My Response to Tom Nash Part 3

May 14, 2018

Irenaeus of Lyons

The primary thing Tom Nash did not do in his response to my article, was to explain anything. He completely relied on the mindset of Catholics to interpret excerpts from Irenaeus as they have been conditioned to do. In contrast I have provided context and explanations which I think are preferred by reasonable people.

Let’s start with a quote from Irenaeus that Mr. Nash considered to stand on its own in support of Catholic real presence:

He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receive the word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?”

To properly expound on this quote we need to take in context. However, not a lot of context is required in order to understand the point Irenaeus is trying to make. Just going back to the beginning of the paragraph (5.2.2) where the quote was taken helps a great deal. It starts with this sentence:

“But vain in every respect are they who despise the entire dispensation of God, and disallow the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption.”

The heretics to whom he was referring were those who believed that the material world was evil including the flesh and blood of man. They saw the world as imperfect, flawed, and evil, not because of the fall of Adam and Eve, but because they believed it was created that way. They could not reconcile a perfect God creating an imperfect world. Their view of Jesus was that He was a mere man who became divine as a result of His spiritual virtue. They believed He became the manifestation of Christ at the moment of His baptism.

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A response to Catholic Apologist Tom Nash of Catholic Answers Part 2

April 30, 2018

In part one of my response to Tom Nash, I answered to his claims regarding Ignatius of Antioch. Here, in part two, I will address his claims regarding Justin Martyr.

In my article, “Early Church Evidence Refutes Real Presence,” I give context and some background on Justin Martyr’s two apologies. It is by no means comprehensive, but it does help to better understand why Justin wrote these works. But as for squashing the claim that his works affirm the notion of real presence, well, that can be done with a single phrase from Justin: “Deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced.”

Here is the context…

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The Council of Jerusalem

October 27, 2017

Unlike any other book of the New Testament, the book of Acts is a historical work, and the so-called council of Jerusalem is a historical event. All too often historical events get interpreted through the lens of one’s current ideology. In the case of the Jerusalem council, the long-held interpretation that the apostles and elders came together to decide whether Gentiles need circumcision, was interpreted through the lens of post-Nicene church leaders who themselves asserted similar authority and needed a Scriptural example for doing it.

Unlike Christians in the past who were denied Scriptural examination, we have the privilege of not only examining Scripture, but to do it in any language or translation we like. So when Christians today propagate the same interpretations held by those who formed them for selfish gain, it astonishes me. It astonishes me because Luke, the author of the book of Acts, took valuable time and effort to lay the foundation of what transpired in Jerusalem nearly two millennia ago; context that is largely ignored.

A new page on the Onefold Blog details the event in context. Beginning with Paul’s conversion to the faith, the article walks the reader through the context laid out by Luke and adds historical insight. It follows Paul and Peter along different paths and demonstrates that they, and the other apostles and elders, had been of the same understanding regarding Gentiles for nearly twenty years prior to the meeting in Jerusalem. It examines the underlying issue in the Jerusalem church that grew like a cancer and eventually culminated in the largest controversy of the apostolic church.

To read the article, click here, or navigate through the menu above.

Thank you!

Brian Culliton
Onefold admin

Judgment of an Atheist god

July 2, 2009

Atheists choose to not believe in God for many various reasons, but one reason in particular is extremely peculiar. An atheist recently commented on this blog that she would not want to see even the meanest, rottenest, filthiest murdering psychopath SOB in the world to have to live in eternal hell. And if you think her sentiment is unusually rare, think again.

Even though they do not believe in God or hell, atheists like to challenge Christians with “If God is truly a loving God why would He send anyone to hell?” When presented with this challenge by atheists, some Christians think it is a good question that requires a good biblical explanation; I am not one of those Christians. If the question were asked by a believer or someone seriously considering the faith then yes, it requires a good answer. But when people who outright reject the council of God ask the question, it can only mean that they are trying to justify their behavior and unbelief, or they are attempting to just confuse Christians with the whole God is love thing.

The later are what I will call the true atheists; those who have no particular reason for not believing in God they just don’t. The former are those who have excuses for not believing in God. So to those of you atheists who truly wonder why a loving God would cast anyone out of heaven, here is a little scenario:

Suppose you have a large family living in a large house. You are loving parents, who adore your children, but times are tough and you are desperately strapped for money. So you decide to rent out one of the rooms in your large house to a stranger willing to pay room and board. Now suppose that stranger, once he settles into your home, begins to seduce, rape, torture, and murder your children. Where will your god’s compassion lie? What will be the judgment of your god? Will the stranger remain in your home, or will your god cast him out forever?

What Atheists Believe: What would you add?

June 29, 2009

Mark P. of Proud Atheist provided a list of what atheist believe. ”The list can be read here. Mark asks his readers, “What would you add?”

How about these:

Atheists believe it is okay to seize snippets of our sacred book and use them to smear God and His people without any regard for context. Why not at least examine the context first?

Atheists believe in love so long as it doesn’t involve people of faith. At least that has been my experience.

Atheists believe in kindness so long as it is not directed towards people of faith. A quick visit to Proud Atheist will attest to that.

Atheists believe in family unless you are of the family of God.

Atheists believe (or at least some do) that people of faith are fair game for ridicule and scorn.

Atheists believe in a woman’s right to choose the fate of her unborn child.

Atheists believe unborn children have no rights.

Atheists believe that creationism is a fairytale.

Atheists believe in the fairytale of evolution.

Atheists believe that faith in God is silly.

Atheists believe our ancestors were monkeys.

Atheists believe there is no evidence for God.

Atheists believe the non-evidence of a missing link. Atheists do have faith after all!

Atheists believe a person is hateful if they do not support the homosexual lifestyle. I would like to think this is not true of all atheists.

Atheists believe that it is natural for a person to be bisexual.

Atheists believe they will never bow their knee to the God of the universe. I believe they are wrong.

And more importantly, atheists still have time to reconsider the damage they are doing to others who might actually be interested in honestly examining the Christian faith and exploring the depth of God’s love!

Atheists should either learn what Christianity is or leave it alone.

Disclaimer: This list is compiled from my own experience with atheists and does not necessarily represent the beliefs of all atheists on every point.

The Evolution of the Sacrifice of the Mass: Part 2

April 7, 2009

In part one of “The Evolution of the Mass,” we explored the elucidation of second century apologist, Justin Martyr, concerning “sacrifice.” Justin had stated that the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God are prayers and giving of thanks offered by worthy men. So how did the church go from that understanding to the belief that Christ must be re-sacrificed in an un-bloody manner?

Justin plainly associates this only sacrifice of prayers and giving of thanks with the Eucharist of the bread and the cup saying, “which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him.1 When the context is brought to light it is easy to see that the sacrifice of the Eucharist is in the hearts of those participating in the giving of thanks (which is what eucharist means), not in offering the bread and wine.

Later in the same century, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, explained, “For it behooves us to make an oblation to God, and in all things to be found grateful to God our Maker, in a pure mind, and in faith without hypocrisy, in well-grounded hope, in fervent love, offering the first-fruits of His own created things. And the Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, offering to Him, with giving of thanks, [the things taken] from His creation.2

Irenaeus makes a clear connection to the thing being offered as the bread and wine of the Eucharist. But his very next words, which contrast Christian oblation with that of Jewish oblation, make it clear he did not mean that the bread and wine become Christ and are offered to God: “But the Jews do not offer thus: for their hands are full of blood; for they have not received the Word, through whom it is offered to God.3 That is to say, the true oblation to God is done only through Christ. It makes no sense to offer Christ to God through Christ. Nevertheless, the Eucharist, in a very short period of time, had become more focused on the elements yet remained pure in its meaning. Irenaeus undoubtedly directed his focus to the bread and wine because it was there that he found his strongest arguments against Gnosticism’s association with the Eucharist.

The great Christian philosopher, Clement of Alexandria, unmistakably understood Irenaeus’ distinction of the Eucharist sacrifice as a corporal worship of praise and thanksgiving. Clement, who in the late second century was the head of the catechetical school of Alexandria, taught that Jesus was speaking metaphorically when He said, “Eat My flesh and drink My blood,4 which is the quintessential biblical reference used to support the transubstantiationalist belief.

Moving into the early third century we find Tertullian commenting that prayer is the victim of the Christian sacrifice:

…Every institution is excellent which, for the extolling and honoring of God, aims unitedly to bring Him enriched prayer as a choice victim. For this is the spiritual victim which has abolished the pristine sacrifices… We are the true adorers and the true priests, who, praying in spirit, sacrifice, in spirit, prayer- a victim proper and acceptable to God, which assuredly He has required, which He has looked forward to for Himself! This victim, devoted from the whole heart, fed on faith, tended by truth, entire in innocence, pure in chastity, garlanded with love, we ought to escort with the pomp of good works, amid psalms and hymns, unto God’s altar, to obtain for us all things from God.5

However, touching on the subject from a Catholic apologetics standpoint, the Catholic Encyclopedia grossly misrepresents Tertullian’s exhortation to communion during fasting. The encyclopedia quotes Tertullian’s words, “participation of the sacrifice” claiming that he “speaks of a real, not a metaphorical offering up of sacrifice.6 What the encyclopedia fails to mention is that just a few sentences earlier Tertullian describes the sacrifice as, “sacrificial prayers.7

There is no doubt, apart from severely biased opinions, that Christians up through the third century understood the Eucharist to be a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving culminating in the participation of the Lord’s Supper. The next century, however, would bring about change that revolutionized the way Christians viewed the Eucharistic celebration. The conclusion of this three-part article will explore how and when the metamorphous of the Eucharistic observance took place.

1. Dialog with Trypho, 117
2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:18:4
3. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:18:4
4. Clement, Paedagogus 1:6
5. Tertullian, On Prayer 27-28
6. Catholic Encyclopedia, Sacrifice of the Mass
7. Tertullian, On Prayer 19

The Evolution of the Sacrifice of the Mass: Part 1

March 12, 2009

The most ancient writing depicting what early Christian gatherings looked like come from a work called the Didache, also known as “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles.”

But every Lord’s day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice ; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations. (Didache, 14)

Catholic apologists often use this quote from the Didache to support the “sacrifice of the mass.” But what is meant by sacrifice and how are Christians supposed to offer it? On its own the text is ambiguous, so to further garnish support for their doctrine, Catholic apologists turn to the second century apologist, Justin Martyr, who, when taken out of context, seems to bolster their point of view in his dialog with Trypho the Jew:

My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord: but you profane it. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. (Dialog with Trypho, 41)

The two quotes put together provide enough evidence to reasonably conclude that early Christians believed the sacrifice referred to by Malachi to be the bread and cup of the Eucharist. But does that mean they believed they were offering Christ as an un-bloody sacrifice? Catholic apologists would like for us to believe that, but that is not what the early Christians believed. In the same dialog, Justin comes around to this subject again. This time Justin explains the sacrifice much more clearly in a portion of the dialog Catholic apologist will never provide because it puts their assumptions to shame.

Accordingly, God, anticipating all the sacrifices which we offer through this name, and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to offer, i.e., in the Eucharist of the bread and the cup, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him … Now, that prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God, I also admit. For such alone Christians have undertaken to offer, and in the remembrance effected by their solid and liquid food, whereby the suffering of the Son of God which He endured is brought to mind, whose name the high priests of your nation and your teachers have caused to be profaned and blasphemed over all the earth. (ibid, 117)

“That prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God.” From Justin’s explanation we can make better sense of the former quotes. We can now see that Justin was saying that Christians offer the Eucharist i.e., thanksgiving, in the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup. His explanation also helps us to understand what the author of the Didache quote meant by “Break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.” In other words, do not offer thanksgiving (Eucharist) until you have confessed your sins so that your sacrifice (thanksgiving) may be pure.

Even without the explanation, a description of a typical Sunday gathering of Christians in Justin’s time illustrates this point.

On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president [Bishop] verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. (First Apology, 67)

This description solidifies that the fact that the early church considered the sacrifice to be the giving of thanks over the elements that represent Christ’s atoning sacrifice at Calvary, and participation in that sacrifice by partaking of those elements. As Justin said, “That prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God.”

To be continued…

1 Mal. 1:11
2 Mal. 1:10-12