Category Archives: Baptist

Assurance of salvation?

from: https://www.catholic.com/tract/assurance-of-salvation

“There are few more confusing topics than salvation. It goes beyond the standard question posed by Fundamentalists: “Have you been saved?” What the question also means is: “Don’t you wish you had the assurance of salvation?” Evangelicals and Fundamentalists think they do have such an absolute assurance.

All they have to do is “accept Christ as their personal Savior,” and it’s done. They might well live exemplary lives thereafter, but living well is not crucial and does not affect their salvation. But is this true? Does the Bible support this concept?

Scripture teaches that one’s final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. As Jesus Himself tells us, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13; cf. 25:31–46). One who dies in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to heaven. The one who dies in a state of enmity and rebellion against God (the state of mortal sin) will go to hell.

For many Fundamentalists and Evangelicals it makes no difference—as far as salvation is concerned—how you live or end your life. You can announce that you’ve accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, and, so long as you really believe it, you’re set. From that point on there is nothing you can do, no sin you can commit, no matter how heinous, that will forfeit your salvation. You can’t undo your salvation, even if you wanted to.

Take a look at what Wilson Ewin, the author of a booklet called There is Therefore Now No Condemnation, says. He writes that “the person who places his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his blood shed at Calvary is eternally secure. He can never lose his salvation. No personal breaking of God’s or man’s laws or commandments can nullify that status.”

“To deny the assurance of salvation would be to deny Christ’s perfect redemption,” argues Ewin, and this is something he can say only because he confuses the redemption that Christ accomplished for us objectively with our individual appropriation of that redemption. The truth is that in one sense we are all redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross—Christians, Jews, Muslims, even animists in the darkest forests (1 Tim. 2:6, 4:10; 1 John 2:2)—but our individual appropriation of what Christ provided is contingent on our response.

Certainly, Christ did die on the cross once for all and has abundantly provided for our salvation, but that does not mean that there is no process by which this is applied to us as individuals. Obviously, there is, or we would have been saved and justified from all eternity, with no need to repent or have faith or anything else. We would have been born “saved,” with no need to be born again. Since we were not, since it is necessary for those who hear the gospel to repent and embrace it, there is a time at which we come to be reconciled to God. And if so, then we, like Adam and Eve, can become unreconciled with God and, like the prodigal son, need to come back and be reconciled again with God.

You Can’t Lose Heaven?

Ewin says that “no wrong act or sinful deed can ever affect the believer’s salvation. The sinner did nothing to merit God’s grace and likewise he can do nothing to demerit grace.” But when one turns to Scripture, one finds that Adam and Eve, who received God’s grace in a manner just as unmerited as anyone today, most definitely did demerit it—and lost grace not only for themselves but for us as well (cf. also Rom. 11:17-24).

Regarding the issue of whether Christians have an “absolute” assurance of salvation, regardless of their actions, consider this warning Paul gave: “See then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.” (Rom. 11:22; see also Heb. 10:26–29, 2 Pet. 2:20–21).

Can You Know?

Related to the issue of whether one can lose one’s salvation is the question of whether one can know with complete certainty that one is in a state of salvation. The “knowability” of salvation is a different question than the “loseability” of salvation.

From the Radio Bible Class, listeners can obtain a booklet called Can Anyone Really Know for Sure? The anonymous author says the “Lord Jesus wanted his followers to be so sure of their salvation that they would rejoice more in the expectation of heaven than in victories on earth. ‘These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).’”

Places where Scripture speaks of our ability to know that we are abiding in grace are important and must be taken seriously. But they do not promise that we will be protected from self-deception on this matter. Even the author of Can Anyone Really Know for Sure? admits that there is a false assurance: “The New Testament teaches us that genuine assurance is possible and desirable, but it also warns us that we can be deceived through a false assurance. Jesus declared: ‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 7:21).”

Sometimes Fundamentalists portray Catholics as if they must every moment be in terror of losing their salvation since Catholics recognize that it is possible to lose salvation through mortal sin. But this portrayal is in error. Catholics do not live lives of mortal terror concerning salvation. True, salvation can be lost through mortal sin, but such sins are by nature grave ones, and not the kind that a person living the Christian life is going to slip into committing on the spur of the moment, without deliberate thought and consent. Neither does the Catholic Church teach that one cannot have an assurance of salvation. This is true both of present and future salvation.

One can be confident of one’s present salvation. This is one of the chief reasons why God gave us the sacraments—to provide visible assurances that he is invisibly providing us with His grace. And one can be confident that one has not thrown away that grace by simply examining one’s life and seeing whether one has committed mortal sin. Indeed, the tests that John sets forth in his first epistle to help us know whether we are abiding in grace are, in essence, tests of whether we are dwelling in grave sin. For example, “By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10), “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20), “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3).

Likewise, by looking at the course of one’s life in grace and the resolution of one’s heart to keep following God, one can also have an assurance of future salvation. It is this Paul speaks of when he writes to the Philippians and says, “And I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). This is not a promise for all Christians, or even necessarily all in the church at Philippi, but it is a confidence that the Philippian Christians in general would make it. The basis of this is their spiritual performance to date, and Paul feels a need to explain to them that there is a basis for his confidence in them. Thus he says, immediately, “It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” (1:7).

There are many saintly men and women who have long lived the Christian life and whose characters are marked with profound spiritual joy and peace. Such individuals can look forward with confidence to their reception in heaven.

Such an individual was Paul, writing at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). But earlier in life, even Paul did not claim an infallible assurance, either of his present justification or of his remaining in grace in the future. Concerning his present state, he wrote, “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby justified [Greek,, dedikaiomai]. It is the Lord Who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:4). Concerning his remaining life, Paul was frank in admitting that even he could fall away: “I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). Of course, for a spiritual giant such as Paul, it would be quite unexpected and out of character for him to fall from God’s grace. Nevertheless, he points out that, however much confidence in his own salvation he may be warranted in feeling, even he cannot be infallibly sure either of his own present state or of his future course.

The same is true of us. We can, if our lives display a pattern of perseverance and spiritual fruit, have not only a confidence in our present state of grace but also of our future perseverance with God. Yet we cannot have an infallible certitude of our own salvation. There is the possibility of self-deception (cf. Matt. 7:22-23). There is also the possibility of falling from grace through mortal sin, and even of falling away from the faith entirely, for as Jesus told us, there are those who “believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). It is in the light of these warnings and admonitions that we must understand Scripture’s positive statements concerning our ability to know and have confidence in our salvation. Assurance we may have; infallible certitude we may not.

For example, Philippians 2:12 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This is not the language of self-confident assurance. Our salvation is something that remains to be worked out.

What to Say

“Are you saved?” asks the Fundamentalist. The Catholic should reply: “As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).”

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Love, trusting in His mercy & promises, I would say, “Praised be Jesus Christ!!!!  True God & true man.”,
Matthew

Are you saved?


-by Tim Staples, Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian televangelists. Soon after, Tim joined the Marine Corps.

“Do you know you’re saved so that if you were to die right now, heaven would be absolutely certain for you?” This “all-important” question is designed to bait Catholics into an ambush. When I speak at conferences around the country, I often ask the attendees how many have been asked that question by a Fundamentalist or Evangelical: Usually, over half of my Catholic audience raises a hand.

If the Catholic responds as any good Catholic would by declaring he cannot—apart from a special revelation from God—have metaphysical (or absolute) certainty concerning his salvation, the Protestant then springs his biblical trap, 1 John 5:13: “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” Next he tells the Catholic that if he will but “confess with [his] lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in [his] heart that God raised him from the dead, [he] will be saved” (Rom 10:9-10). All we need do is confess Jesus as Lord, and salvation is assured. We can know it with certainty. Salvation is guaranteed regardless of anything we may do or not do in the future. What a deal!

The Catholic Response

Step One: The Greek word for knowledge (eideitei) in 1 John 5:13 does not necessarily equate to absolute certainty. We use the verb know the same way in English. For example, I may say I know I am going to get an A on my Greek exam tomorrow. Does that mean I have metaphysical certainty of this? Not at all. What I mean and what the verb know can be used to indicate is that I have confidence that I will get an A on my test tomorrow because I have studied the material thoroughly and I know it well.

