Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts

Monday, March 6, 2023

It’s Iimi! Born Again… and Again, and Again, and Again?

It was another club period meeting, and the girls were looking forward to their unofficial purpose of “goofing off.” But then, Lilavati asked a question about reincarnation... And who knows what the consequences will be when Iimi defends the Catholic view.

Pre-Comic Notes:

A vast number of beliefs fall under the label of “Hinduism.” Therefore, Lilavati’s views should not be seen as something ALL Hindus believe.

Post-Comic Notes:

Nobody would be happy being told by another that they didn’t accept their religious beliefs. Lilavati is no different. But the girls didn’t attack Hinduism. Instead, they stated why reincarnation was incompatible with Christianity. 


Sadly, I have encountered Christians who also stated they believe in reincarnation. Hopefully, this will help the reader who meets one of these people.

Monday, August 15, 2022

It’s Iimi! Onward to Lesson Two

Being as well rested as any other teenager at the beginning of a new school year, our heroines prepare for another round of the academic mishaps. But one of them, having worked hard to master Socrates’ “Lesson One,” needs to ask if she’s ready to move… Onward to Lesson Two


Pre-Comic Notes:

For those who need a reminder. Lesson One is how Dr. Peter Kreeft labeled Socrates’ statement that to be wise we must first know when we are ignorant about something. Lesson Two would then be to learn the truth about what we are ignorant of. It was originally discussed in this Comic: HERE.

Post-Comic notes:

Yes, page 1 is a reference to Groundhog Day.


The school year beginning on August 15 was accurate when I began research for this comic. It’s since been revised, but I decided to just go ahead with the original schedule for August comics.


This comic is an experiment with clothing of the main characters (Iimi, Paula, Kismetta, Krysta) and see how it works. Some new readers made comments about the short skirts. It’s not something I can control (it’s part of the Comipo! model design. But I am trying to increase the length of the skirts with Clip Studio Paint. I’m not impressed with my talent to solve this. But we’ll see. 


The exception is Iimi in Kismetta’s dream. That has to remain unchanged from every other time it appeared for consistency’s sake.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

We Cannot Set God the Father and God the Son Against Each Other


If I were to describe the behaviors of some Christians who support the changing long held Christian moral beliefs, the term modernist comes to mind—though not in the sense that radical traditionalists abuse as an epithet—thus stripping it of any meaning.

Modernism is defined as “a tendency in theology to accommodate traditional religious teaching to contemporary thought and especially to devalue supernatural elements.” In other words, modernism is an attempt to deny or downplay the inconvenient truths that God has commanded, but modern society finds objectionable. Thus, the Christian who tries to reduce miracles to fortuitous coincidences or tries to turn “thou shalt not” into “It is OK” is guilty of modernism.

Tragically, there has been a surge in the number of Christians who openly seek to twist the meaning of Christian moral obligations since Obergefell, and there seem to be a growing number of Christians who are willing to accept their arguments because they do not like the idea of of themselves or loved ones acting in a way that Christian belief calls sinful. It’s not for me to judge the culpability of the Christians who buy into the argument, but it is not being judgmental to say that these compromises are certainly against what God has commanded and that those Christians who confuse their compromising the truth with being compassionate. We need to remember that even when loving the sinner, we cannot compromise on the truth.

Jesus Is God and We Cannot Separate Him From God in the Old Testament

One common justification for rejecting unpopular moral teachings is done in trying to separate the God of the Old Testament from Jesus Christ in the Gospel. God in the Old Testament is seen as harsh and judgmental, while Jesus in the Gospel is seen as loving and non-judgmental. But that vision of the two are wrong for several reasons—the first of which is the very fact that it divides One God into two beings where one is considered bad, and the other good. That’s basically gnosticism.

In fact, if we profess to be believing Christians, there are some principles we must accept…in fact, to deny them makes us heretical:

  • We believe in One Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—who has existed eternally.
  • Therefore Jesus has always been God the Son.
  • From this it follows that one cannot divide God into separate beings or claim that what God taught, Jesus repudiated.
  • Once we recognize this, the Christian cannot use the “Jesus never said anything about X” argument without (knowingly or not) denying the Triune and eternal nature of God.

It is important to recognize these facts, because, after Obergefell, people are trying to bully Christians into abandoning their moral objections to “same sex marriage” by saying “Jesus never condemned homosexuality.” To make that claim, one has to either deny the Trinity or deny the authority of Scripture when it disagrees with one’s personal behavior. So, let’s look at that next.

The Authority of Scripture is God and We Do Not Have the Right to Overthrow It

Protestants and Catholics both recognize the authority of Scripture, though they have different ideas on what that authority means. Generally speaking, we hold that the Bible was divinely inspired, while making use of the talents of the human authors, so that it is free of error. The Catholic Church, in the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, describes it this way:

11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19–20, 3:15–16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him2 they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.4


Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16–17, Greek text).

So, we have to realize that since God inspired the authors to put into the Scriptures what He wanted put there, we are not free to simply pick and choose what we think is out of date. We have to understand the context of the words and the culture which the author shared with the original audience. We also have to understand that, despite the fact that the human authors wrote over a period of thousands of years, God inspired all of it, and we cannot simply pick out a section to support what we would like to be taught.

The Jewish Law and Divine Accomodation

What causes so many misunderstandings is the fact that we forget that everything in the Bible ultimately points to Christ. In the Old Testament, this means laying the framework, building the nation where Jesus can be born. This brings us to the concept of Divine Accommodation—that in teaching us, God moves from the simplest concepts to the more complexas we grow more able to understand (See Galatians 3:23-24). He had to prepare us for receiving Christ by creating a framework. In Christ, the Law is fulfilled. That doesn’t mean the “thou shalt nots” can become “it’s OK if you want to do it.” But it does mean that the elements of the Law which were pointing to the fulfillment of Christ can be set aside—the ceremonial law, dietary law and legal strictures on what to do to transgressors—but the moral obligations of God’s teaching remain. This is what Acts 15:1-29 was affirming in saying that the Gentile Christians were not bound to keep the Law and why St. Paul took so stern a stance against those who tried to implement the circumcision and kosher laws.

What we need to keep in mind is, the legal codes of the Jewish Law were not the sudden imposition of barbarism on a genteel people. They were restrictions on how the Jews could behave in comparison to how their neighbors behaved. Yes, reading the laws of Exodus and Leviticus may sound offensive to our ears. But when one compares them with the neighboring nations, those nations did worse things on a regular basis. In other words, God wasn’t giving the Jews free rein to run wild. He was forbidding them from running wild.

