March 5, 2020

This was a public response to a public critique of a paper on my site by my friend William Klimon: Contraception: Early Church Teaching, and subsequent follow-up expressed opinions. It occurred during the first half of March 2001. My opponents’ words will be in blue, green, and purple.


Thanks for your critique. I much appreciate its reasonableness and amiable, inquisitive nature.

On Dave Armstrong’s “Orthodoxy” page, under the “Doctrinal and moral compromises” section, there is an article decrying the “changing standards” of Orthodoxy on the issue of artificial contraception. The article, written by William Klimon, gives only two pieces of evidence in support of this premise, with both evidences being impugnable at best.

The first piece of evidence submitted is an examination of the book The Orthodox Church, by Bishop Kallistos [Ware]. Comparing various editions from over the years (he quotes from the 1963, 1984, and 1993 editions), Klimon comes to the conclusion that this book “reveals” an “alarming departure from Orthodox and previously universal Christian Tradition”. In an attempt to validate this as something more than one theologian’s opinion, Klimon says that the book is “a widely-cited and authoritative source on Orthodox teaching”. The book is most certainly popular among those new to Orthodoxy, that is not disputed. However, I would like to know on what basis Klimon calls The Orthodox Church an “authoritative source on Orthodox teaching”? Does the number of citations make something authoritative? And what exactly is meant by “authoritative” in this context? Surely Mr. Klimon is not calling Bishop Kallistos infallible; so what we are left with is a man who has written a popular book.

Indeed it is a widely-cited and standard popular source of Orthodox teaching and distinctives. This can hardly be denied. No one is saying that it is the equivalent of dogma or statements of bishops and jurisdictions, etc. Nevertheless, if Metr. Kallistos states in his book the existence of certain sociological realities within Orthodoxy, I think he should be accorded the benefit of the doubt, as a high-placed, well-known, and influential person in those ranks. I should think that the burden of demonstrating otherwise (as to the facts) would fall upon the person who questions the sociological / ecclesiological observation (that presumably including you in this present instance).

In my experience (I have several Orthodox friends, and have dialogued with many also), it is common knowledge that the Orthodox, broadly speaking, permit contraception (as they do divorce). This (concerning contraception) has been admitted to me by more “traditional” Orthodox friends, such as those in ROCOR. I saw you casually admit it, too, in another post (which is the whole point; the fact is not disputed even by you).

It is also true that ROCOR itself prohibits contraception, I believe. But that doesn’t mean that it is representative of Orthodoxy as a whole. It is not. ROCOR doesn’t even recognize the validity of sacraments of some other major Orthodox jurisdictions, let alone those of Catholicism or Protestantism. That is not the mainstream Orthodox position, as I understand it (though admittedly it is confusing, as almost everything in Orthodoxy seems to be).

As to “official” Orthodoxy, well, you tell me (you should figure this out if you are considering converting, and if you have any concerns as to moral theology in Orthodoxy, as I did before I converted to Catholicism). This has been a long-running problem, and I have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation for how to resolve competing factions within Orthodoxy.

Of course, Catholicism, in contrast, has this means in the papacy, as well as in Ecumenical Councils and things like the Catechism of the Catholic
Church. There is no doubt as to our teaching. Contraception is, and always has been, a mortal sin, according to — most notably — the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968; also Casti Connubii in 1930. These documents are infallible in the ordinary magisterium, and thus binding upon all Catholics. That remains true no matter how many lay Catholics and dissenting theologians ignore the prohibition, which was universal among all Christians before the Anglicans first broke down the Christian consensus in 1930. Catholicism is not a matter of majority vote, trendiness, and faddism, but of magisterium, dogma, and apostolic Tradition.

The Orthodox Christian Information Center has a critique on Bishop Kallistos’ work, and advises people “to approach The Orthodox Church and, in particular, this new, revised version with extreme caution”. The critique goes on to say that:

Likewise, when it comes to birth control, we can see an obvious shift of moral ground in Bishop Kallistos’ views. Whereas in 1963, His Grace said that artificial contraception was forbidden in the Orthodox Church, he now remarks that “today a less strict view is coming to prevail” (p. 296). This is an area in which there really are differences of opinion even among Traditionalist Orthodox, and on which it is probably best to avoid making bold pronouncements.

Now you’re merely strengthening my case (and William Klimon’s); see how it is admitted that the compromise is now in place even amongst self-proclaimed traditionalist Orthodox? What more need be said? My Church does make “bold pronouncements,” and this is one of its glories and marks of identity, but even some of the more orthodox Orthodox (in their self-understanding) will not take a firm stand. Nor can there be any means to prohibit contraception amongst all Orthodox, even if this were desired. What would it be, pray tell? The different Orthodox groups can’t even unite institutionally, let alone on a moral issue such as this one.

This is a major reason why I am a Catholic and not an Orthodox. I wanted apostolic, early Christianity in its fullness, including moral teaching. I don’t want to have anything to do with fashionable compromises and the moral relativism and sexual liberalism of our own age. Contraception was, in fact, the first issue which started me on the road to Catholicism (having been heavily involved in the pro-life movement). The documented legal, philosophical, psychological, and social connection between contraception and abortion is even more alarming and disturbing with regard to such a position.

But it is manifestly unwise to challenge a widely accepted standard–that of clear opposition to the free use of contraceptives by Christian couples–with what is “trendy” or “is coming to prevail.” This is not an Orthodox view of how the Church comes to guide its Faithful.

Then why the reluctance to make “bold pronouncements”? This, to me, encapsulates one of the serious problems in Orthodoxy and indeed in all groups other than the Catholic Church, which alone preserves traditional theological and moral teaching in its glorious, undiluted fullness.

G.K. Chesterton is very popular as well, and “often-cited”. That doesn’t make his work infallible, and it only makes it authoritative in-so-far as it
is correct: once it errs on a point he is no longer authoritative on that point.

I agree. We aren’t arguing that, anyway. It is a red herring. But he can be trusted for sociological pronouncements on Catholicism-at-large, just as Metr. Kallistos can be for Orthodoxy-at-large (if you disagree, then please explain why). That is the relevant issue here, not whether popularizers are speaking dogmatically. They clearly are not. If “official” Orthodoxy opposes contraception as we do, in some magisterial statement, then you go do some research (I’m too busy), ask them and report back to us. I will be watching with great interest. Nothing you have shown to me thus far suggests otherwise (quite the contrary).

If Orthodox apologists, priests, theologians, or whatever can’t even report to you conclusively and authoritatively what the true Orthodox position on this matter is (if indeed there is none and it is up for grabs), then my case is yet stronger. On the other hand, if you personally wish to accept contraception as a perfectly moral practice, then you have to explain why no Christian group accepted this notion until 1930. Luther and Calvin, e.g., thought it was murder (going far beyond even the Catholic position).

The same principle can be seen in the book The Orthodox Church; this book was never declared to be authoritative, and certainly not binding. Like the Didache or On the Incarnation, it is a text that is helpful, nothing more. It may be often-cited, but it is not authoritative in any binding way.

I understand that. But does it actually reflect the state of affairs on contraception? As far as I understand the situation to be, it does. You are welcome to demonstrate otherwise, by your own research into the matter. All of this will end up on my website, whatever the outcome of your inquiries, because I think it is a crucial moral issue, and also a clear line dividing Orthodoxy and Catholicism (to our vast advantage).

The second piece of “evidence” is even less persuasive, with the entire evidence being stated thusly: “I have heard Orthodox clerics today, on the other hand, encourage the use of contraception. There is a ‘green’ streak in Orthodoxy that has led some, e.g., to jump on the overpopulation bandwagon.”

What kind of argument is that?

Technically speaking, it is not an argument, but another sociological observation, which can then be verified or falsified (which would be arguments).

I have heard Catholic priests say it’s okay to use contraceptives, and I’m sure if I did a survey I could get some of them to admit that they affirmed the idea that the world is overpopulated. Does that then mean that the Catholic Church has compromised on a moral issue? Certainly not, it’s not a valid position regardless of what church you are examining.

That’s right. Bingo! You have hit upon the big difference here. We have resolved the issue, and it matters not if 99% of all professed Catholics dissent. It is resolved dogmatically, and will not change (just like female priests, abortion, the sinfulness of homosexual acts, and a host of other issues). Praise God! But Orthodoxy apparently has not, and I would say cannot make a similar pronouncement, because it has no uniting structural and dogmatic authority to do so. And therein lies a much larger problem of ecclesiology and authority per se.

So, going on these two questionable pieces of evidence, Mr. Klimon feels justified saying that “Clearly, Orthodoxy is compromising with the spirit of the age with regard to this issue of the permissibility of the use of artificial contraception and methods of birth control.” You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t see things as being so clear.

You may not, but many Orthodox do see this. Not only Metr. Kallistos, but even the “traditionalist” you cite above plainly admits it, and many Orthodox I have dialogued with do also.

I’m sure there is more “evidence” out there, so if you know of some, please present it.

I have a little bit more, which I will cite below. Now I shall cite The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers, by Fr. Stanley S. Harakas (Minneapolis: Light & Life Publishing Co., 1987, 40-42). I think it is most enlightening (and tragic). Words from the book will be in brown:

[Question no.] 56. What beliefs does the Orthodox Church have about birth control?

Within modern Orthodox Christianity, varying views on the subject exist . . . . .

What should be noted at the beginning is that this lack of clarity has its roots in some of the tradition of the church itself. Basically, it is to
be found in a varying understanding of sex in the life of the Christian . . . . .

He goes on to recount a positive tradition regarding sex as a blessing, gift, sacrament, etc.

[T]he powerful influence of monasticism has tended not only to lower the estimation of married life, but also to equate sex in general to a condition not quite fitting and appropriate for Christians, if not, in fact, sinful. At its extreme, this view held that marriage itself was nothing but ‘legalized fornication.’

I would argue that this is a gross and slanderous caricature of monasticism — both Orthodox and Catholic –, and typical of a trendy, modernist revisionist approach to the history of Christianity, including within itself the typical animus against the celibacy requirements for Catholic priests in the western, Latin rite.

Both these views have been held and promulgated through the years within the church, even though they are mutually inconsistent. This inconsistency has been reflected in approaches to the question of contraception . . .

He proceeds to contrast the “negative” view of sex, which he calls the “Natural Law” view, with the more positive one which includes contraception, called the “Sacramental View”:

The approach of Fr. [Chrysostom] Zafiris’ article and that supported in Fr. John Meyendorff’s book Marriage: an Orthodox Perspective, places the emphasis for the meaning of sex in general and contraception in particular on the whole experience of marriage as a holy, interpersonal relationship within the total framework of the Christian life. The approach sees marriage and the sex within it as having many purposes, none of which is seen as the crucial and exclusive purpose . . .

That is, procreative and unitive, as in the Catholic perspective. We forbid the deliberate frustration of the former by artificial means, during fertile periods. We do not forbid sex for unitive reasons during non-fertile periods, nor limiting numbers of children, nor spacing children (for properly serious reasons), as is often wrongly supposed.

[W]thin this perspective contraception is not condemned, but rather it is seen as a means for the furthering of the goals and purposes of marriage as understood by the church.

. . . against the unanimous teaching of the early and medieval and even 19th-century Christian Church at large, which spectacularly and inexplicably “got it wrong,” I guess, according to Fr. Harakas and others in Orthodoxy who follow this line of thought.

Normally, it would be wrong to use contraceptives to avoid the birth of any children. However, once children have been born, the use of contraceptives by the parents does not seem to violate any fundamental Christian understanding of marriage.


As we have indicated, there is evidence in the history of the church to provide support for both approaches. That is why there is still discussion and controversy. Even our archdiocese has responded differently at different times. In older issues of the archdiocese ‘yearbook’ a strong negative attitude was expressed. In more recent issues, a position was taken, indicating that this was a private matter, involving the couple alone, which was to be discussed with the Father Confessor.

This exactly verifies Metr. Kallistos Ware’s point, and ours. This is an absolutely classic example of the theologically liberal, modernist mindset. What was once a morally absolute evil and sin has now become — in our own enlightened, progressive age –, merely a “private matter” (i.e., optional and permissible). This is quintessential liberal relativistic ethics, and the secularist separation of “private” from public virtue and morality, which is also a crucial plank of current pro-abortion rhetoric and propagandizing. This buys one of the underlying principles of the sexual revolution — as to individual sexual autonomy — hook, line, and sinker.

It’s very sad and distressing to see this in a major work purportedly (actually?) expressing the viewpoints of Orthodoxy. It’s no wonder that Fr. Harakas also accepts deliberate abortion in cases of rape and danger to the life of the mother, in the same book. He is at least logically consistent, if not in line with the history of Christian morality.

What we are saying is that if a married couple has children, or is spacing the birth of their children, and wishes to continue sexual relations

in the subsequent years as an expression of their continuing love for each other, and for the deepening of their personal and marital unity, the
Orthodoxy of contraception is affirmed.

. . . typical, high-sounding, liberal rhetoric, entirely missing the cogent and relevant moral and historical points, filled with non sequiturs, and based on a grossly exaggerated false dichotomy of two supposed competing traditions on sex in Church history: viz., the “sex as quasi-evil and a regrettable duty / monastic” theory and the “sacramental, unitive, positive, holistic” school which, of course is perfectly in line, we are told, with the contraceptive anti-child mentality, which itself happens to coincide with the Planned Parenthood, eugenicist, abortionist mentality and zeitgeist of our own time. Just a coincidence . . .

Fr. Harakas also touched on contraception in his treatment of abortion on pages 1-2. Incidentally, he chooses to first present his teaching about abortion in the context of a question having to do with rape only (also the classic pro-abort strategy to legitimize abortion; to open the door to abortion-on-demand, just as the Anglicans first justified contraception in hard cases only, in 1930. Human nature never changes). At least he does treat it more generally in the next question.

His little treatise contains such stupid, inane, and scandalous statements such as:

Regardless of what the Church or moralists may say, it is understandable why women who have been raped feel so terrible.

. . . as if this is some extraordinary, newfound realization among killjoy, cruel, puritanical, “moralist” anti-sex Christians: that a woman who has been raped would feel “so terrible”.

He goes on to advocate murdering a resultant child on the grounds that it may not yet be implanted in the womb, which is both a biologically and morally irrelevant consideration. Conception may have occurred; if it has, an abortion is murder, pure and simple. A soul has already been directly created by God, and all the genetic material that is needed for the entire life of the child is present. Fr. Harakas would do good to realize that this morally bankrupt position is “so terrible” as well. Especially it would “feel so terrible” to God and to the child being murdered, however young he or she might be.

Then he writes about contraception:

Because of a lack of a clear understanding of the reproductive process, methods which were contraceptive in intent and form were often included in this prohibition [of abortion, in the early Church]. Some Orthodox teachers, bishops, and clergy still maintain this to be true [gee, I wonder how many “some” is?]. Many others [ah, a majority?], however, are able to distinguish between contraception and abortion as two very different issues. Some of these bishops, theologians, and canonists [much more authoritative than Metr. Kallistos] now hold [now? Why now?] that birth control methods may be used by married couples . . . Also, the Church could only accept the practice of birth control in marriage and in a way which would not preclude the birth of some children, since one of the purposes of marriage is the procreation of children.

There you have it. If Fr. Harakas, too, is wrong about the sociological and moral/doctrinal situation in the Orthodox Church vis-a-vis contraception, then this needs to be demonstrated. Even as eminent of a theologian as John Meyendorff has compromised with the traditional teaching on this score. I think it smells to high heaven, and this is a major reason why I chose Catholicism over Orthodoxy, when it came time for me to choose.



I sent this message to a mutual acquaintance some time ago: I read your interaction with Armstrong on the Catholic Convert board. He’s overboard with many of his claims.

I was challenged directly (in my own e-mail) in that last exchange, so I replied. You’re welcome to reply to any of my “overboard” claims. You’re entitled to  your opinion; if you think my opinions are hogwash and nonsense, that’s fine. But I am interested in actual responses, which I will be happy to publish on my website, in order to give the “other side” a hearing.

Did you read what he posted from Fr Hopko on his web site? It strongly defended the sanctity of life and the unacceptability of elective abortion. Because the Orthodox Church does not see everything as a black and white matter of law does not mean it has “clearly departed from the unanimous early Church teaching” on the matter.

My best friend heard him discuss abortion rather shockingly and flippantly, in person. I have shown several Orthodox departures from traditional Christian teaching on abortion, from high-placed Orthodox. I realize the teaching overall is still quite solid, but these developments are alarming to me. I think they should be to you, too.

Well, that’s hearsay at this point. To publicly slam someone from hearsay is sorta like…gossip, isn’t it?

It’s not hearsay. It is a firsthand “ear witness” report of Fr. Hopko speaking of his own beliefs (and representing his church’s beliefs), from my best friend, John McAlpine, the most trustworthy person I know. If you want, I can have him write down what was said (I know he did at one time but I don’t seem to have it in my files). My wife was also there, but her memory isn’t nearly as good as my friend John’s is. She corroborates the main outlines of the story when he recounts it.

For one thing I doubt seriously that we have unanimous testimony from the early Church on special cases such as life of the mother.

Perhaps not. I wonder, though, if you could find an instance of any father who advocated direct killing of a preborn child in order to save the life of the mother. I doubt it. Today, it is a false dilemma. I was told personally by an abortionist that such a scenario virtually never happens anymore.

We are to be guided by the Holy Spirit, not a decree from the legal authorities in all matters. The position of the Orthodox Church on abortion has not changed since its foundation with Christ and the Apostles.

Where does one find the “official” position? Is it binding on all the different jurisdictions?

For a Roman Catholic apologist to charge the Orthodox Church with “…principles of theological liberalism, or even secular moral relativism, and is a flat-out compromise and betrayal of traditional Christian moral and ethical teaching,” is laughable.

That statement was in a particular context. You are free to critique anything I write with more than just “this is nonsense/laughable” type statements. That would be a nice change from the usual routine from people who disagree but offer me no substance or alternatives to ponder.

This is especially true in light of the loopholes Rome’s magisterium sometimes finds in her “unbreakable” laws.

We can talk all day about “Rome” but that is not the current subject, which is Orthodoxy. One thing at a time.

He also wrote:

And there are hard historical facts such as that in the five major schisms between east and west prior to 1054, the east was in the wrong every time, according to their own later teaching. Rome was firm; Rome stayed the course against the heretical winds and fire.

I’m not sure what “five major schisms” he’s referring to specifically, but the error of the heretic Honorius is enough to make me choke on that one.

Arian schisms: 343-398
over St. John Chrysostom: 404-415
Acacian schism: 484-519
Monotheletism: 640-681
Iconoclasm controversy: 726-787, 815-843

I have several papers on Honorius on my Papacy web page; one a very in-depth treatment by a scholar. He may have been a heretic, but he didn’t
publicly proclaim his heresy; absolutely not as any sort of magisterial or infallible pronouncement. Popes can possibly be personal heretics. We just don’t think they will ever be allowed to make heresy binding on the faithful.

We do not claim infallibility or the absence of error in New Rome, Old Rome, or any other particular see, so this hardly undermines the Orthodox position.

The point (in context) was that Rome was orthodox all the way through, while the East was all over the ballpark. That is fatal especially to the false, quite un-ecumenical claims of anti-Catholic brands of Orthodoxy to exclusive apostolic preeminence over against Rome. They have to deal with these massive heretical defections involving virtually the entire East on several occasions (such as with the Henoticon and the Robber Council of 449). We acknowledge the validity of Orthodox succession and sacraments/mysteries.

I would just add today: It seems that Dave thinks, since he is all but disarmed in applying the Protestant/Catholic paradigms against Orthodoxy,

My arguments against Orthodoxy are intended primarily against the anti-Catholic wing of it, which I find just as self-defeating as anti-Catholic Protestantism. And they don’t depend on “western” paradigms, but on historical and ethical ones accepted in common by east and west before the Schism of 1054.

that he has found a silver bullet in Christian ethics. That theory may suffice to justify his own choices but, I doubt that it’s going to carry much weight with anyone else who has examined the facts without an agenda.

The facts on the history of contraception are clear, admitted even by Catholic and Orthodox liberals who now dissent from the historical teaching. One need not have any “agenda” to point that out. You are welcome to prove otherwise. Divorce and remarriage is almost as clear in the early Church.

As a veteran of Protestant, Eastern Catholic, and Orthodox apologetic endeavors, it doesn’t with me.

Again, that’s fine, but if all you are concerned about is your own opinion, why post this in a public forum? I should hope that here you would be willing to back up your contentions with something other than baldly stated opinions. I don’t mind criticisms of my work at all. I just wish they would be accompanied by some counter-argument, evidence, proofs, demonstration, etc., much more often than they are. That’s what I often find severely irksome.

What I think on the contraception issue is probably irrelevant since I am sterile. But here’s what I think anyway…

Whether it’s NFP or ABC, they both frustrate conception. One method uses timing based on the woman’s hormonal system, another method alters the woman’s hormonal system. Both have the same ends although the means differ slightly. What is bogus is the NFP propaganda about people who use ABC necessarily not being open to life. I know plenty of couples where, guess what, either the pill didn’t work, or something else failed and they ended up pregnant. Of those I knew, none of them had an abortion. They were all open to life. Since the goal of using NFP is generally contraception, I don’t see a big difference.

What Fr. Hopko was writing about is something some people don’t understand–it’s a thing called mercy. Some folks understand law but not mercy. Externals over internals. On Fridays it’s okay to pig out on a $30.00 lobster dinner, but don’t dare eat a bite of bacon. It’s better to go to lunch and have a big fried fish dinner than to sin by eating a humble bologna sandwich on rye.

Okay, back to mercy… Although RC fundamentalists tell me that the most important verse in Matthew is Matt 16:18,19, I believe the most important verse is Matthew 9:13. It’s so important that Matthew quotes the Lord twice saying it exactly the same way (cf Mt 12:7). Learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” That’s what Eastern oikonomia is all about. For instance, it would generally be a sin to smoke dope.

But, if someone had cancer and was in chemo, I think smoking or eating dope would be good for them if it helped with their nausea or other associated problems caused by chemo. Generally it would be sinful for people to be shooting up morphine. But, if they are in really bad pain, that’s what the doctor might give them. The doctor is giving them a shot of mercy. Sometimes people have too hard of a load to bear. Other folks take a smoldering wick and snuff it out with their laws which they always put above mercy.

It’s not mercy to sanction sin in the “name” of mercy (which is no mercy at all if in fact it is leading someone on the road to hell, and if it separates him from God). Bottom line is: is it a sin or not? It’s always hard to be righteous rather than a sinner. No one argues with that.

Contraception is a mortal sin in Catholicism (as it used to be for all Christian groups before 1930). For you to deny that it is such or to try to undermine it (by ethically equating contraception and NFP) is an exercise in disobedience, pure and simple. Whether you understand it fully or not is a different matter. As a Catholic you are bound to accept Catholic infallible teaching, of which this is one. There is plenty for you to read

out there if you really want to understand the Catholic rationale.

The “mercy argument,” wrongly used and applied, has been used to justify everything from abortion to euthanasia. I am shocked to see a Catholic using it as an argument against a particular Catholic moral teaching.

If I am to be deemed a “legalist” and terribly unmerciful in pointing this out, so be it. If Catholic liberal theologians, bishops and priests had not been lax in their duty of teaching these things, then I likely would not have the unpleasant and unpopular task of pointing it out.

Well, I think the Council of Florence, and Pope Eugene IV (the foot fetishist) were heretical when they wrote in Cantante Domino/Decree to the Copts that if one is circumcised he can in no way achieve salvation–even if he doesn’t mean anything salvific by it. There, I’m going to Hell Annas or should I call you Caiaphus?

Call me whatever you like but you’re not a “Catholic” if you continue to maintain these beliefs. What keeps you here? You defend the Orthodox over against Catholics at every turn; why not go join them? Again, I am mystified at such blatant inconsistencies in stated adherences when there is so clearly an option available which “fits” one’s beliefs — in this instance even one which offers all the sacraments and apostolic succession and much else of great and commendable worth. “If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, sounds like a duck . . . ”

What do you want to do: stay in the Catholic Church but fight her defenders like myself tooth and nail every time we point out something where your beliefs and that of Mother Church do not coincide? I just don’t get it.

. . . If I defend the Orthodox at every turn it’s because there are plenty of Roman fundamentalists always attacking my Eastern brothers.


If one looks at the article by William Klimon posted on your web site, one would see the title: “Contraception: Early Church vs. Eastern Orthodoxy.” Doesn’t this strongly imply that what is in question here is the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church?

Indeed. And to the extent that there has been a significant shift away from the traditional teaching, there is no inaccuracy in this, since the problem remains in Orthodoxy of who or what speaks authoritatively for all of it. I’m merely going by the reports Orthodox themselves are making (e.g., Metr. Kallistos, Fr. Harakas).

And in this article it is said that certain individual Orthodox clergy have shown an “alarming departure from Orthodox (and previously universal) Christian Tradition. And again, “Clearly Orthodoxy is compromising with the spirit of the age…”

Taking your thesis at face value, if that is indeed the case, I’m left wondering how that impacts the Church and justifies Klimon’s polemic. My bet is that if I look around a little bit I can find in one of your dialogs a comment that says, in effect, “whatever any person says contrary to Catholic teaching is not Catholic and has no bearing on the truth of the organization or her heirarchy.” I’m glad we agree on that.

Yes we do. But you neglect to see that Catholicism has a way to resolve doctrinal and moral/ethical conflicts. Orthodoxy either does not, or if it does, I have not been told what that is, and would be delighted  to be so informed.

If these teachers have departed from Orthodox Tradition and embraced the spirit of the age, they are no longer Orthodox. I just wish you wouldn’t compromise your “proofs of Catholicism” by putting up such obvious double-standard arguments.

It’s not a double standard at all, as I have explained in many papers, but based on the reasoning briefly recounted above. So it is your opinion that Fr. Hopko is no longer Orthodox? And Fr. Harakas and whomever else sanctions contraception? Other Orthodox friends of mine have said as much, but thus far, I don’t know how they can authoritatively make such a judgment, given the divisions in Orthodoxy.

I wish you or someone else would answer my sincere probing questions on this matter. I’ve been through this discussion at least 20 times now (I used to moderate my own list, and we had many Orthodox on it). All I ever get is this accusation of a double standard, which is entirely fallacious. I am interested in how these things are explained within an Orthodox framework with no reference to the Catholic Church (if you can restrain yourself for just one post :-).

Our position on the matter is clear. It’s called Humanae Vitae. What is it that makes yours clear, in your opinion? And on what basis do we make the determination that Fr. Hopko and other dissidents are “no longer Orthodox”?

William Klimon is Eastern Catholic, by the way, as are many of my friends. Strange if I have such a supposed prejudice against them, as [the person in purple] seems to assume. I happen to think there is a huge difference between expressing honest disagreements and being “anti” some group or person. But there are different factions within Eastern Catholicism, just as there are within Western Catholicism. Some hold to the dogma of papal infallibility just as strongly as I do (and I contend that they are consistent).

Others think it is an expendable doctrine, and are, in my opinion, “wannabe Orthodox.” Some think eastern and western views on the filioque question are able to be synthesized. Others think the west apostatized, etc. But this nonsense that I and others are “prejudiced” against Eastern Catholics or Orthodox simply because we hold various opinions and point out what a few obligatory dogmas are for all  Catholics, is a bunch of hogwash. I think it is rather more plausible (judging by behavior and words spoken) that if there is any “prejudice” at play here, it is more likely against western, Latin, Roman Catholicism. I’ve seen this again and again firsthand.

So sure, I have lots of papers about Orthodoxy on my site (do you think Orthodox never write about Catholicism????!!!!), but they were mostly directed against  the anti-Catholic wing of Orthodoxy. I also have things like a defense of theosis and attempts to achieve reconciliation on the matter of the filioque. I’ve had an Orthodox priest as a guest in my home (and I’ve been at his Bible study); I’ve attended chrismations, and soon-to-be-Orthodox friends were present at my reception into the Catholic Church. I spoke to Frank Schaeffer on the phone (quite amiably) for 45 minutes on one occasion. I heard Frank and also Fr. Gillquist speak. One acquaintance of mine is one of the leading architects of traditional Orthodox churches in the country. He once did a slide show in my home.

I could go on and on, but this snide insinuation that I am somehow a “Roman” bigot against Eastern Catholics and Orthodox is demonstrably false and a damnable lie. If I am a bigot merely because I have some honest disagreements, then obviously those who honestly disagree with Western Catholic teachings must also be bigots and hatemongers or what-not, and that is absurd and ridiculous. I wish we could just discuss the issues without all this rancor, either blatant or just underneath the surface. Most of this is more applicable to [the person in purple], not yourself, but this comes up again and again in Orthodox-Catholic discussions, so I am expressing my disgust in a general way.


Addendum (3-5-20)

It turns out that Metr. Kallistos Ware is quite the liberal / heterodox dissident, after all:

“Met. Kallistos Ware Comes Out for Homosexual ‘Marriage'” (Orthodox Net blog, 6-11-18)

I’m personally very saddened to learn of this. It doesn’t, however, immediately invalidate his sociological statements on Eastern Orthodoxy, with regard to compromises on contraception. These have to be judged on their own merits.


Related Reading

Contraception: Early Church Teaching(William Klimon) [1998]

Dialogue: Contraception vs. NFP: Crucial Ethical Distinctions [2-16-01]

Biblical Evidence Against Contraception [5-3-06]

Dialogue: Contraception & Natural Family Planning (NFP) [5-16-06]

The Bible on the Blessing of [Many] Children [3-9-09]

Orthodoxy & Contraception: Continuity or Compromise? [2015]


Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and two children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2700 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
(originally posted on 3-21-01)
Photo credit: Narsil (2-26-08). Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (b. 1936), speaking at Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Oakland, California, on Saturday, February 23rd, 2008 [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Subject to disclaimers]
March 3, 2020

I was challenged on this point by an Orthodox Christian in my discussion group. His words will be in blue.


Sources Used

St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931 edition.

Louis Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom, translated by A. V. Littledale, Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1960.

Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, vol. 1, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1963.

William Most, Mary in Our Life, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1954.


I should make one comment on comparing the Assumption to the new proposed dogma of Coredemptrix etc. The Assumption as a devotion does not have the major Christological implications that the potential new dogma of Coredemptrix would have. The Assumption can be viewed as a form of piety that does not necessarily have to be dogmatized but does not raise the same number and magnitude of issues as Coredemption does.

Be that as it may (from your perspective), my original point was in response to your contention that new dogmatic Marian proclamations hindered unity and ecumenism. I suggested — just in passing — the Assumption proclamation as a counter-argument, since nevertheless ecumenism has proceeded at an exponential pace since 1950.

In addition, Most Orthodox do not believe that the Assumption or for that matter the Immaculate Conception are dogmas that should have been proclaimed without the consensus of the entire Catholic and Apostolic Church.

We would say the same, of course, about your dogmatic denial of papal supremacy. We can’t stop our legitimate theological and spiritual development simply because Orthodox disagree with us (although we do try to do all we can to work with you). If that were the case, then we would have stopped developing in the 11th century, like you basically did. We believe that the Holy Spirit is still active in expanding the Church’s faith and understanding, just as He always has been. We tried to achieve reconciliation at the Councils of Lyons and Florence, but the masses of the East would allow no such thing (as if they knew more about the filioque et al than the Orthodox theologians). ‘Tis a pity . . .

I hope that we do not want to get into saying that from an Orthodox point of view that Rome became heretical and therefore is no longer genuinely Catholic and Apostolic. Neither do we want to hear from the Catholic side that the Orthodox by not being in direct communion in Rome are not Catholic and Apostolic.

Excellent. It is this negative attitude which I have always strenuously fought. Catholics cannot claim that the Orthodox have lost apostolicity, since we officially accept the validity of your sacraments. The present pope’s very high regard for the Orthodox is well-known.

The development within the Latin Church for the new doctrines of Mary as Coredemptrix and as Mediatrix of ALL GRACES occurred primarily during the 19th and 20th centuries.

It may have developed more rapidly recently, but that doesn’t prove in and of itself that its roots were not planted long ago, and even developed to a considerable degree. I have documented that beyond all doubt from the Church fathers of east and west, Eastern liturgies, and medieval Catholic and Orthodox theologians.

Although quotations from the previous centuries and even from the Patristic age might be cited to suggest some components of these new developments, the fact of the matter is that the development itself is relatively recent.

There has been more rapid development, yes, but I continue to maintain that the patristic “components” are quite explicit and numerous enough (per my compilation) — in fact comparable or more prevalent than that for several doctrines which both our communions (and even Protestants) accept. So if your criticisms hold, they would also apply to some doctrines you yourself uphold.

The case for trying to show that the Patristic age or that Eastern Orthodox writers have provided the direct support for this development is very weak.

This is easily said, but until someone goes down the list of citations in this paper and comments variously on what I have compiled, I will remain utterly unpersuaded of your assertion (and I would hope those reading this are, too).

Stray quotes do not a doctrine much less a dogma make. However, such quotes might indirectly support a devotion of sorts.

And no point-by-point examination of such allegedly “stray” quotes do not a refutation make. Bald assertions of summary are not argument, but rather, unsubstantiated opinion. And this is what I have often complained of getting from the Orthodox. This is what is done with our tons of patristic evidences for the full-blown Roman conception and Tradition of the papacy, too. Sweeping statements . . .

The only really compelling basis within the Roman communion for these new doctrines is ultimately the dogma of Papal Infallibility…

“Only?” Not if the doctrine is well-established in Tradition and the Fathers (even in the ancient liturgies), which I believe to be the case. I haven’t quoted a single pope, though I’ve cited their encyclicals which touch upon the subject.

In my humble opinion, these doctrines were not fully developed until recently…..

This is a fairly straightforward development from the concept of the Second Eve, and of Simeon’s prophecy that “a sword shall pierce your heart.” Depending on what one believes the extent of knowledge of the Blessed Virgin to have been at the Annunciation, it might even be traced in some fashion back to that moment. You could hold that the Blessed Virgin was largely ignorant about Christ and His mission, but I would say that is itself a rank heresy. If she knew about what was to come, then I don’t see how the notions of Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix are far-fetched or objectionable at all.

I can see how Protestants would object, since they want everything explicit in Scripture, but Orthodox? I don’t get that, except on the grounds of a misunderstanding of development, and an antipathy to raising beliefs to the level of absolutely binding dogma — both common opinions / tendencies among Orthodox. But patristic and medieval Marian thought in the East is very explicit and advanced, often surpassing the development in the West (as demonstrated above).

St. Maximilian Kolbe completed the development of these doctrines in 1923 when he proposed that Mary was the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit” and therefore this explains why she was the mediatrix of all graces. The whole concept that Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit is completely new and has no precedent in either Roman Catholic or in Eastern theology. Therefore, the main foundation for proclaiming Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces and a Coredeemer is ultimately based on a series of developments and assertions that are new doctrinal developments grounded on the premise of the dogma of Papal Infallibility . . .

If the Pope is Infallible within the Latin communion…what does it matter that these doctrines were developed recently or that they are innovations? Does it matter…since the Pope is Infallible anyway? [bolding added]

In another post, my Orthodox friend added:

However, I do not have a conclusion on whether St. Maximilian’s teaching is right or wrong yet. It could still potentially be a correct teaching even if it is unprecedented in Western or Eastern Traditions.

You said the same about the Mediatrix doctrine in general, until I proved otherwise with many patristic and early Orthodox citations (which you have dismissed as insufficient and “very weak”). Now you have come up with a new theory, a more specific assertion, which is contradicted by the biblical and patristic evidence below. You only refute yourself by making sweeping historical statements which can easily be shown false. It’s always good to understate one’s case!

First of all, it is not too much of a stretch to regard Mary (somewhat figuratively) as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, by virtue of the following passage, connected with the universal Christian belief in the Virgin Birth of Christ:

Luke 1:35 (RSV) And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

Secondly, there is much patristic evidence of Mary being regarded as the Bride of Christ, and sometimes as the Bride of God (the Father). All three Persons of the Trinity are God, so how is there any qualitative difference between these relationships and that of Mary being “Spouse of the Holy Spirit?” The Church itself is often regarded in Scripture as the Bride of Christ, and Mary is a symbol of the Church. All of these notions are extremely interrelated.

St. Ephraem of Syria [link] (c. 306-73):

I am also mother / For I bore thee in my womb. I am also thy bride . . . (Hymn on the Nativity, 16, 9-10, in Graef, pp. 57-58)

[in St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386)] “Mary is called ‘bride’, but in a general sense, as Israel was the bride of Yahweh. In a similar sense the word occurs also in many later Greek authors.” (from Mystagogical Catechesis #26 — somewhat doubtful as to authorship: some attribute it to Cyril’s successor, John of Jerusalem (386-417); comment by Hilda Graef, in Graef, p. 68)

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens [link] (348-c. 413):

The unwed Virgin espoused the Spirit (innuba virgo nubit spiritui). (Apotheosis, 571-572 [link] )

Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople [link] (c. 634-733 or 740):

You alone, Theotokos, are the highest on the whole earth; and we, O Bride of God, bless you in faith . . . (Second Sermon on the Assumption, in Graef, p. 149)

Rupert, Abbot of the Benedictines at Deutz [link] (c. 1080-c. 1135):

[Mary was] the best part of the first Church, who merited to be the spouse of God the Father so as to be also the type of the younger Church, the spouse of the Son of God and her own Son. (On the Trinity, in Graef, p. 228)

Hermann of Tournai [link] (d. after 1147) called Mary the “spouse and mother of God.” (Graef, p. 234)

Aelred of Rievaulx, Cistercian Abbot [link] (1110-1167)

Following St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Aelred writes:

God [the Son] is the Bridegroom, the Virgin the bride, and the angel the best man. (Sermon on the Annunciation, in Graef, p. 249)

Philip of Harvengt [link] (d. 1183)

Not only does the Mother most tenderly embrace the Son, but also the Spouse the Bridegroom. (Commentary on the Canticle, in Graef, p. 255)

St. Albert the Great [link] (c. 1200-1280)

Albert, too, sees her not only as the Mother but as the Bride of the Son, who has received all the gifts of the Spirit and whose inner life was perfectly well ordered. She is the mother of all the faithful, who owe their virtues and merits to her intercession. (Tractatus de Natura Boni, commented on by Hilda Graef, in Graef, p. 274)

Ubertino of Casale, Franciscan [link] (1259-c. 1329)

[Graef summarizes his view:]

At the Annunciation, moreover, the Father took her as his spouse and communicated his paternal fecundity to her, making her ‘the mother of all the elect’ and the ‘mother and associate’ (socia genitrix) of his Son. No grace is given which she does not dispense. (Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus, in Graef, p. 293)

Direct reference to Mary as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit also exists, at least as early as the 11th century, contrary to the assertion that St. Maximilian Kolbe “proposed” this in 1923, as if it were a novel doctrine at that time:

St. Amadeus of Lausanne, student of St. Bernard [link] (1110-1159)

Your Creator has become your Spouse . . . your Spouse is coming, the Holy Spirit comes to you . . . For you, most beautiful Virgin, have been joined in close embraces to the Creator of beauty, and . . . have received the most holy seed by divine infusion. (Third Sermon on Mary, in Graef, p. 245)

St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716), in his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, §36, speaks of “the Holy Ghost, her Spouse.” (in Most, p. 194)

St. Alphonsus de Liguori (1696-1787)

[I]t was also becoming that the Holy Ghost should preserve her as his spouse.

St. Augustine [354-430] says that ‘Mary was that only one who merited to be called the Mother and Spouse of God.’ [Sermon 208] For St. Anselm [c. 1033-1109] asserts that ‘the divine Spirit, the love itself of the Father and the Son, came corporally into Mary, and enriching her with graces above all creatures, reposed in her and made her his Spouse, the Queen of heaven and earth.’ [De Excell. Virg. c.4]. (St. Alphonsus, pp. 304-305)

Fr. Louis Bouyer summarizes:

The idea that Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Ghost is found, at least adumbrated, in certain writers, e.g., St. Peter Damian [1007-1072] . . . They tell us that Mary can be looked upon as the Spouse of the Holy Ghost in so far as his intervention took the place of the normal process of conception; and they hasten to add that the comparison stops at that point . . . (Bouyer, p. 177)

The only way I could believe any of these new doctrines or proposed dogmas with any confidence is to ask the Mother of God herself to reveal what is true about herself. It will take a miracle…for me to accept these new doctrines. But with God all things are possible.

What about God’s own inspired words in Scripture — if you want to dismiss the Fathers (East and West alike), the Byzantine liturgy, and medieval Orthodox theologians? The doctrines can be supported Scripture before we even get to the issue of the Church fathers’ views. I maintain that both are more than sufficient for a Christian to hold these doctrines. See my articles below.


Related Reading

Mary Mediatrix: Patristic, Medieval, & Early Orthodox Evidence [1998]

Mary Mediatrix: A Biblical Explanation [1999]

Mary Mediatrix vs. Jesus Christ the Sole Mediator? [1-30-03]

Mary Mediatrix & the Bible (vs. Dr. Robert Bowman) [8-1-03]

Mary Mediatrix and the Church Fathers (+ Documentation That James White Accepts the Scholarship of the Protestant Church Historians I Cite [J. N. D. Kelly and Philip Schaff] ) [9-7-05]

Mary Mediatrix: St. John Paul II & Benedict XVI Clarify [2-19-08]

Immaculate Heart of Mary & Mary Mediatrix (Excessive Devotions?): Explanations Especially for New Converts to the Catholic Faith [11-25-08]

Biblical Evidence for Mary Mediatrix [11-25-08]

Mary, “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”: Blasphemy? [9-10-15]

Mary Mediatrix: A Biblical & Theological Primer [9-15-15]

Exchange on Catholic Mariology and Mary Mediatrix [12-3-16]

Mary Mediatrix: Close Biblical Analogies [National Catholic Register, 8-14-17]

Mary Mediatrix & Jesus (Mere Vessels vs. Sources) [8-15-17]


Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and two children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2700 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.


(originally posted in 1998)

Photo credit: The Annunciation (15472), by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) [public domain /]


January 24, 2020

Attending Mass (Even for an Entire Lifetime) Doesn’t Excuse Us from the Moral Requirements of Christianity, Including Confession of Sin

A Lutheran who has a great interest in Catholicism wrote to me as follows:

[Reformed Baptist apologist James White raises a] particular argument with regard to the Mass and mortal sin. He says, that the Mass perfects no one and someone can still end up in hell, even though they attend Mass regularly but fall into mortal sin and die before they get absolved. As he is a Calvinist, I understand that he believes in the perseverance of the saints, so one can’t lose his salvation. It seems that he is trying to make God less gracious in the Roman “system”. What are your thoughts? [links to a video of White speaking about these notions]

I think the easiest way to address this is to appeal to the Bible:

1 John 3:15 (RSV) Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.

Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood.

So, if one commits any of these sins and doesn’t repent, they are in severe danger of hellfire, according to Holy Scripture: not just in my opinion  or that of the Catholic Church.

I could go to Mass or a Protestant service every week my whole life, and Wednesday night Bible studies too, and Monday prayer meetings, but if I decided to go and murder someone, how does that not lead me to hell, unless I repent?

I don’t see that any system of theology can overcome this. It’s just too biblical. All White and other double predestinarians can say is the weak comeback of “Joe committed murder; therefore, he never was a Christian at all.”

The Bible tells us that the believer ought not sin, by nature:

1 John 2:3, 5-6 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. . . . [5] . . . By this we may be sure that we are in him: [6] he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 3:6-10 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. [7] Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous. [8] He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. [9] No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. [10] By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

Yet we do sin all the time, and St. John in the same book recognizes that, too (hence, Catholic Masses and Lutheran services both include a general absolution, since they presuppose that such sin has occurred):

1 John 1:8-10 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

Note that the remedy is not a one-time profession, or being selected from all eternity by God; therefore, no sin can keep us from going to heaven. Rather, it appears that God is assuming a regular scenario of repeated sin, for which we repent and receive forgiveness form God, either directly, or in absolution through a priest, or (as in Lutheranism) through a pastor or any other believer. It seems to me to assume that sanctification is an ongoing command and need. For example:

1 John 3:3 And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

And this sanctification cannot be unconnected from salvation or justification itself. Of course, this is a big disagreement between Catholics and Protestants. But Arminian / Wesleyan Protestants are much closer to our view. Luther and Calvin both taught that true, authentic faith is verified by good works; thus, lacking the latter, one may doubt that saving faith is present.

I have argued that that is practically, or in effect the same, as in Catholic teaching on infused justification / sanctification.

Lastly, God also makes it very clear that one can go through all the required motions and gestures of worship and prayer, but if their heart is not right and they are in sin, it means nothing whatsoever to Him.


Related Reading:

St. Paul on Justification, Sanctification, & Salvation [1996]

Justification in James: Dialogue [5-8-02]

Dialogue w Three Lutherans on Justification & Salvation [2-1-07]

Formal Human Forgiveness of Sins in the Bible [6-10-07]

Catholic Bible Verses on Sanctification and Merit [12-20-07]

Final Judgment & Works (Not Faith): 50 Passages [2-10-08]

Examination of Conscience: Biblical (Pauline) Evidence [7-14-08]

St. Paul on Grace, Faith, & Works (50 Passages) [8-6-08]

Martin Luther: Strong Elements in His Thinking of Theosis & Sanctification Linked to Justification [11-23-09]

Grace, Faith, Works, & Judgment: A Scriptural Exposition [12-16-09; reformulated & abridged on 3-15-17]

Sacrament of Penance: Man-Made Tradition? (vs. Calvin #51) [12-21-09]

Bible on Participation in Our Own Salvation (Always Enabled by God’s Grace) [1-3-10]

Bible on the Nature of Saving Faith (Including Assent, Trust, Hope, Works, Obedience, and Sanctification) [1-21-10]

Biblical “Power”: Proof of Infused (Catholic) Justification [3-14-11]

Justification: Not by Faith Alone, & Ongoing (Romans 4, James 2, and Abraham’s Multiple Justifications) [10-15-11]

Salvation: By Grace Alone, Not Faith Alone or Works [2013]

The Bible on Confession & Absolution [2013]

New Testament Epistles on Bringing About Further Sanctification and Even Salvation By Our Own Actions [7-2-13]

Bible: Men & Angels Forgive Sins as Representatives of God [7-18-14]

Jesus vs. “Faith Alone” (Rich Young Ruler) [10-12-15]

Dialogue: Rich Young Ruler & Good Works [10-14-15]

“Catholic Justification” in James & Romans [11-18-15]

Philippians 2:12 & “Work[ing] Out” One’s Salvation [1-26-16]

Absolution, Sanctification, & Forgiveness: Reply to Calvin #7 [12-19-18]

Jesus: Faith + Works (Not Faith Alone) Leads to Salvation [8-1-19]

Vs. James White #6: Faith & Works, and First John [11-11-19]


Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.


Photo credit: Prophet Nathan rebukes David for adultery with Bathsheba. Woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872) [public domain / US public domainWikimedia Commons]


January 20, 2020

[Chapter Six from my book, Biblical Catholic Eucharistic Theology (Feb. 2011) ]


St. Paul wrote that those taking the bread and cup “in an unworthy manner” were “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27-30; cf. 1 Cor 10:14-22). Does he “need” the Aristotelian philosophy of substance and accidents to know this? No. He doesn’t even need Stoic or Epicurean or Platonic philosophy. He doesn’t need any philosophy at all. All he needs is Jewish realism, just as when he was converted, Jesus told him he was persecuting Him (Acts 9:3-6). Paul was persecuting the Church (Acts 8:3).

The Church is the Body of Christ, in this incarnational, sacramental, biblical way of thinking. It is Jewish realism and historicism taken to another spiritual level. John 6 and the Last Supper accounts, as well as Paul’s literalism above, make eucharistic realism quite easily ascertained, which is why no one of note denied the doctrine until the Protestant Zwingli in the 16th century. Even Luther left it untouched and damned to hell all those who denied it. The fathers unanimously took the literal view of the Eucharist.

Nothing in Paul’s discussion of the Eucharist goes against a straightforward literal interpretation. If I referred to “the body and blood of Dave Armstrong,” people would know exactly what that meant. If I complained that “my body aches today,” no one would take that merely symbolically or “spiritually” or “mystically.” If I mentioned that “I gave blood at the Red Cross” I dare say that not a single person would think I was only speaking allegorically. Yet when Jesus says, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood” at the Last Supper, all of a sudden many people think it is a spiritual, non-physical, symbolic meaning only.

The Last Supper was an observance of the Jewish Passover. The sacrifice of the lamb (Jesus) — following Jewish ritual and ceremonial practices — was quite real. That wasn’t symbolic. Yet Jesus’ Body and Blood are reduced to mere symbols. Why should symbol be more impressive or “spiritual” than physical, concrete reality? I think the tendency to anti-sacramentalism in Protestantism is ultimately (by logical reduction) anti-incarnational and a derivative of the antipathy to matter of ancient heresies such as the Docetics and Gnostics.

In any event, one can believe in the literal, substantial Eucharist without a whit of philosophical knowledge, just as one can believe in the Trinity or the Incarnation without the slightest knowledge of the hypostatic union, homoousios, filioque, kenosis, etc. The puddle of Christianity (as the proverb goes) is shallow enough for a child to play in and deep enough for an elephant to drown in.

The central point isn’t the philosophical categories, but that Jesus is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The Orthodox and the Lutherans are realists, too; they simply use different words and expressions. All agree that it is ultimately a great mystery. We merely try to explain or comprehend it in a bit more detail.

Orthodox object to our alleged “hyper-rationalism,” yet they get into quite technical detail also when they discuss the filioque, the Divine Energies, and theosis, or divinization. Excessive “rationalism,” then, is often in the eye of the beholder.

Does anyone wish to contend that the Holy Eucharist can’t be understood or believed at all without taking four philosophy courses: philosophy of language, epistemology, logic, and analytic philosophy? I deny it. I think many Protestant apologists are approaching this issue far too “academically” or “philosophically”.

The philosophy has been raised to too high a level once again, usurping the place of faith and common sense. And we Catholics stand by common sense. To wax somewhat “Chestertonian”: Common sense is far better than uncommon lack of sense.

Catholic sacramentalism and incarnational theology maintain that the symbol or sign is also a reality. The separation whereby all symbols are opposed to realism, is what we oppose. Jesus compared His Resurrection to the “sign of Jonah.” But it was literal. Augustine could speak of the Eucharist as both a sign and a physical reality. The two are not mutually exclusive.

We must not yield up such a fundamental doctrine and rite of Christianity to relativism and “diversity.” It’s clear enough what the Church believed through the centuries on this, without a necessity for Aristotelianism to be brought into the discussion.

If we were to observe Jesus as a fetus, would we be able to ascertain that He had come about in a way other than the usual natural meeting of sperm and egg? Could we prove that the burning bush was somehow to be equated with the Creator of the Universe? How would someone falsify the multiplication of the loaves and fishes?

How could someone prove that the atonement and redemption of all mankind is occurring by observing an itinerant preacher being put to death on a cross: just one of many thousands who endured the same horrible end at the hands of the Romans? How is that falsifiable? One can’t prove that the water used in baptism has power by taking it immediately off the head of a baby and analyzing it chemically.

Christianity is an empirical, concrete, practical religion. But it is not always. The foundational doctrines of Christianity cannot be proven empirically. How does one prove that Christ redeemed the world? How can the Holy Trinity itself be either proven or falsified, apart from revelation and faith? Such skepticism about the Eucharist would also exclude the atonement, the incarnation, the virgin birth, etc. (by placing them in the same “absurd” category — qua miracles — as transubstantiation). Yet some seem to deny that the Eucharist is a mystery at all.


Related Reading:

John Calvin’s Erroneous Mystical View of the Eucharist [4-9-04, 9-7-05, abridged and re-edited on 11-30-17]


Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
December 6, 2019

Compilation of 256 articles of mine for the National Catholic Register (29 September 2016 to 21 July 2021): enough material for three 299-page books (about 3 1/2 pages for each 1000-word article).

I consider this collection to be a virtual book, even though I don’t intend to make an actual published book out of it. But in terms of presenting the wide scope and broad range of Catholic and general apologetics arguments that can be brought to bear, it has strong similarities to, and the main components of books like my One-Minute Apologist (2007; which had 61 two-page chapters in a Summa-like format), Proving the Catholic Faith is Biblical (2015; 80 short chapters — usually 1000 words or less — covering many topics), and The Catholic Answer Bible (2002): forty apologetics inserts: each one page long.

These articles for National Catholic Register are all a standard length of 1000 words: give or take a very few. A thousand words usually run about 3 1/2 single-spaced pages, including spaces between paragraphs. It’s not very long at all. And it is a nice length (perhaps the ideal one?) to summarize the usual apologetics and exegetical / historical arguments involved in any given theological issue. I’ve gotten very comfortable this length of article, after doing this “gig” for over three years now, and two earlier ones that were similar (Seton Magazine and Michigan Catholic). I have found that most of the important points that need to be made, can fairly easily be presented within this length.

Adding up the average length of each article, this “book” would be well over 800 pages. It also essentially constitutes my “mature” opinions on each topic I tackle, since all of these were written (or revised) in the last four years or so. I keep learning things all the time (my thought is always developing), so in some cases, I would have slightly changed my mind (where permitted, in light of dogma), or added new arguments (that I’ve either seen, or came up with myself) not present in my earlier writings.

With these articles close at hand, categorized alphabetically by topic and conveniently linked, the reader has a quick and easy resource that may come in handy when the usual objections to the Catholic faith arise. Each article is easy to read (so I’ve been told many times), and can probably be completed in less than five minutes (if even that), and, I submit, contains enough substance and content to provide ample food for thought and further reflection or study. It’s my privilege to have been allowed to write and publish them in such a prestigious venue. Enjoy!



On Being a So-Called “Single-Issue” Pro-Lifer [1-25-18]

Do Democratic Presidents Cause Fewer Abortions to Occur? [2-28-18]

Apologetics and Evangelism

Apologetics Doesn’t Mean Being Sorry for Your Faith [6-6-17]

“The Harvest is Ready”: 14 Tips for Catholic Evangelism [7-12-17]

Swearing and Sharing the Faith Don’t Mix Very Well! [7-16-18]

Some Thoughts on Evangelism and Being “Hated by All” [7-20-18]

Apostolic Succession

Apostolic Succession as Seen in the Jerusalem Council [1-15-17]

Answers to Questions About Apostolic Succession [7-25-20]

A New Biblical Argument for Apostolic Succession [4-23-21]


Atheists Seem to Have Almost a Childlike Faith in the Omnipotence of Atoms [10-16-16]

Yes, Virginia, Atheists Have a Worldview [3-23-21]

Why Should We Bother Defending the Bible Against Atheists? [4-1-21]


What the New Testament’s Baptisms Teach Us About the Magisterium: Christians remain bound to Church doctrine through its development [1-29-17]

What the Bible Reveals About Infant Baptism [7-27-17]

Bible (and Catholicism)

Bible, Canon of
Bible, General

Camels, Domestication of (and the Bible)

Camels Help Bible Readers Get Over the Hump of Bible Skepticism [7-21-21]

Celibacy (in Priests and Religious)

Priestly Celibacy: Ancient, Biblical and Pauline [9-18-17]

Charismatic (Catholic) Renewal 
Church (Catholic): Authority of

C. S. Lewis vs. St. Paul on Future Binding Church Authority [1-22-17]

The Analogy of an Infallible Bible to an Infallible Church [6-16-17]

Why Do Protestants Reject the Notion of “One True Church”? [6-22-17]

Catholicism is True and Denominationalism is Anti-Biblical [6-27-17]

Is the One True Church a Visible or Invisible Entity? [9-12-18]

Catholics Accept All of the Church’s Dogmatic Teaching [9-18-18]

Orthodoxy: The ‘Equilibrium’ That Sets Us Free [3-29-19]

Were the Jerusalem Council Decrees Universally Binding? [12-4-19]

Church, Sinners in / Scandals

Were 50 Million People Really Killed in the Inquisition? [5-30-18]

The Sex Scandals Are Not a Reason to Reject Catholicism [8-24-18]

Some Nagging Questions About Scorsese’s Silence [2-19-17]

Are Abuse Scandals a Reason to Leave the Church? [3-31-19]

The Inquisition, as Medieval Catholics Would View It [7-31-19]

Confession and Absolution

Confession and Absolution Are Biblical [7-31-17]


Bible vs. Contraception: Onan’s Sin and Punishment [5-30-17]

Luther and Calvin Opposed Contraception and “Fewer Children is Better” Thinking [9-13-17]

Contraception and “Anti-Procreation” vs. Scripture [6-6-18]

A Defense of Natural Family Planning [5-25-19]

Conversion, Catholic

Here’s What I Discovered That Made Me Become Catholic [9-29-16]

Why C. S. Lewis Never Became a Catholic [3-5-17]

Deuterocanonical Books (So-Called “Apocrypha”)

How to Defend the Deuterocanon (or ‘Apocrypha’) [3-12-17]

Divorce and Annulments

Annulments are Fundamentally Different from Divorce [4-6-17]

Doctrinal Development

Development of Catholic Doctrine: A Primer [1-5-18]

Ecumenism and Comparative Religion

Biblical Evidence for Ecumenism (“A Biblical Approach to Other Religions”) [8-9-17]

Ethics and Social Teaching, Catholic

Atheist “Refutes” Sermon on the Mount (Or Does He?) [7-23-17]

What Proverbs 31 Says About Alcohol [9-22-17]

Borders and the Bible [1-14-19]

What Does “Turn the Other Cheek” Mean? [7-20-19]

Biblical and Catholic Teaching on the Use of Alcohol [3-26-20]

Eucharist, Holy

Transubstantiation, John 6, Faith and Rebellion [12-3-17]

The Holy Eucharist and the Treachery of Judas [4-6-18]

Transubstantiation is No More Inscrutable Than Many Doctrines [9-26-18]

Why Are Non-Catholics Excluded from Holy Communion? [7-3-19]

The Host and Chalice Both Contain Christ’s Body and Blood [12-10-19]

Evil and Pain: Problem of

God, the Natural World and Pain [9-19-20]

Is God Mostly to Blame for the Holocaust? [5-31-21]

Faith and Works / “Faith Alone” / Discipleship

Final Judgment is Not a Matter of “Faith Alone” At All [10-7-16]

How Are We Saved? Faith Alone? Or the Way Jesus Taught? [5-11-17]

“The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves” [7-19-17]

“Personal Relationship with Jesus” — A Catholic Concept? [2-19-18]

Did Jesus Teach His Disciples to Hate Their Families? [8-17-19]

First John, Faith and Works, and Falling Away [11-24-19]

Lessons in Reconciliation from Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson [2-10-20]

Good Works and Men, God’s Grace, and Regeneration (vs. John Calvin) [8-6-20]

Fathers of the Church

Did St. Augustine Accept All Seven Sacraments? [11-15-17]

22 Reminders That St. Augustine Was 100% Catholic [4-23-20]

14 Proofs That St. Athanasius Was 100% Catholic [6-4-20]

God, Attributes of

Does God Punish to the Fourth Generation? [10-1-18]

If God Needs Nothing, Why Does He Ask For So Much? (Is God “Narcissistic” or “Love-Starved?) [8-22-19]

Does God Ever Actively Prevent Repentance? [9-1-19]

Who Caused Job to Suffer — God or Satan? [6-28-20]

The Bible Teaches That Other “Gods” are Imaginary [7-10-20]

Does God Have Any Need of Praise? [9-24-20]

God in Heaven and in His Temple: Biblical Difficulty? [12-10-20]


Salvation and Immortality Are Not Just New Testament Ideas [9-23-19]

Hell, Satan, and Demons

Screwtape on the Neutralization of Effective Apologetics and Divine Callings [2-5-17]

How to Annihilate Three Skeptical Fallacies Regarding Hell [6-10-17]

Satan is Highly Intelligent—and an Arrogant Idiot   [11-27-17]

Is Abortion a Biblical Metaphor for Hell? [10-20-18]

7 Takes on Satan’s Persecutions and the Balanced Christian Life [11-24-18]

Universalism is Annihilated by the Book of Revelation [6-23-19]

The Bible Teaches that Hell is Eternal [4-16-20]

Holy Places and Items

The Biblical Understanding of Holy Places and Things [4-11-17]

Biblical Proofs and Evidence for Relics [3-13-20]


History of the False Ideas Leading to Same-Sex “Marriage” [11-2-16]

How Did Jesus View Active Homosexuality? [9-16-19]

Icons, Images, and Statues

Worshiping God Through Images is Entirely Biblical [12-23-16]

How Protestant Nativity Scenes Proclaim Catholic Doctrine [12-17-17]

Crucifixes: Devotional Aids or Wicked Idols? [1-15-20]

Was Moses’ Bronze Serpent an Idolatrous “Graven Image?” [2-17-20]

Golden Calf Idolatry vs. Carved Cherubim on Ark of the Covenant [1-7-21]


The Biblical Roots and History of Indulgences [5-25-18]


50 Biblical Proofs That Jesus is God [2-12-17]

Did Jesus Descend to Hell, Sheol, or Paradise After His Death? [4-17-17]

Visiting Golgotha in Jerusalem is a Sublime Experience [3-21-18]

Are the Two Genealogies of Christ Contradictory? [1-5-19]

Did Jesus Use “Socratic Method” in His Teaching? [4-29-19]

Can the Prayers of Jesus Go Unanswered? [6-10-19]

Why Jesus Opposed the Moneychangers in the Temple [9-26-19]

Jesus’ Agony in Gethsemane: Was it “Anxiety”? [10-29-19]

On Whether Jesus’ “Brothers” Were “Unbelievers” [6-11-20]

Did Jesus Heal and Preach to Only Jews? No! [7-19-20]

The Bible is Clear — Jesus is True God and True Man [9-12-20]

9 Ways Jesus Tells Us He is God in the Synoptic Gospels [10-28-20]

12 Alleged Resurrection “Contradictions” That Aren’t Really Contradictions [4-7-21]

11 More Resurrection “Contradictions” That Aren’t Really Contradictions [5-8-21]


What Archaeology Tells Us About Joshua’s Conquest [7-8-21]

Liberalism, Theological (Modernism / Dissent / Heterodoxy)

Silent Night: A “Progressive” and “Enlightened” Reinterpretation [12-21-17]

Liturgy, Formal / Rosary

Ritualistic, Formal Worship is a Good and Biblical Practice [12-4-16]

The Rosary: ‘Vain Repetition’ or Biblical Prayer? [3-16-18]

Luther, Martin

50 Reasons Why Martin Luther Was Excommunicated [11-23-16]

Luther’s Disgust Over Protestant Sectarianism and Radical Heresies [9-8-17]

10 Remarkably “Catholic” Beliefs of Martin Luther [10-6-17]

Luther Favored Death, Not Religious Freedom, For ‘Heretics’ [10-25-17]

Mary, Apparitions of

Biblical Evidence for Marian Apparitions [5-21-17]

Mary, Bodily Assumption of

Biblical Arguments in Support of Mary’s Assumption [8-15-18]

Mary, General

Did Mary Know That Jesus Was God? [4-29-18]

The Exalted Blessed Virgin Mary and Theosis [11-28-18]

Martin Luther’s Exceptionally “Catholic” Devotion to Mary [4-16-19]

St. John Henry Newman’s High Mariology [10-18-19]

Mary, Immaculate Conception of

Martin Luther’s “Immaculate Purification” View of Mary [12-31-16]

Scripture, Through an Angel, Reveals That Mary Was Sinless [4-30-17]

Was Mary’s Immaculate Conception Absolutely Necessary? [12-8-17]

“All Have Sinned” vs. a Sinless, Immaculate Mary? [12-11-17]

Amazing Parallels Between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant [2-13-18]

Biblical Support for Mary’s Immaculate Conception [10-29-18]

Mary and Jesus

Did Jesus Denigrate Calling Mary “Blessed?” [12-24-19]

“Who is My Mother?” — Jesus and the “Familial Church” [1-21-20]

Mary Mediatrix

Mary Mediatrix: Close Biblical Analogies [8-14-17]

Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos)

How to Correct Some Misunderstandings About Mary [2-20-19]

Mary, Perpetual Virginity of

Biblical Evidence for the Perpetual Virginity of Mary [4-13-18]

More Biblical Evidence for Mary’s Perpetual Virginity [4-25-18]

Perpetual Virginity of Mary: “Holy Ground” [5-8-18]

Jesus’ “Brothers” Always “Hanging Around”: Siblings? [5-11-18]

Biblical and Patristic Evidence for Mary’s “In Partu” Virginity [11-14-19]

The Early Protestants Believed in Mary’s Perpetual Virginity [11-19-19]

Mary, Queen Mother

Mary is Queen Mother and Queen of Heaven [6-6-19]

Is Our Lady the Woman of Revelation 12? [11-27-19]

Mary, Veneration of

St. Louis de Montfort’s Marian Devotion: Idolatry or Christocentric? [12-18-16]

The Blessed Virgin Mary is Our Role Model [4-20-17]

Did the Angel Gabriel Venerate Mary When He Said “Hail?” [3-14-19]

50 Biblical Reasons to Honor Jesus Through Mary [7-24-19]

Mass, Sacrifice of

Is Jesus “Re-Sacrificed” at Every Mass? [8-19-17]

Why is Melchizedek So Important? [1-15-18]

Time-Transcending Mass and the Hebrew “Remember” [8-3-18]

Reasons for the Sunday Mass Obligation [11-14-18]

Intriguing Biblical Analogies to Eucharistic Adoration [2-13-19]

The Absurdity of Claiming That the Mass is Idolatrous [6-17-19]


Biblical and Historical Evidences for Raising the Dead [2-8-19]

Reflections on Joshua and “the Sun Stood Still” [10-22-20]


Using the Bible to Debunk the Bible Debunkers (Is the Mention of ‘Pitch’ in Exodus an Anachronism?) [6-30-21]

Papacy and Petrine Primacy

50 Biblical Indications of Petrine Primacy and the Papacy [11-20-16]

Papal Succession: Biblical and Logical Arguments [5-26-17]

I Hope the Pope Will Provide Some Much-Needed Clarity (Re: Answering the Dubia) [9-30-17]

Top 20 Biblical Evidences for the Primacy of St. Peter [1-8-18]

Does Paul’s Rebuke of Peter Disprove Papal Infallibility? [3-31-18]

A Brief History of Papal Infallibility [5-21-18]

Protestant Objections to Papal Infallibility [2-29-20]

Is Peter’s Primacy Disproved by His Personality? [11-30-20]

Which Has More Authority: A Pope or an Ecumenical Council? [5-19-21]

Penance / Mortification / Asceticism / Lent / Monasticism

Where are Lenten Practices in the Bible? [2-23-19]

Bodily Mortification is Quite Scriptural [2-28-19]

More Biblical Support for Bodily Mortification [3-5-19]

Why God Loves Monasticism So Much [3-5-20]

John Calvin vs. Lent and the Bible [2-20-21]

15 Times Martin Luther Sounded Surprisingly Catholic When Talking About Suffering [2-25-21]


Biblical Prayer is Conditional, Not Solely Based on Faith [10-9-18]


Was the Apostle Paul a Priest? [4-2-17]

“Call No Man Father” vs. Priests Addressed as “Father”? [8-9-18]

The Biblical Basis for the Priesthood [11-2-18] *

Purgatory and Prayer for the Dead

50 Biblical Indications That Purgatory is Real [10-24-16]

Does Matthew 12:32 Suggest or Disprove Purgatory? [2-26-17]

St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who Was Dead [3-19-17]

25 Descriptive and Clear Bible Passages About Purgatory [5-7-17]

Reflections on Interceding for the Lost Souls [6-26-18]

Jesus, Peter, Elijah and Elisha All Prayed for the Dead [2-23-20]


The Bible Makes It Clear: Religion Means Relationship With God [6-18-21]


Biblical Evidence for Sacramentalism [8-29-17]

Sacraments and Our Moral Responsibility [1-7-20]


The Holy Collaboration of Mother Teresa and Malcom Muggeridge [6-20-18]

Saints and Angels, Invocation of

Why Would Anyone Pray to Saints Rather Than to God? [1-8-17]

4 Biblical Proofs for Prayers to Saints and for the Dead [6-16-18]

Angelic Intercession is Totally Biblical [7-1-18]

Why the Bible Says the Prayers of Holy People Are More Powerful [3-19-19]

The Saints in Heaven are Quite Aware of Events on Earth (featuring a defense of patron saints) [3-21-20]

Prayer to Abraham and Dead People in Scripture [6-20-20]

What Christ’s Words on the Cross Tell Us About Elijah and the Saints [8-2-20]

How Can a Saint Hear the Prayers of Millions at Once? [10-7-20]

Origen and the Intercession of Saints [11-19-20]

Saints and Angels, Veneration of

The Veneration of Angels and Men is Biblical [8-24-17]

Biblical Evidence for Veneration of Saints and Images [10-23-18]

Salvation and Justification / Grace

“Why Desire Salvation?”: Reply to a Non-Christian Inquirer [7-7-17]

Biblical Evidence for Salvation as a Process [8-4-17] 

Biblical Evidence for Catholic Justification [11-2-17]

Is Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) Also Catholic Teaching? [2-5-18]

‘Doers of the Law’ Are Justified, Says St. Paul [5-22-19]

Jesus on Salvation: Works, Merit and Sacrifice [7-28-19]

The Bible is Clear: ‘Eternal Security’ is a Manmade Doctrine [8-17-20]

Eternal Security vs. the Bible [8-23-20]

There Never Will Be a Single Human Being for Whom Christ Did Not Suffer [4-28-21]


The Bible and Mythical Animals [10-9-19]

The Bible is Not “Anti-Scientific,” as Skeptics Claim [10-23-19]

Galileo and Fellow Astronomers’ Erroneous Scientific Beliefs [4-30-20]

Modern Science is Built on a Christian Foundation [5-6-20]

The ‘Enlightenment’ Inquisition Against Great Scientists [5-13-20]

Embarrassing Errors of Historical Science [5-20-20]

Scientism — the Myth of Science as the Sum of Knowledge [5-28-20]

Creation Ex Nihilo is in the Bible [10-1-20]

Medieval Christian Medicine Was the Forerunner of Modern Medicine [11-13-20]

Quantum Mechanics and the “Upholding” Power of God [11-24-20]

Dark Energy, Dark Matter and the Light of the World [2-17-21]


Sex and Catholics: Our Views Briefly Explained [2-2-18]

More Proof That ‘Heresy Begins Below the Belt’ (Even for Young C. S. Lewis) [8-30-20]

The Bible on Why Premarital Sex Is Wrong [5-26-21]

Sin: Mortal and Venial

What the Bible Says on Degrees of Sin and Mortal Sin [7-6-18]

“Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner” — Quite Biblical! [1-29-20]


Suffering / Redemptive Suffering

Suffering With Christ is a Biblical Teaching [3-27-18]

The Bible Says Your Suffering Can Help Save Others [1-31-19]

Biblical Hope and Encouragement in Your Times of Suffering [4-22-19]

Tradition (Apostolic / Sacred)

Tradition is Not a Dirty Word — It’s a Great Gift [4-24-17]

In the Bible, “Word of God” Usually Means Oral Proclamation [12-17-19]

The Bible Alone? That’s Not What the Bible Says [3-5-21]

The One-Legged Stool Called ‘Inscripturation’ is Not Taught in the Bible [3-15-21]

Trinity, Holy

50 Biblical Evidences for the Holy Trinity [11-14-16]

Wealth / Capitalism / Catholic Social Teaching

Who Must Renounce All Possessions to Follow Jesus? [1-21-21]


Last updated on 21 July 2021


July 11, 2019

[see the Master List of all twelve installments]

Paolo Pasqualucci (signer of three of the endless reactionary-dominated “corrections” of Pope Francis), a Catholic and retired professor of philosophy of the law at the University of Perugia, Italy, wrote “‘Points of Rupture’ of the Second Vatican Council with the Tradition of the Church – A Synopsis” (4-13-18), hosted by the infamous reactionary site, One Peter Five. It’s an adaptation of the introduction to his book Unam Sanctam – A Study on Doctrinal Deviations in the Catholic Church of the 21st Century.

Pope Benedict XVI, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, stated that the authority of Vatican II was identical to that of the Council of Trent:

It must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points . . .

Whoever accepts Vatican II, as it has clearly expressed and understood itself, at the same time accepts the whole binding tradition of the Catholic Church, particularly also the two previous councils . . . It is likewise impossible to decide in favor of Trent and Vatican I but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so-called ‘traditionalism,’ also in its extreme forms. Every partisan choice destroys the whole (the very history of the Church) which can exist only as an indivisible unity.

To defend the true tradition of the Church today means to defend the Council. It is our fault if we have at times provided a pretext (to the ‘right’ and ‘left’ alike) to view Vatican II as a ‘break’ and an abandonment of the tradition. There is, instead, a continuity that allows neither a return to the past nor a flight forward, neither anachronistic longings nor unjustified impatience. We must remain faithful to the today of the Church, not the yesterday or tomorrow. And this today of the Church is the documents of Vatican II, without reservations that amputate them and without arbitrariness that distorts them . . .

I see no future for a position that, out of principle, stubbornly renounces Vatican II. In fact in itself it is an illogical position. The point of departure for this tendency is, in fact, the strictest fidelity to the teaching particularly of Pius IX and Pius X and, still more fundamentally, of Vatican I and its definition of papal primacy. But why only popes up to Pius XII and not beyond? Is perhaps obedience to the Holy See divisible according to years or according to the nearness of a teaching to one’s own already-established convictions? (The Ratzinger Report, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1985, 28-29, 31)

For further basic information about the sublime authority of ecumenical councils and Vatican II in particular, see:

Conciliar Infallibility: Summary from Church Documents [6-5-98]

Infallibility, Councils, and Levels of Church Authority: Explanation of the Subtleties of Church Teaching [7-30-99]

The Bible on Papal & Church Infallibility [5-16-06]

Authority and Infallibility of Councils (vs. Calvin #26) [8-25-09]

The Analogy of an Infallible Bible to an Infallible Church [11-6-05; rev. 7-25-15; published at National Catholic Register: 6-16-17]

“Reply to Calvin” #2: Infallible Church Authority [3-3-17]

 “On Adhesion to the Second Vatican Council” (Msgr. Fernando Ocariz Braña, the current Prelate of Opus DeiL’Osservatore Romano, 12-2-11; reprinted at Catholic Culture) [includes discussion of VCII supposedly being “only” a “pastoral council”]

Pope Benedict on “the hermeneutic of reform, of renewal within continuity” (12-22-05)

The words of Paolo Pasqualucci, from his article, noted above, will be in blue:


1. It appears that the actual meaning attributed to the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes On the Church In the Modern World (GS) does not conform to the Tradition of the Church; it seems on the whole to be permeated with the spirit of the so-called “new Enlightenment.”

This is too vague and offers no particular argument or critique, so I can’t reply.

2.  GS 22.2 affirms that by His Incarnation the Son of God “has united Himself in some fashion with every man,” an extraordinary affirmation, which seems to extend the Incarnation to each one of us, thereby divinizing man.

Dr. Pasqualucci appears to be unfamiliar with theosis or deification or divinization. What these words (synonyms) mean is summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature“:78 “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”81


78 2 Pt 1:4.
79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.

Here are the first three references in the footnotes:

2 Peter 1:4 (RSV) . . . you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.

1. But again, those who assert that He was simply a mere man, begotten by Joseph, remaining in the bondage of the old disobedience, are in a state of death having been not as yet joined to the Word of God the Father, nor receiving liberty through the Son, as He does Himself declare: If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.John 8:36 But, being ignorant of Him who from the Virgin is Emmanuel, they are deprived of His gift, which is eternal life; Romans 6:23 and not receiving the incorruptible Word, they remain in mortal flesh, and are debtors to death, not obtaining the antidote of life. To whom the Word says, mentioning His own gift of grace: I said, You are all the sons of the Highest, and gods; but you shall die like men. He speaks undoubtedly these words to those who have not received the gift of adoption, but who despise the incarnation of the pure generation of the Word of God, defraud human nature of promotion into God, and prove themselves ungrateful to the Word of God, who became flesh for them. For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality. But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first, incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, and the mortal by immortality, that we might receive the adoption of sons? (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, 19:1)

For He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality. (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B)

St. Thomas Aquinas stated:

Moreover, He has a particular agreement with human nature, since the Word is a concept of the eternal Wisdom, from Whom all man’s wisdom is derived. And hence man is perfected in wisdom (which is his proper perfection, as he is rational) by participating the Word of God, as the disciple is instructed by receiving the word of his master. Hence it is said (Sirach 1:5): “The Word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom.” And hence for the consummate perfection of man it was fitting that the very Word of God should be personally united to human nature. (ST III, q. 3. a. 8)

One of the reasons for the incarnation, according to St. Thomas, is for “the full participation of the Divinity, which is the true bliss of man and end of human life; and this is bestowed upon us by Christ’s humanity; for Augustine says in a sermon (xiii de Temp): God was made man, that man might be made God ” (ST III, q. 1 a. 2). St. Thomas also wrote:

Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle. (Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part, Q. 112: The Cause of Grace, Art. 1: Whether God Alone is the Cause of Grace)

That can hardly be anti-traditional and a “rupture” can it?: seeing that it is based on the Bible, St. Irenaeus, St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, and St. Thomas Aquinas. What more does one require? For more on the basics of theosis, see my papers:

Theosis and the Exalted Virgin Mary [7-11-04]

“In Him” An Expression of the Oneness of Theosis? [3-13-14]

Here now is the disputed section of Gaudium et Spes:

[section 22, 2nd paragraph] He Who is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), (21) is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, (22) by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice (23) and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin. (24)


21. Cf. 2 Cor. 4:4.

22. Cf. Second Council of Constantinople, canon 7: “The divine Word was not changed into a human nature, nor was a human nature absorbed by the Word.” Denzinger 219 (428); Cf. also Third Council of Constantinople: “For just as His most holy and immaculate human nature, though deified, was not destroyed (theotheisa ouk anerethe), but rather remained in its proper state and mode of being”: Denzinger 291 (556); Cf. Council of Chalcedon:” to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion change, division, or separation.” Denzinger 148 (302).

23. Cf. Third Council of Constantinople: “and so His human will, though deified, is not destroyed”: Denzinger 291 (556).

24. Cf. Heb. 4:15.

I think it’s quite clear that the intended meaning here is in line with what has been presented above from Holy Tradition and the Bible. If “every man” is the “gripe within a gripe” then that is easily explained as referring to universal atonement. This is made clear in paragraph 5:

For, since Christ died for all men, (32: “Cf. Rom. 8:32.”) and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.

Holy Scripture itself often refers to “all men” or “the world,” etc., with regard to salvation, but we know (all relevant texts considered) that it is referring to universal atonement (i.e., a universal possibility or offer of salvation by His free grace), and not universalism (all people are saved):

Wisdom 16:12 For neither herb nor poultice cured them, but it was thy word, O Lord, which heals all men.

Luke 3:6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

John 3:17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (cf. 4:42; 6:33; 6:51; 8:12; 9:5; 12:47; 2 Cor 5:19; 1 Jn 4:14)

John 12:32 and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.

Romans 5:18 Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.

Ephesians 3:9 and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; (cf. 1:9-10)

1 Timothy 2:3-6 . . . God our Savior, [4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.

1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men,

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Hence, the objection vanishes.


Photo credit: Edal Anton Lefterov (3-31-06): Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic (13th c.), Hagia Sophia, Istanbul [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

May 30, 2019

Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within, by Dr. Taylor Marshall, is currently taking Amazon by storm. I wrote an analysis of it today in which I noted that the bashing of the Second Vatican Council was a prominent motif. Such a “spirit” (pun intended) is a prominent characteristic of radical Catholic reactionary thought. I have found, through the years, that much of the criticism directed towards this ecumenical council of Holy Mother Church falls prey to the good ol’ post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. The Wikipedia entry on this erroneous and sloppy thinking describes it:

(Latin: “after this, therefore because of this”) is an informal fallacy that states “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.” . . . Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because correlation appears to suggest causality. The fallacy lies in a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors potentially responsible for the result that might rule out the connection. A simple example is “the rooster crows immediately before sunrise; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise.”

I wrote just last month about Vatican II, along these lines, replying to someone who noted (like Taylor Marshall has — very Voris-like — in his book) that U.S. church membership has “been in decline since Vatican II”:

There was also this thing called “the 60s” and the sexual revolution . . . But people prefer to blame an orthodox ecumenical council. . . .

Liturgical abuses: absolutely. Fault of the council: no. And VCII said the Latin should be retained (too). It wasn’t in most places, but obviously that is counter to the wishes of the council, too. . . . Many parishes ignored that. Blame them, not the council. . . .

Yet it seems to get blamed for everything because people can’t figure out causation of complex issues and would rather sink to conspiratorialism. . . .

VCII did not change “no salvation outside the Church” in the least. It was Trent (following Augustine contra the Donatists 1100 years earlier) that declared that non-Catholic trinitarian baptism was a valid sacrament, and that those who received it were truly Christians and members of the Body of Christ.

Dr. Marshall undertook a clever campaign of amassing over 500 people (currently, 533 as I write) to endorse his book in reviews on Amazon. There is nothing wrong with this (it’s pure capitalism). But it does provide an opportunity to see what sort of outlook typifies those who are gung-ho about the book and “pied piper” Taylor Marshall’s recently acquired reactionary conspiratorialism.

I thought it would be instructive to survey these reviews to see what was written about Vatican II (which Cardinal Ratzinger in 1985 said had precisely the same authority as the Council of Trent):


1) Pope Paul VI and those whom he empowered did their best to destroy the traditions of the Catholic Church and thereby the Church itself.

2) Marshall does an excellent job pointing out the infiltrating major players: Freemasonry, the Enlightenment, communism, Jesuits, modernism, false ecumenism, and abandonment of Thomistic theological precision for theological ambiguity (which eventually led to weaponized ambiguity deliberately inserted into Vatican II documents). Satan, of course, is behind it all.

3) I will forever consider Michael Davies’s “Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II” to be my go-to “quick read” recommendation for those seeking to understand where this crisis began in terms of liturgy, doctrine, and Vatican II, . . .

4)  Dr. Marshall connects all the dots. From the Freemasons, to Modernism, Vatican II, the Norvos [sic] Ordo, Fatima, Pope Benedict’s resignation, and others, you will see how these dots all connect to show how all of this is the Devil’s work himself to destroy the Church.

5) Being a pre-Vatican II Catholic, I have watched with dismay as the Church I love has disintegrated into the wasteland that it is today. 6

6)  Vatican II was not Modernism’s beginning in our church, but rather its coming out party!7

7) There is a tendency to blame these conditions on Vatican II, and that sense is justified.

8) This book clearly explains the reasons for the convening of Vatican II and the organizations, people and anti Catholic forces behind its destructive and anti Catholic actions.

9) Dr. Marshall connects the ‘infiltration’ clues surrounding the Freemasons; Bella Dodd; warnings of Our Lady at Fatima & La Salette; the Vatican bank scandals; the Sankt Gallen Mafia; secret societies; Communism; Vatican II; the Sicilian Mafia; and more. In different ways, these man-made scandals contributed to the erosion of the Church’s moral authority and led to the dilution of the Liturgy over the past several decades.

10)   Vatican II, for example, did not give rise to Modernism in the Church, but it might be said that Modernism gave rise to many developments at Vatican II. . . . Modernism is now widely accepted among hierarchs, clergy, and laity. It, too, is rationally and theologically incompatible with historic Christianity. Yet, Dr. Marshall sees it on display at Vatican II.

11) This is an excellent overview of the situation within the Church and why the return to order must include the rejection of Vatican II and the rediscovery of the Roman Rite of the Mass.

12) He rightly points out that the current crisis in the Church IS modernism, and while Vatican II may have been a tipping point, the “Infiltration” started a long time ago.

13) Marshall finds that the infiltration of the Freemasons, humanists, and the modernistic “nouvelle” theologians (e.g., Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Walter Kasper, Joseph Ratzinger, Edward Schillebeeckx, Johann Baptist Metz, etc.; 134-35) who introduced the Novus Ordo Mass and highly influenced the Second Vatican Council, led to the perversion of the “supernatural religion of the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ” of the Church into the “natural religion” that emphasizes the Human over the Divine (i.e., Satanism; 4).

14) Undoubtedly, many effects of Vatican II have been negative and have contributed to the current situation.

15) The poisonous fruits of Vatican II worked to make a religion more pleasing to man, not God, and we are reaping that rotten harvest right now.

16) Plots, intrigue, and evil manipulations are shown to shape the Second Vatican Council . . .

17) . . . changes in Vatican II that I feel weakened the Church.

18) . . . Vatican II where the enemies within the church clearly revealed themselves.

19) Dr. Marshall names, names and shows all of us that Vatican II was only one part of the devil’s plan to destroy the Church from within.

20) I once thought Vatican II was the catalyst for the infiltration of the Church but after reading this book, I know see that it was the victory lap.

21) . . . the Modernist revolution of Vatican II doctrinal confusion . . .

22)  Dr. Marshall explains this apparent reversal of policy towards these heresies as the result of Freemasons, Communists, and other liberal theologians as having infiltrated the Church in the years prior to the Vatican II Council. The Council was their Coming Out Party.

23) I made my first communion just prior to Vatican II and soon after that it seemed that almost everything I had been taught and believed was changing. Now I understand why.

24) Important events (the demise of the Papal States, the infiltration of the Church by Communists and Freemasons, the errors that were introduced at Vatican II by the modernists, . . .

25) Most people wouldn’t know that the freemasons are very active in Italy, reaching into Vatican 2 itself. . . . the bomb that was Vatican II . . .

26) Dr. Marshall provides a short explanation of the Nouvelle Theologie and its impact on the major players of Vatican II, as well as some of the problematic documents of that Council and why they matter.

27) [M]any are waking up and trying to understand how and why their Holy Church is in crisis. Taylor Marshall clears all that up with a concise walk through Catholic Church history displaying the true nature of how events and the rise of Freemasonry 300 years ago lead to the drastic changes of Vatican II.

28) It was shocking that at Vatican II, Protestant clergy were given the right to interfere in the making of those documents, clearly showing that the Catholic church was manipulated, subverted and Protestantized.

29) Chapter 19 is a detailed account of the theological ruin and infiltration of Vatican II . . .

30) Marshall argues that Vatican II was just the coming out party of 100 years of a slow and methodical infiltration of the Church’s ideology.

31) Marshall traces the polluted bloodline of Marxist-Modernist footmen, arrogantly maneuvering from within the Church to cast aside the richness, the beauty, and the Truth of the Tridentine Liturgy. These relentless conspirators in clerical camouflage understood the inherent strength of the Tridentine Liturgy and the downstream impact of concealing it away from the hearts of future generations—thus the poisonous results of Vatican II.

32) I have read numerous books on the current state of the Church, the issues with Vatican Council II, the freemasons, and the communist infiltration of the Church. But this book has put all of these issues together, with a timeline showing the interconnectedness that has led us to the current crisis.

33) This is a very relevant book for anyone who wants to understand the root-cause of the problems facing the Catholic Church today, would highly recommend. Dr. Marshall breaks down chronologically where the source of the problems began, how it manifested in Vatican II all the way through to the current Pontificate.

34)  I found the evidence of Vatican II procuring the decline of the Church and how that was the target goal in losing faithful Christians.

35) The transformation of Catholic doctrine and liturgy had its apotheosis in Vatican II.

36) Dr. Marshall explains why Vatican II ended up being the byproduct of a sophisticated and shrewd plan devised over a hundred and fifty years ago.

37) Dr. Taylor Marshall presents the conspiracy theory that the Roman Catholic Church has been infiltrated with thousands of priests, bishops and even popes with the nafarious [sic] intent of destroying this ancient institution. . . . This story has taken more than 150 years to unravel and has involved Freemasons, the Communist Party, The Italian mafia, Benito Mussilini [sic], Marian apparitions, The Second Vatican Council, Agatha Christie, thousands of priests, bishops and cardinals, some of whom were homosexuals and pedophiles, and 11 Popes.

38) [T]he author succintly [sic] described the ideas and people behind modernism and Nouvelle Theologie. As crucial as both these ideas were to the Second Vatican Council, I have never been able to find such a good and useful “short” summary as Dr. Marshall’s treatment here.

39) I also never thought about how dangerous Vatican II was . . .

40) Marshall sees only Archbishop Lefebvre as the one prophet to fully comprehend the magnitude of the changes brought about by Vatican II. Lefebvre became then the point man for the resistance to the Modernism and the infiltration of the Church — and he is recognized for his role more and more by even conservatives in the Novus Ordo.

41) Vatican II, which the author refers to as “modernism on display” did not make the Catholic Church a friendlier place and was actually harmful to the laity.

42) He shows us how this “Smoke of Satan” entered into Holy Mother Church with everything from Freemasonry, the Illuminati, Socialism, Communism, Homosexuality, and today’s Modernism. All of which left us vulnerable and the door wide open to the many “radical reforms” of Vatican II. His book also demonstrates with in depth detail the key players that shredded the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we’ve had for centuries into what we’re left with today. A Mass that may look similar, but is devoid of the supernatural Divine content of the Ages.

43) The average Catholic will now know . . . that we are not bound to accept/adhere to the documents or the “spirit” which came from that council.

44) Vatican II is the culmination of years of infiltration by men who often presented a facade of obedience to the magisterium, but were working actively behind the scenes to undermine it.

45) The book also makes clear why Vatican II is not the cause of Catholicism’s current crisis, but the result of a carefully worked out plan to take control of the Papacy and Church teachings.

46) One thing is clear: if the Church is going to defeat this satanic infiltration, it must reject all things Vatican II and this book does an excellent job of explaining why that is the case.

47)  My favorite section of Infiltration is the chapter on Vatican II and Novus Ordo Missae because Dr. Marshall provides important historical facts on the inception of Vatican II, the “engineers” of the document, and the challenge of Modernism.

48) He names names, cites sources, and lays out the map of the corruptive and evil influences that led to the confusion of Vatican Council II and its disastrous fall out.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (RSV) For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.


“I have chills & am in tears doing research for my new book on Infiltration of the Catholic Church. THERE IS SO MUCH EVIL IN SANKT GALLEN. IT WILL ROCK THE CHURCH. Like Natcha Jaitt, I’m not suicidal. If anything happens to me it was a murder. Pray for me. Book due in May 2019.”

— Dr. Taylor Marshall, 3-6-19 on Twitter


Now, for the actual orthodox ecclesiological teaching of Holy Mother Church (over against reactionary, conspiratorial pied pipers), see the following articles on my blog, regarding the full orthodoxy and spiritually rich and more fully developed true content of the Second Vatican Council, the Mind of the Church, and the sublime authority of Holy Spirit-protected ecumenical councils:

Conciliar Infallibility: Summary from Church Documents [6-5-98]

May 14, 2019

In 2005 I wrote the fairly exhaustive article, Luther’s “Snow-Covered Dunghill” (Myth?). I could not find conclusive evidence that Martin Luther had ever used this phrase; although I thought I found all the basic component ideas present in Luther. I was curious to see if anyone else had come up with anything since that time. Apparently not, and it seems that my paper remains the most in-depth treatment of the question online.

It may be that I have found, today, an important clue as to how the common use of this phrase, attributed to Luther (but never documented) may have come about.


I was searching the Internet, trying to find any clues, and happened to run across a fascinating book called Proverbial Language in English Drama Exclusive of Shakespeare, 1495-1616: An Index (Robert William Dent, University of California Press, 1984). On page 307 in Appendix A, we find the entry, “A DUNGHILL covered with snow (etc.).” Some of the listed references come close to the exact notion, but not quite. The first one that is precisely the same idea is the following (my colored emphasis):

1610 Stoneham Treatise First Psalme 153: These their vertues are done by the wicked first, for shew, as Hypocrites, like a dung-hill covered with snowe.

The next one is equally relevant to our search:

1616 T. Adams Soul’s Sickness I,494f.: He [a hypocrite] is . . . a stinking dunghill covered over with snow.

Fascinating, huh? I think we may be onto something here. I managed to find both works in either Internet Archive or Google Books (thank God for both of those magnificent sources of primary material). The first, A Treatise on the First Psalme, by Mathew Stonham (alternate name spelling), was published in 1610 in London. A photocopy of the exact citation can be seen on page 153.

I was unable to find out much about this man, other than that he was born in 1571, lived till at least 1641, was puritanistically “inclined” and was a “Minister and Preacher in the Cittie of Norwich” (found on the title page). The Reformed Books Online site recommended his commentary, accompanied by a quotation from Charles Spurgeon: “Somewhat dry, scholastic and out of date; but still an interesting and instructive piece of old divinity.” This more or less proves that he was a Calvinist; if he was not, this site likely wouldn’t recommend him.

The book,  The Social Structure in Caroline England (David Mathew, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948), notes on page 63:

After taking Orders he returned to his native city and not later than 1600 opened a private school which for nearly forty years would continue to provide scholars for his own college.

What is interesting is that Stoneham’s reference (like Adams’) is strictly referring to the pretense of hypocrites: not at all to the doctrine of imputed justification (as Luther supposedly used it, and as the reference today is commonly understood). Thus, if these two passages were the origin of the assumption in use today, their original intent and meaning and context have been considerably modified. Consulting the immediate context of Stoneham’s reference on page 153 ff., one can clearly observe Stoneham issuing blistering condemnations of hypocrisy, similar to Jesus’ excoriation of the Pharisees. The olde English is fun to read, too.

I found quite a bit more about the Calvinist Thomas Adams (1583-1652). A Puritan’s Mind website provides a fairly extensive biography of him, written by Joel R. Beeke, of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here are some key excerpts:

Thomas Adams graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1602, and four years later, with a Master of Arts degree from Clare College. Ordained deacon and priest in the Lincoln diocese in 1604, he served as curate of Northill, Bedfordshire from 1605 to 1611. . . .

In 1614, he became vicar of Wingrave, Buckinghamshire, and then moved to London in 1619, where he was given the rectories of St. Benet Paul’s Wharf and the small church of St. Benet Sherehog. For his first five years in London, he also held the lectureship of St. Gregory’s, a parish of 3,000. Later on, he preached on occasion at St. Paul’s Cross and Whitehall, and served as chaplain to Henry Montagu, First Earl of Manchester and Chief Justice of the king’s bench.

Adams was a powerful preacher, much-quoted writer, and influential divine. Prominent leaders in church and state, such as John Donne and the earl of Pembroke, were among his friends.

Adams was a Calvinist Episcopalian in terms of church polity. He was not opposed to kneeling to receive communion and feared that the abolition of episcopacy advocated by some Puritans would lead to Anabaptism. Nonetheless, Adams embraced Puritan theology, polemics, and lifestyle. . . .

Robert Southey . . . describe[d] him as “the prose Shakespeare of the Puritan theologians.”

Adams shared the Puritan concern to purge the Church of England of remaining vestiges of Roman Catholicism or “popery,” as it was then called. His open expression of this concern and his identification with the Puritans in many areas, offended William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury; doubtless, this hindered his preferment in the church. At the same time, Adams was staunchly loyal to the king, and so found himself in disfavor with Cromwell . . .

Alexander B. Grosart wrote of him: “Thomas Adams stands in the forefront of our great English preachers. He is not as sustained as Jeremy Taylor, nor so continuously sparkling as Thomas Fuller, but he is surpassingly eloquent and brilliant, and much more thought-laden than either.”

The Wikipedia entry on Thomas Adams states about him: “while he was a Calvinist in theology, he is not, however, accurately described as a Puritan.”  We can find his relevant work in a 1909 volume devoted to an edited collection of his sermons. The context of his remark on page 202 (just word-search it) plainly shows that it had to do with hypocrisy, and actually of an empty Christian observance without works. The sermon was about Jesus’ parable of the two sons (see pages 184-185 for the beginning of it). Here is the parable (RSV):

Matthew 21:28-32 “What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ [29] And he answered, `I will not’; but afterward he repented and went.  [30] And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir,’ but did not go. [31] Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. [32] For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.

Accordingly, we see the larger context of the point he was making in his sermon. I provide the entire concluding section (my paragraphs and some quotation marks added):

Words are but vocal interpreters of the mind, actions real; what a man does we may be sure he thinks, not ever more what he says. Of the two, give me him that says little and doth much. Will you examine further who are like this son? They that can say here in the temple, “Lord, hallowed be thy name”; scarce out of the church-doors, the first thing they do is to blaspheme it: that pray, “Thy will be done,” when with all their powers they oppose it: and, “Incline our hearts to keep thy laws”, when they utterly decline themselves.

These are but devils in angels feathers, stinking dunghills covered with white snow, rotten timber shining in the night ; Pharisees cups, ignes fatui, that seem to shine as fixed in the orb, yet are no other than crude substances and falling meteors. You hear how fairly this younger brother promiseth; what shall we find in the event? But he went not. What an excellent son had this been if his heart and tongue had been cut out of one piece! He comes on bravely, but, like an ill actor, he goes halting off. It is not profession, but obedience, that pleaseth God. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into heaven ; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven”, Matt. vii. 21.

There are three things that cozen many, because they are preparatives to obedience, but are not it: Some intend well, as if the blast of a good meaning could blow them into heaven. Others prepare and set themselves in a towardness; but, like the George, booted and spurred, and on horseback, yet they stir not an inch. Others go a degree further, and they begin to think of a course for heaven: for a Sabbath or two you shall have them diligent churchmen; but the devil’s in it, some vanity or other steals into their heart, and farewell devotion.

All these are short, are nothing, may be worse than nothing; and it is only actual obedience that pleaseth God. Beloved, say no longer you will, but do; and the “doer shall be blessed in his deed,” James i. 25. Which blessedness the mercies of God in Christ Jesus vouchsafe us! Amen.

Both Martin Luther and John Calvin taught the supreme importance and necessity of works in the regenerate Christian’s life. Luther strongly opposed antinomianism and closely connected faith and works. But (differing from Catholicism) they categorized the works as part of sanctification only; not justification. In light of all of this, the way this imagined use of an alleged phrase of Luther is used today can only be described — in the final analysis — as a distortion of Luther’s teaching on soteriology and justification, fully understood.

Whether this is the origin of the widespread story about Luther using this illustration, remains conjectural. But I have not found a better explanation thus far (or even any explanation at all, solidly documented). This theory seems possible and even plausible to me. In this scenario, these citations would be the actual origin (at least in the English language). The idea was then superimposed onto Luther’s theology (probably originally by Calvinists, seeing that that was the milieu in which the phrases occurred), because of certain utterances of his that seemed harmonious with it, and over time, folks falsely assumed that Luther was the originator of the word-picture.


Photo credit: WikimediaImages (1-15-06) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]



February 4, 2019

This is an installment of a series of replies (see the Introduction and Master List) to much of Book IV (Of the Holy Catholic Church) of Institutes of the Christian Religion, by early Protestant leader John Calvin (1509-1564). I utilize the public domain translation of Henry Beveridge, dated 1845, from the 1559 edition in Latin; available online. Calvin’s words will be in blue. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

Related reading from yours truly:

Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin (2010 book: 388 pages)

A Biblical Critique of Calvinism (2012 book: 178 pages)

Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love” (2010 book: 187 pages; includes biblical critiques of all five points of “TULIP”)


IV, 17:38-39


Book IV




38. Ends for which the sacrament was instituted.


Thirdly, The Lord intended it to be a kind of exhortation, than which no other could urge or animate us more strongly, both to purity and holiness of life, and also to charity, peace, and concord. For the Lord there communicates his body so that he may become altogether one with us, and we with him. 

But not physically . . . This is so obviously driven by a prior (quite unbiblical) antipathy to matter and sacramentalism in the proper traditional sense of the word. Calvin wants everything about the Eucharist except the physical aspect, which is essential to it.

Moreover, since he has only one body of which he makes us all to be partakers, we must necessarily, by this participation, all become one body. 

In order to do that, there has to be a physical characteristic to it! It’s so clear; how can Calvin miss it? Throughout the Bible is very literal about these things, by equating the Body of Christ with Christ Himself (at Paul’s conversion: Acts 9:5; cf. 8:1, 3, 9:1-2; cf. also 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22-23; 5:30; Col 1:24); by Paul’s language about “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24), by His reference to profaning the body and blood of Christ in an irreverent Communion (1 Cor 11:27-30), and particularly in the extraordinary theosis passages:

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Ephesians 3:17-19 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.

Ephesians 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;

2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. (cf. Jn 14:20-23, 17:21-23)

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

The Greek word for “fulness” in all instances is pleroma (Strong’s word #4138). Theosis and pleroma do not at all imply equality with God, but rather, a participation in His energies and power, through the Holy Spirit. The Church fathers believed in theosis, or divinization. For example:

[T]his is the reason why the Word became flesh and the Son of God became the Son of Man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God. (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III 19, 1)

When the Word came upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Spirit entered her together with he Word; in the Spirit the Word formed a body for himself and adapted it to himself, desiring to unite all creation through himself and lead it to the Father. (St. Athanasius, Ad Serap. 1, 31)

There is no reason to deny the literal sense to the eucharistic passages: to make an arbitrary exception in that case, just because Calvin has a Docetic antipathy to matter used by God to convey grace (just as in the incarnation and crucifixion).

This unity is represented by the bread which is exhibited in the sacrament. 

Holy Communion is not a touchy-feely sentimental affair with bread merely “representing” Christ’s Body. It’s far more profound. It is the Real Thing.

As it is composed of many grains, so mingled together, that one cannot be distinguished from another; so ought our minds to be so cordially united, as not to allow of any dissension or division. 

Denying the biblical, apostolic, patristic, Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist does anything but foster Christian unity. Calvin expresses the right thought, yet the doctrine he is promulgating here mitigates strongly against it, and is a heretical corruption of true doctrine.

This I prefer giving in the words of Paul: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many, are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:15, 16). We shall have profited admirably in the sacrament, if the thought shall have been impressed and engraven on our minds, that none of our brethren is hurt, despised, rejected, injured, or in any way offended, without our, at the same time, hurting, despising, and injuring Christ; that we cannot have dissension with our brethren, without at the same time dissenting from Christ; that we cannot love Christ without loving our brethren; that the same care we take of our own body we ought to take of that of our brethren, who are members of our body; that as no part of our body suffers pain without extending to the other parts, so every evil which our brother suffers ought to excite our compassion. 

Thus (sadly) Calvin sees a certain form of literalism, but fails to see the whole truth.

Wherefore Augustine not inappropriately often terms this sacrament the bond of charity. What stronger stimulus could be employed to excite mutual charity, than when Christ, presenting himself to us, not only invites us by his example to give and devote ourselves mutually to each other, but inasmuch as he makes himself common to all, also makes us all to be one in him.

But Calvin doesn’t understand biblical theosis. It’s ironic that he comes so close to it but simply can’t grasp it. In the final analysis, Calvin’s view basically comes down to pure Zwinglian symbolism (much as he would protest against this).

The Consensus Tigurinus was written by Calvin in 1549 in order to clarify “Reformed” eucharistic doctrine over against Lutheranism. It was adopted by the Zurich theologians (and remember, Zurich was where Zwingli resided, and also his successor, Heinrich Bullinger (who wrote some of the notes). That they would adopt a document by Calvin is highly significant. Here are some excerpts (translated by Henry Beveridge):

Article 7. The Ends of the Sacraments

The ends of the sacraments are to be marks and badges of Christian profession and fellowship or fraternity, to be incitements to gratitude and exercises of faith and a godly life; in short, to be contracts binding us to this. But among other ends the principal one is, that God may, by means of them, testify, represent, and seal his grace to us. For although they signify nothing else than is announced to us by the Word itself, yet it is a great matter, first, that there is submitted to our eye a kind of living images which make a deeper impression on the senses, by bringing the object in a manner directly before them, while they bring the death of Christ and all his benefits to our remembrance, that faith may be the better exercised; and, secondly, that what the mouth of God had announced is, as it were, confirmed and ratified by seals.

[ . . . ]

Article 9. The Signs and the Things Signified Not Disjoined but Distinct.

Wherefore, though we distinguish, as we ought, between the signs and the things signified, yet we do not disjoin the reality from the signs, but acknowledge that all who in faith embrace the promises there offered receive Christ spiritually, with his spiritual gifts, while those who had long been made partakers of Christ continue and renew that communion.

Article 10. The Promise Principally to Be Looked To in the Sacraments.

And it is proper to look not to the bare signs, but rather to the promise thereto annexed. As far, therefore, as our faith in the promise there offered prevails, so far will that virtue and efficacy of which we speak display itself. Thus the substance of water, bread, and wine, by no means offers Christ to us, nor makes us capable of his spiritual gifts. The promise rather is to be looked to, whose office it is to lead us to Christ by the direct way of faith, faith which makes us partakers of Christ.

[ . . . ]

Article 12. The Sacraments Effect Nothing by Themselves.

Besides, if any good is conferred upon us by the sacraments, it is not owing to any proper virtue in them, even though in this you should include the promise by which they are distinguished. For it is God alone who acts by his Spirit. When he uses the instrumentality of the sacraments, he neither infuses his own virtue into them nor derogates in any respect from the effectual working of his Spirit, but, in adaptation to our weakness, uses them as helps; in such manner, however, that the whole power of acting remains with him alone.

[ . . . ]

Article 15. How the Sacraments Confirm.

Thus the sacraments are sometimes called seals, and are said to nourish, confirm, and advance faith, and yet the Spirit alone is properly the seal, and also the beginner and finisher of faith. For all these attributes of the sacraments sink down to a lower place, so that not even the smallest portion of our salvation is transferred to creatures or elements.

[ . . . ]

Article 17. The Sacraments Do Not Confer Grace.

By this doctrine is overthrown that fiction of the sophists which teaches that the sacraments confer grace on all who do not interpose the obstacle of mortal sin. For besides that in the sacraments nothing is received except by faith, we must also hold that the grace of God is by no means so annexed to them that whoso receives the sign also gains possession of the thing. For the signs are administered alike to reprobate and elect, but the reality reaches the latter only.

[ . . . ]

Article 21. No Local Presence Must Be Imagined.

We must guard particularly against the idea of any local presence. For while the signs are present in this world, are seen by the eyes and handled by the hands, Christ, regarded as man, must be sought nowhere else than in Heaven, and not otherwise than with the mind and eye of faith. Wherefore it is a perverse and impious superstition to inclose him under the elements of this world.

Article 22. Explanation of the Words “This Is My Body.”

Those who insist that the formal words of the Supper, “This is my body; this is my blood,” are to be taken in what they call the precisely literal sense, we repudiate as preposterous interpreters. For we hold it out of controversy that they are to be taken figuratively, the bread and wine receiving the name of that which they signify. Nor should it be thought a new or unwonted thing to transfer the name of things figured by metonomy to the sign, as similar modes of expression occur throughout the Scriptures, and we by so saying assert nothing but what is found in the most ancient and most approved writers of the Church.

Article 23. Of the Eating of the Body.

When it is said that Christ, by our eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood, which are here figured, feeds our souls through faith by the agency of the Holy Spirit, we are not to understand it as if any mingling or transfusion of substance took place, but that we draw life from the flesh once offered in sacrifice and the blood shed in expiation.

Article 24. Transubstantiation and Other Follies.

In this way are refuted not only the fiction of the Papists concerning transubstantiation, but all the gross figments and futile quibbles which either derogate from his celestial glory or are in some degree repugnant to the reality of his human nature. For we deem it no less absurd to place Christ under the bread or couple him with the bread, than to transubstantiate the bread into his body.

Article 25. The Body of Christ Locally in Heaven.

And that no ambiguity may remain when we say that Christ is to be sought in Heaven, the expression implies and is understood by us to intimate distance of place. For though philosophically speaking there is no place above the skies, yet as the body of Christ, bearing the nature and mode of a human body, is finite and is contained in Heaven as its place, it is necessarily as distant from us in point of space as Heaven is from Earth.

Article 26. Christ Not to Be Adored in the Bread.

If it is not lawful to affix Christ in our imagination to the bread and the wine, much less is it lawful to worship him in the bread. For although the bread is held forth to us as a symbol and pledge of the communion which we have with Christ, yet as it is a sign and not the thing itself, and has not the thing either included in it or fixed to it, those who turn their minds towards it, with the view of worshipping Christ, make an idol of it.

Protestant scholar Philip Schaff, in the 1919 sixth revised edition of his Creeds of Christendom (Vol, I, § 59. The Consensus of Zurich. A.D. 1549), comments on the background of this document:

In the sacramental controversy—the most violent, distracting, and unprofitable in the history of the Reformation—Calvin stood midway between Luther and Zwingli, and endeavored to unite the elements of truth on both sides, in his theory of a spiritual real presence and fruition of Christ by faith. This satisfied neither the rigid Lutherans nor the rigid Zwinglians. The former could see no material difference between Calvin and Zwingli, since both denied the literal interpretation of ‘this is my body,’ and a corporeal presence and manducation. The latter suspected Calvin of leaning towards Lutheran consubstantiation . . .

The wound was reopened by Luther’s fierce attack on the Zwinglians (1545), and their sharp reply. Calvin was displeased with both parties, and counselled moderation. It was very desirable to harmonize the teaching of the Swiss Churches. Bullinger, who first advanced beyond the original Zwinglian ground, and appreciated the deeper theology of Calvin, sent him his book on the Sacraments, in manuscript (1546), with the request to express his opinion. Calvin, did this with great frankness, and a degree of censure which at first irritated Bullinger. Then followed a correspondence and personal conference at Zurich, which resulted in a complete union of the Calvinistic and Zwinglian sections of the Swiss Churches on this vexed subject. The negotiations reflect great credit on both parties, and reveal an admirable spirit of frankness, moderation, forbearance, and patience, which triumphed over all personal sensibilities and irritations.

. . . It contains the Calvinistic doctrine, adjusted as nearly as possible to the Zwinglian in its advanced form, but with a disturbing predestinarian restriction of the sacramental grace to the elect.

Calvinist William G. T. Shedd offers his take on the implications of the document:

In this Consensus Tigurinus, he defines his statements more distinctly, and left no doubt in the minds of the Zurichers that he adopted heartily the spiritual and symbolical theory of the Lord’s Supper. The course of events afterwards showed that Calvin’s theory really harmonized with Zuingle’s. (A History of Christian Doctrine , Vol. II, New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 3rd edition, 1865, p. 468)

39. True nature of the sacrament, contrasted with the Popish observance of it.


This most admirably confirms what I elsewhere said—viz. that there cannot be a right administration of the Supper without the word. Any utility which we derive from the Supper requires the word. 

No one disagrees with that. It comes from the Word of Holy Scripture, and so must be accompanied by that same Word.

Whether we are to be confirmed in faith, or exercised in confession, or aroused to duty, there is need of preaching. Nothing, therefore, can be more preposterous than to convert the Supper into a dumb action. This is done under the tyranny of the Pope, the whole effect of consecration being made to depend on the intention of the priest, as if it in no way concerned the people, to whom especially the mystery ought to have been explained. This error has originated from not observing that those promises by which consecration is effected are intended, not for the elements themselves, but for those who receive them. Christ does not address the bread and tell it to become his body, but bids his disciples eat, and promises them the communion of his body and blood. And, according to the arrangement which Paul makes, the promises are to be offered to believers along with the bread and the cup. Thus, indeed, it is. We are not to imagine some magical incantation, and think it sufficient to mutter the words, as if they were heard by the elements; but we are to regard those words as a living sermon, which is to edify the hearers, penetrate their minds, being impressed and seated in their hearts, and exert its efficacy in the fulfilment of that which it promises. 

This is such a ridiculous caricature of what goes on in the Mass that it doesn’t even deserve the dignity of a reply. Granted, there were corruptions in practice in that period of Catholic history, as there are in all periods (it is only a matter of degree), but that gives Calvin no license to extrapolate corruptions to all Masses everywhere, as he is wont to do, in his propagandistic anti-Catholic broad-brush painting. My main purpose is to reply to his reasoning for his own positions, not to correct every caricature and straw man that he constructs. One has only so much patience . . .

For these reasons, it is clear that the setting apart of the sacrament, as some insist, that an extraordinary distribution of it may be made to the sick, is useless. They will either receive it without hearing the words of the institution read, or the minister will conjoin the true explanation of the mystery with the sign. 

The Body and Blood of Christ are never “useless.” Under Catholic presuppositions, this makes perfect sense. Under Calvinist premises, it is senseless because there is no Body and Blood to give in the first place. Calvin makes no attempt to understand the Catholic’s own view. He simply bashes it.

In the silent dispensation, there is abuse and defect. If the promises are narrated, and the mystery is expounded, that those who are to receive may receive with advantage, it cannot be doubted that this is the true consecration. What then becomes of that other consecration, the effect of which reaches even to the sick? But those who do so have the example of the early Church. I confess it; but in so important a matter, where error is so dangerous, nothing is safer than to follow the truth.

It is in the effort to follow truth that one must often disagree with Calvin. He’s not the last word: Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Holy Mother Church provide that.


(originally 12-3-09)

Photo credit: Historical mixed media figure of John Calvin produced by artist/historian George S. Stuart and photographed by Peter d’Aprix: from the George S. Stuart Gallery of Historical Figures archive [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]


February 1, 2019

This is an installment of a series of replies (see the Introduction and Master List) to much of Book IV (Of the Holy Catholic Church) of Institutes of the Christian Religion, by early Protestant leader John Calvin (1509-1564). I utilize the public domain translation of Henry Beveridge, dated 1845, from the 1559 edition in Latin; available online. Calvin’s words will be in blue. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

Related reading from yours truly:

Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin (2010 book: 388 pages)

A Biblical Critique of Calvinism (2012 book: 178 pages)

Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love” (2010 book: 187 pages; includes biblical critiques of all five points of “TULIP”)


IV, 17:12-15


Book IV



12. Second part of the chapter, reduced to nine heads. The transubstantiation of the Papists considered and refuted. Its origin and absurdity. Why it should be exploded.

I now come to the hyperbolical mixtures which superstition has introduced. 

It’s quite comical for Calvin to rail against “superstition” — given all the fictional and illogical, incoherent innovations he himself has introduced . . .

Here Satan has employed all his wiles, withdrawing the minds of men from heaven, and imbuing them with the perverse error that Christ is annexed to the element of bread. 

That is, the biblical, apostolic, patristic, and historic Catholic “error” . . . (we must place things in their proper perspective).

And, first, we are not to dream of such a presence of Christ in the sacrament as the artificers of the Romish court have imagined, as if the body of Christ, locally present, were to be taken into the hand, and chewed by the teeth, and swallowed by the throat. 

As the fathers pretty much unanimously believed: so even Protestant historians freely concede. It has nothing particularly to do with “Romish” and everything to do with apostolic and patristic.

This was the form of Palinode, which Pope Nicholas dictated to Berengarius, in token of his repentance, a form expressed in terms so monstrous, that the author of the Gloss exclaims, that there is danger, if the reader is not particularly cautious, that he will be led by it into a worse heresy than was that of Berengarius (Distinct. 2 c. Ego Berengarius). 

Berengarius was one of the few men of any note in the entire patristic and early medieval period who questioned the Real Presence and transubstantiation; hence we see Calvin immediately gravitating to him, even before he engages in his usual pretense that St. Augustine supposedly agrees with his novel position. In the article on Berengarius in the Catholic Encyclopedia, we can see from whence Calvin got some of his heretical notions of the Eucharist:

In the Eucharistic controversy of the ninth century, Radbert Paschasius, afterwards abbot of Corbie, in his De Corpore et Sanguine Domini (831), had maintained the doctrine that in the Holy Eucharist the bread is converted into the real body of Christ, into the very body which was born of Mary and crucified. Ratramnus, a monk of the same abbey, defended the opinion that in the Holy Eucharist there is no conversion of the bread; that the body of Christ is, nevertheless, present, but in a spiritual way; that it is not therefore the same as that born of Mary and crucified. John Scotus Erigena had supported the view that the sacraments of the altar are figures of the body of Christ; that they are a memorial of the true body and blood of Christ. (P. Batiffol, Etudes d’histoire et de théologie positive, 2d series, Paris, 1905.)

Unlike Calvin, who was firm in his error, Berengarius waffled and vacillated, but like Calvin, he went his own way over against Rome:

At the Council of Tours (1055), presided over by the papal legate Hildebrand, Berengarius signed a profession of faith wherein he confessed that after consecration the bread and wine are truly the body and blood of Christ. At another council held in Rome in 1059, Berengarius was present, retracted his opinions, and signed a formula of faith, drawn up by Cardinal Humbert, affirming the real and sensible presence of the true body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. (Mansi, XIX, 900.) On his return, however, Berengarius attacked this formula. Eusebius Bruno abandoned him, and the Count of Anjou, Geoffrey the Bearded, vigorously opposed him. Berengarius appealed to Pope Alexander II, who, though he intervened in his behalf, asked him to renounce his erroneous opinions. This Berengarius contemptuously refused to do. . . . in 1078, by order of Pope Gregory VII, he came to Rome, and in a council held in St. John Lateran signed a profession of faith affirming the conversion of the bread into the body of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary. The following year, in a council held in the same place Berengarius signed a formula affirming the same doctrine in a more explicit way. Gregory VII then recommended him to the bishops of Tours and Angers, forbidding that any penalty should be inflicted on him or that anyone should call him a heretic. Berengarius, on his return, again attacked the formula he had signed, but as a consequence of the Council of Bordeaux (1080) he made a final retraction. He then retired into solitude on the island of St. Cosme, where he died, in union with the Church.

As the article proceeds in its analysis, we see again the similarities of the false premises of both Berengarius’ and Calvin’s heretical errors: particularly the notion of merely “spiritual presence”:

In order to understand his opinion, we must observe that, in philosophy, Berengarius had rationalistic tendencies and was a nominalist. Even in the study of the question of faith, he held that reason is the best guide. Reason, however, is dependent upon and is limited by sense-perception. Authority, therefore, is not conclusive; we must reason according to the data of our senses. There is no doubt that Berengarius denied transubstantiation (we mean the substantial conversion expressed by the word; the word itself was used for the first time by Hildebert of Lavardin); it is not absolutely certain that he denied the Real Presence, though he certainly held false views regarding it. Is the body of Christ present in the Eucharist, and in what manner? On this question the authorities appealed to by Berengarius are, besides Scotus Erigena, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine. These fathers taught that the Sacrament of the Altar is the figure, the sign, the token of the body and blood of the Lord. These terms, in their mind, apply directly to what is external and sensible in the Holy Eucharist and do not, in any way, imply the negation of the real presence of the true body of Christ. (St. Aug. Serm. 143, n.3; Gerbert, Libellus De Corp. et Sang. Domini. n. 4, P.L., CXXXIX, 177.) For Berengarius the body and blood of Christ are really present in the Holy Eucharist; but this presence is an intellectual or spiritual presence. The substance of the bread and the substance of the wine remain unchanged in their nature, but by consecration they become spiritually the very body and blood of Christ. This spiritual body and blood of Christ is the res sacramenti; the bread and the wine are the figure, the sign, the token, sacramentum. . . .

He maintained that the bread and wine, without any change in their nature, become by consecration the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, a memorial of the body crucified and of the blood shed on the cross. It is not, however, the body of Christ as it is in heaven; for how could the body of Christ which is now in heaven, necessarily limited by space, be in another place, on several altars, and in numerous hosts? Yet the bread and the wine are the sign of the actual and real presence of the body and blood of Christ.

Calvin, too, had pronounced rationalistic and nominalistic tendencies. And so we see some of the intellectual background of his heresies in this regard.

Peter Lombard, though he labours much to excuse the absurdity, rather inclines to a different opinion. As we cannot at all doubt that it is bounded according to the invariable rule in the human body, and is contained in heaven, where it was once received, and will remain till it return to judgment, so we deem it altogether unlawful to bring it back under these corruptible elements, or to imagine it everywhere present. 

Jesus’ body is not “everywhere present.” It is sacramentally present in the consecrated bread and wine at Mass. In fact, the very notion of consecration proves that transubstantiation does not involve a “bodily omnipresence” since what was once bread and wine miraculously becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. Therefore, if they were not that before consecration, then this proves that Jesus’ body is not omnipresent itself, but becomes present locally during Mass.

Absurdities abound here, but in Calvin’s view, not the Catholic position. Jesus could walk through walls after His Resurrection (Jn 20:26), and even a mere man, Philip, could be “caught away” and transported to another place by God (Acts 8:39-40). So some Protestants think that God “couldn’t” or “wouldn’t” have performed the miracle of the Eucharist? One shouldn’t attempt to “tie” God’s hands by such arguments of alleged implausibility.

The fact remains that God clearly can perform any miracle He so chooses, and this particular one entails no suspension of the principles of the Incarnation, once the doctrine of Two Natures is correctly understood. Jesus can be both incarnate and present in many places in the Eucharist, just as He can be incarnate and be present spiritually everywhere (something which all Protestants believe). Neither scenario is contradictory or impossible for God. They are both miraculous and supernatural.


And, indeed, there is no need of this, in order to our partaking of it, since the Lord by his Spirit bestows upon us the blessing of being one with him in soul, body, and spirit. The bond of that connection, therefore, is the Spirit of Christ, who unites us to him, and is a kind of channel by which everything that Christ has and is, is derived to us. For if we see that the sun, in sending forth its rays upon the earth, to generate, cherish, and invigorate its offspring, in a manner transfuses its substance into it, why should the radiance of the Spirit be less in conveying to us the communion of his flesh and blood? 

Calvin’s scenario is entirely possible, theoretically. The problem is that it denies the clear biblical warrant for eucharistic realism.

Wherefore the Scripture, when it speaks of our participation with Christ, refers its whole efficacy to the Spirit. Instead of many, one passage will suffice. Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 8:9-11), shows that the only way in which Christ dwells in us is by his Spirit. By this, however, he does not take away that communion of flesh and blood of which we now speak, but shows that it is owing to the Spirit alone that we possess Christ wholly, and have him abiding in us.

The indwelling itself is spiritual, and it is said that Jesus dwells inside of us, as well as the Holy Spirit, and indeed God the Father. But the same Scripture uses realistic language in describing the Body of Christ. Calvin himself alluded to this in passing not long before in his book. The clearest, most graphic example of that is in conjunction with St. Paul’s conversion:

Acts 9:3-4 And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” [5] And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting;

Acts 22:7-8 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ [8] And I answered, `Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, `I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’

Acts 26:14-15 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ [15] And I said, `Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, `I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

Paul wasn’t literally persecuting Jesus in the flesh. He was warring against the Body of Christ. Jesus assumes here that the “Body of Christ” or the Church is literally identified with Him, in some very real sense. It’s the typically pungent, literal, graphic language and categories of the Bible. Paul was persecuting the Church:

Acts 9:1-2 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest [2] and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Acts 22:4-5 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, [5] as the high priest and the whole council of elders bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brethren, and I journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

Acts 26:10-11 I not only shut up many of the saints in prison, by authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. [11] And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme; and in raging fury against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Galatians 1:23 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; (cf. 1:23)

But Jesus told him that he was persecuting Him. This graphic one-to-one equation is seen elsewhere:

Ephesians 1:22-23 and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, [23] which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 5:23 . . . Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

Ephesians 5:28-32 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, [30] because we are members of his body. [31] “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” [32] This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;

Paul also reiterates the equation of persecution of the Church being the same as persecuting Jesus Himself:

1 Timothy 1:12-13 I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, [13] though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,

Elsewhere we see in the Apostle Paul not only very strong eucharistic realism (1 Cor 10:16; 11:27-30) but also an identification with the very suffering of Christ, in a startlingly realistic manner:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, (cf. 2 Cor 4:10; Gal 6:17; Phil 3:10)

Calvin can’t spiritualize away Paul’s bodily sufferings, as if they weren’t physical in nature. Likewise, he can’t spiritualize away the Holy Eucharist. Scripture is consistently realistic in tone, tenor, and language with regard to all these matters.

13. Transubstantiation as feigned by the Schoolmen. Refutation. The many superstitions introduced by their error.

The Schoolmen, horrified at this barbarous impiety, 

What impiety?

speak more modestly, though they do nothing more than amuse themselves with more subtle delusions. 

Quite an underhanded compliment . . .

They admit that Christ is not contained in the sacrament circumscriptively, or in a bodily manner, but they afterwards devise a method which they themselves do not understand, and cannot explain to others. 

Sounds rather like Calvin’s own discombobulated eucharistic theology.

It, however, comes to this, that Christ may be sought in what they call the species of bread. What? When they say that the substance of bread is converted into Christ, do they not attach him to the white colour, which is all they leave of it? But they say, that though contained in the sacrament, he still remains in heaven, and has no other presence there than that of abode. 

On what grounds can Calvin or his followers argue that this is impossible? I don’t see at all that it is impossible for God or prohibited by the Bible. Colossians 3:11 states that “Christ is all, and in all.” The Bible refers to God being “in” physical things, such as fire and clouds (so why not also under the appearances of bread and wine?). Exodus 33:9-10 even informs us that the ancient Israelites would worship God in the pillar of cloud and 2 Chronicles 7:3 states that they “bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped” before God in both the fire and the cloud. Moses and Aaron “fell on their faces” before the Shekinah glory cloud (Num 20:6). All of this is exactly analogous to eucharistic adoration of the host:


Exodus 3:2-6 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. [3] And Moses said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” [4] When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here am I.” [5] Then he said, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” [6] And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (cf. Acts 7:30-33; Dt. 4:12, 15; 5:4-5; Mk 12:26; Lk 20:37)

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them . . . by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night; (cf. 14:24)

Exodus 19:18 And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. (cf. 24:17)

Exodus 40:38 For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel. (cf. Num 14:14; Dt 1:32-33; Neh 9:12, 19)

Deuteronomy 4:12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. (cf. 4:15)

Deuteronomy 5:22 These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, . . . (cf. 9:10; 10:4)


Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, . . . (cf. 14:24; 16:10; Dt 1:33; 31:15)

Exodus 24:15-16 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. [16] The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

Exodus 33:9-11 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the door of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. [10] And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the door of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, every man at his tent door. [11] Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tent. . . . [14] And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (cf. Num 14:10, 14; 16:19, 42)

Exodus 34:5 And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

Exodus 40:34-38 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [35] And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [36] Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would go onward; [37] but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not go onward till the day that it was taken up. [38] For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, . . . (cf. Lev 9:4-6, 23)

Leviticus 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses, . . . “I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.” [ark of the covenant]

Numbers 11:25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him . . .

Numbers 20:6-7 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, [7] and the LORD said to Moses,

Deuteronomy 5:22 These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of . . . the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice . . .

1 Kings 8:11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. (cf. 2 Chr 5:14)

2 Chronicles 7:1-3 When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. [2] And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. [3] When all the children of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.”

Psalm 99:7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud . . . (cf. Neh 9:12,19)

Ezekiel 10:4, 18 And the glory of the LORD went up from the cherubim to the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the glory of the LORD. . . . Then the glory of the LORD went forth from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.

Yet Calvin would have us believe that it is implausible or unbiblical or impossible that God (after the Incarnation) could choose to be physically present in the consecrated elements? He simply cannot do so. It is a mere false tradition of men that would dogmatically assert such a thing without biblical justification. As I’ve just shown, the Bible has many indications of a local presence of God in physical things, even apart from the Incarnation.

Now that God has taken on human flesh, it is not implausible that He can also choose to be present under the appearances of bread and wine, just as He did in pillars of cloud and fire and burning bushes. Why should one thing be actual and the other allegedly not even plausible or possible? Jesus told us “this is My body.” He emphasizes this in very strong terms in the discourse of John 6. St. Paul reiterates it. Why does Calvin, then, doubt it?

Eucharistic presence is scarcely any essentially different than all these manifestations of His special presence. God was so present in the ark of the covenant, that Uzzah was killed instantly simply because he innocently touched it, to keep it from falling over (2 Sam 6:3-7; 1 Chr 13:7-10). Seventy men of Bethshemesh were slain because they (also seemingly innocently) looked into it (1 Sam 6:19).

God was so present in the Holy of Holies (Ex 26:33; 1 Kgs 6:19), that contained the ark of the covenant (Ex 26:34; 40:21; 1 Kgs 8:6; 2 Chr 5:7), that the priests only went in there once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and anyone who did on any other day, or not according to the proper ceremony, might be killed (Lev 16:2, 13). The River Jordan stopped flowing when the ark was carried through it (Josh 3:8-17; 4:1-18).

Joshua even bowed before the ark of the covenant on his face in a worshipful posture (Josh 7:6), and Levite priests thanked and praised God before it (1 Chr 16:4), just as Catholics genuflect and bow before the Holy Eucharist, and adore the Lord therein. King David “offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD” next to the ark (2 Sam 6:17), which is a precursor of the Sacrifice of the Mass. King Solomon did the same (1 Kgs 3:15; 2 Chr 5:6), and so did the Levites (1 Chr 16:1). Catholic practices are essentially nothing that hadn’t been done nearly 3000 years ago. They are made far more meaningful, however, after the incarnation and crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, whatever be the terms in which they attempt to make a gloss, the sum of all is, that that which was formerly bread, by consecration becomes Christ: so that Christ thereafter lies hid under the colour of bread. 

That’s correct; as the fathers taught.

This they are not ashamed distinctly to express. 

Why should we be, since Jesus and Paul did?

For Lombard’s words are, “The body of Christ, which is visible in itself, lurks and lies covered after the act of consecration under the species of bread” (Lombard. Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 12). Thus the figure of the bread is nothing but a mask which conceals the view of the flesh from our eye. But there is no need of many conjectures to detect the snare which they intended to lay by these words, since the thing itself speaks clearly. It is easy to see how great is the superstition under which not only the vulgar but the leaders also, have laboured for many ages, and still labour, in Popish Churches. 

If Calvin wishes to condemn the entirety of patristic eucharistic theology (and the explicit biblical rationale behind it), he is free to do so, but this also means that he can’t pretend to be “reforming” the Church back to her former state in this regard, since there never was a time when the Church believed as he does regarding the Eucharist. He can’t have his cake and eat it too (no pun intended).

If he wants to oppose the massive, unarguable historical evidence of early Church beliefs on the Eucharist, then he can’t at the same time maintain a pretense of supposedly going back to it and getting rid of “Popish” accretions and corruptions and inventions. He should honestly admit that his is no reform at all, but a novel revolution of thought.

Little solicitous as to true faith (by which alone we attain to the fellowship of Christ, and become one with him), provided they have his carnal presence, which they have fabricated without authority from the word, they think he is sufficiently present. Hence we see, that all which they have gained by their ingenious subtlety is to make bread to be regarded as God.

Calvin does the latter, as I alluded to above, since he makes the bread remain bread, yet wants to talk as if God is specially, mystically, spiritually present in it. So if anyone is confusing bread and God, it is Calvin. He is mixing the two in an odd, illogical manner. Lutherans, on the other hand, make it clear that both bread and God are present, and distinguish the two, while Catholics explicitly hold to a change in substance from bread to God.

Therefore, neither Lutherans nor Catholics “make bread to be regarded as God.” Calvin is doing that. We have plenty of biblical warrant. Calvin, however, has to change Scripture in order to believe as he does. Scripture isn’t clear enough as it is. So it needs to be changed. Here, then, is the Revised Calvin Version (RCV) of the classic eucharistic texts:

Luke 22:19-20 (RCV) And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is represents my body which is given for you, as a sign and seal. Do this in remembrance of me.” [20] And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you represents the new covenant in my blood, as a sign and seal.”

1 Corinthians 10:16 (RCV) The cup of blessing which we bless, does it not represent and signify in a spiritual manner the blood of Christ, that we mystically participate in? The bread which we break, does it not represent and signify in a spiritual manner the body of Christ, that we mystically participate in?

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (RCV) Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning what represents and signifies as a spiritual sign the body and blood of the Lord. [28] Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. [29] For any one who eats and drinks without discerning what represents and signifies as a spiritual sign the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.

14. The fiction of transubstantiation why invented contrary to Scripture, and the consent of antiquity. The term of transubstantiation never used in the early Church. Objection. Answer.
Hence proceeded that fictitious transubstantiation for which they fight more fiercely in the present day than for all the other articles of their faith. For the first architects of local presence could not explain, how the body of Christ could be mixed with the substance of bread, without forthwith meeting with many absurdities. Hence it was necessary to have recourse to the fiction, that there is a conversion of the bread into body, not that properly instead of bread it becomes body, but that Christ, in order to conceal himself under the figure, reduces the substance to nothing. 

Well, no; transubstantiation means literally, “change of substance,” so the view is that the substance changes from bread to the Body and Blood of Christ, not that it changes to “nothing.” This makes perfect sense, since Jesus said “this is My body” and referred to eating His flesh and drinking His blood in John 6. Calvin simply lacks faith that God can do this miracles. He wants to limit God and place His actions in arbitrary categories of his own making: certainly not from scriptural indications.

It is strange that they have fallen into such a degree of ignorance, nay, of stupor, as to produce this monstrous fiction not only against Scripture, but also against the consent of the ancient Church. I admit, indeed, that some of the ancients occasionally used the term conversion, not that they meant to do away with the substance in the external signs, but to teach that the bread devoted to the sacrament was widely different from ordinary bread, and was now something else. 

What else does “conversion” or “transformation” or “change” mean? This is just more word games from Calvin. He thinks that if he wishes long enough, that the fathers will magically agree with him, when in fact they do not at all. Calvin would have it that the consent of the ancient Church is on his side, with regard to this question. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s wearisome to have to repeatedly point out historical facts over against Calvin. But I’m happy to set the record straight and reveal once again the surprisingly great weakness of Calvin’s historical arguments (as well as biblical ones).

All clearly and uniformly teach that the sacred Supper consists of two parts, an earthly and a heavenly. The earthly they without dispute interpret to be bread and wine. Certainly, whatever they may pretend, it is plain that antiquity, which they often dare to oppose to the clear word of God, gives no countenance to that dogma. It is not so long since it was devised; indeed, it was unknown not only to the better ages, in which a purer doctrine still flourished, but after that purity was considerably impaired. There is no early Christian writer who does not admit in distinct terms that the sacred symbols of the Supper are bread and wine, although, as has been said, they sometimes distinguish them by various epithets, in order to recommend the dignity of the mystery. 

This is sheer nonsense, and one can prove it by citing prominent Protestant historians of Christian doctrine. For example:

In general, this period, . . . was already very strongly inclined toward the doctrine of transubstantiation, and toward the Greek and Roman sacrifice of the mass, which are inseparable in so far as a real sacrifice requires the real presence of the victim…… (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, A. D. 311-600, revised 5th edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, reprinted 1974, originally 1910, p. 500)

Theodore [c.350-428] set forth the doctrine of the real presence, and even a theory of sacramental transformation of the elements, in highly explicit language . . . ‘At first it is laid upon the altar as a mere bread and wine mixed with water, but by the coming of the Holy Spirit it is transformed into body and blood, and thus it is changed into the power of a spiritual and immortal nourishment.’ [Hom. catech. 16,36] these and similar passages in Theodore are an indication that the twin ideas of the transformation of the eucharistic elements and the transformation of the communicant were so widely held and so firmly established in the thought and language of the church that everyone had to acknowledge them. (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971, 236-237)

Since Calvin insists that the fathers agree with him, I will now document that they do not; that transubstantiation in kernel form (not yet fully developed, as in the case of all complex doctrines, such as the Holy Trinity and Christology, that develop over many centuries) was indeed taught by many fathers, just as historian Philip Schaff (no fan of the doctrine at all) verified:

St. Irenaeus

When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?—even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that “we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh; but [he refers to] that dispensation [by which the Lord became] an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones,—that [flesh] which is nourished by the cup which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread which is His body. (Against Heresies, V, 2, 3; ANF, Vol. I)


You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise care lest a particle fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. . . . But if you observe such caution in keeping His Body, and properly so, how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His Body? (Homilies on Exodus, 13, 3)

St. Cyprian

And therefore we ask that our bread—that is, Christ—may be given to us daily, that we who abide and live in Christ may not depart from His sanctification and body. (On the Lord’s Prayer / Treatise IV, 18; ANF, Vol. V)

St. Athanasius

You will see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body. (Sermon to the Newly-Baptized)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

For as the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist before the invocation of the Holy and Adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, while after the invocation the Bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ . . . (Catechetical Lecture XIX, 7; NPNF 2, Vol. VII)

Even of itself the teaching of the Blessed Paul is sufficient to give you a full assurance concerning those Divine Mysteries, of which having been deemed worthy, ye are become of the same body and blood with Christ . . . Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood? (Catechetical Lecture XXII, 1; NPNF 2, Vol. VII)

Wherefore with full assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mayest be made of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature. (Catechetical Lecture XXII, 3; NPNF 2, Vol. VII)

Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to thee, yet let faith establish thee. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouchsafed to thee. (Catechetical Lecture XXII, 6; NPNF 2, Vol. VII)

Having learnt these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ . . . (Catechetical Lecture XXII, 9; NPNF 2, Vol. VII)

Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual Hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He may make the Bread the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.

Then, after the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless service, is completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we entreat God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world; for kings; for soldiers and allies; for the sick; for the afflicted; and, in a word, for all who stand in need of succour we all pray and offer this sacrifice. (Catechetical Lecture XXIII, 7-8; NPNF 2, Vol. VII)

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Rightly, then, do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word. (The Great Catechism, chapter XXXVII; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

The footnote in NPNF 2 for this passage states:

by the process of eating . . . If Krabinger’s text is here correct, Gregory distinctly teaches a transmutation of the elements very like the later transubstantiation: he also distinctly teaches that the words of consecration effect the change. There seems no reason to doubt that the text is correct.

St. Ambrose

. . . We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet’s blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: “He spake and they were made, He commanded and they were created.” Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.

The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: “This is My Body.” Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. (On the Mysteries, Chapter IX, 50, 52-55; NPNF 2, Vol. X)

St. John Chrysostom

Christ is present. The One who prepared that [Holy Thursday] table is the very One who now prepares this [altar] table. For it is not a man who makes the sacrificial gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He that was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and grace is of God. “This is My Body,” he says. This statement transforms the gifts. (Homilies on the Treachery of Judas, 1, 6)

St. Augustine

For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, becomes Christ’s body. (Sermons, 234, 2)

St. Cyril of Alexandria

He states demonstratively: “This is My Body,” and “This is My Blood“(Mt. 26:26-28) “lest you might suppose the things that are seen as a figure. Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God the things seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered in a sacrifice in which we, as participants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ. (Commentary on Matthew [Mt. 26:27] )

Moreover, the belief of these same Church fathers, en masse, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the adoration of the Body and Blood after consecration, attests to their realism, over against Calvin’s mere mystical symbolism. We shall examine that aspect in the near future, in reply to Calvin’s (absurd, anti-historical, anti-patristic) thoughts on the Mass.

For when they say that a secret conversion takes place at consecration, so that it is now something else than bread and wine, their meaning, as I already observed, is, not that these are annihilated, but that they are to be considered in a different light from common food, which is only intended to feed the body, whereas in the former the spiritual food and drink of the mind are exhibited. This we deny not. But, say our opponents, if there is conversion, one thing must become another. If they mean that something becomes different from what it was before, I assent. If they will wrest it in support of their fiction, let them tell me of what kind of change they are sensible in baptism. For here, also, the Fathers make out a wonderful conversion, when they say that out of the corruptible element is made the spiritual laver of the soul, and yet no one denies that it still remains water. 

This is true, but it is an invalid analogy, because no one is claiming in baptism that waters becomes something else: only that it acquires supernatural powers in conjunction with a baptismal formula. Jesus never said that baptismal water would become His Body and Blood, whereas He did say that with regard to what were formerly bread and wine. It’s an entirely different scenario, so there is no analogy. The information we have in Scripture regarding both cases is entirely different in kind.

But say they, there is no such expression in Baptism as that in the Supper, This is my body; as if we were treating of these words, which have a meaning sufficiently clear, and not rather of that term conversion, which ought not to mean more in the Supper than in Baptism. Have done, then, with those quibbles upon words, which betray nothing but their silliness. 

It’s not silly at all (but it is sophistry and desperate obfuscation to conclude that an obviously relevant point is “silliness”). Catholics are accepting at face value the actual words of Scripture and our Lord. Calvin is not. It’s really as simple and obvious as that. Calvin doesn’t have enough faith to believe our Lord’s words as He spoke them. He would rather hyper-analyze them and apply men’s traditions and non-biblical philosophies, so that he can change their meaning. We believe in faith that the bread and wine are transformed, but Calvin, lacking faith, believes in transforming the clear import and meaning of Jesus’ words: reading into them what clearly isn’t there.

The meaning would have no congruity, unless the truth which is there figured had a living image in the external sign. Christ wished to testify by an external symbol that his flesh was food. 

That’s not what He said! That is Calvin eisegetically reading into what He said. Jesus said “this is my body” not “this represents my Body as a sign and symbol.” St. Paul casually assumed the same eucharistic realism, and even said that those approaching the Eucharist unworthily were guilty of profaning Jesus’ Body and Blood (1 Cor 11:27-30): something that makes no sense whatever if only symbols are present.

If he exhibited merely an empty show of bread, and not true bread, where is the analogy or similitude to conduct us from the visible thing to the invisible? For, in order to make all things consistent, the meaning cannot extend to more than this, that we are fed by the species of Christ’s flesh; just as, in the case of baptism, if the figure of water deceived the eye, it would not be to us a sure pledge of our ablution; nay, the fallacious spectacle would rather throw us into doubt. The nature of the sacrament is therefore overthrown, if in the mode of signifying the earthly sign corresponds not to the heavenly reality; and, accordingly, the truth of the mystery is lost if true bread does not represent the true body of Christ.

No; Calvin just doesn’t go deep enough in his understanding. In the Holy Eucharist Jesus gives us Himself, not just signs and figures of Himself. That is the beauty and profundity of it. It extends the incarnation, just as the various extraordinary manifestations of God’s spiritual presence extended the notion of omnipresence. When God was known as a spirit only, He was specially present spiritually and immaterially, yet directly connected with physical objects, as in the ark of the covenant, or fire, or clouds.

Even then He manifested Himself physically on occasion (as in theophanies). Now, after the incarnation and Sacrifice of the Lamb, and the resurrection, He makes Himself present physically as well, in a miraculous way. Why this should be scandalous to anyone is a bigger mystery than transubstantiation itself. Jesus is our paschal lamb. The lamb was eaten at every Passover. If Calvin wants to talk analogies, the Eucharist shouldn’t be compared to baptism, but to the Passover meal, which is what the Last Supper was.

But Calvin would have it that the Jews ate Lamb, while Christians eat merely “special” bread and wine, representing Jesus’ Body and Blood. This nullifies the entire analogy of the Sacrificial Lamb now being Christ Himself, and forsakes the typical Jewish realism and literalism, substituting for it a Greek abstraction and disembodied ethereal spiritualism. That’s a step backward, not forward.

I again repeat, since the Supper is nothing but a conspicuous attestation to the promise which is contained in the sixth chapter of John—viz. that Christ is the bread of life, who came down from heaven, that visible bread must intervene, in order that that spiritual bread may be figured, unless we would destroy all the benefits with which God here favours us for the purpose of sustaining our infirmity. Then on what ground could Paul infer that we are all one bread, and one body in partaking together of that one bread, if only the semblance of bread, and not the natural reality, remained?

He does so on the grounds that we really receive Jesus. He becomes part of us and we become part of Him, in the eucharistic mystery and miracle, and in line with 2 Peter 1:3-4 and the biblical notion of theosis, or divinization. We are the Body of Christ, which is equated with Jesus own body in a large sense. We don’t deny that there is also a figure of bread and wine involved (just as St. Augustine taught), and Paul still uses that language. But he means it quite literally, whereas Calvin spiritualizes everything away. We don’t deny the symbolism, but Calvin denies the reality. He is (as usual) “either/or”; we are “both/and.”

15. The error of transubstantiation favoured by the consecration, which was a kind of magical incantation. The bread is not a sacrament to itself, but to those who receive it. The changing of the rod of Moses into a serpent gives no countenance to Popish transubstantiation. No resemblance between it and the words of institution in the Supper. Objection. Answer.
They could not have been so shamefully deluded by the impostures of Satan had they not been fascinated by the erroneous idea, that the body of Christ included under the bread is transmitted by the bodily mouth into the belly. The cause of this brutish imagination was, that consecration had the same effect with them as magical incantation. 

“Magic” is something that Calvin has derisively superimposed onto Catholic doctrine. It is not magic by men’s will and power, but mystery and miracle by God’s will and power. He is the one who set up Holy Communion, at the Last Supper, and in the John 6 discourse. All we’re doing is being obedient, in doing what He commanded us to do, and eating His Body and Blood, as He said we should do in order to be saved (John 6). Calvin is foolish enough to apply to Catholics what the pagan Romans applied to all Christians: a notion that Holy Communion was a crude cannibalism. He’d rather think like a pagan than like apostolic Christians (like St. Paul).

They overlooked the principle, that bread is a sacrament to none but those to whom the word is addressed, just as the water of baptism is not changed in itself, but begins to be to us what it formerly was not, as soon as the promise is annexed. 

Baptism exercises its power due to faith and the trinitarian baptismal formula pronounced over it. Likewise, transubstantiation occurs when the priest, exercising faith with the congregants, pronounces for formula of consecration over the bread and wine. Change occurs in both instances, though in a different fashion: baptism causes a regeneration in the baptized (which Calvin denies). The words of consecration cause transubstantiation, and the bread and wine become the Body and Blood (which Calvin denies), just as they did at the Last Supper. Calvin compares the wrong things to each other, and so misses the common elements between both sacraments. Matter conveys grace in both instances.

This will better appear from the example of a similar sacrament. The water gushing from the rock in the desert was to the Israelites a badge and sign of the same thing that is figured to us in the Supper by wine. 

Where does Scripture say that? Nowhere, of course . . .

For Paul declares that they drank the same spiritual drink (1 Cor. 10:4). But the water was common to the herds and flocks of the people. Hence it is easy to infer, that in the earthly elements, when employed for a spiritual use, no other conversion takes place than in respect of men, inasmuch as they are to them seals of promises. 

Again, this ignores the very words of Christ, which are conclusive in determining the very nature of the sacrament. Calvin makes an improper analogy once again, presumably in desperation, since he keeps skirting around the central issue of Jesus’ own words.

Moreover, since it is the purpose of God, as I have repeatedly inculcated, to raise us up to himself by fit vehicles, those who indeed call us to Christ, but to Christ lurking invisibly under bread, impiously, by their perverseness, defeat this object. For it is impossible for the mind of man to disentangle itself from the immensity of space, and ascend to Christ even above the heavens. 

Yes, of course, it is impossible for us under our own power, but that is again beside the point: it is God Who chooses to descend and condescend to us in the Holy Eucharist. Calvin’s “anti-eucharistic realism” arguments are becoming increasingly irrelevant and desperate.

What nature denied them, they attempted to gain by a noxious remedy. 

One proposed by Jesus Christ and verified by St. Paul . . . if that is “noxious,” may we all be filled with it! I’d rather be “noxious” in faith than obnoxious out of lack of faith and pagan-derived skepticism.

Remaining on the earth, they felt no need of a celestial proximity to Christ. Such was the necessity which impelled them to transfigure the body of Christ. In the age of Bernard, though a harsher mode of speech had prevailed, transubstantiation was not yet recognised. And in all previous ages, the similitude in the mouths of all was, that a spiritual reality was conjoined with bread and wine in this sacrament. 

The patristic evidence presented above amply refutes this characterization.

As to the terms, they think they answer acutely, though they adduce nothing relevant to the case in hand. The rod of Moses (they say), when turned into a serpent, though it acquires the name of a serpent, still retains its former name, and is called a rod; and thus, according to them, it is equally probable that though the bread passes into a new substance, it is still called by catachresis, and not inaptly, what it still appears to the eye to be. But what resemblance, real or apparent, do they find between an illustrious miracle and their fictitious illusion, of which no eye on the earth is witness? The magi by their impostures had persuaded the Egyptians, that they had a divine power above the ordinary course of nature to change created beings. Moses comes forth, and after exposing their fallacies, shows that the invincible power of God is on his side, since his rod swallows up all the other rods. But as that conversion was visible to the eye, we have already observed, that it has no reference to the case in hand. Shortly after the rod visibly resumed its form. 

Here Calvin seems to imply that what is not visible to the eye is therefore questionable and unworthy of belief due to that factor alone. And that betrays his undue skepticism and lack of faith in the miracles of God. I wrote in my Jan/Feb 2000 cover story in Envoy Magazine about the Eucharist, in opposing Zwingli’s symbolism, which is not far from Calvin’s view:

The Eucharist was intended by God as a different kind of miracle from the outset, requiring more profound faith, as opposed to the “proof” of tangible, empirical miracles. But in this it was certainly not unique among Christian doctrines and traditional beliefs – many fully shared by our Protestant brethren. The Virgin Birth, for example, cannot be observed or proven, and is the utter opposite of a demonstrable miracle, yet it is indeed a miracle of the most extraordinary sort. Likewise, in the Atonement of Jesus the world sees a wretch of a beaten and tortured man being put to death on a cross. The Christian, on the other hand, sees there the great miracle of Redemption and the means of the salvation of mankind – an unspeakably sublime miracle, yet who but those with the eyes of faith can see or believe it? In fact, the disciples (with the possible exception of St. John, the only one present) didn’t even know what was happening at the time.

Baptism, according to most Christians, imparts real grace of some sort to those who receive it. But this is rarely evident or tangible, especially in infants. Lastly, the Incarnation itself was not able to be perceived as an outward miracle, though it might be considered the most incredible miracle ever. Jesus appeared as a man like any other man. He ate, drank, slept, had to wash, experienced emotion, suffered, etc. He performed miracles and foretold the future, and ultimately raised Himself from the dead, and ascended into heaven in full view, but the Incarnation – strictly viewed in and of itself -, was not visible or manifest in the tangible, concrete way to which Herr Zwingli seems to foolishly think God would or must restrict Himself.

To summarize, Jesus looked, felt, and sounded like a man; no one but those possessing faith would know (from simply observing Him) that He was also God, an uncreated Person who had made everything upon which He stood, who was the Sovereign and Judge of every man with whom He came in contact (and also of those He never met). Therefore, Zwingli’s argument proves too much and must be rejected. If the Eucharist is abolished by this supposed “biblical reasoning,” then the Incarnation (and by implication, the Trinity) must be discarded along with it. . . .

The fact remains that God clearly can perform any miracle He so chooses. Many Christian beliefs require a great deal of faith, even relatively “blind” faith. Protestants manage to believe in a number of such doctrines (such as the Trinity, God’s eternal existence, omnipotence, angels, the power of prayer, instantaneous justification, the Second Coming, etc.). Why should the Real Presence be singled out for excessive skepticism and unchecked rationalism? I contend that it is due to a preconceived bias against both sacramentalism and matter as a conveyor of grace, which hearkens back to the heresies of Docetism and even Gnosticism, which looked down upon matter, and regarded spirit as inherently superior to matter (following Greek philosophy, particularly Platonism).

It may be added, that we know not whether this was an extemporary conversion of substance. For we must attend to the illusion to the rods of the magicians, which the prophet did not choose to term serpents, lest he might seem to insinuate a conversion which had no existence, because those impostors had done nothing more than blind the eyes of the spectators. But what resemblance is there between that expression and the following? “The bread which we break;”—“As often as ye eat this bread;”—“They communicated in the breaking of bread;” and so forth. 

That was phenomenological language; in other words, referring to what looked outwardly like bread. In the same context that Paul said these things, he also described the Eucharist as “a participation in the Body of Christ” (1 Cor 10:16) and said that “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).

Calvin wants to present the phenomenological language alone because that seems to bolster his case, while omitting the realist language that goes along with it in each case. That won’t do; it is ultimately dishonest and deceptive argumentation: not fair to those of his readers who seek biblical truth.

It is certain that the eye only was deceived by the incantation of the magicians. The matter is more doubtful with regard to Moses, by whose hand it was not more difficult for God to make a serpent out of a rod, and again to make a rod out of a serpent, than to clothe angels with corporeal bodies, and a little after unclothe them. If the case of the sacrament were at all akin to this, there might be some colour for their explanation. 

I don’t make this argument myself, and don’t know how prominent it was. Calvin is not known for fair presentation of opposing views, so we can’t tell for sure how widespread such an argument was.

Let it, therefore, remain fixed that there is no true and fit promise in the Supper, that the flesh of Christ is truly meat, unless there is a correspondence in the true substance of the external symbol. 

And where is such a thing ever stated in Scripture, or even implied?

But as one error gives rise to another, a passage in Jeremiah has been so absurdly wrested, to prove transubstantiation, that it is painful to refer to it. The prophet complains that wood was placed in his bread, intimating that by the cruelty of his enemies his bread was infected with bitterness, as David by a similar figure complains, “They gave me also gall for my meat: and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21). These men would allegorise the expression to mean, that the body of Christ was nailed to the wood of the cross. But some of the Fathers thought so! As if we ought not rather to pardon their ignorance and bury the disgrace, than to add impudence, and bring them into hostile conflict with the genuine meaning of the prophet.

Nor have I ever made this argument myself, and I don’t know how prominent it was, either, so I’ll pass over it. I’m much more interested in Calvin’s positive arguments for his view, not his mocking of opposing views that were made by who knows how many people. I’ve brought plenty of Bible to the table in my own defense of Catholic views: most of which seem to be unknown or ignored by Calvin.


(originally 24-25 November 2009)

Photo credit: Historical mixed media figure of John Calvin produced by artist/historian George S. Stuart and photographed by Peter d’Aprix: from the George S. Stuart Gallery of Historical Figures archive [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]


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