This Catholic Journey
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Name: Amber
Location: Reno, Nevada, United States

I am a 34-year-old single mother of three. I am a convert to Catholicism and came into the Church on April 7, 2007. This blog is a collection of thoughts and things I learn in my journey of faith. All comments are welcome!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Catholics Come Home

Used to be Catholic? Why should you return?

Not Catholic but have questions about what Catholics believe?

Catholic and want to help others come home?

Go to CatholicsComeHome.org

This site is awesome!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Did Jesus Have Brothers?

It’s common for non-Catholics to insist that what Catholics believe contradicts Scripture. While some of what the Catholic Church teaches may be not be EXPLICITLY found in Scripture, this does not mean that it “contradicts”.

First off, we should define “contradict”.

Contradict = to assert the contrary or opposite of

So, just because something is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture doesn't mean it is contradicting it.

I've been asked to address several different issues, one being whether Mary had other children (which would disprove the Church's teach on Mary's perpetual virginity). So, here goes...

The following verse is often used to "prove" that Mary had other children:

Mark 6:3
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.


Notice one thing… Mark 6:3 says THE son of Mary, not “a” son… more on this verse below. Look at the following passages in Genesis:

Gen 14:14
And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.


Gen 11:27
Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.


In Gen 14:14, it says “brother” (some translations render this as kinsman). But in Gen 11:27, we already read that Lot was Abrams nephew. This is because there was no Hebrew word for nephew. Just like there wasn’t one for cousin, uncle, niece, aunt, etc. They had to use the word “brother”.

Check out the following verses:

Mark 6:3
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

Matthew 27:55-56
And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children.


According to Mark 6:3, didn't it say that this Mary was the mother of Jesus and was also the mother of James and Joses? But Matthew 27 says that a different Mary is the mother of James and Joses. Well, we know that this Mary (mother of James and Joses) was NOT the mother of Jesus because it says she was looking on from afar and Jesus’ mother was standing at the foot of the cross.

John 19:25
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.


Mark15:47
And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.


Don’t you think Scripture would have said the mother of Jesus if they were referring to the same Mary?

Scripture doesn’t contradict itself. So, what is going on? One idea that is plausible is that James and Joses are Jesus’ cousins (or other kinsmen) but they are called “brothers” because the Jews didn’t have a separate word for close relatives. So, Scripture does NOT clearly or explicitly state that Mary had other children.

How about this passage:

Acts 1:14-15
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,


There were 120 people? Think about it... there were 11 apostles (at that time), Jesus’ mother (that makes 12 people), plus the women (approximately 3 but let’s even say a dozen or more just to be fair). That would mean Jesus had about 80 or 90 brothers! Clearly the use of the word "brothers" does not necessarily mean they were all brothers as we understand the term today.

Also, if Mary had any other sons, wouldn't Jesus have given his mother over to them to care for? In that day, it would have been highly offensive for Jesus to ask anyone other than his own brothers to look after their mother, yet this is what he did in his final moments...

John 19:26-27
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.


So, we can show that Scripture does not contradict the concept that Mary could have been a perpetual virgin… and it is, therefore, fair and logical to believe such a teaching.

On a side note about this topic... It’s logical to believe that anyone who carried Christ, the Son of God and Holiest of Holy, in her womb would not later defile that womb by conceiving a sinful person. It was common in that day to be consecrated as a virgin and take on a spouse, who’s purpose was to protect that vow. This is said about Mary in other ancient texts, which may also aid us in knowing the surrounding context of Scripture. But there is nothing in Scripture that states that Mary was NOT a perpetual virgin, so this Catholic teaching does not contradict Scripture, as some like to claim.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mary and the Saints, Pray for Us!

This post is in response to a comment made by Russell. His part is in quotes and mine is bold. If anyone else has something to add to the response for Russell, please feel free to comment.

“I'd just like to make a few comments on this particular post. First, I pretty much agree with you on the "One Mediator" point. But there is a difference between praying "for" someone and praying "to" them. We pray TO Jesus (and ONLY to Him / God) because of His role as Mediator in paying the full price for sin on our behalf. But nowhere in Scripture are we allowed to pray TO anyone else. It is not the same thing as praying FOR other people, e.g., for health, blessings, guidance, etc.”

When Catholics “pray to” Mary and the saints, we are asking them to pray FOR us… this is no different than you asking me to pray for you, except that it’s done mentally, instead of vocally because they are in heaven. Mary and the saints then pray TO Jesus FOR us, just as I would pray for you. We do not pray TO them as if they have the power to answer our prayers or in a sense of worshipping them. Again, we are merely asking them to pray (or intercede) for us. This IS in Scripture. (1 Tim 2:1-4) This might be better understood if we remove the word “pray” and the meaning you are applying to it. Catholics ASK Mary and the saints to pray for us. We are not praying in the sense of worship but praying in a historical meaning of the word, which is “to ask or beg”.

“Concerning those in Heaven, yes, they are very much alive. But the two passages you offered in Revelation simply tell us that the angels and elders "offered" the prayers of the saints to God. It never says that the prayers were first directed to the angels, or anyone else in Heaven.”

How can they offer our prayers if they don’t know what our prayers are? How do our prayers, not a physical item, get to them in order for them to be able to offer them? Do we not need to tell them what those prayers are first? Clearly, they must know of our prayers by mentally ask them to pray for us, since we cannot ask them vocally. I see no issue here. We are asking them to pray for us and those prayers are offered by them, indicating they must know what those prayers are… There is nothing in scripture that tells us we cannot ask those in heaven (also Christians) to pray for us. If we cannot ask them to pray for us, then we should not be asking each other either. But THAT would contradict Scripture.

“The verses you quoted in Psalms are not directing us to PRAY TO the angels, but are simply exhorting ALL (even the Heavenly hosts) to praise and exalt God, because He is worthy. You didn't mention the next verse (103:22), which encourages His "works" (not just living creatures) to also praise Him. Does that mean that we pray to all His "works" also? What about when PEOPLE are admonished to praise Him? Are we praying to THEM too?”

This again boils down to the meaning you are applying to “pray”. The angels are addressed and a request for joint praise is offered. But if we were not to address those in heaven at all, then this concept would not be tolerated. This is the point I was making with this passage. Catholics do the same when we address Mary or the saints… asking them to intercede TO God FOR us or maybe even just asking them to join us in praising God!

“It is perfectly fine to pray FOR someone here on earth. But we find no precedent in the Bible where anyone obediently prays to ANYONE ELSE but God.”

Again, Mary and the saints pray FOR us. No one is praying TO anyone else. We simply pass our intentions along to them “mentally” instead of vocally, which we call “praying” (to ask). Nothing in scripture speaks against this and nothing in scripture limits “praying for each other” to those on earth alone.

Furthermore, to deny the saints’ ability to fully act as members of the body of Christ (which includes praying for each other), or to deny that they are necessary, is to go against Scripture:

1 Corinthians 12:20-21
As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"


Our view of the body of Christ is limited by our humanity on earth but once we are in heaven, we see the full picture. Why is it impossible to believe that the body of Christ that is in heaven wouldn’t have a full picture or understanding of the body of Christ? And, in having this full picture, that they would not be able to see or hear (solely by the power of God, of course) what is going on with the rest of the body here on earth? Can they say, “I do not need you”?

1 Corinthians 13:12
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.


And then we see that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. Who is more righteous than those who are in heaven?

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.


I hope this helps to shed some light on the Catholic position. Christians are called to pray for each other. Those in heaven are also Christians, a part of the body of Christ and just as “necessary” as the rest of the body. They are the most righteous, making their prayers powerful and effective. To ask them to pray FOR us is not only encouraged in Scripture, but is logically a very good idea! The passages in Revelation (5:8, 8:3-4) clearly show that those in heaven offer our prayers TO God on our behalf. To do this, they must first receive the prayers FROM us… “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.”.

Thanks for stopping by, Russell. It’s good to hear from you again.

Peace be with you!

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One Mediator

One of the most difficult challenges I face with family and friends since my conversion is dealing with the straw man attacks against my beliefs. There are few things more frustrating...

Recently, I was informed that there is "one mediator" between God and man. Of course, I absolutely believe this. It's straight from scripture. What I don't agree with is a very hard-lined, literal, out-of-context interpretation of this. Of course Christ is the one mediator. Only He, through his death, is able to reconcile us to God. And only He is fully God and fully man: the bridge between God and man.

But, we are all mediators in a smaller sense when we pray for one another. This role, in no way, diminishes Christ's role as the one mediator.

I think it's important, instead of taking ONE verse, to look at the entire passage in context:

1 Timothy 2:1-6
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.


Clearly we see that praying for others on their behalf is good and pleasing to God. It does not take away his role as the one mediator in any way.

If one is going to say that Christ is the only mediator and we should "pray only to Jesus", then one should also not ask others to pray for them... lest they be contradicting themselves. One must understand what it means for Christ to be the one mediator before they throw the argument on the table. Of course, we should also pray to Jesus but even Jesus himself encouraged us to pray for others (Matt. 5:44).

What follows this explanation is usually, "Well, those in heaven are dead. They can't hear us."

Is this true?

Revelation 5:8 says, "And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (See also, Rev. 8:3-4)

Here we see 24 elders (humans) in heaven offering the prayers of the saints. In order for them to offer the prayers of the saints, they must know what these prayers are. Prayers are not physical elements and must be offered mentally.... And, on another note, those in heaven, are only dead in earthly body. Their souls remain alive in Christ. There is only ONE body of Christ (Ephesians 4:4) and those who pass on to heaven do not cease being a member of that body. In fact, they are perfectly united to Christ! They are made righteous and the prayers of the righteous are "powerful and effective" (James 5:16). Would God not permit those in heaven to pray for us when their prayers for others are pleasing, powerful and effective?

