The Texan Lighthouse

I was going to write a post about this article at a later date, but since it’s starting to float around Biola’s social media circles, I figured why not now.

I stumbled across this article last weekend, and I was quite taken aback. The people who wrote it claim to be a Christian research center, and seem to make quite a killing by attacking other Christians.

Below is the article which was written attacking Biola University. Biola is where I attend and am majoring in Biblical and Theological Studies. Biola was founded in 1908, primarily as a response to liberal theology which was corroding Christian orthodoxy. It was also just ranked as the top university at which to study the Bible by thebestschools.org However, this research center seems to think it is heading in an opposite direction.

Apparently this research center has been trying to alert the world to the gradual demise of Biola University since it began over a decade ago. In this most recent warning cry, they call attention to the way our President, Dr. Barry Corey, spent his sabbatical: partially at a Benedictine Monastery. This action, on top of other things, should signal (according to them) the demise of Biola into “contemplative spirituality,” which (according to them) radiates with the “message that God is in everyone,” which implies (according to them) “Christ died for us in vain as man would not need a Savior separate from himself.”

While I admire their concern for the purity of the Christian gospel (that man has been separated from God by their sin, and that God sent his Son to provide the way of reconciliation to him), I think they misunderstand that which they so adamantly hate, and it seems they will use whatever methods, valid or invalid, to debunk those who think differently. One can immediately recognize that this article is committing the fallacy of “slippery slope.” I mean the title of the article almost spells it out.

But they also commit the fallacy of “the texas sharpshooter.” The texas sharpshooter is a blip in reasoning where one basically creates their own definitions to things and then uses them to prove their point. In this case, this looks like defining contemplative spirituality as well as something it is not. While contemplative theology does focus on silencing oneself to come to a posture where one can hear the voice of God if he is speaking, it does not assert that God is not uniquely and separately manifest in the Trinity. This also doesn’t necessarily assert that any of the divine is in men. While so some contemplatives do, contemplative spirituality can simply mean quieting oneself to hear God outside of oneself.

It also does not assert that the small share of the divine nature, that it communicated to men by the indwelling of the Spirit or the abiding of Christ, nor the image of God that is shared by all humans are somehow able to reconcile sinners to God. But the editors of Lighthouse Trails say that it does, and henceforth condemn it. This is analogous (in logical form) to someone claiming that “red lights mean, ‘go,’ and therefore those who obey red lights will go.” But red lights don’t mean, “go,” and one finds this out by reading what a driver’s manual or the Department of Transportation says.

While these false definitions might arise from research errors, I am lead to believe that the reason might be even more destructive.

A phenomenon I have noticed in my own experience, along with many other defenders of the Catholic faith, is what has been dubbed the “ABC Rule,” Anything But Catholic. If you wonder how this shows up, it manifests in comments like this from a student in my Theology 2 class last year, “Oh well I can’t believe in Purgatory. That’s what Catholics believe, and we know they’re wrong.” It also shows up in the immediate skepticism that shows up in Protestants when you mention Catholics believe or practice something. It’s actually pretty fun each semester to see the light bulb go on in my classmates’ heads when they either figure out or I tell them I’m Catholic. What’s not fun is the change in the value of my contributions to discussion before and after that lightbulb. The basic principle is that if something is accepted by Catholics, it must be subjected to a more intense skepticism and should warrant suspicion.

This is what you will find in this article. The appeal to the ABC Rule almost undergirds the entire condemnation of contemplative spirituality because of its link to monasteries.

But what is even more concerning than that is the comments by readers of the article. On the original Facebook post by Lighthouse, you can find ABC comments all over the place. And what is more frightening is that Biola alumni are making them.

As I always argue, if Catholics are admitted to Biola (which requires assent to it’s Doctrinal Statement), and Biola students are being taught that Catholics have a theology contrary to orthodox Christianity, then something is off. It is sad that an institution, that claims to be “interdenominational university” and asserts that the Church is comprised of all who truly believe in Christ, can still produce graduates who follow an ABC train of thought.

I think this is great opportunity for Biola and Dr. Corey to address this article and emphasize the good that can be gained by listening to the wisdom of others, both within and without the Church, and that Catholics who truly believe (just like Protestants who truly believe) should be treated as brothers and sisters in Christ; a truth which seems lost on some of Biola’s graduates, current students, and (dare I say) current professors. Such an action who underline Biola’s mantra this year of “All as One.”

At the end of their article, Lighthouse offers all those connected to Biola a free copy of their book on contemplative theology. In the spirit of hearing their side, I asked them for one and it’s in the mail. Maybe some of you feel that it might be nice to do the same. It’s free anyway, and maybe after reading it, you can send them a letter, like I will be doing, concerning all its errors if it uses the same kinds of arguments it does in this article.

If you hear anything of what I’m trying to say, hear this: don’t make up bad arguments just so that you can bash other brothers and sisters in the faith.

https://www.facebook.com/LighthouseTrailsResearch/posts/939859312838885

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Straw Dads, or A Catholic Apology (Part 3: “Call no man ‘father’”[Thesis 6])

My dad has taught me a lot over the years: how to shake a hand, how to assume the best of others and treat them with respect, how to know my place and earn the right to be heard, how to act with conviction, how to not run from conflict, how to follow Christ’s words when trying to resolve it, and to always try to build bridges and not walls. These are just a few of the valuable life lessons that come to mind when I think of what my dad has taught me over the years. Usually on medical releases and other such documents where I am required to designate our relationship, I write/check/bubble in “father.” But in Matthew 23:9, Jesus says not to call any man on this earth “father” because we only have one Father in heaven. So am I sinning when I call my biological dad, or any other man, my father?

