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May 19, 2021

Reformed Belgic Confession (1561) and Second Helvetic Confession (1566)

[Taken from Chapter Ten of the above volume (see book and purchase information), completed in June 2002]

Belgic Confession (1561)
[Words from the Belgic Confession will be in blue]

Article 29: The Marks of the True Church

We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God,

Who is to discern? The individual? Seems like it to me.

What is the true church– for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.” We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.” The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel;

What is the gospel? What is “pure preaching” of it? How many errors are allowed? For example, Luther’s baptismal regeneration is anathema to the Reformed, so is his gospel not a pure one; thus Lutherans — and many Anglicans and Methodists, etc. — are not in the “true church”; therefore not Christians? What about the Reformed Baptists who don’t baptize infants — some or many of whom would even deny that baptism is a sacrament at all?

If the gospel is defined as the Calvinist TULIP or suchlike, then this is circular reasoning (the gospel is merely what these folks say it is, on the basis of their own unproven and unsupported axioms). The Bible, which is supposedly the criteria of truthfulness here, does
no such thing. It defines the gospel as the birth (incarnation), life (with all its miracles and teaching), death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, not as some technical theory of soteriology and justification. One can certainly deduce some theory of soteriology from it, but my point is that this is not what the Bible describes as “the gospel.”

it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them;

How did Christ institute them? We have seen the differences concerning baptism above. So are Lutherans and Reformed Baptists and other sorts of Baptists out of the fold? As to the Eucharist, similarly serious differences arise. Lutherans believe in consubstantiation; so their belief here is not “pure.” And of course, if we look to the early Church Fathers, they unanimously accepted the Real Presence, so that one must believe that the
apostasy of the early Church on this score was well-nigh universal, and that only in the 16th-century was true eucharistic belief restored, and even then not by Luther (or for that matter, Zwingli), but by Calvin.

Now, what authority does he have? Certainly not apostolic authority, nor the prestige of passed-down apostolic Tradition, as his view is a novelty and an innovation. So there are a host of difficulties in almost every sentence here. The words may sound great, but they conceal myriad historical and biblical problems and contradictions, as clearly seen in this merely brief, cursory treatment.

it practices church discipline for correcting faults.

Sure, then when someone disagrees, he simply goes to another sect, on the basis of his own judgment as to what the pure church is, based on the Word of God (first sentence above). He applies the same criteria stated here to go somewhere else, because the final authority must reside in the individual, due to unresolvable difficulties and contradictions among the various sects. These appeared at the beginning of the Protestant Revolt
(inevitably) and will always remain, because of this flawed principle of how one determines theological truth. If in fact there had always been one Protestant Church and one only, then these axioms might hold at least some water, but as this has never been the case, the system is burdened by self-contradiction and an inability to consistently apply these standards to the real world.

In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head.

This sounds noble and glorious, but it is not nearly this simple, because there were and are foundational differences on almost every issue where Protestantism is to be distinguished from Catholicism in the first place. Until these can be resolved, then such talk within the Protestant paradigm is a pipe dream of the most illusory sort.

By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church — and no one ought to be separated from it.

The only self-consistent, historically demonstrable way to establish this is by apostolic succession and an examination of history (as the Fathers taught). No Protestant sect can pass this test. But even using their own stated criteria of authenticity above, no one can figure out which sect is the true one, because the doctrinal disagreements run too deep and are too serious.

As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith,

What is faith? Protestants disagree on this, too. How does regeneration and election relate to personal faith? How is one assured of saving faith? Can one lose that and fall away?, etc.

and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.

This sounds great, too, but it has never occurred in an entire group. Since sin is present in all professed Christian groups, the absence of it can hardly be the “proof” of the authenticity of one sect over another.

Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.

Virtually all Christian groups would adhere to this notion, so it is of no help for our task, either.

As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ;

What does this mean?

it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases;

The problems in this statement were already discussed. One can either appeal to the constant Tradition throughout the ages and apostolic succession, or else choose one of a host of Protestant options, all themselves ultimately arbitrary and man-centered and unable to be supported by Church history.

it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ;

No Christian system is more man-centered than Protestantism, where a single man’s word (Calvin, Luther, Fox et al) has the greatest authority, far greater than any pope ever dreamt of. Any local pastor has far more influence or effect on the lives of his congregation than the pope has on a Catholic, in a practical, everyday sense. That’s why Protestant congregations often split in two merely because a popular pastor might feel called to move on to another assembly.

it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

The sin argument resolves nothing. Protestants were at least as intolerant in the 16th century as Catholics — arguably far more, especially in light of their supposed principles of tolerance and supremacy of the individual conscience.

These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.

Not quite. Until Protestants can answer the difficulties I raised above, and many more brought about by their utter inability to resolve their own internal squabbles, any claim to a true Church in their ranks, of whatever character, visible or invisible, institutional, creedal, confessional, or metaphysical, over against the Catholic Church, is self-defeating, upon close scrutiny.

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566)
[Words in green]

Chapter 2 – Of Interpreting the Holy Scriptures; and of
Fathers, Councils, and Traditions [complete]

The True Interpretation of Scripture. The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (II Peter 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations.

How many are allowed then? Which ones, and why?

Nor consequently do we acknowledge as the true or genuine interpretation of the Scriptures what is called the conception of the Roman Church, that is, what the defenders of the Roman Church plainly maintain should be thrust upon all for acceptance.

Obviously not, having enthroned private judgment of individuals and traditions of men in its place . . .

But we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of
God and man’s salvation.

More high-sounding, pious, noble language with little concrete or particular content. This assumes (quite absurdly) that Protestants are in sole possession of these hermeneutical tools, and that one “true” teaching on any topic will appear and be evident to all true followers of Christ. These are pipe dreams.

Interpretations of the Holy Fathers. Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures;

Who decides where they agree or disagree, and by what criteria? There are a host of doctrines where the Fathers contradict Reformed Christianity en masse.

but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures.

Who decides what the Scriptures teach? A panel of venerable, grey-bearded Reformed worthies, assembled in 1566?

Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree or disagree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.

Yes, as judged by the apostolic Church and its authoritative Councils, and its popes, not by individuals eight, nine, or ten centuries later who count the noses of their comrades in some given sect and conclude that the majority opinion is therefore the “biblical” one.

Councils. And in the same order also we place the decrees and canons of councils. Wherefore we do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number who share the same opinion, or by the prescription of a long time. Who is the judge? Therefore, we do not admit any other judge than God himself, who proclaims by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what to be avoided.

But of course! God will settle all the issues! Who could argue with that? But as we are not God, but mere men — and prophets are a relatively rare occurrence –, there must be some human Christian authority as well — binding in some sense; to some degree. One can, then, either believe that God promised to guide His Church and preserve it free from error, under a properly unified authority, with councils and bishops and a gift of
infallibility (as Catholics believe) or that individuals ultimately decide what is or what is not true, dissenting from councils, Tradition, the Fathers, and apostolic succession alike if needs be. These are given lip service above and elsewhere in similar Protestant statements, but it is obvious that the individual retains the right to dissent from all of this ecclesiastical authority, since his conscience is supreme. It all began with Luther at Worms.

So we do assent to the judgments of spiritual men which are drawn from the Word of God. Certainly Jeremiah and other prophets vehemently condemned the assemblies of priests which were set up against the law of God; and diligently admonished us that we should not listen to the
fathers, or tread in their path who, walking in their own inventions, swerved from the law of God.

This is a large reason why I became a Catholic: because Protestant innovations were merely the inventions of men. They had no pedigree in Church history, and thus, no reason to be accepted. The Catholic believes that just as the Holy Spirit can teach people today, that He could do so in the past — that Christian history of thought means something. G.K. Chesterton insightfully described Tradition as “the democracy of the dead.”

Traditions of Men. Likewise we reject human traditions, even if they be adorned with high-sounding titles, as though they were divine and apostolical, delivered to the Church by the living voice of the apostles, and, as it were, through the hands of apostolical men to succeeding
bishops which, when compared with the Scriptures, disagree with them; and by their disagreement show that they are not apostolic at all. For as the apostles did not contradict themselves in doctrine, so the apostolic men did not set forth things contrary to the apostles. On the contrary, it would be wicked to assert that the apostles by a living voice delivered anything contrary to their writings. Paul affirms expressly that he taught the same things in all churches (1 Cor. 4:17). And, again, “For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand.” (2 Cor. 1:13). Also, in another place, he testifies that he and his disciples–that is, apostolic men–walked in the same way, and jointly by the same Spirit did all things (2 Cor. 12:18). Moreover, the Jews in former times had the traditions of their elders; but these traditions were severely rejected by the Lord, indicating that the keeping of them hinders God’s law, and that God is worshipped in vain by such traditions (Matt. 15:1ff.; Mark 7:1 ff.).

Who determines which teachings are “traditions of men” and how? And why should we value their opinions or heed their authority more so than the venerable Fathers of the Church?

***

Summary: I interact with two 16th century Protestant confessions: particularly their treatment of ecclesiology and private judgment. I ask the hard questions that these confessions ignore.

***

March 15, 2021

This exchange took place on atheist Jonathan MS Pearce’s forum. Words of Deepak Shetty (presumed atheist) will be in blue.

*****

Jesus is commonly known to (not necessarily in the Bible, but the popular impression):

a. Love everyone
b. Be for the poor and the under privileged
c. Not pass judgement on anyone
d. Be for peace  not war, a turn the other cheek type of guy.

or in other words a very hippie liberal. For the sake of this conversation Ill concede all the above about Jesus.

Does that sound like any American Christian conservative ?

As for you, I don’t know enough about you to say whether you follow these values or not, But I’d say a true follower of Jesus would have given up his belongings and would have been helping all the poor and underprivileged – rather than spending his time on Internet arguments with random non-believers, no?

This is a joke, right?

Which one? The one where Jesus expects his followers to follow a high standard in their lives? Or the one where you thump your chest on how Christian you are while not actually doing any of the hard things Jesus expects you to?

Or maybe I missed the parable where the sinner approaches Peter who then blocks him on Twitter or something.

Here’s what you missed (the first three from Paul, the fourth from Jesus):

2 Timothy 2:23 (RSV) Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

Titus 3:9 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile.

Romans 12:8 If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.

[in other words, sometimes it’s not possible, having done all we could do]

Matthew 10:13-14 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. [14] And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

a. Love everyone
b. Be for the poor and the under privileged

Absolutely. You are correct. And I do that (imperfectly, but I try).

c. Not pass judgement on anyone

This has to be properly understood. It’s a very widely misunderstood thing. We are not to judge falsely or uncharitably or unjustly (Mt 7:1-2) or hypocritically (Rom 2:1, 3). We are to be open-minded and believe the best of people (a Corinthians 13). But the Bible doesn’t prohibit all judging whatever. So, for example:

Matthew 12:27 And if I cast out demons by Be-el’zebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

1 Corinthians 6:2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?

There are other similar terms like discern, rebuke, correct that express essentially the same thing.

Be for peace , not war , a turn the other cheek type of guy.

We are to seek peace and non-confrontation as much as possible. But these aren’t absolutes, either. The Bible doesn’t teach pacifism, nor the necessity of turning the other cheek in every circumstance, as I have written about:

Pacifism vs. “Just War”: Biblical & Social Factors

Jesus Didn’t Always Turn the Other Cheek (Proverbs)

or in other words a very hippie liberal.

In other words, this is the widespread misconception based on ignorance of what the Bible and Christianity actually teach.

As for you, I don’t know enough about you to say whether you follow these values or not

I commend you for your unassuming charity (very rare on this forum towards Christians, as I well know). Thanks!

But I’d say a true follower of Jesus would have given up his belongings and would have been helping all the poor and underprivileged

We are required to do the latter, and there are many ways to do so. The former is not at all required (unless one wants to heroically renounce possessions, like some monks and nuns do). See:

Who Must Renounce All Possessions to Follow Jesus? [National Catholic Register, 1-21-21]

– rather than spending his time on Internet arguments with random non-believers, no?

It’s not both/and. We are required to care for the poor and share our faith. See (out of dozens of such passages):

Jude 3 . . . contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

1 Timothy 4:5 . . . do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.

[I am an evangelist and apologist, and have been full-time for over 19 years]

See also eight references to “preach the gospel”.

St. Paul regularly argued with the townspeople, wherever he went. See, for example his exchanges with Greeks in Athens on Mars Hill: a famous debating spot, including “Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” (Acts 17:18).

Technically, I almost never come here to simply “preach the gospel.” My main purpose is to respond to criticisms of the Bible and Christianity and show where they don’t carry any weight or are factually wrong. That’s apologetics, which is massively encouraged in the Bible. See:

The Biblical Basis of Apologetics (Defense of Christianity)

***

Photo credit: St Paul Preaching in Athens (1515), by Raphael (1483-1520) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: This is a sadly typical exchange where an atheist presumes to know so much more of the Bible than any given Christian does, and so proceeds to — accordingly –, sanctimoniously lecture.

***

May 13, 2020

This came about in a related discussion concerning the Judaizers — in the combox of a post about whether Francis Beckwith, prominent Catholic convert, is saved. Anti-Catholic Protestant apologist Jason Engwer’s words will be in blue.

* * * * *

We believe in sola gratia as you do, but reject sola fide as an unbiblical innovation. The fact remains that works are profoundly involved in the salvation (ultimately by grace) in some sense:

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

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

They are even central to the criteria of how God will decide who is saved and who isn’t, as I have proven from no less than 50 Bible passages:

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

We interpret all this in a non-Pelagian fashion. We incorporate all of Scripture, not just our favorite pet verses. You guys simply ignore this data or act as if it is only in the realm of sanctification and has nothing whatever to do with salvation, which is absurdly simplistic and unrealistic in the face of the overwhelming data showing otherwise.

Paul’s focus in Galatians is on the means by which justification is attained (Galatians 3:2), not whether justification is attributed to grace. The idea that one can seek justification through a combination between faith and works, as long as the process is attributed to grace, is a contradiction of what Paul taught. If works are absent from Genesis 15:6, Acts 10:44-46, Galatians 3:2, and other relevant passages, then saying that the works are preceded by and accompanied by grace doesn’t make sense. There are no works for grace to accompany in such passages. To make this a matter of whether the works are attributed to grace is to get the gospel fundamentally wrong. There’s no need to discuss whether non-existent works are works of grace or graceless works. The gospel shuts us up to faith, not to a combination between faith and gracious works (Galatians 3:21-25).

Then why are works always central in every discussion of the final judgment that I could find in Scripture (50 passages: linked to above)?

The final judgment involves more than the means by which the justified attained that justification. It also involves the means by which the unregenerate are condemned, the vindication of the justified, and the non-justificatory rewarding of those individuals. I wouldn’t expect the final judgment to not involve works. In the post you’re responding to, I cited some examples of passages that are about how we attain justification. They don’t just exclude graceless works. They exclude works of any type. Many other such passages could be cited, as I discuss here and here.

Why is this the case if God is supposedly wanting to completely separate any notion of works or acts from salvation itself?

We wouldn’t have to know why works are excluded in order to know that they’re excluded. But it’s a good question, and I addressed it in a post last year.

I agree with what C. S. Lewis said: asking one to choose between faith and works is as senseless as saying which blade of a pair of scissors is more important.

It’s an organic relationship. Actually, Catholics and Protestants, rightly understood, are not far apart on this in the final analysis. It’s mostly mutual misunderstandings and unfortunate semantic confusion.

I wouldn’t expect the final judgment to not involve works.

Good. That’s part of the common ground I alluded to.

But then my question would be: why is the aspect of faith (let alone faith alone so glaringly absent in these 50 accounts of judgment (I think only one mentioned it at all, in my list), if in fact it is the central, fundamental consideration, according to Protestantism?

It’s just not plausible. The Bible doesn’t at all read as it should, were Protestant soteriology true, and Catholic soteriology false. I contend that it would read much differently indeed. As it is, it appears to overwhelmingly favor the Catholic positions.

Central to what? All that the judgment involves? No. The unjustified are condemned for their sins, so works are relevant to their judgment. And the justified are reconciled to God through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) for good works (Ephesians 2:10). The works evidence the faith (vindication), and the works determine non-justificatory rewards. Mentioning works is an effective way of summarizing the judgment, since it brings together so many of the relevant themes. Even when a passage only mentions works with regard to the judgment, we have to keep the nearby context in mind. The original authors (or speakers) didn’t expect their audience to take their comments in isolation, ignoring the context. Those who hear Jesus speak of works in Matthew 25:31-46 know that He was carrying out a ministry in which He forgave, pronounced peace, and healed people upon their coming to faith (see here). Those who heard Jesus speak of works in John 5:29 would also have known that He spoke of reconciliation through faith and avoidance of condemnation as a result of that faith in John 5:24. Those who believe are assured of the future resurrection of life (John 11:25-26). When Paul says that men will be judged by his gospel (Romans 2:16), he doesn’t expect his audience to ignore everything he said about justification through faith and think only of works. Works are relevant, for reasons explained in my last paragraph, but nobody reading Paul in context would think that summarizing statements that only mention works are meant to exclude what Paul said about faith. To ignore the role of faith in his gospel would cause a major distortion of his message. Paul speaks of deliverance from future wrath through Jesus’ blood (Romans 5:9) after having said that the deliverance through that blood was received through faith (Romans 5:1). Etc. And I point out, again, that citing passages on the final judgment doesn’t explain the line of evidence I mentioned earlier. As we see over and over again in Jesus’ ministry and Paul’s, people are justified through faith alone, as illustrated in the paradigm case of Abraham in Genesis 15:6. There is no issue of whether the works involved are works of grace or graceless works, since works of both types are absent.

Thanks very much for your reply, and especially for sticking directly to the issues. I think you have answered well from within your own paradigm, and it is interesting to learn how you answer the question I asked. I truly do appreciate it.

I disagree, of course, but as I said, I didn’t come here to debate. Let me conclude, if I may, by briefly clarifying that the Catholic position is not saying to ignore faith or grace (the content of your entire long second paragraph). Our position is that salvation is by grace alone, through faith, which is not alone, and includes works by its very nature.

So all your warnings about “ignoring” faith are non sequiturs, as far as Catholicism is concerned, and a rather large straw man, if you are intending to target Catholic soteriology there.

The point of my paper and question about it is not to stake out some “works alone” position (which would, of course, be a Pelagianism that Catholics totally reject as heresy), but to note that it is rather striking that only works are mentioned in the judgment passages, and never faith alone (and faith at all only once out of 50).

I realize that the Catholic view involves grace and faith as well, which is why I previously referred to faith rather than “a combination between faith and gracious works” in reference to Galatians 3:21-25, for example. The second paragraph in the post you’re responding to was meant to be an explanation of the intention of the Biblical authors, not a response to Catholicism.

In another paper I mentioned here I cite 50 passages from Paul that exhibit the threefold scenario of grace-faith-works.

We also get accused of believing in “sola ecclesia” when in fact our position on authority is the “three-legged stool” of Scripture-Tradition-Church. It’s simply Protestant either/or thinking applied to us.

Thanks again, and I will record your complete reply in a post I’ll make on the topic. You or anyone else is always welcome to comment on my site about anything.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

* * *

I don’t see how some of the passages I mentioned in my last post, such as John 11:25-26 and Romans 5:1-9, can be exempted from an examination of judgment passages. When people are assured of a future in Heaven, the resurrection of life, the avoidance of God’s wrath in the future, etc. on the basis of faith, why wouldn’t such passages be relevant to the subject you’re addressing?

They are thematically related insofar as they are also soteriological, but my 50 passages had specifically to do with final judgment, God’s wrath, and eschatological salvation.

That came about because I was asked in debate with Matt Slick (the big cheese at CARM) what I would say if I got to heaven and God asked me why I should be let in. I replied that we had biblical data as to what God would actually say at such a time, and it was all about works, not faith alone at all. And I found that quite striking (after studying it in greater depth), though it never surprises me to find profound biblical support for Catholicism. I always do whenever I study the Bible.

Romans 5:9 does mention God’s wrath, but it is a generalized, proverbial-like statement (such as often found in, e.g., 1 John), rather than particularistic and eschatological, which is what I was talking about in my paper.

John 11:25-26 is of the same nature, and moreover, if we look at it closely, we see that the Greek for “believe” is pistuo, which is considered the counterpart of “does not obey” (apitheo) in John 3:36. 1 Peter 2:7 also opposes the two same Greek words. In other words, “believe” in the biblical sense already includes within it the concept of obedience (i.e., works). Hence, “little Kittel” observes:

pisteuo as “to obey.” Heb. 11 stresses that to believe is to obey, as in the OT. Paul in Rom. 1:8; 1 Th. 1:8 (cf. Rom. 15:18; 16:19) shows, too, that believing means obeying. He speaks about the obedience of faith in Rom. 1:5, and cf. 10:3; 2 Cor. 9:13. (p. 854)

Jesus joins faith (“belief” / pistuo) and works together, too, when He states:

John 14:12 (RSV) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.

So even if one grants that these passages have to do directly with judgment and eschatological salvation (as I do not), it is still the case that the “belief” mentioned in them is (through cross-referencing) seen to include obeying and works, and we’re back to the Catholic organic relationship between the two, rather than the Protestant ultra-abstraction of the two into the justification and sanctification categories.

“Faith alone” is tough to verify from Scripture once everything is taken into account and not just the garden-variety Protestant passages that are always utilized.

* * *

In other words, ‘believe’ in the biblical sense already includes within it the concept of obedience (i.e., works).

I agree that faith is obedience, but it can be obedience without being work in any relevant sense. That’s why we’re told that people can believe without working (Romans 4:5-6), that justifying belief occurs in the heart (Acts 15:7-11, Romans 10:10), that works demonstrate faith (James 2:14-26), etc. Different terms are used to refer to faith and works, because they’re different concepts. They can have obedience in common without having some other things in common.

A reference to faith can’t be assumed to include outward action, much less a specific outward action like baptism. That’s why we often see baptism and faith distinguished, for example (Acts 8:12-13, 18:8, etc.). The fact that faith is obedience wouldn’t lead us to the conclusion that other forms of obedience can be included in references to faith.

The term “faith” and its synonyms aren’t all that are relevant here. When we read of a paralytic being lowered into a house, a man visiting a Jewish temple, a crucified man, or a man listening to the gospel being preached, we don’t define what that person is doing solely by a term like “faith”. Rather, we also take into account the evidence provided by the surrounding context. It would make no sense to conclude that a paralyzed man being lowered into a house or a man visiting a Jewish temple was being baptized simultaneously or that a man nailed to a cross or a man listening to Peter preach the gospel was giving money to the poor at the same time. We judge how these individuals were justified partially through the surrounding context, not just a reference to faith or some related term. Part of the problem with the Catholic gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, but the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren’t involved.

So even if one grants that these passages have to do directly with judgment and eschatological salvation (as I do not)

How can a passage about resurrection life and never dying (John 11:25-26) not be directly relevant? Passages of a similar nature use other phrases that are likewise relevant to future judgment and salvation, such as “on the last day” in John 6:40. Your article includes John 5:26-29, so I don’t see a problem with including verse 24 as well. Themes of resurrection and judgment are already being discussed in verses 21-22. Yet, your article only cites verses 26-29.

Similarly, Romans 5:1-9 repeatedly brings up themes of hope for the future and deliverance from future wrath.

And I want to remind the readers of something I said earlier. The coming judgment is primarily a judgment of works even from the perspective of justification through faith alone. The unregenerate are condemned by their works, and the regenerate are justified in order to do (Ephesians 2:10), vindicated by, and rewarded for their works. The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn’t tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification. The dispute isn’t about whether works are relevant to the judgment, but rather the type of relevance they have.

Thanks for the continuing excellent discussion. Just one point:

the regenerate are justified in order to do (Ephesians 2:10), [be] vindicated by, and rewarded for their works. The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn’t tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification.

This is classic Protestantism, of course: works are relegated to post-justification status, as part of a separate sanctification and the realm of differential rewards of those already saved. I used to believe the exact same thing, so I’m very familiar with it.

The problem is that Scripture doesn’t teach such a view. The disproofs are already in my paper, in many passages that directly connect or associate salvation with the works that one does: therefore, works are not unrelated to either justification or eschatological salvation, as you claim they are:

Matthew 25:34-36 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

The “for” shows the causal relationship: “you are saved because you did all these works.” That’s what the text actually asserts, before false Protestant presuppositions and eisegesis are applied to it in the effort to make sure works never have to do directly with salvation (no matter how much faith and grace is there with them, so that we’re not talking about Pelagianism).

If Protestantism were true, the Bible should have had a passage something like this (RPV):

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Then He will also say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for you did not believe in Me with Faith Alone.” These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous who believed with Faith Alone into eternal life.

But alas, it doesn’t read like that, does it?

John 5:28-29 . . . the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

A direct correlation: the ones who do good works are saved; the ones who do evil are damned.

Romans 2:6-8, 13 For he will render to every man according to his works: To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. . . . For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Again, works are directly tied to eternal life and justification; they are not portrayed as merely acts of gratefulness that will lead to differential rewards for the saved; no, the differential reward is either salvation or damnation. Paul totally agrees with Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Note that simply believing the gospel and knowing God is not enough for salvation. One has to also “obey the gospel” (and that involves works).

Revelation 2:5 Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

If we don’t do the works, we can lose our salvation; therefore works have to do with salvation; they are not separated from that by abstracting them into a separate category of sanctification, that is always distinguished from justification. That ain’t biblical teaching. That is the eisegesis and false premises of Melanchthon and Calvin and Zwingli.

Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.

Same thing again. Obviously, St. John, St. Paul, and our Lord Jesus need to attend a good Calvinist or evangelical seminary and get up to speed on their soteriology. They don’t get it. The passage should have been written something like the following:

. . . and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to whether they had Faith Alone. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to whether they had Faith Alone.

Perhaps we should get together a council and rewrite the Bible so that it doesn’t have so many “Romish” errors throughout its pages . . . :-) The King James White version or sumpin’ . . . :-)

* * *

Part of the problem with the Catholic gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, but the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren’t involved.

I can easily flip that around, based on the biblical data I have been highlighting:

“Part of the problem with the Protestant gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention works without mentioning faith (and especially not faith alone), but also the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that faith alone isn’t involved.”

Since the Catholic believes in the triumvirate of GRACE—>faith—>works as the criteria for salvation, passages dealing with faith pose no problem. The more the merrier. We are saying that faith alone is the unbiblical doctrine, not faith. We’re not against faith at all, but rather, a false definition of faith, that restricts and confines it in a way that the Bible doesn’t do.

But since your position is faith alone (in terms of salvation itself), you have to explain away or rationalize all passages suggesting an important place of works in the equation, in a way that we’re not required to do (given our position) with all the passages about faith that you produce.

So you claimed, for example, that “The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn’t tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification.” I have now produced six, plain, clear passages that do do just that. And that has to be explained from your paradigm.

I’m sure you will attempt some sort of explanation for your own sake (if even just in your own mind), because if you fail to do so, you would be forced to give up Protestant soteriology. The stakes are high.

But in any event, bringing out ten, twenty, fifty passages that mention faith does nothing against our position, because we don’t reject faith as part of the whole thing.

The problem for your side remains: how to interpret the centrality of works in the judgment / salvation passages like the six I dealt with in my last two postings, in a way that preserves the “faith alone” doctrine.

I contend that it is impossible. To do so does violence to the Bible and what it teaches. We must base our teaching squarely on biblical theology and not the arbitrary, self-contradictory traditions of men (folks like Calvin), who eisegete Holy Scripture and substitute for biblical thought, their own traditions.

Sometimes it’s easy to confuse those traditions with biblical teaching itself. But by examining Holy Scripture more deeply and over time, I think anyone can eventually see that it supports the Catholic positions every time.

That’s why we continue to see folks who study the issues deeply moving from Protestantism to Catholicism (such as Francis Beckwith: the original subject of this post).

our article includes John 5:26-29, so I don’t see a problem with including verse 24 as well. Themes of resurrection and judgment are already being discussed in verses 21-22. Yet, your article only cites verses 26-29.

Fair point. I love discussions of context. Protestants too often ignore context, but you don’t, and I respect that and commend you for it. I have explained my criterion for inclusion in my article on final judgment and works: it depends on how exactly one decides to categorize; how one determines which is a directly eschatological passage or one having to do with judgment. Reasonable folks can differ on that, as there is a subjective element. Not every systematic theologian cuts off the passages they employ at the same exact point.

But as I have been saying, a consideration also of the larger context of John 5 does nothing to harm the Catholic case. You wrote:

many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, . . . the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren’t involved.

Using John 5 as an example (since you brought it up), we see that this doesn’t apply. You say 5:21-22 mentions resurrection and judgment. Fine; indeed it does But what it doesn’t do is give the criteria for these judgments and who is resurrected. That has to come by reading on (further context). You want to highlight 5:24:

. . . he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

I have explained that this is a generalized statement: one could perhaps paraphrase it as “Christian believers have eternal life” or (to bring it down to a Sunday School nursery level): “all good Christians go to heaven.”

It doesn’t follow from a general statement like this that no Christian can ever fall away (though Calvinism requires this, over against many biblical passages to the contrary), or that works have nothing to do with it. We need to look at the deeper meaning of “believe” (as I have already done).

As we read on (the same discourse from Jesus) we get to 5:29:

. . . those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

Now, you want to highlight 5:24 and de-emphasize 5:29. I can gladly consider both of them in the entire equation. It’s once again the Catholic (Hebraic) “both/and” vs. the Protestant (and more Greek) “either/or”. Scripture is asserting two truths:

5:24 “he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life”

5:29 “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life,”

Faith and works. For us, the two passages are entirely compatible and in harmony with our Catholic theology: one is saved by grace through faith, in believing in Jesus, and this belief entails and inherently includes good works.

But you guys can’t do that, because you wrongly conclude that any presence of good works in the equation of both justification and salvation itself is somehow “anti-faith” or antithetical to grace alone; and is Pelagianism. This doesn’t follow.

But because you believe this (the false, unbiblical premise), you have to explain 5:29 as merely differential rewards for the saved (who are saved by faith alone); whereas the actual text does not teach that. It teaches a direct correlation between good works and eternal life. It explains 5:24 in greater depth; just as I noted earlier that Jesus Himself places works and faith in direct relationship:

John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do . . .

That’s why we often see baptism and faith distinguished, for example (Acts 8:12-13, 18:8, etc.).

Ah, but baptism (odd that you should bring up that example) is also equated with regeneration and entrance into the kingdom, so this is hardly an example amenable overall to your position:

Acts 2:38, 41 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” . . . So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The order is not:

1) faith
2) forgiveness
3) indwelling Holy Spirit
4) baptism

but rather,

1) faith
2) baptism
3) forgiveness (directly because of baptism)
4) indwelling Holy Spirit (directly because of baptism)

Because of the baptism, souls were added to the kingdom. They weren’t already in the kingdom, and then decided to be baptized out of obedience. Therefore, the work of baptism directly ties into both justification and final salvation.

Galatians 3:26-27 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Colossians 2:12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Faith and baptism are virtually equivalent in their importance. One is “in” Jesus both through faith and through baptism. Both/and.

Baptism is not a separate, optional work. It is part and parcel of the process. Insofar as it, too, is regarded as a “work” then here we have again the Catholic grace-faith-works (and efficacious sacraments) paradigm.

* * *

Jason gave further answers in a three-part reply (one / two / three). I then wrote in conclusion:

Hi Jason,

We could go round and round on this forever, and keep trying to poke holes in each other’s arguments. Again, I think you have answered very well from within your paradigm. You can have the last word.

Thanks for sticking entirely to theology and avoiding any hint of personal attack. How refreshing, and a model to be emulated.

Merry Christmas to you and yours and all here.

***

(originally posted on 12-6-09)

Photo credit: Christ and the Rich Young Ruler (1889), by Heinrich Hofmann (1824-1911) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

April 10, 2020

Fr. Carlos Martins wrote a blasphemous piece on a public Facebook post, right before Good Friday, on 4-9-20. It’s doubly disgraceful and scandalous, having been written by a Catholic priest. I can’t bring myself to link to it, because then I might be a cause for someone being led astray. I’m sure anyone can find it, anyway, if they insist on doing so. In only two days’ time, it garnered over 1100 Facebook “likes” and 701 comments (mostly rapturous in praise) and over 1200 shares. God help us!

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could spend my time as an apologist, defending Holy Mother Church and the Holy Father (and God Himself in this case) against enemies outside the Church rather than Catholics within it? But alas, these are the times we live in. Words of Fr. Martins will be in blue.

*****

This is a difficult reflection to write.

I imagine it would be very difficult for a Catholic priest to write such an article.

I apologize in advance for the length. But I think that every word is necessary.

What is necessary is to tell the truth and to exercise charity and apply wisdom and knowledge. Sadly, I submit that none of those things are emphasized here.

My hope is to give the people of God, and especially the clergy, some understanding as to why I believe the COVID-19 pandemic is happening.

And we will examine his “case” to see if it stands up to Holy Scripture, facts, and reason.

In a word, we are experiencing a divine chastisement for idolatries. I fear more is to come.

He does not substantiate or prove this in the least, as I will show as we go along. Note, for example, that Fr. Martins does not provide one single Bible passage in order to bolster his contentions. It’s simply his own bald, unsubstantiated opinion, based on false premises. Sorry, that’s not good enough.

Consider the following:

FACT 1:

It’s not a “fact” at all, as I will demonstrate. One can’t build a supposedly good “argument” by starting with a false premise. That’s like the house built on a foundation of sand.

We all know that during the Amazon Synod last fall, the Pope permitted pagan ceremonies in the Vatican Gardens with a Pachamama statue. Pachamama is an idol within the pagan Amazonian mythology … specifically, a fertility goddess who (allegedly) sustains all life on earth (I’m not kidding … just Google it).

This is four lies (and “lie” can mean simply a “falsehood”: not necessarily deliberate; look it up) in rapid succession, packed into two sentences, with the claim that we “all know what is erroneously asserted:

1) It was not a “pagan ceremony.”

2) The figures in question were not “Pachamama” statues.

3) These figures were not idols (neither in essence nor in the intentions and hearts of those in the ceremony).

4) Nor is Pachamama (which was not present here, but falsely assumed to be) even part of “pagan Amazonian mythology”. Pachamama [just “Wikipedia it”] comes, rather, from Inca mythology, and the Andes Mountains in South America, near the Pacific Ocean. In fact, in the Wikipedia article, the word “Amazon” never even appears.

The basic error here is “going by appearances” alone. But even the premises of the appearances that critics of this ceremony assume are themselves quite questionable. A bunch of radical Catholic reactionaries and non-extremist legitimate traditionalist Catholics saw some small statues (portraying some sort of woman: all agree), and they immediately concluded that they were “idols.” But this is almost identical to iconoclastic Calvinist reasoning in the 16th century.

Are they unfamiliar with Catholic images, like statues and icons and paintings? We fully allow those things. They are (rightly understood) entirely biblical, as I have proven from Scripture time and again. And they are usually for the purpose of veneration, not worship and adoration (a statue of Christ could include the latter).

The early Calvinists (like many of them still today) were iconoclasts, and went around smashing statues in Catholic Churches (including statues of Christ and crucifixes; even bare crosses!). They didn’t like stained glass windows, either, and even took an ax to church organs. It was all “idolatry” to them, you see. Why? Well, because they were images, and the Bible (dontcha know) is against all “graven images”.

Really? Funny, then, that the temple itself (whose design was expressly revealed by God) was filled with images, as was the ark of the covenant, which had figures of cherubim (angels) on its lid. There was also Moses’ bronze serpent, etc. Even God the Father was sometimes worshiped directly via an image (pillar of fire and of cloud).

Moreover, Calvinists and other anti-Catholic Protestants were convinced that the Mass itself was idolatrous blasphemy, including the climax of supposed idolatrous worship of a piece of bread. They just don’t get it. So how is it that today we have Catholics who see some image and go nuts: immediately concluding that idols are in play, because some folks from the Amazon dress a little differently and have some (Catholic) ceremonies that look exotic and “foreign” to us in more developed countries? It simply doesn’t follow. Idolatry has to be determined by what is in a person’s heart and intentions. That’s what the Bible repeatedly teaches.

How — you may ask — do I back up my contentions? Well, it can’t be briefly done. Unfortunately, falsehoods and propagandistic slogans may be very short, but it takes a lot more ink to refute them (I know from long apologetics experience). I have written no less than eleven blog papers this issue and false assertion, covering just about every angle and interacting with the proponents of this Huge Myth, that thousands of Catholics have accepted uncritically:

“Pachamama” [?] Statues: Marian Veneration or Blasphemous Idolatry? [11-5-19]

“Pachamama” Fiasco: Hysterical Reactionaryism, as Usual [11-8-19]

“Pachamama” Confusion: Fault of Vatican or Catholic Media? [11-12-19]

Anti-“Pachamama” Doc: “Usual Suspect” Reactionaries Sign [11-14-19]

Vatican II –> Alleged “Pachamama” Idolatry, Sez Fanatics [11-15-19]

Bishops Viganò & Schneider Reject Authority of Vatican II [11-22-19]

Viganò, Schneider, Pachamama, & VCII (vs. Janet E. Smith) [11-25-19]

Pope St. John Paul II Respectfully Referred to Pachamama (+ Orthodox Catholic References to “Mother Earth” and Similar Biblical Motifs) [12-13-19]

“Pachamama” Redux (vs. Peter Kwasniewski & Janet Smith) [12-17-19]

Dialogue: “Pachamama” (?) Statues & Marian Iconography [12-24-19]

Dr. Fastiggi Defends Pope Francis Re “Pachamama Idolatry” [3-3-20]

However, at the Mass to close the Amazon Synod (Oct. 27, 2019) the Pope received a bowl with soil and plants during the offertory from an indigenous woman. In the Amazon, such bowls are synonymous with the Pachamama deity, symbolizing her status as Mother Earth (again, just Google “Pachamama” and “bowl”).

All of this must be interpreted and proven to be idolatrous in intent, which is never done. It’s merely assumed (starting with the false premises briefly described above). But assumptions are not arguments, and hence, carry no persuasive force.

The Pope instructed his Master of Ceremonies (Monsignor Guido Marini) to place the bowl on the high altar within the Basilica of St. Peter. Neither plants, nor any other object, save what is needed to celebrate Mass, is EVER PERMITTED TO BE PLACED ON AN ALTAR. This has been the constant practice of the Church for 2,000 years, and is the Vatican’s own directive.

Well, I’m no expert on either liturgical rubrics or canon law, so I’ll do what I always do when hindered by such limitations: I go to someone who is an expert on those things: in this instance, canon lawyer Cathy Caridi, who runs the Canon Law Made Easy site. She draws the distinction between ecclesiastical laws, which are man-made and can as a result be changed or occasionally dispensed, and divine laws, which come from God and therefore can’t change.

Hence, she states: “He is perfectly free to dispense himself from following the [ecclesiastical] law when he wishes — just as he may change the law entirely, if he wishes.” What is permitted on an altar has to do with ecclesiastical law. Of course, if the said objects were in fact idols, then it would go against divine law, but since they aren’t in the first place, they don’t.

AFTERWARDS:

That venerable altar—the most recognizable in the world—had no congregation around it tonight for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. As well, for the first time in its storied history, it will have no congregation present for the Easter Vigil Mass (the Mass the Church calls “the Mother of all Liturgies”), nor for the Easter Sunday Masses.

This is a rare actual undisputed fact in the piece (though there have been times in the past when some churches were closed due to epidemics). A breath of fresh air . . .

FACT 2:
The Pachamama idol was placed on the altars of various churches throughout Rome during the Synod.

AFTERWARDS:
Catholic Churches world-wide are now closed to the Faithful. No altar throughout the world had the People of God present for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper this evening, nor will they for any of the Easter liturgies this weekend. The priest(s) will celebrate alone. In fact, certain dioceses, such as that of Hamilton (Canada), have forbidden the Celebration of the Sacred Triduum in ANY parish even by the priests alone. (Who in God’s name would get sick by a priest offering Mass alone in his parish church? No one. Thus, preventing the spread of sickness cannot be the motive of such bishops.)

I don’t know, but I imagine that would be because the virus is known to be able to stick to surfaces for a period of time; therefore, places where a lot of people were, could transmit it for some period of time, even with no people present.

It is as if the Italian altars acted as proxies for every other altar, transferring their “sin” onto them. Neither the Roman Emperors, nor Attila the Hun, nor the Ottomans, nor the French Revolution, nor the World Wars, nor Hitler and Stalin were ever successful at emptying parishes of their congregations. And now every Catholic parish worldwide is empty during the holiest days of the year.

This, of course, is the famous post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (“after this, therefore because of this” or, “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.”). It’s no proof at all, almost needless to say. But this is how conspiratorialists think. It’s not logical thought, and creates mythical connections where there are demonstrably none, or none that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And, as we have shown, in this instance, it was based upon an entirely false starting premise, too. The Wikipedia article on the fallacy further explains:

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 used to have fun with my kids when they were real little, by  twisting my ear, which “made” my tongue come out. In their little minds, perhaps they thought it actually was a causal connection. That’s about how silly the present “argumentation” is.

It’s an epidemic: all you conspiratorialists out there. It’s known to be wildly contagious. Therefore, when it is already out of hand, it can only be (relatively) stopped by people getting away from each other. It jumps from people to people based on what we do, and there are ways we can at least greatly slow its spread. This saves lives: mostly of elderly people already sick: who are the overwhelming victims of the pandemic. And it includes churches, because thousands of people congregate in them.

To argue that it is okay to have a Mass: knowing full well that many could contract the virus as a result, and a certain number of them die (and a horrible death at that), is downright immoral and unconscionable. The Mass (like the Sabbath) was made for man, not man for the Mass. We can survive a temporary suspension of public Masses. But many will not survive the virus, if empty conspiratorialism rules the day.

FACT 3:
The Italian Bishops Conference published an official prayer to Pachamama. I am not kidding. An official prayer to a pagan idol [link]. The note in brackets at end of the prayer even reads “Prayer to Mother Earth from the Incas”!

1) This was, as I understand it, from a 1988 publication, and so had nothing to do with the disputed / lied-about ceremony.

2) The Incas are not the Amazonians, nor “Pachamama” one of the latter’s religious figures, as already explained.

3) The bishops were not endorsing it. It was presented merely as a specimen of indigenous South American religion. My friend James Scott explained in a comment on my blog on 3-3-20:

All they are doing here is citing this prayer as “testimony” from the Indigenous peoples as to the damage the west is supposedly doing to their environment, or as to their suffering or plight. But nowhere does this say Catholics should pray this prayer or incorporate it into their liturgy or let pagan converts to the Faith continue to pray it. To hear these reactionaries you would think the Italian bishops have issued prayer books or missals instructing us to pray to Pachamama. But that is not what we see here. This is just a missionary magazine like Catholic Near East or whatever showcasing some local culture: nothing more. At this point I must question the moral integrity of the people posting this drivel. It is slander and a mortal sin!

AFTERWARDS: Italy became the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic hotspot, and its hospitals were completely overwhelmed with the sick. Medical staff had to choose who to put on a ventilator, and who to simply let die. In other words, they had to play God. As of this evening (April 9, 2020), the virus has killed over 100 Italian priests, far more than in another other country.

More post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, minus any shred of argumentation that might lead a reasonable, open-minded person to accept all of these fanciful conspiracies. The prevalence of the virus in Italy is due to many established, quite reasonable causes, which I laid out in an extensive paper on the topic.

The argument is profoundly incoherent, because if Italy was truly being judged for alleged [in fact, imaginary] sins, certainly, one of the prime targets would be the allegedly wicked, evil, heretical Pope Francis and his close circle of cardinals, bishops, and other aides (who are always in on every conspiracy-of-the-week bandied about by these folks). As I wrote in my first article about coronavirus supposedly being God’s judgment, over three weeks ago:

[T]he arch-enemy “bad guy” and antichrist, Pope Francis, [is] walking the streets of Rome virus-free thus far.

After all, God struck down kings; He (the same God Who did all that stuff as revealed in the inspired revelation of the Old Testament) can dispose of a supposedly wicked, evil pope just as easily. If Pope Francis were one-tenth as bad as the mountain of lies and calumnies and scurrilous slander about him would have it, arguably he should have [biblically] been devastated by God and eaten by worms (or some similar such horrible fate) no later than five years ago.

Instead, we’re told that God is going after Italians, as particularly wicked. The fact, of course, is that this is a worldwide pandemic, that knows no boundaries of any kind. Now, who are the people suffering from this supposed “judgment” or “wrath” from God in Italy (as of 3-18-20)?:

More than 99% of Italy’s coronavirus fatalities were people who suffered from previous medical conditions, according to a study by the country’s national health authority. . . .

The Rome-based institute has examined medical records of about 18% of the country’s coronavirus fatalities, finding that just three victims, or 0.8% of the total, had no previous pathology. Almost half of the victims suffered from at least three prior illnesses and about a fourth had either one or two previous conditions.

More than 75% had high blood pressure, about 35% had diabetes and a third suffered from heart disease.

The median age of the infected is 63 but most of those who die are older . . . The average age of those who’ve died from the virus in Italy is 79.5. As of March 17, 17 people under 50 had died from the disease. All of Italy’s victims under 40 have been males with serious existing medical conditions.

Please note very carefully what this entails: we’re told that God is judging via the coronavirus. The biggest sin and alleged precipitating cause for this occurred in Italy. But did God go after the very ones who allegedly committed it (the pope, cardinals, bishops, and those who agreed with their acts?).

No, not at all. Instead, we’re to believe an absurd, amoral scenario whereby God looked around for elderly people (average age of the dead: 79.5 years), and particularly those who already had two or three other diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease), and killed themThese are the people God in His omnipotence and providence decided to judge and kill by His wrath. That is supposedly just and loving.

My friend, Margie Prox Sindelar rendered her opinion of this kind of “reasoning” on my Facebook page today:

But if He did [judge the world, what about], abortion? fornication? homosexuality? sex trafficking, child abuse scandals, all of that is okay? No chastisements . . .  But our Holy Father allows others to come and express the faith ways foreign to most and He chastises the world for that?

My friend, Fr. Angel Sotelo added:

Exactly. “God is mad at us because of the synod, so He’s going to kill some people who had nothing to do with the Amazon Synod.”

Today Our Lord suffered His bitter agony for love of sinners, and this is how we preach the message of redemption?

How pathetic that COVID-19 has to be enlisted in the anti-Francis campaign of Church politics. Next thing, they’ll be blaming heart disease and autism on Pope Francis!

Some folks here are holding a nasty grudge against the people they think that God hates, and need God to be their hit man. . . .

Whipping up the “groupies” to think that God is punishing the world because of Pope Francis–that is just thrusting the spear into the side of Christ.

I can’t believe how many people jumped on the bandwagon to say that COVID-19 is God’s way of getting even for the Amazon Synod. Reading that post made me livid, and then very sad.

I think there are over 12,000 dead from the virus [it’s now 18,122 in the US and 101,732 worldwide]. What must their loved ones think when Catholics call this a punishment from God? If Catholics think that God would kill innocent people for the problems in the Church, I wonder which God they are praying to?

So God specifically targets for judgment elderly people (we’re talking usually 80 or above), almost always with serious underlying conditions. These are the poor souls dying like flies from the virus. All the research verifies it. That is God’s judgment, so we’re told, and it has to be because of this fiction about supposed “Pachamama” idolatry. That’s not the God I have served and loved for 43 years now. It’s blasphemy to think so.

It’s two outrageous lies in one: one goes after God Himself and logically entails (i.e., actually thought through, which probably never happened) that He is a moral monster; the second asserts that the pope is a rank heretic and idolater (because truly sanctioning and worshiping an idol would entail both).

Whatever theology of judgment the people saying these outrages have, has to be laid out and explained, but they don’t do that. They simply assert that it’s because of Pachamama. I’ve already written twice at length about it [one / two], providing lots of Scripture regarding judgment, and I’ve written much about God’s judgments elsewhere, again including copious citation of Scripture, as is my usual custom.

When God judged in Scripture, almost always He targeted a specific group of sinners or judged an entire country (or the whole world, in the case of Noah), with roughly equal suffering for all involved. Neither scenario is the case with this. It is simply acting like a virus acts: and the weakest are taken out. It’s nature; not God’s nature . . .

FACT 4:
Two years ago, in a deal brokered by disgraced (and now former) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Vatican agreed to allow the evil and murderous Chinese Communist government to select the bishops for China. This, in effect, threw the always faithful “underground and unofficial” Catholic Church under the bus; it entailed that the Vatican would no longer partner with it, but with the murderous State instead. In fact, the faithful were told by the Vatican to abandon their bishops and parishes and join the Official State Church.

AFTERWARDS:
Where did COVID-19 come from? China.

First of all, regarding Pope Francis and China, there is more than merely one reactionary, anti-Francis opinion about that. See:

On the Church in China (Mike Lewis, Where Peter Is, 2-13-18)
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Perspective on the China/Vatican deal (Mike Lewis, Where Peter Is, 9-30-18)
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China’s “other” cardinal (Mike Lewis, Where Peter Is, 3-18-19)
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Secondly, this is yet another blasphemous lie: that God is also judging because (so the theory goes) the pope and McCarrick abandoned Chinese Christians. So who does God go after in retribution for that? Not Pope Francis, the alleged perpetrator, or Sex Pervert McCarrick (who rests safely in isolation) but . . . the Chinese (!): most of whom, no doubt (i.e., among the victims), are not even Christians: 3,340 deaths there. That’s God’s judgment and wrath, you see!

Does that make any sense? No! It’s certainly not consistent with the God revealed in the inspired revelation of the Bible and is literally blasphemous (how ironic, in the midst of a false charge that the pope and bishops were supposedly committing sacrilegious idolatry). If this is the nature of the God Whom Christians serve, count me out. I’m gone yesterday.

Thankfully, it is not the God I know and the true God revealed in the Bible. He is fair and just in His judgments: terrible though they may sometimes seem from our perspective. If He judges a nation, it’s because most of the entire nation has gone astray, and are ripe for judgment, as part of the collective.

God judges wicked nations (including His own chosen people, several times). When virtually the whole world became wicked in the time of Noah, He judged it, too. What He doesn’t do, on the other hand, is judge people who had nothing to do with one alleged sin, for that sin. He judges individuals or relatively smaller groups for their own sins.

But what we see from the statistics of coronavirus fatalities, is that, according to this tin foil hat myth, the wickedest people who are being judged far disproportionately compared to others, are elderly people over 80 with existing serious medical conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure or kidney problems or heart disease.

These are the folks God is looking to kill for the sins of the world. He wants them to die in despair, even apart from loved ones, gasping for air and in a delirious state of mind. They must be wiped out for others’ sins, so we can get back to normal and our own idols of money and worship of our own foolish pride and divisiveness and endless rumormongering. Yeah, makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? This is flat-out blasphemy, to believe such a thing about the God of the Bible.

There are plenty of very widespread sins that God might conceivably judge (and on a very wide scale): abortion, homosexual acts, economic exploitation, making riches or power into an idol, pornography, sexual trafficking, drug dealing, sexual abuse, terrorism, racial and ethnic prejudice, sexism, on and on and on.

He could incinerate the United States to ashes in the next hour and we could say nothing in our defense: due to abortion alone; not even getting into many other serious sins we commit and even sanction by unjust, immoral laws. It would be perfectly just for Him to do so.

But none of that is mentioned when today’s would-be / wannabe prophets talk about God’s wrath; rather, only one ceremony which they never understood in the first place; which was a Catholic ceremony, without any idolatry at all.

FACT 5:
In January of 2019, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed a law that made abortion legal until the day of birth in the 9th month. In other words, he legalized infanticide.

AFTERWARDS:

The United States became the world-wide epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, and New York is ground zero.

It’s the same fallacies repeated again and applied to New York. If the Governor and the legion of pro-abort liberals in New York are to blame for the supposed judgment, then why aren’t they being specifically taken out by God? As I explained, when God judges, according to the Bible, not my arbitrary speculations, it is either an entire nation (or state, in this case), indiscriminately, or it is a specifically targeted group of people.

The Governor isn’t on his sick bed, dying. Why? He signed these abominable, heartless bills. So why isn’t he judged (according to the theory that Fr. Martins posits)? Instead, over 7,600 New Yorkers have been “judged” by God. And who is it that God particularly focused on? Well, it’s the same as everywhere else, as regards the elderly and those already very ill. But it’s also true that Latinos and African-Americans are dying at a greatly disproportionate rate (that fits in great with the KKK view: God takes out “inferior” minorities more than others):

The death rate from Covid-19 for black and Latino New Yorkers is roughly twice that of white New Yorkers, according to the latest city data. The death rate among Latino New Yorkers is 22.8 for every 100,000 people. Among African Americans, it is 19.8. In contrast, 10.2 of every 100,000 white New Yorkers has died from the new coronavirus.

The numbers, which were released on Wednesday, are based on 63 percent of confirmed Covid-19 deaths in New York City. They are consistent with reporting from Louisiana, IllinoisMilwaukee, and Michigan, as well as preliminary national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show that black people are dying in greater numbers from the virus.

To both the people of God and my brother priests: we need to make reparation for the sins of the Church. . . . Blasphemy in the Bible was a crime whose punishment was always death.

Fr. Martins ought to start with himself (with all due respect). He neither teaches nor edifies anyone with this conspiratorial nonsense. He blasphemes God with groundless speculation about His alleged judgment and wrath, that has no biblical basis whatsoever (hence he didn’t seek to prove it with a single Bible verse), and he blasphemes the pope as well (the word blasphemy includes wrong attitudes towards holy things and holy people as well as God).

Bearing false witness is in the Ten Commandments and is mortal sin. There is plenty in this regrettable Facebook post that Fr. Martins ought to repent for in dust and ashes. I pray that God will open his eyes and correct his multitude of errors soon, because we see how many people he is leading astray.

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For follow-up discussion, see: Dialogue: Is Coronavirus the Way that God Judges? [4-13-20].

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Photo credit: Kildare Cathedral, Ireland, before its reconstruction in the late 1800s [Wikimedia Commons / no known copyright restrictions]

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August 7, 2019

This is an installment of my series of replies to an article by Dr. David Madison: a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, who has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. It’s called, “Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said” (Debunking Christianity, 7-21-19). His words will be in blue below. Dr. Madison makes several “generic” digs at Jesus and Christianity, in the written portion (it details a series of 12 podcasts):

A challenge for Christians: If you’re so sure Jesus existed, then you have some explaining to do. A major frustration is that, while believers are indignant at all the talk about Jesus not existing, they don’t know the issues that fuel the skepticism—and are unwilling to inform themselves.

Yes, I’m up to the “challenge.” No problem at all. I’m not threatened or “scared” by this in the slightest. It’s what I do, as an apologist. The question is whether Dr. Madison is up to interacting with counter-critiques? Or will he act like the voluminous anti-theist atheist polemicist Bob Seidensticker?: who directly challenged me in one of his own comboxes to respond to his innumerable attack-pieces against Christianity and the Bible, and then courageously proceeded to utterly ignore my 35 specific critiques of his claims as of this writing. We shall soon see which course Dr. Madison will decide to take. Anyway, he also states in his post and combox:

[S]o many of the words of Jesus are genuinely shocking. These words aren’t proclaimed much from the pulpit, . . . Hence the folks in the pews have absorbed and adored an idealized Jesus. Christian apologists make their livings refiguring so many of the things Jesus supposedly said.

The gospels are riddled with contradictions and bad theology, and Jesus is so frequently depicted as a cult fanatic—because cult fanatics wrote the gospels. We see Jesus only through their theological filters. I just want to grab hold of Christian heads (standing behind them, with a hand on each ear) and force them to look straight ahead, unflinchingly, at the gospels, and then ask “Tell me what you see!” uncoached by apologist specialists, i.e., priests and pastors, who’ve had a lot of practice making bad texts look good. . . . I DO say, “Deal with the really bad stuff in the gospels.” Are you SURE you’ve not make a big mistake endorsing this particular Lord and Savior? That’s the whole point of this series of Flash Podcasts, because a helluva lot of Christians would agree, right away, that these quotes are bad news—if no one told then that they’ve been attributed to Jesus.

Of course, Dr. Madison — good anti-theist atheist that he is — takes the view that we are not at all sure whether Jesus in fact said anything recorded in the Gospels in the first place. I don’t play that game, because there is no end to it. It’s like trying to pin jello to the wall. The atheist always has their convenient out (when refuted in argument about some biblical text) that Jesus never said it anyway [wink wink and sly patronizing grin], and/or that the biblical text in question was simply added later by dishonest ultra-biased Christian partisans and propagandists. It’s a silly and ultimately intellectually dishonest game, and so I always refuse to play it with atheists or anyone else, because there is no way to “win” with such an absurdly stacked, purely subjective deck.

In my defense of biblical texts, I start with the assumption that the manuscripts we have are quite sufficient for us to know what is in the Bible (believe it or not). Going on from there, I simply defend particular [supposedly “difficult”] texts, and note with appropriate argumentation, that “here, the Bible teaches so-and-so,” etc. I deal with the texts as they exist. I don’t get into the endlessly arbitrary, subjective games that atheists and theologically liberal biblical skeptics play with the texts, in their self-serving textual criticism.

Dr. Madison himself (fortunately) grants my outlook in terms of practical “x vs. y” debate purposes: “For the sake of argument, I’m willing to say, okay, Jesus was real and, yes, we have gospels that tell the story.” And in the combox: “So, we can go along with their insistence that he did exist. We’ll play on their field, i.e., the gospels.”

Good! So we shall examine his cherry-picked texts and see whether his interpretations of them can stand up to scrutiny. He is issuing challenges, and I as an apologist will be dishing a bunch of my own right back to him. Two can play this game. I will be dealing honestly with his challenges. Will he return the favor, and engage in serious and substantive dialogue? Again, we’ll soon know what his reaction will be. A true dialogue is of a confident, inquisitive, “nothing to fear and everything to gain” back-and-forth and interactive nature, not merely “ships passing in the night” or what I call “mutual monologue.”

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Dr. Madison’s ninth podcast of twelve is entitled: “On Matthew 10:14-15, towns that reject the message of the Kingdom of God will be destroyed.” Here is the “offending” passage:

Matthew 10:14-15 (RSV) And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. [15] Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomor’rah than for that town. 

. . . two brutal verses . . . if you turned them away, would you deserve destruction on the day of judgment? . . . sounds vindictive and petty, no? . . . Doesn’t this sound like typical cult fanaticism, [that] we’ve heard from religious cranks forever? “If you don’t believe me, you’ll be sorry’ you’ll be damned.” And Jesus is supposed to be all about love and compassion, right? . . . Don’t be so confident that Jesus was a good guy, and that he was a great moral teacher. These verses undercut that.

Dr. Madison apparently doesn’t grasp or comprehend (agree or disagree) the notion of ultimate justice and God as Judge at all. It’s not that complicated. I tackled this general area in a reply to another atheist, entitled, “God’s Judgment of Sin: Analogies for an Atheist Inquirer” (9-6-18). Here are some excerpts (slightly abridged):

God as the Creator has the “prerogative” to judge His creation when they have gone astray.

We have earthly judges (by analogy) who do the same thing. A criminal commits a crime. He is given a fair trial, found guilty, and is then judged, if deemed guilty. 

But it’s inconceivable that God is the Cosmic Judge?

Imagine if everyone on earth were like an SS agent (think, Heinrich Himmler). We took out people like that in World War II and everyone thought it was quite moral. But if God does it, suddenly it’s immoral.

Well, with the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, that’s what the Bible says took place: the level of immorality was virtually universal and beyond repair. So God judged. I don’t have the slightest problem with it. I think it’s exactly what we would expect in a God Who is both perfectly loving and a just judge.

In a blanket judgment by God there will be children who are killed as well. But they are not necessarily condemned to hell. God judges each soul individually. So yes, they may have to die young as a result of being in a hyper-corrupt culture (below the age of reason and guilt, as we Catholic say), but they have an eternal life in front of them and God will judge them justly in that respect.

In the atheist view, on the other hand, there is no ultimate justice at all. Since we are doing Nazi analogies, it would be as if the Nazis had won World War II and were ruling the world right now, doing all the evil they did while they were in power. In a world without God, there would be no ultimate justice. These Nazis would die and cease to exist. They would pay no penalty for their great evils (not even in this life if they aren’t defeated). Their victims would die and cease to exist as well, and never receive any good things. All they had was an earthy life which was a living hell under Nazi rule.

There is no justice or meaning or “happy ending” in that scenario. Many people in the world have a terrible life: and very often because of despotic rulers or bad social or religious systems. In the Christian worldview the unrepentant bad guys are judged for their evil (and will end up in hell). People who accept God’s grace spend eternity with God in heaven, in great bliss and joy, with no more suffering.

That is meaningful and just.

 I also wrote in a similar article, “Is God an Unjust Judge? Dialogue with an Atheist” (10-30-17):

The Bible says that God is Love and the life of Jesus illustrates that rather dramatically. The Bible also teaches that He is the judge of the world. The two are not mutually exclusive. We don’t say that human judges are wicked and evil because they pass sentence (following jury verdicts) for someone to go to jail. We recognize that as due punishment for crimes.

God judges, as the Creator. He desires that none perish, but He does judge folks for the sins that they willingly commit. He doesn’t cause anyone to sin, but He judges them for their sins.

And in another paper of mine, “Dialogue w Atheists on Hell & Whether God is Just” (12-5-06; originally posted at Debunking Christianity), I argued by analogy:

When a criminal rebels against the laws of a society and is caught, convicted, and imprisoned for life, we don’t say that the “cause” of his imprisonment was the laws of the state that he violated, and rail against the very notion of law as the horrible, unjust cause of this guy’s suffering! He brought about his own demise by going astray. Likewise, with human beings, God, and hell.

The penalty for very serious crime in a civil sense is life imprisonment. That’s just how it is. Law itself is not to be blamed.

The penalty for very serious sin and rebellion against God in spiritual reality is eternal torment in hell. That’s just how it is. God (the ground of moral law) is not to be blamed for that. . . . 

Because God is Creator He also has the prerogative to judge. This is analogous to our experience. Society takes it upon itself to judge the criminal and punish him if he supersedes the “just” laws that govern the society, in order to prevent chaos and suffering. If that is true of human society (one man to another), it is all the more of God, because He is ontologically above us (Creator and created).

So it is perfectly sensible and moral to posit (apart from the data of revelation) a notion of God judging both individuals and nations. God’s omniscience is such that He can determine if an entire nation has gone bad (“beyond repair,” so to speak) and should be punished. And He did so. Now, even in a wicked nation there may be individuals who are exceptions to the rule. So some innocent people will be killed. But this is like our human experience as well. In wartime, we go to war against an entire nation. In so doing, even if it is unintentional, some innocent non-combatants will be killed. . . . 

Again, the societal analogy is perfectly apt. If someone rebels at every turn against every societal norm and law and appropriate behavior and so forth, is society to be blamed? Say someone grows up thinking that serial rape is fine and dandy and shouldn’t be prevented at all. So he goes and does this. Eventually, the legal system catches up with him and he gets his punishment. He rebelled against what most people think is wrong, and more than deserved his punishment.

We don’t say that there should be no punishment. We don’t blame society for his suffering in prison. We don’t deny that society has a right to judge such persons. So if mere human beings can judge each other, why cannot God judge His creation, and (particularly) those of His creation that have rebelled against Him at every turn? What is so incomprehensible about that? One may not believe it, but there is no radical incoherence or inconsistency or monstrous injustice or immorality in this Christian (and Jewish) viewpoint (which is what is always claimed by the critics).

An analogy I’ve used many times is to compare God to a Governor of a state. He or she have the power to pardon criminals. But the criminal has to accept the pardon. They can refuse it. People who choose to go to hell, do so of their own accord. It never had to happen. God, like the Governor, offers them free grace and salvation if they will but repent and accept it.  But many choose to reject this free offer of salvation, which is universal (unlike Governors’ pardons).

It’s as absurd to judge God because people rebel against Him and end up in hell, as it would be to blame a Governor because a prisoner ludicrously refuses to be pardoned.

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Photo credit: Jesus casting out the money changers at the temple, by Carl Bloch (1834-1890) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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October 8, 2018

The argument (critical of either God or the Bible) runs as follows:

1) God can’t command the killing of children because that is an absolute evil.

2) Yet Old Testament passages refer to this kind of thing.

3) From that we conclude that either A) God is evil, or B) the Bible is in error and is being inaccurate about what God has done and His good and benevolent and all-loving nature.

I’ve written about this general issue many times, and will provide the links at the end, for more in-depth reading on the topic. But here was my spontaneous reply to the same sort of charges recently brought up:

God, as Creator, is also a Judge, and so can decide to judge a nation or a people if they become wicked enough. It doesn’t follow that every individual goes to hell, but the culture is judged: at times completely.

Normally, or normatively, the killing of innocent children is forbidden by man-made laws and the moral law. This holds in all situations except for the extremities of a situation where a culture has become so evil and corrupt that God Himself gives up on it, and judges it: which He, as Sovereign Creator, has the perfect prerogative to do. If God gives life, He can also take it away. Human beings (apart from just war or self-defense) don’t have that right. And so we think abortion is absolutely wrong.

But if a Christian holds that God’s commands about judging the Canaanites or Amalekites (if they actually occurred, as the Bible says they did) — particularly the children — would be evil, how do they deal with the Last Judgment and the Second Coming? Lots of children will die, then, too, by God’s express desire. In fact, (as far as I know) everyone will die; or at least their earthly sojourn will come to an end.

So if God can’t judge a culture 3000 years ago (if we say He wouldn’t and morally couldn’t do such a thing), how can He judge the whole world in the future, without sin?:

Revelation 19:11-21 (RSV) Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. [12] His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. [13] He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. [14] And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. [15] From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. [16] On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. [17] Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, [18] to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” [19] And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. [20] And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. [21] And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

That’s “meek and mild” Jesus: massively judging. Certainly this apocalyptic judgment will include many children (which, again, is not the same as consigning all of them to hell). How does a person who believes that a good God would never have commanded the utter annihilation of the Amalekites, deal with that? Christians believe in the Second Coming.

Those who think like this have to explain how the Second Coming and Final Judgment are not also “evil acts” of God, as described in the Bible. Yet if they throw those out, it seems like they are well on their way out of Christianity. They’re right in the Nicene Creed.

Moreover, it’s not evil for God to command a person to kill someone as a part of His judgment, either, because the judgment isn’t evil; therefore, the secondary cause isn’t doing an evil act. He or she is following a command of God to do a thing that is just and good.

Hence, for example, God even used the heathen Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to judge His own chosen people, Israel, when they had gone astray (Jer 27:6). He used St. Peter to judge Ananias and Sapphira with death, and that was in the New Testament. Peter didn’t kill them, but he made clear it was divine judgment (Acts 5:1-10).

If God can cause death, as Creator and Judge, and this is moral, then He can, by the same token, cause it by the hand of a human being, as His instrument:

Numbers 31:1-8 (RSV) [1] The LORD said to Moses, [2] “Avenge the people of Israel on the Mid’ianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” [3] And Moses said to the people, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Mid’ian, to execute the LORD’s vengeance on Mid’ian. [4] You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” [5] So there were provided, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. [6] And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, together with Phin’ehas the son of Elea’zar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand. [7] They warred against Mid’ian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and slew every male. [8] They slew the kings of Mid’ian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Mid’ian; and they also slew Balaam the son of Be’or with the sword.

God used Moses and his army to execute His judgment. It was not a complete judgment in this case (women and children were spared). There are many examples of such things in the Bible.

Related reading:

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Photo credit: Four Horsemen of Apocalypse (1887), by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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September 6, 2018

[Words of atheist or agnostic (?) heleninedinburgh will be in blue]

*****

I’ve been dealing with several of the objections to God’s alleged character flaws in my series vs. Seidensticker (so far with zero response from him, after 14 critiques).

‘Character flaws’ is a pretty tactful way to put it. The flood in Genesis, perhaps? Sodom and Gomorrah?

God as the Creator has the “prerogative” to judge His creation when they have gone astray.

We have earthly judges (by analogy) who do the same thing. A criminal commits a crime. He is given a fair trial, found guilty, and is then judged, if deemed guilty. We’ve even had the death penalty.

But it’s inconceivable that God is the Cosmic Judge?

Well, your god is yours; ‘you do you,’ as they say. But I still think killing everyone on earth except eight people is not a moral thing to do. Would your god like it if one of us humans decided to kill everybody on earth?

We’re not God. That’s the whole point. But people who favor legal abortion love to play God, don’t they? They believe that a mother owns another human being (her own child) — just like chattel slavery — and can kill him or her at will. Of course I don’t accept that. I think it’s immoral and murder (by the abortionist). But the internal logic there is the same thing that is objected to when it comes to God, and it’s said that He can’t judge someone and kill them.

Imagine if everyone on earth were like an SS agent (think, Heinrich Himmler). We took out people like that in World War II and everyone thought it was quite moral. But if God does it, suddenly it’s immoral.

Well, with the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, that’s what the Bible says took place: the level of immorality was virtually universal and beyond repair. So God judged. I don’t have the slightest problem with it. I think it’s exactly what we would expect in a God Who is both perfectly loving and a just judge.

You mentioned Himmler. Just thinking about Goebbels. If he hadn’t killed himself he’d have been tried at Nuremberg and presumably executed, yes? Would it have been moral to execute his children too?

Not according to our legal systems, no.

And of course I know what you are driving at. In a blanket judgment by God there will be children who are killed as well. But they are not necessarily condemned to hell. God judges each soul individually. So yes, they may have to die young as a result of being in a hyper-corrupt culture (below the age of reason and guilt, as we Catholic say), but they have an eternal life in front of them and God will judge them justly in that respect.

In the atheist view, on the other hand, there is no ultimate justice at all. Since we are doing Nazi analogies, it would be as if the Nazis had won World War II and were ruling the world right now, doing all the evil they did while they were in power. In a world without God, there would be no ultimate justice. These Nazis would die and cease to exist. They would pay no penalty for their great evils (not even in this life if they aren’t defeated). Their victims would die and cease to exist as well, and never receive any good things. All they had was an earthy life which was a living hell under Nazi rule.

There is no justice or meaning or “happy ending” in that scenario. Many people in the world have a terrible life: and very often because of despotic rulers or bad social or religious systems. In the Christian worldview the unrepentant bad guys are judged for their evil (and will end up in hell). People who accept God’s grace spend eternity with God in heaven, in great bliss and joy, with no more suffering.

That is meaningful and just.

Oh, of course you know what I’m driving at.

If you were driving at something else, by all means inform me of it. It looks like you did have in mind what I figured that you did, based on your next answer [below]

In a blanket judgment by God there will be children who are killed as well.

Then why does your god make these blanket judgements? Surely it could do something more targeted?

The idea of innocent people who’ve had a bad life and wicked people who prosper all getting what’s coming to them is a lovely one. I’m going to have to be a spoilsport and ask for proof that that’s actually what happens, though.

According to biblical teaching, it is.

And how do you know the Bible’s accurate?

See many related papers on that topic, that I have collected.

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Related reading:

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November 13, 2017

Paul8

(12-16-09; reformulated and abridged on 3-15-17)

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Catholics believe in sola gratia, but reject sola fide as an unbiblical innovation. The fact remains that works are profoundly involved in the salvation (ultimately by grace) in some sense:

St. Paul’s Teaching on the Organic Relationship of Grace / Faith and Works / Action / Obedience (Collection of 50 Pauline Passages)

More “Catholic Verses” and Biblical Defenses of Catholicism: On Sanctification as Part of Salvation, and Merit and “Doing Something for Salvation” 

Works are even central to the criteria of how God will decide who is saved and who isn’t, as I have proven from no less than 50 Bible passages:

Final Judgment in Scripture is Always Associated With Works And Never With Faith Alone

I was asked in debate with Matt Slick (the big cheese at CARM) what I would say if I got to heaven and God asked me why I should be let in. I replied that we had biblical data as to what God would actually say at such a time, and it was all about works, not faith alone at all. And I found that quite striking (after studying it in greater depth), though it never surprises me to find profound biblical support for Catholicism. I always do whenever I study the Bible.

Works are always central in every discussion of the final judgment that I could find in Scripture. Why is this the case if God supposedly wants to completely separate any notion of works or acts from salvation itself? Why is the aspect of faith (let alone faith alone) so glaringly absent in these 50 accounts of judgment, if in fact it is the central, fundamental consideration, according to Protestantism?

We interpret all of this scriptural data in a non-Pelagian fashion (Pelagians believed in salvation by works). We incorporate all of Scripture, not just our favorite pet verses. Protestants believe that works are only in the realm of sanctification and have nothing whatever directly to do with justification and salvation.

I agree with what C. S. Lewis said: asking one to choose between faith and works is as senseless as saying which blade of a pair of scissors is more important.

It’s an organic relationship. Actually, Catholics and Protestants, rightly understood, are not far apart on this in the final analysis. It’s mostly mutual misunderstandings and unfortunate semantic confusion.

The Bible doesn’t at all read as it should, were Protestant soteriology true, and Catholic soteriology false. I contend that it would read much differently indeed. As it is, it appears to overwhelmingly favor the Catholic positions.

The Catholic position is not one that ignores faith or grace. Our position is that salvation is by grace alone, through faith, which is not alone, and includes works by its very nature.

We also are falsely accused of believing in sola ecclesia when in fact our position on authority is the “three-legged stool” of Scripture-Tradition-Church. It’s simply Protestant either/or thinking applied to us.

John 11:25-26 (RSV) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
[26] and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

The Greek for “believe” is pistuo, which is considered the counterpart of “does not obey” (apitheo) in John 3:36. 1 Peter 2:7 also opposes the two same Greek words. In other words, “believe” in the biblical sense already includes within it the concept of obedience (i.e., works). Hence, “little Kittel” observes:

pisteuo as “to obey.” Heb. 11 stresses that to believe is to obey, as in the OT. Paul in Rom. 1:8; 1 Th. 1:8 (cf. Rom. 15:18; 16:19) shows, too, that believing means obeying. He speaks about the obedience of faith in Rom. 1:5, and cf. 10:3; 2 Cor. 9:13.” (p. 854)

Jesus joins faith (“belief” / pistuo) and works together, too, when He states:

John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.

The “belief” mentioned in these passages is (through cross-referencing) seen to include obeying and works, and we’re back to the Catholic organic relationship between the two, rather than the Protestant ultra-abstraction of the two into the justification and sanctification categories.

“Faith alone” is tough to verify from Scripture once everything is taken into account and not just the garden-variety Protestant passages that are always utilized.

In classic Protestantism, works are relegated to post-justification status, as part of a separate sanctification and the realm of differential rewards of those already saved. I used to believe the exact same thing, so I’m very familiar with it.

The problem is that Scripture doesn’t teach such a view. The disproofs are already in my papers linked above, in many passages that directly connect or associate salvation with the works that one does: therefore, works are not unrelated to either justification or eschatological salvation:

Matthew 25:34-36 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

The “for” shows the causal relationship: “you are saved because you did all these works.” That’s what the text actually asserts, before false Protestant presuppositions and eisegesis are applied to it in the effort to make sure works never have to do directly with salvation (no matter how much faith and grace is there with them, so that we’re not talking about Pelagianism).

If Protestantism were true, the Bible should have had a passage something like this (Revised Protestant Version [RPV] ):

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Then He will also say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for you did not believe in Me with Faith Alone.” These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous who believed with Faith Alone into eternal life.

But alas, it doesn’t read like that, does it?

John 5:28-29 . . . the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

A direct correlation: the ones who do good works are saved; the ones who do evil are damned.

Romans 2:6-8, 13 For he will render to every man according to his works: To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. . . . For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Again, works are directly tied to eternal life and justification; they are not portrayed as merely acts of gratefulness that will lead to differential rewards for the saved; no, the differential reward is either salvation or damnation. Paul totally agrees with Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Note that simply believing the gospel and knowing God is not enough for salvation. One has to also “obey the gospel” (and that involves works).

Revelation 2:5 Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

If we don’t do the works, we can lose our salvation; therefore works have to do with salvation; they are not separated from that by abstracting them into a separate category of sanctification, that is always distinguished from justification. That ain’t biblical teaching. That is the eisegesis and false premises of Melanchthon and Calvin and Zwingli.

Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.

Same thing again. Obviously, St. John, St. Paul, and our Lord Jesus need to attend a good Calvinist or evangelical seminary and get up to speed on their soteriology. They don’t get it. The passage should have been written something like the following:

“. . . and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to whether they had Faith Alone. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to whether they had Faith Alone.”

Perhaps we should get together a council and rewrite the Bible so that it doesn’t have so many “Romish” errors throughout its pages . . . The King James White version or sumpin’ . . .

Part of the problem with Protestant soteriology is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention works without mentioning faith (and especially not faith alone), but also the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that faith alone isn’t involved.

Since the Catholic believes in the triumvirate of grace —> faith —> works as the criteria for salvation, passages dealing with faith pose no problem. The more the merrier. We are saying that faith alone is the unbiblical doctrine, not faith. We’re not against faith at all, but rather, a false definition of faith, that restricts and confines it in a way that the Bible doesn’t do.

But since the Protestant position is faith alone (in terms of salvation itself), they have to explain away or rationalize all passages suggesting an important place of works in the equation, in a way that we’re not required to do (given our position) with all the passages about faith that Protestants produce. Bringing out ten, twenty, fifty passages that mention faith does nothing against our position, because we don’t reject faith as part of the whole thing.

The problem for Protestants remains: how to interpret the centrality of works in the judgment / salvation passages, in a way that preserves the “faith alone” doctrine.

I contend that it is impossible. To do so does violence to the Bible and what it teaches. We must base our teaching squarely on biblical theology and not the arbitrary, self-contradictory traditions of men (folks like Calvin), who eisegete Holy Scripture and substitute for biblical thought, their own traditions.

Sometimes it’s easy to confuse those traditions with biblical teaching itself. But by examining Holy Scripture more deeply and over time, I think anyone can eventually see that it supports the Catholic positions every time.

Using John 5 as an example, we see that the usual Protestant dichotomies don’t apply. 5:21-22 mentions resurrection and judgment. But what it doesn’t do is give the criteria for these judgments and who is resurrected. That has to come by reading on (further context).

John 5:24 . . . he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

This is a generalized statement: one could perhaps paraphrase it as “Christian believers have eternal life” or (to bring it down to a Sunday School nursery level): “all good Christians go to heaven.”

It doesn’t follow from a general statement like this that no Christian can ever fall away (though Calvinism requires this, over against many biblical passages to the contrary), or that works have nothing to do with it. We need to look at the deeper meaning of “believe” (as I have already done).

As we read on (the same discourse from Jesus) we get to 5:29: “. . . those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

Now, Protestants would tend to highlight 5:24 and de-emphasize 5:29. I can gladly consider both of them in the entire equation. It’s once again the Catholic (Hebraic) “both/and” vs. the Protestant (and more Greek) “either/or”. Scripture is asserting two truths:

5:24 “he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life”

5:29 “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life,”

Faith and works. For us, the two passages are entirely compatible and in harmony with our Catholic theology: one is saved by grace through faith, in believing in Jesus, and this belief entails and inherently includes good works.

But Protestants can’t do that, because they wrongly conclude that any presence of good works in the equation of both justification and salvation itself is somehow “anti-faith” or antithetical to grace alone; and is Pelagianism. This doesn’t follow.

Because of these false, unbiblical premises, Protestants have to explain 5:29 as merely differential rewards for the saved (who are saved by faith alone); whereas the actual text does not teach that. It teaches a direct correlation between good works and eternal life. It explains 5:24 in greater depth; just as I noted earlier that Jesus Himself places works and faith in direct relationship:

John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do . . .

Baptism is also equated with regeneration and entrance into the kingdom, so this is hardly an example amenable overall to the Protestant position:

Acts 2:38, 41 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” . . . So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The order is not:

1) faith
2) forgiveness
3) indwelling Holy Spirit
4) baptism

but rather,

1) faith
2) baptism
3) forgiveness (directly because of baptism)
4) indwelling Holy Spirit (directly because of baptism)

Because of the baptism, souls were added to the kingdom. They weren’t already in the kingdom, and then decided to be baptized out of obedience. Therefore, the work of baptism directly ties into both justification and final salvation.

Galatians 3:26-27 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Colossians 2:12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Faith and baptism are virtually equivalent in their importance. One is “in” Jesus both through faith and through baptism. Both/and.

Baptism is not a separate, optional work. It is part and parcel of the process. Insofar as it, too, is regarded as a “work” then here we have again the Catholic grace-faith-works (and efficacious sacraments) paradigm.

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Photo credit: St Paul (c. 1468), by Marco Zoppo (1433-1478) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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September 6, 2017

BabylonFall

The fall of Babylon; Cyrus the Great defeating the Chaldean army (1831), by John Martin (1789-1854) [Wikimedia Commons /  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license]

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(9-21-01)

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[see, for necessary background information: “Judgment of Nations: A Collection of Biblical Passages”]

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God used (among others) the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar to judge Israel when they had strayed:

. . . Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon . . . He will slay with the sword your daughters . . . I will make you a bare rock . . . (Ezekiel 26:7-8, 14; cf. Jer 27:6 — where God calls him “my servant” — Jer 46:26; Ezra 5:12; Isaiah 9:11-17, many others)

The fact that God used them doesn’t make everything they did right. Babylon was eventually judged, after being used by God to punish Israel for its sins. But God can use even objectively evil acts for His own ultimate benevolent ends, over the long term, in His inscrutable Providence (see, e.g., Gen 45:4-8; 50:15-20). The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this:

311. “Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. [Cf. St. Augustine, De libero arbitrio I, 1, 2: PL 32, 1221- 1223; St.Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 79, 1.] He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it: For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself. [St. Augustine, Enchiridion II, 3: PL 40,
236.]

312. “In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: ‘It was not you’, said Joseph to his brothers, ‘who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.’ [Gen 45:8; Gen 50:20; cf. Tob 2:12 Vulgate).] From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God, by his grace that ‘abounded all the more’,[Cf. Rom 5:20 .] brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes
a good.”

God allowed Satan to persecute Job, for His larger purposes: “‘Behold, all that he has is in your power’ . . . “(Job 1:12). The most rebellious nations (by definition), and the most worthy of judgment, are the most Judaism- or Christianity-saturated nations. They are all the more accountable for their rebellion, just as ancient Israel became an abomination to God time and time again because she was given so much, and rejected it. We know from revelation that God clearly judges nations in direct proportion to how much moral truth they know and deliberately reject.

One might argue that mass media (now including the Internet), literacy, centuries of further development of moral and theological teaching, more awareness of the gospel and Christianity; more familiarity with its good fruits and blessings resulting therefrom; revivalism, stated belief, and any number of additional factors would be criteria for determining which countries today might possibly be “ripe” for judgment. having rejected so much true knowledge of the faith and of God and His teachings and moral laws. It is the contrast or relationship between how much of Christianity a nation knows and has rejected, which is the key factor, and what that nation has done or permitted (legally or otherwise) since having rejected it as a culture.

Better for a nation to not even claim to be Christian than to pretend it is while, for example, slaughtering babies by the millions, or sanctioning legally and culturally a host of sexual sins and other sins not harmonious with traditional Christianity. To whom much is given, much is required. This is utterly obvious, given God’s treatment of His own chosen people, the Jews, throughout history. They knew much more than the Gentiles, so God judged them accordingly. The presence of many good things in a nation would not necessarily comprise any sort of disproof of this opinion. The very fact of undeniable and great amounts of good supports the contention that a nation has been especially blessed by God’s grace (for where else does good come from?). That nations fall so low despite that is their indictment, much like ancient Israel.

Our Lord reasoned precisely in this way, in condemning Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum, in relation to Tyre and Sidon (Luke 10:13-15). There, the idea is that the former places knew more; therefore they were more culpable for rebellion: . . for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon . . . (10:13) In fact, our Lord mentions Sodom in contrast to those towns which reject the disciples’ message, in Luke 10:12 (compare to Ezekiel, chapter 16, and Romans, chapters 1 and 2). All quite biblical, all quite divine, being from our Lord.

Matthew 12:40-42 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nin’eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Natural law is also binding on all persons and cultures. The key lies in Romans 1 and 2. Those two chapters refer specifically to individual culpability, rather than national. But they can also be applied by extension or analogy, to nations. It all depends on what one knows of God’s law and/or natural law. All men have the potential for knowing how to act morally, in the main, even without revelation, and they are judged accordingly, as St. Paul explicitly informs us. So the following theoretical/philosophical scenario would apply, I think. I don’t pretend to know how one would quantify degrees of sin in all particulars. That is for God to ultimately determine (in terms of both judgment and individual salvation), not men, but here is my scenario :

1. Nation X has “degree 99” of knowledge about revelation/Judaism/Christianity and has (institutionally, and in terms of societal norms) rejected 85% of it.

2. Nation Y has “degree 0” of knowledge about revelation/Judaism/Christianity — therefore it cannot reject it (insofar as revelation goes beyond the moral knowledge achievable through natural law).

3. Nation X has “degree 50” of the sins of abortion, materialism, oppression of the poor, racism, lack of piety, sexual sin, etc.

4. Nation Y also has “degree 50” of the sins of abortion, materialism, oppression of the poor, racism, lack of piety, sexual sin, etc.

Now which nation is more worthy of judgment? Clearly, Nation X, because it knew more, having received and accepted more of God’s revelation, therefore incurring a higher culpability, than Nation Y, which received none. The sin and hypocrisy is proportionate to how much the nation knew and rejected. One can argue, of course, over degrees and culpability, as it is a largely subjective matter, but the bottom line principle of to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48) stands, I think.The context of this saying of our Lord was the parable of the faithful and wise steward (Luke 12:41-48). Here is its conclusion: verses 47-48 (RSV):

And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.

The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) makes a very similar point. It is noteworthy that the servants received different amounts of talents: 5, 2, and 1, to each according to his ability (25:15). The servants with 2 and 5 talents multiplied them by the same amount (25:20, 22), while the servant with one did nothing. He was damned (25:30), while the others were greeted with well done, good and faithful servant (25:21, 23). So they were judged by what they did with what they had, just as those with and without the law are judged by what they know and (more importantly) do (Romans 2:12-16).James makes the same point in another fashion:

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. (cf. Romans 2:17-24)

Jesus echoes this same thought in his conversation with the Roman centurion, where he contrasts his strong faith with the spiritual hypocrisy of the disobedient among the Jews who knew more but who would be damned (Matthew 8:5-13; cf. 21:28-32).That said, I believe there could indeed be (and often have been) nations which were so exceedingly wicked, even never having received or accepted any significant knowledge of revelation (but still being responsible for moral law and conscience), that they are worse than a nation receiving revelation and rejecting part of it. So e.g., I would say that the ancient Aztecs, with their human sacrifice, were worse as a society than Rome in 430, or America in 1960, or even France in the throes of “Enlightenment” tyranny in 1795. No contest.

But once (particularly) the millions of slaughtered babies start adding up in so-called Christian countries, with legal and societal sanction (“all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” — Edmund Burke), then I say that the latter countries are far worse, according to Scripture, just as an individual who truly didn’t know what abortion entailed, and had one, is far less guilty than one who committed this horrible sin, knowing full well what it was, and perhaps even knowing that it is utterly contrary to the Bible and Christianity.

One must think about these matters biblically, as opposed to being a fish wholly contained by the “aquarium” of their own culture and how it predominantly thinks; beholden to the currently fashionable zeitgeist. It is always an ongoing task for Christians to think “biblically” and “Christianly” in the midst of an overwhelmingly secular culture, whose influence affects us all. Oftentimes, unfortunately, people come from a perspective of sheer emotionalism or arbitrary opinion, rather than from a biblical worldview, with regard to this matter of when God might be construed as “judging” or “chastising.”

That is quite understandable (as it is an unpleasant, frightening topic), but at the same time, it is the duty of the Christian apologist to explain and defend a biblical worldview, especially if it is being snickered at, attacked, and dismissed as of little import, or relegated to the sole domain of “fanatics” or so-called “fundamentalists.” God doesn’t change. He judged nations in the past; He still does today, and He will judge the entire world and everyone in it at the End of the Age.

Oftentimes in the Old Testament, the prophets would give a conditional prophecy: “If you act righteously you will win battle X with nation Y. But if you continue in your idolatries [substitute any serious sin], you will be defeated, and led away with hooks in your noses, [etc.]” So repentance was urged, without being thought of as a substitution for military action against enemies. Prophets (as I recall) didn’t say very often, if at all, not to fight, but rather, to repent so that the battle would be successful. The evil nature of the enemy did not change, whatever Israel decided to do with regard to its own sins:

1 Samuel 12:15 but if you will not hearken to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.

2 Chronicles 7:11-22:11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king’s house; all that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there for ever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you walk before me, as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man to rule Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from the land which I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which is exalted, every one passing by will be astonished, and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?” 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they forsook the LORD the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this evil upon them'”

Nations are as contradictory as every human being is: we are mixtures of radical good and radical evil, due to original sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Alexander Solzhenitsyn correctly noted: “the line between good and evil runs through every human heart.” Nations are much the same. Many of the inhabitants of a country could be very righteous and perform many good works, but there is a common motif in the Old Testament, whereby God ceases to even acknowledge the goodness of spiritually or morally good, pious acts, if enough evil is tolerated that even the pious acts become overtly hypocritical:

Proverbs 28:9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

Isaiah 1:4, 11, 13, 15-17 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged . . . “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats . . . Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies–I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly . . . When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 59:2 . . . your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.

Jeremiah 14:12 Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and cereal offering, I will not accept them; but I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”

Amos 5:21-24 “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

See also Matthew 23:1-31 (Jesus’ condemnation of the “pious hypocrisy” of the Pharisees).

The need for self-examination and national repentance in the face of chastisement or judgment (if it is not final judgment) is a strong biblical theme, and one eloquently commented upon by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of Toward Tradition, in an article in The National Review, dated September 18, 2001, entitled “Amalek & U.S.: Self-examination and counterattack”:

As an Orthodox rabbi I turn for guidance to the pages of that very Book from which our nation’s 17th- and 18th-century founders were most comfortable seeking wisdom and solace. In the book of Exodus we find an apt Biblical model for the situation at hand. I refer to the Amalekite attack on the ancient Israelites shortly after their hurried departure from Egypt. For this, God commanded the Jews to make unceasing war on the Amalekites — but not only that.Jewish tradition points out that the stated location of the attack, Rephidim, is to be read not as the geographical name of any place but instead as a Hebrew word, a plural noun, alluding to the moral turpitude of the Children of Israel at the time shortly prior to the attack. God suggested that Amalek’s attack was to be analyzed as a call to self-examination.

From the Amalek story we may extract two lessons. First of all is the obligation to root out evil . . . Second, not every victimized nation or group is perfectly virtuous. I realize this may sound outrageously insensitive, for many Americans are committed to the view that being a victim, . . . should immediately grant you immunity from all criticism . . . But it is simply wrong to grant moral prestige on the basis of suffering.

It is a core Jewish value, when confronted with catastrophe, to probe broadly and arrive at a detailed moral balance sheet . . . to assess one’s own moral condition. But — and here is the tricky part — while the victim gauges his faults he is also commanded to strike back in devastating force. In short, the strategy is counterattack accompanied by an equally remorseless attempt to identify the flaws that made the attack possible in the first place . . .

The sin of murder, and particularly child-killing (abortion), tolerated by a society on a large scale, would seem to be a prominent reason for the judgment of a nation to occur. No nation that legally sanctions murder can be a “righteous nation,” according to God.

Many Christians today apparently think that God no longer judges, or does in a fashion much different than what He did in the Old Covenant. This is simply false, for anyone who accepts the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible in toto. God doesn’t change. The short answer to this is found in Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. (cf. 5:18-20).

Revelation 19:11-16, which speaks of Jesus judging the nations at the end of the current age, should disabuse anyone of the “meek and mild Jesus” stereotype, which is thoroughly unbiblical. Does God not love the countries He judges? Of course He does love them. Likewise, we can love our own country even while believing that it might be ripe for judgment, just as Jeremiah did, just as Jesus did as He wept over Jerusalem:

Matthew 23:37a, 38 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! . . . . . Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.

To deny that, one would have to believe that Jesus didn’t love His country, the Chosen People of Israel, because He pointed out their grievous sins and predicted that their Temple would be destroyed within a generation. Jesus didn’t often emphasize all the good things that had occurred in Jerusalem. He dwelt on the bad things (which is the function and purpose of preachers and prophets), thus causing (according to the fashionable psycho-babble of today) irreparable harm to their self-esteem. Jesus spoke of an Israel that featured prophet-killing, hardness of heart, money-making in the Temple, hyper-legalism, and nationalistic pride.

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As He said, He “came not for the righteous, but for sinners.”God judges. He has the power of life and death in His hands. Jesus implied that Israel was to be judged because of its disobedience. The Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Now, according to the reasoning of some, it would then follow that Jesus must have positively willed this destruction, and that the Roman troops were therefore “good guys.” But this simply doesn’t follow. God doesn’t positively decree evil. He cannot do so. Such a view is rank blasphemy. He merely uses it for His ends.

Evil is evil. How could God have used Judas to betray His own Son? How could He have devised the plan of redemption whereby the Crucifixion occurred at the hand of evil men? The Roman Emperor Nero was not exactly a Boy Scout troop leader. Plenty of Christians died under him, and this was God’s plan, too, because martyrs’ blood is the seed of the growth of the Church. The Assyrians or the Babylonians (or for that matter, the Nazis and Communists) are no less evil than any agents of judgment today that God might use (in the sense of passively permitting the evil they devise). God used all these stooges and buffoons as shadows in the “screen” of history, in His Providence.

People tend to see the situation they themselves are in as intrinsically different because they are in the midst of it, and often, still grieving and suffering from it. We should no more expect a people to see the overall picture of what may be happening to them, than we would expect Job to understand his sufferings while they happened, or the disciples to understand the Cross while it was happening. Job never was told why he suffered so much. He was told to trust God, who set the universe in motion, etc. All we can go by in such a matter is biblical revelation, example, and precedent.

Again, evil is evil. If one mortal sin can send a person to hell, then there is a limit to how much we can quantify the degree of evil. There are exceptionally, diabolically, demonically evil acts (such as the Nazi Holocaust, or acts of terrorism) and institutionalized evils such as abortion, slavery, religious persecution, or systematic deprivation and economic oppression. Yet God can and does use all of these to bring about good. The saintly and wise Fr. John A. Hardon (with whom I studied in person) used to say: “Everything, repeat, absolutely everything, is part of God’s Providence.” This is orthodox Christianity, both Catholic and Calvinist.

A fellow Catholic discussed God’s Providence on a public discussion list:

A good example of recent times where God has intervened is when the Nazis were invading Russia (USSR)….the Germans were winning the war ‘big time’….until the worst winter in 100 years came upon the continent of Europe. The Germans weren’t prepared and then they were slaughtered from that point on. Yes, God permitted the Nazis to prevail on the Continent for a while, but he helped destroy them with a very harsh winter.

This doesn’t have to necessarily be interpreted as a supernatural intervention. It was probably simply a rotten winter in the usual course of nature (in this case, meteorology). God’s Providence, however, can operate so that it “conveniently” worked out that this was when the Nazis invaded. In the same fashion, God “saw to it” that the Spitfire fighter-planes were superior to the German ones in the Battle of Britain, where the Allies destroyed the Nazi planes at a 4-to-1 ratio and thus were victorious. History is filled with such examples of good “luck”.

Whatever God did in His Providence in the course of World War II, however, it remains true that Britain could have easily prevented the tragic conflict in the 1930s, but they were Utopian socialist head-in-the-sand wimps in those years, and wouldn’t listen to “warmonger” Churchill. So whenever I hear the lament “How could God allow the Holocaust?,” I always say, “how could England [i.e., men, not God] have been so blind as to not see what was happening, after Hitler came to power?”

Finally, it is almost inconceivable to imagine an official Catholic teaching, declaring that such-and-such an act against nation X or individual Y unquestionably constituted divine wrath, judgment, or chastisement. The Church doesn’t even declare that any given individual is in hell (not even Judas). Catholics don’t even believe in the absolute assurance of personal salvation, let alone thinking that we know for sure that God is judging in any particular context. In that sense, judgment is similar to the fulfillment of prophecy. As with the judgment of nations, it is a very tricky business indeed to determine if it is actually taking place in any given circumstance.

The legal structures (i.e., laws) of a nation are most important because they are a reflection of what a nation tolerates; what it will allow to possess legal sanction, which has almost taken the place of theological or ecclesiastical sanction (the ultimate bases of law, along with natural law). The objective criteria of religiosity would be identifiable sociologically in demographic and polling data.

The US has been far more religious on this basis than Europe, with the possible exception of Ireland. Many nations in Africa are far more “Christian” in outlook than we are. But I have always agreed that it is ultimately a very subjective enterprise, known in its completeness only to God, just as are questions, e.g., of who is (or will be) saved, who is in the elect, and so forth. Likewise with nations. It is very difficult to say for sure, and I have been careful not to positively assert (as to judgment or chastisement).

Spirituality or “discerning the signs of the times” is never an exact science. That doesn’t make it less potentially or actually true. It just can’t be viewed epistemologically in the same way that more exact forms of knowledge like natural science or engineering or geometry can be. That said, I think it is far more than “gut-level” though. The objective basis of my viewpoint on the judgment of nations is found in Holy Scripture, whose teachings are quite objectively discernible, even while not all that easy to apply to the particulars of concrete history and current-day events.

In any case, it is far more biblically correct to say that God still judges nations and to speculate (with all due self-reflection and willingness to repent) on which nations might be so liable, than to deny that God still does this (with little or no biblical basis) and to say it is illegitimate to talk about at all, simply because we can’t achieve philosophical certainty of the highest order (which can’t be attained in most fields of inquiry, anyway). Therefore, I think this line of thought leads to a rhetorical and philosophical dead-end.

This undue demand for certainty is a hallmark of secularist, post-Enlightenment thought. It is not (strictly speaking) a biblical (Hebrew, Semitic) mode of thinking, which is, rather, far more practical and concerned with concrete obedience to God and justice and charity, than with abstract philosophical questions. We are all influenced by many things, and Lord knows, any educated person has been bombarded with secularist modes of thought and theorizing.

The rejection of an undue demand for certainty does not mean that the discussion therefore descends to a mere “gut-level” subjectivism, akin to the classic example of the Mormon “burning in the bosom.” And that is because Scripture speaks to the issue fairly clearly. My analysis is based on both that and sociologically determined “facts” as to the level of stated adherence to Christian or traditional moral teaching.

Instances of God’s mercy do not mean that He can’t execute “strict” or “severe” justice (from a purely human standpoint) in other instances. We know from revelation that He does do so, so one exception to the rule (I’ve seen this reasoning often used with regard to possible judgment of America) is not conclusive in and of itself.

These are very deep, complex subjects, and people come up with all sorts of warped understandings of God and how He operates. The very fact that God is always blamed for every catastrophe proves that the rebellion potentially inside all of us, and original sin, give us a cast of mind which always seeks to blame God first, rather than look at ourselves.

It is undeniable that more knowledge creates more culpability, per the explicit words of Jesus. We make this distinction as Catholics concerning mortal sin. Three things must be present: sufficient knowledge, grave matter, and full consent of the will. So yes, people are less guilty if they don’t know something is wrong. Fornication, contraception, or masturbation would be examples today where people are massively ignorant as to the objectively grave sinfulness of these acts. The difference in knowledge means, in Catholic theology, quite possibly a difference between going to heaven and winding up in hell.

But ignorance (or invincible ignorance) itself is a very tricky thing to determine (for us, but not for God). The evil of child-killing, for example, is, in my firm opinion, very obvious to one and all who know anything about the development of a preborn child. Natural law is sufficient for a person to know the evil of abortion (and, I would argue, fornication and adultery and homosexuality and even – to a somewhat lesser extent – contraception).

I knew what developing fetuses looked like at 9 years old, back in 1967 or whenever the famous Life Magazine article with those incredible, beautiful pictures came out. I knew this even before I learned the facts of life, if I recall correctly. What I didn’t know was that these creatures were being legally slaughtered. I thought abortion involved putting away a few cells, which were not yet human (as one would expect from a product of our secular schools and media and the radical feminism of that era, and before having been exposed to any great amount of traditional Christian thought).

It is very difficult to be that ignorant today, unless one chooses to deliberately ignore the issue out of convenience or fear of what one might find out. And that degree of deliberate ignorance or refusal to attain knowledge would itself be culpable. But the evil of abortion itself is obvious. It is obvious to 8 out of 10 women who refuse to abort upon hearing the heartbeat of their child, etc. And this guilt applies whether a nation as a whole has received revelation or not, being part of natural law.

I don’t claim to understand why certain nations seemingly worthy of judgment have been spared (including my own). I can imagine, however, any number of reasons why they might be spared, in theory, in “God’s mind.” For example, they might be needed to judge other, more wicked nations, or someone might be born there who would cure cancer, or help cause a revival which would have far-reaching, positive consequences (a guy like John Wesley). Only God sees all things, and the whole of history, being out of time.

My “thesis” is not intended as an instance of the philosophy of history. It is much more so an attempted application of biblical theology to nations, with particular emphasis on the example of ancient Israel. It is not in any way, shape, or form, an elaborate, sophisticated historical theory such as Cardinal Newman’s development of doctrine, and suchlike. I’m simply trying to grapple with the biblical data and anomalies such as a country like ours — admirable in so many ways — which can live with 44 million deliberately-inflicted executions, while mourning, weeping and wailing and achieving extraordinary unity over some 7000 deliberately-inflicted executions [9-11].

The current casualties are a mere 0.000159% of the legal deaths in America at the hand of abortionist “doctors.” Yet we as a nation have a hundred, a thousand times more grief over that than we do about the mountains of dead babies, now over seven times as large as the number of Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust. We look down our noses at the terrorists, who deny the “sanctity of life” (as if we don’t, as a society). We despise Hitler, while we have murdered five, six, seven times more than he did (depending on how the casualties of WW II are figured in).

We are even approaching Mao’s estimated 60 million murders of his own people. He killed his own without Christ and Christian revelation. We kill ours with those spiritual benefits. We even allow mothers to kill their own children. God help us. This is the sort of utter, abominable moral hypocrisy that I have been trying to point out. I know it is difficult to see, but it is undeniable.

“Religiosity” in a demographic or sociological sense can be discussed, but we can never make any sort of compelling determination as to exactly how “wicked” a nation is, or if in fact it is being judged. What we can do is say that a nation has institutionalized evil, and to that extent it is clearly liable to divine judgment, based on its espousal of that which is against God and therefore (by that fact alone) worthy of judgment (whether said nation possesses revelation or not: because natural law and the conscience of persons made in the image of God exist universally). Stated another way, such institutionalized, legalized evil endangers the nation which espouses it, subjecting it to quite possible judgment or chastisement (based on the clear biblical data).

I shall now re-state my “thesis on judgment” briefly and more precisely, and draw some additional distinctions which might be helpful to promote further discussion and thought on this issue:

1. Significant amounts of institutionalized evils or illegitimate, immoral social norms in a nation/society (whether “Christian” or pagan) render it worthy of judgment, according to biblical teaching.Nations which possess relatively more revelation and reject it, will tend to be more spiritually hypocritical and rebellious in degree (thus more worthy of judgment, according to “to whom much is given, much is required”) than nations not possessing revelation which also have institutionalized evil and illegitimate, immoral social norms, though there may be exceptions to the rule in the case of extraordinarily wicked nations which had never been Christianized or “Judaized.”

2. Being worthy of judgment is determined by lack of adherence to biblical and natural law morality, whereas a possible scenario of being in fact judged by God cannot be determined with certainty, since many other factors with regard to Providence and the “timing” of God’s actions must be taken into account, and man doesn’t have enough information to render such a conclusion beyond all doubt (and no biblical information, excepting some extraordinarily clear prophecies).

3. Given #1 and #2, it is altogether permissible and proper to believe that it is plausible or possible that a given nation is in fact being judged or chastised, based on its disobedience to moral law and/or spiritual hypocrisy (which God clearly disapproves of in the strongest terms in Scripture).

4. Repentance on an individual level and in a corporate sense (e.g., as the Ninevites did in response to Jonah) is consistent with either an acceptance of moral failure, based on #1, or belief that judgment may in fact be taking place, as in #3, or both. Belief that judgment is indeed occurring (like a belief that the End of the Age or the Second Coming is near) often produces deep repentance among those in the society who are still spiritually “reachable.” Even if that belief is mistaken, the repentance based wholly or in part on that belief is still a positive social good. And of course it is good (at all times) for a nation to examine itself and its laws and norms and moral teachings. History teaches us that this usually doesn’t happen unless and until some serious calamity occurs.

Addendum: One might also possibly argue (I’m basically thinking out loud and exploring this notion) that since whole nations do not usually repent unless serious calamities occur (and/or revivals), that therefore, the presence of widespread repentance and self-examination might be taken as evidence (given what history teaches us) that indeed judgment or revival had occurred. The purpose of judgment (unless it is final) is to purify a nation, so increasing moral purity in turn might lead one to reasonably suspect that the judgment that usually produces it was present.

“Discerning the signs of the times” is a quite-biblical notion, right from the lips of Jesus (Matthew 16:3; “interpret…” in RSV). Following that, He said:

Matthew 16:4a An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign [the Pharisees had asked for a “sign from heaven” – Mt 16:1], but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.

So He thought that the Resurrection was sufficient proof, but of course it was not for many people (see Luke 16:30-31), and it continues to be argued against on hyper-rationalistic and skeptical grounds to this day. All we need to know in order to repent and reform is that we are in disobedience to Scripture (if a Christian nation) or natural law (if a pagan nation).We certainly can know what nations are particularly worthy of judgment, based on their sins. America is worthy, I have little or no doubt, based on legal abortion alone, as well as a host of other evils, including soon-to-be-institutionalized homosexuality (which reminds me just a wee bit of Sodom and Gomorrah).

If we know “what” makes a nation worthy of judgment (immorality), then we can know “which” nation is worthy, at least on a purely objective basis (as we know, the subjective element of culpability is another issue), based on what it is doing. Surely, abortion in this day and age is a deliberate act of savagery, which is inexcusable for all but the most ignorant, head-in-the-sand dolts or the most temporarily-insane due to stress or whatever, and therefore a sin sufficiently serious to make a nation which permits, extolls, and sanctions it worthy of divine judgment, per the many biblical passages on shedding innocent blood.

Also, God may choose to exercise His mercy at any time, even if a nation is worthy of judgment. He did that with Israel repeatedly; so I believe He continues to do (as He does not change). Determining actuality, on the other hand, is a quite different proposition, due to the complexity of Providence and the place of evil in it. I think it is every bit as hard to determine as fulfilled prophecy, if not more so. Hypocrisy is surely a prominent motif in Scripture, for those who know more of revelation, and it is by no means confined to nations possessing revelation. God is not mocked. The scales will be made right in due course, whether in history or at the end of it.

The Christian must incorporate natural law into his biblical worldview, since it is taught in Scripture itself (notably, in Romans 1 and 2). I have done so, and have always done so. But a Christian cannot use a natural law analysis to the exclusion of a biblical approach. Many Christians appear to be minimizing Scripture (in effect) at every turn, when it comes to the discussion of America possibly being judged. They act as if not knowing the exact level of hypocrisy of a culture or person somehow overturns the undeniable maxim “to whom much is given, much is required” or liability to judgment. It does not.

We have more than enough scriptural data to ponder the question of possible judgment, as a function of Jesus being Lord of all of life (including geo-politics, ethics, and history). Doing so fosters more awareness and the need for repentance and continual reformation and revival (the three R’s). For heaven’s sake: ancient Israel committed far less heinous sins than we have, it seems to me, and the prophets railed endlessly to her about it (and were, of course, despised as naysayers and unpatriotic for doing so).

But in this day and age, the “prophetic function” (i.e., speaking in the same sorts of ways that prophets spoke, as opposed to, e.g., a “pastoral mode”) or what might be called “speaking truth to power” seems to have become so unfashionable that even hinting at such a thing is considered abominable (rather than the sins themselves). Yet I have heard Scott Hahn refer to the statement by Ruth Bell Graham that “if America isn’t judged, God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” I’ve now heard Karl Keating and Mother Angelica and Johnette Benkovic talk about the possibility of judgment here, and the need to repent. The prominent evangelical magazine Christianity Today published a similar article by Frederica Mathewes-Green, a well-known Orthodox writer and pro-life activist.

Nor do I accept the proposition made by some Christians that God no longer judges, and has changed somewhere in the period between the Old and New Testaments.

We don’t dare mention abortion in a public, national context, because there is too much division, and it is impolite and uncouth to do so. Even Billy Graham wouldn’t dare do that — not in a setting which isn’t merely the Christian cultural ghetto (like one of his crusades). George Bush certainly won’t. After all, his wife and mother and sister (so I hear) are all pro-aborts. But the pope does so. He opposed Clinton to his face. Mother Teresa did so whenever she pleased, at the United Nations and other secular settings.

We are already far beyond worthiness for judgment, as far as I am concerned. What does it take (I ask anyone who denies this)? I haven’t seen anyone who denies this possibility arguing as to how 44 million savage executions of children are somehow not serious enough to merit judgment. Would 100 million be? Would one billion? Or maybe blowing up the whole earth and killing 7 billion or whatever it is now? We rightly detest the evil of 6 million Jews being killed in the Holocaust . . . Obviously, little people are placed out of the category of people (even by many Jews, who ought to know better, one would think), just as blacks and Indians and Jews and other groups were placed historically. Otherwise, our culture wouldn’t think in these radically contradictory and absurd terms.

Related reading:

Is America Arguably the Wickedest Nation of All Time? [9-21-01]

Judgment of Nations: A Collection of Biblical Passages [9-21-01]

Reflections on the Catholic Viewpoint on Original Sin and God’s Prerogative to Judge and Take Human Life as He Wills (Even, Sometimes, Entire Nations) [Facebook, 2-16-07]

“How Can God Order the Massacre of Innocents?” (Amalekites, etc.) [11-10-07]

Did Moses (& God) Sin by Judging the Midianites? [5-21-08]

Could Actual Persecution (to the Death) Against Christians Break Out (in 30, 40 Years) in the US? [Facebook, 8-29-13]

Israel as God’s Chosen Agent of Wrath and Judgment [9-28-14]

Are Coercion & Persecution Coming Soon for Catholics? [9-2-15]

Christian Civilization Self-Demolition [8-5-16]

The Singular Wickedness of America & Possible Coming Judgment [9-4-17]

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September 6, 2017

TempleDestroyed

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 (1850), by David Roberts (1796-1864) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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(9-21-01)

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See also the highly related paper, “Judgment of Nations: Biblical Commentary & Reflections”

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Biblical passages (Revised Standard Version) teaching divine judgment or chastisement of nations (as opposed to individuals):

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Leviticus 26:14-33

14 “But if you will not hearken to me, and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my ordinances, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 I will do this to you: I will appoint over you sudden terror, consumption, and fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it; 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be smitten before your enemies; those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not hearken to me, then I will chastise you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like brass; 20 and your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. 21 “Then if you walk contrary to me, and will not hearken to me, I will bring more plagues upon you, sevenfold as many as your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number, so that your ways shall become desolate. 23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me, but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will smite you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant; and if you gather within your cities I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and shall deliver your bread again by weight; and you shall eat, and not be satisfied. 27 “And if in spite of this you will not hearken to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and chastise you myself sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols; and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste, and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing odors. 32 And I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be astonished at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you; and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

Deuteronomy 32:15-43

15 “But Jesh’urun waxed fat, and kicked; you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became sleek; then he forsook God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominable practices they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons which were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come in of late, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 “The LORD saw it, and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. 20 And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. 21 They have stirred me to jealousy with what is no god; they have provoked me with their idols. So I will stir them to jealousy with those who are no people; I will provoke them with a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. 23 “‘And I will heap evils upon them; I will spend my arrows upon them; 24 they shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured with burning heat and poisonous pestilence; and I will send the teeth of beasts against them, with venom of crawling things of the dust. 25 In the open the sword shall bereave, and in the chambers shall be terror, destroying both young man and virgin, the sucking child with the man of gray hairs. 26 I would have said, “I will scatter them afar, I will make the remembrance of them cease from among men,” 27 had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should judge amiss, lest they should say, “Our hand is triumphant, the LORD has not wrought all this.”‘ 28 “For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them. 29 If they were wise, they would understand this, they would discern their latter end! 30 How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? 31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. 32 For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomor’rah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters are bitter; 33 their wine is the poison of serpents, and the cruel venom of asps. 34 “Is not this laid up in store with me, sealed up in my treasuries? 35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly. 36 For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. 37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, 38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your protection! 39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. 40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and swear, As I live for ever, 41 if I whet my glittering sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries, and will requite those who hate me. 42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh–with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.’ 43 “Praise his people, O you nations; for he avenges the blood of his servants, and takes vengeance on his adversaries, and makes expiation for the land of his people.”

2 Kings 17:22-23 The people of Israel walked in all the sins which Jerobo’am did; they did not depart from them, 23 until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

Nehemiah 9:26-36

26 “Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against thee and cast thy law behind their back and killed thy prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to thee, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore thou didst give them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer; and in the time of their suffering they cried to thee and thou didst hear them from heaven; and according to thy great mercies thou didst give them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before thee, and thou didst abandon them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them; yet when they turned and cried to thee thou didst hear from heaven, and many times thou didst deliver them according to thy mercies. 29 And thou didst warn them in order to turn them back to thy law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey thy commandments, but sinned against thy ordinances, by the observance of which a man shall live, and turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. 30 Many years thou didst bear with them, and didst warn them by thy Spirit through thy prophets; yet they would not give ear. Therefore thou didst give them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless in thy great mercies thou didst not make an end of them or forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God. 32 “Now therefore, our God, the great and mighty and terrible God, who keepest covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to thee that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. 33 Yet thou hast been just in all that has come upon us, for thou hast dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly; 34 our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept thy law or heeded thy commandments and thy warnings which thou didst give them. 35 They did not serve thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness which thou gavest them, and in the large and rich land which thou didst set before them; and they did not turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that thou gavest to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.

Isaiah 19:4 and I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master; and a fierce king will rule over them, says the Lord, the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 59:3-18

3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. 4 No one enters suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. 5 They hatch adders’ eggs, they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one which is crushed a viper is hatched. 6 Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. 7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways. 8 The way of peace they know not, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked, no one who goes in them knows peace. 9 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we look for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. 10 We grope for the wall like the blind, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. 11 We all growl like bears, we moan and moan like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: 13 transgressing, and denying the LORD, and turning away from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. 14 Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. 15 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intervene; then his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. 17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as a mantle. 18 According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render requital.

Jeremiah 5:1-31 (all)

1 Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth; that I may pardon her. 2 Though they say, “As the LORD lives,” yet they swear falsely. 3 O LORD, do not thy eyes look for truth? Thou hast smitten them, but they felt no anguish; thou hast consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent. 4 Then I said, “These are only the poor, they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the law of their God. 5 I will go to the great, and will speak to them; for they know the way of the LORD, the law of their God.” But they all alike had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds. 6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall slay them, a wolf from the desert shall destroy them. A leopard is watching against their cities, every one who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces; because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are great. 7 “How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me, and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of harlots. 8 They were well-fed lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbor’s wife. 9 Shall I not punish them for these things? says the LORD; and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this? 10 “Go up through her vine-rows and destroy, but make not a full end; strip away her branches, for they are not the LORD’s. 11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly faithless to me, says the LORD. 12 They have spoken falsely of the LORD, and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no evil will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine. 13 The prophets will become wind; the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them!'” 14 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: “Because they have spoken this word, behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them. 15 Behold, I am bringing upon you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, says the LORD. It is an enduring nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say. 16 Their quiver is like an open tomb, they are all mighty men. 17 They shall eat up your harvest and your food; they shall eat up your sons and your daughters; they shall eat up your flocks and your herds; they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees; your fortified cities in which you trust they shall destroy with the sword.” 18 “But even in those days, says the LORD, I will not make a full end of you. 19 And when your people say, ‘Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.'” 20 Declare this in the house of Jacob, proclaim it in Judah: 21 “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. 22 Do you not fear me? says the LORD; Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the bound for the sea, a perpetual barrier which it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it. 23 But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. 24 They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ 25 Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you. 26 For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. 27 Like a basket full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, 28 they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of wickedness; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. 29 Shall I not punish them for these things? says the LORD, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” 30 An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: 31 the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?

Jeremiah 12:17 But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, says the LORD.”

Jeremiah 18:5-11

5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.’

Jeremiah 25:8-16

8 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, says the LORD, and for Nebuchadrez’zar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these nations round about; I will utterly destroy them, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting reproach. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chalde’ans, for their iniquity, says the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words which I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them; and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.” 15 Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword which I am sending among them.”

Jeremiah 50:25-46

25 The LORD has opened his armory, and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Lord GOD of hosts has a work to do in the land of the Chalde’ans. 26 Come against her from every quarter; open her granaries; pile her up like heaps of grain, and destroy her utterly; let nothing be left of her. 27 Slay all her bulls, let them go down to the slaughter. Woe to them, for their day has come, the time of their punishment. 28 “Hark! they flee and escape from the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, vengeance for his temple. 29 “Summon archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow. Encamp round about her; let no one escape. Requite her according to her deeds, do to her according to all that she has done; for she has proudly defied the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 30 Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, says the LORD. 31 “Behold, I am against you, O proud one, says the Lord GOD of hosts; for your day has come, the time when I will punish you. 32 The proud one shall stumble and fall, with none to raise him up, and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it will devour all that is round about him. 33 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them; all who took them captive have held them fast, they refuse to let them go. 34 Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause,

that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon. 35 “A sword upon the Chalde’ans, says the LORD, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes and her wise men! 36 A sword upon the diviners, that they may become fools! A sword upon her warriors, that they may be destroyed! 37 A sword upon her horses and upon her chariots, and upon all the foreign troops in her midst, that they may become women! A sword upon all her treasures, that they may be plundered! 38 A drought upon her waters, that they may be dried up! For it is a land of images, and they are mad over idols. 39 “Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her; she shall be peopled no more for ever, nor inhabited for all generations. 40 As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomor’rah and their neighbor cities, says the LORD, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her. 41 “Behold, a people comes from the north; a mighty nation and many kings are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth. 42 They lay hold of bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy. The sound of them is like the roaring of the sea; they ride upon horses, arrayed as a man for battle against you, O daughter of Babylon! 43 “The king of Babylon heard the report of them, and his hands fell helpless; anguish seized him,pain as of a woman in travail. 44 “Behold, like a lion coming up from the jungle of the Jordan against a strong sheepfold, I will suddenly make them run away from her; and I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me? 45 Therefore hear the plan which the LORD has made against Babylon, and the purposes which he has formed against the land of the Chalde’ans: Surely the little ones of their flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. 46 At the sound of the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard among the nations.”

Lamentations 1:14-18

14 “My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail; the Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand. 15 “The LORD flouted all my mighty men in the midst of me; he summoned an assembly against me to crush my young men; the Lord has trodden as in a wine press the virgin daughter of Judah. 16 “For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.” 17 Zion stretches out her hands, but there is none to comfort her; the LORD has commanded against Jacob that his neighbors should be his foes; Jerusalem has become a filthy thing among them. 18 “The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and behold my suffering; my maidens and my young men have gone into captivity.

Ezekiel 7:1-16, 22-27

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “And you, O son of man, thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel: An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. 3 Now the end is upon you, and I will let loose my anger upon you, and will judge you according to your ways; and I will punish you for all your abominations. 4 And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity; but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the LORD. 5 “Thus says the Lord GOD: Disaster after disaster! Behold, it comes. 6 An end has come, the end has come; it has awakened against you. Behold, it comes. 7 Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land; the time has come, the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting upon the mountains. 8 Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you, and judge you according to your ways; and I will punish you for all your abominations. 9 And my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will punish you according to your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the LORD, who smite. 10 “Behold, the day! Behold, it comes! Your doom has come, injustice has blossomed, pride has budded. 11 Violence has grown up into a rod of wickedness; none of them shall remain, nor their abundance, nor their wealth; neither shall there be preeminence among them. 12 The time has come, the day draws near. Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn, for wrath is upon all their multitude. 13 For the seller shall not return to what he has sold, while they live. For wrath is upon all their multitude; it shall not turn back; and because of his iniquity, none can maintain his life. 14 “They have blown the trumpet and made all ready; but none goes to battle, for my wrath is upon all their multitude. 15 The sword is without, pestilence and famine are within; he that is in the field dies by the sword; and him that is in the city famine and pestilence devour. 16 And if any survivors escape, they will be on the mountains, like doves of the valleys, all of them moaning, every one over his iniquity . . . 22 I will turn my face from them, that they may profane my precious place; robbers shall enter and profane it, 23 and make a desolation. “Because the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence, 24 I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to their proud might, and their holy places shall be profaned. 25 When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there shall be none. 26 Disaster comes upon disaster, rumor follows rumor; they seek a vision from the prophet, but the law perishes from the priest, and counsel from the elders. 27 The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are palsied by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their own judgments I will judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.”

Ezekiel 14:19 Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast;

Ezekiel 18:29-32

29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

Ezekiel 23:22-31

22 Therefore, O Ohol’ibah, thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will rouse against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side: 23 the Babylonians and all the Chalde’ans, Pekod and Sho’a and Ko’a, and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, governors and commanders all of them, officers and warriors, all of them riding on horses. 24 And they shall come against you from the north with chariots and wagons and a host of peoples; they shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield, and helmet, and I will commit the judgment to them, and they shall judge you according to their judgments. 25 And I will direct my indignation against you, that they may deal with you in fury. They shall cutoff your nose and your ears, and your survivors shall fall by the sword. They shall seize your sons and your daughters, and your survivors shall be devoured by fire. 26 They shall also strip you of your clothes and take away your fine jewels. 27 Thus I will put an end to your lewdness and your harlotry brought from the land of Egypt; so that you shall not lift up your eyes to the Egyptians or remember them any more. 28 For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you hate, into the hands of those from whom you turned in disgust; 29 and they shall deal with you in hatred, and take away all the fruit of your labor, and leave you naked and bare, and the nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered. Your lewdness and your harlotry 30 have brought this upon you, because you played the harlot with the nations, and polluted yourself with their idols. 31 You have gone the way of your sister; therefore I will give her cup into your hand.

Ezekiel 24:13-14, 20-21

13 . . . Because I would have cleansed you and you were not cleansed from your filthiness, you shall not be cleansed any more till I have satisfied my fury upon you. 14 I the LORD have spoken; it shall come to pass, I will do it; I will not go back, I will not spare, I will not repent; according to your ways and your doings I will judge you, says the Lord GOD.” 20 Then I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me: 21 ‘Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the desire of your soul; and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword.

Ezekiel 28:15-23

15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from the midst of the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought forth fire from the midst of you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. 19 All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more for ever.” 20 The word of the LORD came to me: 21 “Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her 22 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I will manifest my glory in the midst of you. And they shall know that I am the LORD when I execute judgments in her, and manifest my holiness in her; 23 for I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in the midst of her, by the sword that is against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel 33:29 Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations which they have committed.

Ezekiel 36:17-18 “Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their doings; their conduct before me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. 18 So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood which they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it.

Ezekiel 39:21-24

21 “And I will set my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment which I have executed, and my hand which I have laid on them. 22 The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward. 23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.

Daniel 9:9-14

9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness; because we have rebelled against him, 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed thy law and turned aside, refusing to obey thy voice. And the curse and oath which are written in the law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done the like of what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us, yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and giving heed to thy truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.

Hosea 4:1-2, 6-10

1 Hear the word of the LORD, O people of Israel; for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; 2 there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder . . . 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. 7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. 9 And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways, and requite them for their deeds. 10 They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish harlotry.

Amos 2:4-5 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, after which their fathers walked. 5 So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.”

Micah 6:13 Therefore I have begun to smite you, making you desolate because of your sins.

Matthew 23:29-38

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari’ah the son of Barachi’ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38 Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.

Luke 10:13-15

13 “Woe to you, Chora’zin! woe to you, Beth-sa’ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Caper’na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.

Luke 19:41-46

41 And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, 44 and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Acts 7:6-7 And God spoke to this effect, that his posterity would be aliens in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and ill-treat them four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation which they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’

Revelation 18:4-10

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. 7 As she glorified herself and played the wanton, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning. Since in her heart she says, ‘A queen I sit, I am no widow, mourning I shall never see,’ 8 so shall her plagues come in a single day, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she shall be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” 9 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10 they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! alas! thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon! In one hour has thy judgment come.”

Related reading:

Is America Arguably the Wickedest Nation of All Time? [9-21-01]

Judgment of Nations: Biblical Commentary & Reflections [9-21-01]

Reflections on the Catholic Viewpoint on Original Sin and God’s Prerogative to Judge and Take Human Life as He Wills (Even, Sometimes, Entire Nations) [Facebook, 2-16-07]

“How Can God Order the Massacre of Innocents?” (Amalekites, etc.) [11-10-07]

Did Moses (& God) Sin by Judging the Midianites? [5-21-08]

Could Actual Persecution (to the Death) Against Christians Break Out (in 30, 40 Years) in the US? [Facebook, 8-29-13]

Israel as God’s Chosen Agent of Wrath and Judgment [9-28-14]

Are Coercion & Persecution Coming Soon for Catholics? [9-2-15]

Christian Civilization Self-Demolition [8-5-16]

The Singular Wickedness of America & Possible Coming Judgment [9-4-17]

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