Tuesday, July 19, 2016

THE “INDEFECTIBLE” CHURCH



Indefectible.  It’s a big word that you don’t hear very often.  In fact, it seems that the only time you hear of the word, it is almost exclusively used by Catholics in referring to their church.  Here are a few examples of Catholic sources speaking of their Church’s supposed indefectibility:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“…The most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy.  The Spirit, who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church…” (CCC #1108)

The Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church said that the Church is “indefectibly holy” (Lumen Gentium 39)

The Vatican document Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past (International Theological Commission, December 1999) speaks of the “indefectible fidelity” of the Church.

Also, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (online):

“The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Under “The Church”)

Note that the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia references Matthew 16:18 here (“the gates of hell will not prevail”).  We plan to deal with Matthew 16 in next month’s article.

But what does the term “indefectible” actually mean, and why does the Catholic Church use this particular word?  According to these popular dictionaries, this is the definition of “indefectible”:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1)   not subject to failure or decay:  lasting
2)   free of faults:  flawless

Dictionary.com 

       1) not defectible; not liable to defect or failure
       2) not liable to fault or imperfection; faultless

Oxford Dictionary

1     1) not liable to fail, end, or decay
       2) having no defects; perfect

Ok, so the word means perfect, having no defects and no end, flawless, free of faults, not subject to failure, etc.  It’s interesting that Catholics don’t seem to have a problem attaching a word with such a weighty meaning to their beloved church.  But does this really define the Catholic Church?  Is this word a fair description of it?  Seriously, does the Catholic Church really expect us to believe that any of its people, individually or corporately, are “flawless,” “not subject to failure,” or “perfect”?  History and Scripture would surely disagree with this conclusion.  Obviously, there is no church that is perfect.

But in what sense do Catholics believe their Church is indefectible?  In basically two ways.  They believe that not only will the Catholic Church remain and live on forever, but that it also can never teach error. 

But the first problem we have with this is that the Catholic Church sees ITSELF as the true church, the one Jesus said of whom the gates of hell would not prevail, and that they ALONE are the ones who have received this promise.  No, the Catholic Church is not the true church, as is painfully evident throughout this blog.  Not only is it not the true church of Jesus Christ, but it is very unbiblical in many of its teachings.  The true church is made up of individual believers worldwide, in many different places, who believe, trust in, and are committed to serving Jesus Christ and are following His Word.

Concerning the permanence of the church, we don’t have an issue with the belief that the true church will endure to the end.  That is certainly a biblical idea.  We agree that Matthew 16:18 does indeed address that concept.  But the church will not be flawless in its teachings or its behavior, as the word “indefectible” would demand.  By definition, any less-than-perfect behavior would negate (cancel) this claim to indefectibility. 
 
But Catholics will say that the Church’s indefectibility does not apply to its behavior.  But remember, the official Catholic statement above (Lumen Gentium, paragraph 39) calls the Catholic Church “indefectibly holy.”  And notice that the context of paragraph 39 deals with the Church’s sanctification, and therefore, its morals and behavior.  Therefore, this “gift” of indefectibility must necessarily also refer to the Catholic Church’s morals and behavior.  You can’t have indefectible holiness and less-than-perfect behavior at the same time.

In the other quote above about the Catholic Church’s “indefectible fidelity,” the document says that, “the [Catholic] Church is at the same time holy [indefectibly so] and always in need of purification…”  But this is a blatant contradiction!  Again, you can’t say that it is both indefectible in its holiness and at the same time, needing purification in its behavior!  This destroys the very definition of the word “indefectible.”  So, if the term doesn’t really apply to the Catholic Church (which it doesn’t), then DON’T CALL IT INDEFECTIBLE!  Use another word.  Using this term is dishonest and arrogant. 
 
Notice that the apostle Paul does not tell Timothy, “Hey, just kick back and relax,Timothy, since the leadership of the church has this special gift of indefectibility.  All your teachings will automatically be true and will come out perfectly, no matter what, so you don’t ever have to worry about teaching error!”  No, he tells Timothy to guard his teaching (1 Timothy 4:16; 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14) and fight to maintain it.  This doesn’t sound like a gift of indefectibility in which Timothy couldn’t preach error, even if he tried.  Why should it be guarded if it was never in danger?  It’s a great exaggeration to attach the word “indefectible” to any earthly person or group after the apostolic era.  God alone has that perfection, that flawlessness.