For those of you following the blog, you know that I take time occasionally to address a list of objections from a King James-onlyist to Catholicism being a valid expression of Christianity. These objections are based on the belief that these doctrines/practices are contrary to the Bible (KJV). So far I have addressed Purgatory and Apostolic Succession in Part 1, and Ecumenism in Part 2. This time around the objection I’ll answer is sixth on his list: “Title of Pope vs Matthew 23v9.”

To be clear, the basis of this objection is that this part of the Catholic faith is contrary to the Bible in KJV. As with the past parts of this series, this means I will only be using the KJV when quoting Sacred Scripture.

So to parse out the basis of this common objection I will give you a little background. First of all, the title of “pope” comes from the Latin word “papa,” which is a cognate of the Greek word “pappas” which is child’s word for “father.” This objection is also commonly tied to objecting to the reference to priests as “Father ____” The reason why is that in Matthew 23, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and in verse 9 he says, “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (KJV)

To put it simply, Catholics are acting contrary to Jesus’ words in Mt. 23:9 when they call the successor of Peter, “pope,” or their priests, “Father ____,” and therefore this sinful and contrary to orthodox Christianity.

Before I launch into a defense of these titles, I have to point out that this is such a common objection that my reply will in no small way be influenced by the methodology of Catholic Answers (where I spent the past summer) in answering this. For their tract on the topic, you can click here. But this is also such a common objection that it sometimes gets used in a joking manner of speaking. Actually over Christmas, a couple of my Protestant friends were poking some good-humor at my transition and used this as a humorous example of polemics. I hope that by the end of this defense, you too will see why this objection is often used as a joke. However there are those who do hold that this objection is a valid contention in determining the orthodoxy of Catholicism, my KJV-only friend being one of them.

So finally, here’s an apology (defense).

Firstly, those who hold fast to this objection, hold to it because they take Jesus’ words literally. However, if they looked any further than this verse in the Bible, they would quickly run into some problems. For example, if I were to say that, “it’s raining cats and dogs,” you wouldn’t take my words literally because they were meant to be used as a figure of speech, an idiom in this case. But if you did take my words as literal, you would have a lot of trouble finding a climate on the planet earth where cats and dogs evaporated, condensed, and precipitated.

Not least of these problems, would be that it would rob us of the title we give to the first member of the Trinity, that being the Father. In theology proper, the Godhead is asserted to be “ineffable.” This means that the nature of God is indescribable in human terms. In light of this, God reveals himself in anthropological terms, like “Father” and “Son.” However, if the term “father” is robbed of its anthropological referent in the abolishment of biological “fathers,” then God would be quite inconsiderate giving us a title that has no meaning to us humans.

Now people who use this objection might say that Jesus was only condemning the non-literal use of the term “father” (which seems to be putting words in Jesus’ mouth since he never specifies), but this is still problematic since in Scripture we see multiple times where this title is used to refer to more than just God the Father or biological fathers. In Genesis 45:8, we meet Joseph as he is revealing himself to his brothers. Here he says, “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and ruler throughout the land of Egypt. (KJV)” So here have and Old Testament use of the term to refer to fatherhood as more than just biological, but in a special sense i.e. a mentoring relationship.

Furthermore, if we visit Job in Job 29:16, we hear him dialoguing with his friends saying, “I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.” (KJV) Here “father” is used to refer to the role of benefactor practiced by Job towards the poor. Referring to Eliakim in Isaiah 22:21-22, God says, “And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” (KJV) Again note the non-biological and non-divine referent of the title “father.” In this instance, it is used in reference to a steward of God’s people, not unlike the pope (vs. 22 look familiar?) In reference to the ascension of Elijah, we find Elisha in 2 Kings 2:12, “And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.” (KJV) Here we see fatherhood used in spiritual sense.

To recap, there are multiple instances in the Old Testament where the title “father” is used by God and faithful people of God to refer to someone who is neither God the Father nor a biological father.

But perhaps things changed in the New Testament. Maybe like the fulfillment of the law that Christ provided, he fulfilled our relationship to the Father in a way that we should no longer use the title to refer to anyone but him. However on a reading the New Testament, one must conclude that this is not the case.

In the first and minor sense, we see that “father” can refer to an ancestor and is not just limited to an immediate male parent in the New Testament, notably in reference to Jewish Heritage. For instance, in Acts and Romans where we hear of Father Abraham and Father Isaac from Stephen and Paul.

But even more, we see uses of the title “father” throughout the New Testament that don’t have any biological connection. I will only list a few examples here (needless to say, all KJV.)

In 1 Corinthians 4:15 Paul writes,“For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” If Paul, who being the writer of these “God-breathed” words, refers to himself as a father of the Corinthians having “begotten [them] through the gospel,” we might want to take a hint on the morality of calling other men “father.”

