Friday, September 25, 2009

How the Crucifixion is Timeless (Sacrifice of the Mass)

By Dave Armstrong (9-25-09) 

Jesus is both God and Man. He has a human nature and a Divine Nature. The human nature could be subject to time. He was born in history, was killed on a certain date, etc.

But God, by nature, is eternal and outside of time, so in His Divine Nature, the crucifixion is timeless and ongoing. That's why we can speak of His death as both historical and ongoing, and how the Sacrifice of the Mass can occur now as a present reality. And it is why, after His Resurrection and Ascension, the Apostle John could still refer to Him as follows:

Revelation 5:6 (RSV) And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, . . .

Many Protestants (particularly Calvinists) appear to minimize the Divine Nature element of the crucifixion, and so they deny that Jesus could be present at the Mass because now He is up in heaven. This is almost akin to the ancient heresy of Nestorianism (that separated the two natures of Jesus too greatly; almost making Him two persons).

Well, if we ignore the fact that He is also God as well as man, we come up with that, but for a God Who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and beyond time (and Jesus is God and has all those qualities in His Divine Nature), the miracle of the Sacrifice of the Mass is entirely plausible, possible, and biblically sanctioned. The following passage seems to suggest a sort of transcendence of time in this regard:

1 Peter 1:18-20 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, [19] but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. [20] He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake.

What God decrees or ordains or predestines, He does from all eternity (outside of time altogether). All Christians are pretty much agreed on that. Therefore, the crucifixion (an event ordained from eternity and directed towards the God-Man Who willingly sacrificed Himself), has the same characteristics. It has a timeless element, as both a decree from God (the Father) and an act of God (the Son). God died on the cross. Hence the following passage (again, appropriately, from St. Peter, the first pope), where we clearly observe the intersection of God's timeless plan and foreordination, and human history and actions:

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

I had this thought a few nights ago, in a great discussion with a good friend of mine. I believe it is orthodox, with nothing objectionable. I'd like to pursue it further and see if I can find someone else who makes this argument. I'm sure someone has. I'm not gonna come up with anything totally new, for sure. It has always been thought of before by someone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Biblical Evidence for Holy Days

By Dave Armstrong (9-21-09)

[all passages RSV]

St. Paul gives believers freedom to think one day "better than another":

Romans 14:5-6a One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. [6] He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. . . .

By analogy to the Old Covenant and early Christian adherence to its particulars, the Church has the prerogative to set mandatory holy days. Moreover, there is biblical evidence for the notion of a holy day. The most obvious is the Sabbath itself:

Exodus 16:23 he said to them, "This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD . . .

Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

Exodus 31:15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD (cf. 35:2; Lev 23:3; Deut 5:12-13; Neh 13:22; Is 58:13; Jer 17:22, 24, 27)

Leviticus 23:8 . . . on the seventh day is a holy convocation . . .

Additional days are described as especially "holy" too:

Leviticus 23:15-16, 21 "And you shall count from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven full weeks shall they be, [16] counting fifty days to the morrow after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a cereal offering of new grain to the LORD. . . . [21] And you shall make proclamation on the same day; you shall hold a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work: it is a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

Leviticus 23:24-25 "Say to the people of Israel, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. [25] You shall do no laborious work; and you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD."

Leviticus 23:27-28 "On the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present an offering by fire to the LORD. [28] And you shall do no work on this same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.

Leviticus 23:33-37 And the LORD said to Moses, [34] "Say to the people of Israel, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the feast of booths to the LORD. [35] On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. [36] Seven days you shall present offerings by fire to the LORD; on the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the LORD; it is a solemn assembly; you shall do no laborious work. [37] "These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD offerings by fire, burnt offerings and cereal offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day;

Leviticus 23:39-41 "On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. [40] And you shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. [41] You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations; you shall keep it in the seventh month.

(cf. Num 28:18, 25-26; 29:1, 7, 12)

Nehemiah 8:9-11 And Nehemi'ah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. [10] Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." [11] So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, "Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved."

Nehemiah 10:31 and if the peoples of the land bring in wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or on a holy day; and we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.

2 Maccabees 6:11 Others who had assembled in the caves near by, to observe the seventh day secretly, were betrayed to Philip and were all burned together, because their piety kept them from defending themselves, in view of their regard for that most holy day.
The early Christians observed the Jewish feasts (e.g., Jn 4:45; 5:1; 7:1-2,11,37; 12:20), including Passover (Matthew 26:17-19; Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:1-15; Jn 2:13,23). The Last Supper was a Passover ceremony. Therefore, the explicit Old Testament evidence for holy days was carried over into the New Covenant, with the express sanction (by their own practice) of our Lord Jesus and St. Paul.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

John Calvin Prayed to Philip Melanchthon After the Latter's Death

By Dave Armstrong (9-19-09)

O Philipp Melanchthon! . . . I appeal to you who live in the presence of God with Christ, and wait for us there until we are united with you in the blessed rest . . . I have wished a thousand times that it had been our lot together!

(from online paper, "John Calvin -- True Presbyterian," by Francis Nigel Lee [pdf / html]; his own sources provided: J. Calvin: Clear Explanation of the Holy Supper, in Reid’s Theological Treatises of John Calvin, S.C.M., London, p. 258; see an alternate 1978 printing listed on amazon and this exact excerpt -- and larger context -- from it)

The same thing is found in Tracts Related to the Reformation, Volume 2, translated by Henry Beveridge, Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849; "True Partaking of the Flesh and Blood of Christ," pp. 496-497):

Thou hast said a hundred times, when weary with labour and oppressed with sadness, thou didst lay thy head familiarly on my bosom, Would, would that I could die on this bosom! . . . Certainly, thou hadst been readier to maintain contests, and stronger to despise obloquy, and set at nought false accusations. . . . I have not indeed forgotten what thou didst write.

Further online documentation: one / two.

John T. McNeill, editor of the 1960 edition of Calvin's Institutes, mentions it as well, in his article, "Calvin as an Ecumenical Churchman," Church History, vol. 57, 1988.

Calvin, Zwingli, and Bullinger Regarded Statues of Christ and Crucifixes as Idols (Calvin Also Rejected Bare Crosses)

By Dave Armstrong (9-19-09)

John 1:18 (KJV). . . the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (RSV, NIV: "made him known")

John 12:45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

John 14:7-9 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. (8) Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. (9) Jesus saith unto him, have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

2 Corinthians 4:4 . . . Christ, who is the image of God, . . .

Colossians 1:15 . . . the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, . . .

Revelation 5:6 (RSV) And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, . . .

John Calvin rejected all images of our Lord Jesus Christ, and especially crucifixes:

Calvin speaks the whole time about the affront to God, while very rarely mentioning images of Christ. He firmly rejects representations of Christ and the crucifix ('the devilish form of Christ'); however, he puts less emphasis on the fact that the divinity of Christ is impossible to represent and treats such images more as an assault on his 'divine majesty.' The question of incarnation as an argument does not appear in Calvin's frame of reference. For him the 'whole Christ' was contained in the Resurrection and the return to the Father, since we no longer know the corporeal Jesus and can only grasp him 'spiritually'; Calvin completely rejected the Lutheran Christ pro me, understood as an attempt to visualize the earthly Christ.

Calvin, somewhat contradictorily, allowed the keeping of holy images in private homes . . .

(Sergiusz Michalski, Reformation and the Visual Arts: The Protestant Image Question in Western and Eastern Europe, New York: Routledge, 1993 , p. 66 and p. 70)

He gave his (fallacious) reasoning in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, even going after bare crosses:

Meanwhile, seeing that this brutish stupidity has overspread the globe, men longing after visible forms of God, and so forming deities of wood and stone, silver and gold, or of any other dead and corruptible matter, we must hold it as a first principle, that as often as any form is assigned to God, his glory is corrupted by an impious lie. In the Law, accordingly, after God had claimed the glory of divinity for himself alone, when he comes to show what kind of worship he approves and rejects, he immediately adds, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth,” (Exod. 20:4). By these words he curbs any licentious attempt we might make to represent him by a visible shape, . . . God makes no comparison between images, as if one were more, and another less befitting; he rejects, without exception, all shapes and pictures, and other symbols by which the superstitious imagine they can bring him near to them.


The Lord, however, not only forbids any image of himself to be erected by a statuary, but to be formed by any artist whatever, because every such image is sinful and insulting to his majesty.


But, I ask, whence this stupidity, but just because they are defrauded of the only doctrine which was fit to instruct them? The simple reason why those who had the charge of churches resigned the office of teaching to idols was, because they themselves were dumb. Paul declares, that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed and in a manner crucified before our eyes (Gal. 3:1). Of what use, then, were the erection in churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold, if this doctrine were faithfully and honestly preached—viz. Christ died that he might bear our curse upon the tree, that he might expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash them in his blood, and, in short, reconcile us to God the Father? From this one doctrine the people would learn more than from a thousand crosses of wood and stone. As for crosses of gold and silver, it may be true that the avaricious give their eyes and minds to them more eagerly than to any heavenly instructor.


We think it unlawful to give a visible shape to God, because God himself has forbidden it, and because it cannot be done without, in some degree, tarnishing his glory.


In his sermon on Deuteronomy 4:15-20, Calvin specifically rejects all images of Christ, including crucifixes:

The setting up of images in churches, is a defiling . . . By and by, folk go and kneel down to it. . . . The Papists . . . paint and portray ‘Jesus Christ’ - Who (as we know) is not only man but also God manifested in the flesh. He is God’s eternal Son, in Whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells - yes, even substantially . . . Should we have portraitures and images, whereby only the flesh may be represented? Is it not a wiping away of that which is chiefest in our Lord Jesus Christ - that is, to wit, of His Divine Majesty? Yes!

And therefore, whensoever a crucifix stands moping and mowing in the church - it is all one as if the Devil had defaced the Son of God. You see, then, that the Papists are destitute of all excuse . . . They abuse their puppets and pictures, after that fashion.

(John Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, reprinted in 1987, 138a51-55 & 138b3-48; from online paper, "John Calvin -- True Presbyterian, "by Francis Nigel Lee [pdf / html]; footnote 69)

Likewise, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), who was a leading Protestant "reformer" in Switzerland: particularly in Zurich, held the same view.

Zwingli categorically stated that neither crucifixes nor other images of Christ should be placed in churches. . . . Christ ought not to be represented, since divinity cannot be shown. . . . He felt the weakness of this line of argument and therefore partially loosened his prohibition by allowing in private homes images depicting the humanity of Christ. . . . He was wholly unwilling to tolerate crucifixes. . . . Bullinger reiterated Zwingli's view that after the Resurrection Christ could not be corporeally depicted. . . .

Zwingli introduced a fundamental distinction between images in the home and those in churches. In homes one can keep images 'of a historical nature', and this applies also to the category of 'biblical histories.' In churches every work of art . . . becomes an idol.

(Sergiusz Michalski, Reformation and the Visual Arts: The Protestant Image Question in Western and Eastern Europe, New York: Routledge, 1993 , p. 56)

Michalski's book contains many shocking descriptions of the thousands of pathetic acts of Protestant iconoclasm, such as paintings of Mary thrown into a latrine, statues of Mary hacked to pieces, along with vulgarities I won't even mention in mixed company; crucifixes stabbed, decapitated, hanged, eyes gouged out (all in the name of the shunning of idolatry); images of St. Francis being mocked with donkey's ears or ram's horns attached to them, or hanged on a gallows; statues having animal manure or urine thrown onto them in mockery. One clueless idiot in Basle, in 1529, threw a crucifix into a fire, shouting, "If you are God, defend yourself, if you are human, bleed" (p. 78).

Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) was Zwingli's successor in Zurich. He fell prey to the same error:

Bullinger . . . denies that crucifixes can represent Christ's divine nature . . . He argues against the iconodulic Second Council of Nicaea (787); says that pagan and Christian idolatry are not really different . . .

(Carlos M. N. Eire, War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 88)

Martin Luther, at least, was blessedly free of this sort of biblically illiterate, anti-incarnational nonsense, as I have noted. Thank God that Bach was born Lutheran. In Puritan England, he would have been employed in smashing organs, rather than playing them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Protestant "Reformer" Martin Bucer Advocated Death for Adulterers

By Dave Armstrong (9-18-09)

John 8:3-11 (RSV) The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst [4] they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. [5] Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?" [6] This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. [7] And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." [8] And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. [9] But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. [10] Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" [11] She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."

Martin Bucer (1491-1551) was a Protestant "Reformer" who spent most of his time in Strasbourg: a city that straddles the German-French border (now in France). I have documented how Martin Luther (in 1522) also advocated death for adulterers ("The temporal sword and government should therefore still put adulterers to death") and even married women who have withdrawn sexually from their husbands ("the civil government must compel the wife, or put her to death").

Now here comes Martin Bucer, exhibiting that marvelous mercy and tolerance and enlightened love of personal liberty and freedom that we have come to expect from the Protestant "reformers":

Because God is wiser than humans, his laws, too, are better than human laws, and so Bucer argues for the reintroduction of capital punishment in case of adultery and corporal punishment in case of fornication. In this context Bucer has in mind the situation in ancient Israel; to him the then prevailing relation between temple and palace, prophet, priest, and king is also to be considered the ideal for today.
(H. J. Selderhuis, Marriage and Divorce in the Thought of Martin Bucer, Kirksville, Missouri: Truman State University Press, 1999, p. 65)
The concept of the two kingdoms has a fundamental bearing upon Bucer's exegesis. Having pointed out that adultery should be considered a capital crime, he refers to those who think that since Christ did not punish the adulterous woman, therefore this punishment is abolished. However, such persons do not understand Christ's words to Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world." Christ exhorted the adulteress to repent and did not prohibit the punishment. "By no means therefore can this law about punishing adultery be considered neutralized here. Christ acquiesced to the kingdom of this world the external kingdom of Rome, and the Mosaic legal system, and whatever else was constituted for public peace and probity."
(Viggo Norskov Olsen, The New Testament Logia on Divorce, Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1971, pp. 77-78)

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dialogue with John Calvin on Clerical Celibacy

By Dave Armstrong (9-17-09)

This is taken from my ongoing series of critiques of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (response to IV,12:14-28). This paper deals with his arguments in IV, 12:23-28. I've abridged his portions in a few portions for the sake of better flow of dialogue. Anyone wishing to read all his words or see the complete context can consult the other paper. Calvin's words will be in blue.

* * * * *

23. Of the celibacy of priests, in which Papists place the whole force of ecclesiastical discipline. This impious tyranny refuted from Scripture. An objection of the Papists disposed of.

In one thing they are more than rigid and inexorable—in not permitting priests to marry. It is of no consequence to mention with what impunity whoredom prevails among them, and how, trusting to their vile celibacy, they have become callous to all kinds of iniquity.

Sure, there was a lot of corruption in that time. But that calls for reform of the thing (the virtue of celibacy), and spiritual revival, not destruction of a practice good in and of itself, and altogether biblical (1 Corinthians 7).

The prohibition, however, clearly shows how pestiferous all traditions are, since this one has not only deprived the Church of fit and honest pastors, but has introduced a fearful sink of iniquity, and plunged many souls into the gulf of despair.

Anyone who is not called to celibacy should avoid it, and get married. Is this not utterly obvious? Priests are not pressed into service at gunpoint, or involuntarily castrated. One wearies of the continual nonsense that is spouted by Protestants in their detestation of a wonderfully pious practice.

Certainly, when marriage was interdicted to priests, it was done with impious tyranny, not only contrary to the word of God, but contrary to all justice.

All institutions in life have requirements. Why should the Catholic Church be any different? It's not required of everyone; only those who wish to be priests, by God's calling.

First, men had no title whatever to forbid what God had left free;

Then why did Calvin rule Geneva with such a dictatorial hand, if he was so intensely concerned with personal freedom?

secondly, it is too clear to make it necessary to give any lengthened proof that God has expressly provided in his Word that this liberty shall not be infringed. I omit Paul’s injunction, in numerous passages, that a bishop be the husband of one wife;

Sure; if a bishop is married at all. He should not be guilty of bigamy or divorce and "remarriage"! That doesn't mean that the Church has no jurisdiction to require celibacy if she so desires.

but what could be stronger than his declaration, that in the latter days there would be impious men “forbidding to marry”? (1 Tim. 4:3)

Catholics do not forbid anyone to marry, strictly speaking. The Church simply says that she (and not even in its entirety, as Eastern Catholics allow married priests) wishes to draw for her priests exclusively from that portion of men who are already called by God to celibacy (1 Cor 7:17), in order to secure an undistracted devotion to the Lord (1 Cor 7:32, 35). The Church is not approaching a man who wants to be married and forbidding him to do so (i.e., going against his existing vocation and station in life); rather, she is receiving men who voluntarily follow the divine vocation of celibacy and who are voluntarily following a call by God to be priests.

Why this is the least bit controversial has always been a complete puzzle to me. I can only chalk it up to good old prejudice. It's a way to lie about and bash the Catholic Church, and it is an emotional subject, so it is used for propaganda, with little regard for reason or biblical rationale. It plays well to the crowds. It's demagoguery, pure and simple.

Such persons he calls not only impostors, but devils.

Yes, but Calvin simply assumes this is applying to a practice such as that of the Catholic Church, rather than pseudo-ascetic extreme sects like the Manichees and Gnostics and (later) Albigensians and suchlike. The Catholic Church is following the advice of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. If Calvin doesn't like that, he needs to attack the Apostle Paul directly. That is his burden. Many Protestant commentaries agree with my assessment of 1 Timothy 4:3, over against Calvin's anti-Catholic fantasies:
The ascetic tendencies indicated by these prohibitions developed earlier than these Epistles among the Essenes . . . who repudiated marriage except as a necessity for preserving the race, and allowed it only under protest and under stringent regulations . . . The prohibitions above named were imposed by the later Gnosticism of the second century. 
(Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1980 [originally 1887], Vol. IV, 245) 
See Col. 2:16, 21f., where Paul condemns the ascetic practices of the Gnostics. The Essenes, Therapeutae and other oriental sects forbade marriage. In 1 Cor. 7 Paul does not condemn marriage. 
(A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1931, Vol. IV, 578) 
The assertions of these verses are significant when studied in relation to the Gnostic and dualistic views that matter is evil and not created by God.
(The Eerdmans Bible Commentary, edited by D. Guthrie et al, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 3rd edition, 1970, 1173)

We have therefore a prophecy, a sacred oracle of the Holy Spirit, intended to warn the Church from the outset against perils, and declaring that the prohibition of marriage is a doctrine of devils.

We agree, and we deny that this applies to the Catholic position. Calvin -- perhaps because of his rush to condemn Catholicism from top to bottom -- doesn't grasp the fundamental distinctions involved.

They think that they get finely off when they wrest this passage, and apply it to Montanus, the Tatians, the Encratites, and other ancient heretics. These (they say) alone condemned marriage; we by no means condemn it, but only deny it to the ecclesiastical order, in whom we think it not befitting.

Much better. This approaches a position of actually understanding that which he opposes.

As if, even granting that this prophecy was primarily fulfilled in those heretics, it is not applicable also to themselves;

But it's not, because our position (rightly understood) is also St. Paul's. If Calvin wants to attack it, he should, to be consistent, go after Paul too. But of course he does not. He'd rather play sophistical games.

or, as if one could listen to the childish quibble that they do not forbid marriage, because they do not forbid it to all. This is just as if a tyrant were to contend that a law is not unjust because its injustice presses only on a part of the state.

I repeat: all institutions impose rules and regulations. All organizations have entrance requirements. It is a part of life and reality. The Catholic Church has a perfect right and liberty under God to have this restriction, based on the teachings of St. Paul. I don't think it is even arguable. This discussion is often conducted on a purely irrational, emotional plane.

24. An argument for the celibacy of priests answered.

They object that there ought to be some distinguishing mark between the clergy and the people; as if the Lord had not provided the ornaments in which priests ought to excel.

St. Paul seemed to think that celibacy was a desired spiritual state, as long as one is called to it. Jesus was single. All of His disciples appear to have been also (Peter seems to have agreed with his wife to separate for the sake of ministry). We treasure celibacy and we treasure marriage (making it a sacrament, whereas Calvin and Luther removed sacramentality from it). This is the biblical, Pauline, both/and. But Calvin has no place for Paul's extolling of celibacy for the sake of greater service to the Lord, in his system. So which outlook is more biblical and well-rounded? Is it not utterly obvious? What would Calvin do with, for example, the following passage from the lips of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?:
Luke 18:28-20 And Peter said, "Lo, we have left our homes and followed you." [29] And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, [30] who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."
Why should we Catholics disagree with Jesus? The Catholic Church is not even requiring this much. She doesn't command a man to leave his wife or children or parents. Rather, she accepts men who have already felt the call or vocation of celibacy. Again, Calvin's beef is with Jesus Himself, Who sanctioned far more of a "deprivation of liberty" or "imprisoning conscience" than the Catholic Church ever supposedly did.

Thus they charge the apostle with having disturbed the ecclesiastical order, and destroyed its ornament, when, in drawing the picture of a perfect bishop, he presumed to set down marriage among the other endowments which he required of them.

At times there have been married bishops, because this is a disciplinary matter, not a dogmatic one. It's neither here nor there.

I am aware of the mode in which they expound this—viz. that no one was to be appointed a bishop who had a second wife. This interpretation, I admit, is not new; but its unsoundness is plain from the immediate context, which prescribes the kind of wives whom bishops and deacons ought to have. Paul enumerates marriage among the qualities of a bishop; . . .

We have married priests today in the Eastern Rites, and there have been married bishops in the past. Both/and. But Calvinism and general Protestantism sure don't have much of a tradition of single pastors, do they? They accept one-half of Paul's teaching and not the other, and this is the problem.

Let every one consider with himself from what forge these things have come. Christ deigns so to honour marriage as to make it an image of his sacred union with the Church. What greater eulogy could be pronounced on the dignity of marriage?

None, but it is irrelevant to the point at hand.

How, then, dare they have the effrontery to give the name of unclean and polluted to that which furnishes a bright representation of the spiritual grace of Christ?

The same way that Jesus Himself (along with Paul) does:
Matthew 19:10-12 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." [11] But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. [12] For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
Obviously, then, Calvin and many Protestants are among those who can't "receive" this plain teaching of Jesus. That's not our problem, that they are so unwilling to accept certain parts of inspired divine revelation. We show no such reluctance and lack of faith and trust in God's designs.

25. Another argument answered.

Though their prohibition is thus clearly repugnant to the word of God,

Really? I should think that the truth is clearly quite the opposite, once all the relevant biblical data is examined, and clear thinking brought to bear, rather than irrational emotionalism and a slanderous anti-Catholic motivation.

they, however, find something in the Scriptures to defend it. The Levitical priests, as often as their ministerial course returned, behoved to keep apart from their wives, that they might be pure and immaculate in handling sacred things; and it were therefore very indecorous that our sacred things, which are more noble, and are ministered every day, should be handled by those who are married: as if the evangelical ministry were of the same character as the Levitical priesthood. . . . the apostle declares distinctly, without reservation, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). And the apostles showed, by their own example, that marriage is not unbefitting the holiness of any function, however excellent; for Paul declares, that they not only retained their wives, but led them about with them (1 Cor. 9:5).

Why is 1 Corinthians 7 overlooked throughout the entire section of Calvin's wrongheaded, unbiblical rantings against celibacy? The Levitical priests offer one analogy, but Calvin neglects to see it based on sweeping bigotry [a portion of the deleted portion above]: "ecclesiastical pastors do not sustain this character in the present day." This is hardly intellectually impressive.

26. Another argument answered.

Then how great the effrontery when, in holding forth this ornament of chastity as a matter of necessity, they throw the greatest obloquy on the primitive Church, which, while it abounded in admirable divine erudition, excelled more in holiness. For if they pay no regard to the apostles (they are sometimes wont strenuously to contemn them),

Who is not paying attention? Calvin has ignored 1 Corinthians 7, and he has ignored the fact of Paul's and the twelve disciples' celibacy and separation from wives in some cases, for the sake of ministry.

what, I ask, will they make of all the ancient fathers, who, it is certain, not only tolerated marriage in the episcopal order, but also approved it?

Nothing, as it is irrelevant: celibacy being a matter of discipline, not dogma.

They, forsooth, encouraged a foul profanation of sacred things when the mysteries of the Lord were thus irregularly performed by them. In the Council of Nice, indeed, there was some question of proclaiming celibacy: as there are never wanting little men of superstitious minds, who are always devising some novelty as a means of gaining admiration for themselves.

St. Paul's express teachings are superstitious novelties? That is an odd (beyond bizarre) thing for a Protestant to imply.

What was resolved? The opinion of Paphnutius was adopted, who pronounced legitimate conjugal intercourse to be chastity (Hist. Trip. Lib. 2 c. 14). The marriage of priests, therefore, continued sacred, and was neither regarded as a disgrace, nor thought to cast any stain on their ministry.

They were less conformed to the Pauline model in those days, but that doesn't mean the Pauline model cannot be followed should the Church decide to make it normative.

27. An argument drawn from the commendation of virginity as superior to marriage. Answer.

In the times which succeeded, a too superstitious admiration of celibacy prevailed. Hence, ever and anon, unmeasured encomiums were pronounced on virginity, so that it became the vulgar belief that scarcely any virtue was to be compared to it. And although marriage was not condemned as impurity, yet its dignity was lessened, and its sanctity obscured;

No; only from Calvin's dichotomous "either/or" mentality does this follow. Catholics think in "both/and" terms.

so that he who did not refrain from it was deemed not to have a mind strong enough to aspire to perfection.

We can strive for perfection in whatever state of life God has called us to.

Hence those canons which enacted, first, that those who had attained the priesthood should not contract marriage; and, secondly, that none should be admitted to that order but the unmarried, or those who, with the consent of their wives, renounced the marriage-bed.

That is, just as Jesus Himself sanctioned (Luke 18:29).

These enactments, as they seemed to procure reverence for the priesthood, were, I admit, received even in ancient times with great applause. But if my opponents plead antiquity, my first answer is, that both under the apostles, and for several ages after, bishops were at liberty to have wives: that the apostles themselves, and other pastors of primitive authority who succeeded them, had no difficulty in using this liberty, and that the example of the primitive Church ought justly to have more weight than allow us to think that what was then received and used with commendation is either illicit or unbecoming.

Scripture itself: the words of our Lord and the Apostle Paul carry as much weight in the scheme of things as the prevailing practices of the early Church (assuming for the sake of argument that it was as Calvin describes).

My second answer is, that the age, which, from an immoderate affection for virginity, began to be less favourable to marriage, did not bind a law of celibacy on the priests, as if the thing were necessary in itself, but gave a preference to the unmarried over the married.

Hence, the Western, Latin Rites in Catholicism take one path, and the Eastern Rites another. Both/and. But Protestantism mostly teaches Only, only. Celibacy is frowned upon, especially in pastors, and this is an unbiblical, un-Pauline attitude.

28. The subject of celibacy concluded. This error not favoured by all ancient writers.

Therefore, as often as the defenders of this new tyranny appeal to antiquity in defence of their celibacy, so often should we call upon them to restore the ancient chastity of their priests, to put away adulterers and whoremongers, . . .

All good Christians desire such a reform in the clergy and in all Christians; indeed all men, if it were possible.

. . . the better-hearted may understand the effrontery of our enemies in employing the name of antiquity to defame the holy marriage of priests. In regard to the Fathers, whose writings are extant, none of them, when they spoke their own mind, with the exception of Jerome, thus malignantly detracted from the honour of marriage.

That's what I have been contending: Catholics think very highly of marriage!

We will be contented with a single passage from Chrysostom, because he being a special admirer of virginity, cannot be thought to be more lavish than others in praise of matrimony. Chrysostom thus speaks: “The first degree of chastity is pure virginity; the second, faithful marriage. Therefore, a chaste love of matrimony is the second species of virginity” (Chrysost. Hom. de Invent. Crucis.).

Chastity is not confined to the unmarried, because it is ultimately a state of heart and mind.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Apostolic Succession: Various Biblical Arguments Outlined

By Dave Armstrong (9-9-09)

The Bible contains sufficient enough indication of apostolic succession (though probably not "explicit" enough by unbiblical sola Scriptura standards to convince most Protestants: what else is new?).

St. Paul appears to be passing his office along to Timothy (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:6, 13-14, 2:1-2, 4:1-6). See, for example:

2 Timothy 2:1-2 (RSV) You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, [2] and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

There are many indirect indications. When Jesus gives His disciples charge to do certain things, it is seen, by and large, by Protestants, as commands to their successors as well (perhaps not always apostolic succession per se, but at least succession as believers in Christ). So, for example, when Jesus tells His disciples to preach the gospel or to baptize, virtually all Christians today think that this applies to all Christians in perpetuity. Yet when Jesus tells the same disciples to "bind and loose" (Matt 18:18; Jn 20:23; also to St. Peter individually in Matt 16:19), somehow that is not seen as a thing that is perpetually relevant through history, and is relegated to their time only.

This makes no sense. For one to take such a position, they have to establish a solid reason why they regard one instance as perpetual and the other as temporary. I contend that it can't be done; that any such criterion would be completely arbitrary. Often, sadly, it comes down to merely a contra-Catholic mentality and rationale: "Catholics believe thus-and-so, and so we must oppose it, no matter what the Bible may state on the subject."

The "send" motif in Scripture is right to the point:

Luke 9:1-2 And he . . . gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.

John 17:18 As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”

Luke 10:1-3 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

The latter passages appears to imply that there are many others involved besides just the 70 (which is already an expansion upon the original twelve). This implies succession and perpetuity.

Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama'ria and to the end of the earth.

This is interesting in its implications. Who was Jesus talking to here? The earlier part of the chapter refers to "the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God" (1:2-3). He then encourages them to wait to receive the power of the Holy Spirit (1:4-5, 8). It's unclear how many people saw Jesus ascend to heaven (1:9-11).

The text then talks about the early Christians fellowshiping together; including "women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (1:12-14). In the next verse the "brethren" are said to be "about a hundred and twenty" (1:15). Later in the chapter we see explicit proof of apostolic succession (as discussed in my linked paper above): Judas was replaced by Matthias (1:17-26), and an OT passage is cited: "His office let another take" (1:20).

But getting back to the "send" motif: Jesus "sends" His disciples and they in turn "send" others by means of the established practice of ordaining and calling men to ministry through the Church (by the laying on of hands). So, for example:
Acts 13:1-4 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre'ne, Man'a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleu'cia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 15:22, 25 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsab'bas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

Romans 10:15 And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”

1 Timothy 4:14-16 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (cf. Heb 6:2)

1 Timothy 5:22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands . . .

2 Timothy 1:6 Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;

Disciples and their successors (priests and bishops) are direct representatives of Jesus:

Matthew 10:40 He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.

Luke 10:16 He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.

John 13:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me.

2 Corinthians 5:20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

"Binding and loosing" itself as a perpetual practice has several indications:

Luke 24:47 . . . repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

This was not just an abstract proclamation that sins are forgiven. It was also a "transactional" procedure of confession and absolution. Thus the following passage:

Acts 19:18 Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. (cf. James 5:14-15; 1 John 1:8-9)

This perhaps hearkens back to John the Baptist's baptism for forgiveness of sins:

Matthew 3:6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (cf. Mk 1:4-5)

And that in turn was a precursor of baptismal regeneration (a physical act or rite by which forgiveness is granted to the penitent or baby with original sin, thus similar to binding and loosing):

Mark 16:16 [disputed biblical manuscript] He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; . . .

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,

1 Peter 3:20-21 . . . God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

We see St. Paul binding (1 Cor 5:3-5 and 1 Tim 1:18-20) and loosing (2 Cor 2:6-11: which is also, by the way, an explicit biblical proof for indulgences).

The same argument is made against papal succession: as if all the mountain of biblical data concerning Peter and his primacy has no implications for later ecclesiology. I have written a second paper defending papal succession: "The Biblical and Rational Argument for Papal Succession / False Analogy of Israelite Kings to the Papacy".

A person asked a follow-up question on the CHNI forum:

I think most non-denominational Christians would take your first argument and say that all Christians are supposed to do both: All Christians are supposed to go forth and preach and baptize and all Christians are supposed to forth and bind and loose. They would argue that the Bible teaches all disciples of Christ to do the work of Christ, and not an "elite" few, such as bishops and priests. How would you counter that argument?

Good question. I think it would be the exception for the average evangelical to say that all Christians are to bind and loose. To them it makes no sense for one Christian to offer forgiveness to another, for a sin not done against them (as St. Paul did in 2 Cor 2:6-11), and also to bind by imposing a penance (as he did in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5, and later relaxed in the previous passage).

So they either restrict it to the apostles, or if they try to apply it in the present, what I have heard some of them say, and what I probably would have said myself in the 80s, if asked, is that "loosing" is only forgiving what God has forgiven already. But then how do they account for binding and imposing a penance?: because they don't accept penance (far less so than "transactional" forgiveness). Penance doesn't fit into the categories of Protestant theology, except for traditional Anglicans (C. S. Lewis believed in purgatory) and perhaps a few other strains.

But generally speaking, I would argue that certain functions are consigned to the clergy, or leaders, in the NT. By and large, Protestants agree with us that clergy baptize, while in theory all layman have a responsibility to evangelize. They do the same with marriage, and (pretty much) presiding over the Eucharist. They recognize "pastoral" functions and general duties of all Christians.

Once they accept a clergy / laity distinction, then, it can be applied to binding and loosing. I think it is shown to be a more exclusive duty also by the fact that Jesus gave the power to Peter individually. Historically, it was a rabbinic function.

Some pentecostals apply "binding and loosing" to the practice of "freeing from demonic oppression", but I think this is a distortion of the original NT meaning, incorporating the rabbinic background.

In the NT, the forgiveness of sins is often "contractual." When John the Baptist baptized (Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3), it involved repentance and remission of sins. The person repented, and demonstrated repentance by undergoing the rite, presided over by an authoritative figure. Post-Pentecost baptism had the same elements (Acts 2:38, 22:16). Likewise, confession of sins involves a rite with a priest, by which he can impose a penance and pronounce absolution. Binding and loosing (Matt 16:19 and 18:18) is expressly tied in with forgiveness of sins and penance (Jn 20:23).

Deliverance from a demon is not the same thing at all. That is not a matter (at least not always) or forgiving a sin. So I think the pentecostal "deliverance" use of these passages is very loose and an example of eisegesis (reading into Scripture one's prior opinions).


"Laying on of Hands" for Commissioning Purposes in the Old Testament

Numbers 8:10-11 When you present the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites, [11] and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that it may be theirs to do the service of the LORD.

Numbers 27:22-23 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; he took Joshua and caused him to stand before Elea'zar the priest and the whole congregation, [23] and he laid his hands upon him, and commissioned him as the LORD directed through Moses.

Deuteronomy 34:9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Dialogue with a Calvinist About the Propriety of Calling Mary the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and About True Dialogue

By Dave Armstrong (9-5-09)

"Pilgrimsarbour" is a Reformed Protestant (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) with whom I have had several amiable, constructive dialogues. The "spouse of the Holy Spirit" issue came up on another blog. It spilled over onto mine indirectly, and "PA" made some comments on my blog to which I replied; then he made a counter-reply privately (he gave me permission to post it). Here is my latest reply. His words will be in blue. I have added a few additional comments to my earlier ones taken from a combox for another post.

* * * * *

This whole discussion was, from the beginning, about the perpetual virginity of Mary. . . . The original questions had to do with the Catholic view of sexual relations, and whether Catholics consider that Mary would have been "defiled" by having had relations with Joseph after the birth of Jesus. At least one person said that Mary, as a holy vessel consecrated to God, would have been "defiled" by Joseph if he had had relations with her after Jesus' birth.

At one point I asked if Catholics considered Mary's relations with Joseph to be adulterous, if they had had them. There is, apparently, some support for that view, but I don't know how much.

Thanks for the clarification.

If one has made a vow of consecrated virginity, then yes, in a sense they would be defiled by engaging in sexual activity, because then they have broken a vow. I believe that Protestants take a high view of vows, though one might not know it in observing the many broken vows of the original "reformers" and the present increasing laxity on divorce in many Protestant circles.

I don't believe that Mary's perpetual virginity was intrinsically necessary (i.e., that it couldn't possibly have been otherwise). The same applies to her Immaculate Conception. God could have decided that it was different. We believe that He did not do so in fact, and that He chose to bring about both things because it was extremely fitting and appropriate for the Mother of Jesus, God the Son. It was a completely unique situation.

We think being the Mother of God is a unique enough situation that virginity is not to be regarded as some unusual (let alone supposedly "anti-sex") state of things. You [Protestants] say we're anti-sex because we believe in the PVM. We say you are anti-celibacy. So I guess it is a wash.

You claimed [in a comment connected with a post on John 6 and the Eucharist] that it was improper for me to claim that an antipathy to matter and sacramentalism accounts for your belief in a non-physical Eucharist. I am willing to grant that it may not be the cause. That's fine. But now I see you speculating as to why we believe in the PVM, and the usual tired stereotype of being "anti-sex" is the conclusion drawn in the thread under consideration.

I think you can do better than that. The "anti-sex" thing is as much of a non sequitur as the sexual abuse tactic. How ironic. Now we're too much into sex at the same time we're against it. Any criticism of the Catholic Church will do, no matter how self-contradictory. We see this often.

If the PVM is intrinsically "anti-sex" then at least face the fact that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wesley, and many other Protestants (especially before liberalism, the so-called "Enlightenment" and Higher Criticism) believed it as we do.

The problem is that Joseph was betrothed, legally and in God's eyes, to Mary. They had not had sexual relations but they were for all intents and purposes, within that culture, married. There would be no reason for the Bible to tell us that Joseph "sought to divorce her quietly" otherwise. You cannot divorce someone to whom you're not married.

So I think that to use this marriage and spousal language with the Holy Spirit and Mary is problematic at best. If anything, it makes God out to be an interloper since Joseph was already pledged to her in marriage.

If anything, the alternative to the "spouse of God" description arguably leads to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is an adulterer and that Jesus was an illegitimate child. Is that really what you prefer? I highly doubt it. I realize your retort was rhetorical and an objection to our terminology, but I think it fails, for reasons that I will present in due course below. I should think that the Virgin Birth is something that Catholics and Protestants could readily agree upon, and I think this issue is directly related to that. It is something distinct from the perpetual virginity issue, where we disagree (though the first Protestants retained the Catholic belief, and the present Protestant general rejection of it is mostly a post-"Enlightenment" and post-liberalism phenomenon).

And the language is a cause of much unceasing and unnecessary confusion and animus from Muslims and others.

They are highly offended by the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity, too. Ought we to change those things, too, simply because they (and Jews as well) are offended? That has never been why Christians believe anything. If something is true, then we don't modify it because some folks are offended. That will always be the case, anyway. People were offended by Jesus, and we know that He did nothing wrong, nor did He teach any untruth.

No, I think it's best to avoid this kind of language which encourages us to anthropomorphise the relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit.

Anthropomorphism and anthropopathism are common biblical occurrences. Why should this be any different? Whenever there is talk of the relations between God and His creatures, this is required to some extent. Having a child conceived by the Holy Spirit has no direct analogy, because it was a one-time event, in order to bring about the Incarnation. So we should fully expect to have some difficulty fitting this into accepted categories. But again, Christianity is filled with such anomalies, wonders, and paradoxes (most of which Calvinists accept, along with Catholics and other Christians). The Incarnation itself is one of these. How could Jesus be fully God and fully Man? Run-of-the-mill logic cannot accept this, anymore than it can grasp the Trinity (hence many heretics deny both). It requires the eyes of faith and an understanding of the "both/and" biblical, Hebraic outlook, and of biblical paradox.

Augustine and Anselm don't agree with you. St. Augustine stated that "Mary was that only one who merited to be called the Mother and Spouse of God." [Sermon 208]

St. Anselm [c. 1033-1109] asserted that "the divine Spirit, the love itself of the Father and the Son, came corporally into Mary, and enriching her with graces above all creatures, reposed in her and made her his Spouse, the Queen of heaven and earth." [De Excell. Virg. c.4].

So what do you think caused these great teachers to get it so wrong?

Scripture speaks in terms of the bride being the Church, and makes analogies between marriage and Christ and His Church. So what is the big deal about Mary being the spouse of the Holy Spirit, since she is the Mother of God the Son?

It seems that you're asking me, "How dare you question the heroes and Doctors of the Church?"

Does it? That's odd. Why would I reason like that with a Protestant who can always dissent against any Church authority he wishes to dissent against? On the other hand, I know Calvinists (following Calvin) especially respect St. Augustine, so I think it is relevant to bring up his opinion.

I admit that I'm not a brilliant theologian. Not even close. But if I accept the premise, which is implied, that the church fathers could not be wrong, then you're right.

We don't even believe that (Augustine was judged by the Church to be wrong on some extreme statements about predestination), so again, why would I imply that in dialoguing with you? You have some odd reactions to what I write sometimes.

What right do I have to question them? How can I compete intellectually with them? Should I just acknowledge my intellectual failings, give up and submit my will to people who "know better" than I do?

No; it would be nice if you would stop second-guessing, accept the fact that I understand the Protestant outlook (having once been a Protestant apologist and having dialogued with scores of Protestants for 18 years now) and if you would answer the question I asked. If I wasn't interested in your reply I wouldn't have bothered asking it! :-)

It reminds me of our current political situation. There are plenty of people even now shaking their heads at me and saying, "Yes. It's for your own good, and we know the good. Trust us."

Another inapplicable comparison . . .

But it's not good. If we cannot ask questions of those in authority, even those in the highest authority, then we are in danger of what C.S. Lewis calls "kissing one's brains goodbye." And we might as well do so.

And now it's off on an unrelated rabbit trail . . . you have all Catholics checking their brains at the door. C'mon. You can do far better than that. Just discuss the topic. We don't need to get off on the sexual scandal or the supposed mindless, brainless Catholic stereotypes.

I also gave directly relevant scriptural analogies that speak to the issue at hand, but you completely ignored that, too. True dialogue proceeds very differently than this, I think.
[citing my earlier words and adding the bracketed remark; my italics added] We don't even believe that (Augustine was judged by the Church to be wrong on some extreme statements about predestination), so again, why would I imply that [Pilgrimsarbour is unworthy of dissenting from the early Church fathers] in dialoguing with you? You have some odd reactions to what I write sometimes.
No; you have misinterpreted and misunderstood this, as shown by your interjection. The second "that" above (followed by your comment) refers back to the first "that" in the clause in the first part of my statement, which in turn refers back to your statement that it was replying to: "the premise, which is implied, that the church fathers could not be wrong." The whole point was that Catholics do not think Church fathers are infallible or can never be wrong, or even that they have some binding authority. This is what you apparently have not grasped. It's a basic factual error (about what Catholics believe) that is causing part of the present mix-up of communication.

We think they are very helpful as guides to the Mind of the early Church, insofar as they have a consensus of belief on any given point. But no particular Church fathers' opinions are binding on a Catholic. That has to be decided by an ecumenical council in conjunction with the pope, or pope's decrees in conjunction with prior tradition, councils, and the Mind of the Church, including the consent of the faithful (sensus fidelium). "Unanimous consent" in its original Latin, as clearly understood at the time, didn't even mean "without any exception whatever." It meant "consensus." It would be like us saying today, "there is a consensus in science that the earth goes around the sun and not vice versa." That's overwhelming. Yet there are a few people who still believe in geocentrism (I personally know some Catholics who do). Likewise, with the fathers.

I infer from your statement the tag question to me, "Why is that?" So I'll take this opportunity to answer. I don't think you realise how you come across sometimes. It's your manner of putting questions to me (and others) that sometimes gives me pause and puts me on the defensive. You undoubtedly will tell me that I'm reading too much into your statements, and that I'm all wet. Fair enough. I may be. But if you will just hear me out, at the very least you'll understand me better as we dialogue.

Okay, sure.

You frequently send what I consider to be mixed signals. In the midst of a generally fair question, you'll choose words that are typically used to humiliate the respondent. The words by themselves are innocuous, but interwoven within the context of a question they can become quite powerful. Let me give you an example:
So what do you think caused these great teachers to get it so wrong?
I think very deeply about language and how it's used. I think about what would be most effective in my arguments, assuming, of course, that I believe myself to be correct on certain issues. I think you and I are actually a lot alike in this regard. I know that you work and re-work your posts. I do the same. Sometimes I change a word or correct grammar or spelling from something I posted two years ago. Some must undoubtedly think me neurotic. Maybe I am. But it's one of the reasons why I didn't pursue journalism as a career; you can't make it in that field and take hours to compose a few sentences. It's all about getting it out fast. Reading and writing are terribly slow going for me, but the results can be very rewarding and fulfilling, although I suspect I'll never master economy of language. Maybe you and I have that in common as well, judging by the typical length of your posts. ;-) Now after that preamble, let me give you my take on your previous comments to which I responded. Keep in mind that I think you are like me in choosing words carefully, so I am reading intent in your words as we go because that's the way I write and speak. If you had asked, "Why do you think they were wrong about this," I may have been able to answer on the basis of doctrinal and cultural considerations. But you add the descriptors "great teachers," which in this context suggests an insurmountable juxtaposition to the respondent. The intent is to rattle the respondent and make him feel unworthy of questioning the great men of old. Likewise, the addition of the words "so wrong" emphasises this radical juxtaposition. And so the bias against the respondent is firmly established in what amounts to an accusatory statement. Now perhaps none of this has occurred to you, and you really aren't as neurotically careful about word choice as I am, or as I think you are. If so, I apologise. But I hope you'll at least consider the possibility that you've been writing for such a long time now that you're not even aware of these things on a conscious level anymore.

Thanks for your concise description of how you reacted. There are many things in play here. I shall try to deal with each of them individually.

I agree that we are a lot alike (which is why we've been having great dialogues). I also agree that words must be interpreted in context: both immediate grammatical context and the context of the belief-system of the one writing them (this is true of biblical interpretation also). Furthermore, the more people become acquainted with each other and with the other's methods, the context of their own past experience with each other also is a contextual consideration. Things are assumed and learned all down the line, and these affect later exchanges, since they are part of the overall mix.

That said, there are also other planes involved here, and those are the logical and methodological ones. If you know me at all (as I think you do), you surely know that my apologetic and dialogical method is socratic. That's how I approach things, and it is obvious in my love of the back-and-forth dialogue (just as this one is, and many hundreds more of my posted dialogues as well). Fundamental to socratic method are the following components:

1) Understanding one's own premises.

2) Understanding the opposing position's or party's premises (hopefully as well as one's own, for a constructive dialogue to occur).

3) Seeking a common premise or common denominator by going back far enough (epistemologically and logically) in any given pair of competing belief-systems to find what is held in common, in order to have an argument about the relative merits of diverging paths from the same particular starting premise.

4) Seeking flaws in the opposing position at the presuppositional level, leading to falsehoods built upon these false premises.

5) Seeking to show (largely by reductio ad absurdum) that some opposing premises lead to conclusions that the person holding the premises would not himself accept, and that would cause him to be uncomfortable; hopefully leading to a reappraisal of those premises as possibly false (hence, the conclusions would be judged as false, should the premises be overturned).

I do all these things automatically during debate. It's true it is almost an unconscious process by now, because I have done this for so many years now and in innumerable dialogical encounters. If someone is not aware of this methodology and how it proceeds, then they could (and do!) react as you have, thinking that belittling was the object, rather than a tenacious critique of premises and lack of factuality, etc, (as the case may be). Socrates was killed by the Athenians precisely because he was too provocative (by applying the above method). Jesus and Paul were very provocative, and part of their unpopularity in many environments was directly due to this: they made people squirm and become uncomfortable by means of their pointed questions: exactly to the issue. They hit folks right between the eyes.

For me, it is all about truth and about ideas. My aim is never to belittle or embarrass someone else during these arguments. It is always to challenge them (and to be challenged myself, in the process). If I issue a pointed criticism or observation, such as the one that seems to have offended you or has made you defensive presently, it is never intended to make someone feel stupid or like an idiot. I don't argue in the fashion that many of your anti-Catholic friends do: with obvious disdain for Catholics and their belief-system: put-downs and questioning of motivations and basic intelligence (and spiritual state) everywhere (which is why I no longer bother with them, after ten years of mightily trying).

I don't have such hostility towards Protestants, either personally or towards their overall system (not even the anti-Catholics; I most assuredly despise and detest the anti-Catholic aspect of their belief, as a wicked falsehood and intellectual suicide, but not the larger Protestantism). I'm on record, many times in my public writings, as having a high level of respect and admiration (even warm affection) for most of my Protestant brethren and their belief-systems: particularly Calvinists and Lutherans and traditional Anglicans. C. S. Lewis remains my favorite writer to this day, and I have had a major Lewis website online for now over twelve years. That's just one indication of many many signs of my ecumenical goodwill.

But I do vigorously critique ideas and doctrines within those systems that I think are false. And when I do so it is not with the slightest intent to imply someone is stupid or impious or some sort of imbecile. Maybe many others do so; I do not. They don't speak for me. I speak for myself, and (most inadequately, alas, but sincerely and zealously, at the very least) on behalf of the beliefs of the Catholic Church, as an apologist.

Now, with that necessary background, let me give my opinion as to why you got the impression you did, and why I think it was unwarranted as a conclusion from anything I wrote or did. You wrote:

I don't think you realise how you come across sometimes. It's your manner of putting questions to me (and others) that sometimes gives me pause and puts me on the defensive.

I am about vigorous, rigorous intellectual / theological argument. It's not everyone's cup of tea. I have explained my methodology above, and my intentions, within an overall respect and affection for my Protestant brethren. I was once among you, and I don't despise my past. I thank God for it. What I learned as a Protestant was invaluable, and I will always be grateful for those years. Most of what I learned, I still believe. Only some things change in going from Protestant to Catholic: not most things, by a long shot. Mostly it's a matter of adding on new beliefs not held before (scarcely even considered, in many instances).

So people get offended by me all the time. The question is: why is that? What is it about me that is so offensive and off-putting to many people (the vast majority of them anti-Catholics and radtrad Catholics, along with some liberals in both camps)? I have many faults, that are rather obvious. I can often be too critical and insensitive (some would say, "relentless") and can easily overlook the fact that many people are not approaching discussions the way I do. My style and method is not for everyone. It is only for those who feel they may benefit from it in some fashion. If someone doesn't like the way I do things, then I'm the first to tell them to seek someone or something else out, to learn about the things I write about.

I might offend someone by being insensitive or by a lack of charity or lousy timing, or overkill or being too much of a bulldog. All true, and I submit that the vast majority of human beings have these faults at one time or another, and to varying degrees. I've publicly apologized on many occasions when I messed up in this fashion or in other similar ways.

But one thing I know for sure, is that my method, as explained above, is often misunderstood, and that is because it is not very well known anymore. By and large, people don't argue in this fashion. And I know that, often, the logic of the method is incorrectly perceived or grasped. And such is the present instance, in my opinion. Let's go back to the beginning and I will show you exactly why I think this is the case. You write:

In the midst of a generally fair question, you'll choose words that are typically used to humiliate the respondent.

But this is the furthest thing from my mind. It is not ever my goal in discussion. I have not sought to do so in this present dialogue, and I don't think the words I used objectively lead to that conclusion. You have read way too much into them. You have taken the discussion to the level of motivation and have started second-guessing your dialogue opponent. Arguably, doing that exhibits a lack of charity. You have concluded that my intention or motivation was to humiliate when it was not at all (and I say you did so without nearly adequate cause or proof).

This is what derails good dialogues: the second-guessing, and believing the worst of others, not the best. What to me is vigorous socratic critique was to you a means to make someone feel lousy and stupid and defensive. Not so. It is meant (in a friendly way) to challenge a person I like and respect: someone whose intellect is most respectable. That is a person I can challenge, if they are willing to stay within the realm of theological ideas, rather than go down the psychoanalyzing path: reading into words what isn't there; trying to read in-between the lines to find some nefarious goings-on.

You continue:

The words by themselves are innocuous, but interwoven within the context of a question they can become quite powerful. Let me give you an example:
So what do you think caused these great teachers to get it so wrong?
. . . I am reading intent in your words as we go because that's the way I write and speak. If you had asked, "Why do you think they were wrong about this," I may have been able to answer on the basis of doctrinal and cultural considerations. But you add the descriptors "great teachers," which in this context suggests an insurmountable juxtaposition to the respondent. The intent is to rattle the respondent and make him feel unworthy of questioning the great men of old. Likewise, the addition of the words "so wrong" emphasises this radical juxtaposition. And so the bias against the respondent is firmly established in what amounts to an accusatory statement.
I must say that this is very interesting analysis (I give you much credit for a superb analytical acumen, and deep thinking), but it is way off the mark; not even close to what I was trying to do there. All it is, really, was a simple matter of logic. I've already shown how you incorrectly perceived the thrust of my argument as saying that you must believe what St. Augustine taught, because he was a great man. That wasn't my argument, and it is not what Catholics believe. Here you have unloaded the most intricate analysis of a single sentence. The false conclusion flowed from the false premise. My actual premise was the following:

Protestants agree with Catholics in having a high regard for the Church fathers as a class; particularly this is true with regard to St. Augustine.

Or, to put it another way:

Protestants will respect what St. Augustine states on any given subject, even if they disagree with him.

This is the sense in which it was altogether relevant to bring in his opinion (not, "you must believe what he says because he was a great Church father!"). What I did (an aspect of my method explained above) was to adopt the common premise (the one just above, expressed in two slightly different ways). Protestants and Catholics agree that St. Augustine was a "great teacher." So that should not be any bone of contention or cause of offense if I simply state what we hold in common. Therefore, much of the confusion was a misunderstanding on your part ,of my unspoken premise.

Nor should this have been any great mystery, since I stated before you wrote your present installment: "I know Calvinists (following Calvin) especially respect St. Augustine, so I think it is relevant to bring up his opinion." What was the unspoken, implied premise was at that point clarified as a spoken premise.

But you go beyond that, quibbling with my choice of words, by objecting to my stating, "what do you think caused these great teachers to get it so wrong?" rather than your suggested "acceptable" alternative: "Why do you think they were wrong about this." Basically, then, you seem to have been offended by the words "great" and "so." But Augustine being a great teacher is a commonly shared premise (and many Protestants think very highly of St. Anselm as well: especially his teachings on the atonement). John Calvin often appeals to St. Augustine and clearly has a lot of respect for him, as do Calvinists and Protestants in general. I know this very well firsthand, since I am systematically reading and replying to Book IV of his Institutes.

That is unarguable. I feel silly even having to reiterate it: so obvious is it (and surely you know this, as an astute, educated Calvinist). Therefore, the descriptor "great" should be a non-issue and not any point of contention. You say, "The intent is to rattle the respondent and make him feel unworthy of questioning the great men of old." But that was not my intent, as explained. My argument was not:

A) How dare you question Augustine: you rebellious, arrogant person! Don't you know that you can't do that?

It was, rather:

B) You yourself (as a high likelihood; along with Calvin and Calvinists) respect Augustine, yet you think this particular opinion is most unworthy of belief. Why do you think (I'm curious) that Augustine was (according to your view) so dead wrong on this matter, and in agreement with present-day Catholics? How did it come about? This would seem to be an odd thing, from your perspective.

These are two completely different takes on what I wrote. I say that what I wrote was quite clear enough, minus the second-guessing and adoption of a mistaken view of what premise I was operating under. I explained my premise outright, but that was insufficient. You still haven't answered my question, because now all this energy has been expended in becoming defensive and in psychoanalysis (and now my lengthy explanation of why I think your conclusion drawn from my words doesn't follow at all, though I am delighted to have the opportunity to explain myself and my method), rather than the theological and historical questions involved.

An additional unspoken premise was also present:

B2) Since Augustine (whom we both respect) held this view that you object to, in the 5th century, obviously it is not strictly a "late Catholic invention." It has patristic roots.

This is to offset the common Protestant assumed premise and objection to Catholics "coming up with" stuff that wasn't present in the apostolic or patristic periods (which in turn often flows from a grossly inadequate understanding of the development of doctrine and the more general history of doctrine). I showed that it was present in the patristic period, from the (commonly regarded) most eminent father, and also apostolic, in the Bible, by analogy.

In a roundabout way I implied a similar sort of (subtle, implicit) argument by noting that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and many other historic Protestants agreed with us on the perpetual virginity of Mary: showing again that it is not solely a "Catholic thing." If the very founders of Protestantism believed it, and their premise of authority is Scripture Alone (sola Scriptura) then clearly (unless one thinks they are characterized by illogical, inconsistent thought) they must have some rationale for their belief in the Bible and not solely from "Catholic tradition." This is super-relevant to the question at hand. Thus, I made one of my provocative challenges along these lines:

. . . at least face the fact that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wesley, and many other Protestants . . . believed it as we do.

Provocative? Absolutely! That's what good argument is about. But a supposed motivation to humiliate and belittle and make someone feel dumb? NO! A million times NO!!!!! Some people will never grasp this, because they don't like vigorous dialogical (and/or socratic) argument and don't understand its purpose. But I think you do, and I think this explanation ought to prevent these conjectures from you in the future. If they don't, then our future dialogues are doomed to failure, which would be a severe disappointment to me.

It's simply vigorous argument, my friend. If you don't care for that, then you won't enjoy our future dialogues, and we will go down this path of hyper-analysis of single words and of alleged motivations. That kills good dialogue quicker than anything. Nitpicking, minutiae, second-guessing . . . And to me, that would be a shame, because I enjoy our exchanges (even this one!) quite a bit and I had thought we were establishing a very good mutual understanding, for the short amount of time we have known each other. Room to grow, but a great start. That's what I have thought.

But in any event, your objection above comes down to my use of so, which implies a great degree of wrongness, and is a deliberate emphasis. I don't see why that should pose a problem, from your own perspective: "The great man (that you agree is great) got something so flat-out wrong, according to you. Why is that? How do you explain it?" It's not intended to solve the question in and of itself. It is an interesting aside; no more. I do that all the time, because my mind gets stimulated by substantive discussion and goes in many directions (haven't you ever done that?), while still within the subject matter of the question at hand. And so I asked this question. I think it is relevant, per my explanations above. It's also relevant to the consideration of the plausibility of competing truth claims, which is a more subtle thing.

Moreover, my provocative question, with the "so wrong" bit had to do directly with the degree of skepticism and opposition you yourself expressed. This is a form of argument as well, because I am building upon your own stated view and introducing motifs of tension within it, by bringing in relevant considerations. You wrote: "I think that to use this marriage and spousal language with the Holy Spirit and Mary is problematic at best. If anything, it makes God out to be an interloper . . ." Very well. If you want to believe that, then I return by asking you, "why did St. Augustine (whom you and Calvin and Calvinists highly respect) believe this, then? Where did he get it from?" Certainly it is not from Trent or "late" Catholic "traditions of men," etc. Whatever is going on there, it isn't those things. And so it is meant to challenge you and make you think. Perhaps you don't know what to make of that. Then just say so. But you didn't answer my question and you went on to the present analysis that has required about three hours to properly reply to.

You said...
Why would I reason like that with a Protestant who can always dissent against any Church authority he wishes to dissent against?
You would reason like that because Catholics have found it to be very effective against certain types of opponents. You cannot deny that it is a most popular approach in Catholic apologetics, this appeal to early Church authorities, both the fathers and of course, the apostles and their immediate successors.

That's correct, but in so doing we do little different than what Calvin himself does, and what Lutherans do in their Book of Concord. Protestants claim to be going back to the legacy of the early Church. It is literally what "reform" and "reformers" and "Reformation" mean, after all: it is a claim to be restoring what was before, as opposed to introducing wholly new things. That's why Calvin cites the fathers at every turn, when he makes his theological arguments. If it weren't relevant he would simply cite the Bible and forget human Church history. Thus it is part of the very essence of the Protestant (and specifically Calvinist) self-understanding, and it is always relevant -- given that -- to bring up the fathers, or especially the overwhelming consensus of same, insofar as it was present. It's relevant because of the common respect for the fathers and both sides seeking to be (by and large) in line with them, since they represent the beloved "early Church" -- a thing that Protestants also glorify -- and were not far in time from the apostles who wrote the Holy Scriptures we all love and try to live by.

Church fathers and students of apostles are to be trusted, the argument goes, because Christ would not leave His Church in error. "The gates of hell shall not prevail," and so forth.

That is a deeper level of the Catholic understanding that is not entailed in the argument I am utilizing, based on respect for the fathers but not a specifically Catholic understanding of the Mind of the Church. On the other hand, Protestant historical argumentation still appeals to the fathers in a somewhat (but not totally) different way, and claims that Protestantism is closer in thought to them than Catholicism is.

This is quite obvious in Protestant apologetics. See, e.g., the three-book series on sola Scriptura by William Webster and David T. King. Its premise is that the fathers were far closer (though not identical) to the Protestant sola Scriptura position than the the Catholic position on authority. Or see the lengthy series on the fathers by Jason Engwer (I myself had a lengthy debate with him about this, regarding sola Scriptura and the fathers, on the large CARM discussion forum). So you can't separate the fathers from the Protestant apologetic. They are inevitably involved.

I have argued with Catholics who have said that it was not possible that a student departed from the teachings of his apostolic master, thereby ensuring the full and proper passing down of the oral and written traditions.

That's another level again; not relevant to my present argument.

So I absolutely see why you would want to argue that way with me. I accept that as your approach because I see it all the time, both in your writings and elsewhere online.

But you have understood rather poorly what my argument even is. One must understand the opposing argument properly before trying to dissect it and rip it to shreds. That's rule number one for any effective dialogue, debate, or refutation.

You said:
No; it would be nice if you would stop second-guessing, accept the fact that I understand the Protestant outlook (having once been a Protestant apologist and having dialogued with scores of Protestants for 18 years now) and if you would answer the question I asked. If I wasn't interested in your reply I wouldn't have bothered asking it! :-)
If this is the question to which you refer:
Scripture speaks in terms of the bride being the Church, and makes analogies between marriage and Christ and His Church. So what is the big deal about Mary being the spouse of the Holy Spirit, since she is the Mother of God the Son?

No. The question I referred to was the one about Augustine believing as he did, and why he was "so" wrong. That remains utterly unanswered, but I haven't given up hope yet.

I said...
But it's not good. If we cannot ask questions of those in authority, even those in the highest authority, then we are in danger of what C.S. Lewis calls "kissing one's brains goodbye." And we might as well do so.
You said...
And now it's off on an unrelated rabbit trail . . . you have all Catholics checking their brains at the door. C'mon. You can do far better than that. Just discuss the topic. We don't need to get off on the sexual scandal or the supposed mindless, brainless Catholic stereotypes.
Now you're the one reading too much into what I have said! This was not a stereotypical slur directed at Catholics, but is a statement about my own fear of having my conscience, entirely and unreservedly, bound by the teachings of another individual or group. I know you don't agree with me on the matter of private judgement, but I am merely explaining my perspective on things.

Fair enough. I do think, though, that there is often a feeling among Protestants that Catholics have blind faith. I have seen that many times and there is no doubt whatever that it is a very prevalent viewpoint. That doesn't mean that you hold it, however, so it looks like I overreacted (attributing the widespread views to you, based on statements that appeared quite consistent with that opinion) and am glad that it is not the case with you. I'm happy to accept your word for it. Thanks for the clarification.

As always, you make me think. Perhaps it's not the kind of thinking you intended or hoped for, but it surely makes life interesting, don't you think?

I hope so, and likewise.

Getting back to the biblical analogies for a moment, before I finish: I don't think this should be any big deal at all. Scripture speaks of the Church as the Bride of Christ. There are multiple, complex applications of analogy and metaphor. And there are limitations to the sense involved.

We know that Mary was the Mother of God. That's a simple equation:

1) Jesus was God.

2) Mary was His true Mother.

3) Therefore she was the Mother of God, because mothers are mothers of persons, not just parts of persons. Mary is mother of Jesus the person without being the origin of His Divine Nature as God, just as all mothers are mothers of their children while not being the origin of their souls, which are supernaturally created by God.

Protestants object to the term Mother of God, but of course Luther and Calvin did not, so again, they are out of touch with their own fundamental heritage and origins. "Anti-Marianism" was not particularly characteristic of the first generation of Protestants, and especially not among the leaders of the movement. That came in later, as there was a tendency to reject anything that smacked of being particularly, distinctively "Catholic" and to form a distinctively Protestant identity and self-understanding, in "protest."

Now, by the same general reasoning that applies to Theotokos (arguing solely from the Bible, not Catholic tradition), it seems to me that "spouse of God" would also be appropriate and non-objectionable. If one can be a Mother of God (and that is not expressly stated in Scripture -- just as the word "Trinity" is not -- , but is deduced very straightforwardly, and the phrase "mother of my Lord" appears), then why is "spouse of God" any different? That Jesus' conception was of the Holy Spirit as a sort of "Father" is plain in the Bible:

Matthew 1:18-20 (RSV) 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; [19] and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. [20] But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;

Luke 1:31, 34-35 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. . . . [34] And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" [35] 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.

If we ask, then, "Who is Jesus' father?" (in terms of the origin of His conception) it is not Joseph, but the Holy Spirit in one sense, and God the Father in another. Multiple senses and meanings and applications . . . This is not just a "Catholic" thing. Perpetual virginity is not yet part of the discussion at this point: only the Incarnation and Virgin Birth, and all Christians agree with those doctrines.

Calling Mary the "spouse of God" is, I contend, perfectly harmonious with Bible teaching:

1) Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (God).

2) Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit; "with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18).

3) In normal marital relationships, we say that a woman is "with child by [male so-and-so]."

4) By analogy, then, if Jesus' parents were Mary and the Holy Spirit, then by simple analogy it follows that Mary (in this particular sense, and this alone) is the "spouse of God" just as she was the Mother of God.

5) The objection to this arguably flows (at least in part) from a mere emotional, irrational reaction based on misunderstanding of Hebraic and Catholic terminology and categories of thought. "Mother of God" is objected to, based on a rather dim comprehension of what it means in the first place; thus many objectors think it is putting Mary above God, as if God originated from her; whereas it only means that Jesus was God, and she was His mother; therefore she was the Mother of God (the Son). Case closed.

6) Likewise, I submit that perhaps the objection to "spouse of God" often flows from similar miscomprehensions and irrational apprehensions. It is thought to imply an equality with God, when in fact it does no such thing. It is only a limited analogical description based on Mary's relation to the Holy Spirit in the matter of the conception of Jesus. This description is no more "unbiblical" or non-harmonious with Scriptural thought than St. Paul saying "we are God's fellow workers" (1 Cor 3:9), "working together with him" (2 Cor 6:1), or St. Peter talking about men becoming "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), or St. John joyously proclaiming "when he appears we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2). These are understood as not entailing equality with God, so why should the phrase "spouse of God" (like the related "Mother of God") be any different? This is well within biblical parameters of thought and doctrine. Thus, the problem seems (too often) to come down to an incorrect understanding of how certain biblical, Hebraic, Catholic language functions, and what it means; and flat-out "anti-Marianism" taken in by osmosis in many Protestant environs (above all, in fringe anti-Catholic corners of the Protestant world).

In conclusion, here are some of the many biblical passages about Israel or the Church being the "bride" of God the Father or Jesus Christ, God the Son:

Isaiah 1:21 (RSV) How the faithful city
has become a harlot,
she that was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.

Isaiah 54:5-6
For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
[6] For the LORD has called you
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.

Isaiah 62:4-5
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My delight is in her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
[5] For as a young man marries a virgin,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Jeremiah 2:2 Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.

Jeremiah 2:32 Can a maiden forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.

Jeremiah 3:1 . . . You have played the harlot with many lovers;
and would you return to me? says the LORD.

Jeremiah 3:6, 8-9 The LORD said to me in the days of King Josi'ah: "Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the harlot? . . .
[8] She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the harlot.
[9] Because harlotry was so light to her, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.

Jeremiah 3:20 Surely, as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the LORD.

Jeremiah 31:32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.

Ezekiel 16:20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. . . .

Ezekiel 23:18 When she carried on her harlotry so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned from her sister.

Ezekiel 23:35 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, therefore bear the consequences of your lewdness and harlotry."

Hosea 1:2 When the LORD first spoke through Hose'a, the LORD said to Hose'a, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the LORD."

Hosea 2:16, 19-20 "And in that day, says the LORD, you will call me, `My husband,' and no longer will you call me, `My Ba'al.' . . . [19] And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. [20] I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.

Hosea 4:10 They shall eat, but not be satisfied;
they shall play the harlot, but not multiply;
because they have forsaken the LORD
to cherish harlotry.

Hosea 4:12 . . . they have left their God to play the harlot.

Hosea 5:4 Their deeds do not permit them
to return to their God.
For the spirit of harlotry is within them,
and they know not the LORD.

Hosea 9:1 Rejoice not, O Israel! Exult not like the peoples;
for you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. . . .

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Matthew 25:1, 5-6, 10 Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. . . . [5] As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. [6] But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' . . . [10] And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.

Mark 2:19-20 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [20] The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. (cf. Lk 5:34-35)

2 Corinthians 11:2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband.

Ephesians 5:23-29, 32 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. [24] As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. [28] Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, . . . [32] This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;

Revelation 21:9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb."
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Pilgrimsarbour replied privately and gave me permission to post his words:

Thanks for the lengthy and cogent response to my e-mail. I have read through it once and I cannot find anything with which to disagree. Since I was asking you about motivations and so forth, you have answered thoroughly by explaining your methods and why some (including me) might misunderstand them.

Of course, this is a tendency that I have anyway, so the fault is on my end of things. This is not to say that I'm not justified, on occasion, in wondering or even questioning my opponent's use of certain terminology and so forth. I suspect that will continue from time to time with others. I will, however, endeavour to be more careful with accusations in future and also to take your words at face value, especially since you took a great deal of time to dissuade me from my analysis of your methods.

As time permits I plan to add some comments (questions) by way of response to your post, mainly to let folks know that I'm not ignoring you! ;-) . . . Thanks for your clarifications. I'm very pleased you decided to make such an extensive reply. Actually, I knew you would! And I plan to keep on bugging you with pesky questions into the foreseeable future, just as long as you'll put up with me!

Blessings to you and to your family in Christ.

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