More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism Book Summary

Listen to this article

Title: More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism
Author: Dave Armstrong

TLDR: This book dives deep into Catholic doctrines, providing robust biblical arguments for each one, specifically addressing common Protestant objections. Through dialogues and historical analysis, it demonstrates the scriptural basis for Catholic distinctives like the Real Presence, penance, Mariology, and Church authority, emphasizing the harmony between Scripture, Tradition, and the Church.

Chapter One: Biblical Indications as to the Definition of the Gospel and the Nature of Sacramentalism

This chapter dives into the definition of the Gospel and addresses the common Protestant claim that Catholics are not Christians. Armstrong argues that the Gospel, as defined by the Bible, is not simply “justification by faith alone,” as many Protestants believe. He cites St. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:38, emphasizing repentance and baptism for forgiveness, and St. Paul’s definition in Acts 13:16-41 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, focusing on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He further contends that Jesus’ own actions, like commanding the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions (Luke 18:18-25), contradict the “faith alone” doctrine.

Armstrong asserts that the Gospel is the “good news” of Jesus’ redemptive work, not a theological theory of salvation. Both Catholics and Protestants agree on the centrality of grace and condemn Pelagianism (works-salvation), making them united in accepting the core tenets of Christianity. The chapter also tackles the Protestant antipathy towards sacramentalism, arguing that matter conveying grace is not a “reduction” of Christ’s atonement but an extension of the Incarnation. God taking on human flesh elevated matter, making it a suitable vehicle for grace.

Armstrong then uses various biblical examples to support sacramentalism, including baptism conferring regeneration (Acts 2:38), healing through physical objects (Acts 19:12), and the laying on of hands for ordination and healing (Acts 6:6). He challenges the notion that Christians cannot contribute to their salvation even through acts enabled by God’s grace, arguing that “doing nothing at all” contradicts common evangelical practices like altar calls and repentance, which involve free will and action.

The chapter concludes by emphasizing the biblical mandate to follow Jesus with one’s whole being, performing good works, and striving for righteousness. While theologians debate the precise role of these actions in salvation, Armstrong advocates for a practical application of faith, emphasizing the interconnectedness of faith and works in the Christian life.

Chapter Two: Fictional Dialogues on Sola Scriptura (“Bible Alone”), the Real Presence, and Penance

This chapter utilizes fictional dialogues to explore three key points of contention between Catholicism and Protestantism: Sola Scriptura, the Real Presence, and Penance.

Sola Scriptura Dialogue:

The dialogue highlights the circular reasoning inherent in Sola Scriptura. The Protestant character insists on judging all traditions based on their interpretation of the Bible, effectively making themselves the ultimate authority on Christian doctrine. The Catholic character challenges this, pointing out the arbitrariness of choosing which traditions are “biblical” and the need for an authoritative source like the Catholic Church to determine true Apostolic Tradition. The dialogue touches upon the determination of the New Testament Canon, highlighting its reliance on the Catholic Church’s authoritative decree. It ends with the Protestant character resorting to subjective experience (“the Holy Spirit makes it clear”) as justification for their beliefs, a circular argument that echoes the position of other non-traditional Christian groups.

The Real Presence Dialogue:

This dialogue focuses on the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation (the change of substance in bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ). The Catholic character uses John 6:51-56, where Jesus repeatedly states the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood for eternal life, as evidence for a literal Eucharist. The Protestant character counters that it is symbolic, comparing it to other misunderstood teachings of Jesus. However, the Catholic character argues that Jesus would have clarified any misunderstanding, especially after many disciples abandoned Him due to this teaching (John 6:66).

The dialogue delves into 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 11:27, where St. Paul states that taking Communion unworthily makes one “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” further suggesting a real presence. The historical support from early Church Fathers is presented, highlighting the novelty of the Protestant symbolic view within the broader Christian tradition.

Penance Dialogue:

This dialogue centers on the Catholic practice of Penance. The Protestant character criticizes it as self-punishment, arguing that God has already forgiven sins. The Catholic character counters using biblical examples like David’s suffering despite forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:13-14) and God’s purification of His people in Malachi 3:3. He further uses Matthew 16:19 and 18:17-18, where Jesus grants the apostles the power to “bind and loose,” and 1 Corinthians 5:3-5, where St. Paul imposes penance, to support the Church’s authority in this matter.

The dialogue then explores the concept of indulgences, highlighting their biblical basis in St. Paul’s actions (2 Corinthians 2:6-11) and correcting the misconception that they “indulge” sin. It concludes by addressing the Protestant objection that penance contradicts grace, arguing that it benefits us by addressing the disorder caused by sin and preparing us for heaven (Hebrews 12:14). The Catholic character emphasizes the cooperation with God’s grace, while reaffirming the primacy of God’s grace in salvation (Ephesians 2:10).

Chapter Three: Is Catholicism Half-Pagan?

This chapter tackles the accusation that Catholicism incorporates pagan practices and feasts into its worship, implying a compromise with pre-Christian religions. Armstrong argues that the key to defining “pagan” lies in the meaning and context attached to specific practices. He uses the example of sexual intercourse, morally acceptable within marriage and sinful outside it, to illustrate that the same act can be either good or evil depending on its intention and circumstances.

He addresses specific criticisms like the incorporation of pagan rituals such as genuflection, incense, and candles, pointing out their inherent neutrality and the Christian reinterpretation given to them. The adoption of December 25th as Christmas, coinciding with the Roman feast of Sol Invictus, is presented as a strategic move to supersede paganism by replacing its outward forms with Christian meaning. The evergreen Christmas tree, once potentially used as an idol, is now a symbol of everlasting life.

Armstrong emphasizes the importance of inner attitude and heart in true worship, arguing that outward gestures are merely symbols representing the meaning attributed to them. He compares the use of crucifixes and Rosary beads to the Jewish Passover, both serving as aids to devotion and remembrance. He concludes by refuting the charge that incorporating pagan elements amounts to idolatry, highlighting St. Paul’s own “evangelistic strategy” of adapting to different cultures to spread the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22).

The chapter ends by asserting that the Catholic approach to pre-Christian practices is a wise and pragmatic way to defeat paganism and reclaim its elements for God, mirroring St. Paul’s own engagement with pagan culture in Acts 17.

Chapter Four: Sin and Sinners in the Catholic Church: Disproof of its Ecclesiastical Authority?

This chapter confronts the argument that the presence of sin and sinners within the Catholic Church disproves its claim to divine authority. Armstrong begins by acknowledging the existence of corruption and sin even at high levels within the Church, attributing it to the inherent fallibility of human institutions. He emphasizes, however, that God works through the Church despite these imperfections, comparing it to a story of a non-Catholic man who became convinced of Catholicism precisely because of the fallibility of its leaders, concluding that God must be behind it for it to have survived for so long.

Armstrong argues that widespread literacy and access to information mitigate the excuse for ignorance and heterodoxy within the Church. He stresses personal responsibility for spiritual development and seeking proper instruction. He then refutes the claim that sin within the Church disproves its authority, using numerous biblical examples to demonstrate that God always intended for His Church to be comprised of both wheat and tares.

He points to Jesus’ parables of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the warnings of many falling away (Matthew 24:10), and the presence of counterfeit believers (Matthew 7:21-23) as evidence for the inherent reality of sin within the Church. He also cites Jesus’ question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8), to highlight the expected scarcity of true faith even within the Church.

Armstrong then delves into St. Paul’s reprimands of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 5:1-2, 6:1-8), highlighting the widespread and serious sins present despite their membership in the true universal Church. He further analyzes the state of the seven churches addressed in Revelation (Revelation 2-3), noting that only one escaped rebuke, illustrating the pervasiveness of hypocrisy, lukewarmness, and sin even within apostolic churches.

He concludes by emphasizing the reality of original sin and God’s willingness to work through imperfect individuals. The presence of sin does not negate the existence of a true Church. Armstrong advocates for judging a communion based on its official teaching and adherence to biblical principles of unity and orthodoxy, not solely on the actions of its members. He reaffirms the Catholic Church’s position as the true Church, based on apostolic succession and the four marks of the Church.

Chapter Five: Denominationalism and Sectarianism

This chapter criticizes denominationalism and sectarianism, arguing that they are contrary to the biblical mandate for Christian unity. Armstrong analyzes Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17, emphasizing that it encompasses both love and doctrinal agreement. He then cites numerous passages from St. Paul (Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 1:10, 3:3, 11:18-19, 12:25) that condemn division, schism, and doctrinal disagreement.

He refutes the claim that 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 refers only to “modern” heresy, presenting Protestant scholar Marvin Vincent’s interpretation of “heresy” as encompassing both opinion and “sect.” He then quotes H. Richard Niebuhr, a Lutheran scholar, who criticizes denominationalism as accommodating Christianity to social divisions. Armstrong argues that accepting a “lowest common denominator” unity among Protestants is insufficient, as Christians should strive for complete truth and reject error.

He laments the modern Protestant tendency to view disagreements in “secondary matters” as permissible or even healthy, contrasting it with the early Reformers’ willingness to fight and die for their beliefs. Armstrong concludes by reiterating the biblical mandate for doctrinal unity and calls for a pursuit of complete truth rather than tolerating error. He asserts that the fragmentation of Christianity into denominations is unbiblical and detrimental to the Church’s mission.

Chapter Six: Catholicism is Neither Pelagian Nor Semi-Pelagian (The Nature and Extent of Human Effort in Salvation)

This chapter addresses the Protestant accusation that Catholicism promotes Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism, heresies that deny the primacy of God’s grace in salvation. Armstrong begins by citing Canon 7 from the Second Council of Orange (529 A.D.) and Chapter 5 and Canon 1 from the Council of Trent (1545-63), both ecumenical councils accepted by the Catholic Church. These canons emphasize the absolute necessity of God’s grace for salvation, rejecting any notion that human effort alone can achieve justification.

He argues that Orange and Trent are not contradictory but address different historical contexts and challenges. Orange refuted Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, while Trent countered the Protestant rejection of human free will and cooperation with grace. He compares this to other councils that addressed the prevailing heresies of their time.

Armstrong then explores the Catholic understanding of merit, explaining that meritorious actions are always preceded and enabled by God’s grace. He quotes St. Augustine, who emphasizes that God rewards His own gifts when He crowns our merits. He further provides numerous biblical passages that support the concept of merit and reward in the Christian life.

He concludes by asserting that the Catholic position acknowledges the primacy of grace while affirming the necessity of human cooperation, enabled by that grace. He distinguishes between Total Depravity (the Calvinist view of man’s inherent sinfulness) and Total Inability (the Catholic rejection of man’s utter inability to cooperate with God). He argues that the Arminian Protestant view, which accepts free will and cooperation with grace, is closer to the Catholic understanding than to Semi-Pelagianism.

The chapter ends by emphasizing the practical implications of these theological distinctions, noting that all Christians are called to make a profession of faith, follow Jesus, and live righteously. While Catholics and Protestants differ on the exact role of works in justification, they agree on their necessity in the Christian life.

Chapter Seven: “Is This God?”: Biblical and Philosophical Reflections on the Blessed Eucharist

This chapter delves into the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, using personal experience, biblical analysis, and philosophical reflection. Armstrong opens by recounting his own past mocking of the Mass as a non-denominational Protestant, highlighting his insufficient understanding of the Eucharist despite his knowledge of Church history. He attributes this to the prevalent Protestant emphasis on the sermon and the downplaying of the Eucharist as a mere symbolic ritual.

He then traces the history of the Protestant symbolic view, identifying Huldreich Zwingli as the first prominent figure to deny the Real Presence. He analyzes Zwingli’s arguments, which are based on a false dichotomy between “sign” and “reality” and a skeptical reliance on empirical proof. Armstrong refutes this by pointing out biblical examples where “signs” represent literal events (Jonah’s time in the fish, Jesus’ Second Coming) and by highlighting the non-empirical nature of many Christian beliefs (Virgin Birth, Atonement, Baptism, Incarnation).

He argues that the Eucharist, like these other beliefs, requires a profound faith that transcends empirical observation. He contends that Zwingli’s demand for tangible proof of the Eucharist would also necessitate rejecting the Incarnation and Trinity, both of which were not demonstrably manifest. Armstrong emphasizes Jesus’ call for a higher faith, one that transcends the need for signs and wonders, as seen in His encounters with the Pharisees (Matthew 12:38-39) and Doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29).

He then examines the biblical passages often used to support the Real Presence: John 6:47-66, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 10:16, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-30. He refutes Zwingli’s symbolic interpretation of John 6, arguing that the Jewish understanding of “eating flesh and drinking blood” as causing harm contradicts the Protestant interpretation. He also points out that Jesus repeatedly emphasized His teaching even as many disciples abandoned Him, suggesting their rejection stemmed from unbelief, not misunderstanding.

Armstrong concludes by emphasizing the profound nature of the eucharistic miracle, comparing it to the change of water into ice, in which substance changes while accidents remain. He challenges the Protestant bias against sacramentalism and matter as a conveyor of grace, linking it to Docetism and Gnosticism. He asserts that if God can become Man, He can certainly become present under the forms of bread and wine. He calls for engaging the Real Presence debate on scriptural and exegetical grounds rather than relying on flawed philosophical assumptions.

Chapter Eight: Why the Catholic Mass is Not Idolatry

This chapter directly addresses the charge that the Catholic Mass, particularly the Sacrifice of the Mass, is idolatrous. Armstrong examines the common claim that it mirrors the Israelites’ worship of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). He analyzes the biblical account, highlighting the elements that make the Israelites’ action true idolatry: worshiping multiple “gods,” creating a forbidden image, building an altar to false gods, spreading lies about God’s actions, and attributing God’s liberation to Moses.

He contrasts this with the Real Presence in the Eucharist, emphasizing the obedience to Christ’s instructions at the Last Supper and the belief that the transformation is a supernatural act of God, not a magical “work of men’s hands.” He points out that the priest, in consecrating the Eucharist, acts as an alter Christus, not as a magician.

Armstrong emphasizes the importance of context and the state of mind of those involved. The Israelites were angry, distrustful, and “forgetting” God, while Catholics at Mass are worshiping God, giving Him glory, and remembering Christ’s sacrifice. He cites Psalm 106:19-21, where the psalmist clearly distinguishes between the idolatrous image and God, whose glory they “exchanged.”

He then uses the work of Protestant archaeologist William F. Albright to support his interpretation, highlighting the lack of evidence for representations of deity in early Israel. Armstrong concludes by asserting that the analogy between the Mass and the Golden Calf fails on all counts. The elements used in the Eucharist are legitimate, the transformation is divinely wrought, and the intention is to worship God, not a created object. He argues that the charge of idolatry is based on a misunderstanding of Catholic belief and a misapplication of the biblical text.

Chapter Nine: The Old Testament, the Ancient Jews, and Sola Scriptura

This chapter refutes the claim that the religious authority structure among the ancient Jews, as evidenced in the Old Testament, supports the Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura. Armstrong argues that the Jewish tradition relied heavily on oral transmission and interpretation, making it more analogous to the Catholic view of Tradition and Church authority. He presents five key points to support his argument:

  1. The Jewish Law, or Torah, was not exclusively written down: Armstrong cites the Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, a Protestant source, to demonstrate the prominence of oral traditions in ancient Middle Eastern societies. The oral Torah, believed to have been given to Moses alongside the written Torah, was later codified in the Mishnah and further developed in the Talmud. The rabbis’ role was to interpret and apply the Law to specific cases, similar to the Catholic Church’s ongoing interpretation and development of doctrine.
  2. Jewish oral tradition was accepted by Jesus and the Apostles: Armstrong provides several biblical examples (Matthew 2:23, 23:2-3, 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Peter 3:19, Jude 9, 14-15, 2 Timothy 3:8, James 5:17) where Jesus and the Apostles cite and acknowledge authoritative Jewish oral traditions, even elevating some to the level of revelation. This undermines the Protestant claim that only written Scripture is authoritative.
  3. Jewish “ecclesiology” included authoritative interpretation: Armstrong argues that the Jews did not adhere to a “me, the Bible, and the Holy Ghost” mindset. He presents numerous Old Testament passages (Exodus 18:20, Leviticus 10:11, Deuteronomy 17:8-13, 24:8, 33:10, Ezra 7:6,10, Nehemiah 8:1-8) demonstrating the authority of priests and prophets in interpreting and teaching the Law. This mirrors the Catholic Church’s role as interpreter and guardian of Scripture and Tradition.
  4. Prophets’ spoken words constituted the Word of God: Armstrong challenges the Protestant assumption that “Word of the Lord” always refers to written Scripture. He argues that prophets’ inspired utterances, initially spoken and later written down, were considered authoritative, just as the Apostles’ preaching (the “gospel”) was binding before being codified in the New Testament. He emphasizes the parallel between the gradual canonization of both the Old and New Testaments, both involving Tradition and authoritative Church decrees, not Sola Scriptura.
  5. Pharisees, Sadducees, and the nature of true Jewish tradition: Armstrong points out that Christianity is closer to the Pharisaical tradition, which accepted oral Torah and post-biblical developments like resurrection and angelology, than to the Sadducees, who rejected these and were essentially the “Sola Scripturists” of their time. Jesus and Paul aligned with the Pharisaical emphasis on Tradition and authoritative interpretation, further undermining the analogy between ancient Judaism and Sola Scriptura.

Armstrong concludes that the Old Testament and Jewish history provide strong support for the Catholic view of Scripture, Tradition, and Church authority. He argues that Sola Scriptura is a historical anachronism, unsupported by either the Jewish or early Christian tradition.

Chapter Ten: Was the Catholic Church an Avowed Enemy of Holy Scripture in the Middle Ages or at any Other Time?

This chapter tackles the common accusation that the Catholic Church has historically suppressed the Bible to maintain its power. Armstrong refutes this claim, presenting extensive evidence from both Protestant and Catholic sources to demonstrate the Church’s high regard for Scripture throughout history. He begins by quoting Catholic author Henry G. Graham, who criticizes the Protestant “falsification of history” that portrays the pre-Reformation Church as antagonistic towards the Bible.

He then cites Protestant scholars like Robert McAfee Brown, Peter Toon, and Harold Lindsell, who acknowledge the Catholic Church’s high regard for Scripture, comparable to that of the Reformers. Convert from Lutheranism Louis Bouyer is quoted extensively, emphasizing the centrality of the Bible in medieval monastic life and the Church’s consistent reliance on Scripture as the foundation for theological teaching.

Armstrong then presents a wealth of historical documentation from pre-16th century sources, including publishers’ notes from early printed Bibles, statements from medieval theologians, and accounts of widespread biblical imagery in Catholic churches and monasteries. He refutes the claim that the Church deliberately kept the Bible in Latin to hide it from the masses, pointing out that Latin was the common language of the educated at that time. He also clarifies the practice of chaining Bibles in churches, explaining that it was a common practice among both Catholics and Protestants to prevent theft and ensure access to students.

He presents extensive evidence of numerous Bible translations into various European languages before the Reformation, citing specific examples from the 8th century onward. He quotes Protestant historian Dr. Blunt, who acknowledges the availability of Bibles in both Latin and English before the Reformation, and refutes the myth that John Wycliff was the first to translate the Bible into English. He concludes by presenting data showing over 600 editions of the Bible, including numerous vernacular translations, published with the Church’s approval before the Reformation.

Armstrong concludes that the accusation of the Catholic Church being an enemy of the Bible is unfounded and demonstrably false. He argues that the Church has consistently promoted the study and dissemination of Scripture, utilizing various methods to make it accessible to both literate and illiterate people. He challenges the persistent myth of biblical suppression, calling for a more nuanced and historically accurate understanding of the Church’s relationship with Scripture.

Chapter Eleven: Insurmountable Practical Problems of Sola Scriptura

This chapter delves into the practical problems inherent in the Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura. While acknowledging that Protestants utilize other resources besides Scripture, Armstrong argues that the individual ultimately becomes the final arbiter of truth under Sola Scriptura, leading to inevitable contradictions and theological relativism. He challenges the notion of Scripture’s “perspicuity” (clearness), arguing that the existence of countless Protestant denominations with vastly different interpretations of Scripture disproves this claim.

He poses the question of how a lay person can determine which interpretation is correct when even great Protestant theologians like Luther and Calvin disagreed on fundamental doctrines like baptism and communion. He argues that simply appealing to Scripture does not solve the problem, as different traditions within Protestantism have developed distinct ways of harmonizing and interpreting Scripture, leading to irreconcilable differences.

Armstrong criticizes the hidden false premise of Sola Scriptura, which assumes that the individual can somehow rise above all traditions and arrive at the “pure” biblical interpretation. He argues that every Protestant is inevitably influenced by their denominational background, teachers, commentaries, and personal biases, making the claim of “Bible Alone” illusory.

He further criticizes the practical implications of Sola Scriptura, questioning whether every Christian has the time, education, and ability to become their own theologian. He points out the difficulty of choosing between conflicting interpretations when even the most educated and devout Christians disagree. He argues that the logical outcome of Sola Scriptura is that each person becomes their own pope, ultimately responsible for determining their own beliefs and destiny.

Armstrong compares Sola Scriptura to the US Constitution, arguing that its inherent value and sufficiency are challenged as soon as conflicting interpretations arise, requiring an authoritative interpreter like the Supreme Court. He points out that Sola Scriptura itself is not explicitly found in Scripture, a significant issue for Protestants who believe all essential doctrines should be clearly stated in the Bible.

He concludes by presenting the Catholic alternative: relying on Apostolic Tradition, preserved and interpreted by the Church, to guide biblical interpretation. He argues that this approach, rooted in the history of the Church and the consensus of the Fathers, offers a more stable and consistent foundation for Christian belief. He challenges Protestants to demonstrate how their system avoids relativism and subjective interpretation, suggesting that the individual ultimately becomes the final authority under Sola Scriptura.

Chapter Twelve: Dialogue on the Alleged “Perspicuous Apostolic Message” as a Corollary of Sola Scriptura

This chapter utilizes a fictional dialogue to explore the claim that a clear and identifiable “apostolic message” can be derived from Scripture alone, a key assumption of Sola Scriptura. The Catholic character challenges the Protestant character to define this “apostolic message,” particularly on issues where Protestants disagree, such as TULIP, baptism, the Eucharist, church government, and many others.

The Protestant character initially deflects the challenge, asserting that the New Testament itself contains the apostles’ teaching. However, the Catholic character points out the historical absence of doctrines like “imputed righteousness” and “forensic justification” before the Reformation, despite their alleged prominence in Scripture. He argues that if these doctrines are so clearly taught in the Bible, it is strange that they were not recognized by the vast majority of Christians throughout history.

The Protestant character then claims that the apostolic message is “narrow” and does not address every issue, suggesting that the Bible is not intended to be exhaustive. The Catholic character retorts that the apostles certainly addressed the specific issues raised, challenging the Protestant character to provide their interpretation of the apostles’ teachings on these points.

The dialogue highlights the circularity of the Protestant position, as the Protestant character insists that the apostolic message can be known from Scripture alone but refuses to actually define it, even when challenged. The Catholic character argues that this unwillingness stems from the inherent difficulty of achieving consensus under Sola Scriptura, as different Protestant traditions have developed conflicting interpretations on these fundamental doctrines.

The dialogue also explores the issue of Christian unity, with the Catholic character emphasizing the biblical mandate for unity and criticizing the fragmentation of Protestantism. The Protestant character defends denominationalism as a necessary outcome of upholding the “truth” of Scripture, even when it leads to disagreement. The Catholic character challenges this, arguing that unity built on falsehood is worthless and that the vast divisions within Protestantism suggest a flaw in their foundational principle of Sola Scriptura.

The dialogue concludes with the Catholic character asserting that the Catholic Church, with its reliance on apostolic Tradition and Church authority, offers a more consistent and historically grounded approach to interpreting Scripture and achieving Christian unity. He argues that the Protestant reliance on individual interpretation inevitably leads to relativism and undermines the biblical call for “one mind” among believers.

Chapter Thirteen: Dialogue on the Logic, Epistemology, and Practical Application of Catholic Infallible Authority

This chapter presents a fictional dialogue exploring the logic and practical implications of Catholic infallible authority, particularly in the context of papal infallibility. The Protestant character argues that Catholics require an “infallible interpreter of the infallible interpreter” to resolve doctrinal disputes, leading to an endless regress. The Catholic character refutes this, stating that ultimately faith in God’s guidance of the Church is necessary, similar to the faith required to accept Scripture as God’s Word.

The dialogue addresses the Protestant claim that Catholics blindly follow Rome’s dictates, while Protestants derive their beliefs directly from Scripture. The Catholic character counters that Catholics are just as biblically centered as Protestants, historically speaking, but also value Tradition and Church authority as essential guides to interpreting Scripture.

The Protestant character then brings up the issue of doctrinal disagreement within Catholicism, suggesting that it undermines the claim of “certainty of faith” offered by the Church. The Catholic character responds that while liberalism and heterodoxy are indeed problems, the Church possesses clear ways of defining its teachings and maintaining orthodoxy, unlike the fragmentation and institutionalized errors found in Protestantism.

The dialogue explores the Protestant claim that those who adhere to Sola Scriptura are generally “orthodox,” while those who accept additional binding authorities are not. The Catholic character challenges this, highlighting the arbitrariness of defining “orthodoxy” without an ultimate authority. He points out that various historical heresies, like Arianism, considered themselves “orthodox” while denouncing the Catholic Church as “heretical.”

The Protestant character insists that the “apostolic message” can be known without the Catholic Church but refuses to define its content, further highlighting the circularity of their argument. The Catholic character criticizes this as a form of “The Emperor’s Clothes,” where a supposedly clear and knowable truth remains undefined and ultimately elusive.

The dialogue also touches upon the historical development of the Catholic Church, with the Protestant character suggesting that the Church of the 4th century is fundamentally different from the present-day Church. The Catholic character responds by explaining the Catholic understanding of doctrinal development, comparing it to the growth and change of a city or a person over time, which does not alter their fundamental identity.

The dialogue concludes by addressing the Protestant claim that the Catholic system relies on the “secondary testimony” of the Church, while Protestants have the “self-attesting Word of God.” The Catholic character refutes this, arguing that Protestants ultimately rely on the interpretations of figures like Luther and Calvin, effectively granting them apostolic authority. He contends that the Catholic Church, with its reliance on apostolic succession and the consistent witness of Tradition, offers a more reliable and historically grounded foundation for Christian belief.

Chapter Fourteen: Dialogue on Biblical Arguments for Purgatory

This chapter presents a dialogue exploring the biblical basis for Purgatory, a Catholic doctrine that teaches a temporary state of purification after death for those destined for Heaven. The Protestant character initially acknowledges the possibility of divisions within Sheol (the abode of the dead) but objects to the concept of Purgatory based on the belief that Christ’s blood perfectly cleanses from sin.

The Catholic character explains that while Christ’s atonement is indeed perfect, sanctification is an ongoing process in this life, and Purgatory simply extends this process into the afterlife for those who have not attained perfect holiness before death. He argues that it is not a “final purging place for sins” but a temporary state of purification that prepares souls for the Beatific Vision (perfect communion with God) in Heaven.

The Protestant character questions the purpose of Purgatory if Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient. The Catholic character responds that while Christ completed the work of redemption, its full actualization in terms of personal holiness requires cooperation and purification. He compares this to the biblical examples of God disciplining His children (Hebrews 12:6-8) and the need for temporal punishment even after forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:13-14).

The dialogue explores the scriptural basis for Purgatory, with the Catholic character citing 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, where St. Paul describes our works being tested by fire, and some being “saved, but only as through fire.” He argues that this passage, often interpreted by Protestants as referring to the Judgment Seat of Christ, supports the concept of purification after death, as it does not specify a timeframe for this process.

The Protestant character then cites 2 Corinthians 5:8 (“to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”) and Luke 23:43 (Jesus telling the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”) to argue against Purgatory. The Catholic character responds by clarifying that 2 Corinthians 5:8 expresses a desire, not a definitive statement about the immediate presence of all believers with God after death.

He further explains that “Paradise” in Luke 23:43 refers to Sheol/Hades, the place of the dead, not Heaven. He supports this with 1 Peter 3:19-20 and Ephesians 4:8-10, which describe Christ’s descent into Sheol to preach to the “captives” (righteous dead) before His Ascension. He cites reputable Protestant sources like Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and the New Bible Dictionary to corroborate this interpretation.

The chapter concludes by highlighting the reasonableness of extending God’s disciplinary and purifying actions into the afterlife, arguing that Purgatory is consistent with both Scripture and the Catholic understanding of sanctification as an ongoing process. It emphasizes the temporary nature of Purgatory, ultimately leading all souls to their final destination in either Heaven or Hell.

Chapter Fifteen: A Biblical and Theological Primer on the Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Sinlessness, and Her God-Ordained Function as Mediatrix

This chapter delves into Catholic Marian doctrines, addressing the common challenges and misunderstandings surrounding the veneration of Mary, her sinlessness, and her role as Mediatrix. Armstrong acknowledges the difficulty of relating to Mary due to her Immaculate Conception (being conceived without original sin) and the extraordinary graces bestowed upon her. He presents six key points to explain the Catholic perspective:

  1. Distinguishing between relating to Mary and emulating her: While Mary’s sinlessness makes it difficult to fully imitate her, Armstrong argues that striving to emulate those who excel in virtue is a natural human tendency. He emphasizes that Mary’s humility and willingness to be used by God as the Theotokos (God-bearer) are qualities all Christians can aspire to.
  2. Mary’s humility and obedience: Armstrong highlights Mary’s “yes” to God at the Annunciation (Luke 1:38) as a reversal of Eve’s “no,” making her the “Second Eve” who cooperated with God’s plan of salvation. He emphasizes that Mary’s sinlessness did not negate her free will, as all humans must freely choose to cooperate with God’s grace.
  3. Mary’s equality in essence with humanity: While Mary was sinless, Armstrong emphasizes that she was still a created human being who received all her graces from God (Luke 1:28). He argues that all saved individuals will one day be sinless in Heaven, making Mary’s Immaculate Conception a foreshadowing of the redeemed state of humanity.
  4. God’s choice to make Mary sinless: Addressing the argument that a sinful Mary would have been a greater miracle, Armstrong explains that God chose to preserve Mary from sin because of her unique role as the ark of the new covenant, carrying God Incarnate within her. He argues that this is no less plausible than God’s eventual cleansing of all saved souls for Heaven.
  5. Other “weak” models in Scripture: Armstrong points out that the Bible is filled with examples of sinful and flawed individuals whom God used for His purposes (Peter, Paul, Moses, David, etc.). He argues that God’s choice to spare Mary from sin does not diminish His ability to work through imperfect people, as He ultimately desires free cooperation with His grace.
  6. The biblical mandate to imitate the saints: Armstrong cites biblical passages (1 Corinthians 4:16, Philippians 3:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9) that command Christians to imitate the Apostle Paul and other saints, even though their actions and holiness often exceed our own capabilities. He argues that striving for unattainable ideals is inherent to the Christian faith, and Mary’s sinlessness does not negate her value as a role model, particularly in her humility and obedience.

Armstrong then addresses the common objection to Mary’s sinlessness based on Romans 3:23 (“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”). He argues that the Greek word “pas” (“all”) does not always mean “every single one” in Scripture, citing examples from Romans itself where it refers to a “great number” or “every kind” (Romans 1:29, 11:26, 15:14). He further demonstrates that Jewish idiom often utilizes hyperbole and non-literal language, citing Jesus’ statement, “No one is good but God alone” (Luke 18:19), alongside His affirmation of human goodness (Matthew 12:35). He concludes that Mary’s sinlessness, while an exception, is not a logical impossibility based on the biblical text or Jewish literary conventions.

Armstrong then explores the doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix, which often sparks controversy and misunderstanding. He explains that it simply means God chose to involve Mary in a profound way in the redemption, particularly through intercession and her role as Theotokos. He clarifies that this does not make her equal to God or the source of grace. He emphasizes that God often uses human beings as mediators (prayer, evangelism, good works) and that Mary’s participation in redemption does not contradict Scripture or reason.

He uses the analogy of God choosing to involve Mary in the Incarnation, through human reproductive biology, to illustrate His willingness to work through human mediation. He highlights Mary’s free consent to both giving birth to Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross, paralleling the Catholic understanding of Mary’s role in redemption. He emphasizes that Mary does not cause redemption on her own but cooperates with God’s plan, similar to how Christians participate in their own salvation through cooperation with grace.

Armstrong then presents biblical evidence for the concept of “co-redemption” among Christians, citing passages where believers are described as “fellow workers” with God (2 Corinthians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 3:9) and participate in redemptive suffering (Romans 8:17, Colossians 1:24). He argues that if ordinary Christians can be involved in redemption in this way, it is not inconceivable that Mary, the Mother of God, could have been chosen by God for an even more profound role.

He emphasizes that all Marian doctrines are ultimately Christocentric, intended to glorify Jesus, not Mary. He addresses the common misunderstanding of “Co-Redemptrix,” explaining that “co” does not mean “equal” but “with” or “alongside,” signifying Mary’s subordinate and dependent cooperation with Christ in redemption. He points out that Pope John Paul II, while generally avoiding the term “Co-Redemptrix” for ecumenical reasons, still occasionally uses it to express Mary’s unique role.

Armstrong concludes by asserting that Mary’s sinless holiness, her role as Theotokos, and her free cooperation with God’s plan make her the quintessential model of redeemed humanity. He argues that the Marian doctrines, while not explicitly spelled out in Scripture, are rooted in biblical principles and have been consistently developed within the Catholic Tradition. He calls for a greater understanding and appreciation of Mary’s unique role in salvation history, emphasizing that her exaltation ultimately glorifies God’s love and mercy towards humanity.

Chapter Sixteen: Mary the Mediatrix: Biblical Rationale and Deeper Reflections and Explanations

This chapter further elaborates on the Catholic understanding of Mary as Mediatrix, focusing on biblical support, theological development, and common objections. Armstrong reiterates the key point that Mary’s role as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix signifies her cooperation with God’s plan of redemption in a subordinate and non-essential way. He uses the analogy of the Immaculate Conception, comparing it to Calvinistic predestination, to illustrate that Mary’s sinlessness was a pure gift of God, bestowed upon her before she could exercise any choice.

He emphasizes that God, in His sovereignty, can utilize any creature for any purpose, including involving them in the distribution of grace. He refutes the a priori objection that God couldn’t or wouldn’t choose Mary for this role, arguing that such an assumption is presumptuous and unbiblical. He challenges readers to objectively examine the concept of Mary as Mediatrix, free from pre-conceived biases and unfounded fears of “Catholic excess.”

Armstrong then connects Mary’s role as Mediatrix to the ancient patristic theme of Mary as the “Second Eve.” He argues that Eve’s disobedience, along with Adam’s, caused the Fall of humanity, while Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation parallels Christ, the Second Adam, in redeeming humanity. He emphasizes the real consequences of both the Fall and Redemption, asserting that Mary’s cooperation with God in bringing Christ into the world makes her a participant in the restoration of humanity.

He further supports this by citing numerous biblical passages that depict Christians as “fellow workers” with God (2 Corinthians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 3:9) and participants in redemptive suffering (Romans 8:17, Colossians 1:24). He argues that if ordinary Christians can be involved in redemption, it is reasonable to believe that God would choose Mary, the Mother of God, for an even more profound role.

Armstrong then delves into the biblical support for Mary’s Mediatrix role, highlighting her title “full of grace” (kecharitomene, Luke 1:28), which indicates her Immaculate Conception. He further explains that the Immaculate Conception enabled Mary to fulfill her unique mission as Theotokos, giving birth to Jesus and consenting to His sacrifice on the Cross. He emphasizes that Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation was a real event with significant consequences for humanity, making her a vital instrument in God’s plan of salvation.

He addresses the common objection that invoking Mary as Mediatrix requires consciously “going through her” in prayer. He clarifies that Catholic teaching does not mandate this, as all Christians are free to pray directly to God. He compares Mary’s intercession to that of any holy person who prays for us, which does not necessitate our directly requesting their prayers.

Armstrong concludes by emphasizing the theological concept of “divinization” or “theosis,” which describes the process of believers becoming more like God through grace. He argues that Mary, as the Immaculate Theotokos, exemplifies this divinization, representing the perfect image of redeemed humanity. He cites 2 Peter 1:4 (“partakers of the divine nature”) and numerous other biblical passages that support the notion of believers sharing in God’s life and attributes through the Holy Spirit.

He further explores theosis in the writings of Catholic theologian Matthias Scheeben, who explains that divinization does not mean becoming “God” in essence but participating in God’s nature through grace. He links this to the Eucharist, as an extension of the Incarnation, which brings believers into closer union with the Trinity.

Armstrong concludes by asserting that the Marian doctrines, particularly Mary’s role as Mediatrix, are consistent with both Scripture and the Catholic understanding of divinization. He argues that Mary’s exaltation does not diminish God’s glory but rather reflects His extraordinary love for humanity, choosing to involve a human being in a profound way in His plan of redemption. He calls for a deeper appreciation of Mary’s unique role in salvation history, recognizing her as the model of redeemed humanity and a powerful intercessor on behalf of all believers.

🙏 Your PayPal Donation Appreciated

Select a Donation Option (USD)

Enter Donation Amount (USD)


As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you.

Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Scroll to Top