Apologetics

8C79A33A-7C19-4238-A4F5-0C53D2DF2E40Cardinal John Henry Newman converted to the Catholic faith. He has a unique and beautiful understanding of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You can read it here.

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Two Questions from an Unhappy Listener

by Steve Ray on August 15, 2018

After a recent radio show a man wrote to challenge me. The e-mail contained two questions — thquestioner’srs words are in blue. I have removed his name out of respect for his privacy.

Dear friend, you wrote:   >> I found it rather interesting you had all those questions for Bible Christians. I am a Protestant convert that had been Catholic for 20 years. I just have two simple questions for you that I cannot get a reasonable answer from any other source, even Catholic answers. <<

First, let me say I appreciate you writing and understand your probable motive. I understand that many people have left the Catholic Church to become everything from agnostics to Jehovahs Witnesses, from Baptists to Communists. I also know that far more leave for moral reasons than for theological reasons. Why you left I do not know. I am, for the most part, singularly unimpressed with the arguments and reasons given by ex-Catholics. On the other hand, I am very impressed with the reasons why thousands are becoming Catholics. Anyway, let’s get to the points at hand.

Second, I have no desire to debate or carry on a long argument with you. I have far too much to do and am quite convinced of the truth of Catholicism (being once an anti-Catholic evangelist) and the weakness of the Protestant arguments. So, I will anwer briefly and hope you are an honest and noble man who is not just looking for a punching bag. So . . .

 1.)     Where do I find an infallible list of infallible Catholic traditions? (and prove to me the infallibility of the list)

Before I answer your question, let me show you how flawed your question is by your own standards. You can’t even provide such an answer concerning what you accept as infallible — the Bible. Provide me a list of infallible books in the infallible Bible and prove to me the infallibility of the list. And since the Bible is your only infallible authority, where does the Bible says that the individual writings contained within are infallible and inspired? Answer this and I will give you an answer for Tradition.

BooksOfBible1Since your theology is that the Bible is the only infallible source of revelation from God binding on the Christian, then where do you find a list of which books are exclusively infallible and to be included in the canon of Scripture? And let’s take it one step farther– who has the authority to define that list or make that determination? And are you aware that your collection of books in your Protestand Bible are missing seven books? (like the list to the right?)

Remember even R. C. Sproul (Evangelical Theologian) says that Catholics have an infallible list of infallible books; Protestants have a fallible list of infallible books; liberals have a fallible list of fallible books. The books are infallible and inspired, not the Table of Contents. And remember, if you say it is “obvious” then why did it take four hundred years for the early Christians to come up with a final list and who put the authority to put that list together and declare it infallible and binding? And why is there differences in the collection of books in the Bible even today?

And where do we find in the Bible alone, that your list is infallible and binding for all time? Martin Luther sure didn’t think so. And, by the way, where do you find in the Bible that everything that is the word of God is contained only in the book when even the book refutes such a claim?

2.)     Did Mary (Mother of Christ) die?

I noticed you call Mary the “Mother of Christ” instead of the “Mother of God” (both of which are true). But that is another discussion. Regarding the end of her life: we are not told in Scripture or Tradition whether Mary died. We believe that at the end of her earthly existence she was taken into heaven body and soul. Now, please don’t tell me that it is necessary for everyone to die since we know of at least two cases in Scripture where men were taken to heaven without dying first. Whether Mary died or simply fell asleep is not the issue. The issue where you and I might disagree is what happened to her in the end. All Christians have believed that Mary was assumed into heaven. Only recent Protestant innovations have denied it. You find yourself in a very small and novel slice of the Christian pie and one with a very short and troubled history.

Now, I hope you have answers for these “Questions for ‘Bible Christians'”, click here.

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The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray

The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you’.” From the first century the Apostolic Fathers referred to this Blessed Sacrament as the Eucharist, emphasizing that it was both the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Sacrifice of the New Covenant.

6a29d71314e8119903342fe7ef723835Our Lord taught the Apostles the meaning and liturgical form of the Eucharist and the apostles in turn passed the tradition on to the early Church. Many Christian sects deny apostolic tradition and attempt to derive details of the sacrament from the Bible alone.

However, the NT was never intended as a manual with detailed sacramental instructions—the Blessed Sacrament was learned by apostolic instruction and the faithful transmission of that tradition through the bishops. The final canon of Scripture was not recognized for almost four centuries after Christ, yet the Christians faithfully celebrated the Eucharist as taught by the apostolic tradition deposited in the Church.

Confusion about the Eucharist abounds in non-Catholic Christian circles. But, for the first twelve or thirteen centuries, with the exceptions of Ratramnus (d. ad 868) and Berengarius (d. 1088), both of whom affirmed the Real Presence in the end, there was a universal understanding and a consistent practice of the Eucharist throughout the Church, but only fifty years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door there was a book published entitled Two Hundred Definitions of the Words ‘This is My Body’. The Fathers of the Church knew no such confusion.

