Apologetics, Philosophy, Theology

Converting to the Catholic Faith & Discerning Truth

Edith Stein QuoteBecause it is the 500th year of the Protestant revolt, I have been reflecting upon my own conversion into the one, true Catholic Church. In doing so, I have been frequenting Protestant Facebook pages, especially of the reformed Calvinist position because that is where I made my last stand as a Protestant. In addition to looking at what these Calvinists pages are saying about Catholicism, I have been re-reading arguments attempting to refute the Catholic faith and listening to debates between Catholic apologists and Protestant polemicists.

During this period of reflection and examination I have been asking myself a simple question – how was it that I was able to see the truth of the Catholic faith and escape the errors of the Protestant revolutionaries?

First, and most importantly, it is by the grace of God. It is only because of the abundant mercy of God that I have dedicated my life to truth. God moved me to follow truth no matter where it leads, and like St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross says, “My longing for truth was a single prayer.”

Second, because the journey in pursuit of truth takes a lot of time and heartache, I diligently studied and worked for several years pursuing this lofty end. I began as a practical atheist living only to fulfill my carnal desires. From there I moved toward following Christ throughout various Protestant sects, and finally found the ‘pillar and bulwark of truth’ in the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Third, I noticed something important along the way. There is a distinctive pattern truth travels in the sea of error. Truth speaks accurately of error while error misrepresents and distorts truth.

What do I mean by this?

When you encounter a view that is true, it exposes and refutes the opposition clearly and honestly. The opposing view can be found properly and accurately articulated within the context of the refutation because the truth has nothing to hide while refuting the error. The truth, however, cannot be accurately articulated within the expression of the erroneous position otherwise error would expose itself.

This situation directly applied to my conversion into the Catholic faith. When I began to read Catholic theological and philosophical literature, especially arguments refuting Protestant positions, I could see that my Calvinist views were being accurately represented. Saint Francis de Sales’s work, The Catholic Controversy, thoroughly and systematically refutes the strongest case for Calvinistic theology, which is why he was able to bring Calvinist Geneva back to the Catholic faith. This, by the way, is a little historical note that Calvinists like to sweep under the rug in order to boast of John Calvin’s anti-Catholic demagoguery.

The same situation, however, did not take place when I would read Protestant literature attempting to refute Catholic teaching. When I read James White’s work, The Roman Catholic Controversy, I could not find the Catholic faith in this polemic. What I did find were straw men, misguided polemics, question-begging assertions, and repetitious platitudes. White’s book is for people interested in sophistry rather than truth.

If the Catholic faith is as heretical and evil as Protestants claim it to be, why can’t her teaching be defeated without fundamentally misrepresenting the tenets of Catholicism? Why does history need to be distorted in order to justify the spirit of rebellion that brought forth the downfall of Christendom? Why do Protestants sound like the new atheists when they pontificate about Church history?

Five years after my conversion I am yet to read a credible refutation of a single position officially taught by the Catholic Church. I have read many platitudes, slogans, clichés, and lies, but nothing credible, honorable, or charitable. I am reminded of this every time I browse through the memes of these Calvinist Facebook pages or listen to debates.

Truth cannot be defeated and her enemies can only lie in order to remain puffed up in their sinful autonomous pride. While Protestants celebrate their 500th year of rebellion against the true Church, Catholics should look to those great Counter-reformers that combatted the heresies of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Beza etc. The writing of Saints Robert Bellarmine and Francis de Sales, fully informed by the zeal for truth, are a great place to start. There isn’t an argument offered by the pretended ministers of their day or ours that has not been methodically defeated. It is our duty as Catholics to carry on this legacy to combat the pretended ministers of our era; men such as Paul Washer, James White, R.C. Sproul, Voddie Baucham, Sye Ten Bruggencate, K. Scott Oliphant and many others must be exposed because their heresy encourages people to reject the Body and Blood of our Lord so necessary for salvation.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Pope Saint Pius X, Theology, Traditionalism

Pope Saint Pius X: Pascendi Dominici Gregis

– Pope St. Pius X – Pascendi Dominici Gregis –

Pope Saint Pius X - PascendiThe Modernist as Apologist

35. The Modernist apologist depends in two ways on the philosopher. First, indirectly, inasmuch as his subject-matter is history – history dictated, as we have seen, by the philosopher; and, secondly, directly, inasmuch as he takes both his doctrines and his conclusions from the philosopher. Hence that common axiom of the Modernist school that in the new apologetics controversies in religion must be determined by psychological and historical research. The Modernist apologists, the, enter the arena, proclaiming to the rationalists that, though they are defending religion, they have no intention of employing the data of the sacred books or the histories in current use in the Church, and written upon the old lines, but real history composed on modern principles and according to the modern method. In all this they assert that they are not using an argumentation ad hominem, because they are really of the opinion that the truth is to be found only in this kind of history. They feel that it is not necessary for them to make profession of their own sincerity in their writings. They are already known to and praised by the rationalists as fighting under the same banner, and they not only plume themselves on these encomiums, which would only provoke disgust in a real Catholic, but use them as a counter-compensation to the reprimands of the Church.

Modernist Apologetic Methodology

Let us see how the Modernist conducts his apologetics. The aim he sets before himself is to make one who is still without faith attain that experience of the Catholic religion which, according to the system, is the sole basis of faith. There are two ways open to him, the objective and the subjective. The first of them starts from agnosticism. It tends to show that religion, and especially the Catholic religion, is endowed with such vitality as to compel every psychologist and historian of good faith to recognize that its history hides some element of the unknown. To this end it is necessary to prove that the Catholic religion, as it exists today, is that which has founded by Jesus Christ; that is to say, that it is nothing else than the progressive development of the germ which He brought into the world. Hence it is imperative first of all to establish what this germ was, and this the Modernist claims to be able to do by the following formula: Christ announced the coming of the Kingdom of God, which was to be realized within a brief lapse of time and of which He was to become the Messias, the divinely-given founder and ruler. Then it must be shown how this germ, always immanent and permanent in the Catholic religion, has gone on slowly developing in the course of history, adapting itself successively to the different circumstances through which it has passed, borrowing from them by vital assimilation all the doctrinal, cultural, ecclesiastical forms that served its purpose; while, on the other hand, it surmounted all obstacles, vanquished all enemies, and survived all assaults and all combats. Anyone who well and duly considers this mass of obstacles, adversaries, attacks, combats, and the vitality and fecundity which the Church has shown throughout them all, must admit that if the laws of evolution are visible in her life they fail to explain the whole of her history – the unknown rises forth from it and presents itself before us. Thus do they argue, not perceiving that their determination of the primitive germ is only an a priori assumption of agnostic and evolutionist philosophy, and that the germ itself has been gratuitously defined so that it may fit in with their contention.


