Posted in Blog Posts

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.

Posted in Blog Posts, My Transition

On Being the Elephant

One of the attributes of America that I find intriguing is the fascination in being “different,” “hipster” if you will. I don’t think that this is different from most people; I think we all have an inherent and flawed fascination with the novel, the new, the modern. It accounts for the success of advertising and its captive consumer culture. I remember (with a smirk) the days when I played competitive soccer and Nike would come out with new colors for the same model cleats every two months or so, at which point the old colors (although no different in make) would drop $40 in price. It’s hilarious.

All this to say, I wonder if we give being different and unique too much hype. To continue with the cleats analogy, some of the guys wearing old Adidas Copas (ancient bare bones cleats) were just as good as those wearing the new Nike Mercurials with all the bells and whistles.

They’re both still cleats. Yes, there are some differences but they are both still soccer cleats. This is their essential attribute and nature. The fact that one is more flashy and novel is of no practical consequence. They’re both still soccer cleats

My point is, being new and different is not all it’s cracked up to be. Going into this semester, I have to wonder if I was riding off of that hype. A rare Catholic in a sea of evangelicals at Biola University. I fell victim to the appeal of being different. And coming to the end of the semester I find myself completely drained.

I was blessed with a supportive community this summer at Younglife that accepted my Christianity as valid, and time spent with them was refreshing and a much needed retreat from a pretty rough year before that. It’s communities like this that give us the support and environment any human needs to first be themselves and then to refine.

This was the energy I was riding into the school year, and now that wave has come to the shore and nothing but foam remains.

I’ve been isolated before, different than those around me. I played soccer with non-Christians, been to classes at a secular college, so I know what means to be a religious minority. But in cases like that I had Christian friends to rely on, or to pass people on to if they had a question I couldn’t answer, and to support me in times where I felt alone. I wasn’t the only Christian people knew. I didn’t carry the sole weight of exemplifying and explaining the Christian faith to the people I knew.

Things are a little different now. While I am in an almost exclusively Christian community at Biola, I am one of the only Catholics I know. According to the school’s statistics, there are about 90 Catholics in our 4,000 undergraduate school; however since the environment is predominately Protestant, not a lot of Catholics feel comfortable identifying as such publicly. I’m one of 2 that has, and I only know 3 other Catholics beside myself. Which is pretty sad if you think about it. It’s very similar to the early Christians hiding in the catacombs during the Roman persecution.

This would be one thing. But since I don’t come from a Catholic background, I don’t have friends back home I can call for help, a family to lean on and go to mass with, or years of knowledge about Catholicism to draw on. In someways I feel like St. Peter, a disciple of Jesus for a short time and then called before the Sanhedrin to be questioned. An illiterate (most likely) fisherman called before an intimidating religious court. I can only pray that the Spirit would grace my witness as it did Peter’s.

It truly is a shame and I think the reality of my minority experience is so out of sync with the reality outside of my life. There are approximately 1.3 billion Catholics in the world, and that makes up a majority of the world’s Christians. But even though my particular church might be made up of a billion, I could count those with whom I actually have a relationship on my ten fingers.

Being the Elephant in the room has been too exhausting for me to do on my own. It’s why I haven’t kept up my blog as vigorously; and until I find a group that can support me, I won’t be posting on the blog.

But before I disappear I have a few things to ask of you, my reader. If you are a Catholic reading this, please pray for the Catholics at Biola, that we might be set free from the fear we live in, and also for the Protestants here that they would see the value in appreciating the first 75% of their Christian history.

If you are a Protestant reading this, my appeal is to your emotions (and I know that’s not a valid appeal, and as a philosophy major this makes me cringe). I hope you can see the real, individual pain that the division of church causes in people’s lives, like myself. It is not just some congregational rivalry; it affects people on a personal level. Please work towards reconciliation both theologically and relationally. One of the really easy ways to do this is to stop using the language of “Christian and Catholic” when you really mean “Protestant and Catholic” (unless of course you really do mean to draw a line, in which case, please use the language of your conviction).

I’ll take this last moment to present a dilemma I find with Protestant culture (and this is an example from Biola, but it is definitely applicable to my experience before college).

Catholics, in the Protestant eye, can often be lumped alongside Mormons, in so far as good works being at least a factor in justification, as religious people that claim to be Christians, but in fact aren’t…and therefore are not saved. I’ve had this said to my face if you doubt that this happens. Biola, my university, has a student mission called EMI (Evangelical Mormon Interactions.) This provides an opportunity for Evangelical Christians and Mormons to hangout and (I’m assuming this happens because I’ve never been involved) witness to their faith. I know that growing up when Mormons would knock on our door, we would not turn them away, but invite them to discuss faith and try to help them see the true Christian gospel.

My dilemma is this: if we, Catholics, are as lost as Mormons, why is the reaction to the Catholic Church scorn and condemnation instead of the outreach and concern extended to Mormons. If we are both lost, reach out to both of us. Our responsibility of evangelism is to all, not just to the ones we choose. And if we are not lost, then why is there scorn and condemnation?

This is the dilemma I will end with. Perhaps I will write again sometime, but I simply can’t keep this up.

Peace be with you,

A brother in Christ.

Posted in Blog Posts

The Trinity of Scarecrows

I know I haven’t posted in a few weeks; part of that is due to college, but it’s also partially due to talking with friends about Catholicism face-to-face. And that is gonna be what this post is about. And I think that this post applies to anyone who is looking to converse with anyone of conflicting beliefs, even if you’re not Catholic.

Two weeks ago, I had an appointment with the Spiritual Direction program that is offered at my university and that I take part in. It’s like Christian counseling but in like Flintstone-vitamin-potency, to where it’s mainly you vocally processing your life to a second person. I’ve been struggling in recent weeks with doubts about my capacity to care for people’s emotions, and it took verbalizing this to realize the rut I was slipping into.

