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A Catholic Apology (Part 1: Purgatory and Apostolic Succession)

A Catholic Apology

If you thought this was going to be an apology as in me saying, “sorry,” ya thought wrong. An apology, according to Webster’s first definition, is “a formal justification.” The Apology is actually a book by Plato, and is one of my favorite books. But it is really something of a court transcript of Socrates being anything but sorry. Apology is also the word that gives us “apologetics.” So if you’re looking for a confession here, sorry…this is not that. Also I have traditionally “blogged” in the past, but this piece is meant to be more academic than entertaining, but that should not disqualify it from being intriguing.

Since starting my blog, there have of course been those who disagree with me. But to another level, there are those who make a point to consistently vocalize their disagreement. This isn’t a bad thing, but it deserves some attention. Those of you who look at the comment threads will notice I am speaking of the blogger, Sentient Christian. After having extended dialogue with him, I asked him to provide a list of objections to Catholicism being Christian. He has given a list of 20 heresies from Catholicism, and the standard by which these are heretical is that they are contrary to the Scriptures KJV. So without further ado, here are the 20 Theses of Sentient Christian:

1Purgatory

2Apostolic succession

3Veneration/worship of mary

4so-called prayers to mary

5Transubstantiation

6Title of pope Vs Mathew 23v9,

7RCC=Whore of Babylon as in Revelation 17 KJV

8The Scapular

9The Rosary

10Graven images

11The second commandment deletion by RCC

12Final authority

13The Inquisition

14Mary as co-redeemer

15The catholic so-called priesthood

16The beginning of the RCC

17Final authority Vs RCC tradition

18Unity i.e. is Ecumenism a sin

19The Apocrypha

20Mary’s Children and Mary’s so-called perpetual virginity.

 

So just to be clear the debate at this point looks like this:

Me: Catholicism is Christian.

SC: No, it is a false religion

Me: Why?

SC: *These 20 reasons*

Me: How do these disqualify Catholicism from being Christian?

SC: They are contrary to Scripture KJV

Me: Ok let me respond…

And this is my response, so let’s go…

First of all, I will be using the KJV Bible as much as possible so as to be using the accepted authority of my opponent, and because the debate revolves around Catholic doctrine being contrary to this particular translation. Whether or not the KJV is the only authoritative Bible translation or if Sola Scriptura is true are other debates for another time, but for now I will play on his turf.

It should also be noted, as Sentient Christian pointed out to me, that the prologue to the KJV is explicitly Anti-Catholic. Here’s a link.

So by using the KJV as a Catholic, something that was published with the intent to unravel Catholic theology, I am embarking on something analogous to doctors using snake venom to heal people.

That being said, here goes.

  1. Purgatory

Now as you should recall, the charge here is that the teaching of Purgatory is contrary to Scripture KJV and therefore Catholicism is not compatible with Christianity. Purgatory, the word, is not found in Scripture KJV, true. But neither is the word Trinity, so we must look at concepts that point to its reality even if it’s not explicitly named, like we do with the Trinity.

Also it should be noted that since there are no verses that my opponent has applied to show the contrary nature of Purgatory, I can’t refute his objection. But I can make the positive case for a biblical basis for Purgatory.

Here are some passages organized by the order of appearance in the Scriptures KJV.

2 Maccabees 12 KJV

43 And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachmas of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection:

44 For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.

45 And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.

Matt. 5 KJV

26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Luke 12 KJV

59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.

1 Cor 3 KJV

8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Rev 21 KJV

27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

So before I start my defense, I should acknowledge this one assumption: that not every man has been perfectly sanctified at the time of their death. Should Sentient Christian disagree with this assumption, let him argue against it with the Scripture KJV. But for now, I will be using that as a given.

That being said, the passage in Revelation 21 tells us that nothing that “defileth” or “worketh abomination” will enter into Heaven (check the verses around it for context if you doubt me.) So (this is where my assumption applies) if we are not perfected at the time of death, we cannot enter into Heaven at the time of death. But if we’re Christians and can’t go to Heaven right away, where do we go? Not Hell. Then it must be some third place. Working backward through my list, let’s visit 1 Corinthians. We see men reaping what they sow in these passages with metaphors of farmers and builders and wages after death. Verse 15 is the one I want to direct your attention towards. It shows that even though our work be imperfect, we will still be saved, “yet so as by fire.” It is a common theme in Scripture to use fire as refining source. In passages like Zechariah 13:9, Psalm 66:10, Isaiah 48:10, 1 Peter 1:7, and Job 23:10 we see this language of God’s refining of his people to bring them to perfection. In this way Purgatory is understood as the purifying step before entrance into heaven, the outdoor shower outside of a beach house or the welcome mat on the front porch. And it will not be until we have been completely purified that we may enter (Matt 5:26, Luke 12:59.) I hope you can see a biblical basis for the concept of Purgatory from the Scripture KJV here.

Now you may have noticed that I included a passage from 2 Maccabees 12. You should also note that it is KJV from the original version in 1611. Now even if the authors back then did not include it as something inspired by God (well then you ask why did they even put it in their Bible?!) they included it as a historical record of what the people of God did. And here we see them giving sin offerings for the dead. Two things, this tells us that the Jews believed in a place post-death where sins still merited some kind of sacrifices. This can’t be place of eternal damnation (Hell) nor can it be the place of eternal life (Heaven) since Jesus tells us that we cannot travel between the two in Luke 16:26 KJV. The second thing it lets us in on is that Jews believed that they could make effective reconciliation for those who had died.

All that to say, the concept of Purgatory has been around since before Jesus, and is not some invention of the Catholic Church like some would like to think. Nor is it contrary to Scripture KJV, but rather in accord with it.

2. Apostolic Succession

In the absence of any verses presented contrary to the existence of an apostolic succession (the uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles through successive bishops,) I will show its compatibility with Scripture.

But first some good KJV Scripture to start my case.

Matthew 10:40 KJV

40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

Matthew 18:15-18 KJV

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Luke 10:16 KJV

16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

Luke 22:29-30 KJV

29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;

30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

John 17:8 KJV

8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

John 20:21 KJV

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Acts 1:20-26 KJV

16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.

26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Romans 10:15 KJV

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

2 Tim 2:1-2  KJV

1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

Hebrews 6:1-2 KJV

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

3 And this will we do, if God permit.

Ok well that was a lot. Hopefully you can already start to see where I’m going with this. But I’ll lay it out for you.

So in defending the compatibility of the apostolic succession, which as I’ve defined above is the uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles through successive bishops, the first part is to show that the Apostles had any kind of spiritual authority at all to pass on to their successors. This is pretty easy to find in the Gospels this idea, indeed the first passage I presented gives us Jesus telling the Twelve that those who receive them, receive Jesus himself, and then receive the one who sent Jesus (God the Father.) Receiving the message of the Twelve is a pretty big deal then, and even a more serious one when we look at how it is presented by Luke. Jesus says again to those he sends out in 10:16, “…and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.”

“Ok…,” you’re thinking, “we just have to like them. They don’t necessarily have any authority though.” Well that’s when the next few passages become distinctly relevant. In Luke 22, Jesus appoints the Twelve to a kingdom, where they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel. “Who are the twelve tribes of Israel at this point?” This is also to whom James addresses his epistle, and in context is understood to be symbolic of all Christians. Who knows? Maybe he got his metaphor from Jesus himself. But whoever they are (seems like all Christians) Jesus gives the 12 an authority over them “as my Father has appointed me.” Moving on to John, Jesus tells us that he has given the words to them, the same words that the Father gave to him. I won’t go into the significance of the word “logos” since that’s a Greek word and isn’t in the KJV of the Bible. But we see this concept conveyed again a few chapters later when Jesus appears to the Twelve after his Resurrection. He tells them that he is sending them out just as the Father sent him. He breathes on them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and then he tells them, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” The Pharisees would respond but “who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:7 KJV) Indeed it only follows “…that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins…(Mark 2:10 KJV)” because of the one who sent him, and if that same Son of Man sends the Twelve as the Father has sent him (which is repeated multiple times in the Gospels as I’ve shown,) it only makes sense that the Twelve would have that authority as well. …I hope this is clear; to me (and Catholics for millennia) it seems elementary.

But that’s only the first bit. I know. The second part is making the case by Scripture that this authority given the Apostles by Jesus which was given him by the Father can be passed on through the generations (the whole succession part of this discussion.)

I’ll start with the fact of the absence of any verse that the authority of God that Christ bestowed on the Twelve ends with their death. The point argued here is that the apostolic succession is contrary to Scripture, but unfortunately there are no Scriptures that tell of of something like “The apostles had the authority of God, but when they died the authority of God through them ended.” I could stop here. My case is done. By the standards of Scripture KJV-only, there is nothing contrary to the apostolic succession. But something feels incomplete about it, so I will try then to demonstrate the compatibility of the apostolic succession with Scripture KJV.

It seems only right that the place for this support would come right after Jesus leaves. In Acts 1: 20-26 the first thing we see the apostles do after the Ascension is figure out who is going to fill the “bishoprick” of Judas, who had since died. I have to be especially thankful to the KJV for this translation. Most translations I’ve read use the word “office” instead, but the KJV only makes its support of the episcopal workings of the church that much more explicit. It is key to note that the position (“bishoprick”) Judas was given as one of the Twelve (the significance of which I’ve argued for above) didn’t disappear with his sinful actions or his subsequent death. The bishoprick remains and is to be filled by another so “that he might take part of this ministry and apostleship.”

Need I really say more? But I can, so I will. In the passage from Hebrews above, we hear the author give a list of foundational doctrines, “repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” “What is this laying on of hands?” you ask. Well whatever it is we need to recognize that it gets lumped into a group with such Christian hallmarks such as repentance, faith, baptism, and resurrection. Whatever it is, it demands our attention and our adherence. There are two senses in which people have understood this phrase. In Acts 8:17, 19:6 this rite effects the infusion of the holy Spirit; in Acts 6:6, 13:3, 1 Tm 4:14, 5:22, 2 Tm 1:6 it is a means of conferring some ministry or mission in the early Christian community. The Catholic titles for these two understandings are confirmation and the holy orders respectively. Now it should be noted that the first implies the existence of the second, and the second is the point I wish to focus on. In the passage of Acts where Matthias is chosen to succeed Judas Iscariot, we see that it is not just the Twelve gathered there, there were 108 others gathered. And here we see the first division of clergy and lay. I’m bleeding into another point here that I will address later on, but it is important we see the need for the clergy here in this sense, and the clergy is shown to be the 12 and their successors. On to more things…

To be continued…because this takes awhile and I’m a full-time student with no spare time for Internet debates.

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