Category Archives: Apologetics

The Bible is a Catholic Book – Word of God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” -Jn 1:1 The Word of God, Jesus, as God, has no beginning. Time does. God doesn’t, being uncreated, but rather the source of all creation. So, the Word of God, logos, existed before the Bible.  The 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament were determined as canonical by the Councils of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397, 419 AD).

According to St Irenaeus of Lyon (c 130-202) a student of St John the Apostle’s disciple St Polycarp (c pre-69-156), John the Apostle wrote these words specifically to refute the teachings of Cerinthus,[1] who both resided and taught at Ephesus, the city John settled in following his return from exile on Patmos.[2] Cerinthus believed that the world was created by a power far removed from and ignorant of the Father, and that the Christ descended upon the man Jesus at his baptism, and that strict adherence to the Mosaic Law was absolutely necessary for salvation. Therefore, Irenaeus writes,

“The disciple of the Lord therefore desiring to put an end to all such doctrines, and to establish the rule of truth in the Church, that there is one Almighty God, Who made all things by His Word, both visible and invisible; showing at the same time, that by the Word, through Whom God made the creation, He also bestowed salvation on the men included in the creation; thus commenced His teaching in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. What was made was life in Him, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.””[3]

To the rabbis who spoke of the Torah (Law) as preexistent, as God’s instrument in creation, and as the source of light and life, John replied that these claims apply rather to the Logos.

Ignatius of Antioch

The first extant Christian reference to the Logos found in writings outside of the Johannine corpus belongs to John’s disciple Ignatius (c 35-108), Bishop of Antioch, who in his epistle to the Magnesians, writes, “there is one God, Who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, Who is His eternal Word, not proceeding forth from silence,”[4] (i.e., there was not a time when He did not exist). In similar fashion, he speaks to the Ephesians of the Son as “both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible”.[5]

Justin Martyr

Following John 1, the early Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c 150) identifies Jesus as the Logos.[6][7] Like Philo, Justin also identified the Logos with the Angel of the LORD, and he also identified the Logos with the many other Theophanies of the Old Testament, and used this as a way of arguing for Christianity to Jews:

“I shall give you another testimony, my friends, from the Scriptures, that God begot before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, Who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos;”[8]

In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin relates how Christians maintain that the Logos,

“…is indivisible and inseparable from the Father, just as they say that the light of the sun on earth is indivisible and inseparable from the sun in the heavens; as when it sinks, the light sinks along with it; so the Father, when He chooses, say they, causes His power to spring forth, and when He chooses, He makes it return to Himself . . . And that this power which the prophetic word calls God . . . is not numbered [as different] in name only like the light of the sun but is indeed something numerically distinct, I have discussed briefly in what has gone before; when I asserted that this power was begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided; as all other things partitioned and divided are not the same after as before they were divided: and, for the sake of example, I took the case of fires kindled from a fire, which we see to be distinct from it, and yet that from which many can be kindled is by no means made less, but remains the same.”[9]

In his First Apology, Justin used the Stoic concept of the Logos to his advantage as a way of arguing for Christianity to non-Jews. Since a Greek audience would accept this concept, his argument could concentrate on identifying this Logos with Jesus.[6]

Theophilus of Antioch

Theophilus, the Patriarch of Antioch, (died c 180 AD) likewise, in his Apology to Autolycus, identifies the Logos as the Son of God, Who was at one time internal within the Father, but was begotten by the Father before creation:

“And first, they taught us with one consent that God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but He that is uncreated stands in need of nothing. God, then, having His own Word internal within His own bowels, begot Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by Him He made all things . . . Not as the poets and writers of myths talk of the sons of gods begotten from intercourse [with women], but as truth expounds, the Word, that always exists, residing within the heart of God. For before anything came into being He had Him as a counsellor, being His own mind and thought. But when God wished to make all that He determined on, He begot this Word, uttered, the first-born of all creation, not Himself being emptied of the Word [Reason], but having begotten Reason, and always conversing with His Reason.”[10]

He sees in the text of Psalm 33:6 the operation of the Trinity, following the early practice as identifying the Holy Spirit as the Wisdom (Sophia) of God,[11] when he writes that “God by His own Word and Wisdom made all things; for by His Word were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the Spirit of His mouth”[12] So he expresses in his second letter to Autolycus, “In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom.”[13]

Athenagoras of Athens

By the third quarter of the second century, persecution had been waged against Christianity in many forms. Because of their denial of the Roman gods, and their refusal to participate in sacrifices of the Imperial cult, Christians were suffering persecution as “atheists.”[14] Therefore the early Christian apologist Athenagoras (c 133 – c 190 AD), in his Embassy or Plea to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus on behalf of Christianity (c 176), makes defense by an expression of the Christian faith against this claim. As a part of this defense, he articulates the doctrine of the Logos, expressing the paradox of the Logos being both “the Son of God” as well as “God the Son,” and of the Logos being both the Son of the Father as well as being one with the Father,[15] saying,

“Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men called atheists who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order? . . . the Son of God is the Word [Logos] of the Father, in idea and in operation; for after the pattern of Him and by Him were all things made, the Father and the Son being one. And, the Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit, the understanding [Nous] and reason [Logos] of the Father is the Son of God. But if, in your surpassing intelligence, it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by the Son, I will state briefly that He is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence (for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal mind [Nous], had the Word in Himself, being from eternity rational [Logikos]; but inasmuch as He came forth to be the idea and energizing power of all material things, which lay like a nature without attributes, and an inactive earth, the grosser particles being mixed up with the lighter…)”[16]

Athenagoras further appeals to the joint rule of the Roman Emperor with his son Commodus, as an illustration of the Father and the Word, his Son, to whom he maintains all things are subjected, saying,

“For as all things are subservient to you, father and son, who have received the kingdom from above (for “the king’s soul is in the hand of God,” says the prophetic Spirit), so to the one God and the Word proceeding from Him, the Son, apprehended by us as inseparable from Him, all things are in like manner subjected.”[17]

In this defense he uses terminology common with the philosophies of his day (Nous, Logos, Logikos, Sophia) as a means of making the Christian doctrine relatable to the philosophies of his day.

Irenaeus of Lyon

Irenaeus (c 130-202), a student of the Apostle John’s disciple, Polycarp, identifies the Logos as Jesus, by whom all things were made,[18] and who before his incarnation appeared to men in the Theophany, conversing with the ante-Mosaic Patriarchs,[19] with Moses at the burning bush,[20] with Abraham at Mamre,[21] et al.,[22] manifesting to them the unseen things of the Father.[23] After these things, the Logos became man and suffered the death of the cross.[24] In his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, Irenaeus defines the second point of the faith, after the Father, as this:

The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man.[25]

Irenaeus writes that Logos is and always has been the Son, is uncreated, eternally-coexistent [26] and one with the Father,[27][28][18][29] to whom the Father spoke at creation saying, “Let us make man.”[30] As such, he distinguishes between creature and Creator, so that,

He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord: but the things which have been made cannot have this term applied to them, neither should they justly assume that appellation which belongs to the Creator [31]

Again, in his fourth book against heresies, after identifying Christ as the Word, who spoke to Moses at the burning bush, he writes, “Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spoke to Moses, and who was manifested to the fathers.” [32]

———-

On April 1, 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI just over two weeks later) referred to the Christian religion as the religion of the Logos:

“Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the “Logos.” It is faith in the “Creator Spiritus,” (Creator Spirit), from which proceeds everything that exists. Today, this should be precisely its philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not, therefore, other than a “sub-product,” on occasion even harmful of its development or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal. The Christian faith inclines toward this second thesis, thus having, from the purely philosophical point of view, really good cards to play, despite the fact that many today consider only the first thesis as the only modern and rational one par excellence. However, a reason that springs from the irrational, and that is, in the final analysis, itself irrational, does not constitute a solution for our problems. Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way. In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the “Logos,” from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational.”[33]

Catholics can use Logos to refer to the moral law written in human hearts. This comes from Jeremiah 31:33 (prophecy of new covenant): “I will write my law on their hearts.” St. Justin wrote that those who have not accepted Christ but follow the moral law of their hearts (Logos) follow God, because it is God who has written the moral law in each person’s heart. Though man may not explicitly recognize God, he has the spirit of Christ if he follows Jesus’ moral laws, written in his heart.  (Actions, do speak louder than words.)


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“How the world began is a question people everywhere ask. It’s a human universal.

Pagan cultures thought the world was made by their gods and goddesses. Some myths claimed that the gods reproduced sexually to make the elements of the world. Others held that there was a fierce battle among the gods, and the world was formed from the corpses of the losers. Mankind was then created as a slave race to relieve the gods of drudgery.

The book of Genesis set the record straight: The world was not produced by a multitude of finite gods. It was the creation of a single, great God—one supreme and supremely good Being Who is behind everything.

Because of His infinite, unlimited power, He didn’t need to use anything to make the world, as the pagans thought. He didn’t need to mate with a goddess. He didn’t need to battle other gods and make the world from their corpses. He simply spoke, and the elements of the world sprang into existence: “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:3).”

That is the difference between our words and God’s words. When God speaks, it immediately comes to pass. It is. It happens. Everything Jesus said immediately happened. I suppose there is humor in that most august awareness. Aren’t we glad that doesn’t happen for us?

“Because Jesus was there in the beginning—one of the uncreated, divine Persons of the Trinity—He is the original and supreme Word of God. All of God’s other words are shadows of Him.

This is important to remember, because some today use the phrase “word of God” as if it just meant “the Bible.”

Although the Bible is important, the word of God is not confined to or only found in it. First and foremost, Jesus Christ Himself is the Word of God, and there are other expressions of it, only some of which are found in Scripture.”

———-

Interestingly, Catholics refer to the Word of God as both Scripture and tradition (the lived experience of the Church over two thousand years).  The Jewish tradition, six thousand years, has always had a written canonical (Hebrew Scriptures) and a written, but non-canonical, understanding of God’s will, such as above and elsewhere in the Catholic tradition, the writing of saints, Fathers of the Church, Doctors of the Church, etc.  It is VERY important, and sadly non-self-evident, to understand the importance in the Catholic hierarchy of revelation.  The Bible and the written non-canonical part, known as tradition, and too numerous to name, should come with a score 0-10.  They do not.  The Bible and tradition, as the Church defines it, is a ten.  Other things, 9-0.  It is only with the Protestant Reformation that even the suggestion that an oral (which can be

“Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are [a] contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and tradition” [Dei Filius 3:8]

And, in Canon Law,

Can. 750 §1. “A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things [a] contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church”

Love,
Matthew

1. Irenaeus. Against Heresies, 3.11
2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.4
3. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.11.1
4. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, 8
5. Ignatius of Antioch. Epistle to the Ephesians, 7
6. Erwin R. Goodenough, The Theology of Justin Martyr, 1923 (reprint on demand BiblioBazaar, LLC, pp. 139–175. ISBN 1-113-91427-0)
7. Jules Lebreton, 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Justin Martyr.
8. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 61.
9. Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, 128, 129
10. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, 2.10, 22
11. His contemporary, Irenaeus of Lyon, citing this same passage, writes, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power. Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God.” (Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 5). This is in contrast with later Christian writings, where “Wisdom” came to be more prominently identified as the Son.
12. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, 1.7
13. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, 2.15
14. Athenagoras, Plea For the Christians, 4
15. See also Plea, 24: “For, as we acknowledge God, and the Logos his Son, and a Holy Spirit, united in power—the Father, the Son, the Spirit, because the Son is the Intelligence [Nous], Word [Logos], Wisdom [Sophia] of the Father, and the Spirit an effluence, as light from a fire.” Adapted from the translation of B.P. Pratten, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, being corrected according to the original Greek.
16. Athenagoras, Plea for the Christians, 10
17. Athenagoras, Plea for the Christians, 18
18. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.8.3
19. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.11.8, “And the Word of God Himself used to converse with the ante-Mosaic patriarchs, in accordance with His divinity and glory . . . Afterwards, being made man for us, He sent the gift of the celestial Spirit over all the earth, protecting us with His wings”
20. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 2
21. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.6.1
22. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 43-47
23. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.30.9
24. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 53
25. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 6
26. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.30.9. (see also, 2.25.3; 4.6.2) “He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those [only] know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed.”
27. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 45-47
28. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.5.2
29. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.22.1, “But the Word of God is the superior above all, He who is loudly proclaimed in the law: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God'”
30. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 55
31. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.8.3
32. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.5.2
33. Cardinal Ratzinger on Europe’s crisis of culture, retrieved from Catholiceducation.org

The Bible is a Catholic book


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“Many Protestants call themselves “Bible Christians”—in contrast with Catholics, who ignore the Bible because they have the Church instead.

Too many Catholics have taken this mistaken assumption for granted.

We don’t have to anymore, says Jimmy Akin.

Instead, we should embrace Sacred Scripture—not just as the revealed written word of God but as a thoroughly Catholic work, intimately connected with the Church from the earliest centuries.

In The Bible Is a Catholic Book, Jimmy shows how the Bible cannot exist apart from the Church. In its origins and its formulation, in the truths it contains, in its careful preservation over the centuries and in the prayerful study and elucidation of its mysteries, Scripture is inseparable from Catholicism. This is fitting, since both come from God for our salvation.

If you’re a Catholic who sometimes gets intimidated by the Bible (especially scriptural challenges from Protestants), The Bible Is a Catholic Book will help you better understand and take pride in this gift that God gave the world through the Church. We are the original “Bible Christians”!

And even non-Catholics will appreciate the clear and charitable way that Jimmy explains how the early Church gave us the Bible—and how the Church to this day reveres and obeys it.

The Bible can be intimidating.

It’s a big, thick book—much longer than most books people read. It’s also ancient. The most recent part of it was penned almost 2,000 years ago. That means it’s not written in a modern style. It can seem strange and unfamiliar to a contemporary person. Even more intimidating is that it shows us our sins and makes demands on our lives.

No wonder some people hesitate to take the plunge and start reading the Bible!

But each of the things that can make it intimidating is actually a benefit:

• Because the Bible is so large, it contains a great deal of valuable information. If it were short, it wouldn’t tell us nearly as much.

• The fact that it was written so long ago testifies to its timeless message. Its teachings aren’t tied to just one time or culture. They have endured, and by reading Scripture we experience the joy of discovering the story of God’s dealings with mankind.

• Finally, it’s important that it reveals our sins to us. We need wake-up calls that shake us out of our feeble attempts to rationalize what we’re doing wrong. And Scripture is quick to assure of us God’s love for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Bible is an inestimable gift from God. It’s his word in written form—something each of us should cherish and study regularly.

Some groups of Christians try to claim the Bible for themselves. They make it sound like the Catholic Church is opposed to Scripture. Some even claim that the Church “hates” the Bible.

But as you’ll see, all Christians owe an enormous debt to the Catholic Church, for it was through the Church that the Bible was given to the world.

Jesus himself founded the Catholic Church. He appointed its first leaders, and they were the ones who—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—wrote the books of the New Testament, which completed and became the capstone of all the scriptures that had come before.

The Holy Spirit then guided the Catholic Church to discern which books belonged in the Bible and which did not. This involved the crucial process of sorting the true scriptures from all of the false ones that existed.

The Catholic Church laboriously copied the scriptures in the age before the printing press, when every book—including lengthy ones like the Bible—had to be written by hand. It thus preserved these books down through the centuries, unlike so many ancient works that have now been lost.

The Catholic Church is why we have the Bible today, and everyone should be grateful for the gift that, by the grace of God, it has given to the world.

Love,
Matthew

Apostolic Succession

Jim Papandrea taught me one of my courses for my certification as a catechist in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Dr. Papandrea is one of the world’s foremost scholar’s on the heretic and schismatic Novation of Rome.

“The most relevant teaching for our purposes here is a concept called apostolic succession—the first bishops of the Church were the successors of the apostles, and they carried on the apostles’ ministry and teachings. This assumes that through the commissioning, consecration, and ordination of Church leaders, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was also passed down to the next generation.

Furthermore, apostolic succession affirms that Christian truths were accurately transmitted within the Church, so that the teachings of any Church authority at any time could be traced back in an unbroken chain to the apostles, and through them to Jesus himself. You knew you could trust the teachings of your bishop because he would have gotten his teachings from his predecessor, and so on, going all the way back to Christ.

To be sure, some bishops did deviate from what they had received, and to that extent they are considered heretics. But that’s the point. When they were faithful to the Tradition, their teachings were trustworthy. So this is not to claim that there was never dissent or disagreement in the early Church—indeed there was, and it was precisely this disagreement that led to the discussion of theological concepts, and eventually to authoritative decisions about how to understand the person and work of Jesus Christ, and how to interpret Scripture.

Eventually the debates led to councils of bishops, the successors of the apostles gathering to clarify the correct interpretations of Jesus’ intentions for the Church and of the apostolic writings. These conclusions of the early Church Fathers and the councils of bishops were confirmed as the dogmas of Christianity—the theological positions that were consistent with the conclusions of the previous generations, going all the way back to the apostles.

Let’s meet one of the early Church Fathers, and see what they said about apostolic authority and succession.

St. Clement, Bishop of Rome (writing c. A.D. 93)

As the fourth bishop of Rome, Clement wrote a letter to the church in the city of Corinth, Greece. We know this letter as First Clement, though we have no other certain letters from this bishop. What is remarkable about this letter is that Clement writes with authority over the Christians in another city where he was not the bishop. His authority comes from his assumption that he holds an office in which he is the successor of Peter, the leader of the apostles. And even though the Church in Corinth could claim that its own apostolic succession goes back to the apostle Paul, Clement’s letter presumes that Peter’s authority is greater. We will examine the role of the bishop of Rome (the pope) later, but for now, here is what Clement says about succession:

“The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God . . . And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits of their labors, having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe . . . they appointed those already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.

Therefore it is right for us, having studied so many and such great examples, to bow the neck and, adopting the attitude of obedience, to submit to those who are the leaders of our souls . . . For you will give us great joy and gladness if you obey what we have written through the Holy Spirit.”

Notice how in these passages Clement claims the authority of an apostle for himself, and even implies that this affords him a kind of inspiration. This assumes that the anointing of the Holy Spirit is on him by virtue of his office, and thus the audience of his letter should listen to him as though it were Peter himself who sent it. Here we have an indication of one of the early successors of the apostles writing with apostolic authority.

**********

Apostolic succession is based on the reality that religious truth must be preserved over time—it has a source, and must be handed on from that source in order for it to be faithfully transmitted to future generations. For Christians, our source is Jesus Christ. He handed on divine truth to his apostles, and they handed it on to the next generation of Christians who did not know Jesus personally. One of the ways that they handed on Jesus’ teachings was by writing the New Testament.

But that is not the only way that the apostles taught. They also directly taught their own disciples, who then became their chosen successors and the first bishops. These, in turn, taught the next generation of Church leaders, and so on. What this means is that we are connected to Jesus and the apostles through the Fathers of the Church. Let me say that again: It is the Fathers of the Church who connect our faith to that of the apostles and to Jesus.

Therefore, the Church Fathers are in a way the protectors and guarantors of truth. They matter because without them, disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture would escalate to division—a reality that has plagued the Protestant world since the Reformation. So the unity of the Church is not something we can think of in terms of the present day only. The unity of the Church also requires unity with its history—we must be connected to our collective past in order to be connected to each other, and to be part of the communion of saints, that “great cloud of witnesses.””

Love,
Matthew

Tell me brother, are you saved?


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“There are many books on the subject of salvation, and many of them share certain characteristics:
1. They focus exclusively on the subject of eternal salvation.
2. They focus in particular on the doctrine of justification.
3. They often ignore, in the interests of systematic theology, the way in which the Bible uses language.
4. They are often written in a polemical, hostile style.
5. Due to the authors’ unfamiliarity with the way other groups of Christians express themselves, they mistakenly criticize views on which there is no disagreement in substance.

The Drama of Salvation is different.

While it does discuss the subject of eternal salvation, it also seeks to show that the concept of salvation in the Bible is much broader than that.

While it discusses the doctrine of justification, it also gives attention to other biblical themes relating to salvation.

While it addresses concerns of systematic theology, it focuses significantly on the way the Bible talks about salvation—the kind of language Scripture uses when addressing it.

While it takes a very definite position on many matters, it is not meant to be polemical or hostile toward those with other beliefs.

Finally, while this book is critical of positions I believe to be in error, it takes great care to understand the ways in which different groups of Christians express themselves.

Tragically, Protestants and Catholics often talk past each other, failing to perceive the ways that the other uses words and phrases. I hope that this book will help both Catholics and Protestants “translate” the theological language of one group into the language of the other so that individuals on both sides can better understand what their partners in dialogue or controversy actually mean, not just what they say.

Often the two groups are led astray by terminology. They often perceive themselves to be in disagreement when actually they are not—or, at least, when the disagreement is not as sharp as they think.

This is precisely the kind of situation that St. Paul was addressing when he warned about quarreling over words. He instructed St. Timothy to charge his flock “before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim. 2:14).

Similarly, Paul said that a person who is quarrelsome about words is “puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:4–5).

Contemporary Christians of all persuasions need to take Paul’s words to heart. My hope is that this book will help bring about a greater understanding of how Scripture treats the subject of salvation and how different groups of Christians understand it.
Something is desperately wrong with the world. We all sense it. With all of the wars, crimes, hatreds, and cruelties the world contains, something is definitely wrong. Mankind’s catalogue of sin and vice is endless, and there seem to be new moral challenges every day.

What’s worse, the problem is not just in the world. It is within us. Each of us has done wrong in our lives. Sometimes we have done things that are very wrong. If we are lucky, we have enough conscience and courage to face our own misdeeds. But too often, we rationalize them away or we ignore them and pretend that they don’t exist.