When I was 15, my faith really became my own while serving at a Younglife camp; and the switch was not that I was some rebellious, angsty sinner that rejected God, but that I was a calloused, Pharisee-like sinner that rejected the ones that God loves. At that camp that I realized I had been ignored the love aspect of the gospel which is inseparable with the truth aspect. I realized that in the past year or so I have been negligibly falling back into that partial gospel-view I used to hold. Part of this is due to the fact that I am very analytical by nature (which isn’t a bad thing necessarily) and due to my circumstances I have let that part of me run rampant. In transitioning to Catholicism, the major changes are intellectual ones and not so much different heart orientations, so naturally my focus has been on the truth-aspect of the gospel for the past year or so. Indeed this blog is more driven towards the truth-aspect by nature.

Something my sponsor has encouraged me to do whenever my Catholic-adverse environment comes up is “to just love people.” Confession: I failed at that. In Andrew’s ideal world, everyone could recognize logic as supreme. But this is not the world that I’m in, nor is it the ideal world. The ideal world would reflect our God, who holds truth and love in perfect balance.

So these past weeks I have been trying to reorient myself to implement love and truth in my living out of the gospel.

In doing so, I have come across a few things; three for now. We will call them the Trinity of Scarecrows for now.

1-Scarecrows stand in one spot. They’re stuck in the ground. 

These people could be called robots in a sense. They maintain a set position and continue on that track with no regard to others’ humanity. These are the people who read Nietzsche and put his thoughts on force over reason into practice. I’ve experienced these people online (and somehow in real life) and you can tell their not interested in convincing a human being of their beliefs, but you rather force you to accept their robotic dominance.

In contrast to this behavior, I would encourage that we realize that those we are trying to convince are humans and not objects to bend to our will so that a sense of dominance can boost our ego. Rather, if we do convince someone of a truth, our reaction should not be that of triumph, but of joy and brotherly love as we welcome another into the dynamic journey of truth of which we ourselves are a part.

2-Scarecrows don’t have minds. To borrow the trope from the Wizard of Oz, scarecrows just don’t have intellectual capacities. In this context I don’t mean to take the metaphor that far, but just to say that scarecrows don’t have intellectual humility; meaning that they are not open to thinking of their own beliefs as beliefs, but as absolute truth.

In relation to the first point, an attribute of this one is stubbornness. However, the source of such a characteristic in this case is not from a robotic, domineering view of people, but rather a pride that isn’t willing to view oneself as human. This stubbornness comes from an unwillingness to examine one’s beliefs, to admit that one doesn’t understand the full picture on their own, to admit they could be wrong.

I would encourage these people to see that whatever they might believe might have strong rationale behind it, but that there is a slight possibility that they could be wrong. Even I must admit that I don’t know everything, and that is why I encourage people to ask me questions on this blog, because it will further refine my understanding (and hopefully others’) of the truth.

3-Scarecrows are straw men. Seems redundant, but in conversation there is this concept called the “straw man.” Essentially it means that one puts forth the argument of his opponent in an insufficient or inaccurate manner and then disproves it to demonstrate his opponent is in the wrong. Here are some examples I have heard recently about Catholicism:

1-The Catholic Church claims that the pope is infallible.

  Many popes were corrupt and sinful.

  Being corrupt and sinful makes someone fallible.

  Therefore the Catholic Church is wrong.

2- The Catholic Church says that contraception is wrong because it would stop the physical growth of the kingdom.

    We know that Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual one and therefore is grown spiritually.

    Therefore there is no reason to say that contraception is wrong and thus the Catholic Church is wrong.

In the first example, the first two statements are true, but the third is proposing a definition of “infallible” that the Catholic Church doesn’t use. When the Catholic Church says that popes are infallible, they do not claim that the pope is impeccable. We are all sinners, even the pope. So this is an example of a straw man (and equivocation) argument that is very popular.

In the second example, the argument presumes the reason that the Catholic Church gives for condemning contraceptives. Now this argument is very easily shot down because it is a pretty bad one. However, this is not the argument that the Catholic Church uses and so the whole argument is invalid. The contraceptive argument is much more philosophical and relies on the concept of natural law, not this horrible presumed one. I heard this argument from my Old Testament professor last week. It is truly a shame that such straw man arguments that are supposed to represent the Catholic Church are taught to the thousands at this university.

I would recommend that, when arguing for something with which we disagree, we use the arguments our opponent would use.

So watch out for scarecrows this Halloween and in all of life.

Posted in Blog Posts

We Demand an Answer

So as promised, this week’s post is about verses that had been “glossed over” when I was a Protestant. Now to before I started listing these, I should preface my intent a little bit.

In putting forth these verses, I am not doing these things:

  1. Proof texting-saying this one verse proves something wrong and the Catholic Church right in its teaching.
  2. Saying that Protestants reject these verses outright as non-authoritative.
  3. Saying that the Bible contradicts itself.

My intent here is to put forth verses that I have stumbled across in the past year or so, that I had never heard answers to at school, bible study, or church growing up. And it is not that they were never read or hidden (through high school we read all of the New Testament and most of the Old), but that these were never expounded on or explained, regardless of the glaring necessity that they be addressed to justify a Protestant understanding of scripture. So…here we go.

James 2:24 (teased last week)

James always presents a sticky situation for those who want to say that we are saved by faith alone. Its argument is typically summed up in verse 26 “faith without works is dead” In a general sense this passage is typically explained to me that James is saying we are still saved by faith alone, but that works are natural consequence of a living faith. Thus works show faith, but have no inherent, saving merit to them.

Ok…I get that justification of faith alone to verse 26, but the part that I never saw before this year was verse 24 which goes as follows, “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” ……..What?! It should be also noted that this is the only passage in the entirety of scripture where the phrase “faith alone” (Sola Fide) appears. Now note that this passage does not say that we are justified by works alone and not faith at all (as my Foundations of Christian Thought professor rebuked me this week), but rather simply states that our justification is not attributed to only faith, but to works as well. This verse and the ones surrounding  (21 and 25 in particular) demand answers to justify the idea that our work has nothing to do with our justification/righteousness.