The context of 1 John makes it abundantly clear that this is how “knowledge” is being used in 1 John 5:13. In the next two verses, John draws a parallel between the certainty we have concerning our salvation and the certainty we have when we petition God in prayer: “And this is the confidence which we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of Him.”

Does this mean we have absolute certainty we will receive what we ask for when we make requests of God in prayer? Obviously not! John says we can have “confidence,” but not absolute certainty. We cannot always know with strict certainty that our request is truly “according to His will.” Moreover, Psalm 66:18 informs us: “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” And 1 John 3:22 says, “. . . we receive from Him whatever we ask, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.” Can we always be certain we have not “cherished iniquity” in our hearts, or that we have not done anything that may have displeased the Lord?

Step Two: Our salvation is contingent upon many things according to the Bible. This indicates the certainty of our salvation is not absolute. Just a few examples include 1 John 1:8-9: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The text says we will be forgiven if. Thus, the sobering truth is: Unconfessed sin will not be forgiven. And the Bible is very clear that no sin can enter into heaven (see Hb 1:13; Rv 21:8-9, 27).

I have heard it said that if is “the biggest little word” in the English dictionary. Well, Scripture has lots of ifs. John, for example, also says: “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He has promised us, eternal life” (1 Jn 2:24-25).

This passage is plain. Our eternal life is contingent upon our choosing to abide in God. Can we choose the opposite? Absolutely! John goes on to explain: “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has either seen Him or known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as He is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil . . . No one born of God commits sin . . .” (1 Jn 3:6-9).

On the surface, this text seems odd. We have already heard John say that everyone who is born of God does sin. Indeed, “all” sin. Yet, here he says those who are born of God do not sin. Is John contradicting himself? No: John makes a distinction between mortal and venial sins in this same epistle. In 1 John 5:16-17, John gives us remarkably plain definitions of both mortal and venial sins. “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal . . . All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.”

In this context, we can reasonably conclude the one who is born of God does not commit mortal sin. If he were to do so, he would be “cut off” from the body of Christ and would need to be restored via confession to a state of grace (Cf. Gal 5:4, Eph 3:3-6, Jn 20:21-23). Three more texts about the contingency of salvation bolster the argument:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-2: “Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain.” (See also Matthew 24:44-51; Luke 12:41-46; Romans 11:22; Hebrews 3:6;14; Revelation 2:10; 25-26; 3:1-5; 22:18-19, for many more “ifs” and contingency clauses.)
  • Colossians 1:21-23: “And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before Him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard . . .”
  • 2 Peter 2:20-22: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first . . . It has happened to them according to the true proverb, the dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.”

The Evangelical Counter

In response, the Protestant apologist will sometimes say these texts do not indicate one who was truly saved could actually lose his salvation. The one who, in the end, did not continue with the Lord, never really knew the Lord in the first place. He only knew about the Lord. But this line of reasoning does not hold up under scrutiny. In 2 Peter 2, the Greek word used for knowledge is epignosei. This word means “knowledge,” but it denotes an experiential knowledge. This text is very clear that the persons referred to have “escaped the pollutions of the world” through this “experiential knowledge” of Jesus. Only a personal relationship with Jesus can have this effect. Merely knowing about Jesus cannot do that. Moreover, the image Peter uses in verse 22 is of the sow having been washed in water. Water is the symbol Peter uses for baptism in 1 Peter 3:20-21. The connection seems obvious. The sow—female pig—which had been cleansed represents a person cleansed from sin; the sow returning to the mud represents the Christian returning to sin.

When seen in the fuller context of 2 Peter, this point becomes unmistakable. In 2 Peter 1:2-4, Peter begins with a description of Christians:

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge [epignosei, experiential knowledge once again] of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge [epignosei] of Him Who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.”

One cannot help but see the parallels between these two texts. The same Greek words, epignosei, apophugentes, “having escaped from,” and a form of kosmos or “world,” are used to describe what Christians have been freed from, as well as to describe the one who then goes back to his old ways and ends up worse than he was before he ever knew Jesus.

These are just a few texts among the scores we could examine, but the bottom line is Scripture is crystal-clear on this point: Once saved does not mean always saved. In Matthew 6:15, Jesus tells us that “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” It does not matter how “born again” one may be or how many experiences one has had, if he does not forgive others, he will not be forgiven, according to the text. And remember—as we have seen—no sin can enter into heaven (cf. Hb 1:13, Rv 21:27). Further, the Bible says we can “fall from grace” (Gal 5:1-5, Heb 12:14-16), be “cut off” from the vine from which we receive divine life (Jn 15:1-6, Rom 11:18-22), have our names removed from the Lamb’s book of life (Rv 22:19), and it assures us over and over again that if we commit certain sins and we do not repent of them, we will not go to heaven (cf. 1 Cor 6:9-11, Gal 5:19, Eph 5:3-5, Rv 21:6-8).

Not Once, But Many Times

But what about Romans 10:9-10? Doesn’t the Bible say if you believe in your heart and confess Jesus with your mouth you shall be saved? Yes it does, but that doesn’t mean we need only confess faith in Christ one time. The Bible uses the same Greek word for confess, homologeitai, in multiple places and emphasizes we must continue to confess Christ if we are going to be finally saved. For example, in Matthew 10:22, 32 Jesus says, “You will be hated by all because of my name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.. . . Therefore everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my father who is in heaven. . . .” (NAB). The context here is one of holding fast to our confession until death (see also 2 Tm 2:12 and Heb 4:14; 10:23-26).

Finally, confessing Christ is done not only in word, but also in deed: “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tm 5:8).

Notice, the man who neglects his family for selfish pursuits denies Christ in his actions. And as we have seen, the Bible records in many places extensive lists of sins whereby we can deny Christ, such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Scripture never says the saved can do these things and still go to heaven.”

Love, and His mercy, trusting in the promises of the Lord,
Matthew

Protestant traditions you won’t find in the Bible


-Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Library Collection, New York Public Library, written in Latin (Vulgate), Johann Gutenberg, ca. 1455. Rare Books Division. From the Lenox Library. The first substantial printed book is this royal-folio two-volume Bible, comprising nearly 1,300 pages, printed in Mainz on the central Rhine by Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1390s-1468) in the 1450s. It was probably completed between March 1455 and November of that year, when Gutenberg’s bankruptcy deprived him of his printing establishment and the fruits of his achievements. The Bible epitomizes Gutenberg’s triumph, arguably the greatest achievement of the second millennium. Forty-eight integral copies survive, including eleven on vellum. Perhaps some 180 copies were originally produced, including about 45 on vellum. The Lenox copy, on paper, is the first Gutenberg Bible to come to the United States, in 1847. Its arrival is the stuff of romantic national folklore. James Lenox’s European agent issued Instructions for New York that the officers at the Customs House were to remove their hats on seeing it: the privilege of viewing a Gutenberg Bible is vouchsafed to few. Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Trent Horn

“When Catholics and Protestants have discussions about what divides us, Protestants often pepper their Catholic friends with the question, “Where is that in the Bible?” But seldom do they stop to apply the standard of sola scriptura to their own beliefs. If they did, they would find that some of them don’t come from the Bible at all but from a theological tradition they received from a parent or pastor.

Let’s look at three examples of extrabiblical Protestant traditions.

Where does the Bible say we are not purified of sin after death?

The single most common question we receive at Catholic Answers is, “Where is purgatory in the Bible?” But Protestants who assume that Catholic doctrine about the afterlife should be spelled out explicitly in Scripture rarely apply this same standard to their own beliefs about life after death. The Protestant author William Edward Fudge writes:

While the Reformers talked about last things, they never did construct an eschatology using the building blocks of Scripture. . . . Luther and Calvin rejected the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, for example, not because they made a thorough study of scriptural eschatology and found it missing, but because purgatory clearly contradicted the doctrine of justification that they had discovered in the Bible.[1]

Protestants typically believe that every Christian is united with Christ immediately after death, and therefore we will have no need for purification. But the passages they cite in defense of this claim, such as Philippians 1:23 (“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better”) and 2 Corinthians 5:8 (“We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord”) do not stand up to scrutiny.

If I say, “When I am at work in the office, I am away from my family,” that does not mean the moment I leave my office I will be home with my family (I might have to endure a long daily commute, for example). Likewise, a desire to be with Christ does not prove there will be no process of purification before we achieve that desire. In fact, 2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches that we can be apart from the body but not at home with the Lord: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.”

