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Asking the right questions: euthanasia


-personal physician to Adolf Hitler, Karl Brandt, director of the Euthanasia Program. August 27, 1942


-Friederich Menneke, Nazi euthanasia program physician

-Holocaust Encyclopedia

Aktion T4 – Nazi euthanasia program

“The Euthanasia Program was Nazi Germany’s first program of mass murder. It predated the genocide of European Jewry (the Holocaust) by approximately two years. The program was one of many radical eugenic measures which aimed to restore the racial “integrity” of the German nation. It aimed to eliminate what eugenicists and their supporters considered “life unworthy of life”: those individuals who—they believed—because of severe psychiatric, neurological, or physical disabilities represented both a genetic and a financial burden on German society and the state.

Child “Euthanasia” Program

In the spring and summer months of 1939, a number of planners began to organize a secret killing operation targeting disabled children. They were led by Philipp Bouhler, the director of Hitler’s private chancellery, and Karl Brandt, Hitler’s attending physician.

On August 18, 1939, the Reich Ministry of the Interior circulated a decree requiring all physicians, nurses, and midwives to report newborn infants and children under the age of three who showed signs of severe mental or physical disability.

Beginning in October 1939, public health authorities began to encourage parents of children with disabilities to admit their young children to one of a number of specially designated pediatric clinics throughout Germany and Austria. In reality, the clinics were children’s killing wards. There, specially recruited medical staff murdered their young charges by lethal overdoses of medication or by starvation.

At first, medical professionals and clinic administrators included only infants and toddlers in the operation. As the scope of the measure widened, they included youths up to 17 years of age. Conservative estimates suggest that at least 5,000 physically and mentally disabled German children perished as a result of the child “euthanasia” program during the war years.

Extending the “Euthanasia” Program


-Hitler’s authorization

Euthanasia planners quickly envisioned extending the killing program to adult disabled patients living in institutional settings. In the autumn of 1939, Adolf Hitler signed a secret authorization in order to protect participating physicians, medical staff, and administrators from prosecution. This authorization was backdated to September 1, 1939, to suggest that the effort was related to wartime measures.

The Führer Chancellery was compact and separate from state, government, or Nazi Party apparatuses. For these reasons, Hitler chose it to serve as the engine for the “euthanasia” campaign. The program’s functionaries called their secret enterprise “T4.” This code-name came from the street address of the program’s coordinating office in Berlin: Tiergartenstrasse 4.

According to Hitler’s directive, Führer Chancellery director Phillip Bouhler and physician Karl Brandt led the killing operation. Under their leadership, T4 operatives established six gassing installations for adults as part of the “euthanasia” action. These were:

  • Brandenburg, on the Havel River near Berlin
  • Grafeneck, in southwestern Germany
  • Bernburg, in Saxony
  • Sonnenstein, also in Saxony
  • Hartheim, near Linz on the Danube in Austria
  • Hadamar, in Hessen

Euthanasia Program

Using a practice developed for the child “euthanasia” program, in the autumn of 1939 T4 planners began to distribute carefully formulated questionnaires to all public health officials, public and private hospitals, mental institutions, and nursing homes for the chronically ill and aged. The limited space and wording on the forms, as well as the instructions in the accompanying cover letter, combined to give the impression that the survey was intended simply to gather statistical data.

The form’s sinister purpose was suggested only by the emphasis placed upon the patient’s capacity to work and by the categories of patients which the inquiry required health authorities to identify. The categories of patients were those suffering from:

schizophrenia,
epilepsy,
dementia,
encephalitis,
and other chronic psychiatric or neurological disorders
those not of German or “related” blood
the criminally insane or those committed on criminal grounds
those who had been confined to the institution in question for more than five years

Secretly recruited “medical experts,” physicians—many of them of significant reputation—worked in teams of three to evaluate the forms. On the basis of their decisions beginning in January 1940, T4 functionaries began to remove patients selected for the “euthanasia” program from their home institutions. The patients were transported by bus or by rail to one of the central gassing installations for killing.

Within hours of their arrival at such centers, the victims perished in gas chambers. The gas chambers, disguised as shower facilities, used pure carbon monoxide gas. T4 functionaries burned the bodies in crematoria attached to the gassing facilities. Other workers took the ashes of cremated victims from a common pile and placed them in urns to send to the relatives of the victims. The families or guardians of the victims received such an urn, along with a death certificate and other documentation, listing a fictive cause and date of death.

Because the program was secret, T-4 planners and functionaries took elaborate measures to conceal its deadly designs. Even though physicians and institutional administrators falsified official records in every case to indicate that the victims died of natural causes, the “euthanasia” program quickly become an open secret. There was widespread public knowledge of the measure. Private and public protests concerning the killings took place, especially from members of the German clergy. Among these clergy was the bishop of Münster, Clemens August Count von Galen. He protested the T-4 killings in a sermon August 13, 1941. In light of the widespread public knowledge and the public and private protests, Hitler ordered a halt to the euthanasia program in late August 1941.

According to T4’s own internal calculations, the euthanasia effort claimed the lives of 70,273 institutionalized mentally and physically disabled persons at the six gassing facilities between January 1940 and August 1941.

Second Phase

Hitler’s call for a halt to the T4 action did not mean an end to the euthanasia killing operation. Child euthanasia continued as before. Moreover, in August 1942, German medical professionals and healthcare workers resumed the killings, although in a more carefully concealed manner than before. More decentralized than the initial gassing phase, the renewed effort relied closely upon regional exigencies, with local authorities determining the pace of the killing.

Using drug overdose and lethal injection—already successfully used in child euthanasia—in this second phase as a more covert means of killing, the euthanasia campaign resumed at a broad range of institutions throughout the Reich. Many of these institutions also systematically starved adult and child victims.

The Euthanasia Program continued until the last days of World War II, expanding to include an ever wider range of victims, including geriatric patients, bombing victims, and foreign forced laborers. Historians estimate that the Euthanasia Program, in all its phases, claimed the lives of 250,000 individuals.

People with Disabilities in the German-Occupied East

Persons with disabilities also fell victim to German violence in the German-occupied east. The Germans confined the Euthanasia Program, which began as a racial hygiene measure, to the Reich proper—that is, to Germany and to the annexed territories of Austria, Alsace-Lorraine, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Warthegau in former Poland. However, the Nazi ideological conviction which labeled these persons “life unworthy of life” also made institutionalized patients the targets of shooting actions in Poland and the Soviet Union. There, the killings of disabled patients were the work of SS and police forces, not of the physicians, caretakers, and T4 administrators who implemented the Euthanasia Program itself.

In areas of Pomerania, West Prussia, and occupied Poland, SS and police units murdered some 30,000 patients by the autumn of 1941 in order to accommodate ethnic German settlers (Volksdeutsche) transferred there from the Baltic countries and other areas.

SS and police units also murdered disabled patients in mass shootings and gas vans in occupied Soviet territories. Thousands more died, murdered in their beds and wards by SS and auxiliary police units in Poland and the Soviet Union. These murders lacked the ideological component attributed to the centralized Euthanasia Program. The SS was apparently motivated primarily by economic and material concerns in killing institutionalized patients in occupied Poland and the Soviet Union.

The SS and the Wehrmacht quickly made use of the hospitals emptied in these killing operations as barracks, reserve hospitals, and munitions storage depots. In rare cases, the SS used the empty facilities as a formal T4 killing site. An example is the euthanasia facility Tiegenhof, near Gnesen (today Gniezno, in west-central Poland).

The Significance of the Euthanasia Program

The Euthanasia Program represented in many ways a rehearsal for Nazi Germany’s subsequent genocidal policies. The Nazi leadership extended the ideological justification conceived by medical perpetrators for the destruction of the “unfit” to other categories of perceived biological enemies, most notably to Jews and Roma (Gypsies).

Planners of the “Final Solution” later borrowed the gas chamber and accompanying crematoria, specifically designed for the T4 campaign, to murder Jews in German-occupied Europe. T4 personnel who had shown themselves reliable in this first mass murder program figured prominently among the German staff stationed at the Operation Reinhard killing centers of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

Like those who planned the physical annihilation of the European Jews, the planners of the Euthanasia Program imagined a racially pure and productive society. They embraced radical strategies to eliminate those who did not fit within their vision.”


-by Trent Horn

“On February 25, 1990, twenty-six-year-old Terri Schiavo collapsed at home and suffered oxygen deprivation. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital but, while they were able to save her life, Schiavo was left in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) until she died from having her feeding tube removed in 2005.

No one would deny that Terri was a person prior to her collapse, but did she lose her personhood once she became brain damaged?

