Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Analogical Argument on the Object of Prayer
08/30/2009 - Tur8infanThere are many great arguments that are presented as to why we should not pray to anyone besides God. One underused argument, however, is the analogical or typological argument. The Old Testament worship of God employed incense. That incense is a symbol and picture of our prayers. We can see its connection to prayer in the New Testament:
According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.
It was, indeed, prophesied in the Old Testament that incense would be offered unto the name of the Lord throughout the world.
Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
Furthermore, Scripture informs us of the fact that prayer corresponds to incense and sacrifice:
Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
Thus, today we do not offer literal incense to God but instead offer prayers. This understanding, of course, is not unique to me, but is confirmed by such fathers and early Christian writers as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyprian of Carthage, Methodius, Lactantius, Athanasius, Ephraim the Syrian, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and John Cassian (see the expanded version of this post for the actual quotations from those fathers - link) Doubtless many more could be added to these.
The point is that Scripture is fairly clear in making the association between Old Testament incense and prayer, and the fathers agreed. In the New Testament we no longer use incense. I realize that there are churches today who use incense, but that was not the practice of the ancient churches. Arnobius (flourished about A.D. 284-305) acknowledges this in Against the Heathen, Book 6, Section 1. Similarly, John Chrysostom explains: "You must worship 'in truth'; as former things were types, such as circumcision, and whole burnt offerings, and victims, and incense, they now no longer exist, but all is 'truth.'" (John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on the Gospel of John, at John 4:24)
But how does this tell us that we should not pray to saints? Let us look closely at the institution and formula of incense:
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: and thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: and thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.
Notice that the incense is reserved for Jehovah: "it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD." Furthermore, God threatens with death those who used it for any other purpose: "Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people." By analogy, prayer is reserved for Jehovah as well.
Thus, as we saw above, the prophet Malachi declares that incense will be offered "unto my name ... saith the LORD of hosts." It is to God and God alone that we make our prayers. Prayers to anyone but God is an abuse of the incense of prayer. We are not free to pray to whomever we want to, but instead we are to pray to God alone by the merits of Christ alone, since he is the only mediator between God and man. I realize that there are other and excellent arguments against prayers to others than God, but for what it's worth I offer this additional argument for your consideration.
Those in Glass Churches ...
08/27/2009 - Tur8infanI noticed that Steve Ray is mocking communion supplies that involve pre-packaged cup/wafer combinations (link - link to website he's mocking). But it wasn't so long ago when those in the Roman communion could generally only communicate under the species of bread - the people of that church being denied the symbol of Christ's blood. Yes, we are aware that Trent insisted: "If any one denies that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let him be anathema." (Trent, Session 13, Canon III on the Eucharist - see also the similar comments of the Council of Constance in 1415) And yet we are also aware that Jesus, on the night he was betrayed "took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;" (Matthew 26:27) and while we are not sacramentalists, if you are going to take John 6 in a hyper-literal and carnal manner you must pay attention to the details of its commentary: "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53) Even if the bread were also the blood of Christ (or even if it were tinged with the contents of the cup), it's eaten, not drunk.
Oh, it is easy to mock folks with expressions like "crackers and grapejuice" but when your own church's communion, until recently, consisted of crackers that you told the people were the "whole Christ," your stones may be doing more damage to your own place of worship.
Purgatory and Indulgences, Alive and Still Heretical
08/26/2009 - James WhiteYou wonder, at times, how it is that those who listen regularly to Roman Catholic apologists do not notice the wide range of differences between them on important matters of theology and practice. Don't they cringe just a little when they hear the "sola scriptura is a blueprint for anarchy" silliness knowing that they are using a double standard? We can hope some do, and that the Lord will use that as a means of showing them His truth.
In any case, in modern Romanism in America it is common to hear a Westernized, softened view of purgatory. You see, there is no escaping the fact that Roman Catholics of the past viewed purgatory as a time of suffering and purification. The fact that indulgences were measured in "days" is not just some odd measuring system, as Tim Staples has suggested. This is obvious due to the fact that despite all the historical controversy over the "Sabbatine privilege" and the Carmelite Order, for many years people believed, and practiced, a belief in indulgences that included Mary descending into purgatory to release the person who died wearing the scapular on "Saturday." Whatever else you do with that, it's hard to get to "Saturday" without the passage of time. The modern "it's not really a place, and there's no time there, it's just a state of mind" type of thinking flies in the face of everything we know of the beliefs of the leaders of the Roman Church in the past. It relies upon the ignorance of the audience who allow today's speakers to mediate their knowledge of church history to them, chewed up and predigested.
With that being said, I was pointed to an answer given by Robert Sungenis to the question "What will Purgatory be like?" If you thought indulgences were dead and gone, well, read this:
R. Sungenis: John, the truth is, we don’t know what Purgatory is going to be like. The Church has received no revelation on its specific character, and there is no detailed information in the Bible. All we know is that it will be a time of purgation and punishment for unconfessed venial sins.First, note the phrase, "it will be a time of purgation and punishment for unconfessed venial sins." I confess I have no idea how you can have "satispassio," the suffering of atonement, without the passage of time, but I will leave that to our modern Roman Catholic advocates to figure out. It looks like Sungenis is not among them.
But there is another factor we, as Catholics, should consider. Here it is: Good Catholics have no excuse for going to Purgatory. If they are really pay attention to their Catholic faith and take advantage of all the Indulgences that are continually being made available to escape any and all punishment in Purgatory, then it stands to reason that no good Catholic should go to Purgatory. If they do, then it’s their own fault for not taking advantage of the graces God has given us. The Church has given us a multitudinous array of penances and prayers we can do in order to get a plenary Indulgence. They are just dripping, waiting for us to gather them up. So, don’t worry about Purgatory. Spend your time taking advantage of the Indulgences God gives us through the Church.
Next, think through what it means that the punishments due to "venial" sins---which can keep you out of the presence of God due to your impurity---can be removed through the blasphemous practice of indulgences. There are few things that show the reality of Romanism more than indulgences, that is for certain. Every noble attempt to make Rome's gospel look like it is just close enough to slip by the anathemas of Scripture falls to ruin upon the most basic examination of the horrific complex of doctrines that is purgatory and indulgences. That Christ's atonement does not remove my impurity, but my climbing up stairs on my knees does, is more than enough to close the door on Rome's gospel, to be certain.
Did Hippo, Carthage, or Rome's Bishop Settle the Canon?
08/25/2009 - Tur8infanSome Roman Catholics are under the false impression that the councils of Hippo (A.D. 393) and/or Carthage (A.D. 397) authoritatively settled the canon of Scripture for the church - either directly or by endorsement by one or more Roman bishops. To be deep in history, however, is to cease to be so naive.
John of Damascus (lived from about A.D. 676 – 749) wrote on the canon of the New Testament:
The New Testament contains four gospels, that according to Matthew, that according to Mark, that according to Luke, that according to John; the Acts of the Holy Apostles by Luke the Evangelist; seven catholic epistles, viz. one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude; fourteen letters of the Apostle Paul; the Revelation of John the Evangelist; the Canons of the holy apostles, by Clement.- John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 17
You will note that differs from our canon by the inclusion of the canons of Clement. He was wrong to include that work, but the fact remains that there was not a "catholic" (universal) canon of the New Testament even as late as the 8th century. There was widespread agreement by that time on the 27 books that we recognize were inspired, but there was no authoritative presence telling all Christians they must accept one set of books or another. Ask any Eastern Orthodox scholar when their church defined the canon - the answer will not be a date, and it may be a lecture on the difference between the eastern churches and those of the West.
