In the following exchange, Catholic Apologist, John Salza takes critical issue with Protestant, Randy Blackaby, on the Church’s doctrine regarding, Mary, the Mother of God. Below is their exchange:
R. Blackaby: Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most interesting and important women found in Scripture.
J. Salza: While the Bible is full of many “interesting and important women,” Mary is THE most important of them all. Who could be more important than the woman who gave flesh to the Word of God? Mr. Blackaby begins his article by downplaying the greatest human being God ever created.
R. Blackaby: The Bible describes her magnificent faith from the time she becomes pregnant until she stands at the foot of the cross. Hers is a compelling story. But Catholicism has developed the story of Mary over the centuries until today she is called sinless, “the gate of heaven,” and the mediatress between God and man.
J. Salza: No where does the Catholic Church teach that Mary is the “mediatress between God and man.” The Catholic Church teaches that there is “only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for many” (1 Tim 2:5). You notice right away that Mr. Blackaby makes accusations about Mary as “mediatress” (a word he evidently made up) without substantiating his accusations with references to Catholic teaching. Nevertheless, the Church and the Scriptures teach us that we can ask Mary and the saints to pray for us by virtue of the mediation of Christ, just like we ask each other to do so, because “the prayers of the righteous are powerful indeed” (Jm 5:16). That makes all of us “mediators” in the one mediator, Jesus Christ. This is why, for example, Scripture teaches that the saints mediate on our behalf in heaven by responding to the prayers of those on earth (Apoc 6:9-11; 5:8; 8-3-4).
R. Blackaby: How did she evolve from the very holy woman of the Bible to a sinless, undying female mediator through whom men can approach God? The answer may help us understand how all error progresses. Let’s start with reality. The story of Mary is a marvelous one. As a virgin she conceived the Christ child through the Holy Spirit, as prophesied 700 years before (Luke Isaiah 7:14). This woman was God’s instrument for bringing Jesus into the world in the flesh. Her strength is evidenced in the things she endured. Her story needs no mythological additions to make it wondrous, inspiring and faith-building. But the fact that additions aren’t needed doesn’t prevent men from creating “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-4).
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby intimates that the Catholic Church’s 2,000 year-old tradition regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary is nothing but “mythological additions,” but does not provide any support for his novel opinions about Mary, other than his own private interpretation of Scripture (the same Scriptures the Catholic Church gave him). Let’s see who is really advancing “mythological additions” as we proceed with this critique.
Fable Of The Immaculate Conception
R. Blackaby: Many presume the term “immaculate conception” refers to the fact Jesus was born without sin. But that is not the case. Catholic doctrine teaches Mary was born without sin. “When we say that Mary was conceived without sin we mean that from the very first moment of her existence she was free from original sin, she was full of grace” (Mary—Doctrine for Everyman, page 17).
J. Salza: This is an accurate statement of Catholic teaching, but if Mr. Blackaby is going to cite from an authority, he should quote the official teachings of the Catholic Church (from the popes and the Magisterium). He should not rely on obscure books written by unidentified authors. While I have not read the book from which Mr. Blackaby cites throughout this article, it does not represent official Catholic teaching, that is, teaching issued by the Church’s Magisterium. Perhaps Mr. Blackaby doesn’t wish to cite Magisterial documents because he has an agenda, and has found a resource to support his pet theories. We shall see.
R. Blackaby: We’re exploring how error evolves. So, did you catch in the Catholic explanation above about why they came to believe she was born without sin? It’s because they believe another error—the idea that men are born in sin or inherit the sin of Adam through their parents.
J. Salza: This shows just how little Mr. Blackaby knows about Christianity. If people were not born into the sin of Adam, we would not need a Savior! St. Paul says that “through one man sin entered the world” (Rom 5:12). Paul further says “we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:3). David says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:5). Job says “Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble…Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one” (Job 14:1,4). These Scriptures clearly teach that sin is part of our lives from the moment of conception. Mr. Blackaby probably subscribes to the erroneous belief that sin is only manifested when a person reaches the age of reason. But the Scriptures and the 2,000 year-old teaching tradition of the Church on original sin say nothing of the sort.
R. Blackaby: But the birth and sinless nature of Jesus cast the doctrine of inherited depravity in grave doubt.
J. Salza: Wait a minute. What is the doctrine of “inherited depravity”? Mr. Blackaby seems to be making up the doctrines as he goes along. The Church has never defined the doctrine of original sin as “inherited depravity.” Such a description is more synonymous with the Protestant teachings of John Calvin. This shows just how much Protestants get their wires crossed when they venture out and interpret the Scriptures without the divine guidance of the Church.
R. Blackaby: If babies inherit the sinful nature of their parents, how did Jesus come to be born without sin? Why didn’t he “catch” or otherwise “pick up” all the sins of his ancestors through Mary?
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby is now implicitly recognizing the legitimacy of the doctrine of original sin and why God effected the Immaculate Conception – because, as Job says, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one” (Job. 14:4). Jesus was born without sin because Mary was without sin, according to the will of God. Mr. Blackaby is simply begging the question, not refuting the conclusion. Surely, Mr. Blackaby is not going to argue that God couldn’t create Mary without sin, is he? And is Mr. Blackaby really going to argue that God the Father would let the finger of Satan touch His Son in the womb of Mary? Mr. Blackaby later accuses the Church of blasphemy, but if Mr. Blackaby is going to advance such an argument about Jesus and Mary, then I can think of nothing more blasphemous than Mr. Blackaby’s heretical theology.
R. Blackaby: So, Catholic scholars faced a choice. Repudiate the false notion of inherited sin or create an answer to the dilemma. They chose the latter route. On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared Mary had been born without sin. Thus, they explained Jesus’ sinless nature and held on to the doctrine of inherited sin.
J. Salza: That is not at all the way things occurred. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not “created” to “answer” any “dilemma.” The doctrine was always believed by a consensus of the Church Fathers, doctors, saints, medievals and popes since the birth of the Church on Pentecost Sunday. If Mr. Blackaby disagrees, then have him produce just one quote from the first five centuries of the Church that denied Mary was sinless. It was in the face of Protestant dissenters (like the likes of Mr. Blackaby) that Pius IX decided to dogmatize what the Church had believed for the previous 1800 years. As the loving father and shepherd of the universal Church that he was, Pius IX issued Ineffabilis Deus to spare his children from the confusion brought about by the heretical teachings of Protestant exegetes.
The belief in the Immaculate Conceptions goes all the way back to the Scriptures themselves. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he did not call her “Mary.” He called her “full of grace” (in Greek, kecharitomene)(Lk 1:43). The word kecharitomene means that Mary received a complete and perfect endowment of grace from God. This perfect endowment occurred at Mary’s Immaculate Conception, when she was created by God without sin. Only one other person in Scripture is described as “full of grace,” and that person is Jesus Christ (John 1:14).
To demonstrate the perennial belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary, here are some quotes from the early Church fathers from the first five centuries of the Catholic Church:
He was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.” Hippolytus, Orations Inillud, Dominus pascit me (ante A.D. 235).
“This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” Origen, Homily 1(A.D. 244).
“Let woman praise Her, the pure Mary.” Ephraim, Hymns on the Nativity, 15:23 (A.D. 370).
“Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair, there is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother.” Ephraem, Nisibene Hymns, 27:8 (A.D. 370).
“O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides.” Athanasius, Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, 71:216 (ante AD 373) .
“Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” Ambrose, Sermon 22:30 (A.D. 388) .
“We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin.” Augustine, Nature and Grace,4 2 (A.D.415) .
“As he formed her without any stain of her own, so He proceeded from her contracting no stain.” Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 1 (ante A.D. 446) .
“A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” Theodotus of Ancrya, Homily VI:11(ante A.D. 446) .
“The angel took not the Virgin from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged in the womb, when she was made.” Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 140 (A.D. 449) .
“[T]he very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary, if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” Jacob of Sarug (ante A.D. 521) .
R. Blackaby: But it makes one wonder. If Mary was sinless, why did she say, “my spirit has rejoiced in God my savior” (Luke 1:47-48)? Describing someone as your savior implies the need for salvation. Mary must have recognized she had sinned.
J. Salza: This shows just how little Mr. Blackaby understands about the Immaculate Conception. If Mr. Blackaby would have actually read the document he previously cited (Pius IX’s Ineffabilis Deus), he would not have to “wonder” any longer. Pius IX stated that Mary was granted this “singular privilege and grace by God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race.” That is, the merits of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross were applied in advance to Mary. Just as God applied the merits of Christ’s sacrifice to the Old Testament saints before Christ died on the cross, He did the same with Mary (only at the moment of her conception, not death). The only difference between us and Mary is that Mary was created and redeemed at the same time. The Scriptures are full of examples where God consecrates people in the womb to perform His divine work (Jer 1:5; Lk 1:41; Rom 9:9-12).
Therefore, Mary needed a Savior every bit as much as we do. That is why Mary rejoices in God her Savior. Mary’s statement doesn’t prove that she thought or knew she had sin. Mary’s statement simply demonstrates that she knew she needed a Savior like everyone else. “It makes me wonder” how Mr. Blackaby can critique Catholic teaching with an internet article when he knows precious little about it.
Fable Of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity
R. Blackaby: The Bible clearly states that Mary was a virgin who had never known a man sexually from the time she conceived until after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:18, 23-25; Luke 1:26-35). Thus, the birth of Jesus was absolutely unique. The manner of his birth helps depict the two-fold nature of our Lord, being man and God at once. But why would the Catholic church contend that Mary remained a virgin for her entire life on earth? They contend she never had sexual relations with a man or had any other children. To quote their approved writings, “It is Catholic faith that Mary was a virgin before the divine birth; during it; and after it—Our Lady never had any other children” (Mary—Doctrine for Everyman, p. 14).
J. Salza: Once again, Mary’s perpetual virginity has been believed by the Church for 2,000 years. Why? Because Mary is the Immaculate Ark of the New Covenant, as we just saw Athanasius say in 373 A.D. If Mr. Blackaby has read the Bible, he would know that the ark of the Old Covenant was, for the Jews, the most sacred article of religious worship. It contained the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the manna from heaven. The ark was made of the purest gold (Ex 25:11-21), and the Jews celebrated its presence with veneration, vestments and songs (see 1 Chron 15-16). In fact, the ark was so holy that when Uzzah put his hand on it to prevent it from tipping over during a journey, God killed Uzzah for touching it (2 Sam 6:7; 1 Chron 13:9-10). God even slew some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they looked into the ark (1 Sam 6:19).