In addition to Rev 5:8, we see prayers to angels in Psalms 103...

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.


Clearly, the Bible directs us to pray to those in heaven through this passage and ones like it.

The bottom line is, we must take all of Scripture into account when we discern what a passage means. Christ as the one mediator does not mean that others cannot pray for us, including those in heaven. Scripture tells us that those in heaven can hear our prayers and that they offer them to God for us. This is part of the beauty of the Christian faith: that we are not disconnected from other parts of the body of Christ but that, through the power of God, they are able to intercede for us! This does not limit God's role but magnifies it! It is only by His awesome power that we are able to remain in communion with ALL the members of His Body. He IS, indeed, the One Mediator between God and man. This role is specifically what allows us to intercede for one another and for those in heaven to intercede for us!

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Debate: Sola Scriptura - Part 2

My new responses are in blue. Russell's words are in black and he quotes me in red.

I want to thank you for responding to my comments. Although I will disagree with you on some things, I look forward to friendly dialogue with you. Again, I appreciate the chance to clarify some misunderstandings that Catholics have with Sola Scriptura, Bible interpretation, etc.

You had said:

"But, it doesn't make sense to have an infallible book without an infallible authority to interpret it."

OK, let's follow through on that logic. So what happens when you receive an infallible interpretation by the Catholic Church? You, being fallible, still have to interpret that infallible data. You see, at SOME point, the fallible has to be able to interpret that which is infallible. Otherwise, it is an infinite regress: "A" is infallible, and therefore needs to be interpreted by infallible "B". But since "B" is also infallible, we (again) need to use an infallible source to interpret "B", so we must press into service infallible "C", etc., etc.

Not necessarily. The main point I was making here is that, if we allow each individual to interpret Scripture on our own, what we have is a mess of people interpreting everything very differently. We all go around interpreting Scripture on our own authority, claiming our interpretation is better than the next guy's. Did God truly leave us with no authority to interpret Scripture? Are we all just supposed to figure it out ourselves? Is truth relative, based on our interpretation and our experience?

Take for example our own Constitution and law. What would happen if each individual were free to interpret the Constitution as he saw fit? What would happen if there were no hierarchy in place, with checks and balances, to ensure that the Constitution was properly interpreted so that we all maintained our proper rights and freedoms? We both know that without the established government, our society would be a chaotic mess.

Scripture tells us that we need an authority to help us understand what is meant in Scripture. Take, for example, the Ethiopian eunuch.

Acts 8:26-31 (NIV)
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

Notice here that the eunuch was an educated man. He was an important official in charge of the treasury of a queen. Despite his education, he could not understand what he was reading without someone to explain it to him.

Then, look at 2 Peter 3:15-16:

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Scripture tells us that Paul's letters contain things hard to understand. I don't think it's prudent to think that we, as individuals, are not ignorant of Scripture in at least some way. And I also think that ignorance of Scripture is quite apparent due to the many, many different interpretations which everyone claims to be the "correct" one. How do we know what interpretation is correct and which is a distortion?

You said:

"If the Bible is infallible, but there's no infallible authority, how do we know which interpretation is accurate?"

Amber, one does not have to be infallible to be accurate.

Catholics often present this false dichotomy: Either, 1) an interpretation is infallible, or 2) it must be wrong. The middle ground seems to be ignored.

I've never heard a Catholic present this... but there is some truth to this. I don't think you're seeing this the right way. When we read Scripture there is only one truth. You can't apply different or opposing truths to one passage. So, either something is interpreted correctly or it is wrong. But, in some way you're right... not everything has to be interpreted "infallibly" to be correct... and the Catholic Church makes no such claim. But, if fallible interpretations were correct, we wouldn't have churches all teaching something different. Truth is not relative.

It is certainly possible for a person to read a particular Bible passage and get it right without the help of the Catholic Church (or any denomination). I'm not saying that all Scripture is equally clear to everyone, but the main things are clear enough for us to understand, and to use as a foundation upon which the "harder" things can be understood. And we have examples in the Bible where the COMMON people were able (and expected) to understand Scripture (Acts 17:11-12; Luke 16:27-29; Mark 13:14). Remember Jesus' words, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:9)

I don't entirely disagree with this... Catholics are encouraged to read the Bible and to apply new understandings to Scripture based on our walk with God. But, what about passages that are difficult to understand, such as what the Ethiopian eunuch encountered and what Paul writes (as quoted above)? What about aspects of Scripture that deal with doctrine? Where doctrine is concerned, there is only one truth. Christians are not to be divided over doctrine and are to be in unity with one another. We do not find this in Christianity today. Doctrines differ from one church to the next, so how are we to KNOW which church has it right and which does not?

We can know if an interpretation is correct by first looking at the immediate context, then the overall context (i.e., how it fits in with all of Scripture), and by using good old common sense. These, along with a prayerful and humble attitude, and an honest and good heart (Luke 8:15) will go a long way in correct interpretation of Scripture.

If it were really this simple, why do Protestants even go to seminary to study Scripture? I agree this might be a good rule for trying to understand Scripture. But if you do this while ignoring other factors surrounding what is written, like history, culture, and early understandings of these passages, it is not always clear what is to be believed and practiced. While some Scripture may be simple to understand, some simply is not in and of itself. As an example, I've encountered MANY Protestants who accept Romans 3:28 and ignore (or grossly twist) James 2:24. They don't try to understand them TOGETHER in their overall context because it doesn't fit in with their doctrine of sola fide. Catholic theology allows for both passages to be taken into account for an overall understanding, while Protestant theology does not. If this is how the Bible is supposed to be understood, then why don't more Protestants put this into practice?

You said:

"Also, there is nothing that does NOT suggest infallibility but we do know that we were promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into ALL truth."

Yes, we were promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. But that does not imply infallibility. This simply means that God will give us all the truth we need to live for Him. That says nothing of church leaders possessing some special immunity from error in official (ex-cathedra) statements. No person (or group) has ALL the truth in an absolute sense.

Is the Holy Spirit not infallible? If it is true that no person or group has ALL the truth, then what is the point of being a Christian at all? Are you saying that God gave us a faith in which we cannot know ALL the truth? Pardon me, but this is simply nonsense. (More about the authority of church/leadership below)

Matthew 16:18-19 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Would Jesus establish a Church with the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the authority to bind and loose without some measure of infallibility? If the gates of hell are not going to prevail against it, it seems to me that some sort of protection or immunity from teaching error would be in place to ensure that false doctrines did not sneak into the Church. This is a pretty strong case for something infallible outside of Scripture...

I had said in my last e-mail that the church is to hold up, support, preach and proclaim the truth, and that truth is Scripture. And you responded:

"Can you tell me where in the Bible this passage says that this truth is Scripture? How do you know that this "truth" is Scripture?"

Amber, what is it that we are supposed to preach? Jesus said to the Father, "Thy Word is truth." (John 17:17) What else is there which is available to us today that is inspired / God-breathed, but Scripture (II Timothy 3:16-17)?

Interesting... so the passage SHOULD have said, "...you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of Scripture." I see no indication at all that this passage should be interpreted this way and I believe it's a stretch to do so. By what authority are you able to say that this is the correct interpretation of this Scripture... that truth = Scripture? I'm much more apt to accept that truth=God's Word... but I don't believe God's word is limited to the Bible alone.

By your definition, the word "Scripture" should replace the word truth.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (He is the way and the Scriptures and the life?)

John 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (The Scriptures will set us free?)

John 18:37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (He came to testify to the Scriptures?)

These passages do not make sense interpreted this way. Wouldn't you agree?

But, let's just say for a moment that Scripture IS the meaning applied to 1 Timothy 3:15. It does not negate the fact that the church is the upholder and defense of "scripture". The church! And it again brings me to say, which church? If they all teach something different and they all claim to have the correct interpretation, how do I know what is true and what is not? If I want to know whether or not we should baptize babies, an issue that Scripture does not address explicitly, how do I find out when no one can agree? Where can I look in order to find an answer?

You also said:

"And let's not forget that the entire canon was not decided at the time this was written. So, by your definition, we can only assume that the OT is that truth."

The fact that the canon was not yet fully developed does not negate the fact the the New Testament is certainly also part of God's inspired revelation for the church.

Indeed... but it has to be understood in light of the passage we're talking about that it was only the OT they would be referring to, since the NT did not exist as it does today. They may not have even anticipated any Scripture in the future at that time. The point being, applying the word Scripture in place of "truth" does not make for a logical interpretation.

You said:

I also think it's important to remember that there was no Bible until the late 4th century and that, without Tradition, you wouldn't have a Bible. How would you know that Mark wrote Mark, if not for Tradition? How would you know which books should be considered inspired and which should not, if not for Tradition?

For Catholics, Tradition is essential for understanding Scripture and vice versa. We believe that the entire Word of God is the sole rule of faith. This includes, but is not limited to Scripture alone.

John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

What the Catholic Church calls "Tradition" covers a very wide range of teachings, practices, historical events, interpretations, and doctrinal developments throughout history. Because of this, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what this Tradition is. It is a very loose and vague term that can mean almost anything. To apply infallibility to such an entity is dangerous (I'm assuming that you believe that "Tradition" is an INFALLIBLE part of the Catholic rule of faith - correct me if I am wrong).

