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A Quick Ten-Step Refutation of Sola Scriptura

By Dave Armstrong

1. Sola Scriptura Is Not Taught in the Bible

Catholics agree with Protestants that Scripture is a "standard of truth"even the
preeminent onebut not in a sense that rules out the binding authority of authentic
apostolic Tradition and the Church. The Bible doesnt teach that. Catholics agree
that Scripture is materially sufficient. In other words, on this view, every true
doctrine can be found in the Bible, if only implicitly and indirectly by deduction. But
no biblical passage teaches that Scripture is the formal authority or rule of faith in
isolation from the Church and Tradition. Sola scriptura cant even be deduced from
implicit passages.
2. The "Word of God" Refers to Oral Teaching Also
"Word" in Holy Scripture often refers to a proclaimed, oral teaching of prophets or
apostles. What the prophets spoke was the word of God regardless of whether or
not their utterances were recorded later as written Scripture. So for example, we
read in Jeremiah:
"For twenty-three years . . . the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken
to you again and again . . . But you did not listen to me, declares the Lord. . . .
Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: Because you have not listened to my
words. . . ." (Jer. 25:3, 7-8 [NIV]).
This was the word of God even though some of it was not recorded in writing. It had
equal authority as writing or proclamation-never-reduced-to-writing. This was true
also of apostolic preaching. When the phrases "word of God" or "word of the Lord"
appear in Acts and the epistles, they almost always refer to oral preaching, not to
Scripture. For example:
"When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not
as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God" (1 Thess. 2:13).
If we compare this passage with another, written to the same church, Paul appears
to regard oral teaching and the word of God as synonymous:
"Keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the
tradition that you received from us" (2 Thess. 3:6).
3. Tradition Is Not a Dirty Word
Protestants often quote the verses in the Bible where corrupt traditions of men are
condemned (e.g., Matt. 15:26; Mark 7:813; Col. 2:8). Of course, Catholics agree
with this. But its not the whole truth. True, apostolic Tradition also is endorsed
positively. This Tradition is in total harmony with and consistent with Scripture.
4. Jesus and Paul Accepted Non-Biblical Oral and Written Traditions

Protestants defending sola scriptura will claim that Jesus and Paul accepted the
authority of the Old Testament. This is true, but they also appealed to other
authority outside of written revelation. For example:
a. The reference to "He shall be called a Nazarene" cannot be found in the Old
Testament, yet it was "spoken by the prophets" (Matt. 2:23). Therefore, this
prophecy, which is considered to be "Gods word," was passed down orally rather
than through Scripture.
b. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus teaches that the scribes and Pharisees have a
legitimate, binding authority based "on Moses seat," but this phrase or idea cannot
be found anywhere in the Old Testament. It is found in the (originally oral) Mishnah,
which teaches a sort of "teaching succession" from Moses on down.
c. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul refers to a rock that "followed" the Jews through the
Sinai wilderness. The Old Testament says nothing about such miraculous movement.
But rabbinic tradition does.
d. "As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses" (2 Tim. 3:8). These two men cannot be
found in the related Old Testament passage (Ex. 7:8ff.) or anywhere else in the Old
5. The Apostles Exercised Authority at the Council of Jerusalem
In the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:630), we see Peter and James speaking with
authority. This Council makes an authoritative pronouncement (citing the Holy
Spirit) that was binding on all Christians:
"For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater
burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed
to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity" (Acts
In the next chapter, we read that Paul, Timothy, and Silas were traveling around
"through the cities," and Scripture says that "they delivered to them for observance
the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at
Jerusalem" (Acts 16:4).
6. Pharisees, Sadducees, and Oral, Extrabiblical Tradition
Christianity was derived in many ways from the Pharisaical tradition of Judaism. The
Sadducees, on the other hand, rejected the future resurrection of the soul, the
afterlife, rewards and retribution, demons and angels, and predestinarianism. The
Sadducees also rejected all authoritative oral teaching and essentially believed in
sola scriptura. They were the theological liberals of that time. Christian Pharisees
are referred to in Acts 15:5 and Philippians 3:5, but the Bible never mentions
Christian Sadducees.

The Pharisees, despite their corruptions and excesses, were the mainstream Jewish
tradition, and both Jesus and Paul acknowledge this. So neither the orthodox Old
Testament Jews nor the early Church was guided by the principle of sola scriptura.
7. Old Testament Jews Did Not Believe in Sola Scriptura
To give two examples from the Old Testament itself:
a. Ezra, a priest and scribe, studied the Jewish law and taught it to Israel, and his
authority was binding under pain of imprisonment, banishment, loss of goods, and
even death (cf. Ezra 7:26).
b. In Nehemiah 8:3, Ezra reads the Law of Moses to the people in Jerusalem. In
verse 7 we find thirteen Levites who assisted Ezra and helped the people to
understand the law. Much earlier, we find Levites exercising the same function (cf. 2
Chr. 17:89).
So the people did indeed understand the law (cf. Neh. 8:8, 12), but not without
much assistancenot merely upon hearing. Likewise, the Bible is not altogether
clear in and of itself but requires the aid of teachers who are more familiar with
biblical styles and Hebrew idiom, background, context, exegesis and crossreference, hermeneutical principles, original languages, etc. The Old Testament,
then, teaches about a binding Tradition and need for authoritative interpreters, as
does the New Testament (cf. Mark 4:3334; Acts 8:3031; 2 Pet. 1:20; 3:16).
8. Ephesians 4 Refutes the Protestant "Proof Text"
"All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:1617).
This passage doesnt teach formal sufficiency, which excludes a binding,
authoritative role for Tradition and Church. Protestants extrapolate onto the text
what isnt there. If we look at the overall context of this passage, we can see that
Paul makes reference to oral Tradition three times (cf. 2 Tim. 1:1314; 2:2; 3:14).
And to use an analogy, lets examine a similar passage:
"And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists,
some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building
up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of
the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and
carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness
in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way
into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4:1115).
If 2 Timothy 3 proves the sole sufficiency of Scripture, then, by analogy, Ephesians 4
would likewise prove the sufficiency of pastors and teachers for the attainment of
Christian perfection. In Ephesians 4, the Christian believer is equipped, built up,
brought into unity and mature manhood, and even preserved from doctrinal

confusion by means of the teaching function of the Church. This is a far stronger
statement of the perfecting of the saints than 2 Timothy 3, yet it does not even
mention Scripture.
So if all non-scriptural elements are excluded in 2 Timothy, then, by analogy,
Scripture would logically have to be excluded in Ephesians. It is far more reasonable
to recognize that the absence of one or more elements in one passage does not
mean that they are nonexistent. The Church and Scripture are both equally
necessary and important for teaching.
9. Paul Casually Assumes That His Passed-Down Tradition Is Infallible and Binding
If Paul wasnt assuming that, he would have been commanding his followers to
adhere to a mistaken doctrine. He writes:
"If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have
nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed" (2 Thess. 3:14).
"Take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the
doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them" (Rom. 16:17).
He didnt write about "the pretty-much, mostly, largely true but not infallible
doctrine which you have been taught."
10. Sola Scriptura Is a Circular Position
When all is said and done, Protestants who accept sola scriptura as their rule of
faith appeal to the Bible. If they are asked why one should believe in their particular
denominational teaching rather than another, each will appeal to "the Bibles clear
teaching." Often they act as if they have no tradition that guides their own
This is similar to people on two sides of a constitutional debate both saying, "Well,
we go by what the Constitution says, whereas you guys dont." The U.S.
Constitution, like the Bible, is not sufficient in and of itself to resolve differing
interpretations. Judges and courts are necessary, and their decrees are legally
binding. Supreme Court rulings cannot be overturned except by a future ruling or
constitutional amendment. In any event, there is always a final appeal that settles
the matter.
But Protestantism lacks this because it appeals to a logically self-defeating principle
and a book that must be interpreted by human beings. Obviously, given the
divisions in Protestantism, simply "going to the Bible" hasnt worked. In the end, a
person has no assurance or certainty in the Protestant system. They can only "go to
the Bible" themselves and perhaps come up with another doctrinal version of some
disputed doctrine to add to the list. One either believes there is one truth in any
given theological dispute (whatever it is) or adopts a relativist or indifferentist
position, where contradictions are fine or the doctrine is so "minor" that differences
"dont matter."

But the Bible doesnt teach that whole categories of doctrines are "minor" and that
Christians freely and joyfully can disagree in such a fashion. Denominationalism and
divisions are vigorously condemned. The only conclusion we can reach from the
Bible is what we call the "three-legged stool": Bible, Church, and Tradition are all
necessary to arrive at truth. If you knock out any leg of a three-legged stool, it

Did Jesus Give Priests to the Church?

By Kenneth J. Howell

OBJECTOR: The Catholic Church has priests who are distinct from the laity and even
elevated above them. This is unscriptural because the New Testament nowhere sets
certain men apart from the rest of Gods people to be priests.
CATHOLIC: Surely you would agree that the New Testament authorizes leaders of
the Church to be pastors, deacons, maybe even bishops.
OBJECTOR: Yes, but the word priest is never used in the New Testament for the
leaders of the Church. The words pastor, bishop, and elder are used, but never
CATHOLIC: Thats almost correct. The word hiereus (priest) is not used of church
leaders in the New Testament, but the cognate verb hierourgeo (to act as a priest) is
used in Romans 15:16. There Paul speaks of himself in these words: "to be a
minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God,
so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."
OBJECTOR: Paul may have used the verb to describe his missionary work. Youll
notice that he speaks of the Gentiles as his offering. He is not offering something on
behalf of the Gentiles; he thinks of the new people of God as the offering.
CATHOLIC: Pauls use of "to act as a priest" (hierourgeo) fits with the Catholic
Churchs understanding of a priest as one who intercedes for the people of God as
an intermediary. The priest today, like Paul, offers the people back to God in union
with the perfect sacrifice of Christ, the great high priest.
OBJECTOR: I have no problem with that understanding as long as we realize that
Paul was one of the people of God. As an apostle, he guided the Church and was
one of its pastors, but the priesthood was a concept that applied to all Gods people,
not some select group of men.
CATHOLIC: We agree in one respect. The non-Catholic doctrine of the priesthood of
all believers is not an idea that the Church rejects. In fact, the Catechism of the
Catholic Church says clearly that all of Gods faithful people share in the priesthood
of Christ by virtue of their baptism: "Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has
made of the Church a kingdom, priests for his God and Father" (CCC 1546, cf. Rev.
1:6, 5:910). Further, it says, "The whole Church is a priestly people. Through
baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called
the common priesthood of all the faithful. Based on this common priesthood and
ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the
ministry conferred by the sacrament of holy orders, where the task is to serve in the
name and in the person of Christ the head in the midst of the community" (1591). In
other words, the existence of a common priesthood for all Gods people does not
exclude a special calling for the pastors of the Church to be priests.
OBJECTOR: But thats not what the New Testament says. When Peter speaks of
priesthood, he applies it to the whole people of God. "But you are a chosen race, a

royal priesthood, a holy nation, Gods own people, that you may declare the
wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1
Pet. 2:9). As you can see, this expression "royal priesthood" refers to all of Gods
people, not a special class of men.
CATHOLIC: Peter is, of course, speaking of the "common priesthood of all the
faithful" of which the Catechism spoke. But why do you insist that this excludes a
special role for those men chosen by God to serve as priests for and to Gods
OBJECTOR: Because its not part of the New Testament teaching on the government
of the Church. The priesthood of Christ is unique and cannot be repeated. Christ
appointed shepherds for the Church as Jesus taught Peter in John 21:1519. As we
said, these leaders are called elders (or presbyters) and deacons, but never priests
except for the Romans 15:16 text you cited.
CATHOLIC: Perhaps you are unaware that priests in the Catholic Church are also
called presbyters, which is usually translated as "elders" in most English Bibles.
They are the elders who guide the Church under the authority of the bishops (called
episkopoi in the New Testament).
OBJECTOR: Well, I didnt know that, but I still dont see how it changes anything.
First Peter 2:9 still applies to the whole Church and not to some select group of
leaders, be they presbyters or bishops.
CATHOLIC: You will notice that 1 Peter 2:9 is quoting from a number of Old
Testament texts. One of them is Exodus 19:6, where the people of Israel are called
"a kingdom of priests." Isaiah 61:6 says that in the New Covenant times, the
restored people of God will be called "priests of the Lord."
OBJECTOR: Yes, these texts from the Old Testament just confirm my point that all
the people of God are considered priests in the Bible and especially in the New
Testament. This is what we call the "priesthood of all believers."
CATHOLIC: But surely you must agree that, just because the people as a whole in
the Old Covenant played a priestly role, it did not exclude a special calling for the
Levites as priests. As I am sure you know, there is abundant evidence in the Old
Testament for a special priesthood for the one tribe of Levi. Deuteronomy 18:18 is
just one among many such passages. This special priesthood could not be held by
just anyone. It was restricted to those who were called. The author of Hebrews
speaks of this Old Covenant priesthood in these terms in Hebrews 5:14. Now, if
there were two kinds of priesthood in the Old Covenantwe might call them "the
priesthood of the faithful" and "the ministerial priesthood"then why can there not
be this same distinction in the New Covenant?
OBJECTOR: We agree about the Old Covenant priesthood, but that is precisely what
is changed in the New Covenant about the priesthood. Now only Christ himself has
the ministerial priesthood. The priesthood of Aaron ended with the coming of Christ.
The book of Hebrews makes that abundantly clear.

CATHOLIC: Okay, we agree on at least two points. First, Christs priesthood fulfills
and supersedes the Aaronic priesthood. As you say, the letter to the Hebrews makes
that clear. And second, we agree that the entire people of God plays a priestly role
in interceding for the world before God. But the Catholic Church insists that a
ministerial priesthood exists in the New Covenant structure of the Church. This
priesthood is based on and flows from Christs own priesthood. A properly ordained
priest of the Church shares in a heightened and special way in the priesthood of
Christ because he offers to God the same sacrifice that Jesus offered to God the
Father. Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice to atone for sin (cf. 1 John 4:10; Heb.
9:12, 14, 26), and the priest today offers Jesus Christ back to the Father as the
atonement for our sins.
OBJECTOR: I just dont see any texts in the New Testament that teach what the
Catholic Church is saying. I agree with all you say about Christs priesthood, but God
designed the Church to have pastors who care for the flock. These men were not
supposed to be priests. The idea of a special priesthood is just not in the New
CATHOLIC: I can offer you at least four lines of evidence. But first, do you agree that
Christ called some men to be his special representatives, such as in Matthew 4:19,
Luke 6:13, and John 15:16? Do you agree that these men are called apostles and
they are the human foundation of the Church (cf. Eph. 2:20)?
OBJECTOR: I agree, but where is the idea of a ministerial priesthood in those texts?
CATHOLIC: Consider first Matthew 28:1820, where Jesus commissioned the
apostles to go "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." This twofold
ministry of baptizing and teaching can be summarized in the phrase "the ministry of
word and sacrament." In other words, the apostles and those after them were to
preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments.
OBJECTOR: Many forms of Protestant theologyfor instance, Lutheran and Calvinist
would agree with this ministry of word and sacrament, but they dont agree that
this constitutes a priestly function.
CATHOLIC: Then lets look at the second and third lines of evidence. The easier of
the two is expressed in John 20:1923, where Jesus empowers the apostles with the
authority to confer forgiveness on the penitent. For the sake of brevity, I quote only
verse 23: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of
any, they are retained." This power to forgive sins, to convey Gods forgiveness
through the sacrament of confession, is clearly a part of the priestly function of
Christ. In this text, Jesus is conveying this authority to his apostles.
OBJECTOR: I am sure you know that many Christians dont agree with this
interpretation. We believe that Jesus is giving his apostles the authority to proclaim
his forgiveness to all, not to forgive them in the way you say, since he himself is the
only one who can do that.

CATHOLIC: Yes, I know this interpretation, but if you study the text carefully, I think
youll agree that the common interpretation among non-Catholics simply does not
fit the text. That is, it doesnt take the text seriously. Jesus speaks of "the sins you
forgive" and "the sins you retain." We Catholics take this text seriously and believe
that the forgiveness that comes only from Jesus can be conferred on those who
repent because Jesus himself gave that authority to the apostles and their
OBJECTOR: Well, perhaps well have to agree to disagree on that one. What is this
third piece of evidence you mentioned?
CATHOLIC: The third line of evidence has to do with the Eucharist. At the Last
Supper, Jesus told the apostles with him "Do this in memory of me." When Jesus
gave them this command, he was making them priests of the New Covenant.
OBJECTOR: Thats a strange idea. What makes you think that the phrase "Do this in
memory of me" has anything to do with being a priest? Those words are addressed
to every Christian and apply to our celebrations of communion in church. I just dont
see any connection between those words and the priesthood.
CATHOLIC: Youre not alone. But consider first to whom these words were
addressed. Jesus did not say they apply to every Christian. If that is true, it could be
so only by an extension of the original situation. A more historically responsible
interpretation sees the fact that it was just the apostles at that Last Supper.
OBJECTOR: Even if I agree with you on that score, that doesnt mean that Jesus is
making the apostles priests. All these words mean is that we should remember
Jesus when we have communion.
CATHOLIC: If thats what the words really meant, your conclusion would be true that
"Do this in memory of me" has nothing to do with being a priest. But they mean a
lot more. As I noted, they were first spoken to the apostles. I dont have time to go
into detail here, but let me at least say this: "Do this in memory of me" was a
command from Jesus for the apostles to do exactly what he did that night. They
were to repeat this action in perpetuity. It is also clear that his actions were priestly
because he was offering the bread and wine just like Melchizedek did (cf. Gen.
14:1720). As you know, Hebrews makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is a priest in
the line of Melchizedek. In a higher sense, Jesus was acting as a priest at the Last
Supper by giving the apostles his body and blood. Therefore, his command to his
apostles involves them performing priestly actions. They could perform such actions
only if he were making them priests to stand in his place and to give the people of
God his body and blood.
OBJECTOR: Well, I must say, I have never heard this interpretation before, but it
seems like a stretch to me to see all that in the account of the Last Supper. It just
doesnt fit with the rest of the New Testament.
CATHOLIC: Remember that we all read the Bible through the eyes of our
communities of faith. I can understand why such an interpretation will seem strange
to you if you have little or no experience with a priestly ministry in your church.

Perhaps my last line of evidence will help you to get thinking in that direction. But
first, let me sum up the first three. What we see in the Old Testament is a three-fold
priesthood. There is the common or universal priesthood of all Israelites at the
bottom (cf. Ex. 19:6), a ministerial priesthood above them (cf. Ex. 19:22, 24; Lev.
1:5), and a high priest at the top (cf. Num. 35: 25). We thus should expect to find a
similar three-fold priesthood under the New Covenant, and we do. There is the
common or universal priesthood of all Christians (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5, 9), a ministerial
priesthood above them (cf. Rom. 15:16), and a high priest at the top (cf. Heb. 3:1).
Rather than varying from the biblical model of priesthood, the Catholic
understanding copies it exactly. It is the two-fold model that departs from what we
see in the Bible.
OBJECTOR: You said you have a fourth line of evidence. What could that possibly be?
CATHOLIC: You believe, I am sure, that the whole purpose of the eternal Word
(Logos) becoming flesh was to reconcile us to God. Now, in order to have a ministry
of reconciliation, Christ had to be a priest as well as a prophet and king. In fact, his
act of reconciling death highlighted his priestly office more than anything else. Paul
tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:1823 that the same God "who through Christ reconciled
us to himself" is also the one who "gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor.
5:18). "The message of reconciliation" in verse 19 is that God does not hold mens
transgressions against them. That is the ministry of the priests in the Catholic
Church: They are to be agents of reconciliation by carrying Christ the Reconciler to
others. That ultimately is why God chooses some men from among his people to be
his priests. Priests reconcile people to God.

A Brief History of Apologetics

By Fr. G.H. Duggan, S.M.

Apologetics, sometimes called fundamental theology, is that branch of Catholic

theology that establishes the reasonableness of the act of faith. It is a
comprehensive, systematic vindication of the grounds of Catholic belief.
In developing his arguments, the apologist employs philosophical and historical
reasoning. Apologetics, however, is not a branch of philosophy or history, nor an
intermediate discipline lying between philosophy and theology, but is an integral
part of theology. The apologist is a theologian. Possessing the virtue of faith, he is
guided by Sacred Scripture and Catholic Tradition in his choice of arguments and the
way he develops them as he shows that it is reasonable to believe that God has
revealed himself in Jesus Christ and that Christ established a Church to ensure that
the truths he revealed would be taught without falsification until the end of time.
Apologetics in the New Testament
Christian apologetics has a long and honorable history, beginning in New Testament
times, for we find Peter making a plea for apologetical reasoning when he writes,
"Always be prepared to make a defense [apologia] to anyone who calls you to
account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15).
Our Lord himself engaged in apologetical argument when he appealed to his
miracles as proof that he was sent by the Father and possessed supernatural
powers. His works, he said, bear witness that the Father had sent him (cf. John
5:36), and, addressing the apostle Philip, he appealed to his miracles as warrant for
demanding faith in him: "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father
in me? . . . Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe
me for the sake of the works themselves" (John 14:10, 11).
It is clear from the opening verses of Lukes Gospel that the evangelist, in writing his
Gospel, had an apologetical purpose: "It seemed good to me . . . to write an orderly
account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning
the things of which you have been informed" (Luke 1:34).
Indeed, it has been argued that all the Gospels are apologetical in scope, being
written for believers to show them that their faith in Christ was well-founded and for
Jews and pagans to lead them to faith in Christ.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke has recorded only two of the sermons that Paul
addressed to pagan hearers, and both are apologetical. At Lystra, the apostle
appeals to the witness that the visible creation bears to the existence of a provident
Creator (cf. Acts 14:1416), and at Athens he argues that since men, who are the
children of God, possess a spiritual nature, God must be a spirit; as the Creator who
gives life and breath to all that lives he must himself be a living being, not an idol of
gold or silver (cf. Acts 17:2329). Since the Jews were monotheists, there was no
need to put before them arguments for the existence of the one true God. What
they had to be persuaded of was that Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified on
the orders of Pontius Pilate, was the long-awaited Messiah. Accordingly, the

Christian apologetic directed to the Jews strove to show that the various Old
Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah had been fulfilled in Christ. He
himself laid the foundations of this line of argument when he instructed the
disciples on the way to Emmaus: "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he
interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).
The crucified Messiah whom the apostles were preaching was so unlike the Messiah
the Jews had been expecting that we may be sure that there was a demand for
credentials establishing the truth of the apostolic message. These were provided,
and they were of two kinds: (a) the witness of the apostles who had been in the
Lords company during his public life, and (b) the witness of the Scripture that had
been fulfilled in him.
We find both elements of proof in the authoritative tradition that Paul had received
and that he handed on to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3ff.).
The Early Centuries
From the time of Nero (d. A.D. 68), the Christian faith was treated by the civil
authorities as an unlawful religion, and Christians were slandered by pagan
propagandists as atheists who took part in cannibal feasts and indulged in sexual
promiscuity. The apologists therefore faced a twofold task: to refute the charge of
atheism and immorality and to appeal to the Roman Emperors, in the name of
justice, for toleration for the Christian religion.
Justin Martyr wrote two apologies in Rome, the first about 150 and the second
between 155 and 160. Both are primarily concerned with winning civil toleration for
Christians. The First Apology is addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and argues
that Christians should not be condemned just for being Christians. He describes
their beliefs and practices to show that in these there is nothing deserving of death.
The Second Apology is addressed to the Roman Senate and pleads for justice for the
Christians. Christ, he declares, is the fullness of truth, and in his teaching will be
found whatever there is of truth in the teachings of such men as Socrates and Plato.
In A Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, Justin tells how, after studying the various
philosophical systems, he was led to embrace the Christian faith as the true
philosophy. He then goes on to show that with the coming of Christ, the law of
Moses has been abrogated and that in him the various Old Testament prophecies
have been fulfilled.
Near the end of the first century, Irenaeus published his great work Against
Heresies. It consists of five works, the first two being devoted to the exposition and
refutation of various Gnostic heresies prevalent at the time; the last three books
contain a profound theological account of the Christian faith.
The same decade saw the publication of the True Doctrine, in which Celsus, a pagan
philosopher, attacked the supernatural character of Christianity. He denied that
Christ worked miracles, and the arguments he brought forward to show that the
testimony of the Gospels is unreliable were echoed in the writings of the Rationalists
of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Celsus book has been lost, but the text

can be reconstructed from the detailed refutation that Origen published some
seventy years later with the title Against Celsus.
Clement of Alexandria (d. 214), who was head of the catechetical school of
Alexandria, in his book Protrepticus, an exhortation to conversion, gives evidence of
a knowledge of Greek culture that is wide and deep. Having himself experienced the
appeal of Greek mythology, philosophy, and the mystery cults, he is able to show
how all that is of value in these is surpassingly fulfilled in Christ, the supreme
Master of wisdom and Expounder of the mysteries.
All the works we have so far mentioned were written in Greek. Toward the end of the
second century, works in Latin began to appear. Among these is the Octavius of
Minucius Felix, a Roman lawyer who had been converted to Christianity. It is in the
form of a dialogue in which one speaker, Caecilius, states the case for the pagan
religion, and the other, Octavius, the case for Christianity, Minucius acting as
chairman. The discussion is confined to such topics as the unity of God, divine
providence, and life after death, and there is no mention of the Christian mysteries
of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Redemption. The author was concerned only
to remove the prejudices of the pagans and show how it was possible to take
seriously the Christian claims.
Tertullian, a Roman lawyer who was converted to the Christian faith about the year
193, published his Apology in 197. In this work he proves with irresistible logic that
the persecution of the Christians is completely opposed to the rules of Roman
jurisprudence, for, although the Christians were treated as criminals, the Emperor
Trajan had ordered that they were not to be sought out by the civil authorities. After
refuting the customary charges of atheism, promiscuity, and infanticide, Tertullian
goes on to describe in glowing terms the Christian way of life, a source of many
blessings for the community at large.
Early in the fourth century, Lactantius, a rhetorician by profession, published a work
in seven books, the Divine Institutes, in which he provided a systematic apology for
Christianity. He points out the absurdities of the pagan myths and shows that there
can be only one true God. He then argues for the divinity of Christ, appealing to his
miracles and the fulfillment in him of the Old Testament prophecies, and then goes
on to provide an account of the Christian moral code. His work undoubtedly served
to facilitate the conversion of many educated Romans.
Eusebius of Caesarea, the first great Church historian, writing in Greek about the
same time as Lactantius, published a monumental two-part apologetical work, The
Preparation of the Gospel and The Proof of the Gospel. The book seems to have
been written in reply to a work by Porphyry, a disciple of the neo-Platonist
philosopher Plotinus, entitled Against the Christians. In the first part Eusebius
refuted Porphyrys philosophical arguments and in the second his historical
arguments against the miracles and the Resurrection of Christ.
Augustine was often engaged in apologetical argument with pagans and heretics.
His greatest apologetical work is The City of God, written over many years and
finished in 426. The pagans were contending that the calamities that had recently
befallen the Roman Empire, such as the sack of Rome by Alaric in 410, were due to

the abandonment of the pagan gods. To refute this charge, Augustine shows that
the pagan religion was not the source of Romes temporal prosperity and is still less
capable of bringing man to eternal blessedness; then he goes on to break new
ground by providing a Christian interpretation of the history of the human race.
The Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, Christian apologists were concerned to meet the objections of
Jews and Muslims and by reasoned argument convince them of the truth of the
Christian faith. There were Jewish groups in the West living by the law of Moses and
the Talmud. The Muslims controlled most of Spain and the coast of North Africa and
posed a constant threat to the Byzantine Empire.
In the East, John Damascene published in 750 his Discussion between a Saracen
and a Christian, in which he put forward a reasoned case for Christianity.
Theodore Abu Qurrah, a disciple of John, in his book God and the True Religion
shows that Christianity is superior to the other religions that claim to be divinely
revealedZoroastrianism, the Samaritan religion, Judaism, Manichaeism,
Gnosticism and Islamsince it is better able to meet mans religious needs and
moreover is guaranteed by miracles.
Anselm (d. 1109) sought a more profound understanding of the truths of the
Christian faith and wrote not only for the instruction of his fellow believers but also
to refute the unbeliever.
The greatest apologetical work of this period is the Summa Contra Gentiles of
Thomas Aquinas. He begins by pointing out that the Christian revelation contains
two kinds of truth. Some can be discovered by human reason using its natural
resources, whereas others are beyond the range of reason and can be known only
by divine revelation. In the first three books he deals with truths of the first kind,
and in the fourth he discusses the articles of faith that transcend reason, showing
that, although they transcend reason, they do not contradict it. The doctrines of the
heretics, on the other hand, contradict either truths known by reason or
fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.
Modern Times
In the sixteent h century the Catholic apologist had to meet a new challenge, for he
had now to defend the Catholic faith against the attacks of the Protestant
Reformers. Among the first in the field were John Fisher, with books refuting the
errors of Luther and Oecolampadius, and Thomas More, who was engaged in
controversy with Luther and various English heretics. They were followed by such
men as Thomas Stapleton (d. 1598) and Robert Bellarmine (d. 1621). Bellarmines
great work Disputations concerning the Controversies of the Christian Faith was an
arsenal from which Catholic apologists were able to draw from the end of the
sixteenth century onward. It was supplemented by the Ecclesiastical Annals of
Cardinal Baronius (d. 1607), written to refute the Lutheran version of Church history
put out thirty years earlier by the Centuriators of Magdeburg.

With the rise of Rationalism in the seventeenth century and its diffusion in the
eighteenth, the central mysteries of the Christian faith came under attack, and
orthodox Protestants as well as Catholics sprang to their defense. Blaise Pascal (d.
1662) recognized the Rationalist threat quite early and planned a systematic work
of apologetics. He died before he could write the book, but the material he had
collected for the project, a series of disconnected but often profound reflections,
was published under the title of Pensees, in an incomplete edition in 1670.
In 1794, William Paley published A View of the Evidence of Christianity, which
became a popular work of apologetics on account of its effective presentation of the
facts in vigorous English prose. He followed this in 1802 with his Natural Theology,
in which he developed at length the argument for the existence of God from the
presence of design in nature.
In his book A Grammar of Assent, published in 1870, John Henry Cardinal Newman
discussed with great subtlety the process by means of which men arrive at
certainty, and in the final section of the book he provides a powerful apologetical
argument for the truth of the Christian religion. Throughout his adult life, he said in
1879, he had been engaged in defending the Christian faith against the spirit of
Liberalism, the doctrine that religion is not concerned with truth but is a matter of
sentiment and taste.
In the early part of the twentieth century, the most eminent Catholic apologist was
G. K. Chesterton (d. 1936). In 1908, there appeared a brilliant defense of the
Christian faith against the errors of the day with the title Orthodoxy. In this book
Chesterton took as the criterion of orthodoxy the Apostles Creed. In The Everlasting
Man (1925), he argued for the uniqueness of man and Christianity against the
naturalistic evolutionism that inspired H. G. Wellss Outline of History.
In more recent times the Christian faith has been ably defended by C. S. Lewis (d.
1963). Refraining from debate on subjects on which orthodox Christians differed, he
wrotein defense of the central mysteries of ChristianityMiracles, The Abolition of
Man, and Mere Christianity.

Apologetics for the Scripturally Challenged

By John S. Martignon

Whenever Catholics talk about our faith with Protestants, the most frequently asked
question is "Where is that in the Bible?" We are told over and over that this or that
teaching of our faith isnt in the Bible. These folks dont care what the Pope says or
what the Catechism says or what Vatican II says: They want to know what the Bible
saysperiod. So if you as a Catholic are not prepared to answer the question
"Where is that in the Bible?" you may not get very far when it comes to religious
From my experience, many a Catholic holds the mistaken notion that nearly every
Protestant knows the Bible better than he does. Protestants may have memorized
more passages than you, but that is not the same thing as knowing the Bible better.
Catholics are more familiar with the Bible than they might think they are, because
they have heard it throughout countless Masses without necessarily realizing that
they were hearing Scripture.
As Catholics, we have the magisterium of the Church as our guide when we open
the Bible. Non-Catholic Christians have no such authentic guide for interpreting
Scripture. They have their own personal, fallible interpretations to rely on. They
have no authority, other than their own imagination, within which to interpret
Scripture properly.
This results inevitably in some wackiness on the fringes when it comes to
interpreting the Bible. For instance, there is a theory called "right division of
Scripture" that has gained a foothold in many Baptist and Fundamentalist
congregations. In a nutshell, right division of Scripture says that Jesus came for the
Jews and that Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. Therefore, since we are Gentiles,
we need to listen to Paul more than to Jesus. Its amazing what folks come up with
when they dont have an authoritative guide laying down some boundaries!
What follows are three strategies you can use when engaging in apologetics. If you
learn these and adapt them to your particular situation, I guarantee you will be
surprised with what you are able to do in the realm of apologetics and
evangelization. Youll be planting seeds of truth all over the place.
Strategy #1: The Ignorant Catholic
Simply put: Never be afraid to say, "I dont know." But always follow it with "But I
will find out and get back to you."
Example: "Where does it mention anything about purgatory in the Bible?" "You
know, thats a good question. And, right off hand, I dont know the answer. But Im
going to find out, and Ill get back to you on that." Boom! Youre out of a potential
jam. Dont be afraid to be ignorantespecially if you are ignorant. There are many
folks out there being taught that Catholics dont know anything about the Bible.
They expect you not to know the answers to their questions. Take advantage of

The worst thing you can do is to try to "wing" it. The stakes are too high for you to
give it your best guess just because you dont want to be embarrassed by not
knowing the answer to a question about your faith. Especially when there is an
answer out there; you just have to go find it. Or maybe you do know the answer, but
youre not quite sure on one or two details, and you want to get it down a little bit
better. No harm in not answering at that moment so that you can come back better
What you accomplish by being the "ignorant Catholic" is a tactical retreat from the
battlefield, a retreat where you have suffered no losses. You now have the
advantage. The next time you talk about purgatory with this person will be when,
where, and how you decide to do it. Youll probably even have your Bible in hand
with the relevant passages marked. And you will talk about purgatory, or whatever
topic, with this person again. Once someone questions or even attacks the Catholic
faith in front of you, the door has been opened. Do not let t hat door shut!
Go do your homework. Listen to a tape, read a book, do internet research
whatever you need to do. And then, when you are ready, get back to that person
with further dialogue, with books, with pamphlets, with tapes, with whatever. It
could be the next day, the next week, the next month, or six months laterbut get
back with that person! You can do it in person, you can write a letter, you can make
a phone call, you can send an e-mail. You can talk to them yourself or you can give
them a tape to listen to or a book to read. Thats the beauty of this: You decide
when, where, and how.
Just remember: "I dont know, but I will find out and get back to you."
Strategy #2: Its the Principle of the Thing
Learn how to establish Catholic principles from Scripture, and then use these
principles to build your case for the faith.
For example, "Where in the Bible does it say anything about Mary being assumed
body and soul into heaven?" Catholic response: "Well, lets take a look at that. Is a
person being assumed body and soul into heaven in direct contradiction of the
teaching of Scripture? No, its not. We see from Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11 that
apparently Enoch was assumed body and soul into heaven. Elijah, in 2 Kings 2, is
assumed body and soul into heaven. The two witnesses from Revelation 11 are
assumed body and soul into heaven."
Every Christian, based on the Bible, has to agree with you that a person being
assumed body and soul into heaven is not contrary to Scripture. You have
established a Catholic principle. You havent conclusively "proven" that Mary was
assumed into heaven, but youve put a chink in the anti-Assumption case. Now you
can say, "Okay, we just established the principle that bodily assumption into heaven
is not contrary to the Bible. The Bible doesnt say that Mary was not assumed into
heaven, so why cant I believe that?"
Lets revisit the subject of purgatory, because it comes up a lot. "Nowhere is
purgatory mentioned in the Bible."

True. But lets look at 2 Samuel 12:13-15, 18: "David said to Nathan, I have sinned
against the Lord. And Nathan said to David, The Lord also has put away your sin;
you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the
Lord, the child that is born to you shall die. And the Lord struck the child that
Uriahs wife bore to David, and it became sick. . . . On the seventh day the child
died." This leads us to Bible principle #1: There is punishment for sin even after one
has received forgiveness.
Now look at Revelation 21:27: "But nothing unclean shall enter it" (the New
Jerusalem, heaven). Bible principle #2: Nothing imperfect, nothing with the stain of
sin, may enter heaven.
Now look at Hebrews 12:22-23: "But you have come to Mount Zion . . . and to the
spirits of just men made perfect." Bible Principle #3: There is a way, a process, by
which the spirits of "just" men are "made perfect."
Now look at 1 Corinthians 3:13-15: "Each mans work will become manifest; for the
Day [judgment day] will disclose it. . . . If any mans work is burned up, he will suffer
loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." When does this
process occur that a man, after he dies, suffers loss, as through fire, but is still
saved. Once in Hell? No. Once youre in hell you dont get out. Heaven? You dont
suffer loss in heaven. Hmm . . . it must occur some other time. Bible principle #4:
There is a purging process after death that perfects those not yet perfected, and
makes reparation for sins already forgiven, and it must happen before we may enter
The four principles we just established from Scripture make an awfully good case for
purgatory which does not indicate a place, but a condition of life. You can do this
with almost any Catholic teaching. It does require a little more knowledge of Scriptu
re, but it is not anythi ng that is beyond your reach. Pay close attention to the Bible
when you are reading it. Look for Catholic principles.
Strategy #3: But Thats My Interpretation
When you start asking questions about Scripture passages and Protestant theology,
and when you start pulling Catholic principles out of Scripture, inevitably you will be
hit with, "Wait a minute. Thats not a sound interpretation youre making." Or youll
be told that youre not interpreting Scripture with Scripture. Or youll be told that
you dont have a proper understanding of the Greek behind the text. Or youll be
told any number of other ways that, basically, your interpretation of Scripture is
Thats when you ask this question: "Wait a minutedont you believe that as
Christians we should go by the Bible alone? And that each person has the right to
read and interpret Scripture for themselves as they feel guided by the Holy Spirit?"
The Protestant will say yes, of course he believes that. "Well," you respond, "thats
my interpretation. Are you saying that I cant interpret the Scripture as the Holy
Spirit is guiding me to do? Are you saying that your interpretation of Scripture is

better than mine? How can you say that if everyone has the right to interpret
Scripture? Do you really believe that or not?"
You have just made a key point. If a Protestant believes honestly that we go by the
Bible alone and that each individual has the right to interpret the Bible as he sees
fit, then the best he can hope to do against you is, in a sense, a tie. This is very
important to understand. Ultimately, the best a Protestant can do when talking to a
Catholic is to say that he believes his fallible interpretation is better than your
fallible interpretation.
What he cannot say with any internal logic is that your interpretation is wrong. That
would go against one of his core beliefsthe belief that every individual has the
right to interpret Scripture for himself. He has to believe that your interpretation is a
valid interpretation, even if he disagrees with it. Otherwise he is a hypocrite.
As Catholics, we believe that each individual has the right to read and interpret
Scripture, but that any valid interpretation has to be within the parameters laid
down by the Church founded by Jesus Christ. This means there are right
interpretations and wrong interpretations. But, if I keep my wits about me, when
speaking with a non-Catholic I cannot lose a theological debate. Neither can you.
Remember, you have the right, by his theology, to your interpretationto the
Churchs interpretation.
Three Strategies, Two Foundations
These three strategies I have put forth rest on two foundational truths you must not
only know, you must have them seared into your mind, heart, and soul.
The first is this: The Bible is a Catholic book. The Church gave it to the world and
established its canon. You can rest assured that there is nothingnothing!in the
Bible that contradicts anything in Catholicism and nothingnothing!in Catholicism
that contradicts anything in the Bible. Ingrain this fact in your psyche, and you will
have the confidence to go out and evangelize anyone.
The second truth: There is an answer for every intelligible question you receive
about the Catholic faith. You might not know it immediately, you might have to
research itbut rest assured, there is an answer. Of course, Im talking about
intelligible questions. Ive been asked questions where the only thing I could do was
to pause and wonder how such a question could have come out of the mouth of a
sane human being.
People, we are standing on the shoulders of 2,000 years worth of giants defending
the faith against all comers. We have John Chrysostom, Justin Martyr, Augustine,
Aquinas, Theresa of Avila, and thousands more on our side. We have the holiest
people who have ever lived on our side. We have a phalanx of contemporary
orthodox apolo gists on our side. There are answers to the questions. Sometimes
you just have to go looking for them.

Combating Biblical Skepticism

Part One
By Frederick W. Marks
The Bible is our lifeblood. Paul calls it "the sword of the spirit" (Eph. 6:17). For
evangelists it is indispensable, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites it
innumerable times. Its cadences ring out during the consecration then again at
Communion. Twice during the Mass we are reminded that what we are hearing is
"the word of the Lord."
In the midst of so much outward display, many contemporary Catholic scholars
have subjected the Bible to a drumfire of criticism. Contradictions are alleged; errors
are charged. No sooner is a reading announced from the pulpit as being "from the
Gospel of Matthew" than one is likely to hear that Matthew may not have been the
author. At a recent Good Friday service, the homilist speculated that Christ might
not have known who he was until after the Resurrection. Imagine this Jesus of ours
who was God from the moment of conception, who spoke as God throughout his
public ministry, and who allowed his followers to worship himnot knowing who he
was! So pervasive is the current climate of doubt that we are fortunate if we do not
hear a priest say that certain scenes in Christs life, as recounted by the evangelists,
may never have occurred.
In this discussion, I would like to address five questions:
1. What is the proper response to allegations of contradiction?
2. Or error?
3. Are traditional notions of authorship, dating, and order of composition reliable?
4. Is it likely that the Gospel writers put words in Jesus mouth for promotional
purposes or to compensate for a loss of memory?
5. How impressed should we be with what "scholars" have been saying?
Allegations of contradiction have been around for a long time. Tatian, a student of
Justin Martyr, penned a defense of biblical inerrancy in A.D. 170. Augustine, over
two centuries later, wrote hundreds of pages on the harmony of the Gospels in
response to Porphyry.
But even if a charge is new, there is not a single one that cannot be dealt with
handily. What we face most often is a situation in which two statements differ but
are not mutually exclusive. Some have assumed, for instance, that the Sermon on
the Mount (Matt. 57) and Lukes Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6) are the same
discourse edited in different ways for different audiences, possibly too that they are
edited collections of diverse sayings spanning Jesus three-year ministry.
But why resort to speculation when Jesus must have given the same basic speech
hundreds of times? Undoubtedly there was a long form and a short form as well as
intermediate forms. Surely he suited his words to his audience and the

circumstances. How much time did he have? Was it late in the day when he spoke?
Was a thunderstorm brewing?
The same may be said of the Lords Prayer, of which we have two different versions.
Is this really a problem? Jesus must have taught many groups how to pray. Some
may have been children, others adults. Whatever the case, is it fair to assume that
the "official version" never variedor even that there was an official version?
It often is assumed that biblical accounts of the length of King Sauls reign are
inconsistent. Luke gives a figure of forty years (cf. Acts 13:21) in comparison with 1
Samuel 13:1, where the figure is two. But could it not beindeed, is it not likely
that both authors are correct? Saul was not king de jure for more than a very short
interval, though he reigned de facto for the duration. From a spiritual point of view,
he ceased to be king the moment Samuel announced that his reign was at an end.
He had been found wanting because he was a proud man unwilling to follow Gods
instructions. He clung to his throne long after Samuels anointing of David. But from
this point on, he was no more king in Gods eyes than Adonijah was king after
Nathans anointing of Solomon.
In the rare instance of an alleged contradiction that appears hard to crack, there are
affordable, up-to-date encyclopedias of Bible difficulties. Since they are compiled
mainly by Protestants, they tend to reflect Protestant theology, but they are
exceedingly useful. Book by book, verse by verse, they solve thousands of
ostensible problems. One begins by learning why the account of Creation in Genesis
1 is compatible with that found in Genesis 2, and by the end of the volume, one has
harmonized divergent accounts of the death of Judas. (See, for example, Gleason
Archer, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties [1982]; Norman Geisler
and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask [1992]).
How do we deal with allegations of error apart from contradiction? Academic texts
routinely impugn the integrity of the Bible. A text currently in use at Catholic
schools (Discovering Gods Word [1995] by Marilyn Gustin) accuses Matthew of
having erred in naming Herod as king of Judea in the year of Jesus birth. Herod, we
are told, died in 4 B.C. The same bookwhich, by the way, bears the imprimatur of
a Catholic bishopcharges Luke with a similar mistake in naming Quirinius as
governor of Syria. It also faults Mark for having described Jesus as traveling north
from Galilee in order to go south to Jerusalem.
Such charges are dismissed easily. Jesus was most likely born in 6 B.C., a year that
featured the confluence of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturnsomething that occurs only
every 800 years. So it was not Matthew who erred but rather a sixth-century scholar
who fixed Jesus birth approximately six years after the actual event. Although
Roman records locate Quiriniuss governorship in later years, Quirinius was a
leading general active in the area north of Palestine, and there was a changing of
governors in 6 B.C. Quirinius may have served as acting governor between terms,
even if only for a few months. As for the possibility of Jesus going north in order to
go south, he might have done so in order to transact business, visit friends, or take
advantage of special modes of transportation to Jerusalem. Besides, Jewish

authorities were plotting to take his life, and direct routes would not have been the
safest to take.
The reliability of the Bible has been vindicated again and again by historians and
archaeologists. Scholars questioned the probability of a number of strange-sounding
patriarchal names in the Old Testament until a Sumerian tablet was found inscribed
with the very names in question. In the same way, the Jews were judged wrong for
having traced the Nile and Euphrates Rivers to the same source until an Arabian
river was discovered with the same name as the one in Egypt.
The sudden annihilation of 185,000 Assyrians as recounted in the Bible was likewise
doubted until confirmation surfaced in the works of ancient historians.
Archaeologists have confirmed Lots testimony on the fertility of the lower Jordan
Valley, long questioned, just as they have validated the biblical account of a sudden
crumbling of the walls of Jericho. Noahs flood, once the butt of scholarly ridicule,
finds support in the oral and pictorial record of primitive peoples. By the same
token, biblical reference to the destruction of Canaanite cities, once suspect in
academia, has found acceptance.
There is more. Sodom and Gomorrah were once thought to be legendary cities, but
no longer. Even the possibility of fire and brimstone raining down on Sodom is
reinforced by modern geological analysis as well as by Greek and Roman writings.
Old Testament details relating to the Jewish exile in Egypt have come to be regarded
as accurate down to the price of an ordinary slave (twenty shekels). We have
confirmation, moreover, of the existence of the Queen of Sheba along with
Belshazzars Feast and the Pool of Bethesdas five porticoes, all previously doubted.
Traditional attribution of certain psalms to King David, once rejected by scholars, is
back in favor. At the same time, archaeological excavation points to a close
association between Hebrews and Moabites as implied by the book of Ruth. Finally,
Jesus and his followers invariably accepted Old Testament accounts of miracles at
face value. Take, for example, Jesus reference to fire and brimstone destroying
Sodom "on the day when Lot went out" (Luke 17:29).
Because we do not have entire original manuscript copies of any of the books of
Scripture, one may encounter an occasional copyist error (e.g., 22 for 222), not to
mention, here and there, a slip in translation. But the vast majority of allegations
are utterly groundless, and those that have not been disproven will falter given
time. Once in a great while Gods word fails to jibe with secular records. But secular
record-keepers have been known to make mistakes. Why should the most
thoroughly tested and rigorously authenticated book in the entire ancient world be
called into question unless one can prove beyond any reasonable doubt that it is
Traditional notions of authenticity
Can we rely on traditional notions of Gospel authorship, dating, and order of
composition? If one could establish that the Gospels were not written until the
second century, as many modern scholars have attempted to do, then it would be
easier to question their authorship and, by implication, their reliability. Late dating

also lends itself to speculation that Jesus stunning prediction regarding the fall of
Jerusalem may have been an interpolation that was inserted at a later date for
dramatic effect or to blame Jewish leaders for rejecting the Messiah.
Regarding order of composition, it should be noted that Matthew is our only source
for some of Jesus most important sayings and actions, including his presentation of
the "keys" to Peter (signifying Petrine leadership). If one could establish that Mark
preceded Matthew, as many have tried to do, Matthew would be more vulnerable to
the charge that his Gospel is not original but is merely an embroidered version of
Mark and hence less useful as a buttress for Catholic teaching.
Experts in manuscript dating (papyrology), using state-of-the-art, high-power
microscopes, have estimated that fragments of Matthew currently at Oxford
University were in circulation before A.D. 70 and most likely before 60. (Especially
good on this point is Carsten Thiele and Matthew DAncona, Eyewitness to Jesus:
Amazing New Manuscript Evidence about the Origin of the Gospel [1996]). In
addition, we have the findings of language specialists. Just as Professor Henry
Higgins in My Fair Lady could place strangers within a few blocks of their birthplace
in London by the idioms in their accents, so too can philologists pinpoint the date of
an ancient manuscript to within a decade or two of its composition on the basis of
which expressions were popular with a given generation. Some of the latest
philological research on the Gospels places all four somewhere between 40 and 50.
(Here I would refer readers to Jean Carmignacs pioneer volume The Birth of the
Synoptics [1987]. Carmignac, a translator of the Dead Sea Scrolls, is one of the
foremost French biblical scholars of the twentieth century.)
As important as science is the historical foundation undergirding Sacred Tradition.
Among those who confirm authorship, early dating, and order of composition during
early Christian times are heretics, Jewish writers, and pagan commentators, not to
mention Orthodox writers living near the Holy Landhardly a friendly constituency.
Bearing in mind that, until around 155 to 160, there were still some alive who had
studied under one of the twelve apostles, the list is impressive. Polycarp (c. 69155)
studied under John, and Irenaeus (c. 125203)who was Polycarps student as well
as the author of several scholarly volumesvouches for Tradition on authorship,
dating, and order of composition. Bishop Papias of Hierapolis, the first prominent
post-apostolic Church historian, writing around A.D. 140, affirms that the first Gospel
was by Matthew, just as he speaks of another Gospel by Mark. Papias is quoted by
Eusebius. Almost thirty years before Papias, Hermas, in his work Shepherd,
identified Luke and John as the authors of the third and fourth Gospels.
Tertullian, writing from Africa about A.D. 160, makes a telling distinction between
Matthew and John, whom he calls "apostles," as compared with Mark and Luke,
whom he describes as "apostolic men." The Anti-Marcion Prologues to the Gospels
(c. 150200) gives the order of composition as Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There are
additional sources for one or more of the above points, including Clement of Rome
(first century); Ignatius of Antioch (early second century); the Didache (90100); the
fragment of Muratori (second century); Clement of Alexandria (140215);
Theophilus, bishop of Antioch (c. 150); Justin (c. 160); and Origen (185253).

In manuscripts of a still earlier date, such as a letter of Polycarp and the seven
letters of Ignatius of Antioch (martyred about 107), we find quotations from and
allusions to the Gospels. The Epistle of Barnabas (c. 120) quotes from Matthew.
Even the first hereticsCerinthus (first century), Valentinus (d. 160), Marcion (c.
110165), Basilides (early second century), and Tatian (late second century)all
agree that the first three Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke at
approximately the dates agreed on by orthodox Christian authors.
Internal evidence of authorship may be adduced as well. John is reputed to have
been from a priestly family, and the author of the fourth Gospel displays knowledge
of Jerusalem, along with its Temple and liturgy, that is unmistakably clerical. John
claims to have been an eyewitness, and this too is confirmed by displays of
firsthand knowledge. For example, he tells us that at Cana the water jars were filled
"to the brim" (John 2:7) and that when Lazarus sister Mary used a perfumed balm
to anoint Jesus feet, the whole room was suffused with the sweetness of its scent
(12:3). Finally, Johns insistence on being a witness to the Crucifixion is borne out by
Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who identify one and only one apostle, John, as having
stood at the foot of the cross.
Luke is said to have been a doctor, and his Gospel contains a variety of specialized
medical terms that clearly identify the author as a physician. Noted Bible translator
William Barclay sees medical expertise in the way Luke describes the cure of a
withered hand and also in his use of a verb that suggests clinical observation and a
noun that implies symptoms of insanity (cf. The Gospel of Luke [1975] 52, 72, 86,
219, 294). When Luke refers to a needle, he alone uses a term signifying a surgical
needle as opposed to the kind used for sewing. And Luke alone includes Jesus
words "Physician, heal yourself" (Luke 4:23).
For his part, Matthew is reputed to have been a tax collector (Levi), and his Gospel
is uniquely concerned with matters of coinage and money. He alone refers to the
precious gifts of the Magi; he alone relates the parable of the talents (as opposed to
Lukes "gold pieces") and writes of the paying of the Temple tax with a coin drawn
from the mouth of a fish (cf. Matt. 17:27). Typically, instead of relating that Judas
received "money" for betraying Jesus (as do Mark and Luke), Matthew specifies kind
and amount: "thirty pieces of silver."
Early dating for all four Gospels is indicated in the first instance by their lack of
reference to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Matthew especially stands out in this
respect because of his emphasis on the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Secondly,
Luke speaks in his Acts of the Apostles (c. 63) of having written an earlier treatise
(cf. Acts 1:1). Thirdly, all four Gospels contain hundreds of details relating to people,
places, and events not likely to have been familiar to authors of a later period.
In part two of this article we will consider whether the evangelists put words in
Jesus mouth and how impressed we should be with what biblical "scholars" have
been saying.

Is Jesus against Catholic Prayers?

By Kenneth J. Howell

OBJECTOR: Dont Catholics engage in many standard and repetitious prayers, both
in their Masses and in their private lives? Arent prayers in your religious services
dictated by the Church? And dont Catholics use things like the rosary and the
Divine Mercy chaplet to pray? These types of prayers seem to me to be mechanical
and insincere as well as against scriptural teaching.
CATHOLIC: For the sake of clarity, I think its important to distinguish between
standardized prayers and repetitious prayers. The prayers that are used publicly in
a Mass or other religious ceremony (e.g., consecration of a Church building) are
prescribed by the Church, but they are not repetitious in the way that the rosary or
the Divine Mercy chaplet is.
OBJECTOR: Its hard for me to see how standardized prayers could be from the
heart. If a priest has to read a prayer from a book, how can he really be sincere?
CATHOLIC: I can assure you that a prescribed or written prayer can be just as much
from the heart as any prayer off the cuff. And when a priest reads or recites a
prayer in the Mass, he can be as sincere as if he had composed the prayer himself.
One of the most important reasons that the Church provides these prayers is that it
doesnt want the people of God to be misguided by the individual inclinations or,
even worse, the false teachings that an individual priest might fall into unknowingly.
Standardized prayers are a way of exercising the pastoral care of Christ in his body,
the Church. I hope youll agree that we cannot and should not judge the sincerity of
another persons heart by the prayers he uses, especially when those prayers come
from a tradition that we are not familiar with.
OBJECTOR: Perhaps we should not be quick to judge anothers sincerity, but the use
of repetitious prayers is clearly against Scripture. Read Matthew 6:78. "And in
praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they
will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what
you need before you ask him." Jesus says explicitly that we should not "heap up
empty phrases." You may be aware that the word battalogeo is used only once in
the New Testament: here in Matthew 6:7. It seems to be a word of special
importance. It also can be translated "to babble on" or "to repeat endlessly." If the
Hail Mary is not a vain repetition, I dont know what is.
CATHOLIC: That is an interesting text, but why did you stop at the end of verse 8? In
verse 9, Jesus says explicitly, "Pray then like this." He then goes on to teach us to
pray the Lords Prayer (the Our Father). If Jesus was against standardized prayers,
why did he give us one to pray? And I presume you would agree that he wanted us
to pray this on many occasions.
OBJECTOR: Perhaps, but I think Jesus was giving us more a model of prayer here
than something we should repeat mindlessly.
CATHOLIC: I agree that the Lords Prayer is a model of prayer, one that we can use
as a basis for other prayers. But since he says explicitly, "Pray like this," I dont think

we can exclude a repetitious use of this prayer. After all, if this is a perfect prayer
coming directly from the mouth of the Lord himself, we might be in danger of
ignoring his command if we dont pray it often.
OBJECTOR: Well, I dont have any objection to praying it, but we should clearly avoid
the "babbling" and "vain repetitions" that Jesus condemned in Matthew 6:78. The
many repetitious prayers used in Catholic piety are obvious examples of violating
Jesus prohibition.
CATHOLIC: Then I suppose you also would condemn Eastern Orthodox Christians
who use the Jesus Prayer. This prayer is very simple: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy
on me a sinner." In eastern Christianity, the monks and lay people would repeat this
prayer throughout the day as a way of communing with God.
OBJECTOR: I have never heard of that prayer, but yes, I would say that any Christian
who uses repetitious prayers like that would be violating Jesus words. How can such
a prayer really be meaningful? It can even deceive a person into thinking that he is
praying from the heart when in fact he is just babbling phrases.
CATHOLIC: Not all repetition is vain. Consider the prayers spoken of in Revelation
4:8 offered day and night without ceasing: "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God
Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" Another repetitious prayer pleasing to
God is contained in Psalm 136: "For his steadfast love endures for ever." This phrase
is repeated over twenty-five times. Finally, Matthew 26:44 tells us that Jesus himself
prayed the same prayer three times in the garden in Gethsemane.
OBJECTOR: Your examples from Scripture are heartfelt prayers directed to God, not
vain prayers directed to Mary.
CATHOLIC: You may feel comfortable in judging the hearts of other Christians, but I
do not. I dont think one person can know whether another person is really sincere
or not in his prayer. I prefer to follow Jesus command: "Judge not, that you be not
judged" (Matt. 7:1). Charity toward our fellow Christians should presume sincerity
until we have clear evidence to the contrary. Remember what God said to Samuel
the prophet: "For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward
appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7).
OBJECTOR: Well, I agree that we cannot judge another. But as you said, "until we
have clear evidence to the contrary." Its clear enough to me that saying the Hail
Mary fifty-three times in about twenty minutes counts as vain repetition.
CATHOLIC: I suppose that would be natural for you think since you have never had
any experience with such prayers. From your standpoint it looks impossible to be
praying from the heart when such repetitious prayers are used. But you dont
understand that the purpose of the rosary is to meditate on the life, death and
resurrection of Christ.
The fact that the Hail Mary begins with the words from Luke 1:28, 42 recalling the
pivotal event in salvation historywhen Jesus became incarnateis reason enough
to pray these words day and night. But there is even more to this devotional prayer.

For example, in the first sorrowful mystery, we meditate on Jesus agony in the
garden of Gethsemane. The other meditations guide us through the other mysteries
of our faith.
OBJECTOR: Well, the only kind of prayers that I think can be truly from the heart are
freely composed or extemporaneous prayers.
CATHOLIC: Perhaps a reminder is in order here that non-Catholic Christians often
lead others in a standardized "Sinners Prayer." Furthermore, no Christians would
deny that reading Scripture over and over again for the purpose of entering more
deeply into the life of Christ is pleasing to God. So perhaps there is a subtle bias
against Catholic standardized prayers. Whether using standardized or
extemporaneous prayer, Catholics have the same goal of always praying from the
OBJECTOR: If that is true, then I would say that there is a disconnect between their
intention and the methods or types of prayer used. These standardized and
repetitious prayers cannot be from the heart. Maybe these prayers are just another
example of the "traditions of men" that Jesus condemns in Mark 7:8.
CATHOLIC: These prayers allow us to participate in the prayer of the whole body of
Christ, since many others use the same prayers. It has the effect of binding our
hearts with our fellow believers. But it is also important to know that standard and
repetitious prayers are just a small part of the wealth of the Catholic Churchs
teachings on prayer.
OBJECTOR: Well, all that non-Catholics are exposed to are these kinds of prayer s.
C ATHOLIC: Maybe so, but to the insider, to the person who prays as a Catholic,
there is a much richer treasure of prayer life. As an example, take the fourth century
bishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom. He says that "prayer and converse
with God is a supreme good; it is a partnership and union with God. The prayer from
the heartcontinuous throughout the day and night" (On Prayer, 6). You can see
that this father of ancient Catholicism instructs us clearly in prayer from the heart.
Whether we use repetition or free-flowing thoughts, the important thing is that our
prayer rises from a loving heart to a loving God. This is the essence of the Catholic
understanding of prayer. In fact, Chrysostom goes on to say, "I speak of prayer, not
words. It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but
by Gods grace." The apostle Paul says, "We do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (Rom 8:26).
Whether we are at worship in Mass, in a group of Catholics praying, or at home in
our closet, our desire is to reach out to God. St. John Chrysostom leads us to the
ideal of prayer in obedience to Pauls command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray
constantly." Listen to him again:
"Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God not only when it is engaged in
meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the
needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in service to others, our spirit
should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with
the salt of Gods love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe.

Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer
if we devote a great deal of time to it."

The True Ten Commandments

A Catholic Apologia for their Content and Arrangement
By Fr. Michael Wensing
Last fall the news focused on a judicial building in Alabama with its display in
granite of the Ten Commandments, sponsored and installed by Alabamas chief
justice, Roy Moore. Judge Moore defied a ruling for its removal, and by years end
both the monument and the judge were gone. Sincere Christians of all
denominations and even some representatives of Judaism protested their removal,
but in vain.
The Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, are rightly revered and practiced by those
of Judeo-Christian heritage. But Catholics maintain that the Decalogue can be
honored by all peoples and citizens of a country because it is natural law and not
just revealed law. Therefore, there is universal application of the requirements of
these commandments, regardless of religious affiliation. The Decalogue can hold a
fundamental place along with the opening words of the U. S. Declaration of
Independence, which also makes an appeal to natural law: "We hold these truths to
be self evident . . ."
The Church Father Irenaeus writes of the natural law of the Decalogue: "Their
fathers were righteous: they had the power of the Decalogue implanted in their
hearts and in their souls. . . . Through the Decalogue he [God] prepared man for
friendship with himself and for harmony with his neighbor" (Treatise against
The heritage of the Old and New Testaments is our primary and truest source for
reception of the Decalogue. In both the books of the New Testament, Revelation and
Hebrews, the preciousness of these tablets are reconfirmed. In the vision of John
(Rev. 11:19) there was seen in the heavenly temple the Ark of the Covenant, within
which, as tradition holds (Heb. 9:4), were the tablets of the covenant.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms the greatness of the Decalogue and its
demonstration of the natural law: "The deposit of Christian moral teaching has
been handed on . . . alongside the Creed and the Our Father the basis for this
catechesis has traditionally been the Decalogue which sets out the principles of
moral life valid for all men" (CCC 2033).
And yet, as Catholics watched the monument being removed from the judicial
building in Alabama, they may have observed in a close-up shot of the
commandments that they were not the same ten nor the numerical arrangement
they had learned in childhood. The courthouse rendition read:
1. I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
10. Thou shalt not covet.
Whereas the Catechisms traditional presentation of the commandments for
memorization are:
1. I am the Lord your God: You shall not have strange Gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lords Day.
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbors wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbors goods.
The early Christian church, received this catechetical tradition from the Church
Fathers, especially Augustine. He relied heavily on the Decalogue as presented by
Moses in Deuteronomy 5. Thus, until the late Middle Ages, children memorized the
commandments in the order as we still know it from the Catechism. Even after the
Reformation, Lutherans and Catholics agreed on this enumeration and arrangement.
Calvin and other Reformers, relying more on Exodus 20 and its presentation of the
Decalogue, and wanting to make a strike against the statuary and icons in the
Catholic Church, enumerated the commandments in a different way. Based on this
new sixteenth-century re-presentation of the Decalogue, many denominations in
America now teach the commandments much as they were seen on the Alabama
monument. Thus one can see a problem would be created if public squares or public
schools were allowed to display the Ten Commandments: Whose version should
While Jewish versions of the commandments follow Exodus 20 primarily, their
enumeration does not exactly follow that of the Reformers. The first commandment
in Jewish life is usually the creedal statement of verse 2 of Exodus 20: "I am the Lord
your God." This affirmation of monotheism and loyalty corresponds to the famous
"Shema" of Deuteronomy 6:4. The second commandment in Jewish faith
encompasses both verses 3 and 4 against polytheism and the making of or worship
of images of other deities or gods. It is only with the third commandment that there
is correspondence to the Reform list. In all traditions the second through eighth
commandments as listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church basically
correspond to one another. The divergence happens in the first and second
commandments and then at the end in the ninth and tenth commandments.
In an attempt to find the most original Decalogue between Exodus 20 and
Deuteronomy 5, scholars have found that both decalogues are a mixture of older
and newer traditions, as each book was being written in an earlier millennium. While
some may argue that an earlier Decalogue should have primacy, others will argue,
more correctly it seems to me, that the latest tradition encoded in sacred Scripture
has primacy as the further development in understanding that God intended. In the

commandment regarding keeping the Sabbath, the rationale for keeping it provided
by Deuteronomy is seen by scholars to be more ancient than the one provided by
Exodus, though both rationales are important (cf. Exodus 20:811 and Deuteronomy
Since both Exodus and Deuteronomy open in basic agreement on observing or
remembering to keep holy the Sabbath, there is little controversy today between
denominations on this commandments meaning that a special day of the week is to
be kept holy. However, the Catechism emphasizes the Christian tradition that the
special day to be kept holy is called the Lords Day (Latin, Dies Domini), which is
Sunday, the day of Jesus resurrection. The early delineation of Sunday as the Lords
Day is seen already in Revelation 1:10.
In contrast, the Decalogues presentation in Exodus shows an earlier cultural
mindset in putting the wife and household objects as common possessions together
under one command against covetousness in (Ex. 20:17). Moses, in separating the
wife from household objects with a separate word for coveting in Deuteronomy
5:21, creates a new dignity for marriage, monogamy, and women that corresponds
to the understanding reflected in the New Testament and in subsequent Church
teaching (especially the writings of Pope John Paul II). Thus it seems to me the
Christian tradition was correct in making the end of the Decalogue two separate
commandments by following Deuteronomy 5.
Much ink has been spilled regarding the early verses of the Decalogue about
monotheism and images. The command of monotheism produces little
disagreement. But is there a separate commandment regarding images, or are the
verses regarding images meant as an example of the practice of monotheism and
therefore intimately part of the first commandment? Again our answer depends on
which text we choose, Exodus or Deuteronomy, for there are syntax differences.
Exodus 20:3 ("You shall have no other gods before me") is a closed sentence and
could be a complete commandment.
In Deuteronomy 5:7, the Hebrew construction is such that the wording is only the
first part of what follows in the commandment, that no idol representing the deity
be carved nor placed before the Lord God nor any such carved image be worshiped.
In fact, we read verses 610 continuously, as one unit, before coming up for air.
In ancient Israel, the Lord God (Yahweh) was to receive exclusive worship (in a world
full of the gods of other nations) and was not to be represented in images like other
nations did for their deities. In fact, if one were ever to speak of an image of God,
one could refer to how later rabbis said that God had already made such an image
in mankind: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created
him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27).
Thus the syntax of Exodus 20 can look like two commandments: prohibition of
polytheism and prohibition of making carved images. But the syntax of
Deuteronomy 5:711 shows one commandment, prohibition of idolatry (especially
involving carved images that represent other gods or Yahweh). So Catholics are
justified after Augustine (following Deuteronomy) in seeing a single commandment

in the opening verses of the Decalogue. This, of course, affects the whole counting
of the commandments up through the tenth commandment.
Was the prohibition of images in worship of Yahweh also a prohibition of any and all
artistic images of other realities in the world or in places of worship? Obviously not.
Moses ordered the making of the cherubim statues to flank the Ark of the Covenant
in the Holy of Holies. Moses even had a bronze serpent fashioned in the desert for
the healing of those bitten by serpents. The first commandment shows us that we
are not to make an image of God or of other gods before God or in his presence
(except the one image God himself fashioned: man and woman. We are the images
of God who go before him in prayer and worship, because God has made us and
called us. Thus we see the awesome dignity of the human person and each human
life that God has created.).
Christians do make artistic representations of saintly heroes or heroinessuch as
Mary and the saintsto inspire admiration and imitation. Even Jesus in his human
nature is portrayed in the suffering figure on the crucifix or as a statue of the Good
Shepherd or some other earthly remembrance of his Incarnation. Such artistic
renderings not only do not violate the first commandment, but they affirm more
solidly the Incarnation, Gods presence and work in the material elements of this
world, beginning with Jesus becoming flesh.
In our national consciousness, the distinction between admiring, imitating, or
honoring someone and worshiping him is easily made (we hope) by Americans
visiting the Lincoln or Jefferson memorials or Mt. Rushmore. The men honored in
these places are national heroes. So why is it difficult for many to acknowledge
Christians as making such a distinction with images of their heroes and heroines of
faith, the saints of history worthy of admiring, imitating, and honoring?
Whose list of commandments shall prevail? We do not know the future but it seems
that we will continue to see these two versions in the mixed religious scene of
American life. It is worthwhile to note that the Church itself is not dogmatic about
the numbering system one uses. But a good apology for the list Catholics have
traditionally memorized, representing the most ancient of Christian traditions, is
handy to have in the advancement of the moral truth for all humanity that these
commandments represent.

Apologetics Primer
By John S. Martignoni

The word apologetics is derived from the ancient Greek word apologia. An apologia
was the case a lawyer would build on behalf of his client. So apologetics is about
building the case for our faithlearning how to explain and defend our faith.
There are three types of apologetics: natural apologetics, Christian apologetics, and
Catholic apologetics. My local bishop, in one of his regular columns in our diocesan
newspaper, once wrote, "There comes a time when we, as Catholics, have to be
able to defend and explain certain teachings of our Catholic faith. . . . Our faith is
based on reason and logic. The explanation of what we believe and why we believe
it is called apologetics."
Most people might say that this apologetics stuff is fine for priests or theologians or
ex-Protestant pastors, but what does this have to do with me? In that statement
from the bishop, he wasnt talking to priests and theologians and ex-Protestant
pastors; he was talking to all Catholics. He said that we, as Catholics, have to be
able to defend and explain our Catholic faith.
The question I ask Catholics is: "If necessary, can you defend your faith?" If a
Baptist were to ask you for scriptural reasons for the Catholic belief in purgatory,
would you be able to give him an answer? Could you answer an Evangelicals
question on where in Scripture it says anything about the Catholic belief in the Real
Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Can you explain to a person from the Church of
God that praying the rosary is not equivalent to worshiping Mary?
And, going beyond what the bishop said, listen to what Scripture says: In 1 Peter
3:15, the author tells us, "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who
calls you to account for the hope that is in you." Always be prepared! The bishop in
his column simply was echoing what God says to us through the sacred author of
Scripture: We must be prepared to defend our faith. God wouldnt tell us to do
something that we are incapable of doing.
Why is it so important that we be able to defend our faith? Because it contains the
fullness of Gods revealed truthour faith and only our faith. There is truth in other
creeds, but not the fullness of truth that is contained in the Catholic faith. Therefore,
we must be equipped to explain and defend it so that others may come to believe in
the truththe whole truth.
In 1 Timothy 2:4 we read, "[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the
knowledge of the truth." In John 8:32, "And you will know the truth, and the truth
will make you free." God desires that all men know the truth, and man needs to
know the truth to be set free. God desires that all men be saved, and he wants you
and me to participate in the process. What will your response be?
There are those who rationalize not learning more about the faith, and who pass up
opportunities to explain and defend the faith, by saying things like "Im not all that
concerned about doctrine; I just want to show people the love of Jesus Christ." Well,
the love of Jesus Christ is the truth of Jesus Christ! In John 18:37, Jesus says, "For

this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the
truth hears my voice."
Doctrines and dogmas are nothing more than the truth given to us by Jesus Christ.
They are lampposts lighting the path that leads to Christ. When you consider all the
Scripture passages on truth, it becomes clear that if you want to share the love of
Jesus Christ with others, you have to share the truth of Jesus Christ with them.
We need to understand that truth is not a concept that each person can bend
according to their individual whims, truth is a person. Jesus Christ is the truth. And
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The fullness of revealed truth
that rests in the person of Jesus Christ resides in the Catholic faith.
If we truly love our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, would we not want them to
have the truththe whole truththat sets them free? And how will they know this
truth if we are unwilling to share our faith with them or unable to explain our faith to
them? Will you stand up for the faith, or slink quietly into a corner, when the faith is
questioned? Will you act as if youre a member of the Church Militant or the Church
Does publicly sharing our faith mean that we have to go around beating people over
the heads with Catholicism to get them to convert? Hardly. Look again at 1 Peter
3:15: "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account
for the hope that is in you." Thats not telling you to stand on the street corner
preaching the good news (although theres nothing wrong with that, either). Its not
telling you to alienate all of your friends or co-workers by shoving Catholicism down
their throats; its simply telling you to be prepared when someone comes to you.
You do not have to go looking for people to convert to Catholicism. All you have to
do is let it be known that you are a Catholic, and they will come and try to convert
you. The more you live and practice your faith, the more opportunities God will give
you to defend it.
So, in order to be prepared to defend your faithin order to become a Catholic
apologistwhat must you do? The only thing you need to do is to learn a little bit
more about your faith each day and every day. Thats it. Gain a greater
understanding of your faith daily. Notice that I did not say that you have to have a
complete understanding of your faith. The Catholic faith is deeper than the oceans,
and no one in this lifetime will plumb its depths. I also did not say that you have to
have a masters degree in theology or a bachelors degree or anything else of that
nature. All you need is an earnest desire to learn more about your faith and then
simply act on that desire.
Pray. Read Scripture. Read books on or by the saints. Read the Catechism, even if
its just a little bit at a timeespecially if its a little bit as a time, as it will stick with
you if you take it in small doses and meditate on what you have read. Get books
and tapes on apologetics. Subscribe to Catholic periodicals that are loyal to the
pope and the magisterium.

