Tim Staples vs. Steve Gregg debate


I bought the 5 CD set of the debate between Tim Staples and Steve Gregg, a protestant, from Catholic Answers. In short, the debate was excellent, and charitable on both sides.

Had anyone else heard these debates? I feel that Tim was very assertive, and calling a spade a spade. Tim would articulate the reasons why we believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the primacy of Peter, etc. As Tim was doing this, I was tempted to cheer “go Tim, go”. But it seemed that Mr. Gregg usually had a decent comeback, even though I believe his points were much weaker, especially for denying that Jesus formed a hierarchical church, or for saying that the Eucharist was purely symbolic.



upbeat << Had anyone else heard these debates? I feel that Tim was very assertive, and calling a spade a spade. >>

I don’t have this one yet, another to add to the PhilVaz collection. I’m sure Tim did great. The Gregg person I’m not too familiar with but here you go. I think that’s him?

Phil P


Mr. Staples rubbed me the wrong way in this series of radio discussions (not really a debate). It’s a subtle tone thing and it’s hard to define with precision, but to me, at least, he came across as glib. (It didn’t help that I found his arguments unpersuasive, but I don’t think that’s what was driving my reaction, as I have been much more favorably impressed with other Catholic apologists in the past.)

That’s my view, at least, from the Protestant side.




I know what you mean. But I don’t think he was being glib, but was starting to show frustration, when he made a series of strong points, but Gregg refused to acknowledge the truth of what Tim was saying. It was almost as if Gregg was not going to let the facts get in the way of his set-in-stone ideas.

I found Tim’s arguments to be more Biblical in nature.


I just listened to all 5 CDs and enjoyed them immensely!

Kudos first of all the Steve Gregg for inviting Tim Staples on his show, and for being very, very hospitable, charitable and respectful to the Catholic point of view. We all know how this could have turned out–it could have decelerated rather quickly into a shouting match. Discussions about people’s strongest beliefs can get quite emotional.

One thought as I listened: Gregg kept talking about the church “hierarchy”, as if hierarchy was, by its very nature, bad. Doesn’t “hierarchy” mean “sacred order”? If so, then, by its very nature, hierarchy is *of God, *and therefore good.


Another thought as I was listening…

Steve Gregg claims that there’s no evidence Scripturally of any sort of hierarchy, yet at one point in the discussion he calls Timothy an “lower ranked apostle”. That seems to me to be an indicator of a hierarchy that even Gregg admits to!


I listened to the radio discussion between Tim Staples and Steve Gregg.

The mutual respect and sincerity of each speaker impressed me.  I found however that Tim Staples failed to clearly explain the idea of development of doctrine (cf. John Henry Newman. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).  This lead to Tim referring to the seeds of Catholic doctrine, which are present in Sacred Scripture by the intent of the Divine Author, but from an ahistorical context.  I fully understand why Gregg would not be impressed by what appeared to him to be eisegesis.   

Gregg seemed to be completely unaware of the idea of development of doctrine.  His bias of using the Scripture alone and presuming that all of the Fathers of the Church were unreliable whenever they stated something in support of the Catholic interpretation of Scripture, seemed disingenuous to me.  According to him, his own interpretation of Scripture was more definitive than anyone, even those who gave their lives for Christ like St. Ignatius of Antioch and who were within a generation or two of the Apostles.  He states that he has studied Scripture for more than 30 years… not a very long time for the development of doctrine: his is the limitation of one Scripture scholar working two thousand years removed from the events and disconnected from the presence of the Word of God, living and active, for 2 millennia.  Also, he had no idea that Scripture is one form of Tradition, which would not have existed without post-apostolic authority to determine the canon.  

We trace the word catholic to St. Ignatius of Antioch who said, “Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church.”

It is from the word katholikos that the word "catholic" comes. When Ignatius wrote the Letter to the Smyrnaeans in about the year 107 and used the word "catholic", he used it as if it were a word already in use to describe the Church. This has led many scholars to conclude that the appellation "catholic Church" with its ecclesial connotation may have been in use as early as the last quarter of the first century.

On the Eucharist, Ignatius wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1   

Furthermore, no mention was made of St. Polycarp (disciple of St. John) and St. Irenaeus (who from a young age was the disciple of St. Polycarp).  We  recall the authority of Irenaeus as a Father of the Church who gives us a clear picture of what is taught in all parts of the Church, for he traveled from far East to Asia Minor to far West in Gaul; he can be confident that the one Catholic faith is taught in West and East.  Irenaeus is the great doctor of Tradition; the whole thrust of his argumentation: what the Church now teaches is what the Apostles taught; this Tradition, the Gospel, is not handed on in some esoteric private way as the Gnostics handed on their traditions to the select group; we have this great public visible institution.  The bishops, above all the bishop of Rome guard and hand on the Tradition.  In his own life Irenaeus is an embodiment of the continuity of Tradition: he was a disciple of Polycarp who in turn was a disciple of John the Apostle.  One generation separates Irenaeus from the Apostles

Irenaeus is scrupulously careful to distinguish between Apostolic tradition and that which is human invention, however venerable.  Already in Irenaeus we see a rich teaching on Mary and Eucharist.

From Adversus Haereses:  The greatest, most ancient Church known to all, the Church founded and established in Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.  By showing that the tradition which she received from the apostles, the faith which she proclaims to men, has come down to us through the succession of bishops, we confute all those who, in whatever manner, . . . set up conventicles.  With this Church, because of its more excellent origin, every Church (in other words, the faithful everywhere) must agree.  

In book 3 chapter  22 of Irenaeus’s masterful refutation of the Gnostic heresy, Adversus Haereses, we find Irenaeus referring to Mary as the “second Eve” the same as he refers to Jesus as the “second Adam”. Here we have an early acknowledgement of the role of Mary in the salvation story of mankind: “And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”

I enjoyed the discussion because of the mutual respect, but to me Gregg was operating from a his own tradition of 30 years, while Staples was operating from the ancient tradition directly connected with Jesus and the Apostles.  Frankly, I am not impressed by Steve Gregg’s private interpretation of Sacred Scripture, but I am impressed by the sincerity and kindness and true Christian spirit that he and Staples manifested.

closed #8

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