Category Archives: Heresy

The Pagan Christ

“Atheists who believe that Jesus never existed (called mythicists) claim there are damning parallels between the story of Jesus and stories of other “dying and rising” gods. You’re likely to come across mythicist arguments through online videos such as Zeitgeist, which claims:

  • The Egyptian god Horus “was born on December 25 of the virgin Isis-Meri . . . at the age of thirty he was baptized by a figure known as Anup and thus began his ministry. Horus had twelve disciples he traveled about with, performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water. . . . Horus was crucified, buried for three days, and thus, resurrected.”
  • The Greek god Dionysus was “born of a virgin on December 25, was a traveling teacher who performed miracles such as turning water into wine.” Zeitgeist also claims that the Roman god Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25.
  • Ancient pagan cults also worshiped the “Sun” by mourning when it dies in the winter and celebrating when it “rises” in the spring to bring forth new crops.

Although similarities among beliefs can be evidence that one culture was the source for another culture’s belief, in many other instances, it can lead to a bad case of “parallelomania.” Biblical scholar Samuel Sandmel says this happens when a person falsely believes that cultural borrowing has taken place and tries to prove it with highly implausible parallels. Straining to make connections, the “parallelomaniac” ignores more plausible explanations for why two different religions might have similar beliefs, stories, traditions, or customs.

In some cases, the imagined parallel simply doesn’t exist at all. In others, the alleged parallels are so trivial that they don’t really serve as evidence for culture-borrowing. Or it might, on closer inspection, turn out that the borrowing happened the other way around (e.g., paganism borrowing from Christianity). Or the borrowing might be real but related only to non-essential areas of belief.

When we apply these alternative explanations, we see that neither Catholicism nor Christianity can be explained as a mere offshoot of older pagan practices.

Many of Zeitgeist’s claims about ancient non-Christian religions simply aren’t true. There is no evidence the Egyptian god Horus was baptized, had twelve disciples, performed miracles like walking on water, or was crucified. In at least one instance, a deity that is supposed to parallel Jesus turns out never to have existed in pagan mythology. Zeitgeist claims that “Beddru” of Japan and “Crite” of Chaldea inspired the Jesus story, but there is no record of any deities by these names having a cult of worship.

Why would the producers of this film, or other mythicists, make up stuff like this? Odds are, they acted in good faith but uncritically followed older, amateur scholarship that had a bad habit of using poorly documented sources.

Many of their claims about Horus, for example, come straight from self-anointed (and long discredited) scholars from the nineteenth century, such as Gerald Massey. Contemporary Egyptologists do not trust his work today, and even Massey’s peers rejected his scholarship. The renowned British Museum Egyptologist Archibald Sayce, for instance, commended an 1888 article for its “through demolition of Mr. Massey’s crudities [and] errors.” His colleague Peter le Page Renouf said of Massey that “no lunatic could possibly write more wild rubbish” (1,101).

When we turn to anti-Catholicism, we see similar uncritical reliance on shoddy scholarship. This is evident in claims from Jack Chick tracts, such as, “The Holy Eucharist is placed in the center of a sunburst design called the monstrance. . . . Who dreamed this up? The Egyptians called it Osiris long before the popes called it Jesus.” Sure enough, Gerald Massey claimed that, in Egyptian worship, “flesh and beer were transelemented or transubstantiated by the descent of Ra the holy spirit” and that this sacrament was “continued by the Church of Rome.”

Chick further claims that the eucharistic host has the monogram IHS on it because in Egypt these letters stood for the gods Isis, Horus, and Seb. However, there is no evidence that ancient Egyptian religion had anything like the Eucharist, much less a host that included a monogram with the Latin letters IHS. (In reality, these three letters are often found on eucharistic hosts because they are derived from the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek.)

Another fiction is the claim that Nimrod and Semiramis were married Babylonian royalty who created a “proto-pagan Catholicism.” This isn’t possible, since, as modern scholars agree, they didn’t even live during the same period. Other claims, like “Catholic confessionals have a Babylonian origin,” ignore the historical reality that the Church practiced the sacrament of confession without confessionals for centuries. The regular practice of confessing privately to a priest in a reserved place was introduced into the Church through Irish missionaries in the early Middle Ages, not a Babylonian cult in late antiquity (CCC 1447).

In many cases, the alleged parallel between Christianity and paganism exists only in the creative mind of the parallelomaniac. In some other cases, though, the evidence from primary sources is accurate—and so a genuine parallel does exist—but the parallel is so trivial or general that it says nothing about any cultural borrowing. Ancient pagan deities, for example, may have performed miracles just as Jesus did, but we’d expect that any story about deities interacting with human beings would include miraculous details. So those similarities don’t suggest any borrowing.

Other alleged parallels are true only if you really strain your eyes and your reading comprehension. For example, mythicists say the Persian deity Mithra was born of a virgin (just like Jesus!), but the ancient source actually says that Mithra emerged fully grown from a rock (62). This is a “virgin birth” only in the most contorted sense of that term.

Similarly, that sun and son are homophones is true in English but not most other languages, including ancient languages like Greek or Hebrew. A similar error occurs in the identification of Easter with Ishtar (and honestly, the two sound similar only if you are prone to slurring your speech). Even more fatal to this alleged parallel is that nearly all European languages call the celebration of Christ’s resurrection a variant of the Latin word pascha. Christ is our new Passover (or paschal) lamb, as St. Paul describes him in 1 Corinthians. 5:7. (Easter comes from older Germanic words signifying springtime and the dawn.) 

Modern scholarship has also shown that Christian and Catholic beliefs are primarily rooted in Judaism, not paganism. In his study on ancient resurrection belief, T.N.D. Mettinger put it this way:

There is, as far as I am aware, no prima facie evidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct, drawing on myths and rites of the dying and rising gods of the surrounding world. While studied with profit against the background of Jewish resurrection belief, the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus retains its unique character in the history of religions (221).

It’s reasonable to expect human beings in different eras and cultures to exhibit similar religious tendencies, because it’s in our nature. God created us to be religious. The Catechism puts it this way:

In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being (28).

C.S. Lewis reached a similar conclusion when he said that God had revealed himself indirectly to pagans through their myths and that the Gospels were now God’s direct revelation. They were, as he said, “myth become fact.” I’ll close with his advice that shows that Catholics and Christians have nothing to fear from “pagan parallels”: “We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘pagan Christs’: they ought to be there—it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome” (59).”

Love and truth,

The Mormon Christ


“I’ve heard Mormons say they worship the same Jesus we do and so they are Christians. After all, their church is “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.””


“Just because someone says he’s a Christian doesn’t make him a Christian, because a Christian must be validly baptized and believe in the God of Christianity. The Catholic Church holds Mormon baptisms invalid because, even though the baptismal formula they use is correct, the meaning of the words “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are so alien to Christian belief that they essentially belong to another religion.

When it comes to Jesus, Christians believe he is fully human and fully divine, and he has always been divine given that he is the second person of the Trinity, God the Son. Mormons, however, believe that Jesus Christ was once an “intelligence” such as us who existed from eternity. He was not always divine, and he was not always the Son of God. Instead, God chose him to become the “firstborn” among the intelligences by giving him the first spirit body. In 1909, the Mormon Church’s leadership released a statement that read, “The Father of Jesus is our Father also. . . . Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like him, are in the image of God.”

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

Our Eldest Brother

“Once a young woman sitting next to me on an airplane noticed I was reading a book about Mormonism. She said she had recently joined the Mormon Church (the official name for Mormons is “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which some people abbreviate to “LDS”)164 and so we struck up a conversation. She said she didn’t like it when people held ignorant views toward Mormons and I agreed that bigoted attitudes are unacceptable.