The fact that we realize there is something wrong with the world—and with ourselves—raises a set of questions: What will happen as a result of all the bad things that take place in the world? Will the innocent always suffer? Will the guilty always triumph? Will matters ever be put right? Is there justice in the world? And if there is, can that justice be tempered with mercy?

Religions and philosophies propose different answers to these questions. From the Christian point of view, there is ultimate justice. In the last day, God will judge the living and the dead. He will eventually right every wrong. He will console and compensate those who have suffered innocently. He will punish those who have done wrong. And He will be merciful to those who have sought His grace and forgiveness.

From the Christian point of view, all human beings will have one of two destinies: to be spiritually united with God in heaven or to be spiritually separated from God in hell. The former promises an eternity of happiness, the latter an eternity of anguish.

Obviously, one destiny is preferable to the other. The question is how to make sure you have the preferable one—or, to put it another way, how to make sure that you’re saved.

Salvation is one of many terms the Bible uses to describe the way God works in our lives to deal with the effects of sin. The basic image is one of rescue. To save someone is to rescue him, as when a fireman saves someone from a burning building, or one soldier saves another on the battlefield. Any time someone is saved, he is rescued from a perilous situation.

From what are we being rescued when God saves us? This can be understood in different ways. In one sense, we are being rescued from being eternally lost. That state, though, is a result of our sins, and so we can also think about salvation as being rescued from our sins. Sin entered the world through the agency of the devil, and so we can think of salvation in terms of being rescued from the powers of darkness as well.

In addition to conceiving of salvation as rescue from one state, it can also be understood as rescue to another, better state. In this sense, God can be understood as saving us from hell to heaven, from sin to holiness, and from the devil to God himself.

None of these understandings are exclusive. They are all compatible.

In addition to the concept of salvation, the Bible uses other images to describe the way God deals with sin in our lives. These include justification (being made righteous), sanctification (being made holy), and forgiveness (releasing of spiritual debt). All of these describe different aspects of what God does in our lives to deal with our sins.

These concepts are what this book is about. In the coming chapters, we will look at them and the rich and, at times, surprising ways that Scripture employs them. We will also look at the controversy that surrounds them. Unfortunately, not all Christians understand these concepts in the same way. The disagreement is particularly strong in the Protestant community, which is sharply divided on several points.

To set the stage for that discussion, we will begin by looking—in broad outlines—at the view that was common prior to the Protestant Reformation and that is still common among Catholics, Orthodox, and members of other historic churches.

It is a view that is rooted in the Bible.”

Love,
Matthew

Aquinas, ST Suppl. 72:1, ad 2 – Can the saints hear our prayers?


-by Karlo Broussard

(Summa Theologiae, by St Thomas Aquinas, OP, Supplement, Question 72, Article 1, objection 2)

“The second objection in the article says the saints don’t know our prayers because such knowledge would undermine their happiness. Here’s one way to put the argument:

P1: If the saints knew our prayers, then they would know our sufferings.

P2: If the saints knew our sufferings, then the saints would be sad.

P3: But the saints in heaven can’t be sad.

C1: Therefore, the saints can’t know our sufferings.

C2: Therefore, the saints can’t know our prayers.

The key premise is the second, to which Aquinas replies that we can’t say the saints in heaven are grieved by knowledge of our troubles in life because they are “so filled with heavenly joy, that sorrow finds no place in them.”

Although I think Aquinas is right here, it seems there needs to be a bit more explanation as to how knowledge of our sufferings wouldn’t undermine the happiness of the blessed. In the Summa, he obliges: “God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good” (ST III:1:3, ad 3).

Whether the saints know that good or not doesn’t matter. Simply knowledge that God will direct a permitted evil to a greater good gives the saints reason not to be sad. This is especially true given the saints’ vision of the divine essence, which provides them with an improved perspective on how God perfectly orders things to His glory.

Second, the saints in heaven view the troubles in our lives with an eternal perspective, a perspective that Paul articulates in his letters. For example, in Romans 8:18, Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul writes, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

If Paul’s knowledge of such glory without the beatific vision could diminish sadness caused by his sufferings, then how much more would the saints’ knowledge of this glory with the beatific vision diminish sadness? Much more! In fact, being in the presence of the heavenly glory excludes sadness altogether.

So, just because the saints in heaven would have knowledge of the troubles in our lives if they knew our prayers, it doesn’t follow they would be sad. They know there are greater goods that God is bringing about through our troubles.

The third objection that Aquinas deals with is similar to an objection often heard today in challenging God’s existence: the problem of evil. It claims the saints can’t possibly know our prayers because if they did, they would respond to our requests for intercession, and we wouldn’t have suffering in our lives.

Behind this objection is the idea that a charitable person always assists his friend and/or neighbor when the latter is suffering. Since the saints in heaven have perfect love, and we’re their friends, it follows that if they knew our requests about what’s going on in our lives, they would help us in our sufferings.

But—the argument goes—they must not be helping us in our sufferings, because we suffer every day. Therefore, they must not know the requests that we make.

This objection is based on a false dichotomy. It supposes either the saints are praying for us, in which case we wouldn’t suffer, or they don’t know our prayers. But there’s a third option.

Perhaps the saints know our prayers and it’s just not God’s will that we be delivered from a particular trial, at least not yet. Like us, they don’t know all of God’s plan, and so even their petitions are subject to what the Lord wills (James 4:15). Alternately, if—in a particular case—they do know that God wills to allow a source of suffering, they certainly would not pray for it to be removed. Aquinas explains,

The souls of the saints have their will fully conformed to the Divine will even as regards the things willed; and consequently, although they retain the love of charity towards their neighbor, they do not succor him otherwise than they see to be in conformity with the disposition of divine justice (ST Suppl. 72:1, ad 3).

So, if we ask the saints to pray that we be delivered from a particular difficulty in our lives, and it doesn’t come to pass, it’s because it wasn’t God’s will. It’s not because the saints aren’t aware of our prayers.

Furthermore, if God doesn’t will to deliver us from a trial, the saints can still help us by praying we have the strength to persevere in faith and not lose hope in the midst of our suffering. Such prayers also would be fruits of perfect love.

Even if we don’t hear these arguments raised today, they’re interesting to consider. And if by chance a Protestant does happen to use one or both of them, a Catholic will be able to show why they don’t succeed.”

Love, all ye holy men and women, pray for us!!
Matthew

Anti-Catholic “Fake News”

There is much for honest Catholics to lament these days regarding the criminality of 4%, let’s say, and spare ourselves the academic debates, of its ordained, and the conspiratorial malfeasance of its leaders, and the pervasive danger into which further Catholic families were regularly placed; hopefully, past terms, and the terrible way victims continue to be treated, and laity continued to be ignored in all of this, as if they will just accept being ignored, taken for granted, by the institution known as the Church.

These are tragedies on so many levels, Russian nesting dolls of evil, the primary of which is the suffering of the victims. A much lesser evil is the factual evidence this gives enemies of the Church, who would not care about facts and evidence much under any circumstances.

“Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878–1903) was annoyed.

The Church was under attack by intellectuals seeking to limit its influence in society and by Italian nationalists and revolutionaries who intensely disliked the papacy. Leo was also concerned because when surveying the methods employed to cause “suspicion and hatred against the Church and the papacy” by its critics, he noted that the attacks were centered on “ecclesiastical history.”

Leo knew that a thorough and authentic study of Church history produces a favorable opinion of the institution founded by Christ, but opponents were using the Church’s history against it.

