Was Mary the Mother of John the Baptist, too?

Aaron's Rod Blossoming
There is a reason the Scriptures never refer to Aaron’s Rod Blossoming as a figure for Jesus.

In Rome’s unwavering efforts to honor Mary with the accolades of immaculacy, the mantle of inviolable purity, the admiration of angels and the veneration of men, there is an unfortunate tendency to see Mary in every reference in the Bible. It would seem that there is not a verse in the Old Testament that does not prefigure her: she is the “land of Havilah” in Genesis 2:11. She is, at once, Noah’s Ark, the dove he released, and the olive branch it returned. She is Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, from which the Almonds of Jesus grew. She is Jesse’s Rod from which the branch of Jesus sprung (for “rod” in Latin is “virga,” which must refer to the Virgin), and she was present when the Spirit blew upon the seas at creation (for the Latin word for “seas” is “maria,” which must refer to Mary). She is the virgin soil from which Adam was made, and she is the cloud that led the Hebrews out of Egypt. She is Gideon’s fleece, the temple, the tabernacle, the ark, as well as the golden urn containing the manna within it. When David danced, he danced for her, and what Moses saw in the burning bush prefigured her—she was at the same time the flame and the unconsumed wood of the bush. She is even prefigured in the rotting manna, and Jesus is prefigured by the worms that fed on it.

There are, of course, dangers in finding Mary in everything, Continue reading Was Mary the Mother of John the Baptist, too?

Justification by Works

Fruitbearing faith justifies apart from good works.
Roman Catholics would do well to believe that Abraham and Rahab were justified by their works, instead of just saying it.

The Roman Catholic position on James 2:24 is well known and ancient. “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” By these words, the Roman Catholic system of “gracious merit” for salvation by works is established, and those who believe the Roman gospel, “by those very works … have truly merited eternal life” (Council of Trent, 6th Session, Decree on Justification, Chapter 16). By James 2:24 the foundation of the Protestant religion collapses, for if “justification by faith alone” is the article upon which the Church stands or falls, says the Roman Catholic, then the Protestant religion is in vain.

But James himself says differently. It is truly remarkable that an epistle that is about authentic faith has become the centerpiece of the Roman Catholic doctrine of a final justification by works “before the judgment-seat of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Council of Trent, 6th Session, Decree on Justification, Chapter 7). But as we shall see, James was talking about something very, very different. Continue reading Justification by Works

Justification by Words

Justification by Words
Roman Catholicism teaches that Justification by Words is the same as Justification by Works. They are not the same thing.

When Jason Stellman converted to Roman Catholicism, one of the bible verses that convinced him was Matthew 12:36-37,

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Stellman believes that this text supports a future justification based on works, and was persuaded that he could no longer read it through a Protestant lens. So in his words, he switched glasses, started reading it through a Roman Catholic lens, and concluded that there will be a future justification based on works. But a closer reading of Matthew 12, as we shall see, reveals that he missed something very important. Jesus actually gave two examples of what He was talking about, and it is not what Stellman thinks. Continue reading Justification by Words

Why We Should Read Romans Jealously

Jealous Eyes
We should read Romans as if Paul was trying to make the Jews jealous. Because he was. (Romans 11:11-14)

We have spent the last week or so talking about interpreting Romans through the lens of the Jealousy Narrative. The Jealousy Narrative is imposed on salvation history by God Himself, Who said that, because the Jews had made Him jealous “with that which is not God,” He would make them jealous “with those which are not a people” (Deuteronomy 32:21). The Jealousy Narrative is seen in many places in Scripture. For example: Continue reading Why We Should Read Romans Jealously

Throwing God Off the Cliff

The scales of justice
The Jews thought it was unfair for God to “render to each according to his deeds.”

In Romans 2:6-10, we read what appears to be an explicit statement of salvation by works: God will render to each according to his deeds—eternal life to those who do well and “worketh good,” and wrath to those who “doeth evil” and disobey. Roman apologist Tim Staples of Catholic Answers explains the Roman Catholic interpretation:

Paul made very clear in Romans 2:6-8 that good works are necessary for attaining eternal life.

He cites James 2:24, as well. As we noted, Jason Stellman, a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, made the same point in his response to our post, “Romans 2:13 and the Jealousy Narrative.” There is a simple answer to Rome’s interpretation here, but to understand Paul and James, we will spend a few moments with Ezekiel, because  both apostles appeal to him so explicitly. They both implore us to be doers of the law, and not hearers only (Romans 2:13, James 1:23-24), and they get this from Ezekiel:

… they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.  … for they hear thy words, but they do them not. (Ezekiel 33:31-32)

There are other examples of their use of Ezekiel. Continue reading Throwing God Off the Cliff

“The Blonde Kids Are On Our Ticket”

Four Cute Kids
They are not mine because they look like me. They look like me because they are mine.

My wife and I are both blonde, and our kids received that attribute from us. We often dine out with another family, of which both parents and all children are brunettes. We usually get separate checks, yet our families are mixed together at the table, so we make it easy for the waiter: “The blonde kids are all on our ticket.” If the waiter separated the ticket based on which side people were seated, our bill would include the dinner of some brunettes, and their bill would include some blondes. In an environment where there are two types of people that need to be distinguished, it is easier to highlight their outward attributes than their inward ones.

But it would be a mistake to say that I pay for their dinner because they are blonde. I pay for their dinner because they are mine, and you can tell they are mine by the color of their hair. There is no causal link between their hair color and my provision for them. Continue reading “The Blonde Kids Are On Our Ticket”

Romans 2:13 and The Jealousy Narrative

Paul wrote the letter to the Roman Gentiles in order to make the Jews jealous. (Romans 11:12-14)

Late last week, we observed that Jason Stellman, a former Presbyterian minister turned Roman Catholic, succumbed to Roman arguments on the meaning of Romans 2:13, which says “the doers of the law shall be justified.” Stellman expressed in his conversion testimony that he had to rethink his exegesis in light of Roman Catholic arguments, and could no longer justify the exegetical gymnastics he used to perform in order to force Romans 2:13 to fit into his “faith alone” paradigm. After conversations with Roman apologists, Stellman could no longer deny the plain meaning of the passage, and agreed that justification cannot be by faith alone. In that post, we agreed to provide an exegesis that shows that Romans 2:13 is much simpler to expound than Stellman realizes. The sheep of Christ must not be led astray by Stellman’s inability to see what the passage states so plainly.

To understand Romans 2:13, let us go all the way back to Moses, and the rampant idolatry of the Israelites: “They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they Him to anger” (Deuteronomy 32:16). Because of their idolatry, Moses prophesied, God would one day stir the Jews to jealousy by a foolish nation: Continue reading Romans 2:13 and The Jealousy Narrative

Painting a target around the arrow

Painting the Target
Roman apologists accuse Protestants of painting the target after we’ve already shot the arrow.

Some time ago I listened to the conversion testimony of Jason Stellman, a former Presbyterian (PCA) pastor who converted to Roman Catholicism. His conversion story is rather unremarkable, and I am not surprised by his inability to withstand Rome’s overtures. The modern Christian church spends entirely too much energy trying to prevent Christians from criticizing Rome, and hardly any energy equipping the saints to resist and destroy Rome’s untenable epistemology.

Stellman is a product of an anemic church, and his inability to withstand the follies of Rome is entirely unsurprising. If Stellman cannot understand Romans 2:13 Continue reading Painting a target around the arrow