Category Archives: United Methodism

Explaining the Sacred Heart to Protestants

“Catholisplain”? 🙂 LOL


-by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers

“As the Easter season comes to a close and Ordinary Time opens, we encounter a slew of feast days during the liturgical “transition” period—Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and finally the feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Church usually celebrates the feasts of the Two Hearts on the Friday (today) and Saturday following the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).

Both feasts have theological roots and expressions of popular devotion that go back to the earliest centuries, but the feasts themselves were established more recently in Church history. The feast of the Sacred Heart was placed on the universal calendar of the Latin Church in 1856; the Immaculate Heart became a universal feast in 1944.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart focuses on God’s self-sacrificial love for humankind. For God the Son so loved the world that he allowed a spear to pierce his human heart, from which flowed blood and water for the salvation of the world (John 3:16, 19:34). The popular devotions to the Sacred Heart that are commonly practiced today were inspired by the visions of Christ reported by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a seventeenth-century nun. Among other things, Christ asked for reception of Communion on First Fridays and for holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary devotion focuses on the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary for God, and on how our own imperfect love for God, though marred by sin, can become perfected when offered to God in union with Mary’s perfect human love for him. Popular devotions associated with the Immaculate Heart are the Miraculous Medal, which was inspired by visions of the Blessed Virgin given in the nineteenth century to St. Catherine Labouré, and the reparations made for sin on First Saturdays. Interestingly, the Church initially was reluctant to establish a feast day for the Immaculate Heart, rejecting early efforts by St. John Eudes in the seventeenth century to gain approval for the feast.

Protestants sometimes object to Catholic devotions like the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, and not only out of discomfort with Marian veneration. They also tend to see such devotions as accretions that mar the original purity of the Christian faith. They not only ask where such observances can be found in the Bible—they ask why the early Christians didn’t seem to know anything about them. Given the later origins of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts devotions, this objection might seem to have merit.

Sometimes Catholic apologists can get so caught up in trying to demonstrate that non-apostolic traditions—the lower-case “t” traditions that are not part of the deposit of the faith—are in harmony with Scripture and the practices of the early Church that we neglect to challenge the Protestant assumption that later developments in Christian piety are, by that fact, necessarily to be rejected.

One way to demonstrate to Protestants that the development of pious practices throughout Christian history can be acceptable, so long as those practices don’t contradict Christian dogma, is to point out modern Protestant pieties that were unknown in the early centuries of the Church (and that, we may note to ourselves, can appear to be improvised substitutions for lost sacraments). Let’s look at a few of them.

  • Infant baptism is one of the theological issues on which Fundamentalist Christians disagree with Catholics. They believe that baptism is only for adults, or at least for those who have reached the age of reason and are able to make “a decision for Christ.” But there seems to be a universal human need for ceremonies that welcome newborns into human society (especially spiritual society) , and thus many Fundamentalist churches offer dedication ceremonies in which new parents present their baby to the Christian community and pledge to raise the child for Christ.
  • Altar calls are a staple in many Evangelical churches. At some point during Sunday services, the preacher will invite anyone present who hasn’t yet made a personal commitment to Jesus to come forward to the altar and accept Jesus into his life as his “personal Lord and Savior.” Evangelicals consider this commitment central to the Christian life, to the point that a person’s eternal salvation is in doubt if he does not experience this moment of conversion. For Catholics, the central action of Sunday services is the Mass, and the place for a declaration of a personal need for Christ’s saving power is in the confessional.
  • At a Catholic nuptial Mass, the Eucharist is a symbol not just of the congregation’s communion in Christ but also of the newly married couple’s union in Christ. Although many Protestant communities no longer consider marriage or the Eucharist to be sacraments—calling them instead “ordinances,” things that Christ ordained to be done but that don’t actually impart grace to believers—they still feel a need to insert a ritual into the ceremony that symbolizes the couple’s unity. That’s one reason why the unity candle, in which the newly-married couple lights a candle together, has become ubiquitous in Protestant weddings (and, unfortunately, has been imported into many Catholic weddings as well).
  • Perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of Catholicism for Protestants to appreciate is that it is a layered religion that has grown and developed over centuries. Protestant apologists argue that such growth obscures the original purity of Christianity, that the development of pious customs such as devotion to the hearts of our Lord and our Lady are like barnacles on the barque of Peter—something to be scraped away.  [Ed. see St John Henry Newman‘s Essay on the Development of Doctrine]

But these pious customs are natural growth, as healthy for Christ’s mystical body as height, weight, and new muscles are for a human being who is maturing from infancy to adulthood. Christ told His apostles that his Church would grow in this way, although He used the image of the mustard seed that grows from a seed to a tree, in which “the birds of the air made nests in its branches” (Luke 13:19).

The devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at least in their modern forms, may not have begun during apostolic times, but they are a couple of the “nests” of piety in which Catholics have been spiritually nourished for centuries.”

Love, “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!!” (said at grace for dinner at McCormick household since childhood)
Matthew

Marriage & Theology 3

Dr. David Anders, PhD

“Catholics understand faith differently. In Catholic doctrine, faith is a human act — a decision we make to believe what God has revealed about Himself. Now, God certainly helps the soul to believe. I don’t believe without God’s help, but believing remains something that I do. Faith is not a “blind impulse of the mind,” but a considered judgment that Christ and the Church are credible and trustworthy.

The Bible compares our relationship to God to human marriage, an analogy that helps us understand something about the relationship between faith and reason. Marriage can be a very rational decision, but it still takes trust. If a man decides that his fiancée is trustworthy, then getting married is very reasonable. But how can I find out if my fiancée is trustworthy? I can find reasons to trust my fiancée, but in the end, it’s not the sort of thing I can demonstrate with a mathematical proof. In the end, I must decide whether to trust her and get married based on the available evidence. The Catholic Church says faith is like that. There are good reasons for faith, but in the end, you must still decide.

Why does this difference matter? As a Presbyterian, it was very important for me to say that “I knew for sure” about everything: “Are you sure you are going to Heaven? Are you sure that you are saved? Are you sure the Bible is God’s word? Are you sure there is a God?” In all these cases, the Calvinist might consult rational arguments, but ultimately, he trusts the “witness of the Spirit.” In the end, his certainty comes from subjective religious experience.

In my formation as a Calvinist, I had developed the habit of identifying my emotional life with the activity of the Holy Spirit. But I was growing to doubt this idea of the “witness of the Spirit.” I didn’t know if I could be “sure” ever again. Without that certainty, I did not see how I could ever commit myself to a religious tradition. This is where St Thomas Aquinas helped me the most.

Thomas helped me see that the content of Christian faith can really be divided into two categories: There are things that we can know with certainty from reason and argument, and there are things that we believe simply on the authority of Christ and the Church. Furthermore — and this is important — there are good reasons to trust Christ and the Church. We do not just believe. These distinctions are very important to understanding what faith should feel like, or whether it should feel like anything at all.

Authentic Catholic philosophers such as St. Thomas work very hard to prove parts of the Christian faith, but they also admit freely that we can accept other parts only on authority. The Calvinists I studied with did not divide the content of the faith in this way. They considered the faith as a whole, and they dismissed purely philosophical accounts of God, the soul, or the moral life. They were not just uninterested in proving the content of even one part of Christian faith but were skeptical that setting out to do so could be valuable at all.

I recall the very text that changed my mind about becoming Catholic. Here is the essential passage from Thomas’s De veritate (On Truth):

“We are moved to believe what God says because we are promised eternal life as a reward if we believe. And this reward moves the will to assent to what is said, although the intellect is not moved by anything which it understands. Therefore, Augustine says: “Man can do other things unwillingly, but he can believe only if he wills it.”” (14.1)

In one sense, I felt a tremendous disappointment when I read this text. I saw in a flash what St. Thomas was challenging me to do: take responsibility for my belief or unbelief. I could wait a lifetime for God to compel me to believe — and I would likely die without faith. Or I could also respond freely to His invitation to believe. It was disappointing because I realized that I could never achieve the kind of certainty that comes from an immediate and intuitive experience. But it was also liberating, because I finally saw clearly that this is not a bad thing. When I read this passage, I had an epiphany more powerful than the loss I felt on the day my faith first slipped away. I saw clearly how faith could be a rational possibility without being rationally compelled.

Again, it was rather like marriage. It is not irrational to marry a woman, especially one who has demonstrated her trustworthiness. Does my wife really love me? Will she be faithful forever? Can we get over our conflicts and make a life together? What will happen if I apologize? Will she forgive me? Can I ever be happy with this woman? These questions all have answers, but they are not the sort of thing that admit of mathematical certainty.

Catholicism is similarly an invitation to a kind of relationship and a way of being in the world. Above all, I think Catholicism is an invitation to believe that our moral convictions and our desire for meaning correspond to something real — something, or rather Someone, so real that He became incarnate in the world, taking on flesh in the womb of a virgin. You can’t get more real than that.

There are good reasons to believe in the Incarnation; Catholic theology calls them the “motives of credibility.” The fulfillment of prophecy, the miracles of Christ, His Resurrection, and the profound moral influence of Catholicism on world history all testify to the truth of Christian claims. Do these reasons compel me to believe? Obviously they do not; there are many people who consider these reasons and still do not have faith. I must choose what position I will take on life, and whether to accept or to resist the arguments in favor of Christ.

The great existential challenge in the world today is whether there is any meaning at all. Childlessness, suicide, and euthanasia are depopulating whole societies that have given up on life and prefer to die quietly in bed. Japan now sells more adult diapers than baby diapers. Russia has more abortions than live births. Where would I stand? Is there any truth? Is there any love that endures? Every fiber of my being said yes. Yes, to reason; yes, to love; yes, to hope; yes, even to suffering.

I knew I had to become a Catholic.”

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (pp. 100-103). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Theology & Marriage 2

Dr. David Anders, PhD

“The Catholic ideal of married life is rigorous and difficult. Catholic spouses are to surrender their own selfish interests in service to a transcendent goal — to bring one’s spouse and one’s children to God. Sometimes that self-surrender calls for enormous and painful sacrifice, just as Jesus sacrificed Himself on the Cross for the sake of the Church. Most importantly, the Catholic Church recognizes Christian marriage as a sacrament, which means that God promises us the grace to meet those difficult demands.

Early Protestants, on the other hand, simply denied that marriage is a sacrament. Instead, they threw up their hands and asserted that the demands of Catholic marriage were too difficult. Therefore, they called for a relaxation of those demands and an end to the Church’s control over marriage. Protestant thought went on to emphasize more strongly the sexual dimension of married life, and eventually the romantic element as well, while deemphasizing the role that suffering plays in union with God.

My Protestantism offered me little solace in the face of a hopeless marriage, but Catholicism seemed to offer me a way to reconceive my suffering. Suffering willingly embraced becomes sacrifice, and sacrifice can bring a deeper experience of God’s grace….

I started thinking about the differences between Protestant and Catholic notions of sex and marriage. I discerned four major differences between the two traditions:

1. The Catholic tradition opposes both contraception and sodomy in marriage. Most Protestants allow them.
2. The Catholic Church exalts virginity, celibacy, and perfect continence over marriage. The Protestant tradition has always rejected this.
3. The Catholic Church does not allow Christian divorce and remarriage. Although Protestantism values lifelong fidelity in a broad sense, Protestant tradition has always allowed divorce in at least a few circumstances, such as adultery.
4. The Catholic Church regards Christian marriage as a sacrament that conveys grace. As a sacrament, Christian marriage (not all marriage) ought to be governed by Church law.

Protestant tradition, rather, has always asserted that God ordains marriage, but not as a sacrament. For Protestants, marriage is a civil institution rightly governed by civil law. Protestants and Catholics have different views of marriage, I came to understand, because they have different views about the foundational concepts of morality, spirituality, salvation, and human happiness. Catholics believe that the ultimate end of human life is loving union with God and neighbor. Aided by grace, we ought to bend every fiber of our being toward that end. Catholic ideas about marriage and contemplative life reflect that lofty calling.

