Category Archives: Apologetics

The Protestant Challenge

Oral Torah


-by Karlo Broussard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Matthew

May 18 – Sep 11, 1565: Knights Hospitaller defeat the Ottomans at Malta (3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days)


Lifting of the Siege of Malta by Charles-Philippe Larivière (1798–1876). Hall of the Crusades, Palace of Versailles. please click on the image for greater detail


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“In the same year that Pope Leo X condemned the errors of the recalcitrant Augustinian, Martin Luther, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire died. It was 1520, and Selim I left the throne of the mighty Turkish Empire to his only surviving son, Suleiman, who would come to be known to history as “the Magnificent.” Every Ottoman sultan was expected to glorify Islam by adding territory to the empire, and the Ottomans’ victorious and bloody march through Christendom since the late fourteenth century showed no signs of slowing at the beginning of the sixteenth.

Suleiman was the grandson of Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, but he quickly overshadowed the great achievement of his ancestor. While Mehmet focused on conquering the “Queen of Cities,” Suleiman set out during his forty-six-year reign to conquer the world. His forces conquered Baghdad, Belgrade, Budapest, and Rhodes. As the empire reached what would be its furthest reach, Ottoman military planners knew that land conquests were important but insufficient: control of the seaways was vital. Therefore, the Ottomans embarked on a campaign to control the “center of the world,” the Mediterranean Sea.

Suleiman’s desire to control the Mediterranean was thwarted for a time, however, by a Catholic military religious order: the Knights Hospitaller on the island of Malta. An Ottoman fleet successfully conquered the Knights’ previous home island of Rhodes in 1522, but Suleiman allowed the surviving Christian warriors to leave the island due to their gallant and tenacious defense. The Knights settled on the strategic island of Malta and harassed Ottoman naval vessels for the next thirty years. By 1565, Suleiman could no longer ignore the problem of the Knights, so he assembled an army of 40,000 warriors, a hundred artillery pieces, and one hundred thousand cannonballs and set out to attack Malta. He was certain of the imminent victory of Islam, but once more the Knights would prove their mettle and push back against the Ottoman horde.

The Knights had used Malta as their base of operations for almost forty years when the great Ottoman invasion fleet arrived. The Master General of the Order, Jean de La Valette, a veteran of the siege of Rhodes, knew the situation was desperate, so he sent a summons to all the Knights in Christendom to come to the island’s defense. He recognized that if Malta fell, the Muslims would gain a strategic base from which to launch an invasion of Sicily, Italy, and ultimately the very heart of Christendom, Rome.

The Ottomans arrived on Malta in May 1565 with a 180-ship fleet that sailed into and took the main harbor, unopposed. La Valette had placed his greatly outnumbered troops in several forts around the harbor. The Ottomans disembarked and arranged their camp in a crescent shape, as was their custom. The Christian defense centered on Fort St. Elmo, at the tip of the largest and most strategic peninsula, as it commanded the entrance to the harbor. Recognizing the importance of the fort, the Ottoman commanders decided to attack it on May 25. Ottoman engineers estimated it would fall in four or five days, but their calculation proved substantially incorrect.

As the calendar turned to June, the Ottomans had succeeded in capturing only the outer trench. The fight was brutal, seeing bitter hand-to-hand combat, heavy sniper activity, and a near-continuous Ottoman artillery barrage. Although the defenders fought bravely, it was only a matter of time before the fort would fall.

The defenders knew the end was near when a cannonball decapitated the fort’s commander on the twenty-sixth day of the siege. The Ottomans launched what proved to be the last attack on June 23 against the sixty Christian defenders remaining (out of an original strength of 1500). Only five ultimately survived the siege. The Ottoman commander (Mustapha Pasha) hoped to demoralize the remaining Christian troops across the harbor so he ordered some of the bodies of the dead Knights stripped of their armor, their hearts ripped out and heads cut off. Each headless corpse was then marked with a cross cut into the chest and nailed by the hands and feet to a wooden crucifix, which was placed into the water to float across the harbor to the remaining Christian defenses. La Valette responded to the Ottoman atrocity by beheading captured Muslim soldiers, loading the heads into his cannons, and firing them into the Muslim camp.

