Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kevin to Devin - Catholic to Protestant

Blog reader Devin has been asking some interesting questions in the combox of my post The Stumbling Block of Mary.  I thought it would be worthwhile to address them here.  Devin writes ...

Kevin,
If "Scripture does not constitute the entirety of divine revelation" then what else is considered to be divine revelation? How would you go about proving this assertion?

As for Mary being sinless because she was highly favored by God does not mean she was sinless. That term does not mean that.

Lots of people mentioned in the NT do not mention their sins and yet we would not say they did not sin. Actually a case could be made that Mary did sin when she rebuked Jesus for being insensitive when He was in the temple at 12. 

The woman of Rev 12 is also problematic. Even RC scholars admit that the details of chapter 12 don't fit Mary well but they do the church. 

The divinity of Christ is easily supported by Scripture. In fact that is the only way to make the case for it.

Let me begin by saying that Devin, like my other correspondent who inspired me to write the post on Mary, is clearly a sincere Christian, and that any disagreements between us are disagreements on the best way to follow Christ.  It's important to keep that in mind.  We're both on the same side here, and we're arguing about things that matter very much to us - about the most important thing in the world, in fact.

So while I doubt I'll convince him, I'm going to take a shot at it, both since he's asked, and also since my other readers might be interested.  Nevertheless, the context of our discussion should not be forgotten - for the overall (implied) question here is How best can one follow Jesus Christ, as a Protestant or a Catholic?

Let me take Devin's points one by one.


  • Devin quotes me saying, "Scripture does not constitute the entirety of divine revelation", and then quite sensibly asks "what else is considered to be divine revelation"?  And how would I prove this assertion?

The easiest way to answer this is to say, "If Scripture constitutes all of Divine Revelation, then by what authority did the Catholic Church set the canon of Scripture?"  The Catholic Church is the organization that decided what gospels were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and what gospels were not (Thomas, Andrew, Marcion, etc.).  They also decided what Epistles fit this same category, and proclaimed that the books of Acts and Revelations were likewise divinely inspired and free from error.

The Church would have had no authority to make this decision unless Divine Revelation were greater than Scripture itself.  God gave us the Bible's "Table of Contents", but He did not give that to us in any book of the Bible.  

The fact is that the Deposit of Faith came to us BOTH by "word of mouth" and by "letter" as Paul tells us in 2 Thes. 2:15 (i.e, by Tradition and by Scripture).  St. John is quite explicit at the end of his gospel that Jesus said and did many more things than "are written in this book".  And Scripture itself - which Catholics and most Protestants consider to be divinely inspired - Scripture itself tells us (by means of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Apostle Paul) that the "pillar and bulwark" of the truth is not Scripture, but the Church (1 Tim. 3:15).  

But Devin's point focuses on the strange Catholic teaching of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  I had asserted that this dogma is part of Sacred Tradition, and not easily culled from Scripture, though I offered a few Scriptural supports, most notably God's messenger calling Mary "full of grace".

Devin counters, again quite sensibly ... 

  • As for Mary being sinless because she was highly favored by God does not mean she was sinless. That term does not mean that.

But she is not called "highly favored by God."  She is called something in Greek which is much closer to "full of grace".  Karl Keating notes ...

Catholic exegetes, in discussing the Immaculate Conception, first look at the Annunciation. Gabriel greeted Mary by saying, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Greek kecharitomene. This word actually represents the proper name of the person being addressed by the angel, and it must on that account express a characteristic quality of Mary. What's more, the traditional translation, "full of grace," is more accurate than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of "highly favored daughter." True, Mary was a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that.
The newer translations leave out something the Greek conveys, something the older English versions convey, which is that this grace (and the core of the word kecharitomene is charis, after all) is at once permanent and of a singular kind. The Greek indicates a perfection of grace. 

And a "perfection of grace" must mean "sinless", for God's grace is not productive of sin.

But even if Devin doesn't buy this, he stretches his point by saying ...


  • Actually a case could be made that Mary did sin when she rebuked Jesus for being insensitive when He was in the temple at 12. 

Yes, but not a good case.  The NIV text of this moment, Luke 2:48, "When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” - is hardly a rebuke, and if so can in no way be considered sinful.  For one thing, a sin must be deliberate and done with full knowledge that it's a sin.  But Mary here is merely expressing her anxiety, for neither she nor Joseph fully understood that their son must be about His Father's business.  If it's a rebuke, it's a rebuke that stems from confusion, not from sin.  (Also Mary is certainly within her rights as a mother to rebuke her son.)




