Monday, August 27, 2012

Truth Balloon

If you ever had a habit of lying, you may have noticed how the truth tends to rise to the surface in time. It almost seems to be a natural law of sorts.  The tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive ironically helps to catch the truth. A visual metaphor better than a web may be one of those long party balloons clowns make animals out of.

The balloon itself can represent our world or the reality which we can see. Air can be “Truth” which we do not see directly; we see the effects. One can squeeze-out the air in a certain part of the balloon, but it still exists; it pops-up somewhere else in the balloon, although perhaps in another form. We can try to suppress Truth in our individual life or in society, but it still exists and will eventually show up somewhere else.
This metaphor can be applied to Protestants/Evangelicals throughout history that have attempted to "squeeze out" Christian Tradition. The kind of Tradition that ultimately comes from God (not the traditions of men); the kind Catholics might spell with a capital “T”
Ø  Squeeze out the Pope, get “The Bible Answer Man”

Ø  Squeeze out the Magisterium of Catholic Bishops, get the Baptist General Director of Missions
We have a need for human authority; this is why Jesus set up a visible on earth Church with people in charge.  Bible churches do not use the Bible as their sole authority; they are also using whatever biblical interpretation their church leaders interpret. The Bible doesn’t actually “teach”, just as a math book does not teach; people do the teaching. If I handed some students an algebra book, told them to join an algebra study group and pray hard for understanding with no algebra teacher, how well would they do on the final exam? How well would they truly understand?
I once heard a minister say that the only proper interpreter of scripture is scripture itself. This reminded me of when I was a kid asking how to spell a word and being told to look it up in the dictionary. I would say to myself in frustration…”But I can’t spell the word, so how can I look it up”. It also reminded me of Acts 8:30-31 “Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”
Of course, some Christians will say that the Holy Spirit does the guiding, teaching and interpreting for them individually. This would be somewhat reasonable if there were only two Christian denominations in the world, the misguided (or evil) Catholic Church and one true and holy “Bible Church”. The reality of course, is that there are thousands of Christian denominations that claim “Truth” from the Bible and yet teach different things. So it all begs the question, “Which Bible Answer Man or General Directors should we listen to?”
Ø  Squeeze out the Eucharist, get the altar call.
There is something about going to an altar to receive Jesus publicly that just won’t go away!
Ø  Squeeze out the Rosary, get the Prayer of Jabez
The Prayer of Jabez comes from 1 Chronicles 4:10 “Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!" And God granted him what he requested.”
The prayer is composed of four parts. First, Jabez asks God to bless him. Second, he asks God to enlarge his territory or increase his responsibility. Third, he prays that God will be with him and stay close. Lastly, Jabez asks that God keep him from harm so that he will be free from pain. Like the Rosary, Christians are encouraged to say the Prayer of Jabez on a daily basis so it can become a treasured and lifelong habit.
SIDE NOTE: I do wonder if a Christian who prays this daily could ever accept the spiritual value of suffering that all of us can share with Christ.
Both the Rosary and the Prayer of Jabez are criticized for vain repetition (see Matthew 6:7). Stop and think of repetition for a moment (OK, that’s enough). Did you think of day and night repeating over and over, seasons coming and going, breathing air in and out or your heart beating again and again? What is vain is vain, but repetition with meaning brings life.

All of this is not just about Protestants & Evangelicals reinventing the wheel, it is about the Truth finding its way to the surface!

Inspiration for this post comes from a talk I heard by a fine fellow named Ian Murphy during my recent stay At Catholic Familyland. He has a fascinating conversion story going from Agnostic to Baptist to Catholic.

Fascinating Conversion Story Part I:

Fascinating Conversion Story Part II:


  1. RC's speak of "Traditions". Is there an official list of these traditions so that we can know specifically what they are?


  2. I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a good place to begin.

  3. I'm some what familiar with your catechism. How would I know what a tradition is?

    1. Hi Anonymous,
      This may help. First off, the word tradition in the religious sense refers to the thing (doctrine, account, or custom) transmitted from one generation to another.

      From here we make a distinction between small “t” and large “T”. Small “t” stuff can be like candles, favorite songs, styles of prayer, popular forms of devotion, etc. None of these small “t” traditions is essential to the Faith. Large “T” or Sacred Tradition (as distinct from the human traditions noted above) are essential to the Faith. In other words, the difference between “tradition” and “Tradition” is the difference between the customs of man and the revelation of God through imperfect men with the help of the Holy Spirit. Examples formally defined the 19th and 20th century include the Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility and the Assumption of Mary. Although only formally defined in recent centuries, they were pasted on as ongoing Christian Traditions.

      Here are some great bible verses which help to explain Sacred Tradition:

      1 Corinthians 11:2: I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you"

      2 Thessalonians 2:15: So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

      2 Thessalonians 3:6: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

    2. Hi Ben,
      Thanks for the references. This still does not mean the when Paul refers to his "traditions" he is referring to sacred traditions as you call them. There is no reason to think he was referring to Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility and the Assumption of Mary since these ideas are not even hinted at in Scripture let alone part of the traditions. Agreed?

    3. I do agree that Paul was not referring to Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility or the Assumption of Mary in his letters. I disagree that they are “not even hinted at in Scripture”. Almost anything can be hinted at in scripture without an authoritative interpreter. Satan used scripture to give Jesus some “hints” during the temptation in the desert; remember?

      Also, think of this; the church is described as the living body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. A characteristic of any living thing is that it grows and changes (matures) over time. Compare a person when they were an infant to when they were and adult; the changes are staggering. In fact, no one would recognize you as an infant unless they knew your history. Image in an alien came to earth and did not understand how humans grow over time. It would conclude that the adult and the infant are not the sesame person.
      Although the adult says he is that infant from years ago, the alien could conclude that the person is an imposter (deceitful or delusional).

      It’s the same with the Catholic Church. We need to know the history. The church is a living organism and it makes sense that it would mature, grow and learn over the centuries. Things like Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility or the Assumption of Mary were not made-up; they were finally understood with the guidance of the Holy Spirit over time.

  4. Ben,
    Where is the hint of the immaculate conception in Scripture?

    1. One scriptural hint is found in Luke 1:28. This may be translated in Catholic Bibles as "Hail, Full of Grace the Lord is with you." (here again, translation needs authority). Many non-Catholic Christian will agree that we are saved by God’s grace by faith alone. Catholics believe we are saved by God’s Grace through faith AND works. If Mary is full of what saves us (no more could be added), this could be a “hint” that she is sinless. Also if someone is spared original sin right at conception, they will not have the tendency to sin at any point in their life.

      Additionally, the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament is seen as a foreshadowing of Mary. The Ark of the Covenant had to be made totally pure (pure gold; see Ex 25:10-25) to hold the 10 Commandments, the manna, and Aaron’s rod that came back to life and symbolized authority. The womb of the Virgin contained Jesus: the living Word of God, the living bread from heaven and the King of Kings who would die but come back to life, so she too would need to be pure.

      See this link for the many ways Mary is the new ark:

    2. Ben,
      You claim "translation needs authority". Don't know what that has to do with the correct rendering of the Scripture. In the NAB (rc translation) it renders Luke 1:28 as "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." When you look up this phrase in a Greek lexicon of the NT you will find that it has nothing to do with being sinless.

      There are serious exegetical problems with Mary being some kind of ark type. The problem with this is that none of the apostles nor the Lord Jesus ever speak of her like this. They don’t even hint at it. You also have to ask what would the status of Mary be as an ark after Jesus was born? Since she no longer was carrying the Lord Jesus in her womb what would that make Mary?
      If anyone would be considered the ark as a type it would be the Lord Jesus Himself. For example, He is a type of mercy seat where mercy is given. Would you consider Mary to be a type of mercy seat where sins are forgiven? Do you ask Mary for mercy? Do you ask her for forgiveness of sin?
      Jesus also in His person perfectly fulfilled the law of God (the tablet of the ten commandments). Do you think Mary fulfilled the law perfectly? There is no claim that she did. Another object in the ark was a jar of manna that sustained the Jews for 40 years. Do you think Mary fulfills this?
      If Mary is truly a type of ark then she would have to be the fulfillment of these things. We know that she is not. The only One who is, is the Lord Jesus.
      So the idea that Mary is some kind of ark type just cannot be supported by Scripture.

    3. There are many things the apostles and the Lord Jesus never speak of. How about the New Testament cannon? They don’t even hint at it. Therefore, the canon cannot be support by scripture. There must be some other authority outside of scripture to be so bold as to list a conon.

      Did you go the link I provided?(sorry that you need to cut/paste) The foreshadowing in scripture of Mary and the Ark is stunning. Mary as the new ark is a lot more biblical than Sola Scriptura.

      Why did Paul call the Church the pillar and foundation of Truth instead of scripture?(1 Tim 3:15) Paul knew that treating scripture as a singular deposit that possesses sole authority was not right then, just as it is not right now .

  5. It is true that Jesus and the apostles never speak of. That does not help. All that we have from them is found only in the NT. It is not true that the canon of the NT is not hinted at in the NT. Peter in 2 Peter 3:16 calls Paul's writings Scripture.
    You did not address the problems with claiming Mary is an ark type. Do your RC commentaries exegete the passages you use to claim Mary an ark concur with you?

    Can you define Sola Scriptura for me?

    Is there anything else that is inspired-inerrant besides the Scripture? If so what?

    1. Thanks you for 2 Peter 3:16. I agree that it is a “hint”, but only for Paul’s writings; it is also a very “Catholic” verse. It shows the clear need for a teaching authority and it shows why Christians need a leader like Peter (the 1st Pope).

      But from your perspective, why are Peter’s letters part of Holy Scripture in the first place? Who said so? Peter did not say, “Please be careful to save my letters for one day they will be declared scripture”. Jesus did not say, “Peter will write great letters and so will a guy named Paul and I declare their future letters to be part of Holy Scripture”.

      The verses in the link above do relate Mary and the Ark very well. Any exegetical problems depend on the exegete (or the interpreter). Your premise seems to be that any Christian teaching must PROVEN by Scripture. The Catholic premise is that not everything was written down and the apostles and their successors passed down, OUTSIDE of Scripture, traditions and understanding.

      "Can you define Sola Scriptura for me?"
      I would say that it is treating scripture as a singular deposit of faith that possesses sole authority. What say you? Again, different people may have different interpretations. Who’s to say who's right?

      "Is there anything else that is inspired-inerrant besides the Scripture? If so what?"
      The Sacred Tradition of the Church (traditions from God, not from men) and the Magisterium of the Church(teaching authority).

  6. It is true that the church needs leaders i.e. pastor-teachers, bishops and elders to lead the church. This is how Scripture defines the offices of leaders in the church. What is missing in all the descriptions for church leadership is a supreme leader of the entire church that is vested in one man. In other words, a pope. There is no such office in the NT church.

    Are you familiar with how the NT canon was decided and what was the criteria they used?

    My contention is that any teaching that is to be considered apostolic must be firmly grounded on Scripture. If it is not, then it is the teaching of men.
    You claim "not everything was written down and the apostles and their successors passed down, OUTSIDE of Scripture, traditions and understanding." Can you give me an example of something an apostle taught that is not found in the Scripture?

    Here is what Sola Scriptura is: Sola scriptura teaches that the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. This means that all other rules, whether we call them traditions, confessions of faith, creeds, or anything else, are by nature inferior to and subject to correction by, the Scriptures. The Bible is an ultimate authority, allowing no equal, nor superior, in tradition or church. It is so because it is theopneustos, God-breathed, and hence embodies the very speaking of God, and must, of necessity therefore be of the highest authority.

    If you are going to claim that Sacred Tradition is equal to the Scripture then it must be inspired-inerrant. Do you claim that Sacred Tradition is inspired-inerrant and if so where does your church claim this?
    What Sacred Tradition are you referring to? Can you give me an example?

    1. If the apostles taught something that was never written down, obviously in would NOT be in the Bible. So how was it transmitted? Via oral tradition. Here is a tradition of men that is NOT in the Bible but was transmitted non-the-less since around the 1500’s

      “Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. This means that all other rules, whether we call them traditions, confessions of faith, creeds, or anything else, are by nature inferior to and subject to correction by, the Scriptures. The Bible is an ultimate authority, allowing no equal, nor superior, in tradition or church.”

      The above is an example of something the apostles did not teach and is not found in Scripture.

      A Teaching like the canon of the Bible is an example of Sacred Tradition in Catholicism. Below is a link to a searchable Catechism. You can search Scared Tradition or anything else. There is no need for me to re-explain these things since it’s all out there. I’m going to sign off now, but thanks for the civil and lively debate.

      God Bless,