Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dialogue with a Muslim: Third and final installment... maybe


In this installment of my dialogue with "Jude" our Muslim friend, we examine the reason for pursuing good in the world and particular Muslim practices that are apparently exhorted in the Bible. Jude's questions/objections will be highlighted in yellow.

1- If Jesus died for the remission of all sins, then why do we find any reason to do good in our lives? If Jesus has already died for my sins then why don't I go wild and party without any care in the world? Isn't that what is being said?

Muslims believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) is a messenger of Islam. Muslims today still follow the teachings of Jesus which most Christians have abandoned. Here's some examples:

(a)Jesus taught not to eat pork...
-"And the swine, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you." (Leviticus 11:7-8)
-"Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. And the swine, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch." (Deuteronomy 14:7-8)

Also, a stern warning is issued against those who eat pork.
- "I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and burning incense upon bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;" (Isaiah 65:2-4)
- "Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating swine's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, says the LORD."
(Isaiah 66:17)

(b)Jesus taugh not to have alcohol...
-"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)
-"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1)

(c) To wear the headscarf...
-"but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil" (1 Corinthians 11:5-6)

2- So Jesus as you believe is fully man and fully God....
Before we delve deep into this topic, let me ask you for something.
I need a quote.

I need you to find me a place in the Bible where Jesus mentions, in HIS OWN words, not Mathew, not Mark, not Luke, not John, not Paul, but JESUS himself says "I am God" or "Worship me".

If the quote doesn't meet the criteria, then it won't suffice. Because if Jesus is God, then I'm gonna need it to be in his exact words...

Are you familiar with the Gospels and what they are? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (and the New Testament letters and epistles) give account to what Jesus did and said. So when we, for example, read in the Gospel of John:

“Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.'” - John 14:9-10

These are the words of Christ himself but presented to us by St. John, much in the same way when a journalist quotes a witness or subject involved in a news story. I don't think any answer I give you, friend, will satisfy you, but if more evidence you want then you can check this website out:

If I could just ask though: Why would he accept other parts of the New Testament written by St. Paul for example, in regards to head veiling and drinking alcohol, but when other references to Christ's divinity come from the same people you reject them and wants to hear them from Christ Himself? Either you reject the whole of the NT or you completely accept its revelation. Which is it?

And now allow me now to breakdown your objections in a more concise manner:

1- If Jesus died for the remission of all sins, then why do we find any reason to do good in our lives? If Jesus has already died for my sins then why don't I go wild and party without any care in the world? Isn't that what is being said?

No, that is not what is being said. Christ earning for us our salvation does not warrant anyone neglecting our morality. The reason why we go on doing good in the world is because do it out of love for God and Jesus Christ, and love for each other; to love each other selflessly and unconditionally as our Heavenly Father loves us. Why don't we "go wild and party without any care in the world"? Because we also must have a love for ourselves and understand that even though we know Christ has died for our sins and earned for us our salvation, we can still lose that salvation. By sinning and continuing to live in sin, we spit in the face of Jesus Christ and mock his death on the cross for our salvation. Christ died so that we may be saved; God sent His son so that we may come to him. As Christians even after believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and affirming that he died on the cross for our sins, we are still called to holiness and to persevere until the end:

"'Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 7:21

"But he who endures to the end will be saved." - Matthew 24:13

"Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off." - Romans 11:22

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;" - Philippians 2:12

"... but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." - 1 Corinthians 9:27

"For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries." - Hebrews 10:26-27

Persevering in love and living in holiness is exhorted by Christ so that we, out of love for each other, may bear witness to the love God has for us:

"'You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.
'You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.'" - Matthew 5:13-16

"'You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.'" - Matthew 5:43-48

Muslims believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) is a messenger of Islam. Muslims today still follow the teachings of Jesus which most Christians have abandoned. Here's some examples:

(a)Jesus taught not to eat pork...
-"And the swine, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you." (Leviticus 11:7-8)
-"Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. And the swine, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch." (Deuteronomy 14:7-8)

Also, a stern warning is issued against those who eat pork.
- "I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and burning incense upon bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;" (Isaiah 65:2-4)
- "Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating swine's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, says the LORD."
(Isaiah 66:17)

You seems to be confusing Moses with Christ, but very quickly:

Mosaic Law (the law of Moses), such as sacrifices, were no longer in effect. The dietary laws were changed, and God indicated this to the Apostle Peter during a dream. The event is recorded in the book of Acts:

"Peter fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' Again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.'" - Acts 10:9-15

The message was clear: These foods were no longer to be considered unholy; they were now clean. Not only were foods such as pig, shrimp, crab, and other seafoods now clean, but Gentiles were considered clean too.

And consider Christ's word from the Gospel of Mark on correcting the Jews about the ritual tradition of hand-washing (Mosaic law):

"And he called the people to him again, and said to them, 'Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.' And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, 'Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?' (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, ‘What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.'" - Mark 7:14-23

(b)Jesus taugh not to have alcohol...
-"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)
-"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1)

First thing to point out: "And do not get drunk with wine...". The emphasis in this passage is on the verb, i.e. the doing word ("drunk"); not the noun ("wine"). Otherwise are we to assume it would be okay to get drunk with another type of strong drink if wine alone is forbidden?

Proverbs 20:1 also addresses the issue of drinking to excess. The key is "... whoever is led astray by it is not wise". The wine/strong drink is not being forbidden but self-control and moderation are being exhorted here, i.e. to not be "let astray by it". One may choose to not drink wine/strong drink at all or to drink responsibly as Ephesians 5:18 is also suggesting.

Can I recommend the following article for more information?
http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2008/0802btb.asp -- 'Got Wine?', by Jim Blackburn.

(c) To wear the headscarf...
-"but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil" (1 Corinthians 11:5-6)

This is a matter of discipline, not doctrine, and pertains to a particular custom of the time. Some Catholic women today wear a veil/head-scarf when attending Mass but they are not required to do so.

The document Inter Insigniores by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (October 15, 1976) stated that the 1917 Code of Canon Law (canon 1262.2) requiring women to wear veils on their heads was a custom of the period and that such ordinances "concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance." Thus the obligation "no longer has a normative value." But, as a sign of respect, women still are required to wear a veil when meeting the pope.

But note this: in 1 Corinthians 11:5 it says very clearly that a "woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head", i.e. it does not disgrace the woman herself or her prayer or prophesies; just her head. Nowhere does it suggest that the woman is totally disgraced.

I look forward to your response.

Regards,


Stephen C. Spiteri

*     *     *     *     *
It has been about a month since I last heard from Jude, and from what I've been told he's working very hard on a response. I'll keep you all updated.

Thank you again for reading.

God bless.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How are we to properly understand "One Mediator" in 1 Timothy 2:5?





Fundamentalists will reliably quote 1 Timothy 2:5 in an attempt to refute the Catholic practice of praying to Mary and the saints (i.e. intercessory prayer) and the sacrament of Reconciliation, i.e. confessing your sins to a priest. The verse reads like this:


"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" - 1 Timothy 2:5


It is suggested and the implication is made that praying to Mary and the saints or by confessing our sins to a priest we ignore Christ's work on the cross for our salvation. So how are we to understand this verse and what does is it really referring to?


The mediation between God and men in 1 Timothy 2:5 speaks (and should only be read in context of) in terms of salvation; redemption. It it not speaking in the context of intercessory prayer or the passing on of divine instruction (paradosis; Mark 3:14, 16:15), else it would be in clear contradiction of the instruction given by Paul and Peter to pray for (James 5:16) and teach each others (2 Timothy 1:13).


In other words: we are saved/redeemed by Christ; he alone brings us to God the Father, but it is by humans hands, under the authority of Christ in his commissioning (Matthew 28:19), that others are able to come to him by discovering the fullness of truth in his words (Romans 10:17).


Besides, if we read the very beginning of 1 Timothy 2, we see St. Paul has written this:


"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior" - 1 Timothy 2:1-3


The fundamentalists argument has no credence whatsoever in light of this; a text without a context is a pretext. We are exhorted by Christ through scripture not only to prayer for one another, but to confess our sins as well:


"Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-20


"'If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" - John 20:23


He is risen!


Happy Easter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Project...


Hi folks!

I would just like to mention very quickly that I have undertaken a new project; I have begun writing a book. It will be on Catholic apologetics targetted at youth and parents. I'm will primarily be writing about fundamentals of the Catholic faith (the Eucharist, the sacraments, the primacy of St. Peter, papal infallibility, etc.); how to explain and defend them. 

I have begun writing the introduction and will tap away at it a bit more over my holiday break. I hope to have a few chapters completed by the end of the calendar year.

The blog will continue to be updated in the mean time.

Please keep me in your prayers.

St. John Baptist de La Salle, 
Pray for us!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dialogue with a Muslim Man (continued)...



Below is "part two" of my dialogue with "Jude", and in this segment questions about what sins Jesus died for and "God as man" are answered. First the questions/objections:


1- Original sin is not the same as personal sin. Original sin refers to mans inclination to disobey God. Is this why Jesus had to die? Or was it for personal sin? (Please excuse my ignorance, but when I want to know more about a religion, or anything in particular, I prefer to go to the source, in this case a Christian)


2- "..the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand.."
What I'm itching to say is that this is not the only thing in Christianity that is mysterious and cannot be fully understood. Another example is the trinity. Can you explain it a little bit. How can God be a man?


And my answers/rebuttals:


1 - Jesus died for the remission of all sins, both the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and our personal sins:
613 Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world",[439] and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the "blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins".
614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices. First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/creed6.html


"In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins." - 1 John 4:10


2 - "How can God be a man?"


As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ was not only fully human but also fully divine, i.e. fully man and fully God. We see the evidence for this in Sacred Scripture:


John 1:1-5 >> the Word Was God and the Word became flesh
John 8:19 >> "if you knew me, you would know my father"
John 8:58:59 >> "I assure you, before Abraham was, I AM"; God addresses himself to Moses as "I AM" in Exodus 3:14 ("‘I AM has sent me to you".)
John 10:30-33 >> "the Father and I are one"
John 10:38 >> "the father is in me and I am in the Father"
John 12:45 >> "whoever sees me sees the one who sent me"
John 14:8-12 >> "whoever has seen me has seen the Father"
John 20:28 >> Jesus accepts Thomas' "my Lord and my GOD"
Colossians 2:9 >> "in him dwells whole fullness of deity bodily"
Acts 20:28 >> "the church of God will be acquired with his blood" (referring to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross)
Ephesians 1:7 >> "in him we have redemption by his blood" (can the death of a mere man earn for us our redemption?)
1 John 1:7 >> "blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin" (do sons not inherit the traits of their father? If God is divine and he has a son, then does that not make his son divine?)
Titus 2:13 >> "glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ" (Jesus is consistently referred to as God as well)


But check this out: in the Old Testament God appears before Abraham as three men:


"And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, 'My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.'" - Genesis 18:1-3


More questions and answers to "Jude" in my next blog entry. Stay tuned!