Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Scripture: Jesus Gave the 12 Apostles & Their Successors Authority to Forgive Sins

Posted by Tony Listi on May 7, 2014

“Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?‘ And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them…’For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and walk?” But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’–he then said to the paralytic–‘Rise, take up your bed and go home.’ And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” Mark 2:6-8/Matthew 9:5-8/Luke 5:24

 

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them…. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples….” Matthew 28:16, 18-19

 

“Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” John 20:20-24

 

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:16-18

 

“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” James 5:14-16

 

 

 

And this authority of the apostolic office (including to forgive sins) was passed on to others by the laying on of hands:

“‘Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry…. For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it;” and “His office let another take.” So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must be ordained a witness with us to his resurrection.’ And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, ‘Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.” Acts 1:16-26

 

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise your youth…. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you.” 1 Tim 4:14

 

“Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” 2 Tim 1:6

 

“Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Titus 2:15

 

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.” Col 1:24-26

 

“If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task.” 1 Tim 3:1

 

“This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you….” Titus 1:5

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Posted in Biblical Exegesis, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Catholic Reading of 2 Corinthians

Posted by Tony Listi on December 17, 2010

Often in theological debates, Christians start throwing Scripture verses around from all parts of the Bible. While all Scripture is the Word of God and thus must be consistent in such a way that a coherent, non-contradictory message is present, I think this haphazard cafeteria/smorgasbord style of using Scripture can be very unhelpful, even dangerous at times. This practice also makes it easier for Christians to cherry-pick the verses that they like (often out of context) and that support their denominational beliefs and to avoid verses that they don’t like and that contradict their denominational beliefs.

We Christians cannot forget or deny that human beings, with their own human stylistic traits, emphases, and paradigms, did indeed write the Bible. Thus it seems certain that Christians can more fully understand the written Word by digesting it book by book, carefully examining and taking into account the unique context, tradition, and perspective contained within and historically surrounding each book and author. This method also seems to me an eminently, though perhaps not distinctly, Catholic approach to Scripture and its interpretation. None of the books were written by their authors with the Bible’s compilation in mind.

Thus I’d like to present how a traditional, conservative Catholic reads and interprets Scripture on a book by book basis. In this way, a Protestant may come to know what exactly a Catholic sees, thinks, and feels when he reads the Bible. Perhaps in this way and on this basis of what is our common ground, our common tradition, namely certain books of Scripture, the Body may be made one and whole again as Jesus prayed it would be and intended it to be…. Plus I’m tired of Protestants telling me that I’ve never read the Bible (when I have) and that they are the “champions” of Scripture (when they aren’t).

St. Paul’s  Second Letter to the Corinthians

This is a short and a bit of an odd letter. It primarily focuses upon the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians, not doctrinal teachings. This fact should give pause to Protestants who claim exclusive authority for Scripture, which includes such letters by Paul, rather than the writings of the Church fathers which claim apostolic authority for their teachings. The specifics of the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians are of limited relevance today, but the general character is of great importance.

There are two overarching Catholic doctrinal themes in this letter: apostolic authority and the necessity and ministry of reconciliation. In the face of doubters and false apostles, Paul is forced to reassert his apostolic authority. In dealing with a repentant sinner, Paul exercises his apostolic authority to forgive sins in the person of Christ and to indulge the repentant sinner in comfort rather than require more penance of him, demonstrating the ministry of reconciliation he mentions in the letter.

Paul’s letter does the following things with regard to the Protestant-Catholic divide:

  • Contradicts the heresy of sola Scriptura and upholds the authority of oral apostolic preaching and discipline in person (1:19, 23-24; 2:1, 3-4, 17; 3:2-6; 4:5-7; 5:5; 10:5, 9-11, 16; 12:19; 13:10-11)
  • Affirms apostolic/Church authority over lay believers (1:1, 21-24; 2:1; 6:11-13; 7:15; 10:8; 11:17; 12:14, 19; 13:2-4, 10-11)
  • Contradicts the fallibilism of Protestantism (2:17; 3:4-6, 12; 4:5-7; 5:5, 18-20; 10:5; 11:5-6, 10; 13:3)
  • Affirms the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation (2:5-11; 5:17-20; 13:2)
  • Affirms the necessity of perseverance in obedience and repentance for salvation/to obtain heaven (1:24; 2:11, 15-16; 5:20; 6:1; 7:8-13; 11:3-4; 12:21; 13:2-5)
  • Contradicts certainty of knowledge of others’ or one’s own salvation (1:6-7; 5:20; 6:1; 7:13; 11:3-4; 12:20-21; 13:5)
  • Contradicts sola fide (5:10-11, 15; 7:1, 15; 10:15)
  • Affirms the necessity of the institutional and doctrinal unity of the Church (1:1; 11:2-4, 12-15)
  • Affirms the Catholic view of suffering (1:5-7; 4:9-11; 12:7-9)
  • Affirms the Catholic custom of referring to priests as father (6:13; 12:14)
  • Supports the Catholic doctrine of praying to dead saints (1:11)
  • Supports the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory (12:2-4)

