Wednesday, February 03, 2016

How to Keep Your Kids Catholic

Bible Belt sidewalk preacher, Covington, GA. Wiki Commons: Ncsr11, source

It's the nightmare every Catholic parent dreads. The thought of their adult child, coming home from college, and telling his/her parents that he's left the Catholic Church, has been 'born again', and that the Catholic Church is a 'false religious system' that is taking his/her parents to Hell. It's happened millions of times in the United States, and in other nations with a heavy Evangelical presence. Actually, it's been going on for a long time -- five centuries to be exact.

The purpose of this essay is to help Catholic parents keep their kids Catholic. I have a little experience in this area, not only because I'm a Catholic father, but because I am a convert from Evangelicalism. In fact, during my days as an Evangelical, I converted no less than a handful of Catholics to Evangelicalism. Yes, I drug young people out of the Catholic Church, and I was fairly good at it. I've spent the last 15 years trying to make atonement for that behaviour, by helping Catholics understand their faith and defend it. Now I want to help Catholic parents save their kids from Evangelicalism, and this essay will do so by outlining some of the tactics this former Evangelical used, and how to counter them in a proactive way. I had thought of making a more detailed version of this information in the form of a booklet for purchase, but I've since decided this information is just too important to put a price tag on. So I give it to you now -- free of charge. Please don't just gloss over this. Take it seriously.

The following is straight talk. I'm going to be blunt and direct, because this is serious stuff, from one Catholic parent to another. We don't have time for flowery language. I need to get this point across to you. It really is that important. So expect a little street vernacular here. I'm trying to drive a point home!

Please share this essay using social media (social media icons below), and by email, with whomever you like. Use this essay as a springboard to save you children and rescue their Catholic faith before its too late...

STEP 1: KNOW YOUR FAITH

This is perhaps the greatest problem in the Catholic Church. Catholic parents simply don't know their faith well enough to pass it on to their children. Or, even worse, they have a lopsided understanding of the Catholic faith, putting too much emphasis on the details of Catholicism, and not enough emphasis on the core Gospel. This is how Evangelicals get your kids. That's how I did it, and they're still doing the same thing today. Nothing has changed since I joined the Catholic Church over 15 years ago. If anything it's only gotten worse.

Evangelicals approach your children with a basic proposition. What they give them is the core of the Gospel. It's basically the same stuff the Catholic Church officially teaches, but the Evangelical has its presentation down to a science. Then they ask your child; 'Now, have you ever heard it said that way in a Catholic Church before?' Most of the time, your child will answer 'no', and for the most part, he's usually right. Catholic churches in America have done an absolutely HORRIBLE job presenting the core Gospel in a clear and succinct way in recent decades. I'm not going to go into the reason for this. It doesn't matter. What matters is that what is passed off as a homily in most parishes these days actually sucks! Sorry to be so bold with common street vernacular, but it's the truth and it needs to be said. Catholic priests and deacons need to do a better job at this. The core gospel needs to be repeated regularly and succinctly from the pulpit. If it's not, than pastors should be prepared for an ageing and shrinking congregation. Again, sorry to be so bold, but it must be said. As an Evangelical I relied heavily on Catholic priests and deacons to give long-winded homilies that focused on feel-good messages that spent a lot of time on details, without going into the core of the Gospel too deeply. I couldn't have done what I did, if they hadn't done what they did. In fact, my ability to pull teenagers and young adults out of the Catholic Church was 100% dependent on bad teaching from the Catholic pulpit. Couple that with Catholic parents who were basically clueless, and presto! I had a new Evangelical in the making. It was easy! I mean super easy. If I were still at it today, which by the grace of God I am not, I have no doubt I could have easily pulled hundreds of people out of the Catholic Church by now. With the advent of the Internet, I could rake them in by the dozens. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I was better at it than the average Evangelical street preacher, and a lot more likeable too. I converted Catholics away from the Church primarily through the personal relationships I made with them. Yes, my friendship was sincere. I wasn't faking it or anything like that. But at the same time, I understood that making friends was a big part at getting them to eventually follow my Evangelical beliefs. I was sincere in everything I did. I didn't use people, or manipulate them, and most Evangelicals are the same. Yes, I was sincere in my faith, my intentions, and even my tactics. Sadly, I was also sincerely wrong. I know that now, and that's why I'm revealing all.

The Core Gospel

So what is the core Gospel? Parents, this is essential. If you don't know this, and know it by heart, and convey this to your kids, than it's over. It's over before it ever began. You might as well hang up that rosary now, because your Catholic faith ends with you. Your kids will not pass it on. So here is the core of the Gospel...
God is real, and God hates sin. The 'wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23), that is eternal separation from God in Hell. This is God's absolute justice, and since we are all sinners, this is exactly what we all deserve -- ALL OF US! (Romans 3:23) However, God loves us, and he doesn't want this to happen to us. 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' (John 3:16) Therefore, God sent his Only Begotten Son, the Word, or Second Person of the Trinity, to take on human flesh and become fully man. (John 1:1-5 & 14) This God-Man, Jesus Christ, representing the whole human race, took on all of our sins, and died for us on the cross, paying our penalty in our place. (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Peter 3:18) 
So now, anyone who places his/her trust in him and follows him, may be saved and brought into Heaven at the end of this life (Psalm 13:5; Psalm 20:7; Psalm 84:12; Proverbs 3:5-6; John 11:25; John 14:1; Romans 15:13), and then be resurrected at the end of the world, to live with God forever in glory (Luke 14:4; John 6:40, 54;  Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). We each must make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It begins with our baptism and confirmation, but it doesn't stop there. The commitment must be daily, to trust in Jesus as King, Lord and Saviour, to have a relationship with him as such. We must communicate with God daily (prayer), share our lives with him, and obey him, as would be required in any other relationship we had with a king.
That's the gist of it folks. That's the core Gospel. Surely you've heard most of this before. We recite almost all of it weekly in the Nicene Creed said at mass. The trick is to make this personal. It needs to be integrated into our lives as a daily thing. There are many other Catholic teachings which are very important, but this is the CORE of our Catholic Christian faith. If we don't have this down, we've got nothing.

I want to make this crystal clear, because you cannot give to your children that which you do not have yourself. Now the state of catechises, liturgy and homilies in our parishes may be poor, but that doesn't mean that the state of catechises and prayer in our homes has to be poor. We can have watered-down Catholicism in our parishes, but that doesn't mean we need to have watered-down Catholicism in our homes too. While the state of catechises, liturgy and homilies is gradually improving in our parishes, thanks to the arrival of younger (and better trained) priests, the progress is slow, and we can't wait for that to happen while our children are growing up. If we were to wait until our parishes change, our kids would be grown, married and living in their own as Evangelicals before the necessary changes are FINALLY in place. We, as parents, just don't have that kind of time. Our children are growing fast, and we can't wait for the Church to catch up. We, as parents, need to act in a preventive way.

You'll need to begin teaching your kids this stuff immediately, starting at about the age they can coherently speak, in words they can understand. Then you'll want to continue teaching them this throughout the rest of their childhood, teen years, until they become adults. There can be no compromise on this, and there can be no laxity. Repetition is essential! Adjusting the message, in age-appropriate words is important too. Give them more information as their little brains are able to handle it. Keep elaborating as they get older.

So it begins with the core Gospel, which I outlined above, and it continues with solid teaching on the Eucharist and Apostolic authority. I'm sorry, but if you want to keep your kids Catholic, there just can't be any compromise on these things. Not even an inch.

The Eucharist

The next teaching you'll need to reinforce regularly is the Eucharist. Now the Eucharist is the literal body and blood of Christ. It's not figurative. It's not representational. It's not symbolic. It's real. That is the primary reason why we go to mass, so that we may physically communion with God in the Eucharist. If you need more information on that, read my essay on the Eucharist here. If you want to keep your kids going to mass, you need to tell them this, with no compromises and without apology. If they want to commune with God physically, there is only one place they can do that -- the Catholic Church.

All other 'communion services' in Protestant churches are not legitimate offerings of the Eucharist. When a Protestant minister offers bread and wine, it remains just that, bread and wine. In most cases, especially among Evangelicals, there is no attempt to hide this. They will freely admit that everything they're doing in regards to Holy Communion is just symbolic, and they make no pretence about this. If you ask them if it remains bread and wine, they will tell you it remains bread and wine. They'll tell you everything they do is just symbolic. They're very honest about this. So when you ask them; what is meant by 'Holy Communion'? They will tell you they are really communing with each other, and the act of taking bread and wine is just to symbolically 'remember' Jesus together. That is all.

