Catholics Come to Christ After Hearing WHAT???

Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)
8 min readMay 19, 2024
Cringe

So, errr, on the Lord’s Day of Rest, I got caught up in another anti-Catholic discussion online, where this time someone told me to watch this video: https://youtu.be/N2rxpoMUkgY?si=3f4sIteWmQ2X7VUP. So here’s my response (here we go again):

The Seven Sacraments lead to being ‘born again’ and again. There was no mention of the Counter-Reformation. What about 2 Thessolonians 2:15? I don’t appreciate the video putting uncatechised Catholics on the spot, so does it really come from a place of love? I find the distorted evangelisation to be disgusting actually.

Jesus often uses “flesh” and “spirit” to distinguish human understanding from divinely revealed truth. Jesus refers to this distinction when he says, “You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me” (John 8:15–16).

In John 6, Jesus promises the Eucharist. The crowd understands him to be speaking literally and is horrified. Rather than explain that he was only speaking metaphorically, Jesus says, in effect, “You can’t understand this right now because you are relying on human reason alone [the “flesh”]. That won’t help you here. You must rely on what I am telling you, which is divinely revealed truth [the “spirit”].”

Jesus does often speak in metaphors. But Jesus is speaking a little differently during the Last Supper. Saying “I am the door” is different from pointing to an actual, material door and saying, “This door is me.” (For what it’s worth, Jesus’ followers seem to understand this distinction: when Jesus says that he is “the door” or “the true vine,” no one starts looking for an actual door or vine.)

During the Last Supper, Jesus makes a direct statement about the nature of a specific, material object: “This [bread] is my body” and “This [wine] is my blood.”

The Church Fathers did not teach that Jesus was speaking metaphorically. But even if we go back before them, to the apostles and evangelists who wrote the New Testament, we see that the Church has never taught that Jesus spoke metaphorically regarding the Eucharist. St Paul, for example, said that receiving the Eucharist was a “participation” in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16), and he warned that anyone who received the Eucharist unworthily would be “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:23–29). That unworthy reception of the Eucharist is tantamount to an attack on the body and blood of Christ indicates that the body and blood of Christ must really be present in the Eucharist.

Exodus 20:4 forbids bowing before idols. Consider the prohibition that precedes it: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod 20:3). God adds that “You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exod 20:5).

Given this context, it’s reasonable to conclude that the prohibition on bowing before images is meant to discourage worshipping images of pagan deities, or idols. The physical act of bowing before something or someone doesn’t necessarily connote worship, when that something or someone is not an idol and the act is not intended to be an act of worship.

For example, Solomon was not guilty of idolatry when he bowed before his mother in 1 Kings 2:19. It was simply a gesture of honor given her as Queen Mother.

Jesus himself says in Revelation 3:9 that he will make “those of the synagogue of Satan” “bow down” before the feet of the Christians in (the ancient city of) Philadelphia. If bowing before another in and of itself were an act of worship, then Jesus would be commanding idolatry. But that’s absurd.

So, pious acts, such as bowing, can be legitimate when directed to a statue if the action is not used as a sign of adoration or worship that is due to God alone.

Hezekiah doesn’t destroy the bronze serpent because it’s bad to have statues. He destroys it because the Israelites were worshipping it. 2 Kings 18:4 tells us that the righteous king “broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it” [emphasis added]. It’s clear why Hezekiah destroyed the statue: to stop the Israelites from committing the sin of idolatry.

In 1 Corinthians 3:5–15 Paul uses his and Apollos’s labor to segue into a discussion of the Day of Judgment, when all works will be judged. Paul is clearly speaking universally, here. Paul is speaking of those who are saved “as through fire.” Being “saved” implies being purified from imperfections.

Even notable Protestant scripture scholars like Dr W Harold Mare (in his Expositor’s Bible Commentary) and Gerhard Friedrich (in his Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) acknowledge that “fire” refers to purification in this passage. Friedrich, in particular, finds a parallel between Paul’s eschaton and the purifying fire referenced in Malachi 3:2.

In the “Sermon on the Mount,” when our Lord teaches about heaven (Matt 5:20), hell (5:29–30), and both mortal (5:22) and venial sins (5:19) in a context that presents “the kingdom of heaven” as the ultimate goal (5:3–12), our Lord goes on to say if you do not love your enemies, “what reward have you?” (5:46). And he makes clear that these “rewards” are not of this world. They are “rewards from your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6:1) or “treasures in heaven” (6:19). The “prison” Jesus references in Matthew 5:25–26 has a clear, eschatological significance.

