Monday, October 15, 2012

Pitting Jesus Against His Bride (Pt. I)

David Mathis, a Baptist elder from South Carolina, has written a post pretending to be Jesus, and rebuking the Catholic Church. One of the problems with the approach of pretending to be Jesus is that Mathis doesn’t actually spell out his arguments, making it harder to show where his reasoning goes wrong. This is compounded by the fact that Mathis’ grasp of Catholic teaching appears to be rather tenuous.

How Bad is it?

Saint Peter (6th c. encaustic icon).
For example, one of Mathis’ arguments against the papacy is that: “All my [Jesus’] specially appointed apostles, not just Peter, are my expressly commissioned authoritative spokesmen for my church.” Is there any Catholic on Earth who denies this, who thinks that Jesus had only One Apostle?  On the contrary, here’s how the Catholic Church describes Her own ecclesiology: “Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together” (Lumen Gentium 22).

So how does Mathis’ argument disprove the papacy?  If anything, he seems to be proving our point, but too ignorant of Catholicism to know it.  I suppose if the Catholic Church consisted only of the pope, with no other bishops, this would be a good argument. But surely, Mathis realizes that’s not how the Catholic Church is structured.  Nor does pointing out the fact that Jesus had Twelve Apostles disprove that Peter has a unique role within the Twelve, a fact that (the real) Jesus demonstrated several times in Scripture (e.g., Luke 22:31-32).

This is the general pattern: a string of Protestant proof-texts battling straw-man parodies of Catholic teaching, written from the perspective of fake Jesus. Ordinarily, this kind of intellectually-lazy anti-Catholicism is what you’d expect find on the fringes of the Evangelical blogosphere. But in this case, Mathis has quite a soap box, since he’s the executive editor of John Piper’s popular blog, Desiring God. So here are some very basic responses to the arguments that Mathis raises (or, often as not, hints at).

My answer will be in two parts.  Today, I want to address the first three arguments he presents: Mary and the Saints, the Eucharist, and the Papacy.  Tomorrow, I’ll address the last three: Sola Scriptura, Priestly Celibacy, and Justification.

Mary and the Saints

Mathis starts with the usual proof-texting of 1 Timothy 2:5, and his argument against prayer to the Saints gets worse from there:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “Pray to Mary, and petition the Saints.” But I say to you that there is only one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5). You need no other go-between than me. Do you not know that you already have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1)? Do you not know that I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)? So, when you pray, ask in my name, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).
I’ve previously said that this use of 1 Timothy 2:5 is “the most egregious use of proof-texting, taking a verse wholly out of its context, and severing it even from the second half of the sentence.” I stand by that characterization.  Here’s the context (1 Tim. 2:1-6):
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.
In context, then, 1 Timothy 2:5-6 is saying that Jesus, and only Jesus, bridges the divide between God and man through the Ransom He paid on the Cross. His uniqueness is true in two senses. Christ is the only man who makes this ultimate sacrifice, but He’s also the only Person of the Trinity to serve as our Ransom. So Christ is our Mediator in a sense that even the Holy Spirit isn’t.

Georg Pencz, Holy Trinity (1530)
But Mathis tears v. 5, half of a sentence, out of its Scriptural context, and conflates it with intercessory prayer, or having “an advocate with the Father.”  So from Christ is the sole Mediator, Mathis concludes that Christ is the sole Intercessor and sole Advocate.  That’s a two-fold problem:
  • Intercessor: St. Paul begins the passage in question by asking for intercessory prayer (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  • Advocate: 1 John 2:1 simply says that Christ is “an” Advocate before the Father. To say that Christ is the only Advocate would be to deny that the Holy Spirit is also our Advocate. But in John 14:26, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit our Advocate. 
Reflect for a moment on the role that Each Person of the Trinity plays in the economy of salvation. Christ’s Death serves as a sort of Bridge between the Father and fallen mankind. The Holy Spirit leads us to the Bridge, and applies Christ’s merits. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit in bringing souls to Christ, and in this way, can save others (I know that Protestants are often uncomfortable with saying that anyone besides God “saves” someone, but Scripture is clear -- Jude 1:22-23; 1 Tim. 4:16; Ezekiel 3:18-19).