Where does the Bible say we should make Jesus our personal Lord and Savior?

Protestants who object to the Mass or sacraments as unbiblical and unnecessary often say that all we need to do instead is accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and confess our sins directly to God rather than to some priest.

Setting aside the fact that the Mass and the sacraments are biblical, I would point out the idea of basing one’s faith around a personal relationship with Jesus is not. Concerning the popular “Sinner’s Prayer” (“Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior”), Protestant apologists Matt Slick and Tony Miano note, “There is not a single verse or passage in Scripture, whether in a narrative account or in prescriptive or descriptive texts, regarding the use of a ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ in evangelism. Not one.” [emphasis in original].

This doesn’t mean it is wrong to ask Jesus to have a personal relationship with us. It just means that this foundational Protestant belief is not found in Scripture. The Bible also never instructs us to confess our sins to the resurrected Jesus, even though almost all Christians are comfortable doing that. So Protestants who adhere to sola scriptura should rethink their belief in these things—or rethink their belief in sola scriptura.

Protestants often cite 1 John 1:9 to defend confessing sins to God (and not to a priest), because it says, “If we confess [Greek, homologōmen; root homologeō] our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But this passage doesn’t say we should confess our sins to God alone. The context of the passage concerns what we say or confess to other people rather than what we communicate to God.

The previous verse, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” and the following verse, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us,” describe believers speaking to one another. In fact, aside from Hebrews 13:15, homologeō is never used to describe confessing anything to God. In John’s writings, it is always used to describe confessing a belief to other men. In both the sacrament of confession and anointing of the sick, the priest does not directly forgive sin or heal, but rather he becomes the means by which God grants forgiveness or healing.

Most Protestants would agree with this thinking on something like baptism, since—like Catholics—they usually deny the validity of self-baptism. Those who believe in baptismal regeneration correctly point out that although God alone takes away sin, God does not act alone when he takes away a person’s sins through baptism. Instead, God works through other believers who baptize on His behalf. The same principle applies when God uses a minister to forgive a person’s sins through confession.

Where does the Bible say all revelation ceased after the apostolic age?

Protestants claim that the word of God is confined to what is recorded in Scripture and that no new revelation was given after the last books of the Bible were written. Catholics agree that public revelation, or the deposit of faith, ceased after the death of the last apostolic man (this includes the apostles and their associates like Mark and Luke). We disagree, however, with the idea that this truth can be known from Scripture alone. Protestants who are skeptical of Sacred Tradition should ask why they believe in the cessation of divine revelation, since Scripture does not explicitly address this issue.

Some have argued that this truth is described in Jude 3, which speaks of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” but this verse on its own cannot support the claim that public revelation has ceased. Protestant apologist John MacArthur says that the Greek word translated “delivered” in this verse “refers to an act completed in the past with no continuing element.” He also says the phrase “once for all” (Greek, hapax) means “nothing needs to be added to the faith that has been delivered ‘once for all.’” This would mean that the “faith” had been delivered before Jude was written, which means Jude and its teaching about the cessation of public revelation would not have been a part of that original deposit of faith.

Arguments from Jude 3 also confuse “delivering the faith” with public revelation. Jesus gave “the faith” once and for all to the apostles, but the public revelation of that faith continued for decades after Jesus’ interactions with them during the writing of the New Testament. There isn’t any explicit biblical evidence that this revelation ceased after the death of the last apostle (or that it didn’t continue for centuries rather than decades).

Catholics agree with Protestants that this public revelation did cease in the apostolic Church. The Catechism says that “no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (66). But Catholics believe this truth based on the trustworthiness of the Magisterium, which preserves God’s word in both its written (Scripture) and unwritten (Tradition) forms—not, as Protestants would have to believe, based on the clear teaching of the Bible alone.

So when Protestants ask, “Where is that in the Bible?”, you might charitably ask in reply, “Where does the Bible say everything we believe as Christians must be found in the Bible?” Then you could offer to share with them some other common Protestant beliefs that have their roots not in Scripture but in traditions—both sacred and human.”

[1] The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, 13.

Love, truth, unity,
Matthew

Worship vs honor, latria vs hyper/dulia, statues/art vs idolatry

https://www.catholic.com/tract/saint-worship

The word “worship” has undergone a change in meaning in English. It comes from the Old English weorthscipe, which means the condition of being worthy of honor, respect, or dignity. To worship in the older, larger sense is to ascribe honor, worth, or excellence to someone, whether a sage, a magistrate, or God.

For many centuries, the term worship simply meant showing respect or honor, and an example of this usage survives in contemporary English. British subjects refer to their magistrates as “Your Worship,” although Americans would say “Your Honor.” This doesn’t mean that British subjects worship their magistrates as gods; it means they are giving them the honor appropriate to their office, not the honor appropriate to God.

Outside of this example, however, the English term “worship” has been narrowed in scope to indicate only that supreme form of honor, reverence, and respect that is due to God. This can lead to confusion, when people who are familiar only with the use of words in their own day and their own circles encounter material written in other times and other places.

In Scripture, the term “worship” was similarly broad in meaning, but in the early Christian centuries, theologians began to differentiate between different types of honor in order to make more clear which is due to God and which is not.

As the terminology of Christian theology developed, the Greek term latria came to be used to refer to the honor that is due to God alone, and the term dulia came to refer to the honor that is due to human beings, especially the saints. Scripture indicates that honor is due to these individuals (Matt. 10:41b). A special term was coined to refer to the special honor given to the Virgin Mary, who bore Jesus—God in the flesh—in her womb. This term, hyperdulia (huper [more than]+ dulia = “beyond dulia”), indicates that the honor due to her as Christ’s own Mother is more than the dulia given to other saints. It is greater in degree, but since Mary is a finite creature, the honor she is due is fundamentally different from the latria owed to the infinite Creator.

Another attempt to make clear the difference between the honor due to God and that due to humans has been to use the words adore and adoration to describe the total, consuming reverence due to God and the terms venerate, veneration, and honor to refer to the respect due humans. Thus, Catholics sometimes say, “We adore God but we honor his saints.”

Unfortunately, many non-Catholics appear unable or unwilling to recognize these distinctions. They confidently assert that Catholics “worship” Mary and the saints, and, in so doing, commit idolatry. This is patently false, but the education in anti-Catholic prejudice is so strong that one must patiently explain that Catholics do not worship anyone but God—at least given the contemporary use of the term. The Church is very strict about the fact that latria, adoration—what contemporary English speakers call “worship”—is to be given only to God.

Many non-Catholics may even go further. Wanting to attack the veneration of the saints, they may declare that only God should be honored.

This is in direct contradiction to the language and precepts of the Bible. The term “worship” was used in the same way in the Bible that it used to be used in English. It could cover both the adoration given to God alone and the honor that is to be shown to certain human beings. In Hebrew, the term for worship is shakhah. It is appropriately used for humans in a large number of passages.

For example, in Genesis 37:7–9 Joseph relates two dreams that God gave him concerning how his family would honor him in coming years. Translated literally the passage states: “‘[B]ehold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose and stood upright; and behold, your sheaves gathered round it, and worshiped [shakhah] my sheaf.’ . . . Then he dreamed another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were worshiping [shakhah] me.’”

In Genesis 49:2-27, Jacob pronounced a prophetic blessing on his sons, and concerning Judah he stated: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall worship [shakhah] you (49:8).” And in Exodus 18:7, Moses honored his father-in-law, Jethro: “Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and worshiped [shakhah] him and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare, and went into the tent.”

Yet none of these passages were discussing the worship of adoration, the kind of worship given to God.

Honoring Saints

Consider how honor is given. We regularly give it to public officials. In the United States it is customary to address a judge as “Your Honor.” In the marriage ceremony it used to be said that the wife would “love, honor, and obey” her husband. And just about anyone, living or dead, who bears an exalted rank is said to be worthy of honor, and this is particularly true of historical figures.

