Anathema
A state of punishment and excommunication pronounced by the Catholic Church upon those who reject certain teachings.
Gnostic
BASIC TENETS - The world and our bodies were created by an incompetent lesser God, but we contain a spark of divinity, and Jesus provided us with the knowledge to free it.
REQUIREMENTS - Followers had to have the time to pursue and incorporate this special knowledge. Literacy may also have helped.
APPEAL - Gnosticism explained the world's hardships and people's feelings of not belonging to it but at the same time assured them that redemption is within their power.

This definition is an excerpt from Troy Brooks' Which Group Do You Fall Under Today?
Purgatory
The Catholic notion of a purification process that happens after death to prepare souls for heaven. Some believe purgatory to be a literal place, while others believe it is simply a period of suffering.
Catechism
A Catholic manual of doctrine in the form of questions and answers.
Heresy
Primarily used in religious circles to describe a person or doctrine that disagrees with that religion.
Cardinal
A senior officer in the Catholic Church, usually a bishop. In addition to leading a diocese or offering counsel to the Pope, a cardinal’s key duty is electing the Pope whenever necessary.
Gentile
In the Bible, any non-Israelite person or nation.
Mass
The celebration of Eucharist and other ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church, in particular a ceremony similar to the Lord’s supper in which the bread is said to turn into Jesus Christ’s actual body.
Easter Triduum
The three days spanning the Easter weekend beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday evening, and including Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the vigil of Easter Sunday leading up to the celebration of the Resurrection. A “triduum” in Roman Catholicism is the observance of three days leading up to a special feast day.
Apostolic
Having to do with the 12 apostles or their teachings. This term is also sometimes used in Catholic circles as a synonym for “papal,” as the Pope is seen as the successor to the Apostles.
Liturgy
A communal response to God through rituals such as readings or prayer.
Veneration
The special honoring of saints in Roman Catholicism.
Encyclopedia of Terms, Customs, and People
Author:
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Summary: Get straight facts and Biblical insight about many historical figures, complicated religious terms, and rituals.
 
 

 

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A

Antinomianism

Antinomianism is a belief in salvation through predestination. Antinomians believe that they are not obligated to follow any moral or ethical laws because their salvation is secure despite any sin.

Antinomians believed that Christians are free from the laws (Greek nomos) of morality by virtue of God's grace. Critics charged antinomians with licentious living. Apparently popular among Gnostic sects, antinomianism was revived among the Anabaptists and by Johann Agricola, a one-time student of Martin Luther who retracted his position after arguments with Luther and Luther's associate Philip Melanchthon. Antinomianism was held by members of various sects during the British Commonwealth.i

Antinomianism in History

"Father of dispenationalism" John Nelson Darby believed in antinomianism, as did those in the movement he founded—the Plymouth Brethren:

The Plymouth Brethren originated in Dublin, Ireland, about the year 1830…Darby, a clergyman in the Church of England, renounced the Church, and assumed that all existing Church organizations are a detriment to Christianity, and obstructive of regeneration and the spiritual life...Moreover, they were confirmed antinomians. Mr. Darby would say that if any man had anything to do with the law of God, even to obey it, he was a sinner by that very act...Of course they strenuously antagonize inwrought and personal holiness as an utter impossibility, since the old man has a lease of the soul which does not expire till death. Yet they insist that they are perfectly holy in Christ "up there," while perfectly carnal and corrupt "down here" in their moral state...

Mr. Darby said to the writer, "Jesus does not walk about in heaven dropping off fingers and toes," it follows that every believer once incorporated into Christ is absolutely sure of ultimate salvation. The certainty is forever beyond contingencies. No act of sin, even murder, can remove us from our standing in Christ. Sin may obstruct communion, and leave the soul in sadness and darkness for a season; but since, as Shakespeare says, "All is well that ends well" sin in a believer is well since it ends in eternal life.ii

Grace and the Law

It is true that salvation can be found only in God's grace through faith, and not by human action. However, antinomianism brings with it a license to continue living in sin, which defies the purpose of salvation in our lives; that is, to free us from sin. Roman 6:1-2 NKJV explains:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

