Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Is Lutheranism Officially Anti-Catholic (The Book of Concord and the Catholic Mass)?

By Dave Armstrong (4-26-05)

The following dialogue with Lutheran "BWL" occurred in comments below. Since I did a little work in my reply, I thought it would be appropriate to make it a new paper of its own. His words will be in blue. Citations from the Book of Concord will be in green.

* * *

Not to be nit-picky, but my understanding is that Luther and Calvin saw the RCC not as a false church, but as an impure one, which is an important distinction. They both recognized the validity of Catholic baptisms, and Luther thought the RC also had a true communion. Although Luther was critical of certain elements of RC communion practice (communion in one kind, the mass as a sacrifice) he did famously say that he'd rather drink blood with the pope than wine with the Reformed. Just a suggestion, but if you want to take on anti-Catholics, bringing up Calvin and Luther's view of Rome actually helps your case. 

As I've mentioned before, this should work against Reformed Baptist types by showing how Luther and Calvin would see their sacramentology (or anti-sacramentology, however you want to put this) as conflicting with Reformational soteriology. In other words, on the whole it helps you to point out how while Reform Baptist like to claim the mantel of defending the Reformation they actually conflict with the Reformers on numerous and important points.

I believe that it is a mixed-bag, when it comes to Luther and Calvin's view of the Catholic Church. I think they contradict themselves. I've found it impossible to interpret their views in this vein in a consistent, coherent fashion. On the other hand, I've written about Luther's more "Catholic" beliefs: "The Pro-Catholic Side of Martin Luther".

I'd be delighted to conclude that they regarded Catholics as more or less equal brothers-in-Christ, but there is too much that suggests otherwise, which has never been adequately explained to me by those like yourself who believe that they were not anti-Catholics (you're welcome to be the first; be my guest). I always say regarding Calvin, that if he thinks I participate in the grossest blasphemy, sacrilege, and idolatry every week at Mass, then that can hardly be squared with thinking that all this is Christian.

First, as you know Luther was prone to uh, exaggerations and harsh, polemical language. This certainly was a big flaw of his, though it's worth pointing out his Catholic opponents were at times prone to nasty polemics at first. My point is, however, that Luther should be taken with a grain of salt.

Are you maintaining, then, that every time Luther wrote something which could reasonably be construed as denying that the Catholic Church is truly Christian, it should be taken in this way, as merely his excess in language? There is not a single instance of these utterances that he meant literally? It seems to me that this would be an extraordinary claim, and almost impossible to prove.

To my knowledge, however, Luther and the Lutheran church has always regarded Rome as a christian church, though an impure one with many doctrinal flaws. That includes the sacrifice of the mass. I don't see, however, why you think serious disagreements in this regard makes Luther and the Lutherans, for example, "anti-Catholic."

I think it has to be judged on an individual case basis (as regards individual opinions). Lutherans, like Anglicans and Reformed, contain both views, and many members seem confused about even their own positions.

The RCC doesn't recognize Lutheran orders, nor from what I understand does it think that Lutherans receive Christ's true body and blood when they take communion.

That's correct.


So, if the Lutheran disagreement over the sacrifice of the mass makes Lutherans "anti-Catholic", why isn't the Catholic church "anti-Lutheran" since the RC doesn't recognize Lutheran communion?

The difference would be if the mass is considered blasphemy and sacrilege and idolatry (whereas we would never say that about a Lutheran service, or any standard Protestant worship service; we would say they convey grace of some sort, even if not technically "sacramental").

The above view (where it occurs) would make the mass, by definition, a non-Christian thing. Then you would be in the incoherent, odd position of agreeing that Catholicism is Christian, despite the fact that its central rite is utterly non-Christian (and, far beyond that, anti-Christian, as it is idolatry, blasphemy, etc.). Quite a bizarre state of affairs, there . . .

In fact, the Book of Concord confirms my suspicion that Lutheranism is officially anti-Catholic. Lutherans are bound to this as their confession, so it can't be cavalierly dismissed as some old irrelevant document.

Smalcald Articles [1537], Part II, Article II: The Mass:

The Mass in the papacy must be regarded as the greatest and most horrible abomination because it runs into direct and violent conflict with this fundamental article. Yet, above and beyond all others, it has been the supreme and most precious of the papal idolatries . . .

If there were reasonable papists, one would speak to them in the following friendly fashion:

"Why do you cling so tenaciously to your Masses?

1. "After all, they are a purely human invention. They are not commanded by God . . . Christ says, 'In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men' (Matt. 15:9)."