Lawyer and author Wesley J. Smith and bioethicist Bill Allen debated this on Court TV Online. At one point Smith asked, “[D]o you think Terri is a person?” to which Allen responded, “No, I do not. I think having awareness is an essential criterion for personhood. Even minimal awareness would support some criterion of personhood, but I don’t think complete absence of awareness does.”

Many people share Allen’s view, believing that humans in persistent vegetative states are not persons anymore—and so they can be deprived of basic necessities like food or water in order to end their lives. But here are three questions you should ask those who defend euthanizing disabled people in these conditions:

1. Would you bury a breathing body?

When a person stops existing, we say that person has died. Normally, when a person has died, what remains is a corpse. However, if personhood is not an essential property of human beings, then there can be cases where a person has died but the “remains” left behind is a living, breathing human body.

A corpse should not be desecrated, but there is no obligation to treat it like a human being. It is not a human being but the remains of a human being. So why not treat someone in an irreversible coma like a corpse and load him into an incinerator? Why not bury him in a grave as their chest rises and falls until the dirt that covers his body causes his breathing to stop?

A person who did this might try to take solace in the assumption the person can’t feel anything, but to watch the spasms that living body would undergo as the lungs failed would probably sicken most people. They would see that this is not a corpse that is being buried, but a a disabled person who is being killed by asphyxiation.

Consider the case of Schiavo in particular. Over the fifteen years after her collapse, she did not require the use of a ventilator (except for immediately following the collapse) and was able to breathe on her own. In a sense, she simply required the care a baby would require—food, clothing, shelter, and someone to oversee the administration of this care. To deprive her of food and water just because she was disabled was to bring about her death not by some underlying disease but by depriving her of that which all humans require; it was to bring about her death by dehydration, a fate no human should have to endure.

2. Which disabled people deserve to be protected?

To those who support euthanizing people in persistent vegetative states, you could pose this question: “Should we help all disabled people no matter what disability they have? If not, on what basis do we decide who’s worth helping and who’s worth killing? Wouldn’t that result in us making a judgment call on the value of another’s life?”

Most people, being committed to justice and fairness, won’t say there are some disabled people we shouldn’t help. You can then ask, “What does it mean to be disabled or have a disability?” Most people, when comparing paraplegia, blindness, deafness, or mobility impairments would say that a disability is “something that keeps you from functioning like the majority of people.”

These could be physical disabilities that keep someone from acting a certain way or mental disabilities that keep someone from thinking a certain way. Normally, when someone has a disability we are compassionate towards him and try to accommodate his inability to function. For example, we make handicapped parking accessible or we put up signs in braille that the blind can read. Keeping this in mind, when someone is in a coma he is like individuals with other handicaps—he cannot function as the majority can. Shouldn’t we show such individuals compassion and make accommodations in their condition rather than say they aren’t persons?

3. How do you know they won’t wake up?

In 1989, a stampede at the Hillsborough Soccer Stadium in Sheffield England left ninety-six people dead and hundreds injured. One of the injured was Tony Bland, who went into a PVS and was later killed through the removal of nutrition. But one year later, Andrew Devine, another injured fan who also ended up in a PVS, began to show signs of awareness. In 2014 he was healthy enough to attend the 30th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Two years prior to Terri Schiavo collapsing, a twelve-year-old boy in South Africa, Martin Pistorius, became became so ill that he lived in a “virtual coma” for over a decade, incapable of communicating to others that he was aware inside. But one day, in 2001, the tender compassion of a caregiver interacting with Pistorius would lead the woman to think her patient was indeed aware and could communicate if creative ways were developed to do so.

Today Pistorius is happily married and has authored a book about his journey. Although for a time his need for basic care was similar to Schiavo’s, his outcome was very different than hers. But if we valued all humans as persons, regardless of current or perceived future abilities, then perhaps their endings would have been more alike.

In a radio interview about his ordeal, Pistorius reflected, “I think being seen and having another person validate your existence is incredibly important.” Powerful words for us and for anyone who thinks that disabilities can erase a person’s basic human worth.”

Love,
Matthew

Protestants reflect on contraception 4


-God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Gen 1:31


-by Julie Roys, 8/1/18

(Julie Roys is an Evangelical Christian reporter. She graduated from Wheaton College and also attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Julie has published many articles at Christianity Today, World Magazine. Religion News Service, The Federalist, and The Christian Post. As a respected, conservative Christian voice, Julie also has been interviewed numerous times on National Public Radio, One America News, and Total Living Network. Julie hosted a live, call-in talk radio show on the Moody Radio Network that was called Up For Debate for six years. For calling out the issues at Moody she apparently lost her job. Julie and her husband live in the Chicago area and they have three children.)

““My parents had five kids and I was always embarrassed about it. All my friends came from families with 10 to 12 kids. They were always asking me, ‘What’s wrong with your mom and dad? Don’t they like each other?’”

That comment cracked up the entire newsroom at Fox 32 News Chicago where I used to work. It came from a reporter who grew up in a staunchly Catholic, Chicago neighborhood. Like most of my colleagues, I intended to have two, maybe three kids. And like them, I thought the Catholic view of sex and contraception was ridiculous.

That was about 25 years ago.

Since then, I’ve discovered Theology of the Body (TOB) — Pope John Paul II’s biblical analysis of what it means to be human. This radically transformed my view of the body, human sexuality — and in turn, birth control. And now, I don’t think the Catholic view is ridiculous. I think it’s biblical. And though I’m not dogmatic about it, I, like a growing number of evangelicals, no longer feel comfortable with contraception.

A New Paradigm

TOB presents a very different view of the body than the one I was taught. I was taught the body is in effect a tent for the soul. And though I believed marriage had spiritual significance, I never considered that sex might.

But John Paul taught that the body is much more than a tent. We are created in God’s image. And our body is a symbol revealing truths about God. As popular Catholic theologian, Christopher West, put it: “(T)he body … is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”

First, the body reveals God’s Trinitarian nature — how multiple persons can exist as one essence. This is profoundly reflected when husband and wife become “one flesh” as described in Genesis 2:24.

When I first encountered this idea, I was skeptical. I was older than 40 at the time. And in all my years in the church, I had never heard anyone articulate this idea.

Yet when I checked with a theology professor at the Moody Bible Institute where I used to work, he said this was accepted Trinitarian theology. Similarly, when Dr. John Jefferson Davis appeared on my radio show, he affirmed this understanding, as well. Davis is a leading evangelical ethicist, so his opinion carried a lot of weight.

But Trinitarian life and love isn’t the only mystery the one-flesh union reveals. John Paul also taught that it reveals the mystery of Christ’s relationship with the church.

The idea that sexual intimacy would reflect our relationship with Christ seemed somewhat scandalous to me. Yet, that’s precisely what Ephesians 5:31-32 says: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

TOB elevated the human body and sexuality to a whole new level for me. I realized the body is not merely a “tent”; it is a symbol with deep, spiritual meaning. And I realized that birth control not only prevents conception. It also alters a profoundly spiritual symbol.

Sex, Symbol, & Sterilization

In his 1966 article credited with shifting evangelical opinion on birth control, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery argued that Catholics view sex merely as a means of having children. But as TOB makes abundantly clear, that’s not so, though Montgomery can’t be faulted for not knowing that. His article predated TOB by 15-20 years.

Interestingly though, Montgomery’s view of marriage is actually quite similar to John Paul’s. Both see the marriage analogy in Ephesians 5 as the “focal center of scriptural teachings on marriage.” But for Montgomery, the analogy justifies contraception. For John Paul, it makes it unthinkable.

Montgomery argued that “Christ’s relation with His church is a love relation.” So if a couple is using birth control to “achieve a better human relationship,” it’s legitimate.

Montgomery also argued that God’s command in Genesis 1:28 to “subdue the earth” gives people license to control their fertility. He added that it’s “bizarre” that Catholics teach that man can control plants and animals, “yet cannot without sin control his own numbers.”

However, John Paul argued that contraception profoundly distorts the marriage analogy. Christopher West explains:

“Christ did not sterilize His love. When we sterilize our love, we are changing what is happening in the sexual act itself to the point that we are no longer imaging Christ’s love for the church. We are no longer imaging the Trinity. In fact, it becomes a counter-image … of Christ and the church.”

West’s point is well-made. Clearly, Christ’s union with the Church is one that’s intended to be fruitful — to make disciples. So, too, is the Trinitarian union. It is always life-giving and never sterile.

If we accept the modern evangelical interpretation, we must accept this symbolic distortion. Similarly, we must accept that the marriage analogy negates, or trumps, God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” We also must accept that subduing the earth can mean contracepting. This, despite the fact that God’s command to “be fruitful” directly precedes His command to “subdue the earth.”

But if we accept John Paul’s interpretation, we embrace a consistent message from Genesis to Revelation. Marriage is meant to be a joyful, fruitful expression of God’s life and love into which we, as His bride, are called to participate. There is no contradiction. There is only a powerful, compelling, and counter-cultural message of divine love.

Must Couples Have as Many Children as They Possibly Can?

Rejecting contraception does not mean couples must have as many children as possible. There are valid reasons to avoid pregnancy. And there is a way to do that without violating the spiritual significance of marital intimacy. It’s called natural family planning (NFP).

NFP works with our God-given body, rather than against it. It’s also 99-percent effective when used properly. Most importantly, it doesn’t distort the symbol of marital intimacy. It simply submits sex and fertility to the direction of a married couple.

There’s much more that could be written on this matter. I didn’t intend this series to provide the definitive answer on contraception, but simply to spur thoughtful, biblical reflection.

For too long, evangelicals have embraced contraception without truly thinking of its implications. We claim to be biblical. But we’re often just thinking like the world. That needs to change. We should not dismiss the theology embraced by Christians from the beginning just because Catholics have retained it. Perhaps it’s time we returned to it.”

Love,
Matthew

Protestants reflect on contraception 3


-God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Gen 1:31


-by Julie Roys, 8/6/18

(Julie Roys is an Evangelical Christian reporter. She graduated from Wheaton College and also attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Julie has published many articles at Christianity Today, World Magazine. Religion News Service, The Federalist, and The Christian Post. As a respected, conservative Christian voice, Julie also has been interviewed numerous times on National Public Radio, One America News, and Total Living Network. Julie hosted a live, call-in talk radio show on the Moody Radio Network that was called Up For Debate for six years. For calling out the issues at Moody she apparently lost her job. Julie and her husband live in the Chicago area and they have three children.)

“Almost all evangelicals support contraception. According to Pew Research, only 3-percent think it’s morally wrong. Most (55%) don’t even believe it’s a moral issue.

“If you go ask any . . . evangelical pastor, they’ll say if a married couple wants to use contraception . . . that’s fine.” So says David Talcott, a professor at The King’s College and an expert in sexual ethics. “It hasn’t really been a moral issue within evangelicalism,” he added. “(Evangelicals) are going to use the Pill and not think about it.”

This is stunning, given that Christians opposed birth control until the early 1900s. But as I wrote in part one of this series, Protestants soon gave way to cultural trends – first eugenics and then fears of overpopulation.

However, it wasn’t until 1966 that a thorough theological argument in favor of contraception was offered. The argument came in the form of an article published in Christianity Today by evangelical scholar John Warwick Montgomery. It proved extremely influential and swayed evangelical opinion on the matter. In fact, scholar Allan Carlson termed it a second “bombshell.” (The first was Billy Graham’s statement endorsing contraception seven years earlier.)

The article thrilled advocates of contraception and convinced more evangelicals to embrace birth control. But soon, many embraced abortion too. And they began thinking more pragmatically and less biblically.

A Birth Control Theology

In his landmark article, “How to Decide the Birth Control Question,” Dr. Montgomery presented a middle ground between two views – Catholic and liberal Protestant. Catholics opposed birth control based on “natural law” and the command in Genesis to “be fruitful.” This, Montgomery argued, reduced marriage to merely a means of producing offspring.

But Montgomery also rejected the liberal Protestant view. He said this view saw sex as “the fulfillment of human aspirations” and made it “an end in itself.” This turned sex into an idol and led to “permissive sex ethics.”

So, Montgomery argued for a third view. This view upheld the marriage analogy in Ephesians 5 as the “focal center of scriptural teachings on marriage.” It suggested that marriage was not simply “a means” of producing offspring as in “be fruitful and multiply.” Nor was it “unqualifiedly . . . an end” as in “They shall be one flesh.” Instead, it viewed marriage primarily as an analogy “of the relationship between Christ and his Church.”

This new understanding meant that marriage isn’t just for procreation. It also exists to foster a love relationship like Christ has with His church. So, Montgomery reasoned, birth control is okay if it helps a couple “achieve a better human relationship.”

Montgomery’s article drew from Scripture and made some valid points. Yet it also raised new questions. Was God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” no longer valid? Was achieving “a better relationship” enough to justify sterilizing something God clearly designed to be fertile? And do Catholics really believe that sex and marriage is merely a means to an end?

Also, the context of Montgomery’s article was clearly fear of overpopulation, suggesting that pragmatism may have driven this new doctrine, not merely Scripture. Several times, Montgomery cited population concerns. He suggested, for example, that couples consider “the population picture” when deciding family size. And, he said in places with “rapidly growing populations,” adoption may be better than having children.

Nevertheless, evangelical leaders were thrilled with Montgomery’s article and frequently cited it as the definitive commentary on the issue. In subsequent years, most evangelicals embraced birth control. But they also embraced abortion.

Abortion and a New Ethic

Two years after Montgomery’s article published, Christianity Today and the Christian Medical Society hosted a conference that produced “A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction.” This stunning document affirmed abortion. It stated, “(A)s to whether or not . . . induced abortion is always sinful we are not agreed, but about the necessity and permissibility for (abortion) under certain circumstances we are in accord. . . . When principles conflict, the preservation of fetal life . . . may have to be abandoned to maintain full and secure family life.”

The Southern Baptist Convention acted similarly. It resolved in 1971 to support laws allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest, and “clear evidence of severe fetal deformity.” The convention also said abortion is okay when “damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother” was likely.

This was a shocking development. And one that Montgomery apparently did not foresee. Two years after his groundbreaking first article, he wrote another. This one argued that life begins at conception and condemned abortion.

Fortunately in the late 70s and early 80s, many evangelicals returned to their pro-life convictions. This was largely due to the influential book by Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop called, “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” This book revealed the shocking implications of degrading human life. And it “changed abortion from being a Catholic issue to a Christian line in the sand.”

Yet today there remains a significant number of evangelicals (33%) who think abortion should be legal. And 13% of women who get abortions are evangelical Protestants.

This shouldn’t surprise us. As scholar and author Allan Carlson notes, “Historically, there’s never been a culture that’s condoned birth control, but then somehow managed to keep abortion illegal. When you get one, you always get the other.”

Clearly, the mentality that drives abortion, drives contraception. And when evangelicals embraced contraception they began thinking like pragmatists. Children became liabilities, not blessings. Marriage became a means to personal fulfillment, not family and sacrifice. And birth control became essential to personal health, as though our natural design was somehow defective.

Evangelical Pragmatists

Posted to the website of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is a shocking quote by Pastor Joel Hunter. “Unmarried sex with contraception is not God’s plan,” he says. “(B)ut unmarried sex without contraception is not a plan at all. If holy living is not the choice of some in the near term, contraception can at least reduce some potentially devastating results (including abortion) for all in the long term.”

It’s hard to believe an evangelical pastor would make such an unbiblical argument. Scripture says we’re supposed to expel the immoral brother, not give him condoms! But this thinking has become common among Christians.

Similarly, Jenny Eaton Dyer of Hope Through Healing Hands argued that Christians need to promote birth control in Africa. This was not based on Scripture, but naked pragmatism. Spacing pregnancies promotes women’s health, Deyer said. So, “Condoms, oral contraception, injectables, implants, and natural family planning: these are necessities for the health and flourishing of . . . developing nations worldwide.”

Is this really how God wants Christians to think? Does Scripture teach that sterilizing sex is key to human flourishing?

As Christians, we need to examine our assumptions in light of Scripture, not the wisdom of the world. We need to be driven by the Bible; not the spirit of the age.”

Love,
Matthew

Protestants reflect on contraception 2


-God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Gen 1:31


-by Julie Roys, 7/30/18

(Julie Roys is an Evangelical Christian reporter. She graduated from Wheaton College and also attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Julie has published many articles at Christianity Today, World Magazine. Religion News Service, The Federalist, and The Christian Post. As a respected, conservative Christian voice, Julie also has been interviewed numerous times on National Public Radio, One America News, and Total Living Network. Julie hosted a live, call-in talk radio show on the Moody Radio Network that was called Up For Debate for six years. For calling out the issues at Moody she apparently lost her job. Julie and her husband live in the Chicago area and they have three children.)

“I used to think like most evangelicals when it came to family planning. I strongly opposed abortion, but embraced contraception and thought Catholic objections to birth control were on par with praying to Mary.

Abortion, I reasoned, takes an innocent life and is clearly wrong. But contraception merely prevents conception. What could be wrong with that?

Sadly, I had never considered arguments on the other side. When I did, I discovered they aren’t flimsy or far-fetched. They’re solid and Scriptural. And they aren’t just Catholic either.

Every Protestant Reformer opposed contraception. In fact, before 1930, every church – Protestant and Catholic – did as well.

Yet today, most evangelicals embrace contraception. In fact, we’re so enthusiastic about it, we’re promoting it worldwide.

The Christian aid group World Vision now works with the pro-abortion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help women in poor countries “time and space their pregnancies.” So does Christian singer Amy Grant. There’s even a faith-based organization whose main purpose is to promote family planning. Not surprisingly, Bill & Melinda Gates are contributing to this group too.

Today, Western nations spend billions to control population in the developing world. Supporters say the impetus for this is concern for women and children. But critics say that’s not so. The only reason the West wants to reduce population elsewhere is because it wants more resources for itself.

So now the issue of birth control isn’t just personal; it’s global. And the stakes don’t just concern the size of one’s family, but the fate of people worldwide and the witness of the church.

Over the last 60 years, evangelicals have promoted a view that earlier Christians would have thought immoral. We didn’t do this because we studied Scripture and found prior interpretations lacking. Instead, we were swept along by culture.

Most evangelicals are blissfully unaware of this sad history. Our pastors told us birth control was fine and we gladly accepted what we were told. But the stakes are too high for us continue in ignorance. We need to study our past and Scripture, and seriously rethink if using birth control honors God.

In this article, I’ll help us do that by explaining what led evangelicals to embrace birth control. In part two, I’ll describe the theology developed to defend this embrace. And in part three, I’ll examine biblical arguments for and against contraception.

Anglicans Break With Tradition

Though Reformer Martin Luther had no problem with natural family planning, he strongly opposed contraception, calling it “intrinsically evil” and “a grave sin.” Fellow Reformer John Calvin felt similarly. Referring to Onan’s sin, he wrote, “It is a horrible thing to pour out seed.” This “quenches the hope” of one’s family and “kills the son . . . before he is born.”

In saying these things, Luther and Calvin were not expressing anything new. They were simply stating a position the church had held for more than a thousand years. Early Church Father St. Clement of Alexandria wrote, “(T)he seed is not to be . . . wasted. To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature.” Likewise, John Chrysostom lamented that some couples viewed children “as grievous and unwelcome” due to their greed.

Historically, opposing birth control has not been a Catholic thing. It’s been a Christian thing. As late as 1908, Anglican church leaders officially resolved that “the use of all artificial means” of birth control should be discouraged. They added that contraception corrupted character and was “hostile to national welfare.”
Yet in 1930, Anglicans reversed course and became the first church to condone birth control. As author and scholar Allan C. Carlson said in a 2015 interview, the impetus for this change was not spiritual, but pragmatic. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger had recruited Anglican pastors and convinced many to embrace eugenics, or “controlled breeding.” The American Eugenics Society even sponsored a “Eugenics Sermon Contest” with cash prizes for the best sermons.

Evangelicals Succumb to Fear

Evangelicals, however, opposed birth control for several more decades. But in 1959, Billy Graham made a stunning statement. He told reporters that he found “nothing in the Bible which would forbid birth control.”

Like the Anglicans, Graham didn’t appear to be motivated by Scripture. Instead, having recently visited Africa, he cited concerns of overpopulation. “I do believe that some form of birth control is necessary in Asia, Japan, Africa, and other nations where population explosions are threatened,” he said.

Many in Graham’s generation shared his concern. In 1952, the Population Council had warned that overpopulation was going to deplete the world’s resources. And in 1958, the Draper Committee reported that the “population problem” was the greatest obstacle to world progress.
A month before Graham’s statement, Christianity Today ran an article on the Draper Report. It suggested that the time had come for a “re-examination” of sex apart from procreation. Apparently, Graham agreed.

Over the next decade, fears of overpopulation continued to grow and exploded when Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb. This best-selling book predicted that overpopulation would lead to mass starvation in the 1970s and 80s. Though Ehrlich’s predictions never came true, the fears he raised remained and impacted Christians and non-Christians alike.

Yet evangelicals couldn’t fully embrace contraception without a strong biblical rationale. That came seven years after Graham’s statement. And it led to major changes in Christian thought and action.

Many evangelicals began accepting and using contraception. And as I explain in my next article, some began to condone abortion, as well.”

Love,
Matthew

Ars Moriendi – The Art of Dying


-by Br. Columba Thomas, OP, graduated from Yale School of Medicine and completed residency in Internal Medicine/Primary Care.

“Ars Moriendi, or “The Art of Dying,” was an immensely popular and influential medieval text aimed at equipping the faithful for death and dying. It appeared by order of the Council of Constance sometime between 1414 and 1418, and although its author is anonymous, some scholars speculate that it was a Dominican friar.

It is no surprise that the Church would focus on death-related themes at this time: one of the central pastoral preoccupations of the late medieval Church was preparing souls for death, which included saving them from damnation and shortening their stay in purgatory. To suppose that this focus on death was primarily driven by the effects of the bubonic plague is probably an oversimplification; it seems, rather, to be a foundational characteristic of medieval piety, resulting from a flourishing belief in the reality of life after death and the salvific efficacy of the sacraments. Hence, securing the ministrations of a priest in the final hours of death was a chief concern. But the impact of the bubonic plague, including the loss of clergy who would assist the dying, heightened the need for additional forms of guidance—thus arose the Ars Moriendi, a standard for deathbed pastoral practice intended for the use of dying persons and their loved ones assisting them.

The span of centuries notwithstanding, some modern-day bioethicists have looked to the medieval Ars Moriendi for inspiration in discussing contemporary approaches to death and dying. They recognize that patients nearing the end of life today often are overwhelmed by the complexity of health care and miss the opportunity to prepare well for death. A modern-day Ars Moriendi, then, would serve as a corrective to the prevailing over-medicalized, technologically driven death. Whereas bioethicists generally have sought to use the medieval text as inspiration for an approach that accommodates a wide variety of belief systems, religious and secular, it seems vital that the expressed religious intent be preserved in such a work—in fact, certain insights from the medieval text may provide a helpful addition to contemporary pastoral approaches at the end of life.

Just a cursory look at the medieval Ars Moriendi may suffice to draw out some of these insights. As the text emphasizes, dying persons are commonly faced with temptations that threaten to rob them of salvation, including the temptation against faith, the temptation of despair, and the temptation of pride that leads to complacency. When faced with these temptations, such persons must realize the importance of dying in the faith of Christ and in union with the Church to attain salvation, which is true happiness. This includes the reception of the sacraments, repeated professions of faith, self-examinations, and prayer.

For sure, the sacraments are the primary means by which the faithful can attain salvation; nevertheless, one can resist the graces offered in the sacraments, and so these other practices are important to help dispose one to receive the sacraments efficaciously. In this way, simply ensuring the visitation of a priest and the reception of the sacraments does not suffice. While efforts must be made to console dying persons that death itself is not to be feared, in light of Christ’s salvific act, it is better to stir them from complacency than to allow them to drift away from God for the sake of comfort.

These insights from the medieval Ars Moriendi may be key in reclaiming an art of dying for the twenty-first century. They give cause for concern that the typical approach for Catholics nearing the end of life today presumes that the reception of the sacraments all but guarantees salvation—typically, little emphasis is placed on the need for regular self-examination, professions of faith, and overcoming common temptations against the love of God. Instead, the focus is on consoling the dying person and loved ones, not necessarily for the sake of overcoming fear of death to remove a barrier to salvation, but out of deference to social sensibilities. Based on these concerns, it seems we truly are in need of a modern-day Ars Moriendi. The medieval text makes clear that the reality of judgment after death and hope for the salvation of souls should take priority over everything else, including attempts to better navigate the complexities and limitations of medical management at the end of life.”

Love,
Matthew

Asking the Right Questions: Jehovah’s Witnesses

Catholic Answers

“The sect known as Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) began with Charles Taze Russell in the 1870’s. Russell was raised a Presbyterian, then joined the Congregational church, and was finally influenced by Adventist teachings. By his own admission, he had a hard time accepting the existence of hell. He sought out the Bible, and as his “studies” continued, he systematically began to reject the major doctrines of historic Christianity. In 1879 he started publishing a magazine to promote his beliefs. This magazine was the precursor to today’s Watchtower (WT) magazine.

In this section we will examine ten topics relating to Russell, the JWs, and their parent organization, the Watchtower Society (WTS). We will show that the beliefs of JWs are unscriptural, and that both Russell and the WTS are completely unreliable as spiritual guides.

Is the Watch Tower Society Reliable?

In 1910 Russell wrote, “If anyone lays the Scripture Studies [short for a seven-volume WTS publication entitled Studies in the Scriptures, hereafter abbreviated as Studies] aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years—if he lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood the Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he will be in the light at the end of two years.” (WT Reprints, 9-15-1910, 4685). The WTS claims to be God’s inspired prophet (WT, 4-1-1972, 197)—and yet its prophecies have repeatedly proven to be false.

Among other things, the WTS falsely predicted the following:

1889: “The ‘battle of the great day of God almighty’ (Rev. 16:14) which will end in AD 1914 . . . ” (Studies, Vol. 2, 1908 edition, 101).

1891: “With the end of AD 1914, what God calls Babylon, and what men call Christendom, will have passed away, as already shown from prophecy” (Studies, Vol. 3, 153).

1894: “The end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble” (WT Reprints, 1-1-1894, 1605 and 1677).

1916: “The six great 1000 year days beginning with Adam are ended, and that the great 7th day, the 1000 years of Christ’s reign began in 1873” (Studies, Vol. 2, p. 2 of foreword).

1918: “Therefore, we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the faithful prophets of old” (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 89).

1923: “1925 is definitely settled by the scriptures. As to Noah, the Christian now has much more upon which to base his faith than Noah had upon which to base his faith in a coming deluge” (WT, 4-1-1923, 106).

1925: “The year of 1925 is here. . . . Christians should not be so deeply concerned about what may transpire this year” (WT, 1-1-1925, 3).

1939: “The disaster of Armageddon is just ahead” (Salvation, 361).

1941: “Armageddon is surely near . . . soon . . . within a few years” (Children, 10).

1946: “Armageddon . . . should come sometime before 1972” (They Have Found a Faith, 44).

1968: “The end of the six thousand years of man’s history in the fall of 1975 is not tentative, but is accepted as a certain date” (WT, 1-1-1968, 271).

Besides false prophecies, the WTS has misled its members through countless changes in doctrine and practice:

The men of Sodom will be resurrected (WT, 7-1879, 7-8). The men of Sodom will not be resurrected (WT, 6-1-1952, 338). The men of Sodom will be resurrected (WT 8-1-1965, 479). The men of Sodom will not be resurrected (WT 6-1-1988, 31).

“There could be nothing against our consciences in going into the army” (WT, 4-15-1903, 120). Due to conscience, Jehovah’s Witnesses must refuse military service (WT, 2-1-1951, 73).

“We may as well join in with the civilized world in celebrating the grand event [Christmas] . . . ” (WT Reprints, 12-1-1904, 3468). “Christmas and its music are not from Jehovah . . . What is their source? . . . Satan the devil” (WT, 12-15-1983, 7).

“Everyone in America should take pleasure in displaying the American flag” (WT Reprints, 5-15-1917, 6068). The flag is “an idolatrous symbol” (Awake!, 9-8-71, 14).
A much longer list of such contradictions and doctrinal twists by the WTS could be formed, but this suffices to remove any reason one might have to believe that “It is through the columns of The Watchtower that Jehovah provides direction and constant scriptural counsel to his people” (WT, 5-1-1964, 277).

Can You Trust the New World Translation?

The New World Translation (NWT), the JWs’ own Bible version, was created between 1950 and 1961 in several parts, beginning with New Testament (NT). The translation was made by an “anonymous” committee, which transliterated and altered passages that were problematic for earlier JWs. The text of the NWT is more of a transliteration to fit theological presumptions than it is a true translation. This can be seen in key verses that the WTS changed in order to fit its doctrines.

To undermine the divinity of Christ in John 1:1, the NWT reads “the word was a god.” Non-JW Greek scholars call this “a shocking mistranslation” and “evidence of abysmal ignorance of the basic tenets of Greek grammar.” Furthermore, Col. 1:15-17 has been changed to “by means of him all [other] things were created.” If the text were left as the original Greek reads, it would clearly state that Jesus created all things. However, the WTS cannot afford to say that anyone but Jehovah created all things, so it inserted the word “other” four times into the text.

The 1950, 1961, and 1970 editions of the NWT said that Jesus was to be worshipped (Heb. 1:6), but the WTS changed the NWT so that later editions would support its doctrines. The translators now decided to render the Greek word for “worship” (proskuneo) as “do obeisance” every time it is applied to Jesus, but as “worship” when modifying Jehovah. If the translators were consistent, then Jesus would be given the worship due to God in Matthew 14:33, 28:9, 28:17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; and Hebrews 1:6.

At the time of the Last Supper, there were over three dozen Aramaic words to say “this means,” “represents,” or “signifies,” but Jesus used none of them in his statement, “This is my body.” Since the WTS denies the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, they have taken the liberty to change our Lord’s words to “This means my body” in Matthew 26:26.

The NWT also translates the Greek word kurios (“Lord”) as “Jehovah” dozens of times in the NT, despite the fact that the word “Jehovah” is never used by any NT author. It should also be asked why the NWT does not translate kurios as “Jehovah” in Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, and Revelation 22:21. If it did translate kurios consistently, then Jesus would be Jehovah!

Is “Jehovah” God’s Name?

In Reasoning from the Scriptures the WTS teaches that “Jehovah” is the proper pronunciation of God’s name, and so “Everyone who calls on the name of [Jehovah] will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). They continue, “Many scholars favor the spelling ‘Yahweh,’ but it is uncertain and there is not agreement among them. On the other hand, ‘Jehovah’ is the form of the name that is most readily recognized, because it has been used in English for centuries” (p. 195).

However, the JWs’ own Aid to Bible Understanding says, “The first recorded use of this form [Jehovah] dates from the 13th century C.E. [after Christ]. . . . Hebrew scholars generally favor ‘Yahweh’ as the most likely pronunciation” (pp. 884-885).

New Testament Greek always uses the word “Lord,” and never “Jehovah,” even in quotes from the Old Testament (OT). Encyclopedia Judaica, Webster’s Encyclopedia, Jewish Encyclopedia,Encyclopedia Britannica, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia and countless others agree that the title “Jehovah” is erroneous and was never used by the Jews.

Do Humans Possess an Immortal Soul?

Another mistake made by JWs is their denial of the immortality of the soul. The Bible mentions the soul approximately 200 times, and it can be seen to have very different meanings according to the context of each passage. This tract will simply demonstrate that the soul is immortal according to Scripture.

Perhaps the strongest contradiction of the WTS doctrine is seen in Christ’s descent to Hades. In 1 Peter 3:19, the apostle tells his audience how Jesus “preached to the spirits in prison.” If the dead were aware of nothing, then his preaching would have been futile. In the OT, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the condition of the dead, “Sheol underneath has become agitated at you in order to meet you on coming in . . . all of them speak up and say. . . . Those seeing you will gaze even at you, saying . . . ” (Isa. 14:9-11). These verses indicate clearly that the dead are conscious, and the NT tells the same story. To be absent from the body is not to be unconscious, but rather it enables one to be home with the Lord, according to Paul (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). The body is just a tent, or tabernacle that does not last (2 Cor. 5:1-4; 2 Pet. 1:13), while man cannot kill the soul (Matt. 10:28). In fact, the souls live past the death of the bodies, since John “saw . . . the souls of those slaughtered . . . and they cried with a loud voice, saying . . . and they were told . . . ” (Rev. 6:9-11). Because the soul does not die with the flesh, those in heaven are able to offer our prayers to God (Rev. 5:8), and live in happiness (Rev. 14:13).

Is Hell Real or Not?

The WTS also maintains that everlasting punishment is a myth and a lie invented by Satan. Hell is merely mankind’s common grave, and is definitely not a fiery torture, according to them.

According to Scripture, if one is in hell, “he shall be tormented with fire and sulfur . . . the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever, and day and night they have no rest” (Rev. 14:11). This is an “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Jesus tells his listeners of Lazarus and the rich man, where the rich man dies, and is “existing in torment . . . he sees . . . calls out . . . ‘I am in anguish in this blazing fire’” (Luke 16:19-31). As a further illustration, Jesus stated that hell is likened to Gehenna. This “Valley of Hinnom” was located southeast of Jerusalem, and was used as a garbage dump where trash and waste were continuously burned day and night in a large fire. Jesus informs the listeners that hell is like this, “where the maggot does not die, and fire is not put out” (Mark 9:42-48). It is the place where the wicked are sent, and from this “everlasting fire” (Matt. 18:8) will come “weeping and the gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12). Now if hell were “a place of rest in hope” as the WTS teaches, then it is odd that Jesus would choose such contradictory illustrations to convey this.

Some core beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) were examined in our tract entitled Five Questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses. In this “sequel” tract, we will examine some additional beliefs and teachings of the Watchtower Society (WTS), the parent organization of the JWs.

Are Jesus and Michael the Archangel Really the Same Person?

One of the most peculiar of the WTS’s teachings is their assertion that Jesus is actually Michael the Archangel. If the JW has difficulty explaining any particular doctrine, it will be this one. Even JWs will admit that if one were to have walked up to any of the apostles or disciples of Christ and asked them who Jesus was, they would not have said, “Well, he’s Michael the Archangel!” Not only was the very idea unheard of before Charles Taze Russell (the founder of the WTS), but the Bible explicitly rejects the possibility of it.

For example, the author of Hebrews states, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my son? . . . Let all the angels of God worship him. . . . to which of the angels has he ever said ‘Sit at my right hand . . . ’” (Heb. 1). Here, the author of Hebrews separates Jesus from angels, and commands the angels to worship him (cf. Rev. 5:13-14,14:6-7). The obvious problem is this: archangels are creatures, but the Bible forbids any creature to worship another creature. Thus, either the Bible is in error by commanding the angels to worship an archangel, or Jesus is uncreated and cannot be an archangel. Since this gave the JWs a tremendous problem, they even had to change their own Bible translation, called the New World Translation (NWT), to eliminate the references to worshipping Christ.

Jesus: Creature or Creator?

The doctrine that most clearly sets the WTS apart from Christianity is its denial of the divinity of Christ. JWs maintain that Jesus is actually a creature—a highly exalted one—but not God himself. Scripturally, the evidence is not in their favor.

John 1:1 states unequivocally, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This verse gave the JWs tremendous difficulty, and so in their own NWT they render the end of this verse as, “And the word was a god.” One great difficulty with this translation is how it contradicts passages such as Deuteronomy 32:39, which says, “I alone, am God and there are no gods together with me.” Further contradictions can be seen in Exodus 20:3, “Have no other gods besides me,” and Isaiah 43:10, “Before me no god was formed nor shall there be any after me.”

In John 20:28 Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” In the original Greek it literally reads, “The Lord of me and the God of me.” It would be nothing short of blasphemy for Jesus not to rebuke Thomas if he was wrong. Jesus instead accepts Thomas’s profession of his identity as God.

The Bible indicates that God alone created the universe (Is. 44:24), and “he that constructed all things is God” (Heb. 3:4). However, Jesus created the heavens and the earth (Heb. 1:10). This passage by itself proves that Jesus is God, since an Old Testament reference to God (Ps. 102:26-28) is now given to him.

In John 8:58, Jesus takes the name of God, “I AM” (Ex. 3:15-18), and applies it to himself. Only God may use this title without blaspheming (Ex. 20:7, Deut. 5:11), and the punishment for someone other than God to use the sacred “I AM” is stoning (Lev. 24:16). Thus, in verse 59, Jesus’ audience picked up stones to kill him, because they correctly understood his use of “I AM” as his claim to being God and hence thought he was guilty of blasphemy. This verse also proved to be difficult for the JWs to combat, and so they changed “I AM” to “I have been.” The Greek here is ego eimi, which any first-semester Greek student can tell you means “I am.”

JWs maintain that only Jehovah God may be prayed to. But Stephen prayed to Jesus in Acts 7:59, and so one must conclude that Jesus is God. Otherwise, Stephen blasphemed while filled with the Holy Spirit (7:55).

The WTS would have their followers believe that Jehovah and Jesus are necessarily different beings, though the Bible tells another story. Jesus is called Mighty God in Isaiah 9:6, and in the very next chapter the same title is given to Jehovah in verse 21. Other shared titles include: King of Kings (compare with Rev. 17:14), Lord of Lords (Deut. 10:17; Rev. 17:14), the only Savior (Is. 43:10-11; Acts 4:12), the First and the Last (Isa. 44:6; Rev. 22:13), the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8; 22:13-16), Rock (Isa. 8:14; 1 Pet. 2:7-8), and Shepherd (Ps. 23:1; Heb. 13:20-21).

Jesus and Jehovah have much more in common than titles, though. They are both worshipped by angels (Heb. 1:6, Neh. 9:6). They are both unchanging (Heb. 13:8, Mal. 3:6). They both created the heavens and the earth (Heb. 1:10, Neh. 9:6) and are all-knowing (John 21:17, 1 John 3:20). Both give eternal life (John 10:28, 1 John 5:11), and judge the world (John 5:22, Ps. 96:13). To them every knee will bend and every tongue confess (Phil. 2:9-11, Is. 45:23).

Is the Holy Spirit a Force or God?

Since the WTS insists that the Trinity is unbiblical and false, they relegate the Holy Spirit to the role of God’s impersonal active force which compels believers to do his will. In fact, they compare the Holy Spirit (which they render as “holy spirit”) to electricity.

The Bible begs to differ, though. There are numerous verses in the New Testament which clearly demonstrate both the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit. For example, in Acts 13:2, the Holy Spirit says, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” In Acts 10:19-20, this “impersonal force” considers himself to be a person. John 16 supports this idea by referring to the Holy Spirit as a “he” 10 times in the same chapter. First Corinthians 12:11 states that the Holy Spirit “wills,” which is an irrefutable attribute of personhood, as is the capacity to love we see demonstrated by the Spirit in Romans 15:30. Scripture also states that the Holy Spirit can: be lied to (Acts 5:3), speak (Acts 10:19-20), hear (John 16:13-15), know the future (Acts 21:11), testify (John 15:26), teach (John 14:26), reprove (John 16:8-11), pray and intercede (Rom. 8:26), guide (John 16:13), call (Acts 13:2), be grieved (Eph. 4:30), feel hurt (Isa. 63:10), be outraged (Heb. 10:29), desire (Gal. 5:17) and be blasphemed (Mark 3:29). Only a person is capable of these.

These examples demonstrate sufficiently that the Holy Spirit is a personal being, and so now one must demonstrate that he is God. Acts 5:1-4 teaches that a lie to the Holy Spirit is a lie to God himself. Isaiah 44:24 insists that God alone created the heavens and the earth, but Job 33:4 and Psalms 104:30 explains that the Holy Spirit created them. Only God is everlasting, and this is likewise an attribute Scripture gives the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14). There is but one Lord (Eph. 4:5), and one Creator (Mal. 2:10), yet both the Father and the Spirit claim they are him (Matt. 11:25 and 2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Cor. 8:6 and Ps. 104:30). Only the Catholic understanding of the Trinity reconciles these passages.

Is There a Bodily Resurrection of Christ?

According to the WTS, “The man Jesus is dead, forever dead” (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 5, 454). “We deny that he was raised in the flesh, and challenge any statement to that effect as being unscriptural” (Studies, Vol. 7, 57). Jesus’ fleshly body “was disposed of by Jehovah God, dissolved into its constitutive elements or atoms” (The Watchtower, 9-1-1953, 518). “In order to convince Thomas of who he was, he used a body with wound holes” (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 145). He was raised as an invisible spirit creature, with no physical body (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 214-215).

However, according to Scripture, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain, and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). Jesus makes clear, even before death, that it is his body that will be raised up. He promises to raise up the temple once it is destroyed. “He was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:21). After he had risen, he gives the same testimony, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have” (Luke 24:39, 41). Jesus insists that Thomas place his finger into his wounded side, so as to prove that he had indeed risen from the dead (John 20:27). Ask the JW to show you a Scripture verse which backs up the WTS’s assertion about God disposing of Jesus’ body. He can’t, because there isn’t one.

Is Heaven Just for the “Anointed Class”?

The WTS teaches that only the anointed 144,000 seen in Revelation 7 will enter heaven (the “anointed class”), while the remainder that are not annihilated (the “other sheep”) will live forever on earth in paradise. However, the Bible poses some irreconcilable difficulties with this idea.

If Revelation 7 is to be taken literally, there would only be 144,000 Jewish male virgins taken from a square-shaped earth that are now in heaven worshipping a sheep. This would mean that Peter (not a virgin), the Blessed Mother (not a male), and Charles Taze Russell (not a Jew) could not be in heaven. Reading one number literally while taking the rest of a book symbolically is not sound exegesis. Beyond this, we see in Revelation 14 that the 144,000 stand before the 24 elders from Revelation 4:4.

This at least brings the grand total to 144,024 people. But the Scriptures indicate that there are still more to come. Revelation 7:9 speaks of a countless multitude before the throne, which is in heaven (Rev. 14:2-3). Still in the book of Revelation, we read that all those with their name in the book of life are in heaven (Rev. 21:27), while all whose names are not in the book of life are thrown into the pool of fire (Rev. 20:15). There is no third “earthly” class. Jesus reiterates this, and never speaks of two flocks.

The WTS maintains that no one that lived before Christ will ever enter heaven. “The apostle Paul in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews names a long list of faithful men who died before the crucifixion of the Lord. . . . These can never be a part of the heavenly class” (Millions Now Living, p. 89).

Matthew 8:11-12 provides severe difficulties for this idea, since Jesus proclaims, “many from eastern parts and western parts will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; whereas the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside.” No verse could be clearer in declaring that the patriarchs are in heaven. The following verses all demonstrate that Christians go to heaven: 2 Corinthians 5:1; Hebrews 3:1; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:4.”

Love,
Matthew

Where’s Purgatory in the Bible?

“Any Catholic who is familiar with apologetics knows to answer with 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Paul is talking about the day of judgment that comes after death (see Hebrews 9:27). And in light of the “fire” that tests the quality of a person’s works, Catholics argue that the person is being purified. Fire is used metaphorically in Scripture as a purifying agent—in Matthew 3:2-3,11 and Mark 9:49—and as that which consumes: Matthew 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). This state of existence can’t be heaven because the individual has the defilement of bad works and is suffering loss. Nor can it be hell because Paul says the person “will be saved.” A state of purification in the afterlife that is neither heaven nor hell—that’s purgatory!

But for Protestants it’s not so clear. They offer a few reasons why they think this doesn’t refer to purgatory.

One is that Paul says these things will only happen at the final judgment—“for the Day will disclose it” (v.13). For this text to support the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, so the argument goes, it would need to speak of an intermediate judgment before the Second Coming. Since it doesn’t, a Catholic can’t use it to support purgatory.

What should we make of this Protestant counter? Is it a precious stone that would survive the fire of scrutiny? Or is it more like straw?

Let’s test it and find out.

It’s true that when Paul speaks of “the Day” he is referring to the final judgment—that is, the judgment at the end of time when Christ comes in glory (Matt. 25:31-46). But this doesn’t prevent a Catholic from using this passage to support purgatory.

Paul was not envisioning this passage for such an intermediate state because, as some scholars point out, Paul wrote this at a time (c. A.D. 53) when he thought the Second Coming was imminent, and that he and most of his audience would experience it. For example, he writes in reference to it, “we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17; Cf. 1 Cor. 15:51).

Given this, we wouldn’t expect Paul to think that these events take place during an intermediate judgment before the final judgment. But what if the time horizon shifted and most people died before the Second Coming? Could we say they received some kind of judgment prior to the last judgment? And would these events that Paul describes have taken place at that judgment?

The time horizon indeed does seem to shift for Paul. In 2 Timothy 4:6, he tells Timothy that he knows his death is imminent: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.” If he knows he’s about to die, then surely he doesn’t expect to be alive for the Second Coming.

What about an intermediate judgment before the final judgment? Scripture reveals that such a judgment does exist, and it occurs immediately after death when God determines a person’s final destiny—what the Catechism calls “the particular judgment” (CCC 1022).

Jesus makes this clear in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus is “carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) and receives a fate of comfort (v.25). The rich man is taken to Hades where he experiences “torment” (v.23) and “anguish” (v.25). The different fates assigned to each man immediately after death imply a particular judgment.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of our union with “the spirits of just men” as members of the New Covenant. That we approach their spirits suggests they are dead. And that they are a part of the heavenly reality that Christians participate in tells us that they exist in heaven, and thus have been judged.

Revelation 6:9 implies the same thing, for the martyrs in heaven beg God to avenge their blood on their persecutors who are still on earth. Revelation 7:9-14 describes those “clothed in white robes” who “have come out of the great tribulation” of the first century experiencing their eternal reward in heaven.

Now that we know there is such a thing as an intermediate judgment (“the particular judgment”) before the final judgment, the question becomes: “Can we apply the events that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 to the particular judgment?”

We have good reason to think that we can.

The events that Paul describes have no intrinsic relation to the timing of judgment, but to judgment itself. Works are being weighed, and the soul receives its final destiny (in this case it’s heaven).

This is what happens at the particular judgment. According to the Catechism, each person has his works weighed (CCC 1021) and receives his “eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death,” “either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately,” or “immediate and everlasting damnation” (CCC 1022).

Since the type of judgment that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (e.g., works are tested, the soul’s final destiny is determined) is the type of judgment that takes place for souls at the particular judgment, then it’s reasonable to use this passage to describe what happens at the particular judgment. And if the particular judgment, then purgatory.”

Love,
Matthew

Non-denominational Evangelical discovers the Catholic Church, Coming to a Conclusion (Part 6 of 6)


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Keith Albert Little, “The Cordial Catholic” (@cordialcatholic)

Coming to a Conclusion

“In hindsight, I can draw a pretty straight line in my journey towards the Catholic Church. It began back at that Evangelical youth group not many years after I first encountered Christ, when I realized that the system as I understood it simply didn’t make sense. If we could read our Bibles and interpret them in all sorts of different ways, if we couldn’t come to the same conclusion on life-impacting things like salvation or the definition of marriage, then that system was broken. Maybe it was never what God intended, anyway.

It became clear to me through reading the stories of other Catholic converts, from digging into the history of my faith through the early Church Fathers, and through studying the Reformation that I hadn’t fully understood my place, the place of the Bible, and the role of the Catholic Church in my Christian faith. Having been fair, having done the research, having studied and prayed and wrung my hands, I realized I had no other option than to become Catholic.

But the journey wasn’t all that smooth. I called up the closest Catholic Church and began RCIA, thinking that all Catholic churches were the same. It was the “universal Church” after all, right? The parish we ended up in, however, was rather sleepy. There was nothing for kids, nothing for families, and no real faith formation aspect to parish life. My wife, who had been tangentially along for the journey, made a heartbreaking observation one morning after Mass.

It was the first time she’d attended with me. We were splitting our time between worship services at our non-denominational church and Mass at the local Catholic parish. This particular morning, on the way home, she turned to me in the car and said, with a sly look on her face, “I saw a miracle happen today at Mass!”

I joked, “Honey, that happens every time; it’s called the Real Presence of Christ!” She rolled her eyes and replied, “No, it happened after the priest prayed the Eucharistic prayers. I closed my eyes when he started praying, and when I opened them up again, everyone had their coats on. That way, they could rush out the door as soon as they received the Host!”

I sighed. She was right, and I knew it. At this particular parish, the culture of Drive-Thru Catholicism was rampant, and it depressed us both. How could I be joining a Church that seemed so apathetic? Didn’t they know about the miracle of Christ present in the Mass and how every time the priest celebrates Communion he’s mystically linking us to the Last Supper? Didn’t they realize that we’re singing and praying in the presence of choirs of angels?

I’ve since met and spoken with many converts, and they have shared the same challenge that we faced. The Evangelical church we had attended was bursting at the seams with programming for kids, missions outreach, small group ministries, Bible studies, discussion groups, worship services, and all kinds of activities and programs to engage the congregation in good works. We built each other up as disciples of Christ. But such vibrancy can be difficult to find in Catholic communities. I’ve also learned that sometimes we need to build it up ourselves.

My wife and I did find a parish which took its mission of evangelization seriously and drank deeply from that well every week. She entered the Church the year after me.

There’s something else I’ve learned. As converts, we have special gifts to give to the Catholic Church. We have a perspective and zest for the faith that those who were raised in the Church often find difficult to capture. We’ve also seen what else is out there. With the Eucharist as the focal point, we’ve seen the fruits of robust children’s ministry programming, of youth groups and Bible studies and discussion groups — we’ve seen, firsthand, how these aspects of parish life can help to build up the whole Body of Christ and equip Catholics for their mission. The Catholic Church, in its individual parishes, certainly has work to do here, but it’s work in which converts like us can play a fundamental role. It’s one thing, I think, to become Catholic. It’s quite another to commit to being renewed, every day, as a disciple of Christ — and then to sharing that fire. God willing, that is what we’ll continue to do.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 14 – Bl Richard Langhorne, Esq., (1624-1679), Husband, Father, Martyr – O blessed news!!

The Popish Plot was a conspiracy alleged and purported by Titus Oates, “Titus the Liar”, that between 1678 and 1681 gripped the Kingdoms of England and Scotland in anti-Catholic hysteria. Oates alleged that there was an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II, accusations that led to the executions of at least 22 men and precipitated the Exclusion Bill Crisis. Eventually Oates’s intricate web of accusations fell apart, leading to his arrest and conviction for perjury.

Blessed Richard Langhorne (c. 1624 – 14 July 1679) was a lawyer executed as part of the Popish Plot. “The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple”, commonly known as Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court (professional associations for barristers/lawyers and judges) in London. To be called to the Bar and practice as a lawyer in England and Wales, a person must belong to one of these Inns. Bl Richard Langhorne was admitted to the Inner Temple in May 1647 and called to the bar in November 1654. He provided legal and financial advice for the Jesuits.  Blessed Richard followed his father into the practice of law.

Blessed Richard married Dorothy Legatt of Havering, Essex, England, a Protestant; they lived on Shire Lane in London, had two sons, Charles and Francis, both of whom became priests. Part of Richard’s work was to advise the local Jesuits on legal and financial matters, which would come back to haunt him. His sons, due to the Reformation, had to pursue their seminary training outside of England. They attended the English College (for English students) at St Omer run by the Jesuits.

Oates, at first, attended Cambridge. There he gained a reputation for being fanatically hypocritical and sanctimonious, and homosexual.  Not a good student, Oates was called “a great dunce” by his tutor.

By falsely claiming to have a degree, Oates gained a license to preach from the Bishop of London. On 29 May 1670 he was ordained as a priest of the Church of England. During this time Oates accused a schoolmaster in Hastings of sodomy with one of his pupils, hoping to get the schoolmaster’s post. However, the charge was shown to be false, and Oates himself was soon facing charges of perjury, but he escaped jail and fled to London. In 1675 Oates became a chaplain in the Royal Navy. Oates was soon accused of buggery, which was a capital offense, and spared only because of his clerical status. He was dismissed from the navy in 1676.

In August 1676, Oates was arrested in London and returned to Hastings to face trial for his outstanding perjury charges, but he escaped a second time and returned to London. With the help of the actor Matthew Medburne, he joined the household of the Catholic Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk, as an Anglican chaplain to those members of Howard’s household who were Protestants. He soon lost this position.

On Ash Wednesday in 1677 Oates was received into the Catholic Church. Oates was involved with the Jesuit houses of St Omer in France and the Royal English College at Valladolid in Spain. Oates was admitted to a course in Valladolid through the support of Richard Strange, SJ, head of the English Province, despite a lack of basic competence in Latin.  He later claimed, falsely, that he had become a Catholic Doctor of Divinity. His ignorance of Latin was quickly exposed, and his frequently blasphemous conversation and attacks on the monarchy shocked both his teachers and the other students. Thomas Whitbread, SJ, the new Provincial, took a much firmer line with Oates than had Strange and, in June 1678, expelled him from St Omer. Oddly, at the same time, Oates agreed to co-author a series of anti-Catholic pamphlets with Israel Tonge, whom he had met through Oates’ father. When he returned to London, he rekindled his friendship with Tonge. Oates explained that he had pretended to become a Catholic to learn about the secrets of the Jesuits.

In October 1677, Charles Langhorne entrusted Oates with a letter to his father. Oates returned to St Omer with a letter from Richard thanking the Jesuits for all they had done for his sons.

Being Catholic, Richard was arrested on 15 June 1667, suspected of involvement in the great fire of London in September 1666, but was released. He was arrested again on 7 October 1678 and lodged in solitary confinement in Newgate Prison for eight months on suspicion of involvement in the Popish Plot of Titus Oates. Oates claimed, corroborated by William Bedloe, that Langhorne’s earlier correspondence dealt with treason.  Though Richard denied knowledge of any such thing, on 14 June 1679 he was found guilty of conspiring with the Jesuits to burn London, and sentenced to death.

As the result of a petition by his wife, a ‘true Protestant’, he received a month’s reprieve to tidy the affairs of his clients. He was executed at Tyburn, London, on 14 July 1679. According to the Benedictines at Tyburn Convent, “He declared on the scaffold at Tyburn, that not only a pardon, but many preferments and estates had been offered to him if he would forsake his religion. As the hangman was placing the rope round his neck, he took it into his hands and kissed it.”

This notice from The Tablet archives has this additional detail about his execution from a contemporary account:

“He then said, ‘Pray God bless his Majesty and this kingdom, and defend him from all his enemies ‘; and then prayed that there might be no more blood shed, and that God would forgive them that designed or rejoyced in his death, and suddenly added, ‘I shall say no more in publick.’ And presently applyed himself to his private devotions, and by some words which he spake lowder than ordinary it appeared that some of his prayers were in Latin and some in English. One near him saying, the Lord have mercy on his soul,’ he, turning to him, said, I thank you for your charity.’ Having continued about a quarter of an hour in his private ejaculations (prayers) (though the sheriff told him he might take half an hour if he pleased), he asked whether the rope were right. A while after he said, You need stay no longer for me.’ Upon which the cart was immediately drawn away, and the hangman, having struck him on the breast and pull’d his legs to dispatch him, he was stripp’d, and being quite dead, was cut down and the sentence executed upon him. . . .

“After his bowels were burnt and his body quartered according to his sentence, his corps was, by his Majesty’s most gracious order, delivered to his friends, who put it into a hearse, with escutcheons about it, and was afterwards interred in the Temple church, in which place he was once a student of the laws.”

“I am desirous to be with my Jesus. I am ready and you need stay no longer for me.” – Blessed Richard’s last words to his executioner

O Blessed News!!

-Bl Richard Langhorne

It is told me I must die.
O blessed news!
I must quit
Earth for Heaven.
My earthly prison for a liberty of joy,
My banishment for my true country.

I must pass
From time to eternity,
From misery to felicity,
From change to immutability.

I must go to fill
My spirit with a plenitude of light,
My will with a fullness of peace,
My memory with a collection of all goods,
My senses with a satiety of pleasures.

I go where I shall find
All things which I can desire,
Nothing which I can fear.
I shall no more want any good,
God shall be unto me all in all,
And my all for all eternity.

I shall see and I shall live,
I shall praise and I shall bless,
And this I shall forever do.

It is told me I must die,
Oh, what happiness!
I am going
To the place of my rest,
To the land of the living,
To the haven of security,
To the kingdom of peace,
To the palace of my God,
To the nuptials of the Lamb,
To sit at the table of my King,

To feed on His blessed sight,
To see what no eye hath seen,
To hear what no ear hath heard,
To enjoy what no mortal can conceive.
Amen.

Blessed Richard Langhorne, pray for us!!!!

Love,
Matthew

Bad Shepherds: Jan Hus

The use of force, punishment, threat and fear are necessary for the keeping of order and the maintenance of right laws in action. But in a healthy state of affairs, much the greater part in the strength of authority is moral. Men obey because they think they ought to obey; because they feel that the authority which governs them has a right to do so. As moral authority weakens, those who exercise authority tend to fall back upon physical restraint, punishment, and the irrational fear of consequences as a method of administration. That is what happened towards the end of the Middle Ages. Force alone was used against heresy in every form, and not only against heresy but even against grumblings at the powers of the clergy. . . . Everywhere attacked and losing [their] moral sanctions, the officers of the Church fell back with increasing severity and frequency upon restraint by fear. This evil, the association of violence and horrible punishment with the maintenance of orthodoxy, grew rapidly throughout the end of the decline; and nothing did more to provoke the violent outburst to follow, in which the unity of Christendom was broken asunder.26

Jan Hus was a Czech priest who served as rector of Charles University in Prague at the turn of the fifteenth century. Actual Protestantism was still more than a hundred years off, but Hus, who lived and died a Catholic, gradually became interested in the writings of John Wycliffe. Clergy mortality from the Black Death had been especially high in England, and Wycliffe, the master of Balliol College, had seen all the worst men in Oxfordshire rise to the Catholic episcopate. His simmering fury over the whole thing began expressing itself in books that eventually reached Bohemia.

Unlike his teacher, Hus did not respond to the scandals by attacking the dogma of transubstantiation (which, after all, does depend on a validly ordained priesthood). But he did begin to share Wycliffe’s Donatist beliefs that the Catholic clergy had relinquished all its prerogatives through sin and simony.

Hus’s remedy?

The Church ought to sell off the entirety of her property and make the whole clergy take a vow of abject poverty. Indulgences and the like must be banned, and the Bible must become Christianity’s sole guidebook. In 1377, Hus published his ideas, which quickly earned the condemnation of Pope Gregory XI. A few years later, Innocent VII censured Hus and forbade any further broadsides against the clergy. By 1409, Hus’s sympathetic archbishop was forced to stop protecting him. Another new pope was elected, antipope Alexander V, and Hus decided to appeal to him directly, offering to explain his teachings in person. He was rebuffed. In 1412, his followers burned the papal bulls that had been issued against Hus. Three of them were taken and beheaded. King Wenceslaus of Bohemia tried to intervene and almost got into hot water himself with Gregory XII.

Finally, Jan Hus was sent to trial. Yet another antipope, John XXIII, chose a committee of bishops to adjudicate the matter. Hus’s condemnation took place on June 5, 1415. He was held for another seventy-three days and then burned alive, the same punishment Wycliffe underwent some twenty years earlier. Before being consigned to the flames, he prayed the Jesus Prayer and forgave his enemies. He was undoubtedly a heretic — as some in our times have become through shock and dismay — but when he said that indulgences had become a colossal fraud, that the monasteries were rotten with idleness and sexual sin, and that the bishops, for the most part, were in it for the money, Jan Hus told the God’s honest truth.

…The killing of Hus, in other words, resulted from a perfect storm of all three of our fourteenth-century catastrophes. (Great Western Schism/Avignon Papacy/Babylonian Captivity, Black Death, & Hundred Years’ War)

Love,
Matthew

26 Belloc, The Crisis of Civilization, 86.