Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Imputation (Logizomai) & Genesis 15:6 (Romans 4)

Below is my article on Imputation that I wrote back in 2012 and was hosted on a popular Catholic blog that recently went defunct. I made slight edits to it, but otherwise no substantial changes. It is one of the most thorough articles on Imputation and the Greek word Logizomai that I'm aware of. I highly recommend Catholics learn this information, because it will greatly improve your apologetics when talking with Protestants. In fact, there is no Protestant response to this, because I quote almost 50 top Protestant theologians/sources admitting Imputation is nowhere clearly taught in the Bible!

Monday, March 9, 2020

A closer look at St Paul's "none are righteous" (Romans 3:9-20)

A common understanding of the first three chapters of the Epistle to the Romans is to see it as Paul's case for the 'universal sinfulness of mankind' (as some refer to it). This way Paul can then get his audience recognizing their need for salvation, and thus lay the groundwork for presenting us the Gospel. This interpretation quite understandable, and somewhat correct, but I've come to a more nuanced reading of the text that I think better explains the arguments Paul is making. What I'm about to present isn't my own invention, but rather an interpretation that has been widely known from even among the early Church Fathers.

I think the popular take on Romans 3:9-20 is missing the larger point Paul is trying to make. In Romans 3 when Paul says “none are righteous” and “no one seeks after God” and “all have sinned,” I don’t think he is so much concerned about individual sinfulness as he is about corporate sinfulness. This might not seem like a big deal, but if we are truly aiming for solid exegesis we cannot afford to be sloppy and reading things only at the surface level.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Are all of our works really just filthy rags before God? (Isaiah 64:6)

In this Quickie Apologetics post, I will take a look at one of the most abused passages of Scripture which I routinely see Protestants quote in "support" of Faith Alone theology. That passage, or better yet thought fragment, is from Isaiah 64:6, which says:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
The first thing to notice here is that there has to be some context to this. The idea that you can just lift a phrase like "all our righteous deeds are filthy rags" and turn this into some universal principle is just outrageous. It is anti-Biblical when a person can just take a snippet of the Bible and build theology around it. This embarrassing approach to God's Word is found in Protestantism at all levels, but especially the moderately-educated folks who think they actually are being true to God's Word. Such an approach makes the very idea of "righteous acts" completely meaningless when used elsewhere in Scriptur if there's really nothing righteous about them. But can we honestly say that nobody in the Bible has ever done a righteous act? I'm sure some Protestants would love to make such a claim, but that just shows their agenda has no actual intention of taking God's Word seriously. 

Now for the dagger. Let's be true Christians (i.e. Catholics) who actually love the Bible and just take a look at the context, just one verse prior:
5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
Here, Isaiah says God is pleased when people do righteous deeds and remember God's commandments. This is impossible if their good deeds are always filthy before God. Surely no Protestant is desperate enough to nullify this text in favor of the next verse. If that's the case, then you really cannot dialog with someone who isn't interested in real exegesis. The truth is, the plain teaching of this chapter is that it is speaking specifically of the Israelites who had turned to continual sinful living, hence "in our sins we have been a long time". In other words, they've made it a habit of sinful living, so much so that their good deeds don't amount to anything. If you're only doing good deeds externally while internally full of corruption, those good deeds don't amount to anything. Of if you decide to be on bad behavior all year but decide to start doing good when you know punishment is coming, then those good deeds are a mockery. If a husband is living in an adulterous relationship, then any good deeds he does for his actual wife are worthless and an insult to her. It's like when a child repeatedly misbehaves and only turns to good behavior when the parent gets upset and comes over.

So the next time a Protestant tries to quote "all our righteous deeds are filthy rags" at you, know that (1) their Biblical credibility is gone, and (2) just quote the prior verse.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Did the claims of Jesus shock anyone? If Yes, then so should the claims of His Church!

This is a "Quickie Apologetics" post.

Someone recently showed me a fascinating comment from the Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on "Antichrist," where Saint John Henry Newman made the argument: 
If the Church must suffer like Christ, and if Christ was called Beelzebub, the true Church must expect a similar reproach; thus, the Papal-Antichrist theory becomes an argument in favor of the Roman Church.
Isn't it interesting how only the Catholic Church ever seems to be the target of such insults and charges by both the secular world and Protestantism and even Eastern Orthodox? It's not surprising though, given that the size, history, and influence of Catholicism means some major superpower is behind it all. The only options on the table are either God or Satan. There's no middle ground. And yet given the many saints (e.g. St Therese of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi) and firm commitment to morals (e.g. the only institution which teaches contraception is sinful), it is highly unlikely that Satan is behind it all. In fact, what we see among Protestants is far more the marks of Satan, if we are being honest (e.g. divisions, no unity on doctrine, no infant baptism, Eucharist is optional/symbolic, there are no saints that stand out, caved in on various moral issues, once saved always saved).

A friend noted that Peter Kreeft makes a similar point about the claims of Christ. If the claims of Christ were shocking to his audience, then the claims of his church also must be: One True Church, Papal Primacy, Papal Infallibility, ability to forgive or retain sins, indulgences, canonization, anathemas, etc. Such "arrogance" by Jesus should also be no surprise coming from Jesus' true Church. And yet, which of the many Protestants are 'brave enough' to make such claims about themselves? Few, if any.

I wrote an apologetics article (HERE) about the Antichrist charge by the Calvinist/Reformed camp, but I've also recently found that the Confessional Lutherans make the same claims, so the arguments work also against them. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Not by works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. Does Romans 11:6 refute Catholicism?

As I continue to address the top Protestant proof-texts for Justification By Faith Alone, I now come to the famous passage in Romans 11:6 where Paul says: "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." Protestants have traditionally pointed to this text as decisive proof that if our human efforts played any part of our salvation, it would nullify grace. That's a pretty serious charge, and it does seem to be what Paul is saying, so it's definitely worth looking into more. 

The first thing to keep in mind is that Catholicism teaches we are saved by Faith Alone, while it is Protestants who teach we are saved by Works Alone (apart from faith and grace). See HERE for one of many times I've addressed this. Given this, the goal of this analysis of Romans 11:6 is not to argue that works save us. Rather, the goal is to discern what Paul is actually trying to teach, so we can better appreciate his lessons. 

The second thing to keep in mind is that, from the many articles I've written on the subject of "works," it should be clear by now that it is referring to "works of the Mosaic Law," which separated the Israelite lineage from the pagan nations. (See HERE and HERE for recent articles.) God wanted the Israelite race to remain segregated from the Gentiles, so as to one day vindicate His promise that the Messiah would come from Abraham's biological lineage. The various commands from the Old Testament were meant to make Israel a "light to the nations" (Gentiles), which would be impossible if the Israelites were living just as pagan of lifestyles as the Gentiles. This fact means that "works" were never about "working your way into heaven," as has unfortunately become the common understanding from a surface-level understanding of Paul's writings. 

Given the above, we should expect the proper understanding of Romans 11:6 to be about God saving people apart from their ethnic lineage, namely saving a person regardless if they are biologically Jewish. But for apologetic's purposes, we obviously have to confront the popular Protestant reading, so that's what we'll do now. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Not by works "so that no one may boast"? (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I talk a lot about Protestant proof texts, but by far the most popular is Ephesians 2:8-9. As readers know, I don't ever advocate running to James 2:24, but rather address Protestant proof texts head on. So in this post, we will look at how to use Ephesians 2:8-9 against the Protestant position, to not only disarm them of their precious few proof texts, but also prove the Catholic position.

Most Catholics will try to 'counter' a Protestant appeal to Ephesians 2:8-9 by pointing to 2:10, where Paul says God prepared us to do good works. They think that since Paul says "good works" in the next verse, that "good works" are part of being saved in verse 2:8. But I don't think this is a good argument to make, since we cannot have Paul contradicting himself by suggesting we are not saved by works but then we are. It's more reasonable to say Paul is putting these "good works" in a stage of your life that comes after being "saved". Rather, I think the true understanding of Eph 2:8-9 comes through understanding what Paul means by "so that no one may boast".

Friday, December 13, 2019

Why did Paul call his own works "rubbish"? (Imputation & Philippians 3:9)

A very popular verse that Protestants consider a key proof text for Imputation and Faith Alone is Philippians 3:9. Just like their handful of other favorite texts (which I've also written about), this verse on the surface doesn't even suggest Imputation or Faith Alone. But since it is so popular among even Protestant scholars, I want to address it. Let's jump right in.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Did the Father "lay our sins" upon Jesus? (Isaiah 53:6) - More Problems with Penal Substitution

Back in 2014, I made a post (HERE) showing how the Early Church Fathers used the Greek Translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint aka LXX), which guided their understanding of Isaiah 53. Today, I want to point out another significant find, this time within the New Testament itself, showing that Paul saw Isaiah 53 principally through the Greek Translation as well. This information is significant, because it touches upon a popular sentence within the Hebrew edition of Isaiah 53:6 which commonly translated into English says: "the Lord laid upon him [Jesus] the sins of us all". Protestants often take this phrase as meaning our guilt was "imputed" to Jesus, such that Jesus then took the punishment we deserved (i.e. suffered God's Eternal Wrath) in our place. But while this isn't what the Hebrew idiom "bear sin" actually means (see HERE), more importantly the Greek translation saw the nuances in the Hebrew and renders this text noticeably differently: "the Lord delivered him [Jesus] up for our sins". 

The phrase "delivered up for our sins" is noteworthy because it is a phrase used by Paul in Romans 4:25 and 8:32. And the only place the Old Testament speaks of being "delivered up for our sins" is in the Greek translation of Isaiah 53:6 and Isaiah 53:12. This isn't the obvious meaning from the Hebrew text. So Paul must have had the Greek understanding of Isaiah 53 principally in mind. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Did Jesus allow for divorce in the event a spouse commits adultery?

Someone asked me about the "except for adultery" clause that Jesus makes regarding when divorce is allowed. Many people over the centuries have though that Jesus was indeed making one sole exception to the permanence of marriage. They understandably ready this clause as if Jesus were saying you can end your marriage if your spouse commits adultery. But the Catholic Church explains this "except for adultery" in a way that pays attention to the actual words of Jesus. And this is how the Church Fathers who comment on this "except" clause also interpret it. At the Ecumenical Council of Florence, the Church gave an official explanation:
The seventh is the sacrament of matrimony, which is a sign of the union of Christ and the church according to the words of the apostle: This sacrament is a great one, but I speak in Christ and in the church. The efficient cause of matrimony is usually mutual consent expressed in words about the present. A threefold good is attributed to matrimony. The first is the procreation and bringing up of children for the worship of God. The second is the mutual faithfulness of the spouses towards each other. The third is the indissolubility of marriage, since it signifies the indivisible union of Christ and the church. Although separation of bed is lawful on account of fornication, it is not lawful to contract another marriage, since the bond of a legitimately contracted marriage is perpetual.
In brief, Jesus allows for a spouse to live in a separate dwelling space if one spouse has committed fornication. But even if separated, they remain married. Divorce merely means living separately, as if single. The sin only comes about if one of those separated spouses tries to enter another marriage.
Consider the actual words of Jesus:
  • Matthew 5:31 “It was also said [by Moses], ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
  • Matthew 19: 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
  • Mark 10:11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
  • Luke 16:18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
  • 1 Cor 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.   
Notice the repeated use of the clause "and marries another". Without the "and marries another," there is no adultery. A divorce in and of itself doesn't cause adultery. Paul's explanation above also vindicates the Catholic view: separation is ok, but remarriage is not. So we can see the official Catholic reading elegantly preserves the dignity and permanence of marriage, while also easily explaining the "except" clause. I don't know of many other groups out there that have that kind of skill when it comes to exegesis. In fact, most people are oblivious to this understanding of the text.

ext, notice that of the four times divorce is talked about in the New Testament, only Matthew includes an "except" clause. That should suggest that the "except" clause is not really to be taken as a loophole. In fact, it would be kind of insane for Jesus to point back to the beginning of Creation and speak of the permanence of marriage, only to allow for a giant loophole. People would be committing adultery all the time if it meant getting out of a marriage they didn't like. That totally undermines the goal of Jesus rebuking the Pharisees.

For a detailed look at all the available Church Fathers and Councils and Documents on this issue, see THIS ARTICLE at Called To Communion. It's an excellent apologetics article, though it is very long to read.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

"The wrath of God remains on him"? - More problems with Penal Substitution

I was talking with a friend and I remembered a fascinating verse (John 3:36): "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." This verse is powerful in two ways, which I'll now discuss.
First, as some observant folks have pointed out, we see John clearly show the opposite of "believes in the Son" is not "disbelieves the Son," but rather "does not obey the Son." This means that in John's mind, to "believe" and to "obey" are synonymous. This obviously causes problems for the surface-level reading of many Protestants, wherein they think John is advocating a one time act of faith saves you forever. Rather, John is using the verb "believe" and "has" in the Greek Present-Tense, meaning that a person only presently "has" eternal life only so long as he is presently "believing," which is to say he is only saved as long as he is presently "obeying" the Lord Jesus. If the believer stops believing, or stops obeying, the having of eternal life also ceases as well. (See THIS POST to learn about how the Bible defines having Eternal Life, and how Protestants completely misunderstand it. Also THIS POST to see that a person "for whom Christ died" can be lost.)
Second, and more importantly for this post, the verse says that for those who do not believe, "the wrath of God remains on them." This is fascinating because it indicates that everyone (except Adam, Eve, Jesus, and Mary) begins this life with "the wrath of God" upon them by default. Only when a person turns to believing in Jesus does the "wrath of God" stop being on that person. Otherwise, it "remains" on you if you don't accept Jesus. But this means that the "wrath of God" was upon all of us at some point, which is impossible in the Penal Substitution model, since it teaches that Jesus endured the wrath of God in our place. And imagine a person who did not start believing in God until he got to his deathbed, maybe even the "Thief On The Cross" (See THIS POST), this means that the wrath of God was upon them for 99% of their life. Does that make any sense? No. Penal Substitution clearly didn't protect the Good Thief from being under God's Wrath, nor does it for any adult convert for all their prior years. But really, it doesn't matter how long God's Wrath is upon you, what matters is that it could never be upon you per the Penal Substitution claim. This also refutes the minority view among Calvinists which teaches that the Elect are "eternally forgiven" so that they are never born under God's Wrath (which I addressed HERE).

Monday, September 9, 2019

Revisiting Abraham's "faith reckoned as righteousness" - Part 2 (This is yuge.)

I am pleased to present a post that I am very proud of and think you will greatly enjoy. It's about 5 pages long but I think reads fast and is worth it. I don't know how it all came together, but perhaps it was inspiration from above, even the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I will never read Romans 4 the same way again, and hopefully you won't either.

It was almost a year ago when I began to start rethinking what exactly Paul was arguing in Romans 4 (and Galatians 3), and I wrote a post about it (HERE). The simplistic, surface-level "faith not works" is just not a convincing reading when you consider the actual words of Paul and other key details. One thing to realize is that when Paul first made his claim, it had to be a convincing claim to both Jews and Christians who heard it. Otherwise, Paul would have discredited himself if his argument wasn't based on good logic and good exegesis (e.g. see Paul's actual argument in Romans 9 HERE). 

Paul could not simply say "I'm an apostle, so I'm right," since the Jews would have just laughed at him. With that in mind, simply quoting Genesis 15:6 doesn't prove anything. The Jew would respond "so what?" Believing and having that faith reckoned as righteousness doesn't in itself tell us anything about conversion (especially since Abraham wasn't converting here), it tells us nothing about the Gospel, nothing about forgiveness, etc. So Paul's argument had to be something more substantial than just quoting Genesis 15:6. And I think I've figured out what makes Paul's argument so solid, and it appears a few verses after verse 6:
5 And God brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 
9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 
18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”
Notice that right after Abraham believed, the narrative immediately begins speaking of a (mysterious) Sacrificial Liturgical Rite for the ratification of a Covenant. I really would love to study this passage in more depth, as it seems very important in Salvation History. Sadly, it seems that we routinely skip over everything past verse 6 just as we routinely skip over the verses past Romans 4:8. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Does receiving the Holy Spirit prior to Baptism prove that Baptism is optional and/or symbolic?

When it comes to the Biblical teaching on Baptism, we've all come across those Protestants who are eager to nullify God's Word for their Traditions of Men (see an older post HERE). In a prior post, I talked about their favorite example, the Good Thief (HERE). In this post, I want to talk about their second favorite argument, the account of Acts 10 when the Gentiles received the Gift of Tongues prior to being Baptized. Here's the Acts 10 passage with some context:
1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day [3pm] he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius, your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter.”

9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour [12pm] to pray. 10 And he saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times.

19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests.

28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
The first thing to notice here is the Liturgical connotations. Cornelius was praying at 3pm, the same hour Jesus died, which was part of the Jewish Liturgy of the Hours as we see in Acts 3:1. (This means Jesus prayed Psalm 22 on the Cross as part of the Liturgy of the Hours.) So the time of day is no accident. Catholics call this the "Hour of Mercy" for a reason. Similarly, Peter went up on the roof to pray at Noon, another major Liturgical Hour. The Jews would have recognized these times. But that's not the point of this post.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The "non imputation of sin" in 2 Tim 4:16

I came across an interesting passage that I haven't spent much time with but I'd like to share and comment on:
2 Tim 4: 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged [imputed] against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.
To begin, Paul is speaking of a time late in his life when he was put on trial (Chrysostom thinks Paul stood before Nero), yet all of Paul's friends abandoned him rather than stick around and support him. So while his friends sinned, at least apparently, Paul didn't get upset, and rather had God by his side to help defend him (cf Mt 10:18-20). We often hear the term "apologetics" coming from 1 Peter 3:15, where Peter says "always be ready to give a defense," but the Greek term "apologia" is also used here by Paul. (It's often used in the Bible especially when referring to Christians being put on trial before a persecuting government). From this instance, we see apologetics is more than just a friendly debate, it's about openly confessing God before a hostile crowd (cf Rom 10:9-10, which I wrote about HERE).
That said, the real focus of this post is upon Paul's statement about his friends: "may it [the sin of forsaking Paul] not be charged [imputed] against them". There are two ways to interpret this phrase, neither of which supports the erroneous Protestant idea that to "not impute sin" to us must mean that our sin was imputed/transferred to an innocent substitute (e.g. to Jesus, in your place). Here's why.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Biblical examples of Intercession of the Saints

In this "quickie apologetics" post I want to share some verses that I recently came across that I think can go into the Catholic apologist tool bag for defending Intercession of the Saints.

One of common text Catholics use is Revelation 5:8, which says: "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders [Christians in heaven] fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints [Christians on earth]." The Elders in heaven are engaging in a liturgical offering incense, which is explained as the prayers of the Christians on earth. Thus, in some manner, the Saints in Heaven are 'receiving our prayers' and praying for us.

In Matthew 27:52-53, at the Crucifixion, the Apostle adds an interesting detail: "The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." After Jesus died and "descended into Hell" (see HERE), when He resurrected He brought up along with Him the souls of the deceased OT saints to accompany Him when He ascended to Heaven. God had some of these glorified OT saints appear to people in Jerusalem. This is a great example of the Catholic teaching known as an "apparition".

Another example I recently noticed is Revelation 7:13-14, when an Elder in Heaven speaks with the Apostle John: "Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, 'Who are these, clothed in white robes?” I said to him, 'Sir, you know.' And he said to me, 'These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation'." So not only does John talk with angels throughout the book of Revelation, in this case John is clearly having an interaction with a Glorified Saint. Some might object that this and other situations are extraordinary and cannot be used to make any rules. I think that's a weak objection, since the most important thing here is that this interaction actually happened. Someone alive on earth actually was able to talk to someone in Heaven. That it is extraordinary doesn't change the fact the Saints in Heaven are well awake and praying and aware of what's happening on earth. As John also says: "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the witness [Greek: martyr] they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, how long before you will avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Rev 6:9-11). This verse is one reason Catholics have Relics of Saints under our Eucharistic Altars.

Furthermore, we know that the angels often interact with people throughout the Bible, and a guardian angel is especially assigned to assist us (see HERE for older post), so this further testifies to the idea those creatures in Heaven, not just God, can hear us, interact with us, etc. Some might say these texts don't give enough details for prayer to the saints, but I think the evidence is sufficient enough that it is quite reasonably confirms Catholic Tradition (see HERE), and nowhere near heresy as Protestants often charge. In fact, with that kind of logic, as some Catholics have pointed out, we shouldn't be praying directly to the Holy Spirit since the Bible doesn't really give much indication we are to do so. Yet we know from orthodox Trinitarian theology that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person and thus as God certainly can be prayed to. Another detail worth pursuing is that Lutherans officially teach (see HERE) the angels and saints pray for us in heaven, they just don't believe we can pray to them, but they don't make too big of an issue about it. This Lutheran view can be used to show other Protestants that there isn't that big of an attack to be made at Catholicism, since it's really not a yuge deal. That said, as Catholics we definitely need to be praying to our Guardian Angels and the Saints, especially our favorite saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Lutherans and the Canon of Scripture

Lutheranism and Anglicanism have always baffled me because their approach to major Protestant doctrines like Faith Alone and Sola Scriptura (Bible Alone) do not seem to be honest with the basic meaning of these slogans. For example, Lutherans (and Anglicans) hold that Baptism doesn't interfere with Faith Alone in the slightest, whereas most other Protestants see Baptism as a "work" that undermines Faith Alone. When it comes to Sola Scriptura, both Lutherans and Anglicans will freely embrace all kinds of "Catholic traditions" that aren't directly derived from the Bible, and yet claim these do not contradict Sola Scriptura. For example, the Lutheran and Anglican Liturgies are clearly stripped down versions of the Catholic Mass. The same sorts of Catholic prayers, sign of the cross, vestments, Calendar of Saints and Holidays, etc, are not found directly in the Bible and yet are a central aspect of their worship. This is both a good and a challenging thing for Catholic apologetics. 

Ultimately, I think it is good that Lutherans and Anglicans are 'inconsistent' on Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura, because it helps prove the Catholic case that these slogans are effectively meaningless and impossible to defend or define once we scratch the surface. With that long introduction, I think I've set the stage for this post. 

Just when I've thought I've seen it all, I come across something astonishing that I'd never imagined could happen. As I was reading the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Lutheranism the other day, I came across an astonishing passage:
Lutheranism acknowledges six specific confessions which distinguish it from other churches: the unaltered Augsburg Confession (1530), the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531), Luther's Large Catechism (1529), Luther's Catechism for Children (1529), the Articles of Smalkald (1537), and the Form of Concord (1577). These nine symbolical books (including the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed) constitute what is known as the "Book of Concord", which was first published at Dresden in 1580. In these confessions the Scriptures are declared to be the only rule of faith. The extent of the Canon is not defined, but the bibles in common use among Lutherans have been generally the same as those of other Protestant denominations.
So called "Confessional" Lutherans are those who hold that the "Book of Concord," a collection of their most authoritative documents, is the supreme Confession for what it means to be a true Lutheran. Quite often, the writings of the Book of Concord do not follow what Luther himself taught, and thus Lutheranism actually rejects many of Luther's teachings (e.g. his extreme views on Predestination and rejection of Free Will, his view of polygamy, his view that souls sleep after death rather than going to heaven). What really stood out to me though was the claim that Lutherans have not defined the Canon of Scripture anywhere within the Book of Concord, which is a few hundred pages long! Could it really be that Lutherans do not have a defined/closed Canon of Scripture? That seems outrageous, so I had to look into it more. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

The 'forgotten' Trinity verses.

All too often, defending the Trinity from the Bible comes down to merely looking to a few verses that show the divinity of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. This is the approach many apologetics sources today take. But this approach leaves out an equally important and traditional approach, which is to look to the texts which speak of all three Persons within the same breath. What is important to keep in mind when reading these texts is to see them as the early Christians, especially Jewish Christians saw them, namely by recognizing the simple fact that no created thing can or should be mentioned alongside God, since this implied the blasphemy of making created things equal to Him. Another thing to keep in mind is that when the term "God" is used in the Bible, it quite often refers to the Father specifically, and as a way to distinguish between the Son and Holy Spirit. There are other passages that mention the Trinity which are good to know about, but here are some of the more prominent ones:
  • Matthew 3:16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God [the Father] descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

  • Matthew 12:28 But if I [Jesus] cast out demons by the Spirit of God [the Father], then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

  • Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .

  • Luke 3:22 And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My [the Father’s] beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

  • John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My [Jesus’] name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

  • John 15:26 When the Helper comes, whom I [Jesus] will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me . . .

  • Acts 1:4 Gathering them together, He [Jesus] commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

  • Acts 2:33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God [the Father], and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Jesus] has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

  • Acts 10:38 You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God [the Father] anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

  • Romans 1:4 Who was declared the Son of God [the Father] with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord . . .

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Overview of the Old Testament Priesthood

The following quotes are taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on "Priesthood," which I think are worth sharing. I will quote the article freely, with slight edits for readability and keeping things brief.
The word priest is derived from the Greek presbyteros (the elder). By the term is meant a (male) person called to the immediate service of the Deity and authorized to hold public worship, especially to offer sacrifice.
In the age of the Patriarchs the offering of sacrifices was the function of the father or head of the family (cf. Genesis 8:20; 12:7, etc.; Job 1:5). Hummelauer's hypothesis that this pre-Mosaic priesthood was abolished in punishment of the worship of the golden calf (Exodus 32) can hardly be scientifically established.
In the Mosaic priesthood we must distinguish: priests, Levites, and high-priest.
Priests. It was only after the Sinaitical legislation that the Israelitic priesthood became a special class in the community. From the tribe of Levi, Jahweh chose the house of Aaron to discharge permanently and exclusively all the religious functions; Aaron himself and later the first-born of his family was to stand at the head of this priesthood as high-priest, while the other Levites were to act, not as priests, but as assistants and servants. The solemn consecration of the Aaronites to the priesthood took place at the same time as the anointing of Aaron as high-priest (Exodus 29:1-37; 40:12 sqq.; Leviticus 8:1-36). 
The official duties of the priests related partly to their main occupations, and partly to subsidiary services. To the former category belonged all functions connected with the public worship, e.g. the offering of incense twice daily (Exodus 30:7), the weekly renewal of the loaves of proposition on the golden table (Leviticus 24:9), the daily offering of the morning and evening sacrifices, especially of the lambs (Exodus 29:38 sqq.). As subsidiary services the priests had to sound the trumpets announcing the holy-days (Numbers 10:1 sqq.), declare the lepers clean or unclean (Leviticus 13-14; Deuteronomy 24:8; cf. Matthew 8:4).

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Was Adam's sin merely eating an apple?

I was recently listening to a talk on YouTube by a Protestant who was trying to discredit the Early Church Fathers. One example he gave of how the Church Fathers are unreliable was the claim by certain Church Fathers who said that Adam & Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden was a sexual sin. I understand how this Protestant could be shocked by this claim, because I also recall how outrageous it sounded when I heard it a few years ago. But over time I've began to think about it more, and it seems there is some merit to it. After all, it seems too basic to read the story as merely a sin of eating an apple. While I don't have the time to do much research into this, here are some reflections and details that I've come across over the past few years.

Given that Genesis is full of Hebrew idiom, nuance, and euphemism, a surface-level "plain English" reading can only take our understanding of the text so far. We need to have a mind for what the ancient Hebrews heard and thought when they read Genesis. For example, consider what is said on the fourth day of creation, when God creates the sun, moon, and stars, saying: "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years." (Gen 1:14). A surface level reading here would have us see the sun, moon, and stars as mere clocks to tell the time of day, month, and year. But the term here for "seasons" is not what we think of when we hear the term "seasons," since this is not the Hebrew word for winter, spring, summer, and fall. Rather, the term "seasons" here is the Hebrew term uniquely used for Liturgical Festivals. With this in mind, we can see God's plan was to build a Liturgical Calendar right into Creation, with Adam & Eve participating fully in the Liturgical Life. This also means that Liturgy is something deeply important to God, and as I've noted in a few prior posts, True Worship is man's highest duty.

One of the great discussions that theologians throughout history have had is whether the Son of God would have taken on human nature if Adam had never sinned. There is no "official" answer, and there decent arguments both ways, but St Thomas and many others lean towards the conclusion that the Son would have become Incarnate even if Adam didn't sin. This is largely based upon the idea that the Incarnation is not a Plan B or afterthought of God's plan, since God does not change His plans, and thus the Incarnation was meant to happen all along. Though I've not come across anyone who has brought this up, I think that Ephesians 5 lends strong credibility to the idea the Son was intended to become Incarnate all along. St Paul is talking about the union of husband and wife in this passage, but includes the following detail:
Eph 5: 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
In this passage, Paul brings up the famous passage of Genesis 2:24, about a man leaving his father and mother to be joined to his wife. But rather than this being a surface level reading of Genesis 2:24, St Paul tells us this is a "profound mystery," which is certainly 'theologically heavy' language, saying this passage refers to Jesus and the Church. The location of this verse in Genesis 2 is noteworthy because it comes prior to Adam and Even falling into sin in Genesis 3. Thus, to me, it seems like the Incarnation was part of prophecy in Genesis 2, prior to Adam sinning, and thus was intended all along.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Conservative Calvinist scholar Dr Daniel Wallace's cringeworthy comments on Penal Substitution

As readers of this blog know, I try to keep an eye out for major Protestant preachers commenting on what they think happened at the Cross. While it seems that quite a few Protestant outlets have been toning down their Penal Substitution rhetoric, I was shocked to recently hear such comments coming from an otherwise well respected conservative Protestant scholar like Dr Daniel Wallace. In a public talk (HERE) he gave at Dallas Theological Seminary a few months ago, February 2019, Dr Wallace gives a reflection about what happened at the Cross. The following are some quotes that stood out, along with the time stamp: 
  • "It's true that God's Wrath against sin was poured out on His Son; he turned His back on His own Son." (22:00)
  • “God the Father, poured out on Jesus the fury of His Wrath. Jesus became the object of the intense hatred of sin and vengeance against sin, which God had patiently stored up since the beginning of the world. At the Cross the fury of all that stored up wrath was unleashed against God’s own son. Should it shock us that Jesus cried out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (23:00)
  • “As awful, as horrendous, as excruciating as death by crucifixion is, the physical pain did not compare to the internal anguish that Our Lord suffered. He took on our sins, all our sins. The torments of an eternal hell for millions and millions of people were borne by one man in a few hours. But His crucifixion is a window on the Lord’s soul, we get a glimpse of His spiritual suffering which we will never experience from the physical torture that is crucifixion. Yet as Paul tersely put it, ‘Christ died’ “ (24:39) 
I'm frankly astonished at this commentary, as it has no Biblical basis. Wallace, of all people is supposed to be deeply concerned about exegesis. And yet we get these kinds of comments, given by a professor at a major seminary before a large public audience. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Is the "Angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament referring to Jesus?

Here's an interesting claim that I've been wanting to write about but has been sitting in my drafts box for quite some time. In the Old Testament there are some famous, fascinating references to the "Angel of the Lord" which many Church Fathers understood to refer to the Pre-Incarnate Son of God. This identification was once widely held but has been largely ignored and forgotten about, at least in the West, likely because of the 'fear' people have of reducing Jesus into a created being, an angel, rather than the Eternal Son of God (cf Heb 1:4-6). But this 'fear' is unfounded when proper education is in place, because it in no way threatens the truth about Jesus. (Note that the Son of God was not technically to be called "Jesus" until after taking on flesh, but I won't strictly follow this naming 'rule' in this post.)

I and other people, including Catholics, hope to revive this identification, not only to better connect with the Church Fathers, but also to better savor the Holy Scriptures, since if the Angel of the Lord is Jesus, then that brings out the Trinity within the earliest parts of the Old Testament!

The first and most important thing to keep in mind when approaching the "Angel of the Lord" issue is that both the Hebrew and the Greek term for "angel" is actually a generic word for "messenger". Nothing about either term actually specifically refers to the spirit creature with wings that we normally think about when the term "angel" is used. In fact, when the original languages were used, the texts simply read the "Messenger of the Lord". A Messenger could be anything from an angel to a prophet to a teacher to an ambassador. Even names like of the prophet "Malachi" are simply the Hebrew word for "Messenger".

The second thing to keep in mind is that not all references to "Angel of the Lord" necessarily refer to the Pre-Incarnate Jesus. Some, if not most, references make better sense when referring to something else, including simply an angel sent by God (e.g. Mat 2:13; 28:2; Lk 2:9). The point of this post is that there are some references, not all, that actually make more sense read as the Pre-Incarnate Jesus. For example, in Matthew 11:10, Jesus is explaining that the prophecy of Malachi 3:1 of God's sending a "Messenger" is talking of John the Baptist (sent to prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus). 

The third thing to keep in mind is that there is a general consensus of Church Fathers that say the "Messenger of the Lord" was the Pre-Incarnate Jesus, so we cannot simply discount this identification. Some have said that Augustine was the first to deny this identification, but from what I see in the Catholic Encyclopedia and such is that Augustine was merely cautious about the identification since people could misunderstand it to be Arian (i.e. that the Son was a created being). Augustine did not say the identification was false or could not be made, and cited Isaiah 9:6 as proof. 

Now to cite some Church Fathers who made the identification, I will borrow quotes heavily from others who have written on this matter, particularly Taylor Marshall's excellent 2015 blog post on this very subject: 
  • Justin Martyr: "And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said." (Dialogue with Trypho, ch128)
  • Irenaeus: "And again, when the Son speaks to Moses, He says, I have come down to deliver this people. Exodus 3:8 For it is He who descended and ascended for the salvation of men." (AH 3.6.2)
  • Tertullian: "Thus was He ever learning even as God to converse with men upon earth, being no other than the Word which was to be made flesh. But He was thus learning (or rehearsing), in order to level for us the way of faith, that we might the more readily believe that the Son of God had come down into the world, if we knew that in times past also something similar had been done." (Against Praxeas, ch16)
  • Clement of Alexandria: "Now that the Word was at once Jacob's trainer and the Instructor of humanity [appears from this]--"He asked," it is said, "His name, and said to him, Tell me what is Try name." And he said, "Why is it that thou askest My name?" For He reserved the new name for the new people--the babe; and was as yet unnamed, the Lord God not having yet become man. Yet Jacob called the name of the place, "Face of God." "For I have seen," he says, "God face to face; and my life is preserved." The face of God is the Word by whom God is manifested and made known. Then also was he named Israel, because he saw God the Lord. It was God, the Word, the Instructor, who said to him again afterwards, "Fear not to go down into Egypt."" (The Instructor, 1:7)
  • Eusebius: "Remember how Moses calls the Being, Who appeared to the patriarchs, and often delivered to them the oracles afterwards written down in Scripture, sometimes God and Lord, and sometimes the Angel of the Lord. He clearly implies that this was not the Omnipotent God, but a secondary Being . . . the Being Who was seen must have been the Word of God, Whom we call Lord as we do the Father. But it is needless for me to labour the point, since it is possible to find instances in Holy Scripture. These I will collect at leisure in connection with my present work to prove that He Who was seen by the patriarchal saints was none other than the Word of God." (Proof of the Gospel, 1.5)
  • Ambrose: "It was not the Father Who spoke to Moses in the bush or in the desert, but the Son. It was of this Moses that Stephen said, This is He Who was in the church, in the wilderness, with the Angel. Acts 7:38 " (Exposition of the Faith, 1:13:83)
  • Hilary: "For God appeared from the bush as the Angel of God, and the prayer for Joseph is that he may receive such blessings as He shall please. He is none the less God because He is the Angel of God; and none the less the Angel of God because He is God. A clear indication is given of the Divine Persons; the line is definitely drawn between the Unbegotten and the Begotten." (On the Trinity, 4:33)
  • Theodoret: "The whole passage (Exodus 3) shows that it was God who appeared to Moses. But Moses called Him an “angel” in order to let us know that it was not God the Father whom he saw but the Only-begotten Son, the Angel of Great Counsel." (quoted in Catholic Encyclopedia "Angels")
The goal of the Church Fathers, at least early on, especially when doing apologetics with the Jews, was to show that Jesus as Son of God was already foretold in the Old Testament, and that indeed was a taste of the Incarnation to happen later on. Tertullian says these manifestations of Jesus in the Old Testament were to make it easier for us to accept the Incarnation, like practice rehearsals.

With the above quotes in mind, consider some of the primary "Angel of the Lord" texts which the Fathers saw as referring to the Pre-Incarnate Christ:
  • Genesis 16:7-14. The Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar, but the Angel speaks as if He is God Himself, saying things such as "I will multiply your offspring." At the end of the message Hagar replies, "Truly I have seen [God] who looks after me."
  • Genesis 21:7-19. Again the Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar and speaks like God Himself: "I will make [Ishmael] into a great nation."
  • Genesis 22:11-18. The Angel of the Lord appears to Abraham and says: "I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your only son from me" and "By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this I will surely bless you, because you have obeyed my voice". 
  • Genesis 31:11-13. The "Angel of God" says to Jacob: "I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me.
  • Exodus 3:2-6. The Angel of the Lord appears to Moses in a burning bush, where "God called to him out of the bush" and said to Moses: "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." The passage even says: "And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
  • Judges 2:1-5. The Angel of the Lord appears and says: "I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I will never break my covenant with you". 
In all these instances, it is certainly understandable that there is confusion as to just who the "Angel of the Lord" is, for on one hand we know God (Yahweh/Jehovah) is distinct from this Angel, while on the other hand this Angel speaks as if he indeed is God.

Also worth considering are: Genesis 18:1-22 where 'angel messengers' appear as men to Abraham; similarly Gen 19:1; in Gen 32:24-30 there's the famous encounter with Jacob who "wrestles" with a "man" (Hosea 12:3-4 says it was an "angel") and Jacob was named Israel (meaning "wrestles with God") and said he saw the face of God; in Gen 48:15-16 mention is made of 'angel' alongside God's work of salvation; in Exodus 14:19-22 both the 'Angel of God' and the Lord are mentioned saving the Israelites from the Egyptians; in Joshua 5:13-15 a "man" appears to Joshua and claims to be captain of God's army, and tells Joshua that this is holy ground; in Judges 6:11-24 the Angel of the Lord and has a talk with Gideon, which ends with Gideon afraid of seeing God and builds an altar there in commemoration of God visiting him; in Judges 13:2-23 the Angel of the Lord appears and has a long discussion with a barren couple, the dialog distinguishes between God and the Angel but the Angel speaks like God Himself; in Zech 3:6-10 it recalls when the Angel of the Lord appeared and talked to Joshua, but the dialog is as if God Himself is speaking. 

We also know that often times God simply speaks directly to people (e.g. Gen 4:6; 6:13; 12:1; 17:1; 20:3), without the need for an angel to act as an ambassador between God and men. Also, we know that sometimes angels (plural or singular) show up without any message. So God making use of the "Angel of the Lord" to speak in God's Person is highly mysterious, and it seems the best answer for the mature Christian is to accept that it is the Son of God. 

As far as the New Testament goes, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of commentary on Jesus appearing in the OT as the "Angel of the Lord," but Jesus does speak as if He is aware of the OT Saints and even that He was around when the OT events happened. In places like Revelation 10:1; 18:1; 18:21; 20:1; some have suggested the reference to "mighty angel" is actually Jesus. And in Rev 22:8-9, John falls down to worship the "angel" but is told not to. It's more likely that John mistook the angel for Jesus rather than John thinking he should worship a creature.

It is worth noting that Stephen mentions the "angel" in the burning bush in Acts 7:30-38, but he doesn't make it clear that this was Jesus. This would seem to go against the identification, unless Stephen was being subtle and actually trying to convey the identification.

I'm not sure what else to say, other than this has been a fascinating research for me. On one hand I am eager to make this identification, because the Church Fathers do and the mysterious language of the OT references; yet on the other hand, I'm not overwhelmingly convinced given that the New Testament doesn't explicitly make the identification, which you'd think would be so obvious for apologetic and preaching purposes.