Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Interview with an Anti-Vaxxer, by Erin Fielding

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

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

A: Yes.

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

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

Q: But what about polio?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Do the ingredients in vaccines concern you?

A: Yes.

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Erin Fielding.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Abortion Debate with a Former Catholic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Answering How to Best Approach the Abortion Issue

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

JH’s proposition:

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

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

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

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

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

My response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of "The Looking Spoon".

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

David Cloud, Ecumenism, and Catholic Brothers in Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Early Christians Believed in Hell - Refuting John Lilley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

How Are We Saved? - Scripture Short

Many of us have been approached with the "are you saved" ice-breaker. And by now, if you've either read your Bibles or studied any amount of apologetics, you know the answer: "Yes! I was saved in Christ at my Baptism (1Pet 3:20-21). I HAVE been saved (Rom 8:24; Eph 2:5,8; 2Tim 1:9; Tit 3:5); I am BEING saved (Phil 2:12; 1Pet1:9); and I WILL be saved IF I persevere to the end (Mt 7:21; Mt 10:22; Mt 19:16-17; Mt 24:13; 1Cor 9:27; 1Cor 10:11-12, etc…).

But sometimes we just want a quick Scripture reference to show how we are saved. EVERYONE knows we are saved by believing in Christ, which involves obedience to His Will (Jn 3:36). But what about the other ways we are saved? Straight from the Bible, here you go! We are saved...

By believing in Christ (Jn 3:16; Acts 16:31)

By repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Pet 3:9)

By baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:20-21; Titus 3:5)

By eating his flesh and drinking his blood (Jn 6)

By the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6)

By declaring with our mouths (Lk 12:8; Rom 10:9)

By coming to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4; Heb 10:26)

By works (Rom 2:6-7; James 2:24)

By grace (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:5, 8; 2Tim 1:9)

By his blood (Rom 5:9; Heb 9:22)

By his righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1)

By keeping the commandments (Matt 19:16-17)

By doing the will of the Father (Mt 7:21)

By our words (Matt 12:37)

By feeding the hungry and clothing the naked (Matt: 25:42)

By forgiving our debtors (Matt 6:12)

By the preached Gospel, IF we keep it (1Cor 15:1-2)

By enduring to the end (Mt 10:22, 24:13)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Why Do You Have So Many Kids?!

-You know what causes that, right?
-Did you guys plan it like that?
-Will this be your last?
-WOW, that's a lot of kids!
-It's about time you got a pet.
-You've got your hands full!
-Are you Catholic, or Mormon?
-That's just too many children!
-How can you afford them all?
-Won't that be a burden on society?
-You need to get that "fixed".
-What a beautiful family!

This is just a sample of comments my wife and I (and other couples we know) have heard from friends, family, and perfect strangers over the years, beginning with our third child, believe it or not. (Isn't "three" supposed to be the new "two"?) I admit that I have made some of them myself, to other "large" families. I put "large" in quotations because, the fact is, families with more children than *I* am accustomed to aren't necessarily "large"; they're just families. But there is one question I have never been asked, and that I think would be a great question to ask someone like me or other families who choose to have more children than society is accustomed to: "Why so many?". (I think a good rejoinder to that one would be, "why not?". I might even toss in a "how many is too many?", and "too many for whom?". But that's not the point of this article, so I'll let the reader off the hook - for now.)

Why would my wife and I have so many kids?
I'm so glad you asked!! It's because we love children and we feel confident enough in ourselves as parents, with the help of God's grace, to be able to raise and educate this many children, and maybe even a couple more. It's because God has blessed us with the gift of being able to make babies and we realize that not everyone is blessed in this way, and so we want to honor God's gift to us by being generous to Him. It's because we place the irreplaceable soul of a child over the fleeting existence of our material desires. There may even be a hint of selfishness in our desire to provide uncles and aunts to our future grandchildren, and create a little army of prayer warriors who can pray for us when we are weak or old or dying.

And we are able to look at it from this point of view because, through our children, God has changed the way we look at life. I'll speak for myself, but I bet a bunch of parents will be able to identify with this. I used to be materialistic and self-serving. I used to enjoy spending all my free time doing what *I* wanted to do, and spending all my money on myself. Sure, I was a good tithing Christian and gave to God first. But then it was all about *me*. Having children changed that. It put me in a position of placing someone besides myself ahead of my own desires. I found myself unable to afford my material "things" because my children needed food, shelter, and clothing. I found myself unable to spend so much of my free time on myself, because I didn't have that much free time anymore. Now I spend that time on my children. And guess what?! It's wonderful. Until I forced myself to do things like coach my daughter's softball team, or practice baseball with my son, or just play in the yard with all of the kids instead of doing what *I* want to do, I never realized how fulfilling life could be. Gradually over time, day by day, for the past 12 years since I've been married, I have learned to live for someone besides myself. And who knows? Maybe in 20 or 30 years I'll finally have it down. Until then, my children [and my wife] will be there to help me learn to live the life God has called me to live. A life of charity, as opposed to a life of self-service.

For those comments I mentioned in the beginning, allow me to answer for them all:
-Yes, I have a pretty good understanding of what causes it; and I have a hunch you'd be rather embarrassed if I began explaining it to you in full detail, in the public arena in which you asked me, to prove my point. But I'm willing to discuss this if you really want to know.
-Maybe we planned it. Maybe we didn't. Either way, we followed God's calling.
-I don't know if this will be the last because I don't know what God has planned for us tomorrow.
-Yep, and I love every one of them! I feel truly blessed!
-Why would I need a pet?  Is a pet made in God's image and likeness?  Does a pet have an immortal soul?  Can a pet take care of me when I am old and unable to care for myself? Are you suggesting that the only reason a person would want to have "so many" children is because they are somehow bored or want something to play with?  Or do you suppose I'm just really codependent and need something to take care of?  My children have the potential to become Saints in Heaven who will love and serve the Lord for all eternity. Why would I trade that potential for a pet?
-Yes, our hands are full. And our hearts are even MORE so.
-We happen to be Catholic. But that's not why we have more than two children.
-If it were too many for my wife and I, don't you think we'd have stopped by now? After all, it's not like we don't know what causes it.  You may as well have said, "that's too many birthday wishes" and "too many hugs to get in a day"; "You have too many people in your house to tell you, 'I love you'."  No, it's not too many. 
-How can you afford YOUR lifestyle? If we didn't have children, we would be spending all our money on ourselves...or those pets you think we should have. Since we have children, we spend that money on them. It's just a matter of re-setting our priorities and giving up material desires for the sake of raising children for God. Sometimes I do wonder how we make ends meet, but we make it happen and God pulls us through every month.
-Burden?? My children's generation is going to be a small one; and that generation is supposed to be paying for YOUR Social Security; and will be THE taxpaying class to keep our local governments going. If anything, my "large" family will be the only thing to save society from a certain crash.
-Are you referring to my testicles? Because it seems to me that they are working just fine...obviously. Getting a vasectomy would actually damage them...make then NOT work. How exactly would that be "fixing" anything? Wouldn't that be "un-fixing" them??
-Thank you! It really means a great deal to me to know you see the beauty that I see in my family. May God bless you as much as He has blessed us!

But to close, I want to invite the reader to seriously consider this question which I sidelined earlier. When you find yourself thinking that someone else has "too many children", ask yourself this: "too many for whom?". Follow that question up with, "why does that matter?".

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Restoring a Piece of Church History - A Campaign

Are you Church history buff looking for an opportunity to participate in the restoration of a historical Christian monument? Or an architectural history nerd who would love the opportunity to help restore the very last building design by the man behind Annunciation Catholic Church's bell tower? A philanthropist looking for a great cause to donate to for the betterment of society, history, and faith? Need to donate some money to a charitable organization for tax purposes, but want to find something really worthwhile? Or do you simply have some spare cash or other assets looking for a good place to go?

Look no further! The "Hail, Full of Grace Capital Campaign" has exactly what you are looking for!

From the campaign homepage, we learn that "Annunciation Catholic Church is a vibrant and historic parish community that dates back to 1869. For over 140 years, our church has been ministering to the needs of our greater Houston community. As the mother church of Houston for nearly one and a half centuries, Annunciation Church has spawned over 50 parishes spread throughout the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. And while facilities and faces have changed over the years, one thing remains the same…our commitment to Christ, to one another, and to the betterment of our community" (Walsh and Associates, 2015).

Beginning with the purchased bricks of the old Harris County Courthouse (1867) to the Gothic entrance and bell tower designed by the late Nicholas J. Clayton, Annunciation Catholic Church stands as a historical monument in Harris County. In fact, in 1969 it was recorded as a Texas historical landmark. (You can find more about the parish's history HERE.)
In recent years, the building has undergone several needed repairs and upgrades, including the re-leveling of the foundation, installation of a sound system, restoration of the pipe organ and the Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon. Several parts of the interior of the church have been repaired/repainted and the air conditioning/heating systems have been updated/repaired.

But with all the refreshing work done to bring the building back to its days of glory, the parish is still without a rectory (which had to be demolished last year), a bridal room, and even suitable restrooms. Parking can be a headache if not planned out in advance, especially during baseball season, as the building is literally across the street from Minute Maid Park. But, instead of just accepting the fact of a historical landmark slowly losing its functionality, or letting the most beautiful and breathtaking piece of art in all of Houston (in this author's opinion) slowly decay, the parishioners and Priest of Annunciation have decided to do something about it.

The Hail, Full of Grace Capital Campaign is the drive to bring Annunciation back to structural life and encourage deeper community relationship. The spiritual life of the parish has never faded, and in fact continues to grow as families from miles, and hours, away seek it out for its beauty. The amazingly authentic Christian worship, available in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms (and in both English and Latin in the Ordinary), draws the parishioner into a true reflection of the worship God desires from us. It makes us more aware than ever of our presence at the gates of Heaven and the foot of the Cross, bringing the Gospels and Revelation to life in a way that many Christians, Catholics included, have never realized. In all my 34 years as a Catholic before attending this parish, I had never felt so fully, or participated so fully in, the Mass. After 7 years here, I still look in awe at the beauty of the Mass celebrated here. Can you imagine what could possibly draw dozens of families of several small children to attend Mass at a parish where parents are refereeing a 'death match' between "the kids" vs. "sports fans"; "marathon runners"; "single-person-'por-to-lets'-until-other-arrangments-were-made"; "having to drive an hour to church, sit through Mass, and drive an hour back home"? We aren't there for convenience or locality or amenities. We're there for a faithful and extremely beautiful Mass experience. And now we want to restore the structure of our parish to complete the job that was started years ago.

The campaign goals are high, and the parishioners have stepped up large to meet the challenge head on. Now we'd like to offer others an opportunity to take part in this truly historical event. Will you please consider praying for us to meet our goals to restore and refurbish our parish? Would you also consider a donation?

Please visit the Campaign website or the Annunciation Catholic Church homepage and click the pertinent links for details, our common prayer for the campaign, and much, much more.

Thank you in advance, and may God bless you richly in this life and the next!

Photos courtesy of anonymous Pinterest user (interior photo) and (Postcard from 1907).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How Many Children Should I Have?

I recently toyed with an online questionnaire, "How Many Children Can You Handle?". Obviously the poll is meant for good fun, not as a means by which an adult determines how many children he/she should have. But I do wonder how many people take these things seriously. Judging by some of the comments, it seems many people do.