I’m not going to comment on every single verse but rather on the ones relevant to the Protestant-Catholic divide or general conservative Christian doctrine. Very often, I will supplement my commentary with that of St. John Chrysostom (347-407). His was the earliest publicly available complete commentary on this letter that I could find. All emphases are mine. All verses are taken from the Revised Standard Version.

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St. Irenaeus’ Confirmation All Catholic Doctrines (2nd c. AD)

Posted by Tony Listi on May 23, 2010

St. Irenaeus (b. ca. 115-142), in his Against Heresies, confirms almost every core Catholic doctrine: Roman/papal supremacy, the sacrifice of the Mass, transubstantiation in the Eucharist, the continuation of the earthly priesthood, the crucial mission and authority of the institutional Church, Church authority over Scriptural interpretations, the existence and authority of unchangeable and unbroken apostolic Tradition and succession through bishops, the necessity of obedience (as well as repentance and forgiveness) for salvation, denunciations of schismatics, Mary as the new Eve and as a cause of our salvation, prayers for the dead, the activity of the saints, etc.

Moreover, his work is filled with citations of Scripture.

He begins the work by acknowledging the plausibility of the heresies:

Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says, “minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith,” and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, [I have felt constrained, my dear friend, to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations.] These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation…. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth.

How do these heretics rationalize their heresy? Like all heretics, they use Scripture and claim superior understanding or mystical assistance in its interpretation:

They tell us, however, that this knowledge has not been openly divulged, because all are not capable of receiving it, but has been mystically revealed by the Saviour through means of parables to those qualified for understanding it.

Protestants have all these “experts” in exegesis for rationalizing their interpretations. When “reason” fails (as it always does, for there are endless plausible interpretations in isolation from Church tradition/history), the mystical and arbitrary support of the “Holy Spirit” supplies certainty for them.

Such, then, is the account which they all give of their Pleroma, and of the formation of the universe, striving, as they do, to adapt the good words of revelation to their own wicked inventions. And it is not only from the writings of the evangelists and the apostles that they endeavour to derive proofs for their opinions by means of perverse interpretations and deceitful expositions: they deal in the same way with the law and the prophets, which contain many parables and allegories that can frequently be drawn into various senses, according to the kind of exegesis to which they are subjected. And others of them, with great craftiness, adapted such parts of Scripture to their own figments, lead away captive from the truth those who do not retain a steadfast faith in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Heretics by no means avoid or flee from Scripture. They are eager to make Scripture fit within their preconceived, dogmatic, heretical theology and worldview. And it’s easily done by those of creative imagination and “craftiness.” For Scripture passages “can frequently be drawn into various senses, according to the kind of exegesis to which they are subjected.”

How does St. Irenaeus know with certainty that the doctrines in question are heresy? He tells us the apostles did not “deliver” such doctrines to the Church:

Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions…. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavour, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions.

All heretics know they have to find support within Scripture, otherwise they would have no support whatsoever for their errors and/or lies, for the authority and unchanging tradition of the Church always stand firmly against them.

Irenaeus condemns the heretics and offers a conclusive coup de grace which proves they are heretics:

You see, my friend, the method which these men employ to deceive themselves, while they abuse the Scriptures by endeavouring to support their own system out of them. For this reason, I have brought forward their modes of expressing themselves, that thus you might understand the deceitfulness of their procedure, and the wickedness of their error….

But since what may prove a finishing-stroke to this exhibition is wanting, so that any one, on following out their farce to the end, may then at once append an argument which shall overthrow it, we have judged it well to point out, first of all, in what respects the very fathers of this fable differ among themselves, as if they were inspired by different spirits of error. For this very fact forms an a priori proof that the truth proclaimed by the Church is immoveable, and that the theories of these men are but a tissue of falsehoods.

The clearest indication that a certain denomination is heretical is that their leaders keep dividing and schisming among themselves. At first there was only Luther; then came Calvin, Zwingli, and a horde of others. Now there are innumerable heretical sects that have sprung from the seed of Luther’s Revolution. There are now many different synods or conventions within mainstream Protestant lines. In many cases, Christianity has been degraded into a private, individual religion, cut off from any resemblance to the original apostolic faith that proclaims the true Church is of one Mind and one Body.