These propagandists produced a false narrative about the Church and the pope because “they narrowly inspected archives; they unearthed stupid fables; and they repeated for the hundredth time legends a hundred times confuted.”

The myths formulated by the enemies of the Church took root in the minds of men because the press perpetuated them and schools taught them to the young.

Leo decried the corruption of youths through teaching a false narrative of Church history because errors learned while young tend to persist in old age, primarily because people are not apt to do the research necessary to change what they have learned, and in some cases because the fixed narrative threatens their faith. To combat the falsification of the history of the Church and the papacy, Leo decided to open the Vatican Library to all researchers so that they could use primary documents to write authentic Catholic history.

Today, almost 140 years after Leo opened the Vatican Library to researchers, one is tempted to guess how he would view the current state of Church history scholarship.

Certainly there is much to be grateful for, and many historians are producing excellent works of authentic history. But there is also much to be concerned about.

Anti-Catholic historical myths continue to spread in all forms of media. The English Protestant view of Christian history dominates the textbooks used in most schools, and enemies of the Faith continue to spread falsehoods about Church history.

Why do these myths persist despite the existence of authentic scholarship that refutes them?

Chiefly because avowed enemies of the Church find them useful in discrediting the Church and limiting its influence in the world; because bitter ex-Catholics use them to paint the Church in a negative light; because atheists who hate religion in general use them to point out the folly of faith; and because some Protestant groups use the myths to justify their separation from the Church Christ founded.

Many anti-Catholic historical myths originated with Protestant revolutionaries 500 years ago. Discrediting the Church by creating false historical narratives about it helped these revolutionaries “prove” that their interpretation of Scripture and Christian doctrine was correct. Pope Leo XIII observed that because Protestants’ assaults against Catholic dogma failed “they had recourse to a new strategy, namely, encountering the Church in the field of historical questions.”

Ultimately, an examination of history proves that the early Christian Church was Catholic and that, as Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote, “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

Sometimes people who promulgate historical myths about the Church do so unintentionally. In many cases they are simply repeating what they have read or heard. Writers and commentators may not bother to review the latest research in an area of Church history, so all too often the true story stays within academia. Pope Leo XIII expressed the frustration felt by all Catholic scholars when he wrote about these myths, “It appears incredible that accusations of this kind, confuted with so much evidence and with such force, should yet have been able to make progress in the minds of many.”
So, what should the present-day Catholic do about these anti-Catholic historical myths?

The first step is to recognize them by learning the authentic history of the Church. Catholics are frequently encouraged to spend time learning the dogmas of the Faith and studying Scripture, and indeed both pursuits are necessary for an active and enriched faith life. But time must also be spent studying the events and personages of Church history. Failure to do so just allows the myths to persist and flourish.

The next step after recognizing the historical myths about the Church is to use that knowledge to combat those myths, charitably, whenever and with whomever they arise. Ultimately, false narratives about the Church persist because the truth is not proclaimed widely and persistently, and many Catholics do not feel well equipped to join the fight.

God willing, this book will help faithful Catholics defend the Church in their workplaces and communities, and among families and friends. It can be exhausting to fight every myth that presents itself, but the Catholic must find solace and renewed energy in the sacraments of the Church, and must vow not only to learn the Church’s true history but in the words of Pope Leo XIII, “to render it triumphant.””

Love & truth,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: Mormonism

Is Jesus Our Eldest Brother?

Once a young woman sitting next to me on an airplane noticed I was reading a book about Mormonism. She said she had recently joined the Mormon Church (the official name for Mormons is “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which some people abbreviate to “LDS”) and so we struck up a conversation. She said she didn’t like it when people held ignorant views towards Mormons and I agreed that bigoted attitudes are unacceptable.

“I mean, we all believe in Jesus, so isn’t that what matters?” she asked.

I gently explained to her that Christians and Mormons don’t mean the same thing when they refer to the person of Jesus. Gordon Hinkley the former president of the Mormon Church, even said, “As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.”

Christians believe there is one God who exists as three divine, eternal persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that only God is eternal (see Psalm 90:2).

Mormons, on the other hand, believe there are an infinite number of “intelligences” that have existed for all eternity. God, whom Mormons call “Heavenly Father,” transforms these intelligences into human beings and the faithful Mormons among them will become gods in the next life, going on to create more human beings who will continue this cycle of “exaltation.”

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was once an “intelligence” like us who existed from eternity past. He was not always divine, and he was not always the Son of God. Instead, God chose him to become the “first-born” among the intelligences by giving him the first spirit body. In 1909, the Mormon Church’s leadership released a statement that said, “The Father of Jesus is our Father also. . . . Jesus, however, is the first-born among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like him, are in the image of God.”

Instead of being completely different in kind from human beings, this counterfeit Christ is only different from us in degree (hence the term “eldest brother”). He is just a more exalted spirit-child of God the Father, which reduces him from being the eternal creator of the universe to being merely one highly praised part of it.

But how can that be true if . . .
…There Is Only One God

Mormonism can best be described as a kind of henotheism, or belief in the existence of many gods (in this case, infinitely many), only one of whom deserves our worship. Mormons strive to become “exalted” and develop into a god just like Heavenly Father, who was once a man like us. Joseph Smith even said at a funeral for Mormon elder King Follett, “You have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you.”

Christians, on the other hand, are monotheists who believe there is one God, though he exists as a Trinity of three persons, each of whom equally possesses the divine nature. And although Mormons will tell you that they, too, believe in “one God,” what they mean is that they believe in one collection of gods. For Mormons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or “the Holy Ghost”) are three gods who cooperate so perfectly they might as well be one God. But this is like saying that a perfectly cooperating baseball team has but one player.

If God or Heavenly Father used to be a man who was later exalted into godhood, then the entire universe would be without an explanation, because we could always ask the atheist’s favorite question: “Who created God?” Positing an infinite cycle of men becoming gods does not explain the existence of the universe any more than an infinitely long chain could explain why a chandelier is hanging in a room. It has to be attached to the ceiling, and likewise, the only explanation for why the universe exists at all is because the God of Christianity, who just is perfect existence itself, created it.

Scripture also clearly teaches there is only one God, and we are to worship him alone.

There’s no doubt that the early Israelites were also henotheists, because they were often tempted to worship other gods that they presumed really existed. But through gradual, divine revelation God’s people came to understand that Yahweh was not only superior to all other gods—he was real and they were not. In Isaiah 45:5, God says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.”

Isaiah 43:10 God declares, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” This can’t refer to false gods or idols, because many of those are still “formed” to this day. Instead, the Bible teaches that no other god besides the one true God has ever existed, and no other god ever will exist. Even scholars who reject evidence for practices of monotheism early in the Old Testament agree that the prophet Isaiah is a witness to God’s people having finally rejected the existence of all other deities except for their own God Yahweh.

The New Testament also firmly teaches not just that Jesus is God, but that there is only one God.

Jesus described God as “the only God” (John 5:44) and “the only true God” (John 17:3). St. Paul describes God as “the only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) and the only being who possesses immortality (1 Tim. 6:16). St. Ignatius wrote in the early second century that the early Christians were persecuted because they “convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested himself by Jesus Christ his Son.”

If there is only one God, and the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are fully divine and distinct from one another, then the doctrine of the Trinity logically follows. Jesus could not have been an “intelligence” that another god elevated to divinity, but must instead be an inseparable part of the one, triune God who alone has eternal, necessary existence.”

