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A Summary of Catholic Apologetics

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(Last Updated:  18 Mar 2009 )

Introduction

I recently gave a presentation at Hearts Aflame, a Catholic summer school for young adults.  The subject was "Catholic Apologetics", and in preparation I put together the following notes that I felt summarised key arguments about a number of disputed issues.  This is obviously only a very brief treatment of each issue;  I plan to put links to articles on- and off-site that deal with each topic in more depth.

Contents

The Authority of the Church
Eucharist
Eucharist - Re-crucifying Christ?
Scripture Canon / Deuterocanonicals
Purgatory
Mary:
    - Perpetual Virginity
    - Immaculate Conception
    - Assumption
    - Mother of God
Infant Baptism
Baptism - Full Immersion Only?
The Papacy
Papal Infallibility
Vicar of Christ, "Holy Father"
Was Peter in Rome?
Indulgences
Praying to Saints
Church Leadership - Bishops, Priests and Deacons
Apostolic Succession
The Seven Sacraments
Sacramentalism - Grace and Matter
Sola Scriptura
Once Saved, Always Saved?
Justification
Faith Alone
Development of Doctrine
Call No Man Father
Crucifix
Priestly Celibacy
Galileo
Inquisition
The Eastern Schism
The Numbering of the Ten Commandments
Statues and Icons
Mortal and Venial Sin
The Filioque
Birth Control
Mormons
Jehovah’s Witnesses

 

The Authority of the Church

  1. 1 Tim 3:15 - the Church is the "pillar and foundation of the truth".  Out of more than 20,000 contradicting Christian denominations saying they have the full truth, only one church can realistically claim this.
  2. John 16:13 - Christ promised the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all truth.
  3. Matt 16:18 -  "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
  4. Matt 5:14 - The Church is supposed to be "the light of the world".  Jesus said "a city set on a hill cannot be hid".  The Church must be clearly identifiable.

Eucharist

  1. The Last Supper Accounts (Luke 22:19; Matt 26:26-28;  Mark 14:22, 24; 1 Cor 11:23-25 and Lk 22:19-20):  — Jesus says "is", not "represents".
  2. The 'Bread of Life' Passage (John 6:47-66):  — "My flesh is real food";  — switches from phago to trogo (eat to gnaw);   — the only place where Jesus’ followers leave him for theological reasons, without Jesus clarifying things for them;  — other places where Jesus repeats true but unpopular teachings are Matt 9:2-7 (his power to forgive sins) and John 8:56-58 (his eternal existence).
  3. The Corinthian Passages (1 Cor 10:16 and 1 Cor 11:27-29).
  4. Old Testament Evidences:  — Gen 14:18 and Psa 110:4 - Melchizedech;  — Mal 1:11 - "In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name";  — Num 10:10 - The remembrance is in a sacrificial context (anamnesis).
  5. Christian Tradition:
    • e.g. Ignatius of Antioch (died AD110) - "They even abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Savior Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our sins and which the Father in His goodness raised up again" (Epistle to the Smyrneans, 7, 8);
    • Justin Martyr (AD155) - "And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but he who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed in the bath for the forgiveness of sins and to regeneration, and who so lives as Christ has directed. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior,  having been made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of his word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh" (First Apology, 1:62);
    • Martin Luther:  Zwingli was "damned and out of the Church" for teaching that the Eucharist was only symbolic.

Eucharist - Re-crucifying Christ?

  1. The Eucharist is a re-presentation of the one sacrifice at Calvary and transcends time.  Christ is not re-crucified in the Mass.
  2. Heb 9:22 says that shedding of blood is required for forgiveness of sins, but Jesus says the cup of his blood is poured out for forgiveness of sins, so Jesus personally united the unbloody last supper with his sacrifice on the cross.
  3. Heb 9:25-26 talks about bloody "Jewish" sacrifices;  the Eucharist is unbloody.  See Heb 9:23 - "Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these" (note the plural).

