Category Archives: Scripture

Abuse/misuse of Creation, which is Good


-Matthew 25:31-46


-by Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., a convert from Episcopalianism

“Why does Christ, our great King and Judge, call those on his right “you who are blessed by my Father” but those on his left “accursed”—not “accursed by my Father”?…

…The fact is that if we really understand sin and virtue, we will see that every material aspect of a sin is not something bad or evil; all the aspects of the things we want to do or say or think about or use are just good, created qualities. When we misuse those good things slightly or seriously, we sin. The misuse is not due to their nature, but to our own self-will. Beautiful bodies, sums of wealth, effective words, possessions, associations, skills, and talents are all good in themselves. It is our willed misuse of them that constitutes sin.

This is necessarily true because everything is created by God, and God did not create anything evil. Even our will is so good that we cannot choose evil unless we pretend to ourselves that it is really good. Evil is not a thing; it is rather something missing, a lack of good, a disorder.

This has everything to do with how Christ our Lord and Creator judges and rewards our actions. He rewards those who are about to enter heaven for using the good things that God has given them so as to fulfill his commandments; that is, to do his will. Their actions showed that they prayed sincerely, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and now they are finally going there! They were positively blessed by the Father because they are going to that happiness that was prepared for all human goodness by the creator of human goodness.

They sinned, yes, but their love, especially their works of mercy (yes, that’s what Our Lord says!) made them blessed by the Father, since these very works and their reward were prepared for them by Him. God is the Creator of all things, but most of all of loving persons and their actions. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” the apostle tells us.

In the case of those who are sent away to the fires of hell, yes, they are accursed, but not “by my Father.” St. Thomas, explicitly following Origen on this point, tells us that the blessed are blessed by God, but those who are cursed have their own curse that does not come from Him. Their curse cannot ultimately be the work of God. He can bless after a curse, but He does not curse definitively because His curse is ultimately not on any of His creatures, but only on sin.

Thomas, following St. Gregory, says that God takes no delight or complacency in the condemnation of the wicked; rather He loves His goodness and therefore cannot love, cannot reward, the evil in which they persist. Hell, Gregory tells us, is not for any good nature, angelic or human, but is prepared simply for sin. Heaven, on the other hand, is God and all he has created come to the fullest perfection. Compared to this, hell is a shadow as close to nothing as nothing can be.

“And of his fullness, we have all received,”(Jn 1:16) St. John tells us. This can give us some insight into the mercy of God. He really does not hate the sinner (that means you and me!), but only the sin. Hell is the condemnation of a sinful will, and only accidentally the eternal condemnation of those who will not rid themselves of it. Christ our King knows that everything you have, and especially the will that you can use to love or offend Him, is good and comes from Him. He loves your will even more than you do. Just as the baby’s mother loves his potential health and happiness more than he does, even though she knows he can resist her love.

So let’s not be stubborn, loving our own will against our own true good, but repent and begin to love as our King enthroned in judgment has taught us, and then some great day we will hear Him say, “Come, blessed of my Father…””

His Love, joy, blessedness, beatitude,
Matthew

My eyes have seen your salvation – Lk 2:30

beatific” etymology: Latin beatificus, beatific, blissful, imparting great happiness or blessedness; from beatus, happy.

In my own experience, both past and present, I love history, but it comes “alive” for me when I have the privilege to visit the physical place where it happened, makes it more undeniable, leaps off the page.  I am meeting a lot of people “virtually” now, even before the pandemic.  I am saying “nice to meet you, virtually” a lot more these days than actual greetings.  Exchanges are reduced to quick, focused, on topic, email to the point.  I look forward, however it might happen, to saying hello in person, someday.  Some people I am grateful to never have had the displeasure to meet in person.  Mea culpa.  🙁

The Beatific Vision

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Beatific_vision

“The beatific vision is when God, though transcendent, opens Himself up to man and gives man the capacity to contemplate God in His heavenly glory (CCC 1028). Contemplation is the prayer of silently focusing on God and heeding His Word; in other words, contemplation is the prayer of uniting with God (CCC 2715). The beatific vision, then, is ultimate union with God; indeed, it comes from sharing in God’s holy nature via sanctifying grace (CCC 163). Because God is beatitude and holiness itself, the beatific vision entails ultimate beatitude and holiness (CCC 1405). The beatific vision is a grace and a privilege intended for every man and angel, since God created men and angels to enjoy the beatific vision; the beatific vision is the ultimate purpose of each person’s and angel’s life (CCC 1722).

Thomas Aquinas, OP

Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the human being’s “final end” in which one attains to a perfect happiness. Thomas reasons that one is perfectly happy only when all one’s desires are perfectly satisfied, to the degree that happiness could not increase and could not be lost. “Man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek.”STh I–II, q., 3, a. 8. But this kind of perfect happiness cannot be found in any physical pleasure, any amount of worldly power, any degree of temporal fame or honor, or indeed in any finite reality. It can only be found in something that is infinite and perfect – and this is God. STh I–II, q. 2, a. 8. And since God is not a material thing but is pure spirit, we are united to God by knowing and loving Him. Consequently, the most perfect union with God is the most perfect human happiness and the goal of the whole of the human life. But we cannot attain to this happiness by our own natural powers; it is a gift that must be given us by God, Who strengthens us by the “light of glory” so that we can see Him as He is, without any intermediary. (Thomas quotes Psalm 36:9 on this point: “In your light we shall see light.”)STh I, q. 12, a. 4. Further, since every created image or likeness of God (including even the most perfect “ideas” or “images” of God we might generate in our minds) is necessarily finite, it would thus be infinitely less than God Himself.STh I, q. 12, a. 2. The only perfect and infinite good, therefore, is God Himself, which is why Aquinas argues that our perfect happiness and final end can only be the direct union with God Himself and not with any created image of Him. This union comes about by a kind of “seeing” perfectly the divine essence Itself, a gift given to our intellects when God joins them directly to Himself without any intermediary. And since in seeing this perfect vision of What (and Who) God is, we grasp also His perfect goodness, this act of “seeing” is at the same time a perfect act of loving God as the highest and infinite goodness. (Summa Theologiae, I–II, qq. 2–5)

According to Aquinas, the Beatific Vision surpasses both faith and reason. Rational knowledge does not fully satisfy humankind’s innate desire to know God, since reason is primarily concerned with sensible objects and thus can only infer its conclusions about God indirectly. -Summa Theologiae

The Theological virtue of faith, too, is incomplete, since Aquinas thinks that it always implies some imperfection in the understanding. The believer does not wish to remain merely on the level of faith but to grasp directly the object of faith, who is God himself. -Summa Contra Gentiles

Thus only the fullness of the Beatific Vision satisfies this fundamental desire of the human soul to know God. Quoting St Paul, Aquinas notes “We see now in a glass darkly, but then face to face” (i Cor. 13:12). The Beatific Vision is the final reward for those saints elect by God to partake in and “enjoy the same happiness wherewith God is happy, seeing Him in the way which He sees Himself” in the next life. -Summa Contra Gentiles”


-by Fr. Kenneth Doyle, CNS – Catholic News Service. Fr. Doyle is a priest of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y. He is the former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service and director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The “beatific vision” means the eternal and direct visual perception of God. It means seeing God face to face.

We have some sense, even in the natural order, of the importance of direct perception: Those who endured years of meetings by telephone conference call can appreciate what an advance “videoconferencing” has been, allowing people to see one another, and thereby making their presence much more real.

In the divine scheme of things, Christians have always believed that this direct vision of God is the goal that awaits us all. St. Paul said: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13:12).

St. Thomas Aquinas reasoned that one is perfectly happy only when all of one’s desires are perfectly satisfied, and this cannot occur until we are fully united with God.

That complete union can happen not through human imagining nor even in the most deeply contemplative prayer, but only by the direct presence of God in heaven.

It is a human instinct, and a good one, to try to imagine what heaven will feel like.

When I was a child, I may have thought that heaven would be like playing baseball all day, with occasional breaks to drink soda and read comic books – but deep down I knew even then that it would be much, much better than that.

We are cautioned that all of our efforts at imagining must fall short. (St. Paul says in I Corinthians 2:9 that “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, (is) what God has prepared for those who love Him.”)

But it doesn’t hurt to dream.

Last year, a young woman, who would die two days later from cancer, told me what she was expecting in heaven.

“I think it will be like the way my mother loves me,” she said, “times a thousand.””

-Father Garrigou-Lagrange, Ch 8: “The True Nature of Christian Perfection,” The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I

“St. Thomas admits also that in heaven our beatitude will consist essentially in the beatific vision, in the intellectual and immediate vision of the divine essence, for it is above all by this immediate vision that we shall take possession of God for eternity. We shall plunge the gaze of our intellect into the depths of His inner life seen directly. God will thus give Himself immediately to us, and we shall give ourselves to Him. We shall possess Him and He will possess us, because we shall know Him as He knows Himself and as He knows us. Beatific love will be in us a consequence of this immediate vision of the divine essence; it will even be a necessary consequence, for the beatific love of God will no longer be free, but superfree, above liberty. Our will will be invincibly ravished by the attraction of God seen face to face. We shall see His infinite goodness and beauty so clearly that we shall be unable not to love Him; we shall even be unable to find any pretext of momentarily interrupting this act of superfree love, which will no longer be measured by time, but by participated eternity, by the single instant of the immobile duration of God, the instant that never passes. In heaven the love of God and the joy of possessing Him will necessarily follow the beatific vision, which will thus be the essence of our beatitude.(31) All this is true. It is difficult to affirm more strongly than St. Thomas does the superiority of the intellect over the will in principle and in the perfect life of heaven.”


-by Karlo Broussard

“The Catechism defines heaven as the “ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme definitive happiness” (CCC 1024).

But how?

The textbook answer is the knowledge that we will have of the divine essence, which theologians call the beatific vision. St. John writes about it in 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

In his 1336 Apostolic Constitution Benedictus Deus, Pope Benedict XII defined this vision as:

“[Seeing] the divine essence by intuitive vision, and even face to face, with no mediating creature, serving in the capacity of an object seen, but divine essence immediately revealing itself plainly, clearly, and openly, to them.”

By intuitive Benedict XII means this vision is a knowledge that is higher than all abstraction, discursive reasoning, and analogy. By immediate he means that we will know God’s essence without any mental image or created idea that merely represents the divine essence.

Just as the form of a dog is immediately united to my intellect when I know a dog, so too the divine essence will be immediately united to my intellect when I know God’s essence in the beatific vision. Rather than knowing a similitude of the divine essence, I will know the divine essence itself.

This immediate knowledge of God’s essence is what constitutes man’s perfect happiness—hence the name beatific (Latin for happy). The reason is because the intellect attains its complete perfection. And it does so in two ways.

First, it comes to know the essence of its ultimate end, that which it was created to know. Second, it arrives at the terminus of all intellectual inquiry. Because God is that than which nothing greater can be known, knowledge of his essence leaves the intellect with no further desire to acquire knowledge for its perfection.

Consider how when we seek to understand something we either look to the thing itself for answers to our questions or to something outside it. Take a tree, for example. We may ask, “What makes its leaves green?” The answer is chlorophyll. We may then ask, “Why do the leaves have chlorophyll?, and answer because the tree’s genes tell the tree to make chlorophyll. But why do its genes tell it to make chlorophyll? The answer is because the leaves need to make energy for the tree, and they use chlorophyll to do that.

Notice that to answer these questions we didn’t have to appeal to anything outside the tree.

But what if we ask, “How do the leaves make energy?” Unlike the other questions, we must appeal to something outside the tree to answer this one: Leaves make energy using light from the sun. They do this using chlorophyll in the process called photosynthesis.

Even the tree’s very existence must be explained by something outside itself. We know the tree doesn’t exist by nature—if it did, there would never be a time when the tree didn’t exist! So we must appeal to something else.

What all this means is that any reality that depends upon something else for its intelligibility leaves our intellect unsatisfied. The only thing that can fully satisfy its quest for truth is something that doesn’t rely on anything outside itself in order to be known. Knowing the essence of such a reality would leave the intellect desiring nothing else, thus perfecting it and constituting complete human happiness.

And this reality is God.

It’s important to note that the beatific vision—the intuitive and immediate knowledge of God’s essence—is not comprehensive. Our knowledge can’t exhaust the divine essence. Only God can fully know himself, as he does in the persons of the Trinity. It requires infinite intellective power to know infinite being.

So how do the saints know God perfectly but not fully? Consider how two people may know the same truth, but know it more or less profoundly.

For example, someone may know that God exists based on reasonable belief. He looks out into the world and sees a great complexity and order that extends all the way back to the beginning of the universe. And since complexity and order are ordinarily explained by intelligence, this person concludes that a super intelligence, like God, is responsible for making the universe. This is a reasonable belief.

Another person, however, might know the same truth—that God exists—but know it by way of metaphysical demonstration. He says, “I know God exists because it’s a matter of metaphysical necessity that he exists. For without him, nothing would exist.

In these two examples, we see that the same object can be known in accord with the mode of the knower. Both God and the saints know the divine essence, but in essentially different ways: according to the mode of the knower.

God’s intellective power is infinite, so he knows the divine essence in an infinite way. The blessed, however, know the divine essence in a way that is consistent with a finite intellect: they know it in a limited way. Although they have a real knowledge of God’s essence, their knowledge doesn’t exhaust it.

