From p. 15-17 of Eastern Orthodox theologian Vladimir Solovyov’s wonderful work, Russia and the Universal Church:
There is in the Christian Church a materially fixed point, an external and visible center of action, an image and an instrument of the divine power. The apostolic see of Rome, that miraculous ikon of universal Christianity, was directly involved in the Iconoclastic struggle, since all the heresies were in the last resort denials of the reality of that divine incarnation, the permanence of which in the social and political order was represented by Rome. It is indeed historically evident that all the heresies actively supported or passively accepted by the majority of the Greek clergy encountered insuperable opposition from the Roman Church and finally came to grief on this Rock of the Gospel. This is especially true of the Iconoclastic heresy; for in denying all external manifestation of the divine in the world it was making a direct attack on the raison d’être of the Chair of Peter as the real objective center of the visible Church.
The pseudo-Christian Empire of Byzantium was bound to engage in decisive combat with the orthodox Papacy; for the latter was not only the infallible guardian of Christian truth but also the first realization of that truth in the collective life of the human race. To read the moving letters of Pope Gregory II to the barbarous Isaurian Emperor is to realize that the very existence of Christianity was at stake. The outcome of the struggle could not be in doubt; the last of the imperial heresies went the way of its predecessors, and with it the circle of theoretic or dogmatic compromises which Constantine’s successors had attempted between Christian truth and the principle of paganism was finally closed. The era of imperial heresies was followed by the emergence of Byzantine “orthodoxy.” To understand this fresh phase of the anti-Christian spirit we must revert to its origins in the preceding period.
Throughout the history of the great Eastern heresies, extending over five centuries from the time of Arius to that of the last Iconoclasts, we constantly find in the Empire and Church of the East three main parties whose alternating victories and defeats form the framework of this curious evolution. We see in the first place the champions of formal heresy, regularly instigated and supported by the imperial court. From the religious point of view, they represented the reaction of Eastern paganism to Christian truth; politically, they were the declared enemies of that independent ecclesiastical government founded by Jesus Christ and represented by the apostolic see of Rome. They began by conceding to sar [sic], whose protégés they were, unbounded authority not only in the government of the Church but even in matters of doctrine; and when Cæsar, impelled by the orthodox majority of his subjects and by the fear of playing into the hands of the Pope, ended by betraying his own creatures, the leaders of the heretical party sought more solid support elsewhere by exploiting the separatist and semi-pagan tendencies of the various nations which were free, or were aiming at freedom, from the Roman yoke. Thus Arianism, the religion of the Empire under Constantius and Valens, but abandoned by their successors, claimed the allegiance of the Goths and Lombards for centuries; Nestorianism, betrayed by its champion Theodosius II, was for a time welcomed by the Eastern Syrians; and Monophysitism, thrust out from Byzantium in spite of all the efforts of the Emperors, finally became the national religion of Egypt, Abyssinia and Armenia.
At the opposite extreme to this heretical party, trebly anti-Christian — in its religious doctrine, its secularism, and its nationalism — we find the absolutely orthodox Catholic party engaged in defending the purity of the Christian idea against all the pagan compromises and in championing free and worldwide ecclesiastical government against the onslaughts of Cæsaropapism and the aims of national separatism. This party could not count on the favor of earthly powers; of the higher clergy it included only individuals here and there. But it relied on the greatest religious force of those times, the monks, and also on the simple faith of the mass of devout believers, at least in the central parts of the Byzantine Empire. Moreover, these orthodox Catholics found and recognized in the central Chair of St. Peter the mighty palladium [sic] of religious truth and freedom. To indicate the moral weight and ecclesiastical importance of this party, it is enough to say that it was the party of St. Athanasius the Great, of St. John Chrysostom, of St. Flavian, of St. Maximus the Confessor and of St. Theodore of the Studium.
Catholic Analysis, our “sister site”, presents its series on Pope Alexander VI, the poorly-treated blasphemabitur reformator. Here, its posts are listed.
