Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bible Study for Youth: Acts 8-13

Well, I didn't get back to posting our Bible Studies like I had planned.  We've had some great ones, though, and I hope to get some more posted soon.  ["Soon", meaning, "no one really knows when, but it will happen one of these days".  ;-) ]  Here is a continuation of Acts.

Chapter 8

1) Who was the magician in Samaria, ans how did he react to Phillip's preaching?

2) Scripture says that, although the Samaritan converts had been baptized, the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon them. How did they receive the Holy Spirit, and by whom?
2a) Can you think of a Sacrament we have today, which is given after Baptism, where the Holy Spirit strengthens us to go out and bring the Gospel to others?

3) What did the magician try to do when he saw this?

4) How did Peter react? (Quote him in verse 20.)

5) When Philip asks the eunuch if he understands what he is reading, what is the eunoch's reply?
5a) Was the eunoch an educated person? (See verse 27.)

6) After learning of Christ from Philip, what does the eunoch request in verse 36?

Chapter 9

1) What are Christians referred to as being, during Saul's initial persecution? (See verse 2.)

2) Saul was obviously persecuting the early Christians and Christ's Church; but who does Jesus say that he is persecuting in verses 4-5?

3) What does Ananias do to Saul that he might regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit?

4) Who brought Saul to the Apostles?

5) Name 2 people for whom Peter performs a miracle in Chapter 9; and what did he do for them?

Chapters 10-11

1) What was Cornelius' reaction to seeing the angel, and who did the angel tell him to summon?

2) What was the main message of the vision shown to Peter? (See verses 15 and 28.)

3) While Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit comes upon all who were listening, and Peter orders them all to be baptized. Were there many people, and who were they? (Verses 24, 27.)

4) How did the circumcized believers initially react to Peter visiting Gentiles? Did they change after Peter explained everything to them?

5) In what place were the believers first called "Christians"?

6) In whose care do the disciples send relief to those in Judea?

Chapters 12-13

1) Who did the angel of the Lord free from prison prior to a trial for execution?

2) Describe how well he was guarded and secured on the night before his trial.

3) Did Herod have a peaceful and good death? What was he doing when he died?

4) Did the first century Christians fast? How do you know? (Acts 13: 1-3.)

5) What happened to the false prophet, and who prophesied that the hand of the Lord was upon the false prophet to make that happen?

6) To whom is Paul preaching in Acts 13: 13-41?

7) How did the Gentiles react when Paul rebuked the jealous Jews on the following sabbath?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Where is Purgatory in the Bible?

The question of purgatory is fairly common among inquiring non-Catholics and Catholic Christians alike. It can also be one of the most misunderstood. Some of the more common questions centered around the topic go like this:

1) Where is Purgatory in the Bible? I don't see it anywhere in the Scriptures.

2) Isn't it just a man-made doctrine for those who want to make a way for sinful people to get to heaven, bypassing the work of the Cross?

3) Is it supposed to be a second chance at heaven for people could not make it the first time around?

4) If we can add to the work of Christ, by paying for "some" of our sins in purgatory,
then why can we not pay for all of them, eventually, in hell, and at some future point in eternity, escape hell?

In order to answer the first question, I need to answer the third. Because what Purgatory is *not*, is certainly not in the Bible. But what it *is* is there as clear as day. And if you are only looking at what Purgatory *isn't*, it'd be pretty pointless to show you where it *is*.

3) Purgatory is *not* a second chance. It's also not a final place of existence that's somewhere between Heaven and Hell. It is not an alternative to hell, and it is not where someone can be forgiven from any sins. Purgatory, according to the Church that teaches it, is a purging or cleansing. It's for the saved who have already had their sins forgiven, are going to Heaven, but are not yet perfectly cleansed. It's the place or process whereby we are cleansed before entering into Heaven. Think of it like taking a bath before heading to your friend's wedding. Except, in this case, the wedding feast you are heading to is your Savior's.

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).
The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned ” (CCC 1031).
This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: 'Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.'[2Macc 12:46]” (CCC 1032).

1) So, now that you know what Purgatory is *not*, and what it *is*, where is it in the Bible? The word "purgatory" isn't in the Bible, at least not that I know of, or without trying to translate back to the original languages. But the principle for it is there, quite clearly.

First of all, there is the explicit mention in 2Macc 12:46 of making atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin. "But wait!", you might say. "My Bible doesn't have the books of Maccabees, so they aren't Scripture!" Well, if your Bible doesn't have it, you have an incomplete Old Testament adopted by a 16th century Augustinian monk who decided to follow the same OT Canon as the people who rejected Christ as Savior...and still do. But, the Jews who converted to Christianity, as well as the first Christians from then on, all the way up to the 16th century, and to today, adopted the OT of the Greek speaking Jews, and it has the books of Maccabees (and some others, collectively known as the Deuterocanon). But I digress. Regardless of whether you accept 2Macc as the Word of God, it is explicit proof that the Jews believed in what Purgatory *is* (some place or process where the just are purged from some effect of sin prior to entering into glory). So, Purgatory is *not* a new invention, even if the word for it was not established at that time.  (No one is going to argue that the Holy Trinity didn't exist until we established that name for the Trinity, right?  Except non-Trinitarians?)  

But, let's pretend you don't want to look at that, and you are only interested in some of the protestant translations that omit the Deuterocanon. "Where *else* is Purgatory, or it's 'principle' [I see you rolling your eyes], in the Bible?"
 I'm glad you asked!
Look at 2Samuel 12:13-14, where David is punished for his sin AFTER he has been forgiven. Then go to Heb 12:22-23, where Paul tells us that there is a place or process by which the *spirits* of just men are made perfect. We also see in 1Cor 3:13-15 that there is a place where a saved man, *after he has died*, can suffer loss as through fire; and we know that, according to Rev 21:27, nothing unclean shall enter into Heaven.

Straight from the Bible, then, we see the Catholic principles for Purgatory: 1) Scripture shows us, explicitly, that a man can be punished for his sin AFTER he has been forgiven (2Sam 12:13-18). 2) Scripture tells us, explicitly, that there is a place where a man, after he has died, and is saved, can suffer loss as through fire (1Cor 3:13-15). 3) There is a place, or process, where the SPIRITS of *just* men are made perfect (Heb 12:22-23). 4) Nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).

Where is this place that Scripture tells us about, where the SPIRITS of JUST men are made perfect; where a man, though he is saved, can suffer loss as through fire? Is it Heaven? No…we don’t suffer loss in Heaven. Is it hell? No….no one gets out of hell. The Church has given the name “Purgatory” to this place, or process, where our souls are made clean…because nothing unclean shall enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).

And let's not forget the Sermon on the Mount. In Mt 5:25-26 Jesus talks about making peace with your enemies, lest you be thrown in jail until you've paid the last penny.
Is this talking about temporal prison? I don't think so. Is it talking about Hell? Not unless you think you can pay your way out of it. No, Hell is eternal. Still, regardless of whether you agree with my interpretation of Christ's Sermon at this point, the other passages above are clear as day.

2) We already looked at what Purgatory is *not*, and what it *is*, and the fact that it is clearly laid out for us in Scripture. So, no, it's not a man-made doctrine. It's a Christian reality. And it isn't for making a way for sinful people to get to Heaven. People get to Heaven by God's grace. Purgatory is just a final purification for those who are already going to Heaven, yet are still imperfectly purified. Purgatory doesn't bypass the Cross. That final cleansing is possible only through the Cross!

4) This goes back to what Purgatory *isn't*. We don't "pay" for sins in Purgatory. We are cleansed, or "purged", there as through fire; we are made perfect, just like Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians and in his letter to the Hebrews. You don't earn your way out of Purgatory. You go there to take a bath so you can be perfectly cleansed for Heaven, because nothing unclean can enter there (Rev 21:27).

Image source unknown 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Is Ben Shapiro an Extreme, Judgmental Hypocrite?