1 Peter 3:21 and John 3:5

Now ok, I know this isn’t a strictly Protestant/Catholic divide, but the way I was raised and was baptized was with the understanding that baptism is a symbol of being saved or a public proclamation of faith in Christ. Even within Protestantism this is disputed and even Luther would have disagreed with my old church’s stance, but I’m refuting the teachings of my past here so I will proceed.

The verse in 1 Peter goes, “This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.” In John, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”

Ok if somehow baptism is just a symbol that has no eternal significance, then I am confused how these verses could be reconciled realistically. These verses demand answers since they are clearly talking about a physical baptism in real water and not some abstract.

John 6:53

Communion is also a pretty big distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism, disagreeing on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist or simply a symbol from the Passion Week. Growing, I always had this feeling that this couldn’t just be a symbol and had to have something more to it. But that was just a hunch.

John 6:53 says, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.'” Now this seems pretty drastic, and if you read the context, Jesus says to portray the severity of what he is saying. If he was trying to be symbolic or metaphorical, he has three chances in this passage to retract his controversial statements.

How a merely symbolic or nonessential view of Communion (Eucharist) can be held in light of this passage truly perplexes me.

On this topic of Communion, we can also look to the persecution of the Early Christians. One of the main accusations in the Roman courts was that Christians were cannibals, because of their abominations in the Eucharist. Now it would be bad reasoning to say that because we don’t have any documents where they pleaded, “No, it’s just a symbol!!”  means that they never did. But nevertheless, we don’t have much to say that the first Christians believed that they were partaking in the real body and blood of Christ through Communion.

…but the point here is to focus on Scripture, whoops.

1 Corinthians 3:15

Now this is a verse that that doesn’t really prove a specific point, but it certainly raises questions and was never addressed in my learning of Corinthians.

It goes, “But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.”

A lot of Catholic apologists point here to “prove” the concept of Purgatory. I think that’s not really a solid argument from what this verse says alone. But nevertheless, I think this verse does raise a good point, both in the discussion of the role of works and of what salvation looks like. This verse is in a passage talking about us as believers building on Christ, our one and only foundation. This “being saved, but only as through fire” language certainly rings familiar to Purgatory. I would love to here a satisfactory Protestant interpretation of this verse.

____________

There are more verses that I have stumbled across and wondered why they are never addressed, but these few I think are the most important ones to bring to conversation.

Again if any reader has a topic they’d like to hear me write about, don’t hesitate to submit a question in the comments.

Peace be with you!

 

Posted in Blog Posts

A Good Word for Ecumenism

I planned on writing a more theological blog post this week, talking about verses that demand answers that had been “glossed over” when I was a Protestant. But because I’m a master procrastinator, I didn’t leave time for myself to meticulously gather all of them (downside of not having a photographic memory.) To give you a taste though, I had never even heard James 2:24 mentioned in any context before this year. So that’s a teaser for next week.

But this week I have to talk about something more close to the heart: Ecumenism. First a definition. Ecumenical: involving people from different kinds of Christian churches. Ecumenism, then, is the ideology of  working towards a unity in Christian churches.

To flush out the idea a little more, this ideal stems from (in a verse) the High Priestly Prayer in John 17: 20-23,

20 “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. 22 And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.”

We are supposed to be one in Christ to the extent that we are as unified as the Son is to the Father. THAT’S INSANE!! Can we even begin to imagine what that would look like? Now some might try to say this is trying to reflect on the unity are those who are saved will experience once in heaven. But I would stop them right there and point them to the end of verse 21 where we can clearly see that this unity has to do with our witness to the present world. That being said, I find it hard to believe that a prayer of Christ’s could fail and in a world that where the church is so split up, this passage (and others) should remind us of the importance of the unity of believers.

(For the purposes of this blog, I will be addressing the divisions of Protestantism and Catholicism, disregarding the Orthodox tradition of Christianity. I do this simply because I am more aquainted with these two traditions than the later.)

Unfortunately, there’s been two downsides to this ideal. The first is that in efforts to solve the dividing points, there is the concern that convictions will be compromised in order for reconcilliation. This cannot happen. The truth will always be more important that unity. The cheapening of our convictions cannot be the source of our unity.

The other downside that I have seen merely in conversation with others is that a lot of Christians are content to live in separation. Unity has no value to them and any effort we make would be wasted. The heavenly unity of believers is all they care about. Or in some cases I’ve experienced, reconciling with other churches would violate 2 John 9-11 which states:

Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him; 11 for whoever greets him shares in his evil works.

Unity cannot happen, in this case, because we don’t want it.

These two downsides carry two extremes:

1-Prizing unity above all else, even convictions of truth

2-Not prizing unity at all

Neither of these attitudes are condoned in John 17, because as 22-23 states,

And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

We called to unity in Christ, not unity in unity. If someone does remain in the teaching of Christ, he cannot be unified with others in Christ. And so John and 2 John pair together.

However concerning the second downfall, a closer reading of 2 John is neccesary. Indeed the disassciation form false teaching is absolutely neccessary. However this action of disunity assumes a knowledge of the teaching and what it is and if indeed it is contrary to the teaching of Christ. Too often I find people not even willing to listen to others’ teaching based on their preconceived notion of what it is (lol me a little over a year ago) and thus disassociate from them prematurely. This is not what is condoned by 2 John and indeed is quite near the definition of bigotry.

Thus ecumenisim must be centered around unity in Christ. Indeed with divisions so stark and polarizing, only through Him could such healing be acheived.

…Now I haven’t really said much positively about ecumenism or how to get there. To do so would take much more space than I have left to write in. But to name at least something, a united Church would show God to the world. Christ’s body is not supposed to be a hacked up amputee. Again back to the High Priestly Prayer, the effect of unity is quite plainly spelled out:

21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.

