Friday, March 31, 2017

When America Saved Europe From Islam

"Thomas Jefferson fought back, and ended Moslem piracy in Europe. It was the first time America saved Europe militarily, and no one seems to remember, least of all the Europeans. Although our people don’t remember, they do speak about it whenever they sing or hear the first words of the Marine Corps Anthem: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles on the land and on the sea….” Why don’t we teach our children about the wars these words refer to?"

Patrick Michael Murphy, “How the West Was Lost,” p. 203

Do Church Divisions Invalidate Sola Scriptura?

  • Defining The Issues:
          -Private interpretation of Scripture is the concept of a person using his reasoning to make a judgment as to the meaning of a passage from the Bible. It is a more individualistic approach to determining what Scripture means. Roman Catholic apologists insist that we absolutely must have their leaders infallibly interpret the Scriptures for us in order to preserve truth in doctrinal matters and thus aid in the prevention of division throughout Christendom.
          -Sola Ecclesia is the Latin term that describes the Roman Catholic belief that the church is the final authority in all religious matters (as opposed to the Protestant position of Sola Scriptura). The Church of Rome touts itself to be the infallible, true church established by Jesus Christ who appointed the Apostle Peter as its first pope. Thus, Rome demands from its members complete and unquestioned submission to its authority.
          -The claim that we need an infallible interpreter of Scripture is essentially the same as saying that the Bible is too difficult for the average person to understand. Both ideas use the same logic in their premises in order to reach the same conclusions. If the basic message of Scripture is clear enough for us to understand, then why would we need an infallible interpreter in the first place? If Christ entrusted the preservation of His teaching to an infallible teaching office, then why do we even have a Bible?
          -Consequently, the Church of Rome claims that Christians who rely on the Bible alone for testing the truthfulness of doctrine rather than the Magisterium will inevitably end up in a state of hopeless confusion. Irreconcilable doctrinal contradictions exist. Thus, truth cannot be known from Scripture itself but must be unpacked by an earthly organization.
          -" one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine,--wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold," (Trent, Session 4, "Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books")
          -“...the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (CCC # 82)
  • Biblical Evidence For The Perspicuity Of Scripture:
          -King Josiah came to repentance as a result of the Book of the Law being found in the temple and him reading its words (2 Kings 22:8-13). He did this on his own apart from an infallible interpreter of Scripture. Psalm 119:97-105 speaks of acquiring more wisdom than even teachers and elders after meditating upon the words of the Law. Paul states that we can understand the revelation of the gospel just by reading his epistle (Ephesians 3:3-5). He also said that the apostles did not write things his audience could not read or understand (2 Corinthians 1:13-14). 
          -With the exception of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, all of the New Testament epistles were written to Christians in general (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philemon 1:1-2; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; James 1:1-2; Revelation 1:3-4).
          -Calls to read and obey Scripture presuppose that we can understand what it says (Joshua 1:7-8; Acts 17:11; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).
          -The common people understood the teachings of Jesus Christ apart from some infallible interpreter (Matthew 11:25; 13:51; Mark 12:37). There was never such a person sitting next to Him when He was teaching in front of the crowds. He oftentimes attracted the poor and uneducated. The point is that anyone with a humble and prayerful heart can understand what God desires for us, apart from a complex church hierarchy.
  • Phillip And The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:28-38):
          -There are people with authority to teach in the church. In fact, the doctrine of perspicuity does not mean that all portions of Scripture are equally clear or easy to understand. We may very well need things explained to us at times. But this text says nothing about the concept of teaching infallibly or that only an infallible interpretation of Scripture would suffice for the confused Eunuch.
          -The Eunuch was from far away (Ethiopia), and he had apparently not been given a chance to hear about the teachings of the gospel message. Philip, who was at the right place at the right time by the power of the Holy Spirit, was given the opportunity to explain the passage from Isaiah 53. He was confused simply because he did not know who the prophet Isaiah was referring to (v. 34). The gospel was not spread out back in the day, as it is today. That is all this text is about.
  • No Prophecy Of Scripture Is Of Any Private Interpretation (2 Peter 1:20)?:
          -How can a person develop a biblical argument against the principle of Sola Scriptura by making a personal interpretation of a verse that allegedly condemns private interpretation of Scripture?
          -How can a person rely on prophecy or compare Scripture to a "light" (v. 19), if they have been forbidden to use it (v. 20)?
          -The context of 2 Peter 1:20-21 is not speaking of one's reading of Scripture, but rather, is about the origin of Scripture. No true prophecy was given to the prophet by his own interpretation. Prophecy originated directly from God. It is not a product of our imaginations.
  • People Twisting The Scriptures To Their Own Destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16)?:
          -First of all, this text only states that SOME things in Paul's epistles are hard to understand. It does not even specify which parts those are. This simply means that we need to pray and study Scripture more diligently.
          -This text says that people "twist the Scriptures to THEIR OWN destruction" (v. 16), which indicates that we are responsible for how we handle the Word of God.
          -2 Peter 3:15-16 is only speaking of the unfaithful and the unbelieving; not the humble and prayerful Christian.
          -Although the context of 2 Peter 3 would be a great place to introduce the concept of an infallible interpreter of the Bible, such is not mentioned at all.
  • Do We Need Some Special Authority In Order To Make Interpretations Of Scripture?:
          -Interpreting Scripture is not so much a matter of personal authority, but rather something God expects us to do. This does not mean ministers in local congregations have no special authority to teach. It would also not be correct to say that church authority has no limits at all. Scripture is clear enough for readers to obtain truths related to salvation and godliness.
          -God does not require that we understand Him infallibly, since we are but finite creations. We can have sufficient certainty behind the meaning of Scripture. This is not to suggest that we can interpret the Scriptures in any way that we desire. We should examine Scripture in its proper context, use our common sense, consult commentaries, etc.
  • Thoughts On Religious Division:
          -Jesus Christ desires unity in the church. His will is that we be one in the Spirit. Christ despises factions amongst His people, since that is an indicator of carnality. Truth is of utmost importance. Therefore, it ought to be sought after at all costs. But we are imperfect beings. Divisions have existed in the church since the time Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians.
          -In a society with millions of people where freedom of speech and freedom of religion exists, there will inevitably be diversity in beliefs. That is simply a logical consequence of being in a free society. In order to obtain the institutionalized unity that Rome requires, there would have to be coercion, threats, and intimidation involved. Otherwise, it is not humanly possible to obtain.
          -There are scenarios in which division is necessary: “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19). Unity in and of itself does not guarantee truth or preservation of the gospel.
          -Essential doctrines are clearly and repeatedly defined in Scripture. Doctrines that are of secondary importance (i.e. not issues that we should break fellowship over or refuse to acknowledge another as a brother in Christ) would include women's head coverings, musical instruments in church, eschatology, modes of baptism, etc.
  • Is Roman Catholicism A Theologically Divided Body?:
          -While the Church of Rome may appear to be fairly unified because it is organized under the headship of the pope, the unity in which Catholics appeal to is largely imaginary. It is misleading, for there are significant theological differences among the Catholic laity, priests, scholars, theologians, and bishops. There are societies, movements, and orders forming within the chambers of Roman Catholicism. There are liberal and conservative Catholics. Although these divisions are hidden under the Roman Catholic hierarchy, differences still exist and are significant.
          -Many Roman Catholics are unlearned in regards to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Many flatly contradict many of the official teachings of the Catholic Church on issues such as abortion, artificial birth control, the death penalty, homosexuality, on whether priests should be married, letting females join the priesthood, stem-cell research, and much more. Roman Catholics are in a state of division over additional issues such as creation verses evolution, the material sufficiency of Scripture, charismatic occurrences, whether practicing Jews and Muslims can be saved without conversion, and whether Mary is the co-redemptrix. Catholic theologians are even divided over the interpretation of Vatican II documents.
          -Roman Catholicism is a group that is lead by a single human leader and occupies the same title all throughout its domain ("Roman Catholic"), whereas Protestantism is made up of individual churches with different labels. Protestantism is not an ecclesiastical structure like Rome. So it is misleading to compare the two. The principle of Sola Scriptura was never intended to bring about an institutionalized form of unity. We have a sense of genuine love and fellowship toward each other.
  • Refuting The 33,000 Protestant Denominations Myth:
          -Scott Eric Alt, at the National Catholic Register, said in regard to the claim that there are thousands of Protestant denominations: “There are not—repeat with me—there are not 33,000 Protes­tant denom­i­na­tions. There are not any­where close to it. It is a myth that has taken hold by force of rep­e­ti­tion, and it gets cited and recited by reflex; but it is based on a source that, even Catholics will have to con­cede, relies on too loose a def­i­n­i­tion of the word “denom­i­na­tion.”…How­ever strong the temp­ta­tion some may have to char­ac­ter­ize any­thing not Catholic or Ortho­dox as “Protes­tant,” you can’t do that. All that tells Protes­tant apol­o­gists is that you don’t know what Protes­tantism is, or what its dis­tinc­tives are—and they would be right. And why would they take any­thing you say seriously after that? If you don’t know what Protes­tantism is, who are you to be talk­ing about its errors? Not only are Mor­mons, Jehovah’s Wit­nesses, One­ness Pen­te­costals, Uni­tar­i­ans, Pros­per­ity Gospel believ­ers (included among 23,600 Inde­pen­dents and Mar­gin­als) not Protes­tant, they are not even Chris­t­ian; they adhere to a false Chris­tol­ogy. Protes­tants and Catholics are in agree­ment about who Christ is; these other groups have other ideas.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

Refuting The Atheistic "God Of The Gaps" Argument

          Atheists portray belief in the existence of God as merely being an explanation for things that science has of yet not answered. A common objection to theism is that it has been assumed on a priori basis the necessity of God's existence in all matters that science itself has not as of this time been able to account for satisfactorily. On the contrary, intelligent and reasonable religious people are not appealing to God simply to fill in missing or incomplete scientific data.  Arguments for the existence of God are not based on silence or ignorance of facts. They are not made on the basis of a lack of knowledge.

