Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mary's "Imaginary" Partner, and other Fallacies

I don't like attention grabber headlines just for the sake of grabbing attention, so I decided not to title this article after the first statement by this atheist. But the fact is, he is saying that if the Virgin Birth is true, then Jesus is "a bastard". According to his view, if Christians believe that Jesus was born outside of Marriage, then that leaves us looking like fools who worship a fatherless child. I normally don't respond to rubbish of this sort, but it was a great opportunity to point out to this person that he was engaging in illogical debate. Since he purports to be "logical", I hoped he'd find this important, and you, the reader, may also benefit from seeing a few more examples of deceptive tactics used by people in arguments.

Sardar - "During Jesus time, anyone who was born outside marriage (married couple(s)) was called a "bastard(s)". [Mary] slept with a man (she claimed it was an imaginary being). There is certainly no "God" (supernatural being) therefore, stop this madness!
If you are a man and you have a kid, do a DNA test; make sure your son or daughter isn't another "JESUS"!

There is quite a bit there in the world of logical fallacy (using deception to argue a point). I decided to focus on just the meat of his fallacious claims, without going too much into theology. I wanted to make a point about his tactics first, and see how he reacted to that correction, before casting my pearls before him (Mt 7:6). As it would turn out, that was the right decision. The guy was not looking for discussion; he just wanted to take some cheap shots at Christians.

-Well, Jesus was born within a Marriage between Joseph and Mary. That's somewhat beside the point, but for an atheist, it matters in the physical/material sense. Christians can look at it from another point of view that is just as important: Mary [according to some theologians and historical accounts] had already taken a vow to God. That's why, when told she would bear a son, she asked, "How can this be, since I do not know man?" (Lk 1:34).
That's your first strawman fallacy.

-Mary didn't sleep with any man. She also never claimed that she slept with an imaginary being.

That's strawman number two, and a complete misrepresentation of the facts as reported in historical writings (i.e. Scripture). What is recorded is that "the power of the Most High will overshadowed [her]" and the child would be "the son of God" (Lk 1:35). God is spirit, and has no material body...just pure spirit. So, it isn't possible that she "slept" with Him...because there is nothing material about Him. God did not take on human form until the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took on flesh, which He got entirely form Mary; which leads to your third strawman fallacy.

-Taking a DNA test would only have revealed Mary's DNA, because Jesus took on His flesh entirely from Mary. His Father, the First Person of the Blessed Trinity, has no material DNA because He is pure spirit.

-Whether there is a God, you are free to deny. But simple logic and a cursory glance at the world around you shows that there is indeed a God.

If you want to argue against God, or the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, or whether Christ would have had paternal DNA, or whether Mary could have "slept with" God, you might want to take the time to educate yourself on what Christians believe about God. Otherwise, you are just going to look extremely ignorant, and end up arguing nothing but strawmen.

His response gave me good evidence that he no intention of discussing anything, and no intention of correcting his misrepresentation of the facts and of the Christian faith.

Sardar - "Faith is illogical."

The word "irony" comes to mind.

- [Misrepresenting Christian beliefs in order to show how illogical they are is ALSO illogical.] I've looked at the theist view, the atheist view, the agnostic, the diest...and I believe it takes more faith to be an atheist than a Christian.

After that, he made his final response.

Sardar - "."

Yep. "." was what he wrote. And then we went about our separate ways.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Church Fathers on: Relics and Icons (by Brian Showalter)

I had been asked about possible quotes regarding the use of relics and icons in the early Church, and found Brian Showalter's blog site by chance.  He has spent thousands of hours researching tens of thousands of pages of the writings of the Early Church Fathers on a variety of topics.  In his research he has continued to find that the Church has always been Catholic.  Brian graciously gave me permission to post his work here for reference.  His original, along with many other topics, can be found at his blog, Practical Apologetics.   
Here are many of the early Church writings regarding relics and icons:

Marytrdom of St Ignatius of Antioch ch 6 (50-117 ad)
For only the harder portions of his holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr
Polycarp Martyrdom of Polycarp Ch 18 (69-155 ad)
Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps
Tertullian Against Marcion Book 2 ch 22 (160-240 ad)
The brazen serpent and the golden cherubim were not violations of the Second Commandment. Their meaning. [+] Likewise, when forbidding the similitude to be made of all things which are in heaven, and in earth, and in the waters, He declared also the reasons, as being prohibitory of all material exhibition of a latent idolatry. For He adds: "Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them." The form, however, of the brazen serpent which the Lord afterwards commanded Moses to make, afforded no pretext for idolatry, but was meant for the cure of those who were plagued with the fiery serpents? I say nothing of what was figured by this cure. Thus, too, the golden Cherubim and Seraphim were purely an ornament in the figured fashion of the ark; adapted to ornamentation for reasons totally remote from all condition of idolatry, on account of which the making a likeness is prohibited; and they are evidently not at variance with this law of prohibition, because they are not found in that form of similitude, in reference to which the prohibition is given.
Peter of Alexandria Genuine Acts of Peter (260-311ad)
In the meanwhile a spirited body of senators of those who are engaged in the public transport service, seeing what had happened, for they were near the sea, prepared a boat, and suddenly seizing upon the sacred relics, they placed them in it, and scaling the Pharos from behind, by a quarter which has the name of Leucado, they came to the church of the most blessed mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs
Eusebius of Caesarea Church History book 7 (295-340ad)
They say that this statue is an image of [+] Jesus. It has remained to our day, so that we ourselves also saw it when we were staying in the city. Nor is it strange that those of the Gentiles who, of old, were benefited by our Saviour, should have done such things, since we have learned also that the likenesses of his apostles Paul and Peter, and of Christ himself, are preserved in paintings, the ancients being accustomed, as it is likely, according to a habit of the Gentiles, to pay this kind of honor indiscriminately to those regarded by them as deliverers.
Athanasius Life of St Anthony par 92 (296-373 ad) 
But each of those who received the sheepskin of the blessed Anthony and the garment worn by him guards it as a precious treasure. For even to look on them is as it were to behold Anthony; and he who is clothed in them seems with joy to bear his admonitions.
Basil Letter 49 (329-379 ad)
If I am able to find any relics of martyrs, I pray that I may take part in your earnest endeavour.
Basil Letter 155 (329-379 ad)
If you send the relics of the martyrs home you will do well; as you write that the persecution there is, even now, causing martyrs to the Lord.
Basil Letter 197 par 2 (329-379 ad)
he took up the relics with all becoming reverence, and has aided the brethren in their preservation. These relics do you receive with a joy equivalent to the distress with which their custodians have parted with them and sent them to you
Basil Letter 360 (329-379 ad)
I acknowledge also the holy apostles, prophets, and martyrs; and I invoke them to supplication to God, that through them, that is, through their mediation, the merciful God may be propitious to me, and that a ransom may be made and given me for my sins. Wherefore also I honour and kiss the features of their images, inasmuch as they have been handed down from the holy apostles, and are not forbidden, but are in all our churches.
Jerome Letter 24 par 4 (347-420 ad)
She hurried to the martyrs' shrines unnoticed. Such visits gave her pleasure, and the more so because she was never recognized.
Jerome Letter 31 par 2 (347-420 ad)
It is true that a festival such as the birthday of Saint Peter should be seasoned with more gladness than usual; still our merriment must not forget the limit set by Scripture, and we must not stray too far from the boundary of our wrestling-ground.
Jerome Letter 46 par 8 (347-420 ad)
Everywhere we venerate the tombs of the martyrs; we apply their holy ashes to our eyes; we even touch them, if we may, with our lips.
Jerome Letter 46 par 13 (347-420 ad)
We shall see the fountain in which the eunuch was immersed by Philip. We shall make a pilgrimage to Samaria, and side by side venerate the ashes of John the Baptist, of Elisha, and of Obadiah.
Jerome against the Vigilantius par 5 (347-420 ad)
Are we, therefore guilty of sacrilege when we enter the basilicas of the Apostles? Was the Emperor Constantius I. guilty of sacrilege when he transferred the sacred relics of Andrew, Luke, and Timothy to Constantinople?
Jerome Letter 109 par 1 (347-420 ad)
You tell me that Vigilantius (whose very name Wakeful is a contradiction: he ought rather to be described as Sleepy) has again opened his fetid lips and is pouring forth a torrent of filthy venom upon the relics of the holy martyrs; and that he calls us who cherish them ashmongers and idolaters who pay homage to dead men's bones. Unhappy wretch! to be wept over by all Christian men,… We, it is true, refuse to worship or adore, I say not the relics of the martyrs, but even the sun and moon, the angels and archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim and "every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come." For we may not "serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Still we honour the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are. We honour the servants that their honour may be reflected upon their Lord
John Chrysostom Homily 10 on Ephesians ch 4:5 (347-407 ad)
And yet who is there whom this fire does not touch? Which of the statues that stand in the Church?
John Chrysostom Homily 55 on Acts ch 28:17-20 (347-407 ad)
As I keep hearing the Epistles of the blessed Paul read, and that twice every week, and often three or four times, whenever we are celebrating the memorials of the holy martyrs,
John Chrysostom Homilies 10 Ephesians [347-407 AD]
For like a conflagration indeed, or like a thunderbolt hurled from on high, have they lighted upon the roof of the Church, and yet they rouse up no one; but whilst our Father's house is burning, we are sleeping, as it were, a deep and stupid sleep. And yet who is there whom this fire does not touch? Which of the statues that stand in the Church? for the Church is nothing else than a house built of the souls of us men. Now this house is not of equal honor throughout, but of the stones which contribute to it, some are bright and shining, whilst others are smaller and more dull than they, and yet superior again to others. There we may see many who are in the place of gold also, the gold which adorns the ceiling. Others again we may see, who give the beauty and gracefulness produced by statues. Many we may see, standing like pillars. For he is accustomed to call men also also on account of their beauty, adding as they do, much grace, and having their heads overlaid with gold.
John Chrysostom Homilies 21 on the Statues par 10 [347-407 AD]
Were your Statues thrown down? You have it in your power again to set up others yet more splendid.
John Chrysostom Homily on St Ignatius par 5 (347-407 ad)
For not the bodies only, but the very sepulchres of the saints have been filled with spiritual grace. For if in the case of Elisha this happened, and a corpse when it touched the sepulchre, burst the bands of death and returned to life again, much rather now, when grace is more abundant, when the energy of the spirit is greater, is it possible that one touching a sepulchre, with faith, should win great power; thence on this account God allowed us the remains of the saints, wishing to lead by them us to the same emulation, and to afford us a kind of haven, and a secure consolation for the evils which are ever overtaking us.
Egeria Discription of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem XXXVII (348-418 ad)
Veneration of the Cross. [+] Then a chair is placed for the bishop in Golgotha [+] behind the Cross, which is now standing; the bishop [+] duly takes his seat in the chair, and a table covered [+] with a linen cloth is placed before him; the deacons [+] stand round the table, and a silver-gilt casket is [+] brought in which is the holy wood of the Cross. The [+] casket is opened and (the wood) is taken out, and [+] both the wood of the Cross and the title are placed [+] upon the table.
John Cassian Conference 6 ch 1 (360-435 ad)
In this district there lived for a long while monks of the most perfect life and holiness, who were suddenly destroyed by an incursion of Saracen robbers: (3) whose bodies we knew were seized upon with the greatest veneration (4) both by the Bishops of the neighbourhood and by the whole populace of Arabia, and deposited among the relics of the martyrs, so that swarms of people from two towns met, and made terrible war upon each other, and in their struggle actually came to blows for the possession of the holy spoil, while they strove among themselves with pious zeal as to which of them had the better claim to bury them and keep their relics
Augustine Letter 212 (354-430 ad)
how much stronger is their claim on you, who reside in the same country in this earth in which these ladies, for the love of Christ, renounced the distinctions of this world I also ask you to condescend to receive with the same love with which I have offered it my official salutation, and to remember me in your prayers. These ladies carry with them relics of the most blessed and glorious martyr Stephen: your Holiness knows how to give due honour to these, as we have done.
Augustine on the Holy Trinity Book 1 ch 6.13 (354-430 ad)
But that the Holy Spirit is not a creature is made quite plain by that passage above all others, where we are commanded not to serve the creature, but the Creator; not in the sense in which we are commanded to "serve" one another by love, which is in Greek douleuein, but in that in which God alone is served, which is in Greek latreuein. From whence they are called idolaters who tender that service to images which is due to God. For it is this service concerning which it is said, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." For this is found also more distinctly in the Greek Scriptures, which have latreuseis. Now if we are forbidden to serve the creature with such a service, seeing that it is written, the creature more than the Creator), then assuredly the Holy Spirit is not a creature, to whom such a service is paid by all the saints; as says the apostle, "For we are the circumcision, which serve the Spirit of God," which is in the Greek latreuontes. For even most Latin copies also have it thus,
Augustine Reply to Faustus the Manichean Book 20 par 21 (354-430 ad)
What is properly divine worship, which the Greeks call latria, and for which there is no word in Latin, both in doctrine and in practice, we give only to God. To this worship belongs the offering of sacrifices; as we see in the word idolatry, which means the giving of this worship to idols. Accordingly we never offer, or require any one to offer, sacrifice to a martyr, or to a holy soul, or to any angel. Any one falling into this error is instructed by doctrine, either in the way of correction or of caution.
Augustine of Hippo City of God Book 22 ch 8 (354-430 ad)
For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by His sacraments or by the prayers or relics of His saints; but they are not so brilliant and conspicuous as to cause them to be published with such glory as accompanied the former miracles.
Sozomen Ecclesial History Book 3 Ch 14 (375-477 ad)
He (the monk Antony the great) was earnest in conduct, grave in discourse, and with a good memory and accurate attainment in Sacred Writ. He was so beloved by God, that even now many afflicted and possessed people are healed at his tomb.
Council of Ephesus Extracts from session 1 (431 ad)
Theodosius, the humble Christian, to the holy and Ecumenical Synod: I confess and I agree to (suntiqemai) and I receive and I salute and I venerate in the first place the spotless image of our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, and the holy image of her who bore him without seed, the holy Mother of God, and her help and protection and intercessions each day and night as a sinner to my aid I call for, since she has confidence with Christ our God, as he was born of her. Likewise also I receive and venerate the images of the holy and most laudable Apostles, prophets, and martyrs and the fathers and cultivators of the desert. Not indeed as gods (God forbid!) do I ask all these with my whole heart to pray for me to God, that he may grant me through their intercessions to find mercy at his hands at the day of judgment, for in this I am but showing forth more clearly the affection and love of my soul which I have borne them from the first. Likewise also I venerate and honour and salute the reliques of the Saints as of those who fought for Christ and who have received grace from him for the healing of diseases and the curing of sicknesses and the casting out of devils, as the Christian Church has received from the holy Apostles and Fathers even down to us to-day.
Gregory the Great Letters Book 11 letter 13 (540-604 ad)
If for this instruction for which images were anciently made you wish to have them in the church, I permit them by all means both to be made and to be had. And explain to them that it was not the sight itself of the story which the picture was hanging to attest that displeased thee, but the adoration which had been improperly paid to the pictures.
Gregory the Great Letters Book 9 letter 105 (540-604 ad)
Furthermore we notify to you that it has come to our ears that your Fraternity, seeing certain adorers of images, broke and threw down these same images in Churches. And we commend you indeed for your zeal against anything made with hands being an object of adoration; but we signify to you that you ought not to have broken these images. For pictorial representation is made use of in Churches for this reason; that such as are ignorant of letters may at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books. Your Fraternity therefore should have both preserved the images and prohibited the people from adoration of them, to the end that both those who are ignorant of letters might have wherewith to gather a knowledge of the history, and that the people might by no means sin by adoration of a pictorial representation
Gregory the Great Letters Book 3 letter 33 (540-604 ad)
We now send you as the benediction of the blessed apostle Peter a small cross, wherein are inserted benefits from his chains, which for a time bound his neck: but may they loose yours from sins for ever.
Gregory the Great Letters Book 4 letter 30 (540-604 ad)
The Serenity of your Piety, conspicuous for religious zeal and love of holiness, has charged me with your commands to send to you the head of Saint Paul, or some other part of his body, for the church which is being built in honour of the same Saint Paul in the palace. And, being desirous of receiving commands from you, by exhibiting the most ready obedience to which I might the more provoke your favour towards me, I am all the more distressed that I neither can nor dare do what you enjoin. For the bodies of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul glitter with so great miracles and terrors in their churches that one cannot even go to pray there without great fear. In short, when my predecessor, of blessed memory, was desirous of changing the silver which was over the most sacred body of the blessed apostle Peter, though at a distance of almost fifteen feet from the same body, a sign of no small dreadfulness appeared to him.
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
From the Life of the Abbot Daniel, on Eulogius the Quarryman. [+] Then he went away dejected, and threw himself before an image of Our Lady, and crying out, he said: "Lord, enable me to pay what I promised this man."
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
St Basil says, "Honouring the image leads to the prototype." If you raise churches to the saints of God, raise also their trophies.
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
A tradition has come down to us that Angaros, King of Edessa, was drawn vehemently to divine love by hearing of our Lord,* and that he sent envoys to ask for His likeness. If this were refused, they were ordered to have a likeness painted. Then He, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, is said to have taken a strip of cloth, and pressing it to His face, to have left His likeness upon the cloth, which it retains to this day. (shroud of turin?)
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
If you say to this that blessed Epiphanius clearly rejected our use of images, you must know that the work in question is spurious and written by some one else in the name of Epiphanius, as often happens. A father does not fight his own children. All have become participators in the one Spirit. [78] The Church is a witness of this in adorning images, until some men rose up against her and disturbed the peace of Christ's fold, putting poisoned food before the people of God.
John of Damascus Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images (676-749 ad)
Listen to what I am going to say as a proof that images are no new invention. It is an ancient practice well known to the best and foremost of the fathers. Elladios, the disciple of blessed Basil and his successor, says in his Life of Basil that the holy man was standing by the image of Our Lady, on which was painted also the likeness of Mercurius, the renowned martyr. He was standing by it asking for the removal of the impious apostate Julian, and he received this revelation from the statue. He saw the martyr vanish for a time, and then reappear, holding a bloody spear.
Venerable Bede Ecclesiastical History of England Book 4 ch 32 (672-735 ad)
The brother having long laboured under this malady, when no human means availed to save his eye, but rather, it grew daily worse, on a sudden, through the grace of the mercy of God, it came to pass that he was cured by the relics of the holy father, Cuthbert. For when the brethren found his body uncorrupted, after having been many years buried, they took some part of the hair, to give, as relics, to friends who asked for them, or to show, in testimony of the miracle.
Constantinople/Trullo/Quinisext canon 82 (692 ad)
In some pictures of the venerable icons, a lamb is painted to which the Precursor points his finger, which is received as a type of grace, indicating beforehand through the Law, our true Lamb, Christ our God.
Avenging of the Saviour (700 ad)
It is the woman called Veronica who has the portrait of the Lord in her house. And immediately he ordered her to be brought before his power. And he said to her: Hast thou the portrait of the Lord in thy house? But she said, No. Then Velosianus ordered her to be put to the torture, until she should give up the portrait of the Lord. And she was forced to say: I have it in clean linen, my lord, and I daily adore it. Velosianus said: Show it to me. Then she showed the portrait of the Lord. (Veronica was the woman who suffered for 12 years with the issue of blood)
2nd Council of Nicaea During the time of Stephen II [787-788 AD]
We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all knoweth Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given due salutation and honorable reverence not indeed that true worship of faith which pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honor which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented . . .
4th Lateran Council (Ecumenical Council #12) ch 62 [1215-1216 AD]
The Christian religion is frequently disparaged because certain people put saints' relics up for sale and display them indiscriminately. In order that it may not be disparaged in the future, we ordain by this present decree that henceforth ancient relics shall not be displayed outside a reliquary or be put up for sale. As for newly discovered relics, let no one presume to venerate them publicly unless they have previously been approved by the authority of the Roman pontiff.

In the comments section following this list, someone remarked, "Your omission of the Council of Elvira, Origin, Eusebius, and Epiphanius demonstrate your bias." It was a rather amusing comment, given the overwhelming list of quotes above, but still worth a response.

In the first place, there do not appear to be any objections on the topic from Eusebius, and I have seen no one provide any. Writings contrary to the subject which were attributed to Epiphanius are actually referenced in the above list as being considered forgeries (John of Damascus, Apologia Against those who Decry Holy Images, 676-749 ad).

And what of the Council of Elvira? Direct quotes are hard to come by, but let's assume, for the sake of argument, that iconography/imagery was forbidden in some such way. This was a local council in Spain in the 4th century which partly addressed, among many other topics, idolatry and pagans making improper use of sacred images. If there was a prohibition against images, it was only a local one; yet there is no evidence that such was the case, especially with the mountain of evidence in support of imagery in the Church's history. More likely, according to some historians, "...the council did not pronounce as to the liceity or non-liceity of the use of images, but as an administrative measure simply forbade them, lest new and weak converts from paganism should incur thereby any danger of relapse into idolatry, or be scandalized by certain superstitious excesses in no way approved by the ecclesiastical authority" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Council of Elvira).

Finally, there is mention of Origin. Brian Showalter took the time to find pertinent quotes from him on the topic. 
"Let him then tell us whether it is a becoming thing for philosophers, and those who have been taught not to yield to superstition, to abandon their country's customs, so as to eat of those articles of food which are prohibited in their respective cities? or whether this proceeding of theirs is opposed to what is becoming? For if, on account of their philosophy, and the instructions which they have received against superstition, they should eat, in disregard of their native laws, what was interdicted by their fathers, why should the Christians (since the Gospel requires them not to busy themselves about statues and images, or even about any of the created works of God but to ascend on high, and present the soul to the Creator); when acting in a similar manner to the philosophers, be censured for so doing?" (Origin).

"In this I don't see a condemnation. It just says it is not a requirement like the pagans he was talking about" (Showalter).

"If he had specified their names in particular, we should have felt ourselves bound to show him that he wished to give us as guides men who were blinded to the truth, and who must therefore lead us into error; or that if not wholly blinded, yet they are in error in many matters of belief. But whether Orpheus, Parmenides, Empedocles, or even Homer himself, and Hesiod, are the persons whom he means by "inspired poets," let any one show how those who follow their guidance walk in a better way, or lead a more excellent life, than those who, being taught in the school of Jesus Christ, have rejected all images and statues, and even all Jewish superstition, that they may look upward through the Word of God to the one God, who is the Father of the Word" (Origin).

"In this quote his reference to rejecting images could be that Christians reject the images and statues of the pagans. I try my best but it is not enough for some" (Showalter).
I see in that quote a plain fact that Christians do not worship images as the pagans did. It says nothing of the beauty of images to remind us of our Creator, modeled for us by the Creator Himself when, in Sacred Scripture, he commanded and blessed the use of images/statues for His Sacred purposes (Ex 25:18-19; Num 21:8-9; 1Kngs 6:23-29, 7:25-45; 1Chr 28:18-19; Ezekiel 41:17-18).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Praying to Mary and the Saints in Heaven

A friend of mine once posted a video blog about society setting up role models for itself (sports figures, war heroes, etc.). He spoke about how much he appreciated, during points in his life as he struggled with faith and morality, having a particularly awesome role model; the Mother of Jesus Christ. He spoke of being able to look up to her and follow her example of saying "yes" to God, no matter what the neighbors would say [of her seemingly untimely pregnancy], or no matter the hurt she would feel [when her Son was given up on the cross]. He recounted the great instructions she left all of humanity when she said, "Do whatever He tells you". And he mentioned how great it is to have such a great role model in whom we find no moral faults such as drug or porn addiction, spouse abuse, adultery, or other moral faults to which so many of our role models fall prey. And somewhere in the comments, he mentioned how great it is to ask such a great role model to pray for his spiritual growth in Christ.

A friend of his had some comments and questions. And I had an opportunity to discuss with her. But before you continue reading, I invite you to watch the video blog by Michael Henderson, titled "Upside Down World". (You may have to be logged into Facebook to view it...I'm not sure.)

MD - I'm glad to hear this topic from you! [Husband] and I discuss this often (being that he was raised Catholic and they had a statue of Mary that rotated through the homes of their church for a week at a time and I was raised Baptist. We don't go to either denomination now. Our churches have been Bible churches non-denominational). Before you even got to your part about Mary, you mentioned the saint that you "ask to pray" for you. That already sparked a question. Then when you made your point about Mary and said that it's viewed as idolatry and yet those other things are not I saw the connection you were making and wanted some info on your perspective.
I am confused at how you are asking the spirit of dead people to pray for you? I also don't think that the saint is an acceptable person to pray to (they are people that the church as glorified with a title). I don't see why you would pray to either one. I've never heard of that. I pray directly to Father God and Jesus. The veil was torn and I go straight to the source. I don't need a special saint or Mary to intercede on my behalf because they don't have more clout than me. I am a child of God, with the Holy Spirit residing in me. I do not know about differences in the Protestant bible compared to the Catholic bible but probably some of the reason that non-Catholics don't understand your praying to Mary because she is not viewed as Holy, Sinless, or immortal. She was a regular woman, chosen in the same way as Moses, or Noah, etc to carry out a portion of God's plan. I think it CAN become idolatry (but so can exercise, work, money, personal attention, and so on) to put faith in Mary or to worship her. That Glory belongs to the Lord. However in my own upbringing the concern was not really about praying to Mary (or any other person, dead or alive) being idolatry, but more it being completely unBiblical in general. In my own life I can imagine certain Bible characters being an inspiration of good character or having attributes I am drawn to-- but I do not see any purpose in praying to them or "asking" them to pray for me. You can PM me if your response is lengthy :) I assume you will have some interesting things to say!