Moreover, once you look at Jesus teaching the crowds “You have heard it said…but I say unto you…” He actually takes the law to a higher level. It’s not enough to avoid doing evil. We have to avoid harboring it in our hearts. So, when critics try to cite the other laws in Leviticus to deny the condemnation of homosexuality, they haven’t refuted the Christian moral teaching…they’ve merely shown they do not understand how God gradually brought His teaching to us, turning us away from evil and towards good as our minds could comprehend it. Christ is the final fulfillment of the Law. There won’t be any further revelation beyond Christ (contra the Muslims and Mormons)—we’ll just apply His teachings to new situations. In doing so, we will never see God’s teaching go from “X is a sin” to “X is not a sin.” If it ever appears to be otherwise, it merely shows we have misunderstood the essence of what was condemned.

To discuss each of the issues would take too long and cover too much ground. For example, I do not have the time to discuss St. Paul discussing Sin, Law, Gentiles and Jews in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. Suffice to say, if you want to know how Christians view the relationship of the Old Testament legal code in comparison to the teachings of Christ, you need to study what Christianity teaches on the subject and not merely assume that the Church must have gotten it wrong just because you don’t understand it. That’s an argument from ignorance fallacy.


It is vital to remember, that we cannot try to set God the Father against God the Son, the Trinity against each other to justify our own behavior. Nor can we try to set one part of the Bible in opposition to another. There is no conflict between Father and Son because God is Triune. There is no conflict between Old and New Testament because God inspired both. When a conflict appears, it is actually a conflict of our own understanding.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Love and Justice Both: Losing Sight of the Big Picture

In dealing with the concepts of the love of God and the justice of God, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. It’s easy to get so caught up in focussing on one thing that one forgets that there are obligations to the other side of thing which God calls us to do. We are called, for example, to love those who hate us and to admonish the sinners.

For example, one of the things I notice when it comes to people being offended by the Church is that they tend to be too close to the issue to consider it objectively. It’s natural to feel threatened when someone is personally affected by an issue. But the problem is, when a person takes it too personally, they may lack the objectivity to listen to what needs to be said. It’s important to note that this is not limited to one faction or another. It’s not something that only happens to other people. Each one of us can feel attacked by something we need to hear and respond by refusing to listen. It’s common to hear things like, “God doesn’t care about your rules,” or “you need to stop being legalistic."

This becomes a problem when it comes to denying Church teaching because, as Catholics, we believe that the Church teaching has authority because Christ Himself gave the Church authority to teach, and so the denial of the Church is a denial of Christ. For example, if Jesus did tell Peter in Matthew 16:19 and the rest of the apostles in Matthew 18:18 that what they bound on Earth is bound in Heaven, then God does care about the rules of the Church.

Of course, God also cares about how we apply His rules. While we cannot set His commandments aside, it is possible to forget about the side of compassion and mercy required in teaching His commandments. The possibility of being so focussed on punishing the guilty and worrying about somebody “getting away with” things is dangerous. The possibility of a past mistake or sin repented of is not seen as relevant. If Bishop X once held a problematic position, he cannot ever be trusted again and whoever considers the possibility is not to be trusted either.

So it seems there is a problem with people confusing both what truth requires and what compassion requires. It seems like certain people think that God being loving and merciful cannot condemn the actions being done. From that error, it becomes easy to make one of two opposite false conclusions. Either the person...

  1. wrongly assumes that compassion and love means the Church cannot say things we do are wrong.
  2. wrongly assumes that compassion and love means the Church is failing to teach right and wrong.

That’s the danger of becoming so rigid or so attached to one’s sins that one loses sight of the big picture—that God is both loving and just. Ignoring one of these in favor of the other is going to give a person a distorted view of God and what we are called by Him to be. Losing sight of God’s justice means expecting God to just turn a blind eye to our sins. Losing sight of God’s love means viewing the sinner as an enemy to oppose instead of a person in need of salvation that we have to reach out to.

Both views need to be opposed. The person who does not want to change his or her ways, and thinks of Church teaching as “manmade rules” are creating a false image of God and risking their souls over a lie.  The person who thinks of the sinner as “the enemy,” are claiming the role of judge that they are not allowed to have, risking becoming alienated from Christ and His Church. We need to realize that the role of the Church does not embrace either extreme. Rather, the Church loves the sinner, while rejecting the false ideas the sinner clings to. The role of God’s teaching is to lead us in living according to His will. Those who have not fallen into a particular sin are called to help their brethren who have and love them—even if the response we receive from them is hostile.

We are called to love and follow Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that means heeding the Church He established (Matthew 18:17). That also means serving in love in doing so. We can’t just point to the failures of the “other side.” We have to consider our own actions in relation to these two pitfalls.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fearing Pope Francis and the Synod

The reaction to the synod report and the Pope’s statement that “laws that don’t work are obsolete,” have put certain Catholics into panic mode and others into a false sense of rejoicing depending on their ideology. Ironically, conservative and liberal Catholics aren’t even on opposite sides. They simply have opposite reactions to a shared view. That assumption is that Pope Francis is a liberal Pope who is determined to change the teaching of the Church.

The “Who Am I To Judge” Quote

This hearkens back to 2013 when the Pope was, unfortunately, quoted out of context when he said, “Who am I to judge?"

Did ANYBODY read it in context?

Let’s be clear here. The Pope didn’t say it in a sense of moral indifference about the moral teachings of the Church. That’s a media fabrication. The proper context was a press conference on July 28th 2013 (if you’ve never read the whole thing in context, here is the official Vatican transcript). The Pope was asked a question by journalist Ilze Scamparini:

I would like permission to ask a delicate question: another image that has been going around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his private life. I would like to know, Your Holiness, what you intend to do about this? How are you confronting this issue and how does Your Holiness intend to confront the whole question of the gay lobby?

So, right off the bat, we see that the Pope was not asked about changing doctrine. He was asked about the discovery of an allegedly notorious past of a newly appointed member of the Vatican Bank. Was the Pope going to fire him? Was their a clique of homosexuals in the Vatican?

The Pope’s response, in context, was:

About Monsignor Ricca: I did what canon law calls for, that is a preliminary investigation. And from this investigation, there was nothing of what had been alleged. We did not find anything of that. This is the response. But I wish to add something else: I see that many times in the Church, over and above this case, but including this case, people search for “sins from youth”, for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, sins. But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we confess our sins and we truly say, “I have sinned in this”, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins. That is a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. Many times I think of Saint Peter. He committed one of the worst sins, that is he denied Christ, and even with this sin they made him Pope. We have to think a great deal about that. But, returning to your question more concretely. In this case, I conducted the preliminary investigation and we didn’t find anything. This is the first question. Then, you spoke about the gay lobby. So much is written about the gay lobby. I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with “gay” on it. They say there are some there. I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This one is not good. If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way, saying ... wait a moment, how does it say it ... it says: “no one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society”. The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies. For me, this is the greater problem. Thank you so much for asking this question. Many thanks.