The Protestant tradition also extols loving union with God but has always been more skeptical about the Christian’s moral potential. Catholics take quite seriously Christ’s command to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Relying on God’s grace through prayer and the sacraments, and through diligent cooperation with grace, Catholics believe that all God’s commands can be obeyed. By contrast, the Protestant tradition teaches that sin always remains and that perfect holiness in this life is impossible. Early Protestants argued, therefore, that we ought to relax the discipline of Christian life (including marriage) to accommodate human weakness…

Catholic marriage: “It is a love which is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.” –Pope Paul VI, encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968), no. 9.

If you approach married life in that way, it becomes impossible to objectify your spouse for your own gratification. Instead, you beg for God’s grace and bend every fiber to order your life toward this transcendent goal. You would be willing to bear suffering, abstinence, and abnegation if they serve that great good. You would, in fact, learn to imitate Christ…

The ideal of celibacy reminds all Christians that the goal of life is spiritual friendship, not personal aggrandizement or pleasure seeking. A few Christians can take up that life in radical detachment from the world, but many more Christians live spiritual friendship through marriage.

The Christian ideal of marriage was very different from the ancient Roman practice. Pagan society expected chastity of women, but not of men. Roman men were allowed prostitutes and concubines, and then to avoid the unwanted consequences of such promiscuity they resorted to forced abortions, infanticide, and rudimentary and extremely harmful contraceptives. Women suffered disproportionately from these practices, which became one of the reasons Roman women were more likely than men to become Christian. The Catholic doctrine on chastity was liberating.

The Catholic Church advocated personal commitment to God over all other social commitments, even for women. This was a particularly radical idea in patriarchal Rome, where women were expected as a matter of course to acquiesce to the will of men. The Church, however, venerated virgin martyrs, such as St. Lucy, who went to their deaths for refusing to marry against their will. Unlike many other cultures of the era, canon law has refused from the very beginning to recognize the validity of forced marriage.

“How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.” –Tertullian, “To His Wife,” in Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage, Ancient Christian Writers Series, no. 13, trans. William P. LeSaint, S.J. (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1951), 35–36.

…The differences between Protestant and Catholic teaching on marriage have their roots in two fundamental issues. First, the Protestant Reformers thought that Catholic teaching on human sexuality was just too difficult. Second, the Reformers resented the authority that the Catholic Church exercised over Christian marriage. The way they tried to solve these “problems” theologically was to naturalize Christian marriage, removing it from the realm of the supernatural. A major part of the Reformation, therefore, was an attack on the sacramentality of Christian marriage.

The Reformers never denied that God instituted marriage at the creation of Adam and Eve. They simply denied that Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament. “Marriage is a good and holy ordinance of God,” Calvin wrote, “and farming, building, cobbling, and barbering are lawful ordinances of God, and yet are not sacraments.” –Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.19.34.

…In 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul teaches that Christians must not engage in sexually immoral behavior. That is not terribly surprising. What is surprising is the reason he gives. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Paul writes, “Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (1 Cor. 6:15).

In this text, Paul teaches that a Christian’s very body has been permanently changed in a way that identifies him with Christ and thereby affects his sexuality. The Christian literally carries the body of Christ with him into the marriage bed. While I found the idea to be somewhat arresting, I quickly saw that it had profound implications for the doctrine of marriage. If two baptized people got married, then Christ would necessarily be implicated in a very profound, very intimate way in their union.”

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (pp. 53-56, 58-59, 63-64, 67-68). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

Bibliolatry


-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 [Ed.  by the Catholic Church] 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.  [Ed.  The Catholic Church does not have a problem with the Bible in the vernacular.  It has an issue with bad translations and the sufficient education to appreciate in context what one is reading.]

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 the 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. 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 a 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 St Benedict of Nursia (480-543 AD) 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 an 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 catalogue 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 & truth,
Matthew

Justification/Sanctification


-please click on the image for greater detail

We must have sanctifying grace in our souls if we’re to be equipped for heaven. Another way of saying this is that we need to be justified. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

The Protestant misunderstanding of justification lies in its claim that justification is merely a legal declaration by God that the sinner is now “justified.” If you “accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior,” he declares you justified, though He doesn’t really make you justified or sanctified; your soul is in the same state as it was before, but you’re eligible for heaven.

