Sunday, March 30, 2008

I was alerted that a Catholic apologist seems to think I believe the Apostles could be in Hell. Rather, the careful reader who followed my comments in Carrie's post will note I was arguing from a theoretical Catholic perspective. I am Reformed. I believe the Apostles were chosen by God, and that Christ's blood was shed for their sins, and that nothing could snatch them out of the hand of God. They were justified long before they were sanctified, as are all who embrace Christ by faith alone.

Then, some of my quotes directed toward another person in a completely different context were added to the entry, and frankly, I'm not sure what the connection was supposed to be. Along with this was a mocking picture, and an insult to the title of my blog. I'm not sure if the post from this Catholic apologist will still be up in the form it is now. My guess is it will be edited or expanded to further the cause of ____________ [fill in the blank, I really don't know the point of this entry against me].

As to my methodology, remember, Roman Catholics are the ones who have repeatedly told me that one cannot know who is, or isn't in Hell. Recall, the old question..."where did Luther end up?" A Roman Catholic on this question of Luther's fate stated, "Unless Mr. Swan wishes us to disregard the plain language of Scripture, the Church will not speculate as to Fr. Luther's fate"
and also, "We do not know whether Fr. Luther damned himself to hell by preaching heresy If Mr. Swan has the ability to read the heart of Fr. Luther at the moment of his death back in 1546, he does not state the source of his ability."

So, now, I guess for Roman Catholics, it is possible to know the fate of particular people, just not Luther. If Catholics have the ability to read the heart of people at the moment of their death, well, this is new to me.

In context, here is what I stated:

The possibility of a "Pope in Hell" is quite consistent with Rome's systematic teaching. If one is sanctified unto eventual justification, and that process is in "some way" dependent on the free will response of the one who can choose not follow Christ unto that eventual justification, it is indeed possible even the apostles themselves are in Hell.

The only surety (for the Romanists) is that Mary is the only type of Calvinist in Roman Catholicism... in a sense. She was chosen by God before her birth to be completely saved from all sin, and therefore, completely justified this side of eternity....but she's the exception. Of course, the Reformed would never argue we are completely sinless this side of eternity, but I think it's interesting that when it comes to knowing who the "chosen" are, there really is only one answer for the Romanist....Mary. Everyone else runs the risk of Hell.

and then, I responded to this charge:

James Swan,Characterizing the Catholic church's view of Mary as idiosyncratically "Calvinist" seems to be fundamentally mistaken.

I would suggest reading my statements carefully. I stated, "The only surety (for the Romanists)is that Mary is the only type of Calvinist in Roman Catholicism... in a sense." Note the words "type" and "sense." These are crucial to my point. I then stated, "Of course, the Reformed would never argue we are completely sinless this side of eternity, but I think it's interesting that when it comes to knowing who the "chosen" are, there really is only one answer for the Romanist....Mary. Everyone else runs the risk of Hell."

The doctrine of Mary's preservation from original sin - which is not as unique as you may think (See John the Baptist was "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb." Luke 1:15)

To my knowledge, Roman Catholics do not argue John the Baptist was kept from sin his entire life, hence there is not a parallel.

Thereafter, the Church teaches, Mary was provided with a special grace that preserved her from committing sin.

Patrick Madrid states, 'Christ indeed saved Mary from sin- from all sin- but he did this for her prior to her contracting sin. We on the other hand, are saved after we fall into it" [Madrid,Pocket guide To Apologetics, p. 30]. Karl Keating states, "But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and certain of its consequences" [Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 270]. On p. 271, Keating states, "It took a positive act of God to keep her from coming under [sin's] effects the way we have." "...she enjoyed certain privileges we never can, such as entire avoidance of sin." Keeping Mary from the stain of original sin, in effect, keeps her from all personal sin. So much for Mary's free will according to Catholic apologists.

Could Mary nonetheless have committed sin? This involves some speculation, but the answer would probably be "yes." Mary had free will.

Now, not all sin is an outward act. I agree with Augustine, whom I think it was, who argued the fall of man occurred before the eating of the fruit, with the pride of Adam and Eve craving for undue exaltation. In fact, the worst of all sins is the sin of unbelief- it's at the root of all sins. In a certain sense, when we sin, we don't believe God's ways are the right way, we think ours are, hence, we commit unbelief against God with each of our sins. In Roman Catholicism, Mary was preserved from even these inward sins. I would argue, if Mary was kept from sin, she was kept from the desire to sin as well. So much for free will.

Admittedly, God knew the outcome of Mary's life from the beginning, but knowing something isn't the same as predestination in the Calvinist sense.

Well, once again, let's note that Catholics don't all have the same opinion on this, nor are there infallibly defined answers on predestination, nor are the Biblical references on Predestination dogmatically defined. So much for Catholic certainty.I picked up a little book a few years back, Mary Immaculate In The Divine Plan by Michael D. Meilach, O.F.M., who argues for Mary's predestination: "...we maintain that her predestination to be the Mother of Jesus Christ is absolutely fundamental- the single factor that explains everything else about her" (p. 58). The preface states that "Christ and Mary emerge as holding an absolute and universal primacy over the rest of creation...the Savior and his Mother must have been predestined first, and hence independently of Adam's fall" (pp. v- vi). So, there are indeed those who see Mary as predestined with the Roman sect.

Insert all the free will you want- Catholic apologists still argue Mary was kept from sin throughout her life. This means that in terms of salvation, Mary was given something special. She lived a completely sanctified, and hence a completely justified life. By God's miraculous predetermining act of the immaculate conception, Mary (and Jesus) become the individuals in Roman Catholicism kept from sin, and completely justified, their entire lives.
12:20 AM, March 30, 2008

13 comments:

Lvka said...

The Bible says that "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are", not that he was a Deus ex machina, lacking free will, or predestined in a Calvinist sense. The same goes for Mary and for all Saints.

Carrie said...

I thought DA was done with us "anti-Catholics"?

Carrie said...

James,

You bring up some interesting points about Mary from the RC viewpoint. How do they deal with Mary's predestination as the Mother of GOd.

Because I thought it was RC opinion that Mary had freewill to say yes or no to the angel's announcement of the conception of Christ. Yet if she was already immaculately conceived, she was already predestined to become the mother of Christ.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

My response from below:

I would suggest reading my statements carefully. I stated, "The only surety (for the Romanists)is that Mary is the only type of Calvinist in Roman Catholicism... in a sense." Note the words "type" and "sense." These are crucial to my point. I then stated, "Of course, the Reformed would never aruge we are completely sinless this side of eternity, but I think it's interesting that when it comes to knowing who the "chosen" are, there really is only one answer for the Romanist....Mary. Everyone else runs the risk of Hell."

Well, obviously, if you don’t define what you mean by “type”, “sense” and “Calvinist”, I have to rely on context.

I take it from the context of your speculation that you believe that Catholicism idiosyncratically takes a “Calvinist” position with respect to Mary in that she was predestined to Heaven in the sense that she had no choice in the matter – that God’s grace was for her uniquely “irresistible” in the Catholic view of things.

The problem as I explained is that this misrepresents Catholic teachings on the subject which affirms that Mary had a free choice in her decision to participate in God’s plan of salvation. I quoted John Paul II on the subject. Here is the Catechism:

Mary's predestination

488 "God sent forth his Son", but to prepare a body for him,125 he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary":126


The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.


Hence, although it was predestined that Mary would be the one to make the choice and would be the Mother of God, the Catholic church teaches that her choice involved her free cooperation.

If you can fit this into a “type” of Calvinism, in a sense, please explain.

Nonetheless, my point has been to outline what the Church actually teaches.

To my knowledge, Roman Catholics do not argue John the Baptist was kept from sin his entire life, hence there is not a parrallel.

The parallel was with the notion that John the Baptist was born without original sin, something which Catholics may - but are not required - to believe.

Further, why are you so certain that Catholics don’t argue that John the Baptist was sinless throughout his entire life. St. Catherine of Siena believed that to be the case, and evidence of the Bible – once we set aside our presumption that everyone sins – seems to indicate that John the Baptist didn’t sin.

Patrick Madrid states, 'Christ indeed saved Mary from sin- from all sin- but he did this for her prior to her contracting sin. We on the other hand, are saved after we fall into it" [Madrid,Pocket guide To Apologetics, p. 30]. Karl Keating states, "But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and certain of its consequences" [Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 270]. On p. 271, Keating states, "It took a positive act of God to keep her from coming under [sin's] effects the way we have." "...she enjoyed certain privileges we never can, such as entire avoidance of sin." Keeping Mary from the stain of origininal sin, in effect, keeps her from all personal sin. So much for Mary's free will according to Catholic apologists.

Nothing you’ve quoted vitiates what the Catholic Church teaches about Mary’s free cooperation.

Now, not all sin is an outward act. I agree with Augustine, whom I think it was, who argued the fall of man occurred before the eating of the fruit, with the pride of Adam and Eve craving for undue exaltation. In fact, the worst of all sins is the sin of unbelief- it's at the root of all sins. In a certain sense, when we sin, we don't believe God's ways are the right way, we think ours are, hence, we commit unbelief against God with each of our sins. In Roman Catholicism, Mary was preserved from even these inward sins. I would argue, if Mary was kept from sin, she was kept from the desire to sin as well. So much for free will.

I’d be interested in seeing where Augustine said that.

To answer your point about grace and free will in a Catholic context, it is necessary t understand what the Catholic Church teaches about the effects of original sin and the way in which grace keeps a person from sin.

The effect of original sin is “concupiscence” by which our intellect is made subject to our bodily appetites. Prior to the Fall, according to Augustine, human intellect ruled the bodily appetites so that all decisions were deliberate and rational.

Hence, the grace that preserved Mary from sin was that grace which spared her from concupiscence by either restraining her bodily appetites or subjecting them to her reason as was the case with Adam and Eve before the Fall.

However, none of that means that a person in that state cannot sin by making a knowing, deliberate choice – Adam and Eve sinned, after all.


Well, once again, let's note that Catholics don't all have the same opinion on this, nor are there infallibly defined answers on predestination, nor are the Biblical references on Predestination dogmatically defined. So much for Catholic certainty.

Well, the Catholic Church does dogmatically define that Mary made a free choice in participating in the divine plan of salvation and we know that God exists in eternity and sees all of time at once.

Hence, we have to fall back on human reason to explain how those two points fit together, and we find in Rationes Fidei that Aquinas compared divine foreknowledge to the situation of a person on hill observing the journey of a caravan. The observer sees it all, but that knowledge doesn’t make the decisions for the caravan about what particular course it takes.

Since we are discussing the Catholic view on whether God imposed Mary's participation in His plan by necessity, or whether her consent was free, I think that we ought to go with Aquinas on this one.

I picked up a little book a few years back, Mary Immaculate In The Divine Plan by Michael D. Meilach, O.F.M., who argues for Mary's predestination: "...we maintain that her predestination to be the Mother of Jesus Christ is absolutely fundamental- the single factor that explains everything else about her" (p. 58). The preface states that "Christ and Mary emerge as holding an absolute and universal primacy over the rest of creation...the Savior and his Mother must have been predestined first, and hence independently of Adam's fall" (pp. v- vi). So, there are indeed those who see Mary as predestined with the Roman sect.

By “Roman sect” I assume you mean the Church that has existed for two thousand years and has over a billon members and historically has constituted something like 80% of all Christians who have ever lived?

If that is the case, then sure, and I’d up the ante and say that that view is shared by the other great Christian tradition – the Orthodox Church.

As I pointed out above, Mary was certainly “predestined” to be the Mother of God, but that fact doesn’t obviate the fact that the Catholic Church teaches that she had a free choice in the matter. Something I've pointed out with two official texts from the Catholic Church.

Hence, unless you have a type of Calvinism that allows for humans to refuse to cooperate with grace, Catholicism doesn’t go “Calvinist” concerning Mary.

Insert all the free will you want- Catholic apologists still argue Mary was kept from sin throughout her life. This means that in terms of salvation, Mary was given something special. She lived a completely sanctified, and hence a completely justified life. By God's miraculous predetermining act of the immaculate conception, Mary (and Jesus) become the individuals in Roman Catholicism kept from sin, and completely justified, their entire lives.

None of which means that the Catholic Church denies that Mary had a free choice in cooperating with her salvation, something which I've shown in two official documents.

I assume you disagree with the position of the Church. Fine. My only point has been to correct your error about what the Church teaches, you may certainly argue against it all you like.

I just think that you ought to fairly represent what you are arguing against.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mr. Swan, there is a possibility that one of the men that Jesus chose, one of the twelve apostles, could be in hell-Judas. Of course, as my previous quote which you cite in your post indicated, the Church teaches that we are not judge whether someone is in hell. That perogative belongs to Christ alone.

On the other hand, it is a matter of faith for Catholics that God does give the Church the grace to ascertain whether a person is in heaven. Those persons we canonize as saints. The Church does not "make" a person a saint in this sense, but merely formally recognizes that person's status as one of the holy ones of God. Since God has revealed to His Church that the other apostles are saints, there is no possiblity that they could be in hell under any Catholic perspective, theoretical or otherwise.

James Swan said...

Hi Mr. Swan, there is a possibility that one of the men that Jesus chose, one of the twelve apostles, could be in hell-Judas.

Paul, here you grasp the hypothetical nature of my words, missed by those who simply see what they want to. Recall, I was comparing Mary's sinlessness and thus her lifelong justification as opposed to all others (with the exception of the Lord), who lived their lives committing sin. I presented a hypothetical argument. This argument is harmonious with what Ludwig Ott has stated, “The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this: that without a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions which are necessary for achieving justification.”

On the other hand, it is a matter of faith for Catholics that God does give the Church the grace to ascertain whether a person is in heaven.

You must realize, that simply because you say this is so, doesn't mean it is so. Where does it say in the Bible that God gives the church this ability? where does it say this in infallible "Oral" tradition? Where did the apostles teach this? Trace this through history. Prove your assertion. Or, simply admit, you believe it because of sola ecclesia: the Roman Church declares it, so it is truth.


there is no possibility that they could be in hell under any Catholic perspective, theoretical or otherwise.

I find this to be quite the double standard. In the case of Luther, you said of me, "If Mr. Swan has the ability to read the heart of Fr. Luther at the moment of his death back in 1546, he does not state the source of his ability." But here, you simply declare the Church has the same ability you wonder if I have claimed to have. How is it, your church has the ability to read the hearts of people at the moments of their deaths on the one hand, but not the other? Please explain.

James Swan said...

I thought DA was done with us "anti-Catholics"?

DA seems to pop up every time I have a lot of important things going on. I've learned to see it as a test as to whether I can be distracted by nonsense, double standards,and invective.

I haven't checked his blog, but if DA is still DA, his post has probably tripled in length and the title of the post has been changed from what it said initially.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mr. Swan, I will try to address your points more in detail when I have some time. But I will address the Luther issue because I think you misunderstood my comment. You were suggesting that if it was being consistent to its teachings, the Catholic Church should be hold that because of what Fr. Luther did, he is in hell. I was indicating to you were exercising authority that the Church has never claimed it had-- to determine whether someone is in hell. Scripture plainly states that Our Lord reserved the right of judgment to Himself.

As for the authority to make a person is a saint, the Church doesn't claim that right either. God, in His graciousness, sometimes gives His Church a sign allowing it to recognize formally that a particular person may be counted among His saints or holy ones in heaven. You, yourself inherently recognize that the Church has that gift by virtue of your statement that all of the apostles (with the possible exception of Judas) are in heaven. We are merely disagreeing (perhaps) on the methodology used for making that discernment.

Rhology said...

So God chose Mary from the foundation of the world, from eternity past, but she could've said no? Cool...

Carrie said...

God, in His graciousness, sometimes gives His Church a sign allowing it to recognize formally that a particular person may be counted among His saints or holy ones in heaven.

Paul,

I think James' point is, where is your method validated by Scripture or Tradition?

The whole process makes me very uneasy. How is it any different that me going down to my local psychic and having her contact my dead relative for confirmation of their current location?

You cannot exclude the possibility that the people who are experiencing "miracles" are either lying, experiencing some kind of placebo effect, or that their "miracles" do not have a demonic origin. As I said before, what exactly is the motivation in declaring someone infallibly in heaven?

Peter Sean Bradley said...

So God chose Mary from the foundation of the world, from eternity past, but she could've said no? Cool...

Very "cool" indeed.

We believe in a God who is three person but one nature and a savior who is one person but two natures, who, though, omnipotent was born a helpless child and, though the essence of glory, died a shameful death as a criminal. We believe in a God who, though all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good, gave his first creations the ability to reject him. We believe in a Savior who died but lives forever. We believe that we die but live.

"Cool" indeed.

G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy wrote:

"The Christian permits free will to remain a sacred mystery; but because of this his relations with the housemaid become of a sparkling and crystal clearness. He puts the seed of dogma in a central darkness; but it branches forth in all directions with abounding natural health. As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its centre it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travellers."

The mysteries of faith are sublime and awesome to behold.

Carrie said...

So God chose Mary from the foundation of the world, from eternity past, but she could've said no? Cool...

And had she said "no", I guess we would have been without a Savior. Unless God had a "plan B".

GeneMBridges said...

We believe in a God who is three person but one nature and a savior who is one person but two natures, who, though, omnipotent was born a helpless child and, though the essence of glory, died a shameful death as a criminal. We believe in a God who, though all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good, gave his first creations the ability to reject him. We believe in a Savior who died but lives forever. We believe that we die but live.

This only begs the question for Libertarian Free Will. I, as a Calvinist, can stipulate to this too, but I deny LFW. So, your comments, knowing what you actually affirm, are really meaningless.

Care to establish LFW from Scripture? Go ahead, try it.