Abortion is one of the toughest subjects to talk about within society, but it needs to be discussed. Either those who are pro-life are wrong, or those who are pro-choice are in error; not discussing the subject doesn’t mean that one side isn’t right and the other wrong.
Disclaimer: I’m a biological male. There’s a reason I’ve disclosed this, you’ll see why in the ‘common responses’ section.

What is abortion?
Abortion is the intentional ending of the life of an unborn child. It is not a miscarriage, and it is not masturbation. That may seem like a silly thing to say, but I’m going to discuss common things people have said to me to support their pro-choice views.

Am I pro-choice?
This seems like a stupid question, considering that I’m writing against abortion. Actually, the answer is ‘yes’ I am pro-choice. I’m pro-abstinence, pro-adoption, pro support the life you created. When someone claims to be ‘pro-choice’, they’re usually stating that they’re for the woman’s right to terminate the life of an unborn child. In this case, abortion seems to be the only ‘choice’ that pro-choicers are advocating, and it’s disingenuous. So yes I am pro-choice as I’m all for abstinence, adoption etc. I’m just anti-abortion.

Why am I anti-abortion?
Abortion is the deliberate ending of a human life:
When a woman procures an abortion, she has purposefully ended a life, there’s no way around that. Some liberals try to argue that the baby being killed isn’t alive, but then what is being aborted? A non-living thing cannot be aborted: you can’t abort a rock. One of the requirements of abortion is that the baby being aborted be alive in the first place.
I often hear that the unborn child isn’t human, he/she is a fetus. That’s a stupid argument; ‘fetus’ is Latin for ‘small child’, it isn’t a species in of itself, or a sub-species of homo-sapiens. When a bear becomes pregnant, she will carry and give birth to a bear. The same can be said of dogs, cats, lions and every species that has offspring. When a woman gets pregnant, we inquire of the gender of the unborn, not the species. We know full well that the woman is carrying an unborn human being, regardless of the unborn’s size.
That unborn child has a unique genetic code that identifies them as human at the moment of conception. Regardless of size or location, it is a moral evil to end a human life purposefully.

It’s the destruction of life based on location:
I’ll talk about ‘my body, my choice’ later, but the basic argument can be boiled down to ‘if the baby is inside my womb, I get the right to end that life.’ Why? Well, most pro-choicers would say that the unborn would not be able to survive without the womb that the mother supplies, so it’s wrong to say that she can’t abort a child that wouldn’t even exist without her body. The response is really obvious: dependency doesn’t give us the right to kill someone. That child will still be dependent on another human being for years after they’re born, but we cannot kill them after birth, right?
Also, why does dependency on the mothers womb/care give us the right to abort a child? Why is dependency on the womb so elite above all other types of dependency? We’re all dependent on outside factors to survive- food, water, clothing, shelter, healthcare etc. Being dependent doesn’t subtract from my humanity; in fact, dependency is a natural part of the human condition. Can we kill other people if they are dependent on something/someone? To argue that dependency on the mother’s womb/care is different is an opinion that has to be backed up. Why is this different?

You cannot murder an unborn child:
People are going to say I’m crazy for this, hear me out.
Hypothetical scenario: A pregnant woman is attacked in the street, and she is stabbed by the assailant which results in the loss of the unborn child. That assailant is charged with murder. Another words, the law states that the unborn was a human, had the right to life, and by taking that life you have committed the act of murder.
My issue is that this makes human life subjective, based entirely on ‘want’. If the mother doesn’t ‘want’ the baby, then we can argue that he/she isn’t even human. If the mother does in fact ‘want’ to keep the child, then the deliberate termination of that life by an outside party is an act of murder. Life cannot be subjective, and when we start designating a person as human based on desire or ‘want’, we can get ourselves into dangerous territory.

Common rebuttals:
“My body, my choice”
Great, I’m all for body autonomy. The problem is that the baby isn’t ‘your body’, he/she is residing in your body. When a woman becomes pregnant, a unique genetic code is formed immediately, a genetic code that is comprised of both the father’s and the mother’s DNA. As the unborn develops, we see this fetus develop arms, legs, a head, genitalia etc. Now, if we asked a pregnant woman how many heads she had, she would be a bit confused, right? Likewise if we said that a woman carrying a little boy had a penis, she’d dismiss us as crazy. And no medical professional would say that a pregnant woman had two unique DNA codes. So we obviously recognize that the ‘body’ developing in the womb of the woman is distinct from her own, and if that’s the case then the mother has no right to kill him/her.
If your choice is harmful to the life of another human being, then you no longer have the right to that choice. I can’t chose to steal from someone using my autonomy, nor can I rape a woman to ensure the survival of my genetic code. It is immoral to take away the rights of life and freedom from another human, born or unborn.
The argument based on location/’my body, my choice’ is a disturbing one. See, the difference between an unborn child and a born child is a few inches of the vaginal canal. Once that baby passes the vaginal canal, everybody would agree that it’s wrong to murder him/her. I’d have to ask, medically how does the vaginal canal convey personhood? Why does taking your first breath make you a person? These are philosophical discussions, not scientific ones.

“Are you willing to pay for the child?”
Yeah, we get asked this a lot! The answer is yes, I’m all for charity, it’s a requirement of the Christian faith. But what if I’m not? I don’t think it’s monstrous to say to a woman ‘you got pregnant, you must provide for your child.’ If a woman cannot afford a baby, then we should prosecute men who abandon those unborn children, thereby forcing these women to procure an abortion. Women cannot kill their children, men cannot abandon them. If you’re suggesting that it’s immoral to abandon an unborn child, you can’t really be suggesting that it’s then ok to kill that child, right? And if you admit that it’s wrong to kill an unborn baby, I’d have to ask who is performing the greater evil? The one abandoning, or the one murdering?
When we say that a woman ‘can’t afford a child’, we’re no longer arguing that the unborn isn’t human, but rather that we cannot afford to allow that human to live. There are ways around this, like adoption, but when we say that aborting a life is ‘better’ than struggling, well that’s some tricky stuff right there.

“Do you masturbate? Isn’t that the destruction of life?”
I’ve been asked this. I’m not joking, I really have. Masturbation is not the destruction of life. When a man ejaculates, he isn’t ejaculating a fertilized egg, he is ejaculating sperm. When a woman ovulates, she isn’t miscarraging, she is shedding the lining of her womb. An egg and a sperm only carries twenty-three chromosomes each, half of what is required to form a human being. A sperm and an egg carry the potential of life, they are not human lives in of themselves. Once a sperm fertilizes an egg, creating a new genetic code, this is the point that we say the life cannot be destroyed.

“You’re a man, you can’t decide what a woman does with her body.”
I’m a biological male. I’ve heard many times that I should not discuss abortion because it doesn’t effect me, or I have never experienced it therefore I have no reference to discuss it. When we think logically, that’s absurd. There are lots of things that men never experience that they are taught about and expected to understand: menstration for example.
We wouldn’t apply the idea of ‘if never experienced, never discuss’ to any other aspect of society or life. I’ve never been raped, I’ve never faced racial discrimination, I’ve never been physically assaulted- do I have to experience them things to know that they are objectivly evil? No, and the same can be said of abortion. If this was how society operated, no laws could be passed until all legislators had experienced the thing that they were passing the law on- not a very good idea, I think we’d agree.
We decide what a person can do with there body all the time. We tell drunk people that they cannot drive, we tell people that it’s immoral to kill, steal, rape etc. Another words, when your autonomous actions harm another person, we don’t just take away your right to perform that action, we go further and say that if you do partake in the action, we have the right to punish you.
Abortion does effect males. If we’re being lazy when it comes to statisitics, we could say that 50% of all aborted babies are male.

“The fetus isn’t alive because it doesn’t have autonomy”
First things first, autonomy isn’t how we measure ‘life.’ We understand human life as:
Distinct. The unborn has a DNA and body distinct from her mother and father. She develops her own arms, legs, brain, nervous system, heart, and so forth.

Living. The unborn meets the biological criteria for life. She grows by reproducing cells. She turns nutrients into energy through metabolism. And she can respond to stimuli.

Human. The unborn has a human genetic signature. She is also the offspring of human parents, and humans can only beget other humans.

Organism. The unborn is an organism (rather than a mere organ or tissue)—an individual whose parts work together for the good of the whole. Guided by a complete genetic code (46 chromosomes), she needs only the proper environment and nutrition to develop herself through the different stages of life as a member of the species.

We see that the standard of human life has nothing to do with autonomy, and that’s because autonomy can be lost even after birth. Autonomy is the condition of self goverment, or basically self care. If a person becomes severely brain damaged later on in life, can we kill them? They have lost autonomy, right? A person in a coma has no bodily autonomy, but we cannot murder them. I guess you could state that there’s a chance that a person in a coma may come around. But my response would be that if you don’t abort an unborn child, they will be born and have autonomy.
This logic is a slippery slope torwards the liquidation of all those who require care, especailly if you couple this argument with the ‘the baby can’t exist without my body’ arguement. I hope nobody is advocating for the muder of the severly disabled, those who may require others to survive and also lack autonomy.

“What about rape?”
This is a common question that’s meant to stump pro-lifers. It doesn’t. Firstly, let’s talk statistics. In 2004, the Guttmacher Institute anonymously surveyed 1,209 post-abortive women from nine different abortion clinics across the United States. Less than 0.5% claimed it was due to rape or incest, where as the highest reason (25%) was that these women weren’t ready for a child.
Now, let’s say that abortion in regards to rape is acceptable. I’d have to ask if those other 99.5% of abortions were immoral? If you were to say ‘no, abortion is a woman’s choice’, then why bring up the extreme, in this case rape, to justify the norm?
Abortion due to rape is also a distrubing argument. When a woman is raped, her human dignity is torn away, it’s a terrible thing. It’s an act that will stay with her for life, effecting her self esteem, confidence and relationships. But what if she has gotten pregnant via the act of rape? Is that more traumatic? Before you say ‘yes’, I’d remind you that if that’s the case, then the opposite must be true: a woman who doesn’t get pregant via the act of rape has suffered less trauma then the woman who does. Disturbing logic, right?
When a woman procures an abortion for the reasons of rape, all that happens is an unborn baby is killed. The rapist isn’t brought to justice, and the victim will sadly never forget what happened to her. The unborn child loses, nobody else wins.

