Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
On the Death of Mary: Why the Infallible Interpreter Still Needs to be Interpreted
10/16/2011 - James SwanAs I've understood Roman Catholicism, it isn't determined one way or the other that Mary died. A Roman Catholic is free to believe either. Catholic Answers founder Karl Keating states,
The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not be impaired if she did not die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did in fact die [Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 273].
Against this "almost universal consensus" is none other than Patrick Madrid. Of Revelation 12:1-8 he states,
This passage also shows us a vision of Mary, queen of heaven, and hints at her Assumption. The gift of suffering no corruption in the grave and of being 'caught up' into heaven while still alive is perfectly in accordance with Scripture [Patrick Madrid, Where is That in the Bible? (Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2001), pp. 71-72].
Against this "almost universal consensus" is also the New Catholic Answer Bible:
If indeed she was free from sin, then it follows that she would not have to undergo the decay of death, which was the penalty for sin [The New Catholic Answer Bible (Kansas: Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005) Insert F2].
On the other hand, there are Roman Catholic web pages like this stating the following:
In any case, it is at least a sententia certa (a certain teaching) that our Lady died before being raised and assumed into heaven. This is the clear and explicit tradition of the West and is maintained in a slightly less-clear (and more metaphorical) manner also in the East.
The confusion stems from the magisterial teaching of Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus. Some say he did not explicitly state that Mary died. Some Roman Catholics read this "infallible" pronouncement and state:
This certitude that Mary in fact died and was believed by the Roman Catholic Church to have died before her bodily assumption is nicely addressed by Pope Pius XII when he states in section 17 of Munificantissimu Deus... in quoting an historical source that "Adrian I, our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: 'Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself."
Other Roman Catholics reading the same document declare:
However, the definition infallibly declared by Pius XII does not explicitly state that the Blessed Virgin suffered death: "We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."
These interpretive snippets demonstrate an ironic flaw in Romanism: even their alleged infallible dogmatic pronouncements are open to interpretation. We need to continually remind Roman Catholics about this when they argue that they have some sort of superior certainty that non-Romanists do not. Roman Catholics sometimes say that if one lacks an infallible interpreter, one is left with private interpretation (as Patrick Madrid call it, "a blueprint for anarchy"). But what this often assumes is that the actual infallible pronouncements don't need to be interpreted... but they do! One never escapes private interpretation, so when Roman Catholics raise the issue, the double standard needs to be exposed. One may respond that it really isn't that important whether Mary died or not. That individual Roman Catholics quibble over it is no big deal. Actually though it's simply one more example of a much bigger problem. For instance, on the fundamental issue of what are, or are not, the very Words of God, Catholics are not unified.
Questions Steve Ray Thinks "Bible Chrisians" Can't Answer - Answered
10/04/2011 - Tur8infanSteve Ray seems to think that there are questions that we Bible Christians cannot answer. (Link to his post)
Not only can we answer them, we have answered them. For the most part, they are a bunch of loaded questions that are actually not that hard to unload and answer. The answers I provided below may not even be the only or best answers. Nevertheless, so as to bring to Mr. Ray's attention the answers that were provided over a year ago, the following provides Just click on the question for the answer.
1) "Where did Jesus give instructions that the Christian faith should be based exclusively on a book?"
2) "Other than the specific command to John to pen the Revelation, where did Jesus tell His apostles to write anything down and compile it into an authoritative book?"
3) "Where in the New Testament do the apostles tell future generations that the Christian faith will be based solely on a book?"
4) "some Protestants claim that Jesus condemned all oral tradition (e.g., Matt 15:3, 6; Mark 7:813). If so, why does He bind His listeners to oral tradition by telling them to obey the scribes and Pharisees when they “sit on Moses’ seat” (Matt 23:2)?"
5) "Some Protestants claim that St. Paul condemned all oral tradition (Col 2:8). If so, why does he tell the Thessalonians to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thes 2:15) and praises the Corinthians because they “hold firmly to the traditions” (1 Cor 11:2)? (And why does the Protestant NIV change the word “tradition” to “teaching”?)"
6) "If the authors of the New Testament believed in sola Scriptura, why did they sometimes draw on oral Tradition as authoritative and as God’s Word (Matt 2:23; 23:2; 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet 3:19; Jude 9, 14 15)?"
7) "Where in the Bible is God’s Word restricted only to what is written down?"
8) "How do we know who wrote the books that we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Hebrews, and 1, 2, and 3 John?"
9) "On what authority, or on what principle, would we accept as Scripture books that we know were not written by one of the twelve apostles?"
10) "Where in the Bible do we find an inspired and infallible list of books that should belong in the Bible? (e.g., Is the Bible’s Table of Contents inspired?)"
11) "How do we know, from the Bible alone, that the individual books of the New Testament are inspired, even when they make no claim to be inspired?"
12) "How do we know, from the Bible alone, that the letters of St. Paul, who wrote to first-century congregations and individuals, are meant to be read by us as Scripture 2000 years later?"
13) "Where does the Bible claim to be the sole authority for Christians in matters of faith and morals?"
14) "Most of the books of the New Testament were written to address very specific problems in the early Church, and none of them are a systematic presentation of Christian faith and theology. On what biblical basis do Protestants think that everything that the apostles taught is captured in the New Testament writings?"
15) "If the books of the New Testament are “self-authenticating” through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to each individual, then why was there confusion in the early Church over which books were inspired, with some books being rejected by the majority?"
16) "If the meaning of the Bible is so clear—so easily interpreted—and if the Holy Spirit leads every Christian to interpret it for themselves, then why are there over 33,000 Protestant denominations, and millions of individual Protestants, all interpreting the Bible differently?"
17) "Who may authoritatively arbitrate between Christians who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit into mutually contradictory interpretations of the Bible?"
18) "Since each Protestant must admit that his or her interpretation is fallible, how can any Protestant in good conscience call anything heresy or bind another Christian to a particular belief?"
19) "Protestants usually claim that they all agree “on the important things.” Who is able to decide authoritatively what is important in the Christian faith and what is not?"
20) "How did the early Church evangelize and overthrow the Roman Empire, survive and prosper almost 350 years, without knowing for sure which books belong in the canon of Scripture?"
21) "Who in the Church had the authority to determine which books belonged in the New Testament canon and to make this decision binding on all Christians? If nobody has this authority, then can I remove or add books to the canon on my own authority?"
22) "Why do Protestant scholars recognize the early Church councils at Hippo and Carthage as the first instances in which the New Testament canon was officially ratified, but ignore the fact that those same councils ratified the Old Testament canon used by the Catholic Church today but abandoned by Protestants at the Reformation?"
23) "Why do Protestants follow postapostolic Jewish decisions on the boundaries of the Old Testament canon, rather than the decision of the Church founded by Jesus Christ?"
24) "How were the bishops at Hippo and Carthage able to determine the correct canon of Scripture, in spite of the fact that they believed all the distinctively Catholic doctrines such as the apostolic succession of bishops, the sacrifice of the Mass, Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, baptismal regeneration, etc?"
25) "If Christianity is a “book religion,” how did it flourish during the first 1500 years of Church history when the vast majority of people were illiterate?"
26) "How could the Apostle Thomas establish the church in India that survives to this day (and is now in communion with the Catholic Church) without leaving them with one word of New Testament Scripture?"
27) "If sola Scriptura is so solid and biblically based, why has there never been a full treatise written in its defense since the phrase was coined in the Reformation?"
28) "If Jesus intended for Christianity to be exclusively a “religion of the book,” why did He wait 1400 years before showing somebody how to build a printing press?"
29) "If the early Church believed in sola Scriptura, why do the creeds of the early Church always say “we believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” and not “we believe in Holy Scripture”?"
30) "If the Bible is as clear as Martin Luther claimed, why was he the first one to interpret it the way he did and why was he frustrated at the end of his life that “there are now as many doctrines as there are heads”?"
31) "The time interval between the Resurrection and the establishment of the New Testament canon in AD 382 is roughly the same as the interval between the arrival of the Mayflower in America and the present day. Therefore, since the early Christians had no defined New Testament for almost four hundred years, how did they practice sola Scriptura?"
32) "If the Bible is the only foundation and basis of Christian truth, why does the Bible itself say that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim. 3:15)?"
33) "Jesus said that the unity of Christians would be objective evidence to the world that He had been sent by God (John 17:20-23). How can the world see an invisible "unity" that exists only in the hearts of believers?"
34) "If the unity of Christians was meant to convince the world that Jesus was sent by God, what does the ever-increasing fragmentation of Protestantism say to the world?"
35) "Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." What is the expiration date of this verse? When did it become okay not only to disobey the Church's leaders, but to rebel against them and set up rival churches?"
36) "The Koran explicitly claims divine inspiration, but the New Testament books do not. How do you know that the New Testament books are nevertheless inspired, but the Koran is not?"
37) "How does a Protestant know for sure what God thinks about moral issues such as abortion, masturbation, contraceptives, eugenics, euthanasia, etc.?"
38) "What is one to believe when one Protestant says infants should be baptized (e.g., Luther and Calvin) and another says it is wrong and unbiblical (e.g., Baptists and Evangelicals)?"
39) "Where does the Bible say God created the world/universe out of nothing?"
40) "Where does the Bible say salvation is attainable through faith alone?"
41) "Where does the Bible tell us how we know that the revelation of Jesus Christ ended with the death of the last Apostle?"
42) "Where does the Bible provide a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament?"
43) "Where does the Bible provide a list of the canonical books of the New Testament?"
44) "Where does the Bible explain the doctrine of the Trinity, or even use the word “Trinity”?"
45) "Where does the Bible tell us the name of the “beloved disciple”?"
46) "Where does the Bible inform us of the names of the authors of the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?"
47) "Where does the Bible [tell us] who wrote the Book of Acts?"
48) "Where does the Bible tell us the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons of the Trinity?"
49) "Where does the Bible tell us Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man from the moment of conception (e.g. how do we know His Divinity wasn't infused later in His life?) and/or tells us Jesus Christ is One Person with two complete natures, human and Divine and not some other combination of the two natures (i.e., one or both being less than complete)?"
50) "Where does the Bible that the church should, or someday would be divided into competing and disagreeing denominations?"
51) "Where does the Bible that Protestants can have an invisible unity when Jesus expected a visible unity to be seen by the world (see John 17)?"
52) "Where does the Bible tell us Jesus Christ is of the same substance of Divinity as God the Father?"