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.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

On Faith, Works, and Weather Reports.

In the seemingly interminable debate between Catholicism and Protestantism, the issue of the Protestant Pillar known as Sola Fide is often the most sharply contested. One the one side, Catholics teach the necessity of both Faith and Works, cooperating with the grace of God, in order to be saved. On the Protestant side, the teaching is somewhat varied and a little difficult to pin down, but usually runs thus: that we are saved by responding to God's grace by our Faith Alone (hence, "sola fide"), and that Good Works flow from that faith, or demonstrate that faith, but do not themselves contribute directly to our salvation. In other words, Protestants view Faith and Works as two very distinct things, one being necessary, and the other being rather more superfluous, though not completely excluded from the equation. Catholics, such as myself, on the other hand, regard faith and works as on the same level, and often as basically the same thing.

What prompts this particular essay on the subject was a reflection on the concept of faith that extends beyond simply the bounds of religious belief, and into the realm of so-called "everyday life." Last week here in Southern Ontario was particularly warm, and I, working for now in a mass-production style bakery, near the oven, was feeling the heat and the humidity with much discomfort (offering up that discomfort for the entire shifts, of course). On a particular day last week (Thursday, I think), the paper predicted more heat, but a thunderstorm which would cool things down. I, hoping for cooler weather, thought that I was looking forward to this thunderstorm, and was talking about the weather with my co-workers while the day was still sunny and oh-so-hot. All of a sudden, I realised that I had left all four of my windows, as well as my sun-roof, open when I parked upon arriving to work. I remarked on this to one coworker, quipping that I apparently didn't have much faith in the weatherman's forecast. It was this offhand comment that caused me to ponder the analogy while I was working at my not-otherwise-intellectually-stimulating job.

If I truly believed the weatherman when he said it was going to rain, I would take certain precautions, not the least of which would be rolling up the windows and closing the sunroof so that nothing within my car was ruined. Rolling up the windows does not merely demonstrate my faith--it is my faith. Failing to roll up my windows similarly demonstrates that I have no faith in the weatherman at all. It is rather imbecilic to claim that I believed the weatherman that it was going to rain, and was even looking forward to that happy moment, when my car was left vulnerable to the water. I could not protest in the midst of the storm, "I believed you were coming, great thunderstorm! Why did my faith not save me from a soaked car seat and a rather miserable drive home?" The storm, demonstrating its rage at my insolence with peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, would pelt me with its drops of truth, that I did not, in fact, believe in it, or I would certainly have been prepared for the awful judgement of water damage!

Of course, analogies can only go so far. If I had completely disregarded the weather report, but sealed up all my windows solely out of habit, or out of fear of burglary, and thus come through the terrible storm (which, incidentally, on that day, never came to my place of work, but by some horrid design stopped 10 or so blocks away) with no water damage, it would be no credit to my faith. In the Christian life, we are called to believe in the truths of the Gospel, in faith. But faith in those Gospel truths means that we must put those truths into practice. We must live the Gospel, and not simply believe it. But the converse is also true. If we, due to a natural disposition or proper upbringing, live a good and moral life out of duty or habit (if that were possible), but with no faith in or regard for the God who calls us to do so, our works of themselves will not save us. We cannot simply, by some coincidence, live the Gospel, but must also believe it.

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations.
Soteriology: Salvation.)

The 10 Commandments of Apologetics and Theological Discussion

These rules are adapted from a rather poignant list which was composed by a friend of mine, who on the internet goes by the pseudonymous moniker, "Hidden One". They were posted on his blog, linked in the title. I thought I'd reproduce them, with some minor changes, here both as a reminder to myself, and as a policy-statement to others who wish to engage in dialogue here.

The Laws will be in gold, and my commentary on them will be in white.

God bless.

1. No argument against the validity or truth of any doctrine, idea, or group, may simply assume said doctrine, idea, or group, to be wrong without examination.
In other words, the simple fact that someone disagrees with you doesn't automatically make them wrong. You have to approach other ideas with openness, and dissect them with critical thinking. If you still disagree, you must be willing to defend your opposition with a cogent argument.
2. If you do not understand a doctrine, you cannot prove it wrong.
If you have not taken the time to learn your opponent's beliefs, any argument you offer against them will most often completely miss their mark, and you'll do nothing more than make yourself look foolish.
3. You do not know what your opponent believes until your opponent tells you.
You cannot read minds nor hearts. If your opponent makes a claim to believe something, you must take him at face value and argue against what he actually believes, if you still, in fact, disagree. If, on the other hand, you make an argument, and your opponent says he doesn't, in fact, believe what you've argued against, there is no point in proceeding to argue against that unbelieved belief. In sum, understanding is key.
4. If your opponent provides context to a quotation, that's a sign that you should have when you quoted it, not that your opponent is avoiding the issue.
This is especially true for Scripture quotation. When one pulls a statement out of context, very often one can make it mean anything he wants. Prooftexts are only valid if they can be supported to mean what you want them to in the setting from which they are pulled.
5. You shall not commit a logical fallacy.
Arguments should be intellectually honest, whereas logical fallacies are employed in order to obfuscate the issue. For a list and description of logical fallacies, go here.
6. You shall admit your mistakes.
We are all human, and we all make mistakes. If you blundered, or if you were, in fact, wrong, be man (or woman) enough to admit it, and amend your error.
7. You shall not ignore points or arguments of your opponent.
You have no right to decide which of your opponent's arguments are the "most important." What seems less important to you may be, to your opponent, their clinching argument, or a prelude to a further argument on which a discussion of a preliminary point depends. If you ignore that argument and yet consider yourself to be right, you are simply being dishonest. Similarly, you cannot pick and choose which arguments you will reply to, and then promise to reply to the rest when you have more time or ability, and then make excuses in order to opt out. Good Faith will allow you the time you need, but Good Faith also demands that you follow through.
8. You shall answer yes or no questions with a yes, no, or maybe, and go from there.
For some reason, "Rhetorical Questions" are defined to mean "Questions that don't need an answer." Rather, Rhetorical Questions are those which set up a further argument, depending on how those questions are answered. Thus, they need an answer. The most common rhetorical question is the one to which the answer is assumed, but it still, in truth, requires that assumed answer. Thus, if a person asks a Rhetorical Question, or any question for that matter, the continued discussion depends upon your response--so be sure to provide it.
9. You shall not be pompous or arrogant.
It is one thing to believe that you are right and the other person wrong. It is another thing entirely to carry an attitude into a debate that says "no matter what that person says, it cannot touch me, because it is a lie from the pit of hell" or some such other closed-minded rot. Being open-minded does not mean accepting all points of view as valid. Rather, it means being humble enough to discuss and decide between differing points of view. It means giving your opponent the respect to believe and to present his point of view without immediately or a priori consigning him to hell.
10. Always keep in mind the greatest two Commandments.
Love for God and Love for Neighbour must guide all that we do. We must speak the Truth, as far as we understand it, in a Spirit of Love. Even if we are completely correct in everything which we believe, if we do not communicate it with love, we are simply wasting our time.

If it is your desire to debate or defend your beliefs--especially if you call yourself a Christian--it behooves you to practice these Commandments.

Does Catholic Doctrine Contradict the Bible? (Pt 4)

In this final instalment of my response to's Overview of How Catholic Faith Contradicts the Bible (the original article is linked in the title of this post), we'll look at the topics of Original Sin, the Perspicuity of Scripture, an "everyday Catholic's" willingness to evangelise, and Tradition. And we'll examine author Steve Rudd's conclusion to this page, and see if it adds up. And if you've just joined us at the end of the journey, be sure to read parts 1, 2, and 3.

As always, when I quote Steve Rudd directly, his words will be blue.

13. Original sin is false doctrine

Steve Rudd, for a leader of a Christian church, and an apologist who attacks Catholics (and other Christians) for believing in the doctrine of "original sin" should, I would think, have at least some grasp of what it is that he is attacking. As it is, his doctrinal harpoon ends up being more of a doctrinal lampoon, when he states as a "Fact" that "Catholics say that infants inherit their parent's sin at conception and are therefore spiritually condemned and totally wicked."

Here, Steve Rudd is misrepresenting (hopefully simply because he misunderstands) the Catholic doctrine of Original Sin, saying that we believe that babies inherit their parents' sins. This is certainly not what Catholics believe about original sin!