. . . 3. . . . "one can be saved in a better way without the Mass. Will the Mass not then collapse of itself -- not only for the rude rabble, but also for all godly, Christian, sensible, God-fearing people -- especially if they hear that it is a dangerous thing which was fabricated and invented without God's Word and will?"

. . . 5. "The Mass is and can be nothing else that a human work, even a work of evil scoundrels . . ."

Accordingly we are and remain eternally divided and opposed the one to the other. The papists are well aware that if the Mass falls, the papacy will fall with it.Before they would permit this to happen, they would put us all to death.

Besides, this dragon's tail -- that is, the Mass -- has brought forth a brood of vermin and the poison of manifest idolatries.

(The Book of Concord, translated and edited by Theodore Tappert, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House / Muhlenberg Press, 1959, pp. 293-294)

Apology of the Augsburg Confession [1531], Article XXIV: The Mass

Carnal men cannot stand it when only the sacrifice of Christ is honored as a propitiation. For they do not understand the righteousness of faith but give equal honor to other sacrifices and services. A false idea clung to the wicked priests in Judah, and in Israel the worship of Baal continued; yet the church of God was there, condemning wicked services. So in the papal realm the worship of Baal clings -- namely, the abuse of the Mass . . . And it seems that this worship of Baal will endure together with the papal realm until Christ comes to judge and by the glory of his coming destroys the kingdom of Antichrist. Meanwhile all those who truly believe the Gospel should reject those wicked services invented against God's command to obscure the glory of Christ and the righteousness of faith.

(Tappert, ibid., 268)

I guess at the end of the day I don't see why strong disagreements among Christians makes them "anti".

Not disagreements, but denial of the status of other Christians as Christians. It's the devil's biggest victory: if half of the Body of Christ denies that the other half even belongs in the Body at all, then what could be better for the devil's purposes? We'll always be hopelessly divided. So the world keeps going to hell because (anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant, anti-Orthodox) Christians can't even recognize fellow believers.

If we all recognize each others baptisms, why is this "anti" stuff even a real question? It's not like Lutherans are Reformed or fundamentalist Baptists or something.

Because (obviously) if anti-Catholicism is entrenched in both the founding confessional documents and the founders of a religious point of view, then it will continue on, because it was in the roots from the beginning. How Lutherans square the realities of these aspects of the Book of Concord, I don't know, but it creates an internal contradiction if one says that they follow the Lutheran confessions, yet dissent on the nature of the Mass and so forth, and are not themselves anti-Catholic.

How would you square these two things, BWL, if you have become aware of some passages that perhaps you were not aware of before, in the Book of Concord? I'm very curious. There may very well be a way that ecumenical Lutherans reconcile this, through some interpretive means that I am not yet aware of. I'd be more than happy to be educated by those who feel that they have a solution to this apparent dilemma for ecumenical Lutherans. Please (you or friends of yours who might help us better understand) teach me . . . I don't want division; I would love for there to be a way to reconcile these two things. No one would be happier than I would be to learn that there is some coherent explanation of this, so that anti-Catholicism is not necessary to hold as a confessional Lutheran.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Radical Catholic Reactionary Pet Term "Neo-Catholic" Critiqued

By Dave Armstrong (4-21-05; revised, with new terminology incorporated, on 8-12-13)

What magisterial Church document provides radical Catholic reactionaries (RadCathRs) with their definition of "Neo-Catholic"? What is the etymology of this term? Who first used it? Just curious . . .

I am content to simply call "traditionalists" and also RadCathRs and myself "Catholic." If I must make distinctions due to liberal or far-right rot in the Church, then I use the qualifier "orthodox" as well, to indicate that I accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church.

If one accepts notions that go contrary to orthodox Catholicism, and uses the term, I must object, because "Tradition" is a good Catholic word which must not be trifled with (and those who reject some of it ought not to be allowed to co-opt the term to themselves as if they actually exemplify a particular devotion to "tradition" as they themselves define it).

Even if a RadCathR is orthodox, but insists on using the term, then it must be because it is being used to distinguish the RadCathR from the likes of me, who has supposedly somehow become simultaneously "liberal" and "orthodox" (by the application of the silly term "neo-Catholic").

So it is still attempting to create division in the Church and separate Catholic believers into a superior-subordinate relationship, with the RadCathRs being the ones who "get it" and the "neo-Catholics" being dupes and fellow travelers of their liberal overlords in the lower hierarchies of the Church. Either way, it stinks to high heaven.

"Neo-Catholic" means a new kind of Catholic. But this is an oxymoron, according to the nature of Catholicism. There can be no "new Catholic." One is simply an orthodox Catholic, according to the Tradition of the ages, or not. Catholic (in its deepest sense) means "orthodox", so to say that one is a "new Catholic" is to say that one espouses a "new kind of orthodoxy," which, of course, is a self-contradiction.


