Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Round III With Ed Babinski On Profound Christian Ignorance, and Every Subject Under the Sun Except the Topic (The Psalms)

By Dave Armstrong (12-22-04)

Here's the latest development in this strange exchange, with yet more parties entering in (as I said, "make yourself at home"). Sharon Mooney, Ed's webmaster, has now started writing to me. Her words will be in green:

[E-mail of 12-22-04]

Months ago I requested of Ed, if he were engaging in correspondence, to please let me know about it, so that it might end up on his site. Namely, because I'm not a mind reader, and having no way to know what he's posted around the internet. It may seem simple to you that he would post on your blog -- and that all his acquaintances visit and read, if so, you can't appreciate my/our schedule. Speaking for myself, normally, I am in college, and sometimes it is weeks that I'll save an email (article) from Ed, before I get it on the web. I'm out of college right now for break, but using the time to catch up on other work. I asked him specifically to forward or carbon copy me everything he writes that qualifies for web material (even the seemingly insignificant stuff). You probably want skeptics to read your web page I presume, then how would they know about it, unless carbon copied in an email? I've been distracted by a good number of other issues, and haven't had time to focus on Ed's debate with you -- not yet, not right now, though I did get one web page on the site yesterday.

I have no problem with this. That's fine. What I object to is this impromptu gathering of critics, who prefer to talk about me and at me, rather than directly to me (not to mention all the unnecessary put-downs and insults -- the inevitable ad hominem attacks, in full force here). You (as far as I know) did not participate in that sort of thing, so my remarks had nothing to do with you. If Ed posts this (via you, as webmaster), wonderful. That's more than I can say for most of my dialogical opponents. I'm delighted if that many more agnostics and atheists can read my arguments. Thanks!

It seems to me if you had the intention of being fair you'd do it with your blog or by email. Already from the first paragraph of reading, it's apparent to me, you're being quite biased.

I see, but of course, Ed and the "Group" are not doing that at all, in their numerous fallacious digressions and non sequiturs, as I have been chronicling.

I plan to get the correspondence between yourself and Ed on his site, if he still wants it that way. But if you insist on being unfair, I don't know that Ed or myself would care.

Yes, I know the feeling, believe me, except that I post what happens regardless of the outcome. That's what free speech and the open exchange of competing ideas and facilitation of critical thinking in the undecided is about.

If you wanted to do the right thing you'd remove that web page you sent us the URL to and start over again with something a lot more polite. Ed is far too nice of a person for the way you're criticizing him in that web page.

I'm sure Ed is very nice. I've always found him to be so, personally. My objection is strictly to how this dialogue is proceeding methodologically. It's not personal. It's based on notions of fair play and consideration of the other, benefit of the doubt, and those sorts of concepts that I have always assumed and believed are common to atheists and Christians alike, as they are fundamental. When one sees the sort of things I am accused of, or compared to (which have nothing to do with the argument at hand), then all of a sudden, this nice man, Ed, has become a little bit not-nice insofar as his rather insulting assumptions about me, a Christian, are concerned. I haven't done that to him. As a prominent example, note how Ed condescendingly characterizes me, as if I am a mindless, intellectually bankrupt special pleader, because I believe in biblical inspiration:

The point is that Dave adores the Bible it is his beloved, a letter from God. He will defend it all, from Eden to the Flood, from the tower of Babel to the slaughter of the Canaanites, with poetry, hyperbole, and metaphor if he has to, in fact, anyway he can, to make even the vilest shit in it smell like it should be served at communion to the heavenly choir. Therefore, you can't really argue with a person whose perception is that caught up in a single book.

Or how about this gem of strikingly prejudicial, sweeping observation about all Christians, not just myself (as a proud member of that class):

Religion is a puddle from which a gnat may drink and in which an elephant may bathe. And even the weakest disputant is made so conceited by what he calls religion, as to think himself wiser than the wisest who thinks differently from him.

Try to imagine, Sharon, if these sentiments were flipped over and applied to you as an agnostic (or whatever you are; I don't know). Would you continue to say that I am the only one being unfair and impolite? This is clearly poisoning the well; a classic, textbook case (as I clearly demonstrated, right from Copi). This sort of thing is the real "vile (manure)" that is going on here . . .

The next e-mail -- also of 12-22-04 -- was sent by Sharon just to Ed and I. Since she considered it "private," I won't cite it, but I will summarize it as her questioning whether our dialogue should be put on his website because of my alleged lack of politeness and supposed slandering of Ed as "dishonest" in debate (I did no such thing). My last response was described as "awful" and her decision to post or not was conditioned upon removing it. The next letter on the same day informed the "Group" that there was one posted section now on Ed's website concerning our discussion. This section is entitled Dave Armstrong Correspondence. It states a falsehood about me (only slightly qualified, but clearly believed by Sharon herself, in her correspondence), thus poisoning the well before anyone reads a word: "This section of Ed's site was set up following a visit to Dave Armstrong's blog, which appears to malign Ed as employing dishonest debate tactics."

The first link on this page is called Dave Armstrong - Edward Babinski debate at Dave's blog site, and features the following (I think, congenial and fair) introduction from Ed which seems to suggest that he has not found me as "impolite" as his webmaster Sharon has:

Catholic convert and web-pologist Dave Armstrong has produced a massive pro-Catholic website over the years. The story of his conversion to Catholicism appears in a bestselling book of similar converts (mostly former Protestantism I think), and he has published numerous books of Catholic apologetics, all available at, that strive to make Catholicism and its various unique doctrines and practices appear in as rational a light as possible, as well as having published in-depth counters to both Protestantism and Modernism. Dave recently composed a long web piece at his blog-site criticizing one of my shorter pieces on the psalms. He continues to write in a pretty friendly fashion and invite my response, as well as the responses of any readers of the debate, and he publishes them all at his blog-site. Most folks who read Dave's blog are Christians and respond in kind. His blog could probably use just a few non-Christian responses or even moderate Christian responses from moderate Christian university profs, to balance matters out a tad.

I agree! Note that I have repeatedly invited Ed and even his friends to come onto my blog and comment and engage in a real conversation with a real Christian. They can outnumber me ten-to-one if that is what it takes, I don't care; the more the merrier (though, again, I find this to be a dubious method of discourse when a supposed one-on-one dialogue is occurring). But thus far, they have not, preferring to chat amongst themselves and to send me the third-person observations about me. I find this less-than-ideal or (if you will) "polite" dialogue method. It's fine if observers want to enter in, but they should talk directly to me, not about me. That's the distinction I object to. I urge both agnostics and "moderate" (i.e., liberal) Christians to come around and dialogue on my blog. The water's warm, and we don't bite.

The second page featuring our debate is called Biblical Mercy, and features Ed's patented mile-long digressions into subject matter not directly on-topic. But that's fine, as long as I don't have to deal with the digressions (I skipped over most of them because I am pretty strict about sticking to the subject, and will not be distracted, because I think that considerably lowers the fruitfulness of a discussion). But Ed's posting of his complete epic-length replies allows people to see a sadly typical agnostic conversational ploy (as I have debated many in my time and can speak from experience): hitting a Christian with 50 things from the Bible at once, as if this offers some bogus appearance of strength. This is, in fact, not a matter of strength or weakness of argument or evidence at all, on either side, but about how one person can only do so much at a time, and how dialogue (like any college course) can only progress if it is narrowed down. This is a huge pet peeve of mine, but, I think, quite justified, and not at all unreasonable or over-demanding.

The short page Psalm 91 features a little snippet of our dialogue. The introduction on the main point misses what I was trying to accomplish in my replies and distorts my argument: "Inappropriate Psalm used at the funeral of a woman who died young which promises 'long life' as part of Jehovah's favor -- none of which Becca received. Dave refused to address Ed's questions which were on topic, and relevant."

To which I say, "hogwash!" I urge other biblical skeptics and agnostics to read my response. Perhaps they can offer a counter-reply that Ed has yet to produce. But I directly addressed his concerns, and defeated them, as far as I'm am concerned.

The next page, Thoughts on the Psalms, is introduced with a similarly jaded and wildly distorted comment, which only proves that Sharon either didn't read my response, or never understood the very nature of it: "Psalms and the foolish concept that worshipping Jehovah and alone Jehovah will guarantee a long fruitful life vs. a short non-prosperous one." I specifically made arguments showing that the Bible did not take this simplistic view that Ed attributes to it. Phil (here in brown; previously green) seems to think I am polite enough, contra Sharon's impressions:

Well, if we're grading, I would give both of you "A's" for "amiability, " impassioned and thought provoking discussions. I would give an "F" to the guy who sent you (Ed) the "burn in hell" hate mail posted on your site . . .