However, when a Catholic priest offers bread and wine, we know it becomes the literal body and blood of Christ. So the when Catholics partake of Holy Communion, we really are having actual COMMUNION with God! For us, it's not just about gathering together to remember something or Someone. No! For us it's about all of us having direct physical contact with God in a very physical way. We are communing with HIM, not each other. Though admittedly, by communion with HIM, we are additionally coming into greater communion with each other too, but this happens through HIM, because we share his body and blood. In effect, we become what we eat -- the Body of Christ. As parents we cannot compromise on this. If we fail by compromising here, like the core Gospel, you can plan on visiting your grandchildren in an Evangelical church.

Apostolic Succession 

This last issue of Apostolic Succession, is related to the first two, and is intimately connected to the second especially -- the Eucharist. Apostolic succession is about the authority of Jesus Christ. You see while he was on earth, both before and after his resurrection, Jesus vested full authority in his apostles to not only preach and safeguard his teachings, but also administer his sacraments. Only the apostles had this authority from Jesus. However, one of their authorities was the ability to pass on this authority to others through ordination. So the apostles passed on their full authority to their successors, hence the name Apostolic Succession. These successors we call the Catholic bishops. If you need more information on this, read my essay on Authority In Focus.

Apostolic Succession is related to the core Gospel because we wouldn't have the core Gospel today without Apostolic Succession. You see, over the centuries, lots of different groups preached lots of different gospels that were very different from the core Gospel I outlined above. Some of these groups even had their own version of the Scriptures -- their own version of the New Testament.

Now the New Testament that all Christians use today, including all Protestants, is the same as the Catholic New Testament. It consisted of exactly 27 books from Matthew to Revelation. It was first published, in a single volume, in AD 367 by a Catholic bishop in northern Africa named Athanasius. It was later canonised after multiple synods and a papal decree in AD 405. Yes, the writings of the New Testament date back to the first century, but they were not compiled into a single volume that everyone could read until the late fourth century. So how do Christians, even Protestants, know that the New Testament we have today is accurate? Simple. The bishops and pope who canonised them (made them official), were legitimate bishops who had Apostolic Succession, and by their authority, they said it is accurate. That's it! That's the only thing we really have! That means you could trace their ordinations back to the original apostles. The other New Testaments that various people compiled gradually went extinct, because their compilers didn't have Apostolic Succession, so nobody trusted them.

Today, Protestant and Evangelical ministers can't canonise Scripture, and they usually make no pretence about it. Ask almost any Evangelical pastor if he has Apostolic Succession, and he'll freely tell you 'No!' That is, if he even knows what it means. So the long and short of it is this. Protestant pastors cannot trace their ordination back to the original apostles, and they know it, and they make no attempt to hide it. Furthermore, in order for them to preach on Sundays, they need to use a Bible, particularly a New Testament, which was compiled by Catholic bishops 1,600 years ago who did have Apostolic Succession. So Protestants rely on the New Testament, which is a Catholic book, in order to preach their Protestant message. Go figure!

That's how Apostolic Succession relates to the preaching of the core Gospel, even in non-Catholic churches. Protestants needed Catholic bishops to get the Bible they so heavily rely on. Without those Catholic bishops, 1,600 years ago, they wouldn't even have a Bible today.

Now getting Protestants to understand this is difficult. Most of the time it just goes right over their heads. There have been a few times I've actually been successful at getting some Protestants to understand this, and in almost every case when I did, they immediate replied with something to the extent of: 'Well, that may be true, but I believe that the Holy Spirit was capable of inspiring those bishops to pick the right books for the New Testament, in spite of them being Catholic.' So they acknowledge the Holy Spirit operating through the Catholic bishops, to give us the New Testament, but then immediately dismiss any inspiration from the Holy Spirit before or after that event. I'm not sure how anyone is able to make this illogical leap, but they do it all the time.

However, as Catholic parents, it's not our job to convince Protestants of this. That's their problem, not ours. Our job is to keep our kids Catholic, and that means when they're old enough to understand these things (about age 10) you're going to have to tell them about it, and you should not only tell them once, but repeatedly. It should be drilled into their heads so they remember it. That is, when they're old enough to understand this concept (about age 10).

So in addition to relaying what I described above about the Bible, you'll want to tell them this...
  1. The Bible is a Catholic Book. It was compiled by Catholics in the 4th century to counter the errors of non-Catholics, and that even Protestant ministers have to use a Catholic book to be able to preach their messages every Sunday morning.
  2. The Bible nowhere tells us that we must only use the Bible Alone. In fact it says the opposite, telling us to listen to our bishops and obey their Traditions too. So saying we only need the Bible, and nothing else, actually goes against the Bible.
The second point is a strong one to make with you kids, when their old enough to understand, because most Protestants approach every religious conversation with the presupposition that we should only use the Bible and nothing else. They broach the topic of religion with the idea that it is wrong to use anything but the Bible. That concept actually contradicts the Bible. If you want more information about this, read my essay about how the Bible is not Alone.

I can't stress this enough. There is not a single verse in the Bible that tells us to follow the Bible ALONE -- not a single verse. However, there are plenty of verses telling us to follow tradition and the bishops. This is the Achilles Heel of Evangelical Protestantism. They have no Bible passage they can use to support their most important Evangelical tenet -- their Bible Alone teaching. They're literally helpless on this, and most of them don't even know it. Make sure your kids do!!!

Additional Catholic Teaching

Additional Catholic teaching is very important too, and we should not neglect that for the sake of (1) the core Gospel, (2) the Eucharist and (3) Apostolic Succession. However, when it comes to dealing with Evangelicals, additional Catholic teachings are distractions. If you want to keep your kids Catholic, you've got to focus in on these above three things like a laser beam.

Having good answers for accusations of Mary worship, Saint worship, papal worship, Pagan practises, etc., these are good to have, but they're not always necessary. Remember, while converting Protestants would be nice, that is not our initial goal here as Catholic parents. Our goal as Catholic parents is to keep our kids Catholic, and that means giving them the tools they need to resist attacks on their faith. If they can effectively do that, than converting some of their friends will happen naturally and organically. A knowledgeable Catholic is an attractive Catholic, and some Protestants will take notice of that. Some Protestants will even want to become Catholic as a result. It's inevitable. Now that doesn't mean turning our kids into little Catholic apologists, but it does mean helping them know their own faith. And that in turn will help them recognise Protestant baloney when its presented to them.

If you're looking for good age-appropriate catechisms, I recommend these...


The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism is one of the best out there for children, and adults like it too. The pink Number 1 book is for younger children (12 and younger), and the grey Number 2 book is for older children (over 12). The blue First Communion Catechism booklet is a short condensed catechism that is fantastic for very young children. Any parent can go through these catechisms with their children easily. They're copiously illustrated, and filled with useful information that any Catholic, young or old, will appreciate. As for retailers, you can check with your local Catholic book store, or you can order online with many retailers. Just do a web search for: 'New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism' and take your pick.

If you really want to go that extra mile, there is but one more thing you could do, and it's completely optional. It's called the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards...

These are great, because they're designed to get kids mentally prepared for the kind of questions Protestant children often ask. They not only give the appropriate responses, but also back it with Scripture passages and citations from the Catechism and Church history. You can make a game out of this with your children, but I think the appropriate age category is about 10 and up.  Again, check your local Catholic book store, and if they can't get it, you can pick your retailer online by doing a web search for: 'Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards'.

You also really should read the Bible to your children too. I have found a good place to start is with picture Bibles when their young. There is one Bible I will highly recommend. It's not a Catholic Bible, unfortunately, but I haven't yet found anything in it that is harmful to Catholicism, and I've actually been impressed with the catholicity of some aspects of it. It's called The Action Bible, and it's laid out in a comic book format. It's a good place to start with children ages 5 to 12, but when they get to be teenagers, you really need to switch to an adult Bible. When you're ready to make the switch, I recommend the Revised Standard Version -- Catholic Edition (RSV-CE). As for letting your older children get involved in Bible study groups, don't do it, unless you know they're Catholic. I mean you need to be 100% sure they are Catholic. They should be put on by your local Catholic parish or some kind of Catholic youth group. Do not, under any circumstances, allow your children or teens to attend Protestant Bible studies. Historically speaking, this is where Protestants apply the most pressure on our Catholic kids.

