Category Archives: Ecumenism

Gifts — Protestant versus Catholic

If you ask a Christian about what the gifts are, you get a different answer depending on the denominational pew.

Protestants faithfully point to 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and list word (message) of wisdom, word (message) of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing (discerning) spirits, speaking in tongues, and tongues interpretation. Later, in 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, they add apostleship, teaching, and helps and again list prophecy, healing, miracles, tongues, and tongues interpretation.

Catholics on the other hand start to talk about gifts instilled in them at Baptism and further sealed at Confirmation:

  • Wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Counsel (Right Judgment)
  • Knowledge
  • Fortitude (Courage)
  • Piety (Reverence)
  • Fear of the Lord (awe and wonder in His presence)

Because of the Socratic method and something called the old Baltimore Catechism, most could answer the question but not give a Scripture reference.

I would like to suggest (thanks to a lesson by an associate pastor on something completely different) is that these gifts are Biblical and do exist… in Isaiah 11:1-5. I would suggest that you review this passage in several versions of the Bible; for my purposes, I’ve used NIV, KJV, CJB, and ICB. For argument’s sake, I’ve avoided Catholic versions like Douay-Rheims.

Wisdom: This is referenced in Isaiah 11:2a, “The Spirit gives him wisdom….” (ICB)

Understanding: Again, this is in Isaiah 11:2a, “The Spirit gives him..understanding….” (ICB)

Counsel (Right Judgment): Two different parts of this passage reference counsel or right judgment. The first is Isaiah 11:2b, “The Spirit of Adonai will rest on him, the Spirit of… counsel… .” (CJB) Also, if you accept right judgment as a form of counsel, Isaiah 11:3b-4a states: “He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.” (NIV)

Knowledge:  Isaiah 11:2c in all versions references spirit of knowledge.

Fortitude (Courage): Fortitude and courage are not directly referenced. However, the word might at the end of Isaiah 11:3c in NIV and KJV could refer to a strength derived from fortitude or courage. The CJB and ICB both use power, which again could refer to a quality derived due to fortitude or courage.

Piety (Reverence): Again, this is not directly referenced. Three versions of Isaiah 11:3 however talk about qualities that could be argued to derive from piety or reverence. In the NIV, the phrase is “delighting in the fear of the Lord.” CJB talks about being “inspired by fearing Adonai.” ICB talks about having gladness from obeying the Lord.

Fear of the Lord (awe and wonder in His Presence): This is mentioned in Isaiah 11:2c in all versions except ICB.

Five out of seven directly referenced isn’t bad. That’s 70%, and it’s a higher accuracy than most meteorologists… or so I’m told. 🙂

St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a la Protestant Style, Part 4

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

With, before, behind, in, beneath, above, right, left — All are directional words that indicate Jesus surrounds us. At His ascension, Jesus promised to be with us who believe in Him even to the end of time in Matthew 28:20. He also promises that two or three of us who gather in His name have instant access to His presence in Matthew 18:20.

Sitting, lying, arising — These are active words that indicate choice to do. We have to choose to have Jesus present in all we do. Colossians 3:17 calls us to dedicate all we do and say to Jesus.

In the heart, in the mouth, in every eye, in every ear — This means that we, even introverts and those who have social anxiety disorder, have to be seen by others. Just how much is up to what God has called you to do in this life.

The idea is that we are to imitate Christ as though we are the only Jesus people see (Ephesians 5:1-2). Even in our darkness of anger, frustration, or depression, we have to imitate Christ; in anger He cleared the Temple, in frustration He cursed the fig tree, and in depression He wept in the Garden until He brought Himself fully in alignment with the Father’s plans. The idea is that we live quietly, work hard, and keep peace with our neighbors to earn their respect, per 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (CJB)

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I opened this series with a discussion of this portion in Part 1.

I look forward as a Protestant to praying this prayer with Catholic siblings everywhere.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a la Protestant Style, Part 3

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

I did warn you for this series I was going back to my Christian roots. I do apologize if the Truth offends. However, some of the points can be made from the Old Testament, which is shared by devout Jews and as I understand Muslims as well. (Please, feel free to comment if you’re a devout Muslim reading this.)

The first four lines are clearly covered by Romans 8:31-39. I’d covered all of Romans 8 in a few very early posts on this blog. I am still in mad, passionate, drooling love with Romans 8. Every protection of Christ and His Love is promised in this passage.