These practices are entirely Biblical. We are explicitly commanded at numerous points in the Bible to honor certain people. One of the most important commands on this subject is the command to honor one’s parents: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Ex. 20:12). God considered this command so important that he repeated it multiple times in the Bible (for example, Lev. 19:3, Deut. 5:16, Matt. 15:4, Luke 18:20, and Eph. 6:2–3). It was also important to give honor to one’s elders in general: “You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). It was also important to specially honor religious leaders: “Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron [the high priest], to give him dignity and honor” (Ex. 28:2).

The New Testament stresses the importance of honoring others no less than the Old Testament. The apostle Paul commanded: “Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due” (Rom. 13:7). He also stated this as a principle regarding one’s employers: “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ” (Eph. 6:5). “Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed” (1 Tim. 6:1). Perhaps the broadest command to honor others is found in 1 Peter: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17).

The New Testament also stresses the importance of honoring religious figures. Paul spoke of the need to give them special honor in 1 Timothy: “Let the presbyters [priests] who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). Christ himself promised special blessings to those who honor religious figures: “He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man [saint] because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” (Matt. 10:41).

So, if there can be nothing wrong with honoring the living, who still have an opportunity to ruin their lives through sin, there certainly can be no argument against giving honor to saints whose lives are done and who ended them in sanctity. If people should be honored in general, God’s special friends certainly should be honored.

Statue Worship?

People who do not know better sometimes say that Catholics worship statues. Not only is this untrue, it is even untrue that Catholics honor statues.

The fact that someone kneels before a statue to pray does not mean that he is praying to the statue, just as the fact that someone kneels with a Bible in his hands to pray does not mean that he is worshiping the Bible. Statues or paintings or other artistic devices are used to recall to the mind the person or thing depicted. Just as it is easier to remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it is easier to recall the lives of the saints by looking at representations of them.

The use of statues and icons for liturgical purposes (as opposed to idols) also had a place in the Old Testament. In Exodus 25:18–20, God commanded: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.”

When the time came to build the Temple in Jerusalem, God inspired David’s plans for it, which included “his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord. All this he made clear by the writing from the hand of the Lord concerning it, all the work to be done according to the plan” (1 Chr. 28:18–19). In obedience to this divinely inspired plan, Solomon built two gigantic, golden statues of cherubim. (See the Catholic Answers tract, Do Catholics Worship Statues? for further information.)

Imitation is the Biblical Form of Honor

The most important form of honoring the saints, to which all the other forms are related, is the imitation of them in their relationship with God. Paul wrote extensively about the importance of spiritual imitation. He stated: “I urge you, then, be imitators of me. Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:16–17). The author of the book of Hebrews also stresses the importance of imitating true spiritual leaders: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).

One of the most important passages on imitation is found in Hebrews. Chapter 11 of that book, the Bible’s well-known “hall of fame” chapter, presents numerous examples of the Old Testament saints for our imitation. It concludes with the famous exhortation: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1)—the race that the saints have run before us.”

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Love & truth, all ye holy men & women, pray for us,
Matthew

The Consistency of Catholicism & Christian unity


-St Peter’s square, please not the circular arms of colonnades, evoking the symbolism of embracing the whole world. Please click on the image for greater detail.


Rev Dwight Longenecker, Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England.
Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Fundamentalist Protestant Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC.

“Many non-Catholics—indeed, it could be argued, all Protestants—are cafeteria Christians, picking individual moral and theological viewpoints which happen to suit them. Often they are unaware that the different doctrines can be linked and unified. A non-Catholic Christian might hear Catholics talk about Catholic unity and think it means that Catholics all believe the same thing and are united in following the pope. But when a Catholic talks about unity its not just unity of faith and practice, but also the internal cohesion between all the different parts of Catholic belief. For Catholics, the different beliefs support and complement each other as the different parts of one body.

There are three particular areas that must be seen as a unity: Christology (what the Church teaches about the person of Jesus Christ), ecclesiology (what she teaches about the Church), and sacramental theology (what she teaches about the Eucharist). The “Body of Christ” is a three-fold but united concept—Incarnation, Church, and Eucharist are interrelated. To understand who Jesus really was, God has given us the Church and the sacraments. When our views on the person of Christ, the Church, and the Eucharist don’t support and reflect one another, heresy creeps in. Error in one area of belief soon infects the other areas.

So, for example, most Bible Christians uphold an orthodox Christology. They believe that Jesus really is the God-Man. But when it comes to sacramental theology, they say the bread and wine are merely natural things used to prompt our memory. Likewise, the visible church is a “human institution.” The Bible Christians’ view of the church and the sacrament match: Both are merely natural. But if you transfer what they believe about the church and the sacrament to the person of Christ, there is a clash. Apply their lack of supernatural qualities to Jesus Christ and you have Ebionism, an early heresy that denied the divinity of Christ and taught that he was merely human.

The traditional Lutheran subscribes to an orthodox view of Jesus Christ: that he is God and Man joined in a mysterious, hypostatic union. But the classic Lutheran view of the sacrament is consubstantiation—that the presence of Christ is “with or beside” the bread and wine. Luther’s view of the church is similar. He didn’t reject a visible church entirely, but thought it existed wherever the true gospel was proclaimed. In other words, like consubstantiation—the church exists “with or beside” the proclamation of the gospel. But use consubstantiation to explain the person of Christ and you end up in a heresy called Nestorianism. Nestorians taught that the divine and the human in Jesus remained separate, the divine Christ only coming “beside or with” the human Jesus.

Another non-Catholic view of the Eucharist is expressed as ‘real presence’, in contrast to the Catholic meaning of “Real Presence“.  This mostly Anglican view seems very close to Catholic teaching. “Real Presence” is the position that the bread and wine are vehicles for a real spiritual presence of Christ. The bread and wine are not substantially transformed, but they become channels for the real presence of Christ. Likewise, for many Anglicans the church carries a real spiritual presence of Christ. The church is visible and identifiable, but the presence of Christ is never more than spiritual; the institution of the church is still only a human institution. But once again, if you use their ecclesiology and sacramental theology to explain the nature of Christ you end up with a Christological heresy—this time it is Apollinarianism. Apollinarius taught that Jesus Christ was human, but that the Divine Logos replaced his human spirit. In other words, Jesus Christ was a vehicle for divinity.

A fourth view on the sacraments and the church is called receptionism. Many Anglicans and Lutherans, as well as some Methodists and Presbyterians, hold receptionism. According to receptionism, the bread and wine “become” the body and blood of Christ only to those who receive them faithfully. Likewise, the church consists of all true believers who are gathered together in Christ’s name at a particular place and time. Receptionism is subjective and open-ended, and it is very popular today among Protestants, but when it is applied to Christology another heresy is revealed—Adoptionism, the view that Jesus took on, or adopted, divinity as and when it was needed.

A final view on the Eucharist and the Church is also popular among both Catholics and Protestants: Confused and disturbed by theological wrangling, they refuse to define what they really believe about the church or the sacraments. So they say, “I accept that the Church is ‘the Body of Christ’ and that the bread and wine are a ‘sharing in the body of Christ,’ but what that really means I’m not sure. I don’t want to go any further than the Scriptures do.” But when this form of well-meaning agnosticism is applied to Christology, we find another heresy. This time it is the Homoean heresy. When the Church of the third century was debating the nature of Christ, the Homoeans were those Christians who tried to avoid conflict by saying no more than, “the Son is like the Father—according to the Scriptures.”

In each one of these five views the ecclesiology and sacramental theology parallel each other, but they are not integrated with the professedly orthodox Christology. It is only the Catholic view that most fully expresses the unity between Christ, the Church, and the Eucharist. Of all the Christian concepts of Eucharist, the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation reflects most closely the mysterious relationship between the divine and human in Jesus. We believe that the Church is a visible, historical institution, but it is also the mystical Body of Christ. Its historical and physical reality is not separate from its identity as the Body of Christ. As God “subsists” in the historical Christ, so the Body of Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church. Thus the church, as Vatican II teaches, is the “sacrament of salvation.”

But does it matter if a Christian holds an ecclesiology and a sacramental theology that don’t reflect their view of Christ? I would argue that it does. To have the fullest understanding of the God-Man Jesus Christ, it is vital to understand how the Church and the sacrament support and complement that full Christology. So a recent teaching document of the Catholic bishops of Britain and Ireland says, “No individual thread of Catholic doctrine can be fully understood in isolation from the total tapestry. Catholic faith in the Eucharist and Catholic faith in the Church are two essential dimensions of one and the same mystery of faith.” Furthermore, “this faith embraces the making present of Christ’s saving death and resurrection, the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the inseparable bond between the mystery of the Eucharist and the mystery of the Church.” In other words, a unified Christology, ecclesiology and sacramental theology are vital for the fullest expression and experience of Christ’s saving work.