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

I gently explained to her that Christians and Mormons don’t mean the same thing when they refer to the person of Jesus. Gordon Hinkley, the former president of the Mormon Church, even said, “As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.”165

Christians believe there is one God who exists as three divine, eternal persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that only God is eternal (see Psalm 90:2). Mormons, on the other hand, believe there are an infinite number of “intelligences” that have existed for all eternity. God, whom Mormons call “Heavenly Father,” transforms these intelligences into human beings and the faithful Mormons among them will become gods in the next life, going on to create more human beings who will continue this cycle of “exaltation.”166

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was once an “intelligence” like us who existed from eternity past. He was not always divine, and he was not always the Son of God. Instead, God chose him to become the “firstborn” among the intelligences by giving him the first spirit body.167 In 1909, the Mormon Church’s leadership released a statement that read, “The Father of Jesus is our Father also. . . . Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like him, are in the image of God.”168

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

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

Mormonism can best be described as a kind of henotheism, or belief in the existence of many gods (in this case, infinitely many), only one of whom deserves our worship. Mormons strive to become “exalted” and develop into a god just like Heavenly Father, who was once a man like us. Joseph Smith even said at a funeral for Mormon elder King Follett, “You have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you.”169

Christians, on the other hand, are monotheists who believe there is one God, though he exists as a Trinity of three persons, each of whom equally possesses the divine nature.170 And although Mormons will tell you that they, too, believe in “one God,” what they mean is that they believe in one collection of gods. For Mormons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or “the Holy Ghost”) are three gods who cooperate so perfectly they might as well be one God. But this is like saying that a perfectly cooperating baseball team has but one player.

If God or Heavenly Father used to be a man who was later exalted into godhood, then the entire universe would be without an explanation, because we could always ask the atheist’s favorite question: “Who created God?” Positing an infinite cycle of men becoming gods does not explain the existence of the universe any more than an infinitely long chain could explain why a chandelier is hanging in a room.171 It has to be attached to the ceiling, and likewise, the only explanation for why the universe exists at all is because the God of Christianity, who just is perfect existence itself, created it.

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

In Isaiah 43:10 God declares, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” This can’t refer to false gods or idols, because many of those are still “formed” to this day. Instead, the Bible teaches that no other god besides the one true God has ever existed, and no other god ever will exist. Even scholars who reject evidence for practices of monotheism early in the Old Testament agree that the prophet Isaiah is a witness to God’s people having finally rejected the existence of all other deities except for their own God Yahweh.172

The New Testament also firmly teaches not just that Jesus is God, but that there is only one God. Jesus described God as “the only God” (John 5:44) and “the only true God” (John 17:3). St. Paul describes God as “the only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) and the only being who possesses immortality (1 Tim. 6:16). St. Ignatius wrote in the early second century that the early Christians were persecuted because they “convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested himself by Jesus Christ his Son.”173

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

. . . The Bible Teaches That Jesus Created All Things

Mormons believe that the world is eternal—that it never had a beginning—and God is just a being who exists within it. The God of this world created it in the same way a baker “creates” a cake—by combining pre-existing ingredients. Eric Shuster, a Mormon convert from Catholicism, writes, “Latter-day Saint doctrine holds that the universe was formed and organized, not created ex nihilo, ‘out of nothing’ as Catholic doctrine holds. This is not an insignificant difference.”174

Christians, on the other hand, have always believed that God created all things out of nothing at some point in the distant past. Hebrews 11:3 says that “the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (in some other translations, “was not made out of visible things.”). The Shepherd of Hermas, an early Christian writing from around the year A.D. 80, says, “First of all, believe that there is one God who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing. He alone is able to contain the whole, but himself cannot be contained.”175

According to Mormonism, in the beginning Heavenly Father sent the pre-incarnate Jesus (whose name at that time was Jehovah) and the archangel Michael to form our world from pre-existing matter. But this contradicts Isaiah 44:24, where God says, “I am the LORD, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth—Who was with me?” Colossians 1:16–17 also tells us that it was through Jesus that all things were created, Jesus is before all things, and in Jesus all things hold together.176

If God was alone when he created all things, then he did not receive help from separate spiritual beings like Jesus or Michael the Archangel. And if he truly created all things, then he did not form anything from uncreated matter. Finally, if the New Testament tells us that Jesus created all things, and the Old Testament says that God alone created all things, this must mean that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament who would gradually come to be revealed as three distinct persons who exist as the one God that created the world.

Reducing Jesus from being our Creator to only our “eldest brother” leads to an interesting consequence: Jesus becomes not only our brother but the brother of Heavenly Father’s other spirit children—which includes the fallen angel Lucifer. Mormons say this doesn’t mean that Jesus and Satan deserve the same respect, are similar in status, or that Mormons worship Satan. Nonetheless, Jesus and the devil are both God’s spirit children—along with us.

Some Mormons cite the Bible’s description of Jesus as “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29) and the “firstborn of creation” (Col. 1:15) as evidence that he was created to be our “eldest brother” and is not himself the eternal creator of all things.177 But Romans 8:29 refers to how Jesus was the first human to take part in the glory of the resurrection—not that Jesus was created. That verse says God planned for others to be “conformed” to Christ’s image, becoming his brethren by sharing in the future glory that he first received.

Regarding Colossians 1:15, the term firstborn doesn’t always mean “the oldest child within a family.” The Greek word for “firstborn,” prototokos, can refer to a special position that is worthy of honor and privilege. For example, in Psalm 89:27 God says of David, “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Obviously, David was not the first king ever to reign on earth. And we know that he was the youngest son in his family, not the oldest (1 Sam. 16:11). The psalm here indicates how he was placed in a position of preeminence or authority over all other kings. And just as the firstborn of kings is the one who rules over kings, the firstborn of creation (or Jesus) is the one who rules over creation.

. . . It’s Praiseworthy to Pray to Jesus

In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Jesus is not one more god in an infinite line of gods nor is he a created being. He is instead eternal like the Father, who is also described as “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 21:6). Jesus is the one true God we worship, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

But although Mormons pray to the Father, they do not pray to the Son, because from their perspective Jesus is closer to our level of existence than to Heavenly Father’s. When they are asked why they don’t pray to Jesus, most Mormons will say something like, “Jesus taught his disciples to address their prayers to ‘our Father.’ He never told us to pray to him.”

Yet it doesn’t follow that just because Jesus explicitly taught one way to pray that all other ways of prayer are unacceptable. For instance, Mormons give thanks to Heavenly Father even though Jesus never mentioned thanksgiving when he taught us the Lord’s Prayer. It seems more likely that Mormons only pray to the Father because they are following a prescription in the Book of Mormon where Jesus says, “[Y]e must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Nephi 18:19).

But before he was martyred, St. Stephen prayed directly to the ascended Jesus, saying “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And Paul wrote, “[M]ay our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father . . . comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word” (2 Thess. 2:16–17). Notice that Paul does not ask the Father “in Jesus’ name” to comfort believers. He instead petitions both the Father and the Son. In his commentary on Thessalonians, Gene Green notes:

To address prayers to the Lord Jesus (so 2 Thess. 3:5,16) in the same breath with God the Father implies a very high Christology. This prayer would be proper only if the apostles held to the divinity of Christ. This point is even clearer in the prayer of 2 Thessalonians 2.16, where the order of the names is reversed.178

As I once said to two Mormon missionaries, “I appreciate that you’re trying to share your faith, but I love being a Christian. The reason I could never become a Mormon is because I would miss the relationship I have with Jesus Christ. I love praying to Jesus and knowing he isn’t ‘a god’ but, as the apostle Thomas said, ‘My Lord and my God’” (John 20:28).


164 Although Mormons call themselves a “church,” strictly speaking they are not a church because they do not possess valid holy orders or even valid beliefs about central Christian doctrines like the Trinity. But for sake of simplicity, I use the term “church” to describe their organization. Also, in 2018 their president Russell Nelson released a statement expressing a preference for people to call that church by its full name and no longer by any “Mormon” nickname. In my own writings on the subject, I will still use terms like Mormon and LDS for readability and because I don’t think they’re offensive. In conversations with individual Mormons, I’d recommend following their lead about which terms they prefer, since not all of them may agree with the new change.

165 Gordon B. Hinkley, “We Look to Christ” Ensign (May 2002). Available online at:

166 St. Athanasius said, “[W]e become by grace what God is by nature.” (De Incarnatione, I). In other words, God gives us his divine life so that we resemble him but we never become him. Renowned historian of Christianity Jaroslav Pelikan says that the doctrine that men could become like God in holiness (what is called theosis) was, among people like Athanasius, “not to be viewed as analogous to classical Greek theories about the promotion of human beings to divine rank, and in that sense not to be defined by natural theology at all; on such errors they pronounced their ‘Anathema!’” Jarolslav Pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism (Yale University Press, 1995), 318. In other words, the Church Fathers would not have recognized the Mormon doctrine of exaltation as being a variation of their doctrine of theosis. Instead, they would have considered it heresy.

