Theology

A Southern Baptist writes:

I am a Southern  Baptist who has a lot of respect for the Catholic faith. The Immaculate Conception is a hard concept for me. Does it also include the belief that Mary never sinned? How does that pass muster with Rom. 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God?” It seems like Paul would have noted the one exception here in Mary if that were the case.

 From my limited studies, I think Catholics have a very good argument for their position regarding the Eucharist. But wasn’t it several centuries before this concept of Mary arose in the Church?

 Dear Friend: yours is a good question. From the early centuries, Mary was considered the All Holy One and considered as without sin. Rom 3:23 is a general statement but does not mention exceptions to the rule. For example, Jesus was a man without sin, therefore an exception.

 The New Adam (Jesus) is without sin. From the 1st century Mary has been viewed as the New Eve. It would be appropriate, actually proper, that the New Eve be without sin also.

Those who die before the age of reason, or who are mentally deficient are also exceptions. Job could even be called an exception if you take God’s report of him literally (Job 1:8).

Romans is also discussing that it is not only the Gentiles that have sinned but also the Jews. All can be a collective of peoples. “You Jews think you are righteous because you are of Abraham? You think only the Gentiles are in sin. No, all have sinned, Gentile and Jew alike”

This is born out in Psalm 14 from where Rom 3:9 (parallel passage to Rom 3:23) is quoted. Here is says, Psalm 14:2–3 “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.”

Yet immediately following we find that God has his righteous. Psalm 14:5–6 “There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.”

As a Baptist I used to use the Bible often for proof-texts and sound bites. Scripture is much more subtle than that. It is our tradition, whether Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, etc., that guides us in our approach to Scripture. The real question is, which tradition will you allow to direct your interpretation and study? I chose the tradition that was practiced from the first century until today – which is Catholic.

Wish I had more time. I warn you (tongue in cheek) that if you want to stay Baptist you are asking dangerous questions and dancing very close to the fire :-)

You will find helpful writings on this matter here, especially the short explanation on the radio of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption.

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Unanimous Consent of the Fathers

By Steve Ray

The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by a few patristic witnesses does not harm the collective patristic testimony.

The word “unanimous” comes from two Latin words: únus, one + animus, mind. “Consent” in Latin means agreement, accord, and harmony; being of the same mind or opinion. Where the Fathers speak in harmony, with one mind overall—not necessarily each and every one agreeing on every detail but by consensus and general agreement—we have “unanimous consent”. The teachings of the Fathers provide us with an authentic witness to the apostolic tradition.

St. Irenaeus (ad c. 130–c. 200) writes of the “tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome’ (Against Heresies, III, 3, 2), and the “tradition which originates from the apostles [and] which is preserved by means of the successions of presbyters in the Churches” (Ibid., III, 2, 2) which “does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us” (Ibid., III, 5, 1). Unanimous consent develops from the understanding of apostolic teaching preserved in the Church with the Fathers as its authentic witness.

St. Vincent of Lerins, explains the Church’s teaching: “In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors” (Commonitory 2). Notice that St. Vincent mentions “almost all priests and doctors”.

The phrase Unanimous Consent of the Fathers had a specific application as used at the Council of Trent (Fourth Session), and reiterated at the First Vatican Council (Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, chap. 2). The Council Fathers specifically applied the phrase to the interpretation of Scripture. Biblical and theological confusion was rampant in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther stated “There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God.  There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams.”

The Council Fathers at Trent (1554–63) affirmed the ancient custom that the proper understanding of Scripture was that which was held by the Fathers of the Church to bring order out of the enveloping chaos. Opposition to the Church’s teaching is exemplified by William Webster (The Church of Rome at the Bar of History [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1995]) who misrepresents the Council Fathers by redefining and misapplying “unanimous consent”.

First in redefining, he implies that unanimous consent means each Father must have held the same fully developed traditions and taught them clearly in the same terms as used later in the Church Councils. This is a false understanding of the phrase and even in American law unanimous consent “does not always mean that every one present voted for the proposition, but it may, and generally does, mean, when a [verbal] vote is taken, that no one voted in the negative” (Black’s Law Dictionary). Second he misapplies the term, not to the interpretation of Scripture, as the Council Fathers intended, but to tradition. His assertions are not true, but using a skewed definition and application of “unanimous consent”, he uses selective patristic passages as proof-texts for his analysis of the Fathers.

As an example, individual Fathers may explain “the Rock” in Matthew 16 as Jesus, Peter, Peter’s confession or Peter’s faith. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the “Rock” of Matthew 16 as Peter in one place (CCC 552) and his faith (CCC 424) in another. Matthew 16 can be applied in many ways to refute false teachings and to instruct the faithful without emphasizing the literal, historical interpretation of Peter as the Rock upon which the Church has been built his Church. Webster and others emphasize various patristic applications of a biblical passage as “proof” of non-unanimous consent.

Discussing certain variations in the interpretations of the Fathers, Pope Leo XIII (The Study of Holy Scripture, from the encyclical Providentissimus Deus, Nov., 1893) writes, “Because the defense of Holy Scripture must be carried on vigorously, all the opinions which the individual Fathers or the recent interpreters have set forth in explaining it need not be maintained equally. For they, in interpreting passages where physical matters are concerned have made judgments according to the opinions of the age, and thus not always according to truth, so that they have made statements which today are not approved. Therefore, we must carefully discern what they hand down which really pertains to faith or is intimately connected with it, and what they hand down with unanimous consent; for ‘in those matters which are not under the obligation of faith, the saints were free to have different opinions, just as we are,’ according to the opinion of St. Thomas.”