Look, back when I was an Evangelical, whenever I encountered a Catholic who understood these things, even just partly, his/her ability to resist my Evangelical approach was solid. I couldn't get him/her to budge. It seemed they had an answer to most of my questions and accusations against the Catholic Church. They seemed to genuinely have a relationship with Jesus Christ that I couldn't deny. And even when I thought I had them with a real zinger, the fact that they didn't have an answer didn't seem to bother them much. They were confident in their Catholic faith, and to be quite honest with you. As an Evangelical, I really didn't know what to do with that. Their spiritual defences were ironclad. To be quite honest with you, that didn't happen very often. Most young Catholics were not so well prepared.

STEP 2: LIVE YOUR FAITH

Children can smell a hypocrite. If you're not living your faith, they'll know it. If you're not taking your Catholic Christian faith seriously, than neither will they. It's like I said above, you can't give your children what you yourself don't have. If your Catholicism sucks, theirs will too. It's as simple as that. So what if your Catholicism does suck. Now what?

They have a saying in the U.S. military. It's called 'fake it until you make it'. I know, it sounds silly, but actually it's pretty good advice. Soldiers use it all the time. They fake being good soldiers, until the figure out how to be good soldiers, and finally get used to it. They literally fake it, until they make it.

Sometimes we have to pretend to be good Catholics for a while, at least while we're trying to learn how to be good Catholics. It's not hard really. For example; let's say you haven't been to confession since your first communion. You don't even remember how to do it! No problem. This is what you do. You say to your child you're going to confession, then you go. You have your child wait in the pew outside the confessional. You go inside, close the door, and then spill the beans to Father. Tell him everything. Tell him you haven't been to confession in decades, you have no freaking clue what you're doing, and you need his help to get through this. Trust me, he'll help you. Then, you casually exit the confessional, go do you penance (pretending like its second nature!) while your child is watching, then take him/her by the hand and go do the rest of your errands for the day. Your child never need be the wiser. You just fake it until you make it. Repeat this approach for every sacrament until finally you're back into the routine of being a good Catholic. You see; you faked it, until you made it! It really does work.

The same goes for standard practise in your home. Kids need prayer, both ritual prayer at meals and bedtime, as well as spontaneous prayer when the need arises. Pray with your kids regularly, so that they know God is a regular part of their lives.

On that note, think about how you're living, acting and speaking around your children. You don't need me to tell you the difference between right and wrong. You know what to do, and what not to do. So if you're not living, acting and speaking like a Catholic should, work on changing that. Ask God for help, and don't be afraid to chat with a priest about it, especially in confession.

Beyond that you should really consider what kind of Catholicism your exposing your children to at your local parish. You should seek out more traditional forms of Catholic worship. Here is why. Some decades back, many Catholic leaders got it in their heads that the best way to keep kids from leaving the Church for Protestantism, was to redesign Catholic worship and make it look more Protestant. Did it work? Look around. It was a miserable failure. The best way to keep kids Catholic is to provide for them a style of worship that is the opposite of Protestant worship. It should be something they CAN'T get in a Protestant church. So the more traditionally Catholic your parish is, the better. The old traditional Latin mass stands as the STANDARD of traditional Catholicism. I'm not saying you need to go Latin though. What I am saying is that you should try to seek out a Catholic parish that tries to emulate this standard as much as possible in their regular vernacular worship. If you can't find such a parish nearby, then talk to your priest about it. Just ask him to bring in a few traditional elements to the mass; like bells, incense, some more chant, and maybe even an altar rail for people who want to kneel. Some priests may not be receptive to this. Others will be, especially younger ones. But you'll never know what side your priest falls on until you politely ask. On that note, I will tell you this. There is no more powerful way to convey to your children the divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, than to kneel for communion.

STEP 3: EXPLAIN PROTESTANT CONFUSION

If you decide to get the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards, this section will be covered there. We just can't keep our kids in the dark about this stuff. They need to understand what is going on around them, and why their friends go to other churches, and most of all, why they are so intent on getting your kid to join them. It's all very tempting for a Catholic child, and especially a teenager. It's all about peer pressure. Their Protestant friends will undoubtedly try to get them to go to Protestant Bible studies, youth groups, and even Bible camps. All their friends may be going. So this is something you need to prepare them for ahead of time. You need to explain what is wrong with Protestantism, and why there is so much confusion. It will help your child understand when you say 'no' to their requests to join their Protestant friends in Protestant activities.

The following is a graph that explains the origins of some of the more popular Protestant groups...

click image to enlarge

As you can see, they all resulted from two major schisms with the Catholic Church about 500 years ago. Probably the best advice I can give you is to avoid spending a lot of time studying Protestant beliefs. The variations are endless! Study your own Catholic faith instead.

You only need to know just a few things. The most aggressive Protestants tend to follow the Evangelical belief system. Biblically speaking, they're fundamentalists, but that doesn't mean they're all mean and judgemental. Protestants are just like Catholics, in the sense that there are all types, and everyone has their own personality and disposition. That being said, there are a few things to look out for...

Are you saved? Are you born again? Are you a Christian? Is Jesus Christ your personal Lord and Saviour? Basically all of these questions mean the same thing. What they're asking is 'Are you and Evangelical?' But the trick is, they're asking it in such a way that if you answer wrong, or dismiss their question, it makes it appear as if you don't love Jesus. Here is how you answer all of these questions in a way that will stump them...
Yes, I am a Catholic Christian, and I was born again at baptism. I am being saved because Jesus is my personal Lord and Saviour, and I trust and obey in him for my salvation. Praise the Lord!
I guarantee you, most Evangelicals won't know what to do with that. You see, they're not used to hearing that from Catholics. It will stump them. Some will just accept you as a brother/sister Christian, and that will be that. Others, still won't accept that answer coming from a Catholic, but they won't know what to do with it either.

Evangelical Protestants see salvation as a one-time magical event, that happens when you stand in front of a church, or a group of Evangelical believers, and profess your faith in a format called the 'Sinner's Prayer'. Then once that is done -- POOF! -- you're 'saved' and your entry into Heaven is guaranteed! So that's what they're trying to get your Catholic kid to do. Actually, the 'Sinner's Prayer' in and of itself is harmless. They just ask Jesus Christ to come into their lives as their Personal Lord and Saviour, and then they ask the Holy Spirit to help them live good Christians lives. Again, this is harmless. What follows is what's problematic. Often, after saying the prayer, they want you to attend their Evangelical church, and they'll often say just about anything to get you to do it. That's when they pour on the anti-Catholic rhetoric. By using the above answer, you demonstrate that Jesus is already your personal Lord and Saviour, thus the 'Sinner's Prayer' is unnecessary, because you've already professed your faith. This leaves Evangelicals confused, not knowing what to do next.

The statement I suggested above is also doctrinal accurate from a Catholic perspective, because it acknowledges the Catholic truth that salvation is not a one time magical event. It happens gradually, over a lifetime. It begins with baptism, and is strengthened through confirmation and the Eucharist. Then it is completed upon our death, assuming we have been faithful to Christ, and trusted him in everything.

Remember, as Catholic parents it's not our job to get our kids to convert their Protestant friends, but it is our job to make sure our kids understand where the problems are with Protestantism, and why we shouldn't fall into those same errors ourselves. The biggest errors of Protestantism centre around Apostolic Succession and the Eucharist. There are many other errors too -- lots of them -- but these are the two biggest.

STEP 4: SHOW CHARITY WITHOUT SENTIMENTALITY

It's our job as Catholic parents to keep our kids Catholic, and that means explaining our own faith well, living it well, and making sure our kids understand the problems with Protestantism. At the same time however, we don't want to come across to them as unfairly prejudiced toward Protestants either. Remember, Protestants are NOT a bogeyman! Those that have been baptised in the name of the Trinity are actually our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, and we need to make sure our kids understand that.

At the same time, our kids need to understand that Protestantism is not equal to Catholicism. They're not the same thing, and yes the differences do matter. Many Catholics who leave Catholicism for Protestantism end up leaving Protestantism eventually to, and move on to... well, nothing. For many Catholics, not all but many, Protestantism is the last stop on the train ride to atheism or agnosticism, or 'spiritual but not religious' nothing-ism. Our kids need to understand this, when they're old enough to emotionally deal with it, we have to tell them. Not all Catholics who convert to Protestantism go this way, but a large number of them do.

On the flip side, I have experienced that some Catholics, who turn Evangelical Protestant, don't end up losing their Christian faith (thank God), but sadly they turn into the most rabid anti-Catholics I've ever seen. They end up with an axe to grind against the Catholic Church, like a disgruntled fired employee hates his former employer. They attack it at any chance they get, and feel it is their mission to get their friends and family out of the Catholic Church. In my experience, whether it be an eventual slide into atheism, or a disgruntled former Catholic that's turned anti-Catholic, conversion of Catholics to Protestantism almost never goes well. It's like poison to the Catholic soul.

We need to love our separated brethren in Protestant communities, show them charity, and work with them whenever we can. Those who were born into such communities can never be held responsible for the sin of schism. It wasn't their fault. They were born into it. They didn't have a choice. Catholics, however, who left Catholicism to join Protestant communities are probably victims too. They are usually victims of poor catechises, parents who didn't care to show them how to be good Catholics, and Catholic parishes that gave them the impression that Protestantism is 'okay' because of their Protestantised masses.

So we have to level with our kids, and be brutally honest with them, showing no sentimentality toward Protestantism, but at the same time showing them charity toward Protestants. It's a fine line, but one that we as Catholic parents have to walk. We have no choice. It's the job we signed up for, whether we realised it or not.

END.

I hope this essay has been of some help to you. If it has, I ask that you share it using the social media icons below.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Catholic Church is the Kingdom of Israel

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82)

What if I told you that much of Protestant Christianity today is currently in the midst of an identity crisis? I say 'much of' because not all Protestants fall into this. There are still a few left who actually know who they are, but sadly, most Protestants today, particularly those living in the Bible Belt, have absolutely no clue. They're living in a state of spiritual amnesia, brought about by the errors of John Nelson Darby and his notes, found in the margins of the Schofield Reference Bible. The ecclesiology and eschatology of Darby and Schofield is called Dispensationalism. We could go into great lengths trying to describe it here, but I'll save that for another entry. Probably the best way we could summarise Dispensationalism is to say that it teaches a rupture between the Church and the Kingdom of Israel. Specifically, it teaches that the Kingdom of Israel is one thing, pertaining only to the Jewish people. While as the Church is something completely different, pertaining to those who follow Jesus Christ. According to Dispensationalism, the the Church is totally disconnected from the Kingdom of God, and has nothing to do with Israel.

Dispensationalism is the commonly accepted ecclesiology and eschatology in the United States of America. Most Protestants here subscribe to it in one way or another. This is not true for all Protestants, but most. In the years ahead, as Protestantism becomes more Evangelical in nature, it will also become more Dispensationalist too. It's odd that so many Christians who claim to follow the Bible Alone would subscribe to an ecclesiology and eschatology that is so incredibly unbiblical.

You see, Biblical ecclesiology and eschatology is all very simple really. It goes like this. Jesus is the King of Israel. There is no question about this. This is clearly established in all of the gospel narratives. In the 1st century AD, the reigning King Herod was illegitimate. He wasn't even Jewish! Let alone a descendant in the line of David! Pontius Pilate was just a Roman procurator. In addition to that, the Temple priesthood had been corrupted, and many of the priests serving in the Temple were actually Roman moles. The entire religious and governmental system of 1st century Judea had been corrupted by Roman occupation. What the Jews needed more than anything was a king, a real king, from the line of David, who could unite them and re-establish the Kingdom of Israel.

It is into this environment that Jesus of Nazareth came, heir to the throne of David, and high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Again, all of this is established Biblical narrative. Jesus of course teaches his apostles that the type of Kingdom he would soon set up would be entirely different from what they expected. He informs them that his Kingdom is not like all the other earthly kingdoms, and his reign will never end. He will rule forever, as the King of Israel, and this 'Israel of God' will extend far beyond the borders of the Holy Land. His Kingdom is not about borders, language and culture. Rather, his Kingdom will reign through the hearts of men. It will transcend borders, language and culture. No one will be able to contain it.

To illustrate, the pivotal moment comes in Matthew's gospel when Jesus issues his first royal decree as the new King of Israel...
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 
-- Matthew 16:16-19 RSV-CE
Here in this passage, Jesus is acting like a King. He has spent a great deal of time talking about the Kingdom of God, now he is officially acting as the King of this Kingdom. Here he is establishing the Kingdom office of Prime Minister. The 'keys' you see, are an Old Testament sign of authority of the Davidic Kingdom...
In that day I will call my servant Eli′akim the son of Hilki′ah,  and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.  And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 
-- Isaiah 22:20-22 RSV-CE
The keys that Jesus gave to Peter are not literal of course. (Though in Old Testament times, they very well may have been.) Rather, they represent something. They represent an office of authority. Jesus, acting as the King of Israel, has just promised to give Simon Peter the office of Prime Minister in his coming Kingdom. Indeed, the Kingdom of God was already present, and at that time it subsisted entirely in Jesus Christ, but soon it would spread throughout the world, in an entity known as the Church. Now stop and think about this. What is Jesus actually doing here? He is living in a land with a 'king' already -- Herod. One region of that land is governed by a Roman procurator. The Roman occupation is propped up by cooperation from the Sanhedrin and the leadership in the Jewish Temple. This system of order is 100% dependent on the subjugation of all Jews in the region. They don't have to like it, but they do have to accept it. Yet, what did Jesus just do here? He has at length talked about HIS coming Kingdom, and now he is acting as a King. He is giving Simon Peter authority as his Prime Minister. What about the Temple leadership? What about the Sanhedrin? What about Herod? What about the Roman Procurator? Has Jesus of Nazareth just committed treason? In the eyes of many he had. He's holding himself out as the rightful King of his people. Now we know, as he will soon tell Pilate, that his Kingdom is not of this world, and is of no earthly threat to Caesar, Pilate or the Sanhedrin. But keep this in mind. By entrusting the 'keys' to the Kingdom to Simon Peter, Jesus is acting as a King, and he is effectively causing those who follow him to consider Caesar, Pilate and the Sanhedrin as defunct. They may rule by military might and social coercion, but their power is not of God, and only temporary. What Jesus is doing here is not actually 'treason' in the literal sense. But we could call it 'psychological treason' because what he is doing is setting up a parallel spiritual Kingdom, that is intended to exist alongside, and eventually outlast, the governance of Herod, Pilate and the Sanhedrin. He is vying for the loyalty of the Jewish commoners here, and that is why the Sanhedrin used Pilate to have him executed on the cross. He was a threat to the loyalty of the Jewish commoners, and the loyalty of the masses was something the Sanhedrin would not share.

Yet we know the story, don't we? The Sanhedrin used Pilate to have Jesus executed, and through that execution Jesus served as our High Priest, according to the order of Melchizedek, forgiving all of our sins, becoming our Passover Lamb, and sharing his body and blood with us, under the appearance of bread and wine. In this one act, he fulfilled the Law of Moses forever, rendering the Temple sacrifices forever redundant and unnecessary. In this one act, he rendered the power of the Temple leadership, and the Sanhedrin, obsolete. Then three days later, he rose from the dead, proving his credentials as the Son of God. The rightful heir to the throne of David, the rightful King of Israel, not only conquered death, but would now live forever. No more would the Kingdom of Israel ever need to worry about a successor to David's throne, or tracking the bloodlines. The King is alive and reigns forever! Now, all that matters is the office of Prime Minister, which is not based on bloodlines, but rather on being called by the King. This is the Petrine office, the one originally given to Simon Peter, and is today known as the papacy. Yes, the Catholic Church is the Kingdom of Israel.

The Bible makes no distinction between the Kingdom of Israel and the Church.  In fact, the Bible specifically says that Israel is the Church and vice versa.  Now with that said, let's look at what the Scriptures actually say about the relationship between Israel and the Church.
Jesus said the Kingdom of God is NOW, not some distant future thing.  To those who would listen Jesus said: "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." -- Matthew 4:17 
To the priests, scribes and elders of Israel, Jesus said: "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it." -- Matthew 21:43 
To his disciples, Jesus said: "Do not fear, little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." -- Luke 12:32
The following are just some Scripture references that back this point.  They are certainly not all of the Scripture passages that can be found, but rather a good cross section of them.  The Bible plainly teaches that the Church is Israel....

WHAT IS THE NEW COVENANT?
The New Covenant Is With Israel:
- Jeremiah 31:31-33
The New Covenant Is With The Christians:
- Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:6-10

WHO ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD?
Israel Are The Children Of God:
- Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1, Isaiah 1:2,4, Isaiah 1:2,4, Isaiah 63:8, Hosea 11:1
Disobedient Israel Are Not The Children Of God:
- Deuteronomy 32:5, John 8:39-44
Christians Are The Children Of God:
- John 1:12, John 11:52, Romans 8:14-16, 2 Corinthians 6:18, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:5-7, Philippians 2:15, 1 John 3:1

WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
Israel Is The Kingdom Of God:
- Exodus 19:6, 1 Chronicles 17:14, 1 Chronicles 28:5
Disobedient Israel Is Not The Kingdom Of God:
- Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 21:43
Christians Are The Kingdom Of God:
- Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20, Colossians 1:13, Colossians 4:11, Revelation 1:6

WHO ARE THE PRIESTS OF GOD?
The Israelites Are The Priests Of God:
- Exodus 19:6
Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Priests Of God:
- 1 Samuel 2:28-30, Lamentations 4:13-16, Ezekiel 44:10-13, Hosea 4:6, Malachi 2:2-9
The Christians Are The Priests Of God:
- 1 Peter 2:5-9, Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD?
The Israelites Are The People Of God:
- Exodus 6:7, Deuteronomy 27:9, 2 Samuel 7:23, Jeremiah 11:4
Disobedient Israelites Are Not The People Of God:
- Hosea 1:9, Jeremiah 5:10
The Christians Are The People Of God:
- Romans 9:25, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 5:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, Titus 2:14

WHAT IS THE VINEYARD OF GOD?
Israel Is The Vineyard Of God:
- Isaiah 5:3-7, Jeremiah 12:10
Christians Are The Vineyard Of God:
- Luke 20:16

WHO ARE THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM?
The Israelites Are The Children Of Abraham:
- 2 Chronicles 20:7, Psalms 105:6, Isaiah 41:8
Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Children Of Abraham:
- John 8:39, Romans 9:6-7, Galatians 4:25-30
The Christians Are The Children Of Abraham:
- Romans 4:11-16, Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:23-31

WHO IS THE WIFE (OR BRIDE) OF GOD?
Israel Is The Wife (Or Bride) Of God:
- Isaiah 54:5-6, Jeremiah 2:2, Ezekiel 16:32, Hosea 1:2
Disobedient Israelites Is Not The Wife (Or Bride) Of God:
- Jeremiah 3:8, Hosea 2:2
The Christians Are The Wife (Or Bride) Of God:
- 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:31,32

WHAT IS JERUSALEM?
Jerusalem Is the City And Mother Of Israel:
- Psalms 149:2, Isaiah 12:6, Isaiah 49:18-22, Isaiah 51:18, Lamentations 4:2
Jerusalem Is The City And Mother Of Christians:
- Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22

WHO ARE THE CHOSEN PEOPLE?
The Israelites Are The Chosen People:
- Deuteronomy 7:7, Deuteronomy 10:15, Deuteronomy 14:2, Isaiah 43:20,21
Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Chosen People:
- Deuteronomy 31:17, 2 Kings 17:20, 2 Chronicles 25:7, Psalms 78:59, Jeremiah 6:30, Jeremiah 7:29, Jeremiah 14:10
The Christians Are The Chosen People:
- Colossians 3:12, 1 Peter 2:9

WHO ARE THE CIRCUMCISED?
The Israelites Are The Circumcised:
- Genesis 17:10, Judges 15:18
Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Circumcised:
- Jeremiah 9:25,26, Romans 2:25,28, Philippians 3:2
The Christians Are The Circumcised:
- Romans 2:29, Philippians 3:3, Colossians 2:11

WHO ARE THE JEWS?
Israelites Are Jews
- Ezra 5:1, Jeremiah 34:8,9, Zechariah 8:22-23
Disobedient Israelites Are Not Jews:
- Romans 2:28, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9
The Christians Are Jews:
- Romans 2:29

WHAT IS THE OLIVE TREE?
Israel Is The Olive Tree:
- Jeremiah 11:16, Hosea 14:6
The Christians Are The Olive Tree:
- Romans 11:24

WHO IS ISRAEL?
Israel is descended from Jacob:
Genesis 32:38, Genesis 35:10, Exodus 3:14, Judges 20:11
Disobedient Israelites Are Not Israel:
- Numbers 15:30-31, Deuteronomy 18:19, Acts 3:23, Romans 9:6
The Christians Are Israel:
- John 11:50-52, 1 Corinthians 10:1, Gal. 6:15-16, Ephesians 2:12-19

The overwhelming theme of Scripture plainly declares that the Church is Israel and Israel is the Church, and when we consider the office of Prime Minister, it is the Catholic Church in particular.  The separation between Jews and Gentiles has been torn down by Christ, and a New Covenant has been made to fulfil the Old Covenant.  Israel no longer pertains to a certain ethnic class of people living in a certain region of the world.  Israel has now been extended, under the reign of her King (Jesus Christ) to include the whole world, of every race and language, making them into the Kingdom of God (the Israel of God).  Under the Kingship of Jesus Christ, Israel has expanded from a tiny Roman province in the Middle East to a worldwide empire, reigning through the hearts of men in a way earthly kings and rulers can only envy.  There is no doubt about this for anyone who studies the plain teachings of the Scriptures.  The Kingdom of Israel is the Catholic Church.  In fact, the Greek word for 'church' (ecclesia) is the exact same word used to describe the ancient Kingdom of Israel in the Greek version of the Old Testament.  In reading a Greek Old Testament, and the New Testament (also originally written in Greek), side-by-side, there is a seamless continuity between the Old Testament ecclesia and the New Testament ecclesia in regards to the concept of Israel and the Church. They are one in the same. They always have been. The only difference now is that after the atonement by Jesus Christ, Gentiles are now allowed to enter the Church (Israel) without having to physically become Jews first by following the ritual commandments of the Mosaic Law.  Now, access to the Church (Israel) is instantaneous upon the sacrament of baptism, which comes from the Jewish tradition of mikvah -- or a ceremonial bath -- but has been energised by the sacramental grace of God.

Herein lies the problem with the Dispensational teaching of Darby and Schofield. It denies this fundamental truth by insisting that the Kingdom of God is separate from the Church. It makes Jesus Christ the 'King of the Jews' alone, and Gentile Christians a mere afterthought. The Church becomes an 'accident' if you will, brought on by the general refusal of Jewish leaders to accept Jesus Christ as their King. It's bizarre! Because if Jesus is the King of the Jews, than he is also the King of anyone who follows him, Jew or Gentile. If he's the King of Gentile followers, just as much as Jewish followers, than he's the King of this whole body of follows, regardless of their who they are (ethnically and culturally). If he's their King, than what we have here is a Kingdom. Do we not? I mean, what is a king with no kingdom? Historically speaking, the followers of Jesus Christ have always been known as the Church (ecclesia).

So the question that must be posed to every Dispensationalist is this; 'Is Jesus Christ your King?' If the answer is 'yes', than they have to admit that they are part of his Kingdom. Then the next question is this; 'What is Jesus' Kingdom called?' Here there are two correct answers. One is the Church. The other is Israel. Because they are one in the same.

To the Dispensationalist, this Biblical concept is an anathema.  They call it 'Replacement Theology,' or 'Supersessionism', and they say it smacks of anti-Semitism.  In fact, some Dispensationalists even blame the Catholic Church of teaching anti-Semitism by holding to this Biblical view.  Now they can call it whatever they like, but if believing what the Bible says makes one an anti-Semite, then why believe anything the Bible says at all?  Of course this is just a conditioned emotional response on their part.  They've heard the line preached so many times, it's only natural for them to jump to that conclusion.  There is nothing anti-Semitic about believing what the Scriptures actually say concerning the relationship between Israel and the Church. The Bible doesn't hate Jews.  The Bible was written by Jews!  This is especially true of the New Testament. So all of this hysteria about 'Replacement Theology' and anti-Semitism is much to do about nothing.

Now, that being said, it comes time for a caveat. The Catholic Church has officially rejected all forms of Anti-Semitism as a matter of doctrine. The following paragraphs are taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church...
62 After the patriarchs, God formed Israel as his people by freeing them from slavery in Egypt. He established with them the covenant of Mount Sinai and, through Moses, gave them his law so that they would recognize him and serve him as the one living and true God, the provident Father and just judge, and so that they would look for the promised Savior. 
63 Israel is the priestly people of God, "called by the name of the LORD", and "the first to hear the word of God", the people of "elder brethren" in the faith of Abraham. 
147 The Old Testament is rich in witnesses to this faith. The Letter to the Hebrews proclaims its eulogy of the exemplary faith of the ancestors who "received divine approval". Yet "God had foreseen something better for us": the grace of believing in his Son Jesus, "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" 
597 The historical complexity of Jesus' trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles' calls to conversion after Pentecost. Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept "the ignorance" of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders. Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd's cry: "His blood be on us and on our children!", a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence. As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:
. . . [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. . . [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture. 
674 The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by "all Israel", for "a hardening has come upon part of Israel" in their "unbelief" toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old." St. Paul echoes him: "For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?" The "full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the Gentiles", will enable the People of God to achieve "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", in which "God may be all in all". 
839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."
The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, "the first to hear the Word of God." The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ", "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." 
840 And when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.
The teaching of the Catholic Church is pretty clear here. The Jews are held in high regard, as they always have, being our 'elder brethren' in the faith of the God of Israel. All trace of Anti-Semitism is flatly rejected, as the Church claims that Jews cannot be collectively held responsible for the death of Christ, and I would personally add, that they cannot be collectively held responsible for the persecution of the early Church either. The Church goes on to say that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, and this is true. Once called by God, one cannot be 'uncalled'. Yet in all of this, the Church holds fast to her historical position. The Church is the fulfilment of the Kingdom of Israel which their ancestors sought. The Church looks forward to the day when 'all Israel will be saved' meaning that glorious time, known only to God, when the full number of Jews will be brought into the Church following the full number of Gentiles. The Catholic Church rejects 'Duel-Covenant Theology' which holds that Christians are saved by believing in Christ, and Jews are saved by adhering to the Law of Moses. This is where the adherents of Dispensationalism get confused. While most Evangelicals do call for Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah, their system of eschatology proposes a distinction between Jews who have done this early -- Hebrew Christians or Messianic Jews -- and those who will do so at the end of time. They see those who have done so early as being part of the Church, and those who will do so at the end of time as being part of the Kingdom. It's an unnecessary bifurcation that goes against Biblical teaching.

Herein lies the rub, because as a result of this aberrant teaching, we now have strong Zionist tendencies running through American Protestantism. If Christianity is Israel, and the Catholic Church is the fullness of Israel, than what are we to make of the new modern Republic of Israel in the Middle East? Dispensationalists claim this proves their point. 'You see!' they say, 'There is a clear separation between Israel and the Church.' What they've done here is play right into Zionist ideology, by claiming that the existence of the Republic of Israel automatically nullifies any claim the Church has on the name Israel. They claim the existence of the Republic of Israel is proof positive that this is God's will, and Christians must now accept that the Kingdom of God and the Church are two completely different and separate things.

This is an extraordinary oversimplification, and a bit ridiculous. The name 'Israel' is just a name. You could set aside a plot of land in the American Midwest, and call it Israel, then move a bunch of Jews there. Would that make it the Biblical Israel? No. It no more makes it the Biblical Israel than moving Jews back to their ancestral homeland and calling it by the same name. The Biblical Israel is a KINGDOM not a republic. So to Dispensationalists, we must ask; 'If the modern Nation of Israel is the Biblical Israel, than where is their king?' To be the Biblical nation of Israel, they must have a king, who is a documented descendant of David, and they must have a functioning Temple as well as an ordained priesthood. None of these things exist. Granted, it could be possible to rebuild the Temple, and train a new generation of priests who have some ancestral linkage to the sons of Aaron, and many Dispensationalists actively support that, but they still need a king! Remember, what the ancient 1st century Jews were looking forward to was a restored Kingdom of Israel, with a King, not a republic with an elected president. In fact, the modern Nation of Israel looks a lot more like ancient Rome (with a president and a senate) than ancient Israel (which was a theocratic kingdom). What we have in the Middle East today is not the Biblical Kingdom of Israel, not even by a stretch. It is rather a Republican form of government, based on Secularism and Western values. It has little to nothing in common with the ancient Kingdom of Israel, other than the fact that many of the Jews who live there have some level of genetic and religious connection to the Jews that lived there thousands of years ago. That's about it.

There is of course nothing wrong with Jews moving back to their ancestral homeland if that is what they want to do. There are of course some problems with the politics surrounding this, but that is a matter I'm not going to delve into here. However, having a concentration of Jews in a certain place, even their ancestral homeland, does not make for the fulfilment of prophecy regarding the Kingdom of God. There are more Jews living in the United States than in the Nation of Israel. Does that make America Israel too? There are more Jews living in New York City than in Jerusalem. Does that make New York City the capital of Israel? Of course not! Concentration of Jewish population means nothing. The location of that concentration means nothing. At least, this is not the case in a Biblical sense. If Jews want to move back to their ancestral homeland, that is their business. (Why? I don't know. Considering the level of violence there it seems crazy to me, but to each his own.) If Jews want to call that ancestral homeland 'Israel' than again, that is their business. Who am I to judge? But as a Christian, I should never make the terrible mistake of assuming that such actions are the equivalent of the Kingdom of Israel promised in the Old Testament. They are not. The Kingdom of Israel was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, who is the King of Israel, and anyone who follows him is part of that Kingdom.

It is absolutely critical that we Christians understand WHO we are!  It is absolutely essential that Christians understand WHAT the Church is.  The Church is Israel.  Israel is the Church.  Christians are modern Israelites, and modern Israelites are Christians.  Call this 'Replacement Theology' if you want, but I see no 'replacement' at all.  What I see are the promises of God to the Jewish people fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom of God delivered to them (as promised) in a way more powerful and dynamic than they could have possibly ever imagined.  They wanted a little independent fiefdom to call their own.  Instead God gave them a global empire that would last throughout the ages!  They wanted the Gentiles to respect their religious understanding of God.  Instead he made the Gentiles adopt it!  They wanted Yahweh's name honoured in their homeland.  He made it honoured throughout the world!  They gave him a crown of thorns and a cross. In turn, he offered them citizenship in a global messianic Kingdom!  Replacement Theology?  Whatever!  I call it Fulfilment Theology!

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Whore of Babylon

"The Tower of Babel" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563

Babylon! It is the Biblical symbol of rebellion against God. The first account of Babylon comes from the Book of Genesis, where it is referred to by its ancient name 'Babel'...
Now the whole earth had one language and few words.  And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”  And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built.  And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”  So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. -- Genesis 11:1-9 RSV-CE
The story is significant, because it highlights the initial rebellion against God that came after the flood of Noah. In Genesis 9 and 10, God commanded the sons of Noah to go fill the earth. The implication here is to scatter, go abroad, and repopulate the planet. However, these descendants of Noah decided to do the opposite. They found a fertile plain in Shinar and concentrated there, building a small city. Then they decided to build a tower as a sign of their power, so they would not be scattered about the earth. (See the rebellion? God says scatter, man says unite!) The story continues, in that God saw what they were doing, and decided that because humanity had only one language, it would allow them to easily rebel against his commands, and they would be able to easily organise and draw others into their rebellious thinking. So God miraculously confused their languages, making it impossible for them to understand each other. The result? They were forced to obey God's command, and each family when their own way, unable to understand other families. Thus they scattered.

Why did God do this? The common explanation is that the fallen nature of mankind is rebellious. God had just flooded the whole earth because of man's rebellion before and during the time of Noah. Having one common language after the flood simply made a repeat of that rebellion easier for mankind to accomplish. Thus God gave the original command to scatter and fill the earth, so as to separate humanity, and slow the rate of rebellion. Eventually, in time, languages would change on their own. However, some people rebelled, and decided to congregate into a city, using a tower to call all men back, thus bringing all people together under one language, one government and one civilisation. This of course, with man's fallen nature, would do the exact opposite of what God wanted, and allow the rapid descent back into social depravity. So God forced his will. Rather than allowing languages to grow apart naturally, as they would if people were scattered abroad on their own, he simply confused the language ahead of time, leaving people unable to communicate with each other. Thus they scattered naturally, each according to his dialect.

The lesson of Babel is about rebellion and how God deals with it. It's about man trying to play God, by using his ingenuity and ability to communicate in such a way as to usurp the will of God. Thus God has to step in and forcibly correct the situation. For this reason, in Hebrew literature, Babel (or Babylon) is always seen as a symbol of rebellion against God, and a nemesis to the people of God, who are trying to live according to God's will.

Later in Hebrew literature (Old Testament) we see how the ancient Kingdom of Israel interacted with the Babylonian Empire. Things didn't go well. Israel began paying tribute to Babylon, and was eventually conquered by Babylon, and everyone within the Kingdom was taken into Babylonian captivity as slaves for nearly 70 years (BC 605 - 538). Thus, once again, Babylon is seen as a nemesis to God's people and God's commandments. However, Babylon is also seen as serving a purpose, as an instrument of God's justice. You see, prior to the Babylonian captivity, The Hebrew people in Judah had fallen into sin and rebellion themselves. So the captivity was seen as a punishment for their sins and a corrective measure to the nation. The Hebrew people who had once been delivered from slavery in Egypt, were briefly delivered back into slavery in Babylon, as a reminder of what happens when they don't obey the laws of God.

Something else happened during that Babylonian captivity as well. The City of Babylon itself was conquered by the Persians. The Babylonian Empire fell and was absorbed into the Persian Empire. It was the Persians who freed the Hebrews in Babylon and sent them back to the promised land of Israel (BC 538 - 515). Because of this, a new dimension was added to the image of Babylon in Hebrew literature. Not only was Babylon a symbol of rebellion against God, but God could use it as an instrument of justice against his people when they were rebellious. Furthermore, if Babylon was just an instrument of God, it can be disposed of by God when it is no longer useful. Just as God scattered the inhabitants of the ancient City of Babel by confusing their language, so God just as easily caused the ancient Babylonian Empire to fall to the Persians once he was done with using them to chastise his own people in Israel. As an interesting footnote in history, the City of Babylon not only fell to the Persians, but again to the Greeks later on. After that it never recovered. The ancient City of Babylon has remained in ruins for thousands of years. Even an attempt by the dictator Saddam Hussein to rebuild Babylon, in the late 20th century as a tourist destination, failed miserably.

The next time we hear of Babylon again is in the New Testament, spoken of by a the Apostle John in visionary form, in a symbolic way, which draws heavily on the Hebrew understanding of what that ancient city symbolises...
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.  The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication;  and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.”  And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her I marveled greatly.  But the angel said to me, “Why marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.  The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.  This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven hills on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a little while.  As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to perdition.  And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.  These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast;  they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.  And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.  And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth.” 
-- Revelation 17:1-18 RSV-CE
Now, when we read this passage, we must remember the time period it was written in. It was written by the Apostle John (a Hebrew Christian), to other Christians (many of them Hebrews by birth), during the late 1st century. The time period of the text is between AD 60 to 100. Now, what was happening at this time? Up to this period in history (AD 33 - 67), Jewish Christians were being heavily persecuted primarily by Judaism. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had banned Christians from the Jerusalem Temple. They had been put out of the synagogues as well. Various Christian leaders in Jerusalem had been stoned. The Temple had sent emissaries to synagogues all over the ancient world to beware of Christians. Sometimes they were arrested, and taken back to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem for trial. While Christians had some problems with the Greek Pagans here and there, Pagans were not their primary persecutors during this time period. In fact, by this time, more Pagans were converting to Christianity than Jews. It was the Jewish leadership, primarily in Jerusalem, that presented the biggest problem for the early 1st century Christians. They caused great trouble for Christians living within Jerusalem, and even those living outside of Jerusalem. This is why the same man who wrote this above passage, the Apostle John, twice referred to the Jewish leadership as the 'Synagogue of Satan' earlier in the same book (Revelation 2:9; 3:9).

As another point of context, this same Jewish leadership, based out of Jerusalem, in the late 1st century, did something to the early Christian community that would change the course of history, and seal Jerusalem's fate as the chief persecutor of Christianity in ancient history. Jewish leaders from Jerusalem sent emissaries to Rome, and convinced Nero Caesar that Christians were not part of Judaism. You see, Jews had a special place of privilege within the ancient Roman Empire. Because of Jerusalem's willingness to cooperate with Rome, Jews were dispensed from the imperial duty of having to worship Caesar upon paying taxes. Unlike the Pagans, they were not required to throw a pinch of incense on the Pagan altar and say 'Caesar is Lord'. Rather, they were only obligated to pray for Caesar to the God of Israel. This is exactly what was done in Jerusalem, in the Temple itself, as sacrifices were made on Caesar's behalf, praying to God for his health, safety and wisdom. In exchange for this, Jews were exempt from the obligatory Caesar worship enforced throughout the entire Roman Empire. Christians were originally exempt from this too, because Rome considered Christianity to be a Jewish sect. However, once leaders from Jerusalem convinced Nero Caesar otherwise, Christians no longer fell under the protection of Jewish exemption. Rome now viewed them exactly the same as Pagans. Henceforth, they would be required to give worship to Caesar upon paying taxes, just like any other Pagan, and failure to do so could mean death. Thus, the final blow the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem dealt to Christians was to remove their Jewish exemption from Caesar worship, thus ensuring their persecution by the Roman Empire for the next 200+ years! In effect, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem got Pagan Rome to do their dirty work for them. What followed however, was their immediate destruction, as Zealots (Jewish Nationalists) attempted to expel the Roman occupation by force. This resulted in Rome crushing them, and the City of Jerusalem being burned to the ground as a result, Temple and all. Thus, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem got Pagan Rome to persecute Christians, and immediately thereafter, God allowed Pagan Rome to destroy Jerusalem. This is the historical context the Book of Revelation was written in. Now, go back and re-read the passage above from Revelation 17.

Immediately, you should see the parallels. The 'Beast' described in this passage is the Pagan Roman Empire. There is no doubt about that. The seven heads refer to the seven hills of ancient Pagan Rome, and seven emperors of the Roman Empire leading up to that time period. However, the woman, who is described as a harlot (or whore), with the name 'Babylon the Great' written on her crown, is none other than Jerusalem. (Jerusalem is also built on seven hills, which is an interesting parallel I'm sure the ancient Jews were well acquainted with. Thus Rome and Jerusalem, two cities each built on seven hills, are intimately connected in this text.) You see Jerusalem, particularly the Temple leadership in Jerusalem, which was at that time the primary persecutor of the early Church, is the 'whore' or 'harlot' called 'Babylon' by the Apostle John. Why is this? He says this because Jerusalem has 'prostituted' or 'sold herself' over to Pagan Rome. She does Rome's bidding in the Holy Land, and in turn, Rome keeps the Temple leadership in power. Thus Jerusalem is now serving in the place of historical Babylon, persecuting the people of God (the Church), who will later be represented as the 'New Jerusalem' descending from heaven (Revelation 21). Also, Rome now does Jerusalem's bidding against the early Christians. So the prostitute (Jerusalem= Whore of Babylon) demands her price for her 'services', which was the blood of Christians. Jerusalem was the first to have Christians martyred, and so Saint John says that she (Jerusalem = Whore of Babylon) became 'drunk' on the blood of martyrs and saints. Then she prostituted herself by convincing Rome to do her dirty work for her. In the Old Testament, whenever Israel was unfaithful to God, the words 'prostitute' and 'harlotry' were used to describe her (Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1–11; Ezekiel 16:1–43; Ezekiel 23). So it is used again here in Revelation 17 in regards to Jerusalem. Jesus Christ himself assigned Jerusalem (and Jerusalem alone) as the city that murders God's prophets and saints (Matthew 23:34–37; Luke 11:47–51; Luke 13:33). While Rome had great political power over the world, it was Jerusalem that had regional power over Rome, because the Temple leadership in Jerusalem kept the peace in that volatile part of the world. It was a stretch of land that the Roman Empire needed to maintain control of the entire Mediterranean Sea. If Rome lost the Holy Land, the Empire would be split in two. So Jerusalem kept the peace, and its religious leaders did so religiously, as many kings in that region would come to the Temple and pay homage to the God of Israel.

Now consider the dichotomy. Saint John, the author of this Book of Revelation, refers to the Church as the 'bride' of Christ multiple times (Revelation 19:7; 21:2; 21:9; 22:17) and Jesus Christ as the bridegroom (Revelation 18:23). But to the old Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, he calls them the 'whore' or 'harlot'. The message is clear. By refusing to follow Jesus as the Messiah, and then going so far is to persecute his followers, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem (at that time) prostituted themselves with Rome, and thus forfeited their place within the 'bride' of Christ. Jesus had come to be their Messianic King, and they in turn had him crucified saying: 'We have no king but Caesar.' (John 19:15). In the decades that followed, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem acted accordingly, giving homage to Caesar, while conducting an empire-wide campaign in all the synagogues throughout the Mediterranean, to have those who call Jesus 'King' persecuted, and in some cases, executed. Then, their final blow, was to convince Nero Caesar himself that Christians were not a Jewish sect, and therefore should not get Jewish exemption from Caesar worship, which would ignite two centuries of Roman persecutions on the early Church. This was the situation near the end of the first century, when the Book of Revelation was written, and this is what the reference to the 'Whore of Babylon' is all about.

The word Babylon could be a direct reference to Jerusalem. Or it could be a direct reference to the city of Pagan Rome itself, since the personification we're dealing with here in Revelation 17 is the 'Whore of Babylon' which is a summary of the name written on her crown. We know she is a 'whore', but who is she the whore of? The answer is she is the whore of Babylon, meaning she serves Babylon, and is united with Babylon in an intimate and carnal way. If by 'Babylon', the Apostle John means Rome, than by 'whore' he again means Jerusalem. The use of a sexual personification is no accident here. By their actions, Rome and Jerusalem have become 'one flesh', acting in unison against the early Church. That is the key. All of these images deal with how things are perceived by the early Christians. The fact that both cities are built on seven hills, and this is cited as a key to understanding the whore's identity, again points toward some kind of 'union; between the leadership of the two cities. The personification of a 'whore' indicates this 'union' is intimate and carnal, probably based on the lust for power, which Saint John metaphorically equates to the lust for sex.

It should be noted here, lest anyone accuse me of anti-Semitism, that this interpretation of the text (which I believe to be the BEST interpretation possible) can only apply toward the Jewish Temple leadership of the late 1st century. This does not, in any way, apply to Jewish people in other parts of the world, or in later periods, or even today. It cannot. Furthermore, the man making this illustration (Saint John the Apostle) was himself a Jew, and he was making this criticism of some fellow Jews. This terminology of 'bride' and 'whore' are used by a Jew, in criticism of fellow Jews, in a purely Jewish context that can only apply to a specific place and time -- 1st century Judea. Any attempt to extrapolate this text beyond that historical context is an abuse of Scripture.

Yet, centuries later, that is exactly what many Gentile Christians have historically done. Initially, the texts referring to the 'synagogue of Satan' and the 'whore of Babylon' were used in reference to Jews in general. This is unfair, as that is not the context Saint John wrote in. Remember, John was himself a Jew, his Hebrew name being Yochanan, and he was speaking not of his fellow Jews around the world, but of a specific group of Jews who were ruling Judaism from Jerusalem at that time. Remember, those specific Jews, the leadership in Jerusalem, had declared that Christians are not Jews, not even Hebrew Christians, and had just convinced the Roman imperial government of the same. For years, the leadership in Jerusalem had convinced rabbis around the world to put Christians out of the synagogues -- or effectively excommunicate them from Judaism! Now, by the time of this writing, the leadership in Jerusalem had convinced Rome of the same -- Christians are not Jews. Saint John, himself a Jew, is rebuking them here in the Book of Revelation. He was effectively saying: 'Hey! We're not the fake Jews here. You are! You! the ones who are persecuting us. You're the fake Jews! You're the Synagogue of Satan! You are the whore of Babylon.' Indeed, considering the uncharitable action of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem at that time, many modern Jews today would actually agree! There are many Jewish scholars today who see God's judgement upon ancient Jerusalem as punishment for failing to follow the precepts of the Torah, by persecuting ancient Christians in such a cruel and uncharitable way. Few, if any, Jews today would agree with the way the Jerusalem leadership in the 1st century treated early Christians. We all need to recognise this -- both Jews and Christians alike. So after twenty sad centuries, it's time to 'bury the hatchet' between Christians and Jews. The bishops of the Catholic Church called for this in 1965 with Nostra Aetate, and the world's leading Orthodox rabbis did the same in 2015 with the Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity.

In the Book of Revelation, a book that must be interpreted in historical context, Saint John is saying: 'We Christians are: the real Jerusalem, the spiritual Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem, the bride of the Messiah. While the old (1st century) Jerusalem in Judea is the whore of Babylon.'

'The Whore of Babylon' by Lucas Cranach in 1534
This was a coloured woodcut on Martin Luther's Bible
Notice the Whore on the Beast wears a papal crown.
Centuries later, another group of Gentiles began misapplying this Biblical text to the political-religious schism that developed between Protestantism and the Catholic Church. In this case, the 'Whore of Babylon' was compared to the Catholic Church, particularly the papacy, because the Vatican is situated across the Tiber River, just outside the ancient city of Rome. In this case we have a very gross misapplication of the text. The Beast (which is what represents Rome) is confused with the Whore of Babylon (which is supposed to represent Jerusalem). In the Biblical text cited above (Revelation 17) it is clear these are two distinct images. The Beast and the Whore are separate. The Woman (Whore or Harlot) rides atop the Beast. In other words, the Beast supports the Whore, while the Whore appears to control the Beast. This is a visual illustration of the 1st century relationship between Rome (the Beast) and Jerusalem (the Whore). They are not one in the same entity. They are separate. The Woman (Whore) is dependent upon the Beast for power, but later the Beast turns on her, and burns her with fire. This is, of course, the prophetic/historic telling of the tragic events that happened in AD 67 - 70, when Rome sacked Jerusalem and burned it to the ground. What we have in this later example of Scriptural abuse, by the Protestants, is a symbolic misapplication of the imagery used in Revelation 17 to back a political agenda in the 16th century. Martin Luther was the first to do this. He compared the Whore of Babylon to the papacy. Now any reasonable reading of the text, with any cursory understanding of the historical context in which it was written, will show that Martin Luther's misapplication here is clearly an abuse of Scripture. However, most German peasants in the 16th century couldn't even read, let alone know the historical context this passage of Scripture was written in. So what Luther successfully did was scare the hell out of people! By convincing the illiterate masses that the pope is the Antichrist, and the Vatican is the 'Whore of Babylon', he was able to get millions to follow him, and Protestants have been using this line of deceit ever since.

In the centuries that followed, even up to this very day, Protestant Fundamentalism is rife with books, booklets, tracts, Internet articles, and YouTube videos, about how the Catholic Church is the 'Whore of Babylon'. Again, all of this is Scriptural abuse. Any cursory knowledge of history easily reveals that. Today, elaborate conspiracy theories abound in the Protestant world, ranging from a 'Great Apostasy' with Emperor Constantine (which I covered here), to last-days fears about the 'New World Order' and the 'Illuminati'. Modern day Protestant Fundamentalists are convinced the Catholic Church is the 'Whore of Babylon' written of in the Book of Revelation, and they live accordingly, seeking to convert any Catholic they can, and constantly tell the world that; the pope is the Antichrist, he's hell-bent on taking over the world, and making everyone take the 'Mark of the Beast' or '666'. It's really sad, but this is the world many American Evangelicals live in.

Martin Luther is the father of this heresy and Scriptural abuse. His treatise 'The Babylonian Captivity', published in 1520, launched a love affair between the Protestants and the 'Whore of Babylon' that would last five centuries to this very day. It was written into the Westminster Confession in 1646. The premise was expounded upon by Alexander Hislop in 'The Two Babylons' (published in 1853). It is part of the foundational documents of the Seventh Day Adventists (The Great Controversy: Between Christ and Satan. The Ellen G. White Estate. p. 581.). It remains academic teaching within some Lutheran synods. The abuse continues to be expounded upon by modern Protestant Fundamentalist publications, such as 'Roman Catholicism' by Loraine Boettner (published in 1962), and 'A Woman Rides the Beast' by Dave Hunt (published in 1994), as well as a steady stream of Anti-Catholic tracts and comic books published by Chick Publications in Chino California. This is just scratching the surface.

The modern Scriptural abuse of Revelation 17, which identifies Catholicism to the Whore of Babylon, has been a stunningly successful tool of destruction. With it, Protestants throughout the centuries have literally been able to frighten people out of the Catholic Church, and kindle the flames of hatred toward Catholicism. It has kept countless of Protestants in their place, safe within the pews of their respective denominations, and squashed any serious consideration of the claims of the Catholic Church. It was, and remains, a master tool of deception and manipulation, that uses ignorance of history as a means to control the behaviour of Christians. The only way to render this heresy and abuse harmless is to educate the masses (especially Catholics) in how to properly interpret the Book of Revelation, especially Revelation 17.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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