The Eucharist

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This is one that even as a Baptist always gave me pause. I would say that the elements at Communion were symbols, because they are at least that. But does it go farther? I have to admit that I have always had trouble with John chapter 6 where Jesus says that he is the bread of life, and that in order to recieve eternal life you must eat his flesh, and drink his blood. The Jews then are puzzled by this saying and began to leave. Jesus then says it again, with emphasis, and even many who previously had believed, turned away. Jesus asked the Twelve if they were going to leave him too. Peter then says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

If Jesus had only meant that the bread and the wine at Communion were only symbols, then why didn’t he tell these people? I understand that he may not have told the Jews for the same reason that he didn’t explain most of his parables to them, “because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13). But why doesn’t he then explain it to his disciples who were turning away? After all only a couple of verses later in Matthew, He says that these are not hidden from his disciples–“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

The answer is that it is NOT hidden. It is exactly what it says it is. That the bread and the wine are actually the body and blood of the Lord is the only interpretation that makes sense given the reaction by the crowd, Jesus, and the Twelve.

The thing is, virtually NO ONE ever questioned the elements as being anything other than the actual body and blood of the Lord until the Reformation. All of the earliest Church Fathers, from the first century on up believed it was the body and blood of Jesus. Ignatius of Antioch, who had been a disciple of the apostle John and who wrote a letter to the Smyrnaeans about A.D. 110, said, “Judgement is prepared for” …(those who) “abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again” (6:2, 7:1).

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Peter and the Papacy

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Was Peter a Pope? If he was, and Popes are infallible then why did Paul “call him out on the carpet” for treating Gentiles differently when the Jews were present in Galatians 2? Why, when Peter is present, does James appear to lead the Church in Acts 15?

Let me just deal with these two first, and then I will deal with Peter’s authority.

The Church does not teach that a Pope is infallible in all things. I can say that Jupiter is the smallest planet and be wrong, and at the same time speak infallibly that 2+2=4. That does not make the equation untrue, and it does not speak about me being infallible at all. Likewise, the Pope can pronounce that the canon of the New Testament are the 27 books that we are all familiar with, but still err in other things in his life. Peter preached the infallible truth in Acts 15 that Gentile believers did not need to conform to Jewish ceremonial law, however he erred as a man in the way he treated the Gentiles as reported by Paul in Galatians.

In Acts, notice that James’ decision and instruction was derived soley by the statement of Peter. Peter was acting as the head of the Church, while James was directing his “bishopric” the Jerusalem council, under the authority of Peter.

Now as to Peter himself. The most important verses in the Bible on this are when Jesus asked Peter (then still named “Simon”), “Who do you say that I am?” and he answered back, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 6:16, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20). Jesus words back to him in Matt 6:18-19 is where the controversy comes in. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Plain reading in English appears to support the Catholic position. Protestents will remind us that the New Testament was written in Greek, not English. If you look at the Greek words for Peter and rock they appear as follows in order: πετρος (petros), and πετρα (petra). Petros is a small stone, and petra is a huge boulder. Petros is masculine, and petra is feminine. For these reasons, Protestants say that Jesus could not have meant that he was building the Church on Peter (the small stone), but on himself (the large boulder), the Rock of our Salvation.

However you have to remember that although the gospel was written in Greek, Jesus was speaking in Aramaic! Therefore the Greek text of Scripture is translated. Jesus own words are what we should look to. There is only one word that Jesus would have used when talking to Peter. That word is Kepha (large boulder), used elsewhere by St. Paul in the New Testament as Cephas. That is how we know that Jesus actually used this word, not Petros for Peter’s new name. So what Jesus actually said was, “You are Cephus, and on this Cephus I build my Church.” Or in English, “You are Boulder, and on this Boulder I build my Church.” Matthew uses the Greek words that he does, because he needed to the word petra to convey the size of the rock. He used petros for Peter’s name because petra is feminine, and is inappropriate as a man’s name. He would have regarded this as adequate as the early Church fully understood that Peter, Cephas, was the Rock on which the Church is built.

Mary, the Mother of God

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Mary.

This was a hard subject for me. Although it was hard for me to accept all that the Catholic Church says about her, in the back of my mind, I was kind of hoping that it was all true. Even from a Protestant perpective, Mary was a holy woman, deserving of the same repect that we would give Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, St. Paul, and so many others. I had always held the opinion that Catholics worship her, using “veneration” as a euphemism for “worship,” while Protestants do not hold her in high enough regard.

However, at least in my Protestant experience, Mary has been pretty much relegated to women’s Bible studies. She was a good woman, but God could have chosen anyone with the right bloodline. In essence, she was just a womb to use.

I am convinced that the main reason for the Protestant position concerning Mary is to just go as far from the Catholic position as you can without demonizing her.

Protestants tend to do that. Catholics pray with their hands together with their fingers pointing to Heaven. Protestants pray with their hands folded or in their lap. Catholics kneel, Protestants sit. Catholics perform the Sign of the Cross when they pray, Protestants say “in Jesus’ Name.” Catholics use a crucifix, Protestants use an empty cross. Cathlolics honor and venerate Mary, Protestants show her little regard, and then claim that Catholics worship her. Sometimes it just seems like a game.

Protestants often are puzzled at how Catholics can come up with so much concerning Mary, when there is not much is said about her in the Bible. It’s true. Not much is said about her in the Bible, but there is more than most Protestants think, and what is said about her is paramount. The Revelation of Jesus to St. John is essential to understand Mary’s role. Read Revelation 11:19-12:6. Try to read it ignoring the chapter break. The break should be before verse 19, not after.

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.”

It speaks of the Ark of the Covenant in Heaven. It then goes on to descibe the Ark as a woman clothed with the sun, who gives birth to a son, Jesus. The woman in this passage is several things, she is the Ark of the (New) Covenant, she is Mary, she is the Church, she is Israel who gave birth to the Messiah, and she is physically located in Heaven.

This demands us to compare Mary with the Old Testement Ark of the Covenant. By themselves, some of the points in this chart would not mean a lot, but when taken as a whole, it speaks volumes. I found this basic chart on the internet, but I lost the source. I have added a couple and deleted a couple. If anyone knows the sources, let me know so that I can cite it: (I finally found it again. Not on the web, but in a book that the other author probably got it from and didn’t cite it himself. It’s from Catholic for a Reason edited by Scott Haan):

Ark of the Old Covenant

Ark of the New Covenant

The Ark and the Holy Place had to be completely cleansed and consecrated to the Lord before His Shekinah glory could enter into it. It then became the dwelling place of God. Ex. 40:16-38 Mary was immaculately conceived through the power of God so that the vessel that contained the presence of God was pure. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, and her womb became the dwelling place of God. Luke 1:35
When the sin of Israel became too great, God’s glory left the tabernacle 2 Sam 4:21
When Israel repented of her sin, and cleansed the temple, the Glory of God returned. 2 Chronicles 5
The Ark contained the tablets of the Law, a portion of manna, and Aaron’s staff which budded. Hebrews 9:4 Mary contained Jesus, the Word of God, the Bread of Life, the Branch who would one day after death, be raised to life
The Ark traveled to the hill country of Judah to dwell in the house of Obed-edom.2 Sam. 6:10 Mary traveled to the hill country of Judah to the home of Elizabeth. Luke 1:39
King David danced and leapt for joy in the presence of the Ark. 2 Sam. 6:14 John the Baptist, in Elizabeth’s womb, leaps for joy at the presence of the Lord inside Mary’s womb. Luke 1:43
David shouted for joy in the presence of the Ark. 2 Sam. 6:15 Elizabeth cried with a loud cry of joy at the presence of the Lord inside Mary’s womb. Luke 1:43
David asked, How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” 2 Sam. 6:9 Elizabeth asks, “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Luke 1:43
The Ark remained in the home of Obed-edom for three months. 2 Sam 6:11 Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months. Luke 1:56
The house of Obed-edom was “blessed by the presence of the Ark. 2 Sam. 6:11 The word “blessed” is used three times concerning Mary at Elizabeth’s house. Luke 1: 39-45
The Ark returned to Jerusalem, in the new Temple where the presence and glory of God is revealed. 2 Sam. 6:12, 1 Kings 8:9-11 Mary returns home and eventually comes to Jerusalem where she presents God the Son in the Temple. Luke 1:56, 2:21-22
God made Aaron’s rod (which was kept in the Ark) return to life and budded to prove that he was the legitimate High Priest. Numbers 17:8 God resurrected his Son, who had become man in Mary’s womb, to prove that He is the eternal High Priest. Hebrews 4:14

There is so much more that I could say on this subject, but it is better covered by this article. In fact check out the whole site. It is one of the best sources anywhere that I have found.

sola fide

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Another doctrine of importance to Protestants is sola fide, or justification by faith alone. This doctrine is so important to Protestantism that Martin Luther once said that without it Protestantism didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Well, it doesn’t. No where in the Bible is this taught. In fact the only place in the entire Bible where the words “faith alone” appear together are in James 2:24-“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

At first glance, the book of Romans chapters 2-4 and parts of 4,-6 and 13 all seem to teach faith alone. However, it is manifestly clear that the works of justification Paul is speaking of in Romans of are the works required by the Mosaic Law and whether or not the Gentiles had to perform them in order to be saved. The question asked in verse 29 confirms this interpretation. The Apostle Paul after stating “we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the Law” immediately follows this statement up with the questions “is he the God of the Jews only?”  and “is he not also of the Gentiles?” This demonstrates that the distinction being made here is between Jews and Gentiles.

A very good article on this subject can be found here.

sola scriptura, the canon of Scripture, and Sacred Tradition

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Sola scriptura is one of the most important doctrines taught by virtually all Protestant denominations. It states that the Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can override the Bible. Even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry Scripture’s inherent authority.

The main problem with this belief is that it is NEVER taught in the Bible itself. These verses are the main ones that Baptists use as “proof” of Biblical authority:

Matt: 5:18 “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Matt 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

John 16:12-13 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13 “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

2 Timothy 3:15-17 “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

2 Peter 1:20, 21 “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is of someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Each of the above verses are 100% true and inspired by God. However, not one single one of them indicates, let alone claims that the Scripture is the one and only authority. In fact, no book in the entire Bible, with the exception of Revelation, even claims to be inspired.

I have come to the realization that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to truly believe in sola scriptura. Belief in it is a Catch-22. If the Bible does not claim sole authority for itself, there is only one place that it can come from–Tradition. It is Tradition handed down from the Reformation that Protestants cling to in claiming sola scriptura.

Even if the Bible did claim sole authority someplace, it would still be Tradition that determines whether or not that passage or that book is inspired. Therefore Sacred Tradition and Scripture are at least equal. For this to be true there must be an earthly authority that dispenses Tradition and Scriptural interpretation to the Church. Otherwise, you end up with individuals claiming that they can interpret freely independent of others.

And this is what we have. Instead of “one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5), we have over 33,000 Protestant denominations, all claiming to have the absolute truth as regards interpretation. With 180,552 words in the New Testament, that is one denomination for every 5.47 words!

This also goes for the canon of Scripture. No book of the Bible tells us which books should be included. It is Tradition that tells us which books to include. Again even if the books of the canon were stated within the text of accepted Scripture, it would still be Tradition that would decide whether or not that book itself was inspired.

In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books as what would become the New Testament canon. This means that until at least this date, Christians had to rely on tradition, because they didn’t know which books constituted Scripture. From the time of the close of the Old Testament until the writing of the first book of the New Testament (probably the Gospel according to St. Mark), there were no New Testament Scriptures at all, and Tradition is all the Church had. And to top it all off, the canon of the New Testament, which ALL Protestants accept as Scripture, not only comes from Tradition, but from CATHOLIC Tradition.

Protestants often use Mark 7:5-9 as “proof” that Jesus himself was against Tradition. However, this passage does not say that Tradition is wrong, just traditions that contradict revealed truth in the Holy Scripture. In fact, the Bible actually equates Sacred Tradition and Scripture in 2 Thess. 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”

Catholics do not believe in sola scriptura, but in solo verbo Dei, the Word of God alone. The Word of God is broader than the Bible. It includes Sacred Tradition, and certain pronouncements from the Pope, as the source for all is God Himself.

Rome Sweet Home: Aug 15, 2007 – Forever

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To make a long story a little longer, I have finally decided that I am going back to the Catholic Church. After much study I cannot believe that I thought that it was a pagan church. So much of it is biblical and so logical, that it really is the only denomination that makes sense. I will try to explain why although I can’t go into a huge amount of detail on this. There are a lot of good Catholic websites and books out there that can better explain my position. I chose the above title as this is also the title of an excellent book by Scott Hahn. It is written in a very logical and easy-to-read and understand style. If you live in the Grand Rapids, MI area, you can get the book from the Kent County Library. Or you may purchase it from Dr. Hahn’s website.

There were a lot of things that I had objections to at the beginning. Some were minor issues in my mind like Purgatory and Confession. Baptists rail against both, but they actually do believe them to a certain degree. The Bema Seat, or the Judgement seat of Chirst, is just a Baptist euphemism for Purgatory, and Confession is what many Evangelical churches now call Accountability sessions.

However there were five main issues that have always caused me problems: sola scriptura (the “B” in the Baptists acrostic), sola fide, the Catholic position on Mary, the Pope, and the Catholic position on the Eucharist. I will deal with each of these in the next five chapters.