For Reformation Day: Protestantism hurt and confused me

Reposting this from last year. A brief synopsis of my personal experiences within Protestantism.

https://everybodysdaughter.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/protestantism-hurt-and-confused-me/

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For Reformation Day: Bible conundrum

I recently had an online disagreement with somebody, a Protestant. I asked her to cite Bible verses to support her position. So she did. I replied I disagreed with her interpretation of those verses. Then I asked her if I had an obligation to accept her interpretation. I also said that if her answer was yes, that I DID have an obligation to accept her interpretation, then to tell me where or from whom she received her authority to impose her interpretation upon me (and presumably upon every other Christian). Then I asked her what we should do if I disagreed with her claim about the source of her authority. Her response was that I was using an ad hominem. I responded by saying that I was not criticising her, but I was criticising her presupposition. So it wasn’t an ad hominem.

Here is the syllogism:

  • Since God is one, He does not change, and He only teaches one truth, there can only be one objectively correct interpretation of Scripture.
  • There is disagreement of what Scripture means between two or more Christians of good will. They all can see this.
  • No parties to the dispute have authority to enforce the correct interpretation, but one or more do not realize this. One or more believes that making better arguments or citing more or better Scripture verses is the way to resolve the dispute. Yet the dispute is never resolved.
  • No agreement is made. Visible fractures develop between Christians, since the parties to the dispute all believe themselves to understand the correct interpretation of Scripture (which is a tacit reinforcement of the first point above).

By what authority may somebody enforce the one and only correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture when there is a disagreement between Christians of good will?

Neglecting contraception is a big mistake

Is it possible to argue effectively against the Sexual Revolution without arguing against contraception? I do not believe it is. It is clear that many Christians who are against certain aspects of the Sexual Revolution (such as abortion and same-sex marriage) are in favor of Christians using contraception. But I see a definite link between the two.

So what is the Sexual Revolution? Let’s look at some secular sources. Google, which seems to have scraped this definition from Oxford Dictionary, defines it as:

the liberalization of established social and moral attitudes toward sex, particularly that occurring in western countries during the 1960s, as the women’s liberation movement and developments in contraception instigated greater experimentation with sex, especially outside of marriage.

Wikipedia says that it is:

a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s to the 1980s. Sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships (primarily marriage). The normalization of contraception and the pill, public nudity, pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality, and alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed.

Dictionary.com says that the Sexual Revolution was:

A drastic relaxation in general standards of sexual behavior. The most recent occurred in the 1960s and was helped by the introduction of the Pill, an easy and reliable method of preventing pregnancy.

It should be clear that contraception is inseparable from the Sexual Revolution. So why do most Christians fall silent when it comes to contraception?

Contraception is very seductive. Instead of sex being a presumptively fertile activity, sex becomes a presumptively sterile activity. The appeal of sex without babies is strong. Many people who use contraception seem to believe that they have a “right” for pregnancy-free coitus. A right to pregnancy-free coitus completely explains the problem of abortion.

The United States Supreme Court alluded to this “right” for pregnancy-free coitus in its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992. This decision, the subject of which was not contraception but rather abortion, mentions the word “contraception” nine times, and “birth control” once. For example:

“[P]eople…have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.

“It should be recognized, moreover, that in some critical respects, the abortion decision is of the same character as the decision to use contraception...”

Contraception is the main lynchpin here, not abortion.

It should not be a surprise then that a survey conducted in 2015 of women who had abortions, 70% identified as Christians, over 40% said they attended church once a month or more, and 20% said they attended church at least once a week. Given that they identify as Christians, there is a disconnect somewhere with these women. I propose that a major disconnect has happened within Christian circles that do not explicitly reject contraception. They have accepted the “right” for pregnancy-free coitus. By so doing, the logic must follow, and abortions will happen.

Undoubtedly, some who use contraception and still become pregnant do not choose abortion. But they reveal their reliance on the “right” for pregnancy-free coitus by saying that they were not “intending” pregnancy, and/or by labeling those children as “happy accidents” or worse, as mistakes. The child’s very existence should be evidence that there is no “right” for pregnancy-free coitus, that sex is not a sterile act. But rather than rejecting the “right” to pregnancy-free coitus as a false right that has no basis in reality, we adopt intentions and labels that cover for it because we love the pleasure of sex more than we love truth. By labeling a child like that, we are saying to them, “You are an accident, and your existence does not undermine my right to pregnancy-free coitus. Since you were an accident, I was being generous to allow you to live, because you came into existence in violation of my right.” Either the child is a gift from God with an intact ontology and personal anthropology that adults are bound to respect as a duty in justice, or the child is an accident who lives at the pleasure of his parents. I do not see a middle ground here. In fact, what I see is an inequality between those who have their personal anthropology and ontology respected by their parents, the legal system, and the wider society, and those who do not receive such respect.

Same-sex marriage eventually became accepted, and this follows the logic established by contraception. A “right” for pregnancy-free coitus among fertile opposite-sex couples means that sex is presumptively a sterile act. If sex is presumptively sterile, then there is no need to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, because children are no longer logically integral to marriage or coitus.