The following list includes scripture indicating  why the author of the prayer would ask for protection against the types of people and sins they commit:

  • False Prophets: Deuteronomy 13:1-5
  • Pagans: 1 Corinthians 10:19-21 (CJB)
  • Heretics: 2 Peter 2:1-3 (NKJV)
  • Idolatry: Deuteronomy 4:15-19
  • Witches, wizards, and the like: Deuteronomy 18:9-13
  • Corrupting knowledge: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Poison, drowning, burning, and wounding are all physical types of harm that can come to a person. Mark 16:17-18 directly mentions poison; it also mentions healing, which would cover wounding. Drowning and burning are referred to in Isaiah 43:2.

As for the abundance of reward, Psalm 23:5-6 speak of the abundance of reward those who love the Lord and trust Him for their care can expect.

 

 

St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a la Protestant Style, Part 2

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

This is a tough part. It depends on how literal you take things. If you’re truly literal, this may feel like you’re invoking nature.

However, if you think in analogies, this is a beautiful summary of the qualities Christians are called to have:

  • Strength: Ephesians 6:10
  • Shining light (sun, moon): Philippians 2:14-16
  • Passion, ardor (fire): Psalm 42 (shows a depth of deep emotion from hunger for God to sorrow), Matthew 5:6
  • Obedience: 1 Samuel 15:22
  • Depth: Philippians 1:8-10
  • Stability: James 1:6-8
  • Firmness: Luke 21:17-19

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.

I’d always been taught that God loves it when we ask Him to change our hearts instead of our circumstances. Throughout this section, the author has asked for many character qualities (some directly in imitation of God the Father) in addition to some promised protections.

  • God’s strength: Ephesians 6:10 (so good it can be used more than once 🙂 )
  • God’s might: Ephesians 6:10 (once, twice, three times a Truth! )
  • God’s wisdom: James 1:5
  • God to see me: Psalm 33:18-19
  • God to hear me: Psalm 6:8-10
  • God to speak for me: Luke 21:13-15
  • God’s hand over me: Isaiah 49:14-16
  • God as a shield for me: Psalm 28:7-8
  • God’s angels to protect me: Psalm 91:11-12
  • Protection against the enemy: Ephesians 6:10-18 (admittedly, there is some action required on the part of the recipient of protection)
  • Protection from temptation: 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • Protection from humans: Psalm 91:5-7

St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a la Protestant Style, Part 1

Author’s Note: I’m going back to my Christian roots in the next few pieces. I’d like to look at the St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer and analyze how much a Protestant could pray. 

St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a well-loved prayer. Originally, it was thought St. Patrick wrote it himself as he prepared to convert an Irish king and his pagan subjects to Christianity. Also called “The Cry of the Deer” or “The Lorica of St. Patrick,” it has recently had its authorship called into question.

If you’d like, you can review the full text at its page on Our Catholic Prayers. I intend to take it in “paragraph” chunks. My goal is each piece in the series should be limited to 500 words or less.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

This is probably an acceptable chunk to pray. Scripture supports that there is just one God (Mark 12:29, NIV) who created everything (Colossians 1:15-16, NIV). Arising in the morning is the first thing we do, and this chunk shows a desire that God is first and foremost (Matthew 6:33, NIV). As for the Trinity, it is not directly named in the Bible. However, there are points where it can be seen as in the Baptism of Christ (Matthew 3:16-17, NIV) or when Jesus Himself refers to it in praying for His disciples (John 16:12-15, NIV).

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

This is basically a restatement summarizing the entire Gospel story from Christ’s birth in Bethlehem through his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus discusses his descent for a final judgment in Matthew 25:31-46.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

Cherubim (Ezekiel 10:16-17, NIV), angels (lots of references, but my personal favorite is Psalm 91:11-12), and archangels (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NIV) are all mentioned in numerous Bible stories for strength, obedience, and service to God’s will.

Conversely, it is commonly accepted that Satan and his demons fell through prideful rebellion and unwillingness to serve. While there is no direct story from Scripture, Isaiah 14:12-14 is considered a reference to this situation.

1 Peter 1:3-4 clearly references hope of the resurrection of the dead and an inheritance.

Patriarchs, prophets, and apostles are clearly mentioned; virgins appear in a parable by Jesus; but confessors and righteous men are not so direct. It could be argued though that all these categories would be covered by the great “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1.

 

No Communion for You!

This is one of those “deep” pieces for Christians only dealing with Catholic and Protestant relations. If you’re prone to anger, just stop here. Also, if you need fluff and unicorns and rainbows, stop here.

