Monday, June 29, 2009

Where in the Bible is the Assumption of Mary?

Catholics like me believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was assumed into heaven when she died. That means she was taken up into heaven not only in soul but also in body. The problem for most non-Catholics is that this is never taught in the Bible. The Bible never says she was assumed into heaven, so she obviously could not have been, right?

Why is that? The Bible never “says” God is three persons in one God; but we believe it anyway, don’t we? The Bible never “says” that we should meet on Sunday morning for worship, but we do anyway, don’t we? It’s easy to find traditions of all Christians, not just Catholics, that aren’t explicitly in the Bible.

Is being assumed impossible for the mother of God? After all, we see in Hebrews 11:5 that “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and "he was found no more because God had taken him." Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God”. This is a reference to Genesis 5 where Enoch is “assumed”.

In 2 Kings 2:11 the prophet Elijah was brought up to heaven in a chariot of fire. So now we have two people assumed into heaven.

Revelation 11:12 shows us the two witnesses after having been physically killed, brought to life and assumed into heaven.

The early Christians testified that she was assumed (we’ll discuss this in a future post) and bodily assumption is well documented in the Bible. Why is it impossible for Mary to have been assumed? Where does it say in the Bible that she wasn’t?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why do Catholics have so many rules?

Isn’t the Catholic Church full of rules? Do this… don’t do that… seems to be all we talk about. Some people assume that the Catholic Church has so many rules because the pope, or whomever, wants to control the masses by imposing his will on them. Or maybe the rules are there because we believe we can work our way to heaven?

I’m happy to say that none of the above is true. I can see how a person could misunderstand; so let’s talk about why we have these rules.

The core reason for the Church’s teachings that impact our daily lives, teachings against contraception come to mind along with many others, are not created to hold lay Catholics down, but to raise us up. Following the Church’s teachings will not earn us heaven, the Catholic Church never taught or teaches that, but they put us in a position to better accept Christ’s saving grace. Let’s use an analogy.

Swimming lessons in themselves do not save anyone’s life. At the time of the lessons, my life was not in danger. However, if I have a water-related accident what I learned from those lessons could very well save my life. The teachings of the Church act the same way. Attending Mass every Sunday will not earn me heaven (save my eternal life). However, if I pay attention, listen to the Bible readings, apply the sermon to my life, and am open to the graces of the Eucharist, I may well have my life saved because of the experiences of going to Mass.

Practicing NFP instead of artificial contraception won’t “earn” me heaven. However, by forcing myself to be open to God’s plan in the most intimate part of my life I am naturally more open to God’s plan in other parts of my life. By surrendering artificial control to God, I allow God to train me to surrender in other areas.

This logic can be applied to every Church teaching I can think of. The purpose of the teaching isn’t to “earn” heaven. The purpose is to become through discipline and practice the sort of person who chooses God over the world.

St. Paul says in 1 Cor 9:25-27 “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified”

St. Paul lived a life of discipline, which requires following rules. Why? Not because he has already earned haven, but because he wants to train his body and soul to become accustomed to the ways of God, not the world. Catholic “rules” are in place for the exact same reason.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Matthew 16:18 in light of the Greek Petra/Petros

We Catholics are so quick to point to Matthew 16:18 when we explain the papacy. This is the verse where Jesus says “you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church”. But hold on, have we Catholics considered the Greek words behind this exchange? Matthew was originally written in Greek; and Jesus says: “You are Petros and upon this Petra I will build my church”.

I’ve heard two interpretations of this. First, that Petros is a small pebble, a tiny rock. Petra is a large stone. The argument is that Jesus says “You are a tiny pebble but I will build the Church on the large stone (himself)”.

The second is that Greek has masculine and feminine words. Petros is masculine and Petra is feminine. In other words, the above exchange could be rendered “You are an actor and I will build my church upon this actress”. Since the gender of the words is different, Jesus didn’t mean Peter to be both of them.

All of the above definitions of Petra and Petros are correct, but their application is incorrect. In fact, the second argument is the answer to the first. Jesus didn’t speak Greek, he spoke Aramaic, which only has one word for “rock”. Jesus would have actually said “you are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my Church”. There’s no gender or big/small here.

When the Gospel was written in Greek it had to conform to Greek grammar. The first kepha was the proper name of a male (you are Kepha) so the masculine Petros had to be used, even though it meant small rock. Grammatically, the writer had no choice. The second kepha certainly refers to a foundation so the appropriate word would be Petra, a large rock.

This issue is merely a matter of Greek grammar. Besides, if Jesus meant he’d build the Church upon himself, which is the argument, then why would he refer to himself as feminine? Jesus was a man. The second argument makes no sense, and it actually answers the first.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why do Catholics have the crucifix?

We already discussed here that until the 1800s there was no distinction between a cross and a crucifix. Until that time, both meant the same thing; a reminder of the sacrifice made for us by Christ.

As explained in that post, we Catholics use the crucifix to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us, not because he is “still on the cross”. We do not “re-sacrifice” or “perpetually sacrifice” him as some claim. The reason for this post is to share two analogies that help show why we use the crucifix.

If you were to go to a cemetery today you would see a number of impressive and, well, expensive tombstones. Have you ever wondered why people spend so much money on these markers? Don’t they realize that their loved ones’ souls are no longer with their bodies? Of course we realize this, but the tombstone is a memorial of the life it marks. In the same way Jesus is risen, and the crucifix is a memorial of the life he lived and the death he died to save us all.

Why remember that he died? Isn’t the important thing that he rose again? Without the death, there would be no resurrection. Without sacrifice there is no forgiveness. Why do we have war monuments with the names of those killed in action? If Jesus’ death is irrelevant, why are the deaths of mere humans killed by each other worth remembering? The fact is, we create monuments to show our appreciation for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. Our soldiers die so we civilians can be free. Jesus dies so we can be saved. Isn’t that worth memorializing?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bible Myth #39: Catholics burned Bibles

Yes they did. Wouldn’t you?

Let’s pretend for a moment. Let’s say you have been given Truth, the very Word of God, and have been told to protect it, keep it safe, and share it with all people. You would take this seriously, wouldn’t you?

Now let’s say someone takes the Truth you’ve been told to guard and changes it; either accidentally or to suit their own ends. What would you do? Would you shrug your shoulders and look away or would you defend the Word of God?

Before the printing press was invented in the fifteenth century the Catholic Church individually verified the accuracy of each and ever Bible written since they were copied by hand. After the printing press the Church verified each version before authorizing printing. Those that failed the accuracy test were destroyed. Why? The Church was given the responsibility of defending the accuracy of the Word of God; and she takes it very seriously.

Is it really all that important for the Church to verify the accuracy of our Bibles? Let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t:

King James Version (KJV) of 1717: The chapter heading that should read “the parable of the vineyard” reads “the parable of the vinegar”.

KJV 1795: The word “not” was forgotten in Exodus 20:14 so it read “thou shall commit adultery”. Perhaps this is the version soap opera characters use? Well, I digress…

Another version changed Mark 7:27 from “let the children first be filled” to “let the children first be killed”.

Early Protestant translations (which no one reads anymore) were rife with intentional errors. Luther added the word “alone” to his German translation so it read we are saved by “faith alone”. He didn’t mis-translate; he did it to support his personal theology.

Tindale’s Bible had as many as thirty errors per page and according to St. Thomas Moore, a Catholic theologian in England “finding errors in Tindale’s Bible is like studying to find water in the sea”. Even King Henry the VIII (who later started the Anglican Church) outlawed the Tindale Bible because of its blatant corruptions.

Are these Bibles the Word of God? Can you trust these Bibles to contain all truth of salvation? No, these Bibles were the works of man and whether the errors were intentional or accidental doesn’t matter; the Catholic Church had a responsibility to destroy them.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Where is the word “Pope” in the Bible?

Well… it isn’t! The same is aid of purgatory and some other Catholic terms. Some non-Catholic Christians see the absence of these words as proof that they are unbiblical.

If we apply this logic to the rest of our Christian vocabulary, we’ll have to denounce the incarnation and the Trinity as unbiblical as well. If we throw out those two words... well…we no longer have Christianity, do we?

There is ample evidence for the papacy, purgatory, the incarnation, and the Trinity in the Bible, even if the words don’t appear there. The words have been picked after the writing of the Bible, but the truth those words reveal is still there. So don’t worry about whether or not a word exists in the Bible; look for the truth that word reveals.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Natural Proofs for God’s Existence: Design

Is God real or is he simply a made-up crutch for people who can’t deal with reality? I suggest that there is plenty of evidence from nature and science to show the existence of God. Let’s Start with St. Thomas Aquinas’ five Ways (or proofs) for the existence of God.

The fifth Way is that all beings seem to fulfill a purpose but have no knowledge of that purpose. Why does the earth sustain itself? Why do plants consume carbon dioxide and exhaust oxygen while creatures consume oxygen and exhaust carbon dioxide?

Some argue natural selection & evolution to explain this. Perhaps they’re right, but evolution is a proof of design; created things were designed to evolve. If creation wasn’t designed to evolve, it would never have evolved.

No, the designer, the one who put the plan in motion and designed creation to achieve that plan was God.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why do Catholics believe the Eucharist is Jesus’ actual body and blood? #3

Previously, we have looked at the facts that the Eucharist is a mystery. If a Christian can accept the Trinity and the Incarnation then the Eucharist should be acceptable as well. We also looked at the Gospel of John to see that Jesus was very explicit in his requirement that we literally eat his body and drink his blood. If you haven’t read the previous two posts, please do so here before reading this one.

Today we will talk about the Passover. The Passover was first celebrated by the Israelites as recorded in the book of Exodus and was the cause of their escape from slavery in Egypt. One requirement of the Passover was to eat an unblemished, male lamb. Christians of all denominations agree that Jesus Christ is the Passover lamb for all mankind. He fits both the requirements for the lamb, and for the priest offering the lamb, perfectly!

So how is this further proof of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

Most non-Catholic Christians believe that Jesus’ fulfillment of the Passover abolishes the Passover. They believe that participating in Jesus sacrifice requires only faith that Jesus is the son of God and that his sacrifice removes our sins. They believe faith is the requirement to participate in Jesus’ sacrifice; not action.

But Jesus said to his disciples that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17). He didn’t come to make the Passover part of history. He came to transform it into something all people can participate in. Let me explain.

The Passover signaled the creation of a new covenant with God and his people. This is when they became a “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.” The Israelites entered God’s family through the Passover. Jesus’ sacrifice created a new covenant with all people, not just the Jews. Jesus didn’t end the old Passover; he recreated it for the whole of humanity so we may all be in God’s family. He didn’t abolish; he fulfilled.

The old Passover didn’t require merely faith, it required action. A Jew had to participate in the Passover, with the climax of eating the unblemished lamb. They couldn’t eat the lamb metaphorically or symbolically. They had to eat the lamb. Jesus is the lamb in the new covenant. Like our Jewish ancestors we can’t simply have faith; we need to act. We need to eat the lamb.

We discussed John 6 previously where Jesus says in very literal terms we must eat his body five times! When did he say that? “The fest of the Passover was near” (Jn 6:4). I bet the disciples wondered how they would be able to eat Jesus body and drink his blood. I know I’d be curious!

Then in the upper room at the Passover two years later, we see Jesus saying the bread and wine are his body and blood. Can you imagine how relieved the disciples must have felt? Did the disciples think Jesus was speaking symbolically or figuratively? If they did, why did they forget to eat the lamb? The Gospels tell us they ate the bread and drank the wine, sang a hymn, and went out to the Mount of Olives. What Jew would forget to eat the lamb? The only reason they wouldn’t is that they believed they already had eaten it; in the bread and wine. Was it still bread and wine? No, it was the flesh and blood promised by Jesus in John 6.

The Passover lamb must be eaten. How is this possible if not for the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Natural Proof for God’s Existence: Gradation of Being

Is God real or is he simply a made-up crutch for people who can’t deal with reality? I suggest that there is plenty of evidence from nature and science to show the existence of God. Let’s Start with St. Thomas Aquinas’ five Ways (or proofs) for the existence of God.

The fourth Way is that all beings can be graded or judged as better or worse. Across civilizations, stealing has been considered “bad” while bravery is considered “good”. Anthropologists have not found a civilization that honored the most cowardly warriors. This isn’t merely a social convention; it spans the human experience.

The fact that some things can be judged means there is some perfect standard to judge against. If something is “bad” then it must be bad compared to something. The ultimate touchstone for this judgment is God.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kansas Abortionist George Tiller Shot and Killed

Dr. George Tiller was a late-term abortionist who received a lot of attention from pro-life groups. He had been tried for maintaining an illegally close financial relationship with the doctor who provided second opinions necessary for late term abortions and was about to be tried for routinely violating other Kansas laws while running his abortion business.

Earlier this week, while serving as an usher at his church, Tiller was shot and killed. A suspect, Scott Roeder, has been arrested.

This blog is unequivocally pro-life. While we focus on the lives of the unborn because they have no voice of their own, we are not anti-abortion, we are pro-life.

Pro-life means we support all life, even the lives of those we disagree with. We support, and would defend if given the opportunity, the lives of those who take the lives of others. The killing of Dr. Tiller was shameful and despicable.

Many people are now trying to blame Catholic bishops, Operation Rescue, and other individuals and groups who are pro-life for Tiller’s death. I suppose this is the natural political reaction; why not try to make some gain in the public eye since the opportunity has presented itself?

The charge is perfectly baseless, however, considering that the pro-life cause suffered greatly with Tiller’s death. Operation Rescue has been collecting evidence and documenting the activities of Tiller’s clinic for over ten years. A trial was pending. The hopes of throwing Tiller in jail for flaunting his state’s laws were high. All that is now gone.

To blame pro-lifeers would be like blaming every single anti-war protester if someone had tried to attack President Bush. I know many people who want the war in Iraq to end, but the killing of the president is no way to accomplish it. I know many people who want abortion to end, but the killing of an abortionist is no way to accomplish it. This was the sad act of one man who took the law into his own hands; and he is now subject to that law.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Where can I research Catholic "Tradition"?

We received a question a few days ago from a reader who wanted to compare what's written here, and at other blogs, with what the Catholic Church actually teaches. What a great idea! Anyone can write anything on the Internet and it's always wise to backup what you read with your own research.

We've also been asked where Catholic "oral" tradition is written down, if not in the Bible. Clearly we don't continue to pass it all down orally, so where can it be found?

To answer both of these questions, we suggest referring to the following sources. First, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is a great study of what Catholics believe. It has a very useful index to help a reader jump right into the topic of interest. You can pick one up from most bookstores. Many websites also allow you to search it online (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm for example).

The Vatican has many, many documents available to read as well. The English site is http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm and the international site is http://www.vatican.va/. Here you can find council documents and other writings that have defined our faith over the centuries.