This grotesque exchange illustrates the fact that both sides knew this was a fight to the death, and that the stakes both for the Islamic caliphate and for Christendom could not be higher.

Those who died at Fort St. Elmo gave the other defenders of Malta time to consolidate and reinforce their positions, but the respite was short-lived. Fighting was intense through the month of July, and in early August an Ottoman assault nearly broke the Christian defenses. The hour was so desperate that even Maltese civilians, including women and children, manned the walls to push back the Turks. The remaining days of August were filled with intense trench combat that produced a stalemate, and casualties on both sides were heavy.

The Christian defenders received news on September 8, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the arrival of the long-awaited Spanish relief force in eighty ships. A few days later, on September 11, 1565, the Spanish reinforcements began their march towards the harbor to relieve La Valette’s troops. Aware of their vulnerability, the Ottoman commanders tried a risky, and ultimately futile, attack against the Spanish relief force. The fresh Spanish forces easily routed the Ottoman troops, who were wearied after four months of heavy fighting.


-Jean Parisot de Valette, please click on the image for greater detail

The Ottomans retreated hastily to their waiting ships in St. Paul’s Bay, the famous site of St. Paul’s shipwreck fifteen centuries before, and sailed home. Malta was saved and with it, Christendom. Pope Pius IV offered La Valette the cardinal’s hat for his valiant and brilliant defense of Malta, but the humble warrior refused the offer. He lived another five years, dying from a stroke after returning from a hunt on a hot summer day. He was buried on the island he so nobly defended.”


-re-enactment, please click on the image for greater detail


Non nobis Domine, Domine
Non nobis Domine
Sed nomini, Sed nomini
Tu o da gloriam

Not unto us, O Lord
Not unto us, O Lord
But to Your name
But to Your name
Give the Glory!

Love,
Matthew

Revelation 22:18-19

“Catholic Bibles are bigger than Protestant ones. The Catechism teaches that the canon of Scripture includes “forty-six books for the Old Testament (forty-five if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and twenty-seven for the New” (120). Although Protestants agree with Catholics on the books that make up the New Testament, there are seven books in the Catholic Old Testament canon that they reject: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. They also reject portions of the books of Daniel and Esther. Catholics refer to these seven books as the deuterocanonical (second-canon) books and Protestants call them the Apocrypha.

You may run across a Protestant who rejects the deuterocanonical books because he thinks the Catholic Church added these books, in violation of John’s prohibition to add to the Bible:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19).

John says not to add to Scripture, yet the Catholic Church literally added seven whole books and more!

Reply:

1. If we granted for argument’s sake that John here is referring to the entire canon of Scripture, then Protestants would be guilty for removing the deuterocanonicals.

If we suppose that John is talking about the biblical canon (the list of all the books that make up the Bible) in Revelation 22:18-19, then the challenge becomes a two-edged sword. A Protestant may argue that the Catholic Church added books to the Bible, but a Catholic can just as easily argue that the Protestant community took some books away.

The seven books found in the Catholic Old Testament that are not found in the Protestant Old Testament were widely held as Scripture all throughout Christian history, and it was not until the Protestant Reformation that their canonicity was called into question and rejected on a major scale.

Prior to the Reformation, some individuals did question the canonicity of these books, but for the most part Christians as a whole accepted them. Numerous fourth and fifth-century Church councils authoritatively declared them to be inspired: the Synod of Rome (A.D. 382), Council of Hippo (393), Third Council of Carthage (397), and Sixth Council of Carthage (419). Protestant scholar J.N.D. Kelly affirms the major consensus on these books in the early Church: “For the great majority, however, the deuterocanonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.”