The true church is made up of godly, but imperfect, humans.  We can indeed have assurance that the true church will prevail, but only because of the power and faithfulness of Jesus Christ, Himself.  The bottom line is, the Catholic Church is wrong: an “indefectible” church simply does not exist.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

MARTIGNONI AND KORAH’S REBELLION



Today our focus is going to be on another of John Martignoni’s newsletters.  As you may remember, John Martignoni is a very popular and influential Catholic apologist who heads the “Bible Christian Society.”  In his Newsletter #278, he talks about Korah’s rebellion in the Old Testament (Numbers 16:1-40).  The newsletter can be found here:


Martignoni states:

“…Korah's Rebellion was a rebellion against authority - the authority of Moses and Aaron.  It was a rebellion against the authority of those that God had placed in charge of His people.”

First of all, we want to say that Martignoni is correct in his understanding of the events of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16.  Korah was indeed guilty of rejecting the God-ordained authority of Moses and Aaron.  Their (Old Testament) ministerial priesthood was absolutely legitimate.  But according to Martignoni, the sin of Korah suggests that we should have a New Testament ministerial priesthood, as well.  He points to the book of Jude, which looks back to the Old Testament and mentions the sin of Korah.  Concerning this, Martignoni says:

“The interesting thing is, and this is something that we, as Catholics, need to bring up more often than we do, is that the essence of Korah's Rebellion also existed in New Testament times.  We read in Jude 10-11 that there are men who ‘revile whatever they do not understand...’  and who ‘perish in Korah's rebellion’… Yet, what do we take away from Jude 10-11?  There were people, in the New Testament era, perishing in Korah's Rebellion.  What was Korah's Rebellion?  It was a rebellion against having a separate priesthood...an ordained priesthood...a priesthood that is set apart, in certain ways, from the royal priesthood of believers.   It's a rebellion against a priesthood that didn't include all of the people.”

Using Jude 10-11, Martignoni is insisting that 1) since Korah’s rebellion consisted specifically of a rejection of the Old Testament ministerial priesthood, and 2) since Jude applies Korah’s sin to some people in the New Testament, he then concludes that anyone rejecting a New Testament ministerial priesthood is also guilty of Korah’s sin of rebellion.  Martignoni continues:

“So, if that's what Korah's Rebellion was about, then how could Korah's Rebellion be occurring in the New Testament era, unless there was an ordained priesthood?  …This passage from Jude makes absolutely no sense unless there was, from the earliest moments of the Church, an ordained priesthood.  You can't have Korah's Rebellion in 1st century Christianity if there was no ordained priesthood - if there was no distinction between the royal priesthood of all believers and the ordained priesthood.”

There are a number of Catholic apologists who use this same type of argument and try to promote the idea of a ministerial priesthood in the New Testament.  But notice that Martignoni deals with no other verses in Jude except 10 and 11.  But verses 10 and 11 alone are not sufficient to determine the context of Jude’s use of Korah’s rebellion here.  We must look at the surrounding context to understand what Jude is saying.

Notice that there are other people, as well, who are mentioned in this context, and not just Korah:


  • The ungodly people (v.4), who crept into the church and rejected God’s concept of grace and turned it into a license to sin

  • The first generation of Jews (v.5), who were delivered out of Egypt but rejected God’s established covenant with them by their unbelief (Hebrews 3:16-19)

  • The fallen angels (v.6), who rejected God’s authority and special plan, and chose to follow Lucifer, instead (2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 12:4)

  •  The men of Sodom and Gomorrah (v.7), who rejected God’s natural order of “men with women” and chose the perversion of homosexuality, instead (Genesis 19:4-5)

  •  Cain (v.11), who rejected God’s plan of an innocent life dying for the guilty when he offered a gift of vegetables / fruit (the work of his hands), instead (Genesis 4:3-5)

  • Balaam (v.11), who rejected God’s special annointing on His people (the Jews), who were blessed by Him, but Balaam was willing to curse them for money (Numbers 22:5-21; 2 Peter 2:15)

  • And Korah (v.11), who rejected God’s plan of an Old Testament ministerial priesthood (Numbers 16:3)

The sins of all the others mentioned here had NOTHING whatsoever to do with rejecting a ministerial priesthood – it was ONLY KORAH (and his followers) that did this.  But the thing that all seven (mentioned above) were guilty of, is rejecting God’s intended plan.  This is what they all had in common.

The details of Korah are unlike all the others in this chapter.  To make Korah’s specific sin (i.e., rejecting a valid priesthood) the focus of Jude’s whole point, or to force the context of Korah onto the whole context of Jude is pure eisegesis (i.e., reading something into the context that is not there).  The purpose of Jude’s message is NOT to condemn all those who reject a ministerial priesthood, as Martignoni is suggesting.
 
Following Martignoni’s logic here would be like accusing everyone mentioned in Jude of being sodomites / homosexuals, just because Sodom and Gomorah happen to be mentioned (v.7).  Or it would be like accusing all those mentioned in Jude of rejecting God even after seeing Him face to face (as these angels had), just because the fallen angels are mentioned (v.6).  No, each person’s sin was somewhat different, but again, the common thread between them all is that each one was guilty of some type of rejection of God’s intended order.