           When arguments for the existence of God are made, we are making inferences from the best observations gathered by science and from principles of elementary logic to substantiate our beliefs. More specifically, all of our collected evidences point to the existence of an external, greater reality. Philosophical proofs for the existence of God point beyond the scope of the natural world. It is not all that exists. If the premises of such arguments are true, then their conclusions automatically follow. It does not matter how people feel or react to the validity of presented deductive arguments.

           The validity of each logical premise in arguments for the existence of God is based on the validity of each scientific or philosophical point used in making them. For instance, the universe does have fine-tuning. The universe has a first cause. Biological structures have a degree of complexity that appears to have been designed. These are scientific facts, which must be dealt with. Theistic arguments do not simply assume the existence of God as a means of providing an explanation, but are logical deductions that are unpacked to get an intended point across.
          A true scientist must be open to the possibility of many things, for they dedicate their lives to seeking answers. Scientists are to be focused on truth. Scientists are supposed to be about evidence. Those who reject the existence of God are very biased indeed. Science is about the study of the natural world, not searching for naturalistic explanations with the intent of ruling out the supernatural. The fact that science has discovered answers to a number of complicated questions does not mean that it alone is sufficient to unravel every difficult question of life.

    Saturday, March 25, 2017

    A Biblical Theology Of Marriage And Divorce

            "And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?" (Matthew 19:4-5)

            People committed to matrimony are, in ideal circumstances, to remain united for the remainder of their earthly lives. Exceptions to this rule would include the passing of a spouse (Romans 7:2-3), desertion by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:14-15), marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9), and spousal abuse. If one of these conditions is met, then one is free to seek after a new spouse. It is within the framework of marriage that a man exercises his conjugal prerogatives (Genesis 1:28). It is within that context man discovers for himself a unique kind of love and companionship (Genesis 2:18). Both partners contribute to the well-being of a family unit.

            Marriage is supposed to be the life-long dedication to a partner of the opposite sex. Thus, adultery is wrong for obvious reasons: it is lying and unfair. It turns what was intended to be a permanent vow right on its own head. If fornication and adultery are morally permissible, then why even bother with getting married in the first place? The best way to eliminate temptation is to identify with certainty its source and find ways to permanently remove or avoid it. Jesus Christ specifically taught that lusting is equivalent to actually committing adultery and fornication (Matthew 5:28-29). It is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). However, being physically attracted to a member of the opposite sex is not wrong in and of itself. That is actually normal.

            God absolutely despises divorce (Malachi 2:16). He regards it as an act of faithlessness. Divorce was not a part of His original order of things. It was never His intention. God only tolerated the termination of marriages because the hearts of men are hard (Matthew 19:8-9). He knew that our relationships could go sour. Therefore, if it be at all possible, it is best for arguing couples to seek reconciliation. That may entail a degree of compromise in either one or both parties. For instance, wives and children should never be put into a situation that leaves them without a source of income to provide for their needs. Every situation is different and must be dealt with accordingly.

            In order for a marriage to be successful, both partners must agree to fulfill the obligations that have been assigned to them by God. There has to be necessary conditions for the husband and wife to abide by, for the household cannot stand in a state of contention. One person cannot realistically be expected to complete a job which requires working with other people. Marriage involves personal accountability. Marriage is based on commitment of the spouses to each other. Its underlying principle is self-sacrifice.

             Wives play a foundational role in the raising of their children (Titus 2:4-5; 1 Timothy 2:15; 5:14). The wife is free to take on other responsibilities, as long as they do not interfere with her assigned duties and distract the husband from fulfilling his responsibilities. The husband is supposed to show loving leadership over his family and provide for it (1 Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 5:25). His position is not one of giving orders, but involves a greater sense of personal responsibility. Marriage is the sharing of a mutual goal; a romantic partnership. It represents the different responsibilities that both leading figures of the family have.

            Marriage was instituted by God, so He has complete authority over it. Divorce could actually be seen as a grace in that it exists when no potential remedies work. This kind of a decision should never be taken lightly and only in sorrow. The best thing to do is marry somebody who shares a similar worldview. Even a person who claims to be a Christian may be a bad candidate for marriage (Matthew 7:21). Some people may have to wait a long time before finally getting married, like Isaac who was forty before he got married (Genesis 25:20). In fact, a person does not have to get married if he does not want to. Even Christ spoke of the celibate (Matthew 19:11-12).

    Thursday, March 23, 2017

    Are All Sins Equal In Severity?

            It is true that all sins are worthy of condemnation because they are a violation of God's Law (Romans 6:23). All of them are unrighteous. Any and all sin is sufficient to stop one from entering the kingdom of God. All sin can be spoken of as mortal before Him. However, any and all sin can be forgiven because of Christ's work on the cross (Romans 5:20).

            God's Law does not exist outside Himself as do human laws to judges. He is the perfect moral standard of righteousness (Genesis 18:25). Sin, therefore, is not merely in opposition to some principle, but to God Himself. It merits eternal separation and death because He is holy and just. Sin is an offense against God on a personal level.

            Some sins are indeed greater in severity than others (John 19:11; 1 John 5:15-17). Ezekiel 8 speaks of certain acts as being more detestable to Him than others. There are different levels of severity in punishment for those in hell (Matthew 23:14; Luke 10:7-12; 12:47-48). God judges those who have greater knowledge of His truth more harshly (Hebrews 10:28-29; James 3:1-2).

            That homosexual behavior, adultery, and bestiality were considered capital crimes in Israel shows God does indeed see some sins as more heinous than others in terms of earthly consequences. Unintentional sins could be atoned for in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 4). The former types of sin were more grievous to God because they involve full consent in doing them.

             James 2:10-11 does not say that all sins are equal in terms of severity. Theft, for instance, is not said to carry the same weight of guilt and consequences as does murder. In fact, sympathy is extended to those who steal food to feed themselves (Proverbs 6:30). This passage merely says that if one commits sins such as theft and murder, then he has violated God's Law. In other words, there are multiple ways to break the Law of God. This is true even of traffic laws.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Annihilation Refuted

    • Introduction:
              -Eternal Condemnation: souls of unbelievers are sentenced to an eternity of misery and humiliation. They are separated from God because He is holy.
              -Annihilationism: lost souls get destroyed or cease to exist after the moment of physical death. Thus, there is no conscious afterlife for these people. Only the righteous will experience immortality.
              -Defenders of the annihilation doctrine would include, but are not limited to, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and Christadelphians.
    • Annihilationism Is A License To Sin:
              -If a person desires to continue acting in a sinful manner and dies in an unrepentant and unbelieving state, then he will have no serious concerns about any sort of future punishments. After all, a non-existent being cannot face judgment for sin by God. So there will ultimately be no punishment for any sins in this theological framework.
    • Annihilation Contradicts Biblical Teaching:
              -If annihilation is true, then why not also believe that our comfort and existence in heaven will last only for a short period of time? The word "eternal" is used to describe both "life" and "punishment" in Matthew 25:46, which puts advocates of annihilationism in a pickle. The same comments are applicable to Daniel 12:2.
              -Revelation 14:9-11 and Revelation 20:10 narrate the fate of the wicked as facing the wrath of God without reference to them being annihilated.
              -Jude said that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah suffer "eternal fire" (Jude 7) which lasts "forever" (Jude 13) as an object lesson for the ungodly. That language has very specific implications, which do not sit well with annihilationism. The people of those cities were still suffering divine judgment at the time of this epistle being written.
    • The Story Of The Rich Man And Lazarus Serves As Biblical Evidence That Souls Remain Conscious After Physical Death And That Unbelievers Do Not Cease To Exist (Luke 16:19-31):
               -Even if one does not interpret this story to be literal history, plenty of details exist to indicate conscious life after death with the moral lesson that unrighteous people will face judgement by God.
    • On The Greek Term Kolasis In Matthew 25:26:
              -"κόλασις kólasis; gen. koláseōs, fem. noun from kolázō (2849), to punish. Punishment (Matt. 25:46), torment (1 John 4:18), distinguished from timōría (5098), punishment, which in Class. Gr. has the predominating thought of the vindictive character of the punishment which satisfies the inflicter’s sense of outraged justice in defending his own honor or that of the violated law. Kólasis, on the other hand, conveys the notion of punishment for the correction and bettering of the offender. It does not always, however, have this strict meaning in the NT. In Matt. 25:46, kólasis aiṓnios (166), eternal, does not refer to temporary corrective punishment and discipline, but has rather the meaning of timōría, punishment because of the violation of the eternal law of God." (Excerpt taken from the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, edited by Spiros Zodhiates)
    • On The Greek Term Aionion:
              -Annihilationists correctly point out that the Greek word "aionion," which is translated into English as "eternal," does not always mean eternal. However, the New Testament clearly denotes the Greek term "aionion" to mean an eternal length of time. The term is used to describe the length of God's reign (Revelation 11:15) and our salvation (John 3:16). The concept of a literal, eternal conscious torment in hell is indeed a startling truth. Attempting to deny its existence is foolish to the utmost.

    Saturday, March 18, 2017

    The Gnostic Gospels: Are They Authentic?

    In the first installment of this two-part series, I outlined the stark contrasts between the gnostic Jesus and "the Word become flesh." These respective views of Jesus are lodged within mutually exclusive world views concerning claims about God, the universe, humanity, and salvation. But our next line of inquiry is to be historical. Do we have a clue as to what Jesus, the Man from Nazareth, actually did and said as a player in space-time history? Should such gnostic documents as the _Gospel of Thomas_ capture our attention as a reliable report of the mind of Jesus, or does the Son of Man of the biblical Gospels speak with the authentic voice? Or must we remain in utter agnosticism about the historical Jesus?



    *aeons:* Emanations of Being from the unknowable, ultimate metaphysical principle or pleroma (_see_ pleroma).

    *Nag Hammadi collection:* A group of ancient documents dating from approximately A.D. 350, predominantly Gnostic in character, which were discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945.

    *pleroma:* The Greek word for "fulness" used by the Gnostics to mean the highest principle of Being where dwells the unknown and unknowable God. Used in the New Testament to refer to "fullness _in Christ_" (Col. 2:10) who is the _known_ revelation of God in the flesh.

    *pseudepigrapha:* Ancient documents which falsely claim authorship by noteworthy individuals for the sake of credibility; for instance, the _Gospel of Thomas._

    *syncretism:* The teaching that various religious truth-claims can be synthesized into one basic, underlying unity.

    *Valentinus:* Influential early Gnostic of the Second Century A.D. who may have authorized the Nag Hammadi document, the _Gospel of Truth._


    Unless we are content to chronicle a cacophony of conflicting views of Jesus based on pure speculation or passionate whimsy, historical investigation is non-negotiable. Christianity has always been a historical religion and any serious challenge to its legitimacy must attend to that fact. Its central claims are rooted in events, not just ideas; in people, not just principles; in revelation, not speculation; in incarnation, not abstraction. Renowned historian Herbert Butterfield speaks of Christianity as a religion in which "certain historical events are held to be part of the religion itself" and are "considered to...represent the divine breaking into history."[1]

    Historical accuracy was certainly no incidental item to Luke in the writing of his Gospel: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:1-4, NIV). The text affirms that Luke was after nothing less than historical certainty, presented in orderly fashion and based on firsthand testimony.

    If Christianity centers on Jesus, the Christ, the promised Messiah who inaugurates the kingdom of God with power, the objective facticity of this Jesus is preeminent. Likewise, if purportedly historical documents, like the gospels of Nag Hammadi, challenge the biblical understanding of Jesus, they too must be brought before historical scrutiny. Part Two of this series will therefore inspect the historical standing of the Gnostic writings in terms of their historical integrity, authenticity, and veracity.


    Although much excitement has been generated by the Nag Hammadi discoveries, not a little misunderstanding has been mixed with the enthusiasm. The overriding assumption of many is that the treatises unearthed in upper Egypt contained "lost books of the Bible" -- of historical stature equal to or greater than the New Testament books. Much of this has been fueled by the titles of some of the documents themselves, particularly the so-called "Gnostic gospels": the _Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of the Egyptians,_ and the _Gospel of Truth._ The connotation of a "gospel" is that it presents the life of Jesus as a teacher, preacher, and healer -- similar in style, if not content, to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

    Yet, a reading of these "gospels" reveals an entirely different genre of material. For example, the introduction to the _Gospel of Truth_ in _The Nag Hammadi Library_ reads, "Despite its title, this work is not the sort found in the New Testament, since it does not offer a continuous narration of the deeds, teachings, passion, and resurrection of Jesus."[2] The introduction to the _Gospel of Philip_ in the same volume says that although it has some similarities to a New Testament Gospel, it "is not a gospel like one of the New Testament gospels. . . . [The] few sayings and stories about Jesus...are not set in any kind of narrative framework like one of the New Testament gospels."[3] Biblical scholar Joseph A. Fitzmyer criticized the title of Pagels's _The Gnostic Gospels_ because it insinuates that the heart of the book concerns lost gospels that have come to light when in fact the majority of Pagels's references are from early church fathers' sources or nongospel material.[4]

    In terms of scholarly and popular attention, the "superstar" of the Nag Hammadi collection is the _Gospel of Thomas._ Yet, _Thomas_ also falls outside the genre of the New Testament Gospels despite the fact that many of its 114 sayings are directly or indirectly related to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. _Thomas_ has almost no narration and its structure consists of discrete sayings. Unlike the canonical Gospels, which provide a social context and narrative for Jesus' words, _Thomas_ is more like various beads almost haphazardly strung on a necklace. This in itself makes proper interpretation difficult. F. F. Bruce observes that "the sayings of Jesus are best to be understood in the light of the historical circumstances in which they were spoken. Only when we have understood them thus can we safely endeavor to recognize the permanent truth which they convey. When they are detached from their original historical setting and arranged in an anthology, their interpretation is more precarious."[5]

    Without undue appeal to the subjective, it can be safely said that the Gnostic material on Jesus has a decidedly different "feel" than the biblical Gospels. There, Jesus' teaching emerges naturally from the overall contour of His life. In the Gnostic materials Jesus seems, in many cases, more of a lecturer on metaphysics than a Jewish prophet. In the _Letter of Peter to Philip,_ the apostles ask the resurrected Jesus, "Lord, we would like to know the deficiency of the aeons and of their pleroma."[6] Such philosophical abstractions were never on the lips of the disciples -- the fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots -- of the biblical accounts. Jesus then discourses on the precosmic fall of "the mother" who acted in opposition to "the Father" and so produced ailing aeons.[7]

    Whatever is made of the historical "feel" of these documents, their actual status as historical records should be brought into closer scrutiny to assess their factual reliability.


    Historicity is related to trustworthiness. If a document is historically reliable, it is trustworthy as objectively true; there is good reason to believe that what it affirms essentially fits what is the case. It is faithful to fact. Historical reliability can be divided into three basic categories: integrity, authenticity, and veracity.

    _Integrity_ concerns the preservation of the writing through history. Do we have reason to believe the text as it now reads is essentially the same as when it was first written? Or has substantial corruption taken place through distortion, additions, or subtractions? The New Testament has been preserved in thousands of diverse and ancient manuscripts which enable us to reconstruct the original documents with a high degree of certainty. But what of Nag Hammadi?

    Before the discovery at Nag Hammadi, Gnostic documents not inferred from references in the church fathers were few and far between. Since 1945, however, there are many primary documents. Scholars date the extant manuscripts from A.D. 350-400. The original writing of the various documents, of course, took place sometime before A.D. 350-400, but not, according to most scholars, before the second century.

    The actual condition of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts varies considerably. James Robinson, editor of _The Nag Hammadi Library,_ notes that "there is the physical deterioration of the books themselves, which began no doubt before they were buried around 400 C.E. [then] advanced steadily while they remained buried, and unfortunately was not completely halted in the period between their discovery in 1945 and their final conservation thirty years later."[8]

    Reading through _The Nag Hammadi Library,_ one often finds notations such as ellipses, parentheses, and brackets, indicating spotty marks in the texts. Often the translator has to venture tentative reconstructions of the writings because of textual damage. The situation may be likened to putting together a jigsaw puzzle with numerous pieces missing; one is forced to recreate the pieces by using whatever context is available. Robinson adds that "when only a few letters are missing, they can be often filled in adequately, but larger holes must simply remain a blank."[9]

    Concerning translation, Robinson relates that "the texts were translated one by one from Greek to Coptic, and not always by translators capable of grasping the profundity or sublimity of what they sought to translate."[10] Robinson notes, however, that most of the texts are adequately translated, and that when there is more than one version of a particular text, the better translation is clearly discernible. Nevertheless, he is "led to wonder about the bulk of the texts that exist only in a single version,"[11] because these texts cannot be compared with other translations for accuracy.

    Robinson comments further on the integrity of the texts: "There is the same kind of hazard in the transmission of the texts by a series of scribes who copied them, generation after generation, from increasingly corrupt copies, first in Greek and then in Coptic. The number of unintentional errors is hard to estimate, since such a thing as a clean control copy does not exist; _nor does one have, as in the case of the Bible, a quantity of manuscripts of the same text that tend to correct each other when compared_ (emphasis added)."[12]

     _Authenticity_ concerns the authorship of a given writing. Do we know who the author was? Or must we deal with an anonymous one? A writing is considered authentic if it can be shown to have been written by its stated or implied author. There is solid evidence that the New Testament Gospels were written by their namesakes: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But what of Nag Hammadi? The

    _Letter of Peter to Philip_ is dated at the end of the second century or even into the third. This rules out a literal letter from the apostle to Philip. The genre of this text is known as pseudepigrapha -- writings falsely ascribed to noteworthy individuals to lend credibility to the material. Although interesting in explaining the development of Gnostic thought and its relationship to biblical writings, this letter shouldn't be overtaxed as delivering reliable history of the events it purports to record.

