Monday, March 23, 2009

Difficulties in Understanding God's Judgment on Heathen Nations (and other "Problem Passages" in the OT)

By Dave Armstrong (3-23-09)

The following came about as a result of probing questions from a member of the Coming Home Network. The "problem" broadly stated, is to interpret biblical passages that appear at first glance to sanction cruelty or immoral behavior sanctioned by God Himself. I have argued that this is not the case, and that each can be explained in a way that maintains both biblical inspiration in toto, and the character of God as entirely loving and just.


Exodus 21:20-21 When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money.

Leviticus 25:44-46 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are round about you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you, to inherit as a possession for ever; you may make slaves of them, but over your brethren the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another, with harshness.

Titus 2:9-10 Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to be refractory, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
Slavery in the Bible is a very complex matter. I'd refer readers to these articles:

A Response to John Noonan, Jr. Concerning the Development of Catholic Moral Doctrine (Usury, Marriage, Slavery, Religious freedom) (Patrick M. O'Neil; the section on slavery is near the end)

Catholic Encyclopedia: "Slavery and Christianity"

Catholic Encyclopedia: "Ethical Aspect of Slavery"

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: "Slave; Slavery"

Golden Calf and Other Instances of Idolatry

Exodus 32:25-27 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to their shame among their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Who is on the LORD's side? Come to me." And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel, `Put every man his sword on his side, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.'"
Here the Hebrews had committed a grave sin of idolatry: worshiping a Golden Calf. Thus, they had to be judged because they had been expressly forbidden to do this, and it showed an extreme ungratefulness for what God had done for them. For anyone who agrees that God has the prerogative to judge people (being their Creator), then I don't see why this would pose any difficulty.
Numbers 25:3-5 So Israel yoked himself to Ba'al of Pe'or. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel; and the LORD said to Moses, "Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel." And Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Every one of you slay his men who have yoked themselves to Ba'al of Pe'or."
This is the same essential situation as in the previous passage: idolatry had to be punished by God in order to establish the truthfulness of monotheism.

Judgment of the Heathen Nations

Numbers 31:13-15 Moses, and Elea'zar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation, went forth to meet them outside the camp. And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, "Have you let all the women live?

Isaiah 13:11,15-16 I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless. . . . Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.
Hosea 13:16 Sama'ria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.
This is a variation of judgment, whereby God used the Jews (or others) to judge other nations for their wickedness. It doesn't mean that every particular of what one nation does to another is necessarily God's perfect will (because people are sinners). But God uses nations to judge.

Note that God didn't command that women be raped or pregnant women be ripped open, or children tortured and killed before their parents' eyes. Therefore, they're not "threats." They're warnings from prophets, trying to get Israel to repent. God in the OT often speaks, too, as if He is doing things, when in fact it means He is allowing things to happen in His providence (and not all of that is in His perfect will). We see that, in, for example, God saying in one place that He hardened Pharaoh's heart and in another, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

In Job it'll say that God did all the terrible things to Job, but we know that He allowed Satan to do so (from the beginning of the book). Etc., etc. It's very common.

In one of the "problem passages": Isaiah 13, the Medes are serving as the executioners of wrath against Babylon, and horrible things are listed. That doesn't make the Medes perfect angels, anymore than the Babylonians were (whom God had used to judge Israel). It doesn't follow that God approves of everything the Persian army did, because they were in effect used to judge Babylon. God says in Isaiah 13:17: "Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them." God always speaks like that when it means that "Nation A will judge Nation B." In Hebrew idiom, God almost always speaks as if He is doing everything, when it means certain things are happening as judgment.

But it is not the case that God agrees with every jot and tittle of what the Persians did; nor were they ever His chosen people, as the Jews were. They're simply agents of judgment. God did command the killing of man, woman, and child, when He commanded the Jews to execute His judgment on wicked heathen nations. And that is because He is judge and has the power over life and death. We can hardly say that He doesn't have that prerogative and remain Christians, or even monotheists. But I'm unaware of any passage where He condones raping women, specifically "ripping up" pregnant women, or torturing children. These are the distinctions that must keep in mind. to understand these difficult, unpleasant themes in the Bible.

Thus, in Isaiah 13:16 God predicts what will occur:
Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.
We see the same thing in Hosea 13:16:
Sama'ria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.
He's not commanding these things; He is simply saying (in His foreknowledge) this is what will happen. He predicted what would occur if there wasn't repentance. The agent of judgment doesn't necessarily always do every particular that God desires. God used Nebuchadnezzar to judge the Jews when they went astray, and Nebuchadnezzar was no canonized saint. He did some things in conquering Jerusalem that God wouldn't approve of. But that's what happens when a nation is judged (because it generally comes from other nations, as opposed to a supernatural destruction, as with Sodom and Gomorrah). If God's protection against enemies is removed, then we get the atrocities of war that happen when a heathen nation attacks and conquers.

Thus, we see Menahem, one of the evil kings of Israel (the northern kingdom: I think they were all evil, as I recall), described as sinning when he does the same thing:
2 Kings 15:16-18 At that time Men'ahem sacked Tappuah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, therefore he sacked it, and he ripped up all the women in it who were with child. In the thirty-ninth year of Azari'ah king of Judah Men'ahem the son of Gadi began to reign over Israel, and he reigned ten years in Sama'ria. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart all his days from all the sins of Jerobo'am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.
God describes through the prophet Amos that these things are evil, when the Ammonites did them:
Amos 1:13-15 Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have ripped up women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their border. So I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour her strongholds, with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind; and their king shall go into exile, he and his princes together," says the LORD.
The Jews sometimes went against God's commands to kill man, woman, and child in the nations that were to be utterly destroyed and annihilated, by taking women as wives. A distinction was made between some nations (not utterly wicked) and others:
Deuteronomy 20:10-18

[10] "When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it.
[11] And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you.
[12] But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it;
[13] and when the LORD your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword,
[14] but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you.
[15] Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here.
[16] But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes,
[17] but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Per'izzites, the Hivites and the Jeb'usites, as the LORD your God has commanded;
[18] that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their gods, and so to sin against the LORD your God.
Joshua did what God commanded him to do:
Joshua 8:25-27

[25] And all who fell that day, both men and women, were twelve thousand, all the people of Ai.
[26] For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the javelin, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
[27] Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took as their booty, according to the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua.
Sometimes the women were corrupt, too. So in Ezra we see Israel sending away "foreign wives":
Ezra 10:10-14

[10] And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have trespassed and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel.
[11] Now then make confession to the LORD the God of your fathers, and do his will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives."
[12] Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, "It is so; we must do as you have said.
[13] But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a work for one day or for two; for we have greatly transgressed in this matter.
[14] Let our officials stand for the whole assembly; let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every city, till the fierce wrath of our God over this matter be averted from us."
The commands were either that everyone should be killed, or that men only should be killed. If the nation was ripe for judgment, they were all killed. They were judged.

Judgment is not a matter of pleasure (for God or for those concerned), but of justice. Very few judges are beaming from ear to ear when they sentence a man to life imprisonment or the electric chair. God doesn't do it, either, and He is infinitely more loving than any human judge. Otherwise, if we have no justice, and God lets every man and nation run wild and does nothing, does anyone really think that is a superior alternative or more loving and merciful on God's part: to never judge any wicked nation? Think of what this world would be like if there had never been any judgment: if Sodom and Gomorrah had existed to this day, and all the nations judged in the flood, and Babylon and Assyria and all the wicked nations that Israel defeated were still here. Nazi Germany was judged in our own time. God used the Allies to do that, because He is not mocked. The Soviet Union collapsed. Other nations are more than ripe for judgment (like America, which has "legally" murdered about ten times as many people as the Nazis ever did, and China), but God is withholding it for some ultimately mysterious reason. One must believe in faith that He knows what He is doing and all will be made right in His "time."

The Stoning of a Rebellious Son

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, `This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
This is another variation of God's judgment. In order to develop His chosen people and to show human beings the severe consequences of sin, God had to be very strict at first. 21:21 is the key: "so you shall purge the evil from your midst." Of course, in the New Covenant, mercy and forgiveness was placed front and center. Hence, when the crowd wanted to stone the adulterous woman (which was perfectly in accord with the Mosaic Law), Jesus said, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Women in Church

1 Corinthians 14:33-35 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
There are a variety of opinions as to how culturally conditioned these statements of Paul were. I would refer readers to my paper: "Should a Woman Teach a Man? Women in the Catholic Church"

Also, see Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) from 15 August 1988.

* * * * *

These passages require a bit of study, but once that is done, I see no problem with them. Why would we expect in the first place, a document inspired by God to be completely easy to understand? We would fully expect for there to be some difficult passages that stretch and challenge us, to understand them. We also have to consider all kinds of cultural variations and different times that influenced the writing of Scripture.

They're part of the Bible, that we accept in faith as God's word. Most of them are about judgment. God either has the right to judge people (including killing them) or not. If we want to argue that He has no such right, then hell goes along with that, and we have a situation where the most evil men simply go to heaven without ever being punished for their sins. Is that really preferable in any Christian's mind, or anyone's mind whatever (thinking hypothetically of alternatives)? We all need to try our best to better understand the biblical perspective and God's perspective, and accept it in faith, even if it is difficult.

I've done my best to explain these passages and ostensible "problems" the way I understand the biblical perspective, which I wholeheartedly accept myself, in faith. Perhaps my inadequate attempts will be helpful and plausible to readers, too; maybe not. In any event, I believe that what I have written is pretty much the mainstream Christian interpretation of these things: Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Books by Dave Armstrong: "Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths: A Source Book for Apologists and Inquirers"

[completed on 18 April 2009; 445 pages; published on 15 August 2009 by Sophia Institute Press]

[cover design by Theodore Schluenderfritz]

--- To purchase, go to the bottom of the page ---

[in final version: 2051 Bible Passages entirely written out: KJV with RSV alternate versions added where necessary to clarify meaning]

Doubtless, were only the Scripture allowed its own authority, there are none of these things respecting which our adversaries would not be constrained to be mute. . . . Though they may kiss the closed copies of the Scripture as a kind of worship, . . . they allow it no more authority than if no part of it existed in writing.

--- John Calvin, dedication of his Commentary on the General Epistles, January 1551


(follow linked words for online excerpts; most excerpts use RSV rather than KJV and several are somewhat different from the final version in the book)


Introduction [see below]

1. The Authority of Apostolic Tradition
(295 Passages)

Authoritative sacred tradition
Authoritative oral tradition / “word of God” [50 Passages]
Authoritative oral teaching not recorded in scripture
New Testament citations of older non-biblical oral traditions
“The Faith” is synonymous with sacred tradition
“The truth” is synonymous with sacred tradition
“The commandment” is synonymous with sacred tradition
“The doctrine” is synonymous with sacred tradition
“Teaching” is synonymous with sacred tradition
“Gospel” or “good news” is synonymous with sacred tradition
“The message” is synonymous with sacred tradition
The New Covenant is synonymous with sacred tradition
Authoritative interpretation / scripture is not always self-interpreting
Doctrine develops over time
Christianity has developed out of Judaism

2. The Authority of the Catholic Church
(377 Passages)

Jesus deliberately established a visible, institutional, universal Church
Priests are called by Jesus or the Holy Spirit
Priests are given authority by Jesus or the Holy Spirit
The Church calls and commissions men for the work of ministry
Men are ordained through the laying on of hands
Priests are direct representatives of Jesus
Priests are God's fellow workers for the Kingdom
Jesus' followers are God's servants
Priests preside over the Eucharist and the Mass
Priests' authority to forgive sins, grant indulgences, and impose penances
Priests administer the sacraments
Ministry calls for sacrifice
Celibacy fosters undistracted devotion to the Lord
God's ministers are entitled to pay
Priests are appropriately called “Father”
Priests are successors to the Apostles
Bishops have special authority
The authority of the Church and its councils is infallible
The Church has authority to excommunicate and to pronounce anathemas
Priests have authority to cast out demons (exorcism)
Unity is vital to the Church/ denominationalism and divisiveness
Sinners are part of the Church in an imperfect fashion
Sacred buildings of worship are worthy of extravagant beauty
Churches and sacred sites are “holy places”
Sacred items are part of worship

3. The Authority of Popes
(84 Passages)

Peter was the first pope
Peter's letters are like papal encyclicals
St. Peter acted as a pope
Scripture offers examples of the infallibility of individuals

4. The Theology of Salvation
(473 Passages)

We are saved through grace
Salvation is not by faith alone
Salvation is not by works alone
Grace, faith, works, action, and obedience lead to salvation [50 Passages]
Final judgment is always associated with works [50 Passages]
Some sins are more serious than others
Quantifiable differences in grace
Our merit is based on our response to God’s grace
We are God's coworkers
We can participate in the distribution of grace and in the salvation of others
The Psalms proclaim God's righteousness
God enables and establishes human righteousness (Psalms) [50 Passages]
The Psalms speak of human righteousness
God's grace enables us to be righteous (prophets)
Sanctification is part of salvation [50 Passages]
Faith shows itself in obedience and in good works
Salvation is a process and not absolutely assured
We may have a vigilant moral assurance of salvation with perseverance, in hope

5. Purgatory
(58 Passages)

Perfect holiness requires purification [50 Passages]
We should pray for the dead

6. The Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass
(47 Passages)

The Last Supper was the first Mass
Jesus teaches us about the Eucharist
The Mass is a sacrifice

7. The Sacrament of Baptism
(46 Passages)

Our sins are washed away in Baptism
Infants were baptized even in the early Church
Infants are part of the covenant and salvation

8. The Sacrament of Confirmation
(59 Passages)

The Holy Spirit descends upon persons
Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit
Persons may be “filled” with the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit comes through the laying on of hands
We are "sealed” with the Holy Spirit
Persons are anointed with oil for a sacred purpose or to receive the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit received through authoritative persons

9. The Sacrament of Anointing
(18 Passages)

Priests anoint with oil to heal
The laying on of hands can bring healing
Some who touched Christ were healed
Spiritual benefit in healing (demoniacs)

10. Sacramentals, Liturgy, and Devotional Practice
(235 Passages)

Formal prayer is not “vain repetition”
Holy water
Candles and incense
Fasting, abstinence, and Lent [50 Passages]
We use ashes to show our penitence
We must examine our consciences
Almsgiving is more than mere tithing
We show reverence by genuflecting and kneeling in God's presence
Priests may impart blessings
Relics can be channels of grace and healing
Physical objects can aid us in worship

11. Penance, Redemptive Suffering, and Atonement on Behalf of Others
(37 Passages)

We may make atonement
Our sufferings can be penitential and redemptive

12. Angels and the Communion of Saints
(66 Passages)

Dead saints have returned to earth
We should venerate saints and angels
Saints and angels intercede for us
Guardian angels watch over us
Men have spoken to angels (analogy to intercession of the saints)

13. The Blessed Virgin Mary
(54 Passages)

Jesus was Mary's only child
Mary was free from sin from the moment of conception
Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven

14. Marriage and Sexuality
(115 Passages)

Matrimony reflects the relationship between Christ and his Church
Marriage is indissoluble
Premarital sex and cohabitation are not permissible
Annulment is not Catholic divorce
Homosexual acts are not permissible
Contraception is not permissible

15. Abortion
(87 Passages)

The child in the womb is fully a person
Killing the innocent is forbidden
Child sacrifice is an abomination
It is sinful to perform or even to support abortion
We must rescue children being led to slaughter


The aim of this book is very simple (hence the short introduction), and it reflects much of the emphasis in my Catholic apologetic efforts for the last 18 years. I want to provide the biblical rationale for Catholic beliefs. The subject matter is as endless as the riches, wisdom, and depths of the Bible itself.

My immediate goal is to simply present categorized Bible passages. My own commentary will be kept to a minimum and used only in instances where I am straightforwardly reiterating what Holy Scripture itself states, noting relevant contextual considerations, Greek or Hebrew meanings of words (as explicated by linguistic scholars), or scriptural cross-references.

I have, of course, selected the passages and classified them. Insofar as I did that, I was engaging in “systematic theology.” Human input (something beyond God’s own words) is necessary as soon as one goes beyond simply placing a Bible on a table in front of someone and saying, “read all of this: it completely supports what Catholics teach.” In all reasonable argumentation whatever, selective presentation takes place, and in systematic theology, it is necessary to locate the relevant biblical texts and to collect them for the purpose of illustrating that “the Bible teaches thus and so about this particular topic.” And that involves judgment, which in turn includes a bias.

In that sense, this book is not just the Bible. My input and editing and orthodox Catholic presuppositions are present. But the central, essential focus is “just the Bible.” Holy, Sacred Scripture is thoroughly “Catholic,” as I hope to demonstrate in great detail. Praise God for His wonderful, materially sufficient revelation and His aid in helping us to understand and live by it.

Some Catholic teachings are less well-attested by direct scriptural indications than others. Yet I believe that those doctrines are also “soaked” in the spirit of the Bible. The comprehensive selection of texts herein repeatedly demonstrates this, in my opinion. A multitude of pointers can be as compelling as a single unambiguous signpost, to show us our way. Readers are free to decide the relative strength of individual textual evidence.

Reading these extracts in their full context is even more rewarding and illuminating. The Bible is a harmonious whole: “living and active”, and should be interpreted as such, rather than picked apart into fragments. For the purpose of systematic doctrinal study, however, it is quite helpful to categorize texts. Moreover, Catholics emphasize that the Bible is organically related to the tradition and the Church in which it is received and interpreted. If this book helps readers to move beyond arguments into a deeper appreciation of the Word of God, in which lies our salvation, I will be more than happy.

For my purposes in this work, I’ve chosen the Authorised (King James Version) of the Bible, due to its familiarity among Protestants. Its lofty, poetic prose is deeply embedded in the heritage of English literature and thinking, and Catholic readers will also find it inspiring. In cases of archaic expression, I have clarified in parentheses with the Revised Standard Version: one of the most accurate and beloved modern translations.

Lastly, Catholics and Protestants notoriously disagree as to which books constitute the biblical canon. The number of the inspired books accepted by the universal Church prior to the onset of Protestantism was disputed by Martin Luther and other non-Catholic Christians, and seven books were eventually omitted altogether in most Protestant editions of the Bible, or included separately as sub-canonical “apocryphal” texts. Some of these refer directly to distinctively Catholic doctrines (most notably, purgatory). I’ve included relatively few citations from these “disputed” books, but for the Catholic, they are Scripture, too, and ought not be excluded. If the non-Catholic reader wishes to pass over them, more than ample texts remain as “evidences.”