This is not and accurate understanding of Tradition. Tradition is the teachings of the apostles which were passed on through their preaching. These teachings overlap and do not contradict Scripture. It is the part of the Word of God, which was not written but which early Christians used to practice their faith (before the Bible came to be). Most of this, however, is found in written form today. There is nothing vague about it when its meaning and purpose are properly understood. It's important to remember that the Bible is a book of the Church and not that we are a church of the Bible. The Gospel was not only handed down in writing, but orally as well. We see evidence of this even in Scripture:

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (The devoted themselves to the Scriptures?)

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. (Hold firmly to the Scriptures?)

2 Thess 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. (Hmmm.... by word of mouth or by letter... both appear to be of importance)

2 Thess 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. (According to the Scriptures?)

2 Tim 2:2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (The things written in Scripture?)

1 Cor 15:1-2 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (Hold fast to the Scriptures?)

These traditions passed on by the apostles are what are know as Tradition and these apostolic teachings are considered infallible, since they were also inspired by the Holy Spirit and protected in order to lead Christians into all truth. It seems quite logical to me to examine Scripture in light of what the earliest Christians believed, practiced and taught since they were receiving these things from the apostles and those who learned from the apostles... I believe that even Scripture makes it clear that we are to stand firm and hold to something outside of Scripture itself.

John 14:16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;

We were promised that the Holy Spirit would be with us forever, to guide the Church into all truth. Am I to believe that the Catholic Church got it wrong for 1500 years only to be corrected by Martin Luther? Then the Holy Spirit didn't do his job and Christ didn't protect his church as promised in Matthew 16:18!

Concerning the canon and how we know which books are inspired, yes, there were some in the early church who correctly recognized (not determined) the inspiration of certain books. And we are thankful for that. But that does not mean that they were infallible.

This causes me to wonder... by what authority were they able to recognize this? How do we know they didn't leave something out? How were they able to come to a decision that allowed them to discern this, especially being fallible? Were they guided by the Holy Spirit or was it by their own authority? Is the Holy Spirit infallible? I very much believe that they were guided by the infallible Holy Spirit, who enabled them to make an infallible recognition of what was inspired and what was not. They were not infallible, in and of themselves... apart from the Holy Spirit... the Holy Spirit led them to an infallible decision. This is what Catholics believe... not that the individual or group, of themselves, is infallible... but that the Holy Spirit guides them to teach infallibly to the Church on matters of faith and morals. There is a huge amount of checks and balances and everything is tested against Scripture and Tradition (what early Christians taught, practiced and believed). It's not as if they can just throw out anything into the wind and claim it to be infallible.

Concerning the verse in John, above, and the fact that we don't have every single thing that Jesus did, written down; that does not disprove Sola Scriptura. This is another common mis-representation that Catholics very often use. Sola Scriptura does not mean that Scripture is an encyclopedia of every religious detail, or of every thing that Jesus or the Father ever spoke. Once again, Sola Scriptura simply means that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the church today.

Doesn't it? Matthew 4:4 says, "But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" If all of God's word is not written down in Scripture, but we are to live on EVERY WORD, then how do we know what EVERY WORD is?

Where does the Bible itself make the claim to be the sole infallible rule of faith for the church today? (Please give Book, Chapter and Verse.) If it is, and God wants us to follow this "rule", then don't you think he would have ensured that the Bible told us this? And why, then, are we told that the early church devoted themselves to the apostles teachings rather than to the Scriptures?

You said:

Can you imagine learning to be a doctor from a book alone without someone showing you what is meant by the book? Without someone in a place of authority, who can define the words and show you what all the tools are or how to use those tools?

I agree that there is teaching authority in the church. But the church derives its authority from those very Scriptures. That's what every church leader should be studying in order for him to grow, and to equip others, as well, so they too, can all go out and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I must disagree here. The Bible came from the church. If you took the Bible and tried to put together a church based solely on what was written, you wouldn't be able to do it. Much of the NT is a collection of letters of correction for the newly forming church. Can you build a church in the full likeness that God would have desired based on letters of correction? Apply this concept elsewhere. Could we build a smooth, fully functioning company if we compiled all the memos of corrective action and a few memos of praise? No way! The Bible did not form the church. The church formed the Bible.

The church derives it's authority from God, not from Scripture... but Scripture makes the Church's authority clear to us.

Matt 28:18-20 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Jesus takes his authority and sends the apostles to make disciples, baptize and teach, saying he would be with them always, to the end of the age... Does this say, "I am with you until all the apostles die?" No, so the apostle's authority (from Christ) clearly had to have been passed on to the end of the age...

John 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

"If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."

Again, we see that Jesus sends them, just as He was sent and even gave them the authority to forgive and retain sins!

Luke 10:16 The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."

Matthew 18:17-18 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

"Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Here, Christ tells us to listen to the church and gives the church the authority to bind and loose... None of these passages tell us that authority comes from Scripture. The authority comes from God himself and is given to the apostles to be passed on, just as it was given to Christ.

In summary, the idea that all Christians should look only to the Bible as the infallible rule of faith, allows for the acceptance of contradictory doctrines and breaks up the unity of the body of Christ. Each church or individual claims to know the truth based on their own, non-authoritative, fallible interpretation of Scripture. Does God want this? Did he really leave us all to figure it out on our own and to disagree on doctrines? Should we ignore what the early Christians believed, practiced and taught and believe that they all got it wrong only be to corrected 1500 years later by looking at the Bible ALONE? The bible is inerrant... the inspired Word of God... but left without anything outside of itself to aid in interpretation leads to division and chaos...

OK, Amber, I'll step aside now and let you respond. Thanks again for the interaction on these vital topics.

I'm sorry I couldn't get back to you sooner but a tragedy in the family has not allowed me a lot of free time. May I recommend a book? It's called By What Authority? by Mark Shea. It's a wonderful examination of this topic. We all want to believe only the truth that God wants us to believe. No Christian I've ever met wants a faith based on partial truth. I don't believe God left us to figure it all out on our own. I believe there is ONE truth and that God wants us to know that truth in all its fullness. Doctrinal truth is no more relative than the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Doctrine DOES matter. So we must ask ourselves. What is true? Where can I find it? The Bible says it's found in the church... this church must be the one started by the apostles. It must be thinking in one mind and thought about all doctrines and from 2000 years ago to present:

1 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.

Phil 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel

May we seek God in ALL truth, even if it means He takes us where we least expect. Always say YES to Jesus... Hold to ALL of Christ's teachings and we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free!

I appreciate this discussion with you and thank you for your thoughts...

Peace be with you!

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Debate: Sola Scriptura

I am having a friendly discussion via email with a man named Russell regarding Sola Scriptura. His initial email is posted below in black and my response to him is in red. I have since received a response, which will be my next post, followed by my response to him, which I am currently working on.


I recently read your post on Dr. Francis Beckwith's blog (concerning his reversion to Catholicism). You had said, "And if the Bible is the sole rule of faith for Christians, why does He tell us that the CHURCH is the pillar and foundation of the truth (I Tim. 3:15)?"


First of all, it is a misrepresentation of Sola Scriptura to say that the Bible is the SOLE rule of faith. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the sole INFALLIBLE rule of faith for the church today.


We both agree that the Bible is inerrant. We both agree that the Bible is a rule of faith. But, it doesn't make sense to have an infallible book without an infallible authority to interpret it. The Bible is not an easily understood, easy to interpret book. If it were, we wouldn't have all the division we have in Christianity today. Catholics believe that the Bible, in order to be properly understood, must have an infallible authority to interpret Scripture accurately. To say that the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith is self-refuting.


Also, I Tim. 3:15 does not negate the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. The context of this passage is the OBLIGATION and RESPONSIBILITY of church leaders. There is absolutely nothing in the context to suggest infallibility. Paul does not tell Timothy, "Hey Timothy, just kick back and relax, and don't worry about what you teach, since we leaders are promised infallibility." No, there would be no need for solemn admonitions to church leaders if freedom from error was guaranteed to them.


If the Bible is infallible, but there's no infallible authority, how do we know which interpretation is accurate? Also, there is nothing that does NOT suggest infallibility but we do know that we were promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into ALL truth. We're told that the Church upholds that truth. It's possible that you may not be understanding what the Catholic Church means by infallibility. The Catholic Church doesn't claim that EVERYTHING that is said is infallible. Church leaders are not guaranteed a freedom from error in all matters at all times...


Also, verse 15 calls the church the "household of God". If infallibility is implied in this verse, then it would prove too much. A "household" is more than just LEADERS. In this context, if the "household" (which is the CHURCH) is infallible, then EVERYONE in that household is infallible. And I don't think you would want to say that.


I don't want to say that indeed... but I believe you're reading into this passage something that isn't there. The Church must collectively make infallible declarations... as a whole. It is not saying that each individual is infallible.


And another thing. A "pillar" is a support which holds something ELSE up. This pillar (the church) is not the truth, but it has the RESPONSIBILITY to hold up, support, preach, and proclaim the truth. And that truth is Scripture.


Can you tell me where in the Bible this passage says that this truth is Scripture? How do you know that this "truth" is Scripture? And let's not forget that the entire canon was not decided at the time this was written. So, by your definition, we can only assume that the OT is that truth.


I also think it's important to remember that there was no Bible until the late 4th century and that, without Tradition, you wouldn't have a Bible. How would you know that Mark wrote Mark, if not for Tradition? How would you know which books should be considered inspired and which should not, if not for Tradition?


For Catholics, Tradition is essential for understanding Scripture and vice versa. We believe that the entire Word of God is the sole rule of faith. This includes, but is not limited to Scripture alone.


John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.


Can you imagine learning to be a doctor from a book alone without someone showing you what is meant by the book? Without someone in a place of authority, who can define the words and show you what all the tools are or how to use those tools?


