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On Protestants

A Biblical Refutation of Sola Scriptura

By Sola Scriptura, I mean the doctrine that the Bible alone (apart from the deuterocanon), apart from Tradition handed down by the apostles orally through the Fathers to us, is to be our doctrinal basis for all we need to know about God. I would call this the cornerstone of Protestant theology, without which all else fails, since if one accepts all doctrines unanimously accepted by the Fathers and seriously considers the more common Patristic teachings, there is only so far from Catholicism one can get. Some Protestants are alright with seeing the Scriptures to some degree through the lens of the Fathers, but rejecting what the Fathers taught (even unanimously) if they do not believe they can find it in Scripture.

Now the Council of Trent specifically condemns Sola Scriptura in these words: “No one, relying on his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.” (Sess. IV Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books)

Now a Protestant usually bring up the objection of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I suppose I see why one might suppose this suggests Tradition comes second. However, that is certainly not what Paul meant. Consider Ephesians 4:11-15, for instance: 

“And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

With verses such as this in mind, if 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves the sole sufficiency of Scripture, Ephesians 4:11-15 even more so proves the sole sufficiency of Church authority. So Paul in Ephesians 4, says that the Christian believer is equipped, built up, brought into unity and mature manhood, and even preserved from doctrinal confusion by means of the teaching authority of the Church. For this reason, it is more reasonable to suppose the Church and Scripture are both equally necessary and important for teaching.

Similarly, James 1:4 says: “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” If we apply the same principle, steadfastness alone, apart from faith, hope, charity, and grace from God is necessary for salvation.

After all, Paul says “all Scripture is profitable”, not “Scripture alone is completely sufficient”.

As a matter of fact immediately proceeding in 2 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul says: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” So he was clearly talking only about the Old Testament since the New Testament had not been written yet in Timothy’s childhood, so I think this as a prooftext for Sola Scriptura is a bit of a leap.

Some Protestants would say that Tradition is bad, quoting the following verses:

“And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

“You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:8)

“See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

However, this has the recurring them of being traditions of men—not tradition passed down from Christ orally through the Twelve Apostles. Scripture does not specify here concerning written and oral writing. At another point, Paul says: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6) So not all “tradition” is bad.

Others would cite at various times when the Scripture mentions “the Word of God”. However, this can also refer to oral teaching. As it is written, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Surely at this point Paul cannot be referring to the written gospels which were probably not all yet written. He says they “heard” it from them, suggesting it was preached. Acts 13:48-49 states, “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” Clearly, as the gospels were not written yet at this point, “the word of the Lord” refers to oral teaching. So according to Paul, the spoken word of the apostles is the infallible Word of God.

It is also written: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) 2 Timothy 3:16 was written specifically for members of the hierarchy and one bishop in particular. Now Protestants would object that the same teaching spoken was written down. Actually, I would agree with that insofar as all Catholic doctrines are at least implicitly contained in Scripture. However, it still follows that the spoken words of the apostles are infallible. So should we not trust what the Fathers actually conceded unanimously (for example, Baptismal Regeneration, Apostolic Succession, and so forth)? And even if they are not unanimous, should we not take their word more seriously? And if so, you would soon find that you must be either Catholic and Orthodox, not Protestant and believe in an infallible Magisterium.

Honestly, I think if God had intended us to go by Sola Scriptura, it is reasonable that it must be very, very clearly stated in Scripture. Otherwise, one is already applying Sola Scriptura (asserting a degree of authority of interpretation to himself) in order to originally verify it.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

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On Protestants

The Dispensatrix in Scripture

Second to her role as Co-Redemptrix, our Lady’s title as “Mediatrix of Graces” or “Dispensatrix of Graces” is probably the most attacked in the Protestant world. Following I will defend it from Scripture. But first let us understand what it means. This is what St. Louis de Montfort had to say about the doctrine:

“To Mary, His faithful Spouse, God the Holy Ghost has communicated His unspeakable gifts; and He has chosen her to be the dispensatrix of all He possesses, in such sort that she distributes to whom she wills, as much as she wills, as she wills, and when she wills, all His gifts and graces. The Holy Ghost gives no heavenly gift to men which He does not pass through her virginal hands. Such has been the Will of God, who has willed that we should have every thing in Mary.”

True Devotion to Mary 25

Indeed, a Protestant might be rendered wroth by those words. What this means is that all graces we receive from God come through His Mother. It should probably be noted that God does this because He so wills, because we are his co-workers (1 Cor. 3:9), not out of some inner necessity. Also, Mary is not going to refuse to distribute grace to those who need it, she who perfectly follows the will of God in heaven. This doctrine, however, is to be understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator. I will following defend this from the Scriptures.

Are there mediators between God and man other than Christ?

Protestants would generally bring up 1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.” This is an excellent point and I see why someone would suppose it. I think this is frequently misunderstood by Protestants. Christ alone can stand before the throne of God and obtain for us salvation and grace. It should be noted that the Virgin cannot make grace. She can only distribute it. However, what Christ gives to us, we can distribute to each other. Hence Paul says in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.” So we can all impart grace to one another in a sense. Therefore we can still all mediate in a sense by passing grace to each other. As a matter of fact, we as Christians mediate all the time when we pray for one another, putting our friends’ petitions before God, praying for one another.

Mary as a Mother

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

John 19:26-27

Obviously, our Lord is making Mary the spiritual mother of St. John, but what some Christians frequently overlook is that something deeper is clearly going on. Men would never call their mother “woman”.  This would not be considered a proper term to call one’s mother, although not as impolite as it would be nowadays. This is roughly equivalent to calling one’s mother “my lady”—hardly something one would expect from Jesus at a serious moment.

The answer is found in Genesis 3:15. The curse of the Serpent states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The curse of the man and the woman both deal with how they will have to live after their sin. So it makes sense that the curse of the Serpent might reference the Redemption. If it is the “he” and not the “she” who will crush the head of the serpent, then it refers to Christ, making this a messianic prophecy. Yet there is no apparent enmity between Satan and Eve, seeing that Eve so quickly believed him and ate the fruit. But, as St. Justin Martyr put it as early as A.D. 155, “He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her.” (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew 100) Or to quote St. Irenaeus of Lyons, “And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin.” (Against Heresies 5:19:1, A.D. 189) And Tertullian said: “Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight.” (The Flesh of Christ 17:4, A.D. 210)

Three Church Fathers seem to be enough to show a pattern. So as Eve believed Satan, bringing death into the world, Mary believed Gabriel, bringing life. Hence Mary is our Mother in the order of grace. Realize that the Holy Spirit did not overshadow her until she gave her consent. (Luk. 1:38) So when Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son”, he is declaring her the mother of all Christians in the order of grace, as John was the only apostle present.

But does her Maternity continue?

The question which I fear will rise is that even if Mary is the Mother of all Christians in a sense, how do we know that our Lord was not simply giving her a title of honor for what she had done between the Annunciation and the Crucifixion? How do we know it continues to this day and until the End of Time?

As noted earlier, Genesis 3:15 states: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Now a Protestant would say that it was our Lord who crushed the head of the serpent, which I will concede for the sake of argumentation. But then to what should “he” be referring back to but “her seed”? Indeed, as Israel was a patriarchal society, generally the Bible would refer to a man’s seed. This suggests a Virgin Birth. So it logically follows that Mary is the “woman” who fulfilled this. Yet there is an enmity between the woman and the serpent as there is an enmity between her seed and Satan’s seed, which would be strange if Mary was included among those who are “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3)—hence the Immaculate Conception. As noted, Jesus identifies Mary twice as “the woman”. (John 2:4, 19:26) 

Understanding Mary as the one who fulfilled the role of Eve, Mother of the New Men as Eve was the Mother of the Old, it would make sense that she would help undo the damage done by Eve as the New Adam, Christ, undid the damage done by the original Adam. Mary, being without sin and at total enmity with Satan, continues her work in bringing back life to souls through maternal intercession as the universal Dispensatrix of all graces (in a wholly subordinate sense to the New Adam, of course). 

Mary as the woman in Revelation

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.”

Rev. 11:19–12:2

Now she is the the woman who gave birth to Christ. Who should she be but Mary? Protestants will immediately raise a number of objections. Their usual interpretation is that she is a remnant of the kingdom of Israel. I would not say that this has nothing to do with Israel, but more importantly she is both Mary and the Church. The term is polyvalent symbolism. For example, The beast in Revelation 13 is a fusion of the four beasts in Daniel 7. As Protestant author Gregory Beale writes: “Most of Revelation’s symbols have multiple associations or meanings and the interpreter can never be sure that all the multiple meanings of a symbol have been discovered.” (John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation, 59)

My problem is that the excessive persecution of the woman by the dragon described in this section does not make sense if she is a remnant of the kingdom of Israel. The Christian remnant was rarely singled out for persecution. The Gentiles were sometimes looked down upon for being Christian in the very early Church when they were uncircumcised. Now a Protestant might point out the Jewish Wars and the terrible destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, but Christians were not singled out then. In fact, the Christians received Christ’s warning. If Protestants are admitting that this refers to the Jews in general, this is polyvalent symbolism. Some Protestants would insist that Christians who held onto their Jewish traditions were looked down upon in the Medieval period, but to the best of my knowledge, they were not openly persecuted. I imagine Jewish Christians were killed by the Ottomans, but also were practicing Jews and gentile Christians. At any rate, I am doubtful that this passage was talking about simply something that occurred mainly during the Middle Ages, without reference to the early Church or the Church in general. So it makes sense that Revelation is referring to the persecution of the Church by Satan.