Simply holding an orthodox view of the person of Christ is not enough to guarantee the fullest experience of his Incarnation. It is only as the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, death, and Resurrection are applied in the Eucharist that the Body of Christ becomes most fully real to the Christian. Only as we affirm his real and substantial presence in the Eucharist can we fully affirm God’s real and substantial union with Jesus in the Incarnation. Similarly, only as one experiences Christ’s presence in the Church can one enter into the fullest understanding of Christ’s Incarnation in the world.

The necessary unity between Christ’s Incarnation, the Church, and the Eucharist is best expressed in the New Testament phrase “the Body of Christ.” Jesus first referred to the bread as his body at the Last Supper. It is no coincidence that Paul uses the same term for both the Eucharistic bread and the mystery of the Church. Paul echoes Jesus when he says the believer must “discern Christ’s body” in the bread of the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:29). He also refers to the church as the “Body of Christ.” When he does so in 1 Corinthians 12, it might seem that he is only using this as an analogy to explain how Christians must all live in harmony. But in Ephesians 1:22–23, Paul says that God has appointed Christ head over all things for the Church which his body. He says the Church is “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Then, in Ephesians 5:29–31, Paul calls the church the “bride of Christ.” Just as in marriage man and wife “become one flesh,” so Christ is one in a mystical union with the Church.

The summary of Paul’s understanding of the term “body of Christ” occurs in 1 Corinthians 10:16–17: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body for we all partake of the one bread.” So Paul teaches that full unity with Christ is intimately linked with sharing the “one bread” of his body. And union with the “one bread” of his body is also linked with a full communion with his Body, the Church.

Beyond Paul’s words, there are four main Scripture pictures that convey the mystical and integral unity between Jesus Christ, the Eucharist and the Church. The first picture is the Last Supper. Here Christ establishes the Eucharist in union with his apostles. That moment in time becomes an icon of the unity between Christ, his Church, and the Eucharist. As the whole nation of Israel resided in the twelve sons of Jacob, so the whole Church dwells in seed form within the twelve apostles. The apostles gathered in a fellowship meal with Christ comprise a picture of the Church in unity with her Lord.

Two other Scripture pictures complement the scene at the Last Supper. It is no mistake that the gospel writers set these other two scenes in the same upper room. The setting indicates a unity between the three scenes. The second scene occurs after Jesus has been crucified. Once again the apostles are gathered for a meal in the upper room. Suddenly two other disciples burst in. They have seen the Lord while on a journey to Emmaus. As they speak to the Twelve, the risen Lord appears. He shares their food, reassures them, and promises to clothe them with power from on high (Luke 24:33–49). Here as he did at the Last Supper, Christ becomes one with them as they share a meal.

In the third scene a few others join the apostles in the same upper room. Mary, the mother of the Church is also there. Under Peter’s leadership they have been meeting regularly for prayer—waiting for the promised gift of Christ’s presence. Suddenly there is a rushing wind and tongues of flame descend filling the apostles with Christ’s power to preach the gospel. The church is established, and we are told that the new Christians all devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayer.

In all three upper room stories the infant Church makes Christ’s presence real through the fellowship meal celebrated in unity. In each picture a different element of this threefold mystery of Christ’s body is emphasized. In the first—on the eve of his passion—the emphasis is on the unity between Christ’s body and blood and the bread and wine. In the second, the emphasis is scriptural and sacramental. It focuses on the risen Lord’s presence through Scripture and in the breaking of the bread. In the third, the focus is on the unity between Christ and his body, the Church.

A fourth Scripture picture confirms and validates the mystical interpretation of the first three Scripture pictures. In the Book of Revelation we see the marriage banquet of the Lamb in heaven. In the center of the worshiping multitude is the “lamb looking as if it had been slain.” On thrones around the Passover Lamb sit the twenty-four elders—the twelve apostles as Christ promised (Matt. 19:28) along with the twelve patriarchs of Israel (Rev. 4:4, 5:6). Together they stand for the whole people of God. Then the multitude of angels and saints and every creature in heaven and on earth falls down before the lamb singing, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor glory and power for ever and ever.” Here Christ’s unity with his Church and the sacramental meal reaches its ultimate fulfillment: Christ the Lamb of God and Bread of Heaven is enthroned and worshiped by the Church led by the apostle elders.

Perhaps it seems like this insistence on a unified Christology, ecclesiology, and sacramental theology is theological nit-picking. It might seem like we Catholics are focusing on division when we ought to be concentrating on getting together with our fellow Christians. But an internal unity between these doctrines is essential because real outer unity can’t exist unless an inner unity of faith first exists. Doctrines that are dissonant within themselves cannot be the unifying force for a harmonious body of believers.

Because of this, and because all Catholic apologetics must be motivated by a passion for Christian unity, it is essential that our discussions of Eucharist and Church reflect back to what we believe about Christ himself. We should be encouraged that we share an orthodox understanding of our Lord’s incarnation with most non-Catholic Christians. It is from this point of agreement that we will most successfully move on to discuss sacraments and the church. If we can show the importance of an inner unity between Christ, the Church, and the Eucharist then we will help to move forward that unity for which Christ so passionately prayed.”

Love, unity, truth,
Matthew

“At Home with the Lord”: 2 Corinthians 5:8 & Purgatory

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that there is an intermediate state after death, like purgatory, when the Bible says that the only place for a Christian to be (besides this life) is heaven?

Referring to a soul’s “entrance into the blessedness of heaven,” the Catechism teaches that it will enter either “through a purification or immediately” (1022). This presupposes that it’s possible for a soul to die in God’s friendship but yet not be present with the Lord in heaven.  Some Protestants view Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 as contradicting this belief. Paul writes:

“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Since the Bible says that for a Christian to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord,” there can’t be any intermediate state in the afterlife.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. Paul doesn’t say what the challenge assumes he says.

Protestants who appeal to this passage often fail to realize that Paul doesn’t say that “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord.” Paul simply says, “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” and that “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Protestants may reply that although Paul doesn’t exactly say what the challenge claims, that’s what he means. Are they right? Does the logic follow? Does the statement, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” mean the same as, “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord”?

Suppose I’m at work, and I’m wishing that I could instead be away from work, and at home. Can we conclude from this that if I’m away from work, I must automatically be at home? Doesn’t seem like it. I could be away from work, eating lunch at McDonald’s. I could be away from work, on my way home, but sitting in traffic. So, it’s fallacious to conclude from this verse that, once away from the body, a Christian must immediately be present with the Lord.

2. Even if we concede the interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:8 that the challenge asserts, it still doesn’t rule out purgatory.

But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the interpretation this challenge offers of 2 Corinthians 5:8 is true, and that to be away from the body is to be immediately present with the Lord. That still wouldn’t pose a threat to purgatory.

First, because the challenge assumes that purgatory involves a period of time (during which we are “away from the body” but not “with the Lord”). But as we’ve seen, the Catholic Church has never defined the precise nature of the duration of purgatory. We simply don’t know what the experience of time is beyond this life. If purgatory did not involve a duration of time as we know it, it would be perfectly compatible with the challenge’s interpretation of this verse.

A second reason is that the challenge assumes purgatory is a state of existence away from the Lord. But, as we have also seen, purgatory could very well be that encounter with the Lord that we experience in our particular judgment, as we “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). This makes sense because Paul describes the soul’s judgment as being one of a purifying fire (1 Cor. 3:11-15). It makes sense for God’s presence, not his absence, to be part of our soul’s purification.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Shouldn’t you make sure that the Bible passage you use to challenge a Catholic belief actually says what you think it says?

AFTERTHOUGHT: The early Christian writer Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-220) affirms the existence of a state after death before entering heaven when he writes, “Inasmuch as we understand the prison pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades [Matt. 5:25], and as we also interpret the uttermost farthing to mean the very smallest offense which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection.”

Love,
Matthew

Eucharist symbolic?