How is this relevant to Mary? Because the sacred writers teach that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, for the Old ark contained the written word, but Mary contained the Word made flesh. For example, the word “overshadow,” which the angel Gabriel used to describe Mary’s conception of Jesus, is the same word (in Greek, episkiasei) used to describe God’s glory cloud “overshadowing” the ark of the Old Covenant (Ex 24:15-16; 40:34-38; 1 Kg 8:10-11; Job 14:4; 2 Mac 2:4-8). Mary was overshadowed by God’s shekinah (glory cloud) and became the “Holy of Holies” of the New Covenant, pure and undefiled.
Luke makes direct comparisons between Elizabeth’s greeting of Mary and David’s greeting of the ark of the Old Covenant as described in the book of Samuel. For example,
- In 2 Sam 6:2, David “arose and went” to bring out the ark; in Lk 1:39, Mary “arose and went” to greet Elizabeth.
- In 2 Sam 6:9, David says “how can the ark of the Lord come to me?”; in Lk 1:43, Elizabeth says “how can the mother of my Lord come to me?”
- In 2 Sam 6:16, David leaps for joy before the ark; in Luke 1:41, John the Baptist leaps for joy before Mary.
- In 2 Sam 6:11, the ark remains in the house for three months; in Luke 1:43, Mary remains in the house for three months.
Finally, John in the Apocalypse also makes a direct connection between the ark of the Old Covenant and Mary. When John received his apocalyptic revelations, the Jews had not seen the ark of the covenant, their center of worship, for six centuries. In Apocalypse 11:19, John tells the Jews that he has finally seen the long, lost ark. However, instead of describing to the Jews all the gory details, he, in the very next verse, describes the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apoc 12:1). Why would he do such a thing, when the Jews would have been begging John to tell them about the ark? Because John is emphasizing to them and to us that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, and is worthy of veneration and praise even more so than the old ark. Mr. Blackaby passed right over all of this in his efforts to accuse Mary, the undefiled Ark of God, of sin.
R. Blackaby: Like our first fable, this one is rooted in yet another false premise. The Catholic church teaches that abstinence from marriage and sexuality is a superior position spiritually. This is why priests, nuns and other church leaders take vows of celibacy.
J. Salza: I don’t know what Bible Mr. Blackaby reads, but St. Paul teaches the same thing. Paul says “it is better for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor 7:1), and wishes that everyone were celibate like him (1 Cor 7:7). Paul teaches that marriage can introduce worldly temptations that can interfere with one’s relationship with God (1 Cor 7:28). In fact, Paul says just the opposite of what Mr. Blackaby is advocating when he says: “So that he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do better” (1 Cor 7:38). Again, Mr. Blackaby is way off the mark.
R. Blackaby: But to maintain their doctrine on celibacy, the myth about Mary’s perpetual virginity runs headlong into conflict with the Bible. The Bible only declares that Joseph did not know his wife sexually “till she had brought forth her firstborn son” (Matthew 1:24-25).
J. Salza: If Mr. Blackaby is referring to the word “till” as implying that Mary had relations in the future, Mr. Blackaby has shown that he doesn’t have a sound understanding of biblical Greek. The word “till” (from the Greek, heos hou) is an action that only describes the past, never the future. He knew her “not until” she bore a son means that he knew her “not up to the point that” she bore a son. The phrase has nothing to do with Joseph’s relationship with Mary after she bore her son.
For example, Jesus says “Truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not a dot will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Mt 5:18). This doesn’t mean that after heaven and earth pass away, all will no longer be accomplished. When Jesus says He will be with us “until the end of the world” (Mt 28:19), this doesn’t mean that He will no longer be with us after the end of the world. Luke says that Anna was a widow “until” she was eighty-four (Luke 2:37). This does not mean that Anna was not a widow after she was eighty-four. There are many other examples of this in the Old Testament as well (Gen 8:7; 28:15; 2 Sam 6:23).
If Mr. Blackaby is referring to the phrase “firstborn son,” this phrase was a common Jewish expression to mean “the first child to open the womb.” See Exodus 13:2,12. Under the Mosaic law, the “firstborn son” had to be sanctified (Ex 34:20). “Firstborn” status does not require a “second born” because the term has nothing to do with the mother having other children. As Ezekiel prophesied: “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; therefore, it shall remain shut” (Ezek 44:2).
R. Blackaby: Jesus is declared to have had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3; Matthew 12:46-50; Acts 1:14).
J. Salza: Again, this is quite an elementary apologia and demonstrates Mr. Blackaby’s lack of proficiency in Koine Greek. First, note that none of these verses ever say that Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” are children of the Virgin Mary. Second, throughout Scripture, cousins are called “brothers” (in Greek, adelphoi) because there is no word for “cousin” in Hebrew or Aramaic. For example, in the book of Genesis we see that Lot is Abraham’s nephew (Gen 11:26-27), but later we see that Lot is also described as Abraham’s “brother” (Gen 13:8; 14:14,16). Laban calls Jacob his “brother” even though Jacob is his nephew (Gen 29:15). Scripture also shows that “brothers” can refer to those not even related by blood, such as a friend (2 Sam 1:26; 1 Kg 9:13; 20:32) or an ally (Amos 1:9). I have also demonstrated in my book and on my website that the “James and Joseph” of Mark 6:3 are Jesus’ cousins, not his biological brothers.
R. Blackaby: And Hebrews 13:4 declares that marriage is honorable, including the sexual component (“the bed”).
J. Salza: Once again, in the typical Protestant fashion, Mr. Blackaby selectively chooses certain Bible verses from which he then forms overall theological conclusions. This is no way to exegete Scripture. If Mr. Blackaby found a verse that says Mary had relations with her husband, he would have something. But since the Bible never teaches such a thing, he is required to build a case by eisegeting passages that have nothing to do with Mary. His approach is quite elementary and can be easily refuted.
R. Blackaby: The Apostle Paul taught that husbands and wives should not deprive or defraud one another of the sexual component of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-5) and the sexual union is a part of a man and woman becoming “one flesh” (Matthew 19:5-6).
J. Salza: Actually, Paul opens up this teaching on marriage by saying in the first verse “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor 7:1), which rebuts the whole thrust of Mr. Blackaby’s argument. It is only to avoid “sexual immorality” that Paul encourages sexual relations (1 Cor 7:2). Paul is clearly teaching that the greater good is abstinence for the kingdom, but he is also rebutting those in the early Church who believed that sexual relations were evil (v.28). If a married couple would be led into sin because of their sexual drives, Paul teaches them not to deprive each other unless by mutual agreement. These are general teachings about living a chaste marriage, and have nothing at all to do with the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Since Matthew 19:5-6 has nothing to do with the teachings of Paul as Mr. Blackaby suggests, I will provide no comment on it, other than to say that it, too, has nothing to do with Mary either.)
R. Blackaby: It is interesting that the Catholic church will “annul” a marriage and say it never really existed if it isn’t sexually “consummated.” Did Mary’s marriage to Joseph never really exist?
J. Salza: Once again, Mr. Blackaby doesn’t understand Catholic teaching, even though he pretends he does. The Church does not teach that marriage must be consummated in order to be valid. It only teaches that a consummated marriage cannot be dissolved since the couple has been joined together in a one flesh union (now we can go to Mt 19:5-6). The Church teaches that marriage is an exchange of rights to the acts proper to the procreation of children, but couples can choose to forgo these rights for the sake of the kingdom of God. This is precisely what Mary and Joseph did, so that their marriage would be entirely devoted to the service of the Incarnation.
R. Blackaby: What a tangled web is weaved when error is compounded by more error. But that is the nature of the evolution of false teaching.
J. Salza: The only thing that is “tangled” up is Mr. Blackaby’s exegesis of Scripture and his understanding of Catholic theology. It is no wonder why he fails to provide any support for his conclusions from the patristics, medievals, or popes. His private judgment theology is the only “error that is compounded by more error.”
Fable Of The Assumption Of Mary Into Heaven
R. Blackaby: Some books call this the “great assumption.” That’s a pretty good description. This Catholic doctrine teaches that Mary never died but was taken directly to heaven like Enoch and Elijah. “When the course of our Lady’s life on earth was ended she was taken up body and soul into heaven” (Mary—Doctrine for Everyman, p. 34).
J. Salza: Nota bene – Unlike what Mr. Blackaby just advanced, the Catholic doctrine does not teach that “Mary never died.” The fact is that the doctrine doesn’t say whether Mary died or not. Mr. Blackaby obviously does not read the papal documents he feigns to read. Even the book from which Mr. Blackaby quotes accurately sets forth the Church’s teaching by saying “when the course of our Lady’s life on earth was ended,” but it doesn’t say that “Mary never died.” If Mr. Blackaby can’t even properly articulate Catholic dogma, then why should we believe any of his conclusions regarding that dogma?
R. Blackaby: The Bible says absolutely nothing about Mary after reporting her and Jesus’ brothers assembling with the disciples after the Lord’s ascension (Acts 1:14). So, why did Catholics feel a need to create this doctrine?
J. Salza: Perhaps Mr. Blackaby can show us where “The Bible has to say something” in order for that something to be true. This is quite an “assumption” (pun intended) on Mr. Blackaby’s part. The Bible “says absolutely nothing about” the canon of Scripture, and yet Mr. Blackaby believes that the 27 books of the New Testament are divinely inspired. In fact, the Bible “says absolutely nothing about” a lot of things that Mr. Blackaby believes regarding the Trinity and Christology, but when in comes to Mary, it must be in the Bible for it to be true. This shows that Mr. Blackaby operates in a world of his own making, one that is based on theological relavistism.
R. Blackaby: Remember, error leads to error. Remember how the doctrine of original sin led to the development of the doctrine of immaculate conception? That doctrine didn’t end the problems Catholics had with the idea that men inherit sin from their forefathers.
J. Salza: I have already addressed these erroneous and unsubstantiated contentions with quotes from Scripture and the early Church fathers. And yes, Mr. Blackaby, “error leads to error,” which is why every one of your false premises lead to false conclusions.
R. Blackaby: By declaring Mary sinless, they created a new dilemma. Everyone who has read the book of Romans knows the Bible declares “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). But, wait a minute. If Mary had no sin, why would she die? Why would she receive the wages of a sinner when she hadn’t earned them?
J. Salza: Notice how Mr. Blackaby assumes Mary died, even though the Church never said that she did. Mr. Blackaby is creating a straw man so that he can knock it down in order to appear like he knows what he is talking about. But this shouldn’t fool anyone. Nevertheless, let’s play along and assume Mary died. This poses no problem for Paul’s statement about the wages of sin being death.
First, as an aside, Paul’s statement “the wages of sin is death” is intended to encapsulate the five previous chapters concerning his teaching on justification, not whether Mary died or not. Paul is teaching that, if the Romans were to base their relationship with God on their own natural powers and not grace, they would be condemend, just like the Jews were condemning themselves under their continued observance of the Mosaic law. That is, if the Romans were trying to “earn” their salvation from God, the “wages” from such efforts would lead to death (see also Rom 4:4). This is why Paul follows up his statement with “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). This is also why Paul repeatedly teaches the Romans that they are “justified by faith, and not works of the law” (Rom 3:20,28). Paul was teaching the distinction between law versus grace, which is the key paradigm on his teaching of justification. In a system of law, we try to “earn” our salvation with “wages” that lead to death. But in a system of grace, salvation is a “free gift” which leads to eternal life. Paul’s teaching has nothing to do with whether or not the Blessed Virgin Mary died.
Second, Jesus and Mary, even though they were sinless, still inherited the defects of the body, to the extent these defects were not inconsistent with their perfection of grace (this is the teaching of the angelic doctor, Thomas Aquinas). For example, Jesus and Mary had hunger, thirst, and fatigue. These were defects of their human natures that were brought into the world by Adam. These defects are to be distinguished from other defects such as proneness toward evil and difficulty in doing good. Neither Jesus nor Mary suffered from these kinds of defects because they would be inconsistent with their perfection of grace. Thus, if Mary did die, which would be the natural consequence of her human nature, her death cannot be attributed to her having any sin on her soul.
R. Blackaby: Catholic doctrine had created a clear conflict. So, the choice was to repudiate the doctrines of the immaculate conception and original sin or “fix” the conflict with an explanation. Catholics chose the latter course. In 1950, the year before I was born, it became official Catholic dogma that Mary didn’t die.
J. Salza: Again, notwithstanding his 56 years of wisdom, Mr. Blackaby plainly shows his ignorance of Catholic teaching. Pius XII’s dogmatic teaching in Munificentissimus Deus on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary does not say that “Mary didn’t die.” Mr. Blackaby is showing the world that he does not comprehend the teachings of the Catholic Church, even though he is using the internet to convince you otherwise. “Error leads to error” indeed.
Fable Of Mary As Mediatress Or Mediatrix
R. Blackaby: If Mary was sinless and went straight to heaven without facing the judgment of our Lord, she certainly would be greater than the mighty lawgiver of old, Moses. She would be greater than Abraham, the model of faith. So, where does her “assumption” lead?
J. Salza: Yes, I would certainly agree that Mary is greater than Moses and Abraham – combined. Mary is greater because God chose her to bring the Son of God into the world. While Moses brought into the world the Word on tablets, Mary brought into the world the Word made flesh. And although Abraham was an ancestor of Jesus (2,000 years removed), Mary was Jesus’ mother. Who, dear reader, do you think is greater?
R. Blackaby: We really see how error evolves into complete and total blasphemy now. The Catholic church calls Mary a mediatress or mediatrix (feminine form of mediator). “The name mediatress is given her insofar as she exercises this influence in heaven” (Mary—Doctrine for Everyman, p. 40). This is problematic because the Apostle Paul said, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). If Mary is a mediator, that makes “two” of them.
J. Salza: As we have already stated, Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and man. But that does not preclude Jesus from applying His role as mediator anyway He sees fit. In fact, right before Paul says that “Jesus is the one mediator” (1 Tim 2:5), Paul appeals for mediation from others besides Christ, by urging that “supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men” (1 Tim 2:1). How can Paul appeal to mediation from others if Jesus is our only mediator? Because, as St. Paul answers, “this is good, and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). Therefore, although Jesus is our one mediator, He has charged us to be intercessors, or subordinate mediators with Him. We are able to do this by virtue of our baptismal priesthood.
This is why Paul can say “I complete in my body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church (Col 1:24). Was anything lacking in Christ’s sufferings? Of course not. Paul is teaching us that God invites us to participate in the work of Jesus Christ, whether it be through intercession, suffering, works of charity and so forth. God is not threatened by the great glory and responsibility He gives His children. Indeed, the God that is worshiped in the Catholic Church is a loving Father who is intimately involved with His children and who invites their participation, just as earthly fathers do for their children.
R. Blackaby: So, the Catholic church had a choice. Back away from this doctrine or develop it further. They chose the latter.
J. Salza: What “developments” is Mr. Blackaby referring to, anyway? He cites no documents. Nevertheless, the Scriptural basis for saintly intercession is clear. How much more evidence does Mr. Blackaby desire?
R. Blackaby: Calling her the “mother of God,” they also described her as the “gate of heaven” because, they say, no one can enter the blessed kingdom without passing through her.
J. Salza: Wait another minute. Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of God” when she says: “How can the mother of my Lord (Greek: kuriou; Heb: Adonai; Latin Vulgate: Domini) come to me?” (Lk 1:43). Is Mr. Blackaby criticizing the words that Elizabeth chose when she greeted Mary? This is troubling indeed, since both Elizabeth’s declaration and Luke’s recording of same were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Also, where, Mr. Blackaby, does the Church teach that “no one can enter the blessed kingdom without passing through her [Mary]?”
R. Blackaby: So, Catholics pray to Mary. They claim that Jesus, as judge, is too harsh, but that Mary will not refuse anyone. Wow! That makes Mary sound more full of grace and mercy than even our Lord. And he’s the one who died for our sins on the cross.
J. Salza: When anti-Catholics make such sweeping statements about the teachings of the Church, we must take them to task. Tell us, Mr. Blackaby, where the Catholic Church teaches that “Jesus, as judge, is too harsh, but that Mary will not refuse anyone”? Can you refer me to a specific papal or conciliar teaching? A paragraph in the catechism perhaps? Or any book at all with a Catholic imprimatur? The Catholic Church teaches no such thing. But Mr. Blackaby has demonstrated that he really doesn’t know, or perhaps doesn’t even care, what the Church really teaches. He is a man on a mission, and that is to denigrate the Church that Jesus Christ has built upon the rock of Peter (Mt 16:18-19), the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
R. Blackaby: Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God “in my name” (John 14:13-14). Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Peter preached as the church first began, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). He was speaking of Jesus, not Mary.
J. Salza: We have no disagreement here. Mary is not our Savior. Jesus Christ is our Savior. The foregoing passages have nothing to do with Mary, nor do they take away from Mary’s uniqueness as the Mother of God, the Ark of the Covenant, and the woman “full of grace.”
R. Blackaby: Jesus declared that “all power” had been given to him “in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). That wouldn’t leave any for Mary.
J. Salza: Just because the Father gave “all power” to Jesus, this does not mean that Jesus cannot share it with others. The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus does share it with others. He confers upon His apostles the authority to forgive and retain sins (John 20:23); He gives Peter the keys of authority over the Church and the power to bind and loose (Mt 16:18-19); He also gives the other apostles the authority to bind and loose (Mt. 18:18); He gives the priests of the Church the authority to anoint the sick and forgive their sins (Jm 5:14-15); He gives baptized Christians the authority to suffer redemptively (Col 1:24); He gives the apostles the power to confect the Eucharist (Mt 26:26-28); He gives Christians the power to intercede for others (all kinds of examples in the writings of Paul, James and John). Again, Mr. Blackaby, if God is not threatened by the power He gives His children, you shouldn’t be either.
R. Blackaby: So, the Catholic church had a choice. It could repudiate this error and worship Jesus as Lord and only mediator, or it could develop this doctrine further. It chose to develop its error.
J. Salza: I don’t know how long Mr. Blackaby’s “Bible Christian” sect has been around, but the Catholic Church, for 2,000 years, has been worshiping Jesus Christ as its only Lord and Savior. The only “error” that this critique has demonstrated is the error of Mr. Blackaby’s approach to Sacred Scripture.
R. Blackaby: And that latter course is pure blasphemy, assuming for Mary the prerogatives of deity. In the same Catholic document previously quoted, it reads, “All power is given to thee (Mary—rb) in heaven and on earth” and “at the command of Mary all obey—even God.” What? Even God obeys Mary?
J. Salza: If the Catholic Church actually taught what Mr. Blackaby believes she teaches (that we worship Mary), then such teaching would be blasphemous indeed. But as we have seen, the only thing that is blasphemous in this dialogue is Mr. Blackaby’s unfounded and unsubstantiated allegation that we worship Mary as God. This is the product of Mr. Blackaby’s fallacious hermeneutic, faulty biblical exegesis and unfamiliarity with the early Church fathers, not to mention his evident prejudice against the Catholic Church. When people try to interpret the Scriptures outside of the living Tradition of the Church who gave us them, they end up “twisting the Scriptures to their own destruction” (2 Pet 3:16).
R. Blackaby: “The whole Trinity, O Mary, gave thee a name…above every other name, that at thy name, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth,” says the same Catholic document.
J. Salza: Again, another quote from the unknown. What Catholic document? Mr. Blackaby doesn’t say. But I can assure you, whatever “Catholic document” Mr. Blackaby is quoting from, it is not from the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Yes, the Blessed Trinity gave Mary a unique name (“full of grace”; kecharitomene), but no, “Jesus” is the name above every other name. Mr. Blackaby has yet to prove any of his contentions in this article.
R. Blackaby: All that leaves a Bible believer with mouth agape.
J. Salza: What leaves my mouth “agape” is the lack of “agape” that Mr. Blackaby has for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Why Opposing Error Is So Important
R. Blackaby: Perhaps you are seeing not only the errors of Catholicism about Mary but the more important issue—how error evolves into monstrous and blasphemous false doctrine that totally repudiates the teaching of Scripture and elevates the human to the level of divinity. Beginning with the doctrine of original sin, the myths and fables about Mary have grown until now she is viewed as sinless and virtually equal with Jesus. There has been a move afoot for several years now to declare her a co-mediator with Christ. Her supposed assumption into heaven and associated doctrines make her equal in glory with Jesus and her declared mediation makes it seem she actually has greater influence than the Lord himself. This article has explored the development of one area of false doctrine in one human denomination. But the principle applies in the Lord’s church as well. If we teach and believe error and then refuse to repent when it obviously conflicts with the clear teaching of scripture, then we can expect the error to evolve into much more egregious error.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby ends the article the same way he began the article and the same way he argued throughout the article – making unsubstantiated claims about what the Catholic Church teaches, all of which are utterly false. Mr. Blackaby closes his article by stating that the Church raises Mary “to the level of divinity”; that Mary is “virtually equal to Jesus”; that Mary is “equal in glory with Jesus”; and that Mary may even have “greater influence than the Lord himself.” Yet Mr. Blackaby doesn’t cite papal writings, decrees, encyclicals, bulls, apostolic letters, conciliar documents or Catechisms of the Catholic Church to prove his points. Certainly, Mr. Blackaby has a 2,000 year-old corpus of Catholic teaching into which he can tap to prove his assertions. Instead, Mr. Blackaby relies upon his own interpretation of Scripture. The only official teachings Mr. Blackaby produced from the Church were Pius IX’s Ineffabilis Deus (1854) and Pius XII’s Munificentissimus Deus (1950), and we demonstrated that Mr. Blackaby misrepresented the teachings in these documents. For the benefit of the reader, I have attached these two papal decrees below:
Sticking with Mr. Blackaby’s theme, the only thing this article has demonstrated is that error compounds error when one attempts to intepret the Scriptures outside of the living Tradition of the Catholic Church. Yes, Mr. Blackaby, opposing error is important. That is why I chose to write this rebuttal to your article.
R. Blackaby: Dear Mr. Salza:
Your recent critique of my article, “The Evolving Doctrine of Mary: A Case Study in the Progress of Error,” carried in the on-line magazine re:thinking, caused me to investigate further what I had written. Your charges that I don’t understand Catholic doctrine about Mary or that I misrepresent it unsettled me at first, because I am not nearly as well versed on what Catholic doctrine says as I am about what the Bible states.
So, while your review of my article did little to address the obvious conflicts between what the Bible says and what Catholic doctrine says, I was genuinely concerned that I might have misrepresented Catholic doctrine. I have no desire to do that. I determined not to send you a reply too quickly, but to further research this matter, consult Catholic documents and talk with some who have been Catholics. As a result of this inquiry, I now write once again, more convinced than ever that Catholic doctrine about Mary is at once erroneous, unscriptural, unnecessary, misleading and in some cases blasphemous.
Though I am certainly not credentialed as an expert in Catholic theology, I was somewhat amazed that someone, as yourself, who styles himself a “Catholic apologist” would charge that the Catholic church does not teach certain things, when it can be easily shown it does.
You didn’t like some of my sourcing, so in this response I shall try to be careful to quote sources carrying the imprimatur (Catholic church’s official sanction, “let it be printed”) and the nihil obstat (Catholic church’s declaration that the document has no error in it). I believe it will be hard to say of these that they don’t represent Catholic teaching.
Additionally, what I ask Mr. Salza and other readers to observe in what follows is how little the Bible says about Mary and how much the Catholic church simply has created and imbued with the presumptive authority of “church tradition.” Jesus warned against substituting tradition for God’s authoritative will. He said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6-7). The Lord’s words well describe the traditions created by Catholicism about Mary.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby, thank you for this dialogue. Since it has been over two months since I have written to you, I didn’t think that you would respond. Before I respond to your statements below, I am disappointed that you have chosen not to interact directly with my rebuttal. You say I did “little” to address what you deem are “obvious conflicts,” yet you chose not to address the whole of my rebuttal head-on. You simply wrote an article in isolation so you could pick and choose what you wanted to address. If you wish to continue this dialogue, I ask that you interact with my statements directly. Otherwise, it looks like you are avoiding my arguments which, in many cases, you are.
Second, throughout your presentation, you should have prefaced your remarks with “This is what St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches” or “This is what St. Bonaventure teaches” instead of repeatedly exclaiming “This is what the Catholic Church teaches.” As you well know, writings from a couple of saints do not necessarily reflect Catholic teaching (for example, Thomas Aquinas, the great saint and theologian of the Catholic Church, believed that ensoulment occurred months after conception – contrary to Church teaching). The saints are not the Catholic Magisterium, and the Church dogmatically decrees that we are not bound by their interpretation of Scripture unless they are unanimous. It is important for your readers to understand this distinction.
I did invite you to cite even writings with a Catholic imprimatur, but you well know that these are tertiary resources that don’t speak for the Catholic Church per se (If you honestly didn’t know this, then you may disregard my comments to the contrary as you are not culpable for your error). This is why I asked you to “quote from the official teachings of the Catholic Church (the popes and the Magisterium).”
Your presentation includes not one single quote issued by the Church. Since you took over two months to get back to me and evidently did research during this extended period, I was hoping for a lot more from you. This is a glaring weakness in your presentation. Nevertheless, I will address the material that you have presented to me.
R. Blackaby: 1. Mr. Salza ridicules my statement about Catholicism viewing Mary as a “mediatress.” He says I must have made up that word. Technically, Catholics call her a “mediatrix.” Both terms are the feminine form of “mediator.” Neither term is found in most dictionaries. Catholics do claim to affirm 1 Timothy 2:5 (“one mediator between God and men…Christ Jesus”) while by slight of hand saying that Mary mediates between man and Jesus.
But, as common logic concludes, if you have to go through Mary to get to Jesus and through Jesus to get to God the Father, you’ve gone through two mediators. Any other conclusion is religious sophistry.
J. Salza: This is really quite a simple issue with which there should be no disagreement. Jesus is indeed our “one mediator.” But when we ask others to pray for us, are we not asking them to “mediate” on our behalf? When someone prays to God for us, is Mr. Blackaby suggesting that they are not a mediator? If not, what are they? Mr. Blackaby’s exegesis of 1 Tim. 2:5 excludes mediation from anyone else. However, as I pointed out in my original rebuttal (which Mr. Blackaby did not address), right before Paul calls Jesus the “one mediator,” he appeals to all of us to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings” to God (v.1). In other words, he asks for mediation from others besides Jesus, all the while acknowledging that Jesus is the one mediator.
Is Paul’s teaching inconsistent? Of course not. Paul is teaching us that, although Jesus is our one mediator, we can join our prayers and sacrifices with His. Jesus shares His mediation with us. This is why Paul says we can “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body” (Col. 1:24; another verse Mr. Blackaby didn’t address in my first rebuttal). Unlike what Mr. Blackaby is suggesting, nothing in Scripture precludes us from sharing in Jesus’ role as the one mediator before the Father. To the contrary, Scripture repeatedly tells us to offer our prayers for the benefit of others. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, we share in the divine sonship of Jesus Christ and, with Christ, are able to cry out “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:14-15; Gal. 4:6; 3:26-27).
Mr. Blackaby’s narrow exegesis actually gives Christ less glory than the Catholic view. As Catholics, we know that even though Jesus is our one mediator and does not need any help from us, He shares His mediation with us, just as He shares with us His holiness and glory. This is what a loving Father does for His children. This concept of God sharing His gifts with His children is an overriding theme of the Catholic faith.
R. Blackaby: Listen to what the Catholic church teaches in its own words. In the book “The Glories of Mary” by Alphonsus Liguori (nihil obstat, Daniel V. Flynn, JCD, censor librorum; imprimatur, Joseph T. O’Keefe, vicar general, archdiocese of New York; Catholic Book Publishing Co. NY, 1981), Mary is called “the channel—to Jesus and from Jesus—by God’s own arrangement” (p. 9). She is further styled “most gracious Advocate” (p. 15) and “spouse of the king” (p. 18).
What do Catholics believe Mary does in this role of mediation and advocacy? Listen to the words of this same approved book on Mary.
- “By the merits of Jesus, Mary was made the mediatrix of our salvation; not a mediatrix of justice, of course, but of grace and intercession—as St. Bonaventure expressly calls her: ‘Mary, the most faithful mediatrix of our salvation’” (p. 97).
- “And St. Lawrence Justinian asks, ‘How can she be otherwise than full of grace? She has been made the ladder of paradise, the gate of heaven, the most true mediatrix between God and human beings’” (p. 97).
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby says “Listen to what the Catholic church teaches in its own words,” yet St. Alphonsus Liguori is not the Catholic Church. If Mr. Blackaby is going to quote from source documents, he should at least be clear about their level of authority. Writings from the saints do not carry any Magisterial authority.
Nevertheless, Catholics would see little problem with these statements. When Alphonsus calls Mary “a channel to and from Jesus,” he is simply stating that Mary is a channel of grace. He is not saying that Mary is the source of grace. Jesus Christ is the only source of grace. Mary is a channel, or an instrument of God’s grace, in a most profound way.
If Mr. Blackaby is living a life of Christian virtue, I hope that he too thinks of himself as a channel of grace. God works in and through us by the power of His Spirit. Thus, we are all “channels” of that grace, bearing witness to Christ and bringing people to the truth. This is why Paul calls us “God’s co-workers” (1 Cor. 3:9). The word for “co-workers” (Greek, sunergoi) literally means “synergists.” This means we, as channels of grace, work together with God in building up His kingdom.
Same thing with calling Mary “advocate” and “mediatrix.” Mary is a “co-worker” of God in her role as advocate and intercessor because she prays for us and our well-being, as do the rest of the saints. She does this in a subordinate way to Jesus’ advocacy and mediation. The Scriptures are full of examples of saintly mediation. Since Mary had a unique role in God’s plan of salvation by bringing the Word of God into the world, she can also be called the “ladder of paradise,” and the “gate of heaven.” She is not the source of paradise or heaven; she is the means by which God made heaven accessible to us through Christ our Lord. It is very common for saints, particularly those in the Middle Ages, to use such loving and flowery language to describe the Blessed Mother.
Here is the point: The Catholic Church never, ever elevates Mary to the level of deity, and Mr. Blackaby knows this. There is an infinite distance between the power of Jesus and the power of Mary. Jesus is the Creator, and Mary is the creature. Without Jesus’ power, Mary would have no power. But Protestants want to treat Mary as nothing more than a disposable vessel. How sad.
Catholics, on the other hand, recognize the incredible gifts that God has given to Mary and the rest of us. We participate in the work of Christ in furthering His kingdom, and Mary, as the mother of God’s Son, does this more intimately than any other creature. I guess when Mary prophesied “all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48), she didn’t have Mr. Blackaby in mind.
Perhaps Mr. Blackaby can find just one quote from any of the fathers of the first seven centuries of the Catholic Church attempting to downgrade Mary the way Mr. Blackaby wants to do. He knows none exist, otherwise he would be presenting them to us. He also avoided addressing the patristic quotations that I provided him which demonstrate the fathers’ belief in Mary’s sinless nature. In fact, Martin Luther, the man who ignited the Reformation, had a deep and loving devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and believed in Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her role as mediatrix. Luther would be disgusted with Mr. Blackaby’s attempts to denigrate Mary as a mere Jewish lady who gave birth to Jesus.
R. Blackaby: Mr. Salza ridiculed my assertion that Mary is elevated to the mediatorial role the Bible says is held singularly by Jesus—yet he must argue with his own St. Justinian.
Let it be understood that Catholic doctrine about Mary very clearly makes her pivotal in human salvation. They believe a person cannot be saved from sin or go to heaven without her mediatorial work.
- “God will not save us without the intercession of Mary,” St. Bonaventure is quoted as saying in the same approved document (p. 107).
- “No one, O most holy Mary, can know God but through you. No one can be saved or redeemed but through you, O Mother of God,” St. Germanus is quoted as saying (p. 107).
- “St. Bonaventure says Mary is called ‘the Gate of Heaven’ because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her” (p. 102).
Now, dear readers, consider this. You can read your Bible from cover to cover and not find a single passage that asserts what Catholic doctrine does about Mary’s intercessory role in salvation. Most importantly, you can read in Acts 4:10-12 that the Apostle Peter declared regarding the name of Jesus “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” If there is “no other name” by which we can be saved, that leaves out Mary’s name. So, you have a choice. You can believe what the Bible says or you can believe what the Catholic church teaches.
J. Salza: “Dear readers, you can read your Bible from cover to cover and not find a single passage that asserts” that the Bible is the only authority for the Christian. Yet, this is Mr. Blackaby’s premise throughout this dialogue. This is the real issue, Mr. Blackaby. If you cannot demonstrate that the Bible is the only source of God’s word, then none of your conclusions about Catholic teaching are trustworthy, since the conclusions are based on a false premise.
Further, unlike what Mr. Blackaby claims, these statements from a couple of saints are not “Catholic doctrine.” Nevertheless, let us review them. St. Bonaventure is another example of a saint in the Middle Ages who had a profound devotion to Mary. When Bonaventure says that God will not save us without Mary, who can argue with him? Without Mary, Jesus Christ would not have come in the flesh to redeem us. The Son of God needed a human body to make atonement for our sins, and He received this body from Mary.
Mary is not doing the saving, Mr. Blackaby. Jesus is the one and only Savior. But without Mary, the Incarnation and redemption would not have been possible. So, yes, Mr. Blackaby, Mary is “pivotal in human salvation.” Again, this in no way takes away from the glory and honor that is due to God. To the contrary, it better highlights God’s glory and honor, because it shows that He shares it lovingly with His children. When you make the proper distinctions, Mr. Blackaby, you should see no problem with the Catholic and Apostolic view of Mary.
R. Blackaby: If you aren’t yet convinced Catholics have left biblical authority and created a blasphemously berserk mythology about Mary, read these further quotes from “The Glories of Mary.”
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby, where does the Bible say anything about “biblical authority”? Please explain what you mean by this, since it evidently is the premise upon which your whole apologetic is based. Of course, I agree that the Bible is an authority – it is the written Word of God. But that same Bible doesn’t teach that it is the only authority.
R. Blackaby: “The authority a mother has over her son is so great that, even though he is a monarch, with absolute dominion over all his subjects, she can never become her son’s subject” (p. 113).
“At the command of Mary all obey, even God (emphasis mine). She is omnipotent, for the queen, according to all laws, enjoys the same privileges as the king…Therefore, to use the words of St. Antonine, God has put the whole church not only under the patronage, but even under the power and authority, of Mary. Since, then, the mother must have the same power as the Son, Mary became omnipotent because Jesus is omnipotent” (p. 114).
Now, Mr. Salza, I did not misrepresent what the Catholic church teaches about Mary. If I am guilty of anything in my first article, it is of not fully detailing the extreme audacity of this apostate church. Come on now, Catholic friends, do you really believe that at the command of Mary all obey—even God? If Mary has that much authority, she is greater than God.
J. Salza: Again, Mr. Blackaby concludes that writings from the saints are “what the Catholic church teaches about Mary.” I understand your tactics. If I were you, I too would pick some obscure quotes from saints who lived in the Middle Ages to try to denigrate the Catholic faith. They often used powerful language to express their love for Mary and the many gifts God gave them through her intercession. These quotes are “easy targets” for those who are on a mission. It is telling why you don’t quote from official Magisterial documents.
Which brings us to an important point. There is a central authority in Catholicism, and that is the Catholic Church (from which Mr. Blackaby rarely quotes). Mr. Blackaby has no such authority in his world other than his own private interpretation of Scripture. He will pretend that Scripture is perspicuous and self-attesting, yet there are about 30,000 different “Bible” churches that all teach different doctrines regarding the Christian faith, most of which have cropped up in the last 50 years. I could find a dozen Protestant apologists who all hold different opinions about justification, baptism and a host of other issues to demonstrate how arbitrary and erroneous Protestantism is. This is the main reason why thousands of Protestant pastors have come home to the Catholic Church in recent years.
For example, I could find one Protestant apologist who would disagree with Mr. Blackaby’s understanding of baptism. Mr. Blackaby would accuse the Protestant apologist of not having a “biblical” view. The Protestant apologist would accuse Mr. Blackaby of the same. Even though baptism is one of the most basic tenets of the Christian faith, these two Christians would be in disagreement. Unfortunately for them, there is no method in Protestantism of resolving their disagreement. Yet they both claim that the Bible is their only authority. But if the Bible can’t resolve their disagreement, then how can it be their only authority? Help us with this, Mr. Blackaby.
Regarding St. Bonaventure’s statements, the Church doesn’t teach that Mary is greater than God, and Mr. Blackaby knows this. So why does Mr. Blackaby intimate it? That is not at all genuine. In fact, Bonaventure doesn’t even claim this, but Mr. Blackaby does. We can understand Bonaventure and Liguori by reading Scripture. In the Apocalypse, John reveals “the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apoc. 12:1). The early Fathers of the Church viewed this woman to be Mary, since she was giving birth to the Savior (v.5), and her offspring keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus (v.17). Since Mary had a “crown” on her head of “twelve stars” (representing the twelve tribes and twelve apostles), the Fathers called Mary the “Queen of Heaven.”
Since the Old Covenant kingdom of David is a prototype of the New Covenant Kingdom of Christ, we can look to the role of the queen in the Old as a foreshadowing of her role in the New. In the Davidic kingdom, the Queen Mother (Hebrew: Gebirah) would sit at the king’s right hand (1 Kings 2:19). The Queen would also intercede before the king on the people’s behalf. When she would present her petition to the king, the king would not refuse her (1 Kings 2:17). The king would also bow down to the Queen Mother as a gesture of honor (1 Kings 2:19). As God reveals through Scripture, the king tells his Queen Mother: “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:20).
Mary is the Queen of the New Covenant Kingdom, and Jesus is our King. When Mary presents her petitions to Jesus, Jesus does not refuse His Mother. Such a view is backed by Scriptural, patristic, and historical witness. The Catholic view gives the most glory to Jesus Christ because, even though He doesn’t need our help, He invites us (especially His Mother) to participate in His mediation, His holiness, His glory. That is what our loving God does for His children.
R. Blackaby: As I suggested in my first article, Catholic doctrine is not the static “we’ve always taught this” concept it presents. Rather, it is constantly evolving. This is nowhere more true than in doctrines regarding Mary. There is at present an effort underway to have her officially designated “co-redemptrix” or co-redeemer with Christ.
J. Salza: Is Mr. Blackaby actually saying that doctrine does not develop over time? I will expose the error in this statement shortly. First, we must define what it means to say “development of doctrine.” This phrase does not mean that the Church invents new doctrine or that the Church’s doctrine changes over time. That would be impossible because the Church’s doctrine is the immutable teaching of Christ which He handed to His apostles.
The “development of doctrine” simply means that the Church’s understanding of Christ’s revelation, as reflected in the depth and clarity of her teaching, evolves as she is guided into all truth (John 16:13). This process is necessary as the subjective and human side of the Church strives to expound the objective and divine truth of God.
I have already provided quotes from the early Fathers which demonstrated their belief in Mary’s sinless nature. I have a host of additional quotes on my website. This demonstrates that the early Church possessed the Catholic understanding of Mary as mediator, co-worker in redemption, immaculately conceived, queen of the New Covenant kingdom, ark of the New Covenant, assumed into heaven, and so forth. Over time, the Church further expounded these truths which were always believed since apostolic times. I would agree that some doctrines are more explicit in the early Church than others. Marian doctrines developed later than some other doctrines. But this doesn’t infringe upon their apostolic origins, as the early Fathers so testify. The Church didn’t issue an official papal teaching against artificial birth control until the 20th century, even though the Church has always held contraception to be an intrinsically evil act.
If Mr. Blackaby doesn’t believe in the “development of doctrine,” then he shouldn’t believe in his Bible. After all, the canon of Scripture was not determined until the end of the fourth century. The understanding of the canon “developed” over time. Same thing with many other Catholic doctrines that Mr. Blackaby believes (regarding the Trinity, Christology, etc.). These doctrines “developed” over the course of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh centuries as the Church was led by the Spirit (John 14:25; John 16:13).
If Mr. Blackaby believes in the Catholic Church’s dogmatic pronouncements regarding the Trinity and the canon of Scripture, why doesn’t he believe her pronouncements about Mary? That is because Mr. Blackaby operates in a world of relativism. This is the necessary result of his “Bible only” Christianity.
R. Blackaby: St. Albert the Great already has called her “co-helper of redemption” (ibid, p. 105). In 1985, Pope John Paul II recognized Mary as co-redemptrix during a speech in Ecuador and elsewhere. He said Mary was “crucified spiritually with her crucified Son” and that “her role as Co-redemptrix did not cease after the glorification of her Son”.All that remains is for a pope to make this awful assertion an “infallible” declaration.
J. Salza: Of course Mary is “co-helper of redemption.” She brought the redeemer into the world. Wouldn’t any person with a modicum of honesty say that Mary “helped” in God’s plan of redemption? In fact, God had to ask Mary permission for this help! (Luke 1:38).
Mary is also “co-redemptrix.” If Mr. Blackaby knows a bit of Latin, then he would know that “co-redemptrix” means “with the redeemer.” “Co” is from the Latin word cum which means “with,” and redemptrix means “redeemer.” Thus, the word means Mary is the woman “with the redeemer” (cf. Gal. 4:4) because she was with Jesus from the moment of His conception to the moment of His Ascension, and is now with Him for all eternity. And yes, Mary was indeed “crucified spiritually with her Son.” What mother would not spiritually share in the sufferings of her child, especially at the foot of the brutal cross? Why do these statements pose such a problem for Mr. Blackaby?
R. Blackaby: 2. Mr. Salza seeks to justify the supposed mediation of Mary by noting James 5:16 speaks of Christians praying for one another and citing passages from the book of Revelation which make reference to the prayers of the saints. This is disingenuous. The issue isn’t other saints (Christians) praying for other saints. The issue is the Catholic assertion that men can pray to “dead” saints and receive special mediation from them or Mary.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby, would you mind explaining to your readers what a “dead” saint is? Are you suggesting that the saints who have died and gone to heaven are “dead”? Where does your Bible teach such a thing? The only thing that is disingenuous is your claim that Catholics are somehow practicing necromancy. What Bible are you reading?
The Bible is clear that the saints in heaven are alive (not dead). The Apocalypse reveals that the saints are alive in heaven because they are chanting songs of worship around the throne of God (see, for example Apoc. 5:9). These are the same saints, Mr. Blackaby, who are offering their prayers to God in bowls full of incense (Apoc. 5:8; 8:3).
These are also the same saints who are offering imprecatory prayers to God so that He avenges their blood on those who dwell upon the earth (Apoc. 6:10-11). Perhaps Mr. Blackaby can point out where in Scripture God cuts off all communication between the saints in heaven and the saint on earth? Scripture says quite the opposite. That is why in the 2,000 year-old Apostles’ Creed, the early Church professed a belief in the “communion of saints.”
R. Blackaby: Mr. Salza suggests Christians praying for other Christians makes us all mediators. Perhaps this is true, in a limited sense. But this isn’t at all comparable to what Catholics teach about Mary’s mediatorial role. And Mr. Salza knows this well.
J. Salza: Why, Mr. Blackaby, can we be mediators “in a limited sense” if Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator? Didn’t you suggest earlier that multiple mediators is “religious sophistry”? Please explain that to us. Is Jesus Christ the only mediator, or can we also mediate “in a limited sense”? This time, please interact directly with my question.
As I have demonstrated in my first rebuttal, Scripture teaches we can be subordinate mediators or intercessors in Christ because this is what God invites us to be. Paul says our mediation is “good and acceptable” to God (1 Tim 2:3). I am encouraged that Mr. Blackaby acknowledges we can be mediators “in a limited sense.” I concur with him. We, along with Mary, are only mediators because of the one mediatorial role of Jesus Christ.
Thus, our mediation is “limited” to the mediation of Christ. We cannot act as mediators independently of Christ, nor will God grant our petitions if they are inconsistent with the will of Christ. As I stated before, theology is about making the proper distinctions. Mr. Blackaby is bent on elevating Mary’s mediatorial role to equal or even above Jesus, but he knows quite well that the Church teaches no such thing. Let’s try to be honest in this discussion.
R. Blackaby: 3. My critic didn’t disagree with what I asserted about the Catholic church’s teaching on the immaculate conception. He just criticized my sourcing. I could further source what his church teaches, but it seems unnecessary here.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby does not quote from official Magisterial documents because he says it is “unnecessary,” yet he should know that the teachings of the Magisterium are absolutely necessary in understanding what the Catholic Church actually teaches. The Church’s official pronouncements (not saints’ opinions) are all that matters. It is also telling that Mr. Blackaby did not address any of the quotes of the early Church fathers that I presented to him. These quotes (taken from the third, fourth, fifth and sixth centuries of the Church) affirm the Catholic view of Mary as sinless, inviolate, spotless, free from all defect, worthy of praise, etc.
Why did Mr. Blackaby avoid addressing these quotes from the Fathers? Because, Christian reader, they support Catholic teaching. Thus, Blackaby runs from these quotes. That is why he chose not to directly interact with my rebuttal. Instead, he chose to write a rebuttal article in isolation. This is the easy way out when you have quotes from early Christians supporting Catholic teaching that stare you right in the face.
R. Blackaby: 4. I had said, regarding the immaculate conception, that the Catholic church teaches Mary was born free of “original sin.” Mr. Salza quoted Romans 5:12, Ephesians 2:3, Psalm 51:5 and Job 14:1,4 to assert men do inherit sin from Adam. But none of those passages teach that. They demonstrate that sin first entered the world through the act of Adam, that David’s mother was a sinner and that all men have sinned.
Ezekiel 18 makes the issue clear. “The soul that sins shall die” (v. 4). We don’t inherit sin or a sinful nature. We sin when we personally act against God’s commandment. The prophet’s words go on to make this even clearer. “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (v. 20).
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby is missing the mark. If, as Mr. Blackaby says, “sin first entered the world through the act of Adam,” then doesn’t that prove my point? We are sinners because Adam sinned. How did we become sinners? We inherited Adam’s sin, and not only his sin, but also the effects of Adam’s sin. The presence of sin deals with our very “being,” not just our conduct. Our “being” exists at the moment of conception. That is why, Mr. Blackaby, you and I get tired, fatigued, hungry, etc. God doesn’t just declare us sinners. We really are sinners, and we feel the effects of that sin every single day of our lives.
I am glad Mr. Blackaby quoted Ezekiel 18 because it supports the Catholic view of how God deals with sinners. First, God is talking about how He judges a person’s works, not how people have inherited the sin of Adam. Notice also that there is nothing about a one-time profession of “faith alone” in God in these verses. A person’s salvation or damnation is dictated by what a person does in his life, not just how much faith he has.
Second, when God says the soul that sins shall die, He is talking about eternally punishing those who do evil, not how Adam’s sin is transmitted to his progeny. God is talking about His judgment of our free will choices. While we sin in our conduct, we are sinners even before we make a choice to do evil. That is because sin is part of our nature. God also affirms that a son is not punished for his father’s sins, because that was a common and erroneous view of the time, just as many people erroneously thought that physical defects were from personal sins.
The fact that God is talking about how the father doesn’t bear the guilt of the son (v.20) proves that this discussion is not about the transmission of Adam’s sin (father to son), but about how the son has free will and can make choices independently of his father (son/father). They both will be judged separately, based upon their individual conduct.
Third, Ezekiel affirms the Catholic view that even a righteous man can turn away from God and become wicked (v.24). This flies in the face of Mr. Blackaby’s belief that, once you accept God into your heart, you are eternally saved. Ezekiel says just the opposite. A righteous person who is pleasing to God can later turn away from God if he doesn’t persevere in his grace. There is nothing about “false faith” or “phony righteousness” which is part of Mr. Blackaby’s Protestant theology.
I won’t let Mr. Blackaby casually dismiss the Scripture verses I presented to him which allude to original sin. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul says that “we were by nature, children of wrath.” Paul is talking about our “nature,” not our “conduct,” and he is discussing it in the context of “children.” In Psalm 51:5, David is discussing sin in the context of his conception, not his mother’s “conduct.”
Similarly, in Job 14, God is referring to us being born and how nothing “clean” can come out of something “unclean” as it relates to the birthing process. Job is referring to the transmission of the original sin through the process of being “born” (or “conceived” as David says in the Psalm). Since what gives birth is unclean, what is born is unclean as well. There is nothing about sinful “conduct” in these verses. I suggest Mr. Blackaby look again at these passages.
When Mr. Blackaby looked at Romans 5:12, he should have continued with Paul’s teaching in Romans 5:19: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” The word for “made” (Greek, katestathesan) refers to an ontological change in the person. Paul is talking about our “state of being,” just as he talks about our “nature” in Ephesians 2:3. Thus, when Paul says we were “made” sinners, he is teaching us that we have all been infused with the sin of Adam. This is consistent with the other Scriptures I presented.
We should all be able to relate to this. We have disordered passions which are not consistent with right reason, which the Church calls “concupiscence.” This inclination to sin is part of our “being.” It is this concupiscence that leads us to engage in sinful conduct. This is because we have inherited this sin and its resulting defects from Adam.
Here are some quotes from the early Church fathers (limited to the first three centuries) that support the Catholic Church’s 2,000 year-old teaching on original sin:
“Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame.” Tertullian, On the Soul, 40 (A.D. 208) .
“If, in the case of the worst sinners and of those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from Baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam. He has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another [from Adam].” Cyprian, Epistle to Fidus, 68:5 (c. A.D. 250).
“And this thought commends itself strongly to the right-minded. For since the first man Adam altered, and through sin death came into the world, therefore it became the second Adam to be unalterable; that, should the Serpent again assault, even the Serpent’s deceit might be baffled, and, the Lord being unalterable and unchangeable, the Serpent might become powerless in his assault against all. For as when Adam had transgressed, his sin reached unto all men, so, when the Lord had become man and had overthrown the Serpent, that so great strength of His is to extend through all men, so that each of us may say, ‘For we are not ignorant of his devices’ Good reason then that the Lord, who ever is in nature unalterable, loving righteousness and hating iniquity, should be anointed and Himself’ sent, that, He, being and remaining the same, by taking this alterable flesh, ‘might condemn sin in it,’ and might secure its freedom, and its ability s henceforth ‘to fulfil the righteousness of the law’ in itself, so as to be able to say, ‘But we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in us.’” Athanasius, Against the Arians, I:51 (A.D. 358).
“Little given, much gotten; by the donation of food the original sin is discharged. Just as Adam transmitted the sin by his wicked eating, we destroy that treacherous food when we cure the need and hunger.” Basil, Eulogies & Sermons, Famine & Drought 8:7 (ante 379).
“And further, above this, we have in common reason, the Law, the Prophets, the very Sufferings of Christ, by which we were all without exception created anew, who partake of the same Adam, and were led astray by the serpent and slain by sin, and are saved by the heavenly Adam and brought back by the tree of shame to the tree of life from whence we had fallen.” Gregory of Nazianzen, Against the Arians, 33:9 (A.D. 380).
“For death is alike to all, without difference for the poor, without exception for the rich. And so although through the sin of one alone, yet it passed upon all; that we may not refuse to acknowledge Him to be also the Author of death, Whom we do not refuse to acknowledge as the Author of our race; and that, as through one death is ours, so should be also the resurrection; and that we should not refuse the misery, that we may attain to the gift. For, as we read, Christ ‘is come to save that which was lost,’ and ‘to be Lord both of the dead and living.’ In Adam I fell, in Adam I was cast out of Paradise, in Adam I died; how shall the Lord call me back, except He find me in Adam; guilty as I was in him, so now justified in Christ. If, then, death be the debt of all, we must be able to endure the payment. But this topic must be reserved for later treatment.” Ambrose, On the Death of his brother Satyrus, II:6 (A.D. 380).
“In whom” — that is, in Adam — ‘all have sinned’. And he said ‘in whom,’ using the masculine form, when he was speaking of a woman, because the reference was not to a specific individual but to the race. It is clear, therefore, that all have sinned in Adam,en masse as it were; for when he himself was corrupted by sin, all whom he begot were born under sin. On his account, then, all are sinners, because we are all from him. He lost God’s favor when he strayed.” Ambrosiaster, Commentaries on thirteen Pauline Epistles, Rom 5:12 (A.D. 384).
“After Adam sinned, as I noted before, when the Lord said, ‘You are earth, and to earth you shall return’, Adam was condemned to death. This condemnation passed on to the whole race. For all sinned, already by their sharing in that nature, as the Apostle says: “For through one man sin made its entry, and through sin death, and thus it came down to all men, because all have sinned…Someone will say to me: But the sin of Adam deservedly passed on to his posterity, because they were begotten of him: but how are we to be begotten of Christ, so that we can be saved through Him? Do not think of these things in a carnal fashion. You have already seen how we are begotten by Christ our Parent. In these last times Christ took a soul and with it flesh from Mary: this flesh came to prepare salvation.” Pacian, Sermons on Baptism, 2,6 (ante A.D. 392).
“Evil was mixed with our nature from the beginning…through those who by their disobedience introduced the disease. Just as in the natural propagation of the species each animal engenders its like, so man is born from man, a being subject to passions from a being subject to passions, a sinner from a sinner. Thus sin takes its rise in us as we are born; it grows with us and keeps us company till life’s term.” Gregory of Nyssa, The Beatitudes, 6 (ante A.D. 394).
R. Blackaby: Mr. Salza emphasized the difference between the Catholic doctrine of original sin and the Protestant concept of inherited depravity. The difference is minor, the outcome and implications largely the same. (I’m sure it will baffle Mr. Salza and perhaps other readers, but I’m neither Catholic nor Protestant. I’m simply a Christian. And the Bible teaches neither the concept of inherited original sin or inherited depravity.)
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby, if you are not a Catholic, then you are a Protestant. Anyone who believes in Christ but “protests” against His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is a Protestant. Also, there is a big difference between the Catholic teaching on original sin and the Calvinistic teaching of inherited depravity. The Catholic view of original sin holds that, while man has been weakened, he can still respond to God’s grace through his free will.
Those who believe in inherited depravity generally believe that man is not even free to respond to God. As a result, they have manufactured the doctrine of double predestination, where God supposedly predestines some people to heaven and others to hell. I agree with Mr. Blackaby that the Bible does not teach inherited depravity.
R. Blackaby: My critic backhandedly admits what I contended about the reasoning behind creating the immaculate conception myth. If men inherit sin from their parents, then Jesus would have inherited sin from Mary. But if we understand the principles of Ezekiel 18, we need neither puzzle nor invent fantasies. No, Mr. Salza, I don’t “let the finger of Satan touch (Jesus) in the womb of Mary.” I don’t believe the Bible teaches any child is touched with sin in the womb.
J. Salza: As I have already demonstrated, the Scriptures and early Church fathers disagree with you. END.
R. Blackaby: 5. Like many other Catholics I’ve talked to, Mr. Salza reasserts the myth that Catholic teaching hasn’t developed or evolved but has been static since the establishment of the church on the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection. He said if I disagree, I should produce one quote from the first five centuries where someone denied the immaculate conception. Hmmm! I shall simply turn the tables and ask Mr. Salza to produce one quote from the first century in which the inspired apostles lived where anyone affirmed the immaculate conception of Mary. Certainly the Bible doesn’t teach such.
J. Salza: Are you serious, Mr. Blackaby? I have already provided Mr. Blackaby a volume of quotes from the early Church fathers which call Mary “the ark,” “incorruptible,” “exempt from corruption,” “immaculate,” “worthy of praise,” “without stain,” “without flaw,” “greater than any other greatness,” “greater than them all,” “undefiled,” “free of every stain of sin,” “without any stain of sin of her own,” spotless,” “untouched,” “unsullied,” and “none ever holier than Mary.” Would you like me to produce these quotes once again? Mr. Blackaby refused to address any of these quotes which claim that Mary was without sin. I am sure your readers are wondering why you won’t address these quotes.
I never said “Catholic teaching hasn’t developed or evolved,” you did. If you read my piece on the “development of doctrine,” I explain how all Christian doctrines have evolved from the single deposit of faith since the beginning of the Church. Some of the Church’s doctrines are more explicit in Scripture than others, but they all come from the same Apostolic Tradition that was given to the Church. The quotes from the early Church Fathers bear witness to this reality.
If Mr. Blackaby limits what he believes to “quotes from the first century in which the inspired apostles lived,” then why does he believe in the canon of Scripture? The apostles didn’t settle the canon. The canon wasn’t determined until the end of the fourth century. In fact, we may conclude that some of the apostles were dead before all the books in the New Testament canon were even written! (This is certainly the case with John’s Apocalypse.) And how does Mr. Blackaby know that the apostles didn’t believe in the Immaculate Conception? Scripture strongly suggests it, and the early Fathers affirm it. Where did the Fathers get such an idea? From the apostolic tradition, perhaps?
R. Blackaby: 6. Censuring me for my supposed ignorance, Mr. Salza says, “The only difference between us and Mary is that Mary was created and redeemed at the same time.” Well, maybe I am ignorant, but it certainly seems that the previous quotes from Catholic documents show many more differences. And I am ignorant of any Bible passage that says Mary was specially redeemed at her conception. I await book, chapter and verse.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby demands “book, chapter and verse,” yet I await the book, chapter and verse that says everything that God has revealed to us is in the Bible. I will attempt to accommodate your request, Mr. Blackaby. Will you accommodate mine?
I noted in my first rebuttal that Luke records God’s angel as calling Mary “full of grace.” This is in the first chapter, verse 43. Even the Protestant Reformers agreed that God, based on this passage, was saying Mary was completely perfected in grace. She was the new “Holy of Holies” of the Incarnate Word. The Greek word that Luke uses to refer to Mary’s state of grace (kecharitomene) necessarily requires us to look at a “prior event” that brought about her perfection of grace. The closest we could say this in English is “you are perfectly graced.” The consensus of the Fathers of the Church held that this “prior event” was Mary’s conception. Again, the patristic witness and early Church councils all bear testimony to the Catholic view.
R. Blackaby: 7. Mr. Salza asserts “sacred writers” teach that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, and from that premise seeks to justify Catholic doctrine about the perpetual virginity of Mary. His biblical quotations fall short of establishing his rhetoric.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby, you are exposing your weakness every time you choose not to interact with the quotes from Scripture or the Fathers, and instead dismiss them as my “rhetoric.” Will you do your readers a favor and address the parallels between the arks of the Old and New Covenant, which St. Luke, St. John and the early Church fathers made? You are not a genuine opponent if you are going to dismiss things as “rhetoric” and not address them head-on.
I went into quite a bit of detail demonstrating the parallels between Luke and Samuel (2 Sam. 6 and Luke 1), and Mr. Blackaby just dismisses them as “rhetoric.” Is Blackaby calling God’s word “rhetoric?” Is this the way he handles Scripture? He never says one word about these compelling parallels. Perhaps that is because Mr. Blackaby doesn’t want to leave his comfort zone of preconceived ideas and faulty premises regarding Catholic teaching. Mr. Blackaby wants nothing to do with the study of biblical typology and the early Fathers.
Mr. Blackaby, I hope you can understand my concerns with your approach. Even though you chose to quote almost exclusively from St. Alphonsus Liguouri and St. Bonaventure (whose opinions don’t always reflect Catholic teaching), I still attempted to explain what I believed the saints meant by their statements. I would like you to play by the same rules, especially when I am quoting from the very Scriptures you hold as your only authority.
R. Blackaby: He appeals to Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 7 to assert the Bible teaches the spiritual superiority of celibacy. But he takes the apostle out of context, for Paul is addressing the saints during a special circumstance, which he calls “the present distress” (v. 26).
J. Salza: This is desperate exegesis. Paul expressly states “it is better for a man not to touch a woman” (v.1) and wishes all were celibate like he was (v.7). Then Paul says: “So that he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do better” (v.38). Paul’s teaching is precisely the opposite of what Mr. Blackaby is advancing about marriage: Paul says celibacy is superior to marriage, and Blackaby says marriage is superior to celibacy! Since Mr. Blackaby is caught with his exegetical pants down, he claims that I am taking Paul’s teachings “out of context.” Yet Paul’s reference to the “present distress” (v.26) is precisely the basis for Paul’s teaching on the superiority of celibacy.
If Mr. Blackaby wants to denigrate the Church’s teaching on marriage, then he has a difficult path to travel. The Catholic Church has been at the forefront in its teachings on the sanctity of marriage. That is why the Church, at the direction of her founder Jesus Christ, elevated marriage to a sacrament. This is also why, in obedience to Christ, the Catholic Church teaches that a sacramental marriage is indissoluble, and that remarriage after divorce is adultery (Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18).
Many Protestant “churches,” however, don’t follow Jesus’ teachings. Their pastors tell the people to “follow their consciences” when it comes to divorce, contraception, and even homosexual unions. I don’t know where Mr. Blackaby’s church stands on these issues, but the Catholic Church has taught the same thing about marriage and life issues for 2,000 years.
R. Blackaby: Listen carefully to Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” The scandal of pedophiles, molesters and homosexuals in the present day Catholic church are strong evidence that Mr. Salza’s famous Magisterium is wrong and is guilty of “speaking lies in hypocrisy…forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby is now playing psychologist. All of a sudden, Mr. Blackaby knows why the Church has been afflicted with perverts and sodomites in recent years. According to Blackaby’s diagnosis, it is because Catholic priests cannot marry. Yet the Church in the west has been practicing priestly celibacy for 2,000 years, and has never seen anything like the scandal she currently faces in the 21st century.
I am just as appalled at the scandal, Mr. Blackaby, as you are. Satan always goes after Christ’s true Church. The Lord Jesus warned us as much. These evil prelates are under the divine judgment of God and will suffer eternal punishments unless they repent. The problems in the Catholic Church have nothing to do with priestly celibacy; they have everything to do with a loss of faith in Jesus Christ. There are thousands of celibate priests living holy and faithful lives. The Catholic Church’s teaching on life, marriage, and sexuality is a light to a world that is crippled by evil and faithlessness. Just because some of her prelates don’t live up to the Church’s teachings does not mean the Church’s teachings are not true.
R. Blackaby: Mr. Salza calls my assertion that the Bible speaks of Jesus having brothers and sisters a “quite elementary apologia.” On that we are absolutely agreed. He says I lack a proficiency in Koine Greek. He and I may be in the same boat there, because he claims these brothers and sisters are “cousins” and that because the Hebrew and Aramaic languages have no word for cousin, the Bible used the terms brothers and sisters.
Huh? The New Testament was written in Greek, not Hebrew. The Greek language does have a word for cousin. It is “sungenis.” If the inspired writers had wanted to say Jesus had cousins, there was a word available. But they said he had brothers and sisters. Yes, elementary Dr. Salza, elementary!
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby acts like I don’t know the New Testament was written in Greek, or that I don’t know that there is a Greek word for cousin. He does this to downplay his opponent’s abilities, but I am sure his readers can that this is nothing but demagoguery. If Mr. Blackaby would have read my comments carefully, he would have understood my point.
When people in Scripture refer to Jesus’ “brothers” in their conversations, the Holy Spirit recorded what the people actually said. Since the people of Jesus’ time spoke Hebrew and Aramaic and didn’t have a word for “cousin” in their native tongue, they would have orally referred to Jesus’ relatives as “brothers,” and the Spirit would have recorded it as such. How Mr. Blackaby missed this is beyond me.
Nevertheless, if Mr. Blackaby really wants to demonstrate that Jesus had brothers and sisters, then I await his evidence. I will gladly address each and every claim Mr. Blackaby brings forth to prove that Mary had other children, and demonstrate that these claims are absolutely fallacious. Mr. Blackaby knows that Scripture never says the Virgin Mary had any other children besides Jesus. Let’s see what he comes up with. I also note that Mr. Blackaby, once again, failed to interact with any of my arguments which prove the Bible does not teach that Jesus had brothers or sisters.
R. Blackaby: 8. Did Mary die? Was she assumed into heaven, body and soul? Mr. Salza says the Catholic church doesn’t say whether she died or not. It does say she was assumed into heaven. But, of course, the Bible doesn’t say that. It is just part of that mythological mysticism and mayhem that is Catholic tradition.
J. Salza: Another example of “The Bible doesn’t say” apologia. Please, Mr. Blackaby, show us where the Bible teaches that it has to be in the Bible to be true. And while you are hopelessly looking for a verse to support your false premise, read Apoc. 12 where it describes “the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (v.1). While the woman may be a symbol for the Church, can you honestly argue that the woman is not Mary, the one who is giving birth to the Savior? And if you properly concede that the woman is Mary (as the early Church Fathers did), you must also concede that she is in heaven body and soul, since she has the moon under her “feet” and a crown on her “head.”
Also, it was Mr. Blackaby who argued that Mary died, and he attempted to quote from Pope Pius XII’s Munificentissumus Deus to support his claim. He argued that Mary died to try and prove that she was with sin. However, the papal decree he used does not say that Mary died. And now that I revealed Mr. Blackaby’s error, he blows it off. He acts like his initial claim is irrelevant, even though he advanced it to refute Catholic teaching. This shows that Mr. Blackaby can’t admit when he is wrong about Catholic teaching. If he can’t admit he was wrong here, we should not expect him to make concessions on anything else.
R. Blackaby: My “Bible authority” demands befuddle Mr. Salza. He wonders where the Bible provides the “canon of scripture.” His implication is that the Catholic church determined what is scripture and what is not. Nonsense. The New Testament books are their own “canon.” We don’t need the Catholic church to determine canonicity.
J. Salza: Let’s discuss this, Mr. Blackaby. First, it is not my “implication” that the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture. It is called “history.” Even many of your own Protestant apologists admit that the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture at regional councils at the end of the fourth century. But you claim that this is “nonsense.”
Then tell us all, Mr. Blackaby, who determined the canon? You claim that the “New Testament books are their own ‘canon.’” But how can the New Testament books be the canon, if those same books don’t tell us what the canon is? There is no inspired table of contents, Mr. Blackaby. This poses quite a dilemma for you, since you base your faith on the Bible alone. I would like to you address the “canon of Scripture” issue in more detail so that your readers will begin to see that “authority” is really the heart of the issue.
R. Blackaby: 9. Mr. Salza asked where the Catholic church teaches that no one can enter the blessed kingdom without passing through Mary. Well, that was the statement of St. Bonaventure, quoted in “The Glories of Mary.” Mr. Salza, are you familiar with Mr. Bonaventure and the book cited? Come now, be honest.
J. Salza: Notice that I asked Mr. Blackaby where the “Catholic Church” teaches that we must pass through Mary, but Mr. Blackaby chose only to quote from St. Bonaventure. St. Bonaventure is not the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the saint’s expressions pose no real problem for Christian theology. It was God’s will to come to us through a woman. There is nothing problematic about concluding that it is God’s will that we return to Him through the same woman. And nothing in Mr. Blackaby’s Bible would preclude such a conclusion. If it does, we again await the book, chapter and verse.
R. Blackaby: 10. Again, casting aspersions on my credibility, Mr. Salza asks where a papal, conciliar teaching, catechism or book with Catholic imprimatur ever said that Jesus, as judge, is too harsh, but Mary will not refuse anyone. You didn’t like my earlier citation, so contemplate these. All again come from the famously Catholic book “The Glories of Mary“, which we’ve already documented is imprimatured and declared to be without error by the Catholic Magisterium.
- “St. Anselm, to increase our confidence, says this: ‘When we pray to the Mother of God we are heard more quickly than when we call directly on the name of Jesus—for her Son is not only our Lord but our Judge. But when we call upon the name of His Mother, though our own merits will not insure an answer, yet her merits intercede for us and we are answered’” (p. 85).
- “But maybe His infinite Majesty frightens you…and you would like another advocate to intercede with Him. Then go to Mary and she will plead with her Son for you” (p. 123).
- “Every prayer of hers is like an established law for the Lord, obliging him to be merciful to everyone for whom she intercedes” (p. 20, emphasis mine).
That last one is a classic. Mary makes laws for the Lord and He is obliged to follow her direction. Mr. Salza, that is absolutely ludicrous. That guts the lordship of Jesus Christ, making him subservient to his earthly mother.
J. Salza: There you go twisting words, Mr. Blackaby. St. Anselm did not say “Mary makes laws for the Lord.” He says that her prayer “is like an established law for the Lord.” There is a big difference. Anselm is talking about God’s nature, and how the prayers of the Blessed Mother affect His nature. When she petitions her Son, Jesus responds to her “as if” it is a law, because it is His nature to respond to His mother. Jesus can’t go against His nature, otherwise it would be a lie.
R. Blackaby: 11. Finally, Mr. Salza leaves the impression with readers that I concocted the quote, “The whole Trinity, O Mary, gave thee a name…above every other name, that at thy name, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” He didn’t like my source. Well, how about, again, “The Glories of Mary“, p. 165, “The whole Trinity, O Mary, gave you a name, after that of your Divine Son, so that at your name every knee should bend, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” Mr. Salza, it’s imprimatured by your Magisterium.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby, the Catholic Magisterium doesn’t issue imprimaturs. Catholic bishops do (and sometimes they don’t do a very good job!) This is precisely why, after Mr. Blackaby presented this quote, I stated in my first rebuttal that “it is not from the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.” That fact remains; this is not a quote from the Catholic Magisterium. If we continue this dialogue, I respectfully ask that you get your authorities straight.
R. Blackaby: If Mr. Salza’s main point is that I’m not a Catholic theologian and don’t know every nuance of Catholic doctrine, we can agree. But I have demonstrated that he is a poor apologist for Catholic teaching himself. His ridicule of me rings hollow in the face of Catholic documents that bear the authorities he demands.
J. Salza: I would judge who the poorer apologist is based on how the apologist interacts with the arguments presented to him. As we have seen, Mr. Blackaby failed to address most of my arguments concerning saintly intercession, Mary as the sinless ark of the New Covenant, Mary’s perpetual virginity, and the many quotes from the early Church fathers that support Catholic teaching on these subjects.
Rather than interact with my rebuttal, he chose to skirt most of the authorities I advanced and write a side article about his position. And then he quotes exclusively from un-official sources (writings from a few saints) to make his points, even though he has a 2,000 year-old corpus of official Catholic teaching (Catechism, conciliar decrees) from which to draw. This is no way to vet a topic, and shows who the poorer apologist really is.
R. Blackaby: But the greater issue is the one I affirmed in my first article. The Catholic doctrine of Mary has been created and has evolved over time. And Mr. Salza has tried to blunt the impact of what revelation of Catholicism teaching reveals about this doctrine that dethrones Christ and enthrones a fine, but simply human, woman. Mr. Salza contends Catholic doctrine doesn’t change. But Catholics haven’t always believed in the infallibility of the pope, yet they do today. In a debate in Cincinnati on January 13, 1837 with Alexander Campbell, Archbishop Purcell said, “Appeals were lodged before the bishop of Rome, though he was not believed to be infallible. Neither is he now. No enlightened Catholic holds the pope’s infallibility to be an article of faith. I do not, and none of my brethren, that I know of, do. Catholics believe the pope, as a man, to be liable to error, as almost any other man in the universe. Man is man, and no man is infallible, neither in doctrine or morals” (Debate on the Roman Catholic Religion, Campbell and Purcell, p. 27). I believe an archbishop is a member of the Magisterium, Mr. Salza. He was at least a pretty important Catholic for Purcell-Marian High School in Cincinnati is named after him.
That was what Archbishop Purcell said in 1837. But in 1870, the Vatican Council declared papal infallibility had always been the teaching of the Catholic church. It would be easy to document internal Catholic debate over papal infallibility, but Mr. Salza and every knowledgeable Catholic already know about such.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby contends that “Catholics haven’t always believed in the infallibility of the pope.” Mr. Blackaby, I will again take you to task. Please find me one (just one) early Church Father during the first five centuries after Christ’s Ascension who didn’t hold the Catholic understanding of the papacy (that is, that Jesus built His Church upon the rock of Peter, gave Peter the keys to the kingdom to facilitate succession, and endowed Peter with infallible “binding” and “loosing” authority whenever he spoke officially for the Church on matters of faith or morals).
You claim that this will be easy for you, as you say: “it would be easy to document internal Catholic debate over papal infallibility.” If it is so easy, Mr. Blackaby, then this won’t take you much time at all. We await the fruits of your research.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Catholics have believed in the infallibility of the pope ever since Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, the authority to bind or loose on earth what is bound or loosed in heaven, and promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against His Church, which He built upon the rock of Peter (Matt. 16:18-19). I can produce quote after quote from the early Church fathers who all held to the Catholic view of the papacy.
But instead of addressing Scripture and the early Church Fathers, Mr. Blackaby appeals to a supposed 19th century speech made by an obscure bishop who has no authority to speak for the Catholic Church. No, Mr. Blackaby, Bishop Purcell is not the Catholic Magisterium. In fact, as you point out, the Catholic Magisterium disagreed with Bishop Purcell’s alleged commentary about the papacy in its dogmatic pronouncements at the First Vatican Council. These teachings affirmed what the Church always believed about papal infallibility, even though Mr. Blackaby may be able to find a few dissenters.
That is why the Catholic Church is Christ’s true Church. Unlike Protestantism, the Catholic Church has a divinely-appointed authority, and that is the pope. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else says about Catholic teaching, whether it comes from a nobody like me or a Catholic bishop like Purcell. The question is whether or not it is taught by the Church. Christ has given us His sacred teaching through both the oral and written apostolic word, which He has entrusted to His Holy Catholic Church. As we have seen, in Mr. Blackaby’s most recent presentation, he never quoted once from the Catholic Church.
An Offer For A Public Discussion
R. Blackaby: Mr. Salza, one of my brethren, a former Catholic himself, has asked me to challenge you to publicly debate the teachings of Roman Catholicism in a week of evening discussions on different topics. Do you believe strongly enough that you have the truth to accept such an offer? As a declared apologist for Catholicism you would appear to be a man up to that challenge. I hope you will accept.
J. Salza: Mr. Blackaby, please clarify your challenge. If you are handing this debate off to someone else, please identify my opponent, and I will be happy to oblige. But I would like to debate you first (if this is not what you are proposing, forgive my misunderstanding). I challenge you, Mr. Blackaby, to debate me on the topic of sola Scriptura, since this is the premise upon which your whole apologia is based. This is the crux of the issue between Catholics and Protestants.