Such historical evidence makes this challenge difficult for a Protestant. If Revelation 22:18-19 refers to the canon, then the prohibition of “taking away” from it is just as strong as the prohibition of adding to it. So how can Protestants reject seven books from the Bible when Revelation 22:18-19 forbids it?
2. This passage is not even discussing the canon of Scripture but merely the book of Revelation.

These verses, however, don’t even refer to the entire Bible. The Greek word use here for book, biblion, can mean “small book” or “scroll.” In the ancient world, it was impossible to fit the entire Bible on a single scroll. The books of the Bible were originally individual compositions, such as an individual scroll, and the biblical canon as we know it was a collection of individual scrolls, a library of books. That’s why they’re called the “books” (plural) of the Bible. These books would not be put into a single volume until centuries later.

Therefore, it makes most sense to read the phrase “book of this prophecy” as referring to the scroll in which John is recording his prophecy, namely, the book of Revelation. As such, John’s instruction not to add or remove anything refers to the book he was writing—Revelation—and not the future canon of Scripture (which wouldn’t be authoritatively settled for centuries after).

A similar instruction is given is Deuteronomy 4:2, where Moses says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Moses wasn’t referring to the whole Old Testament canon; otherwise we would have to side with the Sadducees and reject every Old Testament book outside the Pentateuch. He was merely prohibiting adding or taking away from the “statutes and the ordinances” that constitute the Mosaic Law.

Since we now know that John was not giving instructions concerning the biblical canon, but instructions governing the book of Revelation (don’t add to the prophetic text of Revelation and don’t take away from it), it becomes clear that Revelation 22:18-19 doesn’t undermine the Catholic canon, regardless of whether the Catholic Church added books to the biblical canon or Protestants subtracted from it. Of course, we must not add to or subtract from the canon of Scripture. But that is not what John is talking about in this passage.

Reply: How could John be referring to the entire biblical canon in Revelation 22:18-19 when the canon wouldn’t be settled for another several hundred years?

Consider: Your Protestant friend might argue that because the New Testament doesn’t quote any of the deuterocanonical books we have good reason to exclude them from the canon of Scripture. This is common among some Protestants. But this logic would demand that we also exclude from the canon Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, Nahum, Joshua, Obadiah, and Zephaniah, since the New Testament doesn’t quote any of these. I don’t think your Protestant friend wants to make his biblical canon any smaller!”

Love,
Matthew

Evangelicals & Augustine’s Confessions


-Augustine’s Confessions


-by Alberto Ferreiro, PhD

“Why do Evangelical Protestants find Augustine’s Confessions so engaging? In the university where I teach, for most students the Confessions is their first encounter with Augustine, and their response is overwhelmingly favorable. (Ironically, when I assign Augustine, most Catholics in my classes are reading him for the first time as well, and some have never heard of him at all.) Many Evangelicals have embraced him in much the same way they have embraced Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, and Thomas Merton. Though there are shortcomings of Evangelicals’ reading of the Confessions, Catholics can learn from them.

Let us begin with the pear tree episode, which highlights Augustine’s youthful, restless phase and his emerging recognition that something is dreadfully wrong with the deep impulses of human nature. Augustine describes how his group of “young scoundrels,” hanging out in the street until late, robbed a neighbor’s pear tree of its fruit “not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden” (Confessions 2:4:9).

Evangelicals—whether they are influenced by the Wesleyan, Lutheran, or Reformed view of human nature—have a strong sense of sin and the enormous damage it causes. While many modern Catholic and Protestant teachers minimize sin, Evangelicals tend to overemphasize the Fall and its effects on the individual and his relationship with God. Neither extreme is a healthy one. For Evangelicals it is not a question of simply doing good or controlling one’s destructive behavior; it is, rather, the need to experience a radical transformation of the inner person.