Scripture Canon / Deuterocanonicals

  1. Councils:  — How do we know which books should be in the Bible?  There’s no divine Table of Contents.  The Canon of Scripture was settled by the Catholic Church, via the Council of Rome (382); Council of Hippo (393);  Council of Carthage (397).  All affirmed the 7 deuteros.  These are the councils Protestants normally cite as settling the NT canon.
  2. Septuagint:  — The set of scriptures used by Jesus and the Apostles was the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, which included the deuteros.  About two thirds of the OT quotes in the NT are from the Septuagint, and sometimes differ from the Hebrew version (eg Is 7:14;  Mt 1:23).
  3. Hebrew Hall of Heroes:  — Heb 11:35 - first part refers to 1 King 17 and 2 King 4, but the second part is not in the Protestant Bible;  it’s in 2 Macc 7.
  4. Wisdom Prophecy:  — Wis 2:12-20, a clear messianic prophecy.
  5. Luther discarded the deuteros because they taught Catholic doctrine that he didn’t agree with.  He also considered the NT books of Heb, James, Jude and Rev as apocrypha.

Purgatory

  1. We know that we are sinners (Rom 3:23, 1 John 1:8) that God saves;  and we know that nothing impure can enter heaven (Rev 21:27).  We are told that without holiness no-one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).  So between death and heaven there must be some sort of purification.  Catholics call that purgatory.
  2. The Church doesn’t teach that the purification takes time or occurs in a place.
  3. Best Biblical evidence is 2 Macc 12:42-25, where we are told it is a holy and pious thought to pray for the dead.
  4. Jews still pray for the dead, via the mourner’s Qaddish, prayed for 11 months after a loved one’s death.
  5. Onesiphorus  — In 2 Tim. 1:16-17, Paul says, "May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me."  It's interesting that Paul asked for mercy for Onesiphorus's household, but not for Onesiphorus himself. Then Paul proceeded to eulogize Onesiphorus. It seems rather clear that Onesiphorus was dead, and that Paul was recalling his faithful service. Then Paul says, "May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day!" (2 Tim. 1:18).  This could well be a prayer for the dead.
  6. Matt 12:32 implies that sins can be forgiven in the age to come.  See also 1 Cor 3:15.
  7. The church only teaches three things about Purgatory:  If we are not fully purified in this life, we will be after death;  this final purification involves some sort of discomfort;  the prayers of the faithful on earth can help those undergoing their final purification.

Mary

Perpetual Virginity of Mary

  1. "Adelphos" not necessarily "brother";  no Hebrew word for cousin;  see Gen 14:14 and Gen 29:15.
  2. Luke 1:34  — funny that Mary says "How?" and not "When?".  Mary asks how she could have a child (she may have taken vow of life-long virginity);  Joseph was probably an old man.
  3. No sign of brothers or sisters when Jesus was 12.
  4. In Nazareth Jesus referred to as "the son of Mary" (Mark 6:3), not "a son".
  5. John 7:3-4:  — "Brothers" may have been Joseph’s children from previous marriage.  Advice was rmally given only by elders (see Luk 22:26, where Jesus equates humility with being young), yet Jesus was first-born.
  6. Jesus on the cross entrusts Mary to John and not his "brothers" (Jn 19:26-27).
  7. The "until" (in Matt 1:24) does not necessarily mean a reversal of the situation afterwards.  It could equally be interpreted as "before".  See Acts 25:21, 2 Pet 1:19, 2 Sam 6:23, Gen 8:5, Psa 72:7.

Immaculate Conception of Mary

  1. Mary was saved (Luk 1:47), but in a special way, preventing her from sinning, because of her extraordinary role and proximity to God the Son and Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35).
  2. An angel called Mary highly favoured or full of grace in Lk 1:28. The Greek word, kecharitomene, means "completely, perfectly,  enduringly endowed with grace."
  3. Mary’s sin offering (Luk 2:22), is like Jesus being circumcised, baptised and celebrating Passover:  submitting to the law because it is the fitting thing to do.
  4. "All have sinned" (Rom 3:23)?  — what about Jesus?  - babies (eg Rom 9:11);  - and possibly Rom 5:14, where some did not sin by breaking a law.
  5. God overshadowed Mary (Luk 1:35), and Psalm 15 describes those who shall abide with God:  "those who walk blamelessly".