Given the separation of marriage, sex, and children that has been widely accepted in Christendom, there is not much left to justify the exclusion of same-sex couples from enjoying the benefits of civil marriage. After all, by accepting the suppression of children from sex and marriage, this elevated sterile sexual pleasure to the highest sexual good for many Christians. If sterile sexual pleasure is indeed the highest sexual good, then it is illogical to exclude couples who can never under any circumstances bear their own children.

If sterile sexual pleasure is the highest sexual good, then it could be argued that same-sex sexual relations are superior to opposite-sex sexual relations, since there is no chance of an unwanted intruder (pregnancy) imposing himself into a same-sex sexual relationship. See, for example, some homosexual advocates’ use of the term “breeders” as a derogatory way to label opposite-sex couples who bear children. Also, if children are licitly separated from sex and marriage, then it is logical for them to be obtained in a manner that disrespects their ontology, such as by utilizing third-party reproduction.

Infertility does not undermine what I am saying. In the real world, the world based on facts that impact real human beings, some opposite-sex couples with unwanted infertility do conceive children, and some opposite-sex couples who contracept also conceive children. As Dr. Ian Malcolm said in the film Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.”

Many will completely discount this point. For them, life doesn’t find a way. Instead they turn everything upside down. Like the scientists employed in the lab of Jurassic Park, they find a way for life. This means a few things:

  1. They believe they are bigger than life, that they can, and that they ought to, control the creation of life in a direct manner.
  2. They’ve built their lives and their entire worldview on certain aspects of “sexual freedom.” Curtailing this “freedom” means a lifestyle change. Not easy to do, and there are no worldly incentives to actually do it.
  3. They unwittingly place sterile coitus in a more prominent position than human life conceived at unexpected times. Even if they are otherwise pro-life, this undermines their pro-life position.

Let’s consider a different angle: when human life is spontaneously conceived, it is exercising an important form of freedom. It comes into being apart from the explicit will of another human being. Nobody commanded it to come into existence. Certain conditions happened (a sperm found an egg), and the life sprang into being. This phenomenon is an overlooked aspect of human freedom. The Sexual Revolution’s adherents need total control over the creation of human life, because spontaneous human life interferes with sexual pleasure. That form of freedom must be suppressed, because spontaneously created human life imposes unwanted obligations upon others. It is difficult to accept that an orgasm has eternal, or at least long lasting, consequences, and eliminating unwanted obligations while maximizing sexual pleasure is at the very heart of the Sexual Revolution, even if it means killing hundreds of millions of human lives to achieve. While many Christians are not in favor of killing human life through abortion, they are in favor of the logic and lifestyle that leads to it.

To accept contraception is to accept a foundational aspect of the Sexual Revolution, including the logic that leads to abortion and same-sex marriage. We can’t effectively argue against something while simultaneously accepting its foundation. Arguments against the Sexual Revolution will become stronger and more effective when Christians reject its cornerstone, contraception, in large numbers and on an institutional basis.

Jennifer Johnson is a Catholic convert, is the author of Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds Equality for Children, and is the Treasurer for the Ruth Institute.

Jesus said, “It is written…”

Strictly speaking, the Bible doesn’t teach us anything. Teaching requires a teacher, a person. You can do a little experiment to see what I mean. Set your Bible in front of you, closed. Say to it, “Bible, teach me about Christ.” Then wait. What happens? Nothing happens, of course. The Bible did not suddenly open and begin to speak. Opening a Bible, reading it, then teaching what is written in it requires a person. The Bible itself is not super clear about a number of important things, and this one reason why there are so many factions within Christianity, all claiming the Bible as their infallible authority. It is also why we must be careful about who we listen to about the Bible.

The Bible is the Word of God. It is good for us to read it and meditate on it. Jesus said, “It is written…” He did not say, “It teaches…”

1 Cor. 1:12 does not say, “I am of the Scriptures”

Seckau Basilika Engelskapelle Bekehrung des Äthiopiers
The Ethiopian Eunuch and Philip from Acts 8. Credit: Uoaei1 Wikimedia Commons

I wrote this post as a response to an interaction I had earlier today on my blog.

1 Corinthians 1:12 says: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (KJV)

St. Paul is discussing divisions among the Christians. I just thought of something though. None of the examples St. Paul gives are saying, “I am of the Scriptures.” If the “Bible alone” doctrine is true, then this situation would have been a good opportunity for the Holy Spirit to teach it, it seems to me. After all, they certainly had Scriptures at that time, what we now call the Old Testament. And the Scriptures are important. They are the Word of God. Many people say that are the highest or final authority. If that were true, then certainly some of the people St. Paul mentioned would have said, “I am of the Scriptures.” Why would they be saying they were of one person or another if the Scriptures alone were the highest authority?

Today, Christians will often say, “I don’t follow any person. I use the Bible alone as my authority.” This sounds just like saying, “I am of the Scriptures.” Yet there is no Biblical example of somebody identifying with the Scriptures in that way.