Love,
Matthew

Go ask your Father: the Early Church was Catholic


-by Marcus Grodi

“For the first forty years of my life, it never crossed my mind that I needed anything else but the Bible to know what I needed to believe to be a faithful Christian. When I was in seminary and preparing to become a Protestant pastor I studied the history of Christianity, but with a certain slant that skirted any acknowledgment of the historical importance of the Catholic Church. For me, as well as most of my fellow seminarians, the important history essentially ended with the closure of the New Testament and picked up again with the sixteenth century Protestant reformation.

I certainly knew of some significant Christian figures and events from those “lost” fifteen hundred years, but for me and the congregations I pastored, all that was important was the Bible—which had been “saved” from the clutches of the “Whore of Babylon” through the courage of the Reformers. The few references I had read from the writings of the early Christian writers (I don’t remember referring to them as early Church “Fathers”) were selectively chosen to demonstrate that the early Church was more like Protestantism than Catholicism.

Then, by God’s grace, my eyes were opened to the problems of Protestantism. Without question, it was my discovery of the witness of the early Church Fathers that most opened my heart and mind toward the Catholic faith. Fortunately, God provided helpers to assist me in finding and working my way through the few available collections of the Fathers, most of which were out of print and some badly skewed by anti-Catholic translators. Through their witness, the Catholicism of the early Church became so obvious that my family and I knew that if we were to follow the truth then we had no option but to become Catholic.

A large majority of Christians today believe that all one needs to know about the early Church can be gleaned from the book of Acts, and that beyond that, the essence of early Church structure, liturgy, and praxis is somehow a prototype of what they experience in their modern-day Protestant churches.

But if the inspired words of the New Testament do not contain all that the Apostles taught the early Christians, then how does one discover the rest of what these early Christians believed? The answer to this—at least for hundreds of modern Protestant ministers who have surprisingly found their way home to the Catholic Church—is in the writings of the early Church Fathers.

How, though, can we access such a large corpus of writings, especially when they were written in languages that most of us today have not had the patience to learn?

For this, we are particularly blessed by the release of Jimmy Akin’s superbly compiled synopsis of the writings of the early Church Fathers.

There are other collections, which have helped many discover the beauty and importance of what these early writers reveal about the expanding and persecuted early Church. But Akin’s finely selected and categorized collection provides a far more accessible introduction into the full Catholicity of the early Christians. As a convert himself and a well-honed apologist, Jimmy knows the topics that are most crucial for those wanting and needing to know what the early Church believed—especially in those doctrinal areas where Catholics and non-Catholics bump heads.”

ST. AMBROSE OF MILAN

Born around 338; died 397. Bishop of Milan, Italy. One of the four original Doctors of the Church. Originally, he was a government official. After the death of the local bishop, the Catholics and Arians got into a vehement conflict about who should be the new bishop.

Ambrose was trying to keep the peace and settle the two groups down when someone—allegedly a small boy—began chanting “Ambrose, bishop!” Soon the two groups began chanting together that Ambrose should be the new bishop. (The Arians, apparently, felt that although Ambrose was Catholic in belief he would be a kinder bishop than they otherwise would likely get.) Yet, Ambrose was not even baptized yet!

Culturally well-educated but at the same time ignorant of the Scriptures, the new Bishop briskly began to study them. From the works of Origen, the indisputable master of the “Alexandrian School”, he learned to know and to comment on the Bible. Thus, Ambrose transferred to the Latin environment the meditation on the Scriptures which Origen had begun, introducing in the West the practice of lectio divina. The method of lectio served to guide all of Ambrose’s preaching and writings, which stemmed precisely from prayerful listening to the Word of God.

The future St Augustine, converted to Christianity by St Ambrose, meanwhile, had come to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric; he was a sceptic and not Christian. He was seeking the Christian truth but was not capable of truly finding it.

What moved the heart of the young African rhetorician, sceptic and downhearted, and what impelled him to definitive conversion was not above all Ambrose’s splendid homilies, although he deeply appreciated them. It was rather the testimony of the Bishop and his Milanese Church that prayed and sang as one intact body. It was a Church that could resist the tyrannical ploys of the Emperor and his mother, who in early 386 again demanded a church building for the Arians’ celebrations.

In the building that was to be requisitioned, Augustine relates, “the devout people watched, ready to die with their Bishop”.   This testimony of the Confessions is precious because it points out that something was moving in Augustine, who continues: “We too, although spiritually tepid, shared in the excitement of the whole people.” (Confessions 9, 7).  St Monica, the tearful Christian mother of her wayward son Augustine, followed her son to Milan.  The customs for worship in Thagaste, Northern Africa, where they were from, were different than in Milan and Rome.  When she asked Ambrose what to do, he replied, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”  Very practical advice.

ST. ANTHONY OF EGYPT

Born around 250 at Herakleopolis Magna; died 356. A layman who lived in a variety of places in Egypt. Though hailed as “the Father of Monasticism,” he was not the first monk, but he was one of the first (if not the first) ascetics known to retire to the desert. A biography of him by St. Athanasius of Alexandria helped spread his style of monasticism.

ST. ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA

Born around 295; died 373. A Doctor of the Church. As a deacon he accompanied St. Alexander of Alexandria to the Council of Nicaea I. He succeeded Alexander as patriarch of Alexandria and was a tireless defender of Trinitarianism and foe of the Arians. His time as bishop was stormy, and he was expelled from his see five times but regained it each time.

ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

Born 354; died 430. One of the four original Doctors of the Church. Of Berber descent, he was born to a pagan father (Patricius) and Christian mother (St. Monica), in Thagaste (modern Souk Ahras, Algeria). He spent some time as a Manichean before becoming a Christian. He was baptized by St. Ambrose of Milan. Before becoming Christian, St. Augustine fathered a son (Adeodatus) by a concubine. After baptism, he became bishop of Hippo Regius, Numidia (now Annaba, Algeria). The most prolific of the Church Fathers, and one of the most important theologians in history.

POPE ST. CLEMENT I

Probably wrote in early 70. Various ancient sources place him as the first, second, or third successor of St. Peter. (Most commonly, he is held to be the third, after Linus and Cletus.) He was the author of a single surviving Letter to the Corinthians, which is often dated around 95, but this is too late a date.

William Jurgens points to internal evidence that places it no later than 80 or so (the date he favors) and possibly up to ten years earlier. John A. T. Robinson shows internal evidence that places it in the first part of the year 70. Specifically, Clement refers to sacrifices still being offered at the temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in July of 70. Clement also refers to the repeated crises that have prevented him from writing to the Corinthians until now, which is a likely reference to the violent “year of four emperors” in 69, a time of civil war that followed the forced suicide of Nero in 68. In it Galba, Otho, and Vitellius were successively acclaimed emperor and then killed or forced to commit suicide before Vespasian finally took office.

The epistle may or may not have been written before Clement was pope. He was, in any event, a major figure of the period, as demonstrated by the fact that a number of later works were attributed to him or written about him. Also referred to as “Clement of Rome.”

CONSTANTINE I

Born around 272; died 337. The first Christian emperor—an office he shared with Licinius from 306 until 324, when he became sole emperor. His conversion was prompted by a private revelation in which he was told to conquer in the sign of the cross. He moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium, which was rebuilt as Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). In 313 he and his co-emperor issued the Edict of Milan, which proclaimed religious toleration. He did not, however, make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. In 325 he convoked the Council of Nicaea I to deal with the Arian crisis. Though the council endorsed Trinitarianism, it did not stop the controversy. Constantine was eventually baptized by the Arian bishop of Nicomedia, the city in which he lay dying. Sometimes called “Constantine the Great.”

