Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Why Luther Removed 2 Maccabees from the Bible

Over on the Catholic Answers apologetics forum, I've spent some time engaging Roman Catholics (and one Lutheran) in a thread entitled, Martin Luther and the Deuterocanonicals. I mentioned this thread a few days ago. The basic question being asked is: why did Luther remove the Apocrypha from the Bible?

It didn't take long before the standard Roman Catholic answer appeared. According to many Roman Catholics, Luther removed the Apocrypha because it disagreed with his theology. For instance, 2 Maccabees 12:46 teaches such things like Purgatory, and since Luther didn't believe in Purgatory, he removed it.  The second part of this Roman Catholic argument is that Luther was cornered into rejecting 2 Maccabees while debating John Eck on Purgatory. It has become standard now to mention Gary Michuta's argumentation on this from his book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger for historical support on: Eck vs. Luther= remove 2 Maccabees.

That awful Luther just couldn't stand Roman doctrines, so he rejected all the Apocryphal books. But wait a minute... there are a few other Apocryphal books that go along with 2 Maccabees! I don't think I've ever heard a Roman Catholic explain which Roman Catholic doctrines the other books teach and why Luther rejected them. No, the emphasis is always on Purgatory and 2 Maccabees. There alone a red flag should go up that perhaps the typical Roman Catholic response doesn't match up to historical reality. That Luther may have rejected one book because it taught a distinctly Romanist doctrine doesn't explain why he rejected the other apocryphal books.

That aside, my favorite monkey wrench to throw into these types of discussions is the ironic fact that while Luther engaged John Eck on Purgatory, Luther still believed in Purgatory at this time and continued to do so for quite a while after the debate. 

Finally after a few days, a Roman Catholic response with some substance was directed my way attempting to deal with this. Below is my reply to this response. I first debunk Gary Michuta's argument, then I touched on the main thrust of the argument directed at me:

1. Gary Michuta, Luther, and Leipzig
Mr. Michuta's underlying argument against Luther in Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger is as follows. Before the Leipzig disputation against Eck, Luther accepted the Deuterocanon as authoritatively canonical (p.247-248). As proof, he notes "In 1518, Luther freely quoted Sirach and Tobit against his Catholic detractors; but by the following year, Luther's view of the Deuterocanon had taken a decidedly negative turn" (p. 248). The event of the following year provoking Luther's change was the Leipzig disputation. During the Leipzig Disputation, Eck cornered Luther by forcing him to deny the canonicty of 2 Maccabees. "Eck appealed to 2 Maccabees 12:46 as a clear and incontestable proof from Scripture that Purgatory exists" (p.249).  He then quotes Luther responding "There is no proof of Purgatory in any portion of sacred Scripture, for the book of Maccabees not being in the Canon, is of weight with the faithful, but avails nothing with the obstinate" (249). Michuta concludes, "Like the Marcionites, Ebionities, and Gnostics before him, Luther's theological convictions determined what constituted the canonical Scriptures. Consequently, Maccabees could never be allowed full canonical authority because it contradicts Luther's theology" (p. 252). Luther simply pulled out Jerome's appeal to the smaller rabbinical Jewish canon in order to deny Purgatory. Reading between the lines, Michuta is arguing Luther is fundamentally dishonest and simply changed to the smaller canon to just pick and choose his theology.

2. A Response to Gary Michuta's Argument
Contrary to Michuta's caricature of Luther pre-Leipzig, the reason why Luther could quote Sirach and Tobit is because Luther was heavily schooled with the Glossa ordinaria. When commenting on the apocryphal books, this work prefixes this introduction to them: Here begins the book of Tobit which is not in the canon; here begins the book of Judith which is not in the canon' and so forth for Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and Maccabees etc. The schooling Luther received informed his opinion on the canon. Even the Occamist influence in Luther's life would probably informed him similarly. Michuta himself notes Occam held to the allowance of reading the apocrypha, but that the books were not canonical (p. 218).

It wouldn't be odd to find Luther familiar with or fluent in the apocrypha, but that doesn't mean he believed it was canonical scripture. If one reads Luther's preface to the apocrypha, one will find the actual reasons he classified these books as non-canonical, and those reasons often echo previous voices from church history. One of the joys of having Luther's Works on CD-ROM is being able to do word searches. What one will find is that Luther quoted approvingly from Sirach and Tobit throughout his career. The same type of citations found in The Resolutions cited by Michuta are found later in Luther's writings. Mr. Michuta left this fact out, or was perhaps unaware of it. If indeed the debate with Eck forced Luther to change his opinion on the apocrypha, one would expect to find Luther's citations different than previously. What one finds is the exact method of citation from the apocrypha both before and after Luther's encounter with Eck. In fact, Luther's last writings were his Lectures on Genesis. Both Sirach and Tobit are cited by Luther in a very similar way to that in The Resolutions (or as Michuta would say, in a method commensurate with sacred scripture) yet, not considering it canonical scripture.

The approach I take is the exact opposite of Michuta. I consider Luther fundamentally honest on this issue. He denied the authority of 2 Maccabees to establish doctrine because that was simply how he was trained as a theologian, and he followed a tradition which denied the Dueterocanincals authority to establish doctrine.  Luther in fact provides detailed opinions of the Deuterocanonical books in his biblical prefaces. I see no reason to grant that his entire opinion suddenly shifted because of Eck at Leipzig.  Luther quoted from the Deuterocanonicals throughout his entire career, in a manner consistent with the views expressed in his Biblical prefaces. Michuta's paradigm has no way to account for this.

3. Catholic Answers
Now fast forward to this recent Catholic Answers discussion. The thread begins with, "I've heard many of the Catholic apologists on this site make the claim that Martin Luther "removed" the DC's because they provided biblical evidence for Catholic beliefs that Luther disagreed with (purgatory, etc)." He then adds later, "For Catholics, I would hope we have some historical evidence to back up the claim that Luther did it for the reasons we say he did it." Nick finds it hard to believe anyone would dispute that Luther removed the Apocrypha because it provided Biblical evidence for Romanist beliefs: "I would think the story plausible enough to be true. It explains why the OT and NT canon became such a hot topic for Luther. If a part of Scripture didn't agree with his theology, a good strategy would be question the Book's authenticity." He also quotes the Catholic Encyclopedia stating, "In his disputation with Eck at Leipzig, in 1519, when his opponent urged the well-known text from II Machabees in proof of the doctrine of purgatory, Luther replied that the passage had no binding authority since the books was outside the Canon."

Another contributor states, "One of the reasons that Luther is perceived to have done this is detailed in the book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger by Gary Michuta. (which I happen to think is the best apologetics book published this century so far) In it he details an account of where Luther once spoke favorably of Maccabbees and then did a 180 later when he was debating Eck on purgatory."

There are therefore a number of people on Michuta's wavelength: Luther denied the canonicity of the apocrypha, at least 2 Maccabees, because it clearly teaches Purgatory. Of course, the other Dueterocanonicals are never typically mentioned. This is the only issue ever brought up: 2 Maccabees and Purgatory.  This is historical myopia.

Then comes the first meaningful response to my contributions to this discussion by someone whom I think is named Sam Entile (this is his CA signature link). Sam makes some good points, or at least takes this discussion to a deeper level.

Sam says,"Whether or not Luther believed there was a Purgatory is beside the point." What? This has been the thrust of the entire discussion, and as Nick stated, "If a part of Scripture didn't agree with [Luther's] theology, a good strategy would be question the Book's authenticity." The very question that opened thread asked if Luther removed "the DC's because they provided biblical evidence for Catholic beliefs that Luther disagreed with (purgatory, etc)." Michuta states, "Maccabees could never be allowed full canonical authority because it contradicts Luther's theology." Almost the entire tenor of the discussion revolves around whether or not Luther removed certain books because it contradicted his theology. The underlying assumption is that Luther's theology denied purgatory, so certain books had to go. This happens because many (if not most) Roman Catholics assume Luther didn't believe in Purgatory, so Michuta's argument makes a lot of sense.  Of course the problem, as I repeatedly stated it, is Luther still believed in Purgatory at the time in question, and continued to do so for some time afterward.

Sam says, "Luther had a major problem with the Catholic understanding of Purgatory, which included the help we can exercise for them by way of penances, including a financial penance. (Even Michuta, in a post Swan cites, says Luther rejected "Purgatory and all that goes along with it [prayer and sacrifices]." I think a careful reading of the section in Gary's book also shows this to be the context of Luther's theological departure from the Catholic understanding." Sam also launched into a discussion on indulgences related to Purgatory.

This is called anachronism. There was no complete dogma on the indulgence when Luther posted the 95 Theses, or at the Leipzig debate. There was no official doctrine as to the effect of the indulgence "and all that goes along with it" upon Purgatory. Until that was defined, theologians were able to debate on it, which is exactly what Luther did.

As to "a careful reading of Gary's book" which "shows this to be the context of Luther's theological departure from the Catholic understanding" I'd simply have to say: show me. I am working from the 1st edition, so if Gary has updated his arguments, I haven't seen it. I would posit though, if he did, he probably did so as a response to my blog entries. Unless shown otherwise from a later edition or elsewhere, my description of Michuta's argument above stands unless demonstrated from the context of his book.

Sam then says, "Luther's idea of Purgatory was very different than the Catholic idea of interceding on behalf of those souls (which included financial penance)." What Sam hasn't done though is provided any in-depth study as to what Luther's view of Purgatory actually was, or what this view dogmatically consisted of for Roman Catholic theologians during Luther's lifetime. He then reiterates that the "Catholic idea of interceding on behalf of those souls (which included financial penance)." The underlying assumption is this was the dogmatic Roman Catholic view during this period in Luther's life, but as has been pointed out, the relationship of indulgences and Purgatory were still an issue to be worked out. Theologians in a Roman system are free to debate on issues not yet dogmatically defined. So, arguing Luther didn't believe in Purgatory correctly fails as a way to get Mr. Michuta off the hook. Both Luther and Eck believed in Purgatory. 

The approach I take is the exact opposite of Michuta. I consider Luther fundamentally honest on this issue. He denied the authority of 2 Maccabees to establish doctrine because that was simply how he was trained as a theologian, and he followed a tradition which denied the Deuterocanonicals authority to establish doctrine. Luther in fact provides detailed opinions of the Deuterocanonical books in his biblical prefaces. I see no reason to grant that his entire opinion suddenly shifted because of Eck at Leipzig. Luther quoted from the Deuterocanonicals throughout his entire career, in a manner consistent with the views expressed in his Biblical prefaces. Michuta's paradigm has no way to account for this.

17 comments:

Carrie said...

Great points!

Rhology said...

2 Maccabees doesn't lend support to Purgatory without the worst of hermeneutical gymnastics. It cracks me up to see this argument repeated.

Nick said...

Hi James,

You said: "my favorite monkey wrench to throw into these types of discussions is the ironic fact that while Luther engaged John Eck on Purgatory, Luther still believed in Purgatory at this time and continued to do so for quite a while after the debate"

I'm not sold on the idea Luther "still believed" in Purgatory. You appear to base this on a single passage from another Article you wrote.

Here is what Luther says in the single quote you gave:

"The existence of a purgatory I have never denied. I still hold that it exists, as I have written and admitted many times, though I have found no way of proving it incontrovertibly from Scripture or reason. I find in Scripture that Christ, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Job, David, Hezekiah, and some others tasted hell in this life. This I think was purgatory"

This "Purgatory" Luther claims to 'still believe in' and 'never denied' sounds nothing like the traditional Purgatory. Where is it ever said Christ went to Purgatory in any Catholic document or Scripture? Luther says he finds in Scripture that people like Christ and David 'tasted hell', but the only plausible thing that Luther could be talking about is the Scriptural references of Christ going to 'upper Hades' (Acts 2:27,31).

Yet any informed person should know that this is not Purgatory as traditionally understood. If that's the case, which it seems like it is to me, then Luther 'continued to believe' his own version of Purgatory, thus rendering your objection null.

And as was pointed out, why would Eck be mentioning Purgatory if there was no disagreement on it but rather harmony? There had to be some substantial disagreement on Luther's end.

James Swan said...

Hi Nick,

Luther then says, "This I think was purgatory, and it seems not beyond belief that some of the dead suffer in like manner. Tauler has much to say about it, and, in short, I myself have come to the conclusion that there is a purgatory, but I cannot force anybody else to come to the same result."

If you find this subject interesting, I suggest you do a detailed study on Luther's view. Of critical importance to Michuta's argument would be Luther's view during his debate with Eck. In regards to this quote though, what was Tauler's view? Why would Luther mention it? These are questions that should've provoked you to begin with.

Do either you or Sam plan on going "deep into history" on your own? Certainly I could research this issue for you, rather than using the Socratic approach of trying to get you guys to think for yourselves. It has been my experience with those on your side of the Tiber that most don't care enough to go all that much deeper than beyond the materials I provide. Sure, some of you guys know how to find material from secondary sources via Google Books, (like, "This scholar said this" or "This scholar said that"). While this has value, it doesn't trump going to LW or WA and doing your own fresh study, along with Google Books.

I know close to nothing about you personally, but Sam claims to be "a Catholic, currently pursuing a master's degree in theology." I assume he would have the resources available to do what's necessary to have an informed opinion on this subject.

I currently have Michuta's 1st edition of Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger in front of me (also personally signed by Gary). I have nothing against Mr. Michuta personally. I can appreciate the fact that he at least tried to put out a book beyond the typical fluff that Rome's pop-apologists spew out. But as I skimmed through Gary's selected bibliography, it appears he didn't do the necessary research on Luther either. He refers to:

Jacobs, C.M. ed. Works of Martin Luther. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1932.

This is often referred to as PE, or The Philadelphia Edition (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press). Sometimes called the Holman Luther, since it was originally published by A.J. Holman Co. This is an English set in 6 volumes. They were published in the early 1900's.

This is basically close to using nothing from Luther. He cites PE on page 252, footnote 645:

"What is apostolicity for Luther? As Luther understood the term, apostolicity was the degree to which a book preached the gospel as Luther understood it. (645)

645 See Works of Martin Luther, trans. C.M. Jacobs (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1932), United Lutheran Church in America, 6.363ff. Also see Reuss, History, 321.


I have PE 6 from 1932 in front of me right now as well. Page 363 has 7 words and two dates on it: "Prefaces to the Books of the Bible 1522-1545." Granted, Gary used "ff". However, I find it odd Gary wouldn't at least use a volume that contained Luther's prefaces to the apocrypha (this volume does not).

At least Gary could have used the 57 volume English LW set. His friend Steve Ray was even selling the 55 volume Libronix version of it (before I pointed it out, then he pulled off his website). So Gary probably did have access to it, but chose not to do the necessary research to present an informed view. Perhaps Gary has since revised his book, I don't know.

Simply stated, neither you, Sam, or Mr. Michuta have presented a cogent historical argument using the necessary research to present an informed view.

Papista said...

James, your arguments are poor for denied DC.
1 - Luther already denied the DC before John Eck debate;
2 - Luther don't mentioned other DC books. Why others books was cutted out?

3 - You suggest nick a detailed study on Luther's view.

1 - Luther don't were and never will be authority to define books (except for protestants). If with Eck he confirm an opinion about DC, he were a coward because He must expose for all himself opinions.

2 - Anyway Luther solved "the problem" following the Jewish canon (7 books out);

3 - Luther view about revelation:

About this book of the Revelation of John, I leave everyone free to hold his own opinions. I would not have anyone bound to my opinion or judgment. I say what I feel. I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic.

Conclusion: The Luther opinion about Revelation null point 1 and 2.

Or you cut DC books and Revelation or Follow other authority and don't cut it.

James Swan said...

Papista,

I have no idea what you're arguing. Perhaps English is not your primary language?

Innocent Bystander said...

Do you disregard the overwhelming accounts of mystics and Church Fathers's writings on Purgatory as well or do you rely solely on just a few Protestant theologians of the Reformation who ultimately seemed hellbent on schism?

James Swan said...

Innocent Bystander said...
Do you disregard the overwhelming accounts of mystics and Church Fathers's writings on Purgatory as well


I see all of church history as subservient to the Scriptures, the sole infallible rule of faith. I don't see the "the overwhelming accounts of mystics and Church Fathers's writings on Purgatory" as that which interprets the sole infallible rule of faith.

Innocent Bystander said... or do you rely solely on just a few Protestant theologians of the Reformation who ultimately seemed hellbent on schism?

Best for you to track down and read the book: Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, and then we'll talk.

kate said...

Hi, my name is Kate. Okay, for those who think Maccabee (sp?) was removed from the bible by Luther for good reason, I have 2 questions: 1) So do you then think that over 1,000 years of Christians who used the bible with the apocropha IN it, had it wrong? I'd argue they were closer to Christ--wouldn't they know more than Luther? 2) Do you really trust anything Luther did when we now find out he called for the murder of all Jews AND THE POOR PEOPLE who rebelled against the German princes? I am a lifelong Lutheran thinking of converting to Catholocism--after I find out about Luther's true nature and realized that hundreds of different protestant denominations disagree with each other about so many points of scripture! How can anyone be a Protestant with a straight face--when no one agrees on important parts of scripture!!?

James Swan said...

kate said...Hi, my name is Kate.

Hi Kate. I typically don't post comments on old entries, because they are usually "hit and run" drivebys. But snce your first name is "kate" and my favorite singer of all time is Kate Bush, I've posted your comment.

Okay, for those who think Maccabee (sp?) was removed from the bible by Luther for good reason, I have 2 questions:

Luther did not "remove" 2 Maccabees.

1) So do you then think that over 1,000 years of Christians who used the bible with the apocropha IN it, had it wrong?

Not all "Christians" previous to Luther considered 2 Maccabees to be inspired Scripture.

I'd argue they were closer to Christ--wouldn't they know more than Luther?

Simply because someone is historically "closer to Christ" does not mean that there is the less likelihood of error.

2) Do you really trust anything Luther did when we now find out he called for the murder of all Jews AND THE POOR PEOPLE who rebelled against the German princes?

If being harsh towards the Jews negates trust,you best check the history of the Roman church with what they did to the Jews- because by your standard, the Roman church shouldn't be trusted either.


I am a lifelong Lutheran thinking of converting to Catholocism--after I find out about Luther's true nature and realized that hundreds of different protestant denominations disagree with each other about so many points of scripture! How can anyone be a Protestant with a straight face--when no one agrees on important parts of scripture!!?

Careful with double standards. Ever heard of Dei Verbum? on a fundamental issue- what are, or are not, the very Words of God, the Roman church is not unified.

kate said...

Hi James, As per your "comments heading," I guess I should "feel lucky" that I'm replied to and my name is Kate! (attempt at humor.) Yes, you have some good points. I must agree with them all, except for the Maccabees opinion, which is at odds with most scholars. But, my bigger concern, is the actual ARGUING over including Maccabees--Or, for that matter, fighting over the interpretation of any scripture. Myriad different interpretations by myriad denominations about every little passage—no matter how seemingly unimportant to the heart of salvation—is troubling! They can't all be right--but would God really be angry with those who happened, innocently, to interpret wrong? Of course not! Addressing this very thing is clearly why Jesus said, in essence, “it all just boils down to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. “ I started my "search" when my father died and I was sanctimoniously told that God forbade me to pray for him. Well, Ephesians 6:18 says to "pray for everything and pray for the saints." (including dead saints = praying for the dead.) As I instantly knew that no loving God would forbid me from simply praying to him for my father's soul, I began to question all the heartless and self-aggrandizing nit picking going on with "religious authorities." Your comments certainly back up what I didn't say in my post, but what I am really finding increasingly apparent as I search---all churches have errors since all humans have errors. Only solution? Don't ever buy wholesale into ANY organized church--your personal relationship with God must be most important. Church is good because you go there to show God you are praising and honoring Him--but men and their myriad interpretations all fail. I don't think Catholics have every point right either, of course. But there I feel a longer history and at least SOME more unity than myriad denominations of Protestants have.