The Scriptures are like a Holy Reference Book, to be sure, but it is a two-edged sword and we must be careful when using it.

Now, I can think of a counter argument. I’ll tell it here but I don’t think it is effective and I will explain why: the Jews of the Jewish Synagog in Acts 17 who were “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The leaders among them had that right by virtue of their authority, which they acquired by birth. By what authority do people today use the Bible?

Also I would like to mention here John 5:39, where Jesus says, “You search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness to Me.” It is probably fair to say that the Jews in Acts 17 were not searching the scriptures to receive eternal life. They weren’t using the Scriptures as their final authority. That actually doesn’t even make sense given the context. If those Scriptures were the final authority, then they would not have needed St. Paul to preach to them. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing,” not “Faith comes by reading.” In order for one person to hear, somebody else has to speak. The transmission of the faith is from person to person, not from book to person. There is no Biblical evidence of individualistic reliance on the Scriptures. As we see with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 (emphasis added):

But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert road. 27 And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Canda′ce the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this:

“As a sheep led to the slaughter
or a lamb before its shearer is dumb,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken up from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus.

My song this morning

I woke up this morning with this song in my mind and heart, Create in me a clean heart:

Then a little while later, I read the Bible readings for today. There is a section of the mass called the Responsorial Psalm. It is when a section from the Psalms is read, and the congregation responds. Today’s is from Psalm 81, and it made me smile.

R. Sing with joy to God our help.
Take up a melody, and sound the timbrel,
the pleasant harp and the lyre.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our solemn feast.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
For it is a statute in Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob,
Who made it a decree for Joseph
when he came forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.

 

Ecclesial Deism, part two

Ecclesial Deism

I have posted this article before, but it is so good that I’m posting it again. This time, I am going to try to define its central terms. I want to do this because the article is long and extremely complex. Not easy or light reading for sure! The author goes into a lot of detail that is super interesting, but a bit distracting. Even so, he gets to the heart of the matter, and in order to understand him, the most important terms need to be clearly identified and defined. By so doing I think I will be able to convey the argument.

1) Ecclesial means “pertaining to the church.” It comes to us from Greek.

2) A quick summary of the terms “deism” and “theism.”

Deism is the belief that God exists, but he doesn’t care about us. He created us and the whole universe, but leaves us alone to manage our lives on our own.

Theism is the belief that God exists, but he is a personal God who cares deeply for us and for all of creation.

An easy way to remember the difference between deism and theism is in this expression: “God is in control.” That can only be said by somebody who is a theist. A deist would never say such a thing.

3) When we put “ecclesial” together with “deism,” as we see in the link above, we have the idea that an impersonal God created the church but then left her to manage her affairs, her heirarchy, and her authority on her own. An ecclesial deist does not believe that Christ remained in control of his church from her inception, keeping her from error. Since Christ is not in control of the church according to the ecclesial deist, she can fall into error in regards to Christ’s teachings on faith and morals.

4) When we put “ecclesial” together with “theism,” we have the idea that Jesus Christ, who is God, created the church and has always been with her, guiding her and caring for her deeply. He did not ever leave her, but remains with her forever. Like her husband Christ, she is both human and divine. We see the human parts easily; the divine parts are harder to discern. Being perpetually guided by her husband Christ, she has never erred in her teachings on faith and morals.

The author never puts the terms “ecclesial theism,” together in the article, but I think these definitions get to the heart of the matter pretty well.

My joy at mass yesterday

My heart felt so full of joy at mass yesterday. I was so happy to be there, to worship Jesus Christ and receive his body and partake in John 6:54-55. I felt a level of joy that I have not felt in a long time. It seemed like a consolation from God to confirm the decision I made to move.

Where does Christ get his blood for Hebrews 9:12?

Hebrews 9:12

… he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

I was reading Hebrews 9, and this verse jumped out at me. I remember learning as a Protestant that Christ’s resurrected body had no blood in it. Here is an example of what I mean. This is from a popular Protestant website called CARM.org:

The Bible says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). If this is so, then how could physical body have been raised? The answer is simple. After His resurrection Jesus said, “Touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). You must note that Jesus did not say, “flesh and blood.” He said, “flesh and bones.” This is because Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross. The life is in the blood and it is the blood that cleanses from sin: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul,” (Lev. 17:11). See also, Gen. 9:4; Deut. 12:23; and John 6:53-54. Jesus was pointing out that He was different. He had a body, but not a body of flesh and blood. It was flesh and bones. I am of the opinion that Jesus’ body had no functional blood in it. Remember, after the resurrection He still retained the wounds in His hands, feet, and side. But, His blood was the thing that cleanses us of our sins: “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7). His body was raised, but it had no blood flowing through its veins. It was a glorified, physical body.

This isn’t what the Church teaches. The Catholic Church teaches that Christ’s resurrected body does have blood in it. But that is not the point I want to make here.

Instead, I want to ask a question. If the Protestants are correct, where does Christ get his blood in order to fulfill Heb. 9:12 where it says, “taking…his own blood”?