Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #168

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Hey folks! Did ya’ll miss me? Sorry for not getting a newsletter out in the last several weeks, but just as I was getting ready to start working on one a little over three weeks ago, Mother Nature pitched a pretty big hissy fit around here. One of the tornadoes that went through Alabama came right through Pleasant Grove and missed our office by about 1/10 of a mile.

We were without power for several days and just got our phone and email back on yesterday. Fortunately, even though most of someone’s roof fell all around our office (which is in a house in Pleasant Grove), our office was not touched, thanks be to God. Folks just half a block away were not so lucky, though. I’ve seen the mess created by tornadoes before, but have never seen anything like this. So please keep the people here in Pleasant Grove in your prayers…the healing and rebuilding process is going to take a very long time.

Also, I wanted to thank everyone who responded to my semi-annual “ten cents a day” appeal a few weeks back! I would not be able to keep this apostolate running without your generous responses. We had about 1% of the readers respond to the appeal and for that I am very grateful.

I keep praying to God that if He could work on the hearts of 2% of the readers to donate, I could really get some good things done around here…and He keeps telling me to learn how to write better. Oh, well…

Finally, I have just posted another YouTube video. You can check it out at this link: http://www.youtube.comwatch?v=vmisj-J6_E8. (The blank between the “6” and the “E” is an underscore.)


I still have not heard back from Mr. Thomas Thrasher of the Campbellite Church of Christ regarding his latest response in our debate on whether or not Peter was the first Pope (see the last few issues on the “Newsletter” page of our website – www.biblechristiansociety.com). He has emailed me twice in the last several weeks saying he was going to get it to me, but nothing as of yet. I’m hoping it will come in this weekend and I will be able to continue the debate in next week’s newsletter.

In the meantime, I will share two Q&A’s from my regular column in the Birmingham Diocese’s weekly newspaper. The first question is on tithing, and the second one is on the verse from Scripture in which Jesus says the Father is greater than He. Well, if the Father is greater than Jesus, then how can Jesus be God…so ask the anti-trinitarians.

I hope you enjoy them…


Q:     What does the Catholic Church teach in regards to tithing.  Are we required to tithe?
A:    The word “tithe,” refers to a religious offering of 10% of one’s income to Church and/or charity.  In the Old Testament, we see tithing mentioned, I believe for the first time, when Abraham gave one tenth of his spoils from a successful military campaign to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20).  Jacob made a vow of tithing to the Lord in Genesis 28:20-22.  Tithing was even written into the Mosaic Law, as we see in Numbers 18:21-24.

In the New Testament, though, there is no specific mention of Christians giving a tithe and the Church has not, to my knowledge, ever formally required tithing along the lines of what was done in Old Testament times.

The people of God are, however, required to give of their resources to support Church and charity.  One of the five precepts of the Church, as found in Canon Law #222, is this: “The Christian Faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for apostolic works and works of charity, and for the decent sustenance of ministers.”  In the Catechism, #2041-43, it summarizes this precept and adds that each is to give “according to his abilities.”

Also, the New Testament speaks of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked (Matt 25:31-46); supporting one’s family and relatives (1 Tim 5:8); selling homes and property to give to the needy (Acts 4:34-35); and mentions the practice of Christians setting aside a contribution on the first day of every week – Sunday (1 Cor 16:2).

So, neither the New Testament, nor the Catechism, nor Canon Law, specifically mention tithing when it comes to the support of the Church and of apostolic works and works of charity, but giving to Church and charity is indeed a necessary part of every Christian’s walk.   

But, even though there is no “requirement” to tithe put on God’s people as there was in the Old Testament, there are nonetheless strong recommendations for the practice of tithing.  Msgr. Martin Muller of Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Homewood each year tells his parishioners that the U.S. Bishop’s Conference recommends giving 5% to the Church and 5% to charity (which would include Church-sponsored charities such as Catholic Charities and Catholic schools).  He also says something that I know a lot of people who tithe agree with, which is: “I can’t afford not to tithe, because of the blessings that God has given me through tithing.”

Monsignor’s words reflect the fulfillment of a promise made by God in Scripture.  In Malachi 3:6-12, God tells the Israelites that if they will bring the full tithes into the storehouse, then He will “open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”  And He doesn’t just tell them to do this, He says to them, “Put Me to the test!” Monsignor Muller, and many others who tithe, have indeed experienced that overflowing blessing.

Whenever anyone asks me about tithing, I recommend it as strongly as I can. But, let’s say you gave just 2% of your income last year to Church and charity and maybe you’re thinking that jumping up to 10% just can’t be done.  I recommend finding ways to sacrifice here and there so that you can doubl your giving to 4% this year, then double it again next year, and then moving to the full 10% the following year.  That way it gives you time to plan your budget around your tithe. 

And, if you get to the 10% level, and God does not follow through on His promise of pouring down upon you an overflowing blessing, well, then stop tithing.  But, I have yet to meet anyone who put God to the test on this, and wound up being disappointed. 


Q:     In a previous column you gave a number of passages of the Bible that point to Jesus’ divinity, but I had a Jehovah’s Witness come to my door who read a verse where Jesus says something about the Father being greater than he is.  Is that verse in the Catholic Bible and, if it is, doesn’t that point to Jesus not being God, since he says he isn’t equal to the Father?
A:    The verse you are referring to is indeed in the Catholic Bible.  John 14:28: “You heard Me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’  If you loved me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father for the Father is greater than I.”

How can the Father be greater than Jesus, if Jesus is indeed God?  After all, if Jesus is God, then He would obviously be equal to the Father.  So, does the Father being greater than Jesus mean that Jesus can’t be God?

Not at all.  What Jesus is saying here can be interpreted in two ways, neither of which denies Jesus’ divinity.  The first, is that Jesus is speaking of His human nature in relation to the Father’s divine nature.  Is not the Father’s divine nature greater than Jesus’ human nature?  Indeed it is.  In the Athanasian Creed, for example, it says Jesus is, “Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.”  St. Augustine says we, “Acknowledge the twofold nature of Christ – the divine, by which He is equal to the Father; the human, by which He is less than the Father.” 

So, we have to keep in mind the two natures of Christ – human and divine.  The Word Incarnate, as man, is less than the Father; whereas, the Eternal Word, as Son, is equal to the Father. 

The other possible way to interpret what Jesus says in John 14:28 is that the Father is greater than Jesus, not in the sense of nature or of being more complete, better, more excellent, or any such thing, but only in the sense of divine origin.  The Father is “greater than” Jesus in the sense that Jesus is begotten of the Father.  Jesus proceeds from the Father, but the Father proceeds from no one. 

St. John Chrysostom, “If anyone will contend that the Father is greater, inasmuch as He is the cause from which the Son proceeds, we will bear with him and this way of speaking, provided he grant that the Son is not of a different substance or nature.”

St. Hilary of Poitiers, “The Father is greater than the Son: but this is said in respect to generation – as a father is to a son – and not of classification…The possession of a paternal designation is permissive of a distinction; but there is no distinction as to nature.”

St. Basil the Great, “The Son is second in order from the Father, because He is from Him; and in dignity, because the Father is His origin and cause…The Son is not, however, second to the Father in nature, because the Godhead is one in each of them.”

Either of these interpretations of John 14:28 are valid and are consistent with the rest of the New Testament.  As I did indeed point out in an earlier column, there are a good number of verses that directly, or indirectly, identify Jesus as God.  Both of the interpretations mentioned above fit perfectly well with all of those verses; whereas, an interpretation of John 14:28 that says Jesus is not God, is in direct contradiction to the rest of the New Testament. 

In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a great week. Hopefully I’ll be back in full swing with the debate on Peter in the next newsletter. See you then…

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Apologetics for the Masses