The Pope is talking of a person who has repented of a sin, not of the unrepentant. When God forgives a sin, we cannot continue to hold the past against the sinner. What’s more, earlier in the same interview, we had this exchange:

Patricia Zorzan:
Speaking on behalf of the Brazilians: society has changed, young people have changed, and in Brazil we have seen a great many young people. You did not speak about abortion, about same-sex marriage. In Brazil a law has been approved which widens the right to abortion and permits marriage between people of the same sex. Why did you not speak about this?

Pope Francis:
The Church has already spoken quite clearly on this. It was unnecessary to return to it, just as I didn’t speak about cheating, lying, or other matters on which the Church has a clear teaching!

Patricia Zorzan:
But the young are interested in this ...

Pope Francis:
Yes, though it wasn’t necessary to speak of it, but rather of the positive things that open up the path to young people. Isn’t that right! Besides, young people know perfectly well what the Church’s position is.

Patricia Zorzan:
What is Your Holiness’ position, if we may ask?

Pope Francis:
The position of the Church. I am a son of the Church.

 In other words, there is no way that anyone who was paying attention to the interview can think that the whole “who am I to judge” line was giving approval to homosexuality.

The Synod Relatio Post Disceptationem

I mean, seriously? It's NOT the disaster everyone thinks it is.

Once we recognize this exchange in context, it is impossible to think that Pope Francis favors a change on Church teaching in sexual morality—but rather he takes it as a given. What he calls for is studying how we are to deal with a world where a majority don’t even believe that they are doing wrong. There’s a lot of things accepted as “good” now that 40 years ago nobody would have dreamed of accepting. The Church needs to have a game plan in reaching out to all sinners.

When read in this context, with the intent of the synod, it becomes clear that the relatio is understood as the Church investigating how to bring them to Christ . . . whether they be the divorced and remarried, and the cohabiting. There is nothing listed in the document recommending changing doctrine. But we do see the document stating:

39.  All these situations have to be dealt with in a constructive manner, seeking to transform them into opportunities to walk towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy. With a view to this, the attractive testimony of authentic Christian families is important, as subjects for the evangelization of the family.

It’s pretty clear that the goal is not to tell such couples that it is ok to remain as they are.

Moreover, we need to realize that even though the relatio did deal with same sex couples, it did not “lump them together” with the irregular relationships of male-female couples. Indeed the relatio did say:

51.  The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

In other words, the document already has affirmed that the Church will not change her teaching on homosexuality. Like the “Who am I to judge?” comment, the allegation is another fabrication. Perhaps it comes from wishful/fearful thinking by people who do not understand the meaning and the structure of the Church. Perhaps it comes from agitators who think they can treat Church teaching as if it were a political platform. But it is simply false.

The thing that really struck my attention was the reference to the Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate (#2), concerning non-Christian religions. The passage of relevance is:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.

This document recognized that these religions, even though not the true faith, had elements of the truth which can serve as a common point of reference to bring them to the full Truth of Christ.

This relatio from the first half of this synod makes a rational application of Nostra Aetate. Why not look for the “ray of truth” that comes from irregular relationships and use them as a way of pointing them to the full truth? That approach is not heretical or endangering souls. It is an approach of move them from a partial truth to the full truth. What people overlook is the fact that the relatio says nothing about approving of those people who have found themselves in opposition to God on account of their sins.

It is important to remember that this relatio is not a declaration of official Church teaching. It is a report on the first half of the extraordinary synod. It tells us of the issues discussed and gives us a sense of what might be discussed at the 2015 ordinary synod. We must remember that nobody has taught heresy or advocated sin here. It simply says, “We need to talk about these issues and establish the pastoral care for people in difficult situations to bring them over to Christ."


I truly believe the fear among certain Catholics concerning the synod is a fear of Pope Francis not being fit to carry out his office, and a failure to realize that the actions they fear coming into existence would be allowing the Church to formally teach error in a matter concerning salvation. Remember, if remarriage after divorce, cohabitation and same sex relationships are wrong, then the Church permitting them would be teaching them it was OK to do what was evil in the eyes of God. If the Church ever does that, then it’s meaningless to worry—because then the Catholic Church would never have been what she claimed to be. 

Because I do believe she is what she claims to be, I believe God will protect the Church from teaching error in the synod. Moreover, I do believe that Pope Francis is not some “idiot uncle” Pope. I believe he is wise and has a deep love for Christ and His Church, and is determined to be a faithful shepherd to the best of his ability. So I believe all the panic that exists among certain Catholic blogs is misplaced.

If we believe God is protecting His Church, we cannot assume from the fact that some people have a “wish list” incompatible with Christ’s teaching that they will have their way. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Either We Follow Jesus In Everything or We Do Not Follow Him

There is a question every person who professes to be a Christian must answer: Am I a follower of Jesus Christ or not?

Now the question may seem to have an obvious answer. But I wonder how many people who claim to follow Jesus actually consider what following Jesus means. Too many people want to reduce the teaching of Jesus to "be nice to each other." But they also seem to want to separate His "nice" words from His commands. They cite the former (God is Love [1 John 4:8], Judge Not [Matt 7:1]) out of context and ignore His warnings and commands.

But there's a problem here. If Jesus is to be obeyed when He says to love each other, He is also to be obeyed when he says:

  • If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matt 7:21-23)
  • Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16)
  • “If your brother* sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. (Matt 18:15-17)
  • And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)

And that's the whole problem with the Catholic who thinks He can separate Jesus' words of love from His warnings of judgment. We can't say we follow Jesus if we refuse to live as He has commanded. That command also includes giving His authority to His Church and heeding her.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Loving Christ Requires Change

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “It's ok to go on living as you did before. Just be nice to people and don't make judgments on whether behavior is right or wrong." Then he led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are being victimized by your intolerance."

As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Matthew went back to collecting taxes. Peter and Andrew went back to fishing. The woman caught in adultery went back to her lover, telling the Pharisees not to push their morality on her. The Samaritan woman moved back in with the guy she was living with, working on making him husband number six. It was all okay because all that Jesus wanted was for us to be nice to each other and not judge.

--The Gospel according to... absolutely NOBODY.

The above passage is of course a perversion of Matthew 28, John 20 and Luke 24. It runs entirely against what Jesus actually said. But this is the Jesus the modern world seems to think exists. The world takes two passages from the Bible: Matthew 7:1-5 ("Judge not") and 1 John 4:8 ("God is love") and uses them to justify their own behavior, rejecting the concept that they are sinners who need to respond to God's love and gift of grace.