So would I. I know nothing about it. But I detest such rhetoric, and almost always regard it as arrogant and judgmental. We're not God. We don't know who will be damned. Then Thomas Cook (purple) adds (followed by Ed's comment):

Ed, Armstrong and his gang are just too mean! Talk origins is propaganda? Why isn't the stuff they write considered propaganda? I thought none of the Christians treated you with kindness. Every response was belittling to you. Perhaps Steve could also take them on? Is he still debating with Turkel? Are you going to continue to reply to Armstrong?

I thought it was interesting that in his first reply to me, Dave began with this line: "Ed's skeptical take on this is clear already: God's promises are null and void, and obviously vacant: just look at this poor woman; she was a Christian, and trusted God, but did that help her? No! Quite the contrary. God didn't do a darned thing to save her . . . Etc." Dave begins by picturing me as questioning "God," when I never said that I believed "God" wrote the psalms. I was contrasting what Psalm 91 said and promised (whether the psalms and their promises were inspired by "God" or not is another question), with what actually happened to Becca. Dave's response seems to have demonstrated Christianity's built-in defense system at work, namely that if you question the meaning, propriety, overblown pomposity/hyperbole, interpretation, or intent of a Biblical work or writer, then you are directly questioning "God" Himself.

Sheer nonsense. Ed thoroughly misunderstands the nature of my response. Of course he doesn't believe in God; he is an agnostic. What I assumed in my response is that Ed is making an argument from internal inconsistency and absurdity (a sort of reductio ad absurdum). So when I mention "God" in this context, it is as an agnostic or atheist talks about God (and they do, quite a bit, even though they don't believe in Him, and it is in precisely this sense). So again, Ed assumes I am far more ignorant than I am. In fact, my thought-process here was much more sophisticated and familiar with philosophical argument and logic than he seems to have been aware. Hopefully, now he will understand these types of statements in context. I understand full well that Ed's attempt is to paint the Psalms as incoherent, absurd, and (overall) unworthy of belief. My argument was that this was not the case, and that Ed misconstrued rather simple factors in how to interpret such literature and how in fact, the Jews historically did interpret it. Does Ed really believe I am so stupid and unfamiliar with agnostic reasoning vis-a-vis the Bible, that I would actually think either that (1) he believed in God, or (2) he believed that God wrote the Psalms? If so, then I confess that I am dumbfounded at how far off the mark he is in grasping how I argue, and what I know. But stranger things have happened. Ed reiterates the obvious (that skeptics like him are "sure" the Bible is stock-full of contradictions and moral monstrosities): 

A long-time friend of mine, Bruce Wildish, who has studied theology (though he is not a theologian), had a discussion with me years ago about certain broad differences between the theological views found in different parts of the Hebrew Bible, differences that Dave might disagree exist, or attempt to harmonize away, but which seem plain to a lot of religion professors whom Bruce has read. Whether or not you believe in "God" is not the point. The point is that the Bible remains a book whose origin and interpretations remain contested even by the world's greatest living religion professors.

The point is that we would expect these divergent interpretations, for a variety of reasons. But the bottom line is that one's presuppositions have a lot to do with how one approaches the text. The agnostic usually approaches the Bible the way a butcher approaches a hog, whereas the Christian approaches it the way that a music lover or orchestra musician or conductor views Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart.That's a world of difference. And while I freely admit that this predisposition causes a considerable bias in favor of a harmonious Bible, and hence, some special pleading and bad arguments too often among Christians, I rarely see agnostics admitting that their predisposition of hostility to the Bible often wreaks havoc on the logic or plausibility of their interpretations. Beyond that, they usually try to set forth the pretense that they know far more about the Bible than we Christians who have intensely studied it for many years (27, in my case). And that is a double standard. I freely admit that everyone is biased, and that it is foolish to deny it. But it doesn't follow that this precludes all intelligent biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, on either side. Bias is the human condition, and we will never get rid of it. I generally think agnostic biblical analysis is atrocious and filled with basic errors of fact and logic (Ed's included, in the present case), but it doesn't have to be (just by virtue of being what it is). Ed then cites Bruce, giving the usual anthropological-type, modernist take on the Old Testament. While worthy of a long discussion itself, such topical material is off the subject. I find it humorous that when I was actually on-topic, discussing how to properly interpret Psalms, Ed accused me of not answering him. But he seems to think that soliloquies about the broad range of Old Testament literature (when coming from a fellow agnostic) are quite on-subject.

More thoughts on the Psalms and God's Will feature sections that I have already included in my version of the dialogue (and replied to -- when on-topic). Agnosticism and the Christian World View consists mostly of rabbit trails. I've dealt with whatever part of it was relevant. What Catholics once Believed offers a litany of untold horrors in that religion. What this has to do with our topic remains a mystery to me. But I suppose it could be utilized as a variant of the Genetic Fallacy: "Dave is a Catholic. Catholics believe weird things, now and in the past. Therefore, we can dismiss Dave's arguments and not deal with them rationally, without fallacies and obfuscation such as this." Profound reasoning, isn't it?

The web page Bibles offers more endless tidbits and anecdotes apparently thought to be collectively damning to the rationality and believability of Christianity, but off-topic. And we have more non sequitur and noncomprehension of my arguments:

Ah yes, Phil, as you say, the need to be right. Men will die simply for ideas, and the need to justify their own, either with words or swords. I could say that Dave was the first to fire the long shot over my bow, responding to something I wrote and telling me that I was "questioning God!" I know what I was doing, and it had as little to do with "God" as I believe that particular psalm did. To Dave I am questioning "God," but in my opinion, no one has yet shown that "God" is the author of everything in the Bible. Not even moderate Christians believe that.

This silly business that I was somehow assuming that Ed believed in God or was arguing against Him has been dealt with above. Hopefully, he will "get" this now. He is just making himself look silly, the more he pursues this felt "zinger" that is 100% off-mark.

Phil chimes in with more ad hominem mockery:

He did indeed "draw you out" (as if you were some slimy Leviathan and He was Yahweh) and then try to lay the ground rules in his court -- where he reasons as a Socratic along with some "revelation" knowledge -- who can argue with that?

Ed-as-the-slimy-beast and yours truly as God. Really objective analysis . . . as stated previously, my argument does not depend at all on a presumption of the truthfulness of divine inspiration of the Bible, but rather, upon logic, sensible interpretation, historical Jewish hermeneutic and religious worldview, and internal consistency.

Revelation solves everything. Not that everybody agrees on what particular revelations say or mean or how each of them are to be applied.*smile*

Is there an actual rational argument in this that I have missed? I'll keep looking; maybe I'll locate one. Not content with ridiculing Christians, Ed at length takes on the Christian conception of God, in what I'm sure he thinks is a hilarious, knee-slapping piece of ridicule (and according to him, I take passages like this as evidence that Ed believes in God himself LOL):

Those Bible verses about God "smelling the soothing aroma" do make ya wonder though, whether God still lusts after the scent of burnt animals. Today, if He did, He'd probably have to settle for a barstool at a steak house with Zeus, Odin, Marduk and Baal by His side, chatting about the good old days, all sneaking a whiff of that old "soothing" stuff.

Course, maybe God's addiction just kept getting worse, from flaming farm animals, to His son, and now He's probably addicted to "smelling the soothing aroma" of whole planets filled with living creatures exploding into cosmic fireballs. Wait, isn't that mentioned in the book of Revelation? Quick! Call the Pope to arrange an intervention, we gotta get God into rehab! And tell Outback to double my order.

No bias at all here, of course. Ed and his cronies are utterly objective, sensible, and reasonable, while Christians are always (or almost always, at the very least) subjective, senseless, and irrational. That about covers Ed's "Armstrong Page" for now.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Catholic Refutation of "Catholicism Refuted" (by Church of Christ Preacher Kevin Cauley): Part Five: Purgatory / Salvation

By Dave Armstrong (12-11-04)

IV. "If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?"

1. Catholicism says,
1) "…To enter heaven, one must be perfectly holy."
2) "The cleansing and purifying of any remaining sin, which makes us fit for God's holy presence, is what Catholics call purgatory."
3) They cite 1 Corinthians 3:13, 15 as justification for this doctrine.
2. The Bible says,
1) The blood of Christ perfectly cleanses us from all sin, not purgatory.
a. Hebrews 9:14 "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge "
b. Hebrews 10:14 "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
c. To suggest that somehow the blood of Christ does not take away all of our sins and that we need to go to purgatory to have them completely cleansed away is complete and utter heresy.

