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.
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”.
John 3:14-18 doesn’t support the “faith alone” position.
For Protestants, John 3:14-18 might seem like the ultimate “Gotcha!” passage to use against Catholics. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll recognize that the passage does not defend the “faith alone” position and is totally in line with Catholic teaching.
The passage reads as, “‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.'”
That might seem a little damning to the Catholic position that good works are necessary, right? Well, in truth, it’s not.
With God, to believe means to obey. God does not desire a lukewarm, vague belief in Him, but a devoted life in His service. This is evidenced later in the chapter. John 3:36 reads as, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
And if one looks at verses 19-21 of the chapter, they will see that Christ said that those who “love darkness” and do “evil deeds” will not reach “the Light” (Heaven).
Sin — which, at its heart, is anything offensive to God — is a heinous, damaging thing that we must cleanse ourselves of. This cleansing is done through Christ, of course, but meriting it requires a little more than a belief in Him. It requires a repentant heart (see Luke 13:3) and, in the case of mortal sin, sacramental confession (see my video about Confession).
On top of all of this, Christ told us in John 13:15 to follow the example that He set and He also told us — in John 15:10 — that we must keep His commandments to “abide in [His] love”.
We can’t just sit back and relax non-stop, counting on our vague “faith” to save us — we have to do things! Like St. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24, we must help the Church in “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
So, when reading the Bible, remember that true belief requires obedience and good works.
(All verses are from the NASB translation.)
Do Galatians 2:16 and 2:21 support the “faith alone” position? NO.
I was reading a Protestant apologetics site and I found two verses in Galatians 2 that they used to defend their “faith alone” position. The verses are verse 16 and verse 21. Let’s look at those.
Galatians 2:16 reads as “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”
Galatians 2:21 reads as “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
These verses are clearly referring to works under the “old” Law, not under Christ’s “new” Law. This is even obvious by verse 16 alone, but for further proof, look at the verse before it. Verse 15 reads as “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles”.
Paul is saying that, though Christianity came out of Judaism, its Law is no longer binding on Christians. He didn’t want Christians to get swept up into the proud, Pharasaical mentality of “Oh, I’m so good for doing all of these great things all by myself.” Under that mentality, Christ’s importance seems lessened, so Paul was warning against that.
Paul is emphasizing, like he, especially, is known to emphasize: that everything must be done through Christ. In verse 20, he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
He is pointing out that it is by our faith in Christ that our lives have meaning. Without faith, our works mean nothing.
If we can be saved by doing works under the Jewish Law, apart from faith in Christ, then yes, like Paul writes in verse 21, “Christ died needlessly.”
Basically, Paul is telling us to keep our minds on Christ, never doing anything apart from him. He is NOT, however, telling us that good works done through Christ mean nothing.
A study of James 3:2 (in context), Matthew 5:48, Hebrews 7, and Revelation 21:27. The video explains what these verses, examined together, mean for your salvation.
I was talking with one of my closest friends – she’s really more of a mentor to me, actually. After watching my video about asking the saints to pray for us, she made the assertion that, “The saints haven’t reached perfection; they are, however, in the presence of perfection!” I make this video with all respect due to her.
Some Protestants seem to try to make it sound as if any kind of perfection is totally unattainable. They point to verses like James 3:2, which includes the statement “For we all stumble in many ways”. But in discussing this issue, that verse frequently gets taken out of context.
That part of James 3 is basically saying that Christians need to be careful about selecting their leaders, because bad leaders lead to bad, heretical teachings. It is not saying that it’s impossible to reach perfection.
Christ tells us in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. So, according to some Protestants, either Christ is wrong, or He is just messing with our heads. Neither one of those options sound correct.
Also, it is pointed out in Hebrews 7:11 that perfection was not found through the Levitical priesthood. The chapter goes on to say that perfection can be found through Christ, who brings in “a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
And, like I mentioned in the saints video, Revelation 21:27 teaches us that nothing imperfect will enter Heaven.
Clearly, there’s a possibility of reaching perfection.
But what do I mean by “reaching perfection”?
I think Protestants tend to think that we are saying that it’s possible to totally abstain from sin.
But perfection, in the end, is not only about sinlessness. After all, everyone has sinned.
Putting aside the doctrine of Purgatory (which I plan to address in a future post or video), people, essentially, reach perfection by taking advantage of the graces that God has given us so that we might be closer to Him. And yes, this includes going to Confession and doing penance for our sins.
We must always remember, though, that this is not done completely by us, but with the help of Christ.
Anyone that has reached Heaven, and thus pleased God, has reached perfection. Let’s all try to be a little more perfect, then.
A video that examines Genesis 15:6, Romans 4, and James 2 in context to conclude that Abraham was NOT saved by “faith alone,” and neither are we.
I asked famous apologist Dave Armstrong for his opinion on this video, and he said that it “looks great (and orthodox)”.
In the video, I point out…
1. the importance of having an active faith (Abraham had to have sex with Sarah to have Isaac, which was key to God’s covenant with humanity; Abraham also had to be willing to sacrifice Issac)
2. that Abraham seemed to already have some sort of faith in Genesis 12, and what changed between Genesis 12 and Genesis 15:6 was that Abraham had done good works (he had built three altars in honor of God and had done what God told him to do)
3. that people still had to do works at the beginning of God’s covenant (e.g. circumcision), or risk being cut off from Him, and that baptism is, basically, the new circumcision
4. and what Paul meant when he denounced “works.”