M. C. Escher’s Drawing Hands shows two drawn hands drawing each other, each hand getting its power to draw from the other. True to Escher’s style, a paradox is presented to the eye of the beholder, and the paradox is never resolved—the eye must continually move from one object to the other. Each time the eye settles on an apparently solid 3-dimensional object that can make sense of the rest of the picture, the paradox reappears. The search for the original, “authoritative” hand never ends.
We believe this is a good illustration of Roman Catholicism’s view of Tradition because Tradition is based on what Rome teaches, and what Rome teaches is based on Tradition. We gave an example of this in our recent post, All the Way Back. In that post, Roman priest and Marian devotee, Fr. Thomas Livius, showed the origins of Marian doctrines from the Fathers of the first six centuries. When he arrived at the teachings of Origen, Basil and Cyril—that the sword that pierced Mary’s soul (Luke 2:35) was the sword of doubt and unbelief—rather than accept that the early church understood that Mary was sinful, Livius spends his next three pages correcting Origen, as well as Basil and Cyril who agreed with him.
Last week, we highlighted the attempts by Fr. William G. Most to extract an infallible teaching from the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. (The Magisterium is essentially the pope and the bishops who are in communion with him.) By studying the teachings of the Magisterium, William Most thought he had discovered how to arrive at an infallible teaching. By way of example, to prove that it is an infallible teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that Mary’s physical virginity was uncompromised when Christ was born, all Most had to do was demonstrate repetition by popes and councils. Surely, Fr. Most thought, repetition is evidence of an intent to teach infallibly:
A doctrine taught with multiple papal approval plus that of Vatican II should be called infallible, for these texts show the intention to make it definitive by their repetition.
By this standard, we can conclude that it is an infallible doctrine of the Roman Church that it is Mary who will crush the head of the serpent in Genesis 3:15. After all, multiple popes and at least one council have confirmed this. The Council of Trent made Jerome’s translation of the Vulgate the official translation of the Roman Catholic Church. Jerome’s translation of Genesis 3:15 indicates that it is Mary who will crush the head of the serpent. Here is the English rendering of the Roman Catholic translation of that verse: Continue reading Why “Infallibility” Doesn’t Work→
In 897 AD, Pope Stephen VII had Pope Formosus’ body exhumed and put on trial at the infamous Cadaver Synod, during which the corpse was found guilty, and stripped of his papal vestments. Pope Theodore II later convened a synod and overturned Pope Stephen’s findings, as did Pope John IX after him. But later, Pope Sergius III overturned the rulings of Theodore II and John IX, and reaffirmed the conviction of Formosus. Perhaps Formosus’ corpse will find some little comfort in the knowledge that it is still—at least for now—listed on Rome’s “unbroken line of popes” currently on display at the Vatican.
We find a papal corpse a particularly fitting background image for this post on infallibility’s fatal flaw. The Roman Pontiff, in order that the Church may share in Christ’s infallibility, says the Catechism, “enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 891). But there is one problem: nobody knows when the Pope is speaking infallibly, nobody knows how often a pope has spoken infallibly, and nobody knows what the criteria are for when a pope is speaking infallibly. Continue reading Infallibility’s Fatal Flaw→
The pattern for Rome is this: “we already know this to be true, so there is no error in creating evidence to support it.” This is why I call ‘Tradition’ the historical revisionism that it clearly is.
It is nonetheless a true, and verifiable statement. John Henry Cardinal Newman, one of the most famous converts to Rome from the Church of England, was a prolific writer and, after his conversion, a staunch apologist for Rome. He provides one of the best examples in recent memory of an apologist who was committed to the circularity of Roman epistemology: “we already know this to be true, so there is no error in creating evidence to support it.” When commenting on A Legend of St. Gundleus, Newman not only allows for adding fictional dialogues to the gospel narrative—he insists that it is necessary. Continue reading “Truth” received on no authority at all→
The Christian who must wrestle with Roman Catholic apologists (trained and untrained) will often hear them appeal to the ancient, non-scriptural, sources as proof of what the Apostles taught. We dealt with a part of that issue in a prior post about going all the way back to the written Word, instead of just going back to the first few post-apostolic generations. We acknowledge that some foundational Roman Catholic errors emerged early in the post-apostolic era, as Paul predicted they would (Acts 20:30-32), but we deny that those errors must be canonized along with God’s revelation to us in the Holy Bible. Ancient unbiblical teachings do not become more biblical with the passage of time.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Word of God is transmitted to the Church by Tradition, the Scriptures and the Magisterium (i.e., popes, councils, etc…). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (81),
Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.
Christians hold to Sola Scriptura (the written Word of God alone) while Roman Catholics hold to Sola Verbum Dei (the Word of God alone), as transmitted by Tradition, etc… Roman Catholic apologist, Scott Hahn, makes this point nicely in his book, Rome Sweet Home (p. 74). The Roman Catholic Church sees “Tradition” as part of the Word of God, and thus, it makes little sense (to Roman Catholics) when Christians say that Rome’s “Tradition” goes against “the Word of God.” Tradition, to them, is the Word of God.
Therefore, to the Roman apologist, there is no tension when Tradition includes doctrines not explicitly included in the Bible. Tradition merely helps us understand what Scripture means. This leads to some interesting arguments, like this one from Roman apologist Robert Sungenis, who says, if Roman Catholic teachings are in the Bible, then I should be able to find them somewhere else. Continue reading All the Way Back→
Let us first answer the question with an emphatic, No! The Scripture says that God owes no man anything, and He has no need of anything that man may offer or produce. The reason is that He already owns everything. What does He need from us that is not already His for the taking?
“The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalms 24:1)
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” (Psalms 50:10-12)
One of the most fervent forms of devotion in Roman Catholicism is to the visions of Mary, commonly called “apparitions.” For many centuries, in many locations around the world, Mary is alleged to have appeared to visionaries of the Roman Catholic Church. These visionaries typically report conversations with Mary, and the apparition of Mary has many times delivered messages that have been documented through the official channels of the Roman Catholic Church. There have been many hundreds of alleged apparitions throughout history, but only a few have been approved officially by the Roman Catholic Church. These few are considered to be actual bodily appearances of Mary, and therefore “worthy of belief.” Among them are the Apparitions of Mary at Guadalupe, Mexico (1531); Paris, France (1830); La Salette, France (1846); Lourdes, France (1858); and Fatima, Portugal (1917).
The approval process for an alleged apparition can take many years, and it is rare for one to be elevated formally to the same level as those listed above. When that approval becomes official, it provides a tremendous amount of insight into the visions of Mary themselves because interviews with the visionaries are meticulously inspected, and the vision’s messages and teachings are rigorously documented through the approval process. It also provides tremendous insight into the Roman Catholic Church, because the teachings of approved apparitions are consistent with Roman Catholic teaching—otherwise they would not have been approved.
I became a believer in 1990, and because I was saved out of Roman Catholicism, and into Christianity, I just assumed all of my fellow Protestants understood why Roman Catholicism was out of accord with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that will offend some people, but let’s be honest. The debate over the true church took place 500 years ago, and both sides—Protestant and Roman Catholic—concluded that the other side was in error. There have been many failed attempts since then to gloss over the differences, but those attempts always fail because one side believes in justification by faith + works, and the other believes in justification by faith alone. The two positions are irreconcilable. Continue reading From the heart→