Thursday, January 17, 2008

Holy Water Debate: Parts 3-6

I have a major update to make in the Holy Water debate. First off, here is what we have accomplished so far:The only thing left is for each of us to write our Concluding Statements. This has been an interesting debate and it has caused me to do a ton of research into a topic I might not have studied otherwise. It has also sparked quite a debate in the blogosphere, thanks to Dave Armstrong's post (see the comments on that post and his follow-up).

What follows us my Rebuttal Statement. As always, comments are welcome.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
I am using this rebuttal to respond to your opening statement. In that statement, you wrote the following:
There are three examples of water being used in healing, Naaman in the Jordan, the pool of Bethesda, and the healing of the blind man through the dust/spit paste and subsequent washing in the pool of Siloam. Of course, none of the water involved was consecrated water.
I think the angel consecrated the pool when he "troubled" it (cf. Jn 5:4), but by "consecrated" you probably mean "blessed by a Catholic priest." In that case, you're right, there is no such example. But, in making that statement, I think you have misunderstood my purpose in using those examples.

I wasn't trying to give evidence of something as specific as "water consecrated by a Catholic priest." I already admitted in my opening statement that an explicit example does not exist. But, I also said that without an explicit Scriptural witness (either for or against a practice) we have to work with the implicit witness and the principles that inform the practice.

These examples in Scripture of God using created things to produce supernatural effects, and particularly of His many uses of water, act as the seed from which the practice of using water organically developed. There we find the implicit witness and the principles that inform the practice.


PC makes the argument that if water cleanses, and demons are sometimes called “unclean spirits,” therefore it should be that water “can be put to good use against something as unclean as a demon.” There are a couple of problems with that, but the most obvious is that “unclean” is simply a figure of speech for the fact that they are evil.
My initial reaction was to disagree, which is why I asked for proof in my first question to you. But, now I'm not so sure that your statement really matters. You said that to call a spirit "unclean" is to say that it is evil. So what? In the Old Testament, when someone was declared "unclean" it usually wasn't because they were physically dirty. Instead, it was because they had become spiritually dirty, or unholy, or evil. Water was often used then to "cleanse" such people, or to remove the unholiness, the spiritual filth, the evil.

The same takes place in the use of holy water against demons. Water is being used to remove "unclean spirits," which are spiritual filth within a person or place. In removing these demons, holy water makes a person or place "clean" again. It removes the evil, just like it did in the Old Testament. So, the statement that an "unclean spirit" is a spirit that is evil seems to be irrelevant. I don't see how it refutes anything.


Having disposed of the first two arguments, let us turn to the third. PC argues that demons “are rightly repulsed by anything that is holy or blessed by God, and are expelled by His cleansing grace.” PC asks, “Does this really need a defense?” The answer, of course, is yes.
According to you, since demons don't immediately flee when Jesus shows up, and since Satan was able to appear before God regarding Job and before Jesus during His temptation, this must mean that Satan and his demons are impervious to holy things. But, I disagree. I think there are some times when God allows demons to be in the presence of holiness and other times when He does not.

First, we must note that the devil and his demons are entirely subject to the Power of God. Satan needed God's permission to test Job (cf. Job 1:8-12) and the demons needed His permission to enter the swine (cf. Mt 8:30-32; Mk 5:10-13; Lk 8:31-33). They can't even speak unless God allows it (cf. Mk 1:25; Lk 4:41). Similarly, the devil and his demons were able to be in God's presence only because He allowed it.

However, in other times, with other things, God does not allow it. One of those times is the application of holy water. Throughout the Bible God shows us the spiritual power that He wishes for water to have in our lives. The fact that, in hundreds of instances throughout Christian history demons are expelled and persons/places protected whenever holy water is applied, shows us that when it comes to holy water, God does not allow it. When Christians use holy water with faith in the prayers of the Church, demons flee, or, in the very least, suffer from its presence.


The name of Jesus is significant because it connotes authority. Paul had Christ’s authority, and consequently was able to command the spirits to come out, as were the other apostles. [. . .] Likewise that “in the name” refers to authority can be seen, for example, from Deuteronomy 18:5, 7, 20, and 22 and many other Old Testament texts, as well as – for example – James 5:10.
I posit that demons are expelled just as much by the holiness of the name as by its authority. After all, His name IS holy (cf. Lev 22:32; 1 Chron 16:10,35; 29:16; Psa 30:4; 33:21; 97:12; 103:1; 105:3; 106:47; 111:9; 145:21; Isa 57:15; Lk 1:49), and it is opposed to anything that is evil (cf. Lev 20:3; 22:2; Eze 20:39; 36:20-22; 39:7,25; 43:7-8; Amo 2:7). Also, there are many possible meanings for "in the name of" other than the one you provided.


But some might argue that the explanation about authority does not fully explain the special miracles wrote by Paul’s hands, by which the sick were cured through aprons and handkerchiefs that had been on Paul’s body. The answer is that there were additional special miracles in the apostolic age, but those miracles had already long ceased by the time of Chrysostom (circa 347- circa 407)
I'm surprised that you're willing to become a cessationist in order to discredit the use of holy things against the devil. Unfortunately, this isn’t the place to debate cessationism, but, in my conlusion, I do plan on providing some testimony regarding the use of another holy thing against the devil: oil. Of course, we already have the paragraph from the Apostolic Constitutions, in which oil is given the power to “banish demons.” Even in Old Testament times, David was able to use his lyre to rid Saul of the evil spirit that plagued him (cf. 1 Sam 16:16,23). Such “special miracles” simply are not confined to the apostolic period.


The anecdotal evidence is less than compelling. The Apostolic Constitutions are acknowledged, even by Roman Catholic Historians, to be pseudonymous works (after all, none of the Apostles survived to the fourth century).
As I understand it, the reason it's called "The Apostolic Constitutions" is not because one or more of the apostles wrote it but because it is a collection of the traditions handed on by them. At any rate, the fact that we don't know with certainty who wrote it does not itself discredit the statements found therein.


Furthermore, the passage cited by PC does not appear in several versions of the Apostolic Constitutions, and consequently may be a later medieval addition thereto.
I would like now to respond to your proof for this statement. Regarding the supposed absence of the chapter in question from "several versions", notice that New Advent's entry on the Apostolic Constitutions mentions 7 different versions:
  1. a Latin version of a text found in Crete;
  2. the complete Greek text of Bovius...
  3. ...and that of the Jesuit Father Torres (Turrianus);
  4. an early twelfth-century text in St. Petersburg;
  5. an allied fourteenth-century text in Vienna;
  6. and two kindred sixteenth-century texts, one in Vienna,...
  7. the other in Paris
While only the last 4 are extant, it doesn't appear that any of them are the Coptic, Syriac, or Oxford manuscripts that Donaldson mentions. If that is the case, then the number of available versions is 7. Two out of 7 (or potentially 10, if we count the first three) hardly qualifies as "several versions." As for the chapter being a "later medieval addition," this too seems odd, considering that the New Advent entry says that the work "was not known in the Western Church throughout the Middle Ages."


Likewise in the cross-examination, we saw that the citation to the Venerable Bede’s work actually shows dust, not water, being used for expelling demons (and the water involved in the discussion not being water sanctified by a priest, but water that touched a relic).
All you did here was restate the sentiments of Question #3, which I answered here.


That leaves us with no testimony as to the use of holy water against demonic forces until the medieval times.
More on this in my Conclusion.


Furthermore, we have testimony that the use of holy water against demonic forces was simply medieval superstition (see John Paul Perrin, “History off the Ancient Christians” (1847), Book I, pages 33-34).
Please excuse me if I don't take his word for it.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

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