P (Roman Catholic) Replies to J's Rebut


See J's Rebuttal HERE

P's Reply to J's Rebut (1)

J's first question was on the promises made to Israel vs. those to the Church; also the keys of the kingdom given to Peter vs. other "keys." This was probably the "easiest" of J's questions and I have already answered it. The promises made to Israel have been fulfilled in the Church or invalidated because of disobedience or unbelief in the Messiah. The Catholic Church is the New Israel contra dispensationalism. J brings up some other challenges:

<< He should tell us which of the promises allegedly made to the Roman Catholic Church can be abrogated. >>

Let's examine the text of these promises. None of them are abrogated.

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18 Douay)

The Church founded by Jesus on the Rock of Peter shall never be prevailed against. J seems to believe the Church Jesus founded was prevailed against when it became the Roman Catholic Church sometime in the Middle Ages. I should ask J when he believes the Roman Catholic Church came into existence, since there is no break in continuity between the visible Church founded by Jesus and the Catholic Church of the Fathers, Saints, and Councils.

"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." (Matthew 28:20 Douay)

Jesus will be with His Church to the end of the world thus ensuring faithfulness to His teaching (the context is the teaching authority given to His apostles).

"And I will ask the Father: and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever: The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him. But you shall know him; because he shall abide with you and shall be in you."; "But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself: but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak. And the things that are to come, he shall shew you." (John 14:16-17; 16:13 Douay)

The Holy Spirit will remain in Christ's Church forever guiding the leaders of the Church into all truth. At this point, this was the apostles, but given the fact Jesus knew His Church would continue, then the Holy Spirit would continue to guide the Church's leaders (the bishops) into all truth. Combine this with St. Paul's statement that the Church is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15 NIV), the keys of the kingdom given to Peter, and the binding/loosing power of the apostles and their successors (Matt 16:19; 18:18; John 20:21-23) and we have the promise of infallibility being given to the Church in its official teaching. What the Church -- the Body of Christ -- teaches is what Christ teaches (cf. Matt 10:19-20,40; 28:18-20; Luke 10:16; Rom 10:14-17). Only the Catholic Church has this authority the Scripture speaks about.

<< God didn't fulfill His promises to Israel in the past the way P claims He must fulfill those promises in the present.... Should we conclude, then, that the Roman Catholic Church can be divided (1 Kings 11:31-33), can lose the revelations it receives from God (2 Kings 22:8-13), is fallible in its teachings (Matthew 16:12), and is led by hypocritical sons of Satan who are whitewashed tombs? >>

No this makes no sense whatsoever. God judged Israel but that did not cause Israel to cease to be God's chosen people. The text J brings up says: "I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws...." (1 Kings 11:33 NIV). So God judged them for disobedience and idolatry. They did not cease to be God's chosen people, nor has the Catholic Church because of her sins (1 Peter 2:4-12).

One could say God is judging the Catholic Church now with the scandal of some of her priests, and likewise the Church does not cease to be the Body of Christ, the New Israel of God (Gal 6:16; NT passim). There is nothing in the Bible about the Catholic Church being divided into 20,000 plus denominations/sects and officially teaching error on doctrine for 2000 years. What we see is one Church teaching one Faith with the Holy Spirit of truth guiding the Church "forever" (Matt 16:18; 28:20; Eph 4:5; John 14:16f; 16:13). Those promises have not been abrogated. The promises made to individuals (Heb 13:5) are true as well ("never will I leave you, never will I forsake you...") and those individuals are indeed infallible when they hold to the teachings of the Body of Christ and submit to and obey the Church's leaders who rule over them (Heb 13:7,17).

<< Even if we assume that the keys of Matthew 16:19 were unique to Peter, how does the doctrine of the papacy logically follow? >>

J equates the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" with binding/loosing which is given to all the apostles (Matt 18:18). J says the "function" of the keys is to open/shut and that is the extent of the meaning. Protestant scholarship disagrees with J completely. See below. The "papacy logically follows" from the fact of Peter's leadership/headship/primacy among the apostles, the authority of the keys, his unique role as Chief Steward (cf. Isaiah 22:15-25) of God's Household (the visible Church) on earth, apostolic succession in general (the bishops inherit the authority of the apostles), and Petrine succession in particular (the Bishop of Rome inherits Peter's primacy and authority). It makes perfect sense that a universal visible Church on earth requires a visible head.

