Mark 9:24

Presumption for Catholicism

In Pursue Truth on June 16, 2012 at 3:11 am

Catholicism, even in a century when it feels tired-eyed and lazy, has a huge, if silent, case going for it. Others stand on their tippy-toes, others on their best behavior, but fat, indolent Catholicism laying drunken in the gutter, belly up to oblivion, from her back to her beating heart still stands taller than everyone else combined.

What sin is greater than silence or sleep when you know you know better?

The more you resemble Catholicism but are not Catholicism the falser you ring; if you share anything with Catholicism at all you must defend it with your life. Otherwise the silent testimony of history and reason would silently convict you of being a second-rate imitation. You must clutch the scripture, ignore Church history and dismiss our fruits if you would win against the silent testimony of ages.

There remains a trickier puzzle. You must prove yourself against centuries of doctrinal scavengers, those before you and those yet to come. An already impossible case multiplies endlessly. All the while, should the plain sense of scripture sometimes seem to point one direction, we can point out another, larger principle to correct our folly. If we acknowledge gaps in historical clarity, we still marvel at how few there ever could be. We admit the worst sinners, but even Jesus said that it is “impossible” that there should not be scandal, that wheat and tares will be sorted but not by us.

Catholicism is at least as scriptural while being more historical and demonstrably fruitful. Here’s the real sting of it: None of the Catholic cases require a well-timed nudge as much as typical Protestant cases.

Scriptural

Her exegesis is at least plausible. Yet like John’s Gospel or the core of the Earth, as we deepen, we burn hotter. Our word against yours, and as ours has exegetical millenia’s clarity and truth. This is what you’re up against, all while reinventing the wheel — or is that recapturing the fire of the Holy Ghost? You must burn heavier than we, even without considering you have the next cross to bear: Historicity.

Historical

That there is even a case for the pre-Nicene Catholic Church speaks longer and louder than even Luther. That there is a solid case drowns him out. That it is probably true seals the deal, for if so She more than you could claim scripture. And you still have the next cross to bear: Fruit.

Fruitful

Oy, yes — when the “Lord of the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun,” who challenges him but a Catholic golden egg? And the saints, and the universities, and science, and all which is good about our world but made through men. (And the sinners! What sinners has the Church had, what fantastic sinners! It’s as if we were Israel.)

(Therefore)

You must understand why we cannot take the burning of your bosom against reality. We, broken bits of clay holding grace given us which is not our own: Why should we be so right against the bristling brushstrokes of human history? Does the Truth of God cast out the truth of history? If Truth cast out truth, it is a house divided against itself and cannot stand, and Truth is not worth our worship. It would be merely the shinier half of the Demiurge’s coin, and love of such currency is the root of all evil.

Shortly: If there is one Way, Truth, and Life, certainly there is one Truth. Why do only Catholics seem to believe it?

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  1. I loved this.

    • I worry that it reads too much like fist-pumping. Still, is anything here false?

      • A little fist-pumping, if it is true (which it is in this case) can serve as a tool of evangelization. I remember reading other “fist-pumps” over the years that were not just triumphalistic but intellectually compelling, even as they annoyed me – I imagine this will hold true for some Protestant readers of your blog. At the time I may have been offended, but such confidently presented truth played a big part in my conversion. It is good to be challenged in this way sometimes.

        I remember one person, who your post reminded me of, saying to me back in the late 90’s or early 2000’s to never say never when I would proclaim that I would NEVER be Catholic or Orthodox. But his intelligent, mildly in my face, though always respectful, challenges made a dent – I realize now.

        So no. Nothing false here.

      • It is actually fairly solid against Protestants. A little less so against Evangelicals, though it does make fun of them. If the intended audience really is against Mormons then it is mostly irrelevant, both in what we see as problematic with Catholicism and against Mormonism.

        • If the intended audience really is against Mormons then it is mostly irrelevant …

          How so?

          • It might be my fault for generally using the Bible very extensively in such discussions, but you have never seemed to realize that the LDS do not hold the Bible to be the final authority and do not claim to depend on the Bible alone for doctrine, practice, or anything. I think we are both too used to arguing with Protestants and Evangelicals that are solely dependent on the Bible.

            Related to that, the Mormon claim of authority is not dependent on the Catholics having ever been the true church, nor is it dependent on the Catholics having never been the true church. All that matters is that what Isaiah, for instance said would happen has happened: “The earth also is defiled under its inhabitants; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” and when and who did it is relatively unimportant to our claim.

            Remember, we are not based on some novel reading of the Bible, though we certainly have that. We are not dependent on Luther or any other reformer for much of anything, though they were men that were inspired by God for what they did. We are neither dependent on the Catholics having ever been the true church of Christ nor are we dependent on the Catholics having never been the true church of Christ. Nor are we even dependent on Joseph Smith or any other of our prophets having been perfect or really anything like unto perfect. The only question that matters for our claim is if God and Jesus did indeed speak to Joseph Smith and did indeed say what he reported them to have said. That is a question that can only be answered positively by God, and if He answers then whatever anyone else that claims His authority says is moot.

            Furthermore, you are proud of exactly one of the main claims that we have, from God, against the Catholics, and other Catholics are more-so. Which is that it is based primarily upon the philosophies of men and not the revelation of God, and which there is plenty of evidence for both historically, fruitfully, and scriptural. Basically, you can make your claim and I am capable of agreeing with most of what you say and at the same time say that almost all of what you said is evidence that Mormonism is true.

          • The only question that matters for our claim is if God and Jesus did indeed speak to Joseph Smith and did indeed say what he reported them to have said.

            … which is presumptively undercut by Catholicism’s historicity is not reliant on the well-timed nudge required by Mormon historical claims, her far deeper, consistent scriptural interpretation, and objectively superior, sustained fruit. You have Brigham Young University; we made the University.

            That’s the nut of the argument: Catholicism’s silent witness, even when these days she’s lazy, drunk, indolent, is that she was first on the scene and remains compelling. Presumptively, therefore, she has the preferred position, and this is before she even begins to speak. Once we grant the presumptive case, each word from Catholicism is heavier and more credible than the same number of words from any other claimant to Christ.

            Her position might be described a first among equals if it were not that everyone but the Orthodox were so far behind us in credibility. To declare other claimants equals would be enough of a lie that these kind words would cease to be charity and begin to be scandal.

          • Because the flood, for instance, is very well historically and archeologically documented, or the exodus, and it isn’t like archeologists are not continuing to find lost civilizations from even the last thousand years in the new world. Let’s not even talk about what is known about new world civilizations from the time period in question.

            I thought it was the Greeks and Romans that made the University, I must have been mistaken about Plato’s Acadamy or the Lyceum and other schools like those, or the Jewish schools. I mean it isn’t like the Babylonians had a formal education system for the training of priests and scribes, oh wait, they did.

            Anyways, you continue to miss the point that religion is about God, not about philosophy or whatever else. God is real, He answers prayers, Faith must come from Him and does not and cannot come from philosophy or history. I know that were you to actually read the Book of Mormon and ask God if it were true, with the desire to actually know (see Moroni 10:3-5) then the Holy Ghost would manifest the truth of it to you. Why do you think that one should trust in their own understanding, or the understanding of man, or the wisdom of men, rather then trusting in the Lord with all your heart? If the God has more to say to men should we not rejoice, rather then deny that God has the ability to speak to men or the ability to do so in our day?

          • … it isn’t like archeologists are not continuing to find lost civilizations from even the last thousand years in the new world.

            That would be an example of a well-timed nudge. Mormons require many more than Catholics, for all the difficult Catholic beliefs which immediately spring to mind have antiquity behind them, very near the time of Christ. (Right down to the Real Presence, ref. Ignatius of Antioch.)

            I thought it was the Greeks and Romans that made the University, I must have been mistaken about Plato’s Academy or the Lyceum and other schools like those, or the Jewish schools. I mean it isn’t like the Babylonians had a formal education system for the training of priests and scribes, oh wait, they did.

            University != school != formal education system. Even these were equivalent, though, it was Catholicism and not any other religion which would have revived this kind of institution, adding a new, important, even crucial spin. And even if this were wrong, a dozen examples may be thought up, all underscoring Catholicism’s crucial role in shaping every best, unique part of Western Civilization.

            I know that were you to actually read the Book of Mormon and ask God if it were true, with the desire to actually know (see Moroni 10:3-5) then the Holy Ghost would manifest the truth of it to you. Why do you think that one should trust in their own understanding, or the understanding of man, or the wisdom of men, rather then trusting in the Lord with all your heart?

            If I did as you suggested, that would be trusting in your wisdom. Why else would I adopt such a schema for discerning truth? No, God gave us brains, and not to tempt us.

  2. Isn’t this taken in large part from a previous post that you had a while ago that was primarily to Protestants? Maybe I am mistaken.

    Since I have responded to this elsewhere then I am not going to get into this.

    Do you really think that I don’t “object to Catholicism on any other grounds but those of the sexual passions?” I mean I know I have mentioned sexual passions in discussions that have been about sexual passions, (and I certainly do think that there are some Catholic Fathers that make the Puritans look like hedonists), but we have filled pages of comment threads without the topic of sexual passions ever coming up, and I don’t believe I have even once said anything about the priest scandals.

    • Thanks for your reply. Most of the writing I’ve been doing online has been in the form of Internet comments, and this is an adaptation of one such Internet comment. So, yes!

      As for the objecting to Catholicism “on any other grounds but those of the sexual passions,” that’s a different Internet comment in a different context. Given thought, of course there are a great many folks who disagree with Catholicism on more interesting grounds — but to the audience over at Unequally Yoked, especially in the wake of the second Turing Test, it’s really more tedious than anything to hear folks argue over sexuality, contraception, abortion, &c. So that was hyperbole in the service of rhetoric.

      I don’t believe I have even once said anything about the priest scandals.

      For which thanks is deserved. Not that sexual abuse is a good thing, but the way that stick gets wielded sometimes — it’s like arguing with an Alinskyite.

  3. Incidentally, your comment:

    The only question that matters for our claim is if God and Jesus did indeed speak to Joseph Smith and did indeed say what he reported them to have said.

    … is an interesting spin on 1 Corinthians 15. Where you need to add to St. Paul, Catholics can just accept St. Paul.

    And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

  4. JohnH said:

    Anyways, you continue to miss the point that religion is about God, not about philosophy or whatever else. God is real, He answers prayers, Faith must come from Him and does not and cannot come from philosophy or history.

    Religion is indeed about a relationship with God and faith does come from him. However, a relationship is not just faith. It is also knowledge. Does, therefore, knowledge require philosophy or history? First, ask these questions:

    How do we know Him? And how do we know we know Him and not the spirit formed by our desires? What’s worse, how do we know we know Him and not the spirit of deception, who is the Adversary, who is Satan, who is the Lord of this World, who is such a deceiver he appears as an angel of light?

    So we need some common experience. This would seem to require some knowledge of those who came before us, so therein history. How would we think carefully about our revealed truth? This would seem to require philosophy (or theology, depending on your definition of terms.)

    Simple, clear Gospels are very tempting — until we start to ask for the definition of terms. Quickly, false Gospels fall apart like the Manichees of Augustine. Any coherent Gospel, given to us by a God who also gave us brains requires the definition of terms, which therefore requires philosophy and therefore some history of at least philosophy.

    The Lord alone reads hearts. You must have special graces indeed if you can look into the Gentiles as Christ does the Jews.

  5. Considering as how your response definitely demonstrates that you have not been reading even the Biblical passages that I have provided, then I will take you quoting 1 Corinthians as evidence that at least you might believe and be willing to accept what Paul says in that part of scripture. Really though you should be looking at Alma 32.

    As for needing special graces to know things, I do know that, as I live according to the commandments of God, that I have and can have the Spirit to be constantly with me. I also know that if I do have the Spirit that the secrets of others hearts can be made manifest (1 Corinthians 14:25), even if it is by the other party saying what they believe in terms that show what they actually believe.

    I suppose I should start with the questions that you say to answer first, rather then going straight at the main question.

    “How do we know God”

    We know God not through the wisdom of man, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5) This knowledge of can only be known through God revealing them to us by His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). This knowledge is at the start transmitted through the teaching of those that already have such knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:13). The foundation of this knowledge is only Jesus Christ, not the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 1:21-23). Once we have the start of this knowledge we gain more through works, and we can lose what we have also through our works (1 Corinthians 3:11-17).

    ” And how do we know we know Him and not the spirit formed by our desires? “

    First, the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he, neither does the wisdom of the world respect the things of God, for they are foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 2:14). Every man is given the ability to judge good and evil; all men know part of the law and we are to judge ourselves based on what the Lord has already given us. (1 Corinthians 11:31.) The Spirit that is from God seeks the welfare of others, deepens and increases our knowledge of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:3), increases our love of God and of all men (1 Corinthians 13), edifies not only ourselves but others as well (1 Corinthians 14:16-17), and brings peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).

    “What’s worse, how do we know we know Him and not the spirit of deception, who is the Adversary, who is Satan, who is the Lord of this World, who is such a deceiver he appears as an angel of light?”

    I believe the scriptures above cover this well, but to continue, if we have Charity then we can be assured that we are at least on the start of the right way (1 Corinthians 13). We then are to desire the spiritual gifts, which are to edify and help us and others (1 Corinthians 12), but more so are we to seek the Spirit of prophecy, which again is for the purpose of edifying us and others (1 Corinthians 14). If we are prophets then we will acknowledge that the scriptures are true (1 Corinthians 14:37), that Jesus is the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3), that the bodily resurrection of us and of Christ is real (1 Corinthians 15), and we will be given insights in to the secrets of the hearts of those that believe not (1 Corinthians 14: 24-26). The Adversary is the author of confusion and seeks to deny the body of Christ and of God.

    “Does, therefore, knowledge require philosophy or history?”

    The things of God are foolishness unto the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23). The wisdom of the wise will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 1:19), and is foolish to God (1 Corinthians 20). However, there is a wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:6-7), but it can only be known by way of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11), and not through the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12). The things of the wisdom of God are foolish to the natural man, nor can they be known by the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14).

    Now, however, as 1 Corinthians says, the gospel is for edifying, or as my scriptures say, the glory of God is intelligence. Our brains are there for our use, obviously, and Paul uses logic, for instance, in 1 Corinthians. Showing that if there be no resurrection of the dead then our hope is vain, but that as in Adam all die so to in Christ shall all be made alive, and why are there baptisms for the dead if the dead rise not at all? Also, as we sow so shall we reap, whether it be to Celestial glory, or Terrestrial, or the glory of the stars (Telestial) . (1 Corinthians 15). Obviously terms have to be defined, and if there is a question on the terms then we are to seek prophecy so that all may learn, be edified, and comforted (1 Corinthians 14). I think Paul very definitively proves that we are to desire our bodies as if we live heavenly then we will be like Christ with His body, rather then falling for the nearly universal thought of the wisdom of the world and most religions of the world that our bodies are evil, to be done away with, and that our God does not have body. I believe that Augustine calls the idea of God having a body foolishness as he was taught otherwise by philosophers (who are the wise) according to their philosophies (wisdom) and not according to the power of God.

    My gospel is one that has many plain and precious truths that may appear foolish to the wisdom of the world, but to those that are called of God, it is the wisdom of God. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), things that were rejected of old as they seem foolish, weak, base, and simple. It is not through our own wisdom, or any merit of our own, that we receive the wisdom of God, His righteousness, sanctification, and redemption but through Christ Jesus so that when we glory, we glory in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:17-31).

    • Maybe I’ve been unclear. Where Catholics can preach only the cross, Mormons must also preach Joseph Smith. That’s what is meant by invoking 1 Corinthians 15.

      You do not so much seem to refute the argument presented as denounce intelligence, knowledge, history, philosophy, reason. Is this correct?

      • I speak of a knowledge of God coming through revelation and you claim I denounce knowledge?

        I say the Glory of God is intelligence and you claim I denounce intelligence?

        I mention Paul’s reasoning on the assurance of the universal bodily resurrection and you say I denounce reason?

        I speak of the Wisdom of God and you claim I denounce all philosophy?

        I don’t think I mention history, other then the history of the resurrection and the rejection of the simple truths of the gospel. I don’t think either you or me wants me to actually mention history.

        • So do you really respond to the argument? Again:

          Where Catholics can preach only the cross, Mormons must also preach Joseph Smith.

          • That was not the post I was responding to, it was the other post, the one that I quote in my response, I assumed that since you had quoted 1 Corinthians in that post that you would be willing to look up and read scripture coming from 1 Corinthians, where as you are very obviously not looking up or reading any of the other references to any scripture. Apparently that assumption was wrong.

            Catholics, especially now a days, cannot only preach the cross and expect anyone to take them seriously. Instead you must primarily preach Aristotle-Aquinas (or Plato) or Mary, Queen of Heaven. Besides which, even were that not the case, then you would have to also preach of Paul, of Peter, of John, of James, and of Jude, as well as of Moses, of Isaiah, of Jeremiah, of Ezekiel, of Daniel, etc, like what is done in the catechism classes for instance.

            As for preaching the cross, Paul didn’t preach primarily of the cross but of Christ dying for our sins and even more so of the resurrection. Paul even list Peter, the Twelve, 500 more, James, the Twelve (again), and himself that he preaching of, all of whom received a physical witness of the resurrection of Christ. We live in a day where even many Christians, even many practicing Catholics, deny the literal reality of the resurrection of Christ and the divinity of Christ. Yet Christ did not die again or give up His body but lives and has appeared to men again, one of whom was Joseph Smith but continuing to our day including Thomas S. Monson, who testify that He lives.

            So do I preach of these new witnesses that God has given us? Of course! if Paul glories in the gift of prophecy then why should not we? If Paul preached of those that had received a prophetic witness of the resurrection of Christ then why should not we? Why should the living God deny the greater gift of prophecy, as Paul says of it, to His children in our day? Why should we not rejoice in having received more knowledge from the Lord? In preaching of the special witnesses of Christ that live in our day I also testify of Jesus Christ, that He is, that He lives.

          • What is central to Catholicism is the Eucharist, which is the sacrifice on the cross. You had given the same status to Joseph Smith. This is why the comparison is apt.

            Dizzying, clever words will not change this.

  6. Claims to authority are in no way similar to what is central to the religion. Central to the claim of Catholicism is that of an unbroken line of authority from Peter. Central to Catholicism is the Eucharist, the two are not the same thing.

    Central to the claim of Latter Day Saints is the restoring of authority to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Central to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is Jesus Christ. The two are not the same thing.

    • Ah. But it is impossible to make a sane historical case for Joseph Smith’s authenticity, whereas the unbroken line of popes has at least a historical, philosophical grounding, and it also just makes plain sense given that God Himself came to establish a Church. Never even in Israel was apostasy so complete as Mormons claim it was! Back again to the silent witness of Catholicism.

      (By the way, the Eucharist is Jesus Christ. So Mormons claim nothing worth having that Catholics don’t have, and Catholics have it all better.)

  7. Surprisingly enough I actually knew that about the Eucharist, which is why I said it like that. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:24-29 would seem to perhaps disagree with some of the particulars on the subject.

    Based on my readings of primary documents the historical claim of the Catholic church is not supported and furthermore shouts extraordinarily loudly as to its true nature in things like encyclicals and Ecumenical Councils. I however have no desire to be sickened listening to otherwise decent people trying to defend it.

    I know that throughout the history there were those that tried to be true followers of Christ, but the authority from God to perform the saving ordinances was lost and the doctrines of Christ were corrupted. This is similar to the what happened multiple times with the Jews, where the doctrine was corrupted until a new prophet arose to call the people back to the true faith. This is similar to what had happened before the Jews as well where God called Enoch, then later Noah, and then later others to call the people back to the true faith and gave anew the authority to act in His name. That is the pattern that the Bible establishes and that is the pattern that the unchangeable God has and will follow in setting up His church with first, Apostles, second, prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28) and always with the greater gift of prophecy. God in calling Joseph Smith was just following the pattern that He has followed from the beginning of time.

    • Ignoring the rabbit trails: There has never been a complete apostasy. Each time there is a loyal remnant. Even when God so despised the iniquity of men that he sent a flood to destroy the face of the earth, there was Noah and his family. So, no — the Mormon apostasy is absurdly extreme.

      And so that even the Church exists and has existed, undeniable facts to any observer, common ground for literally everyone, undercuts anything anyone else can say. That’s what this post is about: There has never been an argument against the Church. There have only been rebuttals.

      She is to religion what Plato is to philosophy. Everyone else is a poor imitation, and everyone else stands on her shoulders, and everyone else even if they hate her must face her. And what of her resilience? And her growth? Sins of the visible body speak louder than the sins of Joseph Smith, yes. Of course. That’s because the Church dominates the obsessions of every single man of faith, whereas the Mormon faith is a johnny-come-lately. Remember:

      And now, therefore, I say to you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to nought; But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God.

      Mormonism often applies this to itself, but as with all genuine scripture I think it applies better in the light of the Church. She is of God; not Ceasar, not the barbarians, not the Holy Roman Emperor, not a dozen councils, not the worst popes, not the wicked quislings of our day, not the Anglicans or Lutherans or Calvinists have managed to kill her. They have all been dashed against the Rock.

      • Hinduism is many times older then Catholicism.

        Judaism is also much older, and the Jews are able to point to the Books of Moses and show that their gathering to Israel again is a fulfillment of prophecy and of covenant. They can also point to the insane amount of time that nations and religions have tried their very best to exterminate them and them still existing as a religion and as a people as evidence of the hand of God.

        Both are able to use the same philosophy that the Catholics use, to varying degrees.

        As for the Protestants trying to kill Catholicism… Catholics demonstrated with literally millions of deaths that they would try to annihilate any that broke away from them, before the Protestants existed. Protestants therefore were both taught to destroy those that disagreed with them and knew that they were in for war in breaking with Rome, that city that sits on seven hills and made the kings of the earth bow to her. They were not so much fighting to destroy Catholicism but as to ensure that they were not destroyed.

        • Do you really mean to say that the Hindus are a cross-cultural ancient institution with a coherent philosophy and structure, that the Hindu witness spread its influence all over the world such that its civilization is the foundation of the world, that the best Hindu fruits are embraced even by Hinduism’s direst enemies, that the holiest ascetics and holiest martyrs found their home in her wings? No, Hinduism is old, and an ossified old, (and the old Jew could not have been talking of Hinduism anyway.)

          If the Church be of God, she cannot be overthrown, not even by the wickedness of all the world. Apostasists insist this happened, undermining not the Church as much as themselves. Meanwhile she has not been overthrown, though every single man of the world, within and without the visible Church, has tried to overthrow her.

          This odd resilience: That is the silent witness of Catholicism. Against this you have only words.

  8. Incidentally, if it were not that Mormonism is necessarily lead folks into error on issues central to salvation, if it were just a system to eventually be dashed against the Rock, I would take this passive approach, ignoring the Mormon faith. It deserves to be ignored.

    Unfortunately, Mormon persons, because like Caligula and Mother Theresa and Hitler and St. Francis they are made in the image of God, must not be ignored. They must be loved. Part of being loved is to rescue them from absurdity, from iniquity.

    (For that matter, CARM is not wrong because of its motive, its major premise. CARM is wrong because of the facts, the minor premise.)

  9. Let me try this one, too: Mormonism has a university but not a philosophical system. If the Catholic Church is a fraud, how much more Mormonism?

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