The knowledge that we can have of God on this side of the veil is real knowledge and can be a source of intellectual delight. But it pales in comparison to the delight that we will have when the intellect finally rests in seeing God face to face in the beatific vision and our rational natures are ultimately fulfilled.”


-by Br Linus Martz, OP

“Some questions need a second glance. Even when the answer seems obvious.

For instance, Saint Thomas fields this question: “Whether the essence of God can be seen with the bodily eye?” (ST I q. 12, a. 3).

If this was ever posed “live” in a thirteenth-century Dominican priory, one can imagine the other brothers’ own bodily eyes blinking in embarrassed frustration. Haven’t we been over this? The master already clarified that God is not a body (q. 3, a.1). We know God to be immaterial, infinite, pure act, pure spirit. “God is spirit,” our Lord says, “and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Why waste Father’s time like this?

The student scrambles to justify himself, remembering a quote from Saint Augustine. He had written that we will rise again with glorified eyes, which will be able to see “even incorporeal things” (q. 12, a. 3, obj. 2).

The brothers sit quietly, probably hoping for a one-word resolution: “No.”

To be sure, Aquinas gives a straightforward response: “It is impossible for God to be seen by the sense of sight, or by any other sense. . . . [E]very such kind of power is the act of a corporeal organ. . . . God is incorporeal, as was shown above” (q. 12, a. 3, corp.). Material sense powers have no proportion to immaterial objects. Therefore, even in heaven, God’s essence will not be seen with the corporeal eye.

The brothers know, of course, that we do see God spiritually, now by grace and then by glory, through the perfection of our intellect and will (q. 43 a. 5). This beatifying vision elevates these powers in wisdom and love, conforming us to the Triune God we know and love: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The perfection of this spiritual union, not some biological operation, will be our Heaven.

But St. Thomas is a wise teacher. He takes up his student’s citation and expands it: “It is very credible,” suggested Augustine, “that we shall so see the mundane bodies of the new heaven and the new earth, as to see most clearly God everywhere present, governing all corporeal things . . . as when we see men among whom we live, living and exercising the functions of human life, we do not believe they live, but see it.” After the resurrection, rather than gradually reasoning to the divine from the creature, we will recognize God’s presence as an immediate and indirect object of sight. The eye will still see material realities (“mundane bodies”), but the intellect will instantly perceive the divine presence sustaining all we see (q. 12, a. 3, ad 2).

Even now, our inability to see God with our bodily eyes doesn’t prevent us from seeing His works: “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork” (Ps 19:1). We can reason to and about God by recognizing that the universe demands a First Cause: “Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). After the resurrection, the saints will perceive God in the visible order effortlessly, “from the perspicuity of the intellect, and from the refulgence of the divine glory” (q. 12, a. 3, ad 2). We hope to join them in this, above all since we know that they look upon the Incarnate Lord, risen in his own humanity: the invisible God, yet visible in the flesh.

Some questions deserve a second glance. So does the whole universe, shot through as it is with light from the Creator. As Christians, we hope after death to give it that perfect, definitive, and spiritual “double-take” it deserves—aided by our own corporeal (resurrected) eyes.”

We are not angels, not merely pure spirit.  We will not be pure spirit when resurrected.  We will be spirit and resurrected, incorruptible, impassible flesh, as was intended from the beginning, but only more infinitely grand now to our elevation towards God Himself by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Love, and the beatific vision,
Matthew

The Weight of Glory -Mt 25:14-30


-by Fr. Luke Doherty, OP, English Province

“A talent in ancient times was a large sum of money, something of great value. It was also something quite heavy. I am not exactly sure what a talent was in terms of empirical weight, but it was most likely equivalent to a large case or rucksack full of a metal such as gold or silver. Say one talent was for argument’s sake worth around £1million ($1,316,945) in today’s money (actually $217,500). That would be the equivalent value of the weight of one talent in gold. A talent would be equivalent to a heavy case or rucksack, something worth a lot. Then of course, there is the question of what to do with that sort of weight of valuable material if the master has gone abroad for a considerable length of time.

Ancient readers would make the connection with this parable of the talents and the kabod of the Lord. This Hebrew word means ‘heavy’, and also translates into gloria. The root meaning behind kabod (heavy) developed into being heavy with riches (in Isaiah 10:3 for instance). The term kabod also refers to the glory of God. In the temple of Jerusalem, the kabod was housed above the mercy seat. This was seen as the place where the Lord dwelled, and the place from where the Lord dispensed his mercy. And this was such a heavy, infinite mercy of God. The glory of the Lord would also fill the temple.

The talents in the Gospel passage refer to our share in the life of Grace. We have a huge share in the mercy of God. Even someone given one talent is given a large weight of valuable ‘stuff’. We are given a substantial share in the divine life, but there is also an expectation that it will increase in value (and, in this parable it would also increase in weight).

Another consideration is that even one talent would be of such a weight that it would be difficult to transport anywhere. It would be of course much easier to distribute the bars or ingots of gold or silver to others, and in some way invest the talents. The problem with the man who buried the talent in the ground is that he misunderstood what he was given. As pointed out, even investing it in a bank would have meant gaining interest on the talent’s value.

When we keep possession of the divine mercy, thinking it is our own – that is what we are told not to do. The message of Christ is that in relation to the thing of great value we have been given: much will be asked of those to whom much has been given – more will be expected of them, because they were entrusted with more.
One message to take from the parable is that burying a talent in the ground is not pleasing to the Lord. Yet, the other stewards managed to invest and generate more valuable gold. Having to haul five talents of heavy valuable metal around and make investments, would also entail some degree of suffering. In the context of the Gospel, this equates to not only taking our share in the Glory of God, but also accepting a fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. Investing the talents is a witness to the power of his resurrection. What is pleasing to the Lord is loving others in charity, fulfilling his commands, and increasing the gift of faith we have been given. The Lord’s gift of the Spirit can be squandered by corruption or irresponsible behaviour. But it can also be squandered by just not sharing or distributing the life of grace we have been given.”

Love, His glory & mercy, Praise Him, Church!!! Praise, Him!!!
Matthew

Do not judge? Do discern good vs evil. Judge actions, not the heart.

-“The Return of the Prodigal Son” (1773) by Pompeo Batoni, please click on the image for greater detail

https://www.catholicbible101.com/judgenot.htm

“How many people today take Mt 7:1 from the Bible and apply it wrongly? They will tell others that no one can tell them that what they are doing is wrong, because that would be judging them. Then they throw out the verse where Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. And since we are all sinners, then that means that no one can tell anyone that what they are doing is sinful.