Augustine concluded, as he reflected on the act of stealing and destroying the pears, that there was really no such thing as a benign sin without temporal consequences. A shortcoming of the Evangelical understanding of sin is the lack of distinction between what Catholics call venial and mortal sin. Conspicuously absent in Evangelical preaching is any reference to this distinction as made in 1 Corinthians 3:10–15, and especially as when John says, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal” (1 John 5:17). What permeates Evangelical preaching and evangelism are Paul’s statements that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Where Evangelicals have it right is that they recognize, as did Augustine, that all acts of sin, while they may not be of similar temporal gravity, are reflections of our rebellion against God, and their effects deform us. In the end, neither Catholics nor Evangelicals must allow a loss of the sense of sin to enter into their lives and the life of the Church. If we begin to excuse away venial sin or treat it in a lighthearted manner, chances are in time we will also find justification for mortal sin as well.

One of the distinctive elements of Augustine’s conversion is his direct encounter with Scripture in the garden of Milan, buttressed by Ambrose’s preaching (5:13:23–25). This aspect of his conversion is often cited by Evangelicals. When a Catholic visits an Evangelical gathering for the first time, the one thing that stands out the most—other than the vigorous and copious singing—is the central place preaching takes in their worship. In many Evangelical churches, the eucharist is absent. It is celebrated infrequently with the emphasis on symbolism.

Nevertheless, as a former Evangelical, I can attest to having experienced a profound reverence (expressed through kneeling during the entire communion service), a call to conversion, and tears. But our focus here is on the centrality of the word. The call by Paul to the necessity of the preached word for salvation (Rom. 10:14–17) is heard frequently in Evangelical services.

Evangelicals have developed a consistent and deep understanding of the potent nature of God’s word on an individual, provided one’s heart is open to the action of the Holy Spirit. As Paul reminds us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Augustine is a model par excellence of the proper attitude one should bring to the private reading of sacred Scripture (the garden in Milan) and in the public proclamation of the word in the gathered body of Christ, the Church (the preaching of Ambrose).

Evangelicals have done well to focus on this most important aspect of the conversion experience of Augustine in the Confessions. God has at his disposal a limitless amount of ways to reach us, but one of the most important ways is through the word of God as contained in the Bible. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Augustine came to understand—in the garden and through the preaching of Ambrose—all that Moses, the prophets, and the psalms said concerning Jesus Christ. But it was only a preparation for Augustine. He would soon discover how to fully “see” Jesus through the Eucharist (Luke 24:30–31, 35).

In the Confessions, Augustine singles out his discovery of Paul as of great importance (7:21:27), undoubtedly because of his reading the epistle to the Romans during his conversion in the garden. When in the company of Evangelicals, it does not take long for one to discover the importance of Paul. It is true that Evangelicalism, and historic Protestantism in general, is heavily Pauline. It is not only because Paul wrote a good portion of the New Testament. Paul comes first, and he is the lens through which the Gospels and all else in the New Testament are read. It comes hardly as a surprise, therefore, that this section of the Confessions is of great importance to Evangelicals.

Informed Catholics, on the other hand, read Paul through the lens of the Gospels and not the other way around—just as we are taught to read the Old Testament through New Testament eyes. Augustine himself noted, “The New lies hidden in the Old and the Old is unveiled in the New” (Quaest. in Hept. 2:73). Catholics express the primacy of the Gospels at Mass by standing and singing the Alleluia, by crossing their foreheads, lips, and chests before the reading, and by concluding the reading with the acclamation, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”

No one who reads the Confessions comes away untouched by Monica and her role in the conversion of her son (9:8:17–37). This section is one of the most moving in the entire work, and Evangelicals single it out as an example of perseverance in faith and the power of intercessory prayer. Many Evangelicals have a rich and profound prayer life, even though until very recently it lacked a contemplative dimension. While Evangelicals still lack the contemplative dimension of prayer, they make up for it with their strong belief in the efficacy of intercessory prayer.

Having attended numerous prayer meetings, services, and Bible studies, and having read much of their literature over the years, I can attest that the accent is clearly on intercessory prayer. (At times this can be taken to the extreme of telling God what needs to be done and how to do it.) Evangelicals are fond of citing Scripture passages that highlight intercessory prayer, among the most popular being James 5:16: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”

By contrast, I cannot recall hearing a sermon based upon biblical texts that lend themselves to contemplation, such as the Marian text, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). The Evangelical fear of Marian piety and devotion, which they label “mariolatry,” steers them away from such passages. As Catholic writer Mark P. Shea has observed, the aversion to and rejection of Marian themes in Scripture explains in part the absence of the contemplative and of silent adoration in Evangelical ecclesial culture.

