Monthly Archives: June 2012

My Conversion to Catholicism: Why I Did It

Introduction

There are dozens of reasons why I converted to Catholicism and it would take a very long time to document them all.  For this reason I am only going to touch on some of the highlights and hopefully they will enable others to see the logical progression and reasonableness of my conversion to the Catholic Church.  More importantly, I hope God uses this as a seed to be planted into the hearts of other Christians that will eventually grow and lead them to the Catholic Church.

Religious Background

Before I get into the reasons why I converted, I believe it is necessary to at least give a very brief overview of my journey from my life without Christ to my life as a Catholic.  I was born into a Christian family but did not have any real convictions of Christianity as a child.  Around the age of seven my mother converted to Judaism and brought my sister and I to Israel, for the second time, to practice Judaism in the Holy Land.  I did not practice Judaism out of any real convictions but merely out of a sense of duty to my mother.  When I returned to the United States at the age of twelve I moved in with my father, who was a non-denominational charismatic at the time.  Shortly after this, I became a Christian and was baptized in a non-denominational charismatic church. For a while I was interested in God and wanted to follow Christ but this eventually turned into a nominal lifestyle when I became a teenager.  By the time I was nineteen I moved from Louisiana to New York City and was living a very profligate lifestyle.  I eventually hit rock bottom and it was during this time I began to cry out to God for help.  I met a few Christians one day where I worked and one of them gave me a Bible.  I was so impressed by the fact that someone would give me a Bible that I read it cover to cover in a little over a month.  Ever since then I have not been the same and it was during that time that my life radically changed.  After about a year of being involved in what can at best be described as a house church, if that, I moved back to Louisiana and began to attend a local Southern Baptist church.  It was one of the Rick Warren kinds of churches and after about a year of attending I began to become frustrated with the lack of preaching on sin and the Gospel.  Usually the sermons were the kind that either made you cry your heart out or they made you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.  They rarely exposited Scripture and addressed the real needs of the people.  Needless to say I wanted something with more substance, something with more meat, and especially a church that didn’t decorate its sanctuary with football themes and use football illustrations during football season in order to accommodate the local culture.  I was also a staunch Calvinist at this time and I wanted to find a church that was at least open to such views and I did not get the impression that the football church was such a church.  I began to attend a different Southern Baptist church and shortly thereafter my wife and I joined the church.  It was during this time that I began to look into the Reformed Baptist view and as I did so I became more aware of the paedobaptist versus credobaptist debate.  I eventually became a paedobaptist, having been convinced of the Scriptural arguments for paedobaptism from Theologians such as R. C. Sproul.  Since my wife was pregnant I realized we had to join a Presbyterian church in order to be faithful to the Bible by baptizing our infant when he or she was born.  I joined a Presbyterian (PCA) church plant, which was founded as an alternative church to the Federal Vision church in Monroe, La.  My daughter was baptized in this church plant when she was born, however, the pastor left the church plant due to practical differences with the session and this resulted in the near collapse of the church.  I did not agree with the session’s views for the future of the church plant once the pastor left so I joined a local ARP church, which was originally planted by the Federal Vision church but shortly thereafter became a “refuge” for those who did not want to be part of the Federal Vision.  During this time I began to look more intensely than before into the Federal Vision and I became painfully aware that many modern Presbyterian churches were almost nothing like the churches of the Reformation in doctrine and in practice.  This was one of the factors that made me look outside of the groups that lack Apostolic Succession.  I considered Anglicanism, mainly Anglo-Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy but after a great deal of study I became convinced of Catholicism and became a Catholic.

Church History

So, here we are, having first laid out a basic overview of my journey to the Catholic Church, it is now time to address in more detail why I became a Catholic.  The first, and also the biggest, seed that was planted into my heart that eventually led me to the Catholic Church was a desire to study church history.  By the time I was a Presbyterian, I wanted to know what happened in the period between the time of the Apostles and the reformation.  I knew that surely something had to have been going on during that long period of time but I had no earthly idea what happened then.  I began to read historical theology and church history works by well-respected Protestants such as J. N. D. Kelly, Philip Schaff, Jaraslov Pelikan, Everett Ferguson, Bruce Shelley, Geoffrey Bromiley, Henry Chadwick, as well as less known Protestant historians such as Bryan Litfin, Tim Dowley and Harry Boer.  I devoured any church history lectures I could get a hold of and especially benefited from lectures by Reformed Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary and Covenant Theological Seminary.  As I studied church history I remember reading historians such as Kelly and becoming exceedingly frustrated to learn that the early church maintained a number of important Catholic doctrines, such as the Eucharist as a real sacrifice, and were completely silent on important Protestant doctrines, such as justification by faith alone.  I became very upset because I was taught, as a Protestant, that the Catholic Church became corrupt in the middle ages and by the time of the reformation the Reformers were forced to restore the church to the way it was in the days of the early Christians.  To my astonishment the early church did not seem to resemble Protestantism.  As I continued to study I learned that the earliest Christians believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a distinct Christian priesthood, baptismal regeneration, the deuterocanonical books as Scripture, the Marian doctrines, relics, veneration of images, Bishops, Apostolic Succession, purgatory and worst of all…the Papacy!  I also began to read the Church Fathers, which only made things worse.  I read all of the Apostolic Fathers and some of the ante-Nicene and post-Nicene fathers as well.  By doing so I was forced to wrestle with the question: how could Christ’s church fall away from the faith so quickly without any opposition or any early witnesses testifying to such a great falling away and abandoning of the teachings of the Apostles?  Whenever people began to teach heretical views in the early church, a great deal of opposition showed up immediately and people quickly noted that such corruptions were not the teachings of the Apostles that had been handed down to their successors the Catholic Bishops.  This can especially be seen in the second century in the writings of St. Irenaeus who fought against the heresies of the Gnostics.  However, there are not any records of people disputing whether or not, for example, the Eucharist was a sacrifice or whether or not God regenerates people in the waters of baptism.  Such views were taken for granted in the early church and were not disputed, with the exception of some of the Gnostics who at times denied that God used matter in salvation.  Such information forced me to concluded that either the vast majority of Christians had fallen away from the Apostolic faith within one generation without any trace of evidence that their doctrines were in opposition to those taught by the Apostles, or the early church had faithfully maintained the teachings of the Apostles and Protestantism is simply a radical departure from the teachings of the Apostles. I began to suspect that the latter was true and soon I realized that I needed to be part of a church that maintained continuity with the early church, otherwise, I could not legitimately claim to be part of the church Christ established.

