Apologetics

The Bible says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Yet Catholics refer to Mary as a Mediatrix (feminine form of the word mediator). So, isn’t that prima facie evidence that Catholics make up doctrines, worship Mary and disregard the Bible? I was again challenged with this the other day. Interesting how the same old, same old keeps coming up no matter how many times you answer it. Interesting how these same misconceptions keep coming up as though some contentious power keeps inserting them into gullible minds. Interesting how people love to twist the rubber nose to make it obscene, grotesque, and distorted. So here was my short response — again! ********************************************* Cross in Woods smtIn 1 Timothy 2:5 Paul recognizes that there is a huge chasm between the holy God and sinful men. Paul states that there is only one mediator that can bridge that uncrossable gorge.  How do we sinners reach a holy God across such a chasm? God has provided the solution. He has provided the-one-and-only Mediator (1 Tim 2:5), the bridge, the stairway between heaven and earth, (John 1:51 based on the ladder seen by Jacob). This one Mediator is the God-Man Jesus Christ and he is the only one that can bridge the gap–mediate–between heaven and earth to bring reconciliation between God and men. Thus, there is one Mediator to reconcile God and man. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant as the writer of Hebrews informs us three times, for example: “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Heb 8:6, 9:15, 12:24). No one else could have ever become such a mediator of the New Covenant. However, after Jesus has accomplished such an act of redemption and mediatorship, he calls us to share in his ministry. I remember my father saying to me before I joined the Catholic Church, “When you become Catholic you will pray to Mary and remember that Paul says there is only one Mediator between God and man.” I lovingly but sternly replied to my father, “Dad, never ask me to pray for you again!” My father was shocked but understood my meaning. As soon as he asks me to pray for him — he asks me to be a mediator between him and God. I told him that to be consistent with his Protestant theology he should not ask me or anyone else to intercede for him, to be a mediator — one who stands in the middle — but he should pray directly to Jesus himself. m74But Scripture constantly commands us to pray for one another, to intercede for our fellow humans. We are all “mini” mediators sharing in the mediatorship of Christ. And it goes the other way too. When God tells us to share the Gospel with lost sinners he is asking us to stand between himself and the sinner to share the Gospel, although he could have chosen to communicate with them directly. Mary is not the infinite mediator, nor does she impose on the prerogatives of her Son. She, like us, intercedes for sinners and the people of God. Mediatrix is simply the feminine form of mediator. All of us share in the ministry of Christ, mediating and praying for our fellow man. In this sense, all of us are mediators and the females among us are mediatrixes. I am frequently asked, “Where does the Bible say we should pray to dead saints?” to which I usually ask, “Where does the Bible say that saints are dead?” Those of us, including most Protestants, believe that when a person dies in friendship with Christ they are still alive in Christ. To prove that those who died in a state of grace were not dead, Jesus said to the Sadducees (who didn’t believe in the resurrection which is why they were “sad you see” — as my dad used to joke with us kids), “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt 22:32). Jesus said that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive. Those who say “Why do you Catholics pray to dead saints” need to understand that those who die in Christ are not dead. Catholics affirm that they are alive and in the presence of Christ and that they can intercede for us as much as my father or I can intercede for each other. Mary and the saints do not answer our prayers, any more than I answer the prayers of my dad. Rather, Mary, the saints and you and I all are intercessors. We do not answer the prayers, we simply intercede with the Father through his Son Jesus. When I take pilgrimage groups to Israel I always take them to the top of Mount Tabor where the Transfiguration took place. I always ask people how a “dead guy” like Moses could be talking to Jesus about things that are taking place on earth (Lk 9:31). copelandWhen my father asks me to pray for him he asks me to stand in the middle — to be a mediator, an intercessor — and when God commands me to preach the gospel to the lost, he tells me to stand in the middle — to be an ambassador for Christ as Paul says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). (Opps, to the right is a Pentecostal preacher Kenneth Copeland acting as a mediator, interceding with God, standing in the middle as they pray for this man!) I hope that helps explain why we call Mary a mediatrix and why all of us are mini-mediators sharing in the ministry of Christ — the one-and-only mediator of the New Covenant, but certainly not in any way claiming to be the one mediator of the New Covenant, nor in any way arrogating to ourselves or to Mary the unique prerogatives and ministry of Jesus. One last thought on this matter. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding of the differences between prayer and worship. In the Catholic tradition they are very different things. In Protestantism prayer and worship are sometimes used as synonyms. Pray simply means to ask, whereas worship is to adore. If a Catholic says he “prays to Mary” it’s perceived as worship by many Protestants, but the Catholic it simply making a request that Mary intercede for us — the same as when my dad asked me to intercede for him. In Catholicism there is a big difference between pray and worship. DVD_Mary_01We honor, love and venerate Mary. We ask her to pray for us. But we worship God ALONE! For more on this and other Marian topics, all filmed on location in the Holy Land, check out my documentary MARY, MOTHER OF GOD here.

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Cardinal John Henry Newman converted to the Catholic faith. He played a big part in my own converseion. He has a unique and beautiful understanding of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  You can read it below or at Aletia here.

Why the Assumption made perfect sense to Newman, and what it meant for him

BLESSED JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

The great convert to the faith understood how it could be that Mary is so powerful … and so beloved.

Even as a Protestant, Blessed John Henry Newman had a high view of the Lord’s Mother. He knew the Scriptures inside out, and the Church Fathers as well. That made the Assumption a “Well, duh” matter for him when he became a Catholic, even though it wasn’t yet a defined dogma. The great thing about him in this case is that he shows how the dogma fits everything else. It’s not a devotional add-on to the Faith, but part of God’s great story.Newman had been one of the stars of the Church of England, and he gave that up to become a Catholic. He entered the Church in 1845, at the age of 44. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2010. He’s the consensus greatest theologian to write in English.

The biblical story points to the Assumption

As Newman says often in his writings, God’s revelation is a whole, a complete thing, with all the parts related to all the others. The Scriptures don’t mention the Assumption, but lots of things in the biblical story point to it.

He saw something of this as a Protestant minister. “Who can estimate the holiness and perfection of her, who was chosen to be the Mother of Christ?” he said in a sermon delivered in 1835. The implied answer is that none of us can estimate it, because it’s so great. We’re not holy enough to have any idea how holy was the woman God prepared to be the Mother of His Son. But we know from the Gospel story that she will be supremely holy.

Not everyone gets this. One of Newman’s and my fellow Anglicans (a minister, in fact) once said to me that Mary was only “the delivery system” by which Christ became incarnate. After his birth, he said, she didn’t matter anymore. He would have said the Assumption was complete nonsense, had I asked, but I wisely didn’t. Strange but true.

But Newman got it, because he knew the Scriptures so well. Even as an Anglican, he saw that because “the Creator Spirit condescended to overshadow [Mary] with His miraculous presence,” she would have a “transcendent purity.” Then he asked: “What must have been her gifts, who was chosen to be the only near earthly relative of the Son of God, the only one whom He was bound by nature to revere and look up to; the one appointed to train and educate Him, to instruct Him day by day, as He grew in wisdom and stature?” He doesn’t answer the question, because he thinks the answer’s obvious: Her gifts were huge, great, vast.

The matter goes even deeper, he adds. What, he asks, “was the sanctified state of that human nature, of which God formed His sinless Son”? He quotes God speaking in Job, saying “nothing can bring a clean thing out of an unclean.” In other words, to bear the perfect sinless Son of God, Mary must be sinless herself — as Catholics would say, immaculately conceived.

The Assumption

You can see why when Newman became a Catholic, the Assumption made perfect sense to him. He saw that Mary, being the Mother of God, would get everything Her Son had to give. In particular, that she’d get everything he’d given others.

You can find much of his writing on Mary in his wonderful book Meditations and Devotions. You can find more of his reflections in a modern collection called The Mystical Rose.

This is one of the ways God gave Mary what he gave others. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that at the Resurrection many of the saints rose from the dead and walked into Jerusalem. “The holy Prophets, Priests, and Kings of former times rose again in anticipation of the last day,” Newman writes. Then he says: “Can we suppose that Abraham, or David, or Isaias, or Ezechias, should have been thus favoured, and not God’s own Mother?” Obviously no.