We Catholics need to learn from our Evangelical brethren to integrate into our private prayer life intense intercessory prayer as much as they need to incorporate contemplative moments into their public and private prayer life. A prayer life without the contemplative runs the risk of becoming an exercise in demands that degenerates into telling God what to do and how to do it. That is a form of idolatry. On the other hand, a prayer life given over mainly to contemplation without an intercessory.aspect likewise tends to degenerate into self-absorbed spirituality focused only on the self. That too is a form of idolatry. From what we can gather in the Confessions, Monica did not fall into either extreme. She teaches and inspires us to persevere in intercessory prayer, which is contemplative fruit.

Most Evangelicals know Augustine only through the Confessions. What he says there is read in isolation from the rest of his theology, especially his theology of the liturgy and ecclesiology. This is understandable; to embrace the whole of Augustine’s writings would entail embracing the Catholic faith. The Confessions are safe in this regard, since they do not really touch upon these two areas of substantial disagreement between Evangelicals and Catholics.

Evangelicals’ reductionist view of the sacraments, above all of the Eucharist, explains their lack of interest in what Augustine has to say about these things. Evangelicals nevertheless need to give serious consideration to what Augustine has to say about the sacraments, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, the canon of Scripture, and the many others areas of theology he influenced decisively.

Conversely, from their reading of the Confessions Catholics can learn much from Evangelicals regarding the word of God. Catholics need to discover that Scripture itself in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament testifies time and again concerning the power of God’s word to transform people’s lives. One of the great pastoral challenges regarding the liturgy since Vatican II is to convince Catholics that the liturgy of the word is of vital importance.

The episode on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35) is a good place for Catholics to see that Scripture is essential to our experience of Christ in the liturgy. Catholics require widespread catechesis to g.asp the transforming power that God’s word carries if we allow the Holy Spirit to burn it into our minds and hearts so that we may proclaim at every Mass, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” Once we realize that sacred Scripture is God’s word, objectively speaking, and that there is a presence of Jesus in it, it changes our attitude altogether to the proclamation of the word and the homily at Mass.

The private reading of the word of God that is so crucial to Evangelical discipleship can also be instructive to Catholics. That private moment in the garden in Milan where Augustine through his direct reading of Scripture met the Lord in a personal way needs to be pondered by Catholics. Since Vatican II there has been an explosion of private devotional reading material to help Catholics experience the word of God, whether individually or in small groups outside of Mass. Long-standing scriptural devotions such as the Liturgy of the Hours are making a return among Catholics around the world thanks to the encouragement of Pope John Paul II.

Even so, many parishes do not have ongoing scriptural catechesis or prayer groups. The biblical illiteracy of many Catholics—indeed, of some priests—is still a major problem. In Evangelical communities, Bible study groups are a central component of their apostolate.

Like Augustine, we need to visit our garden each day, be open to the power of God’s word, and allow the Paraclete to guide us into all truth. Many Evangelicals are experiencing only half of Emmaus (the table of the word) and many Catholics only the other half (the table of the bread). The two are one, the latter being the primary manifestation of Christ’s presence, as the Catechism eloquently affirms: “It is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present” (CCC 1374).

At the Eucharistic table we encounter our Lord once again in a singularly unique presence: his very body, blood, soul, and divinity—the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324, Lumen Gentium 11). The Jesus with whom we commune at the eucharistic banquet is the same Jesus who has spoken to us previously from the ambo in the word through the Spirit. The two disciples at Emmaus encountered nothing less than the same Jesus at every step—and so do we at every liturgy.