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.09.45 AMOne of the earliest usages of the word Eucharist is in the Didache which was written as early as ad 60—before many NT writings. In the Didache we read: “Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one” (Didache 14). In the fourth century, St. Athanasius used the Didache as a catechetical text for his students.

Malachi’s prophecy helps understand the Fathers’ grasp of the Eucharist. St. Paul uses Malachi’s technical term “the table of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 10:21. Referring to the “table of the Lord”, used in the context (Malachi 1: 7, 12), the prophet Malachi wrote, “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts” (KJV).

eucharistThis reference to “a pure offering” offered on “the table of the Lord” was interpreted repeatedly by the Fathers, from the first century onward, as a reference to the Eucharist. Even the Didache alludes to Malachi: “For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’(Didache 14).

Clement of Rome (AD 96), a fellow-worker with the Apostles, relates the new priesthood to that of the Old Testament Levites, emphasizing the distinction between the service of the priest and the laity: “In the same way, my brothers, when we offer our own Eucharist to God, each one should keep to his own degree (calling)” (Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, 41).

St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 106), another associate of the Apostles, wrote of “one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with His Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice” (Epistles to the Philippians, 4). St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165) cites Malachi 1:11:  “[God] then speaks to those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist” (Dialog with Trypho the Jew, 14).

St. Ignatius of Antioch, martyred 106 AD St. Ignatius of Antioch, martyred 106 AD

St. Ignatius of Antioch, though writing around ad 106, clearly represents the theology of the first century. He warns, “But look at those men who have those perverted notions about the grace of Jesus Christ which has come down to us, and see how contrary to the mind of God they are . . . . They even abstain from the Eucharist and the public prayer, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Savior Jesus Christ, which [flesh] suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His goodness raised up again” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6, 7).

St. Ignatius speaks nobly of the Eucharist: “Share in one common breaking of bread—the medicine of immortality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ evermore” (Epistle to the Ephesians, 20).

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.16.20 AMThe Catholic Mass continues the theology and liturgy of the first centuries. St. Justin Martyr offers a glimpse of the Eucharistic sacrifice in the mid-second century. “And this food is called among us Eucaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh” (First Apology, 1, 62).

The word “Transubstantiation” was commonly used in the 12th century and given classical formulation by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th. Though the early Fathers did not use this exact terminology, the teaching was essential to their theology. The Fathers unanimously held to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Some Protestants (e.g., William Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History) tend to approach the Church Fathers in one of two ways. First, they may just ignore or disregard the Fathers as “uninspired” or irrelevant—why study the Fathers when we have the Bible? Second, they may search for perceived contradictions. The perceived contradiction is then presented as a false dilemma. This false dilemma forces an either/or dichotomy.

For example, “The Eucharist is either a “symbol” of the Body of Christ or it “is” the Body of Christ. The Fathers rejected such contrasts and espoused the both/and approach, understanding that the Eucharist was both a symbol (but never merely as a symbol) and the Real Presence.

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.17.33 AMIf the Real Presence was an illicit teaching or unorthodox teaching we would expect to find early orthodox Christians condemning it? Instead, we see the earliest and most respected Christians consistently promoting both the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and the reality of the Real Presence. Never is this teaching condemned or forbidden. The Catholic doctrine is the result of the organic development of the doctrine taught by the apostles and faithfully preserved by the bishops in the apostolic succession.

As an example of such false dilemmas, Fundamentalists Protestants may claim that St. Augustine rejects the Real Presence and refers to the Eucharist as a mere symbol (“eaten spiritually, drunk spiritually”). With such words, St. Augustine is exhorting believers to eat and drink the Eucharist in faith.

However, the Fundamentalists fail to disclose that St. Augustine taught that “[Jesus] took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless he adores it” (Sermon 174, 7). St. Augustine certainly does not see any contradiction; in fact, his teaching is foundational to the dogmas of the Catholic Church.

With glorious harmony, the Fathers of the Church proclaimed the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Altar. Opposition was virtually nonexistent until the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. The confusion began with the Reformers, who could form no doctrinal consensus on the Eucharist.

Luther and Zwingli heatedly disagreeing on the Eucharist Luther and Zwingli heatedly disagreeing on the Eucharist

At the Marburg Conference in 1529 they were sharply divided and departed the conference in utter disarray. In contrast, the Catholic Church has maintained unity and the fullness of the apostolic teaching by unabashedly proclaiming for two thousand years that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. St. John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) writes, “This is the Body which He gave us, both to hold in reserve and to eat” (Homily on 1 Cor 24, 4).

St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376?444) concurs, “[Jesus] states demonstratively: ‘This is My Body,’ and ‘This is My Blood,’ lest you might suppose the things that are seen are a figure. Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God the things seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered in a sacrifice in which we, as participants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ” (Commentary on Matthew, 26:27).

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Sources:

Didache quote: “On Sunday Worship,, Early Christian Writings, trans. Maxwell Staniforth, Penguin Books, 1968, p. 197.
Second Didache quote: ibid.
St. Clement’s quote: Early Christian Writings. trans. Maxwell Staniforth. Penguin Books, 1968, p. 39.
St. Ignatius’s first quote: Early Christian Writings. trans. Maxwell Staniforth, Penguin Books, 1968, p. 66.
Justin Martyr’s first quote: Ante-Nicene Fathers. Roberts and Donaldson, Eerdmans, 1985, vol. 1, p. 215.
St. Ignatius’ second quote: The Early Christian Writings, p.102?103.
St. Ignatius’ third quote: Early Christian Writings, p. 66
St. Auqustine’s first quote: Faith of the Early Fathers, William Jurgens, Liturgical Press. 1979, vol. 3, p. 20.
Chrysostom’s quote: The Faith of the Early Fathers, 2:118.
Cyril of Alexandria’s quote: The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3:220

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Recommended Reading:

Crossing the Tiber,  Steve Ray, Ignatius Press, 1987 (Whole section on the Eucharist).
The Real Presence through the Ages, Michael Gaudoin-Parker, Alba House, 1998.
The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Eugene LaVeriere, Liturgical Press, 1996.
The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist. James T. O’Conner, Ignatius Press, 1988.
The Faith of the Early Fathers in three volumes, William Jurgens, Liturgical Press, 1979.
The Holy Eucharist. Aidan Nichols, OP, Veritas Publications, 1991.
Catholic Faith in the Holy Eucharist, C. Lattey, ed. B. Herder Book Co., 1923.

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Why are some ex-Catholics so hateful?

August 5, 2018

I was asked recently why some ex-Catholics and anti-Catholics are so hateful and mean — why they display such fierce opposition to the Church. Of course, not all ex-Catholics are that way, but a good number are. When I was an anti-Catholic I did not consider Catholics to be Christians. They were heretics. I thought […]

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Questions for “Bible Christians”

August 2, 2018

1) Where did Jesus give instructions that the Christian faith should be based exclusively on a book? 2) Other than the specific command to John to pen the Revelation, where did Jesus tell His apostles to write anything down and compile it into an authoritative book? 3) Where in the New Testament do the apostles […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

July 29, 2018

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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What Should Catholics Say When Accused of Worshiping Images?

July 5, 2018

From Taylor Marshall’s blog. Images “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image.” If you look at the context of the commandment, you’ll see that it speaks to worshiping an image. This is wrong because God is invisible and without form. He is so transcendent that even His name is simply “I AM”. So […]

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Seven Rules for Dealing with Non-Catholic Family and Friends

July 2, 2018

This is always an interesting topic that floods the phone lines. I was on Son Rise Morning Show today on this topic so I reposted by popular request discussing how we as Catholics can relate to and influence our family and friends. Ready to go! Family life can cause tension and strife among families. How […]

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Mary and the Apostles are Dead! Only Jesus can Mediate for Us! Really?

June 23, 2018

 Confusion of Many Protestants Too often well-meaning Protestants get confused and accuse of things that are outright nonsense if not lies. It is usually because they never take the time to really understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches and practices. Below is a good example of a kind and well-meaning Protestant pastor who wrote […]

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Can Peter Walk on Water? Can Sinful Men be Infallible?

June 21, 2018

Is it possible for a sinful, fallible man to give an infallible interpretation of Scripture or an infallible definition of doctrine? If he is fallible and sinful, doesn’t that preclude his ability to be infallible when it comes to things of God? No. In fact while many Protestants would say the Pope cannot be infallible […]

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 18, 2018

I posted an article I wrote about St. Paul praying for the dead HERE. But I thought you would appreciate Dave Armstrong’s recent article about the same passage with confirmation and a new set of eyes on the text and the reasons for many Protestants to reject the claim… St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who […]

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 17, 2018

St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly before his martyrdom. He spent the last days of his life in the Mammertine Prison in Rome, north of the Roman Forum. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for a man dead man. “It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. […]

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“Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints

June 15, 2018

I compiled a list of Catechism, Scripture and quotes from the early Church Fathers and even archaeology to assist in understanding the Communion of Saints. You can download the source material here. Sample: Who should carry the most weight—Protestant pastors protesting Catholic theology today or pastors from the early Church who have the words of […]

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Greetings Baptists at the Door – A Friend’s Fun Story

June 3, 2018

Hey Steve, it’s Bronson from Ohio. A new Baptist church opened up in my area and this couple came to my door. They said are you interested in coming to our church? No thank you. Then they asked if I went to church. I said I’m Catholic and they fired away I guess you could […]

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Today is St. Justin Martyr’s Feast Day – Free Apostolic Fathers Timeline

May 30, 2018

Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr, June 1 Download a Free copy of the Apostolic Fathers Timeline This amazing Timeline drives home the point of how close these men were to Jesus and the Apostles. It demonstrates how Catholic the first Christians really were!  The Apostolic Fathers faced Emperors, heretics and lions but these heroes of […]

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Sola Scriptura and the Canon of Scripture

May 23, 2018

Sola Scriptura and the Canon When non-Catholics are asked to provide biblical support or their belief that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer, they usually cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful”. However, they somehow miss the fact that the two verses […]

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