Catholic apologist, John Martignoni, in his latest newsletter asks his readers (of which I am one) to respond to an email he received from a non-Catholic. The email Mr. Martignoni received was rather brusque and only offered someone else’s article as a response to his earlier newsletter. Martignoni’s objection to his challenger’s email was that it did not address the Scripture references he cited in his previous newsletter on the sacrifice of the mass. So my response will be to address those references in this and forthcoming blog posts. Read the rest of this entry »
Most of us are not strangers to the often-heated disagreements between Catholics and Evangelicals on the topic of Justification. Are we saved by faith and works or by faith alone? These debates are often centered on James, Chapter 2. Since James plainly states that faith without works is dead, Catholics easily accept the notion that their faith requires cooperation on their part. If that is true, to what degree is it true? So often these debates get convoluted in the philosophies of faith /works and faith alone. But what really matters are the specifics; and it is in the specifics that is the substance that fuels the power that drives the Catholic hierarchy. Read the rest of this entry »
This is the second post in a series on Catholic Answers apologetics tracts. This week’s post continues in the topic of “Apostolic Tradition.” The second early church quote from Catholic Answers Apostolic Tradition track is from the second century bishop of Lyons, Irenaeus. The quote appears as follows.
“As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority [import] of the tradition is one and the same” (Against Heresies 1:10:2 [A.D. 189]).
Just as in their previous quote from Papias, there is nothing here to indicate what the tradition is, just that there is vitally important tradition occupied and guarded by the church. The presupposition of a Catholic will automatically trigger thoughts of ‘sacred tradition,” tradition that according to the Catholic Church was handed down from the apostles orally to church leaders. After all, that is the message Catholic Answers is trying to send. Sacred tradition refers to doctrine that is either not found in written Scripture or is not easily deduced from it. It is considered to be equal in authority to Scripture. But as much as reading this quote from Irenaeus might go a long way in promoting sacred tradition for those who are presupposed to believe it, it is isolated; and it fails to show anything of substance. But if we go and read the quote in context we find that Irenaeus does not fail to explain what the tradition is. In the paragraph just prior to the one Catholic Answers posted on their website, he said this.
Previous paragraph to C.A. quote:
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickedness,” and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. (Against Heresies 1:10:1)
He continues with what we find on the Catholic Answers website.
As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the tradition is one and the same.
When brought into context it is easy to see that the tradition of which Irenaeus was referring was pure basic Christian doctrine. No mention or hint of any doctrine not fully and easily supported by the written word.
Here is another quote from Irenaeus that appears on the Catholic Answers Apostolic Tradition page.
“That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them [heretics], while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. . . . What if the apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the churches?” (ibid., 3:4:1).
What Catholic Answers does not provide is what Irenaeus said next…
“To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendor, shall come in glory, the Savior of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent.” (3:4:2)
Sound familiar? Irenaeus continues:
“Those who, in the absence of written documents, have believed this faith, are barbarians, so far as regards our language; but as regards doctrine, manner, and tenor of life, they are, because of faith, very wise indeed; and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness, chastity, and wisdom…Thus, by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established.” (ibid. 3:4:2)
Irenaeus is teaching that in the absence of written Scripture, the faith of the church is preserved in tradition, which was handed down from the apostles and carefully guarded. This tradition literally mirrored the written Scriptures because it essentially was the written Scriptures.
The next Irenaeus quote on Catholic Answers is this:
“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors to our own times—men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about.” (ibid. 3:3:1)
Now that we know what the tradition is we can sympathize with Irenaeus’ sentiments concerning doctrines that were never taught by the apostles, or those approved men to whom they charged with the care of the faith.
Here is one more interesting quote taken from Book 3 of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies:
“When, however, they [heretics] are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce: [word of mouth].” (ibid. 3:2:1)
Irenaeus’ description of the heretics is not at all unlike that of the Post-Nicene Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church places tradition on equal ground with Scripture. “Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (82).
However, this would not be such a big deal if only the tradition they were referring to was what Irenaeus presented; tradition that actually did equal Scripture. But unfortunately, the traditions the catechism is referring to is more akin to what the heretics preached; false doctrines that are unascertainable from Scripture.
There is one additional quote from Irenaeus that appears on the Catholic Answers Apostolic Tradition page, but it lends itself better to the topic of the papacy. And since the quote appears in that topic as well, I will leave it for a future post.
The cousin argument
In order for anyone to believe that Mary remained a virgin, they first have to believe the Bible doesn’t really say what it appears to say. The apostles called Jesus’ relatives brothers and sisters, but they really meant cousins? Then why didn’t they say cousins? Luke, a Greek speaking gentile, referred to Elizabeth as Mary’s cousin (syggenēs); why did he not call her Mary’s sister (adelphē)? The cousin exegesis makes Luke out to be inconsistent.
The Mary at the cross argument
They also propose the idea that Jesus had no brothers because on the cross He gave His mother to John. Someone has told you that it would have been customary for Jesus to place His mother’s care in the hands of His brother, and since He did not do that He must not have had a brother. Sounds logical, but there is one major problem; had Jesus given His mother to one of His brothers, His actions would have contradicted His teachings.
Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” I think you would agree that there is enough evidence from the Gospels to conclude that Mary believed in Jesus, but we know with certainty that His brothers did not (John 7:5). So if Jesus were to give His mother to His brothers He would have contradicted His own teaching.
What about the obvious conclusion just from reading the Bible?
I am sure most would agree that if a person who never heard the Gospel read them for the first time, they would believe that Mary had other children based simply on the text. It would take someone to come in and tell them that what they read isn’t as it appears. That means the burden of proof lies with those who dispute the obvious conclusion drawn from the text.
The evidence that the doctrine of Mary remaining in her virginity perpetually is not orthodox
“For the one and the same Spirit of God, who proclaimed by the prophets what and of what sort the advent of the Lord should be, did by these elders give a just interpretation of what had been truly prophesied; and He did Himself, by the apostles, announce that the fullness of the times of the adoption had arrived, that the kingdom of heaven had drawn near, and that He was dwelling within those that believe in Him who was born Emmanuel of the Virgin. To this effect they testify, saying, that before Joseph had come together with Mary, while she therefore remained in virginity, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” (Against Heresies; 3:4)
“And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or The Book of James, that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end.” (Origen; Commentary on Matthew; 17)
“Thus is the temptation about His birth unsuitable, for it might have been contrived without any mention of either His mother or His brethren. It is clearly more credible that, being certain that He had both a mother and brothers, they tested His divinity rather than His nativity, whether, when within, He knew what was without; being tried by the untrue announcement of the presence of persons who were not present.” (Tertullian; On The Flesh of Christ; 7)
How and when did the doctrine take hold?
The belief that Mary remained a virgin seems to have developed out of the Christology debates of the mid to late fourth century. A very large schism occurred over the notion of whether or not Mary was the mother of God, i.e. Jesus’ divinity and humanity, or merely the mother of His’ humanity. The idea that Mary remained in her virginity blossomed out of that controversy. The only group I have come across from the ante-Nicene period that believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity is the Mary-worshiping Callyridians. And in my personal opinion, they are the catalyst for the Marian doctrines that developed in the fourth and fifth centuries.
So the evidence really is stacked against the belief that Mary remained a virgin. Historically it’s a no-brainer. But no amount of evidence will ever persuade people who just choose to believe the doctrine. But this evidence does matter to people who are willing to let go of ideology and seek truth.
Catholic apologist John Martignoni’s own “logic” has handed him a shovel and he’s digging deep. While attempting to defend the Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception from Revelation 12, John Martignoni logically states that since Jesus and Satan are real people, the woman mentioned in that verse must also be a real person; and that real person, Martignoni claims, is Mary. Here is a quote from his newsletter for context.
“Now, some will say that the woman represents the Church, because it is the Church that brings Jesus to the world; or that she represents Israel, because Jesus is a child of Israel. And, at one level of interpretation, they would be right. The image of the woman can be a metaphor for either the Church or Israel. There are many passages of Scripture that can have different levels of meaning, and this is one of them. However, at the most basic level of meaning, the woman is also a real person – Mary, the mother of Jesus. After all, no one ever says that the male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron is a metaphor. Nor do they say that the ancient serpent, Satan, is a metaphor. Why then do they claim “the woman” is only a metaphor? They claim that because they do not want her to be Mary. To admit that could damage some of their arguments against Catholic teaching on Mary. So, in the parallel passage of Gen 3:15, we see three real persons, but in chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, we supposedly only have two real persons and a metaphor?” (John Martignoni; Apologetics for the Masses – Issue #127)
If it is only logical that the woman be a real person in Revelation 12, than the same logic must apply to the woman in Revelation 17; the two chapters refer to the same woman. In Rev. 12:6 the woman flees to the wilderness, in Rev. 17:3 John is taken to the wilderness where he finds the woman. It’s obviously the same woman. The dragon never became something different later in Revelation so why would anyone think the woman was something different- especially when we have the location to tie the two together?
No Christian would ever say that the woman in chapter 17 is Mary, so why accept that interpretation in chapter 12? The woman is a metaphor plain and simple. Martignoni defeated his own logic, unless of course his logic allows for double standards. I would ask him, but he’s probably tired of digging.
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).
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!
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!