The Roman Catholic Controversy: Catholic Epistemology

The Roman Catholic Controversy

This is the seventh post in my series on James R. White’s The Roman Catholic Controversy. This post is the second part of my review of Chapter 6, “The Thousand Traditions.” Part One.

I should thank James White for introducing me to a new concept in the understanding of Catholicism, of which before I was unaware. His intentions in pointing it out, of course, were to expose a weakness in the foundations of the Catholic Church; but his demonstration has only served to further prove how solid that foundation is. He also alerted me to a position that opponents of the faith attempt to exploit, that to the unlearned might appear to be a weakness.

White challenges that there are two major positions Catholics hold with regard to the “nature, extent, and authority of tradition,” that are logically “completely at odds with each other” and “mutually exclusive.” In fact, the question relates to none of these things; rather, he admits, it pertains to the “sufficiency or insufficiency of Scripture.” At issue is Catholic epistemology: How Catholics know what we know. White does not call it thus here, but I believe he does in other places, and it is an appropriate term for the questions he asks and the charges he makes.

The question is relevant to White, because from his perspective, if Catholics can’t adequately explain the sources and transmission of their revelation, then they must not have any good reason for believing what they believe.  But he misrepresents the nature of the disagreement among Catholics. Both positions accept the authority of both Scripture and Tradition. Both positions hold that both Scripture and Tradition are real, finite bodies of received knowledge. Both positions hold that both Scripture and Tradition are essential elements of divine revelation on which Catholic dogma is founded. The disagreement does not call the “nature, extent, [or] authority” of Tradition into question; rather, it has everything to do with the “nature, extent, and authority” of Scripture. The underlying question is how we know what we know. There is no doubt that we know it.

The matter is only this: Does divine revelation exist partly in Scripture, and partly in Tradition?—that is, some Catholic doctrines are found in only Tradition that are not found at all in Scripture—or does the fullness of divine revelation exist both in Scripture and Tradition?—that is, all Catholic doctrines can be found in Scripture, even if only implicitly. The former view, which White calls the partim-partim view (Latin for partly … partly), holds that Scripture is materially insufficient—that it lacks essential material to present a full picture of God’s revelation. The latter view, which White calls the material sufficiency view, holds that Scripture is in fact materially sufficient—that it contains the full material of God’s revelation, even if some of it is only represented implicitly—but that Tradition is still necessary to discover and interpret the revelation in Scripture. Both views hold that we have received our doctrine from Scripture and Tradition. The only real difference is these positions’ view of Scripture; and White’s only real dispute with either of them is that neither holds Scripture to be solely sufficient. I will discuss these views in greater detail below [i.e. in the next post].

First I want to examine White’s charge that these views are “mutually exclusive,” that they create doctrinal confusion, and that they result in statements that are “often more liable . . . to various interpretations” than even the disparate interpretations of Protestants under sola scriptura. I fail to see how any point of this charge can be sustained—and in fact, White doesn’t sustain it; he does not mention this charge again after his introduction. These two views of Scripture are not “mutually exclusive” doctrinal positions that Catholics are expected to hold; they amount to only a minor theological question that in no way affects the outcome of Catholic doctrine. Whether one believes that Scripture supports all doctrine or not, all Catholics agree that between Scripture and Tradition, our doctrine is supported—and more important, proponents of either position can demonstrate this support in texts. There is no doctrinal confusion, since all doctrine is pronounced by the Magisterium, and the Magisterium speaks with one voice, regardless of the views of its individual members. The charge that this difference of opinion results in ambiguous statements that are open to various interpretations is empty, since the only authoritative interpretation is that of the Magisterium. If there is any ambiguity in interpretation, the Magisterium speaks again to clarify.

White attempts to make much of the point that the Tridentine Fathers—the Fathers of the Council of Trent—had a disagreement regarding these points. The original draft of the Decree concerning the Canonical Scriptures (which White never properly cites—I had to track it down myself) reads that revelation is passed on “partly in written books, partly in unwritten traditions,” supporting the partim-partim view. Upon debate, this was changed in the final draft to state that revelation is “contained in the written books and unwritten traditions”—allowing for the support of proponents of the material sufficiency view. This point is insignificant, and the fact that it was disputed is entirely irrelevant. The important fact is that the Magisterium reached an agreement and spoke with one voice to pronounce and clarify Catholic doctrine.

The Magisterium has agreed on Catholic doctrine and pronounced it with authority. Certainly if White means to charge that this doctrine is invalid because of a difference in theological opinion among the Magisterium’s members regarding the means of revelation, then Protestant doctrine suffers from an even greater problem, since the many disparate Protestant groups cannot agree on the content of doctrine let alone its means of revelation. This disagreement is analogous to the legal philosophies of strict constructionism versus loose constructionism among the members of the United States Supreme Court—that is, should the Constitution be interpreted strictly and literally by its letter, or should it be interpreted more loosely by the intent of its framers in the context of evolving legal and political situations? Regardless of what philosophy the individual justices of the court hold, once the court reaches a decision, its ruling is legally binding: when the court speaks, that is the law. Likewise, when the Magisterium speaks, that is doctrine.

Logos Bible Software for Catholics: A not entirely selfless plug

Logos Logo

Blog friends, I want to show you something cool. I was recently introduced by Jimmy Akin's podcast to Logos Bible Software for Catholics. I have long slavered over Logos’s incredible software libraries, with bibles and lexica and commentaries galore — whole books by the hundreds loaded up on the cart. Unfortunately, their scholarly packages are well beyond my price range. Oh, to convince my academic librarians that advanced Bible study materials were necessary for my degree in American history… (Or to be a seminarian at an institution with resources.)

Logos Catechism Package

Recently, Logos has been making forays into the Catholic market. Jimmy Akin had an interview with Dr. Andrew Jones, Logos’s Catholic product manager, and on their recommendation, I promptly splurged on Logos’s Catechism of the Catholic Church Collection. It contains nine volumes of rich, Catholicky goodness — the Catechism; the collected documents of the Councils of Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II; the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Sources of Catholic Dogma, and a couple of Catholic Bibles (the Douay-Rheims-Challoner and the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition) — All for the unbelievable price of $50, with a discount tacked on for listening to Jimmy (listen to the podcast above, and you can get it, too). And it is pretty amazing. Not only do I have the Catechism and all of these other works at my fingertips, but they are hyperlinked to each other. Every Scripture reference in the Catechism pulls up the referenced Scripture in a popup. Best of all for me are the hyperlinks to the Sources of Catholic Dogma — the assembled nuggets of tradition from every pope and every council and every other writer over every age who had anything relevant to say and on which Catholic dogma is founded — it pulls all of this up with the click of a button. And the apps for the iPad and Android are very sleek. It even remembers what page I’m on between my different devices. The end result: I can carry my entire library of Catholic dogmatic works with me everywhere I go, and pull references up in seconds! I heartily recommend this thing. And they have a lot of other valuable Catholic publications, with more being added all the time!

Logos Missals

Now, as my title suggests, plugging this software isn’t entirely selfless. The way Logos puts out new products is by offering them for pre-order, gathering interest in them, and then when enough people have signed on, they put the item into production. This past week they sent out another offer I couldn’t turn down: the Missals of the Roman Catholic Church — all three of them — for $60 on pre-order. That’s the new, third edition English Roman Missal, as well as the underlying Latin of the current missal — and for you traditionalists (I know there are several of you — and really, when offered the opportunity, who doesn’t want to be a traditionalist?), the 1962, pre-Vatican II Latin Missale Romanum, largely unchanged since Tridentine days. To buy all of these in book form — if you could even find a 1962 missal; believe me I have looked — and the new missal alone costs $70 — overall might cost as much as $500 — but $60! I want it! And I can’t get it until more people pre-order it! Don’t you want it, too?

Other stuff I really want, but can’t afford (donations gladly accepted):

And so on and so forth. There’s a lot of good stuff here. I’m like a kid in a very expensive candy store.

Check out, too, Logos’s Catholic site, and their blog, Verbum.

The Roman Catholic Controversy: Tradition and the Magisterium

The Roman Catholic Controversy

This sixth post in my series on James R. White’s The Roman Catholic Controversy. I am really getting bogged down with this. White’s chapters aren’t getting longer, but my responses to them are. I reckon his accusations are growing more and more onerous and his tone more and more condemning, and I feel there is a lot more that needs to be answered. My response to this chapter, “The Thousand Traditions,” is expanding to monumental proportions; so I’ve decided to split it up into segments. I regret that anyone who reads this chapter will not have my full review in one succinct piece; but I am sure my readers will be thankful that I don’t dump the whole tome on you at once.

In this chapter, “The Thousand Traditions,” White seeks to undermine the Catholic concepts of Sacred Tradition and doctrinal development. As he has throughout the book, White continues to demonstrate a lack of understanding of basic Catholic positions. He attempts to equate the undeniable doctrinal confusion among the diverse Protestant sects with differences of theological opinion among orthodox Catholics regarding the origin and function of Tradition. In comparison to the many interpretations that result from sola scriptura, according to White, “statements of Rome are not only equally as liable to various interpretations, but often more liable.” “Even on the issue of tradition itself,” White argues, “there are a thousand ‘traditions,’ a thousand different ways of understanding the ‘final’ word on the matter.” White in fact discusses two positions, neither of which has any bearing on the interpretation or finality of the Magisterium’s rulings. [I will get to these in the next post, hopefully.]

Tradition and the Magisterium

White continues to struggle with a basic definition of Tradition. He believes, as he argued in previous chapters, that “tradition” is something nebulous and undefined, until it is defined by the Church itself. In examining the Church’s claims that both Scripture and Tradition are necessary for the authentic interpretation of the Word of God, White charges that “not only is Rome claiming the exclusive right of interpretation of the Scriptures but the exclusive right of both definition and interpretation of tradition.” White asserts that Tradition is effectively whatever the Church says it is. “When we ask to see the contents of tradition, we have to depend upon the veracity of the same Church that bases her doctrines . . . on those very traditions!” White once again accuses the Church of “circular reasoning” in its claims to authority. “Because Rome defines tradition itself, you have ‘Scripture and Church,’ not ‘Scripture and tradition.’”

The Church does not define tradition. The Church receives tradition. Tradition is not something vague and nebulous, but something real and substantial. Tradition is the entire body of knowledge that has been passed down through all the ages of the Church. It subsists in the writings of the Fathers, thinkers, theologians; music, hymnody, and liturgy; monuments and inscriptions; art and architecture — documents of all kinds; whatever exists that sheds light on that which has been passed down by Christians before. These documents are visible, tangible, and accessible, not just to the elite circle of the Magisterium, but to anyone who seeks them. Increasingly, the documents that define the Tradition on which Catholic dogma rests are published and available online.

What the Church does is select and interpret tradition. Out of this vast body of received tradition, the Magisterium chooses out the elements that are relevant and applicable to the questions of faith that are being asked, and interprets what they mean. White charges that “Rome has a ‘supreme rule of faith’”  that “does not exist outside of her own realm of authority” — that “the Roman Catholic Church defines and interprets the rule as she sees fit.” The Church’s rule of faith is Scripture and Tradition, read and interpreted by the Magisterium. Scripture and Tradition are received, immutable, and eminently authoritative in and of themselves. (White charges also that since the Church defines the canon of Scripture, the Catholic Church nullifies the authority of Scripture, since it can effectively pick and choose what it wants. This is a preposterous claim, since the canon of Scripture is itself immutable and has existed unchanged since the Church defined it originally.) The interpretations of the Magisterium are defined and limited by the truths that Scripture and Tradition reveal: it cannot create, produce, define, or present what isn’t there.

But by the act of selecting the elements of tradition that are relevant, isn’t the Church “defining” tradition? Can’t the Church pick and choose only what supports the conclusions it wants to arrive at? In theory, it could — but it would be guilty of dishonesty and deception. And since the entire body of tradition is open for all eyes to see, its dishonesty and deception would be transparent and self-evident. If the Magisterium arbitrarily ignored or dismissed conflicting evidence without cause (some conflicting evidence is in fact dismissed with cause — for example, the Gnostic gospels), then any observer or critic would have ample ammunition to attack the Magisterium’s decisions.

There is a clear analogy between the work of the Magisterium and the work of a scholar — for in fact the principles which guide the modern Magisterium are scholastic principles, invented by the Church and only borrowed by secular scholars. Let us suppose an historian, since I am most familiar with that discipline. Just as an historian chooses the sources from the body of accumulated knowledge with which to build an argument, the Church chooses sources from tradition on which to base dogma. The Church is no guiltier of “defining” tradition than the scholar is of “defining” history. The historian meticulously documents his sources, giving the reader the trail by which to check his sources and verify that his arguments are correctly founded and reasoned. If he has built a specious or poorly founded argument, his peers and critics will recognize it. Likewise, the Magisterium meticulously documents the sources of its dogma, and even publishes them and makes them freely available, so that anyone can follow the trail of its arguments and verify that they are well founded. Rather than being opaque, nebulous, and esoteric, the Tradition of the Church is eminently transparent, solid, and public.

White charges that “Rome loudly proclaims her fidelity to the Scriptures and insists that the Church is subject to the Scriptures” while actually “[making] statements that plainly elevate her own Magisterium to the highest position of authority.” White fails to present these “plain” statements. In fact, the Magisterium is subject to and bound by what Scripture and Tradition reveal; its authority is only as interpreter, arbiter, teacher, and servant, to read Scripture and Tradition and discern the truth that it reveals. It can neither promulgate truth not revealed by Scripture and Tradition nor contradict that truth.

White complains that in the Catechism (CCC 83), “Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time,” and that these “lesser” traditions “can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium.” He argues that the Magisterium is free to dismiss what it doesn’t wish to be authoritative as not “real” tradition. But there is a clear, qualitative difference that White fails to grasp between these local traditions — for example, the Benedictine tradition or Franciscan tradition — and the Tradition that binds the entire Church.

White believes that the Catholic Church claims “no one else can properly interpret [the] Scriptures” — but in fact the claim is that only the Magisterium can interpret the Scriptures properly and with binding authority. The Church encourages exegetes and theologians to study Scripture and interpret it to the full extent of their ability. Their judgment informs and supports the Magisterium. Because the Church also claims to be “the sole guardian of ‘Sacred Tradition,’” White argues, there are “no external checks and balances . . . that could correct her should she err.” Of course, the very idea of an ultimate authority precludes the notion of “checks and balances.” But the Church believes the Magisterium does not err. We are taught that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all truth (John 16:13). Practically, the possibility of error is limited by the necessity of consensus among all the assembled bishops for an authoritative ruling.

In the end, White insists “that the Magisterium, by its own teachings, cannot logically maintain that it is a servant of the Word of God.” The only logical position it can take, he claims, is that of “‘overseer’ of the Sacred Scriptures, a position that demands a superior authority than that vested in the Bible itself.” White’s logic is flawed. How does the claim of the Magisterium to have authority in interpreting Scripture require that it be a “superior” authority over Scripture, any more than the individual, sola scriptura believer’s claim to have authority in interpreting Scripture require him to be a “superior” authority? In both cases, a party is exercising informed judgment to interpret Scripture. In both cases, Scripture has the superior authority, and the interpreter is bound and subject to the words and truths it contains.

White charges that the Church’s claim to “only [be] teaching what has been handed to her” is patently false. Suggesting such doctrines as the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of Mary, and Papal Infallibility, he intends to demonstrate that this claim is false, and that “such doctrines were not ‘handed on’ by the Apostles, and . . . were unknown to the early Christians.” “It is obvious” (emphasis mine), “that Rome has drawn from traditions that are not Apostolic.” White offers no such evidence of these claims here — in fact, it is not “obvious” at all. Later in the chapter he addresses Catholic epistemology and doctrines of theological development; it will be more expedient for me to address these claims there.

Why Christ Was Born of a Virgin

St. Leo the Great, by Herrera

Pope St. Leo the Great, by Francisco de Herrera the Younger (1622-1685).

Maria, by Cano

Maria (c. 1648), by Alonzo Cano.

Continuing my Saturdays with Mary, here is a quote from Pope St. Leo the Great (c. 391–461):

He was engendered by a new kind of birth, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without a father’s carnal concupiscence, without injuring his Mother’s integrity. Indeed, such a birth was appropriate for the future Savior of men, Who, while sharing the nature of human substance, did not know the contamination of human flesh. The Author of God taking flesh is God himself, as the archangel witnesses to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring born of you will be called Son of God” (Luke 1:35). In His origin unlike us; in His [human] nature like us — our common human customs are of no help here. It was decided by God’s almighty power that Mary should conceive as a virgin, give birth as a virgin, and remain a virgin. Do not think about the condition of his Mother, but consider the decision of the Son, who wanted in this way to be born a man and so brought it about. If you seek the truth about His nature, then recognize the matter as human; if you want to find the secret of His origin, then acknowledge the divine power. For our Lord Jesus Christ came to take away our infection, not to be infected by it; He did not come to succumb to our vices but to heal them. He came to heal the malady of our corruption and all the wounds of our scarred souls. For this reason He had to be born in a new manner, since He was bringing the new grace of spotless integrity to our human bodies. He had to keep His Mother’s original virginity intact, and it was necessary that the power of the Holy Spirit should safeguard the defense of her modesty, which He was pleased to call the dwelling place of holiness.

For He had decided to raise up what was fallen and restore what was broken apart and to strengthen purity for overcoming the seductions of the flesh, so that virginity, which in others cannot be preserved after childbirth, might be imitated by others, in rebirth.

—Pope St. Leo the Great
Sermo 22, 2 (Migne, Patrologia Latina 54, 195-196)
in Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church
(San Francisco: Ignatius, 1991), 309

Too Many Jameses: Untangling Jesus’s Family and Friends

Apostle St. James the Greater, by El Greco (1606).

Apostle St. James the Greater, by El Greco (1606).

This is a little reflection I meant to make a few months ago on May 3, the Feast of Saints Philip and James, regarding the confusion about who that particular Saint James, the son of Alphaeus, actually is. But I got busy that day and didn’t post. Today is the Feast of Saint James the Greater, the son of Zebedee, and while there’s no confusion about who he is, this post is still nibbling at me, and I don’t want to wait until next May 3. It’s still kind of relevant.

Because there are at least two or three men in the New Testament named James. And that’s really no surprise — because there were no doubt thousands of men with that name in Judea in the first century. The name translated James in English comes from the name Ιάκωβος (Iakōbos) in the Greek New Testament. Yes, you guessed it; that’s the name יעקב (ya‛ăqôb) in Hebrew — the Old Testament Jacob in English. James is named for Jacob, Israel himself, the patriarch of the Jewish people.

James II, by Peter Lely

James II of England, by Peter Lely.

Francis II, Jacobite King

All hail His Majesty King Francis II, our rightful king.

(The name becomes Iacobus or Jacobus in Latin, giving rise, in English history, to the terms Jacobean, pertaining to the period of King James I's reign, and Jacobite, the name for the restorationist followers of the deposed King James II and his line of Stuart pretenders to the throne. James was removed for being Catholic, and for his tolerance toward English Catholics, in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which I now see to have been not so glorious. Some of my ancestors, apparently, were Scottish Jacobites, and were exiled to America for taking part in the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, in support of James’s grandson Charles Edward Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” Maybe I have some Catholic ancestors after all? Bonnie Prince Charlie and his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, styled James III by the Jacobites, are buried (1) in high Catholic honor (2) in the Grottoes of St. Peter’s Basilica. I’m no longer sure how I feel about the “Glorious” Revolution or the Jacobites. James II was pretty well lawfully usurped, at least in as much as usurpation is ever lawful. I now see, though, that this is a history of which I know very little. The intolerance and persecution toward Catholics that spurred it was certainly not a good thing. I hope you have enjoyed this rabbit trail as much as I have.)

Anyway — to the matter at hand. There were a lot of Jameses in Judea at the time of Christ. James the Greater, the Apostle celebrated today, was so called to distinguish him from the other Apostle named James, the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15). James the Greater, we know, was the son of Zebedee (Mark 1:19, 3.17, etc.) and the brother of John. He and John were called by the Lord Boanerges, “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). In Jesus’s Aramaic, scholars reckon, this was probably בנירגיש (bnê•rğaš), lit. “sons of tumult,” or בנירגז (bnê•rğaz), lit. “sons of anger” — or as Aramaic scholar Maurice Casey supposes, בנירעם (bnê•r`am), the most literal Aramaic translation of “sons of thunder,” the result of a poor transliteration from Aramaic into Greek. So apparently, James and John were rather hot-headed, as we see in Scripture (Luke 9:51–56).

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were fellow fishermen with their father, and the associates of Simon Peter and his brother Andrew — or possibly their competitors (Mark 1:16–20). They were among the first disciples to follow Jesus, and with Simon Peter, formed His most intimate circle, who were chosen to witness His Transfiguration (Luke 9:28–36, etc.). We know that Saint James was the first of the Apostles to suffer martyrdom (Acts 12:1–3), about A.D. 44, perhaps having provoked Herod’s wrath on account of his temper.

Santiago Matamoros (Saint James the Moor-slayer)

Santiago Matamoros (Saint James the Moor-slayer), according to Spanish legend, appeared at the Battle of Clavijo to fight the Moors alongside the Spanish Christian army.

Saint James is the patron saint of Spain. According to Spanish legend, James ministered there, then sailed back to Jerusalem to meet his martyrdom. His relics were then transported back to Spain, either by his disciples or miraculously by angels, where they are said to be venerated in Santiago de Compostela (the Spanish name Santiago is actually Sant’Iago, or Saint James). Saint James’s patronage is a pious legend of the utmost importance to the Spanish, as fanciful as it seems. It is not out of the question that James went to Spain, a province of the Roman Empire; travel there in the first century was certainly possible. Paul desired to minister there, according to his Epistle to the Romans, written ca. A.D. 57 (Romans 15:22–24). According to the tradition of the Early Church, he did before his death.

So what of the other Jameses? There are three others mentioned in the New Testament: James, the son of Alphaeus, one of the Twelve (Mark 3:18, etc.); James, the brother of the Lord (Mark 6:3, Galatians 1:19); and James, the son of “the other” Mary (Matthew 27:56, etc.). Depending on what scholar you ask, two of these — or even all three — may refer to the same person.

Saint James the Just

Saint James the Just.

In history we say that there are lumpers and splitters. Catholic biblical scholars, especially the early ones, tended to be lumpers, desiring to make connections in Scripture, identify people and places with each other, and generally to lump ideas together. Protestants, on the other hand, perhaps by their very nature, are splitters, inclined to tear apart and question what is traditional and speculative and what Catholics have put together, especially where there lacks explicit evidence. The study of the biblical Jameses is a prime example of these tendencies.

There is very little known about the three other Jameses, aside from the few times they are mentioned in Scripture. Both Catholics and Protestants tend to agree that James, the brother of the Lord, was known in the Early Church as James the Just, and was the first bishop of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1–13) and the author of the Epistle of James.

Catholic tradition records little about the Apostle James the Less, the son of Alphaeus. Orthodox tradition tradition holds that he first ministered in southwestern Palestine, then in Lower Egypt, where he met his martyrdom at Ostracine. Beyond this point, there is much Catholic conjecture.

Madonna and Child, by Carlo Maratta (c. 1660).

Madonna and Child, by Carlo Maratta (c. 1660).

First, Catholics and Orthodox do not believe that James the Just, the “brother” (ἀδελφός) of the Lord, was actually the brother of the Lord, or the son of Mary, who never bore another child. There is scriptural evidence to support this. When Joseph and Mary journeyed with the boy Jesus to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41–51), there is no mention of any other children. When Jesus, from the Cross, entrusted his mother Mary to John (John 19:25–27), it would make little sense for John to take Mary into his home if she had other children living. There are at least two views, then, of who the “brethren of the Lord” are: Either they are children of Joseph by a prior marriage (tradition holds Joseph to have been an older man and widower), or they are other close kinsmen of Jesus, perhaps cousins. The Aramaic language has no word for “cousin,” and used the word for “brother” instead, which could connote any relative. According to this view, when the Gospel was recorded in Greek, it followed this linguistic convention (the word ἀδελφός in Greek likewise can connote any relative).

St. James the Less, by El Greco.

St. James the Less, by El Greco (c. 1595).

And with this, the plot thickens considerably. If the “brethren of the Lord,” and our James the Just, are in fact Jesus’s cousins, who are their parents? Catholic scholars, beginning with the earliest of the Church Fathers, have made inferences based on these three verses of Scripture:

  • “. . . but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25)
  • “. . . among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” (Matthew 27:56)
  • “There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger (ὁ μικρός, young, small, less) and of Joses, and Salome.” (Mark 15:40).

If we suppose, as appears to be the case, that all three verses refer to the same group of women who witnessed the Crucifixion, then it appears:

  1. Mary the mother of James and Joses (or Joseph) in Matthew and Mark, is the same woman as Mary the wife of Clopas in John.

  2. Salome in Mark is the same woman as the mother of the sons of Zebedee in Matthew.

  3. Depending on how one punctuates the Greek of John, either Mary the wife of Clopas (#1) or Salome the wife of Zebedee (#2) is the sister of our Lord’s mother in John. (The former would require that Mary had a sister named Mary, but this would not be unheard of, since Mary, or Miriam, was also a very common Jewish name, and one or both of the women may have had other names.)

  4. That would mean that either James and John, the sons of Zebedee and Salome, are the cousins of Jesus; or that James and Joses (or Joseph), the sons of Clopas and Mary, are the cousins of Jesus. The former would make some sense, since Jesus clearly had a close relationship with James and John, and entrusted his mother to John, who would have been her nephew.

  5. But the latter makes possibly more sense, since we are told that two of Jesus’s “brethren” were named James and Joses (Mark 6:3) or Joseph (Matthew 13:55). Mark refers, at the Crucifixion, to the “mother of James and Joses,” and Matthew refers to the “mother of James and Joseph.” It seems remarkable that Mark would spell the latter name Joses (Ἰωσῆ) both in reference to the Lord’s “brother” and to the second of the latter pair, when he was perfectly capable of also using the name Joseph (Ἰωσήφ) (Mark 15:43). It would appear, then, that this James and Joses, the Lord’s “brethren,” were in fact the children of Clopas and Mary.

  6. We can presume from the fact that the Evangelists identified “the mother of James and Joses” that James and Joses were people with whom the Early Church was familiar. Certainly the Early Church was familiar with James the Just, bishop of Jerusalem. If this James the Less (ὁ μικρός) is in fact implied to be James the brother of the Lord, then it seems James the Just and James the Less are the same person.

But is this James the Less (ὁ μικρός) the same man as the Apostle often referred to as James the Less? What of this last James, the son of Alphaeus? Some Catholic scholars, in their endless lumping, have suggested that Clopas (Κλωπᾶς), the father of James and Joses above, and Alphaeus (Ἀλφαῖος) are in fact the same man — meaning that all three of the obscure Jameses, James the Just the brother of our Lord, James the son of Clopas and Mary, and the Apostle James the Less, are one and the same man. The supposition that undergirds this is that Clopas had two names. Some have suggested that Clopas and Alphaeus were different transliterations of the same Aramaic name; but this doesn’t seem likely (the difficulty of this issue is discussed in Clopas’s article in the Catholic Encyclopedia). A secondary name, though, isn’t out of the question.

Apostle Judas Thaddeus, by Van Dyck

Apostle Judas Thaddeus, by Anthonis van Dyck (c. 1620).

Further, we know that Jude, author of the Epistle of Jude, is the brother of James (Jude 1), certainly James the Just, making him also the “brother” of the Lord, the Judas mentioned by Mark and Matthew. Catholic scholars have also identified this Jude with the Apostle Judas Thaddeus (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:16). Most recent English translations of the Bible (including Catholic ones) translate Jude in Luke’s lists (here and in Acts 1:13) as “Judas son of James” — but the Greek actually reads Ἰούδας Ἰακώβου, literally Judas of James, with no relation made explicit. Jude may have been so identified by relation to his brother, the better-known James the Just, since James had already been listed; and traditional Catholic translations (the Douay-Rheims) read Judas brother of James. Jude likewise identifies himself by relation to his brother James in his epistle.

St. Simon the Zealot, by Rubens

St. Simon the Zealot, by Peter Paul Rubens (c. 1611).

But we Catholics aren’t quite done lumping. The last of Jesus’s “brethren” (Mark 6:3) was named Simon. Wasn’t there another Apostle named Simon, Simon the Zealot? James son of Alphaeus, Judas Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot (or the Cananaean) are always listed together in the lists of the Apostles. Some Catholic scholars have taken that as a hint, together with the coincidence that Jesus also had “brethren” named James, Judas, and Simon, and supposed that the two sets might be connected. They have identified Simon the Zealot as another “brother” of the Lord. Further, some have also identified him with Simeon (or Simon), who succeeded James the Just (his brother?) as bishop of Jerusalem.

Paul lends some credence to the notion that at least two of the Lord’s brothers were members of the apostolic party: “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5). In increasing order of importance, Paul lists: (1) the other apostles, (2) the brothers of the Lord, and (3) Cephas, or Peter, the chief Apostle. Together, this statement seems to refer to the Twelve, and includes “the brothers of the Lord” among them.

All in all, it seems as if Jesus’s evangelic enterprise may have been something of a family affair. Two sets of brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John; and possibly three of His own “brethren.” Of course, none of this is verified or can ever be verified. But it is traditions like these, enriching to the story and harmless if untrue, that make our Catholic faith full, rich, and beautiful.

The necessity of faith and works

Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1533), by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

A little flash that just occurred to me:

Protestants argue sola fide, that we are justified by faith alone. The Catholic position is often presented as fide et operis, by faith and works. But Catholics and Protestants agree that it is not our action or operation, either in having faith or doing works, that saves us, but entirely the grace of God (sola gratia).

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Protestants get very hung up on the Catholic insistence on works, that works are necessary for salvation. But most Protestants admit this, if the question is posed the right way. As Saint James writes (James 2:14-17):

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

As this makes evident, works are necessary. Faith without works is dead. Protestants argue from this that works follow faith — that true faith necessarily produces the fruit of good works; that if a brother does not produce good works, then he never had true faith to begin with. But the result is exactly the same: Good works are a necessary consequence of faith.

This is exactly what Catholics argue — only in affirming free will, Catholics present that it is incumbent upon the believer to choose to do good works, given the gift of God’s grace which enables the believer both to will and to work (Philippians 2:12-13).

Catholics affirm that our initial justification is by faith alone, as a gift of God’s grace, not because of any work or merit on our own. Protestants affirm that works are necessary for salvation — a necessary consequence of true faith. That puts the two parties on the same page regarding the necessity of both faith and works for salvation — and much closer to agreement than either would like to admit.

Work out your own salvation: The Apostle Paul, William Tyndale, and the leaven of a phrase

El Greco, Apostle St. Paul

Apostle St. Paul (c. 1612), by El Greco.

One of the most iconic phrases of the English New Testament, one of the Apostle Paul’s great quotes that has always echoed in my ears growing up, is to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). But what does that even mean?

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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Codex Sinaiticus

A leaf from Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest known Greek uncial manuscript of the entire Bible (c. A.D. 330–360).

As a Protestant, I admit I never thought much about it. I guess I had a vague sense of “working something out” with God, the way one negotiates an agreement or a solution — through a process of trial and error, learning and growing as a Christian, to reach a situation that “worked.” If the verse meant anything to me, it was as an encouraging exhortation: Keep on obeying God, and you and God will “work it out.”

As I’ve been growing as a Catholic, this verse has been an indication that there might be some “work” involved in salvation in Paul’s view, as opposed to the sola fide (by faith alone) interpretation that the Protestant Reformers so ardently expressed. It’s been a handy crutch in presenting the Catholic position. “But, Paul said ‘work out your own salvation’!”

But what did Paul really mean? Recently I decided to delve into the Greek in order to explore this. What I found was a little startling.

Here is the Greek (only the bolded portion from above; Greek text from NA27):

. . . μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε· θεὸς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας.

Transliterated into Roman characters, for your benefit:

. . . meta phobou kai tromou tēn heautōn sōtērian katergazesthe, theos gar estin ho energōn en humin kai to thelein kai to energein huper tēs eudokias.

And now broken down:

. . . μετὰ [preposition, with, in the midst of] φόβου [fear] καὶ [and] τρόμου [trembling] τὴν [definite article, accusative singular: goes with σωτηρίαν] ἑαυτῶν [3rd person reflexive pronoun, genitive plural: your own] σωτηρίαν [accusative singular (the direct object, being acted upon): salvation] κατεργάζεσθε [present middle deponent, 2nd person plural imperative: (you) “work out”] · θεὸς [God] γάρ [postpositive particle, for] ἐστιν [3rd person active indicative, impersonal, (it) is] ὁ ἐνεργῶν [present active participle, nominative singular: acting, operating, working, being efficacious] ἐν [preposition, in] ὑμῖν [second person plural personal pronoun, you] καὶ [and (together with other καὶ, both . . . and)] τὸ θέλειν [present active infinitive: to be willing, wish] καὶ [and] τὸ ἐνεργεῖν [present active infinitive, same verb as above: to act, operate, work, be efficacious, effect, execute] ὑπὲρ [preposition, for] τῆς εὐδοκίας [genitive singular, (his) good will].

What startled me is that to “work out” is all contained in the verb κατεργάζομαι. “Work out” is a single action, and “salvation” is the direct object — the object on which the action is performed. But salvation isn’t supposed to be something we act on at all, is it?

The BDAG, the most authoritative lexicon of New Testament Greek, gives four definitions for κατεργάζομαι:

  1. to bring about a result by doing something, achieve, accomplish, do.
    • Romans 7:15-20: For what I do, I do not understand; for I do not practice what I prefer, but I do that thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not prefer, I agree with the Law, that it is good.
    • 1 Corinthians 5:3: . . .  I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.
  2. to cause a state or condition, bring about, produce, create.
    • Romans 4:15: For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
    • Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance  . . .
  3. to cause to be well prepared, prepare someone.
  4. to be successful in the face of obstacles, overpower, subdue, conquer.
    • Ephesians 6:13: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done [proving victorious over] all, to stand firm.

Of these definitions, the BDAG suggests that the second one, to bring about, produce, create, is the appropriate one for our verse, Philippians 2:12.

The Friberg Analytical Lexicon agrees with the definitions of the BDAG. Similarly, the Louw-Nida Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains suggests that the use of κατεργάζομαι in Philippians 2:12 implies a change of state: “to cause to be, to make to be, to make, to result in, to bring upon, to bring about.” Joseph Henry Thayer's Lexicon (1886; revised 1889), which I still rather like, obsolete though it may be, suggests the Latin efficere for the usage of the word in this verse: “to work out, i.e. to do that from which something results.” St. Jerome's Vulgate translates the word operor, which Lewis and Short defines “To work, produce by working, cause.”

So what does all this mean? It means that “work out” in Philippians 2:12 has a much more active meaning than I formerly supposed. There is agreement between all the lexica I consulted: κατεργάζομαι implies a very strong sense of bringing about, producing a state or condition. The result is that the correct understanding of this verse is that with fear and trembling, we are to bring about, produce, effect our own salvation. This seems startlingly un-Pauline, at least according to the Protestant understanding of Paul’s theology.

William Tyndale

William Tyndale, first translator of the Bible from its original languages into English.

But I should remind my Protestant readers that despite how Luther wanted to read Paul, Paul never once says by faith alone. Paul stresses justification by faith in opposition to the Judaizers, who stressed their works and denied that faith had any role, insisting that salvation in Christ came only by the works of the Jewish Law — that being circumcized would in itself bring salvation. Paul denies that works bring salvation; it is faith, the gift of God, that saves us, not the result of our own works. But Paul never denies that works are also important. He in fact writes of the importance of good works: we are “created for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). God “will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:7). The people of God are to devote themselves to good works (Titus 3:8,14).

And now, by obeying Christ, we are to bring about our own salvation — a command, a strong imperative statement in the Greek. And through our working, it is not our own doing or merits that brings this about, but God who works in us by His grace, both to will (wish, want, prefer) to do good, and to work (to be active, effectual, able to bring about). Though at first it appears unlike Paul for him to say that we produce our own salvation, he is here consistent in reminding us that it is not our works that bring about our salvation, but God working in us. This interpretation is consistent in every way with Roman Catholic doctrine.

But in the English — to work out our own salvation — where does this come from? Given this clear, active meaning of κατεργάζομαι, with so strong a sense of working, producing, effecting, why has nearly every major English Bible translation since the sixteenth century — including Catholic ones — translated this phrase “work out your own salvation”?

Tyndale New Testament title page

The title page to Tyndale’s 1534 edition of the New Testament.

I suspected immediately that this was a Tyndalism — a translation first promulgated by William Tyndale in his 1534 English New Testament, that has such a sonorous ring to it, and that, by way of being assumed into the 1611 King James Version (of which Tyndale’s work makes up about 80%), has become so ubiquitous in the English language that no translator dare change it. Examples of the many other Tyndalisms include “Let there be light,” “gave up the ghost,” “my brother’s keeper,” “it came to pass,” and the nearly universal translation of the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer, which even Roman Catholics pronounce according to the King James translation (“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”). Tyndale also coined many words that have enriched the English language, including “scapegoat,” “Passover,” and “Jehovah.”

A little bit of research confirmed that I was correct. Stepping through the history of English Bible translation:

Wycliffe Bible (1380s): worche ye with drede and trembling youre heelthe
Tyndale Bible (1534): worke out youre awne saluacion with feare and tremblynge
Coverdale Bible (1535): worke out youre awne saluacion with feare and tremblynge
Matthew Bible (1537): worke out youre awne saluacion with feare and trembling
Great Bible (1539): worke out youre awne saluacion with feare and tremblyng
Geneva Bible (1560): make an end of youre owne saluation with feare and trembling
Bishop’s Bible (1568): worke out your owne saluation with feare and tremblyng
King James Version (1611): worke out your owne saluation with feare and trembling
KJV Cambridge Edition (1769): work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
Young’s Literal Trans. (1862): with fear and trembling your own salvation work out
Revised Version (1885): work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
American Std. Version (1901): work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
Revised Standard Version (1946): work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
New American Standard (1963): work out your salvation with fear and trembling
New Intl. Version (1978): continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling
New Revised Standard (1989): work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
Holman Christian Std. (1999): work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
English Standard Version (2001): work out your own salvation with fear and trembling

Now that’s staying power. With only one slight exception — the overly Calvinistic Geneva Bible, which changed “work out” to “make an end of” — every English Bible translation since Tyndale’s own has left Tyndale’s wording and phrasing of this verse intact.

I have intentionally not included Roman Catholic translations in the list above, to demonstrate Tyndale’s overpowering influence:

Rheims New Testament (1582): with feare and trembling worke your saluation
Challoner Revision (1752): with fear and trembling work out your salvation
New Jerusalem Bible (1985): work out your salvation in fear and trembling
New American Bible (1970–2011): work out your salvation with fear and trembling

Even into the Catholic mind, Tyndale’s leaven worked through the whole batch. Despite the Rheims translators’ initial attempt to escape Tyndale’s shadow — self-consciously avoiding translations that would appear to support Reformation theology, and replacing work out with work, though retaining Tyndale’s feare and trembling — Bishop Challoner reverted the whole thing to Tyndale’s wording. It has stuck ever since.

So why “work out” — a phrase with such an ambiguous meaning? Was Tyndale trying to obscure a phrase that seemed to cast doubt on Protestant theological suppositions? No, apparently not. Rather, “work out” has an archaic usage that is no longer current in today’s English. According to the Oxford English Dictionary:

work out. II. 6. To bring about, effect, produce, or procure (a result) by labour or effort; to carry out, accomplish (a plan or purpose).

In fact, this is the very meaning of the Greek word. And according to the OED citations, Tyndale’s is the first use of the phrase in this sense on record:

1534 Bible (Tyndale rev. Joye) Phil. ii. 12 Worke out youre awne saluacion with feare and tremblynge.
1600 Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 2 i. i. 181 We..Knew that we ventured on such dangerous seas, That if we wrought out life, twas ten to one.
1805 Wordsworth Waggoner iv. 118 When the malicious Fates are bent On working out an ill intent.
1847 Tennyson Princess ii. 75 O lift your natures out your freedom.

The last noted use of the phrase by this usage is 1874.

Why did Tyndale choose “work out”? There’s no clear answer. Since κατεργάζομαι is a compound of the prefix κατά and the verb ἐργάζομαι (to work, labor), Tyndale may have added the “out” to reflect the prefix; though he did not translate κατεργάζομαι that way anywhere else. He may have been thinking in Latin: recognizing the meaning of the Greek to approximate the action “to effect,” he may have rendered it first efficere (ex + ficere, to work out) and followed accordingly with the English. Or, he may have just liked the way it sounded. He seems to have had a knack for that.

The Tyndalian wording of this verse, as beautiful and iconic as it is, is now archaic, and tends to obscure the meaning of Paul’s words. Paul clearly was saying that through working — though the praise for our works belongs to God alone, by His grace — we effect our salvation.

I have always admired William Tyndale, first when I was a Protestant and still now that I am a Catholic. Not only was he bold and fearless in his determination to bring the Scriptures into the English language — he ultimately gave his life for that cause — but he was brilliant both as a translator and as a wordsmith. As the first translator of the Bible into English from its original languages, Tyndale has no doubt had more impact on the English Bible than any other single person, and has had an impact on the English language itself to rival that of Shakespeare.

A burden for Christian unity

Giotto di Bondone. The Lamentations Over Our Lord Christ. Cappella Scrovegni a Padova.1305

I am really deeply troubled.

I can’t entirely put my finger on why, but this is the same burden that has been dogging me all weekend.

It seems very wrong, very contrary to the will of God, that even in the decadence of modern secular society — a decadence that threatens even the Church — the Church of Christ remains deeply divided against itself. We are fighting among ourselves when we should be fighting for Christ.

This was the sentiment behind the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document drafted by Chuck Colson and Fr. Richard Neuhaus in 1994. A number of prominent leaders in both evangelical churches and the Catholic Church agreed to it and signed it. More troubling, though, is the not insignificant number of leaders on both sides who attacked the document and refused to have anything to do with it.

500 years after the Reformation, there are still a large number of evangelicals who will offer no quarter to a Catholic, who will not even sit down at the table with one lest there be any appearance of compromise. They would separate themselves from all fellowship with Catholics, even deny them a place in the kingdom of God. These are not just fringe elements; these include major leaders and theologians such as R. C. Sproul. People like James White write whole books attacking Catholicism and denying that Catholics are Christian. I have run into quite a few of these people in just my short time in the blogosphere. Even my own best friends would rather fight me when it comes to discussing doctrine than seek common ground. And every time it happens I feel a burden of rejection and frustration and despair.

And I don’t understand it. There is a wide diversity of doctrine in Protestantism — yet not the same kind of unfathomable chasm. Calvinists and Arminians disagree sharply, but are willing to have conversations with each other. Baptists and Methodists can agree to disagree about infant baptism versus believer’s baptism. These are issues that go just as deeply into soteriology, the theology of salvation, as the divide between Catholics and Protestants, and yet many Protestants wouldn’t even consider a similar truce with a Catholic.

James White argues that Catholics and Protestants disagree fundamentally about what the Gospel even is. Having been both a Protestant and a Catholic, that argument is incomprehensible to me. Of course it’s the same Gospel. How can anyone deny that? I follow the same Christ I’ve followed all my life. I hope in the same salvation, the same forgiveness of sins, the same resurrection. My Protestant Baptism was acceptable to the Catholic Church; why can’t my Catholic justification be valid in the eyes of a Protestant?

Catholics and Protestants have deep disagreements about doctrine. I don’t deny that, and I don’t pretend it doesn’t matter. If we believe what we teach, then it necessarily means believing that the other side of the argument is wrong. But look at it this way: Regardless of which side is right, the other is not excluded from salvation. If it is true, as Catholics believe, that we are justified by the outpouring of God’s grace through faith, and sanctified over the course of our lives as we walk in that grace, then certainly many Protestants, who faithfully believe in Christ and from that faith follow Him and walk with Him, will be saved. Or if it is true, as Protestants believe, that we are justified by faith alone in Christ through His grace, then certainly many Catholics who have a genuine faith in Christ will be saved. The only way to exclude Catholics from salvation, as some Protestants are wont to do, is to believe that salvation is by faith in the five solas alone — that by confessing the Reformation we are saved.

I have no interest in attacking the Protestant faith. I will defend the Catholic faith, but it is deeply unpleasant to me to be forced to return polemic for polemic, as I’ve had to do in White’s case. I am glad to help any pilgrim who wishes to cross the Tiber, but even more deeply than that, I want to build a bridge, on which both sides might meet and resolve some of these rancorous disputes. I long for Christendom to be at peace.

The Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms compared

The Council of Trent

The Magisterium of Church, assembled at the Council of Trent.

In line with my recent posts discussing Protestant and Catholic conceptions of authority, here is a really splendid post on Called to Communion, exploring the topic in more depth and greater theological and philosophical acuity than I could hope to: “The Catholic and Protestant Authority Paradigms Compared.” It’s piercing, astute, and thought-provoking, as Called to Communion always is. My blog is the little kid that wants to grow up to someday be like Called to Communion.

The bottom line is that by placing a book, rather than a divinely authorized living authority, at the center of his epistemic paradigm, the Protestant not only must use his fallible human reason to arrive at the locus of divine authority and to ask clarifying questions regarding the content of divine revelation, as the Catholic also must do. He must continue the use of fallible reason to construct the clarifying answers to the questions he asks. But as I explained above, fallible human reason has neither the authority, nor the competency to supply such answers.

A Breather

Marc Chagall - David, climbing Mount of Olives

Chassé de Jérusalem par Absalon de nouveau révolté, David, pieds nus, gravit la colline des Oliviers (Driven from Jerusalem by Absalom having revolted again, David, on foot, climbed the Mount of Olives), by Marc Chagall (1956).

Whew. That last post wore me out.

I am feeling very troubled and worn at the polemic tone my blog has taken the last week or two. It has never been my aim to attack Protestants or evangelicals. I was one for so long, and still share in that heritage, and most of the Christians I know are evangelicals. And I love them as my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

I just, in the fast few weeks, have encountered so much rejection and misunderstanding and prejudice of Protestants toward Catholics — denials that we are even Christians. I knew there was such sentiment out there in the world, but I thought it only existed at the extreme fringes. I had no idea such thoughts were so prevalent among Christians of Reformed stripes. I feel very tired.

My aim was to challenge these people, gently, to present a straightforward case that we are Christians, too. It comes down to grace — we believe in God’s salvation by grace alone, too. We love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. We do not teach “works’ salvation” or “Pelagianism.” We do not “worship” Mary. But my gentle suggestions have only been met with violent response. And I have reacted violently and defensively in turn. I am very sorry.

I would not have chosen this path if I thought for a moment I was leaving behind the Gospel of Christ. I only made this decision after years of searching and praying and studying. I am not an idiot or a rube or a mindless sheep who does not understand the teachings of my own Church. Yet I am insulted again and again by people who think they know better than I do, who regurgitate lies they have been fed and are not open to any challenge.

It’s a tide I can’t turn back. I was naïve to think I could. People’s prejudices are too entrenched. If I could change just one person’s mind, I said, my efforts would not be in vain. But I feel I’m only ranting at deaf statues. They label me the enemy, just for speaking out, and they shut out my words. I guess this is what Jesus was talking about when He said some would not receive us. But it shouldn’t be this hard to speak to fellow Christians.

I’m not sure I’m going to finish this book. Not right now, anyway. I need a breather. I will try to post some light, happy, hopeful things, to you, my beloved friends. Thank you for sticking with me.