We are not a church of the book. The book is FOR the church.... and if there is no one able to interpret it, all that's left is division.


Amber, I would love to have some dialogue with you on this if you have the time. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I'm looking forward to your response.


No problem. I enjoy some positive dialogue about these things. Believe me when I say that I used to think just like you... The problem I saw was a severe lack of unity within Christianity... each church interpreting the same Scripture in completely different ways when there is only ONE truth. Christ calls us to NOT be divided over doctrines and to think in like mind in unity. I just about left Christianity altogether. But I decided to start reading early church writings to find out how Christians practiced and what they believed before we all got to be so divided. Doesn't it make sense to pay attention to what Christianity was in the early church? After all, Christ promised to protect his church (Mt 16:18) and that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth... Today, truth is too relative. We need to seek the ONE truth that Christ calls us to.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Real Presence

Malachi 1:11

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

 

This passage in Malachi, written around 450 BC, is a prophecy of the Sacrifice of the Mass. At the time this was written, the Lord's name was not great among the nations nor was there a pure offering in his name in every place from the rising to the setting of the sun. But today, this describes the re-presentation of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross that is offered in every nation all day long. Christ is the only pure offering that we continue to celebrate in an un-bloody manner through the Eucharist.

 

John 6:51-57

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 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 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. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

 

Many say that Christ was only speaking symbolically here. But there is nothing in this passage that indicates he was speaking symbolically. He does not tell us that we must symbolically eat his flesh and symbolically drink his blood. If this was symbolic, then why did they take him literally and ask, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" It is obvious they were troubled by what he was saying but he did not offer them an explanation to help them understand he was not to be take literally. Instead, he reiterated his words. If this was symbolic, then how do we do this? How can it be that the bread and wine we receive at communion can give us eternal life if they are only a symbol? What other way are we to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have this eternal life he speaks of?

 

John 6:60

Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"

 

Even after he further explained, those listening to him still understood this in a literal way, saying it was difficult to listen to.

 

John 6:64-66

But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.

 

Did Jesus call the disciples back to him to explain? No. He said, "But there are some of you that do not believe" and He allowed them to leave because of it.

 

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.  

 

Here, Jesus tells us that the bread IS his body. He does not say, this represents my body or this is symbolic of my body.

 

1 Corinthians 11:27-30

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

 

How can you eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner if it is only a symbol? How do we profane the body and blood of the Lord if the bread and wine is only a symbol? Christ tells us we must discern the body and blood in the bread and wine or we bring judgment upon ourselves! If the bread and wine are merely symbols, why would those who took it unworthily become weak, ill or die?

 

This simply cannot be written any clearer. But Christ told us that some will not believe. Today, many still do not believe. They limit the power of God by claiming this is not possible. They try to find all sorts of ways around it. But Scripture is SO clear, that it must be severely twisted in order to conform to any other view.

 

It must also be pointed out that early Christians understood this literally as well. I can quote at least 14 different early Christians who believed in the real presence but for the sake of brevity, I'll quote two.

 

St. Ignatius of Antioch

"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" ( Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

 

Justin Martyr

"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [ i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" ( First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

 

In John 6:55, Christ himself said, "My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink."

 

To think of the Eucharist as anything less is to not believe in what Christ clearly taught us by his own words. It is to be as the disciples who could not take this teaching and who, therefore, walked away and followed him no more.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Assurance of Salvation?

As a Protestant, I always believed that my salvation was assured no matter what I did. I could sin away and it would not change my relationship with God or the fact that I was saved. Of course, I believed that if I really loved God, I would choose not to sin but I never imagined that my sin would separate me from God in any way. I believe this line of thinking actually allowed me to justify living my life "on my own terms". I easily fell into all sorts of things I never imagined I would. Looking back, I can see just how damaging it was to live my life this way. Though I continued to attend church, there were no real fruits from my faith whatsoever. There was an ample amount of grace from the people I attended church with, however... perhaps a bit too much. No one ever took me aside to explain that what I was doing was truly harming my soul and my relationship with God. I was assured of my salvation and so my relationship with God didn’t matter too much. Why did I need to do anything if I was already saved?

Can a person’s salvation be taken from them? The short answer is no.

John 10:27-28 (RSV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.

Amen! No one can take my salvation away from me...

But the real question is:

Can a person intentionally turn their back on Jesus Christ and knowingly sin, and in turn, lose their salvation? The short answer is yes.

When we sin, we damage our relationship with God and this act of disobedience can cause us, by our own doing, to lose our salvation.

In the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21, "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Jesus said we would be persecuted and hated and that many will fall away "but he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13, RSV).

Notice here that "saved" is in the future tense and that we must "endure to the end" to be saved. This clearly indicates that we can lose our salvation if we fall into sin and are led astray.

This is also made clear in other passages in Scripture:

Romans 11:22 (RSV)
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.

How can you be cut off from something you don't already have?

Galatians 5:4 (RSV)
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

How can you be severed from Christ if you were not already a part of Christ? How can you fall from grace, if you didn't already have grace?

Even Paul feared being "disqualified" in 1 Corinthians 9:27 (RSV) when he wrote, "but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." Paul further goes on to warn us, "Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:11-12, RSV)

Scripture is clear on the matter. If we choose to sin and separate ourselves from God, we can lose that which has already been given to us: eternal life. This has caused me to take a much more serious look at sin in my own life. The thought of being separated from God because my sin has so greatly offended Him, is not a happy one. I cannot just say I’m a Christian and do whatever I want with the idea that I’ll be saved “no matter what”.

God does not take salvation away from me... but if I deliberately sin and sever that relationship with God, I will be cutting myself off, falling from grace... and those who do not endure to the end will not be saved.

Prayer: Most High God, please help me to recognize the temptation of sin before I fall into it. Keep your word close to my heart and give me the desire to please only You. Give me conviction of heart, grace and strength to do what is right and to live each day in service to You. Help me understand that assurance of salvation comes only by knowing that I am striving to live my life on your terms and not my own. Give me the humility to work out my salvation in fear and trembling and to continue hoping for the day that I will see you face to face. Amen.

Romans 5:2
Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Unity

Ephesians 4:4-6
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

This is one of my VERY favorite passages...

A couple others verses (among many) that speak of unity are:

1 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.

Romans 15:5
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus...

Col 1:18 says, "And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."

If there is ONE body and the body is the church, then there is ONE church. If we are all to be united in mind and thought, why are there so many different denominations teaching so many differing doctrines? This brings up another question:

1 Tim 3:15
if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

If the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, but none of them agree on what is true, which church is this referring to? How do we know which one is teaching truth and which one is teaching partial-truth or heresy?

Mat 16:17-19
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, andthe gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Christ promised to protect his church from the gates of Hades and he gave this church (and Peter) the authority to bind and loose... If Christ kept his promise, which we know he did, which church did he protect? Which church has this authority to bind and loose?

We are to be united... there is one body, and one church, the pillar and foundation of truth, protected by Christ with authority to bind and loose. Where is this "one" church?

Perhaps the answer lies in taking a serious look at history.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Reconciliation

I often hear many people say that what they look forward to upon entering the Church is the Eucharist. This is also true for me, but even more, at this point, I am looking forward to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. "Confession" used be my biggest argument against Catholicism. Of course, my issue was not with "confession" as defined by the Church but what I “thought” confession was. I thought, "Why does anyone need to confess their sins to a man when we can go straight to Jesus?"

When I examined the sacrament closely, and came to realize what the Church truly taught and why, I had this huge urge to go. I believed in the sacrament and its efficacy and I couldn"t wait. I wanted to get up right then and there at 11:00 at night and go! This was before I realized I even wanted to BE a Catholic. So, what does Bible say about it?

Jesus Christ was sent to us to forgive sins. We know that all forgiveness comes from Christ and that without Christ, no one would be forgiven. However, before Christ left this earth, did he give the authority to men to forgive sins?

Jesus said to the apostles, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:21-23)

Paul also tells us, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor 5:18-16)

These passages show us that the authority to forgive sin was given to the apostles, who were the leaders of the Church. It is understood that the forgiveness comes from God through these men.

James says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (James 5:16)

Here we see that we are to confess our sins to one another, so confessing to men is clearly not condemned in the Bible.

In fact, I'd be interested to know if there are any passages that tell us we must confess our sins straight to Jesus or to God alone. If anyone can find one, please leave a comment.

Reconciliation: the act of restoring friendship or harmony

Confessing our sin reconciles us to our Lord. Light cannot be in communion with darkness and sin brings darkness into our hearts and lives. When we repent with a truly contrite heart, we are forgiven and restore our friendship with God.

The Bible is so clear on this issue, it amazes me that I did not see this before. Of course, I still believe that we CAN and should confess our sins directly to Jesus but we are given the gift of this sacrament. I long to hear the words of absolution and to know that I am truly forgiven! I now understand that Christ is forgiving us through the priest, who was given this authority by Christ himself 2000 years ago to bind and loose, forgive and not forgive...

The Catechism states:
1441 Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven." Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.

1442 Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the "ministry of reconciliation." The apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making his appeal" through him and pleading: "Be reconciled to God."

1461 Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation, bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops' collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

1466 The confessor is not the master of God's forgiveness, but its servant. The minister of this sacrament should unite himself to the intention and charity of Christ. He should have a proven knowledge of Christian behavior, experience of human affairs, respect and sensitivity toward the one who has fallen; he must love the truth, be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity. He must pray and do penance for his penitent, entrusting him to the Lord's mercy.

I very much look forward to this sacrament... and the healing I believe will come from it.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Salvation through the church?