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Augustinian Intellectual Tradition, Metaphysics, Natural Theology, Philosophy, Saint Augustine

The Augustinian Argument for the Existence of God

The Augustinian Argument for the Existence of GodI have been spending time highlighting arguments for the existence of God presented by Edward Feser in his book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God. Thus far, I have covered his presentation of the Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic arguments. The third argument presented by Feser is the Augustinian proof.

Here is the Augustinian proof, which is taken from the book mentioned above, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Pg. 109-110:

  1. There are three possible accounts of abstract objects such as universals, propositions, numbers and other mathematical objects, and possible worlds: realism, nominalism, and conceptualism.
  2. There are decisive arguments in favor of realism.
  3. There are insuperable objections against nominalism.
  4. There are insuperable objections against conceptualism.
  5. So, some version of realism is true.
  6. There are three possible versions of realism: Platonic realism, Aristotelian realism, and Scholastic realism.
  7. If Platonic realism is true, then abstract objects exists in a “third realm” distinct from either the material world or any intellect.
  8. If Aristotelian realism is true, then abstract objects exist only in human or other contingently existing intellects.
  9. If Scholastic realism is true, then abstract objects exist not only in contingently existing intellects but also in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  10. There are insuperable objections against the claim that abstract objects exist in a “third realm” distinct from either the material world or any intellect.
  11. So, Platonic realism is not true.
  12. There are insuperable objections against the claim that abstract objects exist only in human or other contingently existing intellects.
  13. So, Aristotelian realism is not true.
  14. So, Scholastic realism is true.
  15. So, abstract objects exist not only in contingently existing intellects but also in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  16. Abstract objects such as universals, propositions, numbers and other mathematical objects, and possible worlds are all logically related to one another in such a way that they form an interlocking system of ideas.
  17. The reasons concluding that at least some abstract objects exists in a necessarily existing intellect also entail that this interlocking system of ideas must exist in a necessarily existing intellect.
  18. So, this interlocking system of ideas exists in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  19. A necessarily existing intellect would be purely actual.
  20. There cannot be more than one thing that is purely actual.
  21. So, there cannot be more than one necessarily existing intellect.
  22. An intellect in which the interlocking system of ideas in question existed would be conceptually omniscient.
  23. So, the one necessarily existing intellect is conceptually omniscient.
  24. If this one necessarily existing intellect were not also omniscient in the stronger sense that it knows all contingent truths, then it would have unrealized potential and thus not be purely actual.
  25. So, it is also omniscient in this stronger sense.
  26. What is purely actual must also be omnipotent, fully good, immutable, immaterial, incorporeal, and eternal.
  27. So, there is exactly one necessarily existing intellect, which is purely actual, omniscient, omnipotent, fully good, immutable, immaterial, incorporeal, and eternal.
  28. But for there to be such a thing is just what it is for God to exist.
  29. So, God exists.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Metaphysics, Natural Theology, Philosophy, Theology

The Neoplatonic Argument for the Existence of God

The Neoplatonic Argument for the Existence of GodIn an earlier post I mentioned some of the names that have done important work to undermine the credibility of new atheism and its presuppositions of metaphysical naturalism, epistemological scientism, and moral nihilism. The individuals highlighted were Wolfgang Smith, David Bentley Hart, and Edward Feser. I proceeded to focus on the work Feser is doing because he has systematically dismantled the new atheist movement, while successfully defending the legitimacy of natural theology.

Feser has accomplished this in a variety of ways. Most significantly is his ability to articulate classic arguments for the existence of God and then proceed to refute the objections offered against their reasonable authenticity. To that end Feser has used reason to the glory of God against those who have reduced it to an idol.

In his most recent work, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Feser explains, develops, presents, and defends the Aristotelian proof, the Neoplatonic proof, the Augustinian proof, the Thomistic proof, and the Rationalist proof. The presentation of the Aristotelian proof has already been highlighted, so now it is time for the Neoplatonic proof.


Taken from Neo-Scholastic Essays, The New Atheists and the Cosmological Argument, Pg. 130, 131:

  1. There must be a first principle of all if there is to be an explanation of the orderly existing world, or why anything at all exists rather than nothing.
  2. If the first principle of all were composed of parts, then those parts would be ontologically prior to it.
  3. But in that case it would not be the first principle at all.
  4. So the first principle is not composed of parts, but is absolutely simple.
  5. If there were a distinction between what the first principle is and the fact that it is, then there could be more than one first principle.
  6. But in order for there to be more than one, there would have to be some attribute that distinguished them.
  7. But since a first principle is absolutely simple, there can be no such attribute.
  8. So there cannot be more than one first principle.
  9. So there is no distinction in the first principle between what it is and the fact that it is.
  10. So the first principle is not only absolutely simple but utterly unique, what Plotinus called “the One.”

Taken from Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Pg. 80-82:

  1. The things of our experience are composite.
  2. A composite exists at any moment only insofar as its parts are combined at that moment.
  3. This composition of parts requires a concurrent cause.
  4. So, any composite has a cause of its existence at any moment at which it exists.
  5. So, each of the things of our experience has a cause at any moment at which it exists.
  6. If the cause of a composite things’ existence at any moment is itself composite, then it will in turn require a cause of its own existence at that moment.
  7. The regress of causes this entails is hierarchical in nature, and such a regress must have a first member.
  8. Only something absolutely simple or noncomposite could be the first member of such a series.
  9. So, the existence of each of the things of our experience presupposes an absolutely simple or noncomposite cause.
  10. In order for there to be more than absolutely one simple or noncomposite cause, each would have to have some differentiating feature that the others lacked.
  11. But for a cause to have such a feature would be for it to have parts, in which case it would not really be simple, or noncomposite.
  12. So, no absolutely simple or noncomposite cause can have such a differentiating feature.
  13. So, there cannot be more than one absolutely simple or noncomposite cause.
  14. If the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause were changeable, then it would have parts which it gains or loses – which, being simple or noncomposite , it does not have.
  15. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is changeless or immutable.
  16. If the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause had a beginning or an end, it would have parts which could either be combined or broken apart.
  17. So, since it has no such parts, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is beginningless and endless.
  18. Whatever is immutable, beginningless, and endless is eternal.
  19. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is eternal.
  20. If something is caused, then it has parts which need to be combined.
  21. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause, since it has no parts, is uncaused.
  22. Everything is either a mind, or a mental content, or a material entity, or an abstract entity.
  23. An abstract entity is causally inert.
  24. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause, since it is not causally inert, is not an abstract entity.
  25. A material entity has parts and is changeable.
  26. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause, since it is without parts and changeless, is not a material entity.
  27. A mental content presupposes the existence of a mind, and so cannot be the ultimate cause of anything.
  28. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause, being the ultimate cause of things, cannot be a mental content.
  29. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause must be a mind.
  30. Since the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is unique, everything other than it is composite.
  31. Every composite has the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause as its ultimate cause.
  32. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is the ultimate cause of everything other than itself.
  33. If the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause had potentialities as well as actualities, it would have parts.
  34. So, since it has no parts, it must have no potentialities but be purely actual.
  35. A purely actual cause must be perfect, omnipotent, fully good, and omniscient.
  36. So, there exists a cause which is simple or noncomposite, unique, immutable, eternal, immaterial, a mind or intellect, the uncaused ultimate cause of everything other than itself, purely actual, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, and omniscient.
  37. But for there to be such a cause is just what it is for God to exist.
  38. So, God exists.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Metaphysics, Natural Theology, Philosophy, Scholasticism, Thomism

The Aristotelian Argument for the Existence of God

Aristotelian Argument for the Existence of GodAlthough atheism still exists as a basic presupposition of our modernistic culture, its credibility has been thoroughly exposed as fatuous. The new atheism of our current era has had its intellectual legs cut out from underneath it, and in actuality, has been demonstrated to be an illusory superstition from the very outset of its opportunistic endeavor. And despite the overall cultural embeddedness of atheistic pretension, it has been intellectually and spiritually routed by numerous minds dedicated to the perennial truths of wisdom. Indeed, atheism resides in the convenience of mantra, rationalistic sophistry, and a will to ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness’ as Saint Paul tells us in the book of Romans.

Some of the minds that have contributed to the systematic dismantling of modern atheism hinted at above are Wolfgang Smith, David Bentley Hart, and Edward Feser. There are, of course, many others that can be mentioned because these men are merely participating in a tradition of thought inherited from the legacy of Western perennial wisdom. This tradition reaches all the way back to Plato and Aristotle, Plotinus and Porphyry, the Patristics, the Scholastics, and finally up to those who would not bend their knee to the mechanistic Weltanschauung or the postmodern metanarrative relativism that followed.

Wolfgang Smith, the philosopher and scientist par excellence, has showed us that we do not need to sacrifice even an inch of our traditional inheritance to the Goliath of scientistic presumption. Instead, Smith makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled traditionalist. David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, has triumphantly defended the tenets of classical theism against the ferocious misapprehension of those atheists erroneously proclaiming the death of God. Finally, Edward Feser, working within the Neo-Scholastic tradition of thought, has effectively established the fact that atheism is a pernicious superstition, rather than the most reasonable interpretation of reality atheism claims itself to be.

And while I am indebted to all of these great thinkers, it is Edward Feser’s thought that I would like to focus on at this time.

Throughout the extensive argumentation found in his work, Edward Feser has entirely destroyed any and all respectability the new atheist movement might have feigned to possess in their many publications of vociferous prognostications. The task of refuting the new atheists began with his great work, The Last Superstition, and has been extended in several publications that followed. His latest work, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, presents classic arguments of natural theology that demonstrate the necessary existence of God. These arguments are the Aristotelian argument, the Neoplatonic argument, the Augustinian argument, the Thomistic argument, and the Rationalist argument. Moreover, Feser dismantles the stock objections to these arguments and thoroughly defends the veracity of natural theology against those critics from the traditions of the so-called Enlightenment. I am reluctant to say that Feser’s work is the ‘last word’ regarding the positive legitimacy of natural theology and theistic ways of arguing for the existence of God, but nonetheless, Feser’s corpus is formidable. To get a glimpse of just how formidable Feser’s work is, all one must do is examine the arguments as he presents them.

Beginning with this initial installment, I will provide each classical argument in their syllogistic format as formulated by Feser. This is useful for a number of reasons, but most importantly is to pin the atheist against the wall with his own irrational slogans. If an atheist is going to reject the conclusion of the arguments, incredulity is not going to be sufficient for the task. Simply rejecting the conclusion that God exists because “I can’t see how X,” or “Science has shown X,” or the puerile reaction “What caused God,” is a desperation of the will, not an exercise of the intellect. The atheist, if he is going to live by his creed of the supremacy of reason must show which premises are in error, why they are in error, and how they invalidate the conclusion that God exists. Mindlessly appealing to the “quantum enigma” (which by the way Wolfgang Smith has solved in favor of the traditionalist) or the materialistic fallacies of Neo-Darwinian dogma do nothing to even wrestle with perennial truth.

Without further ado, here is Edward Feser’s presentation for the Aristotelian Argument for the existence of God.


Taken from Neo-Scholastic Essays, The New Atheists and the Cosmological Argument, Pg. 128:

  1. That the actualization of potency is a real feature of the world follows from the occurrence of the events we know of via sensory experience.
  2. The occurrence of any event E presupposes the operation of a substance.
  3. The existence of any natural substance S at any given moment presupposes the concurrent actualization of a potency.
  4. No mere potency can actualize a potency; only something actual can do so.
  5. So any actualizer A of S’s current existence must itself be actual.
  6. A’s own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of a further potency or (b) A’s being purely actual.
  7. If A’s existence at the moment it actualizes S presupposes the concurrent actualization of a further potency, then there exists a regress of concurrent actualizers that is either infinite or terminates in a purely actual actualizer.
  8. But such a regress of concurrent actualizers would constitute an essentially ordered causal series, and such a series cannot regress infinitely.
  9. So either A itself is purely actual or there is a purely actual actualizer which terminates the regress of concurrent actualizers.
  10. So the occurrence of E and thus the existence of S at any given moment presupposes the existence of a purely actual actualizer.

