Friday, October 30, 2009

"The One-Minute Apologist": Errors in the Paperback First Edition Detailed and Corrected

[cover design by Theodore Schluenderfritz]

[originally discovered by my friend John O'Connor; my additional clarifications are in blue; errors in the paperback are in red; corrections are in green]

Page 5 — Footnote #8 cites “Acts 16:14.” This should be “Acts 16:4” instead.

Page 23 — Footnote #2 references 1 Cor 13:1; the actual footnote on page 22 refers, in fact, to 1 Cor 14:1.

Page 29 — Reference to Luke 2:42 near the middle of the page should be, instead, Acts 2:42.

Page 29 — Reference #6 cites Rom 16:17 for a reference to “quarreling.” The word does not appear in that verse. Most likely, it is meant to be Rom 13:13, but perhaps Titus 3:2 or 2 Cor 12:20. I probably had in mind Romans 13:13, but the previous two references mentioned also contain the word, as do 1 Cor 1:11 and 1 Tim 2:8. 1 Tim 3:3 and 2 Tim 2:24 have "quarrelsome", while 2 Tim 2:23 and Titus 3:9 mention "quarrels" -- all in a most negative fashion. Clearly, Paul has no patience for quarrels, and considers them to be serious sins. So my point is amply confirmed, though I erred in my lone citation in the book.

Page 35 — Footnotes #6 and #7 are transposed. Footnote #6 should be Acts 10:1-6 to correspond to the text on pg. 34 (“angel tells Cornelius to ask Peter…”); Footnote #7 should be 2 Peter 1:16–21 to correspond to the text (“Peter authoritatively interprets prophecy”).

Page 60-61 — Footnote #2 reads [Hebrews] “14:18” and “16:7” These are not references to the Epistle of Hebrews as indicated; instead, they are Revelation references — Rev 14:18; 16:7.

Page 79 — Under footnote #5, the reference to 2 John should, specifically, be 2 John 8. I probably should have made the cross-reference more specifically to 2 John 1:5-8, as all those verses have some application to the subject at hand: merit.

Page 81 — Footnote #2 is wrong: [Galatians] “10:12” cannot refer to Galatians because there are only six chapters in that book. I was mistakenly referring again to 1 Cor 10:12. To follow the method of most of the other adjoining footnotes (staying in the same book), the footnote should have been to Galatians 4:9: "but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?" Other passages not mentioned here, that could have been, include 1 Sam 11:6; 18:11-12; Ezek 18:24; 33:12-13, 18; Col 1:23 ("provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard"); and Heb 6:11-12 (" show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end").

Page 98 — The reference “cf Jn 2:9” (Under “Who raised Jesus from the dead?”—Jesus Christ) refers to the wedding feast of Cana. The actual reference should be to John 2:19: "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'"

Page 101 — Under the question toward top of page, “Who is speaking to the Churches in Revelation 2 and 3”–under “Jesus Christ” the reference Rev 12:6 refers to the woman in the wilderness. This was a strange mistake. It should be Rev 2:18: ". . . The words of the Son of God . . ."

Page 110-111 — Footnote #2 refers to Luke 10:29 as an instance where the word for “brother” (Gr. adelphos) is used, translated in this case as “neighbor”. I find that the actual Greek word used is plesion. This was an unfortunate and ultimately erroneous reference because it is not adelphos in Greek (though at that point in the text I wasn't yet referring specifically to adelphos. In any event, adelphos does indeed have a very wide latitude in meaning, as seen in the instances given in the immediate context. Examples of a use roughly equivalent to "neighbor" are numerous; for example: Matt 5:22-24; 7:3-5; 18:15; Acts 1:16 (Peter talking to about 120 people); Acts 22:1 (Paul addressing the Jewish accusers at his trial); 1 Jn 2:9-11; 3:10, 15; 4:20-21; 5:16, etc.

Likewise with Footnote #6—“disciples” is indicated to be the Greek word adelphos. In fact, however, it is the Greek mathetes. This is, unfortunately, true with regard to Matthew 23:1, but not for the other two references: Matt 12:49-50 and John 20:17. Again, it was a case of my blowing one particular reference but not at all being wrong in the general concept or argument being set forth (which is the far more important consideration). Jesus' use of "brethren" or "brothers" for His own disciples (both the twelve and the larger sense of "follower" or Christian), is common: Matt 12:48; 23:8; Mk 1:33-35; Lk 22:32.

Updated on 19 February 2012.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Is the Blessed Virgin Mary Impeccable (i.e., Incapable of Sinning)?

By Dave Armstrong (10-16-09)

From a discussion on the CHNI forum, where I am the moderator:

My wife and I have been listening to the Catholic Answers Live podcasts in the car (I got an iPhone for Father's Day) together of late, and what their guest apologists (Tim Staples, Jimmy Akin, Steve Ray, etc.) are really good at, is defending our devotion to Mary. My wife, a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism, has come a very long way in understanding the Catholic devotion to Mary, especially in terms of accepting how she was conceived without Original Sin, that she had no other children, and so forth, but the one thing that she can't grasp is how Mary could have remained sinless throughout her life. I have an idea in my head of how I could explain it to her, but I would like to hear (read) how you would or might explain it first.

Here's how I defend it from a purely biblical standpoint:

"All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?)

A Straightforward Biblical Argument For the Sinlessness of Mary

Thanks, Dave. I do, however, have a question regarding Mary's "grace". I just need it to be clarified so I can better explain it to my wife (it has always made perfect sense to me, but then again I've always believed it and never felt the need to question it). Does Mary's "grace" impart to more than the Immaculate Conception, i.e. because this grace was bestowed upon her, while she had the capacity to sin in life due to her human nature, did this grace make her incapable of sinning?

Great follow-up questions.

The answer is "yes" -- but it needs to be immediately understood that there is a crucial distinction between Mary's impeccability and God's impeccability.

God cannot possibly sin because He is God and sin is an utter contradiction of God's Nature. Mary couldn't have sinned because God performed the very special miracle of grace: the Immaculate Conception: literally filling her with grace in a way that is.almost beyond our comprehension. Sinlessness was not intrinsic to her nature (i.e., prior to and considered apart from the Immaculate Conception), as with God. Blog regular Jonathan Prejean has written eloquently about this, drawing the distinction between necessary and contingent impeccability:
No finite creature with a free will is intrinsically impeccable, because that would require either a perfect alignment between the ultimate end and the will (which is only true of God according to His divine nature) or a voluntary acceptance of that end in advance of creation (which is only true of the voluntary assumption of the human nature in the Incarnation). But the righteous angels and saints in Heaven are contingently impeccable on account of having been fixed in virtue by their initial choice (for angels) and by their state of grace at death (for saints). Likewise, it does seem entirely possible that Mary would have been contingently impeccable on account of the Immaculate Conception, and I think that is likely to be true, although it would not necessarily have to be the case.

Mary always said "yes" to God's will, all by God's grace, but not apart from her free will. She had a very significant "extra" aid: being "full of grace".

I'm asking this because when I have tried to explain this to my wife, she then argues that if this is the case then it places her, Mary, on equal footing - in terms of divinity - with Jesus Christ, as if she is a deity.

She's not on an equal footing with God because of the distinction noted above. Mary is not who she is, intrinsically, but because of the aid of God's special and extraordinary graces in her case. Hence, The Catholic Encyclopedia ("The Blessed Virgin Mary") asserts:

Theologians assert that Mary was impeccable, not by the essential perfection of her nature, but by a special Divine privilege. Moreover, the Fathers, at least since the fifth century, almost unanimously maintain that the Blessed Virgin never experienced the motions of concupiscence.

Mary had no concupiscence, or inclination towards, or unbalanced desire for sin, as we all do, because the effects of original sin were removed from her by a special act of God's grace, and due to being "full of grace." Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J. elaborates:

[S]inless Mary was impeccable, preserved by an extraordinary grace from God from ever being capable of offending God by deliberate sin. Yet though impeccable Mary was able to choose. This bears emphasis. We are so accustomed to identifying freedom as choosing between good and evil that we forget the highest use of our liberty is not to choose "not to sin", but rather to choose to do more than we have to do or that we are obliged to do – in a word, to choose to be generous. Like Mary, then, we can choose to give God more than He demands under pain of sin. We can choose to love God with our whole heart and not just to avoid His punishment.

(The Handmaid of Humanity: Mary, Woman of Salvation History)

Likewise, fellow Jesuit Fr. Kenneth Baker asserts:

Two special factors rendered Mary impeccable or unable to sin. The first was her constant awareness of God, living always in his presence, and the second was her reception of special and extraordinary graces. These special graces made it possible for Mary to maintain a perfect harmony in her mind, will and emotions and to recognize always what was the right thing to do and then to do it.

We must not forget that Mary was "full of grace".

(Fundamentals of Catholicism: God, Trinity, Creation, Christ, Mary, Vol. 2, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983, p. 332)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church appears to concur:

492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son". The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".

Catholic apologist David Palm wrote on one of the Catholic Answers forums (23 March 2009):

[W]e will have free wills in heaven, yet be unable to sin. That is a mystery, but unless I'm mistaken I believe the trajectory of human redemption goes:

Pre-Fall Adam/Eve - Able not to sin

Fallen human nature - Not able not to sin

The glorified in heaven - Not able to sin

By anticipation Our Lady received graces such that her whole life she lived out that final state of glorified human nature, not able to sin.

We know very well that Jesus had the capacity to sin due to his fully human nature, but did not because he was fully divine.

This is technically incorrect. He could not possibly have sinned because He is 100% God as well as 100% man. The Divine Nature is impeccable, and Jesus is a Divine Person with a perfect unity of Divine and Human Natures (the Hypostatic Union). Therefore He could not have sinned. For more on this, see:

Could Jesus Have Possibly Sinned or Succumbed to Temptation?

Tempting God and the Impeccability of Jesus: God the Son

Oh how I wish that our Protestant brethren could grasp the true nature of our deep love for and veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary! It's such an extraordinarily beautiful thing. She is God's very highest creature. Eve said "no" but she said "yes" and that led to the Incarnation that saved sinners, etc. What Eve could have done (in terms of not sinning), but did not do, Mary did.

It's not "idolatry" at all. We're not raising Mary to Godhood in any way, shape, or form, or taking away anything from God. To the contrary, we are praising God for making Mary who she is: such a magnificent example of the true potential of human beings and what God had always intended for the human race.

When a person praises the great masterpiece of an artist, he is really praising the artist. No one would make the ridiculous statement that in praising the art, somehow we are equating the art with the artist, or acting as if it took his place or arose apart from his entire creation and "enabling" of it. So why do Protestants make the same sorts of statements about Marian veneration?

Granted, some Catholics are excessive in their veneration, but that doesn't annihilate the whole concept of biblical veneration in thankfulness for God's grace and mercy and love. The distortion of a thing by uneducated (though usually well-meaning) people does not mean that the thing itself is null and void.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Anti-Catholic Calvinist Preacher Charles Spurgeon Attacks Crucifixes and Crosses as Idols

By Dave Armstrong (10-14-09)

He didn't "get" it, either (a thing that Martin Luther himself got). Recently, I chronicled equally clueless arguments along the same lines from Protestant "reformers" Calvin, Zwingli, and Bullinger.

* * * * *

I. First, let us enquire, WHAT IS THIS CROSS OF CHRIST to which some men are sadly said to be enemies?

Of course, it is not the material cross. It is not anything made in the shape of the cross. There are some who can fall down and adore a cross of wood, or stone, or gold, but I cannot conceive of a greater wounding of the heart of Christ than to pay reverence to anything in the shape of a cross, or to bow before a crucifix! I think the Savior must say, “What? What? Am I the Son of God and do they make even Me into an idol? I who have died to redeem men from their idolatries, am I, Myself, taken and carved, and chiseled, and molten, and set up as an image to be worshipped by the sons of men?” When God says, “You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them,” it is a strange fantasy of human guilt that men should say, “We will even take the image of the Son of God, or some ghastly counterfeit that purports to be His image, and will bow down and worship it, as if to make the Christ of God an accomplice in an act of rebellion against the commandment of the holy Law.” No, it is not the material cross to which Paul alludes—we have nothing to do with those outward symbols! We might have used them much more, but they have been so perverted to idolatry that some of us almost shudder at the very sight of them!

(Sermon #2553: The Enemies of the Cross of Christ; Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, 26 October 1884)

Mary as a Guide and Model of Holiness: Mutual Monologues with Several Anti-Catholics + One Real Dialogue

By Dave Armstrong (10-14-09)

This discussion took place on the anti-Catholic Reformed Protestant blog Boors All from October 12th-14th. The only true dialogue or debate below is with "Pilgrimsarbour," and that is precisely because he is not an anti-Catholic, which makes an entire difference in terms of the potential for an actual exchange. I have not resolved to stop debating and engaging in theological dialogue with ecumenical Protestants (not at all): only anti-Catholics who make it absolutely impossible due to hostility and unyielding false premises. Color code:

Me = black
Pilgrimsarbour = blue

Louis = green
Constantine = orange
Andrew = brown

* * * * *

A Guide To Becoming Holy

Mary is the star that guides us to holiness, says Holy Father during Angelus

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2009 / 11:27 am (CNA).- Presiding over the Sunday Angelus following the canonization Mass for five new saints, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that "the Virgin Mary is the star that guides" us in every "area of holiness."

The Pope then thanked the faithful from all around the world who traveled to Rome for the canonization Mass and remarked that Mary’s fiat, her "yes," makes her a "model of perfect adherence to the divine will." [source]

Christ is our model of holiness. All the promises of God have their "yes" in Him. Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.
[my citation, leaving out the middle sentence] Christ is our model of holiness. . . . Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.