I'll be perfectly honest. Until yesterday I didn't even know who Ben Shapiro was. Of course, I also don't watch television, listen to the radio very much, and I am married with 5 children. So, I don't know who a lot of people are. And in reality, I still don't know much about him, except for the tidbits that people have shown me in the past couple days. Here's what I DO know. Based on the little that was given to me, he has not said anything extreme, judgmental, or hypocritical enough for people to call him such.

I moderate a couple FB pages, and one of the administrators of one of those pages posted a 4-minute video of Mr. Shapiro defending a baby's right to life.
LINK to original VIDEO source

No sooner that it was posted did people start rebuking his message. And it wasn't just pro-abortion folks doing so. It was pro-life Catholics. So, I decided I had better watch the video and find out what he said that had them in an uproar. After watching, I went to one of the more vocal members to find out what she found so problematic, because I just wasn't seeing it.

Dave: "I think it's rather premature and rash to say that the guy is a hypocrite if we are just basing the judgment on this video. Everything he said was in the context of live oral debate, spoken "off the cuff". This was not a rehearsed video; not a written defense of the pro-life message. It was open debate. So, did he say anything hypocritical or contrary to the faith? I found 2 points worthy of addressing:

1) While agreeing that the perpetrator of rape should be punished for the crime, instead of punishing the unborn child, he included the verbiage, "[the rapist] should be...killed...". Obviously that statement, taken apart from the context of debate, is not in conformity with the Catholic faith, and isn't, per se, "pro life". As Catholics, we believe in due process and in reserving the death penalty for the most extreme circumstances which are rather a rarity today. Seems like this guy should understand that, right? So, as a "practicing Catholic who knows about the faith", *I* (and those crying out "hypocrite") would follow that part of the faith noted in paragraph 2477-2478 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, regarding rash judgment, and not immediately assume he meant that literally, that it was stated "off the cuff", and ask him to clarify/explain his actual position. It may well be that he really believes what he said and is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. But given the situation (open and "off-the-cuff" debate), I doubt that.

2) While empathizing with raped women who are in dire straights, and simultaneously emphasizing that killing a baby does not make bad situations become good, he said something vague about a woman having a right to choose in such-n-such a circumstance. It was unclear what he meant by that, in the smaller context of that brief statement. However, in the larger context of defending an unborn person's right to life, I don't see how it could be construed that he meant it is sometimes okay to purposefully kill a baby, and instead I would think that he meant that it is okay to treat a disease, even in a rare case that the treatment could cause the baby's death. This is in conformity with the Catholic faith.

Was there anything I missed?"

Kate B.C. - " I have followed and shared "Share Catholic" for quite awhile and really enjoy it. However, the post that was shared by Share Catholic made me sad because it shared an extremist's point of view on abortion. What we're really missing here is the fact that Mr. Shapiro can pass judgment and that is what caused me to even reply in the first place. I was taught that it was God's place to make that judgment. In the end, pro life is pro life and if we truly believe this, we wouldn't make "off the cuff" remarks/judgment that a person should be killed for the act he/she committed upon another person."

Dave: "Kate B.C., I'm not sure what makes him an extremist in the video. Is it that he said there is never a time when we can purposefully intend to kill an unborn child? That's not "extreme", it's solid Catholic doctrine. I'm not aware of anything else he said that was strongly stated one side or the other. And he DID allow for treatment of an ill mother [with cancer] where treatments might cause the unintended death of the baby. Again, not extreme, and in-line with Catholic doctrine.
Neither did I see him pass judgment on anyone. The scenario given by the lady debating him was not real. It was a pretend scenario involving a rapist. It isn't judging to acknowledge what someone has done and hold them accountable. So, where are you seeing him pass judgment?

Furthermore, who are you to judge what a true pro-lifer will or won't say? You can't call someone judgmental while simultaneously judging their degree of "pro-life" based upon your own personal standards without becoming a hypocrite yourself, can you?"

Jake C. - "Ben Shapiro supports the death penalty."

Dave: "Jake C., why does that matter and how does it support what Kate B.C. said? The Church supports the death penalty in the same rare circumstances as Mr. Shapiro, and that's hardly an extreme position given its rarity.
And putting a dangerous criminal to death is NOT the same as killing an innocent child who has done nothing wrong, so his position is not hypocritical. And it's not judgmental to hold someone accountable for what they have done, so it's not judgmental. Did I miss something?"

Apparently, at that point, the group Administrator became uncomfortable with the debate, because all commenting was removed and the ability to make subsequent comments was turned off. I can't say I blame her in one regard, because that particular page was never intended for debate, or even discussion. It's mainly just for sharing pictures and memes with the message of Christ. The posts were eventually restored and conversation commenced again, but there was never an answer to my questions, and there was never anything provided by those who were calling Mr. Shapiro a hypocrite that actually showed him to be one. The fact is, a man defended the right to life of babies in their mothers' wombs. He was called a hypocrite for an off-the-cuff remark about killing a criminal while defending the right to life of an innocent baby under the Pro-Life banner. He was called judgmental for recognizing personal accountability for our actions. And he was called extreme for...I don't actually know why...his position as actually stated was in conformity with Christian moral theology. Ben Shapiro doesn't appear to be any of the things he was accused of. He appears to be Catholic. And in our current age of moral depravity, that's probably the worst crime he can commit.

EDIT: One of my beloved readers pointed out to me that Ben Shapiro is actual Orthodox Jew, not Christian. What a great irony! That makes the argument against him, by the Catholics who were arguing, even more ridiculous. "Shame on that Orthodox Jew for sounding Christian while saying something Catholic that I disagree with!"

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Coming Home to Holy Eucharist: Rob's Testimony

The most powerful witness to a Christian's faith is his/her personal testimony. Personal testimony is probably the most effective way to bring Christ to others. Rob's testimony is one of many I have heard, and he is enthusiastic about sharing it. So much so, in fact, that he requested I use his real name in this post.

Rob Gwisdala was born to a Catholic father and a Protestant mother in a time when the Church had started to focus so heavily on ecumenism that it practically forgot about catechesis. Education of the faith, and preparation for the Sacraments, after all, is primarily the role of parents. But in an age when the Church was offering these faith formation classes to young children, it forgot to emphasize to parents the primary importance of teaching the faith at home. Parents figured the Church would take care of it, and the Church assumed parents were doing what parents were supposed to be doing...and by the 1990's, droves of young Catholic adults left the Church because they knew practically nothing of the faith in which they were supposed to have been raised. Yet, Rob didn't even get that far in his youth.

"I am supposed to be Catholic, after all", recounts Rob, recalling the faith of his father. "My parents married outside of the Catholic Church. They divorced after 5 years of marriage [and] my mother raised me Protestant. Unfortunately, My father never insisted on raising me Catholic." Instead, Rob grew up in a series of protestant traditions. "I was United Church Of Christ before 1996, but I was not baptized and not involved in my faith.  From 1996 - 2001, I was United Methodist, and it was during that time that I was baptized by sprinkling in June 1997. I prayed the "Sinner's Prayer" and I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior in May 1997. I was Baptist from 2001 - 2011 and was baptized a 2nd time by immersion in May 2002. I did not practice my faith from 2011 - 2014. I started researching the Catholic Church in 2014 and I started practicing my faith again. I used to be VERY Anti-Catholic. It is by the Grace of God that my eyes were opened to the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit called me to the Catholic Church."

I asked Rob if there was anything in particular that made him want to look into the Catholic faith, given his previous anti-Catholic view. "I just started studying the Catholic Church on my own. The main reason is the Holy Eucharist. It is an actual means of Grace. It is not a symbol. I was so blind for many years and I finally found the truth." Rob continued, "I was digging in the Bible and on the Catholic Answers website. The evangelical/fundamentalist beliefs and doctrines do not hold water. I found out that Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are false. I also found out that the sacraments are God's means of Grace. I also did research on the CatholicBible101 website." After much study, he came to the realization that "Jesus Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in Holy Communion."

Rob concluded his comments with a request for prayers from all his Christian brothers and sisters: "I am currently in the RCIA program at my local parish that is in communion with the Pope. I hope to be received into the Catholic Church in Easter 2017. I am a former United Methodist and a former Baptist. Please pray for me. I am so happy to be coming home to the Catholic Church in Easter 2017."

Rob, you bet we will pray for you, and I hope you pray for me, too!

Photo of the Eucharistic Miracle in Argentina.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bible Study for Youth: Acts 1-7

I started a list of Bible questions for my 11-year old in order to foster better comprehension and encourage more careful attention to details while reading the Bible. We started in Acts and stuck to about 2 chapters per quiz; but if anyone wants to borrow these, feel free to break or lump as you like, and get even more detailed if you wish. I hope you find these as useful as we have! I will be adding more "Bible Study for Youth" posts over the course of time (as we do them), so check in periodically if you want them.

Chapters 1-2

1) Who wrote "Acts", and to whom is he writing?

2) Who succeeded Judas the betrayer, and how was he chosen?

3) In Chapter 2, when the Apostles spoke in different languages, what did some people accuse them of?

4) Roughly how many accepted Peter's message and were "added that day"?

5) After Peter cuts them "to the heart", what does he say they should do? (Quote verse 38 entirely.)

6) Who is this promise made to? (Quote verse 39 entirely.)

Chapters 3-4

1) Who cured the crippled man at "the Beautiful Gate"?

2) What did Peter tell the Jews to do after he said that they acted out of ignorance when they crucified their Savior in exchange for a murderer?

3) Who confronted Peter and John while they were still speaking?

4) Did anyone come to believe, despite Peter and John being taken away?

5) In whose name does Peter say that they cured the cripple?

6) Do Peter and John agree not to preach in Jesus' name after they are rebuked and are ordered not to do that?

Chapter 5

Begin at Acts 4:32 for background information.

1) What did Ananias and Sapphira do that was so wrong?

2) By attempting to deceive the Apostles, who does Peter say that Ananias lied to?

3) What miracle(s) was God able to do even through Peter's shadow?

4) When Peter and the Apostles were found preaching again, and were questioned by the Sanhedrin about it, what answer do they give? (Full quote.)

5) Read about Gamaliel, then quote what he says in verses 38-39.

6) What then happened to the Apostles, and how did they react (in verses 40-41)?

Chapters 6-7

1) Who was chosen to "serve at table" by the disciples?

2) Why were they needed? (Refer to the footnotes, and elaborate as much as possible.)

3) What did the Apostles do when these 7 were presented to them?

4) Just before the high priest questioned Stephen, what did the Sanhedrin notice about his face?
4a) Take a moment and think how you would picture that. Then consider how every encounter with an angel of the Lord is described in Scripture. (Ask if you are not sure.) Does your image of Stephen still look the same with the other encounters in mind?

5) In Chapter 7, Stephen recounts the history from Abraham to Solomon. What does he say about his audience in conclusion (verses 51-53)?

6) What does Stephen see as he is about to be martyred?

7) At whose feet do the "witnesses" lay down their cloaks to stone Stephen?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Interview with an Anti-Vaxxer, by Erin Fielding

You may be asking yourself, "What in the world has the 'vaccine gamble' got to do with apologetics?". Well, probably not a whole lot when it comes to salvation, redemption, forgiveness, Church hierarchy, or any of the many other more common topics. However, in the arena of Christian morality, it has become a hot-button issue. The Church has been clear in stating that parents must make an informed decision about whether to vaccinate children and that the well-being of others must be taken into account. Those statements have been interpreted in numerous ways which have led to heated debates on the subject. Erin Fielding, an Administrator at The Vaccine Gamble Facebook Page, has done a great job in presenting a Q&A which gives an introductory look into both sides, and has graciously given permission for me to reproduce it here.

Q: So you're an anti-vaxxer now?

A: Yes.

Q: Don't you worry about your child getting sick from vaccine preventable diseases?

A: No, not really. I actually have less fear of many of those illnesses now that I've done my research.

Q: But what about polio?

A: Polio is asymptomatic in over 90% of cases. When symptoms do present, they're usually mild and flu-like.

Q: But we don't see iron lungs anymore because of vaccines.

A: We don't see iron lungs anymore for the same reason we don't see computers that are large enough to take up an entire room. Technology has come a long way.

Q: But even if the chances of getting something serious are small, don't you want to protect your child with vaccines just in case?

A: I do want to protect my child, and that is one reason I say no to vaccines. Because in my cost-benefit analysis, the chances of my child being harmed from vaccines is greater than the chances of my child being harmed from one of those illnesses.

Q: But it's not just about your child. It is your responsibility to vaccinate your child to protect immune compromised people through herd immunity.

A: First and foremost, my responsibility is to my child. I will not set my child on fire to keep someone else warm. What parent would knowingly risk their child's life for the sake of the herd? Would you? My child is not a human shield. Secondly, herd immunity is a myth. We do not have vaccine induced herd immunity and never have.

Q: But don't you think vaccines are a victim of their own success? They eradicated polio and other diseases, so you probably haven't seen them thanks to vaccines.

A: Correlation does not equal causation. The history of vaccines is more complex than that, and I no longer believe that vaccines can take the credit for eradicating any diseases. We have never had widespread vaccination for scarlet fever or typhoid, yet, they are no longer a threat. Amazing what sanitation can do. Polio has also not been eradicated. I may not have lived through the "polio" era, but I am living in a time with a different kind of epidemic. My child's generation is the first to have a life expectancy that is less than that of their parents. People are sicker than ever with autoimmune diseases, deadly allergies, neurological problems, and cancer. We can not cling to a controversial problem of the past to make crucial decisions for today. We have to do something about the problems we are currently faced with, and giving more vaccines is not an acceptable solution.

Q: Do the ingredients in vaccines concern you?

A: Yes.

Q: You know there's formaldehyde in pears, right? And mercury in tuna?

A: When's the last time you puréed a pear and some tuna, then injected it intramuscularly? You know we have a digestive system for a reason, right? And the mucosal tissue is one of the most important components of the human immune system. I don't think bypassing those functions is without consequence. Ingestion and injection are not the same thing. It's the same reason you can drink snake venom, but being bitten in the leg with the same venom can kill you.

Q: But the science is settled and doctors and scientists agree that vaccines are necessary.

A: Science is never settled. As history has shown, science can be dangerously wrong. It can also be heavily influenced by financial interests. And doctors and scientists do not all agree about vaccines. There are many doctors, nurses, immunologists, and researchers who are aware of the shortcomings of vaccines. And if we want to really discuss vaccine science, we need to demand that there be more of it, because vaccine science is severely lacking. It is the tobacco science of our time. The current vaccine schedule (which has more than tripled since vaccine manufacturers became protected from liability) has never been tested for safety. There hasn't been a randomized double blind placebo controlled study comparing the outcomes of the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated. Vaccines are the epitome of quackery.

Thank you, Erin Fielding.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Abortion Debate with a Former Catholic

This debate is only a subset of a much larger discussion which involved several people. I decided to post it here because it tended to stay on the general topic rather than veer off into endless trails as most online debates tend to do. The interlocutor, "J", began with a complaint about the Church having some requirement on how Catholics vote. He mentioned a recent newsletter which outlined the Church's teachings on the non-negotiables when it comes to supporting issues with our votes. However, his subsequent statements showed a belief in the justification/necessity of legal abortions, as he confirmed, "I support abortion at reasonable times because Christ calls me to have compassion for the suffering of women", and stated that, for some women who are not ready to have a baby, abortion "is her only way out". That makes my initial response/questions relevant and appropriate. My words in black, his words in green. I am only quoting the portion between him and me, and I have removed sidebars and combined repetitions from both of us for the sake of "brevity".

Re: Questions in response to John Martignoni’s October 6 email newsletter
I am a former convert who has stepped away from the Church for many reasons. One reason is that I cannot wrap my head around the anachronistic idea that Jesus, who predated democracy, would set requirements on how we vote in a secular election.
Protestants and Orthodox have no such requirement that one must vote against abortion to be in good standing with their faiths. Ironically, Protestants oppose abortion at higher percentages than Catholics.
I'm not a monster that wishes to seek the blood of babies. I too wish for a world in which abortion never happens. But life is tough and complicated, and answers are never black and white.
This is why I ask these questions:

1) Do you agree that pregnancy is a time of great fear, emotional side effects, and physical side effects for women, and that this fear is what drives many women to have abortions?