There is no such thing as a "new orthodoxy." That would be, rather, a novelty or heterodoxy or heresy. So the label basically reduces (but this is actually consistently applying logic) to calling someone heterodox or a heretic. Yet RadCathRs want to call us "orthodox" and "neo-Catholic" at the same time? Some reactionary Catholics would say that it means (almost synonymously) "liberal Catholic" or perhaps the ecclesiological equivalent of the old Lenin term, "useful idiots."

But how can I be a liberal and orthodox at the same time? The whole thing is a big game and exercise in futile, circular logic. The term is simply meant to belittle and dismiss non-RadCathR Catholics, precisely as Omar Gutiérrez maintained. It doesn't matter where it came from. The goal is to ridicule and defame orthodox Catholics who try to get beyond the separation of Catholics into categories and the divisiveness that this tends to produce.

"Neo-Catholic" contains an explicit insult and implication of heterodoxy, any way that you look at it.
If "Neo-Catholic" doesn't come from the magisterium, why should I accept it? On what authority? It's an insult, meant to belittle and put in a box those who don't buy the RadCathR line.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

My Thoughts on the Election of Pope Benedict XVI and the "Mind of the Church" in 2005

By Dave Armstrong (4-19-05)

Praise God! Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Arinze were the only two "candidates" I really knew all that much about, so I am absolutely delighted by this choice. But of course, that is only my own opinion, which counts for little. I believe in faith that this choice was led by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, similar to the workings of an Ecumenical Council, just as we observe in Acts 15:22, 25, 28 (RSV):

Then it seemed good to the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them . . .

. . . it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you . . .

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .
And so here we are with the first German pope since the 11th century; a man who has served faithfully under Pope John Paul the Great, and who will certainly continue his mission. I have a few comments; purely speculative, and of no authority whatsoever, but I throw them out anyway, for whatever they are worth:

I see (with my typically analogical imagination: part of the Chestertonian and Newmanian influence in my thinking) a great parallel to the history of the Church 100 years ago. Church history is often cyclical, and revivals have historically been cyclical events. I've often made a comparison in my mind between Pope John Paul II and Pope Leo XIII. Both were intellectuals and ruled with a similar style. Both were concerned with, for example, labor issues. Pope Leo XIII elevated John Henry Newman, the great English convert, to Cardinal in 1870, whereas Pope John Paul II declared him Venerable (the first step to sainthood). Both men were very attuned to their turbulent times. Leo XIII was a "man of the Vatican I Council"; Pope John Paul II was a "man of Vatican II." Leo XIII served from 1878-1903; John Paul II from 1978 to 2005.

And of course, the holy and great pope who followed Leo XIII was Pope St. Pius X, whose main accomplishment was a strong vanquishing of modernism and theological liberalism. Here, again, is the analogy: Pope John Paul II had many strengths, which have been well-catalogued and extolled in the period of mourning following his death. He had certain emphases (as all popes do) and a particular temperament and personality. His emphasis was on ecumenism and reaching out to all people. He was an evangelist.

Pope Benedict XVI agrees with all that, but clearly his emphasis will likely be more so as a "doctrinal watchdog" and a more stern disciplinarian, since that has been his role in the past 20 years or so. As Pope St. Pius X dealt with the modernists, who were just then trying to make serious inroads into the Church, at a time when Europe and Western Civilization was starting to forsake the Catholic and Christian worldview for the pottage of secularism (with the result being Naziism, Communism, the sexual revolution, the abortion holocaust, and the bloodiest century in history), so Pope Benedict XVI (I imagine) will decisively deal with the postmodernists in the Church, at a time when even the cultural remnants of Christianity are being ditched by Europe and Western Civilization (as he himself has written much about).

Pope John Paul II laid the fundamental groundwork for the defeat of the liberal dissidents and their nefarious goals for the Church; Pope Benedict XVI may very well deliver the death-blow. History shows us that the worst centuries in the Church and the world are followed by centuries of great revival and renewed hope. Stay tuned! We ain't seen nothin' yet!


Disciplinary measures in the Church are a matter of prudence and judgment. Perhaps Pope John Paul II did not do as much as he could have in this regard (some think so). This is also the main criticism of Pope Paul VI. But one man cannot do everything, has to do the best he can under the circumstances, and the Holy Spirit has His own timing for things to unfold, so that the best possible outcome will occur.

John Paul II laid down the boundaries of orthodoxy and explained to the masses exactly what the Church believed. Now may be the time for this orthodoxy to be more strictly enforced on the local level, where, oftentimes, sadly, liberalism runs rampant.

Again, this is all in God's time. I detest and utterly condemn all the so-called "traditionalist" claptrap, running down John Paul II in this regard, and also arrogantly opposing his ecumenical endeavors (as if they could be a better pope than he was). These hyper-critics are not thinking with the mind of the Church; nor do they know what God has in store.

I happen to have had the privilege to personally know one of the great catechists of our time: the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (who wrote the Foreword of my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism). He was a close advisor to Pope Paul VI and Mother Teresa, and he used to tell us in classes that the reason a full-scale crackdown on the liberals had not occurred was because of the very real possibility of massive schism.

Now, it may be time now to take more decisive action, just as it was in the reign of Pope St. Pius X. The choice of Cardinal Ratzinger would seem to indicate that this was a major factor in the mind of the electing Cardinals. Or it may not yet be time, and a more incremental approach to the problem might be more in order. Only time will tell. But the faithful Catholic lives in full confidence that God knows what he is doing, and that popes know what they are doing, too.

Whatever course Pope Benedict XVI takes in this regard, he will have my full support and obedience as a faithful Catholic and an apologist. I'm simply noting some parallels and possible trajectories of history that might perhaps explain a few things, as to the direction of the Church and of this papacy.

Whatever happens, I also believe that Pope Benedict XVI will probably be one of the most persecuted and even hated men in the world (the most hated since President Ronald Reagan). The liberals and secularists already take a very dim view of the man, because he is strongly orthodox and stands up for the truth. There is a place for this. All the early popes were martyrs. There is also a martyrdom of sorts which comes through slander and lying and severe opposition from the waves and currents of the presently fashionable zeitgeist.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is precisely the sort of man, I think, who is willing to suffer in that way, in order to strongly assert doctrinal, theological truth. It is good to be loved by the world, as Pope John Paul II was, if it is for the right reasons. The world saw the goodness and holiness in John Paul II. But it is also good to be willing to be persecuted for His name's sake, and to draw clear lines and boundaries. That is the other motif in the Bible, and we certainly saw it in play among the apostles:

You will be hated by all for my name's sake.
(Lk 21:17)

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.
(John 15:18-20)

. . . now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause.'
(John 15:24-25)

Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
(Lk 6:26)

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:11-12)

. . . rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
(Acts 5:41)

Now, I can anticipate some critics of Pope John Paul II saying to themselves (as I have already observed in some), "see, look how popular John Paul II was! So he didn't fulfill this biblical injunction." But there is really no contradiction here. It's obvious that some good and true things are loved by the world and some good and true things are hated by the world. Ecumenism: reaching out to those of other faiths with a broader message (not to deny Catholic distinctives, but to emphasize common ground) will obviously hold more appeal to those outside of the Catholic faith. It's just human nature. Hence, Blessed Pope John XXIII was such a beloved figure among non-Catholics, just as Pope John Paul II was.

But if a pope's emphasis is on Catholic distinctives and orthodox Catholic theology, in his words and speeches and so forth, in more direct contradiction of the world and non-Catholic Christianity, then he will have to take a great deal more heat, and be accused of being divisive or "triumphalistic" and so forth (which is equally human nature; people don't like disagreement, and they seem to think it is arrogant to ever say that anyone else is wrong).

Note, for example, how Pope Paul VI's famous 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reiterated Catholic opposition to contraception, was received. It caused almost a wholesale revolution in the Church (at least in America), from those who had hoped to remake Catholicism into American Episcopalianism (which has excelled at following the spirit of the times and compromising historic Christianity again and again). But Pope Paul VI has turned out to be a virtual prophet. All his dire cultural predictions have come to pass, and then some.

I see this tendency all the time on a much smaller scale, in my own apologetics apostolate. I am passionately committed to both apologetics and ecumenism, and I have written quite a bit of material in the latter vein. Can you guess which one of the two is more popular? Of course, I get a lot more positive feedback when I write ecumenical papers. Then I am perceived as open-minded, fair-minded, more charitable, peace-loving, conciliatory, tolerant, and what-not.

Then when I write a paper asserting some Catholic distinctive, or criticizing, for example, Martin Luther (not Lutherans as people!) or Reformed distinctives or some point of moral difference, then all of a sudden I am accused of being prideful and arrogant and thinking I know everything, and against Church unity, and quite intolerant and intolerable (sometimes by the very same people, who see the two motifs as contradictory, when they are not). It's amazing how one person can change so quickly from a lovable character to an ogre! But this is simply human nature and the "either/or", "dichotomous" mindset which characterizes much of modern thinking. This has crept into the Church and larger Christianity.

