Archive for the ‘Roman Catholic’ Category

4. The Three Basic Phases of the Covenant

We have introduced the three phases of the covenant, from childhood to adulthood to full maturity. Let us look more fully at each of these three phases.

The Bible speaks of the Church as Daughter in this Old Creation phase: Daughter Zion, Daughter Jerusalem, and for converted nations, Daughter Tyre, etc. This is a time of childhood, of immaturity. We think of immaturity as something bad, but it is not. It is a gift of God appropriate for our first phase of life. We have said that the Son has eternally “become” mature, but this also means that the Son is also eternally moving from being immature. There is nothing wrong with such immaturity. It is what being a son means: to look up to one’s father. The Son is eternally immature, being a Son to his Father. He is eternally becoming mature through the Spirit. And he has eternally become mature, so that he is fully like his Father.

We need to remember the difference between created time and the Divine eternity. In time and history, maturation is a process, while in eternity it is a condition.

Thus, in the Old Creation we are like the Son in his Divine immaturity. We are under the Father, who has sent the Son to us as his Angel (messenger) to teach us the rules we are to obey during our childhood: the Law. The Father has sent his Spirit to cause us to grow up into adulthood. He wants us to become fully mature, just as his Son is eternally mature.


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What follows is a debate that took place on my Facebook page last October (2009). It really shouldn’t be allowed to slip down the wormhole of past FB posts. It’s worth reviewing. Perhaps my RC sparring partner, Bryan Cross, will want to add something to this.

It began with me posting a quotation from Martin Luther on enforced priestly celibacy:

. . . the pope has as little power to give this command as he has to forbid eating, drinking, the natural processes. . . No one, therefore, is duty bound to keep this commandment, and the pope is responsible for all the sins that are committed against this ordinance, for all the souls lost thereby, and for all the consciences thereby confused and tortured (Plass, What Luther Says, p. 888).

That was the catalyst for the following debate. (The reader should know that my FB rules forbid posting links to Roman Catholic propaganda sites in comments. That will explain a few lacunae in the flow of the argument.)

1. Kevin Branson: The Church has deemed it best that her ministers be single, and celibate, as Paul deemed it best. At present, the Church therefore requires a vow of celibacy from priests. Someday, that could change, and in certain situations exceptions are made even now, but ordinarily, them’s the rules. Nobody puts a gun to a priest’s head and forces them to take a vow of celibacy, nor did anyone force Luther to do so. It was his own choice, as it was his own choice to break his vow of celibacy.

2. Shawn Honey: Celibacy was chosen by Paul and he recommended it to others; it was not bound upon him from the outside, nor did he bind others to it. Peter chose to marry as did other Apostles and, presumably, countless elders (“husband of one wife…”). I think the point pertains to whether a church has the right to bind the consciences of its ministers in a way that Scripture seems to speak against.

3. Craig Lawrence Brann: True as Mr. Branson’s points are, it remains that the Apostle Paul had good reason for suggesting that men facing an apocolypse not be wed and likewise that women not become pregnant—this counsel was not at all timeless or abstract and it really is one of the roman church’s silliest Order’s to make apology for. Wasn’t it the same Apostle who called forbidding marriage a, ‘doctrine of demons.’ Hardly a class of teaching that ought only be obtained by the clergy!

4. Jeff Meyers: Good points, Sean. Remember, too, that the 1 Tim 3 passage (“husband of one wife”) is about the qualifications for “bishop” (episkopos).

5. Jeff Meyers: Craig, right on. Enforced celibacy for pastors is demonic, as Paul says.

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BMEV, or “Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin,” should not be an issue for any Protestant today, but clamor from various quarters means that we need once again to “get real” with the Biblical data here. Herewith is a reworking of a recent essay on the subject originally published in Biblical Horizons.

Early on in the church it was decided that Joseph must have kept Mary a virgin all her life. Unquestionably this is because sex was considered dirty — we need only peruse the Church “Fathers” to see this over and over. The mother of Jesus could not possibly have engaged in such a disgusting, sweaty, stinky enterprise.

This abysmal notion is ferociously defended by those given over to this idea. It is clear from the Bible that the pleasures of marital intercourse are to be enjoyed, and it would have been sinful for Joseph to deny it to her. There is nothing dirty about sex in marriage. Theologian John Murray, once asked if Mary stayed a virgin, replied to the effect: “Of course not! She was a Godly woman.”
Jephthah’s daughter wept because she was consigned to perpetual virginity. Are we to believe that God rewarded Mary’s faithfulness with a curse!? — denying her the pleasures of a husband and the joys of more children?

Matthew 1:25 is quite clear: Joseph “was not knowing her until she gave birth to a son.” It does not say “never knew her.” The “imperfect” status verb here indicates routine continual activity.

And we may ask why Joseph would have felt any need to keep Mary a virgin. Neither he nor anyone else knew that Jesus was the incarnation of God. Often we hear from the ignorant in certain churches that “Well, if my wife had given birth to God Himself, I don’t think I could touch her sexually after that.” Well, in fact nobody knew Jesus was God incarnate. They knew that he was the promised Messiah, son of David, and savior of the world. They did not know and could not possibly have known that He was God on earth. How could Mary and Joseph ever have dealt with him growing up? How could the disciples possibly have had any kind of relationship with him if they had known He was God on earth?