-“Última_Cena”, by Leonardo DaVinci, 1490, tempera, gesso, 460 cm (180 in) × 880 cm (350 in), Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Joseph Heschmeyer, is a seminarian in the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City. A former lawyer, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“There are a great many intelligent Protestant Christians, well-versed in Scripture, faithfully seeking to know and follow the will of God, who have concluded that Jesus’ words about the bread and wine of the Last Supper becoming his body and blood are merely symbolic.

What if they’re right?

At first, it seems like such a revelation would be a tragedy. Receiving the Eucharist is the most intimate encounter with Jesus Christ possible this side of eternity. Suddenly to discover that this intimacy was a sham, and that what we thought was God was actually just bread, would be disheartening, to put the matter mildly. Worse, it would mean that those hours spent in adoration were something approaching idolatry rather than proper worship of God.

But the true tragedy would be greater still—it would mean that the Church has been wrong about the Eucharist from the beginning. For the earliest Christians universally believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The well-respected early Church historian J.N.D. Kelly, a Protestant, has acknowledged that “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).

Take, for example, the church at Smyrna, in modern-day Turkey. In the latter half of the first century, the apostle John had delivered a message directly from Jesus Christ to the Smyrnaeans, encouraging them in their faithfulness amidst their sufferings (Rev. 2:8-11). Shortly thereafter, a student of John’s, St. Ignatius of Antioch, wrote to this same local church on his way to be martyred in Rome early in the second century.

In his letter, Ignatius warns the Smyrnaeans to “keep aloof from” the heretical Gnostics “because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 7). Notice that Ignatius doesn’t feel the need to convince his readers of the truth of the Real Presence. For him, it’s enough to say that since the Gnostics reject the Real Presence we should not even “speak of them either in private or in public.”

And this is the way that Christians approached the Eucharist throughout the first few centuries of the Church. It was not just that a theologian here or there taught the Real Presence, but that it was the Christian position on the topic. In a series of lessons given to catechumens about to enter the Church, St. Cyril of Jerusalem reminded them that “you have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the Body and the Blood of Christ” (Catechetical Lecture 22). Cyril is comfortable assuming that even those not yet baptized know enough about Christianity to realize that Christians believe in the Real Presence.

Even more telling than the many Church Fathers teaching and preaching on the Real Presence of the Eucharist is the absence of Christian leaders either rejecting this Catholic position or teaching a contrary position.

If a Baptist pastor got up on Sunday and declared that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, you could expect that there would be angry letters denouncing him as a heretic, or at least seeking to correct him. That’s because Baptists don’t believe in the Real Presence.

The fact that we don’t see this sort of outcry in the early Church is compelling evidence that the early Christians didn’t believe what modern Baptists do about the Eucharist. Rather, they were united in belief about the Real Presence in the Eucharist at a time when Christians weren’t afraid to squabble with one another over relatively smaller matters.

So why is this important? Because it means that these Protestants aren’t just saying, “I think Jesus’ words at the Last Supper are meant to be merely symbolic,” but “I think that the entire Church misunderstood one of the most basic aspects of Christianity for centuries.” Call this the “everybody got the gospel wrong” position.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “I will not leave you desolate” (John 14:18), a promise not to abandon the Church or to leave us as orphans. Specifically, Christ promised to preserve his Church by sending “the Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit, to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:17, 26). How is belief in this promise compatible with the idea that the whole Church lost the true meaning of the Last Supper, and that no Christians successfully followed his instructions to “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24)?

To be sure, left to our own devices, you and I would get some aspects of the gospel wrong. That’s why there are so many competing Protestant denominations. But the solution to that is to turn to the Church and to have the humility to be guided, rather than trusting that our own reading of Scripture is superior to everyone else’s. This is the model laid out in Scripture itself. When the apostle Philip found an Ethiopian official reading the book of Isaiah, he asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” to which the man replied “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:30-31). But the Protestant view undermines all of this by suggesting that the visible Church, and indeed all Christians everywhere, might be the ones in the wrong.

This isn’t just about rejecting the Church’s teaching authority, but about rejecting all of Christianity prior to a certain point in history. If you can simply throw out all of (say) pre-1517 history as heretical and off-the-mark, why not throw out all pre-2018 Christianity? What appears on the surface to be a question simply about the Eucharist or the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is really a question about whether we can trust Christ’s promise not to abandon us, leaving us to our own private theological interpretations.

What’s more, if everybody got the gospel wrong then, what makes us think that anybody has the gospel right now? If we could all be wrong on the literality of the Eucharist for centuries, why couldn’t we be wrong about the literality of the Resurrection or of any other aspect of Christian teaching? If all of Christianity can get the core message of Christianity wrong, then it seems that we simply can’t be trusted to get the basics of Christianity right. But holding that, of course, undermines our ability to trust Christianity itself.”

Love, Lord, give me faith,
Matthew

Sola Scriptura is unbiblical


-by Tim Staples, Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian televangelists. Soon after, Tim joined the Marine Corps.

During his four-year tour, he became involved in ministry with various Assemblies of God communities. Immediately after his tour of duty, Tim enrolled in Jimmy Swaggart Bible College and became a youth minister in an Assembly of God community. During his final year in the Marines, however, Tim met a Marine who really knew his faith and challenged Tim to study Catholicism from Catholic and historical sources. That encounter sparked a two-year search for the truth. Tim was determined to prove Catholicism wrong, but he ended up studying his way to the last place he thought he would ever end up: the Catholic Church!

He converted to Catholicism in 1988 and spent the following six years in formation for the priesthood, earning a degree in philosophy from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania. He then studied theology on a graduate level at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, for two years. Realizing that his calling was not to the priesthood, Tim left the seminary in 1994 and has been working in Catholic apologetics and evangelization ever since.

“Sola Scriptura was the central doctrine and foundation for all I believed when I was Protestant. On a popular level, it simply meant, “If a teaching isn’t explicit in the Bible, then we don’t accept it as doctrine!” And it seemed so simple. Unassailable. And yet, I do not recall ever hearing a detailed teaching explicating it. It was always a given. Unchallenged. Diving deeper into its meaning, especially when I was challenged to defend my Protestant faith against Catholicism, I found there to be no book specifically on the topic and no uniform understanding of this teaching among Protestant pastors.

Once I got past the superficial, I had to try to answer real questions like, what role does tradition play? How explicit does a doctrine have to be in Scripture before it can be called doctrine? How many times does it have to be mentioned in Scripture before it would be dogmatic? Where does Scripture tell us what is absolutely essential for us to believe as Christians? How do we know what the canon of Scripture is using the principle of sola scriptura? Who is authorized to write Scripture in the first place? When was the canon closed? Or, the best question of all: where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible? These questions and more were left virtually unanswered or left to the varying opinions of various Bible teachers.

The Protestant Response

In answer to this last question, “Where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible?” most Protestants will immediately respond as I did, by simply citing II Tm. 3:16:

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

“How can it get any plainer than that? Doesn’t that say the Bible is all we need?” Question answered.

The fact is: II Timothy 3—or any other text of Scripture—does not even hint at sola scriptura. It says Scripture is inspired and necessary to equip “the man of God,” but never does it say Scripture alone is all anyone needs. We’ll come back to this text in particular later. But in my experience as a Protestant, it was my attempt to defend this bedrock teaching of Protestantism that led me to conclude: sola scriptura is 1) unreasonable 2) unbiblical and 3) unworkable.

Sola Scriptura is Unreasonable

When defending sola scriptura, the Protestant will predictably appeal to his sole authority—Scripture. This is a textbook example of the logical fallacy of circular reasoning which betrays an essential problem with the doctrine itself. One cannot prove the inspiration of a text from the text itself. The Book of Mormon, the Hindu Vedas, writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Koran, and other books claim inspiration. This does not make them inspired. One must prove the point outside of the text itself to avoid the fallacy of circular reasoning.

Thus, the question remains: how do we know the various books of the Bible are inspired and therefore canonical? And remember: the Protestant must use the principle of sola scriptura in the process.

II Tim. 3:16 is not a valid response to the question. The problems are manifold. Beyond the fact of circular reasoning, for example, I would point out the fact that this verse says all Scripture is inspired tells us nothing of what the canon consists. Just recently, I was speaking with a Protestant inquirer about this issue and he saw my point. He then said words to the effect of, “I believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth as Jesus said in Jn. 16:13. The Holy Spirit guided the early Christians and helped them to gather the canon of Scripture and declare it to be the inspired word of God. God would not leave us without his word to guide us.”

