The Source of Sacred Tradition

October 16, 2009

The Roman Catholic Church indelibly asserts that their “sacred tradition” was truly transmitted by the apostles and preserved through the ages by the “teaching Authority.” The assertion is clearly stated in the Catholic Encyclopedia under “Tradition and Living Magisterium.”

“The Council [of Trent], as is evident, held that there are Divine traditions not contained in Holy Scripture, revelations made to the Apostles either orally by Jesus Christ or by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and transmitted by the Apostles to the Church.”

Yet when put those traditions to the test, nothing from ante-Nicene history can be found to support them but sketchy out-of-context evidence. And that’s for only a few of the doctrines, for most no evidence can be found at all. The Catholic Church, however, is not ignorant of this fact; in fact they justify the discrepancies in the same article.

“The designation of unwritten Divine traditions was not always given all the clearness desirable especially in early times… The living magisterium, therefore, makes extensive use of documents of the past, but it does so while judging and interpreting, gladly finding in them its present thought, but likewise, when needful, distinguishing its present thought from what is traditional only in appearance. It is revealed truth always living in the mind of the Church, or, if it is preferred, the present thought of the Church in continuity with her traditional thought, which is for it the final criterion, according to which the living magisterium adopts as true or rejects as false the often obscure and confused formulas which occur in the monuments of the past. Thus are explained both her respect for the writings of the Fathers of the Church and her supreme independence towards those writings–she judges them more than she is judged by them.”

In other words, the truth does not exist within the historical evidence, according the Catholic Church it resides in the mind, or present thought of the “teaching authority.” But it stands to reason that if the apostles passed on those doctrines, history must support it. It is not reasonable that present thought should contradict traditional thought and still be regard as truth. Why would the Holy Spirit lead early church leaders to believe something contrary to what He leads current leaders to believe?

The truth of history makes no difference to the Catholic hierarchy because they believe that they alone are the keepers of truth. They decide what is true or untrue regardless of the evidence. Since they alone are the true interpreters of the Bible, guided by divine assistance, according to them, they interpret Mathew 28:20 as applying to them. And in their ostentatious minds, they like to imagine that God has granted them infallibility. One might logically ask, as if logic has anything to do with it, why the Bible is not expanding with time. But I suppose that even the most pretentious have their limits.

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Where do infants go when they die?

September 26, 2009

Q:

Hi Brian,

I was reading this article again [If a baby dies, does it go to Heaven or Hell?], and I was just thinking, what would be a Biblical answer to the question “Where do infants go when they die?” There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer in this article, but I see an excellent response to the Roman Catholic position of having to be baptized as an infant. Could you clear up the question with the Biblical mindset that we are all born into sin and that everyone needs a savior (including infants).

Thank you

A:

Hi David!

You are right; the article was focused more on addressing Martignoni’s assertions rather than addressing the actual question. That being the case, I thought I would post my response to your question here so I could properly address it. Thanks for your feedback!

I know there are a lot of varying opinions out there concerning this question. My philosophy is to just stick with what I understand. So I will try to answer your question using biblical examples and logic, and you can decide whether or not it makes sense.

The big question is: do infants inherit Adam’s sin and therefore considered (by God) guilty of sin? We cannot answer for God, who ultimately is the Judge of such things, but I think we can understand what the answer might be from biblical study; and the answer for me comes down to one word: law. Paul said, “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Rom. 5:13) So the question becomes, if sin is not imputed without law, what law, if any, is an infant under?

Adam, as soon as he was formed, was placed in the garden and put under law. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17) Adam’s innocence was conditional; so long as he was obedient to the law over him, he remained without sin. But as we know, Adam disobeyed God. His disobedience brought about the promise God made to him, that he would surely die.

Adam and Eve’s nature changed the moment they disobeyed God; at that moment they knew they were naked and experienced shame and regret. And although God promised they would surely die, He also promised that He would save them through their posterity. Therefore, the descendants of Adam are not descendants of innocent Adam, but descendants of fallen Adam.

The curse placed upon Adam is placed upon his descendants, which is all of mankind. It is the curse, not the sin that is passed on throughout our generations. When God’s Law came through Moses sin was once again revealed, because God commanded the children of Israel to obey His commandments. So disobedience to the Law imputes sin upon those who disobey, just like Adam did.

So what about those who were not under the Law of Moses; how is sin imputed to them in light of what Paul said, that sin is not imputed where there is no law? Paul himself answers that question in Romans, chapter 2.

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (v 12-16)

Adam and Eve did not need God to tell them they should feel guilty over their sin; it came naturally. As soon as they disobeyed God, Adam and Eve’s conscience bared witness to them of their sin. The same is true of those who are ignorant of the Law of God, or His grace. So the similitude of Adam’s sin is found in disobedience to the law of nature and is witnessed by the conscience.

When we consider what Paul said, “…their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men,” what does it mean for those whose thoughts cannot accuse them? It can only mean that they are excused on the Day of Judgment because they did not disobey the law, which, according to Paul, is the only way sin could be imputed to them. Nevertheless, as Paul also taught in Romans 5, death reigns over those who do not sin in the similitude of Adam because Adam brought death into the world, which was conquered by Christ at His resurrection. Therefore, all who are justified, whether by forgiveness or by innocence, are made alive through Christ’s obedience.

One more thing to consider: Christ possessed the same humanity we do. Although He is God, He became a man, born under the Law and prevailed over the Law, which rather than having the power to condemn Him it declared Him righteous through obedience. Nevertheless, even Jesus, in His humanity, was stricken with Adam’s disease. Likewise, every human being drinks from the dregs of Adam’s curse, and those who are disobedient to the law will suffer condemnation. That condemnation falls upon all people whose conscience has witnessed to them of their sin; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20)

An infant, though seemingly under natural law, has no knowledge of sin; and where there is no knowledge of sin and no conviction of conscience, there is no condemnation from law. But that is only true because of Christ. I think what we need to understand is that humanity was separated from God through Adam’s sin. Only God could reconcile that separation. And without God’s intervention no one, including infants, could be united with Him. Thanks and reverence be to God that He loved us enough to send His Son to reconcile us back to Himself!


No Absolution from Sin for Catholics who Read the Bible

September 18, 2009

According to the infallible Council of Trent:

Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise there from more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor or confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they must have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission, may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed them over to the ordinary. Book-dealers who sell or in any other way supply Bibles written in the vernacular to anyone who has not this permission, shall lose the price of the books, which is to be applied by the bishop to pious purposes, and in keeping with the nature of the crime they shall be subject to other penalties which are left to the judgment of the same bishop. Regulars who have not the permission of their superiors may not read or purchase them. (Council of Trent, Tridentine Rules: Rule 4)

If you are Catholic and want to read or possess a Bible you have to have written permission from your bishop, if not, you’re sins are not forgiven.

This statement speaks volumes about the leadership of the Catholic Church. According to them, Catholic laity have no brains of their own and are denied the gift of the Holy Spirit. Apparently, one can only grow in faith and knowledge of our Savior through the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. So long as one has their approval, one can possess and read God’s holy word. In absence of the express written permission of one’s bishop, reading the Scriptures is considered a sinful act. Amazing!


Don’t Drink the Water – Unless You Know Where to Drink

September 9, 2009

What would you do if someone asked you to dip your hand into the Mississippi River in New Orleans and take a big drink? Would you do it? Not only would you not drink the water, you would probably think the person who asked you to drink it was crazy or just plain mean. In a spiritual sense, this is exactly what Catholic theologians are asking people to do.

In the Catholic Church, Scripture and Sacred Tradition go hand in hand. The Catholic Church teaches that both Scripture and Tradition are of apostolic origin and, therefore, equal in authority. To make their case, Catholic theologians and apologists will direct folks to a time in church history when there were no written doctrines or accounts of Christ’s life and teachings, only oral testimony, i.e., tradition. The logic derived from this is that since oral tradition was authoritative in the ancient church, and the written apostolic source (the New Testament) cannot possibly contain all that the apostles taught, it stands to reason that oral tradition remain authoritative for Christians.

The problem is they never get specific about the traditions. What exactly did the apostles teach orally that we cannot glean from Scripture? Did they teach that Mary, the mother of Jesus, remained a virgin her entire life, or that the blessed bread of communion transubstantiates into the glorified body of Christ when blessed by a priest? These and a host of other so-called “Sacred Traditions” of the Catholic Church are the spiritual equivalent of what makes the Mississippi River undrinkable.

Hundreds of years of developing doctrines have flowed into the once pure stream of Christian truth poisoning it and leaving it non potable. But like a river, the pollution of false doctrine only occurs downstream from its source. And having the ability to return to the source and drink the pure doctrine found there, enables us to know what the doctrine should look like. So it is for us to recognize from the word of God, our source of pure doctrine, what is truth and what is not truth, thus permitting us to filter out the impurities of false doctrine in our own time.


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.


Once Saved Always Saved: Is it illogical?

June 2, 2009

From Catholic Apologist John Martignoni’s newsletter #118:

Every believer in once saved always saved that I have ever met, also believes that there are those out there who think they are saved, but really are not – the faux believers, as I call them. So, ask anyone who believes in OSAS these questions (this is from an actual conversation):

Question: Are there people who think they’re saved, but they really aren’t?

Answer: Yes, there are.

Question: Are you saved?

Answer: Yes, I am.

Question: How do you know you’re not one of those people who think they’re saved, but they really aren’t?

Answer: I know in my heart that I am saved.

Question: Wouldn’t someone who thinks they’re saved, but really aren’t saved, say the same thing?

Answer: I suppose so.

Question: Then how do you know you’re really saved?

Answer: I just know.

Question: How do you know?

Answer: I just do.

The whole point of this line of questioning is that, if it is possible to think you’re saved, but not really be saved, then no one can have eternal security – no one can know for sure that they are saved – because anyone who thinks they’re saved could actually be one of those who think they are but really aren’t. As you ask these questions, I guarantee you will not be able to keep from smiling as the folks you’re talking to can do nothing but go ‘round and ‘round in a circle of illogic.

That last sentence provides a little insight into the character of this particular Catholic apologist, don’t you think?

Martignoni can’t seem to figure out how a believer can believe they are saved. He apparently has no confidence in his own faith, ells why would he be so mystified? Is it really so odd for a believer in Jesus Christ to believe he is saved? Is it illogical? Let’s compare the logic of someone believing they are saved with one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church: Holy Matrimony.

Holy Matrimony in the Catholic Church is a sacrament that rightly depicts and represents the relationship between Christ and His church (true believers). Fr. Thomas Richstatter, an expert in liturgy and sacramental theology stated:

“Christian marriage is the sacrament which shows us God’s desire to be one with us.” .”1

In addition, the Catholic Church does not believe that a Christian marriage can be ended. Richstatter further declares:

“The Church does not want to say that a sacramental marriage comes to an end because we consider the love of the husband and wife to be a sign of God’s unending love for us.
God’s love for us can never end in divorce. God is faithful even if we are not. The Church desires that even if one of the partners of a marriage is faithless to the marriage bond, the other, by remaining faithful, gives a powerful witness to the community of the way God loves us.” (ibid)

Amen to that! God is faithful even when we are not. If we truly possess a loving relationship with Him, even though we are not always faithful to His commandments, He promises never to forsake us. (Heb. 13:5) But what becomes of couples who are not really committees to each other; their marriages will surly fail. In this situation, the Catholic Church may provide and annulment – “a legal declaration that a valid sacramental marriage never existed.” (ibid)

In the Catholic Church marriage represents God’s love for His people. The relationship is either permanent or it never really existed. But when it comes to our relationship with God, all this seems to go out the window for Martignoni. When a groom says his vows and believes in his heart that he truly will commit to them, he knows he is committed to his bride. But when a groom harbors doubt in his heart he knows he is not committed, even though he may say, “I do.”

A person who says he is saved is not necessarily the same as a person who truly believes they are saved. Both say it, one knows it. It is not possible for us to judge the heart of another. But the Catholic Church, which appears to grasp the sanctity of marriages, should not be confused by the idea that one can know they are saved. One is either committed to God or they are not.

In John 15, Jesus tells us to abide in Him. We do that through love which enables us to obey His commandments. And when we unwillingly fail to keep His commandments, He is our advocate with the Father who is quick to forgive because we are covered by Christ’s blood. So a person who loves God will cherish their relationship with Him, and by Him they will be nourished and bear fruit. Jesus promises that those who bear fruit will not ever be cut off, but pruned so that they might bear more fruit. But those, like the doubtful groom who bear no fruit, will be cut off.

Although we cannot tell by simply asking someone if they are saved if they really are, the person who professes their salvation knows deep down inside where he stands, whether he is able to face that reality or not.

Any persons that doubt another’s ability to know they are saved must have doubts as to their own salvation. Perhaps that should be their cue to refocus their criticism from others to themselves.

1. http://www.americancatholic.org/newsletters/cu/ac0596.asp