Ecclesiasticus 4:28

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

Ora pro nobis,

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

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mary, Ever-Virgin (Part 2, examining the scriptural and historical evidence)

In Part 1 of our examination of the Church's teaching of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, we looked at the common objections to the teaching based on misinterpretations of the biblical texts that seem to indicate that Mary had other children. Having shown that the biblical "evidence" against Mary's perpetual virginity is inconclusive, at best, and, further, showing the dearth of historical testimony to such a position, let us turn our attention now to what else the Bible has to say with regard to the subject of Mary's Perpetual Virginity, as well as look at the Church's historical testimony regarding this doctrine. Finally, we will conclude by discussing what we can learn from this teaching in order to help us grow in our Christian faith.

"Material Sufficiency", not "Formal Sufficiency" of Scripture
The first thing to note, with regard to the biblical proof for Mary's perpetual virginity (or any Catholic teaching, for that matter), is that Catholics do not believe in the concept of "Sola Scriptura"--that is, we do not believe that the Bible must specifically teach something for it to be a part of the Faith, nor do we believe that the Bible alone is the sole infallible judge of all such doctrines. That said, many Catholics including myself believe that everything the Church teaches is, at least implicitly or by way of logical extension, contained in the Bible. That is, we believe in the "material sufficiency" of Scripture, but not in its "formal sufficiency". Since most non-Catholic Christians believe in Sola Scriptura, it is important when defending the Catholic faith, to show that, a) the Church does not contradict the Bible, when properly understood, and b) that Scripture does, in fact, point to a particular Catholic teaching, even if it never explicitly asserts it.

This is the case with various Christian teachings, such as the Trinity itself, or the two natures of Christ--divine and human. Catholic doctrines such as Purgatory or praying to the saints also have implicit support in Scripture, though they are never explicitly taught. It is also the case with Mary's Perpetual Virginity. Nowhere does the Bible emphatically state that Mary never had marital relations with Joseph, or that she was consecrated to virginity for her life. However, like the Trinity, the Bible does provide certain indications that Mary had intended to, and had followed through on the intention to, remain a virgin her whole life. Moreover, the Bible also attests to the fittingness of such a state when it teaches that virginity is a higher state of life than regular married life.

Exhibit A: The Annunciation
So where does the Bible imply that Mary had intended always to be a virgin? Let us look first at Luke 1:26-38, the account of the Annunciation:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favour! The Lord is with you.' She was deeply disturbed by these words, and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favour. Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor, David; he will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will have no end.' Mary said to the angel, 'But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. And I tell you this too: your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.' Mary said, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.' And the angel left her (NJB).
Mary's Question
When the angel announces to Mary that God wants her to bear a son, she asks either a very poignant or a very stupid question, depending on what side of the Perpetual Virginity fence one is on: "How can this be, for I have no knowledge of man?" (v. 34). Luke had told us in verse 27 that at the time that Gabriel appeared to Mary, she was already betrothed to Joseph. Had Mary expected to enter into a normal marriage with Joseph, surely she would know by that time how babies are made. Surely her parents weren't so negligent as all that! Nevertheless, she is genuinely puzzled by the angel's announcement. Recall that the angel Gabriel had only told her that she would conceive--not when this would occur. Logically, had Mary been intending to have a normal relationship with Joseph, she would have assumed that such a birth would take place in the normal way of things. That she felt it necessary to ask how this was to happen clearly implies that not only had she not had any previous "knowledge of man", but that she clearly intended not to with Joseph, either.

Angelic Visitation as Sign of Conception's Impossibility
A second point to draw from this passage, is the fact of its very occurrence. Every time an angel announces the conception of a baby, that child is to be someone great in God's plan (consider Isaac, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist). The other key thing, however, in every other angelic announcement, was that it was physically impossible for the child's mother to conceive. In every other case, the mother was barren. In two of the four cases, the mother had also undergone menopause. And in each situation, this difficulty was very clearly stated by the sacred authors. When we come to Mary, however, while other similarities are present, Luke does not tell us that Mary is barren. Rather, Mary herself tells us why it would be impossible for her to conceive, thus warranting angelic visitation--and that takes us back again to her odd question. Not only was she a virgin when Gabriel showed up, it was a state of life to which she had consecrated herself.

Thus, Mary's question is crucial to understanding the Perpetual Virginity. If she had not intended to remain ever-virgin, what other meaning could her question have had?

Exhibit B: Jesus Gives Mary to John's Care
Going from the beginning of Jesus' earthly life, we jump now to the end of it. The second biblical text indicating Mary's perpetual virginity is also the one which I find most compelling. John 19:25-27 tells us,
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.' Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (NJB).
Care For Parents: It's the Law
We mentioned this text in the article about Mary being the Mother of God, in the context of her being the Mother of all Christians, as well. But this passage also indicates her perpetual virginity, as well, for if Mary had had other sons, it would have been their duty, under the Law, to take care of their mother (see Exodus 20:12, Prov. 23:22, Sirach 3:12ff, and, in the New Testament, 1 Tim. 5:8). Yet Jesus' last act from the Cross is to entrust her to the care of John the Apostle, who is nowhere indicated to be any relation of Jesus whatsoever. Doing this would have been a grave insult to James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, were they actually Jesus' brothers and the sons of Mary. He essentially would be disowning them from His family, as would Mary herself, by accepting this arrangement!

Not Qualified Due to Lack of Faith?
Now, some object that Jesus' brothers didn't believe in Him until after the resurrection (cf. John 7:3-10), and that is why Jesus didn't entrust His mother to them. But this objection makes no sense, since they were still, ostensibly, Mary's children, and honour- and law-bound to care for her. Furthermore, at least some of them did, in fact, believe in Jesus after His resurrection (consider James and Jude, authors of their respective epistles), and Jesus, in His divine foreknowledge, would have known that. Thus, there was no reason for Jesus to not have entrusted them with the care of Mary, unless, in fact, they were not His brothers and her children, and therefore had no legal claim on them to care for her! As such, the fact that Jesus felt it to be necessary to entrust Mary to John quite definitively indicates that she had no other children. This, combined with her otherwise unusual question in Luke 1:34, shows rather clearly, if implicitly, that Mary was perpetually a virgin.

