Category Archives: Presbyterianism/Calvinism

Bible burning


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The Scriptures are written on our hearts. Paper pages also exist.

-Catholic News Agency

“There are some things in them (Epistles of St. Paul) hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” -2 Peter 3:16

“Ever since the Protestant Revolt in the 16th century, the Catholic Church has been accused of ignoring, opposing, hiding, and even destroying the Bible in order to keep it from the people. Allegedly, copies of the Bible were chained to the walls of churches during the Middle Ages so that people could not take them home to read. Supposedly the Church during the Middle Ages also refused to translate the Bible into the various tongues of the common people, the vernacular languages, in order to further hinder personal Bible reading. Furthermore, it is claimed that the Church even went as far as to burn vernacular Bibles.

When examining these charges against the Church, we must consider several points. First, if the Church truly wanted to destroy the Bible, why did her monks work diligently through the centuries making copies of it? Before the printing press (before 1450), copies of the Bible were handwritten with beauty and painstaking accuracy. One reason for Bibles being chained to the walls of churches is because each copy was precious both spiritually and materially. It took a monk about a year to hand copy the entire Bible, so Bibles were scarce. The chain kept it safe from loss or theft, so all the people of the church community (parish) could better benefit from it.

Secondly, concerning the vernacular, we must remember that in the 5th century when St. Jerome translated the Bible from the original languages into Latin, Latin was the language of the people. This Bible is commonly called the Vulgate, the common version. Even after a thousand years, Latin still remained the universal language in Europe.

Translating the Bible into the vernacular languages during the Middle Ages was simply impractical. Most vernacular languages at that time did not have an alphabet, so they could not be put into written form. Also, only a few people could read. The few educated persons, who could read, could also read Latin. This situation did not create a great demand for a vernacular Bible nor promote a popular devotion to personal Bible reading.

Even though impractical, there are examples of the Church promoting the vernacular. One example is the mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius to the Slavic people in Moravia during the 9th century. They are both famous for introducing the Slavonic liturgy. In their work St. Cyril had to develop an alphabet for the Old Slavonic language. (It became the precursor of the Russian “Cyrillic” alphabet.) In 885 St. Methodius translated the entire Bible into this language. Despite strong political opposition from the Germans, Pope Hadrian II, after careful investigation, confirmed St. Methodius as Archbishop of Moravia and endorsed their Slavonic liturgy. (St. Cyril had already died.) Several later popes continued to uphold their work against attacks; however, Pope Stephen VI recalled the liturgy after being deceived by the German opposition. [1]

In 7th century Britain, before English was even a language, Caedmon, a monk of Whitby, paraphrased most of the Bible into the common tongue. During the early 8th century, St. Bede the Venerable also translated parts of the Bible into the language of the common British people. On his death bed in 735, he translated the Gospel of St. John. Also in this period, Bishop Eadhelm, Guthlac, and Bishop Egbert worked on Saxon Bibles. During the 9th and 10th centuries, King Alfred the Great and Archbishop Aelfric worked on Anglo-Saxon (Old English) translations. After the Norman conquest of 1066, a need for an Anglo-Norman Bible arose, so the Church produced several translations, e.g. Salus Animae (1250). In 1408 the provincial council of Oxford made it clear that vernacular translations could receive approval from the Church. In 1582 the famous Douay-Rheims New Testament translation was completed, while the Old Testament was finished in 1609. Ironically the Douay-Rheims New Testament influenced the King James Bible. [2,3]

After the 14th century when English finally became the popular language of England, vernacular Bibles were used as vehicles for heretical propaganda. John Wycliffe, a dissentient priest, translated the Bible into English. Unfortunately, his secretary, John Purvey, included a heretical prologue, as noted by St. Thomas More. Later William Tyndale translated the Bible into English complete with prologue and footnotes condemning Church doctrines and teachings. [2] St. Thomas More commented that searching for errors in the Tyndale Bible was similar to searching for water in the sea. Even King Henry VIII in 1531 condemned the Tyndale Bible as a corruption of Scripture. In the words of King Henry’s advisors: “the translation of the Scripture corrupted by William Tyndale should be utterly expelled, rejected, and put away out of the hands of the people, and not be suffered to go abroad among his subjects.” [4] As food for thought, if the Wycliffe or Tyndale Bibles were so good, why do Protestants today not use them as they do the King James Bible?

One action that Catholic Christians pursued to stop this propaganda was to burn these books. Does this action make the Church anti-Bible? No. If it did, then the Protestants of this period were also anti-Bible. John Calvin, the main Protestant Reformer, in 1522, had as many copies as could be found of the Servetus Bible burned since Calvin did not approve of it. Later, Calvin had Michael Servetus himself burned at the stake for being a Unitarian. [5] In those days it was common practice on both sides to burn unapproved books. Finally, it is one matter to destroy the real thing and another to destroy a counterfeit.

The Church did not oppose faithful vernacular translations but heretical additions and distortions to the Bible. The Church prohibited these corrupt Bibles in order to preserve the integrity of Holy Scripture. This action was necessary if the Church is to preserve the truth of Christ’s Gospel. As St. Peter in his Epistle (in the Bible) warns us, the ignorant and unstable can distort the Scriptures to their own destruction [2 Peter 3:16; see front panel].

Should good Christian parents allow their children to read a Bible with anti-Christian propaganda or profanity in the footnotes? I certainly would not. Finally, if the Catholic Church truly wanted to destroy the Bible, she had ample opportunity to do so for 1500 years.”