Communion has always been a touchy subject, even for those shepherds in all denominational pews with finesse and people skills. While most Protestant denominations take a “Come as you are as long as you believe in Jesus” approach, Catholics are a demanding crowd. You must be in union with the teachings of the Church, you must be free of all mortal sin (serious, premeditated decision to commit a major sin), you should not (notice I didn’t say cannot) receive Communion in any denominational pew but your own.

Latin rite Catholics are not permitted to receive with any Protestants or with Greek Orthodox Catholics, but may in the absence of a local parish receive with Russian Orthodox or Polish Catholics. Feel like you need a flowchart diagram or decision tree yet?

Why is this? Why is it that the one moment when we should have the most unity and love for each other and for our Lord that we fall apart?

Aside from the work of the enemy of our souls and pride, it has to do with interpretation of Scripture. Two passages are in focus here: John 6:25-59 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-32. I prefer to use the New International Version, Complete Jewish Bible, and a Catholic version of the Bible to get a full flavor of the passages. I would encourage you to do the same before continuing.

Our Catholic brothers and sisters believe that Communion literally is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. The priest prays a prayer calling down the Holy Spirit, and in that moment with those words, the bread and wine mystically and substantially become the Real Presence of Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit (this is transubstantiation). Since God can tolerate no sin, you’re supposed to approach the altar for Communion only if you accept and genuinely try to live Catholic teaching. Literally, Catholics eat Jesus in hopes of growing closer to Him and His teachings.

Lutherans have a similar belief.  However, Lutherans tend to believe that the believer’s faith plays a part (consubstantiation).

I believe (but have not had deep training) that most other Protestants see Communion emblems of bread and wine as just symbolizing the Body and Blood. Figuratively, as we eat, we are to be humbling ourselves before God and choosing unity with our Christian brothers and sisters.

What do I personally believe? I don’t know.

As a writer, I understand both the figurative and literal perspectives. I can’t imagine something that is just a symbol making anyone so sick they would die. And yet, I accept that Jesus could act just the way Catholics believe He does with transubstantiation without wanting to call them vampiric cannibals for following Jesus’ commands.

Without falling into legalism, I want to believe whatever Jesus wants me to believe. He’s left His Word. To know what I should believe, I would have to understand the Greek and Aramaic of the day. I would have to understand tense and language structure to know whether like English the decision about figurative and literal is based on the rhetorical situation and context.

If figurative and literal were based in tense with language structure, I would assume the scholars would have figured that out by now. If not, maybe I’ve given some ancient linguistic PhD candidate his or her doctoral dissertation project.

If figurative and literal language are contextually based on the environment and culture of the day, then I will have to pray and take it on faith that if I make the wrong decision I have done so with a clear conscience and will be covered in mercy, grace, and Christ’s Blood.

Catholic Spiritual Works of Mercy Painted for Protestants

In my last piece, I discussed the corporal works of mercy. From my perspective, I found that these could be supported as Scriptural from the words of Christ with the exception of burying the dead, which I did a circuitous line of logic to support from Genesis.

In this piece, I’ll review the spiritual works of mercy. I propose to extend into the entire New Testament before looking at the Old Testament because I believe these might be a little more challenging.

According to the website by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the spiritual works of mercy are intended to provide a pattern for meeting the spiritual needs of our neighbors.

They are the following:

  • Counseling the doubtful
  • Instructing the ignorant
  • Admonishing the sinner
  • Comforting the sorrowful
  • Forgiving injuries
  • Bearing wrongs patiently
  • Praying for the living and the dead

Counseling the doubtful

While in Jude verse 22 in the NIV we are commanded to be merciful to those who doubt, there is no direct command, “Counsel ye the doubtful.”

Acts 16:40 and Acts 20:1-3 show Paul the apostle along with his traveling companions encouraging the people he visits.

Paul also shows in 2 Corinthians 7:5-7 that God the Father can encourage His children through arranging circumstances. Acts 9:31 shows the Holy Spirit encourages Christians.

While we don’t have a direct command, it can be argued that we are to imitate Christ as dearly beloved children. Christ as the second Person of the Trinity would be partaking in the encouragement done by the Father and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should attempt to encourage through our words and actions.