That answer is much more Catholic than Protestant! Yes, Jn. 16:13 does say the Spirit will lead the apostles—and by allusion, the Church—into all truth. But this verse has nothing to say about sola scriptura. Nor does it say a word about the nature or number of books in the canon. Catholics certainly agree that the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians to canonize the Scriptures because the Catholic Church teaches that there is an authoritative Church guided by the Holy Spirit. The obvious problem is my Protestant friend did not use sola scriptura as his guiding principle to arrive at his conclusion. How does, for example, Jn. 16:13 tell us that Hebrews was written by an apostolic writer and that it is inspired of God? We would ultimately have to rely on the infallibility of whoever “the Holy Spirit” is guiding to canonize the Bible so that they could not mishear what the Spirit was saying about which books of the Bible are truly inspired.

In order to put this argument of my friend into perspective, can you imagine if a Catholic made a similar claim to demonstrate, say, Mary to be the Mother of God? “We believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and guided the early Christians to declare this truth.” I can almost hear the response. “Show me in the Bible where Mary is the Mother of God! I don’t want to hear about God guiding the Church!” Wouldn’t the same question remain for the Protestant concerning the canon? “Show me in the Bible where the canon of Scripture is, what the criterion for the canon is, who can and cannot write Scripture, etc.”

Will the Circle be Unbroken?

The Protestant response at this point is often an attempt to use the same argument against the Catholic. “How do you know the Scriptures are inspired? Your reasoning is just as circular because you say the Church is infallible because the inspired Scriptures say so and then say the Scriptures are inspired and infallible because the Church says so!”

The Catholic Church’s position on inspiration is not circular. We do not say “the Church is infallible because the inspired Scriptures say so, and the Scriptures are inspired because the infallible Church says so.” That would be a kind of circular reasoning. The Church was established historically and functioned as the infallible spokesperson for the Lord decades before the New Testament was written. The Church is infallible because Jesus said so.

Having said that, it is true that we know the Scriptures to be inspired because the Church has told us so. That is also an historical fact. However, this is not circular reasoning. When the Catholic approaches Scripture, he or she begins with the Bible as an historical document, not as inspired. As any reputable historian will tell you, the New Testament is the most accurate and verifiable historical document in all of ancient history. To deny the substance of the historical documents recorded therein would be absurd. However, one cannot deduce from this that they are inspired. There are many accurate historical documents that are not inspired. However, the Scriptures do give us accurate historical information whether one holds to their inspiration or not. Further, this testimony of the Bible is backed up by hundreds of works by early Christians and non-Christian writers like Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, and more. It is on this basis that we can say it is an historical fact that Jesus lived, died, and was reported to be resurrected from the dead by over 500 eyewitnesses. Many of these eyewitnesses went to their deaths testifying to the veracity of the Christ-event (see Lk. 1:1-4, Jn. 21:18-19, 24-25, Acts 1:1-11, I Cr. 15:1-8).

Now, what do we find when we examine the historical record? Jesus Christ—as a matter of history–established a Church, not a book, to be the foundation of the Christian Faith (see Mt. 16:15-18; 18:15-18. Cf. Eph. 2:20; 3:10,20-21; 4:11-15; I Tm. 3:15; Hb. 13:7,17, etc.). He said of his Church, “He who hears you hears me and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk. 10:16). The many books that comprise what we call the Bible never tell us crucial truths such as the fact that they are inspired, who can and cannot be the human authors of them, who authored them at all, or, as I said before, what the canon of Scripture is in the first place. And this is just to name a few examples. What is very clear historically is that Jesus established a kingdom with a hierarchy and authority to speak for him (see Lk. 20:29-32, Mt. 10:40, 28:18-20). It was members of this Kingdom—the Church—that would write the Scripture, preserve its many texts and eventually canonize it. The Scriptures cannot write or canonize themselves. To put it simply, reason clearly rejects sola scriptura as a self-refuting principle because one cannot determine what the “scriptura” is using the principle of sola scriptura.

Sola Scriptura is Unbiblical

Let us now consider the most common text used by Protestants to “prove” sola scriptura, II Tm. 3:16, which I quoted above:

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The problem with using this text as such is threefold: 1. Strictly speaking, it does not speak of the New Testament at all. 2. It does not claim Scripture to be the sole rule of faith for Christians. 3. The Bible teaches oral Tradition to be on a par with and just as necessary as the written Tradition, or Scripture.

1. What’s Old is Not New

Let us examine the context of the passage by reading the two preceding verses:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood (italics added) you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

In context, this passage does not refer to the New Testament at all. None of the New Testament books had been written when St. Timothy was a child! To claim this verse in order to authenticate a book, say, the book of Revelation, when it had most likely not even been written yet, is more than a stretch. That is going far beyond what the text actually claims.

2. The Trouble With Sola

As a Protestant, I was guilty of seeing more than one sola in Scripture that simply did not exist. The Bible clearly teaches justification by faith. And we Catholics believe it. However, we do not believe in justification by faith alone because, among many other reasons, the Bible says, we are “justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, emphasis added). Analogously, when the Bible says Scripture is inspired and profitable for “the man of God,” to be “equipped for every good work,” we Catholics believe it. However, the text of II Tim. 3:16 never says Scripture alone. There is no sola to be found here either! Even if we granted II Tm. 3:16 was talking about all of Scripture, it never claims Scripture to be the sole rule of faith. A rule of faith, to be sure! But not the sole rule of faith.

James 1:4 illustrates clearly the problem with Protestant exegesis of II Tim. 3:16:

And let steadfastness (patience) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If we apply the same principle of exegesis to this text that the Protestant does to II Tm. 3:16 we would have to say that all we need is patience to be perfected. We don’t need faith, hope, charity, the Church, baptism, etc.

Of course, any Christian would immediately say this is absurd. And of course it is. But James’s emphasis on the central importance of patience is even stronger than St. Paul’s emphasis on Scripture. The key is to see that there is not a sola to be found in either text. Sola patientia would be just as much an error as is sola scriptura.

3. The Tradition of God is the Word of God

Not only is the Bible silent when it comes to sola scriptura, but Scripture is remarkably plain in teaching oral Tradition to be just as much the word of God as is Scripture. In what most scholars believe was the first book written in the New Testament, St. Paul said:

And we also thank God… that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God… (I Thess. 2:13)

II Thess. 2:15 adds:

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions you have been taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

According to St. Paul, the spoken word from the apostles was just as much the word of God as was the later written word.

Sola Scriptura is Unworkable

When it comes to the tradition of Protestantism—sola scriptura—the silence of the text of Scripture is deafening. When it comes to the true authority of Scripture and Tradition, the Scriptures are clear. And when it comes to the teaching and governing authority of the Church, the biblical text is equally as clear:

If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone … But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you … If he refuses to listen … tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Mt. 18:15-17)

According to Scripture, the Church—not the Bible alone—is the final court of appeal for the people of God in matters of faith and discipline. But isn’t it also telling that since the Reformation of just ca. 480 years ago—a reformation claiming sola scriptura as its formal principle—there are now over 33,000 denominations that have derived from it?

For 1,500 years, Christianity saw just a few enduring schisms (the Monophysites, Nestorians, the Orthodox, and a very few others). Now in just 480 years we have this? I hardly think that when Jesus prophesied there would be “one shepherd and one fold” in Jn. 10:16, this is what he had in mind. It seems quite clear to me that not only is sola scriptura unreasonable and unbiblical, but it is unworkable. The proof is in the puddin’!”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Rosary: does the Bible really condemn repetitious prayer?

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that the rosary is a legitimate prayer when the Bible forbids repetitious prayer?

The rosary is a popular Catholic devotion that the Catechism endorses as a “form of piety” that expresses the “religious sense of the Christian people” (1674).  [It is a prayer form that developed for the illiterate, ordinary people as only clerics were taught to read and write.  Those same clerics were required to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a formalized way of singing the Psalm twenty-four hours a day, praising God for time, which is a holy gift from God.  Since ordinary people could not read the books for this form of prayer, the rosary developed, so they could say the simple prayers they had memorized in imitation.] But for many Protestants, the rosary, with its repetition of the Hail Mary (Lk 1:46-55) prayer, contradicts Jesus’ command to “Use no vain repetitions as the heathens do” (Matt. 6:7; KJV). It would seem that the Catholic practice of praying the rosary is a direct violation of Jesus’ command.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. Jesus wasn’t condemning prayers that involve repetition, but rather the idea that the quantity of prayer determines its efficacy.

The Greek word translated “vain repetition” is battalogeō, which can mean to speak in a stammering way, saying the same words over and over again without thinking. But it can also mean “to use many words, to speak for a long time.” So it can connote either mindless repetition or quantity.

Which meaning does Jesus have in mind?

The context reveals that Jesus has the quantity of prayers in mind. For example, Jesus says in verse 7, “For they [the Gentiles] think that they will be heard for their many words,” as if their many words could wear down the gods in order to get what they wanted. This is the mentality of prayer that Jesus is telling his disciples to avoid—the mentality that sheer volume of words ensures that God hears us.

This explains why Jesus says in verse 8, “Don’t be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The implication is that it’s futile to think a bunch of words is needed for God to hear a prayer, because he already knows it.

So, Jesus is not concerned with repetition simply. He’s concerned with the idea that simply multiplying words makes prayers efficacious.

2. The rosary is not meant to gain favors from God due to the amount of prayers repeated.

According to the Catechism, the rosary is an “epitome of the whole gospel” (971). It is meant to focus our hearts and minds on the mysteries of Christ’s life, mysteries such as his conception in Mary’s womb at the Annunciation, his birth in Bethlehem, his baptism and preaching ministry, his glorious resurrection, and his ascension into heaven.

Meditating on these mysteries is meant to give us a deeper knowledge of Christ and draw us into a deeper communion with him, so that we can be more conformed to him. And we include Mary in that meditation because her soul “magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46). The rosary, therefore, is a way to meditate on Christ in order to foster a greater love for him. The repetition of prayers serves that meditation—and that’s a biblical thing.

3. The Bible affirms prayers that involve repetition.

We can start with Jesus Himself. Notice that right after Jesus condemns the “vain repetitions” of the Gentiles, he commands the apostles, “Pray like this…Our Father who art in heaven.” Does Jesus intend for us to only say it once? Are we forbidden to repeat the Lord’s Prayer? Most Protestants have said it many times; perhaps they say it more than once a day.

Another example is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father…remove this cup…not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Mark tells us that Jesus prayed this multiple times: “And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words” (14:39). Surely, Jesus wouldn’t be violating his own command not to pray with “vain repetitions.”

We also have an example from the “four living creatures” (angels) that John sees in heaven: “Day and night they never cease to sing, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8). If any prayer involves repetition, it’s this one!

The Psalms even give us forms of prayer that involve repetition. Consider, for example, Psalm 136. Its refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever,” occurs twenty-six times. Must we say that the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity) who inspired the Psalmist to write this, is at odds with Jesus (the second person of the Trinity)?

Since the Bible affirms prayers that involve repetition, we can conclude that the repetition in the rosary does not violate Christ’s words.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Why should we think that a condemnation of useless repetition is a condemnation of any repetition? Couldn’t there be repetitious prayer that is heartfelt and helps us love God more?

[Editor: Ps 51:1]

AFTERTHOUGHT: One of the benefits of praying the rosary is that it protects us from focusing our prayer too much on what we want and need. Praying for our needs is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we pray about. The rosary helps us to focus on what should be the first object of prayer: Jesus.

Love,
Matthew

The Protestant Challenge

Oral Torah


-by Karlo Broussard

Q. What is the Protestant challenge that you meet in your new book?

Karlo: In Mark 7:9-13, Jesus chastises the Pharisees for holding to traditions that entail a rejection of God’s commandment and make void God’s Word. Many Protestants claim several Catholic beliefs fall under this condemnation, because they think such beliefs contradict the Bible.

The challenge usually takes the form, “How can the Catholic Church teach X, when the Bible says Y?” For example, how can the Catholic Church teach that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth when the Bible says that Jesus had brothers (Matt. 13:55)? Or how can the Catholic Church teach that works have a role to play in our salvation when the Bible says in Romans 3:28 that “we are justified by faith and not by works of the law?”

It’s this sort of challenge that I meet in the book, covering fifty of the most common challenges that Protestants make.

Q. Is this challenge the only Protestant challenge? Or, are there other kinds of challenges? If so, how do they differ from this one?

Karlo: The challenge that I meet in my book is not the only challenge. Any Catholic who talks religion with Protestants has at some time been challenged with the question, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

Much of Catholic apologetics, especially since its revival in the late eighties, has centered on answering that question, offering positive arguments for the biblical basis of Catholic doctrine. But, since Catholics don’t operate on the principle of sola scriptura, we don’t believe that every Christian truth has to be explicitly found in Scripture. We also appeal to truths revealed by God and preserved outside of the Bible in Sacred Tradition.

For example, Protestants may ask, “Where is Mary’s bodily assumption in the Bible?” But a Catholic can simply reply, “I don’t need to justify it with Scripture, since I can accept it on the basis that it’s a part of Sacred Tradition as infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII” (Munificentissimus Deus, 1950).

Of course, a Protestant is not going to find the above response persuasive (and it would open up other debates about Christian teaching authority). But at least he can’t charge a Catholic with incoherence in his belief.

The kind of Protestant challenge that I address, however, does charge a Catholic with incoherence. And this is the kind of challenge that a Catholic must meet, because whatever the Church teaches, even if derived principally from Sacred Tradition and not the Bible, can’t contradict the Bible. Scripture and Tradition are two streams of revelation that flow from the same source, God.

Our task as Catholics, therefore, is to show that Catholic teaching doesn’t contradict those Bible passages that some Protestants think pose a threat to it. The purpose of this book is to help the reader fulfill this task.

Q. What are some of the main Catholic beliefs that our Protestant friends challenge us on that you show don’t contradict the Bible?

Karlo: I examine fifty challenges that cover a variety of beliefs concerning Church authority, Scripture and Tradition, salvation, the sacraments, Mary and the saints, eschatology (study of the last things), and Catholic life and practice.

So, for example, with regard to Church authority, I defend the Catholic belief that Jesus established his Church with a hierarchy with Peter at the head. With regard to Scripture and Tradition, I defend the Catholic belief that a Christian must accept and honor “both Scripture and Tradition” (CCC 82), because the Church “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone” (82).

On the topic of salvation, I meet challenges to the Catholic belief that salvation and justification are not one-time events of the past but have different stages, and that good works play an essential role when it comes to the ongoing and final stages.

The sacraments that I defend include Baptism, the Eucharist, Confession, the Priesthood, and Marriage.

The challenged beliefs about Mary are the familiar ones: her perpetual virginity, her sinlessness, and her Queenship. The main belief about the saints that I deal with is the intercession of the saints.

With regard to eschatology, I tackle challenges that deal with Purgatory and the Catholic view of the end times in relation to Protestant views on the Rapture and the millennium in Revelation.

Finally, I meet challenges made against the Catholic practices of clerical celibacy, abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, calling priests father, praying the rosary, moderate use of wine, and Catholic statues.

Q. Can you explain a little bit about what the reader should expect when they read each chapter?

Karlo: Each chapter begins with a brief statement of the Catholic belief, usually derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Then, the Protestant challenge to the belief is explained.

The section where I meet the challenge usually consists of two to three ways in which one can show the Catholic belief doesn’t contradict the Bible. Also, some of the responses require that I give positive biblical evidence for the belief. And this, of course, equips the reader with what’s needed to answer the other Protestant challenge, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

After learning how to meet the challenge, the reader is given a “Catholic Counter,” which is a brief question that a Catholic can ask a Protestant as a sort of counter challenge. We can’t always be on the defensive. We have to learn to challenge our Protestant friends’ beliefs as well.

Q. What is the ultimate goal for this book? In other words, what do you hope it will accomplish for the person who reads it?

Karlo: My hope is that the reader will become more efficient in their conversations with Protestants. Also, I hope the book will strengthen the reader’s own faith, helping him or her know that in embracing Catholic teaching he or she is not “making void the word of God through [his or her] tradition” (Mark 7:13).

Love,
Matthew