Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Does Catholic Doctrine Contradict the Bible? (Pt 3)

The third part of our look at's overview of Catholicism deals with their treatment of Latin Mass, the Christian Calendar, Iconography and Statuary, and the form of Baptism. Make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 as well, and then finish off with Part 4. Once again, whenever I quote author Steve Rudd's words, they will be in blue.

9. Latin Mass forbidden

As though it is a "doctrine" of the Catholic Church, and as though it really has any relevance, Steve Rudd states as a "Fact" that the Roman Catholic Church often holds Masses entirely in Latin, even though nobody speaks or understands Latin. He continues to say that most people who have sat through a Latin Mass have no idea what is going on.

Since Rudd chose to put his "fact" paragraph in the present tense, it no longer is a factual paragraph. Since the Second Vatical Council, Masses have been conducted in the vernacular languages of the people, and, in fact, when Mass is celebrated in Latin, it is because special permission has been given to do so, because people want it in Latin.

[Edit: Well, he did it again. Author of's diatribe against the Catholic Church once more moves the goalposts. When I first responded to this article, Rudd had made no mention to the changes stemming from Vatican II and the permission to celebrate the liturgy in the vernacular language, as my above paragraph expressly states. Now, it's reworded to acknowledge that the vernacular Mass was permitted in "1965 AD[sic] [when] the Pope finally understood 1 Cor 14:19". Even when the Catholic Church does something "good" (i.e. lines up with Rudd's theology), he has to put the worst possible spin on it. How hate-filled does one have to be to actually lie about another person's beliefs in order to prove that person or those beliefs wrong?]

Rudd then questions whether the Bible forbids Latin Mass when no one understands Latin, and by way of answering the question, points us, without any regard for context whatsoever, to 1 Corinthians 14:19:

"In the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."
1 Corinthians 14:19 specifically addresses the orderly and proper use of the Charismatic Gift of Tongues (see my articles on that: Tongues, Cessationism, and the Charismatic Movement, parts 1, 2, and 3.), and does not directly apply to the concerns of Mr. Rudd. Further, the language of Mass is again not technically a "doctrine", and so is not really an istance of Catholic doctrine contradicting the Bible, which is Rudd's thesis. Finally, when Mass began to be celebrated in Latin (according to the Latin Rite), Latin was the spoken language of the people, and until even into the Renaissance was the Lingua Franca of the people. Therefore again, it is inaccurate to say that the people didn't necessarily understand what was being said or done. [Edit: In fact, it is still widely used as a Lingua Franca in Europe among persons of different Romantic languages, to better understand each other when communicating.]

Finally, having met many Catholics who remember Latin Mass from before Vatican 2, they have a great grasp of their faith and of what went and goes on during Mass, so that even after Latin passed out as a common tongue, it is still not accurate to say that people "didn't know" what was happening. And since the language that Mass is celebrated in has changed to the vernacular, and has been that way for 40+ years now, (long before the Internet or, Rudd's criticisms are rather anachronistic.

10. Observance of special days condemned

Rudd, having apparently no grasp of a logical progression of thought, jumps over to the topic of holidays, basing his objection on the "Fact" that the Roman Catholic Church has invented an entire yearly calendar of non-biblical holidays, such as Lent, Easter, and Christmas.

He then goes on with one of his "Historical Notes"--which we have seen thus far is often a code word for "Genetic Fallacy"--saying that Christmas wasn't celebrated before AD 335, and that the word Christmas used for Jesus' birthday wasn't used until AD 1038. Apparently, according to Rudd, before AD 335, the pagan cult of Mithra, the Iranian "god of light", celebrated December 25 as Mithra’s birthday, marking the sun's triumph over the darkness of winter after the shortest day of the year, December 21 (which he calls "solace" rather than "solstice"). Rudd concludes that because the pagan festival that celebrated Mithra's birthday was so popular, the Roman Catholic Church must have adopted the day, but changed the meaning from the birthday of Mithra, the "god of light", to Christ's birthday, God the Son, "the light of the world". Rudd claims finally that none of the Apostles or the Early Church celebrated the birthday of Jesus.

As I said above, Rudd engages in some more Genetic Fallacy: that since pagans celebrated their festival on a certain day, a Christian festival on the same day must therefore be intrinsically evil or sinful.

Rather, Christianity adopted the celebration of Christmas and other holidays that were formerly of pagan origin precisely for the effects that Steve Rudd described above--to convert the culture and not just the person. Taking the good in other cultures, while Christianising the bad, is in no way condemned in the Bible. And memorialising key dates of the life of Christ or His Saints is hardly a bad thing!

Rudd asks us to ponder whether the early Christians celebrated Christmas, Lent and Easter, and sends us to Galatians 4:10-11 for his answer:
"You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain."
Well, honestly, the Bible doesn't say what Christian holidays may have been observed in their day. Galatians 4:10-11 does not address the issue of holidays, so much as it warns and admonishes the Galatians against returning to their pagan practices (unredeemed by Christianity). Further, we cannot say that Galatians 4:10-11 condemns holy days, when we read in Romans 14:5-6:
One person thinks that some days are holier than others, and another thinks them all equal. Let each of them be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who makes special observances of a particular day observes it in honour of the Lord. (Emphasis mine)
Interestingly enough, the passage in the Bible that permits the celebration of holy days, and gives Christian liberty to that, at the same time forbids condemning Christians who do so (see verse 4). So again, Steve Rudd's criticism of the Catholic Church on this point is not only groundless, but itself contradicts the Bible!

However, Rudd, seemingly unaware of Romans 14, continues with his inane questioning, as though he has found the key item to overthrowing Catholicism. He asks us whether Christians are told to honour Jesus' Death on a yearly basis on Easter, and directs us to Acts 20:7:
"On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight." Acts 20:7
I'm honestly not sure what Acts 20:7 has to do with Easter, but since we celebrate Jesus' Resurrection on Easter, and His Death on Good Friday, Rudd's criticism is again just really uninformed. Further to that, every Sunday is considered a mini-Easter celebration. So yes, while we remember it in a special way on the lunar date approximation of when it actually happened, we remember it every Lord's Day!

[Edit: Wow! Rudd actually completely changed his second question to ask whether we were to remember Jesus' death every Sunday, and cites the same reference. Not only does that render his question completely meaningless and having nothing at all to do with his point, but it also makes it completely unclear as to which answer he's looking for. Does he want a "YES" answer, because Acts 20:7 refers to Sunday, or does he want a "NO" answer because the text doesn't explicitly mention Jesus' death, and remembering His death is what Catholics do every Sunday? Either way, it once more shows the lengths of sophistry to which he will stoop in order to somehow garner some ammunition against Catholicism!]

Rudd's point in his criticisms on this issue is completely lost on me. Our practices concerning holy days in no way contradict Scripture, while his practice of condemning our holy days, in fact, does.

11. Worshipping idols, icons and images violates the 2nd commandment.

Rudd makes issue of the "Fact" that Catholics regularly bow down to icons and images of Jesus, Mary and the apostles--which he calls "idols"--kissing the feet of the statues and alleging that we pray to them.

Once again, Rudd makes what he calls an "Historical note" about the Pope somehow "deleting" the 2nd of the 10 commandments so we could use statues & images in worship. They split the 10th commandment on coveting into two commandments so they could still have 10 in number. He then dares any sceptics of his claim to look at the 10 Commandments as published by the Catholic Church, as though the fact that our list is different automatically leads to the conclusion that we "tinkered" with God's Word. In fact, he even dares us to look in a Catholic Bible to see the alleged deletion for ourselves! Problem is, of course, that the Ten Commandments in a Catholic Bible appear the same as they do in a Hebrew Bible or a Protestant Bible. But logic and historical accuracy aren't high on Steve Rudd's priorities when he attacks the Catholic Church.

Interestingly enough, the Jews themselves list the 10 Commandments in the same fashion that the Catholics do, as do the Lutherans. Why? Are we trying to hide the prohibition of idolatry? Of course not! We simply view the first two Commandments, as understood by most Protestants, as One Commandment, not to have any other gods before God. It has nothing to do with statues at all, but in the fact that the 10 Commandments listed in Exodus have fourteen imperative statements! Thus, there is some leeway in how those 14 commands are broken down to 10 for easy memorisation.

Rudd asks us whether the "2nd commandment" approves of bowing down and kissing idols, and takes us to Exodus 20:4-5:
"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them."
The command against making statues does not simply forbid making images, but worshipping those images! After all, God Himself commanded the images of Cherubim to be stitched into the Veil separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place in the Tabernacle, and the Ark of the Covenant was sculpted with two Cherubim sitting on top of it. So much for no images!

I notice, at, that their site is loaded with graphics and images, including those of Jesus and the Saints (Jesus and St. John the Baptist, in fact, appear with the very next question!), but if we are to take such a legalistic view of Exodus 20:4, we'd have to realise that is itself in violation of this commandment! They, I'm sure, would argue that this isn't true, because they don't worship those pictures. Well, Catholics don't worship icons, statues, or other religious artwork, either. Yes, at times, they might kneel before a crucifix in prayer, or even kiss it. But this itself does not mean they are worshipping it. (Or, is kneeling before your girlfriend to ask her to marry you, worshipping her? Or is kissing your wife an act of worship?) Images are an aid to our worship of God, in the selfsame way that music or the Scriptures are also an aid, to help us focus on Him, rather than the distractions around us.

12. Baptism is full immersion in water, not sprinkling.

Steve Rudd claims that it is a "Fact" that the Catholic Church baptises babies by sprinkling a little water on them. The fact is, actually, that we pour water on them.

Rudd continues on with one of his oh-so-informative "Historical notes", discussing the Greek work for baptism and how it allegedly literally means immersion. He states that there are separate words in Greek for sprinkling, pouring and immersion, and that the Bible only ever uses the word for immersion when discussing Baptism. He continues on, saying that the first recorded case of sprinkling occurred in AD 257 to someone on a sick-bed. It was the exception to the rule and apparently brought about fierce opposition from the whole Church. Rudd claims that it wasn't until AD 757 that the Church accepted sprinkling in such sick-bed cases of necessity. He goes on to state that it wasn't until AD 1311 that the Catholic council of Ravenna declared that sprinkling was an acceptable substitute for immersion, and that, from that time forward, sprinkling replaced immersion in the Roman Catholic church. Rudd states that, to the contrary, the Orthodox church refused sprinkling and still immerses to this day.

Alright, three things. First, the Greek word for baptism does not necessarily mean immersion. It is a meaning, yes; even a primary meaning. But it is not the only meaning. In Luke 11:38, it says that Jesus' host, the Pharisee Simon, was rather upset that Jesus didn't "baptise" before eating dinner. The Jews weren't in the habit of full-body immersion before meals, but rather, as the Greek of the parallel account in Mark 7:3-4 tells us, the Jews washed their hands a certain way, according to the traditions of the elders. Moreover, by the time the Gospels were recorded, Baptism had been practiced for decades by the Church, and was a Tradition passed down from the Apostles. As such, it is circular reasoning to define what Baptism is based on the word they used for it. "Baptism" became the formal term for their rite, whether or not their rite technically met the etymological definition of the term. The same can be said about other Christian terms, such as agape. Any Christian will tell you that agape means the Unconditional Love of God for us, and that we are called to have for each other. However, in pre-Christian Greek literature, the word agape simply meant "love" in a generic sense, such as the English word "love" can be used today. (See also similar comments in Part 2, regarding the way meanings change in different settings--under the sub-section, "All Christians are Saints".)

Second, the occasion in AD 257 was not the first time sprinkling had been used, and it did not draw fierce opposition from the whole church. In fact, St. Cyprian defended its use. Furthermore, early Christian writings beginning with the Didache permitted the use of pouring as a valid mode of baptism when immersion wasn't possible (Didache 7:3). Even when we look to the Bible, we see in Acts the likelihood of infusion (pouring) as a mode of baptism being utilised. In Acts 16:33, Sts. Paul and Silas baptise their jailer in Philippi, with his household, while they were still in the prison (they were only taken to the jailer's home afterward, according to verse 34). As such, it is dubious that they would have all been immersed at that locale. Even before that, on the Day of Pentecost, St. Peter and the other Apostles baptised 3000 people in Jerusalem. Archaeologists have demonstrated that there was not enough water to immerse that many people in that location, and, if there was, the Jewish citizens would not have let their drinking water be contaminated by 3000 unwashed bodies! As such, while it is true that immersion was the norm for the first 12 centuries of Christianity, it was not the exclusive method. The Catholic Church decided to allow infusion for practical reasons.

