Wednesday, July 12, 2017

IS MARY THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT?



According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is "the dwelling of God . . . with men." (CCC #2676)

One can find much information online, in articles, books and other literature from Catholics calling Mary (the mother of Jesus Christ) the “Ark of the New Covenant.”  They call her this because she has “housed” the Savior in her womb, just as the Old Testament ark of the covenant was “housing” the presence of God.

But what exactly was the Old Testament ark of the covenant?  It was basically a gold-plated wooden box, and it was one of several pieces of furniture placed in the Old Testament tabernacle (and later, in the temple).  The tabernacle consisted of an “outer court” and two separate rooms.  The furniture of the tabernacle included the brazen (brass) altar and the brazen laver sitting outside in the “outer court.”  The first room, called the “holy place,” contained the table of showbread, the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense.  And the last room, the “Most Holy Place” (also called the “Holy of Holies”) was the most sacred area in the whole tabernacle and it was separated from the holy place by a thick veil.  The Most Holy place contained only one piece of furniture, and that was the ark of the covenant (on which sat the mercy seat), where the very presence of God dwelt on earth.  No one could ever enter this place without dying, except for the high priest; and he could only enter it one day a year, on the Day of Atonement, to atone for his own sins and then to atone for the sins of all Israel.  See this link for a good discussion on the tabernacle:


Catholics seem to see Mary as some kind of fulfillment of the Old Testament ark, since Jesus was in her womb.  That’s why Catholics call her the “Ark of the New Covenant.”  But should Mary be given this title?  Is this proper?  Is it biblical?

The Catholic Church claims that it is indeed biblical.  They will point to passages in the Old Testament about the ark that seem to parallel certain aspects of Mary’s life.  They try to demonstrate similarities between Mary’s discussion with the angel Gabriel, and with the glory of God “overshadowing” the tabernacle.  Or they will see a parallel in Mary’s stay at Elizabeth’s house for three months and David’s moving of the ark to the house of Obed-edom for three months.  Also, they will say that David’s dancing before the ark resembles Elizabeth’s child “leaping” in the womb.  Or they will compare some of the language that David used with that of Elizabeth (John the baptist’s mom).  Catholics will claim that the typology strongly suggests that Mary is now the ark.  We do not deny that there seem to be some parallels in these accounts, but their typology is not as strong as Catholics claim.  There are other things that happened with the ark that would also detract from the claim of Mary as the new ark:
 
For example, if Mary is truly and fully a type of the ark, then who did Uzzah represent?  He was the one who touched the ark and died (2 Samuel 6:6-7).  Had anyone touched Mary and died because of it?  If Mary is the “new ark,” then can Catholics demonstrate that Mary was also captured and stolen by the Philistines, like the ark was in 1 Samuel 4:10-11?  And who held up Mary (as the ark was) while the Jordan River parted (Joshua 3:14-17)?

Of course, Catholics may object and say, “Not every single thing that happened to the ark has happened to Mary.  Typology has its limits, you know.  All types have a breaking point, and you can’t just pick and choose what you want in typology.  It can be subject to abuse.”

That’s exactly the reason we need to be careful with Catholic typology!  Types simply help us to see the big picture, but some will try to force something into being a “type,” when it was never intended to be.  And this Catholic insistence that Mary is the New Covenant Ark is one of those abuses.

But the Bible never says that Mary was the “Ark of the New Covenant.”  If we’re going to follow this Catholic pattern, then who is now the “New Brazen Altar” or the “New Brazen Laver”?  Or why is no one recognized as the “New Veil”?  Who is the “New Table of Showbread”?  These types are ALL fulfilled in Jesus, and not anyone else.  They point to Him as their final fulfillment (Hebrews 9:1-11).  Why would we think that one of those items (the most important one, no less) should be attributed to Mary?  Was God saving the most important piece of furniture, the holiest one, to represent and honor HER above even her Son?  Does anyone really think that this was God’s intent?  If anyone is the “Ark of the New Covenant,” it is Jesus, Himself.

It is one thing to say that Mary was simply a type of the ark of the covenant for a short time, but it is another thing to give her the permanent status and glory of that holy item, especially when it points to Jesus as the true Ark and the true Temple, containing God’s presence (John 2:18-21).  Remember, Jesus is not in her womb anymore! 
 
The ark of the covenant is only mentioned twice in the entire New Testament (Hebrews 9:4; Revelation 11:19) and there is nothing at all about Mary becoming the “new ark” in either of these passages.  The authors of Hebrews and Revelation had ample opportunity to mention this “important” Catholic concept at this point, but nothing of Mary is mentioned here.

We think that Mary, herself, would heartily disagree with Catholics concerning many of the things they believe about her.  We believe that the biblical Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord (Luke 1:38, 48), would admit to being a type of the ark at one point in her life (during her pregnancy), but she would never claim such an exalted title that Catholics try to give her.  We believe that she, like every true Christian, would agree with John the baptist when he said, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  But Mary is in no way “decreasing” in the Catholic Church today!  For example, in the Catholic rosary, there are many more prayers to Mary than there are to Jesus, or God the Father.  As long as the Catholic version of Mary is around, Jesus just can’t seem to be “increasing” as He should.  But once again, Mary is not the “New Ark.”  Jesus Christ should be recognized as the fulfillment of every part of the tabernacle / temple.  He is the center of all prophecy (Luke 24:27; Revelation 19:10), and He and His plan of redemption can be found on every page of Scripture.

Friday, June 23, 2017

MARTIGNONI AND JAMES 5:19-20



Today, we are briefly addressing some more comments from the world of Catholic apologist, John Martignoni.  He was recently writing to his Bible Christian Society audience, and he said something very interesting.  His comments can be found here:


In his comments, Martignoni claims some unique insight concerning a passage in the book of James:

My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

And then Martignoni writes immediately after this:

“Did you catch that?  Most people who read this passage do not stop to think about what it is really saying.  If you do something to bring a sinner back from the error of his way, you will save YOUR soul from death and will cover a multitude of YOUR sins.  What an awesome promise God has given us in Scripture!  Zeal for the souls of others will cover a multitude of our sins and save our soul from death!” (Emphasis in original)

Martignoni acts as though he has discovered some deep revelation that few have ever seen before.  But, at this point, we feel the need to ask Martignoni some questions that he, himself, often asks those with whom he debates.  For example, we would ask him:  John, is your interpretation of this passage of Scripture infallible?  Is the Holy Spirit guiding you when you interpret this?  Or is this your own private interpretation?  Since you have already admitted previously that you are not infallible, then the Holy Spirit might not be guiding you, and you could be wrong, couldn’t you?  And lastly, is your interpretation what the Catholic Church officially teaches?  

We’re pretty sure that this passage has not been infallibly defined by the Catholic Church, nor do we believe that Martignoni’s interpretation is official Catholic teaching.  If anyone claims that it is, then please show us where.
 
These questions from John are not actually a problem for Protestants at all, but we wanted to turn the tables on John, since he very often asks these same things of his opponents when they quote the Bible.  But his own questions come back to haunt him.  Those same questions that he uses in an attempt to frustrate or neutralize Protestants now have the same effect on him.  John seems to think that for any interpretation to carry any weight, it must be infallible.  But he cannot demonstrate that his interpretation is infallible, so (according to his own logic) why should anyone accept John’s interpretation?

We think that John will have to admit that his interpretation of James 5:19-20 is indeed private interpretation, and it is fallible.  And further, it is not official Catholic doctrine.  Although, we will give him credit for admitting that he is not infallible.

As to the actual meaning of the passage above, we’d have to say, sorry, John Martignoni, your interpretation is NOT what the passage is actually saying.  We believe that this passage is easy enough to understand by itself.  But we will try to make it even easier.  For the sake of simplicity and to keep track of things, let’s apply names to both of the characters in this scenario (James 5:19-20).  Let’s call the one who wanders from the truth, Bill.  And we can call the one sharing the gospel, Tom.  Tom is the one who rescues the sinner (Bill) from the error of his way.

Ok, so one of these guys is saved and one is not.  We must understand that Tom is not saving his own soul, since he is already saved - he is not the one who has lost his way.  Otherwise, he wouldn’t be sharing the gospel.  If Tom is not saved, he would not be capable of effectively bringing Bill back from the error of his way.  It would be “the blind leading the blind” (Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39).  So, no… Tom did not save his own soul by bringing Bill back from error.  “Winning” souls is a job for those who are already “won over.”  So Bill is the one whose soul is saved from death and whose multitude of sins are covered, because HE was the one who strayed.  Pretty straightforward.

Now, of course, God wants Christians to win souls (Proverbs 11:30; Mark 16:15; Jude 23), but engaging in this activity does not save the one who does it.  So, how does one enter into a right relationship with God?  Salvation does not come by dipping a person in water, memorizing certain prayers or Scripture verses, helping your neighbor, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, etc., etc.  These are all good things for which we can get Heavenly rewards, but they don’t accomplish justification / salvation.  It is only by the humble acceptance of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ that one is saved, because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  Justification / salvation is accomplished by simply embracing the truth of the gospel message by surrendering your own life to God and believing / trusting in the work that His Son accomplished on the cross, and that alone.  It is in realizing that you stand utterly lacking and spiritually bankrupt before a holy and perfect God.  Then will God give you the desire and ability to do true good works that He has planned for you to do.

So, what about John Martignoni’s interpretation of James 5:19-20?  Is this just another attempt to promote a “works-based salvation”?  We believe it is.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

THE CONFUSION OF STEVE RAY



Catholic apologist, speaker and author Steve Ray has written an article about the debate between Catholics and Protestants on the topic of faith and the role of works in salvation.  The article is titled, “St. Paul did not Write to Us!” and it can be found here:


In the article, Steve Ray mentions that when arguments about salvation come up:

“Protestants quickly accuse Catholics of teaching a salvation based on works and Catholics quickly point out that Protestants have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction by refusing to accept human cooperation and obedience as necessary to the process.”

This is pretty much an accurate account of what normally happens.  Catholics emphasize the role of works (faith plus works) and Protestants emphasize “faith alone,” or faith apart from the merit of works in order to be justified / saved.

Ray mentions the fact that Protestants usually go to the books of Romans and Galatians in the Bible to prove their point (and we would say, rightly so, because this is where justification is defined).  But according to Ray:

“But there is a huge problem here. Paul did not write these letters to us and he knew nothing of the Catholic-Protestant debate. The huge problem we have is the problem of anachronism.”

He goes on to define “anachronism,” which means:

“1. the representation of an event, person, or thing in a historical context in which it could not have occurred or existed; 2. a person or thing that belongs or seems to belong to another time.”

For example, saying that Moses looked at his wristwatch to see what time it was… or saying that the apostle John got in his Ford pickup to go to the market… these would be anachronisms, since wristwatches and Fords didn’t exist during their day.  

So, Steve Ray’s main points here are 1) Paul did not write specifically to us, 2) Paul didn’t know anything of a “Catholic-Protestant” debate back in his day, and 3) Applying Paul’s teaching in Romans and Galatians to the present day Catholic-Protestant debate is out of touch with reality in the sense that it is anachronistic.

But first of all, Ray’s point that “Paul didn’t write to us” is actually untrue and Ray is simply using this as a diversion.  Now, of course, we all know that Paul was not purposely writing SPECIFICALLY to us in the twenty-first century.  But the title of Ray’s article and his opening comments seem to suggest that Paul’s writings don’t apply to us today in any way.

But with this kind of reasoning, why should we obey any of the Ten Commandments today?  Would Ray say that since these also were not specifically written to us, but to Old Testament Jews, therefore, they are not to be observed by modern Christians?  He obviously wouldn’t say that!  So why does Ray even bring up this point?  Why use this deceptive title?  Again, this is simply a diversion that he uses to try and weaken or disregard the biblical evidence found in Romans and Galatians against Catholic teaching. 
   
But in a real sense, Paul did indeed write to us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Paul’s words were infallible and God-breathed because they were Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-17).  And ALL Scripture was written to us, indirectly, and ALL Scripture has some application for us today.  Paul’s words were not only directed to the people of his own day, but to all generations in the future, as well.  The principles within Scripture are always there, for every generation, to guide us into the truth.

