By Dave Armstrong (5-29-08)
This came about on the Coming Home Network Discussion Board, where I am moderator and "Network Apologist." My Protestant friend's words will be paraphrased and in blue:
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If you don't mind, I'll give a few of my thoughts on your questions and comments.
Catholics have to admit that there are many problems in the Catholic Church -- always has been and always will be -- as is the case in all denominations.
Of course. People are sinners. We were told to always expect sin in the Church (the wheat and the tares, etc.). We need only look at Paul's writing to the Galatian and Corinthian churches, and the seven churches in the book of Revelation, to see this clearly (or, for that matter, Judas, one of the disciples). We don't believe that affects the truthfulness of teaching, though, because we believe that the Holy Spirit has supernaturally protected the Catholic Church in a unique way. It ain't men who do that, but God.
Martin Luther and others departed from the Catholic Church as a result.
It wasn't just what was going on in the Church. Luther decided to depart from received Catholic theological tradition in at least 50 ways that had little to do with sin in the Church or indulgences and all the rest of the standard Protestant mythology concerning why Luther dissented.
I think everyone must differentiate between man-made teachings ("traditions of men") and legitimate, biblical truth from God.
I think that is the right question to ask. It was key in my own decision to become a Catholic.
For example, is it a teaching from God that it is a mortal sin to miss Mass? Or did that originate from mere human tradition?
This is a straightforward application of the biblical principle of the Sabbath, which was one of the Ten Commandments. If we were to remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy, how much more ought Christians to observe worship on Sunday? Nothing is more important. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable (and in line with the Bible) to require Church attendance once a week and to firmly state that it is a sin not to do so, because that wouldn't be "keeping the Sabbath."
For that matter, where does the notion of "mortal" and "venial" sins come from: man or God?
This is a fairly explicit teaching of Scripture, especially in 1 John. See my papers:
"Mortal vs. Venial Sin"
"Mortal and Venial Sin: The Garden-Variety Objection Answered, + Strong Biblical Support"
I wonder the same about no meat on Friday during Lent and holy days that Catholics are obliged to attend.
Holy days of obligation merely extend the Sabbath principle to special occasions, much like the Jewish feasts. Disciplinary rules like no meat on Friday during Lent is an application of the prerogative of priests and the Church to "bind and loose." We see the early Church exercising authority on things like what is proper to eat, in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). We even observe the Apostle Paul proclaiming the teachings of the Council in his missionary travels afterwards (Acts 16:4-5).
Why is it that today's Catholic masses are very different from early Church gatherings?
Most Protestant services bear very little resemblance to early church meetings, either, but ours are closer in key respects.
Nor was the Eucharist, as taught today by Catholics, present in the early days.
The Eucharist was instituted at the Last Supper and became the central focus of early church gatherings:
Luke 24:35 (RSV) Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.The Apostle Paul refers to the "table of the Lord" and "altars" in the context of Christian worship. That only meant one thing: sacrifice, and since there were no more sacrifices of lambs and goats, it referred to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and the Eucharist:
Acts 2:42,46 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . . . And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts,
Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread,
1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
1 Corinthians 10:17-21 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.The doctrine of the Eucharist has developed, for sure (transubstantiation), but all the essential elements were there from the beginning, in John 6 and the institution at the Last Supper.
How do we know that all the things we see in the Catholic Church came about as a result of the Holy Spirit?
This is the important question: first of all, can the Holy Spirit lead even sinful human beings to have a Church where God's doctrine and truth is preserved infallibly? We say yes. Luther and the Protestants said no. I see infallibility clearly suggested in Scripture, though.
"Protestant Historian Philip Schaff Confirms Church Fathers' Acceptance of Conciliar Infallibility Based on the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)"
"Biblical Evidence for Papal and Church Infallibility"
Human beings love to grab power and subject everyone under them to arbitrary rules. I have a big problem with that.
Men do lots of bad stuff, but if God wants to do something, not even men can stop Him. So the question to determine is whether God wanted to set up and preserve an institutional Church that can be seen as historically continuous, and can be identified in a concrete manner, not just as an abstraction and a lovely idea. If we trust the Bible as revelation, I think there is more than enough information in it to lead one to conclude that there is such a Church.
I've studied a lot of these issues. Every denomination is biased towards its own position, and so you can't get a fair treatment of any given issue by just looking in one place. Everyone quotes the Bible, and it is used to justify virtually anything. But it can be abused, with passages isolated and not considered together with other related passages. So I can't just read the Catholic Catechism to decide whether the Catholic Church is correct on any given issue.
This is true, for the most part. My own life's work is largely devoted to defending Catholic doctrines from Scripture. One could say that I am biased, too, and I would readily agree. But what I do is show the Scripture that I think supports our position. I encourage folks to compare my analyses with any other they can find on the same subject matter. Compare and contrast; pray and make up your own mind. I dialogue amiably with other Christians and provide my readers with a substantive debate, where they can read and ponder both sides and make up their own minds.
One can do no more than that. But Catholics defend their beliefs by recourse to Scripture and also to what the majority of Christians have believed through the centuries (including the smaller category of Catholic Tradition). Protestants do the same: they claim superior biblical support and they claim that they are more like the early Church than Catholics are. So we're all on the same playing field in many ways: we utilize biblical and historical arguments.
I emphasize the Bible a lot in dialoguing with Protestants, for obvious reasons: it is what we have in common: both sides regard it as authoritative. So I use it as much as I can. It's food for thought. I am biased, sure (everyone is), but at least I'll provide readers with a lot of Scripture. If they don't like my interpretation or the Catholic Church's, then they are free to come up with something better and more coherent and plausible.
The Bible also has to be understood as a whole, as a document from its time period and place.
Absolutely. We Catholics say also that it should be understood within the context of the authority of the Church ("the pillar and foundation of the truth" -- 1 Timothy 3:15) and the history of Christian thought and doctrine. It can't be read in isolation (the "Me, my Bible and the Holy Spirit" approach).
Peter was a leader, yes, but I don't see him being a "pope" in Scripture, let alone infallible.
Papal infallibility is exercised in conjunction with the Church as a whole: bishops and councils. Scripture expressly states that a council of the early Church was infallible:
Acts 15:29-30: "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity."It is not implausible, then, to hold to papal infallibility, in light of the virtual infallibility of both prophets and apostles, that is manifest in Scripture. The great authority of the papacy is seen in how Scripture presents Peter:
"50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy and the Papacy"
"The Biblical, Primitive Papacy: St. Peter the "Rock": Scholarly Opinion (Mostly Protestant)"
The Bible teaches us that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
Sinfulness has no direct relation to infallibility. If it did, then we couldn't have inspired Scripture, since sinners wrote all of it (Moses, David, Paul, Peter). If a sinner can write Scripture that is divinely inspired, then he can be protected from error (infallibility) because the latter (a negative protection) is a lot less of a miracle than the former, which is a positive attribute.
I think Peter got a bit carried away with power. This is human nature. We don't see, in any event, that there were to be successors to Peter. Where is it?
The Bible presents the notion of a leader of the Church, in how it treats Peter. It presents the concept of apostolic succession and episcopacy (bishops):
"Biblical Evidence For the Sacrament of Holy Orders (Ordination)"
"The Biblical Evidence for Priests"
"Bishops in the New Testament and the Early Church"
Therefore, if all this is indeed taught, and a primacy of Peter as a leader is also taught, then it stands to reason that the papacy would be an office with succession, just as bishops and priests have succession, because it makes no sense to have a leader of a group, occupying an office, which then simply vanishes after his death. The very concept of an office presupposes that it is continuous, and passed on.
And we see the popes (more and more over time) living in pretentious wealth and receiving undue honor. Jesus didn't live like that. And I don't see Him telling Peter that He could or should, either.
I dealt with this whole issue of material possessions and use of human wealth in the Church:
"Biblical Evidence For Building Expensive Church Buildings and Cathedrals"
When the early believer "broke bread," it was a simple memorial and wasn't regarded as His literal body and blood.
All the evidence of early Church belief that we have mitigates against this. Don't take my word for it. You can consult any reputable Protestant historian of that period.
This is a fact. I'm not trying to argue it. It is simply factual information.
With all due respect, I don't think you can demonstrate historically that it was a fact. I think what we find is the exact opposite. Since I cited all Protestant scholars in the above survey, it can't be said that they had a Catholic bias and were merely looking to confirm what they already believed (i.e., special pleading).
We have no reason whatsoever (no factual information) to think that the apostles ever turned bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus.
Again, I must disagree. That's not, I submit, what the Apostle Paul thought, as we saw in 1 Corinthians 10:16 above. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 Paul states that partaking of Communion "in an unworthy manner" causes one to be guilty of "profaning the body and blood of the Lord." That is Real Presence. He's not just saying one is "abusing the memory of the Lord" or some such, as we would say if someone spit on a grave or something. No; it is profaning His actual body and blood, because that is what Paul believes was present in the Eucharist.
Martin Luther thought both of these texts were absolutely clear and compelling. He wrote about 1 Corinthians 10:16:
Even if we had no other passage than this we could sufficiently strengthen all consciences and sufficiently overcome all adversaries . . . He could not have spoken more clearly and strongly . . . The bread which is broken or distributed piece by piece is the participation in the body of Christ. It is, it is, it is, he says, the participation in the body of Christ. Wherein does the participation in the body of Christ consist? It cannot be anything else than that as each takes a part of the broken bread he takes therewith the body of Christ . . .And about 1 Corinthians 11:27-30:
(Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments, 1525; Luther's Works, Vol. 40: 177, 181, 178)
It is not sound reasoning arbitrarily to associate the sin which St. Paul attributes to eating with remembrance of Christ, of which Paul does not speak. For he does not say, “Who unworthily holds the Lord in remembrance,” but “Who unworthily eats and drinks.”If Jesus wanted to teach what Catholics teach on this question, He would have made it very clear so there would be no confusion. And the Last Supper was not regarded as an ongoing ritual.
He was absolutely clear at the Last Supper ("This is My Body"). And He was so clear in the discourse in John 6 that it is the only known record of disciples ceasing to follow Jesus, because they couldn't handle the teaching of Real Presence:
John 6:52-66: The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper'na-um. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.Mary is called "Blessed" in Scripture, but making feast days in honor of her, where if one misses them, they commit mortal sin and would go to hell if they died, is unbiblical.
As I have shown from Scripture, holy days are an extension of the Sabbath principle. The Church has the authority to make rules for her members, just as any business or military or sports organization has. Why should the Church be different? When it comes to spiritual matters, all of a sudden there should be no rules or regulations whatsoever? That makes no sense.
It's the Calvinists who say that if a person has never heard the gospel, they will automatically go to hell, which is blatantly contrary to Romans 2. They say that God predestines some people to hell and some to heaven, even though there is no qualitative difference between the two categories, which is contrary to God's love and justice. But the Church is merely binding her own professed members to certain minimal requirements (attendance on Sunday and holy days), which is perfectly justifiable and normal.
The early Christians didn't have to literally believe in a feast day for the Assumption. My point is that the Church has a right to establish such days and to bind her members to them. There is nothing "unbiblical" about that. We see the Church setting guidelines and rules in the Jerusalem council, so it is normal to expect that the Church will continue to do so throughout history.
The early Christians didn't believe in the notion of "mortal sin," did they?
Yes, this is explicit in Scripture (and an apostle is certainly an early Christian):
1 John 5:16-17 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.Jesus never talked about these distinctions of sins.
He doesn't have to (i.e., in recorded Scripture). He commissioned His disciples and the apostles to carry on His teaching (Matthew 28:18-20). They speak in His name and represent Him:
Matthew 10:40 He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.For much more on similar themes, see my paper, "Biblical Evidence For the Sacrament of Holy Orders (Ordination)."
Luke 10:16 "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."
John 13:20 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me."
2 Corinthians 5:20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
But actually, Jesus does definitely make distinctions between sins (without using the word "mortal"). In Matthew 5:21-22, He lists three different punishments for three different types of angry judgmentalism (precisely as in the distinction between mortal and venial sin). In fact, one of the sins even puts one in danger of hell itself (Gk. Gehenna here, which always refers to hell). One couldn't ask for more evidence of mortal sin than that (a sin which subjects one to possible hellfire). James 1:14-15 amplifies this: sinful desire "gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death." This is spiritual death because, again, we don't die every time we sin. This is talking about serious sin leading to spiritual death. It starts with a relatively smaller sin. There we go: lesser and greater sins: venial and mortal.
Likewise, we don't see anyone losing salvation over a neglect of an action such as missing regular church or a holy day.
In 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Paul states that receiving the Holy Eucharist unworthily leads to becoming sick and possibly dying, with the strong insinuation of likely eternal condemnation:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.Loss of salvation can come from any number of sins. Protestant arguments for absolute assurance of salvation are rather easily refuted, I think. Good works are so tied in with eternal destiny that I have found 50 passages about judgment after death, where God (or an apostle) mentioned works, but never is faith alone taught as the criterion for salvation. The Church has the authority to "bind and loose," meaning imposing penance and granting absolution. This implies Church discipline. The Church (through her priests) can "retain sins":
Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.I have a problem with the hierarchical government of the Church too. The disciples argued about who was the greatest among them and who would sit at His right hand. This is more of the foibles and follies of human nature, is it not?
Matthew 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
John 20:21-23 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Sure, except that in this instance Jesus expressly commissioned Peter as the head of the Church (Matthew 16). That's hierarchy. We see Peter exercising his authority right in Scripture. We see the apostles electing successors to the office when Judas defected, and we see indication in the Bible that bishops are the successors of the apostles. So we can say that folks like to be in charge and be the big cheese (pride and the lust of power that we're all so familiar with in human affairs), but we can't argue against Jesus and the apostles if we claim to accept the Bible as authoritative teaching on the nature of the Church. There are all sorts of biblical indications about the hierarchical Church.
Who's the top guy on the totem pole and who has more power and authority? Jesus didn't teach like this or act like it. He was a servant of all. He didn't get into that. It's man-made tradition.
Then why did He commission Peter to be the leader of the Church? If Jesus was so against authority altogether, why did He also urge His disciples to even do what they were told by the non-Christian Pharisee leaders?:
Matthew 23:1-3 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.He condemned their hypocrisy, but even then he didn't undermine their authority. Paul showed deference to the Jewish high priest even as he was being railroaded in his trial:
Acts 23:1-5 And Paul, looking intently at the council, said, "Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day." And the high priest Anani'as commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?" Those who stood by said, "Would you revile God's high priest?" And Paul said, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, `You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'"Rome was the political center of the world. Peter went there so he could reach as many people as possible. But Jesus didn't even go to Rome.
That's right, and this was God's Providence: go right to the center of influence. Jesus came primarily to the Jews. It was the task of the apostles to take the message to the Gentiles.
My church preaches about the entire Bible. It really does!
Really? I'd love to see what their take is on these passages:
1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?Or how about this one: an explicit biblical evidence for relics?:
2 Kings 13:20-21 So Eli'sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli'sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli'sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.I'd be willing to bet good money (if I were a betting man) that these two texts have never been preached about at your church, but hey, I'd be happy to be proven wrong. If so, please do tell me what was preached about them. I'm very curious!
[the Bible also teaches about Elijah's mantle being a relic: 2 Kings 2:11-14; as well as Paul's handkerchief: Acts 19:11-12]
My church preached about Mary being called "blessed." Of course she will be!
So your church (wishing to follow the Bible) is in the habit of referring to the "Blessed Virgin Mary"? Delighted to hear it!
Mary was favored and blessed by God to be Jesus' mother. All Christians ought to consider her blessed.
Then why do Protestants rarely refer to her in that way, as we do?
Jesus, however, didn't tell us to honor His mother Mary by going to church on January 1st, or else going to hell if we don't. This is another tradition of men.
Just because Jesus didn't specifically say everything does not mean (just by that fact) that some specific thing is automatically null and void. Protestants believe plenty of things and practice lots of stuff (some wrong and some harmless or positively good) that was never discussed by Jesus, either. As I stated, He taught the apostles and commanded them to teach everyone else what He taught them. Not everything He taught is recorded in Scripture (Mk 4:33; 6:34; Jn 20:30; 21:25; Acts 1:2-3). So you set up a false premise (that Jesus must mention everything that we see in Catholic dogma) and then shoot it down. But you have to examine the strength of the initial premise before building arguments upon it. If a teaching was passed by Jesus to the apostles, and then onto us, that is not "man-made" because it came from God originally. It was "God-made" (just as the office of the papacy was).
Jesus never said a thing about honoring His mother; not even once.
Mary was humble. She wasn't looking for honor, just as Jesus wasn't. so we don't find that theme during His life (at least not recorded in Scripture). But afterwards Christians reflected upon the sublime role of Mary and gave her due honor. We see this in, e.g., Revelation 12:1-6, right from John, who was asked by Jesus on the cross to take care of His mother:
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.In Judaism, women and mothers had a lot of importance. So that is the origin of the tradition of people looking to her rather than to Jesus. But a service in her honor? That probably would have been subject to the penalty of stoning.
I don't think so. To the contrary, honoring saints and remembering them is a strong motif in the NT. The Jewish tradition of the Queen Mother is a very biblical one, and forms a backdrop to Christian Mariology. I wrote in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (pp. 103-104):
We address judges as "Your Honor" and are commanded by God to "honor" our mothers and fathers (Ephesians 6:2), widows (1 Timothy 5:3), Christian teachers (1 Timothy 5:17), wives (1 Peter 3:7), fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 12:12-26), and governing authorities (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17). A spirit of honoring those who are worthy of honor is to typify the Christian (Romans 12:10, 1 Peter 2:17). . . .Thanks for all the questions and for allowing me the opportunity to make a Catholic response.
A sound biblical basis for the veneration of saints can be found in the Pauline passages where the Apostle exhorts his followers to "imitate" him (1 Corinthians 4:16, Philippians 3:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9) as he, in turn, imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:6). Also, we are exhorted to honor and imitate the "heroes of the faith" in Hebrews 6:12 and chapter 11, and to take heart in the examples of the prophets and Job, who endured suffering (James 5:10-11).
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In the next round, this woman started to get more than a little bit hostile and sharp-tongued. She decided to leave the board. Thus, I will use her own words in this section, since it is already public material, anyway, and so the reader will get a more accurate sense of what ticked her off.
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I believe it does affect the "truthfulness of teaching" when the teaching did not originate with Jesus nor any of the apostles.
Of course, but that is what is under dispute. I say all of them do derive from the apostles, or are at least consistent with teachings directly derived from them and/or seen in the Bible itself. Catholics believe this about all binding dogmas: that they were handed down by the apostles: sometimes in kernel form, that was developed later but not essentially changed. If you want to show that some teaching does not so derive or is not indicated in the Bible, then you have to make a case for that and lay it out (and I will surely counter-respond if you want to take the discussion that far).
But it is your task and in your spiritual interest to work through the issues in that way. When one does that, I am firmly convinced that the cumulative evidence in favor of Catholicism is overwhelming; indeed, in my opinion, compelling even on a purely rational plane, before faith enters in (as it must, because this is ultimately religious faith, not mere philosophy).
Much of the "teaching" of the Catholic Church were not uttered by Jesus nor were contained in tradition, Dave. At least that's what I believe from my research.
And what I have challenged. I think I've given you plenty to consider in determining the facts of the matter.
If you look at what was believed and done right after Jesus died, arose and ascended into heaven, you will find that there wasn't a Mass within a million miles around.
To the contrary, the Christians were breaking bread every Sunday (which means the Eucharist, as we know from 1 Cor 10:16. They believed in Real Presence, as we know from Paul and Jesus and from historians of the early Church. The notion of the sacrifice of the Mass is also a developing, widespread early occurrence and has many biblical indications.
The transubstantiation wasn't even thought of, let alone claimed, at that time.
Neither were the full-blown doctrines of the Trinity or the Two Natures of Christ or the canon of the New Testament or original sin or many doctrines that fully developed over centuries. This poses no problem for us because it applies to almost all doctrines. The essence of the Catholic Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ. Transubstantiation explains in more technical philosophical language what takes place. It's a development of eucharistic understanding: increased knowledge of what was already believed (just as with the Trinity, etc.)
And we all know how tradition goes... it's like the game of telephone we used to play as kids, only imagine a game of telephone that has lasted 2,000 years!
That's how purely human tradition goes. With divine, apostolic tradition it's entirely different, because God protects that, and He has the ability to work around men's sins and limitations.
I think that if you believe the Holy Spirit would supernaturally protect a group of people, then you must in turn believe that God would take away that group's free will. Because humans are going to screw things up sooner or later... and so then you must believe that the Holy Spirit takes away free will when humans are about to make a screw up in the Catholic church. I just can't buy that, Dave.
Then how do you explain the Jerusalem Council? Was that a free action and decision-making process, or was it just a bunch of robots doing what the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28) wanted to accomplish? In Acts 15:25, it is stated that they came "to one accord". Three verses later it is said that the Holy Spirit agreed. So this is men and God working together. They decided with free will, but the Christian is led by God. That's why we have the Holy Spirit in the first place. Hence, Paul states in Romans 8:14: "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."
Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would lead us into truth:
John 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. (cf. 15:26)You also have to explain how we got a Bible written by sinful men, that is infallible and inspired: the very words of God. How could that happen? God didn't take away folks' free will. The Bible teaches that human beings and God work together:
John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.God directly uses human beings to help spread His grace (that always comes from Him: 2 Cor 4:15; Eph 3:2; 1 Pet 4:8-10).
2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him [i.e., Jesus; see 5:21], then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.
Mark 16:20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them . . .
Philippians 2:12b-13 . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
ME: It wasn't just what was going on in the Church. Luther decided to depart from received Catholic theological tradition in at least 50 ways that had little to do with sin in the Church or indulgences and all the rest of the standard Protestant mythology concerning why Luther dissented.By quoting a Catholic website, Dave, you aren't doing anything to prove your point.
I was quoting my own website, and in this paper what I did was document everything from Luther's three great treatises of 1520, which proved that he had departed in all these ways. That's not "Catholic bias." It is substantiated historical fact.
I mean (and I'm not being snarky here... it's just a fact), people are bias to what they believe. If they're Catholic, they're going to talk Catholic-speak and they aren't going to say anything that would incriminate the Catholic church. It's like the corner grocery store. They're not going to print flyers that tell people how good the other store down the street is. They're going to print flyers that tell people how good their own store is. The same thing with all these quotes from Catholic sources you have given, in this response.
I already dealt with this issue of bias. I freely admitted that I have a bias. But I interact with other viewpoints, and you have just as much bias for your present viewpoint as we have for ours. You can talk about bias all day long but how do you expect to inquire about the Catholic Church without talking to Catholics? What, you'll conclude that everything we say can be dismissed because of bias, but everything that Protestants say about the Catholic Church is gospel truth? I say read both sides.
But you have to actually interact with the arguments and not just claim "bias". In my research I specifically appeal to the Bible as much as possible, precisely because of this objection. I don't cite papal bulls and other Catholic proclamations. I appeal to the source all agree upon as authoritative, and when I quote historians it is mostly Protestant ones, for the same reason, so someone like you can't claim that it was just Catholics special pleading their own cause. Thus, I have met this objection already and overcome it, and it won't work with me.
OK, Dave, this is exactly my point. Whose "extension" of Sabbath principle is it?! It's not Jesus', that's all I know!! If Jesus wanted anything "extended"... in other words, if there was more truth to something... He would have stated that while on earth. That concept is pretty straight forward for me. Jesus spoke nothing about mortal sins and venial sins and losing heaven by the human action of not attending worship on a certain day. It seems to me that concerning something with such an everlasting effect, like going to hell, Jesus would have certainly mentioned something about it before He left us. I mean, that's a pretty important deal, no?
Okay; now we have to step back and examine your reasoning for why you think this. Why is it that you think that everything we believe as Christians (any kind of Christian, not just Catholic) has to be expressly stated by Jesus? Where in Scripture do you find that? I'll save you the trouble. It ain't there. This is an extreme version of sola Scriptura, where it not only has to be in the Bible, but explicitly right from Jesus.
The notion of Bible Alone as the only infallible authority is also completely absent from Scripture. It's a tradition of men, yet Protestants make it their formal principle of authority: something that isn't even in the Scripture. The Bible teaches that there were many things Jesus did and taught that aren't recorded in Scripture (as I noted last time).
I agree. That's why I don't attend any Protestant services. And that's why I don't attend any Catholic Masses anymore either. Neither one are even close to the gatherings of Jesus' followers after He ascended.
How do you determine that? I gave direct evidence from Scripture about the Eucharist being the center of early Christian worship. What is the church you attend?
Nope, sorry, Dave. That's just not true. The breaking of bread together certainly was a central focus of the early church gatherings (as the Scripture passages you quoted tell us) because it most mimicked the Passover meal but for folks who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. But that whole thing about actually changing the bread into Christ's body and the wine into Christ's blood just was not believed or promulgated back in those early years.
I showed otherwise from Scripture. Why does Paul call it the body and blood, then?
In other words, the transubstantiation wasn't even a twinkle in anybody's eye back then. That whole transubstantiation idea came wayyyy later, my friend. Truly it did.
So what? It's a development of an earlier doctrine that had always been held, just like the Trinity.
ME: The Apostle Paul refers to the "table of the Lord" an "altars" in the context of Christian worship. That only meant one thing: sacrifice, and since there were no more sacrifices of lambs and goats, it referred to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and the Eucharist:See how things are get subverted to mean what you want them to mean, in Scripture, Dave? You totally twisted that portion of Scripture around to try to make it say what you want it to say. That was totally not the idea gotten across by this passage!
I see. Then please tell us, then, what it means and why you think it means what you think it means. I was happy to take a great deal of time today to explain what we believe, and one "round" is proper to answer questions, but we're not gonna go round and round, with you simply saying things like this ("You totally twisted that portion of Scripture around to try to make it say what you want it to say", etc.). We're here to explain the Catholic faith to people who are inquiring about it. You say you are inquiring. Then you need to properly respect the Catholic environment that you are in. If you continue to disagree in good conscience, that's fine, but then the objection should be dropped, in accordance with the stated mission of this forum. You asked questions and I and others have done our best to show you how a Catholic would answer them.
1 Corinthians 10: 17-21 No matter how many of us there are, we all eat from the same loaf (small "l"), showing that we are all parts of the one body of Christ. And the Jewish people, all who eat the sacrifices, are united by that act. What am I trying to say? Am I saying that the idols to whom the heathen bring sacrifices are really alive and are real gods, and that these sacrifices are of some value? No, not at all. What I am saying is that those who offer food to these idols are united together in sacrificing to demons, certainly not to God. And I don't want any of you to be partners with demons when you eat the same food, along with the heathen, that has been offered to these idols." (The Catholic Living Bible)
Yes. Paul is talking about heathen practices, but also about the Eucharist (in contrast). This is made quite clear in context, in what Paul was talking about just before this passage. He starts out by discussing idols (10:14) but then he gets eucharistic and equates the cup of communion "the blood of Christ" and the consecrated bread of communion the "body of Christ" (10:16). So the Eucharist cannot be divorced from the overall context of the passage. The heathen offer sacrifices to idols, but Christians offer the Sacrifice (Jesus) to God: i.e., the sacrifice of the Mass.
But I believe that humans took those "elements" and made them into something that Jesus didn't intend. I think humans took a lot of things, either twisted out of something else or pulled out of the air entirely, and made them into something that Jesus didn't intend. Because if He had indeed intended those things, I don't think He would have left the earth without making those things abundantly clear. I mean, something as huge as the transubstantiation wouldn't have been left to human devices to figure out much later, after Jesus' ascension, in my opinion.
Jesus made abundantly clear that the Eucharist was His actual Body and Blood, in some mysterious fashion. Jesus didn't give exhaustive explanations of the Trinity, either, but He gave us more than enough teaching to build upon and develop (not change). If the Eucharist is His Body and Blood, then one has to try to understand how it got to be that way, while continuing to look like bread and wine. That's what transubstantiation does. But it adds nothing to the original teaching that it is His body and blood, that is explicitly stated in Scripture by Jesus and Paul.
Yes, but is it the Catholic Church. You say yes... I say no, not with how the Catholic Church stands today. Maybe early on, yes. But now... absolutely not. And that's why Luther and Simons and so many other Catholic priests left about 1500 AD. The abuses were just too much... the man-made rules were just too greivous... for them to stand. They looked at the Catholic Church as a whole, with all its developments and said "What a minute here!!". That's basically what they said... and I guess that's basically what I'm saying too.
Then why are you here? So far everything you are saying is fighting against Catholic teachings tooth and nail. What is it that makes you want to inquire at all, if you reject everything that we share with you? You wrote in your introduction:
I honestly don't know what to do as I find myself honestly torn between both worlds... the Catholic world and the non-denominational Bible-believing world. I can honestly see the validity and inerrant truth in both . . .Okay. What is the truth that you see in the Catholic Church that makes you feel "torn"? I don't see it in these exchanges we are having. I'm not at all denying that it is there; I'm just curious what you think we have right, that drew you in the first place?
This is where I don't agree, Dave. If you research history, you will find that Christians have believed uniformly in very little of the same things, especially over such a long period as centuries that you are referring to.
In the early centuries there was a great consensus among the Church Fathers: not complete agreement but a consensus for the most part. That was certainly true with regard to the Eucharist, that has been one of your deep objections. I just wrote a book about this, on the Church fathers. I'd be happy to mail you an e-book version for free if you'd like it.
Even today, if you ask Catholics if they believe in the transubstantiation, over half of them will say no. That's definitely not a majority. I truly believe that if you asked every Catholic whether they believed all that was printed in the catechism, an overwhelming percent of them would say no. I've seen polls elluding to such. So, the disagreement about "truth" has been around for about 2,000 years I would imagine... and will be around for another 2,000 at least.
It's irrelevant to take a head count of what individual Catholics believe, because what the Church believes is determined by looking at its official statements, as with any Protestant group. There will always be people in any group who are either ignorant or dissenting outright.
I would absolutely love to go through this post even more, Dave, and discuss more of its points with you but I'm afraid I have to go. I'm caring for my 90 year old mother in my home (she's a hospice patient) and life doesn't always afford me the time to dialogue for long periods of time. But I'll be back. Thanks for the stimulating conversation. I respect your viewpoints and appreciate you sharing them.
You're welcome. You need to let us know next time what it is that drew you to this forum, because we can only debate so much, as explained. There are a hundred forums on the Internet where Protestants and Catholics wrangle and dispute and don't accomplish very much, in most cases (believe me, I know, after 12 years online). This is an educational and personal support forum, not a debating place.
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I'm not sure any human can tell me what Catholic rules are man-made or God-made. Especially a Catholic human. I was just expressing what was on my heart... not asking anyone a specific question about such.
Again, I know very well what the Catholic Church teaches... probably lots more than the average Catholic knows. I never came to this forum stating that I didn't know what the Catholic Church teaches. I just don't know if I buy into it all. Lots of what the CC teaches seems like very man-made teachings to me and I really can't go along with that. But I'm here all the same. Try to figure that one out! . . .
I will heed my heart and pray... and trust that the Lord will lead me in the right direction. . . .
O.K., Dave. I understand. I didn't think I was being disrespectful but obviously you think I am. So I'm outta here. That's my answer from the Holy Spirit. I was gravitating back towards the Catholic Church but the Holy Spirit has definitely showed me that I am gravitating in the totally wrong direction. That's cool. That's apparently why I was steered here to begin with. It's nice to know cos I truly had no idea. But God did, as He always does. I've had this "going back to the Catholic Church" thing in my head and on the back burner for quite some time now, although I must confess that it's been weakening with each passing year. But it's gone... out of my head and off the back burner... once and for all... as of tonight. That's really a relief, to be honest. I can now totally, with my whole heart, worship at my current church with both feet planted solidly in the Bible. No bias found in that Book, that's for sure. No heresay or "developing" truths either. Just the plain solid meat of Truth... holding the mayo and the lettuce and all the other condiments that I always felt the Catholic Church added over the centuries. Maybe I came here for justification of the condiments but as always, it's never provided anywhere that I've ever looked. This site is no different. I mean... yes, "justification" is provided but it's based totally on taking Scripture passages out of context and twisting them and embellishing them to meet the need. That is totally wrong both in my book.. and in the Book too.
By the way, I wasn't asking any questions whatsoever. I was giving my viewpoints. Just for the record. ("You asked questions and I and others have done our best to show you how a Catholic would answer them")
Someone else noted: "Thank you for your consistently inconsistent responses. I am no longer confused about where you are coming from. I now understand perfectly."
I have encountered these real typical responses, Free, from Catholics who are backed into a corner and don't know how to respond. That's why I guess I've never been reverted back to the Catholic faith. Nothing I say can be refuted, on fact only. So, what's the next best thing? Accuse the person speaking of being inconsistent. I have not been any but consistent with what I believe and stating such. I'm sorry if you don't know what to say. Being silent would probably have been better than saying what you did.
I can spot folks who want to preach and not dialogue a mile away. My gut instincts were dead-on once again. Comes from years of experience with this stuff.
I think that is the utility and beauty of the Internet: if someone takes time to do an explanation or teaching, it isn't just for the person directly involved, but for all who read it, too. Then if an attempted dialogue goes to pot and becomes an "incident" as this one did, the substance and the effort put in is still there.
Even the hostile and irrational reaction we saw can become a counter-example of how not to dialogue or inquire about Catholicism. Thus, it is not a waste of time at all. I think we all learn to exercise discernment as to what is a worthwhile discussion and what isn't (to avoid what St. Paul calls "stupid controversies"), and we can learn how to go about defending our faith against relentless critique.
I don't have all the answers, by any means. I'm still learning things all the time, and challenges from non-Catholics help me to refine and hone answers and various apologetic "tactical" approaches. That's one reason I absolutely love dialogue (on the rare occasion that one is actually able to engage in it). I'm not just teaching; I'm very much learning, too.
This is a case study of my observation that people are basically of three types: lecturers, listeners, and those who dialogue: one talks and doesn't listen much, one listens and doesn't talk much (which is fine and proper if you don't know much about a certain topic) and the one who tries to dialogue listens and talks, according to what they feel they know.
It seems to me that if you're outside of a viewpoint and inquiring, then you "listen" and take in information a whole lot more than [name] did. You recognize your limitations and try to learn from those who are inside the point of view that you are (ostensibly) wondering about. But she didn't do that.
The worst thing was "co-opting" the Holy Spirit to rationalize her own shortcomings and relational and theological deficiencies. I would go so far as to say that this is almost blasphemous, to cite God as the reason for your highly questionable (I think, unethical) behavior.