Exhibit C: Virginity the Higher Calling
While these two are the most direct passages with regards to Mary's perpetual virginity, there are a few other points to consider before leaving the question of the Bible's position. First, while the Bible affirms that marital relations and childbearing are definitely good things, there are passages that tell us that virginity is a higher calling. Revelation 14:1-5 describes a group of people known as the 144,000. While their identity is far from certain (to the chagrin of the Jehovah's Witnesses), there are some definite descriptors about them which make them worthy to be numbered in this group. Verse four begins the description: "These are the ones who have kept their virginity and not been defiled with women..." Their life of perpetual virginity heads the list of qualifications for the specific honour awarded to them in this passage--to have learned "a new hymn" and to sing it "in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders" (v. 3). Furthermore, St. Paul writes at length about the blessing and the merits of a celibate life, as freeing one to be more able to devote him- or herself fully to the will of God (1 Corinthians 7). He begins this chapter by saying, "Yes, it is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman" (v. 1). Later on, he explicitly states, "If someone with strong passions thinks that he is behaving badly towards his fiancee and that things should take their due course, he should follow his desires. There is no sin in it; they should marry. But if he stands firm in his resolution, without any compulsion but with full control of his own will, and decides to let her remain as his fiancee, then he is acting well. In other words, he who marries his fiancee is doing well, and he who does not, better still" (vv. 36-38, emphasis mine). Finally, Jesus Himself advocates celibacy for those to whom it is given:
The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.' But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can' (Matthew 19:10-12).
From these three passages, we see that virginity is a higher state than married life, though it is not the call of every person. Being, however, that Mary herself is the highest honoured of all human beings, it is greatly fitting that God would have graced her to live according to a higher state of life.

Exhibit D: Old Testament Typology
Further, the early Church Fathers have seen in Ezekiel 44:1-3 a type of Mary. In chapter 43, Ezekiel sees the Lord enter into the new Jerusalem from the Eastern Gate, and proceed to show to Ezekiel the New Temple. In chapter 44, Ezekiel writes,
He brought me back to the outer east gate of the sanctuary. It was shut. Yahweh said to me, 'This gate will be kept shut. No one may open it or go through it, since Yahweh, God of Israel, has been through it. And so it must be kept shut. The prince himself, however, may sit there to take his meal in the presence of Yahweh. He must enter and leave through the porch of the gate.'
The Fathers allegorically interpreted this as Mary's virginal conception of Jesus--that is, the Holy Spirit, who is Yahweh, the God of Israel, had "been through" the "gate" of Mary when He overshadowed her; thus, it was fitting that no one else should do so. Only the "Prince", Jesus, Son of God and Prince of Peace, would be permitted to "sit there and to take his meal", that is, to derive His nourishment in Mary's womb, and then "leave through the porch of the gate" at His birth. Do not mistake me to mean that Ezekiel 44 is a prophecy of Mary's perpetual virginity. Rather, it is a type of it, just as the Bronze Serpent of Numbers 21:4-9 was a type of the Crucifixion (cf. John 3:14-15).

Finally, another type in Scripture clearly connects to Mary's perpetual virginity. That is, the type of the Ark of the Covenant, fulfilled in Mary, which we discussed at length during the Rosary series. That is, as Mary fulfils the type of the Ark, in that the Ark held the 10 Commandments, the Manna, and Aaron's priestly rod which budded, so Mary held in her womb the Law Giver, the Bread of Life, and the true High Priest in Jesus Christ, so too as the Ark was the holiest of all sacred objects, Mary is the holiest of all God's people, and, finally, as no one could touch the Ark, so Mary was "untouched", perpetually a virgin.

Calling Witnesses
This, then, summarises the "positive" biblical proof for Mary's perpetual virginity. I personally found it quite compelling when I was becoming a Catholic. Moreover, the Church has always found it compelling, as it has consistently, from the earliest times, upheld belief in Mary's perpetual virginity. As we mentioned in the last article, the early Christian writing, The Protoevangelium of James, written probably around AD 120, was composed primarily as a defense of Mary's perpetual virginity. About it, Origen would later write,
"The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity" (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).
Later, in AD 354, St. Hilary of Poitiers, in his Commentary on Matthew, would argue for Mary's perpetual virginity based on Jesus' giving Mary to John's care at the crucifixion. St. Epiphanius of Salamis argued for Mary's perpetual virginity from her very name, for even by his time (AD 375), Mary was always known as "the Virgin Mary" or "the Blessed Virgin Mary". He states, "And to holy Mary, 'Virgin' is invariably added, for that holy woman remains undefiled" (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 78:6 [A.D. 375]).

We mentioned in the last article as well St. Jerome's treatise, Against Helvidius: The Perpetual Virginity of Mary, which he wrote around 383. In it, he himself marshals Sts. Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr in defense of Mary's Perpetual Virginity. Other notable defenders of and believers in this doctrine include St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Augustine, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Pope Siricius I, and Pope Leo I, among many others, whom it would be tedious for me to quote at length. Of course, Catholic Answers already did that, here.

Official Church Promulgation
With this much historical weight behind it, it seems almost unnecessary for the Church to have officially promulgated it at an Ecumenical Council. Yet, it was declared at the Second Council of Constantinople. In AD 553, at the Council of Constantinople, the Church labeled as heretics those who denied "that nativity of these latter days when the Word of God came down from the heavens and was made flesh of holy and glorious Mary, mother of God and ever-virgin, and was born from her" (Anathemas against the 'Three Chapters' 2). After the Second Council of Constantinople, the title was universally accepted and promulgated by the Church. Later, in AD 649, Pope Martin I convened the Lateran Council, which issued this statement:
If anyone does not, according to the Holy Fathers, confess truly and properly that holy Mary, ever virgin and immaculate, is Mother of God, since in this latter age she conceived in true reality without human seed from the Holy Spirit, God the Word Himself, who before the ages was born of God the Father, and gave birth to Him without corruption, her virginity remaining equally inviolate after the birth, let him be condemned.
Hostile Witnesses
Thus belief in Mary's Perpetual Virginity was universally held by the Catholic Church, and, after the Schism of 1054, the Orthodox Church continued to teach and believe it, as well. In fact, all of the early Reformers, such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and even John Wesley are on record as affirming the teaching. (For the Zwingli quotations, follow the link and scroll to the end of Calvin's section.)

The unanimity of belief, compounded with the Scriptural evidence for it, serve to overwhelmingly attest to the truth of Mary's Perpetual Virginity. In light of this, on what grounds does anyone fail to uphold that Mary was, in fact, Ever-virgin?

Implications of Mary's Perpetual Virginity
Nevertheless, some people still object to the doctrine, despite the abundant evidence, asking "what difference does it make?" This question implies that since a particular teaching does not specifically pertain to one's salvation, that it is somehow "negotiable", or "less true". However, such an opinion opens the door to questioning which doctrines are necessary to be believed in order to be saved, and which ones aren't. It is a question that has many different answers depending on to whose faith-tradition one belongs. Further, the truth of a doctrine is not dependent upon its relevance.