* * * * * * * * *

Purchase Options:
 Paperback from Sophia Institute Press

 Paperback from

Sophia E-Book ($9.95)

Last updated on 18 July 2015.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"The Proverbs 31 Drunk" (Huh??!!)

By Dave Armstrong (3-17-09)

Proverbs 31:4-7 (RSV)

[4] It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to desire strong drink;
[5] lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
[6] Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
[7] let them drink and forget their poverty,
and remember their misery no more.
My first thought in reaction to this is 1 Timothy 5:23:
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
So there is clearly a "medicinal motif" in Scripture; even in the New Covenant. The cross-reference works with regard to Prov 31:6, but not so well with 31:7: "let them drink and forget their poverty." That is the fascinating part. I guess I would suspect that it is saying to drink to some extent to forget miseries; though not to the extent of getting drunk and out of control, which is condemned in many places in Scripture.

It's also interesting that in 31:5 the "strong drink" when taken by kings is said to lead to oppression of his subjects, whereas the same thing for the poor person is almost a balm to help them forget their "misery": scarcely any different than the philosophy of a million down-and-outers (including non-alcoholics) at any given local pub. What would the temperance people and the teetotallers say about this??!! The same Paul writes in the same book:
1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, . . . (cf. 3:3; Titus 1:7)

And elsewhere:
Romans 13:13 let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.

1 Corinthians 5:11 But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber -- not even to eat with such a one.

1 Corinthians 6:10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit,
St. Peter agrees:
1 Peter 4:3 Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.
Proverbs itself condemns drunkenness:
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

Proverbs 23:20-21
Be not among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.

Proverbs 26:10 Like an archer who wounds everybody is he who hires a passing fool or drunkard.
Yet it is by no means against wine per se:
Proverbs 3:10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding. Therefore, the Bible is in no way, shape, or form, against all alcoholic drinks whatsoever. That said, how do we interpret Proverbs 31:7?

A Catholic Commentary on Scripture, edited by Dom Bernard Orchard (London: Thomas Nelson: 1953) states this (p. 488):
Two proper occasions for the use of wine, bodily suffering and mental distress; cf. Ps 103 (104), 15.
Here is the cross-reference:
Psalm 104:14-15 Thou dost cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man's heart.
Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary (1859) confirms what I suspected would be the case:
Ver. 6. Drink. Hebrew shecar, particularly palm-wine. --- Are sad. Hebrew, "perish," being sentenced to die; (Mark xv. 23., and Amos ii. 8.) or, who grieve and mourn for one deceased. On such occasions no food was prepared in the house, but the friends supplied what was necessary, and went to eat and drink with the afflicted, Ecclesiastes vii. 3.

Ver. 7. More. Not that intoxication is permitted even to them.
In effect, then, it seems that for the ancient Hebrews and early Christians, consuming wine had (among other things) a medicinal use (Paul's suggestion for stomach problems; Prov 31:6) and in severe situations, a function as an anti-depressant or stress reliever (Prov 31:7); though in both cases, it's not sanctioned to the extent of becoming drunk, which is condemned throughout Scripture. Today we have anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pills and candy and caffeine and so forth, that help us at various periods; back then it was wine. I see no essential difference, unless it is used excessively, leading to a drunken (therefore irresponsible) state.

Navarre Bible, an orthodox work, unfortunately offers no specific commentary on Proverbs 31:6-7.

Eerdmans Bible Commentary (1987 edition, p. 569) states:
Drink is the anodyne of the hopeless -- there is no excuse for it for those who are not in this condition (vv. 6, 7).
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary of 1864 opines:
The proper use of such drinks is to restore tone to feeble bodies and depressed minds (cf. Ps. 104:15).
John Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, writes simply:
To perish -- To faint; for such need a cordial.
Famous Presbyterian commentator Matthew Henry chimes in:
v. 6, 7. "Thou hast wine or strong drink at command; instead of doing thyself hurt with it, do others good with it; let those have it that need it.’’ Those that have wherewithal must not only give bread to the hungry and water to the thirsty, but they must give strong drink to him that is ready to perish through sickness or pain and wine to those that are melancholy and of heavy heart; for it was appointed to cheer and revive the spirits, and make glad the heart (as it does where there is need of it), not to burden and oppress the spirits, as it does where there is no need of it. We must deny ourselves in the gratifications of sense, that we may have to spare for the relief of the miseries of others, and be glad to see our superfluities and dainties better bestowed upon those whom they will be a real kindness to than upon ourselves whom they will be a real injury to. Let those that are ready to perish drink soberly, and it will be a means so to revive their drooping spirits that they will forget their poverty for the time and remember their misery no more, and so they will be the better able to bear it. The Jews say that upon this was grounded the practice of giving a stupifying drink to condemned prisoners when they were going to execution, as they did to our Saviour. But the scope of the place is to show that wine is a cordial, and therefore to be used for want and not for wantonness, by those only that need cordials, as Timothy, who is advised to drink a little wine, only for his stomach’s sake and his often infirmities, 1 Tim. 5:23.
I think we get the general idea now. The passage poses no problem whatever for Christian ethics or biblical inspiration.

Friday, March 13, 2009

How Much Can a Catholic Disagree with the Church?

By Dave Armstrong (3-13-09)

A Protestant asked: "Is my understanding correct that, as long as there is submission and no attempt at sabotaging unity, some disagreement is okay?"

My reply follows:

* * * * *

Basically, the "line" is where the Church has established a dogma or solidly established doctrine. Most theological issues have been settled, and Catholics are not really free to disagree. They can have doubts, and not understand everything perfectly (who does, anyway?), but they are required to submit to all that the Church has decreed, and not only to not dissent in public, but even give internal assent. Most of the liberal dissidents are dissenting on matters of long since settled dogma (contraception, female priests, papal infallibility, various moral and sexual issues, etc.).

Some areas have not been settled. One classic example is the Thomist-Molinist disagreement on predestination, and exactly how God does that. Does He take into consideration foreseen actions of men in predestining the elect, using His middle knowledge, which is part of His omniscience)? The Molinists (my guys!) say that he does. Thomists disagree with that notion and are closer to the Calvinist position in that respect. No orthodox Catholic, however, believes that God predestines the damned to hell apart from their own free choice. The Church allows both positions, and hasn't settled it (probably because it is just about the deepest mystery in Christian theology).

One thing that has come up in recent years is capital punishment. The Church has not forbidden it altogether (indeed, it could not, because it believes in just war and police and prosecution of criminals). But recently, popes have taken a strong stand against it in almost all cases. Catholics ought to give the highest respect to the opinions of popes, expressed in official documents, even if they are not infallible. But a Catholic can still personally be in favor of capital punishment. My own position is to be against it in most cases, but to favor it in the very worst cases (mass murderers, etc.).

Another area is individual wars. The last two popes basically opposed the Iraq War. I respectfully disagreed with them, and as far as I know, I am allowed to do so (I wrote two papers about that). The reason is that popes do not have all the information in secret intelligence that states have. They take a position as peacemakers, by the nature of their job, but they recognize the jurisdiction of governments, according to Romans 13. It's not like abortion, where there is no argument whatever. As long as there is such a thing as a just war: at least in theory, then states can declare wars. The Church has not stated that they cannot do so. And honest, good men can disagree over whether a particular war is just or mostly just, or not.

I would argue, for example, that the Iraq War is many times more just in its execution than World War II was: when we fire-bombed and nuked cities and killed many thousands of non-combatant civilians (Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki). But in the Iraqi War we have "smart bombs" that are so exact that the highest care is taken to hit military targets. It's not perfect, but it's a great deal morally better than our methods in the 1940s. That would be one argument (which has considerable power, I think, because most people accept the overall validity of the Allied position in WWII, in opposing Hitler).

We can differ on methods and approaches and levels or degrees of things: for example, in ecumenical matters. We can have differences of opinion on matters of liturgy and custom and discipline.

The easiest way to analyze this is to bring up some specific examples that can be discussed. But I can tell you that most of the "major" issues are settled by the Church and dissent is essentially disobedience to the Church.

Your post suggests a whole lot more freedom than I would have thought. Ane, your Catechism passage suggests that blind obedience is not an option; that the Church requires thought and the application of conscience.

The "trick" is to maintain an orthodox balance: between the almost unlimited so-called "freedom" of (in a vastly-abused sense) "conscience" of the liberal, dissident, modernist Catholic, and the caricature of "no freedom of thought at all" / mindless / blind faith / obedient slave stereotype that we often hear from atheists and anti-Catholic Protestants alike, as if Catholicism remotely resembled that.

The true Catholic position is a freedom within orthodoxy: a freedom with sensible limits. G. K. Chesterton made an analogy of children playing on a hilltop that has steep cliffs all around. If there is no fence around the edge, they are always worried about falling over and so can't really enjoy themselves. With a fence they feel safe and secure and don't have to worry about falling over the edge and killing or seriously injuring themselves.

The fence is dogma and orthodoxy. The top of the hill is the Church, and the children are us! And of course, falling over represents heresy, schism, and damnation (and overall human unhappiness and unfulfillment).

Bingo! And that makes me feel better about asking all these questions. Not because I'm trying to foment rebellion, but because I'm looking for safety. Y'know, Chesterton was so smart, I'll bet we could find some Ukrainian lineage in him. And, Boss, you look like you have a genetic predisposition to borsht and garlic, too. (those are compliments, by the way).

I love garlic but it kills my stomach . . . Does that mean I ain't Ukrainian? My first girlfriend was, though (which must count for sumpin' huh?).

* * *

On 23 September 2010, I wrote the following on the CHNI discussion forum:

One can also distinguish between acceptance of Catholic doctrines on the authority of the Church (assent and implied agreement to not dispute them in public) and not knowing all the ins and outs of them (not having full understanding). I would argue that this is actually the case for virtually every Catholic, since there is so much depth and fullness in theology that one person can hardly know everything there is to know about all of it.

But if you accept by the authority of the Catholic Church that what it teaches is true, because it is protected by the Holy Spirit from error (itself an act of faith, but not without reason) then you can accept also (as part of the overall "package"), doctrines or practices that you don't fully understand. It's all in how you approach it.

If a person withdraws assent because they haven't totally figured out some particular doctrine(s); if they think it is their burden to arrive at all true theology by being the final arbiter in each doctrinal case, then they are still in the driver's seat. That is what is called "private judgment" and is a thoroughly Protestant attitude. If someone thinks like that, they are not yet Catholic and ought not formally become a member, because they could hardly even say the words required to do so.

But if one says, "I don't fully understand doctrines x, y, and z, but I have seen enough to know and believe that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, and has an authority and understanding far above my own; therefore, I give assent to doctrines x, y, and z on her authority and will cease disputing about them -- all the while seeking to better understand them and their rationale as time goes on."

One with this latter attitude can become a Catholic in good conscience. There is no conflict or cognitive dissonance or "dueling opinions" taking place.

Random Thoughts on Catholic Social Teaching

By Dave Armstrong (3-13-09)

Brought on by various comments and questions on the CHNI board (in different colors below):

On the spectrum of socialism to capitalism, where would the teaching of the Catholic Church lie?

I think it is really a "third way," as I have argued in the past. It has the social conscience that Democrats have traditionally had: for the "little guy" etc. (except, of course, for the "littlest guys" of all -- in the womb: for whom they have zero concern), while it rejects the current obsession of Democrats with near-socialism and immoral personal practices (mostly in the sexual realm). It likes the local control (subsidiarity) and emphasis on traditional moral tenets that (conservative) Republicans stress, so it has elements of both parties or political persuasions, and adds further elements not stressed by either.

Classic capitalism or classic liberalism (Adam Smith, Jefferson et al) was as much a child of the Enlightenment as it was of Christianity: and much of the Christian influence was Protestant: and much of that was theologically liberal. So obviously, a Catholic has to modify that quite a bit to make it conform to our theological beliefs.

So, I can count my taxes now as part of my tithe? Are you saying it is moral to take from one person and give to another without their agreeing to such a transfer? Where is the "goodness" in that?

I don't think all compulsion is necessarily a bad thing. If one argues that part of the legitimate role of government is to provide some safety net for the poor, the elderly, the disabled (as I would), then the money has to come from somewhere. Granted, the government has not shown itself to be a very efficient or intelligent utilizer of monetary funds (to put it very mildly), but a case can be made that is quite consistent with Catholicism.

And it is apparently not a true statement of de Tocqueville's that "America is great because America is good." Or so I've heard.

America is good? Not anymore: not as a general statement. Many individual Americans are good, and many of our policies remain good, but overall, we are pushing many wicked things.

Where in our Constitution does it make it a government responsibility to assure everyone's success and well-being?

Good question. The general American tradition then and now was towards individual autonomy (which fits in excellently with Protestantism, secularism, and libertarianism alike: all hostile to varying degrees to Catholicism). But I think there are probably mentions here and there of a corporate responsibility.

I'm not tracking with this at all.... I would much prefer to keep my own money and give it to the people I choose to give it to. Government is far too inclined toward fraud, bad decisions, poor use of resources, and waste. Just read the news.

Indeed. But government has many legitimate functions. We just need to reform it. Putting the Democrats massively in power was the very last way that will be accomplished. So we'll have to learn the hard way again.

* * *

The question remains for me, "Whose responsibility is it to care for the poor and needy?" To whom has God given this requirement?

According to the Bible and the Church, all of us. But I wouldn't pit that against government altogether, as if it is utterly contradictory. I think government can possibly be an effective agent in the institutionalization of care for the poor and needy. It has done that in some ways (social security; medical care for the poor, where it is available; in the past: labor laws and so forth): in others it has done an atrocious job (Great Society, welfare, free access to abortion)

If The Church is not doing it, then She is in grave danger of judgment.........(already evidenced I believe............due to the overwhelming number of people who are now getting "free money").

I agree.

Didn't Jesus tell us that Our Father will give us everything we need? (Well....yes.... one must be in communion with Him and living a responsible and holy life).

Yes, but that can be taken to extremes, to justify irresponsibility.

Government doesn't require us to live a holy life or even be responsible for ourselves..........why would anyone want to live a holy life when one can get everything they need from the government without ever having to come under the authority of The Church?

Even Bill Clinton reformed welfare. He knew it had been a failure. Seems to me that any sane, conscious person would know that, if they looked at the statistics of what has been accomplished by it.

In my opinion, The Church is abandoning souls to Hell by giving over Her responsibilities to the government.........

I don't see it that starkly. I think there can be a very fruitful partnership if it is done right. But it won't happen under Democratic control, because the Democrats uphold too many immoral practices. It's unlikely in any event, given the rampant secularism and theological ignorance in our culture.

Ohhhhhh, but we say......." the Church isn't doing enough ........people aren't giving enough money, so we have to MAKE the people give their money by taking it away from them . The government will see that the money goes to the people who need it most, and we won't have to worry about it annnnnnnny.................more!"

In some ways, that is true. People don't give enough money unless they are either compelled or cajoled with some sort of strong persuasion. That's why tithing is so popular in Protestant circles, because it is a sort of compulsion and automatic figure that can be counted on. That makes it easy to promulgate and raise money, when in fact, the biblical view is (in my opinion far different:

"Biblical Evidence Against Tithing and in Favor of Progressive Giving According to Ability"

There comes a day when OH YES, we will have to worry on earth and come Judgment Day.................

We need to vote for people whose beliefs line up with traditional morality. That certainly didn't happen in 2008, so there will be a price to pay for it.

* * *

It's not Catholic to totally oppose our own government. We need to reform it and do all we can to make sure it makes moral law, but not totally oppose it. That is libertarianism or anarchism: quite foreign to Catholicism.

And it's very biblical, too. Romans 13 makes it clear that government (generally speaking) is an agent for good, and "servant of God." We all know that doesn't always happen. But many times it does, and shows the possibilities. We can't just give all government to Satan, anymore than we should do that in any area of life. Rather, reform it and vote in the right people!: don't despair altogether, as if all government were the moral equivalent of Nero and Hannibal and Hitler and Stalin.

* * *

Would it have been correct to oppose Hitler or Stalin?

Absolutely. Catholics also are strong advocates of conscientious objection. They did that with Nero and Hitler and were slaughtered by the thousands as a result. The Catholic Church was in favor of Operation Rescue. I was a Protestant when I was involved that, and say next to archbishops at rallies. Meanwhile, Protestants like Norman Geisler opposed it. We believe that the evil government is to be opposed and reformed, not that all government is evil.

Were their governments agents for good?

No. But many governments are (for the most part), and the institution of government generally is. The Bible says so. It ain't just me sayin' it. You can't take the worst-case scenarios and then argue that all governments are inherently evil because there was a Hitler and a Stalin.

Perhaps as a lesson for posterity, but certainly not for the millions and millions of people they killed.

One thing I've learned in my conversion to the CC is that the verses I used to take 100% literally as a protestant were not always intended to be understood that way. Some governments must be opposed and I believe that the direction this one is going right now will destroy this country. To the extent I am able, I will speak out and oppose current policies. I guess it depends on what "oppose" means...

You can oppose any evil, and are not subject to it. But you're taking it too far by seeming to be almost totally "anti-government." That is the libertarian principle, not the Catholic outlook.

I do think compulsion by a government is a bad thing, or can be. It makes us all poorer. I don't think the govt's legitimate role is to provide a safety net. I truly believe that God gave us all those other entities I mentioned - family, neighbors, churches, and charities - to meet our needs.

Me too, but human beings being the sinners they are, and usually selfishly oriented, they usually don't. So the question becomes: "what do we do now?" There was incredible suffering during the real Depression in the 1930s, before there was any institutional safety net. I doubt that the churches could have alleviated all that even if they wanted to. Government never ended the Depression (WWII did that), but it did prevent many people from starving to death.

In our town, for example, there is a senior citizens mobile home park. It's a very nice park, nice trees, pool, clubhouse, etc. Due to the rising cost of keeping the park nice, the space rent is going up. The seniors are outraged! Perhaps it is difficult for them to come up with an additional $15 per month in rent. That may well be. But they're calling for rent control. Where are those seniors' families?? See, I think this is what happens when people begin to look to the government for their needs.

People tend to dichotomize and think in either/or terms. I want government and faith communities to work together. Democrats usually oppose that. Many Republicans are equally secularized, or libertarian. Libertarianism is the big trend today in both parties. So we need to vote folks like that out.

The family connection is totally broken. How many of you reading this would not find a way to give your parents $15 a month so that they could meet this rent increase? And if the renters work together, they could voluntarily help each other out.

It shouldn't be broken. I agree.

And if that still isn't enough, there are charities in this town who might - though in the current economic mess, less likely - be able to help, too. But rent control? If I were the landlord, you'd bet the pool would come out, the clubhouse would be closed, and the trees would never be trimmed.

You just can't MAKE people be good. At some point, they'll begin to resent it.

I agree again. But it is a social good to provide the needs of those who are in sad situations through no fault of their own. To do that, some compulsion or at least very strong persuasion is necessary.

I consider myself a generous person, but I HATE it when someone steals my wealth to give to others.
You think every tax known to man is "stealing"?

Come and talk to me; let your needs be known. I'll probably be very helpful to you. But to take it under threat of force is not right.

I'm sure you are generous. But fundraising of any sort generally doesn't work by simply announcing a need. People don't respond (and I know that also from much firsthand experience, which I won't go into). They have to be cajoled and bombarded with persuasive techniques: Madison Ave.-type stuff. That's a fact of life, and why we see those tactics so often whenever anyone needs to raise money. It's the crisis letter; the emotional appeal to the heartstrings. And that is because people don't voluntarily, cheerfully give, simply upon hearing of a need that they agree is important to meet.

My bottom line question is this: What of this is Church doctrine and something I must, as a good Catholic, believe in order to understand someday, and what of it is just politics?

I think in this thread many folks have shown the proper balance between our faith and government. As I said above, Catholic social teaching is a third way: very different from the platforms of either party in the US, but with similarities to some emphasized aspects of both.

If people insist on putting allegiance in either the Democrats or Republicans or America over against the Bible and the Church, they are free to do so. But they'll get nowhere fast. I'm as far from a political "liberal" as can be imagined. But I'm also far from a political conservative: which is precisely the overall point I am trying to make: that Catholic socio-political teaching is a third way, not so easily categorized according to the fashionable divisions today.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Biblical Evidence Against Contraception and for the Blessing of Many Children

By Dave Armstrong (3-9-09)

Genesis 38:8-10
Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also.

This involved what is known as the “levirate law”: the duty to produce offspring with the wife of a dead brother. But this is not why God killed Onan, since the penalty for that was public humiliation and shunning, not death (Deut 25:5-10). Context also supports this interpretation, since immediately after this (Gen. 38:11-26), is the story of Onan’s father Judah refusing to enforce the law and allow his other son, Shelah to produce a child with Tamar, his daughter-in-law. He was afraid that Shelah would be killed like Onan and his other wicked son, Er (38:7,11). Judah acknowledges his sin in 38:26: “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” He wasn’t killed, so it is unreasonable to contend that Onan was judged and killed by God for the very same sin that Judah committed (in the same passage). Onan was judged for contraception (sex with the deliberate intent to unnaturally prevent procreation).

There are a host of other biblical passages which exalt fertility and the blessing of many children, and the curse of none. Married couples are to “be fruitful and multiply”; this is a blessing:

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, . . .” (cf. 9:1,7)

Genesis 28:3 God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples.

Genesis 35:11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you.” (cf. Dan 3:35-36)

Deuteronomy 7:13-14 he will love you, bless you, and multiply you; he will also bless the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, in the land which he swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.

Psalm 107:38 By his blessing they multiply greatly; . . . (cf. Is 48:18-19; Jer 29:6; 30:19-20; 33:22; Ezek 36:10-12; Bar 2:34)

Psalm 115:14 May the LORD give you increase, you and your children! (cf. 105:24)

Psalm 128:3-4 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Lo, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.

Proverbs 17:6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of sons is their fathers. (cf. 11:30; Sir 44:13,21)

Barrenness is contrary to blessing and “glory”:

Exodus 23:25-26 You shall serve the LORD your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you. None shall cast her young or be barren in your land; . . .

Jeremiah 18:21 Therefore deliver up their children to famine; give them over to the power of the sword, let their wives become childless and widowed. . . .

Hosea 9:11 E'phraim's glory shall fly away like a bird -- no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!

Procreation is central to marriage:

Malachi 2:14-15 You ask, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth.

Childbearing is so sacred that women are even said to be “saved” by it:

1 Timothy 2:15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

It is God Who opens and closes wombs and causes a conception to occur:

Genesis 20:17-18 Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abim'elech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abim'elech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.

Genesis 29:31 When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

Genesis 30:2, 22-24 Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” . . . Then God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach”; and she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the LORD add to me another son!”

Exodus 1:21 And because the midwives feared God he gave them families.

Joshua 24:3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac;

Ruth 4:13 So Bo'az took Ruth and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.

1 Samuel 1:5 and, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the LORD had closed her womb.

Job 10:8, 11 Thy hands fashioned and made me; and now thou dost turn about and destroy me. . . . Thou didst clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. (cf. 12:10)

Job 31:15 Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?

Psalm 113:9 He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!

Ecclesiastes 11:5 As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

Isaiah 44:2 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: . . . (cf. 44:24; 54:1-3; Ezek 36:37; 2 Mac 7:22-23)

Children are a gift from God and a blessing:

Genesis 17:16, 20 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her . . . As for Ish'mael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. (cf. Deut 30:9,15-16; Is 51:2)

Genesis 29:32-33 And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also”; and she called his name Simeon.

Genesis 33:5 And when Esau raised his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”

1 Chronicles 25:5 “All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him; for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.”

Psalm 127:3-5 Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! . . . (cf. 72:16; 113:9)

Tobit 4:12 . . . Remember, my son, that Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our fathers of old, all took wives from among their brethren. They were blessed in their children, and their posterity will inherit the land. (cf. Sir 25:7)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Bible's Teaching on Abortion

By Dave Armstrong (3-8-09)

[all verses: RSV. Passages in blue are not included in my book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths; and the Bible version in the book is KJV rather than RSV]


Genesis 16:11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ish'mael; because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.”

Genesis 19:36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.

Genesis 25:1-2 And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her; . . .

Genesis 38:24 . . . she is with child by harlotry. . . . “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child” . . . .

Numbers 5:28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

Judges 16:17 And he told her all his mind, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. . . .”

Ruth 1:11 Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?

2 Samuel 11:5 And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am with child.” (cf. 2 Ki 8:12; 15:16; Ecc 11:5; Amos 1:13)

2 Kings 19:3 They said to him, “Thus says Hezeki'ah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth.”

Job 3:3 . . . “A man-child is conceived.”

Job 3:16 Or why was I not as a hidden untimely birth, as infants that never see the light?

Job 31:18 (for from his youth I reared him as a father, and from his mother's womb I guided him);

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 102:18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD:

Psalm 139:13-16 For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Song of Solomon 8:2 I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

Isaiah 49:1, 5 . . . The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. . . . And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, . . . (cf. 44:2,24)

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Hosea 12:3 In the womb he took his brother by the heel, . . .

Tobit 4:4 Remember, my son, that she faced many dangers for you while you were yet unborn. . . .

Wisdom 7:1 I also am mortal, like all men, a descendant of the first-formed child of earth; and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh,

Sirach 49:7 . . . he had been consecrated in the womb as prophet, . . .

2 Maccabees 7:22-23 I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws

2 Maccabees 7:27 . . . I carried you nine months in my womb, . . .

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit;

Matthew 18:10 See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 24:19 And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! (cf. Mk 13:17)

Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Luke 1:15 . . . he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.

Luke 1:35-36 And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.

Luke 1:44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.

Luke 2:5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Luke 2:21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Romans 9:10 And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,

Galatians 1:15 . . . he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,


Exodus 21:22 When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

Exodus 23:7 . . . do not slay the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.

Numbers 35:30 If any one kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness.

Deuteronomy 19:13 . . . you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you. (cf. 19:10; 21:8-9)

Deuteronomy 27:25 Cursed be he who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person . . .

2 Kings 14:6 . . . the LORD commanded, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, or the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall die for his own sin.” (cf. Dt 24:16)

2 Kings 21:16 Moreover Manas'seh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, . . .

2 Kings 24:4 and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD would not pardon.

Psalm 9:12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

Isaiah 26:21 For behold the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.

Jeremiah 2:34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of guiltless poor; . . .

Jeremiah 7:6-7 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever. (cf. 22:3,17)

Jeremiah 19:4 Because the people have forsaken me, and have profaned this place by burning incense in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents,

Jeremiah 22:17 But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence. (cf. Ezek 9:9; 22:4; 35:6; 36:18)

Joel 3:19 Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.

1 Maccabees 2:37 . . . Let us all die in our innocence; heaven and earth testify for us that you are killing us unjustly.

Matthew 23:37-38 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! . . . . . Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.

Revelation 19:2 For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and he has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.


Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 20:2-3 Say to the people of Israel, Any man of the people of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, who gives any of his children to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name.

Deuteronomy 12:31 . . . every abominable thing which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

2 Kings 16:2-3 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

2 Kings 17:17-18 And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings, and used divination and sorcery, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah only.

2 Kings 23:10 And he defiled To'pheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.

2 Chronicles 28:3 and he burned incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burned his sons as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

2 Chronicles 33:6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and practiced soothsaying and augury and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

Psalm 106:36-39 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the harlot in their doings.

Jeremiah 7:31-32 And they have built the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere.

Jeremiah 19:5 and have built the high places of Ba'al to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Ba'al, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind;

Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Ba'al in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Ezekiel 16:20-21 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?

Ezekiel 16:36 Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your shame was laid bare and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotries with your lovers, and because of all your idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them,

Ezekiel 20:21 When you offer your gifts and sacrifice your sons by fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. . . .

Ezekiel 20:31 When you offer your gifts and sacrifice your sons by fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, says the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.

Ezekiel 23:37-39 For they have committed adultery, and blood is upon their hands; with their idols they have committed adultery; and they have even offered up to them for food the sons whom they had borne to me. Moreover this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my sabbaths. For when they had slaughtered their children in sacrifice to their idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it. And lo, this is what they did in my house.

Wisdom 12:3-6 Those who dwelt of old in thy holy land thou didst hate for their detestable practices, their works of sorcery and unholy rites, their merciless slaughter of children, and their sacrificial feasting on human flesh and blood. These initiates from the midst of a heathen cult, these parents who murder helpless lives, thou didst will to destroy by the hands of our fathers,


Exodus 1:15-17 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiph'rah and the other Pu'ah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.

2 Kings 8:12 And Haz'ael said, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel; you will set on fire their fortresses, and you will slay their young men with the sword, and dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their women with child.”

2 Kings 15:16 At that time Men'ahem sacked Tappuah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, therefore he sacked it, and he ripped up all the women in it who were with child.

Psalm 5:6 Thou destroyest those who speak lies; the LORD abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.

Psalm 10:2-11 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his heart, and the man greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD. In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times; thy judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. He thinks in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the hapless, he lurks in secret like a lion in his covert; he lurks that he may seize the poor, he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. The hapless is crushed, sinks down, and falls by his might. He thinks in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Psalm 94:20-21 Can wicked rulers be allied with thee, who frame mischief by statute? They band together against the life of the righteous, and condemn the innocent to death.

Proverbs 1:10-11 My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us wantonly ambush the innocent;

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.

Proverbs 29:10 Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless, and the wicked seek his life.

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 13:18 Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children.

Isaiah 57:4-5 . . . Are you not children of transgression, the offspring of deceit, you who burn with lust among the oaks, under every green tree; who slay your children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks?

Isaiah 59:7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways.

Hosea 4:2 there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder.

Amos 1:13 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have ripped up women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their border.

Wisdom 1:12-14 Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands; because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

Wisdom 14:22-26 Afterward it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but they live in great strife due to ignorance, and they call such great evils peace. For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries, or hold frenzied revels with strange customs, they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery, and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury, confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, pollution of souls, sex perversion, disorder in marriage, adultery, and debauchery.

Sirach 8:7 Do not rejoice over any one's death; remember that we all must die.

1 John 3:15 . . . and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Revelation 9:21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their immorality or their thefts.

Revelation 12:4 . . . 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;

Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.


Psalm 82:2-4 How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Proverbs 24:10-12 If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not requite man according to his work?

Proverbs 31:8 Open your mouth for the dumb [i.e., those who can’t speak], for the rights of all who are left desolate.

Jeremiah 22:3 Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (cf. Tobit 1:17)