    There are few if any cases of known authorship with the Nag Hammadi and other Gnostic texts. Scholars speculate as to authorship, but do not take pseudepigraphic literature as authentically apostolic. Even the _Gospel of Thomas,_ probably the document closest in time to the New Testament events, is virtually never considered to be written by the apostle Thomas himself.[13] The marks of authenticity in this material are, then, spotty at best.

    _Veracity_ concerns the truthfulness of the author of the text. Was the author adequately in a position to relate what is reported, in terms of both chronological closeness to the events and observational savvy? Did he or she have sufficient credentials to relay historical truth?

    Some, in their enthusiasm over Nag Hammadi, have lassoed texts into the historical corral that date several hundred years after the life of Jesus. For instance, in a review of the movie _The Last Temptation of Christ,_ Michael Grosso speaks of hints of Jesus' sexual life "right at the start of the Christian tradition." He then quotes from the _Gospel of Philip_ to the effect that Jesus often kissed Mary Magdalene on the mouth.[14] The problem is that the text is quite far from "the start of the Christian tradition," being written, according to one scholar, "perhaps as late as the second half of the third century."[15]

    Craig Blomberg states that "most of the Nag Hammadi documents, predominantly Gnostic in nature, make no pretense of overlapping with the gospel traditions of Jesus' earthly life."[16] He observes that "a number claim to record conversations of the resurrected Jesus with various disciples, but this setting is usually little more than an artificial framework for imparting Gnostic doctrine."[17]

    What, then, of the veracity of the documents? We do not know who wrote most of them and their historical veracity concerning Jesus seems slim. Yet some scholars advance a few candidates as providing historically reliable facts concerning Jesus. In the case of the _Gospel of Truth,_ some scholars see Valentinus as the author, or at least as authoring an earlier version.[18] Yet Valentinus dates into the second century (d. A.D. 175) and was thus not a contemporary of Jesus. Attridge and MacRae date the document between A.D. 140 and 180.[19] Layton recognizes that "the work is a sermon and has nothing to do with the Christian genre properly called 'gospel.'"[20]

    The text differs from many in Nag Hammadi because of its recurring references to New Testament passages. Beatley Layton notes that "it paraphrases, and so interprets, some thirty to sixty scriptural passages almost all from the New Testament books."[21] He goes on to note that Valentinus shaped these allusions to fit his own Gnostic theology.[22] In discussing the use of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in the _Gospel of Truth,_ C. M. Tuckett concludes that "there is no evidence for the use of sources other than the canonical gospels for synoptic material."[23] This would mean that the _Gospel of Truth_ gives no independent historical insight about Jesus, but rather reinterprets previous material.

    The _Gospel of Philip_ is thick with Gnostic theology and contains several references to Jesus. However, it does not claim to be a revelation from Jesus: it is more of a Gnostic manual of theology.[24] According to Tuckett's analysis, all the references to Gospel material seem to stem from Matthew and not from any other canonical Gospel or other source independent of Matthew. Andrew Hembold has also pointed out that both the _Gospel of Truth_ and the _Gospel of Philip_ show signs of "mimicking" the New Testament; they both "know and recognize the greater part of the New Testament as authoritative."[25] This would make them derivative, not original, documents.

    Tuckett has also argued that the _Gospel of Mary_ and the _Book of Thomas the Contender_ are dependent on synoptic materials, and that "there is virtually no evidence for the use of pre-synoptic sources by these writers. These texts are all 'post-synoptic,' not only with regard to their dates, but also with regard to the form of the synoptic tradition they presuppose."[26] In other words, these writings are simply drawing on preexistent Gospel material and rearranging it to conform to their Gnostic world view. They do not contribute historically authentic, new material.

    The _Apocryphon of James_ claims to be a secret revelation of the risen Jesus to James His brother. It is less obviously Gnostic than some Nag Hammadi texts and contains some more orthodox-sounding phrases such as, "Verily I say unto you none will be saved unless they believe in my cross."[27] It also affirms the unorthodox, such as when Jesus says, "Become better than I; make yourselves like the son of the Holy Spirit."[28] While one scholar dates this text sometime before A.D. 150,[29] Blomberg believes it gives indications of being "at least in part later than and dependent upon the canonical gospels."[30] Its esotericism certainly puts it at odds with the canonical Gospels, which are better attested historically.


    The Nag Hammadi text that has provoked the most historical scrutiny is the _Gospel of Thomas._ Because of its reputation as the lost "fifth Gospel" and its frequently esoteric and mystical cast, it is frequently quoted in New Age circles. A recent book by Robert Winterhalter is entitled, _The Fifth Gospel: A Verse-by-Verse New Age Commentary on the Gospel of Thomas._ He claims Thomas knows "the Christ both as the Self, and the foundation of individual life."[31] Some sayings in _Thomas_ do seem to teach this. But is this what the historical Jesus taught?

    The scholarly literature on _Thomas_ is vast and controversial. Nevertheless, a few important considerations arise in assessing its veracity as history.

    Because it is more of an anthology of mostly unrelated sayings than an ongoing story about Jesus' words and deeds, _Thomas_ is outside the genre of "Gospel" in the New Testament. Yet, some of the 114 sayings closely parallel or roughly resemble statements in the Synoptics, either by adding to them, deleting from them, combining several references into one, or by changing the sense of a saying entirely.

    This explanation uses the Synoptics as a reference point for comparison. But is it likely that _Thomas_ is independent of these sources and gives authentic although "unorthodox" material about Jesus? To answer this, we must consider a diverse range of factors.

    There certainly are sayings that harmonize with biblical material, and direct or indirect relationships can be found to all four canonical Gospels. In this sense, _Thomas_ contains both orthodox and unorthodox material, if we use orthodox to mean the material in the extant New Testament. For instance, the Trinity and unforgivable sin are referred to in the context of blasphemy: "Jesus said, 'Whoever blasphemes against the father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven either on earth or in heaven.'"[32]

    In another saying Jesus speaks of the "evil man" who "brings forth evil things from his evil storehouse, which is in his heart, and says evil things"[33] (see Luke 6:43-46). This can be read to harmonize with the New Testament Gospels' emphasis on human sin, not just ignorance of the divine spark within.

    Although it is not directly related to a canonical Gospel text, the following statement seems to state the biblical theme of the urgency of finding Jesus while one can: "Jesus said, 'Take heed of the living one while you are alive, lest you die and seek to see him and be unable to do so'" (compare John 7:34; 13:33).[34]

    At the same time we find texts of a clearly Gnostic slant, as noted earlier. How can we account for this?

    The original writing of _Thomas_ has been dated variously between A.D. 50 and 150 or even later, with most scholars opting for a second century date.[35] Of course, an earlier date would lend more credibility to it, although its lack of narrative framework still makes it more difficult to understand than the canonical Gospels. While some argue that _Thomas_ uses historical sources independent of those used by the New Testament, this is not a uniformly held view, and arguments are easily found which marshall evidence for _Thomas's_ dependence (either partial or total) on the canonical Gospels.[36]

    Blomberg claims that "where _Thomas_ parallels the four gospels it is unlikely that any of the distinctive elements in _Thomas_ predate the canonical versions."[37] When _Thomas_ gives a parable found in the four Gospels and adds details not found there, "they can almost always be explained as conscious, Gnostic redaction [editorial adaptation]."[38]

    James Dunn elaborates on this theme by comparing _Thomas_ with what is believed to be an earlier and partial version of the document found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, near the turn of the century.[39] He notes that the Oxyrhynchus "papyri date from the end of the second or the first half of the third century, while the _Gospel of Thomas_...was probably written no earlier than the fourth century."[40]

    Dunn then compares similar statements from Matthew, the Oxyrhynchus papyri, and the Nag Hammadi text version of _Thomas:_

    Matthew 7:7-8 and 11:28 -- "...Seek and you will find;...he who seeks finds...Come to me...and I will give you rest."
           Pap. Ox. 654.5-9 -- (Jesus says:)
    'Let him who see(ks) not cease (seeking until) he finds; and when he find (he will) be astonished, and having (astoun)ded, he will reign; an(d reigning), he will (re)st' (Clement of Alexandria also knows the saying in this form.)
            Gospel of Thomas 2 -- 'Jesus said: He who seeks should not stop seeking until he finds; and when he finds, he will be bewildered (beside himself);
    and when he is bewildered he will marvel, and will reign over the All.'[41]

    Dunn notes that the term "the All" (which the _Gospel of Thomas_ adds to the earlier document) is "a regular Gnostic concept," and that "as the above comparisons suggest, the most obvious explanation is that it was one of the last elements to be added to the saying."[42] Dunn further comments that the Nag Hammadi version of _Thomas_ shows a definite "gnostic colouring" and gives no evidence of "the thesis of a form of Gnostic Christianity already existing in the first century." He continues: "Rather it confirms the counter thesis that the Gnostic element in Gnostic Christianity is a second century syncretistic outgrowth on the stock of the earlier Christianity. What we can see clearly in the case of this one saying is probably representative of the lengthy process of development and elaboration which resulted in the form of the _Gospel of Thomas_ found at Nag Hammadi."[43]

    Other authorities substantiate the notion that whatever authentic material _Thomas_ may convey concerning Jesus, the text shows signs of Gnostic tampering. Marvin W. Meyer judges that _Thomas_ "shows the hand of a gnosticizing editor."[44] Winterhalter, who reveres _Thomas_ enough to write a devotional guide on it, nevertheless says of it that "some sayings are spurious or greatly altered, but this is the work of a later Egyptian editor."[45] He thinks, though, that the wheat can be successfully separated from the chaff.

    Robert M. Grant has noted that "the religious realities which the Church proclaimed were ultimately perverted by the _Gospel of Thomas._ For this reason _Thomas,_ along with other documents which purported to contain secret sayings of Jesus, was rejected by the Church."[46]

    Here we find ourselves agreeing with the early Christian defenders of the faith who maintained that Gnosticism in the church was a corruption of original truth and not an independently legitimate source of information on Jesus or the rest of reality. Fitzmyer drives this home in criticizing Pagels's view that the Gnostics have an equal claim on Christian authenticity: "Throughout the book [Pagels] gives the unwary reader the impression that the difference between 'orthodox Christians' and 'gnostic Christians' was one related to the 'origins of Christianity'. Time and time again, she is blind to the fact that she is ignoring a good century of Christian existence in which those 'gnostic Christians' were simply not around."[47]

    In this connection it is also telling that outside of the _Gospel of Thomas,_ which doesn't overtly mention the Resurrection, other Gnostic documents claiming to impart new information about Jesus do so through spiritual, post-resurrection dialogues -- often in the form of visions -- which are not subject to the same historical rigor as claims made about the earthly life of Jesus. This leads Dunn to comment that "Christian Gnosticism usually attributed its secret [and unorthodox] teaching of Jesus to discourses delivered by him, so they maintained, in a lengthy ministry after his resurrection (as in _Thomas the Contender_ and _Pistis Sophia_). The _Gospel of Thomas_ is unusual therefore in attempting to use the Jesus-tradition as the vehicle for its teaching. . . . Perhaps Gnosticism abandoned the _Gospel of Thomas_ format because it was to some extent subject to check and rebuttal from Jesus-tradition preserved elsewhere."[48]

    Dunn thinks that the more thoroughly the Gnostics challenged the already established orthodox accounts of Jesus' earthly life, the less credible they became; but with post-resurrection accounts, no checks were forthcoming. They were claiming additional information vouchsafed only to the elite. He concludes that Gnosticism "was able to present its message in a sustained way as the teaching of Jesus only by separating the risen Christ from the earthly Jesus and by abandoning the attempts to show a continuity between the Jesus of the Jesus-tradition and the heavenly Christ of their faith."[49]

    What is seen by some as a Gnostic challenge to historic, orthodox views of the life, teaching, and work of Jesus was actually in many cases a retreat from historical considerations entirely. Only so could the Gnostic documents attempt to establish their credibility.


    Although Pagels and others have provoked sympathy, if not enthusiasm, for the Gnostics as the underdogs who just happened to lose out to orthodoxy, the Gnostics' historical credentials concerning Jesus are less than compelling. It may be romantic to "root for the underdog," but the Gnostic underdogs show every sign of being heretical hangers-on who tried to harness Christian language for conceptions antithetical to early Christian teaching.

    Many sympathetic with Gnosticism make much of the notion that the Gnostic writings were suppressed by the early Christian church. But this assertion does not, in itself, provide support one way or the other for the truth or falsity of Gnostic doctrine. If truth is not a matter of _majority_ vote, neither is it a matter of _minority_ dissent. It may be true, as Pagels says, that "the winners write history," but that doesn't necessarily make them bad or dishonest historians. If so, we should hunt down Nazi historians to give us the real picture of Hitler's Germany and relegate all opposing views to that of dogmatic apologists who just happened to be on the winning side.

    In _Against Heresies,_ Irenaeus went to great lengths to present the theologies of the various Gnostic schools in order to refute them biblically and logically. If suppression had been his concern, the book never would have been written as it was. Further, to argue cogently against the Gnostics, Irenaeus and the other anti-Gnostic apologists would presumably have had to be diligent to correctly represent their foes in order to avoid ridicule for misunderstanding them. Patrick Henry highlights this in reference to Nag Hammadi: "While the Nag Hammadi materials have made some corrections to the portrayal of Gnosticism in the anti-Gnostic writings of the church fathers, it is increasingly evident that the fathers did not fabricate their opponents' views; what distortion there is comes from selection, not from invention. It is still legitimate to use materials from the writings of the fathers to characterize Gnosticism."[50]

    It is highly improbable that all of the Gnostic materials could have been systematically confiscated or destroyed by the early church. Dunn finds it unlikely that the reason we have no unambiguously first century documents from Christian Gnostics is because the early church eradicated them. He believes it more likely that we have none because there were none.[51] But by archaeological virtue of Nag Hammadi, we now do have many primary source Gnostic documents available for detailed inspection. Yet they do not receive superior marks as historical documents about Jesus. In a review of _The Gnostic Gospels,_ noted biblical scholar Raymond Brown affirmed that from the Nag Hammadi "works we learn not a single verifiable new fact about the historical Jesus' ministry, and only a few new sayings that might possibly have been his."[52]

    Another factor foreign to the interests of Gnostic apologists is the proposition that Gnosticism expired largely because it lacked life from the beginning. F. F. Bruce notes that "Gnosticism was too much bound up with a popular but passing phase of thought to have the survival power of apostolic Christianity."[53]

    Exactly why did apostolic Christianity survive and thrive? Robert Speer pulls no theological punches when he proclaims that "Christianity lived because it was true to the truth. Through all the centuries it has never been able to live otherwise. It can not live otherwise today."[54]


    1 Herbert Butterfield, _Christianity and History_ (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1950), 119.
    2 Harold W. Attridge and George W. MacRae, "Introduction: The Gospel of Truth," in James M. Robinson, ed., _The Nag Hammadi Library_ (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 38.
    3 Wesley W. Isenberg, "Introduction: The Gospel of Philip," _Ibid.,_ 139.
    4 Joseph Fitzmyer, "The Gnostic Gospels According to Pagels," _America,_ 16 Feb. 1980, 123.
    5 F. F. Bruce, _Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament_ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 154.
    6 Robinson, 434.
    7 _Ibid.,_ 435.
    8 Robinson, "Introduction," 2.
    9 _Ibid.,_ 3.
    10 _Ibid.,_ 2.
    11 _Ibid._
    12 _Ibid._
    13 _See_ Ray Summers, _The Secret Sayings of the Living Jesus_ (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1968), 14.
    14 Michael Grosso, "Testing the Images of God," _Gnosis,_ Winter 1989, 43.
    15 Wesley W. Isenberg, "Introduction: The Gospel of Philip," in Robinson, 141.
    16 Craig Blomberg, _The Historical Reliability of the Gospels_ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 208.
    17 _Ibid._
    18 _See_ Stephan Hoeller, "Valentinus: A Gnostic for All Seasons," _Gnosis,_ Fall/Winter 1985, 25.
    19 _Ibid.,_ 38.
    20 Bentley Layton, _The Gnostic Scriptures_ (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1987), 251.
    21 _Ibid._
    22 _Ibid._
    23 C. M. Tuckett, "Synoptic Tradition in the Gospel of Truth and the Testimony of Truth," _Journal of Theological Studies_ 35 (1984):145.
    24 Blomberg, 213-14.
    25 Andrew K. Hembold, _The Nag Hammadi Texts and the Bible_ (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967), 88-89.
    26 Christopher Tuckett, "Synoptic Tradition in Some Nag Hammadi and Related Texts," _Vigiliae Christiane_ 36 (July 1982):184.
    27 Robinson, 32.
    28 _Ibid._
    29 Francis E. Williams, "Introduction: The Apocryphon of James," in Robinson, 30.
     30 Blomberg, 213.
    31 Robert Winterhalter, _The Fifth Gospel_ (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 13.
    32 Robinson, 131; _See_ Bruce, _Jesus and Christian Origins,_ 130-31.
    33 Robinson, 131.
    34 _Ibid.,_ 132.
    35 Layton, 377.
    36 _See_ Craig L. Blomberg, "Tradition and Redaction in the Parables of the Gospel of Thomas," _Gospel Perspectives_ 5: 177-205.
    37 Blomberg, _Historical Reliability,_ 211.
    38 _Ibid.,_ 212.
    39 _See_ Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "The Oxyrhynchus Logoie of Jesus and the Coptic Gospel According to Thomas," in Joseph Fitzmyer, _Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament_ (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1974), 355-433.
    40 James D. G. Dunn, _The Evidence for Jesus_ (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1985), 101. 41 _Ibid._
    42 _Ibid.,_ 102.
    43 _Ibid._
    44 Marvin W. Meyer, "Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Library," _Reformed Journal_ (June 1979):15.
    45 Winterhalter, 4.
    46 Robert M. Grant with David Noel Freedman, _The Secret Sayings of Jesus_ (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1960), 115.
    47 Fitzmyer, "The Gnostic Gospels According to Pagels," 123.
    48 James Dunn, _Unity and Diversity in the New Testament_ (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 287-88.
    49 _Ibid.,_ 288; _see_ also Blomberg, _Historical Reliability,_ 219.
    50 Patrick Henry, _New Directions_ (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 282.
    51 Dunn, _The Evidence,_ 97-98.
    52 Raymond E. Brown, "The Gnostic Gospels," _The New York Times Book Review,_ 20 Jan. 1980, 3.
    53 F. F. Bruce, _The Canon of Scripture_ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 278.
    54 Robert E. Speer, _The Finality of Jesus Christ_ (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1933), 108.


    End of document, CRJ0088A.TXT (original CRI file name), "The Gnostic Gospels: Are They Authentic?" release A, April 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI

    (A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.)

    Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute

    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    Does Luke 1:28 Support Roman Catholic Mariology?

              "The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" should herself be "full of grace." She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the "Daughter of Zion": "Rejoice." It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son." (CCC # 722).

              The best description that we get about Mary from the pages of Scripture is that she is "the Lord's servant" (Luke 1:38). Nothing much else is said of her. It is therefore unrealistic to go from describing Mary as being an instrument used by God to accomplish His purpose to being a woman who was conceived without sin, ascended into heaven without physical death, and being exalted as queen of heaven. Moreover, there is nothing in this context allowing for the use of random titles to exalt Mary, offering prayers to her or building statues of saints to bow down before, and fails to mention anything about future Marian apparitions.

              The context reveals important sayings of Elizabeth, Mary, and the Angel Gabriel. However, nothing is said about Mary being without sin. Furthermore, we need to ask why Gabriel would announce the important message of Mary's birth so many years after the occasion took place (i.e. when she was a fully grown woman)? Both the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were proclaimed before their birth dates. It would be strange to make a prophecy of an event after the fact that it has already happened. Luke chapter one centers around the conception of Jesus.

              The phrase "full of grace" is not found in our Greek manuscripts. It is derived from a faulty translation of Jerome in his fourth century Latin Vulgate. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church has derived its doctrine from a corrupted Latin translation (not the Greek original). Interestingly, most modern-day Catholic Bibles do not have the rendering "full of grace." Examples of reputable translations omitting that term would include the New American Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible.

              "But the term kecharitomene (full of grace) serves only as an illustration, not as a proof of the dogma." (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Immaculate Conception”)

              "The words of Gabriel, “Hail, full of grace” (Lk. 1.28), have also been appealed to as a revelation of the Immaculate Conception, on the grounds that to be truly full of grace, Mary must have had it always. This interpretation, however, overlooks the fact that the Greek term κεχαριτωμένη [kecharitomene] is not nearly so explicit as the translation “full of grace” might suggest. It implies only that God’s favor has been lavished on Mary, without defining the degree of grace." (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, Page 378) 

    Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    Examining The Catholic Rosary In Light Of Scripture

           One Roman Catholic legend is that Mary showed up before St. Dominic in 1208 at the church of Prouille and revealed the Rosary beads to him. Catholic Priest William Saunders writes that, "the origins of the rosary are sketchy at best." Gregory the Great made popular a form of the Hail Mary Prayer and many in response began praying this prayer in repetitions with stringed beads. Jesus Christ would have condemned praying this kind of prayer:

            "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."  (Matthew 6:6-7)

             The Rosary consists of heaping up words and phrases in an attempt to make prayers more efficacious or more heard. It is not simply a matter of saying the same prayers repeatedly. Furthermore, we never see anybody in the New Testament using prefabricated, mechanical prayers with a continuous, repetitious nature. Scripture does not express approval of any kind of icon or relic that aids in prayer.

            Jesus Christ emphatically condemned these types of prayer by calling them vain. Those are done by pagans and legalists. God already knows everything that we are going to ask Him, even before we do so. He knows everything that we need, even better than what we know of ourselves.

            More prayers are dedicated to Mary in the Rosary than to God Himself in the process of it being cited. The praises given to God are outnumbered nine to one in favor of Mary. Thus, it does not take much to notice how such a prayer can diminish one's affection for God. Contrast Roman Catholic devotion to Mary in the Rosary with words from the Psalms:

            "My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken." (Psalm 62:5-6)

            "Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth." (Psalm 73:25)

            There is nothing in those words that would even remotely imply that those people would have found something like the Rosary to be palatable for use in worship. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the Psalmists actually may have shrieked in horror at such an idea. The biggest problem for the Rosary is that it involves prayer to someone other than God.

            What is the importance of knowing how many times a prayer is said? Why is there such a major emphasis on the number of repetitions in citing the Rosary? What are the consequences of saying too many or too little of a specific prayer? Is it some sort of magical formula or spell? Does the Rosary involve some sort of self-hypnosis technique? What is the significance of even using this relic if the repetition serves no purpose?

            The concept of praying with beads was used by pagans long before Christianity even began. An example would include the Hindus. In fact, the Rosary is connected with a prayer "rhythm," is described as being repetitious, and is linked with a rhythm of breathing. These concepts are associated with the practices of occult religions such as Wicca. Former Pope John Paul II offered this description of the Rosary in his apostolic letter called "Rosarium Virginis Mariae."

    Sunday, March 12, 2017

    Is The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary Biblical?

    • Introduction:
              -The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage after Jesus Christ was born. It is therefore held that He had no blood brothers or sisters. Whatever relatives Jesus had were cousins or were from a previous marriage of Joseph to some other woman.
              -Jerome argued against Helvidius on three grounds: 1.) Joseph was only assumed to be the husband of Mary, 2.) The brothers of Jesus were actually cousins, and 3.) celibacy is morally superior to marriage.
              -Many have upheld this teaching throughout history, both before and after the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, Francis Turretin, and Richard Hooker were Protestants who believed Mary to be a perpetual virgin.
    • Matthew 1:18:
              -The meaning of this passage is that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until they got married. Consequently, Jesus Christ had literal brothers and sisters from the womb of Mary. There is no reason to challenge this interpretation, unless one has an underlying theological agenda to advance.
    • Matthew 1:24-25:
              -Verses that use the word "until" to mean a change in condition would be Matthew 24:34, Acts 20:11, Acts 23:12, and Revelation 7:3. Sometimes the word in Greek does not carry this meaning. Context determines the meaning behind words. If we interpret the words in Matthew 1:25 at face value, it would certainly seem that Mary had children after the birth of Christ.
    • Matthew 13:55-57 And Mark 6:3-4:
              -The context of these passages indicates the meaning of "brothers and sisters" to be natural family. In Matthew 13:55-57 and Mark 6:3-4, the Greek word for sisters (i.e. adelphe) is used. That word is used in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 to mean natural sister born as to the same mother. The term used in various contexts suggests a natural familial relationship.
              -If this was a reference to more distinct relatives, then why did Matthew and Mark not use the Greek word "suggenes" (Luke 1:36; Luke 1:58)? The absence of this term in Matthew 13:55-57 and Mark 6:3-4 could be seen as an indication that the authors intended to convey a more immediate family relationship.
              -The New Testament occupies a separate Greek word for cousin, which is "anepsios" (Colossians 4:10). The New Testament never denotes the term "brother" to mean anything other than a literal brother in the context of family relations. If the terms brother and sister are not to be taken literally, then why should we understand Mary being called the mother of Jesus in that same way? 
    • John's gospel records a fulfilled prophecy (John 2:15-17) from the Book of Psalms (Psalm 69:8-9): 
              -The implication to be made is that Christ had literal brothers and sisters from the womb of Mary. His brothers were said to not believe Him (John 7:1-10).
    • Jesus was Mary's firstborn, not only born (Luke 2:7):
              -The New Testament makes a distinction between firstborn and only born (Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38). The fact that the four gospels speak of brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ suggests that "firstborn" here means the first of many children. If Jesus were an only child, it would not have been necessary to call Him the firstborn.

    Saturday, March 11, 2017

    Refuting The Immaculate Conception Of Mary

    • The Immaculate Conception Of Mary:
              -According to the Roman Catholic Church, Mary was conceived without the stains of original sin and she therefore led a sinless life. It is claimed that God had to work things out in this fashion so that Jesus could be immaculately conceived. The Roman Catholic Catechism says, "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." (# 491)
              -As is usual with distinctively Roman Catholic dogmas, there is no unanimous consensus among the church fathers as to whether or not the immaculate conception is biblical. Dr. Ron Rhodes notes the following, " is a historical fact that a number of the early church fathers such as Origen, Basil, Hillary, John Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria believed that Mary had engaged in sins (such as vanity and ambition) in her life." (Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, p. 296) The Roman Catholic television network EWTN said, "During the middle ages, authors such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Thomas Aquinas denied the doctrine."
    • This Doctrine Raises A Number Of Questions:
              -If sinlessness is claimed for Mary so that she could be pure enough to bear Jesus Christ, then why should such not also be claimed for Mary's mother so that she could be pure enough to bear Mary? This process would have to continue until it reaches its starting point (i.e. Eve). Why not simply have Mary and Jesus born in a sinless environment?
    • Not Ritually Clean, According To The Old Testament Levitical Law Which Was In Effect When Jesus Christ Was A Baby:
              -If Mary was sinless, then why was she unclean and had to offer a sacrifice for sin (Luke 2:16; 21-24)? According to the Old Testament, the mother needed purifying after a birth because of the issue of blood (Leviticus 12:1-8). Mary was ritually unclean.
    • Mary Doubted God, Which Is A Sin:
              -If Mary was undefiled by sin, then how does one account for the fact that she once thought her Son Jesus Christ to be mentally deranged (Mark 3:20-21; 3:31-35)? She was not trusting in God at that point in time, which is a sin.
    • All Have Sinned And Fallen Short Of The Glory Of God:
              -All have fallen short of God's Law (Romans 3:10-12; 23; 5:12), and are therefore in need of an atonement sacrifice, which is Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:2; 1 John 3:5). "All" includes Mary. There has been only one Person tempted by the devil and successfully resisted sin throughout His entire life, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). For this reason, people such as Adam and Eve, babies, and the mentally handicapped are not true exceptions to the rule "all have sinned." While the Scriptures explicitly teach the sinless nature of Jesus Christ, they are silent when it comes to Mary being without sin. Only Jesus was conceived without sin and led a sinless life.