Absolutely not. Purgatory has no relation to the notion that Jesus' work for us is somehow incomplete. Everyone who is in purgatory is saved already. Purgatory does not save them. It only prepares the saved soul for heaven. So all of the above is a moot point. If Mr. Cauley doesn't like purgatory, then let him argue against the biblical evidence offered for it, rather than declaim and proclaim what he would like to be true, without dealing with the biblical passages that Catholics have offered in defense of this doctrine. 1 Corinthians 3 is a very striking and explicit proof indeed (I guess that's why Mr. Cauley refused to explain it in a way other than I did).

2) That the faithful who die go to "paradise" and the wicked go to torments.
a. Luke 23:43. Paradise.
b. Luke 16:23. Rich man in torments.

The Bible teaches that even those who are saved will undergo a trial or a purging of their sins. It's very clear. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 teaches this:

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble - each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
If that isn't good enough, there is 2 Corinthians 5:10, which Mr. Cauley himself cites below:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

3) That one day, all will be raised from the grave to be judged.
a. Acts 24:15 resurrection of the just and unjust.
b. 2 Cor.5:10 All appear before judgment seat of Christ.

No argument there . . .

4) 1 Cor.3:13, 15 is not speaking of our own personal works of salvation. That passage is in reference to those who we bring to Christ--other people.

Why does Mr. Cauley believe this? Until he gets more in-depth with his exegesis than one-line proclamations, why should I waste more of my time trying to dispute the meaning of passages with him?

5) There is no indication in scripture that anyone will ever go to a place called "Purgatory" or "Limbo" or any other such place than paradise or torments, and then eventually, heaven and hell.

Then let Mr. Cauley or someone else who believes this grapple with the abundant biblical indications, compiled in my papers from my Purgatory Index Page.

V. Are you saved?
1. Catholicism says…

1) "Catholics can be as sure as anyone else that they are in God's good graces."
2) "Likewise, St. Paul does not regard salvation as a one-time event, but as a goal to be sought after, one that can be lost…."
2. The Bible teaches
1) Yes we are saved! Acts 16:30.

This doesn't prove instantaneous salvation, because the word for "believe" in Greek (pistuo) also incorporates actions and work on our part. Many passages warn against falling away.

2) We are saved by Grace. Ephesians 2:8. We don't merit our own salvation.

Catholics agree with this. Hence, the decrees from Trent:

CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

3) When we obey the gospel of Christ, then we are accepting the grace of God in our lives.2 Cor.6:1 "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."


4) Catholics teach the truth regarding the possibility of apostasy.
5) However, Catholicism teaches salvation of merit based on works.

This is untrue. What Mr. Cauley describes is the ancient heresy of Pelagianism, which we reject.

Catholic Refutation of "Catholicism Refuted" (vs. Kevin Cauley), Part Four (Mary / Eucharist)

By Dave Armstrong (12-11-04)

II. "Why do you worship Mary?"

1. Catholicism says,
1) "Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her because she is the mother of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ."
2) "Catholics believe that Mary is the highest of God's creatures because of her exalted role."
3) "We believe that God saved her by taking away all stain of original sin at the moment of her conception (the Immaculate Conception).
2. The Bible says,
1) We ought not to worship anyone but God.
a. Revelation 22:8, 9 says, "And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God."

I guess that would be why we don't worship Mary!

b. Only God's name is revered. Psalm 111:9 "holy and reverend is his name."

The Hebrew word here for reverend is yare (Strong's word #3372). In the KJV it is translated "fear" 242 times, "be afraid" 76, "terrible" 24, "reverence" twice. It is usually applied to God, but not always. In Leviticus 19:3, for example, the same word is applied to one's parents. In Joshua 4:14 it is applied to Joshua and Moses:

On that day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him; as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.

(RSV; KJV: "fear"; cf. Joshua 3:7)

The same word is applied to the sanctuary (Lev 19:30) and an oath (1 Sam 14:26). Also, the Hebrew word for exalted here ("magnified" in the KJV) is gadal. Here it is applied to Joshua. In 1 Chronicles 29:25 and 2 Chronicles 1:1 it is a description of Solomon. Yet in Psalms 34:3 and 69:30 it is applied to God.

c. Veneration is just another name for worship. It comes from the Latin word VENEROR which means to adore, reverence, worship, revere.

d. So this is merely a smoke and mirror explanation.

This is sheer nonsense. Mr. Cauley clearly has no clue what he is talking about here. Catholic theology differentiates between the notions of dulia and latria; the second being adoration or divine worship. Are these terms biblical? Absolutely!: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd ed., edited by F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, Oxford Univ. Press, 1983, 430, "Dulia"), states:

(Latinized form of Greek douleia, 'service'). The reverence which, according to Orthodox and RC theology, may be paid to the saints, as contrasted with hyperdulia, which may be paid only to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and latria (Gk., latreia), which is reserved for God alone.

This is consistent with the Catholic understanding. This dictionary goes on to define latria as follows (p. 803):

As contrasted with dulia, that fullness of Divine worship which may be paid to God alone.

Douleia can also be located in Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, in volume 1, p. 139, under "Bondage," and latreia in volume 3, p. 349, under "Service, Serving." Douleia is Strong's word #1397. It appears five times in the NT, and is translated "bondage" in the KJV (Rom 8:15,21; Gal 4:24, 5:1; Heb 2:15: none referring to God). Latreia is Strong's word #2999. It appears 5 times in the NT, and is translated "service" or "divine service" in the KJV - in reference to God (Jn 16:2; Rom 9:4, 12:1; Heb 9:1,6). It appears 21 times in the NT. So, as usual, so-called exclusively "Catholic" words are found to have a completely biblical basis, and to follow the distinction even present in the pre-biblicalGreek etymology, since the Latin dulia and latria are directly derived from the Greek. As for the notion of veneration in general, I wrote in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (pp. 103-104):

We honor the saints in heaven, who have more perfectly attained God's likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18), strive to imitate them, and ask them for their efficacious prayers on our behalf and that of others. All honor ultimately goes back to God, whose graces are the source of all that is worthy of veneration in the saints . . . it is God Himself Whom we praise when we celebrate in music, painting, and poetry His flowers, stars, sunsets, bald eagles, forests, mountains, or oceans. It is the painter who receives the accolades when his masterpiece is praised; likewise God with His creation, including the saints.

. . . We address judges as "Your Honor" and are commanded by God to "honor" our mothers and fathers (Ephesians 6:2), widows (1 Timothy 5:3), Christian teachers (1 Timothy 5:17), wives (1 Peter 3:7), fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 12:12-26), and governing authorities (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17). A spirit of honoring those who are worthy of honor is to typify the Christian (Romans 12:10, 1 Peter 2:17).

. . . A sound biblical basis for the veneration of saints can be found in the Pauline passages where the Apostle exhorts his followers to "imitate" him (1 Corinthians 4:16, Philippians 3:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9) as he, in turn, imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:6). Also, we are exhorted to honor and imitate the "heroes of the faith" in Hebrews 6:12 and chapter 11, and to take heart in the examples of the prophets and Job, who endured suffering (James 5:10-11).

2) Mary is no more higher creation than any man in general.

a. Psalm 8:5, 6 "For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:"

On the contrary, Mary was "full of grace" (Luke 1:28). She is a creature, but the very greatest one; the Theotokos ("God-bearer" / Mother of God). Because of this exalted honor, God preserved her from all stain of original sin, and she chose to never sin, her entire life. Thus, she was the "New Eve": the second Eve who (unlike the first one) chose to never sin. The Fall of Man was not inevitable. It could have been otherwise. I wrote in my book (p. 177) about this passage:

Whichever translation one prefers (this is not necessarily an either/or proposition), it is certain that kecharitomene [RSV: "favored one"; KJV: "highly favoured"] is directly concerned with the idea of "grace," since, as Vine noted, it is derived from the root word charis, whose literal meaning is "grace." Charis is translated by the King James Version, for example, 129 times (out of 150 total appearances) as "grace."

Likewise, Word Pictures in the New Testament, by the renowned Protestant [Baptist] Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, expounds Luke 1:28 as follows [Vol. 2, 13]:

"Highly favoured" (kecharitomene). Perfect passive participle of charitoo and means endowed with grace (charis), enriched with grace as in Ephesians. 1:6, . . . The Vulgate gratiae plena "is right, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast received'; wrong, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast to bestow'" (Plummer).

b. She was blessed. Luke 1:42 "And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." But many people were blessed by the Lord in the Bible.

Amen! Sure, many were blessed, but who else speaks in these terms: "henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:48)?

3) There is no indication in scripture that God specially took away Mary's sins at the moment of her conception.