Love,
Matthew

References
[1] Warren H. Carroll, The Building of Christendom (Christendom College Press, 1987) pp. 359,371,385.
[2] The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice-Hall, 1968) Vol. II, pp. 586-588.
[3] Henry G. Graham, Where We Got The Bible (TAN Books, 1977) p. 99.
[4] Ibid., pp. 128,130.
[5] Ibid., p. 129.

Chaining the Bible

The Catholic Church doesn’t have a problem with the Bible.  The Church has a problem with inaccurate translations of the Bible.  Who is to determine what is inaccurate or not?  Who is to determine the meaning of Scripture?  The Church.  Mt 16:19, 18:18

https://www.catholicprotestantbridge.com/blog/2019/2/4/did-the-catholic-church-ban-burn-or-chain-bibles-to-keep-laymen-from-reading-the-bible

WHY DID THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CHAIN BIBLES? I HEARD THEY DID IT TO KEEP THE LAITY FROM READING THE BIBLE FOR THEMSELVES?

The same reason Protestants chained them. Because bibles were extremely valuable and susceptible to theft-not to keep them from the laity!

Bibles were rare and valuable. By today’s standards, each one would be worth $100,000. That’s why they were chained by both Protestants and the Catholic Church.

Before the printing press, Bibles were copied by hand and each one took thousands of hours to make so they were scarce. The Church wanted to keep them secure.


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“In his 1929 book Survivals and New Arrivals, Hilaire Belloc examined the forces attacking the Catholic Church and its role in society. He put them into two chief categories: “survivals,” those “old forms of attack” that continue to be used by the Church’s enemies but are, in the main, on their way out; and “new arrivals,” the newer forms of attack that focus primarily on the Church’s moral teachings rather than its theological doctrines.

Among the “survivals” was a holdover from Protestantism Belloc termed the “biblical attack.” Its key element, he wrote, is “Bibliolatry”—elevating the Bible to the level of an idol. It is Bibliolatry that is the root of the myth that the Church locked and chained Bibles in medieval churches to prevent the laity from reading them. The implication of this myth is that if medieval people had been able to read the Bible for themselves, they would have recognized that the Catholic Church’s teachings are false and would have sought to free themselves from the yoke of Rome.

The notion that the Church restricts access to Scripture to control its interpretation comes from the Saxon monk-turned-revolutionary Martin Luther. Luther published three famous treatises in 1520 in response to the bull of Pope Leo X (r. 1513–1521), Exsurge Domine, that condemned many of Luther’s teachings.

In An Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther exhorted Emperor Charles V and the German nobility to reject papal authority and establish a national German Church in opposition to Rome. He argued that Rome had built three “walls” around itself to maintain its hold on Catholics. He identified these walls as the following false teachings:

1) that the spiritual power is greater than temporal power;

2) that only the pope can authentically interpret Scripture; and

3) that only the pope can call an ecumenical council.

He warned the German nobility that they must be aware “that in this matter we are not dealing with men but with the princes of hell.”

To Luther, the belief that the pope is the only interpreter of Scripture (which is not in fact Church teaching but rather Luther’s erroneous understanding of it) was “an outrageous fable” and is not rooted in the only authoritative source of divine revelation that Luther recognized, Scripture itself. Instead, he put forth the idea that all Christians should be able to interpret Scripture for themselves, a doctrine that would lead to a multitude of rival Protestant denominations.

It is widely believed that, to facilitate the lay reading of Scripture, Luther was first to translate the Bible into German. He was not. The first Bible in the German vernacular was produced in the eighth century at the monastery of Monse. By the fifteenth century, there were 36,000 German manuscript bibles in circulation, and a complete printed Bible in the German vernacular appeared in 1529, five years before Luther’s translation was published. In short, the Church made Scripture accessible to laymen long before Luther and the Reformation did.

There is, in fact, a sense in which the Bible is the product of the Catholic Church, as it was the bishops of the Church who decided which books circulating in the fourth century would be considered canonical. Indeed, the Church took great pains throughout its history to guard, defend, and preserve Scripture. Pope St. Damasus I (r. 366–383) first took up the task of publishing a vernacular version of Scripture, and he employed his brilliant yet irascible secretary St. Jerome (342–420) to accomplish the task. Jerome learned Greek and Hebrew to properly translate the word of God into vernacular Latin.

His translation, which became known as the Vulgate, was not well received in North Africa, where a riot erupted over his version of the book of Jonah. The widespread acceptance of the Vulgate in the Church took time. Perhaps part of the resistance can be attributed to the long memory of the Church. Jerome’s new translation came less than a hundred years after Diocletian initiated the Great Persecution. One of his edicts mandated the surrender of all copies of the sacred writings, an event so destructive that its memory remained with the Church long after the persecution ended. The Church maintained great respect and love for the sacred word, as evidenced by the efforts of monks to preserve it.

The sixth century was witness to the activity of a uniquely saintly man who renounced his worldly life to become a hermit. His reputation for holiness attracted many followers, and soon thereafter Benedict of Nursia founded a monastery at Monte Cassino. Benedict’s vision for his monks was rooted in the idea that monasticism was a “school of divine service” in which the monk committed himself to a life of obedience focused on a routine of work, prayer, study, and self-denial. Benedict’s monks preserved and maintained Western civilization through their painstaking work of copying ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts, as well as devoting time to copying and illustrating Scripture.