Furthermore, the fact that Paul had never heard of a “Catholic-Protestant debate” is irrelevant.  But Paul was certainly very familiar with the substance of that debate.  It is not just about “Jew versus Gentile.”  It is the argument of the Judaizers, which was “faith plus works = salvation.”  But Paul specifically dealt with this same problem in both the Roman church (Romans 3:19 thru 5:21) and the Galatian church (epistle to the Galatians) in his day.   So today we are still wrestling with the same issues as they did back then.  Yet, Ray tries to spin this in such a way as to accuse Protestants of anachronism.  

But the fact is, Ray contradicts himself and admits at the end of the article that there is not really a problem after all, since he confesses that:

“… even though Paul didn’t specifically write his letters to us, if we study the cultural climate in which they were written, and stay faithful to the tradition in which they were passed on to us, the Holy Spirit (the primary author of the letters) will help us apply the principles and truth of those letters to our current situation.” (Emphasis added)

Notice the bold print.  Ray now admits that the Holy Spirit is able to help us apply these same biblical principles to our situation today.  But this is what we already said earlier.  So, where is the anachronism now?  First, he says that the principles in Romans and Galatians are anachronistic (don’t apply today), and now he’s saying that they do apply today (with the Holy Spirit’s help).  But if it applies today, then it is not an anachronism.  Steve Ray is backpedaling and admitting that there IS no “huge problem” here.  What starts off as his main complaint is now dismissed as no problem at all!  Confusion indeed.

But perhaps he would say that the biblical principles would only apply within the context of “Catholic Tradition,” but there is nothing in Tradition that can offset the clear message of unearned salvation in the inspired books of Romans and Galatians.

No, the real “huge problem” is that Catholics often ignore context in those sections of Romans and Galatians that actually deal with the specific doctrine of justification, and they try to add their works to their faith in order to earn salvation, as we have demonstrated elsewhere on this blog.  But, tragically, in combining their own works with Jesus’ work on the cross, Catholics are telling Jesus that His work and suffering was just not enough, thus bringing upon themselves the same curse that the first-century Judaizers brought upon their own selves (Galatians 1:8-9; 3:10-11; 5:1-4).  See this link:


See also these other related articles:








Friday, May 19, 2017

CAN WE “BECOME CHRIST”?



According to Paragraph 795 of the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church (Second Edition – Revised in Accordance with the Official Latin Text):


(Start Quote)


“Christ and his Church thus together make up the “whole Christ” (Christus totus).  The Church is one with Christ.  The saints are acutely aware of this unity:
 

‘Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself.  Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us?  Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ.  For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man…  The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members.  But what does “head and members” mean?  Christ and the Church.  [Quoting Augustine]


Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself. [Quoting Pope Gregory I (“the Great”)]


Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person. [Quoting Thomas Aquinas]


A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter”.”
 

(End Quote) 


(CCC #795 – emphasis in bold added)


What?!!!  We (Christians) have BECOME CHRIST? Are they really saying this?  Isn’t this blasphemy?  Why would the Catholic Church teach something like this? 


Ok, perhaps they meant something else, or maybe we’re just not fully understanding their words.  So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a moment.  Maybe we should let them explain what they really mean.  But in doing research on this, their answers are far from satisfactory.  When Protestants express concern over CCC #795, the Catholic answers to this seem to fall into three basic categories:


  1) They try to tell us that we are taking this “out of context.”


This whole context of Paragraph #795 deals with a special unity between Christ and His church.  But the language of “becoming” Christ doesn’t match the context.  There is a world of difference between being in union with Him, and BEING HIM.  So, the Catechism is violating its own context at this point.


  2) Some will say that we don’t really become Christ, but it’s only emphasizing our special union with Jesus, where we are conformed into the image and likeness of God’s Son, since He is the Head and we are members of His body, together making the whole man, or the “whole Christ.”  They’ll say that the church is “one with Christ,” creating “one organism,” just as husband and wife are made “one flesh,” etc, etc.  So, it’s only about the union.