ST. CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE

Born around 205; died 258. He was bishop of Carthage (now a suburb of Tunis, Tunisia). He presided at the Council of Carthage of 256. He got along well with Pope St. Cornelius I but had a falling out with Pope St. Stephen I over whether baptisms performed by heretics were valid (Cyprian wrongly held that they were not). For a time he had to shepherd his flock while in hiding due to persecution. Eventually he was martyred by beheading.

ST. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA

Died 444. A Doctor of the Church. Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, Cyril was a harsh man who dealt cruelly with his enemies, including Jews, Novatians, St. John Chrysostom, and Nestorius. A mob of his followers brutally murdered the female pagan philosopher Hypatia, though there is no evidence that they did so at his direction. Despite his flaws, he was an important theologian and papal legate to the Council of Ephesus.

POPE ST. GREGORY I

Reigned from 590 to 604. One of the four original Doctors of the Church. Though born to a wealthy family, he sold his possessions and established monasteries, one of which he dwelled in. He practiced asceticism to the point that he damaged his health. Reluctantly, he was drawn from the monastery into the service of the pope. Eventually, he was elected pope himself, though for a time he sought to avoid the office. He guided the Church during a crucial period of transition between antiquity and the Middle Ages. Commonly referred to as “Gregory the Great.”

ST. HILARY OF POITIERS

Born around 315; died around 367. A Doctor of the Church. He converted from paganism and, though he was married, he was also elected bishop of Poitiers in what is now France. A strong opponent of the Arians, he is sometimes referred to as “the Athanasius of the West.” Like St. Athanasius of Alexandria, he was for a time exiled, but he regained his see.

ST. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH

Died around 110. He was the third bishop of Antioch (near the current city of Antakya, Turkey). He heard the apostle John. In the reign of the Emperor Trajan, he was taken to Rome and martyred. On the way he wrote six letters to various churches and one to St. Polycarp of Smyrna. These letters are an invaluable resource concerning early Christianity. They also exist in a long form that includes interpolations of the fourth century, and there is an abridgement of them in Syriac.

ST. IRENAEUS OF LYONS

Born around 140; died around 202. Originally from modern Turkey, where he heard St. Polycarp of Smyrna, he ended up becoming the second bishop of Lyons (now Lyon; then called Lugdunum), in what is now France. He intervened in a dispute between Pope St. Victor I and Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus on the date on which Easter should be celebrated. He also wrote against Gnosticism in his masterwork, Against Heresies.

ST. JEROME

Born around 347; died around 419. One of the four original Doctors of the Church. Originally from Dalmatia (located mostly in modern Croatia), he was educated in Rome and traveled extensively. He attended the Council of Rome in 382 and became the secretary of Pope Damasus, who instigated Jerome’s most famous work—the translation of the Bible in Latin known as the Vulgate. This gradually replaced previous Latin translations of Scripture. After the death of Damasus he moved to Bethlehem, where he continued his translation work. Jerome made many enemies as a result of his explosive temper and his ability to hold grudges even after the death of his opponents.

At one point Jerome needed additional priestly help with the monasteries he ran, and to supply the need St. Epiphanius of Salamis ordained Jerome’s own brother—a monk named Paulinian—forcibly and against his will. (At this point Jerome was at odds with his own bishop, John of Jerusalem—a split which Epiphanius fostered.)

To keep Paulinian from objecting, he was first gagged and then ordained a deacon. A Mass was held, with Paulinian serving the deacon’s part. Then he was grabbed, tied up and gagged again, and ordained a priest.

ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

Born around 359; died 407. A Doctor of the Church. Originally from Antioch in Syria (now Antakya, Turkey), he eventually and reluctantly became the patriarch of Constantinople. An extraordinary preacher, he was nicknamed Chrusostomos (Greek for “golden-mouthed”). A reformer at Constantinople, he was in conflict both with other churchmen and with the royal court, which twice had him exiled. Though the first time he was quickly brought back (the next day, in fact), the second time he died en route to his place of exile. One of his most famous works, and one that helped earn him his nickname, was a series of sermons he preached on “the incident of the statues.” When he was a newly ordained priest, a mob of tax protestors went on a rampage in Antioch and, in addition to vandalizing the city and the local prefect’s palace, they tore down the statues of the Emperor Theodosius and the late Empress Flacilla and dragged them through the streets. When the riot was over and reality set in, the city was terrified of what would happen next. A series of executions began, and the rumor went round that Theodosius was so enraged that he was contemplating the total destruction of the city, which many began to flee. The local bishop, Flavian, went to appeal directly to the emperor, and while he was gone John preached a famous series of sermons to comfort the population, offer them hope, and prepare them for the afterlife, should Flavian’s mission fail. All ended well when Flavian returned and announced that Theodosius had wept upon hearing his appeal on behalf of the city and that he had decided to spare it. It is suspected that John may have written the eloquent speech Flavian delivered to the emperor.

ST. POLYCARP OF SMYRNA (my parents had friends, who, as a cruel joke on their children, made each one take the Confirmation name “Polycarp”. Catholic love; not always so sweet and tender. 🙂

Born around 68; died around 155. Bishop of Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey). He was a hearer of the apostle John. One of St. Ignatius of Antioch’s letters is addressed to him, and he himself wrote to the Philippians. An account of his martyrdom—The Martyrdom of Polycarp—is an important work of hagiography.

Love,
Matthew

Asking the Right Questions: Mormons

Catholic Answers

“In your discussions with Mormons, they will most often wish to direct the topics presented into those areas where they feel most informed and comfortable. We suggest that you take charge of such conversations. Besides acquainting yourself with the basics of Mormon teaching (in addition, of course, to the fundamentals of the Catholic faith), consider presenting the Mormon apologist with a few questions he will have a difficult time answering.

Does the Mormon church attack other churches?

Many Mormons, including their hierarchy, look upon any criticism—regardless of how honest and sincere—as perverseness inspired by the Evil One. But these same individuals ignore their own past (and present) attacks on Christian churches. You might like to point out a few of these to those Mormons who say their church “never attacks other churches.”

1. “I was answered that I must join none of them (Christian churches), for they were all wrong . . . their creeds were an abomination in [God’s] sight; that those professors were all corrupt” (Joseph Smith—History1:19).

2. “Orthodox Christian views of God are pagan rather than Christian” (Mormon Doctrine of Deity, B. H. Roberts [General Authority], 116).

3. “Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast” (Journal of Discourses, John Taylor [3rd Mormon President], 13:225).

4. “The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church, is the great corrupt, ecclesiastical power, represented by great Babylon” (Orson Pratt, Writings of an Apostle, Orson Pratt, n. 6, 84).

5. “All the priests who adhere to the sectarian [Christian] religions of the day with all their followers, without one exception, receive their portion with the devil and his angels” (The Elders Journal, Joseph Smith, ed., vol. 1, n. 4, 60).

6. [Under the heading, “Church of the Devil,” Apostle Bruce R. McConkie lists:] “The Roman Catholic Church specifically—singled out, set apart, described, and designated as being ‘most abominable above all other churches’ (I Ne. 13:5)” (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, 129).

