Tag Archives: Catholicism

There are Roman Catholics in my family but I’m not one: why not?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

In this post, I have a couple of challenges to Roman Catholic doctrine. The point of this post is not to piss off my Roman Catholic readers, it’s more to explain why I’m not Roman Catholic. And maybe to explain how Protestants like me think about religion.

Purgatory

Here’s the first article from Cold Case Christianity, by the Master of the Evidence J. Warner Wallace. He writes about the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, and his experience with studying and then rejecting it.

Here is his introduction:

The notion of purgatory assumes many of us die with unforgiven sins that need to be purged from our account; some of us are not good enough to go to heaven, but not bad enough to go to hell. Purgatory, therefore, is a temporary, intermediate place (or state of being) where good deeds and works can be performed in order to purge our impurity prior to our final destiny with God. Although millions of Catholics believe purgatory to be a reality, the idea needs to be tested in light of the Scripture. Is purgatory something we, as Bible believing Christians, should accept as true?

He’s got a stack of Bible verses to make two points against Purgatory: first, that Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient to atone for all our rebellion against God, and we don’t need to endure any suffering or punishment to supplement it. And second, the teaching about the afterlife in the Bible says that believers are immediately ushered into the presence of God after they die (without resurrection bodies, yet), while unbelievers are separated away from God.

Here’s what he says about the first point:

Our Salvation Isn’t Based On Our Good Works
According to the Biblical doctrine of Salvation, forgiveness is not based on the good works of the believer. For this reason, deeds or works performed for those in purgatory are both unnecessary and ineffectual:

Romans 3:21-24, 27-28
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus… Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Romans 8:1
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

Our Salvation Is Based On Jesus’ Work on the Cross
According to the Biblical doctrine of Salvation, Jesus’ work on the cross (His blood) purifies us from allsin. For this reason, there isn’t a lingering sin problem requiring the existence of a place like purgatory:

Titus 2:13-14
…we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

1John 1:7b
…the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1John 1:9b
…he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Hebrews 10:14
…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Our Salvation Has, Therefore, Already Been Guaranteed
According to the Biblical doctrine of Salvation, Jesus has already purified and purged believers of sin based on our faith in Him. For this reason, there is no need for a place like Purgatory where additional purging must be performed…

[…]The Biblical doctrine of Salvation clearly eliminates the need for purgatory.

I was never able to find anything in the Bible to support purgatory. It’s a very very late doctrine that was unknown to the early church until the late 2nd / early 3rd century, where it is spoken about by a handful of people. But lots of weird doctrines were creeping up on the fringe around that time, so we shouldn’t be surprised… the point is that they have no support from the Bible, and not in the community of believers for the first 150 years after the death of Jesus.

The bodily assumption of Mary

Anyway, my turn now. The Roman Catholic church teaches that Mary was “bodily assumed” into Heaven after her death, i.e. – she didn’t just stay in her grave. Let’s see if that is in the Bible or in the early church.

Here’s what I found:

  1. To be a Roman Catholic, you need to believe in Papal infallibility in matters of dogma.
  2. In 1950, the Pope pronounced the assumption of Mary to be infallible dogma.
  3. This pronouncement was solicited by a petition featuring over 8 million signatures.
  4. There is no historical record of this doctrine in the Bible.
  5. No early church father mentions the assumption until 590 AD.
  6. Documents dated 377 AD state that no one knows how Mary died.
  7. The assumption appears for the first time in an apocryphal gospel dated about 495 AD.

Data

I only cite Roman Catholic sources for my facts.

6. “But if some think us mistaken, let them search the Scriptures. They will not find Mary’s death; they will not find whether she died or did not die; they will not find whether she was buried or was not buried … Scripture is absolutely silent [on the end of Mary] … For my own part, I do not dare to speak, but I keep my own thoughts and I practice silence … The fact is, Scripture has outstripped the human mind and left [this matter] uncertain … Did she die, we do not know … Either the holy Virgin died and was buried … Or she was killed … Or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and He can do whatever He desires; for her end no-one knows.” (Epiphanius, Panarion, Haer. 78.10-11, 23. Cited by Juniper Carol, O.F.M. ed.,Mariology, Vol. II (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1957), pp. 139-40).

7. “The idea of the bodily assumption of Mary is first expressed in certain transitus–narratives of the fifth and sixth centuries. Even though these are apocryphal they bear witness to the faith of the generation in which they were written despite their legendary clothing. The first Church author to speak of the bodily ascension of Mary, in association with an apocryphal transitus B.M.V., is St. Gregory of Tours.” (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma(Rockford: Tan, 1974), pp. 209–210).

It should be noted that the apocryphal gospel in which the doctrine of the assumption of Mary first appeared was condemned as heretical by two Popes in the 5th and 6th centuries. However, I was not able to find a CATHOLIC source for this fact, so I deliberately chose not to use it in my case.

Conclusion

The first thing I want to say is that the Bible is not the only place you look to decide these issues. You also look in church history, and you are looking for a clear chain of custody of the doctrine as far back as it can go. Purgatory and the perpetual virginity of Mary have some track record, but the bodily assumption of Mary is just nowhere – not in the Bible, not in the Early Church fathers. So that’s the silver bullet against Roman Catholicism, since they made it “infallible”.

This post is more directed to non-Christians to sort of show you how we do our homework. I am the first Protestant in my family. We have half the family who is Muslim, and the other half mostly Hindu, with some Catholic. I had to debate all these people growing up, and I wiped the floor with them. It was not even close. I simply settled on the beliefs that allowed me to win every argument, every time. That’s how you do religion. If you have to go against your whole family in order to be right, you do it. It’s not good to be wrong about things just because that’s what your family believes. These things were not pushed hard on me by my parents, I studied them on my own in order to win arguments. After a while of winning, I found myself acting consistently with what I was arguing for. Although that might sound really weird to you, that’s probably the right way to do this. Don’t listen to parents and church, find your own way forward by winning arguments, and believing only what the evidence supports.

Although most people think that if I had kids, I’d bully them into my beliefs, I actually would not. Because that’s not what worked on me. What really works is fighting about evidence, welcoming questions, and allowing differences of opinion. Being free to pursue truth is more important in the long run than coercing your kids to act nicely.

A liberal feminist comedian, her beliefs about God and how she formed them

Consider this article written by a liberal ex-Catholic woman whose 7-year-old daughter is an atheist.

First the biography of the author:

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. You may recognize her hip-hop alter ego Miss CKC from Comedy Central, VH1 and MTV2. Carolyn’s web vids have been nominated for an ECNY Award and featured in two issues of EW magazine. She’s appeared in TONYThe NY PostThe Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post.

Look at what she wrote:

I was raised Catholic, and like most people my age who were raised Catholic, I no longer attend church on Sundays. We’re “recovering Catholics.” That’s what so many of us call ourselves. We’re still disgusted with the Church for the way it covered up the sex abuse perpetrated against my generation and roll our eyes at the Church’s stance on things like abortion, gay marriage and women’s rights.

[…]I learned a lot about being a Good Person from the things I heard in church… I wanted to be a Good Person, not just because only Good People go to Heaven. I just liked the idea. The meek shall inherit the Earth. It sounded right. Somehow all this sh*t I’m swallowing now, it’s gonna pay off later.

I’m pretty much agnostic now (sometimes believing more strongly, other times thinking the concept of God is kind of a joke), but I value the way the idea of God has gotten me through the rough patches. And that has been the payoff. Somehow this notion that there is a giant man in the sky with long hair and a big robe who will hug you from heaven if you need it and carry you on the beach when you’ve had one too many wine coolers to walk without falling down and getting sand all up in your bikini has been very comforting to me. The image of Jesus but as God but totally as a bro (a homeboy, if you will), there’s something righteous about it, if you know what I mean.

But the way I imagine God has changed over the years — He’s gone from being a person, a man, to being more of a Thing, a notion. Goodness. The Oneness of the Universe. With something female in there. The energy that keeps the whole thing afloat. God as I know it now when I know it is kind of a cocktail made from a shot of Buddhism, a shot of feminist activism and a splash of ginger ale (because that, my friends, is something you can always count on).

Now the Christians who are reading this will be cringing because we know that these beliefs are not taken out of the Bible. She seems to be speaking more about her opinions rather than what is true. She doesn’t seem to be focused on finding truth, but more on being a “good person” and having God as a crutch to pull out if she falls down while pursuing her own plan.

She’s wrong that “good people” go to Heaven. Only people who accept Jesus as their leader (Lord) and accept his death as a sacrifice for their rebellion against God (Savior) are resurrected to eternal life. If she is a relativist, then I guess what she means by being a “good person” is that she thinks of herself as good and that the people around her think of her as good. However, the main purpose of Christianity is not to be a good person, or to have people like you or to be happy and comforted.  The main goal of Christian living is to puzzle about the truth about God’s existence and character, and then to re-prioritize your life based on who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for us. So the focus in Christianity is on truth, and that’s what her church should have taught her from a young age. And we are the ones who must read the Bible, we must not rely on someone else to do it for us.

But there is more to her story – her child has been affected by her problematic views of Christianity and God.

She writes:

My daughter, on the other hand, at the ripe old age of 7, is convinced that there is no God. Not even a god. Yup, my kid’s an atheist. And she pretty much has been since she was 5.

It’s not for lack of exposure to God or god or even gods and spirituality, because she has attended Church and church and a UU “church” and it has made no impact. We’ve prayed together. I talk about God sometimes, in a good way. When I asked her recently why she doesn’t believe in God she told me, succinctly, “Because I know too much about science!”

Is it a good idea to take scientific advice from a 7-year-old child? I think that we should instead prefer to learn from scholars who research and debate issues in science and religion, and then teach the child based on what we have learned. This is why it was so important to emphasize how people arrive at true beliefs in the church. If she had done the work herself to arrive at true beliefs, then she would know what to say to her child’s presumptuousness.

More:

The other night over dinner my daughter looked up at me and said, “Who created the Earth?” And I said, “Well, some people believe that God created the Earth, and some people believe that nature is a creation unto itself.” My daughter replied, “I think nature is a creation unto itself.” I said, “You know, you’re pretty staunch about the fact that there is no God.” And she told me, “Well, I don’t think he exists. If he does, he’s a ghost, and that’s weird. I just don’t believe it. You know, there are Universes beyond our Universe. Once you get outside the Milky Way galaxy, there’s a lot more stuff out there.”

Wow. When I was 7 I didn’t know there was a world outside my town.

So the universe created itself? How could it create itself? It would have to have existed in order to do anything, including create. So it would have to have existed… before it began to exist. That’s a contradiction, and so it cannot be true. Funny how kids decide whether God exists or not without knowing what they are talking about. It’s the parents’ job to be able to guide the discussion, not just sit there.

She continues:

Oh sure, my mother thinks raising a child without religion is dangerous. “I understand you don’t think she needs God now, Carolyn. But you gotta give her religion so it’s there for her when she needs it later.” When the shit hits the fan, when everything falls apart. When you realize there is no one but God you can trust.

See, here is where she needs someone to point out that it’s not God’s job to help you through crises or make you happy. No one who reads the Bible thinks that God is our cosmic butler. We know from reading the Bible that he has purposes that are different from our purpose to be happy.

Catholic doctors in the UK advised to emigrate

From The Tablet. (H/T Jay Richards)

Excerpt:

Catholic doctors who follow church teaching on sexual ethics cannot work as gynaecologists in Britain, the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) conference was told.

Charlie O’Donnell, a consultant in emergency and intensive care medicine, said the best advice he could give to an “orthodox” Catholic wishing to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology would be to “emigrate”.

Dr O’Donnell told the conference at Ealing Abbey, west London, on 17 May that a Catholic training to be a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology would soon find he or she had conscientious objections to such tasks as prescribing artificial contraceptives, giving unmarried couples fertility treatment or Viagra to gay couples.

He said that supervising consultants do not have the backup to allow trainees to opt out if they have moral objections to such work. However, conscientious objection to abortion is allowed because of specific provision in the 1967 Abortion Act.

“To be a sound Catholic regarding sexual ethics it is not possible to train as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist but this is not because of discrimination against Catholics. There is a total conflict of culture of what is good sex, a dichotomy of belief between what we as Christians believe is good overall for the individual and what secular society believes,” said Dr O’Donnell.

Last week the president of the CMA, Dr Robert Hardie sought clarification concerning reports that doctors and nurses with conscientious objections would be barred from obtaining a diploma from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH). Medical staff normally need the diploma to work in sexual and reproductive healthcare.

The Catholic Church is an interesting case. Although some Catholics are economically conservative, by and large Catholics tend to vote for bigger government, higher taxes and more regulations. Many now think that the point of their religion is to help the poor, and there is generally less emphasis on truth, theology and apologetics than in Protestantism. Well, what happens when lay Catholics begin to think their faith is about spreading the wealth around? They vote for secular politicians who promise to do that. As the secular government grows larger and larger, there is less room for faith commitments in the public square. The very Catholics who voted for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to “help the poor” are the ones running into problems now. I wonder if they have learned their lesson.