    General Comments On Roman Catholic Mariology

    • Introduction:
              -Roman Catholic Mariology has a bizarre developmental history, with there being various shrines and feasts established in the name of Mary during the Middle Ages. Further, many bishops who had attended the First Vatican Council wanted "Immaculate Virgin" added to the "Hail Mary" prayer. Other attendees even wanted to add the immaculate conception of Mary to the creed. This reveals a gradual increase in Marian devotion throughout the centuries. It does not take much effort to find numerous statements exalting Mary in the writings of various Roman Catholic "saints" and officials that far exceed the teachings of Scripture.
    • Roman Catholic Mariology Presents A Distorted View Of Mary:
              -The New Testament epistles were written to give spiritual guidance and instruction to the Christian churches. They have a great deal to say about correct doctrine and the proper worship of God. However, Mary is completely absent from the New Testament outside the four gospels, with two exceptions being Acts 1:14 and Galatians 4:4.
              -Even in the four gospels, her alleged spiritual power and authority seems as if it does not exist. Jesus and the apostles never gave Mary any place of authority or devotion that the Roman Catholic Church has given to her.
              -The central theme of the Bible is devotion and adoration for God. We are constantly told to glorify His name. We are told to confess our sins before Him. Never is this said of Mary. We are never told or encouraged in Scripture to venerate His creations, nor to sing hymnals about them. Paul does not even exhort the readers of his epistles to pray to members in a so-called communion of saints during times of trouble. That is just how unbiblical the Roman Catholic elevation of Mary is.
              -Why did Jesus address another woman by the same name "woman" as He called His own mother (Matthew 15:28; John 2:4)?
    • The Example Of John The Baptist:
              -Jesus Christ said that the greatest human ever born was John the Baptist and that he was the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 11:11-13). Even the "least" in the kingdom of God is "greater" than John the Baptist. So Mary is not in a more exalted position in the eyes of God than anyone else, either in heaven or earth.
    • Roman Catholic Mariology Contradicts Biblical Teaching:
              -Jesus publicly refuted a woman who attempted to exalt Mary on the basis that she gave birth to Him (Luke 11:27-28). Instead, He placed an emphasis on hearing and obeying the Word of God.
              -Jesus stated that all of His disciples are His mother and family (Matthew 12:46-50). He elevated all of His disciples to the same level as His earthly mother and family. The emphasis is on faithfulness to God rather than to ancestral lineage.
    • Examples Of Unbiblical Marian Dogmas:
              -"...we cannot doubt that she greatly grieved in soul in the most harsh anguishes and torments of her Son. Further, that divine sacrifice had to be completed with her present and looking on, for which she had generously nourished the victim from herself. Finally this is more tearfully observed in the same mysteries: There stood by the Cross of Jesus, Mary His Mother...of her own accord she offered her Son to the divine justice, dying with Him in her heart, transfixed with the sword of sorrow." (Leo XIII, Iucunda Semper, September 8, 1884)
               *Scripture states that Jesus Christ offered Himself to God as atonement for our sin (Hebrews 9:14). Mary played no role in our redemption except in the sense of giving birth to Him. Mary could not have offered her son to God as an atonement sacrifice, even if she had wanted to.
               *Mary would have been in agony and distress to see her Son nailed to a crucifix. Such reactions are only natural of normal mothers when they see their children suffer. However, there is no valid reason to suggest that Mary's grief had some sort of a unique or redemptive value.
              -“Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is "the dwelling of God...with men." (CCC #2676)
               *If Mary automatically inherits the title "Ark of the Covenant" for the reason that she once bore the Lord Jesus Christ in her womb, then would it not logically follow that all Christians can rightly be given the same title, since our bodies are also God's dwelling place (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20)?
    • Was Mary Absolutely Necessary In The Plan Of God?:
              -God did not have to use Mary as the means of bringing His Son into the world so that He could make atonement for our sins. In other words, He could have found favor with another virgin woman who was just as faithful to His will, if He so chose. In fact, He did not have to save us (but He did as a result of His love and mercy). It is not as though Mary was the only option available to God or that He owed her something.
    • Delusions Of Grandeur:
              -"Let us in all confidence choose as advocate before God the Immaculate and Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. She has destroyed all the heresies of the world...In heaven as Queen at the right hand of her only Son, clothed in golden raiment and all manner of jewels, there is nothing that she cannot obtain from him." (Pope Pius IX, Quanta cura, December 8, 1864)
               *If Mary had really accomplished what the pope claimed regarding the abolishment of all heresy, then why are we still encountering atheists, other world religions, and pseudo-Christian cults?

    Arguments For The Existence Of God

    • The Argument From First Cause:
              -How did everything existing in the universe come into being? If the answer is gasses or atoms or celestial bodies or whatever else secular scientists may want us to believe, then where did all of these things come from? It is logically impossible for something to originate from nothing. We need to keep going back in time until we discover a beginning. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the first cause of everything must be a God who has existed for all eternity. That is His very nature. Thus, He is the first cause of all things. We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that something cannot create itself from nothing. That is not scientific reasoning but myth-making.
    • The Argument From Fine-Tuning:
              -The fine tuning of the universe is worth our consideration. Notice how everything in the solar system orbits around the sun, how the planets rotate (with moons even rotating around them), and how everything stays in perfect order. The planet Earth, which is about 93 million miles away from the sun and is third in the sequence of planets as to their distance away from the central star that provides us with light, is the only known environment that is able to sustain human life. Furthermore, life on this planet functions in a very sophisticated and orderly manner. If the universe simply originated out of merely "nothing" and by chance, then how come life is not disorganized and chaotic?
              -"Summary: These are the fundamental constants and quantities of the universe. Each of these numbers have been carefully dialed to an astonishingly precise value - a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range. If any one of these numbers were altered by even a hair's breadth, no physical, interactive life of any kind could exist anywhere. There'd be no stars, no life, no planets, no chemistry…The fact is our universe permits physical, interactive life only because these, and many other numbers, have been independently and exquisitely balanced on a razor's edge…The probabilities involved are so ridiculously remote as to put the fine-tuning well beyond the reach of chance." (
    • The Moral Argument:
              -How life should work is dictated by universal moral principles. In other words, every decision that we plan to execute should be made on the basis of an objective standard of good. The fact that we appeal to a moral standard in our daily argumentation, expect everyone to behave in morally good manner, make apologies, and try to make excuses to justify our wrongdoings proves that there must be an ultimate, unchangeable standard of morality. Mentally deranged people have a perception of good, even if their view of goodness is extremely twisted. In fact, the heart of the ancient civilizations had a sense of good, though their practices or customs may have been radically different and even repulsive in our sight. This innate sense of good and evil cannot be mere instinct because it is based upon our free will, which operates on the basis of human reason. The difference between a mere animal instinct and this transcendent moral code is that the first one is automatic and unable to be resisted, whereas the second concept can indeed be resisted. The existence of objective moral truths presupposes the existence of God.
    • The Argument From Contingency (Cosmological Argument):
              -In order for the universe to come into existence, an outside entity that exceeds the boundaries of space, matter, and time must also exist. Nothing material can exist on its own behalf or whim. The existence of the universe is dependent on an outside source, just as fire needs oxygen to burn or trees need water to grow. What is needed for the universe to exist exists independently of whether other beings exist or not. This mysterious being exists in and of itself, that is, an eternal source. This divine Giver is completely different than the created, finite particles of matter. He is infinite, unchangeable, and immaterial. He transcends space and time. In contrast, the universe is finite and changeable.
    • The Argument From Efficient Cause:
              -There is no such thing as infinite regress in the sense of a never ending series of causes. It is logically impossible for something to exist prior to its existence. So every material object must have a beginning. An effect cannot occur without a cause. It is reasonable to conclude that God set the universe into the orderly fashion that we observe today. A first mover would be distinguished from a first cause.
    • The Argument From Degrees Of Perfection (Henological Argument):
              -We tend to classify personal preferences, chains of events, lifetime experiences, and various decisions from least to greatest. In other words, one of the processes on which our judgment operates is ranking things according to being better or worse or by being more or less extreme in nature. A few examples of this sort of activity will be provided to illustrate the point that degrees of perfection do exist and how they relate to the existence of God. For example, we classify being a genius as better than having an average intelligence; an average intelligence as better than being unintelligent. Our way of being is much better and more complete than that of animals or inanimate objects. If these degrees of perfection are pertinent to being, which does exist in finite creatures, then there must be an ultimate degree of perfection that transcends our understanding. One exists who has all of the good qualities that we posses as beings, but to an infinitely perfect and full extent. God has the highest degree of perfection and being.
    • The Argument From Desire:
              -"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 137)
    • The Argument Of The Unmoved Mover:
              -Everything that is placed into motion has a mover. In other words, things cannot merely set themselves into motion without a being applying the force to put that object into a state of movement. All moving things have a mover. Therefore, the universe could not have began and put everything into motion by itself. There is an Unmoved Mover from whom all motion proceeds. God is the one who set the order of everything into motion.