Thus, when the Church speaks about the moral obligations that come from God's love, like John 14:15 ("If you love me, you will keep my commandments"), the response is to condemn the Church for being judgmental, homophobic, anti-woman... basically to accuse the Church of being in opposition to Christ.

That's a mindset that puts souls at risk of eternal damnation. Jesus didn't come to tell people "be nice to each other." He came to save us from our sins.

But that action tells us a couple of things:
■ There are actions we do that are sins.
■ We are to respond to this by amending our lives, turning from evil and seeking to live as God commands (both with the seeking and depending on His grace).

Indeed, the modern world makes a mockery of His actions when they reduce His teaching to the Wiccan  'An it harm none, do what ye will.' It presumes other people are the problem because WE don't harm anybody (at least not anyone that matters), but THEY are trying to keep us from doing what we want.

But Jesus wasn't a "nice guy." He spoke very clearly about sin and Hell and the need to repent. Salvation comes to the penitent who knows his sin and is sorry for it. Not to the arrogant who believe they have nothing to be sorry for (Luke 18:9-14).

The arrogant aren't only the Pharisees. They can be found wherever the person refuses to consider his or her own behavior as being in conflict with God.

Think about it...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Reflections on a Scene from "Son of God"

So, I saw Son of God the other day. It was fairly well done (though like all movies about our Lord, there were scenes I would rather were treated differently). There was one scene that sticks in my mind that was about the two thieves who were crucified with Him.

In this scene, we see Jesus battered and bloody, dying on the cross. The good thief, after rebuking the other, asks Jesus to remember him when He enters His kingdom.

From the perspective of the world, Jesus is a dying criminal. He appears to be a failure. Yet, the good thief has the faith to ask Jesus to remember him when He enters His kingdom all the same. He believes that despite the appearances, Jesus will do what He promised.

Perhaps we should keep this in mind when we face the trials and tribulations of life as Christians. When we face suffering, hostility, mediocre/bad clergy or religious, possibly even persecution, we should look to Jesus with the faith of the good thief, trusting Jesus' promise no matter how hard things may be.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Trying to Set the Church at Odds With Christ


There are times when the Catholic Church is attacked as lacking compassion when it comes to her moral teachings. Our Lord's words on love and mercy are brought up and the attempt is made to argue that Church teaching is at odds with His words.

The Form of the Accusation

The basic argument is,
■ If the Church follows Christ's love she will support X (if A then B)
■ The Church does not support X (not B)
■ Therefore the Church does not follow Christ's love (therefore,  not A)

The logical form is valid (modus tollens), so whether or not the argument works depends on whether or not the premises are true. (To have an argument which is proven true, we need true premises and a valid form).

The Logical Considerations

In fact, the accusation seeking to separate God from Church teaching does have a false premise. The major premise (If the Church follows Christ's love she will support X), actually presupposes what it has to prove -- that the unpopular Church teaching X goes against Christ's teaching on love. (This is known as begging the question).

Instead of proving that claim, we tend to see another fallacy. That fallacy comes from the argument that since Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality (for example), it must be okay. This is the argument from silence, where because nothing is said on a topic, the silence can be used to support my position.

We can point out how ridiculous this is by pointing out that Jesus didn't say anything about necrophilia, bestiality, rape or other particularly vile acts no sane person would champion.

Looking at the Data

This will be the longest section of this article. Because the Catholic Church is accused of going against Christ in her moral teaching, we must look at what He said. This won't be an exhaustive list. But it will show what He says is at odds with the soft Jesus people tend to stop with.

I: God is not divided into factions.

First, we have to consider the fact that Jesus explicitly identifies Himself with God. For example:

■ "The Father and I are one." (John 10:30).
■ "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?" (John 14:9b)

Why do we need to start with these verses? Because they show we can't separate the "nice guy Jesus" from God in the Old Testament. God is one God in three persons in the Trinity, but The three persons aren't at odds with each other. God the Father who condemned certain things as wicked in the Old Testament also sent His Son to save us from our sins.

BUT, saving us from our sins means there are sins we need saving from... sins God spoke out against through revelation and through the natural law.

II: The Old Law is Fulfilled and Perfected in Christ.

This usually brings us to a counter charge that tries to put the Old Testament at odds with Christ. They point to the darker passages of the Old Testament, asking why we don't practice the harsh sentences called for in the Jewish law. Sometimes, this contrast is used to claim that because Christ appears less harsh than the Old Testament, we can therefore go from saying X is a sin to X is not a sin. But this is comparing apples and oranges.

The weakness in this challenge is the failure to understand the Christian understanding of the Law. For example:

■ “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:17-19).

In other words, Jesus tells us He is specifically NOT saying things go from being sin to not being sin. He is instead fulfilling the purpose of the Law. This fulfillment is not making things more lax. It is making things more demanding.

Matthew 5:21-48 shows how it is made more demanding. It's not enough to say, "I never killed anybody, never committed adultery etc." If we harbor hatred or lust, we are also guilty of sin.

Also, we need to consider St. Paul on the Law, in Galatians:

■ "Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian* for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian." (Galatians 3:23-25)

■ "I mean that as long as the heir is not of age,* he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world.* But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption." (Galatians 4:1-5)

This requires us to understand something about Greco-Roman culture. In that time, a child was often supervised by a slave known as a pedagogue (translated as "guardian" by the NAB). This slave had the authority and responsibility to make sure that the youth carried out what the father wanted him to do. The youth did not have the rights or responsibilities of being a heir until he reached the age of maturity. At this point, the purpose of the pedagogue was achieved.

That didn't mean what the pedagogue did was worthless or cast aside. His teaching prepared the youth in his charge for when he came of age. The heir now had to bear the responsibility for his actions.

As Christians, we are no longer under the Law, but we still must do what God wants us to do. Not because "it's against the Law" to go against God, but because to act against God is to act in willful rejection of His love for us.

III: Jesus Christ Specifically Links Loving Him With Keeping His Commandments.

It is quite true that God is love as 1 John 4:8 tells us. But loving God involves more than sentimentality. It involves action. Jesus tells us things like:

■ "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
■ "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." (Matt 7:21)

Jesus Christ loves us and died for us, but He also makes clear that those who would enter His Kingdom and profess love for Him must live in accordance with His commandments. If we refuse to do so, we cannot honestly claim to love Him and we cannot enter His kingdom.

IV: Christ's  Commandments Concerning His Church

Now we get to some very difficult facts for the person who tries to separate Jesus from the Church.  Jesus specifically tells us about the authority He gives to others to act in His name.  For example:

■ "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Luke 10:16)
■ "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt 16:18-19)
■ "If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt 18:17-18)
■ "Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20)

What we see here is the Church is not an arbitrary institution created by men and unjustly imposing rules. The Church has her authority and mission given her by Christ. Rejection of this authority is not a valid option. It is rejecting Christ Himself and is a serious wrong.

V: Christ's Words on Moral Issues

As I mentioned in the beginning, some people try to argue that because he did not condemn a specific sin, it means He had no opinion on the issue. I pointed out that this was a logical fallacy (Argument from Silence).

But it is also a case of ignoring the fact that just because a condemnation was not made does not mean He did not address the issue. These kind of spurious arguments ignore the overall understanding of what Christ teaches.

Let's look at how Christ described marriage. This is the best example because of how many people accuse the Church of lacking compassion over sexual issues.

■ "He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matt 19:4-6)

In this small section, Jesus defines marriage as between one man and one woman in a lifelong marriage. This excludes polygamy, so called "gay marriage," divorce and remarriage and other sins people want the Church to change her teaching about. It refutes the claim that Christ "didn't say anything about X."  Not because He mentioned homosexuality (for example) by name, but because He defined marriage in such a way that bars any other possibilities.

We can see here that the ones who stand at odds with Christ is not His Church, but those who want the Church to change. 

The Terrible Truth

Because of the data from Christ's own teaching, those who want to make the Church change her teaching have to face the terrible truth... in order to promote their vices, and claim that the Church goes against God has to deny those words of Christ which go against their claims.

1) They have to deny the link between God in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ which Jesus makes explicit.

2) They have to deny Jesus' affirmation of the moral law which condemns the sins people today want approved.

3) They have to deny Jesus' linking obedience to love of Him.

4) They have to deny Jesus' proclaiming that His Church acts with His authority.

5) They have to ignore the words of Christ that contradict their demands for changes in Church teaching.

Once you consider these things, it becomes clear that those who try to separate Christ from the teaching of the Catholic Church must ignore most of what Jesus actually said and emphasize a few statements out of context.


It all comes down to considering what it means to be faithful to Christ. I recognize that the non Catholic Christian and the non Christian may disagree with the Catholic understanding of moral obligation. But even so, they should recognize that this is what the Catholic Church believes she is obliged to do if she would be faithful to Christ.

As for the Catholic who wants change in Church teaching, they must realize that their demands are incompatible with what the Church believes she must do.

When it comes to choosing between appeasing the world, and following Christ, the Church can only repeat what St. Peter said to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:29...

We must obey God rather than men.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TFTD: Distorting Christ

Certain dissenters who want the Church to change the teaching entrusted to her make much of the statement "God is love." It is presumed that any Church "rules" interfering with what they call "love" is against Christ.

Christ, however, said "Your sins are forgiven," and "Go and sin no more." His words indicate there are evil acts which He can forgive and we are to seek to stop living in sin.

The dissenters essentially say, "there is no sin." That effectively makes Jesus nothing more than a nice guy teacher, denying His bringing us salvation.

Monday, September 10, 2012

TFTD: Meaningless…

If a person believes in God in a meaningful way, it is reasonable to expect that this person will seek to follow the teachings of God to the best of his or her understanding and ability.

If a person believes in Christ in a meaningful way, it is reasonable to expect that this person will seek to follow the teachings of Christ to the best of his or her understanding and ability.

If a person claims to be a Catholic, in a meaningful sense, it is reasonable to expect this person to recognize that the Catholic Church was established by Christ and teaches with Christ's authority, protected from teaching error on issues necessary for salvation.


If one rejects the teaching and authority of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Church Christ founded, such a person cannot claim to be a faithful Catholic in any meaningful sense of the term.

Once we realize this, when we look at the claims of those Catholics who deny the commands of God and Jesus Christ and/or the teachings of the Catholic Church are binding, what they claim to profess… is pretty meaningless.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thoughts on Infallibility (Part IIc): Other Gospel Passages Involving Peter

As I make constant references to past articles in this series, here are the links for your convenience.

  • Part I can be found here
  • Part IIa can be found here
  • Part IIb can be found here


Now that we have discussed Matthew 16, there are other considerations from Scripture to look at about Peter.  Some of them show Peter has an important role.  Others we will look at because it they are commonly used by non-Catholics to challenge the belief in Peter being given headship over the Church established by Christ.

As this article is lengthy in itself, it will merely focus on the Gospel passages, especially those which seem to be misinterpreted or misrepresented when it comes to rejecting the Catholic belief.  Article IId will move on to Acts and the Epistles, where, once Christ has ascended, we see how the Church carries on His teachings through Peter.

The reader is reminded that the parts of article II are not independent, but is essentially a large article broken into parts (otherwise, it would be over 10,000 words in length)

Preliminary Remarks

Some readers may notice I am focusing more on authority rather than on infallibility in this article.  This is because infallibility is necessarily linked to authority which will be bound or loosed in Heaven.  If an error is bound or loosed in Heaven, it indicates that God's authority is behind this error.

Keep in mind that the Early Christians saw the Scriptures of the New Testament as authoritative because of the source (the Apostles, or in the case of Mark and Luke, because they were written by those who knew the Apostles).  Paul, Peter, James, Jude, John, Matthew… their writings were accepted as people who had encountered Christ personally and who taught with authority.  Mark was traditionally held to be written by one who knew Peter personally.  Luke was traditionally held to be one who knew Paul personally.

We recognize that these New Testament writings are inspired and inerrant.  However, we forget the fact that they were held to be important because of who was writing them.

So we have a link: The Apostles were believed to be teaching authentically what was handed to them by Jesus, and when they made decisions (the appointment of Matthias and the Council of Jerusalem), nobody questioned their right to do so.

If God Cannot Err, He Cannot Contradict Himself

At any rate, because of the fact that what Peter binds and looses will be bound and loosed in Heaven, we ought to add a ninth syllogism to consider.

Syllogism #9

  1. [God] is [inerrant] (All [A] is [B])
  2. No [contradictory claims] are [inerrant] (No [C] is [B])
  3. Therefore no [contradictory claims] are from [God] (Therefore no [C] is [A])

Those who disagree with the Catholic understanding of infallibility often argue that since "it doesn't exist, there is no problem," but since we have Jesus' promise directed to Peter, we do have a problem.  Either God protects Peter and his successors from error when teaching or we do have the possibility of God binding and protecting error.  Since we do acknowledge that the Church was protected from error in the case of the canon of Scripture (See article I, syllogism #4), we can see it is not unreasonable for Catholics to believe God protects the Church in other areas in terms of things essential for salvation.

Part I: Do Certain Gospel Verses in Scripture Deny the Primacy of Peter?

