Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Ministry of St. Peter

How exactly should we look at the ministry of Peter, in respect to his calling towards one group of people or another? Acts 15:7 says that his ministry was to the Gentiles, but Paul says that Peter had been entrusted to the circumcized (cf. Gal 2:7)

I would say that Peter's ministry was primarily to the Jews, but not exclusively. After all, he was the one who spoke in the Spirit at Pentecost to men of all nations (cf. Acts 2:14-41). Also, it was to Peter that God gave the vision validating the Gentiles as men worthy of the Gospel (cf. Acts 10:9-16,28; 11:5-10), and it was Peter who converted the household of Cornelius, the first Gentile converts (cf. Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-18). Finally, Peter himself says, at the Council of Jersualem: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe" (Acts 15:7).

Pax Christi,

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Bride and the Nations

In Revelation 22, it seems like "the nations" (v.2) is distinct from "the bride" (v.17). Who is "the nations" and who is "the bride"?

First, here is verse 17:

Rev 22:17 a. The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let him who hears say, "Come." b. And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.

Now, I always thought that the "Come" of the Spirit and the Bride, and the "Come" of he who hears was directed towards Jesus. Just as in the end of the chapter, where we see Jesus promise that He will come and St. John give voice to the cry of the Church ("Come, Lord Jesus!" cf. vs. 20), so in vs. 12 Jesus promises that he will come and in vs. 17a, the Church (the "Bride"), inspired by the Holy Spirit, says, "Come."

In 17.b., the "come" is directed to all those who are not a member of the Church. The Bride is inviting them to come and join her bridal party, come and join the wedding banquet, where he who is thirsty can come and drink.

As for "the nations," I think that Rev 22:1-5 is very reminiscent of Zech 14:1-11. In both passages there is continuous light, flowing water, the prophecy that "there shall no more be anything accursed." Both passages also reference "the nations." Assuming that Zechariah 14 is the key to understanding Rev 22:1-5, then the nations are the enemies of Jerusalem:

Zech 14:2-3 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.

According to my Navarre Commentary, the prophecy in Zech 14:11 that nothing shall be accursed is a reference to the Jewish practice of having to slay entire nations and peoples in a land that God gave them to inhabit so that the Jews would not have to mingle with pagans and idolatrous practices.

If that is the case, then when Rev. 22:2-3 says that there will be healing to the nations and no more will there be anything accursed, I think that means that there will finally be peace on earth, and no longer a need for the battles they had to take up in order to remain pure. Perhaps this peace between Jerusalem (an image of the Church) and the surrounding nations comes by way of the conversion of these pagan people. Verses 2-3 seem to say that once there is healing for the nations there will only be the Lamb and his servants. They are healed b/c they eat of the fruit from the tree of life and vs. 14 says that those who eat of the tree are those who have "washed their robes," which is an image of salvation (being washed in the blood of the Lamb).

So, short answer: the Bride is the Church, and the nations are those non-Christian peoples who will enter into the Church by the grace of God.

What do you think? Holla back.

Pax Christi,

Friday, July 17, 2009

God Gave the Increase

What does it mean when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the growth"?

I think what 1 Cor 3:6 is saying is that there is some instrumental causality that can be attributed to us, when we do the good work of proclaiming the Gospel and bringing people to Christ. But, the first cause is always God. He is the unseen force behind every good thing, and any fruit that comes from our work should ultimately be attributed to Him.

Paul is pointing this out to the Corinthians b/c they were getting too caught up in the man and were forgetting the God behind the man. Jealousy and strife was being stirred among them based on who exactly it was who taught each one of them, as if one group was better than the other b/c they learned from Paul instead of Apollos.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pay Now or Pay Later

A Protestant recently offered the following video as proof that the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory amounts to "you write the Church a check, She gives you get-out-of-jail-free card." It is a snippet from a Q&A session that followed a debate between James White and Fr. Peter Stravinskas on Purgatory:

I would like to contribute some thoughts on this, in defense of Fr. Stravinskas.

Now, I have watched the entire debate and, I admit, Fr. Peter Stravinskas did not do well. James White is renowned for his skill as a live debater. I think the good father was just a little flustered and overwhelmed, and he wasn't able to anticipate all of the arguments that White would raise. If Fr. Stravinskas lost, it wasn't because of any weakness in the Catholic position but because of weakness in the man presenting it.

His response to the questioner in the crowd was particularly unfortunate. He articulated the Catholic position in a very sloppy and inadequate way. But, I know what he meant to say and so I would like to articulate that with more precision. I'm sure some of you will think that I am "eisegeting" the priest's words or saying that he meant something that he didn't actually mean, but I'm telling you, I know what the Catholic position is, I know what he believes, I know what the Church teaches about this. Whether you accept that or not is up to you.

Now, Catholics believe that when you sin, this has an eternal effect (on your relationship with God) and a temporal effect (on the Body and really the world). Suffering, death, pain, sadness, all of these are the conseqence of sin. They are "temporal" consequences b/c they effect our experience of this world and of each other, which is a temporal existence, or an existence confined by time.

We also believe that every Christian has a responsibility to rectify or remedy the negative effect that there sin has caused. They rectify the eternal effect through conversion of heart and repentence. They rectify the temporal effect by responding to the grace of God which compels us to perform acts of charity and to obey the command of Christ to love one another. Just as sin wounds the body, charity heals the body, uplifts the body, edifies the body. Almsgiving is one of these works of charity ("love") that builds up the body and rectifies the negative consequences of sin on the body.

If you do not properly rectify the temporal consequences of your sin in this life, then this remains as an imperfection on your soul when you die. Since these are temporal consequences of sin, they have no effect on your eternal destiny. So, a person can die and be fit for heaven while still having these imperfections on his soul (attachment to sin, or "concupiscence" and venial sin are other such imperfections). Since nothin unclean shall enter heaven, God, with the grace that he won for us on the Cross, cleanses us of these imperfections. God is a refining fire, and so the soul that must undergo this purging by God will undoubtedly experience some suffering. But, he also has the knowledge that heaven will be his, and this undoubtedly sustains him.

Knowing all this, one is able to finally understand what Fr. Stravinskas meant when he said, "Pay it now or pay it later." In other words, you can pay for the temporal consequence of your sin now by doing acts of charity (motivated by God's grace) or you can pay for it later, by undergoing the the purging of God. It's not like you can write the Church a check and forgo this purging. No one is paying there way out of Purgatory. Almsgiving is simply one of many good works that build up the body and rectify the temporal consequence of sin.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Monday, July 13, 2009

On the Formation of the Canon and the Deuterocanonical Books: Part 2

Here is my response to McMahon's second article on the "apocrypha." See also Part 1. I think this second article is substantially weaker than the first article. At least with the first one he tried to engage Catholics on their own terms. With this article, he's basically trying to say that the phrase "the prophets" encompasses the entire OT and since, according to him, none of the deuterocanonical books were written prophets, they don't belong. Pretty silly stuff, as I hope to reveal. Again, like last time, McMahon's words will be indented and mine flush to the left.

  • Syllogism: These apocryphal books were not written by the prophets, therefore they are not canonical. Entire syllogism: All canonical books of the OT were written by prophets: none of the apocryphal books were written by any prophets: therefore they are not canonical.

    The Major premise rests on Scripture: Peter says the OT is the “prophetic word.” (2 Peter 1:19); Paul calls it the “scriptures of the prophets” (Romans 16:26); Zacharias the priest says “As he spake by the mouths of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began.” (Luke 1:70); “They have Moses and the Prophets” as Abraham said (Luke 18:39); Luke wrote, “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scripture the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:24; cf. Rom. 1:2); Heb. 1:1, “God spake in divers manners by the prophets.”; the church is built upon the “apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20); “All things must be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me:” and it follows immediately, “And he opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45); Paul asks Agrippa, “Believest thou the prophets?” – that is the Scriptures. (Acts 26:27); When Paul dealt with the Jews at Rome he tried to convince them “out of the law of Moses and the prophets.” (Acts 28:23). From these we see that the major assertion is true, that the whole OT was given to us by God’s prophets. There is no part of the OT which was not given by the prophets.

    The entire OT canonical Scriptures are deemed in the following way: 1) the prophets; 2) Moses and the prophets; 3) Moses, the prophets, and the psalms.
This entire article is dismantled by the fact that not everything even in the Protestant OT is written by a prophet. When the NT refers to "the prophets" it is not using the term loosely to refer to any OT person who delivered the word of God to the people. Instead, it is referring to a very specific collection of OT writings. John Francis Fenlon explains:
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The Law contained the five books of Moses in the unvarying order of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Prophets comprised the four books of the Former Prophets, in the unvarying order of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings; and the four books of the Latter Prophets, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Minor Prophets (all twelve counted as forming one book). The Writings comprised the remaining eleven books, the poetical works, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the five Megilloth, or Rolls (Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecelesiastes, Esther), and finally Daniel, Esdras, Nehemias, Chronicles -- twenty-four books in all, though perhaps more frequently reckoned as twenty-two by counting Ruth with Judges, and Lamentations with Jeremias.
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If McMahon thinks that "the prophets" refers to every book of the Bible, then he's misusing the phrase. The Jews didn't even understand their own canon in that way. In some of the very passages that McMahon cites as proof that an OT book must be written by a prophet, we see that other books of the OT are actually separate from "the prophets." See, for example:

Lk 16:29 (not 18:39, as McMahon has it) But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'

Lk 24:27 (not 24:24) And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Lk 24:44 Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled."

Acts 28:23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in great numbers. And he expounded the matter to them from morning till evening, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets.

"Moses and the prophets": that's two different collections. "The law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms": that's three different collections. That means that "Moses" (which is a reference to the Penteteuch) and "the psalms" are not "the prophets." Does that mean we should reject these books? What about the books that constitute "the Writings"? Should we reject those to?

Once you let "the prophets" mean what it's supposed to mean instead of straining it to encompass the entire Old Testament, then you see that McMahon's argument is destructive to his own canon, not simply the Catholic one.

  • That the apocryphal books were not written by the prophets are clear and certain. All confess that Malachi was the last Jewish prophet. Between Malachi and John the Baptist, no other Jewish prophet arose, but the writers of the apocryphal books lived after Malachi. Even the RCC does not deny this.
Well, we've already established that his rule for determining canonicity here is absurd and self-defeating. But, let's assume that, in some fairy tale land where basic rules of exegesis don't apply, it's actually true that every book must be written by a prophet before it can be considered canonical. This too can be defeated based on the fact that many of the books in question were in fact written by prophets.

As I said in my last extensive reply, all five of the "books of Solomon" (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and Sirach) were at one time or another attributed to Solomon, and the last two are deuterocanonical. I'm pretty sure McMahon considers Solomon a prophet. The book of Baruch was written by, well, the the prophet Baruch, who was a disciple of Jeremiah. Even Calvin himself considered Baruch a prophet [emphasis mine]:
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For thus speaks the Prophet, when he would shew that the fountain of life is with God, (Baruch 3:14) — “Learn where there is prudence, where there is virtue, where there is understanding, where there is length of life and food, where there is light to the eyes and peace.” (Psychopannychia, online here).
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He thought the author of Ecclesiasticus (or "Sirach") was a prophet too:
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Almost similar to this [Ps 103:13] is the passage in Ecclesiasticus, “The number of the years of man, as much as a hundred years, have been counted as the drop of water in the sea, and as the sand on the sea shore; but they are few compared with the whole duration of time. Therefore God is patient towards them, and sheds out his mercy upon them.” (Ecclesiasticus 18:8- 10.) Here they must admit that the prophet’s sentiment was very different; from that which they dream, and means that the Lord pitied those whom he knew to stand by his mercy alone, and, who, were he for a little to withdraw his hand, would return to the dust whence they were taken. (Psychopannychia, online here)
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Pretty interesting stuff for any Calvinist who attempts to use "authorship by a prophet" as proof for the canonicity of a book.

  • They were written in another language (Greek – more on this later) rather than the prophetic tongue of Hebrew. The numerous quotations of the fathers affirm this, the RCC does not deny this.
Oh come on, this guy doesn't even know the most basic facts about his subject matter. Two of the books were written in Greek -- Wisdom and 2nd Maccabees -- but the rest of them were written in either Hebrew or Aramaic (which is a very close derivative of Hebrew).

  • Most importantly, if these books had been written by the prophets, Christ would have quoted them and used them as witness to himself, as he did with the others. Christ nor his apostles quoted the apocrypha. It is a useless case to strain the idea that they may have alluded to it. In the witness of Christ, or the apostles for Christ, they never quoted the apocryphal books (more on this later).
This is absolutely not true. I have located at least 31 references to a deuterocanonical book in the Gospels alone:

Mt 4:4 and Wisdom 16:26Mt 6:7 and Sirach 7:14Mt 7:12 and Tobit 4:15Mt 7:16 and Sirach 27:6Mt 8:11 and Baruch 4:37Mt 11:28 and Sirach 24:19Mt 16:18 and Wisdom 16:13Mt 18:10 and Tobit 12:15Mt 22:13 and Wisdom 17:2Mt 26:38 and Sirach 37:2Mt 27:43 and Wisdom 2:13,18-20

Mr 4:5 and Sirach 40:15Mr 9:48 and Judith 16:17

Lk 1:19 and Tobit 12:15Lk 1:42 and Judith 13:18Lk 1:52 and Sirach 10:14Lk 2:29 and Tobit 11:9Lk 2:37 and Judith 8:6Lk 13:29 and Baruch 4:37Lk 14:13 and Tobit 2:2Lk 19:44 and Wisdom 3:7Lk 21:25 and Wisdom 5:22

Jn 1:3 and Wisdom 9:1Jn 3:8 and Sirach 16:21Jn 3:12 and Wisdom 9:16Jn 3:13 and Baruch 3:29Jn 5:18 and Wisdom 2:16Jn 8:44 and Wisdom 2:24Jn 8:53 and Sirach 44:19Jn 14:15 and Wisdom 6:18Jn 17:3 and Wisdom 15:3

Case closed, as far as quotation by a NT book is concerned.

  • These apocryphal books were not received by the church of the Israelites; therefore they are non canonical. Syllogism would be as such: The ancient church of the Hebrews received and approved all the books of the OT; The church did not receive these books; therefore they are not canonical.
They were received by the Greek speaking Jews by way of the Septuagint and they were received by Jesus Christ and the Apostles, who quote from the Septuagint considerably more often than they quote from the Hebrew canon, and who quote from the deuterocanonical books in the examples I have already provided. Of the approximately 300 references in the NT to an OT book, about 2/3 of them came from the Septuagint. The deuterocanonical books were received by the Jews, they were received by Christ and the Apostles, and they were received by the early Church. There's simply no getting around that.

  • Major proposition is easy to show: If the church had removed such a large portion of the “Scriptures”, they would have been thoroughly rebuked by Christ for doing so; or even by the apostles – which they were not. The Jews were blamed for putting wrong senses on the Scriptures (see Christ’s repeated arguments with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes), they would have received a greater and more stern condemning word for removing the “scriptures” altogether; which was never the case. Christ would be negligent not to rebuke and reprove them of this, being the eternal Word, which he never did.
This argument is simply ahistorical. Jesus was not alive to rebuke the Palestinian Jews, when they finally rejected the Septuagint canon, or the Protestants, when they followed suit 1500 years later.

  • Josephus attests to the care and strictness of the Jews who cared for the OT canon, without the inclusion of the apocrypha – see Eusebius, Lib. III. Cap. 10.2.) Augustine and all the fathers accept the truth of this. Also, if the Jews did err in this, not accepting the apocryphal books and excluding them from the canon, then the church erred, and the RCC would never accept that, since there is only one true church.
I accept that the Protestant churches have erred. The Catholic Church has not.

  • For everyone understands and knows that these books were never included in the OT canon, no matter how familiar they may have been to anyone.
Everyone? Good grief, what a sweeping assertion. They were included in the OT canon of the Septuagint. The Palestinian Jews rejected the Septuagint canon at least in part for anti-Christian reasons, because they saw how frequently the Christians were utilizing the Septuagint. Yet now, so many years later, Protestants hold up the Hebrew canon as the rule? I just don't get that.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On the Formation of the Canon and the Deuterocanonical Books: Part 1

What follows is a debate that took place at the HCR forum. Someone posted two articles by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon (from the "A Puritan's Mind" website) on the Catholic canon, which includes, as he sees it, certain "apocryphal" books. Both articles very lengthy, and there are in fact 3 more articles that I didn't bother responding to. I just wanted, at least with these two, to expose the errors in them and defend the Catholic canon of the Bible.

Let the games begin! McMahon's words will be indented, mine will be flush to the left.

  • So the RCC argument is this: these councils and these fathers affirm these books to belong to the sacred canon, therefore these books are canonical. This has been the official position since Trent’s dogmas.
That is not the extent of the Catholic argument, just one of many.

  • I deny the whole of the major premise by the RCC for a variety of reasons.
    1) We must never state that fathers and councils speak the truth simply based on what they deem to be true since the Scriptures themselves must stand the test in and of themselves and account for their own veracity (which the Apocrypha will never pass as a test based on its veracity alone)
Neither will the rest of Scripture. The Bible doesn't tell us which books should be in the Bible, so the idea that "the Scriptures themselves must stand the test in and of themselves and account for their own veracity" is pretty silly to me.

  • 2) Trent was no general council, though the RCC esteems it as such. However, Akanus Copus (in Dialog Quint. C. 16.) states that there were fewer bishops at this council that at any other. And the total of those in attendance was less than fifty. If this is a provincial council, fine. But a general ecclesiastical council I in no way accept, nor do many RCC fathers.
First of all, his number of those in attendance is incorrect. On the first day of the Council, there were at least 85 present, but definitely more since the legates of Germany were also present but we don't know how many of these there were. The number fluctuated up and down as the Council progressed, from as low as 68 to as high as 235. 215 signed the final decrees of the final session. So, yea, 50 is a little off.

You have to keep in mind that various wars and Protestant kings and princes threatened the Council from the very beginning, pretty much doing everything they could to disrupt it. This, of course, also accounted for the absences of so many bishops. So, it's not like the number was less than expected b/c bishops were protesting or b/c certain bishops weren't invited. This is also a time before trains, planes, and automobiles, so the trek to Trent was not exactly easy.

That said, I'd like to know who these "many RCC fathers" were who rejected the council b/c it's news to me. The Council of Trent has always been considered a General (or "Ecumenical") Council.

  • 3) The council of Carthage was provincial and composed of a few bishops; there is no authority in them, by themselves, to make a judgment of this kind having been provincial and not general.
No one ever said that the councils of Carthage and of Hippo were initially meant to be General Councils or universal in their authority. These councils are important insofar as they provide for us two of several articulations within the Tradition of the Church of what was considered canonical Scripture. They tell us that, in the late fourth century, the Church in Africa utilized a canon equal to that of the current Catholic canon. To anyone who cares at all about the history of Christianity, that is very significant.

  • Even in their own canons at that council (canon 26.2) states “the bishop of the chief see shall not be called high priest, or chief of the priests, or by any such title.” They cannot bind those by the authority they refuse upon themselves.
Oh, gimmie a break! Why would they convene a council in the first place if they didn't believe that they had authority to do so or that their decrees wouldn't be authoritative for the African people? That's ludicrous. They weren't abrogating their own authority, they were simply defining what was a legitimate title for a bishop.

  • 4) The RCC says the Trullan council of Constantinople (which was a general council) approved the Carthaginian council. But if the decree of the number of canonical books was legitimately approved, then that also concerning the title of high priest was confirmed by the same sanction, which they will never concede, and shows their authority to be false. How will they divide these things? I acknowledge the Trullan council as ecumenical, but the RCC themselves doubt what should be determined of the authority of the canons which are attributed to the council (as I agree with Whitaker). Pighius, in his own writing calls this council “spurious, and by no means genuine.” Melchior Canus too (Lib. V. cap. Ult.) declares the council to have no ecclesiastical authority. There are some things in the canons which they do not approve of - that the bishop of Constantinople is equal with the Roman, canon 36; that priests and deacons are not to be separated from their wives, canon 13, etc. It is a strong objection to the credit and authority of these canons, that the 85 canons of the apostles are approved and received in them (canon 2) – but Pope Gelasius (Gratian, Dist. 15. C. Romana Ecclesia) declares the book of the apostolic canons apocryphal. And Gratian (Dist. 16.5) says, that there are only 50 canons of the apostles, and they are apocryphal, upon the authority of Isidore who says they were composed by heretics under the name of the apostles (and he said there were only 60). More this can be cited, but I stop at wearying you to show you the point that their inconsistencies within the councils are numerous and contradictory to one another, for: If these are true and genuine canons of the apostles, then the RCC is refuted in their opinion of the number of canonical books of the OT and NT by the authority of the canons of the apostles. If they be not, as it is plain that they are not, then the synod of Constantinople erred, when it approved them as apostolical. Yet the RCC denies that a general council can err in its decrees respecting matters of faith. How will the RCC reconcile this except by denial and side stepping?
First of all, it is possible to approve certain decrees of a council without approving the entire council. Secondly, whether or not the Council of Trullo erred in some way is really a non-issue, since this council has never been considered a General Council of the Church. No "side-stepping" is necessary, just about 3 minutes of research. For the woefully ignorant, a list of all 21 General Councils can be found here.

  • 5) Thus, I can judge what force and authority is to be allowed to the canon of this council of Constantinople; and what sort of persons the RCC are to deal with, who both deny that these canons have any legitimate authority, and yet confirm the sentence of the Council of Carthage by the authority of these very canons. Canus (Lib. II. Cap. 9) proves the authority of the council of Carthage, in enumerating the number of books because of Trullan, yet the same man in Lib. V. cap. 6. ad argument. 6., makes light of the authority of these canons, and brings many arguments to break them down. Consistency?
For one, we don't confirm the authority of the Council of Carthage based on the authority of the Council of Trullo. I have never seen a single theologian or apologist do this, nor any Catholic textbook, encyclopedia, or dictionary. Whoever this "Canus" guy is, his unique defense of Carthage is his own. Secondly, just b/c we say that the Council of Trullo does not have universal authority, it does not follow from this that we also reject the canon of Carthage that Trullo approved. In other words, Trullo's affirmation of the canon of Carthage was correct, but their authority to make this or any other affirmations was not universal in nature.

  • 6) Gelasius in his council with 70 bishops receive 1st Maccabees, and one Esdras, rejecting 2nd Maccabees (which is apocryphal) and Nehemiah, which is canonical.
I tried to look this up, but was unable to find anything, so I'm not quite sure what he's talking about here. At any rate, if this took place within the first 5 centuries of the Church then it exists along the other arguments that comprise the debate over what was canonical. No one denies that these books were debated in the early Church. My point is that, once we emerge from the early Church period, Christianity had settled upon the canon as it exists in the Catholic bible.

  • 7) Before the RCC can press all men with the authority of these councils, they should themselves determine, as Whitaker says, whether it is at all in the power of any council to determine what books should or should not be received (which they have not done consistently). For this is doubted among many RCs, as Canus confesses in Lib. II. C. 8. The major premise stated as the RCC proposition does not hold.
Doubted by many RC's? That's ridiculous. It is Catholic doctrine that General Councils are binding upon the whole Church.

My response to point #6 works for points 8, 9, and 11 as well, which is really just more of the same (McMahon pointing out that there was disagreement in the early Church). There's no point in repeating myself [see the article if you want to read what those points were].

  • 10) Let it also be noted that Carthage deemed 5 books of Solomon where only 3 are Solomon’s. Augustine once thought the book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus was Solomon but later retracted this. “Learned men have no doubt that they are not Solomon’s; (Ubi supra, 765.) He also testifies they were not received in all the churches (De Civit. Dei. Lib. XVII. C. 20.)
The "Five Books of Solomon" that the council is referring to are Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and Sirach (or "Ecclesiasticus"). The author of these books is actually a separate topic all together (I don't really see how it bears upon this debate), but it should be noted that, at one time or another, all five were attributed to Solomon.

  • 12) Cajetan, the Jesuit, a champion of the RCC who was sent to rebuff Luther, says, “Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the OT. For the rest (that is Judith Tobit, and the books of Macabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed among the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Pologus Galeatus. Not be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldst find any where, either in sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. According to his judgment…these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith.” (See his commentary on the History of the OT)

    13) See from Cajetan himself that Jerome is the final word on these books, and Jerome counted them as apocryphal and not Scriptural. (Which will be seen in greater depth in another email)

    14) There are two kinds of “canonical” books – some contain both the rule of faith and morals; these are properly called Scripture – canonical in the strict sense. Others are helpful by way of moral alone, but no rules. Any book I read which spiritually edifies my soul is helpful as far as morality is concerned, but does not bind my conscience. The Scripture is Porto-canonical, the apocrypha may be deemed Deutero canonical because they do not combine both a bind upon faith and morals. Here Jerome stands, as well a Cajetan. The RCC is greatly angered by these men and their view – but they are Rome’s champions.
The following paragraph from George Reid's New Advent encyclopedia entry on the Canon of the Old Testament provides the answer to anyone who quotes Cajetan and other theologians of the Middle Ages who debated the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books:
  • The prevailing attitude of Western medieval authors is substantially that of the Greek Fathers. The chief cause of this phenomenon in the West is to be sought in the influence, direct and indirect, of St. Jerome's depreciating Prologus. The compilatory "Glossa Ordinaria" was widely read and highly esteemed as a treasury of sacred learning during the Middle Ages; it embodied the prefaces in which the Doctor of Bethlehem had written in terms derogatory to the deuteros, and thus perpetuated and diffused his unfriendly opinion. And yet these doubts must be regarded as more or less academic. The countless manuscript copies of the Vulgate produced by these ages, with a slight, probably accidental, exception, uniformly embrace the complete Old Testament Ecclesiastical usage and Roman tradition held firmly to the canonical equality of all parts of the Old Testament. There is no lack of evidence that during this long period the deuteros were read in the churches of Western Christendom. As to Roman authority, the catalogue of Innocent I appears in the collection of ecclesiastical canons sent by Pope Adrian I to Charlemagne, and adopted in 802 as the law of the Church in the Frankish Empire; Nicholas I, writing in 865 to the bishops of France, appeals to the same decree of Innocent as the ground on which all the sacred books are to be received.
It is no small thing that these deuterocanonical books were being read in the liturgy. "Lex orendi, lex credendi" -- The law of prayer is the law of belief. One of the best ways to learn what the Church believed at any particular time is to look at how she prayed, how she worshipped, how she structured her liturgy. Certain academics and theologians may have revived the debate on the deuterocanonical books, but, "on the ground" so to speak -- where people were teaching, learning, reading, praying, living -- these books were considered canonical.

  • 15) Thus, the arguments so far are weak at best, crumbling to the ground based on the history of the RCC alone, its contradictory councils and its own theologians.

  • I shall write next on why the apocryphal books cannot be included because they have not been written by any prophet, and show the importance of this.
I look forward to it, and intend to write a point-by-point rebuttal of the last part of McMahon's article as soon as time permits.

Pax Christi,

PS: From here you may proceed to Part 2.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Why Do Catholics Believe in Sacred Tradition?

Well, basically, Catholics commit themselves to the Sacred Tradition of the Church because it is out of this Tradition that Scripture came, because Scripture itself recommends and confirms this Tradition, and because nothing in Scripture says that this Tradition should cease to be authoritative in the lives of Christians once content from that Tradition was written down and canonized.

By "Sacred Tradition" I mean the various ways in which the teaching of the Apostles, the "deposit of faith," is passed on and preserved by the Church. This deposit was preserved and passed on through the writing of Sacred Scripture, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but it also was (and continues to be) preserved in the ordinary teaching of the successors of the Apostles (the bishops), in the writings of the early Church Fathers, in the authoritative documents of the Church (encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, dogmatic constitutions, conciliar canons, etc.), and in the liturgical worship of the faithful. Since the teaching and preaching of the Apostles has a divine origin, as does the consigning of that preaching to writing, both the preaching and the writing comprise the "Word of God" and thus "must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence" (Dei Verbum, no. 9).

Paul is particularly adamant about respecting this Tradition. He presents Scripture and Tradition as standing alongside each other (cf. 2 Thes 2:15; 2 Tim 3:10,14-15). He affirms the Tradition that his audience has received (cf. Rom 10:8,17; Gal 1:11-12; Eph 1:13-14; Col 1:5-7; Titus 1:3), commands them to follow it (cf. Phil 4:9; 1 Thes 4:1-2; 2 Thes 3:6-7; 2 Tim 1:13), and praises them when they do (cf. 1 Cor 11:2; 15:1,3,11; 1 Thes 2:13). There is simply no indication from his writing that he wished for them to do away with Tradition. Instead, he seems to be affirming it around every corner. There is also no indication that this Tradition would somehow cease to exist or to be authoritative. Instead, Paul indicates that it will continue forever (cf. 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 2:2) [Peter does too, cf. 1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 1:12,15].

Note that, whenever "tradition" is condemned in Scripture, for example, by Jesus (cf. Mt 15:3-9; Mk 7: 8-13) or by Paul (cf. Col 2:8), what is being condemned are the traditions of men, or traditions that are contrary to the Word of God. The authentic, Sacred Tradition of the Church, however, has its very source in Jesus Christ and is preserved by the Holy Spirit working in the Church. Surely you can see why I would not think that those verses apply, and really, in order to prove that they do, you would have to prove that some element of the Sacred Tradition of the Church was contrary to the written articulation of it in Scripture.

I hope that answers your question. There are many different ways to articulate what Sacred Tradition is, and what the relationship is between it, Scripture, and the Magisterium (or teaching office) of the Church. I highly, highly suggest reading the Catechism, nos. 74-95, and Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, from the Second Vatican Council) in full.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What Is Transubstantiation?

Transubstantiation is what takes place in the Mass when the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is basically a way of explaining how the change from "bread" to "Jesus" takes place. In transubstantiation, the accidents of the bread and wine remain the same while the substance of the bread and wine are changed.

Of course, in order to understand this, you have to know what "accidents" and "substance" are. Whatever the senses perceive of a thing are the accidents of that thing. They are not the thing itself but merely the perceptible qualities or characteristics of the thing. The substance, however, is the thing itself, or rather, the essence of the thing.

So, take for example the bread used in Mass. The accidents of it are: roundness, whiteness, crispiness, bread-like smell, bread-like taste. The substance of it is: "bread." Our senses perceive the accidents; only the mind knows the substance.

In every case in the universe but one, when the substance changes, the accidents of it change too since the accidents are attached to (or, exist in) the substance. For example, when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, it also changes in outward appearance b/c, well, butterflies have different outward characteristics than caterpillars do.

Only in the transubstantiation of the Eucharistic elements does the accidents remain even though the substance changes. Maybe an illustration will be helpful. I saw a magic trick once where a man in a black costume stood in the middle of the stage. Some assistants pulled up a curtain around him. There was smoke and flashes of light. When they dropped the curtain to the floor there stood a woman in the same black costume. Transubstantiation is kinda like that. The "costume" of bread is suspended ("in mid air" so to speak) while the underlying substance (or thing that wears the costume) is changed.

I hope that helps you to make sense of this mystery. It is universally accepted that all created things have accidents and substance. The only quarrel is over whether or not God desires to suspend the laws of the universe in this one instance in order to be substantially present in the Eucharist.

There are two articles that I highly suggest if you would like to learn more about transubstantiation:Thank you for your question.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Catholic Assurance of Salvation

A member of the Holy Culture forum recently asked me the following questions:
  • Is it true that the Roman Catholic Church believes that a person isn't saved until after their life on earth is finished? The reason I ask that is because I think it means much in our conversation here. If a person cannot receive salvation until after death, then the grace-aided works you speak of are a condition of salvation. Am I wrong in assuming this?

    In the Protestant faith, we believe that we are saved, while also in the process of being saved. We are saved from the bondage of sin now, our sins having been forgiven, and are being saved from the wrath that is yet to come (Romans 5:9)

    I think I also remember reading that no one can say they have assurance of salvation in the tradition of the RCC. Is this correct as well?

Catholics believe that, by God's grace, we can enter into friendship with the Lord and receive the forgiveness of our sin. We have absolute certitude that, if we were to die in this state of righteousness, then heaven would be ours. But, we also believe that, because of free will and the concupiscence that comes with our fallen nature, this same person can choose to sin against God so grievously that he destroys the divine life within him. Because of this radical possibility, there can really be no absolute certitude of final perseverence, or of remaining in that state of friendship with God for one's entire life.

Note that this doesn't mean that Catholics live in fear. Such mortal sins are generally rare, and they are usually the end result of a long and steady decline deeper and deeper into sin, as man continues to indulge certain unhealthy desires. People don't just wake up one day and commit mortal sins. Instead, they slip and stumble with everyday vices as they strive each day to grow closer to the Lord, to be obedient to Him and to discern His will. When the Catholic falls, he simply returns with a contrite heart to the Lord, who forgives him and restores him to his former state of righteousness. When, by God's grace, he succeeds in doing God's will, the divine life within him increases and his attachment to sin decreases, to the point where certain sins no longer have the same luring appeal that they once did.

As you said, this is a process, and as long as the Catholic continues this process of striving for the Lord and always seeking God's grace, then he can have a "moral certitude" that he will persevere. In other words, he has good reason to believe that he will stand before the Lord one day with his grace and faith in tact. This certitude increases as he gains mastery over himself and his fleshly desires and he gains freedom from his attachment to the various sins that used to tempt him and cause him to fall. His hope is that, by God's grace, he will not only be cleansed of all sin, but even all attachment to sin, and he will grow closer and closer to God to the point of achieving eternal bliss with Him in heaven.

Note, the prevailing Catholic virtue is not fear, or guilt. It is hope: hope in the Cross, hope in the resurrection, hope in God's grace to bring us into eternal beatitude with His Son.

Pax Christi,

Friday, July 03, 2009

When We Go to Heaven, Will We See God Face to Face?

Indeed we will. Theologians call this the "Beatific Vision." Scripture says that the angels already behold the face of God:
  • "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Mt 18:10)
Paul says that we will see the Lord face to face on the day when everything imperfect will pass away:
  • For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. (1 Cor 13:12)
John echoes this same sentiment:
  • Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2)
A few more pertinent passages:
  • "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8).
  • "As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with beholding thy form" (Psa 17:15).
I think the beatific vision should be the passionate desire of every Christian, just as it was of Job:
  • "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (Job 19:25-27)
I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,
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