Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Friendly Exchange with Fallen-Away Catholic on Savation by Faith Alone

Fallen away Catholic:

It was most refreshing [talking with you]--I didn't do a complete look at faith versus works (according to what we discussed); however, I would like for you to consider Ephesians Chapter 2 starting at verses 4 through 10 with special emphasis on verse 8.  I am sending this not in the spirit of argument but for your consideration.

Again it was enjoyable talking to you.  Best regard

I replied:
Hi [his name]

I so appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with a fellow brother in Christ.  I really enjoyed talking with you as well and anticipate some good exchanges in these emails.

I have a pretty thick skin.  I will take whatever is said here on your part as someone who loves Christ and wants to share what he has found to me.  And so, don't worry about hurting my feelings or fear of insulting me or something.  Ok?

You recommended that I read Ephesians 2, verses 4 through 10 with an emphasis on verse 8.  Well, let's have a quick look at those verses shall we.  Here are those exact verses from the NIV (its a little easier to read then the KJV) I hope you don't mind.

Eph 2

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

And so we see that we are saved through faith, not by works.  Now, if you look closely Paul couldn't be talking about the uselessness of good works, ie works of God since he goes on in the very next verse on the idea the God Wills that we do certain works (verse 10).  Paul then, is referencing the works of the law (sacrificial law, circumcision and so on...) when he says that one is saved through faith and not by works of the law.

Look at verse 10, it says: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do."

Now, God has prepared in advance some good works that we are to do.  It is His Will that we do them.  What happens if we do not do the Will of God?  Answer: "‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."  (Mat 7:21)

Faith alone isn't enough, we must also do the will of God and if we knowingly refuse to do God's Will means that we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The verse that I believe best explains the role of faith and works is in Gal 5:6

"the only thing that counts is faith working through love."

God Bless

Friday, April 15, 2016

Primacy of Peter?

We find that Peter is mentioned 155 times and the rest of the apostles combined are only mentioned 130 times in the New testament of our Bibles.  Peter is also always listed first except in 1 cor 3:22 and Gal 2:9 (which are obvious exceptions to the rule).  In light of this maybe we should have a look at the role that Peter received from Jesus in our Bible.

In today’s Gospel reading we find that Jesus is making Peter the shepherd of all, including the other apostles.  After Peter denied Jesus 3 times at the beginning of His Passion, Jesus asked the same basic question after His Resurrection when He appeared to the twelve.  He asked Peter if he loved Him: “Do you love more than these?” (referring to the twelve apostles who were present.)  Peter answers that yes, of course he loves Him.  Jesus then tells him to “tend my lambs, “tend my sheep,” “feed my sheep,” which refers to all His followers, including the other apostles themselves.  Jesus charges Peter “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” “feed my sheep.”  Sheep means all people, even the apostles.

Another verse that I find clear that Jesus was gave Peter the Primacy of the twelves authority is when Jesus explained to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[a] that he might sift you[b] like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)

A couple of things to notice.  First, Simon was Peter’s name before Jesus changed it when He said “You are Peter and on this rock…”  Second, the ‘you’ marked with [a] is the singular ‘you’, the one marked with [b] is the plural ‘you’.  We’re losing a key distinction when translating the original Greek text into English.  The word ‘you’ in English is the same whether in singular form or plural form but this isn’t so in the Greek of the New Testament times.  An easier way of reading that won’t lose the differences could be this way: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you[,Simon],[a] that he might sift you [all][b] like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you [,Simon], that your faith may not fail; and when you[, Simon] have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”

We can plainly see that Jesus is showing Peter and the apostles that Peter is indeed the ‘leader’ of the twelve, the one with primacy of authority.  But let’s confirm this understanding by looking at some early Christian writings.
Clement of Alexandria
"[T]he blessed Peter, the chosen, the preeminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matt. 17:27], quickly grasped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? ‘Behold, we have left all and have followed you’ [Matt. 19:27; Mark 10:28]" (Who Is the Rich Man That Is Saved? 21:3–5 [A.D. 200]).
The Letter of Clement to James "Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter, the first fruits of our Lord, the first of the apostles; to whom first the Father revealed the Son; whom the Christ, with good reason, blessed; the called, and elect" (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]).
Origen "[I]f we were to attend carefully to the Gospels, we should also find, in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter . . . a great difference and a preeminence in the things [Jesus] said to Peter, compared with the second class [of apostles]. For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens" (Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage "The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ . . . On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).
"Who is ignorant that the first of the apostles is the most blessed Peter?" (Commentary on John 56:1 [A.D. 416]).

God Bless

Monday, April 4, 2016

Infallibility - A Challenge?

Recently, on Triablogue, John Bugay posted a query using Hans Küng as his primary source for challenging infallibility - as if a dissident "theologian" is a good place to start from.  I guess from a Protestant perspective, a dissident Catholic is "better" than an orthodox one, but even Bugay refers to Küng as a "renegade Roman Catholic theologian."

According to Bugay,
"Küng says he is not writing to destroy, but if ever there was a need for destruction, it is here. Wrong-headed from the start, both “papal infallibility” and “the papacy” both need to be headed toward “the ash-heap of history”. If anyone can muddy the waters right now (further than they have been muddied), it will be “Pope Francis”."
In short, Küng is writing to destroy.  The link there takes you to another Triablogue article on Papal Infallibility, also written by Bugay and while using another source, Küng wrote the introduction to that source - already opening it to the question of its orthodoxy.  That article opens with a discussion of the "Johannine Comma" and goes into a discussion about later popes overturning decisions by earlier popes.

It is apparent that Bugay (and perhaps his sources) is oblivious to the fact that not EVERYTHING decreed by a pope is infallible!  The fact of the matter is, VERY FEW decrees are actually considered to be infallible.  Yes, such a decree is binding upon all faithful Catholics - but again, a non-infallible decree can be (and several have been) overturned.

My response to the first article I cited is quite simple and straightforward:
Something which is bound in heaven, by its very nature, is then infallible - for nothing fallible could be "bound" in heaven.  If Peter, and thus his successors, has this authority, then Bugay's point is moot.  If Peter has not this authority, then Matthew 16:18-19 is a lie.  You can't have it both ways.
That response, if it is approved, was also posted to the original article on Triablogue (slightly paraphrased here because I did not copy it before I submitted it).  The bottom line is, if the Bible is the true and final authority for Bugay, then his objections to infallibility are pure folly and even scandalous in opposing the Word of God.