Divisions! Divisions! Divisions!

It was during this time as a Presbyterian that another factor influenced my decision to become a Catholic.  I noticed how many major divisions there are between Protestants.  There are Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, non-denominational Christians and many others.  In addition to these main groups there are many subgroups for each of these denominations, for example, there are Southern Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Independent Baptists, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, Missouri Synod Lutherans, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in North America, and the list goes on ad nauseam.  I saw how these various subgroups rarely had any kind of interaction with each other and most are completely divided from each other often in doctrine and especially in visible fellowship.  I wondered how Christ’s church could be so divided given the emphasis on how Christians should be united and avoid schisms in the New Testament.  I saw church splits with some groups calling other groups “heretics” and saying that they were leading people to hell, and sometimes this was between groups that were part of the same denomination!  I could not get beyond this and it forced me to consider Catholicism since it has been able to maintain a visible unity for nearly 2,000 years.  I then began to ask questions like: how can one tell which group was in schism after a church split and what do the Catholics have that Protestants do not have that enable them to have such visible unity?  The answer was the papacy and the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Questions that Could Not Be Answered Sufficiently

During my time as a Presbyterian I also noticed that the Reformers didn’t agree with each other on very important doctrines.  For example, Luther believed Christ was truly present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, while Zwingli did not.  Luther maintained the view of auricular confession while Calvin and Zwingli did not.  Cranmer maintained the office of Bishops while Calvin did not.  Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all agreed that Mary was a perpetual Virgin while almost none of their Theological descendants believe so today.  I also noticed that the Theological descendants of the reformers in the present day have many disagreements with each other  Some Protestants today believe justification by faith alone is essential to the Gospel, while others do not even believe it is a Biblical doctrine.  Some maintain sola scriptura while others maintain solo scriptura.  Some Protestants affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, infant baptism, and baptismal regeneration, while others reject these doctrines. Dozens of other examples can be noted.  Seeing all of the Theological differences among Protestants made me begin to ask questions like: how is it that all of these Christians can have the Bible and yet arrive at so many different conclusions?  I began to see the need for an authoritative voice that would be able to determine whose interpretation of Scripture was heretical and whose interpretation was orthodox since without such an authoritative voice one could ultimately only appeal to their own subjective and private interpretation of Scripture.  Other questions began to follow, such as: where is sola scriptura in the Bible, who determines the canon of Scripture and how can one determine which doctrines are essential and which are adiaphora?  Needless to say, I was not able to find sufficient answers to these questions in Protestantism and this made me very suspicious of Protestantism.

Catholicism Not an Option Yet

As a Presbyterian, many issues and questions that made me doubt Protestantism were taking place at the same time but I was not exactly ready to consider Catholicism yet.  Why?  First, because I was taught that Roman Catholicism was the Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation and this wasn’t something I could quickly undo.  Second, because I still had a number of misunderstandings about the Catholic position.  Third, I could not consider Catholicism because I was not yet willing to practically throw away my career goal of becoming a pastor.  The reason for this is because I chose my Bachelor’s degree with the idea that I would go to seminary and become a Pastor and if I were to abandon that goal then my Bachelor’s degree would not be very helpful to me since it was in General Studies.  Also, I could not imagine doing anything other than pastoring a Church, with the exception of being a seminary professor or teacher.  So, to become a Catholic would practically require me to give up my main career goal.  Fourth, I knew that converting to Catholicism would further alienate myself Theologically from the rest of my family that is almost entirely Protestant and it would also practically end many of my friendships since I knew many of my friends did not have a great amount of respect for Catholicism.

Consideration of Alternatives to Catholicism

The first option I considered was Anglicanism.  However, this was a very bad time to consider Anglicanism since the Episcopal Church in the U.S. recently became very liberal and began to adopt positions such as same-sex unions and sodomite priests.  I knew I could not be in communion with such people so I had to consider some of the breakaway Anglican groups.  I strongly considered the Anglican Church in North America and I may have had the opportunity to eventually become an Anglican priest.  However, the fact that there are women Priest in the ACNA was problematic for me and I saw that this was also a source of division between many in this denomination.  I realized that this issue will eventually boil over and lead to another schism.  I wanted to find a church that could definitively decide on matters such as women’s ordination and same sex unions, while also able to maintain a visible unity and continuity with the early church.  I realized this could not be found in any of the Anglican churches since even if a group such as the ACNA definitively decided on the issue of women’s ordination, a schism would immediately erupt and there would be no objective way to know which group was in schism since both would appeal to Scripture to prove their positions.  I knew there had to be a more objective way to determine who was right about the issue of women’s ordination other than my mere subjective opinion of what the Bible teaches and I realized Anglicanism did not have such an objective way to determine such matters.