Here are contemporary Protestant scholars on the meaning of the keys given to Peter.

"The 'kingdom of heaven' is represented by authoritative teaching, the promulgation of authoritative Halakha that lets heaven's power rule in earthly things...Peter's role as holder of the keys is fulfilled now, on earth, as chief teacher of the church....The keeper of the keys has authority within the house as administrator and teacher..." (M. Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter's Bible [Abingdon Press, 1995], volume 8, page 346)

"The 'keys' are probably not to be understood as entrance keys, as if to suggest that Peter is authorized to admit or to refuse admission, but rather to the bundle of keys carried by the chief steward, for the opening of rooms and storechambers within the house -- symbols of responsibilities to be exercised within the house of God (cf. Mt 24:45, etc.)..." (Francis Wright Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew [Harper and Row, 1981], page 355-356)

"He [Peter] is thus not the gatekeeper of heaven, but the steward of the Kingdom of heaven upon earth. His function is described in more detail as 'binding and loosing' ....the saying must from the very outset have referred to an authority like that of the teachers of the Law. In this context, 'binding" and 'loosing' refer to the magisterium to declare a commandment binding or not binding....For Matthew, however, there is only one correct interpretation of the Law, that of Jesus. This is accessible to the community through the tradition of Peter...Probably we are dealing here mostly with teaching authority, and always with the understanding that God must ratify what Petrine tradition declares permitted or forbidden in the community." (Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew [John Knox Press, 1975], page 343)

"The terms [binding and loosing] thus refer to a teaching function, and more specifically one of making halakhic pronouncements [i.e. relative to laws not written down in the Jewish Scriptures but based on an oral interpretation of them] which are to be 'binding' on the people of God. In that case Peter's 'power of the keys' declared in [Matthew] 16:19 is not so much that of the doorkeeper... but that of the steward (as in Is. 22:22, generally regarded as the Old Testament background to the metaphor of keys here), whose keys of office enable him to regulate the affairs of the household." (R.T. France, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 54)

"The keys of the kingdom would be committed to the chief steward in the royal household and with them goes plenary authority. In Isa. 22:22 the key of the house of David is promised to Eliakim. According to Paul, Jesus is the only foundation (I Cor. 3:11), and in Rev. 1:18; 3:7, Jesus possesses the key of David and the keys of death and Hades. But in this passage Peter is made the foundation (cf. Eph. 2:20, where the Christian apostles and prophets are the foundation and Christ is the cornerstone) and holds the keys. Post-Apostolic Christianity is now beginning to ascribe to the apostles the prerogatives of Jesus (cf. 10:40)....Thus Peter's decisions regarding the OT law (e.g., in Acts 10:44-48) will be ratified in heaven." (George Arthur Buttrick, et al The Interpreter's Bible [Abingdon Press, 1951], volume 7, page 453)

"He who held the keys would have power within it, power to admit, power to exclude. In Rev 3:7 this power is held by Christ Himself [quotes Rev 3:7]...The words are modelled on Is 22:22, and express supreme authority. To hold the keys is to have absolute right, which can be contested by none...It would, therefore, be not unexpected if we found the Messiah or Son of Man described as having the keys of the kingdom of the heavens. This would imply that He was supreme within it. But it is surprising to find this power delegated to S. Peter...To S. Peter were to be given the keys of the kingdom....If S. Peter was to hold supreme authority within it, the other apostles were also to have places of rank...[the passages] suggest irresistibly that 'the keys of the kingdom' mean more than power to open merely, and imply rather authority within the kingdom. And this is confirmed by the 'binding' and 'loosing' which immediately follow..." (Willoughby C. Allen, The International Critical Commentary [orig 1909, 1985], page 176ff)

And so on....see my first rebuttal statement for a summary.


P's Reply to J's Rebut (2)

J's second question was on the development of doctrine, specifically the Immaculate Conception (IC), Papacy, and sacrament of Confession.

<< ...the Pope denied that the Christian church ever viewed Mary as being sinful for any part of her life. The Pope claims that the concept that Mary was sinless from conception onward was taught explicitly from the first century onward, and was a doctrine accepted across the Christian world. >>

That's a nice story, but it's not true. The words "explicitly" or "first century onward" do not appear in the Pope's encyclical. Pius IX speaks about the documents and monuments of "venerable antiquity"; receiving the doctrine from "our ancestors"; that "nothing could be reasonably cited" against the doctrine from Scripture or Tradition; and that the IC is "stamped with the character of revealed doctrine" -- of course otherwise the dogma would not be defined. There is nothing said about every single Christian believing or teaching the IC explicitly from the first century. As I already quoted, the Pope acknowledges a development of the doctrine and controversy in the life of the Church, but that now is the time to define the IC as dogma once and for all:

"They [the predecessors to Pius IX] denounced as false and absolutely foreign to the mind of the Church the opinion of those who held and affirmed that it was not the conception of the Virgin but her sanctification that was honored by the Church. They never thought that greater leniency should be extended toward those who, attempting to disprove the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, devised a distinction between the first and second instance of conception and inferred that the conception which the Church celebrates was not that of the first instance of conception but the second....Not content with this they most strictly prohibited any opinion contrary to this doctrine to be defended in public or private in order that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin might remain inviolate. By repeated blows they wished to put an end to such an opinion." (Pius IX)

So those who disagreed with the doctrine in the past are mentioned. At the time of the encyclical (1854) and for many centuries previous the doctrine was universally believed in the Catholic Church.

<< Comparisons to the development of Trinitarian doctrine and the canon of scripture are false. I don't make claims about Trinitarian doctrine and the canon that are comparable to the claims the Catholic Church has made about doctrines like the papacy and the Immaculate Conception. >>

It doesn't matter what claims J makes; it only matters whether there is a similar doctrinal development process in the life of the Church for the Holy Trinity, the canon of Scripture, the Papacy and the IC. The historical evidence shows there was (see my second rebuttal statement on the Trinity, and below on the IC). J says the Bible teaches monotheism, the deity of Three Persons, the co-existence of the Persons and "such doctrines have logical implications that may be immediately understood or understood later in church history"; likewise, the Bible teaches Jesus became incarnate by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, therefore Mary is the Mother of God or Theotokos, the one full of grace (kecharitomene) and most blessed of all women, who all generations will call blessed as the New Eve and Holy Ark of the Covenant, and such doctrines have implications that can be understood later in Church history. The same Catholic Church, Fathers and Doctors that developed the Holy Trinity, the canon of Scripture, and the Papacy in the fourth and fifth centuries developed the Marian doctrines in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth centuries. Same visible Church, same development.

<< What Catholics need to show is that doctrines like the papacy and the Immaculate Conception are probable or necessary conclusions. They've never done that, and they can't do it. >>

Considering the history of the Catholic Church on the IC up to 1854, the time was right for definition. That is all Catholics need to show. Catholics don't believe the IC (or any doctrine) because we get to decide ourselves what is "probable" or "necessary" but because we submit to the authority of the true Church. That is the issue and subject of this debate, not the Marian doctrines or the Papacy as such. J has no reason to accept the 27 book NT canon other than the Church was a reliable guide in giving us the canon. The same then would follow for all the other doctrines the Church officially hands on and defines.

<< Contrary to the claims of the Catholic Church, private confession to a priest was not always a practice of the Christian church. >>

Let's ask the expert on this one. The best source is the two volume work by Oscar Watkins A History of Penance: 

(VOLUME I) : A REVIEW OF THE PRACTICE OF PENANCE IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH FROM ITS INCEPTION TO AD 450 

"The Catholic Church of Jesus Christ has EVER BELIEVED that her Lord has left her an empowerment to bind and to loose the souls of men, to remit and to retain the sins of which in their rebellion or their waywardness men have rendered themselves guilty. The direct commission is recorded in the Gospel according to S. John as having been given to the Apostles on the evening of the Day of Resurrection, when after breathing on them the Lord said,

"RECEIVE YE THE HOLY GHOST : WHOSE SOEVER SINS YE REMIT, THEY ARE REMITTED UNTO THEM; AND WHOSE SOEVER SINS YE RETAIN THEY ARE RETAINED [John 20:21-23].

"If it be asked what is the part which men play in the forgiveness of offence against the majesty of God, it may be answered that in the mysterious wisdom of God it would seem that the fallen human race is required to work out its own redemption. Only as a man will the Divine Word Himself become the Redeemer of the race : and when from Calvary and Hades the risen Lord passes to His place at the right hand of the Father, He leaves upon the earth His chosen officers to apply to the sons of men, each in his several need, the great Atonement which He has wrought for them.

"When the Lord thus breathes upon the Apostles, He is in the traditional acceptance of the Church to be understood as conveying at that point of time the actual commission which He expresses in words. From that point of time His ministers stand commissioned to remit and to retain the sins of their fellow-men." (from the summary pages 466 - 496 in A History of Penance [orig 1920], volume 1 of two volumes by Oscar Watkins)

I have already quoted Origen, St. Cyprian of Carthage, and St. John Chrysostom. Here are a few more:

ST. ATHANASIUS (c. 295-373 AD)

"Just as a man is enlightened by the Holy Spirit when he is baptized by a PRIEST, so he who CONFESSES HIS SINS with a repentant heart OBTAINS THEIR REMISSION FROM THE PRIEST." (On the Gospel of Luke 19)

ST. BASIL THE GREAT (c. 330-379 AD)

"It is necessary to CONFESS OUR SINS TO THOSE to whom the dispensation of God's mysteries [i.e. the Sacraments] is entrusted [i.e. priests]. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt 3:6]; but in Acts they confessed to the Apostles, by whom also all were baptized [Acts 19:18]. (Rules Briefly Treated 288)

ST. AMBROSE (c. 333-397 AD)

"But what was impossible was made possible by God, who gave us so great a grace. It seemed likewise impossible for SINS TO BE FORGIVEN THROUGH PENANCE; yet Christ GRANTED even this to His Apostles, and by His Apostles it has been TRANSMITTED TO THE OFFICES OF PRIEST." (Penance 2:2:12)

ST. JEROME (c. 347-420 AD)

"Just as in the Old Testament the priest makes the leper clean or unclean, so in the New Testament the bishop and presbyter [i.e. PRIEST] binds or looses not those who are innocent or guilty, but by reason of their OFFICE, WHEN THEY HAVE HEARD VARIOUS KINDS OF SINS, they know who is to be bound and who loosed." (Comm on Matthew 3:16:19)

ST. AUGUSTINE (c. 354-430 AD)

"Let this be in the heart of the penitent: when you hear a man CONFESSING HIS SINS, he has already come to life again; when you hear a man lay bare his conscience in confessing, he has already come forth from the sepulchre; but he is not yet unbound. When is he unbound? By whom is he unbound? "Whatever you loose on earth," He says, "shall be loosed also in heaven" [Mt 16:19; 18:18; Jn 20:23]. Rightly is the LOOSING OF SINS ABLE TO BE GIVEN BY THE CHURCH..." (Psalms 101:2:3)

"Yet those who do PENANCE in accord with the kind of sin they have committed are not to despair of receiving God's mercy in the Holy Church, for the remission of their crimes, however serious." (Echiridian 17:65)

"Iniquity, however, sometimes makes such progress in men that even after they have DONE PENANCE and after their RECONCILIATION to the altar they commit the same or more grievous sins....and although that place of penance in the Church is not granted them, God will not be unmindful of His patience in their regard...." (Letters 153:3:7)

"There have been those who would say that no PENANCE is available for certain sins; and they have been excluded from the Church and have been made heretics. Holy Mother Church is not rendered powerless by any kind of sin." (Sermons 352:9)

"When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted....But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out....In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance." (Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15; 8:16).


P's Reply to J's Rebut (3)

J's third question was on the Immaculate Conception (IC).

<< Wouldn't God also want the greatest earthly father, the greatest disciples, etc.? >>

God might, but He would certainly start with His own Mother.

<< Even if we were to conclude, erroneously, that the term used in Luke 1:28 refers to sinlessness, how would P know that the sinlessness goes back to the time of conception and continues after Luke 1:28 until the time of Mary's death? >>

Here is a grammatical point from Fr. Mateo's booklet Refuting the Attack on Mary:

"...Luke 1:28 uses the perfect passive participle kecharitomene. The perfect stem of a Greek verb denotes 'continuance of a completed action'; 'completed action with permanent result is denoted by the perfect stem.' [Blass/DeBrunner and Smyth]. On morphological grounds, therefore, it is correct to paraphrase kecharitomene as 'completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace.'"

How do we know the fullness of grace (and grace is the opposite of sin) goes back to the time of Mary's conception? We don't know with certainty until the Church has made her definition. Same can be asked of Jesus: how do we know his divinity goes back to eternity, that he was equal in substance and nature with God the Father, and this continues once he became a man. After all, Jesus said while on earth "the Father is greater than I" (John 14:28) and similar texts suggest the Son's subordination to the Father (1 Cor 11:3; 15:28). The Church ruled on this at the Council of Nicaea (and subsequent Councils) so now we can be sure about the deity of Christ and the orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity.

<< None of the church fathers in the earliest centuries referred to Mary being immaculately conceived. Irenaeus implied that Mary sinned after conception, and many church fathers didn't just imply it, but even stated it explicitly. >>

None of the Fathers referred to the 27 book New Testament canon until St. Athanasius, c. 360 AD. That doesn't seem to be a problem for J. Irenaeus stresses only Mary's obedience as the New Eve:

"By disobeying, Eve became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way Mary, though she also had a husband, was still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race..." (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:22 c. 180 AD).

JND Kelly does refer to Origen, then Basil and John Chrysostom as doubting the sinlessness of Mary, but also notes that Ephraem in Syria did believe her "free from every stain, like her Son." Let's examine the fuller evidence from the Fathers and Doctors. First, the Catholic Encyclopedia states:

"But these Greek writers [who doubted Mary's sinlessness] cannot be said to express an Apostolic tradition, when they express their private and singular opinions. Scripture and tradition agree in ascribing to Mary the greatest personal sanctity; She is conceived without the stain of original sin; she shows the greatest humility and patience in her daily life (Luke 1:38,48); she exhibits an heroic patience under the most trying circumstances (Luke 2:7,35,48; John 19:25-27). When there is question of sin, Mary must always be excepted." (CE, on "Blessed Virgin Mary")

Juniper Carol writes that "St. Augustine's opinion is the real attitude of Christian antiquity":

"Now with the exception of the holy Virgin Mary in regard to whom, out of respect for the Lord, I do not propose to have a single question raised on the subject of sin -- after all, how do we know what greater degree of grace for a complete victory over sin was conferred on her who merited to conceive and bring forth Him who all admit was without sin -- to repeat then: with the exception of this Virgin, if we could bring together into one place all those holy men and women, while they lived here, and ask them whether they were without sin, what are we to suppose that they would have replied?" (St. Augustine, De natura et gratia PL 44:267, from Carol Mariology, volume 1, page 15)

In volume 1 on the chapter "Mary's Immaculate Conception" the full evidence from the Church is presented.

As mentioned some of the Eastern theologians "appear to have spoken of imperfections in the Virgin, and even of positive faults" while the Fathers St. Ephraem (c. 310-378) and St. Epiphanius (c. 315-403) "seem to have escaped succumbing to the renowned authority of Origen" (Carol Mariology, volume 1, page 352) who first implied Mary sinned. Subsequent Fathers and Saints in the East are clearer on the complete sinlessness of Mary: Theodotus, Bishop of Ancyra in Galatia (d. 430); St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 446);  Hesychius of Jerusalem (d. 450); Basil of Seleucia (d. 458); St. James of Sarug (452-519), St. Anastasius I (d. 598); St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (d. 637); St. Modestus (d. 634) another patriarch of Jerusalem; St. John Damascene (c. 675-749); St. Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 806); Joseph Hymnographus (d. 833); Georgius Nicomediensis (friend and contemporary of Photius); Euthymius, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 917); Petrus, Bishop of Argo (d. 920); and on and on.

Among the Western theologians besides St. Augustine we have St. Ambrose of Milan (333-397) in the fourth century; (St. Hilary appears to be the lone exception in the West who had doubts); St. Peter Chrysologus in the fifth; St. Maximus of Turin (d. 470); Sedulius a writer of hymns; St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspa (d. 533); St. Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers (d. 609); St. Ildephonse of Toledo (d. 666); Ambrose Autpertus (d. 778); Paulus Warnefridus;  Haymon, Bishop of Alberstadt (d. 853); Paschasius Radbertus (d. 860); St. Fulbert (d. 1028); then we have the controversy in the West leading to the solution by John Duns Scotus (1270-1308). That is a fuller picture of the historical evidence and development of the IC doctrine (see Carol Mariology, volume 1, pages 328ff).

As for J's few biblical texts he brings to bear on the IC, these can be dismissed as insignificant. None of them can or should be interpreted as Mary committing personal sin. For example, commenting on John 2:4 and "Woman" specifically, Catholic biblical scholar Fr. Raymond Brown (from the excellent Anchor Bible series) writes:

"This is not a rebuke, nor an impolite term, nor an indication of a lack of affection (in 19:26 the dying Jesus uses it for Mary). It was Jesus' normal, polite way of addressing women (Matt 15:28; Luke 13:12; John 4:21; 8:10; 20:13); and as such it is attested in Greek writing also." (Brown, The Gospel According to John [1969], page 99)

Brown goes on to explain the Semitic phrase (literally) "What to me and to you?" can be understood two ways: (a) "when one party is unjustly bothering another" which "implies hostility" (cf. the demons in Mark 1:24; 5:7); or (b) "when someone is asked to get involved in a matter which he feels is no business of his...." Brown sees John 2:4 under (b). Another interpretation is a variant of (b) which sees the phrase as "this is not our concern" (cf. 2 Sam 16:10) and "Jesus is telling Mary that it is neither his concern nor hers...." (Brown, page 99). So the text is not altogether clear. Brown also comments:

"Jesus' negative answer to Mary is in harmony with the Synoptic passages that treat of Mary in relation to Jesus' mission (Luke 2:49; Mark 3:33-35; Luke 11:27-28): Jesus always insists that human kinship, whether it be Mary's or that of his disbelieving relatives (John 7:1-10), cannot affect the pattern of his ministry, for he has his Father's work to do...The refusal is polite; there is no indication that Mary is being rebuked for being out of order, any more than in Luke 2:49. Nor, as we stated...is there a rejection of her as mother -- what is being denied is a role, not a person. Jesus is placing himself beyond natural family relationships even as he demanded of his disciples (Matt 19:29)." (Brown, page 102)

In the book by Calvinist theologian Max Thurian, which Fr. Raymond Brown calls "not only the best Protestant evaluation of the Mariological question, but far better than many Catholic treatments" (see Brown, page 107),

"...we can assert nothing other than this, for this is the most as well as the least that we can state to those who on the one hand would wish to speak of Mary as if she were sinful or on the other as separated from our condition as human creatures. We do not see how either the one or the other can be legitimately proved from the Gospel. Mary, full of grace, Daughter of Zion, the Mother of God Incarnate, the symbol of Mother Church is holy because in her the Gospel sees the living sign of a unique and pre-destined choice of the Lord, the response of faith from a perfectly human creature, but one who was also totally obedient." (Thurian, Mary, Mother of All Christians [Herder, 1964], page 25)

J mentions former Catholic Eric Svendsen's recent "evangelical Protestant" treatment on Mary, but a book that would defend it "indeed is the case" that "Mary is mother of only the non-God part of Jesus" (Who Is My Mother? by Eric Svendsen, page 265) is not a book an orthodox Christian should recommend (see also Evangelical Answers, page 242: "The fallacy again lies in not making the proper distinction between the humanity and deity of Christ. No one in the first century worshipped the body of Christ per se, but rather the person of Christ who happened to be embodied...."). When Svendsen leaves his implicit Nestorianism/Gnosticism behind, he might someday understand the Mother of God, but not before (prin) or until (heos).