Dave - "I am confused at how you are asking the spirit of dead people to pray for you?"
-"How" is just by asking them to pray for us. "Why" might be a better question. And the answer is, because "the prayer of the righteous avails much" (James 5:16). Who is more righteous than people in Heaven with God? :-) Which I guess brings up another point: they aren't "dead", because "God is God of the living" (Lk 20:38). Do you suppose that when YOU die and go to be with Jesus, that you will be "dead" in Christ, or "fully alive" in Christ?

MD - I see your point that their spirit is alive- their body is dead (in human terms). I should have worded that differently. My point was that they were human, not Demi-Gods and that they are no more righteous than I. There are not tiers of value amongst us. There's us, and above us there's God (Trinity). The "saints" that church appoints are not better than me because they accomplished some wonderful Kingdom tasks. While the Catholic Church claims that saints have earned a higher degree of holiness, the Bible refers to all who are "in Christ"/ all christians as Saints. I'm covered by the blood of Jesus- HIS righteousness makes me holy, an heir to Heaven as a child of God. I don't need some "better" Christian to beseech God on my behalf. Not by works of righteousness (Titus 3:5), but by His GRACE. So while we can say for certain that the SPIRIT of the folks of the past are alive and well in Heaven or Hell, I still don't see any reason to pray to them or any indication that they are hearing me. My God doesn't view them as "better" than me, or choose to listen to them before me. Tim. 2:5 says Jesus is the only mediator. Heb. 7:25 says JESUS is interceding for me. Why would I need anyone else? The Bible never instructs us to pray to anyone else and never says anyone else can hear us. (But maybe a protestant Bible is different and I'm missing this?). I also believe your James reference to be out of context because as a Born Again Christian (2 Corinth. 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.") Jesus' blood and my acceptance as a Christian of his salvation make me "the righteous". I don't need to go find someone "more righteous" to pray on my behalf-- to my understanding. 🤷🏼‍♀️ this is truly an issue amongst believers. No one I know understands why Catholics believe this (however amazing we think those Catholics are!).

Dave - Yes, of coarse we are all humans, including the Saints. :-) And the Church doesn't claim anything about them other than the reality: that they are in Heaven. People in Heaven aren't committing sin, nor being tempted to sin, and are seeing God face to face, as He is, instead of as through a darkened glass (in the words of the Apostle Paul). They have been purified in Christ and purged of all stain of sin...made PERFECT, as through fire (1Pet 1:22, Heb 12:22-23, 1Cor 3:13-15, Rev 21:27)!
So, if it's okay for me to ask my brother in Christ who is alive on earth, and being tempted to sin, and living in a sinful world surrounded by evil, to pray for me; why isn't it okay for me to ask someone to pray for me who is in the very presence of our Lord?! :-) If the angels in Heaven continually offer up our prayers to God for us (Rev 5:8, 8:3-4; cf. Mt 18:10 ), then why not my brothers and sisters who have "become like angels" (Mk 12:25), some of whom are already praying for earthly vindication (Rev 6:9-11) and were all too happy to pray for me while they were on earth, and are now fully alive in our Savior? Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1; cf. Heb 11), why not ask them to pray for me?
Are you telling me that when you die and go to Heaven, and I keep asking you to pray for me to the Lord, that you are going to tell me "nope, I'm no longer 'alive' so I can't 'mediate' for you to bring you closer to Christ"?
Are you telling me that when you are in the presence of our Lord in Heaven, you will be no more filled with grace than you are now?

Photo courtesy of Family Missions Company. To help the Hendersons, and other families, spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world, please visit: https://www.familymissionscompany.com/project/henderson-family/

Friday, August 11, 2017

Should Christians Expect to Suffer?

A person once wrote to a friend of mine, "I've never been too keen on the whole 'God values suffering' bit. He knows we are suffering, but God provided salvation through his Son because God wanted man to live in paradise. Jesus bought all of mankind from death. If you have died, regardless of faith or not, you will receive your resurrection through Christ and His judgement. And, if you live like we are told to through Jesus, there should be no suffering...only a wrong attitude."

This was in response to my friend asking, "Why do we suffer? Didn't Jesus suffer for us so that we don't have to? Are we called to suffer? Does God value our suffering? How do I explain to someone the benefits of suffering other than just saying 'offer it up'?""

There were a couple things in the person's response that were off base (i.e. "If you have died, regardless of faith or not..."), but I chalked it up to a possible language barrier or other misunderstandings. Given some of his past comments, that probably didn't mean what it appeared to mean (in his mind). However, the part I underlined needed to be addressed. This whole idea that, if we are Christians, we will not have to suffer; or that God cannot bring good from our sufferings; or that it's wrong-minded for Christians to value suffering and 'offer it up'; is completely contrary to the promise of Christ and the example given in His written Word.

Jesus, Himself, explicitly promises us that we will suffer when we follow Him. "Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life" (Mk 10:29-30, emphasis added).

Christ explains to us that a servant is not greater than his master. Jesus is our master and He suffered. So shall we if we are His servants. "Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also" (Jn 15:20).

He takes this promise even further in Mt 16:24-25, when He says we must take up our cross if we want to be His followers: "Then Jesus told His disciples, 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.'". Luke 9:23 quotes the same, with the added emphasis that this cross is to be taken up "daily".

He even told His disciples that when the persecutions comes, they should allow God to work through them and they must endure the persecutions. "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Mt 10:16-22).

And not only does Jesus promise that we will suffer as His followers, but He also says we will be blessed for it! For example, Mt 5:10-11 records, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account".

Scripture shows us many accounts of Christ's followers suffering, and that they shall suffer, for Him in this way. For example:
"There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, 'It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God'"(Acts 14:22).
"Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2Tim 3:12).
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you" (1Pet 4:12).
-How many times was Paul beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked...?

Oh, sure, you may say something like, "...but 'persecution' isn't the same thing as some of the suffering we see in our lives...". I'd agree. Most of the suffering I go through in my life is EASY compared to being persecuted or killed for my faith. But that doesn't negate our daily or life-long sufferings, of which persecution can be a heavy example.  And not all of the suffering in Scripture was directly linked to persecution (i.e. Paul being shipwrecked, or struggling with "that which he hates' while 'neglecting to do what he should be doing' (Acts 27; Rom 7:15-20)).
Paul gets to the heart of it in 2Cor 1:6, when he writes, "If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering".

God has never balked at people suffering for Him or for living a righteous life with persecutions. In fact, He allows it for a greater good (the stories of Job and Tobit come to mind!). Paul rejoiced in his suffering! "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church"(Col 1:24).
How many of you reading this have put much thought into "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions"? Personally, I believe what is lacking is our participation in it! Hence, Paul suffers for our sake in this regard, and rejoices for it!

Can any good come from suffering, and 'offering it up'? Again, and keeping in mind what Paul said in 2Cor 1:6, we can turn to Paul for a very clear answer: "And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rom 5:3-5). 
And in Philippians 3:8-11: "...For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead".

Neither Christ nor His disciples claimed anyone to have a wrong attitude for seeing it as 'suffering'. They saw suffering for what it is; suffering; and offered it to God for His greater purpose.

Photo borrowed from http://athousandgeneration.blogspot.com/2013/04/what-counts-as-suffering.html - God's Blessing to you, Anna!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Is it Time that the Church Allow Priests to Marry?

The Western rite of the Church, for centuries, has traditionally selected candidates for the Priesthood only from among those men who have chosen to remain celibate for the sake of the Kingdom. As with most things, there are exceptions to this.  Yet, it is certainly the norm.  It's also worth noting that the celibate Priesthood is only a discipline, not a doctrine of the Church.  It could change at any moment, though it isn't likely.
Even in the Eastern Rite of the Church, where married men are allowed to be Priests, they may not marry if they were single when they became a Priest, nor can they remarry if widowed. Over the years there have been arguments from different directions regarding this Priestly celibacy.
From priests can’t relate to family life to single men need a sexual outlet, and that’s why sex abuse happened in the Church, to it’s not fair/Christian to deny a man the right to Marriage", the reasons for allowing Catholic Priests to marry continue to be brought up, ironically by non-Catholics for the larger part. Even more ironically, it is mostly brought up by non-Priests.  One Lutheran pastor wrote an article for the Christian Post, listing out 10 reasons "Why Priests Should be Allowed to Marry". Yet, all of the reasons, including the three that I mentioned above, are either short-sighted, wrong-minded, or based on bad logic.