*This post is refuting an attack on the Catholic Church posted on a website that was forwared to me by a friend, who wanted to know my thoughts. This was my response to him via email.*

Admittedly, this one was a bit of a concern for me when I read it. I had heard it before but was confident that this idea has been taken out of context. I was correct... and like many times before, examination of this topic has further affirmed the direction God has been taking me.

First, the website quotes the catechism (816): "The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained." (Again, this is only a partial quote of this paragraph...)

We have to take careful notice here that this says that the "fullness of the means of salvation is obtained". This is not saying that those outside the Catholic Church are damned.

I will explain this in more detail after I examine the next argument from this website.

The website also quotes the catechism (846): "...all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation..."

Unfortunately, it leaves out some other essential parts that bring greater understanding to what the catechism is staying and what the Church means by this. In full it reads:

CCC 846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.


Wouldn't you agree that the body of Christ is made of up believers who have a saving faith? Is it necessary to be a member of the body of Christ in order to be saved? Absolutely! So, how do we know that the body is the Church? Scripture tells us!

Colossians 1:18
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Ephesians 5:29-30
After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.

Romans 12:4-5
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

1 Corinthians 6:15
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?...


So, I'm sure we can agree that those outside the body of Christ are not saved. And according to Scripture, we know that the body of Christ is the church. Therefore, those outside the "church" are not saved. How is this read in light of the first point that those outside the Catholic Church do not have the "fullness"?

Those outside the Catholic Church who have a saving faith in Christ are joined to the Catholic Church through baptism and faith, since there is only ONE body of Christ, and are not considered damned.

The Church spells this out in the catechism:

CCC 838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."322 Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."323 With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."324

I heard a wonderful explanation of this yesterday on the radio:

It's as if Christ put us all on a big ship (Catholicism) destined for heaven. At some point (1500 years after the time of Christ), some people decided to leave the ship and ride in a raft along-side the ship (Protestants). Everything good they have on the raft, they got from the ship originally (like the Bible!), but they do not have the full benefits of being on the ship (like the sacraments and the Eucharist). However, they are all still destined for heaven!

Those outside the body of Christ, or the church, are not destined for heaven. But those inside the body of Christ, though they may not be fully united to the Catholic Church, receive God's grace and forgiveness due to the blood Christ shed on the cross! But, we must remember that we are called to be united: one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph 4:4-6). We must also remember that if Christ established ONE body, and the body is the church, then he only established ONE church. Which church? Look at all the division within Protestantism... How can this be when it is so contrary to Scripture (Rom 16:17, Phil 2:2)? If the church is the "pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15)", which Protestant church fits this? Or could it be the one church that can trace its beginning to the time of Christ?

Many argue that "the church" is just the invisible body of Christ... believers all over the world regardless of denomination... But this is not a fair characterization of the church.

The church is not merely an invisible (spiritual only) church but one that is quite visible (Mt 16:18-19, Mt 18:17). A body is a physical thing, just as Christ was a physical being... you cannot separate the body from the spirit (James 2:26)... the physical from the spiritual. If Christ is physical and spiritual, and the body is physical and spiritual, then the Church is physical and spiritual - visible and invisible!

But I think, at this point, I'm leading into a completely new topic!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Salvation through baptism?

First off, it is the teaching of the Church that those who are not baptized are not automatically damned... This would include those who die for the faith, who are preparing to be baptized or those of other faith traditions, who have a saving faith but do not understand the necessity of baptism:

CCC 1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

CCC 1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

CCC 1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." 62 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

CCC 1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," 63 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

Of course, all of this is a bit pointless if baptismal regeneration is false. So let's take a look at what the Bible says about it and what early Christians thought about it.

Another thing I noticed is that this website only quotes PARTS of paragraphs of the catechism. Doing such makes it much easier to take things out of context... but what I'll do is quote them as it is written on their website and then give a response.

The website quotes the catechism [1257]: "The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation."

This claim is true. Jesus said in John 3:5, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

Additional verses show that baptism is not merely a symbol but that it actually does something.

1 Peter 3:21
21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Acts 2:38
38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 22:16
16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'


In the verse above, what washes sin away if not baptism?

Romans 6:3-4
3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.


This does not sound like it's merely symbolic but that it also raises us from the dead and gives us new life.

Colossians 2:11-12
11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

Titus 3:5
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

1 Corinthians 6:11
11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


What other "washing" is there other than baptism?

Hebrews 10:22
22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.


Early Christians also believed in baptismal regeneration. I can quote MANY of them but for the sake of this response, I'll only use a few. Let me know if you want more.

Justin Martyr
"As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly . . . are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, 'Except you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven' [John 3:3]" ( First Apology 61 [A.D. 151]).

Tertullian
"Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . . [But] a viper of the [Gnostic] Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism-which is quite in accordance with nature, for vipers and asps . . . themselves generally do live in arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes after the example of our [Great] Fish, Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water. So that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes-by taking them away from the water!" ( Baptism 1 [A.D. 203]).

"Without baptism, salvation is attainable by none" (ibid., 12).

Cyril of Jerusalem
"If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who even without water will receive the kingdom.
. . . For the Savior calls martyrdom a baptism, saying, 'Can you drink the cup which I drink and be baptized with the baptism with which I am to be baptized [Mark 10:38]?' Indeed, the martyrs too confess, by being made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men [1 Cor. 4:9]" ( Catechetical Lectures 3:10 [A.D. 350]).


In addition, Martin Luther even believed in baptismal regeneration.

In his Large Catechism (1529), Luther writes:

Expressed in the simplest form, the power, the effect, the benefit, the fruit and the purpose of baptism is to save. No one is baptized that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare [of Mark 16:16], that he may be saved. But to be saved, we know very well, is to be delivered from sin, death, and Satan, and to enter Christ's kingdom and live forever with him . . . Through the Word, baptism receives the power to become the washing of regeneration, as St. Paul calls it in Titus 3:5 . . . Faith clings to the water and believes it to be baptism which effects pure salvation and life . . .

When sin and conscience oppress us . . . you may say: It is a fact that I am baptized, but, being baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and obtain eternal life for both soul and body . . . Hence, no greater jewel can adorn our body or soul than baptism; for through it perfect holiness and salvation become accessible to us . . .

(From ed. by Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis: 1935, sections 223-224,230, pages 162, 165)

The Bible makes this claim all over the place. Why is it that Protestants today deny this? If baptism IS merely a symbol, why would we bother with it at all? And why would Protestants care if it were by immersion or sprinkling like they so often like to debate? I believe that God is very clear on this issue.

Of course, it also must be understood that without the work of the Holy Spirit through baptism, it would have no saving effect. The water itself does not save but the work of the Holy Spirit in the act of baptism, which we do in obedience to our Lord, cleanses us of sin and makes us new in Christ. With this, it cannot be forgotten that without the shedding of Christ's blood on the cross, we would not be saved at all. God's grace is given to us through baptism because of Christ's work on the cross.

Amen!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Salvation through good works?

A very dear friend of mine, a Protestant, has asked me to respond to the "Salvation" section of a website used to show the errors of Catholicism. I will be posting my response to these four main attacks on Catholicism regarding salvation for anyone else who may seek the answer to these questions. The four main points are salvation through: good works, baptism, Mary, and the Church. I have already explained Mary to some degree but further clarification will likely be necessary.

Here is my explanation on "salvation through good works". Keep in mind that the original response was via email:

One thing I notice when talking apologetics is one topic can generally lead right into another. This makes it difficult, at times, to stay on topic. Sometimes, in order to understand the Catholic teaching on one thing, it is essential to understand the Catholic teaching on something else.

Based on the four main points of salvation that you sent me, I am going to have to begin with the "good works" part. This brings us to the Protestant doctrine of sola fide. Before I begin, I want to make it very clear that Catholics do not believe in "faith alone" or "works alone" or that we earn our way to heaven by our good deeds (whether works of the law or works of faith). We believe, and I'm sure you'll agree, that without Christ's work on the cross and the blood he shed for our sins and without his grace given to us, that we would not be saved at all. It is a gift:

CCC 1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

We will also both agree that in order to receive the gift we must do something. First, we must have faith. The Catholic Church teaches this:

CCC 161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"

Protestants claim that salvation is by "faith alone" and there are several scriptures used to back up this viewpoint:

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 6:28-29
Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

Acts 16:31
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.

Acts 26:18
...that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me...

Romans 1:17-18
Therefore the just shall live by faith. The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness.

Romans 3:28
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.


Notice here that he says deeds of the "law". Catholics agreed completely!

Romans 4:5
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Romans 5:1
...having been justified by faith...

Romans 10:9
That if you shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.

Romans 11:6
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

Romans 14:23
...and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.

WAIT! First works are condemned but then we are created in Christ to do good works? (More on this below)

Philippians 3:9
and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith."

Galatians 2:16
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Again, a distinction made to "works of the law".

Galatians 2:21
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

I say, "AMEN!" to all of these verses. Catholics believe all of these 100% and do not disagree with them at all. BUT, none of these verses say faith "alone". Catholics believe that salvation comes first from God's grace and that we are saved by cooperating with this grace with faith AND works. (It is important to note here, that Catholics are NOT talking about works of the law as often spoken of by Paul. Paul condemned the Pharisees for observing the law but not showing love. Catholics are speaking of works of "faith" such as obedience to God, love, service, etc.)

1 Corinthians 13:13
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Notice here that the greatest is not faith, but LOVE...

Galatians 5:6
6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.


Works of the law have no value. But works of faith (love) is the only thing that counts.

1 Corinthians 13:2
2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

John 14:15
15"If you love me, you will obey what I command.


Matthew 19:16-17
16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

1 Timothy 5:8
8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.


Matthew 7:21
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Ephesians 2:10
10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

James 2:14-26
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[
d]? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"[e] and he was called God's friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

WOW. The only place in the Bible where "faith alone" appears is to say "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." And note the parallel drawn between the body and spirit and between faith and deeds? Just as you cannot separate the body from the spirit, you cannot separate faith from deeds!

This is why Catholics believe that you cannot separate faith and works. They MUST go together or your faith is a dead faith. We are not talking about our own works or that our works EARN us eternal life... but that, by the grace of God, we act in faith working through love to cooperate with the gift of grace and gain eternal life.

In the link you sent me, it quotes from the catechism (837): "...Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved."

I'd have to agree with this in light of Scripture because one who is not charitable or does not show love, according to the Bible, does not have a saving faith and does not inherit the gift of eternal life.

In addition there are several verses that tell us we are judged according to our deeds.

2 Corinthians 5:10
10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 11:15
15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

1 Peter 1:17
17If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;

Colossians 3:24-25
24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

Revelation 20:12-13
12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

Note that none of these verses indicate we are judged based on our level of faith? So, in short, it is not faith alone, nor works alone (as many *think* Catholics teach) but faith AND works, as the Bible clearly teaches.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Tradition

If is important to understand that nothing in Tradition contradicts Scripture.

The early church was very careful to guard against heresy. This is why we can see evidence in the Bible of writings that corrected churches that were going in the "wrong" direction. The Bible also tells us of the necessity of keeping tradition. These are not the traditions of men that Christ warns against but apostolic traditions:

1 Corinthians 11:2 (NAS)
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

2 Thess 2:15 (NAS)
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.


2 Thess 3:6 (NAS)
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.


To ensure that apostolic tradition would be passed down, Paul said to Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. " (2 Timothy 2:2)

Christ himself promised that the gates of Hades would not prevail against His church:

Matthew 16:18
I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.


It is well established that the Catholic Church has its roots at the time of Christ. They have documented succession from the apostles. They were the only church (outside of the Orthodox church 1054 AD) for 1500 years until the Reformation. So, we have to ask ourselves. Did the early church screw it up? Or did Christ keep his promise to protect his church? Some claim that there was a "remnant" of truth (a protestant-type Christianity) that was "underground" and finally emerged at the Reformation, but there is not one shred of evidence for this, secular or otherwise. Also, Christ did not promise to protect a "remnant".

Christ established a visible Church... the Church is more than just the invisible body of Christ. He also gave His Church authority. For Protestants, their authority is the Bible alone but it is evident in the Bible that this profitable but not necessarily all-sufficient. The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, not the Bible:

1 Timothy 3:14-15
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.


Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV)
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.


Note above that it does not say, take it to "a" church but "the" church!

For me, what this boiled down to is: Do I believe that God would want His followers to know the truth and if He did, did He do his part to protect it for the first 1500 years or did all those people die believing they had truth when they really didn't? Can I offer you some hard evidence that the early church was fully truthful? No. But I do believe that Christ kept his promise and I do believe that the writings of the early church are very Catholic in theology. I do believe that the Catholic Church has proven through its records of succession that it is the Church established by Christ.

I believe that the Holy Spirit infallibly guided men to decide which books of the Bible were considered inspired... Why then would it be impossible for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide His Church into all truth? (John 16:13)

More verses supporting Tradition:
John 21:25
Acts 20:35
2 Timothy 1:13
2 Timothy 2:2
2 Peter 1:20
2 Peter 3:15-16
Romans 10:17
1 Corinthians 15:1-2

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Dave Armstrong's Blog

If you use Dave Armstrong's website (Cor ad cor loquitur), please consider donating to him or purchasing his books or e-books. He's put in hours upon hours building up his website in defense of the Catholic faith and maintaining a website is a lot of work!

Click here to go to Dave's site!

For the month of November, he's offering up to 91% savings on his e-books.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thoughts on Mary

The topic at RCIA last night was Mary and the Saints. We read several passages which included Mary and the following things spoke to me specifically...

John 19:26-27
When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.


What strikes me here is that this disciple was not actually the son of Mary and this passage makes it clear to me that Jesus is giving his mother to all of us and giving us to his mother... What other possible explanation could there be for Jesus to say this as he was dying on the cross for our sins?

Along with this is something else I never knew as a Protestant... that Mary never had other children and that the "brothers" or "brethren" of Jesus were actually cousins or step-brother (through Joseph). Christians always held, until recently, the view that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ.

Even Martin Luther believed this:

Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. {Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }

Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. {Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }

A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . . {Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }

This view of Mary’s perpetual virginity was also held by Calvin, Zwingli and others. For more quotes you can go to Luther, Calvin, and Other Early Protestants on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

But even more interesting is that IF Mary had other children, she would not have gone to live with this disciple after the death of Jesus but with one of her other children... as it would have been their duty to care for her and not commit her to the care of someone else.

It also seems fitting to me that Christ would be born of a woman whose womb would be reserved only for the Son of God and no other.

It is clear that the idea of Jesus having brothers is a new idea that doesn't seem to hold true... according to Scripture and according to the beliefs of Christians held for centuries.

Another verse that struck me on a more personal level:

Luke 1:48
"For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.


Here, Mary states, "all generations will count me blessed". As a Protestant, I thought of Mary at Christmas only. But this passage indicates that I should give her more thought throughout the year. Contrary to what I thought before, Catholics do not worship Mary but they do honor her for the role she played in the life of Christ. I am sorry I ignored her for so long. Christ obviously has a tremendous amount of love for her. It seems only fitting that I should follow His example.

Everyone at RCIA received a miraculous medal on a chain and we learned to pray the rosary. It was an emotional time for me because I felt I had uncovered another treasure given to me by the Lord and I'm so thankful that he's brought me "home".

Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for me.

People to pray for today:
Damion
Cindy
Anna
my children

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bible alone?

In order to find truth,
one must be open to find it...
wherever that may be.


I reached a point where I began to question what was TRUE. Of course, I knew that I had "some" truth but certain things were just not adding up. It was not until I truly opened my heart, that I was able to see the complete truth that God was calling me to see.

One of those things that didn't add up was the idea that the Bible was the "sole rule of faith". Many Protestants, when asked, "What is the pillar of truth?" will reply, "The Bible!"

But the Bible says:

1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV)
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.


The church is the pillar of truth... and if the church is the pillar of truth, aren't Catholics correct when they look to the church for the authority to interpret Scripture? The Bible itself does not make a claim to be the sole rule of faith but it DOES state that the church is the "pillar and foundation of truth".

Christ clearly established a visible Church... but that's for another post!

What I want to talk about is "sola scriptura".

Protestants often argue that the Bible claims to be the sole rule of faith in the following passage:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.


This passage indicates that Scripture is useful... It does not say that Scripture is enough, plenty, or all that is needed... This passage also does not say Scripture "alone". Look at the verse before: 2 Timothy 3:15 (and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus). Since the New Testament did not exist at this time, this was referencing the Old Testament. If we are to use the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, then we might be able to assume that the OT "alone" was to be used as the sole rule of faith. Neither Protestants nor Catholics would agree with that idea! But we CAN agree that the OT is useful, just as the Scripture reads...

The following is another verse often used to "prove" sola scriptura:

John 20:30-31 (NIV)
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


The problem here is that "this book" refers to the book of John. But would anyone agree that the book of John alone is sufficient? Plus, this passage indicates that it will help us to believe, not that it is necessary in order to believe.

If the Bible was the sole rule of faith, what did early Christians do before the Bible existed?

They passed along traditions! Christ did not condemn ALL traditions... just the traditions of men... but clearly, we were to "stand firm and hold" to some traditions!

2 Thess 2:15 (NAS)
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

2 Timothy 2:2 (NAS)
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

1 Corinthians 11:2 (NAS)
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.


These apostolic teachings (or traditions) have been passed down for 2000 years in the Catholic Church... This means that instead of the Bible as the sole rule of faith, Catholics believe that the Word of God is the sole rule of faith.

Another question that came to mind is: If the Bible is the sole rule of faith and the 25,000+ Protestant, Bible-only denominations all claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their interpretation of the Bible, how is it that the Holy Spirit is contradicting Himself? The Holy Spirit cannot contradict Himself.

The Catholic Church has not changed on issues of faith or morals in 2000 years... They hold to the teachings of the apostles... My heart was open and I found the Church that Christ established, the pillar of truth. The Word of God is now my sole rule of faith... this does not disregard the Scriptures but makes the Scriptures come alive in my life so that I can experience the fullness of faith that Christ intended for all Christians. And I've found the unity in the body of Christ that I was seeking

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Unfamiliar Words

"Catholic theology is, for Evangelicals, positively bestrewn with great ideas that are couched in frightening language." - Mark Shea

I cannot begin to express how true this is. One of the biggest problems I had in the beginning were the words used. They were unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Even today, some words will hang me up a bit. For example, when I hear the word "purgatory", what comes to mind immediately are my Protestant thoughts regarding purgatory. I believed it was a place between heaven and hell in which a soul was either stuck for all eternity or they'd have to work their way toward heaven out of purgatory. I thought it was someplace that Catholics believed that unbaptized babies would be... forever. This, I knew, was not Biblical... and I didn't know why someone would make this up!

Of course, now I understand it. Catholic understanding:

"All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (CCC 1030).


The Bible does reference a "purification":

1 Corinthians 3:14-15
"If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."


Nothing impure can enter heaven (Rev. 21:27) so it is necessary that we be purified before we enter. This is all purgatory is... a period/place of purification. It may be as short as the blink of an eye or it may take a bit longer. We don't know for sure... but the Bible also mentions a waiting place other than heaven for souls already heaven-bound (1 Peter 3:19-20). This may not be referring directly to purgatory but it does indicate the possibility of a place other than heaven or hell.