On the contrary, Catholic Doctrine holds that, because of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, they forfeited the state of Perfect Grace in which they were created. They did not lose this perfect state for themselves alone, but also for all their descendants. We are all therefore born into a state of slavery to sin. We are born without God's saving grace energising us, and are plagued with concupiscence, the tendency to commit sin. It is by reason of this Original Sin that we all need a Saviour, Jesus Christ, to give us the grace to be reconciled with God and freed from the slavery of sin.

Rudd asks, then, whether the doctrine of inherited original sin is found in the Bible, and, since he seems to have no grasp of what the doctrine of original sin is, he points us to Ezekiel 18:20 for his "answer":

"The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself."
YES, Original sin, as I've described it, certainly is found in the Bible. What Ezekiel 18 refers to is not Original Sin, but generational guilt. Two very different things. Generational Guilt teaches that if a man is a murderer, say, his son will bear judgement from God for his father's murders--which is what Rudd seems to think that Catholics believe when they talk about Original Sin. However, Original Sin as Catholics define it (not as Steve Rudd wishes Catholics defined it) is taught plainly in Romans 5:12-21:
Well then; it was through one man that sin came into the world, and through sin, death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.... If death came to many through the sin of one man, how much greater an effect the grace of God has had, coming to so many and so plentifully as a free gift through the one man Jesus Christ! Again, there is no comparison between the gift and the offence of one man. One single offence brought condemnation, but now, after many offences, have come the free gift and so acquittal!...Just as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience are many to be made upright (Romans 5:12, 15, 19, emphasis mine).

Steve Rudd's next question carries on in the same misunderstanding, when he asks whether Jesus said little children are better models of purity and conduct than adults, and sends us to Matthew 18:2-3 for the "answer":
"And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, 'Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.'"
YES. Does that mean that they don't need grace because they're free from sin? NO. Steve Rudd and are teetering dangerously close to Pelagian or semi-Pelagian heresy on this point! Perhaps if he really understood what was meant by the doctrine of Original Sin, Rudd would agree with it. In charity, let us hope so.

14. Every Christian can understand the Bible by merely reading it.

Here, at last, we come to an actual important difference between Catholicism and Protestantism--and yet even here, Rudd can't get his "Facts" straight when he says that "Catholics are taught that only the priests can understand the Bible and the common man in the pew cannot understand the Bible without the priests help."

This is actually, again, an inaccurate misrepresentation of Catholic teaching. It is true that the Bible cannot be fully nor easily understood by just anyone. There are a lot of historical facts that not everyone can take the time to research and understand, as well as subtleties of language that are not entirely clear for a person who hasn't studied Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Add to that that the Bible was written in times and cultures far removed from our own, and it is the height of presumption and arrogance to think that one, on his own, could read and understand absolutely everything in the Bible.

While it is perhaps true that a great deal of the Bible is more or less clear, and can be understood, it is certainly not true of every aspect. Further, since the Reformation, the theory that anyone could read and understand the Bible has been put into practice--with rather disastrous results: various people have continued to interpret the Bible in various different ways, leading to various different conflicts, leading to myriad thousands of denominations! Protestantism is disunified precisely because of their belief in the sole authority and perspicuity of Scripture! And despite's organisation's claims to the contrary, all that they are contributing, all that they can contribute through their efforts, is the creation of one more denomination.

On this point of the alleged "perspicuity" of the Bible, Steve Rudd asks whether the scriptures say that when anyone reads the Bible, they can understand it for themselves. As his "answer", he shows us Ephesians 3:4:
"By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ"
NO, the Scriptures most certainly do not teach that they can be understood whenever anyone reads them! The text that Rudd chooses to quote here is ripped entirely out of context! In context, we see that the "Mystery of Christ" that St. Paul refers to is the reconciliation of the Jews with the Gentiles, and each with God, that he describes in Ephesians 2:11-22. We see this plainly from Ephesians 3:3--"He made known to me by a revelation the mystery I have just described briefly" (emphasis mine). St. Paul is not referring to the totality of Scripture, but to the passage immediately preceding the one that Rudd chose to quote from! As such, Ephesians 3:4 is completely irrelevant to the entire point that Rudd is trying to make. In trying to prove that anyone can interpret Scripture simply by reading it, Rudd actually demonstrates that he himself can't!

So what does Scripture say about whether it is easy to understand in its entirety?
At the same time, we must recognise that the interpretation of scriptural prophecy is never the matter for the individual. For no prophecy ever came from human initiative. When people spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Think of our Lord's patience as your opportunity to be saved; our brother Paul, who is so dear to us, told you this when he wrote to you with the wisdom that he was given. He himself makes this point too in his letters as a whole wherever he touches on these things. In all his letters there are of course some passages which are hard to understand, and these are the ones that uneducated and unbalanced people distort, in the same way as they distort the rest of scripture--to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16, emphases mine).
So how does the Bible tell us that we can avoid twisting and misinterpreting Scripture to our own destruction, so that we don't "los[e] the firm ground that you are standing on, carried away by the errors of unprincipled people" (2 Peter 3:17)?

St. Paul himself gives us the answer, and in the very book that Steve Rudd quotes above. In Ephesians 4:11-14, he writes:
And to some, his 'gift' was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; to knit God's holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.
Then we shall no longer be children, or tossed one way and another, and carried hither and thither by every new gust of teaching, at the mercy of all the tricks people play and their unscrupulousness in deliberate deception.
St. Paul tells us that God gave us not the Scriptures for that reason, but Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. In short, God gave us the Church, which St. Paul again says, is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

It's not that Catholicism teaches that only the priest can understand the Bible. Rather, the Church teaches that there is an absolute truth, contained in God's revelation, but that obviously, care must be taken to properly interpret, teach, and live out that Truth.

Since even today, not everyone can read or understand what they read, it is unreasonable to say that "everyone can read and interpret Scripture for themselves." This was particularly true before the invention of the Printing Press in the fifteenth century. Not everyone could even own a Bible, let alone read and understand it. The principles of Sola Scriptura and the Perspicuity of Scripture depend on certain social conditions that weren't available or possible until the Reformation itself--and in truth, still aren't fully realised today!

15. Catholics are unwilling to defend their faith

Steve Rudd seems to be claiming in this section that it is a "Fact" that when apparently any of the billion-odd Roman Catholics are challenged with the Bible to defend their faith, they are either unwilling or unable to defend what they believe and, never bothering to search out the "truth" for themselves, defer all challenges to their priest, who allegedly has all the answers; and moreover, that this alleged "Fact" is somehow a matter of Catholic Doctrine not lining up with the Bible, which, of course, is the overarching thesis of his 16 part attack on the Catholic faith.

Well, considering that I, a Catholic layman (not a priest) have taken the time to defend--from Scripture, Tradition, and Reason--the Catholic Faith as it has been characterised and caricatured at, I have effectively given the lie to this claim about Catholics. Besides, this criticism has more to do with the individual Catholic than with Catholic teaching. A Catholic who is unwilling or unable to defend the faith speaks about they themselves, rather than about the Church. And even then, it may honestly be that a particular Catholic doesn't have the intelligence or the education to know all that he or she needs to know to defend their faith adequately. Maybe they simply don't have the time or the resources available to learn. Maybe the most effective thing that they can do is simply live out the faith-filled life in honesty and simplicity and let their actions speak for them. Always being prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have does not necessarily mean that you can spout off theological treatises at the drop of a hat.

On the other hand, there are some who do enjoy studying theology and their faith, and truly can provide a solid defence of Catholic practice, history and theology. We are all part of One Body, and each member must use his particular gifts as best he can.

Despite the obvious logic of the above, Rudd nevertheless asks us whether a Christian should be able to defend what they believe from the Bible without the help of priests, a question which is neither grounded in logic nor reality. He then points us to the "answer" in 1 Peter 3:15:
"Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence"
YES, a person should take the time to at least learn the basics of their faith, so that they can give a defence if necessary. But that defence does not, as I said, have to be thorough and able to answer every objection. I'm sure not every person affiliated with the (non)denomination that represents could provide a solid defence of their faith, either, if I was to challenge it thoroughly. In fact, as I am writing this precisely to challenge at least's and Steve Rudd's views on Catholicism, if not their whole credal system, I have to wonder whether he, or anyone else at that site, would be able or willing to respond to my four-part reply? (Incidentally, since having written this response, I have met Steve Rudd personally--we ironically happen to live in the same city!--and I challenged him to respond to my articles on this site challenging Do you know what he said? He refused to debate me because I am not a priest! First he derides the Catholic Church because its laity won't defend the faith, but says a priest has to do it for them, and then, when a layman steps up, he turns them down because they aren't a priest!)