167 The Mormon sacred text Doctrine and Covenants describes Jesus telling Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon faith, “I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn. Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth” (93:31–33).

168 “Origin of Man” Improvement Era, November 1909, 75–81. Available online at: man?lang=eng.

169 Joseph Smith Jr., “The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, May 1971, 13. Available online at:

170 Joseph Smith said of the Trinity, “[T]hree in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. . . . All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God—he would be a giant or a monster.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 372. But each person of the Trinity is not a part of God. Instead, each member is God, and because of this each member of the Trinity deserves the same level of worship, including the second person of the Trinity who became the man Jesus Christ.

171 For a more extended discussion of this argument for the existence of the traditional monotheistic God see Trent Horn. Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity (San Diego: Catholic Answers Press, 2013), 123–136.

172 Robert Karl Gnuse, No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 1997), 84.

173 Letter to the Magnesians 8:1. 174 Eric Shuster, Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, Inc: 2009), 62. 175 The Shepherd 2:1.

176 This passage is so damaging to people who deny the Trinity and the divinity of Christ that some, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, mistranslate it to say Jesus created “all other things,” even though the Greek words for other (heteros and allos) are not in the original text.

177 Other critics cite Revelation 3:14 because it refers to Jesus as “the beginning of God’s creation. But in Revelation 3:14, the Greek word translated “be- ginning,” or arche, can also mean ruler, source, or origin. Indeed, in Revelation 21:6 the Father calls himself “the beginning,” but this does not mean the Father had a literal beginning. What this verse means is that Jesus is the source of all creation.

178 Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002), 176.

Horn, Trent . Counterfeit Christs : Finding the Real Jesus Among the Impostors (pp. 93-99). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

The Mormon Christ

-by Isaiah Bennett

“How can you possibly deny that we are Christians,” Mormons ask, “when even our church is named for Christ?”

“We acknowledge him to be the Creator of this world.”

“We rejoice in the great atonement he wrought.”

“His name is on nearly every page of the Book of Mormon, which we call ‘another testament’ to him.”

“We conclude all our prayers in his name.”

“You cannot doubt that we love and serve him.”

We don’t, in fact, deny that many Mormons try to love and serve the Lord Jesus. Active members do genuinely try to make him and his will a center in their daily lives. But as with many other Mormon beliefs, the teachings on Christ are a maze of misunderstanding, misdefinition, and misapplication. Mormon scriptures are contradictory, and Mormon prophets deny, redefine, or ignore one another’s teachings.

Brief Catholic View

The Catholic apologist Frank Sheed uses the term “double stream” to help us understand the union of human and divine in Jesus, as expressed by his words and actions. At times Jesus Christ speaks or acts simply as a man. He is tired, hungry, or sad. He prays to God the Father. He expresses feelings of grief in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:38) and abandonment on Calvary (Matt. 27:46). Christ, in his human nature, was a man like us in all things but sin (Heb. 4:15).

At other times he says and does things that go far beyond the words and actions of a mere man. He demands his followers love him above all others, even family. No one who comes to him will be confounded. All must learn of him, for he is the way, the truth, and the life. “No man has ever spoken like this!” He sealed his words with divine signs: giving light to the blind and life to the dead. Because he possessed a divine nature as well as a human one, Jesus accepted without hesitation the adoration of his followers (e.g., John 20:28-29).

The gospels are replete with accounts of the apostles’ stumbling attempts to understand their master. While at times he evinced “merely” human compassion for a hungry crowd or a widowed mother, he responded in a manner truly divine: He fed the crowd and raised the dead son. He gently reproved the mother of James and John, saying it was not his but his Father’s decision to grant a place of privilege in the kingdom (Matt. 20:20-23). Soon after, however, the Lord claimed authority to judge all men, to separate them, and to usher them to seats of glory or places of torment (Matt. 25).

This “double stream” is braided not only through the words and actions of the Lord Jesus but also through the meditation and reflection of his apostles and evangelists. Thus, Paul can affirm that Christ emptied himself of glory, took on the form of a servant, and humbled himself (Phil. 2:6-8), while also proclaiming that in Christ “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9).

Mormon Teachings on Jesus Christ

The Son Was Made by a Divine Man and Woman

According to Mormons, Jesus Christ is their elder brother, since he was the firstborn in the spirit world. That is, God the Father and one of his heavenly wives begot Christ’s spirit at some point in the eternity before earthly creation. This was made possible because the Father, who had previously lived, died, and was resurrected in some other world, had finally attained divinity for himself. As part of the blessings of godhood, he was given an eternal wife or wives with whom to procreate spirit children.

The Son—and All Created Things—Pre-Existed from All Eternity

The Mormon church correctly teaches that the Son exists from all eternity. It makes two mistakes, however. First, it holds that the Son’s pre-existence was only as vague, unformed matter until his heavenly parents begot his spirit. Second, Mormons believe that his pre-existence-as they define it-is the pattern for all created beings. Thus, for Mormons, every person has existed from eternity; each spirit came into being in heaven by the union of God the Father and one of his heavenly wives. That spirit is eventually placed into the human body created by earthly parents.

Jesus Christ can be called the “firstborn” only because his was the first “spirit body” formed by his heavenly parents. There then followed the “spirit bodies” of all other rational beings.

Yet Scripture clearly states the Son created all things and is himself uncreated: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:16-17).

We do well to remember the distinction presented earlier between Christ’s divine and human natures. As the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of the Father, Christ exists eternally. There never was a time when he was not. Because God is perfect and therefore changeless (change implying a movement either toward or away from some ideal or perfection), the Son did not undergo a “reformation” of component elements, bringing him into self-awareness or personhood. Jesus possessed both a divine and a human nature from the moment of his earthly conception. He did not grow into divinity either before or while living a mortal life among men.

Mormons admit Christ became God before he took on a mortal estate. Sometimes, though, their terminology is reminiscent of Greek or Roman mythology. One Mormon writer phrased his view this way:

“Mary, heavy with child, traveled all that distance on mule-back, guarded and protected as one about to give birth to a half-Deity. No other man in the history of this world of ours has ever had such an ancestry-God the Father on the one hand and Mary the Virgin on the other. . . . Jesus lived in a lowly home, the only man born to this earth half-Divine and half-mortal” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 10).

Contrast this with the Catholic belief that Jesus Christ is fully divine (Col. 2:9) and fully human (Heb. 4:15).

The Virgin Birth

Active Mormons claim God the Father (and his heavenly wife) not only brought forth the spirit of Christ in the pre-existence, they believe the Father also directly participated in the Lord’s earthly conception. This inventive doctrine, understandably, raises the ire of many devout Christians, particularly as it has found expression in the theological discourses of some Mormon prophets and apostles:

Brigham Young: “The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not, that we know of, have more than one wife, but Mary the wife of Joseph had another husband. [The babe in] the manger was begotten, not by Joseph, the husband of Mary, but by another Being. Do you inquire by whom? He was begotten by God our heavenly Father” (Journal of Discourses 2:268).

Joseph F. Smith, sixth Mormon prophet (speaking to young children): “You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers. . . . You cannot deny it. Now, we are told in Scripture that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father” (Family Home Evening, 1972, 125).

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon apostle and theologian: “Christ is . . . the Only Begotten Son . . . of the Father. . . . Each of the words is to be understood literally. ‘Only’ means only. ‘Begotten’ means begotten; and ‘Son’ means son. Christ was begotten by an immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers” (Mormon Doctrine, 546-547).

Orson Pratt, early Mormon apostle and theologian: “The fleshly body of Jesus required a Mother as well as a Father. Therefore, the Father and Mother of Jesus, according to the flesh, must have been associated together in the capacity of husband and wife: hence the Virgin Mary must have been, for the time being, the lawful wife of God the Father” (The Seer, 158-159).

Mary thus had two husbands, the Father and Joseph. In the Mormon view, she was perhaps the only woman in history lawfully permitted to engage in polyandry.

In trying to describe how Mary, in the process of natural intercourse with her glorified Father and God, could remain a virgin, McConkie resorts to redefining the term. A virgin, he implies, is a woman who has not had sexual intercourse with a mortal man. The Heavenly Father is a resurrected, immortal man. Therefore, there was no loss of Mary’s virginity (The Mortal Messiah, vol. 1, 314). This is another example of how Mormons hijack and redefine orthodox Christian terms.

Jesus Christ: A Subordinate God

Catholics adore God alone. We give full worship and obedience to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three are co-eternal, all-holy Persons. We pray to each member of the Trinity. We seek to cultivate a relationship of love and reverence with each Person.

This cannot be said for the Mormon. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a second God. There was a time in which he, as God, did not exist, but had to await the organization of his spirit by his heavenly Father and Mother. Thereafter, he was obedient to the heavenly Father in all things and progressed to eventual godhood (Mormon Doctrine, 129), working out his own divinity. Now he has now achieved a fullness of exaltation and is spoken of as God. But he was not always so.

Within the past year (written 9/1/1999), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints changed its logo, now writing the name “Jesus Christ” larger than the rest of its title. The purpose for the change, the church said, is to emphasize its allegedly Christ-centered character. Yet this same church forbids prayer to Jesus Christ.

Not only does Mormon theology teach Christ’s inferiority to the Father, it insists he be excluded from the honor accorded the Father, the supreme God. Therefore, all prayers, whether personal or public, are to be addressed to the Father only. No one is to pray to the Son or the Holy Ghost. Though his picture adorns most Mormon homes and chapels; though he is referred often in the Book of Mormon; though every prayer and testimony is concluded “in the name of Jesus Christ,” Mormons are forbidden to pray to him.

Mormon theologian Bruce McConkie informed an audience at Brigham Young University: “We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the Scriptures say about worshiping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense-the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to Him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator”(“Our Relationship with the Lord,” BYU Devotional, a March 2, 1982 monograph).

He may know “perfectly well” what the Scriptures say, but his interpretation of them is deficient. The Greek proskunéo refers to adoration or worship. As such, it is used in reference to God the Father throughout the Bible. But it is used in reference to the Son as well. See, for example, Matthew 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 28:9; 28:17; John 9:38; and Revelation 5:14.

Yet McConkie proclaimed a subordinate Christ to the BYU student body: “Though Christ is God, yet there is a deity above him, a deity whom he worships. . . . All of us, Christ included, seek to become like the Father. In this sense the Firstborn, our Elder Brother, goes forward as we do” (6-7). In other words, the Son worked out his own salvation, in part, by worshiping the Father.

Jesus Christ: Husband and Father

At this time, the Mormon church has no official position on whether or not Jesus Christ was married or had children. However, the Mormon leadership was not always so circumspect.

Orson Hyde, apostle under Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, declared Christ was not only married but was a polygamist who fathered children: “It will be borne in mind that once on a time, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and on a careful reading of that transaction, it will be discovered that no less a person than Jesus Christ was married on that occasion. If he was never married, his intimacy with Mary and Martha, and the other Mary also whom Jesus loved, must have been highly unbecoming and improper to say the best of it”

President Jedediah M. Grant, member of the First Presidency with Brigham Young, on the ultimate cause of the Lord’s crucifixion: “The grand reason of the burst of public sentiment in anathemas upon Christ and his disciples, causing his crucifixion, was evidently based upon polygamy, according to the testimony of the philosophers who rose in that age. A belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives caused the persecution of Jesus and his followers. We might almost think they were ‘Mormons’” (Journal of Discourses 1:346).

Many are familiar with LDS preaching on the great benefits of family. Jesus, many members think, must have shared fully in those blessings. Although large numbers of Mormons believe this notion of Jesus as husband and father, it has not been elevated to the level of universal doctrine. It’s not discussed much, if at all, with outsiders.

The Mormon church has recently added the subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” to its Book of Mormon. In light of Latter-Day Saints teachings on the Son of God, it would be more accurate to say they present to the world a “Testament of Another Jesus Christ.””

Love & truth,

We are not sufficient unto ourselves to love

-by Corrado Giaquinto, “Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” c. 1765, oil on canvas, 171 cm (67.3 in); width: 123 cm (48.4 in), private collection, please click on the image for greater detail

“O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!” -traditional added at the end of McCormick family grace

-by Dr Kody Cooper

“What is June for? The sixth month’s name derives from the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and goddess of marriage and fertility. June was a time for the seeds of new life: sowing crops, weddings, and the beginning of fruitful marriages. In short, June has long been associated with love. And indeed, in the late modern West, we are presented with two rival visions of love to celebrate in June, each with its own sexual ethic and account of the virtues: Pride, which contends “love is love,” and Humility, which proclaims “God is love.”

The denomination of June as a season of “pride” can be traced back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969, which followed upon a police raid of a gay bar. The following June, gay-rights activists organized a commemorative march and demonstration in New York City, and activists adopted the moniker “Gay Pride.” The man who takes credit for coining the term explained his reasoning: “The poison was shame, and the antidote is pride.”

Hence, Pride Month was born of a desire to combat shame within the gay community. This desire can be understood in light of the Christian sexual ethic that had informed American mores to a degree but had already been rejected by many American elites.

In the traditional Christian view, temperance is a cardinal virtue, and shamefacedness is an essential component of it. Temperance considers the pleasures of touch, particularly the pleasures of the table and the bed. The temperate person exercises moderation in these pleasures, avoiding both excess and deficiency. Integral to temperance is shamefacedness, a kind of fear, which is an aversion of desire away from some evil. Shamefacedness is the fear or recoiling from some action that is disgraceful.

The part of temperance that deals with sex is called “chastity,” and it is the virtue by which reason governs sexual desire. The traditional Christian understanding of sexual desire is teleological. It is a gift from God imbued with intrinsic meaning and purpose: to join man and woman in the special bond of marital friendship and that is typically generative of new life. In short, sex was understood to be unitive and procreative such that in the marital act, lovers fully gave of themselves to become “one flesh,” a unity that imaged Trinitarian Love. Chastity therefore meant checking desires for sex that strayed outside of this order, and the chaste person exercised virtue when he recoiled at—was ashamed of—such actions. On this view, heterosexual and non-heterosexual persons alike were required to govern their desires by the virtue of chastity.

While the intellectual and social seeds of the sexual revolution had long been germinating, the 1960s saw the Christian understanding of sex overthrown. In 1964, most American states had laws on the books that restricted access to contraception, for contraception thwarted the teleological purpose of sex. But in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court struck down anti-contraception laws as violative of the Constitution, upending the classical Christian natural law logic that such laws presupposed. With the recently invented technology of the birth control pill now widely available, no longer was it presumed that sex was essentially tethered to procreation. Rather, sex became a form of recreation for the expressive self. And this, quite logically, led the gay community to wonder: Why should expressive individualism and recreation be restricted to married heterosexuals?

The promoters of Pride worked out socially and morally what was already implicit in the new legal order. The law is a tutor, and it taught that sex was no longer essentially unitive, procreative, and marital. Why then should homosexual sex be considered shameful? Of course, residual shamefacedness about gay sex remained ingrained in the mores of many Americans. But such attitudes, increasingly cut off from the Christian understanding of the meaning of sex—and the vibrant institutions that embody and sustain that vision—were readily redescribed as “poison.” The antidote was to call for a new virtue: “pride.” Pride functioned as a new sort of fortitude: the habit by which members of the gay community would individually and collectively come out of the closet with confident self-assurance and claim their equal rights in a transformed social order. The older shamefaced attitudes that had been parts of temperance would now increasingly appear as vices: the ignorant prejudice or animus of bigots.

Pride’s popular slogan “love is love” is thus a fitting shorthand for its sexual ethic. Because sex is not inherently a one flesh union of husband and wife, but rather an avenue for self-expression and recreation, no one form of romantic love has any moral superiority over any other. They are all equally “love” and therefore should be treated with absolute moral, social, and legal equality.

The contrasting vision of Christian Humility is “God is Love.” It is antithetical to love as conceived by expressive individualism because Love Itself calls the beloved not to self-expression, but to humble obedience—that is, to make a gift of oneself as an abode for Him to reign in our hearts (John 14:23-24). The Church proclaims this message to the world in the month of June in a special way that is deeply intertwined with the story of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the beloved disciple of Christ’s Sacred Heart.

Born on July 22, 1647 in France, Margaret Mary was still very young when she consecrated herself to God: “O my God, I consecrate to Thee my purity, and I make Thee a vow of perpetual chastity.” In offering up her sexuality as a gift to God, she was given the lifelong gift of chastity and an accompanying “horror” of “anything against purity”—and provided an example of holiness particularly relevant to all whose vocation is not to marriage.

Her Divine Suitor eventually directed her to join the Visitandines. Already extremely advanced in the spiritual life—she had had several visions of Our Lady and Our Lord—obedience was an ongoing drama. Our Lord asked of her various prayers, sacrifices, and penances, but they sometimes conflicted with the commands of her superiors. When the saint beseeched Christ for help, he replied to her that she should do nothing of what he had commanded her without her superiors’ consent: “I love obedience, and without it no one can please Me.”

Humble obedience and the sacrifice of the desires of the self are thematic in St. Margaret Mary’s life. She struggled interiorly to heed Christ’s commands and acknowledged her weakness and inability to do what He asked without His aid. She had entered the convent on one condition: that she could never be forced to eat cheese, to which she was extremely averse. When her Sovereign Master asked her to eat cheese at a meal, she resisted for three days, until in answer to her prayer the Lord said: “There must be no reserve in Love.” She ate the cheese, and recalled that “I never in my life felt so great a repugnance to anything.” Indeed, to conform her more perfectly to himself, Christ identified all that was most opposed to her predilections, and increasingly required her to act contrary to them.

This and many other sufferings conformed her to the crucified Christ and were the essential preconditions to the revelation of His Sacred Heart, which involved such ecstatic spiritual delights that she could not describe them. Christ revealed His Heart to be as a mighty furnace, a throne of flames shining like the sun, encircled by a crown of thorns with the Cross seated upon it. The saint was asked to honor His Sacred Heart with a feast day that would fall in June, in order to manifest to mankind anew His infinite love for them. This would ultimately be fulfilled two hundred years after St. Margaret Mary’s death, when Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to a Solemnity in 1889.

Christ’s Sacred Heart—as both His literal heart of flesh and the self-sacrificial gift of himself for the world that it symbolizes—burns with a love of charity by which he has a just claim on our hearts, on the obedience of our wills. Its radiant brilliance reminds us that God’s love radically extends to all persons, regardless of any predilections they might have that do not conform to His will. It is only through our free choice to nail the desires of the self upon the Cross that His Sacred Heart is permitted to be enthroned in each of our own.

While the contrasts of Humility’s vision with Pride’s are apparent, we should note that, for many, the celebration of Pride Month can be well intentioned. The desire to show compassion, as well as to be acknowledged, recognized, and affirmed, are healthy in their root because they stem from the fundamental human desire to be loved and cared for. Pride’s vision of love is fundamentally flawed, but not because persons who do not identify as heterosexual are of any lesser dignity. From the traditional Christian perspective, it is flawed in as much as it was built upon a rejection of the moral order that God established and the refusal of humble obedience to and reliance upon the One who sacrificed Himself to help us fulfill it. Pride’s vision of love must end in disappointment. For by His Sacred Heart, Jesus loves each of us infinitely more than any creature could, including ourselves. It is humbling to admit that we are not sufficient unto ourselves to love. But our Divine Lover promises a joy beyond anything worldly love promises, if only we will offer ourselves as gifts to Him, and allow Him to transform us into the beautiful creatures we were created to be.”

For the love of God and willing the good of others,

The dark side of the rainbow

Whatever happened to sin?

-by Dr Matthew Petrusek

“The month of June is Pride Month. You may have noticed. For thirty days, corporations, universities, local businesses, community organizations, and government institutions take a break from their perennial praise of the LGBTQ+ movement to demonstrate (especially to those surveilling online) that they are really, really—really—committed to the cause. Although the symbol of Pride has struggled to keep up with the exponential growth of qualifying identities, celebrants communicate their fidelity in the form of rainbow-saturated company logos, sidewalk displays, oversize billboards, and even Pride-themed onesiespick-up trucks, and ice-cream.

But what, precisely, is being celebrated? There are numerous bumper-sticker responses: “love is love,” “acceptance,” “being who you are,” and even, incongruously given the corresponding statistics, “joy.” But how does any of this relate to pride—pride in what exactly? Examining the assumptions and implications of the Pride movement leads to some unsettling conclusions.

Before digging deeper, it’s important to separate Pride ideology—a system of thought that seeks to advance specific cultural and political goals—from individuals who do not fit traditional sexual and gender categories. It’s likely you know someone, are related to someone, or maybe even a parent to someone who’s in this group. You likely love them very much and they may, indeed, be exceptionally lovable. You certainly don’t want to hurt them, and, in fact, that may be the reason you’ve hesitated to say anything about their professed identity. Setting aside the scurrilous knee-jerk accusations of “hatred” and “phobia” that inevitably accompany any skepticism, or even, ironically, curiosity about the meaning of the Pride movement, the search for clarity should recognize that addressing the topic honestly may cause real, even if unintended, pain to good people. And so it goes without saying, to draw on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, that truth must never be separated from charity.

But who I am to say anything about the “truth” of Pride? Though this question is usually taken as a blow in defense of the movement (Who are you to judge?), it, in fact, opens the first line of critique: What separates Pride from traditional hetero-centric morality? In other words, what makes Pride ideology true, or at least truer, than competing worldviews in such a way that its advocates are not merely imposing their values on society because they have the power to do so?

It’s important to keep in mind that there are only two possible responses to the question of moral truth: either (a) it doesn’t exist (thus all truth is relative), or (b) it does exist, meaning that there are moral principles that are universally, objectively true. Pride ideology often finds itself in the first category, moral relativism, under the declarations, “This is my truth” or “This is our truth.” Those may sound like objective truth claims on the surface; however, if there is no “the truth” lying beneath “my/our truth,” then there is no way to distinguish it from an expression of emotive preference. If this is the case, then the whole Pride movement would be based on an irrational (or at least a-rational) imposition of will on those who disagree with it—which, in turn, would render it analogous, in both method and substance, to how tyrants and bullies operate (“Obey and celebrate me because I say so”).

To escape this assessment, the Pride movement must make the case that they are advocating for something that everyone ought to believe not because they are saying it but because it is, in fact, true. In this case, those who disagree with Pride ideology would be wrong to do so because they would be holding false beliefs. What might those truth claims look like and what implications would they have? Let’s return to some of the bumper-stickers.

“Love is Love”

It’s not clear what this statement means, but it seems to imply at least two things: (1) All individuals’ internal sexual attractions should be considered equally morally valid (if not praiseworthy), no matter who or what the object of desire is (if the movement were only advocating for non-sexual relationships then it would not find opposition, certainly not from traditional morality); (2) All individuals ought to be able to act on those internal attractions whenever and however they desire, provided there is mutual consent and no subjectively defined “harm” occurs—indeed, such sexual expression is to be encouraged and feted.

Are these two statements about love true? That’s a complex question, but let’s assume that Pride ideology affirms them as such. If that’s the case, however, then, given the variety of human beings’ empirically observed (which is not to say natural) sexual proclivities and behaviors, these conclusions necessarily follow: (1) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to engage in hetero- and homosexual relationships with immediate biological family members; (2) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to express their desires to have sexual relationships with children (now rebranded as “Minor Attracted Persons”), even if they are not currently free to act on those desires legally; and (3) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to have sexual relationships with non-human animals, provided they don’t violate anti-cruelty laws. These are the implications of believing “love is love” is true, even if we don’t see them represented on parade floats yet.

“Be who you are”

Drawing on the meaning of “love is love,” this claim implies that individuals’ subjective feelings morally authorize them to (attempt to) appear on “the outside” what they experience themselves to be on “the inside.” This tenet of Pride lies at the heart of transgenderism and, in general, being “queer,” which includes a justification (and celebration) of surgically slicing off healthy breast and genital tissue and forcing women to compete against men in sporting events. However, if it’s true that individuals should be celebrated for making their outside look like their inside—and everyone else must accommodate their wishes—then Pride must also affirm that we praise trans-abled individuals for snipping their healthy spinal cords, trans-species individuals (also known as “Furries”) for demanding societal respect for non-ironically donning animal costumes in public, and even trans-age individuals for dictating that they be cared for like infants, including while in prison. (It is crucial to note that once age, like biological sex, becomes subjective, the moral prohibition against practicing pedophilia dissolves). All this, too, follows from the ideology’s internal logic.