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Referred works:

St. Irenaeus’ quote: Ante-Nicene Fathers. Roberts and Donaldson, Eerdmans, 1985, vol. 1, p. 415, 417).

St. Vincent’s quote: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Eerdmans, 1980, vol. 11, p. 132.

Luther quote: (Leslie Rumble, Bible Quizzes to a Street Preacher [Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1976], 22).

William Webster’s quote: (William Webster, 31).

Black’s Law Dictionary: Black’s Law Dictionary, Henry Campbell Black, St. Paul, MN: West Publ. Co., 1979, p. 1366.

Pope Leo XIII quote: Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma [London: B. Herder Book Co., 1954], 491-492).

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Purgatory? Doesn’t that Deny the Work of Christ?

by Steve Ray on September 18, 2019

What’s the Deal with Purgatory?
by Steve Ray

Purgatory4Isn’t the finished work of Christ sufficient? Didn’t he pay for all my sins? Why the heck do Catholics teach that we have to suffer in Purgatory for our sins? Plus, the Bible never mentions purgatory so it must be an unbiblical doctrine, right.

Wow! Sounds like me back in my old days — before I discovered the fullness of the Faith in the Catholic Church. I used to argue like this against Catholics because my Baptist tradition told me so.

(Picture at bottom: Communion of Saints with the Mass in the center: 1) above the Church Triumphant in heaven; 2) middle the Church Militant on earth, and 2) below the Church suffering — being purified in Purgatory.)

After converting to the Catholic Church an a Baptist asked me why we believe in Purgatory so I wrote an explanation using many examples like hitch hiking in the Alps, driving off the road and more.

Plus, from my old Baptist tradition, what could St. Paul possibly mean when he said he suffers to “fill up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24)? That was one of the verses I had to “blip over” when I was a Baptist–many don’t even see the verse!

Anyway, for my response to the Baptist antagonist and other helpful information on Purgatory . . .

-For my letter explaining Purgatory, click here.
-For Jimmy Akin’s explanation, click here. For Catholic Answers, click here.
-For more such articles and letters, click here.

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Was Abraham Saved by Faith Alone? Are the Protestants Right?

August 25, 2019

Today (Monday) I will be on the radio with Gary Michuta at 1 PM at https://virginmostpowerfulradio.org/. Hope you can listen in. Our topic will be Abraham, Father of Faith & Works. I am looking forward to this live show. In honor of this event today I am posting this article on Abraham, a critique I made of […]

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Corpus Christi Sunday: Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 23, 2019

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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Pope Says Capital Punishment is Inadmissible, Cardinal Dolan Praises the Decision, Ed Peter’s Challenges Both

June 18, 2019

A comment on a cardinal’s tweet re capital punishment, by Canon Lawyer Ed Peters: June 17, 2019 Earlier today Cdl. Dolan of New York tweeted: “With the clear and cogent clarification of the successor of St. Peter, there now exists no loophole to morally justify capital punishment.” The supposedly clear and cogent clarification that Dolan […]

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When Is the Word “Love” First Used in the Bible?

June 8, 2019

When is the first time the word love is used in the Bible? It is great fun to ask a million questions when you open the Bible. Good questions serve to unlock the treasure chest revealing untold riches. Since the Bible is a book and books are made of words, it is great fun to […]

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Is there Evidence for Jesus outside the Bible?

May 13, 2019

Some people may think Jesus is a mythical figure like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Others think Jesus might be historical but only mentioned in the Bible is the only source of information on the existence of Jesus. They question whether Jesus really existed as a real historical figure. Is the Bible the only […]

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Interesting Explanation of Baptism from Protestant Dictionary – “baptism…in itself is unimportant”

May 11, 2019

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they […]

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Is Scripture Sufficient…

April 29, 2019

Someone wrote a friend of mine asserting that 2 Timothy 3:16 proved that Scripture alone was all we needed. The famous passage reads, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” […]

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Temple Sizes Compared – bigger than a football field

March 18, 2019

Since we are at the Western Wall today, seeing all this with our own eyes, I thought I would share again this blog about the size of temples of Israel. The 1) Tabernacle in the wilderness, the 2) Temple of Solomon, 3) Herod’s Temple at the time of Christ and 4) Ezekiel’s Temple are compared. The […]

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Does the Bible Contain Errors, or is it Inerrant?

March 10, 2019

An e-mail I received today with a very important and pertinent question. It involves the inerrancy of Scripture. In short, this means that the Scriptures do not contain errors. I decided to answer the e-mail and share my response. Pope Leo XIII wrote, “For all the books that the Church receives as sacred and canonical […]

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

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: Greetings Mr. Stephen:  I am a great follower […]

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Baptist at the door, “Are you born again?” Prepare yourself to answer them!

February 21, 2019

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 […]

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Explaining Catholic View of Covenants with a Dispensational Baptist

February 18, 2019

A Baptist antagonist claimed he had the proper view of God’s plan of salvation – working through dispensations. I explained to him the more substantial, biblical and Catholic concept of covenants. I think you will enjoy the chart which makes salvation history easy to visualize and comprehend. ********************************************** Hello Jerry: It was good talking with […]

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A MUST READ: Cardinal Müller issues Manifesto: A quasi correction of Pope Francis’ pontificate

February 9, 2019

“February 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) (News also released by Catholic News Agency) – Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, has released a Manifesto which reads like a correction of many of the doctrinal errors Pope Francis has taught during his tenure as Pope…. …Pope Francis removed Cardinal Müller from his post as […]

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