“Illegalizing abortion doesn’t stop it, it just makes abortions less safe.”
Abortions aren’t safe. There key purpose is to end a human life, so safety isn’t really regarded in abortion. What people mean is that the safety of the mother is jeapordized, and I agree that’s a terrible fact. But saying that something that destroys life should be legal so it can be practiced safely is ridiculous. For example, most drugs are illegal, but I don’t think we should legalize heroin in order to allow drug users to get a fix ‘safely.’ You may say ‘but that’s a terrible comparison’, but it’s not. Both drugs and abortions are two things willingly procured that destroy lives.

Every person is deliberate, we are not a mistake. We are each created in God’s likeness, and so to attack that person is to attack God (Gen 1:26.) No pregnancy is an accident, but an intensional creation of God, made with puprose (Psalm 139). Every human being, whether in the womb or walking around in society, in hospitals or prisons, is worthy of respect because of our shared human condition.

“Patten’s Foundations of Embryology, 6th ed”

“Abortion Stats in the U.S”

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Catholic Doctrine: The Immaculate Conception of the Ark of the New Covenant

The Immaculate coneption. The Ark of the New Covenant: two of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Church, so closely tied together! It’s impossible to talk on one without the other. So what does these doctrine mean? More importantly, what do they not mean?

The Immaculate Conception
Let’s do what we always do; let’s go to the definition. In the case of doctrine, we go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. CCC 491

The Church understands this to mean that the Blessed Mother was saved at the very moment that she was conceived. This seems odd because Mary wouldn’t be able to meet the requirements of salvation, such as faith (Eph 2:89), baptism (1 Peter 3:21), and taking of the Eucharist (John 6:54). So how is it that she could be saved?
We always need to remember that we worship a God who isn’t bound by any aspect of His creation, not even time itself. God, in His infinite wisdom, foresaw the plan He had for Mary, but also that Mary would submit fully to His will. In this perfect knowledge, God took the future faith that Mary would display, coupled it with Jesus’ salvific work on the cross, and applied it to her fully at the moment of her conception; to quote Gabriel, Mary really was ‘full of grace’ (Luke 1:28). When we read this greeting, we’re reminded of St Paul’s letters that tell us that it’s by grace that we are saved, through faith (Eph 2:8-9). We also remember that this grace is ‘not of ourselves, lest any of us should boast.’ This is exactly what Mary said when she praised the Lord as ‘God her Savior’; the Virgin boasted in God’s work, not her own goodness.
In light of God applying grace to Mary by virtue of her future faith, did she make that faith known? In the Catholic sense, did Mary meet the requirements of salvation? Was Mary baptized? Did she share in the Eucharistic meal? Well, of course Mary had faith (Luke 1:38), but she was also baptized by the Spirit when God overshadowed her, and another event similar to baptism would be the waters breaking before labour. Mary took the flesh and blood of Jesus to herself when she conceived the Savior’s human form. See again how God is able to apply future Sacraments without being bound by time?
This doesn’t mean that Mary was the perfect human by her own effort or nature. No, that would be the heresy Pelagianism, that man can save themselves with no action on God’s part. No, it instead means that Mary’s nature was perfected by God Himself, and kept from sin.
We read in scripture that God is able ‘to keep you from falling, and to present you without blemish’ (Jude 1:24-25). We see no issue with the notion that God can do this at any point, even at the moment of conception.
Why would the Lord do this? God’s plan for Mary was quite unique in all of human history: She would conceive the human flesh of God the Son, becoming the Temple of God in the flesh, affording the Lord His human nature. In the Old Testament, it was the Ark of the Covenant that bore God’s glory on earth. But for this New Covenant, there would be a New Ark: Mary. It would make sense that God would sanctify her for His purpose.

New Covenant, New Ark
To talk about Mary as ‘Immaculate’, we also have to understand her role as the New Ark. We must understand that the Ark of the Covenant was also Holy, but not just for its own sake. It was sanctified by God in order to serve a purpose.
The Ark of the Old Covenant was ordered by God to contain certain things: the manna from Heaven, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. To affirm its completion, the glory of the Lord overshadowed it, and His glory filled the space (Ex 40:34-35.)
Does this sound familiar? When the angel Gabriel informed Mary of God’s plan, he told her that ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child will be born.’ (Luke 1:35). We have the Spirit overshadowing the Ark/Mary, the glory of God filling the space/filling the womb of Mary, and Mary carrying that which was from Heaven, the New Covenant. (John 6).
The angel Gabriel was drawing a parallel between the Ark of the Old Covenant with the Blessed Virgin, affirming her as the ‘New Ark.’
Mary carried Jesus for nine months, and He goes on to declare Himself as ‘the living bread that came down from Heaven’ (John 6:51). The Lord was the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, bringing the Law of Grace (Matthew 5:18, John 19:28-30), so Mary contained the ‘new law’ of the New Covenant. The Old Law was God’s word inscribed in stone, the New Covenant was God’s Word clothed in flesh.
When St Luke refers to Mary as ‘full of grace’, he uses the Greek ‘charitoo’. which means ‘to imbue with special honor, make accepted, highly favored.’ It’s worth noting that Gabriel referred to Mary as already being ‘full of grace’, so she was already ‘accepted, highly honored’, even before her conception of Christ!
We have further evidence that Mary is considered the New Ark. When Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, she was greeted most strangely. Elizabeth asked Mary:

‘And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me.’ (Luke 1:43)

This draws a parallels to the account of the Ark of the Covenant. For context, the Philistines had captured the Ark, and King David set out to bring it back to the Temple. Uzzah, a companion of David, had been killed when he touched the Ark, and David was afraid that he would share the same fate. He asked himself

‘How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?’

When the Ark was brought back the people of Israel, the King leapt and danced for joy in front of the Ark (2 Sam 6:9-14.) This is again a foreshadowing of the New Ark, when Elizabeth’s baby ‘leapt for joy’ in her womb when he heard the voice of Mary. (Luke 1:38-45).
The Ark of the Covenant was Holy, unique, and contained God’s glory. It makes sense that Mary, as the one who contained God Himself, would be unique, holy, and sanctified for her purpose.

We see how the Immaculateness of Mary was necessary for her to be the Ark of the Covenant. They are two sides of the same coin, and can only be truly understood when they are presented together.

Be Still

  • Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
  • Exodus 14:14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still..

Being still: not exactly an easy thing to do. One may consider this a task in todays ‘grab what you can’ attitude. When we think of being still we may end up worrying about missing out, getting bored, or missing the point of the stillness altogether.
When I read Exodus 14:14 as a standalone verse I consider the beauty of the notion. Then I read the context of this verse; it’s truly terrifying! The Israelite people had just fled from the yoke of bondage that Egypt had them in; they were probably rejoicing, singing, and were generally enthralled at the idea of freedom. Then these newly freed people look behind them and there they are- the Egyptian army! They were about to go from free to slave, and back again in a matter of days! And Moses response: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.”
How the hell is that expected? Did Moses really ask the Israelite people to ‘stand there’ while a hateful and resentful army slaughtered them?
In the case of Psalm 46, context isn’t important; these were songs of praise authored by David. They didn’t contain within them a narrative, or context. Of course, each Psalm was written during a particular time in David’s life, and the words reflect that: some of the Psalms are joyous, some express pain, and some are cautionary.
So what does it mean to be still before God? As Catholics, we have a unique relationship with Christ; we know Him to be truly present in the Host, and every Church has a place specially set apart for the Host. We can walk into any Church and know that Jesus is truly present, with us to the end of the age.
When we walk into a Church, we genuflex (bend our knee to the presence of our King), and then proceed to sit there, often in silence. And then we see it, then we feel it. The stillness that Moses asked for: it wasn’t the absence of movement, but the presence of peace. Most will know that the Hebrew word for ‘peace’ is ‘shalom.’ It’s truly a beautiful, but misunderstood word. In English, we understand peace to mean the absence of conflict; we identify peace by their not being a war, a lacking of something rather than a presence of something else. I don’t think it’s a good idea to understand something by only comparing it to something else, and certainly not when that thing is peace! But in Hebrew, ‘shalom’ means so much more. It means to be ‘complete’, ‘unharmed,’ ‘atoned.’
This peace isn’t an end to itself, it’s actually the starting block. In this true peace, we leave ourselves behind and focus on the One who matters most. In stillness we find an essence of God, His love, and His mercy. Psalm 46:10 reveals itself to us: we aren’t just seeking God to obtain stillness or peace, but we also obtain stillness to seek God. These two things are two sides to the same coin, complimenting each other.
The Prophet Jeremiah touched on this. He spoke of God revealing wonders to Elijah: first the Lord passed by and brought a mighty wind. The wind broke away rock from the mountain, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in this either. After this, Elijah saw a fire, but God wasn’t there. After all these mighty occurrences, Elijah heard a ‘small, still voice.’ He wrapped his face and it was then that God spoke to him.
From this account, I think God tells us something of Himself. It’s not that God cannot reveal Himself in wonderous ways, because we know that’s not the case; but when we want more of God’s presence we need to get outside of our expectations of what that presence should look or feel like.
God is a God of peace, a God who seeks the fullest of relationships with us. In order for that to even begin, we have to take all our pain and struggles to Him; then, once we have left them at His feet, we can know what it means to find the fullness of peace in His presence. This is the perfect completion that we all seek. We aren’t expected to be ignorant; we know that there are troubles in the world, and our lives. Yet we know that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). It is in this presence that we are unharmed by the outside world, our souls held by Him who loves us the most. Then there is ‘shalom.’

The Three Stages of the Church

The Church is united and one, as we’ve discussed in a previous blog. This unity is not based on location, race, gender or any other identifying mark we use when referring to human ‘oneness’. The Church is one because She shares the same founder (Christ), the same faith (Christianity), the same sacraments (the Eucharist etc), the same earthly authority (the Pope), and the same mission (to proclaim the Gospel). If the ‘oneness’ of the Church was based on a human concept of ‘one’, then no Church could lay claims to it; all denominations are separated by language, geography, socio-economic situations and so on.
What this doesn’t mean is that the Church is united by a shared ‘space’, or ‘presentation’.

You see, we believe in three stages of the Church. These stages are:

Church Militant: You guys know I like my definitions, so let’s define what we mean by ‘militant’. We don’t mean militant in the aggressive sense; it doesn’t mean the Church should spread the Gospel by means of violence, proxy wars, or any of the like.
When She uses the term ‘militant’, this is in reference to the Latin ‘militans’, meaning ‘to perform a service, a solider.’ The Church is to proclaim the Good News (Mark 16:15) while ‘fighting’ against evil, struggling against immorality. This is how we understand that a Christian is ‘performing a service, being a solider.’ This can include standing up for family values, voicing concern over abortion, tackling racism etc. We are also militant on an individual level, because each Christian is in a personal battle against sin. We wage war against our natural and selfish desires, trying daily to ‘die to ourselves’ (1 Peter 2:24, 1 Cor 15:21).
‘Militant’ also refers to the Church’s’ constant struggle against evil forces that seek to hinder Her mission. We are struggling against forces that wish to topple the Church at any given moment, using whatever means they can to accomplish that goal. This doesn’t automatically equate to hostility; if a group request that a Catholic adoption agency should open its doors to gay couples, we are not to be hostile, rude, offensive or crude. We should simply speak the truth in love, explaining our stance. This is just an example of how the militancy of the Church should not have to include violence.

Church Suffering: Those in the state of Purgatory are referred to as the ‘Church Suffering.’ These people are ultimately saved, but undergo a process of purification. This process removes the stain of sin, making us perfected for the Beatific Vision (Matthew 12:32). The Church has never defined ‘how’ Purgatory works, only that it draws the truth from Biblical passages. The goal of Purgatory is not to cause suffering or distress, but to cleanse from the stain that is caused by sin. We are purified by Christ’s sacrifice, but can still become unclean by our sin after our initial redemption. This is why we may need further refining, to be purified perfectly into Christ’s image.
Purgatory is not an eternal state, but a temporal one, where the saved have a guaranteed promise of Heaven (Matthew 5:25-26). In this sense, Purgatory is distinct from Heaven and Hell; those in Heaven will never wish to leave, those in Hell never can. Purgatory will, at some point, cease to be required, because all of mankind will be in one of the other two destinations.
One of the objections to Purgatory is that the doctrine makes reference to ‘fire’, which is always associated with Hell and suffering. But when we openly read the Scriptures, ‘fire’ isn’t always a negative. For example, Jesus is said to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16), fire is the manifestation of God’s glory (2 Chron 7:21), and the Holy Spirit manifested as ‘tongues of fire’ at the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:3.) To simply conclude that ‘fire is bad’ is just un-Biblical.
Those in Purgatory are still united by Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, and so are part of the same mystical body. They have recieved the Baptism for the forgiveness of sin, and have taken to Lord to themselves in the Eucharist. Those in the state of purification still belong to the one Lord, as part of the one Church, having partaken in the one Baptism. Eventually all those in Purgatory will be united through Christ once all the ‘excess’ has been ‘burnt away’ (1 Cor 3:15).

Church Triumphent: The Church enjoying the perfect presence of God in Heaven are known as the ‘Church Triumphent.’ These Christians have reached the eternal place, and are in a state of perfect bliss. They know no pain, be it physical or emotional (Rev 21:1-27). These saved have been perfectly conformed to Christ’s righteousness (1 John 3:2), retaining their individuality but also basking in a perfected self. Those in Heaven lack nothing (Rev 21:23), and recieve a feast to share with Jesus (Rev 19:7-9).
Firstly, Christ saves His Church, but also those of the Protestant denominations that are ignorant of what makes the Catholic Church the truth. I’ll explain: if a Protestant has investigated all the Catholic claims and recognizes this as the Church Jesus gave us, yet wilfully remains seperate, then they cannot be saved. However if a Protestant holds to the Christian truth (the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus etc), but cannot comprehend how the Catholic Church could be the one that Jesus formed, then they are saved, but only in spite of Protestantism, not because of it.
Every Christian who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13), but please note that not all those who are saved will endure (1 Cor 9:27). This is the meaning of ‘triumphant’: these Christians who in the presence of Jesus have continually chosen Him over themselves, rejected the most alluring of sin, and conformed themselves to Jesus’ teachings.

One But Many?
We are truly one Church with one faith, but what some don’t know is that within the Church there are multiple ‘Rites’. Now, this isn’t to be confused with the Sacraments, which are sometimes referred to as ‘Rites’. These are ‘Liturgical Rites’, which means these distinctions enjoy a particular way to celebrate the Liturgy based on their own local culture and history. The Pope is Supreme Pontiff over all the Rites of the Church, East and West. All of these eastern ritual churches come under the jurisdiction of the Pope through the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, one of the offices of the Roman Curia. The rites are administered by either a Patriarch, a Major Archbishop, a Metropolitan, or have some other arrangement. Patriarchs are elected by a synod of bishops of their rite, and then request ecclesiastical communion from the Pope.
There is no separation in theology, doctrine or scriptural interpretation. These Rites all ‘eat of the one bread, drink from the one cup.’
The most recognized Rite is the Latin Rite; chances are that when you’re thinking of the Catholic Church, you’re picturing the Latin Rite.
There’s the Byzantine Rite, developed by St James but developed further by St Basil and St John Chrysotom. The services and practices are very similar to the Orthodox Church.
The Alexandrian Rite is usually referred to as ‘the Coptic Rite’, usually attributed to St Mark the Evangelist. Then we have the Syirac, Malankarese, Ge’ez, Armenian, Chaldean, and the Syro-Malabar rites.
All these Rites are part of the One Church without dissension. If a Catholic were to attend any of these Rites, they could take part in the Mass and would fulfill Sunday obligation.

God and Photography

No, God is not an ardent lover of all things Nikon, although I am. Anyone who knows me knows my passion for photography, and while this blog won’t become about that love, I am going to write about it in the Christian sense.
I genuinely believe that all good things come from God (James 1:17), and this doesn’t just mean the things around us, but the things within us. Yes, the air we breathe, the sunrise we enjoy- these things come from the Creator; but there’s so much more. I’m talking about the internal passions we have: the drives, goals, and loves that direct us to create.
The Lord gave me eyes to see and a passion to snap! Yes, I do photograph that which glorifies Him, like exposing people to the beauty of His House (the image above is of Westminster Cathedral, the Mother Church of all Catholics in England and Wales. Have a visit, it’s stunning!)
But I like to think my photography glorifies God all the time, even when it’s not so obvious. When I snap architecture, I’m reminded that these huge monuments were built with human hands, conceived by a finite mind. I begin to ponder on the wonders of Heaven, and of all the natural world that man cannot re-create ex-nihilo, as God did. How much more extraordinary must the mind of the Lord be?!
When I snap people in the street (the above gentleman was protesting for BLM in Trafalgar Square), I think how we are all created in God’s image, with immortal souls that wonder of divine things (even if that leads to denying the Divine!)
I think my Christian siblings should have a think on their passions, and see how they can use them to point to God. I don’t think God needs us to use them for such all the time, but it’s certainly a great idea and sign of gratitude if we do this once in a while!

The Four Marks of the Church of Christ


The Church has always considered there to be four marks of indentification; these marks point to the authenticity of the Church in question, and so must be visible that the Church in question can be identified as ‘true’.

The Four Marks:

One: The Church in question must be truly ‘one’. It must be united to Christ’s teachings without error, and so ‘one’ with the founder of the Church (Matt 16:18). After all, no denomination has ever laid claims to the Christian truth while separating themselves from Jesus in the same breath. Every Pope, every Reformer, every schismatic has declared that there understanding of Christianity is more in line with the teachings of the Messiah. They have recognized that Jesus holds the authentic Gospel, and is the foundation of all objective reality and truth, be that tangible or spiritual (John 14:6)
Therefore the Church must be inseparable from Jesus; She must be the Body of the glorified Head in Heaven, without dissension or falsehood. Christ must be looked to at every turn of the life of the Church, He must be the cornerstone of all the Church teaches. If a Church were to contort the teachings of Christ, or worse, change them completely by deliberate mistranslation, then this is a sign of separation from Jesus Christ. As we draw truth from Scripture without reading doctrine into it, so we draw teachings from Jesus without forcing the Lord to become contorted to what we assume He must mean. Rather we allow Christ to ‘speak for Himself’, wherever that may lead us.
The Church must also be one within itself, each Christian united to one another. Jesus prayed that the Church be one, as He and the Father are one (John 17:21.) By using the analogy of His relationship with His Father, we begin to understand what Jesus meant by this ‘oneness.’ Jesus is a distinct ‘person’ from His Father, while united to Him by the divine nature that each Person (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) possess.
This oneness that the Church possess is linked to the Trinity itself; it is a oneness of unity, not a oneness of personhood. When translated to a human level, we can understand this to mean that we are united by Christ, (especially in the Real Presence of the Eucharist) but we celebrate and enjoy our personal interactions with the Lord; we can encounter Christ on a personal level, and He can direct each of us personally according to His will. We do not give up what makes us individuals in order to serve the Lord, because that would be an error in understanding ‘unity’. After all, it was God Himself that created us as individuals (Ps 139:13), died for each individual (Rom 5:8), and calls each man to repentance (Acts 17:30). No, instead of throwing away our individuality, we bring that individuality to the Church, and express the Truth by our own personality. Please note, I am not saying that we are to understand or dissect the truth as individuals, but rather study the truth as One, and express that truth as our individuality sees fit; we must still hold true to the truth itself.
When Jesus used the word ‘one’ to describe the Church, the writer of the Gospel used the Greek word ‘heis’. This word means ‘indivisible’, to be unable to be divided or separated. Jesus expressed His will that the Church never be divided, not that each person within Her never express distinction.
In contrary to this unity, Jesus speaks of ‘the kingdom divided.’ This divided kingdom (Matthew 12:24) is spoken of negatively by Jesus, with the Lord saying that a house that shows division will not stand. The Greek word for divide is ‘merizó’, and it can also mean to ‘distract.’ When we are divided from one another, with no unity in doctrine, we become distracted from the mission we were given: to share the Good News with all humanity. And even if we are united in that common goal, the world can get caught up by the fact that the Church may lack unity. How is the world to believe in one Christ if this one Lord cannot keep a Church united?
We see how unity in worship and doctrine hold the Church as one, but also the belief in Holy Orders: the ordination of people of the Church with the specific role or function to carry the Gospel forward. The line of the ordained has been preserved, in order that we can be sure that the truths and mysteries of God have been securely and faithfully handed down.
It was always Christ’s intention that the Church had earthly leadership (Matt 16:18), and that leadership continue until His return (Acts 1:21-26). The authority of a Bishop is conveyed upon a man by the ‘laying of hands’ (1 Tim 4:14), in which an ordained Bishop conveys the authority of Christ to a recently ordained man, signifying and solidifying his being lifted to the Priesthood.
And so we see how being ‘One’ is an essential characteristic of the Church; it is an essential mark of the assembly of God’s people, and without this unity then the entire credibility of the Church falls apart, and with Her, the believability of the Gospel itself.

The Church is called to be ‘Holy’, a reflection of Christ’s holiness as God Himself. As the Head of the Church is, so the Church is to be also (1 Peter 1:16).
The Greek ‘Hagios’ (Holy), is to be set apart. This firstly means that the Church is set a part for a particular mission: to proclaim the Gospel. Moreover, we are set apart from the world as God is set apart from the world. See, the world is in a state of sin, and so distanced from God. If we are called to be one with God, we must be set apart from the world.
So how is the Church set apart from the world? How is She Holy? It is important to understand that the Church doesn’t have holiness as a natural quality, but rather that it is conveyed and gifted to Her by God (Col 1:22). When Christ accomplished reconciliation for us on the Cross, we were able to freely begin a relationship with God through faith in that redepmtive work. It is Christ’s righteouness that is infused in us; we are truly made righteous, not only made to ‘appear’ as such. To use a metaphor, we are not made to appear as white as snow, but are made literally as white as snow. In the Psalms, David says that when purged of sin, he ‘shall be made whiter than snow’ (Psalm 51:7).
The true holiness of God’s people is absolutely essential. To be truly holy and righteous is the key to eternal life in God’s presence; we are told that nothing unclean can enter God’s kingdom (Rev 21:27). Note that St John doesn’t tell us ‘nothing that appears unclean may enter’, as this would suggest that cleanliness and holiness are mere matters of appearence. St John tells us that nothing unclean may enter, so we infer that this ‘holiness’ is literal, true, and complete. It is not purely metaphorical, or in appearence only.
The Church being truly Holy doesn’t mean that She is to practice some kind of ‘aloofness’, but that we should constantly be moving torwards Heavenly ideals, and away from earthly ones. We recognize that our holiness is of God, and that if we seperate ourselves from Him, we lose that amazing gift that has been conveyed to us.

The word ‘Catholic’ comes from the Greek ‘katholikos’, meaning ‘universal’. The Greek ‘katholikos’ is derived from yet another Greek word, ‘katholou’, or ‘as a whole’. The term was first applied to the Church by a letter written by St Ignatius of Antioch, addressing the Church in Smyrna. In the Epistle, St Ignatius requests that the Church should hold to the teachings of the Bishop, and to take part in the Eucharistic feast. The Saint then went on to say that wherever the Catholic Church is, there is Jesus Christ. As we are the body of Jesus, we are inseperable from the Head.
We are called to present the truth of the Gospel to the entire world, in every generation. Jesus, His Good News, and His Church are not bound by generational values, or human whims.
Jesus ordered the Gospel to be preached to the entire world. This offer of salvation isn’t based on race, gender, sexuallity, age, ability or intelligence. It is offered to all people; it is an act of love on God’s part, and He is the instigator that first moves torwards us.
In this sense, the Catholic Church is truly ‘universal’, populated by people from around the world, in every generation for the last two thousand years.
There is yet another way that the Church is truly ‘universal.’ The Bible tells us that all Christians are gifted with eternal life (John 3:16), and that we are joined to the Body of Christ through our baptism. If all Christians have eternal life, those in Heaven are living, free from sin and in the presence of Jesus. So we understand that the Church is on earth, in Heaven, and undergoing purification in Purgatory. This is not a plurality of churches, but it is one Church present in three different stages of sanctification. All those who are part of the Church on Earth, in Purgatory, or in Heaven have shared in the one baptism, into the one Lord Christ, and hold to the one faith demonstrated in the worship of one God (Eph 4:5-6.)
She is, in yet another way, Universal.

Apostolicity is the mark that is required to identify the Church of today with the Church of the Apostolic era; to put it simply, we ask if we believe now as the Saints of the day believed then.
In its being ‘Apostolic’, the Church is one moral body that contains within in the same mission that Jesus entrusted to Her 2000 years ago. The mission of proclaiming the Gospel (Mark 16:15), feeding the sheep (John 21:17), and exercising authority over all spiritual things has been handed to the Church alone.
This attribute also shows how it is that we can trust the teachings of the Church; we can trace a doctrine back through the Apostolic line, seeing whether this teaching has been held to throughout the centuries. The oft quoted “Vincentian Canon” is the Latin phrase: “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” (That Faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all).
Through the unbroken line of the Papacy, the Church has continually been guided and guarded into all truths, against all heresies. This unbroken line is essential for understanding that Christ wills for the Church to always have an authority that will ‘feed His sheep’. This authority is not trusted in spite of Christ, but rather because Christ has blessed this authority with clarity of vision, to speak infallibly as directed by the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel and truth of Christ has been handed to us in the form of written word, but we also acknowledge that there are many important truths that have been handed down orally to the Church (John 21:25, 2 Thess 2:15). These two modes of teaching illuminate one another, and can never be contrary. For is the Gospel were to contradict the teachings of the Church, then how are we to trust the Gospel that claims the Church will be guided into all truth? But if the Church contradicts the Gospel, then none of Her teachings can be considered authoritative, and all the doctrines that She has carefully defined unweave.
So we begin to see that being ‘Apostolic’ is essential; it gives Church a marked authority that can be recognized by all men, even if some choose to dismiss it.

A Response to ‘A Case for Christmas critique.’

A Response to a Response: Yes, we’re doing that

https://clubschadenfreude.com has responded to a book by Lee Strobel, ‘A Case For Christmas.’ I haven’t read it, it’s not the sort of Christian book I enjoy because it’s a very specific topic. As usual, the author’s words will be in italic, mine in standard text. But since the author of the blog is also quoting a seperate author, I’ll place the second author’s words in bold. Make sense? Let’s go!
*First author
*Blog author

“Some people believe the Old Testament doesn’t apply to those of us who follow Jesus. They think the ancient history, poetry, and prophecies are irrelevant to today’s modern culture. Yet, the Old Testament is the foundation on which we stand.
Against all odds [the multiple Old Testament prophecies] were fulfilled only in Jesus… confirming His identity as the Messiah and the Son of God. ~ Lee Strobel
Someone has said the probability of a person fulfilling every single Old Testament promise and prophecy about the Messiah is as likely as if the entire state of Texas was covered in quarters 12 inches deep with only one quarter painted red and a blindfolded child selected that quarter on the first attempt: a 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 chance!
Jesus is the One! He’s the Lord! Whether we buy gifts or give our friends and family something homemade, whether we’re in the snow or sand, whether we’ve known him all our lives or we’ve only now put our faith in Jesus through this study, let’s praise him with joyful hearts this Christmas! He’s the Gift!”

No, no one has said that bit of nonsense Lee claims, unless we want to claim Lee himself. Always fun to see a Christian inventing someone else to agree with him. Hmmm, who else does that? Ah yes, Donald J. Trump, the orange moron we have as president for about another month (unless he resigns so Pence can pardon him and his family).

Not to do with the topic it hand, there’s no need to respond since I’m not responding to the first author, since it doesn’t go against what I believe. The original author has simply set the stage, they haven’t given a critique yet. I don’t think we need to give opinions on Donald Trump, this is a religious blog, not a political one. What the author does is suggest that the original writer shares a quality with Donald Trump, therefore the quality is a negative trait. This is an ‘association fallacy’- if a trait, term, quality etc can be recognized in a person considered ‘evil’, then the trait itself must be evil also.

That JC didn’t fulfill OT promises is notable since we still have Jews around who are quiet sure of it. I do enjoy the Jews for Judaism website when it comes to seeing just how badly Christians make up nonsense.
Of course, Lee is one of those Christians who want the OT for their supposed prophecies but oh when it comes to following those laws that JC himself said were to be followed until the earth and heavens pass away, well, those laws are legibus non grata.

Yes, there are Jews who deny that Jesus fulfilled the requirements that would identify Him as the Messiah. However, there are also Jews that (known as ‘Messianic Jews), that affirm that Jesus did fulfill Messianic prophecy. What does this prove? Nothing, not squat. One group believing that Jesus is the Messiah doesn’t equate to Him actually being such, and the same logic can be applied in the opposite direction. There are roughly two billion people who affirm Jesus’ divinity, but I don’t think that should be used as an argument for the belief. Neither should those denying the claim be used as evidence for that denial.
As for the statement that claims we ignore Jesus’ teachings in regards to the Law? Yeah, we don’t. Jesus never said the Law won’t pass away until the end of the earth. What He actually said was that

” I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18

From this verse we can see that Jesus claims that there will be a time when the Law will pass away: when it has been fulfilled, and that the world will not end until the Law is fulfilled. The author just seems to conclude that this fulfillment won’t be until the end of the world; but Jesus never actually said that. What He said was that the Law is binding until it has been brought to completion; the Lord never gave a time frame on what that would be. The author is reading into the text.
The fact of the matter is that all Christians regard the crucifixion of Jesus as the moment of fulfillment, when the Law was brought to it’s intended conclusion (John 18:28-30).

Lee starts with the claim that the OT “prophecies” only apply to this messiah of his, that they cannot apply to anyone else ever.
So, let’s start with his claims about Micah 5.

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;5 and he shall be the one of peace.” – Micah 5, NRSV

Other bibles break this set of verses up differently to get different meanings. Lee uses the NIV, strangely enough, and that’ll drive the KJV-onlyists right over the edge.
Now, why Lee doesn’t include verse 5 is a mystery. But looking at what we have, there is nothing to this that is unique and can apply to only one person. We also know that JC never made anyone secure or was considered great to the ends of the earth or made peace. Christians had to invent a “second coming” to get this to work, something never mentioned in the OT, a messiah that had to come twice to get things right. Finally, this passage has that the messiah is not God, showing that the claims of Christianity of this messiah being God doesn’t work.

This argument is very odd, in that the author claims Jesus has never made someone secure. This is an act of omniscience on the author’s part! How can they possibly know that Jesus has never made someone ‘secure’? Firstly, the verse doesn’t give a break down of what it means to be ‘secure’, so it’s hard for the writer to say Jesus never accomplished that. Secondly, the author would have to know the feelings of every Christian throughout history! How do they know that we aren’t secure, that we don’t feel as such?
Jesus was never considered great to the ends of the earth? Don’t tell that to the billions of Christians who affirm Jesus’ greatness all around the world! We’d be most confused.
The blogger goes on to claim that we invented a ‘second coming’ in order to make up for the fact that not all things were accomplished, that this is never alluded to in the Old Testament. This is just plain false. There are verses that predict two advents of the Messiah. Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 7:14 predict the first advent. Separately, Isaiah 53:8–9 predicts a suffering and dying Messiah, who will be given life and greatness according to Isaiah 53:11–12. Daniel 9:26 describes the Messiah being killed after His appearance. At the same time, prophets such as Zechariah (Zechariah 12:10) say this same “pierced” Messiah will be seen again by His enemies. So the clues are there.
Then we have passages that suggest a ‘second advent.’ These include statements from the books of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:14–15; 12:10–14; 13:1; 9:14–15); Amos (Amos 9:11–15); Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:18; 32:44; 33:11, 26); and Joel (Joel 3:1); which describe the Messiah coming in triumph to lead Israel into salvation. Note that these are in the context of passages such as Deuteronomy 30:3–5 and so are predictions of the time of Messiah’s final victory.
The passage never suggests that the Messiah isn’t divine, nor does it suggest that He is. What it does is tell us the mission of the Messiah, not the nature. The author supposes that if the Messiah has a God, He cannot be divine. See the article ‘Catholic Doctrine: The Trinity’ for details on why that’s incorrect.

Again, Lee tries to claim dozens of fulfilled prophecies, but they don’t exist and he doesn’t give examples. What he does do is return to the false claims about verses in Isaiah about the supposed “virgin” birth. Lee tries to argue that the prophecy was for someone else but was somehow also for his version of the messiah. There is no reason to believe that this is the case, other than Lee needs a bit of verse to claim his god is special because of the virgin birth. Lee offers a theory that the “first” go through for the prophecy was for some other Jewish leader, but claims that might not be right since that one wasn’t named “Immanuel”.
Funny how his messiah wasn’t called Immanuel either

I haven’t read the original article, but again, I’m writing about this blog, not the article. I have no idea what the author claimed about the virgin birth, so I can’t defend or criticize it. But I can criticize the misconception that the author has about the name ‘Immanuel’. Every name in Hebrew had a very specific meaning, it usually alluded to the nature of the person; the same can be said about Jesus. For example ‘Jesus’ means ‘savior’, and He was named such because He saves us from sin. ‘Immanuel’ simply means ‘God with us’; we very much believe that Jesus is ‘God with us’ (John 8:58, Matthew 28:20, 18:20), so the name is quite fitting. It’s true that Jesus was never called ‘Immanuel’, but He was certainly called ‘God’ (John 20:28).

We end up in Isaiah 9, where Lee again tries the magic changing prophecy trick. What we read there is:
“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
For all of the promises here, the christian messiah fails in all of them

No, Jesus doesn’t fail in all of them. Jesus was given authority over all of creation by the Father: He is the judge of all mankind (John 5:22), the Lord of Heaven (Revelation 5:6), and as such has established an eternal kingdom. Jesus even said that all authority has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). The author seems to suggest that he should be able to recognize that authority in action, but there’s no reason to believe that’s the case. I would argue that the development of the Church into a great force, the workings of God’s redemptive plan through the Church: these point to the authority Christ has. Maybe the author is conflating what earthly authority looks like, with what divine authority should look like,
I always like to say that just because a fact isn’t apparent, doesn’t make it a falsehood. I can’t prove that Jesus is reigning in Heaven in authority, but the author can’t prove otherwise. He seems to claim that this absolutely isn’t the case, but is it?

Lee also tries to argue that since almah means young woman, then it has to mean virgin since all young women were assumed to be virgins. However, the verse makes no remark about how strange it would indeed be to have a virgin birth. We also have the problem of Lee’s claim that betulah can mean widow, when that isn’t exactly true. Folks who speak Hebrew can be assumed to know their language better than Lee or Glenn Miller, an apologist who presupposes that the popular mixed version of the Christmas story is true and does his best to make the bible fit.

I don’t quite understand why the verse would have to point out that virgin births are strange. That’s a given. Yes, the word ‘almah’ can mean ‘young woman’, so it doesn’t mean virgin. It’s interesting to note, that in the 3rd century B.C., when a panel of Hebrew scholars and Jewish rabbis began the process of translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, they used the specific Greek word for virgin, “parthenos,” not the more generic Greek word for “young woman.” The Septuagint translators, 200+ years before the birth of Christ, and with no inherent belief in a “virgin birth,” translated “almah” in Isaiah 7:14 as “virgin,” not “young woman.” This gives evidence that “virgin” is a possible, even likely, meaning of the term.
Lee’s claim that ‘bethula’ means ‘widow’ isn’t right, we agree. Bethulah can be applied to a virgin regard- less of age, whether young or old ; na’arah to a young girl, but. ‘ almah to a virgin in her girlish years.

Lee does try to get around the problem of JC never once being called Immanuel, and saying that bible names can be symbolic. Yep, they can be. But Lee just wants to claim that since people want to pretend that this god is with them, then that’s why no one ever called Joshua ben Joseph Immanuel but it’s okay. Problem is that Lee’s millions of people never ever call JC Immanuel either.

This is a bit hard to understand, but I’ll try. We don’t need to call Jesus ‘Immanuel’, we use the literal meaning of the name. We say Jesus is ‘God with us’ in regards to His omnipresence, and His presence in the Eucharist. So we have called Jesus ‘God with us’, just not by the term/name ‘Immanuel.’ It’s like saying we never call Jesus ‘savior’, when actually we do because Jesus’ name means exactly that.

Unlike what Lee says, this supposed messiah didn’t fulfill prophecies and most certainly not all before the destruction of the second temple. That’s why we have the “second coming” nonsense. The psalms never “predicted” the nailing of cruxifiction, but the bites of animals.

It would be hard for the Psalmist to predict the crucifixion; don’t forget that the prophecies were written to help those in David’s time to recognize the Messiah. But the act of crucifixion that Jesus suffered didn’t exist when the prophecies were written.
To be fair, the writer of Isaiah never stated that the wounds were the bites of animals. I think the author is referring to the verses that states ‘many bulls encompass me’, but the verse doesn’t tell us what these ‘bulls’ are doing, and certainly doesn’t say animals are biting the Suffering Servant.
It’s Isaiah 53 that supports the belief that the Messiah will be crucified, not the Psalm the author is referring to. The writer of Isaiah predicts that He will be ‘pierced for our transgressions.’ Yes, the cause of the piercing is never detailed, but that doesn’t tell us anything. It would be disingenuous to say that the meaning is or isn’t something, simply by the verse alone.

We finally seem to be ended up at Isaiah 53 and Lee does try to pretend it describes his messiah. But we have problems:
“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.”
however, JC is claimed to have been followed by crowds who lauded him.

There’s no problem here. The prophecy never tells us how many people ‘despised and rejected’ the servant, only that people did. The chief Rabbis plotted to kill Jesus (John 11:53), and the crowds were persuaded to call for Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:22). This would be enough to say this prophecy points to Christ.
The author claims that Jesus was ‘lauded’ by the crowds, but that just isn’t the case. We see Jesus welcomed as the hero when He first enters Jerusalem (John 12:13), because they believed Jesus would be the man who overthrew the Roman occupation. What actually happens is that the people reject Him because of His claims to divinity, and His teachings on the Eucharist (John 10:33, John 8:59, John 6:60 and so on.) Jesus goes from having seventy disciples, to twelve (and one of them was useless!)
The author goes on about statistical probability and why that’s bunk (I don’t like those arguments either, to be fair). He concludes with:

There is indeed something to take away from Lee’s videos. Christianity is based on nonsense, cherry picking and ignorance. The promise that everyone would kneel at the mere mention of JC’s name is just one more failure of the bible.

I’m going to be picky. This is a misquote, and it makes a big difference. The verse states that ‘at the name of Jesus, every knee ‘should’ bend.’ See the difference? The author suggests an absolute, uncontrollable response. The verse actually says that we ‘should’ bend our knee, implying that there’s an option not to.
Everything else about Christianity being based on nonsense, cherry picking etc is a purely subjective opinion.

Response to ‘Not So Polite Dinner Conversation’ on the topic of free will

This is a blog in response to ‘Not So Polite Dinner Conversation’ blog. In the blog the author claimed that the Bible doesn’t support the concept of free will. As a Catholic, I’d obviously disagree.
To support the claims, the author copies several passages that were put forward by ‘biblestudytools.com’ that supposedly suggest free will, and then sets out to point out that these verses don’t help in suggesting that. I will copy the exact words as to show that my response is honest. The author’s words will be italic, mine will be plain text.

A fellow I’ve corresponded with on Facebook gave me a link to bible verses he claimed supported the idea of free will. I’m bored, so I went through and looked at all of them. My usual readers will recognize quite a bit of this, no reason to waste your time again.
Okay, let’s look at these verses that are claimed to support free will. They may even do so, but then they contradict all of the verses that have this god interfering with human action, destroying free will.

First of all, intervention doesn’t take away free will, it could just simply help us with the outcome that came from using free will; i.e I freely choose to sin, and then ask for God’s help. That doesn’t mean I’m not free to sin, only that I need help with the repercussions of that sin. Why would intervention take away free will? We have societal constructs that intervene every day, but that doesn’t take away freedoms. Law intervenes when there’s been a crime, but man still has to, and can still, freely break the law.
There’s nothing in the Bible (that I can think of) that suggests God stopped man from doing something, only that He responds to the action after. But even if God were to stop man from doing something, it doesn’t do away with free will; we were still going to do something of our own choice. An analogy would be a police officer stopping a bank robber as he walked into the bank: the man has still freely chosen to steal, even if he isn’t able to go through with the act.

I’ve added some of the context to some of these if appropriate. One has to wonder about the Biblestudytools.com staff if they think all of these verses support the idea of free will. They do list some of those verses that indicate predestination but not all. In my opinion, one can get a far more comprehensive listing of verses by subject out at openbible.info

1 Corinthians 10:13
“13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

Nothing in this about free will. It’s also a great verse to show how this bible lies when it says that this god won’t test people beyond their strength. Christian suicides show this to be false. Of course, Christians will always blame the victim to excuse their god.

I will deal with the suicide comment first. Yes, Christians commit suicide, but that doesn’t mean that God hasn’t provided a way out from the situation that led to the suicide. What it means is that the cannot accept the way that has been provided, because tragically they are overcome with despair. The harsh truth is that a way out is provided, but some freely reject it because they can’t see past today. Another words, the act of suicide seems a lot more appealing than taking the way out without certainty of the outcome.
I would agree that this verse doesn’t aid or hinder the Christian belief in free will, so yes, this verse is pretty useless in regards to the context of the topic. The author goes on:

Unsurprisingly, a little earlier in the chapter, in context, has Paul claiming that the Israelites were just examples made for Christians. “6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. “ This destroys free will when someone was forced to do something for someone else’s benefit as part of a plan. This matches what Paul states in Romans 9 that pots are used to be examples and to be destroyed.

I had a quick check of the passage, just to make sure that I am understanding the entire context. St Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth, reminding them of Israel’s past acts of idolatry. The Israelites had complained that God had brought them from slavery, and led them to the desert. In an act of rebellion, the people of Israel had built an idol, complaining that God had abandoned them.
In response, God sent poisonous snakes to punish them for their lack of gratitude. Paul concludes that these things happened as a warning to us, not to grumble against God when things become difficult.
The writer suggests that if God ’caused’ Israel to grumble so that the Church could learn from her error, then God had taken away free will. But when reading the verse, I found the author had made a mistake; there’s nothing in the verse that tells us that God had caused the act of rebellion, only that He responded to it and used it as a teachable moment for His Church.

2 Chronicles 9:7
“7 Happy are your people! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom!”

Nothing in this about free will. Servants are under control. This is the queen of Sheba speaking to Solomon. No evidence that Solomon ever existed or that this story is true. The amounts of gold and other precious things are quite ridiculous (42 tons of gold? aka 666 talents), and funny how they all simply vanished. For the world’s wisest man, the kingdoms in that area contributed nothing of note to the knowledge of the sciences.
Not doing so well so far

I think the author may seem to be conflating ‘wisdom’ with ‘knowledge’, but that’s neither here nor there. Just to be clear, wisdom can mean knowledge, but it also means ‘the quality of having experience, good judgement’. Also, I don’t see why wisdom would be measured by contributions to the sciences; did Shakespeare, Hemingway, or Gandhi contribute to the sciences? Yes, they contributed to society in other ways, but remember that the author is only measuring wisdom by how much a society contributes to the sciences. When we think of other great men, we understand that we measure contribution to the world beyond the scope of what they did for science.
Anyway, onto the response. Control doesn’t negate free will, at least not the control that is wielded over a servant. The verse clearly states that the happiness of these servants is due to the fact that they serve Solomon, and so get to hear his wisdom. It doesn’t suggest that these servants are happy in spite of their circumstance, but because of it.

2 Peter 3:9
“9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”
Ah, we’re getting closer now. There still is the problem of the claim of a plan by this god, which requires no free will since with free choice the plan cannot be assured of coming to fruition. 2 Peter is a pseudepigraph, falsely attributed to the apostle Peter 2 Peter (earlychristianwritings.com) That it contradicts other parts of the bible isn’t surprising considering that many scholars see gnostic influences in it, showing it was written long after any supposed Jesus events.

I don’t think we need to get into the source of this Epistle; it’s not the purpose of this response.
The author’s issue with this verse comes from a lack of understanding is regards to Christian Theology. The writer supposes that we believe ‘if God wishes ‘x’ to occur, then ‘x’ must occur.’ Put simply, if God wishes all to come to repentence, then all must come to repentence. I think (I can only guess) that the author believes that all of God’s wishes must be carried out, due to the fact that God is omnipotent. So, to put simply:

“God wishes all men to believe. God is all powerful. All men must believe.”

Not at all, let me explain why. God has certain attributes that are always in effect, we can all these ‘passive attributes’, because God need not ‘do’ anything for them to be in effect. A human example would be breathing, we’re not actively choosing to breathe.
But there are attributes of God that are ‘active’, in that God must actively put that attribute to use. I will give examples. God is all knowing, it is a passive attribute that requires God to ‘do nothing’ in order to know. God is all powerful, but this is a potential quality- it doesn’t mean that God is constantly displaying that power, but He has the potential to do all things according to His will and nature. This ‘omnipotence’ is active; God isn’t always displaying His power, He must actively do something that denotes power.
In regards to this verse, yes God wishes that all men come to repentance, but that doesn’t mean that God is taking away our free will to ’cause us’ to repent.
The writer speaks of a plan, and I’m not sure if they are speaking about the plan of salvation, or just the divine plan in a general sense. If it is about the plan of salvation, I don’t see how it requires no free will. The plan was that man be afforded the opportunity of salvation, not that all men will be saved. The offer is there, it isn’t a demand on God’s part.

Galatians 5:13
“13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”

Again, nothing about free will. This reflects Paul’s claims that believers were already chosen by this god and allowed to accept it, having been called. Earlier in the chapter, in context, Paul mentions grace again, where we know from Romans that grace is what Paul means when he says this god already chose who could accept it and then damned the rest as an object lesson. “4 You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

This verse has to do with freedom from sin, not free will. Yes, these topical websites are useless. The author assumes that God’s calling must be responded to by our belief, that there is no other option. While it’s true that no one can believe unless first called, it doesn’t follow that all who are called must believe. The Bible also never suggests that only a certain number are called.
On to the word ‘grace.’ The Greek word used for ‘grace’ in this text is ‘charis’. In Greece and Rome, charis was a system in which one person gave something of value to another, and the receiver gave service, thanks, and lesser value back to the giver. The Church has always defined ‘grace’ as:

“favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life”

John 7:17
“17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”

The verse differs a little from the one I see in the NRSV.

“17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. 18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.”
In this again, we don’t see free will, especially in the second version where it has believers already knowing
about what JC says. We see that believers are already able to know teachings, which again indicates that what JC says in Matthew 13 that only certain people are allowed to accept this god and again is reflected in what Paul claims. Small changes in translation make big theological differences.

Some strange leaps here. Jesus is claiming that if man is actively seeking God, they will be able to deduce whether His words are from God or not; the verse doesn’t say ‘how’ they deduce that. I’m not going to read into this next- neither should the author.
In ‘Matthew 13’ Jesus tells us the ‘Parable of the Sower’. A man goes out to sow seed:

  • some falls on rocky ground and never takes root. This alludes to the hardness of man’s heart, leading to a rejection of Jesus
  • some fall on places with little soil, and because of a lack of root,they grow quickly but are scorched by the sun. This alludes to people who believe at first, but don’t take the time to develop knowledge in the faith, and so allow themselves to be deceived.
  • other seeds grow but thorns choke them. This is a warning to those who allow earthly worries to distract them, and lead them away from God.
  • and then we have the good seed, which are those who believe and endure to the end

The parable doesn’t talk about being ‘allowed to believe’, it deals with what may happen to those people after they have already begun to believe, or have actively chosen to reject the Gospel. In fact, the parable has the seed/Gospel being poured out on all kinds of ‘soil/people.’ If Jesus really wanted to suggest a lack of free will, it would make more sense for the Gospel to only be preached to a select few, the seed being thrown onto a certain soil only.

Joshua 24:15
“14 “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

This is the strongest verse to indicate free will in the bible. Considering how Christians are never sure if they want to admit that OT is in play or not, this presents them a problem since the NT doesn’t mention free will as a possibility and many Christians try to claim that there is a new covenant that they follow, not having to pay attention to the inconvenient laws in the OT.
There is also the problem that earlier in Joshua we see this god destroying free will for humans “20 For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” Joshua 11
If this god destroys free will here, that causes a ripple effect where any event coming from this one was
interfered with too.

Not sure if I would agree that this is the best evidence for free will in Scripture. There is only one aspect of the Old Testament that is not ‘in play’- the Mosaic Law. Christians are not bound by this Law, since Christ fulfilled it on the Cross. We are still bound by the moral law, which is written on the hearts of all men. Just to clear that up.
In regards to the ‘hardening of people’s hearts’- this happens a lot in the Bible; it’s not what people think. If we read the verse, the people whose hearts are hardened were:

Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Ach′shaph, 2 and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chin′neroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, 3 to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Per′izzites, and the Jeb′usites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah.
And they came out, with all their troops, a great host, in number like the sand that is upon the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5 And all these kings joined their forces, and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom, to fight with Israel.

These people had already set out to destroy Israel, because they were terrified that Israeal was coming to take their country. The force of Israel was huge, and so when the kings saw the force they were facing, there was a good chance they would’ve had second thoughts! It was then that God hardened their hearts, but the initial choice to attack Israel was their own; God just solidified that choice. This verse doesn’t do away with free will, it demonstrates consequences that we can’t always escape from.

Proverbs 16:9
“The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.”

Again, nothing about free will and it shows that this god moves people around like chess pieces. We also have this earlier in the chapter “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Again supporting JC and Paul in the claims of how this god does not allow free will. Here’s another verse from the same chapter, and this god still imposes its will on others “When the ways of people please the Lord, he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them.” And finally “The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord’s alone.”

Nobody is being moved like chess pieces in this verse. The planner is man, the director is God; this would mean that man has to make the plan or decision, and God directs us on how to put that plan into motion. I’d also point out that if a person is given directions, they’re not obligated to follow them, even if those directions are from God!
As for the other verse, yes all things are made for a purpose, including evil men. But that doesn’t track that God made men to be evil, since that contradicts verses that say God cannot do or cause evil, and God would no longer be good. Rather God created men knowing that some would be evil, and uses that to demonstrate His power.
I don’t understand why the writer quotes Proverbs 16:7, that’s odd. When man works the will of God, things go well for us. By following God’s command’s we can have peace with enemies, but it is us following the commands, and our enemies response to that, that is the cause of peace, not an active move by God.

Revelation 3:20
“ 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come into you and eat with you, and you with me. “
Nothing about free will. Per JC and Paul, no one will be able to hear JC if they aren’t already chosen.

This verse is clearly an example of free will. Imagine you are talking to your kids, and you say
“if you clean your room, then you can have ice cream.”
To deal with the idea of being ‘chosen’ first. As I’ve said, no we cannot believe if we are chosen, but not all who are chosen have to believe. Therefore, it doesn’t limit all who are called, it only suggests that not all who are called will believe. Put simply, the idea that only the ‘chosen can believe’, doesn’t mean that the chosen are of a certain number, and that they ‘must believe’.
The sentence clearly implies that they have the option to not open the door. The word ‘if’ denotes a movement/circumstance/event that can go either way. Therefore, when Christ says ‘if you open the door’, those who hear the knock can certainly choose not to answer the door. Otherwise, the wording makes sense; for the author’s point to be accurate, Christ would’ve said:

“when you hear my voice, and when you open the door.”

The author then goes on to list every verse that openbible.info suggests on the topic of free will, then says they have nothing to do with the topic. I’ve already said that this site produces verses that have nothing to do with the subject, we’re in agreement.

Galatians 5: 16-17
“16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”

This differs again a bit with theological implications:
“16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.”

The list returns to Galatians and still it has nothing about free will. Indeed, it says that there is no free will since this god has arranged it that there is something to prevent people from doing what they want.

Notice how the author chooses to refute the translation that supposedly takes away free will, but doesn’t state that the other translation supports it?
God hasn’t arranged that there be something that prevents us from doing what we want; the verse states that what the Holy Spirit desires for us is contrary to what we desire for ourselves. If St Paul directs us to not ‘gratify the flesh’, logic dictates that the option to gratify the flesh must be there for us. I think the issue comes when Paul uses the word ‘prevent’, in the case of ‘preventing us from doing what we want.’ Read carefully. Paul never states that we can’t sin as we choose, only that if we are truly living by the Spirit we would not choose to, as the first translation implies.

Catholic Doctrine: Mary: The Virgin

Who is Mary?
Let’s start with the basics, and not assume that people know what the Church believes. Mary was a Jewess from the Israelite tribe of Judah; this means that the Blessed Virgin was a descendent of King David, as was her Son, Jesus of Nazareth.
According to Church tradition, Mary was dedicated to God at a very young age, but I’ll talk about that in the next section.
Mary became the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, when she fell in line with God’s will, becoming His vessel for the salvation of mankind. Through Mary, God was able to send the Son into the world to preach the Gospel, and bring about atonement on the cross.
Interestingly, while there are many beliefs held about Mary, only two have been dogmatically defined: Her Perpetual Virginity, and her Assumption.
We also consider Mary to be the Queen of Heaven, our Mediatrix, and our Counsellor. She is the New Eve, the Mother of all Christians, and truly a friend of those who call on her.

The Perpetual Virgin
The Church has taught that Mary was a virgin before the birth of her son, Jesus, and after His birth. Though she was married to her husband, Joseph, they never had sexual relations, instead dedicating her life to the service of her God. In this sense, Catholic women that become Nuns emulate the Blessed Virgin, just as Priests emulate Jesus.
The reason that Mary married was to protect her from would-be husbands who did not respect her vow to God, ‘forcing’ her to give up her virginity to them. In stead, Joseph was chosen as an older man who already had children, to be to the protector and provider of God’s handmaid.
It’s true that the Bible refers to Jesus’ brothers and sisters, but does that mean they were Mary’s children? Well, no. The Greek word for brother/sister just means ‘close relative’, so it could also refer to Christ’s cousins, or half brothers from a previous marriage of Joseph’s.

Why did Mary remain a virgin?
After Jesus’ birth, Mary’s dedication to the Lord hadn’t shifted; she still desired to dedicate her life to God, meaning a desire to remain a virgin. There’s no reason to believe that her resolve had left her, and now Mary was desiring an earthly life. Imagine if you had dedicated your life to God, and then He used you in such a unique way; you would be even more enamored.
This desire would’ve intensified after Jesus’ birth, because now Mary was able to dedicate herself more fully to God in the form of her Son.
Mary’s body had become the Ark of the New Covenant, a dwelling place for God almighty, and so she submitted her body totally to the will of God. If she had then known a man, it would have subtracted from the specialness that God had imbued her with.
And so Mary willingly ‘closed the gate’, as we saw in the Old Testament prophecy. Her womb would be used by God’s will for a unique moment in history, and for no other reason.
Mary’s virginity also highlights the fact that she had a much more important Motherhood- a motherhood of Christ’s Church. By remaining a virgin, Mary dedicated herself to the care of the Church in every generation; she does this by her ‘constant and unfailing intercession on which we rely.’ Mary didn’t ‘give up’ parental responsibilities at Christ’s death- those responsibilities were lifted to a whole new level!

Biblical Support
The Bible seems to strongly suggest that Mary was a perpetual virgin.

The Annunciation
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High;
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever;
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?”

Really think about what is said here. The angel Gabriel tells Mary that she ‘will’ bear a son, sometime in the future. The assumption on Mary’s part should be that in the time between this angelic visit, and her son’s birth, she would get married and become pregnant. Yet Mary seems adament that she has no intention of being in a situation where pregnancy could be the outcome, and so the Angel goes on to explain ‘how’ Mary would conceive her son.
The fact that Mary was questioning how she could become pregnant before the miracle of the Virgin Birth is explained to her, really calls into question the idea that Mary gave up her virginity after the birth of Jesus. Mary is adament that pregnacy via natural means isn’t possible, implying her desire to remain a virgin.

The Crucifixion dialogue
At the crucifixion, Jesus shows His infinite love: while in agony, He still shows concern for His mother. He hands the care of Mary to the Beloved Disciple, telling them that they must see each other as mother and son, caring for one another. Why would Jesus dedicate His mother to a non-relative? Even if Protestants claim that Jesus’ brothers left Him to suffer, and so couldn’t be trusted with Mary’s care, then why? Not wanting to die in defense of a brother isn’t quite the same as leaving your elderly mother to care for herself.
The fact that Jesus felt the need to leave Mary in the care of a friend, the beloved disciple, suggests that Mary had no one else to care for her.

Ezekiel 44:1-2
“The gate will be shut and it will not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.”

The early Church understood this prophecy to pertain to Mary’s virginity. Mary was perceived as the new temple, the place where God almighty had dwelt in the person of Christ. The passage suggests that because God had entered this new temple, it would not be fitting for any other person to enter via the same means: in this case, pregnancy and child birth.

Arguements against the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The ‘until’ argument:
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and embraced Mary as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a Son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.- Matthew 1:24-25

This verse seems to suggest that Joseph had sexual relations with his wife after Jesus’ birth. The faulty logic suggests that if x doesn’t happen ‘until’ after y, then x must happen after y. I can tell my nephews that they won’t get dessert until they clean there room; it doesn’t mean that by cleaning the rooms they get dessert.
This verse simply tells us what happened between Mary and Joseph ‘up to’ the birth of Christ, it doesn’t tell us what happened after. The ‘until’ argument is also illogical when we look to other Scripture and apply the same logic:

2 Samuel 6:23: And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to (until) the day of her death. (Does this mean she had children after she died?)
1 Timothy 4:13: Until I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching. (Does this mean Timothy should stop teaching after Paul comes?)
1 Corinthians 15:25: For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (Does this mean Christ’s reign will end? By no means! Luke 1:33 says, “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”)

From these verses we can understand that ‘until’ can mean ‘up to this point, and continuing after.’ It would be inconsistent for those who deny the Perpetual Virginity of Mary to use the ‘until’ argument, unless they were comfortable also applying it to every place in the Bible that the word ‘until’ appears.

The ‘brothers of Jesus’ argument:
The Bible refers to Jesus’ brothers and sisters, and so Protestants say Mary must have had other children. But the Bible seems to suggest otherwise. Firstly, the Greek word that we translate into ‘siblings’ can be translated to ‘close relative’. It could just as likely mean ‘cousin.’
As believers, we are to consider each other as ‘brothers’. Abraham and Lot are called ‘brothers’ (Gen 13:8), when actually they were uncle and nephew respectively. Jacob and Laban were called brothers, when actually they also had an uncle/nephew relationship (Gen 29:15). This reference to Jesus’ brothers could be metaphorical, it could be a reference to His cousins (Elizabeth’s children).
But let’s suggest that Jesus had brothers. It still doesn’t disprove Mary’s Perpetual Virginity: Jesus having brothers doesn’t mean they were Mary’s children; they very well could’ve been Joseph’s from his previous marriage. Why would I believe that? Well, Jesus didn’t dedicate the care of Mary to His siblings, insinuating that these siblings were not biologically related to His Mother. The implication is that none of these ‘brothers’ of Jesus had any responsibility for Mary; they may have been related to Christ, but not Mary.

The ‘first born’ argument:
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.-Luke 2:7

This is actually a verse used by Protestants to suggest that Mary didn’t remain a virgin all her life. They suggest that if Jesus is Mary’s ‘firstborn’, there must’ve been a second born and so on. But this is just plain stupid; you don’t have to wait until you have a second child in order to identify who your first child is! Whether you have one, or nine children, your firstborn is your firstborn regardless.

The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”- Exodus 13:1

If we follow the logic that Protestants use, Moses and the Israelites would not have been able to consecrate the firstborn of Israel’s people and livestock, until they had a second offspring. Obviously, that’s not the case; your firstbron child isn’t dependent on a second child for his/her status as firstborn.

What do the Church Fathers say?
The Church doesn’t believe that the Bible is the sole infallible source: the Church can also speak infallibly. Church tradition (that which has been handed down to us via the Holy Spirit) is also vital in understanding the entire Christian message. So what did the Church Fathers say about Marys’ virginity?

“I must call upon the Holy Spirit to express His meaning by my mouth and defend the virginity of the Blessed Mary. I must call upon the Lord Jesus to guard the sacred lodging of the womb in which He abode for ten months from all suspicion of sexual intercourse. And I must also entreat God the Father to show that the mother of His Son, who was a mother before she was a bride, continued a Virgin after her son was born.” – St Jerome

My Rejection of Protestantism

Why I rejected Protestantism:

I was a Protestant for over a decade, and I prided byself in my knowledge of Protestant Systematic Theology, scriptural knowledge, and history. I was versed in the teachings of Luther and Calvin, and loved the princibles of Calvinism. So why, after over ten years, did I decide to come home to the Catholic Church?

  • As a Protestant, I believed that the Catholic Church was the Whore of Babylon, that the Pope was the man of sin. I would point to Revelation, telling Catholics that the Whore would teach great blasphemies, and believed that the Catholic Church did exactly the same thing.
    I would link this to a great ‘separation’ from ‘true’ Christianity to the conversion of Emperor Constantine. As Protestants, we were taught that when Constantine converted to the Catholic Church, he brought all sorts of paganism with him, and that’s why the Church needed reforming. These teachings included instituting the Papacy, switching prayers to multiple gods with prayers to the Saints, and so on.
    But my belief in the Church being the Whore, the Pope being the man of sin, was self refuting. I wrongly believed that the Catholic Church was founded by Constantine in the 300’s, but the Bible made it clear that this anti-Christ was already with us. They couldn’t be one and the same.
  • I was shocked to find that many of the uniquely Catholic doctrines predated Constantine’s birth, let alone his conversion. The Church already believed in the Real Presence, what we could call the ‘core Catholic doctrine’, in the early 100’s AD. This doctrine was written about by second century Saints, like Ignatius of Antioch. If the primary doctrine of Catholicism was historical and scriptural, what else had I been wrong about?
  • We were taught that Constantine instituted the Papacy, that it was a pagan notion that allowed the Emperor to control the Church via a proxy. But this really frustrated me, because anyone who studied the line of the Papacy could see that there were men in the office long before Constantine was even born; 29 in fact! These men were looked to in authority, for leadership, and doctrinal guidance. Some of the earliest doctrines of Christianity were authorized by the Pope, and while it’s true that no Church Council was called until 325 AD, certainly doctrines were being taught with authority from that man on St Peter’s chair.
  • I had no historical understanding of what it meant that Jesus gave Peter the ‘Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Protestants fail to understand the historical context. When a Roman governor was called away, he would give the city keys to his subordinate, showing that this man had authority while the governor was away. Those who heard Jesus tell Peter that He would give him ‘the keys to the kingdom of Heaven’ would’ve immediately had this image in mind. They would’ve recognized Peter as having received a special authority from Jesus to govern in His place.
    Let’s not forget that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and there’s only one word for ‘rock’- Kepha. Most Protestants point out that the Greek says ‘upon this Petra’, which means stone, but this has to do with gendered nouns, not the meaning,
  • “Binding” and “loosing” were rabbinical terms, meaning to “forbid” and “permit” with reference to the interpretation of the law, and secondarily to “condemn” or “acquit.” Thus, St. Peter was given the authority to determine the rules for doctrine and practice. Bishops also these powers (Mt 18:17-18; Jn 20:23), but Peter was the only apostle who received them singularly, by name (making him preeminent).
  • As Protestants, I would often hear Protestant teachers quote the Church Fathers: St Augustine, Justin Martyr- men like these. But it seemed odd to me that we would quote men who clearly regarded the Catholic Church as the true Body of Jesus. These Fathers fought against heresy, including the rejection of Transubstantiation and separating oneself from the Universal Church. Why were we quoting these men who warned us against doing the things we had done?
  • I was using Scripture to argue against the Church that had given me the Scripture. It was the Catholic Church who held multiple councils to discuss what was to be called inspired, and devised the Canon of Scripture. For example, for a book to be included in the New Testament, it had to be written by someone who knew Jesus, or someone who knew someone who knew Jesus. But that standard isn’t in the Scripture. This standard was given by the Church in order that the truth didn’t become a game of Chinese whispers.
  • As a Protestant, I believed in ‘sola scriptura’, which is the doctrine that states that the Bible alone is the sole, infallible rule of faith. But this seemed to be self refuting. After all, who told me what was to be considered Scripture? Well, we know that the Church revealed the canon, but if the Church isn’t infallible, how can I trust that we have the correct books in the Bible? Where did the Bible make the claim to be the sole rule of faith and doctrine?
    Then I would find myself discussing topics with other Protestants who disagreed with me on doctrine. How was I to convince a Jehovah’s Witness, for example, that his understanding of God was un-Biblical? If I used a verse to support my claims, he would use a verse to counter. How could I convince him that mine was the correct teaching?
    Even Jesus never gave us scripture, He gave us a Church that He would build, govern, and guide. Then, after this, the Scripture was imparted via the Church.
    It turns out that the Bible wasn’t the sole rule of doctrine. The Bible calls the Church the pillar of truth, calls a man the Rock upon which the Church is built, tells us that the Ethiopian eunuch couldn’t understand the scripture until it was taught to him authoritatively. The Scripture had always been understood by the faithful because they trusted the authority that was teaching them: the Church!
  • The Reformers couldn’t agree on hardly anything. The Bible tells us that God is not an author of confusion, but this is just what the Reformation led to. Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, two of the earliest Reformers, had a debate on the nature of the Eucharist. Zwingli believed the Eucharist to by a symbol that represented Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, where as Luther believed it to be the Presence of Jesus under the from of bread and wine. Luther believed that the taking of Communion was essential in our salvation, but Zwingli thought this was ‘superstition’, and pagan mystery.
    Luther and Calvin also disagreed on Predestination. This has led to Calvinists believing in ‘double predestination’: that God predestines men to Heaven AND Hell.
    If these men were truly being used by a united Trinity, why were they so divided? If either of these men were wrong on the nature and purpose of the Eucharist, could they be wrong on salvation itself? How was I to trust them?
  • We know that Jesus founded His Church, but it’s overlooked that He only founded one. He never intended the Church to have multiple fractures, churches contradicting each other on doctrine, and such. In fact, Jesus prayed that the Church remain one, as He and the Father are one. He then made it abundantly clear that a way to recognize a false church was to look at its disunity, that a ‘house divided will not stand.’ We see Protestants disagree on the Trinity, the nature of Jesus, the role of the Church, the nature and purpose of the Communion, which books were from God, and so much more. Since unity was given as evidence from Jesus as to who was in the truth, I was forced to look to the Catholic Church as being solely whole, one, and distinct.
  • Protestantism leads to subjectivism, which leads to dissent. Because Protestants consider the Bible alone to be infallible, they accept that there are many ways to interpret the Scriptures. This inevitably leads to ‘this verse means this to me’, or ‘I understand the verse to mean this.’ In of itself, that can be harmless; after all, certain passages move different people in different ways. But what about passages that reveal a doctrinal truth? Take the verses where Jesus lays claims to divinity; because those verses aren’t direct, they can be interpreted multiple ways. This leads back to the issue of correction: if one person has misunderstood Scripture, how do you claim a superiority to him, when Scripture is your standard?
    This is, obviously, why Protestantism has fractured so much. Nobody claimed authority to tell Charles Taze Russell, or Joseph Smith, that they were wrong. It simply became a back-and-forth tirade, with both sides saying ‘well, the Bible says this!’
  • Protestantism is, in a way, selfish. One of the key questions you will hear from Protestants is ‘do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?’ The more I heard my Pastor ask this, the more I wonder where it meant. You see, Jesus is Lord over all mankind, whether we acknowledge it or not (Matthew 22:44). Jesus’ Lordship isn’t based on our acknowledgement of it, and we don’t get to elect Him as such. He is Lord by the merit of His divinity, so this idea that our acknowledgement somehow changes that is odd. The question could be asked as ‘do you live as if Jesus is Lord?’, but why would Jesus being my ‘personal Savior’ have anything to do with that? Yes, Jesus saved/saves me personally, He knows me by name, when I lay down and when I rise up etc. But the idea that I must clearly acknowledge, and declare this in order to be saved? Well, that’s just silly. I just found it to be an irritating question, and again it leads to this subjectivism that causes dissent.
  • The need of a Reformation would point to an ignorant God. Imagine, Jesus founds His Church in 33 AD. Very early on, the Church practices prayers to the Saints, Eucharistic adoration, such things like this. Then in 1517, God notices all this stuff that has happened, and wonders what’s gone wrong. In order to Reform the Church, God raises a lowly German Priest to correct these errors. Only, this Priest doesn’t fix these supposed ‘errors’, He breaks away and starts a whole new Church! This leads to the following questions:
  • Why wasn’t God aware of these errors to begin with? This would allow God to fix these errors as they came up
  • Why did God wait several hundred, if not thousand years, to start to fix these errors?
  • What happened to Christians who died after these supposed ‘errors’ came to be believed, but before the Church was ‘reformed’? Were they saved?
  • If Christians were saved as a pert of this erroneous Church, why the need of reformation? If no Christian was saved in all this time, had the Holy Spirit failed in ‘guiding us to all truth’?