Had she not a claim on the love of her Son to have what any others had? Was she not nearer to Him than the greatest of the Saints before her? And is it conceivable that the law of the grave should admit of relaxation in their case, and not in hers? Therefore we confidently say that our Lord, having preserved her from sin and the consequences of sin by His Passion, lost no time in pouring out the full merits of that Passion upon her body as well as her soul.

He saw other reasons to believe in the Assumption from Scripture alone. For one, God had created Adam and Eve without sin. They would not have “crumbled into dust” if they hadn’t sinned. Having never sinned, Mary “retained the gift which Eve by sinning lost.” To put it simply: If Mary is the New Eve, she would be assumed into Heaven.

In other words, if you believe what all Christians believe, even if you’re not Catholic, you should believe that as Pope Pius XII declared in 1950: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

What the Assumption meant to him

But what did the Assumption mean to Newman? What was the point? He didn’t write anything directly devotional or personal about it, but we get hints from his other writings.

Here’s one in which he talks about the power of prayer to change this world. “This is why the Blessed Virgin is called Powerful — nay, sometimes, All-powerful, because she has, more than anyone else, more than all Angels and Saints, this great, prevailing gift of prayer,” he says.

No one has access to the Almighty as His Mother has; none has merit such as hers. Her Son will deny her nothing that she asks; and herein lies her power. While she defends the Church, neither height nor depth, neither men nor evil spirits, neither great monarchs, nor craft of man, nor popular violence, can avail to harm us; for human life is short, but Mary reigns above, a Queen for ever.

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A man named and Alan posted a comment on my blog. He claims that he was once a Catholic and therefore he is eminently qualified to comment on Catholics reading Bibles. He said they don’t read Bibles and they “don’t even own Bibles”. His ignorant exaggerations discredit everything else he says but I still thought it would be interesting to respond to him with a few facts for the education of everyone else.

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To Steve Ray:
As one who was raised in the Catholic Church: St. Luke (GS); St. Edward (HS); John Carroll University, graduate I am uniquely qualified to comment on Catholics relationship with the Holy Bible. Fact, as a general rule, Catholics do not read the Holy Bible. Catholics do not enter Church with a copy of the Holy Bible in tow.

While I do not recall being told not to read the Bible, Catholics simply relied on the weekly homily delivered by the priest. Bible message references to be sure, but no Catholics following along or reading the Bible during the homily. Sorry Steve, iss fun to pretend Catholics are "in their Bible," they simply do not own one. Time for you to get real, my friend.

STEVE RAY HERE IN RESPONSE:
Alan, First of all, thanks for sharing your thoughts on my blog. Second of all, you are not uniquely qualified since you only went to a very limited number of Catholic churches in a very limited space and time. The Catholic Church is been around for 2000 years. How old are you?

Second, Catholic Bibles are one of the hottest things being sold right now. I am a Catholic and I study the Bible all the time and I know many many others who do. So you’re sweeping generalizations discredit everything else you say.

I’d also like to remind you that no one had their own Bible up until the last couple hundred years. First of all, thanks for sharing your thoughts on my blog. Second of all, you are not uniquely qualified since you only went to a very limited number of Catholic churches in a very limited space and time. The Catholic Church has been around for 2000 years. How old are you?

Second, Catholic Bibles are one of the hardest things aren’t being sold right now. I’m a Catholic and I studied the Bible all the time and I know many many others who do. So you’re sweeping generalizations discredit everything else you say.

I’d also like to remind you that no one had their own Bible up until the last couple hundred years. First of all the Bible wasn’t even collected and put together in a book until the end of the fourth century. For the next thousand years a Bible cost the equivalent of three year’s wages which meant that even you would not be able to afford to carry a Bible to church and follow along with your “pastor“.

Carrying a Bible to church is a relatively new idea. On top of that, for those who believe that you should read the Bible for yourself as the primary way to be a real Christian, one must remember that for most of history 90% of the people or more were illiterate and even today 50% of the world cannot read or do not even have the Bible yet printed in their language.

That is why the Church, and by that I mean the Catholic Church, which has been here for 2000 years, reads large sections of scripture every day at Mass and all through history people listen to those and often memorized them because they didn’t have their own Bibles or couldn’t read. Even today in places where there is no written language the Catholic Church continues to provide the word of God along with healthcare and education which protestants unhappily don’t do very much.

And are you aware Alan, that the Bible was originally written with the intention of being read out loud to a group. It was not intended to be read silently to yourself. In fact it wasn’t until the fourth century that Saint Ambrose started the very unusual practice of reading the Bible silently to himself instead of having it read out loud.

If you took a Christian from the first four centuries and put them in a Baptist church today, they would have no idea where they are or what was going on. However, if you put a first century Christian in a Catholic Church today, except for the strange clothes and different language, they would know exactly where they are and what is going on because it’s the same liturgy that has been celebrated on Sundays since the beginning.

If you don’t believe that, read Justin Martyr who gave the first written account of what was done on Sunday mornings and you’ll find out that what we are doing today in the Catholic Church is exactly what the early Christians did from the 1st century.

In summary, we would welcome you back to the true Church and when you read your Bible remember it was the bishop’s and councils of the Catholic Church to determine which books belonged to the canon, put it together and copied it and passed it down through the generations — Protestants that read their Bibles today (which happen to be very few and that I know because I used to be one) have the Catholic Church to thank for the book.

Here’s a truth you may want to memorize along with John 3:16. “To be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant.”

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

June 1, 2019

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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Did Jesus Ascend into Heaven from Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12) or from Bethany (Luke 24:50)?

May 30, 2019

Today is Ascension Thursday. The Ascension always falls on a Thursday, 40 days after Resurrection Sunday. Then 9 days of praying in the Upper Room (1st Novena) and on the 50th day from the Resurrection the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost. Pentecost means “the fiftieth day.” One of our past pilgrims wrote to me expressing […]

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Visitation and Responding to Protestant Objections to Mary, Ark of the New Covenant

May 29, 2019

A while ago I wrote a somewhat comprehensive article on Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant and then a follow up with Quotes from the Fathers of the Church. Recently a Protestant seminarian wrote an email with objections to my article. My good friend Gary Michuta, a class act apologist, did me the […]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

May 16, 2019

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it […]

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Is there Evidence for Jesus outside the Bible?

May 13, 2019

Some people may think Jesus is a mythical figure like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Others think Jesus might be historical but only mentioned in the Bible is the only source of information on the existence of Jesus. They question whether Jesus really existed as a real historical figure. Is the Bible the only […]

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The Eucharist: the Flesh Profits Nothing

May 12, 2019

Since we are in Capernaum today, I decided to share a few words related to the site. I was recently asked a related questions questionic Answers Live. Capernaum is where Jesus said “Eat My Flesh; Drink My Blood.” I thought it would be appropriate to answer an e-mail I received a while ago from a man named […]

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Interesting Explanation of Baptism from Protestant Dictionary – “baptism…in itself is unimportant”

May 11, 2019

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they […]

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C. S. Lewis and the “Apologetics of Longing”

May 7, 2019

I did not write the article down below, following my intro here – I wish I had. It was written by Daniel Morley about C. S. Lewis who has always been one of my favorite authors both in my Protestant years and now in my much fuller and richer Catholic experience. Lewis was brilliant. He […]

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“This Is My Body” – Meaning What? :-)

May 2, 2019
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Mary, Ark of the New Covenant & the Visitation to Elizabeth

May 1, 2019

Read my article about Mary, typology and reading the Bible with the Fathers of the Church and the Visitation. It was published in 2005 in Catholic Answers Magazine but is as relevant today as then, as relevant now as in the 1st century.. Click HERE for the whole article. Click HERE for the full article.

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Is Scripture Sufficient…

April 29, 2019

Someone wrote a friend of mine asserting that 2 Timothy 3:16 proved that Scripture alone was all we needed. The famous passage reads, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” […]

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How Many Churches Did Jesus Intend?

April 28, 2019

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father… so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent […]

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How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb? Another Contradiction?

April 20, 2019

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:38-40) Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb […]

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