We Catholics have nearly as much to learn from our Evangelical friends about the word as they have to learn from us about the Eucharist. A major difference is that we have both word and Eucharist; it is a matter of Catholics entering into the fullness of both at every liturgy. Non-sacramental Evangelicals have relegated their eucharist to a distant, secondary role—if not to insignificance—and this is unfortunate.

If Catholics and Evangelicals read Augustine from a purely intellectual or scholarly approach (for which there is a time and a place), we miss out on the real reason as to why the Confessions were written in the first place. Was it not to guide our hearts and minds to the One who can only satisfy our restlessness in through a profound conversion? Do they not have as their goal to fulfill at every Catholic Mass what Paul prayed, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18)? Augustine, who was celebrated last year on the occasion of the 1,600th anniversary of the publication of his Confessions, would desire nothing less.”

Love,
Matthew

The Great Disappointment – 7th Day Adventists

“Most people know little about the Seventh-day Adventists beyond that they worship on Saturdays, not Sundays. But there’s more to this unique sect.

Adventist History

The Seventh-day Adventist church traces its roots to American preacher William Miller (1782–1849), a Baptist who predicted the Second Coming would occur between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. Because he and his followers proclaimed Christ’s imminent advent, they were known as “Adventists.”

When Christ failed to appear, Miller reluctantly endorsed the position of a group of his followers known as the “seventh-month movement,” who claimed Christ would return on October 22, 1844 (in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar).

When this didn’t happen either, Miller forswore predicting the date of the Second Coming, and his followers broke up into a number of competing factions. Miller would have nothing to do with the new theories his followers produced, including ones that attempted to save part of his 1844 doctrine.

Miller had claimed, based on his interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, that Christ would return in 1843–44 to cleanse “the sanctuary” (Dan. 8:11–14, 9:26), which he interpreted as the earth. After the disappointments of 1844, several of his followers proposed an alternative theory.

While walking in a cornfield on the morning of October 23, 1844, the day after Christ failed to return, Hiram Edson felt he received a spiritual revelation that indicated that Miller had misidentified the sanctuary. It was not the earth, but the Holy of Holies in God’s heavenly temple. Instead of coming out of the heavenly temple to cleanse the sanctuary of the earth, in 1844 Christ, for the first time, went into the heavenly Holy of Holies to cleanse it instead.

Another group of Millerites was influenced by Joseph Bates, who in 1846 and 1849 issued pamphlets insisting that Christians observe the Jewish Sabbath—Saturday—instead of worshipping on Sunday. This helped feed the intense anti-Catholicism of Seventh-day Adventism, since they blamed the Catholic Church for changing the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.

These two streams of thought—Christ entering the heavenly sanctuary and the need to keep the Jewish Sabbath—were combined by Ellen Gould White, who claimed to have received many visions confirming these doctrines. Together with Edson and Bates, she formed the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, which officially received its name in 1860.

Few Christian groups straddle that fine line between sect and denomination as does the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church.

On the one hand, its more than 20 million members profess belief in many tenets of Christian orthodoxy, including the Trinity and Christ’s sacrificial atonement on the cross.

On the other hand, its murky origins and collection of eccentric doctrines and practices place it on the fringes of Christianity.

In The Great Disappointment—named after the failed eighteenth-century prophecies of Christ’s return that sparked the Adventist movement—takes a deep dive into SDA history and theology, giving you a thorough understanding of its key beliefs and how they stack up to Catholic truths.

Although Seventh-day Adventism may be best known for its insistence on a Saturday Sabbath and traditionally strict rules about diet and lifestyle, Staples says we should pay more attention to the seven major errors in its doctrines.

The Great Disappointment takes you through each error (God has a body, Ellen Gould White was a unique prophet of Christ’s return, the human soul is not immortal, etc.) and refutes it with solid scriptural evidence and commonsense philosophy.

The SDA Church has influenced modern Christian culture in ways well beyond its numbers.”

Love,
Matthew

Scripture is tradition


-by Jeff Cavins, raised a Catholic, but after meeting his future wife and her family, Non-denominational Evangelicals, in college, Jeff went home and told his mom he was born again. She wasn’t pleased, and it started a rift between him and his family.