Luke 1:28 is the clearest indication. I've argued this point in many papers.

a. First, the doctrine of inherited sin is false.

a) Sin can only be committed by those who practice lawlessness. 1 John 2:4 "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."
b) Rom.5:12 "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"
c) Sin doesn't come from without, it comes from the heart. Matthew 15:19 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:"
b. Second, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is only in place because of the doctrine of original sin.
c. One of the problems with the doctrine that sin is inherited is that Jesus would have had to inherit it.
d. The "Immaculate Conception" is the way Catholicism tries to get around the implications of this doctrine.

Mr. Cauley even preached a whole sermon about this crucial doctrine: "The Argument Against the Doctrine of Original Sin," where he made such statements as the following:
There is no greater threat to practicing true Christianity than the doctrine of original sin (also known as the doctrine of total hereditary depravity).
[This is inaccurate, because not all Nicene, orthodox Christians accept total depravity. That is a Calvinist doctrine, which amounts to a more profound fall than can be warranted from scripture. Catholics, Orthodox, and Arminians hold to a less total fall -- and Orthodox differ with Catholic doctrine considerably]

. . . the doctrine of original sin lies at the heart of almost every false doctrine in the "Christian" religious world today. The Bible does NOT teach this false doctrine. Reason will not support this false doctrine.

This is heterodox doctrine, according to virtually all Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox communions. Original sin is a very important Christian dogma. If the church of Christ denies it, then it is a quasi-cultic group, just barely orthodox, according to the Nicene Creed and historic trinitarian Christianity in all its forms (along with a group like the Seventh-Day Adventists, which deny the reality of eternal hellfire). See my paper: "The Biblical Evidence for Original Sin."


III. "Why do you worship wafers?"

1. Catholicism teaches:
1) "A consecrated host or wafer at a Catholic Mass is the true Body and Blood of Christ, not merely bread; so Catholics are worshipping Jesus, not a wafer."
2) They cite John 6:51-56 to support this teaching.
3) They also cite 1 Cor.10:16 and 11:27.
4) Finally they state, "In the last Supper passages (Mt.26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-2), nothing suggests a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation."
2. The Bible teaches:
1) Transubstantiation is the doctrine that during the Lord's Supper the bread and fruit of the vine change into the literal body and blood of Jesus.
2) First, John 6:51-56 is not referring to the Lord's supper. The context indicates this.
a. John 6:35 "And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."
b. John 6:45 "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
c. John 6:48, "I am that bread of life."

Here is a bunch of context and exegesis concerning John 6 (more than enough for another sermon from Mr. Cauley), from my book, More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism (pp. 42-47):

As for John 6 and Jesus repeatedly commanding the hearers to “eat my flesh and drink my blood,” it is known that such metaphors were synonymous with doing someone grievous injury, in the Jewish mind at that time (see, e.g., Job 19:22, Psalms 27:2, Ecclesiastes 4:5, Isaiah 9:20, 49:26, Micah 3:1-3, Revelation 16:6).

Therefore, it isn't plausible to assert that Jesus was speaking metaphorically, according to the standard Protestant hermeneutic of interpreting Scripture in light of the contemporary usages and customs and idioms.

. . . When His hearers didn't understand what He was saying, the Lord always explained it more fully (e.g., Matthew 19:24-26, John 11:11-14, 8:32-34; cf. 4:31-34, 8:21-23). But when they refused to accept some teaching, He merely repeated it with more emphasis (e.g., Matthew 9:2-7, John 8:56-58). By analogy, then, we conclude that John 6 was an instance of willful rejection (see John 6:63-65; cf. Matthew 13:10-23).

Only here in the New Testament do we see followers of Christ abandoning Him for theological reasons (John 6:66). Surely, if their exodus was due to a simple misunderstanding, Jesus would have rectified their miscomprehension. But He did no such thing. Quite the contrary; He continually repeated the same teaching, using even stronger terms (as indicated by different terms in the Greek New Testament). All of this squares with the Catholic interpretation, and is inconsistent with a symbolic exegesis.

Furthermore, Protestants often (ironically) interpret John 6:63 literally, when in fact it was intended metaphorically:

It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (RSV)

Protestants claim that this establishes the symbolic and metaphorical nature of the whole discourse. What they fail to realize is that when the words "flesh" and "spirit" are opposed to each other in the New Testament, it is always a figurative use, in the sense of sinful human nature ("flesh") contrasted with humanity enriched by God's grace ("spirit").

This can be clearly seen in passages such as Matthew 26:41, Romans 7:5-6,25, 8:1-14, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 7:1, Galatians 3:3, 4:29, 5:13-26, and 1 Peter 3:18, 4:6. In other words, Jesus is saying that His words can only be received by men endowed with supernatural grace. Those who interpret them in a wooden, carnal way (equating His teaching here with a sort of gross cannibalism) are way off the mark.

. . . Many non-Catholics often argue that Jesus was not referring to the Eucharist at all in John 6. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek words eucharistia, eucharisteo, and eucharistos [Strong's words #2168, 2169, and 2170]. Together these occur 54 times in the New Testament, so obviously Eucharist is an eminently biblical word. Its meaning is thanks, thankfulness, or thanksgiving. But how is that related to the Last Supper, or Lord's Supper, or Communion? It's very simple (all verses: RSV):

Matthew 26:27-28: And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, . . .”
(cf. Mark 14:23, Luke 22:17, 19)
There is a fascinating parallel between this language and that with regard to the feeding of the 4000 and 5000. Scripture records that Jesus "gave thanks" on those occasions, and then "broke" the fish and the loaves and "gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds" {Matthew 15:36; cf. Mark 8:6}. Likewise, we see the same progression in the accounts of the Last Supper:

Luke 22:19: And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
(cf. Matthew 26:26, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:23-24, Acts 2:42, 20:7)

So we have already established a parallel between the Last Supper and the ritual initiated by Jesus there (which is the central essence of the Mass), and the miraculous feeding of the crowds with bread and fish. In John 6, the same miracle occurs, except that this time the biblical writer records that Jesus ties the two together explicitly. First, we have the narrative concerning the feeding:

John 6:11: Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks [eucharisteo], he distributed them to those who were seated . . .
(cf. 6:23)

John 6:22 informs us that the rest of the story took place on the following day. But Jesus had a rebuke for the people who sought Him out on this occasion:

John 6:26-27: “. . . you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you . . .”

In other words, Jesus is contrasting the utility of physical food with eucharistic, sacramental food (His own Body). He continues, getting more and more explicit as He goes along:

John 6:35: . . .” I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger . . .”
(cf. 6:33)
John 6:51: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
(cf. 6:48-50)
John continues:

John 6:52: The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Does Jesus then say, "look guys, settle down; you misunderstood Me! I was just talking symbolically; don't be so literal!" No, not at all. Rather, He reiterates His point in the strongest (and most literal) language:

John 6:53-58: . . .”unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, . . . For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him . . . he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
When Jesus told parables, He always explained them, lest their meaning be lost on the hearers (and us readers of the Bible). Here he does no such thing, even though many of these people forsook Him as a result of His difficult teaching (6:60-61,64, 66-67). The symbolic interpretation makes no sense at all.

I think it is quite obvious that Jesus is referring to the Eucharist in John 6, for these reasons:

1) The parallelism between the miraculous mass feedings and the Last Supper.

2) The use of eucharisteo in the descriptions of both instances, in the same fashion.

3) The repeated reference in John 6 to His Body (i.e., eucharistically; sacramentally) giving eternal life to the recipients (John 6:27,33, 50-51,54,58). This is clearly not merely referring to belief, since if that were the case, explicit references to His Body and Blood would be entirely superfluous. He could have just spoken in terms of "belief" rather than eating and drinking His flesh and blood (which He did in many other instances: e.g., John 12:44-46, 14:10-12).

4) The equation of (what appeared to be) bread and His Body in both John 6 and the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:23-24,27,29, John 6:33,48,50-51,53-58).

5) The equation of (what appeared to be) wine and His Blood in both John 6 and the Last Supper (Matthew 26:27-28, Mark 14:23-24, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:25,27, John 6:53-56).

3) The fact is that the wafer does not change into literal flesh and the wine does not change into literal blood.

We are not claiming that it does. It is a miracle of change of substance, while the outward qualities remain the same. This is why one must have faith to believe this. One can't accept it based on scientific verification (just as with the divinity of Christ, which couldn't be proven by examining His flesh).

The fact that priests often get drunk from the consecrated wine should prove such.

They do? Often, huh? There are no doubt some alcoholic priestrs, but that is neither here nor there. The point misconstrues the nature of Catholic eucharistic belief, anyway.

4) 1 Cor.10:16 "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" But notice verses 17, 18 "For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?"
a. Would we, the church, also be the literal body of the Lord?

We are the Body of Christ in a different sense. Paul's language in his passages concerning the Eucharist is very literal. Martin Luther thought this passage was compelling in and of itself:

Even if we had no other passage than this we could sufficiently strengthen all consciences and sufficiently overcome all adversaries . . . He could not have spoken more clearly and strongly . . .

(Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments, 1525; LW, 40, 177, 181)

. . . The bread which is broken or distributed piece by piece is the participation in the body of Christ. It is, it is, it is, he says, the participation in the body of Christ. Wherein does the participation in the body of Christ consist? It cannot be anything else than that as each takes a part of the broken bread he takes therewith the body of Christ . . .

(Ibid., LW, 40, 178)
b. The example of the Israelites who offered sacrifice, did they literally eat the altar?

No; they ate the "Lamb of God" during Passover. Jesus was the Passover Lamb. He is the sacrifice that was prefigured by the Jewish system of sacrifice.

5) 1 Cor.11:27 says, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."

a. They suggest that if we sin against a symbol that is not being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
b. But note the example of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1ff); also note Uzzah (2 Sam.6:1ff). They sinned against symbols and God took it very personally. Were they guilty of sinning against God, or of against mere symbols?

This is wrongheaded. The argument was not that it is never wrong to sin against a symbol, but rather, that doing so is not the same as being "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." It is the literalness which is so striking. In the Old Testament, they didn't believe in the Incarnation, as Christians do. For the Jews, then and now, God is a spirit, and has no body. So these analogies don't hold any water. Luther was very insistent about this passage also:

It is not sound reasoning arbitrarily to associate the sin which St. Paul attributes to eating with remembrance of Christ, of which Paul does not speak. For he does not say, “Who unworthily holds the Lord in remembrance,” but “Who unworthily eats and drinks.”

(Ibid., LW, 40, 183-184)

6) In Matthew 26:26-29 we read: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

a. Note: If everything here is literal, then the disciples MUST drink the cup itself.

No; that would only hold by a ridiculous, impossible understanding of how English grammar works. A "literal" reading would have the blood being the transformation of the wine in the cup, not the wine plus the cup. If someone offers us some lemonade in a cup on a blazing hot day, as we're out workin in the yard, and says, "here, drink this," do we assume that he is referring to drinking the cup as well as the lemonade (the latter of which is quite literal, and not metaphorical, as is the cup)? Of course not. But that doesn't stop Mr. Cauley from making himself look downright ludicrous when he desperately tries to explain away a Catholic prooftext. "Reasoning" like this only shows the heights and lengths of absurdity that folks supposedly so "biblical" will go, in order to reinterpret a passage so that it won't read "Catholic" at all. I dealt with dozens of such instances by Protestant exegetes (but none, I confess, as silly as this particular "exegesis" of Matthew 26) in my latest book, The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants.

b. If everything here is literal, then Jesus said that the cup was just fruit of the vine. But he had already blessed it. He should have said, "Blood." Jesus, therefore, didn't know the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

When all the relevant passages are considered together in a coherent fashion, and without preconceived notions, I think the case for Catholic belief here is very strong indeed.

Catholic Refutation of "Catholicism Refuted" (vs. Kevin Cauley), Part Three ("Father" / Praying for the Dead / Statues / Confession)

By Dave Armstrong (12-11-04)

III. "Why do you call your priest 'Father'?"

1. Catholicism says . . .
1) They cite Matthew 23:9 which says, "And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven."
2) Then they say, "In this passage, Jesus is teaching that God the Father alone is ultimately the source of all authority. But he is not speaking absolutely, because if so, that would eliminate even biological fathers, the title 'Church Fathers,' the founding fathers of a country or organization, and so on."
3) They go on to say that Jesus uses the term father in regard to Abraham and Paul uses the term to describe himself in his relationship with Timothy in 1 Cor. 4:15.
2. What does the Bible say?
1) Matthew 23:5-10 says, "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ."
2) We agree that this passage is not talking about "fathers" in any of the senses that they listed.
a. Biological fathers.
b. Ancestral fathers.
c. Founding fathers.
d. Even fathers in the faith.

That's an irrelevant factor, because the position is against calling anyone "father." That would include priests or anyone else who is called by that title, if indeed the passage is interpreted hyper-literally, as anti-Catholics do, since (with that approach) the passage doesn't teach that only teachers or clergymen can't be called "Father."

3) We disagree that this passage is talking about God as our authority.
4) This passage discusses religious elitism and the sin in so calling someone by the religious title of Rabbi, Teacher, Father, Master.
5) So they fail to achieve what they need to achieve from this passage and still stand condemned.

Okay, so Mr. Cauley wants to argue that no religious figure, clergyman, Christian teacher, elder etc., ought to be called any of these four titles, based on Matthew 23:5-10? That's extremely interesting, since John the Baptist was called "Rabbi" in John 3:26 (RSV, KJV), and he registered no protest at this outrageous "religious elitism." I guess John didn't understand this simple teaching of his Master, Jesus Christ and was a religious elitist himself, according to Mr. Cauley's exegesis. Even he notes that Paul referred to himself as "father" in 1 Cor 4:15. If Paul calls himself that, obviously others can call him the same thing. In my pamphlet I noted that he called Isaac "our forefather" in Romans 9:10. So Paul fails to understand what Mr. Cauley and the church of Christ does. He clearly must be an "elitist" himself, and urges the same practice upon others by suggesting these outrageous titles. Jesus also refers to a disciples' and servants' "teacher" and "master" twice, in two consecutive verses: Matthew 10:24-25. Jesus called Nicodemus a "teacher of Israel" (Jn 3:10; RSV / "Master" in KJV). The logic is very simple:

1) Jesus refers to the "master" and "teacher" of a disciple or servant.

2) Therefore that servant / disciple can refer to the same person(s) as "master" or "teacher" -- since Jesus already did.

3) But Mr. Cauley informs us that this practice is a "sin" and "religious elitism."

4) Therefore, our Lord Jesus is guilty of "sin" and "religious elitism."

5) But that is blasphemy, and no Christian believes that (including the "churches of Christ").

6) Therefore, either (a) Mr. Cauley is mistaken, or (b) Jesus is a sinner and religious elitist (along with Paul and John the Baptist), or (c) the Bible contains many errors, since it presents these scenarios that simply can't be, according to Mr. Cauley.

7) Most Christians would vastly prefer (a) to (b) or (c).

8) Therefore, Mr. Cauley's statement: "This passage discusses religious elitism and the sin in so calling someone by the religious title of Rabbi, Teacher, Father, Master," is (extremely likely to be) false and must be rejected as a lie from the devil. To use his words, he "still stands condemned," insofar as he urges this argument from the Bible.

If it is a "sin" to use these titles of address, then why do John, Paul, and Jesus do so? This position is so incoherent and self-defeating as to be almost beneath the dignity of a reply, but I have offered a brief one so no one will be led astray by this specious "reasoning" and biblical "exegesis."

IV. "Why do you pray for the dead?"

1. Catholicism says . . .
1) "The Bible teaches the rightness of prayers for the dead...."

Just for the record: in my pamphlet, the word "clearly" was between "Bible" and "teaches."

2) They cite 2 Maccabees 12:40ff, 1 Cor. 15:29, and 2 Timothy 1:16-18.
2. The Bible says . . .
1) First, the book of 2 Maccabees is not even part of the Bible and holds no authority whatsoever.

Catholics believe it is, because the early Church did (as Protestant Church historian and patristics expert J.N.D. Kelly confirms), but that is another lengthy discussion. I can prove the rightness of the practice from the NT anyway.

2) 1 Cor. 15:29 speaks of "baptism for the dead" and has nothing to do with prayer. It is an incredible stretch to say that because Paul spoke of baptism for the dead that therefore we can pray for the dead.

This is an elaborate argument involving comparison of Scripture with Scripture, which I have dealt with elsewhere (see my paper: "1 Corinthians 15:29 and "Baptism for the Dead": What Does it Mean?"). What would Mr. Cauley, then, say that Paul is referring to? It is no less against Protestant principles and beliefs to be "baptized for the dead" (whatever in the world that is -- from their perspective --, Paul is talking about) than praying for the dead. I made an exegetical argument elsewhere. Mr. Cauley, however, simply makes bald statements. This passage remains for Protestants one of the most difficult in the Bible to exegete and interpret. The Presbyterian commentator Matthew Henry called it a "very obscure passage." Methodist expositor Adam Clarke stated that it was "certainly the most difficult verse in the New Testament." I argue in my latest book that it is only so because Protestants refuse to allow the traditional Catholic interpretation. Their own false theological presuppositions, which forbid what the Bible and the early Church allowed, cause the difficulty.

3) 2 Timothy 1:16-18 says, "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well." There is NO indication in this passage that Onesiphorus was dead.

Why, then, do the following Protestant commentators believe he was (or probably was) dead, if it is so "clear" to Mr. Cauley, that he is not?:

a) New Bible Commentary (possibly)
b) A.T. Robertson ("apparently")
c) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (possibly)

Even Matthew Henry didn't rule it out, since he stated he was probably not dead. In any event, I didn't have this information in my pamphlet, but there are definitely prayers for the dead in the NT: our Lord Jesus prayed for the dead man Lazarus (Jn 11:41-42), as did St. Peter for the dead disciple Tabitha (Acts 9:36-41). This is why we do it, too, because it is the witness of the Bible and also the early Church.

V. Why do you pray to idols (statues)?

1. Catholicism says . . .
1) "No Catholic who knows anything about the Catholic faith has ever worshipped a statue (as in pagan idolatry).
2) They justify their statues by saying, "Statues are simply a visual reminder of great saints and heroes of the faith...."
3) Let me say that I find it hard to believe that bowing down in front of statues and kissing their toes are not acts of worship.

Worship is an interior disposition. One simply doesn't know what the person intends by acts such as these without asking them. People bow before a picture of an accident victim placed at the scene of their death. I've seen many people kiss a dead person in a casket. That is not longer that person, lying there, but obviously to the person doing it, they represent the person that used to be. Is this worship, too? I've seen many people bowing down in repentance at the "altars" of Protestant churches, sometimes at the foot of a pastor or someone praying for them. Is that worship? Or do those persons represent God at those moments, coming to offer forgiveness to the repentant sinner? One can easily imagine a person kissing a photograph of their son, a soldier recently killed in combat. Are they worshiping him?

4) The big toe of Peter in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome has been completely rubbed off over the centuries because of people kissing it.

That's fine, but irrelevant unless the necessary questions above are considered.

2. The Bible says,
1) Exodus 20:4, 5 "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;"
2) 1 Cor. 5:11 says idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Eph. 5:5 says that covetousness is idolatry, so just because it is not like ancient paganism doesn't mean something can't be an idol!

We wholeheartedly agree that idolatry is a grave sin; we deny with equal vigor that we are doing it! The reasons are difficult to explain to Protestants because of the multiplicity of erroneous assumptions that they have about our practices and idolatry and worship in general.

VI. "Why do you confess your sins to a priest?"

1. Catholicism says,
1) "Jesus gave His disciples--and by extension, priests--the power not only to 'loose' sins (that is, forgive in God's name), but also to 'bind' (that is, impose penances) . . . ." They cite Matthew 18:18 "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." as justification for this as well as Matthew 16:19.
2) They cite John 20:23 as justification for forgiving sins on earth. "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."
3) They cite Matthew 3:5-6, Acts 19:18 and 1 John 1:9 as authority for priests to take confessions.

2. The Bible says . . .

As throughout my pamphlet, the "Bible says" lots and lots of things (we see the six passages I offerd in support of my views above). But Mr. Cauley blows off what the "Bible says" when it disagrees with his preconceived theology. Catholics are (praise be to God) free to follow the Bible wherever it goes, and to yield to it, rather than to traditions of men, as with the "churches of Christ."

1) All Christians are priests! 1 Peter 2:5 "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:9 says we are a royal priesthood.

In the sense in which these passages mean it, yes they are. But it is not referring to the priestly function of offering the Mass and dispensing the sacraments. Thus, only ordained priests may "bind" and "loose" in this fashion, because that is their function as a priest. This is clearly shown in the actions of the Apostle Paul. I wrote in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (pp. 163-164):

1 Corinthians 5:3-5 / 2 Corinthians 2:6-8,10-11

. . . I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. {see 5:1-2}

For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him . . . Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive . . . in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
St. Paul in his commands and exhortations to the Corinthians . . . binds in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 and looses in 2 Corinthians 2:6-7,10 . . . He forgives, and bids the Corinthian elders to forgive also, even though the offense was not committed against them personally. Clearly, both parties are acting as God's representatives in the matter of the forgiveness of sins and the remission of sin's temporal penalties . . .

2) Revelation 5:10 says, "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." Who are these? The ones who have been redeemed as verse 9 indicates.

In the limited sense of the similar verses offered above. There is often more than one sense of a word in Scripture. That's nothing unusual at all.

3) Sin is committed only against God and so God alone can forgive sins. Psalm 51:4 "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest."

Of course. Every priest who forgives sins is acting as a representative or agent of God. God forgives sins that are committed against others (one can sin against other people, not just God, as Mr. Cauley falsely states, but every sin also breaks God's law, and is against Him as well). We see Paul above forgiving as person who didn't sin against him. He was "binding and loosing"; rabbinical functions which were carried over into Christianity, because they were instituted by Jesus Himself.

4) What then is the Bible speaking about when talking about the disciples forgiving sins? Certainly not some formal clergy of priesthood that requires the sinner to confess sins to the priests to get forgiveness.

Then how does Mr. Cauley explain what Paul did, in the passages above? He imposed penance on the man (much like a priest does in confession) and then urged his brethren to forgive him and receive him back into fellowship. He himself admits that the disciples forgave sins. So what in the world were they doing? Hopefully, he will inform us.

5) The context of Matthew 18 is in regard to personal sins against brethren.

That's correct, but then, what did Jesus mean when He said to His disciples (whom He was talking to here), ""whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18)? It's fine and dandy to be a skeptic and shoot down the other guy's argument all day long (or purport to), but in the end one has to offer alternative exegesis and arguments. One has to present a positive apologetic and theology, not just a negative condemnation.

6) The context of John 20:23 is in regard to the work of the Apostles on the earth.

Oh, I see, so is Mr. Cauley contending that the apostles could bind and loose and forgive others' sins, but then after they died, no one else could ever do so? One can't claim, on the one hand, that "we are all priests, so all this stuff applies to everyone," then turn around and limit another very similar passage solely to apostles, without expositing either, and with no plausible principle of differentiation. This is the very essence of eisegesis and special pleading: scattershot analysis with no internal coherence or strength or "recommendation" other than that it disagrees with Catholic teaching. Such a method in effect hoodwinks the listener or reader into accepting things that are fairly easily refuted by more in-depth biblical cross-referencing.

7) Jesus claimed all authority in Matthew 28:18. The apostles had no right to go beyond that authority.

No kidding. But they can exercise the authority as delegated representatives of Jesus: a state of affairs that he himself desired and set up. Big difference . . . Right after this, of course, Jesus commissions the disciples to evangelize, baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity, and to teach. One of the powers He granted the special class of priests was the ability to forgive sins sacramentally, on behalf of God.

8) Matthew 3:5-6 is speaking of John the baptizer and his work. The confession of sins was an act of repentance here.

Exactly! So how does this rule out the Catholic belief of confessing sins to a priest, when it is a direct parallel of sinners "confessing their sins" to John? I don't get it. Rather than see a striking analogy, Mr. Cauley can only see difference, difference, difference. He has to; he has no choice. He has to disagree with Catholic teaching no matter what (no matter how often indicated in the Bible), so it leads him into many absurdities.

Acts 19:18 is in regard to pagans who were repenting. By confessing their sins they were showing repentance here as well.

Yes, and how is that a disproof of the Catholic belief and practice? Again, I am completely at a loss to understand how Mr. Cauley's reasoning works.

1 John 1:9 is not even speaking of men, but God! To take this passage and use it to support their doctrine of confession is to wrest the scriptures to their own destruction.

Not at all. All I was claiming, anyway, was "confession is also indicated in . . . " That's it. And I produced three passages from the Bible, all of which referred to confession. That doesn't mean that every particular of our belief will be in any given verse. They don't have to be. But all the particulars can be found, when all the relevant texts are considered together. Mr. Cauley's problem is that he doesn't seem concerned to synthesize all these into some harmonious whole. We agree that God forgives our sins. But He can choose to do so through a priest. God can do whatever He wants. He can communicate to someone through a donkey, as with Balaam, if that's what it takes.

9) Christians are supposed to confess their sins one to another (James 5:16),

Yes, but that doesn't rule out confession to a priest. The latter is simply a smaller sub-group of the former, not a contradiction, as often supposed.

but this is a far cry from the formal type of confession the Catholic church would have us to believe.

That is found in kernel form in the indications of binding and loosing, and in the example of Paul exercising this function right in Scripture. Doctrines develop, and we don't always find them explicit in Scripture (hence even trinitarianism and Christology took four or five centuries to fully develop). But that is no disproof. There is more than enough in Scripture to indicate the truth of this doctrine.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Catholic Refutation of "Catholicism Refuted" (by Church of Christ Preacher Kevin Cauley), Part Two (Bible and Tradition / Papacy)

By Dave Armstrong (12-10-04)


I. "Are your beliefs found in the Bible?"
1. Quotes from the Catholics Beliefs

1) They say, "It is not necessary for everything to be absolutely clear in Scripture alone, because that is not a teaching of Scripture itself." 

"They" also wrote, in "their" preceding sentence (the first one of the section): "All Catholic beliefs can be found in the Bible in some form, whether plainly or by indirect indication." By not including this, it is made to appear that Catholics are less concerned with a biblical basis for their beliefs than they are.

2) They say, "Scripture also points to an authoritative Church and Tradition?."

My sentence did not have a question mark (a Freudian slip if there ever was one . . . ).

I also cited 1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 3:6, 2 Tim 1:13-14 and 2:2, and Acts 15:1-29 -- the latter about the Jerusalem Council, which made binding decrees. I could easily cite much more biblical evidence on this, and have done so, in many papers. Remember, I had one or two paragraphs to cover a very complex subject, which (in this section alone) includes Tradition, the role of the teaching Church, sola Scriptura as a rule of faith, perspicuity (clearness) of Scripture, material sufficiency of Scripture, formal sufficiency of Scripture, hermeneutics and exegesis, private judgment, the place of councils, bishops, apostolic succession, etc. Mr. Cauley doesn't even adequately address the arguments I did briefly present, and ignored several of them. Thus, his paper can hardly qualify as a "refutation."

3) They say, "The very books of the Bible had to be determined by the Church, and that didn't happen until the late fourth century. Therefore, human tradition and authority were necessary for us to even have a Bible today."

The relationship of the Church to the canon of the Bible is another complex subject. We do not believe that the Church created the Scripture. Its role was to confirm what was and wasn't Scripture (the process of canonization). That's what I was referring to above, by speaking of "the books" being "determined" (canonization), not the Bible (as inspired revelation) being some kind of fiat creation by the (Catholic) Church, as if the latter were superior to it.

Christian Tradition and Church authority were (indisputably) needed to declare the canon. Church of Christ theology has, therefore, a huge problem of how they get their Bible in the first place. They accept no authoritative institutions at all and claim to go from the Bible alone (they do so in an extreme solo Scriptura fashion). The dilemma, then -- which faces all Protestants, but this particular brand even more so, because of its severe anti-institutionalism and anti-traditionalism -- is that they cannot arrive at an authoritative list of biblical books in the Bible itself, because it isn't found in Holy Scripture. Thus, Bible alone as a means to truth cannot resolve this particular question at all. Some form of Christian Tradition must be appealed to. Since Church of Christ "methodology" is dead-set against this, they have no way to arrive at the Bible itself from within their own paradigm: the very Scripture that supposedly solves all questions in and of itself without some divinely-instituted human Christian authority. They have to either live with this glaring deficiency or change their means of arriving at all truth.

2. The Bible says,

1) That it is clear and understandable. Ephesians 3:3-5 "How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote before in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;" 

By and large the Bible is clear and understandable, but not always, without the aid of some authority or interpretive framework. If it were so clear, then Protestants would not have all the disagreements that divide them, while all appeal to the same "clear" Scripture. It's too simple to claim that all such division is due to sin, rather than an inadequate principle. In other passages, the Bible indicates that one cannot always arrive at its truths easily and individually (one must interpret all related passages together in harmony, not pull out a few which seem to fit in with one's preconceived notions):

In Nehemiah 8:1-8, Ezra read the law of Moses to the people in Jerusalem (8:3). In 8:7 we find thirteen Levites who assisted Ezra, and "who helped the people to understand the law." Much earlier, we find Levites exercising the same function (2 Chronicles 17:8-9). In Nehemiah 8:8 we learn that "they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading."

So the people did indeed understand the law (Neh 8:12), but not without much assistance -- not merely upon hearing. Likewise, the Bible is not altogether clear in and of itself, but requires the aid of teachers who are more familiar with biblical styles and Hebrew idiom, background, context, exegesis and cross-reference, hermeneutical principles, original languages, etc. The Old Testament teaches about a binding Tradition and need for authoritative interpreters, as does the New Testament:

And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch . . . seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah . . . So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless some one guides me?" (Acts 8:27-28, 30-31)

. . . no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation.
(2 Peter 1:20)

. . . So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him . . . There are some things in them [Paul's letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
(2 Peter 3:15-16)

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
(Mark 4:33-34)

Mr. Cauley has given us one proof text which he believes "proves" perspicuity. I have given six that indicate that the Bible is not always clear, and requires authoritative interpretation.

* * * * * 

2) Tradition is not a source of religious authority. Mark 7:9 Jesus says, "And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."

As usual, the solo Scriptura variety of Protestants think that Tradition is a "dirty word," as if the Bible always refers to it in a negative sense. I have already listed five passages of Paul where he takes a positive view of Tradition. Isn't that sufficient? Here are a few of the relevant passages (RSV):

1 Corinthians 11:2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.

2 Timothy 1:13-14 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me . . . guard the truth which has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

2 Timothy 2:2 And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Jude 3 . . . contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

[cf. Acts 2:42, which mentions "the apostles' teaching"]

Protestants often quote the verses in the Bible where corrupt traditions of men are condemned (e.g., Matt 15:2-6, Mk 7:8-13, Col 2:8), as if this is the whole ball of wax. But note that in each of those three passages, "tradition-as-bad" is qualified. It's not all traditions whatsoever which are bad things, but only false traditions. Thus, in Matthew 15:3 Jesus refers to "your tradition" (i.e., "that which you oppose to the commandments of God" -- which is another tradition, rightly understood, going back to Moses). So the biblical dynamic isn't "inherently corrupt, false tradition vs. the infallible Bible." Rather, it is "true, biblical, apostolic tradition vs. false traditions of men which contradict both Bible and true Tradition." In Mr. Cauley's own quote above from Mark 7:9, we see the exact same description: "your own tradition." Colossians 2:8 (bracketed remarks serving as clarifying commentary) is no different: ". . . according to [merely] human tradition . . . and not according to [the tradition of] Christ." But Paul obviously does not rule out all tradition, as we see in the passages above this paragraph. Mr. Cauley is dead-wrong. Tradition certainly is a "source of religious authority." And so is the Church.

3) That the "traditions" that 2 Thess. 2:15 speaks about are the authoritative apostolic traditions.

Exactly! But this admission contradicts what Mr. Cauley just stated in his #2 above, because apostolic tradition is certainly authoritative, as it proceeds from the apostles, who had great authority.

Acts 2:42 "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles? doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."

That's right; more tradition. These doctrines were being followed, and Christians were bound to them long before the New Testament was ever compiled.

4) That the Holy Spirit determined what is scripture, not the Catholic church. 1 Corinthians 2:13 "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

Correct; we wholeheartedly agree with this, as clarified above.

II. "Why do you Obey the Pope?"

1. Catholicism says,

1) "Catholics believe that Jesus commissioned St. Peter as the first leader of the Church." They cite Matthew 16:18-19 to support this. 

2) "A pope can make infallible, binding pronouncements under certain conditions. . . . We Catholics also believe that God the Holy Spirit protects His Church and its head from error?." [question mark not in my original] They cite John 14:16 to support this.

2. The Bible says,

1) Matthew 16:18-19 "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

2) Who was the rock? The rock is Jesus, not Peter. He is the foundation--1 Corinthians 3:11; He is the rock--1 Corinthians 10:4; He is the corner stone--Ephesians 2:20.

Of course He is, but Peter also is in a lesser sense. Jesus was the one Who named him that. Current NT scholarly consensus holds that Peter was the rock spoken of in Matthew 16. Mr. Cauley's view isn't even the main one taken historically by Protestants, who viewed the "rock" as Peter's faith, and not he himself (actually, the Catholic perspective would allow someone to believe it is both; they don't contradict each other). For example, note the statements of two highly-regarded Protestant commentators today:

On the basis of the distinction between 'petros' . . . and 'petra' . . . , many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Peter is a mere 'stone,' it is alleged; but Jesus himself is the 'rock' . . . Others adopt some other distinction . . . Yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretation, it is doubtful whether many would have taken 'rock' to be anything or anyone other than Peter . . .

The Greek makes the distinction between 'petros' and 'petra' simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine 'petra' could not very well serve as a masculine name . . .

Had Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was a stone in contrast with Jesus the Rock, the more common word would have been 'lithos' ('stone' of almost any size). Then there would have been no pun - and that is just the point! . . .

In this passage Jesus is the builder of the church and it would be a strange mixture of metaphors that also sees him within the same clauses as its foundation . . .

(D.A. Carson; in Frank E. Gaebelein, General editor, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984, vol. 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke [Matthew: D.A. Carson], 368)

Jesus now sums up Peter's significance in a name, Peter . . . It describes not so much Peter's character (he did not prove to be 'rock-like' in terms of stability or reliability), but his function, as the foundation-stone of Jesus' church. The feminine word for 'rock', 'petra', is necessarily changed to the masculine 'petros' (stone) to give a man's name, but the word-play is unmistakable (and in Aramaic would be even more so, as the same form 'kepha' would occur in both places). It is only Protestant overreaction to the Roman Catholic claim . . . that what is here said of Peter applies also to the later bishops of Rome, that has led some to claim that the 'rock' here is not Peter at all but the faith which he has just confessed. The word-play, and the whole structure of the passage, demands that this verse is every bit as much Jesus' declaration about Peter as v.16 was Peter's declaration about Jesus . . . It is to Peter, not to his confession, that the rock metaphor is applied . . . Peter is to be the foundation-stone of Jesus' new community . . . which will last forever.

(R. T. France; in Leon Morris, Leon, General editor, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985, vol. 1: Matthew, 254, 256)

Now, under Protestant assumptions, why should anyone accept Mr. Cauley's interpretation over against overwhelming Protestant scholarly consensus among commentators? Why should anyone think his take carries more weight? I go with the others, and they back up the Catholic point on this particular.

3) Jesus was speaking of truth in John 14:16, not infallibility. "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

This is a distinction without a difference. Truth means "not containing error." Infallibility means the same thing, or "inability to fail (in proclaiming true doctrine)."

"Silent Night" (a "progressive" theological and agnostic re-interpretation and critical commentary)

By Dave Armstrong (12-10-04)

Silent night,

Well, it is certainly possible for there to have been a "silent night," but the problem is whether in fact this night ever occurred. Sentimental twaddle, however, about a supposed divine baby in a manger, as retold by nursery rhyme songs with pretty melodies doesn't provide one iota of proof for this ludicrous assertion. We have no good historiographical evidence for any of this.

Holy night

How can a night be holy? This is a fundamental confusion of category. Nighttime is an astronomical phenomenon caused by the earth rotating (for all you flat-earther Christians who deny that the earth rotates), and the relationship of one side of the earth to the sun which illuminates it. Besides, what does "holiness" mean, anyway? There are no absolutes of (what people call) "right" and "wrong." What is "holy" for one might be a terrible thing for another. Ethics are relative to the situation. Clearly, then, this "carol" starts off on quite metaphysically and ethically dubious grounds.

All is calm, all is bright

How can this be proven? What does it mean to say everything is calm? Or bright -- during nighttime? This makes no sense, and is meaningless, unless perhaps the person writing the carol took a tranquilizer or smoked some pot. Maybe there was a full moon: that can get pretty bright. But based on what we have seen already about this person's confused, untrustworthy state of mind, it would be inadvisable to accept his testimony for such subjective descriptions.

Round yon Virgin

This nonsense about "Mary" being a virgin is more proof of the incoherence of this report. How can a virgin be a mother? Motherhood comes from a biological event whereby the male . . . (well, young children may be reading this, so write to me privately if you would like to know how reproduction works); anyway, since virginal motherhood is impossible and could never happen (being contrary to the known laws of biological science), then one must account for the existence of such a mythical account. The best educated guess is that it came from the well-known aversion of the Catholic Church to sexuality. When they were inventing doctrines such as these in the late 2nd century C.E. they had to resolve the notions of the "incarnation" and the "mother of God" (I know, it's ridiculous, but hey, I'm just recording what these naive simpletons believe). How can one be a "mother" of the so-called God-man and yet not have engaged in sexual activity? So some wise sage/monk in the 3rd or 4th century C.E. came up with the "virgin birth." Knowing that Christians are gullible and will accept anything, no matter how implausible, the myth grew and grew till we have the sad situation today.

Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild

For the "mother" claim, see the previous entry. Now, about all this "divine child" foolishness: we've already covered the fact that "holy" is a meaningless term, so I need not digress and reiterate that. Besides, infants are neither good nor bad (in the common troublesome use of those loaded terms). And there is no such thing as original sin. Christians obviously had to invent an extraordinary persona for this "incarnate God" because of the elaborate Yahweh myth they had built up (by way of the Jews) for over two millennia. So the fiction of a "perfect, sinless" and "mild" person was created. Yet Christians' own accounts (they have not been noteworthy through the centuries for rigorous or logical thought, needless to say) show that Jesus was a "sinner"; for example, look at the account (assuming it actually occurred, for the sake of argument) where he lost his temper and "overturned the tables of the moneychangers" (Matthew 21:12). How inconsiderate of those merchants who were simply trying to make a living, and judgmental on "Jesus"' part! Didn't this "Jesus" have any inkling of commerce and exchange of goods? He acted like Bonnie and Clyde at a bank robbery. There is no justification for this. What gives him the right to act so intolerantly of fellow human beings? Yet all we hear about is "gentle Jesus, meek and mild."

Sleep in Heavenly peace
Sleep in Heavenly peace

Here again is that confusion of category and imaginative mishmash for which fundamentalist (and Catholic) Christians are notorious. Where to begin?! Heaven is a psychologically-comforting crutch for those who can't handle life's troubles and trials. Faced with a threatening world which doesn't comport with their notion of a good God and a "meaning" of life with a fairy-tale ending, they invent "heaven" as this perfect paradise in the sky, where all will be made good after death. This comforts them, but it is psychologically maladjusted and leads to a "pie-in-the-sky" mentality and an inability to face reality on this earth (the basic component of mental illness). All Christians do is think of the "next world" and do nothing to help alleviate social misery and injustice in this one.

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from Heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah
Christ, the Savior is born
Christ, the Savior is born

Man oh man! First of all, there is no independent historical evidence for this tale. It comes from the Bible, which contains gibberish such as a talking snake, a man swallowed by a whale, floods which cover the entire earth, talking donkeys, "demons" entering into a bunch of pigs (and men, too), and parting seas. Can anyone trust anything in it? Secondly, angels are simply another fiction which serve to comfort infantile, weak people who can't face daily life without inventing supernatural "miracles" and beings such as "angels." Has an angel ever been examined in a laboratory under a microscope? Why believe it, then, since everyone knows that the only real things are physical. "Spiritual" things are not things at all because they have no mass or cells or atoms in order to be anything. Therefore, this could not have happened. It's as simple as that.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light

Okay, back to this "Jesus" character. All thinking people now know that he never existed. That is the basic historical data that we need to work from. Since the man never lived, we need not worry ourselves about the old wives' tale of his being the "son of God" or "God the son." Even granting that he did exist, how does one go about proving such a thing scientifically? How can you take some of "Jesus"' DNA and prove that he was something other than human? It's not possible (besides, there is no biological classification for God; no known species, etc.). If he claimed he was God (again, momentarily assuming he was a real person for the sake of argument), then all that goes to show is that he was a madman or a liar, since those who make such claims -- historically -- have been found in lunatic asylums or jails (since they had evil intentions, like most leaders of new religious cults). The only reason Jesus is regarded any differently is because people learn these comforting stories and fairy tales when they are too young to critically appraise them. When they get old enough to think and learn good progressive techniques of attaining knowledge and wisdom, it's too late. The die has been cast. And of course, Christmas conjures up all sorts of "warm fuzzy" memories. This interferes with a clear, philosophically-sound thinking process, and thus Christianity is perpetuated despite its miserable grounds of truthfulness and having been falsified in many ways by us smart, enlightened people.

Radiant beams from thy Holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth

This is the same old malarkey and hogwash, simply repeated in slightly different form, so we need not waste any additional time on it.

* * * * * 

"Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (John 20:29 -- Jesus' words to Doubting Thomas, after appearing to him after having risen from the dead and letting him put his hand in the wound in His side)

"If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead." (Luke 16:31)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them . . . their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools . . . (Romans 1:18-19, 21-22)

. . . Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles . . . the foolishness of God is wiser then men . . . God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong . . . (1 Corinthians 1:20-23, 25, 27)