That not everyone is able, and some perhaps are unwilling, to give an adequate defence is precisely why there is a Church. That's why there are people gifted with a knack for theology and apologetics, and sites like this one. We aren't all called to do the same work the same way, and it is unfair to make out that the Catholic Church is defective or apostate simply because not every faithful Catholic can point you to chapter and verse to defend what they believe.

[Edit: One would think, if he was going to take the time to edit his article, Rudd might have acknowledged that this blog run by a Catholic layman, did in fact offer a cogent biblical argument against his accusations. But then, that would make him look bad, wouldn't it? Can't have that!]

16. Human tradition and man made doctrine is apostasy

As his last point of attack before launching into his rather redundant conclusion, Steve Rudd gives us the ridiculously misinformed and caricatured "Fact" that the Pope apparently teaches that he can change what is in the Bible if he wants!

Sorry, what?! Where, when, who has ever said that?! It has been the Catholic Church that put together and preserved the Bible for 2000 years, not changing a thing!

Rudd then asks, based on this ridiculous falsehood, whether Jesus said it was OK for man to change the word of God for man made Catholic doctrine, and cites Mark 7:7-9 for his "answer":
"'"But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.' He was also saying to them, 'You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.'"
There are so many things wrong with the above question, I hardly know where to begin.

First, based on what evidence does Rudd claim that Catholic Doctrine is "man made", considering I have dismantled his entire overview and showed it to be fraught with historical and biblical errors?

Second, while we're on the topic of "man made traditions," would someone please show me exactly where the Bible teaches Sola Scriptura.

Third, Jesus was condemning Pharisaical traditions in Mark 7, not all Tradition. In fact, the Bible itself calls Tradition good, if it comes from the proper source:
Another reason why we continually thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the word that we brought you as God's message, you welcomed it for what it really is, not the word of any human being, but God's word, a power that is working among you believers (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
So St. Paul's oral preaching was also "God's Word"! Since 1 Thessalonians is generally believed to be the first New Testament document that was written, oral preaching was the only source of God's New Testament Word at the time! Later, when Paul wrote back to the Thessalonians, he had this to say to them:
Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
So Tradition is not always a bad thing! Paul's oral preaching, his traditions, were called God's Word, whether they were ever recorded as Scripture or not! This is Apostolic Tradition, and about it, St. Paul further says:
Pass on to reliable people what you have heard from me through many witnesses so that they in turn will be able to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).
The Traditions of the Apostles were to be passed down through the generations, and they in fact were--sometimes as Scripture that was kept, preserved through persecutions, and canonised as the New Testament, but mostly it was through the teachings of the Bishops and the Early Church Fathers, who preserved the teachings of the Apostles, and wrote them down as they continued to proclaim and elaborate on the Faith. It is these traditions that Catholics refer to as Apostolic Tradition.

The Bible never opposes Apostolic Tradition, but rather, it itself is part of Apostolic Tradition. It is certainly the primary part, but it does not exist nor function apart from that Tradition, which acts as an interpretation of the things in Scripture, through the Holy Spirit's guidance of the Church, so that people don't twist the scriptures to their own destruction. That is the Bible's actual view of Tradition.

As a matter of fact, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, the claim that the Bible is the sole rule of faith, over and above (or sometimes against) Tradition, is itself not found in Scripture! Therefore, logically, Sola Scriptura is itself a tradition of men.

Conclusion: How the Catholic church views the Bible

Below are the kinds of replies that Steve Rudd apparently expects from a Roman Catholic priest if you ask him about the contents of this Bible study. And he says you should expect them, too. Well, as a convert from Pentecostalism to Catholicism, I posed many of these same things to my priest (now Bishop Bergie of the Hamilton, ON diocese), and amazingly, I got very different answers from him. He was, in fact, quite patient and knowledgeable. Anyway, I will quote each of Mr. Rudd's alleged priestly answers, and regurgitate a brief summation of my response.

1. Yes I know Matthew 23:9, seems to condemn calling me "Father", but you are not able to understand the Bible like I do.

We already discussed the lack of literalness inherent in Matthew 23:9. If taken literally, the passage would condemn calling people "Mr." and "Mrs." since they're both forms of the word "Master". It would condemn calling ancestors and biological parents "Father" although the Bible itself does that. It would condemn calling anyone a teacher or a doctor, as well, even though the Bible again does that! It's not the words, it's the attitude.

2. Yes I know is appears like Jesus condemned the repetitive prayer of the Rosary beads in Matthew 6:7, but Mary appeared to St. Dominic in 1208 AD and revealed to him the Rosary Beads herself!

Actually, my priest taught us the whole history of the Rosary, not just the vision of St. Dominic for a brief overview of the origins and history of the Rosary, see here and here). But again, the Bible doesn't condemn all repitition. Just meaningless repitition and babbling in prayer. If the Rosary counts, then I would submit that the majority of contemporary Christian worship songs count, as well as many of the pious-sounding prayers of many church leaders. But Jesus specifically said that vain repitition is bad, "because they suppose they will be heard because of their many words." In the Rosary, it's not the words or the repetition of the prayers that make us sure we'll be heard, but simply the love and grace of Christ. The words just help us focus.

3. Yes Matthew 13:55-56 seems to indicate that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but these were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage or just cousins.

Yes, actually, as I demonstrated. John 19:26-27 makes that evident.

4. Yes, I agree that 1 Timothy 2:5 sounds like Jesus is the only mediator between god [sic] and man, but the Pope decided she was indeed also a mediator between God and man

In a sense, we are all mediators for each other, as 1 Timothy 2:1 explicitly tells us. Christ is our only Mediator of Salvation, which is specifically what 1 Timothy 2:5-6 tell us.

5. Yes Christ and Paul did command every Christian to drink of the communion cup in Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-28. And Yes I know that two early popes condemned withholding the cup, (Pope Leo I [died 461 AD] and Pope Gelasius [died 496 Ad]; but in the 12th century the practice was begun, and formally approved by the Catholic Council of Constance in 1415 AD.

Again, since the earliest centuries, it was taught that Jesus is fully present in each single element, not divided between the two. And since the Catholic Church doesn't condemn drinking from the cup, there is no false teaching to accuse us of.

6. Yes I know that in the Bible (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Romans 1:7) every Christian was a saint and every saint was a Christian. Yes I agree, the Bible uses the word saint as interchangeably synonymous with being a Christian, but the Roman Catholic church has the power to change the Bible.

The Catholic Church neither has the power to change the Bible, nor did it actually change the Bible. It simply defined a particular term to refer to the dead in Christ (who are the only ones truly and perfectly holy--that is, saints). The Church, however, does not deny that in a broader sense, we are all also saints.

7. Yes I know that in the apostolic church (1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10), every Christian was a priest and the two terms are used interchangeably synonymous with being a Christian, but the Roman Catholic church decided that only leaders should be called priests.

This is not true! In the OT, every Israelite was a priest, but yet, they were not all Ordained Servants of the Temple. Similarly, the priestly structure of the New Testament has Jesus as our High Priest, and Ordained Priests who serve the Church, as well as the priesthood of the laity, mediating Christ to the world through our faith, hope, and love. And no, the Bible most definitely does not simply use the term "priest" and "Chrisian" interchangeably.

8. Yes I know that the Bible appears to teach that 1 Timothy 3:2-5 bishops must be married with believing children, but you can’t even understand the Bible anyway, why do you ask? Just trust me because only Catholic priests can understand the Bible.

This is just inane. Since the Bible advocates celibacy as a better way of serving God, we cannot understand 1 Timothy 3:2-5 as requiring bishops to be married. Rather, the guideline is that they can only be married once (if at all), rather than polygamous or divorced and remarried.

9. Yes I have read 1 Timothy 4:1-3, and is seems to condemn forbidding the marriage of Catholic priests, but the Pope decided that unmarried men are more holy than married men.

Actually, Jesus and Paul both lauded the celibate life as the better way to serve God! The Pope was just following their wisdom!

10. Yes I know that Mark 1:30; 1 Corinthians 9:5 say that Peter had a wife 23 years after Christ died on the cross (53 AD), but Pope Gregory VII decided in 1079 AD from that time onward, that church leaders cannot marry.

What's your point?

11. Yes I know that sitting through a Latin Mass service can be very boring for many Catholics in the pews. And yes I know that 1 Corinthians 14:19 condemns conducting a church service in a language the average member does not understand, but the Pope decided that Latin sounds real holy and has both historical and mystical qualities.

That's simply ridiculous. Latin was the spoken language of the time, well up through to the Renaissance. If you don't like Latin Mass today, go to an English one, or whatever language you happen to speak! (Did this site miss the last 40 years?!)

12. Yes I know the early church did not begin to celebrate Christmas until the 4th century. And yes I know that Galatians 4:10-11 condemns the keeping of such holy days not found in the Bible, but the church at Rome needed a way to convert the pagan worshippers of Mithra, the god of light... and it worked!

Actually, since Galatians 4:10-11 does not forbid the celebration of Christian holy days, and since Romans 14:5-6 permits it, and, in fact, condemns those who condemn people who observe certain holy days, it is that is hypocritically contradicting the Bible!

13. Yes I know that Acts 20:7 commands Christians to have weekly communion services and that the early church did not celebrate Easter as is done today, but having a yearly communion service was something later church leaders wanted to add to worship.

Are you kidding me?! Easter is most certainly not the only time that Catholics celebrate Communion! Just like the Early Church celebrated the Eucharist, not just weekly, but daily (Acts 2:46), so today, Catholic Churches offer Daily Mass! Sunday Masses in particular are a celebration of Christ's resurrection all year round!

14. Yes I know that the Roman Catholic church deleted the 2nd commandment (Exodus 20:4) in order to hid [sic] from the masses God’s condemnation of bowing down and kissing images of Mary and Peter, but Mary revealed herself to us in a vision.

What does Mary's appearing in a vision have to do with making statues? The "2nd Commandment" was never deleted. It is just counted as part of the First Commandment in our reckoning. Worshipping idols and other things than God is strictly prohibited in Catholicism--but that is not what our statues and pictures are, nor what we do to or with them!

15. Yes I know that Jesus was baptized by full immersion in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:16), and that sprinkling was not officially approved until 1311 AD, but it sure is more convenient.

Were you there? Did you see Jesus immersed in the water? Hmm.
Yes, it certainly is more convenient to pour water in baptism--and since that was the practice in the Church since the earliest times (though immersion was preferred), it is not wrong. Neither is it condemned in Scripture, but is even at times implied (cf. Acts 16:33).

16. Yes I know that babies have no faith and cannot repent, and are therefor not really valid candidates for baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37; Acts 2:38). But the Pope invented the idea of where the faith and repentance that the infant lacks, is exchanged for the faith and repentance of a "God Parent". Yes I know none of this is in the Bible, but the Pope is the "holy see" and he must know what he is doing!

Oy! The Pope is not the Holy See. That's the Diocese of Rome, over which the Pope presides.
Baptism is the New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament rite of Circumcision--in which the parents' faith stood in for their child's. So the Pope didn't invent the notion. It's a thoroughly biblical one.

17. Yes I know Ezekiel 18:20 proves the doctrine of total hereditary depravity (inherited original sin) contradicts the Bible, but you cannot understand the Bible anyway, only the priest can correctly interpret it.

Since Catholics do not believe in "total hereditary depravity" (talk to the Calvinists!), Ezekiel 18 does not contradict Catholic teaching! Original Sin does not mean that we are guilty of our father and mother's sins, but that we are all born outside of a state of grace, and trapped as slaves in a state of sin. Denying that truth not only contradicts Romans 5:12-21, but also opens the door to Pelagian ideas such as Man can save himself without the grace of Christ!

18. Yes I know that Matthew 18:2-3 teaches that children are better models of purity and conduct than adults, but the Pope teaches that infants are wicked defiled [sic] sinners condemned to hell until a Catholic priest baptizes them and removes the curse of original sin.

Since the Bible teaches that we are all sinners in need of salvation (including children), and that baptism washes away that sin (Titus 3:5, Acts 22:16), and that we are saved through baptism (1 Peter 3:21), not believing that is what actually contradicts the Bible!

19. Yes I know Ephesians 3:4 plainly seems to say that when you read the Bible by yourself, you can have the same insight that the apostle Paul had into spiritual things, but we Catholic priests cannot teach all our false doctrines that contradict the Bible unless we convince you that you can’t understand the Bible unless the priest helps you.

Yes, I'm sure that's exactly what a priest would say!
Ephesians 3:4 does not in fact teach that reading Scripture will give us the same insights that St. Paul had into the mystery of Christ, but rather, that reading what he wrote in Ephesians 2:11-22 will give us the same insights that he had into understanding Jewish-Gentile relations under the New Covenant. On the other hand 2 Peter 2:20-21 and 3:15-16 teach us that, in fact, we can't always interpret Scripture properly, and that many who try end up twisting it to their own and others' eternal destruction. That's why God gave us His Church, which is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

20. Yes I know that 1 Peter 3:15 teaches every Christian should be able to defend from the Bible what they believe, but isn’t that what us Roman Catholic priests are supposed to do? Do you want to put us out of job and rob us of all our power and control?

The role of the priest is primarily to administer the Sacraments given to us by Christ, as well as to train up Catholics in the way of truth and love, so that by knowing and living it out, they would be a witness. Whether the average Catholic can always give a detailed defence of their faith is not at issue. Rather, they should be able to defend the reason for their hope: namely, Jesus' salvation for them, purchased on the Cross! That's what St. Peter's talking about! And he says nothing at all about doing so "from the Bible".

21. Yes I know that human traditions that contradict the Bible are condemned in Mark 7:7-9, but all the doctrines that contradict the Bible which the Pope through [sic] up were revealed to him directly by Christ and therefore, although they contradict the Bible, they are divinely approved by Christ himself.

Actually, there are no traditions that contradict the Bible, when properly understood. Steve Rudd has tried and failed to provide a list of them, but I have shown how each can be supported by Scripture. A Tradition that can't be supported by Scripture, on the other hand, is's belief in Sola Scriptura. That's the real "tradition of men" here!

22. You really shouldn’t be reading the Bible anyway. And while we are talking about it, what else do you want me to teach you about what the Bible says?

Actually, the Catholic Church teaches that we should read our Bibles daily, recommending even half an hour of devout reading per day! It even says that doing so will obtain graces from God (The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation)! So much for that!

Steve Rudd concludes his diatribe agaist the Catholic Church by asking whether it is, in fact, the Church that we read about in the Bible, to which I respond, YES! Absolutely it is! And the more I read the Bible, the more I see the Roman Catholic Church!

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations.
Soteriology: Salvation.
The Scriptures: Scriptural Authority.
The Church: The Authority of the Church and A Light to the Nations.)

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.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Does Catholic Doctrine Contradict the Bible? (Pt 2)

This is the second part to our rebuttal to's introductory treatment of Catholicism. If you're just beginning, make sure you head back and read through Part 1, then head on to read Part 3 and Part 4. Thus far, we've covered calling priests "father", praying the Rosary, and the Catholic Church's veneration of Mary. In this part we will cover Communion under both Species, Saints, the Priesthood, Priestly Celibacy, and whether Peter was married.

Once again, whenever I quote Steve Rudd's words from the original page (linked to in the title), they will appear in blue.

4. Every Christian drinks of the communion cup

Steve Rudd continues his overview of the "false doctrines" of Catholicism by criticising the practice in the Church of celebrating the Eucharist under only one species. He claims as his "Fact" that while Catholics are allowed to eat of the Body of Christ, they are "not allowed" to drink what he refers to as the "juice" that is Christ's blood, saying that it is "reserved for church leaders only."

[Edit: As with Part 1, I'll be inserting notes responding to where author Steve Rudd has altered his initial article to adapt it to my response. He does so regarding Communion under both Species, so that it now says,

FACT: Although Roman Catholics are permitted to eat the bread (body) of the Lord’s Supper, they are generally not allowed to drink the wine (blood) of the Lord’s Supper, as any Catholic knows from his own experience from attending Mass. (Except on rare special occasions.) The laity (the people in the pews) are withheld the cup of the Lord and it is usually reserved for church leaders only. Yes there are denominations within the Roman Catholic "communion" where some RC sects actually offer the juice, but most Mass attending Catholics know they rarely drink the cup of wine.
While it doesn't change my point, it does actually undercut his own. That he realises this is evident in the fact that he calls the parishes that offer the Cup to the Congregation during Communion "denominations" or "sects" within Catholicism. This is wishful thinking at best on Rudd's part. Catholicism doesn't have "denominiations" and condemns sectarianism. While there are "sects" of Christians who call themselves Catholic, to be of such a sect is to be outside of the Catholic Church pretty much by definition. Parishes that offer the Cup are just as Catholic as those that don't. And as I point out below, the Catechism itself endorses communing under both species. Notably, his above edits also demonstrate once more how disingenuous he is in his arguments against the Catholic Church.]