For example, in the article I mentioned above, the author writes, "What if, for example, a priest changes his mind about celibacy based on Scripture or for personal reasons? It goes against the spirit of the Gospel to forbid him from pursuing this wholesome desire for marriage...It simply contradicts Christian freedom to bind man's conscience in this way, especially with something as beautiful as marriage...". He goes so far as to suggest that it's a form of "spiritual abuse".
Let's put that into another real-life situation, involving something as beautiful as undivided devotion to the Lord:
What if, for example, a married man changes his mind about choosing to be married, based on Scripture or for personal reasons? Afterall, Saint Paul said it's better not to marry in order to have undivided devotion to the Lord! (1Cor 7:8, 32-35.) Doesn't it go against the spirit of the Gospel to forbid him from pursuing this wholesome desire for undivided devotion to the Lord? Doesn't it contradict Christian freedom to bind the man's conscience in this way, especially with something as beautiful as undivided devotion to the Lord?
Or what about something as beautiful as mirroring Christ's example of celibacy? Or something as beautiful and wholesome as celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom?
The same can be said of a man who suddenly decides he married the wrong woman, but still wants to be married, just not to the 'wrong' woman to whom he is currently married. Is it wrong to deny this man the Christian freedom to leave his wife so that he can find 'the right' one? Was Jesus being spiritually abusive and going against the spirit of the Gospel by saying that a man could not divorce his wife and marry another?
No. Men who freely marry, and men who freely take a vow of celibacy, have taken a vow before God. They made a free and well-informed choice to accept the life vocation that God has given to them, and there is nothing abusive or unfair in expecting them to live out their vocation in light of the vow they took before God. Undivided devotion to the Lord, mirroring Christ's example of celibacy, and renouncing sex for the sake of the Kingdom are desires that are just as beautiful and wholesome as marriage.

Here’s a clue: if it causes you to revoke a vow that you have made to God, then it might not be a "wholesome desire" you are chasing, even if you disguise it with something wholesome.

Let's look at the other reasons.

"Priests can't relate to family life because they are not married."
I would go so far as to say that *some* Priests don't relate *as well* to family life as some others do. But this has nothing to do with not being married. Believe it or not, Priests have families. Yes, believe it or not, every single Priest in the world was born to at least one parent; and most of them had siblings, cousins, friends, neighbors, etc. Further, every single Priest is a member of a much larger family; that is, the family of Christians. All of us are parts of the Body of Christ, His Church, and celibate Priests are no exception. They even have a very special role in this family, as spiritual fathers, just like Paul (1Cor 4:15; Phil 1:10; cff. 1Thess 2:11; 1Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4). Priests are intimately familiar with this spiritual family life, and fully capable of relating to family life.

"Single men need a sexual outlet. This was the cause of the abuse scandal in the Church."
I would agree that men, in general, need some outlet from time to time. But I don't see why it needs to be sexual in nature. Jesus Christ was a single man, and he didn't need a sexual outlet. Paul was a single man, and he didn't seem to need a sexual outlet, either. You could probably get by with saying that *married* men need a sexual outlet (with their spouse). But, according to Jesus, not every man is called to be married (Mt 19:11-12).
And if you think that the sex abuse scandal erupted because of celibacy among Priests, I would say you are part of the problem of sexual abuse. The majority of sexual abuse victims were victimized by married men and women. They are victimized by uncles, aunts, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, police officers, married pastors, even their own parents or siblings. Of the 62,000+ victims of sexual abuse each year in the United States, about 8 of them are reported to have been victimized by a celibate Priest. Celibacy is NOT the problem. I would argue that part of the problem is this notion that we "need a sexual outlet".

"It’s not fair/Christian to deny a man the right to marriage."
Well, if we are Christians, why are we seeing marriage as a "right", rather than a "calling" (a vocation) to the life which God has called us. Are we not here to love and serve the Lord? And did God not make some to be eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom (Mt 19:11-12)? It's not Christian to encourage a man to step away from the calling to which Christ has called him, and encourage him to do something else. It's also not Christian to presume that people who choose a life of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom feel unfairly treated.  Maybe we should get THEIR thoughts about this matter, instead of interjecting our own?  Afterall, it's their lifestyle we are talking about, not our own.  No one is forced into the Priesthood.  It must be freely chosen as a vocation, and Priestly celibacy along with it.

"God instituted marriage and it is therefore very good."
Amen to that! But why should this mean that those called to a life of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom should be married? God also instituted celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, and it is therefore very good. But that doesn't mean that *everyone* should be celibate.

"Marriage teaches ministers a lot about the Christian life."
Sure it does. Marriage teaches non-ministers a lot about Christian life, too! Marriage, in my opinion, is as close a tangible example as we can get to representing the Holy Trinity. But that doesn't mean it's for everyone. And according to Paul, one of my favorite evangelists and Apostles, it's better not to be married, unless we simply "can't control [our]selves" (1Cor 7:8-9, 25-27, 32-35).
Further, Marriage is not the only means by which we learn of Christian life. Suffering, perseverance in the faith, reading the Scriptures, accepting God's calling for our lives, carrying our cross, and living out our vocations all teach us about Christian life as well. So does being a Priest in God's Church, and renouncing Marriage for the sake of the Kingdom.

"Parenting is an important aspect in the life of discipleship."
Amen, again! Yet, I wonder if Paul would have been a better disciple if he had gotten Married and become a physical parent? Would Jesus have given us a better example if he was a "parent"? Being a parent, at least in the example of Christ and of some of his Apostles and their subsequent successors, and according to the story of Abraham, doesn't always have to mean that we physically beget all of our own children. Jesus and Paul were big fans of spiritual parenthood, and I don't see any reason why that should count less than physical.  You need not be married and beget biological children in order to engage in parenting.

"Binding man's conscience on secondary matters is harmful."
This is really bad logic on a couple of levels. For starters, God binds our consciences when he forbids us to sin. That's not harmful. A man binds his own conscience when he takes a vow to God to serve Him according to His Will for the man's life. That's not harmful.  Spouses bind their consciences to one another when they make their vows to each other.  That's not harmful.
But what about binding someone else's conscience for them, against their will? No one does that. A person who took a vow of celibacy took that on their own. No once forced them to do it. And of the millions of people who have taken such a vow, I have only heard of a tiny handful of them who later regretted it and decided to change their mind. (Martin Luther was one of them, along with the nun that he married.) Their conscience was not bound by any man or by the Church. It was bound by themselves and God. Was it harmful for God to have bound their consciences on this matter?
And speaking of "matter", who said that taking a vow of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom was "secondary"? Jesus specifically talks about this in His Gospels. Paul specifically talks about it as well. Given the fact that all the world could not contain all that Christ said or did (Jn 21:25), I think that ANYTHING that made it into the written Word is of primary importance. Who is this author to say that vows to God about celibacy are a "secondary matter"? By what authority is this claim made? It certainly isn't called "secondary" in Scripture!

"A married priest can be just as holy and dedicated as a single priest."
Not according to Scripture; because according to Scripture a married Priest's interests will be divided, and therefore he could not possibly be as dedicated as a single Priest, whose interests are NOT divided. But let's pretend that it's really true; that married and single Priests are just as holy and dedicated as each other. Why should that be a reason for a Priest, who has taken a vow of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, to get married? Are we free from our vows just because other people who *don't* take them are just as holy and dedicated? God called me to the vocation of being a husband and father. But since a single person that I know is just as holy and dedicated to the faith as I am, is that a reason for me to ditch my vocation and become single?

"God leads many ministers of the Gospel around to world to get married."
Not the ones whom he has called to renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. The ones whom He has called to celibacy are not called to get married...because they were called to celibacy. And how do you know that God led them to be married, rather than they, themselves, making that decision for themselves? And why is their testimony more weighty than that of those who say that God led them to a life of celibacy? Have you ever even asked for the testimony of someone who was called to the celibate Priesthood? We would do well to actually talk to real Priests and nuns about their calling, instead of simply interjecting our opinions about their vocation choices.

"Doing something "for the sake of tradition" is not always a good enough reason."
Agreed! But that's not why the Church selects candidates for the Priesthood from among the celibate; and it's not why men and women in the Church choose a life of celibacy. It does happen to be a tradition, but it's very bad logic to say that Priestly celibacy is "for the sake of tradition". (It's so bad, in fact, that there is a name for the illogic. It's called a "strawman".) No, the reason the Church chooses celibate men for the Priesthood is because it wants Priests whose interests will not be divided. Being that this was highlighted in God's written Word, and exemplified by THE Word Himself, that's a good enough reason. And of the men and women who choose celibacy, one of the reasons they choose it is because they are called to it, and are following the example of Christ (and Paul) in renouncing marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. Doing something because our Saviour provided an example for it, and felt it important enough to mention it in His written Word, is a good enough reason.