Anyhow, I answered the questions honestly. I'd rather spend my free time on the couch; and a glass of wine seems far more relaxing to me than reading stories or playing outside on a trampoline; and I really don't like driving a mini-van. I mean, come on! A mini-van?!?! Never mind one that's 16 years old and has stains from "no one know what it is" that have been there since "I have no clue". I like comfort and quiet. I like CLEAN cars and prefer a sedan to an SUV. So, I should not have been surprised at the results of my "test". "You can handle one child."
After a solid five minutes of laughing hysterically at the notion of it (as of this article, my wife is nearing her due date with our fifth!), I started to think a little more deeply as to why.

Why am I, as a person who can only "handle one child", able to handle five (or more!)? After all, the questions and answers, and the result at the end of the questionnaire, are not a far cry from reality. A person who likes peace and quiet and nice relaxing glasses of wine after work is not going to be able to actually "enjoy" those things in a house full of children. So how does a person do it? Why doesn't my world simply fall apart, sending me into a fit of rage or hysteria, as my kids run around the house making a mess of things they just cleaned up only seconds (SECONDS) ago? How am I able to cope with my desired lifestyle when it costs an arm and two fingers to feeds these children with seemingly bottomless stomachs?

There is more than one answer here. But reality and faith come to mind in the forefront. But even more than that, "growing out of my self", and "being a parent" and "what it means to 'live' your calling" rise to the top of the answers.

People who are called to be parents aren't meant to focus on what they want. We are not called to a life of cleanliness and relaxation and ministering to the pleasurable desires of our senses. Parents are called to be...PARENTS. And parents are people who put aside what we want because our *wants* often times get in the way of being a parent. Being a parent means living for someone else. It means sacrificing our own desires and pleasures of the senses in order to raise up children, and care for a spouse, and teach them, and comfort them, and minister to them, regardless of our own wants. Parenthood is about self-sacrifice.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we can't indulge from time to time, or that we can't enjoy things. I'm not saying we shouldn't set aside time to really relax or have "me time".  I'm just saying that we, parents, chose a life which puts our "self" a little lower on the priority list. And guess what? It doesn't make us miserable. In fact, parents can find MORE enjoyment out of self-sacrifice than we can through self-indulgence! Amazing, isn't it?! Admittedly, we have to look a little harder to really see it. But it's really there! It kinda makes me think of the way God loves us, and how sacrificing Himself for us didn't take away His enjoyment of "Life"...but I digress.

The poll asks what we "prefer", what we "want [for ourselves]". In other words, if you answer honestly, you are saying "me", and "I want", and "MY comfort over all else". But that's not life; that's a dream...and a lonely one at that.
The results of the poll are only “true” if we intend to (or are supposed to) live a self-centered life revolving around “me” instead of living for others. Yet parenthood (and Marriage) calls us to something far greater: living for others and giving up our own desires. That's why someone who can only “handle one child” can actually handle far more.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Refuting Matt Slick's "Did the Roman Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?"

On his CARM website, Matt Slick argues that the Catholic Church did not give us God’s Word.  And so, the Church would agree, because we believe the source of God’s Word is God.  He also is the source of authority in His Church.  However, Mr. Slick seems willing to misrepresent the Church’s claims and teachings, and so is willing to engage in deception in order to make his point.  This deception will be evident throughout his article, and will show itself no more than two sentences into his argument.

 The Catholic Church, what many people today call the “Roman Catholic Church”, did indeed decide which books and letters were to be included in the Canon of Scripture.  Martin Luther, one of the so-called "Pillars of the Reformation” made this point clear.  To claim otherwise, there are some things that Mr. Slick is going to have to explain.  Among them are:  1) how did the Church come to know, without doubt, which books belong in the Canon of Scripture; 2) is the known Canon a fallible list, or an infallible list; 3) what did the Church look like/teach, that which declared “these books are the Word of God and are to be included in the Canon of Scripture”?

 Mr. Slick will be quoted verbatim, his words appearing in black.  My responses will follow in blue. 

 “Roman Catholics often say that it was their church that gave us the Bible. They sometimes claim this when defending their "Sacred Tradition" so that they might support extra-biblical teachings such as purgatory, penance, indulgences, and Mary worship.”

 Well, that didn’t take long.  Only two sentences in, and we have a gross misrepresentation of the Catholic Church.  Sure, it can be said that this argument, that “the Church gave us the Bible,” is used to defend Sacred Tradition; after all, without Sacred Tradition, we wouldn’t know which books/letters to include in the Canon of Scripture.  I would even allow, after much clarification, that “purgatory, penances, and indulgences” are “extra-biblical”…even though that’s not quite true.  But to say, “so they might support…teachings such as…Mary worship” is an outright falsehood.  Catholics don’t worship Mary any more than Matt Slick worships his own parents.  But, that’s a whole different topic.  Suffice it to say that Mr. Slick is not reliable for presenting correct information and is prone to misrepresenting the Church.  Given his history and multiple corrections by Catholic apologists, I have no problem in saying that his act is deliberate.  Mr. Slick, did you intentionally misrepresent the Church, or was this in ignorance?

But let’s get back to the actual topic of where the Bible comes from, shall we? 

  “They often say that the only way the Christian church knew what books are to be included in the Canon of Scripture was because it was revealed by word-of-mouth in the early church, that is, by the tradition of the Catholic Church.”

That’s not actually true.  Nowhere does the Church claim that “the only way the Christian church knew what books are to be included in the Canon of Scripture was because it was revealed by word-of-mouth”.  Matt is misrepresenting the Church yet again, and making a false claim as to what the Church teaches about the Canon of Scripture.  The contents of the Canon of Scripture were revealed by God to His Church via the Holy Spirit, just as Christ promised (Jn 16:13, 14:26; Lk 10:16; Mt 28:19-20; cff. Acts 15:28; etc.).   

 “Unfortunately, this argument implies that tradition is superior to Scripture. Of course, we are not saying that the Roman Catholic church teaches that tradition is above Scripture. But when Sacred Tradition is claimed to be the thing by which Scripture is given, then tradition is inadvertently the thing that gives blessing and approval to the Bible. “

 Actually, our argument says that ALL of God’s Word, both written and oral, is equally important.  We do not discredit the spoken Word of God just because it isn’t written in the Scriptures.  In fact, the Scriptures themselves tell us to hold fast to BOTH the written AND oral Word (2Thess 2:15).  Is there a reason we should ignore that part of Scripture and discredit the spoken Word?  Is God not able to bless and approve the books He wants in the Bible by telling His Church, in a manner other than written form, which books He wants included in the Canon? 

 “Heb. 7:7 says, "But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater."  The unfortunate psychological effect of saying that Roman Catholic tradition is what gave us the Bible is that it elevates their tradition to a level far greater than what is permitted in Scripture. In fact, it is contradicted by Scripture:”

 Whoa!  Hang on a bit.  Did Matt Slick just say that God’s spoken Word, the "living transmission accomplished in the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 75-80), is “lesser” than His written?  I have a hunch he didn’t think this one through.  First of all, God’s *whole* Word is Jesus Christ.  And Scripture is clear that we are to hold fast to both the oral AND the written Word.  Further, it was by the "living transmission accomplished in the Holy Spirit" (Sacred Tradition) that the Gospel message was proclaimed to all the Gentiles until the written Word began to be written, little by little. 

Our “tradition” isn’t what Catholics claim gave us the Canon.  It is Sacred Tradition.  Matt can either admit he is misrepresenting the Church and its claim, or he can continue arguing what is known as a “strawman fallacy” (    Either way, his position is one based in deception. 

 “"Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other," (1 Cor. 4:6).  The Bible tells us to obey the Word of God--to not go beyond the written Word (1 Cor. 4:6).”

 This is another misapplication of Scripture, but not as grievous as the one above.  There are many sources that delve into why this verse is misapplied by Mr. Slick.  Suffice it to say that this verse does NOT say that God’s spoken Word is in excess of “what is written”.  Remember 2Thess 2:15?  We have to “obey the Word of God” there as well.  In Matt’s use of Scripture, these passages contradict each other, and Scripture cannot contradict itself.  (Never mind the actual context of 1Cor 4:6…say, the REST of the chapter?) 

Still, this does nothing at all to address the fact that, without the Catholic Church saying so, Christians would not know what books and letters are to be considered the inspired Word of God.
How about, “Mr. Slick, without going “
beyond what is written”, please list for me the Canon of the NT.

 “Unfortunately, the problem with an elevated status of Roman Catholic church tradition is that it results in various justifications of its non-biblical teachings such as prayer to Mary, purgatory, indulgences, penance, works of righteousness, etc.  Because it has deviated from trusting God's Word alone, it has ventured into unscriptural areas.”

 Some of these things ARE Biblical.  But let’s pretend they aren’t and that Sacred Tradition is the sole source for these.  Why is that a problem for Mr. Slick?  Why is it a problem that God’s Word comes to His Church both orally and in writing?  Using this logic, can’t we just as well say that Christ never should have spoken in His ministry, and should rather have just written everything down?  

“Nevertheless, did the Roman Catholic Church give us the Bible? No, it did not.”

 I could actually agree with this.  The Church doesn’t claim to have given us the Bible as Mr. Slick understands "the Bible".  God did that.  And He did it via His Catholic Church, revealing to His Church which books/letters were to be included in the Canon of Scripture through the Holy Spirit, without writing down a table of contents for them to go by.   

 “First of all, the Roman Catholic Church was not really around as an organization in the first couple hundred years of the Christian Church. The Christian church was under persecution, and official church gatherings were very risky in the Roman Empire due to the persecution. Catholicism, as an organization with a central figure located in Rome, did not occur for quite some time in spite of its claim they can trace the papacy back to Peter.”

And a very simple and cursory study of Christian history will dispel this myth, even using non-Catholic historians such as J.N.D. Kelley.  Yes, the early Church was persecuted and gatherings were indeed risky.  Yet they still gathered and wrote and died for their faith.  And the religion was as Catholic then as it is today.  Is it a coincidence that the people who were dying for their faith were writing “Catholic” things?  Is it just a coincidence that we have no writings from Christians in the early years that contended against then-Catholic beliefs that are still held by the Catholic Church today?  The first Christians were all Catholic, and their written testimonies and martyrdoms testify to their Catholic faith. 

 “Second, the Christian Church recognized what was Scripture. It did not establish it. This is a very important point. The Christian Church recognizes what God has inspired and pronounces that recognition. In other words, it discovers what is already authentic. Jesus said, "my sheep hear my voice and they follow me . . . ," (John 10:27). The church hears the voice of Christ, that is, it recognizes what is inspired, and it follows the Word. It does not add to it as the Roman Catholic Church has done. Therefore, it is not following the voice of Christ.”

 And how exactly does this happen, Matt?  The Catholic Church gives a hearty “AMEN!” to Christ’s sheep hearing His Voice to come to know the Scriptures.  That’s how the Church decided the official Canon of Scripture.  So, without going “beyond what is written”, please tell me how Christians knew what God had inspired and how they pronounced that recognition, and whether their pronouncement of it is fallible, or infallible.  Recall that there was much controversy amongst early Christians as to which books should or should not be included in the Canon.  Which of them were right, and which were wrong, and how do you know?  And are you only “fallibly” sure about that?  In other words, might you, and they, be wrong?

 “Third, the Roman Catholic Church did not give us the Old Testament which is the Scripture to which Christ and the apostles appealed. If the Roman Catholic Church wants to state that it gave us the Bible, then how can they rightfully claim to have given us the Old Testament which is part of the Bible? It didn't, so it cannot make that claim. The fact is that the followers of God, the true followers of God, recognize what is and is not inspired. “

 And again, this misrepresents what the Church actually claims.

 “Fourth, when the apostles wrote the New Testament documents, they were inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit. There wasn't any real issue of whether or not they were authentic. Their writings did not need to be deemed worthy of inclusion in the Canon of Scripture by a later group of men in the so-called Roman Catholic Church. To make such a claim is--in effect--to usurp the natural power and authority of God Himself that worked through the Apostles.”

Actually, there was a great deal of contention about several books and letters.  There are “Gospels” and other writings that are not included in the current Cannon of Scripture that were purported to be from Apostles and their followers.  And the Church didn’t “deem worthy of inclusion” any of God’s Word.  That’s yet another misrepresentation by Mr. Slick (and a good reason not to waste one’s time at his website).  The Catholic claim that God worked through His Church to decide the Canon of Scripture doesn’t usurp anything.  It’s simply an excellent example of yielding to God’s authority, obeying His command, and trusting in what He promised.

 “Fifth, the Scripture says, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God," (2 Pet. 1:20-21). “

 AMEN!!  If this isn’t irony, I don’t know what is.  This is exactly why Catholics don’t adhere to sola Scriptura…because “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation”.  It’s also exactly why we recognize that God’s spoken Word is alive in His Church which is led by the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus said, and just as this passage alludes to.  What Catholics DON’T do is assume that each of us is infallibly led by the Spirit.  We believe that Christ’s Church is, because Christ said it would be.  But we recognize our own personal fallibility, and so submit ourselves to Christ’s Church, the “pillar and bulwark of truth” (1Tim 3:15). 

 “The Bible tells us that the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the very nature of the inspired documents is that they carry power and authenticity in themselves. They are not given the power or the authenticity of ecclesiastical declaration.”

 AMEN again!!  (Sort of.)  But this still doesn’t tell us how we know WHICH books and letters are God’s Word to begin with.  No book or letter in the Canon of Scripture claims itself to be the inspired Word of God.  And many of them don’t appear to be written with the expectation that they would be considered such.  So, how do we really know, and are we only fallibly certain?  Mr. Slick has no answer for that.  Nor does anyone who adheres to sola Scriptura. 

 The Christian church as an earthly organization recognized the Word of God (John 10:27).”

 According to John 10:27, they recognized the SPOKEN Word of God.  This passage flies in the face of Matt Slick’s argument because it attests to the importance and permanence of God’s Word “voice[d]” through Christ, not written by Him.     

 “It didn't give us the Word of God.”

 But the Church DID declare, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which books/letters are to be included in the Canon of Scripture; and THAT is what the Church claims.   

“Also, it was the Jews who gave us the Old Testament. [Snip/paste, to include a repetitive claim at this point].   Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church did not give us the Old Testament. The Jews did. How can the RCC claim that it gave us the Bible when it did not give us the Old Testament?”

 Which Jews, and which version of the Old Testament?  The Greek/Hellenist Jews who had the Septuagint (the current OT Canon used by the Catholic Church)?  Or the Pharisees/Hebrew Jews who rejected Christ and rejected the Deuterocanon which the Greek Jews accepted?

 “The authenticity of the New Testament documents rests in the inspiration of God through the apostles--not the Catholic Church.”

 But how do we know which ones are to be included in the list of the New Testament documents?  How do we know they were inspired, or even who authored all of them?  What about the letters claiming to be written by Apostles and their disciples that are now considered apocryphal?  Matt Slick has no Biblical answer for this.

 “Finally, when the Catholic Church claims that it is the source of the sacred Scriptures, it is--in effect--placing itself above the Word of God by claiming that through its authority, we received the Word of God.”

 Except that isn’t what the Church claims.  The main basis of Slick’s argument, and the conclusion to his entire premise, is based on misrepresenting the Church.  This is deception on Mr. Slick’s part, either willfully or in ignorance.  Which is it, Mr. Slick?