Some would argue that since the woman is referred to as a “portent”, she cannot be a literal mother, but since she is also referred to as a “sign” in Isaiah 7:14, I do not think this to be particularly strong. Others would say that this cannot be the “Catholic” Mary, because she had birth-pangs, which are a result of Original Sin, which she did not have (see Genesis 3:16, Isaiah 66:7). However, her birth pangs were, as Simeon prophesied, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Luke 2:35) Her “pangs of birth” began at the Annunciation and would continue from the cradle to the cross, where she suffered with her Son as prophesied by Simeon to be painfully fulfilled in John 19.

So if we see this as polyvalent symbolism, with different parts referring to different things, but most especially Mary and the Church, we will start to see how it follows that she is the Dispensatrix. We see similar actors to in Genesis the woman and the serpent at enmity with one another. First of all, Revelation 12:17 states: “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” Hence as she fulfills the roll of Eve, so it makes sense that her maternity would continue until the End of Time as Dispensatrix.

This also associates Mary with the Church by using the same symbolism for both, since “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10) So it makes sense that all graces come through Mary.

Mary as the Ark of the Covenant

Zechariah prophesies: “I come and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the LORD.” (Zechariah 2:10) The Greek term—in, of course, the Septuagint—is κατασκηνώσω/kataskenóso, a word derived from the Greek σκηνή/skéné, meaning a tent, booth, or tabernacle. John 1:14 furthermore states: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Greek word here is ἐσκήνωσεν/eskénosen from the same root. So Zechariah is basically saying: “I come and I will tabernacle in the midst of you,” and St. John: “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” This occurred as the Angel said: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1:35) The word for “overshadow”, ἐπεσκίαζω/episkíazo is used in Exodus 40:35 and Numbers 9:18,22 when God came to dwell in the Ark.

The similarities do not end there. In 2 Samuel 6:9, David declares: “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” David then took the Ark aside to the house of Obededom the Gittite and it remained there for three months. In Luke 1:43, Elizabeth declares, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary then remains in the house of Elizabeth for three months—only to name a few of the many places in Scripture where Mary seems to fulfill the role of the Ark. As I always say, Mary was the gateway whereby our Lord came to us by being the sole human instrument in giving Him His human nature, wherefore, she is also the only gateway whereby we may come to Him. The Ark of the Covenant tore down the walls of Jericho. So also Mary tears down barriers in our souls. The Israelites showed profound veneration for the Ark. They bowed before it. David danced before it in a manner befitting (in his wife’s opinion) a madman. (2 Samuel 6:16) Why did they do this? The Ark was the place where God’s manifesting presence could be felt. Similarly, Catholics venerate the Virgin Mary because within her was God Incarnate and even now through Mary “is distributed unto us this immense treasure of mercies gathered by God, for mercy and truth were created by Jesus Christ.” (Pope Leo XIII, Octobri Mense 3)

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

All Scripture references are from the Revised Standard Version

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On Protestants

Is St. Michael God?

Were you aware that whenever you search on Google on the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) stance on Michael, a number of very straw arguments (written mainly by Protestants) come up suggesting that the SDA are unclear concerning or outright deny the divinity of Christ? The SDA, unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe Jesus is the Divine Incarnate, fully God and fully man. I freely admit that. Now, where there err is in a lesser, but nevertheless important, matter, concerning the person of Michael the Archangel. I have heard that some early Seventh-Day Adventist leaders were vague about the divinity of Christ. Whether this is true or not, I do not know, but they are clear now, which I believe is good. Now, I believe the Jehovah’s Witnesses err in that they see Jesus as no greater than Michael the Archangel, thus denying the divinity of Christ. The SDA, on the other hand, err in that they see Michael as no less than Jesus. In other words, they profess Michael to literally be the Second Person in the Trinity. This differs from the Catholic viewpoint, in which Michael is simply an angel, leader and chief of all other angels. His roles, according to Tradition, are four: to combat Satan, to escort the faithful to heaven at their hour of death, to be a champion of all Christians and the Church herself, and to call men from life on Earth to their heavenly judgment. From a Catholic perspective, I frequently wonder how Michael feels about certain people who think he is Jesus (although doubtless he is more enraged by the believe held by the Jehovah’s Witnesses). Now, I will systematically refute each of their claims, bearing in mind that the SDA bear the burden of proof because they claim the affirmative and go by Sola Scriptura.

Objection 1: It would seem that Michael and Jesus are the same Person, for it is written: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. (. . .) And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” (Revelation 12:7-8,10) But if “the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come” on this account, Michael had the authority of Christ. Therefore he was Christ.

To this I respond that John says that a voice said that after the dragon was cast out of heaven “the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come”, not that Michael himself acted with Christ’s power. Did Michael act under God’s authority? Of course, just as the apostles acted on His authority to cast out demons and baptize believers. This would not mean that Michael is Himself Christ but simply acted under His authority. “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)

Objection 2: It is written, “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:1-2) But Christ alone can raise those who sleep in the dust to life. Therefore, Michael and Jesus are one in the same Person.

To this I respond that again, this does not say that Michael is the one raising people from the dead. As noted above, Michael is the champion of the Church and he was therefore also guardian of Israel as can be told by this verse, hence he is the one who is in charge of the people invisibly, just as a pastor is visibly, wherefore he is to rise up when the people on the time of trouble.

Objection 3: Paul writes: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) But if Christ descends “with the archangel’s call”, He must be the Archangel, for the Apostle says here the dead in Christ will rise first, but elsewhere Our Lord says: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29) Hence it seems that Paul is saying the Archangel will awaken the Dead, but Jesus is saying He will awaken the dead. Michael is the only person in scripture referred to as “the Archangel”. Therefore, Jesus is Michael.

To this I respond that Paul never says the Archangel’s voice is Christ’s own. This passage simply says that an archangel’s voice will accompany our Lord’s return, just as the bailiff’s voice (“All rise!”) accompanies the judge’s entrance into the courtroom. Nor indeed does Paul say that this same voice will awaken the Dead, but simply that after this event, when our Lord descends from heaven “with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God”, the Dead will rise. Following this line of reasoning, this is in Revised Standard Version, but the Greek ev phonē archangelou does not contain a definite article and therefore should be translated “with an archangel’s voice”, suggesting more than one exist. If the Archangel is God, this would be problematic.

Objection 4: It would seem that Michael is Christ, for in Daniel 9:25, it is written: “Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.” But in the following chapters, Michael is referred to as “your prince” (Dan. 10:21) and “the great prince” (Dan. 12:1). Christ is the “an anointed one, a prince”. Therefore, he is also Michael.

To this I respond that first of all, the fact that Christ and Michael have similar titles does not make them the same person. Daniel, for instance, addresses Nebuchadnezzar as “O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the sons of men, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, making you rule over them all.” (Dan. 2:37-38) Surely we cannot conclude that he is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:15-16)—this man who forced the Israelites to worship a chocolate bunny instead of God (or was that only Veggietales?).

Now, of course, Michael could be called a Christ-figure, since he cast Satan out of heaven. However, there is one particular reason why I do not think Michael could be “Christ the Prince” which would be found in Daniel 10:13 where Daniel refers to Michael “one of the chief princes”. Christ is not “one of” anything. Now a Seventh-day Adventist would say this means only “one of the chief princes previously mentioned” since there are so many in these chapters. However, at the beginning of Daniel 10, a new vision begins. Only one prince had been previously mentioned in the chapter, this being in the same verse as well. “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” So there is actually a contrast between the prince of Persia and Michael, yet still Michael is considered “one of the chief princes” and not “the chiefest of princes”. At least to me, this raises doubt as to whether he is God.

Objection 5: It would seem that Michael is Jesus, for his name means One Who Is Like God, for he does the things which only God can do, he himself being the Son of God.

To this I respond that traditionally, the meaning of his name has always been Who Is Like God? understood to be a rhetorical question implying no one is like God. Remember, he was the one who led the Angels of God against Satan, who wished to put himself in the place of God. Furthermore, even if I were to grant that his name actually meant that Michael himself is “like God”, it still does not prove that he actually is God. Peter says “Through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Pet. 1:4) We “become partakers of the divine nature” or become like God by participating in His divine nature as a pot might participate in a fire’s nature by becoming hot while still maintaining the fundamental nature of a pot. Hence it would make sense that Michael, the leader of the angels of heaven, could most accurately be called “like God”.

So as a whole, I do not consider the argument that Michael is just another name for Jesus to be particularly convincing. St. Michael the Archangel is great, but infinitely less than God and inflamed in the love of God, despising “all things which are beneath it, and all that is not it, that they may with every good thing that is in them enjoy that good which is the source of their goodness.” (Augustine, City of God IX:22) “Who is like God?” were his words. So I do not believe he would approve of being thought God himself (although I am sure he understands an honest mistake).

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

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On Protestants

A Biblical Defense of the Heavenly Queenship of Mary

It has come to my attention that certain Christians who adhere to Protestantism are not aware that the Mother of God has such a title—the Queen of Heaven. I intend to rectify that. The first verse they generally produce is Jeremiah 7:18,

“The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.”

I suppose I see why someone might say this, but Jeremiah is condemning the veneration of the goddess Asarte—a goddess who in reality did not exist, much less pertain to Mary. When one puts it that way, the argument basically goes along the lines of: Jeremiah condemned the worship of one goddess who went by the title “queen of heaven”. Therefore, to call anyone “queen of heaven” is to worship that person. When it is put in that light, it really does not make much sense. Daniel calls Nebuchadnezzar the “king of kings”. (Daniel 2:37) Are we to suppose that he is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” of whom Paul writes? (1 Timothy 6:15) Or was Daniel idolatrous on that account by worshipping a human being? Moreover, Jeremiah was condemning sacrificing to the queen of heaven. Catholics sacrifice to God alone. To say otherwise would be a heresy called Collyridianism. We give “double honor” to “the elders who rule well” “especially those who labor in preaching and teaching”. (1 Timothy 5:17) Catholics are “to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) We celebrate the names of those who have gone before us. (Psalm 45:17) Of all the saints, none is greater than Mary. However, we neither adore nor sacrifice to Mary. “For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source. The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 62) Catholics adore God alone.

Now, the reader may be wondering what it means for her to be “Queen of Heaven”. Mary’s queenship is derived from Jesus’ kingship and denotes her intercessory role as the greatest of all the saints. For this reason, Catholics pray to her more than any other saint. To this the Protestant will quickly object: “But Mary was not His wife, but His mother.” I have heard the same argument for why she could not be the Second Eve. I personally believe that people should make sure that they understand doctrines before trying to debunk them, because she is not called the Second Eve because her biological relation to her Last Adam is the same as that between the original Eve and Adam, but because she righted the wrongs of Eve as her Son righted the wrongs of Adam. Concerning the queenship, however, we have quite a different picture. As a matter of fact, in Ancient Israel, it was the mother, not the wife, of the king who had the throne. Remember, Solomon had seven hundred wives (whether he actually knew all of them is doubtful). For this reason, he could not simply have one wife to be his queen. Instead Bathsheeba was queen. In fact, in Jeremiah’s time, he prophesied: “Say to the king and the queen mother: ‘Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head.’ The cities of the Negeb are shut up, with none to open them; all Judah is taken into exile, wholly taken into exile. ‘Lift up your eyes and see those who come from the north. Where is the flock that was given you, your beautiful flock?’” (Jeremiah 13:18–20) Note that God directed this oracle about the upcoming fall of Judah to both the king and his mother. In fact, in almost every time the narrative of 1 and 2 Kings, when the inspired author introduces a new king in Judah, he mentions the king’s mother as well, showing the mother’s intimate involvement in her son’s reign. But returning to Solomon and Bathsheeba, this is probably the clearest text. Adonijah, Solomon’s brother who wanted to be king, asks Bathsheeba to speak to Solomon on his behalf to request for him Abishag the Shunammite, David’s nurse, as his wife in order to secure kingship. This is what happens:

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.”—1 Kings 2:19-20

The queen sits on Solomon’s right hand, which is the place of ultimate honor. The New Testament uses right-hand imagery to show Christ’s divinity and reign with the Father over the universe. This passage about Bathsheba also shows how the queen mother served as an advocate for the people, carrying petitions to the king.

But how does this relate to Jesus? After all, did not Jesus say when his mother was blessed by a woman in the crowd: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it?” (Luke 11:28) If we are to suppose that Mary is not particularly blessed for this reason, we must question Elizabeth’s words: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45) And again, the Virgin’s own words: “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48) Augustine explains: “What else teaching us, than to prefer to kindred after the flesh, our descent after the Spirit: and that men are not blessed for this reason, that they are united by nearness of flesh unto just and holy men, but that, by obeying and following, they cleave unto their doctrine and conduct. (. . .) Lastly, to His brethren, that is, His kindred after the flesh, who believed not in Him, what profit was there in that being of kin? Thus also her nearness as a Mother would have been of no profit to Mary, had she not borne Christ in her heart after a more blessed manner than in her flesh.” (On Holy Virginity 3) So, according to Augustine, her blood relation would have profited nothing if she had not followed Christ’s word, doing what is good in His sight. He was not depreciating her role as Mother of God but rather elevating her role as the Highest of the Saints in devotion to God.

But still so far this has been circumstantial evidence. Where does it actually say in the Bible that she is in fact the Queen of Heaven? Actually, Isaiah prophesies: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:13-14) On one level, this passage points to the next king, Hezekiah, as a pledge that the Davidic dynasty will continue despite the threats of invading armies. At the same time, it points more directly to our Lord (Hezekiah was not, of course, born of a virgin). The point is that a young woman bearing a royal son would be understood as a queen mother. Matthew quickly shows the child as Emmanuel (Mat. 1:23), after giving a list of names to prove that he was actually the son of David. (Mat 1:2-16) The phrase “the child and his mother” is used five times in the first two chapters, even in Matthew 2:11 which states: “they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” Certainly St. Joseph was also there, but Matthew wished to stress the presence of Mary.

The Davidic ancestry is referred to again by Luke (Luke 1:27). Kingship is illustrated clearly by the angel who says: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33) There are strong Davidic overtones concerning the Virgin giving birth to a Son of the house of David whose kingdom will be of no end.

This is made even more explicit by St Elizabeth’s greeting in Luke 1:43: “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” This title has hugely queenly significance because the king was referred to as “my lord” (e.g. 2 Samuel 24:21, 1 Chronicles 21:3).

The Wedding Feast at Cana is full of symbolism. The wine runs out and the Virgin comes to her Son saying: “They have no wine.” “O woman,” He says, “what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:3-4) Some would say that woman was used as a soft rebuke, but if so, why did he use it again on the Cross? (John 19:26) The Greek ti emoi kai soi can be rendered as many things, varying according to the character of the speakers, ranging from a most pronounced opposition to a courteous compliance. “What have I to do with you”, “this is neither your nor my business”, “why are you troublesome to me”, and “allow me to attend to this” are all possible translations. If he really were rebuking her, why did he go on to do the miracle? My hour has not yet come. In John’s language, hour denotes something important. “So they sought to arrest him; but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 7:30) And again: “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 8:20) It is therefore possible to read this our Lord’s words to mean: “Why are you asking for such an intervention? The appointed time has not yet come.” At any rate, she clearly did not understand this as a refusal, for she said: “Do whatever he tells you”—her message for every Christian. It was therefore by her intercession that “his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11), and they received a faith without which it would be impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

Just as the Queen Mother served as an advocate for the people, so also Mary now serves as an advocate to the Church. So when Mary goes to her Son with a petition, we can trust him to say: “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.”

“O Virgin, most pure, wholly unspotted, O Mary, Mother of God, Queen of the universe, You are above all the Saints, the hope of the elect and the joy of all the blessed. It is You who have reconciled us with God. You are the only refuge of sinners and the safe harbor of those who are shipwrecked. You are the consolation of the world, the ransom of captives, the health of the weak, the joy of the afflicted, and the salvation of all. We have recourse to You, and we beseech You to have pity on us. Amen.”—St. Ephraim the Syrian (A.D. 306-373)

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

All scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

Categories
On Protestants

A Biblical Defense of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

What is the Perpetual Virginity do you ask? This is how it was defined by the Lateran Council of 649:

“The holy Mother of God and ever Virgin and immaculate Mary in the earliest of the ages conceived of the Holy Spirit without seed, namely, God the Word Himself specifically and truly, who was born of God the Father before all ages, and that she incorruptibly bore [Him], her virginity remaining indestructible even after His birth.”

Lateran Synod Can. 3

This, by the way, was indeed from the seventh century and they were willing to write this about the Mother of God. There was also an anathema attached to it. Some say that all the Catholic Marian doctrines were all made up in the Twentieth Century. It seems that she was referred to as immaculate and holy Mother of God in the seventh. Do you still think the Catholic Church made up the Immaculate Conception in 1854? Now I propose to defend it—the Perpetual Virginity, that is, not the Immaculate Conception. (I like the Immaculate Conception as well, of course)

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25)

This is generally brought up by most modern Protestants. The word “until” is taken by them to mean “until after”. In other words it is thought to mean that he knew her after she had borne a son. Actually, the Greek word for “until” (héos | ἕως) does not imply that the Virgin had marital relations after the birth of Christ. Psalms 110:1, for instance, states: “Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.” Paul commands in 1 Timothy 4:13: “Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching.” Surely can we say that Paul necessarily did not want Timothy to stop reading scripture and preaching after he returned. Now some would argue that it was obviously implied that they should not go on afterward, because there was no reason why Timothy should stop, but it was natural that Mary and Joseph should have relations. However, this is not true if she was a consecrated virgin, and there is pretty strong biblical evidence for that. Some Protestants would argue that  the Greek words heos hou for “until” whereas 1 Timothy 4:13, for instance, uses heos alone, there is a difference in meaning. The idea is that heos hou would somehow have to mean “until after”. The problem is that no available scholarship concurs with this idea. Heos hou and heos are used interchangeably. Acts 25:21 states: “But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be held until [heos hou] I could send him to Caesar.” Does this mean that he is not to be held in custody after he is sent to Caesar? According to biblical record, he is also held during (Acts 27:1) and after (Acts 28:16) it.

“And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Some assume that a first-born requires a second-born. Actually this was not true in semitic culture. The first-born, according to the Law of Moses, were supposed to be set apart for God. (Exodus 13:2) They would not wait for a second-born to see whether they should consecrate the first.

And then there is the fact that Jesus’ “brothers” are sometimes mentioned. (John 7:5, Matthew 13:55-56) First of all, the Greek adelphos can mean a near blood-relation rather than a child of the same two parents. We cannot suppose that one hundred twelve brothers had the same mother. (Acts 1:15) John 19:25, for instance, states: “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas.” Indeed, it would be very strange if St. Joachim and St. Anne decided to give both of their daughters the same name. The word anepsios is more common. However, the word in Hebrew is ach. This can mean further relations. For instance, in Genesis 13:8, Abraham says to Lot: “Let there be no quarrel, I beseech thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen: for we are brethren.” They are actually uncle and nephew. The same is true of Aramaic. Adelphos is still preserved in the Septuagint. For more information, see my post, More On Jesus’ “Brothers”. At any rate, Jesus’ brothers are never referred to as sons of Mary—or are they?

“I have become a stranger to my brethren, an alien to my mother’s sons.” (Psalm 96:8)

This is obviously a Messianic prophecy and it refers to Jesus’ mother having other sons, but must we take it literally? Verse 5 states: “O God, thou knowest my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from thee.” Certainly we cannot say that Jesus committed any sins or was guilty of folly. This prophecy was fulfilled in that our Lord was rejected by his own family. (Mark 3:21)

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27)

Now we come to a brighter outlook. If Jesus had brothers, why would he give her to John? Certainly, Jesus would not have denied that right to his brothers when Jesus himself rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting their parents. (Matthew 15:4–5) Protestant apologists often argue that he did this as a sort of reward to John, for “even his brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5) John would have been closer to her than John’s unbelieving brothers. John 7:5 tells us that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, which was some time before to the crucifixion. At the time of the crucifixion, that is not necessarily true. After the Resurrection, our Lord “appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:7) James was in fact, an apostle and “the Lord’s brother”. (Galatians 1:19) Others would argue that Jesus’ brothers were not at the foot of the cross and therefore Jesus had to entrust her to John. However, if Jesus had brothers, he did not need to make arrangements because arrangements would already be assumed. It would, moreover, be horribly insulting to Mary’s other children and it would go against Jesus’ principles expressed in Matthew 15:4–5.

Men riding hippos

Then there is Luke 1:34, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” The King James Version says, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” How is this different from Zechariah’s question? He doubted the angel’s words, but Mary only asked the manner in which this would come about. But have you ever wondered, if she was betrothed and planned to go into the marriage relatively soon to enter into conjugal relations why she asked this? In the Protogospel of James, written roughly in A.D. 150 (which expressly states the Perpetual Virginity), Mary says: “If I conceive from the Lord God who lives, will I also conceive as all women conceive?” (11:6) Here she is obviously referring to her vow of virginity. Indeed, if someone were to tell me that in five years I would die under my own hippo when riding into battle, I might say: “How can this be, for I do not ride hippos into battle?” (not that I actually have ever gone to battle). What would be implied is “How can this be, for I ride horses into battle and always intend to do the same?” As St. Augustine explained it, “she would not say [this], unless she had before vowed herself unto God as a virgin. But, because the habits of the Israelites as yet refused this, she was espoused to a just man, who would not take from her by violence, but rather guard against violent persons, what she had already vowed. Although, even if she had said this only, ‘How shall this take place?’ and had not added, ‘seeing I know not a man,’ certainly she would not have asked, how, being a female, she should give birth to her promised Son, if she had married with purpose of sexual intercourse. She might have been bidden also to continue a virgin, that in her by fitting miracle the Son of God should receive the form of a servant, but, being to be a pattern to holy virgins, lest it should be thought that she alone needed to be a virgin, who had obtained to conceive a child even without sexual intercourse, she dedicated her virginity to God, when as yet she knew not what she should conceive, in order that the imitation of a heavenly life in an earthly and mortal body should take place of vow, not of command; through love of choosing, not through necessity of doing service.” (On Holy Virginity 4) It was still, by the way, a valid marriage without consummation since they exchanged vows. After all, a marriage is valid prior to its consummation, wherefore it can also be valid if consummation does not occur, as in a Josephite marriage.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you,” says St. Gabriel in Luke 1:35. The nuptial language is reminiscent of Ruth 3:9, which states “spread your skirt over your maidservant, for you are next of kin.” Ruth said this as she revealed to Boaz his duty to marry her according to the Law. When Mary became pregnant, Joseph would have been required to divorce her because she belonged to another. (Deuteronomy 24:1–4) The Other was the Holy Spirit, and so it was not right that he should have conjugal relations with her.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

***

All Scriptures are from the Revised Standard Version

Categories
On Protestants

A Biblical Defense of the Divinity of Christ

A few sects, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and Thomas Jefferson deny the divinity of Christ. Beliefs concerning Who He is, if not God, differ a fair deal. Some say He is an incarnate angel akin to Gandalf, others an exulted human being like Anakin Skywalker (sans the Darth Vader element), and still others a great moral teacher like Socrates. I cannot think of any characters to which I might liken the Nicene understanding of Jesus. Probably this is because God becoming man is unique to Nicene Christianity.

Christadelphians and Unitarians, please ignore the fact that I just compared your understanding of Jesus to Darth Vader. They may have slightly extremely different moral codes (and one is certainly more mentally stable than the other), but they are both Chosen Ones who were born of virgins.

My goal is to show His divinity, the doctrine which is central to Nicene Christianity, from Scripture. As an extra challenge, I will attempt to not be condescending (as too many such arguments are). I believe the doctrine of the Incarnation is fairly well-known, but just in case it is misunderstood, I will show how it was defined in the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Technically it was defined in the Council of Ephesus in 431, but I personally think Chalcedon goes into more depth.

“We confess, therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, perfect God, and perfect Man of a reasonable soul and flesh consisting; begotten before the ages of the Father according to his Divinity, and in the last days, for us and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin according to his humanity, of the same substance with his Father according to his Divinity, and of the same substance with us according to his humanity; for there became a union of two natures. Wherefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord.

“According to this understanding of this unmixed union, we confess the holy Virgin to be Mother of God; because God the Word was incarnate and became Man, and from this conception he united the temple taken from her with himself.”

Chalcedon, Session II

So basically Jesus Christ is completely human and completely divine, while remaining one person. This also relates to the Trinity, hence He is both “God” and “the Son of God”. Some would argue that the Trinity and Incarnation are logical contradictions, but I will not deal with that subject today. Instead, I will simply defend the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Contrary to what some evangelicals might tell you, if Jesus is God, by necessity Mary is the Mother of God. Otherwise it is a logical contradiction. As St. Cyril of Alexandria aptly put it, “That anyone could doubt the right of the holy Virgin to be called the Mother of God fills me with astonishment. Surely she must be the Mother of God if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, and she gave birth to him!” (Epistle 1:4)

In John 14:28, our Lord states: “I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” At first glance, the meaning seems obvious: Jesus is less than God and therefore is not God. There are two senses in which Jesus could be said to be less than the Father. First, the Father’s being “greater” than the Son does not mean that they essentially differ. Greatness can occur quantitatively, qualitatively, or relationally in comparison to another. “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist,” says our Lord in Matthew 11:11. John is not superhuman because he is greater than others. All human beings are still of the same dignity. Similarly, the Father can be greater than the Son when pertaining to the inner life of God. The First Council of Nicea stated of the Son that He is: “the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” The Father alone is the first principle of the Godhead and in that sense could be said to be greater than the Son pertaining to their relation as the Son is begotten, but not in respect to their shared essence. The second sense in which this can be read is that John 14:28 was pertaining to his humanity. The full verse is: “You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” Many of the texts that seem to be saying that Jesus is less than God are, at least in in part, referring to his humanity.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) I see why someone would bring this up. How can God grow in favor with God? In John 8:58, our Lord states that he pre-existed Abraham at any rate. Now, Jesus never, of course, had any more wisdom in future periods of his life. However, he chose to manifest his wisdom to a greater extent as he grew. He also increased in grace in that he chose to manifest the grace which he was endowed to a greater extent. Thus he moved others to glorify God by that grace.

Mark 13:32 states: “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So, Jesus says he does not know when he will return. This is a good point to bring up and I see why someone would suppose its meaning to be plain. If God is omniscient, then how can he be God? That is, of course, impossible. Our Lord, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3) did know, as did the Holy Spirit, the date of his return. Jesus always did know and does know all things. (John 16:30) Our Lord did not know the date of his return by his humanity, however, but by his divinity. Jesus’ ignorance is not attributed to his divinity nor to his humanity when considered hypostatically united to his divinity, but according to his humanity when considered separate from his humanity. It can be supposed that Jesus spoke here as an ambassador of the Father and therefore only knew what he was to make known to us. He is not to know what he will not reveal to others. Jesus wished to suppress the curiosity of the disciples. “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7) The last clause is added that they might not think their Divine Master esteemed them unworthy of such knowledge.

“God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one,” says James 1:13. This is relevant on account of the fact that Christ “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1) He did this for a number of reasons: first, to strengthen us against temptations, second, to warn us that however holy we are we cannot be free from temptation, third, to teach us how to overcome the devil, and fourth, to fill us with confidence in his mercy. “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Temptation can have three sources, the flesh, the world, and the devil. Christ could not be tempted by the flesh or the world. As Aquinas explains: “Now temptation which comes from an enemy can be without sin: because it comes about by merely outward suggestion. But temptation which comes from the flesh cannot be without sin, because such a temptation is caused by pleasure and concupiscence; and, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix), ‘it is not without sin that ‘the flesh desireth against the spirit.” ’ And hence Christ wished to be tempted by an enemy, but not by the flesh.” (ST III:41:1)

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.’” (Revelation 3:14) The Jehovah’s Witnesses suppose that if Christ is “the beginning of God’s creation”, he must be the first creation of God. The Greek word is ἀρχή (arché), which can also mean source. In other words, in this sense the Bible means not the first effect but rather the first cause. In Revelation 21:6 God says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Surely we cannot suppose that God had a beginning. Revelation 3:14 reveals Jesus to be the source of God’s creation, that is, God Himself. John 1:3 states of the Word: “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” If the Word was created, that would mean that he would have to create himself.

Colossians 1:15-17 says that Jesus is “the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” First, there is a difference between being born and created. He was begotten of the Father from all eternity. As such, he would have never come into being. Second, firstborn in the Old Testament was not restricted to a sense of time. The emphasis was on a place of pre-eminence given by a father to his son. Isaac, Jacob, and Ephraim received the blessing of the first-born though they were not first-born in time. Finally, if Christ were created, the text would say “all other things were created through him and for him.” But it simply says that all things were created. The New World Translation does use the word “other”, but it is nowhere in the Greek. Paul says that all of Creation was made through and for Jesus. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”. Therefore, Jesus is God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)  This reflects Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Christadelphians would argue that this is a bad translation of the text. The Word, they contend, refers to God’s plan. “Him” could just as well be translated “it” from the Greek. Jesus, they say, did not come into being until “the Word became flesh”. However, if this is true, why does it say that the plan, which was to become flesh in the person in Jesus Christ “was God”? To this, the Jehovah’s Witnesses pipe in. The New World Bible reads: “the Word was a god”. I suppose I ought to respond to this. It is indeed correct to say that this passage allows for both in the Greek. The predicate nominative in Greek normally does not take the definite article. There are numerous times in the New Testament where the definite article is lacking, but the New World Bible has no indefinite article. Examples are Matthew 5:9, Matthew 6:24, Luke 1:35, and many others. “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to . . . live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” states Titus 2:11-13. The New World Bible states: “while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” However, the definite article appears in apposition to “great God”, so it seems that they are the same person.

“Jehovah, the God who inspired the prophets, has sent his angel to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place..” (Revelation 22:6)

“I, Jesus, sent my angel to bear witness to you about these things for the congregations.” (Revelation 22:16)

Both of these quotations are from the New World Bible. See that only ten verses apart, God and Jesus are both referred to as having sent their angel. It seems that Jesus is the God who sent His angel. Jesus judges the world (Matthew 25:31:45), a prerogative only God possesses. (Genesis 18:25, Joel 3:12) Jesus refers to himself as I Am. (John 8:58) This is the Name revealed to Moses in the burning bush. Jesus is I Am, YHWH. The Jews “took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.” (John 8:59) That is because they understood what he was saying at once. If Jesus was not God, this was blasphemy.

Multiple times, Jesus said: “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” This is quite a contrast from the usual words of the prophets who made it clear that what they were saying was not their own: “The word of the Lord came unto me, saying…”

John writes that the Jews sought to kill him: “because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18) Now those who deny the divinity of Christ would argue that this was a false accusation on the Jews’ part. However, Paul says that Christ “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7) Even the New World Bible says: “although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.” “Equality with God” is not something Christ needed to grasp or receive, but something he had to empty himself of. The title Lord is frequently used to refer to Christ in the New Testament as it is uniquely applied to God in the Old Testament. Jesus calls himself “Lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:28) In the Old Testament, it is referred to as the sabbath of the Lord. (Exodus 20:10

Revelation 21:6-7 states:

“And he said to me: “They have come to pass! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To anyone thirsting I will give from the spring of the water of life free. Anyone conquering will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (NWT)

Revelation 22:13,16:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end . . . I, Jesus, sent my angel to bear witness to you about these things for the congregations. I am the root and the offspring of David and the bright morning star.” (NWT)

Both of these are from the New World Translation. So God says He is the Alpha and the Omega. Then Jesus says he is the Alpha and Omega not long afterward. It seems that Jesus is God.

As early as A.D. 110, St. Ignatius of Antioch stated: “For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary, in God’s plan being sprung both from the seed of David and from the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptized that by his Passion he might hallow water.” (Letter to the Ephesians 18:2) Tatian the Syrian writes in roughly A.D. 170: “We do not act as fools, O Greeks, nor utter idle tales, when we announce that God was born in the form of a man.” (Address to the Greeks 21) Indeed, it sounds like he is writing on behalf of all Christians. Irenaeus writes in A.D. 189: “For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to reestablish all things; and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Against Heresies 1:10:1) Clement of Alexandria states roughly 190: “Well, inasmuch as the Word was from the first, He was and is the divine source of all things; but inasmuch as He has now assumed the name Christ, consecrated of old, and worthy of power, he has been called by me the New Song. This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man—the Author of all blessings to us; by whom we, being taught to live well, are sent on our way to life eternal. ” (Exhortation to the Greeks 1:7:1) St. Hippolytus says: “For Christ is the God above all, and He has arranged to wash away sin from human beings, rendering regenerate the old man.” (Refutation of All Heresies 10:30)

Let these be enough for now. The First Council of Nicea states: “We believe 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, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” This was in A.D. 325. This was an ecumenical council which was convened against Arianism. The Arians died out and all those who called themselves Christians (or at least, nearly all) for many centuries held Jesus as God. Were all Christians idolaters for many centuries? It seems that the gates of hell prevailed against the Church.

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All Scripture passages are from the Revised Standard Version

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Are Catholics Christians?

Believe me when I say that, contrary to what you might have heard doctrinally ignorant Catholics might say, the Catholic Church does consider itself to be Christian. The Catholic Church was first Christian church and currently makes up 55% of all those in the world who identify as Christian. Now, why am I writing this? My initial reason was that those who deny us as Christians I find irritating. However, since most of these arguments are either based on straw men or else collapse on themselves by self-contradiction, I think it is expedient to clarify what Catholics actually believe. Before the reader asks, Catholics do believe in the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ. There are three Persons but one God. The Father is the first principle of the Godhead. The Son is begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Son became fully man while maintaining His Divine Nature, died on the Cross for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. This is plain and simple. Some evangelicals, however, would object to this for two main alleged reasons:

1: Catholics worship Mary and the Saints.

2: Catholics deny the sufficiency of Christ’s redemption.

Let us examine each of these.

1: Catholics worship Mary and the Saints.

I must admit that it is not fair to group these together. The list I have seen generally goes as follows for why we are idolatrous. First, we (allegedly) worship the Blessed Virgin. Second, we worship statues. Third, we worship the Pope. And fourth, we worship the saints. I honestly cannot believe that statues are generally put before the saints. I firmly believe that statues are inanimate objects which cannot answer prayers. The generally claim is that we worship the Blessed Virgin. Before you object to the title “Blessed Virgin”, know that it is very plainly biblical. (Luke 1:27,42) If these Protestants were paying more attention to Catholic beliefs and practices, they would say we worship the saints before the Pope or statues. If they were paying even more attention, they would say we worship none of them. Concerning the Mother of God, this is what the Catholic Church has to say:

The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer.

Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 62

So, the Virgin is infinitely less than her Son. So, why do we pray to Mary and the saints if we do not worship them? Well, actually the word “pray” comes from the Latin precari, which means to beg, implore, or intreat. We are specifically asking them to pray for us. “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects,” says James 5:16. Why can we not ask those in heaven, before the throne of God, to pray for us? Remember, the request of the Hail Mary is to “pray for us sinners”. Mary is, of course, the Ark of the New Covenant. The Jews bowed before the Ark. David danced in a manner which to his wife appeared insane. (2 Samuel 6:16) If Catholics worship Mary, the Jews worshipped the Ark of the Covenant.

2: Catholics deny the sufficiency of Christ’s redemption.

This is generally the favorite argument among evangelicals. I found an article some time ago from one which stated this:

“However, since a Catholic is taught that the atonement of Jesus was not enough, it makes it hard to fully trust a savior who did not complete the work and left it to fallible man. It is one reason that Catholic dogma states that popes are infallible. But as we know, they are. As a matter of fact, the Catholics install Mary as co-redemptrix, needing two saviors to get the job done. No, wait, three; Mary, Christ, and pope. No wait, four, Christ, Mary, Pope, and Catholic person working toward eternal reward.”

Needless to say, this seems like an odd charge to a Catholic. No one ever told me that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient. But apparently this is how some evangelicals think. It certainly shows how misinformed people can be about Catholicism. I will deal with each of these.

I made a full defense of the Co-Redemptrix here. All Christians are Co-Redeemers in that we are all called to save souls. (1 Cor. 9:22, Rom. 11:13-14) We are called to bring Christ to those around us. She brought the entire Christ to the entire world, being the sole human instrument of the incarnation. Protestants frequently depreciate that role. She is also the Mediatrix of Graces. What that means is that all the graces we receive from God come through her hands. Grace comes from God, but it comes through her. This does not exist out of some necessity but due to divine pleasure. “Thus as no man goeth to the Father but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother,” said Pope Leo XIII (Octobri Mense 4). But still, we are all called to lead people to Christ. She leads all Christians to her Son.

Concerning the Pope, the article accuses the Pope of being an Antichrist. I fully debunked that here. Let us simply say that the entire point of his job as “servant of the servants of God” is to lead people to Christ. Christ is the true Head of the Church. The Pope is His representative on earth. To deny Christ would defeat the entire purpose of his job. If I may be honest, the Pope does not effect my daily life very much. I suppose he could by substantially changing Canon Law, but generally he does not. The Pope is occasionally infallible when he officially defines a dogma or declares someone a saint, but in the vast majority of circumstances he is a fallible human being whose job is to lead people to Christ Jesus. Are we to suppose that all teachers and shepherds of the people of God take something away from God? But as for him being a savior in someway, as in the Pope having suffered for my sins as Christ did, such a notion would be absurd!

As for relying on ourselves, this comes from a massive misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine. I think it comes from the idea that salvation has to be entirely monergistic. Then, of course, there are Arminians who do not believe that. If we actually had nothing to do with our own salvation, why would God bother becoming man and suffering rather than simply snapping his fingers hey presto! and saving us all? I wrote in full on this charge in my post Can we “Earn” Salvation? On Merit and Grace. Basically know that merit is far less important in Catholic doctrine than some people assume, taking up only five paragraphs in our catechism (CCC 2006-2011), and all merit occurs after one has already been justified and is under the impetus of God’s grace. Without God, merit is impossible. What it basically means is that under the impetus of God’s grace, we will do good works and receive more graces out of God’s great love for us. There is no merit outside of Christ. I imagine some Protestants believe the same thing. Some would argue that we deny the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement because a person can reject salvation by mortal sin. Mortal sin is a grave matter committed with full knowledge and consent. The truth is that God died for everyone (1 Timothy 2:61 Timothy 4:101 John 2:2), Christians, Jews, Hindus, Taoists, Scientologists, Pastafarians, adherents to the Church of Euthanasia, satanists, and other religions (some of which are very strange). What matters is what we choose to do with His grace as to whether we are saved. We do not work for our salvation, but work it out with fear and trembling. Some would argue that faith is a gift from God and therefore its necessity for salvation does not deny the sufficiency of Christ nor count as a work. As a matter of fact, Paul writes “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:14, RSV) God is love, so certainly love, and what comes from it, good works, are from God. Now there are two ways to deny this, Origenism and Calvinism. Origenism teaches that all created beings, including Satan, will ultimately be saved. Few Protestants believe this. The latter is Calvinism, which teaches that God unconditionally selects who will be saved and damned and that we have no choice in the matter. I personally think it unfair to call Calvinists Christians if Catholics are not. Calvinists literally believe that God, who by His very Nature is completely opposed to sin, causes some of His children to sin and makes them go to hell. However, the question comes now not as to what one must do in the matter as to whether they are saved or damned but whether they have any choice in the matter, which is a question between Calvinists and Arminians and does not relate at all to exactly what a person must do as to whether he is saved or damned. Or if there were a Christian denomination which believed in the general principles of Catholic justification and sanctification but denied free will, would a Calvinist consider him a Christian? If a Calvinist is to say that a Catholic is not Christian, so are all Arminians.

Besides, this argument seems to be used to single out Catholics. Some Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, and Anglicans believe that it is possible to lose salvation by backsliding into sin. Catholics do believe that righteousness is infused rather than imputed, but it is God who makes us righteous, not we who make ourselves righteous.

Others would argue that we believe we believe we are justified by works because baptism is a work and baptism is necessary for salvation. The sacraments are actually ex opere operato, meaning that the sacraments confer grace whenever the sign is validly effected rather than not as the result of activity on the part of the recipient but by the power and promise of God. If baptism is a work, why is not faith? Faith is a theological virtue, an actual work on our part. Is this true of baptism? Besides, a number of more mainline Protestants also see the necessity of baptism for salvation.

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Did the Fathers Teach Sola Fide?

I had a short discussion with atheist apologist Gary from Escaping Christian Fundamentalism. He was going about asking evangelicals to name one Church Father who taught justification via imputation of Christ’s righteousness by faith alone, commonly shortened to Justification by Faith Alone. The Protestants were unresponsive. However, apparently some Protestant apologists have attempted to answer this question. Today I am going to answer the Fathers whom Protestant apologist Matt Slick has brought up here. I had never heard that surname before, so I looked it up. Slick is apparently a surname first found in Essex, England, where Walter Sleh was listed in the Feet of Fines in 1219. As the name implies, it refers to skillful men, cunning of hand, although it did not have as negative a connotation as nowadays. I am sure he is a somewhat skillful and clever apologist—evidently more qualified than I. Still, the Church Fathers either taught something or they did not. I seek to argue that they did not. “This is important,” Mr. Slick argues, “because Catholics and Eastern Orthodox both teach that the church fathers rejected faith alone and required either works or baptism to complete the saving work of God.” I do undoubtedly affirm that Sola Fide was invented by Martin Luther. Mr. Slick believes he has found some testimonials. I will respond to them.

1. Novatian, 200-258

“For Zecharias also tells us, saying: ‘If ye eat or drink, is it not ye that eat or drink?’—declaring thereby that meat or drink attain not unto God, but unto man: for neither is God fleshly, so as to be pleased with flesh; nor is He careful for these pleasures, so as to rejoice in our food. God rejoices in our faith alone, in our innocency alone, in our truth alone, in our virtues alone. And these dwell not in our belly, but in our soul; and these are acquired for us by divine awe and heavenly fear, and not by earthly food.” (Novatian, On the Jewish Meats, Chapter V, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0512.htm)

It is interesting that Mr. Slick underlines “faith alone”. Novatian says very specifically in the same breath that God rejoices “in our faith alone, in our innocency alone, in our truth alone, in our virtues alone.” It seems that Novatian is lumping faith, innocency, truth, and virtues together as all necessary for salvation. If anything, it seems to me that Novatian is supporting Catholic justification.

2. Aristides, Second Century

II. Having thus spoken concerning God, so far as it was possible for me to speak of Him, let us next proceed to the human race, that we may see which of them participate in the truth and which of them in error.”

“The Greek might be rendered, ‘so far as there was room for me to speak of Him,’ i.e., the attributes of the Deity are not further relevant to the discussion—as the translator into Syriac takes it. The Armenian adopts the other meaning, viz., the theme is beyond man’s power to discuss. As translated by F. C. Conybeare, the Armenian is in these words: ‘Now by the grace of God it was given me to speak wisely concerning Him. So far as I have received the faculty I will speak, yet not according to the measure of the inscrutability of His greatness shall I be able to do so, but by faith alone do I glorify and adore Him.” (The Apology of Aristides, Introduction)

So the phrase “faith alone” seems not even to be present in all translations of the text. I am not sure exactly if we even know that this is what he wrote. However, he is still not testifying to Sola Fide. Aristides is not referring to how he is justified. All he is saying is that no one can, of course, properly and fully express the greatness of God by his words. He will therefore glorify God (and more properly do credit to His greatness) by his faith. Alone excludes words, not love. This has nothing to do with other virtues.

3. Chrysostom (347-407)

1. “Have ye been vouchsafed, he says, so great a gift, and achieved such wonders, because ye observed the Law, or because ye adhered to Faith? plainly on account of Faith. Seeing that they played this argument to and fro, that apart from the Law, Faith had no force, he proves the contrary, viz., that if the Commandments be added, Faith no longer avails; for Faith then has efficacy when things from the Law are not added to it. ‘Ye who would be justified by the Law, ye are fallen away from grace:’ (Gal. 5:4).” (Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians – on Gal. 3:5, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/23103.htm)

Chrysostom did not believe Sola Fide. At another time, Chrysostom argues: “ ‘He that believes in the Son has everlasting life.’ ‘Is it enough, then, to believe in the Son,’ someone will say, ‘in order to have everlasting life?’ By no means! Listen to Christ declare this himself when he says, ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord! Lord!” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven’; and the blasphemy against the Spirit is enough of itself to cast a man into hell. But why speak I of a portion of doctrine? Though a man believe rightly on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yet if he lead not a right life, his faith will avail nothing towards his salvation.” (Homilies on the Gospel of John 31:1)

Concerning the text Mr. Slick puts forth, this is a commentary on Galatians, so obviously by “the Law” Chrysostom means the Law of Moses. Galatians was written to address the Judaizers. Even an evangelical would admit that although a Christian need not follow the mandates of the Law of Moses, he at very least ought to strive to do acts of virtue, even if it is not strictly necessary for salvation. By Faith or the Faith, Chrysostom may have meant the general saving faith, a full embracing of the Christian life, not to the exclusion of virtue. The fact that I deny Sola Fide would not keep me from referring to Christianity as “my Faith”. At least in this translation (I do not have access to the original text), the word faith is capitalized and I would imagine that it could be translated as “the Faith”. However, even if we are to suppose that Chrysostom did mean the theological virtue of Faith by itself, it still does not mean Sola Fide. We cannot work for our salvation. As soon as anyone believes and is baptized (and no, baptism is not a “good work” but a sacrament ex opere operato), he has salvation and he maintains it forever unless it is forfeited by mortal sin, a grave sin committed with full knowledge and consent. The “beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called.” (Trent, Decree on Justification, Ch. V)

2. “Even the miracles done by themselves, he says, declare the power of Faith, but I shall attempt if you will suffer me to draw my proofs from ancient narratives also. Then, as they made great account of the Patriarch, he brings his example forward, and shows that he too was justified by Faith. And if he who was before grace, was justified by Faith, although plentiful in works, much more we. For what loss was it to him, not being under the Law? None, for his faith sufficed unto righteousness.” (Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians – on Gal. 3:6, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/23103.htm)

Again, he is obviously talking about the Law of Moses. Chysostom says that Abraham “who was before grace, was justified by Faith, although plentiful in works, much more we” because no one can achieve any merit before he is justified. Catholics, of course, agree that no merit precedes justification. The fact that Chrysostom is talking about the law of Moses is made clear by the words that follow: “The Law did not then exist, he says, neither does it now exist, any more than then. In disproving the need of the Law, he introduces one who was justified before the Law, lest an objection should also be made to him; for as then it was not yet given, so now, having been given, it was abrogated.”

3. “Attend to this point. He Himself who gave the Law, had decreed, before He gave it, that the heathen should be justified by Faith. And he says not “revealed,” but, “preached the Gospel,” to signify that the patriarch was in joy at this method of justification, and in great desire for its accomplishment…” Further, they were possessed with another apprehension; it was written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law, to do them.” (Deut. 27:26.) And this he removes, with great skill and prudence, turning their argument against themselves, and showing that those who relinquish the Law are not only not cursed, but blessed; and they who keep it, not only not blessed but cursed. They said that he who kept not the Law was cursed, but he proves that he who kept it was cursed, and he who kept it not, blessed. Again, they said that he who adhered to Faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone, is blessed. And how does he prove all this? for it is no common thing which we have promised; wherefore it is necessary to give close attention to what follows. He had already shown this, by referring to the words spoken to the Patriarch, “In thee shall all nations be blessed,” (Gen. 12:4.) at a time, that is, when Faith existed, not the Law; so he adds by way of conclusion,”  (Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians – on Gal. 3:8, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/23103.htm)

By Chrysostom’s words, “showing that those who relinquish the Law are not only not cursed, but blessed; and they who keep it, not only not blessed but cursed” and “at a time, that is, when Faith existed, not the Law” we can know with certainty that the works to which he is referring ought not to be done at all. So by “Faith alone” he shows that he means Faith apart from works of the Law of Moses not Faith apart from works of the commandments of Jesus Christ.

4. “THE favors of God so far exceed human hope and expectation, that often they are not believed. For God has bestowed upon us such things as the mind of man never looked for, never thought of. It is for this reason that the Apostles spend much discourse in securing a belief of the gifts that are granted us of God. For as men, upon receiving some great good, ask themselves if it is not a dream, as not believing it; so it is with respect to the gifts of God. What then was it that was thought incredible? That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. “This is a faithful saying,” he says, “and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (Chyrsostom, Homilies on the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, Homily IV, on 1 Tim. 1:15, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/230604.htm)

Catholics do not believe we are justified by works exactly. A person obtains the initial graces for justification by faith alone. There is no merit which precedes justification. I might be more specific if I were writing on that now, but Chrysostom must have been completely unaware that his words would be misinterpreted in such a way because no one, at that point, believed in Sola Fide. Baptism would be implied, but since it is not a work, in the sense that it is not a work of virtue but a sacrament ex opere opertato, Chrysostom does not include it. At another time, however, Chrysostom was willing to write: “Do not be surprised that I call martyrdom a baptism, for here too the Spirit comes in great haste and there is the taking away of sins and a wonderful and marvelous cleansing of the soul, and just as those being baptized are washed in water, so too those being martyred are washed in their own blood.” (Panegyric on St. Lucian 2) And at another time he wrote: “And for what reason, says one, if the laver take away all our sins, is it called, not a laver of remission of sins, nor a laver of cleansing, but a laver of regeneration? Because it does not simply take away our sins, nor simply cleanse us from our faults, but so as if we were born again.” (Instructions to Catechumens 3) So he definitely believed in the necessity of baptism as well.

4. Theodoret, 393-458

“All this I say not for the sake of boasting, but because I am forced to defend myself. It is not the fame of my sermons to which I am calling attention; it is their orthodoxy alone. Even the great teacher of the world who is wont to style himself last of saints and first of sinners, that he might stop the mouths of liars was compelled to set forth a list of his own labours; and in shewing that this account of his sufferings was of necessity, not of free will, he added “I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me.” I own myself wretched—aye thrice wretched. I am guilty of many errors. Through faith alone I look for finding some mercy in the day of the Lord’s appearing. I wish and I pray that I may follow the footprints of the holy Fathers, and I earnestly desire to keep undefiled the evangelic teaching which was in sum delivered to us by the holy Fathers assembled in council at the Bithynian Nicæa.” (Of Theodoretus, Bishop of Cyrus, to Dioscorus, Archbishop of Alexandria, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2707083.htm)

This does not say that we are justified by faith alone to the exclusion of other virtues. I do not have access to the Greek text, but by “faith” I think it means “trust”, as in trust in God’s mercy. Notice that the phrase through faith alone is used rather than justified by faith alone. Catholics do not believe that God is compelled to reward us by our own virtue, but that He does so willingly we act with God’s grace working within us. We are sinners and must trust that God will make up what we lack and I think that is what Theodoret is saying.

5.Vincent of Lerins, d. 445

“To this most noteworthy example he adds the authority of two bishops of Rome, Sixtus III., then occupying the Papal Chair, and Celestine, his immediate predecessor,—the gist of the whole being the confirmation of the rule which it had been his object to enforce throughout the Treatise—that profane novelties must be rejected, and that faith alone adhered to which the universal Church has held consentiently from the earliest times, QUOD UBIQUE, QUOD SEMPER, QUOD AB OMNIBUS.” (Vincent of Lerins, The Commonitory, Introduction, http://encyclopedia.kids.net.au/page/vi/Vincent_of_Lerins)

I have two points here. First of all, this is not a quotation from St. Vincent of Lérins at all. This is a quotation from an encyclopedia entry about St. Vincent of Lérins. If Mr. Slick had actually read Vincent’s Commonitory, he would have found that the combination “faith alone” appears nowhere. I grant that this does not mean that necessarily he is not referring to Sola Fide any more than the fact that 1 Corinthians 11:24 does not use the term transubstantiation does not mean that it is not referring to it. However, if Mr. Slick believes Vincent testifies to Justification by Imputation, let him quote St. Vincent and not someone else writing about him. Furthermore, even if this were written by Vincent, it still is not very good evidence that he actually adhered to Sola Fide. The Commonitory was written to deal with heresies of all sorts, including Arianism, Donatism, and Nestorianism. By “faith alone adhered to which the universal Church has held consentiently from the earliest times”, faith means a set of beliefs. In other words, all this is saying is that Vincent taught that we must adhere to the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church.

I am surprised that they did not quote St. Augustine. Most evangelicals claim that he taught Justification by Faith Alone (along with double predestination). Believe me, he did not. “During the time, moreover,” says Augustine, “which intervenes between a man’s death and the final resurrection, the soul dwells in a hidden retreat, where it enjoys rest or suffers affliction just in proportion to the merit it has earned by the life which it led on earth. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead are benefited by the piety of their living friends, who offer the sacrifice of the Mediator, or give alms in the church on their behalf. But these services are of advantage only to those who during their lives have earned such merit, that services of this kind can help them.” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 109-110) How could he be clearer than that that there is a purgatory?

It seems that Sola Fide did not exist prior to Martin Luther. Luther called it “chief article of the whole Christian doctrine”—although I would think that would be the divinity of Christ—but as far as I can tell, no one believed it prior to him.

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In What Sense Is Mary Our Co-Redemptrix?

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”—Timothy 2:5

“But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”—Hebrews 7:24-25

Evidently our Lord is our one Redeemer in the ultimate sense—which is why the title “Co-Redemptrix” for His mother is so controversial, probably the most objectionable of all Marian titles among Protestants. I understand that. If a person were coming from a Protestant background, it would be hard to accept. Actually, even some sedevacantists reject it, although they probably accept the doctrine behind it. The Catholic Church does not hesitate to profess that “never was anyone, conceived by a man and a woman, liberated from the devil’s dominion except by faith in our lord Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and humanity, who was conceived without sin, was born and died. He alone by his death overthrew the enemy of the human race, cancelling our sins, and unlocked the entrance to the heavenly kingdom, which the first man by his sin had locked against himself and all his posterity.” (Florence, Sess. XI, Para. 10) If Christ is our unique Savior, Intercessor, and Mediator, what can that mean?

Actually, Paul encourages us all to be intercessors. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3) How can this be? Well, we are all members of the spiritual body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 22:7) Our Lord said to Paul at his conversion. Remember, God “has put all things under [Christ’s] feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23) Thus, in numerous verses Scripture makes very clear that although Jesus Christ is our savior, God gave the Church a secondary role to play in salvation. Each member must cooperate with God’s grace and participate in his own salvation while at the same time contributing to the salvation of the souls of others.

“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”—1 Corinthians 9:22

“Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.”—Romans 11:13-14

“Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?”—1 Corinthians 7:16

So it seems that we can save souls in a secondary sense. It seems that all Christians could be called co-saviors or co-redeemers. “I planted, Apollos watered,” says Paul, “but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) So Christians are empowered to “plant” and “water” but only God is able to “give the growth.” So Paul explains that we are co-workers with God.

So if we are all called to save souls in a secondary sense, cannot the Mother of God do so as well? We, as Christians, are called to cooperate with God’s grace in order to bring Christ to friends and those with whom we come in contact. The Virgin, on the other hand, quite literally brought the entire Christ to the entire world. The Virgin was the only human instrument God used in the unique event of the Incarnation. No other human, save the Virgin, contributed to God’s human nature. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) This is Mary’s Fiat. From these words, we can conclude that she willingly agreed to be the Mother of God, to give God His human nature. She agreed that God should come into the world and save us. This is what Catholics mean when we call her the Co-Redemptrix. She cooperated with God’s grace for the salvation of the entire world.

“Behold,” said Simeon, “this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) The “sign that is spoken against” is the cross to be set up for the salvation of all. But in the same sentence, Simeon reveals that a sword will pierce the sword of Mary as well. This is to come about so that “thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” So it is fair to say that both our Lord and His mother had to suffer so that the same “many” would be saved. The prophecy is fulfilled in John 19. Think about it. No one suffers as a mother suffers for her child. But Mary, “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) and Mother of God Himself, must have suffered more than anyone. She “was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross.” (Vatican II, LG 61) It was during that hour of immeasurable suffering that Jesus declared Mary spiritual mother of St. John and the Mother of the whole Church in that she cooperated with her Son in a singular way by her obedience and burning charity in bringing back supernatural life to her children, the Christians. Thus our Lord connected her suffering more clearly to the redemption of souls. The Scripture tells us: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27) This is generally seen by Protestants to mean that He was merely making sure that His mother was cared for after His death, resurrection, and ascension. That is true, in part, but if that were His only intention, our Lord would not have called her “woman” (more properly “madam” or “my lady”). That term would be rather baffling for a Son to use for His mother. He should have called her mother. This actually relates to her roll as the Second Eve, for Eve, who was the mother of all living, was also called “the woman”. So Mary is the woman prophesied to be in enmity with the serpent in Genesis 3:15, and indeed she is the mother of all Christians, of all “those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17) “Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death,” St. Justin Martyr explains. “But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied ‘Be it done unto me according to your word’.” (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 100)

The wedding feast at Cana is also full of symbolism. Again, our Lord calls her “woman”. Some would argue that that was meant as a term of differentiation because she supposedly acts out of vanity to show off the power of her Son. However, were that true, our Lord would not have used it again on the Cross. On account of the Blessed Virgin’s intercession at that time, our Lord “manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11) The Virgin was responsible for giving birth to the disciples faith, without which it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) Her words to the stewards are: “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) But these are not only words to the stewards. These are her words to every Christian. She was the gate by whom her Son came to us and now is the gate by whom we may come to Him and by Him to the Father. In that sense also she is our Co-Redemptrix.

“And if the former [Eve] did disobey God, yet the latter [Mary] was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way the sin of the first created man receives amendment by the correction of the First-begotten, and the coming of the serpent is conquered by the harmlessness of the dove, those bonds being unloosed by which we had been fast bound to death.”—St. Irenaeus Against Heresies 5:19:1 (A.D. 189)

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All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

Categories
On Protestants

In Defense of Intercession of the Saints

Intercession of the Saints is sometimes misunderstood. Protestants generally accuse us of worshipping them by praying to them. Actually, the term “to pray” comes from the Latin precari, meaning to beg, implore, or entreat. Hence old books might describe someone coming to another with an entreaty saying “I pray thee, wilt thou…” James writes: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” (James 5:16) How much greater in effect should those in heaven have if we ask them to pray for us? The Bible tells us to go to God in our necessities, but it also encourages us to ask for each other’s prayers. Remember, the request in the Hail Mary is to “pray for us sinners”, while in the Lord’s Prayer it is to “forgive us our trespasses”. On account of widespread Protestantism, “prayer” has been equivocated with “adoration”, but it was not always so.

Some would argue that it seems to associate a degree of divinity with the saints to be able to hear all of our prayers. Basically every Marian apparition in the past couple centuries has the consistent message “pray the rosary”. 7,820,000,000 people roughly are alive today. Now, if all of them were to pray the rosary as our Lady requests, she would receive 414,460,000,000 Hail Marys every day. Some would argue that this suggests a sort of omniscience attributed to her. Actually she is in heaven and so has eternity to answer all those prayers. If the number of prayers were infinite, an omniscient mind would be necessary, but there is only a certain number of people who will ever exist. Do you seriously thing that Almighty God is unable to grant to a glorified soul in heaven such a large but finite expansion of knowledge?

But even if we are not worshipping the saints, some might be concerned about the charge of necromancy, which is, according to Scripture, abominable. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) I actually must admit that I see why someone would think this. When the Bible condemns necromancy, it condemns conjuring the dead like Saul did through the witch of Endor. When our Lord spoke to Moses and Elijah in the Transfiguration, that was not necromancy nor was it disrespectful to our Lord when David calls upon the angels to bless the Lord in Psalms 103:21. Similarly, were I to ask St. Catherine of Alexandria to help me with this blog, I am not conjuring up a spirit from Hades to help me gain secret knowledge. Indeed, those in heaven are like angels and more alive than we are, for God “is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.” (Luke 20:38)

But there is also the question about how they could be praying for us if they are busy worshipping God in heaven. To suppose the angels and saints are unwilling to hear our prayers is a misconception of heaven. Do you really think that the saints in heaven are living without concern for those who are still working out their salvation with fear and trembling to pray for us? No, they surround us as “so great a cloud of witnesses”. (Hebrews 12:1) So where does it say in the Bible that they can hear our prayers? St. John describes heavenly worship saying: “The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8) Furthermore, later on he says: “the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.” (Revelation 8:4) Indeed, if praying for others “is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:3), why cannot those in heaven do the same? Revelation 6:11 says the martyrs “were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man shows concern for his family on earth, even though he is in hell. (Luke 16:27-28) If someone in hell can be concerned for those on earth, why are those in heaven unable? Those in heaven are part of the Mystical Body of Christ, and have not been separated from us by death. Christ is the vine, and we are the branches. So, we are connected to Him, and inseparably connected with them as well. Think about it: if they cannot pray for us, do they not care about our salvation or has God strictly forbade them from knowing our hardship on earth and rendered them incapable of praying in supplication as we can?

Early Tradition:

“So is he always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him.”

Clement of Alexandria The Stromata 7:12 (c. A.D. 208)

“Yet there is a certain helpful charm in a place of prayer being the spot in which believers meet together. Also it may well be that the assemblies of believers also are attended by angelic powers, by the powers of our Lord and Savior himself, and indeed by the spirits of saints, including those already fallen asleep, certainly of those still in life, though just how is not easy to say.”

Origen On Prayer 11 (c. A.D. 233)

“Under your protection we find refuge, Holy Mother of God: do not despise the supplications of us who are in the test and free us from every danger, o glorious and blessed Virgin.”

Rylands Papyrus 3 (A.D. 350) This is the oldest known Marian prayer.

“Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honours, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in hymns august celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away. And also, O honoured and venerable Simeon, you earliest host of our holy religion, and teacher of the resurrection of the faithful, be our patron and advocate with that Saviour God, whom you were deemed worthy to receive into your arms.”

St. Methodius Oration on Simeon and Anna 14 (A.D. 305)

“This it was that the blessed martyrs did in their burning love; and if we celebrate their memories in no mere empty form, and, in the banquet whereat they themselves were filled to the full, approach the table of the Lord, we must, as they did, be also ourselves making similar preparations. For on these very grounds we do not commemorate them at that table in the same way, as we do others who now rest in peace, as that we should also pray for them, but rather that they should do so for us, that we may cleave to their footsteps.”

St. Augustine Homilies on John 84:1 (A.D. 416)

“You say, in your pamphlet, that so long as we are alive we can pray for one another; but once we die, the prayer of no person for another can be heard, and all the more because the martyrs, though they cry for the avenging of their blood, have never been able to obtain their request. If Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, when they ought still to be anxious for themselves, how much more must they do so when once they have won their crowns, overcome, and triumphed?”

St. Jerome Against Vigilantius 6 (A.D. 406)

“This it was that the blessed martyrs did in their burning love; and if we celebrate their memories in no mere empty form, and, in the banquet whereat they themselves were filled to the full, approach the table of the Lord, we must, as they did, be also ourselves making similar preparations. For on these very grounds we do not commemorate them at that table in the same way, as we do others who now rest in peace, as that we should also pray for them, but rather that they should do so for us, that we may cleave to their footsteps.”

St. Augustine Homilies on John 84:1 (A.D. 416)

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All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version