So how is the Christian to know which exegesis of and approach to Scripture is correct? Irenaus tells us that Holy Tradition, handed down unchanged historically from the apostles and universally throughout the world, is our assurance:

The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: … [Irenaeus gives a creed]

…but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. 

The true faith is received from the Church, not mystically or rationally divined from Scripture by individual believers. Notice also that immortality and salvation are given to those who are obedient to God’s commandments, which is perseverance in His love. “Faith alone” in some purely abstract/mental sense is not enough.

As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

Truth does not change. The Christian faith could not change in the 2nd century AD. It was already complete and perfect. Moreover, the true Church preserves the faith in its purity and hands it on, nothing more or less. Thus any later deviations from the Holy Tradition of the Church are by definition heretical, including the man-made traditions of the Protestant Revolution which popped into existence in the 16th century.

It does not follow because men are endowed with greater and less degrees of intelligence, that they should therefore change the subject-matter [of the faith] itself, and should conceive of some other God besides Him who is the Framer, Maker, and Preserver of this universe, (as if He were not sufficient for them), or of another Christ, or another Only-begotten. But the fact referred to simply implies this, that one may [more accurately than another] bring out the meaning of those things which have been spoken in parables, and accommodate them to the general scheme of the faith….

God never intended for individual intelligence or reason in and of itself to determine doctrine authoritatively, not to mention change it.

…as these teachers who are destitute of truly divine wisdom maintain; while the Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said.

It is the catholic, the universal, Church that possesses the true faith.

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Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Church Fathers, Church History, Religion and Theology, The Papacy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pope Clement, Papal Exhortation & Authority, and Catholic Doctrines (1st c. AD!)

Posted by Tony Listi on April 11, 2010

Pope St. Clement I (d. ca. 100 AD) wrote a letter to the Church at Corinth, which had fallen into grave sin and disarray (not heresy specifically), despite its original planting and cultivation by St. Paul. 

Though it is mostly an exhortatory letter, one must keep in mind that no specific doctrinal issue is being disputed. It was not an occasion for doctrinal correction and denunciation of heresy. Rather, Pope Clement fulfills the duty that he received from St. Peter and that St. Peter received from Our Lord: “Strengthen your brothers” and “Feed and tend my sheep” (Lk 22:32; Jn 21:15-17). Nevertheless, the letter has an overall tone of authority, especially toward the end.

Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us….

Notice that the Church at Corinth went to the Roman Church for help to address its problems.

… For you did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honour to the presbyters among you….

Pope Clement praises the church for its previous obedience to God, to its earthly rulers, and to its presbyters (priests).

… Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. You mourned over the transgressions of your neighbours: their deficiencies you deemed your own…. Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, you did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts….

Pope Clement continues his praise for the previous beliefs and practices of the Corinthian Christians. Notice the implicit denunciation of “every kind of faction and schism.” Notice there’s a common sense of transgression when one person sins, with the implication of a common work of penance and salvation. Also, fear of God was expected even among the baptized, for salvation was not assured with certainty in the sense that many Protestants today erroneously have.

… For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and has become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world….

Pope Clement then turns to criticize the then current sins of the Christians at Corinth. He says they abandoned the “fear of God,” became “blind” to the faith they had, disobeyed the “ordinances” of God, acted like a non-Christian, followed their “own wicked lusts,” and generally resumed their former ungodly and envious practices that claimed them for death instead of eternal life.

… Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned….

After having related the various instances of envy in the Old Testament, Pope Clement turns to the evil that envy unleashed upon St. Peter and St. Paul, who were martyred in Rome and of whom Clement is heir in authority as the bishop of Rome.

… Through envy, those women, the Danaids and Dircæ, being persecuted, after they had suffered terrible and unspeakable torments, finished the course of their faith with steadfastness, and though weak in body, received a noble reward….

Pope Clement goes on to praise other martyrs, victims of envy. Salvation comes from steadfastness in the faith, running “the course” to the end with perseverance. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Catholicism, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Church Fathers, Church History, Religion and Theology, The Papacy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Biblical Evidence Against Contraception

Posted by Tony Listi on February 14, 2010

By Dave Armstrong
Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Proposition
The Catholic ban on contraception is an arbitrary, unbiblical restriction.
It’s just one of many areas where Catholics are out of the mainstream.

Initial reply
The prohibition of contraception was commonly accepted by all Christians: Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, until 1930. It is a biblical and patristic belief.

Extensive reply
Here is the classic biblical passage having to do with contraception:
Genesis 38:8-10: “Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also.”