Safeguards Belief in Jesus' Virgin Birth
But the fact is, there are various implications to Mary's Perpetual Virginity for us. The first, as I mentioned in the Indroductory Post, is that it serves to safeguard belief in the virgin birth of Jesus. While belief in Jesus' virgin birth is not dependent upon belief in Mary's perpetual virginity, it's interesting to note that, according to Diarmaid MacCulloch (Anglican deacon and historian of the Reformation), during the Renaissance, Protestant rationalists began to deny the perpetual virginity in order to deny Jesus' virgin birth. They seemed to understand that the two stood or fell together. Thus the Reformers mentioned above regarded Mary's perpetual virginity as "the guarantee of the Incarnation of Christ."

Testifies to Higher Calling of Virginity
Belief in Mary's perpetual virginity also bears witness to us of the exaltedness of the celibate state. I mentioned above in the biblical defense of the doctrine that while the Bible (and the Church) does not view marriage and marital relations as bad or sinful, it does maintain that virginity is the higher calling. Mary is, therefore, the perfect exemplar of that calling, and an inspiration to those who pursue that vocation in their own lives.

Beacon of Purity
Finally, Mary stands, as ever-virgin, as a beacon against the degraded sexual mores of our culture. Where society screams sex, sex, sex, Mary points the way to a more blessed purity. While people would have us believe that we are just animals with instincts that demand satisfaction, and that we cannot control our baser desires and therefore should simply give in, Mary shows us by her example that this need not be the case. Moreover, through her prayers for us, she wins us the graces to persevere in purity and chastity. Let us thus turn and petition Mary for her prayers on our behalf in the words of the late Fr. John Hardon, S.J:
Immaculate Virgin Mary, I confide my chastity to your maternal heart. I ask your help to guard my senses, especially the eyes, for an unchaste eye is the messenger of an unchaste heart. Knowing my pride, I pray for that humility which invites the mercy of God. Knowing that I am human, I shall not be surprised at the urge of concupiscence, but trusting in your care I rely on your protection and all the graces that I need from your divine Son. Amen.

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


Andrew said...

I won't say that I'm fully convinced on all counts (though you said that's not your point), but I now better understand the Catholic position on this Dogma, and I can respect it.

Gregory said...

Hey Andrew! Glad to know that I did my job well, then. I'm wondering, what keeps you from being "fully convinced"? What compels you to not believe that Mary was always a virgin?

Christopher said...

My question right now is, "why does it matter if she wasn't?" I mean really, what practical difference does it make to your relationship with Christ if Mary was enjoying the privileges afforded by marriage?

Andrew said...

OK Greg, you asked for it, lol. You did indeed do your job well.
I'll try to number my points again to make for easier responses...

1. The Annunciation
Clearly Mary is talking about experiential knowledge rather than merely knowing the concept... epignosis as opposed to gnosis... thus her question is definitely poignant rather than stupid. And can you honestly assume that a woman (or man for that matter) who is 'deeply disturbed' will be thinking logically? I find it hard to say for certain that her question indicates her plan not to have relations with Joseph so much as her virginity to that point. Also, since the angel said the child would be called 'Son of the Most High' I doubt she would have necessarily assumed that a carpenter would be the father. Therefore since you ask "What other meaning could her question have had (than Perpetual Virginity)?" I reply her virginity up to that point.

2. Women at the Cross negative argument
I waited for the positive argument as well before bringing this up, but here goes: each of the gospels indicates that women were present at the cross... John mentions four of them, Luke says 'the women', Mark says 'some women' and Matthew says 'many women'. Now surely you don't mean that four women are 'many'. In that case, although we know that certain women were there, we don't know that we are limited to just the ones mentioned in John. Nor do we know for certain that the mother of James and Joses must be the wife of Clopas, any more than we could say for absolute certain that this was a euphemism for saying "Jesus' mother" to those knew the living James and Joses at the time.

3. Women at the Cross positive argument
Would it have been an insult to Jesus' brothers, or if they were not there at His death and John was, would He want to make certain that His friend John would take care of her... his brothers not being around to ask? He could not entrust her to them if they weren't there to receive that trust... or are you saying that He could and would have?

4. As far as virginity being a higher state than married life, I cannot with certainty say that Jesus in Matthew 19 is talking about celibacy being that which not all can accept... it could be understood that way, or it could be understood as meaning his teaching on marriage and divorce itself, in which case He'd be saying "If you can accept the way marriage is supposed to be and get married, you should." I think virginity in this modern world is important and necessary and shows our culture up for the lie that it is... and I also think that godly marriage is important and necessary, shows up the lie in our culture, and points directly to the love between God and His creation. To add to that the fact that in Genesis when God says, "It is not good for the man to be alone," Adam already has communion with God... God thought it better for him to have a wife as well. I believe that the love between husband, wife and God is one of the most powerful things in this world... but I don't downplay the power of a life lived solely for God, and not to please a spouse... let's just say that whatever God has for me is alright by me, but I think I'm on the side of "It's not good for the man to be alone." - at least for myself.

There are my questions, comments, objection, call them what you will... but I'm most interested to hear your take on them.

Gregory said...

Alright, Chris first:

Answering "why it matters" is a bit of a vague thing to hit on. I mean, in a sense, you're quite right--it wouldn't somehow negate my salvation, or possibly not even detriment my relationship with Jesus if I believed that Mary had other children and a normal marital relationship after giving birth to Him. At least, not that's readily apparent and easily arguable, anyway.

However, as I pointed out in the article itself, the doctrine does, even if only limitedly, help to protect the doctrine of Jesus' virgin birth, which itself is a doctrine that does have a great effect upon our relationship with Him.

Secondly, believing something untrue about Mary would, first of all, mean I believe something that is not true. While I suppose there are many things in life that I believe which happen not to be true, that is not the desired state for my existence. That is, I seek the truth in order to believe it. Specifically when it comes to religion, Jesus promised that He is the Truth, that His Spirit would guide us into all truth, and that His Church would never defect from the truth. As such, not believing in Mary's perpetual virginity would mean that the Church has defined as a binding doctrine on all Catholics something that is untrue--meaning that it has, in fact, defected and allowed error into her teachings. If this is the case, then Jesus' promise is null, and for Jesus to be impotent in keeping His promise means He is not really God. On the other hand, it could also mean that the Catholic Church is not that Church about which Jesus made the promise--in which case, I am in the wrong Church, and therefore must continue to find that one true Church.

That in itself is a pretty big "practical difference".

Finally, if I don't believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin, and she, in fact, was, then I am believing something untrue about her. This would affect my relationship with her. Since Mary is my Mother in Christ, who is always praying to Him on my behalf, and through whom the graces He wishes to bestow upon me must flow (though that's for a later article), something which affects my relationship with her cannot but help to affect my relationship with Him. How, and to what degree, I cannot truly say with certainty. But it still does have to have some effect.

Now, all of these statements regarding what practical difference it would make, I would not expect to convince you of the truth of the perpetual virginity. However, you asked me a very personal question: "What practical difference does it make to your relationship with Christ?"

That is my answer.
God bless

Gregory said...

Hey Andrew,
nice to see you around still. Thanks for the affirmation of my good work.

1. The Annunciation

The word used in Luke 1:34 is "ginosko", with no "epi" as a prefix. I'm not sure where you're drawing the terms from, but the term in Greek in this passage doesn't refer to "knowledge" in either an academic or experiential sense, but is, quite frankly, an idiom for sexual relations (according to Thayer's third listed definition). That it is, specifically, a profession of her virginal state is the only reading that makes sense.

I admittedly may have been overstating the case by saying she must simply not have known how babies were made, but either way, we agree that her question was poignant--she was a virgin, and nothing about that status was planning to change in the immediate future (or, as far as I'm concerned, in the future whatsoever).

However, your argument fails nevertheless because, again, the Angel had not given a timeline, and, while Mary was a virgin when Gabriel appeared to her, she was at that time still betrothed to Joseph. The question, in modern parlance, of "I'm a virgin, how am I going to have a child?" still doesn't make sense in that case, since a) she's still referencing sexual relations (a virgin birth hadn't entered into her thoughts at this point) and b) she was engaged to be married. The natural assumption in light of that would have been that the angel's prediction would simply have meant that, a few months from now, when you guys are married, God's going to give you a very special child. That this wasn't the natural assumption of Mary, it seems to me, can only logically lead to the conclusion that she wasn't planning to enter into normal marital relations after her and Joseph were formally wed.

Gregory said...

Perhaps a woman who was "deeply disturbed" might not be thinking logically, but I don't necessarily see that that's a decent argument, since the rest of the conversation seems to have her behaving very lucidly. The angel doesn't respond to her question as the query of someone in shock and who isn't thinking straight. He treats it as the valid question that it is, and answers it directly.

You're right, her question doesn't definitively answer the question of her Perpetual Virginity. As I said at the outset, since the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity is no where explicitly laid out in Scripture, it is derived from inferences such as this passage, and the cumulative evidence from all of Scripture. If one passage clearly said something to definitively demonstrate the doctrine, we wouldn't be having this discussion :p That said, I still assert that a perpetual vow of virginity makes the most sense of her question, since, again, the Angel hadn't given a timeline, and she was already engaged, even if she was still a virgin at that point. Gabriel said nothing about "Tonight you will conceive..." or "Next week..." or "A month from now..." He simply told her that she would.

When God promised Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, it was nearly 25 years before it was fulfilled, and yet God had given no indication of a timeline to them, either. So there was nothing in the Angel's words to Mary to indicate to her that he meant "immediately" or that he meant "once the two of you are married".

Since Mary, like all Jews, were strict monotheists, the phrase "Son of the Most High" wouldn't have had the same obvious meaning to her as it does to us--that Jesus would be God Himself, the second person of the Trinity. That simply hadn't yet been revealed by God. Rather, the Jews expected a human Messiah who would be in the line of David, and thus the next King. This earthly expectation is a common theme throughout each of the Gospels. The Kings of David's line were considered "Sons of God" as per Nathan's oracle (2 Samuel 7:11-16) and other places, such as Psalm 2:7. Since Mary and Joseph were of David's line, and thus their son would qualify for Messiahship, the prophecy of Gabriel so far had meant nothing more than that Jesus would be Messiah and fulfil Nathan's oracle of Davidic kingship. That He would be born of a "carpenter" wasn't entirely relevant in that case, since that carpenter did happen to be a secret descendant of David.

Therefore since you ask "What other meaning could her question have had (than Perpetual Virginity)?" I reply her virginity up to that point.

But again, this answer is discounted on the grounds that I've established above--namely that there was nothing at the point of Mary's question to mean that Jesus' birth was going to take place in any particularly miraculous fashion. If her question meant simply that she was still a virgin, why didn't she simply assume that she would conceive and give birth to Jesus in the normal fashion once her and Joseph were married?

Gregory said...

2. Women at the Cross negative argument

No, you're right. We don't know that James' and Joses' mother was specifically Mary, the Wife of Clopas' children. However, since, in the Bible, Mary, Jesus' Mother, is always specifically referred to as Jesus' Mother everywhere else, it seems odd that she would be identified as someone else's mother with no reference to Jesus at the very moment of His Crucifixion. Suggesting that it was common to refer to her at that time as the mother of other people seems to have no historical support anywhere, or, for that matter, any Scriptural support. I would say, then, that even if James and Joses' mother is not Mary, wife of Clopas, there is even less evidence that they are the children of Mary, Jesus' Mother.

3. Women at the Cross positive argument

The point is not so much that Jesus' brothers weren't at the Cross for Jesus to ask. Instead, if Jesus had had brothers, it wouldn't have been necessary for Him to ask anyone else to take care of Mary. It would have been an automatic and legally binding situation that His brothers, if He had any, would step up and take care of her. If He had to ask John anything in that situation, it would have been to make sure Mary was safely given into their care, not for John to take care of her himself. The fact that Jesus had to make specific arrangements for His Mother, could only mean that there was no one legally bound to take care of her otherwise. Thus, Jesus did not have other immediate family members. While the Perpetual Virginity is only implicitly taught in Scripture, this text, bar none, comes closest to explicitly stating that Jesus definitely did not have other brothers. There really is no way around it that I can see.

4. Virginity being a higher state than married life

I would never say that Marriage is not one of the most powerful things in this world. We believe that it is a sacrament--that is, that it literally brings the grace of Christ into the world, as a sign of Christ's love for His Church. That said, both Jesus and Paul indicate that celibacy is a higher way of life, in Matthew 19, and in 1 Corinthians 7 (which you didn't address, incidentally).

As far as Jesus saying that not everyone can accept this teaching, the only logical meaning of that is that someone who cannot accept it is not bound to accept it. Thus, Jesus is declaring a teaching to be optional. The teaching is either "Divorce is a sin" or "You'll have a better life as a celibate." Obviously, Jesus cannot mean the first, as you're suggesting. One's inability to accept the teaching that divorce is sinful does not make it therefore okay. The only alternative is that the disciples understood and summed up Jesus' thoughts properly when they said, "It is advisable not to marry." Since Jesus Himself blesses Marriage (ie, John 2:1-11), He cannot be saying that marriage is bad. But for those who are called to it, celibacy is, in fact, better. Since it is the decision to live for God alone (as Paul writes), it is definitely a higher state of life.

Gregory said...

There are my questions, comments, objection, call them what you will... but I'm most interested to hear your take on them.

Well, that's my take on them, with one last comment: The arguments I have presented for Mary's perpetual virginity are cumulative. No one argument suffices in proving the argument, but rather, they are all to be taken together, building upon each other (in this way, they function like the classical proofs for God--none completely compelling individually, but together making a staggering case, in my opinion).

As such, your comments regarding my points are taken out of the context of the rest of the argument. On their own, they're less convincing, as I said. However, you made no comment whatsoever regarding certain other aspects of the argument, such as, in particular, the unanimity of interpretation of these texts in support of Mary's Perpetual Virginity by every Christian tradition prior to the 17th century. It is one thing to say "a passage of Scripture doesn't necessarily mean that". It's another to say "1600+ years of the best theologians across the complete spectrum of Christian thought have all interpreted the Scriptures that way, and are all wrong to do so."

Anyway, that's all I've got to say for now. Hopefully sometime this week I'll get the article on Mary's Immaculate Conception up, and my aim is to finish the article on Mary's Assumption to have it posted on August 15th, which is the day on which we celebrate her assumption--so that would be fitting :)

God bless

Andrew said...

OK Greg. I'm on my way to bed, so I may not respond as fully or thought-out as I'd like, but your points are well taken.

1. I only knew of the 2 words for it, so thank you for enlightening me, but the point is still the same. Perhaps she was thinking most logically. And perhaps, in her logical mind, it meant "once the two of you are married"... but as you stated, there's no timeline given, and to my mind it could just as easily mean "immediately"... so the answer I gave would then not be simply discounted on those grounds... at least to my mind.

2. Quite true... it's not evident either way... and it could be quite a different Mary altogether... I'm not asserting certainty, but isn't it odd that only John writes that Jesus' mother was there? Since the Church (Catholic) clearly considers her such an important and essential woman to the faith, why would Matthew and Mark not include her? My point is that either they didn't... or they did.

3. Perhaps your mentioning previously that John, the disciple Jesus loved, represents all believers, and that He was giving His entire church the command to take her into their homes (your assertion, not mine, although I don't necessarily disagree) provides a way around it that you couldn't see... in this case, if your assertion is correct, He could be teaching right up to the end, making the point to His Church of her importance.

4. I was actually thinking of 1 Corinthians 7 as well when I was writing my comment, and I should have pulled it up when I was writing it, but I already had 4 tabs open from Paul clearly says that celibacy is better than marriage... certainly he wishes that everyone else could be celibate too... but if they were, of course we wouldn't be here.

You state that Jesus' teaching is either "Divorce is a sin" or "You'll have a better life as a celibate." I put to you not that He's saying "Divorce is a sin"... my point was it could be interpreted as "Divorce is a shame"... "Divorce means that your heart is hard, you should stay married"... "Any who can soften their heart should".

Again, He could very well mean that celibacy is a higher state... I just didn't want you to discount my argument based on a false assumption of what it actually was.

Andrew said...

5. I didn't argue every point of your post because some of them made more sense to me than others, for one reason... for another, because I don't want to just be ornery and I only wanted to give my actual objections... and perhaps most importantly, because I have no desire to argue history with you, I concede that many people for 1600+ years interpreted something a certain way (as far as we know, since I think you were saying most of the traditions go back to several hundred years after Christ died and rose again)... many of mankind's greatest minds for a great many years believed the world was flat... there are many things about which I have been wrong in my life, and I'm sure there will be until the day that I know fully, even as I am fully known... as Romans 3:4 says, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." Of course, it's talking about God's faithfulness despite our lack of faith... but the point stands...

The point I make is the same one I made a couple years back to a non-Christian friend of mine when he was saying that if most people believe something it must be true... Let God be true, and every man a liar...

That is why I continue to question my beliefs, and that is why I continue to question yours... because God can never lie... but you could... or I could... or EVERY person on earth could... often quite unintentionally, and simply because they don't know it to be a lie. (That is also what irks me about the so-called 'infallibility' of the Catholic Church...

Traditions can be a strong thing... they can be a good thing... but look at Matthew 15, washing your hands before you eat isn't bad... it's quite a good tradition in fact... but Jesus' disciples didn't follow it...

I don't say that verses 7-9 describe the Catholic Church, although I've heard some people talk along those lines... but you can see why I would be hesitant to follow "rules taught by men" and declare them essential, no matter how many men, or how prominent, if I was not certain that they agreed with the word of God.

So I must reiterate my point that I am not fully convinced of your points, just as you are not convinced of mine... which is, of course, why we are on opposing sides of this debate.

God bless you Greg, and may He use you greatly. I have certainly seen His work in my life in recent days, and must give Him all the glory for anything of good seen in me. My heart is to know Him, and I seek for that longing to be expanded daily. Along with Paul, I consider myself to be the least of Christ's followers, but as I yield to Him, He brings forth fruit. I look forward to our further discussion. Good night!

Gregory said...

Hey Andrew,

1. You're right, Mary could have understood Gabriel's comments about her conceiving to be taken as "immediately". Nevertheless, the Bible does not specifically tell us that. Thus, while I cannot discout your interpretation conclusively, neither can you conclusively discount my interpretation, either. We come again to the age-old stalemate of "whose interpretation of Scripture is correct?" And, without recourse to a higher authority than Scripture itself, we are left with the dilemma of contradiction and disunity. Of course, I believe that there is a higher authority safeguarding the correct interpretation of Scripture; but short of agreeing on that principle, we have to settle for "I could be just as right as you." Since the object of apologetics is to demonstrate that a belief is reasonable, and to remove barriers to accepting that belief, I'd say that the purpose of my articles was met more than adequately. I cannot take the final step--an act of faith--for anyone else, though. I can only reiterate that, as far as Mary's Perpetual Virginity is concerned, there is no objective logical or scriptural evidence against it, and that, on this point, the Catholic Church is not "going against the Bible" as some have alleged (which allegations initially prompted this series).

2. As for Matthew and Mark not specifically mentioning Jesus' Mother at the Cross, it could just as easily been assumed by them that, of course she was there. John, then, would only have given her special mention because she figured prominently into his narrative--especially since it was he who was instructed to take her into his home. My point in reply is that, logically, since the event being depicted was specifically about Jesus, it makes no logical sense for His Mother, if she had been specifically mentioned by Matthew or Mark in that context, to be addressed as someone else's mother rather than the mother of the principle character of the story. Logically, linguistically, and narratively, it doesn't make sense in this context to consider the mother of James and Joses to be the Mother of Jesus. She might be the wife of Clopas, or she might be someone else. But it is highly unlikely that she would be Mary, Jesus' Mother.

3. I don't see that your "solution" points a way out of the dilemma that I couldn't see. That is because, a) John did literally take Mary home with him, so Jesus wasn't simply speaking figuratively in a teaching manner. b) If Jesus was intending John to be a living parable, He was still doing it at the expense of His "brothers'" familial duty under the Law, while providing no concrete interpretation of the teaching He was trying to get across (which is contrary to every other "object lesson" style of teaching by God in the Old and New Testament--the object lesson is always accompanied by an explanation). c) The Church's interpretation that John the Beloved Disciple stands for each of us, in welcoming Mary into our lives as our spiritual Mother, is an exercise in typology or analogous interpretation of the Scripture--something which does have rather specific rules (as laid out by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, among others), such as, primarily, that the meaning of the type is always dependent upon the literal meaning of the text, and not independent from it. If we are to take this episode at the foot of the Cross as typifying our own intended relationship with Mary, it can only be because John first literally did as Jesus asked, and took Mary into his domestic arrangements.

Your alternative solution, while correct that Jesus was, in fact, teaching right up to the end, still does not explain why He would contradict both Jewish and Christian law in spiting His "brothers" in this way. To do so would be to contradict Himself and the Church He founded.

Gregory said...

4. The fact that Celibacy is a higher state than Marriage does not lead to the conclusion that everyone is therefore called to Celibacy. As you rightly point out, if it did, we wouldn't be here (which, incidentally, is why there aren't any Shakers left).

Similarly, ordained ministry is a higher state than being a lay person. It does not necessarily follow that all Christians are called to the priesthood or pastorate. Being a layman is good, but being a priest is better. Being married is good (I myself am happily married, as you well know), but that does not mean that I don't consider celibacy to be a higher state of life. In fact, the celibate life could only be higher because marriage is good. The sacrifice demanded of celibacy to forgo a wife (or husband) and children would not be a worthy sacrifice if marriage were bad. Similarly, fasting would not be a meritorious sacrifice if eating were bad.

That Jesus is teaching that Divorce is a sin is clear by the fact that in verse 9, Jesus calls divorce and remarriage, "adultery." Surely you won't contend that He thinks that breaking the sixth commandment is simply "a shame"? Further, Malachi 2:13-16 clearly tells us that God hates divorce, and that those who do it will not be heard by Him, but have separated themselves from Him. That is, they have sinned. As such, I think my initial point stands.

5. I didn't argue every point of your post because some of them made more sense to me than others, for one reason...for another, because I don't want to just be ornery and I only wanted to give my actual objections...

I don't think that replying to all my points is being ornery. But the fact is, when you say nothing about portions of my arguments, I don't automatically get the sense that that is because you agree with them. Even a comment such as "Okay, that makes sense," or "I agree with that," goes a long way. Otherwise, I've experienced too many people of just evading my arguments. I'm not trying to suggest that you purposely intended to do so, but it's a habit to call people on it now.

and perhaps most importantly, because I have no desire to argue history with you, I concede that many people for 1600+ years interpreted something a certain way (as far as we know, since I think you were saying most of the traditions go back to several hundred years after Christ died and rose again)...

When I say "1600+ years" I mean from the time of the New Testament until after the Reformation, rather than 3-400 years after Christ until now, just to clarify. I am quite definitely asserting that our traditions go back directly to Christ and His apostles, not to "several hundred years after". Our first textual indications might come a couple centuries afterward, and our understanding of these Traditions has certainly developed and deepened over 2000 years--but the core comes from Christ Himself, passed down through His Apostles. That is why we call it Apostolic Tradition, and why we declare that such Traditions are as infallible as the Scriptures written by those same Apostles.

Gregory said...

many of mankind's greatest minds for a great many years believed the world was flat...

Yes, but, it was never a matter of religious faith to believe that the world was flat. That many Christians may have mistakenly had that notion does not affect the content of the Christian religion in any way. Scientific assumptions were not part of "the faith which has been once and for all entrusted to God's holy people" (Jude 3), and therefore not protected by the Spirit's gift of infallibility.

there are many things about which I have been wrong in my life, and I'm sure there will be until the day that I know fully, even as I am fully known... as Romans 3:4 says, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." Of course, it's talking about God's faithfulness despite our lack of faith... but the point stands...

Does it? Pardon my saying so, but it appears to be a big non sequitur in terms of my argument about the unanimity of belief in Mary's Perpetual Virginity. It wasn't simply that the Church has always believed that Mary was a perpetual virgin. The Church has always believed-- until Protestantism rejected it nearly 100 years after the Reformation itself started--that Mary's Perpetual Virginity is a revealed Doctrine passed down from the Apostles. That is something rather different than someone being wrong about their personal understanding of the faith, and even different than everyone being wrong about scientific facts.

The point is this, in a nutshell: The Church has always taught and believed that it was a matter of Apostolic Faith that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after Jesus' Birth. This belief was universally held by all Christians, even when they rejected many other key teachings of the Catholic Church, until the Renaissance and the coming of Rationalism. These people first rejected the Church's teaching in order to reject even Jesus' virgin birth, and did so on inadequate grounds, as I demonstrated in the two parts of my article, which, I believe, are sufficient to show that, while there are perhaps other viable alternatives, none conclusively demonstrate that the Church is wrong in its teaching. As such, my question remains: on what logical grounds does one reject the universally and unanimously held teaching of the Church that Mary was a perpetual virgin? My argument, emphatically, was not, "Well, everyone else is doing it!"

The difference is this: Everyone stopped (or should have stopped) believing that the earth was flat when it was conclusively proven to be round. Since there is no conclusive proof that Mary wasn't perpetually a virgin, why should we logically not believe, as every other Christian in history did until recently, that she was?

The other aspect of arguing for the unanimity of belief in Mary's Perpetual Virginity is that it is not specifically a "Catholic" belief, but that Orthodox Christians, and some Protestants still, also believe it.

The point I make is the same one I made a couple years back to a non-Christian friend of mine when he was saying that if most people believe something it must be true... Let God be true, and every man a liar...

Again, though, my argument never was "If everyone believes it, it must be true," so your objection doesn't stand.

Gregory said...

That is why I continue to question my beliefs, and that is why I continue to question yours... because God can never lie... but you could... or I could... or EVERY person on earth could... often quite unintentionally, and simply because they don't know it to be a lie. (That is also what irks me about the so-called 'infallibility' of the Catholic Church...)

Quite frankly, Andrew, I believe in the "so-called 'infallibility' of the Catholic Church" specifically because, denying it would indeed make God into a liar. If the Church is not protected by God from making mistakes in teaching on matters of faith and morals, then it is possible for the Church to defect from the Truth. Thus, it could not be the pillar and foundation of the Truth which Scripture claims (1 Tim 3:15). Further, since you disagree with various teachings of the Church, you believe that it has, in fact, defected from the Truth, which means that Jesus was a liar, because He promised that would never happen when He said that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church.

So yes, while every man, left to his own devices, may very well be a liar, even unintentionally, God does not leave the Church to herself. Just as He guided the writers of Scripture to infallibly record His Word, why should we doubt that He wouldn't similarly guide His Church which proclaims His Word to the world, and protect it from error as well?

But I wholeheartedly encourage you to question yours, mine, and the Catholic Church's beliefs. If the Church really is infallibly true, it can most readily withstand your scrutiny.

Matthew 15 does not describe the Catholic Church, because what Jesus is condemning is traditions (of men) which contradict themselves and the revealed Laws of God. The Apostolic Traditions, we believe, are neither "traditions of men", nor do they ever, anywhere, contradict Scripture. Scripture itself binds us to the following of these Sacred Traditions, whether they were written down as Scripture, or merely orally transmitted by the Apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15). 1 Thessalonians 2:13 specifically refers to such oral teaching as "God's Word." So yes, Mary's Perpetual Virginity is a "Tradition". But it is a Tradition of the same sort, and promulgated by the same people who gave us the "Tradition" of the Bible's table of contents. If the bishops could be infallibly guided by the Spirit in declaring what books constitute Scripture, why could God not infallibly guide them in every other matter of faith and morals?

You may not be fully convinced of my points, and that is fine. I cannot make you believe. But I think, unless I have misread you, that I have succeeded in demonstrating that my points are at least valid--you have no solid objection to them. And if I have done that, I have done what I set out to do.

So yes, while I look forward to our further discussion, and think it will continue to be profitable, whether you ever embrace belief in Mary's perpetual virginity (or the other Catholic beliefs about her), is completely a matter between you and God.

God bless you as well, and your prayer for me continues to be my prayer for you--that God will continue to use you to expand His kingdom.

Gregory said...

Just thought I'd mention, I added Headings to the last four posts on Mary to help break the articles up into sub-topics for easier reading...

Andrew, further to our conversation regarding Mary's question, you wrote:
1. I only knew of the 2 words for it, so thank you for enlightening me, but the point is still the same. Perhaps she was thinking most logically. And perhaps, in her logical mind, it meant "once the two of you are married"... but as you stated, there's no timeline given, and to my mind it could just as easily mean "immediately"... so the answer I gave would then not be simply discounted on those grounds... at least to my mind.

I found this article about Jewish marriage. According to it, the betrothal period (kiddushin) was established in one of three ways: Money, a Contract, or Sexual Relations. During the duration of Kiddushin, the couple enjoyed particular rights of married life, such as sexual relations, though for the time being they lived apart, only coming together once they were formally wed (called "nisuin"). It was during this time that the husband would "prepare a place" for the bride (which, incidentally, gives a particular meaning to John 14:2-3, eh?).

Anyway, since ordinarily Mary and Joseph, in their betrothed state, would have been entitled to engage in marital relations, Mary's question to Gabriel becomes even more odd unless it is understood to mean that her and Joseph had a unique marriage, and that she intended to be a virgin perpetually.

Andrew said...


1. I agree with everything you say in this part of the comment... including the part which basically reiterates my first comment, which incidentally is where I would have left the discussion had I not been prodded to speak.

2. I hear ya.

3. Not a solution, fine. I never suggested he didn't take her into his home, it specifically says that he did.

4. You win. Celebrate. Eat some cake. I lose. You assert your Traditions are what you assert they are, and not from several hundred years later. Got it.

5. Everything I didn't comment on is fine. You did great.

If you want to believe that I'm calling Jesus a liar, then you believe that. Heck, believe that the Church He was talking about was an organization rather than an organism... or whatever.

I can see why if the Traditions were handed down from the apostles you would regard them the way you do.

Let me back up a moment and say I'm really tired and I need to get up in about 6 hours and work for 8 1/2. I shouldn't be responding to this now, but I feel compelled to do so after reading this. Remind me to check your blog in the middle of the day when I have nothing to do for a while... hence also why I might be short with you, and a tad grumpy.

I know neither of us is convincing the other... I was never trying to convince you that you were wrong by the way... certainly not on this topic... and if the other two Marian Dogmas are going to be based once more on "handed down, infallible, Tradition so must be true" (not trying to mock, just say your argument quickly, obviously it doesn't capture the beauty and logic behind your posts) then I should probably just keep my big yap shut on the subject of those too.

You believe that my objections have no strength or solidity to them. That's your right. I appreciate your friendship... and I respect your right to a differing opinion. Please understand that while you can't see the base that holds up some of my logic, neither can I see the one supporting some of yours. We both say things based on things that if both believed the argument would make perfect sense, but as it is, here we are.

I'm tired. Tired in that I need sleep, tired of having my comments handed back to me distorted from their intended meaning, or simply told that they don't make sense, based often on something that to me doesn't make sense. I need to go to sleep. No more arguments from me tonight.

If you want there to be a winner, let it be you. I don't care. I don't have to win. For now, I'm going to work on loving God, loving my neighbour, and leave Mary to the Catholics. Maybe one day I'll understand your arguments, maybe not. In the meantime, I'm going to try to go on with the process of getting to know God better in my every day life.

I hope you know this wasn't meant to be offensive... merely blunt, as I'm writing into my sleeping time. Good night, and God bless.

Andrew said...

And yes I know the Catholics are my neighbour too... perhaps especially you Greg, as you're the one I know the best... and I ought perhaps to be less rough with my words. I apologize for any rough edges, I'm so tired right now I may have said some things hastily... but I'm not calling Jesus a liar.

Andrew said...

One last thing. You said I didn't respond to all the points in your post, which you automatically assumed meant I was evading your arguments... you may look back at my first comment for something meant to encompass all of your arguments as a whole... you only ASKED for what I was not convinced by, what I didn't agree with... which I did... I automatically assumed that meant what it said, not, "and please include the rest of the points and why you think they're convincing."

Perhaps both of our assumptions were in error, but clearly both of us were making assumptions the other one had no idea about... I'm asserting that there may be other assumptions like that, keeping us from understanding what the other one thinks is obvious.

There. That's the slightly more thought-out version of some of my last two comments. :)

Gregory said...

Andrew, I'm sorry that our conversation has seemed to taken a turn for the worse, and that I have offended you. This was never my intent when I "prodded [you] to speak."

1. I realise that that's where we can agree. My problem is that, as I said, it does lead to contradiction and disunity. Since neither of those things are truth, I'm not content to settle for those outcomes, and so I keep trying to persuade. Again, I'm sorry that that offended you.

2. Cool.

3. I guess, to that end, we agree on this point. Sorry I sounded so argumentative in my response.

4. I think our numbering got confused...
Anyway, my point isn't to win here. I'm not going to eat any cake. I'm just trying to relate the truth of the Catholic position regarding our traditions. I'm sorry I haven't done a thorough job of defending the Catholic position of infallibility here yet. I'd take the time (as I did briefly) to do so, but I'm trying not to get off-topic. It just incidentally creeps in. Protestants and Catholics start from different epistemological frameworks, and it leads to miscommunication. We would have to go back and address those foundations adequately before we could really address anything else. Maybe I should have done that before starting this series. But I'm not trying to argue that the Church is infallible therefore I'm right and you're wrong nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. But since, quite frankly, Sola Scriptura is nowhere taught in the Bible itself, and was never believed until Martin Luther made it up--thereby making it yet one more "tradition" from which to argue--the question of which Traditions are authentic and which are just "traditions of men" as Jesus rebuked in Matthew 15, really isn't about playing a trump card for the argument.

Gregory said...

5. I really want to respond intelligibly to these last comments, but I think you started ranting, and I can't find anything to really say in response that isn't going to be quarrelsome. So I guess I'll sum up.

I'm not saying that you, personally, are calling God a liar. I am saying that that is the only logical conclusion that I can see to denying that He would preserve His Church from doctrinal error. I was, in charity, assuming that you hadn't thought through the ramifications completely--or, if you had, that you would have another perspective that didn't make God into a liar, and the Church still able to defect from the truth. Maybe I said the argument too forcefully in my brief summation. I'm sorry. But I think it's an important issue that needs to be critically examined by all involved.

When I say you have no solid arguments against my points, I simply mean that you haven't presented any definitive proof that my logic is flawed. You have no incontrovertible evidence that my interpretations are wrong. If that's the case, then the very best we can acheive, going back to #1, is a stalemate. But if there is such a thing as absolute truth, I can't really settle for a stalemate on a doctrine which I believe was, in some form, divinely revealed. As far as my own limited, human abilities go, I realise that I am incapable of convincing you. That's not my job, even. But my intent is to provide the arguments, and, perhaps, to goad you into thinking about it in a way you might never have before. I didn't mean to push too hard, or to insult your intelligence or sincerity, however, and I'm sorry for so doing.

Please understand that while you can't see the base that holds up some of my logic, neither can I see the one supporting some of yours. We both say things based on things that if both believed the argument would make perfect sense, but as it is, here we are.

I do understand this, and I think, that, having tapped this conversation as far as it can go, otherwise, it would only be useful to examine the underpinnings of our arguments, as I mentioned above, with regards to infallibility, sola scriptura, and tradition--and, for that matter, anything else that needs to be addressed along these lines.

As for your last comment above, I wasn't trying to accuse you of evading my arguments. I'm sorry for the way it came out. I guess I'm so used to others doing it, that it's almost a reflex. I should have afforded you more charity. Point is, though, I really wasn't sure where you stood on the whole of things, and since the argument is a whole, cumulative piece, I wanted to know so that I could help bolster one argument with an appeal to another one on which we both agreed. That was my intent in asking about the rest of the post.

I realise that, yes, I did only ask you to voice your concerns, and not to include the points of agreement. So yeah, it's completely my fault that you didn't do so, and that I reacted the way in which I did. Again, I'm sorry.

Anyway, I guess that's pretty much everything. It was a wonderful conversation up until the end there. Hopefully, if you're still interested, we can continue, and perhaps examine those epistemological underpinnings that, if we agreed on, the rest would sort of click. Sound good?

God bless,

Andrew said...

I'm sorry too. I was ranting at some points... while still trying to have some rationality to it and not offend you too much... I was REALLY tired, but that's no excuse. You have spurred me to think about things in different ways, and consider things I hadn't before... and that's good. I may have felt like I was being attacked personally, but that doesn't mean that you were doing so.

Here's perhaps a way of looking at it that will help you see my frustration with the conversation at the moment:

Think of me, if you will, as a newborn child just beginning to eat, with various concepts about, or held by, the Catholic church, as food... if you feed the child a little bit at a time, I can digest that little bit, and given time be hungry for more... if you try to force the child to eat steak and potatoes immediately, or even too much mush at a time... you're gonna have a big mess on your hands and a very cranky baby.

I realize this isn't a very flattering picture of me, but I don't care. I think it may accurately represent the conversation at this point, and I regret having thrown up the steak and potatoes that you love so much... I can't digest it all right now.

God bless you Greg, and please pardon my sleepy ranting.

Gregory said...

Hey Baby Andrew ;)

Naw, I totally get the analogy. Sorry for pushing stuff too fast. It's hard to provide just bite-sized nuggets, because the Catholic Faith is so vast, and everything is interconnected and interrelated. It's kind of the reason why, while we acknowledge a "hierarchy of truths", we don't subscribe to notions like "essential and non-essential doctrines", because if you reject a non-essential here, it can domino to a greater heresy down the line before one even realises it. Which is why, when someone like Christopher above asks "What difference does X make?" it can make a difference that can't actually be seen right away--at least not by me.

All that is to say, I'm not writing my blog the way one might write a book explaining the Catholic Faith (such as, say, Catholicism for Dummies, which I've heard great things about and still want to get and read myself). I'm writing about topics that I feel passionate about at whatever time I write. Sadly, that perhaps means that I haven't adequately laid the groundwork in other areas, like defending Tradition or Infallibility, or those other hot-button issues that underlie all Catholic teaching.

So yeah, I guess I go right to the meat and potatoes of my faith, because, well, that's what I like. And I inadvertently skip over the strained peas, because, well, honestly, who actually likes strained peas? Still, I guess there's a reason why Ma always told us to eat our veggies, huh?

Anyway, stick around if you like. But if active conversation is going to destroy our friendship, our friendship is too important.

Speaking of, we should get together and hang out sometime soon!

God bless

Andrew said...


Thank you. I'm glad I read this before reading your next article... I think what I'll do is read it, understand where you're coming from, post something to that effect, and then go strain some peas...

I also appreciate our friendship, and I would also like to hang out soon!

God bless you my friend,