Sunday, September 14, 2008

Index of Fr Kirby's Apologetics

Often at The Continuum we find ourselves repeating the same responses to the same questions or challenges over and over again, month after month. So, I have decided to make a post linking to past articles written here or on my own website. And, if I do this correctly, this page will be permanently linked to on the right side of this page (under the heading Resources). Rather than temporal order, I will list the articles in a kind of "hierarchy of truths" order below, presented in "FAQ" format.

A. The Existence of God

1. Does science disprove God?
2. Does science disprove God? Part II
3. Why should the Universe even need a Creator? Why can't it just be "all there is"?
4. Doesn't modern science of the brain show religion is illusion?
5. Do multiverse theories contradict or take away the need for Divine design?

B. The Truth of Christianity

1. Who was Jesus and what is the evidence? (For consideration of the Resurrection, see Appendix 1.)
2. What has God done for us?
3. How do I become a Christian?
4. Is Christian faith intrinsically irrational?
5. How can modern science of the brain allow for free will, a Christian belief?

C. The Validity of Anglican Catholicism

1. How do we identify the Church?
2. How can you call yourselves Anglican Catholics? Aren't Anglicanism and Catholicism contradictory?
3. But hasn't recent scholarship shown that the Church of England was originally no different to other Reformed churches?
4. You claim to be only part of the Catholic Church, are not united to either the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches and yet say you believe in the unity of the Catholic Church. Isn't this contradictory? What is your ecclesiology?
5. Over the years Anglo-Catholics have become more like Roman Catholics. Why not just admit the Reformation was wrong and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church?
6. Do you have any good reason to deny that the Roman Catholic Church simply is the One True Church?
7. What might it take for honest reconciliation and restoration of full communion between Anglican and Roman Catholics? Is the Council of Trent an insuperable barrier to such reconciliation?
8. What do Anglican Catholics say about the Pope? About the Roman Catholic Church? What is an Anglo-Papalist?
9. Do you even have real bishops, priests and deacons?
10. A final word on Anglican origins and identity.
11. Postscript: What are your main objections to Anglicanorum Coetibus? What is your personal assessment of the movement by some Continuing Anglicans towards the proposed Ordinariates?

D. Controverted Catholic Teachings

1. Why do Anglican Catholics pray for the dead and ask for their prayers? Isn't that unbiblical?
2. Why do Anglican Catholics have prayers expressing the belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary in their authorised liturgies? What reason is their for accepting this belief? (See also Appendix 2 below.)
3. Why do Anglican Catholics also liturgically celebrate the Assumption of Mary? Isn't this just an unbiblical myth? (See Appendix 3 below.)
4. What is Apostolic Succession? How can you say bishops are different to and above elders when the Bible uses the terms interchangably?
5. What do Catholics and others agree and disagree upon when it comes to salvation?
6. How should we understand the Catholic doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, and how it relates to the necessity for conversion and faith?
7. How can Catholics say Holy Communion or the Eucharist is a propitiatory Sacrifice when the book of Hebrews in the Bible says our only Sacrifice for sin is Christ's, which was offered once for all at the Cross, never to be repeated?

E. Moral Questions

What is wrong with abortion and embryonic stem cell research?

F. Life in the Spirit

Faith and awareness of reality
What about the Charismatic Gifts?
What is it to be filled with the Spirit?

Appendix 1 (From a 2006 sermon)
· There are two important questions people need to ask about the Resurrection of Christ. First, given the astonishing nature of this miracle and the fact that this claim – Christ is indeed risen – is central to Christianity, is it really true? Second, what does it mean for us if it is?

· The first question can be answered with a hearty yes, not due to blind faith or wishful thinking, but due to the evidence. It is a historically undeniable fact that the disciples of Jesus and earliest Christians all claimed Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead. (Some complain that we can’t be sure of what the earliest beliefs were, since the Gospels were written decades “after the event”. But all accept that many of St Paul’s letters were written earlier than this, and they reveal that the earliest beliefs of Jesus’ friends and followers were as I stated.) In other words, there were many who said they had seen him alive again and, very soon after, many who believed them.

· But why did they believe them and why should we? Well, there were a number of reasons their claims were believed. The one that echoes down through history like a resounding trumpet is this: the men who publicly made these claims were willing to undergo persecution, even torture and execution, for the sake of those claims. If they had been making it up, then admitting this would have saved them much suffering and their lives. If they had been making it up, then their boldness and joy after Jesus’ execution is psychologically inexplicable. Human beings do not live in such a positive way and are not able to accept horrible pain for the sake of something they do not really believe themselves. So, those who said they had seen the risen Jesus clearly believed they did.

· That only leaves us with a few possibilities. If they thought they saw Jesus risen from the dead, and not just risen but healthy enough to come across as the Lord of life, then they must have either seen what they said or been hallucinating. They could not have been deceived by Jesus pretending to have died on the Cross and then recovering from his failed crucifixion to hoax a resurrection. Even if he hadn’t been killed, the crucifixion and the treatment before it would have left him a sorry sight and in a sorry state. The hoax would have failed as completely as the crucifixion. So that must be ruled out. It couldn’t have been someone pretending to be him. These are his friends, they know him too well. Thus we are left with hallucination or reality. The problems with the hallucination theory are many. Hallucinations do not affect so many people at once and over an extended period so, for example, a group can see and have a meal and conversation with one phantom person! And this kind of thing happened more than once (1 Cor. 15.3-8, Gospels). Also, hallucinations would not explain why the tomb was empty, and Jesus’ enemies could never produce his body to put an end to the belief.

· Therefore, we can say with confidence that Jesus rose from the dead. The amazing claim is true. Christ IS risen. He is risen INDEED!

· Which brings us to the second question: What does this mean? It means Jesus was who He said He was, “the son of God”, “the Life”. It means miracles are possible. It means God is real and has inserted Himself into human history. It means that when Jesus and his earliest followers say we can have new life if we trust in and obey the Risen Christ, we can know that He has the power to fulfil this promise. It means the Christian Gospel is true and that, once we are shown this, we have a responsibility to respond. The resurrection of Christ is not just a fact like other facts, to be put on a shelf of ideas and forgotten, like a dusty book. Clearly, if it’s true, it’s incredibly important and matters to each of us personally. And it is true.Jesus has died for us and then taken up his life again. And he has demanded we repent of our sin, turn away from evil, and trust in Him to give us God’s goodness and life within through that Crucifixion and Resurrection. If others had made this demand we might be able to dismiss them, but Jesus has backed up his words with actions, supernatural and stupendous actions. Our choice then is to accept the truth and let it become the Truth within, or to reject or ignore the truth. May God grant us the wisdom to accept, that we might experience the joy of the resurrection.

Appendix 2

But doesn't assuming Mary's immaculacy take away the virtue of her obedience, making it robotic or automatic? If Mary's obedience becomes robotic because she was immaculate, so does Jesus' obedience because he is immaculate. Similarly, on this premise, the sinlessness and freedom from concupiscence of Adam and Eve before the Fall would mean they were incapable of falling at all. And the obedience of those glorified in Heaven would be morally insignificant. Since this is all nonsense, the attempt to deny Mary's immaculacy on this ground fails.

If we posit a sinless human nature of Mary so as to have a sinlessly human Jesus, why do we not then need to make Mary's parents sinless too, then her grandparents and so on? A theological reason that there is no need for infinite regress is that we want Jesus' human nature, which the Athanasian Creed implies is directly consubstantial with Mary's, to be sinless by nature. Thus its source should be immaculate, otherwise it would have to be cleansed in its formation as a distinct entity and thus would, in a sense, be the object itself of cleansing grace. This is not at all fitting. Jesus is the Redeemer, not the redeemed, even in his human nature considered on its own. However, Mary is, according to the doctrine of the IC, redeemed (though uniquely by "prevention"), not the Redeemer. Therefore it is not necessary that she be "naturally" immaculate. On the contrary, it is necessary that she be immaculate by being the object of purifying/vivifying grace. So, not only is St Anne's immaculacy not necessitated by this line of reasoning, her "normal" fallen nature is.

Do Scripture and Tradition really support this teaching? Mary's immaculacy was consistently and repeatedly assumed and affirmed in Ecumenical Conciliar documents (though it was not the subject of a formal definition) and in ancient liturgies. Its place in the Tradtition is assured. While some Fathers taught inconsistently with the concept of Mary's freedom from actual sin, they are a small minority, not overthrowing the consensus. The patristic evidence on the IC itself, however, is far less weighted to one side, and is virtually all implicit on either side.

As for the Scriptural evidence, I have presented some of it before on this weblog. Could a sinful BVM have the same blessedness as her Son (in his humanity), as clearly taught by the perfect parallelism of Luke 1.42? Look at Mary's universally patristically accepted role as the New Eve, based on Genesis 3.15 as messianic prophecy. Note again the perfect parallelism between the Woman and her Seed, here a parallelism of enmity with the Devil. The literal sense of this passage refers to the enmity of fear shared by vulnerable, fallen Eve and her vulnerable, fallen offspring, the animosity with hostile nature and hostile spiritual forces. But the prophetic sense refers to positive, triumphant (despite the injury suffered) and pure enmity of the new Woman and Seed towards the Devil. We have the very same enmity with evil for Mary and Jesus, which is not possible unless the immaculacy Jesus has, Mary has, though for different reasons and through different causes, as shown above.

Does her immaculacy necessarily imply her immaculate conception? When we accept the immaculacy of Mary, then we have to ask how she could have persistently avoided all sin and been uniquely pure in her human nature unless she was entirely free of concupiscence. And then we realise her redemption had to be different to and more immediately complete than ours, but was still an act of saving grace. She had no concupiscence, which is the stamp on our nature of Original Sin, and is both a deficiency and a corruption because the deficiency and the way it eventuated inevitably caused such corruption. If she was cleansed as we were, she would have retained, like us, concupiscence and been unable to avoid at least venial sins. Her salvation therefore was more radical (in the proper, original sense of this word) and prevented the onset of concupiscence. She was the New Eve in that she was, like Eve before the Fall, innocent. She was the New Eve because she, unlike Eve, made her life-choice an unconditional "yes" to God.

Should this be dogma? If by dogma we mean a statement clearly revealed in Scripture, satisfying the Vincentian Canon, and intrinsically related to saving faith such that it has a status properly equal to Creedal statements, then perhaps not. But thi is no longer the way the Roman Catholic Church uses the word dogma, unfortunately. Now dogma just means anything true that can be supported successfully (even if not very clearly) from Revelation, comes to be widely prevalent in the Church, and their Magisterium decides to impose on pain of excommunication. The main difference, thus, between a true opinion or belief that is dogma and one that is not in this Roman approach is no longer its soteriological importance, clarity of Revelation or universality of consent. Instead, the key and determinative difference is an act of power superadded to the belief, not necessarily prudently or justly. That is why I can accept the "dogma" of the IC but criticise anathemas accompanying it. These anathemas are effectively a way of saying "We are infallible and that infallibility should in practise be the core and motive of your faith: no matter how far we stretch to the limits of that infallibility and how superfluously, you must submit to us, that is the essential virtue." I cannot help but think that this may be shifting the balance of piety ecclesiocentrically rather than Christocentrically and displaying poor spiritual parenting.

Appendix 3

This teaching of the bodily Assumption of the Bleesed Virgin after her death has a more general acceptance than that of the Immaculate Conception, in that the Eastern Orthodox Church also accepts it, though declining to give it dogmatic status. A number of scholars have pointed out that evidence for the doctrine in the Fathers is missing for the first few centuries of church history, and that when it does first appear in the literature a bodily assumption is not explicitly mentioned, but one of the soul. Also, the accounts we have are normally assessed as apocryphal. Nevertheless, the absence of a tradition of relics or a burial site associated with the Blessed Virgin’s body is extremely suggestive when compared to the traditions associated with many other less important Saints, despite this being an argument from silence.[1]

Even more significant is the evidence in Scripture, particularly that in Revelation 11.19 and chapter 12. While implicit, it clearly paints an image of a heavenly, glorified yet corporally present Woman who “brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne”, and who may also be called the Ark of the Covenant, that is, that which is overshadowed by the divine presence and bearer of the physical manifestation of the Covenant (Cf. Exodus 40.32-33 & Luke 1.35, 2 Samuel 6.14-16 & Luke 1.41,44). The fact that the Woman can also be interpreted as the Church or Israel does not cancel out the Marian connotations, since this is a prophetic genre, which often contains many layers of meaning.

The confluence of Scriptural, patristic and liturgical testimony, and the overwhelming and broad-based acceptance of this belief in the hearts and minds of the faithful entitles it to be recognised as an inalienable part of Holy Tradition.[2]

[1] Some scholars believe there is additional artistic confirmation of the belief from a period earlier than the relatively late-appearing written tradition.
[2] Importantly for Anglicans, it was also taught in the Seventeenth Century by Anthony Stafford in a book entitled The Female Glory; or the Life and Death of Our Blessed Lady, the Holy Virgin Mary, God’s Own Immaculate Mother. When he was attacked by Puritans, Archbishop Laud defended the author.