16 March 2007

A third letter to the editor

In the 13 March 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News, a reply from Mr. Michael Antrim to my repsonse to his initial letter was published. Mr. Antrim says:

I thank Mr. [sic] Daren J. Zehnle (Feb. 14) for his response to my Feb. 3 article. These are subjects that need to be addressed.

First, I did not say "the Law was given to the Jews in English" as Mr. [sic] indicated. I did say the "10 Commandments were given only to the House of Israel - to the Jews" and I did say "as for their being a difference between the Catholic and Protestant 10 Commandments, the commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17 in plain English." These statements were in two different paragraphs. The EDN is published in English. I believe its readers can also read English translations of the Bible.

Second, Mr. [sic] Zehnle missed the entire point of my letter. I did not write to argue the differences between the two passages (Ex. 20:1-17 and Deut. 5:6-21). I wrote because neither list is labeled "Catholic version" or "Protestant version" in the scriptures. To choose between one list and the other [sic] is a petty argument at best. Are not both lists given by God? Mr. [sic] Zehnle's listings of the Commandments are paraphrased versions of the actual text given to Moses. No wonder people get confused. Does Mr. [sic] Augustine, Mr. Luther, Mr. Calvin or any other man have the right to pick and choose which scriptures to "formulate"? Where do you group those who accept the whole counsel of God? Hence the use of the category "Christian."

The church that Christ died for still exists. It is neither Catholic nor Protestant. It is only Christian. Therefore, those who divide and separate (contrary to God's will - I Cor. 1:10-13) are free to call themselves whatever they wish. They have their reward in full. As for listing Christian as a division "beside" Catholic or Protestant as Mr. [sic] Zehnle suggested, I disagree. The church (the body of Christ) is not a division. Those who divide are either in error or not of the church.

Mr. [sic] Zehnle quoted Christ's words in Matthew 5:17-18 [sic]"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." I question the use of this passage to justify a position that the 10 Commandments are still in effect for Christians today - but I am glad he did.

First of all, in this passage Christ uses the term "law or the prophets." Jesus and others use the same terms in many instances in the scriptures. Here are just a few of the references:
  1. The 10 Commandments (Matt. 22:36-40, 2 Cor. 3:5-16)
  2. The Laws given to Moses - Ex. 20 through Deut. 31
  3. The prophecies of the Prophets i.e. [sic] Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Matt. 22:40, 26:54-56)

Second, the people Jesus addressed here were under the "old" law. The rich young man in (Matthew 19:16-17) [sic] also lived under the "old" law. Jesus himself was born (Gal. 4:4), lived and died under the old covenant. Jesus did not instruct the people to break the "old" law given to them as the "new" covenant did not yet exist. Jesus himself kept the law and kept it perfectly. The new covenant would not come into effect until after "after all things have taken place." Heb. 9:16-17 [sic] "For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. ... it is never in force while the one who made it lives."

Third, Jesus promised that "heaven and earth" would not pass away until after "all things have taken place." Now as to what "all things have taken place" means - I cannot say it better than the [sic] Peter did in Acts 2:14-36 and again in Acts 3:12-26. Paul also tells about it in Acts 13:16-41. We now live in the days after "all things have taken place."

The prophets told of it: Acts 3 :18 [sic] "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled."

The Law of Moses and the prophets told of it: Luke 24:44 [sic] "...all things which we written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."

John 1:45 [sic] "...We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

Christ is the fulfillment and accomplished [sic] what He came for - to establish His Kingdom and Covenant. A simple and thorough reading of Hebrews chapters 8 through 10 will reveal how the New Covenant is now in effect. Mr. [sic] Zehnle's assessment that his chosen verses of scripture can be taken out of context and used to refute the Old Testament is no longer in effect is incorrect [sic somewhere but I'm very confused as to where]. 2 Tim. 3 :16, [sic] "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."

Gal. 5:4 [sic] "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law [sic], you have fallen from grace."

It's very kind of Mr. Antrim to judge the state of my soul without either knowing me or really understanding anything of what I have written.

My reply to his letter is as follows:

I wish to offer a few points of clarification in reply to the letter of Mr. Michael Antrim published 13 March 2007.

First: the listings of the Ten Commandments are not my own but are those which have been used as a summary of the Decalogue, one for at least fifteen centuries, the other for four. These summaries are not meant to discount the full listings provided in the Scriptures, but are meant to be short and easy ways to memorize the Ten Commandments, given further importance by Christ himself (see Matthew 5). Never did I claim that the Bible records either of the lists as “Catholic” or “Protestant”, nor – to my knowledge – has anyone else who has knowledge in the matter; this claim is Mr. Antrim’s own. I, and others, have simply said that the Catholic Church has used one summary while the Protestant churches, both past and present, have used the other.

Mr. Antrim seems to believe that when I say that the Ten Commandments are still valid for Christians I am also including the levitical laws. I am not. The Catholic Church – following the teachings of Judaism - has always seen a division within the commandments of those laws that are moral and those that are ritual. The ritual laws have ceased, but the moral laws have not, for they are also the natural law that is written in men’s hearts.

Second: Mr. Antrim claims that I listed “Christian as a division ‘beside’ Catholic or Protestant.” A cursory reading of my letter will prove this claim false for I said, “the category of Christian … cannot stand beside that of ‘Catholic’ or Protestant.’” The grouping of “Christian” is today an umbrella term that encompasses Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant. In this Mr. Antrim should see that I agree with him that “the church that Christ died for still exists.” From an historical analysis alone, however, I cannot agree that “It is neither Catholic nor Protestant. It is only Christian.” Mr. Antrim lacks an accurate knowledge of the history of Christianity and of Christian theology.

Despite Mr. Antrim’s claims, there is no group of Christians who can trace themselves back to the Apostles, with the sole exception of the Catholic Church. History itself bears this out. As the brilliant convert to Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman, observed, “To be versed in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Prior to the reformation the only group of Christians faithful to the Old and New Testament were those members of the Catholic Church, even if it was not – at that time - officially titled “Catholic” per se. Mr. Antrim can claim the opposite if he wishes, but history will not support him.

J.M. Carroll, who once strongly supported the notion of Baptist succession of the Apostles, (see his Trail of Blood [Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, 1973]) has since disavowed himself of this claim. In his Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History ([1994], pp. 1-2) Carroll states:

“Extensive graduate study and independent investigation of church history has, however, convinced [the author] that the view he once held so dear has not been, and cannot be, verified. On the contrary, surviving primary documents render the successionist view untenable…. Although free church groups in ancient and medieval times sometimes promoted doctrines and practices agreeable to modern Baptists, when judged by the standards now acknowledged as baptistic, not one of them merits recognition as a Baptist church. Baptists arose in the seventeenth century in Holland and England. They are Protestants, heirs of the reformers.”
While Mr. Antrim may not be Baptist (he has not stated and I have not asked) what Carroll concludes is equally applicable to his claims.

Third: Mr. Antrim intimates that I do not accept the New Covenant sealed in the Blood of Christ, a ridiculous claim, to be sure. Mr. Antrim should know that at every Mass the priest says, in the person of Christ, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me” (emphasis mine). This does not mean, however, that we are now free to disregard completely the Ten Commandments and go about murdering, committing adultery and stealing from each other as Mr. Antrim’s arguments, logically carried through, would indicate.

Fourth: Mr. Antrim claims (at least I think he does; his grammar is a bit confused) that I take Scripture “out of context.” The same claim can be made against him – and this time justifiably so – in his letter to the editor of 3 February 2007, a point that I charitably left out in my earlier reply.

Fifth: Mr. Antrim wonders about my interpretation of Hebrews 8-10. I suggest he take a careful read of Albert VanHoye’s The Old Testament Priest and the New Priest According to the New Testament (St. Bede’s Publications, 1986) and Our Priest is Christ: The Doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Loyola Press, 1977). There he will find the answers he seeks.Sixth: I did not respond to Mr. Antrim’s original letter to enter into a debate with him, as he seems keen to have. I responded only to correct blatant historical errors and inaccuracies. The Letters to the Editor section of the local newspaper is neither the proper forum for such a debate, nor to attack liturgical and organized religions, as seems to be Mr. Antrim’s true aim, though he will not say it forthright.

3 comments:

  1. Mr. Augustine, is it?
    I'm beginning to think you've managed to walk through a time warp into the 19th century. Exchanges like this happened all the time. As I recall Prince Gallitzin was particularly good at it. The opposition back then was a bit more coherent, though.

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  2. This man sounds like a "church of Christ" member. There is a "coC" minister in my town who has a weekly column in which he makes inflamatory comments like these. I think that, because of their repressed social interactions, their only worldly pleasure is arguing with anyone who doesn't buy what they're selling. Less than one week after the death of Pope John Paul II he launched into an attack on the papacy and the Church. Even non-Catholics in this very Protestant town told me how much they appreciated my response.

    Next time, I'll forward the offensive materials to you for your rebuttal.

    Peace, "Mr." Zehnle. :-)

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  3. Jeffrey: thanks for the link! Do keep us posted on the good prince's cause.

    Thom: I must say, I very much enjoy your comment about their "repressed social interactions". From the Church of Christ whom I have known, I think your assessment is correct. Also, forward whatever offensive materials my way that you wish; I shall do what I can with them.

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