Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The "unpardonable sin" and Eternal Security

Jason Stellman (former Calvinist, now Catholic) made a brilliant observation on his blog a while back about the 'unpardonable sin' that Jesus speaks of in the Gospels. The verse states,
And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Mat 12:31-32; Mk 3:28-29; Lk 12:9-10)
Catholics have traditionally appealed to the phraseology of forgiveness "in the age to come" as evidence for purgatory, since this is the only reading that makes sense of the idea of sins being able to be forgiven after death. Some Protestants have tried to dodge this by appealing to the parallel accounts where Jesus says "will never be forgiven," but I call this a dodge because it doesn't get around the wording of "or in the age to come," it merely affirms what's already agreed upon: the sin is never forgiven. 

But that's not what Jason pointed out that I thought was worth sharing. What Jason pointed out was that this verse goes against the Protestant idea that salvation cannot be lost (known as Eternal Security or Once Saved, Always Saved). This is because the text says that Jesus is speaking of all kinds of sins being able to be forgiven, just not this one. This suggests a person can go 'too far' with their sins and thus cross an 'invisible line' of no return. They can sin one too many times or they can sin in such a severe way that they wont be forgiven and thus they will be damned. 

The only counter I can envision a Calvinist making is that this 'unpardonable sin' is simply talking about those who were never saved to begin with. But this makes the unpardonable sin synonymous with being in an unconverted/unregenerate state (i.e. born in original sin), which makes no sense for two reasons. First, everyone is born in the unconverted state, so this cannot be the unpardonable sin. Second, the context Jesus is speaking is that of sins that can be forgiven, just not this one, indicating it's a sin yet to be committed by any particular person.

All believe that there is no sin for which the Cross could not atone for, which means this 'unpardonable sin' has to be something more pernicious than sinful acts in general. The traditional Catholic reading of this text gives two interpretations, which overlap somewhat. The first is discerned by the context, where the Pharisees had seen all these miraculous signs coming from Jesus and yet they continued to refuse to believe in Him. What made this moment especially wicked was that they attributed the miracles to Satan rather than the Holy Spirit! This repeated willful blindness caused them to be permanently blind to seeing the light and thus beyond able to repent. They reached a point where God stopped trying to convert them. The second and more generic interpretation is that the 'unpardonable sin' is the sin of 'final unrepentance', meaning willfully refusing to repent of being in a state of mortal sin up to the moment of death. So someone who is out of communion with God who refuses to repent and dies in that way has put them self in a state that precludes forgiveness. Either way, Eternal Security is refuted by this verse.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why did the Second Vatican Council ignore the issue of Communism?

[UPDATE 2-28-3: This article has undergone significant revision in light of new information. See especially the Endnote

My idea for this post came from a recent article on the Ignatius Press blog, which had a link to a Catholic World Report article titled "Why did Vatican II ignore Communism?" When I saw the title of this article I was completely stunned. Did Vatican II really ignore Communism? That's outrageous! But if this is true, then I really want to know why, because that comes off as scandalous.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? (The Sinner's Prayer & Lordship Salvation)

Evangelicals love to ask "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?" but most people are unaware of the damning contradiction behind this question that is tearing Evangelicalism apart daily. The contradiction, or better yet self-condemning dilemma, is summed up in what is known as the Lordship Salvation controversy. The concept of Lordship Salvation teaches that Jesus is not just Savior, but Savior and Lord. This is specifically understood to mean that Jesus doesn't just save you, but He's also your master whom you must obey. This means that anyone living a life of sin cannot be truly a believer, since anyone who has "saving faith" will prove this by obeying Jesus, principally by turning away from sin and producing good fruit. Indeed, there are plenty of texts that would suggest this very thing (e.g. 1 John 2:4; Mat 7:15-23). To Catholic ears, this sounds perfectly reasonable. So what's the big deal?

Friday, February 22, 2013

A sketch of the Catholic view of Salvation

A fellow Catholic blogger asked me to write a post explaining the Catholic view of Salvation. He made a good point: We hear a lot of why Sola Fide is wrong, but we don't hear enough about why Catholicism is right. It's not enough for Catholicism to just disprove Protestantism.

In this post I will try to lay out the main facets of Catholic soteriology (the Catholic understanding of salvation), which can be further appreciated with the Protestant view shown in contrast. Since this is a sketch view, I will not really focus on proving Catholicism here (but I've done so elsewhere).

The first question to address is: What is salvation?
The very essence of salvation means a person is in a relationship with the Trinity. (John 14:23; Eph 3:17; 1 Cor 3:16) A person "is saved" when Trinity indwells in the soul of the Christian. Adam was originally in a relationship with the Trinity, he was created in a "saved" state, but through grave sin he broke this communion and became "unsaved." This is why the Bible describes believers "getting saved" in terms of reconciliation, adoption, in-grafting, etc. (Rom 5:10; Rom 8:14-17; John 15:4-5) It is in restoring of the communion through the Divine Indwelling that one "gets saved."

While the Catholic and Biblical view of salvation is a state of being, the contrast to this is the Protestant view of salvation, which an aftereffect of a performance. The Protestant view of salvation is that to "get saved" one must keep God's commandments perfectly, and upon doing so they are awarded a legal status of "perfect law-keeper." This status makes one legally worthy to enter Heaven. Since Adam and all mankind failed to keep God's commandments perfectly, Protestants reason that the only way to get awarded the status of "perfect law-keeper" is if Jesus keeps the law perfectly in our place and 'imputes' this to us. So when a Protestant speaks of "getting saved" they are speaking of believing that Jesus lived the life you were supposed to live, and the Father crediting you with the status of "perfect law-keeper," as if you yourself had kept the commandments perfectly, making you now worthy of entering Heaven.

The second question to address is: Why are Catholics so concerned about works?
From the previous paragraphs, one can see the radical difference between Protestantism and Catholicism. In Protestantism, one is saved independently of being in a relationship with God. (Protestants certainly believe Christians enter into a relationship with God, but it is not this relationship that determines their salvation.) On the flip side, it is clear why sin can cause a Catholic to lose salvation, because sin undermines the relationship with God, and if the sin is grave enough then it can sever that relationship, causing one to become "unsaved." (John 15:6; 1 John 3:15; Rom 11:19-22) This is why Protestants generally believe one cannot lose salvation, because even when they sin, God only looks at the "perfect law-keeper" status that Jesus credited to them. (Luther described this situation as Christians representing piles of dung covered with snow, where God only "sees" the pure white snow and not their own filth.)

From this it becomes clear what "good works" mean in the Catholic context. In the Catholic view, good works (acts of love) are what grow and deepen the relationship with God. It's similar to when a married couple grows in love and appreciation for each other. The relationship gets stronger or weaker in response to how much love or sin is committed. It is not only a duty, it's crucial for maintaining a strong relationship. But from the Protestant view, "good works" are anathema in the "getting saved" context, because we are law-breakers by nature and we'd be deceived to think our good works could contribute towards a "perfect law-keeping" status. (Recall that in that view, God the Father looks at Jesus' "perfect law-keeping" alone, not our sinful record.) So from the Protestant perspective, "good works" (quite logically) don't "save" us, but Protestants insist that we should do good works out of gratitude for God, as a way of saying thank you and being a witness to others about what Jesus already did for you.

The third question to address is: What about the Cross?
The Cross is viewed very differently by Protestants and Catholics. Most people don't realize this, but after the above sketches it should be apparent that there must be radically diverging views. The Cross was about making Atonement for sins, but what most people don't know is that to make atonement in the Biblical sense means to repair a damaged relationship through offering up something of value. Given this, the Catholic view of the Cross is that of Jesus offering up his life, with His shedding of blood signifying He held nothing back. This act of Jesus offering up everything out of love of God was so pleasing in the Father's sight, that this act of Atonement carried a value greater than all the sins in history combined. The Bible describes this as an aroma that blots out the stench caused by sin. (Eph 5:1-2; Lev 4:31; Gen 8:21) It is from this Atonement that our relationship with God can be restored, for instead of approaching God 'empty handed' asking to restore this, through faith we now appeal to God "in the Name of Jesus," to which God is pleased to listen to the Intercession of His Beloved Son. 

Unfortunately, Protestants don't follow the Bible (or Tradition) on this matter, and so they have a radically distorted view of the Cross. They see "Atonement" in an almost pagan form, in which their sin is punished in a substitute. The reason why Protestants believe this is because they view salvation in terms of a legal status, where the Judge must punish the guilty and acquit the innocent. Before God can look at the "perfect law-keeping" of Jesus credited to them, the sinner's 'criminal record' must first receive the punishments due to those crimes. Thus, Adam's sins and our sins had to be punished in Christ. From this they mistakenly think the Old Testament sacrificial animals were receiving the death penalty in place of the sinning Jew who offered it. But worse yet, from this mistaken idea Protestants think God the Father punished Jesus with the divine wrath and vengeance our sins deserved, which translates into God the Father unleashing hellfire and damnation upon His Beloved Son while He hung on the Cross. (It is no wonder that Protestants don't like to view the Crucifix or the Sacrifice of the Mass, because the conscience rightly shudders thinking that Jesus endured damnation and hellfire.)

Since this is a sketch, I guess that covers three of the most important issues. Other important questions I hope to address in a second part to this post will be the various aspects of the nature-grace distinction (similar to what I wrote in this post). 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why Protestantism is caving into Homosexuality

In my last post talking about the HomoHeresy (the agenda to normalize homosexuality) having strong roots in the Catholic Church, I felt it important to point out that the HomoHeresy is infact far worse outside the Catholic Church. Things are particularly worse in Protestantism, since they have no good way to stop it. Just last month a prominent Evangelical Pastor of a large congregation came out in favor of gay marriage. The fact that homosexuality is such a central issue today is a clear indication of the failure of the Protestant-Enlightenment experiment in the West. The sin of sodomy has always been around, but never in the 2000 years of Christianity has it received public support on the popular and legislative level. Never has it been viewed as just as normal as a heterosexual marriage. What was unthinkable a generation ago is now mainstream and taking over fast, and there's no stopping it. In fact, the main reason why homosexuality is gaining ground in this country and the world is because of Protestantism, which is caving in more and more each day to this plague.

We all know the Liberal Protestants are already fully engulfed in supporting and even advocating for this agenda, but what most Conservative Protestants don't realize is that it’s becoming more and more difficult to make a case against homosexuality from within a Conservative Protestant framework. The following are the main reasons why.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The suspicious nature of Benedict's resignation.

I know we're not supposed to "go there," but for the sake of those 'mature' Catholics I think we should not be caught off guard if dirty details emerge down the road surrounding Pope Benedict's resignation. The act of a Pope abdicating does not have precedent in the sense most people think (see this post on the excellent blog Unam Sanctam Catholicam), since mere old age has never ever been the conditions for a Pope stepping down. Rather, something more was (likely) involved. I'm not talking about conspiracy, but rather about seeing the bigger picture. Benedict often speaks in subtle ways, which isn't always helpful, when he's trying to get a bigger message across. For example, some astute individuals have recalled that when Benedict was first elected, he made some 'cryptic' references in his speech to the effect of, "pray brethren that I may not flee for fear of the wolves." It would be naive to suggest he was speaking of the Devil and demons in a generic sense. Most likely, this was speaking about bishops will ill motives who are in the Vatican who wish to undermine the Faith and attack anyone who stands up for the Truth. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Calvinist blogger attempts to refute my extensive Logizomai (Imputation) Article

A Calvinist blogger named Joey has written a multi-part series aimed at refuting my hard-hitting article refuting the Protestant doctrine of Imputation. I have interacted with Joey many times over the years, so I know his style and approach to things. I consider him to be a pretty intelligent guy, but I think most of what he has written is trying to defend the indefensible in trying to defend erroneous doctrines like Imputation. 

So I wont end up having to write multiple posts, and since I don't think he actually touches upon the important stuff of my article until later on in his series, I will try to deal with the main points of each of his (currently) 7 posts.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Modern Medicine and Pope Benedict's Resignation

Everyone has heard the news of Pope Benedict's sudden resignation today. I wont spend time with all the details because you can get that information elsewhere in abundance. I think one chief factor to take into consideration of the modern day Papacy is the advances in modern medicine. This day and age people can be kept alive a lot longer than nature might have intended. I'm not saying this to suggest euthanasia is a good thing, but rather that nature should be allowed to take its course and our modern technology has in many ways gone against nature.

It is quite ironic that we have the most amazing medicine and yet we abort a significant percentage of our children, along with not really curing most ills but rather just killing the pain. So what's this life saving technology and medicine all about then? Well, it seems as if it's been used to keep people alive a lot longer with a greater quality of life as long as possible. But the problem here is that medicine is no longer something to restore someone to health, but rather to artificially inflate the quality of life, particularly with a mentality that this life is all there is so let's make the most of it. Modern medicine really isn't about helping people, but rather about making money. If it were about helping people, then we'd have all kinds of diseases (especially in Africa) eradicated. Modern medicine looks less and less to God, to the Cross, (redemptive) suffering, and the afterlife. These are all things that were traditionally kept front and center of traditional medicine.

In the case of Pope Benedict, and maybe even future Popes, the resignation is due to decline in health, particularly at such an elderly age. If modern medicine had it's way, the Pope Benedict would not decline as nature intended, with a period of preparing oneself for death, but rather it could have the potential of basically keeping our Pope on life support in an incapacitated state for possibly a few years. The bad part about this is that it would be like not having a Pope, with the bad guys in the Church having more or less free reign to go about their dirty work, all under the overall good reputation of Benedict. A similar thing happened with Pope John Paul II, where his bad health left him more or less incapacitated towards fulfilling his pastoral duties.

I'm not saying any of this to be heartless or to in any way suggest the contraceptive/euthanasia mindset - just the opposite. I think more details will come out in the next month or so as to why Benedict made this decision, but I trust his judgement here and think the conditions were right for him to make this choice (e.g. no scandals). I have high hopes we will get a good more traditional minded Pope and think liberal minded candidates will have no chance.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Which sins did the Day of Atonement atone for? - More Problems with Penal Substitution

Protestants are fond of quoting Hebrews 9:22 against Catholicism, since they think the phrase "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" means that Penal Substitution is required for sins to be forgiven. But the first half of this verse shows the shedding of blood served a different function, a cleansing one, saying: "under the law almost everything is purified with blood," and why the very next verse (9:23) says, "Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." Aside from the fact 9:23b uses the plural "sacrifices" when speaking of the New Testament, and thus supporting the notion the Mass is a sacrifice, I came across a very interesting verse in this same chapter a while back that I think further strengthens the Catholic case against Penal Substitution. 

The verse is Hebrews 9:6-7, which says: "6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people." Verse 7 is talking about the Day of Atonement, the one day each year when the High Priest goes into the Holy-of-Holies and stands before the Ark of the Covenant to perform the sacred duty of making atonement. What is interesting about verse 7b is that it says the High Priest makes atonement for the "unintentional sins" of the people. The Greek word for "unintentional sins" used in 9:7 is agnoema, meaning literally sins done without knowledge (negated-knowledge, where the word "agnostic" comes from). Those who have read other posts of my "Problems with Penal Substitution" series will see why this is significant, but I'll do a quick recap here.

If the Levitical Sacrifices were intended to model Penal Substitution, then we'd expect to see something akin to a person deserving of the death penalty transferring this punishment to an animal, and this animal ends up getting the death penalty in place of the sinner. But if the person did not do something worthy of the death penalty, then it hardly makes sense to say the death penalty was transferred to an animal. In the case of "unintentional sins," it hardly makes sense to say God demands someone die. This is important to keep in mind as one seeks to understand not only the Levitical Sacrifices, but especially the book of Hebrews. This is not to say that the Cross only deals with unintentional sins, since the Cross has the power to forgive any and all sins, but only to show that the Old Testament framework was not that of Penal Substitution. 

Recognizing the 'danger' to the doctrine of Penal Substitution this poses, one Reformed apologist countered my claim by saying six other verses use this same Greek word but they uses it synonymously with sin in general. Here are the verses: 
  • Genesis 43:13, Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight.
  • Judith 5:20, So now, my master and lord, if there is any oversight in this people and they sin against their God and we find out their offense, then we can go up and defeat them.
  • Tobit 3:3, And now, O Lord, remember me and look favorably upon me. Do not punish me for my sins and for my unwitting offenses and those that my ancestors committed before you.
  • Sirach 23:2, Who will set whips over my thoughts, and the discipline of wisdom over my mind,
    so as not to spare me in my errors, and not overlook my sins?
  • Sirach 51:19, My soul grappled with wisdom, and in my conduct I was strict; I spread out my hands to the heavens, and lamented my ignorance of her.
  • 1 Maccabees 13:39, We pardon any errors and offenses committed to this day, and cancel the crown tax that you owe; and whatever other tax has been collected in Jerusalem shall be collected no longer.
Looking over these verses, there is no indication that this term means sin in general. Genesis 43:13 and Sirach 51:19 don't even mention sin, clearly referring to ignorance or oversight in general. The other passages plainly distinguish 'unintentional sins' from sin in general (esp Tobit 3:3), strongly suggesting they are not the same. The only alternative is to argue they are to be taken in parallel or tautologically, but I think that's assuming too much.
What is interesting to note is that none of these verses are from Leviticus, leaving us having to make an educated guess as to what Hebrews 9:7 was speaking of. I believe the answer rests in texts like Numbers 15:27-31, since they explicitly say unintentional/minor sins can be atoned for, but deliberate/grave sins cannot (and that these cut one off from the covenant). This is confirmed in texts like Leviticus 4:2; 22; 27; 5:15; 18, which use the same Hebrew term "unintentional" as Numbers 15:27. And from here, looking up Leviticus 5:18 in the Greek OT (the LXX) shows it uses the Greek word agnoia, which is a nearly identical word as that used in Hebrews 9:7. Also, the LXX word for "unintentional" in Leviticus 4:2, 22, etc, is akousios, which is a negated form of "voluntarily" (kousios, hekousios), literally meaning involuntarily, and thus confirming the unintentional sin interpretation. Further, the term hekousios is used in Hebrews 10:26, referring to no sacrifice being available for voluntary/deliberate sins, which confirms the this argument but from the opposite perspective.

Friday, February 1, 2013

1 Corinthians 11:27 - A King James Version quickie and a Transubstantiation teaser

The King James Version is one of the most respected and admired translations of the Bible in all of history and is still very popular today. While it actually has a lot of beautiful English in it, it should not be thought of the perfect and only true translation the way many Protestants (even today) think. These Protestants are known as King James Onlyists. One very good, quick, and easy traditional argument for discrediting the "flawlessness" of this translation is to point to 1 Corinthians 11:27, where Paul speaks about the sin of abusing the Eucharist:
KJV: Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread AND [Greek:] drink this cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body AND [Greek:καί] blood of the Lord.
The KJV has botched a key word here by using the Greek word "AND" in both places when in fact the Greek word "AND" (kai) only appears in the second instance. In the first instance, the Greek word is actually "OR". How it should read is: Abusing EITHER the consecrated bread OR the consecrated cup makes one guilty of BOTH the body AND blood of Jesus. You might think, what's the big deal? The big deal is, this text is powerful for demonstrating the Catholic teaching that Jesus is fully present under either bread alone or cup alone, something Protestants repudiate since this only makes sense with transubstantiation. The KJV wants to get around this by tampering with the text and adding "AND" so that the text denies Jesus is fully present under each, and that each must be abused to be guilty of both. 

Conclusion: This is not to say the KJV is a horrible translation, but only that it is not flawless and has biases that affect key doctrine that cannot be swept under the rug. This should be simple enough to memorize that any Catholic should be able to pull this out when needed, even to Protestants who are not KJV Onlyists. Lastly, not only does the Greek totally refute the KJV here, but no respected Protestant translation uses "AND" here, they all use "OR" (see the list HERE), confirming that this isn't a Catholic invention but being true to the Greek.