- The Personality of Pope Alexander VI details the pontiff’s personality.
- The Borgia Family deals with the pontiff’s family.
- The Cardinalate of Rodrigo Borgia elaborates on Rodrigo’s time as a cardinal.
- The Election of Pope Alexander VI details Alexander’s election and coronation.
- Pope Alexander VI and the Italians explains Alexander’s connections with the Italians.
- Pope Alexander VI and the French grapples with Alexander’s interesting relations with the French.
- Pope Alexander VI and the Spanish touches on his closeness with his native country.
- The Legacy of Pope Alexander VI gives the rest of his legacy.
Let me try to explain, simply, what the Church teaches on the Trinity vis-à-vis monotheism.
The Trinity’s source is the Father. The Son is “begotten” from Him — not created by Him, “for there is nothing whatever that generates its own existence” (St. Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity, Book I) — and the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son”, “proceeds from” the Two, and is “co-equal” to Them.
All must “honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23) and recognize the Holy Spirit as “the voice of the Lord” (Isaiah 6:8-10, Acts 28:25-27). All are key to the “I Am”, the Logos, the principle on which everything — including reason itself — depends.
Philosophically speaking, because the Persons are so intricately connected (in mind, substance, action, etc.), They are One. This unity is to be mimicked in both the Church and sacramental marriage.
However, They clearly act distinctly (but not separately). This makes most sense, I think, in the context of the Eucharist: Father as being sacrificed to, Son as Sacrifice, Holy Spirit as the Person Who inspires sacrifice. They each have a place in the communitarian model.
They all must be God, though, because only God has these authorities. They must all be of equal power, also. How else could the Son be our Lord (John 20:28) and perfectly alike to the Father (John 5:19)? How else could the Holy Spirit bring forth the Son to earth (Matthew 1:18), how else could lying to the Holy Spirit equate to lying to God (Acts 5:3-4), and how else could our bodies belong to this same Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)?
That, in a nutshell, is how Catholics look at the Trinity — One, but Three; Three, but One. Thus, we chant, “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3).
(cf. Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed)
Why did God allow for the striking-down of people in the Old Testament? How is this reconciled with the dogma of a loving God?
Protestants and modern-day “Jews” don’t have an answer for this — one beyond dualism or “mystery”, I mean. But the Church does.
There is mortal sin, and there is venial sin (1 John 5:17). Mortal sin — willful and of grave nature — separates one from God, practically killing the soul. Venial sin — all other — must simply be cleansed, and it does not eternally separate us from Him. And this distinction is shown in the Old Testament.
Among mortal sins punished: irreverence (2 Samuel 6:1-7), despair/disbelief (Numbers 11:1-3), and false claims of authority (Numbers 16). These crimes have always been condemned.
Why did punishment change from body-centric to soul-centric? First, it didn’t, because unrighteous people were also kept from entering the Limbo of the Patriarchs, which, after Christ’s Sacrifice, later led to Heaven. Second, temporal punishment was the only way to get at the Jews’ consciences: As liberal scholars love to point out, the majority of Jews did not believe in an afterlife!
God does not desire death, though it can be used to give us the best chance at salvation (2 Peter 3). (I think here of St. Rita and her sons.) Even in the old days, He merely wanted a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17), and He wanted devotion.
There is no change in principle: God is immutable.
Expounding on the importance of our actions for salvation is, I suppose, my primary “thing.” I have been in so many informal debates over the issue that I have started to lose count of them. I have written about the topic many times. And often, I become angry (like God in 1 Kings 11:9-10) at the mere thought of sola fide (“faith alone”), because I know that it is completely contrary to “what the Lord [has] commanded.” But why?
“Faith alone” was, without a doubt, the primary reason that I left Protestantism. Even though I was ill-educated in theology at the time, I knew that it was illogical.
I like to think of sola fide in terms of criminal law. Imagine that someone went before a judge and was proven guilty of heinous crimes, but then pleaded to the judge that he believed in the judge’s authority to convict him and so the judge should not do so – and had that as his only defense. Should the judge convict him – to any degree – or should the judge completely let him off, and then give him a reward?
Do you find the “faith alone” argument compelling in such an instance? I do not. Of course, a “faith alone”-r would say that there is some sort of significant difference between such a scenario in terms of temporal law and such a scenario in terms of eternal law, but there really is not. Protestant arguments for the belief simply do not stand in the face of such scenarios or substantial scrutiny.
I strongly believe that sola fide is at the heart of many Western problems. Self-professed Christians have used it as an excuse to not care for the disadvantaged, to engage in profane sexual activity, etc. – the list goes on and on.
Martin Luther told his followers to “sin and sin boldly” (among other things, as I have documented) because he taught that we are saved solely by our faith in the power of Jesus Christ, apart from our actions. This method of thinking has been adopted by millions of Protestants since his time. But is it supported by the Bible? No. See Hebrews 10:26-27:
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”
“Faith alone” has had a terrible impact on society. People often now shy away from discussing religion or morality with others, fearing conflict. Take, for example, something that transpired between a Lutheran family member and me. After I privately and politely informed her that she had committed a grievous sin (like we are called to do – see Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, and Ephesians 4:15), she immediately jumped to the “Who are you to judge?” defense and paired it with the “Jesus paid the price” line. I am sure that, for many Catholics, such occurrences are unfortunately familiar.
God has written in our hearts (Romans 2:15) that we should serve Him and others, not our selfish desires — and we will be punished if we defy Him. The necessity of both good works and abstinence from grave sin gives our lives concrete meaning. If someone takes away the eternal significance of our actions, they rob us of any real purpose: we all just become random, faceless, unimportant beings.
Sola fide does not work either logically or practically; it fails on all counts. Now, you know why I hate it.
Does the Bible really teach that premarital sex is wrong? (Of course, it does! But with Sola Scriptura, that might be unclear!)
(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)
Does the Bible really teach that premarital sex is wrong? Well, as a Catholic, I know that it does. So, I suppose the real question should be: can a Protestant reasonably think that premarital sex is okay? I think that they can. And here’s why.
When the Bible condemns “fornication”, the Greek word porneia is used. It is an all-encompassing word for sexual immorality, and this can make things unclear to a Protestant. Take Hebrews 13:4, for example: it uses the Greek word moichos to condemn adultery. That’s very clear language. But, then, it uses porneia for fornication. So, the verse can, potentially, be seen as unclear on the latter.
Now, probably the most convincing passage against premarital sex is in 1 Corinthians 6. In this passage, “sexual perversion” is clearly banned. But again, that could be unclear, as “sexual perversion” can even occur within marriage. The thing here against becoming one with prostitutes offers what is probably the best argument. But even that, I think, could be seen as unclear. Paul could easily be seen as referring to literal prostitutes only. Obviously, should an otherwise-devout Christian have sexual relations with a current prostitute, that could cause grave scandal.
And, as far as I know, in every case of premarital sex in the Bible, there is no clear divine punishment for the sexual act. The only obvious penalty is in the realm of financial compensation. Even the Song of Solomon does not explicitly refer only to acts within marriage. In fact, in it, the lovers are separate. They don’t seem to live together, and there’s evidence that could be understood to mean that they weren’t even married (see 8:8, for example). And, judging from Scripture alone, as long as lovers intend to get married someday, their acts together aren’t always necessarily bad (see Exodus 22:16, for example).
To someone raised in the Catholic Tradition on this issue — including many Protestants who have borrowed the Church’s ancient teaching on this — these verses are clear. But to a Sola Scriptura Protestant, who demands formal sufficiency of Scripture, this wiggle-room can shake their world.
Catholics can say, “Well, the Bible is only materially sufficient” — meaning that, well, while the Bible implicitly or explicitly references every doctrine and dogma, you must still have the Church to interpret it, because the Church is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). But Protestants don’t have that luxury. Formal sufficiency demands clarity, and when clarity is not there (as is frequently the case), questions like this arise.