Working in the scriptoriums of Benedictine monasteries in the Middle Ages was not easy. It took nearly a year to copy a Bible manuscript. The process was laborious and wearisome; as one monk recorded, “He who does not know how to write imagines it to be no labor; but though three fingers only hold the pen, the whole body goes weary.” Any copying work the monk did not finish during the day had to be completed at night, even in the cold winter months.

Bibles were not only copied but richly and beautifully illuminated with elaborate images. Bible illumination began in the fifth century with Irish monks who painstakingly prepared the skins of calves, sheep, or goats into vellum that was used for the manuscripts. The famous Lindisfarne Gospels manuscript, copied and illuminated in the eighth century, was the work of one scribe who used 130 calfskins and took five years to complete the work. The amount of labor that went into each copy of the Bible led to preventing their theft either by locking them in containers or chaining them to desks. In other words, these were security measures, not efforts to keep Scripture from the faithful.

Indeed, protecting and expensive Bible by securing it allowed greater, not lesser, access to it. Moreover, the Bible was usually placed in a public area of a church so those who could read could peruse its pages. The first mention of this protective policy occurs in the mid-eleventh century in the catalog of St. Peter’s Monastery in Weissenburg, Alsace, where it was recorded that four Psalters were chained in the church. Moreover, the practice was not exclusive to the Catholic Church: Protestants also utilized the well-known security measure, as evidenced by the chaining of the Great Bible (also known as the Chained Bible) published by command of King Henry VIII of England in 1539.

The Real Story

The Protestant principle of sola scriptura led to the myth that the Catholic Church kept the word of God from the faithful to maintain its authority; the chaining of bibles in medieval churches was seen as evidence of this. It also led to the false claim that Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was the first such vernacular edition; in fact, there had been many vernacular editions preceding Luther’s, including St. Jerome’s Vulgate.

It was the Church that, far from suppressing the Bible, determined the canon of its books and then preserved and authoritatively interpreted the written word of God throughout its history. Catholic monks painstakingly preserved the sacred writings and beautifully illustrated them throughout the medieval period. These priceless manuscripts were chained or locked up in churches not to prevent their use but to protect against theft, thus allowing greater access to them, which was standard practice in both Catholic and Protestant churches until the printing press enabled mass production of bibles.”

Love, His Word,
Matthew

Where does the Bible say everything Christians believe must be found in the Bible?


-by Trent Horn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Matthew

Bible is NEVER sola


Oral Torah = Tradition


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

Most Protestants have no problem with God’s Revelation taking more than one form

It must be recognized that most Protestants do not have a problem with the idea that God’s revelation can take more than one form.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (1:19–20).

Paul seems to be echoing the Old Testament book of Wisdom, which says, “For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (13:5). All of this agrees with the psalmist, who declared that “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).

Natural and Supernatural Revelation

Catholics and Protestants agree that God makes Himself known in ways outside of Scripture

So we see in Scripture itself that God reveals Himself (clearly and to all people) through his creation, apart from Scripture. Theologians call this kind of revelation natural (because it comes through nature) or general (because it is given to all people).

In contrast, revelation that is given by prophetic utterances or recorded in inspired writings is called supernatural (because it is direct communication from God) or special (because it is not available to all people without qualification).

Catholics and Protestants agree that these two modes of revelation are both legitimate and authoritative—at least in theory. In its two millennia on earth, the Catholic Church has developed many careful distinctions, one of them being to subdivide supernatural, public revelations into those originally written (Sacred Scripture) and unwritten (Sacred Tradition).

Catholics emphasize that all truth is “God’s truth” and therefore that no revelation can truly contradict another, whereas Protestants elevate the written form above the others. But Protestants will agree that God can and does reveal himself in ways outside the pages of the Bible.

In Principle Protestants Agree: God’s revelation comes to us in more than the written form.

The Importance of Interpretation

Language is a set of signs pointing to things in reality

An important thing to note here is that regardless of their source, written words need to be interpreted. Language is a set of signs (whether oral or written) pointing to things in reality. Therefore, our knowledge of reality will determine our interpretation of words.

When I say or write the word dog, English speakers will know what I mean because we have agreed that this word refers to the animal we all recognize as a dog.

That’s pretty straightforward, but language is not always that easy to understand. Dog can also refer to a person (usually, but not always, in a negative way) or it can be a word to modify a type of day in summer or express how tired I am. Aside from the challenge of words having multiple definitions, sometimes the same meaning is applied to distinct things in very specific ways.

For example, if I say, “My wife is a peach,” no one would suspect that I had married a fruit! Instinctively, they would compare what they know about peaches and women to what I had said and infer my actual meaning (“My wife is sweet”).

This is as true of the Bible as anything else. For example, the words of Scripture describe our planet as being circular (Isa. 40:22) and as having corners (Rev. 7:1). Because something cannot be both circular and cornered, it seems clear that one of these verses was meant to be taken metaphorically. But which one? One could argue from genre types or try to dig into the original Hebrew and Greek, but in our age it is much easier to consult natural revelation (simply look at the planet!).

Catholicism Affirms: God’s public, special revelation has come to us in written and unwritten form.

Love & His will, which is perfect,
Matthew

Early Church: before ~400 AD, Christianity w/out the Bible


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-by Catholic Answers

“Question:

I recently listened to a debate on sola scriptura between a Catholic apologist and a Baptist who runs an anti-Catholic organization. The Baptist claimed the Catholic Church did not decide the canon of the New Testament at the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419). As proof he alluded to the Muratorian Fragment, saying that, since it was far older than those councils and since it contains the New Testament canon as we know it, the issue was obviously settled long before the Catholic Church made any decisions. Is it true?