As Romans 3:20 tells us, the law's purpose is to show us that we are sinners who need God's grace. The law is like a mirror that reflects to us our sin. The law gives us the knowledge of sin—the realization that we are sinners and need a Saviour. If there is no law there is no sin (see Romans 5:13, 7:7; James 1:22-25). Martin Luther agrees, saying that the person "who destroys the doctrine of the law, destroys at the same time political and social order. If you eject the law from the church, there will no longer be any sin recognized as such in the world."iii

Antinomianism forgets that the law has a purpose in our lives today. However, the truth is that the Ten Commandments, written by God's finger, still stand today. John Calvin gives this admonition:

We must not imagine that the coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law, for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and must, therefore, be as unchangeable as the justice of God, which it embraced, is consistent and uniform.iv

This entry is adapted from Professor Walter Veith's lecture They Have Made Void Thy Law Part 2.

Sources: 

i John Milton, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643): 426.

ii Danielle Steele, The Theology of the So-Called Plymouth Brethren Examined and Refuted.

iii Michelet (ed.) and Hazlitt (trans.) The Life of Luther Written by Himself Second Edition Volume 4 (London: G. Bell, 1872): 315.

iv John Calvin, Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels Volume 1: 277.

 

Antiochus Epiphanes

The Story of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

In 323 BC, Alexander the Great contracted a fever and died in Babylon. His empire was divided among his four generals.i Seleucus Nicator, one of his generals, founded the Seleucid dynasty which ruled a large portion of western Asia from 311 to 65 BC.

 

Among the kings of the Seleucid dynasty was Antiochus IV, Epiphanes (175 - 164 BC). He called himself “the Illustrious,” but became known among the Jews as “the Wicked.” History would ignore him, except for what he did to the Jews.

Benefiting from victories of previous kings, Antiochus controlled Jerusalem for a short time. During this time he sought to wipe out Judaism—desecrating the Jewish temple, plundering Jerusalem, killing the men, and enslaving the women and children. He proclaimed Jewish worship outlawed and forced idol worship on the people.

Abomination of Desolation?

Daniel 11:31 says this:

And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.

Modern Jews believe this verse and Daniel 9:27 refer to Antiochus IV, because he did outlaw Jewish sacrifices and desecrate the temple. The Jewish Encyclopedia says this about Epiphanes:

On Kislew (Nov.-Dec.) 25, 168, the “abomination of desolation” ...was set up on the altar of burnt offering in the Temple, and the Jews required to make obeisance to it. This was probably the Olympian Zeus, or Baal Shamem.

Catholics also ascribe the title to Epiphanes. The book of 2 Maccabees detail the battles of Judas Maccabaeus, who defeated the armies of Antiochus. 2 Maccabees 9 details an account of worms swarming in Antiochus' eyes and his flesh rotting off while he was still alive. His own troops could not bear to come near him for the stink that exuded from him. After writing a letter hoping to redeem himself, he died suffering agonies that indicated to Jewish freedom fighters that God had taken vengeance on him.

However, Jesus Himself defined the abomination as the Roman siege of Jerusalem and full destruction of the temple in AD 70 (See Matthew 24:2 and Mark 13:14-23). Since Antiochus died in 164 BC, his horrible desecration, which did not succeed in fully destroying the temple or discontinuing Jewish worship cannot be the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.

Antiochus Epiphanes cannot be the Antichrist, as he does not fulfill the identifying characteristics of the Antichrist, one of which is that he must come out of the fourth kingdom. Antiochus came out of the third. The idea that Antiochus Epiphanes is the Antichrist is a preterist doctrine that is completely unBiblical.

By Keith King.

Sources:
i "Alexander the Great," BBC: Historic Figures.

ii "Antiochus IV Epiphanes," Jewish Encyclopedia.