7. “Believers in the doctrines of modern Christendom will reap damnation to their souls (Morm. 8; Moro. 8)” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, Bruce R. McConkie, 177). Keep in mind that McConkie, who died in 1985, was raised to the level of “apostle” in the Mormon church after he had written all these things.

Is the Mormon church pro-life?

Didn’t you assume Mormons were pro-life? That’s certainly the image their church attempts to broadcast, and most Mormons, in fact, mistakenly believe their church opposes abortion and regards it as an objective evil. But not so.

Indeed, the Mormon church accepts abortion for a number of reasons. The Church Handbook of Instructions, approved in September, 1998, states that abortion may be performed in the following circumstances: pregnancy resulting from rape or incest; a competent physician says the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy; or a competent physician says that the “fetus” has severe defects that will not allow the “baby” to survive beyond birth. In any case, the persons responsible must first consult with their church leader and receive God’s approval in prayer (156).

This same Handbook also claims: “It is a fact that a child has life before birth. However, there is no direct revelation on when the spirit enters the body” (156). Previous teachings by former Mormon prophets referred to the unborn child as “a child,” “a baby,” a “human being,” and decried abortion as “killing,” “a grievous sin,” “a damnable practice.” Spencer W. Kimball, the “prophet” who died in 1985, taught, “We have repeatedly affirmed the position of the church in unalterably opposing all abortions” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 189).

It appears that this “unalterable” position, constantly “affirmed,” is just another in a series of doctrinal and moral teachings that Mormons have reworded, reworked, rescinded, or reneged—though never officially renounced. Such is the quality of the Mormon belief in “continuing revelation.”

A further statement in the Handbook says: “The church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion (156).”

Your Mormon friend will offer the excuse that his church leaves many decisions to the free agency (free will) of its people, and that abortion is one such concern. You might point out the irony in the fact that the Mormon church has no hesitation or uncertainty in making the following declarations:

1. “The church opposes gambling in any form” (including lotteries). Members are also urged to oppose legislation and government sponsorship of any form of gambling (Handbook, 150).

2. The church also opposes [correctly, of course] pornography in any form (158).

3. Church members are to reject all efforts to legally authorize or support same-sex unions (158).

There is no need for a member to pray for divine guidance or seek church approval for such activities, for there will be no divine or ecclesiastical finessing of morality to permit even an occasional bingo game. A prayerful game of poker, unrepented, will bar the member from the temple and ultimate salvation; a prayerful abortion, unrepented, won’t.

Do Mormons know the true nature of God?

Because they believe the Church established by Christ 2,000 years ago fell completely away from his teachings within a century or so of his death, Mormons argue that only a thorough “restoration” (and not a simple “reformation”) of the true Church and its holy doctrines would lead man to salvation. Joseph Smith organized this “restored church” in 1830. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints preaches a belief central to most religions: one must know the true nature of God. “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God” (Teachings of Joseph Smith, 345ff).

No Christian disputes the absolute necessity of knowing the nature of God (to the extent our reason, aided by grace, can apprehend this great mystery). Indeed, the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations have been united in a constant belief in the supreme God as almighty, eternal, and unchanging. Mormons have not been favored by similar clarity from their self-described “prophets” who receive “direct revelation” from the gods.

You may wish to ask your Mormon acquaintance to consider the following authoritative statements by their earlier and present prophets.

1. In an early book of “Scripture” brought forth by Joseph Smith, the creation account consistently refers to the singular when speaking of God and creation: “I, God, caused . . . I, God, created . . . I, God, saw. . . . ” The singular is used 50 times in the second and third chapters of the Book of Moses(1831).

2. In another of Smith’s earlier works, the Book of Mormon(1830), there are no references to a plurality of gods. At best, there is a confusion, at times, between the Father and the Son, leading at times to the extreme of modalism (one divine person who reveals himself sometimes as the Father, sometimes as the Son) or the other extreme of “binitarianism,” belief in two persons in God. The Book of Mormon also makes a strong point for God’s spiritual and eternal unity (see Alma 11:44 and 22:10-11, which proclaims that God is the “Great Spirit”).

3. Another early work of Smith is the Lectures on Faith(1834-35). There is continual evidence that the first Mormon leader taught a form of bitheism: the Father and the Son are separate gods. The Holy Spirit is merely the “mind” of the two.

4. At about the same time, we begin to see a doctrinal shift. Smith had acquired some mummies and Egyptian papyri. He proclaimed the writings to be those of the patriarch, Abraham, in his own hand, and set out to translate the text. His Book of Abrahamrecords in chapters four and five that “the gods called . . . the gods ordered . . . the gods prepared” some 45 times. Smith thus introduces the notion of a plurality of gods.

5. The clearest exposition of this departure from traditional Christian doctrine is seen in Smith’s tale of a “vision” he had as a boy of fourteen. Both the Father and the Son appeared to him, he wrote; they were two separate “personages.” This story of two gods was not authorized and distributed by the church until 1838, after his Book of Abrahamhad paved the way for polytheism.

6. Readers will notice that the Father is said to have appeared, along with his resurrected Son. In his final doctrinal message, Smith showed how this was possible.
In the King Follett Discourse (a funeral talk he gave in 1844), Joseph Smith left his church with the clearest statement to date on the nature of God:

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens[.] That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man.”

As the Mormon church has taught since that time, God the Father was once a man who was created by his God, was born and lived on another earth, learned and lived the “Mormon gospel,” died, and was eventually resurrected and made God over this universe. As such, he retains forever his flesh-and-bones body.

7. Aside from some temporary detours, the Mormon church has constantly taught that God the Father is a perfected man with a physical body and parts. Right-living Mormon men may also progress, as did the Father, and eventually become gods themselves. In fact, the Mormons’ fifth president, Lorenzo Snow, summed up the Mormon teaching thus: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.” (See Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christian?, 60, note 1.)

8. “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” What is stranger than a God who starts off as a single Spirit, eternal and all-powerful; who then becomes, perhaps, two gods in one, and then three; who never changes, yet was once born a man, lived, sinned, repented, and died; who was made God the Father of this world by his own God; and who will make his own children gods someday of their own worlds?

That all believing Christians are shocked and disturbed by this blasphemy may be nudging the Mormon leadership to soften their rhetoric (if not actually change their heresy). A case in point is an interview with the church “prophet,” Gordon B. Hinckley, published in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 13, 1997. When asked: “[D]on’t Mormons believe that God was once a man?” Hinckley demurred. “I wouldn’t say that. There’s a little couplet coined, ‘As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.’ Now, that’s more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about” (3/Z1).

A surprising admission, as Hinckley seems to disparage the constant teaching of all his prophetic predecessors.

Choose, if you like, any one of these three questions: on Christians; on the sanctity of life; on God. Ask your Mormon listener to explain the contradictions of his church. If they aren’t forthcoming, be prepared to offer the truth.”

Love,
Matthew

Asking the Right Questions: Jehovah’s Witnesses

Catholic Answers

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

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

Is the Watch Tower Society Reliable?

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

Among other things, the WTS falsely predicted the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Trust the New World Translation?

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

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

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

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

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

Is “Jehovah” God’s Name?

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

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

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

Do Humans Possess an Immortal Soul?

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

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

Is Hell Real or Not?

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

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

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

Are Jesus and Michael the Archangel Really the Same Person?

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

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

Jesus: Creature or Creator?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Holy Spirit a Force or God?

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

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

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

Is There a Bodily Resurrection of Christ?

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

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

Is Heaven Just for the “Anointed Class”?

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Matthew