Answer:

The Baptist fellow is wrong and misled the audience. The Muratorian Fragment (so-called because it represents only a portion of the actual second-century document discovered in 1740 by Lodovico Antonio Muratori), is the oldest extant listing of New Testament-era books revered by early Christians. It was written sometime between 155 and 200. Patristic scholars believe the unknown author originally wrote the list in Greek (since the Latin is very poor), but the oldest copy available is an eighth-century Latin manuscript.

Although the Muratorian Fragment is important in studying how the early Church developed the New Testament canon, it doesn’t give exactly the same list of books that was later adopted as canonical at the councils of Hippo and Carthage. The Muratorian Fragment is just that: a fragment of a larger list of books which were considered canonical or quasi-canonical during the second century.

The Fragment itself provides us with a good though incomplete idea of this early canon. Virtually the entire New Testament canon as we know it is represented but not all of it: the Gospels of Luke and John (preceded by what seems to be an allusion to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark), Acts, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy, Jude, two letters of John (since the fragment simply says “the two ascribed to John,” we don’t know which two of his three letters are meant), and Revelation.

The unknown author adds other non-canonical books to this lineup but makes clear these were not considered part of the canon: the so-called Pauline Epistles to the Laodiceans and to the Alexandrians (about which the Fragment’s author expresses his conviction that they were not authored by Paul), the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Shepherd of Hermas). The Fragment’s list is cut short abruptly with a final, enigmatic phrase which may indicate that the author had gone on to include still other non-inspired writings: “Those also who wrote the new book of psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides, the founder of the Asian Cataphrygians.”

As you can see, although the Muratorian Fragment lists most of the New Testament books, it’s missing a few (e.g. James, one of John’s epistles, most likely 3 John), and it also adds the book of Wisdom as canonical, which is very interesting from a Catholic perspective.

These facts demonstrate that, although the Fragment came close, it did not represent the actual canon of inspired Scripture. Further, there is no internal evidence in the document that it sought to represent any kind of official canon that was regarded by the Church as binding.

In the first four centuries of the Church many books, such as the seven letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Clement [the fourth pope] to the Corinthians, the Didache, and The Shepherd were revered by many Christians as inspired but were later shown to be non-inspired.

It was not until the Synod of Rome under Pope Damasus in A.D. 382, followed by the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, that the Catholic Church defined, albeit non-infallibly, which books made it into the New Testament and which didn’t. Probably the council fathers studied the (complete) Muratorian Fragment and other documents, including, of course, the books in question themselves, but it was not until these Councils that the Church officially settled the issue.

The plain fact of the matter is that the canon of the Bible was not settled in the first years of the Church. It was settled only after repeated (and perhaps heated) discussions, and the final listing was determined by the pope and Catholic bishops. This is an inescapable fact, no matter how many people wish to escape from it.”


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“When a skeptic argues against the Bible, he is usually not attacking the book but the ideas in the book. Skeptics are not really concerned about how many generations there are between Adam and Jesus or how many angels were at Jesus’ tomb. It is Christianity that concerns them (and hence the New Testament in particular). Since many Christians and skeptics alike consider the Bible to be the foundation of Christianity, to call its historicity, manuscript transmission, scientific accuracy, etc. into question is to call Christianity into question.

Defenses of Christianity, then, often either begin or conclude with a defense of the Bible. But what if the trustworthiness of the Bible could not be satisfactorily defended?

I don’t think this is the case, but it is worth thinking about for at least these two reasons: 1) most skeptics think the Bible has not been defended sufficiently, and 2) the case for Christianity will be even stronger if it can survive the failure of these popular methods. If the defense of Christianity is not coextensive with that of the Bible, then attacks on the latter can’t be used against the former.

I would argue that even if we lost the Bible completely, Christianity would remain undefeated. Therefore, the defeat of the Bible would not entail the defeat of Christianity.

How can we be sure of this?

First, Christianity preceded the Christian Bible. The New Testament writings did not begin until at least a decade after Christ started the Church, yet those who believed were Christians and therefore constituted the Church (1 Cor. 1:2 cf. 15:1-5).

Second, Christianity continued to exist without most of its members possessing the New Testament. Even after the New Testament started to be written and copied, its contents were not in the possession of the average believer. Even literate Christians would have to wait 1,500 years or so, when the printing press made bibles widely accessible. Even in our own time, people from many parts of the world become Christians when the Bible is forbidden or inaccessible in their own language. Yet Christianity has spread across the globe. It is possible, then, that Christianity’s message could have been communicated only orally through the ages.

Third, suppose some atheistic world dictator had every copy of the Bible destroyed and somehow made it impossible to create any future copies or to publish it online. Would Christianity disappear from the Earth? Of course not.

Before the New Testament was canonized, Christianity existed. Before it was completed, Christianity existed. Before its writing had even commenced, Christianity existed. It is, therefore, both a theoretical and a historical fact that Christianity can exist while no Bible exists.

All right, you ask: if the Bible is not necessary for Christianity’s existence, how would we know what Christianity teaches? As it turns out, we can find out pretty much everything necessary from a multitude of extra-biblical historical sources. These include:

  • Catechetical instructions (e.g., The Didache, first century)
  • Sermon messages (e.g., 1-2 Clement, A.D. 95-97)
  • Early epistles (e.g., Letters of Ignatius, A.D. 98-117)
  • Baptismal confessions (e.g., The Old Roman Creed, second to third century)
  • Bible commentaries (e.g., Theophilus’s, or the Diatessaron, second to third century)
  • Liturgical instructions (e.g., Liturgy of St. James or St. Basil, fourth century)
  • Authoritative pronouncements (e.g., ecumenical councils, canons, creeds, and definitions, fourth to fifth century).