Taken From Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Pg. 35-37

  1. Change is a real feature of the world.
  2. But change is the actualization of a potential.
  3. So, the actualization of potential is a real feature of the world.
  4. No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it (the principle of causality).
  5. So, any change is caused by something already actual.
  6. The occurrence of any change C presupposes some thing or substance S which changes.
  7. The existence of S at any given moment itself presupposes the concurrent actualization of S’s potential for existence.
  8. So, any substance S has at any moment some actualizer A of its existence.
  9. A’s own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of its on potential for existence or (b) A’s being purely actual.
  10. If A’s existence at the moment it actualizes S presupposes the concurrent actualization of its own potential for existence, then there exists a regress of concurrent actualizers that is either infinite or terminates in a purely actual actualizer.
  11. But such a regress of concurrent actualizers would constitute a hierarchical causal series, and such a series cannot regress infinitely.
  12. So either A itself is a purely actual actualizer or there is a purely actual actualizer which terminates the regress that begins with the actualization of A.
  13. So, the occurrence of C and thus the existence of S at any given moment presupposes the existence of a purely actual actualizer.
  14. So, there is a purely actual actualizer.
  15. In order for there to be more than one purely actual actualizer, there would have to be some differentiating feature that one such actualizer has that the others lack.
  16. But there could be such a differentiating feature only if a purely actual actualizer had some unactualized potential, which, being purely actual, it does not have.
  17. So, there can be no such differentiating feature, and thus no way for there to be more than one purely actual actualizer.
  18. So, there is only one purely actual actualizer.
  19. In order for this purely actual actualizer to be capable of change, it would have to have potentials capable of actualization.
  20. But being purely actual, it lacks any such potentials.
  21. So, it is immutable or incapable of change.
  22. If this purely actual actualizer existed in time, then it would be capable of change, which it is not.
  23. So, this purely actual actualizer is eternal, existing outside of time.
  24. If the purely actual actualizer were material, then it would be changeable and exist in time, which it does not.
  25. So, the purely actual actualizer is immaterial.
  26. If the purely actual actualizer were corporeal, then it would be material, which it is not.
  27. So, the purely actual actualizer is incorporeal.
  28. If the purely actual actualizer were imperfect in any way, it would have some unactualized potential, which, being purely actual, it does not have.
  29. So, the purely actual actualizer is perfect.
  30. For something to be less than fully good is for it to have a privation – that is, to fail to actualize some feature proper to it.
  31. A purely actual actualizer, being purely actual, can have no such privation.
  32. So, the purely actual actualizer is fully good.
  33. To have power entails being able to actualize potentials.
  34. Any potential that is actualized is either actualized by the purely actual actualizer or by a series of actualizers which terminates in the purely actual actualizer.
  35. So, all power derives from the purely actual actualizer.
  36. But to be from which all power derives is to be omnipotent.
  37. So, the purely actual actualizer is omnipotent.
  38. Whatever is in an effect is in its cause in some way, whether formally, virtually, or eminently (the principle of proportionate causality.)
  39. The purely actual actualizer is the cause of all things.
  40. So, the forms or patterns manifest in all things it causes must in some way be in the purely actual actualizer.
  41. These forms or patters can exist either in the concrete way in which they exist in individual particular things, or in the abstract way in which they exist in the thoughts of an intellect.
  42. They cannot exist in the purely actual actualizer in the same way they exist in individual particular things.
  43. So, they must exist in the purely actual actualizer in the abstract way in which they exist in the thoughts of an intellect.
  44. So, the purely actual actualizer has intellect or intelligence.
  45. Since it is the forms or patterns of all things that are in the thoughts of this intellect, there is nothing that is outside the range of those thoughts.
  46. For there to be nothing outside the range of something’s thoughts is for that thing to be omniscient.
  47. So, the purely actual actualizer is omniscient.
  48. So, there exists a purely actual cause of the existence of things, which is one, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, fully good, omnipotent, intelligent, and omniscient.
  49. But for there to be such a cause of things is just what it is for God to exist.
  50. So, God Exists.


 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

Standard
Apologetics, G.K. Chesterton, Philosophy, Theology

Chesterton Weighs Sola Scriptura and it is Found Wanting

G.K. Chesterton Portrait“The usual protest of the Protestant, that the Church of Rome is afraid of the Bible, did not, as I shall explain in a moment, have any great terrors for me at any time. This was by no merit of my own, but by the accident of my age and situation. For I grew up in a world in which the Protestants, who had just proved that Rome did not believe the Bible, were excitedly discovering that they did not believe the Bible themselves. Some of them even tried to combine the two condemnations and say that they were steps of progress. The next step in progress consisted in a man kicking his father for having locked up a book of such beauty and value, a book which the son then proceeded to tear into a thousand pieces. I early discovered that progress is worse than Protestantism so far as stupidity is concerned. But most of the free-thinkers who were friends of mine happened to think sufficiently freely to see that the Higher Criticism was much more of an attack on the Protestant Bible-worship than on Roman authority. Anyhow, my family and friends were more concerned with the opening of the book of Darwin than the book of Daniel; and most of them regarded the Hebrew Scriptures as if they were Hittite sculptures. But even then, it would seem odd to worship the sculptures as gods and then smash them as idols and still go on blaming somebody else for not having worshipped them enough. But here again it is hard for me to know how far my own experience is representative, or whether it would not be well to say more of these purely Protestant prejudices and doubts than I, from my own experience, am able to say.

To this I owe the fact that I find it very difficult to take some of the Protestant propositions even seriously. What is any man who has been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail foremost arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense. The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests and some strange cult, carrying their object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, “this is all hocus-pocus”; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, “Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh.” But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll off the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of the particular creed? To say to the priests, “Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense,” is sensible.  To say, “Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest,” is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man on the street.”

– G.K. Chesterton, The Catholic Church and Conversion –


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Philosophy, Theology

Atheism is Too Simple

Atheism is Too Simple– Atheism is Too Simple – 

“If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling ‘whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?’ But then that threw me back into another difficulty.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who Atheism Will Always Failwas supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it id not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Culture, Philosophy, Theology

The Linguistic Blackhole of Postmodern Meaninglessness

Beautiful Cathedrals in France“The Meaning Gap

Here it is worth exploring one apologetics issue in a bit more detail, to show just how wide can be the gap between the meaning we have for a word and the meaning that a skeptic has for it, even for seemingly very ordinary words: What does it mean to have faith in God?