To become a Catholic apologist you need simply to have a desire to learn more
about your faith and the will to act upon that desire. As you do so, God will bring
you into situations in which you will have the opportunity to share your faith,
explain it, and defend it.
Seven rules of engagement
Here are some important points to remember when engaging in an explanation or
defense of your faith:
1. Pray. Pray before, during, and after you engage someone in a conversation on the
Catholic faith. You and I do not convert anyone; it is the Holy Spirit who changes the
hearts and minds of men.
2. Remember Luke 5:10: "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men."
Jesus said this to Simon Peter, but he is also saying it to us. Will you make mistakes?
Will you get into tight spots? Of course. Peter did. Yet Jesus told Peter not to be
afraid. Why? Because if we are sincere in our desire to share the truth with others,
to share Jesus with others, Jesus will find a way to make something good come out
of even our mistakes. He will bless our efforts. But you must be sincere in your
desire. Do not become an apologist for your faith in the hope of winning an
argument about Scripture with your Evangelical friend or your Fundamentalist
brother-in-law. Apologetics is not about winning arguments. It is about sharing the
truth; it is about planting seeds.
3. When presented with an opportunity to defend your faith, never be afraid to say,
"I dont know." But always follow "I dont know" with "But I will find out and get back
to you." Once someone questions or attacks the Catholic faith in front of you, the
door has been opened. Do not let that door shut! Get back to that person with
further dialogue, books, pamphlets, tapes, whateverbut do not let that door shut!
4. Always look at an attack on your faith or a question about your faith as an
opportunity. Most Christians who say something about Catholicism to you do so in
good faith. Sometimes they are simply curious and want to learn more. Other times
they think you are going to hell because you are a Catholic, and they want to save
your soul from eternal damnation. That is a wonderful thing! They are practicing the
love of Christ for you. So view any question or attack on the Church as God opening
a door for you.
5. Never get frustrated. You may be brilliant in your explanation of a particular
doctrine or practice of the Catholic faith, and the person you are talking to simply
may refuse to hear it. And he may say the most irrational and illogical things
imaginable in response. Thats fine. As I said earlier, just think of yourself as
planting seeds. You and I are not capable of converting anyone. You do what you
can and then offer the rest to God.
6. Stay focused. If you have ever engaged a non-Catholic in any serious
conversation about your faith, you probably are familiar with what I call the
"doctrinal dance." He will ask you a question about purgatory, and, right in the
middle of your answer, he will say something like "Well, why do you guys worship

Mary?" As you respond to that, he will say, "Why do you believe the pope cant sin?"
As you explain papal infallibility, he will say, "Why do you confess your sins to a
man instead of to God?" The doctrinal dance. Some non-Catholics switch the subject
whenever you have an answer to their questions. Dont let them do it. Keep bringing
the conversation back, in a firm but gentle way, to one main topic until you have
said all that you want to say on that topic. Then you may move on.
7. Know to whom youre talking. For our purposes, there are two main types of
apologetics: Catholic apologetics for non-Catholics and Catholic apologetics for
Catholics. The people I have had the most trouble convincing on any given truth of
the Catholic faith are not Protestants but Catholicspeople who attend Mass every
Sunday and who pick which of the Churchs teachings they want to believe, just like
you would choose or reject items of food as you go down the line in a cafeteria. The
term often used to describe such people is "cafeteria Catholics."
When talking to Protestants, you have to stick mostly to Scripture. You can use logic
and plain old common sense as well, but you almost always will find yourself
coming back to Scripture. So dont let Scripture scare you! And do not be
intimidated by any Protestants seemingly superior knowledge of Scripture. The
average Protestant has memorized maybe twenty or so Scripture verses to deal
with Catholics. Most of these verses, if not all, have been taken out of context. The
average Protestant is hardly a Scripture scholar. He loves it, and he probably reads
it more than the average Catholic (a habit we should strive to emulate), but his is
not such a scriptural juggernaut that you should be afraid to engage him in a
discussion of Scripture.
If you run into scriptural difficulty, what do you do? Always remember point 3: "I
dont know, but I will find out and get back to you."
The Bible is a Catholic book. The Catholic Church gave it to the world. The Catholic
faith can be defended on purely biblical grounds much more easily than any nonCatholic Christian faith. So do not be afraid to engage non-Catholics in a discussion
of Scripture.
When talking to cafeteria Catholics, you can use Sacred Scripture and Sacred
Tradition (which you cannot use with Protestants) as well as logic and common
senseand none of it may do you any good. Some of the Catholics I have talked to
are more irrational and illogical even than some atheists I have talked to. When I
run across a Catholic of the cafeteria kind, I simply ask if he says the Creed every
Sunday at Mass. "Of course I do," hell respond inevitably. Then I say to him that
when he recites the Creed, he needs to skip the part that says, "I believe in one,
holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." Because he doesnt.
All or nothing
Which brings us to an important point: Do not try to defend the Catholic faith unless
you believe what the Catholic Church teaches in its entirety and you can say that
you believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Because if you do not
believe what the Catholic Church teaches in its entirety, then sooner or later the
part that you dont believe will be thrown back in your face. Your disbelief of a

particular doctrine or doctrines will cause all of your arguments for believing the
other Catholic doctrines to come crumbling to the ground. Its the same authority
behind the doctrines you choose to believe as the ones you choose not to believe.
How do we know what the Church believes? A good start is the Catechism. As the
Pope writes in the introduction, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church is offered to
every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pet.
3:15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes." The Pope, and
each bishop in the world, is telling us that the Catechism contains what the Catholic
Church believes. That, then, is what we as Catholics believe.
Bishop Anthony Pilla, a former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,
stated at one of the groups national meetings, "Essential to true reconciliation
within the Church is the principle that being Catholic is not a purely personal and
subjective matter but is something that involves accepting Church teaching and
The Catechism gives us Church teaching and practice. We need to accept these
teachings and adhere to them with a religious assent. If we dont, what happens? If
you call yourself Catholic but you want to pick and choose which of the Churchs
teachings you will accept and which you will reject, you give everyone else who
calls himself "Catholic" the right to do the same.
For example, lets say you believe women should be allowed to be priests. Turn to
the Catechism, paragraph 1577, which states, "Only a baptized man validly receives
ordination. . . . For this reason the ordination of women is not possible." You reject
that teaching? Okay, thats fine. Please rip that page out of your Catechism. There.
You just made it the Catechism of your Catholic Church, but not of mine.
Remember, if you can throw doctrines out, so can everyone else who calls himself
Catholic. That gives Joe Parishioner over at St. Doubting Thomas Catholic Church the
right to throw out the Churchs social justice teachings. He doesnt feel like feeding
the hungry, caring for the poor, and all that other bleeding-heart stuff, so he rips out
paragraphs 24012463. He just made it the Catechism of his Catholic Church, not
mine and not yours.
You believe contraception is okay? Rip out paragraph 2370, which says
contraception is "intrinsically evil." Joe Parishioner doesnt like what the Church
teaches on the Eucharist? Paragraphs 13221419?Rip! Someone else doesnt like
what it teaches in paragraphs 200205?R-r-i-i-p! Or in paragraphs 15601580?Rr-r-i-i-i-p!
Can you see what is happening? Can you see where this is leading? Ive heard it
said that there is a shortage of vocations to the priesthood in the United States, but
that there is no shortage of vocations to the papacy. If we dont believe in all of it, if
we each appoint ourselves pope and throw out a doctrine here or a doctrine there,
then our faith is no longer Catholic.
Once we accept the principle that adherence to Church teaching is a matter of
personal preference, once we accept the principle that cafeteria Catholicism is

legitimatethat anyone may pick and choose which truths of the faith to accept
and which to rejectthen we no longer believe in the one, holy, catholic, and
apostolic Church.

Can Non-Christians Be Saved?

By Kenneth J. Howell

OBJECTOR ONE: Doesnt the Catholic Church teach that there can be no salvation
outside the Church? Does that mean that no people of other religions can be in
heaven with God? What gives the Catholic Church the right to think it can judge
whether non-Christians will be saved?
CATHOLIC: The Catholic dogma is indeed that outside the Church there is no
salvation, but your interpretation of what this dogma means is flawed. The Church
does not presume to know who will be in heaven with God. It makes no judgments
in this matter whatsoever. The ancient phrase extra ecclesiam nulla salus (literally,
"outside the Church no salvation") has been a widely accepted principle since the
earliest days of Christianity. Since the Church has no authority to deny longestablished principles, it cannot simply throw out time-honored truths to suit the
current fads of thinking.
OBJECTOR ONE: But if the Church makes no judgments of any person, that is
inconsistent with the principle that outside the Church there is no salvation. That
principle says quite clearly that anyone who is not Catholic will not be saved.
CATHOLIC: No, the principle says that the Church is the necessary instrument for
people to find salvation. The Second Vatican Council affirmed that the Catholic
Church is the "sole Church of Christ" that Christ established on the earth (Lumen
Gentium 8). In the teaching and sacramental ministry of the Church, Jesus Christ is
made known to the world for the salvation of the human race. No one would have
access to Christs salvation if the Church were not in the world. In that sense the
Church is necessary. But Christs salvation is not limited to the boundaries of formal
membership in the Church. In other words, we know from Christs teaching in the
Bible that the Church is necessary, but the Church holds out hope for those outside
the Church that they too may be saved.
OBJECTOR TWO: I have to disagree with both of you. I believe Scripture makes it
abundantly clear that there is no other name under heaven than Christ himself by
which one can be saved. Acts 4:12 makes that clear. The Catholic Churchs dogma is
confused. It places too much emphasis on the Church and not enough on Christ
himself. But then the Second Vatican Council, if what you say is true, claims that the
Church, rather than Christ, is necessary and at the same time says that people who
dont accept Christ can still be saved.
CATHOLIC: Acts 4:12 says that salvation is found in no one other than Christ, "for
there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be
saved." This verse and many others make it abundantly clear that Christ is the only
Savior of the world. That is precisely why the Church says that its existence in the
world is necessary for salvation: because we would not know of Christ had it not
been for the Church. In Acts 4:12, Peter is pointing to Christ as the Savior, but he
does so as an authoritative witness to Christ, as his chosen apostle. The people to
whom Peter was preaching would not know of Christ except through his witness as
the leader of the Church. So we can say that the proclamation of Christ by the

Church is necessary for salvation. Outside of Christ there is no salvation and, by

implication, outside the Church there is no salvation.
OBJECTOR ONE: Wait a minute. If you agree with this Fundamentalist that belief in
Christ is necessary for salvation, then you are judging non-Christians. Youre saying
they cannot be saved.
OBJECTOR TWO: But if you say that non-Christians can be saved, then youre
denying the necessity of Christ coming into the world to save sinners. Your position
is clear: People outside of Christ can be saved. But this is also clearly wrong. The
Catholic position is really confused because it says that Christ and the Church are
necessary for salvation while also saying that people outside of Christ and the
Church can be saved.
CATHOLIC: It is not as confused as you imagine. Lets make some important
distinctions: The Church is necessary, as I have said, because no one will be saved
apart from Christ. If the Church were suddenly taken out of the world, the
knowledge of Christ would be lost. So I agree with our Fundamentalist friend here on
the necessity of Christ and the Church for salvation, but he insists also that faith in
Christ must be conscious and explicit for a person to be saved. Am I accurate in
stating your position?
OBJECTOR TWO: Yes. The Bible says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be
saved" (Acts 16:31). I dont know so much about belonging to the Church. If you
mean the Roman Catholic Church, then the Church is definitely not necessary for
salvation. If you mean the Church genericallythat is, the body of Christthen I
might agree. But my point is that the Catholic Church cant logically claim that
Christ is necessary for salvation and also that non-Christians have the possibility of
CATHOLIC: We can claim both because we know from Scripture that Christ and the
Church are necessary, but we also dont know how many people without a
conscious and explicit knowledge of Christ may still be united to him in a way
known only to God.
OBJECTOR ONE: Let me see if I understand you. Christ and the Church are necessary
but the Church also allows that there may be those outside the Church who are
united to Christ without knowing that they are united to him. That position is not as
harsh and condemning as I first thought but I still think that it comes down to the
same thing. You insist on salvation only through Christ.
CATHOLIC: Guilty as charged. The Catholic Church insists on salvation only through
Christ because it is the unchanging witness of Scripture and Christian Tradition. We
cannot surrender the centrality of Christ or the Church without abandoning our faith
and heritage. But you are also right when you say that there may be people who are
united to Christ while not being aware of it. We dont say that we know there are
such people. We say that because we dont know if those outside the Church are cut
off from Christ.

OBJECTOR TWO: I agree on insisting on salvation only through Christ, but then you
surrender that very belief when you allow the possibility that non-Christians may be
united to Christ without faith.
CATHOLIC: We would be surrendering our belief in the necessity of Christ only if we
agreed with you that the knowledge of Christ must be explicit and conscious. Since
you believe that the only kind of knowledge of Christ that one can have is
conscious, I see why you would say that we are surrendering our insistence on
Christ and the Church.
OBJECTOR TWO: But where do you get the idea that people can be united with
Christ without an explicit faith in him? Certainly not from the Bible.
CATHOLIC: The Bible speaks of a merciful God who wants all to come to repentance
and to a knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). God has established the
Church as the means by which all people can come to him. But the question
naturally arises about those who never hear of Christs salvation through the
ministry of the Church. Are they thereby excluded from salvation even though their
ignorance is no fault of their own?
OBJECTOR TWO: All people are guilty before God and can make no special claim.
Doesnt the Bible say that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom
CATHOLIC: Yes, all human beings are born with original sin (except Mary, but thats
for another discussion), but Paul also said that "God has consigned all men to
disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32). Gods ultimate
purpose is not condemnation but salvation. This salvation normally comes through
the ministry of the Church as people embrace Christ and the Church he founded.
The question before us is this: What about those who are hindered from the normal
means of hearing the gospel through the Churchs ministry? If an explicit and
conscious knowledge were absolutely necessary, then children who die before they
can understand the gospel would be lost. This also applies to people who are
mentally disabled and dont have the capacity to understand the gospel through
ordinary use of language. Or again, what about those in world history who never
had the chance to hear the gospel?
OBJECTOR TWO: I cant say. I dont know what God will do for such people. All we
know is what is revealed in the Bible, namely, that faith in Christ is absolutely
CATHOLIC: We dont know what God will do for those outside the Church, so its best
not to presume to judge. We can only hope and pray that God will have mercy on
them. Thats why I said that the Catholic Churchs position on this matter is not
contradictory. On the one hand, we know that the usual and expected means of
salvation is being united with Christ (cf. Rom. 6:15), but we also know from the
Bible that "the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in
steadfast love" (Ps. 103:8). We hope that those who, through no fault of their own,
never know the gospel in a conscious way may be united to Christ in a way known
only to God. We believe that God is sovereign and loving. He will judge people

according to their knowledge. If they live in a way that accords with their best
knowledge of God, we trust that he will be merciful to them.

Are There Contradictions in Genesis 1 and 2?

By Kenneth J. Howell

OBJECTOR: I find the Catholic and generally Christian belief in the reliability of the
Creation stories in Genesis to be incredible. All this stuff sounds like a fairy tale to
me. No rational, thinking person today could take this stuff seriously. Look at all the
contradictions between the first and second chapters of Genesis.
CATHOLIC: What contradictions? Can you be more specific?
OBJECTOR: The first two chapters obviously present creation in entirely different
ways. Now, I understand that most Bible scholars believe that this difference is
because the first chapter (including 2:13) comes from the P (Priestly) source, while
the second chapter (from 2:4 on) derives from the J (Yahwist) source. Apparently,
the final editor did not try to iron out the differences. He just placed the stories side
by side.
CATHOLIC: Yes, thats a common belief today. Even many Catholic scholars believe
that there are two creation stories. But lets look closely to see if there is any solid
evidence for this hypothesis. Did you know that there are no manuscripts of Genesis
that identify chapters 1 and 2 as coming from distinct sources? This hypothesis is
based solely on literary differences between the two chapters that scholars think
they have seen. They have concluded that these differences must come from
different sources. But of course it is quite possible that the same author simply
changed his perspective and use of language to tell the story of the creation again.
OBJECTOR: So are you saying that the Catholic Church opposes the majority of
biblical scholars today on this issue?
CATHOLIC: Actually, the Church makes no official pronouncements on these matters
at all, so its possible for a Catholic to believe the theory that the first two chapters
of Genesis derive from different sources. The only thing is that a Catholic may not
hold that there are any true contradictions in these two chapters.
OBJECTOR: So why are you opposing this analysis of sources?
CATHOLIC: In principle, Im not opposed to source analysis. Im simply pointing out
that it is a hypothesis and not obvious fact. I dont think anyone should accept this
hypothesis without objective evidence. If there were manuscripts that explicitly
identified two sources for these chapters, then that would be strong evidence. Even
then, one would have to investigate the accuracy of the manuscripts, but at least
that would make the question more objective. Arguments based on literary
differences can be very subjective. I suggest that we take the chapters as they
appear and ask if there are any true contradictions.
OBJECTOR: Okay. There is a different chronology of events in chapter 1 from those in
chapter 2. In chapter 1, it says that the animals were made before human beings
(cf. 1:2028) but in chapter 2 it says that man (male) existed before the animals
were created (cf. 2:1520). How do you explain that?

CATHOLIC: I would say that we have to ask if this is a true contradiction or if it is just
a difference of perspectives taken by the writer. Consider an analogy. Two people go
to a football game and sit on opposite sides of the field. Then, after the game, if
these two people write short accounts of what happened during the game, you
might and probably would get very different accounts. This would be especially true
if one of them wrote with an emphasis on the sequence of events while the other
didnt think the sequence was particularly important. If we read their accounts, we
might say that they contradicted one another, but in fact, both accounts can be
accurate taken in and of themselves. They are just written from different
OBJECTOR: That sounds like a clever way to get out of the contradiction.
CATHOLIC: Not really. A contradiction is two statements that are opposite when both
are said in reference to the same thing applying at the same time. The writer of
Genesis wished to tell of Creation in chapter 1 by emphasizing the sequence of
events. There is an orderliness to the description that is lacking in the second
chapter. In chapter 2, the writer is not concerned to tell you about the timing of the
events because he has already told you that information in chapter 1. Now, he
wants to focus on what is most important, namely, the origin of man and woman.
Notice how much there is about the male-female relationship in chapter 2 that is
completely missing from chapter 1? You see, they dont contradict one another
because they are treating different.aspects of the whole creation from different
OBJECTOR: Well, I would consider that a contradiction when a writer says that two
events happened in a certain sequence and then turns around and says that those
events happened in the opposite sequence.
CATHOLIC: To know whether a contradiction has occurred, we have to know what
the writer intended. If he intended to give a sequence of events in the second
chapter, then it would be a contradiction. But, if he suspended his interest in the
sequence of events in chapter 2, then he could not be accused of a contradiction.
That, I believe, is what happened. The writer established the sequence of events in
chapter 1. In chapter 2 he suspended his interest in proper sequence and focused
attention on the people involved in the creation story.
OBJECTOR: But how can we know whether he intended to keep or suspend his
interest in sequence in chapter 2?
CATHOLIC: We must infer this from the use of language. We can easily misjudge a
writers intention, but the overwhelming weight of the second chapter suggests to
me that his focus was different than in chapter 1. If we attribute to the writer an
interest in chronology in chapter 2, then we end up with a contradiction. But to do
that is to attribute something bad to the writer when we dont really have any
justification for doing so. I suggest that we not attribute contradictions to a writer
any writerunless we have compelling evidence to do so.
OBJECTOR: I dont know if youre right, but Ill think about it. But I do know that
there is an undeniable contradiction within the first chapter itself.

CATHOLIC: Really? Whats that?

OBJECTOR: You said that sequence is important in chapter 1 of Genesis. Well,
Genesis 1 says that light was created on the first day of creation in verses 35. It
says that God separated light from darkness and called the light day while the
darkness he called night. Then in verses 1419 it says that he made "the sun, the
moon, and the stars" on the fourth day. Was light created on the first day or the
fourth day? Genesis 1 says both. If that is not a contradiction, I dont know what is.
CATHOLIC: This difficulty was noticed long ago. Commentators of the past have
offered many solutions that dont involve a contradiction, so we ought to at least
listen to what they had to say before we rush to the conclusion that there is a true
OBJECTOR: We know that light comes from stars, including our sun. Where then did
the light of the first day come from if there were no stars until the fourth day? Light
was either created on the first day or the fourth, but it could not have been both, as
Genesis asserts.
CATHOLIC: Lets look at the language used very carefully. In verses 1419 it doesnt
actually say that light was created on the fourth day, but only that the light bearers
(e.g., sun, moon, stars) were created. So, it could have been that light was created
on the first day and then gathered into the light bearers on the fourth day. In this
solution, light may have been carried in some undifferentiated mass before the
fourth day. Or it may simply be that light existed in some form that we cant
recognize today.
OBJECTOR: That sounds to me like just some clever way to get out of the problem.
Theres no way to verify this undifferentiated mass you speak of. And if light existed
in the first three days in some form we cant verify, how do we know that your
hypothesis is true?
CATHOLIC: The Church does not insist that the events described in Genesis 1 be
verified by the procedures of science. Clearly, the events of the early universe are
not subject to direct verification. All we can do is infer what might have been.
OBJECTOR: So are you saying that theres no way to know whether Genesis is true?
CATHOLIC: No. I am just saying that the methods of empirical science might not be
the proper ones to know what happened. There might be another solution as well.
OBJECTOR: So are you saying that it is possible to interpret Genesis as referring to
something other than the physical universe?
CATHOLIC: Im saying that there are many ways to interpret these chapters that
dont involve contradictions. I am also claiming that some parts of Genesis may
refer to the physical universe and others to the immaterial parts. Clearly, when
Genesis says that human beings have souls, that is something immaterial. So not all
the language of these chapters necessarily refers to physical entities.

OBJECTOR: That sounds like an allegorical interpretation to me, not something that
a rational person would want to engage in.
CATHOLIC: Allegorical interpretations have been offered in the history of Genesis
interpretation, and the Catholic Church has never said that such things are bad. For
example, some ancient commentators said that the light of the first day was "an
intellectual light" (i.e., non-physical light). The Church has never ruled on the
legitimacy of these interpretations. But just because something is allegorical, that
doesnt mean that it is irrational.
OBJECTOR: So how does the Catholic Church interpret Genesis 1 and 2?
CATHOLIC: There is no one way of interpretation that the Church approves. There
are many ways. All the Church insists on is that we dont see contradictions in the
text of Genesis. This is a specific instance of a more general rule that scriptural
texts do not contradict one another. The examples you cite are not true
contradictions. There are completely rational interpretations of Genesis that dont
involve contradictions.

Is Purgatory Found in the Bible?

By Christine Pinheiro and Kenneth J. Howell

OBJECTOR: A friend of mine told me that Catholics dont believe in purgatory
anymore. I found that hard to believe because the Catholic Church is so slow in
changing things, but he is a Catholic and I figured he should know. Is this true?
CATHOLIC: Sadly, your Catholic friend is going more on hearsay than on solid
knowledge. The Catholic Church has not given up its belief in purgatory because
purgatory is a dogma of the faith, or what we may call a de fide doctrine.
OBJECTOR: I thought so. But that presents a big problem for me. The Catholic
Church claims to follow the teachings of the Bible, but I can find no mention of it in
CATHOLIC: Before I show you some biblical references, tell me what you understand
by the Catholic teaching on purgatory, because I often find that it is misunderstood.
OBJECTOR: Purgatory is like a second chance for people who have not been good
disciples of Jesus in this world. If they didnt follow him, they can work off their sins
in purgatory and go to heaven. I see purgatory as another instance of the Catholic
dependence on good works as a means of salvation. Purgatory is not heaven or hell
but an in-between state in which people are punished for their wrongs in this life
that were not forgiven.
CATHOLIC: Your understanding is not what the Catholic Church teaches. It may
surprise you to know that the Church makes very few binding statements about
what purgatory is. The sections in the Catechism of the Catholic Church are very
short. The most important statement is: "All who die in Gods grace and friendship,
but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after
death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter
the joy of heaven" (CCC 1030). So, you see, purgatory is not a second chance after
this life. It is only for those who "die in Gods grace and friendship."
OBJECTOR: What does it mean to "die in Gods grace and friendship"? Romans 10:9
says that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. It doesnt say
anything about undergoing a purification after death. All the holiness we need to
enter heaven is in Christ. If we trust him, we will be saved.
CATHOLIC: The language of dying in Gods grace is another way of saying that when
we die we must have faith in Christ, as Romans 10:9 says. But Paul did not intend
his words in this text to be taken as the complete story. We have to interpret one
text in the Bible in the light of the whole Bible.
OBJECTOR: I agree, but there is not one word about purgatory in the Bible.
CATHOLIC: Look at 1 Corinthians 3:1415: "If the work which any man has built on
the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any mans work is burned up, he
will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." You see,
the Latinate word purgatory means a purgation or burning by fire. Paul in these

verses refers to a purgation process whereby a man is saved even though his works
are burned away. This is precisely what the Catholic Church teaches. A person at
death who still has personal faults is prevented from entering into heaven because
he is not completely purified. He must go through a period of purgation in order to
be made clean, for nothing unclean will enter heaven (cf. Rev. 21:27).
OBJECTOR: You said we need to interpret verses of the Bible in context, but you left
out verse 13: "Each mans work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it,
because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one
has done." You see it speaks about "the Day." That means the Day of Judgment, not
some intermediate state of purgatory.
CATHOLIC: Of course we dont really know what day Paul is talking about, so it
would be arbitrary to limit it to the final Day of Judgment. I take it that we both
believe in a personal judgment after death and a general judgment at the end of
OBJECTOR: Yes, but it makes much more sense to me to read this as referring to the
general judgment. It speaks about a day that brings ones work to light, not about a
process of purification. Even if this text could refer to the personal judgment, it
doesnt show that the Catholic notion of purgatory is true.
CATHOLIC: Assuming that the text could refer to the personal judgment, what do
you see in the idea of purgatory thats not found in this passage?
OBJECTOR: Well, the most obvious difference is that it doesnt mention anything like
praying for the dead, which is a major part of the Churchs teaching on purgatory.
CATHOLIC: I agree that these verses dont mention prayers for the dead, but other
passages in the Bible do. The most obvious is 2 Maccabees 12:4045. When Judas
prays and has sacrifices offered for soldiers who died in battle, he is commended for
acting "very well and honorably."
OBJECTOR: The book of 2 Maccabees isnt inspired, so you cant say that this shows
scriptural support for purgatory.
CATHOLIC: Well have to discuss the inspiration of Maccabees some other time, but
at least this passage shows that even before Christ the Jewish people recognized
the need for purification from sins after death and believed that the prayers and
sacrifices of those still living could aid in this purification. The Catholic Church didnt
make up this idea.
OBJECTOR: Well, even if the Catholic Church didnt make it up, that doesnt mean
its true. We are under the New Covenant, so many of the precepts of the Old Law,
such as dietary laws, no longer apply. This need for purification after death could be
one of those things.
CATHOLIC: I agree that we cannot say that everything present in Judaism before
Christ is something that applies to our state after Christ. Even so, the indication in
Maccabees of purification after death is not a precept but a belief, and so it is not in

the same category as dietary laws. Furthermore, the New Testament shows a
continuity with this idea. For example, Matthew 12:32 says that some people who
sin "will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." This suggests that
there are some sins that will be forgiven in the age to come. If there is no
purification after death, then this passage doesnt make much sense.
OBJECTOR: Jesus wasnt speaking about the distinction between this life and the
next; rather, he was making a distinction between the age under the Old Covenant
and the age under the New Covenant.
CATHOLIC: That interpretation doesnt make sense, though, because it doesnt fit
with the context of the verse. Right before this, Jesus had been casting out demons,
and he announced that the kingdom of God had come. Hes saying that the
kingdom of God is already present; it would make little sense for him to then refer
to the dominion of the kingdom as an "age to come."
OBJECTOR: Even so, this could just mean that at the moment of our death, we are
purified and forgiven. The testing in 1 Corinthians 3:1415 could be instantaneous. I
dont see any evidence in the Bible that souls actually exist after death in a state of
existence that is neither heaven nor hell.
CATHOLIC: The Church doesnt exclude the possibility that purgatory could be an
instantaneous purification, but there are indications in the Bible that souls do exist
in some state that is neither heaven nor hell. Look at 1 Peter 3:1920. These verses
show Jesus preaching to "to the spirits in prison." The "prison" cannot be heaven,
because the people there do not need to have the Gospel preached to them. It
cannot be hell, because the souls in hell cannot repent. It must be something else.
As you can see, there is nothing unbiblical about the claim that those who have died
might not immediately go to heaven or to hell.
OBJECTOR: Even if the passages you cite do refer to some state other than heaven
or hell, this doesnt automatically imply purgatory, because the "spirits in prison"
died before Christs sacrifice opened the way to heaven. The condition in 1 Peter is
not necessarily the same as purgatory.
CATHOLIC: It is certainly possible that the state mentioned here, often called "the
limbo of the fathers," is a state other than that of purgatory, but at least weve
established that there is nothing contrary to Scripture in asserting that those who
have died can be in a temporary state other than heaven or hell.
OBJECTOR: Well, I can understand why people who died before Christ might have
been in a state other than heaven or hell, but the idea of purgatory seems
inconsistent with the love of God. If God really loves us, why would he want us to go
to purgatory and suffer for our sins?
CATHOLIC: On the contrary, the idea of purgatory, when properly understood, is
entirely consistent with the love of God. God wants us to be perfect (cf. Matt. 5:48).
If we are not perfected by the time we die, we will be perfected in purgatory. He
loves us too much to allow us to be less than what he created us to be. Purgatory is
not about an angry God inflicting punishment upon his creatures. It is about a loving

Father who "disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" (Heb.

No Salvation Outside the Church

By Fr. Ray Ryland

Why does the Catholic Church teach that there is "no salvation outside the Church"?
Doesnt this contradict Scripture? God "desires all men to be saved and to come to
the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). Peter proclaimed to the
Sanhedrin, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under
heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Since God intends (plans, wills) that every human being should go to heaven,
doesnt the Churchs teaching greatly restrict the scope of Gods redemption? Does
the Church meanas Protestants and (I suspect) many Catholics believethat only
members of the Catholic Church can be saved?
That is what a priest in Boston, Fr. Leonard Feeney, S.J., began teaching in the
1940s. His bishop and the Vatican tried to convince him that his interpretation of
the Churchs teaching was wrong. He so persisted in his error that he was finally
excommunicated, but by Gods mercy, he was reconciled to the Church before he
died in 1978.
In correcting Fr. Feeney in 1949, the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office (now
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) issued a document entitled Suprema
Haec Sacra, which stated that " extra ecclesiam, nulla salus" (outside the Church,
no salvation) is "an infallible statement." But, it added, "this dogma must be
understood in that sense in which the Church itself understands it."
Note that word dogma. This teaching has been proclaimed by, among others, Pope
Pelagius in 585, the Fourth Lateran Council in 1214, Pope Innocent III in 1214, Pope
Boniface VIII in 1302, Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI, the Second Vatican Council, Pope
John Paul II, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Dominus Iesus.
Our point is this: When the Church infallibly teaches extra ecclesiam, nulla salus, it
does not say that non-Catholics cannot be saved. In fact, it affirms the contrary. The
purpose of the teaching is to tell us how Jesus Christ makes salvation available to all
human beings.
Work Out Your Salvation
There are two distinct dimensions of Jesus Christs redemption. Objective
redemption is what Jesus Christ has accomplished once for all in his life, death,
resurrection, and ascension: the redemption of the whole universe. Yet the benefits
of that redemption have to be applied unceasingly to Christs members throughout
their lives. This is subjective redemption. If the benefits of Christs redemption are
not applied to individuals, they have no share in his objective redemption.
Redemption in an individual is an ongoing process. "Work out your own salvation in
fear and trembling; for God is at work in you" (Phil. 2:1213).
How does Jesus Christ work out his redemption in individuals? Through his mystical
body. When I was a Protestant, I (like Protestants in general) believed that the

phrase "mystical body of Christ" was essentially a metaphor. For Catholics, the
phrase is literal truth.
Heres why: To fulfill his Messianic mission, Jesus Christ took on a human body from
his Mother. He lived a natural life in that body. He redeemed the world through that
body and no other means. Since his Ascension and until the end of history, Jesus
lives on earth in his supernatural body, the body of his members, his mystical body.
Having used his physical body to redeem the world, Christ now uses his mystical
body to dispense "the divine fruits of the Redemption" (Mystici Corporis 31).
The Church: His Body
What is this mystical body? The true Church of Jesus Christ, not some invisible
reality composed of true believers, as the Reformers insisted. In the first public
proclamation of the gospel by Peter at Pentecost, he did not invite his listeners to
simply align themselves spiritually with other true believers. He summoned them
into a society, the Church, which Christ had established. Only by answering that call
could they be rescued from the "crooked generation" (Acts 2:40) to which they
belonged and be saved.
Paul, at the time of his conversion, had never seen Jesus. Yet recall how Jesus
identified himself with his Church when he spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus:
"Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4, emphasis added) and "I am Jesus, whom
you are persecuting" (Acts 9:5). Years later, writing to Timothy, Paul ruefully
admitted that he had persecuted Jesus by persecuting his Church. He expressed
gratitude for Christ appointing him an apostle, "though I formerly b.asphemed and
persecuted and insulted him" (1 Tim. 1:13).
The Second Vatican Council says that the hierarchical structure of the Catholic
Church and the mystical body of Christ "form one complex reality that comes
together from a human and a divine element" (Lumen Gentium 8). The Church is
"the fullness of him [Christ] who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:23). Now that Jesus has
accomplished objective redemption, the "plan of mystery hidden for ages in God" is
"that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to
the principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (Eph. 3:910).
According to John Paul II, in order to properly understand the Churchs teaching
about its role in Christs scheme of salvation, two truths must be held together: "the
real possibility of salvation in Christ for all humanity" and "the necessity of the
Church for salvation" (Redemptoris Missio 18). John Paul taught us that the Church
is "the seed, sign, and instrument" of Gods kingdom and referred several times to
Vatican IIs designation of the Catholic Church as the "universal sacrament of
* "The Church is the sacrament of salvation for all humankind, and her activity is
not limited only to those who accept her message" (RM 20).
* "Christ won the Church for himself at the price of his own blood and made the
Church his co-worker in the salvation of the world. . . . He carries out his mission
through her" (RM 9).

* In an address to the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of

the Faith (January 28, 2000), John Paul stated, "The Lord Jesus . . . established his
Church as a saving reality: as his body, through which he himself accomplishes
salvation in history." He then quoted Vatican IIs teaching that the Church is
necessary for salvation.
In 2000 the CDF issued Dominus Iesus, a response to widespread attempts to dilute
the Churchs teaching about our Lord and about itself. The English subtitle is itself
significant: "On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church."
It simply means that Jesus Christ and his Church are indivisible. He is universal
Savior who always works through his Church:
The only Savior . . . constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: He himself is in
the Church and the Church is in him. . . . Therefore, the fullness of Christs salvific
mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord (DI 18).
Indeed, Christ and the Church "constitute a single whole Christ" (DI 16). In Christ,
God has made known his will that "the Church founded by him be the instrument for
the salvation of all humanity" (DI 22). The Catholic Church, therefore, "has, in Gods
plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being" (DI
The key elements of revelation that together undergird extra ecclesiam, nulla salus
are these: (1) Jesus Christ is the universal Savior. (2) He has constituted his Church
as his mystical body on earth through which he dispenses salvation to the world. (3)
He always works through itthough in countless instances outside its visible
boundaries. Recall John Pauls words about the Church quoted above: "Her activity is
not limited only to those who accept its message."
Not of this Fold
Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus does not mean that only faithful Roman Catholics can
be saved. The Church has never taught that. So where does that leave nonCatholics and non-Christians?
Jesus told his followers, "I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring
them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd"
(John 10:16). After his Resurrection, Jesus gave the threefold command to Peter:
"Feed my lambs. . . . Tend my sheep. . . . Feed my sheep" (John 21:1517). The word
translated as "tend" (poimaine) means "to direct" or "to superintend"in other
words, "to govern." So although there are sheep that are not of Christs fold, it is
through the Church that they are able to receive his salvation.
People who have never had an opportunity to hear of Christ and his Churchand
those Christians whose minds have been closed to the truth of the Church by their
conditioningare not necessarily cut off from Gods mercy. Vatican II phrases the
doctrine in these terms:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his
Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace,

try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their
consciencesthose too may achieve eternal salvation (LG 16).
Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same
destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility
of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery (Gaudium
et Spes 22).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Every man who is ignorant of the gospel of Christ and of his Church but seeks the
truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it can be
saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired baptism explicitly
if they had known its necessity (CCC 1260).
Obviously, it is not their ignorance that enables them to be saved. Ignorance
excuses only lack of knowledge. That which opens the salvation of Christ to them is
their conscious effort, under grace, to serve God as well as they can on the basis of
the best information they have about him.
The Church speaks of "implicit desire" or "longing" that can exist in the hearts of
those who seek God but are ignorant of the means of his grace. If a person longs for
salvation but does not know the divinely established means of salvation, he is said
to have an implicit desire for membership in the Church. Non-Catholic Christians
know Christ, but they do not know his Church. In their desire to serve him, they
implicitly desire to be members of his Church. Non-Christians can be saved, said
John Paul, if they seek God with "a sincere heart." In that seeking they are "related"
to Christ and to his body the Church (address to the CDF).
On the other hand, the Church has long made it clear that if a person rejects the
Church with full knowledge and consent, he puts his soul in danger:
They cannot be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as
necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or remain in it (cf.
LG 14).
The Catholic Church is "the single and exclusive channel by which the truth and
grace of Christ enter our world of space and time" (Karl Adam, The Spirit of
Catholicism, 179). Those who do not know the Church, even those who fight against
it, can receive these gifts if they honestly seek God and his truth. But, Adam says,
"though it be not the Catholic Church itself that hands them the bread of truth and
grace, yet it is Catholic bread that they eat." And when they eat of it, "without
knowing it or willing it" they are "incorporated in the supernatural substance of the
Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus.

Bring Them Home

How Your Parish Can Reach Out to Lapsed Catholics
By Matthew Bunson
They are the second largest body of believers in the country. They outnumber all of
the mainline Protestant churches combined. At any given moment, there are nearly
20 million of them. Who are they? Lapsed Catholics.
We all know inactive Catholics: an uncle who has not been to Mass in decades
because he hates the new liturgy; a sister who left because she is mad at God after
the death of her husband; a friend who left after professors persuaded her that the
Church is misogynist because women are not ordained. They were once active in
parishes. They were baptized; many were confirmed, and others were married in the
Church. And then they were gone. They ceased sharing the faith with their Catholic
friends and family, and, worst of all, they ceased partaking of the sacraments.
The question facing all of us is: How do we get them back?
The amazing thing is that many come back on their own. Perhaps they were invited
back by a courageous friend. Perhaps they were challenged by an apologetic book
or article they stumbled across. Perhaps they came to a crisis in their lives and,
despite their terror and fear, contacted the local parish or one of the organizations
devoted to returning Catholics. Regardless of the specific reasons, the simple fact is
that many have made the decisionfreely and in response to the promptings of the
Holy Spiritto return to the Catholic Church. They do it because they no longer can
be apart.
But what about the rest? What would it take for the Church in this country to bring
back its millions of lost sheep? This is a question being asked by many Catholics
today, especially in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal, the crisis over pro-abortion
politicians, and the pervasive culture of death that are driving so many men and
women into the darkness of doubt and apathy.
The outreach to inactive Catholics is a requirement of our claim to a life in Christ.
Programs of evangelization and reconciliation are a function of the entire Church,
and their achievement is a catalyst for the evangelization of the entire Church.
What is needed is more than a committee for returning Catholics. We need to create
an atmosphere of faith and fidelity that prevents departure in the first place; fosters
a genuine, faithful, and authentic community; and leaves no Catholic ignored,
alienated, or forgotten.
The setting for an authentic return is the parish. It is the parish that stands on the
front lines of evangelization and reconciliation in the United States; it is the most
likely place for an inactive Catholic to seek help. Obviously, the first steps toward
reconciliation may be taken with the assistance of family members and friends, but
actual reconciliation ultimately will find expression in a parish. Simply put, returning
Catholics need sacraments, and sacraments are provided by parishes.

Pope John Paul II declared that the parish is "Christs presence among men. Parish
means a set of persons; it means a community in which and with which Jesus Christ
reconfirms the presence of God. The parish is a living part of the people of God"
(LOsservatore Romano, Feb. 18, 1979). The quality of that first contact with a
parish to a great degree determines whether an inactive Catholic eventually will
come home.
Time for Spring Cleaning?
There are some serious obstacles to such a parish-based approach, though. First, a
commitment to evangelizing lapsed Catholics means engaging the entire parish in
the effort, and no program is going to work without the support and leadership of
the pastor, associates, and staff.
So the first task is to get the pastor on board. Many parishioners who want to start
an outreach program in their parish find it almost impossible to gain their pastors
backing. The understandable demands of those still in the Church, limited resources
and funds, and the dwindling time of already-overworked clergy make returning
Catholics seem a mere luxury, especially in many dioceses where pews are already
full to capacity.
A second and more troubling obstacle is the state of many parishes. If we are going
to ask former Catholics to come home, we need to answer the potentially disturbing
question: What kind of home are we inviting them to? We have to confront the
unpleasant reality that our parishes may not be truly faithful. Is the liturgy in
keeping with the norms, especially as expressed in the General Instruction of the
Roman Missal and other documents such as Redemptionis Sacramentum? Is the
sacrament of penance being promoted as John Paul II asked in Misericordia Dei?
Above all, is the Eucharist at the heart of parish life as was called for in Ecclesia de
Eucharistia? In effect, beginning an outreach to inactive Catholics is an opportunity
for ongoing reform and renewal of ourselves.
The common laments of inactives are not that different from those of many actives:
"I dont feel welcome." "The liturgy is outlandish and not in keeping with the norms."
"The music is terrible." "The priests are indifferent and their homilies uninspiring."
But the most heartbreaking lament is: "When I left the parish, no one even bothered
to come after me." Obviously, unhappy parishioners are an unavoidable element in
parish ministry, but some injuries come at a time when a member is most
vulnerable emotionally, and they leave a permanent scar. When taking place within
an apparently indifferent parish settingwhere parishioners do not even know each
others namessuch incidents can be difficult moments for a Catholic to overcome.
Launching the Apostolate
If we have the support of a pastor and can say truthfully that our parish is a faithful
one, there are some practical suggestions for a successful apostolate: Build an
active team of parishioners, obtain good catechetical and apologetics materials,
publicize, organize ongoing activities and learning opportunities.

Once the decision has been made to embark on a program of evangelization and
reconciliation for inactive Catholics, the next practical consideration is organizing
the parish, starting with leadership. This outreach cannot be hurried, regardless of
how urgent the need might be or how eager the parish staff might be to begin.
Patience and organization are mandatory to insure a team that is both ready to
assume the duties given to it and worthy of serving those seeking to return to the
Where possible, team members should be recruited from the ranks of former
inactives, as they are especially sensitive to the attitudes, pain, and tendencies of
returning Catholics. But team members above all must be filled with fidelity to the
teachings of the Church. It does a parish little good to use team members who are
vague in their commitment to the Catholic faith and fidelity to the magisterium,
especially as many Catholics become inactive precisely because of the
unwillingness of some in the parish community to teach the truth.
Several different types of volunteers are needed. The well-catechized and socially
outgoing are suited to being team members. Team members will need to commit to
training sessions, seminars and lectures, as well as meetings with parish pastoral
staff concerning issues of canon law, theology, and liturgy.
Prayerful people are needed for the spiritual support of the team. They can
participate in and encourage Holy Hours, retreats, prayer opportunities, and
spiritual sharing.
There are also practical, physical needs: preparing the meeting space, volunteering
to make refreshments, providing transportation for some members and participants.
Especially important are stocking the parish library with books, videos, and
materials that teach the authentic faith and providing every returning Catholic a
copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Seeking the Lost
Of course, all of the above does little good if you dont make contact with inactives.
The ability to buy newspaper advertisement, radio spots, and broad mailings is
certainly desirable, but it is not realistic for many parishes. Outreach is possible in
other ways, dependent upon only the team members creativity, time, and energy.
Less expensive approaches include extensive messages, invitations, and articles in
diocesan newspapers, parish bulletins, and print materials for local Catholic
organizations (e.g., the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters of America, or
Catholic Charities).
These efforts will be useful, but there is also a key opportunity for individual
Catholics to reach out to family and friends who no longer are practicing the faith.
There are many occasions when a casual, friendly appeal can be made: weddings,
funerals, baptisms, graduation Masses, birthday partiesany time when
conversations offer the opportunity to discuss the faith. Above all, there are the
quiet moments (in a coffee shop over a doughnut, while driving home after a movie,
or taking a walk on a winter afternoon) that are opportunities to invite an inactive
Catholic to come home.

The last key element is follow-up. Some structure should be provided for continued
activities and formation after a returning Catholic has been reintegrated back into
the faith community. They need continued access to reliable catechetical literature
and to informed Catholics who can continue to answer their questions and concerns.
There is a danger that the patterns of trauma and isolation will reemerge and the
returned Catholic will drift away. Those friends and relatives who played a key role
in the return need to be there for the long haul. They should encourage them to
deepen their renewed faith. That might mean picking them up for confession and
Mass to help them develop a habit of attendance, going with them to eucharistic
adoration, or sharing with them books and reading materials that might inspire and
renew their energies.
Finally, it is crucial for all of us to remember the end purpose of evangelization to
inactive Catholics: bringing them home to the Church through love and forgiveness.
With forgiveness comes a change of heart, the power of true conversion. John Paul II
wrote that conversion entails a series of relationships: "to God, to the sin
committed, to its consequences and hence to ones neighbor, either an individual or
a community" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis 38). But it is God who transforms a "heart of
stone" into a "heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26) by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For returning Catholics, reconciliation is especially poignant. They already have
undergone the first fundamental conversion that takes place at baptism, professing
(vicariously in the case of infants) faith in the Trinity and the Church and renouncing
Satan and all his works. Now, they are called to a second conversion, or metanoia,
described by the Catechism as "an uninterrupted task for the whole Church" (CCC
1428). As St. Ambrose wrote, there are two conversions in the Church: "There are
waters and tears: the waters of baptism and the tears of repentance" (ep. 41.12; PL
16.1116). The tears of repentance are more than grief or sorrow. They are the tears
of joy of a family member returning home.
Those who are involved in outreach to inactive Catholics say that weeping is a
common phenomenon. After being welcomed home, returning Catholics sit in the
pews of churches and cry, sometimes uncontrollably, because they are so filled with
relief, happiness, and the sense of release. These tears are ours to share, because
we are their brothers and sisters.

What Is Biblical Criticismand Should We Trust It?

Faithful Christians are understandably wary of scholars who talk about reading the
Bible "critically," because they often also mean "skeptically." But Catholics have
nothing to fear from applying genuine science to our faith.
By Fr. Peter Funk, O.S.B.
This past December, Newsweek devoted its cover story to the birth of Jesus. The
author set out to compare two views of the story as told in the Gospels. The two
rather stereotyped views we will call the "fundamentalist" view and the "critical"
view. What was missing was a genuine Catholic view (although individual Catholics
were cited in support of each side).
The fundamentalist (sometimes also called "literalist") view maintains that the
meaning of Scripture is obvious and needs no interpretation. The critical (sometimes
called "historical") view maintains that a scientific study of languages, culture,
history, archaeology, and many other things is necessary to overcome the vast
distance in time and culture between us and the Bible events. (For a fuller
explanation, see "Questions Biblical Criticism Strives to Answer" on page 11.)
Faithful Catholics often end up sympathizing more with the fundamentalistsat
least fundamentalists insist that the Bible is reliable. The critical view, on the other
hand, usually seems to debunk miracles and undermine peoples faith. Look how
many "scholars" were trotted out to support the anti-Catholic (and unhistorical)
novel The Da Vinci Code.
But obviously Catholics cant be content to read the Bible in a fundamentalist way.
We have nothing to fear from genuine Bible scholarship. Indeed, Pope John Paul II
has taught that "faith . . . has no fear of reason but seeks it out and has trust in it"
(Fides et Ratio 43:2). The Bible is the word of God: It cannot err. The Church is the
body of Christ and dwelling place of the Holy Spirit: There cannot be contradiction
between scientific discoveries about Scripture and Catholic doctrine.
Nevertheless, the Church has been wary of critical methods of reading the Bible
over the past two centuries or so. How did this situation come about?
A Fully Catholic Reading
Although we are not usually aware of it, all of us rely on methods of interpretation to
understand the things we read. We dont often reflect on the method we are using
because the meaning of a text seems obvious. Normally, we subconsciously adopt
the method of our surrounding culture. Catholics grow up with the Eucharist,
genuflecting before the tabernacle and showing reverence in other ways toward the
Blessed Sacrament. Because we hear "This is my body" during the Consecration at
every Mass, its easy for us to understand Jesus words literally when we read them
in Scripture. (Ironically, this is a passage that fundamentalists do not read literally.)
The Church traditionally has affirmed that Scripture possesses several senses or
meanings. Usually, four are given: the literal, the christological, the moral, and the

anagogical. In other words, Scripture not only means what the original author meant
(literal), but it also possesses a meaning in reference to the revelation of Christ
(christological), a meaning in reference to the moral life of the Christian (moral),
and a meaning in reference to our hope of eternal blessedness in heaven
(anagogical). For an example of how this works in real life, see "Using the Four
Senses of Scripture to Interpret the Exodus."
But the Church Fathers who teach the four senses of Scripture also maintain that
there can be no spiritual understanding without understanding the literal or
historical sense. Just as it is necessary for the Church to retain the Old Testament in
order to understand the New, we must preserve the literal sense in order to
understand the spiritual sense.
Bridging the Cultural Gap
While none of us intentionally would read the Bible anachronistically or uncritically,
it is difficult for the non-specialist to avoid. After all, the Bible was written over the
course of a thousand years by dozens of human authors in three different languages
(Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), none of which are spoken by the majority of
Christians today. Furthermore, as we noted above, our means of interpretation is
affected by our own present cultural situation. Because all of the human authors of
the Bible lived in cultural situations that were vastly different from our own, we
need to investigate their cultures in order to be certain of understanding their
This problem was recognized in biblical times. Mark, writing for a Gentile audience
around A.D. 60, felt the need to explain certain Jewish customs and terms (cf. Mark
5:41; 7:14, 34; 15:34).
The problem is even older than that, though. After the Jews returned from exile in
Babylon, the great reforming scribe Ezra held a gathering in which the entire law
was read to the people. He needed interpreters there to explain what certain terms
meant and probably to clarify the meaning of customs no longer up-to-date (cf. Neh.
8:18). The phenomenon goes back even further: As far back as Genesis, the human
author inserts asides to make certain that later audiences understand the places to
which he refers (cf. Gen. 14:7; 36:1; see also Josh. 18:13).
What the historical-critical scholar undertakes, then, is a study of the cultural
situation of the text. This requires careful study of languages, historical
circumstances, archaeology, and so on.
It is important to recognize that, to some extent, this type of study always has gone
on in the Church. The Church Fathers Origen and Jerome learned Hebrew in order to
understand the Old Testament better. On the other hand, the Church has tended not
to be as interested in this historical understanding precisely because in Tradition, it
had a reliable set of ground rules for biblical interpretation.
Scripture Scholarship Explosion

Those ground rules were not accepted by the Protestant Reformers. Because they
explicitly rejected Tradition as revelatory and relied on Scripture alone, it became
more important for Protestant theologians to research the meaning of the Bible
apart from Tradition. In other words, the Reformers set out to determine what the
original text meant at the time it was written rather than what meaning the
Churchs traditional interpretation gave the text to present believers.
Let us illustrate with a famous example. When Jesus says to Peter, "You are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my Church" (Matt. 16:18), Catholics hold that he is not
merely singling out Peter as the man to be head of the Church; he is providing for
the office of unity that we have come to know as the papacy. Most Protestants
would reject such a claim, maintaining that it refers to Peter alone and not his
However misguided were the efforts of the Reformers who separated the
interpretation of Scripture from the Church, their original intent was to seek Christ.
The problem was that without Tradition, critical scholarship possessed no way to
bridge the gap between the original meaning of the text (what it meant) and its
power to convert the hearer today (what it means). By breaking from the Church,
they broke the cultural continuity between the Church as founded by Christ and the
present day.
One of the main reasons historical-critical scholarship remains problematic is that it
has lacked the Catholic perspective for most of its own history. The past two
centuries have witnessed a dramatic increase in knowledge about Scripture, but
that knowledge has been disconnected from Tradition.
Properly embraced, historical-critical interpretation can and should deepen our own
sense of the way in which Gods revelation is given. We can learn to appreciate the
difference between the original words of Scripture and the meaning that God has
revealed in them through a living tradition and through historical circumstances.
Reason for Caution
Despite the potential, though, the Church has been slow to embrace the historicalcritical methodand not just because it is a Protestant phenomenon. First of all,
scientific inquiry into the original meanings of the texts of the Bible is still a
relatively new endeavor. Many of the techniques derived by scholars, particularly in
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were applied immaturely and often
appeared objective while concealing biases (see "What Is the Documentary
Hypothesis?" on page 14).
This illustrates another problem that has plagued the historical-critical methods: Its
easy to draw assumptions not from the text itself but from an underlying philosophy
or ideology.
For example, a study of biblical history can be corrupted by historicism, a theory
that denies revelation. Similarly, the application of scientific methods (forming a
hypothesis about a group of texts and testing it against the evidence) often is
influenced by materialism, the theory that denies anything spiritual. For example, a

materialist would say that miracles cannot happen because they contradict
scientific theories. This is simply a false conclusion based on a hidden assumption,
not on the testimony of the texts of the Bible.
Power to Change Lives
A last concern of the Church, and one that lingers today (and here I write as a priest
who has been trained under these methods and preaches on Scripture), is that on
their own, critical methods simply are not designed to produce the transformative
meaning that believers seek in the Bible as the word of God.
Many Catholic scholars distinguish between what a text meantthe focus of critical
scholarshipand what a text meansthe interpretation given by the authoritative
The historical-critical method has a real importance, but in the words of Vatican II,
"since Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with its divine authorship in
mind, no less attention must be devoted to the content and unity of the whole of
Scripture . . . if we are to derive their true meaning from the sacred texts" (Dei
Verbum 12).
In other words, critical methods have only limited value when applied to the word of
God. They can help us better to understand "what the sacred author wanted to
affirm in his work" (ibid., 12). In the end, though, the interpretation of Scripture
must lead us to Christ. If not, then the whole enterprise is a failure.
This past century, particularly in Pius XIIs encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (On
Biblical Studies) and Vatican IIs Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine
Revelation), the Church has given Catholic scholars the proper tools for the
purification and incorporation of critical methods into the Churchs reading of
This movement of the Holy Spirit addresses the reality that modern persons are
culturally more aware of the developments of history and of the cultural
conditioning of texts and interpretations. Therefore, it would be a failure on the part
of those who wish to spread the faith among modern persons to neglect responsible
scholarship on the Bible. I used the qualification "responsible scholarship" because
there is still plenty of ideologically driven scholarship around, and because it is
controversial, it tends to get the most press. As a rule of thumb, most of what
appears in the mainstream media as "the latest findings" of scholars can be treated
with a healthy suspicion. Newspapers seek excitement and conflict, and the dull
truth is that most reliable scholarship proceeds slowly and tends to be consonant
with Catholic belief.
This brings up an important truth about critical scholarship: It stands in need of the
leaven of Catholic belief in order to remain accountable. To quote the Holy Father
again, "by faith, reason is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the
disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the
Triune God" (FR 43.2).

Defending Mary
Scholarship with the leaven of Catholic belief has led to a deepening of our
knowledge of Mary, for example. Because of historical-critical scholarship, we can
discern within Scripture the Churchs trajectory in coming to understand her
privileged role in salvation. By comparing the development of stories about Mary in
the Gospels from Mark (the earliest, according to most scholars) through Luke and
John (usually considered the two latest), we can see that the development of
doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception and Assumption do indeed have
biblical roots, even though they are not explicitly stated in the Bible.
A better understanding of how Church doctrine develops from its biblical roots also
can give us a more abiding faith amidst our present historical circumstances. The
historical-critical method is sometimes used incorrectly to argue that the early
Church featured a greater variety of beliefs and practices. Yet use of The Gospel of
Thomas by authors such as scholar Elaine Pagels and novelist Dan Brown can be
seen in another lightthat the guidance of the Holy Spirit eventually will separate
the orthodox from the heterodox. We live amidst a certain amount of confusion
among worshipers and challenges to our doctrines. That this situation is not new
should be a comfort to us; the Holy Spirit still guides us in continuity with biblical
Finally, as we saw at the beginning of this article, our present society tends to divide
biblical interpretation into two irreconcilable camps: the fundamentalists and the
critical. A healthy Catholic interpretation should avoid the naivet of
fundamentalism as well as the skepticism of secular critical scholars.
A New Path for Ecumenism
As we noted above, the historical-critical method also has contributed to the
undoing of the faith of many, especially Protestants whose theology is more closely
tied to the results of critical scholarship. A Catholic perspective can help point the
way back to a living faith that incorporates the findings of scholarship into
traditional doctrine more profoundly expressed. By demonstrating that faith is not
contradicted by reason or history, we will be able to preach the good news more
effectively to those who have wandered into darkness.
We will do this best by honing our cultural conditioning as Catholics. That way, our
interpretation of the Bible will be Catholic in the fullest sense. For even though the
forms of the practice of our faith have changed, we still belong to the one body of
Christ. We remain, in an important sense, part of the same culture as all of the
saints who have gone before us. We should bear in mind that the Catholic method
for interpreting Scripture is always liturgicalthat is, it grows out of hearing the
word of God at the liturgy and by participating in the sacraments. By delving more
deeply into communion with the Church, we will present a more convincing reading
of Scripture, a more compelling testimony to the salvation offered by our Lord Jesus

Did the Catholic Church Have Its Origin in Paganism?

A Protestant pastor tells This Rock how he got involved in the issue and how his
understanding of the issue has changed.
By Ralph Woodrow
There are many points of agreement between Protestants and Catholics; there are
also many points of disagreement. In this article, I want to present an honest,
unbiased evaluation, separate from any other doctrinal considerations.
As a young preacher, I was introduced to The Two Babylons, a book written over a
century earlier by Rev. Alexander Hislop, which claimed that the religion of ancient
Babylon, under the leadership of Nimrod and his wife Semiramis, was disguised with
Christian-sounding names and became what is known today as the Catholic Church.
"The essential character of her system, the grand objects of her worship, her
festivals, her doctrine and discipline, her rites and ceremonies, her priesthood and
their orders," Hislop wrote, "have all been derived from ancient Babylon."
Furthermore, if Belshazzar were to come back to life "and enter St. Peters at Rome .
. . he would conclude that he had only entered one of his own well-known temples,
and that all things continued as they were at Babylon." Thus "two Babylons"the
ancient one in Babylon, the modern one being described in the book of Revelation
as "Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth."
Hislops subtitle, The Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and his
Wife, seemed to me at the time to be factual. Though the arguments were
complicated and difficult to follow, he did present all kinds of pagan parallels to rites
and teachings of the Catholic Church. Consequently, some of us quoted Hislop as an
authority on paganism, just like Webster might be quoted on word definitions.
I later wrote a book based on Hislops teaching called Babylon Mystery Religion. It
became quite popular, went through many printings, and was translated into
several languages. Many preferred my book over The Two Babylons because it was
less involved and easier to read. Sometimes the two books were confused with each
other. On one occasion someone mistakenly introduced me as "Rev. Hislop." Some
people came to regard me as an authority on the subject. At the time, Karl Keating
wrote: "Its best-known proponent is Ralph Woodrow, author of Babylon Mystery
I got many letters expressing appreciation for the book and only an occasional one
dissenting. One who disagreed was Scott Klemm, a high school history teacher in
California. A Lutheran, Klemms disagreement did not reflect any doctrinal bias. He
simply recognized that Hislop was not a reliable historian, and he demonstrated that
citing pagan parallels is insufficient. After honestly, carefully, and prayerfully going
back over all of this, I realized that he was right.
Undercover Jesuit

In 1997 our ministry quit publishing Babylon Mystery Religion. I presented the
details about the reasons for the change in another book, The Babylon Connection?
I received some fine letters from both Catholics and Protestants expressing
appreciation for the clarification and correction.
I also got mean-spirited letters from radical anti-Catholic folks who felt I had given in
to the enemy. Some used terms like stupid and scum. They said I was "scared of the
truth," a "low-down coward," "traitor to Christ," and following "a false god." One
letter accused me of being an "undercover Jesuit."
It puzzles me how some can be so fanatical against one set of errorsor what they
perceive to be errorsonly to develop greater and more obvious errors: becoming
judgmental, hateful, and dishonest.
Rumors flew. According to one, "the Catholics" put so much pressure on me that I
had a heart attack and almost died. Consequently, I "recanted" and wrote the other
book. Another rumor had it that my motives were financialmy desire was to be
popular and make more money. To the contrary, our ministry faced much financial
loss because of the decision to take the original book out of print.
I recall a man saying, "I know the Catholics really must be persecuting you. Tell me,
what all are they doing to you?" He seemed disappointed when I told him I had not
been persecuted by Catholics.
My reason for pulling the original book out of print was quite basic: Citing
similarities between Catholic practices and pagan practices proves nothing if there
is no actual connection. One could take virtually anythingeven McDonalds golden
archesand do the same: The Encyclopedia Americana (article: "arch") says the use
of arches was known in Babylon as early as 2020 B.C. As Babylon was called "the
golden city" (Is. 14:4, KJV), can there be any doubt about the origin of the golden
arches? As silly as this is, this is the type of proof that has been offered again and
again about the supposed pagan origins of the Catholic Church.
It is the same method atheists use in seeking to discredit the Bible and Christianity
altogethernot just the Catholic Church. By this method, one also could condemn
Protestant and Evangelical denominations such as the Assemblies of God, Baptist,
Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist and Nazarene: Basic things such as prayer
and kneeling in prayer would have to be rejected, as pagans knelt and prayed to
their gods. Water baptism would have to be rejected, for pagans had numerous rites
involving water. The list could go on and on.
By this method, even the Bible would have to be rejected as pagan. All of the
following practices or beliefs mentioned in the Bible were also known among
pagans: raising hands in worship, taking off shoes on holy ground, a holy mountain,
a holy place in a temple, offering sacrifices without blemish, a sacred ark, a city of
refuge, bringing forth water from a rock, laws written on stone, fire appearing on a
persons head, horses of fire, the offering of first fruits, and tithes.
By this method, the Lord himself would be pagan. The woman called Mystery
Babylon had a cup in her hand; the Lord has a cup in his hand (Ps. 75:8). Pagan

kings sat on thrones and wore crowns; the Lord sits on a throne and wears a crown
(Rev. 1:4; 14:14). Pagans worshiped the sun; the Lord is the "sun of righteousness"
(Mal. 4:2). Pagan gods were likened to stars; the Lord is called "the bright morning
star" (Rev. 22:16). Pagan gods had temples dedicated to them; the Lord has a
temple (Rev. 7:15). Pagan gods were pictured with wings; the Lord is pictured with
wings (Ps. 91:4).
Tabloid sensationalism
Hislop taught that mythological persons such as Adonis, Apollo, Bacchus, Cupid,
Dagon, Hercules, Janus, Mars, Mithra, Moloch, Orion, Osiris, Pluto, Saturn, Vulcan,
Zoraster, and many more were all Nimrod. He then formed his own "history" of
Nimrod and did the same with Nimrods wife. According to his theory, Nimrod was a
big, ugly, deformed black man. His wife, Semiramisalso known as Easter, he says
was a beautiful white woman with blond hair and blue eyes. She was a backslider,
the inventor of soprano singing, the originator of priestly celibacy, and the first to
whom the unbloody mass was offered. This is not factual historyit is more in the
category of tabloid sensationalism.
The claim made in Hislops subtitleThe Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of
Nimrod and his Wifedoes not stand up under investigation. I carefully checked the
articles on Nimrod and Semiramis in many recognized reference works, including
the Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Judaica,
Encyclopedia of Religion, New Catholic Encyclopedia, and World Book Encyclopedia.
Not one says anything about Nimrod and Semiramis being husband and wife. They
evidently did not live in the same century. The Bible says very little about Nimrod
and nothing about his wife. Historians agree that the information is sketchy. So how
could claims about Nimrod and his wife prove anything?
It has been said that a communicator takes the complex and makes it simple; a
"complicator" takes the simple and makes it complex. It seems to me that basing
arguments about errors in the Catholic Church (or any other group) on details about
Nimrod and Semiramis tends to complicate and confuse rather than clarify the real
Following Hislops teaching, some claim that round objects (such as round
communion wafers) are symbols of the Sun-god. But they fail to mention that the
manna given by God was round (Ex. 16:14, KJV). Some are ready to condemn all
pillars and historical monuments as pagan. But they fail to take into account that
the Lord appeared as a pillar of fire and that in front of his temple there were two
large pillars (Ex. 13:2122; 2 Chr. 3:17).
In Eastern cultures, the many-seeded pomegranate was regarded as a fertility
symbol. Nevertheless, 400 pomegranates adorned the two pillars in front of the
temple (2 Chr. 4:13). Pomegranates alternated with bells on the robe of the high
priest (Ex. 39:24). The Israelites did not refrain from using the pomegranate symbol,
even though pagans in nearby Syria worshiped a god named Rimmon, meaning
"Pomegranate" (2 Kgs. 5:18; Strongs Concordance, 7417, 7416).
Foolish extremes

The harlot called "Mystery Babylon" is described as being "arrayed in purple and
scarlet" (Rev. 17:4). Some immediately link these colors with the bright and highly
decorated vestments worn by the pope and others within the hierarchy of the
Catholic Church. But these colors do not establish that connection.
Purple and scarlet were used for the tabernacle curtains (Ex. 26:1), the veil of the
temple (2 Chr. 3:14), and garments worn by the Old Testament priests (Ex. 28:6, 8,
15). An early Christian convert, Lydia, was a seller of purple goods (Acts 16:14).
Proverbs mentions that the family of the "good wife" is clothed in purple (Prov.
31:22). Danielcertainly not a compromiser with worldly wayswas honored by
being clothed in purple (Dan. 5:29).
"Mystery Babylon" is described as being seated on "seven mountains" (Rev. 17:9).
The claim that this chapter is about the Catholic Church does not fit the overall text,
but because Rome is known as "the seven-hilled city," some suppose that this is the
intended meaning. Hislop, for example, described the pope as "he who has his seat
on the seven hills of Rome."
The seven hills are Palatine, Capitoline, Quirinal, Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, and
Viminal. The popes seat is on the Vatican hill, across the Tiber to the west, not one
of the seven. A seven-hilled city would more likely describe pagan Rome, not papal
Moreover, if the word mountains is taken literally, the hills of Rome would hardly
qualify. The highest is Quirinal at 226 feet above sea level. St. Peters Basilicajust
the buildingis nearly twice as high. I speak from first-hand experience, having
climbed the stairway of the dome all the way up in 1978. It is 434 feet from the floor
to the cross on top.
Taking a stand against "paganism" should not be carried to a foolish extreme. We do
not refrain from using the word janitor, even though it comes from Janus, the Roman
god of doors and gates. We do not avoid using the word cereal, even though it
comes from Ceres, the goddess of grains. We do not refrain from using the word
panic, even though it comes from the god Pan, who went about scaring people. We
dont refuse to visit a museum, even though the word comes from the Muses, the
nine daughters of Zeus who presided over learning and arts.
According to Browsers Book of Beginnings, the earliest evidence of a game that
featured two opposing teams kicking, tossing, and aggressively advancing a ball in
opposite directions was practiced 5,000 years ago in Egyptas a fertility rite.
Imagine a parent sending a note to her childs school: "My son is not to play football
its pagan." It is obvious: Finding a pagan similarity does not, in itself, provide
Even if a primitive tribe worshiped a tree, Christians who decorate a Christmas tree
do not do the same thing. If they regarded it as a god, would they throw it out to be
picked up by trash collectors? Even if pagans worshiped the sun, there is no
connection with Christians who attend a sunrise service in honor of Christs
Resurrection. After all, it was "when the sun had risen" that the women came to the

tomb and found it empty (Mark 16:2). If some ancient people worshiped Dagon as a
fish-god, this has no connection with Christians who place fish symbols on their
False oath
Years ago, someone handed me a copy of the "Knights of Columbus Oath," which
was circulated at the time John F. Kennedy was running for president. This oath
supposedly taken by Catholic menrequired relentless war (secretly or openly)
against Protestants and Masons: to exterminate them from the face of the earth; to
hang, strangle, waste, burn, boil, and bury alive these infamous heretics; to rip up
the stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants heads against the
Most copies of the oathsuch as the one I was handedhad no return address,
which should have raised suspicion. It did for me. Still, some believed it must be
factual because it said, "Copied from the Congressional Record, Feb. 15, 1913."
They failed to question why it was printed in the Congressional Record.
In 1912 a magazine called The Menace printed the bogus oath, supposing it to be
authentic, but later admitted that there was no evidence it was. Meanwhile, Eugene
Bonniwell, a Catholic, lost an election for Congress. He thought the circulation of the
"oath" may have been partly responsible. When the elections committee made their
report, the oath was used as an exhibit and condemned as spurious. That is how it
came to be printed in the Congressional Record.
It is like saying the following statements were "copied from the Holy Bible": "Curse
God, and die" (Job 2:9); "There is no God" (Ps. 14:1). One must look at the context.
Valid evidence is not based on partial information.
So it is with claims about pagan origins. Even though Hislop quoted from many
scholarly books, seemingly giving his thesis credibility, he often used partial
information to make his claims. Two examples will suffice:
Hislop claimed the use of round communion wafers in the Catholic Church came
from paganism. He cited Wilkinson (Egyptians, vol. 5, p. 353): "The thin, round cake
occurs on all altars." But in Wilkinsons book, he said that these cakes were of
various kinds: round, oval, or triangular; some were shaped like leaves, in the form
of an animal, a crocodiles head, or some other figure. Hislop did not bother to give
us this information.
In another appeal to Wilkinson, Hislop said that the forty days of Lent came from
paganism: "Such a Lent of forty days was observed in Egypt, as can be seen on
consulting Wilkinsons Egyptians (vol. 1, p. 278)." But Wilkinson says Egyptian fasts
"lasted from seven to forty-two days, and sometimes even a longer period."
To those who feel that finding Babylonian origins for present-day customs or
practices is of great importance, my advice is to move cautiously, lest we major on
minors. If there are things in our lives or churches that are indeed pagan or
displeasing to the Lord, they should be dealt with, of course. But in attempting to

defuse the confusion of Babylon, we must guard against creating a new "Babylon"
of our own making.