We can see, then, that the content of Christianity, and thus most of the issues skeptics have with it, would remain even if the Bible was taken out of the equation. At a minimum, it is clear that the message that brought people into Christianity was from the very beginning that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died, was buried, and rose again. This was the message the apostles died for, the message the early Church was persecuted for, and that two centuries later brought the greatest empire on Earth to its knees.

So, ultimately, it is not the Bible but the historic Christian Church (which gave the world the canonical scriptures and their orthodox interpretation) that skeptics must defeat in order to bring Christianity down. This puts the Catholic apologist in a much stronger position than the Protestant, who must build his defense on the trustworthiness of just part of the Church’s tradition while rejecting others.

Now, this is not a reductionist attempt to shield the Bible from legitimate criticism, and or a suggestion that we should abandon defense of the Bible. There is no need! The evidential arguments for the reliability of the Bible are extremely strong (so much so that if they are thought to fail the Bible, then, to be consistent, the rest of ancient history goes with it). If nothing else, it is difficult to imagine that God would bother inspiring hundreds of pages of communication only to have it lost or corrupted before it could be disseminated!

Still less is this an attempt to downplay the importance of the Bible for Catholics. The Church holds Sacred Scripture in the highest regard—reveres it, exhorts all believers to read it deeply.

Rather, it is good simply to realize that, even without the Bible, Christianity endures. This allows us, as circumstances may demand, to benefit from a different apologetic focus: to move from defending the Bible to defending the Church that produced it. This approach neatly sidesteps issues of biblical inspiration, transmission, inerrancy, and infallibility and opens the door to more accessible and accepted pieces of evidence. The skeptic’s target becomes both smaller and more difficult to hit—all without threat to Christianity’s teachings (which are, after all, the skeptic’s real prey).

Finally, lest someone think this is some sneaky Catholic sleight of hand, even the sixteenth-century Protestant scholar William Whitaker reluctantly admitted:

“I confess that the divine Providence can preserve from destruction whatever it chooses; . . . . we may, in the same manner, infer that there is no need of the scriptures, that everything should be trusted to divine Providence, and nothing committed to writing, because God can preserve religion safe without the scriptures.”

Love,
Matthew

Depositum fidei: how Scripture & Tradition work together


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).

“Catholicism teaches that the doctrines contained in Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and Sacred Tradition (the Church) are authoritative because God’s revelation is the source of both. The Catechism puts it this way: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the word of God” (97).

This means that “both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (82).

To some Protestants, this might sound blasphemous. The idea that anything the Church says could be on the same level as Scripture just doesn’t make sense. After all, only the Bible was inspired by God, right? How, then, can Catholics say that both must be reverenced equally?

More importantly, what happens if they come into conflict? The Protestant, in principle, does not face these difficulties because the Bible is said to hold the supreme place. As the ultimate and final level of religious authority, according to sola scriptura, when the Bible comes into conflict with any other authority it must be declared the winner.

“Where Is That in the Bible?”

Protestants hold to subtly different forms of sola scriptura. At one end of the spectrum, it is thought to mean that only the Bible may be trusted as a source for faith and practice—and so everything the Christian believes must be explicitly found in it. On the other end, it means that the Bible is simply the most trustworthy source, and so no teachings can explicitly contradict it.

Protestants’ objections to Catholic claims about Sacred Tradition will vary depending on which version of sola scriptura they hold. Some will argue that any addition of Tradition to the Bible is illicit, others will only see a problem if a particular tradition goes against Scripture. Either way, though Protestants are generally uncomfortable with an authoritative, big-T Church Tradition because they think it threatens the authority of Scripture.

Some Catholic assume that by sola scriptura Protestants mean anything not found in the Bible is off-limits for Christian faith and practice. This is not what it originally meant, but it is the way the principle is often understood by those on the more Fundamentalist end of the spectrum.

Most Protestants, though, realize that to hold such a position would be self-defeating. This is because if one believes that everything a Christian is to believe or practice must be taught in the Bible, then the teaching that everything a Christian is to believe or practice must be taught in the Bible must be taught in the Bible—but it isn’t.

Although some apologists for this more extreme version of sola scriptura may point to verses such as 2 Timothy 2:16-17—which says that all Scripture is inspired and useful—for support, such appeals to prooftexts are unconvincing. Nowhere in the Bible does it say clearly that Scripture alone is the source for all Christian faith and practice. Thus, Protestants who hold to any form of sola scriptura thereby show that at least one Christian belief (or two, if you include the canon) can be derived from something besides the Bible itself.

In Principle, Protestants Agree: Not everything that Christians are to believe must be taught explicitly in Scripture.

In Particular, Catholicism Affirms: Some things that Christians are to believe have been taught outside of Scripture.

REFLECT: Since it is practically unavoidable to believe things that are not taught in Scripture, how do we discern between them?”

Love & Christian unity,
Matthew

Biblical non-biblical traditions

“All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“We don’t even have to appeal to extra-Biblical doctrines or events to find accord with Protestants on the validity of extra-Biblical traditions—we can just use Scripture. In the New Testament, there are numerous affirmations of extra-Biblical traditions:

  • – The Old Testament does not name the magicians in Egypt who tried to discredit Moses, but Paul calls them Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim 3:8).
  • – Jude expects his readers to be aware that Michael the Archangel disputed with Satan over the body of Moses (verse 9) and that Enoch prophesied Christ (verse 14), but these stories are found nowhere else in Scripture.
  •  – The writer of the book of Hebrews 11:37 talks about Old Testament saints being sawn in half for their faith—but he didn’t get this from the Old Testament.

