On Protestants

Someone Misused a Citation of Mine So…

Well this is not what I expected to be writing about this week. “Pagan Origins of the Days of the Week Summary”. Yes, the names of the days of the week are based on pagan gods for the most part. I did not expect it to be considered worthy of writing a whole article on it and how it is a sign of the Church being influenced by the world on that account. Anyway, this is written by a fellow who calls himself Reverend Bruce, who is apparently involved in something called “Life Path Ministries”. The main reason I am responding to it is because I am cited in it and in my mind, misused. Let us dive into it.

The World vs the Word

Take any day of the week and look at where its name originated. See how paganism has influenced it over time. Look at your weekly and monthly calendar. It’s an array of homages to pagan gods from mythology. If we’re truly honest about it, the Roman Empire still has its influence on modern day culture and society through its mythological gods and the names of days and months as well as planetary and celestial names.

That is mostly true in English. However, in other languages, that is not always the case. For instance, in Spanish, Galician, Portuguese, and Mirandese, the word for “Saturday” is literally sabado, which is derived from the Hebrew name “Sabbath”. The modern Spanish word for Sunday, domingo, literally means “day of the Lord” as Sunday is the day our Lord rose from the Dead. Also, I would note that not all of these things are Roman as Reverend Bruce seems to say. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are all from Germanic gods, namely Tiu, Woden, Thor, and Frigu. The only language which clearly comes from a Greek god is Saturday, which is derived from Saturn. Sunday and Monday’s names may be related to pagan feasts, but all their names reference is “sun” and “moon”. These are only natural, as English is a Germanic language with many Latin derivatives. However, any religious or pagan aspects to these names are now all but forgotten by modern culture so it does not bother me much.

Out of all of these days of the week, Saturday and Sunday seem to be linked to the Word. This is not by their names by any means. This is due to the significance of the days. Saturday is connected to the sabbath and the day of rest, while Sunday is the celebration of Christ risen. Albeit very loose connections, the two days are still linked to the Word in some form of reverence for the people of God.

For those unaware, “the Word” is the name of Jesus Christ used in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. I would note that Friday also has a very important significance to many Christians, as that is the day upon which our Lord died on the cross, for which reason at least among Catholics it is traditionally a day of penance. Also, I am unclear why these connections are “very loose”. The Hebrews celebrated the Sabbath as the final day of the week in Old Testament times and the Jews do now. Meanwhile almost all those who call themselves Christians consider Sunday to be the Day of Rest because Christ rose again on a Sunday (see Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1), so regardless of the English name, it is still the day of our Lord’s resurrection. Also, in Catholic tradition, every day has some Christian significance. Monday is the day of the Most Holy Trinity. Tuesday celebrates the Holy Angels. Wednesday is the day of St. Joseph. Thursday is for the Holy Eucharist (because Jesus instituted the Eucharist on Thursday). Friday is the day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Saturday is the day of the Virgin Mary. None of these have any bearing on the pagan origin of the names in English, but the seven-day week is older than the English language anyway. If I were in charge of changing all the names of the week, however, I would probably call them Christday (Christ-day), Thrinesday (Trinity-day), Engleday (Angel-day), Joesday (St. Joseph’s day), Husleday (Eucharist’s day), Throwungday (Passion-day), and Mariday (Mary’s day). But unfortunately, I am not the emperor of Earth, so for better or worse, we will have to live with the pagan-origin names.

Sadly, when we step back and see the big picture, the world seems to dominate this realm of daily life. The world has made its decree and dictated how these names have remained in place for ages.

Our educational systems have served to support it. In my own upbringing, I was taught both English and Spanish in Southern California. We learned the days of the week and the months of the year in both languages. Our educational system solidifies the continual practice of keeping these names from generation to generation. Imagine what business and other institutions are upholding and affirming day by day without any consideration of its spiritual impact on others.

This is true, and I agree. In this society, we are allowed to kill babies on the altar of convenience in many places (or on the altar of Moloch, depending on your point of view), and we are not allowed to call men men and women women. I am not sure the names of the days of the week have much to do with it since days like “Wednesday” and “Thursday” are just words now and I do not think they will lead anyone to worship Woden and Thor. Also, as I said, since he says he learned the days of the week in Spanish, the word domingo, “Sunday”, comes from the Latin word dominus, meaning “Lord”, so the Spaniards call Sunday “day of the Lord”.

The church as a whole has been complicit. We’ve seen how Constantine, the Council of Nicaea and even the papal authority have all played a role in maintaining the infusion of paganism into Christian conversion. The intent was to influence the world by the Word, but what really happened was that the world’s ways influenced how the church handled some things.

This is where he misuses something I said, but I will get to that in a moment. Reverend Bruce claims that Constantine, the Council of Nicaea, and the Popes have played a role in maintaining the infusion of paganism into Christianity. The reverend links an article called Constantine Converted to Christianity . . . Didn’t He?, written by someone called Steve Ruis, an atheist who fairly openly mocks Christianity and Scripture on his blog. Nowhere in this article, however, does Mr. Ruis mention Constantine infusing paganism into Christianity but only calls into question Constantine’s deathbed baptism (for reasons wholly unconvincing to me). Likewise, to back up the claim that the Council of Nicaea played a role in maintaining paganism (in spite of the fact that it also declared Christ’s divinity as dogma for the first time) is written by someone who in the same article claims St. Paul invented Christianity, which, considering he quotes Ephesians later on in this article, is probably a claim Reverend Bruce would reject. The argument about Paul is actually the main point of that article, so if Reverend Bruce trusts this article’s word on Nicaea, he should also trust it on Paul—and I really hope he does not.

However, as for Nicaea, the only dogmatic statement it made is the following:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten (γεννηθέντα), not made, being of one substance (ὁμοούσιον, consubstantialem) with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not (ἤν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν), or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion [τρεπτὸν in Greek; convertibilem in Latin] — all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.”

So, most Protestants would agree with everything here, so I imagine Reverend Bruce does as well.

Reverend Bruce gives no citation as to how the Popes are responsible, but in the phrase “Christian conversion” (which I suppose is probably supposed to back up the claim that Constantine infused Christianity with paganism), he links an article called A Brief Look at the First ‘Christian’ Emperor by David Ettinger where Ettinger questions whether Constantine was actually a Christian or “saved” as he calls it. I am unclear what point Reverend Bruce is making by citing it, however. Maybe Constantine was not a good person. He is long dead and therefore in my mind that is between him and God. Ettinger actually admits good things came out of Constantine’s reign in his article, saying, “Constantine’s Christianizing of the Roman Empire took a big step forward when in 313 he published an “edict of toleration,” which extended freedom to all religious cults. It also mandated the return of all Christian property which had been confiscated during the recent persecution, and gave Christians access to public office.”

And as for the final citation… that is where the thing I wrote comes in. Reverend Bruce claims that the world’s ways influenced how the church handled some things and cites my article, Is Easter Pagan? The point I was making there was that it was not pagan. Granted, it is about as pagan as Wednesday is, and I admitted in the article that the English word Easter (not reflected in most other languages) comes from the name Ēostre, who appears to have been a localized goddess of the Spring about which barely anything is actually known. I also admitted that eggs and rabbits may or may not have had vaguely pagan origins (not that those have much to do with the point of Easter). However, the feast of Easter, as I argued there, is not pagan, and in most languages, the name is some variant of the word Pasch, as in the Hebrew word “Passover”. According to Bede, who, as I mentioned in the article, is the main source of all we know about Easter, the name was simply chosen because Ēostre’s time of celebration was around the same time as Easter, and so as the Anglo-Saxons converted, they kept the same name. Besides the word Easter, ultimately comes from the Anglo-Saxon ēast, meaning east, and there is nothing pagan about that. After all, Christ rose in the East.

Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst.
Isaiah 5:13 (ESV)

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
 And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
Hosea 4:6

The results have never been good for God’s people when they turn away from the knowledge of God. It’s never turned out that well for anyone in the biblical canon who turned away from the Word and what it can provide. That doesn’t even work well for us today. Destruction and doom are the inevitable end to such folks in the text.

This doesn’t have to be the case.

I agree with everything said here, but I think there are more important things to worry about than words descended distantly from the names of pagan gods in the English vocabulary when most people do not associate them anymore anyway.

With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.
Ephesians 4:17 (NLT)

Note my point earlier that Reverend Bruce probably does not think St. Paul founded Christianity.

Cut out the confusion. Cut through all of the complications that man has added to your faith. Come to know God through His Word. Daily devote time to spend in communion with Him as search His Holy Word.

Once again, I agree. However, I would also contend that more people nowadays associate Sunday with worshipping our Lord than with worshipping the Sun.

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:2-3 (ESV)

Modern day Christians have to remain rooted in the source of their strength and supply. Stay in your Word. Seek the truth. Test everything by the Spirit of Truth.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32 (NLT)

Yes, but I am once again confused how that relates to English words distantly descended from pagan gods. When I reference Tuesday, I rarely think of a god who sacrificed his hand to a gigantic wolf. On Saturday, I am more likely to think of the Mother of God or even of the Jewish Sabbath than of a Titan who swallowed his children whole lest they challenge his reign (as if that were not a recipe to be challenged) and apparently could not tell the difference between a child and a rock.

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On Protestants

Is Easter Pagan?

Happy Easter, everyone! Last Christmas, I debunked the view that Christmas was a pagan holiday and argued that Christ was actually born on December 25. I will not argue that Christ resurrected on April 9 (because He likely rose on March 27, but that is another issue). Now I would like to address the idea that Easter is a pagan holiday. Some Christians are afraid to celebrate Easter because of this fear. I contend that it is not.

The basic argument is as follows: Easter comes from the name of the Germanic goddess Ēostre, the Germanic name for the Babylonian goddess, Ishtar. Ishtar was the goddess of love, beauty, war, and fertility. The symbols of eggs and rabbits reflect her role as goddess of fertility (which has absolutely nothing to do with Christ’s resurrection and as far as I know, the Assyrians and Babylonians did not associate Ishtar with rabbits either, but let us continue). Once Constantine legalized Christianity, he “baptized” the holiday to represent the resurrection of Christ. Come to think about it, Constantine is frequently blamed for all the Christian holidays.

There are, however, a few problems with this. First, barely anything is even known about  Ēostre, save for one description St. Bede gives us:

Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Ēostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

The Reckoning of Time, 725 AD

Other than that, there is practically nothing. She does not appear in the lore of surrounding mythologies and it is likely that Ēostre was a localized goddess worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons in what is now Southeastern England. But this leads to another question: why would the Catholic Church replace some random backwater holiday with the most important day for Christians in the entire year? Even more strange: why would Constantine know or care enough about this holiday to do so? That would be as if Joe Biden, when he wanted to create a new national holiday, appropriated some backwater holiday only celebrated in a small town in Alaska and use it to celebrate something entirely different. Why would Constantine not use Ceres, Goddess of the Harvest, known in Greek as Demeter? She was one of the Twelve Olympians. Or why not Persephone, her daughter? Ēostre is one of the most random, insignificant gods in the Roman Empire.

Besides, I would note that in most other languages, “Easter”. In most other languages, it is some variation of Pasch, from Passover, the Jewish feast. For instance, in French, the holiday is Pâques; in Italian, it is Pasqua; in Spanish, it is Pascua; in Swahili, it is Pasaka; and in Latin, it is Pascha. So what I find far more likely is that anglophones appropriated the name, Ēostre, because they already called that season such.

But aside from this fact, it should be noted that there is absolutely no evidence that Ēostre is Ishtar. The name Ēostre appears to have been a goddess of the dawn, not of fertility. Probably, Ēostre was an unrelated deity. Obviously, worshipping her would still be bad (although, as explained above, no one who does not speak English would even associate the two—unless we are going to say Wednesdays are pagan because by calling them such we are worshipping Woden), but the fact that she is a deity about whom we know practically nothing much weakens the probability of this argument.

Now do eggs or rabbits have pagan origins? Perhaps, and any Christian is free not to involve them in Easter celebrations if he so chooses—the same could be said of the Christmas Tree. However, eggs and rabbits are made by God and are not pagan in origin so I think they could easily be baptized. If eggs symbolized rebirth for the pagans, for instance, whether in the case of spring or dawn, eggs for us may be taken to symbolize the rebirth which took place when the Son arose at dawn, thus allowing Mankind to be born again as sons of God. 

So no, Easter is not a pagan holiday. It is a Christian holiday, and the most important one of the year.

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On Protestants

Is Reincarnation Biblical?

Reincarnation, the belief that the soul can be reborn in a new body once the old body dies, is largely frowned upon and for good reason. My own Catholic Church teaches that everyone dies once, is sent to be judged before our Lord, and is either borne to heaven (frequently through the refining fires of purgatory) or else condemned straight to hell. However, there are some Christians who do believe in reincarnation. Thus, I thought it was reasonable to address it. Let us begin.

Did the Jews believe in reincarnation?

Some people argue for reincarnation by appealing to Matthew 16:13-14, which states:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

This, they say, suggests that the Jews of the time believe in reincarnation. I see why someone by reading this verse might think this. However, the evidence suggests that they believed this was a case of resurrection, not reincarnation. This is what Herod the Tetrarch, at any rate, believed, as shown by Matthew 14:2, where he says of Jesus, “This is John the Baptist, he has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.”

Remember that many of the Jews, aside from the Sadducees, believed in the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23). The parallel passage in Luke 9:19 makes it clearer: “John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.”

And before anyone claims that Jesus was the reincarnated version of John the Baptist who in turn was reincarnated from Elijah, first of all, Jesus was born only six months after John, and they were contemporaries, so Jesus must have somehow baptized Himself in the Jordan. Second, the apostles make it clear that this is what other people believe and then Peter reveals the true belief and is praised for it, namely, that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (see Matthew 16:16, Luke 9:20)

In conclusion, I see no great evidence for reincarnation here.

John the Baptist

Another verse commonly used to defend reincarnation is Matthew 17:12-13, “‘I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”

This, it is argued, suggests that our Lord was saying St. John the Baptist was a reincarnate form of Elijah the prophet.

There are a few problems with this interpretation. First, Elijah was not dead. As told in 2 Kings 2:9-18, Elijah did not die, but rather was taken up bodily into heaven. In other words, Elijah still had his old body and did not need a new one.

Besides, Matthew 17:1-8 tells the story of the transfiguration where Moses and Elijah appear to our Lord. Seeing that this is after John the Baptist had been beheaded, why could not Jesus see Moses and John?

So it stands to reason that Christ is talking about something else when He calls John Elijah. So what does he mean? The answer is found in Luke 1:16-17, which states, “[John] will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” [Emphasis added]

Note that Gabriel focuses on John’s future ministry. In other words, John, by going in the “spirit” of Elijah, is figuratively called “Elijah” by Jesus insofar as he fulfilled Elijah’s prophetic ministry.

So what does the Bible say?

Reincarnation is incompatible with Sacred Scripture and Christian Tradition. One example where the teachings of Jesus Christ. The clearest example is the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, as found inLuke 16:19-31. Now, the reason why this is important is that Luke 16:22-23, we are told that “[t]he poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom.” Thus, neither of them were reincarnated, but rather Lazarus went to eternal reward and the rich man went to eternal punishment.

This idea is corroborated by Hebrews 9:27, which states, “And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Were they to reincarnate, they would not die only once.

The Fathers

We may subvert their doctrine as to transmigration from body to body by this fact, that souls remember nothing whatever of the events which took place in their previous states of existence. For if they were sent forth with this object, that they should have experience of every kind of action, they must of necessity retain a remembrance of those things which have been previously accomplished, that they might fill up those in which they were still deficient, and not by always hovering, without intermission, round the same pursuits, spend their labour wretchedly in vain (for the mere union of a body [with a soul] could not altogether extinguish the memory and contemplation of those things which had formerly been experienced ), and especially as they came [into the world] for this very purpose. 

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:33:1 (A.D. 189)

But is their opinion preferable, who say that our souls, when they have passed out of these bodies, migrate into the bodies of beasts, or of various other living creatures? Philosophers, indeed, themselves are wont to argue that these are ridiculous fancies of poets, such as might be produced by draughts of the drugs of Circe; and they say that not so much they who are represented to have undergone such things, as the senses of those who have invented such tales are changed into the forms of various beasts as it were by Circe’s cup. For what is so like a marvel as to believe that men could have been changed into the forms of beasts? How much greater a marvel, however, would it be that the soul which rules man should take on itself the nature of a beast so opposed to that of man, and being capable of reason should be able to pass over to an irrational animal, than that the form of the body should have been changed? You yourselves, who teach these things, destroy what you teach. For you have given up the production of these portentous conversions by means of magic incantations.

St. Ambrose of Milan, On the Death of Satyrus II:127 (A.D. 380)

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All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

On Protestants

A Biblical Defense of Original Sin

Some people feel uncomfortable with the doctrine of Original Sin. The idea that a human being can be in any way accountable for the sin of Adam, I understand, can be difficult to comprehend. But let us see what the Bible says. But let us first understand what Original Sin is. For that, let us look to the Council of Trent:

“If anyone asserts that the transgression of Adam injured him alone and not his posterity, and that the holiness and justice which he received from God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has transfused only death and the pains of the body into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul, let him be anathema.”

Trent, Sess. 5, Para. 2

Now, Original Sin is not a sin for us per se. “Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.” (CCC 404) A fundamental change came upon men at that point. It was then when people became disposed to sin and death. 

So would God punish us for Adam’s sin?

It is actually incorrect to say that God will punish us for the sins of our fathers, as stated in Ezekiel 18:20, where it states that a “son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father”. However, it is well known that future generations can be harmed by the deeds of their parents, so I think it fair to say that God will simply not directly punish a person for the sin of another. Original sin is not God punishing man for Adam’s sin.

The usual analogy goes something along these lines is as follows: imagine a mighty knight, who is close friends with the king. These privileges were extended to his wife and children, being allowed to eat at the king’s table. The knight received this privilege for killing a dragon. However, later on it comes out that the knight faked the dragon’s head. The knight is therefore sent away from the castle in shame and his family members lose those privileges with him. Thus, his children are not being punished per se, but they are still losing the privileges they would have otherwise had if not for the sin of their father. This is basically what Original Sin is. We are not punished for Adam’s sin, but because of Adam’s sin, we have lost sanctifying grace and therefore the right to eternal life, only to be returned to us by Jesus Christ.

But where is it found in the Bible? That is another very good question.

Romans 5:12

Romans 5:12 states the following, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”

Now, some might say that the text is referencing personal sin only. However, it is simply inaccurate to say that all men sinned because infants and severely mentally handicapped persons have not. Furthermore, Paul says this is the reason that death spread to the same all men in the world who have sinned, which further provides evidence against the idea that this is about personal sin. Death is not a result of personal sin under every circumstance, a good example being in the case of a miscarriage. 

Now obviously, Catholics do not believe that Jesus Christ or Mary His Mother had either Original or Actual Sin. Further, we know that Jesus Christ died and Mary at least may have died.

This objection would work if there were no precedence for there to be exceptions to the rule. In other words, it is a well-known fact that, in general, to be a body is to die. For instance, it is known Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates died.

However, there are two exceptions to that rule: Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). They were mortal, corporeal men who contracted sin, but through the power of God, they were exceptions to the rule and did not die. This we know by God’s revelation. Thus, similarly, if Enoch and Elijah “sinned”, as Paul said, and yet death did not spread to them, it does not seem to me too incredible that God could exempt Jesus and Mary from sin while still allowing them to partake in the rest of his children. However, since it is not revealed by God that infants are exemptions from this rule (because that would make no sense), it can be presumed, if they have not sinned, that Paul was talking about Original Sin.

Therefore, unless we are going to say that every fetus who is miscarried and every newborns who grows ill and dies is either some sort of miraculous exception to the rule that “death spreads to people because they have sinned” who is sinless and dies anyway, or else fetuses can be sinners, or else if neither of these is plausible, Paul was not referencing personal sin. Therefore, an inherited “sin”, which we call Original Sin, seems the most plausible.

“We had offended in the first Adam, when he did not perform His commandment. In the second Adam, however, we are reconciled, being made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to none other but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning.”

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:16:3 (c. A.D. 180-190)

“On account of his [Adam’s] transgression man was given over to death; and the whole human race, which was infected by his seed, was made the transmitter of condemnation.”

Tertullian, The Testimony of the Soul 3:2 (c. A.D. 197-200)

“Anyone who would say that even infants who pass from this life without participation in the sacrament [of baptism] shall be made alive in Christ truly goes counter to the preaching of the apostle and condemns the whole Church, where there is great haste in baptizing infants because it is believed without doubt that there is no other way at all in which they can be made alive in Christ”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Letter to Jerome 166:7:21 (c. A.D. 415)

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All Bible verses are from the Revised Standard Version.

On Protestants

Is All Sin Equal?

Is all sin equal? This is a very interesting topic and I hear it come up a lot. Now, it is a rather common among Protestants to make the claim that “all sin is equal”. Credit goes to a an individual who writes under Gunfighter18 for recommending it. Now, obviously, this is inconsistent with the Catholic view that some sins are worse than others, although they are all bad. Now, I will go through Scripture verses for and against and give my thoughts.

Now, the usual scripture verse Protestants use against this doctrine is James 2:10-11, which states:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” said also, “Do not kill.” If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.

Now, Protestants frequently claim this is inconsistent with the Catholic view, which distinguishes between mortal sin and venial sin, such that only mortal sins completely sever a person’s soul from God and therefore are damnable, as opposed to venial sin, which only weakens a person’s relation with God. So, do James’ words contradict Catholicism?

First of all, it clearly does not. All James says is that if one only breaks one commandment but not another, he is still a sinner. If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law—to which I would completely agree. James says nothing remotely akin to “all sin is equal”.

To understand the meaning of this verse, one must consider it in context, specifically in the first nine verses that lead up to the tenth. James 2:1 states, “My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” James then condemns separate treatment of the rich and poor, saying, “If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:8-9)

So, what James is condemning in this verse is making distinctions that are inconsistent. For instance, one cannot say on judgment day, “I loved almost every person in the world. I gave alms! I forgave… most people. I just murdered one guy I didn’t like.” These are condemned because that way a person would be making distinctions. Similarly, when one goes before God, he cannot say, “Lord, I kept nine out of ten commandments. I’m not that bad!” This is what is condemned.

Mark 10:17-22

Another passage from time to time brought up is the one about the rich man who came to our Lord. Here, he explains that he had kept all of the commandments from the time of his youth. To this, our Lord responds, saying, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) The argument here is though the rich man kept all the commandments, he still had one sin and therefore was condemned. I might dispute that is what Christ is condemning directly, as he never says directly that the rich man is going to hell (Scripture explicitly states that “upon him loved him” (Mark 10:21)). I do not think I would be alone in thinking “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” 10:25 is something of hyperbole. However, even supposing that is not the case, all that seems to be saying is that this particular man needed to or ought to have given alms more to improve his spiritual life, not that all sin is equal.

So, in my mind, there does not seem to be much biblical evidence that all sin is equal. Let us examine evidence to the contrary.

Matthew 5:19-22

“Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.”

Now, note that Christ references “the least of these commandments”, saying that anyone who breaks these commandments and teaches others will be “in the kingdom of heaven”, even though he will be least. However, Christ makes it clear immediately afterward that people who say “‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.” So, in other words, it is clear that some sins are damnable. This is also made clear in verses 28-29, where our Lord states, “But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”

So some sins, but not all, are damnable.

Matthew 12:32

 And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Now, sins that cannot be forgiven are often seen as final impenitence before death. But if so, what is meant by saying that they will not “be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” as opposed to sins against the Son of Man? Apparently, there are some sins that can be forgiven in this age or in the age to come as opposed to sins that cannot. It is the Catholic doctrine that only venial sins can be forgiven after death. With this in mind, this seems rather Catholic, does it not?

To find historical basis for this, let us consider 2 Maccabees 12:39-45, which was written in 125 BC. And now I have the feeling I will quickly get this in the comment section…

“Thou evil papist believeth fake scriptures. Begone, unfair dude!”

However, that is not relevant as the books of Maccabees can fairly be said to give a history, showing what the Jews of the time believe. 

In that passage, Judas Maccabeus and his army gather the bodies of some fallen soldiers after a battle. However, the text states that they discovered “under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen.” (12:40)

Following this, the passage tells that “they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.” (2 Maccabees 12:42-43)

Note that Judas actually sends sin offerings for these persons after they died. This shows that he has hope for their forgiveness after death. This suggests the venial sin of superstition, as is found, according to the Catholic belief. However, it is clear from Mark 9:47-48, among other verses, that sins can end a person in hell.

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

This is a textual allusion to Isaiah 66:24, so our Lord was saying nothing novel of which Judas Maccabeus was aware.

Mortal and Non-Mortal Sins

But if this is not evidence enough, note I John 5:16-18. This is written as follows:

If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal. We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

Obviously, it is clear that there is a difference in this passage between “mortal sin” and “sin which is not mortal”. It is distinguished that forgiveness of non-mortal sins can be communicated through prayer, but forgiveness of mortal sin cannot be communicated by prayer. Scripture makes it clear we must pray “for all” (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2), so it is clear that this passage is simply referring to praying that “God will give him life”. John cannot be referencing all sin by “mortal” ones or else the distinction would become unnecessary. This is in line with Catholic doctrine, which teaches mortal sin can only be forgiven and a Christian can only be restored to spiritual communion through the sacrament of reconciliation.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul compares the Church to a body. Now, using that analogy, an injured hand or eye can still be healed by the body because it is still attached to the body. If it is cut off completely, it cannot, at least not naturally. The same could be said of venial and mortal sins.

A List of Mortal Sins

But now that it has been established that there are both mortal and venial sins, I can do one better and show some biblical basis for what is a mortal sin, as most Protestants will probably feel they require anyway. There are several lists of mortal or damnable sins in Sacred Scripture. Examples include Matthew 15:18-20, Ephesians 5:3-7, Colossians 3:5-6, Galatians 5:19-21, I Corinthians 6:9-11,Revelation 21:8, Revelation 22:15

I will only quote one of them here:

Ephesians 5:3-7

But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them

Note that Paul says that anyone who commits these things will bring on “the wrath of God”, saying that it is “because of these things”—as in, the sins themselves cause damnation, whether someone has been “saved” or not, and not, as some might say, just because of the lack of faith. So not all sin is equal. These, for example, are worse than others.

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All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

On Protestants

BIBLIOLATRY: The Sin of Protestantism

When one speaks of idolatry, most people often think of golden calfs or temples of Baal. When one speaks of blasphemy, he might think of shouting that Jesus is not Lord. But there is one idolatrous religion that many people do not think of when these words are brought up, and THAT is the RELIGION of EVANGELICAL PROTESTANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s right. Evangelicalism is an evil, idolatrous, PAGANISTIC religion that we have TOLERATED long ENOUGH

For those to whom it is still somehow unclear because of the EVILPROTESTANTCULTURE OF DEATH that PERVADES our culture suppressing TRUE CHRISTIANITY as the EARLY Christians believed, thus leading HERETICAL CHRISTIANITY distorting our perception of rEaLiTy, the error of Evangelicalism and, by extension, our evangelical-centrist culture is the worship of the book known as the Bible. As I have not yet addressed such a heinous crime, I shall do so now. 

Before anything else, I must first point out that no orthodox Catholic would deny the value of the Bible which is assuredly the most blessed of all books. However, the Evangelicals introduce doctrines such as SOLA SCRIPTURA and give the Bible BLASPHEMOUS NAMES that the traditional Bible would denounce in a heartbeat. 

But how can evangelicals be considered to worship the Bible? After all, if one were to ask an evangelical, he would probably say that he worships God alone. But, as is common with false religions, their actions speak louder than words. Let us begin:


Now, perhaps the most horrendous crime of the Protestants is the name they give to the Scriptures: the WORD OF GOD. This might seem reasonable, except for one tiny fact: THE TITLE WORD OF GOD BELONGS TO GOD ALONE!!!!!

“But why not?” the Evangelical will say. “It was inspired by God, was it not?” But that is not the point. God may have inspired it, but it did not drop out of the sky, as Protestants seem to think, holding the heretical doctrine of Sola Fide, and the Bible was certainly not generated by God before time began. This is all settled in John 1:1-3, by the very book Protestants seem to elevate above God: “In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.” 

The Bible cannot be the Word of God because the Bible was not in the beginning with God. The Bible had a beginning. Jesus Christ did not. The Evangelicals blasphemously ascribe a title to the Bible that the Bible itself gives to GOD ALONE

Now, an evangelical might quote the passage Acts 18:11, “And he stayed there a year and six months, teaching among them the word of God.” However, to say the word of God here is the Bible is HERETICAL EISEGESIS. However, it is clear from verses such as Acts 8:5 and 1 Corinthians 15:12 that what was being preached is Jesus Christ Who is the Word of God, NOT THE BIBLE. 

By ascribing the title of “Word of God” to the Bible, they are denying Jesus Christ as the true Word of God, blaspheming the name of Jesus Christ.


It is no secret that the Protestants seem to reject all forms of Mediators or anything that does not feel like a direct phone call with God in regards to the spiritual life—everything, that is, except the Bible.

Tradition always describes every church service as focusing around the sacrifice of the Mass—the Eucharist. However, the Protestants hold to the heretical doctrine of Sola Scriptura and for that reason, their own services are all ordered not around the Eucharist (they deny transubstantiation in their knee-jerk “there is no mediator” doctrine—a misuse of scripture) or around Jesus Christ, but around the Bible. The Bible is read at a Catholic Mass, of course, but it is centered around the consecration. The Bible itself testifies to this, saying, “And they were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”(Acts 2:42) 

And, as is wont with the Protestants, they worship the Bible and COMPLETELY IGNORE EVERYTHING IT SAYS. Especially with evangelicals, if you go into their churches, one will most likely never see a statue or an icon of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Heck, you maybe won’t even see a cross. You know what you will see? THE BIBLE. THE BIBLE. THE BIBLE. They place it up on their altars, if they have even have one, and place it on the forefront of their prayers and “worships”.


There is one thing I did not mention. Yes, they worship the Bible, but they do not even have the decency have the benefit of admiring the REAL Bible. Scripture itself writes, “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.” (Revelation 22:19) Naturally, that is exactly what the Protestants did. Who is responsible for this? Martin Luther, because it was found to be inconsistent with his doctrines. But this is no longer the whole Bible. If all the icons in a Catholic Church were of Jesus without a head, I might be concerned.

Let all Protestants beware this verse:

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.”—Galatians 1:8


And now I think I have to explain what this is about. I suspect some already know what I am doing. How could I possibly believe that Protestants are bibliolaters? The answer is that I do not. This whole thing was a satire, but in my defense, I did so for good reasons. These arguments are very similar to how Protestants frequently claim that Catholics worship Mary. The first objection specifically is meant to mirror attacks on titles such as “Mother of God”, “Co-Redemptrix”, and “Mediatrix of Graces”. The second denotes objections to things such as the Rosary. Obviously, it is absurd to say Protestants worship the Bible just because they honor it, but simultaneously, I must say that it is absurd to imagine that Catholics worship the Mother of God just because they honor her as well. 

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I am the Chivalric Apologist

All Scripture verses are from the Douay-Rheims Bible.

On Protestants

Contra Annihilationism: A Biblical Defense of Eternal Conscious Torment

Annihilationism—the denial of eternal conscious torment of hell and the belief that after the Last Judgment, all unsaved human beings, all fallen angels, and Satan himself will be totally destroyed so as to not exist and be annihilated—is a belief commonly rejected in many Christian communities, including Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants. However, from what I have seen, there are certain Protestant sects among whom this idea is once again gaining steam. The Catholic Church obviously teaches differently:

“The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶1035

Now, it could be noted that it was men who rejected God by committing mortal sins before He rejected them. Therefore, God leaves them apart from Him in hell. Of course, any Annihilationist would probably already concede to that. Following, I would like to respond to some arguments certain sects of Protestants put forward to defend this position.

Objection 1: God loves all men, for it is written, “He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) But if God truly loves all men, would He ever let anyone suffer for all eternity? And how could anyone who is in heaven truly be happy in heaven, knowing that his loved ones may be trapped for all eternity in hell?

To this, I respond that there are multiple ways of looking at this. Catholic Answers’ apologist, Karlo Broussard, weighs in, saying: “How could a person experience the punishment justice demands for permanently rejecting God if he were annihilated? The gravity of violating God’s absolute right would be reduced to nothingness if there were no punishment for it. Justice would not be served.” In other words, balance would not really be restored if divine justice were not fully realized.

However, I think there is another way one could look at this. Anyone in hell is still participating in one good thing that is of God—that being existence. Yes, some might argue that these people might detest their own existence, but I doubt annihilation would be preferred exactly. At any rate, existence is, in itself, good. For that reason, I am not even totally convinced that annihilation would be a lesser punishment.

At any rate, it would rather violate the end of a soul with an immortal nature to thwart it. To quote St. Thomas Aquinas, “The annihilation of things does not pertain to the manifestation of grace; since rather the power and goodness of God are manifested by the preservation of things in existence. Wherefore we must conclude by denying absolutely that anything at all will be annihilated.” (ST I:104:4

As for how those in heaven would feel about it, Aquinas writes on that as well. “In this way,” he says, “the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy.” (ST Supp. 94:3) So there is actually an indirect joy that comes from their suffering, because the justice of God is a good thing. Aquinas also seems to be saying that there is a relief in avoiding it, roughly the “I’m glad that is not me” mentality.

Remember, those in heaven do not think the same way as we do. In the Last Judgment, all things will be revealed and no sin, forgiven or unforgiven, will remain secret (see Luke 8:17). It can hardly be presumed that anyone will feel in any way judgmental about others’ sins. The reason is that we will see things through God’s eyes. Similarly, we will see more clearly the justice of hell when we are in heaven (as we hope we will!)

Objection 2: At various times, Scripture refers to hell as “destruction”. For instance, Psalm 73:27 states, “For lo, those who are far from thee shall perish; thou dost put an end to those who are false to thee.” And again, in Matthew 7:13, our Lord declares, “The gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction.” And according to Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Since Scripture speaks of the damned being “destroyed”, it is logical to suppose they are annihilated.

To this, I respond that I think I see what would lead someone to say that. However, I still think there is at least one major verse that points against that interpretation, that being 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” If destruction means annihilation, it cannot be eternal and must happen in one instant. A few other examples include Matthew 25:46, which states, “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Hence, the term eternal is used as a parallel. Similarly, Mark 9:48 describes hell by saying, “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Now, the objector might contend that “eternal” can simply mean a very long time until they are annihilated at the Last Judgment. However, Matthew 25:46, as I said, seems to create a contrast between “eternal punishment” and “eternal life”. We can hardly assume the latter only means a very long time. “Destruction”, therefore, can be presumed to mean the eternal destruction of everlasting conscious torment or the destruction of our lives with God.

Objection 3: A man has but a finite life and a finite amount of potential for sin. Therefore, eternal conscious torment would be disproportionate with the sin.

To this, I respond that I think that assumes that a punishment has to be equal or proportionate to the duration of a fault. However, if this were true, I think this gets rather unreasonable when applied. It would be absurd, for instance, to only send a murderer to prison for the amount of time that it took for him to murder someone, that could be chaos, since it sometimes takes people a very short amount of time to commit murder and the prison sentence would have to be unreasonably short. To quote Thomas Aquinas, “The measure of punishment corresponds to the measure of fault, as regards the degree of severity, so that the more grievously a person sins the more grievously is he punished.” (ST Supp. 99:1)

Objection 4: It would seem that eternal conscious torment cannot exist, for it is written, “For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:9-10) And again, “For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) If all things will be reconciled toward God, no evil can exist. Evil will exist, even in hell, so long as those with free will choose to love it. Therefore, the damned will cease to exist.

To this, I respond that it actually does do glory to God for evil to be punished. The sins of the reprobate need be punished to fully bring about divine glory rather than just having them vanish from existence. In that sense, all is brought to God, since evil is put in its proper place—into just eternal conscious torment.

As a matter of fact, I would argue the Bible is quite clear that the reprobate will still exist after that time. Acts 24:15, for instance, states: “There will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” Why would the unjust be resurrected if they are just to be annihilated?

Now I must discuss the Church Fathers. Many supported the Catholic position.

“But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, ‘There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!’” Second Epistle of Clement 17:7, (A.D. 150)

Clement calls hell “torture”, implying eternal conscious torment.

“Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire.”

Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3 (A.D. 155)

“For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire.”

St. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 1:14 (A.D. 181)

“To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them.”

St. Hippolytus, Against the Greeks 3 (A.D. 212)

“We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 18:19 (A.D. 350) (Emphasis Added)
On Protestants

A Biblical Defense of Baptismal Regeneration

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘ Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.’”

Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶1213

Within the Catholic tradition, for two thousand years, baptism has always been considered the beginning of the Christian life, when a child of God receives sanctifying grace and is freed from Original Sin. Now, this is not to say that people who did not have a chance to be baptized are necessarily damned since there is such a thing as Baptism of Blood and Baptism of Desire. These are not really the purpose of this discussion, but I write on the issue here and here or if you want to see a true genius explain it (who is occasionally unintelligible to the ordinary laity) see Aquinas’ explanation here. Or go straight to the source and see the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject here.

Now, the Orthodox would unanimously accept the doctrine. Similarly, many more traditional or conservative Protestant sects would embrace the idea of baptismal regeneration or at least a version of it. However, more liberal theologies such as many forms of evangelicalism and fundamentalism oppose it, sometimes rather vehemently. This is because of a radical view of Sola Fide that basically denies the necessity of any human action aside from the act of faith. Their usual view is that baptism is only needed as a symbol. Obviously, Catholics do not believe that water has magical powers, but rather Christ uses the physical sign of water, though human agency, to save people from sin. However, I think there is a very strong, almost foolproof case in Scripture for the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Without further ado, let us begin.

Cornelius and the Holy Spirit
One main objection that might pop up on the fundamentalist side is Acts 10:44-48, which takes place when the Gentiles are called to Communion and says the following,

“While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”

This is probably the only time when anyone in the Bible receives the Holy Spirit without receiving baptism. Cornelius, I would argue, is an exception. God has chosen His Church and the Sacraments as the ordinary means of salvation, but, to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.” (¶1257

Cornelius and his companions were the first gentiles to be baptized into the new Christian community.  The reason that God imparted the Holy Spirit upon them was to show that there was no longer a division between the circumcised and uncircumcised, and if He had not done this, they might never have been baptized. Hence, Peter says, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”—showing baptism is important to become a Christian.

The Good Thief
Another objection is of the Good Thief on the Cross, traditionally known as St. Dismas. What about him? After all, in Luke 23:43, on the cross, Jesus says to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” He was not baptized. What did he do to gain salvation other than repent and believe? Does this not pose a conflict with baptismal regeneration?

Actually no, it does not. Baptism is the ordinary means of baptismal graces, but there are also other extraordinary means that suffice for salvation.

Let us quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this point, paragraphs 1259 and 1260:

1259: For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

1260: “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”

Now, I think we can safely assume that if the Good Thief had known the necessity of baptism, he would desire to receive it, but he was unable to do so. Hence, this is not in conflict with Catholic doctrine.

“You must be born again”
Perhaps one of the most famous texts that comes up in this discussion would be Jesus’ “born again” discourse with Nicodemus, which I will quote as follows:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.—John 3:3-5

Since our Lord refers to being born “of water and the Spirit”, it makes sense that He is referencing the waters of baptism.

Now, a Protestant might argue in response that Christ is speaking metaphorically or referring to the “water” that comes out during natural birth—saying that a person must be born twice: once naturally and once spiritually. To answer the latter idea that He is referring to two things, notice that our Lord says you must be born again first and then qualifies that by of water and the spirit, so it is clearly one thing. The metaphorical interpretation will take some more time to refute.

Consider the surrounding texts:

  • In John 1:31-34, Jesus is baptized. In the account of Matthew 3:16, we see that Jesus is baptized with water and then “the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.” Obviously, this is not because Jesus needed to be baptized. Jesus did this because it was “fitting” to “to fulfil all righteousness,” in order “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.” (see Matthew 3:15, Luke 1:77) In other words, Christ meant to show us how the Holy Spirit would descend upon us—which is through baptism.
  • In John 2:1-11, Jesus performs His first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. Our Lord uses water from “six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification”. In the Septuagint as well as the New Testament these purification waters were called baptismoi (see LXX, Numbers 19:9-19; cf. Mark 7:4). Now, the purification rites in the Old Testament were “but a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1), and could never actually take away sins. There were six of them—the number of imperfection (see the heavily-theorized upon Revelation 13:18). Note that Christ turned it into wine, which is a symbol of the New Covenant. (see Joel 3:18, Matthew 9:17)
  • In John 3:22, immediately after Jesus’ “born again” discourse, he goes to Judea and “there he remained with them and baptized.” This is the only time in Scripture where Jesus apparently actually baptized people. It is reasonable, therefore, that John is trying to show an association between the two.
  • In John 4:1-2, we see our Lord’s disciples baptizing at Jesus’ command. What is likely is that Jesus baptized His disciples and gave them the authority to baptize everyone else.

Thus, Jesus was baptized, transformed the “baptismal” waters, and then gave His famous “born again” discourse. Following this, He baptized and finally commissioned his disciples to baptize. This is another reason why Jesus cannot be talking about two things since in His own baptism, we see Him baptized “of water and the Spirit” where He is baptized with water and then the heavens are open and the Spirit descends upon our Lord Jesus.

The reference to water calls back to Ezekiel 36:25-26, which states, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel describes precisely what Catholics believe happens in baptism. Obviously, God is saying He will do it, but from the Catholic perspective, God is baptizing the person through the priest’s hands and agency. Notice that Ezekiel says God gives the sprinkled person “a new heart” and “a new spirit.” Notice the parallel with Jesus said of being born of “water and the spirit”. Ezekiel also references wash people of uncleannesses and idols, which calls to mind Acts 22:16: “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” This was Ananias’ command to Paul. I imagine an evangelical would say in the same context: Rise and confess Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, but Ananias asks for baptism—a clear sign that baptism is the necessary next step to become a Christian.

Now, an evangelical might argue that this is symbolic because water does not have supernatural powers—which it does not, but Christ’s presence in the water does. Or why else would Ananias say, “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins?” In the Bible, physical things often represent spiritual things because they also contain spiritual things. Consider the pillars of cloud and fire and the tent of meeting in the Old Testament. This was not a mere metaphor. It actually embodied Christ’s presence. Hence it can be seen that with baptism, when the Bible speaks of being baptized for the forgiveness of sins, what it means is that water (which is symbolic) actually in the case of baptism carries the reality it indicates. 

An evangelical might also argue that “water” is a metaphor for the word, citing Ephesians 5:25-26, which states, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” However, there is nothing in John’s gospel to suggest that it is being used in that context here and plenty of contextual evidence relating to baptism. Second, Jesus’ words in this discourse refer to man’s initial entrance into the body of Christ through God’s grace and all throughout the Bible when it speaks of baptism, it speaks of it as just that. These other verses will be described as follows.

“Repent, and be baptized”
I think there are many aspects of Scripture which testify to the necessity of baptism for salvation. One example is Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for [Gr.— εἰς] the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Notice the sequence: repent, be baptized—and as a consequence, receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This sentence only makes sense in the context of baptismal regeneration. 

Now, some Protestants might argue that the Greek word for for, εἰς, can indicate causality or as a result (meaning “because of”). So, according to this interpretation, what Peter is saying is, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ because you have been forgiven of your sins.” However, I have a problem with this, first of all, because there is no contextual evidence to support this claim, and second, because this is not the usual definition of εἰς in Greek.

“Baptism saves”
Another verse which I might note is St. Peter’s words:

When 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.

1 Peter 3:20-21 

Let me repeat this single statement, “Baptism now saves you.” In my mind, it could not get clearer than that. Note that it does not say Baptism symbolizes your salvation. It is speaking literally and directly. In many ways, the Old Testament symbols prefigured the New Testament’s reality. To give an example, in 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul states, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Just as the Paschal lamb foreshadowed the true salvation of Christ’s sacrifice, so also the great Deluge’s physical cleansing of the world foreshadows the spiritual cleansing of the soul in baptism.

Other verses
There are many other Scripture verses that seem to identify baptism with the cleansing of sin without any reference to it being metaphorical, to the extent that I do not think it could be much clearer in Scripture.

Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

Romans 6:3-4: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

1 Corinthians 12:13: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Colossians 2:11-13: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all.”

Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Ask the Fathers
Finally, there is a unanimous consensus of the Fathers that baptism saves. This will be shown as follows:

“But let us enquire whether the Lord took care to signify before hand concerning the water and the cross. Now concerning the water it is written in reference to Israel, how that they would not receive the baptism which bringeth remission of sins, but would build for themselves. [. . .] And again He saith in another prophet; ‘And He that doeth these things shall be as the tree that is planted by the parting streams of waters, which shall yield his fruit at his proper season, and his leaf shall not fall off, and all things whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.’ [. . .] Ye perceive how He pointed out the water and the cross at the same time. For this is the meaning; Blessed are they that set their hope on the cross, and go down into the water; for He speaketh of the reward at his proper season; then, saith He, I will repay. [. . .] This He saith, because we go down into the water laden with sins and filth, and rise up from it bearing fruit in the heart, resting our fear and hope on Jesus in the spirit. ‘And whosoever shall eat of these shall live forever’; He meaneth this; whosoever, saith He, shall hear these things spoken and shall believe, shall live forever.”

Epistle of Barnabas 11:1,6,8,11 (c. A.D. 70)

“They had need [the Shepherd said] to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive, for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God and entered into the kingdom of God. For,’ he said, ‘before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead [in sin], and come out of it alive.” The Shepherd of Hermas, 9:16:2-4 [A.D. 140]

The Shepherd of Hermas, 9:16:2-4 [A.D. 140]

“Moreover, those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration–all who proceed to the truth and are born again and receive a blessing from God.”

Theophilus, To Autolycus 12:16 [A.D. 181]

“Whoever are convinced and believe that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, and professes to be able to live accordingly, is instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water, and they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: In the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.’…The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles.”

St. Justin Martyr, The First Apology 61:14-17 c. A.D. 148-155

“A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous…. Taking away death by the washing away of sins. The guilt being removed, the penalty, of course, is also removed…. Baptism itself is a corporal act by which we are plunged into the water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from our sins.”

Tertullian On Baptism 1:1, 5:6, 7:2 [c. A.D. 200-206]

“This much you must know, that baptism forgives past sins, but it does not safeguard future justice, which is preserved by labor and industry and diligence and depends always and above all on the mercy of God.”

St. Jerome, Dialogue Against the Pelagians 3:1 [A.D. 415]

The list goes on and on, but I hope the reader gets the idea. But if this is not proof enough, I will appeal to the father of the symbolic view of baptism—namely, Hulrich Zwingli. This is what he had to say:

“In this matter of baptism — if I may be pardoned for saying it — I can only conclude that all the doctors have been in error from the time of the apostles. This is a serious and weighty assertion, and I make it with such reluctance that had I not been compelled to do so by contentious spirits, I would have preferred to keep silence and simply teach the truth. But it will be seen that the assertion is a true one: for all the doctors have ascribed to the water a power which it does not have and the holy apostles did not teach.”

Huldrych Zwingli, “On Baptism,” Zwingli and Bullinger, in The Library of Christian Classics, Vol. 24, Edited by G. W. Bromiley, p. 130, emphasis added.

So even Zwingli admits that no Christian, up to this point, has ever claimed that baptism does not have real power. Let me repeat that: no one, up to that point, though they had read the same Bible, had seen that baptism was just a symbol and had supposed they had to take a bath to be saved. Then fortunately in the sixteenth century, Huldrych Zwingli showed up, read the Bible in just the right way to make sense of it, though no one had managed it before, and then announced to the world that every Christian theologian up to that point for the past 1500 years or so of Church history, and now we all know better on that account. I think the hubris in that statement is stunning. So no, I do not believe that it is either Scripturally or Traditionally sanctioned.

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All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

On Protestants

A Patristic Argument for the Assumption of Mary

Orcs who randomly commit cannibalism are a thing…

Some time ago now, I wrote an article entitled,  A Biblical Defense of the Bodily Assumption of Mary where I made a joke about the alternative being worms eating our Blessed Mother’s flesh because… I guess I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings too many times and the heroes almost being eaten is a commonplace occurrences in Tolkien’s books.

However, Protestants very frequently claim that Catholics have hardly any biblical evidence, outside of Revelation 11-12. Now, I will say first of all that I think the entire doctrine makes more sense if someone already accepts the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, since if Mary had prelapsarian flesh, it would not be fitting for it to be corrupted.

So now let us begin a patristic defense of the Bodily Assumption of Mary.

Lack of Bones

This is probably the first point. There are two supposed tombs of Mary—one in Jerusalem and one in Ephesus. Historically speaking, Mary is thought to have lived in both places, which explains it. However, no body is found in either tomb and no relics are to be found. This is important, since early Christians basically always preserved the bones of the saints. Christians held to the sanctity of the body while Gnostics held disdain for the flesh. It is a bit odd that the Mother of Christ Himself would not have relics. It seems to me that this should at least make the Assumption of Mary much more plausible.

But does this doctrine not date until around the Sixth Century?

Now, it is often claimed that the Assumption of Mary is not often discussed among the Church Fathers. Although this is true, it is not so to the same extent as some might think. There was a man named Fr. Antoine Wenger who in 1955 published a book called L’assomption de la T.S. Vierge dans la tradition byzantine du VIe au Xe siècle études et documents. In English, this translates to The Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin in the Byzantine tradition from the sixth to the tenth century studies and documents. Now, unfortunately, the book is in French, so it would be appreciated if someone who is fluent in French could translate it. However, this is still significant because Fr. Wenger found a Greek manuscript that verified what scholars had previously believed to be true—because there were whole families of manuscripts from widely different areas of the world by the time of the sixth century that told a similar story of Mary’s Assumption, there had to be previous manuscripts dating from earlier from which everyone received their data. At any rate, I think this alone is good evidence that the idea of the Assumption of Mary had to have come from beforehand. Fr. Michael O’Carroll explains this as follows.

“However, the landmark in manuscript publication was Fr. A. A. Wenger’s L’Assomption in 1955. He had found, in the Vatican library, a Greek manuscript which seemed to fulfill a remarkable scholarly conjecture made by Dom B. Capelle, and, by a singular stroke of good fortune, in Karlsruhe, a Latin translation of the same text. Dom Capelle had surveyed the whole manuscript position and concluded that a basic text prior to all must be postulated; it was desirable that it be found.

“The manuscript, discovered and published by Wenger, did seem to correspond to correspond to Capelle’s description; it was John of Thessalonica’s source. Some years later, M. Haibach-Reinisch added to the dossier an early version of Pseudo-Melito, the most influential text in use in the Latin Church. This could now, it was clear, be dated earlier than the sixth century. Meanwhile, the search went on for the primordial composition from which the Wenger manuscript derived. V. Arras claimed to have found an Ethiopian version of it which he published in 1973; its similarity to the Irish text gave the latter new status. In the same year M. Van Esbroeck brought out a Gregorian version, which he had located in Tiflis, and another, a Pseudo-Basil, in the following year, found in Mount Athos. 

“Much still remains to be explored. The Syriac fragments have increased importance, being put as far back as the third century by one commentator. The whole story will eventually be placed earlier, probably in the second century—possibly, if research can be linked with archaeological findings on the tomb of Gethsemani, in the first—a daunting task. All the earliest versions concur with the fact of Mary’s bodily assumption.”

O’Carroll, Michael. Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary. United States: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000, p. 59.

Now, seeing as this particular historian is a priest, I grant that he might have something of a bias or perhaps be too optimistic. Still, I think this alone shows there is a chance that the doctrine of the assumption is found in writing earlier than some give credit.

But why did not more Fathers talk about it earlier?

The most obvious reason would be that the Gnostics did not have any particular objection to it. Therefore, there was no reason to defend the doctrine. We do not find much on the celibacy of Jesus either, since there was probably much agreement on the topic. Much of early Christian literature was apologetic in nature. Similar to the New Testament, it mostly dealt with problem areas in the Church that needed to be addressed.

A second reason is that we do not actually know the date of the Assumption. It presumably happened during the Apostolic Age before the death of the last apostle. Still, it happened later than most of the other doctrines, so news would have probably taken a while to spread.

But even so, the doctrine could easily be dated back to the Fourth Century, which was the same time the Trinity and the Hypostatic union. To quote Timothy of Jerusalem, “[Mary] is immortal to the present time through him who had his abode in her and who assumed and raised her above the higher regions.” (Homily on the Prophet Simeon and the Blessed Virgin Mary, ca. 350-390)

Now, as could be expected, there was disagreement in the circulating stories of the Assumption of Mary, such as whether she was taken up alive or after having died. But that is aside the point and Catholics are free to believe either—although it is the common teaching that she died before her bodily assumption. 

But wasn’t the Assumption a Gnostic belief, condemned in the Fifth Century?

The reason this is sometimes brought forward is that allegedly Pope Gelasius I condemned the doctrine of the Bodily Assumption of Mary. This, in itself, seems odd to me even from an average Protestant framework, since it is undoubtedly possible that someone can be bodily assumed into heaven. (Genesis 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11)

This is a reference to the Decretum Gelasianum, also known as the Gelasian Decree. The Gelasian Decree was a document, written in the fifth century, which deals heavily with the canon of scripture. Now, even if the Assumption were condemned here, this is not an infallible decree, so the Bodily Assumption could not be treated as necessarily invalid on that account, since Pius XII’s Munificentissimus Deus has greater dogmatic weight. However, the doctrine of the Assumption was not condemned in the Gelasian Decree. 

The reference is actually to “the book which is called the Assumption of holy Mary”. The fact that a book is not scriptural does not mean everything in it is wrong.

St. Epiphanius

Epiphanius is a favorite among Protestants to cite. In his Panarion (“breadbox”) or Refutation of All Heresies, written in the late fourth century, he includes eighty-eight sections to deal with many heresies, but here I want to specifically deal with 78 and 79. In 78, he condemns the Antidicomarians, a group that denied the Perpetual Virginity. In 79, he condemns the Collyridians—a group of women who were being ordained as “priestesses” to worship Mary.

Now, most people say that Epiphanius admits no one knows whether or not she died—a thing with which most Catholics would admit. However, he undoubtedly believed in her bodily assumption. People frequently skip over this quote in the midst of it:

“And if I should say anything more in her praise, she is like Elijah, who was virgin from his mother’s womb, always remained so, and was taken up and has not seen death. She is like John who leaned on the Lord’s breast, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” She is like St. Thecla; and Mary is still more honored than she, because of the providence vouchsafed her.”—Panarion 79:5:2

So Epiphanius was at least personally quite convinced by the doctrine of the Bodily Assumption of Mary. Obviously, it had not been definitively resolved yet, but this shows that this doctrine was circling around since the fourth century.

So the Assumption of Mary is deeply rooted in Church History. Therefore, I think it is unreasonable for Protestants to claim it is unattested. Catholics and Orthodox are more or less in agreement for this issue, so I think that from the early Church, it can even be said to have probably been the majority viewpoint.

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On Protestants

A Post for Hobbit Day

Yes, I know my readers might be tired of this, but I will not miss an excuse to reference J. R. R. Tolkien. It is September 22, which is International Hobbit Day (it being the date of Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday). Technically, Tolkien Reading Day is March 25, but that is also the Feast of the Annunciation, so on a Catholic blog, that is more important. 

I was tempted to write on how Amazon absolutely ruined everything Tolkien wrote in Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power (no offense to anyone who likes Rings of Power, but seriously, read the book), but I figured I had to write about Hobbits for Hobbit Day and Hobbits may well be in Rings of Power, but they should not be in Rings of Power because Hobbits were not really a thing in the Second Age. 

Second, I wanted it to have something to do with apologetics. The fortunate thing is, The Lord of the Rings has a lot of themes I can utilize. I would zone in on hobbits, of course, because of the day. For those who have not read the book, first of all, read the book, other than the fact that this article will contain a few spoilers, I personally consider it to be illegal to die without reading The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. (or at least, it should be!)

But more seriously, hobbits are small persons who serve as main characters to both works. Bilbo Baggins was the protagonist of The Hobbit, and Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Peregrin Took, and Merry Brandybuck were (more or less) the protagonists of The Lord of the Rings. Aside from that, a sixth hobbit, Sméagol-Gollum, appears in the books, but he is evil. Hobbits are the ones made to be most relatable and down-to-earth, much more so than the Men, many of whom, such as Aragorn and the other Dúnedain, are around 6’4″ and can live thrice the lifespan of lesser men—as opposed to hobbits who are around 3’6” and whose oldest member other than Bilbo, whose life was extended by magic, only lived to 130 years old.

The second concept I would like to introduce is the One Ring, the Master Ring, Isildur’s Bane, the Ring that he lost many ages ago, to the great weakening of his power, an ancient artifact created by the Dark Lord Sauron in the Second Age for the purpose of ruling over the Free peoples of Middle-earth. The Ring was an object Bilbo Baggins found in the Misty Mountains, it having previously been possessed by Gollum for six hundred years. He found it made him invisible (what it actually did was bring him, as a mortal, into the Realm of the Unseen, but that is close enough), and he used it on his adventures, once even invisibly calling some giant spiders fat (long story…). After his adventures, Bilbo settles down in his town of Hobbiton and at length passes on the Ring to his heir, Frodo. It is then that Gandalf comes by and tells him what the Ring is.

Tolkien was a devout and practicing Catholic. At one point in the story, Frodo asks Gandalf, “Why was I chosen?” To this, Gandalf responds, “Such questions cannot be answered. You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.” (p. 61) So, to answer anyone’s questions, it cannot be said that the success of Frodo’s mission was really through his own strength. Frodo undoubtedly relied on his friends, but also on something much more powerful. “There was never much hope,” says Gandalf at another time. “Just a fool’s hope, as I have been told.” (p. 797) 

Tolkien’s Catholicism was very important to him, so I think any Christian symbolism is very important. According to Luke 1:53, “He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.”

But perhaps the most important aspect of the book for this discussion is the climax of the story. Again, spoilers are here, but I doubt many people who are unfamiliar with The Lord of the Rings would have read this far anyway, so I am not overly concerned. As Frodo arrives at Mount Doom, he fails to destroy the Ring. Tolkien himself points out that this is not Frodo’s fault since he actually resisted as long as was humanly possible. So then Frodo claims the Ring for his own and puts it on his finger. However, Gollum arrives just in time, bites off Frodo’s finger, and takes the Ring. 

‘Precious, precious, precious!’ Gollum cried. ‘My Precious! O my Precious!’ And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone.

The Lord of the Rings, p. 925

It is generally agreed by Tolkien scholars (especially Christian Tolkien scholars) that this was done by Providence or, more properly, by the power of Eru Ilúvatar, basically God in Tolkien’s lore. 

Now why am I bringing this up? (other than it being an unapologetic excuse to talk about hobbits, of course) Well, there is an idea circulating among various Protestant sects known as monergism, a believe that comes as a fruit of the wider view of Sola Fide. Basically, the idea is that the Catholic claim that a Christian must cooperate with God’s grace to be saved, thus doing good work. (see Matthew 12:50, 1 Corinthians 3:9)

Frodo did not perform his task by his own strength (whatever the evil movies may say). Yes, he had his friends, especially Sam Gamgee, but he had more than that. As Gandalf said earlier, he was chosen, not because he had much power, but he used the power he had, and with God’s help, it was enough. I am not preaching semi-Pelagianism. He was given grace in the first place and without it, Frodo could not have set out in the first place. But Frodo had to align himself with the will of God to complete the quest, God being the principle cause of his actions and Frodo being but the secondary cause. This is the reasoning Catholics hold when they say they must cooperate with God’s grace. No good can be done without God, but God gave us free will because He wanted us to be associated with His work and gave us free will.

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