P's Reply to J's Rebut (4)

J's fourth question was on the Assumption of Mary.

<< And we're supposed to believe that the Assumption is Biblical in a way comparable to Trinitarian doctrine? >>

No, we're not supposed to believe that. J asked for the biblical evidence for the Assumption and I gave him what is found in the papal encyclical that defined the dogma. I already granted the biblical evidence for the IC and Assumption is not compelling from modern grammatical-historical methods of exegesis. Catholics do not believe those doctrines because they have personally exegeted them out of the Scriptures but because they have been taught and defined by the true Church. So the issue is "what is the Catholic Church" not "can I find biblical evidence" for every Catholic doctrine.

<< We know that the ark contained the rod of Aaron, for example, but Mary never carried the rod of Aaron... Since Israel carried both the word of God and the rod of Aaron, Israel would be a better parallel for the ark than Mary. >>

Mary carried Jesus who is the Word of God (John 1:1,14) that carried the rod according to Revelation (Rev 12:5). Just as out of Israel came the Messiah, so out of Mary came Jesus. The biblical parallels between the Blessed Mother/Virgin Mary, the Church, Israel, and the Holy Ark of the Covenant are quite clear. From the www.Mariology.com site:

"In introducing Mary as the Ark, [Luke] draws on Old Testament texts that any Jewish reader would understand and identify with the Ark. Examples here include the similitude between Exodus 40:34,35 and Luke 1:35 and the striking parallels between the Elizabeth's visit to Mary and the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Abinadab to that of Obededom and to Jerusalem..."

OT Ark of the Covenant NT Blessed Mother of God
"The cloud covered the Tent of meeting and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle." Exodus 40:34 "The power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God." Luke 1:35
"However can the Ark of Yahweh (= My Lord) come to me?" 2 Samuel 6:9 "Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of My Lord?" Luke 1:43
"And David danced before the Lord with all his might ... So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet." 2 Samuel 6:14-15 "As soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy." Luke 1:44
"And the Ark of the Lord continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months." 2 Samuel 6:11 "And Mary abode with her about three months." Luke 1:56
"And the Lord blessed Obededom and all his household." 2 Samuel 6:11 [fertility is associated with blessing] "Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son." Luke 1:57

J says,

<< These arbitrary, speculative scripture interpretations do more to prove the absence of evidence for the Assumption doctrine than they do to prove that there's evidence for it. >>

Calvinist Max Thurian disagrees in his book Mary, Mother of All Christians:

"In the light of these scriptural parallels, Mary therefore appears at the time of her conception of the Messiah as the new dwelling-place of God, as the tent of meeting or the Holy of Holies, the sacred heart of the people of Israel upon whom the luminous cloud will come, the Holy Spirit or the power of the Most High, that is, God transcendent to His creatures, so that He might cause to dwell in her the glory, His one and only beloved Son, full of grace and truth, the Word who is made flesh and tabernacled amongst us, God present to His creatures....

"Mary, the Daughter of Zion, the virgin of Israel, the Dwelling of God, and the Ark of the Covenant! These titles serve to indicate that Mary is the place where God's final visitation of His people is taking place....The new Jerusalem, the transfigured Church, is thus indicated at the same time by these images of the city, the young woman betrothed, the Tabernacle, and the Holy Tent which sheltered the divine Presence in the desert. Moreover, in the book of Revelation our vision is directed to the double symbol of the Temple and the Woman, the dwelling-place of God our Savior...

"Thus from the prophetic vision of the people of God awaiting the Messiah under the form of the Daughter of Zion and the Woman and the Tabernacle, up to the final vision of the Temple with the Ark and the Woman clothed with the Sun, it is the same symbolism which one encounters. Mary, on the occasion of the Incarnation, thus gathers up in herself the whole people of Israel in their expectation and symbolizes in herself the whole mystery of the Church in its fulfillment. Mary is thus the Daughter of Zion, the Woman who is to bear the Messiah, the Temple of God, and the Ark who bears the Presence of Yahveh." (Thurian, page 49,51-52)

So this Calvinist author (he later became a Catholic) sees and presents in detail all of these parallels in the Scriptures.

<< The truth is that the Assumption doctrine did not develop as Trinitarian doctrine developed, the doctrine isn't Biblical, it was not approved by ancient Christian worship, and opposing it does nothing to take away anybody's salvation. >>

Okay, we have Pope J's encyclical on the matter. I would rather follow Pope Pius XII (or Max Thurian), thanks.


P's Reply to J's Rebut (5)

J's fifth question was on Purgatory. We'll keep this one short.

<< So when David goes to Heaven just after arranging to have somebody murdered, a person he had promised not to kill, that's consistent with the doctrine of Purgatory?... I cited 1 Kings 2:1-10, which occurred after Psalm 51. David dies just after breaking his promise to Shimei by arranging to have him murdered. >>

Okay, I admit this was an objection I missed. However, I would interpret this differently of course. The man put to death was not considered innocent (1 Kings 2:9 -- "But now, do not consider him innocent" NIV) since the Mosaic Law prohibited cursing a ruler (1 Kings 21:10; Exod 22:28; Lev 24:15-16). By definition that is not murder, since murder is putting to death a judicially innocent person.

Other points to note (someone suggested these in an Email to me): David's oath was not binding on his son Solomon who had every right as king to treat Shimei as he saw fit. There is no suggestion that David was breaking an oath or committing some terrible sin in so doing. The Bible doesn't portray David as dying unrepentant or out of God's grace. That is simply J's gratuitous assumption. Oaths apply only to the ones making them. No one else is bound by them. David does not break his oath by suggesting to his son that Shimei may indeed be guilty, or that he may face a possible danger in the future. That is not a contradiction or "difficulty" at all. So I suggest that this is much ado about nothing.

<< P cites the suffering of Christians in this life as evidence of Purgatory. But since this life isn't Purgatory, and I've documented that Christians don't undergo anything like Purgatory when this life ends, how is mentioning suffering in this life relevant? >>

It's relevant to show suffering and sanctification is part of the Christian life. While not explicitly teaching the idea that this suffering might continue in purgatory, this shows the compatibility of suffering with the joy/peace that J pointed out Christians have as well. The image of God as a "consuming fire" or "refining fire" is definitely found in Scripture (Heb 12:29; Mal 3:2-3; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 1 Cor 3:13-15). If that does not help the case for purgatory from Scripture, I'm not sure what would. I'll quote a little St. Augustine for good measure:

"'Lord, rebuke me not in Your indignation, nor correct me in Your anger' [Psalm 38:1]...In this life may You cleanse me and make me such that I have no need of the corrective fire, which is for those who are saved, but as if by fire...for it is said: 'He shall be saved, but as if by fire' [1 Cor 3:15]. And because it is said that he shall be saved, little is thought of that fire. Yet plainly, though we be saved by fire, that fire will be more severe than anything a man can suffer in this life." (Explanations of the Psalms 37:3 c. 392 AD)

"That there should be some such fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish -- through a certain purgatorial fire [per ignem quemdam purgatorium]." (Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love 18:69 c. 421 AD)

"Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment [ante iudicium illud severissimum novissimumque]. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment." (The City of God 21:13 c. 413-426 AD)

More could be quoted. Here is what St. Augustine believed about the Catholic Church (which is the subject of this debate):

"According to him [St. Augustine], the Church is the realm of Christ, His mystical body and His bride, the mother of Christians [Ep 34:3; Serm 22:9]. There is no salvation apart from it; schismatics can have the faith and sacraments....but cannot put them to a profitable use since the Holy Spirit is only bestowed in the Church [De bapt 4:24; 7:87; Serm ad Caes 6]....It goes without saying that Augustine identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome...." (JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, page 412ff)

Again, that narrows down the number of Churches I would have to search for today to find the one to which St. Augustine belonged.

<< The fact that people are changed in preparation for Heaven doesn't prove that they're changed through Purgatory. >>

No, we just call the change "purgatory." Once you admit a period of preparation for heaven, you are half-way to the doctrine of purgatory.

FINALLY, we next have our closing statements and this debate is DONE.

P

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