And it is not just New Testament references to the Old Testament that seem to go beyond the Bible. In Acts 20:35, Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”—yet Jesus is not recorded as having said this anywhere in the Gospels.

It seems apparent that the New Testament writers were not afraid to reference extra-biblical traditions.

This does not, of course, raise extra-biblical traditions to the level of inspiration—but it does show that unwritten traditions can be infallibly affirmed.

IN PRINCIPLE Protestants Agree: Traditions not recorded in Scripture can be infallibly affirmed (by Scripture).

IN PARTICULAR Catholicism Affirms: Traditions not recorded in Scripture can be infallibly affirmed (by the Church).

It is not uncommon to hear Protestants complain that Catholics added unbiblical traditions to what the Bible teaches. Sometimes they will even cite scriptures that disparage man-made traditions (e.g., Matthew 15:3–6). Doesn’t holding to traditions not taught by the Bible nullify the word of God?

The first thing to note here is that there is a big difference between something being non-biblical and it being anti-Biblical. Owning a cell phone is non-Biblical; worshipping an idol is anti-Biblical. Simply not appearing in the Bible doesn’t make something false. Moreover, numerous facets of Protestant worship are based on a denomination’s tradition rather than anything affirmed or commanded in Scripture.

For example, the idea of youth pastors, worship bands, meeting in Church buildings, or sitting in pews has no explicit support in Scripture. Most Protestants, however, recognize that not all Christian beliefs and practices are spelled out in the Bible. They realize that there is development and religious thought and that these sometimes lead to affirmations that, though extra-Biblical, are nonetheless authoritative.

To believe otherwise would be to reject the Church’s explanation of the Trinity at the Council of Nicaea, or the Council of Chalcedon’s definition of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it would threaten Protestantism itself, which is a development that did not come to exist until the sixteenth century. The real problem, then, comes when a religious group teaches something that is contrary to the Bible.

IN PRINCIPLE Protestants Agree: We can affirm beliefs and practices that aren’t explicit in Scripture but developed over time.

IN PARTICULAR Catholicism Affirms: The Church can teach doctrine and prescribe practices that aren’t explicitly found in Scripture but developed over time.”

Love,
Matthew

Christian accord, Acts 1:14 – Salvation

“All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

Is “Faith Alone” enough?

The Protestant Reformation was launched when a Catholic priest named Martin Luther thought he’d discovered something in the Bible that the Church had been missing for centuries. That discovery was salvation by faith alone—that is, apart from doing good works. This core Reformation doctrine of sola fide is a major dividing line between Catholics and Protestants.

Just like sola scriptura, this doctrine ends up dividing Protestants from each other just as much (and sometimes even more) as it divides them from Catholics. Over the years, “faith alone” has come to mean different things to different Protestants.

There are some (known as Free Grace Protestants) who have taken the principle so far that they believe even apostates can be completely confident in their salvation. At the other end of the spectrum are legalistic or Fundamentalist groups that, while giving lip service to salvation by faith alone, nevertheless demand a severe lifestyle from their members.

Nor is the debate over salvation by faith alone limited to extreme fringe groups. In fact, it began in the sixteenth century and shows no signs of letting up in the twenty-first. A recent book from one of the most popular Evangelical publishers devoted over 300 pages to an academic debate between five scholars on the nature of justification (one was a Catholic)

And justification is only the beginning. Similar debate books have been written about sanctification, pluralism, eternal security, law and gospel, and other related topics. And so as we seek accord, we will look to see if the principles that allow Protestants who disagree over salvation nonetheless to identify with one another and to worship together might call for the embrace of Catholics as well.

Are You Saved?

Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification

Although Christians sometimes think of salvation in fairly simple terms (going to heaven instead of hell), anyone who spends much time thinking or talking about the subject will quickly discover that there are numerous shades of meaning.

Nearly all Christians, even those who speak of salvation as if it occurred whole and entire at a single point in time, with no potential to ever be lost, recognize that God’s work in people typically involves a process that is extended over time.

In the Evangelical tradition that I came from, we thought of salvation in three basic stages: 1) justification, which was the point at which someone received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and thus was guaranteed heaven, 2) sanctification, which was the process by which God transformed the individual’s life from one of sin to sainthood, and 3) glorification, which was the final, complete transformation into perfection that occurred once someone entered eternal life in heaven.

Stages of Salvation

Where we differ, where we agree

Although this threefold process is described differently among Protestant traditions, most affirm something like it. A critical feature of this theology is that during each stage, the causes of and effects on one’s salvation can differ. For example, whereas the initial stage of salvation (“ justification”) might be considered a one-way act of God based on faith alone, resulting in heaven or hell, the second stage (“sanctification”) may rely heavily on the actions of the individual and only affect one’s degree of reward or punishment.

The importance of these salvation “stages” is that although Protestants will often speak of salvation as a single moment in time with everlasting effects, most agree that there is more to the story. Sola fide, in most Protestant minds, refers only to one’s initial justification. This happens to coincide nicely with the Catholic view of baptism—it is entirely faith-based, distinct from a person’s works, and instantly brings us into a saving relationship with God.

For many Protestants, the parallels break down after that because the Church teaches that saving grace can be lost or increased via works (“faith working through love” per Galatians 5:6)—but there are Protestants who teach something similar to this as well. In the end, the differences some- times come down more to terminology and fine-grained distinctions than to entirely different salvation plans as is often believed.

Finding Common Ground

We often are not as far apart as we think

In Principle Protestants Agree: Salvation is in some sense a process involving various stages, each with different requirements and effects.

In Particular Catholicism Affirms: Salvation is an ongoing process with different requirements at different stages that can increase, decrease, eradicate, or regain God’s saving grace in our lives.”

Love, and Christian accord, harmony, peace, love, and deep, true affection,
Matthew

Purgatory & 2 Cor 5:8

Every Catholic has heard the challenge:

“How can you believe that? Don’t you know the Bible says…”

It’s a challenge we have to meet. If we can’t reconcile apparent contradictions between Scripture and Catholic teaching, how can our own faith survive? And if we can’t help our Protestant brothers and sisters overcome their preconceptions about “unbiblical” Catholic doctrines and practices, how will they ever come to embrace the fullness of the Faith?

In these excerpts from Meeting the Protestant Challenge, Karlo Broussard gives an example of how to counteract the Protestant claims about Purgatory and the rapture

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

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

Referring to a soul’s “entrance into the blessedness of heaven,” the Catechism teaches that it will enter either “through a purification or immediately” (CCC 1022). This presupposes that it’s possible for a soul to die in God’s friendship but yet not be present with the Lord in heaven.

Some Protestants view Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 as contradicting this belief. Paul writes,

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

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

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

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

Protestants who appeal to this passage often fail to realize that Paul doesn’t say that “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord.” Paul simply says, “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” and that “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Protestants may reply that although Paul doesn’t exactly say what the challenge claims, that’s what he means. Are they right? Does the logic follow? Does the statement, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” mean the same as, “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord”?

Suppose I’m at work, and I’m wishing that I could instead be away from work, and at home. Can we conclude from this that if I’m away from work, I must automatically be at home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Caught Up with the Lord in the Air”
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and the Rapture

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that faithful Christians will experience the final trial when the Bible teaches that Christians will be raptured before such a time?

The Catechism says that that the Church “must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers,” and such a persecution will “unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.” And this religious deception will be “that of the Antichrist” (675).

But some Protestants believe that the Bible teaches otherwise: that Christians will not experience the persecution of the Antichrist but will be snatched up by the Lord prior to it. This is a doctrine known as the pre-tribulation Rapture.

The passage they often appeal to is 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, which reads,

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Protestants argue that Paul can’t be talking about the Second Coming here, because Jesus only comes part-way down and then goes back up. Moreover, because no judgment of the nations is mentioned, like we see in Matthew 25:31-46 and Revelation 20, it must be referring to the “rapture.”

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. The challenge misreads the text as a partial coming-from and return back to heaven.

Verse 15 reads that the Lord will “descend from heaven with a cry of command.” But nowhere does Paul actually say that Jesus returns to heaven. If Jesus’ descent is definitive, it’s not a partial coming like the pre-tribulation rapture requires it to be.

But what are we to make of Paul’s description that the saints who are alive will be “caught up…to meet the Lord in the air”? A possible interpretation is that Paul is describing how Christians will meet the Lord in the air to escort him, in a way that is analogous to the ancient custom of citizens ushering in important visitors.

It was common for citizens to meet an illustrious person (such as dignitary or victorious military leader) and his entourage outside the walls of their city and accompany him back in. This was a way for people to honor the visitor and take part in the celebration of the visitor’s coming.

We see an example of this in Acts 28:14-15, where the brethren at Rome went out of the city to meet Paul as he approached: “And so we came to Rome. And the brethren there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us.” This ancient custom also explains why the crowds go out to meet Jesus on Palm Sunday and usher him into Jerusalem (see Matt. 21:1-17).

So, for Paul, those who are alive at the Second Coming will do for our blessed Lord what the ancients did for their dignitaries: they will be caught up in the air to meet the approaching king Jesus and escort him as he “descend[s] from heaven with a cry of command” (1 Thess. 4:16).

2. The details of the passage reveal that Paul is talking about the final coming of Jesus at the end of time.

Notice that it’s not just the living who are caught up with the Lord, but also the dead in Christ: “And the dead in Christ will rise first” (v.16). That Paul speaks of the resurrection of the dead tells us that he’s referring to the end of time.

We know this for several reasons. First, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15 that the end happens in tandem with the resurrection of the dead:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power (1 Cor. 15:22-24).

If Paul viewed the resurrection of the dead as occurring in tandem with the end of time, and if he speaks of the resurrection of the dead in tandem with Christ’s coming in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, it follows that Christ’s coming in those verses is His coming at the end of time and not the beginning of a pre-tribulation rapture.

A second reason why we know Paul is talking about the end of time is because when he speaks about the “coming of the Lord” in 2 Thessalonians, he says that the Antichrist and his reign of evil must precede it:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and destroy him by His appearing and His coming (2 Thess. 2:1-8).

It’s clear that Paul is connecting the “coming of our Lord” here in 2 Thessalonians and the “coming of the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, because he speaks of “our assembling to meet Him.”

So, if the “coming of the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 must be preceded by the Antichrist and his reign of evil, those verses can’t be referring to a pre-tribulation rapture. Rather, they must refer to our Lord’s coming at the end of time, when he vanquishes all evil and condemns those “who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:12).