We can define faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” but for most skeptics, this definition merely illustrates the problem. If faith is “the assurance of things hoped for,” is that not an outright admission of Christianity as wish-fulfillment? (“Gotcha!” says the atheist). Furthermore, “the conviction of things not seen” suggests blind faith, because in our culture today – deeply materialistic and naturalistic as it is – ‘unseen’ is for all practical purposes a synonym for ‘unreal.’ In this view, if something is unseen it cannot be measured, and if it cannot be measured, it doesn’t really exist; thus, “the conviction of things unseen” could apply to the existence of fairies and leprechauns just as much as to the existence of God. (“Proof positive that faith is irrational!” says the skeptic.) And so the very definition of faith from Scripture itself seems, to the skeptic, to be a frank admission that faith is unreal: that we are making it all up. It’s an empty term, not even worth discussing. (“You poor self-deluded thing,” says the atheist.)

Nor is ‘God’ a more straightforward term. Even if the atheist can get past difficulties with the idea of ‘faith,’ his concept of ‘God’ may well be a ‘cosmic sky-daddy’: the idea of an old man in the sky, meeting out rewards and punishments. This is (rightly) unbelievable; given this idea of ‘God,’ it is entirely reasonable to assume that ‘faith in God’ is a cultural construct, a story used to threaten or bribe people into submission, or something that uneducated people believed in before there was Science. Or, for someone who is ‘spiritual but not religious,’ the word ‘God’ might be an abstract term for universal goodness. For that person, talking about what God has done in history or how he offers mercy is a non sequitur, along the lines of suggesting that the number three has a wonderful plan for your life.

So we can see that language about ‘faith in God’ is, in many cases, as meaningless to the skeptic as talking about ‘confidence in snarks and boojums.’ At best, the skeptic attempts to be polite about it, the way one might be polite about an adult who seriously claims a belief in leprechauns in the garden, or alleges to have met Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet. There’s absolutely no question of genuinely investigating claims of tiny footprints or asking to be invited to dinner with the Dane. The discussion between the atheist and the apologist becomes nothing more than rhetorical maneuvering to trap one or the other into admission of irrationality.

Consider this: if I play a game of Monopoly with a friend, and I land on ‘Go to Jail,’ I don’t have to actually go to jail. If we are playing a war-themed video game and I get shot, nobody has to take me to the emergency room. The games use words that point to real-life experiences, but without the substance of them; the players try to win, and may indeed get very emotional in the process, but fundamentally they know it’s a game. If ‘God’ and ‘faith’ and all the other concepts that we want to talk about with skeptics are just words to them, such that our argument is just an intellectual game – well, then we will get exactly nowhere, and we will waste a lot of time talking past each other.

The dangers of using religious language without attention to meaning for the listener are not limited to interactions with skeptics; a disjunction of meaning can (and often does) occur in preaching and catechesis within the Church as well. For instance, a young person raised in the Church may have a fuzzy idea of sin as meaning ‘hurting other people,’ rather than as something objectively wrong in itself that harms one’s relationship with God and injures one’s soul. This young person is thus no hypocrite in agreeing with his parents that sin is wrong, while sleeping with his girlfriend. After all, they’re consenting adults, so nobody is getting hurt…and if nobody is getting hurt, there’s no sin! Against this backdrop, arguments about the immorality of his behavior are likely to be met with incomprehension, or result in a conviction that the Church’s teachings are arbitrary and can safely be ignored. The disagreement about meaning can hide beneath the surface, distorting the conversations without the participants realizing it.

Pastors, ministry leaders, and teachers may simply assume that terms such as ‘faith,’ ‘salvation,’ ‘sin,’ ‘prayer,’ and ‘resurrection’ have shared, real meaning for all those who have professed faith in Christ, when in fact this may not be the case. A persistent failure to attend to meaning within the Church is a real danger to believers on a number of counts. It can lead to pervasive sense of hypocrisy, if Christians begin to wonder whether anyone really means the words used in worship services or in the creeds; to destructive doubts, if Christians conclude that these words do not have real meaning; or to movement away from orthodoxy and toward various heresies, as a persistent absence of meaning for words like ‘resurrection’ can lead to a distancing from or even rejection of the historical particularity of Christianity.

What can we do about it?”

– Holly Ordway, Apologetics and the Christian Imagination – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Culture, Holy Scripture, Theology

Against the Errors of Charismatic Pentecostals

Against the Errors of the Charismatic PentecostalsPentecostalism is being reported as the fasted growing religious denomination in the world. While many other denominations are in decline, the charismatic movement is gaining momentum, and can even boast of having influences within the Catholic Church.

The speed at which a false religious sect is growing can be a cause for concern, but it is the influence this false religious sect is having on the one, true, Catholic Church that is alarming.

I first encountered Pentecostalism in the Catholic Church when I shared with a priest my transition out of the charismatic movement during my days as a Protestant. When he heard that I used to be a Pentecostal, he asked with noticeable excitement, “Can you speak in tongues!?!?” Another instance is when I was speaking to a girl in my parish about her recent trip to the youth conference at Steubenville. She said it was great, and at one point everyone started speaking in tongues. These two brief occasions were not the only times I encountered Pentecostal sympathies in the Church. I have now met people who actively promote this movement arguing that the charismatic “revival” has always been recognized as legitimate within the Church, and have even been told by a Catholic that it would be beneficial to have a very “pentecostally” prayer session with this sect of Protestantism.

These interactions are truly perplexing.

How could the Catholic Church unite herself to a movement that not only began outside of the Church, but is also intimately associated with the flamboyantly heretical health, wealth, and prosperity gospel of the word of faith movement? How could a uniquely Protestant theology, invented in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, promoted by charlatans such as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Joel Osteen, Victoria Osteen etc., make its way into the Mystical Body of Christ?

One word provides the answer – ecumenism.

The promoters of Pentecostalism and the prosperity “gospel” would vociferously rebuke the mendicant orders of the Scholastic era started by Saint Dominic and Saint Francis. According to the heretical doctrines of this false gospel, God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and have a great career. If you do not have these things – health, wealth, and a prosperous career outlook – then you not only lack true faith but also do not have the blessings of God on your life. How does this teaching square with the evangelical poverty of the mendicants? How does the teaching of true faith being united to bodily health work out in light of the ailments Saint Francis of Assisi was afflicted with, such as blindness late in his life? The mystically received stigmata Saint Francis carried on his body would most certainly be rebuked by any one of these false prosperity peddlers named above, and yet, their theology is being welcomed with open arms into the Mystical Body of Christ, the true Church.

It is also worth noting that there are Protestants exercising more wisdom on this matter than Catholic clerics. Protestants are sounding the alarm against these false teachers while the true shepherds of Christ willingly allow wolves into the fold.

The wrecking ball of modernism truly knows no bounds.

Instead of swallowing the lie, it is our duty as faithful Catholics to expose this error so that others might see the truth; not only so that Catholics might guard their souls against these heresies, but also, that Pentecostals might be rescued from damnable error and enter into the Church where Christ is truly encountered in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.

There are multiple errors within the Pentecostal sect, but two of them are quite prominent. The most popular false doctrines of Pentecostalism are second baptism (baptism of the Holy Ghost), and glossolalia (speaking in tongues). To be sure, these errors stem from foundational errors such as the rejection of the magisterial authority of the Catholic Church, the adherence of ‘Bible alone’ theology, and private judgment. And to justify their autonomous private judgment (as St. Augustine cringes looking down from heaven), the oft-repeated phrase “the Holy Spirit has laid it upon my heart” is quickly utilized when cautious minds inquire into these teachings. When I started asking questions about the credibility of Benny Hinn’s theology, for example, I was allegedly being informed by the “spirit of doubt” and not really concerned with finding truth on this matter.

In order to reveal the destructive nature of Pentecostalism, let’s focus on the errors of second baptism and speaking in tongues, and how they are derived from incorrect scriptural exegesis resulting in a man-made doctrine.

Part I: Second Baptism

St. Paul the Apostle says,

“Therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called. With all humility, and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. One body, and one spirit: as you are called in one hope of your vocation. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”[1]

Despite the fact that St. Paul refutes second baptism in the above passage, this error rises and falls on a single verse, which is most often taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible:

“He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”[2]

The word “since” is used in two different ways – “because” or “from”. The verses that use “since” as “because” are 1 Corinthians 15:21, 2 Corinthians 13:3, and Colossians 1:4. An example of using “since” as “because” can be demonstrated in this sentence, “Can you pay for me this time since/because I paid for you last time.” The verses that use “since” as “from” are Matthew 24:21, Mark 9:21, Luke 1:70, Luke 7:45, Luke 16:16, Luke 24:21, John 9:32, Acts 3:21, Acts 24:11, Colossians 1:6 and 9, Hebrew 9:26, and 2 Peter 3:4. An example of using “since” as “from” can be demonstrated in this sentence, “I’ve been sick since/from last week.”[3]

The charismatic Pentecostals are attempting to divide the above passage through the introduction of separately distinct periods of time in the life of the believer by changing the interpretation of a single word. The correct way to read this passage is by its interconnectedness from the aspect of when a person believed because they have received the Holy Ghost.[4]

Pentecostals use the KJV to support the false doctrine of second baptism, sometimes referred to as second blessings, by using this verse in an incorrect way. This is accomplished by using the wrong definition of “since”. The error persists because “since” is used as “from” rather than “because” as demonstrated above.[5]

The correct way to read this passage would be, “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since/because ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”

The Douay-Rheims commentary on Acts 19:2 affords further clarification,

“S. Paul first inquires of them, if they have received the Holy Ghost by confirmation. There answer is probably not to be interpreted with rigor; since they must have heard something of the Holy Spirit, so often mentioned in the Old Testament, by whom the prophets are said to speak of. They meant, they did not know there was in the Church, any means of communicating this Spirit to the faithful.”

The incorrect way to read this passage, that is, the Pentecostal way of reading this passage would be, “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since/from when ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” This reading, when compared to the correct interpretation above, is being used to justify the Pentecostal idea that a person can believe without receiving the Holy Spirit, and then later be baptized in the spirit by way of spiritual “slaying.” Being “slayed” in the Spirit means to have a Pentecostal minister lay their hands on you or pray over you so that the Holy Spirit will baptize you into receiving the gift of tongues. When this gift is allegedly received, the person will usually crumble to the ground in a dramatic manner and remain paralyzed by the experience. This of course usually takes place after a couple of hours of emotional prompting through “musical worship” in order to muster the appropriate level of emotional expectation.

The basic problem in assuming Acts 19:2 is speaking of two distinct periods of time (initially believing, and then receiving the Holy Spirit later in the life of the believer) is that in order to do so, two nouns must be used in such a way that believing is not correlated with receiving the Holy Spirit. “You received” and “The Holy Spirit” are syntactically connected; as the Holy Spirit is the direct object of received, so they cannot be two separate events.[6] This leaves “believing” as a stand-alone participle to describe the event of initial belief. In order to interpret these as two events, this would have to be an attendant circumstance participle, which would make these events coordinate.[7] It is not ever intended for the second action to happen sometime eventually, that is to receive the Holy Spirit later in the future or possibly not at all in an attendant circumstance participle, which would be the best hope of supporting this false doctrine.

Part II: Glossolalia

I Corinthians 14 of the KJV provides more ammunition for this false doctrine by adding the word “unknown” in front of “tongue” when in reality this word is not found in the Greek. The context bears this out in verses 6-9 and is epitomized here: “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.”[8] This doctrine is completely negated by going back to Acts 2, where speaking in tongues initially took place, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance… every man heard them speak in his own language.”[9] God gave the Apostles the supernatural ability to breach the language barrier in order to preach the Gospel to all nations.

The false doctrine of speaking in tongues as espoused by charismatic Pentecostals is a novelty of the 19th century, as the unanimous testimony of the fathers indicates:

– St. Augustine –

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when the sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed, and marvelled, saying one to another, Are not all these which speak Galilæans? and how heard we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Armenia, and in Cappadocia, in Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the regions of Africa about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews, natives, Cretes, and Arabians, they heard them speak in their own tongues the wonderful works of God.”[10]

“If that night began after the Lord’s ascension, how was it that the apostles wrought so much? Was that the night when the Holy Spirit came, and, filling all who were in one place, gave them the power of speaking in the tongues of every nation?”[11]

“But “the Spirit was not yet given;” that is, with that abundance of spiritual grace which enabled those assembled together to speak in every language”[12]

– Clement of Alexandria –

“The apostle thus speaks: “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue a word easy to be understood, how shall ye know what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.” And, “Let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.””[13]

– St. Gregory of Nazianzen –

“XV. They spoke with strange tongues, and not those of their native land; and the wonder was great, a language spoken by those who had not learnt it. And the sign is to them that believe not, and not to them that believe, that it may be an accusation of the unbelievers, as it is written, With other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and not even so will they listen to Me saith the Lord. But they heard. Here stop a little and raise a question, how you are to divide the words. For the expression has an ambiguity, which is to be determined by the punctuation. Did they each hear in their own dialect so that if I may so say, one sound was uttered, but many were heard; the air being thus beaten and, so to speak, sounds being produced more clear than the original sound; or are we to put the stop after “they Heard,” and then to add “them speaking in their own languages” to what follows, so that it would be speaking in languages their own to the hearers, which would be foreign to the speakers? I prefer to put it this latter way; for on the other plan the miracle would be rather of the hearers than of the speakers; whereas in this it would be on the speakers’ side; and it was they who were reproached for drunkenness, evidently because they by the Spirit wrought a miracle in the matter of the tongues.”[14]

– St. John Chrysostom –

“Ver. 1. ‘Yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts; but rather that ye may prophesy.’

Ver. 2. ‘For he that speaketh in a tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth; but in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries.’

Ver. 3. ‘But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and exhortation, and comfort.’

At this point he [St. Paul] makes a comparison between the gifts, and lowers that of the tongues, showing it to be neither altogether useless, nor very profitable by itself. For in fact they were greatly puffed up on account of this, because the gift was considered to be a great one. And it was thought great because the Apostles received it first, and with so great display; it was not however therefore to be esteemed above all the others. Wherefore then did the Apostles receive it before the rest? Because they were to go abroad everywhere. And as in the time of building the tower the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak divers languages.”[15]

The evidence presented against the two most prominent errors of the charismatic Pentecostals is devastating to their most important positions. In order to justify the heretical doctrine of second baptism they incorrectly interpret the Sacred Page by driving a temporal wedge between a person’s believing and receiving the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the abuse of speaking in tongues is justified only by ignoring the context of Acts 2 and the testimony of the Church Fathers. Instead of babbling incoherently, the Apostles were given the miraculous gift of speaking in the intelligible languages of other nations. Our Lord commissioned the Apostles to baptize the nations, and it makes sense that in order to accomplish this mission, they might need the ability to preach in the native languages of the people they would encounter during their missionary journeys.

Most importantly is the fact that these errors cannot be attributed to a move of the Holy Spirit, that is, a new 20th century Pentecost where God is inflaming the hearts of those outside of the salvific ark of the Church. To the contrary, the Spirit of Truth has nothing to do with heresy.

 

– Lucas G. Westman & Tyson Carter


Appendix

Part I – Extended Exegesis

Once the synonym is used in place of “since” in the verse, this becomes completely obvious, as it becomes an incoherent idea. This is easily demonstrated first by examining the passages where the KJV translates a word or phrase in Greek meaning “from”, always have either a preposition or a pronoun, or both, modifying the noun. It is never understood with the participle as alleged in Acts 19:2. In addition to the absence of a prepositional phrase, the fact that it is a participle is also a problem, since the participle functions as a noun or adjective, despite being a verb. The noun in the syntactical structure preposition + pronoun + verb (from (since) + the time + [I] entered) is the pronoun “the time/which time”. The verb in the example phrase above from Luke 7:45 is aorist indicative active, not a participle. This is because there is a requirement to have a pronoun understood in the verbal phrase in order for it to make sense, which is normally not a problem when the prepositional phrase “from when/since” precedes a noun (Matt 24:21). The syntactic structure of this phrase is not consistent with the use of the prepositional phrase “since”, but rather consistent with the conjunction “since”. In truth neither are present in this passage in the original Greek, but the relationship between the aorist participle, and the act of receiving the Holy Spirit, are conditional upon each other, which is shown by the conditional conjunction εἰ.

“Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,” (Colossians 1:4, KJV 1900)

Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ …. ἀκούσαντες τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

We give thanks to God … Hearing the faith   our   in Christ Jesus

εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐλάβετε πιστεύσαντες

if Holy Spirit you received believing

The semantic relationships between “We give thanks to God” and “hearing of our faith in Christ Jesus” (Col 1:3-4) are identical to “you received the Holy Spirit” and “believing”. The verbal phrase is conditional upon the participle. This means that “We give thanks to God” is conditional upon “hearing of our faith in Christ Jesus”, just as receiving the Holy Spirit is conditional upon believing. In the case of Acts 19:2, the aorist participle of “believe” functions as an adverb and modifies the previous clause “If you received the Holy Spirit”. This will generally answer when, where, how, or why of a proposition. This syntactical structure clearly points to the use of “because” rather than the prepositional phrase “from when”, as this is how these questions are answered. You receive the Holy Spirit when you believe, or more appropriately, because you believe.

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” (Ephesians 1:13, KJV 1900)

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,” (Ephesians 1:13, NIV)

πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε τῷ πνεύματι τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῷ ἁγίῳ

The syntactical structure of this phrase is identical to the last two examples, it is a conditional phrase made up of a verb, the direct object of that verb (a nominal phrase), and the adverbial participle that represents the condition of the verbal clause (i.e. You received/were sealed with the Holy Spirit). This participle can actually be characterized as: temporal, manner, conditional, and result. The first two answer the questions: when and how, conditional carries the sense of “if”, and the result shows what the verb accomplishes. At what point are we saved? When we believe. How are we saved? By believing. We are saved if we believe, and the result of believing is being saved.

In addition to this, Pentecostals also try to use the “baptism of John” argument using Acts 18:25, 19:3-4. This is a false dichotomy wrought by poor exegesis, as the same phrase is used in Matt 21:25, Mark 1:4, 11:30, Luke 7:29, 20:4, and Acts 1:22, before the Holy Spirit had even come down on the Apostles. This is another example of reading one’s presuppositions back into the text and coming out with a meaning not intended by the author. This is also made obvious by St Paul in the previously quoted passage in Ephesians 4. This immersion (baptism) of repentance (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 13:24, 19:4) is also found in the Jewish Mishnah (Kippurim 8:9A & I), showing it to merely be a Jewish tradition that was later adopted by the Church as a sacrament.

One receives the Holy Spirit through water baptism (Acts 8:36-38), which saves us (1 Pet 3:21), which is a necessary part of believing in Christ, as we are buried with Him in baptism in which we are also raised together with Him through faith in the working of God (Col 2:12). Unlike what other Protestants will try to claim, believing in Christ requires we believe in everything He taught, and not just a small part of it, as the above-cited passages (and many others) show.