Of course this is directly contradicted by the passages I presented [see bracketed note soon below]. The Bible (especially St. Paul, over and over) expressly commands us to imitate holy people and to see them as models for holiness, worthy of honor and veneration. None of this is seen as the slightest contradiction to Jesus being our model. He certainly is, but so also are those who are being perfected by His grace, and His grace alone.

It's not either/or. That is the goofy man-made tradition and illogical thought. Assuredly that is not the biblical worldview.

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthian 3) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

"He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God...." (Col. 1:15). "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his SON..." (Rom. 8:29). "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 2:5).

[At this point I posted a great number of biblical passages having to do with imitation and spiritual models, which is what the pope was talking about. I later expanded the theme by adding many more Bible passages, and made my own paper about it.]

Sorry for providing too much Bible support. My bad . . .

Roman Catholics don't pray to Paul and King Asa, or call them co-redeemers with Christ. You know very well that you are attributing something entirely different to Mary, and that is what we are responding to here.

We certainly ask St. Paul to pray for us. You thought otherwise? I don't have to call Paul a co-redeemer or co-mediator of graces and salvation because he called himself that:

Romans 11:13-14 (KJV) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

2 Corinthians 1:6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward: (RSV: “assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you”)

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (RSV: “impart grace . . .”)

James 5:19-20 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; [20] Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (RSV: “whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins”)

1 Peter 4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If the Apostle Paul can "save" others and be a mediator of God's grace by his prayers and preaching and suffering, why not Mary also? What is the big huge difference? The Bible even says that we participate in our own salvation:

Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. [41] Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Philippians 2:12-13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. [13] For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (RSV: “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers”)

I will be happy to post Holy Scripture here, unless and until such time that is forbidden too. As always, anyone is more than welcome to come argue these things on my blog, in the combox under my new post. I don't waste my time trying to personally debate anti-Catholics any longer. But others who frequent my blog are under no such constraint and will be more than happy to debate y'all.

The Holy Spirit leads people to Christ.

Exactly. He sure does, and praise Him for that! And sometimes (many times; probably in most or even almost all instances) He uses human beings to accomplish that purpose, and imitation of holy persons as models along the way (precisely what has been denied in this clueless post and claims) is one way He does that:

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord . . .

Ephesians 3:2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you

Simply repeating one biblical truth that Catholics agree with anyway does not magically wish away dozens of other relevant biblical passages that one rarely hears about in Protestant sermons, radio talks, books, etc.

To pretend that what the RCC says about Mary's role is somehow comparable to the scriptural command for Christians to imitate Paul, or some other holy individual (including Mary) is laughable.

* * *

All I did was feel a necessity of providing some Scripture relevant to the discussion. Truth (i.e., Scripture) has its own inherent power; hence it is never unfruitful to post Holy Scripture: whether its message is heeded or not.

* * *

Actually, I consider the folks here my brothers in Christ. It is they who consider that I am not even a Christian. So who is regarding whom as a heretic? We think Protestants have some serious errors, of course, but we don't deny the essential status as fellow Christians.

So let's get the proper perspective here. Some on this blog think I am a troll, a liar, a sophist, etc. That largely comes (no question about it) from not regarding me as a brother. Makes a huge difference. This is how Satan divides and conquers.

I don't despise people; I object to lousy reasoning and closed-mindedness, which are objectionable traits of people.

* * *

This post, frankly, is a bit too vague by itself for me to understand for certain what is being said here. If Mary is being upheld as an individual that we should admire and whose faith we should model ourselves after, I would heartily agree with that. Dave Armstrong's lengthy Scripture argument seems to enforce that interpretation.

Good, but your comrades did not agree, which is the point. The whole gist of the original post was to disagree with the notion that Mary could be any sort of guide or model to holiness. That was its entire purpose: it was trying to imply to a Protestant (mostly) anti-Catholic audience (with their usual profound lack of understanding of Catholic theology) that Catholics are guilty of idolatry and placing human beings on the level of Christ.

But I'm happy to hear that you disagree with your pals on this blog and so don't have to rationalize or wish away so much plain Scripture.

If, on the other hand, it is saying that Mary actively guides us from heaven in our daily lives, intercedes for us, etc., then Protestants would oppose that idea as unbiblical.

The homily (I just know about the little bits that were quoted) seems to be about Mary as a model, based on her life, and particularly the "yes" of the Annunciation. Her intercession is mentioned, too, however.

Intercession of those in heaven for those on earth is an entirely biblical phenomenon. Revelation 6:9-10 gives an account of an imprecatory prayer of dead martyrs for those on earth:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; [10] they cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?" (RSV)

Jeremiah 15:1 refers to a hypothetical of Moses and Samuel praying for Israel. Hypotheticals aren't offered unless they are possible. Therefore, it was possible that they could have done so. God cannot say an absolute falsehood in the sense that it could have possibly happened and would have His approval.

That being said, I offer these comments to Dave Armstrong
IF Pope Benedict was saying that Mary's role for the Christian is a living, active, guiding and intercessory one.

Of course it is. But that was not my particular argument in this thread, because I was centering on the "model" aspect.

That was expressly denied by Louis in his first sentence. It is the typical Protestant anti-biblical either/or mentality: if Christ is our model of holiness, no one else possibly can be. The next two posts were all about Christ, as if Catholics don't accept everything written about our Lord in Scripture. Then it was off to the dog races, with no one even understanding the point I was making (until now, and your comments).

* * *

I should clarify that I was referring mainly to Mary's intercession, when I said "of course it is". [two paragraphs above: beginning sentence] She is alive and active. In the sense of "guidance" however, it is not so much as you guys are making out: as if Mary assumes the role of the Holy Spirit.

No; we agree that the Holy Spirit guides us, as the Helper, Who lives inside of us. I've experienced concrete instances of this many many times in my own life, both before and after becoming Catholic.

Mary's guidance is by her holy, sinless example. The pope was not saying that Mary is guiding us minute-by-minute from heaven, as if we had a direct phone line to her. He mentioned the "yes" of the Annunciation, which is an example. She prays, she loves us; she helps distribute God's grace in a profound way. We don't believe that she usurps what Protestants and Catholics agree is the guiding function of the Holy Spirit.

Protestants think that because they dig up the most flowery Marian devotional language and pretend that we believe she can save us, as if that means it is her alone and not merely her acting as a vessel for God's purposes (I've refuted several such efforts of radical out-of-context pseudo-argumentation).

Protestants routinely think we are trying to exclude or denigrate God because they have little concept of how God uses His creatures for His purpose. Calvinists in particular deny the biblical motif of God and men working together for His purposes. That is what we are talking about when we venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Back to "either/or" -- the false dichotomy that lies behind so very many serious Protestant errors . . .

In quoting commenter Louis, Dave Armstrong said...
Christ is our model of holiness. . . . Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.
Dave, First, let me quote the statement which Louis posted and from which you launched your argument.

Christ is our model of holiness.

All the promises of God have their "yes" in Him.

Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.

When you quoted Louis, you left out his second sentence. The second sentence modifies both the first and the third and is key to understanding what he was saying. Without it, I can understand why you would answer in the way that you did. I'm curious as to why you removed it from his statement.

Because I was concentrating on the "model" aspect. The second sentence is not in dispute: rightly understood. But it is the either/or insinuation that I was attacking: that because Christ is our model, no human being can possibly be also.

If you guys think Mary can be a model for holiness for us today, then great. That was not the impression I received from the original post or subsequent comments.

While your Scripture references are good in themselves, I think you went wide of the mark in your response to Louis.

Perhaps I misunderstood him a bit. But I don't think I misinterpreted the intention of the original post and the comments about Christ: they implied that Catholics somehow wish to denigrate and demote Christ. Not at all, of course.

The complete quote is in keeping with the concept of this post, namely, that it is only God Himself--Father, Son and Holy Spirit who grants and fulfills His promises.

Of course. No one disputes that. The post was not entitled "Only God Grants Promises" but rather, "A Guide to Becoming Holy" [i.e., Mary]. Therefore, the unspoken argument was that Mary ought not to be considered such a guide, and it is that false notion to which I replied with tons of Bible that blow it out of the water.

The fact that he uses His people to bring the gospel to others and to assist them in many other ways, does not negate Louis' point that
it is God's promises, not those of any created person that is in view.

But Louis's point in his second sentence was not the original focus of the post. That's precisely why I omitted it in my citation, because I am responding to what I believe to be falsehoods, not truths.

Perhaps Protestants are confused by this term "dispenser of grace(s)," as we regard that as the role of the Holy Spirit in making the dead sinner's stony heart into a heart of flesh. Is Mary granted this power in Catholicism?

She is in the same sense as Paul is, per my many Bible citations. She is an instrument that God uses to distribute the grace that comes from Him alone. If Paul can be used in such a way: indeed any of us to some degree, if we are willing, so also can Mary the Mother of God the Son.

Mary can save no one in and of herself. She can only participate in God's plan to save whomever He wishes to save.

Your edited quote from Louis then serves, as I said, as the launching point for your argument, an argument that no Protestant would argue against since all Christians understand and believe in emulating "great heroes of the faith."

That's why, I think, my biblical argument had force. But then what was the point of the original post, if not denying (by implication of the standard method on this blog of mocking every Catholic thing) that Mary can be a guide to holiness?

Both Catholic and Protestant literature, in addition to the Bible, are full of examples for us to follow, as well as those people whom God has been pleased to bring into our lives in the "real" world.
Your argument is fine as it goes,

Indeed. You, not being anti-Catholic, can see that and fully agree. But the ones who are obsessed with tearing down Catholicism at every turn either cannot see it, or wish to engage in a distorted presentation that seeks to offer a pseudo-Catholicism, that can be rejected, in straw man fashion.
You can agree with me when agreement is warranted by Scripture. See the humungous difference between ecumenical and anti-Catholic Protestants?

but I don't think anyone is arguing that we should not emulate others who are strong in their faith in Christ and who live exemplary lives.

Then I look forward to your next response, to explain the thrust of the post itself and the early comments about it.

Protestants, of course, argue against the unbiblical idea that Mary is dispensing grace and guiding our lives from her throne in heaven.

I don't see (from what we know) that this was the pope's argument. The guidance was from things like her saying yes to God at the Annunciation. I'm sure you would agree that this was a good thing. That's the Virgin Birth, after all, and Protestants are very big on that, as we are, though, due to liberal theological influence in the last 250 years, they reject her perpetual virginity, unlike Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, and even the wicked English so-called "reformers."

* * *

I would agree with TF that Mary's life is merely sketched in the Scriptures. There really isn't much to go on as far as modeling oneself after her, apart from those biographical traditions which fill out the picture of her considerably, though, I would add, unreliably. What I have said in general, however, is that what we do know of her is certainly commendable as an example of a child of God's surrender in faith to His will. As it is, there are many more finely drawn examples of faith in the Scriptures for us to follow which dwarf the material given to us on Mary, and I think, that purposely.

Here is how I defend Mary's sinlessness from Scripture. A solid argument can be made:

"All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?)

A Straightforward Biblical Argument For the Sinlessness of Mary

Luke 1:28 (Full of Grace) and the Immaculate Conception: Linguistic and Exegetical Considerations

Dialogue on the Exegesis of Luke 1:28 ("Full of Grace"), and the Immaculate Conception (vs. Ken Temple)

Dialogue with an Evangelical Protestant on Catholic Mariology (including an explicitly biblical argument for the Immaculate Conception, from Luke 1:28, related exegesis, and the meaning of grace) (vs. Jack DisPennett)

The pope's comments were that Mary is a model of "perfect" adherence to the divine will. Behind this statement, of course, lies all of the Roman dogma about Mary and her sinlessness and status as co-redemptrix. That is the context here. That is what I and others have objected to. All of Dave Armstrong's posts about models of the faith are irrelevant. And it is so obviously irrelevant that I have to wonder whether it is an intentional distraction. It is the special place of Mary in RC theology that is the issue here. And I will say it again: RC "reverence" for Mary is idolotry [sic]. Christ, and Christ alone, is our redeemer.

Good for you. An A+ for Christianity 0101.

Only he is the image of the invisible God.

No kidding?

Only He perfectly obeyed the will of the Father.

One would expect that God would be in line with God's will. That's a no-brainer, ain't it?

Now if you could just get a clue about Catholic theology, which is every bit as Christian as yours, and far more biblical . . .

Heaven and earth were searched, and only Christ was found worthy, no one else. (e.g.,Rev. 5).

* * *

Maybe I've been arguing against a straw man, then. Please enlighten me about Roman Catholic theology. First, is or is not Mary considered a co-redeemer? Second, is or isn't it claimed of Mary that she perfectly obeyed the Father?

In the past (online from 1997-2007) I would have been happy to interact further, as you seem to be a cordial person, and seem quite sincere in your latest question, but I set a policy for myself two years ago, to no longer debate anti-Catholics, after 12 frustrating years of trying, due to the futility of all such attempts in the past.

To go down this path will certainly lead to such a debate, and so I choose to not go down the path at all. Nothing personal. In this thread mainly I wanted to post some relevant Scripture, but even that was mocked by all (even you) excepting Pilgrimsarbour, who at least "got" and accepted (even largely agreed with) what I was driving at, but wondered if it was a sidetrack to the initial post. I have given reasons why I thought it was not and eagerly await his counter-reply.

I have a very extensive web page on the Blessed Virgin Mary, that deals with all these questions in great depth (you've already seen some of the ways I would deal with these questions above).

Also, you and anyone else here are welcome to visit my blog anytime. Many people would be glad to interact with you, minus the insults and nonsense that we see here, in virtually all Catholic-Protestant interaction. Ken Temple, who participates here, has often been on my blog and is treated respectfully.

I simply don't participate in those discussions, per my policy, but I'm not the only one on my blog, and many others engage in such discussions.

Also, please stop with the sarcasm. I'm not getting personal with you, I expect the same in return.

I used sarcasm because we Catholics get sick and tired of having it implied that we don't understand the most basic, essential elements of Christianity, having to do with God and Christ. I've been defending Christianity and proclaiming and defending the gospel as an apologist and evangelist for over 28 years, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic. Do you realize how insulting it is to be presented with such elementary preaching about Jesus Christ, when I was writing very extensive defenses of His deity in 1982?

Catholics don't deny these things that you appear to think we deny. That's not the issue. In this instance, the issue is the extent to which God uses His creatures to accomplish His purpose of saving people, and distributing grace to do so. Grace is distributed every time someone prays for someone else. It's not like it is some controversial notion: that God's grace flows through people as vessels. Paul is very explicit about that, as I showed in this very thread.

But condescension towards Catholics is how it has always been, ever since Luther and Calvin started in with their insults and polemics, making out that virtually all Catholics were clueless ignoramuses. This is what Calvin in particular believed, because he said so more than once.

If anyone truly wants to see how Catholics reason through things, and how we defend our beliefs, there is plenty out there to read along those lines. Then perhaps it will be possible to talk to a Catholic as a spiritual peer and brother in Christ, rather than at or about them, which is the modus operandi on this blog, per the standard anti-Catholic view of the Host that it is a counterfeit gospel, etc., etc., ad nauseum. This is why dialogue is impossible, with all that baggage from the outset; why I no longer engage in such debates, and why I will soon leave this place for good (praise God!).

* * *

I would hasten to add that no one, unless he's mentally unbalanced, prays to Martin Luther.

John Calvin prayed to Philip Melanchthon (as I proved in a paper). Does that prove that he was mentally unbalanced?

I suppose if I were a "follower" of Calvin or Luther, that would indeed give me pause.

But since what I believe is derived from the Scriptures, I choose to exercise my Christian freedom and overlook the eccentricities of my fellow believers throughout history and today. ;-)


Monday, October 12, 2009

Has Pope Benedict XVI Condemned the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as Intrinsically Immoral Acts?

By Dave Armstrong (10-12-09)

As many of you may know, I have defended what I believe to be Church teaching on this matter and have taken the position that these acts were immoral and unjustified according to Catholic moral theology and particularly just war thinking. My many papers about that topic can be found on my War and Peace page.

I even lost a friend during the original debate, because he couldn't handle disagreement without making it scathingly personal and distorting both my position and what he wrongly perceived as my opinion of his views, character, motivations, etc. Many attempts at explanation and reconciliation over several months failed, which was a sad thing, because the man never understood even what my true position was. When he refused to even read my explanatory, conciliatory letters anymore, I gave up. His was a quixotic, tunnel vision, knee jerk battle against several straw men. But I tried, and (out of charity and a desire to avoid scandal) removed all the exchanges between us from my site (whereas his blistering personal attacks remain online to this day, over four years later). Please pray for him and pray for me, too. Thanks.

The following evidence seems to suggest that our present Holy Father opposes this act as unjustified, just as several previous popes have done. But as so often with papal pronouncements, there always seems to be a dispute about the exact words used, and the proper translation. The quotation comes from his homily on Pentecost Sunday: 31 May 2009. Here is how the Holy See web page English translation renders it:

The other image of the Holy Spirit which we find in the Acts of the Apostles is fire. I mentioned at the beginning the comparison between Jesus and the mythological figure of Prometheus which recalls a characteristic aspect of modern man. In possessing himself of the energies of the cosmos "fire" the human being seems today to assert himself as a god and to wish to transform the world excluding, setting aside or even rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be an image of God but of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free and adult. Of course, this attitude reveals a relationship with God which is not authentic, the consequence of a false image which has been fabricated of him, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel parable who believes that he can fulfil himself by distancing himself from his father's house. In the hands of such a man "fire" and its enormous potential become dangerous: they can backfire against life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for the purposes of war, ended by sowing death on an unheard of scale, serve as a perennial warning.

Catholic News Service (2 June 2009) gives a variant English version:

"In the hands of a such a person, 'fire' and its enormous potential becomes dangerous: It can be turned against life and humanity itself as history unfortunately has demonstrated. A perennial warning comes from the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for bellicose aims sowed death in an unheard-of proportion," Pope Benedict said.

One writer seized upon the phrase "used for bellicose ends" as a pretext for bashing the Holy Father, as if he were some sort of blind anti-American who only dimly understood the realities of war.

Zenit (31 May 2009) provides a third variation:

Fire is the other image of the Holy Spirit that we find in the Acts of the Apostles. I compared Jesus with the mythological figure of Prometheus at the beginning of the homily. The figure of Prometheus suggests a characteristic aspect of modern man. Taking control of the energies of the cosmos -- "fire" -- today human beings seem to claim themselves as gods and want to transform the world excluding, putting aside or simply rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be the image of God but the image of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free, adult. Obviously that reveals an inauthentic relationship with God, the consequence of a false image that has been constructed of him, like the prodigal son in the Gospel parable who thought that he could find himself by distancing himself from the house of his father. In the hands of man in this condition, "fire" and its enormous possibilities become dangerous: they can destroy life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which atomic energy, used as a weapon, ended up bringing death in unheard of proportions, remain a perennial warning.

The question is whether there is a distinct moral condemnation of the act. The key clause is the description of how atomic energy was used. Does it condemn the underlying motivations, and/or assert an intrinsic immorality of the act?:

1) Holy See website English translation: ". . . atomic energy used for the purposes of war . . ."

2) Catholic News Service: ". . . atomic energy used for bellicose aims . . ."

3) Zenit: ". . . atomic energy, used as a weapon . . ."

I suppose we should consult the original Italian version of the homily (which is what the pope normally speaks in the Vatican). Perhaps that can resolve the interpretational difficulties. The homily is available in English, Italian, French, Portugese and Spanish, so I shall cite all of them (but the Italian must be regarded as the primary source, since that was the language of the homily in question):

Italian [link]

A perenne monito rimangono le tragedie di Hiroshima e Nagasaki, dove l’energia atomica, utilizzata per scopi bellici, ha finito per seminare morte in proporzioni inaudite.

Spanish [link]

Como advertencia perenne quedan las tragedias de Hiroshima y Nagasaki, donde la energía atómica, utilizada con fines bélicos, acabó sembrando la muerte en proporciones inauditas.

Portugese [link]

Como perene admoestação permanecem as tragédias de Hiroxima e Nagasáqui, onde a energia atómica, utilizada para finalidades bélicas, semeou morte em proporções inauditas.

French [link]

Les tragédies de Hiroshima et de Nagasaki, dans lesquelles l'énergie atomique, utilisée à des fins belliqueuses, a fini par semer la mort dans des proportions inouïes, en représentent une mise en garde constante.

Clearly, "used for bellicose aims" -- which was the Catholic News Service rendering, follows the original literally, whereas the other two versions ("purposes of war" and "as a weapon") are a bit less literal. The Spanish, Portugese, and French versions all have cognates for the Italian scopi bellici -- as seen in the highlighted red portions above.

But (the plot thickens) when I entered in the Italian section to the iGoogle Italian-to-English translator, it resembled the Holy See English translation:

A constant reminder of the tragedy remains of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy, used for war purposes, has come to sow death in unprecedented proportions.

Babylon Translation, on the other hand, came out more like the Catholic News Service version, which appears to be the most literal:

For the eternal warning remain the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where Atomic Energy Agency, used for belligerent purposes, has finished to sow death in unprecedented proportions.

But the differences aren't all that great, because bellicose in English (derived from the Latin bellicōsus) has to do directly with warring and battling. Bellona was the Roman war goddess. Hence provides the following definitions:

inclined or eager to fight; aggressively hostile; belligerent; pugnacious.

(Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009)

adj. Warlike or hostile in manner or temperament. See Synonyms at belligerent.

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company)

With all this etymology and examples of various translations in mind, how are we to interpret the Holy Father's words? I don't think the word bellicose alone (scopi bellici) can resolve this issue. The larger context of the paragraph involved might, however, give a clue as to his intent. If we highlight key portions of it (from the Holy See translation), one might argue from the context that it looks like a direct moral condemnation of these acts:
In possessing himself of the energies of the cosmos "fire" the human being seems today to assert himself as a god and to wish to transform the world excluding, setting aside or even rejecting the Creator of the universe. . . . this attitude reveals a relationship with God which is not authentic, . . . In the hands of such a man "fire" and its enormous potential become dangerous: they can backfire against life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for the purposes of war, ended by sowing death on an unheard of scale, serve as a perennial warning.

Personally, I'm inclined to think it is a condemnation, but there is enough ambiguity to cause me to be reluctant to make any hard and fast statement. You, the reader, can make up your own mind.

Perhaps there is another clue, uttered just yesterday by Pope Benedict XVI:

He also addressed "a group of survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki," and prayed "that the world may never again witness such mass destruction of innocent human life."

Is not "mass destruction of innocent human life" a moral condemnation? If the same phrase were used in referring to abortion, it would unquestionably be regarded as that, would it not? So I say that it is most reasonable to apply such an interpretation in this instance, too. But I grant that it is not absolutely clear cut, in such a way that a person defending the acts could have no possible counter-reply.