(Please note that this article pertains to the Gospels alone.  Passages in Acts (Such as Acts 15) and the Epistles (such as Galatians 2) will come in Article IId.  I haven't overlooked these.  This separation is done to keep these articles from going on too long.)

Did Jesus Revoke His Promise?

So let's look at the allegation that certain passages revoke the promise made to Peter (and a promise was made, to Peter specifically in the second person) in Matthew 16.  I have come across some groups who claim that even if Jesus did make a promise to Peter, Peter's later actions in Scripture show that he lost the rights to this promise.

However, if we accept Syllogism #9, we can't accept this interpretation.  If Jesus, being God (See article IIb Syllogism #8) is inerrant, then for Him to revoke a promise He made would be to contradict Himself.  Was He wrong in making the promise?  Or wrong in revoking it?  Catholics don't believe Christ did revoke His promise to Peter, but those who do claim this need to recognize that a God who does not err does not make promises He is unwilling to keep.

Therefore we need to keep syllogism #9 in mind when looking at the argument against infallibility from Matthew 16:20-23, which reads:

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.

22 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”

23 He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Some have argued that this was a revocation of the promise made to Peter by Jesus (which indicates a promise was indeed made).  However, there are some problems with this.  The first is Syllogism #9 above.  If Jesus made a promise to bind and loose in Heaven what Peter bound and loosed on Earth, then the revocation of this would be a contradiction of this promise.

This is because either Jesus would have erred in making this promise to begin with, or He would have erred in revoking it.  Now, since we accept Jesus is God (See syllogism 8 in Article IIb) and that God cannot err (Syllogism 1 in Article I) it stands to reason that Jesus would not have made the poor judgment of making a promise to Peter and then needing to revoke it.

The second reason is even simpler.  The rebuke makes no mention of a revocation of the promise Christ made.  To claim there was a revocation is simply the insertion of a meaning into the text (eisegesis).  Therefore, these verses cannot be used as evidence to a claim that Christ did so.  The verses simply don't say what people who argue a revocation want them to say.

It seems more probable that the rebuke was over Peter's failure to understand the mission of the Messiah.  The human thinking was of a political messiah who was to right the wrongs in Israel.  God's thinking was of the salvation of the world from their sins.  What sounded horrible to Peter (the crucifixion) was perfectly understandable when one knew God's plan of salvation.

The only way one could try to use this passage against Peter would be if they wanted to claim Peter was making an official Church teaching (which I don't believe is the case).  However, unlike other verses where Peter does make decrees (such as in Acts), in this case, Peter spoke privately with Jesus ("took him aside").  So it seems, again, that this passage does not indicate what certain people claim about it.

Did Peter's Denial Mean The Revocation of Christ's Promise?

That Peter denied Jesus is attested to in all of the Scriptures (see Matt 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38).  Peter promised to stay with Jesus even if it meant risking his life.  Jesus foretold that Peter would deny Him.  It turned out that Peter did exactly what Jesus had foretold.

The problem is, to claim that these verses mean Peter lost his right to the promise Peter made is eisegesis, putting a meaning into Scripture which is not present.  Indeed, we see in Luke 22:31-32, that Jesus had something to say to Peter:

31 “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you [second person plural] like wheat,

32 but I have prayed that your own faith [second person singular] may not fail; and once you [second person singular] have turned back, you [second person singular] must strengthen your [second person singular] brothers.”

Now, remembering Syllogism #9, it follows that either Jesus contradicts Himself (if the promise to Peter is revoked when Peter denies Jesus) or else Jesus, knowing all the disciples would falter, and that when Peter turned back (the Greek indicates turning from doing wrong, repenting), he was to strengthen (establish, make firm) his brothers.

In other words, Peter has an assignment which anticipates his denial.  To strengthen his brethren once he has turned back.

When we get to John 21, we can see that despite Peter's denial, we have a scene with Jesus and Peter which is touching:

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

16 He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (Jesus) said to him, “Feed my sheep.

18 Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

19 He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter is again given the mission to tend Jesus' lambs and sheep.  Given that we are the sheep of His flock, Peter's mission is one of looking after the flock.  It seems to be a necessary element of this commission that Peter must have authority over this flock.  Otherwise, how could Peter tend the sheep?

So it seems that Peter's personal sins did not take away from the task which God had called him to do.

What About The "Dispute over Authority" Verses?

Others point to the dispute among the Apostles as to who was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  They argue that this means that the Apostles were not aware of the primacy of Peter  However, this is to miss the point of these readings.  This was not about authority over the Church on Earth, but over privileges when Christ came into power.  Like Peter in Matthew 16:21-23, they couldn't fully grasp the idea that Christ's kingdom was not a political kingdom on Earth.

The dispute among the Apostles seems to have been set off by James and John and their mother, who asked for a special favor in Matthew 20:

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.

21 He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

22 Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.”

23 He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left (, this) is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers.

25 But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.

26 But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;

27 whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.

28 Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (See also, Mark 10:35-44)

What we have here is not a denial of authority in the Church, but an insistence on what this authority is for.  James and John wanted special privileges when Jesus came in His glory.  Jesus made clear that the one who would lead would do so as service to the whole, and not as a  position of privilege.  The Catholic Church recognizes this, in one of the titles of the Pope, which is Servant of the Servants of God.  We see the Pope as having a ministry which looks out for the good of the Church in the role of the shepherd, and not as some sort of monarch living off of his subjects.  The fact that some have not lived up to this does not take away from the intent Christ has called those who would shepherd to observe.

Part II:The Relationship of Jesus and Peter in Scripture

The next section is to look at the relation of Christ to Peter in the Gospel accounts.  We have Matthew 16 which gives us the promise, but how did the actions in Scripture show this?  Some may not be too impressed by this section.  However, as I mentioned in Article IIb, we are looking at the Scriptures as data.  How was Peter involved in the ministry of Christ?  Do we see any prominence in Peter's actions among the twelve?

These are all things which make sense when one accepts the claim that Peter was made the head of the Church, but seem somewhat random if one rejects this.

First in the Lists

First we need to notice the prominence of Peter in all the lists of the Apostles.  While in all the lists, ten of them are given in various sequences, Peter is always placed first and Judas is always placed last.  Judas being placed last is pretty obvious.  As the betrayer of Christ, he would not be seen as equal to the others.  Yet Peter is always first.  Not James (which would seem likely if it was James who was head of the Church as some seek to argue).  Nor is it John, the Beloved Disciple.  James and John are considered important of course and play important roles in the Gospels… but are usually mentioned with Peter, with Peter mentioned first.

So the person who would deny the primacy of Peter would need to explain this curious fact, as to why all four Gospels mention Peter first.