On the Old Testament, John of Damascus similarly provides a list:
Observe, further, that there are two and twenty books of the Old Testament, one for each letter of the Hebrew tongue. For there are twenty-two letters of which five are double, and so they come to be twenty-seven. For the letters Caph, Mem, Nun, Pe, Sade are double. And thus the number of the books in this way is twenty-two, but is found to be twenty-seven because of the double character of five. For Ruth is joined on to Judges, and the Hebrews count them one book: the first and second books of Kings are counted one: and so are the third and fourth books of Kings: and also the first and second of Paraleipomena: and the first and second of Esdra. In this way, then, the books are collected together in four Pentateuchs and two others remain over, to form thus the canonical books. Five of them are of the Law, viz. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. This which is the code of the Law, constitutes the first Pentateuch. Then comes another Pentateuch, the so-called Grapheia, or as they are called by some, the Hagiographa, which are the following: Jesus the Son of Nave, Judges along with Ruth, first and second Kings, which are one book, third and fourth Kings, which are one book, and the two books of the Paraleipomena which are one book. This is the second Pentateuch. The third Pentateuch is the books in verse, viz. Job, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes of Solomon and the Song of Songs of Solomon. The fourth Pentateuch is the Prophetical books, viz the twelve prophets constituting one book, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel. Then come the two books of Esdra made into one, and Esther. There bare also the Panaretus, that is the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Jesus, which was published in Hebrew by the father of Sirach, and afterwards translated into Greek by his grandson, Jesus, the Son of Sirach. These are virtuous and noble, but are not counted nor were they placed in the ark.- John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 17
You will notice that this is just the same (if we understand his "two books of Esdra" to refer to Ezra and Nehemiah, which seems probable and if we further assume that Lamentations is viewed as a part of Jeremiah, which is also probable) as our canon of the Old Testament, including the relegation of Wisdom and Sirach to a lesser status (useful, but not inspired).
What's more, we see that John of Damascus (iconophile though he may have been) shares a very high view of Scripture:
It is one and the same God Whom both the Old and the New Testament proclaim, Who is praised and glorified in the Trinity: I am come, saith the Lord, not to destroy the law but to fulfil it [St. Matt. v. 17.]. For He Himself worked out our salvation for which all Scripture and all mystery exists. And again, Search the Scriptures for they are they that testify of Me [St. John v. 39.]. And the Apostle says, God, Who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son [Heb. i. 1, 2.]. Through the Holy Spirit, therefore, both the law and the prophets, the evangelists and apostles and pastors and teachers, spake.- John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 17
All Scripture, then, is given by inspiration of God and is also assuredly profitable [2 Tim. iii. 16.]. Wherefore to search the Scriptures is a work most fair and most profitable for souls. For just as the tree planted by the channels of waters, so also the soul watered by the divine Scripture is enriched and gives fruit in its season [Ps. i. 3.], viz. orthodox belief, and is adorned with evergreen leafage, I mean, actions pleasing to God. For through the Holy Scriptures we are trained to action that is pleasing to God, and untroubled contemplation. For in these we find both exhortation to every virtue and dissuasion from every vice. If, therefore, we are lovers of learning, we shall also be learned in many things. For by care and toil and the grace of God the Giver, all things are accomplished. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened [St. Luke xi. 10.]. Wherefore let us knock at that very fair garden of the Scriptures, so fragrant and sweet and blooming, with its varied sounds of spiritual and divinely-inspired birds ringing all round our ears, laying hold of our hearts, comforting the mourner, pacifying the angry and filling him with joy everlasting: which sets our mind on the gold-gleaming, brilliant back of the divine dove [Ps. lxviii. 13.], whose bright pinions bear up to the only-begotten Son and Heir of the Husbandman [St. Matt. xxi. 37.] of that spiritual Vineyard and bring us through Him to the Father of Lights [Jas. i. 17.]. But let us not knock carelessly but rather zealously and constantly: lest knocking we grow weary. For thus it will be opened to us. If we read once or twice and do not understand what we read, let us not grow weary, but let us persist, let us talk much, let us enquire. For ask thy Father, he saith, and He will shew thee: thy elders and they will tell thee [Deut. xxxii. 7.]. For there is not in every man that knowledge [1 Cor. viii. 7.]. Let us draw of the fountain of the garden perennial and purest waters springing into life eternal [St. John iv. 14.]. Here let us luxuriate, let us revel insatiate: for the Scriptures possess inexhaustible grace. But if we are able to pluck anything profitable from outside sources, there is nothing to forbid that. Let us become tried money-dealers, heaping up the true and pure gold and discarding the spurious. Let us keep the fairest sayings but let us throw to the dogs absurd gods and strange myths: for we might prevail most mightily against them through themselves.
Scriptures tell us what to believe and how to live. I would be very interested if someone wanted to try to find any comparable statement by John Damascene on oral tradition or (with still lower probability) the interpretative tradition of "the church."
Out of Tune with the Roman Magisterium?
08/18/2009 - Tur8infanMr. Shea has posted a still further response on the topic of Mary's birth pangs or lack thereof and the woman of Revelation 12 (link to Shea's post). Mr. Shea seems to think our arguments "flat-footed" and compares discussing this with us to discussing music appreciation with a deaf man. This flatfloot, however, is less interested in arresting Mr. Shea for playing such bad music, but for doing so without the proper license.
Mr. Shea characterizes his previous arguments with respect to Mary's birth pangs and Rome's teaching or not on that subject as follows: "the whole point is that Rome acknowledges this opinion, but does not commit us to it." Here, however, the flatfoot in one thinks to investigate. Does Rome merely acknowledge the opinion or actually teach it? Are we tone deaf, or is Mr. Shea out of tune with his magisterium?
The Catechism of Trent, most recently (that I could find) promulgated by the encyclical In Dominico Agro, on June 14, 1761, by pope Clement XIII included the following paragraph:
The Virgin Mother we may also compare to Eve, making the second Eve, that is, Mary, correspond to the first, as we have already shown that the second Adam, that is, Christ, corresponds to the first Adam. By believing the serpent, Eve brought malediction and death on mankind, and Mary, by believing the Angel, became the instrument of The divine goodness in bringing life and benediction to the human race. From Eve we are born children of wrath; from Mary we have received Jesus Christ, and through Him are regenerated children of grace. To Eve it was said: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate she brought forth Jesus the Son of God without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.Notice how Clement XIII's catechism not only makes the connection that Mr. Shea previously attempted to criticize ("By the logic of this argument, it would also be possible to indict Jesus as a sinner since he suffered, toiled, sweated, and died, just like Adam (cf. Gen. 3:17-19)."), namely that because the sufferings were part of the curse, therefore, Mary didn't suffer them. So, the tones of Mr. Shea's song seem to be a bit off, if we're permitted to use the official teachings of his church as our tuning fork for what constitutes Roman Catholicism - after all, they are the licensed magisterium, but I don't think he can claim that same privilege.
In fact, and germane to our discussion, this paragraph it is not just from any old catechism, but from an official catechism. You will recall earlier that Mr. Shea built his argument that Rome doesn't teach the view on the grounds that: "But as the carefully worded language of the Catechism (quoted in the combox) makes clear, the Church doesn't go to the mat on this question." By Mr. Shea's apparent reasoning, Clement XIII's Rome did "go to the mat" on this question, whether or not the ambiguous wording of the more recent 1980's catechism does. Yet Mr. Shea seems insistent on relying on the silence of the current catechism on this particular issue.
Even in his latest post, Mr. Shea writes:
Note what is not demanded here. There is no clause saying "The faithful must, on pain of excommunication, believe and profess that Mary suffered no birth pangs." So it's rather a stretch to say "Rome teaches" this. In fact, Rome acknowledges it as a very common opinion and it is certainly something many great Catholics have held.This kind of comment simply shows how out of touch Mr. Shea is with the life, discipline, and history of his own church. As Clement XIII explained regarding the Catechism of Trent:
The popes clearly understood this. They devoted all their efforts not only to cut short with the sword of anathema the poisonous buds of growing error, but also to cut away certain developing ideas which either could prevent the Christian people unnecessarily from bearing a greater fruit of faith or could harm the minds of the faithful by their proximity to error. So the Council of Trent condemned those heresies which tried at that time to dim the light of the Church and which led Catholic truth into a clearer light as if the cloud of errors had been dispersed. As our predecessors understood that that holy meeting of the universal Church was so prudent in judgment and so moderate that it abstained from condemning ideas which authorities among Church scholars supported, they wanted another work prepared with the agreement of that holy council which would cover the entire teaching which the faithful should know and which would be far removed from any error.So, the purpose of the Tridentine catechism was to be "another work prepared with the agreement of that holy council which would cover the entire teaching which the faithful should know and which would be far removed from any error." In fact, according to Clement XIII, the catechism was drawn up in a minimalist way: "they proposed that only what is necessary and very useful for salvation be clearly and plainly explained in the Roman Catechism and communicated to the faithful."
Is the miraculous/painless birth something to which denial has been penalized with an anathema? I'm not aware of any such promulgation. Does that mean Rome has not explicitly taught that view and even grouped it as being a matter that is "necessary and very useful for salvation"? But Mr. Shea thinks that he's free to accept it or not accept it: cafeteria-style Roman Catholicism at its most polemic (How polemic is his cafeteria position? he compares the view of Mary's birth of Jesus being painless to geocentrism and the idea that Jews are accursed).
Mr. Shea claims: "In similar ways, the Catholic Church has had all sorts of schools of opinion on all manner of subjects, while the Magisterium has refrained, sometimes for centuries, from plumping in favor or one or the other." I don't know about you, but to me putting something in a catechism and saying in an official papal encyclical that the catechism only has matters that are "necessary and very useful to salvation" sounds like "the Magisterium" taking sides on the matter. As Clement XIII points out, after all, the Roman Catechism (as it was then called) was actually the product of Pius V (pope from January, 17, 1504 – May 1, 1572).
Moreover, as I pointed out in my previous post, Mr. Shea has yet to show us someone who holds to "in partu" virginity of Mary and yet asserts that Mary had birth pangs. This is not like the Thomist / Molinist controversy in which the popes simply avoided taking sides and eventually permitted both views to be maintained. Despite Mr. Shea's lack of assistance, I've looked diligently for another side to this supposed controversy. The closest one finds is Ludwig Ott (Ott's quotation can be found on the version at my own blog. I've omitted it here, in view of its anatomically explicit nature - link to the version at my personal blog). Ott himself doesn't come out and advocate a lack of physical integrity in Mary, but he does criticize the physical integrity in partu position on the basis of (of all things) Scripture. He ends up expressing uncertainty over whether the Fathers were "attest[ing] a truth of Revelation" or "wrongly interpret[ing] a truth of Revelation" based on "an inadequate natural scientific point of view." That kind of agnosticism over the issue is far to the "other side" as I was able to locate from any kind of authority in Roman Catholic theology. Of course, the body of Roman Catholic literature is enormous, and I may have overlooked something.
Mr. Shea eventually ends up consenting as well, if somewhat grudgingly. He states: "None of that is to say that it is wrong to think Mary suffered no birth pangs. I think the patristic logic is sense," although he goes on to insist that since there is no anathema "that's a matter of liberty, not of 'Rome teaches'."
Finally, Mr. Shea gets to what he views as the argument. He wants to interpret the birth pangs of the Revelation 12 woman as not being literal birth pangs but some kind of psychological pains such as those experienced by Mary when Jesus was crucified.
While that might seem like an escape, it undermines the identification of Mary with the Revelation 12 woman. After all, the main reason to identify Mary with the Revelation 12 woman is the fact that the woman there gives birth to a man child. In other words, one has to interpret that giving birth literally in order to connect Mary to the Revelation 12 woman. Then to turn around and make the travails non-literal seems arbitrary at best. Finally, to make them the psychological pain Mary experienced when Jesus was crucified ignores the temporal sequence found in Revelation 12, and further demonstrates the arbitrary nature of the association between Mary and the woman of Revelation 12.
Mr. Shea might think that having to defend his position is "like arguing about music appreciation with a deaf man" and call our arguments "flat-footed," but that flat platform apparently leads to sure-footed stability of consistent explanation and a knack for detective work in tracking down what Rome actually teaches. Likewise, while we may be deaf to the sirens of Rome (though it seems to be Mr. Shea who is not quite in tune with Rome's orchestra), we lack the inner ear problems that result in the wobbly (and eventually toppling) arguments trying to link Mary and the Revelation 12 woman.
A Response on Rome's Blueprint for Anarchy
08/15/2009 - James SwanHere's a response to my recent blog post, Reminding Patrick Madrid of Rome's Blueprints
"I am shocked that someone with the reputation as Swan prints something so idiotic. Its obvious his writing is geared to the sheep of protestantism unwilling to give any coherent thought to any subject. I just can't believe you people buy it. Its not different than when I watch all those people fawn over Obama as a savior without grasping the garbage coming out of his mouth. Here what you want, see what you want. Just so long as its anti catholic, your good."I'm continually shocked as well. I really should submit to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is infallible, and that she produces true unity among God's people. Sure Catholics disagree, but that's because Catholics have been told they have the right to disagree by a higher infallible authority. That makes disagreeing acceptable. Protestants don't have the right to disagree, because the Magisterium does not allow them to.
Seriously though, the amount of denial that some Roman Catholics will put forth rather than admit the obvious is amazing. Recall in my article I cited Patrick Madrid stating, "There is confusion reigning among Protestantism, all of them claiming to go by the Bible alone and none of them being able to meet entirely on what the Bible means." Yet, what do we find in Roman Catholicism? Maybe a small handful of verses with an infallible interpretation, if even that? Some Catholic theologians even deny the Church has defined the literal sense of any single passage.
And do those infallibly defined verses even matter? A few months back I documented Tim Staples saying:
"For 1500 years, the Church always understood that nobody has the authority... just as Saint Peter tells us...of private interpretation.... to think that you or I can run around and interpret the Bible however we want and start our own church and that sorta thing that we see in Protestantism... that is completely alien to the Christian Church for the first 1500 years of the Christian era..."
And then also stating, "There is a lot of freedom with regard to the interpretation of Scripture," and also affirming that even the verses infallibly defined by the Roman Catholic Church "are left open to other interpretations as long as you don't deny that which has been infallibly interpreted."
Tim's comment shows Catholic claims to infallible interpretation are chimerical. For all the claims to interpretive certainty, they typically can't point to an established authoritative interpretation of any verse. They themselves then provide their own interpretations of Scripture.
Madrid's "blueprint for anarchy" argument is false. When applied to Romanism, one does not find the goods claimed. The argument is put forth as a diversion to Rome's authority claims. If a Catholic apologist can keep you busy putting out fires elsewhere, the claim of infallibility and certainty are never challenged. That is, they can't cogently defend a positive presentation of their own position.
Protoevangelium of James: a Question of Sources
08/14/2009 - Tur8infanOpinions regarding: Protoevangelium of James:
- Aquinas: "apocryphal ravings" (Summa Theologia, Third Part, Question 35, Article 9, Reply to Objection 3)(source)
- Jan Wakelin, Director of Radio for Catholic Answers, in response to the question "How do we know that the Protoevangelium of James is credible?": "We don't." (source)
- [Pseudo?]-Pope Gelasius I, bishop of Rome 492–496, lists it among "The remaining writings which have been compiled or been recognised by heretics or schismatics the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church does not in any way receive; of these we have thought it right to cite below a few which have been handed down and which are to be avoided by catholics:" - Gelasian Decree, Chapter 5 (source)(attesting authenticity of chapter 5)(negative review)
- Was Mary a Perpetual Virgin? By Christine Pinheiro, "This Rock," Volume 16, Number 10, December 2005 (source)
- Mary: Ever Virgin, "This Rock,"Volume 13, Number 2, February 2002 (source)
- St. Anne, in the "Quick Answers" section of two issues of volume 17 of "This Rock" (source)
- Joseph's children by a prior marriage, "This Rock," Volume 13, Number 10, December 2002 (source)
- How to Explain the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, by Jason Evert, "This Rock," Volume 11, Number 7-8, July 2000 (source)
Why would Roman Catholic authors use apocryphal ravings whose credibility they cannot confirm and which works have been condemned (apparently) by a pope of their church? There are two obvious explanations: (1) many Roman Catholic apologists have only a passing knowledge of history and the fathers, and (2) some Roman Catholic apologists simply don't care: if it seems to support Rome's position, it is used. In some cases, there is a third reason, which is that it is heretical works like the Protoevangelium of James from which, as an historical matter, were the true sources of the Roman Catholic doctrines and beliefs.
Rome Teaches? Is Shea Sure?
08/13/2009 - Tur8infanMr. Shea seems to think that because Rome's teaching on the painlessness of Mary's birth is not explicit in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it's not one of Rome's teachings (link). To put that issue to bed, let's provide him with that teaching from a bishop of Rome. Sorry it's not Benedict XVI or John Paul II, but there were bishops of Rome before them.
Pope Alexander III (1169) wrote: "Mary conceived without shame, gave birth without pain, and has departed from earth without undergoing the corruption of the tomb, thus proving - according to the word of the angel - that she was full of grace and nothing less." (Translation by Joseph Duhr, S.J.)(Latin taken from Denzinger: "(Maria) concepit nempe sine pudore, peperit sine dolore, et hinc migravit sine corruptione, iuxta verbum angeli, immo Dei per angelum, ut plena, non semiplena, gratiae esse probaretur ... ." as reported in Denzinger-Schoenmetzer, 1963, at item 748).
That really ought to be enough to shut Shea up about whether or not the teaching is a Roman teaching, whether or not the teaching made it into the "Catechism of the Catholic Church." That document, after all and massive as it is, is not an exhaustive work. But perhaps we should show what else makes this a teaching of Rome.
We already pointed out that Aquinas taught that Jesus birth did not cause Mary pain. Mr. Shea chooses to misrepresent this evidence as "because everything Aquinas ever said is Roman Catholic doctrine" (despite the fact that we repeatedly point out how Aquinas differs from Rome on things like the Immaculate Conception and Sola Scriptura, even while not being fully Reformed in his view of the bishop or Rome, plenary councils, or the life of Mary).
Worse than the misrepresentation, though, is Mr. Shea's attempt to dodge Aquinas' reasoning: Aquinas reasoned that Mary didn't have birth pains because she didn't give birth through the birth canal, because she remained a virgin even despite the birth of Christ. Mr. Shea seems afraid to address what Aquinas' reasoning is (it's, of course, not for me to say whether Aquinas knows more about what "Catholic" theology is than Mr. Shea, but I think Aquinas is a better known and respected theologian).
Mr. Shea appeals vaguely to the "Catholic Catechism," but fails to make clear to his readers that the "Catholic Catechism" confirms this premise on which Aquinas' argument is made. Specifically:
The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".- CCC 499 (footnotes omitted)
Mr. Shea tries to characterize the Roman teaching that Mary did not suffer during childbirth in this way:
A broad tradition has always existed in Catholic circles which holds that our Lady experienced no labor pains. One can see the tradition reflected in sundry sources and attested by luminaries like St. Thomas. It is certainly generally regarded as a pious opinion and is certain compatible with the Church's dogmatic teaching.As to the "always," of course Mr. Shea is being anachronistic. The concept of the perpetual virginity, and its extreme form with respect to Jesus not using the birth canal, were developments. The doctrine of Jesus' birth being painless for Mary is a further development based on those. It's not something that has "always" been around, although we can trace it back quite a few centuries.
Nevertheless, despite the ancient lineage and broad acceptance of this view, Mr. Shea tries to dismiss this view as not being something that Rome teaches because, "But as the carefully worded language of the Catechism (quoted in the combox) makes clear, the Church doesn't go to the mat on this question."
Of course, the Catechism (as see above) actually makes it quite explicit that Mary's virginity was not affected by the birth of Jesus. It just doesn't come out and say "and she didn't, therefore, suffer birth pangs." Besides that, of course, the Catechism isn't an exhaustive list of everything Rome has ever taught about everything and on every subject. I'd love to see Mr. Shea prove to us his unspoken premise that "if it's not in the Catechism it's not something that Rome teaches."
One wonders, though, why Mr. Shea doesn't think that the teachings of Pope Alexander III and Thomas Aquinas are teachings of Rome. Does he find fault with Aquinas' explanation? Aquinas argues his position from a premise that is a teaching that made its way into the Catechism.
But let's look at it the other way. Mr. Shea wants to think of this as just a "broad tradition" and not something that Rome actually teaches. Here's a relatively simple request: show us who teaches that Mary's virginity was not destroyed by Christ's birth but rejects Alexander III's and Aquinas' view that she did not suffer in childbirth.
I'd love to hear from Shea who he thinks opposes the opinion of John of Damascus who said:
For He who was of the Father, yet without mother, was born of woman without a father’s co-operation. And so far as He was born of woman, His birth was in accordance with the laws of parturition, while so far as He had no father, His birth was above the nature of generation: and in that it was at the usual time (for He was born on the completion of the ninth month when the tenth was just beginning), His birth was in accordance with the laws of parturition, while in that it was painless it was above the laws of generation. For, as pleasure did not precede it, pain did not follow it, according to the prophet who says, Before she travailed, she brought forth, and again, before her pain came she was delivered of a man-child [Is. lxvi. 7.].- John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 14
That's an even different argument (than Aquinas' argument) for the same result. What argument from tradition can Mr. Shea bring forth? How does Mr. Shea conclude that the painless birth of Christ is not one of Rome's teachings?
How does Mr. Shea know what Rome teaches?
That's the question that should be troubling Mr. Shea and his readers. It's nice to act as though the Catechism were an infallible canon of Rome's teachings, but it doesn't make that claim for itself. Mr. Shea likes the way that the current CCC words things, but the Catechism of the Council of Trent put it this way:
But as the Conception itself transcends the order of nature, so also the birth of our Lord presents to our contemplation nothing but what is divine.- Catechism of the Council of Trent, on the Second Part of the Third Article of the Creed
Besides, what is admirable beyond the power of thoughts or words to express, He is born of His Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity, just as He afterwards went forth from the sepulchre while it was closed and sealed, and entered the room in which His disciples were assembled, the doors being shut; or, not to depart from every-day examples, just as the rays of the sun penetrate without breaking or injuring in the least the solid substance of glass, so after a like but more exalted manner did Jesus Christ come forth from His mother's womb without injury to her maternal virginity. This immaculate and perpetual virginity forms, therefore, the just theme of our eulogy. Such was the work of the Holy Ghost, who at the Conception and birth of the Son so favoured the Virgin Mother as to impart to her fecundity while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity.
So, yes. It is a teaching of Rome. Is it a defined dogma? No. Neither is everything that is found in the Catechism. Yet still it is a teaching. In fact, on this particular point, Mr. Shea has been unable to point us to any authority within Roman Catholicism that would suggest otherwise. Where are these Roman Catholic teachers who claim that Mary gave birth the normal way, or that she suffered birth pains in any way. Who are these teachers who disagree with Aquinas and John of Damascus?
Oh? Mr. Shea doesn't know? He can't find them? What a surprise! It's just like the problem that Irenaeus faced. We confront them with Scripture, they turn to tradition, and when we confront them with tradition they reject it as well. And this is even a bit worse, for the tradition I'm citing to Mr. Shea is not the apostolic tradition, not tradition properly derived from Scripture, but the tradition on which his sect is built!
P.S. I notice that Mr. Shea seems interested to run to his fall-back position of allegorizing the travail of the Revelation 12 woman. Its very easy to use ad hoc allegorizations (Shea writes sarcastically: "Only a fool could see in the image of birth pangs an image of the anguish Mary endured watching her Son die as he brought the kingdom to birth in his passion.") but it is quite another thing to justify those from the text (totally impossible in the case of Revelation 12, which places the travails before the birth of the child). Sarcasm is something Shea is quite good at, and he's demonstrated that for us. Now, let's see if he can be as skillful at exposition either of Scripture or tradition.
Reminding Patrick Madrid of Rome's Blueprints
08/13/2009 - James SwanAs far as I know, it was Patrick Madrid who popularized the description "blueprint for anarchy" in describing sola scriptura. Recently, Madrid posted Techno Apologetics: The "Sola Scriptura" Baptists-Can't-Dance Mix. He includes a mocking video against Dr. White. He also links to his oft-refuted article,The White Man's Burden. Yes, it's professional Catholic apologetics at its best, a dance mix video, and an article that was entirely dismantled by Dr. White.
In his recent blog article, Madrid states, "By the way, the 'Sola Scriptura is a blueprint for anarchy!' line that Mr. White quotes contemptuously in this montage (actually, I think he may have quoted it contemptuously in our 1993 Sola Scriptura debate in Chula Vista, CA) is something I have been saying for years." Contemptuously? The audio recording speaks for itself as to who responded and interacted politely, and who did not. It was actually Mr. Madrid in the 1993 sola scriptura debate who said in closing,
There is confusion reigning among Protestantism, all of them claiming to go by the Bible alone and none of them being able to meet entirely on what the Bible means. Now Jesus, pardon me, Paul said in I Corinthians 1:10, "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." Sola scriptura has been a blueprint for anarchy, folks. Just trace the historical record back to the time of the Reformation and look at all the competing sects that have arisen.
Remember, if the argument you're using works just as well against your own position, it's best not to use that argument. Over on my own blog, I have my own occasional feature called, Blueprint for Anarchy. What I've been doing is simply keeping track of all the times I come across Rome's zealous defenders disagreeing with each other, or pointing out the lack of clarity within Roman Catholicism as well as the confusion.
Robert Sungenis recently stated Rome's scholars are worse than Protestant liberals. Jimmy Akin recently chastised the interpretation of his priest saying, "This isn't exegetical rocket science." Steve Ray had some similar problems with a priest and concludes the church is "Always reforming, always in need of reform." Mark Shea accuses Robert Sungenis of lying. Sungenis says Scott Hahn misunderstands of the whole issue of justification. Over on the Catholic Answers forum, they recently had a heated discussion as to whether Scott Hahn teaches "prima scriptura." Tim Staples says he went to a mass in which the priest led the church in "the wave." Jimmy Akin says you can pray to whoever you want to, even if they aren't saints. Art Sippo says Mary should be Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces. Patrick Madrid disagreed with him. Karl Keating states, "Many Catholics are confused because some priests tell them contracepting is immoral, while others tell them the practice is morally neutral; some priests speak as though Mary had only one child, while others imply that she was the mother of the 'brethren of the Lord', some priests correctly explain the meaning of the Real Presence, while others refer to the Eucharist as only a symbol. Priests are authority figures, and lay people expect them to know and teach the faith accurately- not a safe assumption nowadays." Jim Burnham stated on Catholic Answers that Seventy percent of Roman Catholics do not understand the Eucharist.
I could go on and on. I didn't even mention any of my "We Have Apostolic Tradition"- The Unofficial Catholic Apologist Commentary " posts. In those posts, you can see that Catholic apologists disagree with each other when they interpret the Bible. Then there are the big issues, like evolution. If you want to see diversity of opinion, simply try and nail down a Catholic apologist or a Catholic theologian on it. You would think Catholic theologians could at least be unified on Luther and the Reformation. Some say Luther was sent by Satan, others think he wasn't such a bad guy.
Shall we conclude that an infallible interpreter + infallible tradition + infallible scripture = harmony? The facts speak for themselves. I've got to believe by this point that Mr. Madrid is aware that this is a false argument. The misuse of a sufficient source does not negate the clarity of that sufficient source. If he wants to argue differences among Protestants means anarchy, he should be willing to first clean up his own house before pointing any fingers, or posting dance mix videos.
Mark Shea and the Revelation 12 Woman
08/12/2009 - Tur8infanOver at his own blog, Mr. Shea has provided comments on what he calls: "For My Money, One of the Weakest Arguments Against the Immaculate Conception" (link). One of the reasons its such a weak argument against the immaculate conception is that it's not actually an argument against the immaculate conception. Someone with average reading skills will quickly spot this fact when reading the argument:
I have always understood that the woman of Revelation to be the Blessed Mother. I was discussing the Immaculate Conception with a Baptist co-worker, specifically how she had no pain during child birth; he replied that if that was the case that she couldn't be the woman of Revelation as "she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered."Yes, this is an argument that came up during a discussion of the immaculate conception, but it is not actually against the immaculate conception, at least not in any direct way.
Instead, the argument is an argument against Rome's attempt to connect their conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus, with the woman of Revelation 12. They want to connect her with the woman of Revelation 12 because of this:
Revelation 12:1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
Doesn't that sound grand? And Mary, in Roman Catholic theology, has a very grand place. In fact, they use as an excuse for crowning Mary (compare this discussion of the impropriety of crowning Mary) the idea that Mary is the woman of Revelation 12. But is that so?
One approach we could take is to see whether anyone in the early church believed that Mary was the woman of Revelation 12. However, when we do so, we discover that the unanimous opinion of the early church was not that this was about Mary, but that the woman in Revelation 12 signified the church (as demonstrated here).
Another approach is to make an internal critique of modern Roman Catholic theology. That critique accepts, for the sake of the argument, Rome's teachings about Mary and then asks whether they are contradictory:
1) On the one hand, Rome teaches that Mary did not suffer birth pangs with Jesus; and
2) On the other hand, Rome teaches that Mary was the woman of Revelation 12, but
3) The woman of Revelation 12 did suffer birth pangs, and consequently
4) Rome's theology is self-contradictory.
What is Mr. Shea's response to this internal critique? It is very flowery but flawed. Wherein lie the flaws?
First, Mr. Shea changes the argument a bit. Mr. Shea presents the argument as though the person criticizing Rome's doctrine is saying that because the birth pangs are part of the curse for sin, Mary couldn't have had them.
Mr. Shea then responds to this argument by stating: "By the logic of this argument, it would also be possible to indict Jesus as a sinner since he suffered, toiled, sweated, and died, just like Adam (cf. Gen. 3:17-19)." Two things must be distinguished here, however. Jesus suffered, toiled, sweated, and died, just like Adam because Jesus was bearing the sins of his people. Jesus is our mediator. Mary is not. No one's sins are imputed to Mary: the sins of the elect were imputed to Jesus. Thus, there is a reason consistent with divine justice for Jesus to labor under the curse: there is not a reason consistent with divine justice for Mary likewise to do so, unless Mary was a sinner. And that, of course, is the real reason why she suffered and died.
As Augustine put it:
For to speak more briefly, Mary who was of Adam died for sin, Adam died for sin, and the Flesh of the Lord which was of Mary died to put away sin.- Augustine, on Psalm 34:13
Mr. Shea's argument, though, makes it sound as though he is unaware of the Roman view that Mary did not suffer pain in giving birth to Christ. This view does not come from the view of the immaculate conception, but from the view of the perpetual virginity (in its most extreme form). Aquinas (who did not accept the immaculate conception) affirmed the perpetual virginity and argued that Mary must not have suffered for several reasons, among which:
But the mother's pains in childbirth did not concern Christ, who came to atone for our sins. And therefore there was no need for His Mother to suffer in giving birth.- Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Third Part, Question 35, Article 8, Response to Objection 2
But most of all, for Aquinas, it was the idea that Jesus came out some other way than through the birth canal that proved that Mary did not suffer at Christ's birth. It wasn't based on her being sinless, or not suffering the corruptions and curses brought on by the fall. Instead, it was based on her remaining a virgin (as I discuss at greater length here).
Mr. Shea doesn't seem to get it, though. At one point in his discussion he seems to recognize the fact that this is an internal critique, but then he uses the argument:
It's like saying, "Okay! I grant that Mary is the Cosmic Queen of the Universe, crowned with twelve stars, clothed with the majesty of the sun, and treading the moon under her feet with the awesome glory that God has bestowed upon her! But what's this? Is that a thread I spy hanging loose on her garments that outshine the sun?"Sorry, Mr. Shea, but it's not like that. No one is criticizing Mary - they're pointing out the inconsistencies of your doctrine. It's rather more like saying, "Okay! I grant (for the sake of the argument) that Mary is the Cosmic Queen of the Universe, crowned with twelve stars, clothed with the majesty of the sun, and treading the moon under her feet with the awesome glory that God has bestowed upon her! But what's this? This Mary is not the Mary that your church worships, because this one had birthpangs, while yours did not." See the difference?
Mr. Shea wraps things up with what he seems to think is a bolstering argument:
It's a very silly argument, particularly since the language used by Revelation is so close to the imagery of the "birth pangs of the kingdom" (Matt. 24:8) used by her Son and can easily be taken to refer to the "sword" that pierced her soul at the Passion, not to physical labor pains.Here's the problem, though. Practically the only reason anyone would link the Revelation 12 woman to Mary in the first place is that she gives birth to a man child. But if the birth pangs are to be allegorized into something else, why wouldn't we allegorize the birth into something else? This attempt is transparently the sort of selective allegorization that Mr. Camping is so fond of. It lets a desired outcome dictate what gets taken literally and what gets taken figuratively. Never mind that the birth pangs in the text happen before the child's birth - since that doesn't fit the outcome that Mr. Shea wants, he just ignores it.
The weakest argument against the immaculate conception? Hardly. Yet it was a very weak rebuttal to an argument that demonstrates the internal inconsistencies of the Roman Catholic religion.
And So They Trudge on in Defense of Mother Church
08/12/2009 - James WhiteI could never be a Roman Catholic apologist. It is just not in me to know that my arguments have been shredded repeatedly and yet to continue on repeating them, relying the whole time on the bare hope that the people I'm talking to just don't care enough to look closely enough to know I'm selling them used and expired goods. I don't know how they do it, but with just a few exceptions, the most popular of their lot act as if the only people responding to their claims are Jack Chick and the late Alberto Rivera, and as long as those arguments have been debunked, well, their work is done!
Mark Shea is one of those Roman Catholic apologists who seems to think that Rome's position is bettered when it is defended by nastiness and harsh language. His response to my documentation of errors on his part a few weeks ago only demonstrates once again the nature of Rome's defenders in our day. Today he gave a great example of "how to not really answer an objection but how to pretend you did anyway" argumentation in a blog article titled "For My Money, One of the Weakest Arguments Against the Immaculate Conception." He attempts to address a rather simple observation: Rome teaches that Mary was protected from the stain of original sin through a preemptive application of the merits of Christ. Of course, the fact that not rational person could ever derive such a concept from the pages of Scripture is pretty much a given. That's why most of Rome's serious theologians view such dogma as "development" over time, or assign it to the realm of "apostolic tradition" that did not leave the slightest evidence of its existence in the canon of Scripture or in the first generations of Christian writings. That way they can simply dismiss all the counter evidence found even in the patristic writings, string together quotes from here and there, and voila! a dogma for all! In any case, if Mary was, in fact, protected from the stain of original sin, as Rome dogmatically defined more than a millennium and a half after the fact, then why would she have pain in childbirth, since, obviously, that is part of the curse itself (Genesis 3:16)?
Now, the argument is but one of many to be raised against Rome's abuse of the apocalyptic imagery of Revelation 12. But it is a perfectly valid issue to raise, since it is Rome, not the objector, who is forcing the imagery to "walk on all fours" and to serve as one of the few texts the Roman Catholics can use as support of its clearly unbiblical complex of Marian dogmas. Shea quotes from his three volume set of books in response to this, and in so doing shows us again just how viciously circular an authoritarian system like Romanism can be. Having built up a dogma out of fairy dust, Shea has the audacity to talk about arguments from "increasing(ly) frail evidence." Anyone defending the Marian dogmas should blush to use such phraseology, but Shea is not daunted by such things as consistency and truthfulness. He writes,
Even to me, who had deeply assumed there was something in Scripture contradicting the Immaculate Conception, this was an exceedingly weak claim. By the logic of this argument, it would also be possible to indict Jesus as a sinner since he suffered, toiled, sweated, and died, just like Adam (cf. Gen. 3:17-19).Of course, Jesus did what He did voluntarily, while not under the curse, so as to redeem God's elect people. Is it Shea's argument that Mary, too, voluntarily suffered in childbirth for some hitherto unrevealed reason? This leads us again to consider the absurdity of the Roman position, for who can say with a straight face that the Mary of history, the faithful servant of the Lord recorded for us in but a few passages in sacred writ, actually believed, herself, the dogmas defined by Rome centuries and centuries later? When Mary speaks of God as her Savior in Luke 1:47, are we to seriously think that she had in mind Rome's complex of doctrines, so that what she really meant was, "I rejoice in God my Savior by the preemptive application of the merits of my Son whose mission I do not yet understand and really will not until the Spirit comes"? In the same way, are we to think the pure maiden of Israel voluntarily chose to suffer in giving birth for some...redemptive purpose, maybe, something related to her being co-redemptrix with Christ? I mean, once history, revelation, Scripture, logic, and rationality, have been thrown to the wind, why not start connecting all these things together for the fun of it? There is no end to where you can take such thinking!
So how is Shea's response relevant, once we realize that Christ entered into human flesh voluntarily and hence suffered, not as a result of being under the curse, but as a result of His choosing to bear the penalty of our sin in Himself as our Savior? But he continues on:
But more fundamentally, there's a peculiar tone-deafness to the argument. It's like saying, "Okay! I grant that Mary is the Cosmic Queen of the Universe, crowned with twelve stars, clothed with the majesty of the sun, and treading the moon under her feet with the awesome glory that God has bestowed upon her! But what's this? Is that a thread I spy hanging loose on her garments that outshine the sun?" It's a very silly argument, particularly since the language used by Revelation is so close to the imagery of the "birth pangs of the kingdom" (Matt. 24:8) used by her Son and can easily be taken to refer to the "sword" that pierced her soul at the Passion, not to physical labor pains.Did you follow that? There are numerous reasons, biblically and historically, to reject Rome's later identification of Mary in this text. No one is saying, "Oh, I grant all that, but look at this one objection." It is part of a complex of problems Rome's eisegesis creates with the apocalyptic text. And if you want another example of the "context doesn't matter, Rome does" method of biblical manhandling (shades of Harold Camping!), the beginning of birth pangs in the destruction of Jerusalem is somehow related to this imagery in Revelation, so that the term "birth" becomes the valid means of connection? Ah, the glory of Rome's "interpretation" of the Bible. Of course, we have to point out: where has Rome actually infallibly interpreted the Matthew text? I'm still waiting for that official list of infallibly interpreted texts. Aren't you?
In the same batch of RSS feeds I ran across this note from Patrick Madrid. Now, you probably remember that we spent quite some time starting in September of last year on the Dividing Line going through both of my debates with Patrick, meticulously taking his arguments apart piece by piece. You know that Patrick has been informed of those programs. But do we see any advancement in Madrid's argumentation? Any recognition of a need to step up to the next level? Nothing. In fact, in looking back over my blog entries, I see that in 2005 he was making the same mistakes he continues to make in 2009. No advancement. No learning. No improvement. Just repeat the same ol' arguments over and over and over again.
Evidently, as long as Rome's pop apologists are looking only to satisfy a "core" constituency, they will continue to use the same tired, worn-out arguments. And yes, I know they say the same in reverse: the difference is, of course, that I play their arguments, in full, on my program, and interact with them. I invite them to call, to debate, to interact. They know my number. They don't call me. You don't hear them playing contextualized and full portions of my teachings or debates on their programs, do you? Why might that be? I think the answer is obvious.
The Unity and Certainty of Rome
08/10/2009 - James WhiteJames Swan noted a fascinating discussion on Robert Sungenis' website. He was asked about a series of lectures, and Sungenis' reply was:
R. Sungenis: John, if they advertise in America, NCR, Commonweal, First Things, etc., then it’s the same old liberal, progressive approach to theology that has basically sucked the faith out of the Catholic Church today. It is the same liberal, modernistic theology (if you can call it theology) that is taught at Catholic University of America or Notre Dame University. Although I’m sure there are some good aspects to these lectures, knowing what I know of the lecturers, their alma maters (Georgetown University, The Jesuit School of Theology, Union Theological Seminary, Catholic Theological Union, Boston College, Franciscan School of Theology, St. Patrick’s Seminary) and their allegiance to the liberal institutions for which they write and work (The Catholic Biblical Association, Catholic Theological Society, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, The Collegeville Bible Commentary) I could not recommend any of them to you. To a man (and woman) these teachers believe the Bible is riddled with historical and “religious” errors. Many of them wrote sections of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary edited by Fr. Raymond Brown and Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, two of the most liberal Catholics in academia. For them, the Bible is mainly the work of man, and only a few parts were actually inspired by the Holy Spirit. They do not believe most of the historical narratives in Scripture ever took place (e.g., Adam and Eve, Noah) and they believe much of the Gospels were made up by either the evangelists or the generations that came after them. They question the resurrection of Christ, the immaculate conception of Mary, the infallibility of the pope, the existence of the devil or hell, and many other cardinal doctrines of the historic Catholic faith. In brief, these lectures are indicative of the sad state of affairs in Catholic academia and scholarship today. Today’s Catholic scholars took over where the Protestant liberals left off at the turn of the 20th century, and they are much worse than the Protestant liberals ever were. They simply do not have the traditional faith of our Fathers and medievals any longer.Now, in general, I think Sungenis has truth on his side when it comes to his complaint that the majority of modern Roman Catholic scholarship has been deeply, deeply infected with theological liberalism. I can't tell you how often I hear Shabir Ally or other Islamic apologists trotting out Brown or Fitzmyer to prove that this or that biblical teaching is "mythological" or the like. And when you join the likes of Bart Ehrman as the favorite go-to-source for those denying the essential aspects of the Christian faith itself, well, that doesn't speak too well as to your orthodoxy. I have often expressed the fact that modern Roman Catholic apologists live in a context of contradiction: by definition they defend Rome's dogmas, while at the same time, Rome's theologians have long ago abandoned any meaningful commitment to Rome's theology, and even when they give lip-service to the "sacred truths" of the Magisterium, everyone knows it is with a wink and a nod, fingers crossed under the folds of all those robes. Just like in many allegedly conservative evangelical seminaries, where inerrancy is "believed" but...not really, Rome's theologians find a way to talk about Papal Infallibility or the Bodily Assumption in such a way as to keep their jobs while using code-speak to let all the "enlightened" know they really don't believe such medieval silliness. Roman Catholic apologists know their own theologians are not their friends. In fact, most of their writings are a gold mine of quotes for our side! But the real problem they face is that their own leaders in Rome not only put up with the situation, they promulgate it and support it.
Now at the top of this blog entry is a picture from the 1995 debate in California that featured, on the Roman Catholic side of things, Patrick Madrid along with Robert Sungenis (seated next to each other on the left side of the image). I don't see Madrid and Sungenis doing a lot together these days. Sungenis has gone off into his own unique view of things, doing battle with Hahn and...just about everyone else on a whole host of issues. Thus far he has withstood the seemingly siren call of sedevacantism, but his unique brand of Roman Catholicism is surely more like that of the medieval period than modern Rome.
One who did not resist that call, but ran headlong toward it, is Gerry Matatics, who, despite their wishing everyone would forget it, was once the darling of Catholic Answers. I visited their offices years ago and found Gerry's desk right next to Patrick's. They did seminars together and traveled the country proclaiming the errors of sola scriptura and assuring everyone that it is a "blueprint for anarchy," to use Patrick's trademarked phrase. Notice how in these pictures both Gerry and Patrick are not holding up the Catholic Catechism or the Code of Canon Law of the Documents of Vatican II. No, they are holding up that dangerous book, which no one can really understand outside of Rome's guidance, the Bible! Of course, one wonders what version it is, since Rome still promotes one of the single worst, most atrocious English translations ever produced, the NAB. In any case, we all know Gerry is off lecturing on the soon coming World Order and how the Pope is not really a Catholic and how his small band is part of the last remnant, saved out of the great apostasy. For some reason, all that tradition, and all that "extra" help from the Pope and the "living Magisterium" didn't keep Sungenis, Madrid, and Matatics together. Will that stop them from preaching against the sufficiency of Scripture on the basis of that allegedly leading to disunity? No, it won't, but it will keep any rationally thinking and truth loving listener from believing them.
"We don't worship statues"
08/07/2009 - Tur8infanHow many times have I heard the line, "We don't worship statues"! It seems that whenever one brings up the subject of idolatry with a Roman Catholic, they invariably think it is a defense that they are not venerating the statue itself, but the thing it represents. My intuitive response has typically been: do you think the pagans think that the statue is actually the god itself?
Just in case they think that, I happen to have found an interesting article that makes the following claim:
P. Sivaraman, the chairman of the temple's board of trustees, explained to the 80 [Roman] Catholics that Hindus do not worship the images -- they are only there to help devotees focus their minds on an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God.(source)
Now, where have we heard that before?
Recall what Augustine said:
Why have I said this? Please consider carefully the chief point I’m making. We had started to deal with the apparently better educated pagans — because the less educated are the ones who do the things about which these do not wish to be taken to task — so with the better educated ones, since they say to us, “You people also have your adorers of columns, and sometimes even of pictures.” And would to God that we didn’t have them, and may the Lord grant that we don’t go on having them! But all the same, this is not what the Church teaches you. I mean, which priest of theirs ever climbed into a pulpit and from there commanded the people not to adore idols, in the way that we, in Christ, publicly preach against the adoration of columns or of the stones of buildings in holy places, or even of pictures? On the contrary indeed, it was their very priests who used to turn to the idols and offer them victims for their congregations, and would still like to do so now.Augustine, Sermon 198, Sections 16-17
“We,” they say, “don’t adore images, but what is signified by the image.” I ask what images signify, I ask what the image of the sun signifies; nothing else but the sun, surely? For yes, perhaps the explanation of other images convey deeper, more hidden meanings. For the time being let’s leave these, and put them on one side to come back to shortly. The image of the sun, certainly, can only signify the sun, and that of the moon the moon, and that of Tellus the earth. So if they don’t adore what they see in the image, but what the image signifies, why, when they have the things signified by these images so familiarly before their very eyes, do they offer adoration to their images in stead of directly to them?
Of course, the Hindu claims must be taken with a very large grain of salt. For example, the same folks are trying to suggest that Hinduism is somehow analogous to monotheistic Trinitarianism:
In Hinduism, Dhoraisingam explained, "The universe manifested from Brahman, is sustained by him and will return to him." She added that Hindus believe in a trinitarian God personified by Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Sustainer, and Shiva the Transformer.That title "transformer," aside from making one chuckle about there being more to Shiva than meets the eye, appears to be an attempt to downplay the more traditional title of Shiva as "the destroyer."
Nevertheless, despite the obvious propaganda nature of the piece, it is simply intuitive. When a Hindu looks at a statue of Brahma, or Vishnu, or Shiva, the Hindu doesn't think that the statue is the god, any more than the Greeks thought that the statue of their gods were the gods themselves. But the true and living God is not worshiped with the works of man's hands, as though he needed anything, as Scriptures teach. Therefore, whether your idolatry is Roman Catholic or Hindu, flee it. Keep yourselves from idols.
Did Athanasius Have Any Right?
08/06/2009 - James SwanIt's sometimes argued the Reformers didn't have the right to call for the reform of the Roman church. How could a small minority challenge the authority of the established majority? Of course, there are many nuances and rabbit trails to meander down when one gets into this discussion- like did the reformers have miracles to prove their reform efforts? or who left who: did the reformers leave, or were they expelled? I'd like to bypass those topics for a bit, and apply what I'll dub, the rule of consistency.
Let's assume that the Reformers were wrong to go against the established church. The majority position was the Roman position at the time of the Reformation. What then do we do with Athanasius? I recently re-read Dr. White's article, What Really Happened at Nicea? The section most pertinent to this is about half way down entitled, "The Aftermath." Dr. White explains:
Modern Christians often have the impression that ancient councils held absolute sway, and when they made "the decision," the controversy ended. This is not true. Though Nicea is seen as one of the greatest of the councils, it had to fight hard for acceptance. The basis of its final victory was not the power of politics, nor the endorsement of established religion. There was one reason the Nicene definition prevailed: its fidelity to the testimony of the Scriptures.
During the six decades between the Council of Nicea and the Council of Constantinople in 381, Arianism experienced many victories. There were periods where Arian bishops constituted the majority of the visible ecclesiastical hierarchy. Primarily through the force of political power, Arian sympathizers soon took to undoing the condemnation of Arius and his theology. Eusebius of Nicomedia and others attempted to overturn Nicea, and for a number of decades it looked as if they might succeed. Constantine adopted a compromising position under the influence of various sources, including Eusebius of Caesarea and a politically worded "confession" from Arius. Constantine put little stock in the definition of Nicea itself: he was a politician to the last. Upon his death, his second son Constantius ruled in the East, and he gave great aid and comfort to Arianism. United by their rejection of the homoousion, semi-Arians and Arians worked to unseat a common enemy, almost always proceeding with political power on their side.
Under Constantius, council after council met in this location or that. So furious was the activity that one commentator wrote of the time, "The highways were covered with galloping bishops." Most importantly, regional councils meeting at Ariminum, Seleucia, and Sirmium presented Arian and semi-Arian creeds, and many leaders were coerced into subscribing to them. Even Liberius, bishop of Rome, having been banished from his see (position as bishop) and longing to return, was persuaded to give in and compromise on the matter.
During the course of the decades following Nicea, Athanasius, who had become bishop of Alexandria shortly after the council, was removed from his see five times, once by force of 5,000 soldiers coming in the front door while he escaped out the back! Hosius, now nearly 100 years old, was likewise forced by imperial threats to compromise and give place to Arian ideas. At the end of the sixth decade of the century, it looked as if Nicea would be defeated. Jerome would later describe this moment in history as the time when "the whole world groaned and was astonished to find itself Arian."
Yet, in the midst of this darkness, a lone voice remained strong. Arguing from Scripture, fearlessly reproaching error, writing from refuge in the desert, along the Nile, or in the crowded suburbs around Alexandria, Athanasius continued the fight. His unwillingness to give place- even when banished by the Emperor, disfellowshipped by the established church, and condemned by local councils and bishops alike- gave rise to the phrase, Athanasius contra mundum: "Athanasius against the world." Convinced that Scripture is "sufficient above all things," Athanasius acted as a true "Protestant" in his day. Athanasius protested against the consensus opinion of the established church, and did so because he was compelled by scriptural authority. Athanasius would have understood, on some of those long, lonely days of exile, what Wycliffe meant a thousand years later: "If we had a hundred popes, and if all the friars were cardinals, to the law of the gospel we should bow, more than all this multitude."
Movements that depend on political favor (rather than God's truth) eventually die, and this was true of Arianism. As soon as it looked as if the Arians had consolidated their hold on the Empire, they turned to internal fighting and quite literally destroyed each other. They had no one like a faithful Athanasius, and it was not long before the tide turned against them. By A.D. 381, the Council of Constantinople could meet and reaffirm, without hesitancy, the Nicene faith, complete with the homoousious clause. The full deity of Christ was affirmed, not because Nicea had said so, but because God had revealed it to be so. Nicea's authority rested upon the solid foundation of Scripture. A century after Nicea, we find the great bishop of Hippo, Augustine, writing to Maximin, an Arian, and saying: "I must not press the authority of Nicea against you, nor you that of Ariminum against me; I do not acknowledge the one, as you do not the other; but let us come to ground that is common to both- the testimony of the Holy Scriptures."
I often wonder about those who attack the Reformers for standing against the majority, and how they explain Athanasius. If we were to have witnessed Athanasius up close, would it appear that he was standing against the church? By what authority did he do so? Did he have miracles to back up his "mission"? Did he have "ordinary" or "extraordinary" authority to stand against the majority? On what basis, during the time period in which he lived, could one have judged him to be a true or false reformer?
People rebel against authority all the time, be they Catholic or Protestant. The real question: is their rebellion supported by the infallible source of truth, the Sacred Scriptures? Consider my Protestant friends, the recent Harold Camping debate shows, particularly Day 2. The logic and exegesis of the Bible used by Mr. Camping was outrageous: it was pure gnosticism. We don't have to appeal to an infallible church or council to deem Mr. Camping heretical. The Bible itself, if allowed to be read like any document should be read, shows that Mr. Camping is in dire error.
Before you balk at that statement my Catholic friends, consider Jimmy Akin's recent comment: "this isn't exegetical rocket science." Akin evaluated the errors of his priests based on.... Scripture. The Bible, according to Akin is clear enough to put his priests in their place. One has to admit, there are plenty of clear passages in the Bible. For some Roman Catholics, they give off the impression that the Bible must be so cryptic, confusing, and difficult, that none of us could ever understand any of it without being infallible. Just think of how difficult it is to understand such verses like Acts 3:1, "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer- at three in the afternoon." Imagine, without an infallible understanding of this text, none of us could ever comprehend even this simple verse. I would argue, even a non-believer could exegete a verse of Scripture and comprehend a passage in a context. When the Lord chastised the Sadducees in Matthew 22, he stated they were in error because they did not know the Scriptures. He further states, "have you not read what God said to you?" (Mt. 22:31). The Lord Jesus clearly held these men responsible for knowing and understanding the Scriptures. Were the Sadducees supposed to respond, "How could we? We did not have an infallible interpreter of the Bible!"
Ultimately Athanasius, the Reformers, or whoever, are right based on whether or not their teachings are supported by the infallible sacred deposit of truth. In the blog article I cited up top, it's stated:
"It's baffling, really, how men could have just decided that sola scriptura is the only rule of Faith, then based on that alone overturn 1500 years of traditions that did not contradict the Bible. Was it really Biblically necessary to cut the number of sacraments from seven to two? Of course not. But sola scriptura gave Reformers carte blanche to interpret everything themselves and start from scratch. Beliefs and practices began to boil down to the personal insistence "I'm right!" in their interpretation of the Bible, without consulting traditions or authorities. History meant nothing anymore, and perhaps that's why you never hear modern apologists talk about whether the Reformers had the right to do what they did. There's a disconnect with and almost an impertinent disdain for history in the world today."
It isn't baffling. Athanasius like Luther, appealed to a certain standard of infallible truth by which to judge by. Take the sacraments for example. During the early centuries the church did not limit the number of sacraments to seven. There were more, or less. Some lists had less than seven, others had as many as thirty. It wasn't until the mid-13th century that the number was finally set at seven. How does one decide how many there are? From the Bible.
As to the insistence that the Reformers simply stated, "I'm right" "without consulting traditions or authorities" - this is simply historically untrue, say for someone like John Calvin. He had a decent grasp of church history. In Luther's case, he stated, "the sum of my argument is that whereas the words of men, and the use of the centuries, can be tolerated and endorsed, provided they do not conflict with the sacred Scriptures, nevertheless they do not make articles of faith, nor any necessary observances." This is a far cry from "History meant nothing anymore."
There is indeed a "disconnect" but it's not due to Protestants having "an impertinent disdain for history." I love church history, as do many of my cyber friends. The "disconnect" that I see is that Catholics cannot produce what they claim to have. If there is another infallible rule of faith besides the Scriptures that could've helped out Athanasius, where was it? Why did Athanasius have to struggle for his life against the church majority? Why did he have to argue his position from Scripture? Why couldn't he have argued from some other infallible authority?
Let's apply the rule of consistency. I have a paradigm that can explain Athanasius and the Reformers. They both had an infallible standard that they sought to be true to: the Sacred Scriptures. Can you be just as consistent my Catholic friends? Did Athanasius have any right?
Martignoni's Biblical Evidence for the Priesthood Revisited
08/01/2009 - James SwanRecently I posted an entry on Catholic Apologist John Martignoni's interpretation of James 5:14-16. Martignoni said "elders" in James 5:14 means "priests," and therefore the concept of the Roman Catholic priesthood is clearly taught in the Bible. In response I posted a short MP3 clip from Dr. White's debate on the Roman Catholic Priesthood. I realize that a response from Dr. White may not make it past a Roman Catholic firewall, so I thought it would be useful to allow a Roman Catholic to respond to Martignoni's claim.
Catholic writer Greg Dues has written Catholic Customs & Traditions, a popular guide (New London: Twenty Third Publications, 2007). On page 166 he states,
"Priesthood as we know it in the Catholic church was unheard of during the first generation of Christianity, because at that time priesthood was still associated with animal sacrifices in both the Jewish and pagan religions."
"A clearly defined local leadership in the form of elders, or presbyteroi, became still more important when the original apostles and disciples of Jesus died. The chief elder in each community was often called the episkopos (Greek, 'overseer'). In English this came to be translated as 'bishop' (Latin, episcopus). Ordinarily he presided over the community's Eucharistic assembly."
"When the Eucharist came to be regarded as a sacrifice, the role of the bishop took on a priestly dimension. By the third century bishops were considered priests. Presbyters or elders sometimes substituted for the bishop at the Eucharist. By the end of the third century people all over were using the title 'priest' (hierus in Greek and sacerdos in Latin) for whoever presided at the Eucharist."
According to Greg Dues, the Roman Catholic concept of priest is a later historical development as the nature of the biblical words elder and overseer changed (I would argue the Biblical words were corrupted by those who misinterpreted the Eucharist to be a propitiatory sacrifice). On page 168, Dues notes that the presbyters began being viewed as priests "when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire." This is a far cry from Martignoni's prooftexting the priesthood by an appeal to James 5:14.
Martignoni also argued the concept of the Roman Catholic priesthood is a carryover from the Old Testament, while Greg Dues states, "In 70 C.E. Jerusalem and its temple and Jewish priesthood were destroyed by Roman armies, Jews were scattered. Christians began to look to Jesus as the priest, a development in their thinking reflected clearly in the letter to Hebrews. All the baptized shared this special priesthood because all had become one with Christ" (p. 166).
The concept of the Roman Catholic priesthood is not simply a minor issue, nor is this simply an exercise in nitpicking. Note these words by John O'Brien describing the priesthood:
When the priest announces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim.
Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of mana not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest's command.
Of what sublime dignity is the office of the Christian priest who is thus privileged to act as the ambassador and the vice-gerent of Christ on earth! He continues the essential ministry of Christ: he teaches the faithful with the authority of Christ, he pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ, he offers up again the same sacrifice of adoration and atonement which Christ offered on Calvary. No wonder that the name which spiritual writers are especially fond of applying to the priest is that of alter Christus. For the priest is and should be another Christ. (O'Brien, The Faith of Millions, 255-256)
This language should shock a Protestant. It speaks of a sacrifice that is repeated over and over again by an alter Christus. Hebrews 10 though states Christ offered one sacrifice for sins for all time. With the Mass, the effect is limited. It is quite possible to go to Mass often and still die in a state of mortal sin. As Protestants, we need to defend the perfect work of our high priest Jesus Christ against any who would claim to stand in his place.