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 - 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

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.