I've often noted through the years, how people assume that there is a huge dichotomy or contradiction between apologetics and ecumenism. This is untrue. They are perfectly compatible. One endeavor seeks to defend what one believes; the other seeks common ground with other Christian and even non-Christians, and seeks as much unity as is possible to achieve, without compromising one's own belief-system and principles. But the strong tendency is for "liberals" to despise apologetics (fundamentally misunderstanding it), and for so-called "traditionalists" to despise ecumenism (fundamentally misunderstanding it). Post-Vatican II Catholicism (which is the same Church it ever was; only more developed) fully embraces both.

Both the late great pope and this present one are in full agreement with both endeavors (as they are men of Vatican II). That said: there is a time to emphasize one or the other thing (while not denying the other). As Pope John Paul II was such a superb ambassador of the faith, an evangelist, even a "diplomat," if you will (in the very best sense of that word), so Pope Benedict XVI may very well be the upholder and champion (in a more direct, "disciplinary" way) of theological orthodoxy over against all the currents of error that we have to deal with in the modern world and (sadly) among certain rebellious sectors of the Church.

Pope John Paul II made it a huge emphasis in his papacy to oppose the Culture of Death; perhaps now is the time to particularly oppose the Culture of Relativism, Secularism, and Theological Error? It makes sense to me, but again, I merely speculate. Time will tell if my observations have any foretelling value.

Both things are good: ecumenism and doctrinal orthodoxy and/or apologetics (which seeks to defend same), but (broadly speaking) folks love one and despise the other. They seem to think that one person with one coherent belief-system cannot do both. Well, this is untrue. Pope John Paul II did both; Pope Benedict XVI will continue to do both. But as the former pope emphasized one, and that was his "image," so to speak, so this present pope will likely emphasize the other, and his "image" will have to take a lot of hits, and he will undergo much persecution for doing so.

That will not be because he is somehow more "orthodox" or "conservative" or less ecumenical than Pope John Paul II, but it will be because his emphasis clashes more with the world and other Christian belief-systems than ecumenism does. And he may be more personally assertive or "disciplinarian," as a matter of style, resolve, temperament, or other factors.

It doesn't make him "bad" and John Paul II "good" or vice versa (wrongheaded, sinful stereotypes according to the heterodox / liberal and quasi-schismatic "traditional" fringes of the Church and nutty, goofy, ignorant media analyses by folks who don't have a clue). All this is, is a balance: one good thing being emphasized, and then another good thing being emphasized, at particular periods of time. God is in control. He guided this decision. He knows what He is doing.

Popes Leo XIII and St. Pius X were both great popes. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI will also, I'm convinced, both be regarded as very great popes, with the hindsight of history and the progress and development of the Church in the years to come. It is the glory of Catholicism that it can contain men of such vastly different temperaments and emphases, such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi, or even of a St. Peter and a St. John among the apostles. It's all good.

May all our prayers be with our new Holy Father, and may we all learn to think in harmony with the Mind of the Church (the only sensible, reliable counter to the Spirit of the Times).

The Pernicious Heresy of Nestorianism

By Dave Armstrong (4-19-05)

To believe that Jesus could be tempted in the sense of having interior doubt or mulling over the temptation as if the possibility of succumbing existed, is ludicrous from an orthodox Christian (and especially a Catholic) perspective (and ultimately blasphemous). He could not be tempted in exactly the same way as we are because He wasn't subject to original sin and the result of concupiscence. That's why He couldn't doubt (our fault which causes us to be tried when temptations come) and He couldn't possibly give in to the temptations, because He was God. 

God cannot possibly sin, because that would be a self-contradiction and contrary to the very Being and Essence of an All-Holy God.

The devil can attempt to tempt God (both the Father and the Son), but he can't possibly succeed in either case. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. But he is a non-fallen man, and not subject to the concupiscence which is a result of the Fall. That's what unorthodox Protestants of the quasi-Nestorian-type, don't seem to comprehend. Man is not essentially a "weak, fallen" creature. The fall distorted that. But fallen man is not the man that God created. Fallen man has original sin and the tendency to actually sin throughout one's life. Jesus has no sin, no concupiscence, and no weakness. He could suffer, but He couldn't give in to the devil's temptation.

Jesus had no "ability to be tempted" anymore than God the Father had. The devil could try to tempt Him and make Him sin (because the devil was too stupid to know that Jesus couldn't possibly sin, being God), but he also tried that with God the Father. We know this from Holy Scripture itself. In Acts 15:10 (KJV), St. Peter rebuked the Judaizers, saying:

Now therefore why tempt ye [RSV: "make trial of"] God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples . . .

The Greek word for tempt here is pirazo (Strong's word #3985): the same exact word used in Hebrews 4:15, which informs us that Jesus was "tempted in things as we are." God the Father tells us that the ancient Jews tried to tempt Him in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:9; same Greek word again).

So sure, the devil could tempt Jesus, just like he tries to tempt us. The difference is that Jesus is not tempted, in the sense of being weak and able to give in to these temptations (as we are). Therefore, He was tempted exactly like God the Father was tempted (which is why the same word is applied to both!): it was a failed attempt which was destined to failure. God the Father and God the Son are no different in this respect. To make out that they are somehow different, is Nestorian heresy and blasphemy.


Either Jesus is God or not. All Nicene Christians agree that He was. He was 100% God and 100% man. James 1:13 tells us that God cannot be tempted by evil (i.e., He can't succumb to it). Jesus is God, so this verse applies to Him, too. God the Father and God the Son are one. There's no way out of it; one would have to deny the deity of Christ. The context of James 1:13 makes it clear that it is discussing something entirely different than Hebrews 4:15. What is it trying to express? It's clear in the next two verses:

but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
In other words, concupiscence is being discussed. God cannot be tempted in this sense, because He cannot give into it. Men can because they are fallen, sinful creatures. Jesus is a man but not a creature, and not a fallen man. And He is God. Hebrews 4:15 makes it clear that He is tempted without sin (i.e., the devil tries to tempt Him and fails). Therefore, it is senseless, unbiblical and blasphemous to try to make out that Jesus is more like us in this respect than like His Father, with Whom He is one.

Jesus could not doubt and "mull over" the lies of Satan, or be tempted by them in some sense of internal, existential agony -- as if He were actually influenced by Satanic lies -- He who possessed all knowledge and holiness (with no concupiscence), as a function of His Divine Nature. Even in His human nature, He possessed the Beatific Vision which all who go to heaven will one day possess. And He possessed infused knowledge.

That's really all that is necessary to annihilate Lojahw's argument: all right from explicit teachings in Scripture. Nor is this only Catholic teaching. It's not: it is the orthodox Christology of historic Protestantism, as well as of Orthodoxy. Thus, the Lutherans Bob and Gretchen Passantino wrote in a review of The Last Temptation of Christ:

The Last Temptation (and many critics of the protesters) think that "without sin" only means that he didn't perform sinful acts, but that true temptation would allow him to have sinful feelings and inclinations. What hypocrisy! Here is a philosophy that says matter is more Man and spirit is more God, matter is less important and spirit is more important, and yet the sins of the spirit are not sins, but the sins of the flesh are! Jesus pierced the sham of hidden sins when he said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man." When The Last Temptation Jesus looked at a woman and wanted to have sex with her, but was afraid to, he fulfilled Jesus' definition of a sinner.

This is more than enough extremely serious error.

Jesus could not fall into sin, being God. Period. End of sentence. It doesn't matter if He had a human nature or not. You are fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of the Incarnation.

It is entirely possible that Adam and Eve could have never fallen and rebelled against God. The fall wasn't inevitable or predestined. There is such a thing (theoretically) as an unfallen race. In fact, it exists, because the angels never fell. The demons rebelled and fell but the good angels never did, so they are unfallen, uncorrupted creatures.

That was a possibility for man too, but we blew it. Now, Jesus was God before He became man. And God cannot fall into sin. We fall because we are tempted and have an inherent weakness. The inherent weakness now is the fall, and specifically concupiscence, or the tendency to sin and to move toward sin in our desires and will. But that comes from the Fall itself, and is a sinful tendency. The original weakness before the fall was our limitations of knowledge, being creatures and not God. Therefore, the devil could deceive us and lead us to rebel. God has no limitations of knowledge, and cannot rebel against what He is. He is necessarily what He is, and cannot be otherwise. Since we are different from God, and creatures, and limited because of same, we can rebel against Him and fall into sin.

Since Jesus didn't fall and had no original sin, He had no concupiscence, hence He could not have any desire to be enticed by temptation, as we do. He is still God, and God can't sin. Becoming a man as well doesn't change that. Sin is, therefore, impossible for Him. But you imply that it is possible for God to sin. It's not.

Adam and Eve could have possibly not fallen. But Jesus could not possibly have fallen, even in His human nature. That's the difference, even though He was indeed a man like us. It's not possible because He is God, and God is perfectly holy, and cannot contradict Himself or be other than what He is: a perfect and perfectly Holy Being.

When you ascribe the possibility of moral error to the Incarnate God we greatly err and blaspheme (though I'm sure most who hold these positions don't mean to; it simply follows from the position they take).

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope St. John Paul the Great: My Tribute and Long List of Links

By Dave Armstrong (4-2-05)

I'm at a loss for words (and many others can say what I would like to express far better than I can), so I'll be brief. Pope John Paul II was, I believe, the greatest and most influential man of the 20th century. I think he will in due course be canonized, declared "the Great" (like Popes Leo and Gregory), and also a Doctor of the Church. This is not mere "eulogizing exaggeration." I've thought this for a long time.

His impact was incalculable. What I'll remember most will be his extraordinary teachings and efforts towards greater understanding among all peoples. Everything he wrote about and did and sanctioned has been of immense importance: the Catechism, his encyclicals on the Gospel of Life, the Blessed Virgin Mary, ecumenism, faith and reason, labor, and all the others.

He was instrumental in the downfall of Communism, and has dealt a death-blow against Catholic liberals (though they don't appear to know it yet, or -- far more likely -- are too proud to admit it). He reinvigorated the true spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which had been hijacked and almost made a mockery of by the dissidents we are blessed to have in our midst. He instituted crucial liturgical, educational and even architectural reforms and spearheaded exciting, truly progressive (in the right sense of this highly-abused word) teachings such as his emphasis on the theology of the body, and on marriage and women.

His call for a renewed evangelism and re-evangelism has been central to the self-understanding and motivation of apologetic and evangelistic efforts and enterprises like EWTN, Catholic Answers, Envoy, The Coming Home Network, Catholic radio (including my associate John Martignoni, who is now on the radio), Catholic publishing (such as my own publisher, Sophia Institute Press, OSV, and Ignatius) and all of us on the Internet and elsewhere who are trying in our own meager, deeply-flawed ways to share the truth and rationales of Catholic Christianity with the world.

He was my hero and, I think, the greatest man in the world, by any estimate of the word "greatness." He was Peter Among Us. He exhibited and manifested the Spirit of Jesus like no one I have ever seen in my lifetime (save perhaps Mother Teresa). May he rest in peace, and praise be to God for delivering such a "holy giant" to the Church in our terrible times. He will be a powerful intercessor in heaven. If ever there was hope incarnate in one (living, created) man, that Christianity still can have a significant cultural and evangelistic impact, it resided in John Paul II: the holy man and singular leader of men; shepherd of the world. And the world knew it; that's the marvelous and wonderful thing about it. The Gospel of Jesus lives, so powerfully! It can and will transform the lives of all who accept it by God's grace.


I shall list below some articles which document the impact that His Holiness, Pope John Paul II has had on the Catholic Church and the world, and then his own writings:

A Man of Vatican II (James Hitchcock)

Pope of Hope (Karl Keating)

Review of New Papal Biography—Pope John Paul II: Witness to Hope [George Weigel] (Mary Ann Glendon)

John Paul II: Servant of God, Hero of History (President George W. Bush)

Address to the Pope (President Ronald Reagan, 1982)

John Paul II: Letter of God (Mario Agnes)

Impact of John Paul II's Pontificate (Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino)

Petrine Ministry and Communion in the Episcopate (Cardinal Bernardin Gantin)

A 25-Year Pontificate at the Service of Peace (Cardinal Angelo Sodano)

Missions in the Pontificate of John Paul II (Cardinal Ivan Dias)

The Family in the Pontificate of John Paul II (Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo)

Proclaiming the Splendid Truth of the Family (Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo)

Ecumenism in the Pontificate of John Paul II (Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir)

Introduction to the Symposium of the College of Cardinals (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger)

John Paul II’s "Ecumenical Passion": A Clear-Eyed Look at Dominus Iesus(Msgr. John O. Barres)

Heart Attack: Catholic Academe Meets Ex Corde Ecclesiae (Michael J. Mazza)

John Paul II vs The American Catholic College (Msgr. George A. Kelly)

Centesimus Annus: A Perspective (William Luckey)

The Catholic Human Rights Revolution (George Weigel)

20 years as Successor of Peter (L'Osservatore Romano)

Criticizing John Paul II (James Schall)

Revitalizing Society Through the Family: Vision of John Paul II (J. Michael Miller)

The Biography That Might Have Been (George Weigel)

The Pope's Siege Mentality (Peter M.J. Stravinskas)

John Paul Stands Firm [Veritatis Splendor] (Robert Moynihan)

Moral Theologians and Veritatis Splendor (William E. May)