If for nothing else we should be unified in Christ for the purpose of helping the world to believe in the sending of Christ from the Father.

Once discovering that I am an audible learner, I took to podcasts. One of perhaps my favorite lectures of all time is one by my favorite author, Peter Kreeft. Only this last spring did I realize that not only did he have a nearly identical testimony to mine, but that he was Catholic. I looked up his podcasts and he had one on ecumenism (which I will attach below) and it is a beautiful masterpiece of an argument. To give you a taste of his attiude, here is one of his quotes,

“And so Catholics need to be better Protestants to be better Catholics.”

With that, I hope you enjoy…

 *This post was approved by an Anglican

Posted in Blog Posts

A Defense of Argument (ft. Mary and the Saints)

An accusation Christians often get is trusting in a blind faith. Even within Christianity, Catholics can be accused by not using their mind in loving God. To be honest, I don’t think the accusation is unfounded, but that does not mean that all Catholics avoid using their heads (Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes to name a few counterexamples) nor does it mean that Catholicism is opposed to the use of reason. But it is quite funny how many popular anti-Catholic arguments are based in poor logic and bad argument. There are definitely valid arguments on the side of the Protestant, but they’re not always the popular ones.

One of the topics I often get asked about concerning Catholicism is Mary and the Saints. And I really do want to talk about that, but first I feel the need to address what argument is; and by “argument” I do not meant quarreling, but rather the basic unit of reasoning. I’m actually currently taking a Logic class so I might get textbook here, but bear with me, the study of logic is basically making sense of common sense. Mary and the Saints will feature in the outro.

So basically what sparks this article is comments made on my blog and also simply anti-Catholic blogs and pages I look at for fun to remind me again and again how divided Christianity is and how far we have to go to find brotherly love again. So here is my response. 

What is an argument? It consists of a set of statements in which one or more statements, called “premises,” are offered in support of another statement, called the “conclusion.” Within the generic umbrella of arguments, there are deductive and non-deductive arguments. Deductive arguments are arranged so that if the premises are true, then the conclusion is necessarily true. A good example of a valid deductive argument is:

All fruits are healthy,

Apples are fruit,

Therefore, apples are healthy.

Now this might seem formal or robotic, but we do it all the time, sometimes condensing it to imply premises like in the sentence, “Apples are fruit, so they’re healthy.” An invalid argument might look something like this:

Snakes slither,

Snakes are reptiles,

Therefore, reptiles slither.

We can easily point to a gecko and show how the conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow. Also notice that by the definition of argument (basic unit of reasoning,) I can’t just say, “Apples are healthy,” or, “reptiles slither.” At this point, both are simply assertions and have the same amount of logical support: none.

Ok to the point…

Why do I outline arguments here? Because arguments are how we dialogue, sometimes with good arguments like, “It’s raining, so I will need my umbrella,” and quite often with bad ones like, “I brought my umbrella, so it won’t rain.” Or we can just make assertions that often have no rational effect on people like, “The Catholic Church is demonic.” Ok, but why? I could say, “Christ was Beelzebub,” and have the exact same amount of support: none. My point is we believe and respond to arguments, and further, we believe the arguments that seem most likely. For example, in my case, one argument that I subscribe to is:

The earliest texts are likely to give the best account for topic it covers, (why people value primary texts)

The Catholic Church carries the earliest teachings of Christianity.

Therefore, the Catholic Church is likely to give the best account of Christianity.

I subscribe to this deductive argument because it follows a valid categorical form. HOWEVER if I were to say it guarantees the best account of Christianity, it would be an invalid argument because my premises don’t guarantee a guarantee of the best account, simply a strong likelihood.

This does put the burden of proof on the Protestant or those disagreeing with Catholicism, and so typically they’ll attack the second premise of the syllogism. But defending that premise is essentially a good chunk of my blog.

What I do want to say is that critique must be logical. Throwing unbacked assertions (which aren’t arguments) does nothing other than attempt to convince us of an emotional response, which doesn’t necessarily correlate with reality. For example, if I were to comment on a post and say “You have reached a new level of ridiculousness,” that is a simple assertion of my opinion and carries no logical weight. Now if I were to back up my critique by saying “It’s ridiculous, because a, b, and c,” I would have presented an argument to which a response can be made. But what you hear a lot of the time are mainly bare assertions arguing nothing.

In my context, some people (a blog like Sentient Christian for example) might say, “the Catholic Church is demonic,” and leave it at that. Even then, if they don’t stop there, they will offer supporting facts with the conclusion taken as a given.

Let me say here, this is an explanation not argument. An argument doesn’t assume the conclusion as given and seeks to show why it’s true. An explanation takes the conclusion as a given and merely reinforces it. Now explanations have their place when something is given and not debated like 1+1=2. We explain this in grade school to children with the truth of it being assumed. Now someone in philosophy of math might argue to the conclusion of 1+1=2 if and only if he doesn’t take its truth as a previous given.

These Anti-Catholic blogs and pages (more often than not) start with the given that Catholicism is false/demonic/Whore-of-Babylonesque and from that stance can compile various facts to support such a narrative (an explanation). To show you what I mean, I can only give you an example.

I was urged vehemently for the sake of my salvation the other week to watch this video that gave conclusive evidence that Catholicism is Voodoo. View for yourself…

Ok well if you were too lazy to watch the video, or just want to hear my point, here’s my two cents.

Sentient Christian makes some great correlations about how Voodoo and Catholicism are related. But anyone who has ever taken a class with some kind of research/statistic attribute knows that correlation does not mean causation. For example, people who ate oatmeal more often than sugar cereal as a kid are four times more likely to have cancer than those who primarily ate sugar cereals. Their breakfast choice has nothing to do with their likelihood of get cancer, but rather it is due to difference in age. Older people typically ate more oatmeal, and older people are at a higher risk of getting cancer. Correlation does not mean causation.

Mary and the Saints are gonna finish this post off. So like the Voodoo video, the same bad logic of correlation gets applied when the claim is made that the Catholic church is idolatrous because Catholics worship Mary and the Saints. SO MANY THINGS I WANT TO SAY RIGHT NOW!!! So I’ll bullet point this.

  1. Catholics aren’t Catholicism. Just because some Catholics do commit idolatry in worshipping Mary and the Saints doesn’t mean that the Church teaches it. Just because some Americans are racist doesn’t mean that America teaches racism. Just because some Baptists (Westboro) condemn gays to hell doesn’t mean that’s what the Baptist Church teaches. Correlation does not mean causation.
  2. The definition of worship is to give honor that is owed. The definition of idolatry is putting another thing in the place of God. Worshiping another thing or person does not necessitate idolatry. We pay for concert tickets or music (at varying prices) because we think the music is owed some honor (at varying degrees.)

Later, I’d love to talk about the great positives in the reverance of Mary and the Saints, but for now I just want to make these points. Too often does this horribly constructed argument get flung at the Catholic Church and it is up to all of us, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to stand up for good reason and argumentation. Otherwise we will lose ourselves in meaningless quarreling.

Posted in Blog Posts

An Open Letter to the Reformation

I keep saying to people to demonstrate how Anti-Catholic I was that my school celebrated Reformation Day, and now, as a Catholic, I sometimes get accused for rejecting the Reformation. It’s not unpopular for some of my Protestant brethren to take pride in tracing their heritage back to the Reformers (as my old school does.) From even a non-Catholic standpoint, I think making this claim is ludicrous aside from doctrine. So this is an open letter to The Reformation from the stance of a generic Christian (Yes, you heard me. I will try to be impartial to Christian Tradition in this essay. I’ll probably fail as I’m human, but here goes.)

Dear Reformation,

Why are you called the Reformation? Your name seems very misleading, because as we see today, none of the beliefs you shouted as your war cry have changed the Catholic Church from which you separated. All five or your Solae have not changed Catholic doctrine to date. What’s even more interesting is why you would shout Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. The Catholic Church believes in these. Perhaps you thought that yelling Sola Gratia, Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria would paint the picture that the Church in Rome didn’t believe in them. Did you ever check their doctrine on these things? Maybe you would realize you were chanting things already accepted and taught. Your only two points of contention were Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. Important points, but you did not have Five.

So why are you called the Reformation? What did you actually reform? I’m not talking about your disowned, fraternal twin, the Catholic Reformation, which did nothing new but to more firmly and officially establish its doctrine in response to your critique. You changed nothing. Is that not the purpose of reforming? You are as misnamed as a renovator who builds houses from scratch.

So your mission failed, but that’s assuming that reforming was your mission. One would think that if there were things to change about the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church wasn’t willing to budge on them, the dissenters would bond together and make a church identical sans the points of dissension. This has been done before. It’s not impossible. Around 500 years before you were born people, what we now refer to as Eastern Orthodox Christians, did it. Other than a couple points of disagreement, they all look pretty much the same since their split in the eleventh century. Even now the relationship of that schism is being healed and reconciliation is in sight. So why were you different? If your goal was to reform, then why didn’t you imitate our eastern brothers?

I’m skeptical your mission was to reform, and that’s fine if it wasn’t, but then why call it the “Reformation?” Today it seems only the Lutherans have been working towards unity again. But as we’re approaching your 499th birthday, why are you still content with separation? I understand why because some of your children in your mosaic of denominations denounce the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon, so it would make sense that they would not seek out reconciliation, and thus the actual title to describe their beliefs would be “separatists” not “reformed” because they have merely separated and are not intending to reform anything.

But again there are some of your various branches who accept Catholics as Christians, even if it is as condescending as the attitude derived from “some Catholics are Christians.” If, Mr. Reformation, these sons of yours believe this, then why are they content to sit in separation from the (by their own standard) largest body of believers? What is more is why are they content to be separated from each other as if they were estranged siblings? If they claim their heritage from the reforming gene of yours, why do they not try to come to agreement with each other? Holding differing beliefs about theology is not of your invention, yet you of the three sons of Christianity take pride in it as if it was yours and use it cause divisions between your own children. Why pride yourself in a spirit that works against a very prayer of Jesus. Although you changed your canon a little from your formers, I know you didn’t cut out John 17 where Christ prays that we would be united as he is to the Father. Yet why are your sons content to let their differences stop them being in communion with each other and worshiping under the same roof? Where is the “reforming” in their genetics?

Or perhaps your sons claim that we are all united in Christ. I totally agree with that. But what they claim is an abstraction and an abstraction only. If it were a reality, none of what I have just said would be relevant. Your sons are content to be estranged from each other, to discriminate amongst each other and not worship in communion with each other. Even at their birth, they would persecute each other with the same intolerance that they had for their Catholic uncle.

This disunity amongst your sons is not only against this prayer of Christ, but a horrible testimony to the rest of the world when they look at Christianity. If we are so split and divisive and yet claim one truth, it seems that anyone looking on from the outside would see us as hypocrites. It’s fine to have different views, that’s nothing new, Mr. Reformation, but to let them divide us and hinder our unity is the only thing your heritage has contributed. So perhaps you’ve been misnamed, Mr. Reformation, perhaps you’ve taken a name that makes you look positive and able to be celebrated. But really, you’ve done nothing but to separate from the Church not reform it, and then have passed on that same separating gene to your sons.

So in sum perhaps a more accurate name for you is Mr. Separation, and such a negative thing should not be celebrated. Unless separation from Christian brethren has become a virtue since the New Testament.

Sincerely,

A Christian

Posted in Blog Posts

The 2nd Amendment and The Inquisition

Last week I talked about a doctrinal issue: the deuterocanonical books. This week I’m switching it up and writing about a more social issue with the Catholic Church. When people hear that I’m Catholic or, as it was last year, that I was considering joining the Church, sometimes they’ll say to me, “Well what about the Crusades and the Inquisition?” Now often doctrinal stuff is mixed in, but I’m isolating the historical critiques; today I’m focusing on the Inquisition.

