Teaching & Suggestions

I spent a delightful half hour talking with my friend Steve Wood (www.Dads.org) about all things Catholic and apologetics.

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Did God Die on the Cross? How Can God Die?

by Steve Ray on March 1, 2019

Almost every day I get questions. I always try to answer, even if briefly. Today I received a question from Raymund in the Philippines. He is part of a apologetics group and they got very hung up on whether God died on the cross. Here is his e-mail:

JosephOfArimathea-5c2e4559c9e77c0001904cf9Greetings Mr. Stephen: 

I am a great follower of yours and I’m from the Philippines. I’ve got a couple of questions here that bother me a lot.

1) Did GOD THE SON died literally on the cross? or 2) Did only the HUMAN NATURE OF GOD THE SON  die on the cross?

I hope you can enlighten me on this matter.

My first response was brief, an attempt to get Raymund to think through it himself. I do this sometimes because some people prefer to just ask a question without giving it any thought or doing the research themselves. I wrote:

Let me ask you a question because it’s better for you to think through this on your own than for me to give you a pat answer. When you die, what dies? You are going to die and get buried in the ground, but are you dead?

Raymund wrote back:

You are putting more cobwebs in my brain….anyway, thanks. It has been an issue for us here (a little group of Catholics Faith Defenders, I’m new in this group). We were browsing the web found no definite answer. This issue has divided us.

  one of us says that GOD literally died on the cross for us to be saved.  AND THAT IS A MYSTERY OF OUR GOD IN CHRIST JESUS..

  the other is saying that it cannot be since GOD cannot die.  Jesus our Lord is both God and man.  What died? Some say IT IS A HERESY TO SAY THAT GOD DIED ON THE CROSS LITERALLY. For me, the latter seems a logical point of view.  GOD IS SPIRIT, ETERNAL, NO BEGINNING, AND NO END, therefore, cannot die. What died on the cross?

To sum it all, I’m sad for our group and at the same time, I’m confused.

So I responded further to Raymund and his group of Catholic Faith Defenders:

The reason I asked you about “when you die, what dies?” Is because it should help you think about what death is. Death is “separation.” It is the separation of the body from the soul. The soul goes to heaven or hell and the body is buried in the ground. Death does not mean annihilation, it means separation. When you die, you cease from your earthly existence, but you are still alive in your soul.

Jesus had two natures (human and divine) but he was only one “person.” He is a divine person (not a human person). He is God who has taken on human nature and therefore he is God and a man.

harrowingofhellJust like you, when this divine person of Jesus died on the cross it was a real death. But he was not annihilated or altogether dead. His body was buried in the tomb but he was soul and person was alive just like you will be alive in your soul when you die.

While his body lay in the tomb we are told that he ” he went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:18–19). He was still alive though his body was in the tomb. The person does not die, the body does and earthly existence ceases.

Catechism 630  “During Christ’s period in the tomb, his divine person continued to assume both his soul and his body, although they were separated from each other by death. For this reason, the dead Christ’s body “saw no corruption” (Acts 13:37).

Catechism 626  “Since the “Author of life” who was killed is the same “living one [who has] risen,” the divine person of the Son of God necessarily continued to possess his human soul and body, separated from each other by death: “By the fact that at Christ’s death his soul was separated from his flesh, his one person is not itself divided into two persons; for the human body and soul of Christ have existed in the same way from the beginning of his earthly existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death, although separated from each other, both remained with one and the same person of the Word.”

So, Jesus taking on human flesh died just like we all die. But the divine person of Christ did not end or cease to exist. Jesus’ spirit/soul never stopped living just like your spirit/soul will still live after your body and soul are separated in death. Remember, death means separation, not annihilation.

I concluded with a bit of advice: Raymund, When you have questions like this I suggest you go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is the best theology book, the best commentary on Scripture and a superb guide for your spiritual life. It is easy to read and you can find answers to questions like this.

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Grilled salmon sizzled on his plate as Andy and his family sat down for dinner. No sooner had they crossed themselves to bless the food than the doorbell rang. Andrew dragged himself to answer the door while his family began eating.

Two smiling faces peered in the door. “Good evening, we hope we’re not interrupting your dinner.” Rolling his eyes, Andy responded, “Can I help you?”

door-to-door-salesmanThe first smiling face said, “We are from the local Baptist church and stopped by to see if you are born again.”

Andy had been a Catholic all his life and remembered hearing that phrase somewhere in his past, but at this moment he hesitated. “Well, ahh, I’m a Catholic.”

The second smiling face displayed a hint of glee, “Can we come in and share the Gospel with you?” Andy blurted out, “Actually, we are in the middle of dinner – maybe another time.” “OK”, said the delighted Baptists, “how about next Tuesday evening?”

Andy sighed and agreed. Sitting down to cold salmon, he realized he had his work cut out for him. After dinner, he retreated to his den, grabbed his Bible and Catechism and got to work.

Take a few minutes and study along with Andy as he prepares for the Tuesday visit and the inevitable debate on the much-abused phrase “born again”. Andy started by reading the third chapter of St. John’s gospel. Open your Bible and read along with Andy. Andy began his mission with a barrage of questions.

Is the phrase “born again” in the Bible (Jn 3:3)? Does the Catechism mention this “new birth” (CCC 720, 591)? To understand, Andy thought about Nicodemus. What do Nicodemus and his legalistic system represent (Ro 7:5-6; CCC 1963)? Can the Jewish Law bring new birth and salvation? Is being born of the seed of Abraham sufficient for salvation (Mt 3:8-9; Jn 8:33-47)? What is Jesus bringing to Mankind (Heb 9:15; 12:24; Lk 22:20; CCC 292)?

For the whole article and lesson, click here. Prepare yourself and your children for the inevitable question.

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Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

January 5, 2019

A while ago we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same — “CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS […]

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Jesus Was A Jew and Why You Can’t Understand the Bible without Knowing That

December 28, 2018

Since we are at the Western Wall today, where the Temple stood in Jesus’ day, it is appropriate to discuss this. Jesus loved the Jewish Temple and called it his Father’s house. ************************************************ Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus […]

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What Bible Verses has the Church Defined – Definitively?

December 21, 2018

It is sometimes mistakenly charged that Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible for themselves and that the Catholic Church has dogmatically defined about every verse — and forces its interpretation down everyone’s throat. This is very far from the truth. In fact, the Catholic Church has never come up with a list of verses […]

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Six Rules for Dealing with Non-Catholic Family & Friends

December 19, 2018

I have added a 7th rule – Be patient. Six Rules for Dealing with Non-Catholic Family and Friends (especially over the holidays)  Steve Ray “I can’t believe you are thinking about being Catholic. Have you lost your mind? Why in the world would you leave biblical Christianity to follow a religion based on men’s tradition? […]

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Why Did God Allow Man to Sin? “O Happy Fault of Adam”

December 18, 2018

This is a question that has puzzled people from the beginning. If God is good and all powerful why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve from sinning? Fair question. Of course we all know that he took the risk of giving us free will so that we could choose to love him. I don’t want […]

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Catholic Church: “Don’t Read the Bible!”

December 1, 2018

We often hear that the Catholic Church has forbidden the reading of the Bible! Have you heard this? Yeah, me too! But, this is another one of those big myths which has worked its way into the popular dialog but one that has not been proved from Church teaching and documents. There are two good […]

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Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

October 27, 2018

Since we are in Philippi Greece today, I thought I would post this colorful blog :-) We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. […]

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My Thoughts While Waiting In Line for Confession

September 2, 2018

My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines :-)  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we […]

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Is God Like a GPS System?

August 4, 2018

There are a million reasons why God is NOT like a GPS system but I am in Australia and I made a wrong turn and my GPS started reprimanding me and saying “Recalculating!” For those who don’t know, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a nifty little device that links up with positional […]

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Courageous Homily on Humanae Vitae and former Cardinal McCarrick – a must listen

July 30, 2018

It is sad when you have to send around a homily because it is so exceptional. This kind of truthful and powerful homily should be standard fare at every parish on every Sunday. Sadly it is not, so people like me have to get excited when they discover such a hard-hitting homily. And we send it […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

July 29, 2018

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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Vine, Branches & Fire: Where Will You End up?

July 2, 2018

I was out cutting vines out of the trees and thought of the words of Jesus.

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Dear Protestant: Where Did You Get Your Bible?

May 20, 2018

From Little Catholic Bubble website Leila@LittleCatholicBubble Dear Protestant: Where did you get your New Testament? At least a couple of times every week, Protestants use New Testament verses to show me where the Catholic Church is wrong about something. I always make them take the necessary step back by asking the following: “Where did you get your […]

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