Since Anglicanism did not seem to be an option for me I began to consider Eastern Orthodoxy.  Yet I noticed there were many divisions among them as well.  Some Orthodox Christians believe the filioque is something that prevents communion with Catholics, while others do not.  Some Orthodox believe Catholics should be rebaptized if they become Orthodox while others do not.  Some Orthodox Christians oppose contraception and remarriage after divorce, while others do not.  Some Orthodox Christians reject the deuterocanonicals as Scripture, while others do not.  I wanted answers to know who was right but I realized the Orthodox could not give a definitive answer because they cannot determine which councils are ecumenical and therefore binding on all Orthodox.  So, it was essentially for the same reasons I rejected Anglicanism that I rejected Orthodoxy, it lacked an objective and authoritative voice to define doctrine.

Catholicism: the Answer to My Questions

My rejection of Protestantism, Anglicanism and Orthodoxy left me with the option of either abandoning any kind of historic Christianity or becoming a Catholic and I knew I could not do the former.  At this time I began to seriously consider Catholicism with an open mind.  I had question after question after question and I found answers to most of them, with the exception of a very few that I simply had to take by faith until I found the answers after I became Catholic.  As I studied Catholicism, I stumbled across a few Scott Hahn lectures and one his lectures on the papacy floored me.  It answered many of the questions that I could not find answers to in Protestantism and after I heard the lecture I knew that if what he said about the papacy was true then I had to become Catholic.  As I continued to study I realized that the magisterium was the solution to all of the problems God had allowed me to see with Protestantism.  It was the solution to all of the questions I had as a Protestant that I could not find in Protestantism.  For example my questions about how one can know what is the correct interpretation of Scripture, what is heretical and who determines the canon were answered by a discovery of the authority of the Catholic magisterium.  Additionally, I learned that it was the Bishop of Rome as an objective and visible point of unity that gave Catholics the ability to remain in one visible body.  I realized that if a group of people or Bishops break away from communion with the Bishop of Rome then it can objectively be determined who is in schism, the one who breaks communion with the Bishop of Rome.  This enabled me to objectively determine who is orthodox and who is in the visible church as well as who is a heretic and who is in schism.  In the midst of these discoveries I began to attend a local Catholic Church and fell in love with the liturgy.  I also began to attend RCIA classes at the same local Catholic Church.  During this time I realized that the Catholic Church was the Church Jesus Himself established nearly 2,000 years ago and if I rejected it then I would in essence be rejecting Christ Himself.  For this reason, after a very long and hard journey through all of the problems of Protestantism, I finally found rest in the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ, and on Easter Vigil of 2012, I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church, and my wife, a cradle Catholic, was confirmed in June of 2012.

Ad Gloriam Ecclesiae!

Pio


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A Catholic Response to Wayne Grudem on the Canon of the Old Testament

Dr. Wayne Grudem attempts to defend the Protestant view of the Old Testament canon and refute the Catholic view of the same in his Systematic Theology. His arguments in favor of the Protestant Old Testament canon based on Jewish tradition will be addressed first, followed by his arguments from church history.  Lastly, a few challenges for Grudem and other Protestants on determining the canon will be posed.

Arguments from Jewish Tradition

Grudem begins his arguments from Jewish Tradition with the claim that revelation ceased after 435 B.C and that 1 and 2 Maccabees were not “worthy to be included with the collections of God’s words from earlier years.”1 This seems to be a problematic position since Grudem must demonstrate upon what basis he determines there were no further additions to the Old Testament canon and that 1 and 2 Maccabees were not worthy to be included in the canon.  If Grudem claims that the canon was settled by 435 B.C. then he must explain why the canonicity of Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs were disputed among the Jews as late as the second century.  The Catholic Encyclopedia confirms the dispute of these books as it reads “[i]t is an incontestable fact that the sacredness of certain parts of the Palestinian Bible (Esther, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles) was disputed by some rabbis as late as the second century of the Christian Era (Mishna, Yadaim, III, 5; Babylonian Talmud, Megilla, fol. 7)”2  If Grudem claims that the protocanonicals alone are inspired because the Jews after the time of Christ determined so, then he must explain upon what basis do unbelieving Jews determine the canon for Christians?   Curiously Grudem doesn’t note when the Jews determined their canon.  Instead he points to “Jewish literature outside of the Old Testament”3 as evidence that prophecy ceased after 435 B.C., implying upon this basis that the writings afterwards, such as 1 and 2 Maccabees, could not have been considered Scripture.  He cites 1 Maccabees 4:45-46 as an example of such literature.  However, the passage cited gives no indication that revelation ceased but merely asserts that there were not any prophets at that time and in that particular place.  It is possible for there to have been a lack of prophets at that time and in that place while still affirming the view that there were prophets before and after such a time.  Furthermore, if prophecy had completely ceased after “435 B.C.” as Grudem asserts, why does the Book of Wisdom 2:18-20 clearly predict what will happen at the crucifixion of Jesus?

As a side note, it is interesting that Grudem appeals to Jewish literature and tradition outside of the Old Testament in order to defend his view of the canon.  However, one must question the consistency of such a position.  Grudem defends the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, the view that the Bible is the final authority in matters of faith and practice for the Christian.  Yet, Grudem appeals to extra-Biblical tradition in order to determine the canon.  In effect, he has placed tradition over the Scriptures in order to determine what constitutes Scripture.