    Thursday, March 9, 2017

    Why Are There So Many Different Versions Of The Bible?

    • Defining The Issues: 
              -Several translations of the Bible have been produced in the English language and are in circulation today. Christians read from translations ranging from the King James Version, New King James Version, New American Standard Bible, the New Living Bible, and others. Church groups even recommend specific Bible translations over others and use them in preaching pulpits. In fact, one may mistakenly infer that the existence of multiple editions of the Bible is the primary cause of division throughout the church or that the manuscripts used for finding English equivalents for the words of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages are unreliable. To make a long story short, there are several translations of the Bible which contain deviations in wording, sentence structure, and even differences in chapter verses. However, having more than one translation of the Bible can prove to be beneficial in study. They can be used in further spreading the gospel. The existence of multiple Bible translations is not a bad thing in and of itself, although this is not to deny that some people are motivated by greed.
    • Bible Translation Or Version? 
              -The word "version" is not necessarily the best way to describe a translation of a religious text. It misrepresents the nature of the painstaking research conducted by scholars who worked diligently to give us the most accurate as possible presentation of what the original authors of the biblical narratives wanted to convey to their audiences. The science of translation works to find equivalents in one language so that different languages are able to maintain communication and understanding. The word "version" can give the misleading implication of intentional alteration or perversion with malicious motives (there are works of this nature in existence). The process of translating works to make deciphering a message in a foreign language possible to others. Creating a "version" can carry with it connotations of carving out wanted portions of any given text to fit one's underlying biases. Translating ancient manuscripts from different languages is no different than translating the words of a speaker from another country such as a foreign diplomat giving a news conference. So describing a translation of the Bible as merely being a "version" can be misleading.
    • Why There Are Many Different Bible Translations?:
              -Different translations of the Bible exist because different groups of scholars knowledgeable in languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic have collaborated at different periods of time to develop them. Words have a semantic range or a variety of meanings in a group of words that are appropriate to use depending on context. For example, the word "angry" has other words with similar connotations like mad, upset, irate, vehement, furious, and enraged. Those terms differ in degrees of forcefulness and may thus not fully convey what a person intends to say in various contexts. Hebrew and Greek syntax can even be obscure sometimes. There have been discoveries of manuscripts and archaeology which provide further data to use in improving translations. The meaning of the text when considered in its entirety essentially remains the same. There is therefore still one Bible.
              -The science of translation involves explanation or interpretation, since it is a process of making something known that could not otherwise have been known to those unfamiliar with biblical languages. Shades of Hebrew and Greek are inevitably lost to a degree in translation, which is a good reason to have two to three different translations of the Bible at a minimum (even though one cannot have perfect knowledge about such unless he knows the original languages for himself). In addition, words have changed in their meaning since four hundred years ago when Elizabethan English was spoken. A good example of this would be the word "gay" which is used in the King James Version of the Bible and how that same word is used today. The meaning of a word is determined by its usage in context. The three types of translations available are word for word, thought for thought, and paraphrase. How could Christians be required to agree on only one edition of the Bible when it also needs to be translated into different languages?
    • Which Bible Translation Is The Best One To Read From?:
              - All Bible translations existing contain their own weaknesses and imperfections. They were produced by fallible men who did not have an inerrant set of manuscripts given to them. No one can claim that any existing manuscripts today are inspired by God in the same sense as the original text, since we cannot compare them to the first manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments. Those no longer exist. Whether we like it or not, there are certain limitations that we just have to accept. Reliable translations convey accurately to a considerable degree what the authors of the biblical text said. This point can be verified by a careful and honest comparison of various translations in an overwhelming majority of cases, regardless of ideological background. The overall similarity of wording present amongst them is nothing short of impressive. The answer to the question of which Bible translation is the best would be the one that an individual chooses to read. This is not to say, however, that one should use them without caution. Not all translations of the Bible are good or equally good. One also needs a primary translation to use for study purposes.

    Wednesday, March 8, 2017

    The Roman Catholic Church And Apostolic Tradition

    • Preliminary Points:
              -The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Scripture alone is an insufficient guide for Christian doctrine and that Jesus Christ gave the twelve apostles infallible oral tradition to pass on to future generations through the Magisterium. It is claimed that we need to submit to an infallible interpreter of Scripture in order to properly understand its message. Apologists for Rome have attempted to construct a biblical case for their their Church's claims by citing various passages such as John 20:30, 21:25, 2 John 12, 3 John 13, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6, and 1 Corinthians 11:2.
              -"Can you learn to save your soul just by reading the Bible? No, because certain things in the Bible can be misunderstood and because the Bible does not include everything God taught." (William James Cogan, A Brief Catechism for Adults: A Complete Handbook on How to Be a Good Catholic, Lesson 16: The Catholic Church is the Only True Church, Q&A #1)
              -It is true that the Bible never presents itself as the only source of authority for the church. However, Sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the final court of authority in all religious matters. Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the church to use. Therefore, people who object to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura by using a faulty definition (that the Bible is the only or sole authority) are attacking a straw man argument.
              -It is self-contradictory to appeal to the Bible as the ultimate standard of authority to prove that it is not the ultimate standard of authority for the church to follow. It is a hypocritical double standard for Roman Catholics to use Scripture as a means to justify their doctrines, but disapproving of Protestants acting in the same manner.
    • Clarifying That Sola Scriptura Is Not Opposed To All Forms Of Tradition: 
              -It needs to be understood that Protestantism is not opposed to "traditions," as long as they are consistent with the principles of Scripture. They have to be kept subject to its judgment. We do not reject using “tradition” as such or the testimony of “the church” (meaning early patristic writers). What other sources can we use to gather historical information? It also needs to be kept in mind that Scripture is apostolic tradition in written form.
    • Do 2 Thessalonians 2:15 And 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Prove The Necessity Of Roman Catholic Oral Tradition?:
              -The previous context of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 reveals that the Apostle Paul is speaking of traditions pertaining to the second coming of Christ. Those should be measured against apostates who pervert the truths concerning that doctrine, eternal salvation, and the gospel. These topics are addressed throughout both Testaments (Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 14:1-9; Matthew 24:5-27; Psalm 22-23; Isaiah 53; John 3:16). Hence, there is no need to depend on extra-biblical oral traditions.
              -2 Thessalonians 3:6 refers to teaching regarding working and not being idle. Consider texts such as Psalm 128:2, Proverbs 21:25, and 2 Thessalonians 3:10. The Apostle Paul was not trying to establish a distinction in content between oral and written revelation, but rather demonstrates the unity of his message when communicated in both forms.
    • Does 1 Corinthians 11:2 Prove The Necessity Of Roman Catholic Oral Tradition?: 
              -The immediate context is about the purposes of men and women in worship and in terms authority (v. 3-16). Then, the Apostle Paul goes on to talk about the correct observance and practice pertaining to the Lord's Supper (v. 17-31). Later on, he goes on to identify traditions, which he himself previously received, as the basic message of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). None of these oral traditions are mysterious in nature or foreign in substance to Scripture.
    • Do John 20:30, John 21:25, 2 John 12, and 3 John 13 Prove The Necessity Of Roman Catholic Oral Tradition?: 
              -The passages from John do not say that some the teachings of Jesus were not written in Scripture. Rather, all the miracles that He performed were not recorded. Scripture tells us everything that we need to know concerning salvation (John 20:31).
              -The logic employed by our critics here is self-defeating because Roman Catholic tradition does not furnish us with all the details of Jesus' life.
              -Anybody (including Mormons) can abuse Scripture passages like these by claiming that we need the doctrines of his religion. They can be misused to open up doors to just about any heretical system of doctrine. We need to know exactly what John is talking about in the above passages. We cannot make assertions that are devoid of evidence.
              -Why assume that 2 John 12 and 3 John 13 are referring to some apostolic teaching that gets passed on to posterity? None of these texts indicate specifically what the contents of John's message are. It is equally possible for the unknown details to be from other parts of the New Testament, a public rebuke of sin or heresy, or even personal details about his life or close companions such as his fellow ministers, the apostles.
              -2 John 12 and 3 John 13 simply indicate that the Apostle John decided not to write down every single detail of what he intended on saying in his epistles. He wanted to speak directly to his audience for the sake of his audience's comfort, joy, and edification. How do we know that what John spoke of would have been different in substance than what is found in written revelation? Can Roman Catholics produce any sayings of Jesus Christ or the apostles that exist apart from Scripture?
    • Are The Traditions Of The Roman Catholic Church Equal To The Bible In Terms Of Authority?:
              -Jesus Christ rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for placing their own traditions on par with the Old Testament in terms of authority (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). This scenario is a mirror reflection of the modern-day Roman Catholic Church because it teaches as God-given truth its own oral traditions. It claims that its traditions were handed down to us from the early church fathers, just as the religious leaders whom Christ scolded claimed that their traditions were passed on to them from the elders. The Roman Catholic Church, like the scribes and Pharisees of the Law, say that their traditions are of divine origin. The scribes and Pharisees taught doctrinal error as a result of putting man-made tradition on the same level of authority as Scripture. The Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church has fallen into the same grievous error for its inflated perspective of "oral tradition" and claims to perpetual teaching infallibility. The underlying issue is pride amongst religious leaders.