Instructing the ignorant

In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Paul tells Timothy:

And a slave of the Lord shouldn’t fight. On the contrary, he should be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and not resentful when mistreated. Also he should be gentle as he corrects his opponents. For God may perhaps grant them the opportunity to turn from their sins, acquire full knowledge of the truth, come to their senses and escape the trap of the Adversary, after having been captured alive by him to do his will. (Complete Jewish Bible)

Since we are all called to serve Jesus, our instructions from Paul (who saw the Risen Jesus) clearly indicate that we are to teach (and teach well). Not only are we to teach those who are interested in our teaching, but we are also to teach those who oppose us.

In Galatians 6:6, those of us who are being taught are instructed to share all the good things we are learning in the Word with those who are teaching us.

Admonishing the sinner

Matthew 18:25 advises that we are to work with sinners. When someone sins, you are to go to them privately and try to show them a better way. If that doesn’t work, you can approach the sinner, but you must have two or three witnesses.

Comforting the sorrowful

This was quite difficult. However, I believe it is doable if we review Romans 12:14-16 in its entirety and then take the sentences out of order.

Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits. (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

Because we are to live in harmony with others and readily adjust to the needs of others, it is important that we show solidarity. We are to enjoy the happiness of those who are joyful. We are also to weep with those who mourn, thereby sharing their grief and giving some comfort.

Forgiving injuries

Forgiveness is a huge deal in all Christianity. Christ died on the Cross to ensure there is pardon and forgiveness from God the Father for our sins. Matthew 6:12 in just about every version of the Bible says “forgive us XX as we forgive XX .” XX can be sins/sin, debts/debtors, trespass/trespasses, shortcomings/failures.

Matthew 6:14-15 reminds us that because our Heavenly Father has done it for us we must do it for others. If we fail to forgive we lose the forgiveness He offers. Matthew 18:22 indicates we may have to forgive an inordinate number of times.

Bearing wrongs patiently

1 Peter 3:13-17 states:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (New International Version)

We are promised that when we suffer injustice at the hands of men we are receiving a blessing from God. Therefore, we should not fear anything, but we should be positive and hopefully. We keep a clear conscience by choosing to follow the Word and not speak against those who are harming us.

But even better than Peter’s words are the Words of Jesus in the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (World English Bible)

Praying for the living and the dead

This is a hard one to find basis in Scripture. You have to split it into two subworks.

Praying for the living

This is so easy.

Romans 12:12 (Complete Jewish Bible): Rejoice in your hope, be patient in your troubles, and continue steadfastly in prayer.

Ephesians 6:18-19 (Names of God): Pray in the Spirit in every situation. Use every kind of prayer and request there is. For the same reason be alert. Use every kind of effort and make every kind of request for all of God’s people. Also pray that God will give me the right words to say. Then I will speak boldly when I reveal the mystery of the Good News.

Matthew 5:44-45 (World English Bible): But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Praying for the dead

This is difficult. First a distinction must be made. Praying to the dead is about talking to those who have passed before you. Praying for the dead is about praying to God about those who are dead.

Catholics do accept non-worship prayer to those who are in heaven. I do not, and I would only point to the Witch of Endor in 1 Samuel to refute this.

Prayer for the dead warrants investigation. Protestants do not accept 2 Maccabees as part of our canon, but Catholics do. 2 Maccabees does have a passage about prayer for the dead. Although I cannot find modern Jewish Bibles online with those books, I do not know if any modern Jewish synagogues accept those books as “Torah approved.”

2 Maccabees 12:41-45 states (New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition):

So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.

When these books are rejected, you don’t have a Scriptural mandate for praying for the dead. However, there might be a way to at least consider the possibility of prayer for the dead. Humans are finite creatures. We have a definitive start at birth, we move through time in one direction, and we have a definitive end at death.

God however is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Therefore, He is not constrained to being within the human time-line. He hovers over all times and places with all knowledge. It could be argued that a person in the 4th century is just as real and present to Him as a person in the 21st century even if the 4th and 21st century individuals don’t know each other.

Because all things are possible, it is reasonable that I in the 21st century could ask God the Father to watch over, protect, and save everyone in my family line from Adam and Eve until the Second Coming. He as God can honor or not honor that request within the confines of His application of the individuals’ free will. I won’t, but as a reasoning human, I can accept this as a logical defense for praying for the dead (not to).

I believe that I have successfully given Biblical support for Protestants joining Catholic family and friends in efforts that support the first six spiritual works of mercy. And I believe at least half of the seventh is supported as well.

Don’t be sad—6.5 out of 7 isn’t bad!