Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Who Wrote Hebrews According To An Infallible Magisterium?
09/23/2009 - James SwanRecently, I came across a web page of a convert who appears to have been smitten by the popular Roman Catholic claim to canon certainty. How does one know who wrote particular books of the Bible without infallible Tradition? The answer must be: one couldn't know without an infallible church! Well, if the Roman Catholic Church has the power to declare biblical authorship, when they have sort of said who wrote what, I wonder if anyone takes such a declaration seriously. For instance, the Council of Trent stated,
"Of the New Testament: fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews."
Notice that last book and who they say wrote it? Eric Svendsen points out:
"Until the latter half of the fourth century the Western church almost unanimously resisted ascribing Pauline authorship to Hebrews [Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and the Muratorian Fragment all insist that Paul is not the author]. However, both Jerome and Augustine appealed to the Eastern Church's view that Paul wrote the epistle, and their view was eventually adopted at the Sixth Synod of Carthage in 419 A.D., and then reaffirmed at the Council of Trent. Yet, the number of New Testament scholars that would defend Pauline authorship today is practically nil." [Eric Svendsen, Evangelical Answers: A Critique of Current Roman Catholic Apologists (New York: Reformation Press, 1999), p.11].
I haven't found many Roman Catholics willing to defend the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong distinguishes the author of Hebrews from Peter and Paul: "The author of Hebrews, like Peter and Paul...", and "St. Paul and the author of Hebrews." Similarly, a web search over on Catholic Answers will produce a myriad of hits referring to the "author of Hebrews," not Paul. Catholic Answers via This Rock states,
"Internal examination of [Hebrews] does show that it is in many ways different from the rest of Paul's writings. For example, it is more elegant, more eloquent, it does not carry the usual greeting and introduction, and it does not quote Scripture in the way Paul does. Its doctrine is Pauline but the way it is expounded makes it difficult to attribute its direct authorship to Paul."
When I've mentioned Trent's determination of Pauline authorship in the past, it was counter argued that such a statement from Trent is only infallible in the area of faith and morals. Well, who determines which is and which is not an element of faith or morals? Some Roman Catholics use canon arguments to prove the necessity of the Roman Church for any sort of certainty, hence they use it to argue for infallibility. So, the authorship of Hebrews would indeed then be a matter of faith and morals. This Rock answers the dilemma differently: "The letter's canonicity is not in doubt; it was included in the canon by the Council of Trent (8 April 1546) among the other writings of Paul, although the Council chose not to state categorically that it was written by Paul." What? When Trent says, "Of the New Testament: fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle" according to This Rock, this doesn't categorically state Paul wrote Hebrews. Once again, we see that infallible statements are open to interpretation. So much for the clarity of the Roman magisterium.
Crimson Catholic, Calvin, and Real Blasphemy
09/16/2009 - James WhiteTurretinFan, whose RSS feeds seem to be considerably more advanced and useful than mine, noted a comment by Jonathan Prejean ("Crimson Catholic") that contained the following statements:
In my opinion, Calvin's Institutes is the equivalent of spiritual pornography, worse than anything you hear in 99% of Beatles' songs, and most people who read it aren't doing it as an example of Middle French theological literature or as a purely historical document. There's no doubt in my mind that God hates that book in terms of its theological content, because he hates evil, and that book teaches blasphemy and all sorts of other evils.Let's compare some of this "spiritual pornography" from Crimson Catholic's viewpoint, with some of his own religion's statements. The contrast should be telling.
On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also, He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. Nay, the bodily sense may furnish a still stronger illustration of the extent to which we are deluded in estimating the powers of the mind. If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity. (I:1.2).
Frighteningly terrible stuff, that. But compare:
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.Or, how about this one?
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 man, 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. (John O'Brien, The Faith of Millions, 255-256)
“On this account it was,” says St. Bernard, “that the Eternal Father, wishing to show all the mercy possible, besides with giving us Jesus Christ, our principal advocate him, was pleased also to give us Mary, as our advocate with Jesus Christ.” “There is no doubt,” the saint adds, “that Jesus Christ is the only mediator of justice between men and God; that, by virtue of his own merits and promises, he will and can obtain us pardon and the divine favors; but because men acknowledge and fear the divine Majesty, which is in him as God, for this reason it was necessary to assign us another advocate, to whom we might have recourse with less fear and more confidence, and this advocate is Mary, than whom we cannot find one more powerful with his divine majesty, or one more merciful towards ourselves.” The saint says, “Christ is a faithful and powerful Mediator between God and men, but in him men fear the majesty of God. A mediator, then, was needed with the mediator himself; nor could a more fitting one be found than Mary.” (Liguori, The Glories of Mary, pp. 195-196)Yes, well, they only made Liguori a Doctor of the Roman Church, right? We could fill an article easily with such quotations, all highly offensive to any biblically-minded person. I think the comparison is highly educational.
Offered Often or Once?
09/16/2009 - Tur8infanWe're sometimes told that it an incorrect "either/or" mentality that causes us to reject the sacrifices of the mass on the basis that Christ was offered only once and not often. Yet Scripture itself has that mentality.
24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Notice that there is a continual either/or mentality exhibited in the text. Jesus is not in a holy place that men built (sorry, my Roman Catholic friends, he is not in your golden tabernacles) but in heaven itself. It is an either/or.
Again, it is not "often" like the priests of old but "once in the end of the world." It is not both, but either/or.
He will appear a second time, coming from heaven to judge the world in righteousness on the last day. That is when he will come back to earth, not pulled down by priestly incantations however biblical the words are that they utter.
The Bible expresses it in either/or terminology. You cannot have it both ways. The Bible says Jesus offered himself once. Rome says that Jesus offers himself daily, even while elsewhere inconsistently affirming the Biblical truth.
Of course, the most excellent prayer of all is the one offered daily at the altar by Christ Jesus, the High Priest, to God the Father when the holy sacrifice of Redemption is renewed.- Pius XII, Fidei Donum, Section 52, 21 April 1957
Above all, you will be ministers of the Eucharist: you will receive this sacrament as a priceless inheritance in which the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice is renewed daily and the decisive event of his Death and Resurrection for the world’s salvation continues. You will celebrate the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine, as he himself offered it for the first time in the Upper Room, on the eve of his Passion. You will thus be personally associated with the mystery of the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep.- John Paul II, Priestly Ordinations, Section 2, 3 May 1988
The third end proposed is that of expiation, propitiation and reconciliation. Certainly, no one was better fitted to make satisfaction to Almighty God for all the sins of men than was Christ. Therefore, He desired to be immolated upon the cross "as a propitiation for our sins, not for ours only but also for those of the whole world" and likewise He daily offers Himself upon our altars for our redemption, that we may be rescued from eternal damnation and admitted into the company of the elect.- Pius XII, Mediator Dei, Section 73, 20 November 1947
Alternatively, the priestly role is given to the church and specifically the priests, but still it is a daily thing:
There is one amongst all others, the loss of which is more deplorable than words can express; We allude to the most holy Sacrifice in which Jesus Christ, both Priest and Victim, daily offers Himself to His Father, through the ministry of His priests on earth. By virtue of this Sacrifice the infinite merits of Christ, gained by His Precious Blood shed once upon the Cross for the salvation of men, are applied to our souls.- Leo XIII, Caritatis Studium, Section 9, 25 July 1898
Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19) and "Do this in remembrance of me" (Lk. 22:19; cf. 1 Cor. 11.24), i.e:, an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world.- John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, Section 1, 25 March 1992
Most abundant, assuredly, are the salutary benefits which are stored up in this most venerable mystery, regarded as a Sacrifice; a Sacrifice which the Church is accordingly wont to offer daily "for the salvation of the whole world."- Leo XIII, Mirae Caritatis, Section 17, 28 May 1902
And consequently we even see this embodied in Canon law:
they are to nourish their spiritual life from the two-fold table of sacred scripture and the Eucharist; therefore, priests are earnestly invited to offer the eucharistic sacrifice daily and deacons to participate in its offering daily;- Code of Canon Law, Book 2, Part 1, Title, 3, Chapter 3, Canon 276, Section 2, Subsection 2
Offered once or offered often? You can pick the Bible or you can pick Roman Catholic theology, but since the Bible expresses itself in a mutually exclusive way, you cannot have it both ways. It is not both once and often, but only either once or often. The Old Covenant sacrifices were often, the New Covenant sacrifice is once for all time. While Roman Catholic theology will affirm that Christ is offered once for all (in some places), in many other places (some of which are illustrated above) Rome makes the offering of Christ a daily event, not a once-for-all event. As such, Rome's theology is unbiblical and ought to be rejected and/or reformed.
"We Have Apostolic Tradition"- The Unofficial Catholic Apologist Commentary #12
09/13/2009 - James SwanCatholic apologists often let us know how crucial it is to have an infallible magisterium and church Tradition in order to interpret the Bible correctly. With so many Catholic apologists now commenting on sacred scripture, I thought it would be interesting to provide their commentary on the Bible. Let's see how they've been able to rightly divide the word of truth.
In this installment, let's take a look at John 6 according to Catholic Answers and contrast it with St. Augustine on the same text. "Catholic Answers is one of the nation's largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization." "Augustine, the Doctor of Grace, is perhaps the greatest of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. So brilliant was his intellect that his ideas dominated Western theological and philosophical thought for a thousand years." That's quite a match up: the collective of America's great defenders of Roman Catholicism against one man living centuries ago.
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves."
I recently read an article from Catholic Answers about John 6 and the Eucharist. Of this text, they state,
"His listeners were stupefied because now they understood Jesus literally and correctly. He again repeated his words, but with even greater emphasis, and introduced the statement about drinking his blood: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him' (John 6:53?56)."
"Notice that Jesus made no attempt to soften what he said, no attempt to correct 'misunderstandings,' for there were none. Our Lord's listeners understood him perfectly well. They no longer thought he was speaking metaphorically."
"As Fr. John A. O'Brien explains, 'The phrase to eat the flesh and drink the blood, when used figuratively among the Jews, as among the Arabs of today, meant to inflict upon a person some serious injury, especially by calumny or by false accusation. To interpret the phrase figuratively then would be to make our Lord promise life everlasting to the culprit for slandering and hating him, which would reduce the whole passage to utter nonsense' (O'Brien, The Faith of Millions, 215)."
"Whatever else might be said, the early Church took John 6 literally. In fact, there is no record from the early centuries that implies Christians doubted the constant Catholic interpretation. There exists no document in which the literal interpretation is opposed and only the metaphorical accepted."
The last comment was substantiated by quotes from Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. Interestingly, this quote from St. Augustine on interpreting John 6 didn't make the collective team:
If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man," says Christ, "and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us. Scripture says: "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink;" and this is beyond doubt a command to do a kindness. But in what follows, "for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head," one would think a deed of malevolence was enjoined. Do not doubt, then, that the expression is figurative; and, while it is possible to interpret it in two ways, one pointing to the doing of an injury, the other to a display of superiority, let charity on the contrary call you back to benevolence, and interpret the coals of fire as the burning groans of penitence by which a man's pride is cured who bewails that he has been the enemy of one who came to his assistance in distress. In the same way, when our Lord says, "He who loveth his life shall lose it," we are not to think that He forbids the prudence with which it is a man's duty to care for his life, but that He says in a figurative sense, "Let him lose his life" that is, let him destroy and lose that perverted and unnatural use which he now makes of his life, and through which his desires are fixed on temporal things so that he gives no heed to eternal. It is written: "Give to the godly man, and help not a sinner." The latter clause of this sentence seems to forbid benevolence; for it says, "help not a sinner." Understand, therefore, that "sinner" is put figuratively for sin, so that it is his sin you are not to help. [Source]
Let's not miss the point. I'm not discussing Augustine's view of the Eucharist or whether or not he believed in some form of transubstantiation. I'm pointing out that Augustine says John 6 is not literal, and Catholic Answers says it is. They also are in error when they state "there is no record from the early centuries that implies Christians doubted the constant Catholic interpretation" of this passage. Who decides who's right, the man whose ideas dominated Western theological and philosophical thought for a thousand years or the nation's largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization.... or neither? Unless the magisterium decides, I guess it's up to the personal preferences of each individual Roman Catholic to understand John 6 as desired, the very thing they criticize non-Catholics of doing.
Oh That Those Who Follow Rome Would Know the Finished Work of Christ!
09/11/2009 - James WhiteI am in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Discern 09 Conference at Calvary Chapel, Santa Fe. I was surfing the channels in my hotel room as I was getting ready to hit the hay, and I ran across EWTN. They were showing the Eucharistic Congress going on in, as I gather, Washington, DC. A woman was speaking, and as I listened, she spoke of the "gift of the priesthood," and then summarized the same quotation I have used many times in speaking on Roman Catholicism's grotesque perversion of Scriptural truth. She spoke of the great dignity of the priest, for when he, the priest, speaks, God "bows in obedience" to the priest's command. Her words echoed these from John O'Brien's The Faith of Millions:
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.Though I have quoted these words many times in my debates, always to great effect upon anyone who is biblically oriented, my Roman Catholic opponents have never repudiated the words. They have had little comment to offer, in fact, on these incredible statements. The true nature of the Roman religion is exposed by them.
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 mannot once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priests 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.
As I was typing these words, I watched the reading of only a portion of John 6 by a priest during the opening mass. After swinging a censor about before reading the text, as normal, the message of John 6, which is so counter to Rome's gospel, was completely obscured and missed. I sit watching the pomp and pageantry, the robes and regalia, and I think of the Lord Jesus, standing in the synagogue of Capernaum, speaking the gospel of truth, and I see a huge chasm between the two. Justin Cardinal Rigali is giving a homily at the moment, where he is speaking of "the sacrifice of enduring love." How utterly sad that he, and those who follow him, does not know a finished sacrifice, a perfecting sacrifice, but only one which has to be "re-presented, perpetuated, and renewed in the eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass" (quoting him directly just now). Oh, how precious become the inspired words in the face of such falsehood:
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those [sacrifices] there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins....By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all....For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:1-4, 10, 14)
What About King Saul?
09/11/2009 - Tur8infanPreviously, I had written regarding the one true shepherd (Christ) as contrasted with the Roman bishop who seeks essentially to usurp that role (link to my post). In response, I have received some rather typical comments. Rather than beginning by characterizing the response, let me provide it to you:
In my reading of Catholic literature, I have never came across any author/theologian/bishop who has denied the fact that our Lord, Jesus Christ is the “single chief Shepard” of His Church. Yet with that said, I also do not of know any Catholic author/theologian/bishop who would deny that there is one true King of God’s Kingdom; and yet, Scripture speaks of many who were anointed as kings of God’s earthly Kingdom. If the one, true, single King can (and did) appoint earthly representatives to the position of king, why is the notion that He has appointed an earthly chief shepherds such a difficult concept for you?(Comment by Roman Catholic David Waltz - spelling, grammar, and any other errors are his)
Now that you've already read the comment, I'll provide my commentary on it. As I will show below, the comment contains misdirection/misinformation, scriptural confusion, ecclesiastical confusion, and confusion of reasoning. What's sad is that this response (while it comes from someone who has not, to my knowledge, promoted himself as an apologist for his church) is not far from the typical response we see on this matter, and consequently worthy of a thorough response. ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Believing About the Holy Catholic Church
09/10/2009 - Tur8infanIntroduction
A perennial issue in our discussions with Roman Catholics is the issue of whether, in addition to believing God's word in Scripture, we ought also to trust (in a similar way) in the church. While nothing in Scripture suggests that the church is another rule of faith in addition to Scripture, such that we would accord the church the same credence we give to God and his written word, we are sometimes presented with folks who want to latch onto the creeds.
The so-called Apostles' Creed (not formulated by them, as some have supposed, but taken from the Scriptures that they left behind for us) includes a phrase regarding the "Holy Catholic Church," which is often seen as problematic for those who are unfamiliar with the meaning of the creed. The usual way in which this section of the creed is recited in English-speaking churches that recite it is thus:
I believe in the Holy Ghost;Grammar of the Creed
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
The grammar of the creed makes a distinction that is not immediately apparent in English. What we "believe in" is God. He is the one in whom we trust. Thus, we "believe in" the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In contrast, we believe that there is a holy catholic church (not the Roman Catholic church, but the universal body of Christ: all those who believe on the name of the Lord), that the saints (by which mean again those who believe) ought to commune together until the Lord's return, that sins are forgiven by God on the merits of Christ, that the body will be resurrected and re-united to the soul, and that heaven will be eternal. Thus, we are not saying that we trust in the church despite the ambiguity of the English wording (as well as the ambiguity of the wording of the Constantinoplean Creed).
Perhaps it would be helpful to have more than the word of a pseudonymous blogger on this grammatical point. In Creeds of Christendom, historian Philip Schaff explains it this way:
Then, changing the language (credo in for credo with the simple accusative), the Creed professes to believe 'the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.'- Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, Volume 1, Chapter 2, Section 7
Paschasius' or Faustus' Testimony
The significance of this distinction was not lost on the ancients. Indeed, when we draw this distinction (which today we refer to as Sola Scriptura) we are in agreement with those ancient Christians whose writings have survived (even one from the Rome of that day, which had not descended to the depths of Rome today):
Paschasius, Deacon of Rome (flourished about A.D. 491 - 512) wrote:
Therefore thou sayest, ‘I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,’ because, in supplying the little syllable in, dost thou attempt to produce great darkness? We believe the Catholic Church as the mother of regeneration; we do not believe in the Church as in the Author of salvation. For when the universal Church confesses this of the Holy Ghost, can she also believe in herself? ... He who believes in the Church believes in man. For man is not of the Church, but the Church began to be from man. Desist therefore from this blasphemous persuasion, to think that thou oughtest to believe in any human creature: since thou must not in anywise believe in an angel or archangel ... We believe the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, everlasting life ... The unskillfulness of some have drawn, and taken the preposition ‘in’ from the sentence going next before, and put it to that which follows, imprudently adding thereto more than needed.- Paschasius, Deacon of Rome, Two Books on the Holy Spirit, Book 1, Chapter 1 (This work is sometimes alternatively ascribed to Faustus of Riez who flourished from about A.D. 433 - 485)
We see the same thing from Rufinus, about a century earlier, who made roughly the same point.
Tyrannius Rufinus (lived about A.D. 344 - 410) explains with reference to the Apostles' creed:
“The Holy Church; The Forgiveness of Sin, the Resurrection of This Flesh.” It is not said, “In the holy Church,” nor “In the forgiveness of sins,” nor “In the resurrection of the flesh.” For if the preposition “in” had been added, it would have had the same force as in the preceding articles. But now in those clauses in which the faith concerning the Godhead is declared, we say “In God the Father,” and “In Jesus Christ His Son,” and “In the Holy Ghost,” but in the rest, where we speak not of the Godhead but of creatures and mysteries, the preposition “in ” is not added. We do not say “We believe in the holy Church,” but “We believe the holy Church,” not as God, but as the Church gathered together to God: and we believe that there is “forgiveness of sins;” we do not say “We believe in the forgiveness of sins;” and we believe that there will be a “Resurrection of the flesh;” we do not say “We believe in the resurrection of the flesh.” By this monosyllabic preposition, therefore, the Creator is distinguished from the creatures, and things divine are separated from things human.- Rufinus of Aquileia, A Commentary on the Apostles' Creed, Section 36
(for a larger context, see here)
While we would certainly have some disagreements with the much later writings of Thomas Aquinas, we find some similar sentiments in his discussion:
Objection 5. Further, Augustine (Tract. xxix in Joan.) expounding the passage, "You believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1) says: "We believe Peter or Paul, but we speak only of believing 'in' God." Since then the Catholic Church is merely a created being, it seems unfitting to say: "In the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."- Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 2b, Question 1, Article 9
Reply to Objection 5. If we say: "'In' the holy Catholic Church," this must be taken as verified in so far as our faith is directed to the Holy Ghost, Who sanctifies the Church; so that the sense is: "I believe in the Holy Ghost sanctifying the Church." But it is better and more in keeping with the common use, to omit the 'in,' and say simply, "the holy Catholic Church," as Pope Leo [Rufinus, Comm. in Sym. Apost.] observes.
Notice how Aquinas agrees with the substance of the objection while seeking to find an acceptable sense for the words.
The idea of arguing that one should be "believe in" the church from the creed is an anachronistic misuse of the creed. It is as anachronistic as supposing that the term "Holy Catholic Church" was supposed to refer to the Roman Catholic church. Both the grammar of the creed (as noted by Schaff) as well as early Christian authors and even the most notable medieval scholastic.
With Alexander of Alexandria (died about A.D. 326), we affirm that we believe in the existence of only one body of Christ, relying on the authority of Scripture:
“And in addition to this pious belief respecting the Father and the Son, we confess as the Sacred Scriptures teach us, one Holy Ghost, who moved the saints of the Old Testament, and the divine teachers of that which is called the New. We believe in one only Catholic Church, the apostolical, which cannot be destroyed even though all the world were to take counsel to fight against it, and which gains the victory over all the impious attacks of the heterodox; for we are emboldened by the words of its Master, ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world [John xvi. 33].’ After this, we receive the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, of which Jesus Christ our Lord became the first-fruits; Who bore a Body, in truth, not in semblance, derived from Mary the mother of God (ἐκ τῆς Θεοτόκου Μαρίας); in the fulness of time sojourning among the race, for the remission of sins: who was crucified and died, yet for all this suffered no diminution of His Godhead. He rose from the dead, was taken into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.- The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret, Chapter III, The Epistle of Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria to Alexander, Bishop of Constantinople.
How can we know whether a church is part of the Church? If it is apostolical. How can we tell if something is apostolical? Look at the books left behind by the apostles. Human successors can pervert the path of those who went before them, but the unchanging Word of God found in Scripture is the alone reliable measure of apostolicity and catholicity (in the true sense of the term).
Mark Shea: Always On Top of Those Pesky Facts!
09/08/2009 - James WhiteWhen you think about it, if you can write a three-volume set about a theology based upon thin air in Scripture, you can't be too concerned about little things like facts, truth, reality, etc. And surely, Mark Shea doesn't sweat the "little stuff" along those lines! No indeed. He noticed the Newser mistake where someone threw my picture up instead of Anderson's (mistake corrected a few hours later) and just had to write about it. Can't pass up a shot at Baptists now, can you? But, in the process, he demonstrated that once again, facts are not his strength:
Poor James WhiteIt only takes a moment to search on "Anderson" on my blog: and the first appearance of any discussion of the fellow is September 1, 2009. Sure I knew about him before. His "sermon" about standing while...relieving yourself is an Internet sensation, to be sure. But Shea seems to think he drives me "crazy," when nothing could be farther from the truth. I've been dealing with KJV Only folks for so long the last thing they do is drive me "crazy." So my first reference to him was actually when I addressed his "I Hate Barack O'Bama" sermon on 9/1; I posted the "Burning NIVs" video shortly thereafter. And that is it. So what is Shea talking about when he says I "periodically issue a bulletin refuting whatever nutty thing Anderson has said lately"? I haven't a clue, do you? But as I said, no chance to take a shot at the Baptists can be passed over---though, it would be nice if Shea had read my own comments on the description offered by his fellow Roman Catholics who originally pointed out the error. That would have been nice.
From our "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Dept." we find James White being muddled up with Lunatic Pastor Steven Anderson by some newsite that specializes more in panic about Theocracy than in accuracy. Anderson garnered some attention over the past few weeks when he graduated from obsessing over urination to praying for Obama's death. He's been a focus of White's wrath for some time because of his other obsession: the King James Version, God's only Truly True Bible. Oh, and he's also a Baptist from a not quite perfectly perfect Baptist sect (meaning "not White's perfectly perfect sect".) White (whose infallibility is multi-faceted) has for years defended the One True Faith not only from Romanists, but from JWs, Mormons, Muslims, and sundry obscure religious movements such as the "KJV-only" crowd. Anderson drives him crazy so he periodically issue a bulletin refuting whatever nutty thing Anderson has said lately.
However, in the world of high-paced Secular Theocrat Panic, if you've seen one Fundy Baptist, you've seen 'em all. So Newser just went out and grabbed the first photo they could find from a Google of "Steven Andersen Baptist" and slapped it up there without bothering to find out if the photo was actually of Anderson or of somebody opposed to Anderson. Voila! White has finally achieved what he always hungered for: fame and recognition! It's like a Greek comedy.
Primer On Roman Catholic Epistemology
09/05/2009 - James SwanYears ago I sat through a number of philosophy courses debating how or if one could know ultimate reality. How do I know what color the desk really is? How do I know I even exist? At the time, I recall thinking, who sits around wondering about how they know something? These "how do you know" issues, while fun in college, will never be something I'll face in daily conversation. At the time, I did not engage Roman Catholic apologists. Now, years later, a large chunk of my time is spent in philosophic chess with Roman Catholics over how do you know?
Roman Catholics think their epistemological problems have somehow vanished by their choice to believe the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants approach the certainty claims of Roman Catholics a bit differently than a skeptical gadfly in a philosophy class arguing over the basis for reality. We ask similar questions, but with the purpose of showing that allegiance to a secondary infallible authority or an infallible interpreter gives no such thing as the absolute certainty Roman Catholics claim to have. Rather, their claims to certainty when scrutinized reveal blatant double standards.
As a refresher course for those of you engaging in the same mental chess games with Roman Catholics, Eric Svendsen's, Upon This Slippery Rock: Countering Roman Claims to Authority [New York: Calvary Press, 2002] asks helpful questions that you should commit to memory:
1. When the Roman Catholic apologist asks, "How do you know your private interpretation of the Bible is correct over against the private interpretation of every other denomination?," we should respond by asking a question of our own: "How do you know that your private interpretation of Roman documents is correct over against the private interpretation of other Roman Catholics?"
2. When the Roman Catholic apologist asks, "how can you be certain that you are in the truth since all you have to go on is your own fallible private judgment that your church is right?", we should counter with a similar question: "How can you be certain that you are in the truth since all you have to go on is your own fallible private judgment that Rome is right?"
3. When the Roman Catholic apologist asks, "How do you know you've picked the right denomination?," we should respond by asking, "How do you know you've picked the right infallible interpreter?"
4. When the Roman Catholic apologist insists that the principle of Sola Scriptura has resulted in 25,000 denominations, we should in turn insist that the principle of Scripture plus an infallible interpreter has resulted in an even greater number of religious cults.
Source: Eric Svendsen, Upon This Slippery Rock: Countering Roman Claims to Authority [New York: Calvary Press, 2002] 65-66.
A mantra-like point made by Roman Catholic apologists is that Protestants rely on their own fallible private judgment when reading the Bible or studying Church history. A Protestant therefore can have no actual certainty, because they have no infallible interpreter making doctrine and history explicitly clear. A Protestant is forced to pick and choose which interpretation of Scripture and history seems best to them. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this put forth, I could pay my mortgage every month with the money collected.
Of this line of reasoning, Dr. Svendsen points out:
"[T]his implies that if one decides on Rome as that choice, he must do so without engaging in the very private judgment that the Roman Catholic apologist has told us is illegitimate. That means, for instance, that the Roman Catholic cannot appeal to his interpretation of Matthew 16, which he thinks identifies Peter as the first pope; nor to any other biblical passage for that matter, since appealing to any passage of Scripture would necessarily force the Roman Catholic to engage in private interpretation. Nor can he look down the annals of Church history to find evidence that the churches granted primacy to the Roman bishop, for those writings too are subject to interpretation, and most church historians disagree with Rome's understanding of them. Hence, he would again be forced to engage in private judgment." [Upon This Slippery Rock, 33].
To put it bluntly, those that have chosen to become Roman Catholics have to use their own private judgment to do so. One who converts to Rome had to engage in private judgment when making a decision to become Roman Catholic. Those touting Catholic certainty over against Protestant uncertainty are putting forth a double standard. They are claiming that their position is certain, while anything else is uncertain. But their own decision to become Catholic comes from their own private judgment. Svendsen notes of the convert to Rome:
"The fact is, he had to engage in the very same principle of private judgment that we all must use to decide among the various options; namely, a thinking, objective reasoning process, apart from reliance upon the system to which he would eventually subscribe. But it is that very same principle of private judgment that leads him to Rome and others of us away from Rome. Certainly Rome condemns the decision we reached, but she cannot condemn the principle we used to that decision, since it is the very same principle that all Roman Catholics must use to decide that Rome is the 'true' church. The Roman Catholic cannot introduce a double standard at this point and still be consistent." [Upon This Slippery Rock, 34].
But the final blow to the Roman argument comes with the fact that the entire basis it rests on is self-refuting. Svendsen notes: "The body of literature we are told plainly identifies the 'infallible interpreter' for us (namely, Scripture and church history) is the very body of literature that we are later told we cannot understand without an 'infallible interpreter'" [Upon This Slippery Rock, 36]. When asked how the Roman Catholic Church can establish her authority, the Catholic apologist answers that it is proved by the testimony of the Scriptures. Hence, they use a circular argument: they prove the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures.