Apologetics for the Masses #228 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

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General Comments

Hey folks,

I apologize for the delay in getting out this newsletter (I was hoping to have it out three weeks ago, but sometimes things just don't work out as planned).  Same thing has happened with the Balaam's Ride radio program - which I hope to be able to start back with this coming Wednesday, but we'll have to wait to see if the engineer can figure out what has gone wrong with the technology this time.  I can't decide if God is simply sorely testing my faith with all these equipment problems, or if you know who is interfering.  Or, maybe neither...who knows?! 

Anyway, I have some news that is a little bit exciting - EWTN and I have agreed to do a 5-part television series tentatively entitled: "Blue Collar Apologetics."  If all goes well, I will be taping in June and maybe have it on the air this Fall, or Spring of 2015 at the latest.  Please keep that in your prayers.  If I can do a good job of it, maybe it will lead to even more opportunities.  We'll just have to wait and see.  Oh, one thing in that regard: the template for each part of this series will be to have a Catholic and non-Catholic briefly discussing some objection to the faith that Protestants usually raise, and then it will switch to me and I'll talk about how the Catholic could respond with some common sense, logic, and Scripture to answer the question and to ask some questions of his own.  Given that, I would like to do a little bit of a survey by asking you guys: What specific topics would you like to see discussed and answered in these shows?  I'll probably end up covering two topics per show, and I know what 4 or 5 of them will be - sola scriptura, sola fide, Mary, the Pope, Purgatory - but what about the rest?  Let me know what you think?

Finally, I just want to give you a heads-up that I'll be sending you an advertisement next week.  A very good advertisement.  You know how occasionally in the past I have let you know about things that I consider to be helpful for building up one's faith, well, I've got something else for you.  I think I may have mentioned Dan Burke's work at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction before, but he's doing something now that I think some of you might be interested in.  I don't have time to tell you about it here in depth, and it would probably make this newsletter too long, so I wanted to put it in a separate newsletter.  But, real quick, it has to do with an online course his institute is offering that is designed to help you deepen your prayer life.  My newsletter is all about apologetics, and while I believe learning apologetics helps one to deepen their faith through having a greater knowledge and appreciation of their faith, we all know that it can't just be about knowledge...prayer is also necessary.  I've never focused much on prayer because that is not necessarily where my expertise lies.  So, I'm going to be partnering with Dan, sort of - maybe it would be better said as I'm going to be taking advantage of Dan's particular strengths - to introduce to those of you who may be interested, some excellent resources on prayer and the spiritual life.  This is the first time Dan has offered this course, so I can't tell you directly about it, but I can say that I have heard Dan speak on a couple of occasions, and he is very good.  Anyway, more about it next week...


This week, I'm continuing with Chapter 2 of Blue Collar Apologetics.  Since it's been a few weeks since the last newsletter, I included the first part of Chapter 2 that was in the last newsletter, and then put in this week's addition.  If you want to skip the first part and go straight to the new stuff, just scroll down until you see the dotted line and then start reading at: "The Church of the Bible Cannot Be Found Within Protestantism."

Blue Collar Apologetics - Chapter 2 (cont'd)

Chapter 2 - The Church and Authority

Jesus Founded a Church That Teaches Error?
In the last chapter, I focused on the question of authority from the perspective of the individual - whether an individual Protestant minister, Protestant apologist, or Protestant lay person.  I pointed out that since no man is infallible, according to Protestant theology, then the best possible scenario one can have in a disagreement as to what is or is not authentic Christian teaching between two God-fearing, Jesus-accepting, Bible-reading, Holy Spirit-praying men, is one man’s fallible opinion of what the Bible says vs. the other man’s fallible opinion of what the Bible says.  

The end result of this being that no man, in Protestant theology, can speak with an authority that binds others in the areas of faith and morals since, again, each man is, essentially, just giving his fallible opinion as to what is or is not the truth, and since he is fallible he could be wrong, and one cannot bind someone to an opinion that just might be wrong.  No man can be bound by error.  And since no one in Protestantism has the authority to bind anyone to their particular fallible opinions about faith and morals, we see the inevitable consequences of this in the thousands upon thousands of divisions within Protestantism.

In this chapter, though, I want to ask the question: What about the church?  What authority does the church have within Protestantism?  Okay, so no individual within Protestantism is infallible and, therefore, no individual within Protestantism has the authority to bind any other individual to their fallible teachings, but what about the church?  Is the church infallible in Protestant theology?  Does the church have the authority to bind individuals to its teachings?    

I ask these questions because in the Bible we see Jesus giving the Apostles the power to bind and loose here on earth.  We see this first with just Peter, in Matthew 16:18-19, but then with Peter and some of the other disciples in Matthew 18:15-18.  And this binding and loosing is something that carries the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, because Jesus tells them, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.”  In other words, Jesus is telling Peter and the other disciples that He is backing them 100% in whatever it is they bind or loose.  So much so, in fact, that whatever they bound or loosed on earth was also bound or loosed in Heaven.   What an awesome and incredible authority he gave to Peter and His other disciples!

So, we see Peter and the Apostles being given the authority to bind and loose, and this authority is the authority of Christ Himself.  It is Christ’s own authority which He is allowing to be exercised through Peter and the other disciples.  Which means this authority had to be exercised in an infallible manner, because if not, then Christ was putting Himself in the position of possibly binding and loosing error in Heaven itself, and this simply cannot be!  So, we see the Apostles, the first Bishops, the first leaders of the church, being given an infallible authority - the authority to bind and loose here on earth.  

Also, in Luke 10, we see that Jesus sent out the 70 with his authority, “Behold, I have given you authority...” (verse 19), and told them, “He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me,” (verse 16).  If you were hearing Jesus speak when one of these disciples spoke, then they had to have been speaking infallibly in His Name.  Otherwise, if the disciples were not speaking infallibly, again, Jesus would have put Himself in the position of having error taught by one who was wielding His authority, and this simply cannot be.  In John 15:20, Jesus says, “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”  Jesus identifies the Apostles’ word with His word.  Another clear implication that the Apostles speak infallibly with His authority.  

So we see, in the Bible, that Jesus invested Peter and the Apostles, and some other disciples as well, at certain times, with His own authority - with His own infallible authority.  They had to be infallible when speaking of matters regarding the Christian faith because He was putting His own personal stamp of approval on what they said.  He was binding in Heaven what they bound on earth.  He was loosing in Heaven what they loosed on earth.  He was guaranteeing that when someone heard one of these disciples speak they were actually hearing Jesus Himself speak.  Since Jesus is infallible, then Peter and the Apostles and these other disciples had to be infallible when they spoke on His behalf with His authority.

In other words, the leaders of the early church spoke infallibly on matters of faith and morals with the authority that Jesus had given them.  The church of the Bible had, through its leaders, an infallible authority when teaching and preaching and binding and loosing.  Which brings me back to my question: Is the church infallible in Protestant theology?  The simple answer is, it can’t be.  It can’t be because no one within the church is infallible.  There is no individual, or group of individuals, within the church that can make an infallible decision on any matter pertaining to faith and morals.  At least, so says Protestant theology.  How then can any Protestant church be infallible if it has no leader, no pastor, no representative, no official, who is infallible?  It can’t be.

This causes quite a predicament for Protestants, although it’s a predicament most of them are completely unaware of.  You see, if there is no one individual who can teach infallibly on faith and morals, as Protestant theology teaches us, which means there is no church that can teach infallibly on faith and morals, then the only conclusion one can draw is that Jesus founded a church that can, and does, teach error!  

So, the inevitable conclusion one must draw from Protestant theology is that the Savior of the world, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, founded a church that does indeed teach error.  Jesus, Who is the Truth (John 14:6); Jesus, Who came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37); Jesus, Who told us that if we know the truth the truth will make us free (John 8:32); this Jesus founded a church that teaches error?!  How can that be?  Yet, that is the conclusion yielded by Protestant theology.  And, that is a conclusion that most Protestants I have talked to readily admit, although they do not do so directly.  Quite often I have heard someone say something along these lines, “Well, I don’t claim that my church is 100% right on all of its beliefs, but I know we’re right on the fundamentals,” (I’ll speak about the “fundamentals” more in a later chapter).  Such a statement is, essentially, an admission that their church teaches error in some way, shape, or form.  

So ask any Protestant the question: “Did Jesus found a church that can teach error in the areas of faith and morals?” See how they answer that question.  If they say, “Yes,” then ask them how that is possible given that Jesus is the truth, and He came to bear witness to the truth, and that we must know the truth in order to be made free?  Truth, truth, and more truth!  Yet, He founded a church that can teach error?  Ask them how that can be since, as I’ve shown above, Jesus gave the first leaders of the church His very own authority to teach and preach and to bind and loose, and Jesus’ authority is an infallible authority.  Furthermore, as I’ve just mentioned a couple of times, Jesus is the truth, and He came to witness to the truth, and He tells us the truth will make us free.  In other words, truth is necessary for salvation, yet you want me to believe Jesus founded a church that doesn’t always teach the truth?  Really?!  

But, if they answer, “No,” Jesus did not found a church that can teach error in the areas of faith and morals,” then ask them two things: 1) Which church is it that you can point me to that does not teach any error whatsoever in the areas of faith and morals; and 2) How it is possible for the fallible men who run the church to not teach error, any error?  Wouldn’t you need an infallible teacher in order to teach infallibly?


The Church of the Bible Cannot Be Found Within Protestantism
All of this points to yet another problem the denial of infallibility leads to within Protestantism - the lack of an infallible church.  When we look again at the scriptural verses I’ve quoted in this chapter, a clear picture of the early church emerges: It was one that was founded by Jesus Christ ; it was one that was given His authority; it was one whose leaders spoke infallibly, with the authority of Christ and on His behalf, in matters of faith and morals; and it was one that could bind and loose matters on earth that were also then bound and loosed in Heaven.  

Ask any Protestant if he can name one decision his church has made that exercised the authority of binding and loosing that Jesus gave the church He founded.  Ask them for one decision made by their church that was universally binding on earth, and which was also bound by God in Heaven.  Just one.  They can’t name one because they don’t believe any church on earth, or any man or group of men within any church on earth, has such power and authority.  The lack of a belief in infallibility within Protestant theology precludes any Protestant or any Protestant faith tradition from claiming the authority to universally bind and loose on earth that which is bound and loosed in Heaven.  

Which causes one to ask, “Why then did Jesus give Peter and the disciples such authority?”  I’ve had it said to me, “Well, yes, Jesus gave the Apostles such an authority, but that authority died with them.”  To which I asked, “Where does it say that in the Bible?”  Silence.  Such an answer makes no sense, except to one who is trying to justify their non-belief in infallibility.  Think about it: To say that the authority to bind and loose died with Peter and the other Apostles is to say that Jesus decided the church only needed such authority while the Apostles were alive.  That once the Apostles died, the church would no longer have any use for an authority that could bind and loose.  No use for an authority that could infallibly settle disputes between Christians on matter of doctrine and dogma.  Presumably, Jesus knew that by the time the Apostles died, all the questions about and within Christianity would have been infallibly solved by the Apostles.  Anything that could cause division within the church would have been infallibly taken care of by the time the last Apostle died.  I mean, that’s what we see in the history of Christianity, right?

I don’t think so.  To say that the authority to bind and loose died with the last of the Apostles, is to essentially say that the church fundamentally changed once the last Apostle had died.  While the Apostles were alive, disputes within the church over matters of doctrine and dogma, matters of practice and discipline, were handled by one or more of the Apostles themselves, or by people appointed by them - people whom the Apostles had laid their hands upon.  But, once the last Apostle died, we are to believe that the governance of the church, the decision-making authority of the church on all matters related to the church and her people, passed from the Apostles into the hands of everyone and anyone who could read the Bible and decide for themselves what is good doctrine and what is bad?  What is good morality and what is bad?  Really?

If anything, the church needed the authority to bind and loose much more after the Apostles died than it did while they were still alive.  The Apostles carried the weight of authority because they were the Apostles - Jesus’ inner circle.  Thousands of people who came into the church in the early years in Jerusalem, Judea, Galilee, and the surrounding areas had seen or heard Jesus in person, or had heard about Him from someone who had seen Him in person.  These people knew that the Apostles - Peter, James, and John and the others - were the Master’s trusted disciples.  That, in and of itself, made these people prone to follow the decisions and teachings of these men that Jesus had so trusted.  

But, what about the Church leaders in Ephesus, or Corinth, or Thessalonica, and elsewhere?  They had not been part of Jesus’ inner circle.  The members of their flocks had not seen or heard Jesus in person and, for the most part, did not have any relatives, friends, or neighbors who had seen or heard Him in person.  The members of their flocks knew that these men acting as their leaders had never seen Jesus and had never been appointed directly by Him to any position of authority.  So why should they follow them?  If the authority to bind and loose was an authority given to certain individuals, rather than an authority given corporately to the church and its leaders, then what exactly was it that kept the church together after the Apostles died?  

No, the authority to bind and loose that Jesus gave, was not an authority reserved to certain individuals that died with those individuals.  It was an authority that was given to the church.  We can see this in the fact that in both instances where Jesus gave first Peter, and then some of the other disciples, the authority to bind and loose, it was within the context of a discussion about the church.  In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church...I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”

Then in Matthew 18:17-18, right before Jesus gives the disciples the power to bind and loose He says, “...tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church...”  Even to the church.  He didn’t say, “Tell it to one of the Apostles; and if he refuses to listen to even one of the Apostles...”  No, He said, “Tell it to the church.”  This was a corporate authority Jesus  bestowed upon the church - an authority that lives on with the church - not an individual authority He bestowed on certain men that died with them.

That is how the church stayed together and grew even larger after the death of the Apostles, because the members of the church - whether they were in Jerusalem, Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, or wherever, believed their leaders had the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, as given to them by the church.  And that authority included the authority to bind and loose.  

Furthermore, ask any Protestant if there is any leader of their church of which it could be said, “He who hears you, hears [Jesus Christ]?” (Luke 10:16).  We have such leaders in the Catholic Church.  

So, what we are seeing here, is that the church of the Bible - a church with the authority to bind and loose; a church with the authority of Jesus Christ Himself; a church whose leaders spoke infallibly on behalf of Christ; a church about which it could be said of its leaders, “He who hears you, hears [Jesus Christ]" - cannot be found within Protestantism today.  There is no such church, or group of churches, within Protestantism that, as far as I know, claims the authority of Jesus Christ in its decisions and claims the authority to universally bind and loose on earth.  


I hope all of you have a great week.  I'll do my darndest to get the next issue out by next Friday...

Apologetics for the Masses