Next, Grudem cites a quote from Josephus to further substantiate his assertion that prophecy ceased after 435 B.C.  The quote reads “[f]rom Artaxerxes to our own times a complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets”4 It should be noted that Josephus does not say prophecy ceased but that an exact succession of the prophets could not be recorded.  This does not mean that there could not have been prophets appearing periodically between 435 B.C. and the coming of Christ.  (For an extensive refutation of the use of Josephus to demonstrate that prophets and prophecy ceased after 435 B.C. see Gary Michuta’s article on this issue.5 For evidence that a number of Rabbis after Josephus believed prophecy continued after the 5th century B.C. see the same.)  Furthermore, a glaring problem exists with Grudem’s view that prophecy ceased after 435 B.C. since an unbelieving Jew may simply ask: if prophecy ceased after 435 B.C., why then do you, as a Christian, believe the New Testament canon is of prophetic origin?

Grudem appeals to the Qumran community that waited for a prophetic voice more authoritative than previous prophets.6 However; this does not mean that the Qumran community believed that all prophecy ceased after 435 B.C. since it is possible to believe at the same time that prophecy continued and the Messiah Himself is more authoritative than the prophets through which he spoke.

Grudem claims that the writings after 435 B.C. did not have as much authority among the Jews as previous writings.7 There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that all Jews prior to Christ believed such.  Perhaps some groups of Jews believed as such; however, there is evidence many Jews believed the deuterocanonicals were considered to be Scripture, even though Grudem claims “these books [the deuterocanonicals] were never accepted by the Jews as Scripture”.8  For example, the Jews of the Diaspora accepted the deuterocanonicals as part of the canon.  The Catholic Encyclopedia notes “[t]he ancient Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint was the vehicle which conveyed these additional Scriptures [the deuterocanonicals] into the Catholic Church. The Septuagint version was the Bible of the Greek-speaking, or Hellenist, Jews, whose intellectual and literary centre was Alexandria…The oldest extant copies date from the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, and were therefore made by Christian hands; nevertheless scholars generally admit that these faithfully represent the Old Testament as it was current among the Hellenist or Alexandrian Jews in the age immediately preceding Christ.”9

Grudem writes “Apparently there was full agreement between Jesus and his disciples, on the one hand, and the Jewish leaders or Jewish people, on the other hand, that additions to the Old Testament canon had ceased after the time of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. This fact is confirmed by the quotations of Jesus and the New Testament authors from the Old Testament…but not once do they cite any statement from the books of the Apocrypha or any other writings as having divine authority”10 This appears to be ad hoc since the New Testament doesn’t quote from books such as “Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles…Esdras and Nehemias”.11  By Grudem’s logic, since these books are not quoted in the New Testament, these books should not be a part of the Old Testament canon.  It also should be noted that Grudem must also determine which books constitute the New Testament canon in order to determine how many times and which books of the Old Testament are quoted in the New Testament.  Moreover, if a citation of the Old Testament in the New Testament as “having divine authority” automatically means the book should be included in the canon then that would mean the book from which St. James cites as “Scripture” in James 4:5 is also part of the Old Testament canon.  The problem with this argument is that we do not know which book from which St. James quoted.  This is also a problematic argument since St. Jude quotes from the Assumption of Moses and 1 Enoch as if they had divine authority, yet Grudem would not accept these books as canonical.

Arguments from Church History

Grudem claims that “the earliest Christian evidence is decidedly against viewing the Apocrypha as Scripture”12 This is a curious statement since the famous Protestant historian J.N.D. Kelly wrote the exact opposite.  Kelly wrote “[i]t should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the twenty-two, or twenty-four, books of the Hebrew Bible of Palestinian Judaism…It always included though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha, or deuterocanonical books…For the great majority, however, the deuterocanonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.”13 Evidence for this can be found in Ante-Nicene writtings and Church Fathers such as Polycarp, 1 Clement, Barnabas, Tertullian (technically an ecclesiastical writer and not a church father), Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria and Cyprian.14

Grudem claims Jerome did not believe the deuterocanonicals belonged in the canon.15 This can potentially be misleading since it is only half true.  It is true that at one point in St. Jerome’s life he rejected the canon, but later in his life when the church determined the deuterocanonicals were part of the canon, he changed his position out of obedience to the Church.  St. Jerome wrote “[f]or the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon. But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops” and “[w]hat sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us.”16

Grudem claims the deuterocanonicals were not cited in the New Testament and this caused many to view them suspiciously.17 As it has already been noted, lack of citations doesn’t mean the deuterocanonicals are excluded from the Old Testament since a number of the protocanonical books are not cited in the New Testament.  However, the New Testament alludes to many deuterocanonical texts.  For example, Hebrews 11:35 is a clear reference to 2 Maccabees 7:1-9 and Matthew 27:41-43 is a clear reference to Wisdom 2:12-20.

Grudem cites Melito of Sardis as an early witness to his position, though he admits Melito did not include Esther in his list.18 It is true some in the early church questions the authority of some, and sometimes all, of the deuterocanonicals but this was to be expected since the church had not definitively determined which books were canonical yet.  He also notes Eusebius who quoted Origen as one who rejected the deuterocanonicals, as well as St. Athanasius.19 Yet, Grudem does not note that Origen accepted Sussana, Tobit and Judith.20 Neither does Grudem note that St. Athanasius believed Baruch and the additions to Daniel belonged in the canon.21 Those who questioned the deuterocanonicals were in the minority but the majority of Christians recognized the deuterocanonicals as Scripture, as noted in the quotation by Kelly above.