One of the ways that we cooperate with the Holy Spirit is in praying for one another. James 5:14-16 says:
Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
Pitting Christ’s unique role in the plan of salvation against this model of intercessory prayer is pitting Jesus against Scripture (and Scripture’s Author), not just “Rome.”

The Eucharist

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim,
Seder (The Passover Meal) (1867)
The next proposition that Mathis’ fake Jesus sets out to rebut is this one:
You have heard that it was said, “Kneel before the consecrated host, and worship the one sacrificed in the mass.”
Incredibly, Mathis manages to avoid all of the Scriptural evidence that’s explicitly about the Eucharist. For example, he ignores it when Christ says of the Eucharist, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood” (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25), or the six different ways that Jesus says that the Eucharist is really His Body and Blood in John 6:53-58.  Instead, his argument boils down to a misunderstanding of the “once for all” nature of Christ’s Sacrifice, which I’ve already answered recently.

He ends his argument: “I [Jesus] meant it when I said on the cross, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30).” It’s true, Jesus did mean it. But Mathis has no idea what Jesus was referring to in that passage. The best exegesis of this passage, in my opinion, is the “Fourth Cup” Passover explanation given by Scott Hahn.

In a nutshell, it’s a Passover reference, and actually proves the connection between the Eucharist and Calvary that Mathis spent the rest of the paragraph trying to refute. The Passover Liturgy consists of four stages, marked by four cups of wine.  After the third cup, “the cup of blessing,” Jews pray the Great Hallel (Psalm 136) and drink the fourth cup.

From 1 Cor. 10:16, we know that the cup of blessing is the Eucharistic Chalice. But instead of finishing the Passover Liturgy, Jesus has the Apostles pray Psalm 136 and then leave (Mark 14:26). He then avoids drinking anything for nearly twenty-four hours so that He can drink the Fourth Cup on the Cross. That’s why John 19:28 tells us that Jesus says “I thirst,” not just because He was thirsty (He’s surely been thirsty for hours), but “so that Scripture would be fulfilled.Now read John 19:30: “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” The first underlined part is tied to the second: “it” that Jesus just finished is the fulfillment of the Passover.  In completing His Passover Liturgy in this manner, Jesus forever united the Last Supper and Calvary as a single Liturgical Act.


The Papacy

Like the arguments against Mary and the Saints and against the Eucharist, Mathis’ arguments against the papacy rely on proof-texting passages stripped of context. Here’s what his fake Jesus says:
The Rock on which I have built my church (Matthew 16:18) for two millennia is not Peter alone, but the band of the apostles together (Ephesians 2:20).
In context, the claim that Jesus meant the Rock to refer to the Apostles banded together is easily debunked. In Matthew 16:15, the real Jesus says to the Twelve, “But who do you [plural] say that I am?” Only one of the Twelve answers, Simon. He acknowledges Jesus by His proper Title: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). Jesus responds by blessing Simon, and bestowing a title upon him (Mt. 16:17-19):
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
In the span of those three sentences, Jesus clarifies that He’s talking only to Peter eleven times:

1
“Blessed are you,...”
The “you” is singular, in contrast to the “you” in v. 15.
2
“…Simon…”
If there was any question who Jesus was referring to, there shouldn’t be now.  He’s just called Simon by name.
3
“…Bar-Jona!
If that wasn’t enough, He then calls Simon by his lineage, so we even know it’s not some other Simon.
4
“For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”­ ­
The “you” is singular: He’s talking only to Simon.
5
“And I tell you,…”
The “you” is singular: He’s talking only to Simon.
6
“…you…”
The “you” is singular: He’s talking only to Simon.
7
“…are Peter,…”
After this, were all of the Apostles renamed Peter? Or just Simon? 
8
“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”
Jesus specifies this rock.  And Simon’s new name, Peter, means Rock.
9
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and…”
The “you” is singular: He’s talking only to Simon.
10
“…whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and …”
The “you” is singular: He’s talking only to Simon.
11
whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The “you” is singular: He’s talking only to Simon.

Commission to St. Peter,
Sarleinsbach altarpiece (1904)
So Jesus refers to Peter in the second-person singular eleven times in three sentences. He seems to go out of His way to emphasize that, unlike His prior question (Mt. 16:15, which was directed to the Twelve), this blessing is directly only to Peter. And how does Mathis handle this? By inventing a Jesus who says “The Rock on which I have built my church (Matthew 16:18) for two millennia is not Peter alone,” and  invoking Matthew 16:18 as the Scriptural support!

What about the second half of the argument here, then, the one about Ephesians 2:20? In 1 Corinthians 3:11, St. Paul says that Jesus is the Foundation of the Church. But in Ephesians 2:20, he says that the Apostles and prophets are. And Jesus refers to Peter as the Rock upon which He’ll build His Church in the passage we just saw. Are these three images contradictory? Only if you try to meld them together into a single, overly-literal metaphor. In context, each of the three makes sense, and there’s no contradiction. In fact, Matthew 16 shows how they can be rectified: Peter is individually blessed after confessing Christ on behalf of the Twelve. So it’s not Jesus v. Peter v. the other Eleven. It’s Peter leading the Eleven in service of Jesus Christ.

Mathis doesn’t seem to get this. He seems to think that if the Body of Christ has authority, this is somehow a threat to Christ, so his fake Jesus says things like this about the Apostles: “Their authority is not their own, but mine. I am the one who has authority (Matthew 7:29), not your ecclesiastical scribes.” The real Jesus gave His authority to His Apostles (Luke 9:1; Luke 10:19), and poured out the power of the Holy Spirit upon them (Acts 1:8). That’s because the real Jesus isn’t threatened by His Church.

I think that’s enough for today.  Tomorrow, I’ll address his arguments on Sola Scriptura, Priestly Celibacy, and Justification.  If you couldn’t guess, they don’t fare much better.

13 comments:

  1. Great article Joe. Would you expand on your assertion "Christ is the only Person of the Trinity"? What do you mean by that?

    Thanks,

    Dan

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    Replies
    1. Christ is the only Person of the Trinity who serves as a Ransom for our sins. It is in this sense that He is our sole Mediator, as 1 Timothy 2:5-6 explains. (I'm not denying the other Two Persons of the Trinity, don't worry!)

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    2. Christ is also the only fully human (as well as fully divine) Person of the Trinity, and through Him humanity is taken up into the inner life of the Trinity.

      That's how I understood it :)

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    3. Hi Georg,

      Just a quick theological clarification for any other readers who might come across your statement referring to Christ as "the only fully human (as well as fully divine) Person of the Trinity."

      In Christ, he is fully human in "nature" only, not in his "person." There is only one "person" in Christ, and that is the Divine Person/Son of God/Second Person of the Holy Trinity, as defined by the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.

      To summarize, in Christ there is one "person" with two "natures" (human and divine).

      Blessings!

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    4. Thanks for clearing that up :)

      Peace!

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    5. Also, Dan, I believe that St. Paul was comparing Jesus to Moses when he described Jesus as the sole Mediator. Remember, he said:

      Galatians 3:18-19
      King James Version (KJV)
      18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

      Here, he says, the Old Law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. I believe he is referring to Moses. The sole mediator of the Old Law.

      He continues and says:
      20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

      Which, I believe means that Moses represented many before the one God. He represented the people of Israel before God.

      But the comparison is between Moses and Jesus, both being sole Mediators of their respective covenants, between God and man.

      HOWEVER, the New Testament, being a fulfillment of the Old and the Old being a shadow of the New, means that there is a slight difference between the Old Testament and the New and therefore a slight difference between Moses and Christ.

      Moses represented the people of Israel before God.
      Jesus represents all mankind, including Moses, before God.