After a public row with the Catholic bishop (they’re not all nice), Jeff finally left the Catholic Church.  Before leaving for Bible college, his dad was irritated that his son wasn’t working toward a doctorate degree like him. After asking Cavins how he would live in Texas, Cavins answered, “God will provide.” His father became angered and hit him. In shock, Cavins asked why it had to be like that, and told his father, “You’re no father of mine!”

After twelve years as an Evangelical pastor, Jeff began to reevaluate. In course, Jeff, his wife Emily, and their daughter reentered the Church and made amends with his family.

“It is an all too common occurrence, Catholics leaving the Church because one well-intended Bible believing Christian challenged their faith by asking one question, “Where is that in the Bible?” Suddenly, the scope of truth has been confined to a single book, the Bible, without either party realizing that they have bought into a collection of unexamined presuppositions. Namely:

1) The Bible alone is the means of divine revelation

2) The Bible-alone tradition is the way the Church has received revelation from the beginning, and…

3) The individual Christian is the authoritative interpreter of the Bible.

And without even the slightest hint of defense or a discerning pause the unsuspecting Catholic allows his friend’s presuppositions to go unchecked and in many cases adopts them as his own. After all, one would think, if someone can quote that much Scripture, he must know what he is talking about.

But are the above presuppositions true? Perhaps the greatest difference between Catholics and Protestants is the way the two groups view the means of receiving divine revelation. For most Protestants, the only reliable source of divine revelation is the Bible. This tradition of relying on the Bible as the sole means of receiving God’s revelation, however, is fairly recent as it was only introduced in the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Catholicism on the other hand, is not a “religion of the book,” rather, it is the religion of the “Word” of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 108). The Church teaches that both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God (Dei Verbum, 10). The gospel of Jesus Christ is the source of all saving truth and moral discipline, and as such it must be conveyed to all generations. Therefore, Jesus commanded his apostles to preach the gospel.

In the apostolic preaching, the gospel was handed on in two ways:

Orally “by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received – whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit,”

In writing “by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing” (CCC, 76).

Both means of the apostolic message, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. They both flow from the same divine source, and share a common goal; to make present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ (CCC, 80). I like the way Mark Shea put it in his book By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition. He describes the relationship between Scripture and Tradition as one—but not the same. “They were the hydrogen and oxygen that fused to form living water. They were the words and the tune of a single song. They were two sides of the same apostolic coin” (p. 120).

But the question arises, how can the full deposit of faith remain intact and free from the fallibility of an individual’s whim? This is particularly important since there was no formal New Testament to guide the Church until 393 A.D. Who would preserve and teach with authority the gospel as it spread into various cultures and continents? To safeguard the gospel, the apostles appointed bishops as their successors, giving them “their own position of teaching authority” (CCC, 77). In the process of apostolic succession we see the continuation of Jesus’ delegated authority down through the ages.

For it was Jesus who said to Peter, the first pope, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). And to his apostles Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples … teaching them to observe all that I command you” (Matthew 28:18-20) and “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40).

This idea of a living, continuing authoritative presence did not begin with the Catholic Church. In the Old Testament we see an ongoing authority in the Mosaic priesthood as well as the Royal dynasty of David and the Sanhedrin established just prior to Jesus’ birth.

Today, the bishops around the world in union with the bishop of Rome, the pope, constitute the teaching authority of the Church. This authoritative body is often referred to as the Magisterium. The Magisterium, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are so closely “linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others” (DV, 10).

This is the living Tradition of the Church. In defining what apostolic Tradition is we must first distinguish between social traditions, traditions of the Church and THE TRADITION. When the Church speaks of apostolic Tradition, she is not speaking of it in the sense that people traditionally open their gifts on Christmas Eve as opposed to Christmas day. Frankly, this is your own business and can be modified upon your grandmother’s approval. Nor is apostolic Tradition the numerous theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions developed in the local churches over the years. These traditions, (often referred to as “small t” traditions) can be modified or entirely dropped under the guidance of the Magisterium.