Peter the Spokesman

We also need to recognize that when it came to the actions of the Apostles, it was mostly Peter who spoke for the Apostles (See Matt 15:15, 16:23, 18:21, 19:27, Luke 12:41, John 6:68 for example).  Now 18th century Protestant commentator Matthew Henry wrote:

Peter’s temper led him to be forward in speaking upon all such occasions, and sometimes he spoke well, sometimes amiss; in all companies there are found some warm, bold men, to whom a precedency of speech falls of course; Peter was such a one: yet we find other of the apostles sometimes speaking as the mouth of the rest; as John (Mk. 9:38), Thomas, Philip, and Jude, Jn. 14:5, 8, 22.

However, this isn't really the case.  It's inserting meaning which assumes the denial of the primacy of Peter and seeks to justify this assumption.  First, the invocation of Peter's personality is something Henry is putting into Scripture (eisegesis).  Second, the other cases indicate they were speaking for themselves, whereas Peter asks questions like "Do you intend this parable for us…?"

Peter the Second In Command

I always found this section striking from Matthew 17:

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?”

26 When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt.

27 But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.”

First of all, the collectors went to Peter, which seems to indicate that there was some purpose to approaching him, instead of Jesus, and instead of one of the others among the twelve.  Second, that Jesus had a miracle pay the tax not just for Jesus, but for Peter too.  However, not for the other eleven.  There seems to be the demonstration of a link between Jesus and Peter not necessarily present with the other eleven.

Now some have claimed it was because it was Peter's house that he was approached.  However, we need to consider something here.  All males 20 and older were obligated to pay the Temple Tax when enrolled in the census, as we see in Exodus 30:

11 The LORD also said to Moses,

12 “When you take a census of the Israelites who are to be registered, each one, as he is enrolled, shall give the LORD a forfeit for his life, so that no plague may come upon them for being registered.

13 Everyone who enters the registered group must pay a half-shekel, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel. This payment of a half-shekel is a contribution to the LORD.

14 Everyone of twenty years or more who enters the registered group must give this contribution to the LORD.

15 The rich need not give more, nor shall the poor give less, than a half-shekel in this contribution to the LORD to pay the forfeit for their lives.

16 When you receive this forfeit money from the Israelites, you shall donate it to the service of the meeting tent, that there it may be the Israelites’ reminder before the LORD, of the forfeit paid for their lives.”

So, all the twelve were obligated to pay, and about a month before Passover, there were moneychangers throughout Israel according to some sources who would exchange the foreign coins for the shekel (the tax seems to have been paid at the Temple, but since the shekel was not used for ordinary [civil] transactions (see Matt. 22:19), it appears it was a special coin for religious purposes and transactions [See John 2:15]). 

Jews who were residents and visitors both could make use of the service, so mere residency seems not to apply.  Yet the question was only asked about Jesus, and Jesus provided the coin needed to pay for Him and Peter. Remember, Peter's brother Andrew (Luke 6:14) and his partners in fishing James and John (Luke 5:10) also lived in the area (and thus would fit under the residence question), and some have alleged that it was James, not Peter, who was head of the Church in light of Acts 15.  Yet they did not go to James, a fellow Apostle and partner of Peter in the fishing enterprise.

So, the questions are: If one denies a special role for Peter, then why did the collectors go to Peter with the question?  Why did Jesus include Peter with Himself when it comes to paying the tax but not the other apostles?

Jesus' Visiting Peter after the Resurrection

Another interesting fact was shown in Luke 24:

33 So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them

34 who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”

35 Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

While we do not have an account of what Jesus said to Peter, I find it notable that Peter was one of the first (since we do not know whether Jesus appeared to Peter before, after or at the same time He was present with the two disciples) to see the risen Lord.

Taken by itself, perhaps one could shrug it off and say "Who knows what God was thinking?"  However, God does not act randomly, even if we may not be able to comprehend the mind of God.  When we consider what Jesus has said to Peter in Luke 22:31-32, it seems this is not merely a throwaway incident.

It is not enough to argue a possible alternate interpretation.  One could argue a possible alternate explanation with space aliens.  The issue is, on what basis is this alternate explanation held?


Each individual piece, taken in isolation could be given an alternate explanation.  However, when taken as a whole, it becomes much more like obstinacy to deny that Peter had a role given to him by Christ to tend His sheep, and strengthen his brethren.

In the next article (IId), I intend to look at the role of Peter in Acts and in the Epistles.  Jesus has ascended to Heaven.  How does Peter act then?

Hopefully, after IId, I will be done with Peter and Scripture, and ready to move on to what Christ had to say about His Church itself in Article III.

Monday, October 26, 2009

On Witness: Two Quadrilemmas

How are we to understand the attacks made by some atheists against the reliability of the Disciples of Jesus as witnesses to what He said and did?  Christians of course believe that cases against their credibility are dubious at best, but what are they to do when they encounter claims which seek to deny the value of their witness?

The False Revelation Argument

One of the objections given to the witness of the Apostles, is the claim that other people (Mohammed, Joseph Smith, etc.) claim to have had divine revelation.  The problem with the argument is that it generally concludes to the effect of "Those claims were false so it is also likely that the claims of the Apostles are false.

You can't Prove a Universal from a Limited Case

There are several problems with this sort of an argument.  First of all, it argues from a specific case to reach a universal conclusion.  If what Mohammed or Joseph Smith claims is not true, that speaks against their specific case, not the case of anybody else.  If Bill and Jack both claim to have been robbed, and Jack lied about it has no bearing on whether Bill was lying.

What that argument has as an enthymeme (an unspoken assumption) is the claim that God does not exist so any claims of a form of revelation are false.  So the full argument would run like this:

  • God does not exist (Enthymeme)
  • Person X claims to have had a revelation from God
  • Therefore Person X is lying or deceived

The problem of course is the enthymeme needs to be proven logically if it is to be used as the basis of a logical argument.  If the premise needs to be established as valid, the conclusion is not proven to be true.  So as it stands, the argument cannot be used as a challenge to the case of witnesses.

The False Analogy

The second common problem with the claim is it is a false analogy.  People like Mohammed and Joseph Smith claimed to have private revelation from God, and convinced people to follow them out of largely material promises of a physical afterlife.

The case of the Apostles was different.  Who they followed was a specific person who did not make promises of physical rewards.  Indeed, the Jesus they followed made clear that political liberation and wealth were not the message He was teaching.  Those who followed Him (which were more than "Twelve men" as some have misrepresented) attested to what He said and the works He performed to back them up.  These are not merely accounted for in the Gospels.  The Talmud mentions these acts, though it calls them "magic."  So do the secular Roman accounts.