Let’s first assume that this “tragedy” and the horrifying portrayals of brutality and greed are true. This is a short video that I think accurately and humorously portrays the history we’ve all been taught.

This horror would NOT stop me from joining the institution from which it stemmed and derived it’s authority. Here’s why.

Implicit in the objections concerning joining the Church because of a scandal is a premise that if an organization has a bad enough stain on its history, it is unjoinable. So the full syllogism would look something like this:

Mp. If an organization has a bad enough stain on its history, it is unjoinable. mp. The Inquisition (bad enough implicit) is a stain on the Catholic Church. QED. The Catholic Church is unjoinable.

From what I can remember, this is a valid categorical syllogism which means I have to prove one of the premises wrong. I will prove BOTH wrong.

But as I already said, we’re going to assume the horror of the Inquisition is true, so I will refute the first premise.

I think I’ve said this in one of my previous posts, but we should never throw something out based on it’s abuse. Firstly to all Protestants using this argument against the Catholic Church, I would urge you to examine the hate your branch is spreading through the Westboro Baptists. It’s shameful. But of course I don’t hold their sins against you, that would be illogical. So in the same way, don’t hold this “infamous” period of torture and murder against the Church because of the Spaniards or Torquemada.

Secondly to any defenders of the 2nd Amendment (like myself,) consider this. The 2nd Amendment was instituted so that civilians could defend themselves against a tyrannical government. Since then many have abused that ideal, with many tragedies of mass shootings, most recently in Orlando. Why would you continue to support such an amendment that has enabled the death of many innocents? Because you, like me, believe that it’s there for a wholly justified reason. The Catholic Church, heck religion in general, has been abused just like this American right has been. Don’t use a double standard if you support the 2nd Amendment.

Third. A couple years ago I got to visit Turkey. While there I met some very nice Muslim people. This doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about the radical Muslims, who by my Turkish Muslim friends’ opinion, abuse their religion. The point is that we all should learn to differentiate and see the proper use of a religion, or even an institution, in contrast  with its abuse before we throw it out the window.

I believe that adequately denies the first premise, which states the claim that the Catholic Church is unjoinable because of the Inquisition.

…but

The problem is, if I were to end here, I would leave you thinking the Inquisition was a stain on the Church’s history. It wasn’t.

Becoming Catholic required a good deal of reading as you can imagine. Amazon picked up on that somehow (Oh, Amazon…) so it recommended a book for me to read. I found the title quite interesting and I highly recommend it to anyone. It’s by a Protestant religious historian at Baylor University named Rodney Stark. The title is Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History. At first I thought, “Ok, some zealous Catholic wrote a book to make the Catholic Church look impeccable.” To my surprise, he’s a good-hearted Protestant writing for the sake of accurate history, which makes his account so much more credible in my mind. He has many chapters concerning Anti-Catholic charges, such as The Inquisition, The Crusades, The Dark Ages, Galileo and the suppression of science, anti-Semitism, and the Protestant work ethic just to name a few. What I’ve read is fascinating and backed up by lots of research. I don’t cite things on this blog, but you can go read this book if you doubt what I’m about to say.

The brutal portrait of the Inquisition is false. False. But where do we get that picture to begin with? Among other things, Poe gives us his nightmarish portrayal in The Pit and the Pendulum (1842) also in the Brothers Karamazou (1880) by Dostoyevsky. According to Microsoft’s Encarta, Torquemada executed thousands; The Encyclopedia of Religious Freedom says 10,000, and Edmund Paris says in addition to that, another 125,000 died in his prisons or by torture. Simon Whitechapel would say that those executed by the fire at the stake were 100,000, but David Hunt would put the count at 300,000 with a total of three million being condemned.

If the varying statistics of the kill count are not enough to raise a red flag about the credibility of these numbers, it would surprise few that many of these estimations stem from stories spread during the religious wars of Europe. Many of these numbers were propagated with malice and negative propaganda. Even in 2003, Simon Whitechapel starts his book on the atrocities of the Inquisition, “I should make one thing clear from the start, I despise the Catholic Church.”  These biased, and wide ranging, statistics cannot be reliable and skew the narrative of the Inquisition.

Only in recent years have the archives of the Inquisition been explored and the very detailed accounts of its actions brought to light. Stark sums them up and says, “Turning to the fully recorded period, of the 44,674 cases, only 826 people were executed, which amounts to 1.8 percent of those brought to trial. All told, then, during the entire period 1480 through 1700, only about ten deaths per year were meted out by the Inquisition all across Spain,…” 10 deaths per year. 826 executed total. This stands not only in precise detail, but in contrast to the vague estimations of Anti-Catholic historians of tens or hundreds of thousands killed. But to compare with other contemporary courts, the Inquisition is quite mild. Stark continues, “Then, during the subsequent century (1530 to 1630) the English averaged 750 hangings a year, many of them for minor thefts. In contrast, the few who were sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition usually were repeat offenders who would not repent.” Indeed the fatality count of the entire Inquisition pales in contrast to the total of 750,000 executed in England over a span of 100 years.

But the Inquisition (and subsequently, the Catholic Church) is not only slandered by lies of it execution rates, its torture and prisons methods are characteristic of any defaming opinion. Again to place it in context, Stark tells us this, “All the courts of Europe used torture, but the Inquisition did so far less than other courts. For one thing, Church law limited torture to one session lasting no more than fifteen minutes, and there could be no danger to life or limb. Nor could blood be shed!” It should make sense that the Catholic Church, who was the first government of sorts to abolish slavery, would have these humanitarian laws in place. Moreover, the frequency in which the Inquisition used torture should be noted. Thanks to the opening of these Inquisition archives, Stark recounts Thomas Madden’s findings, “Based on these data, Thomas Madden has estimated that the Inquisitors resorted to torture in only about 2 percent of all the cases that came before them.” Also the prisons that have lived in infamy are also a lie. Stark quotes Madden again when he says, “Moreover, it is widely agreed that prisons operated by the Inquisition were by far the most comfortable and humane in Europe— instances have been reported of ‘criminals in Spain purposely blaspheming so as to be transferred to the Inquisition’s prisons.’” Thus the fatality rate, as well as the brutality of its methods, are mere fictional notions in our understanding of the Catholic Church’s history. 

There is so much more in Stark’s book that has blown my mind and I highly encourage you read it.

The false narrative I was taught doesn’t surprise me. America was founded predominately by Protestants. In the early days, Catholics were often scathingly called “papists” and were thought to represent communism. The fact that an out-of-context, false, and biased account of the Inquisition worked its way into the popular understanding of history is completely understandable. In the same spirit we hear of the horrible reign of Bloody Mary in England (who killed around 300 religious dissentors, WAY LESS than what I was taught), but we hear nothing of Calvin’s persecution of Anabaptists and Catholics alike in Geneva.

I’m well over 1000 words at this point, sorry, but I hope you found this intriguing. Please keep asking your questions, I enjoy them and that’s what I’m here for. Peace be with you!

Posted in Blog Posts

Extra Bible Books?

Alright, sorry I took a break. Had a lot going the last week or so. But I’m back, and now I’m not talking about my story of transistion, rather actual topics I, and others, have to wrestle with when initially learning about the Catholic faith. Hurdles, some have called them.

The first question I got from a reader was this: “Hey…I went to Protestant school too, and I heard a lot about the apocryphal works being added to the Bible.  What is the church’s/your own opinion on those books? Are they generally accepted as doctrine?”

So that’s this week’s topic. I too, of course, had concerns about there being edits to the Holy Scriptures growing up (STILL DO) and this often was an accusation brought up against Mormons, JW, and Catholics. So what’s up?

I can’t literally answer the question, but I think I know what it’s getting at: the 7 book difference between Protestant and Catholic Bibles.

To be fair, words like “added” start with presuppositions. When we say something is added, we mean that the original existed without it. The word “added,” then, is entirely wrong here and here’s why.

Quick review of Canon history (to the best of mine and the Internet’s knowledge):

1678051

132 B.C. -The Septuagint is completed. For those of you who don’t know, the Septuagint was the Greek version (because Greek was the common tongue) of the Jewish Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament. Septuaginta means 70 in Latin and is the title of this because supposedly 70 interpreters and translators worked on this translation, hence earning itself the shorthand Roman numeral LXX. The LXX was used in my Greek textbook for translation exercises. The key thing is that the LXX included the apocryphal texts.

c.30 A.D. Christ dies and the apostles go out an spread the faith using the LXX as their Scriptures.

c.135 A.D. Rabbinic Judaism reaches its height. Why I mention this is because Rabbinic Judaism uses Hebrew-only texts as its scriptures. This excluded the apocryphal texts since these were only found written in Greek. Consequently, this branch of Judaism rejected the Septuagint.

397 A.D. The Council of Carthage establishes the New Testament canon: 27 books.

Ok so just to clarify at this point the Christian Scriptures include 73 books, not 66.

1534 A.D. Luther’s Bible publishes the Apocrypha in its own section.

1600’s A.D. Puritans print Bibles without the Apocrypha.

OK PHEW….enough history already.

I map this out to make a point. These “extra” books of the Bible were not added. Rather they were cut out by Rabbinic Judaism and Protestantism if we follow the series of events. So my fear does still lie with people making edits to Scripture, but now it’s no longer the Catholic Bible that I’m worried about.

Also this is how I jumped this hurdle when processing it myself: if I’m trying to find the purest Christianity out there, it’s going to be at the beginning of it. And quite frankly, these “extra” books were in the canon when the Church started and, more importantly, when Jesus walked the earth. If the Apocrypha was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

“Oh but Jesus never taught with the Apocrypha though,” might be what you’re thinking. I’d beg to differ. There’s actually quite a few references Jesus makes to scriptures that are no longer in the Protestant Bible. Of course, since Protestants don’t recognize these books as Scripture, there’s not going to be any cross references in your ESV.

But here’s a few that Catholic Answers (a great resource by the way) offers:

Matt. 9:36 “like sheep without a shepherd” is from Judith 11:19

Matt 12:42 Jesus references “the wisdom of Solomon” which was recorded and is known as the Book of Wisdom.

Matt 22:26, Mark 12:20, and Luke 20:29 reference Tobit 3:8 and 7:11

These are just a few.

The other thing I’d want to mention is that many Church Fathers reference these books. One that sticks out in my memory is Athanasius. The reason why is because he referenced Wisdom so many times along with other Scripture that a girl in my class asked, “What is ‘Wis.’?” I told her that depending on her perspective, it was an original or extra book of the Bible.

So there’s my case. It’s really pretty simple to just look at history and see the progression of the canon and how it got here. We could argue that there were reasons and doubts about canonizing these books, but the fact of the matter is that they were accepted from the start. And quite frankly, that’s good enough for me. What’s more is that they’re used as Scripture by Jesus and Church Fathers, so even better.

To those who disagree, I get it. I was hesitant at first and I still haven’t read all of these books for myself. But I would ask you to do this: don’t refer to these books as added. Added is simply the wrong word to portray what happened. If original carries too much of a positive connotation for you, then called them old or obselete. But don’t call them added.

Another thing to mention is that apparently a good bit of the scriptural support for Purgatory comes from Maccabees. So if you don’t have the book in your Bible and you say there’s no scriptural support for Purgatory, you’ve really hit on two problems that are intertwined.

Thank you, dear reader, for the question. I am open to more, so keep them coming! Have a great week and peace be with you!

