it if people used links to sources, especially to hard-copy sources. You can quote me on that.

Here is an example in case I am making my usual sense here:

Yesterday hubby was looking out the window. I suspect he was thinking about some manly activity, like washing my car or buying me flowers.

“Dear, is it raining?” I asked in my hey-spend-time-with-me voice.

“Yes it’s raining,” he said.

So I can quote him. My husband says it is raining. It is always raining. The man believes the sun never shines. Rain, rain, rain. You heard him right here. He said,

“Yes, it’s raining.”

I could probably find 100 theologians who agree with him. But don’t quote me on that.

In hopes of better posting…:slight_smile:

Here’s a quote I like:

I suspect he was thinking about some manly activity, like washing my car or buying me flowers.

Maybe you should consider writing humor!

:hmmm: all very interesting, I try Quotes of notoriety but I get shot down ,
I guess I fail in the delivery, :yup:

Hmmm. May I quote you?

Most folks don’t have 20,000 volume libraries. However, some people, like Catholic apologists Dave Armstrong and Steve Ray, do. Therefore, when Dave or Steve quote a passage from a book they own, I don’t need to buy the book myself; I can read the quote they have pulled from their own library.

  1. People seem to be fond of quoting theologians I have never heard of. There are many theologians out there, and sometimes I have no idea where someone is coming from. Few, on the other hand, quote Hitler to prove a theological point.

The fact that YOU don’t know who a particular theologian is does not diminish the truth of the quote. If you question a theologian’s bona fides, Google him.

  1. Usually a sentence needs to be read in its context. It is all too easy to lift something out of context and use it as a proof text to show something the author never said.

How often does this actually happen? I think far less than you want us to believe. As an experienced amateur apologist myself, I learned early in my membership here that I better be able to PROVE anything I post and providing ample documentation (links to websites, author, book, page number, etc) is critical to that end.

  1. I suspect there are quotes that have been quoted from other quoters numerous times, and I suspect the actual origin of the quote.

This does happen. Hopefully, the post contains amble referencing enabling you to trace it back to the source if you desire to do so.

  1. Some, like Luther, use sarcasm and hyperbole and it is easy to use their quotes - particularly if you have not read the original - in “the worst way possible”.

True.

  1. Others, like Augustine, are incredibly nuanced and complex and it is almost if not impossible to express their full position with one pithy killer quote.

Also true. However, to be fair, a pithy quote can still contain the essence of a position.

  1. I don’t have time to track down your killer quote in its original context and see if that individual really agrees with your point. Really.

Well, that’s not the fault of the person who provides the quote, it it?

  1. Using a killer quote from an assumed authority is the worst of all arguments. St. Thomas Aquinas said that. Look it up.

I would but I don’t have time to track that down. If you want to quote or paraphrase Aquinas, please provide a link or a reference.

  1. If a Protestant is used by a Catholic to “prove” a Catholic point, then why didn’t he convert? He must have had other,stronger reasons than being presently presented. Or vice versa.

Simple. Really simple.

If a Protestant has 10 objections to Catholicism, it is entirely possible that he might concede one point and still not convert. For example, I have quotes from 25 Protestants who acknowldege that Peter, the man and not the confession, is the rock in Mt. 16:18. Why didn’t they all convert? Well, perhaps even though they recognized Peter, they did not agree with Apostolic Succession, so Peter’s “rockness” did not continue with Linus, Cletus and Clement, etc.

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