Third, there is the artistic evidence. Much of the earliest Christian artwork depicts baptism--but not baptism by immersion. If the recipient of the sacrament is in a river, he is shown standing in the river while water is poured over his head from a cup or shell. Tile mosaics in ancient churches and paintings in the catacombs depict baptism by pouring. Baptisteries in early cemeteries are clear witnesses to baptisms by infusion. Other archaeological evidence confirms the same thing. An early Christian baptistery was found in a church in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth, yet this baptistery, which dates from the second century, was too small and narrow in which to immerse a person. (Compare the article on Baptism at Wikipedia.)

Rudd asks us whether Jesus was baptised by full immersion in the Jordan River, and by way of "answer", shows us Matthew 3:16:
"After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him"
The text doesn't actually say, however. "Came up...from the water" could be interpreted to mean re-emerging from the water after having been immersed, or it could simply mean returning to the shore after wading into the water. It's interesting that even the most ancient artistic depictions of this scene portray John pouring water on Jesus, isn't it?

Rudd then asks whether, when Philip baptised the Eunuch, they both went into the water, and takes us to Acts 8:38-39:
"And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away."
Well, lets see. Acts 8:26 tells us that this whole scene took place in the desert. Are we expected to believe that when the Ethiopian espied the water in the desert, that it was enough to be immersed in? And even if it was, since we've conceded the point that immersion was practiced, but also that infusion was permitted, it doesn't really matter.

Rudd moves away from how baptism is to be performed, to who can receive baptism, and asks whether babies can be baptised since they do not first believe, and answers his own question with Mark 16:16; and Acts 8:36-37:
"He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned."

"As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may."
I answer YES! But I'm going to take this and the next question together, since they're on the same topic.

Rudd similarly thus asks whether babies can be baptised since they do not first repent, and points to Acts 2:38:
"'Brethren, what must we do?' Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
In reply to Steve Rudd's questions (which, admittedly, seem at first glance to be pretty air-tight), I ask a question of my own: Could babies be circumcised in the Old Testament, even before they chose to accept the Covenant Laws of God? Evidently yes, since God commanded it to be done on the eighth day after their birth! Well, since the New Testament equates baptism with circumcision (Colossians 2:11-13), the early Church unanimously said "YES" to infant baptism! Further, in Luke 18:15-16, when Jesus says, "Let the little children come to Me," Luke's account has it that parents were bringing even infants to Him--the Greek word refers to babies not yet old enough to speak! So it wasn't that the children told their parents they wanted to see Jesus. Rather, the faith of the parents compelled them to bring their children to Him--and He accepted them!

Thus, the Early Church took to baptising infants right away. In fact, the only controversy that arose over this question was whether or not parents should wait the eight days prescribed in the Law for circumcision--and the answer was unanimously, "NO!"

Through baptism, the stain of original sin is washed away, and we are born again. We are entered into the Covenant Family of God! Why should we withhold that from our children?


(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations.
Catholic Distinctives: Sacraments--Baptism.
Catholic Devotions: The Mass and Art and Images in the Church.)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I have always been Catholic, and have never had any doubts that were more than a fleeting passing thought, not grounded on anything. But tonight I started reading about reasons some Christians do not celebrate Easter and Christmas, among other things. I found myself with no answer, but thanks to you I see it clearly now. Thank God for giving us the Church!

Gregory said...

Anonymous, thank you so much for stopping by, and for commenting. I'm very glad I could help strengthen your faith in some small way, and give you an answer to take back to those who question you.

I hope you'll stop by again, since you've encouraged me greatly! Every time I wonder whether there's a point to continuing this blog, someone comes along and lets me know there is :)