Thursday, March 27, 2008

Answering the "Fundamental Questions": Part 1

I recently received the following challenge from "E.L.":
I see on your website that you are interested in defending the Catholic Church. May I suggest that in order to do this you should be able to answer the following fundamental questions:
  1. What is the difference between the Kingdom of Heaven ruled by Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God the Father?
  2. What exactly is the New Covenant? What does the New Covenant promise?
  3. Why is Baptism connected to the Kingdom of Heaven? What does baptism do for us?
  4. What is the Church? Is it a building or residence as Scripture suggests? Who lives there? What is the connection between the pope and the Church? Does the pope have authority to govern the Church?
  5. Is the resurrection a resurrection of the dead or the living? Why did Jesus not agree with Martha when she connected the resurrection to the Last Day? Has the resurrection already taken place and if so when?
  6. If God gave us dominion or ownership rights over creation did He also give us ownership rights over human beings? If He did not then who owns human beings? What is the consequence of this?
  7. Why did Jesus always sidestep questions connected with the running of the State even when it concerned the Law of Moses e.g. the coin of tribute and the woman caught in adultery?

Of course, I'm never one to back down from a challenge, so let's go through these one at a time and see what we can come up with.

(1) What is the difference between the Kingdom of Heaven ruled by Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God the Father?
There is no difference. The two kingdoms are in fact one and the same. After all, everything that the Father has is also the Son's, as the Gospels repeatedly tell us (cf. Mt 11:27; Jn 3:35; 13:3; 16:15). There's no notion in the Bible of two different kingdoms.

(2) What exactly is the New Covenant? What does the New Covenant promise?
Here's two helpful definitions:
  • Essentially the same as New Testament, but with several distinct connotations. It is a sacred agreement instituted by God in the person of Christ. It is a completion of the Old Covenant that Yahweh made with the Jews. It is an eternal covenant whose fulfillment is destined for heaven. It is a promise on God's part to confer the blessings foretold in the Sermon on the Mount and at the Last Supper, provided the followers of Christ are faithful in their generosity toward God. (Modern Catholic Dictionary, "New Covenant").


  • The new "dispensation," order or Covenant, established by God in Jesus Christ, to succeed and perfect the Old Covenant (cf. 612, 839). The New Law or Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed; this law of the New Covenant is called a law of love, grace, and freedom (1965-1972). See Covenant; Gospel, Law of the (Catechism of the Catholic Church: Glossary).
What this covenant promises is eternal life to all those who live according to it.

(3) Why is Baptism connected to the Kingdom of Heaven? What does baptism do for us?
Baptism is connected to the Kingdom of Heaven in that it is through baptism that we enter into the Kingdom. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Jn 3:5). In fact, this baptism does several things for us:
  • Cleanses us of all sin, original and actual
  • Makes us children of God
  • Initiates us into His Body, the Church
  • Makes us a "new creature" by an indelible mark placed upon our soul
  • Grants us the gifts of the Holy Spirit
For more on the effects of baptism, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1262-1274 and the Catholic Defense Directory: Effects of Baptism.

(4) What is the Church? Is it a building or residence as Scripture suggests? Who lives there? What is the connection between the pope and the Church? Does the pope have authority to govern the Church?
"What is the Church?"....that's a difficult question to answer succinctly. Here are two possible definitions:
  • The faithful of the whole world. This broad definition can be understood in various senses all derived from the Scriptures, notably as the community of believers, the kingdom of God, and the Mystical Body of Christ.
    As the community of believers, the Church is the assembly (ekklesia) of all who believe in Jesus Christ; or the fellowship (koinonia) of all who are bound together by their common love for the Savior. As the kingdom (basileia), it is the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies about the reign of the Messiah. And as the Mystical Body it is the communion of all those made holy by the grace of Christ. He is their invisible head and they are his visible members. These include the faithful on earth, those in purgatory who are not yet fully purified, and the saints in heaven.
    Since the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church has been defined as a union of human beings who are united by the profession of the same Christian faith, and by participation of and in the same sacraments under the direction of their lawful pastors, especially of the one representative of Christ on earth, the Bishop of Rome. Each element in this definition is meant to exclude all others from actual and vital membership in the Catholic Church, namely apostates and heretics who do not profess the same Christian faith, non-Christians who do not receive the same sacraments, and schismatics who are not submissive to the Church's lawful pastors under the Bishop of Rome.
    At the Second Vatican Council this concept of the Church was recognized as the objective reality that identifies the fullness of the Roman Catholic Church. But it was qualified subjectively so as to somehow include all who are baptized and profess their faith in Jesus Christ. They are the People of God, whom he has chosen to be his own and on whom he bestows the special graces of his providence (Modern Catholic Dictionary, "
    Church").


  • The name given the "convocation" or "assembly" of the People God has called together from "the ends of the earth." In Christian usage, the word "Church" has three inseparable meanings: the People that God gathers in the whole world; the particular or local church [diocese]; and the liturgical [above all Eucharistic] assembly. The Church draws her life from the Word and the Body of Christ, and so herself becomes Christ's Body [752]. In the Creed, the sole Church of Christ is professed to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic [811] (Catechism of the Catholic Church: Glossary).
Is it a building or a residence? Yes, in the sense that we call the place where Christians gather for worship a "church." But, the church, even the local church, is much more than a building, as the definitions previously cited explain.

Who lives there? I don't really understand your question.

What is the connection between the pope and the Church? The pope is the Vicar of Christ, the visible head on Earth of the Church of Christ and "the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful" (Lumen Gentium, 23).

Does the pope have authority to govern the Church? Indeed! "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered" (Lumen Gentium, 22).

I hope that adequately addresses Questions 1-4. I will address Questions 5-7 in a subsequent post.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

1 comment:

Stephen Korsman said...

I like the answers! On who owns humans - some would argue that Satan owns humans not owned by God, to put it rather primitively. Is the questioner perhaps a Jehovah's Witness?

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