Teaching & Suggestions

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

by Steve Ray on 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?

by Steve Ray on 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 New Testament?”

When they answers that it came from God (as indeed it did), I say, “Yes, but what was the mechanism God used to bring it to you today? How did it come to you, historically and in real time, since it did not drop out of Heaven into your hands, leather-bound?”

Nine times out of ten, they have no answer because they have never considered the question.

The quick answer:

The Catholic Church officially determined and set the canon of of the New Testament approximately 400 years after Christianity began. The canon was declared by the body of Catholic bishops at the Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) and confirmed by Pope Boniface (419 A.D.).  

Greek Manuscript Greek Manuscript

This is historical fact.

Let me flesh out a few more of the details, which very few Christians (Protestant or Catholic) know.

After Christ’s ascension into Heaven, and after the Holy Spirit descended upon the first Christians at Pentecost, the Church thrived and grew exponentially for years before even one line of the New Testament was written. Let that sink in: Baptisms, catechesis, communal worship, conversions of thousands of sinners, Apostles and their companions traveling to other lands and risking imprisonment, torture, and death to evangelize the world with zeal — all went on for over a decade before the New Testament was even begun, much less completed.

Without having written a word, the Church was teaching, preaching, growing, and flourishing for many years.

Eventually, a very few Apostles and their disciples starting writing down some of the Church’s oral Tradition: The Gospels, which recorded the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and also the Epistles (letters) of St. Paul and others, which gave encouragement and instruction to local churches being established throughout the world. The young Church cherished those gospels and letters, and began to incorporate them into her liturgies and masses.

Greek-ManuscriptMore and more written accounts and testimonies materialized as the Church grew, but contrary to today’s popular belief, it was not obvious to the early Christians which of these writings were truly God-inspired.

As brutal persecution of the Church continued in those first centuries, clarity about Christian writings became important. After all, Christians were being martyred routinely, and it was necessary to know which books were worth dying for.

Three categories of writings existed at that time:

1. Those writings that were universally acknowledged/accepted
2. Those writings that were disputed or controverted
3. Those writings that were known to be spurious or false

The first group included divinely-inspired books that we have in our Bible today, such as the four Gospels, the Epistles of St. Paul, and the Acts of the Apostles.

The second group included books that were simultaneously accepted in some Christian regions, rejected in others, and disputed in others. Some of these were indeed divinely-inspired, such the Epistles of James and Jude, one of Peter’s, two of John’s, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Book of Revelation, even as many Christians did not believe they were. Some were books that never made it into the final canon of the New Testament, but which several Christian communities considered inspired (and even used for catechizing and in the liturgy), such as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, Apostolic Constitutions, the Epistle of St. Clement, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Laodiceans, etc.

The third group consisted of the fakes floating around, spurious works which were never acknowledged or claimed by the Church, such as about 50 false gospels including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of James, a couple dozen “Acts” (Acts of Pilate, Acts of Paul and Thecla, etc.), and some epistles and apocalypses.

NiceaUnder the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit and after a long series of historical events, a gathering of Catholic bishops went through the process of authoritatively and infallibly setting the books of the Christian canon, using the following criteria: a) The book in question must have been written in apostolic times by an Apostle or one close to an Apostle, and b) The book in question had to be doctrinally sound, completely conforming to Catholic Church teaching.

Several books met those criteria, and so it happened that some four centuries and 20 generations after Christ’s Resurrection, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church authoritatively set the canon of the New Testament, ending all confusion and doubt among the faithful.

Rome had spoken, and the canon was closed.

Which leaves us with some takeaways:

— If the Catholic Church (bishops and pope) had the authority from God to set the New Testament canon, then she cannot be the corrupt and un-Christian “Whore of Babylon” as is claimed by many Protestants.

— If one accepts the canon of the New Testament, one must also accept the authority of the entity who gave it to us, i.e., the Catholic Church.

— If one rejects the authority of the Catholic Church, one should and must also reject the canon of the New Testament that came to us through the authority of the Catholic Church. (It makes sense that Martin Luther, the rebel behind the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, wanted to throw out several of the New Testament books that he despised.)

