Showing posts with label Scripture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scripture. Show all posts

Monday, April 17, 2023

It’s Iimi! The Universe, Galileo, & All That…

Mr. Gehr uses his science class to talk about the beginning of the universe… or is he misusing it to attack the beliefs of Iimi and her friends by means of The Universe, Galileo, & all that…


Preliminary Notes:

286 Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason, even if this knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error. This is why faith comes to confirm and enlighten reason in the correct understanding of this truth: “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church #286)

Unfortunately, certain people insist that EVERYTHING in the Bible is supposed to be taken literally. So they rely on an English translation without allowance for language, context, culture, or genre. But not everything in the Bible is intended to be read as history. 


Hebrew words like yom (יוֹם) and ʾāreṣ (אֶרֶץ) are commonly translated as “day” and “world,” respectively. But Hebrew has a broader meaning than those English terms. So, we’re not stymied by people who insist that the world is over six thousand years old or there is no evidence of the Flood covering the entire planet.


Like Iimi, I accept the Bible as true and view the Catholic Church as the authentic interpreter. I accept that God is the creator of all that has existed. These views come from what the Church has had to say on the subject. Anyone who reads the comic and thinks, “She’s saying the Bible is in error,” has missed the point.


All of my information on the Hebrew meaning of words comes from HALOT (The Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament). It’s considered the standard modern dictionary for Biblical Hebrew.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

It’s Iimi! A Question of Authority

Once more, Kismetta has questions for Iimi. But they’re not so much aimed at “debunking” Christianity as it is asking to learn about Christianity. Iimi needs to tread carefully because how she replies could permanently affect how Kismetta accepts the Church’s answer to… A Question of Authority.

Post Comic notes:


For those curious about the dialogue Sumeja is hearing on the other end, this is the Google Translation of Page 2, panel 1:

Voice (Zara): من هذا عزيزي؟  (min hadh eazizi?)

(Who is this, dear?)


Bahrudin: أنا أتحدث إلى سوميجا ، الزوجة الأولى ، عزيزتي  ('ana 'atahadath 'iilaa Sumija, alzawjat al'uwlaa , eazizati)

 (I am speaking to Sumeja, the first wife, dear)


Zara:  لماذا اتصلت متأخرا جدا؟  أليس بعد اثنتي عشرة ساعة هناك؟  (limadha atasalat muta'akhiran jidana? 'alays baed aithnatay eashrat saeatan hunaka?)

(Why is she calling so late? isn’t it twelve hours later there?)


I wrote in English and translated into Arabic. I’m sure a speaker of Arabic would find all sorts of problems with the translation.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

It’s Iimi! But Where Does That Leave You?

Would you believe using a Mongolian Heavy Metal band could be used as an apologetics tool? Iimi tries it when Kismetta brings up arguments used by some Muslims to argue that the Old and New Testament were corrupted. Iimi points out that not only are these arguments flawed, but if they were valid, they would discredit the Quran, not the Bible.

As a side note, I was so surprised by just how weak some of the arguments against the Bible were, that I had to double check to make sure they weren’t strawman misrepresentations put in the mouths of Muslims. Apparently they actually are used and are that weak.

Reviewing the episode Lesson One: Knowing That We Don’t Know will be helpful, as this episode builds on it.

As a note on spelling, when I was in my teens and early twenties, spelling of Islamic names were Koran and Mohammed. Now the preferred spelling is Quran (people debate whether or not to spell it Qu’ran) and Muhammad. As there is no standardized transliteration between Arabic and English, this change is understandable. I have no problems with using the currently accepted spelling. But, as I am used to the older spelling, I might subconsciously slip up and use it or a mashup of the two without catching it [#].

Also, keep in mind, Muslims use certain honorifics in speaking of Allah, Isa (Jesus), and Muhammad. These would take up extra space in the panels, making them more cramped. So, while I omit them for reasons of space, Kismetta should be assumed to be using them.