      Hebrews 8:6
      But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

      Hebrews 9:15
      And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

      Hebrews 12:24
      And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

      This understanding must be tempered, but not confused with, the fact that Jesus is our High Priest, as compared with and contrasted to the Old Testament High Priests, who also interceded between God and man the earthly Temple as Christ does in the Heavenly Temple.

      I hope that makes sense.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

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  2. Joe, I like this. Did you send the link directly to Mr. Mathis? Is it good blogging ethics to forward someone a critique of his position?

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    1. It is good blogging etiquette, and I wish it was done more often (so that we end up talking to each other, rather than about each other).

      I wasn't able to find his e-mail, so I sent a copy to Desiring God (it's also good for them to see the critique, since they're the ones who choose to host this content). Mathis is the executive editor, so he should see it. I think that Brandon Vogt also sent a link to him on Twitter.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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  3. I tweeted it to them too. hehehehe ^_^ :D

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  4. Regarding the intercession/invocation of the saints, don't Protestants ask other Christians to pray for them all the time? That's what Catholic prayer "to" the saints is.

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  5. "“I [Jesus] meant it when I said on the cross, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30)."

    If that is so, did Jesus also mean what he said when he said:

    "This is my body" in reference to a piece of unleavened bread he was holding, and

    "This is my blood" in reference to a cup of wine he was holding, and

    "I am the bread of life." and,

    "...the bread that I will give is my flesh..." and,

    "...He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will raise him up in the last day..." and,

    "...For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed..." and,

    "...He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him..."

    From a totally neutral point of view, after reading those passages and taking them at face value as an accurate record of what Jesus said, one can only come to the conclusion (as I did before converting to Catholicism...) that Jesus really is saying that he is a piece of bread, and he really does want people to physically eat him...

    And that realization puts a lot more emphasis on the "lunatic" part of the "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord..." question that C.S. Lewis put forward. Jesus either is God Almighty, in which case we should take him at his word, or he's the most successful lunatic in the history of humanity.

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  6. Thanks so much for tackling this, Joe. Excellent treatment, and I am anxious to go read part 2.

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  7. [Hi Joe. This is an intriguing little item that popped up on the net.]

    The Rapture is Anti-Catholic

    Many assert that the "rapture" promoted by evangelicals was first taught, at least seminally, by a Jesuit Catholic priest named Francisco Ribera in his 16th century commentary on the book of Revelation.
    To see what is claimed, Google "Francisco Ribera taught a rapture 45 days before the end of Antichrist's future reign." (Oddly, many claimants are anti-Catholic and merely "use" Ribera in order to "find" much earlier support for their rapture which actually isn't found in any official Christian theology or organized church before 1830!)
    After seeing this claim repeated endlessly without even one sentence from Ribera offered as proof, one widely known church historian decided to go over every page in Ribera's 640-page work published in Latin in 1593.
    After laboriously searching for the Latin equivalent of "45 days" ("quadraginta quinque dies"), "rapture" ("raptu," "raptio," "rapiemur," etc.) and other related expressions, the same scholar revealed that he couldn't find anything in Ribera's work even remotely resembling a prior rapture! (Since the same scholar plans to publish his complete findings, I won't disclose his name.)
    Are you curious about the real beginnings of this evangelical belief (a.k.a. the "pre-tribulation rapture") merchandised by Darby, Scofield, Lindsey, Falwell, LaHaye, Ice, Van Impe, Hagee and many others?
    Google "The Unoriginal John Darby," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "X-Raying Margaret," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," "Walvoord Melts Ice," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Wily Jeffrey," "Deceiving and Being Deceived" by D.M., "The Real Manuel Lacunza," "Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism," "Pretrib Rapture Politics," "Pretrib Hypocrisy" (anti-Catholic examples), "Famous Rapture Watchers," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" - most of these by the author of the 300-page nonfiction book "The Rapture Plot," the highly endorsed and most accurate documentation on the long hidden historical facts of the 182-year-old pre-tribulation rapture theory imported from Britain during the late 19th century.

    ReplyDelete