A person is expected thereafter to undergo sanctification (don’t make the mistake of thinking Protestants say sanctification is unimportant), but the degree of sanctification achieved is, ultimately, immaterial to the question of whether you’ll get to heaven. You will, since you’re justified; and justification as a purely legal declaration is what counts.

Unfortunately, this amounts to God telling an untruth by saying the sinner has been justified, while all along He knows that the sinner is only covered under the “cloak” of Christ’s righteousness. But, what God declares, He does. That’s a primary and distinguishing difference between mortals and the divine. When God speaks, it is, it happens, it is so. “[S]o shall my word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Is. 55:11). So, when God declares YOU justified, He makes YOU justified. YOU, not by some disguise, even the disguise of His only begotten Son, but ACTUALLY, ACTUALLY YOU!!!! Any justification that is not woven together with sanctification is no justification at all.

The Bible’s teaching on justification is much more nuanced. Paul indicates that there is a real transformation that occurs in justification. This is seen, for example, in Romans 6:7, which every standard translation—Protestant ones included—renders as “For he who has died is freed from sin” (or a close variant).

Paul is obviously speaking about being freed from sin in an experiential sense, for this is the passage where he is at pains to stress the fact that we have made a decisive break with sin that must be reflected in our behavior: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:12-13).

The context here is what Protestants call sanctification, the process of being made holy. Sanctification is the sense in which we are said to be “freed from sin” in this passage. Yet in the Greek text, what is actually said is “he who has died has been justified from sin.” The term in Greek (dikaioo) is the word for being justified, yet the context indicates sanctification, which is why every standard translation renders the word “freed” rather than “justified.” This shows that, in Paul’s mind, justification involves a real, experiential freeing from sin, not just a change of legal status, a legal disguise. And it shows that, the way he uses terms, there is not the rigid wall between justification and sanctification that Protestants imagine.

According to Scripture, sanctification and justification aren’t just one-time events, but are ongoing processes in the life of the believer. As the author of Hebrews notes: “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). In regard to justification also being an ongoing process, compare Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6 with both Hebrews 11:8; Genesis 12:1-4 and James 2:21-23; Genesis 22:1-18. In these passages, Abraham’s justification is advanced on three separate occasions.

Can Justification Be Lost?

Many Protestants go on to say that losing ground in the sanctification battle won’t jeopardize your justification. You might sin worse than you did before “getting saved,” but you’ll enter heaven anyway, because you can’t undo your justification.

Calvin taught the absolute impossibility of losing justification. Luther said it could be lost only through the sin of unbelief; that is, by undoing the act of faith and rejecting Christ, but not by what Catholics call mortal sins.

The truth is if you sin grievously, the supernatural life, the sanctifying grace, in your soul flees back to God. Sin is mortal in that it kills the life of God’s supernatural grace in us. It’s not so much God’s grace is vanquished, but moreso, it flees sin since it belongs to and is only in accord with the divine life, and nothing else. God’s eternal life giving grace cannot/will not co-exist with serious sin. It is impossible. Nature abhors a vacuum, it fills it.  Grace also abhors the vacuum of sin, it abandons the soul so stained.

Sin is the absence of God’s grace. Evil is the absence of good, of God. Both sin and evil are vacuums. They are not ontological beings unto themselves, but absences of grace and of good and of God. God’s grace, His Life in YOU cannot tolerate the vacuum of sin in YOU or in Heaven. God’s grace in you must be full, Lk 1:28. Otherwise, just like the Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculately conceived, without the vacuum of original sin, God could not dwell, literally, within her or us.

We MUST have His life giving grace, His sanctifying grace within us, to be saved, to be united with the Godhead in eternity, Heaven. We then are truly justified, not covered in some disguise, but truly mirroring God in His own grace, personally; His eternal gift to us in Jesus Christ.

Love & truth,
Matthew

What is sin? What is grace?

Q. What is personal sin?

In contrast to original sin, personal sin represents the sins that we individually commit and for which we are personally responsible.

We all have a general sense of what personal sin is—that it involves doing something wrong, something evil, something we should not do. However, theologians have studied the concept, and the Church has a refined understanding of what sin is.

Put in general terms, sin is “an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another” (CCC 387). Stated another way, it is “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods” (CCC 1849).

In other words, we can become so attached to various good things—like pleasure, possessions, or popularity —that we make choices that put these things over the love we should have for God and for our fellow human beings. When we do this, we sin.

All sin involves an unloving choice based on disordered desire, or concupiscence. Originally, this word referred to any intense form of human desire, but in Christian thought it has taken on a special meaning. “St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life” (1 John 2:16)” (CCC 2514).

This triple concupiscence subjugates man “to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason” (CCC 377).

When we are led by disordered desire into making unloving choices, the resulting sin will be one of two types: mortal or venial.

The first type is known as mortal sin because it produces spiritual death. It destroys the virtue of charity in our hearts, charity being the supernatural love of God that unites us to Him spiritually. By being separated from God in this way, mortal sin puts us in a state of spiritual death.

“For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent” (CCC 1857).

The first of these conditions means that the sin must involve a matter that is grave in nature. “Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother’ (Mark 10:19)” (CCC 1858).

Some sins automatically involve grave matter. This is the case anytime an innocent human being is killed and any time an act of adultery is committed.

If grave matter is present, there are still two other conditions that need to be fulfilled for a sin to be mortal. “Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice” (CCC 1859).

Various factors can diminish or remove the knowledge and consent needed for a sin to be mortal. “Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. . . . The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders” (CCC 1860).

When a person commits a sin and one or more of the conditions needed for it to be mortal are not present, the result is a venial sin (CCC 1862). Venial sins offend and wound the virtue of charity, but they do not destroy it, which is why they are not mortal (CCC 1855). They thus do not lead to spiritual death.

When our sins are mortal, however, our souls are in jeopardy, and we are in urgent need of God’s grace.

Q. What is grace?

Looked at one way, grace is the antidote to sin. It is what God provides us to overcome both original and personal sin.

“Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC 1996).

We need grace because of the condition of spiritual poverty that we are born into as a result of original sin. In this state of separation from God, wounded human nature will not allow us to seek God and come to him. He must take the initiative by seeking us and giving us the help we need to freely choose him. Thus Jesus tells us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

Fortunately, God wants all men to have this opportunity. He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), and so he offers all men the grace necessary to be saved (CCC 1260).

God did not have to do this. He does it freely, out of his love for all men, and we must freely choose whether or not to respond to his grace and accept his love. “God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy” (CCC 2002).

The particular helps that God gives us at certain moments in life—helps to come to him, to do good, or to resist sin—are known as actual graces (CCC 2000). They can take many forms. When someone preaches the gospel and we are moved to respond, that is a grace. When we see someone in need and are moved to help, that is a grace. And when our conscience warns us that something we are about to do is wrong, that also is a grace.

Actual graces appear at particular moments in our lives, but there is another kind of grace, which remains with us over the course of time. This is known as sanctifying grace.

“Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. Sanctifying grace makes us ‘pleasing to God’” (CCC 2023-2024).

When a person has sanctifying grace, he is said to be in a state of grace. In this state, he is united with God spiritually and said to be in God’s friendship. If he dies in the state of grace, he will go to heaven (though he may need to be purified first in purgatory).

When we come to God and are saved and justified, God gives us the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity (CCC 1991). Of these, charity is the most important (1 Cor. 13:13). It is the virtue “by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (CCC 1822).

Charity always accompanies sanctifying grace, and when one is eliminated, so is the other.

This is why mortal sin “results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell” (CCC 1861).

In addition to sanctifying grace, God also gives us additional gifts of grace to help us live the Christian life and be of service to others.

Our salvation is thus entirely a product of God’s grace, from the graces that lead us to turn to him, to the state of grace in which we are saved, to the graces that he gives us to live the Christian life, to help others, and to bring them to him as well.

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Assurance of salvation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Can’t Lose Heaven?

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

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

Can You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Say

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

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

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

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

Protestant traditions you won’t find in the Bible


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


-by Trent Horn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, truth, unity,
Matthew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honoring Saints

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

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

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

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

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

Statue Worship?

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

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

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

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

Imitation is the Biblical Form of Honor

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

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

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

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

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

The Consistency of Catholicism & Christian unity


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, unity, truth,
Matthew