[1] Ephesians 4:1-6

[2] Acts 19:2, KJV 1900

[3] Here is the fragment in question in Greek, and then word-for-word directly into English underneath:

εἰ   πνεῦμα ἅγιον   ἐλάβετε           πιστεύσαντες

if     Holy Spirit       you received   believing

The εἰ in this context makes the statement interrogative, which in turn changes the translation of the aorist second person singular conjugation of “receive” (you received) to “have you received?”. The nominal phrase “Holy Spirit” is in the accusative case, which means it is the object of the verb. Thus, the phrase “εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐλάβετε” should be translated “have you received the Holy Spirit?” which is fairly uncontroversial.

[4] The controversial aspect of this short passage upon which so much doctrinal error is based is the role of the aorist participle of “believe”.

[5] See appendix for further explanation

[6] Aside from this, the Holy Spirit is a noun and does not make sense without the utilization of a verb, which would also not make much sense without a direct object (unless the verb is intransitive, which it is not).

[7] While many of the requirements for an attendant circumstance participle are met, it is not possible for these participles to be read this way. For example, “Rise and take the child” (Matt 2:13), “Go and learn” (Matt 9:13), “came and bowed” (Matt 9:18), “Go quickly and tell his disciples” (Matt 28:7), “They left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11), Go and show yourself” (Luke 5:14), “Sit down and write fifty” (Luke 16:6), and many more of these types of participles all have one thing in common, you never have the participle occur and not the verb. The angel was not telling Mary and Joseph to rise, and then maybe take the child sometime in the future, or possibly not at all. If it were possible to have one half of the attendant circumstance participle construction to occur and not the other, then the message “Rise Peter, kill and eat” bears no significance to the abandonment of Levitical dietary practices, if “rise” is not without “kill and eat”. Likewise, the Great Commission “Go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19) would merely be a suggestion, if “Go” was not immediately connected to “make disciples”. Were “go” and “tell the disciples” (Matt 28:7) not inextricably connected, one with the other? Like all of the other examples, the participle that is coordinate with the next verb is always in immediate succession. It is not ever intended for the second action to happen sometime eventually, or possibly not at all in an attendant circumstance participle, which would be the best hope of supporting this false doctrine. This is the closest one could get to Acts 19:2 teaching the doctrine of second blessings, to interpret the participle in one of the other ways would either be so absurd as to not make sense, or is not constructed appropriately either morphologically or syntactically. But abusing grammar in this way causes theological problems elsewhere, in addition to being exegetically irresponsible.

[8] 1 Corinthians 14:10, KJV 1900

[9] Acts 2:4, 6, KJV 1900

[10] St Augustine of Hippo, Against the Epistle of Manichæus Called Fundamental

[11] St Augustine of Hippo, Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John

[12] St Augustine of Hippo, Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John

[13] Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata

[14] Select Orations of Saint Gregory Nazianzen

[15] Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

 

Standard
Apologetics, Philosophy

Fides et Ratio & Modern Philosophical Errors

Fides et Ratio on Modern Philosophical Errors1. “The first goes by the name eclecticism, which is meant the approach of those who, in research, teaching and argumentation, even in theology, tend to use individual ideas drawn from different philosophies, without concern for their internal coherence, their place within a system or their historical context. They therefore run the risk of being unable to distinguish the part of truth of a given doctrine from elements of it which may be erroneous or ill-suited to the task at hand. An extreme form of eclecticism appears also in the rhetorical misuse of philosophical terms to which some theologians are given at times. Such manipulation does not help the search for truth and does not train reason – whether theological or philosophical – to formulate arguments seriously and scientifically. The rigorous and far-reaching study of philosophical doctrines, their particular terminology and the context is which they arose, helps to overcome the danger of eclecticism and makes it possible to integrate them into theological discourse in a way appropriate to the task.”

2. “Eclecticism is an error of method, but lying hidden within it can also be the claims of historicism. To understand a doctrine from the past correctly, it is necessary to set it within its proper historical and cultural context. The fundamental claim of historicism, however, is that the truth of a philosophy is determined on the basis of its appropriateness to a certain period and a certain historical purpose. At least implicitly, therefore, the enduring validity of truth is denied. What was true in one period, historicists claim, may not be true in another. Thus for them the history of thought becomes little more than an archeological resource useful for illustrating positions once held, but for the most part outmoded and meaningless now. On the contrary, it should not be forgotten that, even if a formulation is bound in some way by time and culture, the truth or the error which it expresses can invariably be identified and evaluated as such despite the distance of space and time.

In theological enquiry, historicism tends to appear for the most part under the guise of ‘modernism.’ Rightly concerned to make theological discourse relevant and understandable to our time, some theologians use only the most recent opinions and philosophical language, ignoring the critical evaluation which ought to be made of them in the light of the tradition. By exchanging relevance for truth, this form of modernism shows itself incapable of satisfying the demands of truth which theology is called to respond.”

3. “Another threat to be reckoned with is scientism. This is the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive science; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy. In the past, the same idea emerged in positivism and neo-positivism, which considered metaphysical statements to be meaningless…Regrettably, it must be noted, scientism consigns all that has to do with the question of the meaning of life to the realm of the irrational or imaginary.”

4. “No less dangerous is pragmatism. An attitude of mind which, in making its choices, precludes theoretical considerations or judgments based on ethical principles. The practical consequences of this mode of thinking are significant. In particular there is growing support for a concept of democracy which is not grounded upon any reference to unchanging values: whether or not a line of action is admissible is decided by the vote of a parliamentary majority. The consequences of this are clear: in practice, the great moral decisions of humanity are subordinated to decisions taken one after another by institutional agencies. Moreover, anthropology itself is severely compromised by a one-dimensional vision of the human being, a vision which excludes the great ethical dilemmas and the existential analysis of the meaning of suffering and sacrifice, life and death.”

5. “The positions we have examined lead in turn to a more general conception which appears today as the common framework of many philosophies which have rejected the meaningfulness of being. I am referring to the nihilist interpretation, which is at once the denial of all foundations and the negation of all objective truth. Quite apart from the fact that it conflicts with the demands and the content of the word of God, nihilism is a denial of the humanity and of the very identity of the human being. It should never be forgotten that the neglect of being inevitably leads to losing touch with objective truth and therefore with the very ground of human dignity. This in turn makes it possible to erase from the countenance of man and woman the marks of their likeness to God, and thus to lead them little by little either to a destructive will to power or to a solitude without hope. Once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try and set them free. Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.”

– Pope Saint John Paul II, Fides et Ratio – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard