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

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.