Though this word sounds especially innocuous, Pride ideology transforms its meaning into “Shut up and don’t ask questions, bigot.” To “accept” is not to tolerate; it is to recognize as normal. “Acceptance” thus mainstreams the movement’s definitions of the nature of the human body, the purpose of human sexuality, and the rights of individuals to do as they please according to the dictates of Pride’s principles. At the same time, and consequently, it both stigmatizes what was once considered normal as “abnormal” and marks anyone who critically questions the new normal as a bigot (for only a bigot would be against “acceptance”). In other words, “acceptance” is both the shield and weapon of Pride: it protects the movement from scrutiny by tarring all objections, a priori, as prejudiced.

Holding tight to the distinction between ideologies and individuals, it’s important to highlight that there are some people who, though they fall outside traditional gender and sexual typologies for various reasons (though most likely not genetic ones), are resisting elements of the Pride movement. (One such group is called “Gays against Groomers.”) Yet Pride ideology still remains dominant in the US and most of the West, despite the fact that, according to its own assertions, it is either (a) a subjective, relativistic morality that imposes itself on the Pride-nonconforming by the brute force of its cultural and political power, or (b) a putatively universal morality that, based on the logic of its own principles, permits and encourages incest, bodily mutilation (including of children), pedophiliac attraction (if not practice), bestiality, and the silencing of dissent.

In short, a candid assessment of Pride reveals it to be either dictatorially arbitrary or fiendishly depraved. There is no amount of kaleidoscopic fanfare, corporate-sponsored enthusiasm, or coercively moralizing legislation that can wish this conclusion away. To embrace the Rainbow!™ necessarily entails embracing its shadow. Pretending otherwise, fantasizing that we can dethrone heterosexuality and reality-based biology as natural and normative without letting the full panoply of Pandora’s Box of perversion out into the world, is, itself, to be bigoted—against reason and the evidence of our own eyes. ”

For the love of God and willing the good of others,

Quid sit homo? – the body & human composting

-by Sarah Cain

“With its recent legalization of “human composting,” the state of New York joined California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Vermont.

The process goes like this: the body of the deceased is placed in a metal vessel alongside wood chips, alfalfa, and other plant matter. A moderate heat is applied alongside extra oxygen to encourage microbial activity, and over a period of weeks, the human body breaks down into compost, which is then presented to the family. One cubic yard of dirt is given to them, or about three barrels full. Then, presumably, the family can get started with the cabbage patch they had been planning.

You wouldn’t be wrong to think that seems callous. Man as fertilizer cannot be an expression of man as one who shares in the nature of Christ.

Human composting is just one method of what are now being labeled “green burials.” Advocates boast that such methods “give back to nature.” Mushroom suits perform a similar function, wherein the deceased are placed in spore-ridden suits that will help to decompose them. “Alkaline hydrolysis” is all the rave in some (rather macabre) circles. That’s when the body is broken down in a chemical stew, to be disposed of like hazardous waste.

A vast array of disposal options might be helpful if you had a large, valueless item to get rid of. If the item was a broken refrigerator, there’s little to discuss regarding the morality of what happens after it is discarded. But this isn’t a discussion about refrigerators—it’s about human beings. By virtue of that knowledge, we must treat the body with respect, even reverence. Each person is made in the image and likeness of God; he bears a divine reflection. Even more so, by virtue of his baptism, a Christian is a member of the body of Christ. Human composting is a violation of the natural dignity of man and the supernatural dignity of the Christian.

Modern man has found himself back at an ancient question: quid sit homo? (What is man?) The answer that he has come to, if the actions are analyzed for what they imply, is “nothing.” Modernity asserts that man is nothing in his own right. He can and should be reduced to his utility. Thus, when he dies, he ceases to produce, and we can search for ways to use his body while making sure that it doesn’t take up too much space in the ground. It’s one last attempt to get another use out of it.

There’s an inherent shudder when most of us first hear of these ways of treating the dead. One of the consequences of living among (at least the ruins of) a Christian culture is that we “feel” that certain things are wrong even when we’ve lost the words to explain why. Part of the problem is that modern Catholics are too often divorced from the writings of the past to be able to answer the questions that man has long struggled with.

Our forebears knew, as we should, that man is different from animal. He has a higher nature. He has the capacity to reason. He has an immortal soul. He is made in the image and likeness of God, with a destiny to join in union with him. He matters enough to God for God to endure the Passion. Man is not trash, nor plant, nor mere animal, and he shouldn’t be disposed of as if he were. Man has dignity and value simply because of Who created him, Who willed him into being. The dignity that he holds is not contingent on how productive he is.

The secular understanding that deprives man of innate value leads down sinister roads. If he is defined by his output, what of those who are severely ill and thereby dependent? It naturally follows that the secular thesis deprives those people of their rightful protections and submits them to the whims of the capable—perhaps better labeled “the mob.” How about those with intellectual or developmental difficulties? Those still in the womb? All of these groups have little material output, and each has been targeted for termination by the secular world we inhabit, using a vast array of justifications.

Our respect for the totality of the human person necessitates that we treat the dead with dignity and charity. Further, it requires that we bury them in hope of the Resurrection. The act of burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy and recognition of the sacred nature of the body, which is “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19).

One of the ways that our faith is distinguished from paganism is in the elevated placement of man on earth. It might seem paradoxical at first: as Christians, we recognize man’s fallen nature, thus placing him in need of a Savior, but we also value him as higher than other life forms, as each child is made in God’s image. In various pagan sects, nature is of higher value than man, and man becomes merely a parasite, plundering nature’s resources. Nature becomes worshiped as a deity. For these people, “mother nature” is not just a colloquial phrase. Other pagans refer to this false god as Gaia. To deprive man of his dignity and inherent value is thus both paganistic and sacrilegious.

We must do better than the world around us, which reduces man to utility, as in secularism, or to leech, as in paganism. A baptized person is a child of God. Even when the Church permits cremation, he must be set to rest in consecrated ground and buried in hopes of the Resurrection. He is not placed on display in the home, nor scattered because someone believes the act to be pretty. Those of us who live today have a profound obligation to honor the dignity of the man who can no longer speak for himself—certainly not by composting him, but rather by praying for his soul.”

Love & truth,

How to make sure a heresy stays dead

-St Thomas Aquinas, OP, trampling heresies, St Rumbold’s Cathedral, Mechelen, Begium, please click on the images for greater detail

-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“Saint Thomas Aquinas was a man of the Church. When he searched through the writings of the Church Fathers, it was not to bolster his own theories or to advance his own ideas. He wanted instead to know what the Church believed and to teach it to the next generation. Because of this, he paid special attention to the councils of the Church, where the heart of Christian reflection is brought to fruition. As we begin our examination of the luminaries that guided this man of the Church, then, we turn to these councils and their teaching.

The first seven ecumenical councils were held in the Eastern, Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire from the fourth to the eighth centuries. These councils—Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople II and III, and Nicaea II—were especially concerned with teaching about Christ: He is one person who is fully God and fully man. His divinity and humanity remain distinct, but his personhood one. Unfortunately, because of a difference in culture and language, these councils were somewhat remote from the goings on in the West. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Latin theologians worked to conserve the teaching elaborated at the councils, but without direct access to the texts of the councils.

By the time St. Thomas came around, confusion had arisen regarding the personhood of Christ. The majority of theologians correctly taught that the Son of God assumed human nature, and was thus one person with two natures. There was never any merely human Jesus who was later assumed by God. Some theologians, however, “conceded the one person of Christ, but posited two hypostases or two supposits, saying that a certain man, composed of body and soul, from the beginning of his conception was assumed by the word of God” (ST III, q. 2, a. 6). This was called the Homo Assumptus theory. Although it was not popular, theologians who did not hold it generally thought it to be an acceptable Catholic position.

