Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Introduction to Traditionalism

The purpose of this post is to give an introduction to what it means to be a "traditionalist" Catholic. Unfortunately, the term "traditionalist" today is widely misunderstood, often signifying rash judgmentalism and disdain for all things less than perfect. In reality, this misunderstanding stems from ignorance (on all sides) and a sad (recent) history of mistreatment traditionalists. The truth is, traditionalism is nothing more than true and orthodox Catholicism (it's not technically it's own "category" or "brand" of Catholicism), since traditionalism seeks to promote and preserve what is in fact genuine Catholic teaching and heritage. A list of basic "traditionalist" teachings will help give the reader a better understanding:
  • Plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture; there are no historical, scientific, or theological errors anywhere in Scripture (the only so-called "exception" are minor copyist errors, which are a different issue). Many today are of the heretical camp known as "Modernists" and "Liberals" who cannot accept the idea the Bible is really inspired and thus contains no error, especially since they are of the impression difficulties in the Bible are most logically taken to be actual errors and myths. Unfortunately, these Liberals have entrenched themselves in high enough places as to keep many people confused about the Church's actual (and dogmatic) stance on the subject.
  • The "Traditional Latin Mass" is an eternal treasure and ideal form of Liturgical worship for the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. When Pope Benedict issued the Motu Proprio allowing any priest to say the TLM, he made it clear in his Accompanying Letter: "In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful." The main complaint "traditionalists" have with the "New Mass" (Novus Ordo) created in 1970 by Paul VI is not in regards to it's validity - the New Mass is certainly valid since the Church cannot promulgate invalid Sacraments, and it offers to God the eternal glory of Christ's Sacrifice (so anyone who says otherwise is actually in heresy) - the 'issue' is that this mass was not part of a liturgical heritage that has been passed down and perfected through 'organic development', but rather the invention of a modern liturgical committee who basically invented a mass on the spot and with a very limited outlook (and some even say with malicious intent). The content of the "old Mass" has been perfected over time to express all the important and unique facets that define us as Catholics, while much of these prayers and gestures and music have been tossed, forgotten, or downplayed in the "new Mass," with a sad loss of heritage and richness of prayer and theology. To hate the TLM, which many liberals (sadly) do - precisely because it is 'too Catholic' for them - is to hate your Catholic heritage and even implicit cooperation with the powers who hate Catholicism and seek to undermine it.
  • Every doctrine authoritatively taught in prior Councils and Encyclicals and such is still to be held and maintained today. In other words, no official doctrines have been changed or abandoned, no matter how 'unpopular', 'inconvenient', or what any dissident Catholic says (no matter their authority level). Too often, there are many 'inconvenient truths' of Catholicism - which the Church has maintained regardless of opposition - are those that many today have a hard time accepting, from the liberal theologian who cannot accept Jesus really Resurrected, to the Catholic politician who wants to divorce their faith from their politics, to mainstream layman in the pews who wants to engage in contraception.
  • The centrality of the Dogma of the Social Kingship of Christ in Catholic living. Many Catholics today are unaware of this dogma, which states that Christ is not only king of believers and on "spiritual" matters, but that Jesus is in fact King of every person of every nation and His authority and theology influences every aspect of daily living from recreation to economics to civil law to theology. Many are shocked to hear that Christ is King over subjects like civil law and economics because they are taught the 'right way' to live is by "separating Church and State" - what they don't know is that such an idea is condemned by the Church as heresy and undermines Christ's Kingship. But the logic is plain: how can Christian teachings of faith and morals be divorced from one's legal or economical views? Is it suddenly ok to steal because an economics theory allows it or have abortions because a human court permits it? In such situations, the Apostles teach: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29), meaning God's teachings through the Church trump the teachings of mere human authorities.
  • So-called 'little-t' traditions, even if not dogmatic (i.e. 'big-t' Tradition), are none the less very important for maintaining Catholic identity and integrity - in other words, 'little-t' traditions are by no means dispensable, deplorable, or harmful. 'Little-t' traditions are prayers, devotions, art forms, music, etc, that while not absolutely necessary for moral and theological integrity (and can be altered under proper conditions), have been put in place precisely to preserve Catholic identity and culture. For example, the Rosary is a little-t traditional Catholic devotion that is a uniquely Catholic prayer, teaching and fostering uniquely Catholic piety. Externally, little-t tradition is what helps distinguish Catholics from non-Catholics, while internally little-t tradition exists to form the Catholic's mind and soul in how a Catholic is to think and pray. So with the example of the Rosary, while Catholics could abandon this devotion tomorrow without affecting dogma, they would still be negatively affecting Catholic identity and prayer, increasing the risk of Catholic devotion (which sanctifies) being obliterated or replaced by pagan or heretical devotions (which endanger). Another example (of many) is that of holy water, which not only is to help remind us of our Baptismal promises, there are graces attached to the water (by the prayer of the priest), which when used with the proper disposition can cause increase of our sanctification and protection from sin. Sure holy water is not 'necessary' to be Catholic, but it combined with all the other 'little things' adds up to a uniquely Catholic mindset (that in itself fosters sanctification and protection against sin).
Though there are other points that could be made, the above should suffice. Upon examining the above points, many Catholics (especially the younger generation) reading these would already intuitively be in agreement with what was described. In fact, many of these folks would be shocked that such things have to be spelled out, since they're obviously true on their face. The sad reality is, many Catholics are either ignorant of these details, been falsely indoctrinated with errors regarding these things, or are living in defiance of the Church on these matters. This is why traditionalists are marginalized today, because the Truth is never popular, and thus will be attacked by both Satan and those confused or with malicious intent, but the traditionalist path is rewarding and worth it.

In conclusion, it is also worth mentioning that many traditionalists have acted in very uncharitable ways towards their Catholic brothers who are simply not up to speed on traditionalism. This traditionalist triumphalism and arrogance and even verbal attacks have unfortunately scandalized many Catholics, regardless of how 'justified' the traditionalist might have felt. Such an approach is wrong, and does more harm than good. It's an easy mindset for the traditionalist to fall into, but we traditionalists must encourage eachother to not do so. One traditionalist I respect repeatedly emphasized the lack of progress and hypocrisy among many traditionalists was due to the fact they themselves couldn't keep a tight reign on their own sins and weren't themselves working towards an increase in sanctification (James 1:26).

NOTE: So-called "radical traditionalists" (RadTrads) are not really traditionalist or Catholic at all - and must not be confused with traditionalists (as described above) - since RadTrads are characterized as 'radical' precisely because they have indeed gone where no Catholic teaching ever permits, which is to areas like schism from the Pope or even sedevacantism (teaching there has been no Pope for over 50 years).

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    How to use James 2:24 most effectively.

    As everyone is well aware, James 2:24 is a Catholic 'favorite' when it comes to refuting the Protestant heresy known as Sola Fide (i.e. Justification by Faith Alone). What many Protestants and Catholics don't know is that James 2:24 is by no means the only Biblical resource for dealing with Sola Fide, Catholics have many just as effective Biblical texts to deal with that heresy. That said, the purpose of this post is to teach Catholics how to use James 2:24 most effectively, since there are various Protestant "come-backs" to this verse that at first glance might seem plausible. I believe the best method to approach this is to provide a list of bullet points to keep in mind when discussing this verse with Protestants.
    • The context of verse 2:24 is James 2:14-26
    Many people forget the maxim, "prooftext without context is pretext." In other words, be careful whenever a single verse of Scripture is being presented, because ripped from its context it could actually mean something very different. In this case, the Catholic has nothing to fear because the appeal to verse 24 is taking into consideration not only the immediate context, but the context of James' Epistle as a whole. The context of this Epistle, particularly this pericope, is that of Christians who are not living up to their calling as Christians and rather living as hedonists and materialists. Many Protestants fail to realize this when analyzing 2:24, which ends up making their approach seem more plausible than it actually is. It is very important that the Catholic have read James' Epistle (it's very short and easy to read), and especially be aware of what 2:14-26 says.
    • The 'thesis verse' is James 2:14, not James 2:18 (or even 2:24)
    Protestants often claim that James is focused upon "showing your faith is genuine," as 2:18 appears to be saying (more on this later), rather than on "getting saved". If one simply examines James' introduction to this lesson, they will see the Protestant approach is incorrect: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can [that] faith save him?" The question James is asking is if faith (by itself) will "save" the Christian, meaning the subject very much is getting saved, not proving you are already saved. Since James is talking to "brothers" in Christ, that means they are already believers (James 2:1), so this "save" must be in reference to future salvation rather than conversion (i.e. initial salvation). More importantly, James is asking a question, which he is then going onto answer in verses 2:15-26, so his answer (including verse 24) must be of the same subject matter for it to be coherent and (logically) valid.
    • James is speaking of faith "by itself," not "fake faith"
    The classical Protestant objection is that James is speaking against 'fake faith', which they define as a "faith" that merely recalls facts but does not really have a conviction in the heart. This faith, they say, being a "non-saving faith," never saves in the first place, and thus fails to produce good works, which then goes to prove the "Christian" was never really saved in the first place. Thus, when a Protestant sees James mention "dead faith" and such, they interpret this as an inherently 'sterile faith' that cannot and never did save. While this might sound plausible, the truth is, it doesn't fit at all with what James is talking about, and thus is a false interpretation. In reality, James is never distinguishing between two 'types' of faith, an inherently "saving faith" versus an inherently "non-saving faith". That categorization is totally unbiblical, and the terminology such as 'saving faith' is nowhere to be found; it's wholly made up. This Protestant error can be demonstrated in various ways, particularly by doing a simple 'substitution' of the term "non-saving faith" into anywhere where James mentions faith. Take verse 14 for example: "Can non-saving faith save him?" Now does that make sense? Is James seriously asking if 'non-saving faith' can save someone? Such a question is absurd and hardly needs 12 verses to explain. Another example, verse 17: "So also non-saving faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." So is James trying to prove "non-saving faith" doesn't have works and is dead? Is that really something that needs proving? No. This demonstrates the Protestant approach of two types of faith is plainly false.

    Given that, James is not speaking ill of faith itself in any way, rather the problem is when good works do not accompany the (already good) faith. Notice the language throughout: "has faith but does not have works," "faith by itself, if it does not have works," "faith apart from works," etc.
    • When James says things like "show me your faith," what does that mean?
    As noted earlier, in order to get the subject off of salvation, Protestants have to argue the context of James is that of displaying your 'true faith' by the outward manifestation of good works (which, as also noted above, they falsely teach will flow automatically from 'true faith'). Because of this, Protestants become fixated on James 2:18-19, claiming the 'faith of demons' James describes is the 'fake faith' that never saves in the first place and thus will not automatically produce good works. But that is not what James is talking about. The phraseology of "showing" is not that of a visible and public manifestation of good works, but rather that of "proving your argument," as in "show me your argument is valid." (Standard Lexicons even indicate that the Greek word for "show" is used metaphorically for proving an argument.) How is this proven? Because when James says "do you want to be shown," he does not get up before them and perform good works, rather he goes on (in 2:20ff) to use Abraham as an example of James' argument. In other words, James is "showing" by "proving his argument," he is not focused on public manifestation of good works to prove that he possesses 'true faith'. This idea will continue to be built upon as we continue.
    • What does James mean by the term "justify"?
    As with the previous analysis, Protestants cannot allow the term "Justify" to be speaking of salvation. Given that, when James uses the term "justify," Protestants claim "justify" in this situation means "vindicate" (i.e. prove to be true), rather than "save". Thus when James says a man is "justified by works," Protestants interpret that as "vindicated by works" (i.e. prove themselves to have 'true faith' by the testimony of their works). While the term "justify" can mean vindicate, ultimately context decides this. In this context, remember back to the first point made: the context is 2:14-26, with the thesis being in 2:14, and the subject matter being future salvation. Thus, when James answers his thesis question on salvation, he must be using "justify" as a synonym for "save". To buttress this point, in verse 2:23, James quotes the epitome of 'salvific-justification', Genesis 15:6 (Romans 4:3), meaning James must be on that same subject - else he would be equivocating with the term justify, going from 'vindicate' in v21, to 'save' in v23, and back to 'vindicate' in v24. (Ironically, using their own biased approach Protestants would be hard pressed why Paul is not using "justify" to mean "vindicate" (rather than "save") in places like Romans 4.)
    • The example of Abraham being 'justified by works'
    At this point, it is clear that Protestants would consider the example of Abraham being 'justified by works' a lesson in how Abraham proved to his fellow believers that he had true faith. Again, the Catholic must keep in mind that all of this is a grand Protestant assumption, by no means proven. But more importantly, this grand assumption goes directly against the following facts:

    (a) James is referencing the famous event of Genesis 22, where Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac, yet in this very situation, it was God Who commanded Abraham to do this and it was to be done before God alone (always reference Gen 22:1-2, 9-12), which is why Abraham told his helpers to stay behind (Gen 22:5). If James were thinking as a Protestant here, he picked the worst possible example, for this is the anti-thesis of doing one's works before men. Rather, this is about being justified before God, the very thing the Protestant is trying to get away from.

    (b) The event of Genesis 22 happened years after the event of Genesis 15:6 (which James also quotes). If James is trying to prove good works automatically flow from the person who has "true faith," he again picked the worst example, for here the prime example of a good work doesn't flow from Abraham for many years later! This can only mean the Protestant assumption again fails.

    (c) If James were discussing the nature of 'true faith' versus 'fake faith', why did he use Genesis 15:6 as his prime example? Who on earth would dare question whether Abraham's faith was genuine or not? The text plainly says Abraham's faith found favor with God, who are we or anyone else to question the validity of this? Does Abraham really need to "prove" his faith is genuine? Hardly. Again, the Protestant case doesn't make sense.

    (d) James 2:22-23 indicates Abraham's faith was "active with works" and "completed by works," and that Abraham's work (sacrificing Isaac) fulfilled a Scriptural prophecy encapsulated in Genesis 15:6. In other words, Genesis 15:6 doesn't stand alone, it's has a 'fulfillment'! And to buttress this, this is what the pre-Christian Jews understood as well. For example, in 1 Maccabees 2:52 (an Old Testament book Catholics accept as Scripture but Protestants reject) says: "Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was reputed to him unto justice?" In case you missed it, Maccabees describes the Sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham using the the exact same language ("credited to him as righteousness," "reputed to him unto justice") as Genesis 15:6, including in the Greek (LXX) translation! Many people don't know that.
    • Understanding the meaning of James 2:24, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
    We finally come to the most important verse, and with everything that's been established so far, we can be very confident that the Protestant approach has no merit (and even undermines the sacred text), while the Catholic approach is the only one that harmonizes everything. As with the previous points, God has Providentially inspired this text to be phrased in such a way as to stifle any attempts at twisting it's true meaning (i.e. that the believer can increase in their justification before God by doing good works). The first detail to focus upon is that James is concluding his argument in verse 24 (which he introduced in verse 14) with "you see" (i.e. the thesis is proved). Second, the term "justify" here is distributive, that is it applies twice, once to works and once to faith, and holds the same definition in each case (else it would be equivocation). Thus, when examining the way the verse is phrased, the subject is between works "justifying" and faith (alone) not "justifying," yet if one injects "non-saving faith" into this passage, the argument becomes nonsense: who ever suggested a man is justified by non-saving faith? Or if the Protestant take is to render it as "vindicated," the nonsense remains: James would be "proving" a man is not vindicated by a "fake faith" that by definition doesn't vindicate. Third, the term "alone" here is not an adjective modifying the noun "faith" such as if creating a unique type of faith called "Faith Alone," but rather an adverb modifying the verb "justified." In other words, it is more accurately translated "faith only" rather than "faith alone". Thus, when 'expanding' the original verse, James 2:24 is really saying: a man is justified not only by faith, but also [justified] by works. Astonishingly, some Protestants actually suggest this indicates James is speaking of two types of justification, not realizing he uses the term "justify" once and that it's equivocation to assume he is using the same word to mean "save" once and in the same breath using it again to mean "vindicate".
    • A final but necessary detail: James 2:26, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead."
    The analogy James gives is sheer brilliance, for it is impossible to miss his point: he is not speaking of two 'kinds' of faith, a fake and a real, but rather only one kind of faith under two 'modes' ('living' or 'dead'). If the Protestant interpretation were correct, James would have to be making a comparison between a fake body and a real body! Faith in itself is good, but apart from good works (e.g. sin, James 2:15-17), the faith 'dies' and no longer saves. This is why Catholics teach Faith only justifies that is 'animated' by Hope and Love (cf. 1 Cor 13:2, 13; Galatians 5:6), otherwise it's belief only (which is good in itself, but not enough). Protestants teach that "true faith" automatically will be accompanied by Hope and Love, but faith is all that's needed for justification (i.e. Hope and Love are incidentally present, essentially just to prove the faith is of the 'real' variety). The Protestant picture, while sounding good, is actually unbiblical and based on various theological errors.
    • Does the Catholic reading of James 2:24 contradict Paul (in, e.g., Rom 4:2-3)?
    The answer is no, and the reasoning is easy: the "works" Paul was speaking against were "works of the [Mosaic] Law" (Rom 3:28ff, 4:9ff), while James was speaking of good works done in union with Christ. (NB: sacrificing one's son isn't even a commandment of the Mosaic Law.) Protestants often miss this simple 'solution' because they refuse to categorically distinguish between "works of the Mosaic Law" and good works in general, done in union with Christ - the 'works' are not the same.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant

    Many people are aware that the title for this post comes from a statement made by the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism. The sentiment being expressed is that you will not find any reasonable historical testimony in the Early Church Fathers (ECFs) for uniquely "Protestant doctrines." While Protestants might accept various early church teachings, such as the Divinity of Christ, in virtually every case Catholics accept that teaching as well. But the reverse is not true: there are many "Catholic teachings" found in the ECFs that Protestants not only do not accept, they contradict central dogmas of Protestantism (e.g. Sola Fide).

    A popular form of 'damage control' Protestants use in response to this damning realization is to turn around and point to a few doctrines they believe don't have sufficient historical testimony and use that to say the Catholic Church must be false. This approach fails on two main grounds: (a) it doesn't get the Protestant out of the fact they are embracing a radically ahistorical Christian outlook, and (b) when looking at the 'big picture', that is all doctrines, the overall testimony of the ECFs shows the early Church to be very Catholic. Thus, for a Protestant to be fixated on something like the historical testimony for the Immaculate Conception, claiming it was not taught, and use that as their major criteria for rejecting/refuting Catholicism is a distortion of the big picture. No Catholic claims each and every doctrine has the same level of historical testimony, or even that some doctrines are not as well attested to as others; that doesn't mean we cannot form a reasonably solid conclusion on which Christian group today is best candidate for "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church".

    Consider the following list of doctrines I quickly put together (there are others that I've not included), which I believe far, far more strongly testifies the ECFs were Catholic than Protestant:

    Almost no ECF testimony for Eternal Security, Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience, The Father pouring out His Wrath on the Son at the Cross, Receiving Christ’s Righteousness by Faith, categorizing Justification as Forensic, etc.
    On the flip side, there is clear ECF testimony for losing salvation by sin, the reality of Free Will, Justification via internal transformation, salvation by ‘works’ (i.e. entering Heaven based on your good or bad works), saving grace being available to all men, church imposed penances for falling into sin, etc (All of these latter concepts are very Catholic, but the former ones Protestants teach are essential for holding to the "true Gospel".)

    The Bible:
    I don’t know of a single ECF who espoused the Protestant Canon or who taught we go around determining canonicity the way the Westminster Confession teaches. There are ECFs who taught the Catholic Canon, and the rest who had a ‘mixed canon’ lean Catholic because they never totally excluded the "Deutero-Canonical" books. (Protestantism teaches the Church cannot even function without the proper canon of Scripture.)

    There is clear Patristic testimony for the three-fold (i.e. distinct) offices of Deacon, Priest, and Bishop. Clear evidence for the binding authority of Ecumenical Councils, for Apostolic Succession (rather than self-appointment), a hierarchy among bishops (with strong examples of the Bishop of Rome being at the top of the list), for the Church and/or diocese having the power to impose disciplinary practices, and encouragement for things such as celibacy and the ascetic lifestyle. (All of these are uniquely Catholic but anathema to Protestant ears.)

    There is clear evidence of the Mass being seen as a Sacrifice, the Bread and Wine being seen as really Christ (even if you want to dispute transubstantiation), Sunday being the normative day of worship (not any day you feel like it), and a structured Liturgy for each region. Further, there are prayers for the dead, veneration of Saint’s Relics, use of images, etc. Clear veneration of Mary as “Mother of God” and Perpetual Virgin, Infant Baptism, Baptismal Regeneration (including interpreting John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 as proof), and clear testimony against divorce and remarriage. (As with the other teachings, these sound much more Catholic than Protestant, with many of them being anathema to Protestant ears.)

    The above list of teachings is a good example of what it means to look at the 'big picture', and this is how one should approach any Protestant challenge on the subject.

    Now, to take that whole list and go trumpeting around a few doctrines and why this or that ECF didn't teach the doctrine - as if that’s the ‘big picture’ - is a distortion of the situation. On any such ‘disputed’ items, what a Protestant might consider weak evidence can be seen as sufficient evidence by Catholics in light of the strong testimony for the ‘big picture’ coming off far more Catholic than Protestant.

    If a Protestant wants to respond to the overwhelming fact the ECFs come off sounding far, far more Catholic than Protestant by saying “so what,” that’s their right, but it’s also an admission of a radical ahistorical paradigm their ‘church’ is embracing. This radically ahistorical paradigm is where the concept of “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant” comes from.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Why William Webster's Justification Aritlcle is not Scriptural.

    Reformed Apologist William Webster has an articled titled, "The Biblical Teaching of Justification," in which he seeks to prove his Calvinist views on justification are correct, while refuting and exposing Catholic claims to the contrary. Since Webster has a lot of respect in Reformed apologetics, I thought it necessary and important to confront his errors. Since his article is so long, I will only focus on the portions I believe are most relevant and most erroneous.