Let’s take a look at this strange philosophy and dissect it. First off, “to judge”, as it is used in “Judge not, lest you be judged”, means to condemn someone on moral grounds, and then to pass judgment. Only God can condemn and pass judgment. “To judge” as it is used here does not mean that people cannot discern that an act is sinful, nor does it mean we can’t tell the sinner that he or she is sinning. If that were so, then parents could not ever tell their child that it is wrong to lie, to cheat, or to steal. And if the child were caught in the act, then no parent could tell him or her that they were wrong. And they could certainly not ever punish the child, because there could never be any wrongdoing. How dumb is that? Carried to its logical conclusion, no one could ever tell anyone that anything is sinful or wrong, including fornication, adultery, stealing, murder, taking the Lord’s name in vain, etc. And we would have to fire every judge in every courtroom worldwide. St. John the Baptist, the greatest man born of woman, according to Jesus, certainly told Herod that it was wrong for him to have married his own brother’s wife. And John the Baptist was certainly not judging Herod himself, but rather, he was judging his action as sinful. BIG difference.

In today’s society, someone caught fornicating or getting drunk all of the time will tell his or her accuser, “Who are you to judge me?” And the accused sinner will then feel morally superior to his accuser for having pointed out to him that he is not God, and how dare he, with all of his sins, “judge me”? But this action flies in the face of the spiritual work of mercy that commands Christians to admonish the sinner. To admonish the sinner means to caution him or her about a particular sin they are committing. This is the job of all Christians, to warn others about sin and where it will lead them.

And St. James says that correcting a sinner has many spiritual benefits, not only for the sinner, but also for us:

James 5:20: “Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

And whether we want to admit it or not, we are indeed our brother’s keeper:

Genesis 4:9: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

Secular society today does not want to hear any of this, because it believes that this world is all there is, and that we will not come to a supernatural end in heaven or hell. So, the hedonists in charge of government and media today belittle Christians for having the audacity to even mention to others about the wages of sin (which is death). GK Chesterton once said that only dead bodies float downstream with the current; it takes live ones to go against the flow. And this is so true in society today. How many people just go with the flow of pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexual marriage, abortion, assisted suicide, etc., and never speak out against these evils because they don’t want to be belittled by the so-called “mainstream media”? A lot. The devil only has one commandment, “Do as you will”. So many people in the world today follow that demonic philosophy, and they really hate it when Christians bring up the fact that sin exists.

To sum up, judging the actions of a person as being sinful is NOT condemning a person and passing judgment. It would be wrong to say to a person, “You are an adulterer, and you are going to hell”. It would not be wrong to tell a person “You are committing adultery, and that is sinful. You need to repent of it, go to confession, and never do it again, because it breaks one of the Ten Commandments”. The former is passing judgment; the latter admonishes the sinner. Big difference. A judge passes sentence; discernment of people’s sinful actions does not. A good rule of thumb to follow is that we humans do all of the praying, and we let God do all of the judging of people. That in no way stops us from discerning that a person’s actions are wrong and sinful.

Here are some excellent scripture verses on judging:

Leviticus 19:15: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”

Proverbs 31:9: “Open your mouth, judge righteously; maintain the rights of the poor and needy.”

Matthew 7:2: “Judge and you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure measured unto you.”

Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

(**NOTE—Here we see the link between judging and condemning)

Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained (won over) your brother.”

(**NOTE – Here is a prime case of Jesus telling us all to admonish the sinner).

Luke 7:40-43: And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

(**NOTE – Here we see the use of the term “judged” in the context of judging someone’s actions, rather than personal condemnation).

Luke 12:57: “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?

(**NOTE – Once again, we see the use of the term “judge” in the context of judging actions, not condemning people and passing judgment).

John 7:24: Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

(**NOTE – Here Jesus commands us to judge people’s actions and deeds with “right judgment”.)

Acts 4:19: But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge;

(**NOTE – Another case of judging people’s actions, rather than the person).

1 Corinthians 2:15: The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3: Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!

(**Note – No wonder satan hates Christians so much – we will be judging him one day!)

Hebrews 10:30: For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

(**NOTE – Here we see that the Lord judges people. That in no way precludes us from judging whether or not people’s actions are sinful or not.)

James 4:12: There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?

(**NOTE – James says that we should not judge our neighbor. Once again, this does not stop us from judging whether or not our neighbor’s actions (killing his wife, stealing money, etc.) is sinful. Note how this differs from James 5:20 above, where James talks about bringing a sinner back from the error of his ways (sinfulness)).”


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

“CHALLENGE: “Christians shouldn’t criticize others’ lifestyles or actions. Didn’t Jesus say not to judge?”

DEFENSE: Jesus didn’t tell us that we should close our eyes to moral evil in the world.

The exhortation not to judge is found in Jesus’ major ethical discourse (Matt. 5:1–7:29, Luke 6:17–49). The point of the discourse is to give moral instruction. In it, Jesus discusses what conduct counts as good and bad, and he expects his followers to acknowledge the difference.

Not only does he expect them to distinguish between good and evil in their own behavior, he also expects them to do so with others’ conduct, telling them, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:20). Thus, whatever Jesus meant, it was not that we should pretend that nobody does evil.

What he did mean is not difficult to discern if we read the statement itself: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matt. 7:1–2); “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

Jesus is saying we should take a generous, forgiving attitude with others so God will take a generous, forgiving attitude with us. We should treat others as we want to be treated. This is a prominent theme in his teaching (cf. Matt. 5:43–48, 6:12–15, 7:12, 18:21–35).

Although we are to be forgiving and merciful to others, this does not mean ignoring, much less approving, immoral behavior. Neither does it mean we should not try to help others. Admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy. Scripture elsewhere says: “Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” ( James 5:20).

Often the exhortation not to judge is used as a conversation stopper to shut down discussions of immoral behavior. Sometimes it carries the insinuation that the one “judging” is doing something morally wrong. When this is the case, the person making the accusation is himself judging, and thus risks being a hypocrite (cf. Matt. 7:3–5).”


-by Jim Blackburn, Catholic Answers

“An adult child who’s living with her boyfriend or coping with an adult sibling who has announced that he is gay, we often struggle with whether to allow the child or sibling to practice the immoral lifestyle. What do I tell my kids? How do I deal with this in a loving way? Can I truly love my neighbor while rejecting an immoral lifestyle?

Often people in these situations have tried to take some action already, only to be shot down immediately with the accusation that they are being “judgmental,” that the Bible teaches us not to judge others, that they should just mind their own business. “After all,” they’re told, “I’m not judging you and you shouldn’t be judging me. Read the Bible.” But is that really what the Bible teaches?

When pressed to show where the Bible supports this, those who can come up with any response at all usually point to Jesus’ words found in the Gospel of Matthew, “Judge not, that you not be judged.” Most people will stop there, with the clear conviction that the Bible teaches that we are not to pass any form of judgment on others. A closer look at this Bible verse and other related verses, however, uncovers a different understanding of Jesus’ teaching.