"Priests would personally learn a lot about the equality between husband and wife."
Priests don't need to be married in order to learn about the relationship of husbands and wives. Paul certainly didn't need to be married, and he wrote pretty eloquently about this very topic. In fact, Paul took it further and compared marriage to Christ's relationship with His Church. Priests know a lot about Christ and His relationship to His Church; and that knowledge naturally flows through to an understanding of marriage.  That's the example from Scripture, anyway. It also happens to be the reality. I have yet to meet a Priest who didn't understand or know about the relationship between husbands and wives, the equality, the differences, and any other matter regarding marriage. Could they learn more still? Maybe. But that doesn't mean they *need* to be allowed to be married, at least not according to Scripture.

"Many wise and discerning Christians in the Catholic church believe priests should marry."
Not Saint Paul. Not Jesus Christ. Not the many wise and discerning Christians in the Catholic Church throughout history who thought otherwise. Not the wise and discerning Christians in the Church alive today who still think it's a good idea for a Priest to renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. Not the wise and discerning Priests and Nuns who have followed God's call to accept a life of celibacy in imitation of Christ. Why does it matter if "many wise and discerning Christians believe Priests should marry"? Many "wise and discerning Christians" also thought it would be a good idea to let people use contraception in extreme cases in 1930. Shortly thereafter, we saw a rise in divorce rates and abortion became rampant. Many "wise and discerning Christians" also think it's a good idea to encourage people in their lives of sin, because "feelings" matter more than God. Many "wise and discerning Christians" think many "wise and discerning" things that ultimately end up not being so "wise and discerning". And what makes their opinions "wise"? (That bit of the bad logic is named "circular reasoning", or "begging the question".)

"The Gospel message of forgiveness through Christ is more important than marriage or celibacy."
If that's true, then why bother writing an article with 10 reasons why Priests should marry? Why not just focus on the message of forgiveness? And what if, *what if* the message of forgiveness can be delivered to those in need of it by men whose interests are not divided? What if that message can be delivered, in the fullness of its truth, by men who can be 100% devoted to serving God's people in that way, rather than having much of their time taken up in providing for their spouses and their children? Is the Gospel message important enough to deliver it without divided interest?

The reasons given above, for why Priests should marry, have nothing at all to do with marriage, in my opinion. What they are is a stream of excuses for why people should be allowed to jump ship on the vows they have taken.
Is it time that the Church allow Priests to marry? No.
It's time that we start taking our vows to God seriously, and start living out the vocations to which He has called us, without trying to find excuses to change our minds on a whim.

For more on celibacy, and for 10 reasons why it's *good* to have celibate Priests, please take a look at Matthew Pinto's brief, article, "Why are Priests not allowed to Marry?"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments", by Randy Alcorn - The Table of Contents

Randy Alcorn wrote a 466-page book back in 2010 that magnificently presents the Pro-Life position in response to Pro-Abortion/Pro-Choice proponents in their support of abortion. I recommend the book, which can be purchased HERE, but even just his Table of Contents is worth taking a look at. In fact, when I first saw the Table of Contents, I thought it was point-by-point article that he had written. All that was lacking in it was primary source material. I later found out what I was looking at, and I just had to share it.

So, here it is. It's divided into 6 parts, plus a summary, which makes it easy to hunt for any particular argument and find a response to it.
Part 1 - Life, Humanity, and Personhood
Part 2 - Rights and Fairness
Part 3 - Social Issues
Part 4 - Health and Safety
Part 5 - Hard Cases
Part 6 - Personal Character of Pro-Lifers
Summary - A Better Place to Live?

Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments
By Randy Alcorn
Table of Contents

Part One: Arguments Concerning Life, Humanity, and Personhood

1. “It is uncertain when human life begins; that’s a religious question that cannot be answered by science.”
a. If there is uncertainty about when human life begins, the benefit of the doubt should go to preserving life.
b. Medical textbooks and scientific reference works consistently agree that human life begins at conception.
c. Some of the world’s most prominent scientists and physicians testified to a U.S. Senate committee that human life begins at conception.
d. Many other prominent scientists and physicians have likewise affirmed with certainty that human life begins at conception.
e. The possibility of human cloning does nothing to discredit the fact that all humans conceived in the conventional manner began their lives at conception.

2. “The fetus is just a part of the pregnant woman’s body, like her tonsils or appendix. You can’t seriously believe a frozen embryo is an actual person.”
a. A body part is defined by the common genetic code it shares with the rest of its body; the unborn’s genetic code differs from his mother’s.
b. The child may die and the mother live, or the mother may die and the child live, proving they are two separate individuals.
c. The unborn child takes an active role in his own development, controlling the course of the pregnancy and the time of birth.
d. Being inside something is not the same as being part of something.
e. Human beings should not be discriminated against because of their place of residence.
f. There is substantial scientific reason to believe that frozen embryos are persons and should be granted the same rights as older, larger, and less vulnerable persons.

3. “The unborn is an embryo or a fetus—just a simple blob of tissue, a product of conception—not a baby. Abortion is terminating a pregnancy, not killing a child.”
a. Like toddler or adolescent, the terms embryo and fetus do not refer to nonhumans, but to humans at particular stages of development.
b. Semantics affect perceptions, but they do not change realities; a baby is a baby no matter what we call her.
c. From the moment of conception, the unborn in sot simple, but very complex.
d. Prior to the earliest abortions, the unborn already has every body part she will ever have.
e. Every abortion stops a beating heart and terminates measurable brain waves.
f. Even in the earliest surgical abortions, the unborn child is clearly human in appearance.
g. Even before the unborn is obviously human in appearance, she is what she is—a human being.
h. No matter how much better it sounds, “terminating a pregnancy” is still terminating a life.

4. “The fetus may be alive, but so are eggs and sperm. The fetus is a potential human being, not an actual one; It’s like a blueprint, not a house; an acorn, not an oak tree.”
a. The ovum and sperm are each a product of another’s body; unlike the conceptus, neither is an independent entity.
b. The physical remains after an abortion indicate the end not of a potential life, but of an actual life.
c. Something nonhuman does not become human by getting older and bigger; whatever is human must be human from the beginning.
d. Comparing preborns and adults to acorns and oaks is dehumanizing and misleading.
e. Even if the analogy were valid, scientifically speaking an acorn is simply a little oak tree, just as an embryo is a little person.

5. “The unborn isn’t a person, with meaningful life. It’s only inches in size and can’t even think; it’s less advanced than an animal and anyway, who says people have a greater right to live than animals?”
a. Personhood is properly defined by membership in the human species, not by stage of development within that species.
b. Personhood is not a matter of size, skill, or degree of intelligence.
c. The unborn’s status should be determined on an objective basis, not on subjective or self-serving definitions of personhood.
d. It is a scientific fact that there are thought processes at work in unborn babies.
e. If the unborn’s value can be compared to that of an animal, there is no reason not to also compare the value of born people to animals.
f. Even if someone believes that people are no better than animals, why would they abhor the killing of young animals, while advocating the killing of young children?
g. It is dangerous when people in power are free to determine whether other, less powerful lives are meaningful.
h. Arguments against the personhood of the unborn are shrouded in rationalization and denial.

6. “A fetus isn’t a person until implantation…or until quickening or viability or when it first breathes.”
a. Implantation is a gauge of personhood only if location, nutrition, and interfacing with others make us human.
b. Quickening is a gauge of personhood only if someone’s reality or value depends upon being noticed by another.
c. Viability is an arbitrary concept. Why not associate personhood with heartbeat, brain waves, or something else?
d. The point of viability changes because it depends on technology, not the unborn herself. Eventually babies may be viable from the point of conception.
e. In a broad sense, many born people are not viable because they are incapable of surviving without depending on others.
f. A child’s “breathing,” her intake of oxygen, begins long before birth.
g. Someone’s helplessness or dependency should motivate us to protect her, not to destroy her.

7. “Obviously life beings at birth. That’s why we celebrate birthdays, not conception days, and why we don’t have funerals following miscarriages.”
a. Our recognition of birthdays is cultural, not scientific.
b. Some people do have funerals after a miscarriage.
c. Funerals are an expression of our subjective attachment to those who have died, not a measurement of their true worth.
d. There is nothing about birth that makes a baby essentially different than he was before birth.

8. “No one can really know that human life beings before birth.”
a. Children know that human life begins before birth.
b. Pregnant women know that human life begins before birth.
c. Doctors know that human life begins before birth.
d. Abortionists know that human life begins before birth.
e. Prochoice feminists know that human life begins before birth.
f. Society knows that human life begins before birth.
g. The media know that human life begins before birth.
h. Prochoice advocates know that human life begins before birth.
i. If we can’t know that human life begins before birth, how can we know whether it begins at birth or later?

Part Two: Arguments Concerning Rights and Fairness

9. “Even if the unborn are human beings, they have fewer rights than the woman. No one should be expected to donate her body as a life-support system for someone else.”
a. Once we grant that the unborn are human beings, it should settle the question of their right to live.
b. The right to live doesn’t increase with age and size; otherwise toddlers and adolescents have less right to live than adults.
c. The comparison between a baby’s rights and a mother’s rights is unequal. What is at stake in abortion is the mother’s lifestyle, as opposed to the baby’s life.
d. It is reasonable for society to expect an adult to live temporarily with an inconvenience if the only alternative is killing a child.

10. “Every person has the right to choose. It would be unfair to restrict a woman’s choice by prohibiting abortion.”
a. Any civilized society restricts the individual’s freedom to choose whenever that choice would harm an innocent person.
b. “Freedom to choose” is too vague for meaningful discussion; we must always ask, “Freedom to choose what?”
c. People who are prochoice about abortion are often not prochoice about other issues with less at stake.
d. The one-time choice of abortion robs someone else of a lifetime of choices and prevents him from ever exercising his rights.
e. Everyone is prochoice with it comes to the choices prior to pregnancy and after birth.
f. Nearly all violations of human rights have been defended on the grounds of the right to choose.

11. “Every woman should have control over her own body. Reproductive freedom is a basic right.”
a. Abortion assures that 650,000 females each year do not have control over their bodies.
b. Not all things done with a person’s body are right, nor should they all be legally protected.
c. Prolifers consistently affirm true reproductive rights.
d. Even prochoicers must acknowledge that the “right to control one’s body” argument has no validity if the unborn is a human being.
e. Too often “the right to control my life” becomes the right to hurt and oppress others for my own advantage.
f. Control over the body can be exercised to prevent pregnancy in the first place.
g. It is demeaning to a woman’s body and self-esteem to regard pregnancy as an unnatural, negative, and “out of control” condition.

12. “Abortion is a decision between a woman and her doctor. It’s no one else’s business. Everyone has a constitutional right to privacy.”
a. The constitution does not contain a right to privacy.
b. Privacy is never an absolute right, but is always governed by other rights.
c. The encouragement or assistance of a doctor does not change the nature, consequences, or morality of abortion.
d. The father of the child is also responsible for the child and should have a part in this decision.
e. The father will often face serious grief and guilt as a result of abortion. Since his life will be significantly affected, shouldn’t he have something to say about it?

13. “It’s unfair for an unmarried woman to have to face the embarrassment of pregnancy or the pain of giving up a child for adoption.”
a. Pregnancy is not a sin. Society should not condemn or pressure an unmarried mother into abortion, but should help and support her.
b. The poor choice of premarital sex is never compensated for by the far worse choice of killing an innocent human being.
c. One person’s unfair or embarrassing circumstances do not justify violating the rights of another person.
d. Adoption is a fine alternative that avoids the burden of child-raising, while saving a life and making a family happy; it is tragic that adoption is so infrequently chosen as an alternative to abortion.
e. The reason that adoption may be painful is the same reason that abortion is wrong—a human life is involved.

14. “Abortion rights are fundamental for the advancement of women. They are essential to having equal rights with men.”
a. Early feminists were prolife, not prochoice.
b. Some active feminists still vigorously oppose abortion.
c. Women’s rights are not inherently linked to the right to abortion.
d. The basic premises of the abortion-rights movement are demeaning to women.
e. Many of the assumptions that connect women’s welfare with abortion, the pill, and free sex have proven faulty.
f. Some of the abortion-rights strategies assume female incompetence and subject women to ignorance and exploitation.
g. Abortion has become the most effective means of sexism ever devised, ridding the world of multitudes of unwanted females.

15. “The circumstances of many women leave them no choice but an abortion.”
a. Saying they have no choice is not being prochoice, but proabortion.
b. Those who are truly prochoice must present a woman with a number of possible choices instead of just selling the choice of abortion.
c. “Abortion or misery” is a false portrayal of the options; it keeps women from pursuing—and society from providing—possible alternatives.

16. “I’m personally against abortion, but I’m still prochoice. It’s a legal alternative and we don’t have the right to keep it from anyone. Everyone’s free to believe what they want, but we shouldn’t try to impose it on others.”
a. To be prochoice about abortion is to be proabortion.
b. The only good reason for being personally against abortion is a reason that demands we be against other people choosing to have abortions.
c. What is legal is not always right.
d. How can we tell people that they are perfectly free to believe abortion is the killing of children but that they are not free to act as if what they believe is really true?

Part Three: Arguments Concerning Social Issues

17. “’Every child a wanted child.’ It’s unfair to children to bring them into a world where they’re not wanted.”
a. Every child is wanted by someone; there is no such thing as an unwanted child.
b. There is a difference between an unwanted pregnancy and an unwanted child.
c. “Unwanted” describes not a condition of the child, but an attitude of adults.
d. The problem of unwantedness is a good argument for wanting children, but a poor argument for eliminating them.
e. What is most unfair to unwanted children is to kill them.

18. “Having more unwanted children results in more child abuse.”
a. Most abused children were wanted by their parents.
b. Child abuse has not decreased since abortion was legalized, but has dramatically increased.
c. If children are viewed as expendable before birth, they will be viewed as expendable after birth.
d. It is illogical to argue that a child is protected from abuse through abortion since abortion is child abuse.

19. “Restricting abortion would be unfair to the poor and minorities, who need it most.”
a. It is not unfair for some people to have less opportunity than others to kill the innocent.
b. The rich and white, not the poor and minorities, are most committed to unrestricted abortion.
c. Prochoice advocates want the poor and minorities to have abortions, but oppose requirements that abortion risks and alternatives be explained to them.
d. Planned Parenthood’s abortion advocacy was rooted in the eugenics movement and its bias against the mentally and physically handicapped and minorities.

20. “Abortion helps solve the problem of overpopulation and raises the quality of life.”
a. The current birthrate in America is less that what is needed to maintain our population level.
b. The dramatic decline in our birthrate will have a disturbing economic effect on America.
c. Overpopulation is frequently blamed for problems with other causes.
d. If there is a population problem that threatens our standard of living, the solution is not to kill off part of the population.
e. Sterilization and abortion as cures to overpopulation could eventually lead to mandatory sterilization and abortion.
f. The “quality of life” concept is breeding a sense of human expendability that has far-reaching social implications.

21. “Even if abortion were made illegal, there would still be many abortions.”
a. That harmful acts against the innocent will take place regardless of the law is a poor argument for having no law.
b. The law can guide and educate people to choose better alternatives.
c. Laws concerning abortion have significantly influenced whether women choose to have abortions.

22. “The antiabortion beliefs of the minority shouldn’t be imposed on the majority.”
a. Major polls clearly indicate that the majority, not the minority, believes that there should be greater restrictions on abortion.
b. Many people’s apparent agreement with abortion law stems from their ignorance of what the law really is.
c. Beliefs that abortion should be restricted are embraced by a majority in each major political party.
d. In 1973 the Supreme Court imposed a minority morality on the nation, ignoring the votes of citizens and the decisions of state legislatures.

23. “The antiabortion position is a religious belief that threatens the vital separation of church and state.”
a. Many nonreligious people believe that abortion kills children and that it is wrong.
b. Morality must not be rejected just because it is supported by religion.
c. America was founded on a moral base dependent upon principles of the Bible and the Christian religion.
d. Laws related to church and state were intended to assure freedom for religion, not freedom from religion.
e. Religion’s waning influence on our society directly accounts for the moral deterioration threatening our future.

Part Four: Arguments Concerning Health and Safety

24. “If abortion is made illegal, tens of thousands of women will again die from back-alley and clothes-hanger abortions.”
a. For decades prior to its legalization, 90 percent of abortions were done by physicians in their offices, not in back alleys.
b. It is not true that tens of thousands of women were dying from illegal abortions before abortion was legalized.
c. The history of abortion in Poland invalidates claims that making abortion illegal would bring harm to women.
d. Women still die from legal abortions in America.
e. If abortion became illegal, abortions would be done with medical equipment, not clothes hangers.
f. We must not legalize procedures that kill the innocent just to make the killing process less hazardous.
g. The central horror of illegal abortion remains the central horror of legal abortion.