In 1 Timothy 5:1 Paul entreats Timothy saying, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren,” etc., thus comparing the relationships with in the church (primarily spiritual) to familial relationships, like father and son. Indeed Paul implies his fatherhood when addressing Timothy in his second letter. In 2 Timothy 1:2, Paul calls Timothy his son, and knowing the family history of Timothy from Acts, we can easily deduce that this cannot be taken in a literal and biological sense.

So ok. Enough about what Jesus was not saying. It seems pretty clear that from reading the rest of the Bible (KJV or otherwise) that this verse in Matthew 23 is by no means a kibosh on using the title “father” to refer to people other than God the Father. So what does it mean then? Jesus wasn’t just spewing hot air, so what was he saying?

Well like I referenced before, people use figures of speech to communicate. Jesus used figures of speech too, he’s most famous for talking in parables, which is a figure of speech, but he also used hyperbole as well. The best example is when he tells his followers to cut off their right hands if they cause them to sin. If this was literal, you might expect Jesus to command Peter to cut of his hand when he cuts off the guard’s ear, or to cut out his tongue. But he doesn’t. Why? Because it’s absurd to think that Jesus meant these words to be understood literally.

So we know that Jesus uses hyperbole, but what would make us think that Jesus is using hyperbole in this verse specifically? Let’s look at the surrounding context. Here is Matthew 23:1-12:

“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (KJV)

So if Jesus was speaking literally here, we also need to condemn the usage of terms like Rabbi (or teacher) and master. This poses similar problems like the ones I’ve already addressed when we encounter divinely inspired Scripture using these terms in places like Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, in which he uses “teacher” in 4:11, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” and “master” in 6:9, “And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” Seeing the usage of the other words supposedly condemned by Christ in Matthew 23 should key us into the fact that Jesus may have been saying something a little bit more nuanced.

The audience of Jesus in this passage is the Pharisees and the main point of his address here is to call out the pride and ambition in which they seek out prominence. This is not how the leaders of the people of God should act. Jesus tells us explicitly what godly leadership looks like. It looks like service. John’s account in chapter 13 shows us Jesus playing show and tell. Kneeling to wash the feet of his disciples of which he is Lord and Master, and then teaching them that this is the example they are to follow.

*As a side note, this practice of serving by washing each other’s feet is preserved within the Catholic Church. On Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, the church gathers and the priest washes the feet of the parishioners. In some larger parishes, some members will share in the service of washing the hands or feet of others. It is something truly beautiful to participate in, and you don’t have to be Catholic to join in.*

This is not the leadership of the Pharisees, however. As Jesus portrays it, their leadership looks like hypocrisy, greed, self-righteousness, lusting for high positions and titles, vain clothing, and power. This is the message of Jesus: humility. We are not to lust after these titles in themselves, even though they may properly exist and be used, but we should remember that to which they point. This is what Paul exhorts of the masters in Ephesus: to remember that they have a Master in heaven.

I have my earthly father. I have my primordial Father. I have my many spiritual fathers on earth, of which my dad and priest are two.

Bible 2018

Hey all,

For the year of 2018 I have committed to read through the Bible. Below I will post my schedule for January. If you would like to join a group I’ve created for this purpose, click here. I plan on spending 15 minutes a day reading. That’s a little more than 1% of a 24 hour day. So by the end of the year, I, and anyone who would like to join me, will have spent at least 3.65 days of the year reading God’s Word.

Please join me on this journey. As a tree soaking my roots in his Word, I would love to be a grove instead of a lone tree (Psalm 1).

Fast and Pray: The 500th Anniversary 

Friends and Family,

As some of you might be aware, October 31st, 2017 symbolically marks the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Some will be throwing a party in a spirit of “good riddance” (my old school will be throwing their annual carnival), some will look back and see a date of an unavoidable misfortune and tragedy for the Church, still others will look back and mourn an unnecessary schism that has resulted in bloodshed and centuries of prejudice among the children of God. 

I fall into the last category; and so for this significant day in the history of Church, and Western Civilization in general, I will be spending the day by fasting and praying as a way of remembrance for the centuries of conflict from battlefields and pulpits and classrooms. 

  1. I will be unplugging for the whole day (phone, watch, laptop)  
  2. I will be fasting from food all day. 
  3. I will be shoeless for the day. 
  4. I will be shaving my head. 

I lay all of this out publicly not for vanity’s sake, but to plead with you all about how seriously we need to be taking this blasphemous rift between Christians. I encourage you to offer up something during your day, whether it be social media, food, your comfort, or your appearance. And when we endure these small sufferings, we offer them up to Jesus, who carried The Cross alone and disconnected, hungry and thirsty, barefoot and beaten, scourged and disfigured. 

And to whom more fitting to offer these inconveniences than to the One who spent his last minutes in the Garden praying to the Father that those who followed him would be one as he and the Father are one, and that through this unity the world may now that the Father has sent the Son, and that he loves them even as he loves the Son (John 17:20-26).

So I ask you all to keep this schism on your mind and in your hearts during this significant day for Christians. I ask that you would offer up fasting and prayers for the Church, which is Christ, because it is Christ’s body. 

