Theology

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My Thoughts While Waiting In Line for Confession

by Steve Ray on September 2, 2018

190771.image0My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines :-)  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we believed when we were Evangelical Protestants.

We had a dinner scheduled afterward with an Evangelical who would hold confession with disdain. “All we need to do is confess to Jesus himself, not a priest.” Why would they think that way? Because of a fundamental difference in perspective on what the Church is. Is the Church an invisible association of lovers of Jesus or is it a familial organization with a government?

Jesus said, “I will build my Church (not churches)” and later says, “If your brother sins…take it to the Church.” (Matt 16:18; 18:15, 17). Jesus also gives the authority men to forgive or retain sins (Jn 20:23). If the words of Jesus mean anything, there must be an authority in the Church and it needs to be worldwide and we need to know where to find it. If a Baptist brother sins against a Methodist brother, where is the church with authority that can deal with the issue? There is no such mechanism among Protestants.

Pentecost-lgThere were 120 people in the Upper Room and that is significant because in Jewish society it was necessary to have 120 people to leave the larger community (city) to start their own community with courts, judges, binding and loosing. Even the Israeli Knesset today has 120 members. The Church IS that new community. The Greek word for “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means the “called out ones.”

Called out for what? To be a new society, a new city, a new community, a new kingdom. The Church is the new Israel, so we would expect it to be similar in structure and authority. This “Church” would necessarily have laws and rules, the authority to legislate and to adjudicate. In short, using the biblical terms, the authority to “bind and loose.”

Vatican-II-Inside-St-Peter-s-C-David-LeesThis government, this Church, this family was never promised perfect sinless leaders. That has been proven in spades throughout history and in vivid color this summer. But just because there are rogues who often infiltrate the leadership does not negate the truth of this one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Even Jesus had a Judas in his small band. We don’t leave Jesus and Peter because of Judas. If it can last for 2,000 years with every conceivable onslaught having thrown at it–and it still exists around the world bringing us the grace and forgiveness of God, laws and courts, beauty and worship–it is obvious that it is not from man but from God.

Sitting in the line for confession I realized that by virtue of my being there, I was acknowledging that I am part of something bigger than just “me and Jesus.” I was part of the governmental entity that was started in the Upper Room and continues today. I am accountable to Jesus, yes. But he is building a Church and I am a member of this new visible kingdom. My going to confession is a clear statement of that fact and of my submission to and recognition of that kingdom’s authority.

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Mom and Dad visiting graves of our ancestors

I am reposting this because of the huge response two years ago. Thought it would be helpful again for many people who have lost their spouse.

My dad died almost eight years ago. Mom misses Dad and was discouraged about Mark 12:25 which her paraphrased Living Bible improperly rendered “will not be married” in heaven.

I wrote the following to comfort my Mom…

Mom, I know it is important to you since Dad’s death as you look forward to eternity and speculate about relationships in heaven. It is important to me too, knowing I want to be with my wife Janet in heaven.

You quoted Mark 12:25 from the Living Bible where it says husbands and wives “won’t be married in heaven.” It is the Living Bible translation – which is not a translation but a paraphrase – that renders the words “they won’t be married.” The paraphrased Living Bible takes great liberties and is quite inaccurate.

Here is how other Protestant translations translate the verse (since I know you like the Protestant translations even though the Catholic Bibles word it the same):

The King James Version renders it:
“For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”

New American Standard Bible says:
“For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

New International Version (NIV) says:
“When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

No reputable translation translates this in a way to deny there are people continuing in love with earthly spouses. The original Greek language says there is no giving or taking in marriage. In other words, there will be no weddings in heaven.

Interestingly it says that before the flood the people were “marrying and giving in marriage” until the flood came. But after the flood Noah and his wife in the ark were still married :-) And their kids continued to marry and give in marriage.

There will be male and female distinctions in heaven. Jesus appeared as male after his resurrection. Mary is seen in heaven as a woman (Revelation 12:1). Marriage will be known in heaven since the Church is the Bride and there will be the great marriage in heaven with Jesus the Bridegroom and the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

The Pharisees set up a trap for Jesus in Mark 12:18-27. They propose a situation with seven brothers. The first marries a wife and dies with no children. The second brother “takes” the woman to procreate children for his brother. This was the law of the Jews — a brother must take the wife of his dead brother to preserve his brother’s name in the land by propagating offspring for him with his widow.) This happens seven times. Who’s wife will she be in heaven.

The woman who was the wife of the seven brothers did not marry the seven brothers.  She married the first and was given to the six in order to procreate children in the name of the first.  All their children would be credited to her first husband who was her true love and spouse.

The Old Testament law was very careful to preserve the land and the family heritage. If a man died without a son his brother was to take his widow and have relations with her to continue his brother’s family line. The brother was called a kinsman-redeemer. Here is a good biblical dictionary explanation,

“The role of kinsman-redeemer is found in Leviticus 25, in the case of an Israelite man’s death in which he fails to leave behind a son, the brother of the deceased man is commanded to take his widow as wife and both redeem the land and provide a son to carry on the deceased father’s name. This is Boaz’s alleged position as indicated by Naomi in Ruth 2:20 and it is this responsibility that Ruth pleads with Boaz to fulfill. Being the godly man that he is, Boaz graciously receives Ruth’s offer, but communicates that he is not the nearest kinsman-redeemer (Ruth 3:12). However, he promises that as soon as morning breaks, he will look into the situation. Additionally, he supplies Ruth with six measures of barley. Through a series of events, the door opens for Boaz to fulfill his position as kinsman-redeemer. With the greatest hesed (compassionate loving-kindness), Boaz rises to the task of becoming kinsman-redeemer.” (http://www.ligonier.org/blog/ultimate-kinsman-redeemer/)

The first husband is the real husband of the woman. The others were simply “kinsman redeemers” who would procure offspring with the widow so her husband would continue to have heirs to continue his line in Israel.

Jesus is not intending to teach on relationships in heaven but he is refuting the Sadducees’ denial of the existence of angels and the resurrection. He is cleverly eluding their question and in no way denies husbands and wives will know and love each other in heaven. This is not a treatise on relationships in heaven but a clever response to his opponents about the existence of the supernatural world.

Mom and Dad with my older sister Patty c. 1940

The purpose of marriage was companionship and procreation. The propagation of children and the population of the earth was God’s plan for marriage on earth. The meeting of sperm and egg will not be needed in heaven.”Marital love” to produce children will not happen in heaven so marriage in that sense will not exist. But that does not eliminate the continuance of earthly relationship.

We will recognize each other in heaven just as the three disciples recognized Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration and John recognized Mary in heaven (Rev 12:1).

Family and matrimony are very important in Scripture and the way God fashioned the universe and created man and woman to be one flesh. There must be spiritual discernment here. The reason why the Jews buried family members together is because they will rest together in heaven. There is a spiritual permanence to family. And an extraordinarily strong spiritual permanence to matrimony. This is why it is described as “one flesh”.

We will not know and love less in heaven – we will know and love more. And can we comprehend that God would command us to love each other down here and would expect us to forget or deny that love in heaven?

Interestingly, Doctor of the Church St. John Chrysostom, in writing on fidelity in marriage said that young husbands should tell their wives, “I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us.… I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you. (CCC 2365, St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Eph. 20, 8: PG 62, 146–147.)

Would God work to perfect something here on earth, even a sacrament, and not consider it important in heaven?

Nothing in Scripture leads us to believe that relationships between spouses will be eliminated. There is every reason to believe relations will be maintained in heaven though for different reasons – enhanced reasons which we will understand when we get there.

We cannot understand our new spiritual bodies and heavenly existence any more than a caterpillar can comprehend what it will be like to be a butterfly. We cannot anticipate how personal relationships will flower in glory any more than acorn can anticipate standing 50 feet tall.

I’m convinced you and dad will have a wonderful and much better relationship. It will be different. We cannot even comprehend how much better or more in love we’ll be with our spouses, any more than an unborn baby can speculate about the taste of a delicious steak dinner.

Mom and Dad’s Wedding in 1939 (middle couple)

Referring to Jesus’ words J. Vernon McGee 9 (one of your favorite Baptist preachers) writes, “This doesn’t mean that a man and a woman who were together down here can’t be together in heaven. They won’t be together as man and wife. They are not establishing a home up there, nor are they raising children. That’s the thing that He’s saying to them here.”

Marriage is an earthly word to serve an earthly purpose. Marital relationships, on the other hand, will transcend time because love is forever. Faith and hope will pass away but love will never pass away (1 Cor 13:13).

Dad is sitting in his favorite chair having coffee with Our Lord Jesus waiting for you to arrive to love you better than ever before. In the meantime he is praying for you and very intent on your well being.

I also asked Mom to read Hebrews 12:1. “

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”  This is the language of sports. We on earth are running a race. Heaven in the goal. And who is cheering us on? A whole stadium full of cheering crowds. “Run, run!” and who are these crowds? The saints in heaven. 

I told my mom, “Dad is in heaven watching and cheering you on! Of course he knows what is going on down here and is anxious for you to run and win the race and join him in the stands to cheer on the rest of your family and loved ones.”

(Thanks to De Maria for suggestions and insights which I have included)

Further thoughts from Whalter:

The divine declaration was that it was “not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18) The text reveals that God and the man enjoyed a genuine, interactive relationship in the pristine environment of the garden (Gen 2:15-19, 17; 3:8­-9), but God had created man as a relational being a being with capacity for a relationship with God, as well as a capacity, indeed, need for relationship with others like himself.

This divinely created need for companionship and relationship was part of the original creation to which the new creation returns. Granted, after man’s lapse into sin in the garden, the need for relationship in humanity was seriously marred and deformed.

Mom and Dad in 2006

But, did God declare a law of marriage in a perfect world?  There is no such law. There were no laws of marriage imposed on Adam and Eve either. The only laws were “Don’t eat from that tree” and ” Be fruitful, start multiplying”.

They were made man and wife. In a perfect world, no laws of marriage were needed…But, they were commanded to have sex and multiply. This is what made Adam and Eve to be man and wife. She came out of his rib.

This made them related. Was this a law or an act of God? What law of marriage was imposed upon Adam and Eve? In the portion of Scripture above, God was silent. Adam did all the talking. Adam was prophesying about FUTURE relationships (Adam didn’t have a Mom and Dad).

God didn’t need a law to make Adam and Eve to be man and wife. In a perfect world, no laws of marriage were needed. Why would you even need laws of marriage in a perfect world?

In a perfect world, when God did the pairing, no law was needed. Adam and Eve were made to be man and wife while they were in an immortal state intended to be forever without death.

So, did God intend for them to be man and wife forever? In Heaven, will God undo what He originally did in a perfect world? Think about that. In a manner of speaking, will He return Eve back to the rib and stop their relationship which he made and said was good? God will not undo any laws of marriage over Adam and Eve because there never were any to begin with. They will have their bodies and a wonderfully fulfilled loving relationship, though they will no longer be procreating children.

Heaven will be a perfect world, and no laws of marriage will be needed there either. Jesus made it very clear that in the age to come there will be no laws of marriage, no earthly ceremonies, no contracts being made where the father gets paid to sell his daughter (given in marriage).

Yet, as in the perfect state of union that Adam and Eve had — a relationship God made them to need and to have — in heaven he will not undo what he did in the Garden. A man will know and love his counterpart that God gave him. They will love each other in that relationship for all eternity. Mom and Dad will still be “married.”

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Pope Francis and Capital Punishment

August 4, 2018

Excellent article by Edward Feser in First Thing Magazine that puts Pope Francis misstep in perspective … ********************** “In a move that should surprise no one, Pope Francis has once again appeared to contradict two millennia of clear and consistent scriptural and Catholic teaching. The Vatican has announced that the Catechism of the Catholic Church will […]

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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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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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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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A Quick Reply to Question about Cremation and Scattering the Ashes

May 15, 2018

I was asked a question about Catholics, cremation and the scattering of ash. Here is my brief answer: The whole issue of cremation goes back to the Romans. They denied the bodily resurrection so they often burned the body and if they were rich they put the ashes in urns and put them in the […]

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Cardinal Burke Speaks on the Confusion in the Church and the Need for Bishops to Speak Out

May 7, 2018

Here is a real prince of the Church. God bless him. The following interview on current events in the Church with George Weigel is also excellent. You may also want to read “The German Church Divided” in the Catholic Thing. This regards communion for divorced and civilly remarried and communion for Protestants. Also Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s […]

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

May 2, 2018

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It […]

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Is DOGMA an Oppressive Catholic Word?

April 29, 2018

When I was an Evangelical Protestant, I thought DOGMA was a dirty word. It had bad connotations. It represented unbiblical teaching forced down people’s throats by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They invented new doctrines not found in the Bible and then called them dogmas and told Christians if they didn’t believe them — […]

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Why Can’t Evangelicals See the Eucharist?

April 24, 2018

I was recently asked why Evangelicals cannot see the Eucharist and Real Presence in the Bible. This person said that when they read the Bible it seems so clear — especially John 6 where Jesus says “Unless you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood . . .” and at the Last Supper when he […]

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Simple Chart on Hierarchy of Authority, Infallibility, Dogma and Doctrine in the Catholic Church

April 20, 2018

From Jimmy Akin: Periodically, I’m asked what the difference is between dogma and doctrine. People have the idea that they are kinds of Church teaching, but they’re not sure precisely what the difference is (or even if there is one). To help folks understand this, I’ve created an infographic that shows how dogma and doctrine […]

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What Do We Mean by “Unanimous Consent of the Fathers”

April 19, 2018

Unanimous Consent of the Fathers By Steve Ray The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by […]

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How Big Was Jesus in Mary’s Womb at the Visitation – and what could he do?

April 8, 2018

“How big was baby Jesus in Mary’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth?” That is the question I asked myself while visiting the Church of the Visitation in Israel. What I learned was quite revolutionary and amazing. This is one of the best pro-life arguments from Scripture and one I’ve not heard discussed before. It also […]

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“He Descended into Hell” – a very lyrically and beautifully stated ancient homily

March 31, 2018

The Lord’s Descent into Hell By an anonymous ancient homilist SATURDAY, MARCH 31, 2018  Posted on The Catholic Thing (which you should definitely subscribe to :-) What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and […]

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