James Swan said...

Hi Kate:

My apologies for a late reply- if you're still around.

In regard to Maccabees, as I understand the historicity of it's canonicity (or lack thereof)- there were two traditions concurrent in the church, and for Rome, one tradition won over the other, so I would be careful using the phrase, "most scholars." Obviously, there's a significant debate on the canon with smart people on both sides of the issue- so be careful with the alleged "head count" type of argumentation.

In regard to your "bigger concern"- you seem to think that the Roman Magisterium has interpreted the Bible completely- but- those on that side of the Tiber have private interpretation as well- even trying to figure out the correct interpretation of "infallible" documents. Simply go through this blog here and go through my entries with the lable "blueprint for Anarchy"

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/search/label/Blueprint%20For%20Anarchy

In these 100+ posts, you'll see that what Rome says in theory isn't what happens in actuality. Rome claims this united front- but it really is just an empty facade.

When you say, "Don't ever buy wholesale into ANY organized church--your personal relationship with God must be most important," this is certainly at odds with what Rome would require of you. You will be responsible to believe such things like "Mary was assumed bodily to heaven." Watch this video if you have time:

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2015/02/debate-bodily-assumption-of-mary-white.html


I lost both my parents over the last 15 years- my mom in 2000, and my Dad just 2 years ago. If I were to pray in regard to them- I would do so by simply asking God to comfort me as He (Jesus) being my true and ultimate parent, and thanking him for my earthly parents- and then requesting that His Spirit comfort me with trusting in God's goodness in knowing that whatever His ultimate will was for their eternal souls- His judgments are perfect, pure, and true, while mine are not, yet. I look forward to eternity when my intellect and emotions will be in complete conformity to His will- and that I'll be able to see things in a pure and eternal way. Till then, I simply rest in the fact that the supreme judge over all of creation WILL do what is right.

James

kate said...

Thanks for your reply James. Yes! We can absolutely take comfort in God's goodness--I do like the way you have gotten to the heart of the issue of grief and healing. I do, however, believe Catholic unity, no matter how incomplete, is more in evidence than Protestant unity---with protestants splitting into an astonishing number of denominations and warring interpretations of the Bible. Talk about divisiveness! How can they all be right? And what is the eternal consequence if one church leader interprets a piece of scripture differently than the next? And do the nitpicky interpretations of obscure scripture that so divides them really matter? That, I think, is of course why Jesus had to point out, in essence, that “it all boils down to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” Obviously no church knows it all, because God doesn’t intend for any human to know it all, and all churches have plentiful supply of fallible human beings. (Luther certainly being one of the most fallible, with his murderous intent toward poor serfs and Jews) So, back to your original comment on Maccabees and my migration from Protestant to Catholic: Well, all Christians including Catholics pray, and prayer gives us the one-on-one with God. With prayer being “the ticket” what does it matter if you really believe Mary ascended or not? Most Catholic priests don’t really think you will go to hell if you don't believe Mary ascended. We go to church not to focus on every tiny obscure piece of doctrine—but to be with, and pray to God—and be with other Christians. I still find the simple prayers and traditions of the Catholics make me personally feel closer to God. In the end, do you think God will “take home” just those Christians who interpreted passages one way? Or perhaps He’ll embrace ALL those who “love God with all their hearts and their neighbor as himself?”
Blessings to you,
Kate

James Swan said...

Kate: beware of the double standard. If the arguments you put forth to show why Rome is to be favored work against Rome as well, then your arguments are inconsistent. This is my main gripe against those looking toward Rome: they don't want to use the same scrutiny when evaluating Rome.

I do, however, believe Catholic unity, no matter how incomplete, is more in evidence than Protestant unity---with protestants splitting into an astonishing number of denominations and warring interpretations of the Bible. Talk about divisiveness!

Here's my bottom line: Rome's defenders cannot consistently argue that Rome is united and Protestants are not... when in fact, Rome itself is not united. Then when I point this out, the response becomes, "Well, Rome is more united that Protestantism." I'll leave aside expounding on obvious again that the basic argument is demonstrably inconsistent, and therefore refuted, and spend a moment on degrees of unity.

If I were to base my argument on experience, I know a lot of Roman Catholics, and they are all over the ballpark, so to speak, and they fight with each other as well. On the other hand- I have good friends- Christian friends, that are Arminians, Lutherans, Baptists- even Pentecostals- and while we have our differences, oddly enough, we have Christian fellowship based on the fact that we all know we're sinners, and need to be covered in the righteousness of Christ.

How can they all be right? And what is the eternal consequence if one church leader interprets a piece of scripture differently than the next? And do the nitpicky interpretations of obscure scripture that so divides them really matter?

Rome isn't the answer, if this is really your concern. Remember: Rome hasn't really infalliblly defined Scripture, if any at all. They haven't even infallibly figured out if the entirety of Scripture is without error. So on a fundamental issue- what are, or are not, the very Words of God, Roman Catholics are not unified.

Most Catholic priests don’t really think you will go to hell if you don't believe Mary ascended.

That's interesting, and demonstrates exactly what I'm talking about. To deny the Roman dogma of Mary's assumption is a mortal sin, not a venial sin. Here you're demonstrating that some Roman Catholics believe x, and some believe y. Some that believe x would actually say your soul is danger, while others would not. Interesting.

We go to church not to focus on every tiny obscure piece of doctrine—but to be with, and pray to God—and be with other Christians.

This sentence of yours is the result of... doctrine. Once again, you're not being consistent.


In the end, do you think God will “take home” just those Christians who interpreted passages one way? Or perhaps He’ll embrace ALL those who “love God with all their hearts and their neighbor as himself?”

The people that "God will take home" are those covered with the righteousness of Christ. God is perfect, so the works he requires must be perfect. There is only one person who has ever walked the earth and has completely and perfectly loved God with his whole heart and his neighbor as himself: Jesus Christ. That's the righteousness that brings us peace with God.

Obviously, you're a stranger to me on the internet- but I think I get it- that you're looking to experience fellowship with God without all the theological stuff that goes with it. Unfortunately, every time you or I say something about God- we're doing... theology. They go together. You can't "experience" God without making theological statements about God. If you're looking for the experience devoid of theology, you won't be able to find it.

kate said...