There is no reason from 2 Maccabees 12:42–46 to assume the sin of the men in 2 Maccabees was mortal. Moreover, each man’s personal moral culpability is a matter known only to God — even in objectively grave matters. In Catholicism we never despair of any individual’s eternal salvation — we pray for everyone. This text indicates that the Jews believed in praying and making atonement for the dead shortly before the time of Christ. This is the faith in which Jesus and the apostles were raised.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans must be read in its entirety, taking into consideration the conditions it places on whether an individual Christian will attain final salvation.

Jesus Christ teaches that there will be those who call him “Lord” but don’t do his Father’s will. Paul doesn’t contradict this. In the same letter to the Romans, Paul tells the faithful to “Note, then, the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness, otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom 11:22).

Eternal life is a gift from God, and we receive it through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. Works have a role to play in salvation.

Paul also writes that “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it” (Rom 3:21). Paul is referring to Mosaic Law this passage. Works done to obey the Mosaic law — such as being circumcised or keeping Jewish food laws — do not justify, which is Paul’s point. Jesus Christ is the one who justifies.

In James 2:15–17 the Church doesn’t claim that God’s grace can be “earned.” Our justification is a free gift from God.

Paul is quoting from Psalms 14 and 53, in which the psalmist is looking at the condition of the whole of humanity from God’s point of view. These verses, in both the Old and New Testaments, are not intended to imply that there are no individuals who are good, only that mankind as a whole is in need of redemption. Paul affirms that only Christ can redeem mankind (Rom 3:20–26).

While we are incapable of redeeming ourselves or mankind, Paul does not deny that our works have value. He says, “For [God] will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” (Rom 2:6–7).

Jesus calls everyone to forgive any and all sins committed against them (Matt 6:12), warning that “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). But he never authorises his follower to forgive sins committed against others, and he certainly doesn’t tell his followers to retain sins! Christ only gives this unique ministry to his apostles and their successors — the bishops and priests of his Church.

In James 5:16 James doesn’t actually mention the sacrament of confession; he’s writing about anointing of the sick. This distinction is clear, since James mentions physical and spiritual healing. Moreover, James writes that this ministry is not for all Christians, but rather reserved to the appointed elders, or presbyteros, the Greek word from which we derive “Priest” (James 5:14).

This authority is not conferred by a popular vote, but rather through the divinely established structure of the Church. The power to forgive sins is given by Jesus to his apostles directly, and through the apostles to their successors.

The authority mentioned in Matthew 18 has a visible, physical dimension: those who refuse to repent are as “a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt 18:17). Jesus makes clear, too, that this authority has spiritual significance, since their decisions will be bound or loosened in heaven.

Finally, 1 Timothy 2:5 shows that Jesus is a unique mediator between God and men. He is a mediator in a way that no one else is. But it does not exclude the intercession of saints.

On a fundamental level, Christ is the only mediator between God and man because he is the only God-man, the only person with both a divine and a human nature. Christ is the also the mediator of the New Covenant (Heb 8:6, 9:15, 12:24), just as Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant (Gal 3:19–20).

However, the fact that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man does not prevent others from praying for us. In the verses preceding 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul says: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it 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 2:1–4)

In these verses, Paul urges us to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for “all men,” and he says that “this is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” Rather than restricting the scope of who can intercede for us, this passage emphasises the universality of intercession among Christians.

Both Revelation 5:8 and 8:3–4 show the saints and angels in heaven presenting the prayers of the saints on earth to God. For this to happen, they must already be aware of those prayers.

Catholics do not “call up” the dead (necromancy) when asking our departed brothers and sisters in heaven to pray for us. These saints are not dead but alive (Mark 12:27). Their intercession for us pleases God. We are one body in Christ, and that unity is not broken by death. God is glorified through the unity of his Mystical Body (1 Cor 12:12–13, Col 1:18).

--

--

Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)

Trans-inclusionary radical feminist (TIRF) | Liberal Arts phenomenologist from @notredameaus | Anglo-catholic | all opinions expressed here are my own