2) Though it’s against Catholicism, do you agree that there is no realistic hope of reducing the number of abortions unless we make contraception more available?

3) Can you say with 100% certainty that abortion is NEVER medically necessary?

4) Catholicism may not require it. But if we oppose abortion, don't we then need to provide increased welfare for poor, single women who can barely afford their own health, and now are punished with unwanted children because of pro-life policies? Doesn't pro-life become a policy of hate if we do not provide this welfare?

5) Invoking logical consistency, don't pro-lifers need to oppose war and police murders with the same vigor as they do with abortion? Yes, I understand abortion affects more numbers. But it's the CONSISTENCY of logic that is the key here. Why should we listen to you on abortion when you don't support Black Lives Matter, for example?

6) Bans have not worked with alcohol, weed, and guns. Why do you believe a ban will work with abortion? Furthermore, why don't Catholics call for bans on contraception and porn? Again, the CONSISTENCY of logic is key.

7) In the VP debate with respect to abortion policy, Tim Kaine said, “[W]e [Hillary and Kaine] really feel like you should live fully and with enthusiasm the commands of your faith. But it is not the role of the public servant to mandate that for everybody else.” What’s so wrong about this statement? What’s so wrong about separation of faith and politics?
I appreciate your thoughtful responses.

1) I don't agree that it *is*, because for many women it's not. But I can agree that it *can be*. Why does that make it okay to kill an unborn child?

2) No. Making contraception more available has made MORE *need* for abortion. Follow the stats. Increased contraception use shares a striking correlation with the legalization and an increase in abortion. Contraception has been increasingly available how long? And abortions has decreased by how much in that time?

3) Yes. It is NEVER medically necessary to terminate a child for the sake of terminating a child. There may be times when the only option to save a mother is to remove the child (ectopic pregnancy), and it is permissible to spare the life of the mother in this case, with the unfortunate consequence of losing the child.

4) There is no link between pro-life movements and people who do not want to provide welfare for those in need. The Church teaches the need to help others just as much as it teaches the sanctity of ALL human life, from womb to tomb.

5) Logically speaking, no, they don't (even though many do). In logical consistency, a person only need to recognize that, without the fundamental right to life and to be born, no other rights matter. In logical terms, can you explain why any person's life matters if he/she did not have the fundamental right to be born in the first place?

6) Your position isn't logical. The right to life is not so insignificant to a person's right to smoke pot, is it?

7) There's nothing wrong with keeping faith out of politics, as long as you don't mind politics ruling over your faith. The problem, however, is that Catholics serve God, not man, and so we primarily form our opinions based on God's Law, and then let our politics stem from that. Otherwise, we set "man" (ourselves) up as our own "god" and risk rejecting our own Creator. But in terms of abortion and what Kaine said, do you not believe it is the role of the government to protect ALL life? If not, then surely you are willing to renounce your position on providing for the poor/hungry/needy/etc.?

1. You recognize the fear, and I hope that you recognize that perhaps we shouldn't be so judgmental of women who seek an abortion as a result. Women feel trapped by pregnancy, their futures forever altered by childrearing. I wouldn't wish this suffering on anyone. Perhaps the pro-life movement will gain traction if it reaches out and ministers to the fears of pregnant women, rather than being the movement of "no you can't".

2. There is no Biblical prohibition against contraception, and Humanae Vitae, much like Vatican II, is proving to be a disaster. Protestants accept contraception and are doing just fine, and the Orthodox allow it as long as there's a dispensation and it's not done selfishly. 

3. Pregnancy causes depression, anxiety, weight gain, and a whole host of emotional, physical, and hormonal problems.

4. I'm glad to hear that pro-lifers wish to help people in all life stages. I have heard Catholic pro-lifers say (to paraphrase) that 1) there is no moral obligation to subsidize sloth by expanding the social safety net, 2) that individuals should not delegate their charity to the government because it would then not constitute a good work, and 3) that as long as they have opposed abortion, then they can wash themselves clean of any subsequent issues that follow because the abortion issue is primary. I firmly believe that the pro-life movement will gain NO ground unless pro-lifers support increased welfare for poor mothers.

5. The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution starts with "All persons born in the United States..." Therefore one must be born to have rights.

6. My position is logical. The fact that bans in other areas have not worked, calls into question whether a ban on abortion will truly work. All it will do is cause women to seek abortion underground, putting them in danger. A Pakistani Irish woman died because doctors would not provide an abortion a few years ago. With an absolute ban, women will die.

7. I'm not sure. There are libertarians who believe that the government shouldn't always step in with nanny state laws, and that people should be allowed to drive motorcycles without helmets, for example. The government should protect people, but it should also protect the civil rights of people.

8. Show me the magisterial doctrine that says that Catholics must oppose abortion not just individually, but politically...If the Magisterium hasn't spoken on the issue, then it's not forbidden. That's my point.

'J', I asked a few questions and I would appreciate you answering them directly, just like I directly answered yours. They will be repeated in my resonses below:

1 - I recognize the fear that some women have. The Church and other Christian communities have support groups for these fearful mothers. Project Rachel comes to mind. The question is, why does fear make it necessary or okay to kill an unborn child?

2 - Why does the Bible need to teach about contraception in order for anyone to follow the stats to see that increased availability of contraception shares a simultaneous increase in abortion? Your point was that increasing the availability of contraception could give us a hope of decreased abortions. But in reality, the opposite has been true.

3 - You are making a rather broad sweeping statement about pregnancy that I don't think you can defend (about depression, in particular), but lets pretend all of that is true. Why does that make it okay to kill an unborn child? Wouldn't it be better to offer counseling to the mother instead of killing her child? Abortion ALSO leads to depression, and sometimes suicide. So, killing the baby isn't solving the crisis you present which you assert is caused by pregnancy. You still have not explained why those things make it necessary to kill the child, especially in light of the fact that abortion leads to worse emotional pains AND the death of a human baby AND the fact that there are other methods of treating depression that don't involve killing anyone.

4 - Well, I can't imagine where you would have gotten any notion that the Church doesn't support welfare for the poor. I think you are confusing that with asking the government to do our good works for us, instead of doing them ourselves? At any rate, I don't see a need to pay the government to do our good works for us.

5 - Why is only the 14th Amendment relevant? And why is it relevant at all if the people guaranteed a right under it never had the fundamental right to be born in the first place?

6 - Why are bans in other areas relevant to a ban on abortion? Are you saying that because a ban on something isn't assured of success that we should therefore allow the action? Murder is illegal (there is a current ban on murder, as it were). Yet, people murder each other every day. Should we therefore lift the ban on murder and make it legal...and provide for “safe and legal” murders? No, your position is not logical here.

7 - Again, why do people's Civil Rights matter if they did not have the fundamental right to be born in the first place?

8 - Why would any Church doctrine, or lack of one, make it okay to kill another human being?
The Church does not tell people how to vote. The Church teaches Truth, and reminds us that we are culpable for our actions. To vote for a pro-abortion candidate because they support abortion would be formal cooperation, and the voter would incur guilt.
That having been said, the Magesterium has been anything but silent on the topic of abortion and the sanctity of all life and the rights to life of the unborn. I'm going to assume you don't have a Catechism of the Catholic Church and post a word-searchable one HERE. Catechism paragraphs 2270-2275, and 2322-2323 deal explicitly with abortion. There are many others that deal with killing, the respect for life, etc...

I want to reiterate that my goal is not to promote abortion. Rather my belief is that nothing in Catholic teaching, or broader Christian teaching, mandates how to vote. Second, nothing in Catholic teaching states that abortion takes precedence over all other issues.

In addition, I also believe there are serious flaws in pro-life thinking that cause it to remain unpopular. Only 20% of America supports an absolute ban.

Pregnancy is a time of great fear. As a man, I cannot imagine the fear that a woman goes through while pregnant. Pregnancy is a time of physical and emotional pain and suffering. How could I possibly judge a woman, then, for having an abortion, when she is not physically, emotionally, or financially ready? To her, it was her only way out.

I know that pregnancy often happens to those who are not qualified or ready. I have compassion for the child who cannot turn to her parents due to cultural shame, the poor young woman who can barely afford healthcare, or is too emotionally immature or impoverished to raise a child. I have compassion for the rape and incest victim, and firmly believe those women should not be punished for the mistakes of others.

I believe that the government should not step into such a private matter as the decision to be pregnant and raise a baby. We're talking about the uterus, an intimate and private zone. The government already intrudes into too many areas. Why here? 

Next is the Catechism. Although CCC 2273 states that "The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation," the CCC does not forbid reasonable regulation of that right.

CCC 2274 states that "the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being." But how far is "as far as possible?" There is wiggle room.
Reasonable Catholic minds can differ on how exactly to implement the Church's teachings on abortion.

Let's now discuss the flaws in pro-life thinking.

I firmly believe that if you wish to force women to have their babies, then you must provide welfare for them. I am appalled by Catholics I've talked to who oppose this idea because we should not delegate our charity to government. I've heard some say we should not subsidize sloth. Sorry, I don't see Jesus in this thinking. 

Regarding absolute bans, let's be clear. An absolute ban will only cause women to seek abortion underground, putting them in further danger. 

Women have already died due to the lack of availability of abortions. Look up the story of the Pakistani woman who died in Ireland because doctors would not provide an abortion. Her life was clearly in danger due to pregnancy complications. Do you still argue that abortion is never medically necessary? Your pro-life policy just killed a woman. How pro-life is that?

Yes, absolutely you must evaluate the strengths and flaws of a policy before implementing it. Absolute bans have not worked. Alcohol prohibition did not work. Gun bans are not working in Chicago. Reagan's war on drugs didn't work. Jailing people for weed is not working, and only serving to further the cycle of inner-city poverty.

And why are we not calling for bans on prostitution and pornography? First, because they do not work. But second, the lack of vigor exposes the fact that abortion advocacy has usurped the true mission of the Church--to evangelize and convert souls to Christ. 

Regarding the 14th Amendment, yes, I agree, there is no right to be born in the first place. Perhaps that is a flaw to be addressed. But the job of government, like I posted earlier, is not only to protect people, but to protect their rights from infringement. The right to terminate pregnancy is settled law under Roe v. Wade.

'J', you barely skirted around one, maybe two, of my questions…you simply ignored most of them. I will ask them yet again, in direct response to what you have just written, and I will insist that you directly answer them this time if you want to continue this discussion.

You say that your goal is not to promote abortion, but you also say that you support it, and all the points you make argue for its justification/promotion. You also argue that Catholics and other Christians should/do have the right to vote for politicians who promote abortion. So, my previous replies and questions to you are relevant.

I’m not sure why you think it’s relevant that only 20% of Americans support a full ban on abortion, or that there are flaws in the pro-life movement. Why does that matter? Why does that justify killing an unborn child?

We have already acknowledged that pregnancy can be a time of fear and can lead to emotional and physical suffering. So is abortion…even more so. So, if your goal is to protect women from emotional and physical suffering, why would you support something that leads to emotional and physical suffering??  No one is saying that we should judge anyone else. Pro-lifers are pushing for the right to life of all humans, not for judgment. And why is adoption not a viable “way out”? Why do you believe that abortion, which causes emotional and physical suffering, is the “only way out”?

I am glad we share compassion. For the vast majority of unwanted pregnancies, the reality is that these women were having sex by their own choice. Asking people to accept the consequences of their actions is not wrong. It is part of learning. Would it not be better to teach them to abstain from sex when they do not want to become pregnant, instead of supporting the killing of their unborn child, thereby causing them emotional and physical suffering?

For the rape victims, why is it okay to punish the unborn child with death? Asking a rape victim not to kill her child is not a punishment, but a plea for life and mercy towards an innocent child. Did that unborn child cause the rape? You say you don’t want to punish a woman for the mistakes of others, but you believe it is okay to punish the innocent child for those mistakes? Do you, or do you not, believe the innocent should be punished for crimes they did not commit, or actions they did not take?

If you believe the government intrudes enough into private matters, why would you support a candidate who wants the government to subsidize or pass laws on a private matter? And, no, we are not just talking about a uterus. We are talking about the life of an unborn human being who did not put him/herself into that uterus, and whether they have a fundamental right to life.

How do you reconcile the “reasonable regulation of…the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual” with legalizing the death of innocent unborn human individuals? (Keep in mind, you authoritatively cited Catholic doctrine.) And are you actually saying that the intentional killing of an embryo can be construed as caring for the life of an embryo? Defending and caring for and healing, as far as possible, an embryo, which has an inalienable right to life, necessarily excludes the intentional killing of it. Abortion is not compatible with the Catholic teaching on the right to life. There is no wiggle room on abortion.

As to the pro-life movement in general, pro-lifers are not against providing for the welfare of those in need. Many of them oppose the governmental regulation of those things, because many of us believe that we can provide for the welfare of others better than the government can, without the government regulating it. Catholics have been helping the poor for millennia. Why do we need government involvement on providing charities for which we already provide?

Absolute bans on abortion don’t cause women to seek underground abortions. Women choosing to kill their unborn babies might cause them to do that, but a ban on abortions is not a cause for someone’s choice. And, again, why is adoption not an option? Why can’t we provide for the life of the child while simultaneously offering a young mother a “way out” of her predicament?

Yes, some women have died during pregnancy. Many women have ALSO died while having abortions. So, your argument here is self-refuting. By your own argument, you cannot possibly support abortions without completely contradicting yourself.

You keep saying we must evaluate failures of other policies when deciding a ban on abortions, but you cannot support your assertion with any relevant facts or logic. You are comparing bans on the right to own or possess something with a ban against the killing of a person. That is not a logical comparison. Comparing it to the sins of pornography and prostitution is closer, but you are wrong that the Church would not want to ban these things. You have also put yourself in a position of implicitly supporting child prostitution. Do you believe that since bans on prostitution might not work, that we should just allow child prostitution? Why are previous bans, and their failures, relevant to the fundamental right to life of every human person?

So, you do not believe that people have the fundamental right to be born in the first place. Then, upon what basis do you defend ANY rights of any person? Without the fundamental right to life, why do other rights matter?
And upon what basis do you complain against Catholic pro-lifers who DO believe people have the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death? You are basically complaining against Catholics for accepting Catholic doctrine.

Regarding the questions that have still gone unanswered, I have bolded them in my last 2 replies to make it easier.  This is the third time I am asking most of them.

The reason abortion should be banned is because it is the killing of an innocent baby human being, and ALL humans should have the right to live. There are alternatives to abortion (counseling, material assistance, adoption, etc.) offered by various charities and organizations. There is no good reason to intentionally kill an innocent human being. There is no good reason to support a political candidate who believes killing an innocent human being is okay. There is no good reason to allow our tax dollars to fund abortions.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Answering How to Best Approach the Abortion Issue

I ran across this post/question on a social media outlet. "JH" favors option #2 in his proposition to gradually reduce the number of abortions.  But has that actually ever worked?

JH’s proposition:

"This is particularly aimed at…the pro-birth brigade.

First of all: Can we agree that we all want fewer abortions? We could even aim for zero abortions in the long run.

The discussion then becomes how best to achieve this goal. There seem to be two opposing schools of thought.
1) Legislate against abortion. This is typically led by the religious right. The problem is that they go further and seek to deny education to women on abortion, contraception, sexual health, anything sex related at all really.

2) Allow abortion up to a date determined by viability of the foetus and provide educational resources to women (and men) in order to prevent pregnancy in the first place. This is typically led by the more liberal groups who use secular reasoning rather than emotional rhetoric to address the issue.

Which is most effective in reducing unwanted pregnancy, particularly among teens? Why is that?"

My response:

Yes, we can agree that we want fewer abortions and want to aim at zero in the long run. However, as a Christian who believes that all life is sacred, and as a human that believes all human beings have the fundamental right to life, I believe zero abortions should be the beginning goal.

First, we should understand each other in terms of what we mean by “abortion”. I understand abortion to be the intentional killing of an unborn child.

I don’t agree with your presentation of the “two opposing schools of thought”.

1) Legislating against abortion is appropriate because abortion directly denies the right to life of certain human beings (those not yet born, and even of those partially born). It isn’t necessarily the “religious right” who are for this; rather it is a position held by those who defend every human’s right to life. Would it be fair to say that “the right to life of all humans is typically only held by the religious right”?

It’s disingenuous to say that the “religious right” want to deny education on sexual matters to women. That is a gross misrepresentation. What they actually want is to educate women (and men) on the sanctity of Marriage, the two-fold purpose of Marriage and the marital act, and respect for sexuality as it has been given to us by God. They want to teach men and women not to abuse or make a mockery of their sexuality. They also do not want to mislead people into thinking that they approve of extra-marital sex by providing things (contraceptives, access to abortion, etc.…) that would encourage extra-marital sex. Further, many in the "religious right" believe that parents are the best educators for their children and they don't want a one-size-fits-all approach on sexuality being delivered to their children by people who do not share common views on morality.  You might disagree with the “religious right” on their views of sexuality and our origin, but to say they do not want to educate women just because they don’t teach what *you* might think is correct is disingenuous.

I would argue that the “religious right” do more educating on abortion than anyone else does. In fact, the vast majority of actual information I have been able to find on what abortion actually is, does, and looks like, has come from groups which might be described as “the religious right”. Those opposed to the “religious right” seem opposed to the spread of such information. So, I would say you have it backwards there.

2) Allowing abortion up to a certain date determined by the viability of the foetus is subjective and it still denies the right to life of a living human being. Who gets the final say what “viability” means? And why is that certain point of development different from another point of development? Why are humans who cannot survive outside their mother’s womb, for example, denied the right to live? Are they unworthy of life just because they depend on someone for nourishment? Infants who can live outside their mother’s womb are no less dependent upon someone else for sustenance.

Providing educational resources to *prevent pregnancy in the first place* is an excellent idea! The problem is that the “religious right” you referred to earlier is the only group that does this. They teach abstinence from sex until Marriage, which happens to be the best, safest, most effective method for avoiding pregnancy. Others seem to believe that teaching teens/adults about contraceptives, and providing those contraceptives, will somehow reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. The problem is that the opposite is actually true. Since the dawn of contraception and education about it, people seem to have taken that as permission, or sorts, to have sex at will, regardless of Marriage, and unwanted pregnancies have risen. Contraception gained popular status between the 1930’s-1960’s, and abortion shortly followed. The two have shared what appears to be a correlation ever since. No amount of contraception availability and education has reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies or abortions, ever. It’s not because contraceptives aren’t effective in and of themselves. It’s because, in my opinion, providing them and teaching about them sends the message that we expect everyone to engage in the very act that leads to pregnancy…while expecting that act not to lead to pregnancy. It makes more sense to teach people to avoid the act that leads to pregnancy in the first place, until they are ready for that responsibility, doesn’t it? That’s not “emotional rhetoric” used to address this issue; that’s logic.

Legislating against abortion and educating men and women about the reality of sex and what sex actually leads to (pregnancy) is the best option, particularly among teens. This teaches them that all humans have the right to life and that having pre-marital sex can lead to pregnancy, even if they have access to contraceptives. The reality is that no amount of contraceptive access and education has done anything to reduce the number of abortions. The “religious right” position, however, has had actual results in closing down some abortion clinics. So, they at least have some positive results they can point to in ending abortion.

Image courtesy of "The Looking Spoon".

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

David Cloud on Bill Gaither – The Good, the Bad, and the Misinformed

The caption read, “This is why we don't listen to the Gaithers” and the link led to a long article by David Cloud on why the Gaithers are not model Christians ("disobedient to the Word of God").

Cloud dives into several topics, but most of it can be boiled down to addressing false ecumenism (compromising truth for the sake of a false sense of unity) and a trend in this “judge not” mindset, where people are confusing the right judgment of actions with the wrong judgment of a person's soul. Whether the Gaithers are actually guilty of these, I didn't really see. It would be nice to hear both sides before making a judgment, and I'm simply not familiar with the Gaithers.

However, on those two important topics, I do agree with David Cloud's overall position.
This notion that we can all come together in different faiths with different views about what Truth is, and have “unity”, is false. One cannot compromise Truth for the sake of unity, because in doing so one renders Truth meaningless. Ecumenism, TRUE ecumenism, on the other hand, is imperative to the Christian faith whose unity is the desire of Christ. Christ founded ONE Church, prayed for it's unity in no less a way in which God the Father and God the Son are united, and this call for unity is carried through the Epistles of Scripture and Christ's Holy Church (Jn 10:16, 17:17-23; Eph 4:3-6; Rom 12:5, 15:5, 16:17; 1Cor 1:10, 12:13; Phil 2:2, Col 3:15; etc...and the writings of St. Cyprian [250 ad], Tertullian [197 ad], St. Hillary [c.300's], etc.). True ecumenism seeks to bring people with differing beliefs together and flesh out Truth, for the sake of Truth, and be united in that uncompromising Truth. It is part of the Great Commission to “go forth and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:16-20). One can't very well make a disciple of someone without delving into ecumenical dialog, can one? Let me was the last time a pagan decided to become a Christian just because I told him he should?

I also like how he points out that Scripture does, indeed, call us to “judge” actions. Many times throughout the Old and New Testaments we are called to rebuke the sinner and not suffer sin upon our neighbor (Mt 7:5, 18:15-17; 1Cor 5:1-13; Gal 6:1-2; James 5:19; Lev 19:17; 1Thess 5:14; 2Thess 3:14; Col 3:16, etc). We are indeed told not to judge, lest we be judged (Lk 6:36-38), but Christ was not talking about discerning whether or not an action is wrong. We are supposed to judge actions, just not people. I was unclear in Mr. Cloud's final thoughts on the homosexual that the Gaithers had apparently promoted. I believe he would agree, however, that it is the sin of homosexual acts which are an abomination, and not the persons themselves.

Where I take issue with David Cloud is in his treatment of Catholics and the teachings of the Catholic Church. He apparently does not believe we are Christians, judging by his comment, “Gaither’s friends...are ecumenical and accept Roman Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of Rome’s false sacramental gospel and its heresies pertaining to the papacy, Mary, the priesthood, etc.” He also mentions a Priest who allegedly said that “purgatory is necessary for salvation”, as though this is a Catholic doctrine.

For starters, I highly doubt that Father Tom Forrest said that purgatory is necessary for salvation. That would be a gross misunderstanding in what we believe about purgatory, and about salvation. Purgatory, of course, is the final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The official doctrine of the Church, that Fr. Tom Forrest would have known, says, “All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC 1030).

The Catholic principles for Purgartory are deeply rooted in Scripture. Straight from the Bible we see, explicitly:
-that a man can be punished for his sin AFTER he has been forgiven (2Sam 12:13-18);
-that there is a place where a man, after he has died and is saved, can suffer loss as through fire (1Cor 3:13-15);
-that there is a place, or process, where the SPIRITS of *just* men are made perfect (Heb 12:22-23);
-and that nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).

Where is this place that Scripture tells us about, where the SPIRITS of JUST men are made perfect, where a man, though he is saved, can suffer loss as through fire? Is it Heaven? No. We don’t suffer loss in Heaven. Is it hell? No. No one gets out of hell. The Church has given the name “Purgatory” to this place, or process, where our souls are made clean…because nothing unclean shall enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).

On the other hand, let's pretend this Priest really said that. Why does that make the Catholic Church wrong, just because a Catholic said something that the Church doesn't teach? Should we judge the Church based on those who don't teach what the Church teaches? Let me ask more pointedly, shall we judge the first Christians by the actions and beliefs of Judas? Shall we judge the veracity of Christ's Church on the actions of ALL but one of His Apostles abandoning Him at the cross? No. We should go by what the Church actually teaches.

Secondly, how are Catholics not “brothers and sisters in Christ”? We ARE Christians, afterall! Here's a question for Mr. Cloud, and ANY Christian reading this who doesn't think Catholics are Christians: what makes a person a Christian? Please answer this directly, and cite the passage from Scripture by which you answer. (You can post in the comments...they are always open for anyone, no registration required.)
Catholics are indeed Christians. We profess our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at every single Mass. Many of us profess Him every single day, multiple times per day. So, if that doesn't make me a Christian, please tell me, citing the pertinent Scriptural passage, what does? (Seriously, I would love to go into this more deeply.)

And what, exactly, is so “false” about a sacramental Gospel? Does Mr. Cloud even know what “sacramental” means? Did he not study the history of the Christian faith which has been filled with Sacraments from the very beginning? For those who may not know, “sacrament” means “mystery” or “the sign of something sacred and holy”. God's creation of man, and our redemption, was done in a visible manner (our physical existence and visible love for God and others, for example) to signify something invisible (our spiritual existence with God, for example). The Sacraments were given to us by Christ as visible signs which effect the invisible graces they signify. In other words, they are God's way of giving us invisible grace through a visible sign in a visible world full of visible people who live much of their lives responding to visible things.
There are seven Sacraments, and they are all rooted in Scripture (and the teachings of Christ's Holy Church) and given to us by our Lord to help us live out our relationship with Him. They are:

Baptism – by which we are washed from sin, reborn as sons of God, and made members of Christ. Some Scriptural references to Baptism are 2Kgs 5:14; Ez 36:25-27; Acts 2:38-39, 16:15,33, 22:16; 1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27; Col 2:11-12; 1Pet 3:20-21; Jn 3:5,22-23; Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:16.

Confirmation – by which we are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:15-18, 19:5-6; Hb 6:2 speak to this.

Reconciliation (Confession) – by which we are reconciled to God after having committed sins after our Baptism. You can find this (with its “shadow of the good to come”, Hb 10:1-2) in Lv 5:4-6, 19:21-22; Mt 3:6, 9:6-8, 18:18; Mk 2:7; Jn 20:21-23; Acts 19:18; 2Cor 5:18-19; James 5:16; 1Jn 1:9-10.

Eucharist – by which we unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life. This source and summit of Christian life comes from Christ and can be found in Jn 6:31-70; Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:17-20, 24:30-35; 1Cor 10:16-17, 11:23-30, and is foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament.

Matrimony – by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership for life and order their new life, as one flesh, for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. This can be found in Gen 2:18-25; Mt 19:5-6; Hb 6:2.

Holy Orders – by which certain Christians answer God's call to enter into the apostolic ministry of His Church. Gen 14:18; Ex 19:22; Psalm 110:4; Malachi 2:7; Jn 20:21; Acts 9:17, 13:3, 14:23, 20:28; Eph 4:11; 1Thess 5:12; 1Tim 1:6, 4:14; Titus 1:5; Hb 5:1, 7:17 are great examples of this.

Anointing of the Sick – by which the ill/dying are commended to the suffering and glorified Lord, that He may raise them up and save them. This Sacrament is found in James 5:14-16; Mt 10:8; Mk 6:13,18. See also Rom 8:17; Col 1:24; 2Tim2:11-12; 1Pet 4:13, etc...

These are not only rooted in the Scriptures, but they have been a part of Christ's Holy Catholic Church for 2,000 years. How the teaching of Scriptures can be a “false gospel” is beyond me. And how Mr. Cloud missed these in his Bible is even further so. I wonder if Mr. Cloud realizes that his rejection of the Sacraments is a novel and gradual teaching of man beginning no earlier than the 16th century? Christians have been participating in Sacraments for as long as there have been Christians.

And what are these “heresies” pertaining to Mary, the Papacy, and the Priesthood? I'm really not sure what he's referring to. I'm not sure he even has a definition for “heresy”.

What the Church teaches about Mary, as Dogma:
-her Immacualte Conception and being saved by God by a special grace at the moment of her conception (Lk 1:28,30,37; Gn 3:15; Ex 25:11-21);
-the Theotokos or “God Bearer”, a.k.a. “Mother of God” (Lk 1:35,43; Mt 1:23; Gal 4:4);
-her Perpetual Virginity (Lk 1:34, 2:41-51; cff. Mk6:3; Mt 27:56Jn 19:25-26, etc.);
-and her glorious Assumption (Rev 11:19-12:1; Gn 5:24; Hb 11:5; 2Kngs 2:11; cff. Mt 27:52; 1Thess 4:17; 1Cor 15:52)
are ALL rooted in the Person of Christ. In other words, Mary is all of those things because of Who Jesus is, and what He did for her.
Jesus is God; Mary is His Mother. Pretty simple to understand, no?
Think of the Arc and what it contained (manna, symbol of the Priesthood, and the written law). Now think about Who Mary contained in her womb, a womb which was hand-picked by God, (THE Bread of Life, THE High Priest, THE Word of God). Pretty simple to understand, no?
There is nothing heretical about honoring Christ's Mother, whom God first honored. And I dare say that no person on Earth can ever honor her more than God did, choosing her to be the Mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

The Papacy is not only found throughout Christian history, it also is rooted in Scripture in the words of Christ Himself, fulfilling Is 22:22, when he gave Peter, and Peter alone, the Keys to the Kingdom (Mt 16:18-19) and changed Simon's name to “Peter”. It is reaffirmed by Christ when Peter, and Peter alone, is charged with strengthening his brothers after Christ is to die (Lk 22:32). Peter's primacy is shown in several places in Scripture (Mk 16:7; Lk 24:34; Acts 1:13-26, 2:4, 3:6-7, 5:1-11, 8:21, 10:44-46, 15:7, 15:19, Gal 1:18). Sure, Paul had to rebuke him for setting a bad example regarding the Gentile converts, but even Peter's denial of Christ before the crucifixion didn't stop Christ from making him THE shepherd of Christ's flock (Jn 21:15-17). Peter's name always heads the list (Mt 10:1-4; Mk 16:7; cff. Mt 18:21;Mk 8:29; Lk 8:45, 12:41; Jn 6:69). Peter is named 195 times in the New Testament. That's more than all the other Apostles combined. The Papacy follows from Peter's office, which Christ conferred upon him, and was handed down through the ages via Apostolic Succession...because Christ's Church was meant for ALL of us...not just the first century Christians.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out what David Cloud means by “the priesthood” when it comes to a supposed heresy. My best guess is in regards to confessing sins to a Priest. (Again, my comment box is always open if someone wants to clarify.)
Confessing sins to a Priest is as natural a part of Christianity as being Baptized. When we are Baptized, we are made clean. But guess what? We sin against God at some point in our Christian life (some of us daily). And for that, Christ gave us the beautiful Sacrament that allows us to KNOW, beyond any doubt, that our sins are really forgiven when we confess them. This, also, is deeply rooted in Scripture. Rather than repeat what I've written many time before on this topic, I'll just type the pertinent passages along with THIS link to this short article I wrote some time ago. Jn 20:21-23; Lv 5:5-6; Nm 5:5-10; Mt 3:6, 9:2-8; Acts 19:18; 2Cor 5:17-20; James 5:13-16; Mt 18:18; 1Jn 1:9, 5:16.

I don't see anything at all heretical in any of that. I see sound Christian doctrine which has been handed down from Christ to His Apostles, and from His Apostles to His Holy Church, led by the Holy Spirit for all ages.

The fact is, the Catholic Church is THE Church founded by Christ, and because of that, it is THE Church guided by the Holy Spirit and cannot err in it's teachings on faith and morals, despite the sinners (all of us) within it.
If you think that's a bold claim, I invite you to take THIS little quiz, and I hope you will answer honestly and directly. It's from a friend and the President of the Bible Christian Society, John Martignoni.
May God bless you all!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Early Christians Believed in Hell - Refuting John Lilley

I was recently directed to a website belonging to John Lilley, an author of at least three books on Christianity. One of those books is titled “Hell is a Mistranslation”. One article on his website, titled “The Early Christians did not Believe in Hell” served as a sort of prologue to the book, explaining why Lilley believes “hell” to be a mistranslation and explaining that neither Christ nor the early Christian writers from the first several centuries believed in “hell” as we understand it today.

I have attempted several times to re-access his webpage lately, but have been unable. I continue to get a message that the webpage ( has expired. Whether the page will come up again, I do not know. What I do know is that there are at least a handful of people who have recently read his article and were misled by it, and so I am going to refute it. Actually, I’m going to let Jesus and the early Christians refute it; I’ll just post their words. Christ, Himself, as well as the early Christian writers, believed in “hell” as we understand it today: everlasting and unquenchable fire and/or eternal separation from God.
Mr. Lilley, if you happen to be reading this, I welcome you to answer any of the questions I will ask throughout this article, and address the direct quotes from the original source materials which flatly refute your article…quotes from the very Christians of whom you said that an eternal punishment would be a foreign concept.

To start, Lilley says that if we go by the original Greek in which the New Testament letters were written, we will see that the word “hell” is nowhere to be found. Now, I’m not a Greek scholar, but let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that Lilley is correct. The word “hell” is not in the original language of the Bible. Why does that matter? Mr. Lilley, why does it matter what name is given to the “eternal fire” and “eternal punishment” (Mt 25:41,46) that *is* in the Bible? Are we to assume that, just because it bears a particular name that is recognizable in the common language, that this “eternal fire” no longer exists?

So, if “hell” isn’t actually in the Bible, what is? Since Mr. Lilley prefers the Greek, let’s look at the Greek words for “hell” that *are* in Scripture. The Greek “Hades”, “Tartarus”, and “Gehenna” are used in various ways in the Bible and in the writings of the early Christians. “Gehenna”, which is found multiple times in the Scriptures, is always used to refer to the “eternal separation from God” or “everlasting fire/punishment”. “Hades” can ALSO be used for that place of eternal separation from God which we, today, simply call “Hell” (cf. Lk 16), but it isn't always.
Here are some examples of “Gehenna”, translated in English to “hell”, being used to describe what we call “Hell”, or an eternal separation from God:

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell* of fire” (Mt 5:22). *This refers to Gehenna, and some translations simply use “fires of Gehenna” here.

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Mt 5:29-30, cf. Mk 9:43-48). If this “hell” were not eternal, why would it be better to remove a part of your body rather than end up there? If you are going to end up in Heaven anyway (eventually), why not just keep that eye or that hand?

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28, cf. Lk 12:5).

And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Mt 18:9).

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are… You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? ” (Mt 23:15, 33).

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).

Other verses, such as Revelation 19:20, 20:10 and Mt 13:42, continue to describe what is to be understood of “Gehenna”, such as “lake of fire” or “furnace of fire”. Mark 9:48 tells us that Gehenna is a place where “the worm that eats them does not die, and the fire is not quenched”. Mt 25:41, 46 calls this hell “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” and “eternal punishment”, and that many people, even among whom called Him “Lord”, will end up there (Mt 25:31-46, cf. Mt 7:21-23).
Mr. Lilley, if Jesus says that this “Gehenna” is eternal, who are you to say that it is not? Should I take your word over Christ’s?

And look at Revelation 14:10-11, which vividly describes “Hell” as we know it, beyond any claim of semantics: “…they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image and for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”
Mr. Lilley, Scripture says that a place of eternal torment and fire is real, and that some people will go there. Is Scripture wrong? Does it matter if I call this place "Hell" or "Gehenna" or long as I mean exactly what Scripture conveys here?

Scripture could not be any clearer, and most of these are quoted from Christ, Himself.
We could stop right there, because the Scriptures flatly refute Lilley’s claims. But let’s look at the early Church Fathers, including some of the Greek speaking ones, who Lilley said would have found “an eternal hell” to be a foreign concept. You will find, in their own words, a direct refutation to what Lilley has claimed about them. 
Mr. Lilley, did you ever consider the fact that the Christians who still use ancient Greek in their liturgy (the Greek Orthodox) ALSO teach about eternal hell?

Ignatius of Antioch
"Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death, how much more if a man corrupt by evil teaching the faith of God for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire: and so will anyone who listens to him" (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1–2 [A.D. 110]).

Second Clement
"If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment" (Second Clement 5:5 [A.D. 150]).

"But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, ‘There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!’" (ibid., 17:7).

Justin Martyr
"No more is it possible for the evildoer, the avaricious, and the treacherous to hide from God than it is for the virtuous. Every man will receive the eternal punishment or reward which his actions deserve. Indeed, if all men recognized this, no one would choose evil even for a short time, knowing that he would incur the eternal sentence of fire. On the contrary, he would take every means to control himself and to adorn himself in virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments" (First Apology 12 [A.D. 151]).

"We have been taught that only they may aim at immortality who have lived a holy and virtuous life near to God. We believe that they who live wickedly and do not repent will be punished in everlasting fire" (ibid., 21).

"[Jesus] shall come from the heavens in glory with his angelic host, when he shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then he will clothe the worthy in immortality; but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons" (ibid., 52).

The Martyrdom of Polycarp
"Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3 [A.D. 155]).

"When you know what is the true life, that of heaven; when you despise the merely apparent death, which is temporal; when you fear the death which is real, and which is reserved for those who will be condemned to the everlasting fire, the fire which will punish even to the end those who are delivered to it, then you will condemn the deceit and error of the world" (Letter to Diognetus 10:7 [A.D. 160]).

"[W]e [Christians] are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one. . . . Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul . . . or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated" (Plea for the Christians 31 [A.D. 177]).

Theophilus of Antioch
"Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God. . . . [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . . For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire" (To Autolycus 1:14 [A.D. 181]).

"[God will] send the spiritual forces of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and the impious, unjust, lawless, and blasphemous among men into everlasting fire" (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).

"The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever" (ibid., 4:28:2).

"After the present age is ended he will judge his worshipers for a reward of eternal life and the godless for a fire equally perpetual and unending" (Apology 18:3 [A.D. 197]).

"Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. Then there will be neither death again nor resurrection again, but we shall be always the same as we are now, without changing. The worshipers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending, and they shall have from the very nature of this fire, divine as it were, a supply of incorruptibility" (ibid., 44:12–13).

"Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just is your judgment!’ And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them" (Against the Greeks 3 [A.D. 212]).

Minucius Felix
"I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment. . . . Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them" (Octavius 34:12–5:3 [A.D. 226]).

Cyprian of Carthage
"An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies. . . . The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life" (To Demetrian 24 [A.D. 252]).

"[T]he sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire, the nature of which is different from this fire of ours, which we use for the necessary purposes of life, and which is extinguished unless it be sustained by the fuel of some material. But that divine fire always lives by itself, and flourishes without any nourishment. . . . The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment. . . . Thus, without any wasting of bodies, which regain their substance, it will only burn and affect them with a sense of pain. But when [God] shall have judged the righteous, he will also try them with fire" (Divine Institutes 7:21 [A.D. 307]).

Cyril of Jerusalem
"We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. And righteously will God assign this portion to either company; for we do nothing without the body. We blaspheme with the mouth, and with the mouth we pray. With the body we commit fornication, and with the body we keep chastity. With the hand we rob, and by the hand we bestow alms; and the rest in like manner. Since then the body has been our minister in all things, it shall also share with us in the future the fruits of the past" (Catechetical Lectures 18:19 [A.D. 350]).

The concept of eternal punishment, what we call “Hell” today, was certainly not foreign to the early Christians, as Lilley stated. They believed and taught it, and rebuked those who rejected that teaching. Lilley is wrong in his statements regarding Scripture and regarding the early Christians. Their words, and the words of our Lord, speak for themselves.

Lilley’s book says “hell” is a “mistranslation”. I would say, rather, it is using the common language to convey the message to the common man. Call it what you want to, but “Hell” is real, and it is eternal. Anything less is not a Christian belief.