So, in conclusion, to a Catholic, this is clear. But to a Protestant, not so much.
A summary of the history and effects of artificial contraception, with an emphasis on its importance in the American 1960s and the “Sexual Revolution”.
“[The Church] does not, in the conventional phrase, believe what the Bible says, for the simple reason that the Bible does not say anything. You cannot put a book in the witness-box and ask it what it really means.” – G. K. Chesterton
Sola Scriptura is the Protestant doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Under it, only doctrines that are found directly within the Bible or are drawn indirectly from it by simple reasoning are allowed. (See material vs. formal sufficiency & perspicuity.)
2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the primary passage used to defend this view, which always boggles my mind. Perhaps I need spectacles, but I do not see an “Only” at the beginning of this verse. The Church teaches (as Scripture teaches) that all Scripture is valuable. She does not, however, turn it into an idol.
Some Protestants also claim to honor other authorities, like the Church – but do they really? In a short written debate with a Protestant professor, he said, “Sola Scriptura does not even claim that there is no other authority besides the Bible; it maintains that the Bible is alone (sola) as the only infallible authority.” Some apologists concede this position, but I see no reason to, and so I responded, “The practical effect [of Sola Scriptura] is that it denies the authoritativeness of any other authority – making that authority not an authority at all.” The professor quickly changed the topic.
Sacred Tradition (capital ‘T’) is, obviously, a stumbling block for many, but it is perfectly reasonable. Not everything of relevance could fit within the Bible (John 20:30-31, John 21:25). This is evidenced by the elaborations of the Church Fathers, as well as the decrees of the Councils. And much of this has been written and can therefore even qualify as (extra canon) Scripture! Anyway, all Scripture must be interpreted “according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church” (Origen).
Pope Francis noted, “Sacred Scripture is the written testimony of the divine Word, the canonical memory that attests to the event of Revelation. However, the Word of God precedes the Bible and surpasses it. That is why the center of our faith isn’t just a book, but a salvation history and above all a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.” (cf. CCC #108). All teaching is valuable – God is not limited to a book compiled by His Bride. On this point, the Bible is like a wedding album shared by two spouses: the husband, typically, arranges and provides for everything, while his wife fills in the details – but still, at the end of the day, it does not sum up their whole marriage.
Another great blow to Sola Scriptura is that the Bible did not put itself together, and it does not list the books that belong within it. It took the Jews thousands of years to decide on the Tanakh (their canon) and, even then, “Hellenistic” Jews preferred the Septuagint! The only reason that we know which books comprise the Testaments is that the Church has informed us. If the Church, as Her own entity, is not infallible on such doctrine, then the Bible cannot be trusted.
Many Protestants also allude that absolute truth can only be found within the Bible. If I throw an apple up into the air, it will fall. Where is that in the Bible? Of course, one could quickly retort with the idea that the Bible only necessarily contains the absolute moral truth necessary for salvation. But many Protestants do not actually believe that – just look at the large crowds of literal creationists! To be clear, the Bible is not guaranteed to be totally historically or scientifically inerrant in a literal sense. “Inerrancy extends to what the biblical writers intend to teach, not necessarily to what they assume or presuppose or what isn’t integral to what they assert.” [Catholic Answers] And if a Protestant would like to say otherwise, he must prove his position from the Bible – which he cannot do, at least not to any definite degree. Even natural law, which exists outside of the Bible, does not encompass such. Leaders like Ken Ham could be defeated with these points.
I just cannot help but despise this great heresy of Sola Scriptura, the implication of which is that the Bride of Christ does not know Her Husband.
I love the Second Vatican Council’s statement on all of this: “[T]he task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.” (Dei Verbum)
Let us put it this way: only trusting the Bible without the Church would be like loving “Romeo and Juliet” and hating Shakespeare’s explanation of it.