25. “Abortion is a safe medical procedure—safer than full-term pregnancy and childbirth.”
a. Abortion is not safer than full-term pregnancy and childbirth.
b. Though the chances of a woman’s safe abortion are now greater, the number of suffering women is also greater because of the huge increase in abortions.
c. Even if abortion were safer for the mother than childbirth, it would still remain fatal for the innocent child.
d. Abortion can produce many serious medical problems.
e. Abortion significantly raises the rate of breast cancer.
f. The statistics on abortion complications and risks are often understated due to the inadequate means of gathering data.
g. The true risks of abortion are rarely explained to women by those who perform abortions.

26. “Abortion is an easy and painless procedure.”
a. The various abortion procedures are often both difficult and painful for women.
b. Abortion is often difficult and painful for fathers, grandparents, and siblings of the aborted child.
c. Abortion is often difficult and painful for clinic workers.
d. Abortion is difficult and painful for the unborn child.
e. Even if abortion were made easy or painless for everyone, it wouldn’t change the bottom-line problem that abortion kills children.

27. “Abortion relieves women of stress and responsibility, and thereby enhances their psychological well-being.”
a. Research demonstrates abortion’s adverse psychological effects on women
b. The many postabortion therapy and support groups testify to the reality of abortion’s potentially harmful psychological effects.
c. The suicide rate is significantly higher among women who have had abortions than among those who haven’t.
d. Postabortion syndrome is a diagnosable psychological affliction.
e. Many professional studies document the reality of abortion’s adverse psychological consequences on a large number of women.
f. Abortion can produce both short- and longer-term psychological damage, especially a sense of personal guilt.
g. Most women have not been warned about and are completely unprepared for the psychological consequences of abortion.

28. “Abortion providers are respected medical professionals working in the woman’s best interests.”
a. Abortion clinics do not have to maintain the high standards of health, safety, and professionalism required of hospitals.
b. Many clinics are in the abortion industry because of the vast amounts of money involved.
c. Clinic workers commonly prey on fear, pain, and confusion to manipulate women into getting abortions.
d. Clinic workers regularly mislead or deceive women about the nature and development of their babies.
e. Abortionists engage in acts so offensive to the public that most media outlets refuse to describe them even in the abortionist’s own words.
f. Abortionists, feminists, a past president of the United States, many congressmen, and the Supreme Court have defended partial-birth abortion, one of the most chilling medical atrocities in human history.
g. Abortion clinics often exploit the feminist connection, making it appear that their motive is to stand up for women.
h. Doctors doing abortions violate the fundamental oaths of the medical profession.

Part Five: Arguments Concerning the Hard Cases

29. “What about a woman whose life is threatened by pregnancy or childbirth?”
a. It is an extremely rare case when abortion is required to save the mother’s life.
b. When two lives are threatened and only one can be saved, doctors must always save that life.
c. Abortion for the mother’s life and abortion for the mother’s health are usually not the same issue.
d. Abortion to save the mother’s life was legal before convenience abortion was legalized and would continue to be if abortion were made illegal again.

30. “What about a woman whose unborn baby is diagnosed as deformed or handicapped?”
a. The doctor’s diagnosis is sometimes wrong.
b. The child’s deformity is often minor.
c. Medical tests for deformity may cause as many problems as they detect.
d. Handicapped children are often happy, always precious, and usually delighted to be alive.
e. Handicapped children are not social liabilities, and bright and “normal” people are not always social assets.
f. Using dehumanizing language may change our thinking, but not the child’s nature or value.
g. Our society is hypocritical in its attitude toward handicapped children.
h. The adverse psychological effects of abortion are significantly more traumatic for those who abort because of deformity.
i. The arguments for killing a handicapped unborn child are valid only if they also apply to killing born people who are handicapped.
j. Abortions due to probably handicaps rob the world of unique human beings who would significantly contribute to society.
k. Abortions due to imperfections have no logical stopping place; they will lead to designer babies, commercial products to be bred and marketed, leaving other people to be regarded as inferior and disposable.

31. “What about a woman who is pregnant due to rape or incest?”
a. Pregnancy due to rape is extremely rare, and with proper treatment can be prevented.
b. Rape is never the fault of the child; the guilty party, not an innocent party, should be punished.
c. The violence of abortion parallels the violence of rape.
d. Abortion does not bring healing to a rape victim.
e. A child is a child regardless of the circumstances of his conception.
f. What about already-born people who are “products of rape”?
g. All that is true of children conceived in rape is true of those conceived in incest.

Final Thoughts on the Hard Cases:
1. No adverse circumstance for one human being changes the nature and worth of another human being.
2. Laws must not be built on exceptional cases.

Part Six: Arguments against the Character of Prolifers

32. “Antiabortionists are so cruel that they insist on showing hideous pictures of dead babies.”
a. What is hideous is not the pictures themselves, but the reality they depict.
b. Pictures challenge our denial of the horrors of abortion. If something is too horrible to look at, perhaps it is too horrible to condone.
c. Nothing could be more relevant to the discussion of something than that which shows what it really is.
d. It is the prochoice position, not the prolife position, that is cruel.

33. “Prolifers don’t care about women and they don’t care about babies once they’re born. They have no right to speak against abortion unless they are willing to care for these children.”
a. Prolifers are actively involved in caring for women in crisis pregnancies and difficult child-raising situations.
b. Prolifers are actively involved in caring for unwanted children and the other “disposable people” in society.
c. It is abortion providers who do not provide support for women choosing anything other than abortion.

34. “The antiabortionists are a bunch of men telling women what to do.”
a. There is no substantial difference between men and women’s views of abortion.
b. Some polls suggest that more women than men oppose abortion.
c. The great majority of prolife workers are women.
d. If men are disqualified from the abortion issue, they should be disqualified on both sides.
e. Men are entitled to take a position on abortion.
f. There are many more women in prolife organizations than there are in proabortion organizations.
g. Of women who have had abortions, far more are prolife activists than prochoice activists.

35. “Antiabortionists talk about the sanctity of human life, yet they favor capital punishment.”
a. Not all Prolifers favor capital punishment.
b. Capital punishment is rooted in a respect for innocent human life.
c. There is a vast difference between punishing a convicted murderer and killing an innocent child.

36. “Antiabortion fanatics break the law, are violent, and bomb abortion clinics.”
a. Media coverage of prolife civil disobedience often bears little resemblance to what actually happens.
b. Prolife civil disobedience should not be condemned without understanding the reasons behind it.
c. Peaceful civil disobedience is consistent with the belief that the unborn are human beings.
d. Prolife protests have been remarkably nonviolent, and even when there has been violence, it has often been committed by clinic employees and escorts.
e. Abortion clinic bombing and violence are rare, and are neither done nor endorsed by prolife organizations.

37. “The antiabortionists distort the facts and resort to emotionalism to deceive the public.”
a. The facts themselves make abortion an emotional issue.
b. It is not the prolife position, but the prochoice position that relies on emotionalism more than truth and logic.
c. The prolife position is based on documented facts and empirical evidence, which many prochoice advocates ignore or distort.
d. The prochoice movement consistently caricatures and misrepresents Prolifers and their agenda.
e. The prochoice movement, from its beginnings, has lied to and exploited women, including the “Roe" of Roe v. Wade and the “Doe” of Doe v. Bolton.

38. “Antiabortion groups hide behind a profamily façade, while groups such as Planned Parenthood are truly profamily because they assist in family planning.”
a. The prochoice movement’s imposition of “family planning” on teenagers has substantially contributed to the actual cause of teen pregnancy.
b. Through its opposition to parental notification and consent, Planned Parenthood consistently undermines the value and authority of the family.
c. Planned Parenthood makes huge financial profits from persuading people to get abortions.
d. Planned Parenthood has been directly involved in the scandals of trafficking baby body parts.
e. As demonstrated in the case of Becky Bell, the prochoice movement is willing to distort and exploit family tragedies to promote its agenda.
f. Planned Parenthood, the prochoice movement, and the media ignore family tragedies that do not support the prochoice agenda.

Summary Argument

39. “The last three decades of abortion rights have helped make our society a better place to live.”
a. Abortion has left terrible holes in our society.
b. Abortion has made us a nation of schizophrenics concerning our children.
c. Abortion is a modern holocaust which is breeding unparalleled violence and to which we are accomplices.
d. Abortion is taking us in a direction from which we might never return.
e. Abortion has ushered in the brave new world of human pesticides.
f. Abortion has led us into complete moral subjectivism in which we are prone to justify as ethical whatever it is we want to do.

For more in-depth discussion on these points, here are a couple links to purchase the updated book by Mr. Alcorn.

Also, here is a link to his free eBook, "Why Pro Life?" on Care-Net.org.