Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Online Resources: The Saints



St. Bernadette Soubirous (1844 -1879)

[Her] body was first exhumed 30 years after her death. On September 2, 1909, in the presence of representatives appointed by the postulators of the cause, two doctors, and the sister of the community, the coffin was removed . . . On opening the lid, they discerned no odor and the virginal body lay exposed, completely victorious over the laws of nature. The arms and face were completely unaffected from corruption and had maintained their natural skin tone. . . . The second exhumation took place at the end of the Process on April 3, 1919. The body of the Venerable was found in the same state of preservation as 10 years earlier, except that the face was slightly discolored, due to the washing it had undergone during the first exhumation.

[ source for photo and text: "Saints Alive" website]


Catholic Pages Directory: Saints [LOTS of different kinds of resources listed here]

Catholic Online: Saints & Angels

Calendar of Saints

Patron Saints - Alphabetically (+ another similar resource)

Saints (Resources for Catholic Educators site)

Saints FAQ (AmericanCatholic.org)

Saints, Martyrs, and Other Holy Persons (CIN)

Saints Alive: Authentic Relics of the Saints (including images)

Saints Proclaimed by Pope John Paul II

Saints For Sinners, Alban Goodier, S.J. (online book)

Church History in Light of the Saints, Joseph A. Dunney (online book)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yet Another Reply to Bum Raps Against Apologetics



St. Paul preaching at Mars Hill in Athens to all the "enlightened thinkers" of the time.


A Catholic wrote on the Coming Home Network discussion board where I moderate, that apologetics was "useless" and that it consisted of "people arguing their little points always taken out of context." She proclaimed loudly that she had "no use for apologetics" and that "arguing little points settles nothing and only further polarizes."

Well, as you can imagine, that didn't sit well with me, so I had a bit to say about it!:

* * * * *

Most people (at least those who are here) see the self-evident value of apologetics. When someone blasts apologetics altogether, then I must speak up and show the unreasonableness of this position, especially in a forum where so many people are here in the first place because of the apologetics constantly exhibited on The Journey Home and in written conversion testimonies and the largely apologetic writings that CHNI sells precisely in order to help new and prospective converts. CHNI is essentially an apologetic enterprise (which was a big reason, I think, why I was hired).

CHNI is also quite "pastoral" and a support system on a basic human level of understanding and empathy, but apologetics works hand in hand with that. It has to, because people who are considering converting ask tons of questions (usually quite good ones) and some sort of answer has to be provided, and there is your apologetics.

You can tell a person what Catholics believe, which is catechesis, but as soon as they ask, "why do you believe that?" or "how can that belief be squared with the Bible?" and so forth, then you are in the realm of apologetics, whether you want to be or not, and whether you personally "like" apologetics or not. It won't be sufficient to merely say, "believe it and take it on faith and don't ask questions. Shut down your mind, because this is a faith question, not a rational consideration." That does no one any good. That's no better than being in a mind-control cult.

St. Paul certainly liked apologetics, since he is often described as "arguing" and "reasoning" with and "persuading" and "dialoguing" with both Jews and Greeks, and we see him most definitely doing apologetics (in a very clever and useful way) at Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17).

A major reason people who don't like apologetics do so, in my opinion, from long observation, is either because they are no good at it themselves (some people frown upon what they are unable to do) or because they observe other people doing it badly, and they throw the baby out with the bathwater. It's a very common emotional response to many things: the equation of a thing with its corruption or poorly understood manifestations of same.

And so apologetics is often equated with useless quarreling and wrangling (because many indeed who claim the mantle of "apologetics" on the Internet unfortunately too often do little more than that), which approach is indeed condemned repeatedly by St. Paul.

But that isn't what apologetics is, anymore than a calm, constructive father-to-son or mother-to-daughter discussion is to be equated with a family spat or true quarrel, filled with accusations and insults and yelling and (as the case may be) cussing.

Another, less hostile person wrote: "I think authors/apologists tend to lose credibility when they are constantly criticizing other denominations. It sort of goes against the teachings of Christ."

Not at all (as to the latter assertion). I fully agree that folks should emphasize a positive, proactive message, but on the other hand, the Bible is filled with denunciations of false teaching. Jesus' most "negative" utterances were directed against the Pharisees. He even called them "vipers" and "whitewashed tombs" and "the blind leading the blind." St. Paul goes on and on about various errors and names people like "Alexander the Coppersmith" who had opposed him. I could give innumerable examples. He is constantly correcting false teaching, and states, for example:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to truth and wander into myths.

(2 Timothy 4:3-4; RSV)
St. Peter opposed false teachings as soon as he started preaching after Pentecost. He opposed Ananaias and Sapphira, accused them of lying to the Holy Spirit, and in fact they were both judged and struck dead by God (Acts 5:2-11). This is arguably the first "anathema." He rebuked Simon for trying to buy the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-24): what is now known as "simony". The Apostle John is thought to be often opposing the Gnostics in his Gospel (as many commentaries note).

The Church Fathers continued this practice. They were always opposing false doctrines and heresies and sects. St. Augustine, the greatest father of all, wrote tons against the Donatists and Manichaeans (his own former group) and the Pelagians. Athanasius wrote against the Arians, etc., etc. They condemned the errors and then appealed to the Catholic Church as the truth because its doctrines had been passed down and preserved without corruption.

The Council of Trent (like all ecumenical councils) was largely devoted to correcting errors (that is, criticizing others). It had to do this, because it was condemning the falsehoods that Protestantism had brought in. The Council of Ephesus in 431 condemned Nestorianism; Chalcedon in 451 took on Monophysitism, etc. The Council of Nicaea anathematized Arianism.

It's always been this way and always will. A large part of the task of an apologist like myself is to correct errors as well as defend the truth (in fact, this is largely part of my specifically-delegated task as a staff member of CHNI; I'm a sort of "doctrinal watchdog"). They are really two sides of the same coin. One tries to do it in as nice and non-personal way as possible, but many people are bound to be offended when they are told that they are wrong, by the standard of the Church and the Bible and Apostolic Tradition, etc.

But aren't we "judging others" when we say they're wrong? Is that not a lack of love (so the objection goes)? No we're not "judging" in that bad sense of the word (i.e., hypocritically or uncharitably condemning), if in fact they are in error. To correct someone and set them back on the right path is, in fact, quite a loving thing to do (as every loving, concerned parent who disciplines their child understands full well).

Of course we are to exercise Christian, unconditional love. Part of that love is to rebuke someone in love, for their good, not to harm or belittle them. Love is not always touchy-feely, warm fuzzies, peaches and cream. It's not just us, personally, who are right, but the Church, which is larger than we are.

I do agree, though, that there are a not insignificant number of apologists (real or imagined) who have a problem with tone (though the problem is often overstated or exaggerated). With the Internet, many people call themselves "apologists" but have insufficient background to do so, and give others a bad name (I had been a Catholic over six years, and published in books and several magazines and had even written my first book before I ever had a website at all).

Believe me, I know of this problem, because I often have to receive a brunt of criticism because of baggage people have, in reacting to others doing apologetics in a poor way, setting a bad example (one becomes a sort of scapegoat, I suppose). So I'm quite aware of it, and I have advised folks many times to tone it down, when I thought they were doing apologetics badly.

And others have told me to "tone it down", too, when the occasion warranted it, as I am not perfect, and with the large volume of words that I write and number of people and different belief-systems I interact with, it is very difficult to be perfect in tone, charity, and speech (thus I have issued many public apologies when I thought I blew it). Who ever does a perfect job? We all fall often in matters of control of the tongue. But, that said, one can know if he has enough patience and knowledge, by and large, to deal with "difficult" individuals in such debate, and those who differ, or whether to wisely refrain from doing so.

Anyway, I want to emphasize that both things are important, and are harmonious with each other:
1) We need to exercise the love of Christ and express ourselves gently and charitably.

and:

2) At times, we need to correct doctrinal or ethical error (bishops and priests and teachers and catechists and apologists all the more so), and do it in the spirit of #1. This is not contrary to #1 at all, and in fact, is an aspect of it, as error never did anyone any good. If we can't do #2 with the spirit of #1, then we shouldn't do it at all, in many cases, and should ask someone more charitable to do it, so as to avoid hypocrisy and possibly scandal.
I was asked if everyone is "called to be an apologist." Obviously not all are called to apologetics as a vocation or occupation, as I have been. I think, though, that in some way every Christian should at least have a rudimentary understanding of why they believe what they believe, in order to bear witness to others if asked. That can be obtained by reading just one or two good apologetic books. This is the bare minimum, in my opinion. Reading a book or two or hearing some lectures or attending one apologetic conference certainly won't put anyone out.

On the other hand, not everyone can become an expert on everything. That's why people specialize and become theology professors or priests or nuns or catechists or lay apologists (or a church musician or eucharistic minister, etc.). Different parts of the Body . . .: that's how God designed it, "each with his own gift." Whatever gift God gives us, we ought to put to good use: whether we are in the medical profession or an engineer or janitor or baker or waitress; whatever it is: whether exalted in this world or looked down upon.

And I say the work of the mother and housewife is the most important work of all in this world; I always contend that what my wife does as a homeschooling mom is more important than what I do. All work is honorable and no one should feel any shame, but all should use their God-given abilities as best they can.

St. Paul changed his method according to his hearers (1 Cor 9:19-23). Hence on Mars Hill in Athens: the intellectual center of the world at that time, he spoke in a way we don't see him speak anywhere else. He quotes pagan Greek poets and philosophers, talks about Greek idols, and makes an analogical philosophical argument.

In approaching issues of basic apologetics, we all have to accept the word of scholars at some point. A few books read along these lines will help our faith and our confidence in the objective facts of Christianity, and aid us in gaining more confidence. But everyone who seeks to do apologetics should be thoroughly prepared. I always tell people not to get too zealous without adequately studying up first.

Having a desire to get to the place of what might be called "apologetic confidence" is already three-quarters of the battle. So many people care little about the things of God and theology, let alone about sharing it with anyone else in a cogent fashion. If someone has the desire, they'll get there in due course. All they have to do is read on some basic topics. And there is plenty online that can be read for free now. All of Chesterton's apologetic books are available, etc.

Someone recounted their experience in sparring with an atheist professor: "I posted links for said [NT documentary] evidence, [but] I was laughed to scorn since I could not provide it myself. He claimed there was more evidence to the contrary, including archaeological."

Why are you required to know everything on the spot? You never claimed to be a Bible scholar or professional apologist. You providing a link is no more laughable than a scholar recommending a book in a footnote. He was acting like an arrogant ass, in my opinion. Tell him to produce this "evidence" he refers to, by all means. Most of these types of guys know very little about the Bible. I've always marveled at this.

I'll be debating some professor of philosophy, and he fancies himself an expert on Scripture. But now he is on my turf, the area I've studied for over 30 years now, and it doesn't go well for him when I point out some basic things that he is ignorant of (I have many such debates on my site. I'm not exaggerating at all).

Knowledge and scholarly attainment in one area doesn't automatically transfer into another. It's not that I have all the answers, at all (I certainly don't): in these cases it is so often the sheer ignorance of the atheist in biblical and theological matters that makes them easy to refute. I have many papers about this. I've seen it again and again.

They think they know so much about the Bible and Christanity, but almost invariably it turns out that they really don't, and it is only bluster to intimidate the Christian, and intellectual arrogance. And if you dare to critique their "deconversion" stories, as I have, to show that the reasons why they forsook Christianity fall short, to say the least, they go spastic. One such case was John Loftus, who runs the blog, Debunking Christianity, and has a book out that is selling decently for its type (Loftus "interactions": one / two / three / four / five).

These same supposedly oh-so-smart people will deny, for example, that Jesus ever existed: a perfectly ridiculous thing to believe. Mainly, I'm trying to get across that we Christians (of whatever stripe) need not be so intimidated by these folks. They can be effectively answered more easily than is thought. See my Atheism and Agnosticism and Philosophy, Science, & Christianity pages.

A Curious Luther Citation Examined in Extreme Depth (Part Three)



See Part One

See Part Two

XIX.
The Catholic Interpretation of the Context in German


Catholics must provide a solid contextual interpretation (because the accusation all along has been that the quotation was snatched from context and isolated, thus leading to a false impression of what Luther meant). I have already made an ambitious start in that endeavor in section VIII above. More is forthcoming, including the analysis of a Professor of German of our citation, based on the context of the original work in German (we have photocopies of the beginning of it, from the Weimar Werke collection, obtained at the University of Detroit). We also have photocopies of the relevant sections from the Erlangen and Walch editions (obtained at Concordia University library in Ann Arbor).

Nothing in this hypothesis that we are in the process of setting forth involves the notion that Luther ever rejected his own principle of sola Scriptura. He did not. Repeat: he did not. But he begrudgingly faced up to certain realities and reluctantly suggested how they would have to be dealt with, given the human condition and the deteriorating situation with regard to Protestant doctrinal unity. And in this sense, Catholics (and the Protestant Leibniz) have been perfectly justified in using these words of his and have not falsely presented it at all.


XX. The Latin Translation of Catholic Johannes Cochlaeus

[see also the related Sections XII, XIV, and XVIII of Part Two]

We have now obtained (courtesy of the relentless research efforts of Paul Hoffer: thanks, good buddy!) a copy in Latin of the relevant portion of Johannes Cochlaeus' 1543 work, De Canonicae scripturae & Catholicae Ecclesiae autoritate, ad Henricum Bullingerum Iohannis Cochlaei libellus, which was published in 1543 (Ingolstadt, Alexander Weissenhorn), 16 years after Luther's original German work, on "This is My Body". As previously noted, it predates the Latin translation of Matthaeus Judex by 13 years.

This Cochlaeus treatise was made note of in the book Luther's Lives: Two Contemporary Accounts (translated by Elizabeth Vandiver, Ralph Keen, Thomas D. Frazel; Manchester Univ. Press: 2002), p. 375, footnote 31. It is found in the book Opuscula, published in 1968 by Gregg Press (available in 32 libraries). Our Luther quote is found in Chapter XI, entitled De Autoritate Generalium Conciliorum. Paul Hoffer observed:
Cochlaeus is quoting Luther in support of an argument that he is making against something that Bullinger wrote. It would make no sense for Cochlaeus to quote Luther out of context or wrongly because the argument could then be easily refuted by Bullinger who certainly had copies of Luther's works in his possession. Bullinger responded and Cochlaeus then wrote a reply. I guess the question becomes: why didn't Bullinger refute the quote in his response, or if he did why haven't our Protestant friends proffered it for the reader's consideration?
Here is the citation with the preceding context. It concludes a section and line of thought, so that the following section isn't particularly relevant for contextual determinations. It was translated by my good friend John McAlpine, who has a Masters Degree in Linguistics from the University of Michigan, and who teaches Latin to various homeschoolers, with a small degree of input from myself on matters of English style. When it gets to the citation under consideration, I have used the 1886 English translation from the Latin, of Henry Benedict Mackey, seen in Part I, section III, under St. Francis de Sales:
[the previous paragraph dealt with the infallibility of councils and the Protestant denial of same]

With regard to this, if you foolishly condemn these things you can [also], with no shame, condemn the testimony of Luther (whom you called a reformer of true Christian doctrine) concerning Councils. He, however, when he was reprimanded by the most learned theologian, Dr. Johann Eck, for holding the General Councils as nothing, responded affirmatively. Whoever has read my Resolutions and my Dialogue Against Sylvester, understands that this is not a difficulty of mine, inasmuch as I uniquely deplore and bemoan this business, and he understands that these works are not unworthy for legitimizing a Council. No, rather, writing against your friends Zwingli and Oecolampadius, on behalf of the substance and truth of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, he says thus: If the world last long it will be again necessary, on account of the different interpretations of Scripture which now exist, that to preserve the unity of the faith we should receive the Councils and decrees and fly to them for refuge.

Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum erit necessarium, ut propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, Conciliorum Decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus.

I shall make an argument defending Cochlaeus' translation from context. In its present form, it occurred to me this very night, as we were working on the translation. We see the differences in the Latin above and its fairly literal English translation, and the English rendering of the German in LW, vol. 37, p. 17:
If the world lasts much longer, men will, as the ancients did, once more turn to human schemes on account of this dissension, and again issue laws and regulations to keep the people in the unity of the faith.
I summarized the significant linguistic differences of the Latin version in Part I, section V, as follows:
1. It will again be necessary . . . (necessarium)

2. Because of different Scriptural interpretations . . . (diversas Scripturae interpretationes)

3. To receive the decrees of councils . . . (Conciliorum decreta recipiamus)

4. And take refuge in them. (confugiamus)
The differences, then, have to do with the notions of 1) necessity of Councils, 2) dissensions specifically concerning Scripture, 3) using the word Council (Conciliorum), and 4) taking refuge in such Councils. Can these terms be justified in context? Every translation must take context into consideration to some extent. Context often helps to interpret what a writer means by a specific word.

I had speculated early on, in section VI, that translation method may be very much in play here, and that the Latin may have been utilizing more of a paraphrase or thought-for-thought method, as seen in various Bible translations (for example, the NIV). This was later confirmed by a scholar writing specifically about prevailing 16th century translation methods (see Section XVI).

Moreover, it was shown that Luther himself used this method for his own famous and influential German translation of the Bible (Section XVII). Therefore, so the argument would go, if this was standard practice in the 16th century, and even Luther used it, then whence comes the accusation against Cochlaeus or whomever else we may discover who translated Luther into Latin, that they were out of bounds for doing the same thing that most translators of the period, including Luther, did?

In other words, translation method explains differences, as opposed to the more cynical take of overt theological bias of deliberate mistranslation. That is the "linguistic" argument. But can there also be an argument in favor of the Latin rendering, from the context itself? I'd like to presently flesh it out a bit.
Necessity (necessarium)

. . . the Christians knew no other way to cope with these problems than to call many councils.

. . . we also needed the laws and the interpretations of the councils . . .

It will again be necessary . . .

Dissensions concerning scriptural interpretation
(diversas Scripturae interpretationes)

. . . creating a real brawl over Scripture and producing many sects, heresies, and factions among Christians. Since every faction claimed Scripture for itself and interpreted it according to its own understanding . . .

Once Scripture had become like a broken net and no one would be restrained by it, but everyone made a hole in it wherever it pleased him to poke his snout, and followed his own opinions, interpreting and twisting Scripture any way he pleased, . . .

When the devil saw this he jeered and thought: . . . It serves my purpose well that they should neglect the Word and not dispute over the Scriptures, but that at this very point they should be at peace and believe what the councils and the fathers say.

What can they expect to accomplish with quarrels over the Scriptures and the things of God they do not understand?

This is the way the plot worked out for the fathers: Since they contrived to have the Scriptures without quarreling and dissension . . . Then, of course, dissension and contention over the Scriptures necessarily ceased . . .

Once more there will arise a brawl over the Scriptures, and such dissension and so many factions that we may well say with St. Paul, “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work” [II Thess. 2:7] . . .

. . . on account of the different interpretations of Scripture which now exist . . .

LW: . . .
on account of this dissension, . . .

In short, the devil is too clever and too mighty for us. He resists and hinders us at every point. When we wish to deal with Scripture, he stirs up so much dissension and quarreling over it that we lose our interest in it and become reluctant to trust it.

. . . he will create such dissension and sectarianism over the Scriptures that you will not know where Scriptures, faith, Christ, and you yourself stand.

For this reason I am not worried that this fanaticism will last long. It is much too crude and impudent, and it does not attack obscure and uncertain Scripture but clear, plain Scripture, as we shall hear.

Councils and resulting decrees, or laws and regulations
(Conciliorum Decreta recipiamus)

. . . call many councils. In these they issued many outward laws and ordinances alongside Scripture, in order to keep the people together in the face of these divisions.

As a result of this undertaking (though they meant well), arose the sayings that the Scriptures were not sufficient, that we also needed the laws and the interpretations of the councils and the fathers.

. . . we should receive the Councils and decrees . . .

LW: . . . turn to human schemes . . . and again issue laws and regulations . . .

Take refuge in, or flee to councils (confugiamus)

. . . no other way to cope with these problems than to call many councils.

When the devil saw this he jeered and thought: . . . It serves my purpose well that . . . they should be at peace and believe what the councils and the fathers say.

. . . and fly to them for refuge.

LW:
. . . once more turn to . . .

If we wish to stand upon the councils and counsels of men, we lose the Scriptures altogether and remain in the devil’s possession body and soul.
We see, then, that in every aspect which might appear "different" at first, Cochlaeus was merely following ideas that Luther has already made abundantly clear in context, both before and after our quote. Ergo: it is not translation bias at all that is a factor here. The context, combined with the knowledge we have of a certain freedom to paraphrase and to translate thought-for-thought in the 16th century, work together to more or less prove that Cochlaeus was up to no nefarious mischief at all. He did nothing wrong; nor did those who (apparently) cited him through the years.

We know that when Luther wrote about that entity which is translated as "human schemes" in LW and "human contrivances" by Grisar / Lamond, that he is referring cynically to councils. We can easily determine this based on the parallelism that has just been demonstrated (all following citations are from Luther's Works):
. . . councils. In these they issued many outward laws and ordinances . . .

. . . the laws and the interpretations of the councils . . .

. . . turn to human schemes . . . and again issue laws and regulations . . .
Or, more simply and schematically:
councils -----> issued . . . laws and ordinances

councils ----> [issue] laws and regulations

human schemes ---->
issue laws and regulations

Ergo, councils = human schemes
Therefore, Cochlaeus was entirely justified in considering this context and using the word Conciliorum, despite the fact that it is not literally present in the German. It makes perfect sense from context and logic, so that if absolute word-for-word translation is not required, he can do instead a thought-for-thought translation. No one can question that Luther believed this particular thing (i.e., that he thought men would turn to councils because they had in the past, even though he despises the whole thing), because he says it elsewhere in the same treatise. There is no question that Church councils are discussed repeatedly in this work.

Beyond that, it is interesting also to note that in the very next paragraph after our citation, Luther (in both the Walch and Erlangen German editions of this work, and also in Weimar) uses the Latin word concilia (council) in the midst of his otherwise German writing. So there can be no absolute objection to Cochlaeus using the word Conciliorum in the preceding paragraph. My friend John also pointed out that there is a wordplay in Latin between concilia (council) and consilia (schemes, counsel). This wordplay is even preserved in English (council, counsel, consul, etc.).

It's conceivable that Luther might have had this notion in his head when he chose to cynically describe councils as "schemes" in our citation, whereas he had simply used "council" elsewhere in his treatise. He may possibly have been thinking of the Latin wordplay (since he also wrote much in Latin) and switched from "council" to "counsel". Luther's Works even includes the wordplay in English in its translation of this paragraph: "
If we wish to stand upon the councils and counsels of men, we lose the Scriptures altogether." Just an interesting speculation; no more . . . .


XXI. The 1556 "Official" Latin Lutheran Version of Matthaeus Judex



Cochlaeus' work is now available online.


The Matthaeus Judex version is also now available. The portion we have researched is as follows:
Si haec mundi machina per aliquot annos duraverit, iterum more patrum ad tollendas dissensiones humana quaerentur praesidia, constituemurque leges et decreta ad conciliandam et servandam in religione concordiam, quod quidem similem priori sortietur eventum. [see also a photocopy of this text]

And here's the translation, courtesy of blog regular "Adomnan":

If this structure of the world should last for some years yet, then once again human aids will be sought, in the manner of the Fathers, to remove dissensions; and we shall establish laws and decrees to obtain and preserve concord in religion: a result that will turn out in the end to be like what we had before.

***


Apostolic Succession Based on Biblical Data / Supposed "Prooftexting" & Protestant Reluctance to Discuss Bible Text Interpretations With Catholics




The following exchange occurred on the website Evangelical Catholicity. I was responding to one part of the post Holy Orders, Ordination, and Apostolic Succession, by Gabe Martini. I think it is a case study of how what should have been a simple, straightforward discussion on biblical interpretation and the biblical basis for a particular notion, got off track to digression upon digression on methodology and various aspects of Catholicism, rather than the topic at hand. Gabe Martini's words will be in green; Jonathan Bonomo's in blue. My cited words will be indented.

This is somewhat of a follow-up to the post on the necessity of Bishops.

I have the following questions which I would like to see fleshed-out from all parties:

1. What is Biblically necessary for proper Ordination unto the Ministry, or Holy Orders?

2. What is Apostolic Succession? How does Apostolic Succession relate to the validity of Ordination?

3. How can we move towards greater Catholicity in these areas, in the greater catholic Church (i.e., Protestants, Eastern, and Western Catholics)?

Please speak with charity, humility, and love in this discussion. There will be no “warnings” before blatantly and intentionally offensive posts are removed. Thank you.

St. Paul teaches us (Ephesians 2:20) that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles, whom Christ Himself chose (John 6:70, Acts 1:2,13; cf. Matthew 16:18). In Mark 6:30 the twelve original disciples of Jesus are called apostles, and Matthew 10:1-5 and Revelation 21:14 speak of the twelve apostles.

After Judas defected, the remaining eleven Apostles appointed his successor, Matthias (Acts 1:20-26). Since Judas is called a bishop (episkopos) in this passage (1:20), then by logical extension all the Apostles can be considered bishops (albeit of an extraordinary sort).

If the Apostles are bishops, and one of them was replaced by another, after the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ, then we have an explicit example of apostolic succession in the Bible, taking place before 35 A.D.

In like fashion, St. Paul appears to be passing on his office to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1-6), shortly before his death, around 65 A.D. This succession shows an authoritative equivalency between Apostles and bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles.

As a corollary, we are also informed in Scripture that the Church itself is perpetual, infallible, and indefectible (Matthew 16:18, John 14:26, 16:18). Why should the early Church be set up in one form and the later Church in another?

All of this biblical data is harmonious with the ecclesiological views of the Catholic Church. There has been some development over the centuries, but in all essentials, the biblical Church and clergy and the Catholic Church and clergy are one and the same.

… we are also informed in Scripture that the Church itself is perpetual, infallible, and indefectible (Matthew 16:18, John 14:26, 16:18)

Is the Church infallible or is the Church the defender of the infallible Truth in God’s Word? Surely experience alone shows the absurdity in claiming the Church is infallible, does it not?

Why should the early Church be set up in one form and the later Church in another?

I guess I’d ask you the same thing in regards to Transubstantiation/taking the Supper away from children, restricting marriage in the priesthood, veneration of Mary and saints, Mary as co-redeemer or mediator, the Papacy, Papal infallibility, and on and on and on.

* * *

Is the Church infallible or is the Church the defender of the infallible Truth in God’s Word?

Both. Acts 15:28-29 clearly shows infallibility at work in a Church council.

Surely experience alone shows the absurdity in claiming the Church is infallible, does it not?

Rightly understood, not at all. If God can preserve a written document from error, though written by sinful men through inspiration of the Spirit, then surely He can also enable a Church (composed of sinful men) with a written corpus of doctrine to be infallible. Why is one more difficult than the other? We believe not only that He can do so, but that He has in fact. It takes faith. Protestants simply lack the amount of faith required to believe in an infallible Church. I understand that. Infallibility was once the most difficult thing for me to accept. My thought was so thoroughly Protestant that it seemed unthinkable.

I asked: “Why should the early Church be set up in one form and the later Church in another?” You didn’t answer my question, but I’m happy to answer your eight:

1) Transubstantiation: the real presence is taught in Scripture itself, and the real presence is the essential aspect of “change of substance,” because the change involves becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. The rest is straightforward development of doctrine.

2) taking the Supper away from children: based on the concept of the age of reason. Lots of things are withheld from children: like marriage, ordination, military service. Also, if one doesn’t believe in the substantial presence of Christ in Holy Communion, then of course it is no big deal for children to partake, as it is just a bit of bread and grape juice and kids eat and drink those at home.

3) restricting marriage in the priesthood: based on St. Paul’s principle of the preferability of singleness for the sake of more concentrated devotion to God (1 Cor 7). This is a perfectly good biblical principle. I never saw that it was some terrible thing, even when I was Protestant. Of course it would be if one presupposed (over against Scripture) that it is impossible not to marry or to live without sex.

4) veneration of Mary: if an angel “hails” Mary (Luke 1:28), then why not human beings, too?

5) veneration of saints [this reasoning applies especially to Mary, the Mother of God]:

[cited long excerpt from A Biblical Defense of Catholicism: pp. 102-104]

Is that enough scriptural basis for you?

6) Mary as co-redeemer or mediator: the notion of Mediatrix is not immediately dismissible as contrary to Scripture in the sense that it blatantly contradicts it. There are many biblical analogies of non-divine “distribution of grace”:

[cited biblical evidences from my paper: Human, Pauline, and Marian Distribution of Divine Graces: Not an "Unbiblical" Notion After All?]

7) the Papacy: tons of biblical indication: too much to delve into here, so I’ll have to refer you to my introductory paper: 50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy and the Papacy.

8) Papal infallibility: With God all things are possible. If He chooses to protect a man from error, He can do so, and in fact, we often see this in Scripture.

[cited arguments and Scripture from my paper: Biblical Evidence for Papal and Church Infallibility]

Now maybe you’d do me the courtesy of answering my question too? I think it is an important one, and one that Protestants would do well to consider.

Lastly, I thought the thread was about apostolic succession? Catholics are not the only ones who believe in this; so do Anglicans and Orthodox, while they disagree with several Catholic doctrines. If you want to discuss biblical rationale for apostolic succession, I have given you some material that I think is able to be discussed. But instead we’re already into the “1001 questions for the Catholic who believes all this goofy stuff” routine.

I have to say, too, that I find it odd that in a thread where the first question asked was “what is biblically necessary . . .?”, I didn’t see a single Bible verse cited in the first 13 comments before mine. Then I gave plenty of proposed biblical rationale, while the reply overlooked all that and cited no Scripture and argued against none that I gave, but asked me eight rhetorical questions in return.

How are Christians of different stripes going to come to a significant agreement on anything if we don’t appeal to that which we all love and hold in common: Holy Scripture? Doesn’t all constructive discussion presuppose something held in common as a common premise: from which the discussion can proceed and accomplish something?

One can disagree with my (Catholic) interpretation of Scripture of course, but they should at least make some argument and give a better alternative. That’s all I ask.

If the question is apostolic succession and ordination, and the originator of the thread wants to hear from “all parties” how is this ultimately done other than appealing to Scripture?

Mr. Armstrong,

You’ve brought far too many things to the table for us to adequately address on this thread. I know that you were addressing Gabe’s questions, so I don’t blame you. Let me just say that I think your biblical presentation is a bit simplistic… kind of like hearing an evangelical string together a group of proof texts to justify the practice of an altar call and the “sinner’s prayer.” Yes, you can draw all manner of conclusions from isolated proof-texts. We can all do it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that “all things are permissible.” Think of all the conclusions we could draw from that one.

I don’t mean any offense here. It’s just that I don’t think taking a handful from our bag of proof-texts and throwing them out on the table is conducive to productive dialogue. We all have them, and I’m sure you know that once you get Protestants in a battle over proof-texts, the war will never end. The issue is one of perspective, not of isolated passages. Interpreted through your grid, the passages you’ve brought forth make perfect sense to you. To me they say absolutely nothing like what you want them to say. Our differences go deeper than one side simply not seeing what is “clear” in Scripture.

The fact is that there is no positive teaching of papal infallibility, purgatory, or that mediatrix stuff about Mary in Scripture. These doctrines rest on the assumption that the Church is infallible, which assumption itself rests on a certain interpretation of a few isolated passages, which are themselves interpreted the way they are because you have “faith” that the Church really is infallible. I understand why this assumption is held, and I hold it to a certain extent as well. But I’m not willing to go quite as far with it as you are. Maybe it’s just because I lack “faith.”

I believe that the Church is preserved in the Truth in every age. But I have a different conception of what this Truth entails. The Truth is Jesus Christ and the witness concerning him in the Apostolic Gospel, which is offered and received within the Church in every age, well summarized in the Apostles’ Creed and further interpreted in the Nicene and Chalcedonian definitions. Thus, it is not each and every particular doctrine which the Church is to be considered unquestionable on. It is the Gospel–the truth about Jesus. And even here, the Church itself does not have an absolutely unquestionable authority. The Apostles themselves were subject to the Apostolic *message*, as we see in Gal. 1-2.

I’m willing to grant a succession of sorts. However, I will not grant a succession which enables the Church to do what she wants in every age and ignore the call to repentence proferred by her faithful sons and Reformers.

* * *

Hi Jonathan,

I don’t mean any offense here. It’s just that I don’t think taking a handful from our bag of proof-texts and throwing them out on the table is conducive to productive dialogue.

All Christians cite Scripture, and we all do it and times by just “throwing them out on the table” without doing exhaustive exegesis every time. The implication was drawn that Catholics have no biblical backing at all for what we believe. My own apologetics specialize in arguing that this is not the case.

As you noted, I started out giving a biblical argument for apostolic succession, and I was not the one who led this down eight different rabbit trails. Anyone can argue doctrine from the Bible if they like, but no one yet has. Instead, totally unrelated questions were thrown at me. In a way my answer was designed to show the foolishness of that diversionary tactic, which was itself designed to imply that Catholics have this huge mountainous mass of doctrine that is completely indefensible and unconnected to Holy Scripture.

We all have them, and I’m sure you know that once you get Protestants in a battle over proof-texts, the war will never end.

That may be, but at present it appears that it has not and will not even begin. I love to discuss the interpretation of Scripture. For some reason I find similar desires rare in online discussions, even among those with a formal theological education.

The issue is one of perspective, not of isolated passages. Interpreted through your grid, the passages you’ve brought forth make perfect sense to you. To me they say absolutely nothing like what you want them to say.

Great, but why?

Our differences go deeper than one side simply not seeing what is “clear” in Scripture.

Who said it was “clear”? You’re the ones who are big on perspicuity of Scripture. I have made an argument that no one wants to interact with. Instead of simply saying my argument proved nothing (which is no argument), why don’t you interact with it? I find this curious. Now, it’s true that you may have no desire to discuss this particular issue, but then why comment? I just think it is an odd way to respond to a biblical argument that someone has made. Nothing personal here, either.

The fact is that there is no positive teaching of papal infallibility, purgatory, or that mediatrix stuff about Mary in Scripture.

Depends on what one means by “positive.” If by that you mean explicit, detailed teaching, that is certainly true of mediatrix (but I never denied that; my presentation had to do with background plausibility). Purgatory is indicated by many passages: far more than most Protestants realize. I compiled some 25 indications in my chapter on this in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. Papal authority also has a great deal of indication.

Protestants manage to believe in sola Scriptura with no explicit biblical evidence, either, and (I would contend) no really compelling biblical proof at all, and much information to the contrary. You also accept the canon of Scripture based necessarily on some ecclesiastical tradition (in your case, the one that rejects the deuterocanon). That doesn’t seem to give Protestants pause.

These doctrines rest on the assumption that the Church is infallible,

Yes, we accept the authority of the Church, but they also rest on biblical indication as well. This is what I was trying to demonstrate! Why would you assume (as I alluded to above) that any Catholic doctrine that you disagree with can have no conceivable biblical indication in its favor, and therefore must rest solely on Catholic Church authority? This doesn’t follow at all. We have our biblical arguments just as you do, and you disagree with them, just as we disagree with yours.

I commented on this thread, hoping to get into a good discussion on the interpretation of the Bible regarding apostolic succession. But no one wants to do that. The thread began in this way:

I have the following questions which I would like to see fleshed-out from all parties:

. . . 2. What is Apostolic Succession? How does Apostolic Succession relate to the validity of Ordination?

I assumed that “all parties” included Catholics. But I don’t perceive that anyone wants to have this discussion with a Catholic, based on the nature of the responses to my comments thus far. That’s fine, too, but then the post should have said, “except for Catholic [or Orthodox?] arguments: we don’t want to hear about those because we think so little of them.” :-)

which assumption itself rests on a certain interpretation of a few isolated passages, which are themselves interpreted the way they are because you have “faith” that the Church really is infallible.

My system is not based on circular reasoning, but it does require faith, of course. I’ve always argued, however, that the Protestant rule of faith is viciously circular, so I wold say you are contending about my rule of faith what is actually true of yours but not mine. How ironic, huh?

I understand why this assumption is held, and I hold it to a certain extent as well. But I’m not willing to go quite as far with it as you are. Maybe it’s just because I lack “faith.”

It’s not for me to judge why you believe whatever you do. As a generality, I do maintain that Protestants lack faith in what God can do, because they refuse to believe that infallibility can apply to anything but Scripture. All I can do is use biblical argument with Protestants, and interact with theirs, because that is what we have in common. So far it is a non-starter around here, which is disappointing.

But at least I am allowed to comment here, which is a start. I’m hoping someone will enjoy getting into some exegetical discussions on some topic somewhere along the way, because it is so rare to be able to do that intelligently and without acrimony. I enjoyed my previous discussion on development with Rev. Pahls, though it was brief and didn’t really go very far.

One has to cross the hurdle of being accepted as a fellow Christian. That is no issue here. But the deeper, longstanding, deep-seated suspicions about Catholicism and how we approach Christianity are not so easily gotten over and it still remains difficult to simply engage in a biblically-oriented doctrinal dialogue without being sidetracked into precisely the sorts of discussions we are presently doing.

That said, I do appreciate your cordiality and expression of your opinion, even though, in my opinion, not much was accomplished by way of the topic itself.

* * *

Mr Armstrong,

A couple things, very briefly,

1. You read into my comments more than I was wanting to say. You said,

Why would you assume (as I alluded to above) that any Catholic doctrine that you disagree with can have no conceivable biblical indication in its favor, and therefore must rest solely on Catholic Church authority? This doesn’t follow at all. We have our biblical arguments just as you do, and you disagree with them, just as we disagree with yours.

But I never said such a thing. My only point was that we both have our passages and our interpretations of them, and that these interpretations are conditioned by our different perspectives and presuppositions. I don’t see where I implied that “any Catholic doctrine that [I] disagree with can have no conceivable biblical indication in its favor.”

2. I had no intention to comment on this thread until I noticed the string of proof-texts you marshalled forth. The reason I commented was solely because I don’t think what you are attempting above is conducive to productive discussion. If you’re looking for someone to do battle with on that ground, I am not your man. You said, “at present it appears that it has not and will not even begin.” And for this I am thankful. I really hope we can keep the level of discussion around here above that sort of thing.

It is true that such engagements can generate a certain type of discussion, like a debate where the interlocutors just continue offering as many proofs as possible of their position in hopes that someone may be “converted” by their impenetrable fortress of Scripture and reason. But this is not my cup o’ tea. If you would like to discuss the interpretation of specific passages, then we can do that… one at a time, while paying due heed to the historical, literary, and grammatical context of the passage in question. But putting all of our chips on the table in order to tally the score and see who wins is not what I’m about. If someone else would like to engage you in such a fruitless task, they are of course free to do so, as long as comments remain respectful. But it will not be me. Sorry.

3. Finally, I see that you have raised a question about the propriety of my commenting in this regard. I’d like to remind you that you are a guest here, while I am not. With all due respect, please do not presume to tell me when I should and should not comment on this blog.

* * *

You simply dismissed all of my biblical argumentation out of hand. That’s what put me off a bit. So I was saying, in effect, “if you want to interact with what I argued, please do so, but don’t just editorialize about my method . . .”

2. I had no intention to comment on this thread until I noticed the string of proof-texts you marshalled forth. The reason I commented was solely because I don’t think what you are attempting above is conducive to productive discussion.

Neither do I. It was not my desire to go off on eight rabbit trails at once. That was brought into this by Gabe. But given the fact that he did it, I made my point, which is that Catholics can (agree or disagree with it) produce more than enough biblical argumentation in favor of their distinctives. I’m quite happy to go back to the original topic of apostolic succession and the biblical data in that regard that I submitted.

If you’re looking for someone to do battle with on that ground, I am not your man.

I wouldn’t call it “battle”; I’d call it “dialogue” but that is a minor point, I suppose. One presupposes that if a post is written that asks for “fleshed-out” opinions “from all parties” that the one writing it, at least, might be interested in discussing the issue that he himself raised. So my response is completely within bounds.

You said, “at present it appears that it has not and will not even begin.” And for this I am thankful. I really hope we can keep the level of discussion around here above that sort of thing.

Above what, pray tell? Discussing the Bible? What is so controversial about a Christian suggesting that the Bible may teach thus-and-so about a particular issue?

It is true that such engagements can generate a certain type of discussion, like a debate where the interlocutors just continue offering as many proofs as possible of their position in hopes that someone may be “converted” by their impenetrable fortress of Scripture and reason.

SIGH. You miss my point entirely. Above, I wrote:

How are Christians of different stripes going to come to a significant agreement on anything if we don’t appeal to that which we all love and hold in common: Holy Scripture? Doesn’t all constructive discussion presuppose something held in common as a common premise: from which the discussion can proceed and accomplish something?

It was a sincere [rhetorical] question. I’m not trying to do anything except defend my present point of view from Scripture. It would be pleasant and nice to discuss the issue based on what I brought forth. Instead, we seem to be in yet another completely undesired “controversy.” I’m not trying to convert you or anyone here. I rarely try to persuade anyone to convert. That’s ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit anyway. I simply make my arguments.

But this is not my cup o’ tea. If you would like to discuss the interpretation of specific passages, then we can do that… one at a time, while paying due heed to the historical, literary, and grammatical context of the passage in question.

That would be nice. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, of course. There is systematic theology and biblical theology, etc.

But putting all of our chips on the table in order to tally the score and see who wins is not what I’m about.

Again, you have gotten my replies to the eight rabbit trails all out of proportion with what I was trying to do originally. My original response was six paragraphs (four of them with biblical citations) that presented a concise biblical argument for apostolic succession.

Gabe didn’t want to interact with that, which is fine. It’s a free country. But I did nothing improper. I simply responded to the eight things and showed that there is a lot more there than meets the eye, in terms of Catholic biblical rationale.

If someone else would like to engage you in such a fruitless task, they are of course free to do so, as long as comments remain respectful. But it will not be me. Sorry.

I fail to see why any Christian would think that discussing Bible interpretation and theology based on Bible passages is “fruitless.” I am truly baffled by your perspective on this.

3. Finally, I see that you have raised a question about the propriety of my commenting in this regard.

I did? Where? I remember writing: “I do appreciate your cordiality and expression of your opinion.”

I’d like to remind you that you are a guest here, while I am not. With all due respect, please do not presume to tell me when I should and should not comment on this blog.

I was talking about (if I did such a thing at all) the relationship of your comments to my argument, and how I felt that we had gotten off the track a bit. I believe in free expression and vigorous-yet-cordial dialogue. My ideas were critiqued, and I returned the favor. That should cause neither alarm, distress, nor suspicion. I’m simply trying to have a biblical discussion. I’m disappointed that it has gotten bogged down into a digression about good and bad method, but that is life, I guess.

It is true that I take a rather dim view of the method that merely disagrees with an argument without giving any reason for the disagreement. I contended that that is not an argument. It’s the distinction between the two following scenarios:

Argument:

Person A: “I believe a, b, and c, because of biblical reasons x, y, and z.”

Person B: “I disagree with a, b, and c because of my exegetical (and etc.) objections i, ii, and iii to your biblical reasons x, y, and z.”

Bald Disagreement

Person A: “I believe a, b, and c, because of biblical reasons x, y, and z.”

Person B: “I disagree with a, b, and c, and it is fruitless to discuss x, y, and z.”

I fail to see the point of the second method. Why bother to say that one simply disagrees with something without giving the reasons? That was what I was saying, not that anyone should or shouldn’t comment. It was (again) an argument, and had nothing to do with persons or supposed transgression of the principles of discussion as elucidated on this site. There is no mystery to me. I say what I mean and mean what I say.

Mr. Armstrong,

It seems we differ on the type of discussion we would like to be involved in. That is fine. As I told you above, I did not enter into this thread in order to cross swords with you. My initial reason for commenting on this thread was not to express disagreement with your points, it was rather simply to point out that, in my opinion, the argument you were attempting is fruitless if the underlying presuppositions are not first addressed. This would be an attempt to find the “common premise” about which you write above. There are things involved here which run much deeper than quoting our pet Bible passages will get at. That was my main point.

But those things aside, just for some clarity on my third point above: what I wrote was in response to this comment of yours:

Now, it’s true that you may have no desire to discuss this particular issue, but then why comment? I just think it is an odd way to respond to a biblical argument that someone has made.

Blessings,

Jonathan

Mr. Armstrong,

After reading through your last reply to me again, I noticed one other thing which I probably ought to clarify. You wrote:

I fail to see why any Christian would think that discussing Bible interpretation and theology based on Bible passages is “fruitless.” I am truly baffled by your perspective on this.

I absolutely do not believe discussing the Scriptures is always fruitless. But it can be. What is fruitless is discussing the Scriptures by way of a proof-text method where the parties involved construct their respective houses of facts and then everyone looks to see whose edifice is bigger. Maybe this is not what you were attempting. It just seemed like that to me. If I misinterpreted, I apologize.

You may regard my addressing this issue as getting “bogged down” in questions of methodology. I consider it being a good steward of the time I’m given and respectful of the word of God. A poor methodology of dialogue will in my opinion produce poor dialogue. This is why I consider it important to address methodology.

Thanks. Let me ask, then, if I may: how many Scripture verses can one give before it is suspected that one is engaging in the sort of "prooftexting" that you think is unfruitful? Certainly there must be some happy medium, assuming that it is helpful to engage in scriptural argumentation? Rev. Jordan gave none at all in his last post #28 (though he alluded to some biblical motifs). I'm just trying to figure out what you think is a manageable figure for Scripture citation, for future reference.

Can only one passage at a time be discussed profitably? If so, then one couldn't even mention a single cross-reference, which strikes me as prima facie unreasonable. So that seems to me to be a minimum of two passages. But if two, why not six or ten? I don't see that such limitations help very much.

I would submit that limitation of subject matter is what is more important (in terms of the stewardship of time that I am also keenly aware of), rather than a limit on how much Scripture one might bring to bear on that restricted topic. A glance at any systematic theology makes this fairly clear, I think. But then my bias is towards systematic theology, too.

I think that is more conducive to incorporating all of the relevant biblical data that can be brought to bear in any given area. The truly objectionable prooftexting is using too few passages without taking proper consideration of other related ones and the overall biblical worldview and theology.

Mr. Armstrong,

As I see it, the phenomenon of “proof-texting” is not so much a matter of quantity as it is of quality. Proof-texting is the resting of an argument upon a list (take your pick on a number) of Scripture passages baldly asserted without any engagement with or analysis of the text. In a word, it is an argument without an argument.

Again, this may or may not have been your intention. If it was not, I apologize if any offense has been caused. It just seemed that way to me, and given my fundamentalist background I am sort of allergic to that kind of thing, because I’ve been there, done that, and have no taste for it anymore. My objection to this method is not anything against your perspective on things per se. I have in fact been much more outspoken in the past against the Protestant bent towards such engagements (even when said Protestants are setting forth ideals which I agree with) than I ever have against Roman Catholics.

* * *

. . . given my fundamentalist background I am sort of allergic to that kind of thing, because I’ve been there, done that . . .

Maybe that’s where the problem lies. I never had that background, and in fact, I was protesting Gabe doing something very similar to that modus operandi, by throwing out eight things without argument, that implied my point of view was thoroughly incoherent. I suppose I should have ignored that and not replied to it. But it’s my nature as an apologist to respond to that sort of thing and show that there is much more than meets the eye in Catholic positions.

Also, surely you can understand that a Catholic in an environment of mostly Protestants would rather err on the side of giving more Scripture rather than not enough, since we are routinely thought of as virtually biblical illiterates.

Lastly, I again appeal to my original response, #14 (before the rabbit trails took over, courtesy of Gabe). It was a compact biblical argument that presented a position to be debated. It was not merely a listing of texts. It was exactly on-topic; it didn’t give any judgments of papal encyclicals, etc. There was nothing objectionable in it at all, as far as I am concerned. Nor was most of my other presentation of the nature of objectionable “prooftexting,” though I admit that the 50 NT Proofs for Petrine Primacy might reasonably be subjected to such a criticism. Any list of 50 things in Scripture is obviously going to be only the briefest overview by nature. Even Luther’s 95 Theses were that.

I’d be the first to wholeheartedly agree that each one of the 50 summaries could and should be discussed in depth, and in fact I have done so when that paper was critiqued by anti-Catholic Protestant apologist Jason Engwer. He did a sort of half-satirical critique, suggesting a counter “Pauline primacy” that I replied to in great depth [twice: one / two].

So I would contend that even a listing of Scriptures (as any systematic theology often does) is not impermissible, nor merely “prooftexting” in the fundamentalist sense, as long as the person is willing to discuss any particular point in depth (as I am, and always will be).

I appreciate your explanations of reasons for your possible overreaction. I have to say, though, that I think such reticence (seen also in Gabe’s response) goes beyond an aversion to prooftexting in the worst sense of that word. Protestants simply don’t like it when Catholics argue from the Bible, because Scripture is supposed to be Protestant turf, and most self-confident Protestants assume that and have taken in that assumption with their mother’s milk.

Therefore, if a Catholic brings in more than a little biblical argumentation, there must be some foundational error, because they can’t possibly succeed (the Bible being clearly, unarguably a Protestant book . . .). Either the premises must be false, or it is the appearance of strength only, or it’s based on blind faith in Rome, etc. Thus, we see these motifs above.

I don’t intend in the slightest to cause any offense, either. I’m merely trying to show that there are very deep biases in Protestantism against Catholicism, even amongst ecumenical folks and those who consciously have nothing against Catholics or Catholicism per se. It happens all the time. I’m in a position to notice, believe me, because I have specialized in “biblical evidence for Catholicism,” and I have seen these sorts of reactions a thousand times over 17 years.

And, don’t forget, I was a fervent evangelical Protestant for thirteen years and know that world, too. I was an apologist and evangelist then, as well, and an “anti-cult” researcher. I was on the radio as a Protestant, in 1989, on the largest Protestant station in the Detroit area, discussing Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It’s very simple. Once in a while, I would love to get into a discussion about a biblical texts or a few texts, give my position and interact with the Protestant opinion, without being subjected to all the evasive, somewhat belittling baggage of “you believe this only because Rome told you so” or “this obviously doesn’t mean what you think it means at all” or “you’re just trying to convert folks to Holy Mother Church.” I know it is possible to engage in such discussions, because occasionally I have been able to do it with Protestants. There are few things I enjoy more when it happens. But by and large, Protestants are very reluctant to do so, and I think we saw a bit of that in this thread.

I will continue trying to do that, as I think there are a lot of sharp and articulate people here. I’m not trying to convert anyone. I’m approaching this from a perspective of, “this is my position on this biblical text, from my Catholic perspective. What’s yours?” But if no one is interested, I won’t be here long and won’t bother you. Maybe no one wants to discuss the biblical arguments on apostolic succession, pro and con. But perhaps other topics would be more amenable for such purposes.

"Turretinfan's" Utterly Ridiculous Rationale For Refusing to do a Chat Debate is Laid Bare on The Supplement Blog



Talk about circular reasoning and arguing in a circle . . .


Don't miss Reginald de Piperno's very insightful, hard-hitting analysis. It exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of fundamentalist anti-Catholicism that is behind the mindset that could produce such a pathetic display of special pleading.

The Anonymous One himself is already providing high entertainment in his comments over there:

I've repeatedly pointed out that I did not reject Dave's challenge.

Why you (and he) are so insistent on saying I did, baffles me.

Dave never intended to debate, as is evident from his own comments.

Asking Dave to take the Roman Catholic position is hardly an "absurd" or unfair request.

[ . . . ]

Incidentally, if you use "mocking" to describe the response, what word would you use to describe the challenge?


Man oh man . . . bring on the Twilight Zone music . . .

Aids For Catholics: Selecting a Bible Translation



[ KJV: Psalm 23 / source ]


Like all Protestant Bibles (and Catholic ones), the fabled King James Bible has somewhat of a bias, based on the beliefs of the translators, but not overly so, in my opinion.

I myself use the RSV, which is a revision of the KJV (taking out the archaic language: "thee's" and "thou's," etc.). I used to use the New American Standard Bible (NASB) as a Protestant (which revised the American Standard Version [ASV], which revised KJV, into more "American" English), and first read most of the Bible in that version. The Catholic version of the RSV actually modifies very few passages: I think it is only 4-6, if that many. One of them is Luke 1:28: "Hail Mary, full of grace." That shows how little Protestant bias is perceived to be in the RSV, and by indirect implication, the RSV.

The thing about the KJV is the beautiful language and expression (who could not love, e.g., Psalm 23?). But, by and large, Protestant Bibles are not a problem, as much as false Protestant doctrines. I would concentrate more on those, and not the Bible translations, which can be criticized, for sure, but are not at the heart of Protestant-Catholic differences, by any means.

If you read the Douay-Rheims, be aware that it is a translation of a translation, too: of the Latin Vulgate, whereas most translations today, including newer Catholic ones, translate from the oldest available Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.

I suspect that most of the bishops of the Church (and the Holy Father) would rejoice that Catholics are reading the Scripture, whatever the version is. The main thing is to read the Bible. But there are "approved" versions, such as the NAB (personally I care very little for its style), and the RSV-Catholic edition. I have found many articles that discuss these issues or related ones:

Bible Translations Guide (Catholic Answers)

Choosing and Using a Bible: What Catholics Should Know, Fr. Ronald D. Witherup, Catholic Update, July 2004.

Choosing a Bible Translation, Jimmy Akin, This Rock, April 1994.

Bible Translations, Jimmy Akin.

Bible Versions and Commentaries (EWTN: Colin B. Donovan, STL)

Bible Translations (EWTN: Matthew Bunson)

Finding a Translation: How to Select a Catholic Bible, John Osman, Catholic Spirit, January 2007.

Choosing a Bible Translation, Katerina Ivanovna (Evangelical Catholicism site)

Are All Bible Translations Created Equal?: The Protestant Bias of the NIV, Steve Ray [this is a .doc file]

Which Bible Translations Are Best For Catholics? (Catholics United for the Faith)

Choosing a Catholic Bible (Adoremus Bulletin)

Uncomfortable Facts about the Douay-Rheims, Jimmy Akin, This Rock, February 2002.

Pius XII on the Authenticity of the Vulgate, Jimmy Akin, April 1994.

English Translations of the Bible, Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Versions of the Bible [note: much of the article is about non-English versions, but there is a lot about the English ones, too]

Catholic Encyclopedia: Douay Bible

50 preuves de la primauté de Pierre dans le Nouveau Testament



Peter commissioned by Jesus; from the 1977 Franco Zefferelli film, Jesus of Nazareth

Benoit Meyrieux has translated my 50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy and the Papacy into French (see his site). Many thanks, and to all my French-speaking friends (my wife Judy is one-quarter French by nationality, by the way, and my hometown of Detroit, Michigan was founded by the Frenchman Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac in 1701), enjoy!

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Traduit de « A biblical defense of Catholicism » par Dave Amstrong, Sophia Institute Press, pp. 233-238. Voir le site de l’auteur : Biblical Evidence for Catholicism

  • 1) Pierre seul est le Rocher sur lequel Jésus construit son Eglise (Mt 16, 18).
  • 2) Les clés du royaume des cieux sont confiés uniquement à Pierre (Mt 16, 19).
  • 3) Le pouvoir de lier et délier est uniquement donné à Pierre de façon individuelle (Mt 16, 19).
  • 4) Le nom de Pierre apparaît en premier dans toutes les listes des apôtres (Mt 10, 2; Mc 3, 16; Lc 6, 14; Ac 1, 13). Matthieu l’appelle même le «premier» (Mt 10, 2). (Judas Iscariote est invariablement mentionné en dernier).
  • 5) Pierre est pratiquement toujours en premier lorsqu’il est mentionné avec quelqu’un d’autre. L’unique exemple contraire se trouve en Ga 2, 9 où il (Céphas) est cité après Jacques et avant Jean. Cependant, il est clairement prédominant dans le contexte (par ex. 1, 18-19; 2, 7-8).
  • 6) Pierre est le seul parmi les apôtres à recevoir un nouveau nom (Jn 1, 42; Mt 16, 18).
  • 7) De même, Pierre est considéré par Jésus comme le berger en chef, après lui-même (Jn 21, 15-17), ayant autorité sur l’Eglise dans son ensemble, même si d’autres ont un rôle similaire mais subordonné au ministère de Pierre (Ac 20, 28; 1 P 5, 2).
  • 8) Pierre est le seul apôtre pour lequel Jésus a prié afin que sa foi ne défaille pas (Lc 22, 32).
  • 9) Pierre est le seul apôtre exhorté par Jésus de«fortifier tes frères» (Lc 22, 32).
  • 10) Pierre est le premier a confesser la messianité et la divinité du Christ (Mt 16, 16).
  • 11) A Pierre seul Jésus dit qu’il a reçu une connaissance divine par une spéciale révélation (Mt 16, 17).
  • 12) Pierre considéré par les Juifs (Ac 4, 1-13) comme le leader et le porte parole des chrétiens.
  • 13) Pierre est considéré de même par le peuple (Ac 2, 37-41; 5, 15).
  • 14) Jésus s’associe avec Pierre dans le miracle de la redevance du Temple (Mt 17, 24-26).
  • 15) Jésus enseigne sur la barque de Pierre et la pêche miraculeuse se produit à bord du même bateau (Lc 5, 1-11): peut-être une métaphore pour le pape comme «pêcheur d’hommes» (Mt 4, 19).
  • 16) Pierre fut le premier apôtre à se mettre en route pour le tombeau vide et à y entrer (Lc 24, 12; Jn 20, 6).
  • 17) Pierre est défini par un ange comme le leader et le représentant des apôtres (Mc 16, 7).
  • 18) Pierre emmène les apôtres pêcher (Jn 21, 2-3.11). La «barque» de Pierre a toujours été considérée par les catholiques comme la figure de l’Eglise avec Pierre à la barre.
  • 19) Pierre seul se jette à la mer pour aller vers Jésus (Jn 21, 7).
  • 20) Les paroles que Pierre a prononcées avant la Pentecôte dans la Chambre Haute sont les premières et les plus importantes documentées (Ac 1, 15-22).
  • 21) Pierre prend l’initiative d’appeler à un remplacement de Judas (Ac 1, 22).
  • 22) Pierre est la première personne à parler (et la seule documentée) après la Pentecôte, il est donc le premier chrétien à «prêcher l’Evangile» dans l’ère de l’Eglise (Ac 2, 14-36).
  • 23) Pierre opère le premier miracle de l’histoire de l’Eglise en guérissant un paralytique (Ac 3, 6-12).
  • 24) Pierre prononce le premier anathème contre Ananie et Saphire, qui est fortement confirmé par Dieu (Ac 5, 2-11).
  • 25) L’ombre de Pierre opère des miracles (Ac 5, 15).
  • 26) Pierre est le premier après Jésus à ressusciter un mort (Ac 9, 40).
  • 27) Corneille est instruit par un ange à chercher Pierre pour être instruit dans la foi (Ac 10, 1-6).
  • 28) Pierre est le premier à accueillir les gentils (païens), après une révélation de Dieu (Ac 10, 9-48).
  • 29) Pierre instruit les autres apôtres à propos de la catholicité (universalité) de l’Eglise (Ac 11, 5-17).
  • 30) Pierre est le premier individu dans l’ère de l’Eglise objet d’une divine intervention (un ange le délivre de prison Ac 12, 1-17).
  • 31) Toute l’Eglise prie pour Pierre pendant son emprisonnement (Ac 12, 5).
  • 32) Pierre ouvre et préside le premier concile de la Chrétienté et établit des principes qui sont accepté par le concile (Ac 15, 7-11).
  • 33) Paul distingue l’apparition de Jésus après sa Résurrection d’avec les apparitions aux autres disciples (1 Co 15, 4-8). Les deux disciples sur la route d’Emmaüs font la même distinction (Lc 24, 34), à cette occasion ne mentionnant que Pierre (Simon), même si ils viennent tout juste de voir Jésus ressuscité (Lc 24, 33).
  • 34) Pierre est souvent distingué des autres apôtres (Mc 1, 36; Lc 9, 28. 32; Ac 2, 37; 5, 29; 1 Co 9, 5).
  • 35) Pierre est souvent le porte parole des apôtres, surtout aux moments cruciaux (Mc 8, 29; Mt 18, 21; Lc 9, 5; 12, 41; Jn 6, 67-69).
  • 36) Le nom de Pierre est toujours cité en premier dans la liste des disciples intimes (Pierre, Jacques et Jean - Mt 17, 1; 26, 37.40; Mc 5, 37; 14, 37).
  • 37) Pierre est souvent la figure centrale à laquelle Jésus s’adresse dans les scènes évangéliques majeures comme celle de la marche sur les eaux (Mt 14, 28-32; Lc 5, 1 et suiv.; Mc 10, 28; Mt 17, 24 et suiv.).
  • 38) Pierre est le premier à reconnaître et à refuser l’hérésie de Simon le Magicien (Ac 8, 14-24).
  • 39) Le nom de Pierre est mentionné plus souvent que tous les autres disciples mis ensemble: 191 fois (162 comme Pierre ou Simon Pierre, 23 fois comme Simon et 6 comme Céphas) contre 130 fois pour tous les autres disciples. John est le second à apparaître le plus souvent (48 fois) et Pierre est cité avec lui la moitié du temps.
  • 40) La proclamation de Pierre à la Pentecôte (Ac 2, 14-41) contient une interprétation des Ecritures qui fait autorité, une décision doctrinale et une mesure disciplinaire concernant les membres de la Maison d’Israël (2, 36): un exemple de lier et de délier.
  • 41) Pierre est le premier à juger avec autorité que le don des langues est authentique (Ac 2, 14-21).
  • 42) Pierre est le premier à prêcher la repentance chrétienne et le baptême (Ac 2, 38).
  • 43) Pierre mène le premier baptême en masse (Ac 2, 41).
  • 44) Pierre ordonne que les premiers chrétiens venant du paganisme soient baptisés (Ac 10, 44-48).
  • 45) Pierre est le premier missionnaire itinérant et le premier à exercer ce qui sera appelé la «visite des églises» (Ac 9, 32-38.43). Paul pour sa part a prêché à Damas immédiatement après sa conversion (Ac 9, 20), mais n’avait pas voyagé jusqu’à là dans ce but (Dieu a changé ses plans!). Ses voyages missionnaires ne commencent qu’en Ac 13, 2.
  • 46) Paul est venu spécifiquement à Jérusalem pour visiter Pierre pendant 15 jours au début de son ministère (Ga 1, 18) et a été mandaté par Pierre, Jacques et Jean (Ga 2, 9) pour prêcher aux païens.
  • 47) Pierre agit comme le chef évêque/ berger de l’Eglise (1 P 5, 1), puisqu’il exhorte pour les autres évêques ou anciens.
  • 48) Pierre interprète la prophétie (2 P 16-21).
  • 49) Pierre corrige ceux qui font un mauvais usage des écrits de Paul (2 P 3, 15-16).
  • 50) Pierre écrit sa première épître depuis Rome (désignée sous le nom de code «Babylone» 1 P 5, 13) comme son évêque et comme évêque universel (ou pape) de l’Eglise.

En conclusion il est difficile de soutenir que Dieu ait ainsi mis Pierre tellement en avant dans les Ecritures, sans qu’il y ait une signification pour le gouvernement de l’Eglise. La papauté est l’interprétation la plus plausible et l’actuel accomplissement institutionnel de cette évidence biblique. Pourquoi Dieu aurait-il ordonné d’avance une telle fonction d’autorité pour que celle-ci cesse à la mort de Pierre ?

Clairement, la fonction de la papauté est prépondérante, non pas les papes dans leur individualité, et cela devait être perpétuel (succession apostolique), tout comme la fonction d’évêque, de diacre, d’enseignant et d’évangéliste.