Dear James, I am certainly not the right person to be “apologizing for Rome,” as I am not even a Catholic. I am a (perhaps former) Lutheran who has seen the potholes in all organized religions—and right now, have gone to a Catholic church sometimes, actually finding greater peace there.
My overriding point is that while God is infallible, and the Bible is inspired by the infallible, ALL religions are created by men—and ALL men are very fallible. All doctrine is interpreted by fallible men. So, ALL churches created by men have fallacies—protestant and catholic alike! So, if “ALL churches fall short of the glory of God,” yet all these churches love God and follow Him to the very best of their ability-----who is anyone to condemn Catholics—or Protestants just because you(or me) as fallible humans have been led to a different church? That is my point. Different churches may be better for different people to reach the desired goal of getting closer to God. And which church is for us? We pray and if we are indeed with God, HE will give us the wisdom to choose—the bible says clearly that He gives us wisdom! Of course there are SOME churches that clearly are not of God (church of satan for one!) –and of course, those God will not lead us to! This is what faith is about.
As for your point about theology. I think you are missing my point. I’m not looking for no theology! I’m making the hard to dispute (if one is sentient) point that there has to be a bigger more unified theology when it comes to God and differences over sincere and pious interpretations of scripture should not separate those who all love Christ! Or else, we’d have to believe ridiculous things such as: 1)the doctrine –and interpretations of scripture--of Christians of different denominations differs----so among those equally pious but who happen to be brought up in the “wrong” denomination, some will be with Christ and others won’t.
And James, C’mon, you are obviously a very bright man, but in the interchange between us I’ve pasted below, you have very clearly skirted the issue, not directly answered my question, and replied with what amounts to a non-answer.
My question was clearly directed at the consistently fallible “man-made” interpretations of Scripture— even on very obscure points of scripture ----that divide fellow Christians to the point some think other denominations are going to hell based on some minor point. Take this further—and voila! You have Catholic bashers, and Protestant bashers, and Christians hating other Christians. Wow. Sounds like a field day for the enemy to me. And, by you saying only Jesus fully “loved God with all His heart and neighbor as Himself” completely overlooks the point that Jesus TOLD us to do this too! Some parts of Scripture are very direct and clear commands—other passages are very unclear. This is one of the direct and clear ones. And you also overlook the point that Jesus said this in response to being asked about the very thing I am pointing out---that interpreting (and men do interpret fallibly!) every obscure piece of scripture must not take precedence over the big picture which is: Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself! You too are a stranger to me on the internet, but I can see we have in common that we are both seeking greater truth. And that is good.
Best,
Kate

Me: In the end, do you think God will “take home” just those Christians who interpreted passages one way? Or perhaps He’ll embrace ALL those who “love God with all their hearts and their neighbor as himself?”

You: The people that "God will take home" are those covered with the righteousness of Christ. God is perfect, so the works he requires must be perfect. There is only one person who has ever walked the earth and has completely and perfectly loved God with his whole heart and his neighbor as himself: Jesus Christ. That's the righteousness that brings us peace with God.

James Swan said...

Hi Kate,

My apologies for not responding sooner, if you're still checking in. I've appreciated your comments, and I appreciate that you took the time to dialog with me, a complete stranger.

It appears to me that you and I share something in common in regard to Christianity. We both hold that there are essentials that are plain and true, and that only perhaps willful ignorance stops someone from ascertaining these particular perspicuous truths. Your last comments were filled with them, for example:

“ALL churches fall short of the glory of God,” yet all these churches love God and follow Him to the very best of their ability

Different churches may be better for different people to reach the desired goal of getting closer to God. And which church is for us? We pray and if we are indeed with God, HE will give us the wisdom to choose—the bible says clearly that He gives us wisdom!

SOME churches that clearly are not of God (church of satan for one!) –and of course, those God will not lead us to! This is what faith is about.

And, by you saying only Jesus fully “loved God with all His heart and neighbor as Himself” completely overlooks the point that Jesus TOLD us to do this too! Some parts of Scripture are very direct and clear commands—other passages are very unclear. This is one of the direct and clear ones.


Now, I'm simply going to cut to the chase with my bottom line. Here's where I think we differ: salvation and the gospel. Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the central message that unifies Christians of whatever stripe. The reason why I don't extend the hand of Christian fellowship to Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Moonies, and yes, Roman Catholics, is because of their denial of this Gospel. This doesn't mean that people embracing these false-gospel systems aren't nice people doing good works. You'll notice I don't argue things like: the pope is the antichrist, and Roman Catholicism is false because of pedophilia. Nope. The former is un- provable and the later is a false argument.

If you have a moment, read Galatians 1:6-10. It appears to me you're using differences and disagreements within Christianity because " the simple prayers and traditions of the Catholics make me personally feel closer to God." True, experiences make us feel a certain way. When I watched the sunrise this morning, I felt closer to God that I do at times while sitting in church. Frankly, I think you should be concerned first with whether or not the experience your having lines up with Galatians 1:8-9.

James Swan said...

Kate: One last housekeeping comment: A few months ago I had to enable comment moderation. So, all comments must first be approved before they post.

Unfortunately, I had a few people that weren't being cordial.