This involved what is known as the “levirate law”: the duty to produce offspring with the wife of a dead brother. But this is not why God killed Onan, since the penalty for that was public humiliation and shunning, not death (Dt. 25:5-10). Context also supports this interpretation, since immediately after this (Gen. 38:11-26), is the story of Onan’s father Judah refusing to enforce the law and allow his other son, Shelah to produce a child with Tamar, his daughter-in-law. He was afraid that Shelah would be killed like Onan and his other wicked son, Er (38:7,11). Judah acknowledges his sin in 38:26: “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” He wasn’t killed, so it is unreasonable to contend that Onan was judged and killed by God for the very same sin that Judah committed (in the same passage). Onan was judged for contraception (sex with the deliberate intent to unnaturally prevent procreation).

There are a host of other biblical passages which exalt fertility and the blessing of many children, and the curse of none:
1) Married couples are to “be fruitful and multiply”; this is a blessing (Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7; 28:3; 35:11; Dt. 7:13-14; Ps. 107:38; 115:14; 128:1-4; Prov. 17:6; Ecc. 6:3).

2) Barrenness is contrary to blessing and “glory” (Ex. 23:25-26; Jer. 18:21; Hos. 9:11).

3) Procreation is central to marriage (Mal. 2:14-15).

4) Childbearing is so sacred that women are even said to be “saved” by it (1 Tim. 2:15).

5) It is God Who opens and closes wombs and causes a conception to occur (Gen. 20:17-18; 29:31; 30:2,22; Josh. 24:3-4; Ruth 4:13; Ps. 113:9).

6) Children are a gift from God (Gen. 17:16,20; 29:32-33; 33:5; Ps. 127:3).

Objection
But it is unreasonable in this day and age, in urban environments, to have ten or fifteen children. This is an outdated understanding of the meaning of marriage and parenthood. It may work on a farm or a desert, but not in cities and towns.

Reply to Objection
The Catholic Church doesn’t force married couples to have ten children! But it does require them to agree to be fruitful and always open to life as the deepest meaning and purpose of marital union (thus ruling out artificial contraception). The problem today is not the refusal to have ten children, but the (often selfish or cynical) decision to have none at all, or very few, so that in Europe, most countries are below zero population growth, meaning that couples are averaging less than two children (while Muslims continue to have lots of children). This is an “anti-child” mentality. Children are often viewed as a mere inconvenience or a burden (even to the point of being slaughtered before they are born). The Bible, on the other hand, clearly states over and over that children (and many of them) are a blessing. Yet, sadly, millions of Christians today are far closer in outlook to secular (or ancient pagan) culture than the biblical worldview:

1 Chronicles 25:5: “All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him; for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.”

Psalm 127:3-5: “Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! . . .”

Martin Luther (the founder of Protestantism):

But the greatest good in married life, that which makes all suffering and labor worth while, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve him. In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work, because to God there can be nothing dearer than the salvation of souls. Now since we are all duty bound to suffer death, if need be, that we might bring a single soul to God, you can see how rich the estate of marriage is in good works.
(The Estate of Marriage, 1522; Luther’s Works, Vol. 45, 46)

Luther and Calvin both wrote with extreme disdain for Onan and his sin, whereas many of today’s Protestants have a ho-hum or neutral attitude about these grave sins:

Martin Luther:

Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed . . . He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him . . . That worthless fellow . . . preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother. (Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 38-44; 1544; LW, 7, 20-21)

John Calvin:

It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is doubly horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born . . . Moreover he [Onan] thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. (Commentary on Genesis [38])

G.K. Chesterton:

It has been left to the last Christians, or rather to the first Christians fully committed to blaspheming and denying Christianity, to invent a new kind of worship of Sex, which is not even a worship of Life. It has been left to the very latest Modernists to proclaim an erotic religion which at once exalts lust and forbids fertility . . . The new priests abolish the fatherhood and keep the feast – to themselves.
(The Well and the Shallows, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1935, 233)

[It was only until the early 20th century that Protestants started abandoning or ignoring even their own traditional Scriptural interpretation of Onan. I guess the Truth of the Word changes for Protestants whenever they feel like it should, whenever they feel that it is a barrier to their own self-indulgence.]

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology, Sex | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

An Exhortation to a Homosexual on the Right Path

Posted by Tony Listi on January 24, 2010

Here is a message I received from someone anonymously:

i’m still gay, i’m still looking for an answer why. i totally completely believe in christ, that he rose from the dead. i am doing my very best to rely on Him alone. i do not have sex anymore, but i have thoughts. i want so bad to not have these thoughts. i want to go to heaven so bad. i like jesus, and i love jesus. i am having a tough time right now. i am absolutely 100% certain god can make me straight. but he has not yet. i suspect that making me perfect and sinless in this life is not god’s goal. the goal is to aim in that direction and go as far as i can, or rather for jesus and me to go as far as we can together, but there is a chasm that i cannot cross, only jesus can take me across it to perfect sinless heaven. on the outside, i probably look like the nicest kindest gentlest and most ‘christian’ person you will meet. i truly love people with all my heart and those who have hurt me i pray with all my heart for god to soften their hearts. sometimes i think i am only alive just to pray for people. i have loved people with all my being. i have loved christ with all my being. but i will admit not 100% of the time. and sometimes not 100% of my being. actually i probably never have done anything with 100% of my ability and 100% correct and 100% real. i hate these flaws, they are really embarrassing and shameful. i believe if i were 100% heterosexual i would still be a man whore and greedy and full of pride. but please pray for me. there is not one thing i can do to save myself, only christ can save me. i have prayed and i believe and i try and fail but i try to follow christ. i do not try to so i can get saved, i try to do so because god says i am saved already. but why am i still a homo? it’s very hard not to just be a hermit and move out into the desert and stay there without internet or electricity and just spend my days reading the bible and growing vegetables for my food. can i be both gay and saved? it will be such a relief when i am in heaven, and i pray i am going. sometimes i get really scared though, as if i were cursed before time began.

Please pray for this person. The following is my response to him:

Thank you for sharing your very personal experiences.

God can indeed remove the homosexual urges from your body, if it be His will. Continue to pray that He may. For Jesus is the Great Healer and nothing is impossible for God.

However, consider the possibility that He may never remove these urges from you in this life. That is quite likely considering the empirical evidence on homosexual rehabilitation. Sexual urges are very strong and very ingrained early on, it seems.

If this be the case, do not despair! Be not afraid, for Jesus is stronger! And He has revealed to us that the lot of the Christian in this world is to suffer, to carry his own cross and follow Him. Each Christian has their own cross (maybe many) to bear. Sometimes it is a struggle with a deadly vice: malice, lust, greed, envy, pride, sloth, and gluttony. And though we pray to have these crosses lifted from our backs, often God sees fit not to do so. Why? Because it is precisely through suffering that we learn in the deepest way to rely on Him, to love Him above all things, above even our own interests and deepest desires.

The Christian is not cursed; he is crossed! And it is through these crosses that we may be purified for holiness and draw closer to Him. Just as Jesus offers us salvation through His cross, our crosses can be a means to our own salvation. So rejoice in your predestined cross! Let us unite our crosses to His for the sake of His glory and the eternal destiny of our souls!

If these homosexual urges are indeed your life-long cross, then humbly accept it, saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” In this case, you are called to be a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God. No one is any less human or of any less dignity because he abstains from sexual behavior. Quite the opposite! It is a greater gift, a greater virtue, to proclaim the kingdom to come by transcending sexuality in this world.

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed over urges you do not consciously initiate! By Christ’s grace and strength, you are in control of your actions. You can overcome all desires and urges that do not conform to His will. Cling to Him in faith and He will not fail you. Your urges alone cannot damn you.

The only thing worthy of shame and guilt is deliberate mental indulgence in and actually acting upon homosexual urges. And God forbid, if you choose to fall from grace with these sins, you can and must sincerely confess, repent, and be reconciled to Our Lord Jesus again, whenever you sin. There is no forgiveness without this process for each sin. No sexual sin is unforgivable, and His endless mercy is always there for the truly repentant.

I myself have struggled and continue to struggle with lust and temptation, sometimes failing and needing reconciliation. It is hard to imagine a male who doesn’t. So I know what it feels like, if not in exactly the same way. You can become stronger with each struggle. You are not alone in your struggle. Innumerable fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in this world and the next are praying for you. Mary the Mother of God and the whole choirs of saints and angels, who have gone before us and remain in Jesus and He in them, will intercede on your behalf, if you but ask them in faith. Here and now in this world, while becoming a hermit is a possibility, I’d encourage you to surround yourself with chaste brothers and sisters by joining a community and a church that accepts you and your cross but not your sins and that will help you bear your cross in holy chastity.

I cannot help but think that the reward in heaven for a person like you, if you do persevere to the end during these perverted modern times, will be very great. My heartfelt prayers are with you. Let me know if I can ever be of any assistance to you. May God bless and strengthen you in your spiritual journey home to Him.

Posted in Catholicism, Homosexuality, Religion and Theology, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

A Fictional Dialogue on Penance

Posted by Tony Listi on May 16, 2008

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/11/fictional-dialogue-on-penance.html

By David Armstrong

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

[written in 1995]

Calvin: You know, Joe, you Catholics ought to get rid of penance – punishing yourself to please God. Don’t you know God has already forgiven you?