Assumption of Mary

  1. Scripture speaks of occurrences similar to the Assumption: Enoch (Gen 5:24; cf. Heb 11:5),  Elijah (2 Ki 2:11), St. Paul (2 Cor 12:2,4), the "Rapture" (1 Thess 4:15-17), risen saints after Jesus' Crucifixion (Mt 27:52-3), so the idea is at least possible..
  2. No remains - relics of saints were highly prized, yet no-one claimed to have Mary’s bones.
  3. Follows from Mary's sinlessness.  Bodily decay results from sin (Ps 16:10, Gen 3:19) and the wages of sin is death.  Mary didn't sin, so she didn’t die in the way we do.  Note that the Church doesn't specify whether she actually died or not (although the consensus is that she probably did), just that she was assumed into heaven when the course of her earthly life was completed..
  4. There was no outcry in the early Church as the dogma developed;  it was considered a fitting thing to happen, given her role as mother of our Lord.
  5. If the Church really is the pillar and foundation of the truth, with the Holy Spirit promised to lead it into all truth, then the doctrine must be true [:-)].

Mary, Mother of God

  1. Jesus is God.  Mary was the mother of Jesus.  Therefore, Mary is the mother of God (Theotokos).
  2. Term was affirmed at Council of Ephesus to counter the Nestoran heresy that Jesus’ divine nature was separate from his human one, and that Mary only bore the human part of Jesus.  Title of Theotokos was not given to honour Mary, but to protect the doctrine of the Incarnation.
  3. Luk 1:43  — Mary called by Elizabeth "Mother of my Lord".  "Lord", applied to Jesus, means "God".

Infant Baptism

  1. There's nowhere in the Bible that infant baptism is explicitly prohibited.
  2. We know of at least four complete households that were baptised when the leaders of the household were converted:  Lydia (Acts 16:15); Crispus (Acts 18:8); the Phillipian jailer (Acts 16.33); Cornelius (Acts 10:47) and Stephanus (1 Cor. 1:16).  Given that entire households were baptised, it is likely that if there were any exceptions (like for infants) then that would have been made quite clear.
  3. In Acts 2:38, Peter says the promise of baptism "is for you and your children".
  4. Luke 18:15 "People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called the children to him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'"  These babies couldn't repent, yet the kingdom of God belongs to such as them.  If baptism is connected to salvation (which it is, eg 1 Pet 3:21), then the Church is correct to not hinder infants from being brought forward for baptism.
  5. Col 2:11-13  — Paul makes a connection between baptism and circumcision (which was applied to 8-day-old babies).
  6. No children in NT make decisions for Christ upon reaching the age of reason.
  7. The practice of the early Church:
    • "He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . .  [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:22:4 [AD 189]).
    • "Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether on a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptise first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them" (Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 21:16  [AD 215]).
    • "The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine sacraments, knew there is in everyone innate strains of [original] sin,  which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Origen, Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [AD 248]).
    • "What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond" (Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [AD  400]).
  8. No outcry at the "new invention" of infant baptism, unlike for real heresies in the early Church (e.g. regarding the nature of Christ, the Trinity, the Canon of Scripture, the role of works in salvation, the gnostic heresies, etc) all of which we have lots of writings about.
  9. Even the early reformers (like Luther and Calvin) were in favour of infant baptism.  The issue did not become controversial until quite late in the history of Christianity.

Baptism - Full Immersion Only?

  1. Baptism  by immersion is fine, but just not the only way of doing it.  The usual sense of baptizo is dip or submerge, but it can also mean in another context, washing up (as in Luke 11:38) or ritual sprinkling as it may be used in Mark 7:4.
  2. When Peter gave his first sermon, three thousand people were baptised in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41), but archaeologists have demonstrated that there was not a sufficient supply of water for these baptisms to have been by immersion.  "Jerusalem...differed from the other large cities of that province [Syria] in one important respect, that it lay in a part of the country quite extraordinarily unfavourable for trade...Most serious of all, water was lacking.  Jerusalem possesses only one spring of any importance, that of Siloah in the south.  Water had to be bought by the measure in times of drought, and even in normal times it had to be used carefully from the cisterns or had to be brought from a distance by means of aqueducts" (Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus).  Even if there had been enough water to immerse three thousand people, it is unlikely that the residents of Jerusalem would have let their city's only water supply be polluted by having three thousand sweaty bodies plunged into it.  So these people were probably also baptised by pouring or sprinkling.
  3. Paul may have been baptised in a house (Acts 9:17-18) and standing up when it happened ("He got up and was baptised", vs.18).  Some of the other household baptisms mentioned in the NT might have been inside as well, yet bathtubs and swimming pools weren't fixtures of ancient homes.
  4. What about the bedridden and dying? They can't be immersed in water, so is baptism to be denied them? What about desert nomads and the Eskimos? Are they to be denied the sacrament because baptism by immersion is nearly impossible for them?
  5. The practice of pouring or sprinkling was used in the very early church.  The Didache (AD 70) says: "Concerning baptism, baptize in this manner: Having said all these things beforehand,  baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living water [that is, in running water, as in a river]. If there is no living water, baptize in other water; and, if you are not able to use cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water three times upon the head in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
  6. Early Christian artworks (mosaics, paintings in the catacombs, engravings etc.) from the first two hundred years of Christianity usually show baptism to be by pouring.

The Papacy

  1. Mat 16:18-19  — Peter called "Rock", foundation of the Church, given keys of the kingdom and power to bind and loose.  See Is 22:22; Rev 1:18 for  keys as symbols of authority.
  2. John 21:15-17  — Peter told to "feed my sheep".
  3. Luk 22:32  — Peter told to strengthen the other disciples.
  4. Peter always mentioned first, and speaks for the apostles, worked first healing (Acts 3:6-7);  it was revealed to him that Gentiles could be part of the Church (Acts 10:46-48).
  5. At the first ecumenical council (Acts 15) Peter claimed authority (Acts 15:7), made the decision, and those who spoke afterwards simply confirmed it.
  6. The primacy of the Roman bishop was passed on through apostolic succession, just like the other offices of the Church. For why would God foreordain such a leadership function, only to cease after Peter's death?  All the authority of a pope was needed even more after Peter’s death.
  7. The Bishop of Rome has always been foremost in authority in the Church, from the earliest days:
  8. "[We point]  to the apostolic tradition and the faith that is preached to men, which has come down to us through the successions of bishops;  the tradition and creed of the greatest, the most ancient church, the church known to all men, which was founded and set up at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.  For with this church, because of its position of leadership and authority, must needs agree every church…for in her the apostolic tradition has always been preserved by the faithful from all parts.
    "The blessed Apostles, after founding and building up the church, handed over to Linus the office of bishop… He was succeeded by Anacletus, after whom, in the third place after the Apostles, Clement was apointed to the bishopric.  He not only saw the blessed apostles but also conferred with them, and had their preaching ringing in his ears and their tradition before his eyes…
    "Euarestus succeeded this Clement, Alexander followed Euarestus;  then Sixtus was appointed, the sicth after the Apostles.  After him came Telesphorus, who had a glorious martyrdom.  Then Hyginus, Pius, Anicetus and Soter;  and now, in the twelfth place from the Apostles, Eleutherus occupies the see.  In the same order and succession the apostolic tradition in the Church and the preaching of the truth has come down to our time."  (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, c 185AD).

Papal Infallibility

  1. "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.... The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself. (CCC, # 891)
  2. The doctrine is simply that the Holy Spirit will protect the Pope from teaching error.  Remember that both David and Peter made some serious mistakes in judgment, and both were guilty of terrible sins at one time or another, yet God rendered them infallible when they were writing Scripture. Could He not do the same for a fallible human pope?  Note that it doesn’t mean the Pope is perfect, just infallible when teaching ex cathedra.
  3. Protestants must claim that every individual, led by the Holy Spirit, is infallible in interpreting the Bible.  Catholics take the much more conservative position of only claiming this for one person, the Pope.  We need the safeguard of a divinely-protected authority.  Otherwise, who’s to authoritatively decide on any contested point?  The only alternative is thousands of denominations, each proclaiming to teach the truth.

Vicar of Christ, "Holy Father"

  1. Luke 10:16  — "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me".
  2. Col 1:22  — Humans can be holy.

Was Peter in Rome?

  1. Babylon was a codeword for Rome (as is used in Rev and some extra-Biblical books like 2 Esdras 3:1), and that’s where Peter was killed.
  2. The early Church thought he was.  See quote above from Irenaeus about apostolic succession.

Indulgences

  1. "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."  (CCC, # 1471)
  2. The Church is bound together in one body (eg Eph 1:23).  Just like one man's sin (Adam's) infected everyone (Rom 5:19), in the same way the prayers and good works of one person can help another (this is the principle behind the Atonement, after all), and the prayers of a righteous person are especially effective (Jam 5:16).
  3. Because the Church has the power to bind and loose (Mat 16:19) it has the authority to apply these merits to a repentant person.
  4. Sin can have consequences, even after the sin is forgiven (2 Samuel 12:13-14). Sometimes this consequence is penance given by the Church (eg 1 Cor 5:3-5, where Paul pronounces judgement on a man), and the Church can then grant indulgences reducing this penance (eg 2 Cor 2:6-11, where Paul says to forgive and comfort the man).
  5. As members of the body of Christ, we can help each other, as Paul says "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." (Col 1:24).
  6. The idea of a "treasury" in heaven is supported by verses such as Mat 6:19-21.

Praying to Saints

  1. "Pray", in the sense that we use it here, does not mean "worship", it means "ask" (eg Acts 8:34, KJV).  So we are not worshipping the saints.
  2. Dead Christians in heaven (the saints) are holy (Rev 21:27, "Nothing impure will ever enter it [heaven]").
  3. They are aware of what goes on back on earth (Heb 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses"; Luk 15:10, "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents").
  4. If saints are holy and aware of what's going on, we should ask them to pray for us just like we ask our friends to pray for us (eg Rom 15:30; Eph 6:18; Col 4:3; 1 Thess 1:11), especially since "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (Jam 5:16).
  5. Remember that the saints are alive, even more so than us (Matt 22:32, "‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.")
  6. Some have even come back to earth, eg Samuel (1 Sam 28:12-15), Moses and Elijah (Mt 17:1-3), and "many saints" (Mt 27:52-3).
  7. Saints (and Angels) in heaven present our prayers to God (Rev 5:8, "...the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.";  Tobit 12:12;  2 Mac 15:13-14;  see also Rev 8:3).
  8. Patron saints, or devotion to saints:  — we are told to "imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Heb 6:12).  That inheritance is heaven, so we should imitate the saints.

Church Leadership - Bishops, Priests and Deacons

  1. Bishops (episcopoi) are those who have care of multiple congregations and have the task of appointing, ordaining, and disciplining priests and deacons. They are often called 'evangelists' in the New Testament. Examples of first century bishops include Timothy and Titus (eg 1 Tim 3:1-2, Tit 1:7).  See also Phil 1:1, Act 20:28, 1 Tim 5:19-22, 2 Tim 4:5, Titus 1:5.
  2. Priests (presbuteroi) are also known as "presbyters" or "elders."  In fact, the English term "priest" is simply a contraction of the Greek word "presbuteros." They have the responsibility of teaching, governing, and performing the sacraments in a given congregation (eg 1 Tim. 5:17, Jas. 5:14-15).
  3. Deacons (diakonoi) are the assistants of the bishops and have the task of teaching and administering certain church functions (eg Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3:8;  see also Acts 6:1-6).

Apostolic Succession

  1. The authority of the apostles was needed after their death just as much as it was in the apostolic age, so they appointed successors to carry on the apostolic traditions (eg Acts 1:21-26; 2 Tim 2:2).
  2. Apostolic Tradition:  1 Cor 11:2;  2 Thess 2:15;  2 Thess 3:6.

The Seven Sacraments

  1. Baptism, linked to salvation (Acts 2:38, 1 Pet 3:21, Mar 16:16, John 3:5, 1 Cor 6:10)
  2. Reconciliation, for forgiveness:
    • The Catholic Catechism (#1441) says "Only God can forgive sins" and cites Mark 2:7.  (This also follows from Psalm 51:4, where David confesses to God "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight").  Of course, Jesus can forgive sins too, being the Son of God and a member of the Trinity (Mark 2:5, 10;  Luke 7:48).  The Catechism goes on to say:  "Further, by virtue of his divine authority, he [Jesus] gives this power to men to exercise in his name".  And this is quite Biblical: After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them "'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven'" (John 20:21-23).  Because it's done in the name of Jesus, it's God who does the forgiving.
    • The priests alone (not every Christian) have this ministry because Jesus gave it only to the apostles (John 20:19-23), who then have passed it on through apostolic succession.  Similarly, see James 5:14-15, where it is the elders (priests) that are called for and that provide for the forgiveness of sins.
    • Other scriptures about confession include 2 Cor 5:18 - "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" and James 5:14-16 - "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed".
  3. Eucharist:  —Last Supper accounts, John 6:47-66; 1 Cor 10:16; 1 Cor 11:27-29.  See article above.
  4. Confirmation:  — Acts 8:17;  Heb 6:2.
  5. Marriage:  — Luke 16:18;  Mark 10:2-12;  1 Cor 7
  6. Holy Orders:  — The laying on of hands (1 Tim 4:14, 5:22);  preaching and teaching the flock (1 Tim 5:17), administering the sacraments (Jas 5:13-15).  See also Jer 33:17, which prophesies that there will always be priests to present offerings.
  7. Anointing of the sick:  — James 5:14-16;  Mark 6:13.

Sacramentalism - Grace and Matter

Sola Scriptura

  1. SS doesn’t work, as there are more than 20,000 Protestant denominations all of whom claim the truth and believe in SS.  This is a huge argument against the clearness of Scripture, and the ability of the individual Spirit-led believer to interpret it.
  2. SS is unbiblical.  The Bible doesn’t teach it anywhere.
  3. We are told that not everything Jesus did is in the Bible (Jn 21:25).  There are also numerous appeals to oral tradition (eg 2 Thes 2:15, 2 Tim 2:2, 1 Cor 11:1).
  4. The word of God is not limited to writing (1 Thes 2:13).
  5. 2 Tim 2:2 clearly illustrates 4 generations of apostolic succession and teaching , without mentioning Scripture.
  6. Jesus told his disciples to teach, not write a book (Matt 28:20).
  7. The Bible is a book of the Church;  there was a Church before there was a Bible.
  8. The canon of Scripture did not come from the Bible.  The Church was required to authoritatively and infallibly decide which books were Scripture.  There is no divine table of contents.  This authority is extra-biblical, and therefore (according to SS) not necessary or binding.  If the canon is not infallible, then you cannot tell which books are really Scripture and therefore infallible themselves.
  9. SS was not thought of until the Reformation.  Would Christ promise to protect his Church and then let it go through 1500 years of error?
  10. Luther had to invent SS (as well as dispute the canon of Scripture) or else he would have no basis for his new doctrines.  Yet if any other reformer’s opinion differed with his, then they had to be wrong.  He sometimes appealed to Church Tradition or ecumenical councils when they supported his views.
  11. If Scripture is clear and self-authenticating, and individual believers, presumably led by the Spirit (eg Luther, Calvin and Zwingli), come to completely different understandings of doctrines, how do you decide who is correct?
  12. A Catholic can believe in the material sufficiency of Scripture, which means that it contains all the material of divine revelation, either explicitly or implicitly.  But the Church does not believe in the formal sufficiency of Scripture, or in other words, the Church teaches that for Scripture to be properly understood there is a need for a living tradition and an infallible interpretation.

Once Saved, Always Saved?

  1. 1 Cor 9:27; 1 Cor 10:12; Heb 4:1; 1 Jn 5:16;  Rom 11:20-22.
  2. "Work out your salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).

Justification

  1. The Church teaches salvation by grace alone:  — "CANON I. - If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema" (Council of Trent);  — "Our justification [i.e. salvation] comes from the grace of God.  Grace is 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" (CCC, #1996).
  2. The Protestant view of justification is that it is a legal or forensic term used in Scripture to denote the acceptance of anyone as righteous in the sight of God.  In other words, justification is altogether a legal, declarative act on God's part as the supreme Judge.  In  justification God legally declares the sinner who in himself is still guilty and polluted to be righteous in Christ.  Our sin remains but is "covered over" by Christ’s righteousness.
  3. Catholic teaching is that when God says we are clean, we really are clean (see Is 55:11).  The Bible is clear that we really are purified from sin. (1 Jn 1:7;  1 Cor 6:11;  2 Pet 1:9;  2 Pet 1:4).
  4. When we are justified, we are made God’s children, and not just called that , but really are (1 John 3:1 -  "See what love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God, and so we are").  See also Gal 3:26 and Rom 8:12-17.

Faith Alone

  1. The Catholic sense of justification is that we are saved by Christ through grace alone, by a living faith working in love.
  2. The good works that we do are themselves a product of God’s grace (Eph 2:10).
  3. In talking about justification by faith, Luther added the word "alone" to his German translation of Romans 3 because he thought that was the sense of the Scripture.  But the only place in Scripture where "faith alone" appears is in James 2: 24 "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
  4. I think the Protestant and Catholic understandings are actually pretty much identical, but the terminology has led to differences. Protestants do not believe that mere intellectual assent will save them (see James 2:19; even demons believe in that way).  So perhaps a better way of defining faith is as a "living faith", or a "faith working in love".  In this sense, both Catholics and Protestants believe in salvation by faith alone, because it is the only sense that does justice to all the biblical data.

Development of Doctrine

  1. "Development of doctrine" is defined by Catholics as the increase in understanding - by means of the teaching of the Holy Spirit, prayer,  theological study, and the reflection of the Body of Christ as a whole - of Christian doctrines which originated from the Lord Jesus Himself and which have been passed down through the Apostles, Fathers, Councils, and the Catholic Church in general.  The meaning of doctrines unfolds over time, but the essence or substance of any particular doctrine remains unchanged.  Our extent of knowledge or subjective grasp of any given dogma is what changes. Doctrines thus achieve more clarity and depth as well as certitude in the minds and hearts of believers.  The Bible is not absolutely clear, even in the "essentials," and requires the developing interpretive wisdom of the Church.
  2. The Catholic Church maintains that no new public revelation has been received by the Church since the time of the Apostles, and "private revelations" such as Marian apparitions are not at all binding on the faithful, even though many of these have been recognized by the Church as worthy of pious belief.
  3. The description of the Church as the "body of Christ" allows the possibility for growth.
  4. A number of universally-accepted doctrines took time to develop (eg the canon of Scripture; the doctrines of the divinity of Christ or of the Holy Spirit; the two natures of Christ; original sin etc).
  5. Often doctrines are not closely examined until they are threatened by heresy and need to be carefully defined.
  6. Jesus said His Church would be led into all truth - see John 16:12-13.

"Call No Man Father"

  1. See Mat 23.8-10.  Jesus was referring only to spiritual leaders and didn't mean what he said literally and absolutely.  Otherwise how does a child refer to his father or teacher?  Note that "Mr." or "Mrs." is a derivative of the word "Master", just like "Doctor" is the Latin word for teacher.  Jesus was exaggerating to make a point, as he often did (eg Matt. 5:29).  Jesus condemned the misuse of authority rather than the use of certain terms of address.
  2. When Stephen was on trial before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high council of priests and elders) he addressed them as "brothers and fathers" (Acts 7:2).  This seems pretty significant because the Scripture says that Stephen spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:55).
  3. 1 Cor 4:15 - "Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel."
  4. Other references to spiritual father-son (or father-child) relationships:  in the OT, some examples are Gen. 45:8, Job 29:16, Isaiah 22:21, 2 Kings 2.12, 2 Kings 6.21.  In the NT, Paul called Timothy his child or son (1 Cor. 4:17, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2, 1 Tim 1:18, 2 Tim 2:1, Phil. 2:22).  Also see Titus 1:4 and Phil 10.

Crucifix

Some Protestants object to the Catholic use of imagery to do wuth the Crucifix.
  1. See 1 Cor 2:1-2.  Paul:  "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
  2. It was Jesus' death on the crucifix which paid the price for our sins.  Catholics use the crucifix to remember what a loving, merciful God we have.

Priestly Celibacy

  1. The Catholic Church does not forbid people to marry.  Priestly celibacy is a required discipline, but not a dogma or doctrinal position of the Church.  No one is forced to be a priest (or nun), so no one is forced to be celibate - the vow of celibacy is a voluntary one.
  2. Eastern Rite Catholic priests marry, and even Latin (i.e. Western) Catholic priests can be granted a special dispensation (e.g. married Anglican or Episcopalian priests who convert to Catholicism).
  3. Catholics take seriously Paul's advice about how those who are unmarried can focus best on the affairs of the Lord.  See 1 Cor 7:7-8 and1 Cor 7:32-34.
  4. This applies especially to ministers of the gospel. See 2 Tim. 2:3-4 and Matt 19:10.

Galileo

  1. See the off-site article The Galileo Affair.

Inquisition

  1. There were three inquisitions:  the Medieval Inquisition started in 1184, dealing with the Albigensian heresy (which believed in two Gods and taught that marriage was evil), and was phased out as the heresy disappeared.  The Roman Inquisition began in 1542 and was the least active of the three.  The Spanish Inquisition started in 1478 and has the worst reputation.
  2. The Inquisition was bad, but just proves that the Church has got its wheat and weeds (saints and sinners), just as Christ predicted (Matt 13:30).
  3. Concept of Inquisition based on Deut 17:2-5.
  4. I have seen online a claim that the Church killed 68,000,000 people in the dark ages.  This is more than were killed by the Black Death, which had a huge impact on society and demographics, and is obviously absurd.  The real number is probably closer to the number of Catholics persecuted and killed by Protestants after the Reformation.

The Eastern Schism

  1. Note that the break between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches is a schism, a breach of intercommunion caused by bad feeling and anger, rather than by a rival theology.  The CCC says "With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist." (CCC, #838)
  2. The schism didn’t happen all at once, and was in a sense helped by the gradual political separation of east and west, as well as the differences in rite and language.
  3. It came to a head with Photius in 867, then settled, then finally fell apart with Cerularius (1054).  A major factor was dispute over the insertion of the filioque (which says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son) into the Nicene Creed (see below).  For more info, see the Catholic Encyclopedia article Eastern Schism.

The Numbering of the Ten Commandments

  1. Some anti-Catholics argue that the Catholic Church teaches the 10 Commandments differently from in the Bible.  In fact, they are simply numbered differently, based on St Augustine’s numbering, which was done before the Bible was versified.

Statues and Icons

  1. Catholics worship the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Him only.  There is a big difference between "worship" and "honour." Catholics honour (show respect to) statues of Jesus, for example, in exactly the same way patriotic Americans honour (show respect to) the American flag. The flag is just a piece of colourful cloth, but it is honoured it because of what it represents. In the same way, a statue of Jesus is just plaster and paint, but we honour it because of Who it represents. A Catholic no more worships a statue of Jesus than a patriotic American worships the American flag.

Mortal and Venial Sin

  1. There is a clear Biblical distinction between sins that "lead to death" and sins that don't.  See 1 John 5:16-17.

The Filioque

The addition of the phrase "and the son" to the section that deals with the Holy Spirit's procession in the Nicene Creed is a controversial one, and much more theologically contorted than the simple points below indicate.  However the following points relate to the Catholic view:
  1. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son (Gal 4:6), the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9), the Spirit of Jesus
  2. Christ (Phil 1:19), just as He is the Spirit of the Father (Matt 10:20) and the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:ll; Rom 8:9).
  3. The Son sends the Holy Ghost (Luke 24:49;  John 15:26; 16:7; 20:22; Acts 2:33; Tit 3:6), just as the Father sends the Son (eg Rom 3:3), and as the Father sends the Holy Ghost (John 14:26).
  4. A formulation that might be more acceptable to both Catholic and Orthodox could be "the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son".

Birth Control

  1. All Christians, from the first century to the beginning of the twentieth century, had been united with the Catholic Church in its view on contraception. This was true even of all Protestant Christian bodies until 1930 when the Anglican communion, at its Lambeth Conference, broke down and allowed contraception. Since then all Protestant denominations have followed suit. This represented a break with 1900 years of complete (not just Roman Catholic) Christian consensus. As Protestant writer Charles Provan states in his excellent book, The Bible and Birth Control: "We will go one better, and state that we have not found one orthodox theologian to defend Birth Control before the 1900's.  NOT ONE! On the other hand, we have found that many highly regarded Protestant theologians were enthusiastically opposed to it, all the way back to the very beginning of the Reformation."
  2. Pope Paul VI published Humanae Vitae in 1968 and, to the shock and dismay of the world, he stood firm on Christian principles and upheld the Catholic Church's teaching on artificial birth control. In that encyclical he predicted the consequences if individuals and societies capitulated to the contraceptive mentality - increased sexual promiscuity, the devaluation of women, a general lowering of moral standards, and coercive government policies directed at personal reproduction. History has, tragically, proved him all too right.
  3. See Gen 38:9-10 for a perspective on how God views contraception.

Mormons

  1. There are a bunch of major flaws with the Mormon position.  On that relates directly to Catholicism though is that Mormonism is predicated on a "Great Apostasy" that is said to have overtaken the Church.  When discussing the issue with Mormons, ask them for proof of when the apostasy happened, and how an apostasy fits in with Christ's promise to protect His Church (Matt 16:18).


Jehovah’s Witnesses

  1. See my JW Fictional Dialogue.
  2. A couple of other useful resources are on some non-Catholic sites: Opening the Closed Mind, and 101 Questions every Jehovah's Witness should be asked using the NWT.
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