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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On Debating Catholics - Part 1

A number of years ago, on a now defunct blog, I posted an entry on the topic of debating Catholics. It was born out of numerous frustrating conversations with Catholics in regard to their faith. If it is not known, I am a former Catholic. I was very devout. I was educated in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under the auspices of John Cardinal Krol. I went on to be be active in high school, college and eventually serving as an acolyte and Religious Education teacher and youth conference speaker.

I do not list these things to present myself as an expert, but rather to show that my knowledge of both the doctrines and culture of the Catholic Church (CC) come, in part, from inside. I also readily note that my experiences in the CC were almost universally positive. I have very fond memories of my years in a CC school: serving as an altar boy, being active in the youth group and as part of the Newman Center in college. Certainly, personal relationships with Catholic family and friends was overwhelmingly positive.

But positive doesn’t make something true nor does it negate the realities of Catholic doctrine.

Remember, something isn't true merely because it is old; or because it is held by many people; or because it is declared by some ecclesiastical body.

Obviously, on a blog, I will not be dissecting 1500 years of Catholic dogmas, decrees and declarations (only as appropriate in context of my topic). To be sure, although educated as a Catholic in a conservative Catholic parish and after serving as an altar boy, acolyte and Religious Education teacher and youth leader, I can safely say I have learned more about the bulls, encyclicals and catechisms (etc.) of the Catholic Church after leaving her. (In my debates I use only Catholic sources when possible.) It is my experience that most Catholics are wholly unfamiliar with their own history or with the teachings of their own church..

I have found over the last quarter century that most of my efforts among Catholics have been mostly fruitless, although not completely so (and who knows what the Lord may have done with any seed sewn?). I turned my attention to teaching the individual responsibility of all men to seek truth for themselves, with a prayerful and honest heart. And that applies to those within and without Christendom.

But lately it has been impressed upon me that I need to renew my warning to those who may want to engage Catholics in discussion or debate. This will serve as simply a warning as to what you are up against (and what the strategy of the greater CC is). It is a gigantic (monstrous?) entity which appears unknowable, mysterious and complex. However, many of its doctrines were so clearly declared by Popes and Councils that we need not get caught up in the purposefully complex debate in which many Catholics want to engage. Trying the explain the clear with the complex is a fool’s errand.

Before moving on, I would suggest to those who feel insufficient either in their grasp of the totality of scripture or the vastness of the dogmas of Rome, that you teach and live grace. The centrality of the cross and the resurrection is the starting point of all true faith. From there, one can only add or subtract from the accomplished work of God himself. And, when understood, all “adding” is merely “subtracting” from his glorious gift and his all-sufficient work. In short, it is prideful blasphemy.

We rest on the only foundation which can be laid, because there is only one sacrifice for sin (complete and eternal).
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
-1 Cor 3:11
Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
-Hebrews 10:9-14

In Part 2 I will briefly list the type of arguments you will probably see. Again, I will not be exhaustively refuting them, rather I will be alerting you to the methodology of most of the Catholics you will encounter. As with all witnessing, if you can see only argument and no seeking, prepare to  shake the dust from your feet and move on.
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.
-Titus 3:9
When someone starts to contradict one of his own core premises in order to salvage a pronounced conclusion, such a one probably has no interest in truth, only in argument. 

From such, turn away. 
Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
-2 Tim 3:5


Friday, November 10, 2017

Sermon on the Mount (Lord's Prayer) - Part 2

This is part 2 of our look at the Sermon on the Mount. 

In part 1 we saw that this section of scripture was:
1. concerned with "the gospel of the kingdom"
2. given to the disciples and not the multitudes
3. meant for Israel and her future kingdom
The most-oft quoted section of the sermon is the so-called "Lord's Prayer" in Chapter 6:9-12
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
We've included it here in the context of the parables of the kingdom and the parables on the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24-25 (the last part of the series).

On the Lord's calendar for Israel is "the great and dreadful day of the Lord." This is seen in the OT prophets and connected to the events and expectation in the Acts Age (such as Peter referencing Joel at Pentecost). We see it most clearly in the Revelation.
"On [the Day of the Lord] I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet."
-Rev 1:10

This will be a terrible time for Israel and it will flavor the Olivet Discourse and parables of Matt 24-25 ("the end of the age").

The Lord's Prayer is the disciples and true Israel looking forward to the kingdom of the promised millennium for Israel (1000 years, Rev 20) to come to earth. But there will be terrible times during the Great Tribulation preceding that age. Hence, the plea for "daily bread."

The section on forgiving is expanded by the Lord in the two verses following the prayer:

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
-Matt 6:13-14

As we will see in regard to the question of the end of the age and the coming of the Lord in Matthew 24-25, faithfulness during that time will be judged. Part of the judgment will be the judgment of the nations on how they treat Jews and Jews how they treat each other. This is forerunner of the Magna Carta of the millennium where righteousness will be strictly enforced, with mercy.

If you read the Sermon on the Mount carefully, you will find a very high standard. That is another study for another time. For now, we will leave it in its place.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) - Part 1

We have finished with the eight parables of Matthew 13 and will be moving on to the ten remaining parables in Matthew. But for a moment I'd like to take what we've seen in Matthew 13 and apply these things to the setting of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 (which includes what we call "the Lord's Prayer").

Here is how Matthew 4 ends:
And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And GREAT CROWDS followed him from Galilee and the Decap′olis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
-Matthew 4:23-25
We see the setting: preaching "the gospel of the kingdom" which we know does not mention the Lord's death, burial and resurrection (when he announces His death in Matthew 16, the disciples are shocked and angry). This is for Israel. This preaching, and the miracles, are for Israel. Remember, in Matthew 10 the Lord forbids "the gospel of the kingdom" to be preached to anyone but Jews only.

So, we go from this outward ministry to all of Israel to this in Matthew 5:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them...
-Matthew 5:1-2
As we saw in Matthew 13, he separated his disciples in Matthew 5 from the multitudes. He was giving them, NOT the Magna Carta for the present age church, but the rules of the promised kingdom in Israel. These men (plus Mathias) will "sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). Obviously, that is yet future.

We will see again this future kingdom as the setting for the parables yet to be examined.

Israel will have a kingdom (Acts 1:6), and the Apostles to the circumcision, preaching "the gospel for the circumcised" (Gal 2:7), will one day sit on those twelve thrones in that kingdom.

This gives us the context for the whole Sermon. Next time we will look more closely at "The Lord's Prayer." This will help us set the context for the parables yet to come.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Parable of the Scribe

We have finally come to the last parable of "the kingdom of heaven" in Matthew 13. Now, your bible probably only lists seven, but the wording in verse 52 is clearly parabolic (there's a 50 cent word!).

Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
-Matthew 13:52

This is the balance to the Parable of the Sower.

A THE SOWER
- B Wheat and Tares
-- C Mustard Seed
--- D Leaven
--- D Treasure
-- C Pearl
- B Drag Net
A THE SCRIBE

This is at the end, in the house. The treasure is brought out by the householder (Gk: oikodespótēs, "master of the House"). This final note is Israel finally taking to her calling in the "great commission" to the Gentile nations. The good seed is bearing fruit.

We know that the "whole world" was promised to be blessed through Abraham (Gen 18:17-18; Gal 3:8-9; etc). That is via two ways: Jesus as the Christ and Israel as the conduit of God's earthly blessings. Remember, Abraham was blessed and justified BEFORE he was circumcised. He was of the uncircumcised (Rom 4).

When we look at the parables given "in the house," we see this structure:

A THE TREASURE IN THE FIELD:
The nation of Israel as distinct from the nations
B THE ONE BEAUTIFUL PEARL:
The remnant of Israel as distinct from the nation
B THE MANY FISH:
The Gentile nations as distinct from Israel
A THE TREASURE HID IN THE HOUSE:
Israel, viewed as a missionary nation sent to the nations.
(Charles Welch, Parables - An Alphabetical Analysis)

The "mystery" of the one new man of Ephesians was never Gentile faith. Scripture has shown us gentile faith from the beginning (as we saw with Abraham). We see all of Nineveh come to faith in the Book of Jonah, for example. And in Matthew itself we see this being said of the Roman Centurion by the Lord, "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" (Matt 8:10)

Peter heard this as well. So, we should cease with accusing him of ignorance when he is sent to Cornelius in Acts 10. The Lord never entered the Centurion's home in Matt 8 and never sees nor touches the Gentile servant he heals. Peter was right to say he had not been in the home of Gentile. The Lord was changing conditions, and Peter (as the one with the keys to the kingdom, Matt 16:19) was being instructed.

We discover the Spirit and the gifts falling on Gentiles was granted by the Lord to make Israel jealous (Rom 10:19-20; 11:11). This was also prophesied. It is not something hidden revealed. Romans 10:19 is a quote from Deuteronomy 32:21.

The prophets knew of this (Gal 3; Rom 15; etc.). But the body (Eph 2:14-16) Paul speaks of in Ephesians was hidden from the prophets (Eph 3:9). We know from his trial in Acts 26 that Paul spoke "no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come" (v.22). In the last chapter of Acts, Paul went to the Jews in Rome "persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 28:23).

Paul was in chains in the Acts "for the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20). In Ephesians he reveals he is now "the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles" (Eph 3:1).

As we have noted before, it was not until the end of the Acts age that God reveals his "hidden" plan for the present age. That which was "at hand" for Israel in Matthew and in the Acts age, was put on hold. These parables, and the Book of Acts, will soon come alive again as Israel is once again restored.

That is the teaching of the parables of Matthew 13. As we move on to the other parables in Matthew, we must keep this context in mind.