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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Introduction to the Marian Dogmas

When I first began writing the Rosary series, I was reflecting on the Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary. In that meditation, I touched briefly on some of the Church's official teachings about Mary. One Protestant reader took issue with my simple statements of Church teaching, and so I promised that after the series was finished, I would examine the Church's official teachings (Dogmas) about Mary in greater apologetical depth. The time for that examination has now come. I offer this post by way of introducing the Four Marian Dogmas of the Church.

What is a Dogma?
Before we begin, it would be helpful to understand certain things. The first is the sense of the term Dogma, a term which, especially to modern ears, has certain negative connotations of authoritarianism and unreasonable submission to authority in blind faith. I do not think that any of these notions of Dogma are very accurate or helpful. A Dogma, in the Catholic Church, is simply an official, formal teaching of the Faith. It is something that is considered necessary to believe in order to be a faithful Catholic, because it belongs to that Deposit of Faith which was once for all given to the saints (cf. Jude 3). However, that does not mean that the Dogmas "came out of nowhere" or were simply "made up", or that they are contrary to reason or to Scripture. I have, and will continue to contend that nothing that the Catholic Church teaches is contrary in any way to Sacred Scripture, when it is properly understood. Further, Catholic teachings never contradict reason, though often they surpass what we with our limited human reasoning faculties can comprehend.

Bringing this back to Mary, it means that, regarding our understanding of Jesus' most blessed Mother, there are certain things that a faithful Catholic must believe. The same Protestant mentioned earlier asked whether one could have "variations" in belief about Mary. The question perplexed me, because there was one historical Mary. Therefore, certain things are true, and certain other things are not. One cannot believe something to be true, and yet suppose that another, contradictory viewpoint could be equally as valid. My answer seemed to upset the Protestant fellow, and he has since stopped coming to this blog.

I stand by the fact that two competing claims cannot both be true (though they could both be false). That is the simple law of non-contradiction. However, I must acknowledge that there are certain things about Mary which we simply do not know for sure. About such things, differing opinions are just as valid, because no one right answer has presented itself. How old Mary was when she gave birth to Jesus, or how old she was when she died and was assumed into Heaven, are things we simply do not know. Variety of opinion on such matters is acceptable (at least until the truth is revealed, if ever it is).

Marian Dogmas Ultimately Teach about Christ
However, when it comes to the Marian Dogmas, one must accept them in order to be a Catholic in good standing. Rejecting them is rejecting a tenet of the faith. This fact is important to keep in mind, because the Church's teachings about Mary were originally defined as dogmas in order to safeguard its teachings about Christ, against prevalent heresies of the day, or possible misunderstandings about the nature of who Jesus is, and how He saves us. The Marian Dogmas, therefore, are not simply optional, peripheral teachings with no real import to the message of the Gospel. Rather, they serve to protect the truth and the integrity of that same Gospel, that it might not become distorted.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it this way:

What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ. (No. 487)
The Four Marian Dogmas
As stated above, there are four infallibly defined teachings about Mary in the Catholic Church:

1. That she is the Mother of God, which means not that she somehow originated God, but that the baby to whom she gave birth was fully God and fully Man in her womb.

2. That she was a virgin throughout her entire life (i.e., not just up until she gave birth to Christ, but for all of her life).

3. That she was conceived "immaculately", meaning that at the moment of Conception, the Holy Spirit kept her from inheriting the stain of original sin, like the rest of us do. Through this preemptive saving action of the Holy Spirit, Mary was able to live a perfectly holy and sinless life.

4. That at the time of her death, she was taken up to heaven (assumed) bodily, like Enoch and Elijah (and Moses, according to some Jewish traditions).

If we keep in mind what the Catechism says above, in the context of the 4 Marian Dogmas, we see how they reflect belief in Christ in the following ways:

1. The belief that Mary is the Mother of God was originally defined to guard against the heresies that said that Mary only gave birth to a man, whom God later adopted, or bestowed His divinity on. The heresy denies that Jesus existed before He was born of Mary. Thus, the early Church called her Mother of God to contend that while Jesus was in her womb, He was in fact God Himself.

2. Her Perpetual Virginity reinforces the belief in and emphasises the importance of Jesus' birth from a virgin. It is one of the key beliefs surrounding Christ's Godhood. It was prophesied by Isaiah, and fulfilled at that first Christmas. That she remains a virgin safeguards any claim of doubt, saying, "how can we prove she was a virgin before His birth, if she wasn't after His birth?" It eliminates all doubt. Further, it was the historic belief of the Church, and even the Protestant Reformers Luther and Calvin believed in it undisputedly (in fact, Luther lashed out strongly against other Protestants who denied it!).

3. The Immaculate Conception is seen as fitting for the one chosen to bear Christ. On the one hand, it show's Christ's saving power in Mary's life even before His incarnation. Further, it demonstrates the absolute power of God's saving plan. Finally, because Mary is the fulfilment of the type of the Ark of the Covenant, it was proper that she would be consecrated just as it was.

4. Mary's Bodily Assumption into Heaven completes the idea of her Immaculate Conception. Since death is the consequence of sin, Mary's sinlessness preserves her from the need for death and corruption. It also reflects on Jesus' obedience to the Law (especially the 10 Commandments) as He fully honoured His Mother (Mary) and Father (God).

The first two Marian Dogmas (the list above is given in the order in which they were defined) pertain to Mary's mission, that is, the facts about her related specifically to her role in bringing Christ into the world. The second two relate to her person, and the specific graces that Jesus gave to her.

In the next few posts, I will examine each dogma in greater depth, looking at what it means, why we believe it, its history, and how it teaches us more about Christ.

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.)


Joni said...

I'm surprised you haven't gotten any comments on this post yet!

I have to admit that Mary was one of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome, on my road to becoming Catholic. I still have little "hmm, I'm not sure about that one" moments now and then, but I'm getting there!

I especially like the second point that you made here, about her perpetual virginity.

I look forward to future posts on this!

Keith said...

I like the way you have put this. Mary seems to be the biggest obstacles to Protestants. Something further I would like to add to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

From the moment of her conception, Mary was made sacred space. You made reference to this in comparing her, as many of the Fathers have, to the Ark of the Covenant. Once something is so dedicated, it is no longer treated as common.

Once our Lord dwelt in her womb, no ordinary person ever could. Mary is sacred because the One who lived within her was sacred. It goes back to what you said in quoting the catechism: that what we believe about Mary reflects what we believe about our Lord.

Therefore, Mary's womb, which is sacred, cannot be returned to common usage. She must forever remain a virgin; and so she is.

Gregory said...

Hey Joni!

Oh, I've gotten comments. I've gotten lots of comments! Just, not here.

My blog articles get automatically posted on my Facebook page, and many of my friends have decided to comment :)

I look forward to writing further posts. I'm a bit pressed for time this weekend, but hopefully beginning next week, I'll have at least the first instalment up.

God bless,

Gregory said...

Hey Keith! You commented while I was commenting!

Definitely a good point regarding Mary's consecration and the tie-in to her as the Ark. These are points which I will definitely bring up in future articles.

God bless

Andrew said...

As one of the posting friends on Facebook, I'm glad to finally add Barque of Peter to my favourites on my laptop so I can check out your other posts too!

Gregory said...

Hey Andrew! Welcome to the blog! Hope you stick around and that our conversation continues to be as productive and charitable as it has so far.

Alright, happy bloggers! Here's the deal. For those of you who are not my Facebook Friends, the blog seems rather dead lately. Would that it were so! The truth is, my Facebook page auto-posts all my blog entries to itself, and many of my Facebook Friends have been vigourously debating me at that location. To let you all in on what's been taking place, I'm going to post those comments here (in their names, because there are different comment options so I can do that :) )

God bless.

John Kassab said...

Re: The Immaculate Conception:

St. Ephrem the Syrian:

You alone AND YOUR MOTHER are more beautiful than any others, for there is neither blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these? (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 [A. D. 361]).

just one of the many Saints who affirmed this dogma, even before it was formulated.

Aaron Reimer said...

I'm looking forward to the extrapolation of #2.

I'd like you to address this question if you will: If Mary's virginity emphasizes the importance of Jesus' birth from a virgin as prophesied in Isaiah, how does the doctrine of her perpetual virginity safeguard that importance, as (premise 1: The fact that) Jesus had brothers and sisters recorded ... Read morein scripture, and (premise 2) such a perpetual state would necessitate their holy conception and virgin birth, leading to the corollary that such a birth is not unique, but one of many? It stands to reason in this Protestant's mind, that the value and importance in Jesus Christ's virgin birth by acknowledging a natural birth of her subsequent children, and a natural and scriptural cleaving to her husband.


John Kassab said...

Great questions. Firstly, I would say the presumption that Jesus has brothers/sister has much to do with it.

The burden of proof is on those individuals who support this idea. It is not supported by Scripture, nor is it ever recorded before in Christian history (pre-Protestant Reformation). And even during the Reformation, Luther supported her Perpetual Virginity, as well as his contempories.

You will find this concept pre-velant in late fundamentalism/evengelical Protestant movements because they think the Blessed Virgin is a "Catholic" thing.... Read more

This article does a nice job of what I tried to do in a few sentences.

God Bless

Hidden One said...
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John Kassab said...

Regarding the reasoning why Mary and Joseph did not have children its because their marriage, althought a marriage in the true sense, was not your typical run of the muck family. This women was choosen before the foundation of the world to have in her flesh, divinity itself, Jesus Christ.

God willed to come into the world through Mary and ... Read morewithout St. Joseph, their Guardian, Christ, and His Mother, would have basically been a scandal to the community since a child without a husband would have made Mary a grave sinner in the eyes of the community.

Aaron Reimer said...

An interesting read, and covers all that I would expect in a response to my question. My issue with it is that it does hinge a combination of church tradition (which for Catholics is considered a valid point of argument, but tends to hold little water for Protestant Christians) and on the idea that the authors of the gospel accounts wrote in a ... Read moreHebrew minded style of Greek. While the Gospel of Matthew would definitely fall into this paradigm, the audience of Luke was purported to be educated Greeks, Mark targeted a community of new believers in Rome (a Hellenistic center), and John clearly wrote to a Gentile Christian audience. Any of these later three, if only for the sake of communicative clarity, could have been expected to use one of the myriad of properly descriptive koine words to describe a less direct relation than "brother".

John Kassab said...


"My issue with it is that it does hinge a combination of church tradition (which for Catholics is considered a valid point of argument, but tends to hold little water for Protestant Christians)"

(1 Corinthians 11:2 RSV) I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.

This is quite clear. We are to maintain the traditions that the early Church fathers have delivered to us.

(2 Thessalonians 2:15 RSV) So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

another reference to tradition

(2 Thessalonians 3:6 RSV) Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

This is quite clear. We are to live in accord with the Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.
God Bless

Aaron Reimer said...

Thank you John, but a red herring on at least two fronts that immediately. The first being that it hinges on a translation of a word meaning more closely "teachings" or "ordinances"; the actions that were prescribed for Christian living. The second is that each of those statements clearly indicate things which had been taught and passed down already, and were descriptive, not prescriptive of something to continue in development past that point. Not "are receiving", not "are being taught", and not "am delivering"... "I have delivered". "You were taught". "You received".

John Kassab said...

Why does them being passed down prevent further things being passed down? That doesn't make any sense. You admit that at one point teachings, ordinances, and traditions have been passed down, why all of a sudden do you think it stopped?

I won't squabble over the particular translations because its the meaning that counts. I can pull you protestant bibles and catholic bibles that both translate it traditions either way.

its not the words that matters, its the interpretation, which is why the entire matter of Sola Scriptura is of utmost importance:

"We believe in the Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety as the sole rule of faith for the Christian!"

That statement is not supported by even Scripture itself! Making it self-refutable.
Not sure if you are a supporter of SS, but basically this:
leaves it in shambles.

Have you looked at what the Greek says in the above verses I quoted? Does proper interpretation of the bible presume a good understnading of Greek/Latin/Hebrew?

Aaron Reimer said...

I have, in fact, looked into the Greek of it. I wouldn't make a translatory statement without doing so. The meaning of this particular word is in (as I said) the acts prescribed to believers, and the "tradition" is rooted in the "tradition" of Jewish law. Those passages are referencing the ordinances passed on to not the early church, but the infant church in specific areas. Both the author and the audience had intimate knowledge of what those "traditions" were, and at that point would not have included anything so esoteric as whether or not the mother of Jesus of Nazareth had ever done the dirty. Given my rudimentary knowledge of Koine, I am also left to reference those that have a "good" understanding, which I have also done. Even bowing to superior linguistic knowledge, my point stands.

Now to continue, John, you're doing something that is typical in online arguments which I absolutely hate and I'm going to call you on it. You have taken one point of an argument, pulled it out, hammered on it, and ignored the weightier points of the argument. This isn't about the value of tradition, that was a side point in the argument. This is about whether the brothers and sisters of Jesus written of in scripture are the literal, biological brothers or not. I'd like you to answer the rest of my previous post before I present any further evidence.

John Kassab said...

Well, I defn know how you feel, it happens.

I completely disagree with you that any of these "traditions" had anything to do with Jewish traditions. These letters made their way around the Church and not all were Jewish. Plus I don't see anything in the context which suggests that. Do you?

" Both the author and the audience had intimate knowledge of what those "traditions" were, and at that point would not have included anything so esoteric as whether or not the mother of Jesus of Nazareth had ever done the dirty"

I agree that those "traditions", "teachings" or whatever we wat to call them, the audience had an intimate understanding of them and I would argue that the _development of doctrine_ has and continues to take place through the Church and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is one of them.

There are multiple sources in Early Christian history which support this doctrine, not to mention the Our Lady answers to the Angel Gabriel which is most revealing.

Early Fathers on Mary's Virginity

Unfortuently my brower closed and I lost a response.

I was saying that the fact that Mary is even asking the question of "how can this be since I know no man" is a sign of her consecrated life to God. Her question to the Angel of how can this be makes no sense in the light of her betrothal unless she intended to remain a virgin her whole life.

The difference between Zacharias question and his punishment and Mary question and the answer given by the Angel, is that Mary question was a true question in the sense she did not doubt anything the Angel was telling her, but she was incapable of acting on the Angels good news and keeping her consecration to God...because they were in conflict, as many Early Church Fathers have explained.

Aaron Reimer said...

I was not intending to imply that the traditions passed down were the Jewish laws, but like unto them. The reason that I included that is that it is the word used elsewhere to refer to them.

I have read the sources from the early church. The reason that I don't ascribe the weight of scripture to them is their CLEAR cultural influence. The beliefs and interpretations of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd century Christians do not necessarily have superiority to those of Spirit led 10th, 18th, or 21st century Christians. Throughout history the beliefs and translations of the church have been guided by the beliefs of culture. The womb that bore Christ "fouled" by her husband's semen? Come on.

The statements of the Early church fathers are just as prone to error as those of any further leader in the church. They argued and were influenced by their own pride and worldview. If Paul could call down Peter, those that followed in his footsteps must be equally fallible.

John Kassab said...

I agree that the ECFs are not the source of truth and equally, they are not infallabile. It is the Church's teaching authority that is the infallable ("the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, whatever thou bind in Heaven will be bound on earth and whatever thou loose in Heaven will be loosed on earth".)

And I think your language needs to be corrected since you mentioned infallability:

St. Peter's actions in Acts was not a matter of Infallability, it was a matter of a pastoral decision that he made which was incorrect, as St. Paul says. St. Peter, the Pope, and the Bishops in union with him are not impeccable, they are capable of sin, but the Church, when teaching of matters of faith and morals was promised to be infallable: it is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim. 3:15).

in short,

Infallability =/= Impeccability

ECFs =/= 100% correct but the consensus of the ECFs is a great pillar and cannot be overlooked.

"The reason that I don't ascribe the weight of scripture to them is their CLEAR cultural influence. "

Nobody I know suggests that the weight of Sacred Scripture is on par with what the ECFs teach.

Maybe you confuse Sacred Tradtion which is equal to Sacred Scripture, to be the same of the ECFs teachings, but it is not....

And again, the CULTURAL influence is not a bad thing, but only an accident of the times. The bible itself is an example of this. Thats why it takes prudence to interpret any Scripture because you need to understand the historical context as well as the culture.

Aaron Reimer said...

I assure you we are of the same understanding regarding that particular encounter between Peter and Paul.

For the rest, I will refer to the Anglican Articles of Religion:

XIX. Of the Church. The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

XXI. Of the Authority of General Councils. General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.

John Kassab said...

Why the Anglican Articles?

Aaron Reimer said...

As a youth minister in the Anglican Church of Canada I felt them adequate to represent my views ;).

Ed Skelton said...

For Protestants, it is permissible but not obligatory to confess the perpetual virginity of Mary, right? I gather that Aaron's point is that, so far, your points don't go nearly far enough to change this. At best, they render it somewhat plausible. And Aaron wonders if they actually do render it plausible. I have doubts myself.

Will all this boil down to the same ol' debates about the Roman church's right to bind us with all of her official authoritative teachings?

Hidden One said...
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Ed Skelton said...

Protestants can (and do) believe Catholics are correct on many matters, right?

Yes, you're right that nowadays anyone can form a new "church" if they like. And you're right that this is a problem.

But (reading between the lines) I don't think I buy your solution to this problem.

Hidden One said...
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Aaron Reimer said...

"Hey, at least as a Catholic I can say that my Church neither split away from any Christian group nor is otherwise theologically descended from any other Christian group."

*Ahem* WTFROFLCOPTERBBQ? As I recall, the RC church was the one that split with the Orthodox church. Changing the rules and saying "I win" doesn't work. Just as saying "I've been on this path since the beginning" when others say "Hey! This fork gets you back to where you're supposed to be" doesn't mean that you're on the right path.

John Kassab said...

The Schisim of 1054 AD wasn't the Catholic splitting from anyone but quite the opposite. And of course, the various Eastern Orthodox churches would say the same about us.

That is a more complicated issue than the Protestant split.

In Christ through Mary,
- john

Ed Skelton said...

I was just thinking to myself, "What's the cash value of the unity the RC church can plausibly lay claim to?" My next thought was, "Well, they all agree to submit to the Pope and his bishops and the official teachings of the RCC as promulgated by the official teaching body of the RCC."

But then it dawned on me that the majority of RCs in North America do not submit to what the RCC teaches on faith and morals.

How unified are RCs in North America? Am I way off?

John Kassab said...

As Christ said, within the Church there are the wheat and chaff, the problem is you can't tell the difference between the chaff and wheat until it comes to fruition.

The question of how unified is a hard one to answer. The better question is how faithful are the people to the call of Christ to follow His teachings as His Church so faithfully promotes. The question of how frequent they participate in the Holy Mysteries, what the morals of the people are (based upon what the Church teaches), etc. In any event, we are called to pray for them, those who beleive in death, disobedience, and many other things (ie: contraception, embroynic stem cell, etc).

Hidden One said...
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Ed Skelton said...

I think you're committing the 'No True Scotsmen' fallacy.

Hidden One said...
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Ed Skelton said...

But you'll admit that very many (most?) self-identified RCs in NA do not believe what the RCC teaches.

What's interesting to me is this: I bet they still commune. And so, as a matter of fact, the magisterium and the bishops and all the rest haven't fared much better than Protestants in terms of the doctrinal unity of the self-identified flock.

I'll admit I might be overselling the disunity of self-identified RCs.

In any case, imagine how things look from my perspective. I'm scandalized by the disunity, heresy, and sectarianism amongst my fellow Protestants. But when I look over to the RCC in NA, the grass doesn't seem much greener.

I don't pretend this counts as a refutation of the RCC in NA. But it does help explain why, in the end, these "Protestantism is crazy disunified!" sorts of arguments don't persuade.

John Kassab said...

Just an interesting note which I feel is important to point out:

Following the traditions of the Early Church and other Reformers like Martin Luther, the English Reformers such as Hugh Latimer, Thomas Cranmer and John Jewel accepted the perpetual virginity of Mary. They neither affirmed nor denied the possibility of Mary having been preserved by ... Read moregrace from participation in original sin. The Book of Common Prayer in the Christmas collect and preface refers to Mary as "a pure Virgin".

Hidden One said...
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Gregory said...

Wow! I get busy for a few days, and suddenly there are 53 emails in my inbox--40 of them replying to this note! Nice to know people read my writing!

Anyway, I'm afraid I've got a correspondence course due by next Monday, so I don't have time to either publish a new article at Barque of Peter regarding our Blessed Mother.

Anyway, John and Poet, thanks for holding down the fort.
Aaron and Ed, nice to hear from you guys, even if it is in a rather polemical fashion :) What should I expect from fellow Emmanuel Bible College alumni?

So here's what I'm promising: in the comments to this note, here, I'll do my best to answer the objections to things such as "Tradition" and the unity or lack thereof among North American Catholics, and how that relates to Protestantism and the validity (and superiority) of the Catholic faith.

In the next week or two, I'll continue with my promised Marian articles. The first will be the relatively uncontroversial (though, I'm surprised at how often it gets controverted) doctrine of Mary as Mother of God (Theotokos).

After that, I'll offer a full and complete apologetic for Mary's Perpetual Divinity. As such, I won't bother replying to your (Aaron's and Ed's) objections to it in this thread of comments.

Hopefully you all can play nice until then. Please remember that while we disagree with each other, that we are all Christians, and must treat each other with charity.

God bless

Andrew Hodgkins said...

I believe Greg and I have a respectful knowledge of each other's positions on this subject, and as such I won't be adding to the debate in that way. Assuming I'm on Facebook and remember, I'll be most interested to see his next few notes (Hi Greg!) because I'm interested in hearing the logic
behind the Catholic position, and I trust Greg to have spent the time working through it.

That being said, I'd like to comment on a couple of reader's points...

First of all, I believe that the article John posted does present the Catholic view to refute Aaron's point of Jesus having biological siblings. However, I don't believe that it shows that He didn't, only that the text may not necessarily mean that He did. However, Aaron's counterpoint is well thought out as well, and was never even discussed by any further comments. This is one of the things I hope to find out while reading Greg's future blogging.

As for the article from the militant church, it certainly is militant, and has a peculiarly Catholic (rather than catholic, if you catch my drift) spin on it to be using it as a defense to a non-Catholic.

To the Wandering Poet: It is NOT permissible for ANY Christian to believe "ANYTHING". You were correct in interpreting your description as crass... decides not to make joke about actually finding the way to one's own house... not surprised you couldn't find an Anglican.

That's all I have to say to the Poet, although I also could dispute your comments at length as you've been quite busy doing for Ed.

My last comment is this - I've seen militant Protestants, and militant Catholics, and I've seen and heard of hypocrites on both sides as well. Although I doubt that the Poet would agree to this arrangement, I believe that you and I, Greg, can agree on this:

I will endeavour to live in the way that Christ would have me do, and I believe that you will do the same. Neither of us is perfect, we both need His salvation, that much is certain. In context of this, I will do my best to be a Pentecostal in the way that God intended a Pentecostal to live, and you will do your best to be a Catholic in the way that God intended a
Catholic to live, and that in both cases that would be to follow Christ wholeheartedly and seek to know Him better.

As Spock said to Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - "I have been... and always shall be... your friend."

Hidden One (aka, Wandering Poet, on FB) said...
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Andrew Hodgkins said...

You're right Paul. I don't know you very well. But I have heard you converse in a rather... shall we say militant... manner on this type of subject. Thus, my point of view may be skewed. If so, I apologize.

I know that not everyone that wants to get to heaven has a handle on how to get there. Just as some people who want to get to their house, say, could point someone in the opposite direction... I'm only ribbing you because it was my gas... and on that occasion I was right, although you were fully convinced otherwise.

My point may be humourous, or it may not, but I'm merely saying I need more proof than your word that I'm going the wrong way... call me old-fashioned. And by the way, I don't categorically believe that the Pope is wrong. Just to throw that in there.

Doubtless my comments could have been better brought to light if I hadn't just read the post after there were 40-odd comments on it already. It was meant as a general comment, props to Greg, and a friendly jab to yourself. I'm sorry if it cam across otherwise. I don't think you are always wrong Paul, nor do I assume that about the Catholic church. There are, however, occasions when one can only hear so many generalizations about "the Protestants" before responding.

Gregory said...

LOL Your "finding your way home" comment was actually based on a real situation?! Gotta say, that's hilarious!

Anyway, Andrew, I appreciate your comments, and your interest, and most of all, your heart. I agree with you that there was an unfortunate end to the Perpetual Virginity discussion when John didn't follow up on Aaron's response to his articles. I imagine, though, that John was leaving that response for me.

You wrote: "I'll be most interested to see his next few notes (Hi Greg!) because I'm interested in hearing the logic
behind the Catholic position, and I trust Greg to have spent the time working through it."

I've stated it often, but Mary was the biggest hurdle to me becoming a Catholic. In fact, on the issue of Mary's Perpetual Virginity, as well as her Immaculate Conception (I always believed that she was "The Mother of God". The proper understanding of that was clearly taught to us at EBC, by a rather anti-Catholic professor--John Schuit, Aaron and Ed, just so you know whom I mean), I had Melissa (my cradle-Catholic wife, for those who don't know) completely turned around to the Protestant way of thinking on those subjects before finally the weight of the Catholic position crashed down on me and I had to surrender to the force of its logic and history.

So yeah, I thank you for acknowledging at the very least that I've done my homework on the issue.

As for you being the best Pentecostal, and me being the best Catholic, that we can be, I do agree with that an extent. I believe that being the best Catholic that I can be entails not only living my faith daily, as I follow Jesus, but also to share that faith with others. So while I value your friendship, and believe in the beautiful sincerity of your relationship with Jesus, I'll still try my best to tug you, gently, toward the Catholic Church ;)

After all, "The Wrath of Khan" was followed by "The Search for Spock" and the attempt to bring him home :)

God bless

Andrew Hodgkins said...

lol... very true... but his home was still Vulcan rather than Earth my friend. ;)

God bless,

Gregory said...

And ours is heaven. I just think it's easier to get there sailing in the Barque of Peter than the NCC1701A.

Andrew Hodgkins said...


Gregory said...

Alright, I've finished my course at Mohawk, so now I'm able to get back to the blogging. First, I'll go through and answer some of the comments here.

First, Aaron, the Catholic Church denies premise 1) if Jesus' brothers and sisters are taken to mean Mary's children. As such, premise 2) is undercut, as it flows directly out of premise 1. That's all I'll say for now, however, since I intend to address just this and other common concerns when I write the article on Mary's perpetual virginity.

As to Traditions, the three texts which John Kassab cited each use the word "Paradosis", which, according to Thayers means, "a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e. tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc.

a) objectively, that which is delivered, the substance of a teaching

b) of the body of precepts, esp. ritual, which in the opinion of the later Jews were orally delivered by Moses and orally transmitted in unbroken succession to subsequent generations, which precepts, both illustrating and expanding the written law, as they did were to be obeyed with equal reverence

2 Thessalonians specifically details these traditions being passed down by "word of mouth" as well as in written form, affirming the importance of an extra-biblical source of the Apostles' teaching--especially since it is evident from other pericopes that not every teaching of Christ or the Apostles was included in Scripture (cf. John 21:25, for example). Since the Bible nowhere asserts Sola Scriptura as a rule, and on the other hand advocates for the validity of certain Traditions, objecting to something like the Perpetual Virginity of Mary on the grounds that it combines Scripture and Tradition doesn't really suffice in rejecting it.

Further, the fact that St. Paul refers to certain Traditions as passed down already does not logically preclude the fact that more Traditions would be forthcoming. After all, most scholars agree that 1 and 2 Thessalonians were the first, or among the first, of St. Paul's letters to be written. As such, every letter written after them would constitute a "Tradition" in written form that was passed on later--especially where those subsequent letters deal with subject matter not covered in 2 Thessalonians. Now, it could be argued, of course, that St. Paul had already dealt with the materials in those other letters with the Thessalonian Church while he was with them, and therefore had no need to write to them about those other things. At the same time, it could equally be argued that he also dealt with Traditions such as Mary's Perpetual Virginity at that time as well. Since both such arguments are "from silence", neither one carries more weight than the other.

Gregory said...

As for your comments to John regarding the fallibility of the ECF's, I think he did an adequate job addressing your concerns. I'll simply reemphasise that while the ECFs were obviously writing out of their cultural milieu, the same is to be said about the writers of the New (and Old, for that matter) Testament. Yet God guided those culturally-influenced writers in order to preserve their teaching from error. On what ipso facto principle are you basing your assumption that He could not have done the same for later leaders of the Church?

As for the Anglican Articles, I'll start by quipping that I'm as inclined to take their word for things as you are to take the ECFs. After all, if only Scripture can be taken as infallible, then the Anglican Articles could themselves be in error (as I believe they are) about Scripture alone being infallible. While it is easy enough to make the assertion that Rome has erred at certain points, one's disagreement with Rome is not enough to demonstrate the error on Rome's part. It just as easily could be the disagreeing party's error.

Aaron, your last comment, pertaining to the Orthodox Schism, was again answered by John pretty well. I agree with him that it was a complex issue (moreso than the Reformation). As such, I'll leave it alone, and perhaps, at a later point, I'll dive into some serious research regarding Catholic/Orthodox relations.

Since that was your last comment here, I'll turn my attention to Ed...

Gregory said...

Hey Ed! Long time since we've talked! How're things? Chris Freeman recently mentioned to me that you're the mind behind Pilgrim.not.Wanderer linked on his blog. I'll have to pop by sometime. I like the name.

Anyway, I just wanted to reply to some of your probing questions.

Reflecting on the Catholic Church's claim for unity, you wrote,
"But then it dawned on me that the majority of RCs in North America do not submit to what the RCC teaches on faith and morals.
How unified are RCs in North America? Am I way off?"

Perhaps it will sound somewhat evasive for me to answer that the issue is not so much that every person is unified with the Pope and agrees with and practices everything that the Church teaches. People have free will, even in the Catholic Church, and many choose to reject the teachings of the Church, and yet personally cling to the identity of "Catholic." This should come as no surprise, since Jesus Himself prophesied this happening in His parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13). Reflecting on this passage, St. Augustine warned us that we cannot reject the Church simply because others do not live up to its teachings. For when Jesus comes again, He will blow away the chaff from the threshing floor and welcome into His Kingdom all who remain. But if out of a sense of righteous indignation, or their motives, we extricate ourselves from the chaff here and now, there is nowhere else for us to go, except outside of the threshing floor. And when Jesus returns, He is not going to reap from anywhere from the threshing floor. It thus does us no good to, in a rash bout of holier-than-thou-ish-ness to go elsewhere than where Jesus wants us.

Not to say that you yourself are being holier-than-thou. I'm just paraphrasing Augustine (since I don't have the actual book with the actual sermon in it with me, having lent it to a friend quite some time ago, and have yet to get it back...(*cough*Poet*cough*).

The point is, there are going to be less than faithful members of the Church. So what does the argument for unity mean? What's the "cash value", as you put it? To me, it is simply this: That in Catholicism, the ideal of unity is achievable--meaning that if everyone did, in fact, submit to the teaching of the Pope, there would be unity. This unity is institutionally impossible in Protestantism because of the very epistemological make-up of Protestantism: That is, the notion of Sola Scriptura and the accompanying notion that each person is entitled to interpret the Bible for himself. This has led to a disunity that goes beyond the disobedience of the person to an established authority. Rather, it makes that person his own authority, and thereby justifies the disunity, and institutionalises it. Without an authoritative interpreter of the Scriptures to which all Christians are to submit, then unity cannot be achieved.

The difference, I think, is clear: Catholic disunity is a result of individual sinfulness and disobedience. Protestant disunity is a natural outflow of its very first presuppositions, and is institutionalised in denominationalism.

Gregory said...

As far as the No True Scotsman fallacy, I don't believe that Wandering Poet actually committed it, though rereading his post, it's easy to see why it appears so. Avoiding the namecalling of who constitutes and who does not constitute a "true Catholic", the point, however, remains that there is a "true Catholicism", with which one either agrees and practices, or rebels against. One who at one point was baptised and practices the Catholic faith can still rebel against it at a later point. Thus, it affects the, shall we say, popular unity of the Catholic faith, but the fact remains that the Doctrinal Unity is unaffected. There is still a true Catholicism, and that True Catholicism is expected to be obeyed.

As for whether many or most Catholics in North America don't adhere to orthodox Catholic doctrine, and yet still commune at Catholic Churches, is simply a matter of these Catholics' sinfulness. The fact that they don't adhere to the faith puts them into mortal sin. The fact that they continue to commune simply compounds that sin. Christianity is a Covenant, and by their act of sinning, they have rejected that covenant and placed themselves outside of it (requiring, at least, sacramental confession to reinstate themselves into the Covenant). While the causes of these peoples' rejection of doctrine are many (personal sin, improper catechesis, indifference, etc.), it does not affect the unity and authority of Catholic Doctrine.

The problem with your analogy is here: You are scandalised by disunity in Protestantism, in the sense that the Baptists and the Methodists disagree in their doctrines; the Anglicans and the Pentecostals disagree; the Lutherans and the Presbyterians disagree...

This is the disunity referred to as "Protestants are crazy disunified!" It completely ignores the fact that the individual member of any particular denomination himself may not fully adhere to that denomination's doctrines or might not fully live up to that denomination's moral precepts. Yet, "Protestants are crazy disunified!" is contrasted with the personal disobediences of individual Catholics on a heart level, rather than the institutional and doctrinal unity of Catholicism. I don't have a fancy term for that fallacy, but it definitely seems to be one. False analogy, perhaps?

I guess that's all I have to say for now. Hope y'all stick around when I actually get to the meat of these forthcoming articles!

God bless

(I'll have to stop transcribing for now. Have other things to do. I'll finish up tomorrow, most likely.)

Aaron Reimer said...

Well answered Greg, thank you. The issue I have is not with 'scripture sola' per say, as the weight of tradition ascribed. Not that ANY tradition should be discarded, but that all tradition should be maintained. As much as I hate to use this phrase because I've RAILED against it at my church, I think it's applicable in this situation: "The Jesus I know" wouldn't send someone to hell for not believing his mother was a virgin forever. When I deal with this at my church, it's usually with people who have either little grounding in scripture, or deal with a personally idealized (idolized?) Jesus that discards portions of scripture. I do not believe that I suffer from such a malady. What I am left with is holding the weight of the Jesus of scripture against the weight of tradition of the church and finding that tradition lacking. It is not the doctrine that rankles, I quite frankly couldn't care less about it, although the arguments that I've read here and elsewhere would not bring me to a tipping point of belief. It is the weight of necessity placed on that doctrine that I have true issue with. Confess, believe, repent, be baptized; those are the four elements of requirement for salvation that I find outlined in scripture.

If at any point (and I believe that this is a weak area in church tradition perpetuated based on personal charisma and the power of fear) the bishop of Rome had the power to decide who is saved and who is not, he vastly overstepped his role when binding salvation to esoteric beliefs such as whether or not Mary "sullied herself" by having sexual intercourse with her husband.

Having essential doctrines such as this do not point to strength, but the opposite. They show evidence of a lack of faith. They evidence a desperation to hold authority in the lives of a people who can pick up the Bible and read it for themselves. Most of all, they show a power base that feels the need to bind its church together with fear lest it fall. But Christ has said it will never fall. The church will never fail. Christ will never fail. It doesn't need zealous fear mongering. It doesn't need absolute earthly authority. Let's face it, that's what this is about: Not the belief in a doctrine, but belief in an authority.

Honestly I'm really surprised that at no point (that I'm aware of) did the pope prescribe 5 minutes of hopping on one leg each day as a requirement for salvation, just so everyone would know who was boss. If that sounds crass, I suppose it is, but I want to be perfectly clear on my position regarding this as an essential doctrine.

Ed Skelton said...

I've heard that, since Vatican II, the RCC teaches that folks like me will not be damned for failing to confess the Marian dogmas (or failing to become RC), so long as I'm not acting against my conscience by so failing to confess them (or become RC). I'm pretty sure I heard this Father Neuhaus from First Things.

Andrew Hodgkins said...

So what you're saying, Ed, is they're placing this as an area of conscience, such as a vegetarian eating meat, or a straight edge drinking a glass of wine, where it might not be wrong for someone else, but it is for them, because it goes against their conscience.

Ed Skelton said...

It sounds a bit crazy, yes. But, from what I gather, the official RCC view of Protestantism is now very subtle and confusing. Someone else can explain this better?

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Hey Greg,
One or two points I'd like to bring up. I wouldn't say that traditions (or Traditions) are necessarily excluded from possibility, certainly not, but I would want to make sure that they agree with Scripture before I considered them true, and if they could be taken either way based on an accurate reading of the Bible I certainly wouldn't give it a big "T". Not saying you are, I'm just saying that this is where I'm coming from.

I believe that rather than being entitled to interpret the Bible as they see fit, becoming their own authority, that each person is responsible to read the whole Bible, and interpret it based on an understanding of the whole Bible, and not make hasty assumptions based on an incomplete understanding. This is not merely a flippant "anything-goes" business, but a severe responsibility to keep from misinterpretation.

Would you say that Hebrews 8 is just talking about Jews, or are Gentiles included in the covenant?
10 - ...I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
11 - No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

If all Christians are included in this covenant, that would seem to imply that it is possible for God to put His laws in our hearts and minds, and that we can know Him because of that.

As far as the Wheat and the Tares, the wheat and the chaff grow up together in the field before they're brought to the threshing floor. I don't think it can be assumed that we're all in the threshing floor already yet, but I agree that it's impossible to completely separate the chaff from the wheat here and now... because there's the risk of removing part of the wheat along with it. In God's time, He'll deal with each person, whether they be wheat or chaff.

I think that perhaps the parable of the natural and wild olive branches applies here... (Romans 11)... if so, it doesn't allow for boasting from Protestants either, just because some people who were once Catholics have fallen away from the faith doesn't mean that God can't bring them back... and if God has grafted us in, as a "wild" olive shoot, if we fall away it's just as easy for Him to cut us off.

Hope I've not offended or misinterpreted, I'm not a Bible School scholar, nor am I a pastor or priest, I'm merely someone who is apparently "justifying disunity" (while somehow trying to promote unity?) as a Protestant. My feeble brain only understands a little, so if there's any nuggets of truth in what I say, all the glory can go to God... if not, don't blame Him, it's all me.

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Regarding my previous point, I think we're all required to use our brains when it comes to Chritianity... whether we're Catholic or Protestant... I don't think you'd disagree on your side. We can't interpret Scripture the way we want it just because we want it that way, nor should we simply take what someone else says about it at face value without looking into it. On the Protestant side, I'd use the example of the "Name it and Claim it" crew, who don't seem to get the fact that the Son of Man had no place to lay His head... on the Catholic side, my example is the young priest who spoke at the church Greg used to be the youth pastor of in Oakville, on one of the occasions when I sat in on a service.

This guest speaker talked about Purgatory, which I do not believe in, and his version of Purgatory did nothing to convince me, nor was his interpretation of it (I hope) the truly Catholic version. He stated (and taught) that Purgatory was not a place (nor was Hell), but that when people die, they all go into the presence of God... the only difference is how consumed in themselves they are... and the more self-focussed they are, the longer it takes them to open up from their self-consumed ball to the realization of the presence of God. According to him, even the worst people eventually will have a chink in that self-consumed ball that will eventually open them up to God's presence for the rest of eternity. The problems that I found with this are that:
1. If everyone will be saved, regardless of whether they accept Christ's sacrifice for them, there was no point in Jesus dying, and He wouldn't have done it if there was another way.
2. If there is no Hell, then Jesus is a liar, and we don't have anything to be saved from anyway.
3. It allows people to sin as much as they want with absolutely no eternal consequences.
4. It cheapens the holiness of God.
I'm sure there are more reasons why it's clearly false, I'm just saying that it's IMPORTANT for Christians to know how to interpret Scripture PROPERLY. Then they don't just say, "Wow! That's cool! I bet everyone I know would accept that idea..." It sounds like a popular, new age way of thinking. (the name it and claim it, and the no-hell purgatory)

(Rather than saying I just accept this because this is what someone with more supposed authority than me in the church is teaching...)

Gregory said...

A couple things in response to your points above. First, I haven't yet given a thorough defence here of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, nor have I intended to. So I'd hardly expect any arguments here provided to bring you to a tipping point in your belief. Quite honestly, I'd be overwhelmed by surprise even if my more thorough, yet still paltry, apologetic did bring you there! That said, my goal in writing the forthcoming (eventually) articles is not as much to convert people to Catholicism, as it is to simply remove the stumbling blocks that stand in many people's way of converting. I know for myself Mary was a huge such stumbling block, and so I thought I would address the Church's teachings on her next.

Second, the weight ascribed to Apostolic Tradition in the Catholic Church is the same weight which we as Catholics believe that Scripture itself ascribes: that it is also the Word of God. Now, not every quaint little small-t tradition is included among Sacred or Apostolic Tradition, so obviously there are many things that aren't "necessary" for belief which Catholics believe or practice. But those which are clearly defined as such are understood to be just as much the Word of God as Scripture--only in a different format. Another understanding of it is that Sacred Tradition is the Holy Spirit guided, infallible interpretation of the Word of God in Scripture.

That said, when I say that something is "necessary for belief", I do not mean to say that one will go to hell for -not- believing it. I mean that for a person to be a Catholic in good standing, it is necessary for them to believe certain doctrines. While all these doctrines are important to be believed, there is a definite hierarchy of belief, and those at the top of the hierarchy, such as the Trinity or the Incarnation, which are certainly necessary to believe in order to be saved.

Further, I do not see that the Pope having the power to bind and loose (clearly given to him by Christ) can or has been overstepped by pronouncing various dogmas. Further, I don't believe that teaching something which you regard to be "esoteric" which has been arrived at as the logical conclusion to another doctrine (or several coinciding doctrines) can be considered a "lack of faith"). Nor is the pronouncement of such doctrines an act of garnering authority or flaunting the same. Your rant above says more to me about your own issues with authority than it does about the nature of authority in the Catholic Church.

Finally, the Pope, for all his authority, is incapable of prescribing what you describe above or similarly "crass" examples, for the mere fact that Sacred Tradition is not "new" teachings, but the faithful and inerrant passing down of the faith since the beginning. Since nowhere in the history of the Church has something other than Baptism and a faithful living out of the sacramental life of the Church, avoiding and/or confessing mortal sins, been required, something new cannot later on be required. As such, much of your objections above seem to be rather a Straw Man.

Hidden One said...
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Gregory said...

Ed, the Church's teaching on Protestantism is subtle, but I'm not sure that it is too confusing. The Church teaches that all those who have received valid baptisms (that is, using water, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and with the intent to baptise) and who profess the faith in Jesus Christ, are rightly considered "Christians" (this excludes, incidentally, groups like the Mormons and the JW's, as well as Oneness Pentecostals, for example). The right to be called Christian is not, of course, the same as being saved. The Catholic Church still holds that Protestant expressions of faith are, as Pope Benedict XVI put it, "deficient", that is, lacking certain important points--most notably, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

It is therefore not impossible to be saved as a Protestant, and so conversion is not "mandatory". That said, salvation is considered possible for Protestants provided that they live out their faith to the best of their ability according to their consciences (which is what you would have heard from Fr. Neuhaus)--provided that they have not made an informed, conscious rejection of the Catholic Church. Since the Catholic Church still teaches that outside of Her there is no salvation, it is understood that those who are saved without being Catholic still receive the graces of salvation, at least indirectly, through the Catholic Church. One can be non-Catholic without explicitly rejecting the Catholic Church, but those who do are cutting off their hope for salvation. That's the Catholic view of Protestants (plus the whole "disunity is a grievous wound to the Church and her witness") in a nutshell. I hope that clears things up a little bit. In sum, again, the Church teaches that It is not absolutely necessary to be Catholic to be saved, but the graces received through the sacraments of the Catholic Church are specifically there to aid in salvation--making it a lot more easier to be saved as a Catholic than not--which is why I try to help people see the truth and the beauty of the Church in my writings.

Andrew, sorry, I'm out of time. I'll get to your comments soon. Poet did a decent job of briefly correcting your understanding of what that priest said. I'll try to clarify it more later.

God bless

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Hey Greg,
I appreciate that, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Poet, I was pretty sure, like you said, that said priest was out of line in his teaching. I wouldn't use that as an example of why I'm not a Catholic, but an example of why it's important for anyone, Protestant or Catholic, to interpret the Scriptures correctly rather than simply accepting everything spoken to them from a pulpit.

Hidden One said...
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Andrew Hodgkins said...

So... you don't need to know the Scripture to know if a priest is being heretical, you just need to know Catholic doctrine? Or is that just in this case?

Hidden One said...
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Andrew Hodgkins said...

OK, so in other words... it's important to have a proper interpretation of Scripture... which I think is the point I was trying to make in the first place.

Or was it? After all of this, I'm slightly confused.

Hidden One said...
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Gregory said...

Hey Andrew.
First, I'll go back and sort of re-address Ed's point about conscience, as you asked a question about it. Obviously, what I said above stands, and unless you want or need clarification, I'll leave it at that. I wanted to mention specifically something about "conscience" in general. When the Church says that we must follow our consciences on a specific faith-based or moral decision, she tells us that our consciences must be properly "formed." That is, we are expected to learn as much as we can about the truth of the matter, and about what the Church teaches (in the case of Catholics, anyway) in order that our consciences will be telling us true information. To take a (hopefully) non-controversial (between us, anyway) example, many people believe that abortion is okay, at least in certain grave situations. They say this based on their consciences. But those consciences need to be properly formed about what the Church and the Scriptures teach us about abortion and the sanctity of human life. One who simply says "my conscience tells me such and so..." without actually trying to form it, is really not trying to follow their conscience as much as trying to justify wrong behaviour.

To apply the case to the point of the Marian dogmas, or the broader question of conversion to Catholicism in general, one who is truly trying to discern the truth of the matter is duty-bound to form his conscience by really investigating what the Church actually teaches, in a spirit of prayer. If one has taken the time to do so, and still finds that he cannot, in good conscience, embrace the teachings of the Church as true, then he must follow the conscience which he has formed to the best of his ability. From the Church's perspective, she holds out hope that such a one will be saved (though, of course, there are no guarantees). This is especially true of those, like us, who have been validly baptised.

Gregory said...

As far as your comments about Traditions having to agree with Scripture, I have two comments: first, Scripture itself is a part of Tradition--that is, the New Testament was written by the Church, the Church did not come from the New Testament. It was not written until 10 years (at the earliest) to 40 or more years after the Resurrection of Christ and the founding of the Church. During that time, it was the oral teaching of the Apostles (ie. Apostolic Tradition) that alone governed the Church's doctrines. Further, even after all the books were written, it was not for another 300-odd years that the Canon was actually decided--again, by the Church. So that's nearly 400 years without a "Bible". During that time, the rule regarding Tradition could not have been "does it agree with Scripture?" since Scripture did not really exist. Further, one of the marks of Scripture being authentically inspired by God was that it faithfully taught the truth of Christianity. That is, one of the marks of Scripture's inspiration was that it agreed with Sacred Tradition. It seems oddly ironic that today, the opposite arrangement is proposed with regard to Tradition!

The second point that I wanted to make is simply this--that there is absolutely nothing in Sacred Tradition that contradicts Scripture, when it is properly understood. Of course, that begs the question, how does one properly understand the Scriptures, or know that he has a proper understanding of them? This is why, above, I argued for the need of a specific authority to determine the interpretation of Scripture--because there are disputes between interpretations. How do we arbitrate between them?

This leads into your next comment, about each person's responsibility to read and interpret the whole Bible in context. With which I completely agree, and deny that I suggested anywhere that Protestants interpret the Bible willy-nilly in an anything-goes sort of fashion. But the fact is, that even well-educated, sincere, Christ-seeking Bible scholars all arrive at various and sundry interpretations of particular passages of Scripture. I don't believe that new denominations (of which there are at least 20,000) are formed simply because someone just wanted to reinterpret Scripture for their own purposes (though, perhaps, many were). Most, I believe, are the result of sincere believers' attempts to interpret and live according to a proper understanding of the Bible. Nevertheless, basic logic tells us that two contradictory opinions cannot both be true (though, of course, they can both be false). So we have countless Bible scholars, teaching different things, often on very fundamental issues of the faith, all claiming that they have the correct interpretation of the Scriptures, and yet, all of them disagreeing, often over important points--many of which pertain directly to the question of our salvation, and thus cannot easily be shrugged off by notions of "Secondary Doctrines".

Hidden One said...
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Gregory said...

As for Hebrews 8, the question must be asked, what does the author mean? Does he, in quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34, mean to say that, by the law being put into our hearts, and not requiring anyone to teach us to know the Lord, that those who have come into the New Covenant suddenly have no need for instruction or teachers, but that all of God's commandments are hardwired into us? This certainly can't be the case, because otherwise we would cease sinning. Further, the Bible clearly tells us that God Himself gives us teachers and leaders in the Church, specifically for the point of training us up so that we will know God's will for us and not be tossed about by every stray wind of doctrine (cf. Eph. 4:11ff). So either Scripture contradicts itself, calling something necessary in one passage and saying it's unnecessary in another, or that notion of Hebrews 8:10-11 is wrong, or Ephesians 4:11 and onward is wrong.

I would suggest that Hebrews 8 rather means that when God puts His laws in our hearts, it means that the grace with which He infuses us through our baptism makes it possible for us to actually live the commands, which we are incapable of doing under our own power. As for knowing God, I think that we can agree that Christ's mediation of the New ... Read moreCovenant opens the way for us to be reconciled to God (which obviously Heb 8:12 states explicitly) and our ability to have a personal relationship with Him.

This interpretation fits the context as well as the rest of Scripture, and the constant teaching of the Church. On the other hand, using Hebrews 8 to justify Sola Scriptura doesn't really work, since Scripture isn't mentioned at all (other than, of course, to be quoted).

As to the wheat and the tares, I'm sorry if my comment led to the conclusion that I thought we were on the threshing floor now. I can see how my clumsy wording would indicate that. I meant to say that, if we separate ourselves from the chaff now, we won't even get to the threshing floor, since the only thing on the floor is what was harvested in the field. But that's just a side issue.

Gregory said...

Now I'll move on to the priest and his interpretation of Purgatory...

First, I don't recall him saying that everyone will be saved. I seem to recall him saying that those who are so completely turned away from God will never open up. Either way, it's not exactly "official teaching" on hell. It might, however, be an adequate description of the state of souls before the Final Judgement (since it's always bothered me why God would send a person to Hell, then at the resurrection, bring them out, pronounce judgement on them, and put them right back where they were. Seems kinda redundant to me). Nevertheless, official teaching is, the damned are damned.
Second, there's definitely a hell, and I don't think the priest was denying that. Since we don't actually know what Hell is, exactly, though, he, and we, are some what open to speculate.
Third, That's definitely not Catholic teaching! Further, I definitely don't think that is what he was saying (especially since another night during that mission, he specifically preached on Confession.
Fourth, no hell would certainly do that. But then, to my mind, so does no Purgatory.

But of course, just such a scenario highlights my point as well. You don't believe in Purgatory (whether or not there is a Hell that goes with it), whereas I do. Both of us have attempted to study Scripture and interpret it correctly, and yet we're divided over this doctrine. So how do we know which one of us has the correct interpretation of Scripture? Of course it's important to interpret the Bible properly, but how do we know what "properly" is, without an infallible authority to show us?

It also demonstrates the validity of an Official Teaching office. That way, even Catholics who hear this priest, can turn to the Church's official teaching and know, immediately, that "Hey, that's right" or "Hey, that's contrary to the teaching of the Church!"

As to yours and Paul's last little discussion, I don't think I need to interject. He pretty much covered anything I'd add.

Anyway, this has been a great conversation.

I wonder, though, whether it's possible, that if when I write my new articles on Marian Dogma, if one could follow the link to my blog and comment there? I don't mind comments here, but blogspot's comment boxes have a much larger character limit, and so 105 comments will look more like 25, probably!

'Course, it's up to you!
God bless

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Hey Greg, I'll try to keep my responses short and sweet. Thanks for the in-depth answers to my last comments!

1. Wholeheartedly agree with your comments on conscience. On your application of it to the Marian Dogmas and such, this is exactly why I'm so interested in hearing from you the Catholic view on these things.
2. Even in that first 400 years, the Old Testament of today was still considered Scripture, and anything included in the Canon would still have to agree with Scripture and not contradict it. I believe that as Jesus fulfilled the Law and Prophets, Christianity is the natural fulfilment of Judaism, as it should be. Therefore, the Scripture would still exist between Jesus' birth and 400 years from His death.
3. Let me combine the sections on the priest and interpretations, and say that whether you're a Protestant or a Catholic you're going to find Bible scholars who, with all the best intentions, interpret Scripture in different ways...
I'm not going to get into an argument about all the different denominations and groupings of churches... I personally think any "us vs. them" thinking, be it between Protestant denominations or between Protestants and Catholics, is counterproductive and doesn't embody Christ's body very well.
4. I don't think there's NO need for instruction or teachers, but I wouldn't be too sure that God's commandments aren't hardwired into us when we accept Him... how many times do we know what's right and do differently? Ignoring what we know to be true, and short-circuiting the system of truth designed to protect us?
That being said, I don't think that the passage is talking about not needing any teachers anymore. We have been given the grace to know God, but there's nothing wrong with someone who has been given the gift of teaching showing us how to better know the One who we are in relationship with. I'm in agreement with you there.
5. Infallible - I know you believe that the Catholic Church and all of her teachings are infallible, but I have not come to a similar understanding. No offense meant, but to my mind it sounds like,
"We're always right because we'll always be infallible, we'll always be infallible because we believe God said we would be, and we've interpreted that ... Read morecorrectly because we're always right, due to our infallibility..."
Every time you try to prove something by pointing at the infallibility of the Catholic Church, I'm unconvinced for that very reason. It seems like every time we disagree, the verdict ends up, "We're infallible. Suck it up, princess."
I don't mean to offend, but I'm actually curious about these matters, and I'm looking for proof besides the Catholic Church's infallibility.
6. I would love to follow a link to your blog and comment there, if it makes it easier for you. Thanks for mentioning that. (and once I've followed that link, perhaps I can browse previous blogs you've done and educate myself further on your views)

P.S. - this discussion is one of the main reasons I haven't been working on our Hero/Villain game... as fun as that would be my brain has been stretched to the limit many times by the time I'm finished working out my responses and reading what you answer.

God bless!

Hidden One said...
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Andrew Hodgkins said...

I'm also glad nobody's being nasty on this convo. :D

I'd be interested to hear which Protestant (if any) actually uses that logic... it certainly doesn't sound like a conversation inside my head...

More likely, my circular reasoning is what a non-Catholic hears when a Catholic speaks about the Catholic Church's infallibility... whereas your... elliptical?... reasoning is what a Catholic hears when a non-Catholic speaks about the Bible's infallibility... in both cases, the speaker is likely saying something that makes more sense.

Hidden One said...
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Andrew Hodgkins said...

ok, I'm done debating.

Gregory said...

Yeesh! This'll be the 120th comment (and there'll be more to follow this, at least from me)!

Anyway, Andrew, when you say you're done debating, do you mean simply "with Paul"? or are you done with this conversation in general? Because I hope the latter isn't the case. I was thoroughly enjoying it :)

First thing I'll mention is that every article that's imported from the blog all have the link at the end of them beside "comment" and "like" which says "view original post", which will take you to the same article at Barque of Peter. If you click on the title of the blog "Barque of Peter" it will take you to the blog's homepage. There's also a topic index in the right hand sidebar with various topics to help you navigate.

On to your comments, now:
1. I'm glad to hear it. I was listening to the radio today (Catholic radio), and the speaker was talking about people who ask questions. He said (I believe rightly), that most people who ask us what and why we believe not to learn, but either to debate, or to demonstrate why we're wrong. It's a very rare person who asks simply to learn and to discern. And I thought of our conversation, and how I believe you are one of those rare people :)

2. As for the Old Testament in those first 400 years of Christianity, I'll try to reiterate some of what Paul said in a less polemical tone, because on a lot of things, he was quite correct. Thing is, the Old Testament had been around, yes, but the Canon for it, had not actually been closed in Jesus' day. This is why, as Paul mentions, the Septuagint translation includes books that the Protestant edition of the Bible does not. They were written later, during the diaspora of the Jews (and thus, mainly were written in Greek). Those Jews still living in the Holy Land still kept to their Hebrew Scriptures, but many even there spoke Greek and used the Septuagint themselves (such as Jesus and the Apostles, at times, as evidenced by the way many OT citations in the NT are phrased, and why they often seem so different from the OT version). The Early Christians used the Septuagint as their Scriptures, and were able to effectively use its translations (as well as the content of many of those later books) to effectively make Jewish converts to Christianity. This was especially the case after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. This is why, in AD 90, Jewish leaders called a council at the city of Jamnia to determine the Canon of the Jewish Scriptures, and they went with the Hebrew texts, and omitted the Greek.

However, the early Church did not go along with that decision (made by unbelieving Jews), but continued to use the Septuagint as the official Christian Old Testament. Because of this, there were many challenges to the Christians on their use of the OT from the Jews, which St. Jerome and others addressed. When the Church decided the Canon of the New Testament, it at the same time ratified its decision to use the Septuagint Old Testament as well, which remained the case for about 1000 years when Luther, translating the Bible into German, went back to the original Hebrew texts, and, finding the extra seven books missing (since they were written in Greek, and were rejected by the Jews), chose to treat them as non-canonical, and appendix them by themselves apart from their canonical listings. Later Protestants went a step further, removing them altogether. But of course, all this begs the question, do we take the word of Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah to determine for us what constitutes the Bible, or do we take the word of the Church which He founded?

Gregory said...

As far as anything in the Canon not contradicting the OT Scriptures, I would suggest that that's not quite so clear-cut, either. The OT plainly stresses that eating pork is bad, and that one must be circumcised to be saved. The New Testament plainly abrogates on both of those laws, and makes a big issue about overturning them both times (once, in Mark, where the author clearly and unambiguously states that Jesus nullified the clean animal rule (Mk 7:14-19), which is later reinforced by Peter's 3-fold vision (Acts 10), and the second, requiring all of the Apostles to gather and to rule on the question in the first Ecumenical Council, at which they pronounced a clear and infallible doctrine ("It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by us..." Acts 15:28). Now, if the early Christians were bound not to contradict Scripture, and that Scripture was the OT, then they clearly did not do so in these instances. We know today, looking back, that the Old flows into the New and paves the way for it, and that there is no real contradiction. But that is with the hindsight of having the New Testament and the Church to guide us. This was not available to the earliest Christians--they were it.

3. I'm honestly not sure what you're trying to say by this point, Andrew. The fact is, Christians are divided by some very fundamental issues. Simply evading the "us vs. them" arguments doesn't help us to determine which interpretations are right, and which are wrong. Above, you had no trouble decrying the false teachings of the Name it and Claim it folk (incidentally, my challenging a FB friend's NICI-based status, telling us that being sick and defeated meant we were slapping Jesus in the face because we didn't have the faith that He would heal us, lost me a FB friend--literally, two minutes ago), so obviously doctrine is important and false doctrine must be challenged (even when it hurts).

If we are all so divided, and we cannot all be right, and some of the errors amount to grave matters that directly pertain to one's salvation (such as, say, the necessity and efficacy of baptism), how do we settle such disputes? Obviously the dispute itself doesn't embody the unity of the Body of Christ well at all. But ignoring the dispute doesn't reunify the body, and we are left with uncertainty with regard to being "tossed to and fro by every new wind of doctrine." The Bible says that God gave us provisions "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..." Those provisions were the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. These days, we have myriads of them teaching various different things, which is not knitting us together into the unity of the faith. Unless God's gifts are worthless, there must be some who are right--and they must be recognisable.

Gregory said...

This is my argument for the Church's infallibility: that the Bible calls the Church the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), and, according to Eph 4:11ff, quoted piecemeal above, that Church is to teach us in order that we would be -united- in faith and the knowledge of God. If the Church has not been protected from error, that is, infallible, then it seems that God Himself screwed up big time. Now, obviously that can't be the case, which means that the Church that He founded still exists, and still teaches the truth absolutely and without error. Notice that all this time (and for a while now when I mention "infallibility"), I simply say "The Church" without specifying which Church. Your comment #5 deals with this, by saying that I am trying to argue "The Catholic Church is Infallible, therefore I'm Always Right, nyah nyah." However, I want you to know that my intent is actually quite the opposite. I haven't been asserting the truth of infallibility to make a case for the Catholic Church, but rather, I've been building the case for the need for and the existence of infallibility itself. Having essentially concluded the argument for infallibility now, I posit that the Bible says that the Church (whichever Church that may be) is infallible. Moreover, we as people need an infallible Church in order to have unity in the faith, to be sure of what the Faith truly is, so we aren't led astray by every new idea or opinion. Thus, if there is an Infallible Church, it would behoove us to find out which Church is, in fact, infallible, would it not? I'm not going to launch into why I believe that Church to be Catholicism if you disagree with my reasoning, though, since that would simply be a waste of time, and would probably really annoy you. I'm more interested in the question of infallibility itself at the moment.

Going back to your #4, since we end up essentially in agreement on that point, I guess we can let it go.

As for this conversation taking all our time and brain power, I quite agree! It's also the reason why I haven't gotten a new article up yet! Hopefully tomorrow! :) In the meantime, I hope we can continue this conversation. I hope I haven't been offensive in any way, just as you haven't been to me.

God bless. 128 comments!

Andrew Hodgkins said...

I meant with Paul, as to my mind our conversation had gone full circle, as was the way I was hearing the reasoning. No offense to you Paul, I figured we'd both understood what the other was saying, so any more debate on my part would likely be restating what I already said, and likewise for what I was hearing.

Thanks Greg for telling me what that View Original Post thing means, now I can check it out! Or, not now, but when I don't have to go to bed and sleep.

1. Thank you. :)

2. I do appreciate the lesson in history. One of these days, I'll have to check into that stuff more in depth

3. I appreciate your points here. I agree on many points, and I just wanted to clarify that what I meant by "us vs. them" (which was a little difficult to figure out from just those words) isn't the differences between the denominations, I'm talking about the vilification that often goes on between denominations (or Catholic and Protestant) because "they aren't us". It's hard to explain I guess, but I don't mean, "They're wrong about this."... I mean, "They're all terrible people." or "They all need to get saved because they're screwed up."

First of all, everyone, Christian or not, is in the same boat. We're lost without Christ, and we all need Him to be saved, so to think of "us vs. them" is counterproductive... "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." - Ephesians 6:12 .... we should do what we do FOR those who we see as wrong, not AGAINST them. That's not a knock on Catholics only or Protestants only, I'm just saying.

Secondly, those who say, "We're the only ones that God will work through," or "God has only spoken to us," or "We are the only ones that have God's truth," whatever church they are a part of, I think should take a look at these two passages:

Mark 9:38-41 " 'Teacher,' said John, 'we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.'
'Do not stop him,' Jesus said. 'No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.' "

Luke 6:43-45 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

5. If indeed a Church as an organization is infallible, of course it would behoove us to know which one it is... but obviously I have a different understanding of those verses and exactly what they mean, whether they're actually talking about infallibility or not.

We can discuss this further if you like, when I'm not nodding off from lack of sleep, but for now, I'd say we should look at the fruit in order to see whether the tree is good or bad.

God bless you Greg, and everyone else who's reading this and posting here.

Hidden One said...
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Andrew Hodgkins said...

No it doesn't, but my saying that I'm finished does.

Gregory said...

Hey Andrew,
1. You're quite welcome (I like the numbering system, btw. Quite handy).

2. If I can recommend a source, I'd suggest reading "Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church" by Rev. Henry G. Graham, the entirety of which can be found online here.

3. Again, when I understand better what you mean by "us vs. them", I quite agree. And officially, while the Catholic Church maintains that Protestant denominations are "deficient" in their faith, it still acknowledges that they are, indeed, Christian, and that God has, does, and will continue to work through them. Still, though, it continues to strive and to pray for that unity which Christ Himself prayed for, "that they may be one as We are one."

As far as your two passages, and the notion of examining the fruit, I would say a couple things in response: those passages refer primarily, if not specifically, to individuals, rather than to organisations. When we need to know (as far as we can determine) the righteousness of the person, we look at the fruits of their lives. When it comes to the institutions, though, they're always a mixed bag, like we discussed above. Depending on how one applies "examine the fruit" to, say, the Catholic Church, they'll point to things like the Crusades, or the Inquisition, or the sex-abuse scandals, and say, "See? This is the 'fruit' of Catholicism," whereas it is neither all of the fruit of the Church, nor is it really representative. Culture, art, literature, hospitals, universities, charity, the end of slavery, women's rights, on and on, can all be traced back to the Catholic Church, as well, not to mention the holy lives of the saints in every generation.

Similar arguments and examples can be brought forward in the case of Protestantism. So the fruits of the institutions need to be considered, again, by its teachings, to my mind, rather than specifically by its adherents.

What would it look like, say, if a Catholic or a Protestant fully lived out the teachings of their religion to the full logical extension of its teachings? What are those teachings? Do they contradict themselves or reality in any way? I think this is how we must judge the "fruits" of whole religious movements and institutions. Not saying that you wouldn't agree, but I wanted to delineate at least the starting point in the process.

5. I absolutely would love to discuss the issue of infallibility further. I'd definitely appreciate hearing your differing viewpoint. Know that those texts are certainly not the only ones that I'd marshall in support of infallibility. Further, I'd be appealing to reason beyond simply Scripture, as well. Finally, the fact that we can sit here and say, "But that's -your- interpretation" illustrates the very problem under discussion. How do we solve the dilemma of determining whose understanding of Scripture is better than the other's?