Once again, Jude’s book is not an appeal to the church to go back to an Old Testament-type ministerial priesthood (Hebrews 10:18).  Jude was simply warning us to contend for the faith and to be careful of rejecting God’s plans, and he gives us different examples of rejection.

Catholic apologists like Martignoni try really hard to find a ministerial priesthood in the New Testament.  But there is no biblical evidence for such a thing.  Actually, the scriptural evidence points to one that has been discontinued in the New Testament church (e.g., Matthew 27:50-51; Hebrews 9:12, 28; 10:10-12, 14, 18).  See these articles:



Although John Martignoni correctly understands the facts of Numbers 16 (the story of Korah’s rebellion), he is misapplying what Jude said about it, and is promoting a false teaching.  There IS no ministerial priesthood within the pages of the New Testament, but only the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1) and the universal priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5).

Sunday, May 15, 2016

DOES EXODUS 19:6 SUPPORT A CATHOLIC PRIESTHOOD?



And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:6)

In the Bible, some things carry over from the Old Testament into the New.  Some things don’t.  Certain laws were specifically for the Old Testament Jews and for a specific limited time in history.  For example, grain and animal sacrifices… certain ceremonial, clothing and dietary laws… and the tabernacle and its furnishings are all only types and shadows of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1).  Those things were just for the Old Testament Jews to follow and they don’t carry over into the New Testament.  They were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4).  Another practice that is not intended for the New Testament is the “ministerial” priesthood, where only certain “ordained” men using certain ceremonies and rituals could mediate between man and God.

But the Catholic Church will insist that there is indeed a New Testament ministerial priesthood (like in the Old Testament) and one Catholic argument that they use to try and prove this is the “three-fold priesthood.”  This brief article is to specifically address this (and only this) three-fold argument.  The Catholic reasoning goes something like this:

1) In the Old Testament, the Jews had a high priest (Leviticus 21:10).
2) In the Old Testament, the Jews had ministerial priests (Exodus 19:22).   
3) In the Old Testament, the Jews also had a universal priesthood [one that makes every believer a priest] (Exodus 19:6).
4) Conclusion:  Therefore, since the New Testament also has a High Priest like the Old Testament does, and it also has universal priests like the Old Testament does, it would make sense if all three of these same positions would carry over into the New Testament.  If the Old Testament has three types of priest, so should the New Testament.

We could possibly agree with our Catholic friends if, AND ONLY IF, the premises were all correct.  Now, we agree with the first two premises, but not the third.  Therefore, we don’t reach the same conclusion, either. 
 
Many who read Exodus 19:6 still don’t realize that the Old Testament did NOT have a universal priesthood.  Why would we say this after reading that verse?  Well, a universal priesthood was indeed promised by God to the Jews, but it was a CONDITIONAL promise (i.e., it was dependent on the Jews’ obedience).  Read it in context.  Just one verse before, God said:

Exodus 19:5 - “Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine:” 

Please notice the “IF ye will obey My voice” part.  Catholics seem to always miss this point - that the Jews first needed to be fully obedient to God’s covenant in order to obtain such a special priesthood.  But we all know of Israel’s failure (as a nation) to obey God’s voice in the Old Testament.  They were clearly and willfully disobedient over and over again.  Therefore, the Jews never got to enjoy this status of being a universal priesthood.
 
For the Old Testament Jews, the promise of a universal priesthood was dependent on THEIR obedience to the Law.  For New Testament believers (both Jew and Gentile), the promise of a universal priesthood is dependent on our faith in JESUS’ obedience to the Law, and on HIS work on the cross.

Exodus 19:6 is still a valid promise to the Jews and they will indeed enjoy that privilege one day (Isaiah chapter 61).  There are many, many promises to the Jews not yet fulfilled, and Exodus 19:6 is only one of them.
 
So, the bottom line in this priesthood debate is this:  There were only two functioning priesthoods in the Old Testament – a high priesthood (Leviticus 21:10) and a ministerial one (Exodus 19:22).  And there are only two in the New Testament, as well - the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:17; 3:1), and a universal priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6).  No other Christian office of priest is mentioned in the New Testament.  Since there are only two in each Testament, and since the high priesthood is common to both, it follows that our New Testament universal priesthood has taken the place of the Old Testament ministerial-type priesthood.
 
Therefore, Catholics can’t use this “three-fold argument” to support the Catholic priesthood.  Not only does this apply to Catholics, but this also applies to the Orthodox Church and certain Protestant groups, as well.  It affects any group who claims to have such a “sacramental” or ministerial-type priesthood for today.

As stated earlier, this article was written specifically to address this one Catholic argument.  For a fuller treatment of the priesthood issue, see here: