Friday, June 2, 2017

"Eternal Life" according to Scripture

I thought I had written a dedicated post about the Biblical teaching on "eternal life," but after doing a search it seems I only wrote about it in passing (e.g. Here and Here). As with many of my posts, the heart of good apologetics is defining key theological terms according to the Bible. Most theological errors are due to people unconsciously assigning their own definitions to key theological terms, which results in building other theological conclusions on an faulty foundation. In this case, many people will read verses such as "whomever believes in him will have eternal life" (Jn 3:15) as if it were saying once you accept the Gospel your spot in heaven is secure forever. This is understandable, but it's a serious mistake and even misses the beauty of such texts. 
Doing a simple word search, the term "eternal life" appears in approximately 45 verses in the Bible. To keep this post short, I wont go through every verse, but you can and should follow the link to see the verses for yourself. The key verses I want to highlight are as follows:
  • John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
  • John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
  • John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  • 1 John 3:14-15 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him
In these passages from John, it is clear that "eternal life" is not something that comes in the future, it is not a ticket to heaven, but rather it is something you presently experience. In John's mind, to have "eternal life" means you have a relationship with the Trinity, the Trinity dwells within you. You "know" the Father and the Son, you have a spring of water flowing within, you have passed from spiritual death to inner spiritual life. In short, you have "eternal life abiding within" yourself (1 Jn 3:15). So all those times in John when Jesus says "believe and you will have eternal life," this is simply saying if you believe Jesus is your Savior, you will be in communal relationship with the Trinity. This communion can obviously be broken, as we see Adam originally had communion and fell, and 1 John 3:15 warns that mortal sin will result in no longer having eternal life in yourself (unless you repent). 

It is understandable why the term "eternal life" would confuse many, but it's pretty clear once you stop and try to understand the term from John's mystical perspective. That said, now it's time to look at how the term "eternal life" is used by Paul and other Apostles, because we will see a different usage than John's. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Are we saved by Wine Alone? (The Apostolic dogma of mixing of Water & Wine in the Chalice.)

Most of us know that during the Sacrifice of the Mass there comes a point when the priest is preparing the chalice when he mixes water with the wine prior to Consecration. I have always seen this as a beautiful 'ritual', but until recently I didn't realize how plainly it was included in Early Church Father writings and that the Church has always insisted it is part of proper celebration of the Eucharist. In this post I want to quote some of the ancient sources I found testifying to this practice, and from there I want to bring up the question of how this squares with Sola Scriptura. (This is another post in my How Liturgy Refutes Protestantism series, see HERE and HERE for two of the main articles.) 

Here are some early Church testimonies I came across: 
  • Justin, AD150 (First Apology, Sec65):
    There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father . . . those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion. And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true . . . Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings
  • Irenaeus, AD180 (Against Hereies Bk4:Ch33):
    Moreover, how could the Lord, with any justice, if He belonged to another father, have acknowledged the bread to be His body, while He took it from that creation to which we belong, and affirmed the mixed cup to be His blood? ... (Bk5:Ch2) When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported
    ... (Bk5:36) For the Lord also taught these things, when He promised that He would have the mixed cup new with His disciples in the kingdom

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How Protestants violate Paul's instructions on married clergy. (1 Timothy 3:2)

Protestants often bring up 1 Timothy 3:2 against Catholicism's rules on married clergy. Protestants say that Paul plainly says a Minister must be married, and thus Catholicism must use "traditions of men" to enforce celibacy to get around Paul's requirement for Church ministry. The irony here is that Catholicism actually does follow Paul's rules, and it is Protestants who pretty blatantly violate them. Let's first take a look at the passage in question and then I'll show why Protestants don't take the Bible as seriously as they think they do.
1 Timothy 3: 2 Therefore an overseer [Pastor/Minister] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
The first thing to note is that Paul is talking about candidates for ordination here, Paul is not talking about those already ordained. This is important because Paul is saying that the married man who seeks ordination must already be married and he must already have children (note the plural). Nothing in this text indicates someone already ordained can still get married later on, and yet Protestants teach someone who is already a Pastor can still do these things after ordination. In fact, Protestant seminaries typically consist of young men studying for ordination, and of these young men a good number of them aren't already married, and an even larger percentage of them don't have children (note the plural) yet. Thus, Protestants are blatantly violating Paul's teaching here, all the while thinking they are following Paul's teaching. So Protestants should be careful when using this verse against Catholicism, because any Protestant seminarian who is not married, or married without more than one child, or even infertile, is thus prohibited from ordination based on their own Protestant logic!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

When was Jerusalem sacked by the Babylonians? (A huge Jehovah's Witnesses apologetics find.)

I've been interacting with some Jehovah's Witnesses and I've focused most of our discussion on their key 1914AD Doctrine. The year 1914AD is important for world history because that was the year World War I began. The JWs claim that, decades earlier, they were able to use the Bible to know 'something big' would happen in 1914, and thus by accurately predicting WWI while everyone else was caught off guard, this signifies the JWs are God's true Christian body on earth. There is certainly some appeal to this claim, since if the Bible does predict such a major event, then those who were able to recognize this prophecy certainly hold some clout within Christian history. I've already spoken about this doctrine on a dedicated post a while ago (HERE - not a prerequisite for this article), but since my recent interactions I've learned about a more elegant, yet equally devastating argument which I'd like to present now. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Does falling away from the faith mean you were never really saved in the first place? (1 John 2:19)

Many Protestants teach that you cannot lose your salvation, so when a person "falls away" from the faith, some of these Protestants conclude that this person was never really saved in the first place. Their favorite prooftext for this claim is 1 John 2:19. Their interpretation is quite convenient, but is actually quite unreasonable, and it's is hurtful towards Christians who struggle with sin (thinking they might never have been saved). 