Posted in Blog Posts, My Transition

Genesis-“And Morning Followed”

 

So if you gathered from my last post or not, my freshman year was filled with a lot of spiritual, emotional, and mental turmoil. I mean to throw everything I’ve talked about on top a typical freshman year was logistically stupid. I realize and acknowledge that now. My dad even warned me not to get too caught up in my inquiries until I’d adjusted to the transition into college.

But…I couldn’t help it. From a very young age I have been known to find a subject (however significant or insignificant it may be) and entrench myself in it. In sixth grade, my mom compared it to a dog who locks their jaw once they bite into something. Choosing my battles and choosing when to fight them is a foreign concept to me. 

But amidst all the craziness, I have experienced a feeling of homecoming and belonging like never before. And all of it is so interconnected, I struggle to put into words my experience so that you can understand it. Maybe it’s just one of those things. But I have to try. 

First. The Mass. I have tried to explain this to friends before and the best phrase I have come up with is: spiritually logistical. I know, probably doesn’t make that much sense, but hear me out. From earlier posts, you’ll know that I was discontented with my typical, nondenominational service. Why? For 20 minutes we’d sing contemporary worship songs (which I’d had my falling out with,) and then the pastor would preach/teach for the last 40 or so (I had an amazing pastor, and the fact that I was hearing the same things over again was entirely out of his control.) This was typical everywhere I went. However the Mass, on the other hand, is about the same length (an hour,) and is much more complex. For a complete picture of the liturgy of the Mass, I’m sure it’s easy to google. But for now, I will say that the entire point of it is not instruction, like the former, but rather a communion of believers uniting as Christ’s body. To this end, it will always satisfy. I should probably go into more detail, but I think I should dedicate another post to that. In all, I will always redeem the hour I spend at a Catholic mass, whereas that will not always be the case at my old church. Indeed, at least in a logistical sense, I could accomplish my old kind of Sunday with iTunes and a podcast at home or in my car. 

Second. Unity. It has always been a concern of mine that Christianity is so split up. To put it bluntly, a father of one family is a good father, a father of hundreds of families is a scoundrel. I think the fact we are so divided mocks our testimony of the ONE true God. God is not just the Judge, just the Healer, just the Friend, just the Wise One; He is all of these and so much more, and I believe his unified character should be modeled in a unified character in Christianity. I see this best embodied in the Catholic church, which has a high regard of the intellectual, experiential, spiritual, formalized, and personal aspects that I see singled out in other denominations. Saying the Creed in unison with my parish and praying the Lord’s Prayer while holding the hands of the strangers next to me, knowing the whole time that a billion others are doing the same across the world. These things. This is unity I have never before experienced. This is the first time I have ever really felt connected to Christians as a part of the body. The irony is that I rarely know more than 10 people in a parish, if that; whereas at my old church I would know probably more than 100. But I no longer have to church hop. My church has “campuses” everywhere. All of them the same (of course with their own cultural vibe determined by who attends.) I will never have to spend time researching a church’s doctrinal statement (if they even have one) to be sure I’m in the right place, or find a pastor who isn’t boring. These things are set for me and do away with the chaos resulting from so many denominations.

Third. Continuity. THE RIGHT CHURCH IS NOT THE ONE WE MAKE, IT’S THE ONE GOD MAKES!! I’m not used to liturgy, it’s not how I grew up, but a church is not the right church if it follows everything Andrew wants. In one way, I see liturgy as being a little restricting and at sometimes boring; in another, I see it as beautiful and unifying. The truth is not a machination of our fantasies, but rather the reality we must align with. Sure it’d be nice to have great contemporary worship songs written in entire theological accuracy that everyone can participate in and focus on good words of praise instead of catchy riffs, but sadly that usually isn’t the case. So I put aside my classic American consumerism and obsession with novelty, and settled for the traditional, but tried and true, way of doing things. Peter Kreeft, the author of my favorite book whom I late found out transistioned to Catholicism in college like myself, tells a story in his testimony that he was in a lecture about disproving Catholicism and he asked his teacher that if he and his Catholic friend were to travel back in time to the first century, which of them would feel more at home. Of course his professor said the Protestant would, but after reading the Apostolic Fathers, Athanasius, and Augustine, Kreeft determined that they were most definitely Catholic. Luckily, I got to read these books for one of my college courses in my freshman year and came to the same concluision he did. 

(Yes, I’m going over 1000 this time.)

Fourth. The Eucharist. Communion always meant something special to me before my transition, definitely much more than just a symbol. Indeed, one of the things I was looking for in a church when I went to college was one that had communion weekly. It was sure depressing when I had to refrain until Easter. But oh man, there MUST be something spiritual about the Eucharist. To be honest, I haven’t studied the systematic theological workings behind transubstantiation, but I still get butterflies every time I approach the Body and the Blood. I’ll definitely write more about this later, but for now know that this minute of my week I look forward to more than anything else. 

These things have sustained me through this year and continue to assure me of my decision.

Since my confirmation, my security in being “different” than most of my world has only grown, even though I still encounter the hate and ostracizing that goes along with it. This past summer I served again on a Younglife Summer Staff, and they were the first people that I really felt fully accepted that my Christianity as a Catholic was valid. Being built up by these friends is part of the reason I have the courage to write these things today.    

But I’m still obsessed with this beautiful thing called Catholicism, and very much still have my teeth clenched shut on it. I actually chose Dominic as my confirmation name, because St. Dominic was the founder of the Order of Preachers and also since he was named because his mother had a dream of a hound from God during her pregnancy. Dominic is short for Dominicanis which those who know Latin will know it means “Hound of the Lord.”

This concludes my story, and I will turn to writing more about actual topics. I would love to hear from you, my reader, what you’d like to hear about. Anything from, “Hey what’s up with the ‘extra’ books?” to “What’s the point of confession?” is fair game. Even if you have a stereotype of Catholics, let me know. You’re probably partially right, but there is usually more to it. 

Thank you for reading!