— The New Testament cannot be “personally interpreted” by each individual Christian, because it was never meant to be taken outside of the Church from which it came.

— The New Testament cannot and does not contradict Catholic doctrine, as it was Catholic doctrine that was used as a criterion for its authenticity and authority.

— The New Testament was discerned and canonized by men who had divine authority to do so — men who believed explicitly in the Mass, the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood, Confession, Purgatory, veneration of Mary, infant baptism and infused grace, justification by faith and works, the Communion of Saints, etc., etc.

— The Bible came from the Church. In other words, the Bible is Church-based, not the other way around. If you get this paradigm wrong, you get some messed-up theology.

— If a Protestant uses Scripture to attack the Catholic Church, it’s like ripping off a man’s arm to beat him with it. Using a Catholic Book to beat up the Catholic Church makes no sense.

— If you believe that your eternal salvation is based entirely on a Book, isn’t it important to know where the Book came from and who was given authority to proclaim it? Who meticulously copied, preserved, protected, and guarded it with their lives, and who ultimately vouched for the fact that it is indeed the written Word of God?

There is so much more to discuss, and I would love to do so in the comments. Meanwhile, one of the best books on the subject, which I devoured when I came back to the Church, is Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church, by Henry G. Graham.

**Note: I did not include the Old Testament canon in this post, because I wanted to work with something that both Protestants and Catholics agree on, namely, the 27 books of the New Testament.

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I am sharing this from John Martignoni’s e-mail and website at www.BibleChristianSociety.com. Thanks for your good work John!

feature longdecker_Perugino_Christ_handing_keyes_to_st_peter1) Did Jesus found a church?  A) Yes; Matt 16:18

 2) How many churches did Jesus found?  A) One; the church is the Body of Christ and there is only one body of Christ – Rom 12:5, Eph 4:4, Col 1:18

3) So, if Jesus founded a church, then when was it founded?  A) 2000 years ago

4) Was that church guided by the Holy Spirit?  A) Yes; John 14:26, John 16:13; Acts 2:3-4

 5) If the church was founded by Jesus Christ and was guided by the Holy Spirit, could it teach doctrinal error?  A) No; 1 Tim 3:15 

maxresdefault6) So, could we say that the church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, taught doctrinal truth infallibly – without error – to the 1st century Christians?  A) Yes; Luke 10:16, John 14:16-17, 1 Ptr 1:12

7) Did the church of the New Testament teach different doctrinal truths to different people in different areas?  A) No; 2 Tim 1:12-14, Eph 4:14, Titus 1:9

8) Are there any denominations in the church of the New Testament?  A) No.  The church in the New Testament is one, just as the Body of Christ is one – 1 Cor 1:10, 1 Cor 11:18-19, Jude 19

9) Would a church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit still be in existence today?  A) Yes; Matt 16:18, Matt 28:20, Eph 3:21

10) How old would that church be?  A) 2000 years old

11) Would that church still be guided by the Holy Spirit?  A) Yes; Matt 28:20, John 14:1612) Could that church founded by Jesus and still guided by the Holy Spirit teach doctrinal error?  A) No; 1 Tim 3:15, 1 Cor 12:28

12) So we could say that the church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit would still teach doctrinal truth infallibly?  A) Yes; Luke 10:16, John 14:16-17, 1 Ptr 1:12

13) Would that church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit teach different doctrinal truths to different people in different areas?  A) No; Malachi 3:6, Heb 13:8, 1 Tim 4:6 

Screen-Shot-2015-03-29-at-11.14.53-AM14) Would there be any denominations in that church?  A) No; 1 Cor 1:13

15) Can the Lutheran denomination be the church founded by Jesus in Israel 2000 years ago?  A) No; It was founded by Martin Luther in Germany in the 1500’s.  

16) Can the Anglican/Episcopalian denomination, or any of its offshoots, be the church founded by Jesus in Israel 2000 years ago?  A) No; It was founded by King Henry the VIII in the 1500’s because he wanted to divorce his wife.

17) Are there any Protestant, Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, or Non-Denominational denominations that were founded by Jesus in Israel 2000 years ago?  A) No.

18) So is there any Protestant, Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, or Non-Denominational denomination that could be the church founded by Jesus Christ in Israel 2000 years ago?  A) No.

19) So if Jesus founded a Church – one Church – in Israel 2000 years ago that was guided by the Holy Spirit and that Church is still in existence today and is still guided by the Holy Spirit, which means it teaches doctrinal truth infallibly, and there are no denominations of that Church now, just as there were no denominations of that Church 2000 years ago, then shouldn’t all Christians be in that one Church founded by Jesus?  A) Yes

20) Does it make sense to be in a church that was not founded by Jesus Christ in Israel 2000 years ago?  A) No.

d610a41a364f254dc9f8e9dbc7052e6d894ef02d21) How can we identify which Church – of the thousands upon thousands –  is THE Church founded by Jesus?  A) The Church founded by Jesus, should at least claim to be THE Church founded by Jesus; it should be able to trace its leadership back 2000 years to the Apostles; and it should claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit and to thus teach doctrinal truth infallibly with the authority of Jesus Christ, its Founder.  

22) How many churches fit that description?  A) 1

23) Which Church is that?  A) The Catholic Church

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A Quick Reply to Question about Cremation and Scattering the Ashes

May 15, 2018

I was asked a question about Catholics, cremation and the scattering of ash. Here is my brief answer: The whole issue of cremation goes back to the Romans. They denied the bodily resurrection so they often burned the body and if they were rich they put the ashes in urns and put them in the […]

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Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

April 12, 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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Evangelism Antennas: A Fun Story of One Woman’s Day and the New Evangelism :-)

April 11, 2018

A while ago I gave a talk in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day. And […]

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Joseph the Sissy or Joseph the Worker – Feast Day of the Worker

March 19, 2018

Today is the Feast day of St. Joseph the Worker! There are some pictures of Joseph I don’t appreciate so much. They present him almost as soft, effeminate like he just came out of a beauty parlor. It appears he never worked in the real world and has not a wrinkle on his clothes or […]

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Putting Us to Shame

February 9, 2018

My wife and I are on a plane home from Israel. We watch as a young man stands among the crowd of passengers. He is uttering muffled chants under his breath and bobbing up and down. His chin is wagging under his serious eyes and his black hat. His prayer shawl with the many knotted […]

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

January 7, 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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Evangelicals with Statues?

November 16, 2017

A while ago I took off running through a commercial area behind the hotel where I was staying while doing a parish mission. I discovered a nice jogging trail through the woods so I swung onto the trail and headed through the trees. Soon I came into the open to see a beautiful lake. A […]

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“Life is about the Journey, not the Destination!” Huh?!

November 10, 2017

“Life is all about the Journey, not the Destination!” (paraphrase of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.) I saw this sign at the airport recently. Imagine! In an airport of all places! What stupidity! Grab a passenger arriving at the airport to catch a flight and shout, “Hey, take any flight you want sir, it […]

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Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev has a warning for the West

October 26, 2017

By Elizabeth Scalia | Sep 25, 2017 “Before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen…” Participating in a London conference on the topic of “The Christian Future of Europe,” Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the External Relations Departments of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, spoke on September […]

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Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2017

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

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

September 27, 2017

Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors. Let me […]

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Why Are We Catholic?

September 22, 2017

This excellent little summary was prepared by the Faith Formation ministry in Escanaba Michigan and sent to me by Mike Cousineau. Enjoy and be challenged and edified. Sent it to a friend who needs to read it. 1.  St. Cyprian of Carthage, martyr & Bishop, wrote in 249 AD, “He who would have God as […]

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My Talk at Primacy of Peter: Understanding John 21 and Jesus’ Appearance at the Sea of Galilee

September 6, 2017

Since I am doing a show on this topic today with Spirit Catholic Radio (listen live from 9:10-9:40 AM Eastern time) and since will be at this site called Primacy of St. Peter along the shore of Galilee four more times this year… …I thought I would share my teaching that I give all our […]

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