God bless

Christopher said...

Gregory, I'm going to venture a few comments, perhaps to your chagrin, I don't know. What I do know is that you can't stop enjoying my friendship and that gives me the room to invade yet another conversation on the validity of certain Catholic claims. ;)

You wrote: "I do not see that the Pope having the power to bind and loose (clearly given to him by Christ) can or has been overstepped by pronouncing various dogmas. Further, I don't believe that teaching something which you regard to be "esoteric" which has been arrived at as the logical conclusion to another doctrine (or several coinciding ... Read: more doctrines... can be considered a "lack of faith")."

Your quote was in response to Aaron. I think I agree with Aaron, however (no surprise, I'm sure), and I'd like to attempt a loose parallel using science.

While there is no prelate in the world of Science, certain individuals hold a lot of sway both politically and socially. Those individuals by way of chaos models, superstring theories, probability calculations, and quantum mechanics (to list a few scientific dogmas) arrive at the logical conclusion of multiple universes theory. The fact that they have observed a coalescence in various scientific models allows them to pursue more 'esoteric' ideas and pronounce them as probable; in ... Read moresome cases even 'actual' (that is, some scientists believe certain probable theories to be actual realities).

Now, because they are able to garner disparate, seemingly unrelated bits of information from different theories and compile them into an intelligible doctrine, would you go so far as to say that their theories are not 'esoteric'? Would you consider their theories as lacking actual knowledge?

Yet certain scientists pronounce these things to be true. And because we're not scientists, we should defer to their expertise as if they were the prelates of naturalism. These priests regnant of the scientific world expect us to believe that because they have pronounced such-and-such to be true, we must therefore accept it as true. Similarly because your Pope pronounces a thing to be true, it is considered binding on all Catholics to accept is as true. Protestants are given the modest stipend of being ignorant and lacking the fulness of the faith. The implication being, in this scenario, that we are just as bound to believe the pronouncements of the Pope despite being sundered from his leadership.

My problem is that this is all performative logic. That is, the simple act of utterance justifies the veracity of the utterance. The scientist said it, it must be true. The Pope said it, it must be true. If what I have perceived is the case is actually accurate -- that the Pope's words are binding (not infallible; we're not there yet) because he said them -- what kind of naivety induces a person to accept such nonsensical, authoritarian impositions on our freedom of conscience?

I'll stop there for now.

Christopher said...

I'm at work, and I'm bored, so I'll continue, but on a different note.

Gregory, you wrote: "Thus, if there is an Infallible Church, it would behoove us to find out which Church is, in fact, infallible, would it not?"

My answer is no, it would not behoove at least me. First of all, I'm not interested in finding out who's more right than the other. We both confess the same Christ, and in that neither of us is wrong. Second, because we're human beings and we've been given the privilege of curating God's house, we can rely on our imperfections to disturb the 'infallibility' of our church and its attendant dogmas. Thus, finding out who is more right than the other, who's more fallible than the other, is just a pissing contest wrapped in ecclesiastical, and theological pomposity.

Gregory said...

Chris, your analogy to science fails precisely where you admit the difference: that is, there is no absolute prelate of science. Yet to Peter Jesus gave the keys and the instruction to "bind and loose", which, if words have any meaning, refers back to the rabbinical authority to proclaim what is and what is not religious doctrine and acceptable moral practice.

Therefore, the Pope, succeeding from Peter and inheriting those Keys (something, of course, which we will be debating, and so I wasn't going to take a whole lot of time to hash out here, in a thread that was originally about Mary and the Church's teachings regarding her), has the same authority. The fact that Jesus promises that such pronouncements will be bound and loosed in heaven as well as on earth means either that Peter and his successors can dictate to God what the truth is (an absurd interpretation), or that God will prevent Peter and his successors from binding and loosing anything down here that is not the truth.

If the latter is, in fact, the case, then no, the Pope, in pronouncing such a binding or loosing statement, cannot overstep his authority. Why not? Because God will not let him.

That is, at the very least, the Catholic's self-understanding, which is all I was trying to explain to Aaron, in disabusing him of the notion that the pope would, or could, demand that hopping on one foot for 5 minutes is necessary for salvation (his admittedly crass example).

Your scientists, admitted experts in their fields, were not given any sort of charism remotely like that given to Peter. Thus your argument engages the fallacy of the false analogy.

As to your second point, your response presupposes that a sundered Christianity is the ideal situation, and that it was meant to be this way and nothing we do can change it. It assumes that when Christ founded His Church, He founded various groups, but gave one of them Infallibility.

Or, more accurately, you probably assume that all these forms of Christianity are a natural outworking of Christ's founding His Church, but that in some sort of misguided zeal, they've claimed some special insight or revelation or infallibility that puts one of them above the others, in order to lord it over them. But again, that misses the point of my statement to Andrew (which he seemed to understand perfectly well), which was this: That Christ founded one Church, and if to that Church He gave the gift of Infallibility, then whichever Church it is that has that gift is the One Church which He founded. Assuming that that is the case (which, admittedly, we haven't hashed out yet), all the other variations have in some way or other split off of that Church and are, indeed, therefore, lacking something.

From that point, we can do one of two things: Play the game of "lowest minimum standard", whereby we say, "well, we all believe in Christ, so who cares who's more right?" Or we recognise that there was more to God's plan than that, and we seek out and align ourselves with the Church that He specifically founded. Since I believe that Christ founded a Church for a reason that goes beyond a "lowest minimum standard" (which, quite frankly, not all of the various churches can even agree on!), and since Christ said that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church into ALL truth, and not "just enough of the truth", it does indeed behoove one to find out which Church that actually is.

Christopher said...


I have not failed with my analogy because, from the outset, I admitted the parallel was not complete, that is was loose. Given that I was not going for a complete analogy I cannot have failed in not providing one.

Also, in the case of the misfit analogy, the focus was not on the absoluteness of the office of the Pope, or the juridical authority of the Scientists. The focus was on drawing attention to the name-it-and-claim-it mentality of both sets of guiding authorities; the performative logic of both parties, and resulting possibility that some of the doctrines arrived at might just be 'esoteric' because of the mentality I've noted.

You address this in part when you focus on the succession of authority to bind and loose given to Peter from Jesus. But surely binding and loosing is not so simplistic as to make the Pope out to be a name-it-and-claim-it holy roller backed by traditions he and his cronies set in place?

Andrew Hodgkins said...

2. I've read so far the first 7 out of 16 sections of that link you gave, and though I don't necessarily agree with every assumption he makes based on his points, it helps to solidify my respect for the Catholic Church (which isn't to say that I didn't respect her before) and gives me some things to think about, certainly. I'll be reading the rest of it, but not tonight... that is one long article.

3. I quite agree with you about them referring to individuals... and that points could be given showing individuals with good and bad fruit among the Protestants and Catholics both...

6. I hear what both you and Chris are saying , and understand where you're both coming from, so I'll leave that conversation to the two of you.

7. Although I was born and raised in the Pentecostal Church, and therefore the Protestant Church I suppose, I don't agree with Luther's mindset as set forward in the article you linked, and even still in the Pentecostal Church I find certain emphases that I think have been given more emphasis or importance than they should. (I think 24/7 is affiliated with the PAOC, but I'm not certain that will continue in perpetuity, and I think that's why, the desire to give things their proper emphasis, and give proper interpretation... Kip's sermon today was basically on the importance of confessing our sins, not hiding them but being honest...)

8. That being said, though I respect the Catholic Church, there are more than just a few doctrines and emphases that are certainly hindering any choice to wear the title Catholic. I am proud to call myself a Christian (proud of what God has done for me, not of any greatness about me) and proud to call other Christians my brothers and sisters, be they Protestant or Catholic, so long as their aim is also to pursue Christ and be like Him.

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Having finally finished reading the article, I can safely say that I have information I did not have before... and many things that he says make sense... but I do not draw all of the same conclusions that the writer did.

I agree that the Catholic Church brought together the Canon, and protected it throughout the Dark Ages, etc., far from hating the Bible and wanting to destroy it, but such was never my contention.
I agree, based on the information in the article and assuming it to be true, that the early Protestant Bibles were highly partisan, and as such not a fitting Scripture... however the King James Version (and certain others since 1911, when the article was first written or spoken) has in its text attempted to remain true to the Scripture, rather than altering it to suit the writer's fancy.
The author states that the reprobation of man in Britain is due to a common or vulgar translation, and the ability to interpret it for oneself. I put to you that it is rather due to man's sinful nature, and therefore perhaps the intention to base one's understanding of the Scriptures on what would seemingly benefit oneself. We can certainly not blame the reprobate state of today's western culture on a vulgar Bible... as many people have not even read the Bible and still behave shamefully. There are always those who will pervert what they read, see or hear, to seemingly benefit themselves (even if we know that it is of no benefit to them at all).

Therefore, let me close my arguments at this point by pointing to the parable of the Prodigal Son. If the history found in the article is true, and I have no reason to believe that it isn't, then the history of Protestantism began in a shameful manner. (I won't remark on the various problems that they had with the political structure or doctrines of the Catholic Church, merely the way in which they dealt with them, as I am uncertain of some of those doctrines myself.)
However, over the years, as regards to the Bible we have properly rejected such erroneous translations, and made efforts to secure a nonpartisan, proper translation. (I have yet to study the 7 books which have been omitted, and why, I should like to read them for myself at some point [with the possible exception of Judith, for purely personal reasons]) Therefore, traditions notwithstanding, I see a parallel between the Protestant Church and the Prodigal Son. I will not say that all denominations have done this, or all individuals, but I see a repentance and turning from the errant works of man to the inerrant Word of God, and turning from the ways of the world to return to God.
What strikes me now is that as the Prodigal Son was out gallivanting about the countryside, he was not doing the same things that the older son, one might say the good son, was doing. When he returned to his father, his father received him back despite this fact, and before he'd had any opportunity to do any of the things his brother had done. This pissed his brother right off, and he wouldn't celebrate the Prodigal's return. Basically, he was saying, all this is mine, I won't share it with my brother who treated you so badly. The father was like, don't you get it? He returned to me! He was lost, now he's found! All of this belongs to you anyway, how come you can't enjoy your brother's return?

Can you see any of the Catholic Church's attitude in the older brother? Particularly the part in the article claiming the Holy Scripture as property of the Catholic Church alone... or the indignation at the thought of any other denomination being considered the Church? It makes me think of the older brother saying, He's not like me, he hasn't done his chores, worked in the field, kept all your commands... I'm better than he is.

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Or consider the parable of the workers... where the ones who worked the full day received the same pay as the ones who worked a single hour... because that is what they were promised. I have considered both of these parables in the past, placing myself on both sides, so I'm not trying to put the onus solely on the Catholic Church, in case you're wondering... (by the way, Matthew 20:1-16 for the parable of the workers)

It seems to me that the Catholic Church is saying, We've slaved in the fields the WHOLE day, and they were standing around in the streets and only worked for the last hour? Should they receive the same compensation as us? (to be fair, in comparison, it's like the Catholic Church has been working the whole day... I'm not denying that, or discounting its importance or necessity) The master's response is that he promised to pay them what was fair, and it's his money to do with as he pleases, if he wants to give the one who worked an hour the same wage, what is that to them?

Let me just quote vv.12-15 to show I'm not just blowing smoke out of my butt here (you can check the whole chapter if you like to make sure I'm not taking it out of context... but v.16 might be a bit of a poser)...

'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

Not saying any of that to demean the Catholic Church, just to make you think.

Amy Virgin said...

Okay, there is at least one point I see that is completely anti-Biblical, Greg. You say this is what the Catholic Church believes. Okay, I do not dispute that. I do however dispute to very key points in the Marian Dogmas. Points 2, 3 and 4 respectively. Point number 1 is bang on and I applaud the Catholic Church for making sure they hold to this. I will focus on Point 2: That she was a virgin her entire life. I will hopefully get to the others when I have more time, but it is shocking how, the Catholic church overlooks passages directly from scripture...

Point 2: Mary was a virgin her entire life. That is simply not true. She was virgin until Jesus was born. Matthew 1:24 and 25 clearly states: "When Joseph woke up (after his dream where he was visited by the Lord) he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus." Brackets mine. This implies, if not directly states that Joseph did have sexual relations with Mary after Jesus was born. Mark 6: 2-3 states " The next Sabbath He began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed. They asked, "Where did He get all this wisdom and power to perform such miracles?" Then they scoffed, "He's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And His sisters live right here among us." They were deeply offended and refused to believe Him.

So, point 2 is in direct contradiction to God's Word. I can cite many other passages, but I do have to go to sleep sometime..~L~ I just think, you should be careful before accepting your Bible first...

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Having read all the articles linked in these comments, and despite the fact that I have the same reservations, this is the Catholic position:
Joseph was likely a widower, and was marrying Mary as a protector to keep her virginity safe... or something like that. In that case, the brothers and sisters would be Joseph's children, but not Mary's, and ... Read moreMary still could have remained a virgin the rest of her life.
I personally think that this position on those texts relies heavily on the Marian Dogmas in the first place, and I've not looked into it deeply enough to find anything to confirm or deny it, but that is their stance, and that's why they can believe the Second Marian Dogma in conjunction with Scripture.

Hope I fielded that one OK, Greg. I know we're usually on opposite sides of the fence in the argument, but I thought I could quickly get the point across, having all the linked articles in my somewhat recent memory.

Amy Virgin said...

Andrew: Back to the Marian Dogmas...I don't think it states anywhere (and correct me and give me the reference if I'm wrong) that Joseph was a widower. Secondly, if he already had children, why were they never mentioned, and why did he conveniently leave them all (however many he had) behind while he trotted off to Bethlehem with is new bride? As for him protecting her virginity...he was planning on marrying her BEFORE he heard she was his plan originally was obviously to get married and start a family with her. No jewish male (unless specifically instructed by God) would marry a jewess and not create a family with her. It just wasn't done. If the woman was barren, it was considered a great shame. So, if Joseph HAD been all honorable and not given her any more children, you better believe his friends would be harrassing him for it and the other women of Mary's time would be making her feel like an outcast. I ask you though, where does it say (and not theorizing) that Joseph was a widower? By the way, he found out she was pregnant and decided to divorce her. Doesn't sound so noble to me...

I go back to Matthew 1:25 again: "But he (Joseph) did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus." So, according to this scripture, Joseph and Mary did in fact have sex. It's pretty clear hear. So, obviously by this, she was not a virgin all her life.
As for the being born sinless....that would make her equal with God. And nowhere...absolutely NOWHERE does it say she was born God's equal and sinless. So, why make this up? Why add to God's word? We are told not to add or take away from God's word in anyway, or suffer the consequences. Seems like the Catholic church is really playing with fire on these points. Do they just ignore certain scriptures and add in their own? I've heard of a few famous cults who do fact, that is how many cults get started...

Oh, one more thought. Why does Mary have to be a virgin forever and live a sinless life? Could not Jesus still remain sinless, though born of a sinful woman? And if she had other children, was that considered a sin? Is Jesus' sinlessness dependant on Mary? Why must we revere her so much? She was a fairly ordinary woman that came to God's notice. According to scripture, she was a little wiser than some women her age, and was obviously highly favoured by God. Her 'perfectness' and sinlessness has nothing at all to do with salvation. We are to pray only to God. And only to ask Jesus to pray on our behalf. Nowhere in scripture does it say "Pray to Mary, the Mother of God' and your sins will be forgiven. Jesus said clearly, "God alone can save sins." And since Jesus is God, the statement is true about him. But to say that the statement is true about Mary, that is actually blasphemy. Mary is not God. Only God can forgive sins. And we are only to pray to Him.

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Amy, I don't disagree with anything you say there, and the questions you have are all questions that I have raised, or at least thought about, as well. As to the Joseph being a widower with children thing, I agree with you, and I know of no reference in the Bible that points to that. The link I mentioned is part of one of the previous comments on this note... and now that I look for it, I can't see it... anyone know how to go back and look at really old comments? Anyway, I was just mentioning that was the Catholic view of it, based on their Traditions... not my view.

I don't think they'll show up. For the record, I did a little digging via a search engine, and this is the same link that was given by the Catholic fellow.

Amy Virgin said...

I see. So, Catholics cannot find any place where it is said Mary was a perpetual virgin, or that Joseph was an old widower with children, so they turn to the Apocrapha! sorry about the spelling. Been a while since I saw this. Very sad. The Catholic church is supposedly the ones who approved the Canonical Bible, and yet they have to look outside it to find proof for their beliefs. St. Anne, Joseph the widower, Mary the perpetual virgin...all are NOT in the Canonical Bible. And I take great offense in their stand that Protestants are misled, thinking 'brethren' to mean brothers when according to them, they were either cousins step brothers. What a bunch of nonsense! Why are they trying so hard to cling to something that does not in anyway affect salvation? By the way, most jewesses would have been virgins before their marriage. That's just the way of the culture. Something else Catholics overlook is that in that culture, young women were often betrothed to older men. It still happens in certain arabic countries, and unless I miss my guess, in Israel too. A common practice of that day was for girls of twelve or thirteen to be married off to men of 45 or older. So, it's understandable that he would die much earlier than Mary. And again, I ask: "Why are we making such a big deal out of something that is really not related to Jesus coming to save our sins so we can have a right relationship with Him, bring others to this wonderful relationship, and all live happily ever after with a God who loved us enough to send His son to die?" Seriously, do we really think God HAD to use Mary? No. He chose her. He chose her because He is a gracious God. Not because she was so special and sinless. If she was sinless, there is no reason why others of our race couldn't have been made sinless. And then, why would He have to bother saving us from sin if He could (and would) simply make us sinless, as if by magic?

If there was no price to be paid, then God went to a lot of trouble and personal sacrifice for nothing.

Oh, and Andrew, I know which side of this debate you're on. I should have directed my comments to Greg, only you had kind of started the whole string. :)

Gregory said...

First, Andrew, thanks for the back-up, despite the fact that you're not even "on my side". I appreciate it. Secondly, I'm very upset about the fact that all those earlier comments automatically delete when too many comments come along. (This has since been remedied, thankfully.) If I'd known that, I would have copied them all to the blog itself (which I'm doing now). One more reason why I'd prefer if people actually commented on the articles here at their original location, Barque of Peter.

Amy! How nice to hear from you again! I seem to recall that we had set out at one time, in personal messages, to discuss Catholic beliefs about Mary, because you had rather perniciously attacked my conversion. However, at that time, when I tried to explain and defend them, you became increasingly irate and terminated our conversation.

I would like to think that, as a friend, and in Christian charity, you could afford me enough credit to assume that a) I have, in fact, read my Bible, b) I converted in good faith, and c) I have not utterly lost my mind, or, for that matter, my soul. Now, if you can make these (hopefully fair) assumptions about me, as other friends, such as Andrew, have made, we can have a rational exchange of ideas on the subjects delineated above. If not, then all you have succeeded in doing is coming here, insulting me, and accomplishing little else.

Now, that said, I'll go back and respond to some of the things that you have railed about above. What I will not do, here, is to give a thorough defence of Mary's Perpetual Virginity, or her Immaculate Conception. Why? Because I stated very specifically in the article to which these comments pertain, that I will be writing full, in-depth articles on each of these Marian Dogmas with full apologetical explanations. Now, since the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is the NEXT article which I intend to write, it seems a great waste of time to respond at length here. So you'll just have to wait for a complete explanation until then.

Oh, and Chris, after I reply to Amy, I'll get to your comments regarding Infallibility. However, since I would like to move on to these promised future articles, that too is a conversation that I think we could save till our Papacy Debate and following, if it isn't adequately dealt with during the debate itself.

All right, first to Amy:
First of all, you state that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is "completely anti-biblical" and then tell me to be careful before I accept anything, and to "read your Bible first".

Without getting into the specifics (which, again, I'm saving for the Perpetual Virginity article), I do NOT believe that the Bible says anywhere that Mary had other children. In fact, I believe that there are at least two passages which clearly indicate that she did NOT. Further, I would say that the passages which you would marshall in an effort to say that she did not remain a virgin all her life do not actually carry the weight that you assume that they do, nor do they admit of no other alternative interpretation than the one to which you hold. Having indeed read my Bible (and I would wager, without boasting, that I know it at least as well, if not better, than you), and having studied the issue of Mary and the Catholic Church's beliefs in her very, very thoroughly, as it was my last hang-up with regard to conversion (because I was once, like you, in a position to regard her teachings as anti-biblical and nearly idolatrous), I came to realise that the weight of Scriptural and historical evidence supported the Church's teachings. Thus, for you to come along, without actually having researched what the Church teaches, and without waiting for me to publish my own findings regarding that teaching, to then accuse me of not reading my Bible and just accepting things willy-nilly tells is indeed rather insulting, uncharitable, and tells me that you never really knew me as well as we both thought you did.

Gregory said...

Second thing: Alright, I'll bite. Matthew 1:25 does not say anything whatsoever about the state of their life after she gave birth to Jesus. While perhaps in our language, "until" implies a change of state after the time "until" refers to, this is not necessarily the case with the Greek term. This is seen throughout the New Testament, but I will cite two examples: At the Great Commission, Jesus promises to be with the Church UNTIL the end of the age. If we take your understanding of "until", Jesus will then abandon us at the end of time?
In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul tells Timothy to pay attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine until Paul comes to him. I suppose when Paul visits, Timothy is free to become an illiterate heretic?
So, while there are times when until definitely means a change afterwards, there are times in which it definitely does not. It simply is emphasising a particular point in time--namely, in Matthew 1:25, the virgin birth of Jesus. Interestingly, giving you another freebie from my upcoming article, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary was uncontested in the Church until the time of the Reformation, by all but one man in the early Church, a Helvidius, who used the exact same passage to try to refute it. St. Jerome responded thunderously, as was his way, and very plainly showed that Matthew's "until" doesn't mean what you or Helvidius assumed it did. You can read the text of St. Jerome's tract here.

Third thing, about the Immaculate Conception, I must admit, I'm surprised that in 170 comments, you were the first one to mention this. There are some logical problems with your statements decrying Mary's sinlessness, though. First, when did being sinless make one "equal to God"? God, who is easily defined (if not easily understood) by St. Anslem's definition, "That which none greater can be conceived", certainly contains "sinlessness" in that definition, but "sinlessness" is most certainly NOT the sum total of that definition. Otherwise, Adam and Eve themselves (until the Fall) would have been equal to God (which would, then, have made the Temptation from the Serpent utterly meaningless, wouldn't it, that they would be like God? The obvious response would have been, "Stupid snake, we already are!"--lightningbolt) Further, since we don't claim that Mary was equal with God, we are not actually adding to Scripture in any way. As for her being sinless, read Luke 1:28 and ponder the meaning of Gabriel's greeting, "Full of Grace", especially the Greek term, "kecharitomene". Or, if you don't feel like dusting off your Thayer's Lexicon, you could simply wait until I write my article on the subject, immediately following the Perpetual Virginity.

Gregory said...

Heh, I was going to say, "last comment", but then I noticed, it wasn't. My how you do go on...
Anyway, the Church believes that Mary being sinless and a virgin were not necessary things, as in, the whole shebang won't work unless these conditions are in place. Rather, we believe that a) they are true, and because they are true they should be believed, and b) that they were done the way they were not from necessity, but because they were fitting or appropriate. That is, the one Man in all of history who could choose His own Mother had the opportunity from beyond history to honour His Mother as He Himself had commanded in the 10 Commandments. If you had the power to keep someone from sinning, would it honour them to let them fall into sin anyway? I would think not. The Church teaches that as a special act of Grace, which itself only was possible due to Jesus (still future, yet eternal) death and resurrection, He chose to create Mary in the same perfect state in which He created Adam and Eve. That's the sum total of our teaching on the Immaculate Conception. As for the Perpetual Virginity, neither you nor Aaron (whose comments have been lost to the netherworld of internet deletion) are correct in assuming that the Church views sex as sinful and therefore the Blessed Virgin couldn't have sex and other children. However, the Church does view certain things to be Sacred, and certain things to be, how shall we say it, less sacred. The womb which virginally conceived and bore the Son of God through the action of the Holy Spirit was thus very sacred--it was the house where God the Son dwelt for nine months. It was the source of His humanity.

It was thus as unfitting and improper to "utilise that womb" to put it crassly, for any other purpose. This truth is further grasped when one considers the biblical parallel between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant (which I delineated at some length in my series on the Rosary on my blog, or which John Kassab so conveniently provided a link for in a previous note:

As for why we revere her, we do so simply because Christ did so. Christ fully obeyed the command to honour His Father and Mother, and we are to imitate Him. Thus, not only do we honour our parents, but we honour those whom He honoured, and in the same way in which He honoured them. And we don't believe that Mary was simply a "fairly ordinary woman who came to God's notice." Rather, she was divinely chosen before the foundation of the world (as we all were) to fulfil a specific purpose. As such, she was specifically created with that divine task in mind, including being immaculately conceived. The Bible nowhere teaches that God picked one virgin out of a lineup of prospects, and if she turned Him down, He'd move on to the next one in line. That teaching is as unbiblical as any of which you've accused me.

Gregory said...

Next point, nowhere does the Church tell us to pray to Mary to forgive our sins. Saying that we do again betrays your misunderstanding of Catholic teaching as much as any other objection that you've raised so far. It would be nice, in the interest of charity, to actually attack me for things I actually believe.

As for whether or not Marian Dogmas can be supported from Scripture, I believe that all of them are there, if only implicitly. But more importantly, as a Catholic, I don't believe that everything needs to be spelled out in Scripture in order for it to be the truth. No one in the Church believed that until the Reformation. The Bible Alone was Luther's idea, and an idea which itself is nowhere in the Bible which of course, puts Protestantism in the delightful irony of believing an unbiblical doctrine that teaches that all doctrines must be biblical. So yeah, while our beliefs about Mary may not be explicitly spelled out in the Bible, they are a part of that Tradition handed down from the Apostles. Yes, the Proto-Evangelium of James isn't part of the Bible (and considered "Apocryphal"), but we don't get our teaching that Mary was perpetually a virgin from that document. That document was written to defend a teaching already existent in the Church.

As far as making a big deal about something, I'm gonna say, that's you, hon. I was just writing about what I believe. Of course, if you want to discuss unbiblical beliefs about things that actually pertain to salvation, I could come up with a few: like why you believe that Baptism is only a symbol that doesn't actually do anything, even though the Bible clearly teaches otherwise...

Gonna ignore the brethren=brothers thing for now, and save that for the article itself. But I will address your comment about God choosing Mary. God didn't HAVE to do anything. He didn't choose Mary because she was so great. He made Mary "so great", sinless, etc. because HE CHOSE HER. Mary wasn't sinless because of her own doing (that would be pretty tricky, wouldn't it, arranging your own conception). It was something that God did for her, and He did it specifically to honour her and make her worthy of so great a task.

Andrew and Chris, I apologise that after replying to Amy's comments, even as briefly as I've managed to keep it, I have still run out of time to go back and address a) the Papacy and infallibility (Chris), and b) the book "Where We Got the Bible" and your comments on it (Andrew).

Amy, so far conduct in this thread (with some small exceptions whom I won't name) has been done with the utmost charity. Please, if you choose to follow up, drop the tenor of anger and attack in your posting, and the assumptions that I'm unfamiliar with my Bible or my faith. Instead of positing your erroneous assumptions about what the Church believes as fact, and beating me over the head with them, perhaps you could more gently ask if they are, in fact, what I believe. If you disagree with what I actually believe, then great. At least real dialogue can begin.

God bless.
Off to work.

Amy Virgin said...

Greg. Whew! I should know better than to butt heads with you over something you're so passionate about. Yikes! I will immediately apologize for insulting you and other Catholics. That was not my intention, but I do see now how that came across and realize that I did in fact insult you. I am very sorry. I guess I'm just frustrated because I feel like you got annoyed with Pentacostalism (which you came out of) and then found a sweet Catholic girl whom you wanted to marry, and then in the interest of becoming one flesh (which I am in no way putting down...please understand I am not trying to insult, but merely make an observation) you 'converted' (in parentheses because I'm not sure if that's the term you would use) to Catholicism. I would trust my husband very little if he were to switch beliefs just to marry me. I apologize if is insulting, but it is something I've worried about for sometime. Especially as I see you wholeheartedly trying to convert all us non-Christian Protestants.

I am glad you are working in a position you enjoy. I'm not knocking that. My husband is a youth pastor too, at our church. I'm just sorry you believe your Church is the only one. God would be very sad to see how inclusive both Protestants and Catholics have become, n'est pas? Well, it is late. Sorry that this isn't as much as I wanted to write, nor maybe even much of an apology. I am sorry I attacked you though. I have no excuse, but I will say that I am very frustrated by the Catholic view that they are the only ones who are going to heaven. Correct me if I am wrong, but that is how Catholics (and your articles and blog) come across. I am ending this string now simply because it is nearly midnight. Oh, and I apologize to all the others who did not get their questions answered because I hogged Greg, so to speak.

Gregory said...

Amy, thank you for your apology.
Now, allow me to address your (most recent) concerns.

First of all, I'm sorry my conversion (and yes, the process through which I went in order to embrace the Catholic Church was nothing short of conversion, so I'm more than comfortable with that term) seemed to you (and to many others) to be "for the girl". I would have thought and hoped that my friends knew me better than to think that I would be so spiritually and intellectually dishonest as to convert in order to get married (especially since my marriage cost me a chance to be a pastor). If I did not believe that the Catholic Church were true, I would never have joined. Less would I write apologetic articles in its defence. Still less would I have applied for and become a youth minister in the Church. As for Melissa, I either would have convinced her to become Protestant (which I was pretty close to doing when I did convert) or I would have broken up with her if it became obvious that a 'mixed marriage' would not work. I am saddened that so many people--especially many of my once-closest friends--take that view of my conversion. Saddened, but honestly not offended. After all, when I was a Pentecostal, I believed that the only reason a person would convert would be for the guy/girl. I mean, what other reason is there, right? Well, as it turns out, the reasons are manifold, and so I write articles such as these to explain and defend them.

Further to this point, I was never "annoyed" with Pentecostalism. I left it for the same reasons that I eventually joined the Catholic Church--for doctrinal reasons. Namely, I found that I couldn't agree with that most fundamentally distinctive doctrine of the PAOC, that in order to be baptised with the Holy Spirit, it must be evidenced by speaking in tongues. I felt that I could not, in good faith, be ordained in that denomination if I disagreed with the one doctrine that separates it from other denominations. That decision was reached long before I met Melissa, and was, in fact, the reason I first went to such a denominationally-diverse Bible College as Emmanuel--in order to discover where I "fit" theologically. Melissa neither introduced me to Catholicism, nor did she try to convert me. She did give me the impetus to attend my first Mass, but I had already begun researching the Church.

I must correct you again on another point: I am not working at a position which I particularly enjoy--a labourer in a factory on the night shift, learning to run the printing press. It has its moments. But from your comparison of me to your husband, I realise I must still have "youth minister" listed as my occupation. My bad. Guess I never bothered to update that.

A third thing which I need to wholeheartedly correct is your understanding of my (and my Church's) view of Protestants. We do NOT consider you "non-Christian" in any way (unless you're not validly baptised, with water, in the Trinitarian formula).

The Church refers to Protestants as her "separated brethren", that is, sharing in the sonship of the Father through adoption in Jesus Christ, but divided from one another in many ways. Obviously I believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church founded by Christ, and possessing the fullness of the faith--that's why I converted in the first place. It would make no sense for me to have converted, otherwise. I write my blog not to convert "non-Christian Protestants" but to celebrate my faith, to teach it (I am, after all, and always have been, called to teach the faith), to encourage fellow Catholics and to remove stumbling blocks in the way of those who have difficulty with what the Church teaches. The latter part is so important because the vast majority of non-Catholics (yourself included, I'm sorry to say) have very little idea of what the Church actually does teach (sadly, too little Catholics themselves know).

Gregory said...

Finally, along with that, Catholics most certainly do not believe that we are the only ones who are going to heaven. In fact, the Church has never and will never dogmatically declare that any particular person is in hell! The simple fact is, that God in His mercy will save whomever He wishes. That said, God did specifically give instructions on the normative way in which He expects us to approach Him so as to be reconciled to Him and thus attain to heaven. We also believe that He has granted us Sacraments which are vehicles for His sanctifying grace to prepare us and enable us to get to heaven, as well as many other aids and benefits along the way. As such, we believe that the Catholic Church is the easiest way to get to heaven, since she alone possesses all of those special graces. But she does not exclusively possess certain of those graces (such as, in particular, the fundamental and first graces of faith and baptism).

Personally, I don't believe that Christianity was ever intended to be just about getting to heaven. There's a whole life here that, while preparing us for heaven, is meant to be lived and enjoyed in service to God. And there are many things about the Catholic Church that really can only be enjoyed here and now. Ultimately, though, the Catholic Church affords us a greater opportunity to know and experience Christ in an incredibly intimate way that truly cannot be found anywhere else outside of heaven. And it is for THAT reason, if for no other, that I write what I do. I want everyone to be able to participate in that.

I hope that clears a lot up about me and my beliefs and my motives.
If you have concerns about me, Amy, again, I would trust that we were, if not are, good enough friends that you can be direct enough about them to ask me, rather than penting them all up until they boil over in an insulting rant. Deal?

Gregory said...

Alright, Chris, let's tackle your comments now.

First of all, since the reason one must adhere to the teachings of the Pope are specifically the juridical authority he possess by virtue of his descent from Peter, and his possession of the keys inherited from Peter, the fact that your analogy admittedly does not factor these things in when it compares the Pope to modern scientists perhaps makes it not so much a false analogy, as I earlier claimed. It makes it, to my mind, on the whole a giant non sequitur. Since the methodology of scientists in positing their hypotheses is rather completely different than how the Church defines and promulgates its teachings, the analogy really goes from simply incomplete to utterly irrelevant. Moreover, a scientist, by virtue of the discipline he alleges to follow, cannot infallibly or even definitively pronounce the absolute truth about what he studies. One that does is, pretty much, automatically a bad scientist. The best he can do is propound a theory which happens to best fit the facts at hand, in order that that theory be further subjected to testing and further research.

On the contrary, the Church and the Papacy do not reveal anything new. They do not invent or discover new facts about reality. They study, interpret, and promulgate the revealed Faith once and for all delivered to us through Jesus Christ and His Apostles. There is nothing that the Church believes today which was not first taught by them. The only difference is that, over some 2000 years of study and reflection, the Church has deepened in her understanding of those revealed truths. In expressing and formally promulgating those deepened understandings, we believe that the Pope, by virtue of his possession of the Keys, and the promises that whatever he binds and looses in heaven is bound or loosed on earth, and that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church, is protected by the Holy Spirit from promulgating as truth anything that is not.

As for "performative logic" and "name it and claim it-ism" with regards to the Papacy, I'm at a loss to understand what you mean.

The Word-Faith movement claims that we as Christians have the divine power to, in the name of Jesus, call into existence that which is not--specifically, usually, material blessings. The Papacy merely has the authority to officially promulgate doctrines which have always been believed by the Church, as being completely certain (particularly when such doctrines are being attacked). The difference between believing you can reshape reality according to your will and your level of faith, on the one hand, and believing that when the Pope clarifies a particular teaching of the Church and says it's binding upon all Catholics to believe it, he's protected by the Holy Spirit from binding us to believe error, on the other, seem to me to be worlds apart.

So, unless you want to show me where I'm utterly dense in understanding your analogies, which, admittedly, is quite likely, I submit that you've now provided two irrelevant comparisons.

Gregory said...

Andrew, hey!
I imagine the link I gave you led to a very long "article." On the other hand, it's a rather short "book" (which is the truth of the matter--kudos for devouring it so readily). I'd just like to say that I don't necessarily agree with all of Graham's conclusions, and yes, early 20th century English tensions between Catholics and Protestants often led both sides to write in a much more polemical fashion than perhaps is to our taste. That said, I mainly sent you the link for the sake of the first few chapters on the compilation of the Scripture in order to provide a historical look at why the Deutero-Canons are and should be considered inspired Scripture.

If you want to read them, I have them, in the King James Version, alone without the rest of the Bible. Kinda makes reading the additions to Esther and Daniel tricky, though. I'm curious why you would be reluctant to read Judith?

For the record, Tobit's my favourite.

As for the KJV, despite certain staunch supporters of it (like Carl Draksler), I would contend that even its attempts to remain faithful to the original texts was a bit lacking, and there are some definite meaning-changing translations within it. But moving on, I do agree that later translations, being much later than the Reformation itself, do a decent job of accurately translating the text.

I guess, beyond that, the only other things that warrant response are your placing the Catholic and Protestant communions into the parable of the Prodigal Son, and your #7. All I have to say about the latter is to ask, if 24/7 doesn't remain in the PAOC, what will it do? Join another denomination, or essentially start its own?

As for the parallels between the current state of the Church and the Prodigal Son (and the parable of the Vineyard workers) I can certainly see your point, and agree with it. We Catholics certainly do need to rejoice when Protestants "come home" to the Father, and not gripe at the rewards that God will give to anyone who serves Him faithfully, regardless of when they started out. I can't resist quipping, though, that I for one will heartily rejoice at any Protestant who does decide to "come home to Rome" ;)

God bless, bro.

Andrew Hodgkins said...

Yes, I realized afterwards that it was a whole book, but I didn't realize that until I finished, and then it was too late to say, "Hey maybe I don't feel like reading an entire book right now", lol. As to why not Judith, I could be mistaken in my information, but I heard that it contains much talk of the female private parts or some such. Now I know that may be misinformation, or it may be not all the information, but I know to some degree my strengths and weaknesses, and I would rather not jeopardize the work that I see God doing in my life by exposing my mind to literature on that topic, whatever its source or intent.
As to what 24/7 would do, I'm not sure, I've only heard of it as talk, I don't think it would be a new denomination (like splitting away) so much as attempting to keep our doctrine scriptural (ie. on speaking in tongues and the like) and working together with the community of churches in Burlington. Again, it's only talk, and I may be misinformed, we'll have to see.

Gregory said...

Hey Andrew.
Sorry you didn't realise it was an entire book until it was too late. I thought I'd mentioned that in the first place. Guess not.

I'd only read Judith once before now, and hadn't remembered any discussion of the female anatomy. I reread it (quickly) just now, and, unless I somehow missed it, there is no talk of female private parts. At least not in the New Jerusalem Bible that I use. It describes her as being very beautiful, which is somewhat integral to the plot, since she goes to the enemy camp planning to waste Judaea, and promises to lead them into Judaea to conquer. The general decides he'll try to seduce her (which was really her plan all along), and gets really drunk and passes out, at which point she chops off his head, runs back to her people, shows them, and leads them to victory. But yeah, she's described as a beautiful but entirely chaste widow throughout.

As for 24/7, I guess if it's hearsay, the question is moot, so I won't pursue that one.

God bless

(Having left off two rather irrelevant comments of a personal nature from Facebook, and factoring in the five comments already on this blog, there would have been an even 100 comments here. That's exactly half of the 200 comments at Facebook! That's why I like blogger better :)

Hopefully I'll find time to get the Perpetual Virginity article up today! God bless!)

Gregory said...

So, as it turns out, hidden one, for some inexplicable reason, doesn't want his comments reproduced here. Just so you know why they're not here anymore.

Gregory said...

'Course, if anyone wants to read them, feel free to add me as a friend on Facebook, if you've got it. Let me know that you're a reader here, so I know to accept you, in that case.

God bless