Devin, when we lose God in our own lives - when we can't seem to find Him in prayer or in hope - when we search in our forlorn and lonely thirst, He eventually shows Himself.  And when we see Him after we've lost Him, it is not a sin to say, "Lord!  How I missed you!  How I searched for you!  How glad I am that I found you!  Why did you hide yourself from me?"  

Devin then goes on to point out that interpreting anything from the book of Revelations is problematic - and I'll agree with him there.  But he ends on a note that contradicts his main thrust, which has been that Scripture is open to interpretation.  He concludes ...

  • The divinity of Christ is easily supported by Scripture. In fact that is the only way to make the case for it.

Now, I have admitted from the beginning that the Immaculate Conception is not "easily supported by Scripture", which is why it's so crucial to understand that Scripture is a part of Divine Revelation, not the source of it.  God is the source of what He has revealed to us, and God is not bound to a book.  As my friend Fr. Marty says, "Christ left a Body, not a book."  And Scripture confirms that over and over again - just search for the expression "Body of Christ" in the Epistles, for example.

But the particular point here is not really as easily made as Devin seems to think.  Devin, read the New Testament from the point of view of a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness or a Unitarian.  Yes, there are a lot of indications that Jesus is divine, but they are indications merely.  "Son of God" does not mean "God", "Son of Man" even less so.  It is clear that Jesus is the Christ, but it is not fully clear that He is God - though the case is stronger in the Epistles than it is in the gospels themselves.  But even in the passages of Paul where Paul comes closest to affirming the divinity of Christ, the Father and the Christ are still separate - in a strange way that opens the door to almost every heresy of the first few centuries - all of which had to do with denying the divinity of Christ in one manner or another.  And see the modern heresies of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witness, Unitarianism, and I'm sorry to say, almost all liberal Protestant churches, which take a pretty glib attitude toward Jesus, because at bottom they think He's just a guy, and a "nice guy" at that.

If the case in Scripture alone were air tight, we would not have the myriad numbers of ancient and modern heresies that interpret Scripture otherwise regarding the divinity of Christ.

***

But let me finish by focusing on what Catholics actually believe.  

We believe that Christ gave the apostles His authority when speaking formally on matters of Faith and Morals; and that the apostles consecrated bishops as their successors, who share this authority.  We see them do so at the very beginning - see the passages in Acts I quote in the original post and in the follow up one here.  

Indeed, I sometimes wonder if readers like Devin, well-intentioned though they be, actually read the posts they comment on, for pretty much everything I've said here I touched on there - reiterating my points in the comboxes as well.

At any rate, these are my answers to Devin.  

And Devin, my friend and brother in Christ, if you choose to respond here, please address the Scriptural passages I quote or allude to above, such as 2 Thes., 1 Tim., and the passages in Acts where the apostles exercise their authority by saying "it has been decided by the Holy Spirit and us" (Acts 15:28 - about which, see Jimmy Akin here).   

The fact is that the living presence of Christ continues not merely in the Holy Spirit's working in us as individuals, but in the corporate Body of Christ that carries on His function on earth, interpreting the Deposit of Faith by means of the teaching authority of His apostles, and their successors, the bishops. This Body of Christ is the Catholic Church - not the "Roman" Catholic Church (RC as Devin calls it), but the universal (catholic) Church, established by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The issue, as Devin realizes, is not the issue of the Immaculate Conception of Mary alone, but the underlying issue of the authority of the Church Jesus Christ established.



32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
You make a number of assertions in your article that are not proven.

Let's focus on the meaning of "full of grace-highly favored one" for Mary. Here is what the term means from a Greek NT lexicon:
"Full of grace
χαριτόω charitóō; contracted charitó̄, fut. charitó̄sō, from cháris (5485), grace. To grace, highly honor or greatly favor. In the NT spoken only of the divine favor, as to the virgin Mary in Luke 1:28, kecharitōménē, the perf. pass. part. sing. fem. The verb charitóō declares the virgin Mary to be highly favored, approved of God to conceive the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. The only other use of charitóō is in Eph. 1:6 where believers are said to be “accepted in the beloved,” i.e., objects of grace."

Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G5486). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers

As you can see this has nothing to do with her being sinless. Nothing to do with her conception nor how she lived before she met the angel.

Mary being a sinner does not in any way pass on the sin nature to Jesus since it is through man that the sin of Adam is passed on to the race. See Romans 5:12. Since Jesus had no biological father, He did not inherit the sin of Adam because He had no human biological father.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Devin, is this you? Readers, please sign your anonymous comments.

Devin, if this is you, please respond to the points I have made in the article.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
In regards to your last comment: "The issue, as Devin realizes, is not the issue of the Immaculate Conception of Mary alone, but the underlying issue of the authority of the Church Jesus Christ established."

You are going to have demonstrate that the church that Jesus founded is the RCC. The church of the NT is not the same thing as the RCC. We know this by comparing the structure and doctrines for each. There was no papacy, indulgences nor the Marian dogmas in the NT church. There was no celibate leadership nor was the church headquartered in Rome.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Whoever wrote the first anonymous comment above, your assertion that Original Sin is passed along only through sperm is ridiculous, and is supported only by the most Kindergarten level reading of Romans 5:12, taking "men" to mean
"males" and not human beings; typically only wacko feminists make such a mistake in their unwillingness to accept the term "men" for "all humans".

There will come a time when scientists produce a new human by genetic engineering from two egg cells. Will this new human be sinless? By your theory, yes, since Original sin exists only in semen.

Please don't display such ignorance here again. Whoever you are, I challenge you to engage the points I'm making in the post as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
Sorry about that. This is Devin.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Anonymous 2, engage what I've written. Don't just use name calling and initials. Engage the Scriptures I've quoted, don't just ignore them.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Well, friends, this is not going to go well for Devin.

Watch for name-calling, initial throwing (RCC), and anti-Catholic bigotry on display. I've written three posts here about the authority of the Catholic Church, and demonstrated my case from logic and Scripture, and he has so far refused to deal with me point by point, as I did with him.

Devin, I'm hoping this will be a better debate. You need not agree with me, but if all you've got is Romans 5:12 narrowly interpreted to mean "sin comes from semen", you're not going to get very far.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Anyway, if you actually respond to the points I've made, I'll continue to engage with you. If not, feel free to comment at length so that we can at least see where you're coming from.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
Scripture says that sin came into the world through Adam:
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. Rom 5

Though Eve first sinned it was through Adam the race fell.

Devin

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
You wrote in response to my question on there being something else that is divine revelation like the Scripture with this:
"Devin quotes me saying, "Scripture does not constitute the entirety of divine revelation", and then quite sensibly asks "what else is considered to be divine revelation"? And how would I prove this assertion?

The easiest way to answer this is to say, "If Scripture constitutes all of Divine Revelation, then by what authority did the Catholic Church set the canon of Scripture?" The Catholic Church is the organization that decided what gospels were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and what gospels were not (Thomas, Andrew, Marcion, etc.). They also decided what Epistles fit this same category, and proclaimed that the books of Acts and Revelations were likewise divinely inspired and free from error."

This response does not address the question of what else is divine revelation. What specific teaching-doctrine of your church is considered divine revelation? What else is considered equal to Scripture in your church? Please give me a couple of examples.

Devin

Benjamin. said...

Well, I'm not sure where either of you is going.

As for Scripture affirming Christ's Divinity, John 1, "...In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," and "...the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Though this certainly doesn't prove Sola Scriptura, a strange doctrine that I never quite understood.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Welcome, Benjamin! Devin, Benjamin is a good guy and he's been asking me similar questions.

Devin, your quotation from Romans means sin came from the Fall through all men - "all men" meaning "all people". It does not mean sin is passed from father to son by semen only, and that once the father is removed from the equation, sin will not be passed on.

My response to "sola scriptura" - your belief that the Bible alone is the source of all Divine Revelation - answers the core of your question. If the Bible alone were the source of all Divine Revelation, no authority would be able to compile the Bible, for the "table of contents" is not in the Bible; nor would any authority (including the individual believer) be able to interpret it, for the interpretation of a book is not in a book. In addition, though the passage Benjamin quotes from John is awfully conclusive to most sensible people that Christ is Divine, it did not stop five hundred years of arguing about that very point in the early Church, nor does it seem to make an impact on Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians, or liberalists in the Church today. They're wrong, of course, but the problem is they're wrong because they don't heed the authority of the Holy Spirit who interprets the Bible on questions of Faith and Morals infallibly by means of the successors to the apostles - the teaching authority of the Church. They're wrong because they're "sola scriptura", and their own take on the Bible-alone is off the rails.

As to what else is taught by the Church that is outside of Scripture - actually nothing is taught that contradicts Scripture or that is not at least implied in Scripture.

Certainly the Immaculate Conception, though implied in Scripture, is not nearly as strongly implied as is the Trinity, the Atonement, etc.

But the fact is Protestants have many beliefs that are not contained in Scripture at all. For example, the belief that the Eucharist is symbolic only (John 6 contradicts this); the belief that God cannot forgive sinners by working through men (John 20:23 contradicts this); the belief that Peter has no authority over the disciples of Christ (all of the gospels contradict this); the belief that the Bible alone is the source of all Divine Revelation (2 Thes. and 1 Tim. contradict this); the belief that faith alone can save (Paul contradicts this many times, as does James 2:14) - I could go on.

Argue that the Scripture alone contains all we need to know God, if you like, but then you are stuck with the parts of Scripture that affirm Catholic doctrine and contradict Protestant doctrine.

Either way, you may never come to accept the Immaculate Conception of Mary, but you will at least realize that "Christ left a Body, not a book."

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
So you are not claiming that the doctrines of your church are not divine revelation? Would that be correct?

Devin

Kevin O'Brien said...

Devin, yes they are Divine Revelations, containing the Scripture more than contained in them.

Your belief in the Holy Trinity comes from Catholic doctrine, fought and paid for by the blood of martyrs against the heretics of the early Church.

Your belief in faith as the sine-qua-non of salvation is a Catholic doctrine, which was revealed to the apostles and contained in Scripture, but larger than the Scripture it contains.

Your belief in Original Sin is Catholic doctrine, contained in Scripture but bigger than Scripture. Catholic teachings on Faith and Morals come to us from God. They are part of Divine Revelation, as is Holy Scripture.

There are some Catholic doctrines you reject, but the fundamental ones you and all Protestants believe came to you from God through the Catholic Church, which wrote and compiled the Bible.

You keep ignoring 2 Thes. 2:15 and 1 Tim 3:15. Scripture supports what I am telling you.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
You wrote in response to Romans 5:12 to mean-"sin came from the Fall through all men - "all men" meaning "all people". It does not mean sin is passed from father to son by semen only, and that once the father is removed from the equation, sin will not be passed on." is not correct. Sin came through Adam (man) and it is through man that sin is transmitted to all of mankind. It is not through the woman. That is why Jesus could be conceived in Mary's womb and not inherit the sin of Adam in His body. Adam's sin is not passed on through the woman but through the man. If sin were passed on through the woman then Jesus was born a sinner like everyone else.

Devin

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
2 Thes. 2:15 Paul mentions traditions that he taught. The only things we know that Paul taught can be found only in his letters. In his letters there is no mention of the papacy, Mary's conception, indulgences etc.

This means that "traditions" that Paul mentions have nothing to do with those things I mention above.

Devin

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
You claim your church calls its doctrines "Divine Revelations". What official church document says this?


Devin

Kevin O'Brien said...

Devin, we're not getting anywhere.

Nowhere does Scripture teach that sin is passed on through semen. And if you miss the point on 2 Thes., you won't grasp it on anything else. The point is to hold onto what is taught by word of mouth and letter - the point is that Divine Revelation is bigger than the Bible alone, but you have eyes, Devin, and you will not see.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Dear Readers, I am always over-estimating the internet, and the good will of people in debate. But you see here in 18 comments above either the low level of reasoning skills in the modern world, or else deliberate blindness plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
What is the official interpretation by your church on Romans 5:12 and can you give me the document where it's officially interpreted?

Devin

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
We are making progress. Do you know the traditions that Paul is referring to in 2 Thessalonians 2:15?

Devin

Scott W. said...

Dear Readers, I am always over-estimating the internet, and the good will of people in debate. But you see here in 18 comments above either the low level of reasoning skills in the modern world, or else deliberate blindness plain and simple.

Exactly. It's garden-variety heckling. Knock the dust from your sandals.

Bill said...

I think it is worth pointing out that for a proper argument, you must define your terms, I don't see where either of you have defined "revelation." I offer up this : From Page 127 of Pope Benedict XVI's biography Milestones:
"Revelation, which is to say, God's approach to man, is always greater than what can be contained in human words, greater even than the words of Scripture. ...it would have been impossible to refer to Scripture simply as "revelation," as is the normal linguistic usage today. Scripture is the essential witness of revelation, but revelation is something alive, something greater and more: proper to it is the fact that is arrives and is perceived --otherwise it could not have become revelation. ... Revelation has instruments; but it is not separable from the living God, and it always requires a living person to whom it is communicated. Its goal is always to gather and unite men, and this is why the Church is a necessary aspect of revelation. ... And what we call "tradition" is precisely that part of revelation that goes above and beyond Scripture and cannot be comprehended within a code of formulas."

enness said...

"That is why Jesus could be conceived in Mary's womb and not inherit the sin of Adam in His body. Adam's sin is not passed on through the woman but through the man. If sin were passed on through the woman then Jesus was born a sinner like everyone else."

This is as stunning an example of circular reasoning as I have seen in a good while.

Anonymous said...

enness
What I wrote is not circular reasoning but an explanation of how sin is passed on and why Jesus did not inherit Adam's sin.

Jonathan said...

Kevin,

In the process of joining the Church, I discovered that nearly every issue came down to the question of authority. Authority gets to the question of trust. I suspect that for many protestants, historical and present day, they did not have a relationship of trust with the Church, thus have had to seek authority elsewhere, however insufficient it may be. Most protestants believe that there is no authoritative church (not even the one where they are members), even though they wish there were such a thing. So, still believing in Jesus, they make the best of a bad situation: Find a decent local church where you can serve and be "fed", and Sola Scriptura is a logical belief when it's the highest authority left to you.

In reply to comment #3, I think the burden of proof is with the claim that the Catholic Church is not the Church that Jesus founded. It takes a certain audacity to cut oneself off from one's family, no matter how screwed up they might be. Not to mention, if the Roman Catholic Church made up so many doctrines, why do all of the other ancient Churches -- Orthodox, Coptic, Nestorian, etc. -- hold to most of them?

Anonymous said...

Jonathan,
The RCC is not the same as the church of the NT in terms of structure or doctrine. Claiming you trust your church is problematic for you. Just read the history of your church in what its popes for example are guilty of. Even today with all the continuing scandals that come to light has to be difficult for you to maintain this trust in its authority.

Devin

Jonathan said...

Who is it that says it isn't the same church? That is, on whose authority?

(And by the way, sure it isn't identical in form, but neither am I identical in form to myself as a child. Still the same person.)

Anonymous said...

Jonathan,
When we compare the structure of your church with the NT church its not the same thing. In the NT church there is no papacy, celibate leadership, the Marian dogmas, indulgences or purgatory. In fact Rome was not the main church either. Jerusalem was.

Devin

Kevin O'Brien said...

Devin, let me say that I admire you for trying to seek out and be loyal to the truth Church. I know it must seem to you that the Catholic Church is not the Church you find in the Bible.

But the fact is that (as John Henry Newman says) to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. Not only is the NT filled with things that many Protestants reject - Baptism, the Eucharist, faith-made-complete-by-works, Peter as the rock, etc. - but the writings of the Early Fathers make it quite clear that the Church of the first few centuries was shockingly Catholic.

I will grant you that things like indulgences and Marian dogmas seem to be repugnant to what you see in the Bible, and I have admitted that the Immaculate Conception (which began this whole discussion) is not easily proved by Scripture alone, but your notion of the Catholic Church is askew from what we really teach about indulgences and Mary and so forth (at least from what I can tell). In addition, your reading of sin being passed only through males is very narrow and literalistic and would be rejected by most Protestants.

I'm simply saying that you are really not open to the fullness of what Scripture teaches. Forget the question of authority for a moment and simply realize that as much as you and your Protestant brothers love Scripture (and rightly so), you are missing much of the overall story.

Anyway, God bless you for being true to the Church. By the way, the sinfulness of Catholics, including certain popes, confirms Catholic dogma, and does not deny it. We're the ones who first said the Church is filled with sinners, and bad Catholics prove that again and again.

God bless you, Devin! Let us both keep praying and struggling to follow Christ.

Michael said...

Anonymous says...

"2 Thes. 2:15 Paul mentions traditions that he taught. The only things we know that Paul taught can be found only in his letters."


He more or less proves your point here Kevin.

Admitting that Paul may have had teachings NOT found in his letter's, yet teaching's that are still valid.

Hence admitting; it's possible not all teaching's are explicitly and intricately detailed in scripture.

Michael said...

Anonymous, I also find it odd how you and many other Protestants avoid the question;

On what (infallible) authority were men able to perfectly judge which books constituted scripture?


Your problem is not lack of a belief in infallibility, it's actually and UBER-BELIEF in infallibility;

namely, that EVERYBODY has the infallible authority to perceive what is and isn't scripture, not just Catholic clergy.

To declare that you (infallibly) know what books constitute scripture is to endorse the doctrine of infallibility ANYWAY.


The RCC (and succession) is quite Biblical;

- The apostles are given binding/loosening authority

- The apostles, take it upon their OWN judgement (by the Holy Spirit) to elect a replacement for Judas. (Important that you recognise that it was on what appears to be their own initiative)

- Acts 8:18 proves that only certain Christians had authority to grant the ability to bestow the Holy Spirit by laying of hands

- Paul is appointed by Christ as an apostle and guess what? Ananias LAYS HIS HANDS on Paul

- 1 Tim 3:1, 8; 5:17 - qualifications for: bishops, priests, & deacons

- 1 Tim 5:22 - do not lay hands too readily on anyone