[#] As an example of my mashups, Kismetta’s last name was originally “Dzumhur” (a Bosnian Muslim surname I found on the internet). But since my brain transposed the H and the Z, I had to retcon it to “Dhumzir” because my uncaught mistakes outnumbered the correct spelling.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reflections on Not Judging

People like to cite Matthew 7:1-5 when it comes to moral teaching. Saying something is not compatible with the Christian life is met with the argument that this is judging, and Christ said not to judge. Therefore you're judging by saying that it's wrong. 



That is a dubious claim to be sure. So let's look at what it says: 


Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. 


The point in these verses is not to say that you can't say something is wrong. Otherwise, the part about "remove the wooden beam from your eye first" would make no sense. If we're not supposed to judge anything, then why remove your own? Live and let live, right? 


But under that logic, we can't speak against the actions of the murderer, the rapist or the tyrant like Hitler. If it's wrong for the Christian to say that abortion or homosexual acts are wrong because we're forbidden to judge actions, then it stands to reason we can't say that genocide is wrong under the same criterion--judging actions being forbidden.  Since this conclusion is absurd, it's clear that this is not the true meaning of the verses. 


What is being spoke of here is not the forbidding of determining whether actions are right or wrong. It's about judging a person's life--one's own or that of others. We're not to decide, "This person's life is worth saving, that person's life is not. This person is worthy of respect, that person is not." 


Or, to use an example, imagine the person saying: "Nancy Pelosi is going to Hell, so the Pope should excommunicate her and be done with it." That goes against the Scripture because we can't just write her off. We are called to love and correct the sinner. If she chooses to reject the teaching of the Church and dies in final impenitence, God will judge her, and that judgment will be final. But that judgment hasn't happened yet and God wants us to be His instrument to reach out to her. He also wants us to be His instrument to reach out to other sinners.


Imagine what the Church might have lost if St. Ambrose had decided that this Augustine guy was a lost cause doomed to Hell.  St. Ambrose neither wrote him off nor said his behavior didn't matter. He bore witness to the truth of good and evil, and he bore witness to the love of God.  


It's only when we understand this that we can understand the Pope's words: "Who am I to judge?"  He was speaking of a priest alleged to have a notorious past that some thought should have disqualified him from his current appointment. Pope Francis addressed this attitude by pointing out that if a person repents of his past and seeks to live rightly from that point on, he will not hold that past against him. 


His statement actually demonstrates that sin exists and is wrong—but repentance and forgiveness also exist. We can't deny others that repentance and forgiveness or else it will be denied to us.

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.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tutu's Tragedy: Denial of God's Authority in Favor of Error

Yesterday, Archbishop Tutu stated "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place," and "I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this."

Such a statement reflects what happens when we forget the aim of Christianity and reduce it to being nothing more than a social action NGO by focusing solely on the immediate physical needs of individuals. 

The Christian is called to know, love and serve God. Christ makes obedience to His commandments a sign of loving Him (see John 14:15). Since His Church and His scriptures say that homosexual acts are wrong, the Christian is called to avoid those acts and to speak out to make others aware of the dangers of the path they are on (See Ezekiel 33:1-20). If we are silent, the sinner will die in his sins and we will be held accountable.

Tutu, by his statement, has effectively rejected the God who is goodness and love unless God will change His teaching to conform with Tutu's will. I'm sure he's being over rhetorical in saying he (like many Anglicans) rejects the Christian teaching on homosexuality, denying it is from God, but the problem is his rhetoric is a denial of God in one way or another.

Since the Scriptures and the Church do teach that homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong, Tutu is either:

  1. denying that God is good or
  2. denying that Scripture does authoritatively teach truth about how we are to behave.

In other words, Tutu either rejects God explicitly or rejects the authority of teachings he dislikes even when Christianity believes it comes from God.

Now, acts of violence against people on account of their sexual orientation (which seems to be the basis of his statement) is of course condemned and the acts of violence described in the article of course fall under that condemnation.  For example, the Catholic Church teaches:

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, emphasis added)

However, the unjust actions some people perform against individuals with a same sex attraction disorder do not take away the fact that actions which are intrinsically wrong may never be justified.

That's the problem.  "Homophobia" is a pejorative label which seeks to vilify anyone who believes homosexual acts are morally wrong.  It is used to equate Christians who try to live as God commands with the barbaric thugs who actually kill or harm people.  It's like saying that all Muslims are terrorists based on the actions of some Muslim radicals.  Muslims can rightly be appalled by the immorality of the West without being terrorists and Christians can oppose homosexual acts as sinful without supporting violence against people with homosexual attraction.

So with Tutu, he uses the appeal to emotion to link apartheid and belief that homosexuality is wrong – basically claiming (without proof) that belief that homosexual acts are sinful have the same motivation as the appalling racism of apartheid.  But if the Christian teaching comes from God, then Tutu is indeed rejecting God… either by repudiating Him directly or by denying the authority of His Scriptures and Church.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thoughts on Infallibility (Interlude III): What the Catholic Church Believes About Scripture

The Series so Far

  1. Article I
  2. Article IIa
  3. Article IIb
  4. Article IIc
  5. Interlude
  6. Article IId
  7. Article IIe
  8. Article IIIa
  9. Article IIIb
  10. Interlude II
  11. Article IVa

As I work my way through various Protestant Sources to make sure I understand Sola Scriptura, I have noticed one troubling trend which appears constantly: The misstating of what educated Catholics believe about Scripture.

Now of course it is one thing to understand but reject the Catholic understanding of Scripture.  It is entirely another thing to misrepresent what Catholics believe, knowingly or not.  To pass on what one knows to be false, or to pass on false statements without verifying if they are true is to bear false witness.

Ultimately God is the one who will judge the level of culpability of those who bear false witness.  For the person who has no way of finding out otherwise, the degree of responsibility is far less than the person who can find out what Catholics teach on the subject but refuses to do so.

It is not my intent to declare what the level of culpability exists in an individual.  Nor do I have any idea whether a particular non-Catholic visitor to my site holds to these sorts of views.  Rather, my intention is to point out to the non-Catholic what we in fact do believe to avoid misunderstanding us and charging us wrongly.

I believe it is important to state what we believe here before moving forward because it is possible some, not knowing what we do believe, may take the rejection of the Protestant view as a denial of the Inspiration and authority of Scripture.

The Catholic Views on Scripture in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say on the Inspiration of Scripture:

101 In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: "Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men."63

102 Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:64

You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.65

103 For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body.66

104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God".67 "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them."68

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."69

"For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, 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."70

106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."71

107 The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."72

108 Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book." Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, a word which is "not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living".73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures."74

109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.75

110 In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression."76

111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written."77

The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.78

112 1. Be especially attentive "to the content and unity of the whole Scripture". Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God's plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.79

The phrase "heart of Christ" can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.80

113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"81).

114 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.82 By "analogy of faith" we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.

She also exhorts the faithful to read the Scriptures:

131 "And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life."109 Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful."110

132 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."111

133 The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.112

I hope this citation makes clear what Catholics do in fact believe about Scripture against any claims to the contrary.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thoughts on Primacy and Infallibility (Article IVa): Preliminaries on What Divides Catholics and Protestants

(Those who read the earlier version of Article IIIb may have expected this to be article IIIc. I decided to make it IVa simply because it is a different topic from the topic of infallibility in article IIIa and IIIb).

Preliminary Notes

Of course a topic like this will invoke strong feelings.  Whether Catholic or Protestant, those who practice their faith out of devotion (as opposed to a "meh, whatever" attitude of indifference) belong because they believe their teachings to be true.  Of course, Catholicism and Protestantism cannot both be true.

If Protestantism is true, then it means that Catholicism added to the teachings of the Christian faith.  However, if Catholicism is true, then it means that Protestantism subtracted from the teachings of the Christian faith.

I would ask the reader to remember I am not writing this as an "in your face" attack on non-Catholic Christians.  Rather, I seek to demonstrate why Catholics do not recognize the concept of sola scriptura as part of the teaching of Christ.


Of course the entire subject of the disputes between Catholics and Protestants are too large to deal with in one article — or even a series of articles.  The focus of this article is to lay down some pitfalls to avoid.  We need to avoid the use of logical fallacies and we need to realize what is under dispute.  I have certainly seen internet debates where Catholic and Protestant spoke past each other because they did not realize they used the same terms in different ways leading to each side accusing the other of being obstinate.

Argument from Ignorance is a Fallacy

One thing essential to remember is that the argument that "[X] is not mentioned in the Bible,  Therefore it was added later," is an argument from ignorance.  The argument from ignorance basically makes an assumption that because a thing was not said it means it is not true.  Alternately, some have used it to say that since there is no argument against the view it must be true.

Neither view is correct.  No logical conclusion can be drawn from nothing (no knowledge).  Rather we need to see what sort of evidence exists for a belief.  Now in the court of law, the defendant is assumed innocent until proven guilty.  This means that the burden of proof is on one side, while the other side merely has to show why the prosecution cannot prove his case.

However, in discussions where the truth is being sought, both sides need to present their justifications, and we cannot accept the assumption that because one side has failed to present their case that the other side must automatically be true.

The fact that Scripture does not say a thing neither proves a thing nor disproves a thing.  One must recognize that there can be other reasons for not speaking on a topic.  For example, Paul speaking on circumcision in his epistles may find the topic of primacy irrelevant to the point he wishes to make.

This is important to remember because often debates over religious beliefs boil down to claiming "your side isn't mentioned in [X].  Therefore it is false."  Because of this, we must recognize that accepting or denying a belief cannot be based on this sort of reasoning.

Assumptions and Sola Scriptura

This leads us into the next issue of concern, and that is the issue of assumptions and interpretations.  What one holds to be true may in fact be true whether or not the individual can explain himself in a logical way or not.  However, if one wants to convince another, there needs to be some sort of acceptance of the premise between two parties.  If both parties do not accept something, then it is this issue which needs to be established before continuing.  This is why Christians of different denominations do not begin their disputes with the question of whether God exists.  Since both believe this to be true, they do not need to start here.  On the other hand, a Christian and an atheist debating would need to be starting somewhere closer to the question of "does God exist?"  (The precise spot would depend on what sort of beliefs the atheist had about the idea of what we can know, whether we can know truth and so on).

Failure to start at the point of difference will result in nothing more than a waste of time, as both sides talk past each other.

In terms of Church authority and Sola Scriptura, the difference is not over whether Catholics believe the Bible to be inspired.  We do believe this to be true.  The key area of difference is over the authority to interpret Scripture.  If a Protestant says "Catholicism cannot be true, for the Catholic Church teaches [X] and the Bible clearly forbids [X]," the Catholic will rightly want to know on what authority the Protestant can interpret Scripture in a binding fashion on this subject.  Likewise, the Protestant who hears that the Church has defined something infallibly will generally reject it because they do not believe the Pope has this authority.

Thus, the true issue between Catholic and Protestant is Who has the authority to interpret what is and is not authentically Christian.

Anyone who has been paying attention to this series so far will realize I have done my best to demonstrate the basis on which the Catholic believes in the teaching authority of the Church, though any failure is due to my own lack of ability and not that of the Church.  The non-Catholic may not believe in the Catholic authority to interpret Scripture in a binding manner, but they cannot deny we do accept the authority of Scripture in holding this view.


Now, we need to look at Sola Scriptura and the basis for holding it, and why a Catholic does not accept the premise.  In doing so, I hope to clear up some misconceptions on what Catholics do believe.  Thus I will look at the claims of sola scriptura and do my best to find a representative view of what it means in light of the differences between some denominations on the subject.

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.