Two Quadrilemma and Atheistic Claims

The problem the atheist has to address is why they hold what they hold.  We can study by breaking this down into categories.  There are two ways we can look at it: One is whether Jesus spoke truthfully and the second is whether Jesus said what was claimed.

The First Quadrilemma

The first quadrilemma is based on whether or not Jesus spoke truthfully over what He said

  1. Jesus either was what He claimed or He was not
  2. The Apostles either believed what He claimed or they did not.

This leaves us with a quadrilemma. 

  1. Jesus was what He claimed to be and the Apostles believed His claims (What the Christians believe)
  2. Jesus was not what He claimed but the Apostles believed His claims (Apostles Deluded)
  3. Jesus was not what He claimed and the apostles did not believe His claims (Apostles Lying)
  4. Jesus was what He claimed and the Apostles did not believe His claims (Apostles Lying)

Of these claims, the Christians hold #1, atheists tend to be divided over #2 and #3, and with #4 in the past some Gnostics held to it, and some New Agers hold a variant of this sort of view.

The theology of Christianity (#1) holds that Jesus was what He claimed to be and the Apostles witnessed these claims and believed.  Christian apologetics comes from this perspective, and the one seeking to understand this should look to these sources.

The Gnostic view (#4) holds that Jesus was God, but the Apostles did not believe what He really said He was.  The problem with this view is, how do they know what was claimed without the witness of those who knew Jesus personally?

This leaves us with the two remaining views which atheists claim: Jesus did not speak truthfully and the apostles were deceived about what He said and did (#2) or Jesus was not what He said He was and the apostles lied about what He said.

The problem with both assertions is: On what basis can this be held?

Let's look at #2 first.  If Jesus lied or was deluded about what He claimed, on what basis do we assert this?  Is there evidence for this claim?  Or is it based on the assumption that Jesus could not be God because there is no God.  This assertion cannot be claimed as fact without evidence.

See how the assumption that atheism must be true keeps showing up in all arguments?  Yet atheism is the conclusion.  It can't be the premise as well.  So from a logical perspective this claim cannot stand on its own until the premise (Jesus was not who He said He was) is proven true.

Of course in this case the atheist who makes this claim [and to be fair, not all do] is arguing from a universal negative.  Such a case cannot be proven true unless actual evidence is produced which attests to this.

Such is the problem with the "Deluded disciples" argument.

In case #3, we have another level of proof needed.  Not only did Jesus lie (or was deluded), but the Apostles did not believe what they were teaching.  In other words, the Apostles lied about what Jesus said and did. 

This is the case where the counterargument of cui bono? (Who benefits?) comes into play.  How did the apostles benefit from the lie?  They were not rich or powerful.  They were executed for their beliefs, hated by their own ethnic groups.

Case #3 not only has to establish that Christ was not who He said He was, but also has to establish why these "false witnesses" would rather die than recant what they lied about.

Therefore Case #3 also requires evidence to impeach the credibility of the disciples.  Yet again, the argument is based on the belief that God does not exist and seeks to find an alternate motive for the Apostles.

Ultimately, the Christians present their case for #1.  Those who hold it false need to provide their evidence for why they hold #'s 2,3 or 4.

The Second Quadrilemma

Some might find this a bit redundant, but it is necessary to investigate an alternate claim made by some atheists, and that is the claim that Jesus did not even say what the Apostles claimed He did. Again we need two divisions of two groups:

  1. Either Jesus said what is attributed to Him or they did not
  2. The disciples either understood what Jesus said or they did not

With these categories, we again have four groups:

  1. Jesus did say what is attributed to Him and the disciples understood it
  2. Jesus did say what is attributed to Him and the disciples did not understand it
  3. Jesus did not say what is attributed to Him and the Apostles understood it
  4. Jesus did not say what is attributed to Him and the Apostles did not understand it

Now in these cases, it seems the atheist dodges the horns of having to prove Christ was lying or deluded, but it does open more problems as well.

Case #1 is what Christians believe

Case #2 is not too common.  Some heresies would hold that the Church misunderstood the Bible for example and their version is accurate.

Case #3 again assumes the Apostles knew what Jesus did teach but lied about it.  (Some Muslims say this about St. Paul for example)

Case #4 is what is argued by those who claimed that Jesus had a human message but the disciples misunderstood his language (taking it over literally).  A variant of this is the Muslim claim that the Scriptures were altered and misrepresented by the Apostles who did not understand Christ was teaching Islam.

With case #1 of course, one would look to the writings of the apostles as true.  This is what Christians believe, and the defense of such a view would be found in the Christian writings.

With case #2 we have some of the early Christological heresies of the Church which held that certain biblical passages were in contradiction to what the Apostles claimed and therefore they got it wrong.  This gets into the concept of How do we interpret the New Testament?

With case #3, we have an alternate expression of the third case in the first quadrilemma: The apostles lied about what Jesus said.  Again, cui bono?  What did they gain?

In case#4, we would find most atheists who want to say that Jesus was merely misunderstood and His disciples did not understand what He was trying to say.  There are some problems with this reasoning however.

First, such a view assumes Jesus was a wise teacher, but merely misunderstood.  Yet a wise teacher seeks to make sure his students understand him before he goes on.  He does not use metaphorical language if it is clear that his students are taking it literally.

Second, such a teaching has to be taken into context of the culture: The teachings of the disciples was that Jesus Christ was God made man.  Yet to the Jews, such a view would be blasphemous, and His first disciples were Jews.  It would have been easier for a pagan to accept it than a Jew.  Yet they did either accept His claim or mistakenly thought He taught it and believed it.  How can this be reconciled, and what evidence exists for such a view?

Third: If Jesus did not teach what the Disciples claimed He taught, then what did He teach?  How can we know the disciples misunderstood what was said without evidence of what was said.  Without this, we do not have anything factual, but merely a counter-theory based on the idea that whatever Jesus was, it could not be God.

The Endless Circle

Notice how these claims all return back to the central atheistic conclusion: There is no God.  The claims made about what "really" must have happened are based on this conclusion.  But for an atheist to appeal to science or to doctored texts or falsehood or delusion as a reason to object to the Christian claim needs to demonstrate that his view has basis in fact if it is to be taken as a reasonable objection.

What it Leads To

I don't doubt some atheists will read this and think I am arguing that "atheism is false, so Christianity is true."  I am not.  Rather I am examining certain claims made by some atheists which are used to state that Christianity is "unreasonable."  In doing so, I show the logical flaws in their case and that the argument in question cannot be reasonably used against the Christian belief.

Now of course the demonstrating the flaws in the atheistic claim does not yet prove Christianity true, but it does show certain attacks against Christianity are without a solid basis and can reasonably be dismissed.