Monday, June 18, 2012

'Sola Fide', part deux

     And so, it came to this.  How do I understand Holy Scripture?  The book of Romans and the book of St. James seem to be so contradictory, yet once I studied and began to understand the audience to whom it was being written, the light truly began to shine.  Below is an excerpt from a study that I read that truly made sense to me.  Catholics believe that we are justified by faith, but must cultivate this faith through good works done in obedience to God (what St. Paul calls the “obedience of faith,” in Romans 1:5 and Rom. 16:26). Protestants, beginning with Martin Luther, insist that justification is by faith alone: that works play absolutely no role in justification.  Unlike many modern Protestants, Martin Luther acknowledged that Catholics (or, as he put it, “papists”), taught that faith was the foundation of salvation. That is, he recognized that we weren't actually Pelagians, and that we don't believe that you can work your way to Heaven (as is often claimed today). But he still thought Catholics were wrong, and perverting the Gospel. Here's how Luther contrasted the Catholic and Protestant position on justification:

They [Catholics] admit that faith is the foundation of salvation. But they add the conditional clause that faith can save only when it is furnished with good works. This is wrong. The true Gospel declares that good works are the embellishment of faith, but that faith itself is the gift and work of God in our hearts. Faith is able to justify, because it apprehends Christ, the Redeemer.

     So both sides agree on justification by faith, but disagree on justification by faith alone. That may seem like a minute squabble, but understand that Luther saw this as not only the single most important debate in the Reformation, but a battle to preserve the Gospel itself. He described the conflict in these terms:

Since our opponents will not let it stand that only faith in Christ justifies, we will not yield to them. On the question of justification we must remain adamant, or else we shall lose the truth of the Gospel. It is a matter of life and death.

     Given Luther's radical emphasis on justification by faith alone, Christians (of all stripes) are often surprised to learn that Scripture uses the phrase “faith alone” exactly once. Here it is, from James 2:24:  “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  This explicit declaration in Scripture, that we're not justified by faith alone, would seem to end the dispute, right? Heck, even Luther saw the Book of James as fatal to his views on justification, and tried to remove it from the Bible.  But Protestantism has survived. Modern Protestants both proclaim justification by faith alone, and believe that the Book of James is God-breathed Scriptures. So how do they rectify the apparent contradiction?  One way is by claiming that James is writing against a “mere profession” of faith, and that “James is combating justification by profession alone, not sola fide, in this chapter.” In other words, where James explicitly criticizes his opponents for having faith alone (James 2:24), or faith without works (James 2:14, James 2:17, James 2:20, James 2:26), this interpretation assumes that what James really meant to say was that his opponents have the wrong kind of faith, or that they don't really have faith at all.
     This is part of a broader Protestant trend to read James as distinguishing between saving faith, and whatever he's criticizing in James 2. So, for example, Arthur Pink, in his work Studies on Saving Faith manages to devote a full chapter to the idea of “counterfeit faith,” without pointing to a single passage of Scripture actually distinguishing between saving and counterfeit faith. And as Jimmy Akin notes in an excellent article on the subject, several Protestant translations (including the NIV, RSV and CEV) have even added words to James 2:14 to make the chapter fit this view.   But there are several problems with this interpretation. The first, and most obvious, is that James acknowledges that those he's criticizing have faith, and notes that even the demons have faith. The second is that James compares their faith to his own, and to Abraham's, and to Rahab's.

     In James 2:19, St. James acknowledges:  “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder.”  In saying, “You believe that God is one; you do well,” James forever dispels the notion that his opponents are merely professing to hold a faith that they privately doubt or deny. But in comparing their faith to that of the demon's, James is showing the insufficiency of faith.  The demons know God exists, because they've encountered Him in a way that we haven't. In fact, in Mark's Gospel, the first to identify Christ as the Holy One of God (after God the Father Himself) are the demons. We see this in Mark 1:23-26:  “And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.  And again, in Mark 1:35, “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”  The demons know better than anyone on Earth who Jesus is, and they also know what that means. Nor do they apparently doubt His claims: the demons tremble, as James says: they flinch before Him in anticipation of being destroyed, as Mark 1:24 makes clear.

     Put another way, the demons understand and believe who Christ is, but despite this knowledge, they choose to work against Him, rather than work for Him, and are justly damned as a result. This would seem to prove James' point: that works are vital to justification. What we do, how we respond to faith, matters. When we're tempted with something sinful, for example, do we follow the One we know is Lord, or do we oppose Him?

     In James 2:18, St. James compares his opponents' faith to his own:  “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”  If the demons are examples of those who have faith, but for whom it does no good, James also provides Abraham (James 2:21-24) and Rahab (James 2:25-26) are examples of those who have faith and who are saved. And what's the difference between Abraham and Rahab, on the one hand, and the demons, on the other? It's not that the demons are just pretending to believe in God, or anything of the sort. It's how each side reacts to this belief. As James explains, Abraham and Rahab by the works they perform in response to faith. To wit:
  • “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” (James 2:21)
  • “And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25)

James isn't saying that works, apart from faith, save. But he is saying that faith is “completed by works” (James 2:22), and insufficient in itself.

     How then, should we rectify this with all of the statements that St. Paul makes against works in Romans and Galatians? The Protestant Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible explains:

When Paul says that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28), he plainly speaks of another sort of work than James does, but not of another sort of faith. Paul speaks of works wrought in obedience to the law of Moses, and before men's embracing the faith of the gospel; and he had to deal with those who valued themselves so highly upon those works that they rejected the gospel (as Romans 10:1-21, at the beginning most expressly declares); but James speaks of works done in obedience to the gospel, and as the proper and necessary effects and fruits of sound believing in Christ Jesus. Both are concerned to magnify the faith of the gospel, as that which alone could save us and justify us; but Paul magnifies it by showing the insufficiency of any works of the law before faith, or in opposition to the doctrine of justification by Jesus Christ; James magnifies the same faith, by showing what are the genuine and necessary products and operations of it.

     Yes, yes, and a thousand times, yes. The sort of “works” that Paul is clearly obedience to the Mosaic Law, which is why he also refers to it as “works of the Law” (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16), “the Law” (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:21) and uses circumcision as an example of the inadequacy of the Law (Gal. 5:6). In 1 Cor. 7:19, St. Paul actually contrasts circumcision with obedience to God's commands, saying:

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

     So obedience to the Mosaic Law is meaningless for salvation, while obedience to “the law that requires faith” (Rom. 3:27) is not. This interpretation certainly makes sense of Paul's references, in Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:16 to the “obedience of faith.” Faith is the foundation of salvation, but we need to respond to that faith by obeying God. From this perspective, James and Paul clearly speak with one voice: there's no contradiction, or even a real tension between the two.

   Martin Luther's hostility to the Book of James is well-known,  but I wanted to consider today the implications for the Lutheran view of justification, at the heart of the Reformation and of modern Catholic-Protestant disputes.

Here's what Luther had to say about the Book of James:

In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works. It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac; though in Romans 4 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. Now although this epistle might be helped and an interpretation devised for this justification by works, it cannot be defended in its application to works of Moses' statement in Genesis 15. For Moses is speaking here only of Abraham's faith, and not of his works, as St. Paul demonstrates in Romans 4. This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.

     In other words, Luther taught that the Book of James contradicted the doctrine of sola fide, or justification by faith alone. If he's right about this, then either the Bible is wrong, or Protestants are wrong. As far as I can tell, this leaves Protestants with three options:
(1) The Book of James teaches false doctrine, antithetical to the Gospel. In other words, Luther is right. If this is the case, you should cut that Book out of the Bible. But of course, this raises all sorts of problems. Because then, you're not deriving their views on justification from Scripture, but creating a Bible that agrees with the views you already hold.

(2) Luther didn't understand the Book of James, or how it related to justification. This is a huge blow to Luther's credibility, and substantially undermines the Reformation. This is the doctrine Luther viewed as the most important, the doctrine that justified (if you'll pardon the pun) the entire Reformation, since (in his words), “if this article [of justification] stands, the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses.” This is the doctrine he referred to simply as “the Gospel.” But if Luther doesn't understand how justification works in the writings of St. James, why should we believe that he understands the way that justification works in the writings of St. Paul?

(3) The doctrine of justification by faith alone is wrong. In this view, the Reformation was started because Luther was proclaiming a false doctrine, which the Catholic Church recognized and rejected as false. But if this is true, the Reformation was a mistake that needs to be fixed.

     So, it had come to this for me.  I had to make a choice.  Would I continue thinking that my understanding was complete, or would I trust Christ that in His Church, as The Way, The Truth, and The Life, that having faith in Him compelled me to cooperate with Him and do things (works) that would magnify Him?  It was the easiest choice in the world.  I am happily living a life that is in harmony with what Our Lord and Savior established on earth in His Church, and fully understand and appreciate what I must do as a Christian to not only say I have faith, but live it, breathe it, and reflect it daily.  Deo Gratis +.

And I must add a special thanks to the blog Shameless Popery, and its authors, who have shown me the beauty of my Catholic Faith.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is 'Sola Fide' incomplete Christianity?? Part 1

     Another wrestling match I had on my conversion trail was the doctrine of 'Sola Fide' or faith alone.  The doctrine teaches that faith alone, that is faith in God, the sacrifice of His Son, etc., imparts the sanctifying Grace of God upon us.  Sounds like a pretty good deal.  Nothing I can do can separate me from the Grace of God, so long as I have faith.  Upon further study, however, I found this to be a hollow life?  How is it hollow?  Well, where is the evidence that I have faith?  That is to say, what can other see in me that would demonstrate the faith that I so proudly say I have?  Wouldn't having faith, given the Sanctifying Grace of God, force me to change?  Would my change compel me to imitate the life of Christ?  Would I not do things that reflected my faith?  If the answer is no, then this doctrine is enough.  However, if the answer is yes, then 'Sola Fide' as a doctrine is wrong, and I am an incomplete Christian.  These were the questions that I sought answers to.  So, I went back to the beginning (at lease, what I thought was the beginning).  Boy, was I in for a shock.
     As I looked back, I went to the oldest bible I was aware of at the time, the King James Version.  Along with that, I read Calvin and Luther in an attempt to understand faith alone.  However, I became disturbed that a majority of Luther's arguments were in response/reaction to something.  What was he so angry about?  So, I found and read his 95 Theses.  I soon discovered that he was addressing issues within the Catholic Church.  That led me to further study, which included the Douay-Rheims Bible and the Latin Vulgate.  I must admit, that the Latin Vulgate required a ton of work to start with, but proved to be perhaps the most valuable in my studies.  Upon further review, I was shocked to see that Luther had removed portions of the Bible in order to justify his viewpoint.  Let me say that again.  The Bible, which had been followed by the whole of Christendom from the Synod of Hippo in AD 393, and the Latin Vulgate which commissioned by Pope and completed by St. Jerome circa AD 400, was now, in the 1500s not really the scripture.  I was left with a big problem.  Either, the Holy Spirit allowed Christ's Church to be in heresy from its inception, and waited until 1500 years later to correct this, sending countless souls to their damnation, or, a singular person decided that he no longer wanted to follow that, and decided to change it up.  So, in one decision, Luther decided he knew better that 1500 years of the Church, and the split was on.  What would prompt a man to do such a thing?  In my humble estimation, it was pride.  As human beings, we hate rules.  Any authority placed over us, or that we are subject to, makes us uncomfortable.  We throw words like liberty, discrimination, patriarchal, sexist, homophobic, freedom, choice, free will, epiphany, etc. in order to justify what we are doing.  In our pride, we are will fully disobeying the Word of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Reread that last sentence and allow it to sink in.  What do we do and justify in our minds as righteous and correct, that is direct opposition to Jesus Christ, and His Bride, the Church?
     That shook me to the core of who I am.  So, I began to read and pray.  As I searched the Holy Scriptures again, I finally found a passage about faith alone.  And then I read it, and realized that it is repudiated as incorrect and incomplete.  This was a big discovery, that then started me on a wonderful journey to the truth.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Maybe I should make some points before I go on

     I realized after my last post that I may have shocked many of those who read it.  Especially those who have known me for some time.  So, I decided that this post will slow down the apologetics for this time, and instead focus on, why I am where I am.  My second post gave a thumbnail sketch as to how I came to the Catholic Church.  This one will address, at least at some level, the why.

     Why would I, a born and bred Protestant, go to the Catholic Church??  Well, that will take some explaining.  I guess the best way to put it would be, God brought me there.  For the longest time, I struggled with "why do I believe..." mentality.  That is to say, there are certain passages in the Bible that never quite made sense with my "modern" sensibilities.  I mean, how can Jesus truly be present in the Holy Eucharist?  I suppose that was the first question I grappled with.  So, I read.  And read.  And read some more.  Of course, coming from a "Sola Scriptura" background, I was already convinced that the idea of transubstantiation (that is, the Holy Eucharist becoming the Body and Blood of Christ) was certainly a man-made proposition and tradition.  In my most cynical way, I had figured (wrongly, by the way), that the Catholic Church had made that up in an effort to use fear as a motivator.  Instead, I read St. John 6: 51-71, where Jesus clearly states that His flesh is bread, and His blood is wine.  Oh boy, how do grapple with that?  If I believe that Christ did not say that, I have turned my back on the Holy Scriptures.  If I believe that Christ did say that, then I must take it as His word.  That was the crux of the issue for me.  It came down to, if Christ says it, do I have the faith to believe Him AT HIS WORD.  Not, well he was obviously using symbolism.....  If that were the case, I have to believe that Christ would have clarified that point once people started leaving Him, never to continue following Him.  But He did not.  Instead, St. Peter answers him by saying, where do we go for eternal life if we leave, as we know and believe that you are Christ, the Son of God.  And that was where I started to realize that maybe, just maybe, modern thought (philosophical paradigms, such as nominalism) had stripped the beauty and mystery away from Faith, leaving it as a shell where people could claim Christ without being held to the standard. 

     And so, I continued.  My next post will go into other issues I grappled with, and I welcome any questions that you may have.  I am on this wonderful journey, and God continues to bless me and my family in ways that I could never have dreamed or imagined.  My last words for this post are these; Have we, as people, allowed moral relativism to degrade and destroy the work and plan of the Eternal, Almighty God?  Temporal restriction on the eternal is the pure definition of insanity.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Questions I had while on my road

     On my road to conversion, there were some things that I had assumed were true.  Perhaps the one, sure foundation was the doctrine of 'Sola Scriptura'.  That is that the written Word of God was the final arbiter of all Church dialogue.  And then what happened?  That one, nagging question I had avoided.  When was the Bible written?  Who wrote it and canonized it as the Authoritative Word of God?  And so I began down the rabbit hole,  unsure of what was head.  However I knew that through diligence and faith, my belief in 'Sola Scriptura' would be vindicated, and the whole Catholic conversion thought would fade away.  (As a bit a foreshadowing, I say Au contraire Mon fr ere).  So, I started with the Bible itself, and read.  I found a great piece of writing on it, which I have paraphrased as best as I could.  Additional thoughts are at the bottom of this entry.  Be warned, this is a long read.

     Sola scriptura (“only Scripture”) is the Protestant doctrine which claims that the Bible is the sole rule of Faith for the believer. For the Protestant, the Bible is, in and of itself, sufficient without the complementary force of Apostolic Tradition or the teaching authority of the Church. The Catholic position is that Divine Revelation is passed down to us by Tradition — either written (the Bible) or taught orally (also called “Tradition,” but in the more specific sense of oral Tradition1) — and confirmed and taught to us by the Catholic Church. To get a Protestant’s statement of his own belief, I quote the words of Dr. W. Robert Godfrey: “The Protestant position, and my position, is that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand.”2
  The Bible has, according to the Protestant, sixty-six books.3 These books collectively form the inspired Word of God, which contains no error. It is written “by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).4 All of these books are listed on the table of contents of the King James Version which I have opened before me now. On the very next page is Genesis, chapter one. It is assumed, in the Protestant system, that these particular books form the authentic canon (list) of Scripture. In fact, they take great pains to argue the point that Catholics “added” books by including the so-called “apocryphal” books, which boost the sixty-six up to the seventy-two that we have in our Bible. So it is a doctrine of Protestantism that the sixty-six (and no more ) are the inspired books.
     One thing absent from the table of contents is the table of contents itself. Let me reiterate: The table of contents is not one of the inspired books of the Bible. This means that it was put together by men.5 Yet, it is a doctrine of Protestantism, one that a majority of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals will attest to, that the sixty-six books (and no more ) are the inspired Word of God. I hope the reader caught the point. If not, please read this paragraph again, before moving on to the next one.

     The point should be obvious: Since there is no inspired table of contents in the Bible – and no book in the Bible lists itself and the other sixty five as inspired – then the Protestant depends on something other than the Bible for his doctrine. So, using Dr. Godfrey’s definition of sola scriptura above, there is something “concerning faith” which is not “taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand.”

     To recapitulate the argument, we have here a contradiction: The Bible is the sole source of Christian doctrine, but the list of Bible books is not in the Bible. The Protestant is forced to go to something outside of the Bible for Christian doctrine.  For me, as a Catholic, the authority of the men who codified my Bible is no problem: My Church is Infallible.

A Big Hole

     The next argument is this: Nowhere in the Bible is the sola scriptura doctrine taught. Nowhere!  The classical Protestant reference used as a proof of sola scriptura is this one: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)  Note that the passage does not say that the Bible is all that is needed for Christian doctrine. So the passage does not spell out sola scriptura clearly. But it seems to say that the man of God may be “perfect” and “thoroughly furnished unto all good works” just by following the teaching of Scripture… or does it? No, in fact, it does not say that at all. It says that Scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. It’s the doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction by which the man of God may be “thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” For Timothy, that doctrine, correction, and instruction came from St. Paul, the author of the Epistle and Timothy’s teacher.  Even if it did say that the Scripture is “sufficient” and not just “profitable,” it still would not say that the Bible is a complete rule of Faith, in no need of unwritten apostolic tradition or the authority of the Church to complement it.

     Further, if the argument is that the Bible is sufficient for the man of God that he “may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” then I advance that one doesn’t even need Scripture for that, since some men of God were promised their perfection (salvation) without the Bible: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15: 1-3) The Corinthians are promised salvation if they remain true to St. Paul’s preaching . The Scriptures (Old Testament) are invoked only to substantiate that preaching.  Certainly St. Stephen, whose martyrdom was recorded in the Acts of the Apostles didn’t need the book of Acts, or the epistles of the yet unconverted Paul, to achieve his salvation.  Since there is no place in the Bible where it states that the Bible alone is the sole source of Christian doctrine, then the doctrine of sola scriptura is not biblical. It is, in fact, even by the Protestant standard of sola scriptura , not Christian doctrine. Ironic, isn’t it?

Oral Teaching

     There are many places in the Bible, where an inspired author commands the readers to obey his preaching. The author states that his teachings are from God. The teachings are not specifically disclosed in the Bible, but only referred to; however, the readers are still commanded to believe and teach them. Here is one such passage, again from St. Paul to Timothy: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2) St. Paul here commands Timothy to teach “the things that thou hast heard.” That is oral teaching. It is passed on to other men (tradere , in Latin, from which we get the word “tradition” means “to pass on”). These other men will, in turn, teach others. This is oral Tradition, the very thing Protestants protest.  The typical Protestant answer to this is that all of these teachings of the Apostles made their way into the Bible. The problem with this argument is that the Bible does not say that all of the teachings of St. Paul are found in the Bible. If the Bible does not say it, then the teaching authority of man is relied upon in matters of Christian doctrine. That, of course, is a contradiction of sola scriptura .  A similar passage is 2 Thessalonians 2:15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” As their Apostle, St. Paul commands the Thessalonians to believe what he has taught them, not only by his epistles to them, but by his words, which he preached to them. Again, the same argument as above applies: There is no evidence that these teachings are found explicitly in the Bible.

Doctrinal Authority

     Aside from the rejection of oral Tradition, sola scriptura also carries with it the idea of the sufficiency of Scripture to be understood, without a teaching authority to properly interpret it. As Dr. Godfrey said above, all things necessary are “taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand.” Therefore, the need of divinely appointed teachers, of a doctrinally authoritative Church, is absent in the Protestant system.  A necessary note of explanation has to be included here. What do I mean by “doctrinally authoritative”? This is important, since it is a major point in this article, and a major hole in the belief system of Protestantism. What I mean is this: A doctrinally authoritative Church has a divinely given power to (1) demand belief of its members in certain doctrines and (2) forbid its members to believe certain other doctrines. (These latter doctrines are called heresies .) The ones doing the forbidding and demanding – the ones who exercise authority – are men.    Protestantism rejects such an authoritative Church, but the doctrinal system disclosed in the Bible is the Catholic one and not the Protestant one.
     Before discussing the existence of the Church’s power to demand / forbid belief, I will establish the general inequality of believers: St. Paul clearly marks out that not every believer has the same authority: “And God hath set some in the church , first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?” (1 Corinthians 12: 28-29) And again: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ .” (Ephesians 4: 11-12)  In the above passages, I italicized two phrases: in the church and for the edifying of the body of Christ . These phrases show over whom the authority is exercised: men in the Church, which is the body of Christ. For the present purposes, it does not matter if we use the vague Protestant definition of “church” or the Catholic definition. In fact, for the purposes of argument, we will use the generic Protestant definition of church: “the body of believers.” This definition leads us to this statement: There are bishops and teachers who have authority in the body of believers.6

Demanding Belief

     The three-chapter Epistle of St. Paul to St. Titus contains St. Paul’s directives to Titus on how to be a good bishop (the KJV even uses the word “bishop” in 1:7). St. Paul tells Titus, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority . Let no man despise thee.” In the first chapter of the same book, St. Paul tells Bishop Titus to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city.”  Paul orders Timothy to teach, and he, in turn, appoints other men. Among their duties is that of teaching. These ordained men (called elders, presbyters, or priests) answer to Titus who answers to Paul.

     Another verse showing the authority of the Church to teach is this: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15) It is the Church that is the pillar and ground of the truth, even according to the King James Bible. If the Church is this pillar, then those who have authority to teach in the Church are the custodians of truth.

     I have asked Fundamentalists and Evangelicals this question, “What is the pillar and ground of the truth?” Invariably, they answer, “The Bible.” Then I ask them, “What does the Bible say is the pillar and ground of the truth?” In the several times I have asked the question (and I only ask it of Protestants who are trying to use biblical arguments against Catholicism), not once have I gotten the Biblical answer. Some have denied that it says that in their Bible. This shows ignorance of the fact that the Bible portrays a Church that has authority to teach.

Forbidding Belief

     Aside from the power to teach doctrines, I mentioned that the Church has authority to forbid belief. Once again, the Apostle to the Gentiles comes to our support: In his exhortation to Titus, St. Paul tells him to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Titus 1:13-14) Just what these Jewish fables were does not matter. The point is that Bishop Titus has authority to condemn error and he is ordered to do so by his ecclesiastical superior, St. Paul.  To his other subordinate, the Bishop Timothy, St. Paul writes, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” (2 Tim. 2: 16-18)  Here St. Paul condemns a heresy spread by men whom he names. Their words are compared to a “canker” and their “babblings” Timothy is to “shun.” Later in the same discourse, Paul warns Timothy about what perverse men will arise, men who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the truth.” At the climax of this charge to his disciple, the Apostle says, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine .” The word “rebuke” means, according to Webster’s Dictionary, “To check, silence, or put down, with reproof; to restrain by expression of disapprobation; to reprehend sharply and summarily; to chide; to reprove; to admonish.” In plain language, St. Paul is telling Timothy that he has authority to say, “Shut up!” in matters of doctrine.  Naturally, Timothy’s authority is to be respected by those in his charge, for St. Paul said, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

     The sola scriptura advocate may claim that the Apostles had a unique authority to teach truth and condemn error, and so did men like Timothy and Titus, BUT that all changed when the Bible was written and gathered together into one book. (You know: when men gave us the table of contents!) After that point, Gospel truth was in the Bible “clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand” without a doctrinal authority over him. If the Protestant says that, he has another contradiction: The Bible doesn’t say that! There is no passage in the Bible which says that after the Bible is codified, there will be no men with doctrinal authority in the Church. So again, by his own standards, the Protestant is unbiblical.

What Early Christians Believed

“The Catholic Church’s rule of faith consists of the Bible, Tradition and a teaching Church. The Church Fathers unanimously affirm this three-fold rule of faith.”7 What follows are passages from the writings of Early Christians, passages which illustrate their belief in this three-fold rule, contrary to the sola scriptura doctrine of the Protestants. The reader is asked to note how the Fathers used some of the passages in St. Paul just as I used them earlier. This listing is not by any means complete. The passages cited here are from Cor Unum Apologetics Web Site , Joseph Gallegos, webmaster ( ).
St. Hilary of Poitiers (+368 ) – “It behooves us not to withdraw from the CREED which we have received… nor to back off from the faith which we have received through the prophets … or to back-slide from the Gospels. Once laid down, it continues even to this day through the TRADITION of the FATHERS” (Ex. Oper. Hist. Fragment 7, 3 )
St. Athanasius (+373) , who defended the divinity of Christ against the Arian heretics) – “We are PROVING that THIS view has been TRANSMITTED from FATHER to FATHER, but ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiphas, how many FATHERS CAN YE ASSIGN to your phrases? Not one of the understanding and wise; for all abhor you, but the devil alone; none but he is your father in this apostasy, who both in the beginning sowed you with the seed of this IRRELIGION, and now persuades you to slander the ECUMENICAL Council, for committing to writing, not YOUR doctrines, but that which from the BEGINNING those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word have handed down to us. For the faith which the COUNCIL has confessed in writing, that is the faith of the Catholic Church; to assert this, the BLESSED FATHERS so expressed themselves while condemning the Arian heresy…” (De Decretis 27 )

“We are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor did the Fathers hold this.” (Epis. 59 )

“But after him (the devil) and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, BUT DO NOT hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they DO NOT rightly KNOW THEM nor their power.” (Festal Letter 2 )

“But what is also to the point, let us note that the very TRADITION, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning was preached by the Apostles and PRESERVED by the FATHERS. On this the CHURCH was founded; and if anyone departs from THIS, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called, a Christian.” (Ad Serapion 1, 28 )

St. Basil (+379 , who defended the divinity of the Holy Ghost against the Pneumatomachians) – “Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture, AS WELL those which have been gathered concerning it, as those which we have RECEIVED from the UNWRITTEN tradition of the Fathers” (Holy Spirit 22 )

“Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have delivered to us in a mystery by the Apostles by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force.” (Holy Spirit 27 )

“For I HOLD IT APOSTOLIC TO ABIDE BY THE UNWRITTEN TRADITIONS. ‘I praise you,’ it is said, ‘that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I have delivered them to you;’ and ‘Hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word, or our Epistle.’ One of these traditions is the practice which is now before us, which they who ordained from the beginning, rooted firmly in the churches, delivering it to their SUCCESSORS, and its use through long custom advances pace by pace with time. (Holy Spirit 71 )

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (+386 ) – “But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now DELIVERED TO THEE by THE CHURCH, AND which has been built up strongly out of all the SCRIPTURES.” (Catechetical Lectures 5,12 )

Epiphanius of Salamis (+403 ) – “But for all the divine words, there is no need of allegory to grasp the meaning; what is necessary is study and understanding to know the MEANING of each statement. We must have recourse to TRADITION, for all cannot be received from the divine Scriptures. That is why the holy Apostles handed down certain things in writings but others by TRADITIONS. As Paul said: ‘Just as I handed them on to you.’” (Panarion 61,6 )

St. John Chrysostom (+407 ) – “‘So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours.’ [2 Thess 2:15] Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther.” (Homily 4 on 2 Thess. )

St. Augustine (+430 ) – “For MY PART, I should NOT BELIEVE the gospel except moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manicheus, how can I BUT CONSENT?” (C. Epis. Mani. 5, 6 )

“Wherever this tradition comes from, we must believe that the Church has not believed in vain, even though the express authority of the canonical scriptures is not brought forward for it.” (Letter 164 to Evodius of Uzalis )

“Learn also diligently, and FROM THE CHURCH, WHAT ARE THE BOOKS of the Old Testaments, and WHAT are the books of the NEW.” (Catechetical Lectures 5,33 )

St. Vincent of Lerins (+445 ) – “When anyone asks one of these heretics who presents arguments: Where are the proofs of your teaching that I should leave behind the world-wide and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? He will jump in before you have finished with the question: ‘It is written.’ He follows up immediately with thousands of texts and examples…” (Commonit 1, 26 )

“Here perhaps, someone may ask: Since the canon of the Scripture is complete and more than sufficient in itself, why is it necessary to add to it the authority of ecclesiastical interpretation? As a matter of fact, [we must answer] Holy Scripture, because of its depth, is not universally accepted in one and the same sense. The same text is interpreted differently by different people, so that one may almost gain the impression that it can yield as many different meanings as there are men. Novatian, for example, expounds a passage in one way; Sabellius, in another; Donatus, in another. Arius, and Eunomius, and Macedonius read it differently; so do Photinus, Apollinaris, and Priscillian; in another way, Jovian, Pelagius, and Caelestius; finally still another way, Nestorius. Thus, because of the great distortions caused by various errors, it is, indeed, necessary that the trend of the interpretation of the prophetic and apostolic writings be directed in accordance with the rule of the ecclesiastical and Catholic meaning.” (Commonit 2 )

St. John Damascene (+749 ) – “So, then in expectation of His coming we worship toward the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten.” (Orthodox Faith 4,12,16 )

“Moreover that the Apostles handed down much that was unwritten, Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, tells us in these words: ‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught of us, whether by word or epistle’ And to the Corinthians he writes, ‘Now I praise you brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I have delivered them to you.’” (Orthodox Faith 4,16 )

     If you have lasted this long reading this entry, I truly congratulate you.  It is not my intent to begin an argument of be divisive.  However, many have asked me why I became Catholic.  It is my hope that the entries I write will hope those who know me better understand.  Through all of this, to God be the Glory.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thoughts, words, and deeds

     It is funny that our faith comes down to those three simple words.  Last week, we had a family meeting at my house.  It was time to discuss how chores had not been getting done, or where not being done completely, people were speaking to each other with contempt and disrespect, and overall, we just needed to reset/reshoot the azimuth.  After our meeting, the girls understood how we were to act as a family, and things have been going rather well since then.  My wife used the words 'thoughts, words, and deeds' to demonstrate how we should reflect our Catholic faith in all aspects of our life; at home, at school, with one another.  That truly stuck with me, and led me to realize that I had also been lacking those things that I expected from my family. 
     Perhaps the most overlooked and difficult portion of being a father is the level of accountability that we are held to.  Many parents, myself included, use the default position of the Ten Commandments.  If you are a parent, you know the one I am talking about. 'Honour thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest be longlived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee.' (Exodus 20:12).  Talk about a leverage point a parent can use!  I mean, God said that, not Mom or Dad!  However, there is one, small issue that can come up.  That is, the lack of responsibility placed on the parent.  At least, that is what can happen.  Children know when they are being told 'just  because'.  That can be a toxic development, and I am sure there are many who know this fact.
     So, I had to personally take a look at what was required of me as a father, and lo and behold, God clearly states what has to be done, and how God will view a father during judgement.  To be sure, the job of being a father is not for the faint of heart.  See, Proverbs 22:6 states that 'Raise up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it'.  (paraphrased by me).  That was the first one that put on the warning flashers.  So, I am responsible for the raising of my children in faith, so that they will not depart from God.  No pressure there, right?  But wait, there is more.  Ephesians 5:25-31 states, 'Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it:
That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any; such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church:  Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.'  Let the holy butt kicking begin!!  So, I am a husband, and must lay down my life for my wife as Christ laid his down for the Church.  As memory serves, Christ willingly entered into His Passion.  Would I willingly do so for my wife?  That is a whole other ball of wax.  But if I am a husband, there is a probability that I have children.  (Yes, that is a traditional assumption.  Imagine that, I am a Catholic who is Traditional.  Next obvious statement, please.  And if that offends you in any way, you probably aren't reading my blog, so....)  So now, I must raise my children in faith, and die for my wife as Christ did for the Church, which for the record was for the FAITH OF THE CHURCH THAT THEY WOULD SEE THE RISEN CHRIST AND CARRY OUT THE GREAT COMMISSION.
     With that now being my course correction, I realize that I cannot require something of my children that I myself am not doing.  For my children to be raised in faith, I must live my faith (words and deeds).  And I must die for my wife (thoughts, words, and deeds).  And as another reminder, I am the example to my daughters as to how a man should treat a woman.  So, how I treat my wife is just as powerful, if not more so, that the words I speak.  As I said earlier, not a job for the faint of heart.  So each day, I must take time by myself, read and meditate of God's words, pray for His guidance that I may be what I have been called to be; a husband and father who is worthy of the vocation of a lifetime.

Ad maiorem Dei Gloriam

Monday, March 26, 2012

An Evangelical on the Canterbury Trail, who crossed the Tiber instead

     Where to begin.  Well, I guess you have to start at the beginning.  I was baptized in the Lutheran Church when I was born, however I do not have many memories of attending Zion Lutheran Church in San Francisco.  When I was older, I remember going to chapel services in Germany (where my Dad was stationed) and my Mom felt that she was called to the charismatic/pentecostal church.  From there, we moved to Ft. Polk and attended a church there, and then on to Virginia, where I attended Christ Chapel in Woodbridge.  It was at this time that my faith was built, and I began to build what I perceived as a firm foundation on which to believe.  This continued through my time at both West Virginia University (which, I must admit, I was not good at), and then on to Southeastern Bible College in Lakeland, Florida.  While there, I started having some question about what they stated their fundamental truths.  It was not that I did not think they were correct; rather, it was holding them up against the Scriptures that the denomination stated as its foundation.  What I began to discover was that for all it had built, it was built by man.  That was a blow to my faith that took many years to overcome.
     So, lets fast forward to 2006.  I met an Episcopal Chaplain while in Iraq, who invited me to read a book titled "An Evangelical on the Canterbury Trail".  This book really spoke to me, as I had always tended toward a more liturgical worship style.  Even then, however, I had a difficult time finding a church that I was comfortable in.  And so it continued.  I eventually made it to Fort Stewart, Georgia, and found a wonderful congregation that both my wife and I felt was right.  We became members, attended services, helped teach, and really saw this as where God wanted us to be.  Still, I was searching.  I just did not know why, or what.  It had become so hard that my wife said to me, "Nick, you will never find a denomination that you agree with 100%".  Little did I know just how prophetic that statement would be.
     While visiting friends in Florida, they invited us to Mass.  Catherine and I accepted, as we wanted to be friendly, after all.  And it was there, at a Traditional Latin Mass, that I was called to the Church.  In the silence and reverence of the Mass, God found me.  As I prayed, with tears in my eyes, I knew that I had indeed come home.  As we left, I asked my daughters what they thought.  As if I needed any reassurance, my oldest said, "Dad, I have just been with God."  From there, my wife and I tried to straddle the fence, attending Mass on Saturday evening, and then our Protestant service on Sundays.  Yeah, that didn't work.  As I spoke to the pastor, I explained that I had to follow where God was calling me.  I expected that he would be disappointed, yet I was very surprised to hear that he was more happy that I was following God.  That man is still a dear friend to me to this day, although I am sure there are many who would doubt that.
     And so now, here I am.  In two weeks I will have my first Holy Eucharist, and be welcomed into full communion with the One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic Church.  It has only taken me 37 years to listen to God's voice.  And yet, He has never forsaken me, even when I was far from Him.  In fact, I have found myself passionate for God, and the Grace He has given so freely to me because of the Sacrifice of Christ. 
     Through all of this, I have lost some friends, and gained some new ones.  Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned is that through this journey, I know my faith, and am not afraid to defend it anymore.  Moral relativism and objectiveism have no place in the Truth.  When we try to place temporal restraints on the Eternal God, we lessen the Truth and dilute the Sacrifice of Christ.  This, for me, has been the greatest journey that I could ever be called to undertake.  And because of this, I am now where I need to be.  Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I've changed by not changing at all...

I suppose you could say that I am a bit of a Pearl Jam fan, based on the title of my post. In fact, I can remember listening to the album “Ten” while riding in a white Chevette with my girlfriend (now wife of 16 years) and jamming out to life in general. In a weird de ja vu, I still feel the same way while listening to the same music on my iPod as I drive the Tactical Family Vehicle (mini-van). However, I know that I have changed, but maybe not as much as I have thought; or, I am redefining who I thought I was in light of where I am.  Let me try to explain.

When I was younger, I was a bit of an idealist. In fact, you might say that while I was hard working, I was still hoping to do something that in my brain would be considered ‘great’. As I have become older, and perhaps a bit world weary, I have realized that I am actually living that idealized life. I am happily married, and have four wonderful daughters. On top of that, I am able to be around young men and women who are in the Army and am helping them develop into fuller people. So I guess you could say that I actually have had an impact on the world, at least in my little sphere of it.

Now, as I look toward the future, after twelve years of Army living, I am at another crossroads. How do I want to continue to be a person that has a voice, that can help others, that can maybe make a small bit of change? The twenty year plan that I had has obviously changed, and I am still adjusting to that. I do know that I will land on my feet, but right now I am hoping to land in such a way that I can still be who I am. I want to enjoy the job that I have. While I may complain (greatly, if you ask my wife) as to the Army, and how it is trying to squeeze the last bit of blood out of this turnip, I want a job where I can make a difference, and help those who are unable to do so themselves.  The process of changing is not something to be feared, but as human beings, we are uncomfortable with change. 

In the end, I know that this will end well. While I may not be able to tell anyone on this day what the future will hold, I do know that it will be ok.  And perhaps the greatest part of this is that I am living each day to its fullest, and enjoying a meal with my family at the end of a day.  That, is something that will not chage.