Joe: We would, Calvin, if the Bible allowed us to, but it teaches that there is a penalty to pay for sin in this life, too. For instance, David had to suffer terribly even though God had forgiven his sin (2 Sam 12:13-14).

Calvin: That’s in the Old Testament, so it doesn’t apply anymore. God is only merciful now.

Joe: That’s just wishful thinking. In Malachi 3:3 God purifies His people “as gold and silver” to make them righteous. He hasn’t changed His mind. In Hebrews 12:6-8 He still “chastens” and “scourges” his “sons.” Jesus commands us to “take up a cross” if we want to follow Him (Mt 10:38, 16:24), and St. Paul wants us to compassionately suffer with fellow Christians (1 Cor 12:26).

Calvin: Well, God can discipline us since that is His prerogative, but the Catholic Church acts like it can give out penalties. Isn’t that an abuse of love and Scripture?

Joe: No, not at all, since the Lord Himself gave St. Peter and the disciples the power and authority to “bind and loose” (Mt 16:19, 18:17-18). St. Paul imposes a penance for the well-being of a straying Christian (1 Cor 5:3-5). Later on, he issues an indulgence by lessening the temporal penance for sin of this same brother (2 Cor 2:6-11). This is all that the word “indulgence” means, despite all the rhetoric against it from Luther and Protestants ever since, absurdly implying that it winks at, or “indulges” sin!

Calvin: But Jesus suffered for us so we wouldn’t have to, as it says in Isaiah 53:4-5.

Joe: He took away the penalty of eternal hellfire for those who obey His will and accept His work as our Redeemer, but not all suffering. That’s a candy-coated gospel. In fact, in a sense, we even
participate in this Redemption, by our intercessory prayers and penitential acts and suffering. St. Paul repeatedly speaks of suffering with Christ, almost in a literal fashion (Rom 8:17, 2 Cor 4:10, Phil 3:10, and especially Col 1:24; cf. 1 Pet 4:1,13). He even considers himself an “offering” (2 Tim 4:6; cf. Ex 32:30-32).

Calvin: Man, you sure quote Scripture like a “Bible-thumping” Protestant! I’ve never seen a Catholic do that! I thought that all your doctrines were gullibly accepted on unquestioned authority and blind faith alone, from the nuns!

Joe: Well, I’ve gotten to know the biblical evidences for my beliefs because I’ve studied the Bible, Catholic catechisms and Catholic apologetic works, which give a biblical defense of Catholic doctrine, along with logical reasons and the history of Christian teaching on any given doctrine. Unfortunately, many Catholics settle for their childhood instruction in the faith and never progress or grow any further by reading and pursuing theological truth on their own.

Calvin: That’s for sure, and many Protestants do the same. But on our subject, I still don’t understand the purpose of penance. Why can’t God just forgive and be done with it?

Joe: He could, but penance is for our benefit, due to our stubbornness and rebelliousness. Sin causes a disorder in the universe, and Justice requires that it be punished. You know, Calvin, even your own life is an illustration of this spiritual principle. You’re in this jail, and have a broken arm and suspended driver’s license due to the sin of drunk driving. This is your “penance,” in a legal, secular sense.

Calvin: But I’m very sorry and the judge believes I’m sincere and will reform my behavior.

Joe: That’s the whole point. You have “repented,” but still a penalty must be paid for your own good and society’s. Even though the judge likes you, he is bound by law to jail you for a time. That’s how it is with God and sin, since He is perfectly holy. Purgatory continues the process after death, until finally we enter into Heaven, for which all our sufferings have prepared us (Rom 8:18, Heb 12:14, Rev 21:4).

Calvin: I still have trouble with this whole idea because it seems to me to be perverting the grace of God and making us do works in order to be saved (Eph 2:8-9). That’s a losing battle because none of us can be good enough (Ps 53:3).

Joe: You’re constructing a false dichotomy: Because God is perfectly good, therefore we cannot be good at all. But the Bible teaches that we can cooperate with God in our salvation, even though all grace and good always comes from Him (Eph 2:10, 1 Cor 3:9, Phil 2:13). Grace is entirely God’s work, but that doesn’t make us mere puppets or robots. The Council of Trent declared that:

“Neither is this satisfaction so our own as not to be through Jesus Christ. For we can do nothing of ourselves; He cooperating strengthens us (Phil 4:13) . . . No Catholic ever thought that, by this kind of satisfactions on our parts, the efficacy of the merit and of the satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ is either obscured or in any way lessened.”
(On the Sacrament of Penance, chap. 8, session 14, November 25, 1551)

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Did God Create Us with Free Will? Does Our Salvation Depend on Our Free Choices?

Posted by Tony Listi on February 3, 2008

This is not an insignificant question. Calvinists believe in salvation, creation, and predestination in such a way that “God is in control,” complete control. So much control that we human beings have no free will.

Here is the classical controversial excerpt, Romans 9:14-24
What then are we to say? Is there injustice on the part of God? Of course not! For he says to Moses: “I will show mercy to whom I will, I will take pity on whom I will.” So it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “This is why I have raised you up, to show my power through you that my name may be proclaimed throughout the earth.” Consequently, he has mercy upon whom he wills, and he hardens whom he wills. You will say to me then, “Why (then) does he still find fault? For who can oppose his will?” But who indeed are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Will what is made say to its maker,”Why have you created me so?” Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one? What if God, wishing to show his wrath and make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction? This was to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared previously for glory, namely, us whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.

How are we to reconcile this passage with the notion of free will? It can be done 2 ways:

  1. Directly understand the Romans passage itself more carefully and within context
  2. Provide different verses to oppose this false interpretation against free will and thus show that the Bible assumes the free will of human beings

#1 Does Romans 9 really deny free will?

Protestant apologist James Hardwick (ironically arguing like a Catholic) insisted that we have to read the passage within the Hebrew context:
“What this boils down to is that Paul presents us with a paradox in Romans 9, one which he, as a Hebrew, saw no need to explain. ‘..[T]he Hebrew mind could handle this dynamic tension of the language of paradox’ and saw no need to unravel it as we do. And that means that we are not obliged to simply accept Romans 9 at ‘face value’ as it were, because it is a problem offered with a solution that we are left to think out for ourselves. There will be nothing illicit about inserting concepts like primary causality, otherwise unknown in the text…. The rabbis after the NT explicated the paradox a bit further. They did not conclude, however – as is the inclination in the Calvinist camp – that ‘a totally unalterable future lay ahead, for such a view contradicted God’s omnipotence and mercy.’ They also argued that ‘unless God’s proposed destiny for man is subject to alteration, prayer to God to institute such alteration’ is nonsensical. Of course the rabbis were not inspired in their teachings. Yet their views cannot be simply discarded with a grain of salt, as they are much closer to the vein than either Calvin or Arminius, by over a millennium and by an ocean of thought…. In this case, taking the negatives in Rom. 9:16 creates a clear contradiction between 9:16 and later passages in Rom. 9, as I show. Calvinists of course solve this dilemma by calling anyone who asks the question heathens and saying they need to give glory to God.”

Here is a VERY persuasive insight by Theodoret of Cyr:
“Those who are called vessels for menial use have chosen this path for themselves . . . This is clear from what Paul says to timothy: ‘If anyone purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work.’ ” He is refering to 2 Tim 20-21. Paul uses the same vessel terminology, but it is quite clear that free will and human responsibility is involved!

Church Father St. John Chrysotom:
“Paul says this in order not to do away with free will but rather to show to what extent we ought to obey God. We should be as little inclined to call god to account as a piece of clay is…. God does nothing at random or by mere chance, even if you do not understand the secrets of his wisdom [i.e. reasonableness, rationality]. You allow the potter to make different things from the same lump of clay and find no fault with him, but you do not grant the same freedom to God! . . . How monstrous this is. It is not on the potter that the honor or dishonor of the vessel depends but rather on those who make use of it. it is the same way with people – it all depends on their own free choice.”

Methodist commentator Adam Clarke points out that Paul is harkening back to Jeremiah 18:
“. . . Verse 21. Hath not the potter power over the clay] The apostle continues his answer to the Jew. Hath not God shown, by the parable of the potter, Jer. xviii. 1, &c., that he may justly dispose of nations, and of the Jews in particular, according as he in his infinite wisdom may judge most right and fitting; even as the potter has a right, out of the same lump of clay, to make one vessel to a more honourable and another to a less honourable use, as his own judgment and skill may direct; for no potter will take pains to make a vessel merely that he may show that he has power to dash it to pieces? [Quotes Jer 18:1-10] The reference to this parable shows most positively that the apostle is speaking of men, not individually, but nationally; and it is strange that men should have given his words any other application with this scripture before their eyes.”

Here are some more Scripture verses regarding the metaphor of the vessel:
Proverbs 26: 23-24
“Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
He who hates disguises it with his lips,
But he lays up deceit in his heart.”
Notice that the individual vessel creates the wickedness in his heart.

Jer 19:11
“Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired….”
As Clarke point out with Jer 18, God uses the metaphor of the vessel to talk of the destiny of nations and peoples, not individual destinies.

Hosea 8:8
“Israel is swallowed up;They are now among the nations Like a vessel in which no one delights.”
Again, the vessel is the NATION of Israel.

Thess 4:3-5
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God….”
Looks like Paul echoes his remarks in 2 Timothy: we sanctify and honor the vessels that we are, at least partially, by our own free acts (or non-acts, abstentions). Free will is what it means to be in possession of one’s “own vessel.”

Clarke continues with what it means for God to harden hearts and whether He doomed the Jews to damnation:
“Pharaoh and the Egyptians were vessels of wrath-persons deeply guilty before God; and by their obstinate refusal of his grace, and abuse of his goodness, they had fitted themselves for that destruction which the wrath, the vindictive justice of God, inflicted, after he had endured their obstinate rebellion with much long-suffering; which is a most absolute proof that the hardening of their hearts, and their ultimate punishment, were the consequences of their obstinate refusal of his grace and abuse of his goodness; as the history in Exodus sufficiently shows. As the Jews of the apostle’s time had sinned after the similitude of the Egyptians, hardening their hearts and abusing his goodness, after every display of his long-suffering kindness, being now fitted for destruction, they were ripe for punishment; and that power, which God was making known for their salvation, having been so long and so much abused and provoked, was now about to show itself in their destruction as a nation. But even in this case there is not a word of their final damnation; much less that either they or any others were, by a sovereign decree, reprobated from all eternity; and that their very sins, the proximate cause of their punishment, were the necessary effect of that decree which had from all eternity doomed them to endless torments. As such a doctrine could never come from God, so it never can be found in the words of his apostle.”
It is worth noting that Scripture explicitly says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart himself: Ex 8:15, 8:32, 9:34; 1 Sam 6:6. Plus there are explicit warnings in the Bible not to harden your own heart: Deut 15:7; Ps 95:8; Heb 3:8,15; 4:7.

#2 What does the rest of the Bible say?

Before trying to see what the rest of the Bible says in general, it would be advisable to see what the rest of the book of Romans says! Surely, Paul could not have contradicted himself within the very same book.
Romans 1:18-32 through to 2:8: the famous passage about judgment, clearly highlights the fact that men are at fault for their sin. God’s “wrath” (1:18 ) only comes after the rebellion and sin. So God “gave them up” (1:24,26,28; cf. Heb 3:8,12-13,15; 4:7). God is not to blame for the sins of men (as one would be forced to conclude by denying free will, for blame cannot be assigned to one who is not free to choose between good and evil).

A BibleGateway search of “free will” turns up two entries:
Philemon 1:14 “…but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.”
There you go! Free will must be real! Paul in the Bible says so. He extols the greater value of good works freely done.
Ezra 7:13 “I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and their priests and the Levites, in my realm, that are minded of their own free will to go to Jerusalem, go with thee.”

Another search engine turned up 72 instances of “free-will,” almost all of them regarding “freewill-offerings” in the Old Testament. http://www.ccel.org/search?category=scripture&qu=freewill

From the so-called Apocrypha (which Luther arbitrarily and with no authority removed from the Bible):
“Say not, It is through the Lord that I fell away; for you ought not to do the things that He hates: nor say, He has caused me to err; for He has no need of the sinful man. The Lord hates all abomination, and they that fear God love it not. He Himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of His counsel. If you be willing, you shall keep His commandments, and perform true fidelity. He has set fire and water before you: stretch forth your hand unto whether you will. Before man is life and death, and whichsoever pleases him shall be given to him” (Sirach 15:11-17).
Again, explicit reference to free choice. Even if a Protestant refuses to accept it as inspired (though the Jews of that time, including the Apostles, thought it was), it is at least an historical example of Jewish belief in free will. This passage is quoted by St. Augustine in his On Grace and Free Will.

Paul claims that others have free wills:
“If anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, and if a critical moment has come and so it has to be, let him do as he wishes. He is committing no sin; let them get married. The one who stands firm in his resolve, however, who is not under compulsion but has power over his own will, and has made up his mind to keep his virgin, will be doing well” (1 Cor 7:36-37).
“And I am giving counsel in this matter, for it is appropriate for you who began not only to act but to act willingly last year: complete it now, so that your eager willingness may be matched by your completion of it out of what you have” (2 Cor 8:10-11).
“All that will to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution…” (2 Tim 3:12).
“Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ, not only when being watched, as currying favor, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, willingly serving the Lord and not human beings” (Eph 6:5-7).

St. Peter believes we have free will:
“…shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God….” (1 Pet 5:2)

Jesus, who was truly man, had free will:
“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk 22:42).
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (Jn 6:38).
“Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (Jn 21:22)

See also http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm , http://purifyyourbride.stblogs.com/2007/10/04/free-will-in-scripture/ , http://www.biblelife.org/election.htm#7

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