Grudem also cites E. J. Young, who noted there were “historical, chronological, and geographical errors” in the deuterocanonicals.22 Such critiques of the deuterocanonicals by Protestants are ad hoc since there are the same kinds of difficulties in the protocanonicals.  For example, 1 Sam. 17:50 states that David cut of the head of Goliath but 2 Samuel 21:19 says Elhanan killed Goliath the Gittite.  2 Sam. 8:4 says David’s horsemen in battle over Hadadezer numbered 1,700 while 1 Chron. 18:4 says 7,000.  1 Sam 10:6 says Saul was 30 years old when he began to reign, 1 Sam. 13:1 said he was only one year old when he began to reign and he reigned over Israel two years.  Naturally, Grudem, and other Protestants, would attempt to explain these difficulties yet their commitment to searching for explanations for the difficulties in the deuterocanonicals is questionable. Grudem, in the same quotation by E.J. Young, claims that the Book of Wisdom 11:17 teaches “the creation of the world out of pre-existent matter”.23 This is a gross misrepresentation of the Book of Wisdom since the verse actually reads “[f]or your all-powerful hand, which created the world out of formless matter, did not lack the means to send upon them a multitude of bears, or bold lions”.24 How can one say that a claim to make “the world out of formless matter” means that the world was created “out of pre-existent matter”?

Grudem claims that the Catholic Church, only at the Council of Trent in 1546, officially declared the deuterocanonicals to be part of the Old Testament canon.25 This is not exactly true, since it depends on what one means by “officially declared”.  Catholic Apologist, Jimmy Akin, notes that “[t]he canon of Scripture, Old and New Testament, was finally settled at the Council of Rome in 382, under the authority of Pope Damasus I. It was soon reaffirmed on numerous occasions. The same canon was affirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 and at the Council of Carthage in 397. In 405 Pope Innocent I reaffirmed the canon in a letter to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse. Another council at Carthage, this one in the year 419, reaffirmed the canon of its predecessors and asked Pope Boniface to ‘confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church.’ All of these canons were identical to the modern Catholic Bible, and all of them included the deuterocanonicals.”26 In addition to these councils, the deuterocanonicals were included in the list of the canon at the Ecumenical Council of Florence in the mid-fifteenth century, decades before the Protestant rebellion against the Church began.

Grudem argues “Catholics would hold that the church has the authority to constitute a literary work as ‘Scripture,’ while Protestants have held that the church cannot make something to be Scripture, but can only recognize what God has already cause to be written as his own words.”27 Of course, Grudem does not cite where Catholics teach such a view since this is simply a straw-man.  Catholics, like Protestants, do not believe that they have the authority to make a literary book Scripture; rather, Catholics, guided by the Holy Spirit, simply recognize that which was God-breathed.

A Challenge for Grudem, and Protestants in General

  1.  If Sola Scriptura is true, where does the Bible indicate which books are to be considered canonical?  If you have to go to a source outside the Bible then you have violated Sola Scriptura, which is the view that the Bible is the final authority in matters of faith and practice.  Since the canon is a matter of faith, where does the Bible indicated which books are canonical?
  2. Who has the authority to define the canon? (If your answer is “God”, whose opinion of what God chose to be in the canon?)  How do you know they have the authority to define the canon?  If you believe that no one has the authority to determine which books are in the Bible, then how do you know which books are from God?
  3. Since the Jews did not determine which books belong in the canon until the second century (and the Jews of the Diaspora included the deuterocanonicals in their canon), and yet most early Christians accepted the deuterocanonicals as Scripture, upon what basis should a Christian determine the canon based upon the decision of unbelieving Jews over against the testimony of the early church?
  4. Jesus and the Apostles mostly quoted from the Septuagint, which contained the deutercanonicals.  Why did they quote from the Septuagint without warning the people to avoid the deuterocanonicals if the deuterocanonicals weren’t canonical?

Suggested reading:  Tom Brown’s Article The Canon Question http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/
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Citations:

1 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 56

2  Reid, George. “Canon of the Old Testament.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 21 Jun. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm&gt;.

3 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 56

4 Josephus, Against Apion, 1.41

5 Michuta, Flavius Josephus Rejected the Deuterocanon,. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&ved=0CF8QFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.handsonapologetics.com%2FDeuteroQuestions%2FJosephus%2520and%2520the%2520closing%2520of%2520the%2520canon.doc&ei=zsLjT6fdCoq29QSBiZzlCQ&usg=AFQjCNHce06QZ80XSLnb_QWHEINrOThMYA&sig2=nC8v2T8ix2lMR3WcH_cfpA

6 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 56

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid, p. 57

9 Reid, George. “Canon of the Old Testament.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 21 Jun. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm&gt;.

10 Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 56-57

11 Reid, George. “Canon of the Old Testament.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 21 Jun. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm&gt;.

12 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 57

13 Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pp 53-55.

14 Ibid, p. 54

15 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 57

16 Tom Brown, The Canon Questionhttp://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/

17 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 58

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Tom Brown, The Canon Questionhttp://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/

21 Ibid.

22 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 59 quoting E. J. Young, “The Canon of the Old Testament,” in Revelation and the Bible, pp. 167-168.

23 Ibid.

24 Revised Standard Version Bible, Ignatius Edition, 2006.

25 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 59

26 Akin “Defending the Deuterocanonicals.” http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/deuteros.htm

27 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 59

The Old Testament Canon: The Deuterocanonical Books

What are the Deuterocanonical Books?

The deuterocanonical books are books that Catholics consider to be Scripture and Protestants consider “apocryphal”.  These books include Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and also portions of Esther and Daniel.  As stated in the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The deuterocanonical (deuteros, “second”) are those whose Scriptural character was contested in some quarters, but which long ago gained a secure footing in the Bible of the Catholic Church, though those of the Old Testament are classed by Protestants as the ‘Apocrypha’.”1

Did the New Testament Writers Quote from the Deuterocanonicals?

The New Testament writers often quoted from the deuterocanonicals with the clearest case being Hebrews 11:35 “Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.”  This is a clear reference to 2 Maccabees 7:1-9 which is about seven Jewish brothers and their mother who were tortured and then martyred, though with hope because “the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life” (verse 9).  There is no question this was what the author of Hebrews had in mind in Hebrews 11:35.  More of the New Testament’s use of the deuterocanonicals can be found here: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/deuterocanon.html

Did the Jews Contemporary to Christ Accept the Deuterocanonicals as Scripture?

Nearly two centuries before the coming of Christ, the Jews translated their Scriptures into Greek and this translation is known as the Septuagint.  This translation enabled the Hellenistic Jews (Greek speaking Jews) and Greeks to be able to read the Jewish Scriptures.  Included in this translation were the deuterocanonicals and for this reason the canon of the Hellenist or Alexandrian Jews included the Apocrypha.  However, there were other Jews, such as the Palestinian Jews, whose canon excluded the deuterocanonicals.

It has long been the belief that towards the end of the first century, a number of rabbis gathered in the city of Jamnia in order to determine once and for all which books would be considered canonical among Jews.  The council determined that the deuterocanonicals were excluded; most likely for the reason that the deuterocanonical books were used by Christians in order to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.  However, some scholars dispute the council in Jamnia had such an authoritative role and the canon among Jews had already been settled prior to Jamnia.2 Contrary to this view, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes “It is an incontestable fact that the sacredness of certain parts of the Palestinian Bible (Esther,Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles) was disputed by some rabbis as late as the second century of the Christian Era (Mishna, Yadaim, III, 5; Babylonian Talmud, Megilla, fol. 7).”3 Either way, since Christianity’s arrival on the scene of history, it would seem that most Jews, including present day Jews, do not consider the deuterocanonical books to be Scripture, with the exception of Ethiopian Jews whose canon is the same as the Catholic Old Testament canon.

Did the Earliest Christians believe the Deuterocanonicals were Scripture?

Though the unbelieving Jews eventually rejected the deuterocanonical books as Scripture, the earliest Christians did not.  Protestant historian J N D Kelly writes:

“It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the twenty-two, or twenty-four, books of the Hebrew Bible of Palestinian Judaism.

It always included though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha, or deuterocanonical books.

For the great majority, however, the deuterocanonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.”4

Quotations of the deuterocanonical books can be found in Ante-Nicene Fathers such as Polycarp, 1 Clement, Barnabas, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria and Cyprian.5 Various Church Fathers, such as Melito of Sardis, Origen (technically not a church father but an ecclesiastical writer), Jerome, Cyril of Alexandria, and Athanasius, either had doubts about the authority of the deuterocanonicals or outright rejected them as not part of the canon of Scripture.  Eventually, it was necessary and possible for the early church to determine which books were canonical and this was done towards the end of the fourth century.  Catholic Theologian, Jimmy Akin, writes:

“The canon of Scripture, Old and New Testament, was finally settled at the Council of Rome in 382, under the authority of Pope Damasus I. It was soon reaffirmed on numerous occasions. The same canon was affirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 and at the Council of Carthage in 397. In 405 Pope Innocent I reaffirmed the canon in a letter to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse. Another council at Carthage, this one in the year 419, reaffirmed the canon of its predecessors and asked Pope Boniface to “confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church.” All of these canons were identical to the modern Catholic Bible, and all of them included the deuterocanonicals.”6

Why Did the Reformers Remove the Deuterocanonicals from the Canon of Scripture?

The Reformers removed the deuterocanonicals from the canon of Scripture because they believed only those books which were revealed to the Jews in Hebrew were to be considered canonical, following the example of unbelieving Jews.  Additionally, the Reformers rejected the deuterocanonicals because they teach Catholic doctrine.  Just to name a couple of examples, Tobit 12:12 is a prooftext for the Catholic doctrine of the intercession of the saints in heaven and, in fact, the best prooftext for purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees 12:46.

Who Has the Authority to Determine Whether or not the Deuterocanonicals Belong in the Old Testament Canon?

The fact that the Catholic Church, from the earliest days of Christianity until the present, has accepted the deuterocanonicals as Scripture and the fact that the reformers rejected the deuterocanonicals as Scripture gives rise to the question: who has the authority to determine whether or not the deuterocanonicals are Scripture and belong in the Old Testament canon?

For an excellent critique of the various Protestant positions on the canon of Scripture read this article written by Tom Brown at Called to Communion.

 Citations:

1 Reid, George. “Canon of the Old Testament.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 9 Jun. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm&gt;.

2  Allison, Gregg, R.  Historical Theology, p. 38.

3 Reid, George. “Canon of the Old Testament.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 9 Jun. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm&gt;.

4 Kelly, J. N.  Early Christian Doctrines, pp 53-55.

5 Ibid, p. 54.

6 Akin, Jimmy.  “Defending the Deuterocanonicals.” <http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/deuteros.htm&gt;

 

The Biblical Case for the Marian Doctrines

Protestants, Jews and Allegory

As mentioned in this post, one of the differences between Catholics and most Protestants is the Marian doctrines, i.e. the Immaculate Conception, Mary as co-redemptorix, Mary as Mediatrix of all graces, the perpetual virginity of Mary, and her bodily assumption into heaven.  Some Protestants believe that an honest reading of Scripture would never yield the Catholic doctrines of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, just as the Jews read the Old Testament and do not conclude that Jesus is the Messiah, so do Protestants read the New Testament and do not conclude that the Catholic doctrines of the Blessed Virgin are Biblical because they do not consistently interpret the Scriptures allegorically.

Did the Apostles Interpret the Scriptures Allegorically?

Unquestionably, the Apostles interpreted the Scriptures allegorically.  Although the Jew would read Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” and interpret “Israel” as the nation of Israel, since that is the meaning in the immediate context, the Apostles took such passages as Hosea 11:1 and, though they recognized the literal interpretation referred to the nation of Israel, they also recognized a higher, allegorical meaning which they believed pointed to Christ, as is seen in Matthew 2:15.  Another example can be found in Galatians 4:21-31 where the Apostle Paul interprets Sarah and Hagar in the Book of Genesis as two covenants.  Many more scriptures demonstrating this may abound but these two should suffice in order to establish the fact that the Apostles not only interpreted the Scriptures according to their literal meaning but also according to their allegorical meaning.

An Important Consideration

The Jews do not see Christ as the Messiah because they do not use an allegorical method of interpretation; however, Protestants, following the example of the Apostles, do interpret the Scriptures using an allegorical method in order to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.  Since Protestants interpret the Old Testament allegorically in order to establish that Jesus is the Messiah, then they should also be willing to consider the allegorical argument for the Marian doctrines.

Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant

The majority of Protestants are not familiar with the Catholic concept that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. As a result, they often are not aware of the beauty between the Old Testament shadows of Mary and Mary herself. I’ll first point out some descriptions of the Ark of the Covenant in Scripture and then demonstrate how they allegorically point to their archetype, Mary.

  1. Hebrews 9:4 tells us what was within the Ark, as it reads “having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.” In this verse we see that the Ark contained the “manna”, the bread that came down from heaven in the wilderness (Exodus 16). It contained “Aaron’s staff that budded” (Numbers 17), the staff of the high priest of Israel and it contained the “tablets of the covenant” (Exodus 25:16), which were the words of God revealed to Moses.
  2. We read in Exodus 25:22, “There [in the Ark] I [God] will meet with you [Moses], and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”  We learn from this passage that God’s presence dwelled within the Ark of the Covenant.
  3. Exodus 25:11 reads “Overlay it [the Ark] with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it”. In this verse God gives instructions on how to make the Ark of the Covenant and God is careful to instruct that it should be made of “pure gold”.
  4. Psalm 132:8 says “Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.”  This is also quoted in 2 Chronicles 6:41.  The context indicates that the resting place for the Ark is the temple Solomon built.
  5. Lastly, we learn from 2 Samual 6:1-15 that the Ark was so holy that most were not allowed to touch it, as can be see in the case of Uzzah.

With these verses on the Ark of the Covenant in mind, we are now ready to see how these Old Testament shadows are allegorically fulfilled in Mary.

  1. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant because within her womb she contained Jesus, the ultimate manna, the living bread of life that came down from heaven (John 6:51), the ultimate high priest (Hebrews 4:14), and the incarnate word of God (John 1:1, 14).
  2. Just as the old Ark of the Covenant contained the presence of God, so did the new Ark of the Covenant, Mary, contain in her womb Jesus, who is God incarnate (Colossians 2:9).
  3. In the same way that the old Ark was made of “pure gold” in order to contain holy things, so too it was fitting for the new Ark to be pure and sinless in order to contain her holy Son.
  4. Just as the old Ark, together with God’s presence, came to Solomon’s temple for its resting place, so is the new Ark, along with Christ, assumed into heaven to His resting place, at the right hand of the Father (though technically Jesus ascended into heaven, whereas Mary was assumed into heaven).
  5. Lastly, as the old Ark could not be touched because of its holiness, so too it was fitting that the new Ark, remain a virgin, and not know the touch of a man.

Did the New Testament Writers Make this Connection?

One of the first questions a Protestant will have after examining the information above is: did the New Testament writers make the connection between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary?  The answer is yes.

  1. In 2 Samual 6:9 David says “how can the ark of the lord come to me”.  This is very similar to what was said by Elizabeth when Mary came into her presence in Luke 1:43 which reads “but why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me.”
  2. In 2 Samual 6:16 we read that David leapt for joy in the presence of the Ark as it says “As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD”.   In Luke 1:44 John leapt for joy in the presence of the Mary as it says “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”
  3. The old Ark stayed with Obed-edom for three months (1 Chronicles 13:14), Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1:56).
  4. In 2 Samual 6:1-3 we learn the old Ark was taken to Judah in the hill country.  In Luke 1:39 we read that Mary came to Elizabeth into the hill country in Judah.

Based on this information it is clear that Luke saw a connection between the old Ark in 2 Samuel and Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant, in Luke 1.

Mary is the New Eve

It can also be demonstrated that Mary is the new Eve.

  1. The first Eve was known as the “mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).  Mary is the mother of all those who live in her Son (Colossians 3:3-4).
  2. The first Eve disobeyed God and brought condemnation on all who are in the first Adam.  The second Eve, Mary, obeyed God and brought life to all who are in the second Adam.
  3. The first Eve was greeted by an angel (a fallen angel) and received his message, the second Eve was greeted by an angel and received his message.

It should be noted that just as the first Eve was conceived without sin, so it is fitting that Mary also be conceived without sin.

What about the Fathers of the Church?

If there is a strong Biblical case for the Marian doctrines then surely there would be some Church Fathers who allegorically interpreted the Scriptures in favor of the Marian doctrines.  Indeed there are.

  • Justin Martyr wrote “[Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent might be also the very course by which it would be put down. Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied ‘Be it done unto me according to your word’ [Luke 1:38]” (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 100 [A.D. 155]).
  • Irenaeus wrote “Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying, ‘Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.’ Eve, however, was disobedient, and, when yet a virgin, she did not obey. Just as she, who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband—for in paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for, having been created only a short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children, and it was necessary that they first come to maturity before beginning to multiply—having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. . . . Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith” (Against Heresies 3:22:24 [A.D. 189]).
  • Irenaeus also wrote “The Lord then was manifestly coming to his own things, and was sustaining them by means of that creation that is supported by himself. He was making a recapitulation of that disobedience that had occurred in connection with a tree, through the obedience that was upon a tree [i.e., the cross]. Furthermore, the original deception was to be done away with—the deception by which that virgin Eve (who was already espoused to a man) was unhappily misled. That this was to be overturned was happily announced through means of the truth by the angel to the Virgin Mary (who was also [espoused] to a man). . . . So if Eve disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to be obedient to God. In this way, the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin. Virginal disobedience has been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way, the sin of the first created man received amendment by the correction of the First-Begotten” (ibid., 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]).
  • Tertullian (though not a church father but an early ecclesiastical writer) wrote “And again, lest I depart from my argumentation on the name of Adam: Why is Christ called Adam by the apostle [Paul], if as man he was not of that earthly origin? But even reason defends this conclusion, that God recovered his image and likeness by a procedure similar to that in which he had been robbed of it by the devil. It was while Eve was still a virgin that the word of the devil crept in to erect an edifice of death. Likewise through a virgin the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life. Thus what had been laid waste in ruin by this sex was by the same sex reestablished in salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight” (The Flesh of Christ 17:4 [A.D. 210].

The Marian Doctrines Need Not Be a Source of Division

It has been demonstrated that there is a strong Biblical case for the Catholic Marian doctrines if one interprets the Scriptures allegorically, as the Apostles and early Church Fathers.  For this reason, Protestants should not see the Marian doctrines as unbiblical but should see these doctrines as the fulfillment of many Old Testament Scriptures.  Given the strong case for the Marian doctrines in the Bible, the Catholic understanding of Mary need not be a stumbling block for unity between Catholics and Protestants.

List of Differences Between Catholics and Protestants

In order for Catholics and Protestants to be able to work towards reunion, a list of differences between the two groups must first be identified.  Since Protestants do not speak with a unified voice but maintain different views among themselves, it is not always possible to say that Cathlolics and Protestants disagree on a particular topic because more often than not it is the case that some of the views Protestants say are only Catholic views are in fact also maintained by some Protestants. 

Here is a list of some of the main differences between all Catholics and all Protestants or at least all Catholics and some Protestants (when I say “all Catholics”, I am not saying that every Catholic believes the said doctrine, rather, I am saying that all Catholics are bound to maintain the said doctrine; however, there are dissenters in the Church who do not maintain what the Church officially teaches).

1. Apostolic Succession – Catholics maintain, some Protestants
maintain, some Protestants don’t.

2. The Authority of the Magisterium – Catholics maintain, all
Protestants reject.

3. Baptismal Regeneration – Catholics maintain, some Protestants
maintain, some Protestants don’t.

4. Bishops as an Office Distinct from Presbyters/Priests – Catholics
maintain, some Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

5. The Deuterocanonicals as Scripture – Catholics maintain, some
Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

6. Divorce and Remarriage is Adultery – Catholics maintain, all
Protestants reject.

7. The Eucharist as a Sacrifice – Catholics maintain, some
Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

8. Indulgences – Catholics maintain, all Protestants reject.

9. Infant Baptism – Catholics maintain, some Protestants maintain,
some Protestants don’t.

10. Justification by Faith and Works – Catholics maintain, some
Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

11. The Marian Doctrines – Catholics maintain, some Protestants
maintain, some Protestants don’t.

12. There is Only One, True, Visible, Church – Catholics maintain,
all Protestants reject.

13. The Papacy as a Divine Institution – Catholics maintain, all
Protestants reject.

14. Prayers to Saints – Catholics maintain, some Protestants maintain,
some Protestants don’t.

15. The Priesthood – Catholics maintain, some Protestants maintain,
some Protestants don’t.

16. Purgatory – Catholics maintain, some Protestants maintain, some
Protestants don’t.

17. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist – Catholics
maintain, some Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

18. Salvation as Something that Can Be Lossed – Catholics maintain,
some Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

19. Seven Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance,
Matrimony, Holy Orders, Last Rites) – Catholics maintain, some
Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

20. Tradition and Scripture as Two Equal Streams of the One Deposit of
Faith – Catholics maintain, all Protestants reject.

21. The Use of Contraceptives as Grave Sin – Catholics maintain, some
Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

22. Veneration of Icons and Holy Images – Catholics maintain, some
Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.

23. Distinction between Venial Sins and Mortal Sins – Catholics
maintain, some Protestants maintain, some Protestants don’t.