Thursday, July 16, 2015

Apologetics Toolbox: Catholic Answers for Slick Questions


A Facebook source led me to a page titled “Questions for Roman Catholics”, by Matt Slick of the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. “The responses [I get],” Slick states, “vary from defensive tradition to ignoring them and hoping to go away. Some of the questions are easier for Roman Catholics to respond to, and others are not. I hope that these might be helpful in your dialogs with the Roman Catholics as you try to present to them the true and saving gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Well, it depends on the context in which Slick presents the questions; some are pretty intrusive. But overall, some of the questions are no-brainers, some misrepresent Catholic doctrine to some extent, and some just show how little Slick himself understands what he’s attacking. The overall presentation is supposed to lead the Catholic to question his faith and the Church. But it’s by no means an infallible (*ahem!*) wrecking ball. Here I present it with fearful fidelity, including Slick’s misspellings, along with the answers. (Note: Questions rendered irrelevant by the answer to a previous question — or, in the case of the oral tradition questions, based on a fallacious notion — are presented in strikeouts.)


 Eucharist

  1. When Jesus instituted the supper, he had not yet been crucified. How then was the Eucharist his crucified body and blood? The same way the Eucharist becomes his crucified Body and Blood at the Mass: Through the power of God. Time is a property of the universe; God, as Creator of the Universe, is not part of it, and therefore not constrained by the sequentialism time imposes.
  2. If, as the Roman Catholic Church teaches, that the Eucharist Wine is the literal blood of Christ, then how is that not violating the Old Testament law against drinking the blood of any flesh (Lev. 17:14)? Because the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood (cf. Jn 6:53-58) is part of the New Covenant, which supersedes the Old Covenant. Moreover, Christians are not justified by the Law of Moses; invoking it as binding on Christians, therefore, indirectly rejects the salvific work of the Cross, as St. Paul argued in Galatians 5:4.
  3. How is it possible for the Eucharist to be the actualy [sic] body and blood of Christ if, by definition, a human body is only in one place at one time as Jesus' body was in the incarnation, especially when you realize that Jesus is still a man (1 Tim. 2:5; Col. 2:9). Error: Jesus is not “still a man”; he was and is both man and God (cf. Jn 1:1, 10:30-33; Col 2:9). Mark 10:27: “... [F]or all things are possible with God.” Again, as argued in Q.1, God is not constrained by temporality or the sequentialism it imposes.

Interpreting Scripture

  1. The Roman Catholic Church says that individuals are not allowed to interpret the Bible, but that they must submit to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.  How then can you know if the Catholic Church is correct if you can't check it against Scripture?  Remember, Paul praised the Bereans [sic] for checking even what he said against Scripture (Acts 17:11). Here is a simple conditional which can’t be safely contradicted: If the Holy Spirit guides the Church (Jn 14:26, 16:13), and the Holy Spirit is reliable because God is trustworthy (Rom 3:34; 2 Tim 2:13), then it logically follows that the Church is reliable … or, as we say, infallible. If, however, the Church cannot be reliable, why then, either the Holy Spirit does not lead the Church or the Holy Spirit is not reliable: either answer contradicts Scripture, and impugns the fidelity of God to boot. Merely possessing a Bible doesn’t make one an expert in hermeneutics.
  2. Does the phrase "let each man be convinced his own mind" (Romans 14:5) mean that a person is able to look at the Scriptures and be fully convinced according to what he sees it says?  If not, why not? No, it doesn’t; this is an out-of-context fallacy, one of the great dangers of “proof-texting”. When read in context, Romans 14:5-9 merely says that one can pursue a holy life by many ways, some of which can be in opposition to others. It does not support a do-it-yourself interpretation of Scripture.
  3. If the phrase "let each man before he convinced his own mind" means that he is able to interpret Scripture on his own, what does he do if he believes what he sees in Scripture contradicts the Roman Catholic Church's teaching?
  4. If the phrase "let each man before he convinced his own mind" means that he is able to interpret Scripture on his own, then doesn't that contradict the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church which denies you the right to interpret God's word regarding faith, morals, and doctrine in a manner inconsistent with what it proclaims? 
  5. How many verses has the Roman Catholic Church officially, infallibly interpreted?  It is extremely low.  How then do you know what is actually correct? Because of the trustworthiness of the Holy Spirit which guides the Church, as answered in Q.4. Besides the dubiousness of the assertion that the number of verses which the Church has “officially, infallibly interpreted” is “extremely low”, even when interpretations and doctrine aren’t proposed definitively, the doctrine of the ordinary infallibility of the Church holds that such teachings are protected from error, and are to be given the assent of faith. (See CCC 892)

Jesus

  1. Can you, as a Catholic, pray directly to Jesus, not going through Mary, and ask Jesus to forgive you of all of your sins? Certainly; however, regardless of the citation below (a rabbinical exaggeration), it still doesn’t follow that I will be forgiven, just as my praying for rain will not guarantee rain. The question of sin, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God is too complex for our present purposes; sufficient for now is that: 1) we don’t “go through” Mary for forgiveness in any event; 2) Jesus is not a genie bound by magic to grant our every wish; and 3) sin is not a “private act”.
    1. John 14:14, "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it."
  2. If you did, would you be forgiven of all your sins?
  3. If you were forgiven by Jesus, then do you need all the rituals and sacraments of the RCC in order to be forgiven?
  4. If you’re not forgiven by Jesus when you pray to Him and ask Him to forgiven you, then why is Jesus not enough to save you? Complex-question fallacy: the question assumes a fact not established (“if Jesus does not always forgive when prayed to, then Jesus’ salvific power must be deficient”). In fact, it’s through Jesus’ salvific power that the priest absolves sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Mary

  1. Do you really believe that Mary is able to hear and understand the prayers of millions of people all over the world, simultaneously, in different languages, spoken, and thought? Yes.
  2. If you do believe has all of those abilities, how are you not attributing godlike abilities to her? Because she is creature, not Creator; her abilities are a gift from God, not of her own power.
  3. Why pray to Mary when Jesus said to come to Him (Matt. 11:28), ask Him anything (John 14:14), and He has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18)?  Isnt Jesus capable enough without Mary? If that’s the case, why ask anyone to pray for you? Aren’t you enough? Why pray for or with anyone else? Are they insufficient? (Rom 15:30; 2 Thess 1:11; Eph 6:8-9) Mary, as the Blessed Mother, is especially favored; we believe her prayers have great influence with the Lord. But she prays with us just as our friends and family pray with us.
  4. Is Mary better than Jesus? Another out-of-context quotation below; at no point does the Church even attempt to assert that Mary is better than Jesus. Read CCC 963 – 972 for the whole teaching on Mary, not just one sentence.
    1. "After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary," (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 972).

Oral tradition

  1. What exactly is oral tradition?  Is it passed down by one person to another via whispering, talking, writing?  Have you ever thought about this?
  2. Where does this oral tradition come from in present day?  Is it in the Vatican only?  If so, why?  If not, then where is it?
  3. How is the oral tradition passed down? By word of mouth only?  If so, how do you know it is true? 
  4. Is all the oral tradition inspired and inerrant?
  5. Are these oral traditions immune from corruption through the many centuries and hundreds of generations of oral communication?
  6. Who then are these people who have this oral tradition?
  7. When is the oral tradition given to them?
  8. Is it given to them in the halls of the Vatican? Is there a special room where they meet, and everybody in it talks about things of ancient times?
  9. Do the members of the magisterium recognize what is ancient oral tradition and what is not? If so, how?
  10. If not, how does the Church know which oral traditions are true and which are false?
  11. What standard does the magisterium use to judge what is authentic oral tradition?

All these questions are predicated on a misunderstanding of what “oral tradition” refers to. “Oral tradition” refers to the manner in which the earliest traditions were passed on until they were written down; examples of the traditions show up in the earliest writings of the Church, including the Church Fathers. A good example of the method shows up in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. The method breaks the teaching down to its simplest elements then is learned by rote memorization; things learned in this manner can be carried for a long time with little loss of data. Eventually, however, the traditions were written down; the Church hasn’t actually used the method of the oral tradition for centuries.

Prayer


  1. Is a Protestant wrong for praying to Jesus alone and asking Jesus to forgive them all of his sins? Obviously, you’re looking for a “no”, here. And, just as obviously, there’s no simple answer. Of course, as part of our general intercessionary prayers, we ask forgiveness for ourselves and for others. But there still remains that pesky question: if prayer to Jesus were sufficient, why would he have given the apostles, as representing the Church, the power to forgive or retain sins (Jn 20:23)? If not, then why would he have bestowed this power only on the first apostles? And if there’s no apostolic succession, then what case are we in now?

Salvation

  1. What is the saving Gospel? Christ died for the remission of sins.
  2. Are you keeping the commandments of God? Clarification: which commandments? Are you arguing that the entirety of the Law of Moses is still binding? (cf. Gal 5:4) Or are you referring to the Decalogue?
  3. Are you doing what is necessary to be saved? In Roman Catholicism that which is necessary for salvation includes the church (CCC 846), baptism (CCC 1257), penance (CCC 980), sacraments (CCC 1129), service and witness to the faith (CCC 1816), keeping the ten commandments (CCC 2036 and 2070), and detachment from riches (CCC 2556). Doing my best.
  4. If you are keeping the commandments of God, do you also go to confession? Yes … not as frequently as I should, but yes.
  5. Since it is possible for you to lose your salvation in Roman Catholicism, are you doing enough good works to keep yourself saved? Complex-question fallacy: works of mercy are an expression of faith; they do not usurp the role of faith in justification. Moreover, it assumes an objective yardstick the Church doesn’t have. The proper question is, “Are you striving to live the faith to the utmost of your ability, relying on the Lord and making use of the sacraments of the Church to assist you in that endeavor?” And it’s possible to lose your salvation even if you’re not a Roman Catholic. (Rom 11:21-22; 1 Cor 9:24-27; Heb 10:26-31) As for whether I am doing so ... that answer is between me and my confessor.

Scripture

  1. Is it okay to exceed what is written in Scripture and teach things that are not taught in Scripture as though they are doctrinally true? Yes, because the Faith was entrusted to the apostles, not to Scripture. The Bible is not an omnium-gatherum of the Faith. Even if it could be proven that the Bible is materially sufficient for the needs of the Faith, it is not formally sufficient: it is not a catechism or a step-by-step instruction book; it does not interpret itself. Nothing speaks to this point more than the complete fragmentation of Protestant Christianity. Moreover, one of the many flaws of the doctrine of sola scriptura is that sola scriptura is itself not found in Scripture. There is nothing in Scripture that says, “The Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith.” The Bible is extremely important, and very revered in the Catholic Church; it is not, however, the sole infallible regula fidei.

One final note: Having an infallible Church doesn’t relieve the Catholic of the obligation of thinking through his faith; by no means is the requirement of the “assent of faith” a command to shut off our brains. But it is clear in Scripture that Jesus intended to establish an authoritative Church (see, for examples, Mt 28:18-20; Lk 10:16; 1 Tim 3:15). The most obvious reason was to guarantee the integrity of the gospel message, so that it would be taught with fidelity from age to age. This is also why, as mentioned before, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the Church (Jn 14:16; Jn 16:13; Ac 2:1-4). To say that the Church’s teaching became erroneous is to imply that the Holy Spirit either abandoned the Church or was “asleep at the switch” when the false doctrines were adopted — in other words, that the Holy Spirit is not reliable. Not a comforting thought! Especially not if you intend to argue that the Holy Spirit “moves” your contrary interpretation!

For if the Holy Spirit cannot prevent the Church from false interpretation or erroneous doctrine, how can He prevent you from screwing it up?

Think about it. Think about why there are so many Protestant denominations. Think about those sects that propose additional Scriptures, imposing Biblical figures on non-Biblical cosmologies (e.g., Gnosticism, Islam, Mormonism). Then ask yourself why your interpretation of Scripture must be better than that of 2,000 years’ worth of saints, scholars, popes, bishops, and ecumenical councils. Is it the Holy Spirit ... or the Pride which “goes before destruction”? (Prv 16:18)