But back to my point, the words used are often so different that they would trip me up. Mark Shea has a short list of examples:

Merit = fruitfulness under the influence of grace
Apostolate = Ministry
Venial sin = stumbling
Mortal sin = backsliding
Formation = discipleship
Indulgence = gift of mercy
Temporal punishment = discipline of the Lord


Understanding the differences in terms helps me to see that what Catholics believe is not so far off from what I already believed and this understanding helped to bridge an enormous gap for me.

Along with this is the idea that the phrase "personal relationship with Christ" is not often used in Catholic circles, but this does not mean that Catholics don't have one and, if you define it, many will agree that they DO have a personal relationship with Christ! I've also found that some Catholics get hung up on the "born again" phrase. Of course, if you define born-again, Catholics will say, "Yes, I fit that description!"

At one point, before I was even exploring Catholicism, words like liturgy, mass, eucharist, and homily, also bothered me greatly. They seemed so formal, odd and out of place in today's society.

Homily = sermon
Eucharist = communion
Mass = church service (loosely)
Liturgy = rites, prayers, ceremonies and sacraments of the church (something missing from my non-denominational background)


In short, I see how careful I have to be when talking with non-Catholic friends and family about Catholicism. Simple words could cause them to seriously misunderstand certain aspects of the faith.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Mother of God

I went to my parents' church last night. They spoke about David, the Ark of the Covenant and God's holiness. This brought up many things to write about but for now I'm going to stick to something that was brought to my mind.

God is holy... SO holy, in fact, that there are no words to adequately describe Him. This is evident in the fact that if anyone touched the Ark of the Covenant, he would perish... Isn't it interesting to think that the dust that touched the Ark, because of God's holiness, would not be defiled? Protestants and Catholics both agree on the fact that God is the utmost and holiest of all.

So, imagine, God himself, coming down to us: fully God and fully man – fully divine and fully human... It's astounding. God himself lived among us, walked where we walk, breathed the air we breathe, saw the things we see.

Then there's Mary. She carried God within her. Holy God... sinless, perfect, sovereign. Is it not fitting that God would be born not only of a virgin but of one who is sinless? Would it have been fitting for the most Holy God to be born of a woman who had sinned at any moment in her life? Even after Jesus was born, would it have been fitting for him to be cared for by a sinful woman?

Luke 1:39-45
Mary Visits Elizabeth
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

Luke 1:46-49
And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name..."


So, while Catholics call her blessed, and rightfully so, Protestants seem to take the opposite extreme by completely ignoring her. You can listen to them talk about many other women in the Bible but when it comes to Mary, they undermine exactly who she is and what she's done.

Jesus did not ignore Mary in such a way. Why, then, should His followers?

I used to think that Catholics worshipped Mary... that they put her above or equal to Jesus. This is completely untrue. The Catholic Church does not teach that Mary was divine in her own right but that she acted in purely obedient faith. By saying "yes", Mary allowed God to accomplish his perfect will, which played a role in all of our salvation.

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. This is something I'd never heard before a few months ago but last night's service about the Ark of the Old Covenant made me take a deeper look.

When Davis approached the Ark, he leapt and danced.
When Mary approached Elizabeth, John the Baptist leapt in his mother's womb.

The Ark of the Old Covenant stayed in the house of Obed-edom for three months.
Mary stayed in the house of Elizabeth for three months.

The place that housed the ark for three months was blessed.
Elizabeth uses the word blessed three times in Luke (and surely she would be because GOD was in her home!)

When the OT ark arrived, they were greeted with shouts of joy.
When Mary arrived, she was greeted with shouts of joy.

The OT ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem, where God's glory is revealed in the temple.
Mary returns home and ends up in Jerusalem, where she presents Jesus in the temple.

In the OT ark, the law of God was in stone.
Mary carried the Word of God in flesh.

In the OT ark was an urn of manna, the bread from heaven that kept God's people alive in the wilderness.
Mary carried the Bread of Life from heaven that brings us eternal life.

In the OT ark was the rod of Aaron, the proof of true priesthood.
Mary carried the true priest.

This passage also makes the connection:
Revelation 11:19-12:2
Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.


The parallel is undeniable. God did not ignore her... but chose her and blessed her because of her obedience.

John 19:26-27
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Revelation 12:17
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.


We should not ignore Mary. She is our mother... given to us by our Most Holy God.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Faith alone?

The literature for last night's Bible study said specifically, "Salvation is by faith alone." I knew right away this was going to be an issue for me. Where does this faith alone idea come from? Did you know that the only place in the Bible where the term "faith alone" exists is where it says "not by faith alone"?

James 2:14-26 (NIV)

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"[e] and he was called God's friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.


How much clearer can it be? You cannot separate faith and works. Faith alone, without works, is not a saving faith! Works alone, without faith, is just something to boast about and does not encourage the relationship that God wants with us. They MUST go together.

Without God's grace, even our faith does not save us! If our works were not a part of our faith, then why would we be obligated to keep the commandments? or to love our neighbor? Of course, our works (or our faith for that matter) do not obligate God to save us and our works don't EARN our salvation. Our salvation is a gift from God promised to us when we respond to his grace in our obedience to Him.

We are not saved by "faith alone" and this doctrine has misled people for years. This idea is what made me live my life the way I wanted for far too long. My faith was enough. I could be a nominally good person and my faith alone would save me.

Understanding this has made me realize that I can no longer live my life as I have. I must strive to love more, give more, and help more. Do I want to merely have faith? or do I want a saving faith?

What do you want?

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Popes

"Comments" have been fixed so you do not have to have a blog in order to leave a comment. Sorry if that setting prevented anyone from leaving one.

Last month, I was challenged by a Fundamentalist who came to the knowledge that I was joining the Catholic Church through another blog that I've maintained for four years... She came in gently... telling me subtle things about the errors of the Catholic Church. So, I replied... gently and with kindness. She then came at me full force with all the typical biases that non-Catholics use. I answered each one of her attacks point by point... and for some, I included links. She shot back at me that she would NOT read my links saying something about the devil and his deception in relation to following the links I posted... blah, blah, blah. She then posted SEVERAL comments with all these crazy anti-Catholic ideas. And when I did a search for a string of text, it took me to a website FULL of horrible lies about Catholicism...

So, I took one issue, the Popes, and took each false teaching from this website (in italics below) about Catholicism point by point...

I have cited my sources, but if anyone knows if I'm breaking any copyright rules or anything that may be in error, let me know... I certainly don't want to step on any toes.

All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Version:

Catholic teaching: The apostle Peter was the first pope who then transferred his authority to Linus according to Irenaeus.

History: The bishop of Rome did not receive the title of Pope until the 500's. Many of the early bishops prior to this time were called Pope or pappas in Greek which means father.


First off, the Catholic Church can trace the succession of the pope all the way back to Peter. Christ made it very clear that Peter was "in charge" of the church at that time.

Matt 16:13-19
13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

14And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."

15He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

18"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

19"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."


Christ renamed Simon, Peter (Kepha), which means "rock" and then he said, "and upon this rock I will build My church..." It would be pointless to rename him "rock" if he did not mean to refer to him AS the rock on which he would build his church. This makes it very clear that he appointed Peter in a position above the other apostles. Even Protestant scholars agree that this verse refers to Peter as the "rock".

"Another view common among some Protestants (Alford, Broadus, Vincent) is that Peter . . . is the rock." - Wycliffe Bible Commentary

"Some interpreters have . . . referred to Jesus as the rock here, but the context is against this. Nor is it likely that Peter's faith or Peter's confession is meant. It is undoubtedly Peter himself who is to be the rock, but Peter confessing, faithful and obedient . . . The leading role which Peter played is shown throughout the early chapters of Acts." - New Bible Commentary

"Luther . . . took his rejection of the Petrine office from his erroneous interpretation of Christ's saying in Matthew 16 . . . But today we recognize Luther's error and give it up. `Anti-Catholic polemic has done violence to the Lord's saying because it defines the Rock upon which Jesus builds His community not as Peter but as his faith and confession . . . What is spoken of, however, in Matthew 16 is the man to whom Jesus entrusts His work, (7)' writes the Protestant theologian Adolf Schlatter."- Richard Baumann


Peter's authority was quite evident throughout the Bible:
"Whenever they were named, Peter headed the list (Matt. 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13); sometimes the apostles were referred to as "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32). Peter was the one who generally spoke for the apostles (Matt. 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:68-69), and he figured in many of the most dramatic scenes (Matt. 14:28-32, Matt. 17:24-27, Mark 10:23-28). On Pentecost it was Peter who first preached to the crowds (Acts 2:14-40), and he worked the first healing in the Church age (Acts 3:6-7). It is Peter's faith that will strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32) and Peter is given Christ's flock to shepherd (John 21:17). An angel was sent to announce the resurrection to Peter (Mark 16:7), and the risen Christ first appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34). He headed the meeting that elected Matthias to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26), and he received the first converts (Acts 2:41). He inflicted the first punishment (Acts 5:1-11), and excommunicated the first heretic (Acts 8:18-23). He led the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and announced the first dogmatic decision (Acts 15:7-11). It was to Peter that the revelation came that Gentiles were to be baptized and accepted as Christians (Acts 10:46-48)."
(Reference: http://www.catholic.com/library/Peter_and_the_Papacy.asp)

Plus, in the passage mentioned above in Matthew, Christ himself gave Peter the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" with the power to "bind and loose", indicating authority... again, Protestants do not refute this either:

"In accordance with Matthew's understanding of the kingdom of heaven (i.e., of God) as anywhere God reigns, the keys here represent authority in the Church."

"In conferring upon Peter authority as head of the Church (Matt 16:19), Jesus uses the rabbinical technical terms `to bind' . . . and `to loose' . . . In rabbinic usage the terms mean `to forbid' and `to permit' with reference to interpretation of the law, and secondarily `to condemn' or `place under the ban' and `to acquit.' Thus, Peter is given the authority to determine the rules for doctrine and life (by virtue of revelation and the subsequent leading of the Spirit; Jn 16:13) and to demand obedience from the Church, reflecting the authority of the royal chamberlain or vizier in the Old Testament (cf. Is 22:22)."
- Eerdmans Bible Dictionary


"As the robe and the baldric, mentioned in the preceding verse, were the ensigns of power and authority, so likewise was the key the mark of office, either sacred or civil. This mark of office was likewise among the Greeks, as here in Isaiah, borne on the shoulder. In allusion to the image of the key as the ensign of power, the unlimited extent of that power is expressed with great clearness as well as force by the sole and exclusive authority to open and shut. Our Saviour, therefore, has upon a similar occasion made use of a like manner of expression, Matt 16:19; and in Rev 3:7 has applied to himself the very words of the prophet." - Adam Clarke's Commentary

"Most commentators . . . believe that the keys represent internal authority in the church rather than the power to open it up to outsiders. If this is so it would give Peter, and the apostles associated with him (18:18), not only the power to preach the `kerygma' [proclamation of the gospel] but also to formulate the `didache' [doctrine]." - New Bible Commentary



While the term "pope" may have applied to other bishops in early centuries, there is still a supreme succession in church authority, which was always clear within the Catholic Church and is indicated in the writings of early Christians such as Irenaeus:

"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to
reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (A.D. 180), in ANF, I:1415-416


Catholic teaching: The apostle Peter, who is claimed to be the first Pope, was not married.

Bible: Peter, also known as Cephas, had a wife.


The Catholic Church DOES NOT teach that Peter did not have a wife... come on... that would be a blantant disregard for Scripture and a ludricrous assumption!

In fact, just for entertainment sake, here is a quote from a popular Catholic apologist, Karl Keating, and his answer to the question, "Did Peter have a wife?"

"Apparently so, since he had a mother-in-law. It is customary that the two go together. Sometimes they even remain together, both staying at a fellow's home. This has been the source of many jokes and sad tales, none of which need be recounted here.

Instead, let's consider Matthew 8:14-15 and Luke 4:38-39. Both accounts say that Peter's mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus rebuked the fever. It left her, and she got up and served him and his companions.

What about Peter's wife? She is nowhere mentioned. I always have found this strange. I can imagine the scene. There is the mother-in-law, lying on a bed and covered with a blanket. At her side, as one would expect, is her dutiful daughter--except that Matthew and Luke make no
reference to her daughter.

Leaving her out of the story seems strange. It is not the way a writer would be expected to handle the incident, since a daughter usually is the one most frantic about a mother's condition.

The story is tantalizingly brief, and maybe the Evangelists decided to leave out all but the most salient facts. Or maybe it was just an oversight. Or maybe it was because Peter's wife wasn't there--she already may had died. I think this is the most likely explanation for her non-appearance."


So, it appears that while there is no specific MENTION of a wife, Catholics are bright enough to understand that based on the scriptures, he was married!

Matthew 8:14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever.

1 Corinthians 9:5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?

Catholic teaching: The Pope is the head of the Catholic church

History: No single head of the Christian church is found in the New Testament. In the early church there was no clear distinction between clergy and laity. Each local area was headed by a local bishop or elder according to Paul and the writings of Ignateus. In the 200's the bishop of each Roman provincial capital gradually acquired authority over the other local churches. In 325 the Council of Nicaea gave primacy to the bishops of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome. The universal primacy of the Pope began with Pope Siricius in the late 300's.


Let's be CLEAR here... the First Council of Nicaea had nothing to do with giving primacy to bishops. The agenda of the council was:
1. The Arian question;
2. The celebration of Passover;
3. The Meletian schism;
4. The Father and Son one in purpose or in person;
5. The baptism of heretics;
6. The status of the lapsed in the persecution under Licinius.

Based on my previous scripture references above, it is CLEAR that Christ appointed Peter in a place of authority over the church so the above "history" statement is inaccurate.

Catholic teaching: The Pope is infallible. This means that the Pope is incapable of error in matters of faith and morals.

Bible: The Pope is only a man. The apostle Peter (claimed to be the first Pope) could make mistakes as he did concerning eating with Gentiles prior to being corrected by Paul.

Galatians 2:11-14 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because
he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?


To be clear, the Catholic Church does not teach that the pope is infallible at ALL times.

"The doctrine of Papal Infallibility does not mean the Pope is always right in all his personal teachings. Catholics are quite aware that, despite his great learning, the Pope is very much a human being and therefore liable to commit human error. On some subjects, like sports and manufacturing, his judgment is liable to be very faulty. The doctrine simply means that the Pope is divinely protected from error when, acting in his official capacity as chief shepherd of the Catholic fold, he promulgates a decision which is binding on the conscience of all Catholics throughout the world. In other words, his infallibility is limited to his specialty--the Faith of Jesus Christ.

In order for the Pope to be infallible on a particular statement, however, four conditions must apply: 1) he must be speaking ex cathedra . . . that is, "from the Chair" of Peter, or in other words, officially, as head of the entire Church; 2) the decision must be for the whole Church; 3) it must be on a matter of faith or morals; 4) the Pope must have the intention of making a final decision on a teaching of faith or morals, so that it is to be held by all the faithful. It must be interpretive, not originative; the Pope has no authority to originate new doctrine. He is not the author of revelation--only its guardian and expounder. He has no power to distort a single word of Scripture, or change one iota of divine tradition. His infallibility is limited strictly to the province of doctrinal interpretation, and it is used quite rarely. It is used in order to clarify, to "define," some point of the ancient Christian tradition. It is the infallibility of which Christ spoke when He said to Peter, the first Pope: "I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven." (Matt. 16:19). Certainly Christ would not have admonished His followers to "hear the church" (Matt. 18:17) without somehow making certain that what they heard was the truth--without somehow making the teaching magisterium of His Church infallible.

For a complete understanding of the Pope's infallibility, however, one more thing should be known: His ex cathedra decisions are not the result of his own private deliberations. They are the result of many years--sometimes hundreds of years--of consultation with the other bishops and theologians of the Church. He is, in effect, voicing the belief of the whole Church. His infallibility is not his own private endowment, but rather an endowment of the entire Mystical Body of Christ. Indeed, the Pope's hands are tied with regard to the changing of Christian doctrine. No Pope has ever used his infallibility to change, add, or subtract any Christian teaching; this is because Our Lord promised to be with His Church until the end of the world. (Matt. 28:20). Protestant denominations, on the other hand, feel free to change their doctrines. For example, all Protestant denominations once taught that contraception was gravely sinful; but since 1930, when the Church of England's Lambeth Conference decided contraception was no longer a sin, virtually all Protestant ministers in the world have accepted this human decision and changed their teaching."(Source: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/a/faq-cc.html).

Catholic teaching: Adoration of the Pope

Bible: The Pope is a human man and with the same temptations and problems as we. Peter did not allow others to bow before him why should the pope.

Acts 10:25-26 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I myself am also a man."


I can't find anywhere that the Church teaches that anyone has to adore the Pope. Adoration is reserved for Christ alone.

Let's keep in mind that the role of the pope is to SERVE the church. If anyone is worshipping or adoring him, they are going against the teaching of the church, which is that adoration is for God alone.

The Catholic Catechism says:
"2628 Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the "King of Glory," respectful silence in the presence of the "ever greater" God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications."

So, in conclusion, if the church is founded upon Peter the "rock", how does this apply to Protestant churches today?

For those interested who would like additional Scripture references on this topic, here is a wonderful link:

50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy and the Papacy

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Friday, August 04, 2006

The Lord's Supper

People should not change denominations because it makes them feel good but because they feel the change will bring them closer to the truth and closer to God. I'm sure some may, in fact, do this... but it is not logical to do so.

I can attest to the fact that I am not becoming a Catholic based on emotion but rather because I find it logical. Everyone coming into the Catholic Church from an outside Christian faith, has at least one thing that they feel is difficult to accept about Catholic doctrine: the Real Presence, the Pope, Marian doctrines, Scripture and Tradition, and the authority of the Church, just to name a few.

I was taught and always believed that The Lord's Supper was merely symbolic. How could I ever have missed John 6:25-59?

25When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"
26Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
28Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
29Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
30So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
32Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
34"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."
35Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
41At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"
43"Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. 44"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.


Although there is a symbolic element, if this were merely symbolic, why would some of those who heard him speak turn away from him? He knew they were disturbed by his message and it would not have been logical for him to have allowed them to walk away if he were only talking symbolically.

On another note, if this act were only symbolic, why would it be so important for us to examine ourselves before partaking?

1 Corinthians 11:27

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

And how could we then be sinning against the "body and blood" of the Lord? This statement simply would not make sense if we did not take Christ literally.

It just seems all too clear that Christ is indeed present in the bread and wine during Holy Communion. I fully accept this on a logical level and I know with deeper growth, I will also accept this in my heart... This is my prayer:

Act of Desire
Jesus, My God and my all
my soul longs for You.
My heart yearns
to receive you in Holy Communion.
Come, Bread of Angels,
to nourish my soul and to rejoice in my heart.
Come most lovable Friend of my soul,
to enflame me with such love
that I may never again
be separated from You.

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