To begin, consider the context of 1 John 2:19,
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
These Protestants read 2:19 as saying these people who "went out" of the community by apostasy demonstrate that they never really were saved, since true Christians remain in the community. This interpretation is somewhat understandable, but it is very weak when you consider the context, the Greek words themselves, similar verses, and theological coherence. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

This simple picture helps explain "Divine Simplicity" and God's many "attributes".

This post is more of a theological reflection rather than an apologetics argument. Oftentimes I've heard people talk about how God is "both infinitely Merciful and infinitely Just," or some similar comparison, as if God somehow was able to hold together many conflicting "attributes" at the same time. I think the answer to these kinds of questions is to recognize that what we think of as God's "attributes" are only half the picture. Consider the following diagram:

This is a picture of White Light (sunlight), which is invisible to the human eye, but when this White Light hits a Glass Prism, the White Light reflects off it and result is the spectrum of the colors of the rainbow. (This is real science you can do at home.) 

The analogy to draw from this example is that God is similar to the White Light in that He is normally invisible to us, while the Prism is similar to Creation, and when God interacts with Creation we see Gods many beautiful attributes throughout nature and in divine revelation. The point being that the colors of the rainbow represent God's attributes, such as Justice, Mercy, etc, and these are truly distinct from Creation's point of view, but in reality these terms are only human terms to describe an ultimate reality (White Light) that is far beyond our mind's ability to grasp. This is one reason why Christian theologians throughout history have described God as "simple," not to suggest God is easy to understand, but rather to say that God isn't composed of many 'parts'. We cannot really fathom or understand God directly, but we can still understand Him 'indirectly' in a real and true manner.

Friday, January 20, 2017

He who sees Mary sees the Father. A simple yet mind-blowing insight to increase Marian devotion.

Marian Devotion is hard for a lot of people, both Catholics and Protestants. This usually stems from the Protestant tendency to denounce the Blessed Virgin as a way to take a swipe at Catholicism. The poison that is usually introduced comes in the form of fear of idolatry, fear of elevating Mary too high, thus detracting from the honor and devotion due to the Trinity alone. But the greatest of Catholic saints, those who were very close to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, got that way through their closeness to and high esteem of Mary (and Joseph, but that's for another time). This post is intended to break through that fear, and come out on the other side as madly in love with Mary as your actual mother and not fearing to use very flowery language in honor of Her. I want to keep this post short and hopefully follow it up with other reflections as I am able. 

To get the ball rolling, I want to begin with a profound insight I heard in a homily by Fr Ryan Erlenbush (I highly recommend following his blog and hearing all his sermons). I will summarize what he said and add my own thoughts: Jesus famously said of Himself that "He who sees me sees the Father" (John 12:25). This is one of the most astonishing claims ever made. You can hardly take it in. There's something so beautiful and simple about it, yet so mysterious and mind-blowing. You really have to be a spiritual master to even begin to break this down into digestible pieces for the rest of us. One such profound insight on this is that there is a real sense in which we can say the same thing of the Blessed Virgin Mary: he who sees Mary sees the Father. This is so outrageous sounding that you should be uncomfortable at first just hearing it, and yet it's so eye-opening once you see it that you can never unsee it. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Countering the Protestant claim that "Oral Tradition" was invented to justify unbiblical teachings.

Protestants are understandably concerned when Catholics appeal to "Tradition" when justifying certain teachings. There is a certain objectivity, and thus safety, about having a written document like the Scriptures. Indeed, that's one of the reasons why Catholics believe God gave us the Scriptures in the first place. Too often, appeals to Tradition are framed in terms of "Catholics cannot justify this teaching from Scripture, so they must turn elsewhere," and that "elsewhere" is seen as some secrete list of teachings passed on orally, from one bishop to another, even though nobody knows when or where. If this is what "Tradition" refers to, then this should be troubling to any Catholic. But fortunately, that's not the case, and in fact the answer is deceptively simple: Oral Tradition within historical Christianity is basically synonymous with the Liturgical Life, that is how the Sacraments are celebrated, the Liturgical Calendar, etc. These are very 'public' sources to consult, and more or less objective as well, so there is no hiding things and then randomly appealing to some unwritten unverifiable "tradition" when need be. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Why Protestants reject the Council of Nicaea.

The Council of Nicaea is a very useful apologetics tool beyond just discussing matters of the Trinity. What most people don't realize is that Nicaea produced more than just a Creed, it also issued 20 canonical laws which were binding on all Christians living at that time. The information contained in these Canons is just as useful (if not more so) as any Church Father when it comes to evaluating Protestantism against the bar of Church history. Below, I will mention why each of the 20 Canons are incompatible with all Protestantism in one way or another. This leaves Protestantism in a significant bind, because virtually all Protestants wholeheartedly affirm the Creed and deem the Council to be an orthodox testimony in early Christianity. After reading these Canons, the Protestant must recognize that they cannot embrace the Creed without also embracing the Canons, because if the Canons teach heresy and error, then the Protestant has no business at all embracing the Creed which this same Council produced. Protestants have no problem affirming the Catholic Church is correct on a lot of things, but they say the Catholic Church is false and cannot be trusted because it also teaches many errors. By this same logic, a Protestant must reject Nicaea as well, for Nicaea teaches many "errors" in its Canons and binds all Christians to these "errors" as well.