I beg you with the heart and words of The Apostle,“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:1-6) 

Where the Streets have Saint Names

Before the summer, my friends and I joked that I was “going home” to Catholic Land, and I’m not sure I really noticed how non-figurative our joke was until I got there. (I should mention that the first thing we did after getting to our hotel was walk to the Vatican and hear Pope Francis give a homily and pray the Angelus.)

Mostly I’ll be talking about Rome, because that’s where we spent the most time, but traveling through Italy I never realized how much is here to see. St. Benedict’s first monastery, Sienna (I thought it was in Spain somewhere), the bloody corporal, the conversion place of St. Augustine (didn’t click until here), St. Aquinas’ chair that he taught from, or St. Mark’s bones. And these are just some of the things I didn’t know about.

But before I get into some things that I want to highlight, I just want to mention this. In the spring I tried to go on a mission trip to Italy and was denied because I was Catholic. But man, what if I hadn’t been?! There is literally so much to work with here as far as evangelization. I think one of the most generic principles about spreading the gospel is knowing how to look for opportunities that, like doors, will naturally lead the conversation to Christ and the Faith. Sometimes we give the excuse that no opportunity came during the conversation or that we missed it and couldn’t circle back. Now these are pretty weak excuses basically anywhere in the world, but they’re downright petty if you’re in Rome. Rome: a city with streets named after famous Christians, crosses on all the high points, symbols of the Church on basically anything that isn’t a church itself, and filled with the pealing of church bells and people in habits patrolling the streets. What a place for the New Evangelization to take place. So many touchstones of Christianity that excuses pale.

*Bells for vigil mass are ringing as I’m writing this in the Cinque Terre 🙂

  1. I was caught off guard with how many things we saw in Rome were from Christian Rome, not Ancient pagan Rome. The years of Roman history that I had taken only covered the history of the ancient Romans and not anything after the Fall of Rome. So it was surprising to find as much if not more of the Eternal City’s attractions were from Christendom as were from the pagan empire. And much of what was from the pagan empire was preserved through the ages because of the Church. For example, the Senate building and the Parthenon were both preserved through the millennia because Catholics transformed their used into places of worship. 
  2. Following from the last surprise, what was fascinating and encouraging to see was the baptism of things pagan. In my junior year of high school, I read Bede’s account of the Church in England. A common event in the history is for pagan worship sites to be “baptized” into Christian Churches. We see this manifest in America almost exclusively in Christian traditions like the Christmas Tree, Easter eggs, and wedding rings, but not so much in actual places. Rome is full of examples. The most prominent is the Parthenon. For those that don’t know, the Parthenon was the temple in Ancient Rome that was dedicated to the worship of all the gods. So when I walked in I expected to see statues of deity around the room, not an altar with a crucifix over it. But low and behold, this ancient center of paganism is now a church with daily services held in it.
  3. Another thing noticeable around this city is the obelisks. These ancient landmarks for getting around the city have noticeably been topped with crosses. They are all over the place. Brought from Egypt, the obelisks in Rome were a sign of their dominion over the known world and were useful ways of knowing where you were in the city. And as if they were history textbooks themselves, they now show the dominion of Christ over the world and the paganism of these two civilizations by object and location.
  4. Where else in the world are there prayer chapels at transportation hubs? We had all kinds of transportation during our time there, including train and obviously airplane. In each major station or airport, there were multiple “prayer rooms.” Some of them even had schedules posted for daily group prayer, sometimes twice a day. What an awesome thing for these places to provide. I know so many people (ahem…my sisters) that stress out about traveling. What better remedy could there be for anxiety than a sacred place to talk to God right at the place of your departure.
  5. It’s 7:45am on a Wednesday, it’s our day to sleep in, and you know what woke me up that morning? Not toilets flushing, not a coffee machine, not girls arguing over time in the bathroom, but church bells. On a Wednesday. And they weren’t ringing every hour, but at 7:45 in the morning and at 8. First, what a blessing it is that the reception of our spiritual food is not limited to one day of the week. Second, what an awesome thing it is that the church in Italy (or at least Florence) has the “audacity” to ring loud bells from the center of the city throughout the work week to announce a daily service. I think if we did something like that in the states we’d probably get sued for a disturbance of the peace, a hate crime, and infringement of the first amendment.
  6. In relation to this, I loved that the main attractions of most of the cities we visited was a cathedral or basilica. Or even just the fact that there were way more churches in a town than what I’m used to. Take Assisi for example. It’s a very small quaint town, and on our walking tour through it, we stopped in five churches (and not just small ones). And if you know the size of Assisi, that’s a lot per capita, and what’s more is that there were more than five other steeples we didn’t grace with our presence (vis versa if we want to be real here) that were visible over the town.

In a solemn state of mind, reflecting on the prominence of the churches in Assisi (or Italy at large) makes me a little melancholy. If you ever drive down Central Ave in Phoenix AZ, you can see the same number of churches in Assisi on one street if you drive but 30 seconds. However instead of differentiating the buildings by their individual names, you look to the genus denoted on their sign so you can categorize it in the great taxonomy of denominations.

And all this external stuff is great. As to the hearts of the individual parishioners that I saw at daily mass in Monterosso or elsewhere, I can’t speak of their personal walk with God. I’ve heard for years that Europe is overrun with modernism and very secular, and even that the European Christians are as such. But what I do know, is that for a good fire, one needs a fireplace. And Italy is an amazing fireplace.

An Ecumenical Calculus, or A Catholic Apology (Part 2: Ecumenism [Thesis 18])

So this one is for the math nerds (I mean it’s for everyone, but I think this is a fun approach).

If you follow the stream of posts on this blog (even if they’ve been sporadic as of late) you’ll remember I posted a bit back in March: A Catholic Apology (Part 1: Purgatory and Apostolic Succession). It was labeled “Part 1” because I was answering the first two of 20 objections to Catholics being Christians from a Protestant blogger. I want to tackle the 18th objection, “Unity i.e. Ecumenism is a sin.” The next ones I’ll write about are his points on Mary.

Ok, but to the point. I just have to say I’m interested in seeing the response to this because the main arguments I’m going to use for church unity I have pretty much come up with on my own. Maybe I’m not the the first one to use them, and it’s just a “great minds think alike” situation, but if I knew that then me making this point would be irrelevant. ANYWAY this post is divided into two parts: the biblical mandate for Christian Unity, and my arguments for church unity (which I’ll call the ontological mandate for church unity).


First to define ecumenism. Ecumenism is (per Webster): ecumenical principles and practices especially as shown among religious groups (such as Christian denominations.) Of course we should never define a term with itself so the definition of ecumenical is:

  • a :  of, relating to, or representing the whole of a body of churches
  • b :  promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation

Ok so now that we’ve go that out of the way, my Protestant friend here is opposed to ecumenism, even calls it a sin, and his main contention as far as biblical support goes is from 2 John 9-11 which reads (in the KJV for his sake):

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

So what do we have here? We see that John says that there are those that do not abide in the doctrine of Christ, and as believers we are not to enter them into our house (contextually a cultural sign of communion) or to wish them God speed (the religious equivalent of “good luck.”)

So unity with false teachers is a sin. Seems pretty clear. However this point begs the question of this whole discussion, are Catholics Christian or not? We aren’t given a list in 2 John of who those false teachers are. But regardless, let’s apply this objection to unity to the two possible conclusions of our discussion.

  1. If Catholics ARE NOT Christians (so they are some of those false teachers,) the unity being sought with them is not in the pursuit of ecumenism, because ecumenism (as defined above) is unity within Christian Churches. So to recap, pursuing unity with Catholics (assuming they aren’t Christians) would not be ecumenism, making 2 John 9-11 completely irrelevant in condemning ecumenism in this scenario.
  2. If Catholics ARE Christians, seeking unity with them would fall under ecumenism, but it would also mean that they are not false teachers, because they do abide “in the doctrine of Christ,” again making this verse irrelevant to the conversation at hand.

So the question is still to be answered for my friend of course, whether or not Catholics are Christians, but we can know that whatever the result, the virtues of ecumenism are completely unaffected by it.


The Biblical Mandate:

But maybe you have been wondering, why pursue ecumenism in the first place? Can’t we just be content in our multitude of different churches as long as we worship the same God? I think the answer to that question is an obvious, “NO.” So first, let’s see what Scripture has to say about it.

I think the best exposition of the biblical mandate for unity is found in Peter Kreeft’s new book: Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn from Each Other? In chapter 4, Dr. Kreeft addresses five lies in the statement, “Of course it would be nice if we all agreed, but we just don’t, and can’t.” The first four lies revolve around the words “Of course,” “would be,” “don’t,” and, “can’t.” The fifth lie, he says, is that,

“it is not ‘nice’, it is necessary…What does God think of our divisions? Find out. How? It’s easy. He told us. Read His Book. Read–and pray, if you dare–John 17:11, 21-23, and pray about 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, not just because I say so, not to find out what I think, but to find out what God thinks and says about the whole point of this book…”

“…Do it. Actually do it–now, before you read another paragraph. Don’t just think about it–do it…Put down this book and read the Book first. Reread Christ’s prayer in John 17 and hear not just the concepts but the passion. Reread 1 Corinthians 1 and hear Paul’s passion. See whether he has any tolerance at all for denominationalism. Then read Psalm 133:1; Romans 15:5-7; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 3:1-14: Philippians 1:27; 2:2, 5; 4:2; and 1 Peter 3:8; 4:1. And if you don’t have a Bible, go steal one.”

Luckily for you, if you’re reading this, you’re online and don’t have to steal a Bible you can just click the link to see the Bible texts there. There is no doubt that there is a biblical mandate for church unity.

However, a lot of people differ over what the degree and nature of this unity is. Dr. Kreeft spends a lot of his book working that out in what I think is a beautiful and systematic way, so I highly recommend you check it out. But I want to make some claims about the degree and nature of church unity with my own arguments, or the ontological mandate, as I’m going to call it.


The Ontological Mandate:

Ok so this is the bit for the math fans out there. I’m calling it An Ecumenical Calculus. And since it is a bit more like math than prose, I’m going to do my best to put it proof form like those awesome geometry problems from high school. [side note: it’s been two years since I tested out of college calculus, so feel free to call me out if my equations don’t work].

Let’s first take the orthodox assertion that the Trinity is unified as One, or the Godhead experiences unity. Let’s designate the degree of unity that the Trinity experiences is Unity to the x degree. (I’ll just put this here so we’re thorough, but the different degrees of unity exist: the unity of me to my countrymen, the unity of me and my family, the unity of me and [fingers crossed] my future spouse). So now we have unity^x = the unity of the Trinity.

Now working from the orthodox assertion in the Nicene Creed that there is “One church,” we could designate the degree of unity of the members in the Church is Unity to the y degree. So now we have unity^y = the unity of the Church

Now to reconcile these.

Of all the verses posited above in the Biblical Mandate, I think John 17:22 addresses this mathematical problem most fittingly. Christ prays to the Father about his followers, “…that they may be one, as we are one.” This seems to balance our equation, because x, the degree of the Trinity’s unity (of which the Father and Son experience), is prayed for the Church that experiences the degree of y.

So here we see x=y. And correct me if I’m wrong, but with any equation you can add a common base. And if the concept of unity (which needs some kind of degree inherently) is added as our common base, then we get unity^x=unity^y. Which translated means that the Trinity and the Church experience the greatest degree of oneness possible. Perhaps they are different in type since one is an uncreated unity and the other is derivative, but both are known to be “One” in the Creeds, in the Bible, and most importantly by Christ, because he only has one body, his Church.

Damn.

This seems pretty unbelievable, and especially considering the past 500 years; both Protestants and Catholics warring against each other, in actual carnage or from the pulpits. So let’s try to tame this seemingly absurd equation down. Let’s appeal to Philippians 2:10-11 and say that this unity is a prophecy of an eschatological kumbayah instead of a present reality. However a reference to “all knees bowing and tongues confessing Jesus Christ as Lord” in the future doesn’t invalidate the existence of a unity of believers who do profess that in the present day. Indeed in the first part of John 17:22 Christ says, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one…” Seems to me that Christ has already given us at least this tool to become one. He’s also given us the Bible, the Apostles, also the Holy Spirit (specially working through the other two) all to be of one mind in Christ Jesus. The abundance of supernatural gifts directed towards unifying believers seems to suggest that the end of these means is on this side of the veil. Why would someone give you a shovel if you weren’t supposed to use it?

But it doesn’t stop here.

Maybe you’ve been convinced that we are to work towards unity because Christ calls for it and gave us the tools for it, but what kind of unity is being aimed at here? A lot of Protestant ecclesiology claims that this is an invisible unity, and how could they do anything more given their history and origins? But Catholics and Orthodox claim that this invisible unity exists along with a visible church unity. This can be seen that even though the Orthodox split, they remained as one in theology and practice. How can they make such claims?!

Well here is my argument for a visibly unified church. It follows Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God. And since ontological arguments work from something’s nature, like the nature of God, let’s work within the nature of the Church that we’ve already established: the church unity Christ prays for is of the greatest possible degree and that all three Christian traditions assent to the existence of an invisibly unified Church at minimum.

Ontological Argument for the Visibility of the Church

  1. The Church unity that Christ prays for is a unity than which nothing greater can be conceived
  2. Orthodoxy assents to an invisibly unified church
  3. Therefore a unity than which nothing greater can be conceived exists in the invisibly unified church
  4. It is greater to be unified than not to be unified
  5. Therefore, if the Church is unified only in the invisible sense, then Church unity is not as great as it could be (it isn’t a unity than which nothing greater can be conceived)
  6. But the Church unity that Christ prays for is a unity than which nothing greater can be conceived
  7. Therefore the Church unity that Christ prays for is not only an invisible unity
  8. Therefore the Church unity that Christ prays for is includes a visible unity

I think that this is a pretty strong argument for the visible unity of the church. And to accept this argument doesn’t mean that you have to hold that visible unity is better than invisible unity, simply that something without visible unity is lacking something in the department of unity.

Or maybe I’ve made an error in my calculations and you’ve spotted it, let me know!

Also a fun note: the picture on A Catholic Apology (Part 1) is The Delivery of the Keys by Perugino and I got to see the actual thing in the Sistine Chapel last week! This photo is of the Basilica of St. Francis, who is considered one of the first ecumenists.

Ciao from Italy!

In the Meantime: Sophomore Year of College 2016-2017

I stopped blogging last fall cuz life got nuts. I hope that this isn’t the case for everybody, but I think I’ve noticed a pattern in how I approach semesters. The progression of mental states is something like this:

  1. Determination
  2. Satisfaction
  3. Complacency
  4. Panic
  5. Surrender
  6. Back to Determination during the break.

If that list doesn’t make sense here’s some photos from when my friend convinced me to pose in what looked to be a frozen lake.

But I’m feeling the need (and I also now have the time) to jump back into it. So I’m already planning blog posts on Mary, Ecumenism, and probably a bit about when I travel to Italy later this month. But as always I mainly want answer questions that readers have or discuss topics that you want to hear about.

I also have the rest of the theses from my KJV-only friend to answer, so if I don’t get questions, I’m just gonna work on those.

But I just wanted to give a little recap of what’s been going on so far since I last posted. So here we go.


So I mentioned in On Being the Elephant that I had to stop writing until I found a Catholic community of people to support me…more or less. In light of that I actually went and started a Catholic Club at my University. Basically the need I saw was that there are about 90 Catholic students at Biola, but of the 5-6 that I’ve met, they also only know about 2-3 others. At a school of 4,000, that not a lot for a common interest that very communally oriented to begin with.

The club’s name is Ex Aqua (Latin for “out of water”) and that came out of feeling a bit like a fish out of water, because I know belong to the largest group of Christians out there, but at Biola it’s almost flipped. It’s also symbolic of being baptized. The club has three purposes:

  1. To foster a community of Catholic students at Biola,
  2. To encourage each other to be positive representatives of the Catholic faith at Biola and beyond,
  3. To introduce the Catholic voice to the theological discussion at Biola.

The group is really open to everyone (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant), we only ask that those who join have a desire to work towards a greater unity of Christian brethren. The club has a few members so far, but we’ve got a long way to go, so if you’re a Biola student that would be interested in joining, we’d love to welcome you in (shameless self-plug). So anyway that was what I was up to in January.

Sitting at a booth promoting this club, someone came up and put their name down and let me know that she was leading a mission trip to Italy in the summer through the school. This piqued my interest, since as you should know I want to show Christ at the center of the Church to Protestants and nominal Catholics alike, and Europe is full of nominals (or so I’ve heard). So I applied and interviewed for it. But…

Turns out the trip to Italy was partnered through Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ). And they don’t consider Catholics to be Christians. So I got told by Biola that I could go on a mission to East Africa or Macedonia, but I couldn’t go on a gospel proclamation trip in Italy since I believe in “a different gospel.” I decided not to go on another trip, because I didn’t feel like I was being called to them like I was Italy.

Fortunately later in March, the American contacts for Cru came to Biola for our annual Mission’s Conference. I got the chance to sit down for about 2 hours with them and chat about their reasons, but we also chatted about just generic differences between Catholics and Protestants. When it got to the point that the wife (an ex-Catholic) informed me that the Church was trying to get Mary officially placed as a goddess, I knew that this wasn’t going to go anywhere good. It shocks me that even the largest missionary organizations can have hold such a slanderous view of the Church. I think this points to the need for truth in everything even from a pragmatic view, and here’s why. We all know missionaries make a lot of money in their profession…I’m kidding. Given the limited resources that missions have, it seems imperative that those resources (people, money, relief supplies, Bibles, tracts, etc.) be effectively applied. If we start sending missionaries to different churches because we (wrongly, or maybe just with bad information…like Mary as a deity) believe that they aren’t saved, then we’re wasting time and resources on infighting. Of course the constant reminder of the gospel to those who already believe is essential to the mission of the Church, but that is not what we’re talking about when we say to brothers, “If you stay in your church, you’re not going to be saved. Come to my church.” That’s just the paramount manifestation of the spirit of schism.

I’m really interested to hear how the mission went for the Biola team since I know they didn’t have that same mindset of “sheep-stealing.” But this freed up my summer and I looked into possible internships for the summer. Catholic Answers doesn’t have an internship program, but I emailed them anyway asking if they had need of college student for the summer.

Around this time, I also switched majors from Philosophy to Biblical and Theological Studies. I’m not sure about this, but I’m pretty sure I’m the first Catholic B&TS major at Biola. So it should be really interesting to see how it goes. I’m taking Ecclesiology in the fall so that should be fun. I figured that I was doing enough theological study in my free time to just have answers for my friends, that I should just make my hobby my major. I also just want to build bridges between Catholics and Protestants, and as I’ve been telling people, you have to know both riverbanks to build a bridge.

Just after this I got offered the opportunity to speak at a chapel at Biola. (I’ll post the video on here when it gets published). I made up my mind to talk about the brokenness I’ve experienced in the Church but also the hope of reunion that we can hold onto. I probably spent 12 hours preparing that 7 minute speech. Probably 6 out of my own anxiety, and 6 from trying to edit it down to fit the time and content requirements. I say content requirements because the people in charge of chapel said that I could name Cru in my speech. Why? Because they had too close of a relationship with Biola. I didn’t know that testimonials could get so political, but I guess I was wrong. So instead I had to say, “missions organization” and I feared that that would make people think SMU had excluded me, and apparently some people took it that way unfortunately. But I guess that’s the price paid.

Two days after that I was in invited (with a handful of other students) to attend a luncheon with the Board of Trustees. While there I actually got to chat with Biola’s President for about 20 min about my time at Biola as a Catholic. And I talked with his speechwriter, for about another hour. Needless to say I’m really excited to see what happens this next year with denominational diversity at Biola, especially since October marks the 500th Anniversary of the 95 Theses sparking the Reformation.

But that leads to now, and I get to spend the summer working at Catholic Answers, who’s website, get this, is Catholic.com. But they’re the second most visited Catholic site other than the Vatican, and is my dream place to work in the future. I have been blessed beyond my imagination with what I have going this summer, and that time includes a lot of space for studying and blogging. So get ready for more. And as always I’ll try to keep the next ones under 1000 words.

Sidenote: I’m gonna start using Instagram to promote this blog more. So if you’re on Insta go give @recapturingcatholicism

Have an awesome summer!

The First Step to Disagreement

*Posted from an earlier personal FB post*

[If you don’t want to read the entire thing, just read the last two lines. But this is why I am at Biola, and plan on staying]

It’s no secret that we often find out that something we disagree with isn’t all that we thought it to be. We often find ourselves seeing our opponent as something they are not. For example, I used to think that everyone who was pro-choice was pro-abortion, as if they thought abortion was a good thing. Obviously that’s not really the case.

In learning how to debate, one of the first steps I was told to take was to establish a value that I am trying to uphold. And of course the opponent was to do the same. If we think that to discuss a certain issue necessitates that we have identical or directly opposing values, then we get ourselves into a mindset that sets up a straw man for the opponent. If I think that my value on the abortion issue is life, and therefore my opponents value is death (directly opposing), then I’m claiming something absurd. These death advocates would not be protesting police brutality and the death penalty if they were really death advocates. Instead the values of a pro-life opponent are not directly opposite of life. Their value is choice, thus the title “pro-choice.” The assumption that just because they’re pro-choice means they’re “pro-abortion” or “pro-death” is not only absurd, it sets up a straw man that is easy to dismiss and thus logically fallacious.

One of the first steps in argumentation or critical thinking is to hear your opponent’s contention. And not just audibly hear it, but to let it stand as an objection that is to be answered. And not just to let it stand, but to interpret what they’re saying in the strongest possible sense. St. Thomas Aquinas is famous for his argumentation not because he could argue his point well, but because he could argue his opponents’ points well, and sometimes better than they could. It is in refuting strong arguments that strong arguments become relevant and significant. We sharpen iron with iron, not cheese.

The first step to disagreement is then to understand what you are disagreeing about. As a general rule, this understanding is not obtained by learning about an opponent from an ally of yours, except in the case of good reasoners i.e. Thomas Aquinas who could even make his opponent’s case better. But often times, in arguing against something, we paint them as disreputable, irrelevant, or crazy. This type of polemic is a complete disservice to those wanting to learn about a position other than their own. That is why I always say to go to the person you disagree with to figure out what you disagree about.

If we don’t confront an opponent head on, we can start to distort other positions while we fester in our own little bubbles and echo chambers. This is why gossip and slander is so dangerous. I don’t know if anyone remembers the Veggie Tales superhero LarryBoy, but one of the villains he faces is the Rumor Weed. He is eventually victorious because the rumor is cut off at the root by talking to the person that the rumor was about. Archibald was not actually a robot with batteries that needed to be recharged. SPOILERS!!!

What’s my point? I do have a point, I promise, and it relates to a systematic theology textbook that all of Biola uses. But to set this up, I will quote Fr. Fulton Sheen, “There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing. These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics “adore statues”; because they “put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God”; because they say “indulgence is a permission to commit sin”; because the Pope “is a Fascist”; because the “Church is the defender of Capitalism.” If the Church taught or believed any one of these things it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth. As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.” I experience this on a daily level being a convert to the Catholic Church. And typically I try to assume the best about where these misperceptions come from: the uneducated, wive’s tales, emotionally driven polemics, proselytization, and outrage mongering. Rarely do I find misrepresentations among the thoughtful people who can do their research (not to say that that means there’s no disagreement).

But unfortunately the venerated Wayne Grudem does give such a misperception. Not in a heated sermon or anything, no. His false witness comes in his Systematic Theology textbook. Further this grave error is not a negative spin of a Catholic doctrine or anything, it’s a complete ignorance of it. What I am speaking of is in chapter 24 of his Systematic Theology on Sin. In section 4 he addresses the Catholic division of sin into “venial” and “mortal” sin. True. Catholicism makes this divide. He then goes on to define as the Catholic teaching of sin as such, “a venial sin can be forgiven, but often after punishments in this life or in Purgatory (after death, but before entrance into heaven). A mortal sin is a sin that causes spiritual death and cannot be forgiven; it excludes people from the kingdom of God.” And he doesn’t just give a passing definition of mortal sin, he elaborates on this definition as a premise for his next few paragraphs and goes even deeper in his footnote (number 22 if you want to look it up). False. Catholicism teaches that the only sin that is unforgivable is the sin of impenitence. Don’t believe me? Let me take you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In paragraph 1855 of the CCC, the effectual nature of mortal and venial sin are defined as such: “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.” Nowhere here do we see anything about mortal sin being unforgivable, but one could extrapolate the “turns man away from God” as leading to “[excluding] people from the kingdom of God.” However this would mean that this person would have committed this mortal sin and continued in it without repenting, which would mean that a mortal sin on its own is not enough to merit eternal damnation. And that is why the CCC states in 1864 that, “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.”

I don’t know how to put this, but Grudem could have taken at least five minutes to check the Catholic teaching on sin. There’s no excuse for this given that the CCC is public domain on the internet and the section on sin is clearly labeled “THE GRAVITY OF SIN: MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN.” Such an overlooking might be understandably acceptable in a blog, live interview, or an impassioned sermon. But for this evangelical titan to bear false witness in his systematic theology textbook, it is not only shameful, but dangerous as well. It scares me to think of all the people who have read this book, as a Biola student or otherwise, and have come out thinking that their separated brethren limit the mercy of God and dam up the grace flowing from the crucifixion, and how much further this separates the church in its many divisions in a year that marks the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation.

The first step to disagreement is to know what you disagree with, not the why, the what. Once the what is understood, then we can move on to the why. 

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.