But Thomas did his homework. In the 1260s, while teaching at Orvieto near the Papal Court, he had the opportunity to study the texts of the early ecumenical councils. In these texts, he read about the error of Nestorius, who taught that Christ subsisted separately as human and divine. The Council of Ephesus in 431 condemned him, teaching that “If anyone does not confess that by God the Father the Word was united to the flesh according to subsistence, and that Christ is one with his flesh, namely the same God and man, let him be anathema.” The Second Council of Constantinople in 553 clarified that, “If anyone tries to introduce into the mystery of Christ two subsistences or two persons, let such be anathema” (cited in ST III, q. 2, a. 3). Nestorius’s teaching was excluded because it failed to safeguard the unity of Christ’s person.

Several years later, when Thomas took up the Homo Assumptus theory in the Summa Theologiae, he had these texts ready in mind. With the help of Boethius, a sixth-century Western Christian thinker, Thomas clarified that there can be no meaningful difference between the subsistence, hypostasis, supposit, and person. Thus, to say that there are two of any of these in Christ falls into the error of Nestorius condemned at Ephesus. Thomas was then able, unlike his contemporaries, to condemn the Homo Assumptus theory as heretical, because “it is the same to posit two hypostases or two supposits in Christ, as to posit two persons” (ST III, q. 2, a. 6). This theory was not just a bad theory. It was a condemned theory that no Catholic could hold.

Nestorianism has consequences. It would mean that Mary was the mother of Christ’s humanity, but not the Mother of God, and that the person who died on the cross was not the Son of God, but merely a man conjoined to Him. The heresy is dangerous, and that is why the early councils condemned it. The heresy could have seen a resurgence in the West if it were not for Thomas’s careful integration of sources both Eastern and Western. We who inherit Thomas’ teaching do well to attend both to his masterful synthesis and to his attention to the sources at the heart of the Church.”

Love & truth,

Works-Righteousness & Antinomianism

-by Fr. Samuel Keyes, raised Baptist in Mississippi, Fr. Samuel Keyes became an Anglican/Episcopalian after college. He served parishes in Massachusetts and Alabama, and then Saint James School in Maryland, before being received into the Catholic Church in 2019 and ordained in 2020–21.

Fr. Keyes is currently a professor of theology at JPCatholic and parochial administrator of St. Augustine of Canterbury, an ordinariate community in San Diego County. He is married to Gretchen with five kids.

“Whether or not you noticed the collect for today’s Mass, let me point it out:

May your grace, O Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works.

It’s a clear, pithy prayer that in a single sentence summarizes God’s saving economy: grace goes before our actions, assists our actions, and follows our actions. One wonders if a serious meditation on this collect—which has been part of the Roman Rite for very many centuries—would have prevented some conflict in the Reformation era among those fretting over the supposed opposition of “grace” and “works.” Those of us raised in certain quarters perk up our ears at any mention of “works” as being good. Yet the collect places all such works well within the sphere of God’s gracious providence. In the Divine Worship missal for the Anglican Ordinariate, we pray at every Mass that we should do “in all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in.”

I point all this out, in part, because when I first glanced at the propers and readings for this Sunday, I was struck right away by the “good works” of the collect and the stories of grace and gratitude we hear in 2 Kings and Luke: the stories of Naaman (2 Kgs 5:14-17) and the ten lepers (Lk 17:11-19). It seemed interesting that the Church would simultaneously propose to us an implicit exhortation to good works and a reminder that in holy baptism—which is of course prefigured by Naaman’s ritual washing in the Jordan—we are washed clean and elevated to the life of grace by no merit of our own. But in the end, there is no real conflict between grace and good works, mainly because all good works are fundamentally graced: before, during, after. Part of God’s gift to us is the gift to do something with what we have been given and for this work to matter.

There are, at the same time, good and bad ways to respond to the gifts of grace. In both 2 Kings and Luke, the narrative gives special attention to the gratitude of the former lepers. The Samaritan leper in Luke, the one grateful man out of the ten, is a foreigner like Naaman the Syrian. So, a foreigner shows more gratitude than the people who claim this power as their birthright. Why is that?

There’s a very immediate connection we should make with the expansion of the covenant to the Gentiles through Christ. Naaman and the Samaritan are also both figures of Cornelius the centurion, who in Acts 10 receives—with awe and gratitude—the gifts of the Spirit in a way that is at first shocking and even confusing to the Jewish disciples. But we can also wonder if Jesus means to suggest here something of the default Jewish attitude towards divine grace. However final and permanent God’s promises were to the people of Israel, none of those promises translate grace into something owed. It seems almost as if the nine men in Luke think of their healing much in the way that so many modern Catholics think of the sacraments: obviously I deserve this; of course God is providing this for me; no need to make a big deal out of it.

Of course there is a real element of truth in that attitude: the sacraments are a given, in a certain sense. God has given them to us and he is not going to take them back. He is not going to send an angel from heaven and declare to the pope, “No more baptisms, we’re full up!” But their givenness, their enduring reality, does not mean that we should take them for granted any more than the people of Israel should have taken their ethnic heritage as a guarantee that they were full participants in God’s saving covenant.

That kind of entitlement really can become a “works righteousness,” wherein life becomes an accounting game I play with God. Let’s see: did first Friday devotions (check), said the rosary every day this week (check), asked for a number of Masses to be said (check) . . . so why hasn’t God given me what I want? Or, as someone asked me not that long ago, “Where did all those graces go?” And my response (internal, at least, because I’m not quite that mean) is: are we aiming for the beatific vision, or are we aiming to win some kind of cosmic video game?

There is the opposite approach, (maybe) less common among Catholics, but still a real danger, where we take for granted not the system of grace but the whole generic enterprise. This is antinomianism, the idea that what I do doesn’t matter in the least because God loves me, and He understands, and my heart is in the right place, etc.

I wonder if the principal remedy against these two opposing vices is the gratitude and thanksgiving that we see in the Samaritan and in Naaman. Because here’s the thing: on one level we might say that this healing is nothing extraordinary. It’s just what the Lord does; it’s in his nature, so to speak. But that is not the same thing as saying that I deserve it, or that I should act like it’s somehow par for the course.

It’s no coincidence that the central act of the Church for the last two millennia has been an act of thanksgiving, of Eucharist. We talk about this as the source and the summit, as the sacrament of sacraments, because it is the place where Christ Himself is present in His Church. But it is also where the Church does the thing that most characteristically makes her the Church: she gives thanks. She says, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.”

Our calling as Christians, however else we might imagine it, is first to be grateful, to give thanks. The Lord has put away our sins, he has called us to his service, he has given us the power to follow him in this world. Thanks be to God. Everything else follows that.”

Love & truth,

Defeating sola scriptura

-by Karlo Broussard

“When it comes to the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (Latin, “scripture alone”), Catholics have some popular rejoinders. One of the most popular is captured in the phrase, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

The idea here is this: for a Protestant, Scripture alone serves as the infallible source for Christian belief (the doctrine of sola scriptura). Anything not found within the confines of the written word should not be accepted as Christian doctrine. But this principle is self-defeating: since the belief of sola scriptura itself is not found within the confines of the written word, a Protestant must not accept it as a Christian doctrine. To do so would be to violate the principle of sola scriptura.

So the self-defeating nature of the argument makes it a slam dunk, right? Not quite.

A Protestant could counter and say, “Wait a minute! The Bible doesn’t have to explicitly say, ‘The Bible alone is our infallible source for Christian, and we shouldn’t accept as Christian doctrine things that aren’t in the Bible.’ It can be inferred from what’s present in the text.”

Take, for example, St. Paul’s instruction for us to hold fast to the traditions handed down by both word and written epistle (2 Thess. 2:15). Protestant apologists Geisler and MacKenzie concede that the apostolic traditions spoken of by Paul were binding for the first-century Christians because the apostles were the only ones who had apostolic authority. But since they’re all dead, so they argue, the only apostolic authority we have is the inspired record of their teaching. From this, Geisler and MacKenzie infer that the oral tradition-Scripture paradigm changed when the last apostle died, thereby leaving only the inspired apostolic writings (i.e., Scripture) for us to use as our infallible guide for Christian belief and practice.

Furthermore, some might say the Catholic idea that these traditions are always binding is an inference that’s not supported by the text. There’s nothing in the text itself, it might be argued, that says Christians were always to depend on those oral traditions. Without such evidence, it would seem more reasonable to think we’re left with only the inspired apostolic writings to be our infallible guide.

How might we meet this Protestant rejoinders?

Let’s take the first target given to us by Geisler and MacKenzie. It is problematic on two fronts.

First, it’s unclear what the implication is. Does the claim that there is no more apostolic authority imply that no more revelation can be given, whether in oral or written form? If that’s the case, then we agree as Catholics. Sacred Tradition for Catholics does not entail the belief that public revelation was given after the time of the apostles. The Catholic Church teaches, along with Protestants, that public revelation ceased with the death of the last apostle.

Now, if the implication is that there is no more apostolic authority to preserve what the apostles taught, then we have a problem, since the Bible and extra-biblical Christian sources make it clear that one way the Holy Spirit preserved the apostolic traditions was by leading the apostles to appoint men to succeed them in their apostolic ministry, and they charged such men to preserve what the apostles had taught. For example, before his death, Paul made arrangements for the Apostolic Tradition to be passed on in the post-Apostolic Age. He tells Timothy: “What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

We also have evidence from extra-biblical Christian sources that the apostles appointed men to succeed them for the sake of preserving what they taught. Clement of Rome’s first-century letter to the Corinthians (c. A.D. 70) is one example. He writes in chapter 44,

Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned [bishops—at chapter 42], and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.

Irenaeus of Lyons, a bishop of the late second century, affirms that the apostolic traditions were preserved in this line of succession from the apostles. Here’s what he writes in his classic work Against Heresies:

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about (III:3:1).

For Irenaeus, the truth of Apostolic Tradition is preserved in the succession of bishops from the apostles. This is what we find in Scripture.

For these reasons, we can reject Geisler’s and MacKenzie’s justification for the claim that the oral tradition-Scripture paradigm shifted once the apostles died off. The apostolic authority didn’t die with the apostles. It continued in the men they chose to succeed them, called bishops.

What about the second target given above: that there’s nothing in Paul’s affirmation of first-century Christians depending on oral traditions to say they would always be dependent on it?

The problem here is that the logic would equally apply to the written traditions, since Paul speaks of the oral and written traditions together as that which the Thessalonians need to maintain and stand firm in. If a Protestant thinks the lack of an explicit exhortation to always stand firm in the oral traditions favors the oral tradition-Scripture paradigm shift, then he must be willing to say Christians don’t always have to depend on the written traditions (Scripture), since Paul says nothing in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 about Christians always depending on them. Perpetual dependence on the written traditions has to be inferred. And if we can do that, then we can reasonably make the same kind of inference for the oral traditions.

There’s one last thing to say in response to the overall Protestant rejoinder: if some sola scriptura Protestants are open to doctrines being validly implied but not explicitly stated in Scripture, then they’ve got to be at least open to accepting all kinds of Catholic doctrines (e.g., Mary’s bodily assumption, Mary’s immaculate conception). Or at least, when they challenge doctrines like the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception, they have to jettison arguments whose foundation is anything like “it’s not in the Bible.”

Love & truth,


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“We all know about the Protestant Reformation. But did you know that there were Protestants who came before the Protestants?

The proto-Protestants were heretics in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries whose teachings and actions laid the groundwork for Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other sixteenth-century Reformers. They advocated the later bedrock Protestant principle of sola scriptura, or the belief that the only authoritative source of God’s divine revelation is Sacred Scripture. These proto-Protestants also called for the reform of Church abuses and advanced various heretical opinions in an effort to undermine the Church. The two main proto-Protestants were John Wycliffe (1324-1384) and Jan Hus (1369-1415).

John Wycliffe was born in Yorkshire, England and studied at Oxford, where he was recognized as a brilliant student. He became a professor of philosophy and theology at his alma mater. Wycliffe was a pure academic—an intellectual man who did not motivate or lead. He provided the ideas and let others perform the actions.

At Oxford, Wycliffe advocated several heretical teachings in lectures and books. In terms of fundamental Catholic doctrines, he attacked the eucharistic doctrine of transubstantiation. In his book On the Eucharist, he denied the occurrence of transubstantiation and advocated that, instead, the bread and wine remain present after the prayer of consecration. He opined that the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not a real flesh-and-blood presence, but is symbolic. Wycliffe also condemned the veneration of the saints, indulgences, and prayers for the dead.

Heresy is extremely difficult to eradicate, and despite the condemnation of the Church, it can persist and reappear in later centuries. In addition to the above, Wycliffe proved the resiliency of heresy by advocating Donatism, originally a fourth-century heresy that advocated that the validity of a sacrament relies on the worthiness of the minister. According to the Donatists—and to Wycliffe—bishops or priests in a state of mortal sin cannot effect the sacraments.

Wycliffe’s original contributions to heresy mostly involved erroneous teachings concerning the Church. He defined the Church as an “invisible transcendent society” that is neither hierarchically structured nor united to the bishop of Rome, but rather is present in all the people of Christ. Moreover, he attacked the papacy and referred to the pope as “the man of sin” and “Lucifer’s member.” Wycliffe believed that the state holds supremacy over the Church and advocated for the confiscation of Church property. He also taught that the Bible is the only authoritative source of God’s divine revelation (sola scriptura). Finally, he denied the existence of free will, opining that man is completely subject to the will of God. The Church did not ignore Wycliffe’s heretical teachings; the archbishop of Canterbury censured him in 1377.

Wycliffe gained popularity because he attacked ecclesiastical abuses and exploited latent nationalist anger at the papacy in the midst of its sojourn in Avignon. Groups of Wycliffe followers, known as the poor priests and later as Lollards, traveled throughout England preaching his heresy. Two of his followers undertook a new translation of Scripture into English, which the Church condemned—not because it was in the vernacular (multiple English editions of the Bible existed well before Wycliffe; see Where We Got the Bible by Henry Graham, chapter 11, “Vernacular Scriptures Before Wycliff”), but because the translation was rife with error.

Wycliffe’s sovereign, King Richard II of England, married Princess Anne of Bohemia in 1382. As a result of the union, cultural and educational exchanges occurred between the two nations. Bohemian students came to Oxford to study, where they encountered the teachings of John Wycliffe. They brought these heretical teachings to Prague, where the priest, teacher, and popular preacher Jan Hus embraced and expounded upon them. Like Wycliffe, Hus began preaching against corruption in the Church and ecclesial abuses.

There were significant problems in the Church in Bohemia at the time. Clerical immorality was rampant, and there was widespread resentment against the Church, which owned nearly fifty percent of all land in the kingdom. These issues along with the presence of a heavy anti-German nationalist sentiment (the kingdom was part of the German-based Holy Roman Empire) produced a rich environment for reformers and heretics.

Jan Hus studied philosophy and theology at the University of Prague, where he was appointed a professor in 1398. He rose through the university administration and became rector in 1402. He was a popular and commanding preacher. Adopting most of Wycliffe’s teachings, Hus challenged Catholic doctrine on papal authority, advocated sola scriptura, and denied Sacred Tradition as an element of the Deposit of Faith. He also condemned the veneration of the saints and the granting of indulgences. Like Wycliffe, he viewed the hierarchy of the Church as ministers of Satan and denied the universal jurisdiction and primacy of the pope. Hus believed that the Church was built on the personal faith of St. Peter and that Jesus did not institute the Petrine Office.

The University of Prague condemned Wycliffe’s teachings in 1403, but Hus continued to propagate them. The archbishop of Prague excommunicated him in 1410. Violence erupted in the city, and crowds burned copies of papal bulls. Hus was forced to flee the city in 1412 and stayed in the castle of a friend, where he wrote his heretical work Treatise on the Church.

Toward the end of his life, Martin Luther would bemoan the religious indifference wrought by the movement he began:

Who among us could have foreseen how much misery, corruption, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude, and wickedness would have resulted from it? Only see how the nobles, the burghers, and the peasants are trampling religion underfoot! I have had no greater or severer subject of assault than my preaching, when the thought arose in me: thou art the sole author of this movement.

But as we can see, Luther was not the sole author of Protestantism, nor did the errors and distortions of the Protestant Reformation start with him or his contemporaries. They had the proto-Protestants to pave the way. There really is nothing new under the sun.”

Love & truth,