This [that being Rudd's initial assertion that no Catholic layman is allowed to receive from the Cup] is not entirely accurate. Many Catholic Churches, such as my own parish, do in fact offer both the Bread and the Wine (not juice) during Communion. Many others do so on special feast days only, for various practical reasons. While the Church teaches that Jesus is fully present in one or the other species, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does endorse receiving from both species (#1390).

Rudd goes on to claim as an historical note that two early popes allegedly condemned withholding the cup, but that the practice nevertheless began in the twelfth century, and was finally and formally approved by the Council of Constance in AD 1415. He then continues on with his "Question", whether Christ and Paul commanded that every Christian should drink of the communion cup. For his answer, he refers us to Matthew 26:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-28:
"While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.'"

"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup."
I reply, Jesus is present in the concecrated elements, in His entirety, that is, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Bread does not become only His Body, nor the Wine only His Blood, but just as Christ is alive and dies no more, so He is indivisibly whole in each Eucharistic element. After all, a body without blood is dead, and blood without a body is also devoid of life.

While Steve Rudd is correct in saying that in the first 12 centuries, Communion under both species was typically observed, this was not done because they believed that Jesus was only completely present in the reception of both species, or that He was divided between the Bread and Wine. On the contrary, they referred to this notion derogatorily as "Sarcofy" (flesh eating), and held rather to the belief of the Totality of Christ's presence. In fact, even in these early centuries there were times and reasons to Communicate under only one species, such as taking Communion to the sick.

For a more extensive treatment of the subject, I would recommend the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Communion Under Both Kinds, as well as The Totality of the Real Presence.

In sum, however, since the Catholic Church does not forbid the reception of Wine, but for various pastoral reasons accepts as valid Communion in One Kind, Steve Rudd has no real case for complaint. The Catholic Church does not contradict the Bible on this issue. [Edit: One might ask Mr. Rudd why it is that they don't use wine at all in his communion service, since that's what Jesus Himself prescribed, but rather they use grape juice instead.]

5. All Christians are saints

Mr. Rudd declares, with absolutely no regard for how a term can be used a different way in a different context, the "Fact" that the Church uses the title "Saint" specifically for those who have died in friendship with Christ--or, in his characteristically simplistic way, "The Pope says only very special dead Catholic people qualify to be called 'saints'. He uses the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pointing out that, while she was alive, Pope John Paul was unable to canonise her. Rudd thus concludes that normal Catholics in the pew are never referred to as "saints".

This dubious point leads to Rudd's four questions--all basically the same, the first of which revolved around whether every living Christian in the church in Corinth called a saint. For his answer, Steve Rudd directs us to 1 Corinthians 1:2:
"To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours."
My answer to his question is, of course, YES, but rather than giving an extensive reply after each question, I'll conclude at the end.

His next absurd question is whether Paul wrote the book of Ephesians to dead saints, and then referring us to Ephesians 1:1:
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus."
With a sigh, I supply the obvious and inane answer of NO, and withhold further comment until this list of specious questioning has ended.

In the same manner, Rudd continues, asking whether the average Christian in the church at Philippi called a saint, in distinction to bishops and deacons. In "answer", Rudd quotes Philippians 1:1:
"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons."
Wait, hmm, NO, actually. The lay people together with the bishops and deacons were called saints. In fact, that Paul singles out Bishops and Deacons in this passage seems to me to demonstrate their specific role and ordination in the early church--titles with more weight than's denomination seems to give them.

The final question in Rudd's line of reasoning asks whether every Christian living in Rome was called to be a saint, and refers us to Romans 1:7:
"to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Ironically, Rudd gaffed on that last one. We are indeed called to be saints. Future tense, if you weren't paying attention! (Note, the word "as" does not exist in the original Greek of Romans 1:7, so translations variously put "as" or "to be" in between "called" and "saints".)

What Rudd fails to understand is that the Catholic Church uses the term "Saint" in reference to those who died in God's friendship, in a different (fuller) sense than it is used in the Bible. Conversely, the Church does not deny that we are all saints, in a manner of speaking, who have begun to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

A Saint, literally, is a "holy one." Because at our baptism we were cleansed from our sins, and reborn into the image of Christ, we are saints! However, because we are still fallen, sinful human beings, we are not yet completely holy. Therefore, the term "saint" or "holy one" can only apply to us in a limited sense.

For those who have died in Christ, once they have entered the Presence of God, having been completely sanctified (made holy), they truly are Saints in the complete and literal sense of the term: Holy People! Because there is no sin, nor occasion for sin, in Heaven, it is only those people in Heaven who are completely holy and free from sin. Therefore, in that sense, only those who have died and arrived in Heaven are "Saints".

Absolutely, all of us who are yet alive are called to be saints--to live a holy life and continue the process of sanctification. But even St. Paul himself claimed that he had not yet arrived or attained that calling while he was yet alive (Philippians 3:12-14).

Again, I fail to see where Steve Rudd's complaint is with the Catholic Church's use of the term Saint. The point is that early on, the Church wanted to honour those it knew had died in God's friendship, and whom it knew were now in Heaven. They wanted a term for such people, and, perhaps, "Heaven-dwellers" was simply too much of a mouthful. So, after, I'm sure, careful reflection, they used the term "Saint" to refer to these people, and in so doing, altered its meaning slightly from it's former use. There is nothing strange about this. Think of the Trinity, a word used to describe the Oneness of God's being, and threeness of God's Persons. Originally, though, "trinity" simply meant any group of three things. What a word typically means, and what it means when applied to a specific situation, can often be two different things.

If Rudd and his followers have a problem with the Church's beliefs about the Saints, or the process by which a person is declared a Saint, then let them argue that. If, however, their objection is simply to the use of the term, "Saint", then this really does not fall into an issue of Catholic doctrine contradicting the Bible, so much as Catholic word-choice contradicting Steve Rudd's sensibilities.

6. All Christians are priests

Steve Rudd claims that it is a "Fact" that the Pope decided to reserve the title of priest for church leaders only, and claims that the average layperson is forbidden from calling him- or herself a priest.

He asks whether or not Jesus made all Christians to be priests, including the average member in the pew, and attempts to supply us with the answer from 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6; and 5:10:
"You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

"Jesus has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

"You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."
I wonder if Steve Rudd has ever been to Mass? If he hasn't, I'm sure that he would be surprised to know that 1 Peter 2:9 is quoted (pertaining to the whole congregation) during the liturgy. Further, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of the universal priesthood of the Church. We are not forbidden to be referred to as priests--but it is understood that we are part of the Universal Priesthood, rather than one who has received Holy Orders.

Rudd fails to note in his citation of the above Scriptures, that the New Testament teaching of the Universal Priesthood is taken from the Old Testament. In Exodus 19:6, God says to Moses, "'"For you are to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation." Those are the words you are to say to the Israelites.'" Sound familiar?

So the Nation of Israel was to be a kingdom of priests. Each Israelite was a priest to God. And yet, there was a High Priest, as well as an entire Tribe consecrated to the Priesthood, of which the regular Israelite was not a part. Yet, they were all called to the priesthood. As such, we see three levels of priestly ministry in the Old Testament: The High Priest, who was responsible for mediating between God and the Israelite people; the Priests, who served in the Temple offering sacrifices and teaching the people; and the People themselves. What was their priesthood? To show the light of God to the nations, to mediate between the world and God, and bring the world to Him.

Thus, this idea carries into the New Testament. Jesus is our High Priest, who mediates between us and God. Then there is the ordained priesthood, in partnership with His High Priesthood, to proclaim God's word to us and who serve the Church, primarily by offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Then there's each and every one of us. And our role is the same as the Israelites'--to mediate between the world and God, and to bring the world to God.

So YES, Jesus made us all to be priests--but not to the same degree or the same purpose as the Ordained Priesthood. Sorry, Steve, your reading of Scripture is again incomplete on this point.

7. Bishops must be Married.

While Steve Rudd technically has his "Fact" right about Priestly Celibacy, that in AD 1079 celibacy was first made a requirement for priests and bishops by Pope Gregory VII, and that before this time, they had been permitted to marry, it is also a "Fact" that, technically, priestly celibacy is a "discipline" of the Church, not a "doctrine." It could be changed at any time, though that's unlikely. It is not a required belief of the faith that priests must be celibate! As such, whatever Steve Rudd has to say about this particular subject is irrelevant to his Overview of how Catholic faith contradicts the Bible.

Mr. Rudd then asks the question of whether the Bible teaches that a bishop must be married as well as have children as one of the qualifications of being a bishop. In answer, Steve takes us to 1 Timothy 3:2-5, which is a good place to look, since it specifically discusses the obligations of a bishop:
"A bishop, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)"
So, does the text above really say that a Bishop must have a wife and children? NO. It really doesn't. It gives rules for the Bishop provided he has a wife and kids, but many Bishops in the early Church had neither--such as the Apostle John (Bishop of Ephesus) who seems neither to have had wife nor children.

Further, since in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul encourages people to "remain as he is", that is, celibate, because they are more free to serve the Lord, we cannot therefore take his words in 1 Timothy as saying that a Bishop must be married. Rather, we should understand "the husband of one wife" to exclude men from the Episcopate who have divorced and remarried, or who practice polygamy.

Rudd's next question is whether the Bible, in the next chapter of Timothy, says that forbidding to marry is a doctrine of demons. In answer, he shows us 1 Timothy 4:1-3:
"But the Holy Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth."
YES, in fact, this passage does say that forbidding to marry is a doctrine of demons. However, since both Paul and Jesus laud the virtues of a life devoted to celibacy, those who refuse to marry are not therefore following doctrines of demons. Further, the passage here applies to all marriage in general, and not to the issue of Clerical Celibacy. Besides, no one in the Catholic Church is forced to be celibate against their will. There is a very elaborate discernment process when one looks into becoming a priest, and all the while, it is their choice to do so or not to.

Besides, it's an odd thing to accuse the Church of doing, forbidding marriage, when Catholics are the most vocal advocates of traditional marriage and its sanctity.

8. Peter was married

Steve Rudd dubiously claims that it is a "Fact" that many Catholics apparently believe that Peter was the first Pope (which we do) and that he was not married (which I personally have never heard anyone so idiotic as to claim). Rudd then quotes an unnamed "Roman Catholic leader" as saying, "if Peter had a wife when he first met Jesus, he got rid of her quick!" Personally, I'd like to know what "leader" said that! It is not a fact that "most" Catholics believe Peter was not married. Those who do are simply misinformed.

Rudd plainly asks us, "Did Peter have a wife?" and then directs us to Mark 1:30 for the answer.
"Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her."
Since clerical celibacy was not made a discipline of the Catholic clergy until the Middle Ages (as Mr. Rudd himself states above), the question of the first Pope's married life is rather irrelevant.

And yet, Rudd presses on, with question number 2, asking whether Paul said all the apostles including Peter had a right to be married, and taking us to 1 Corinthians 9:5 for his answer:
"Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?"
Again, YES, he does. This whole argument is absurd and a big non-sequitur since Peter's married life is not a question of Catholic doctrine, and therefore cannot contradict the Bible. So really, Steve, what's your point?

(As a side note, I wonder whether Steve Rudd's denomination actually has an office of "Bishop"? According to the Who We Are section of their webpage, which states that their churches have "no man or group of men, who legislate for the church," they sure don't seem to. So much for being the same church as the Bible, as they claim...

Why do they spend so much time criticising the Catholic Church for allegedly contradicting the Bible's teaching on Church leadership, when they don't even have that same Church leadership that is described in the Bible? Though I'm sure they justify it somehow... A paper for a later time, perhaps.)


(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations.
Catholic Distinctives: Sacraments--The Eucharist and Holy Orders.
Catholic Distinctives: The Communion of Saints.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Does Catholic Doctrine Contradict the Bible? (Pt 1)

While we wait for Peter's next contribution to the Dialogue on Salvation and Justification, I thought I'd bring some Draft posts out of the closet.

A while back, in my ongoing apologetic efforts for the Catholic Church, I thought I would tackle's treatment of Catholicism, beginning with their Overview of how Catholic faith contradicts the Bible. However, I had refrained from publishing this four-part series because's copyright page says it would be a violation. As such, I contacted the author of the Catholic section, and haven't heard back. As such, I am rewriting my response, editing out his words, but keeping his ideas (since ideas cannot be copyrighted), and responding in that manner. This is a bit unfortunate, since the original page (linked in the title to this post) was in a quiz-like question and answer format, and I had replied as though I was answering the questions, and then giving follow-up. It will remain much like that, except that the original questions will not be directly quoted.

A friend of mine (who comments here as "Hidden One") sent me the link to this site. According to, the 'denomination' it represents is a loose gathering of Christians who are seeking to throw off any denominational ties and return to their view of what the early Church was like. They claim to have no authoritative body larger than the local church, though there are sister churches throughout the country, and all over the world. They claim to be strict adherents to
Sola Scriptura, and reject all other traditions (even though they have a section on their page quoting the Early Church Fathers).

Checking out their arguments against the Catholic Church, at first reading it was just too cliché to really worry about. But since these clichés have convinced many Protestants that the Catholic Church is an idolatrous cult, and even convinced many Catholics to abandon their Church, I thought I'd reply to it after all. Due to the length of the original page, I'm breaking this into Four Parts. Because it is an introductory overview, Steve Rudd covers sixteen separated topics about his interpretation of Catholicism, and follows these topics up with a 22-point conclusion. This explains the randomness of the topics covered, and their order, to an extent. The rest of the explanation of the lack of coherent order comes simply from Rudd's seeming assumption that there is no systematic coherence to Catholicism, but that it is somehow just a bundle of human tradition heaped on top of each other. As such, the order that I deal with the issues follows the pattern in which he raised them, so forgive the random leaping around from topic to topic.

[Edit: Having recently recommended this series of articles to a friend of mine inquiring about the Catholic faith, I thought I'd bone up on what I had written, myself. In the process, I discovered numerous typographical errors, and while editing them, paid a quick visit to's article. Lo and behold, to my utter surprise, the original article had been updated in four spots--regarding the Rosary, Mass in Latin, Communion under both kinds, and the Celebration of Easter--in order to reflect certain comments made in this series of responses. As such, I'm tossing in a couple additional notes on those two points regarding the updates. The first thing I'd like to point out is that Mr. Rudd never notified me of the changes himself, even though he has, or should have, my contact information. His changes thus appear to be part of the original article, and are designed to undermine my arguments as if he had already anticipated my comments. This makes it seem, disingenuously, as if I hadn't really adequately responded to his article, but only passed on stock answers to his accusations. The fact is, his accusations are the "stock and trade" of anti-Catholicism, and his sophistries do not in any way defeat my arguments. The best he seems able to do is simply look like he had anticipated those arguments in order that they wouldn't look like arguments at all. If this sort of dishonest apologetics is any indication of the Christian denomination represented by, I would seriously hesitate to entrust my soul to its leaders and teachers, if I were you, dear reader.]

Any time that I quote the author, Steve Rudd, his words will be in blue. To see their original page, again, click the title of this post.

In this part, we'll look at whether "Father" is an appropriate title for priests, the Rosary, and the Virgin Mary. See also parts 2, 3, and 4.

Overview of how Catholic faith contradicts the Bible

1. Calling the Priests "Father" is forbidden

FACT: Catholics are taught to call their priest, "Father".

Question #1: Does Jesus approve of calling the leaders of the church, "Father"?

Answer: Matthew 23:9
o YES NO o

"Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Matthew 23:9
This is the general format of's treatment of Catholicism. A "fact" about Catholic "Doctrine" and a supposedly contradictory Scripture reference, followed by a quiz-like checkbox. It is incredibly black and white, with no apparent room for things like proper exegesis or context. You know, those things on which proper interpretation of Scripture is built.

The present question is about the appropriateness of referring to a priest as "father", in light of Jesus' apparent condemnation of the use of that term for anyone but God. In the mind of the tract's author, Steve Rudd, it's a clear-cut contradiction. But is it? That would depend on two things: According to the context of Matthew 23:9, are we to take Jesus literally when He tells us to call no man "father"? And are there moments in Scripture where Jesus' followers use the term "Father" to refer to other people than God?

First, was Jesus being literal in His condemnation of the title, "Father"? What does the passage say?
'You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one Master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up' (Matthew 23:8-12).
In the context of chapter 23, Jesus is condemning the Pharisees for their hypocritical behaviour. The seven verses preceding the text that I quoted above specifically condemns how they like to be pompous and showy in their religiosity, and love the respect that they garner from their positions. In contrast, Jesus gives His followers the above instruction.

And what does He say? What is His conclusion? That His followers are to be humble servants of others. It's not about the titles (Rabbi, Father, Teacher), but about the attitude of the heart. If a priest is prideful about his "fatherhood", then he is indeed sinning. But simply calling a priest Father is not what Jesus is condemning.

Consider Jesus' other examples. We'll omit "Rabbi" since I don't see that being much of an issue to our predominantly Gentile Christianity, but lets focus specifically on "Teacher." If Jesus forbids us to call our leaders, "Father", then He must also really mean not to call people "Teachers." I suspect that very few, if any, Protestants follow that injunction. In fact, many denominations refer to their main Pastor as the "Teaching Pastor"! We all referred to those wonderful men and women who gave us our education as "teachers", or "professors" in university, and didn't stop to think, "Hey, Jesus doesn't want me to do that!" And, for those who can honestly say that they really did follow the letter of Jesus' law on this issue, what about your family doctor? I assume Jesus' restriction on calling people "father" and "teacher" isn't limited to the English translation of those terms. (Or is calling the Pope, "Pope", okay, since it's from the Latin for Father? Didn't think so, somehow.) Well, "Doctor" is the Latin word for "teacher."

Again, it's not the title itself that Jesus condemned, but the attitude behind the title.

Secondly, are there examples of New Testament Christians referring to themselves or others as Fathers?

In Acts 7:2, St. Stephen refers to Abraham as a "father", and in Romans 9:10, St. Paul does the same with Isaac. In Matthew 15, Jesus Himself refers to the Commandment, Honour your Father and Mother, and teaches about the proper fulfilment of honouring fathers and mothers! And that's not the only occasion, either. So obviously there is an exception for ancestors and biological fathers. But what about the case of calling someone a Father who isn't in any way biologically related? Compare Romans 4:16, where St. Paul calls Abraham, "the father of us all." In Philippians 2:22, Paul refers to the relationship between Timothy and himself as "like a son with his father." In 1 Thessalonians 2:11, Paul again refers to his relationship and work with the Thessalonians as a type of fathering: "As you know, we treated every one of you as a father treats his children." Finally, in 1 Timothy 5:1, we have crystal clear biblical permission for the titling of priests as fathers:
Never speak sharply to an elder, but appeal to him as you would to your own father (emphasis mine).
As I've mentioned before on this site, the Greek word for elder, presbyteros, is where we get our English word, "priest." And here we see Paul telling Timothy to treat such priests with respect, and appeal to them as "Fathers."

So, either the Bible contradicts itself on the subject of calling people "Father", or Mr. Rudd is taking Jesus too literally in Matthew 23:9.

2. Praying repetitive words using Rosary beads is forbidden.

Steve Rudd follows the title for this section with some "facts" about praying the Rosary, saying that Catholics pray repetitive words with Rosary Beads, that these were first "invented" in AD 1090, by Peter the Hermit, and that St. Dominic began spreading devotion to the rosary in AD 1208. Rudd goes on to say that Catholics believe that Mary appeared to St. Dominic in AD 1208, at the church of Prouille and revealed the Rosary Beads to him. He then briefly describes the practice of praying the rosary by describing it as "pray[ing] 15 sets of 10 consecutive "hail Marys" in a row (150 times).

Just for the record, in 2003, Pope John Paul added a new set of Mysteries, so now it's 20 sets of 10 Hail Marys, so, 200 times in the Rosary. A note on the history of the Rosary: it actually developed out of the Liturgy of the Hours, and the monastic practice of praying through all 150 Psalms in a day. Laypeople in the neighbourhood wanted to practice a similar devotion, but didn't know and couldn't read all the Psalms. Peter the Hermit, if Mr. Rudd is to be credited, suggested praying 150 Our Fathers instead of the Psalms, while meditating on the life of Christ. Originally, the "rosary beads" were simply knots tied in a string, to help the people keep track of how many they had prayed. This eventually developed, especially through St. Dominic's guidance, into the Rosary we know today.

[Edit: As per the square-bracketed note in the introduction, I'm offering a few comments in this section regarding the updates to's article. The first is that Steve Rudd updated it to include my comments about Blessed Pope John Paul II's adding the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary--almost verbatim, mind you. He was very clear about my not plagiarising his article in the past, but apparently it's not exactly quid pro quo where Steve Rudd is concerned.]

Rudd continues with what he refers to as an "Historical note", saying that Catholics "borrowed" the idea of praying with beads from the pagan religions who were already using them hundreds of years before, citing specifically Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam (which, whatever else one might think of it, is not technically a pagan religion). Rudd's point, such as it is, is that because the Rosary uses beads, it is therefore the same as the types of prayers that Hindus and Muslims pray, which also use beads. Rudd's point, for whatever reason, in this historical note, revolves more around the beads themselves than the prayers that they mark.

In claiming that there is a connection between Catholics using a chain of beads to pray the Rosary, and Hindus or Muslims using beaded chains in their prayers (which he refers to as "rosaries" as well, as though we borrowed the word, too), Rudd is committing the Genetic Fallacy: Since using beads as an aid to prayer originated in Hinduism, it must be wrong! This doesn't add up, though, since there is nothing intrinsically evil about a bead, or a string of beads for that matter. It is the motives of the heart and how they are used that are good or evil. Just because someone in another religion had an idea, doesn't make it a bad idea simply because they belong to another religion. If I showed that other religions before the Jews recorded sacred scriptures for their religions, would Steve Rudd stop reading the Bible, since having a Bible evidently comes from pagan origins? I would certainly think not!

Steve Rudd's "Question" for this section is whether Jesus forbade repetitive prayer using Rosary Beads. For his "answer", he cites Matthew 6:7:
"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."
Here is the grist of Steve Rudd's objection to the Rosary--the charge that it is "meaningless repitition." But of course, we must ask the question, "Is all repitition meaningless?"

Well, if it is, then Mr. Rudd again has problems with his Bible. Take a look at Psalm 136. In each of the 26 verses in this Psalm, the author repeats the phrase, "for his faithful love endures forever." That's pretty repetitive if you ask me. This Psalm must be a bad prayer! But wait, it's in the Bible! Doesn't that mean that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit? Doesn't that mean it's God's Word? Hmm. Interesting. God caused the Psalmist to pen a very repititious prayer of thanksgiving to Him, and then later on, came to earth as a Man, and said that such repitition is bad. Somehow, that doesn't seem right. Or, maybe, He changed His mind after that?

Well, I don't think so: Look at Revelation 4:8:
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was studded with eyes all the way around as well as inside; and day and night they never stopped singing:
Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God, the Almighty;
who was, and is and is to come.
Huh. They never stopped singing that, eh? And these are angels in heaven!

[Edit: Steve Rudd tossed in a couple lines in response to my drawing upon Psalm 136 and Revelation 4:8 as evidence that not all repetition is meaningless. In order to make it seem like he had already anticipated my arguments, he writes:
Catholics will vainly appeal to Psalm 136 that alternates the same phrase 26 times with 26 different blessings God gives us. It is not 26 in a row as with the rosary! This is also a song, not a prayer. Revelation 4:8 has "angels singing" not "men praying".
Apparently, besides committing the Genetic Fallacy and being downright disingenuous, Steve Rudd likes to play "Move the Goalposts." Apparently, he A) wants us to believe that Jesus only condemns "meaningless repetition" when praying, and not when singing, as in Psalm 136, and acts as if there is a clear distinction between the two things--despite the fact that the Book of Psalms is often referred to as Israel's Prayerbook, and that St. Augustine was wont to refer to singing as "praying twice". I suppose if I sang my rosary prayers, it would suddenly be okay? Moreover, B) he wants us to think that because Psalm 136 apparently isn't as repetitious as the Rosary, that it's not repetitious at all, or that somehow interspersing the same, repeated phrase with different interrupting ones somehow flies under Jesus' "meaningless repetition" radar. But, C) when I pointed out a truly repetitious prayer, in Revelation 4:8, he justifies that by saying that it is angels, and not men, who are praying it. Again, not only is the distinction between singing and praying tenuous at best, Rudd once more has no concept of context, for three verses later, the 24 Elders (human Saints in heaven, according to most commentators) respond to the 4 Living Creatures song with their own: "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created" (Revelation 4:11).]

So, it seems that Jesus was referring to something quite different when He condemned meaningless repitition. Does the Rosary apply? Well, if all the Rosary consisted of was repeating the same prayers over and over and over, mindlessly, then I would say "Yeah, probably." However, that's not what the Rosary is! The prayers (which are all pretty much taken right out of Scripture itself) are designed to help us focus. Focus on what? Events in the Gospel. Events of Jesus' life. The prayers create a backdrop to the meditations on key mysteries from Jesus' birth, ministry, death, and resurrection! Through this meditation, we come to a fuller understanding of who He is! Somehow, I can't see Jesus having a problem with us using whatever means there is of getting to know Him better! (And, trust me, if you're using improper and sinful means, you won't get to know Jesus at all!)

I can attest in my own life to the increased understanding of Christ's love for me, gained from praying the Rosary. (For more on the Rosary, see my Rosary series by clicking here, and scrolling down to the heading The Rosary.)

3. Virgin Mary

Steve Rudd pours out a lot of information in his "Fact" section on the Blessed Virgin, citing beliefs such as the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, and the collateral, that she didn't have any other children other than Jesus. He also claims that the Pope teaches that Mary is the mediator between God and man. He again refers back to the Rosary, citing that because of its construction, that we praise and pray to Mary on a more regular basis than we do to Jesus Christ. He says, "Rosary Beads graphically represent how Roman Catholics heap 10 times more praise upon Mary than God himself. Of the 59 total beads of the Rosary, 53 beads are 'Hail Marys', but only 6 beads are 'Our Father'. The Rosary most often ends with a 'Hail, Holy Queen' prayer to Mary, not God."

Well, where do I start?
Yes, we believe that Mary was always a virgin, and that she had no other children (not necessarily that Jesus didn't have any brothers--if He did, they just weren't Mary's children). Catholics do not believe that Mary is a Mediator between God and Man, if by that you mean that she, of herself, can bring us to redemption. Rather, through our prayers for each other, we intercede or mediate for each other, and it is in this sense that Mary is also considered a mediator--that, and the fact that as Jesus' mother, she was instrumental to the plan of redemption, to which she willingly consented.

The claim that we give greater praise to Mary than we do to Jesus is completely wrong. Jesus is God; Mary is not. The kind of praise and worship that we give to Jesus is completely different than the honour paid to Mary--and the kind of honour paid to Mary is the same kind that the Bible commands us to give to our parents, elders, and those who have served the Lord. Finally, could not the fact that the Rosary has more prayers "to" Mary simply mean that every 59 times (actually, it's 54, counting the ten Hail Marys per decade, the three in the intro, and the Hail, Holy Queen at the conclusion) are as effective as six prayers straight to God (and there are more than six, if you count the six Glory Be's, the 5 Fatima Prayers, and the Apostle's Creed)? In other words, a) there are only (exactly) three times as many occasions of asking Mary to pray for us as there are direct prayers to God. In my mind, rather than taking focus away from God, it emphasises the effectiveness of going straight to Him, without excluding or diminishing the opportunity to rest in others' prayers for us.

Steve Rudd goes on to ask his questions--this time there are more than one. The first question is whether Jesus had other brothers and sisters, specifically from the womb of Mary. He uses Matthew 13:55-56 to provide the "answer".
"Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?"
Interestingly enough, the men referred to as Jesus' brothers in this passage (or anywhere else, for that matter, are never, anywhere in Scripture, actually called Mary's sons! In fact, at least two of the above are called sons of another Mary! In Mark 15:40, it describes James the less and Joses as being the sons of a Mary who was with the women who witnessed Jesus die. It would be unusual for Mark to describe this Mary as the mother of James and Joses, rather than of Jesus, if it was in fact, Jesus' mother! Compare the account in the Gospel of John: "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." So, we have three Marys at the foot of the cross. One is Jesus' mother, one is Mary Magdala, and one is the wife of Clopas--Mary's sister?! Are we really expected to believe that Mary's parents had such limited imaginations that they named both their daughters "Mary"? No. Rather, this gives us a clue as to who Jesus' "brothers" actually are.

In the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, there was no word for "cousin", and so family members were often referred to as brothers and sisters, even when the actual relationship was much more distant. While the Greek language does have a word for cousin, we must keep in mind that the men who recorded the New Testament were predominantly Jewish, and so even their Greek would have many Hebrew idioms in it. As such, they commonly continued to refer to cousins as brothers even when there was technically a better choice.

Thus, it can easily be seen that Jesus' brothers are likely to be His cousins. Another option is from an early Christian writing (not inspired) called the Proto-Evangelium of James, in which it is said that Joseph was a widower when he married Mary (who was consecrated to virginity), and that he had children from his previous marriage. Hence, Jesus' brothers could be foster-brothers and sons of Joseph, rather than of Mary. Either way, the fact that Mary did not have biological children is made very clear in John 19:26-27. In this passage, as Jesus is dying on the cross, He gives His mother to the care of John the Apostle. Now, if Mary had other sons, it would have been their duty to care for her, by Law. That Jesus would ignore them and give His Mother to John would have been a tremendous insult to James, Joses, Simon and Judas, had they in fact been her sons. Jesus, who was perfect and perfectly fulfilled the Law, would not have violated it either in insulting His brothers, nor in forbidding them their lawful duty to care for Mary. Thus, we can conclude quite readily that Jesus was in fact Mary's only biological Son.

As such, I answer NO to Steve Rudd's question.

Rudd's second question asks whether Joseph began normal sexual relations with his wife after Jesus was born? For the answer, he directs us to Matthew 1:24-25:
"And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus."
Rudd's answer to this question hinges on the word "until." He takes it to mean that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until Jesus was born, and then afterward knew Mary in the biblical sense. However, the word Greek word translated "until" does not necessarily imply a change of state after the "until". In other words, that Matthew says Joseph didn't sleep with Mary until Jesus was born does not therefore automatically mean he did so afterward.

In the Bible, there are several times when a writer says something should continue "until" a certain point, but means that that same thing should continue even beyond that point. Take Jesus' words in the Great Commission, for example. After telling His Apostles to go out and preach the Gospel, He says, "'And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time'" ("yes, to" is the same Greek word, heos, as used in Matt 1:25). Are we to think that, at the end of time, Jesus will no longer be with us?

Or what about 1 Timothy 4:13, in which Paul exhorts Timothy to give heed to sound doctrine until Paul comes. Does that mean that Timothy can become a heretic once Paul gets there?

So again, Matthew 1:25 fails to conclusively prove that Mary did not remain a Virgin. On this, I again answer NO, in keeping with the historic tradition of the Church, which was even believed by the early Reformers such as Luther and Calvin!

Rudd's third question about Mary is whether Mary is the one mediator between God and man of which the Bible speaks. Obviously and predictably enough, he pulls out 1 Timothy 2:5 for the "answer":
"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
NO, Mary is not that one mediator. However, Roman Catholicism never makes the claim that she is. Rather, she co-operates in Christ's One Mediation, through her willingness to bear Him into the world, and her continued prayers on our behalf. In that sense, Mary is used by God to "mediate" graces to us, but she is not the One Mediator of Salvation that 1 Timothy 2:5 is talking about.

On the other hand, each one of us are called to mediate for each other, in that very same passage! Again, context is key! In 1 Timothy 2:1-3, Paul urges us "first of all that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be offered for everyone...To do this is right and acceptable to God our Saviour" (emphasis mine). Intercession and mediation are synonymous. So while only Christ can mediate salvation to us, we can mediate for each other to Christ through our prayers of intercession. In the same way, Mary mediates for us, through her intercessions.

Steve Rudd's final question about the Blessed Virgin Mary (and the final question for this part of our series) claims that Catholics engage in "endless" praise of Mary, and counters that with the example of a woman in the Gospel who praised Mary directly to Jesus. The question is what was Jesus' response: commendation or discouragement? The Scripture to which Rudd appeals for his answer is the Gospel passage alluded to:
"While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.' But He said, 'On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.'" Luke 11:27-28
Since the Bible itself calls Mary "most blessed among women" (Luke 1:42), and again, the Bible is God's Word, and since Jesus is God, and God cannot contradict Himself, to interpret Luke 11:27-28 in a way that does not mean that Mary is not blessed, nor to be called blessed (since Mary herself proclaims, "Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed" - Luke 1:48) must be ruled out.

The phrase translated "On the contrary" by the NASB that Steve Rudd is using, is the Greek word, menounge (men-oon-geh), which does not mean "On the contrary" at all, but "Rather". Its root is men, meaning "Truly" or "Surely". Thus, Jesus' reply is an affirmation of what the woman said, accompanied by a clarification: that people are more blessed because they obey Jesus, not simply because they are related to Him. In this way, the New Jerusalem Bible has it better: "'More blessed still are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'" Is Mary to be considered and called "blessed"? Yes, for Scripture so tells us to! But why is she blessed? Simply because she was Jesus' Mother? That's certainly part of it. But the greater part is because she perfectly followed the Word of God!

Again, Luke 11:27-28 does not tell us that Mary is not, or should not be called, blessed! It just reminds us of how we are all to be blessed! Therefore, my answer is YES!


(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations.
Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.
Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)