The apostolic Tradition, however, comes from the apostles as they received it from Jesus’ teaching, from his example, and from what the Holy Spirit revealed to them. It is this apostolic Tradition that is referred to when the Church speaks of Scripture and Tradition making up the deposit of faith. This apostolic Tradition must be preserved and taught by the Church.

Jesus’ criticism of the Scribes and Pharisees in Mark 7:13, “that you have invalidated the word of God by your tradition,” is not a blanket condemnation of all tradition, but rather, a correction regarding a tradition of man (Corban) that had choked the power of the Word of God. According to this tradition, a son could declare that what he had intended to give his parents was considered “Corban,” i.e., a gift devoted to God. Once a gift was considered “Corban” it could no longer be designated for the care of their parents. Wouldn’t you condemn a tradition like that? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out that the “traditions were criticized in order that genuine tradition might be revealed” (Principles of Catholic Theology, p. 95).

It comes as a big surprise to some to realize that at no time in the history of the people of God was the concept of the Word of God bound only to the written page. From the beginning of the Bible until Moses (1400 BC), oral tradition was the only means of passing on the words of God. And from Moses on through to the Catholic Church it was clearly understood by all in God’s covenant family (Israel) that the Word of God was to be understood in terms of both oral and written Tradition. It was also understood by Jesus and the early Church that the Word of God was transmitted by two means: orally and in written form. Paul clearly understood this to be true as we see in his exhortation to Timothy: “hold to traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

Cardinal Ratzinger noted that “Jesus did not present his message as something totally new, as the end of all that preceded it. He was and remained a Jew; that is, he linked his message to the tradition of believing Israel” (ibid p. 95). This dual meaning of receiving the Word of God in oral and written form is part of the tradition of Israel. Just weeks after the children of Israel were freed from Egypt, they settled for one year at the base of Mt. Sinai. It was there on Mt. Sinai that Moses received the written Torah (the first five books in the Bible), and during the forty-year period following the Exodus under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Moses put the Torah into writing.

The fact that God put his will into writing does not come as a surprise to most Christians, but what does cause people, particularly Protestants, to theologically stutter is the fact that the Jewish community of the Old Testament as well as the people of Jesus’ time all believed that God gave to Israel an oral law (oral tradition) in addition to the written law. Rabbi Hayim Donin in his book entitled To Be a Jew explains that “we believe that God’s will was also made manifest in the Oral Tradition or Oral Torah which also had its source at Sinai, revealed to Moses and then orally taught by him to the religious heads of Israel.

The Written Torah itself alludes to such oral instructions. This Oral Torah—which clarifies and provides the details for many of the commandments contained in the Written Torah—was transmitted from generation to generation until finally recorded in the second century to become the cornerstone upon which the Talmud was built.” (p. 24-25) Jacob Neusner points out in his Introduction to the Mishnah, which is the codified oral tradition of the Jewish community, that the Oral Torah “bore the status of divine revelation right alongside the Pentateuch.”

The Jewish community, from which Christianity springs, has always understood Torah to be both written (Sefer Torah) and Oral (Torah She-B’al Peh). Along with the written Torah, the Oral Torah which Moses received at Sinai, was “transmitted to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly…” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:1). In nearly identical fashion the Catholic Church has continued in this tradition of the Word of God coming to his people in both written and oral form. It is fair to say that the new concept of God’s Word coming only in the written form (Sola Scriptura) was a foreign idea to the Jews both in Moses’ and Jesus’ day.

It must be made clear that the Catholic teaching that “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God” (DV, 10) is not some new cleverly devised system, but is a continuation of that ancient stream our forefathers stood in. The very idea of the Word of God being both written and oral flows from our Jewish roots. It is part of the nourishing sap of the Olive Tree (Israel), and those who stand outside of this tradition stand on the shores of the still flowing ancient current.”

Love,
Matthew

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.

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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