First, let’s look at the full context of Jesus’ words:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1-5)

If we break this passage down line by line, it becomes clear that Jesus was not telling his disciples that they could not ever judge the behavior of others. Rather, he was cautioning them to live righteous lives themselves so that their judgment of others’ behavior would not be rash judgment and their efforts would be effective in admonishing their neighbors.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” By itself, this statement could be construed to mean that one may escape even God’s judgment simply by not judging the behavior of others. Of course, everyone is judged by God, so this cannot be a proper understanding. Jesus goes on to reformulate his statement in a positive way: “With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Jesus indeed expects his disciples to judge but he warns that they, too, will be judged in a like manner.

This is reminiscent of the line in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12). Much more than a simple warning that God will treat us as we treat others, this is an appeal to each of us to be as much as we can like God in the way that we treat others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make ‘ours’ the same mind that was in Christ Jesus” (CCC 2842).

In the next two lines Jesus cautions against hypocrisy: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” Judging hypocritically is not effective. A petty thief admonished by a bank robber only scoffs at his admonisher.

Jesus then explains how to judge rightly: “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Much to the point of this article, there can be no doubt that those final words—”take the speck out of your brother’s eye”—are, indeed, permission to judge so long as it is done rightly.

Other Bible passages which seem on the surface to indicate a condemnation of judging others’ behavior may be treated similarly in their full context. The idea of rightly judging the behavior of others can be found throughout the New Testament.

Jesus told the Jews, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

He instructed his disciples what to do if someone sins against them:

Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matt. 18:15-17)

It is not possible to follow Jesus’ instructions without being “judgmental” of another’s behavior.

Paul, too, exhorted right judgment of other Christians: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:12-13).

Also, “Do you not know that the saints [i.e. Christians] will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!…Shun immorality” (1 Cor. 6:2-18).

A look at the Old Testament reveals similar teaching: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15).

Clearly, contrary to what many would prefer to believe, the Bible exhorts us to rightly judge the behavior of others. The Catholic Church teaches likewise but cautions us just as Jesus did the disciples:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:  of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;  of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;  of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way: “Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.” (CCC 2477-2478)

Having said all that, there is a big difference between judging another’s behavior and judging the eternal state of his soul. The latter judgment belongs only to God. Jesus addressed this type of judgment too:

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. (John 5:22-30)

Clearly, in this context, Jesus was speaking of judgment as condemnation or eternal damnation. Such judgment is reserved to him alone.

So, when faced with the immoral behavior of loved ones, how can we be sure to rightly judge behavior? In Jesus’ own words, we must start by taking the logs out of our own eyes—by making sure we are doing the best we can to live lives of good example. We must also strive to form our consciences correctly so that we know sin when we see it. Finally, we must not jump to conclusions about another’s culpability in sin. Doing all this will help to ensure that our admonitions are seen as the loving actions we intend them to be—meant to help our loved ones live their lives in ways that are pleasing to God. Only then can our efforts be effective in helping to take these ugly specks out of our brothers’ eyes.”

Love,
Matthew

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


-by Trent Horn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Matthew

Bible is NEVER sola


Oral Torah = Tradition


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

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

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

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

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

Natural and Supernatural Revelation

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Interpretation

Language is a set of signs pointing to things in reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love & His will, which is perfect,
Matthew

Bible: books that J U S T missed it….


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

“It took more than a thousand years for the books of the Bible to be written. Afterward, it took several centuries for the Church to determine which of the books written were Scripture and which weren’t.

God didn’t simply give the Church a revelation saying, “The following books and only the following books are Scripture.” Instead, the Holy Spirit guided the Church as it conducted a process of discernment. This means we don’t find early, universal agreement on the books of Scripture. We find churchmen having different opinions.

There was always a broad consensus about the core books of the Bible. All orthodox Christians recognized works such as the five books of Moses in the Old Testament or the four Gospels in the New Testament. There also was broad agreement about the prophets and the letters of Paul.  (Ed.  the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct.  The Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation were highly controversial.  They were not accepted into the canon until the 4th century AD.)

But there was debate about other books. Certain churchmen questioned or opposed books that were eventually included. Some had reservations about seven books of the Old Testament—1-2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, and Wisdom. Others had reservations about seven books of the New Testament—Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

All these were eventually included in the Bible, but there were books that some early churchmen did regard as Scripture but that didn’t find a place in the canon. We’re going to take a look at these books that “almost” made it into the Bible. We have to put quotation marks around “almost” because the Holy Spirit was in charge of the process, and God always knew which books He had inspired and which He hadn’t. But, on the human level, there was uncertainty about the status of certain books for some time.

The criterion of discernment

The criterion the early Church used to determine the status of a book was whether it had been handed down from the apostles as authoritative.

Of course, if a book was written by an apostle, it was authoritative. But apostolic authorship wasn’t required. The apostles also regarded the books of the Old Testament as authoritative, so they counted as Scripture. Even certain books of the New Testament that had been written by associates of apostles—such as Mark and Luke—were held to be authoritative and so found a place in Scripture.

The fact the apostles didn’t have to write a book led to differences in opinion in the early Church. Just how far removed from the apostles did a book have to be before it wouldn’t count as Scripture? If it was an orthodox book written in the Apostolic Age, did that imply apostolic consent to it? If it was thought to be written by someone who knew the apostles—though not a traveling companion such as Mark or Luke—was that enough?

The heretical books that were written after the first century could be recognized as fakes because of the false doctrine they contained. However, the early orthodox books were another matter.

The fact some were considered Scripture by orthodox Christians illustrates the important role that the Church played, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in determining what belongs in the Bible. (For more information, see my book The Bible Is a Catholic Book.) What were these books?

The Didache

What it is: A Church manual giving basic instruction on morality, the sacraments, prayer, church officers, and prophecy.

When it was written: The Didache likely appeared in more than one edition, but the earliest clearly was penned when there were traveling apostles and prophets, because the document includes instructions on how to tell true ones from false ones. This edition thus belongs to the apostolic age.

Who thought it was Scripture: Although this work was popular in the early Church, the evidence for people thinking it was Scripture is thinner than for some other works we’ll consider. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215) quoted it and may have considered it Scripture (Stromateis 1:20:100:4). In the 300s, Pseudo-Cyprian refers to it as “Scripture” (De Centesima 14). And in the late 300s, the Syriac Book of Steps, or Liber Graduum, refers to it using the scriptural citation “it is written” (7:20).

Why they thought it was Scripture: The first edition of this work dates to the Apostolic Age, and the Didache (Greek, “teaching”) often circulated under the titles “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” or “The Teaching of the Apostles.”

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Too many in the early Church doubted its apostolic authorship. The titles under which it circulated indicate it is a good summary of the teaching of the apostles, not that it was written by them.

What it said: The Didache touches on many matters connected with Christian morality and Church discipline. It contains a noteworthy passage discussing the ways (plural) in which baptism was performed in the first century.

Now concerning baptism, baptize as follows: After you have reviewed all these things, baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in running water. But if you have no running water, then baptize in some other water; and if you are not able to baptize in cold water, then do so in warm. But if you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit” (7:1-3).

1 Clement

What it is: A letter written by Pope St. Clement I to the church of Corinth.

When it was written: Many scholars think it was written in the A.D. 90s, but a careful examination of the text suggests it was written in the first half of A.D. 70, after the disastrous “year of four emperors” in 69 but before the destruction of the temple in August of 70.

Who thought it was Scripture: Apparently, quite a few people. Eusebius notes that this letter was “publicly read for common benefit, in most of the churches” (Church History 3:16), and because of its early origin “it is probable that this was also numbered with the other writings of the apostles” (3:38). In the early 400s, it was included in the Codex Alexandrinus, an important copy of the Bible.

Why they thought it was Scripture: Clement was a man who lived in the apostolic age and who apparently knew and was approved by the apostles Peter and Paul. He was often thought to be the Clement that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3 (Church History 3:15), and early traditions indicate that he was ordained at least to the priesthood by St. Peter. Some even held that he was Peter’s immediate successor as pope. St. Jerome notes that “the greater part of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle” (Lives of Illustrious Men 15:1).

The letter has great literary merit and is often compared in style to the book of Hebrews. In fact, in the early 200s, Origen knew a tradition that held Clement was the author of Hebrews (Church History 6:25:14), which would be another reason for thinking the letter might be Scripture.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Despite its considerable merits, its long use in the churches, and Clement’s connection to the apostles, not enough churchmen came to regard it as Scripture. Thus, in the list of approved, disputed, and rejected books that Eusebius made in the early 300s, he didn’t mention “1 Clement.”

What it said: Clement wrote because the Corinthians had appealed to the Church of Rome to settle a dispute in their community. A faction had kicked out the duly ordained leaders of the church, and Clement argued they needed to be reinstated. This apparently happened, because Clement’s letter was kept and read in Corinth for many years.

The book contains a number of points of interest, including the earliest surviving reference to the martyrdoms of Sts. Peter and Paul:

There was Peter, who, because of unrighteous jealousy, endured not one or two but many trials, and thus having given his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. Because of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the way to the prize for patient endurance. After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West. Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance (5:4-7).

The Letter of Barnabas

What it is: An early document offering a spiritual interpretation of Jewish law and customs and how they are fulfilled in Christ and the Church.

When it was written: Shortly after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple (ch. 16), perhaps around A.D. 75.

Who thought it was Scripture: Around 200, Clement of Alexandria considered it Scripture (Church History 6:14). In the 300s, it also was included in the important Bible known as Codex Sinaiticus.

Why they thought it was Scrip­­ture: Barnabas was a companion of the apostles (Acts 4:36), including Paul, and Luke even describes Barnabas as an apostle (Acts 14:14).

Also, around A.D. 200, Tertullian recorded a tradition that the book of Hebrews was written by Barnabas (On Modesty 20), which would provide additional reason to think the “Letter of Barnabas” might be Scripture.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Barnabas was an apostle of a lesser rank. Also, the letter does not claim to be written by him (his name is found only in the title), which may have led to doubts about its authorship. Eusebius lists this letter among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians in his day as Scripture (Church History 3:25). St. Jerome apparently thought it was written by Barnabas but nevertheless was not Scripture (Lives of Illustrious Men 6). Scholars today generally don’t think it was written by the biblical Barnabas.

What it said: There are many fascinating things in this letter, but I’m personally glad that it’s not in Scripture. When allegorizing various Old Testament commandments, the author makes several scientifically inaccurate statements that I would not like to have to explain as an apologist. Consider:

“You shall not eat the hare.” Why? Do not become, [Moses] means, one who corrupts boys, or even resemble such people, because the hare grows another opening every year, and thus has as many orifices as it is years old.
Again, “Neither shall you eat the hyena.” Do not become, he means, an adulterer or a seducer, or even resemble such people. Why? Because this animal changes its nature from year to year and becomes male one time and female another.
* * *
But he also hated the weasel, and with good reason. Do not become, he means, like those men who, we hear, with immoral intent do things with the mouth that are forbidden, nor associate with those immoral women who do things with the mouth that are forbidden. For this animal conceives through its mouth (10:6-8).

The Shepherd of Hermas

What it is: A collection of visions by a simple and sincere man named Hermas who was a former slave living in Rome.

When it was written: Although sometimes wrongly dated to the mid-second century, Hermas lived during the time of Pope St. Clement I (“The Shepherd,” Vision 2:4[8:3]). He began receiving the visions perhaps around A.D. 80.

Who thought it was Scripture: Around A.D. 175, St. Irenaeus of Lyons described it as “Scripture” (Against Heresies 4:20:2). About the same time, Clement of Alexandria repeatedly used the work and said it was written “by divine inspiration” (Stromateis 1:29:181:1). In the early 200s, Origen also referred to it as Scripture, though he said it was “not acknowledged by all to be divine” (Commentary on Matthew 14:21). In the 300s, it was included in Codex Sinaiticus.

Why they thought it was Scripture: It’s a work of prophecy that dates to the first century. Also, many at the time believed that Hermas was the man whom Paul greets in Romans 16:14.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Almost every author in the early Church who mentioned “The Shepherd” had a high opinion of it and regarded it as valuable for private reading, even those who didn’t regard it as Scripture. Ultimately, the latter came to be the majority, and Eusebius lists it among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians in his day as Scripture (Church History 3:25).

What it said: “The Shepherd” is astonishingly long for a book of this period. Its visions deal with virtue, forgiveness, and the need to repent. A central theme of the book is that repentance and forgiveness are possible for Christians who have sinned. A major figure in the visions is an angel who appears to Hermas dressed like a shepherd and thus gives the book its title. He is identified as “the angel of repentance” (Vision 5[25:7]).

After I had prayed in my house and sat down on my bed, there came a man glorious in appearance, dressed like a shepherd, with a white skin wrapped around him and with a bag on his shoulders and a staff in his hand. He greeted me, and I greeted him in return. He immediately sat down beside me and said to me, “I was sent by the most holy angel to live with you the rest of the days of your life” (Vision 5[25:1-2]).

The Apocalypse of Peter

What it is: A series of revelations allegedly given by Christ to St. Peter.

When it was written: Likely between A.D. 132-135, during the rebellion under the Jewish leader Simon bar-Kokhba, who is likely the false Christ discussed in 2:7-9 of the “Apocalypse.”