When Jesus calmed the seas, the disciples wondered, saying, “Who is this that even the wind and waves obey him?” Clearly they did not think Jesus was God. He was a kind of super-Moses, who like Moses could command the sea. It is only after His resurrection that the disciples realized that He was God incarnate.

When Peter confessed, “You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God,” he only meant that Jesus was the promised seed of David, the Messiah. In Psalm 2, the Davidic king is “son of God.” It is only after the resurrection that anyone said, “My Lord and my God!”

So, since all Mary and Joseph knew was that Jesus was a man destined for great things, there is no reason on earth they would have refrained from the joys of sex.

Now, even at the time of the Reformation the hold that this evil superstition had on people was so great that the Reformers did not touch it. I read on silly and uninformed blogs that Calvin believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. That is not true. A glance at Calvin’s commentaries shows that he says, in Matthew 1:25, that it is impossible to know one way or another [he’s wrong about that — JBJ] and that it is best not to worry about it.

Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 8:19-21, and Mark 3:31-35 record that Jesus’ mother and His brothers arrived to see him. We are assured that “brothers” might mean “relatives,” and though a pointless assertion (since Jesus surely did have brothers), this is indeed lexically possible. In Mark 3:32, however, the multitude reports to Jesus, “your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside looking for you.” Now, “and your sisters” is absent from some ancient manuscripts. It was the consensus of the United Bible Societies Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (3rd ed., 1971), that “and your sisters” is most likely original. If it had been added later, they argue, it would also have been added in verse 31, where it is only “his mother and his brothers arrived.” Now, “brothers” might mean “relatives,” but “sisters” cannot. “Sisters” means sisters.

Whatever the case may be in Mark 3, we can be absolutely certain that Mary and Joseph began to enjoy sex after her purification from childbirth, and that this pleasure was part of God’s gift to them for their faithfulness and obedience, and that they had other children together. Any other opinion is simply an impossibility from a Biblical and consistent Christian point of view.

It is my hope that the Roman Catholic Church, as it rethinks various issues today, will begin to think more clearly and Biblically about this. They rightly seek to honor Mary, but they do so in a very sadly wrong way.

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The machine works mechanically and it is flawless.

  1. Slander/libel a group of Presbyterian ministers as “Romanist” because robes and James 2 are no worse than praying to Mary or relying on purgatory to pay for unconfessed sins.
  2. Drive off anyone who disagrees
  3. Of that number, there may be a tiny minority of lost souls who have actually begun praying to Mary or deciding that the Pope must be submitted to–souls whom you have, in fact, encouraged to believe they might as well do so if they are going to allow for robes in worship leadership or regard James 2 as inspired.
  4. Watch with self-gratification the ones you have driven off gravitate to the Presbyterian ministers you have slandered/libeled–including the ones that have indeed broken away from the true Protestant faith.
  5. Watch those who the slandered/libeled Presbyterians are unable to bring to repentance go on to Rome or Byzantium
  6. Boast at your further proof that the ministers are “leading to Rome.”  Trot out testimonies from some people who were headed to Rome long before they ever heard of the “Federal Vision” as if they are exemplars of it.

Of course, no one is actually leading anyone to Rome.  A few are being driven there.

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In a recent interview evangelical theologian Robert Saucy summarized his view of the primary theological differences between Catholics and Protestants in the following way:

Q. What are the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants? A. They’re the same as they were at the Reformation. There are three significant ones. First is the question of final authority. Protestants hold to sola scriptura [Scripture as their final authority]. For Catholics, the final authority is Scripture as interpreted by the church, that is, the magisterium (the pope and bishops). That’s where Catholicism gets its teachings that can’t be found in Scripture, like veneration of Mary, indulgences and purgatory. Second, Catholics view the church as an extension of Christ’s incarnation. For them, the church is divine as Christ was divine. One result of this is the Catholic proclamation: “Come to the church for salvation, for faith in the church and faith in Christ are one act of faith.” That leads to the third difference: salvation. The Catholic catechism makes it very clear that you are born again and justified through baptism. That means faith plus a certain rite – which is administered by the church – is necessary for salvation. So, the church essentially grants salvation. Although this salvation is “by faith,” additional grace enables us “to work” to attain eternal life. And that’s the problem with saying we speak the same gospel. One of them is clear: Christ did it; we can’t add anything to that. The other one is: Christ did it, but to actually avail yourself of what Christ did you have to do this and this.

Unfortunately, this quote is just one example of the kinds of inaccurate and misleading characterizations of both Catholic and Protestant doctrines that are all too common in evangelical treatments of Catholic beliefs. Sadly, there are important differences that continue to divide Catholics and evangelical Protestants, but Saucy’s quote fails to get to the heart of the matter and winds up distorting both Catholic and Reformation teachings.


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