We all agree that we (Christians) are in a special union with Christ, but notice that the Catechism is going out of its way to point out a CONTRAST:  It says “… we have become not only Christians, but Christ Himself.”  It is telling us that we are not only members of the body of Christ, but something more, something different than mere members of the body, apparently something greater.  And then it reinforces that by again saying, “… we have become Christ.”  So, Catholics can’t claim that this is only about our union with Him.
   

If all that this controversial Catechism statement means is that we are in union with Jesus, then the Catholic Church is only being redundant (repetitive) here.  It is like saying, “we have become not only members of the body of Christ, but something even greater… we have also become members of the body of Christ!”  This makes no sense.  Using this argument, they are building up to a supposed contrast, yet, there is none.  This “union only” argument simply renders the Catechism quote meaningless.  Yes folks, this is just another example of Catholic word games.
 

  3) Some will say that this “becoming Christ” is simply a great “mystery” that we can’t understand.


Then, if that’s the case, there is no limit to the “mysteries” we can use.  Anyone can teach almost anything and declare it to be a “great mystery.”  Then, they can tell outsiders that no one can understand this, but they must accept it, since their church says it is so.  This could get quickly out of hand.  Simply calling it a “mystery” doesn’t make it true, especially since it flies in the face of Scripture.


And what is this “whole Christ” business?  According to Augustine’s quote above, we need Christ AND the church to have the “fullness of Christ.”  But is Christ somehow “incomplete” without us? Or, in some way dependent on the church?  Absolutely not.  He can exist without the church, but the church cannot exist without Him.  He does not “need” the church, or anything else, for that matter (Colossians 2:9-10).  Jesus Christ has existed from eternity past and will continue to exist for eternity future (John 1:1-2; Revelation 1:8).  The only reason that the church is even involved at all is because of His grace and His choice to include Christians in His plan.  It is certainly not because of any need on His part.  But it almost seems that the Catholic Church wants to make it sound as though the church is somehow equal with Him here.


Concerning Joan of Arc’s quote above, it is truly interesting that the Catholic Church (the masters of complicating simple spiritual concepts) is telling us to just believe them and not to complicate things?!!!  It is hard to take them seriously when they say things like this.


Conclusion


As we mentioned before, we all know that there’s a special bond between Christ and His church.  We’re not denying that, but Scripture never suggests that we can ever “become Christ” – that idea is totally foreign to God’s Word.  You can use all the “union with Christ” verses in the Bible that you want, but these verses do not support #795 in the Catechism.  We are not Christ, either individually or corporately.
   

So, once again, why would the Catholic Church say that we have become Christ?  They don’t officially believe in more than one true God, or more than one true Christ, do they?  This is a very controversial statement, one that stands out like a sore thumb, yet the Catholic Catechism doesn’t seem to be trying to explain it.  After all, isn’t the purpose of a catechism to explain the faith?  It’s almost as if the Catholic Church is purposefully leaving us hanging there, without any real attempt to clarify.  The silence is deafening.


Is this “becoming Christ” idea possibly part of the end-time one-world religious system?  We suspect that this quote from the Catechism may likely be used to further the Ecumenical Movement, where all faiths will come together.  Perhaps the Catholic Church is saying this to be “inclusive” of evolutionists, New Agers, Eastern mysticists, and members of other world religions (that is, those who might see themselves as their own “christ” or “god”).  Time will tell.


And why do we see so few objections coming from Catholics about this?  It appears that either they are not aware of these strange comments from the Catechism, or they are simply being faithful to “Mother Church,” no matter what kind of outrageous (and unbiblical) ideas she teaches.


The three points that we listed above appear to be the most common arguments for including CCC #795.  The only other option seems to be that we actually become Christ in an absolute sense, but this is outright heresy.


At any rate, the Catholic Catechism is wrong.  Jesus Christ is indeed the Head of the church.  But in saying that we (Christians) “become Christ,” do we now also become the Head?  Certainly not!  We can’t even always function properly as lesser members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:14-24), much less function as the Head!  We are part of the body, but not THAT part!