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Monday, October 23, 2017

Guardian Angels and Heavenly Intercession

I have been very busy with life so I haven't had much time to blog, but I do have a few interesting posts in the works that I think readers will enjoy. Until I get the time to post them, I'll post this brief reflection on the reality of Guardian Angels and their relation to Intercession. 

In Matthew 18:10, Jesus says: "Beware of despising one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven." In this passing verse we see an affirmation of something most of us hardly ever think about: the reality of guardian angels, at least for believers. The implications of such a reality are actually quite astonishing when you think about it: you have a spiritual being assigned to assist you on your salvation journey. 

Many interesting other insights arise once you recognize this basic truth, and some significant issues arise for the Protestant tradition (which typically neglects the issue of guardian angels entirely). Having a Guardian Angel means you aren't alone, and in God's best judgment, you need this angel to help you navigate life. That's a major swipe against the Protestant notion of Salvation by Faith Alone and Eternal Security, for it suggests your journey is dangerous and thus you need heavenly assistance. This would hardly be necessary if your salvation were secure. Furthermore, the angels here are described as 'beholding the Father's face in heaven', which means the Guardian Angel in some sense is constantly reporting back to God and receiving instructions of how to proceed. This is the essence of the Catholic dogma of intercession of the saints in heaven. A Protestant might say the angel cannot communicate with you. But it would be kind of silly and nonsensical to think the angel couldn't hear you if you called out to it, especially for help, and there are instances in Scripture where angels have conversations with men (e.g. the Annunciation). A Protestant might further object and say this only applies to angels but not to saints in heaven. Well, at that point it just seems even more desperate, for the essential matter is affirmed - i.e., heavenly intercession, without undermining Jesus' mediation - and so the Protestant would be forced to say the saints in heaven are effectively unconscious, rather than the reality, which is that the saints in heaven are more alive than ever and are rejoicing along with the angels. Also, if "little ones" here refers to children, which 18:2-6 strongly suggests, then this verse would be an implicit testimony to Infant Baptism, as it would mean these children would have to be members of God's Church family in order to have their Guardian Angel, rather than having to wait until they are older to "accept Jesus for themselves".

Lastly, a recent Protestant convert to Catholicism pointed out a particular irony in the very famous "Doxology" which most Protestants have historically enjoyed praying: "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." What else would "praise him above you heavenly host" mean except you praying to angels/saints? It is biblical after all: "Praise him all his angels, praise him, all his host!" (Ps 148:2) It seems like Protestants just don't think things through.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

We must stop being the whores of goat demons - More Problems with Penal Substitution

Another one of the developing insights I've recently come across was found in a passing sentence in the book of Leviticus, chapter 17. This is the famous chapter where God explains why blood is 'special' and why the Israelites were forbidden to eat blood. This is one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament, since it speaks on the heart of the sacrificial system. This insight should radically alter your perception of animal sacrifices, such that you will see Penal Substitution truly has no place. 

I begin by quoting the relevant portion of Leviticus 17: 
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. 3 If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. 5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.
Before the chapter goes onto speak on the issue of sacrificial blood, it begins by speaking on the location of where sacrifices are taking place. In this passage, God commands all animals which were slain for sacrifice to be brought to the priestly tent to be offered upon the altar, and anyone who fails to do this will be subject to severe punishment. Why is this such a big deal? Because God wanted to stop the Israelites from sacrificing "to goat demons, after whom they whore" themselves. This bizarre statement actually contains a crucial insight into what Sacrifices were all about: Liturgical Worship! Man's chief goal has always been to give God the form of Worship which God desires to receive; anything else is technically idolatry. In this case, the lesson seems to be that while in Egypt, the Israelites had picked up some bad religious habits, particularly offering worship to animal-idols, in this case a goat-deity. This got me reflecting and researching, which led me to some further insights by some Catholic Biblical scholars. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Does suffering mean you're being punished by God? (Isaiah 53 & Romans 3:25) - More problems with Penal Substitution

The fun continues with my research and apologetics involving the Protestant heresy called Penal Substituion, which I've written about many times before on this blog. I'm excited to say that I've recently come across many great insights which further refute this heresy, which I hope to present in the near future. Today, I'd like to present two that I have recently come across, both which shed astonishing light on two key atonement passages, Isaiah 53 and Romans 3:25. 

I will begin with examining the first passage, Wisdom 3. As all good Catholics should know, Wisdom is an inspired book of Scripture, and it contains one of the most clear prophecies of the suffering and death of Jesus in the whole Bible, even clearer than Isaiah 53. Furthermore, Wisdom 15:7 is quoted by Paul in Romans 9:20, which further attests to it's divine inspiration (HT: Joe for finding this). And now, I quote Wisdom 3:1-10, trimming it back for length only:
1 The souls of those who do what is right are in God’s hand. They won’t feel the pain of torment. 2 To those who don’t know any better, it seems as if they have died. 3 Their leaving us seemed to be their destruction, but in reality they are at peace. 4 It may look to others as if they have been punished, but they have the hope of living forever. 5 They were disciplined a little, but they will be rewarded with abundant good things, because God tested them and found that they deserve to be with him. 6 He tested them like gold in the furnace; he accepted them like an entirely burned offering. 7 Then, when the time comes for judgment, the godly will burst forth and run about like fiery sparks among dry straw. 8 The godly will judge nations and hold power over peoples, even as the Lord will rule over them forever. 9 Those who trust in the Lord will know the truth. Those who are faithful will always be with him in love.
This text sounds a lot like Isaiah 53, with very similar terms and themes going on. Both texts speak of a Lord's Servant who enduring suffering for fidelity to God, but which others mistakenly think is a punishment by God. Instead, God accepts their life as a pleasing sacrifice and rewards them with life and power. Both texts use nearly identical Greek terms like peace, chastise, sacrificial offering, reckoning (falsely), etc. The parallel is impossible to miss, and the grand lesson here is that just because you're suffering, doesn't mean God is mad at you or transferring someone's guilt onto you. Quite the opposite. Let Scripture-Interpret-Scripture and have Protestants stop presuming that the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 must have been suffering a punishment, particularly God's wrath. 

This leads us to the second text, the testimony of Eleazar and the Widow of Seven Sons from the books of Maccabees. In the books of Maccabees we hear of a pagan king who subjects the Jews to torture and forces them to eat pork in violation of the Mosaic Law. The king brutally tortures the woman, her seven sons, and Eleazar, and ultimately kills them all for refusing to apostatize. Their lives are all extolled and they are regarded as martyrs for their heroic virtue for their love of God. While 4 Maccabees isn't considered canonical, it is nonetheless true, tells us what the Jews at the time actually believed, and in this case simply contains further insights on what the canonical 1-2 Maccabees already tell us. In 4 Macc 17:8-24, we see how these heroes were honored:
8 What would be an appropriate message that could be carved on their tomb to remind our nation’s people? Perhaps these words: 9 here lie buried an old priest, an old woman, and seven children because of the violence of a tyrant who wished to destroy the hebrew way of life. 10 they won justice for their nation by fixing their eyes on god and enduring torture to the point of death. 11 The competition in which they were engaged was truly divine. 12 Moral character itself handed out awards that day, having proved their worth through their endurance. Victory brought immortality through an endless life. 13 Eleazar was the first competitor. The mother of the seven children and the brothers competed also. 14 The tyrant was the opponent, and the world and the human race were the audience. 15 Respect for God won the day and crowned its champions. 16 Who wasn’t amazed at the athletes who were competing in the name of the divine Law? Who wasn’t astonished? 17 The tyrant himself, along with all his political advisors, was amazed at their resistance, 18 for which they now stand in front of God’s throne and live a blessed life forever. 19 Moses says, “All those who have set themselves apart for you are in your care.” 20 These people who have dedicated themselves to God are honored, therefore, not only with this privilege but also because they kept our enemies from ruling our nation. 21 The tyrant was punished, and our nation was cleansed through them. They exchanged their lives for the nation’s sin. 22 Divine providence delivered Israel from its former abuse through the blood of those godly people. Their deaths were a sacrifice that finds mercy [Greek: propitiation] from God.
This passage is, quite simply, astonishing. First, when it speaks of athletes "competing" and "enduring," it sounds a lot like St Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Second, some scholars have pointed out that there are many similarities between verses 21-22 in this passage and Romans 3:25, and as such think Paul probably had this passage in mind. In both places there is mention of ransoming/redeeming, saving blood, and propitiation, along with imagery of cleansing and sacrifice. In fact, the Greek term for "propitiation" used here is a unique Greek word that only appears in the New Testament twice, Hebrews 9:5 and Romans 3:25. In this situation, it is undeniable that Eleazar was a righteous man, not being punished by God nor under God's Wrath. Yet God allowed Eleazar to undergo suffering for the sake of righteousness, and from the Blood of Eleazar the Chosen People of God were cleansed, redeemed, and God's Wrath turned away from them (propitiated). It is clear there is a parallel to Christ, with Eleazar being a foreshadowing of Christ. There is really no reason to think Jesus couldn't have suffered and died with a similar motif as Eleazar, though with Jesus we see far greater blessings and merits won. Eleazar won temporal earthly blessings for his people, while Jesus won eternal blessings for us Christians. 

A Protestant might object to such texts by saying "not canonical," but really that is quite a weak objection, for these texts are not random pagan texts, but rather were written by faithful Jews and were included in Jewish collections. It would be absurd to suggest the Jews had no insights on theology or prophecy, and indeed throughout history Christians have always granted a fair hearing to any Christian scholar who worthily shares his insight on theology. 

The notion that a person cannot lay down their life, shed their blood, in sacrificial atoning offering, for cleansing, redemption, and life for others, apart from taking on their guilt and suffering hellfire in their place, is plainly refuted by these two shining examples. Penal Substitution has no basis in Scripture, and in fact is an insult to Scripture and an insult to Christian suffering and martyrdom.

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Eternal Life" according to Scripture

I thought I had written a dedicated post about the Biblical teaching on "eternal life," but after doing a search it seems I only wrote about it in passing (e.g. Here and Here). As with many of my posts, the heart of good apologetics is defining key theological terms according to the Bible. Most theological errors are due to people unconsciously assigning their own definitions to key theological terms, which results in building other theological conclusions on an faulty foundation. In this case, many people will read verses such as "whomever believes in him will have eternal life" (Jn 3:15) as if it were saying once you accept the Gospel your spot in heaven is secure forever. This is understandable, but it's a serious mistake and even misses the beauty of such texts. 
 
Doing a simple word search, the term "eternal life" appears in approximately 45 verses in the Bible. To keep this post short, I wont go through every verse, but you can and should follow the link to see the verses for yourself. The key verses I want to highlight are as follows:
  • John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
  • John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
  • John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  • 1 John 3:14-15 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him
In these passages from John, it is clear that "eternal life" is not something that comes in the future, it is not a ticket to heaven, but rather it is something you presently experience. In John's mind, to have "eternal life" means you have a relationship with the Trinity, the Trinity dwells within you. You "know" the Father and the Son, you have a spring of water flowing within, you have passed from spiritual death to inner spiritual life. In short, you have "eternal life abiding within" yourself (1 Jn 3:15). So all those times in John when Jesus says "believe and you will have eternal life," this is simply saying if you believe Jesus is your Savior, you will be in communal relationship with the Trinity. This communion can obviously be broken, as we see Adam originally had communion and fell, and 1 John 3:15 warns that mortal sin will result in no longer having eternal life in yourself (unless you repent). 

It is understandable why the term "eternal life" would confuse many, but it's pretty clear once you stop and try to understand the term from John's mystical perspective. That said, now it's time to look at how the term "eternal life" is used by Paul and other Apostles, because we will see a different usage than John's. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Are we saved by Wine Alone? (The Apostolic dogma of mixing of Water & Wine in the Chalice.)

Most of us know that during the Sacrifice of the Mass there comes a point when the priest is preparing the chalice when he mixes water with the wine prior to Consecration. I have always seen this as a beautiful 'ritual', but until recently I didn't realize how plainly it was included in Early Church Father writings and that the Church has always insisted it is part of proper celebration of the Eucharist. In this post I want to quote some of the ancient sources I found testifying to this practice, and from there I want to bring up the question of how this squares with Sola Scriptura. (This is another post in my How Liturgy Refutes Protestantism series, see HERE and HERE for two of the main articles.) 

Here are some early Church testimonies I came across: 
  • Justin, AD150 (First Apology, Sec65):
    There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father . . . those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion. And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true . . . Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings
  • Irenaeus, AD180 (Against Hereies Bk4:Ch33):
    Moreover, how could the Lord, with any justice, if He belonged to another father, have acknowledged the bread to be His body, while He took it from that creation to which we belong, and affirmed the mixed cup to be His blood? ... (Bk5:Ch2) When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported
    ... (Bk5:36) For the Lord also taught these things, when He promised that He would have the mixed cup new with His disciples in the kingdom

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How Protestants violate Paul's instructions on married clergy. (1 Timothy 3:2)

Protestants often bring up 1 Timothy 3:2 against Catholicism's rules on married clergy. Protestants say that Paul plainly says a Minister must be married, and thus Catholicism must use "traditions of men" to enforce celibacy to get around Paul's requirement for Church ministry. The irony here is that Catholicism actually does follow Paul's rules, and it is Protestants who pretty blatantly violate them. Let's first take a look at the passage in question and then I'll show why Protestants don't take the Bible as seriously as they think they do.
1 Timothy 3: 2 Therefore an overseer [Pastor/Minister] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
The first thing to note is that Paul is talking about candidates for ordination here, Paul is not talking about those already ordained. This is important because Paul is saying that the married man who seeks ordination must already be married and he must already have children (note the plural). Nothing in this text indicates someone already ordained can still get married later on, and yet Protestants teach someone who is already a Pastor can still do these things after ordination. In fact, Protestant seminaries typically consist of young men studying for ordination, and of these young men a good number of them aren't already married, and an even larger percentage of them don't have children (note the plural) yet. Thus, Protestants are blatantly violating Paul's teaching here, all the while thinking they are following Paul's teaching. So Protestants should be careful when using this verse against Catholicism, because any Protestant seminarian who is not married, or married without more than one child, or even infertile, is thus prohibited from ordination based on their own Protestant logic!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

When was Jerusalem sacked by the Babylonians? (A huge Jehovah's Witnesses apologetics find.)

I've been interacting with some Jehovah's Witnesses and I've focused most of our discussion on their key 1914AD Doctrine. The year 1914AD is important for world history because that was the year World War I began. The JWs claim that, decades earlier, they were able to use the Bible to know 'something big' would happen in 1914, and thus by accurately predicting WWI while everyone else was caught off guard, this signifies the JWs are God's true Christian body on earth. There is certainly some appeal to this claim, since if the Bible does predict such a major event, then those who were able to recognize this prophecy certainly hold some clout within Christian history. I've already spoken about this doctrine on a dedicated post a while ago (HERE - not a prerequisite for this article), but since my recent interactions I've learned about a more elegant, yet equally devastating argument which I'd like to present now. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Does falling away from the faith mean you were never really saved in the first place? (1 John 2:19)

Many Protestants teach that you cannot lose your salvation, so when a person "falls away" from the faith, some of these Protestants conclude that this person was never really saved in the first place. Their favorite prooftext for this claim is 1 John 2:19. Their interpretation is quite convenient, but is actually quite unreasonable, and it's is hurtful towards Christians who struggle with sin (thinking they might never have been saved). 

To begin, consider the context of 1 John 2:19,
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
These Protestants read 2:19 as saying these people who "went out" of the community by apostasy demonstrate that they never really were saved, since true Christians remain in the community. This interpretation is somewhat understandable, but it is very weak when you consider the context, the Greek words themselves, similar verses, and theological coherence. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

This simple picture helps explain "Divine Simplicity" and God's many "attributes".

This post is more of a theological reflection rather than an apologetics argument. Oftentimes I've heard people talk about how God is "both infinitely Merciful and infinitely Just," or some similar comparison, as if God somehow was able to hold together many conflicting "attributes" at the same time. I think the answer to these kinds of questions is to recognize that what we think of as God's "attributes" are only half the picture. Consider the following diagram:

This is a picture of White Light (sunlight), which is invisible to the human eye, but when this White Light hits a Glass Prism, the White Light reflects off it and result is the spectrum of the colors of the rainbow. (This is real science you can do at home.) 

The analogy to draw from this example is that God is similar to the White Light in that He is normally invisible to us, while the Prism is similar to Creation, and when God interacts with Creation we see Gods many beautiful attributes throughout nature and in divine revelation. The point being that the colors of the rainbow represent God's attributes, such as Justice, Mercy, etc, and these are truly distinct from Creation's point of view, but in reality these terms are only human terms to describe an ultimate reality (White Light) that is far beyond our mind's ability to grasp. This is one reason why Christian theologians throughout history have described God as "simple," not to suggest God is easy to understand, but rather to say that God isn't composed of many 'parts'. We cannot really fathom or understand God directly, but we can still understand Him 'indirectly' in a real and true manner.

Friday, January 20, 2017

He who sees Mary sees the Father. A simple yet mind-blowing insight to increase Marian devotion.

Marian Devotion is hard for a lot of people, both Catholics and Protestants. This usually stems from the Protestant tendency to denounce the Blessed Virgin as a way to take a swipe at Catholicism. The poison that is usually introduced comes in the form of fear of idolatry, fear of elevating Mary too high, thus detracting from the honor and devotion due to the Trinity alone. But the greatest of Catholic saints, those who were very close to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, got that way through their closeness to and high esteem of Mary (and Joseph, but that's for another time). This post is intended to break through that fear, and come out on the other side as madly in love with Mary as your actual mother and not fearing to use very flowery language in honor of Her. I want to keep this post short and hopefully follow it up with other reflections as I am able. 

To get the ball rolling, I want to begin with a profound insight I heard in a homily by Fr Ryan Erlenbush (I highly recommend following his blog and hearing all his sermons). I will summarize what he said and add my own thoughts: Jesus famously said of Himself that "He who sees me sees the Father" (John 12:25). This is one of the most astonishing claims ever made. You can hardly take it in. There's something so beautiful and simple about it, yet so mysterious and mind-blowing. You really have to be a spiritual master to even begin to break this down into digestible pieces for the rest of us. One such profound insight on this is that there is a real sense in which we can say the same thing of the Blessed Virgin Mary: he who sees Mary sees the Father. This is so outrageous sounding that you should be uncomfortable at first just hearing it, and yet it's so eye-opening once you see it that you can never unsee it. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Countering the Protestant claim that "Oral Tradition" was invented to justify unbiblical teachings.

Protestants are understandably concerned when Catholics appeal to "Tradition" when justifying certain teachings. There is a certain objectivity, and thus safety, about having a written document like the Scriptures. Indeed, that's one of the reasons why Catholics believe God gave us the Scriptures in the first place. Too often, appeals to Tradition are framed in terms of "Catholics cannot justify this teaching from Scripture, so they must turn elsewhere," and that "elsewhere" is seen as some secrete list of teachings passed on orally, from one bishop to another, even though nobody knows when or where. If this is what "Tradition" refers to, then this should be troubling to any Catholic. But fortunately, that's not the case, and in fact the answer is deceptively simple: Oral Tradition within historical Christianity is basically synonymous with the Liturgical Life, that is how the Sacraments are celebrated, the Liturgical Calendar, etc. These are very 'public' sources to consult, and more or less objective as well, so there is no hiding things and then randomly appealing to some unwritten unverifiable "tradition" when need be. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Why Protestants reject the Council of Nicaea.

The Council of Nicaea is a very useful apologetics tool beyond just discussing matters of the Trinity. What most people don't realize is that Nicaea produced more than just a Creed, it also issued 20 canonical laws which were binding on all Christians living at that time. The information contained in these Canons is just as useful (if not more so) as any Church Father when it comes to evaluating Protestantism against the bar of Church history. Below, I will mention why each of the 20 Canons are incompatible with all Protestantism in one way or another. This leaves Protestantism in a significant bind, because virtually all Protestants wholeheartedly affirm the Creed and deem the Council to be an orthodox testimony in early Christianity. After reading these Canons, the Protestant must recognize that they cannot embrace the Creed without also embracing the Canons, because if the Canons teach heresy and error, then the Protestant has no business at all embracing the Creed which this same Council produced. Protestants have no problem affirming the Catholic Church is correct on a lot of things, but they say the Catholic Church is false and cannot be trusted because it also teaches many errors. By this same logic, a Protestant must reject Nicaea as well, for Nicaea teaches many "errors" in its Canons and binds all Christians to these "errors" as well.