Does Christs Church Have Apostolic Succession?

By Kenneth J. Howell

OBJECTOR: Doesnt the Catholic Church believe in the idea of apostolic succession? I
find no evidence in the Bible for such an idea.
CATHOLIC: Yes, the Catholic Church does believe that the New Testament teaches
the concept of apostolic succession, and it is not the only church today that
espouses such a doctrine. For example, the Orthodox churches believe in apostolic
succession, as do some forms of Episcopalianism and Lutheranism. But tell me first
what you understand by this term.
OBJECTOR: Apostolic succession, as I understand it, is the idea that bishops today
are successors or descendants of the apostles whom Jesus appointed to go into all
the world and preach the gospel. It supposes that the original apostles ordained
men as bishops, who in turn ordained others, and that this process continues today.
CATHOLIC: You have the basic idea down correctly, although I would refrain from
using the word descendants, because the bishops, who are successors of the
apostles, are not physical descendants of the apostles. They are and were men
chosen from among the members of the Church to lead the flock as shepherds.
These bishops are the primary pastors of the Church.
Priests (presbyters), who are ordained by the bishops, are their assistants in
ministry. They have valid orders because they are connected to the original apostles
through their bishops succession. In a secondary sense, they too have apostolic
succession. This implies that the local Church is not the individual parish but the
diocese of which the bishop is pastor.
Why is this idea objectionable?
OBJECTOR: The hierarchical structure that you outline is not in the Bible. Jesus gave
us his teachings through the apostles. They handed on that teaching to the next
generation, but they themselves died off toward the end of the first century. The
only "apostolic succession" in the Bible is a handing on of the truth that Jesus
taught. For example, Paul says, "I received from the Lord what I also delivered to
you" (1 Cor. 11:23). And Jude speaks about "the faith which was once for all
delivered to the saints" in Jude 3. These are the truths contained in the New
CATHOLIC: We agree that the apostolic ministry handed on the teachings of Christ.
Paul as a faithful servant taught the truth of Jesus Christ, but we Catholics contend
that what was passed on was not teaching only. He and the other apostles passed
on the office of shepherd for the Church. The function of a bishop is to teach Christs
gospel and shepherd the Church of a local diocese. This was intended by Christ and
faithfully transmitted by the original apostles.
OBJECTOR: Unwarranted additions like this crop up from time to time in the Catholic
Church, but they are not in Scripture.

CATHOLIC: Let me see if I understand you. You believe that Jesus passed on his
teachings to the apostles and then they passed them on to successive generations
of Christians? If so, why couldnt Jesus also have passed on duties or office to the
OBJECTOR: He appointed the apostles as the foundation of the Church, as Paul says
in Ephesians 2:20, but he did not mean for the office of apostle to continue after
their deaths. There is simply no evidence in the New Testament to suggest that the
office of the apostle was meant to be continued.
CATHOLIC: Apostolic succession means that the authority of the apostles was
passed on to the early bishops of the Church. You say this is not biblical? I presume
that you mean that the early Church had no bishops that were considered
successors of the apostles.
OBJECTOR: That would be one consequence my position. There were pastors in the
early Church, of course, but they were not bishops and definitely were not
considered as authoritative as the apostles.
CATHOLIC: I have evidence that that isnt true. One witness to the structure of the
early Church is St. Ignatius of Antioch, whose seven authentic letters are dated no
later than A.D. 117 or 118, so he must have known some of the apostles
themselves, as Antioch was a center of missionary activity frequented by Paul in
Acts 11:2630 and 13:13. Ignatius says, "It is fitting in every way . . . that you be
knit together in a unified submission, subject to the bishop and presbytery that you
may be completely sanctified" (Letter to Ephesians 2:2). Again he says of the
Church, "Jesus Christ . . . is the will of the Father, just as the bishops, who are
appointed in every land, are the will of Jesus Christ. So it is proper for you to be in
harmony with the will of the bishop" (ibid., 3:24:1). He also wrote, "It is clear that
one should see the bishop as the Lord himself" (ibid., 6:1). These quotes show first
that Ignatius considered the bishops of the Church to be the "will of God" (i.e., their
office was appointed by God) and second that obedience to the bishop was
considered obedience to God himself. In some sense, the bishop represented God in
the same way that the apostles did.
OBJECTOR: But Ignatius may be expressing only his own view, not one widely
shared among the early leaders of the Church. And further, Ignatius is not Scripture.
CATHOLIC: The idea that Ignatius expressed only his own views is common among
modern readers. Today, people tend to read these ancient views atomistically and
individualistically. But that is not how ancient Church leaders functioned. They
almost always sought to express the faith held in common rather than their own
views. You see the importance of this continuity in St. Irenaeus of Lyons (second
century): "We can enumerate those who were appointed by the apostles as bishops
in the churches as their successors even to our time" (Against Heresies 3.1). And in
the next section, Irenaeus begins to list the successors of Peter at Rome with these
words: "But since it would be too long, in a work like this, to list the successions in
all the churches, we shall take only one of them, the church that is greatest, most
ancient, and known to all, founded and set up by the two most glorious apostles

Peter and Paul at Rome while showing that the tradition and the faith it proclaims to
men comes down through the successions of the bishops even to us" (ibid., 3.2).
OBJECTOR: These early leaders, while venerable, are not the same as Scripture.
CATHOLIC: But they are expressing a tradition that we see in Scripture. In Pauls
teaching, we hear him saying, "what you have heard from me before many
witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2).
Paul envisions four generations of succession here: (1) Paul, (2) Timothy, (3) others
taught by Timothy, and (4) others taught by Timothys hearers.
OBJECTOR: But that verse just confirms my point. Paul is telling Timothy to teach
what he heard, not to ordain others.
CATHOLIC: Youre placing an either/or where there should be a both/and. Yes, Paul is
telling Timothy to transmit the teaching he has given to him, but he also is saying
that this teaching should be committed to faithful men. Both the teaching and the
men are important. And it is clear from Titus 1:5 that Paul wanted Timothy and Titus
to ordain other men as presbyters (priests) and bishops.
OBJECTOR: But this does not mean that these men were going to have the same
authority as Paul the apostle.
CATHOLIC: In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul teaches that there is continuity between himself
and successive generations. This was envisioned by Jesus himself when he told his
original apostles, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). That
same authority is expressed in Matthew 10:1: "He called to him his twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every
disease and every infirmity." These texts suggest that Jesus gave his authority to
the apostlesthe same authority that he had from the Father. What good would that
authority be for the successive generations of the Church if it was not passed on, as
2 Timothy 2:2 seems to suggest?
OBJECTOR: We agree that Jesus gave his authority to the apostles, but we disagree
that it was passed on to others. Or, maybe I should say that the authority lies in the
teaching, not in the office.
CATHOLIC: I find that contradicts Acts 1:1526. There we read about the election of
Matthias as Judass successor. If you read this passage carefully, you will see that it
shows that there was an apostolic college that had to be passed on through
ordination. The whole point of the election is that there was a position (or office)
vacated by Judas. In verse 16, Peter considers Judass betrayal as a fulfillment of Old
Testament prediction. And he also quotes from the Greek Septuagint translation of
Psalm 109:8 (Psalm 108:8 in the Septuagint numbering) to show that filling the
office was foreseen in Scripture. Verse 20 reads, "His office let another take." The
word translated "office" is episkope, which in New Testament language means
"episcopal office" (see 1 Tim. 3:1).
OBJECTOR: This is all very interesting, but all it shows is that Judass office had to be
filled, not that the apostolic office was passed on after the original apostles died. If

you look at Acts 1:2122, you will see that the man to be chosen had to be an
eyewitness to Jesus Resurrection. That cant be said of "the successors of apostles."
CATHOLIC: Obviously! That requirement could not last forever, but the passage
shows that the office of overseer had to be filled. If we didnt have other indicators
in the New Testament about the office of bishop, your point would be valid. But
when we put Acts 1:1526 in conjunction with the instructions in 1 and 2 Timothy
and Titus about ordaining men to the office of bishop (i.e., episkope), we must
conclude that the office of bishop was intended to continue after the apostles

That Rock
Caesarea Philippi, the Towering Backdrop to Peters Profession
By John Pacheco
Jesus often taught in metaphors and parables that related to his physical
surroundings. For example, he spoke of "fishers of men" when he was by the Sea of
Galilee where fishermen were working, and he spoke of "sowing seeds" where that
could be observed.
His physical location often had a profound, thematic relationship to his teaching.
When Jesus gives Simon the name Rock, the backdrop is an enormous rock bluff:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
"Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the
Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to
them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the
Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers
of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of
heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:1319).
The city of Caesarea Philippi is located twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of
Galilee at the base of Mount Hermon. In a cave at the foot of the mountain is one of
the largest springs feeding the Jordan River. Because springs bring fertility and new
life, pagans had been leaving sacrifices to the Greek gods in that cave since the
third century B.C. At the time of Jesus, Caesarea Philippi was a cultural and political
center known for its pagan worship.
Dont Panic
The modern name of the city is Banias, an Arab form of the earlier name Panias,
which was derived from Pan, the Greek god of nature, fertility, shepherds, and
sheep. Pan was depicted as a merry, ugly man with the horns, ears, and legs of a
goat. He liked to frighten unwary travelers, which is where we got the word panic.
Pan was supposed to make flocks fertile; when he did not, his image was flogged to
stimulate him.
Just to the right of the cave are five niches hewn out of the rock wall. These likely
held statues of other gods whose names are etched in Greek, including Echo and
Hermes. In one myth, Pan ripped the wood nymph Echo to pieces because she
rejected his sexual advances. All that was left of her was her voice, which is where
we get the word echo. Hermes, Pans father, was the messenger of the gods, often
portrayed with wings on his feet. He was also the god who escorted souls to Hades.
The Greeks were not the only pagans to worship in the area of Caesarea Philippi;
there also are some fourteen temples of ancient Syrian Baal worship. During the
period of Israels Judges, God punished the Jews for refusing to destroy the altars

erected to the Baals, the gods of Israels conquered nations. One of these nations
was the "Hivites who dwelt on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon as far as
the entrance of Hamath" (Judg. 3:3).
Hail, Caesar!
In addition to Greek and Syrian pagan worship, Caesarea Philippi bore the imprint of
Romes civic religion. Twenty years before the birth of Jesus, Caesar Augustus gave
the city of Panias to King Herod, who, as a sign of gratitude, built a temple of white
marble to the emperor. About the time of Jesus birth, Herod the Greats son Philip
named the city Caesarea Philippi. Philip chose Caesarea Philippi to be the territorys
capital. Herod Agrippa later renamed the city Neroneas in honor of the emperor
Mount Hermon, located just outside of Caesarea Philippi, is significant to the Jewish
people. First, as mentioned above, there are several references to it in the Old
Testament (e.g., Judg. 3:3; Josh. 11:17; 1 Chr. 5:23). In the story of Israels defeat of
the northern kings, it is mentioned as one of the places conquered by the Jews:
"So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of
Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland
from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon
below Mount Hermon. And he took all their kings, and smote them, and put them to
death" (Josh. 11:1617).
A Place Set Apart
The other significant feature of the mountain is that it was once one of the four
main sources feeding the Jordan River. The mountains cave is the Jordans
easternmost source. Because of its connection to the Jordan, the mountain and the
cave had profound religious significance to the Jewish people. Hermon is Hebrew for
"the mountain set apart." It was regarded as a very holy mountain.
What Jesus says in Matthew 16:1319 about the Church and the place of Peter is
amplified by the religious history surrounding him, and his words draw much of their
force from this setting. When Jesus asks the apostles, "Who do men say that the Son
of Man is?" he does it in a place with religious significance for Jews and Syrian and
Greek pagans and political-religious significance for Romans.
Here, in this place of religious plurality, Jesus poses the question about his identity.
Our Lords question and Peters response signify Christs claim on all worshipers of
God. In this place where many sought divinity, the Holy Spirit reveals through Peter
the One worthy of worship, Jesus Christ. Jesus confronts all the religious claims of
history in all of their glory and majesty, and then he claims for himself the sole, true
object of worship.
Mount Hermon serves as a symbol of the Churchand in particular the Churchs
relationship to the world. It is Israels highest mountain, reflecting the stature and
role of the Church in the world as towering over other religions, kingdoms, and

nations in authority. It communicates the eternal, immovable, and indefectible

nature of the Church.
Scripture calls Christians to transform the world but not be of the world (cf. John
8:23). Christians are called to be set apart (cf. John 17:17), and Mount Hermon
means "mountain set apart":
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a
lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give
glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:1416).
This theme is reflected in the Petrine discourse in Matthew 16.
It is fitting that Jesus used this mountain to communicate the nature of his Church.
Not only was it distinct among other mountains in the region, but it was also a place
of worship for the religions of the time. As the mountain was the center of worship
for the ancients, the Church is the center of worship for Christians.
Water of Life
The topography of the mountain is also symbolic. To the Greek pagans, Mount
Hermons cave was a source of fertility and life. For Christians, the Church is the
source of baptism and all other graces needed for eternal life (cf. John 3:3; 1 Pet.
3:21). For the pagans, the cave was an entrance to the underworld; for the
Christian, the Church is the entrance to heaven.
But the most obvious symbolism of the location is rock. "And I tell you, you are
Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). The 100-foot-tall, 500foot-long rock face of Mount Hermon is an awesome backdrop for Jesus revelation
that he will build the Church on the rock of Peter.
Because of its sheer size and permanence, Mount Hermon served as a permanent,
geographic focal point where the pagans congregated for their religious services. In
establishing Peter as the kepha (rock) for his Church with Mount Hermon in the
background, the mountains stability and durability reflects on Peter, especially in
light of our Lords subsequent promise that "the powers of death shall not prevail
against it."
Mount Hermon and Caesarea Philippi shed new light on the great and glorious truths
of the nature of Christs Church and the role of the papacy.

Did the Catholic Church Add to the Old Testament?

By Kenneth J. Howell

OBJECTOR: The Roman Catholic Church added seven books to the Old Testament at
the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. We Protestants accept thirty-nine
books of the Old Testament, all written in Hebrew with a few parts in Aramaic, while
you Catholics accept seven additional books, making forty-six. It seems that these
seven were added by the Catholic Church later. The Bible speaks against adding to
or subtracting from the word of God. In Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32 and Revelation
22:1819 the word of God warns strenuously against changing Gods word. The
Catholic Church has violated this command.
CATHOLIC: Historically, these seven "additional" books, known as the
deuterocanonicals, were not added to Scripture at the Council of Trent. The history
of the canon (what books should be included in Scripture) is complex, but it is clear
that the deuterocanonicals were in the canon long before the Council of Trent. For
example, Augustine in the fifth century includes these books in his list of the Old
Testament books in On Christian Doctrine (book 2, chapter 8, section 13). This is
only one of many witnesses to the use of these seven books in early Christianity.
The Third Council of Carthage in 397 declared essentially the same thing. So, it
cant be said that the Council of Trent introduced books that were excluded
OBJECTOR: The historical references to Augustine and early councils prove only that
there was confusion in the early Church about this matter, not that the canon was
bigger than the thirty-nine books received by Protestants. For example, we know
from Athanasius that he included some of the deuterocanonical books in what he
called apocryphal writings (cf. Easter Letter 39). So we can conclude that the Church
Fathers did not agree among themselves about which books should be included in
CATHOLIC: Yes, I am familiar with Athanasiuss letter, but my point was that the
Catholic Church did not add these books. The historical sources I cited, and others
like them, show that at least a good majority of the Church recognized the
deuterocanonicals as part of Scripture. Athanasiuss list shows only that there was
variation among early Church canons.
OBJECTOR: That presents a problem for the Catholic, because the Council of Trent
was supposed to base its decrees on the unanimous consent of the Fathers. If they
did not universally agree on the extent of the canon, then how could they impose
the deuterocanonicals on the Church in the sixteenth century? The imposition was
without justification.
CATHOLIC: Good question. The answer is that while individual Fathers can err, they
are considered infallible when they speak unanimously. "In consequence, it is not
permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture in a sense contrary to this, or
indeed against the unanimous consent of the fathers" (Dei Filius 2).
Also, councils decrees are not based solely on consent of the Fathers. Tradition
proves that the Church had settled the canon for practical purposes by the fourth

century and infallibly in the sixteenth century. From the early centuries through the
Middle Ages, theologians, mystical writers, and bishops quoted from the
deuterocanonicals as Scripture. This practice gave the Council of Trent the
necessary confidence that God was speaking about the authority of these books
through the common practice of the Church for ages. It seems that the list of
Athanasius and a few other writers were an isolated view in antiquity. The majority
recognized the deuterocanonicals.
OBJECTOR: Catholics, then, were not sure what to believe until they decided the
canon of Scripture was closed.
CATHOLIC: That notion would cause Protestants more concern than Catholics. If I
understand the traditional Protestant position correctly, your doctrine of sola
scriptura makes it imperative to have a closed canon so that you can know exactly
which books are in Scripture and which books are not. You disclaim any dependence
on any church and rely solely on the Bible. So it is crucial for you to know the exact
extent of the canon. Notice that a closed canon was not so crucial in the early
Church because we rely on the Holy Spirit guiding the Church to determine both the
extent of the canon and the proper interpretation of Scripture in controversial
OBJECTOR: It is true that we rely only on Scripture. This doesnt mean that we dont
consult earlier pronouncements, but ultimately we say that our interpretations must
rely on Scripture alone. In regard to the canon, this protects us from adding more
and more books to the Bible. The canon is closed.
CATHOLIC: Then the question I have is: Which canon? The history of the canon is
complicated and there are different versions of that history given by different
scholars, regardless of their church affiliation. Which version of that history is best
or most accurate is a question beyond my knowledge and yours, but a few things
seem clear. First, there was more than one canon among the Jews prior to the
advent of Christ as Messiah. The Septuagint, translated about 200 years before
Christ by Alexandrian Jews, included the deuterocanonicals. Apparently the canon
used in Palestine at the time of Jesus did not include these books. There was more
than one canon among the Jews. Which canon do you accept?
OBJECTOR: The one accepted by Jesus and the apostles. This is what some call the
Palestinian canon of thirty-nine books.
CATHOLIC: So what is your view of the Septuagint?
OBJECTOR: It was a helpful translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, but it is not
authoritative. Like any translation, it may be right at certain points and wrong at
CATHOLIC: The New Testament writersincluding the apostles and their workers
(e.g. Luke, Mark)quote from the Septuagint as Scripture. Most of the quotations in
the letter to the Hebrews are from the Septuagint. Doesnt this make it more

OBJECTOR: All it means is that it was a good translation for the people of that day
because Greek was the common language (lingua franca) of that day. But it doesnt
mean that the New Testament writers accepted the deuterocanonicals. Proof of this
is that the New Testament writers never quote from these seven apocryphal books.
CATHOLIC: So if they had quoted from them, you would acknowledge their place in
the canon of Scripture?
OBJECTOR: Yes. Quotation in the New Testament would validate their inspired
CATHOLIC: I see two problems with your criterion of quotation. First, it seems that
there are books in the Old Testament that are never quoted in the New Testament. If
being quoted in the New Testament is the criterion of acceptance, then we have to
reject those books (such as Obadiah) that are not quoted. There is only one possible
allusion to Obadiah 21 in Revelation 11:15, but even here the linguistic parallel is
very loose. Should we reject Obadiah as non-canonical because there is no direct
quotation? Your Bible accepts Obadiah.
The second problem is this: If you accept allusion to Old Testament books as a
criterion, then there are plenty of instances in the New Testament where the writers
are alluding to the deuterocanonicals. For example, 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, "What
no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has
prepared for those who love him." The first two phrases are a melding of Isaiah 64:4
and 52:15, while the last one is a rewording of Sirach 1:10: "He supplied her
[wisdom] to those who love him." Pauls allusion to Sirach seems purposeful, as
both contexts are talking about wisdom. In essence, Paul is using biblical language
from both Isaiah and Sirach because he has learned them by heart. So, if quotation
and allusion are the criteria, then we must accept Sirach as well as Isaiah.
OBJECTOR: Maybe the lack of quotation from certain Old Testament books in the
New Testament means only that the inspired writer could not think of anything in
that book that was relevant to his immediate point.
CATHOLIC: Precisely. That is why quotation in the New Testament is not a good
criterion for deciding which books in the Old Testament are really Scripture. The
New Testament writers clearly quoted from the Septuagint as did the early Fathers
of the Church. This suggests that they were looking at the Septuagint as a faithful
translation that could be said to be the word of God. But you say that the
deuterocanonicals in the Septuagint cannot be accepted as inspired.
OBJECTOR: So, on what basis do you accept which books are in the Old Testament? I
dont see any way to know which books are in it unless we rely on the New
CATHOLIC: The New Testament is part of the picture, but its not everything. I would
say that the practice of the Church is the ultimate criterion. What the New
Testament writers started the Church Fathers continued. Both groups either quoted
from or alluded to the deuterocanonicals from time to time. This seems to have
been the majority practice in the early centuries of Christianity even though some

questioned the validity of the deuterocanonicals. As time moved on, the Church
more and more acknowledged their inspired character by using them as Scripture.
OBJECTOR: I would say that their increased use over time shows only that the
Roman view was taking hold in the Middle Ages. The Protestant Reformers were
right to reject them and to return to the pure word of God.
CATHOLIC: One reason the Protestant Reformers rejected the deuterocanonicals is
that these books give support to doctrines and practices they rejected. For example,
in 2 Maccabees 12:4345 we find a reference to praying for the dead. This text
shows that the Jews offered expiatory sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple for the
dead. We are told explicitly, "If he were not expecting that those who had fallen
would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead"
(v. 44). Most Protestants objected to the practice of praying and offering Masses for
the dead. Because the Catholic Church could appeal to this text as scriptural
support for the practice, they had to reject the books of Scripture where it is so
clearly mentioned.
OBJECTOR: But if the books of the Maccabees were not part of the canon of
Scripture in the first place, it was not wrong to reject the practice of praying for the
CATHOLIC: Notice the circularity of your position. Because, as I have shown, the
deuterocanonicals were accepted in the canon long before the Protestant
Reformation, their reason for removing them from the canon clearly was motivated
by a theological reason. To reject these books on the basis of a theological position
is to reject a part of Scripture because it does not agree with your theology. But this
move contradicts the Protestant claim to base its theology on Scripture alone. If you
are attempting to base your theology only on Scripture, then you have to know
which books are to be included in Scripture ahead of time. If you base your
acceptance or rejection of certain books on a prior conclusion of your theology, then
your theology is dictating your Scripture and not the other way around.

Is Salvation an Act or a Process?

By Kenneth J. Howell

CATHOLIC: It seems that many non-Catholics in America misunderstand the Catholic

doctrine of salvation. They think that the Church teaches salvation by works as if
Catholics were trying to earn their way to heaven. This frustrates knowledgeable
Catholics because we know that the Church does not teach salvation by our own
good works.
OBJECTOR: Perhaps the reason is that we hear this view from so many Catholics.
When we ask them how they hope to go to heaven, they tell us that if they are
good, they hope they will be in heaven with God for eternity. But I do know better. I
know the Catholic Church teaches salvation by grace coming from God through faith
in Christ.
CATHOLIC: I am so glad to hear you say that.
OBJECTOR: Nevertheless, I still think that the Church compromises the true gospel
of Jesus Christ by its belief that salvation is a process rather than a one-time act of
God. In essence, the Catholic doctrine is semi-Pelagian. It believes that salvation is a
cooperation between God and man in which man plays at least as important a role
as God does.
CATHOLIC: We believe that salvation is a process by which we come closer to God
throughout our whole life as we participate in the sacraments and the grace that
comes through them. But it is not true that man plays as important a role as God.
God the Father planned our salvation, not man. God the Son gained our salvation by
his death and resurrection; no one else did these things. And God the Holy Spirit
infused the very love of God into our hearts by his presence (cf. Rom. 5:5). This is
beyond our human ability. Still, we must cooperate with Gods grace to find eternal
happiness with God. If we dont, we will be cut off from God forever. In contrast,
Semi-Pelagianism is only a weakened form of Pelagianism, which taught that a
person could save himself. To be a semi-Pelagian is to believe that we could save
ourselves but God just helps us to make it easier.
OBJECTOR: But that seems to me to be exactly what the Catholic Church teaches
when it says that we must work with God to achieve our salvation. It takes glory
away from God the Savior.
CATHOLIC: No, the Church teaches that only God can save us. If that werent true,
then Christ died for nothing. All that we do is respond with faith and obedience to
Gods offer of grace in Christ. We insist that this is a lifelong commitment that
should grow over time. Gods grace grows within us as we trust in God more and
follow his commandments. The final outcome of a life of faith and obedience is
eternal life with God.
OBJECTOR: What you describe sounds like a compromise. How can salvation be a
process when Acts 16:31 says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved"?
Paul affirms this same decisive act of salvation in Romans 10:9: "If you confess with

your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the
dead, you will be saved."
CATHOLIC: The Church affirms the teaching of these texts. They are calling us to
decisive trust in Christ. We affirm that trust in Christ is essential to salvation. But
are faith in and confession of Christ a one-time event, or are faith and verbal
confession necessary for ones entire life? We believe the Bible teaches that one
cannot just profess faith once and then be eternally secure, as it were. One must
live out this faith by a life of obedience and good works.
OBJECTOR: Anyone who takes the Bible seriously must affirm that obedience and
works flow from true faith. What is objectionable is that the Catholic faith confuses
faith and works by making both of them necessary for salvation.
CATHOLIC: Wouldnt you say that works are necessary? Doesnt James 2:17 teach
that faith without works is dead?
OBJECTOR: Of course works are necessary as evidence that the faith of the person
believing is real and genuine, but that is different from believing, as the Catholic
faith teaches, that works play an essential role in our final salvation. The root of the
problem with Catholic teaching is that it confuses justification and sanctification by
seeing salvation as a process that lasts ones lifetime.
CATHOLIC: We do believe that works are evidence of true faith, but that is not the
only role they play. Works also play a role in our final justification. If we take Pauls
statements about Abraham being justified by faith in Galatians 3:6 and Romans 4:3
4 and put them together with Jamess statement about Abraham being justified by
his work of offering up Isaac in James 2:21, we rightly conclude that salvation is a
process with many points of justification along the path to heaven.
OBJECTOR: That cannot be right, because justification is an act of Gods grace. This
means that God justifies us when we believe in Christ. He declares us righteous for
Christs sake, not because of our own merits. James is saying that Abrahams
offering of Isaac was a work that justified his faith. Sanctification or the pursuit of
holiness is essential to prove our faith but it is not what saves us. Christ saves us!
CATHOLIC: But sanctification is Christ actively saving us! You say that Abrahams
work of offering up Isaac justified his faith as being real. But James 2:21 asks, "Was
not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the
altar?" From this James concludes in verse 22: "You see that faith was active along
with his works, and faith was completed by works." This language of "active along
with" and works "completing" faith is the language of cooperation.
OBJECTOR: I agree that we must cooperate with God in our sanctification because it
is a process that lasts a lifetime. But sanctification is not what really saves us. What
saves us is the merits of Christ being credited to our account. This "credit
exchange" takes place in justification, an act of Gods grace that occurs when we
believe in Christ and trust him completely.

CATHOLIC: We agree that justification begins the Christian life. The Catechism of the
Catholic Church calls baptism the sacrament of justification because in it all our
previous sins are forgiven (cf. CCC 1266, 1992). And as I implied above, acts of
justification or forgiveness may occur at many points in our lives. For example,
when a priest declares a sinner forgiven in confession, this is an act of justification.
We insist that many justifications take place in our lives as we journey toward
heaven. These acts of justification are necessary for our growth in holiness or
OBJECTOR: Well, as I said, the Catholic Church muddies the waters of salvation by
its conflation and confusion of justification and sanctification. This makes our
salvation depend on our degree of personal holiness. But because our growth in
holiness cannot ever be complete in this life, we can never know whether we will be
saved or not. That shows that the Catholic view cannot be true, because the New
Testament is full of assurance of salvation. One of the more well-known verses is 1
John 5:13.
CATHOLIC: We think that many Christians seriously misread the New Testament
when it comes to the assurance of salvation. Though we cant examine many texts
on assurance right now, I can say that 1 John 5:13 has been ripped out of its context
in Johns letter. If you examine chapters 4 and 5 of this small letter carefully, you will
see that "this" refers to acts of love of neighbor, love of God, holding to orthodox
teaching, and so on. In other words, John is not giving a blank check for assurance
of heaven. He is giving a conclusion of a long list of indicators by which a person
can know he is saved. John agrees with James. Good works give a relative assurance
that one is in good standing with God.
OBJECTOR: Maybe you have a point on 1 John, but making our salvation dependent
on a certain degree of personal holiness is wrong, because it transfers our trust
from Christ to ourselves.
CATHOLIC: I dont see that the pursuit of holiness in any way takes our trust away
from Christ and puts it in ourselves. It seems to me that Hebrews makes it very
clear that without holiness "no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). Why would the
author say this? Because God is holy and, if were going to live with God forever, we
too must be holy. So our entire life should be a pursuit of the holiness that Christ
gained for us by his death on the cross. God desires to put this holiness within us, or
as Hebrews 12:10 says, "that we may share his holiness." That is the ultimate
rationale behind the Catholic view of salvation: to share in the holiness of God.
Nothing less will save us!

Skill Is Gained by Experience

Some Considerations for Would-Be Full-Time Apologists
By Jimmy Akin
There have been many articles written on how to do apologetics. This is a good
thing. We need more people doing apologetics. We need more Catholic apologetics
done in more ways on more topics by more people in more circumstances.
Though most people will be able to pursue it only as a noble avocation, a few will
feel called to pursue apologetics full-time. Thus far there has been little written to
help such individuals make the transition from part-time to full-time apologetics.
That is what I mean to do here.
Striking out on your own
The most fundamental question is whether to go it alone or join an apologetics
organization. One of the big advantages of starting your own apostolate is that you
can do it any time you like. There is no waiting for a position to come open or to be
created at an existing apostolate. Another is that, because you arent applying to
someone else, there is nobody to turn down your job application. A further
advantage is that you can do apologetics wherever you are. You dont have to move
to be with one of the established apostolates.
A lesser advantagewhich in fact can turn into a disadvantageis that you get to
do things entirely your own way. If you think that you have a dazzling new way to do
apologetics, you can! If you are your own boss, you can approve whatever
innovative plans you have with no chance of you turning yourself down. This is a
mixed blessing. There are usually reasons that established apostolates do
apologetics in the manner they do. Stray too far from the beaten path and you are
likely to find yourself mired in a bog, doing neither the Church nor yourself any
Apologetics is like any other field: Theres safety in numbers. When you work as part
of a group of professionals, they can give you guidance that will help keep you from
making gravesometimes career-endingmistakes. People just starting out in
apologetics need this guidance most.
Another problem is that, besides your own writing and speaking, you also will have
to do your own editing, typesetting, proofreading, graphic design, audio-recording,
tape and CD duplication, event booking, travel arrangements, MIS, web design,
advertising, customer service, purchasing, warehousing, shipping, fundraising,
accounting, tax preparation, and a host of other tasks.
You may find in the midst of all this activity that you have very little time left for
doing actual apologetics. Or, if you do focus on apologetics, you may find yourself
unable to keep up with the business side. Worse yet, your family life may suffer if
you run too hard to keep up with both the apostolic and business sides of your
apostolate. God does not want anyone to pursue ministry to the detriment of their

No one has the skills needed to do all of the tasks listed above. To be effective on a
large scale, a ministry depends on people who are specialists in the different areas
who have been trained or have trained themselves in the skills needed to do
professional work in all of these areas, just as you have sought training in
In apologetics, as in every other field, all of a ministrys employees contribute to its
success. Take away one persons time and talents and the whole suffers. The
apostolate cant do as much as it could otherwise.
If you are independently wealthy, you may be able to afford to hire others, though
that of itself is not a recipe for success. A person who has acquired the skills needed
for success in one field may find that those skills are not as transferable for success
in apologetics as he might suppose, and the money may run out.
This brings us to one of the greatest disadvantages of starting your own apostolate:
Financially, you will be on your own. Unless you are independently wealthy you will
not be able to afford to hire the kind of people needed to run a large-scale ministry.
The obvious alternative is to start small and grow from there. This is doable, but it
means a long period of financial uncertainty and hardship. It takes years to grow to
the point that it becomes financially stable, and there is a question of just how
many the present environment can sustain.
The number of Catholics supporting the apologetics movement is finite, and even
though the number hopefully will grow as the number of workers in the field
increases, there may be a point at which the field cannot sustain new ones. Even
below that threshold (which is where I believe us to be today), the success rate of
new start-up ventures is probably at least as problematic as that of new businesses
in general: It aint good.
In view of this, the wisest way to begin may be not to put all your eggs in one
basket at the outset. Catholic Answers founder Karl Keating did not immediately
plunge into full-time apologetics but started it as a part-time venture. It remained
part-time until, after several years, it had grown to the point that it was reasonable
to make the shift to doing full-time work in the field. Even then it was very hardgoing for a good number of years.
Joining up
The advantages and disadvantages of joining an established apostolate are
basically a mirror image of those to going it alone.
You cannot do it whenever you please. Apologetics ministries have financial
limitations that prevent them from hiring everyone they might like. You may have to
wait for a position to open up or be created before you can join the staff. It also isnt
guaranteed that you will get in. Applying for a job at a ministry is like applying for a
job anywhere else: Your prospective employer may decide not to make a job offer.

You also may have to move to be where your employer is. There have been some
apostolates that have experimented with completely decentralized, telecommuting
strategies, but these have not fared so well, and most employees are likely to
remain centrally based for the foreseeable future.
You also wont be able to do whatever you have a mind to do. Because of their
limited resources, ministries must choose what to devote those resources to and
when to allocate them. Your idea for a new way to do apologetics may not be
approved, you may have to wait for it to be implemented, or it may be implemented
in a slightly different fashion than you envisioned.
The flipside of this seeming disadvantage is that with more heads thinking through
a problem, you are likely to be spared costly mistakes that you otherwise might
make. You also will benefit from the wisdom and experience of others.
By joining an established apostolate you also dont have to build from scratch
everything you need to do apologetics on a larger scale. Presumably, there will be
people on staff who possess the skills that you lack. As they make their
contributions to the success of the apostolate, your own contribution will be made
all the more effective, since you wont be trying to do everything yourself. Without
their help, your own contribution would not go far.
If the ministry you join is financially stable, you also will be spared the years of
uncertainty and hardship that beginning your own would involve. Working in the
nonprofit sector is inherently dicey, but being part of a financially sound ministry at
least can provide the comfort of knowing that you will be able to buy food and pay
for housing next month.
Youll also be clearing one of the biggest hurdles that new ventures face: the high
failure rate of new start-ups.
Skills and track record
I have never started my own apostolate, so I am shorter on practical advice about
how to do that than others might be. But I do know something about joining one. I
also have experience in evaluating applicants for positions. So let me share with you
what advice I can on that subject. Most of it also will apply to those who want to
start their own apostolates.
There are two important things that you need to have when seeking a job as an
apologist: skills and a track record. In many fields, people acquire skills at college
and then a track record after they leave college. That is not the way it works in
apologetics. The acquisition of skills and the building of a track record almost
invariably accompany one another.
In the Catholic world, nobody offers degrees in apologetics. They may offer degrees
in related fields, such as theology, religious studies, or philosophy, but they dont
offer apologetics degrees. Even if they did, the degrees probably would not be worth

much to existing apostolates, because the degrees would be oriented to "academic

apologetics" rather than the "practical apologetics" that dominates ministry work.
Academic apologeticsor something close to itis taught in many contemporary
philosophy programs. In the last thirty years there has been a renaissance of
Christian philosophy even in secular schools, and the resulting Christian
philosophers have focused their skills on defending their religion and worldview
against the attacks mounted on it in academia.
But knowing how to write academic treatises on apologeticshowever useful this
skill is in the academic worldwill not be of much help. In the nonprofit world, you
must be able to communicate in a way that normal people understand and respond
to. The ten-dollar words you learned in college will annoy rather than enlighten the
people you are trying to serve.
You also will have to be responsive to their needs rather than to an academicians
idea of their needs. As a rule, you will need to spend far more time talking with
people about practical matters (such as whether they need an annulment before
they can join the Church, or whether they can attend their cousins iffy marriage, or
how to deal with their parishs resident liturgical abuser) than you will spend talking
about Aquinass Five Ways.
There is a disconnect between what is taught academically and what you actually
need to know in practical apologetics. Here at Catholic Answers, whenever we bring
people into the apologetics department who do not have extensive experience in
the field, they are surprised at the steepness of the learning curve and at how
different the questions they get are from what they expected.
In contemporary Catholic apologetics, most skill is gained by experience. As a
result, you do not need a degree to work in the field. A degree may help you acquire
certain skills, but it cannot replace actual experience. By the time you are ready to
work in the field professionally, you will have a track record that you can point to. It
doesnt matter where you acquire this, but you need to acquire it somewhere.
If you want to give talks, start giving talks. If you want to write, start writing. If you
want to do both, start doing both. It doesnt matter how small the scale is at first.
An indispensable part of this process is to get feedback on what you are doing.
Dont just talk to the mirror or write essays you never show anybody. (Do those, but
dont do just those.) You must subject yourself to the criticism of othersnot only
because it will improve the quality of the work youre doing but also because you
will need to develop skin thick enough to withstand criticism without taking it
You can give yourself a leg up by studying up on the particular skills you want. If
you want to speak, take a public speaking course in the evenings at your local
community college. If you want to write, read Strunk and Whites Elements of Style
and take a composition course (not a creative writing course).

For all apologists, I strongly recommend reading the following works in their
entirety: the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholicism and
Fundamentalism, How Not to Share Your Faith, and Mass Confusion. These works will
give you a knowledge base that will be indispensable when working professionally in
the field. You should read many more than these, but these represent the core of
what you will need.
Last and not least: Get experience doing interactive apologetics with people online.
In online discussion forums you will meet and be able to interact apologetically with
people from a wider variety of persuasions and have more extended discussions
with them than would be possible in daily life. As you do this, notice what the other
Catholics participating in the discussions are doing and see what you can learn from
the good and bad examples they offer.
As you grow in skill, start dipping into the professional world in small ways: Start
giving talks for money at parishes. Start writing articles for money for Catholic
newspapers and magazines. The money is important not for its own sake but for
what it tells you. People will pay for what they perceive to have value, and if people
arent willing to pay money for what youre producing, it is an important sign that
something is wrong. You need to find out what it is.
By the way, dont start your writing career by trying to write a book. Start with
articles. You dont want to invest the time in writing a book if you havent been
successful with articles first. Articles teach you the skills you need for a book. The
chance of rejection letters is too high without them.
An apostolate thinking about hiring you needs to have some way of knowing that
you can do the work. College degrees are some helpbut not that much, for the
reasons we have discussed. But if you have a resume with a long string of paid talks
or paid articles, that provides you with a much stronger recommendation.
It also doesnt hurt if the apostolate already knows you by name before you apply. If
youve given talks at the same events that their speakers have attended, or if
youve published articles in their newspaper or magazine, or even if youve posted
frequently on their message board, it helps make them aware of you and the skills
you possess.
None of these things is a guarantee that youll get a job with them, but the more
assets you can accumulate, the greater the chances are.

What Does Catholic Mean?

By Steve Ray

As a Protestant, I went to an Evangelical church that changed an important and

historic word in the Apostles Creed. Instead of the "holy, catholic Church," we were
the "holy, Christian Church." At the time, I thought nothing of it. There was certainly
no evil intent but just a loathing of the Catholic Church and a desire to distance
ourselves from its heresy and manmade traditions. I assumed that Catholics
deviated early on from "biblical Christianity," so they simply invented a new word to
describe their new society. Since we Evangelicals were supposedly the ones faithful
to the Bible, we had no interest in the word catholic, since it was found nowhere
between the covers of the Bible. It was a biased word loaded with negative
baggage, so we removed it from the Creed.
I should have asked myself, "Where did the word catholic come from, and what does
it mean?" Was I right to assume that Roman Catholics invented the word to set
themselves apart from biblical Christianity?
A short investigation will turn up some valuable information. Lets start with an
understanding of doctrinal development and the definition of catholic. Then lets
"interview" the very first Christians to see what they thought of the Church and the
word catholic. Lastly, we will study the Bible itself.
How Doctrines and Words Develop
The development of doctrine is not just a Catholic phenomenon. It occurs also
among Protestants and all religions or theological traditions. Over time, theological
words develop to help explain the deeper understanding of the faith. As Christians
ponder the revelation passed on by the apostles and deposited in the Church, the
Church mulls over Gods word, thinking deeper and deeper.
Development of doctrine defines, sharpens, and interprets the deposit of faith. The
Bible is not a theological textbook or a detailed church manual such as, say, a
catechism or study guide. The Bibles meaning is not always clear, as Peter tells us
(cf. 2 Pet. 3:15?16). Thirty thousand competing Protestant denominations make this
fact apparent as they fail to agree on what the Bible says. It takes the authority of a
universal Church and the successors of the apostles to formulate the doctrines of
the faith properly. As an Evangelical, I was nave enough to think I could reinvent
the theological wheel for myself.
To illustrate doctrinal development, lets look at the word Trinity. It never appears in
the Bible, nor does the Bible give explicit formulas for the nature of the Trinity as
commonly used today, such as "one God in three persons," or "three persons, one
nature." Yet the word Trinity, as developed within the Catholic Church, is an
essential belief for nearly every Protestant denomination. The first recorded use of
the word was in the writings of Theophilus of Antioch around A.D. 180. Although
they are not found in the Bible, the early Church developed words such as Trinity
that are used to define and explain an essential Christian doctrine.

While many Protestants object to the idea of development of doctrine within the
Catholic Church, they have no problem with developments in their own campeven
novelties and inventions. Take for example the word Rapture, also not found in the
Bible and not used in any theological circles until the nineteenth century.
It was the Catholic Church that defined the Blessed Trinity, the hypostatic union of
divinity and humanity in the one person of Jesus, salvation, baptism, the Eucharist,
and all the other doctrines that have been the bedrock of the Christian faith. It is
also the Catholic Church that gave birth to the New Testamentcollecting,
canonizing, preserving, distributing, and interpreting the books therein. As a
Protestant, I was quite willing to accept unknowingly the Catholic Churchs teaching
on the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the closed canon of the New Testament, etc., but I
willfully rejected the full teaching of the Catholic Church. I now realize that it is in
the Catholic Church that we find the fullness of the faith and the visible, universal
body of Christ.
The Word Catholic Defined
Catholic comes from the Greek katholikos, the combination of two words, kata
(concerning), and holos (whole). According to the Oxford Dictionary of English
Etymology, the word catholic comes from a Greek word meaning "regarding the
whole," or, more simply, "universal" or "general." The word church comes from the
Greek ecclesia, which means "those called out," as in those summoned out of the
world at large to form a distinct society. So the Catholic Church is made up of those
called out and gathered into the universal society founded by Christ.
For roughly its first decade of existence, the Church was made up exclusively of
Jews in the area of Jerusalem. But as the Church grew and spread across the Roman
Empire, it incorporated Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, Romans, freemen, and
even slavesmen and women from every tribe and tongue. By the third century,
one out of ten people in the Roman Empire was a Catholic. Just as the word Trinity
was appropriated to describe the nature of God, so the term catholic was
appropriated to describe the nature of Christs mystical body, the Church.
But lets get back to the history of the word catholic. The first recorded use of the
word is found in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, who was a young man during
the time of the apostles and was the second bishop of Antioch following Peter, who
went on to become bishop of Rome. Ignatius was immersed in the living traditions
of the local church in Antioch, where the believers in Christ were first called
Christians (cf. Acts 11:26). He was taught and ordained directly by the apostles.
From the apostles Ignatius learned what the Church washow it was to function,
grow, and be governed.
History informs us that Peter was the bishop of Antioch at the time; in fact, Church
Fathers claim that Ignatius was ordained by Peter himself. Ignatius must have
worshiped with Peter and Paul and John. He lived with or near them and was an
understudy of these special apostles. Ignatius is known and revered as an authentic
witness to the traditions and practice of the apostles.

In the existing documents that have come down to us, Ignatius is the first to use the
word catholic in reference to the Church. On his way to Rome, under military escort
to the Coliseum, where he would be devoured by lions for his faith, he wrote, "You
must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as
you would the apostles. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just
as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church" (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans
Another early instance of the word catholic is associated with Polycarp, bishop of
Smyrna, who used the word many times. Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John
just as John was a disciple of Jesus. Like Ignatius, Polycarp suffered the martyrs
death in a coliseum in A.D. 155. In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, written at the time of
Polycarps death, we read, "The Church of God that sojourns in Smyrna, to the
Church of God that sojourns in Philomelium, and to all the dioceses of the holy and
Catholic Church in every place" (Epistle of the Church at Smyrna, preface).
Later in the same book it says that "Polycarp had finished his prayer, in which he
remembered everyone with whom he had ever been acquainted . . . and the whole
Catholic Church throughout the world." They then gave him up to wild beasts, fire,
and, finally, the sword. The epistle then concludes: "Now with the apostles and all
the just, [Polycarp] is glorifying God and the Father Almighty, and he is blessing our
Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church
throughout the world" (8).
So we see that early in the second century, Christians regularly use the word
catholic as an established description of the Church. From the second century on,
we see the term being used consistently by the theologians and writers. One can
conclude that catholic was a very early description of the Church
Augustine in the fourth century, relying on the tradition of the early Church, minces
no words asserting the importance and widespread use of the term: "We must hold
to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church, which is Catholic, and
is called Catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies" (The
True Religion 7, 12). And again, "The very name of Catholic, which, not without
reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so
that, although all heretics want to be called Catholic, when a stranger inquires
where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his
own basilica or house" (Against the Letter of Mani called "The Foundation" 4, 5).
The early usage and importance of the word also can be seen in both the Apostles
Creed and the Nicene Creeds. If you were a Christian in the first millennium, you
were a Catholic, and if you were a Catholic you recited the Creeds affirming the "one
holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." Unhappily, some people today try to make a
distinction between Catholic with a capital C and catholic with a small c, but such a
distinction is a recent development and unheard of in the early Church.
Biblical Understanding of the Word Catholic
Jesus commissioned his apostles with the words, "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 lo, I am
with you always, to the close of the age" (Matt. 28:1920). As Frank Sheed reminds
us, "Notice first the threefold allall nations, all things, all days. Catholic, we say,
means universal. Examining the word universal, we see that it contains two ideas:
the idea of all, the idea of one. But all what? All nations, all teachings, all times. So
our Lord says. It is not an exaggerated description of the Catholic Church. Not by
the wildest exaggeration could it be advanced as a description of any other"
(Theology and Sanity, 284).
Jesus used the word church twice in the Gospels, both in Matthew. He said, "I will
build my Church" (Matt. 16:18). He didnt say "churches" as though he were building
subdivisions, nor did he imply that it would be an invisible church made up of
competing groups. He was going to build a visible, recognizable Church, as shown
by the fact that he appointed Peter to lead it in his absence. And in Matthew 18:17,
Jesus said that if one brother offends another they were to take it to "the Church."
Notice the article "the" referring to a specific entity. Not "churches" but one visible,
recognizable Church that can be expected to have a recognizable leadership with
universal authority.
One can see the sad state of "Christendom" today by comparing it to Jesus words
about "the Church." If a Methodist offends a Baptist, or a Presbyterian offends a
Pentecostal, which church do they take it to for adjudication? This alone
demonstrates the problem when 30,000 denominations exist outside the bounds of
the "one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." Jesus intended there to be one
universal, authoritative, visibleand, yes, CatholicChurch to represent him on
earth until his return.
Just before he was crucified, Jesus prayed not only for the universality and
catholicity of the Church but for its visible unity: "That they may all be one; even as
you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world
may believe that you sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to
them that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them and you in me, that they
may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me" (John
17:21?23, NASB).
The early Church understood Jesus words. What good was an invisible, theoretical,
impractical unity? For the world to see a catholic unity, the oneness of the Church
must be a visible, real, and physical reality. All of this the Catholic Church is. Since
the earliest centuries Christians have confessed that the Church is "one, holy,
catholic, and apostolic." One because there is only one, visible, organic, and unified
Church; holy because it is called out of the world to be the Bride of Christ, righteous
and sanctified; catholic because it is universal and unified; apostolic because Christ
founded it through his apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18), and the apostles authority are
carried on through the bishops. Through the centuries, this creed has been the
statement of the Church.
Likewise today, Christians need to stand confident and obedient in the heart of the
Catholic Church. It has been our mother, steadfastly carrying out the mandate of
Jesus Christ for two thousand years. As an Evangelical Protestant, I thought I could
ignore the creeds and councils of the Church. I was mistaken. I now understand that

Jesus requires us to listen to his Church, the Church to which he gave the authority
to bind and to loose (cf. Matt. 16:19; 18:18)the Catholic Church, which is the pillar
and foundation of the truth (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15).

In Defense of the Trinity

By Jim Burnham

Mike: Sorry, Im late, man. Traffics brutal.

Dan: No problem. I already got you a cappuccino.
Mike: Excellent.
Dan: Anyway, thanks for coming. I gotta tell you, ever since I read this booklet on
the Trinity, Ive been really confused.
Mike: Ah, yes. Should You Believe in the Trinity? Subtitle: Is Jesus Christ the Almighty
God? I figured this was the one you called about. Its a deceitful attack on the Trinity
by the JWs.
Dan: "JWs"?
Mike: Short for Jehovahs Witnesses.
Dan: How do you know its from the JWs?
Mike: Because it says its published by the "Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of
New York, Inc." Thats JW world headquarters.
Dan: Well, the booklets pretty convincing.
Mike: Thats what makes it dangerous: full-color pictures, nice layout, lots of quotes
and citations. Its packed with distortions and falsehoods but cleverly written. This
booklet is one of the JWs most effective weapons against Catholics.
Dan: How come they focus on the Trinity?
Mike: Because its a complicated issuethey know most Catholics cant explain or
defend the Trinity. Plus, its a two-for-one deal: If JWs get rid of the Trinity, they
automatically get rid of Christs divinity as well. This little booklet could mislead
Catholics who arent solid on Church history, the Bible, or logic.
Dan: Well, help me out here.
Mike: First, lets shorten this JW title.
Dan: How about SYBTShould You Believe in the Trinity?
Mike: Okay. Then lets tackle some logical errors in SYBT. Look at the pictures on the
inside cover and on page ten. What do you see?
Dan: Images of pagan gods along with images of the Christian Trinity.
Mike: Right. How many faces or bodies are in each pagan image?

Dan: Three.
Mike: And how many faces or bodies in each Christian image?
Dan: Three. You know, a lot of these images do look alike.
Mike: And from this likeness JWs conclude Christians borrowed their belief in the
Trinity from pagan "trinities." This is a compelling visual argument. Only problem is
that its totally wrong.
Dan: Why?
Mike: It assumes that if two beliefs are similar, one comes from the other.
Dan: Well, that seems plausible.
Mike: Plausible maybe, but not necessary. Consider this: JWs and Muslims reject the
Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and the ordained priesthood. So they have some similar
beliefs. But should we conclude that JWs simply borrowed Muslim beliefs?
Dan: I think JWs would say its just coincidence. With all the beliefs in the world,
some are gonna overlap. But that wouldnt necessarily prove one came from
Mike: Right. In 1350 B.C., around the time Moses was born in Egypt, the Egyptian
pharaoh Akhenaton got rid of multiple gods and promoted belief in only one god.
Anyway, Moses is responsible for the Bibles first five books, which also teach there
is only one God. Does this mean the JW (and Jewish and Christian and Muslim) belief
in one God comes from the pagan Akhenaton?
Dan: No, of course not.
Mike: And what about this? Both JWs and Catholics believe in some sort of
resurrection. The ancient Egyptians (2400 B.C.) believed in the resurrection of the
god Osiris. Does this mean our resurrection beliefs come from paganism?
Dan: If so, then JWs are as pagan as Catholics.
Mike: With so many different pagan religions, we almost always can find some
ancient belief that is superficially similar to any present belief.
Dan: But that doesnt prove present religions come from paganism.
Mike: Exactly. The key is "superficially" similar. The artwork may look alike, but the
Christian doctrine of the Trinity is fundamentally different from anything found in
Dan: So what were the pagans portraying?

Mike: Three different godsnever three persons who were each totally and
completely the one God, which is what Christians believe. The art may be similar,
but the beliefs are worlds apart.
Dan: Okay. How about other logical errors?
Mike: SYBT claims the Trinity is confusing and unreasonable. Therefore, it cannot
come from God because he isnt a God of confusion (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33) nor does he do
anything contrary to reason.
Dan: But isnt the Trinity confusing to most people? I mean, the Church does call it a
"mystery of faith."
Mike: If by confusing you mean nobody totally gets it, I agree. But if by confusing
you mean irrational or absurd, then, no. A "mystery of faith" isnt something totally
unknowable. It simply means that its too deep for us to know totally.
Dan: What? You lost me there.
Mike: God is infinite, right?
Dan: Yes.
Mike: And we are finite?
Dan: Of course.
Mike: Then we would expect many of his revelations to be bigger than us, bigger
than our tiny minds can g.asp completely.
Dan: So youre saying that we can know some of what God reveals but not all?
Mike: Yes. Non-Christians find many Christian beliefs confusing. Consider creation
out of nothing. They say, "How can anything (much less everything) be created out
of absolutely nothing?" We certainly cant wrap our minds around that. And yet JWs
accept this without a flicker of doubt. They say, correctly, creation out of nothing is
true, even though it is far beyond our understanding.
Dan: So thats what we should say about the Trinity: Its beyond our reason but not
against our reason.
Mike: Exactly.
Dan: But what about the claim that the Trinity is a contradiction because three cant
equal one?
Mike: If I say there are five people in a family, am I saying five equal one?
Dan: No, no . . . because five refers to people and one refers to family.

Mike: Same for the Trinity. Three refers to personsFather, Son, and Holy Spirit. One
refers to the Godhead. No contradiction.
Dan: Okay, lets grant that the Trinity isnt unreasonable. But JWs make a huge deal
about it being unbiblical. Where does the Bible teach the Trinity?
Mike: It doesnt use the word Trinity, nor does it explicitly use the formula "one God
in three Persons."
Dan: So theyre right: The Trinity isnt explicitly taught in the Bible?
Mike: Yeah, but so what? Where does the Bible say that everything must be taught
explicitly in the Bible? If that were true, the Bible would have to explicitly say so. But
it doesnt.
Dan: Yeah, thats the whole problem with the "Bible alone" idea: Its not found in the
Bible alone.
Mike: Lots of Christian beliefs arent explicitly in the Bible: the list of inspired books
that make up the Bible, for instance; that Jesus had both a human and divine will;
that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. Besides that, JWs
dont even practice what they preach.
Dan: How so?
Mike: Lots of JW beliefs arent explicitly in the Bible. The Bible doesnt explicitly
teach that only 144,000 people can go to heavenand anyone who becomes a JW
after 1935 can only live on earth forever. The Bible doesnt explicitly prohibit blood
transfusions. The Bible doesnt explicitly say Jesus was really Michael the archangel
before he came to earth and that he is now Michael again after he died. These
arent taught explicitly (nor implicitly for that matter), but theyre still core JW
Dan: Well then, does the Bible teach the Trinity implicitly?
Mike: Yes. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God (cf. John 8:58, 10:38, 14:10;
Col. 2:9). It also clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit is God (cf. Acts 5:34, 28:2528;
1 Cor. 2:1013). Everyone agrees the Father is God. Yet there is only one God (Mark
12:29, 1 Cor. 8:46, Jas. 2:19). How can we hold all four truths except by saying all
three are somehow the one God?
Dan: Any verses mention all three divine persons together?
Mike: Sure. Jesus tells his apostles to baptize "in the name [notice, singular, not
plural] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). This is a
proof-text: three distinct Persons united in the one divine name. In 2 Corinthians
13:14, Paul writes, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." We see this same unity of divine
Persons in 1 Corinthians 12:411, Ephesians 4:46, and 1 Peter 1:23.

Dan: Okay. But what about SYBTs claim on page seven that "the Trinity was
unknown throughout biblical times and several centuries thereafter." JWs say it was
invented in the fourth century at the Councils of Nicea in A.D. 325 and
Constantinople in 381.
Mike: Totally false. Weve seen already that the elements of the Trinity are biblical.
The language of the Trinity was developed by the Church Fathers. Around the year
181, Theophilus of Antioch expressly used the Greek word trias (trinitas in Latin,
trinity in English): "the Trinity: God [the Father], his Word, and his Wisdom" [To
Autolycus 2:15]. About twenty years later, Tertullian used the Latin trinitas: "The
Unity is distributed in a Trinity. Placed in order, the three are Father, Son, and Spirit"
[Against Praxes 2:4].
Dan: So the word Trinity was used explicitly in the late second century. This is what
about 140 years before the Council of Nicea?
Mike: Yes. The word trinitas became common in the third century (Nicea was in the
fourth). Origen (185253) used it frequently, and his pupil, Gregory the Miracle
Worker, put it in a creed written before 270: "Wherefore there is nothing either
created or subservient in the Trinity, nor anything caused to be brought about, as if
formerly it did not exist and was afterward introduced. Wherefore, neither was the
Son ever lacking to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and
without change, the same Trinity forever."
Dan: So this guys using Trinity in a Christian creed at least fifty-five years before
Nicea supposedly invents it? Wow.
Mike: Ever watch Mythbusters?
Dan: That shows hilarious.
Mike: Id say the JW myth that the Trinity was unknown for "several centuries" until
it was invented by Nicea and Constantinople is totally "busted."
Dan: But on page seven, SYBT quotes a bunch of Church Fathers, claiming they
didnt believe Jesus was equal to the Father.
Mike: This page proves JWs are masters of misquotation. They dont care what
authors actually say but just what they can make them appear to say. The way they
misquote the early Church Fathers is indefensible.
Dan: Dont hold back; tell me what you really think.
Mike: Hey, dishonest scholarship ticks me off. Look. They quote Justin Martyr (A.D.
100165) as calling Jesus a "created angel who is other than the God who made all
things." In his First Apology, Justin writes this of Jesus: "We will prove that we
worship him reasonably; for we have learned that he is the Son of the true God
himself." He goes on to say that "the Father of all has a Son, who is both the firstborn Word of God and is God" (13 and 63). Jesus aint no angel for Justin Martyr.

Dan: Then how can they say stuff like that?

Mike: Because when they quote the Fathers they give no references. Zip. Zero.
Nada. They claim whatever they please. But we cant look em up and prove em
Dan: Couldnt this be an isolated case?
Mike: Nope. JWs claim Irenaeus (140202) said Jesus is separate from God and
inferior to him. Again, they give no references, so we cant verify the quotes. But
heres a quote from Irenaeus about Jesus that we can verify: "Nevertheless, what
cannot be said of anyone else who ever lived, that he is himself in his own right God
and Lord and eternal King, and only begotten and Incarnate Word, proclaimed as
such by all the prophets and apostles and the Spirit himself, may be seen by all who
have attained to even a small portion of the truth. The Scriptures would not have
born witness to these things concerning him, if, like everyone else, he were a mere
man" [Against Heresies 3, 19, 2]. Anyway, SYBT trots out six early Church Fathers
and misrepresents every single one of them.
Dan: Thats pretty devious.
Mike: The amazing thing is that, when you read their writings, all six of these
Fatherswho supposedly deny Christs divinityclearly and unmistakably affirm
Christs divinity.
Dan: Okay, the Bible teaches the basics of the Trinity, which become more
developed by the Church Fathers. So why did the Church come up with a precise
formula at Nicea?
Mike: Because in 318, a renegade priest name Arius began denying the divinity of
Christ and thus the Trinity. His heresy, known as Arianism, began to spread like
wildfire throughout the Church.
Dan: So JWs are just modern-day Arians?
Mike: In many ways, yes. The Church responded to the Arian threat by defining
Christs divinity and the Trinity in a creed, known today as the Nicene Creed. That
way, Christians could distinguish between true Christian teaching on the Trinity and
heretical distortions like Arianism.
Dan: So the Church wasnt inventing the Trinity at Nicea.
Mike: More like protecting it from being hijacked by the Arians.
Dan: Any other errors?
Mike: One glaring error is SYBTs use of the JW Biblethe New World Translation.
This translation differs wildly from all other Bibles.
Dan: How?

Mike: They changed "the Word was God" in John 1:1 to "the Word was a god." They
inserted the word Jehovah 237 times in the New Testament even though the Greek
has Kurios ("Lord") instead. They added the word other four times to Colossians
1:1617 to make it seem like Jesus is part of creation instead of the source of
Dan: So what if the JWs mistranslate a few words?
Mike: Its more than a few words. They mangle the Bible to prop up their beliefs. Of
all major Bibles, only the JW Bible has these mistranslations. On top of that, JWs
refuse to name their translators.
Dan: Whys that a problem?
Mike: Theyre asking us to reject all standard Bible translations made by respected
scholars who arent afraid to subject their work to peer review. Instead, JWs want us
to accept a defective translation made by an anonymous committee.
Dan: But SYBT spends eighteen of its thirty pages claiming Jesus isnt divine, that
hes just a man. How do we disprove that?
Mike: Youre right. This is the booklets biggest error. And its the issue to discuss
with JWs. If we can prove that Jesus is truly God, weve proved two-thirds of the
Trinity. More than that, if we can prove JWs are wrong in thinking Jesus is just a
creature, their whole religion collapses.
Dan: So lets prove Jesus is God.
Mike: Unfortunately, thats gonna have to wait. I gotta run.
Dan: Nah, dude, cmon.
Mike: Well prove the divinity of Christ next time, I promise.
Dan: All right, Im holding you to it.
Mike: Its a deal.

Principled Apologetics
How to Argue from the Underlying Principle
By Joel S. Peters
Engaging in apologetics is a skill that, like many other endeavors, is developed only
over time and often is learned as a result of periodic failures. Ones theological
prowess has to be honed on the sharpening stone of real-life dialogues, and more
often than not the "Aha!" moment of apologetic insight comes after your dialogue or
debate has ended ("I should have quoted that passage from Mark . . ." or "I failed to
mention the patristic writings about . . ."). Occasionally hindsight is as good a
teacher as study and preparation.
Thats not to suggest that we should be ill-prepared to enter into a defense of our
Catholic faith (formal or casual), but the plain fact is that we sometimes make our
theological or doctrinal connections only after the dust has settled from our
conversations. And thats okay. In fact, its biblical. In the story of the disciples on
the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:1335), the disciples first had an experience of the
risen Christ (they walked and talked with him), but it was only after he "vanished
out of their sight" that they later made a theological connection ("Did not our hearts
burn within us while he talked to us?"). Or take John 12:16: Here it is evident that
the disciples knew Jesus before having a theological reflection about him. The
beauty here is that such afterthoughts likely will bear fruit in a future defense of the
Catholic faith. Over the years I have had dialogues with Fundamentalists, Greek
Orthodox, Jehovahs Witnesses, Mormons, skeptics, and atheists, and I have had my
share of tardy apologetic insights. Having thought about them in retrospect, it
occurred to me that rather than debating specific Bible verses or slinging passages
back and forth, a more effective approach would have been to identify the
underlying principle being advanced by my counterpart and to hold it up to scrutiny.
Such an approach can be useful even when you may not have researched a
particular point of doctrine or done a lengthy exegesis of a given Bible passage. A
basic familiarity with Scripture is quite helpful with this method, but even if you are
lacking in this area you can raise considerations during your encounters that can be
examined more closely at another time.
In the following examples, the method used is to identify the underlying principle
behind the point being advanced by your friendassuming that all your debate
counterparts are friends, not foes, is a great starting pointand to test the validity
and application of that principle. This method can be effective in getting your friend
to see the flaws in his interpretations or reasoning. If he acknowledges an
underlying principle to be valid, then a specific application of it cannot be denied.
Your task will amount to enabling your counterpart to see that his objection to a
specific Catholic teaching or practice does not follow from an underlying principle
you have identified and validated.
In such instances, avoid getting bogged down in defending individual considerations
(such as trying to water down how much of a scandal Pope Alexander VI was to his
office) but instead to show how an underlying principle can be more helpful in
arriving at biblical truth (such as discussing whether immorality invalidates a Church

leaders position). Like any approach to apologetics, this particular one is not meant
to be used to the exclusion of others, but it does have the advantage of enabling
you to gain significant ground even though you may not have a working knowledge
of biblical hermeneutics, patristic writings, systematic theology, etc.
To illustrate this approach I have chosen issues that tend to be raised by those who
want to attack or discredit the Catholic faith. In each of these examples, if your
friend responds in the negative to your "principle" question, then you really have no
need to further hammer out theological details. Perhaps the question itself has
identified the flaw in your counterparts objection. But if he answers in the
affirmative, then you can proceed with addressing the issue of the underlying
Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament
Theres nothing quite like plunging headfirst into the deep end of the pool, so I
begin with a topic that is hotly debated between Catholics and Protestants.
There are seven books in the Catholic version of the Old Testament known as the
deuterocanonical books, meaning "second canon"the canon being the inspired
table of contents, if you will. These books (Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees,
Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus or Sirach, and Baruch) were identified by the Catholic
Church as being divinely inspired at a later time relative to the other Old Testament
books. Protestants refer to these books as "the apocrypha," meaning in effect that
they are not divinely inspired and therefore do not belong in the Bible.
The issue of the deuterocanonicalsand by extension the entire biblical canonis a
particularly important debate topic because it impacts one of the two "pillars" of the
so-called Protestant Reformation: the belief that the Bible alone serves as the
authority for Christians (known as sola scriptura). What your Protestant friend
maintains is that because these seven books were not "first-round draft picks," and
because there was disagreement over their status as Scripture, they are not the
product of the Holy Spirit. Cut right to the chase and ask your friend, "Does the fact
that they were disputed and included at a later time in and of itself demonstrate
that they are not authentic Scripture?"
If your friend answers yes, then ask him if he accepts the New Testament books of
James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation as inspired Scripture. He most
certainly will reply yes. Point out that these books, too, were disputed in some
Church circles and did not receive official approval until the "second round of draft
picks." If your friend wants to insist that a books delayed or disputed status is
reason enough to reject it as being inspired, then his own reasoning compels him to
eliminate six books from his New Testament. Its safe to assume that no Protestant
would be willing to do this, so you have demonstrated at least that the grounds on
which he objects to the deuterocanonicals are unfounded.
One caveat is necessary here. Other considerations center around the
deuterocanonical books, such as the Protestant claim that they contain "unbiblical"
doctrines like offering prayers for the dead (which strongly implies the existence of
purgatory, a belief rejected by Protestants). Such considerations are valid and

important, but deal with one issue at a time. Keep your debate topic clearly defined,
and guard against falling prey to a doctrinal "bait and switch." Is your conversation
about when an Old Testament book was included or is it about what material it
contains? In this specific example, we are dealing with the former. Agree to discuss
the latter at another time.
Immoral Church officials
In light of the recent clerical sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, this issue is
particularly relevant. Historically speaking, the examples cited by our detractors
often centered on the lust for power and/or money, not sex abuse. Either way, the
standard you will highlight remains the same.
Begin by acknowledging that such behavior is always wrong and brings great
dishonor and scandal upon the office of the one who is guilty of such immorality. In
our efforts to defend the legitimacy of our clerical institution, we dont want to
overlook that being offended by immoral and scandalous behavior is a valid
reaction. What we want our friends to see is that rejecting the institution of the
Church because of a few corrupt humans within its ranks is throwing the proverbial
baby out with the bathwater. So get to the heart of the matter by asking, "If a
Church leader is guilty of gross immorality, does his sin invalidate his position or
I suspect that your counterparts answer will be yes, so you must point out some
important precedents to demonstrate that such a response is unbiblical. For
example, Scripture states that Jesus knew "from the beginning" who would betray
himnamely Judas, whom Jesus calls a "devil" (cf. John 6:6471). This fact is
significant, since Judas was selected as an apostle even though Jesus knew that he
was corrupt.
Another example would be "Moses seat" mentioned by Jesus in the opening verses
of Matthew 23. "Moses seat" referred to a position of legitimate teaching authority
held by the scribes and the Pharisees. But when you read the remainder of the
chapter, Jesus makes it patently clear that this "seat" is occupied by "hypocrites,"
"blind guides," "blind fools," "serpents," and a "brood of vipers," whom he utterly
If it were true that immorality invalidated a religious leaders authority, then why
does Jesus command his followers to "do and observe all things whatsoever" the
scribes and Pharisees tell them? Jesus merely admonishes his followers not to follow
their hypocritical example. There is not even the slightest hint that their positions
were to be forfeited or abrogated because of their hypocrisy or immorality. If
anything, the reverse is true because Jesus validates these leaders officenot their
behaviorby telling people to obey them.
Calling priests "Father"
This issue is a perennial favorite for those who wish to attack Catholicisms "false"
teachings. Our opponents are quick to cite Matthew 23:9 ("Call no man your father
on earth") as an example of how the Catholic practice of addressing priests as

"Father" is contrary to Scripture. Of course, a surface reading of this passage

appears to show that Catholics are disobeying Christ. But dont fall for this straw
man. Get to the heart of the issue and pose this question to your counterpart: "Is
Jesus prohibition against calling someone father to be understood in an absolute
sense that allows for no exceptions?"
If the answer is yes, then ask your friend to turn to the story of Lazarus and the rich
man in Luke 16. This example is especially powerful in that Jesus himself is the one
narrating the story. Note that in verse 24 Jesus has the rich man crying out, "Father
Abraham, have mercy upon me" (emphasis added). Ask your friend if Jesus is guilty
of violating his own principle laid out in Matthew 23:9.
The answer, of course, is a resounding no. "But wait!" your friend will object. "Jesus
is obviously using the title Father here in a relative sense. What he really means is
"Ah," you respond, "so what youre saying is that while Jesus said not to call
anyone father, he clearly must have meant it in a relative sense, not an absolute
sense." If it were otherwise, then Jesus is a bad teacher for either violating his own
mandate or for setting an incredibly poor example for his disciples.
I once had a dialogue with a Jehovahs Witness over this very issue, and when I
pointed out the "Father Abraham" consideration to him, he replied that Jesus was
using the term father in the sense of "forefather." No argument from me there. I
pointed out that my counterpart had proved my own point by his observation. If it is
possible to use the title Father in a way that does not violate Matthew 23:9that is,
in some relative or derivative sensethen Catholics are simply not guilty of
violating any biblical mandate when they address their priests with the title Father.
To boot, Paul uses the term father or the idea of spiritual paternity behind it in a
number of places in the New Testament (e.g., Rom. 4:1112, 1617; 1 Cor. 4:1415;
1 Thess. 2:1012), as does John in 1 John 2:1214.
Ornate and expensive churches
It is often pointed out by non-Catholics that because the Catholic Church has many
ornate and costly buildings it is guilty of squandering money and focusing on the
"trappings" rather than offering God true worship. Rather than defend why the
building of an individual church or cathedral or basilica was justified, identify the
underlying principle by asking: "Is it inherently wrong to spend large sums of money
to build an elaborate place of Christian worship?"
If the response is "yes," then ask your counterpart to read the biblical descriptions
of the temple in Jerusalem. The ancient Israelites spared no expense in constructing
an extremely ornate and costly place for worshiping God, and nowhere in the Old
Testament are they condemned for doing so. (Note that the passages about God not
dwelling in temples made by human hands is a separate issue, so dont allow your
counterpart to shift the topic of discussion.) You can tell your counterpart that even
though he may disagree with such building projects, there is at least a biblical
precedent for them.
He may object that while the Israelites built the Jerusalem temple, it was only one
instance of such construction, while the Catholic Church has built numerous

cathedrals and basilicas. Simply point out that the ancient Israelites were not found
in large numbers all over the world as Catholics are, and consequently one temple
served their needs. Also, the very reason that believers have elaborate churches
built is precisely because they view it as a fitting environment in which hearts and
minds are lifted to God, who is at all times deserving of the best we have to offer. At
the very least, you have shown that there is a biblical basis for building an
expensive place of worship for God.
Believers not heeding papal authority
I have been told a number of times in conversations that the office of the pope
cannot be valid in part because there are instances of Church leaders disregarding
or disobeying papal directives. My counterparts have reasoned that if Peters
successors were truly the head of the universal Church, then those under him would
obey his authority at all times. Since there are plenty of instances in the Churchs
history when priests and even bishops have disobeyed the popes authority, many
Protestants conclude that his office and authority must be bogus.
One of the more notable examples of this issue occurred in the early third century
when Cyprian of Carthage and Pope Stephen I butted heads on the issue of the rebaptism of heretics. If you read the ancient documents, Cypriana saint, mind you!
clearly did not submit to Stephens authority and decision in this matter. When
your friend cites an example like this, forestall his salivating at the prospect of
having "gotten" you by asking, "Are you saying that because some people dont
obey the directives of a religious authority that such an authority therefore cannot
be valid?"
If your friend gives a hearty yes, dont fret. This claim is disproved easilyalmost
embarrassingly so. Simply refer your friend to some biblical accounts where people
did not heed legitimate spiritual authoritylike Jesus himself or an apostle. Consider
the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19:1622. Jesus tells the man to sell his
possessions in order to be "perfect" and to follow him, but the man balks at the
request and walks away. In 1 Corinthians 16:12, Paul strongly urged Apollos to "visit
you with the other brethren" at a particular time, but Apollos declined. Or try 3 John
9, where Diotrephes "disses" the apostle John. In all these instances, the person
making the request has quite valid spiritual authority, yet their requests went
unheeded. I would certainly not concludeand hopefully neither will your nonCatholic friendthat Jesus and his apostles had no legitimate authority.
So there you have it: some practical examples of how focusing on underlying
principles can be an effective tool in deflecting charges of Catholics being guilty of
"unbiblical" doctrines and practices. The next time you find yourself in a situation
where someone you know is leveling an accusation against Catholic teaching,
remember to ask him, "Whats your principle for that?"