Who thought it was Scripture: Around 200, Clement of Alexandria referred to the “Apocalypse of Peter ”as Scripture (Eclogae Propheticae 41) and attributes it to Peter (48-49). The Muratorian Fragment, an early work dated between the late second and the fourth century, accepts the Apocalypses of John (i.e., the book of Revelation) and Peter as Scripture, but it acknowledges that “some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church.” Other early churchmen also supported it.

Why they thought it was Scripture: It is an early work claiming to preserve the words of St. Peter.

Why it isn’t in the Bible: Many recognized that it wasn’t actually by Peter—that the tradition supporting its apostolic authorship wasn’t strong enough. Thus, in the early 300s, Eusebius included it among the books “rejected” by most orthodox Christians of his time as Scripture (Church History 3:25).

What it said: The book contains prophecies about Israel as well as descriptions of hell and heaven. Its descriptions of the punishments of the damned are particularly vivid, but the book also contains a description of the blessings of the righteous. It concludes with an account of the ascension of Christ:

A large, very white cloud came above us and picked up our Lord and Moses and Elijah. I shook and was terrified. We watched as this heaven opened up and men with physical bodies came to welcome our Lord and Moses and Elijah. They went into the second heaven. The saying of Scripture was fulfilled, “This generation looks for him; it looks for the face of the God of Jacob.”

There was great awe and amazement in heaven. The angels flocked together to fulfill the saying of Scripture, “Open the gates, ye princes.” Then this heaven, the one which had been opened, was closed.

We prayed, and as we descended from the mountain, we praised God who has written the names of the righteous in the book of life in heaven (17:2-7).

Sidebar

How the Bible Came Together

Many in the Protestant community find it hard to imagine the Church existing for centuries without a closed, fixed list of the books of the Bible. This is because of the Protestant principle of sola scriptura—the idea that Christian doctrine should be determined “by Scripture alone.” If you use sola scriptura, then there is an urgent need to know the precise boundaries of the canon.

If you’re uncertain about the status of a book, you don’t know whether it’s authoritative for doctrine or not. You could err in either extreme: ignore statements God meant to be authoritative or treat something as authoritative when it isn’t.

But the early Church didn’t employ sola scriptura. Instead, Christians used the same principles for formulating doctrine that had been used since the Apostolic Age: Yes, Scripture was authoritative, but so was the Tradition that Christ and the apostles had passed down—and one could rely on the Church’s divinely guided Magisterium to settle cases of dispute. Therefore, pre-Reformation Christians felt no urgency to know the exact status of lesser books.

Early in the 300s, Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea wrote his famous Church History in which he described the state of views in his own day (Church History 3:25:1-6 with 3:3:5-6). He divided the books into several categories: those that orthodox Christians accepted, disputed, or rejected.

By later that century, the borders of the canon were firmer. In 382, Pope Damasus I held a council at Rome that taught essentially the same canon that Catholics have today. Pope Innocent I affirmed this list in A.D. 405, and it was endorsed by various local councils including Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397 and 419. The traditional canon continued to be affirmed down through history, such as at the Council of Florence in 1442.

When the Protestant Reformers began a major controversy about the authority of certain books, the need to define the canon became more urgent, and in 1546 the Council of Trent infallibly defined which books the Church holds as sacred and canonical..”

Love, and His will,
Matthew

Purgatory & 2 Cor 5:8

Every Catholic has heard the challenge:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” -Phil 2:12


-by Karlo Broussard

“Discussions between Catholics and Protestants about the topic of salvation sometimes involve a reference to Philippians 2:12, a passage often quoted by Catholics in support of their view that good works play a role in achieving our final salvation and that it’s possible for a Christian to lose his salvation. Paul writes, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

“What else could Paul mean?” the Catholic asks.

Well, Protestant apologist Ron Rhodes has an answer. Rather than speaking of an individual’s salvation in the eternal sense, Rhodes asserts Paul is speaking of a corporate salvation that’s temporal and experiential. He writes,

This church as a unit was in need of “salvation” (that is, salvation in the temporal, experiential sense, not in the eternal sense). It is critical to recognize that salvation in this context is referring to the community of believers in Philippi and not to individual believers. Salvation is spoken of in a corporate sense in this verse. The Philippians were called by the apostle Paul to “keep on working out” (continuously) the “deliverance of the church into a state of Christian maturity” (emphasis in original).

Since Paul intends salvation to be taken in a temporal sense (a “deliverance of the church into a state of Christian maturity”), Rhodes believes, he can’t possibly mean salvation for believers in an eternal sense.

How can we respond?

The first thing to point out is that Rhodes is going against the grain in the New Testament by reading salvation in a temporal sense. Throughout the New Testament, including Paul’s writings, the Greek word translated here as “salvation,” sōtēria, is normally used in reference to eternal salvation. So, a natural reading of Philippians 2:12 would be to read it as such.

For Rhodes to interpret sōtēria in a temporal sense—an unusual interpretation, to say the least—he needs to shoulder the burden of proof. But he does not succeed in this attempt.

Rhodes argues that the exhortation to “work out your salvation” is a response to what he describes as “the particular situation of the church in Phillipi.” Rhodes describes the church’s situation as being

plagued by 1) rivalries and personal ambitions (Phil. 2:3,4; 4:2), 2) the teaching of Judaizers (who said that circumcision was necessary for salvation—3:1-3), 3) perfectionism (attain sinless perfection in this life—3:12-14), and 4) influence of “antinomian libertines” (people who took excessive liberty in how they lived their lives, ignoring or going against God’s law—3:18, 19).

The problem here is that each item listed above doesn’t prove what Rhodes wants it to prove.

Take rivalries and personal ambitions, for example. Here’s what Philippians 2:3-4 says: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

That Paul exhorts the Philippians to refrain from sinful behavior doesn’t mean they’re actually guilty of it. It’s simply a part of Paul’s general moral exhortation that begins in Philippians 1:27—“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that . . . I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Any type of moral exhortation is going to involve an exhortation to avoid sin, regardless if a person is guilty of that sin or not.

Philippians 4:2 reads, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” This is as close as Rhodes gets to identifying problems in the Philippian church. But notice it’s only directed to two people. It’s not the whole church “as a unit,” to use the words of Rhodes.

Next, Rhodes appeals to the teaching of the Judaizers, whom Paul identifies as those “who mutilate the flesh” (Phil. 3:2). But he warns the Philippians in verse 2, “Look out . . . for those who mutilate the flesh,” implying they’re not numbered among the Judaizers. Then, in verse 3, he writes, “For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put not confidence in the flesh” (emphasis added). The Philippians are numbered with Paul among those of the true circumcision, not the Judaizers.

Rhodes then turns to Philippians 3:12-14, in which Paul acknowledges that he has not yet attained the resurrection of the dead and that he is not yet perfect, although he still presses on to make the resurrection of the dead and perfection his own, looking forward “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” That Rhodes sees perfectionism as an active problem in the Philippian community from Paul’s acknowledgement that he’s not perfect yet is a stretch, to say the least.

The purpose of Paul’s statements is to remind the Philippians that they too haven’t yet attained the resurrection of the dead or perfection, and that they too should be pressing forward to make it their own. This is an exhortation to be holy and a sober reminder that they could fail to acheive salvation, not an identification of church problems that they need to be saved from.

The last passage Rhodes cites is Philippians 3:18-19, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

Rhodes thinks this refers to Christians in the Philippian community, but the next verse shows this is not so. Paul writes, “But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (v.20; emphasis added). Christians in the Philippian community are not the ones identified as the “enemies of the cross of Christ,” they are clearly distinguished from them.

So, the evidence that Rhodes appeals to fails to support his temporal view of salvation for the Philippian church. But is there any positive evidence that Paul intended to speak of salvation in Philippians 2:12 in the eternal sense?

In both the preceding and subsequent context of Philippians 2:12 Paul speaks of eternal salvation.

Consider, for example, the preceding context in Philippians 1:27-28, where Paul contrasts the “salvation” that the Philippians receive from God and the “destruction” of their enemies:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ . . . not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear omen [Greek, endeixis—demonstration, proof, or sign] to them of their destruction, but of your salvation [Greek, sōtērias], and that from God.

The destruction that Paul speaks of can’t refer to a temporal destruction that the Philippians might bring upon their enemies, since Paul is exhorting the Philippians to have no fear and remain faithful when their enemies persecute them. Therefore, the destruction of their enemies must refer to an eternal destruction—their damnation.

Also, Paul speaks of the Philippians’ salvation as coming “from God.” That would seem to indicate Paul is speaking of eternal salvation here.

Now, if Paul contrasts the Philippians’ salvation with their enemies’ destruction, and that destruction refers to eternal damnation, then it follows that Paul intends salvation to be understood in the eternal sense. And it’s that salvation that Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:12 when he says, “work out your salvation.”

We can also look to Philippians 2:14-16, where Paul identifies what “working out your own salvation” involves: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation . . . holding fast the word of life.”

Paul then gives the reason why he exhorts the Philippians to do such things in verse 16: “So that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” The implication is that if on the day of Christ, the Philippians are found to be blameworthy, not innocent, and with blemish, then he would have run in vain. In other words, his preaching would have been for nothing.

Paul is not exhorting the Philippians to be “blameless and innocent” and “without blemish” merely in the sight of men. Rather, he’s calling them to a state of holiness that is a condition to receive their salvation at the Final Judgment. If that’s not a reference to eternal salvation for believers, then nothing is.

So, not only does Rhodes’s evidence fail to support his temporal view of salvation in Philippians 2:12, we have contextual evidence that Paul did not intend salvation to be taken in a temporal sense. Paul was speaking of our final salvation to be received at the Final Judgment. And since Paul says we need to put effort into bringing about that salvation, and that we should do so with fear and trembling, Catholics are justified in appealing to this passage for support of their belief that good works do play a role in our final salvation and that it’s possible to lose it in the end.”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Esurientes implevit bonis – Hunger for souls


-“St John eating the book(scroll)”, 1498, Albrecht Dürer, 398 x 289 mm, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruheone of fifteen woodcuts done on pear wood blocks depicting scenes of the Apocalypse.  British Museum, London, UK.  Please click on the image for greater detail.  

“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”

Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by Him Who lives forever and ever, Who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as He announced to his servants the prophets.”

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel Who is standing on the sea and on the land.”

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
-Revelation 10:1-9


-by Br Pachomius Walker, OP

“We who are children of the Father, we hunger for the glory of God and souls to share in that glory. This imagery is captured strikingly by both Saint Catherine of Siena and Our Lord.

First, St. Catherine has a few striking phrases in her Dialogue. While the Father is speaking to St. Catherine, He tells her: “When she [the soul] has attained the third stage of tears, she prepares the table of the most Holy Cross in her heart and spirit. When it is set, she finds there the food of the gentle loving Word—the sign of my honor and your salvation for which my only-begotten Son’s body was opened up to give you Himself as food. The soul then begins to feed on My honor and the salvation of souls….” Or again, “Find your delight with [Christ] on the cross by feeding on souls for the glory and praise of My name.” And even further, “Hungry as they were for My honor and the salvation of souls, [the Saints] fed on these at the table of the most Holy Cross.”

Reading these excerpts, it sounds almost as if God is recommending that Christians eat souls. This sounds quite strange. Is St. Catherine recommending that, perhaps, priests, while in the confessional, start eating souls from imaginary bowls?

In order to illuminate this idea, it is helpful to reference Christ’s hunger for souls and God’s glory. There are at least two instances in the Gospels in which we can see this idea of eating souls and feasting on God’s glory.

In the temptation in the desert, Satan attempts to seduce Christ into making bread out of stones. Christ’s response? “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). We can see here that Our Lord, while fasting and hungry, claims that we are nourished by God’s word. This nourishment is hearty enough to sustain us, even while in the desert fasting.

The second instance in which we see Christ “eating souls and the glory of God” is in the Gospel of Saint John. While the translation is slightly dated, the Douay-Rheims is evocative in this instance. Christ has just won the soul of a Samaritan woman, who has gone to tell the townspeople about her interaction with Christ. Meanwhile, sitting beside the well, Christ’s apostles come to him offering food. His response shows us just how nourishing winning souls for the Kingdom can be: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work” (John 4:34). The use of the word “meat” in this passage communicates the heartiness of the nourishment.

Returning to St. Catherine, the hunger for souls and the glory of God does not mean that we are consuming other people in spiritual cannibalism. Rather, similar to Saint Paul, our love for God manifests itself in a compulsion to spread His name and to feast on His glory that can be thought of as a spiritual hunger (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). We are driven to seek the glory of God and the salvation of souls in the way a starving man seeks food—the desire consumes us.”

“When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.”
— Revelation 6:5–6 NASB

The third Horseman rides a black horse and is popularly understood to be Famine as the Horseman carries a pair of balances or weighing scales (Greek ζυγὸν, zygon), indicating the way that bread would have been weighed during a famine. In the passage, it is read that the indicated price of grain is about ten times normal (thus the famine interpretation popularity), with an entire day’s wages (a denarius) buying enough wheat for only one person (one choenix, about 1.1 litres), or enough of the less nutritious barley for three, so that workers would struggle to feed their families.

Love, and hungry for my own salvation and that of others. Pray for me.
Matthew