Splendor of Truth (William Most)

The Gospel of Life (Richard John Neuhaus)

Fanning Anti-Catholic Flames [life issues] (Judie Brown)

St. John of the Cross and the Hidden God ( [JPII's dissertation was on St. John] Donald F. Haggerty)

The Crisis of Faith and the Theology of Mission: A Reflection on Redemptoris Missio (Timothy T. O'Donnell)

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Exercise in Infallibility [re: ordination of women] (Jeff Mirus)

Pope Deepens Conciliar Theology (William Most)

Declaration on Euthanasia (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 5 May 1980)

Pope John Paul II: Encyclicals and Other Official Proclamations

Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life, 1995)

Dominum Et Vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit, 1986)

Centesimus Annus (On Rerum Novarum, 1991)

Laborem Exercens (On Human Work, 1981)

Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer, 1981)

Redemptor Hominis (Redeemer of Man, 1979)

Dives In Misericordia (On the Mercy of God, 1980)

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On the Social Teaching of the Church, 1987)

Ecclesia Dei (concerning Tridentine Mass and quasi-schismatic Catholics, 1988)

Ad tuendam fidem (To Protect the Faith, 1998)

Duodecimum Saeculum (Veneration of Holy Images, 1987)

Familiaris Consortio (On the Family, 1981)

Orientale Lumen (The Light of the East [Ecumenism], 1995)

Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One [Ecumenism], 1995)

Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity of Women, 1988)

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone, 1994)

Rosarium Virginis Mariae (History of the Rosary, 2002)

Pastore Gregis (Pastors of the Flock, 2003)

On the Devil (1986)

Common Declaration Signed in the Vatican (Pope John Paul II & Patriarch Bartholomew I, 1995)

Papal Consecrations to the Immaculate Heart (Pius XII and JPII, 1984)

Church Must Proclaim ‘Gospel of Life’ (1991)

Augustine of Hippo (1986)

The Church Must Learn To Cope With Computer Culture (1989)

Television and the Family: Guidelines for Good Viewing (1994)

Cinema: Communicator of Culture and of Values (1995)

Letter to Families (1994)

The Husband-Wife Relationship in Ephesians 5, 21-23 (1982)

Morality of the Marriage Act Determined by the Nature of the Act and of the Subjects (1984)

Importance of Harmonizing Human Love with Respect for Life (1984)

Responsible Parenthood (1984)

Faithfulness to the Divine Plan in the Transmission of Life (1984)

The Church's Position on the Transmission of Life (1984)

A Discipline That Enobles Human Love (1984)

Responsible Parenthood Linked To Moral Maturity (1984)

The Power of Love Is Given to Man and Woman as a Share in God's Love (1984)

Continence Protects the Dignity of the Conjugal Act (1984)

Continence Frees One From Inner Tension (1984)

Continence Deepens Personal Communion (1984)

The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage (1984)

Respect for the Work of God (outline of conjugal spirituality, 1984)

Loss of Original Sacrament Restored with Redemption in Marriage-Sacrament (1982)

Dangers Of Genetic Manipulation (1983)

Heaven, Hell and Purgatory (1999)

New Catechism: Gift to the Church (1992)

Population Conference Draft Document Criticized (1996)

Tertio millennio adveniente (As the Third Millennium Draws Near, 1999)

Women: Teachers of Peace (1995)

'He descended into hell' (1989)

Missionary Activity (1995)

Perseverance in Mission (1995)

Culture of Equality is Urgently Needed Today (1995)

We Cannot Remain Separated (Orthodox and Catholics, 1995)

All Must Strive for Goal of Full Unity (1995)

Celebrate and Serve Life! (1995)

Judges Cannot Bend the Objective Norm or Interpret Divine Law in an Arbitrary Way (1996)

I Appeal to World's Scientific Authorities: Halt the Production of Human Embryos! (1996)

Message to the Pontifical Academy of Science on Evolution (1996)

Seek to be active in life of your local Church (to Catholic Charismatics, 1996)

Wipe out the tragic scandal of hunger (1996)

We entrust, O Mary, and consecrate the whole world to your Immaculate Heart! (1982)

Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios I - Joint Declaration (1987)

Pacem in Terris: A Permanent Commitment (2003)

To Delegations of Other Christian Churches and Organizations (1978)

Beatification Homily: Mother Teresa (2003)

Symposium of Cardinals: Closing Address (2003)

General Audiences: John Paul II's Theology of the Body (1979-1982, 1988)

Cosmology and Fundamental Physics (1981)

On the Centenary of the Birth of Albert Einstein (1979)

On Catholics and the Media (21 February 2005)