Are Catholics Born Again?

Catholics and Protestants agree that to be saved, you have to be born again. Jesus
said so: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
When a Catholic says that he has been "born again," he refers to the transformation
that Gods grace accomplished in him during baptism. Evangelical Protestants
typically mean something quite different when they talk about being "born again."
For an Evangelical, becoming "born again" often happens like this: He goes to a
crusade or a revival where a minister delivers a sermon telling him of his need to be
"born again."
"If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and believe he died for your sins, youll be
born again!" says the preacher. So the gentleman makes "a decision for Christ" and
at the altar call goes forward to be led in "the sinners prayer" by the minister. Then
the minister tells all who prayed the sinners prayer that they have been saved
"born again." But is the minister right? Not according to the Bible.
The Names of the New Birth
Regeneration (being "born again") is the transformation from death to life that
occurs in our souls when we first come to God and are justified. He washes us clean
of our sins and gives us a new nature, breaking the power of sin over us so that we
will no longer be its slaves, but its enemies, who must fight it as part of the
Christian life (cf. Rom. 6:122; Eph. 6:1117). To understand the biblical teaching of
being born again, we must understand the terms it uses to refer to this event.
The term "born again" may not appear in the Bible. The Greek phrase often
translated "born again" (gennatha anothen) occurs twice in the BibleJohn 3:3 and
3:7and there is a question of how it should be translated. The Greek word anothen
sometimes can be translated "again," but in the New Testament, it most often
means "from above." In the King James Version, the only two times it is translated
"again" are in John 3:3 and 3:7; every other time it is given a different rendering.
Another term is "regeneration." When referring to something that occurs in the life
of an individual believer, it only appears in Titus 3:5. In other passages, the new
birth phenomenon is also described as receiving new life (Rom. 6:4), receiving the
circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:1112), and becoming a "new creation"
(2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15).
Regeneration in John 3
These different ways of talking about being "born again" describe effects of
baptism, which Christ speaks of in John 3:5 as being "born of water and the Spirit."
In Greek, this phrase is, literally, "born of water and Spirit," indicating one birth of
water-and-Spirit, rather than "born of water and of the Spirit," as though it meant
two different birthsone birth of water and one birth of the Spirit.

In the water-and-Spirit rebirth that takes place at baptism, the repentant sinner is
transformed from a state of sin to the state of grace. Peter mentioned this
transformation from sin to grace when he exhorted people to "be baptized every
one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
The context of Jesus statements in John 3 makes it clear that he was referring to
water baptism. Shortly before Jesus teaches Nicodemus about the necessity and
regenerating effect of baptism, he himself was baptized by John the Baptist, and the
circumstances are striking: Jesus goes down into the water, and as he is baptized,
the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove, and the
voice of God the Father speaks from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son" (cf.
Matt. 3:1317; Mark 1:911; Luke 3:2122; John 1:3034). This scene gives us a
graphic depiction of what happens at baptism: We are baptized with water,
symbolizing our dying with Christ (Rom. 6:3) and our rising with Christ to the
newness of life (Rom. 6:45); we receive the gift of sanctifying grace and the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27); and we are adopted as Gods
sons (Rom. 8:1517).
After our Lords teaching that it is necessary for salvation to be born from above by
water and the Spirit (John 3:121), "Jesus and his disciples went into the land of
Judea; there he remained with them and baptized" (John 3:22).
Then we have the witness of the early Church that John 3:5 refers to baptismal
regeneration. This was universally recognized by the early Christians. The Church
Fathers were unanimous in teaching this:
In A.D. 151, Justin Martyr wrote, "As many as are persuaded and believe that what
we [Christians] teach and say is true . . . are brought by us where there is water and
are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For,
in the name of God the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy
Spirit [Matt. 28:19], they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said,
Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven [John
3:3]" (First Apology 61).
Around 190, Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, wrote, "And [Naaman] dipped himself . . .
seven times in the Jordan [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old,
when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served]
as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of
the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being
spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: Except a
man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom
of heaven [John 3:5]" (Fragment 34).
In the year 252, Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, said that when those becoming
Christians "receive also the baptism of the Church . . . then finally can they be fully
sanctified and be the sons of God . . . since it is written, Except a man be born
again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God [John
3:5]" (Letters 71[72]:1).

Augustine wrote, "From the time he [Jesus] said, Except a man be born of water and
the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven [John 3:5], and again, He
that loses his life for my sake shall find it [Matt. 10:39], no one becomes a member
of Christ except it be either by baptism in Christ or death for Christ" (On the Soul
and Its Origin 1:10 [A.D. 419]).
Augustine also taught, "It is this one Spirit who makes it possible for an infant to be
regenerated . . . when that infant is brought to baptism; and it is through this one
Spirit that the infant so presented is reborn. For it is not written, Unless a man be
born again by the will of his parents or by the faith of those presenting him or
ministering to him, but, Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit
[John 3:5]. The water, therefore, manifesting exteriorly the sacrament of grace, and
the Spirit effecting interiorly the benefit of grace, both regenerate in one Christ that
man who was generated in Adam" (Letters 98:2 [A.D. 408]).
Regeneration in the New Testament
The truth that regeneration comes through baptism is confirmed elsewhere in the
Bible. Paul reminds us in Titus 3:5 that God "saved us, not because of deeds done
by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of
regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit."
Paul also said, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ
Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism
into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we
too might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:34).
This teachingthat baptism unites us with Christs death and resurrection so that
we might die to sin and receive new lifeis a key part of Pauls theology. In
Colossians 2:1113, he tells us, "In [Christ] you were also circumcised, in the putting
off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with
the circumcision [of] Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with
him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When
you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God
made you alive with Christ" (NIV).
The Effects of Baptism
Often people miss the fact that baptism gives us new life/new birth because they
have an impoverished view of the grace God gives us through baptism, which they
think is a mere symbol. But Scripture is clear that baptism is much more than a
mere symbol.
In Acts 2:38, Peter tells us, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name
of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the
Holy Spirit." When Paul was converted, he was told, "And now why do you wait? Rise
and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16).
Peter also said, "Gods patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of
the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism,

which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body,
but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ" (1 Pet. 3:2021). Peter says that, as in the time of the flood, when eight
people were "saved through water," so for Christians, "[b]aptism . . . now saves
you." It does not do so by the waters physical action, but through the power of
Jesus Christs resurrection, through baptisms spiritual effects and the appeal we
make to God to have our consciences cleansed.
These verses showing the supernatural grace God bestows through baptism set the
context for understanding the New Testaments statements about receiving new life
in the sacrament.
Protestants on Regeneration
Martin Luther wrote in his Short Catechism that baptism "works the forgiveness of
sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal life to all who believe."
His recognition that the Bible teaches baptismal regeneration has been preserved
by Lutherans and a few other Protestant denominations. Even some Baptists
recognize that the biblical evidence demands the historic Christian teaching of
baptismal regeneration. Notable individuals who recognized that Scripture teaches
baptismal regeneration include Baptist theologians George R. Beasley-Murray and
Dale Moody.
Nevertheless, many Protestants have abandoned this biblical teaching, substituting
man-made theories on regeneration. There are two main views held by those who
deny the scriptural teaching that one is born again through baptism: the
"Evangelical" view, common among Baptists, and the "Calvinist" view, common
among Presbyterians.
Evangelicals claim that one is born again at the first moment of faith in Christ.
According to this theory, faith in Christ produces regeneration. The Calvinist position
is the reverse: Regeneration precedes and produces faith in Christ. Calvinists (some
of whom also call themselves Evangelicals) suppose that God "secretly" regenerates
people, without their being aware of it, and this causes them to place their faith in
To defend these theories, Evangelicals and Calvinists attempt to explain away the
many unambiguous verses in the Bible that plainly teach baptismal regeneration.
One strategy is to say that the water in John 3:5 refers not to baptism but to the
amniotic fluid present at childbirth. The absurd
implication of this view is that Jesus would have been saying, "You must be born of
amniotic fluid and the Spirit." A check of the respected Protestant Greek lexicon,
Kittels Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, fails to turn up any instances
in ancient, Septuagint or New Testament Greek where "water" (Greek: hudor)
referred to "amniotic fluid" (VIII:314333).
Evangelicals and Calvinists try to deal with the other verses where new life is
attributed to baptism either by ignoring them or by arguing that it is not actually
water baptism that is being spoken of. The problem for them is that water is
explicitly mentioned or implied in each of these verses.

In Acts 2:38, people are exhorted to take an action: "Be baptized . . . in the name of
Jesus Christ," which does not refer to an internal baptism that is administered to
people by themselves, but the external baptism administered to them by others.
We are told that at Pauls conversion, "he rose and was baptized, and took food and
was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus" (Acts
9:1819). This was a water baptism. In Romans 6 and Colossians 2, Paul reminds his
readers of their water baptisms, and he neither says nor implies anything about
some sort of "invisible spiritual baptism."
In 1 Peter 3, water is mentioned twice, paralleling baptism with the flood, where
eight were "saved through water," and noting that "baptism now saves you" by the
power of Christ rather than by the physical action of water "removing . . . dirt from
the body."
The anti-baptismal regeneration position is indefensible. It has no biblical basis
whatsoever. So the answer to the question, "Are Catholics born again?" is yes! Since
all Catholics have been baptized, all Catholics have been born again. Catholics
should ask Protestants, "Are you born againthe way the Bible understands that
concept?" If the Evangelical has not been properly water baptized, he has not been
born again "the Bible way," regardless of what he may think.

12 Painless Ways to Evangelize

Copyright 2000, Catholic Answers.
All Rights Reserved.

Why not face it? Most Catholics shy away from publicly engaging in evangelization.
Even those who know their faith well hesitate to discuss it with strangers, and those
who don't know their faith as well as they should usually find themselves running
for cover when they think they may be asked to engage in evangelization.
Not to fear. This booklet explains twelve ways you can spread the faith--at very little
expense, often with complete anonymity, and even "from the comfort of your own
home," as the old phrase puts it.
But first of all, what's "evangelization"? It's the spreading of the Good News of Jesus
Christ, as it has been entrusted to the Church he established. When we evangelize,
we explain the truths of the Catholic faith and invite people to consider them and to
consider becoming Catholics. We offer them a welcome into the house that God
built for them.
Many lay Catholics still think evangelization is a task just for priests and religious.
"Let Father or Sister do it," they say. But it's really a task for every baptized
Christian. Nowadays, with a decreased number of priests and religious, it's
especially important that lay Catholics get involved in spreading the faith.
How to begin? Most parishes don't have effective evangelization programs, so you
might be forced to fall back on your own resources.
But don't worry. In the following pages we present twelve easy (and usually cheap)
ways to get the Good News out. Some of these methods are best done by several
people together, so you might consider asking your friends over to your home to
discuss techniques. Which method best fits your budget? Which makes best use of
your time? Which makes best use of your talents? As you will see, you won't need
much of a budget, you won't need much time, and you won't need to be a
theological whiz.
Now roll up your sleeves, read on, and choose the techniques that are right for you.
Who knows--one of them just might launch you as a full-time Catholic evangelist!
Stuff bill payment envelopes with Catholic tracts.
Everyone pays bills, and each remittance envelope is handled by someone at the
other end. Opening envelopes is a tedious job. (Imagine going through a few
thousand a day.) The contents of the envelopes never vary, except for the amount

Why not give the person who opens your envelope a little variety by including a
tract that explains a Catholic belief? You can be sure the opener will take the tract
Of course, you do not need to restrict yourself to remittance envelopes. You can
stuff tracts or booklets into every envelope you mail. Tracts can be obtained for as
little as four cents apiece. Booklets may cost you a little more.
Either way, you can reach a hundred people for the cost of a fast-food lunch. Best of
all, you won't have to pay anything extra for packaging or postage--you'll be using
the envelope and stamp you would have used anyway.
Do you want responses to come to you or to your group? Purchase an inked address
stamper at an office supply store, and stamp your name (or your group's name) and
address onto the back of each tract or booklet. You'll get replies in no time.
Volunteer to take charge of your parish's literature rack.
Most parishes have vestibule literature racks. For the pastor they can be a source of
modest income and regular headaches. You can accomplish two things if you
volunteer to oversee the rack. First, your pastor or his secretary will be relieved of
the burden. They won't have to worry about keeping the rack neat and filled.
Second, you can be reimbursed for the cost of the rack's literature if there's a
donation box next to the rack. (If you receive more than enough to cover your costs
in buying the literature, donate the excess to the parish--a great way to make
yourself well-liked.)
But what should go in the rack? If you look at racks in neighboring parishes, you'll
see that some literature seems neat, while other is dog-eared. Skip the latter: Tracts
and booklets become dog-eared when many people pick them up, but few people
take them home.
Most Catholics--and most non-Catholic visitors to Catholic churches--would like to
know more about the Catholic faith, so your best bet is literature that explains
Catholic beliefs in a clear, straightforward way, one topic per item. A prominent sign
asking for donations should bring in enough to cover your costs.
Play a video or audio tape for door-to-door missionaries.
The last thing you should do, when missionaries ring the doorbell, is to tell them to
go away. This gives them a bad impression of you and, if they know you're a
Catholic, of the Church. Instead, invite them in to view or listen to a tape.
You won't have to do anything except be friendly. Whether they're Jehovah's
Witnesses or Mormons or "Bible Christians," ask them to sit down and tell them
you'll be happy to take and read their literature, but say that first you'd like them to
see a videotape or listen to an audio tape.

A few missionaries will excuse themselves at this point, but most, even those who
won't accept Catholic literature, will be willing to sit through a tape. When the tape
is through, ask them their impressions of it. Have on hand Catholic literature, in
case they want more information. Invite them back for another visit (at which you'll
play another tape).
Don't get into an argument or a deep discussion. What you want to do is have them
listen to the truths of the Catholic faith as spoken by experts. Those truths will settle
in their minds and, over time, will affect them.
Place tracts or booklets in the pews at your parish.
For this one you'll need your pastor's permission, of course, but that shouldn't be
hard to obtain if you offer to supply top-quality materials.
You'll be doing your pastor two favors: He won't have to purchase the tracts or
booklets (you and your friends will do that), and he'll end up with a more educated
parish--especially welcome to a pastor who is frustrated because he has to start at
"square one" each time he gives a homily.
To ensure that parishioners take your literature, consider taping a little note that
says "Free: Please take me home!" to the top of each one. You don't want folks to
think the tracts or booklets, like the missalettes, should be left in the pews after
A general distribution of literature, especially in a large parish, can be a drain on
your wallet, so you might want to team up with other parishioners.
In fact, you can go to the rectory as a group to present your plan--the pastor will be
impressed that several of you are willing to dig into your own pockets to help others
in the parish.
Write and answer messages on your online service.
If your home computer has a modem, subscribe to an online service. Among the
commercial services are America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy, and the Catholic
(703) 791-4336
end_of_the_skype_highlighting), and there are thousands of subscription-free
bulletin board systems (BBSs).
Most services include public message forums in addition to private e-mail
(electronic mail). A message in a public forum might be read by tens, hundreds, or
thousands of people. This can be a cost-effective way to explain Catholic beliefs and
to overcome common misconceptions about the Catholic faith.

Some local BBSs share messages with other BBSs around the country. This means
that what you write tonight can be read tomorrow in hundreds of cities. (The
Catholic Information Network [CIN information by modem: (619) 449-6030
(619) 449-6030
end_of_the_skype_highlighting] operates this way.) Your cost: no more than a local
phone call.
Online messages, unlike printed literature, allow for immediate responses. You can
keep up continuing dialogues with people far away. Plus there's good news for the
shy: Most systems allow you to use a "handle" instead of your real name.
Go door to door, hanging leaflets from doorknobs.
If you want to saturate your neighborhood with good Catholic literature, there's no
better way than going door to door--and you never have to ring a doorbell.
Leave tracts or booklets hanging from the doorknob by means of cheap plastic
bags. (Look in the Yellow Pages for manufacturers of such bags.) Or slip your
literature under the doormat, or prop it against the door. But be sure you don't put
your literature in anyone's mailbox. Mailboxes are for mail only, and it's a federal
offense to put anything else in a mailbox.
If you feel up to face-to-face encounters, bring along other material, including
tapes, for those times when you run into someone as you're leaving your tract or
booklet. If you want to avoid such encounters, skip houses with open front doors or
with people standing outside.
Going door to door is most enjoyable when you walk with a friend. Each of you can
cover one side of the block. If one of you gets into a discussion with a resident, the
other can cross the street and help guide the conversation.
Write to the editor when the press misrepresents the faith.
We all have seen anti-Catholic bias in the media. Sometimes it is a function of
simple ignorance. Sometimes it is evidence of a deep-seated hostility. Either way,
don't let misrepresentations about the faith go by without composing a quick
Every opinion page editor wants lively letters to the editor. (He keeps his job only if
he keeps this section popular.) The editor may not be a Catholic--he may not even
like Catholics or their beliefs--but he'll print your letter if you write charitably,
succinctly, and with verve.
The chief rule: Keep it short. An editor reserves the right to shorten long letters, but
he usually doesn't want to use his time doing that. It's easier to throw long letters
away. Your chances of getting your letter printed are greatest if you stay within 200
words, if you type your letter neatly, and if you include your name, address, and

telephone number (so the editor can check that it was you who wrote, not someone
using your name).
Many folks have their letters printed regularly. So can you. Remember: By writing
just one short letter, you can influence thousands.
Place Catholic literature on windshields.
Two cautions: Don't do this on private property without getting permission from the
owner. And, if you're going to place literature on windshields of cars parked along
streets, check with your city about regulations. In most cities there's no problem at
all, so long as the cars are on public property, including public parking lots, but
some cities have restrictions. It's always good to check.
That said, this is an easy way to grab people's attention. After all, who can drive
with a tract or booklet staring him in the face? Drivers have no choice but to remove
your literature from their windshields. Few will toss your tract or booklet on the
ground (being a litterbug is pass today), so even most of those who might not
welcome the message will take your literature home, where it may sit for a day or
two until it's read.
The key to getting your material read is to restrict yourself to topics that many
people are interested in. Good examples: the Eucharist, the papacy, salvation. Even
non-Catholics want to learn more about these.
Give away photocopies of articles from periodicals.
Again, you'll need permission for this one. Write to the publisher and explain that
you want to make photocopies of a particular article and will give them away at no
charge. (Most publications will refuse permission if you intend to sell the copies.) Be
sure to include, on the last page of the article, the publication's name and address
and the date of the issue in which the article appeared.
Passing out photocopies is a good way to distribute "I-wish-I-had-written-that"
articles--you know, the kind that say just the right things in just the right words, but
that probably never will appear in leaflet or booklet form.
If you take an article to a copying service, and if you order a large number of copies,
prices can be less than four cents per magazine page. A hundred copies of a fivepage article would run you $20--an inexpensive way to reach a hundred people.
These photocopied articles can be used as envelope stuffers, can be left in pews, or
can be placed on windshields. If you want to receive responses, stamp your or your
group's name and address on the last page.
Send a friend (or a stranger) a book or a tape.

Few people can resist a gift, especially one that has "perceived value," as the
marketing phrase has it. Whether or not the intended recipient of your largesse likes
books or tapes, he'll probably feel obliged to read or listen to whatever you give
Don't restrict your giving to friends. Preaching to the choir is often necessary, but
you also should preach to the people in the pews and to the people who never even
make it to church. Besides, there's no better way to overcome a lack of friendship
than to give a gift that says, "Please accept this. I'm interested in having your
opinion of it."
If you purchase a single title, whether a book or a tape, in quantity, you usually can
receive a substantial discount from the supplier--anywhere from twenty to forty
percent, sometimes more. If one or two friends will join you in underwriting the
costs, you'll be able to give a book or tape to someone for as little as a dollar or two.
This is an effective way to spread the good news about the Catholic faith.
Call radio talk shows.
Most talk shows on "Christian radio stations" are hosted by Protestants. Inevitably
the Catholic Church and Catholic beliefs are discussed--but not necessarily with
sensitivity or understanding. Here's where you come in.
All you have to do is call these shows--most of them advertise a toll-free number or
a local number--but do a little preparation first. Since you'll have only a few
moments on the air, you must know what you're going to say and how you'll say it.
Before dialing, pencil a list of "talking points" so you won't become tongue-tied or
lose your train of thought.
On most stations you maintain anonymity, with only your first name and city being
given over the air. (You may have to give your full name and other information to
the station's program engineer, but all that will be kept confidential.)
When you finally get on the air, make sure you speak constructively, even when you
need to correct the program's host, his guest, or another caller. Don't say, "The
guest on today's show doesn't know what he's talking about." It's better to say, "The
guest on today's show seems to have a misconception about Catholic teaching on
such-and-so. Let me explain what the Catholic Church really believes . . . ."
Leave Catholic tracts and flyers in conspicuous places.
Do you take a bus to work or to school? If so, leave Catholic literature on the seat as
you exit, and the next person no doubt will read it. After all, what else is there to do
on a bus?
If you find yourself waiting at a bus stop or on a train platform, leave a few copies of
a tract or flyer on the bench--provided it's not a windy day, of course.

Before leaving your house, stuff a dozen pieces of Catholic literature into your
pocket or purse. Make it a point to distribute that many pieces each time you go
out. You can leave literature nearly anywhere, but be careful not to leave it where it
likely will fall to the ground and be trampled underfoot.
If someone sees what you're doing and expresses interest, smile broadly and offer
him samples. There's no need to argue about the contents of the literature. Just say,
"Why don't you take one? You might find it helpful."

Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth

Revised Second Edition

Copyright 1996, Catholic Answers.
All Rights Reserved.
WHETHER or not you are Catholic, you may have questions about the Catholic faith.
You may have heard challenges to the Catholic Churchs claim to be the interpreter
and safeguard of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Such challenges come from door-to-door missionaries who ask, "Are you saved?",
from peer pressure that urges you to ignore the Churchs teachings, from a secular
culture that whispers "There is no God."
You cant deal with these challenges unless you understand the basics of the
Catholic faith. This booklet introduces them to you.
In Catholicism you will find answers to lifes most troubling questions: Why am I
here? Who made me? What must I believe? How must I act? All these can be
answered to your satisfaction, if only you will open yourself to Gods grace, turn to
the Church he established, and follow his plan for you (John 7:17).
Jesus said his Church would be "the light of the world." He then noted that "a city
set on a hill cannot be hid" (Matt. 5:14). This means his Church is a visible
organization. It must have characteristics that clearly identify it and that distinguish
it from other churches. Jesus promised, "I will build my Church and the gates of hell
will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). This means that his Church will never be
destroyed and will never fall away from him. His Church will survive until his return.
Among the Christian churches, only the Catholic Church has existed since the time
of Jesus. Every other Christian church is an offshoot of the Catholic Church. The
Eastern Orthodox churches broke away from unity with the pope in 1054. The
Protestant churches were established during the Reformation, which began in 1517.
(Most of todays Protestant churches are actually offshoots of the original Protestant
Only the Catholic Church existed in the tenth century, in the fifth century, and in the
first century, faithfully teaching the doctrines given by Christ to the apostles,
omitting nothing. The line of popes can be traced back, in unbroken succession, to
Peter himself. This is unequaled by any institution in history.
Even the oldest government is new compared to the papacy, and the churches that
send out door-to-door missionaries are young compared to the Catholic Church.
Many of these churches began as recently as the nineteenth or twentieth centuries.
Some even began during your own lifetime. None of them can claim to be the
Church Jesus established.

The Catholic Church has existed for nearly 2,000 years, despite constant opposition
from the world. This is testimony to the Churchs divine origin. It must be more than
a merely human organization, especially considering that its human members
even some of its leadershave been unwise, corrupt, or prone to heresy.
Any merely human organization with such members would have collapsed early on.
The Catholic Church is today the most vigorous church in the world (and the largest,
with a billion members: one sixth of the human race), and that is testimony not to
the cleverness of the Churchs leaders, but to the protection of the Holy Spirit.
If we wish to locate the Church founded by Jesus, we need to locate the one that has
the four chief marks or qualities of his Church. The Church we seek must be one,
holy, catholic, and apostolic.
The Church Is One (Rom. 12:5, 1 Cor. 10:17, 12:13, CCC 813822)
Jesus established only one Church, not a collection of differing churches (Lutheran,
Baptist, Anglican, and so on). The Bible says the Church is the bride of Christ (Eph.
5:2332). Jesus can have but one spouse, and his spouse is the Catholic Church.
His Church also teaches just one set of doctrines, which must be the same as those
taught by the apostles (Jude 3). This is the unity of belief to which Scripture calls us
(Phil. 1:27, 2:2).
Although some Catholics dissent from officially-taught doctrines, the Churchs
official teachersthe pope and the bishops united with himhave never changed
any doctrine. Over the centuries, as doctrines are examined more fully, the Church
comes to understand them more deeply (John 16:1213), but it never understands
them to mean the opposite of what they once meant.
The Church Is Holy (Eph. 5:2527, Rev. 19:78, CCC 823829)
By his grace Jesus makes the Church holy, just as he is holy. This doesnt mean that
each member is always holy. Jesus said there would be both good and bad members
in the Church (John 6:70), and not all the members would go to heaven (Matt. 7:21
But the Church itself is holy because it is the source of holiness and is the guardian
of the special means of grace Jesus established, the sacraments (cf. Eph. 5:26).
The Church Is Catholic (Matt. 28:1920, Rev. 5:910, CCC 830856)
Jesus Church is called catholic ("universal" in Greek) because it is his gift to all
people. He told his apostles to go throughout the world and make disciples of "all
nations" (Matt. 28:1920).

For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has carried out this mission, preaching the good
news that Christ died for all men and that he wants all of us to be members of his
universal family (Gal. 3:28).
Nowadays the Catholic Church is found in every country of the world and is still
sending out missionaries to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19).
The Church Jesus established was known by its most common title, "the Catholic
Church," at least as early as the year 107, when Ignatius of Antioch used that title
to describe the one Church Jesus founded. The title apparently was old in Ignatiuss
time, which means it probably went all the way back to the time of the apostles.
The Church Is Apostolic (Eph. 2:1920, CCC 857865)
The Church Jesus founded is apostolic because he appointed the apostles to be the
first leaders of the Church, and their successors were to be its future leaders. The
apostles were the first bishops, and, since the first century, there has been an
unbroken line of Catholic bishops faithfully handing on what the apostles taught the
first Christians in Scripture and oral Tradition (2 Tim. 2:2).
These beliefs include the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, the Real Presence of Jesus in
the Eucharist, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the forgiveness of sins through a
priest, baptismal regeneration, the existence of purgatory, Marys special role, and
much more even the doctrine of apostolic succession itself.
Early Christian writings prove the first Christians were thoroughly Catholic in belief
and practice and looked to the successors of the apostles as their leaders. What
these first Christians believed is still believed by the Catholic Church. No other
Church can make that claim.
Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth
Mans ingenuity cannot account for this. The Church has remained one, holy,
catholic, and apostolicnot through mans effort, but because God preserves the
Church he established (Matt. 16:18, 28:20).
He guided the Israelites on their escape from Egypt by giving them a pillar of fire to
light their way across the dark wilderness (Exod. 13:21). Today he guides us through
his Catholic Church.
The Bible, sacred Tradition, and the writings of the earliest Christians testify that the
Church teaches with Jesus authority. In this age of countless competing religions,
each clamoring for attention, one voice rises above the din: the Catholic Church,
which the Bible calls "the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).
Jesus assured the apostles and their successors, the popes and the bishops, "He
who listens to you listens to me, and he who rejects you rejects me" (Luke 10:16).
Jesus promised to guide his Church into all truth (John 16:1213). We can have
confidence that his Church teaches only the truth.


Jesus chose the apostles to be the earthly leaders of the Church. He gave them his
own authority to teach and to governnot as dictators, but as loving pastors and
fathers. That is why Catholics call their spiritual leaders "father." In doing so we
follow Pauls example: "I became your father in Jesus Christ through the gospel" (1
Cor. 4:15).
The apostles, fulfilling Jesus will, ordained bishops, priests, and deacons and thus
handed on their apostolic ministry to themthe fullest degree of ordination to the
bishops, lesser degrees to the priests and deacons.
The Pope and Bishops (CCC 880883)
Jesus gave Peter special authority among the apostles (John 21:1517) and signified
this by changing his name from Simon to Peter, which means "rock" (John 1:42). He
said Peter was to be the rock on which he would build his Church (Matt. 16:18).
In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, Simons new name was Kepha (which means
a massive rock). Later this name was translated into Greek as Petros (John 1:42) and
into English as Peter. Christ gave Peter alone the "keys of the kingdom" (Matt.
16:19) and promised that Peters decisions would be binding in heaven. He also
gave similar power to the other apostles (Matt. 18:18), but only Peter was given the
keys, symbols of his authority to rule the Church on earth in Jesus absence.
Christ, the Good Shepherd, called Peter to be the chief shepherd of his Church (John
21:1517). He gave Peter the task of strengthening the other apostles in their faith,
ensuring that they taught only what was true (Luke 22:3132). Peter led the Church
in proclaiming the gospel and making decisions (Acts 2:1 41, 15:712).
Early Christian writings tell us that Peters successors, the bishops of Rome (who
from the earliest times have been called by the affectionate title of "pope," which
means "papa"), continued to exercise Peters ministry in the Church.
The pope is the successor to Peter as bishop of Rome. The worlds other bishops are
successors to the apostles in general.
As from the first, God speaks to his Church through the Bible and through sacred
Tradition. To make sure we understand him, he guides the Churchs teaching
authoritythe magisteriumso it always interprets the Bible and Tradition
accurately. This is the gift of infallibility.
Like the three legs on a stool, the Bible, Tradition, and the magisterium are all
necessary for the stability of the Church and to guarantee sound doctrine.
Sacred Tradition (CCC 7583)

Sacred Tradition should not be confused with mere traditions of men, which are
more commonly called customs or disciplines. Jesus sometimes condemned
customs or disciplines, but only if they were contrary to Gods commands (Mark
7:8). He never condemned sacred Tradition, and he didnt even condemn all human
Sacred Tradition and the Bible are not different or competing revelations. They are
two ways that the Church hands on the gospel. Apostolic teachings such as the
Trinity, infant baptism, the inerrancy of the Bible, purgatory, and Marys perpetual
virginity have been most clearly taught through Tradition, although they are also
implicitly present in (and not contrary to) the Bible. The Bible itself tells us to hold
fast to Tradition, whether it comes to us in written or oral form (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor.
Sacred Tradition should not be confused with customs and disciplines, such as the
rosary, priestly celibacy, and not eating meat on Fridays in Lent. These are good and
helpful things, but they are not doctrines. Sacred Tradition preserves doctrines first
taught by Jesus to the apostles and later passed down to us through the apostles
successors, the bishops.
Scripture (CCC 101141)
Scripture, by which we mean the Old and New Testaments, was inspired by God (2
Tim. 3:16). The Holy Spirit guided the biblical authors to write what he wanted them
to write. Since God is the principal author of the Bible, and since God is truth itself
(John 14:6) and cannot teach anything untrue, the Bible is free from all error in
everything it asserts to be true.
Some Christians claim, "The Bible is all I need," but this notion is not taught in the
Bible itself. In fact, the Bible teaches the contrary idea (2 Pet. 1:2021, 3:1516).
The "Bible alone" theory was not believed by anyone in the early Church.
It is new, having arisen only in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation. The
theory is a "tradition of men" that nullifies the Word of God, distorts the true role of
the Bible, and undermines the authority of the Church Jesus established (Mark 7:1
Although popular with many "Bible Christian" churches, the "Bible alone" theory
simply does not work in practice. Historical experience disproves it. Each year we
see additional splintering among "Bible-believing" religions.
Today there are tens of thousands of competing denominations, each insisting its
interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. The resulting divisions have caused
untold confusion among millions of sincere but misled Christians.
Just open up the Yellow Pages of your telephone book and see how many different
denominations are listed, each claiming to go by the "Bible alone," but no two of
them agreeing on exactly what the Bible means.

We know this for sure: The Holy Spirit cannot be the author of this confusion (1 Cor.
14:33). God cannot lead people to contradictory beliefs because his truth is one.
The conclusion? The "Bible alone" theory must be false.
The Magisterium (CCC 8587, 888892)
Together the pope and the bishops form the teaching authority of the Church, which
is called the magisterium (from the Latin for "teacher"). The magisterium, guided
and protected from error by the Holy Spirit, gives us certainty in matters of doctrine.
The Church is the custodian of the Bible and faithfully and accurately proclaims its
message, a task which God has empowered it to do.
Keep in mind that the Church came before the New Testament, not the New
Testament before the Church. Divinely-inspired members of the Church wrote the
books of the New Testament, just as divinely-inspired writers had written the Old
Testament, and the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit to guard and interpret the
entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
Such an official interpreter is absolutely necessary if we are to understand the Bible
properly. (We all know what the Constitution says, but we still need a Supreme Court
to interpret what it means.)
The magisterium is infallible when it teaches officially because Jesus promised to
send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles and their successors "into all truth" (John
Jesus promised he would not leave us orphans (John 14:18) but would send the Holy
Spirit to guide and protect us (John 15:26). He gave the sacraments to heal, feed,
and strengthen us. The seven sacraments baptism, the Eucharist, penance (also
called reconciliation or confession), confirmation, holy orders, matrimony, and the
anointing of the sickare not just symbols. They are signs that actually convey
Gods grace and love.
The sacraments were foreshadowed in the Old Testament by things that did not
actually convey grace but merely symbolized it (circumcision, for example,
prefigured baptism, and the Passover meal prefigured the Eucharist. When Christ
came, he did not do away with symbols of Gods grace. He supernaturalized them,
energizing them with grace. He made them more than symbols.
God constantly uses material things to show his love and power. After all, matter is
not evil. When he created the physical universe, everything God created was "very
good" (Gen. 1:31). He takes such delight in matter that he even dignified it through
his own Incarnation (John 1:14).
During his earthly ministry Jesus healed, fed, and strengthened people through
humble elements such as mud, water, bread, oil, and wine. He could have

performed his miracles directly, but he preferred to use material things to bestow
his grace.
In his first public miracle Jesus turned water into wine, at the request of his mother,
Mary (John 2:111). He healed a blind man by rubbing mud on his eyes (John 9:17).
He multiplied a few loaves and fish into a meal for thousands (John 6:513). He
changed bread and wine into his own body and blood (Matt. 26:26 28). Through
the sacraments he continues to heal, feed, and strengthen us.
Baptism (CCC 12131284)
Because of original sin, we are born without grace in our souls, so there is no way
for us to have fellowship with God. Jesus became man to bring us into union with his
Father. He said no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is first born of "water
and the Spirit" (John 3:5)this refers to baptism.
Through baptism we are born again, but this time on a spiritual level instead of a
physical level. We are washed in the bath of rebirth (Titus 3:5). We are baptized into
Christs death and therefore share in his Resurrection (Rom. 6:37).
Baptism cleanses us of sins and brings the Holy Spirit and his grace into our souls
(Acts 2:38, 22:16). And the apostle Peter is perhaps the most blunt of all: "Baptism
now saves you" (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is the gateway into the Church.
Penance (CCC 14221498)
Sometimes on our journey toward the heavenly promised land we stumble and fall
into sin. God is always ready to lift us up and to restore us to grace-filled fellowship
with him. He does this through the sacrament of penance (which is also known as
confession or reconciliation).
Jesus gave his apostles power and authority to reconcile us to the Father. They
received Jesus own power to forgive sins when he breathed on them and said,
"Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins
you retain are retained" (John 20:2223).
Paul notes that "all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation. . . . So, we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us" (2 Cor. 5:1820). Through confession to a
priest, Gods minister, we have our sins forgiven, and we receive grace to help us
resist future temptations.
The Eucharist (CCC 13221419)
Once we become members of Christs family, he does not let us go hungry, but
feeds us with his own body and blood through the Eucharist. In the Old Testament,
as they prepared for their journey in the wilderness, God commanded his people to
sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the Angel of Death
would pass by their homes. Then they ate the lamb to seal their covenant with God.

This lamb prefigured Jesus. He is the real "Lamb of God," who takes away the sins of
the world (John 1:29). Through Jesus we enter into a New Covenant with God (Luke
22:20), who protects us from eternal death. Gods Old Testament people ate the
Passover lamb. Now we must eat the Lamb that is the Eucharist. Jesus said, "Unless
you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life within you" (John 6:53).
At the Last Supper he took bread and wine and said, "Take and eat. This is my
body . . . This is my blood which will be shed for you" (Mark 14:2224). In this way
Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacrificial meal Catholics
consume at each Mass.
The Catholic Church teaches that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross occurred "once
for all"; it cannot be repeated (Heb. 9:28). Christ does not "die again" during Mass,
but the very same sacrifice that occurred on Calvary is made present on the altar.
Thats why the Mass is not "another" sacrifice, but a participation in the same, oncefor-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Paul reminds us that the bread and the wine really become, by a miracle of Gods
grace, the actual body and blood of Jesus: "Anyone who eats and drinks without
recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Cor.
After the consecration of the bread and wine, no bread or wine remains on the altar.
Only Jesus himself, under the appearance of bread and wine, remains.
Confirmation (CCC 12851321)
God strengthens our souls in another way, through the sacrament of confirmation.
Even though Jesus disciples received grace before his Resurrection, on Pentecost
the Holy Spirit came to strengthen them with new graces for the difficult work
They went out and preached the gospel fearlessly and carried out the mission Christ
had given them. Later, they laid hands on others to strengthen them as well (Acts
8:1417). Through confirmation you too are strengthened to meet the spiritual
challenges in your life.
Matrimony (CCC 16011666)
Most people are called to the married life. Through the sacrament of matrimony God
gives special graces to help married couples with lifes difficulties, especially to help
them raise their children as loving followers of Christ.
Marriage involves three parties: the bride, the groom, and God. When two Christians
receive the sacrament of matrimony, God is with them, witnessing and blessing
their marriage covenant. A sacramental marriage is permanent; only death can
break it (Mark 10:112, Rom. 7:23, 1 Cor. 7:1011). This holy union is a living
symbol of the unbreakable relationship between Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:21
Holy Orders (CCC 15361600)

Others are called to share specially in Christs priesthood. In the Old Covenant, even
though Israel was a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6), the Lord called certain men to a
special priestly ministry (Exod. 19: 22). In the New Covenant, even though
Christians are a kingdom of priests (1 Pet. 2:9), Jesus calls certain men to a special
priestly ministry (Rom. 15:1516).
This sacrament is called holy orders. Through it priests are ordained and thus
empowered to serve the Church (2 Tim. 1:67) as pastors, teachers, and spiritual
fathers who heal, feed, and strengthen Gods peoplemost importantly through
preaching and the administration of the sacraments.
Anointing of the Sick (CCC 14991532)
Priests care for us when we are physically ill. They do this through the sacrament
known as the anointing of the sick. The Bible instructs us, "Is anyone among you
suffering? He should pray. . . . Is any one among you sick? He should summon the
presbyters [priests] of the Church, and they should pray over him and anoint him
with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person,
and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven"
(Jas. 5:1415). Anointing of the sick not only helps us endure illness, but it cleanses
our souls and helps us prepare to meet God.
One of the most important activities for a Catholic is prayer. Without it there can be
no true spiritual life. Through personal prayer and the communal prayer of the
Church, especially the Mass, we worship and praise God, we express sorrow for our
sins, and we intercede on behalf of others (1 Tim. 2:14). Through prayer we grow in
our relationship with Christ and with members of Gods family (CCC 26632696).
This family includes all members of the Church, whether on earth, in heaven, or in
purgatory. Since Jesus has only one body, and since death has no power to separate
us from Christ (Rom. 8:38), Christians who are in heaven or who, before entering
heaven, are being purified in purgatory by Gods love (1 Cor. 3:1215) are still part
of the Body of Christ (CCC 962).
Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself"
(Matt. 22:39). Those in heaven love us more intensely than they ever could have
loved us while on earth. They pray for us constantly (Rev. 5:8), and their prayers are
powerful (Jas. 5:16, CCC 956, 2683, 2692).
Our prayers to the saints in heaven, asking for their prayers for us, and their
intercession with the Father do not undermine Christs role as sole Mediator (1 Tim.
2:5). In asking saints in heaven to pray for us we follow Pauls instructions: "I urge
that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for
everyone," for "this is good and pleasing to God our Savior" (1 Tim. 2:14).

All members of the Body of Christ are called to help one another through prayer
(CCC 2647). Marys prayers are especially effective on our behalf because of her
relationship with her Son (John 2:111).
God gave Mary a special role (CCC 490511, 963 975). He saved her from all sin
(Luke 1:28, 47), made her uniquely blessed among all women (Luke 1:42), and
made her a model for all Christians (Luke 1:48). At the end of her life he took her,
body and soul, into heavenan image of our own resurrection at the end of the
world (Rev. 12:12).
Old catechisms asked, "Why did God make you?" The answer: "God made me to
know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him
forever in the next." Here, in just 26 words, is the whole reason for our existence.
Jesus answered the question even more briefly: "I came so that [you] might have life
and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Gods plan for you is simple. Your loving Father wants to give you all good things
especially eternal life. Jesus died on the cross to save us all from sin and the eternal
separation from God that sin causes (CCC 599623). When he saves us, he makes
us part of his Body, which is the Church (1 Cor. 12:2730). We thus become united
with him and with Christians everywhere (on earth, in heaven, in purgatory).
What You Must Do to Be Saved
Best of all, the promise of eternal life is a gift, freely offered to us by God (CCC
1727). Our initial forgiveness and justification are not things we "earn" (CCC 2010).
Jesus is the mediator who bridged the gap of sin that separates us from God (1 Tim.
2:5); he bridged it by dying for us. He has chosen to make us partners in the plan of
salvation (1 Cor. 3:9).
The Catholic Church teaches what the apostles taught and what the Bible teaches:
We are saved by grace alone, but not by faith alone (which is what "Bible Christians"
teach; see Jas. 2:24).
When we come to God and are justified (that is, enter a right relationship with God),
nothing preceding justification, whether faith or good works, earns grace. But then
God plants his love in our hearts, and we should live out our faith by doing acts of
love (Gal. 6:2).
Even though only Gods grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please
him, and he promises to reward them with eternal life (Rom. 2:67, Gal. 6:610).
Thus good works are meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have
nothing in our hands to offer him. Then he gives us grace to obey his
commandments in love, and he rewards us with salvation when we offer these acts
of love back to him (Rom. 2:611, Gal. 6:610, Matt. 25:3440).

Jesus said it is not enough to have faith in him; we also must obey his
commandments. "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but do not do the things I
command?" (Luke 6:46, Matt. 7:2123, 19:1621).
We do not "earn" our salvation through good works (Eph. 2:89, Rom. 9:16), but our
faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that our
obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life
(Rom. 2:7, Gal. 6:89).
Paul said, "God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire
and to work" (Phil. 2:13). John explained that "the way we may be sure that we
know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, I know him, but does not
keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:34, 3:19
24, 5:34).
Since no gift can be forced on the recipientgifts always can be rejectedeven
after we become justified, we can throw away the gift of salvation. We throw it away
through grave (mortal) sin (John 15:56, Rom. 11:2223, 1 Cor. 15:12; CCC 1854
1863). Paul tells us, "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
Read his letters and see how often Paul warned Christians against sin! He would not
have felt compelled to do so if their sins could not exclude them from heaven (see,
for example, 1 Cor. 6:910, Gal. 5:1921).
Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that God "will repay everyone according to his
works: eternal life for those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through
perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the
truth and obey wickedness" (Rom. 2:68).
Sins are nothing but evil works (CCC 18491850). We can avoid sins by habitually
performing good works. Every saint has known that the best way to keep free from
sins is to embrace regular prayer, the sacraments (the Eucharist first of all), and
charitable acts.
Are You Guaranteed Heaven?
Some people promote an especially attractive idea: All true Christians, regardless of
how they live, have an absolute assurance of salvation, once they accept Jesus into
their hearts as "their personal Lord and Savior." The problem is that this belief is
contrary to the Bible and constant Christian teaching.
Keep in mind what Paul told the Christians of his day: "If we have died with him [in
baptism; see Rom. 6:34] we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also
reign with him" (2 Tim. 2:1112).
If we do not persevere, we shall not reign with him. In other words, Christians can
forfeit heaven (CCC 1861).
The Bible makes it clear that Christians have a moral assurance of salvation (God
will be true to his word and will grant salvation to those who have faith in Christ and

are obedient to him [1 John 3:1924]), but the Bible does not teach that Christians
have a guarantee of heaven. There can be no absolute assurance of salvation.
Writing to Christians, Paul said, "See, then, the kindness and severity of God:
severity toward those who fell, but Gods kindness to you, provided you remain in
his kindness, otherwise you too will be cut off" (Rom. 11:2223; Matt. 18:2135, 1
Cor. 15:12, 2 Pet. 2:2021).
Note that Paul includes an important condition: "provided you remain in his
kindness." He is saying that Christians can lose their salvation by throwing it away.
He warns, "Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall" (1 Cor.
If you are Catholic and someone asks you if you have been "saved," you should say,
"I am redeemed by the blood of Christ, I trust in him alone for my salvation, and, as
the Bible teaches, I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12),
knowing that it is Gods gift of grace that is working in me."
All the alternatives to Catholicism are showing themselves to be inadequate: the
worn-out secularism that is everywhere around us and that no one any longer finds
satisfying, the odd cults and movements that offer temporary community but no
permanent home, even the other, incomplete brands of Christianity. As our tired
world becomes ever more desperate, people are turning to the one alternative they
never really had considered: the Catholic Church. They are coming upon truth in the
last place they expected to find it.
Always Attractive
How can this be? Why are so many people seriously looking at the Catholic Church
for the first time? Something is pulling them toward it. That something is truth.
This much we know: They are not considering the claims of the Church out of a
desire to win public favor. Catholicism, at least nowadays, is never popular. You
cannot win a popularity contest by being a faithful Catholic. Our fallen world
rewards the clever, not the good. If a Catholic is praised, it is for the worldly skills he
demonstrates, not for his Christian virtues.
Although people try to avoid the hard doctrinal and moral truths the Catholic Church
offers them (because hard truths demand that lives be changed), they nevertheless
are attracted to the Church. When they listen to the pope and the bishops in union
with him, they hear words with the ring of trutheven if they find that truth hard to
live by.
When they contemplate the history of the Catholic Church and the lives of its saints,
they realize there must be something special, maybe something supernatural,
about an institution that can produce holy people such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas
Aquinas, and Mother Teresa.

When they step off a busy street and into the aisles of an apparently empty Catholic
church, they sense not a complete emptiness, but a presence. They sense that
Someone resides inside, waiting to comfort them.
They realize that the persistent opposition that confronts the Catholic Church
whether from non-believers or "Bible Christians" or even from people who insist on
calling themselves Catholicsis a sign of the Churchs divine origin (John 15:1821).
And they come to suspect that the Catholic Church, of all things, is the wave of the
Incomplete Christianity Is Not Enough
Over the last few decades many Catholics have left the Church, many dropping out
of religion entirely, many joining other churches. But the traffic has not been in only
one direction.
The traffic toward Rome has increased rapidly. Today we are seeing more than a
hundred and fifty thousand converts enter the Catholic Church each year in the
United States, and in some other places, like the continent of Africa, there are more
than a million converts to the Catholic faith each year. People of no religion, lapsed
or inactive Catholics, and members of other Christian churches are "coming home to
They are attracted to the Church for a variety of reasons, but the chief reason they
convert is the chief reason you should be Catholic: The solid truth of the Catholic
Our separated brethren hold much Christian truth, but not all of it. We might
compare their religion to a stained glass window in which some of the original panes
were lost and have been replaced by opaque glass: Something that was present at
the beginning is now gone, and something that does not fit has been inserted to fill
up the empty space. The unity of the original window has been marred.
When, centuries ago, they split away from the Catholic Church, the theological
ancestors of these Christians eliminated some authentic beliefs and added new
ones of their own making. The forms of Christianity they established are really
incomplete Christianity.
Only the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus, and only it has been able to
preserve all Christian truth without any errorand great numbers of people are
coming to see this.
Your tasks as a Catholic, no matter what your age, are three:
Know your Catholic faith.

You cannot live your faith if you do not know it, and you cannot share with others
what you do not first make your own (CCC 429). Learning your Catholic faith takes
some effort, but it is effort well spent because the study is, quite literally, infinitely
Live your Catholic faith.
Your Catholic faith is a public thing. It is not meant to be left behind when you leave
home (CCC 2472). But be forewarned: Being a public Catholic involves risk and loss.
You will find some doors closed to you. You will lose some friends. You will be
considered an outsider. But, as a consolation, remember our Lords words to the
persecuted: "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matt. 5:12).
Spread your Catholic faith.
Jesus Christ wants us to bring the whole world into captivity to the truth, and the
truth is Jesus himself, who is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).
Spreading the faith is a task not only for bishops, priests, and religiousit is a task
for all Catholics (CCC 905).
Just before his Ascension, our Lord told his apostles, "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"
(Matt. 28:1920).
If we want to observe all that Jesus commanded, if we want to believe all he taught,
we must follow him through his Church. This is our great challengeand our great

A Confession to Make
By Tim Staples

Many Protestants use Isaiah 43:25 as an argument against confession to a priest. In

that verse, the Lord declares: "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my
own sake, and I will not remember your sins." Since God forgives sins, they claim, a
priest cannot. Hebrews 3:1 and 7:2227 also tell us that Jesus is the "high priest of
our confession" and that there are not "many priests," but oneJesus Christ.
If Jesus is the "one mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. 2:5), how can Catholics
reasonably claim that priests act in the role of mediator in the sacrament of
Out with the Old?
Leviticus 19:2022 tells us:
If a man lies carnally with a woman . . . they shall not be put to death. . . . But he
shall bring a guilt offering for himself to the Lord . . . And the priest shall make
atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin which
he has committed; and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.
In this case a priest, as Gods instrument of forgiveness, did not take away from the
fact that it was God who forgave the sin. God was the first cause of the forgiveness;
the priest was the secondary cause. Thus, God being the forgiver of sins does not
preclude the possibility of there being a ministerial priesthood, established by God,
to communicate his forgiveness.
Many Protestants will concede the point of priests acting as mediators of
forgiveness in the Old Testament but claim that in the New Testament, Jesus is our
only priest. In a parallel between the Old and New Testaments, Christ did something
similar to the God of the Old Testament. That is, he established a priesthood to
mediate his forgiveness.
In with the New!
Just as God empowered his priests to be instruments of forgiveness in the Old
Testament, Christ delegated authority to his New Testament ministers to act as
mediators of reconciliation as well. Jesus made this clear in John 20:2123:
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so
I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you
retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Christ sent the apostles and their successors to proclaim the gospel with his own
authority (Matt. 28:1820), to govern the Church in his stead (Luke 22:2930), and
to sanctify it through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist (John 6:54; 1 Cor.
11:2429) and confession.

Jesus emphasizes this essential part of the priestly ministry of the apostlesto
forgive mens sins in the person of Christin the Gospel of John: "Whose sins you
forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained" (John 20:23).
Auricular confession is implicit: After first hearing sins confessed, the apostles would
judge whether a penitent should be absolved.
To Forgive or to Proclaim?
Many Fundamentalists claim that John 20:23 is really Christ repeating "the great
commission" of Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:47 in a different way. One Protestant
apologist writes:
It is apparent that the commission to evangelize is tightly woven into the
commission to proclaim forgiveness of sin through faith in Jesus Christ. (Robert M.
Zins, Romanism: The Relentless Roman Catholic Assault on the Gospel of Jesus
Christ!, White Horse Publications, 100)
The only problem with the Protestant interpretation of the text is the text itself. More
than a proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, it communicates from Jesus to the
apostles the power to forgive sin themselves.
Many Protestants question why confession to a priest is not mentioned in the rest of
the New Testament. The answer is that, just as Christ gave us the proper form for
baptism only once (Matt. 28:19)and all Christians accept this teachingso, too, he
gave us confession only once.
There are, though, other texts that deal with confession and the forgiveness of sins
through the New Covenant minister:
2 Corinthians 2:10: "And to whom you have pardoned anything, I also. For, what I
have pardoned, if I have pardoned anything, for your sakes have I done it in the
person of Christ" (Douay-Rheims).
Modern Bible translations, such as the Revised Standard Version, translate and
interpret this verse very differently: "What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven
anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ."
Paul, it is argued, simply forgave someone in the way any layperson can forgive
someone for wrongs committed against him. The Greek word prosopon can be
translated as "presence" or, as Catholics do, as "person," giving this verse very
different meanings.
The King James Version (clearly not a Catholic text) also translates prosopon as
"person." The early Christians toowho spoke and wrote in Koine Greekused
prosopon to refer to the "person" of Jesus Christ at the councils of Ephesus (A.D.
431) and Chalcedon (A.D. 451).
But even if one grants the translation "in the presence of Christ," the fact remains
that Paul forgave the sins of others. He did not, in fact, forgive an offense against

himself, as all Christians can and must do. He said he forgave "for your sakes,"
indicating that the sins did not involve him personally.
Three chapters later, Paul tells us: "All this is from God, who through Christ
reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18).
This is more than "the message of reconciliation" Paul mentions in verse 19 but
rather the ministry of reconciliation that was Christs. Christ did more than preach a
message of forgiveness; he forgave.
James 5:14-16: "Is any one among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the
church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if
he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one
another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a
righteous man has great power in its effects."
Some will point out that verse 16 says to confess our sins "to one another" and to
pray "for one another." Is James just encouraging us to confess our sins to a close
friend so we can help one another to overcome our faults? The context seems to
disagree. James tells us to go to the elders for healing and forgiveness, apparently
pointing to the elder as the one to whom we confess our sins. In addition, Ephesians
5:21 uses the same phrase"Be subject to one another out of reverence for
Christ"in a context that limits the meaning of "one another" specifically to its own
antecedent, a man and wife, in the same way Jamess verse does. The context of
James 5 bears out that the confession "to one another" refers to the relationship
between "anyone" and specifically an "elder" or "priest" (Greek: presbuteros).
Full and Active Participatio
A major obstacle to confession for many Protestants is that it presupposes a
priesthood. Jesus is referred to in Scripture as "the apostle and high priest of our
confession" (Heb. 3:1). The former priests were many in number, as Hebrews 7:23
says, but now we have one priestJesus Christ. Is there one priest or are there
First Peter 2:59 give us some insight.
And like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy
priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . .
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Gods own people.
Peter plainly teaches all believers to be members of a holy priesthood. Jesus is not
the one and only priest in the New Testament in a strict sense. Priest-believers do
not take away from Christs unique priesthood; as members of his body, they
establish it on earth.
The Catholic and biblical notion of participatio makes these problematic texts
relatively easy to understand. Jesus Christ is the "one mediator between God and
men" as 1 Timothy 2:5 says. Yet Christians are also called to be mediators in Christ.
When we intercede for one another or share the gospel with someone, we act as

mediators of Gods love and grace through the gift of participatio (1 Tim. 2:17; 1
Tim. 4:16; Rom. 10:914). All Christians can say with Paul, "It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).
Priests among Priests
But if all Christians are priests, why do Catholics claim a ministerial priesthood
distinct from the universal priesthood? Because God himself called out a special
priesthood to minister to his people. This concept is literally as old as Moses.
When Peter taught us about the universal priesthood of all believers, he specifically
referred to Exodus 19:6, in which God alluded to ancient Israel as "a kingdom of
priests and a holy nation." In fact, Peter reminds us that there was a universal
priesthood among the Old Testament people of God. But this did not preclude the
existence of a ministerial priesthood within it (see Ex. 28; Num. 3:112).
In the same way, we have a universal priesthood in the New Testament, but we also
have an ordained clergy with priestly authority given to them by Christ. In Matthew
16:19 and 18:18, Christ tells Peter and the apostles: "Whatever you bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven." Christ communicated not only the authority "to pronounce doctrinal
judgments and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church" but also "the authority
to absolve sins" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 553).
These words are unsettling and disturbing to many, and understandably so. Yet God,
who alone has the power to open and shut heaven to men, did give this authority to
men. Jesus Christ clearly communicated this authority to the apostles and their
The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion
will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your
communion God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is
inseparable from reconciliation with God. (CCC 1445)
This is what the forgiveness of sins is all about: reconciling men and women with
their heavenly Father.

Starting Out as an Apologist

People often ask, "How should I begin to train myself to defend my faith? How do I
prepare for the inevitable knock on the door? I dont want to have to stand there
open-mouthed." The best place to start your homework is the Bible. Almost every
American home has one. Its either a well-worn, well-used book (if thats how it is in
your home, you may skip the next several paragraphs), or its the book with the
thickest layer of dust.
Step 1. Blow off the dust.
Step 2. Open the Bible to the Gospels. Here is where you should start. St. Jerome,
that wise, old Doctor of the Church, noted that a Catholic who isnt immersed in the
Gospels doesnt know Christ (cf. Comm. in Is., prol.). Knowing propositions about
Christ is one thing, and its needed, but reading his words and understanding the
settings is crucial. It doesnt matter in what order you take the Gospels. The easiest
way is to follow the order in the text: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The first three,
known as the Synoptics, are much alike; they follow the same general order in the
way that they present the material about Christs life and teachings. The fourth
Gospel, Johns, is distinct. Beginning with Matthew, set aside a fixed amount of time
each day until you get all four Gospels read. Plan to read slowly, but not too slowly.
Some people take only one verse at a sitting. Thats fine, if youve already gone
through the Gospels a dozen times. If youre on your first reading or your fifth, youll
either want to read straight through or at least read in long stretches. That way
youll get more of an overview. Later you can do the detail work. The Gospels arent
long. The New Testament itself isnt long. The Gospels comprise close to a third of
the New Testament, and in most printings they run about thirty pages eachjust
about right for a leisurely evening. So make that your goal: one Gospel a night. In
four nights youll have them done. Then re-read them, before doing anything else.
After the Gospels
Next? Try Acts, which is about the same length as each of the Gospels. Then go to
the epistles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians. Work in the other epistles gradually,
and be in no rush to get to Revelation. Take it last. You can get through everything
within two weeks, reading no more than thirty pages an evening. Each evenings
work is about equal to a thorough reading of the daily paper, which you may be in
the habit of doing anyway.
So now youre ready to do battle, right? Wrong. Youve just begun. But you have
begun, and thats the important thing. Youve situated yourself and obtained an
overview, but theres much homework to do.
Read The Catechism
Next you should read a systematic presentation of the Catholic faith. VirtualIy all of
the Churchs teachings are present, either explicitly or implicitly, in the pages of the
New Testament, but they arent organized in an easy-to-remember manner. Now
that you have read the New Testament and begun to absorb its material, you need
to know how to organize and interpret that material. This is something we cannot do

on our own. Many sects start precisely because someone reads the Bible and
interprets a particular passage in an unusual way, then makes this normative for
how they read everything else in Scripture. Rather than reading the passage in the
context of the whole of Scriptures teachings, they lock on to a particular passage
and give it a strange interpretation. They may be unaware of the rest of what
Scripture has to say on the same subject, or if they are aware of it, they may twist
the rest of what Scripture says to fit their interpretation of this passage.
The apostle Peter was very concerned about this problem, and addressed it in his
letters. In 2 Peter 1:20-21, we find our first rule of Bible interpretation: "First of all
you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of ones own
interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men
moved by the HoIy Spirit spoke from God." By prophecy, he simply means anything
that Scripture teaches (prophecy does not always mean predicting the future). For
this reason, we must avoid the temptation to evaluate passages by simply asking,
"What do I think this verse means?" Christ gave the Church teachers, and he did so
for a very specific reason: to assist people in how to understand Scripture and its
teachings. Therefore, rather than simply looking to private interpretations, we must
look to the public interpretation of Scripture, which is what the Church has. We must
read Scripture in the context of what the Church has historically understood it to
mean, for it was the Church that Christ established as "the pillar and foundation of
the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).
There are significant dangers if we do not do this. The letter of Peter spoke highly of
what his fellow apostle, Paul had written, but he cautioned that Pauls letters can be
difficult: "There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and
unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures" (2 Pet.
3:16). So ignorant people (those who have not been taught the true interpretation
of the scriptures) and unstable people (those who do not adhere to the true
interpretation that they have been taught) can twist the scriptures to their own
destruction. Strong words, indeed! Yet Scripture includes them so we would know
that we must not approach Scripture as an ignorant or unstable person would do,
ignoring the context of how the Church has always understood it.
This makes it important to have a thorough g.asp of the Catholic faith as you read
Scripture. The best way to get an overview of what the Church teaches is to read a
catechism. You may already have read one while growing up, but even if you have,
it never hurts to review what the Church teaches. The Catechism of the Catholic
Church (released in 1992) is the first universal catechism the Church has issued in
four hundred years. Reading it requires some commitment, since it is seven hundred
pages long, but it is well worth the effort. For those who are not able to invest that
much time at once, there are many excellent shorter catechisms available too.
(Contact Catholic Answers if you would like recommendations.)
Learn the Objections
Next you need to learn what kinds of objections are made against the Catholic faith.
Sit down and read the right stuff. Get samples of anti-Catholic literature, by ordering
it from anti-Catholic groups if necessary.

After you learn what the charges are, you need to learn the responses. Dont
presume that mastering the Bible will be sufficient. Its trickier than that.
True, youll have to make much use of the Bible in your talks with non-Catholics.
(Dont swallow the argument that discussing interpretations is worthless: it can be
immensely worthwhile for everyone concerned.) But, as a rule, youll find it difficult
to know just where to look for the most appropriate verse unless youve studied
arguments by other Catholics, which means turning to books other than the Bible.
We recommend Karl Keatings Catholicism and Fundamentalism, which is a fulllength treatment of the disputes between Catholics and "Bible Christians."
All the major issues are discussed, and the positions of "professional anti-Catholics"
are given in their own words, so you know exactly what they say to their own
people. The Catholic position on each issue is proved from the Bible, early Christian
writings, and plain, old common sense. Other practical books, by authors such as
lay apologist Frank Sheed and Scripture scholar Fr. William Most, are also distributed
by Catholic Answers.
There are also publications available to help you learn how to tackle anti-Catholic
arguments. One of the best is This Rock. (Contact Catholic Answers to subscribe.)
After Your Homework is Done
Lets flip a few pages on the calendar. Youve read the New Testament any number
of times. Youve dipped into the Old Testament. Youve read a catechism and
learned its teachings thoroughly. You sent away for anti-Catholic literature. You have
gone through Catholic books, such as Catholicism and Fundamentalism with yellow
marker. You "know it all," or at least you think you know enough. This is a good start
to your preparation as an apologist. More study will certainly be necessary, but now
the fun begins.
Todays Catchword: "Divisive"
If you engage in apologetics, which is the branch of theology that deals with how to
defend the faith, sooner or later you will be brought up short by someone who says
disagreeing with others about religion is "divisive." ("Divisive" seems to be the "in"
word nowadays.) If you acquiescethat is, if you give up ever mentioning
differences of opinion and speak only platitudesthe result is that no mental
progress is made, either for you or for others.
C. S. Lewis wrote about what he called "mere Christianity," more or less those
positions on which nearly all Christians could agree. But "mere Christianity" is also
incomplete Christianity, and it can be at best a way station, not a final destination,
as Lewis pointed out in his book on the subject. He compared staying with "mere
Christianity," with only those doctrines all Christians accept, as living perpetually in
the hallway of a house rather than entering into one of its rooms, where the living is
meant to be done. Even though we may have to go through a hallway to get to a
room, it is the room that is our destination, not the corridor. Thus Lewis rightly
declared that we have the responsibility to accept and embrace that set of

particular doctrines which we find to be true upon investigation. We cannot stay in

the incomplete (if ecumenically comfortable) no-mans-land of "mere Christianity."
And if that is true of "mere Christianity," it is all the truer of the "religion" upon
which all peopleChristians, agnostics, what have youcan agree, which, if it ever
existed, would be a religion no one would be willing to die for.
The Ways to Handle Differences
Some have proposed the analogy of the worlds religions being as different roads
winding up a tall mountain, with God in a cloud at the top awaiting our arrival. The
paths are supposedly all man-made conventions reaching to heaven, so no one
religion is really any better than the others. However, this misconception overlooks
one enormous truth. One religions path was not paved by man from the bottom of
the mountain to the top, but was paved by God down the mountain to man. That
road is Christianity, and it is arrogant to prefer a mans path to the one blazed for
our sake by God himself.
The fact is, not all religions lead to God. Christianity teaches that there is one God,
that we have one life, and that human destiny lies either in an eternal heaven or an
eternal hell. Buddhism, by contrast, teaches that there is no God and that human
destiny lies in reincarnating to suffer until we use the Eightfold Path to kill our
individual identity. Two more different religions can scarcely be imagined. The first
step in true ecumenism is to understand others as they really are, their beliefs as
they really are. There are differences between the Catholic and Protestant faiths. To
pretend there are not isnt ecumenicalits just ignorant. What is true on a grand
scale in inter-religious dialogue is also true in ecumenical dialogue between
Christians. There are real differences that divide people, and its vitally important
that those differences be clearly understood. After all, solutions cannot be found
unless the problem is clear. What is truly ecumenical is to get around the squabbles
and finger pointing, that so often obscured discussions in the past, to see what
commonality there is and to cooperate based on that commonality, to the extent
ones own principles arent compromised. Lets admit it: Theres much room for
cooperationnot infinite room, since the real differences preclude that, but still
much room. This cooperation can be all the more fruitful if we have a real
appreciation of one anothers position. Cooperation becomes almost impossible if
we ignore differences. Fear of differences result in paralysis, not increased
cooperation. This means, in the long run, that abject avoidance of "divisiveness"
actually promotes present divisions, while honest and good-natured discussion of
differences (and yes, of similarities) makes for fewer, not greater, divisions. The
road to unity is paved with good sense, not merely good intentions.

Authority to Teach
By Jim Blackburn

When talking with other Christians, Catholics often find themselves discussing
various interpretations of specific Scripture passages, many of which can be agreed
upon as allowable interpretations, but many others about which the parties must
remain at odds. Intelligent, sincere, non-Catholic Christians have studied the Bible
and listened to enough Bible teaching to genuinely believe that their interpretations
are correct and to be unconvinced of any flaw in their understanding. No two people
in conversation about Scripture will see eye to eye on everything.
Has the interpretation of Scripture always been an issue? Was it a problem in the
earliest days of Christianity? In fact, even during the apostolic era there was
concern about misguided interpretations of Scripture. Peter wrote, "There are some
things in them [Pauls letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable
twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures" (2 Pet. 3:16). He
went on to warn Christians, "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand,
beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own
stability" (2 Pet. 3:17).
How were early Christians to know who was teaching the truth? Was there a way to
discern who was teaching Christs truth and who was not? There was.
Sent by Christ
Jesus gave certain followers the authority to teach. The early Christians knew they
could trust Peters teaching because he was one of Jesus apostles. The word
apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos, which denotes one who is sent as a
messenger. Early Christians recognized that the apostles were sent by Christ and
endowed with the authority to teach in his name.
At the Last Supper, Jesus promised the apostles that the Father "will give you
another Counselor, to be with you for ever . . . the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will
send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all
that I have said to you. . . . He will guide you into all the truth" (John 14:16, 26;
Before his ascension, Jesus instructed the apostles, "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 lo,
I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matt. 28:1920).
False Teachers among You
Peter taught that "no prophecy of scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation,
because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the
Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Pet. 1:2021) and went on to warn about those who
taught without authority: "There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly
bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing
upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Pet. 2:1).

Paul instructed, "Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us,
either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess. 2:15), and "If any one refuses to
obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him,
that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a
brother" (2 Thess. 3:1415).
The letter to the Hebrews states, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you
the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith. Jesus
Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Do not be led away by diverse
and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by
foods, which have not benefited their adherents" (Heb. 13:79). It goes on, "Obey
your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as
men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that
would be of no advantage to you" (Heb. 13:17).
The apostles had authority to teach, and they warned Christians to follow only those
teachings and to beware of those without it. Scripture even provides evidence that
the early Christians recognized the apostles authority. Paul wrote, "I commend you
because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have
delivered them to you" (1 Cor. 11:2).
But what happened after the apostles were gone? To whom did the authority to
teach pass? Was it open to anyone who knew Scripture or had a teaching credential
or a theology degree? How were later Christians to determine who was teaching the
fullness of the truth?
The Laying On of Hands
Scripture indicates that the apostles endowed bishops and elders with their special
authority to teach. We see the earliest evidence of the apostles conferring authority
in the account of the appointing of Judass replacement:
"For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation become desolate, and
let there be no one to live in it; and His office let another take. So one of the men
who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out
among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up
from usone of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." And
they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and
Matthias. And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show
which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and
apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place." And they cast
lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven
apostles. (Acts 1:2026)
In his first letter to Timothy, a bishopin which Paul calls the Church "the pillar and
bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15)he instructs him, "Till I come, attend to the
public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you
have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid
their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all

may see your progress. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for
by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Tim. 4:1316).
It is obvious to Catholics that Paul was speaking of Timothys ordination, through
which he received the sacrament of holy orders. The Catechism of the Catholic
Church explains:
No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the gospel. The
one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority but by virtue of
Christs authority; not as a member of the community but speaking to it in the name
of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered. This
fact presupposes ministers of grace, authorized and empowered by Christ. From
him, bishops and priests receive the mission and faculty ("the sacred power") to act
in persona Christi Capitis; deacons receive the strength to serve the people of God
in the diaconia of liturgy, word, and charity, in communion with the bishop and his
presbyterate. The ministry in which Christs emissaries do and give by Gods grace
what they cannot do and give by their own powers is called a "sacrament" by the
Churchs tradition. Indeed, the ministry of the Church is conferred by a special
sacrament. (CCC 875)
After this the apostles went on to appoint others: "And when they had appointed
elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to
the Lord in whom they believed" (Acts 14:23).
Pauls writings provide early evidence that at least some of those appointed by the
apostles had authority to go on and appoint still others. To Timothy he wrote, "What
you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be
able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). And to Titus, "This is why I left you in Crete,
that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I
directed you" (Ti. 1:5).
The Successors to the Apostles
Not all teachers are worthy of our confidence. Only the successors of the apostles,
through the sacrament of holy orders, can be trusted in their teaching authority and
interpretation of Scripture. The Church Fathers were mostly bishops, and every
popes succession can be traced back to Peter. Quoting the Second Vatican Council,
the Catechism speaks to the importance of apostolic authority in Catholic teaching:
"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its
written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching
office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of
Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the
bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the bishop of Rome. (CCC 85; cf.
Dei Verbum 10)
How assuring it is to know that even today our teachers are successors of the
apostles, with God-given authority! How much easier this makes it to let go of
misguided Scripture interpretations and to embrace the truth that Jesus wanted all
of us to know: the fullness of the Catholic faith.

Life beyond Confirmation: How to Revive the Ancient Practice of

By Stratford Caldecott

Christianity is not a set of (more or less coherent) ideas. It is not, like Gnosticism, a
doctrine of liberation through enlightenment. It is primarily a means of salvation,
which is to say a method of integrationthe integration of human with divine life,
through a series of stages. This does not mean that Christianity is merely an ethical
system any more than it is an attempt to explain the world intellectually. The
integration it brings about is a genuine transformation; it goes much deeper than
the exchanging of one pattern of moral habits for another. Christianity is declining in
Europe largely because this essential interior dimensionthe spiritual dimension in
which we experience a living relationship with Jesus Christhas been neglected.
The need for ongoing catechesis in the mysteries of Christ and of the Church, a
catechesis traditionally known as mystagogia ("initiation into the mysteries"), has
been noted in Church circles for years. Mystagogy is the stage of exploratory
catechesis that comes after apologetics, after evangelization, and after the
sacraments of initiation (baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation) have been received.
Baptism and confirmation may be given only once. Christian initiation, though, is a
continuing adventure, since the grace of these sacraments is the source of a new
life of prayer that must continue to grow if it is not to wither and die.
The modern revival of the ancient Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults by the
Catholic Church in the 1960s was an attempt to recapture a sense of the initiatory
power of the sacraments as it had been experienced by the early Christians. There
is a period of formal mystagogy at the end of RCIA, which continues from Easter
Sunday through Pentecost (and sometimes longer). But this does not go nearly far
enough. It certainly does not suffice to introduce the catechumen to the full richness
of mystical theology.
All too often, the new Christian, having been received into the Church through RCIA,
or the young person newly confirmed, is left to sink or swim in the parish. A
shortage of priests or qualified spiritual directors means that such a person receives
very little encouragement to journey deeper into the Christian mystery. He may not
even be aware of the full richness of the spiritual resources that exist within the
tradition, resources to help him grow in prayer and holiness and the knowledge of
Some people may find help within a parish prayer group or one of the new ecclesial
movements (Focolare, the Neo-Catechumenal Way, or Communion and Liberation).
They may join Opus Dei or one of the older "third orders," which were designed for
lay people who wished to attach themselves to a religious order (such as the
Franciscans, Dominicans, or Carmelites) without themselves taking religious vows.
Some may become "oblates" of a local monastery. In fact, there are many such
opportunities if you look persistently for them, but it remains true that many people
simply settle down into a routine Christianity that often turns into a spiritual
wasteland. The danger then is that such a person may drift into a kind of
indifference, gradually cease to pray, and eventually lose the sense of faith

How can we "crack the nut" and find our way deeper into the tradition of living
prayer? Everyone has to find his own solution, but the starting point is always the
same: the desire to find it. You have to look. But we have our Lords assurance that
"every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will
be opened" (Luke 11:10).
One of the greatest Christian masters of mystagogy, who wrote under a pseudonym
around five hundred years after the birth of Christ, is Dionysius the Areopagite,
sometimes called St. Denys. His influence on Christian mysticism, art, and
architecture (through, for example, the school of Chartres in eleventh century
France) has been immeasurable, his orthodoxy assured by such admirers and
interpreters as Maximus the Confessor in the East and Thomas Aquinas in the West.
Trinitarian Model
Dionysius divided the Christian Way into three phases (purification, illumination and
union) and linked these to the three hierarchies of angels, who were thought to
assist in each of these three phasesto put it another way, the active, inner, and
contemplative life. The schema has been well tested over the centuries, and many
saints have found it helpful. Of course, it remains only a suggestion, and you may
find another approach more congenial. Perhaps for this reason, the Catechism does
not refer to it very explicitly, even though it speaks of the purpose of creation as
union with God the Holy Trinity and the goal of the Incarnation as the divinization of
man by grace (CCC 260, 460).
I like Dionysiuss threefold classification because it reflects the Trinitarian structure
of the Christian spiritual life. It also corresponds to other familiar triads that are
explicitly discussed in the Catechism, such as the three theological virtues of faith,
hope, and love (CCC 181229). Faith corresponds to purification, hope to
illumination, and love to union. Similarly, the Catechism talks about three
evangelical counsels as providing a fundamental pattern of authentic Christian
existence (CCC 915, 1973, 2053). I would suggest the counsel of poverty
corresponds to purification, chastity to hope, and obedience (the integration of our
will with Gods) to union.
Finally, the brilliant fourth part of the vCatechism divides Christian prayer into three
types: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplation (CCC 26992719). These, too,
can be seen as corresponding to Dionysiuss three phases. Vocal prayer brings the
body into line with the spirit by expressing the spiritual Word in voice and gesture.
We can think of it as a kind of discipline that points us toward God. Meditation
involves the imagination, the "eyes of the heart," by which we penetrate gradually
to the inner meaning of the words and images of faith. Finally, contemplation is the
prayer of silent union with God, a beginning or foretaste of the life of eternity.
Prayer in Action
Though the Christian religion does not depend on spiritual techniques, it does offer
guidance and assistance in developing a life of prayer and also in putting that
prayer into action as a life of love. Pope Benedicts encyclical Deus Caritas Est does

just this. But one of the most beautiful passages on Dionysiuss three stages of
Christian life was written by Benedicts predecessor, John Paul II, in the final chapter
of his last book, Memory and Identity. This commentary by a saintly pope can serve
as a wonderful encouragement to us to set out on our journey in search of a
"deeper Christianity."
The Purgative Way, John Paul explains, is based on observance of the
commandments (see Matt. 19:1617). It enables us to discover and live our
fundamental values. But these values, he goes on, are "lights" that illuminate our
existence and so lead us into the Illuminative Way. For example, by observing the
commandment "You shall not kill," we learn a profound respect for life. By not
committing adultery we acquire the virtue of purity. This is not something negative
but bound up with a growing awareness of the beauty of the human body, both
male and female. This beauty, he says, "becomes a light for our actions" so that we
are able to live in the truth.
By following the light that comes from Christ our Teacher, John Paul says, we are
progressively freed from the struggle against sin that preoccupies us in the stage of
purification. We become able to enjoy the divine light that permeates creation. This
perception of "illumination" is based on a conscious awareness of the worlds nature
as gift: "Interior light illumines our actions and shows us all the good in the created
world as coming from the hand of God." The Illuminative Way therefore leads into
the Unitive Way, realized in the contemplation of God and the experience of love.
Union with God can be achieved to some degree even before death. And when we
find God in everything, created things "cease to be a danger to us," regaining their
true light and leading us to God as he wishes to reveal himself to us, as "Father,
Redeemer, and Spouse."

Why Don't Catholics Go Straight to Jesus?

The Sacrament of Confession
By Robert G. Schroeder
When I met my wife, Sarah, she was a lapsed Catholic who had become an
Evangelical Christian. Like most new couples, our dates involved the usual
stargazing, romantic dinners, and dancing, as well as the not-so-usual Catholic
apologetics. One wintry night as we were sipping coffee in my kitchen, Sarah fired
away with three questions Evangelicals often pose to Catholics: Where in the Bible
does Jesus give authority to men to forgive sins? Why cant Catholics confess their
sins directly to Jesus, the only mediator between God and us? Doesnt sacramental
confession deny that we have been justified through faith and made righteous by
the redemptive blood of Jesus? Heres how I answered:
If You Forgive Sins, They Are Forgiven
First, Jesus did give the power to forgive sins to human beings. In John 20:2123,
Jesus says, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." Then he breathed on
them, saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are
forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." This is the bedrock on
which the sacrament of confession stands or falls.
The meaning of this passage is clear to Catholics: Jesus, who alone has the power to
forgive or retain sins (Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24), transmits that power to the apostles.
But Evangelicals usually have a different take on John 20:2123. One of the most
popular is that Jesus sent the apostles to preach the gospel and to inform hearers
that if they have faith in him their sins are forgiven, and if they do not believe in him
their sins are retained. This "preaching only" interpretation comes from reading John
20:2123 in light of 1 Timothy 2:5, in which Paul says that Jesus is the one and only
mediator between God and us. Because Evangelicals approach the text believing
that Jesus could not have really given the apostles this power, they conclude that he
instead commissioned them to preach about the forgiveness and retention of sins.
The Evangelical then draws a parallel between John 20 and the "Great Commission"
texts, as they are referred to by many Protestants, where Jesus commanded the
apostles to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark
16:15; cf. Matt. 28:1820, Luke 24:47). John was saying the same thing but using
different words. To the Evangelical mind, John is saying, "Whoever believes the
gospel, you can declare their sins to have already been forgiven through the
preaching of the cross." Of course, that is not what the text says. Jesus clearly
commissioned the apostles to carry out his ministry of reconciliation as his agents.
Priests Act In Persona Christi
But Paul teaches that Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and us (1
Tim. 2:5), so isnt the priest an unnecessary intermediary? Shouldnt Christians
confess their sins directly to God?
Catholics do confess their sins directly to God both within and outside the
confessional. Jesus advocated praying directly to the Father to ask forgiveness for

our sins (Matt. 6:12), and Catholics do this communally at every Mass and in prayer
groups, and individually during private prayer. But Catholics also believe that Jesus
gave the Church a unique role in his ministry of reconciliation by entrusting it with
his power to forgive and retain sins. It is useful to clarify what happens in the
sacrament of confession. During confession, the priest perpetuates this ministry by
acting in persona Christi, "in the person of Christ." In other words, when Catholics
receive absolution from the priest for sins confessed, it is Jesus forgiveness that is
granted, not the priests.
An essential principle of the ministerial priesthood is that God works through men
who have a special spiritual role within the Church to communicate his grace and
truth. Both Catholics and Evangelicals affirm Pauls teaching that Jesus is the sole
mediator between God and us, but Catholics recognize that Jesus was at liberty to
allow his mediation to be worked through the apostles and their successors in the
We see Jesus giving specific power to the apostles to perpetuate his presence and
ministry not only in John 20:2123 but also in other Gospel accounts: Jesus confers
his authority to baptize, saying, "All authority 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" (Matt. 28:1819); he also
gives Peter and the apostles the power to teach and to excommunicate within the
Church in a way that would be ratified in heaven (Matt. 16:18; 18:19).
Jesus chose to use the apostles as his instruments. Most Evangelicals will agree that
this instrumentality is at work in their own pastors, who perform baptisms in their
churches. In a similar way, God employs priests as ministers of forgiveness in the
sacrament of confession.
By Our Love They Will Know Us
At the heart of the Evangelical tradition is the doctrine of justification by faith alone
(sola fide), which says that once we accept Jesus as our personal savior in faith, we
are clothed with his righteousness and forever righteous in his eyes. Because we
are justified entirely by Gods grace, which we accept through faith, our past,
present, or future sins have no bearing on our standing before him. Scriptural
passages that Evangelicals use to support this belief include Pauls references to
justification by faith apart from the law in Romans 3:2123 and 10:4.
Catholics and Protestants believe that we are justified by Gods grace through faith
but differ on what that actually means. Evangelicals usually understand justification
as a one-time historical event, but Catholics see it as a dynamic process of
conversion that includes the forgiveness of sins and the interior renewal of the
person (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2018). By our faith in Jesus and the
unmerited grace that we receive in baptism, God comes to dwell within us. In doing
so, God does not simply declare us righteous. He arms us with the power of his Holy
Spirit to become truly righteous and reflect his love to the world.
The faith that justifies us, according to Catholic doctrine, is alive and expressed
through love (Gal. 5:6), not just intellectual belief or personal trust. In Romans 3:21

23 and 10:4, which Catholics interpret differently than Evangelicals, Paul teaches
that Jesus ushered in a new mode of justificationapart from the Mosaic law but not
apart from good deeds, which James tells us are essential for justification (Jas. 2:24
26). In fact, Jesus says he will measure our righteousness by how well we have put
our faith to work in acts of love for our neighbor (Matt. 25:3740).
Unlike Evangelicals, Catholics believe that after baptism we can lose the grace of
justification by sinning. Jesus is clear on this point. The wheat will be gathered into
the masters barn while the weeds will be burned (Matt. 13:30); the good fish will be
kept while the bad ones will be thrown into the furnace (Matt. 13:4750). Paul
echoed Jesus teaching when he warned the Galatians, who were already baptized
believers, that if they commit serious sins they "shall not inherit the kingdom of
God" (Gal. 5:21). He also cautioned the Romans that those who perform wicked
deeds will receive "wrath and fury" instead of eternal life (Rom. 2:78).
Living the Christian faith in love has always been easier said than done. Like Paul,
sometimes we do evil instead of the good we want to do (Rom. 7:19). Even when we
have professed our faith in Jesus and become regenerated by the Holy Spirit in
baptism, at times we will separate ourselves from God by offending him. At these
times, we are called to "be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).
The sacrament of confession incarnates Jesus "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor.
5:18) so that we can walk together with God again after we have strayed away in
sin. Like Evangelicals, Catholics affirm that Jesus love unto death was entirely
sufficient to redeem us, but Catholics believe that it is precisely by the power of his
redemptive blood that our personal reconciliation with God is then possible.
By virtue of the new covenant in Jesus, Gods mercy has been made available to us
when we sincerely ask for forgiveness. Being reconciled with God means exercising
our freedom to make a U-turn back to God in humility and love. Placing this process
of conversion and forgiveness within the context of sacramental confession allows
us to experience Jesus redemptive power in our own lives.
In the words of Pope John Paul II:
This reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which
repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with
himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled
with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is
reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation (Reconciliation and
Penance 31, 5).

God in Three Persons

The early Christians were quick to spot new heresies. In the third century, Sabellius,
a Libyan priest who was staying at Rome, invented a new one. He claimed there is
only one person in the Godhead, so that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are
all one person with different "offices," rather than three persons who are one being
in the Godhead, as the orthodox position holds.
Of course, people immediately recognized that Sabelliuss teaching contradicted the
historic faith of the Church, and he was quickly excommunicated. His heresy
became known as Sabellianism, Modalism, and Patripassianism. It was called
Sabellianism after its founder, Modalism after the three modes or roles which it
claimed the one person of the Trinity occupied, and Patripassianism after its
implication that the person of the Father (Pater-) suffered (-passion) on the cross
when Jesus died.
Because Modalism asserts that there is only one person in the Godhead, it makes
nonsense of passages which show Jesus talking to his Father (e.g., John 17), or
declaring he is going to be with the Father (John 14:12, 28, 16:10) One role of a
person cannot go to be with another role of that person, or say that the two of them
will send the Holy Spirit while they remain in heaven (John 14:16-17, 26, 15:26,
16:1315; Acts 2:3233).
Modalism quickly died out; it was too contrary to the ancient Christian faith to
survive for long. Unfortunately, it was reintroduced in the early twentieth century in
the new Pentecostal movement. In its new form, Modalism is often referred to as
Jesus Only theology since it claims that Jesus is the only person in the Godhead and
that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are merely names, modes, or roles of
Jesus. Today the United Pentecostal Church, as well as numerous smaller groups
which call themselves "apostolic churches," teach the Jesus Only doctrine. Through
the Word Faith movement, it has begun to infect traditionally Trinitarian
Pentecostalism. Ironically, Trinity Broadcasting Network, operated by Word Faith
preacher Paul Crouch, has given a television voice to many of these Jesus Only
preachers (who are, of course, militantly anti-Trinitarian).
In the quotes that follow, the Fathers forceful rejection of Modalism is shown not
only when they condemn it by name, but also by passages in which they speak of
one person of the Trinity being with another, being sent from another, or speaking
to another.
The Letter of Barnabas
"And further, my brethren, if the Lord [Jesus] endured to suffer for our soul, he being
the Lord of all the world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, Let us
make man after our image, and after our likeness, understand how it was that he
endured to suffer at the hand of men" (Letter of Barnabas 5 [A.D. 74] emphasis

"The Son of God is older than all his creation, so that he became the Fathers
adviser in his creation. Therefore also he is ancient" (The Shepherd 12 [A.D. 80]).

Ignatius of Antioch
"Jesus Christ . . . was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end
was revealed. . . . Jesus Christ . . . came forth from one Father and is with and has
gone to one [Father]. . . . [T]here is one God, who has manifested himself by Jesus
Christ his Son, who is his eternal Word, not proceeding forth from silence, and who
in all things pleased him that sent him" (Letter to the Magnesians 68 [A.D. 110]
emphasis added).
Justin Martyr
"God speaks in the creation of man with the very same design, in the following
words: Let us make man after our image and likeness. . . . I shall quote again the
words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God]
conversed with someone numerically distinct from himself and also a rational being.
. . . But this offspring who was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the
Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with him" (Dialogue with
Trypho the Jew 62 [A.D. 155]).
Polycarp of Smyrna
"I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you, along with the everlasting and
heavenly Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, with whom, to you and the Holy Spirit, be
glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 14 [A.D. 155]
emphasis added).
"[The Father] sent the Word that he might be manifested to the world. . . . This is he
who was from the beginning, who appeared as if new, and was found old. . . . This is
he who, being from everlasting, is today called the Son" (Letter to Diognetus 11
[A.D. 160] emphasis added).
"It was not angels, therefore, who made us nor who formed us, neither had angels
power to make an image of God, nor anyone else. . . . For God did not stand in need
of these in order to accomplish what he had himself determined with himself
beforehand should be done, as if he did not possess his own hands. For with him
[the Father] were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by
whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, he made all things, to whom also he
speaks, saying, Let us make man in our image and likeness [Gen. 1:26]" (Against
Heresies 4:20:1 [A.D. 189] emphasis added).

"While keeping to this demurrer always, there must, nevertheless, be place for
reviewing for the sake of the instruction and protection of various persons.
Otherwise it might seem that each perverse opinion is not examined but simply
prejudged and condemned. This is especially so in the case of the present heresy
[Sabellianism], which considers itself to have the pure truth when it supposes that
one cannot believe in the one only God in any way other than by saying that Father,
Son, and Spirit are the selfsame person. As if one were not all . . . through the unity
of substance" (Against Praxeas 2:34 [A.D. 216]).
"Keep always in mind the rule of faith which I profess and by which I bear witness
that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and then
you will understand what is meant by it. Observe, now, that I say the Father is other
[distinct], and the Son is other, and the Spirit is other.
. . . I say this, however, out of necessity, since they contend that the Father and the
Son and the Spirit are the selfsame person" (ibid. 9:1).
"Thus, after the death of Zephyrinus, supposing that he had obtained [the position]
after which he so eagerly pursued, he [Pope Callistus] excommunicated Sabellius,
as not entertaining orthodox opinions" (Refutation of All Heresies 9:7 [A.D. 228]).
"[W]ho does not acknowledge that the person of the Son is second after the Father,
when he reads that it was said by the Father, consequently to the Son, Let us make
man in our image and our likeness [Gen. 1:26]? Or when he reads [as having been
said] to Christ: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will
give you the heathens for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your
possession [Ps. 2:78]? Or when also that beloved writer says: The Lord said unto
my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I shall make your enemies the stool of your
feet [Ps. 110:1]? Or when, unfolding the prophecies of Isaiah, he finds it written
thus: Thus says the Lord to Christ my Lord? Or when he reads: I came not down
from heaven to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me [John 6:38]? Or
when he finds it written: Because he who sent me is greater than I [cf. John 14:24,
28]? Or when he finds it placed side by side with others: Moreover, in your law it is
written that the witness of two is true. I bear witness of myself, and the Father who
sent me bears witness of me [cf. John 8:1718]?" (Treatise on the Trinity 26 [A.D.
"And I should have enough to do were I to endeavor to gather together all the
passages [of the kind in the previous quotation] . . . since the divine Scripture, not
so much of the Old as also of the New Testament, everywhere shows him to be born
of the Father, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made,
who always has obeyed and obeys the Father; that he always has power over all
things, but as delivered, as granted, as by the Father himself permitted to him. And
what can be so evident proof that this is not the Father, but the Son; as that he is

set forth as being obedient to God the Father, unless, if he be believed to be the
Father, Christ may be said to be subjected to another God the Father?" (ibid.)
Pope Dionysius
"Next, then, I may properly turn to those who divide and cut apart and destroy the
monarchy, the most sacred proclamation of the Church of God, making of it, as it
were, three powers, distinct substances, and three godheads. I have heard that
some of your catechists and teachers of the divine Word take the lead in this tenet.
They are, so to speak, diametrically opposed to the opinion of Sabellius. He, in his
b.asphemy, says that the Son is the Father and vice versa" (Letters of Pope
Dionysius to Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria 1:1 [A.D. 262]).

Gregory the Wonderworker

"But some treat the Holy Trinity in an awful manner, when they confidently assert
that there are not three persons, and introduce (the idea of) a person devoid of
subsistence. Wherefore we clear ourselves of Sabellius, who says that the Father
and the Son are the same [person]. . . . We forswear this, because we believe that
three personsnamely, Father, Son, and Holy Spiritare declared to possess the
one Godhead: for the one divinity showing itself forth according to nature in the
Trinity establishes the oneness of the nature" (A Sectional Confession of Faith 8
[A.D. 262]).
"But if they say, How can there be three persons, and how but one divinity? we
shall make this reply: That there are indeed three persons, inasmuch as there is one
person of God the Father, and one of the Lord the Son, and one of the Holy Spirit;
and yet that there is but one divinity, inasmuch as . . . there is one substance in the
Trinity" (ibid., 14).
"For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as
their substance is one and their dominion one. Whence also, with one and the same
adoration, we worship the one deity in three persons, subsisting without beginning,
uncreated, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the
Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor
the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality he is. For nothing of the
Trinity will suffer diminution, either in respect of eternity, or of communion, or of
sovereignty" (Oration on the Psalms 5 [A.D. 305]).
"[The Trinity] is a Trinity not merely in name or in a figurative manner of speaking;
rather, it is a Trinity in truth and in actual existence. Just as the Father is he that is,
so also his Word is one that is and is God over all. And neither is the Holy Spirit
nonexistent but actually exists and has true being. Less than these the Catholic

Church does not hold, lest she sink to the level of the Jews of the present time,
imitators of Caiaphas, or to the level of Sabellius" (Letters to Serapion 1:28 [A.D.
"They [the Father and the Son] are one, not as one thing now divided into two, but
really constituting only one, nor as one thing twice named, so that the same
becomes at one time the Father and at another his own Son. This latter is what
Sabellius held, and he was judged a heretic. On the contrary, they are two, because
the Father is Father and is not his own Son, and the Son is Son and not his own
Father" (Discourses Against the Arians 3:4 [A.D. 360]).
Fulgentius of Ruspe
"See, in short you have it that the Father is one, the Son another, and the Holy Spirit
another; in person, each is other, but in nature they are not other. In this regard he
[Christ] says, The Father and I, we are one [John 10:30]. He teaches us that one
refers to their nature and we are to their persons. In like manner it is said, There
are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and
these three are one [cf. 1 John 5:7]. Let Sabellius hear we are, let him hear three,
and let him believe that there are three persons" (The Trinity 4:1 [A.D. 513]).

The Eternal Sonship of Christ

Some Evangelicals, such as John MacArthur, J. Oliver Buswell, and the late Walter
Martin, have been abandoning the Trinitarian faith as defined by the First Council of
Nicaea (A.D. 325). Their abandonment of orthodox Trinitarianism consists in denying
the eternal Sonship of Christ, the doctrine that the second person of the Trinity was
the Son of God from all eternity. Instead, they claim that the second person of the
Trinity only became the Son of God at his incarnation. Apart from the incarnation he
was still God, but not the Son, just the second Person.
This teaching destroys the internal relationships within the Trinity, because if the
Son was not eternally begotten by the Father then neither did the Spirit eternally
proceed from the Father through the Son. It also destroys the Fatherhood of the first
person, since without a Son there is no Father. Thus the fundamental familial
relations among the persons of the Godhead are destroyed and replaced by mere
social relationships, a bare existence of three persons in the Godhead. Prior to the
incarnation, there is no longer the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but simply
Number One, Number Two, and Number Threethe numbers themselves being an
arbitrary designation.
The Church Fathers who wrote the creeds had a different view. They recognized that
the Bible depicts the Son as having his identity as the Son before his incarnation. In
1 John 4:9 we read, that "the love of God was made manifest among us [in] that
God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." Thus, the
second person of the Trinity was already the Son when he was sent into the world.
The same truth is taught under a different analogy in John 1:1,14 where we read, "In
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Here the Word (i.e., the
second person of the Trinity) is pictured as having his identity as the Word from all
eternity. Thus, from all eternity the Word of God proceeded from God, just as speech
proceeds from a speaker; similarly,
a Son proceeds from his Father. Under both analogies, whether as the Son of God or
the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity is depicted as eternally
proceeding from the first person of the Trinity.
Of special interest among the following passages are those in which the early
Christians wrote of God as Father prior to the incarnation. Such passages imply the
role of the second person as Son before the incarnation, since as we have noted,
without a Son there is no Father.
Ignatius of Antioch
"Jesus Christ . . . was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end
was revealed" (Letter to the Magnesians 6 [A.D. 110]).
Justin Martyr
"Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten by God, being his Word
and first-begotten, and power; and, becoming man according to his will, he taught

us these things for the conversion and restoration of the human race" (First Apology
23 [A.D. 151]).
"God begot before all creatures a beginning, who was a certain rational power from
himself and whom the Holy Spirit calls . . . sometimes the Son
. . . sometimes Lord and Word. . . . We see things happen similarly among ourselves,
for whenever we utter some word, we beget a word, yet not by any cutting off,
which would diminish the word in us when we utter it. We see a similar occurrence
when one fire enkindles another. It is not diminished through the enkindling of the
other, but remains as it was" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 61 [A.D. 155]).
"[The Gnostics] transfer the generation of the uttered word of men to the eternal
Word of God, attributing to him a beginning of utterance and a coming into
being . . . . In what manner, then, would the Word of Godindeed, the great God
himself, since he is the Worddiffer from the word of men?" (Against Heresies
2:13:8 [A.D. 189]).
"The Father makes him equal to himself, and the Son, by proceeding from him, was
made the first-begotten, since he was begotten before all things, and the onlybegotten, because he alone was begotten of God, in a manner peculiar to himself,
from the womb of his own heart, to which even the Father himself gives witness:
My heart has poured forth my finest Word [Ps. 45:12]" (Against Praxeas 7:1 [A.D.
"Therefore, this sole and universal God, by reflecting, first brought forth the Word
not a word as in speech, but as a mental word, the reason for everything. . . . The
Word was the cause of those things which came into existence, carrying out in
himself the will of him by whom he was begotten. . . . Only [Gods] Word is from
himself and is therefore also God, becoming the substance of God" (Refutation of All
Heresies 10:33 [A.D. 228]).
"So also Wisdom, since he proceeds from God, is generated from the very substance
of God" (Commentary on Hebrews [A.D. 237]).
Gregory the Wonderworker
"There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is his subsistent wisdom and
power and eternal image: perfect begetter of the perfect begotten, Father of the
only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, only of the only, God of God, image and
likeness of deity, efficient Word, wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all
things, and power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father"
(Declaration of Faith [A.D. 265]).

"When we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as
different, nor do we separate them, because the Father cannot exist without the
Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father, since the name of Father
cannot be given without the Son, nor can the Son be begotten without the Father. . .
. [T]hey both have one mind, one spirit, one substance; but the former [the Father]
is as it were an overflowing fountain, the latter [the Son] as a stream flowing forth
from it. The former as the sun, the latter as it were a ray [of light] extended from
the sun" (Divine Institutes 4:2829 [A.D. 307]).
Council of Nicaea I
"We believe . . . in our one Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, the only-begotten born
of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true
God of true God, begotten, not made . . ." (The Creed of Nicaea [A.D. 325]).
Cyril of Jerusalem
"Believe also in the Son of God, the one and only, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God
begotten of God, who is life begotten of life, who is light begotten of light, who is in
all things like unto the begetter, and who did not come to exist in time but was
before all the ages, eternally and incomprehensibly begotten of the Father. He is the
Wisdom of God" (Catechetical Lectures 4:7 [A.D. 350]).
The Long Ignatius
"[O]ur God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word before time began,
but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the Virgin. For the Word was made
flesh [John 1:14]" (Letter to the Ephesians 7 [A.D. 350]).
"When these points have been demonstrated, then they [the Arians] speak even
more impudently: If there never was a time when the Son was not, and if he is
eternal and coexists with the Father, then you are saying that he is not a Son at all,
but the Fathers brother. O dull and contentious men! Indeed, if we said only that he
coexisted eternally and had not called him Son, their pretended difficulty would
have some plausibility. But if while saying that he is eternal, we confess him as Son
of the Father, how were it possible for him that is begotten to be called a brother of
him that begets? . . . For the Father and the Son were not generated from some
preexisting source, so that they might be accounted as brothers. Rather, the Father
is the source and begetter of the Son. . . . It is proper for men to beget in time,
because of the imperfections of their nature; but the offspring of God is eternal
because Gods nature is ever perfect" (Discourses Against the Arians 1:14 [A.D.
Basil The Great

"What was in the beginning? The Word, he says.

. . . Why the Word? So that we might know that he proceeded from the mind. Why
the Word? Because he was begotten without passion. Why the Word? Because he is
image of the Father who begets him, showing forth the Father fully, in no way
separated from him, and subsisting perfectly in himself, just as our word entirely
befits our thought" (Eulogies and Sermons 16:3 [A.D. 368]).
Ambrose of Milan
"[The Arians] think that they must posit the objection of his [Christ] having said, I
live on account of the Father. Certainly if they refer the saying to his divinity, the
Son lives on account of the Father, because the Son is from the Father; on account
of the Father, because he is of one substance with the Father; on account of the
Father, because he is the Word given forth from the heart of the Father; because he
proceeds from the Father" (The Faith 4:10:132 [A.D. 379]).
Gregory of Nazianz
"He is called Son because he is identical to the Father in essence; and not only this,
but also because he is of him. He is called only-begotten not because he is a unique
Son . . . but because he is Son in a unique fashion and not in a corporeal way. He is
called Word because he is to the Father what a word is to the mind" (Orations 30:20
[A.D. 380]).
Council of Constantinople I
"We believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, born of the
Father before all ages, light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father" (The Nicene Creed [A.D. 381]) .
Council of Rome
"If anyone does not say that the Son was begotten of the Father, that is, of the
divine substance of him himself, he is a heretic" (Tome of Damasus, canon 11 [A.D.
The Athanasian Creed
"The Father is not made nor created nor begotten by anyone. The Son is from the
Father alone, not made or created, but begotten. . . . Let him who wishes to be
saved, think thus concerning the Trinity. But it is necessary for eternal salvation that
he faithfully believe also in the incarnation. . . . He is God begotten of the substance
of the Father before time, and he is man born of the substance of his mother in
. . . This is the Catholic faith; unless everyone believes this faithfully and firmly, he
cannot be saved" (Athanasian Creed [A.D. 400]).

"In the way that you speak a word that you have in your heart and it is with you . . .
that is how God issued the Word, that is to say, how he begot the Son. And you,
indeed, beget a word too in your heart, without temporal preparation; God begot
the Son outside of time, the Son through whom he created all things" (Homilies on
John 14:7 [A.D. 416]).
Patrick of Ireland
"Jesus Christ, whom we . . . confess to have always been with the Fatherbefore the
worlds beginning, spiritually and ineffably [he was] begotten of the Father before all
beginning" (Confession of St. Patrick 4 [A.D. 452]).
Council of Constantinople II
"If anyone does not confess that there are two generations of the Word of God, one
from the Father before all ages, without time and incorporeally, the other in the last
days when the same came down from heaven and was incarnate . . . let such a one
be anathema" (Anathemas Concerning the Three Chapters, canon 2 [A.D. 553]).
NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

The Scandal of the Decades: The Rosary and the Bible

By Edward Sri

For many non-Catholics, the rosary can be quite perplexing, even scandalous. In this
prayer, Catholics recite five sets of ten Hail Marys. Each set, called a "decade," is
introduced by the Our Father and concluded with praise of the Holy Trinity in the
Glory Be. From an outsiders perspective, the score at the end of each decade
seems to be:
God the Father: 1
The Holy Trinity: 1
Mary: 10
Looked at this way, the rosary seems to be primarily about Mary. At best, this
repetitive attention to Mary can seem unbalanced, distracting us from a relationship
with Jesus Christ. At worst, this prayer may seem idolatrous, treating Mary as if she
were more important than God.
But the Hail Mary is centered on Jesus Christ, and the rosary, far from being
unbiblical, is actually a beautiful scriptural way of praying that leads us closer to
him. In his apostolic letter on the rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II
emphasized that this prayer is meant to focus our attention on Jesus Christ:
Although the repeated Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that
the act of love is ultimately directed (RVM 26).
Gods Own Wonderment
The opening of the Hail Mary is drawn from the words the angel Gabriel (and later
her relative Elizabeth) used to greet the Mother of the Messiah.
In awe that the Almighty God he has worshiped from the beginning of time was
about to become a little baby inside Mary, Gabriel greeted the chosen woman from
Nazareth with wonder over this profound mystery: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is
with you" (Luke 1:28). Similarly, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and given
prophetic insight into this childs identity. In response to the profound mystery of
Christ taking place inside Marys womb, she exclaimed, "Blessed are you among
women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" (Luke 1:42). These words focus not
on Mary herself but on the mystery of the Incarnation taking place inside her. In
fact, John Paul II noted that every time we pray the Hail Mary, we participate in "the
wonder of heaven and earth" at the mystery of God becoming man. Gabriel
represents the wonder of heaven, while Elizabeth represents the wonder of earth.
When we repeat Gabriels and Elizabeths words, we participate in the joyful
response to the mystery of Jesus Christthe mystery of God becoming man. You
cant get much more Christ-centered than that!
As John Paul II explained:

These words . . . could be said to give a glimpse of Gods own wonderment as he

contemplates his masterpiecethe Incarnation of the Son in the womb of the Virgin
Mary. . . . The repetition of the Hail Mary in the rosary gives us a share in Gods own
wonder and pleasure: In jubilant amazement we acknowledge the greatest miracle
of history (RVM 33).
As a model disciple of Christ, Mary consented to Gods will when the angel Gabriel
appeared to her (Luke 1:38), and she persevered in faith throughout her life (John
19:2527; Acts 1:14). When we say, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death," we ask Mary to pray for us to be faithful in our
walk with the Lord, every day. She is the ideal person to intercede for us, to pray
that we may walk in faith as she did. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
She prays for us as she prayed for herself: "Let it be to me according to your
word." By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of
God together with her: "Thy will be done" (CCC 2677).
Jesus Is the Center of Gravity
But at the heart of the Hail Mary is the holy name of Jesus: "And blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus." John Paul II says that Jesus name not only serves as the hinge
joining the two parts of the Hail Mary but is also this prayers "center of gravity."
The Hail Mary leads us to the person of Jesus, and at the center of this prayer we
speak his sacred name with reverence and with love.
Christs name is the only name under heaven through which we may hope for
salvation (Acts 4:12). That we can even call upon the name of Jesus is astonishing.
In the Old Testament the Jews approached Gods name ("Yahweh") with so much
reverence that they eventually avoided speaking it. Instead, they often used the
less personal title "Lord" when calling on God in prayer. But since God entered into
humanity in Christ, we have the privilege of calling on the personal name of the
Lord: "Jesus" (CCC 2666). Christians throughout the centuries have found in the
name of Jesus a source of strength and meditation. As we utter the sacred name at
the center of this prayer, the Hail Mary leads us to that divine source.
Vain Repetition?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think
that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father
knows what you need before you ask him (Matt. 6:78).
With Hail Mary after Hail Mary after Hail Mary, the rosary appears to some people to
be the kind of repetitious prayer Jesus condemneda superficial, mechanical way of
praying to God that can be boring and empty of life. It is sometimes said to be "vain
repetition" rather than true, intimate prayer flowing from the heart. Shouldnt
Christians, some ask, speak openly to Jesus rather than relying on a repetitious

Jesus, though, was not condemning repetitive prayer. Rather, he was criticizing the
Gentiles practice of reciting endless formulations and divine names in order to say
the words that would force the gods to answer their petitions. Magical formulas
were not the way to get God to answer prayers. Jesus challenged us to approach our
heavenly Father not the way the pagans do their deities but rather in confident trust
that "your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Indeed, he knows what
we need better than we do and is providing for those needs even before we realize
them ourselves (Matt. 6:2534).
Moreover, in the very next verse, Jesus gives us a new prayer to recite: the Our
Father. Jesus says, "Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be
thy name" (Matt. 6:9).
Holy, Holy, Holy
If it were wrong to use repetitive prayers, Jesus certainly would not have done it. Yet
in the garden of Gethsemane, he spoke the same prayer three times: "Leaving them
again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words" (Matt.
26:44). We cannot think of this repetition as anything but heartfelt.
Similarly, in the Old Testament, parts of Psalm 118 are structured around the
repeated phrase "His steadfast love endures forever," and the book of Daniel
presents the three men in the fiery furnace constantly repeating the phrase "Sing
praise to him and highly exalt him forever" (Dan. 3:5288). God looks favorably on
their prayers and answers them in their time of need (Ps. 118:21; Dan. 3:9495).
In the New Testament, the book of Revelation describes how the very worship of
God in heaven includes words of holy praise that are repeated without end. The four
living creatures, gathered around Gods throne, "never cease to sing, Holy, holy,
holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"(Rev. 4:8). Although
trying to manipulate God by vain repetition is always wrong, proper repetitious
prayer is very biblical and pleasing to God.
We may still wonder why there is so much repetition in the rosary. John Paul II noted
that it is similar to the "Jesus Prayer" that people have recited for centuries:
Christians slowly repeat the words "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us,"
often in rhythm with their breathing. Whispered over and over again, this prayer
calms the mind so that we may be more disposed to meet God himself in prayer. It
helps us follow the admonition of Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God."
The succession of Hail Marys in the rosary achieves the same purpose. Anyone who
prays the rosary knows that the peaceful cadence created by the repetition of the
prayers slows down our minds and spirits and focuses our attention so that we can
prayerfully reflect on different.aspects of Christs life.
I Just Called to Say I Love You
On another level, John Paul II encouraged us to think of the repetition of Hail Marys
within the context of a relationship of love. I may tell my wife "I love you" several
times a day. Sometimes I say these words to her as I am going out the door for work

in the morning. Other times I whisper them just before we fall asleep at night. On
special occasions I may write these words in a card. When we are out to dinner, I
may look her in the eyes as I say, "I love you." Although she has heard me repeat
these same words to her thousands of times, never once has she complained, "Stop
saying the same thing over and over again!"
In an intimate, personal relationship such as marriage, two people may repeat to
each other certain expressions of love, but each time the same words express anew
the heartfelt affection the people have for one another. Indeed, repetition is part of
the language of love.
We have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. By reciting the Hail
Mary throughout the rosary, we participate over and over again in the wonder-filled
response of Gabriel and Elizabeth to the mystery of Christ. Bead after bead, we ask
Mary to pray for us that we may be drawn closer to her Son. And most of all, prayer
after prayer, we affectionately speak the name of our Beloved at the very center of
each Hail Mary: "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus . . . Jesus . . . Jesus." The
holy name of Jesus, repeated with tender love, is the heartbeat of the entire rosary.

Statues of Limitations
By Tim Staples

The first commandment says:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for
yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that
is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow
down to them or serve them (Ex. 20:25).
Well-meaning Evangelicals and Fundamentalists often try to use this text against
Catholics. Their argument goes something like this: "How can God make it any
clearer than this? We are not to have graven images, or statues, yet what do you
see in almost every Catholic church around the world? Statues! This is the definition
of idolatry. And please, do not give me any of this nonsense about equating the
statues in your churches to carrying a photograph of a loved one in your wallet. In
Exodus 20, as well as in Deuteronomy 5:78, God specifically says we are not to
make statues in the shape of anything in the sky above, the earth below or the
waters beneath the earth."
How are we to respond?
The Catholic Church does not believe any statue or image has any power in and of
itself. The beauty of statues and icons move us to contemplation of the Word of God
as he is himself or as he works in his saints. And, according to Scripture, as well as
the testimony of the centuries, God even uses them at times to impart blessings
(e.g., healings) according to his providential plan.
While it can certainly be understood how a superficial reading of the first
commandment could lead one to believe we Catholics are in grave error with regard
to our use of statues and icons, the key to a proper understanding of the first
commandment is found at the very end of that same commandment, in verse 5 of
Exodus 20: "You shall not bow down to them or serve [worship] them."
The Lord did not prohibit statues; he prohibited worshiping them. God actually
commanded the making of images. Just five chapters later, God commanded Moses
to build the Ark of the Covenant, which would contain the presence of God and was
to be venerated as the holiest place in all of Israel. Here is what God commanded
Moses concerning the statues on it:
And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make
them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one
cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the
cherubim on its two ends (Ex. 25:1819).
In Numbers 21:89, not only did our Lord order Moses to make another statue in the
form of a bronze serpent, but he commanded the children of Israel to look at it in

order to be healed. The context of the passage is one where Israel had rebelled
against God, and a plague of deadly snakes was sent as a just punishment. This
statue of a snake had no power of itselfwe know from John 3:14 that it was merely
a type of Christbut God used this image of a snake as an instrument to effect
healing in his people.
Further, in 1 Kings 6, Solomon built a temple for the glory of God, described as
In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits
high. . . . He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house. . . . He carved all
the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim and palm trees,
and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms. . . . For the entrance to the inner
sanctuary he made doors of olivewood. . . . He covered the two doors of olivewood
with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers; he overlaid them with gold
(1 Kgs. 6:23, 27, 29, 31, 32).
King Solomon ordered the construction of multiple images of things both "in heaven
above" (angels) and "in the earth beneath" (palm trees and open flowers). After the
completion of the temple, God declared he was pleased with its construction (1 Kgs.
It becomes apparent, given the above evidence, that a strictly literal interpretation
of Exodus 20:25 is erroneous. Otherwise, we would have to conclude that God
prohibits something in Exodus 20 and elsewhere commands the very same thing.
Guiding Us Home
Why would God use these images of serpents, angels, palm trees, and open
flowers? Why didnt he heal the people directly rather than use a "graven image"?
Why didnt he command Moses and Solomon to build an ark and a temple without
any images at all?
First, God knows what his own commandments mean. He never condemned the use
of statues absolutely. Second, God created man as a being who is both spiritual and
physical. To draw us to himself, God uses both spiritual and physical means. He will
use statues, the temple, or even creation itself to guide us to our heavenly home.
Psalm 19:1 tells us: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament
proclaims his handiwork." Romans 1:20 says: "Ever since the creation of the world
his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived
in the things that have been made." Gazing at a sunsetor a great painting of a
sunsetand contemplating the greatness of God through the beauty of his creation
is not idolatry. Nor is it idolatrous to look at statues of great saints of old and honor
them for the great things God has done through them. It is no more idolatrous for us
to desire to imitate their holy lives and honor them than it was for Paul to exhort the
Corinthians to imitate his own holy life (1 Cor. 4:16) and to "esteem very highly"
those who were "over [the Thessalonians] in the Lord and admonish [them]" (1
Thess. 5:1213).

Jesus Is the Reason

Jesus gives us the ultimate example of the value of statues and icons. Indeed,
Christ, in his humanity, has opened up an entirely new economy of iconography and
statuary. Christ becomes for us the ultimate reason for all representations of the
angels and saints. Why?
Colossians 1:15 tells us that Christ is "the image [Greek: icon] of the invisible God."
Christ is the ultimate icon! And what does this icon reveal to us? He reveals God the
Father. When Jesus said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9), he
does not mean that he is the Father. He isnt. Hes the Son. Christ "reflects the glory
of God and bears the very stamp of his nature" (Heb. 1:3).
Essentially, that is what statues and icons are. Just as "the Word became flesh"
(John 1:14) and revealed the Father to us in a manner beyond the imaginings of
men before the advent of Christ, representations of Gods holy angels and saints are
also icons of Christ who, by their heroic virtue, "reflect the glory of God." Just as Paul
told the Corinthians to hold up his own life as a paradigm when he said, "I urge you,
then, be imitators of me" (1 Cor. 4:16), the Church continues to hold up great men
and women of faith as "icons" of the life of Christ lived in fallen human nature aided
by grace.
Worship Is as Worship Does
Many Protestants will claim that, while the Catholic may say he does not worship
statues, his actions prove otherwise. Catholics kiss statues, bow down before them,
and pray in front of them. According to these same Protestants, thats worship.
Peter, when Cornelius bowed down to worship him, ordered him to "stand up; I too
am a man" (Acts 10:26). When John bowed down before an angel, the angel told
him, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you" (Rev. 19:10). But
Catholics have no problem bowing down before what is lessa statue of Peter or
Is kissing or kneeling down before a statue the same as worshiping it? Not
necessarily. Both Peter in Acts 10 and the angel in Revelation 19 rebuked Cornelius
and John, respectively, specifically for worshiping them. The problem was not with
the bowing; it was with the worshiping. Bowing does not necessarily entail worship.
For example, Jacob bowed to the ground on his knees seven times to his elder
brother Esau (Gen. 33:3), Bathsheba bowed to her husband David (1 Kgs. 1:16), and
Solomon bowed to his mother Bathsheba (1 Kgs. 2:19). In fact, in Revelation 3:9,
John records the words of Jesus:
Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews
and are not, but liebehold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet,
and learn that I have loved you.
Here, John uses the same verb for "bow down" (proskuneo) that he used in
Revelation 19:10 for "worship" when he acknowledged his own error in worshiping
the angel. Would anyone dare say that Jesus would make someone commit idolatry?

As far as kissing goes, Paul says four times in Scripture that we are to greet one
another with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). The
clergy in Ephesus embraced and kissed Paul after his final discourse to them in Acts
20:37. As the context of these passages make clear, these are acts of affection, not
Catholics take very seriously the biblical injunctions to praise and honor great
members of Gods family (see, for example, Ps. 45:17; Luke 1:48; 1 Thess. 5:1213;
1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:56). We also believe, as Scripture makes very clear, that death
does not separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:38) nor from his body, which is
the Church (Col. 1:24). Our "elders in heaven" (cf. Rev. 5:8) should be honored as
much as or even more than our greatest members on earth. So having statues
honoring God or great saints brings to mind the God we worship and the saints we
love and respect. For Catholics, having statues is just as natural asyou guessed it
having pictures in our wallets to remind us of the ones we love here on earth. But
reminding ourselves of loved ones is a far cry from idolatry.

Purgation Station
By Jim Blackburn

Christians generally agree that there are only two eternal possibilities after death:
heaven (eternal life) or hell (eternal death). Many believe that each person enters
his eternal life or death immediately upon his physical death. But Catholics hold that
at least some (if not most) of those destined for heaven must first experience a
place or state called purgatory, where one goes through a final cleansing of some
sort before entering heaven.
Some non-Catholics find this idea disturbing. Why would God delay heaven for
someone destined to spend eternity there? Understood properly, though, purgatory
is not some form of extra punishment dished out to some who ought to go straight
to heaven. Quite the opposite. It is a merciful act by a loving God for those who
alternatively would go straight to hell. Not a second chance, mind you, but an act of
Nothing Unclean Shall Enter
In describing his vision of heaven, John tells us that "nothing unclean shall enter it"
(Rev. 21:27). Similarly, the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us to strive for
"the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). Jesus himself
tells us, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt.
5:48). From these scriptural passages we see that cleanliness/holiness is a
prerequisite for entering heaven.
If a person dies in an unholy state, i.e., in a state of sin, he cannot enter heaven (at
least not in his present state). But does this really seem just? If an otherwise good
Christian has lived a holy life but then sins just before death, is he doomed to
eternity in hell? On the surface it would seem so. But Scripture enlightens us with a
more complex answer to this question.
Varying Degrees of Sin
The answer depends, at least in part, on the severity of the sin. There are different
degrees of sin, some serious enough to result in eternal death, others not that
serious. For example, James describes a kind of sin progression: "Each person is
tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has
conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death" (Jas.
1:1415). Desire and temptation come first, then sin, then deadly sin.
Similarly, Jesus taught his disciples about different consequences for varying
degrees of sin: "But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall
be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and
whoever says, You fool! shall be liable to the hell of fire" (Matt. 5:22). Anger results
in judgment, insults result in the council, and saying "You fool!" results in the hell of

Additionally, John says, "God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. . . .
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal" (1 John 5:1617). "Life" for
those whose sin is not mortal? Clearly not all sin leads to eternal death.

Truth or Consequences
Also clear, though, is that some sin can lead to eternal death. Even so, most
Christians would agree that if such sin is repented before physical death, eternal
death is averted, and the persons final destination is heaven. That being said,
Scripture indicates that even after repentance temporal consequences of sin
For example, 2 Samuel tells us of the remaining consequence of Davids adultery
and murder even after his repentance: "David said to Nathan, I have sinned against
the Lord. And Nathan said to David, The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall
not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the
child that is born to you shall die" (2 Sam. 12:1314). David lost his child as a
consequence of sins that he had already repented.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains such consequences this way:
Sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and
therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the
"eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an
unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified. . . . This purification
frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin (CCC 1472).
All Have Sinned and Fall Short
So what about the otherwise holy man who dies in a state of sin? What is his eternal
destination? Remember, there are only two options: eternal life (heaven) and
eternal death (hell). Because nothing unholy can enter heaven, it would seem that
this poor mans eternal destiny must be hell. And because "all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), hell would seem to be the destiny of all men.
But God is much more merciful than that. As we have seen, there are different
degrees of sin. Some are deadly; some are not. If the mans sin is not deadly, by
definition, his eternal destination must be heaven. Even if his sin is deadly but he
repents before death (even though, like David, the consequences remain), his
eternal destination still must be heaven.
In either case, it only stands to reason that his sin or its consequences will somehow
be dealt with after his death, thereby transforming him from unclean to clean before
his entrance into heaven. This cleansing, however it may come about, is what the
Catholic Church calls purgatory.
The Catechism teaches:

All who die in Gods grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed
assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to
achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. . . . The Church gives the
name purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from
the punishment of the damned (CCC 10301031).
"Its Not in the Bible"
The word purgatory cannot be found in the Bible, but the concept of purgatory is
clearly implied by the sacred writers. Without it Scripture would seem to contradict
For example, Jesus seems to indicate that some consequences of sin may be
remitted after death when he tells us, "Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will
not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt. 12:32). Why mention
"this age" and "the age to come" if some sins cannot be expiated in either age?
The author of 2 Maccabees documents Judas Maccabeus and other Jews praying for
the remission of the sins of men who had died in battle: "Under the tunic of every
one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law
forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had
fallen. . . . They turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been
committed might be wholly blotted out" (2 Macc. 12:4042).
Why pray in such a way unless at least some sins or their consequences can be
cleansed after death? If the dead men had already reached their eternal destination,
then praying for them would be futileprayer wouldnt help those in heaven and
couldnt help those in hell.
But if the dead destined for heaven had not yet reached their final destination,
prayers for them may help speed up or lighten the severity of their preparation for
heaven. The author explains: "For if [Judas Maccabeus] were not expecting that
those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to
pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for
those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he
made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin" (2 Macc.
Paul mentions a similar practice of the early Christians that he calls "being baptized
on behalf of the dead." Were not told exactly what this practice entailedand Paul
does not necessarily condone itbut it provides clear evidence that early Christians
believed they could do something helpful for the dead. "What do people mean by
being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are
people baptized on their behalf?" (1 Cor. 15:29). In other words, if no one who dies
in an unholy state can attain eternal life, why act in their behalf?
Paul also prays for Onesiphorus, who seems to be dead: "May the Lord grant mercy
to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of
my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me

may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Dayand you well
know all the service he rendered at Ephesus" (2 Tim. 1:1618).
And finally, Paul seems to give us a glimpse of purgatory in his parable of a building:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a
foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he
builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which
is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious
stones, wood, hay, straweach mans work will become manifest; for the Day will
disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of
work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation
survives, he will receive a reward. If any mans work is burned up, he will suffer loss,
though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor. 3:1015).
Clearly Paul is talking here about men destined for heaven, because even those
whose work is "burned up" will be saved. Gold, silver, and precious stones are
analogous to good works, while wood, hay, and straw exemplify those impurities or
elements of unholiness that need to be cleansed before we enter into heaven.
So clearly Scripture teaches of the possibility of dealing with at least some kinds of
sins or with some of the consequences of sins after death in preparation for heaven.
This is purgatory, and it is evidence of the depth of Gods love for us. If we die in his
friendship, even though not completely prepared for heaven, God still provides a
way for us to live with him forever.

The Divinity of Christ

Christs divinity is shown over and over again in the New Testament. For example, in
John 5:18 we are told that Jesus opponents sought to kill him because he "called
God his Father, making himself equal with God."
In John 8:58, when quizzed about how he has special knowledge of Abraham, Jesus
replies, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am"invoking and
applying to himself the personal name of God"I Am" (Ex. 3:14). His audience
understood exactly what he was claiming about himself. "So they took up stones to
throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple" (John 8:59).
In John 20:28, Thomas falls at Jesus feet, exclaiming, "My Lord and my God!"
(Greek: Ho Kurios mou kai ho Theos mouliterally, "The Lord of me and the God of
In Philippians 2:6, Paul tells us that Christ Jesus "[w]ho, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be g.asped" (New International
Version). So Jesus chose to be born in humble, human form though he could have
simply remained in equal glory with the Father for he was "in very nature God."
Also significant are passages that apply the title "the First and the Last" to Jesus.
This is one of the Old Testament titles of Yahweh: "Thus says Yahweh, the King of
Israel and his Redeemer, Yahweh of armies: I am the First and I am the Last;
besides me there is no god" (Is. 44:6; cf. 41:4, 48:12).
This title is directly applied to Jesus three times in the book of Revelation: "When I
saw him [Christ], I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon
me, saying, Fear not, I am the First and the Last" (Rev. 1:17). "And to the angel of
the church in Smyrna write: The words of the First and the Last, who died and came
to life" (Rev. 2:8). "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay
every one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the
Last, the beginning and the end" (Rev. 22:1213).
This last quote is especially significant since it applies to Jesus the parallel title "the
Alpha and the Omega," which Revelation earlier applied to the Lord God: "I am the
Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come,
the Almighty" (Rev. 1:8).
As the following quotes show, the early Church Fathers also recognized that Jesus
Christ is God and were adamant in maintaining this precious truth.
Ignatius of Antioch
"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church at Ephesus in Asia . . . predestined
from eternity for a glory that is lasting and unchanging, united and chosen through
true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God" (Letter to the
Ephesians 1 [A.D. 110]).

"For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with Gods plan: of the
seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit" (ibid., 18:2).
"[T]o the Church beloved and enlightened after the love of Jesus Christ, our God, by
the will of him that has willed everything which is" (Letter to the Romans 1 [A.D.
"[Christians] are they who, above every people of the earth, have found the truth,
for they acknowledge God, the Creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten
Son and in the Holy Spirit" (Apology 16 [A.D. 140]).
Tatian the Syrian
"We are not playing the fool, you Greeks, nor do we talk nonsense, when we report
that God was born in the form of a man" (Address to the Greeks 21 [A.D. 170]).
Melito of Sardis
"It is no way necessary in dealing with persons of intelligence to adduce the actions
of Christ after his baptism as proof that his soul and his body, his human nature,
were like ours, real and not phantasmal. The activities of Christ after his baptism,
and especially his miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the deity
hidden in his flesh. Being God and likewise perfect man, he gave positive indications
of his two natures: of his deity, by the miracles during the three years following
after his baptism, of his humanity, in the thirty years which came before his
baptism, during which, by reason of his condition according to the flesh, he
concealed the signs of his deity, although he was the true God existing before the
ages" (Fragment in Anastasius of Sinais The Guide 13 [A.D. 177]).
"For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of
the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one
God, Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in
them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation;
and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and
the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from
the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord,
and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to reestablish all things; and
the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord
and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father,
every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . "
(Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).
"Nevertheless, what cannot be said of anyone else who ever lived, that he is himself
in his own right God and Lord . . . may be seen by all who have attained to even a
small portion of the truth" (ibid., 3:19:1).

Clement of Alexandria
"The Word, then, the Christ, is the cause both of our ancient beginningfor he was
in Godand of our well-being. And now this same Word has appeared as man. He
alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things" (Exhortation to
the Greeks 1:7:1 [A.D. 190]).
"Despised as to appearance but in reality adored, [Jesus is] the expiator, the Savior,
the soother, the divine Word, he that is quite evidently true God, he that is put on a
level with the Lord of the universe because he was his Son" (ibid., 10:110:1).
"The origins of both his substances display him as man and as God: from the one,
born, and from the other, not born" (The Flesh of Christ 5:67 [A.D. 210]).
"That there are two gods and two Lords, however, is a statement which we will
never allow to issue from our mouth; not as if the Father and the Son were not God,
nor the Spirit God, and each of them God; but formerly two were spoken of as gods
and two as Lords, so that when Christ would come, he might both be acknowledged
as God and be called Lord, because he is the Son of him who is both God and Lord"
(Against Praxeas 13:6 [A.D. 216]).
"Although he was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained
what he was: God" (The Fundamental Doctrines 1:0:4 [A.D. 225]).
"Only [Gods] Word is from himself and is therefore also God, becoming the
substance of God" (Refutation of All Heresies 10:33 [A.D. 228]).
Hippolytus of Rome
"For Christ is the God over all, who has arranged to wash away sin from mankind,
rendering the old man new" (ibid., 10:34).
"If Christ was only man, why did he lay down for us such a rule of believing as that
in which he said, And this is life eternal, that they should know you, the only and
true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent? [John 17:3]. Had he not wished
that he also should be understood to be God, why did he add, And Jesus Christ,
whom thou hast sent, except because he wished to be received as God also?
Because if he had not wished to be understood to be God, he would have added,
And the man Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent; but, in fact, he neither added this,
nor did Christ deliver himself to us as man only, but associated himself with God, as
he wished to be understood by this conjunction to be God also, as he is. We must
therefore believe, according to the rule prescribed, on the Lord, the one true God,

and consequently on him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ, who by no means, as we
have said, would have linked himself to the Father had he not wished to be
understood to be God also. For he would have separated himself from him had he
not wished to be understood to be God" (Treatise on the Trinity 16 [A.D. 235]).
Cyprian of Carthage
"One who denies that Christ is God cannot become his temple [of the Holy
Spirit] . . . " (Letters 73:12 [A.D. 253]).
Gregory the Wonderworker
"There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is his subsistent wisdom and
power and eternal image: perfect begetter of the perfect begotten, Father of the
only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, only of the only, God of God, image and
likeness of deity, efficient Word, wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all
things, and power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, invisible
of invisible, and incorruptible of incorruptible, and immortal of immortal and eternal
of eternal. . . . And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the
Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides
ever" (Declaration of Faith [A.D. 265]).
"Well, then, some raging, angry, and excited man will say, is that Christ your
God? God indeed, we shall answer, and God of the hidden powers" (Against the
Pagans 1:42 [A.D. 305]).
"He was made both Son of God in the spirit and Son of man in the flesh, that is, both
God and man" (Divine Institutes 4:13:5 [A.D. 307]).
"We, on the other hand, are [truly] religious, who make our supplications to the one
true God. Someone may perhaps ask how, when we say that we worship one God
only, we nevertheless assert that there are two, God the Father and God the Son
which assertion has driven many into the greatest error . . . [thinking] that we
confess that there is another God, and that he is mortal. . . . [But w]hen we speak of
God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we
separate each, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be
separated from the Father" (ibid., 4:2829).
Council of Nicaea I
"We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, God from God,
light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the
Father. Through him all things were made" (Creed of Nicaea [A.D. 325]).

"But those who say, There was a time when he [the Son] did not exist, and Before
he was born, he did not exist, and Because he was made from non-existing matter,
he is either of another substance or essence, and those who call God the Son of
God changeable and mutable, these the Catholic Church anathematizes" (Appendix
to the Creed of Nicaea [A.D. 325]).
Patrick of Ireland
"Jesus Christ is the Lord and God in whom we believe, and whose coming we expect
will soon take place, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to
everyone according to his works" (Confession of St. Patrick 4 [A.D. 452]).

Mary, Mother of Salvation

How to Talk to an Evangelical about Mary
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker
My first personal encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary happened while I was a
student at an Evangelical Anglican seminary in England. I had been brought up as
an Evangelical and found my way into the Anglican church. There I was preparing
for ordination. A Catholic friend who was a Benedictine oblate suggested that I
might like to visit a Catholic Benedictine monastery.
While there I told one of the monks that during a time of contemplative prayer I had
sensed Gods presence in a very real, but feminine way. The femininity disturbed me
because I knew God isnt feminine. The monk smiled and said, "Dont worry. Thats
not God. Its the Virgin Mary. She is the Mediatrix. She wants to help you with your
prayers and bring you closer to God."
I was shocked. At the time the Virgin Mary played no part in my devotional life. As a
good Evangelical boy I had memorized 1 Timothy 2:5, which says, "There is one
mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." By calling Mary the
"Mediatrix," he had confirmed my prejudice that Catholics believe things that
contradict the Bible. It also confirmed my suspicion that Catholics gave Mary an
equal status with Jesus.
I put this notion firmly to one side and didnt consider it again until after I had come
into the Catholic Church. This postponement was possible because Marys role as
Co-Redeemer and Mediatrix of grace is not a formally defined dogma of the Catholic
Church. It remains a pious opiniona useful devotional and theological way of
meditating on Mary. My attention was drawn back to the question, however, when I
was writing Mary: A Catholic/Evangelical Debate with an old friend who had
attended Bob Jones University with me.
A Stick to Beat Us With
I understand how Marys titles of Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix remain one of the
sorest points in Evangelical Catholic discussions. A Protestant who has heard of
these titles will use them as a big stick with which to beat Catholics, and it is
important to know how best to engage the discussion.
For genuine dialogue, it is vital to listen to and understand the Evangelical point of
view. The sincere, well-read Evangelical objects to exalted devotions and titles for
the Mother of God because he thinks they detract from the honor and worship due
to Jesus Christ alone. A thoughtful Evangelical does not intentionally despise Mary;
he sidelines the Mother of God to defend the proper devotion to her Son.
The place to start in any discussion of Mary as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix is to
affirm that Catholics indeed believe that the death of Jesus Christ is all sufficient for
the salvation of our sins. If you can quote an author who is a known devotee of
Mary, it packs a stronger punch. "See, heres someone who promotes Marian

devotion," you say, "He actually wants her to be proclaimed Co-Redemptrix, but
insists that Christs death is all sufficient."
For example, a booklet by the California-based Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici Petition
Centre that promotes these titles for Mary begins with these words: "The salvation
of humanity was accomplished by Gods only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The
Passion and Death of Christ, our sole Redeemer, was not only sufficient but
superabundant satisfaction for human guilt and the consequent debt of
punishment" (A New Marian Dogma? Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces,
The booklet goes on to explain, "But God willed that this work of salvation be
accomplished through the collaboration of a woman, while respecting her free will
(Gal. 4:4)." This point introduces a good next step in discussing this Catholic belief
with an Evangelical.
Will You Cooperate or Not?
Instead of wading into an argument about Mary being Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix,
it is useful to discuss the principle and possibility of humans cooperating with God in
the work of redemption. Protestants have a deeply ingrained resistance to the idea
that we can cooperate with God for our redemption at all. In their desire to maintain
the doctrines of sola gratia and sola fide, some of them go to the extremes of
believing that we can do nothing at all to cooperate with God in our redemption
because to do so would be tantamount to salvation by works.
As a result, most Evangelical belief systems contain a very strong element of
Quietism. Quietism is a sort of fatalism: It is that heresy which says you can do
absolutely nothing to engage in the work of your salvation. Instead each soul is like
a leaf on the tide of Gods almighty Providence. Because of this understanding, it is
difficult for many Evangelicals to comprehend the idea that God uses human
cooperation to accomplish his will in the world. That human cooperation is actually
crucial to the Redemption of the world is not part of their perspective.
Therefore, before talking about Marys collaboration with God, it is worth discussing
the basic principle that humans can cooperate with God. Most Evangelicals will
concede that we do, in fact, need to respond to Gods grace for it to be effective in
our lives. Even at the most basic level, Evangelicals admit that a person has to
"accept Jesus." As soon as they do, you can point out that this is a form of
cooperation with God. At this point the human will and the divine will are united for
the work of salvation.
This cooperation with God is not just for the individuals salvation. The New
Testament makes it clear that there is more to it than that. So, for example, we
affirm that Jesus is the one High Priest in the new covenant, but the New Testament
also calls us to share in that priesthood (Rev. 1:56; 1 Pet. 2:5,9). We do this by
sharing in Christs sufferings (Matt. 16:24; 1 Pet. 4:13). Paul calls himself a "coworker with Christ" (1 Cor. 3:9) and says part of this is that he is crucified with Christ
and shares in Christs sufferings (2 Cor. 1:5; Phil. 3:10).

If the Evangelical believes the Bible and wants to live the Christian life, he will not
only admit that he needs to cooperate with God for his own salvation, but also that
this cooperation is part of a larger identification with Christ, and that this
identification with Christ is for the salvation of the world. He will also admit that in
some mysterious way, the sufferings we endure are part of the way God works to
redeem the world.
Mary, Evangelist
Once an Evangelical admits that cooperation with God is not only possible, but
necessary, it opens up the idea that there is a purpose for our co-working with God.
We cooperate with God for the salvation of the world. Here is another point where
the Evangelical critic can connect. The Evangelical believes that each one of us has
a new mission in life: We are to proclaim Christ crucified. We are to spread the
gospel and share the saving work of Christ with the world. We are called to prayer,
holiness, and evangelism. From there, it is a small step to see that this is another
way of saying that we are called to be mediators of Christs love and forgiveness.
Every Christian believes that he or she is called to pray for the world, to intercede
and to mediate for others, to have a "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
Evangelicals know the Old Testament examples of Moses and Abraham interceding
on behalf of others to God, and all Christians agree about the need to mediate in
prayer for others. This is a good way to explain the Mediatrix role of the Blessed
Virgin Mary. Mary is the first evangelist. She carried the Word of God in her body,
kept it there, and bore it to the world. This was her practical role in the Incarnation,
but it was also her theological role. In doing this she shows us our lesser calling to
be mediators of the New Covenant and ministers of reconciliation.
It is true that Marys role as Mediatrix is more cosmic than our own, but the
principles are the same. Understanding our own share in Gods saving work through
mediatory prayer and sacrifice helps us understand how she does the same thing,
only bigger and better, because she is the holiest of human beings and the one who
is closest to the Son of God.
It is worth discussing that the Fathers of the Church saw Mary as Mediator of All
Grace. Cyril of Alexandria in the fourth century writes:
Hail, Mary Mother of God, venerable treasure of the whole world . . . it is you
through whom the Holy Trinity is glorified and adored . . . through whom the
tempter, the devil is cast down from heaven, through whom the fallen creature is
raised up to heaven, through whom all creation, once imprisoned by idolatry, has
reached knowledge of the truth, through whom nations are brought to repentance.
(qtd. in Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary
in Patristic Thought)
Ephrem the Syrian says, "With the Mediator, you are the Mediatrix of the entire
world"; and Antipater of Bostra, a father of the Council of Ephesus, wrote about the
Blessed Virgin in the fifth century, "Hail, you who acceptably intercede as Mediatrix
for mankind" (qtd. in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers).

These quotations can be multiplied from the liturgies and theological writings of the
day. The writers exalted language shows how highly they thought of Marys role as
mediator and co-redeemer. This view of Mary as Mediatrix was not a later invention,
but rather comes to us from the early Church.
The Evangelical critic may go along with you thus far, but he still finds the title "CoRedemptrix" a stretch. Mary may have had an intimate understanding of the
redemptive work of Christ, and she may have a role as intercessor and prayer
warrior, but it doesnt necessarily follow that she is the Co-Redemptrix. At this point
it is worth explaining that we dont suggest that Marys cooperation with God is
equal to Christs work. It is of a different order, but it is necessary nonetheless.
Mother Teresas words "No Mary, No Jesus" express a profound truth. God chose to
bring his Son into the world through the cooperation of Mary. Without that
cooperation there would have been no Incarnation and therefore no Redemption.
Mother of Sorrows
An Evangelical may accept this in theory, but still may find it difficult to understand
how Mary can be called a "co-redemptrix." It is worthwhile going back to the
mysterious words of St. Paul. In an astounding phrase, St. Paul says that his sharing
in Christs sufferings is actually effective. It completes "what is lacking in Christs
afflictions" on behalf of the Church (Col. 1:24). If he has to complete Christs
sufferings is St. Paul implying that Christs death on the cross was inadequate? Not
at all. Instead, he is teaching that the all-sufficient sacrifice has to be completed by
being preached, accepted, and embraced by our cooperation and that our suffering
plays a mysterious part in this action. In that way the Redemption of Christ is
applied and brought alive in the present moment by our own cooperation in that
one, full, final sacrifice. No one says we are equal to Christ; instead, by grace, our
cooperation becomes a part of Christs all sufficient sacrifice.
If Paul shared in a mysterious way in Christs sufferings, and if by doing so he
shared in the redemptive work of the cross, then it is not too difficult to see how we
are all called to do the same thing. In fact, in Romans 12, Paul exhorts us to do just
that when he says, "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice"(Rom. 12:1). Jesus also
tells us that we must "take up our cross and follow him if we would be his disciples"
(Matt. 16:24).
If Mary was the person who was closest to Jesus, and if she was his first disciple,
doesnt it follow that these truths would also apply to her? This is just what the New
Testament prophesies. When Jesus was presented in the temple, the prophet
Simeon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, told Mary that "a sword will pierce
your own heart also" (Luke 2:35). This verse is the basis for the Catholic
understanding that Mary shared in the sufferings of Jesus in a mysterious way, and
that her sufferings were a part of the suffering he went through.
I remember when a member of our church lost her teenage son in a car accident.
The mothers grief was a terrible thing to see, and it was like a part of her had died
that day. These natural examples can help others to understand why we believe
Mary had an intimate relationship with the suffering of Jesus.

In Westminster Cathedral in London, a beautiful painted crucifix hangs over the

central altar. On the front is a portrayal of the crucified Lord, and on the back is a
portrait of Mary with a pained expression, her arms in the orans position of prayer.
This crucifix illustrates the idea of Mary as Co-Redemptrix. Through her suffering
she identified totally with her son, and by bringing him into the world, enabled the
accomplishment of Redemption.
You Cant Just Throw Me Away!
The Evangelical may accept Mary as vital for the Incarnation and therefore the
Redemption but may wonder why we insist that she has a continuing redemptive
and mediatory role. We believe this because Marys role was not once and done.
Mary did not conceive and bear Jesus, then just disappear. If her action had
meaning, then it was as a continuing relationship with her Son.
Within the New Testament Marys cooperation with God is ongoing. As she
conceived Jesus, Mary began to cooperate with the work of Redemption (Luke 1:38).
She continued to do so as she bore him (Luke 2:7), and went on doing so as she
interceded with him at the wedding of Cana of Galilee (John 2:3). Her work
continued as she attended to him at the cross (John 19:25). As the first Christian,
she kept cooperating with grace by being present at the founding of the Church at
Pentecost (Acts 1:14). She persists in this role as our Mother in heaven today (Rev.
We believe Marys role continues because we insist that she was not simply a
neutral channel for God to come into the world. She engaged with God, and that
matters. Mary was not discarded by God once her purpose was completed. Instead,
her cooperation installs her into an eternal relationship with God for the salvation of
the world.
Theres a memorable line in a movie where a boy is breaking up with a girl, and she
feels used. She cries out, "I am not a tissue! You cant just throw me away!" To have
used Mary to accomplish the Incarnation and then forget about her is to treat her
like a tissue. God doesnt work like that. When Catholics recognize Mary as
Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix, we acknowledge that Gods work in a persons life
transforms them eternally. Mary was given a new name at the Annunciation: Full of
Grace. The new name indicates an ontological change. She was changed into a new
person with a new role forever.
The fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught:
[The] motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from
the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained
without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect.
Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold
intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal
charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded
by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. (Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church, 62)

Understanding Marys role in redemption sheds light on her Son, but it also sheds
light on each one of her Sons disciples. He completed in her what he wants to
complete in ustotal transformation into his image. Your Evangelical brother or
sister may not agree with you that the Mother of God is Mediatrix and Co-Redeemer,
but the proper explanation of the titles should at least give him a new appreciation
of Mary and a new appreciation of the wonders God has in store for each of his sons
and daughters.

Its Not Over til Its Over

By Tim Staples

Romans 5:1 is a favorite verse for those who hold to the doctrine commonly known
as "once saved, always saved": "Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." This text is believed to indicate that
the justification of the believer in Christ at the point of faith is a one-time completed
action. For the once savedalways saved believer, all sins are forgiven immediately
past, present, and future. The believer then has, or at least, can have, absolute
assurance of his justification regardless of what may happen in the future. Nothing
can separate the true believer from Christnot even the gravest of sins. Similarly,
with regard to salvation, Ephesians 2:8-9 says: "For by grace you have been saved
through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of Godnot because of
works, lest any man should boast."
For the Protestant, these texts seem plain. Ephesians 2 says the salvation of the
believer is pastperfect tense, passive voice in Greek, to be more precisewhich
means a past completed action with present, ongoing results. In other words, its
over. And if we examine again Romans 5:1, the verb justify is in a simple past tense
(Greek Aorist tense). And this use is in a context where St. Paul had just told these
Romans: "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about,
but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it
was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Rom. 4:3).
Righteousness is a synonym for justice or justification. How does it get any plainer
than that? Abraham was justified once and for all when he believed. Not only is this
proof of sola fide, says the Calvinist, but it is proof that justification is a completed
transaction at the point the believer comes to Christ. The paradigm of the life of
Abraham is believed to hold indisputable proof of the Reformed position.
Continue in the Grace of God
The Catholic Church actually agrees with this interpretation, at least on a couple of
points. First, as baptized Catholics, we can agree that we have been justified and we
have been saved. Thus, in one sense, our justification and salvation is in the past as
a completed action. The initial grace of justification and salvation we receive in
baptism is a done deal. And Catholics do not believe we were partially justified or
partially saved at baptism. Catholics believe, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:21,
"Baptism now saves you" Ananias said to Saul of Tarsus, "Rise and be baptized,
and wash away your sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). That means the new
Christian has been "washed sanctified [and] justified" as 1 Corinthians 6:11
remarks. That much is a done deal; thus, it is entirely proper to say we "have been
justified" and we "have been saved." However, this is not the end of the story.
Scripture reveals that through this justification and salvation the new Christian
experiences in baptism, he enters into a process of justification and salvation
requiring his free cooperation with Gods grace. If we read the very next verses of
our above-cited texts, we find the writer telling us there is more to the story.

Romans 5:1-2 states, "Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this
grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God."
This text indicates that after having received the grace of justification, we now have
access to Gods grace by which we stand in Christ, and we can then rejoice in the
hope of sharing Gods glory. That word hope indicates that what we are hoping for
we do not yet possess.
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). Without a doubt, we
must continue to work in Christ as Christians; it is also true that it is only by the
grace of God we can continue to do so. But even more importantly, Scripture tells us
this grace can be resisted. Second Corinthians 6:1 tells us that "Working together
with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain."
St. Paul urged believers in Antiochand all of us by implication"to continue in the
grace of God." Indeed, Paul warns Christians that they can "fall from grace" in
Galatians 5:4. This leads us to our next and most crucial point.
Future and Contingent
The major part of the puzzle that our Protestant friends are missing is that there are
many biblical texts revealing justification to have a future and contingent sense as
well as those that show a past sense. In other words, justification and salvation also
have a sense in which they are not complete in the lives of believers. Perhaps this is
most plainly seen in Galatians 5:1-5:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again
to a yoke of slavery. Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ
will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives
circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ,
you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through
the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness.
The Greek word used in verse 5 and here translated as righteousness is
dikaiosunes, which can be translated either as "righteousness" or as "justification."
In fact, Romans 4:3, which we quoted above, uses a verb form of this same word for
justification. Now the fact that St. Paul tells us we "wait for the hope of
[justification]" is very significant. As we said before, what is hoped for not yet
possessed. It is still in the future. Romans 8:24 tells us "For in this hope we were
saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we
hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." The context of Galatians
is clear: Paul warns Galatian Christians that if they attempt to be justifiedeven
though they are already justified in one sense, through baptism, according to
Galatians 3:27by the works of the law, they will fall from the grace of Christ. Why?
Because they would be attempting to be justified apart from Christ and the gospel
of Christ. That they could not do! For "those who are in the flesh cannot please God"
(Rom. 8:8, cf. Gal. 5:19-21). "The flesh" is a reference to the human person apart
from grace.

This example of justification being obtained in the future is not an isolated case.
Numerous biblical texts indicate both justification and salvation to be future and
contingent realities:
* Romans 2:13-16: For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before
God, but the doers of the law who will be justified on that day when, according to
my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.
* Romans 6:16: Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as
obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which
leads to death, or of obedience which leads to righteousness? (Greek dikaiosunen,
* Matthew 10:22: And you will be hated of all men for my names sake. But he
who endures to the end will be saved.
* Romans 13:11: For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
* 1 Corinthians 5:5: You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the
flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Are Future Sins Forgiven?
The Calvinist interpretation of Romans 5:1 not only takes the verse out of context,
but it leads to still other unbiblical teaching. As we mentioned above, at least from a
Calvinist perspective, this understanding of Romans 5:1 leads to the untenable
position that all future sins are forgiven at the point of saving faith. Where is that in
the Bible? Its not. First John 1:8-9 could not make any clearer the fact that our
future sins will only be forgiven when we confess them: "If we say we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful
and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
I should note here that many Calvinistsand many of those who may not be fullfledged Calvinists, but hold to the "once saved always saved" part of classic
Calvinist doctrinerespond to this text by claiming that the forgiveness of sins John
is talking about has nothing to do with ones justification before God. This text only
considers whether or not one is in fellowship with God. And this "fellowship with
God" is interpreted to mean only whether or not one will receive Gods blessings in
this life.
This position presents a problem. The context of the passage does not allow for this
interpretation. In fact, if you look at verses 5-7, John says:
God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with
him, while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if
we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and
the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
This text makes clear that the "fellowship" spoken of is essential for us to 1) walk in
the light as God is in the light, and 2) have our sins forgiven. If we are not in
"fellowship," according to verse 6, then we are in darkness. And if we are in
darkness, we are not in God, "who is light and in him is no darkness" (5). Nothing in
this text even hints at the possibility that you can be out of "fellowship" with God,

but still go to heaven. That is, of course, unless you have that fellowship restored by
the confession of your sins. This is precisely what verses 8 and 9 are all about.
The Example of Abraham
We can agree with our Calvinist friends that Romans 4:3 demonstrates Abraham to
have been justified through the gift of faith he received from God. The Catholic
Church acknowledges what the text clearly says: "Abraham believed God and it was
reckoned to him as righteousness," referencing Genesis 15:6.
There is more to this text, however, than many of our Protestant friends know. While
the Catholic Church agrees that Abraham was justified by faith in Genesis 15:6 as
Paul said, we also note that Abraham was justified at other times in his life as well,
indicating justification to have another.aspect to it. Again, there is a sense in which
justification is a past action in the life of believers, but there is another sense in
which justification is revealed to be a process as well.
Abraham was depicted as having saving faith in God long before Genesis 15:6.
Abraham had already responded to Gods call in Genesis 12 with what is revealed to
be saving faith, years before his encounter with the Lord in Genesis 15. In addition,
Abraham is revealed to have been justified again in Genesis 22, years after Genesis
15, when he offered his son Isaac in sacrifice in obedience to the Lord.
* Genesis 12:14: Now the Lord said to Abraham, "Go from your country and your
kindred and your fathers house to the land that I will show you" So Abram went,
as the Lord had told him. Compare Hebrews 11:6,8: And without faith it is
impossible to please God By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called and he
went out, not knowing where he was to go.
* Genesis 15:4,6: "This man [a slave] shall not be your heir; your own son shall be
your heir." And [Abram] believed the Lord: and he reckoned it to him as
righteousness. Compare Romans 4:3: For what does the scripture say? "Abraham
believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
* Genesis 22:15-17: And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time
from heaven, and said, "By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have
done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you,
and I will multiply your descendents as the stars of heaven because you have
obeyed my voice." Compare James 2:21-22,24: Was not Abraham our father justified
by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? faith was completed by
works You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
The Bible tells us Abraham had faith way back in Genesis 12. And according to
Hebrews 11:6-8, this was not a natural faith analogous to the faith the demons have
(see James 2:19), but rather a supernatural and saving faith given as a gift from
God. If Abraham was not justified until Genesis 15:6, how could he already have
saving faith in Genesis 12? In addition, if Abraham was justified once and for all in
Genesis 15:6, why did he need to be justified again in Genesis 22 according to
James 2:21? The reason is simple: According to these texts, justification is revealed
in Scripture to be a process rather than a mere one-time event.

Did John Write His Gospel?

By Mark Shea

Who wrote the Gospel of John? Certainly not the beloved disciple, according to
"modern scholarship," which claims the book is more or less unhistorical fantasy
written by a pseudonymous author. These critics of Johannine authorship try to
make the case that the beloved disciple was not, in fact, the author of the Gospel
that bears his name.
The "Different Writing Styles" Claim
St. Irenaeus tells us (circa A.D. 180) that the fourth Gospel was written by the
apostle John, the teacher of Irenaeuss mentor Polycarp. Some critics, eager to look
for cracks in the evidence, will note that the Greek of Johns Gospel and epistles is a
different quality than the Greek of Johns Revelation. They say, along with Eusebius,
that Irenaeus might have had his Johns mixed up among multiple individuals. Others
claim that Mark 10:38-39:
But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to
drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am
baptized?" And they said to him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup
that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will
be baptized.
implies that both James and John suffered a martyrs death, contradicting John
But these arguments are weak. To be sure, there is a strain of thought dating back
to Eusebius that John the apostle and John the "elder" may be two different people.
But so what? We know from internal evidence (John 21:24) that more than one hand
was involved in its composition. Given the common use of an amanuensis (a
secretary who took dictation) in the New Testament, that shouldnt surprise us. The
editors of John make it abundantly clear that they have some sort of hand in the
composition of the Gospel, but that the Gospel is nonetheless rooted in the
testimony of the "beloved disciple" whom they know intimately.
The discrepancy in writing styles between the Gospel and Revelation, therefore,
could be due to any number of factors. It may be that John wrote his Gospel with the
help of another person named John (then, as now, a common name). It may be that
he had no amanuensis when he wrote Revelation (which would explain the different
styles and the difference in competence in Greek). None of this disproves the strong
evidence that John bar-Zebedee is the source of the testimony in the Gospel.
Likewise, the attempt to pit Mark 10:38-39 against the testimony of John 21 is what
happens when those who set out to disprove everything in the Bible undertake
biblical interpretation. In their zeal to prove it is not Gods book, these determined
misreaders wind up forgetting that it is a human book using human language. So
the critic sets himself the absurd task of insisting that it couldnt be possible that
Jesus is simply saying James and John are going to endure suffering for his sake, or
that the murder of James would be a bitter cup for his brother John to drink. No,

they have to insist that Mark thinks John was martyred, even though the whole
Tradition of the Church preserves no such tradition at all.

The "Simple Fisherman" Claim

Another criticism of Johannine authorship turns the very sophistication of the Gospel
against it. Some declare that John bar-Zebedee, a mere fisherman, could not have
been an educated, Greek-speaking theological genius and therefore could not have
written such a theologically sophisticated work. Heres the problem: The assumption
that a Jewish fisherman living two thousand years ago couldnt be multilingual, or
educated, or a genius, or a contemplativeor all fouris a fine illustration of what
C.S. Lewis used to refer to as "chronological snobbery." This is, roughly speaking,
the notion that we are, by virtue of our blenders and hi-def TVs, 2,000 years smarter
than people who lived in Jesus time; we are therefore comfortably ensconced on
the final and permanent platform from which to look down on all human history. It is
to forget something a reader of mine puckishly pointed out:
How could John have had time to take these courses, much less pay for them? I
mean, Hebrew and Bar-Ilan wouldnt even be founded for nearly 2,000 years! And
whered he pick up all that theology, if it was John? After all, John was spending all
his free time running around with Jesus, so he wouldnt have had time to study
In other words, in the zeal to argue John was "just" a fisherman, the critic forgets
that Paul was "just" a tentmaker, yet still had plenty of time to get educated. He
forgets that native Aramaic speaker John lived in "Galilee of the Gentiles" and that
the normal lingua franca of a tradesman at this crossroads of various civilizations
was Koine Greek.
But beyond his language skills, the matter of his theological prowess is much more
acuteand surprising to moderns with their limited views of who exactly can be
educated. Johns Gospel makes a rather curious noteand not one anybody would
invent: It says that John was "known to the high priest" (John 18:16). The high priest
is Caiaphas, whom Johns Gospel holds accountable for engineering Jesus death.
Johnthe supposedly ignorant and uneducated fishermanwas known to the most
important theological and political brain in Judea circa A.D. 33. And this strongly
suggests that John may have spent more time in Jerusalem and had more of an
education than we think.
The fact is, most pop-culture images of John come from movies full of humble
fishermen in ragged clothes. But it is quite possible to construct a picture of the
fisherman John from the New Testament which leaves room for a man as welleducated as the tentmaker Paul. Its entirely possible that John studied with rabbis.
Its possible he was familiar with the work of his contemporary, Philo of Alexandria,
who has his own notions about the Logos and its relationship with the word of God.
Its possible that John, after his apostleship began (or even before), was interested
in the philosophy of the pagans. He would have known plenty of them in Galilee of

the Gentiles. Indeed, that may have been exactly what drew him to preach the
Gospel in cosmopolitan Ephesus. Its also possible that John was taught by rabbis in
Jerusalem who were interested in the conversation between Scripture and the
pagan philosophies. All sorts of things are possible. But certainly nothing merits the
claim that there is "absolutely no scholarly evidence" that the Gospel is
substantially the eyewitness testimony of John the apostle.
In sum, if an ancient Jewish tentmaker could be a theologically-well-educated
polyglot, so could an ancient Jewish fisherman. All the evidence we possess
suggests that this is exactly what John was. At most, it suggests that Johns written
testimony was assisted by the work of a more polished writer, who himself insists
that John is the source of what hes writing. Given that there is not a trace of doubt
about this in the early Church, a normal literary historian would take this as very
strong evidence that this is Johns testimony.
The "Why Believe the Bible at All?" Claim
One last stratagem is sometimes deployed by the critic of Johannine authorship. It
goes something like this: Why accept the so-called "internal evidence" of the Gospel
of John when you dont accept the Book of Mormon or the Quran?
That argument would have some bearing on the discussionif we were talking
about a sola scriptura claim for the divine inspiration of Johns Gospel. But we are
talking about textual analysis and historic evidence, not concerning the inspiration
of a document, but concerning the human authorship of that document. It takes
faith to believe that God revealed the New Testament, the Quran, or the Book of
Mormon. But it takes only reason and evidence to believe Mohammed wrote the
Quran, Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, or that John wrote his Gospel. Such
evidence exists both internal to the documents in question and in testimony from
external witnesses. Its how we know Julius Caesar wrote his Gallic Wars and its how
we know John wrote his Gospel.
What lies behind all this criticism is a scenario like this: Long ago, sometime
between Jesus (whoever he really was) and the rise of the "organized Church," some
unknown editors just cooked up a story about Jesus, attributed it to, say, John, and
sent it off to random communities of gullible people. These people naturally
believed without question both that the book was from John and that John was
telling the truth, so they started a Church based on this book. They never bothered
to check up on any of this, because they were 2,000 years more gullible than we
Brights. Nor did anybody from the community where John lived ever say, "Hey! John
didnt write that!" Nor did John himself ever protest that hed written or said nothing
of the kind. Fortunately, Brights are smarter, so these elementary questions occur
to them.
In fact, however, the community, not the book, comes first. The book is the
testimony, not merely of one man, but of the whole Church. The book was believed
because the man was believed. And the man was believed, in part, because he was
not one man (like Mohammed or Joseph Smith) claiming a vision and promising
earthly pleasures and power, but because he is one of 500 people who bear witness
by a life of martyrdom to public events that took place within the living memory of

all Israel (1 Cor. 15:6). Thats the meaning of the endorsement at the end of the
Gospel from the Johannine community: "It is this disciple who testifies to these
things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true" (John 21:24).
It means "You guys in the neighboring diocese down the road know John and what
he has suffered for the Gospel and you know us. We will vouch for the accuracy of
this document."
Thats why Johns Gospel propagated so quickly and was so quickly accepted. Its
also why other Gospels that claimed to be from apostles did not propagate quickly
and were not accepted, because even ancient people did not accept apostolic
authorship just because the document claimed it.
Its also why Gospels written by figures of no importance in the rest of the New
Testament, such as Mark and Luke, were accepted and attributed to them, even
though the documents themselves make no claim to be authored by these men.
Think about it: If you are going to cook up a Gospel, why attribute it to second
The answer is straightforward: The Gospels werent invented by anonymous mythmakers. They are the works of the people to whom they are attributed. The
community remembers who wrote them even when the documents themselves do
not say, "by Mark," "by Luke," or "by John." Thats the scholarly evidence.
Facts Support Tradition
The facts are these: The Tradition of the Church, supported by the unbroken line of
patristic testimony, as well as internal evidence from the text itself, is that the
Gospel is rooted in the testimony of the apostle John, son of Zebedee. Numerous
other witnesses in the second and third centuries corroborate St. Irenaeuss
testimony. In addition, various elements within the Gospel strongly suggest John as
the author. Most obviously, there is the attestation of the witnesses penning the
Gospel that it is the testimony of "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:20)a
disciple to whom no one but John corresponds. The source of the Gospel is, quite
clearly, a Jew familiar with the conditions of Palestinian Judaism at the time of
Christ. He speaks Aramaic and Greek. He knows Jerusalem as it looked before Rome
reduced it to rubble in A.D. 70. And he gives countless details which, if they are not
the testimony of a first-hand eyewitness who was present at the Last Supper, are a
singular occurrence of novelistic realism 19 centuries ahead of its time. That he was
part of Christs "inner circle" of Peter, James, and John (cf. Gal. 2:9) is even more
likely given that he was the disciple at the Last Supper who laid his head on Christs
breast. He cant be Peter, who is distinguished from him in the text, and he cant be
James (who died in the early 40s). So it all points to John. Additionally, the patristic
tradition that the Gospel was composed in Ephesus also points to John. First, this is
the city associated with the Assumption of the Virgin who was commended into his
care. Second, the Gospel repeatedly answers a sect devoted to John the Baptist with
the reply that John "was not the light" but had only come to "bear witness to the
light" (John 1:8). We know from Acts 18:24 and 19:1-7 that there was such a sect
centered in Ephesus. Finally, the sophistication of the Gospel fits the fact that the
New Testament epistle with the most sophisticated exposition of theology is

So all the evidence points to the accuracy of the Churchs tradition that John
published his Gospel in Ephesus in the second half of the first century.

An Inquisition Primer
By Robert P. Lockwood

Catholic urban legends are myths of history created in the fervor of anti-Catholic
passions. Unfortunately, they long ago became part of our cultural framework and
are accepted today as undeniable truths.
Though centuries old, Catholic urban legends usually crop up as rhetorical devices
meant to undermine positions taken by the Church on current public issues. Thats
why Catholics questioning the morality and ethics of embryonic stem cell research,
for example, will suddenly have Galileo thrown in their face. Rather than argue the
issue at hand, those opposed to the Church position dust off a non-historical legend
from the trial of Galileo to make the case that the contemporary Church opposes
any and all scientific advances.
There is perhaps no better trump card in the deck of anti-Catholic urban legends
than "The Inquisition." The Inquisition is raised as banner proof that the Church is
the intolerant, oppressive enemy of modern thought, science, and freedom.
Many people know nothing about what inquisition courts were or what purpose they
served within different societies and at different periods in history. The only thing
they know about the Inquisition is the caricature in Catholic urban legends. This is
frequently the Catholic understanding as well.
Following is a short primer on the Inquisition.
Where did the inquisition courts come from?
From its inception, the Church had to confront those who persisted in representing
their beliefs as Christian when what they said or did contradicted the faith of the
Apostles. Early accounts contained in the Acts of the Apostles and Pauls letters
describe the leadership of the infant church responding to those falsely representing
the faith. We speak today of the primary role of Church leadership in preserving the
Deposit of Faith passed down from the Apostles.
The early Church usually depended on admonition, avoidance and, if persistent,
expulsion from the community for those who persisted in false teaching. As
Christianity became the faith of the Roman Empire and the nascent European
kingdoms, the faith was understood as the fundamental, unifying principle of culture
and community. To step outside that faith was not only viewed a violation of
Christian unity, but also as a fundamental denial of the meaning of humanity and
the right ordering of the world.
To act against "heresy" was not considered enforcing church discipline or imposing
doctrinal conformity. Heresy was seen as an evil that threatened both the salvation
of souls and the very heart of the community. Heresy was not an individual acting
alone; heresy was an attack on the whole community and the whole purpose of life.

It was out of this fundamental understandingshared by secular as well as religious

authoritiesthat society would look for a means to preserve unity of faith and
The difficulty in all this was the states role. While the Church always struggled to
remain free of the control of local secular officials, severe abuses arose when the
Churchs concern for the purity of the Apostolic faith was trumped by the
motivations of secular authorities.
What was "The Inquisition"?
There was never really something we could call "The Inquisition"a clear, unified,
consistent Inquisition functioning throughout Europe and elsewhere down through
the centuries. By definition, inquisitions were local "ecclesial investigations."
Particularly in the beginning, they were investigations and trials conducted or
overseen by the Church through a papal representative, the local bishop, or a
member of a religious order appointed by the pope for the task. These inquisitions
were rarely ongoing, and decades could go by without a given region resorting to
any such trials. In England, inquisition courts waxed and waned; in the German
states they were even rarer.
Inquisitions typically involved a judicial process that aimed at confession and
conversion. Local bishops working with local authorities under local circumstances
usually conducted the inquisitorial courts. Their goal was to secure a persons
repentance for heretical views or for engaging in activities contrary to the faith. If
that goal was not achieved and the person persisted in serious heresy, he would be
turned over to the secular authorities.
The Church conducted the investigations and trials. Punishment was left to the
hands of the secular authorities. In Protestant states after the Reformation, the state
conducted the investigation and trial and imposed punishment.
An inquisition as a formal Church process was not codified until the thirteenth
century. This formal institution was primarily to reserve to the Church the right to
address heresy, as opposed to mob rule and the oft-incoherent secular courts that
had frequently handled heresy over the previous two hundred years. It was a
particular response, however, to the Albigensian Crusade of the early part of the
thirteenth century that led the Church to formalize the inquisition courts.
What was the Albigensian Crusade?
The Albigensian movement in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was a heresy that
grew in southern France. Albigensians rejected the sacraments and believed that
the "evil god" of the Old Testament had created the physical world. In 1208, they
killed a papal representative, and Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) called for a
"crusade" against the heretical sect. Unfortunately, thats what he got. Innocent had
stressed education, confession, clerical reform and solid preaching as an answer to
heresy, but the "Albigensian Crusade" quickly deteriorated into attacks by mobs,
petty rulers, vindictive local bishops, and armies from northern France over the next
twenty years, destroying the Albigensians.

The papacy realized that it had to exerciser greater control over the treatment of
heresy. This would allow for some measure of persuasion and conversion, rather
than prosecution and slaughter by secular courts or mob rule.
In 1231, Pope Gregory appointed the Dominican order to act as papal judges of
heresy and to take control away from the local secular authorities. Over the next
two decades, a series of canonical instructions were drawn up for conducting
medieval inquisition courts.
By the mid- to late-fourteenth century, however, these papal-commissioned
inquisitors had disappeared from many parts of Europe. Inquisition courts
themselves varied in use from prince to prince, kingdom to kingdom over the years.
Though succeeding popes would attempt to exercise some control over these
courts, a vast, papal-controlled singular inquisition never really existed in Europe.
How did these medieval courts function?
The medieval inquisition courts functioned like circuit courts. Sermons would be
preached on the dangers of heresy and the accused was allowed a period of grace
for confession and repentance. Those who refused to recant were tried. Those found
guilty and still refusing to recant would be excommunicated and turned over to the
secular authorities for punishment. For the most part, these courts functioned
similarly to secular courts, but their sentences and penances were usually far less
Did medieval inquisition courts employ torture?
Common to judicial practice going back to Roman times, torture was used at times
to obtain proof of accusations. But, again, the goal was not conviction of heretics
but the salvation of their souls. Very often, the general laity simply wanted the
heretic destroyed, while secular authorities wanted to punish. The courts of the
inquisition hoped to bring the heretic back into the fold, and guidelines were strict
against using torture as punishment. Numerous works of popular art
notwithstanding, no priest or religious was allowed to take an active role in torture.
Although no such action can be justified today, it is important to note that the
courts of the medieval inquisition were actually modifying and limiting a practice
common to secular judicial proceedings of the time. The use of torture in inquisition
courts was much less extensive, and far less violent, than the norms of secular
What "crimes" were tried in courts of inquisition?
Sixteenth-century Protestant reformers propagandized that inquisition courts were
historically aimed at simple, Bible-believing Christians. For the most part, however,
those prosecuted in the courts of the inquisition were not people with any organized
theology of religious dissent. For the most part, they were the ignorant, the
troublemakers, the braggarts and, all-too-often, the drunkards belching out
foolishness when under the influence.

Much like any court today, the inquisition courts often functioned as a form of social
control, aimed at those who publicly lived in a way contrary to accepted norms. In
most countries, those on trial rarely were advocates of a contradictory or heretical
theological system of beliefs. Fornication, adultery, refusal to attend the
Sacraments, and disregard of common devotional practices were the common
practices investigated by the inquisition courts. In fact, in many inquisition courts a
major focus was on clergy living dissolute lifestyles, rather than laity.
Were inquisition courts aimed at scientists?
No. Inquisitions rarely involved themselves in the area of science, despite the wellknown case of Galileo. Most cases involved.aspects of everyday life.
Galileos trial in 1633 created its own wealth of Catholic urban legends, most
notably the idea that the Church stood in oppressive opposition to scientific
advancement. The historical reality was not that Galileo was condemned because
he could not prove scientifically a theory that appeared to violate Scripture, but
rather that he presented that theory as fact in his public writings. Additionally, he
had lectured Church authorities publicly about the true meaning of Scripture.
In fact, the few "scientists" that fell under the courts of inquisition were generally in
trouble because of their attempts to make theological pronouncements, as had
Galileo. Their trials had little or nothing to do with their scientific studies.
Where does the Spanish Inquisition fit into all of this?
The Spanish Inquisition is the source of most of the myths surrounding "The
Inquisition." But the Spanish Inquisition was actually a mid-fifteenth century
adoption of inquisition courts for a very specific political purpose. It was a
government-controlled inquisition aimed primarily at faithful Catholics of Jewish
ancestry. The image of a Spanish Inquisition burnings hundreds of thousands of
Protestant heretics has no basis in fact there were few if any Protestants in Spain.
Though first established with papal approval, the Spanish Inquisition quickly came
to be dominated by the Spanish monarchynot the Church. It had strong and ugly
racial overtones as it was aimed at those of Jewish and, later, Muslim ancestry.
While it certainly was a force that kept Protestant thought out of Spain in the
Reformation and post-Reformation era, the number of those actually prosecuted for
such theological dissent was very small.
The last major outburst of the inquisition in Spain was again aimed at Jewish
converts in the 1720s. The Spanish Inquisition was formally ended by the monarchy
in 1834, though it had effectively ended years earlier.
The Spanish Inquisition became the primary source of the myths and Reformation
propaganda that created the Catholic urban legend of the Inquisition. This is the
urban legend of an all-embracing, papally dominated Inquisition that lasted from the
thirteenth through the seventeenth centuries, supposedly aimed at a hidden, Biblebelieving Church.

This myth of the Inquisition grew out of sixteenth-century Reformation propaganda.

It served as a means to generate anti-Catholic sentiment, particularly during the
revolt of Netherlands against Spain that began in 1548. The myth of the Inquisition
created a black legend that circulated throughout sixteenth-century Europe. It
portrayed Spain as a symbol of repression, brutality, intolerance, and backwardness
for centuries. This image became inextricably tied to the Church in general.
Oddly enough, the building of the myth of the Spanish Inquisition had little to do
with the actual racial persecution in Spain against Jewish converts to the faith. That
real tragedy of the Spanish Inquisition would not be rediscovered until unbiased
historical studies of the late nineteenth century.
If the inquisition was not quite the horror that the Catholic urban legend suggests,
does that mean we should simply ignore it?
Historyand its lessonsshould never be ignored. There can be no denying that
the inquisition courts existed. As described in the papal apology of Pope John Paul II
at the beginning of the New Millennium, "Men of the church, in the name of faith
and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospels in the
solemn duty of defending truth."
The Inquisition is classic proof that the Church includes sinners who do sinful things,
and that good people can make wrong decisions. It is also a classic example of what
happens when those who represent the Church are caught up in the norms and
ethics of the society in which they live. They can far too easily judge the Gospel with
the eyes of culture, rather than the culture by the Gospel.
That said, it also has to be remembered that the Inquisition as presented in the
Catholic urban legend is far from the reality of history. It is unfair to use it as a
cudgel against contemporary Catholic positions, and it is pure bigotry to present it
as a defining element of Catholic faith, yesterday or today.

Hail Mary, Conceived Without Sin

By Tim Staples

Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." First John
1:8 adds, "If any man says he has no sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him."
These texts could not be clearer for millions of Protestants: "How could anyone
believe Mary was free from all sin in light of these Scripture passages? Whats more,
Mary herself said, My soul rejoices in God my savior in Luke 1:47. She clearly
understood herself to be a sinner if she admits to needing a savior."
The Catholic Answer
Not a few Protestants are surprised to discover the Catholic Church actually agrees
that Mary was "saved." Indeed, Mary needed a savior! However, Mary was "saved"
from sin in a most sublime manner. She was given the grace to be "saved"
completely from sin so that she never committed even the slightest transgression.
Protestants tend to emphasize Gods "salvation" almost exclusively to the
forgiveness of sins actually committed. However, Sacred Scripture indicates that
salvation can also refer to man being protected from sinning before the fact:
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without
blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior
through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all
time and now and for ever. (Jude 24-25)
Six hundred years ago, the great Franciscan theologian Duns Scotus explained that
falling into sin could be likened to a man approaching unaware a deep ditch. If he
falls into the ditch, he needs someone to lower a rope and save him. But if someone
were to warn him of the danger ahead, preventing the man from falling into the
ditch at all, he would be saved from falling in the first place. Likewise, Mary was
saved from sin by receiving the grace to be preserved from it. But she was still
All Have Sinned Except . . .
But what about "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23) and "if any man says he has no sin he
is a liar and the truth is not in him" (1 John 1:8)? Wouldnt "all" and "any man"
include Mary? On the surface, this sounds reasonable. But this way of thinking
carried to its logical conclusion would list Jesus Christ in the company of sinners as
well. No faithful Christian would dare say that. Yet no Christian can deny the plain
texts of Scripture declaring Christs full humanity either. Thus, to take 1 John 1:8 in a
strict, literal sense would apply "any man" to Jesus as well.
The truth is Jesus Christ was an exception to Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8. And the
Bible tells us he was in Hebrews 4:15: "Christ was tempted in all points even as we
are and yet he was without sin." The question now is: Are there any other
exceptions to this rule? Yesmillions of them.
Both Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:9 deal with personal rather than original sin.
(Romans 5 deals with original sin.) And there are two exceptions to that general

biblical norm as well. But for now, we will simply deal with Romans 3:23 and 1 John
1:8. First John 1:8 obviously refers to personal sin because in the very next verse,
John tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins . . ."
We do not confess original sin; we confess personal sins.
The context of Romans 3:23 makes clear that it too refers to personal sin:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All
have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even
one. Their throat is an open grave. They use their tongues to deceive. The venom
of.asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. (Rom. 3:1014)
Original sin is not something we do; it is something weve inherited. Romans
chapter three deals with personal sin because it speaks of sins committed by the
sinner. With this in mind, consider this: Has a baby in the womb or a child of two
ever committed a personal sin? No. To sin a person has to know the act he is about
to perform is sinful while freely engaging his will in carrying it out. Without the
proper faculties to enable them to sin, children before the age of accountability and
anyone who does not have the use of his intellect and will cannot sin. So, there are
and have been millions of exceptions to Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8.
Still, how do we know Mary is an exception to the norm of "all have sinned?" And
more specifically, is there biblical support for this claim? Yes, there is much biblical
The Name Says it All
And [the angel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is
with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind
what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid,
Mary, for you have found favor with God." (Luke 1:28-30)
Many Protestants will insist this text to be little more than a common greeting of the
Archangel Gabriel to Mary. "What does this have to do with Mary being without sin?"
Yet, the truth is, according to Mary herself, this was no common greeting. The text
reveals Mary to have been "greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her
mind what sort of greeting this might be" (Luke 1:29, emphasis added). What was it
about this greeting that was so uncommon for Mary to react this way? We can
consider at least two key.aspects.
First, according to biblical scholars (as well as Pope John Paul II), the angel did more
than simply greet Mary. The angel actually communicated a new name or title to
her. (cf. Redemptoris Mater, 8, 9). In Greek, the greeting was kaire, kekaritomene, or
"Hail, full of grace." Generally speaking, when one greeted another with kaire, a
name or title would be found in the immediate context. "Hail, king of the Jews" in
John 19:3 and "Claudias Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greeting" (Acts
23:26) are two biblical examples of this. The fact that the angel replaces Marys
name in the greeting with "full of grace" was anything but common. This would be
analogous to me speaking to one of our tech guys at Catholic Answers and saying,

"Hello, he who fixes computers." In Hebrew culture, names and name changes tell
us something permanent about the character and calling of the one named. Just
recall the name changes of Abram to Abraham (from "father" to "father of the
multitudes") in Genesis 17:5, Saray to Sarah ("my princess" to "princess"), in
Genesis 17:15 and Jacob to Israel ("supplanter" to "he who prevails with God") in
Genesis 32:28.
In each case, the names reveal something permanent about the one named.
Abraham and Sarah transition from being a "father" and "princess" of one family to
being "father" and "princess" or "mother" of the entire people of God (see Rom. 4:118; Is. 51:1-2). They become patriarch and matriarch of Gods people forever.
Jacob/Israel becomes the patriarch whose name, "he who prevails with God,"
continues forever in the Church, which is called "the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16). The
People of God will forever "prevail with God" in the image of the patriarch Jacob.
Whats in a name? According to Scripture, quite a lot.
St. Luke uses the perfect passive participle, kekaritomene, as his "name" for Mary.
This word literally means "she who has been graced" in a completed sense. This
verbal adjective, "graced," is not just describing a simple past action. Greek has
another tense for that. The perfect tense is used to indicate that an action has been
completed in the past resulting in a present state of being. "Full of grace" is Marys
name. So what does it tell us about Mary? Well, the average Christian is not
completed in grace and in a permanent sense (see Phil. 3:8-12). But according to
the angel, Mary is. You and I sin, not because of grace, but because of a lack of
grace, or a lack of our cooperation with grace, in our lives. This greeting of the angel
is one clue into the unique character and calling of the Mother of God. Only Mary is
given the name "full of grace" and in the perfect tense, indicating that this
permanent state of Mary was completed.
Ark of the (New) Covenant
The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant was a true icon of the sacred. Because it
contained the presence of God symbolized by three types of the coming Messiah
the manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aarons rodit had to be pure and
untouched by sinful man (see 2 Sam. 6:1-9 and Ex. 25:10ff; Num. 4:15).
In the New Testament, the new Ark is not an inanimate object, but a person: the
Blessed Mother. How much more pure would the new Ark be when we consider the
old ark was a mere "shadow" in relation to it (see Heb. 10:1)? This image of Mary as
the Ark of the Covenant is an indicator that Mary would fittingly be free from all
contagion of sin to be a worthy vessel to bear God in her womb. And most
importantly, just as the Old Covenant Ark was pristine from the moment it was
constructed with explicit divine instructions in Exodus 25, so would Mary be pure
from the moment of her conception. God, in a sense, prepared his own dwelling
place in both the Old and New Testaments.
1. The Ark of the Covenant contained three "types" of Jesus inside: manna,
Aarons rod, and the Ten Commandments. In Hebrew, commandment (dabar) can be
translated "word." Compare: Mary carried the fulfillment of all these types in her

body. Jesus is the "true [manna] from heaven" (John 6:32), the true "High Priest"
(Heb. 3:1), and "the word made flesh" (John 1:14).
2. The glory cloud (Hebrew Anan) was representative of the Holy Spirit, and it
"overshadowed" the Ark when Moses consecrated it in Ex. 40:32-33. The Greek
word for "overshadow" found in the Septuagint is a form of episkiasei. Compare:
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will
overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God"
(Luke 1:35). The Greek word for "overshadow" is episkiasei.
3. David "leapt and danced" before the Ark when it was being carried into
Jerusalem in procession in 2 Sam. 6:14-16. Compare: As soon as Elizabeth heard the
sound of Marys salutation, John the Baptist "leaped for joy" in her womb (cf. Luke
4. After a manifestation of the power of God working through the Ark, David
exclaims, "How can the Ark of the Lord come unto me?" Compare: After the
revelation to Elizabeth about the true calling of Mary, who was carrying God in her
womb, Elizabeth exclaims, "Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord
should come to me?" (Luke 1:43)
5. The Ark of the Lord "remained in the house of Obededom . . . three months" in
2 Sam. 6:11. Compare: "Mary remained with [Elizabeth] for about three months"
(Luke 1:56).
The New Eve
It is important for us to recall that New Covenant fulfillments are always more
glorious and more perfect than their Old Testament types, which are "but a shadow
of the good things to come" in the New Covenant (Heb. 10:1). With this in mind, let
us consider the revelation of Mary as the "New Eve." After the fall of Adam and Eve
in Genesis 3, God promised the advent of another "woman" in Genesis 3:15, or a
"New Eve" who would oppose Lucifer, and whose "seed" would crush his head. This
"woman" and "her seed" would reverse the curse, so to speak, that the original
"man" and "woman" had brought upon humanity through their disobedience.
It is most significant here to note "Adam" and "Eve" are revealed simply as "the
man" and "the woman" before the womans name was changed to "Eve" (Hebrew,
"mother of the living") after the fall (see Gen. 2:21ff). When we then look at the New
Covenant, Jesus is explicitly referred to as the "last Adam," or the "New Adam" in 1
Cor. 15:45. And Jesus himself indicates that Mary is the prophetic "woman" or "New
Eve" of Genesis 3:15 when he refers to his mother as "woman" in John 2:4 and
19:26. Moreover, St. John refers to Mary as "woman" eight times in Revelation 12.
As the first Eve brought death to all of her children through disobedience and
heeding the words of the ancient serpent, the devil, the "New Eve" of Revelation 12
brings life and salvation to all of her children through her obedience. The same
"serpent" who deceived the original woman of Genesis is revealed, in Revelation 12,
to fail in his attempt to overcome this new woman. The New Eve overcomes the
serpent and as a result, "The serpent is angry with the woman, and went off to

make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of
God, and bear testimony to Jesus" (Rev. 12:17).
If Mary is the New Eve and New Testament fulfillments are always more glorious
than their Old Testament antecedents, it would be unthinkable for Mary to be
conceived in sin. If she were, she would be inferior to Eve who was created in a
perfect state, free from all sin.

Do You Know Jesus?

By Jim Blackburn

Many years ago, before I became an apologist, I was introduced to a Calvary Chapel
pastor who knew that I was a Catholic. As we shook hands and greeted each other,
he asked me enthusiastically, "So, do you know Jesus?"
"What?" I thought. "What kind of a question is that? Jesus lived almost 2000 years
ago, so how could I know him today? I know about him, but thats not the question
Im being askedhe asked if I know Jesus."
At the time I was a young adult, comfortable in my faith but very inexperienced in
discussing it with non-Catholic Christians. If the pastor had asked me something
along the lines of "Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God?" or "Do you believe
that Jesus died for your sins?," his conversation opener wouldnt have seemed so
strange to me. As it was, I simply brushed it off as jargon, replied with a quick, "Yes,
of course," and moved the conversation along to more comfortable dialogue. Later I
would privately scoff at the pastors question and try to figure out just what he
meant by it. Its no surprise that the question sounded awkward to me, a cradle
Catholicwe typically do not use such phraseology in casual conversation. But
many non-Catholic Christians commonly speak of "knowing" Jesus and of having a
"personal relationship" with him. "Do you know Jesus?" is just another way of asking
"Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?" Such an inquiry can lead to
the Catholic being accused of relying on a "religion" rather than a "relationship" for
salvation. Religion is thought to be bad, a relationship good. Do these Christians
know something Catholics dont?
What is "Religion" Anyway?
The American Heritage Dictionarys definition of religion has two parts:
1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator
and governor of the universe.
2. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
Non-Catholics do not object to the "belief" and "reverence" part of this definition; it
is the "system" part which many claim makes religion bad. Specifically, any system
which places an emphasis on certain behaviorsa strict moral code and the
importance of good worksis a system gone astray. In their eyes, were all sinners
and we cannot work our way to heavenonly a personal relationship with Jesus
Christ can accomplish that. "Jesus and me," the saying goes, is said to be all that
matters. All too often a relationship with Jesus Christ can amount to confessing that
he is Savior and little or nothing else. But is this the type of relationship Jesus
expects of us?
Of course, Catholics agree that we must have a relationship with God and that we
cannot work our way to heaven. But we dont agree that our behaviors arent
important. In fact, as we will see, Scripture indicates that, indeed, a relationship
with God calls us to be people of moral behavior and good worksthat is to say,
religious people. Christianity is itself a religion and to be religious means to live

morally and to do good works. Scripture teaches that, in essence, to be in a

personal relationship with Jesus means to be religious.
Scripture Speaks of Religion . . .
There are several Greek words that are translated as "religion" in English, and not
all versions of Scripture are consistent in such translations. So, for the purposes of
this article, well consider the Protestant Revised Standard Version of the New
Testament, which Catholics generally find to be acceptable as well.
The Greek word most commonly translated into English as "religion" is threskeia,
and we find this word used by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles when relating the
story of Pauls testimony to Agrippa. Here Paul refers to Judaism as a religion as he
explains to Agrippa that Christianity is Judaisms fulfillment:
My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own
nation and at Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time,
if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I
have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial for hope in the promise made
by God to our fathers. (Acts 26:4-6)
Paul does not denounce the religion of Judaism here. He clearly recognizes that it is
from this religion which Christianity sprang. And he does not view Christianity as a
new religion but, rather, as the fulfillment of the promise of Judaism. It is a
continuation ofnot a break fromJudaism. And in this continuation it does not
throw off its religious.aspect.
Quite to the contrary, Paul also refers to Christianity as a religion in his first letter to
Timothy: "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was
manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among
the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16).
James, too, speaks of Christianity as a religion, and he provides an example of vain
religion: "If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but
deceives his heart, this mans religion is vain" (Jas. 1:26). He then goes on to
provide an example of what it really means to be a religious Christian: "Religion that
is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows
in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (1:27).
According to James, being a religious Christian carries with it the expectation of
certain behaviors. In this example, visiting orphans and widows are good deeds
works, without question. And keeping oneself unstained from the world is just
another way of describing a moral life. So, James is teaching about morality and
good works heresounds pretty religious and very Catholic.
Paul speaks of religious behavior when writing to Timothy: "[W]omen should adorn
themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold
or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion"
(1 Tim. 2:9-10).

Also: "If a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn their religious
duty to their own family and make some return to their parents; for this is
acceptable in the sight of God" (1 Tim. 5:4).
In these passages we see again that works ("good deeds" and "religious duty") are
expected of Christians.
Finally, Paul discusses hypocrisy within religion:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men
will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their
parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce,
haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather
than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. (2 Tim.
The last several words of this passage are telling: "holding the form of religion but
denying the power of it." Religion is powerful!
So far we have seen that Judaism is recognized in scripture to be a religion as is its
ultimate fulfillment, Christianity. We have also seen what being a religious Christian
looks likemoral behavior and works.
Next, lets look at what Scripture has to say about a relationship with God.
. . . And Knowing God
Christians are often surprised to learn that the word "relationship" does not appear
anywhere in Scripture at all. Nowhere in the Bible do we find the apostles or others
asking the question, "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?" Even
so, Scripture does speak of knowing God and of not knowing him. (I guess that
Calvary Chapel pastor had his terminology right!) In these passages, we discover
what it means to be in relationship with God.
Paul tells the Christians in Galatia:
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by
nature are no gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be
known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental
spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Gal. 4:8-9)
This knowing God and being known by God which Paul writes about implies
In other writings Paul explains more about such a relationship by making definite
distinctions between those who know God and those who do not know God. And
these distinctions are clearly behavioral in nature.

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that
each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in
the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God" (1 Thess. 4:3-5).
Heathens do not know God, Paul says; by implication, Christians do and their
behavior should reflect that, Paul explains. Thus, knowing Godhaving a
relationship with himcarries with it the expectation of moral behavior.
In another letter Paul warns of the danger of denying an obedient relationship with
God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest
with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with
his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know
God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thess. 1:6-8)
Clearly, moral behavior is expected of Christians in relationship with God. But what
about works?
John probably answers this question best when he writes, "He who does not love
does not know God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8). The words translated as "love"
here come from the Greek word agape, meaning the love of others, as in good
works. So, if one does not love others, he does not really know Godhe does not
have the relationship with God that Jesus intended.
Finally, in discussing relationship with God, we see a passage which sounds
strikingly similar to the final one we discussed about being religious: a warning
about hypocrisy. In his letter to Titus, Paul writes, "To the pure all things are pure,
but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and
consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their
deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed" (Titus 1:15-16).
As can be seen from just these few passages, knowing Godhaving a relationship
with himcarries with it the expectation of love for others and moral behavior.
Keep His Commandments
To sum up, Christianity is a religion whose adherents are expected to live moral lives
that include works. And Scripture reveals the very same thing about truly knowing,
or being in relationship with, God. Thus, to know God truly is to be a religious
Christian: Religion and relationship are not separate entitities.
But we did not need to go through this whole exercise to know that Jesus expects
his "friends"those in relationship with himto live religious lives of moral behavior
("keep my commandments") and good works ("love one another"), for Jesus
proclaimed as much himself:
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my
Fathers commandments and abide in his love . . . This is my commandment, that
you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a

man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command
you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master
is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I
have made known to you. (John 15:10, 12-15)
So, do you know Jesus?

How Do We Know Its the True Church?

Twelve Things to Look For
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker
My conversion to the Catholic faith began in the world of Protestant
fundamentalism. After being brought up in an independent Bible church, I attended
the fundamentalist Bob Jones University. While there I became an Anglican; later, I
went to England to become an Anglican priest.
My pilgrimage of faith came to a crisis in the early 1990s as the Anglican Church
struggled over the question of the ordination of women. By instinct I was against
the innovation, but I wanted to be positive and affirm new ideas rather than reject
them just because they were new. I decided to put my prejudices to one side and
listen as openly as possible to both sides of the debate.
As I listened I realized that from a human point of view, both the people in favor of
womens ordination and those against it had some good arguments. Both sides
argued from Scripture, tradition, and reason. Both sides argued from practicality,
compassion and justice. Both sides honestly considered their arguments to be
persuasive. Furthermore, both sides were composed of prayerful, church-going,
sincere Christians who genuinely believed the Holy Spirit was directing them. How
could both be right?
From a human point of view, both arguments could be sustained. This led me to a
real consideration of the question of authority in the Church. I realized that the
divisions over womens ordination in the Anglican Church were no different, in
essence, than every other debate that has divided the thousands of Protestant
Some groups split over womens ordination; others split over whether women
should wear hats to church. Some split over doctrinal issues; others split over moral
issues. Whatever the issue and whatever the split, the basic problem is one of
authority. If Christians have a sincere disagreement, who decides?
Wobbly Three-Legged Stool
Evangelical Protestants say the Bible decides, but this begs the question when the
two warring parties agree that the Bible is the final authority. They eventually split
because they cant agree about what the Bible actually teaches. I had moved away
from the Protestant understanding that Scripture is the only authority, and as an
Anglican, believed that authority rested in Scripture, tradition, and reason.
Anglicans call this the "three-legged stool." By turning to Scripture, tradition, and
human reason they hope to have a secure teaching authority. I came to realize,
however, that this solution also begs the question. Just as we have to ask the
Protestant who believes in sola scriptura, "Whose interpretation of Scripture?," we
have to ask the Anglican, "Whose reason and whose tradition?" In the debate over
womens ordination (and now in the debate over homosexuality), both sides appeal

to human reason, Scripture and tradition, and they come up with wildly different
In the end, the Anglican appeal to a three-legged stool relies on individual
interpretation, just as the Protestant appeals to sola scriptura. The three-legged
stool turns out to be a theological pogo stick.
A Son of Benedict Speaks
About this time I had a conversation with the Abbot of Quarr Abbey (a Catholic
Benedictine monastery on the Isle of Wight). He listened to my situation with
compassion and interest. I explained that I did not want to deny womens
ordination. I wanted to affirm all things that were good, and I could see some good
arguments in favor of womens ordination. He admired this desire to affirm all things
but he said something that set me thinking further:
Sometimes we have to deny some lesser good in order to affirm the greater
good. I think you have to deny womens ordination in order to affirm the apostolic
ministry. If the apostolic authority says no to womens ordination, then to affirm the
greater good of apostolic authority you will have to deny the lesser good of
womens ordination. Because if we deny the greater good, then eventually we will
lose the lesser good as well.
He hit the nail on the head. His words led me to explore the basis for authority in
the Catholic Church. I already had read and pretty much accepted the Scriptural
support for the Petrine ministry in the Church. I also had come to understand and
value the four-fold marks of the True Churchthat it is "One, Holy, Catholic and
Apostolic." As I studied and pondered the matter further, however, I saw twelve
other traits of the churchs authority.
These twelve traitsin six paired setshelped me to understand how
comprehensive and complete the Catholic claims of authority are. I came to realize
that other churches and ecclesial bodies might claim some of the traits, but only the
Catholic Church demonstrated all twelve fully.
It Is Rooted in History . . .
What are the twelve traits of authority, and how do they work? We have to ask what
a group of Christians who were deliberating a difficult matter would need to make
their decision.
First of all, it seems clear that their decision would have to be made from a
historical perspective. It was not good enough to decide complex moral, social, or
doctrinal issues based on popularity polls or yesterdays newspaper. To decide
difficult questions, a valid authority has to be historical.
By this I mean not only does it has to have an understanding of history, but itself
must be rooted in history. In addition, the authority has to show a real continuity
with the historical experience of Christianity. The churches that have existed for four

or five hundred years can demonstrate this to a degree, but only the Catholic (and
Eastern Orthodox) Church has a living link with history that goes back to Roman
timesand then, through Judaism, back to the beginning of human history.
. . . and Adaptable
The historical link is essential, but on its own is not sufficient. Historical authority
has to be balanced with the ability to be up to date. An authority that is only
historical becomes ossified. It never changes. An authority that cannot be up to
date is not only rooted in history, it is bound by history. A valid authority structure
needs to be flexible and adaptable. Christians face complex modern moral and
doctrinal dilemmas. A valid authority system draws on the wisdom of the past to
rule properly on the questions of the present.
It Is Objective . . .
A third quality of a valid authority system is that it needs to be objective. By this I
mean it needs to be independent of any one persons or groups agenda, ideology,
philosophy or self-interest. A valid authority transcends all political, economic, and
cultural pressures. The objective quality of this authority system also allows it to
make decisions that are unpopular or that go against the spirit of the times and
majority opinion.
An objective authority is based on certain universal basic assumptions, immutable
principles, and observable and undeniable premises. From these objective criteria
the valid authority system builds its teaching.
. . . and Flexible
For the authority to be valid, however, it cannot rely on abstract principles and
objective criteria alone. The valid authority is suitably subjective in applying
objective principles. In other words, it understands that the complexities of real life
and the pastoral exigencies of helping real people demand a flexible, practical, and
down-to-earth application. The Catholic authority system does just that. Throughout
the Code of Canon Law, for example, we are reminded that the law is there to serve
the people of God in their quest for salvation.
Individual Christians, or particular Christian groups, often fall into one side of this
pair or the other. The rigorists or legalists want everything to be objective and
"black and white" all the time, while the liberals or sentimentalists want every
decision to be relative, open-ended, and flexible according to the pastoral needs.
Only the Catholic system can hold the two in tension, because only the Catholic
system has an infallible authority which can keep the two sides balanced.
It Is Universal . . .
An authority that can speak to all situations can only do so if it comes from a
universal source. This source of authority needs to be universal not only
geographically, but also chronologically. In other words, it transcends national
agendas and limitations, but it also transcends the cultural trends and intellectual

fashions of any particular time. Every church or ecclesial structure other than the
Catholic Church is limited, either by its historical foundations or by its cultural and
national identity.
For example, the Eastern Orthodox find it very hard to transcend their national
identity, while the churches of the Reformed tradition struggle to transcend the
particular cultural issues that surround their foundation. The national, cultural, and
chronological identities of other ecclesial bodies limit their ability to speak with a
universal voice. When they do move away from their foundations they usually find
themselves at sea amidst the fashions and trends of the present day. They also find
that they lose their distinctive identities when they drift from their foundations. A
universal authority system, on the other hand, transcends both chronological and
geographical limitations.
. . . and Local
However, this universal authority needs to be applied in a particular and local way.
An authority that is only universal remains vague, abstract, and disincarnate. For a
universal authority system to be valid, it also must be expressed locally. Catholicism
speaks with a universal voice, but it is also as local as St. Patricks Church and Fr.
Magee on the corner of Chestnut Street. Not only does the universal Church have a
local outlet, but that outlet has a certain autonomy which allows it to be flexible in
its application of the universal authority. Catholicism travels well, and because of
the universal authority structure, it can allow far more varieties of enculturation at
the local level than churches which are more bound by the time and place of their
It Is Intellectually Challenging . . .
The fourth pair of characteristics that demonstrate the validity of the Catholic
authority system include its intellectual satisfaction and its accessibility. If an
authority system is to speak to the complexities of the human situation, then it
must be able to hold its own with the philosophical and intellectual experts in every
field of human endeavor. What other ecclesial system can marshal experts from
every area of human expertise to speak authoritatively in matters of faith and
morals? Time and again, the Catholic Church has been able to speak with authority
about the spiritual dimension of economics, ethics, politics, diplomacy, the arts, and
This authority must not only be able to hold its own with the intellectual experts in
all fields, but it must be intellectually satisfying and coherent within itself. A unified
and complete intellectual system must be able to explain the world as it is.
Furthermore, this intellectual system must continually develop and be re-expressed
always interpreting ageless truth in a way that is accessible for the age in which it
lives. This intellectual system must be an integral and vital part of the religion, while
also being large enough to self-criticize. Only the Catholic faith has such an allencompassing, impressive system of teaching.
. . . and Accessible to the Uneducated

Nonetheless, while the authority system must be intellectually top notch, the
religious system must also be accessible to peasants and the illiterate. A religious
system that is only intellectual or appeals merely to the literate can speak only for
the intellectuals and literate.
Some denominations appeal to the simple and unlearned, but have trouble keeping
the top minds. Others appeal to the educated elite, but lose the masses.
Catholicism, on the other hand, is a religion of the greatest minds of history and the
religion of ignorant peasants. It is a religion that is complex enough for St. Thomas
Aquinas and simple enough for St. Joseph Cupertino. It has room at the manger for
both the magi and the shepherds.
It Is Visible . . .
As a Protestant I was taught that the Church was invisible. That is, it consisted of all
people everywhere who believed in Jesus, and that the true members of the Church
were known to God alone. This is true, but there is more to it than that. Invisibility
and visibility make up the fifth paired set of characteristics that mark the truly
authoritative church.
The Church is made up of all people everywhere who trust in Christ. However, this
characteristic alone is not satisfactory because human beings locked in the visible
plane of reality also demand that the Church be visible. Even those who believe only
in the invisible church belong to a particular church which they attend every
Sunday. Those who believe only in the invisible church must conclude that the
church they go to doesnt really matter.
. . . and Invisible
The Catholic system of authority recognizes both the invisible dimension of the
Church and the visible. The Church is greater than what we can observe, but the
church we observe is also greater than we think. The invisible Church subsists in the
Catholic Church, and while you may not be able to identify the extent of the
invisible Church, you can with certainty point to the Catholic Church and say, "There
is the Body of Christ."
A few small Protestant denominations claim that their visible church is the true
church, but their claims are ludicrous because they have none of the other twelve
traits of true authority. Because it has all these traits, only the Catholic Church can
claim to be the living, historical embodiment of the Body of Christ on earth.
It is Both Human and Divine
Finally, for the church to speak with authority it must be both human and divine. An
authority that speaks only with a divine voice lacks the authenticity that comes with
human experience. So Islam and Mormonism, which are both based on a book
supposedly dictated by angels, are unsatisfactory because their authority is
supernaturally imposed on the human condition.

On the other hand, a religion that is purely a construct of the human condition is
merely a system of good works, religious techniques, or good ideas. Christian
Science or Unitarianism, for example, is developed from human understandings and
natural goodness. As such, both lack a supernatural voice of authority.
The Judeo-Christian story, however, is both human and divine. The voice of
authority is always expressed through human experience and human history. Divine
inspiration in the Judeo-Christian tradition is Gods word spoken through human
words. This incarnated form of authority finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who
hands on his totally incarnated authority to Peter and his successors.
Built upon the Rock
Some Churches may exercise some of the twelve traits, but only the Catholic Church
is able to field all twelve as a foundation for decision-making. When the Catholic
Church pronounces on any difficult question, the response is historical, but up to
date. It is based on objective principles but applies to specific needs. The Churchs
authority transcends space and time, but it is relevant to a particular place and
time. The response will be intellectually profound, but expressed in a way that is
simple enough for anyone to apply. Finally, it will express truths that are embedded
in the human experience, but spring from divine inspiration.
This authority works infallibly through the active ministry of the whole Church. The
Catechism of the Catholic Church says that it is Christ who is infallible, and he
grants a measure of his infallibility to his body, the Church. That infallibility is
worked out through these twelve traits, but it is expressed most majestically and
fully through Christs minister of infallibility: one personthe Rock on which the
Church is built, Peter and his successors.

Not by Scripture Alone

By Jim Blackburn

In 1947, a group of Christians in Nebraska formed a fellowship known today as the

Berean Church Fellowship. The name of the group is borrowed from the Acts of the
(www.bereanchurchfellowship.org): "Now the Bereans Received the message with
great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was
The fellowships Articles of Faith begin with the following statement: "We believe the
Bible, consisting of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety, is
the only divinely inspired, inerrant, objectively true, and authoritative written Word
of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice."
In other words, the fellowship subscribes to the doctrine of sola scriptura ("by
scripture alone") and believes it patterns itself after the Bereans about which Luke
wrote. Using this verse as evidence against Tradition is not really unusual; in fact,
many sola scriptura adherents quote Acts 17:11 as "proof" that the Bible is the sole
rule of the Christian faith. Some seem to imagine the Bereans to be a group of early
Christians faithfully living according to what the Bible teaches when Paul comes
along claiming to be a teacher. They listen to what he has to say but they also
cautiously compare his teachings to what their Bibles say in order to be sure that
what Paul is saying is authentic Christian doctrine.
Interestingly, though, a closer look at Acts 17:11 reveals that the people of Berea
were not sola scriptura adherents at all. In actuality, they were primarily Jews
converting to Christianity through Pauls use of Sacred Tradition. Heres the verse
within its fuller context:
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when
they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble
than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness,
examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them
therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
(Acts 17:10-12)
Lukes words commend the Bereans for being more noble than the Thessalonians
because they eagerly received "the word." They also examined the scriptures to see
if the word was true. So just who were the Bereans? What was "the word" they
received and what scriptures did they examine?
Before the New Testament
The Bereans, were told, were mainly Jews (and some Greeks), not Christians, and
they even had a Jewish synagogue. The word they received was Pauls teaching
about Jesus?that same teaching which he sums up in his first letter to the
Corinthians, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). The
scriptures mentioned here by Paul are the same scriptures which the Bereans

examined?the Old Testament scriptures. These were the only scriptures of the day,
as no New Testament Scripture existed at the time. Most of the New Testament had
not yet been written and what had been written had not yet been canonized so as
to attain the status of Scripture. What we see here is a group of people being taught
about Christianity by Paul prior to the existence of the New Testament. They eagerly
listened to Paul while examining the Old Testament Scripture.
This all makes sense when we understand this event in its historical context. The
event occurred during Pauls second missionary journey. On his journeys Paul taught
the good news of Christianity as Jesus had commissioned him to do. As a Jewish
convert to Christianity himself, he knew Jewish Scripture well and he knew that it
prophesied about Jesus. He undoubtedly explained this Scripture to enlighten other
Jews about the truth of Christianity. These Jews would have to examine their Old
Testament Scripture to see if what Paul was saying made sense. It did, and many
Jews, including some of the Bereans, became Christians.
Not of Human Origin
Pauls method was one of the ways Christianity was first taught. And Pauls teaching
is an example of what the Catholic Church calls Sacred Tradition.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains,
The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they
received from Jesus teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy
Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament,
and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition. (CCC 83)
Now, sola scriptura adherents are quick to point out that tradition is condemned in
Scripture. Indeed, some forms of tradition are condemned. For example, Jesus
denounced a certain tradition when he said, "And why do you transgress the
commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Matt. 15:3; see also Mark
7:8-9). In this passage Jesus was condemning a particular Jewish practice of
seemingly donating money to God while in reality sheltering it from being used to
care for ones parents. This was a tradition?but certainly not a sacred one?which
broke the commandment to honor ones mother and father. Jesus rightfully
condemned it, but his condemnation was not meant to be applied to every tradition.
Another verse sola scriptura adherents point out is, "See to it that no one makes a
prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition,
according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ" (Col.
2:8). Certainly the Catholic Church agrees with Paul that such human traditions are
to be rejected. But Sacred Tradition is not merely human tradition. It is the teaching
of Jesus and the Apostles guided by the Holy Spirit. It originated with Christ and is
inspired by the Holy Spirit, hardly of human origin.
So, if Scripture doesnt explicitly condemn Sacred Tradition, does it support it? It
seems that since the Catholic Church claims that the New Testament came after
Sacred Tradition, it makes sense that the New Testament would show ample
evidence of Sacred Tradition. In fact, it does. Pauls teaching in Berea as cited in

Acts is one of many places where the New Testament provides evidence of Sacred
For example, Jesus commandment to the Apostles at the end of Matthews Gospel
logically assumes the necessity of Sacred Tradition:
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, and teaching them to obey all that I
have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
(Matt. 28:19-20)
Jesus didnt tell the apostles to write down everything he had taught them. He
simply commanded them to teach it. Much of this teaching later made its way into
Sacred Scripture, but every bit of it was and still is considered Sacred Tradition.
Hold to the Tradition
In fact, we know that not everything Jesus taught was eventually committed to
writing. John tells us as much at the end of his Gospel: "But there are also many
other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that
the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25).
Some of Jesus teachings had not yet made it into written form by the date John
finished writing his Gospel.
Turning to Luke, we see that the author begins his Gospel by explaining why he is
writing it. Luke points out that others have already committed certain things to
writing, and he thinks it is a good idea to write down what his reader has already
been taught:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which
have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who
from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to
me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly
account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning
the things of which you have been informed. (Luke 1:1-4)
Luke, then, commits to writing what has already been taught. That teaching is
Sacred Tradition just as surely as Lukes Gospel will later be recognized as Sacred
Moving beyond the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, we find that Paul provides
even more explicit evidence of Sacred Tradition in his writings. Here are three
* "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the
traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (1 Cor. 11:2).
* "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you
keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the
tradition that you received from us" (2 Thess. 3:6).

* "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught
by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess. 2:15).
In the third verse, Paul speaks of Sacred Tradition as being taught both orally and in
writing. The written teaching would later be canonized as Sacred Scripture, so this
verse suggests how Sacred Tradition preceded Sacred Scripture.
Near the end of Pauls ministry he instructed Timothy to carry on the Sacred
Tradition passed down to him: "Follow the pattern of the sound words which you
have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth
that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us" (2 Tim. 1:1314). Paul went on to instruct Timothy to pass down that Sacred Tradition to others:
"[A]nd what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men
who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2).
Throughout history, the Catholic Church alone has continued to safeguard and teach
the fullness of the Christian faith. This faith is complete only when it includes Sacred
Tradition. The Catechism sums it up well:
This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since
it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through
Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits
to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes. The sayings of the
holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how
its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her
prayer." (CCC 78)
The Berean Church Fellowship and other sola scriptura adherents would do well to
follow in the footsteps of the original Bereans and embrace Sacred Tradition. But of
course the result would be one fewer Christian denomination and thousands more

Why We Are Not Bound by Everything in the Old Law

By Jim Blackburn

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance ask on their Web site

(religioustolerance.org), "If we hold to Leviticus statements as being a blanket
condemnation of homosexuality, do we then also obey the rest of the old law?"
They go on to explain with examples:
* "If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other
duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness
to the wife he has married." (Deut. 24:5). Does ANYONE keep this law? Could you
manage a whole year without a paycheck?
* "Do not hate your brother in your heart." (Lev. 19:17). Dont hate your siblings,
even while growing up, or else you have broken the entirety of the law.
* "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your
beard." (Lev. 19:27). Dont shave! Ever!
It seems that the Ontario Consultants wish to make the following point: Since
Christians do not follow to the letter every one of the 613 laws found in the Old
Testament, we should not expect those who suffer from same-sex attraction to
observe Old Testament laws on homosexuality.
Meanwhile . . .
On another front, the Eternal Gospel Church in West Palm Beach, Florida (a Seventhday Adventist group) takes out full-page ads in newspapers around the country
condemning Sunday worship in favor of Saturday worship. One such ad reports,
"Church officials met . . . to establish Sunday as the official religion throughout all of
Christianity, and to excommunicate and persecute those who kept the seventh-day
This action is then pitted against Exodus 20:10, which requires keeping holy the
Sabbath daySaturdaynot Sunday, the church says.
It seems that the Eternal Gospel Church believes that the early Church had no
authority to designate Sunday as a Christian day of worship when God so clearly
had already set aside Saturday for that purpose. Their stance, in contrast to the
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, apparently, is that at least some Old
Testament laws are binding on Christians.
With all this confusion what are we to do? Scrap all Old Testament laws? Observe all
of them? Pick and choose?
Jesus, the Laws Fulfillment
The answer is: none of the above. Old Testament law, as such, is not binding on
Christians. It never has been. In fact, it was only ever binding on those to whom it
was deliveredthe Jews (Israelites). That said, some of that law contains elements

of a law that is binding on all people of every place and time. Jesus and Paul provide
evidence of this in the New Testament.
Matthews Gospel enlightens us to Jesus teaching concerning Old Testament law:
[A Pharisee lawyer] asked him a question, to test him. "Teacher, which is the
great commandment in the law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your
God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the
great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor
as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."
(Matt. 22:34-40)
In saying this, Jesus declared the breadth of the new law of his new covenant which
brings to perfection the old law. He explained further to his disciples:
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not
to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass
away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men
so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and
teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:17-19)
How could Jesus fulfill the Old Testament law without relaxing it? The Catechism of
the Catholic Church states, "The Law has not been abolished, but rather man is
invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment" (CCC
A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture explains,
The solemnity of our Lords opening pronouncements and his clear intention of
inaugurating a new religious movement make it necessary for him to explain his
position with regard to the [Old Testament law]. He has not come to abrogate but to
bring it to perfection, i.e. to reveal the full intention of the divine legislator. The
sense of this "fulfilling" . . . is the total expression of Gods will in the old order . . .
Far from dying . . . the old moral order is to rise to a new life, infused with a new
spirit. (861)
How Jesus Perfects OT Law
Old Testament law included many dietary regulations which were instituted as a
preparation for his teaching on the moral law. Jesus discussed these laws:
"Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by
going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what
defile him." And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples
asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without
understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot
defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus
he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:14-19)

The Catechism explains, "Jesus perfects the dietary law, so important in Jewish daily
life, by revealing its pedagogical meaning through a divine interpretation . . . What
comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man,
come evil thoughts . . ." (CCC 582). Paul taught similarly concerning other Old
Testament law:
[L]et no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard
to a festival or a new moon . . . These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the
substance belongs to Christ . . . Why do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle,
Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things which all perish as they are used),
according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of
wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body,
but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh. (Col. 2:16-17; 2023)
In this passage we can see that Paul recognized that much of the Old Testament law
was instituted to set the stage for the new law that Christ would usher in. Much of
the old laws value could be viewed in this regard.
Jesus teaching about the Sabbath indicates similar value in part of the Old
Testament regulation of the Sabbath:
Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and
they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they
said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath."
He said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and
those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the
Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him,
but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the
priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? I tell you, something
greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, I desire
mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son
of man is lord of the Sabbath." (Matt. 12:1-8)
Clearly, Jesus indicated that henot the Old Testamenthad authority over the
Sabbath, and its regulation was not as rigid as the Pharisees thought. In fact, once
Jesus would endow the hierarchy of his Church with his own authority (Matt. 16:19;
18:18), regulation of worship would become the domain of the Church.
The Law Thats Rooted in Reason
It is important to point our here that the obligation to worship is something all
people of every place and time can know simply through the use of reason. It is
knowledge built into the human conscience as part of what is called the "natural
law." Paul makes note of such law when discussing those of his own time who were
never bound by Old Testament law: "When Gentiles who have not the law do by
nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do
not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their
hearts . . ." (Rom. 2:14-15a).

The Ten Commandments are often cited as examples of the natural law. Christians
are obliged to follow the laws cited in the Ten Commandments not because they are
cited in the Ten Commandmentspart of Old Testament lawbut because they are
part of the natural lawfor the most part.
Certainly we can know by reason alone that certain actions are immorale.g., to kill
the innocent, to take what does not belong to us, to cheat on our spouses, etc.
Similarly, we can know by reason alone that we are obliged to worship our Creator.
But can we really know in the same way that such worship should take place on
Saturday every week? Of course not! That part of the Sabbath commandment is not
part of the natural law at all but was simply a law imposed upon the Jews for the
discipline of their nation. Other people had the authority to choose for themselves
the time they set aside for worship. For Christians now, it makes sense to do this on
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains,
The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature
in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship
as a sign of his universal beneficence to all. Sunday worship fulfills the moral
command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly
celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people. (CCC 2176)
Old Testament law required, as a discipline, that the Jews worship on Saturday.
Similarly, the Church obliges Catholics to worship on Sunday, the day of the Lords
Like the majority of the law found in the Ten Commandments, the Churchs teaching
on the immorality of homosexual activity is part of the natural law. People of every
time and place can know this through reason alone and are bound by it even
without explicit teaching on it. It wasnt absolutely necessary for God to include
such teaching in Old Testament law, nor was it absolutely necessary to include it in
the New Testament. Even so, the New Testament contains ample teaching in this
regard. (For a fuller treatment of this issue, see "Homosexuality," This Rock, April
The Law That Binds
So, to answer the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance and the Eternal Gospel
Church, Christians are bound to the law of Christ which, of course, includes the
natural law.
Old Testament law contains elements of natural lawe.g., the condemnation of
homosexual activityto which Christians are bound for that reason, not because of
their inclusion in the Old Testament. Christians do not have liberty on these issues.
Also, Christians are not and have never been bound by Old Testament law for its
own sake, and those elements of Old Testament law which are not part of the

natural lawe.g., the obligation to worship on Saturday were only ever binding on
the Jews. Christians do have liberty on those issues.

Jesus Is God
By Tim Staples

The divinity of Christ is an essential teaching of the Catholic faith. Indeed, any
community of faith that would deny Christs deity ceases to be Christian at all. Yet,
not a few quasi-Christian sects do just thatvehemently reject this central teaching.
So how can Catholics present a cogent defense steeped in Scripture and faithful to
magisterial teaching?
Greater Than and Equal To
In John 14:28, Jesus says, "The Father is greater than I." For many, this statement
seems obvious: Jesus is not God. But is this really what our Lord was saying?
In Catholic theology, this text can be understood in two ways. First, being "greater"
than another does not have to mean one is essentially different from the other, as
when we say a man is essentially distinct from an animal. Greatness can refer to
one person functioning in a greater way quantitatively, qualitatively, or even
relationally in comparison to another without there being an essential distinction.
For example, Matthew 11:11 tells us there has never "risen among [men] a greater
than John the Baptist: yet he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than
he." John is not something other than human because he is said to be greater than
certain other people. All human beings share the same nature; therefore, they are
absolutely equal in dignity.
Similarly, the Father can be said to be greater than the Son pertaining to their
relation within the inner life of God, but not with respect to their shared nature as
being fully and equally God. The Father alone is the first principle of life in the
Godhead; thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church can say, in paragraph 246:
"Everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also
eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born . . ." (emphasis added). In
this sense, the Father can be said to be greater than the Son relationally, while they
are absolutely equal with regard to their essence as God.
Anotherand perhaps simplerway one can legitimately interpret this text is to
point out that John 14:28 seems to be emphasizing the humanity of Christ. Thus,
because Jesus is fully man, it would be appropriate to say the Father would be
greater than the Son. The entire verse reads: "You heard me say to you, I go away,
and I will come to you. If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to
the Father; for the Father is greater than I."
Jesus was emphasizing here and in previous verses his impending death,
resurrection, and departure from the apostles. This would apply to his humanity
most particularly. Thus, the same Jesus who can say, "I and the Father are one" in
John 10:30as Godcan say, "The Father is greater than I" in John 14:28as man.
Was Jesus Created?
Revelation 3:14 declares: "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The
words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of Gods creation."

Using these words, Jehovahs Witnesses claim Jesus to be the first creation of
Almighty God and therefore, not God. The only problem here is the actual text. The
word translated "beginning" (Gk. arche) here actually means "source." In other
words, it means "beginning" as in the first cause, not in the sense of being the "first
effect." Arche is used as such elsewhere in the book of Revelation. In chapter 21,
verse 6, Almighty God says: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the
end . . ." Do we want to say God was created because arche is used to describe
him? By no means! Understood properly, Revelation 3:14 reveals Jesus to be the
source of Gods creationGod himself. This fits perfectly with Johns christological
declaration in John 1:1-3: the Word created "all things . . . and without him was
made nothing that was made." If the Word was created, he would have had to
create himself, which is absurd.
Colossians 1:15-17 reveals Jesus as the "first-born of every creature. For in him were
all things created . . . he is before all and by him all things consist." Many make the
mistake of concluding Jesus was created because he is called "first-born of every
creature." One obvious problem here is born and created have very different
definitions. Even when considering natural childbirth, we know a child does not
come into being when he is born, but nine months earlier. Neither would Christ have
"come into being" when he was begotten of the Father. Indeed, when Jesus is called
first-born in Colossians, he is referred to as such before creation and time even
existed. He was begotten from all eternity. As such, he would have never "come into
being." Thus, we say in the Creed, Jesus was "begotten, not made, one in being with
the Father." A second, related problem arises when one considers the title first-born.
Even in its Old Testament usage, this title was not restricted to a sense of time. The
emphasis was on a place of pre-eminence given by a father to his son. Isaac, Jacob,
and Ephraim received the blessing of the first-born though they were not first-born
in time.
But perhaps most important of all is the fact that the text simply does not say Jesus
was created. If St. Paul were teaching Christ to have been created, he would have
then had to refer to Christ as creator of all other things in verse 16, but he did not.
(Jehovahs Witnesses did add the word "other" here in Colossians 1:16 in their New
World Translationto make the text fit their doctrine.) Paul calls Jesus Creator of all
things. Jesus is God.
A Positive Outlook
Some biblical texts positively demonstrate Christs divinity. John 1:1-3, mentioned
above, first comes to mind: "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God,
and the Word was God . . . All things were made by him: and without him was made
nothing that was made."
Jesus (the Word before his Incarnation) is revealed to be "God" and the Creator of all
things that were created. Genesis 1:1 tells us, "In the beginning God created . . ."
The conclusion is inescapable: Jesus is God!
Jehovahs Witnesses respond by claiming the Greek text actually says ". . . the Word
was a god." They maintain Jesus is here revealed to be a god, not the God because

the definite article (Gk. Ho, the) is not used before god (Gk. theos), when referring
to Jesus. This line of reasoning has three main problems:
1. The predicate nominative in Greek normally does not take the definite article. In
this verse, then, the lack of the definite article is grammatically consistent.
According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, we see another
example of this convention in John 8:54, where the predicate nominative is
"Father"again without the definite article preceding (3:105).
2. The JWs are inconsistent. They translate the word theos as "Jehovah," or the
God numerous times in their New World Translation of the Bible when it does not
have the article preceding it (see NWT: Matt. 5:9, 6:24; Luke 1:35, 2:40; John
1:6,12,13,18; Rom. 1:7,17,18; and Titus 1:1, just to name a few).
3. Jesus is referred to as theos with the definite article multiple times elsewhere in
Scripture. For example: "But of the Son he says, Thy throne, O God (ho theos, the
definite article plus theos), is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter
of thy kingdom" (Heb. 1:8). Jesus is not a god here. He is the God: "Awaiting our
blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ "
(Titus 2:13, emphasis addeddefinite article appears in apposition to "great God").
Not only do we see the definite article before theos, but we see the article plus the
adjective great. Jesus is not only the God, he is the great God and our Savior. The
Bible is very clear that only Yahweh is both the great God and our Savior. (See Isaiah
41:4, 43:3,11, 44:6,8, 45:21; Hos. 13:4; and Luke 1:47.) Consider too: Thomas
answered, and said to [Jesus]: "My Lord and My God" (John 20:28). The Greek text
reads "the Lord of me and the God of me." The definite article before Lord and God
leaves no doubt that Thomasdirectly addressing our Lordcalls Jesus both the
Lord and the God.
What Only God Can Do
"And the Lord God (Gk. ho kurios ho theos, the Lord the God) of the spirits of the
prophets sent his angel to show his servants the things which must be done shortly"
(Rev. 22:6). Who is the Lord God who sent "his angel" in this verse? Some attempt
to say this text is referring to the Father rather than Jesus. However, Revelation
22:16, just 10 verses later, reveals to us who "the Lord God" is who has "sent his
angel:" " I Jesus have sent my angel, to testify to you these things in the churches."
Jesus is clearly "the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets!"
In Luke 12:8-9, angels are called "angels of God"; in Matthew 13:41, angels are
called "[Jesus] angels." Jesus and God are synonymous. Jesus does what only God
can do. He forgives sins by his own authority (see Is. 43:25; Mark 2:5-9). He judges
the world in Matthew 25:31-46. This is Gods prerogative according to Genesis 18:25
and Joel 3:12.
Jesus refers to himself with the divine nameI am in several places. This "I am"
formula is a reference back to the Divine Name revealed to Moses in Ex. 3:14. Not
only does Jesus refer to himself as "I am" four times in Johns Gospel (see John 8:24;
58; 13:19 and 18:5-6), but when he does so in John 8:58, the Jews to whom he was
speaking understood his meaning because they immediately wanted to stone him
for b.asphemy!

Jesus places his word on the same level as the word of Godthe Old Testament.
"You have heard it said . . . but I say to you . . ." (see Matt. 5:21-28). This is in sharp
contrast to the prophets of old who always made clear the word they were speaking
was not their own: "The word of the Lord came unto me, saying . . . " (cf. Jer. 1:11;
Ezek. 1:3, etc.). Only God possesses this kind of authority.
Jesus is referred to as "equal" with God by both John and Paul. In John 5:18, the
author comments on why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus: "Because he called God his
Father, making himself equal with God." Paul refers to Jesus when he was "in the
form (Gk. morphe; in Greek usage this word means the set of characteristics that
makes a thing what it is) of God" thinking "his equality with God" not something to
be g.asped onto, but emptying himself and becoming man (cf. Phil. 2:6-10). Paul
assumes his readers already knew Jesus to be equal with God, the Father.
Jesus is referred to in the New Testament with the title Lord as it is uniquely applied
to Yahweh in the Old Testament. Jesus calls himself "the Lord of the Sabbath" in
Mark 2:28. The Sabbath is referred to as the "Sabbath of Yahweh" in the Old
Testament (cf. Ex. 20:10; see also Is. 8:13, referred to in 1 Peter 3:15; and Joel 2:3132, quoted both in Acts 2:20-21 and in Rom. 10:13).
The First and Last Point
The final proof of Jesus divinity we will consider can be found in the last two
chapters of the book of Revelation. According to Revelation 21:6-7, Almighty God
reveals himself to us in plain terms: "And he said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha
and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the
fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this
heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son."
But then, in Revelation 22:6, 13, 16, we find Jesus revealing himself to be "the Alpha
and the Omega . . . the beginning and the end":
And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God
of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must
soon take place . . . I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the
beginning and the end . . . I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for
the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star."
Jesus is God.

How the First Christians Changed the World (and What We Can
Learn from Them)
By Fr. Michael Giesler

A small group of men and women once set its principles of charity and temperance
against the prevailing values of the ageand in so doing altered the course of
civilization. Because the early Christians belief had a specific content of truth and
morality based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, they could not simply go
with the flow. Jesus was both God and man. They could not worship, or pretend to
worship, a mere human being who claimed to be God because he was Caesar. And
this seemed to non-Christians to be an unpardonable stubbornness and perversity.
Marriage and Family Matter
This "stubbornness" was not simply confined to matters of worship. The Christians
family customs were an affront to their pagan neighbors. They would not practice
artificial birth control or abortion (the Greeks and Romans had primitive forms of
these) since they believed in both the sanctity of life and the life-giving process.
Christian couples did not divorce or have sex before marriage because they
believed that sexual intercourse was for marriage only, and that the unity of man
and woman in marriage was sacred and indissoluble: It was a reflection of Christs
own unity with his bride the Church (cf. Eph. 5:25). In an age when any father could
command the death of his newborn child, Christians accepted all children, including
those who were weak or handicapped. In the words of an early Christian testimony,
probably written in the second century:
Christians . . . marry like all others, and beget children; but they do not expose
their offspring. Their board they spread for all, but not their bed. They find
themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their
days on earth, but hold citizenship in heaven. (Letter to Diognetus, qtd. in Johannes
Quasten, Patrology, 250)
Christians even went to the street corners of cities like Rome and Corinth and took
into their homes the infants that had been abandoned there. No wonder the
numbers of Christians spread so rapidly, while the numbers of pagan families
Christians were married in Roman civil ceremonies but believed that they were
receiving a sacrament that bound them to each other in fidelity for all of their lives.
In the words of Tertullian, Christian married couples are people "who sustain one
another in the way of the Lord, who pray together, who go together to Gods table,
and who face all their ordeals together" (qtd. in Henri Daniel-Rops, The Church of
the Apostles and Martyrs, 233).
Certain heretical groups, like the Gnostics and the Encratists, scorned marriage and
children; they considered matter evil and opposed to their intellectual liberation.
They were condemned by the first generation of Christian writers who were loyal to
the Church, particularly St. Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria.

Many Christian women were married to pagan men; these women had a
tremendous capillary effect on pagan society because they raised their children in
the faith and because often their husbands converted. Consider the immense
influence that St. Monica had on her husband and sons, especially Augustine.
Monicas story was lived by thousands of women in many different times and places
for five centuries. As a result Christian marriage literally produced a new race of
people, with a completely different view of life and love, who revolutionized the
ancient world.
Pray without Ceasing
The prayer life of the first Christian disciples was continuous and intense. In part
they shared this with all the ancients, who in general had a much greater awareness
of the sacred and supernatural than people of the modern world, dulled by centuries
of rationalism and empiricism. Christians inherited the Judaic belief in the angels
and spoke of them in a very spontaneous way as frequently acting upon earth and
individuals (cf. Acts 12:15). These spiritual beings provide continual and often
hidden service for leading a virtuous life. For example, The Shepherd of Hermas, an
early second-century document, speaks of the "angel of righteousness" guiding
every person (Bk. II, Command. 6, 2). The Christians prayed to the saints and
venerated their relics and place of burial, believing in their intercessory power
before God. They did so with a firm conviction that all of them, living or deceased,
were united in the one Body of Christ.
The desire for Gods constant presence also applied to their daily work and other
activities. St. John Chrysostom, writing in the fourth century, described the
conversion of a Christians work into prayer in this way:
A woman busy in her kitchen, or sewing some cloth can always lift her thoughts
to heaven and invoke the Lord with fervor. One who goes to the market or travels
alone can easily pray attentively. Another in his wine cellar, busy sewing wineskins,
is free to raise his heart to the Master . . . No place is lacking in decorum for God.
(4th Homily on Anna, Mother of the Prophet Samuel, 6)
The historical and spiritual root of this attitude is the life of Christ himself, who had
spoken many times in his parables of ordinary life and its intimate connection to the
kingdom of God. Jesus, too, led a life of humble labor. In his hometown of Nazareth
he was simply known as "the carpenter, the son of Mary" (Mark 6:3).
Be in the World, Not of It
We see no evidence in the earliest centuries of Christianity of any desire to leave
the world. Instead, they considered it a mandate of Christ to change the society
around them. As Jesus said to his followers: "I do not pray that you take them out of
the world, but that you keep them from evil" (John 17:15). They lived the mandate
given by Christ to his apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations"
(Matt. 28:19). After converting, they remained where they were, with their families
and their occupations, and if they were slaves, with their masters. Except for their
clean living and charity, they distinguished themselves in no way from their
neighbors. As one second-century document puts it:

Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by either country,
speech, or customs; the fact is, they nowhere settle in cities of their own; they use
no particular language; they cultivate no eccentric mode of life . . . To say it briefly:
What the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world. The soul is spread
through all the members of the body, and the Christians throughout the cities of the
world. (Letter to Diognetus, qtd. in Quasten, Patrology, 250-251)
Not until the end of the third century do we see the beginnings of the monasticism
among some people in the Church: that of leaving the world in a permanent way in
order to pray or give oneself to God.
See How They Love One Another
Above all, the early followers of Christ showed an understanding and kindness to
one another and to non-Christians that astounded the ancient worlda world often
constructed on power, money, and cruelty. Though there were noble pagans who
believed in personal discipline and stoic acceptance of adversity, their virtue was
based on human efforts alone and often led to a feeling of sterility and helplessness.
(See "Suffering and Death Have Meaning," right.)
But Christian fortitude had a twofold source. First, Christians were aware of the
grace that came to them from baptism, a grace which made them children of God
and gave them a power not dependent on human efforts or lineage (cf. John 1:12).
Second, they shared the conviction that no Christian was isolated from another and
that all of themwhether rich or poor, noble or slave, educated or uneducated
were equally loved and valued by Jesus Christ. Together the communities formed
what the Catholic Church would later call the Mystical Body of Christ, in which each
member, no matter how small, had an important contribution to make. This desire
for unity in both joys and sorrows meant that Christians were unafraid even to die
for another or with anotheras in the famous case of the Martyrs of Sebaste, where
40 Roman soldiers died together in a frozen lake to seek 40 crowns from Christ the
The best of pagans, such as Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, treated their slaves with
respect and humanityeven giving them their freedom upon occasionbut the
followers of Christ went much further than that. We can see this in the Letter of Paul
to Philemon, where he entreats his friend to accept the return of the runaway slave
As a result, "See how they love one another" was the continual astonished cry of the
pagans around them. This charity, or agape, the reality of "being one body in Christ"
was rooted in the Eucharist. Instituted at the Last Supper, it united the entire
community in Jesus sacrifice; it was in his body and blood that they found hope and
strength. (See "We Cannot Live without the Eucharist," page 10.)
Put to Death Desires of the Flesh

Those of the Way (an early name for Christians) did not go to the gladiatorial games
or to the extravagant parties held by their countrymen, which often included
drunkenness and sexual immorality. And the Christians moral steadfastness, along
with their refusal to offer incense to Caesars statue, made them despised and
persecuted. They were called "obstinate and superstitious," and all kinds of strange
tales were fabricated about them: that they ate their own children, that they
worshipped a man with a donkeys head on a cross, that they turned out the lights
in their gatherings and did immoral things. (This last story began probably because
many Christians attended a vigil service on Saturday evenings as a way to prepare
for the celebration of Jesus Resurrection the next day.)
Many communities of Christians were inspired by the words of Paul to the Romans:
"[I]f you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death
the desires of the body you will live" (Rom. 8:13). That strong term "put to death"
was translated later in Latin as mortificare, from which we derive the word
mortification. As Christs first followers were so close chronologically to his death,
they desired to experience his death in their lives and so to share in his triumph
forever. "For you have died," Paul wrote, "and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, your life, shall appear, then you too will appear with him in glory" (Col.
Consequently, the first men and women disciples offered many voluntary sacrifices
and penances. Catechumens preparing for baptism would fast for 40 days in
imitation of Christs fast in the desert before his public ministrythe origin of the
observance of Lent. Other days of special fasting called Ember Days were
prescribed for Christians in Rome during June, September, and December, in
preparation for the great feasts of Pentecost, the Exaltation of the Cross, and
Because they valued so greatly what conversion and baptism had done for them,
the Christians penances for the sacrament of reconciliation were severe by modern
standards. Absolution for grave sins could be preceded by long periods of fasting
and wearing sackcloth.
Early believers also may have used many personal means of mortification, but we
have no historical record because a key element of mortification is that it should be
private (except in the case of public sinners seeking pardon). Jesus exhorted his
followers to personal, hidden mortification in Matthew 6:16-18, where he states that
mortification unseen to men is more pleasing to God: "Your Father who sees in
secret will reward you." For instance, the use of hair shirts, inspired by Old
Testament heroes and by St. John the Baptist, dates back to the most ancient days
of the Church, when they were worn by both priests and laity. Sts. Jerome,
Athanasius, and John Damascene all bear witness to this practice. The hair shirt,
and its later form, the cilice, continued to be worn in succeeding centuries by
Christian laymen and members of religious orders.
Rejoice in Divine Filiation
In a tired and sad ancient world, burdened by skepticism, the early Christians were
noted for their joy. This joy was essential for the Christian revolution: No pagan

religion could match the sheer happiness of the followers of Christ. It was not a
superficial or giddy kind of contentment, but a deep conviction that they were
daughters and sons of God. Even though they could be killed at any time, they
should not be afraid of anything or anyone. At the root of that conviction lay the
power of baptism and sacramental life, which inserted them into the very life of
Gods Son.
In the prologue to his Gospel, written towards the end of the first century, John
expressed how this deep relationship gives meaning and hope to Christian lives:
"But to as many as received him he gave the power of becoming sons of God: to
those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the
flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). The first Christians dignity
and hope, therefore, did not lie in their social status, wealth, or family connections
many Christians were slaves or shopkeepersbut in their personal relationship with
Christ, who introduced them to the glory of his Father and the love of the Holy Spirit.
Through this personal relationship they experienced an interior freedom and
confidence which gave them both hope and joy. "Now you have not received a spirit
of bondage so as to be again in fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as
sons" (Rom. 8:15).
To non-Christians this behavior seemed to be a kind of madness; they could not
understand its cause, nor its ultimate meaning. To many pagan philosophers, such
as the Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius, it was troubling. Yet as the years went by, this
new way of thinking and actingthis new way of beingslowly changed the ancient

The Church Is Young

What can we say about Christianity both from a historical and prophetic point of
view as we look towards the future? The Acts of the Apostles was written within 50
years of Christs death. It attests that the Holy Spirit, beginning at Pentecost,
performed wonders in human lives. In the two centuries following Pentecost, the
pattern and model for the Church was established for all times, in the life,
sufferings, hopes, and joys of those first generations of Christian men and women.
We have no reason to doubt that the Holy Spirit continues to work in the Church,
giving her a perennial youthfulness. We experienced a hint of the unity and
gladness of those first enthusiasts for Christ in very recent times, in the days
surrounding the passing of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
There was, as one person put it, a kind of "electricity" in the air.
The early Christians had an interior liveliness and hope that transformed the world.
There is good reason to believe that could happen again in our 21st-century world.
Perhaps it is already happening. Pope Benedict seemed to imply as much in his April
2005 inaugural homily. "Yes the Church is alive," he said, "this is the wonderful
experience of these days . . . And the Church is young. She holds within herself the
future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way toward the future."

"Born Again" the Bible Way

By Tim Staples

"Have you been born again, my friend?" Thousands of Catholics have been asked
this question by well-meaning Fundamentalists or Evangelicals. Of course, by "born
again" the Protestant actually means: "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your
personal Lord and Savior through the recitation of the sinners prayer?" How is a
Catholic to respond?
The simple response is: "Yes, I have been born againwhen I was baptized." In fact,
Jesus famous "born again" discourse of John 3:35, which is where we find the
words "born again" in Scripture, teaches us about the essential nature of baptism:
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot
see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he
is old? Can he enter a second time into his mothers womb and be born?" Jesus
answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he
cannot enter the kingdom of God.
When a Fundamentalist or Evangelical hears the Catholic position on the matter, the
response is mostly predictable: "Baptism does not save you, brother; John 3:5 says
we must be born of water and the Spirit." The Catholic will then be told the "water"
of John 3:5 has nothing to do with baptism. Depending on the preference of the one
to whom the Catholic is speaking, the "water" will either be interpreted as mans
natural birth (the "water" being amniotic fluid), and "the Spirit" would then
represent the new birthor the water would represent the word of God through
which one is born again when he accepts Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior.
Amniotic Fluid vs. Baptismal Water
To claim that the "water" of John 3:5 is amniotic fluid is to stretch the context just a
smidgen! When we consider the actual words and surrounding context of John 3, the
waters of baptism seem to be a more reasonable interpretation of what it means to
be "born again." Consider these surrounding texts:
* John 1:3134: Jesus was baptized. If you compare the parallel passage in
Matthews Gospel (3:16), you find that when Jesus was baptized, "the heavens were
opened" and the Spirit descended upon him. Obviously, this was not because Jesus
needed to be baptized. In fact, John the Baptist noted that he needed to be baptized
by Jesus (see Matt. 3:14). Jesus was baptized in order "fulfill all righteousness" and
"to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins" (cf.
Matt. 3:15; Luke 1:77). In other words, Jesus demonstrably showed us the way the
heavens would be opened to us so that the Holy Spirit would descend upon us
through baptism.
* John 2:111: Jesus performed his first miracle. He transformed water into wine.
Notice Jesus used water from "six stone jars . . . for the Jewish rites of purification."
According to the Septuagint as well as the New Testament these purification waters
were called baptismoi (see Num. 19:919; cf. Mark 7:4). We know that Old
Testament rites, sacrifices, etc. were only "a shadow of the good things to come"

(Heb. 10:1). They could never take away sins. This may well be why John specifies
"six" stone jarsto denote imperfection, or "a human number" (cf. Rev. 13:18). It is
interesting to note that Jesus transformed these Old Testament baptismal waters
into winea symbol of New Covenant perfection (see Joel 3:18; Matt. 9:17).
* John 3:22: Immediately after Jesus "born again" discourse to Nicodemus, what
does he do? He baptizes. This is the only time in Scripture we find Jesus actually
* John 4:12: Jesus disciples then begin to baptize at Jesus command. (Note:
John 4:12 appears to be a further clarification of 3:22. But it is unclear. It appears
to say that Jesus only baptized his disciples and then they baptized everyone else.
Some hold it to say Jesus never baptized at all.)
In summary, Jesus was baptized, transformed the "baptismal" waters, and then
gave his famous "born again" discourse. He then baptized before commissioning the
apostles to go out and baptize. To deny Jesus was teaching us about baptism in John
3:35 is to ignore the clear biblical context.
Moreover, John 3:5 is not describing two events; it describes one event. The text
does not say "unless one is born of water and then born again of the Spirit . . . " It
says "unless one is born of water and Spirit . . ." If we hearken back to the Lords
own baptism in John 1 and Matthew 3, we notice that when our Lord was baptized,
the Holy Spirit descended simultaneously upon him. This was one event, involving
both water and the Spirit. And so it is with our baptism. If we obey God in being
baptizedthats our part of the dealwe can count on God to "open the heavens"
for us concurrently and give us the Holy Spirit.
And finally, it would be anachronistic to read into Jesus use of "water" to mean
physical birth in Johns Gospel. In fact, John had just used a word to refer to physical
birth in John 1:1213, but it wasnt "water:" "But to all who received him, who
believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not
of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
John here tells us that we are not made children of God by birth ("of blood"), or by
our own attempts whether they be through our lower nature ("of the flesh") or even
through the higher powers of our soul ("the will of man"). Rather, we must be born
of God, or by Gods power. Notice John refers to natural birth colloquially as "of
blood," not "of water."
Washing of Water by the Word
It is perhaps an even greater stretch to claim that the "water" of John 3:35
represents the word of God. At least with the amniotic fluid argument, you have
mention of "birth" in the immediate context. However, a Protestant will sometimes
refer to Ephesians 5:2526 and a few other texts to make this point: "Husbands,
love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he
might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . ."

"See?" he may say, "The washing of water is here equated to the word that
cleanses us." If you couple this text with Jesus words in John 15:3"You are already
made clean by the word which I have spoken to you"the claim is made, "the
water" of John 3:5 would actually refer to the word of God rather than baptism. And
finally, he might add Romans 10:910 to the mix: "That if thou shalt confess with
thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him
from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto
righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (KJV).
Though John 3:35 does not explicitly say man is born again by accepting Jesus,
some Protestants connect all of these verses together and conclude that the Bible
teaches we are saved or "born again" by professing faith in Jesus, not through
The Catholic Response
Both Catholics and Protestants agree that the word of God is said to "save us" and
"cleanse us" inasmuch as it is an instrument used by God to bring his salvation to
us that he won for us on the cross. Catholics and Protestants also agree, however,
that more is needed than just the word of God for man to be saved. For Protestants,
the salvation promised by Gods word is communicated through the individual
profession of faith, so that is when a man is "born again." For Catholics, it is through
faith and baptism; more specifically, it is through baptism that a man is "born
again." The question is: What does the Bible say?
First, confessing Christ is certainly an essential part of the process of salvation.
Romans 10:910 clearly teaches the one who believes and confesses his faith in
Christ will be saved. But it is important to note that Scripture uses this same word
salvationin various forms to describe many other things man must do in order "to
be saved." The one who "believes and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). The
one who "endures to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22). Indeed, the very same
words used by Paul in Romans 10:10, translated as "unto salvation" in the DouayRheims Bible (Greek eis soterian), are used to teach Christians we must ". . . long
for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2). They
are also used to challenge Christians to repent of their sins: "For godly grief
produces a repentance that leads to salvation" (2 Cor. 7:10). The fact that we must
repent, be baptized, grow, confess Christ, and endure until the end in order to be
saved indicates salvation is a process. There is no doubt that Paul was speaking of
part of this process in Romans 10:910. However, there is nothing in that text that
would lead us to believe he is speaking of how a person is born again.
This leads us to the most important point. Both Catholics and Protestants agree that
Jesus wordsunless one is born anew (or, again)speak of mans initial entrance
into the body of Christ through Gods grace. The texts mentioned above by
Protestants do not necessarily refer to the initial grace of salvation. What does the
Bible teach is the instrument whereby one first enters into Christ? This would be
precisely what we are talking about when we speak of being "born again." The good
news is Scripture makes it abundantly clear: We are incorporated into the Body of
Christ through baptism.

* Romans 6:34: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into
death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we
too might live in newness of life.
* Galatians 3:27: For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed
yourselves with Christ.
* 1 Corinthians 12:13: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one bodyJews
or Greeks, slaves or freeand all were made to drink of one Spirit (see also Mark
16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and Col. 2:1113).
If baptism is the way the unsaved are brought into Christ, no wonder Christ spoke of
being "born of water and spirit." Baptism is the instrument of new birth according to
the New Testament.
Spirit vs. Water
Many Fundamentalists will claim we are confusing spiritual baptism with water
baptism. Again, they would say, water baptism does not save you. And they will
often point to 1 Corinthians 12:13, quoted above, to "prove" their point. Notice, they
say, the text teaches it is the Spirit who baptizes us into Christ, not a man!
The Catholic Church agrees that it is the Holy Spirit incorporates us into Christ, just
as it is the Holy Spirit who "convince[s] the world of sin and of righteousness and of
judgment," according to John 16:8. But the Holy Spirit uses human instruments to
convey the message. "How shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). The
Bible certainly teaches that baptism is the Holy Spirits instrument to bring
humanity into the Body of Christ as we have seen. But because God uses human
beings to baptize, this does not mean it is any less the work of the Spirit through
As far as baptism saving us, the Bible could hardly be plainer. In Acts 2:38, St. Peter
declared: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for
the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." In Acts
22:16, Ananias announced to St. Paul who had already professed faith in Jesus as
Lord in verse 10: ". . . rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his
name." And 1 Peter 3:2021 records these plain words: ". . . in the days of Noah
during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved
through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal
of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ." According to the Bible, baptism is not the mere
removal of dirt from the body, but Christs instrument in purging our conscience
from sin. That is what being "born-again" is all about!

Is It a Doctrine or a Discipline?
By Jim Blackburn

As a volunteer in my kids confirmation class, I was disappointed to discover

recently that one of the classs textbooks included in its definition of "doctrine" the
notion that doctrines "could possibly change." Properly explained, this notion would
have been acceptable. For example, the book might have clarified that doctrines
can and do develop over time, but they do not change in the sense that the Church
flip-flops on issues. Unfortunately though, not only did it not make such a
clarification, the book cited as an example of a changeable doctrine that "women
cannot be priests in the Catholic Church."
Of course, Catholics in the know recognize the absurdity of this. Not only did Pope
John Paul II address this doctrine in his 1994 Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,
Pope Benedict XVI (Cardinal Ratzinger at the time) attested to the certitude of the
doctrine that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination
on women in his Responsum ad Dubium on Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in 1995: "This
teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and
from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church,
it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium . . ."
Could it be that the author of the confirmation textbook mistakenly believed this
issue to be a practice imposed by the Churchnot really a doctrine at all?
In contrast to the doctrine of male ordination is the often-misunderstood practice of
celibacy in the priesthood. It is widely known that, in general, only men who are
willing to commit to lifelong celibacy are selected for ordination to the priesthood
throughout most of the Catholic Church. As an apologist, I often find it necessary to
explain that priestly celibacy is not a doctrine of the Church. To the contrary: It is
more accurately described as a discipline. And, as such, it could theoretically
changethe Church could choose to ordain married men.
Whats the Difference?
When discussing our Catholic faith, we must understand the difference between
doctrine and discipline and be able to distinguish which of the two any particular
matter may be.
Our Sunday Visitors Catholic Encyclopedia defines "discipline" as an "instruction,
system of teaching or of law, given under the authority of the Church [which] can be
changed with the approval of proper authority, as opposed to doctrine, which is
unchangeable" (334).
Discipline, then, is man-made and can be changed as often as the Church desires.
This is not to say that the authority to enact discipline is man-made. In fact,
Scripture itself records the Churchs God-given authority to enact discipline:
"[W]hatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on
earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 18:18; see also 16:19). Now, this power to
bind and to loose extends beyond discipline, but it certainly includes the authority
to enact discipline as well.

Doctrine, on the other hand, is the teaching of the Church on matters of faith and
morals. All such teachingor at least the basis for itwas handed down to the
Church by Jesus and the apostles prior to the death of the last apostle. Scripture
refers to doctrine as "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude
1:3). As mentioned before, doctrine can develop over time as the Church comes to
understand it betterbut it cannot change. No onenot even the popehas the
authority to change doctrine.
Subject to Future Change
That the Church possesses both doctrines and disciplines might seem simple
enough on the surface; however, distinguishing between the two is not always a
simple taskeven when discussing matters with fellow Catholics. The poorly chosen
example in the confirmation textbook shows just how difficult.
Another common example within the Church today concerns the changes to the way
the Mass is celebrated that were promulgated by Pope Paul VI in the late 1960s.
There are some today who question the popes authority to institute the liturgical
changes he did because they claim that in 1570, Pope St. Pius V defined certain
elements of the Masss celebration as doctrine. Pius directives were promulgated
"in perpetuity" and are said by some to be unchangeable doctrine.
In actuality, Pius Vs Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum concerned disciplinary
matters, not teachings on faith or morals. Evidence of this is that teaching on faith
or morals would notindeed, could notallow for such exceptions as "unless
approval of the practice of saying Mass differently was given" or "unless there has
prevailed a custom of a similar kind" or "We in no wise rescind their abovementioned prerogative or custom." Such matters of Church discipline always remain
subject to future change by equal or greater authority. In light of this, wording such
as "in perpetuity" must be understood as "from now on, until this or another equal
or greater authority determines otherwise." Pope Paul VI certainly held equal
authority to that of Pope St. Pius V. Therefore, changes to the Mass under his
authority were licit and valid and were an example of disciplinary changes, not
doctrinal changes.
If doctrinal and disciplinary matters can be so confusing among Catholics who have
the tri-part authority of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium to
guide us, how much more confusing must such matters be for our non-Catholic
brothers and sisters who rely entirely on their own interpretations of Scripture
Sola Scriptura Blurs the Distinction
Lets go back to the question of priestly celibacy. As Catholics, we know this practice
to be a matter of discipline, not doctrine. But non-Catholics often fail to understand
the concept of discipline and unwittingly think we believe priestly celibacy to be a
doctrine of our faith, and so they cite Scripture to prove that such a "doctrine" is

The following two Bible verses are often raised: "Now a bishop must be above
reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt
teacher" (1 Tim. 3:2, emphasis added). And "Let deacons be the husband of one
wife, and let them manage their children and their households well" (1 Tim. 3:12,
emphasis added).
Many non-Catholics interpret these verses so literally as to mean that bishops and
deaconsand priests for that mattermust be married. Scripture plainly says so!
But such verses are of little consequence when one understands that priestly
celibacy is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. Scripture doesnt explicitly tell us
that, but it doesnt have to. Catholics do not rely on Scripture alone for settling such
matters. But its easy to see how those who do might come to erroneous
conclusions. This is a good example of why we should heed Peters warning about
Pauls letters: "There are some things in them hard to understand, which the
ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other
scriptures" (2 Pet. 3:16).
No Answers at Bible Study
I once attended a non-Catholic Bible study where this lack of understanding was
abundantly evident. (I dont often attend non-Catholic Bible studies, nor I do
encourage other Catholics to do so.) A woman asked a pointed question that the
leaders of the Bible study were at a loss to answer: "Why are women allowed to
speak in our church?"
She went on to quote the following passages:
* As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the
churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even
the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at
home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Cor. 14:33-35)
* [I]n every place the men should pray . . . Let a woman learn in silence with all
submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is
to keep silent. (1 Tim. 2:8,11-12)
To them Scripture seemed clear enough: Women are to keep silent in church. This,
naturally, led to discussion of other biblical "teachings" about women:
* Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold,
and wearing of fine clothing. (1 Pet. 3:3)
* [W]omen should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel,
not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire. . . (1 Tim. 2:9)
* [A]ny woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her
headit is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself,
then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or
shaven, let her wear a veil. (1 Cor. 11:5-6)
It seemed reasonable for the participants to conclude that women who recognize
solely the authority of Scripture are morally prohibited from braiding their hair,

wearing jewelry, and wearing fine clothing. They are morally obliged to wear a veil
when prayingor else shave their heads.
As the leader was at a loss to explain why their church did not teach these
doctrines, I pointed out that, as a Catholic, I recognize that it is sometimes
necessary to look beyond Scripture for an understanding of such passages. The
cases cited were not really doctrines at all, but rather disciplines, which could (and
would) later be changed. But looking outside Scripture for an explanation requires
the recognition of such authorities as Sacred Tradition and Magisterial teaching,
neither of which were welcome in their church.
Authority Delineates Discipline
A similar problem arises when one considers the dictates of the Council of Jerusalem
as recorded in the Book of Acts. Paul and Barnabas, having been confronted in
Antioch with an argument between Jewish converts and Gentile converts about
whether the Gentiles must observe certain Jewish laws (especially concerning
circumcision), went to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the other apostles. The
council concluded with the following statement in a letter: "[I]t has seemed good to
the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary
things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and
from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you
will do well" (Acts 15:28-29).
Here we have what seems to be the apostles teaching, at a Church council, under
the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that it is immoral, among other things, to consume
blood or to eat the meat of an animal which has been strangled. Yet, how many
Christians are cautious enough to be certain that their food does not contain blood
or that the animal they are consuming was not killed by strangulation? Doesnt their
Bible teach that they should?
They have unknowingly subscribed to the idea that the apostles imposed these
requirements as disciplines which could later be changed.
Other examples could be cited, but the point is clear: Scripture itself is not always
sufficient to distinguish between authentic Christian doctrine and authoritatively
imposed discipline. Quite simply, the Bible is not the single-source answer to all
questions concerning the Christian faith. One must look also to Sacred Tradition and
Magisterial teaching. One must look to the Catholic Church.
We as Catholics, too, must recognize within our own Church the authority to teach
doctrine, impose discipline, and discern between the two.

Witchcraft 101
Five Things Apologists Should Know
By Michelle Arnold
What springs to mind when someone mentions "witchcraft"? Three hags sitting
about a cauldron chanting "Double, double, toil and trouble"? A pretty housewife
turning someone into a toad at the twitch of her nose? Or perhaps you think of
Wicca and figure that it is witchcraft hidden beneath a politically correct neologism.
Witchcraft has become a hot topic in recent years. From J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter
books to self-described witches agitating for political and social parity with
mainstream religious traditions, Christians have had to re-examine witchcraft and
formulate a modern apologetic approach to it.
In an age of science and skepticism, it may be difficult to understand why intelligent
people would be drawn to witchcraft, which encompasses both a methodology of
casting spells and invoking spirits and an ideology that encourages finding gods and
goddesses both in nature and within the self. In her "conversion story," selfdescribed Wiccan high priestess Phyllis Curott, an Ivy League-educated lawyer who
was raised by agnostics, describes her journey from secular materialism to Wicca as
a rejection of the idea that humans are made for mammon alone:
I discovered the answers . . . to questions buried at the center of my soul . . . How
are we to find our lost souls? How can we rediscover the sacred from which we have
been separated for thousands of years? How can we live free of fear and filled with
divine love and compassion? . . . How can we restore and protect this Eden, which is
our fragile planet? (Curott, Book of Shadows, xii)
These are indeed important questions that deserve answers, answers that can be
found in their fullness in Christ and in his Church. In a homily then-Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger gave at the Mass just before his election to the papacy, he famously
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many
ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of
many Christians has often been tossed about by these wavesflung from one
extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from
collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism;
from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth.
Witchcraft has been around for centuries, perhaps even millennia, but is emerging
once more from the shadows as one answer to skepticism, to materialism, even to
self-absorption. It is, so to speak, the wrong answer to the right questions; it is, as
the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "gravely contrary to the virtue of
religion" (CCC 2117). Catholics should not discourage these questions but must be
prepared to offer the only answer: Christ and his Church.
Witchcrafts apologists like to claim that they are the misunderstood victims of
centuries of religious prejudice. Unfortunately, all too many Christians make such

claims credible when they misunderstand witchcraft and craft their rebuttals of it
based upon those misconceptions. If someone you know is dabbling in witchcraft,
here are five things you should know before starting a conversation with him.
Witches do not believe in Satan.
If there is one belief common to witches everywhere, it is that they do not believe in
Satan and that they do not practice Satanism. Witchcrafts apologists are quick to
point this out.
Denise Zimmermann and her co-authors of The Complete Idiots Guide to Wicca and
Witchcraft emphasize, "Witches dont believe in Satan! . . . The all-evil Satan is a
Christian concept that plays no part in the Wiccan religion . . . Witches do not
believe that negativity or evil is an organized force. . . . Neither do Wiccans believe
there is a place (hell) where the damned or the evil languish and suffer" (13).
Christian apologists should acknowledge that witches do not consciously worship
Satan and that they do not believe he exists. But this does not mean that Satan
needs to be left entirely out of the conversation. A Christian apologist should point
out that belief in someone does not determine that persons actual reality.
One way to demonstrate this is to ask the witch if she believes in the pope. "No,"
shes likely to answer. "The pope is a Christian figure." True, you concede. But there
is a man in Rome who holds the office of the papacy, right? Your belief or disbelief in
the papacy does not determine whether or not the papacy exists. Put that way, a
person will have to acknowledge that something or someone can exist
independently of belief in its reality. Thats when you can make the case that Satan
exists and that he does not require belief to determine his reality or his action in
someones life. In fact, disbelief in him can make it easier for him to accomplish his
In the preface to The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis notes that "There are two equal
and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to
disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and
unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and
hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."
While it is true that witches do not directly worship Satan or practice Satanism, their
occult practices, such as divination, and their worship of false gods and of each
other and themselveswhich they explain as worshipping the "goddess within"
can open them to demonic activity. To make the case though, it is imperative to
present it in a manner that wont be dismissed out of hand.
Witchcraft and Wicca are not synonyms.
Wicca, originally spelled Wica, is the name given to a subset of witchcraft by its
founder Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. Although some claim the word Wicca means
"wise," in her book Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler states that it "derive[s]
from a root wic, or weik, which has to do with religion and magic" (40). Adler also

says that the word witch originates with wicce and wicca. Marian Singer explains the
difference between Wicca and witchcraft this way: "Witchcraft implies a
methodology . . . whereas the word Wiccan refers to a person who has adopted a
specific religious philosophy" (The Everything Wicca and Witchcraft Book, 4).
Because witchcraft is often defined as a methodology and Wicca as an ideology, a
person who considers himself a witch but not a Wiccan may participate in many of
the same practices as a Wiccan, such as casting spells, divining the future, perhaps
even banding together with others to form a coven. This can make it easy for an
outsider to presume that both the witch and the Wiccan share the same beliefs. But,
if someone tells you he is not a Wiccan, it is only courteous to accept that. The
Christian case against witchcraft does not depend on a witch identifying himself as
a Wiccan. (There are also Wiccans who reject the label "witch," but this is often a
distinction without a difference. Even so, use the preferred term to avoid alienating
the person with whom you are speaking.)
Several strands of Wicca attract followings, including: Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and
Georgian, which are named for their founders; Seax, which patterns itself on Saxon
folklore; Black Forest, which is an eclectic hodgepodge of Wiccan traditions; and the
feminist branch known as Dianic Wicca after the Roman goddess Diana. Knowing
the distinctions among these traditions may not be important for the Christian
apologist, but he should keep in mind that there are distinctions and that he should
not make statements that start out with "Wiccans believe . . ." Rather, allow the
other person to explain what he believes and then build a Christian apologetic
tailored to that persons needs.
Witches question authority.
When dealing with self-identified witches, remember that no two witches will agree
with each other on just about anything. Witches are non-dogmatic to the extreme,
with one witch apologist suggesting "[s]ending dogma to the doghouse" and
claiming that "[r]eligious dogma and authority relieve a person of the responsibility
of deciding on his or her own actions" (Diane Smith, Wicca & Witchcraft for
Dummies, 32).
Generally speaking, witches prefer to give authority to their own personal
experiences. Phyllis Curott, author of a book titled Witch Crafting, puts it this way:
"Witches, whether we are women or men, experience the Goddess within us and in
the world all around us. I love what Starhawk [witch and popular speaker and writer]
said about this: People often ask me if I believe in the Goddess. I reply, Do you
believe in rocks?" (121, emphasis in original). In other words, witches know "the
Goddess" exists because they can experience her by at least one of their five
senses. Faith in such a material deity calls to mind the demon Screwtapes longing
for hells "perfect workthe Materialist Magician" (Lewis, The Screwtape Letters,
Throwing a bucket of cold water on a witchs "personal experiences" will not be
easy, particularly since one of the frightening.aspects of witchcraft is that some
witches do have, and blithely report, extraordinary preternatural experiences.
Incidents that could and should scare away many dabblers from playing with forces

beyond their control are recounted by witchcrafts apologists as affirmative of their

path. Curott tells of a man who once dreamed of "being prey" of a monstrous
creature; ultimately, in the dream, he was captured by the creature. Rather than
taking this as a sign he should reconsider the path down which he was heading, he
awoke "deeply transformed" by the dreams ending because he believed
"tremendous love" was felt for him by the creature. He eventually became a Wiccan
priest (Witch Crafting, 154155).
How can a Christian argue against a belief like that?
Ultimately, it may be that a Damascus-road moment might be necessary to sway
someone that deeply entrenched in traffic with preternatural creatures. To those
who are not as enmeshed, a Christian can point out that sometimes apologists for
the occult have warned their readers not to be taken in by their experiences with
In a section of his book titled "Practicing Safe Spirituality," author Carl McColman
gives a checklist of "some common-sense precautions" occultists should be aware
of "while meditating, doing ritual, reflecting on your dreams, or doing any other
spiritual work that may involve contact with spirits." The first item on the list is
"Dont automatically believe everything you hear. Just because a spirit says
something doesnt make it so" (The Complete Idiots Guide to Paganism, 129).
Witchcraft is an inversion of Catholicism.
Observers of witchcraft have claimed that it is remarkably similar to Catholicism.
Catholic journalist and medievalist Sandra Miesel called it "Catholicism without
Christ" ("The Witches Next Door," Crisis, June 2002). Writer and editor Charlotte
Allen noted that "Practicing Wicca is a way to have Christianity without, well, the
burdens of Christianity" ("The Scholars and the Goddess," The Atlantic, January
Its easy to see why the assertion is made. Allen notes that as witchcraft cycles
through its "liturgical year," many of its adherents honor a goddess who births a god
believed to live, die, and rise again. Fraternization with apparently friendly
preternatural spirits is encouraged and eagerly sought. The rituals of witchcraft call
to mind Catholic liturgies, particularly the libation and blessing ritual alternately
known as "Cakes and Wine" and "Cakes and Ale." Like Catholics collecting rosaries,
scapulars, statues, and prayer books, witches have their own "potions, notions, and
tools" as Curott calls them some of which include jewelry, statues and dolls, and
spell books and journals.
But to say that witchcraft has uncanny similarities to Catholicism is to understate
the matter. Witchcraft is an inversion of Catholicism: Catholicism emptied of Christ
and stood on its head. This is most readily seen in witchcrafts approach to
In his book Rome Sweet Home, Scott Hahn compares authority in the Church to a
hierarchical pyramid with the pope at the top, with all of the members, including the
pope, reaching upward toward God (4647). With its antipathy to authority and its

reach inward to the self and downward to preternatural spirits, witchcraft could also
be illustrated with a triangleevery adherent poised at the top as his own authority
and pointed down in the sort of "Lower Command" structure envisioned by Lewiss
Witchcraft is dangerous.
In my work as an apologist, I have read a number of introductory books to various
non-Catholic and non-Christian religions. Never before my investigation into
witchcraft had I seen introductory books on a religion that warn you about the
dangers involved in practicing it. The dangers that witch apologists warn
newcomers about are both corporal and spiritual.
In her book, Diane Smith includes a chapter titled "Ten Warning Signs of a Scam or
Inappropriate Behavior" (Wicca & Witchcraft for Dummies, chapter 23). Her top-10
list includes "Inflicting Harm," "Charging Inappropriate Fees or Demanding Undue
Money," "Engaging in Sexual Manipulation," "Using Illicit Drugs or Excessive
Amounts of Alcohol in Spiritual Practice," and "Breeding Paranoia." Smith claims that
such a need to be wary is common to religion: "[U]nscrupulous or unstable people
sometimes perpetrate scams or other manipulations under the guise of religion, and
this situation is as true for Wicca as for other religious groups" (317).
However true it may be that there can be "unscrupulous or unstable people"
involved in traditional religions, most practitionersChristian or otherwisedo not
experience problems with these behaviors to such an extent that religious
apologists see the need to issue caveats to proselytes. That Smith does so suggests
that these problems are far more widespread in witchcraft than in traditional
We noted one paganism apologist who warned his readers to "practice safe
spirituality." McColman goes on to caution that the "advice" of spirits "must be in
accordance with your own intuition for it to be truly useful." He goes on to say, "You
remain responsible for your own decisions. Remember that spirit guides make
mistakes like everybody else!" (Paganism, 128).
Catholics concerned about loved ones involved with witchcraft may not be attracted
to witchcraft themselves, but there is danger for them in pursuing dabblers down
the road to the occult in hopes of drawing them back. In preparing themselves to
answer the claims of witchcraft, they may feel the need to read books like those
mentioned in this article. If they are not fully educated and firm in their own faith,
such Catholics may find their own faith under attack. Three suggestions are in order.
* Not all are called to be apologists. If you are not intellectually and spiritually
prepared to answer the claims of witchcraft, leave such work to others. Search out
knowledgeable Catholics with whom your loved one can speak.
* Prepare yourself. Common sense indicates that if you are about to rappel down
a cliff, you do so with safety ropes firmly attached and in the presence of someone
you trust who can help you if you are in danger. Dont even think of rappelling down
a spiritual cliff without seeking to fortify yourself intellectually and spiritually

particularly spiritually. Inform your confessor or spiritual director of your plans to

study and answer the claims of witchcraft. Ask trusted Catholic friends to pray for
your work. Regularly receive the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist. If you
need to stop or take a break from this area of apologetics, by all means do so. And,
most importantly:
* Pray. Whether or not you are called to personally minister to those involved in
witchcraft, the most fundamental thing you can do to help witches and other
dabblers in the occult is to pray.
Saints whose intercession you can seek include Bl. Bartholomew Longo, the
repentant former satanic priest who returned to the Church and spent the rest of his
life promoting the rosary; St. Benedict, who battled pagans and whose medal is
often worn in protection against the devil; St. Michael the Archangel (Jude 1:9),
invoked especially by the prayer for his intercession commonly attributed to Pope
Leo XIII. And, of course, theres St. Paul, who reminds us: "For I am sure that neither
death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to
separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:3839).

How Can Mary Be Gods Mother?

By Tim Staples

For many in the more traditional Protestant communities, believing Mary to be the
Theotokos (Greek, "God-bearer") or Mother of God, is an area of agreement with
Catholics. If Jesus Christ is truly God, then Mary is truly the Mother of God. But
millions of others in Fundamentalist and Evangelical communities would not join
Catholics in celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
The objections to this great dogma of the faith are essentially three. The first
objection states the obvious. Nowhere in Sacred Scripture are the words "Mother of
God" used to describe Mary. "If this doctrine were as important as Roman Catholics
claim, would not at least one of the inspired writers have used it?" The second
objection is rooted in Luke 1:43a text used by Catholics to demonstrate a biblical
foundation for the Theotokos wherein Elizabeth "exclaimed [to Mary] with a loud
cry, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And
why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
Fundamentalists point out this text does not call Mary Mother of God; it calls her
mother of my Lord. The New Testament uses the term "lord" (Gr., kurios) in the
context of divinity at times, but it also uses it with reference to human persons in
various contexts. The passage in Luke, it is argued, does not refer to the divinity of
Christ, but to his humanity. And finally, Protestants make the point that it is
impossible for God to have a Mother. "God is a Trinity. If Mary is the Mother of God,
she is the mother of the Trinity. Therefore, the Trinity is no longer a Trinityit would
be a Quadrinity!"
Objection 1: Where Is That in the Bible?
To say Mary cannot be the Mother of God because Sacred Scripture does not use
those explicit words places the Protestant in a very uncomfortable position. He
would also have to conclude multiple essential Christian doctrines to be erroneous
because they are not found verbatim in the Bible either. Take the Trinity, for
example. This doctrine is preeminent among all Christian doctrinesand yet the
term "Trinity" is not found in the Bible. Nor are terms like homoousios (Gr., "same
nature"; Jesus has the "same nature" as his Father) or hypostatic union. The
question the Protestant should ask is: Is the concept of Mary, Mother of God
revealed to us in Sacred Scripture? And we will see that it is. Thus, this first
objection is quite easily dismissed.
Objection 2: Luke 1:43
Objection 2 is not so easily dismissed. The Greek word kurios or "lord" can indeed
be used to denote divinity but not necessarily so. In fact, an example of the latter is
found in 1 Corinthians 8:5: "For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or
on earthas indeed there are many gods and many lords . . ." Here the term
"lord" (kurios) is obviously not used to refer to divinity. Moreover, Christ himself
refers to the "owner of the vineyard" in his parable of the householder in Matthew
21:33-40, as kurios, or "lord of the vineyard," in verse 40. Thus, kurios can be used
specifically with regard to a human person. However, if we go back to 1 Corinthians
8:5, the next verse gives us an example of kurios being used with regard to divinity:

"Yet to us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and for whom we
exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we
exist." Notice two key points: Jesus is called both the one Lord and he is called
creator of all things. There can be no doubt the context refers to our Lords divinity.
Every Jew knew the truth of the great Shma of Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear, O Israel:
The Lord our God is one Lord." There is only one Lord in Israel. And according to 1
Corinthians, Jesus is that one Lord. Moreover, Jesus is called the creator of all things.
Genesis 1:1 cannot make any clearer that it is almighty God who is the creator of all
things. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The title kurios
applied to Christ as creator of all things in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is clearly a title of
divinity for Christ. It is the context that makes this so apparent.
The key to our discussion then is to ascertain how kurios is being used of Christ in
Luke 1:43. Was it being used to describe Jesus with regard to his humanity alone, or
with regard to his divinity? There are at least two reasons we can know for certain it
refers to Christ as a divine person. First, if we understand its Old Testament
antecedent, the conclusion becomes clear. Elizabeth was referring, almost verbatim,
to a text from 2 Samuel 6:9 wherein David exclaims concerning the Old Testament
Ark of the Covenant: "And David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, How
can the ark of the Lord come to me?" When Elizabeth "exclaimed with a loud
cry . . . Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me"
(Luke 1:42-43), Mary was revealed to be the New Testament Ark of the Covenant.
The question for us, then, is: Was the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament the
ark of an earthly potentate, or was it the ark of almighty God? The answer is
obvious. In the same way, the more glorious New Testament Ark of the Covenant is
not an ark of an earthly potentate, but it is the Ark of Almighty God.
The second and most important reason we know Luke 1:43 is referring to Mary to be
the Mother of God is summed up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus," Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at
the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of
my Lord." In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly
became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Fathers eternal
Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is
truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos). (CCC 495)
Mary is the Mother of God precisely because Jesus Christ, her Son, is God. And when
Mary gave birth, she did not give birth to a nature, or even two natures; she gave
birth to one, divine Person. To deny this essential truth of the faith, as the Council of
Ephesus (A.D. 431) declared, is to cut oneself off from full communion with Christ
and his Church. The first of many "anathemas" that would be accepted by the
Council decreed: "If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that
on this account the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (for according to the flesh she
gave birth to the Word of God become flesh by birth), let him be anathema."
Notice the Council referred to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 in its definition. This text
prophesied over 700 years before the birth of Christ that the Messiah was to be born
of a woman and yet he was to be "God with us."

The real problem with denying Mary as Mother of God and affirming Mary to be only
the mother of the man Christ Jesus is that in doing so, one invariably either denies
the divinity of Christ (as the fourth-century Arians did), or one creates two persons
with regard to Jesus Christ. Either error results in heresy. The Councils of Nicaea
(325) and Constantinople (381) dealt decisively with the Arian heresy. Rather than
teaching the truth that Christ is one divine person with two naturesone human,
and one divinehypostatically unified, or joined together without admixture in the
one divine Person of Christ, they were teaching Christ to be two persons with a
merely moral union. The Council fathers understood Christians could never affirm
this. The Bible declares to us: ". . . in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily"
(Col. 2:9). And, ". . . in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible
and invisible . . ." (Col. 1:16). Nowhere do we read in them; we only read of him. The
error proposes essentially different Christs. Jesus is truly one divine Person. If one
prays to a Jesus who is two persons, one prays to a "Jesus" who does not exist!
Objection 3: The "Quadrinity"?
"If God is Trinity, and Mary is the Mother of God, would that not mean Mary is the
Mother of the Trinity?" Actually, it does not. Paragraph 495 of the Catechism is very
clear that Mary is the Mother of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity because
neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit is incarnate. Simple enough. But the problem
here may be deeper than just a confusion of persons within the Godhead. In my
experience, this simple explanation almost invariably leads to another question that
reveals the real difficulty for many Fundamentalists: "Even if Mary is only the Mother
of the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus is just as eternal as the other two
divine Persons are. Thus, in order to be his mother, Mary would have to be equally
as eternal." The root of this "Quadrinity" problem is a false understanding of what is
meant by Marys true motherhood and perhaps a false understanding of is meant by
motherhood in general.
By saying Mary is the Mother of God, the Catholic Church is not saying that Mary is
the source of the divine nature among the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, nor
is she the source of the divine nature of the second Person. But she doesnt have to
be in order to be the Mother of the second Person of the Blessed Trinity incarnate.
Perhaps an analogy using normal human reproduction will help clarify the truth of
the matter. My wife is the mother of my son, Timmy. But this does not mean she is
the source of Timmys immortal soul. God directly and immediately created his soul
as he does with every human being (see Eccl. 12:7). However, we do not conclude
then that Valerie is merely "the mother of Timmys body." She is Timmys mother,
period. She did not give birth to a body; she gave birth to a human person who is a
body/soul composite: Timmy.
Analogously, though Mary did not provide Jesus with either his divine nature or his
immortal human soul, she is still his Mother because she did not give birth to a
body, a soul, a nature, or even two naturesshe gave birth to a Person. And that
one Person is God. The conclusion to the whole matter is inescapable. Just as many
of the more traditional Protestants would confess with us as Catholics: If Jesus Christ
is one, eternal and unchangeable divine personGodand Mary is his mother, then
Mary is the Mother of that one, eternal and unchangeable personGod.

Is Everything in the Bible True?

By Karlo Broussard

Does the Bible contain errors? If those errors are scientific or historical, as opposed
to matters of faith and morals, does it even matter?
These questions came up during the Second Vatican Council when some theologians
asserted that Scripture indeed contained such errors. Cardinal Koenig of Vienna
attempted to prove it using Mark 2:26, where David "went into the house of God
when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests
could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions." According to 1 Samuel 21:1,
Abiathar was not the high priest, but rather his father, Ahimelech. This scriptural
example on the surface appears to support his claim that the Bible contains
historical errors.
According to Scripture scholar Raymond Brown, the awareness of these so-called
historical errors moved the Church at Vatican II to teach that the Bible is free from
error only in matters of faith and morals and not in matters of history and science
(New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1169). Brown supports this claim by appealing to
section 11 of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), which
reads, "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." The phrase "for the sake of our salvation" is
the key reference used to argue that only those things needed for our salvation (i.e.,
faith and morals) and not history and science, are free from error.
Its All about Context
So, how are we to understand the phrase "for the sake of our salvation"? First, we
will look at the context.
Referencing chapter two of the First Vatican Councils Dogmatic Constitution on the
Catholic Faith, the opening statement of section 11 of Dei Verbum (hereafter DV)
Those things revealed by God which are contained and presented in the text of
sacred scripture have been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 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 itself.
The two key phrases, "whole and entire" and "with all their parts," apply to both the
inspiration of Scripture, and to God as the author of the Old and New Testaments.
The preceding text states, "all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm
should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit." According to the Council fathers,
everything the writers intended to assert, the Holy Spirit intended to assert. Hence,
because we cannot attribute error to the Holy Spirit, we cannot ascribe error to the
sacred authors.

This principle of affirmation or assertion is important in considering the various socalled errors in Scripture, whether they be historical or scientific. Though this topic
requires an in-depth discussion that goes beyond the scope of this article, it suffices
to say that the human authors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, at times do
not intend to affirm certain details to be factual or accurate. (See "Genre and the
Principle of Assertion," page 27)
In regards to the historical elements, in 1905 the Pontifical Biblical Commission
stated that at timeswith solid arguments and conformity to the sense of the
Churchit is possible to conclude that the sacred writers did not intend to give a
true and strict account of history. They " proposed rather to set forth, under the
guise and form of history, a parable or an allegory or some meaning distinct from
the literal or historical signification of the words" (qtd. in John E. Steinmueller, A
Companion to Scripture Studies, 33).
For example, although the first eleven chapters of Genesis are history in a true
sense, the narratives contained within "relate in simple and figurative language,
adapted to the understanding of mankind at a lower stage of development,
fundamental truths underlying the divine scheme of salvation" (Pontifical Biblical
Commission; qtd. in A Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, 75).
Further, the sacred authors were of a different culture and had different patterns of
writing than our modern historians, who use critical methods inherited from Greece
and Rome. In recording history, ancient authors may omit certain facts, neglect
chronological order, or give a mere summary of discourse. Although we may see
limitations in this style of writing, that in no way makes these documents false
history. The authors did not intend to assert accuracy, for accuracy was not needed
to serve the purpose of the message.
Described in Figurative Language
Critics often ascribe scientific error to Joshua 10:13: "the sun stood still, and the
moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies." As it is now known
that the sun does not revolve around the earth, it seems that the author made a
scientific error. But the author did not intend to assert a scientific fact; he was
affirming the phenomenon he observed with his senses. (Scholars refer to this as
phenomenological language.) We still express ourselves that way today. We do not
accuse the weather forecaster of scientific error when he says, "The sun will rise at
6:00 a.m."
Pope Leo XIII notes that there are some men of physical science who scrutinize the
Sacred Scriptures in order to detect a fault in matters that pertain to the sensible
experience. In response, the pontiff explains that the sacred writers "did not seek to
penetrate the secrets of nature, but rather described and dealt with things in more
or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time and
which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even by the most eminent men
of science" (Proventissimus Deus, 18).

It is wrong to expect from the sacred writers the sort of scientific language found in
contemporary science books. The writers wrote as they would ordinarily speak.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that the authors of Scripture describe what is obvious to
the senses. The authors, out of condescension to the weaknesses of an ignorant
people, "put before them only such things as are apparent to sense" (Summa
Theologica I:1:9). They wrote what God wanted in a manner that men could
understand and to which they were accustomed.

Keys to Interpretation
The second approach to take in demonstrating that the Council did not break with
Sacred Tradition is to review the documents referenced in footnote number five of
the passage from DV 11. The point of referencing other documents for particular
passages is to instruct the reader how to properly interpret the passage according
to the mind of the author. The following documents give clear evidence of what the
Council fathers intended to convey.
In its Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures, the Council of Trent in session
four states the following:
If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their
entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the
Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and
knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema.
In a document from Vatican I, the Council fathers reemphasize and reaffirm the
teaching of Trent by stating that "the complete books of the Old and the New
Testaments with all their parts, as they are listed in the decree of the said Council
[Trent] . . . are to be received as sacred and canonical" (Dei Filius, 2.6).
In an authoritative affirmation and commentary on this document, Pope Pius XII
gives further instruction that sheds light on the proper interpretation of DV 11:
When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of
Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the "entire books
with all their parts" as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to
restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to
regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as obiter
dicta [things said incidentally and in passing] andas they contendedin no wise
connected with faith, our predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the encyclical
letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly
and rightly condemned these errors and safeguarded the studies of the divine books
by most wise precepts and rules. (Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1)
Finally, there is Pope Leo XIIIs great encyclical Providentissimus Deus. He writes:

But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain

parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the
system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate
to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and
nothing beyond . . . this system cannot be tolerated. For all the books which the
Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all
their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible
that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially
incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as
it is impossible that God himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.
Pope Leo reiterates the constant teaching of the Church from the Councils of Trent
and Vatican I, that the Holy Spirit dictated the entirety of the books of the Bible with
all of their parts. As is often said, "Peter has spoken, the issue is settled!"
It is clear that to interpret DV 11 as restricting the Bibles inspiration and freedom
from error to matters of faith and morals is to interpret it contrary to the intention of
the Council fathers. Vatican II did not allow us to say there are errors in Sacred
Scripture. Vatican II did not reverse the Catholic dogma of the inerrancy of Scripture.
Then, What Does It Mean?
So, what did the Council fathers mean by "for the sake of our salvation"? Fr. William
G. Most writes, "If Vatican II had really wanted to make that clause clearly
restrictive, there is an unambiguous Latin construction that would have made it
clear called qui quidem with the subjunctive. The Council did not use that structure"
(Catholic Apologetics Today: Answers to Modern Critics, 217). He concludes that the
phrase is not restrictive but descriptive. Therefore the phrase emphasizes that the
truth in the whole of Scripture, whether it be religious, historical, or scientific, is for
our salvation. There is no part of Scripture that does not contribute to our journey of
salvation. As St. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16: "All scripture is inspired by God and is
useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so
that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good
work." If God is the author of all of Scripture, then all of Scripture is for our
So, how is Mark 2:26 to be explained? The answer lies in the Greek text. In Mark
2:26, the Greek reads " epi Abiathar archiereos." Fr. Most, in his book, Catholic
Apologetics Today, states that the Greek preposition epi takes a generic meaning of
time when its object takes the genitive case. Hence, it literally reads "in the days of"
or "in the time of Abiathar." Abiathars name was used for this time period as
opposed to his fathers because of his greater prominence and popularity among
the readers of the Old Testament. Abiathar had a very close association with King
David, under whom he became chief priest along with Zadok (cf. 1 Sam. 22:20-2
Many more examples have been used to argue that the Bible contains error, but
every one is answerable. Therefore, we can repeat with humility the words of St.
Augustine, "And if in these books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I

shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has
not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand"
(Letter LXXXII, 3).
Genre and the Principle of Assertion
When interpreting the "literal sense" of the Bible, we must distinguish between the
narration and the form of narration, also known as genre. Narration is the telling of
things that happened and genre is the style used to tell what happened. In all
cultures, many different styles and methods are used to communicate messages.
Scholars have listed nine kinds of literary forms in the narrative literature or
historical books of the Old Testament: fable, parable, historical epic, religious
history, ancient history, popular tradition, liberal narrative, Midrash (commentary),
and prophetical and apocalyptical narrative (John E. Steinmueller, A Companion to
Scripture Studies, 33). Whatever genre is used, the question that must be
considered is what the author asserted or intended to communicate by using this
style of narration. The answer to this question will supply the literal sense of the
For example, in Micah 3:2-3, we read, "You that hate good, and love evil; that
violently pluck off their skins from them, and their flesh from their homes? Who
have eaten the flesh of my people, and have flayed their skin from off them: and
have broken, and chopped their bones as for the kettle, and as flesh in the midst of
the pot." Does the author mean that the enemies of Gods people were cannibals?
No: He is asserting that the enemies of God persecuted the people of God. The
passage represents a common Hebraic style of writing employed to assert the
reality of persecution and war (see also Deut. 32:42; Ezek. 39:17-18; Rev. 17:6, 16).
To interpret this passage without considering the Hebrew genre, one would have to
conclude that flesh was actually being eaten and blood actually being drunk.
The principle of affirmation or assertion is the key element in Biblical interpretation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "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" (CCC 109). Furthermore, "in order to discover the sacred authors
intention," the Catechism states "the reader must take into account the conditions
of their times and culture, the literal genres in use at that time, and the modes of
feeling, speaking, and narrating then current" (CCC 110). Notice that the Catechism
implies there are different modes of narrating, i.e., genres. The reason for the
variety of genres is found in Dei Verbum, which states, "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" (12).
Therefore, when we engage in the difficult task of interpretation, the principle of
affirmation or assertion, which is connected to genre, must be the guiding principle
for the literal sense. The interpretation guidelines for the spiritual sense of Scripture
can be found in paragraphs 111-117 of the Catechism.

The Divinity of the Holy Spirit

By Tim Staples

The third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is sometimes referred to as
"the forgotten" member of the Godhead. He is, no doubt, the least spoken of among
the three persons of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Most students of
our Catholic theology of the Trinity agree: Pneumatology, or the study of the Holy
Spirit, is probably the least developed, after the study of the Son and the Father. It
is, therefore, no surprise to find many Catholics ill-equipped to deal with some of
the more notable errors concerning he who is "the Lord and giver of life." Thus,
studying the person and nature of the Holy Spirit, though sometimes neglected, is
crucial for us as Catholic apologists and as Catholics in general.
The most common attacks on Catholic belief concerning the Holy Spirit generally
come from quasi-Christian sects such as the Iglesia Ni Cristo, Jehovahs Witnesses,
and others who deny the central mystery of the Christian faiththe Trinity. Both the
personhood as well as the divinity of the Holy Spirit are rejected by these groups.
The Holy Spirit is spoken of as a "force," or as "power" emanating from God, rather
than as God himself. As Catholics, then, we must be able to respond to these two
key misunderstandings concerning the Holy Spirit. The truths about the Holy Spirit
are that 1. he is a person, and 2. he is God.
More than a Force
One of the first reasons given for denying the divine nature of the Holy Spirit is
often to point out that the Greek word for "spirit" (pneuma) is neuter. John 14:26, for
example, refers to the Spirit as to pneuma to hagion (the Holy Spirit). The claim
goes that Father and the Son are clearly personal, masculine terms, and therefore,
they are revealed as persons. "Spirit" being neuter, on the other hand, supposedly
indicates we are dealing with an impersonal force rather than a person.
Catholics agree that spirit in Greek is a neuter term. But this does not necessarily
mean the Holy Spirit is impersonal. Nouns in Greek are assigned gender as they are
in many languages. In Latin and the modern romance languages, this is the case as
well. For example, the Latin word for lance is lancea, which is feminine. This does
not mean that lances or daggers are actually female and personal! The same can be
said for Greek words such as kardia, heart. The fact that this Greek word is feminine
does not indicate hearts to be female and personal. Nor does the fact that a word
like baros, Greek for arrow, which is neuter, indicate arrows to be impersonal forces.
Words are simply assigned gender in these languages.
Further, if being referred to as "spirit" indicates the third person of the Blessed
Trinity is impersonal, then both angels and God the Father would have to be "forces"
rather than persons as well. In John 4:24, Jesus says "God is spirit (Greek pneuma)
and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." And in Hebrews 1:14,
angels are referred to as "ministering spirits (Greek pneumata) sent forth to serve,
for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation." The key here is to examine the
context and usage of a word in Scripture, rather than just its "gender," in order to
determine whether we are dealing with a person, a force, or perhaps just an arrow.

Speaking of the importance of context, the verse of Scripture used to "prove" the
Holy Spirit to be an impersonal force actually demonstrates, when examined more
fully, that the Holy Spirit is both personal and masculine. John 14:26 says: "But the
Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you
all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
Three key points are in evidence here. First, "the Counselor" is ho paracleto in
Greek, which is masculine, not neuter. Second, when the text says he will teach you
all things the demonstrative pronoun (Gr. ekeinos) is used in the masculine singular.
This is significant because the inspired author could have used the neuter ekeino,
but he did not. If the Holy Spirit were an impersonal force, the inspired author would
not refer to it as a he. And third, notice what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus says he will
both teach and remind us "all that [he has] said to [us]." Action follows being. One
cannot teach and remind if one does not have the intellectual powers unique to
rational persons that enable one to do so. The Holy Spirit is clearly a person.
Indeed, the Holy Spirit is referred to in personal terms by our Lord throughout the
New Testament. If we only consider John chapters 14, 15, and 16, the evidence is
overwhelming. This is not to mention the abundance of examples we could cite
throughout Scripture, both Old (in seed form) and New Testaments. Lets take John
14:16-17 to start. Jesus says,
And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you
for ever, even the Spirit of truth, who the world cannot receive, because it neither
sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
In John 15:26-27, Jesus says,
But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even
the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and
you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
And in John 16:7-15, Jesus makes it very plain,
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do
not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes, he will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of
judgment; of sin, because they do not believe in me; of righteousness, because I go
to the Father, and you will see me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this
world is judged. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them
now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will
not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will
declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is
mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he
will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Holy Spirit is personal. He convinces of sin, teaches the truth, speaks, declares
things that are to come, and so on. These texts leave no doubt as to the
personhood of the Holy Spirit.

How to "Pour Out" a Person

One last obstacle for some who deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit is found in
Acts 2:14-18. In this text, St. Peter describes the power of God being manifested on
the day of Pentecost by quoting Joel 2:28:
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, "Men
of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my
words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour
of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: And in the last days it
shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons
and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your
old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in
those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy."
The question is often asked, "How can you pour out a person? Is this not proof the
Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person?" The answer is a resounding no! Consider
Psalm 22. This is a messianic Psalm referring to our Lords Passion. But notice how it
describes our Lord in verse 14: "I am poured out like water . . . " Would we say Jesus
is just a force and not a person because he is "poured out" in this verse? Of course
not! So it goes with the Holy Spirit. We do not deny the verses of Scripture
indicating his personhood because he is described as being "poured out" in Acts
The Holy Spirit is Omniscient
We should examine one key phrase from John 16 more fully when considering the
truth that the Holy Spirit is revealed not only as a person, but as a divine person
God himself. Verse 13 tells us that the Holy Spirit "will guide [us] into all truth." We
have a hint here of what we see even more plainly in texts like 1 Corinthians 2:11:
Scripture indicates the Holy Spirit is omniscient, a quality that God alone possesses
or can possess. "For what person knows a mans thoughts except the spirit of the
man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the
Spirit of God." The reason St. Paul tells us "no one comprehends the thoughts of God
except the Spirit of God" is because it would require infinite power to be able to
comprehend the thoughts of God which are infinite. Romans 11:33-34 tells us: "O
the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are
his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the
Lord, or who has been his counselor?"
The fact that the Holy Spirit of God fully comprehends the thoughts of God proves
beyond a reasonable doubt that his is, in fact, God.
The Lord and Giver of Life
Among the many texts revealing the Holy Spirits divinity, perhaps the most plain
and unmistakable are found in Hebrews. First, well examine Hebrews 3:7-10:
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden
your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your

fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was
provoked with that generation, and said, They always go astray in their hearts; they
have not known my ways."
Notice the Holy Spirit is synonymous with God himself. In Hebrews 10:15-17, the
reference is even more clear:
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, "This is the covenant
that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their
hearts, and write them on their minds," then he adds, "I will remember their sins
and their misdeeds no more."
The Holy Spirit is revealed here to be both a person and divine. He is depicted as
"bear[ing] witness," "establish[ing] a covenant," is referred to as "the Lord," "puts
[his] laws on [our] hearts," and even forgives sins. How many Catholics realize when
they recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday at Mass that they are clearly and
concisely professing just what we see here in Scripture: The Holy Spirit truly is "the
Lord and Giver of Life."

Are the Gospels Myth?

By Carl E. Olson

January 11, 49 B.C. is one of the most famous dates in the history of ancient Rome,
even of the ancient world. On that date Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River,
committing himself and his followers to civil war. Few, if any, historians doubt that
the event happened. On the other hand, numerous skeptics claim that the Gospels
of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are myth and have no basis in historical fact. Yet,
as historian Paul Merkley pointed out two decades ago in his article, "The Gospels as
Historical Testimony," far less historical evidence exists for the crossing of the
Rubicon than does for the events depicted in the Gospels:
There are no firsthand testimonies to Caesars having crossed the Rubicon
(wherever it was). Caesar himself makes no mention in his memoirs of crossing any
river. Four historians belonging to the next two or three generations do mention a
Rubicon River, and claim that Caesar crossed it. They are: Velleius Paterculus (c.19
B.C.c.A.D. 30); Plutarch (c.A.D. 46120); Suetonius (75160); and Appian (second
century). All of these evidently depended on the one published eyewitness account,
that of Asinius Pollio (76 B.C.c. A.D. 4)which account has disappeared without a
trace. No manuscript copies for any of these secondary sources is to be found
earlier than several hundred years after their composition. (The Evangelical
Quarterly 58, 319-336)
Merkley observed that those skeptics who either scoff at the historical reliability of
the Gospels or reject them outright as "myth" do so without much, if any, regard for
the nature of history in general and the contents of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
in particular.
The Distinctive Sign
So, are the four Gospels "myth"? Can they be trusted as historical records? If
Christianity is about "having faith," do such questions really matter? The latter
question is, I hope, easy to answer: Yes, it obviously matters very much if the
narratives and discourses recorded by the four evangelists are about real people
and historical events. Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, offers this
succinct explanation:
For it is of the very essence of biblical faith to be about real historical events. It
does not tell stories symbolizing suprahistorical truths, but is based on history,
history that took place here on this earth. The factum historum (historical fact) is
not an interchangeable symbolic cipher for biblical faith, but the foundation on
which it stands: Et incarnates est when we say these words, we acknowledge
Gods actual entry into real history. (Jesus of Nazareth, xv)
Christianity, more than any other religion, is rooted in history and makes strong
even shockingclaims about historical events, most notably that God became man
and dwelt among us. Of course, some Christians of a less-than-orthodox persuasion
are content to discard large chunks of the Gospels as unnecessary (or even
"offensive") or to interpret as "mythological" or "metaphorical" nearly each and
every event and belief described therein. But such is not the belief of the Catholic

Church (or of the Eastern Orthodox churches and most conservative Protestants). As
the Catechism of the Catholic Church flatly states: "Belief in the true Incarnation of
the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith" (CCC 463).
It is, ultimately, this distinctive signthe conviction that Jesus of Nazareth was and
is truly God and manthat is the focal point of attacks on the historical credibility of
the Gospels and the New Testament. Over the past few centuries many historians
and theologians have sought to uncover the "historical Jesus" and to peel away the
many layers of what they believed were legend and theological accretion. Many
abandoned hope that any historical (never mind theological) fact could be extracted
from the Gospels.
A Work of Fiction
There were many complex reasons for this state of affairs, one of them being the
Enlightenment-era doctrine that purely scientific, objective history could not only be
found, but was necessary. Empirical data became for many scholarsmen such as
Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Ren Descartesthe key to all scholarship,
including the study of history. It became the accepted wisdom that supernatural or
miraculous elements could not be considered scientific and truly historical and that
they had to be rejected. Anything outside the realm of empirical data was liable to
be labeled "myth" and "legend."
Fast-forward to our day. The results of this approach are all around us, both in the
scholarly and popular realm. Not long ago, a young filmmaker named Brian
Flemming produced a documentary titled The God Who Wasnt There. Its purpose,
he explained in an interview, is to demonstrate that the "biblical Jesus" is a myth.
Asked to summarize the evidence for this stance, Flemming explained:
Its more a matter of demonstrating a positive than a negative, and the positive is
that early Christians appeared not to have believed in a historical Jesus. If the very
first Christians appear to believe in a mythical Christ, and only later did "historical"
details get added bit by bit, that is not consistent with the real man actually
existing. . . . I would say that he is a myth in the same way that many other
characters people believed actually existed. Like William Tell is most likely a myth,
according to many folklorists and many historians. Of course, [Jesus] is a very
important myth. I think that he was invented a long time ago, and those stories
have been passed on as if they are true. (David Ian Miller, "Finding My Religion,"
Here "myth" is synonymous with "fiction" or even "falsehood," reflecting the
Enlightenment-era bias against anything bearing even trace amounts of the
supernatural. "All Im saying," remarked Flemming, "is that [Jesus] doesnt exist,
and it would be a healthy thing for Christians to look at the Bible as a work of fiction
from which they can take inspiration rather than, you know, the authoritative word
of God."
"Serious Unicorns"

Thus the Gospels, according to skeptics such as Flemming, are compilations of "nice
stories" or "silly tales," just like stories about unicorns and the Easter Bunny. Some
skeptics mock Christians for holding fearfully onto childish tales while the truly
mature people (self-described by some as "brights") go about the business of
making the world a better place. "Meanwhile, we should devote as much time to
studying serious theology," stated well-known atheist Richard Dawkins in column in
The Independent (Dec. 23, 1998), "as we devote to studying serious fairies and
serious unicorns." Fellow God-basher Daniel Dennett, in his book Darwins
Dangerous Idea, wrote,
The kindly God who lovingly fashioned each and every one of us and sprinkled
the sky with shining stars for our delightthat God is, like Santa Claus, a myth of
childhood, not anything [that] a sane, undeluded adult could literally believe in.
That God must either be turned into a symbol for something less concrete or
abandoned altogether. (18)
Smarter than Thou
Such rhetoric rests both on the assumption that the Gospels are fanciful myth and
that the authors of the New Testament (and their readers) were clueless about the
difference between historical events and fictional stories. There is an overbearing
sense of chronological snobbery at work: We are smarter than people who lived
2,000 years ago. Yet the Second Epistle of Peter demonstrates a clear
understanding of the difference between myth and verified historical events: "For
we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2
Pet. 1:16). The opening verses of Lukes Gospel indicate that the author undertook
the task of writing about real people and events:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which
have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who
from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to
me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly
account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning
the things of which you have been informed. (Luke 1:1-4)
And the fourth Gospel concludes with similar remarks:
This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written
these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other
things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the
world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:24-25)
These quotations do not, of course, prove the historicity of the New Testament.
Rather, they suggest that the authors, far from being knuckle-dragging simpletons,
set about to write works depicting real people and eventsespecially since they
believed the narratives they recounted had meaning only if they really did occur. As
such, their historical content should be judged not against tales of unicorns and
Easter bunnies, but against other first-century works of history and historical

What Is a Gospel?
The word gospel comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning "good news" and
refers to the message of Christian belief in the person of Jesus Christ. There has
been much scholarly debate about the genre of "gospel" and how it might relate to
other forms of writings found in first-century Palestine and the larger ancient world.
Obviously, they do contain biographical details, and some scholars have argued in
recent years that the gospels are as biographical in nature as anything in the
ancient Greco-Roman world.
"The majority of recent specialized studies," writes Evangelical biblical scholar Craig
L. Blomberg in Making Sense of the New Testament, "has recognized that the
closest parallels are found among the comparatively trustworthy histories and
biographies of writers like the Jewish historian Josephus, and the Greek historians
Herodotus and Thucydides" (28). In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew,
Catholic theologian and biblical scholar Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis writes:
We must conclude, then, that the genre of the Gospel is not that of pure "history";
but neither is it that of myth, fairy tale, or legend. In fact, evangelion constitutes a
genre all its own, a surprising novelty in the literature of the ancient world. Matthew
does not seek to be "objective" in a scientific or legal sense. He is writing as one
whose life has been drastically changed by the encounter with Jesus of Nazareth.
Hence, he is proposing to his listeners an objective reality of history, but offered as
kerygma, that is, as a proclamation that bears personal witness to the radical
difference that reality has already made in his life. (Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word,
Vol. II: Meditations on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, 44)
Many early Christian authors, such as Justin Martyr, referred to the Gospels as
memoirs of the apostles. Blomberg has used the descriptive "theological
biographies," which captures well the supernatural and human elements found
within them.
The Historical Evidence
Those supernatural elementsespecially the miracles of Jesus and his claims to
divinityare, as weve noted, why skeptics call the Gospels "myth" while remaining
unruffled about anything written about Julius Caesar and the Rubicon by Velleius
Paterculus, Plutarch, Suetonius, and Appian. Yes, Suetonius did write in his account
(Lives of the Twelve Caesars) about "an apparition of superhuman size and
beauty . . . sitting on the river bank, playing a reed pipe" who persuaded Caesar to
cross the river, but it has not seemed to undermine the belief that Caesar did
indeed cross the Rubicon on January 11, 49 B.C. But, for the sake of argument, lets
set aside the theological claims found in the New Testament and take a brief look at
the sort of data a historian might examine in gauging the reliability and accuracy of
an ancient manuscript.
First, there is the sheer number of ancient copies of the New Testament. There are
close to 5,700 full or partial Greek New Testament manuscripts in existence. Most of
these date from between the second to 16th century, with the oldest, known as

Papyrus 52 (which contains John 18), dating from around A.D. 100150. By
comparison, the average work by a classical authorsuch as Tacitus (c. A.D. 56c.
120), Pliny the Younger (A.D. 61113), Livy (59 B.C.A.D. 17), and Thucydides (460
395 B.C.)has about 20 extant manuscripts, the earliest copy usually several
centuries newer than the original. For example, the earliest copy of works by the
prominent Roman historian Suetonius (A.D. 75130) date to A.D. 950over 800
years after the original manuscripts had been written.
In addition to the thousands of Greek manuscripts, there are an additional 10,000
Latin manuscripts, and thousands of additional manuscripts in Syriac, Aramaic, and
Coptic, for a total of about 24,000 full or partial manuscripts of the New Testament.
And then there are the estimated one million quotes from the New Testament in the
writings of the Church Fathers (A.D. 1501300). Obviously, the more manuscripts
that are available, the better scholars are able to assess accurately what the
original manuscripts contained and to correct errors that may exist in various
When Were They Written?
Closely related is the matter of dating. While debate continues as to the exact
dating of the Gospels, few biblical scholars believe that any of the four works were
written after the end of the first century. "Liberal New Testament scholars today,"
writes Blomberg, "tend to put Mark a few years one side or the other of A.D. 70,
Matthew and LukeActs sometime in the 80s, and John in the 90s" (Making Sense of
the New Testament, 25). Meanwhile, many conservative scholars date the synoptic
Gospels (and Acts) in the 60s and John in the 90s. That means, simply, that there
exist four accounts of key events in Jesus life written within 30 to 60 years after his
Crucifixionand this within a culture that placed a strong emphasis on the role and
place of an accurate oral tradition. Anyone who denies that Jesus existed or who
claims that the Gospels are filled with historical errors or fabrications will, in good
conscience, have to explain why they dont make the same assessment about the
historical works of Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Julius Caesar, Livy, Josephus,
Tacitus, and other classical authors.
Secondly, historical details are found in the Gospels and the other books of the New
Testament. These include numerous mentions of secular rulers and leaders (Caesar
Augustus, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Felix, Archelaus, Agrippa, Gallio), as well as Jewish
leaders (Caiaphas, Ananias)the sort of names unlikely to be used inaccurately or
even to show up in a "myth." Anglican scholar Paul Barnett, in Is The New Testament
Reliable? , provides several pages worth of intersections between biblical and nonbiblical sources regarding historical events and persons. "Christian sources
contribute, on an equal footing with non-Christian sources," he observes, "pieces of
information that form part of the fabric of known history. In matters of historical
detail, the Christian writers are as valuable to the historian as the non-Christian"
Then there are the specifically Jewish details, including references to and
descriptions of festivals, religious traditions, farming and fishing equipment,
buildings, trades, social structures, and religious hierarchies. As numerous books
and articles have shown in recent decades, the beliefs and ideas found in the

Gospels accurately reflect a first-century Jewish context. All of this is important in

responding to the claim that the Gospels were written by authors who used Greek
and Egyptian myths to create a supernatural man-god out of the faint outline of a
lowly Jewish carpenter.
Pay Dirt
Various modern archeological discoveries have validated specific details found in
the Gospels:
* In 1961 a mosaic from the third century was found in Caesarea Maritima that
had the name "Nazareth" in it. This is the first known ancient non-biblical reference
to Nazareth.
* Coins with the names of the Herod family have been discovered, including the
names of Herod the king, Herod the tetrarch of Galilee (who killed John the Baptist),
Herod Agrippa I (who killed James Zebedee), and Herod Agrippa II (before whom
Paul testified).
* In 1990 an ossuary was found inscribed with the Aramaic words, "Joseph son of
Caiaphas," believed to be a reference to the high priest Caiaphas.
* In 1968 an ossuary was discovered near Jerusalem bearing the bones of a man
who had been executed by crucifixion in the first century. These are the only known
remains of a man crucified in Roman Palestine, and verify the descriptions given in
the Gospels of Jesus Crucifixion.
* In June 1961 Italian archaeologists excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre
near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) uncovered a limestone block. On its face is an
inscription (part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar) that reads: "Pontius Pilate,
Prefect of Judaea."
Numerous other finds continue to demolish the notion that the Gospels are
mythologies filled with fictional names and events.

The External Evidence

Third, there are extra-biblical, ancient references to Jesus and early Christianity.
Although the number of non-Christian Roman writings from the first half of the first
century is quite small (just a few volumes), there are a couple of significant
Writing to the Emperor Trajan around A.D. 112, Pliny the Younger reported on the
trials of certain Christians arrested by the Romans. He noted that those who are
"really Christians" would never curse Christ:
They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had
been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing
responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to
some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to
refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. (Letters, Book 10, Letter 96)

The historian Tacitus, in his Annals considered by historians to be one the finest
works of ancient Roman historymentioned how the Emperor Nero, following the
fire in Rome in A.D. 64, persecuted Christians in order to draw attention away from
himself. The passage is noteworthy as an unfriendly source because although
Tacitus thought Nero was appalling, he also despised the foreign and, to him,
superstitious religion of Christianity:
Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished
Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name,
was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but
the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through
Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all
things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and
become popular. (Annals, 15:44)
Robert E. Van Voorst, author of Jesus Outside the New Testament, offers a detailed
analysis of scholarly controversies about this passage, and then states, "Of all the
Roman authors, Tacitus gives us the most precise information about Christ" (45).
This includes Tacituss understanding that "Christus"not Paul or someone else
was the founder of the Christian movement. He notes that Christ was executed
under Pilate during the reign of Tiberius, and that Judea was the source of the
Christian movement. All of which further confirms the historical reliability of the
As Pope Benedict XVI noted in his book on Jesus, there is much that is good about
historical-critical and other scientific methods of studying Scripture. But these
approaches have limits. "Neither the individual books of Holy Scripture nor the
Scripture as a whole are simply a piece of literature" (Jesus of Nazareth, xx).
The Christian apologist should not be embarrassed to admit that he has a certain
bias when it comes to reading and understanding the Gospels. He should point out
that everyone has biases, and that the skeptics bias against the supernatural and
the miraculous shapes how he reads and understands history, especially the
historical data found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Christian, in other
words, should have no problem with an honest historical examination of the
Gospels. But why do so many skeptics shy away from a candid examination of their
philosophical biases? That is the question apologists should pose and demand
(politely, of course) to be answered.

Baptism Saves You

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Even though I was brought up in a devoutly Evangelical home, I wasnt baptized
until I was 21 years old. We attended an independent Bible church with an
essentially Baptist theology, and the irony about this Baptist theology is that it
actually de-emphasized baptism. What mattered was being "born again" or "saved,"
if we had responded to an altar call and "accepted Jesus into our hearts." This
personal experience was all that was necessary to assure us of eternal salvation.
Baptism and communion (while they were not dispensed with altogether) remained
unnecessary symbols of our inner faith.
As a college student, I became an Anglican, and before I could be confirmed, I
submitted to baptism. Later I went to teach in a Christian school attached to a
Baptist church, and even then the pastor seemed more concerned about the mode
of baptism than baptism itself. He insisted that I be re-baptized by total immersion
since he didnt think my Anglican baptism (with water poured over my head)
Travel the Romans Road
I lived in England for 25 years and had little contact with Baptists. Now our family
has moved to South Carolina, and recently two Fundamentalist Baptists came
around to discuss theology with me. They proceeded to take me along the famous
"Romans Road." This is a simple Evangelical process that leads a person to salvation
through the most basic Christian truths taken from St. Pauls epistle to the Romans.
The first verse is Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of
God." After establishing that you are a sinner, in Romans 6:23 St. Paul reminds you
that "the wages of sin is death." The second part of that verse gives the promise
that "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 5:8 tells
us that "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Romans 10:13 says that
"Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved," and Romans 10:9 says that
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God
raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved."
My visitors took me through the Romans Road and were a little nonplussed when I
agreed with them on every point. I then asked them why they didnt go any further
along the road. They asked what I meant. "St. Paul goes on to say just how this
salvation happens," I replied. "He gives us an objective and solid way to know that
we really have been made one with Christ. But first, we agree, dont we, that
salvation means we die with Christ so that we may have new life?"
They agreed.
"How does this happen?" I asked.
"You have to accept Jesus. Believe in him in your heart and confess with your lips."

"Yes, we Catholics believe that is necessary, but there is more to it than that. In
addition to believing and confessing with our lips, we need to be baptized. At the
beginning of Romans 6, St. Paul actually explains how we share in the death and
new life of Christ: It is through baptism."
The beginning of Romans 6 says, "Dont you know that all of us who were baptized
into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him
through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." This idea that we are
made one with Christ through baptism is reiterated by Paul in Colossians 2:12, and
in Galatians 3:27 he likens baptism to "being clothed with Christ."
Furthermore, the fuller idea of salvation being a union with Christ fits with much
more of the New Testament, which speaks time and again of being in a profound
union with the living Lordrather than simply being saved or justified by a personal
belief in Christ.
The sacrament of baptism takes the believer from the simple repentance, belief,
and profession of faith into a more mysterious identification with Christ, in which he
is the vine, and we are the branches, in which we die with him so that we might rise
to new life. Baptism is not simply the addition of a meaningful symbol to the act of
faith: It is an action which takes the believers whole body, soul, and spirit into a
new relationship with God.
Born of Water and the Spirit
The passage in Romans 6 (backed up by Colossians 2) is not the only evidence from
the New Testament that baptism is effective and therefore necessary for salvation.
The apostles Peter and John confirm St. Pauls teaching. In Acts 2, when St. Peter is
preaching at Pentecost, his hearers ask what they must do to be saved, and he
replies, "Repent and be baptized." In 1 Peter 3, Noahs ark is referred to as a type of
baptism, and Peter writes, "In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through
water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves younot the removal of
dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by
the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 3:20-21).
The most famous New Testament evidence for the efficacy and necessity of baptism
is in Johns Gospel. When Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus by night, Jesus says that a
person cannot enter the kingdom of God without being born again. Nicodemus asks
how a man might enter again into his mothers womb and Jesus corrects him,
saying, "No one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born of water and the
Spirit" (John 3:3-5). From the earliest days of the Church this passage has been
understood to refer to baptism, and this interpretation is virtually unanimous down
through history.
However, many Evangelicals have a peculiar interpretation for this verse. They say
that the "water" in the verse does not refer to baptism, but to the amniotic fluid of
the mothers womb. This is the "water" that breaks at the point of physical birth.
Therefore they believe when Jesus refers to "water and the Spirit," he is referring to

physical birth and spiritual re-birth. This might be a possible interpretation as the
previous verse was a discussion of a man entering again into his mothers womb.
However, one must look at the whole passage in its context. It is universally agreed
that Johns Gospel is the most "sacramental" in its approach. The passages of Jesus
life and teachings are put together in such a way as to connect with, and support,
the sacramental life of the early Church. In the verses that immediately follow Jesus
words that one must be "born again of water and the Spirit," Jesus talks about "men
loving darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil" (verse 19) and that
whoever "lives by the truth comes to the light" (verse 21). The references to light
point to the other main symbol of the baptismal ceremonythe lighted candle. If
there is any doubt, the very next story in John chapter 3 shows Jesus immediately
going out with his disciples baptizing.
Is It Enough to Believe and Confess?
As soon as you begin to speak about the necessity of baptism, an Evangelical will
pull out some favorite verses and favorite arguments. They will go back to Romans
10:9-10, "If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart
that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that
you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are
saved." They will point out that this verse does not say that one must be baptized.
The reply is that belief and profession of faith are necessary, but the whole witness
of the New Testament shows us that baptism is necessary as well.
Evangelicals may also refer to the story of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. The jailer
cries out, "What must I do to be saved?" and Paul and Silas reply, "Believe in the
Lord Jesus Christ and you will be savedyou and your household" (Acts 16:31). It
seems there is no demand for baptism. However, actions speak louder than words
because verse 33 says that "immediately they were baptized." Baptism therefore
seems to be the way one makes the faith commitment. This is just one example
from the Acts of the Apostles where faith is accompanied by baptism, and it is
assumed that both are necessary. Two other clear accounts are Philips encounter
with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, and Peters immediate baptism of Cornelius
and his household in Acts 10. The pattern in Acts is consistent: preaching,
repentance of the hearers, belief in Christ, and immediate baptism. Why would this
be the case if the apostles did not believe that baptism was both effective and
necessary for salvation?
The Evangelical who does not want to accept the efficacy and necessity of baptism
has a few more objections. What about people who do not have the opportunity to
be baptized? He will bring up the good thief on the cross. The thief couldnt be
baptized, but Jesus says, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). This
is the perfect opportunity to explain two other.aspects of Catholic belief.
Baptism of Blood, Baptism of Desire
First, you can explain that the Catholic Church does not believe that baptism is
magic: Simply having water poured over ones head with the Trinitarian formula
does not mean a person is instantly saved forever. Baptism incorporates the

individual into the Body of Christ, and within the whole life of the Church an
individuals baptism must be accompanied by faith. The developing faith of the
individual is empowered by the grace of baptism, and nurtured by the whole
Church, but if the Christian faith is rejected or never positively affirmed, the baptism
is not magically effective.
For difficult cases such as the good thief, it should be explained that the Catholic
Church has always taught that there is a "baptism of blood" and a "baptism of
desire." The baptism of blood refers to those who were not baptized but were
martyred for Christ. They are incorporated, through their own death, into the
mystical body of Christ through a mystical sharing in his sacrificial death.
The baptism of desire refers to those individuals with faith in Christ who would be
baptized if they had the opportunity and if they truly understood what baptism
means. It applies to those who, due to extraordinary circumstances, do not have
access to water for baptism. But the New Testament indicates that what we call
"baptism of desire" is the case for the Old Testament saints. Noah and his family
were "saved through water" in the flood, (2 Pet. 2:5) and the Hebrew children were
baptized "into Moses in the cloud and the Red Sea" (1 Cor. 10:2). This suggests that
baptism of desire may also extend to those who have pre-Christian faith or to nonChristians who have faith according to the level of their knowledge, but have never
heard the Christian gospel.
It may also apply to those who have faith in Christ, but have not been baptized
because they truly and sincerely (because of false teaching received in goodwill) do
not believe that baptism is necessary. Even in these cases, however, it should be
understood that the Church teaches that such individuals "may" be saved, not that
they are saved.
Incorporate It
The most difficult thing for an Evangelical to accept in a conversation about the
sacraments is that God actually uses physical means and liturgical ceremonies to
dispense his grace and administer salvation. The typical Evangelical is heavily
conditioned to dismiss all physical components of religion as useless and distracting
"man-made traditions."
However, the theory doesnt stand up in practice. It cannot because we have bodies
that are in time and space which need a way to respond physically to spiritual
realities. It is not very difficult to demonstrate that they believe physical actions and
religious ceremonies can be useful for salvationotherwise why have evangelistic
rallies with emotional music and altar calls? Why encourage people to "put up their
hand, get up out of their seat, and come forward?" Its because they realize that we
need physical actions, religious ceremonies, and rituals to help us accept the gift of
salvation that is being offered, and they must accept that it is through these
physical responses that salvation is accepted, and therefore that the physical
responses are effective and necessary.
If they can see that God uses their preaching and their traditions and religious
rituals to bring people to salvation, then it is not too much of a leap for them to see

that the Catholic rituals are another physical and active way for individuals to
accept the gift of salvation. Of course, the sacraments are more than a practical,
man-made religious tool. The sacraments are not done by us for God, but by God for
us. However, moving a non-Catholic to the point where he accepts that a sacrament
is useful is the first step towards accepting that it is necessary, and that is just one
step away from the acceptance that they are not just man-made, practical religious
devices, but divinely instituted initiatives that incorporate the soul into the mystical
Body of Christ.

To Make the Invisible Visible

Why We Need Images in Church
By Michael Schrauzer
More years ago now than I care to remember, I belonged to a lively circle of
Christian artists (or "artists who happened to be Christian," as we preferred to style
ourselves). We would gather for monthly fellowship meetings around Southern
California and share stories of how we were faring in the tricky business of
balancing our artistic and spiritual vocations out in the wide world.
On one occasion, we were invited to meet at a prosperous, non-denominational,
Evangelical church. Our hosts were kind enough to show us around beforehand, and
as we toured their sparkling modern facility, I couldnt help noticing that there was
not a speck of visual art to be seen anywhere, inside or out. There were no
paintings, no statues, no stained glass. There were no crosses eitherlet alone a
crucifixin fact nothing besides crisp lettered signage to indicate that the place had
any Christian or religious affiliation whatsoever.
As I eventually discovered, there was in fact one concession to visual art amid the
office-beige hallways and institutional carpeting. In the sanctuarywhich looked like
a nicely appointed concert hallwas a broad stage, empty but for microphone
stands and a drum-kit, above which was suspended a trinity of large projectionscreen TVs. The featured programming consisted of abstract swirls of color of the
kind seen on computer screen savers, interrupted occasionally by inspiring nature
photosand, yes, a few samples of actual Christian art. All of it was coordinated to
the rockin beat of the music ministers. It could have been a church that worshipped
at the altar of MTV.
No Graven Image?
It was certainly odd for me, a Catholic, to see other Christians choosing to create an
essentially image-free environment for themselves, but not surprising. Id heard
enough from my fellow Christian artists about the indifferenceif not outright
hostilityto visual art they had met with in their own denominations. I knew too
that the old Reformers had adopted an anti-image stance in horror of "popish
idolatry" and that many of the more strictly reformed churches still supported it and
criticized the Catholic Church on that basisalthough our hosts explained that their
minimalist dcor stemmed not so much from those doctrines (the pastor was happy
to have our artists group meet there) but fear that the unchurched folk they wished
to attract would be put off by a lot of overtly Christian or "churchy" paraphernalia.
I have no doubt that that policy was successful, given prevailing secular prejudices
but it and all other forms of aniconism run exactly counter to Catholic teaching
and practice regarding images. I say I knew all that, all those years ago, and I had
every confidence in the wisdom of the Churchs position, but I dont know if I could
have explained exactly where that position came from, or why images in the church
are not only unobjectionable but a positive good.

I might have begun at least by pointing out that on a practical basis, images have
been central to the faith and to the proclamation of the gospel since the earliest
days of Christianity. Certain types of imagesiconshave even been recognized as
equal in status to Scripture (a scandal to Protestantism), although all images called
to service in the Church are more than accessory decorations. As Pope St. Gregory
the Great wrote to the bishop of Marseilles, in sacred images "the illiterate see what
they cannot read," a valuable function, and not their only justification (as we shall
Yet, from the beginning too, long before the Reformation, there were objections to
bringing images into the church.
The Second Commandment forbids not just the making of images to be adored or
served, like golden calves, but all imagesa recognition of their powerful hold on
us. So powerful was this hold that the prohibition didnt stick: The Jews at later
times not only fell into idol-making again but produced representational art actually
dedicated to Yahweh (most notably in the furnishings of Solomons Temple and the
ancient synagogue at Dura Europos in Syria). Even God himself directed that the
Ark built to house the tablets should be adorned with a pair of golden cherubs, and
that Moses should make a bronze serpent (Ex 25:18, Nm 21:8-9). Still, the fear that
images would promote idolatry and draw people away from the right worship of the
invisible God was deeply ingrained in Hebrew culture.
But it was not just Israel who feared the power of images. Among the Greeks, Plato
famously criticized images for leading the mind farther away from the "real reality,"
and for their potential to corrupt moralsnot entirely dissimilar objections. For him,
an image was a copy of a copy of an ideal form. For example, my cat, Katherina, is
an image of the ideal cat, so a painting of Katherina is an image of an image, twice
removed from the ideal cata crude approximation at best.
(Ironically, practitioners of idealized art styles believe that an artificial image can be
a better representation of the ideal than any physical examplethink of all those
"perfect" Greek statues that improve on the actual human form.)
Perhaps on similar grounds, science often has preferred to describe the physical
world using abstract formulas and mathematical symbols instead of potentially
misleading and partial illustrations. (That attitude has changed dramatically in
recent decades with the availability of computer graphics and the realization that
public funding is easier to secure when people can see where their money is going.)
Bent on Reduction
With the advent of Christianity, the previous philosophies were reshaped by the
"new economy of images" wrought by the Son of God (CCC 2131). Gods form,
hidden from Moses, was revealed to the world in Jesus Christ. So by the second
centuryas unlikely as it was in an offshoot of Judaismcatacomb paintings and
carved sarcophagi were common. Moreover, they initially looked very much like
pagan Greco-Roman art. Once Christianity was legal, these early forms were
surpassed by richly frescoed and mosaicked church interiors.

But centuries after Christian art was a fait accompli, debate over its legitimacy still
seethed. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian denounced its potential for
idolatry and argued, as Plato had, that artistic images were luxuries that
encouraged immorality and materialism. Pope Gregory the Greats defense of
images came as a rebuke to the bishop of Marseilles, who had ordered saints
images destroyed when some in his flock apparently began to show them excessive
devotion. But it was in the East that the campaign against images, particularly
images of Jesus, reached crisis levels, culminating in the violence of Byzantine
iconoclasm: During the eighth and the ninth centuries, countless icons and holy
images were destroyed, an irreparable loss to the Church and history.
The conflict was addressed in 787 by the Second Council of Nicaea, which
unequivocally condemned idolatry but just as emphatically approved the full use of
images in the Church and their veneration. Image-making was legitimized by the
Incarnation of Christ, who said of himself that those who had seen him had seen the
Father. If Jesus, the living Image of God, could be seen by human eyes, then surely
his portrait could be taken, and any reverence shown to such a portrayal was really
directed to him, the Prototype.
Nevertheless, those putatively authoritative pronouncements didnt stick either. A
second major phase of iconoclasm occurred in the century after the council. Bouts
of iconoclasm and aniconism continued to agitate the Church in later centuries,
coming from such figures as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who succeeded for a time in
banning art from Cistercian churches (because "men admire beauty more than they
venerate sanctity"); Protestant iconoclasts like Zwingli and Calvin (but not Luther);
English Puritans and their spiritual heirs; all the way to contemporary "renovators"
who wish to remove images on the principle that they distract the people from their
active participation in the liturgy. We still hear the argument that images are
unbecoming luxuries, to be sacrificed for the sake of appearances (or less
honorably, to accommodate shrinking maintenance budgets).
To this internal ecclesial opposition, we could add external attacks from the likes of
French and communist revolutionaries and other anti-religious, ideological
crusaders, including those who today demand that the Church sell off her art
treasures for the relief of the poor and the hungry. Bizarrely, even the art world has
at times turned against itself in the last century, spawning reductionist art
movements like minimalism, conceptualism, and non-objective styles that advocate
against imagery of any kind. Radical anti-art movements like Dadaism not only bite,
but devour the hand that feeds them.
All this fuss over something that is as naturally and universally human as words
that other seemingly inexhaustible font of controversy.
But the Bible teaches, and we believe, that we ourselves are made in the image of
That gets us to the root of any justification or defense of images. If it is absurd for
humans to make and use images, how absurd is it for God to do so? And if we are
images, is it surprising that we would harbor a deep affinity for them?

We Learn by Analogy
In fact, images are inescapable. If we ask why we need them in the Church, we
might as well ask why we need them at all. The answer is that without them life
would be very difficult, and we would find it virtually impossible to learn or to think
or to know, or to be human. We are not angels or pure spirits but composite
creatures, a unity of spirit and matter, and our way of knowing is composite as well.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that "it is natural to man to attain to intellectual truths
through sensible objects, because all our knowledge originates from [the senses]"
(Summa Theologiae I:1:1). When we receive information about the world outside us
from our senses, we represent it to ourselves in the form of a mental image. That
image, residing in the imagination, does not contain the actual substance of the
world, but is its likeness (or phantasm). It is that likeness which the intellect studies
and from which it abstracts whatever can be known about it. In short, our path to
knowledge is indirect. We are built to learn using analogies and similarities, and that
is what images are all about.
The practical flaw in this scenario is that there are many things not directly
available to the senses, either because of their distance in time or space, or
because they are beyond the capacity of sense to take in, being immaterial in
The first limitation can be remedied in part by making words and images that
express what we have learned personally and preserving them for the benefit of
those who come after usthe basis of human art and education from time
But to attain knowledge of spiritual things in the first place, images are not only
useful but necessary. Of course, words have their necessary role, as witnessed by
the words of revelation and Scripture, but the Church recognizes that man does not
live by words alone: "Hence in Holy Writ, spiritual truths are fittingly taught under
the likeness of material things" (Summa 1:1:1). Likenesses drawn from the material
world are the means by which we access, through analogy and abstraction, the
sacred history and invisible realities they stand for, those things which are, in the
Catechisms formulation, "beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the
exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God" (CCC 2500).
In this life, we do not see or know God in his essence, so he makes himself known to
us "through the universal language of creation," its order, harmony, and beauty.
"God is known by natural knowledge through the images of his effects," says
Aquinas, for all of Creation is made in his image (Summa I:1:12). "From the
greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their
Creator . . . for the author of beauty created them" (Wis 13:5,3). The illiterate might
well have to learn from images, but that doesnt mean the literate can do without
When Jesus, who is both the Word and the Image of God, appeared in the flesh, it
remained impossible for human eyes to perceive his divinity. Instead, he spoke of
the Father in parables, using "the likenesses of material things." He worked "signs

and wonders" to allude to his divine power and mercy, which, like love and truth
and goodness, are invisible in themselves. He cured physical diseases as a token of
his ability to cure spiritual disease and to forgive sins. When he was transfigured,
his blinding brightness was a visible analog of his infinite glory. And he bequeathed
us those greatest of all "outward signs," the sacraments.
Visual Illiteracy
Images are woven into the fabric of the Church: The liturgy, the people, the priest,
the building itself, all these are imagesthough it may take some effort to see them
that way. Paintings and statues and stained glass are comparatively more obvious
and accessible, and potentially more versatile and specific when it comes to the
range of themes and episodes from sacred history to which they can they can point
Nevertheless, without a proper visual education, all the sublime theology in the
world and all the beautiful lessons embodied in those images wont do us any good.
It is one thing to describe their potential and quite another to experience it in
True enough, many Catholics regularly pray before statues or meditate on the
crucifix and other art works. Some bring a favorite holy card or illustrated prayer
book to Mass. Local and ethnic customs can add striking representations and
reenactments to the parish mix. For most, images are perhaps never more "active"
than during Advent and Lent, when elaborate crches spring up and the Stations of
the Cross rise from their ordinary-season torpor to become objects of reverential
But many other Catholics pay no more attention to such imagery than they do to
background music. No doubt for some it is a matter of spiritual temperamentthey
prefer to pray and worship with their eyes closed, or with music and words. Others,
though, may have fallen into a Sunday rut: Habituation has reduced the church
furnishings to innocuous visual "filler," colorful stuff that sets the expected religious
ambiance, but never demands their lively appreciation. And unfortunately, if
curiosity should move such folk to look more closely, they may find the symbolism
inscrutable, the saints unidentifiable, and none of it any match for the graphics on
their new gaming system at home. Even more unfortunate are the multitudes who
attend modern churches destitute of images: They are either knowingly deprived or
sadly unaware of what they are missing.
Indifference and visual illiteracy can be cured by education, but pastors and others
must be willing to devote resources to the effort. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope
Benedict XVI have repeatedly called for a renewal of sacred imagery in the Church,
noting that "when faith, celebrated in the liturgy . . . encounters art, it creates a
profound harmony, because each can, and wishes to speak of God, [to make] the
Invisible visible" (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, November 18, 2009).
The Fabric of Creation

Debate over images in the Church is hardly yesterdays news. Ecumenical

encounters and the ongoing "reckovation" wars demonstrate that images are still
quite capable of stirring confusion and passion. In the face of contemporary visual
culture, with its myriad images (crushing numbers of them immoral or unedifying),
the desire to simplify is understandable. A world without so much flash and clutter
would be less fatiguing, and a church interior inspired by the austere grandeur of a
Cistercian abbey might indeed be a salutary change.
Nevertheless, the place of images in the Church is secure. Their immediate purpose
is show us the Bible and sacred history in living color, to provide a point of focus for
contemplation, to reveal the beauty of God. But by extension they are a reminder
that everything is connected to everything else, across time, across space.
Everything is an image of something else. Every image is a link in a vast network of
analogous and causal relationships, leading from image to original, from object to
maker, and finally to the one Origin and Maker of all things, God. He created
everything in his image, and we in turn may create images of God and everything in
Creation, including ourselves. To do away with images would be to disunite
everything, like an Internet made of nothing but unlinked pages.
Images are the way the cosmos is constructed. We think in images. We dream in
images. We are an image.
Only one thing is not an image, and that is God.

What "No Salvation Outside the Church" Means

By Jim Blackburn

One of the most misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church is this one:
"Outside the Church there is no salvation" (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus).
Those trying to grasp the meaning of this teaching often struggle with its
formulations by various Church Fathers and Church Councils down through history.
Of course, to understand an isolated formulation of any Church teaching, one must
study the historical context within which it was written: why it was written, what
was going on in the Church at the time, who the intended audience was, and so on.
One must discover how the magisterium (teaching office) of the Church
understands its own teaching. If someone fails to do this and chooses, rather, to
simply treat a particular formulation as a stand-alone teaching, he runs the risk of
seriously misunderstanding it.
In recent times, the Church has recognized that its teaching about the necessity of
the Catholic Church for salvation has been widely misunderstood, so it has "reformulated" this teaching in a positive way. Here is how the Catechism of the
Catholic Church begins to address this topic: "How are we to understand this
affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Reformulated positively, it
means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is
his Body" (CCC 846).
In keeping with the Churchs current spirit of ecumenism, this positive reformulation
comes across less harshly than previous negative formulations. Even so, it remains
quite controversial. So, lets see how this new formulation squares with Scripture.
Jesus, the Way
The first part of the reformulated teaching"all salvation comes from Christ the
Head"is quite easy for all Christians, even non-Catholics, to understand and
embrace. It echoes Jesus own words recorded by John: "I am the way, and the truth,
and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (Jn 14:6). So, Christians
unanimously agree on this first part. But is this all that needs to be said about how
one may be saved? The Catholic Church has historically recognized the importance
of explaining further the means through which salvation is offered through Christ.
When speaking of salvation, Jesus offered more details than just his words quoted
above. For example, consider these three verses:
* He who believes and is baptized will be saved. (Mk 16:16)
* [U]nless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Lk 13:3)
* [H]e who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him
up at the last day. (Jn 6:54)
Notice that in these three verses Jesus associated salvation with baptism,
confession, and the Eucharist, respectively. Catholics recognize that these
sacraments are administered through the Church. In fact, in the case of the latter

two, a validly ordained priest is necessary for their administration, so the sacrament
of ordination must also be associated with salvation. A primary role of the Catholic
Church in conjunction with salvation is becoming quite clear.
This brings us to the second part of the Catechisms formulation of the doctrine
being considered: ". . . through the Church which is his Body."
With Him or Against Him
Since the sacraments are the ordinary means through which Christ offers the grace
necessary for salvation, and the Catholic Church that Christ established is the
ordinary minister of those sacraments, it is appropriate to state that salvation
comes through the Church.
This is not unlike the situation that existed prior to the establishment of the Catholic
Church. Even before it was fully revealed that he was the Messiah, Jesus himself
taught that "salvation is from the Jews" (Jn 4:22). He pointed the woman of Samaria
to the body of believers existing at that time, through which salvation would be
offered to all mankind: the Jews.
In a similar fashion, now that the Messiah has established his Church, Jesus might
say, "salvation is from the Catholics"!
Recognizing this, we can see why the Church, especially during times of mass
exodus (such as has happened in times when heresies have run rampant), has been
even more forceful in the way it has taught this doctrine. Instead of simply pointing
out how God offers salvation from Christ, through the Church, the Church has
warned that there is no salvation apart from Christ, outside his Church.
Since Jesus established the Catholic Church as necessary for salvation, those who
knowingly and willingly reject him or his Church cannot be saved. We see this in
Jesus teaching: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather
with me scatters" (Mt 12:30). Also: "[I]f he [a sinning brother] refuses to listen even
to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Mt 18:17). Paul
warned similarly: "As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or
twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted
and sinful; he is self-condemned" (Ti 3:10-11).
Having said all this, we must recognize that this doctrine is not as far reaching as
some imagine it to be. People will sometimes ask, "Does this means non-Catholics
are going to hell?" Not necessarily.
Invincibly Ignorant
The Church recognizes that God does not condemn those who are innocently
ignorant of the truth about his offer of salvation. Regarding the doctrine in question,
the Catechism of the Catholic Church (quoting Vatican II document Lumen Gentium,
16) states:

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not
know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know
the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere
heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it
through the dictates of their consciencethose too may achieve eternal salvation.
(CCC 847)
Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes teaches similarly on the possibility of
All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose
hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since
the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the
Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of
being associated with this paschal mystery. (22)
This teaching is consistent with Jesus own teaching about those who innocently
reject him: "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin" (Jn
But once a person comes to know the truth, he must embrace it or he will be
culpable of rejecting it. We see this in Jesus words to the Pharisees: "If you were
blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, We see, your guilt remains"
(Jn 9:41). Paul taught likewise concerning the Gentiles:
When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are
a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what
the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness
and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when,
according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom 2:1416)
Notice Pauls carefully chosen words: "their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps
excuse them." Paul did not say that those who are innocently ignorant of the truth
will be saved; he simply keeps open the possibility of it.
Similarly, he wrote: "[I]s God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles
also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on
the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith" (Rom 3:29-30).
Necessary for Salvation
As we have seen, God introduced salvation to the world through his chosen people,
the Jews. Gods revelation to the Jews found its fulfillment in Christ, the Messiah,
who established the Catholic Church. The grace necessary for salvation continues to
come from Christ, through his Church. Those who innocently do not know and
embrace this might still attain salvation but those who knowingly and willingly
choose to reject it, reject salvation on Gods terms.
The Catechism (once again quoting Lumen Gentium) summarizes all this as follows:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a
pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and
the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself
explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed at the
same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through
a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was
founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to
remain in it. (CCC 846)

Peters Authority
More Solid Than a Rock
By Fr. Dwith Longenecker
When I was in the Bible doctrine class at Bob Jones University, one of the verses we
had to memorize was Matthew 16:18: "I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock
I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."
A Catholic student might memorize this verse to prove his beliefs about the papacy.
We learned it in order to deny Catholic beliefs about the papacy. It was explained
that the rock in this verse was not Peter, but his profession of faith that Jesus Christ
was the Son of God. Christs pun on the name "Peter-petros" was not a pun at all
because petros meant little stone, so Jesus could not have intended the rock to be
Peter because he was speaking of a foundation stone. Only many years later did I
begin to reassess the teaching I had received about this famous and important
The Fundamentalists claimed that Catholics built the entire edifice of papal
authority on this one verse taken out of contexta misuse of Scripture. An
important doctrine, they said, should not be developed on one proof-text alone. In
fact they are right, and as I began to study the Catholic faith more openly, I came to
understand that the Catholic Church does not rely on this one verse alone to
support papal claims but considers the whole verse in context. In addition, instead
of one proof-text, there are three important biblical images that come together to
support the Catholic Churchs claims to papal authority.
The three images are rock, steward, and shepherd. These three images are found
not just in one verse, but are rooted in the Old Testament and affirmed in the New.
Like a strong, three-strand, braided rope, these three images of rock, steward, and
shepherd provide a powerful interlocking and interdependent support for the
authority Christ intended to leave with his Church on earth.
God Is My Rock
A word study of the Old Testament shows the importance of the rock as an image of
foundational authority and strength. In Genesis 49:24 the patriarch Jacob, blessing
his sons, says that Josephs arm is strong in battle because it is upheld by "the
shepherd, the rock of Israel." The shepherd and the rock are symbols of Gods care
and support for his people.
For Moses, the rock is a solid place to stand and a secure hiding place (Ex 33:21-22),
and for the people of Israel, the rock is a miraculous source of refreshment and life
(Ex 17:6). Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord is a rock who is perfect,
who fathers his children, and who provides an abundant life for them (Dt
The great psalmist King David refers time and again to the Lord as his rock, his
fortress, and his deliverer (2 Sm 22:2; Ps 18, 19 et al). The psalmist praises God for
he has lifted his feet from the miry clay and set them firm upon a rock (Ps 40:2).

Throughout the Psalms the rock becomes a predominant image for the solid, secure,
and trustworthy Lord of Israel.
The prophet Isaiah echoes the psalmist, and for him too the Lord is the rock. Shelter
is found in the shadow of a rock in a dry and thirsty land (Is 32:2), while God is
likened to the "Rock eternal" (Is 26:4), and the Lord is the rock from which the
people of Israel are hewn (Is 51:1). Habakkuk reaffirms that the Lord is the rock (Hb
1:12), and at the end of the Old Testament, the prophet Zechariah says that God will
make Jerusalem an immoveable rock for all nations (Zec 12:3).
In the Old Testament the powerful image of the rock repeatedly refers to God
himself. In the New Testament, Paul unlocks the image of the rock and says clearly
that the foundation stone is Jesus Christ himself (Rom 9:33, 1 Cor 10:4). The
incarnate Christ is the manifestation of the rock who is God. He therefore has the
authority to name someone who will share his rock-like status.
In the context of the whole Old Testament, Jesus the rock gives his teaching about
the rock. Specifically, the important passage of Isaiah 51 describes God as the "rock
from which [the people of Israel] are hewn," but they are told to "look to Abraham
your father and to Sarah who gave you birth." Stephen Rays masterful work Upon
This Rock piles up evidence showing that the Jewish teachers repeatedly referred to
Abraham as the God-appointed foundation stone of the Jewish people. God was the
ultimate rock, but Abraham was his earthly presence. Just as Abram was given a
new name to indicate his new foundational status, so Jesus gives Simon a new
nameRock to indicate his foundational status in the new covenant.
The Kings Delegate
The second strand in the braided rope of Petrine authority is the image of steward.
The steward in a royal household appears throughout the Old Testament record. The
patriarch Joseph works with a steward in the palace in Egypt. King Saul has a
steward, as does the prince Mephibosheth, but the most important image of
steward in the Old Testament for understanding Matthew 16 is in Isaiah 22.
There the prophet foretells the fall of one royal steward and the succession of
another. Shebna is being replaced by Eliakim, and the prophet says to the rejected
Shebna, "I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand
your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to
the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what
he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open" (Is 22:21-22).
The true holder of the keys to the kingdom is the king himself, and in the Book of
Revelation we see that the risen and glorified Christ holds the power of the keys
the power to bind and loose. John has a vision of Christ who says, "I am the First and
the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades" (Rv 1:18).
So the king holds the keys of the kingdom, but he delegates his power to the
steward, and the keys of the kingdom are the symbol of this delegated authority.
The keys not only opened all the doors, but they provided access to the store

houses and financial resources of the king. In addition, the keys of the kingdom
were worn on a sash that was a ceremonial badge of office. The passage from Isaiah
and the customs all reveal that the role of the royal steward was an office given by
the king, and that it was a successive officethe keys being handed to the next
steward as a sign of the continuing delegated authority of the king himself (See "A
Successive Ministry," above).
Isaiah 22 provides the Old Testament context that Jesus disciples would have
understood completely as he quoted this particular passage in Matthew 16. When
Jesus said to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you
bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be
loosed in heaven," his disciples would recognize the passage from Isaiah. They
would understand that not only was Jesus calling himself the King of his kingdom,
but that he was appointing Peter as his royal steward. That John in Revelation sees
the ascended and glorified Christ holding the eternal keys only confirms the
intention of Jesus to delegate that power to Peterthe foundation stone of his
Catholic scholars are not alone in interpreting Matthew 16:17-19 as a direct
quotation of Isaiah 22. Stephen Ray, in Upon This Rock, cites numerous Protestant
biblical scholars who support this understanding and affirm that Jesus is delegating
his authority over life and death, heaven and hell, to the founder of his Church on
The Good Shepherd
The third strand in the strong rope of scriptural support for papal authority is the
image of the Good Shepherd. This powerful image is so abundant in the Old
Testament that this short article cannot begin to recount all the references. Suffice it
to say that the Hebrews were a nomadic-shepherd people, and the images of the
lamb and the shepherd are woven in and through their story at every glance. From
the beginning God himself is seen to be the shepherd of his people.
In Genesis 48 the old man Jacob, before blessing his sons, says that the Lord God of
his fathers has been his shepherd his whole life long. The prophet Micah sees the
people of Israel as "sheep without a shepherd," and the shepherd King David calls
the Lord his shepherd (Ps 23 et al). The prophet Isaiah says that the sovereign Lord
will "tend his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries
them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young" (Is 40:11).
The theme of the Lord being the Good Shepherd reaches its Old Testament climax in
the Book of Ezekiel. Earlier, Jeremiah the prophet had raged against the corrupt
leadership of the people of Israel. They were wicked and abusive shepherds, but in
the Book of Ezekiel God himself promises to be the shepherd of his people Israel.
So the Lord says,
As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look
after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on
a day of clouds and darkness . . . I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.

I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will
destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. (Ez 34:12,16)
Finally, the Lords servant, the Son of David, will come and be the shepherd of the
lost flock.
I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between
one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and
he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their
God, and my servant David will be prince among them. (Ez 34:22-24)
One of the clearest signs, therefore, of Christs self-knowledge as the Son of God is
when he calls himself the Good Shepherd. In story after story Jesus uses the image
of the Good Shepherd to refer to his own ministry. He explicitly calls himself the
Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11,14) who has come to the lost sheep of the house of Israel
(Mt 15:24). He tells the story of the lost sheep, placing himself in the story as the
divine Shepherd who fulfills Ezekiels prophecy (Lk 15). The author of the Letter to
the Hebrews calls Christ the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (Heb 13:20). Peter calls
Jesus the Shepherd and overseer of souls (1 Pt 2:25), and in the Book of Revelation,
the Lamb on the throne is also the Shepherd of the lost souls (Rv 7:17).
When Jesus Christ, after his Resurrection, then solemnly instructs Peter to "feed my
lambs, watch over my sheep, feed my sheep" (Jn 21:15-17), the ramifications are
enormous. Throughout the Old Testament, God himself is understood to be the Good
Shepherd. He promises to come and be the shepherd of his people through his
servant David. When Jesus Christ, the Son of David, fulfills this prophecy, Gods
promise is kept. Then before Jesus returns to heaven, he commands Peter to take
charge of his pastoral ministry. Now Peter will undertake the role of Good Shepherd
in Christs place.
The Vicar of Christ
When I was an Anglican priest in England, I held the title of vicar of the parish. The
term derives from the fact that the vicar is a priest appointed to do a job in the
stead of the official parish priest. One priest might oversee various parishes, and so
he appoints vicars to do the job when he cant be there.
Many non-Catholic Christians object to the pope being called the Vicar of Christ. But
the word vicar simply stands for one who vicariously stands in for another person. A
vicar is someone to whom a job is delegated. The three strands of biblical imagery
rock, steward, and shepherdshow in three different ways that Jesus intended Peter
to exercise his ministry and authority here on earthin other words, to act as his
The fact that there are three images is important because the authors of Scripture
believed the number three to be one of the perfect numbers. A statement was most
authoritative when it was expressed three times in three different ways.
We see this in the passage in John 21. Jesus gives his pastoral authority to Peter
with three solemn commands: "Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my

sheep." Here Jesus delegates his authority three times in three different ways, using
imagery found throughout the Old Testament. In so doing he clearly reveals his
delegation of authority to Peter.
History shows that from the earliest days Christians considered Peter to be the very
rock, steward, and shepherd that Jesus proclaimed him to be. Furthermore, from the
earliest days they considered his successor to be the Bishop of Rome, and that
Bishop of Rome endures today as rock, steward, and shepherdjust a few hundred
yards from the site of Peters death and burial.
Does the Catholic Church build the claims to papal authority on one verse taken out
of context? Hardly. The three strands of rock, steward, and shepherd are woven in
and through the whole of Scripture, coming into focus in the life of Jesus Christ who
is the true Rock, the King of the Kingdom and Good Shepherd, and who hands his
authority on earth to Peter until he comes again.

Justification Sola Fide

Catholic after All?
By Christopher J. Malloy
At the close of the last liturgical year, Pope Benedict XVI made a startling
proclamation: "Luthers expression sola fide is true if faith is not opposed to charity,
to love" (Wednesday Audience, Nov. 19, 2008). At first, this statement might seem
to collide with Trent: "If anyone says that the godless are justified by faith alone . . .
let him be anathema" (Trent, VI, canon 9). Again, "For faith, unless hope and charity
are added thereto, neither unites one perfectly with Christ nor makes one a living
member of his body" (Trent, VI, ch. 7).
There are differences of expression, emphasis, and insight here. But do the
differences constitute contradictions? Heavens no!
Catholic Doctrine
Lets begin by establishing the bedrock: defined Catholic dogma. Then we will
consider the unique insights and contributions of our Holy Father.
Justification is a mystery which cannot be exhaustively understood. We can only
approach a mystery in receptive, vigorous wonder: "Put off your shoes from your
feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground" (Ex 3:5, RSV). Still, we
can gather some understanding of this mystery. We can speak about what happens
in justification; we can speak about who causes justification and through what
means; and we can speak about the basis for justification. Let us start with a brief
description touching on all these points.
Justification involves the free forgiveness of sins and the re-creation of the sinner
through the infusion of justifying grace, otherwise known as sanctifying grace. This
infusion makes us Gods truly just friends and adopted sons (CCC 1266, 1999, 2000,
and 2010; Compendium of the Catechism 263 and 423). God alone causes
justification, working through the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation. The
basis for justificationthe grounds on account of which God justifiesare the merits
of Jesus Christ. Let us now explore these elements in greater detail.
Justification as Forgiveness of Sin
The personal sins forgiven in justification differ from person to person, but when we
speak of "justification," the sins forgiven must include mortal sin and original sin.
When someone already in the state of grace is forgiven only venial sins, the subject
is not, strictly speaking, justification (the first moment of Christian spiritual life) but
rather ongoing sanctification (sometimes called "second justification").
What is original sin?
Original sin is what we inherit from Adam: We are all conceived in a state of
alienation from God (Ps 51, Eph 2:3). We are deprived of sanctifying grace, which
made us radiant like angels. Stripped of our royal robe, we inherit the rebellious

state Adam chose. Also, we are ravaged interiorly by this loss, so we find acts of
supernatural virtue impossible, acts of natural virtue difficult, and, often enough,
acts of vice attractive. This is not all.
Upon birth, those begotten of Adam (except the Mother of God) also bear the stain
of guilt before God, which cries out for eternal punishment. Since sin entails guilt
before God; only God can remit sin. Indeed, only the one who is offended can
reestablish a violated relationship. No matter how much I try to win back the friend I
have wronged, I must await his free forgiveness. How much more is this the case
with God!
What of mortal sin? An act of mortal sin is an offense of infinite proportion because
instead of cleaving to God as I am commanded (Dt 6:4ff), I choose another god.
Whether money, fame, pleasure, or vain knowledge, it is not the living God. Against
such sin, the wrath of God flares up (Rom 1:18). Yet, God does not consume the
sinner immediately; he is slow to anger and rich in mercy (Rom 2:4, Eph 2:4). Often,
he gently asks the shivering soul cloaked by shame, "Where are you?" (Gn 3:9).
God can call dead bones to life (Ez 37)and he does not quench the smoldering wick
(Is 42:3). Yet, Gods mercy does not come cheap. Preachers of "mercy" who do not
call to mind the divine wrath misread Paul. In the face of Gods justice, one cannot
but confess, "No man can ransom himself" (Ps 49:7).
Behold fallen man: Interiorly destitute of divine life, frequently inclined towards evil,
soiled with guilt. The result: "No human being will be justified in his sight by works
of the law" (Rom 3:20). There is no human sinner who can make himself just. This is
bad news but true. What doctor ever healed before a proper diagnosis? God,
wanting mans cooperation, shares with him this diagnosis, that he might come
freely to the Light of life (Jn 3:20f), drawn by the Father (Jn 6:44). God is not only
just but merciful. As he created us without our assistance, so he redeemed us
without the cooperation of sinners, putting forth his Son as an expiation for sin (Rom
3:24ff). The sole human person cooperating in our redemption was Mary. An
expiation is a sacrifice lovingly offered in atonement. Our expiation is the selfoffering of the Son made flesh. Instead of condemning us sinful humans, he became
one of us yet without sin (Heb 2:14-17, 4:15). This Redemption is radical. Such a gift
can only be received; it cannot be earned, though its acceptance through faith is an
act of freewill.
Justification as Re-creation
We have covered the first aspect of justification, the forgiveness of sins, together
with the Redemption in Christ and the prevenient love of God. The second aspect
inseparable from the firstis the infusion of sanctifying grace and the theological
virtues (faith, hope, and charity) by which the human person becomes Gods
acceptable child, his loving friend, an heir of eternal life (Jn 15:15, Rom 8:14-17, Gal
As Catholic faith teaches, forgiveness is not isolated from this re-creation (Gal 6:15)
but comes hand in hand with it (Trent, VI, ch. 7 and canons 10-11). It would be
unintelligible for God to forgive the godless and call him godly if he remains godless

in reality. Rather, God forgives the sins of the godless whom he makes godly (Eph
2:1-5), obedient from the heart (Rom 6:17). There is an internal difference of great
magnitude between the unjustified and the justified. Whereas the former "[do] not
submit to Gods law" (Rom 8:7), the latter do, for they are made lovers of God, and
whoever loves God keeps his commandments (Jn 14:15) and no one who does not
keep his commandments loves God (Jn 14:21). God alone replaces the heart of
stone with a heart of flesh (Ez 36:26ff). This surgery is divinely wrought, not a work
of human effort (Eph 2:8-10).
The foregoing remarks show us that on at least three counts our Redemption is not
by works of law. First, no one can exact forgiveness, much less divine forgiveness.
Second, no one can bring down grace, no matter how much he tries. Third, a rotten
treewhich is what man is when borncannot bear (supernaturally) good fruit.
Similarly, justification, which is dependent on Christs redemptive act, is a free gift
and not a work of law (Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:9) nor a product of human
willing (Jn 1:13).
Pope Benedicts Remarks
We are now in a position to read properly Pope Benedicts teachings.
First, Pope Benedict states there are several reasons that we cannot merit heaven.
Most obviously, our Redemption by the blood of Christ is a pure gift. Moreover, and
in some sense more astoundingly, heaven is a communion with God who is love (1
Jn 4:8), and a relationship of love is initiated by a free gift. If such a relationship is
with the infinite, all holy God, how much more is this initiative free! So, too, any
merit depends on Gods promise, though Gods promise does not exclude all merit.
Finally, the reward of the just exceeds actual merit, as divine mercy tempers divine
justice (Wis 11:23, Rom 8:18). Pope Benedict has these reasons and others in mind
in his statement. He does not intend to deny Trents teaching. He does, however,
put this teaching in contextin the context of personal love. We are dealing, after
all, with a love story, with a Father who sent his only Son out of love for the godless.
Second, there is a reason that Pope Benedict teaches that faith alone suffices and
that it always comes with charity. He means, by "true faith," a living faith. Now,
living faith by dogmatic definition includes charity, for divine faith without hope and
charity does not avail (1 Cor 13:2, 1 Jn 3:14). Charity is not first a "work." It is first of
all a divine gift of love that comes down from the Father (Jas 1:17) through the Holy
Spirit (Rom 5:5). It is by this gift of divine love that faith can realize itself in good
works (Gal 5:6). Pope Benedict teaches this very thing: Charity is the soul or form of
faith (Audience, Nov. 19).
Calling to mind charity as a gift, an infused virtue (not first a work), supports the
truth of James analogy: Works are to faith as the soul is to the body (Jas 2:26).
James Epistle would devolve into moralism and contradict Paul (see Rom 10:1-4;
Phil 3:8ff; Audience Nov. 26), if it meant that merely human works are added to a
dead faith to resuscitate a dead corpse. Not at all! It is living faith that realizes itself
through good works, that produces good works. But I might not have opportunity to
perform a work, to "realize" this living faith. Am I not saved, if I die in such
circumstances? No, I am saved! Therefore, having formed faith is sufficient for

salvation. This is what Pope Benedict means. Further, as he also expressly states,
living faith itself will surely die if it is not expressed in concrete works, if I am
capable of action and the opportunity presents itself.
Third, good works testify to justification, for they are signs of a justification already
received. They are signs of gratitude for the gift already given, promised in earnest.
Luther said the same thing, as did St. Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic saints.
Of course, more must be saidand the pope says more: "Salvation received in
Christ needs to be preserved and witnessed to" (Nov. 26). This is what Trent teaches
(Trent, VI, canon 24). Moreover, the pope indicates a progressive growth in
communion with Christ, a progressive conformity to his life (Nov. 19). Since
communion with Christ is established through faith and constitutes the essence of
our "being justified," the pope is teaching here another truth of Catholic faiththat,
once justified, the Christian can surrender to God and so be increasingly sanctified
unto eternal life (Rom 6:15-23). In purgatory, those who die with imperfect charity
are thoroughly sanctified (see Spe Salvi, 45ff).
Finally, we must heed something not yet mentionedthe popes focus on the final
judgment: "This idea of the Last Judgment must illumine us in our daily lives" (Nov.
26). What is the basis upon which we will be judged? The "sole criterion is love"
(Nov. 19; see also, Nov. 26). Hence, "At the end of this Gospel [Mt 25], we can say:
love alone, charity alone" (Nov. 19). Here, the pope is showing his deeply
Augustinian character (see Augustine, De Trinitate, XV:18:32).
Love of God and neighbor is a matter of life and death (Dt 30; John Paul II, Veritatis
Splendor, 12), for even though a person has divine faith as a free commitment to
Christ, if he has not charityand the deeds of charity where need requires and
capacity existshe cannot be saved (Mt 7:22ff; Jn 15:2; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21;
Jas 2:17; Veritatis Splendor, 68).
A Matter of Focus
Pope Benedict covers vast swaths of the faith in a few delicate brush strokes,
without contradicting previous teaching. More importantly, he draws our attention
to things one might not see in Trentwhich was focused on combating errorsbut
which must be seen.
Above all, Benedict focuses our hearts on our Redeemer. He does so in at least two
senses. First, he recasts the Churchs presentation of the nature of justification.
Justification is not some impersonal event of forgiveness and re-creation. It is not an
abstract thing. It is a real mystery, a mystery that takes place in the encounter
between the sinner and Christ. Picture the sinful woman, weeping over Christs feet.
He says to her, "Go in peace, your sins are forgiven." This is the mystery of
justification, which buoys up weak sinners, uplifts depressed hearts, gives sight to
the blind, fills the soul with joy and glory, and makes us eager to do good in
response to the infinite kindness of God. This is no abstract doctrine but a concrete

Many ecumenical difficulties fade away when we think of the event in these terms.
Nothing of Catholic doctrine can ever be compromised. But our presentation of it
must be faithful to the reality; thus, it must be recast ever anew so that heavy
burdens may be lifted and hearts may rejoice.
The second way Benedict focuses our eyes on the face of our Redeemer is this:
Looking into Jesus eyes, the true believer, which is the lover, must desire to ignore
his own merits in order to pursue the upward call (Phil 3:13ff). He only cares for
Christ. Indeed, he loves Christ for Christs sake so much that he is willing to delay
seeing those sacred eyes in order to serve his neighbor (Phil 1:21-24). He may even
be willing to surrender any title to an inheritance for the sake of the lost whom God
calls (Ex 32:32, Rom 9:3). By calling attention to this deep love, Benedict indicates,
indirectly, a lofty aim that one finds especially in the early Luther. Luther spoke of
this deep love, this willingness to be forsaken, for love of God.
Now, regarding this deep love, sobriety is important, as the magisterium always has
reminded the "enthusiasts" and "quietists." The willingness to surrender must be
rooted in love of and desire for God, not indifference. In the end, there is one thing
that remains needful (Lk 10:42)union with God. Truly, this union is "far better"
than any service we can offer God (Phil 1:23). Workeven the redemptive work
itselfis for the communion of persons. Benedict emphasizes communion over
At this point, we see why Benedict stresses faith before he stresses love. First, it is a
biblical mode of expression. One must understand this mode of expression in
consonance with the truth of Scripture, which Trent adumbrates. Thus, this faith
includes the divine gift of charity. But second, faith is stressed because we must
keep Jesus before our eyes. Through faith, we encounter the goodness of God;
through faith we are blessed and receive gifts. Through the love God pours into our
heartsout of his own infinite lovewe are enabled to respond with our whole
hearts. So, the word "faith" certainly calls to mind a gift from above, whereas, in
common discourse, "love" often calls to mind a work or response, not a divine gift.
What Did Luther Teach?
A question nonetheless remains: Did Luther teach that infused charity is the form of
justifying faith? Well, Luthers work is complicated, not reducible to a formula (see
B. Lohse). On the one hand, Luther lauds the glorious union of Christ and the soul:
"[This righteousness of Christ] flows and gushes forth from Christ" (Luthers Works,
27:222, 1992 ed.).
Notwithstanding, Luther rejects the idea that at the baptismal moment of
justification a man becomes truly just interiorly (LW 32:229). For Luther, the believer
is always totally righteous and totally sinful. Hence, despite the beginnings of
sanctification, justification itself must be simply a declaration of forgiveness and an
"imputation" of righteousness (LW 26:223-236, 1963 ed.). He must, therefore, reject
Catholic teaching. Luther declares, "If love is the form of faith, then I am
immediately obliged to say that love is the most important and the largest part of
the Christian religion. And thus I lose Christ" (LW 26:270). Luther even resorts to a
curse: "Let that expression faith formed be damned!" (LW 26:273, see also LW

27:38; on this curse, see Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, and
Politics, 104-11).
There is no question, many of the points Luther made were on the money. Among
these are the following: Some members of the Church were corrupt; Gods grace is
totally free (Eph 2); sin still lies in wait even for the just person (Rom 7); Christ is
presently a high priest interceding for sinners (Heb 4-5); good deeds are
expressions of gratitude for salvation, etc.
Still, Lutherand the Formula of Concord after himexcludes charity from the
justifying role of faith. Luther consequently deflates the dramatic tension that
constitutes our "time of decision for love" on earth (Phil 2:12ff; 2 Tm 4:7-8).
Catholics cannot accept these teachings of Luther, which contradict the Gospel
(Rom 1:16ff) as Catholic faith reads it.
Despite every effort at ecumenical reconciliation, a difficulty remains; an important
obstacle must be overcome. As Benedicts shows, Catholic terminology is flexible. It
is the reality of the mystery that must be upheld. Provided that justifying faith (Rom
3:28) is understood as a compact expression for faith, hope, and charity, Catholics
do profess that faith alone justifies (1 Cor 13:13; on a history of the reception of
Romans pertinent to this point, see Thomas Scheck, Origen and the History of
Above all, our eyes should fall on Jesus Christ. May these papal audiences be as oil
upon the head, running down the beard (Ps 133:1ff), so that Catholics may humbly
profess the fullness of the faith they do not own, so "that they may all be one" (Jn

The Case for Marys Perpetual Virginity

By Tim Staples

Those who deny Marys perpetual virginity most commonly refer to two texts:
* Matthew 13:55-56: Is not this the carpenters son? Is not his mother called
Mary? And are not his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not
all of his sisters with us?
* Matthew 1:24-25: And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord
had commanded him, and took unto him his wife. And he knew her not till she
brought forth her firstborn (Gk. prototokon) son: and he called his name Jesus.
A surface reading of these passages seems problematic. If Jesus had "brothers" and
"sisters," would not Mary have had other children? If Jesus was Marys "firstborn,"
would there not be at least a second-born? And if "he knew her not till," did he not
then "know her" at some point? Well begin with Matthew 13:55-56.
Oh, Brother!
First, we must understand that the term brother has a wide semantic range in
Scripture. It can mean a uterine brother, an extended relative, or even a spiritual
brother. In Genesis 13:8 and 14:12, we read of one example of brother b