A final clue for this being the final day of judgment is the fact that the Lord will descend with “the sound of the trumpet of God” (v.16). Paul speaks of the same trumpet when he describes the resurrection of the dead at the end of time:

Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:51-53).

Since in Paul’s mind, the trumpet is associated with the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, and he speaks of it when describing the “coming of the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, we can conclude that the “coming of the Lord” that Paul writes of in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is the final coming at the end of time.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: How can a text be used to support an idea when the text never mentions that idea?

AFTERTHOUGHT: The rapture is often portrayed as a “secret coming” of Jesus. But in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul describes Christ’s coming with “the sound of the trumpet of God.” There is nothing secret about descending with the sound of a trumpet!

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Sep 14 – Triumph of the Cross, Cross or Crucifix?


-St. Vincent de Paul Church. Huntington Beach, California

Often in an ecumenical chapel, the crucifix (the moment of our salvation) facing the congregation is turned around displaying a plain cross for Protestant services.  The devil in me imagines Jesus turning his back on Protestants.  😉  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.


-by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers

“The new empress had converted to Christianity the year before and was eager to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Her son, the emperor, although not yet a Christian himself, gave his mother permission to use the imperial treasury to buy up whatever sacred relics she could find during her stay. With that, St. Helena headed off to see the sites of Christ’s earthly ministry, intent on locating what physical relics remained from his public life.

Helena’s most important discovery is reputed to have been the cross on which Christ was crucified. According to traditional accounts, after ordering the destruction of a pagan temple built near Calvary by a previous emperor, Helena had her men excavate the site. There they found three crosses. To determine which one was Christ’s, Helena had a mortally ill woman touch each of the crosses. When the woman was miraculously healed after touching one of them, Helena proclaimed that cross the True Cross.

In honor of his mother’s find, Emperor Constantine ordered a church to be built on the site. That church became known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (known by the Orthodox as the Church of the Resurrection). Most Christians believe it to house both Calvary and Christ’s tomb. The first day that the True Cross was brought outside the church for adoration by the faithful, September 14, 335, would become the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which we celebrate today.

Protestants often are deeply uncomfortable with Catholic devotion to the crucifix, a sacramental that depicts the corpus (body) of Christ on his cross. They want to know why Catholics don’t simply have empty crosses in their churches, as is the custom in many Protestant churches. After all, they claim, Christ has been raised from the dead. Doesn’t a bare cross better show that he is risen?

Despite their affinity for crosses, many Protestants are also skeptical of the Church’s claim to possess the True Cross and to make relics from that cross available for veneration by the faithful. Not only do they doubt the authenticity of the relics, but some anti-Catholics even scorn the value of the True Cross itself. As the late Bart Brewer wrote:

It is said that if all the pieces of the [true] cross [of Christ] displayed in Catholic churches were assembled together, it would take a ten-ton truck to carry them. It is clear that most “relics” are frauds. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Bible that supports the veneration of relics, even if they are genuine.

So, on the one hand, many Protestants object to crosses that display Christ’s body in favor of bare crosses—and, on the other, they often reject the value of the True Cross itself, even if pieces of it were real. How do we as Catholics answer these objections? The story of how Helena recovered the True Cross may be useful in answering both objections.

As we saw, when Helena and her men excavated the site where Calvary had been located, they found three crosses. Naturally, they assumed that two of the crosses belonged to the two criminals executed with Christ (Matt. 27:38). Not having any interest in the thieves’ crosses, they sought to determine which cross was Christ’s and accepted a miraculous healing as proof of the True Cross.

Bare crosses alone, such as the ones Helena found near Calvary, were of no interest unless she could prove which one of them was Christ’s. The other crosses might have been interesting archaeological finds, but had no lasting value to her.

But even without Christ’s body hanging upon it, the actual cross on which Christ died is sacred because of its relation to him. Think of a throne without a king, a bench without a judge, or the presider’s chair in a church without a priest. Even when not in use, thrones, judicial benches, and presider chairs do have inherent value as symbols of the authority of the one who uses them. In like manner, the True Cross is sacred and worthy of Christian devotion because the one who used it is God himself.

From its beginning, the Church has reverenced the image of Christ on his cross and has considered the manner in which Christ died to be an integral part of the gospel. St. Paul wrote:

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:21–24, emphasis added).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that we do not merely preach Christ’s resurrection but the resurrection of the one who was crucified, which acts as a confirmation of the divinity of God the Son:

The truth of Jesus’ divinity is confirmed by his resurrection. He had said: “When you have lifted up the son of man, then you will know that I am he.” The resurrection of the crucified one shows that he was truly “I AM,” the Son of God and God himself (653, emphasis added).

When Protestants ask why Catholics use a crucifix instead of a bare cross, the answer then is twofold. We don’t separate Christ’s body from his cross because we value both his body and his cross. God the Son died as man to save the world, which means that his human body is sacred and worthy of our worship. And since he chose to die by crucifixion, the cross on which he died is worthy of our veneration because that was the means by which he saved the world. A bare cross has no value unless it is clearly his cross. As Paul said:

Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14).

And not only does the cross attain value by its relation to Christ—we too can become distinguished by our connection to the cross. Have you ever seen an icon or holy card of Helena? In practically every image created of her, iconographers and artists render her as holding a cross. That’s because Helena is most readily identified by Christians not by her relationship to her son the emperor, but by her relationship to Christ and his cross.

Today’s feast commemorates not just the death of Christ (as does Good Friday) but invites us to venerate the Cross itself, by which He redeemed the world.”

Love, Jn 19:30,
Matthew