B

Blasphemy

In the Bible, we see two definitions of blasphemy:

1. Claiming the power to forgive sins

The Jews understood blasphemy well, and because they did not accept Jesus as the Son of God or Messiah, they accused Him of blaspheming. In Mark 2:6-11 and Luke 5:18-26, we read the story of the paralytic man who came to Jesus through a hole in the roof to be healed.

The first thing Jesus said to Him was "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." Jesus must have known that that was the man's deepest desire. Perhaps his illness was to do with some sin in his life, or perhaps he was just very concerned about being accepted by God. Jesus read the man's heart, and forgave him his sins before he did anything else.

When the scribes sitting around heard him forgive this man's sins, they reasoned in their hearts, "Why does this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" Jesus knew their thoughts and answered them, declaring His power to forgive sins, "...that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) "I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed and go thy way into thine house" (Mark 2:10-11 emphasis added).

In this story we see the first definition of blasphemy—claiming the power to forgive sins. The Jews did not believe Jesus had the power of God, but Jesus was not blaspheming because He really did have power to forgive sins.

2. Claiming to be God

In John 5:18, we read about another reason the Jews wanted to kill Jesus for blasphemy. "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God." John 8:58-59 tells us this:

 

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him.

Later in John 10:30, Jesus declares "I and my Father are one." In verse 31, we read that the Jews "took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, 'Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those words do ye stone me?' The Jews answered him, saying, 'For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God (emphasis added).'"

Here we see the second definition of blasphemy—claiming to be God. Jesus again had not blasphemed when He said He was one with the Father, for Jesus is God. But the Jews certainly thought Christ was blaspheming, and took violent action in their misguided zeal for Jehovah. While thinking they were protecting God's honor, they were rejecting His own Son.

 

By Wendy Goubej

The Bottomless Pit

The expression “bottomless pit” refers to the earth in a state of darkness and confusion. This is the condition the earth will be in during the thousand years after Jesus’ Second Coming. Genesis 1:2 says that “the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” This word “deep” is translated from the Greek word abussos. The same word is translated “bottomless pit” in Revelation 20:1-3.

Prophecy teaches that the earth will again be in a condition of abussos:

I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light…I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down (Jeremiah 4:23,26).
 
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15).

For six thousand years Satan has been causing suffering and catastrophe on this planet. He has tempted and snared millions, but during the millennium Satan and his angels will be the only living creatures to remain on the earth. They will have to meditate on all the destruction and waste that they have caused. There will be no one left to tempt and deceive because all those who did not choose to make Jesus their Saviour will be destroyed by the brightness of His coming and remain dead until Jesus returns to recreate the earth.

Revelation 20:2-3,5 tells us this:
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.
 
What John witnessed in this vision was symbolic. He saw an actual pit in vision but shutting up the dragon in the pit was symbolic for binding Satan in chains of circumstance as his activities come to a halt. The earth will be in a state of complete desolation and darkness until Jesus comes after the thousand years to recreate it (see Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1-2).

 

C

Confession

A modern confessional at the Church of the Holy Name in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Confession, also called Penance or Reconciliation, is a practice of the Catholic Church in which a person confesses sin to a priest. The priest then gives absolution of the sin, on the condition of some kind of response, such as repeating prayers.

According to the book Symbols of Catholicism, there are three "necessary steps to obtaining absolution." They are as follows:
1. Act of Contrition — Showing sorrow for committing the sin
2. Act of Confession — Telling the priest about the nature of the sin
3. Act of Satisfaction — Doing penance, such as saying prayersi

These three steps and the nature of confession were confirmed by the Catholic Council of Trent's 14th session:

If anyone denies that for the full and perfect remission of sins three acts are required on the part of the penitent...namely, contrition, confession and satisfaction, which are called the three parts of penance...let him be anathema. If anyone denies that sacramental confession was instituted by divine law or is necessary for salvation; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human contrivance, let him be anathema.ii

Finding Forgiveness

According to St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Catholic priest holds the power to conquer sin:

The priest has the power of the keys, or the power of delivering sinners from Hell, of making them worthy of Paradise, and of changing them from slaves of Satan into children of God. And God Himself is obligated to abide by the judgment of His priests, and either not to pardon or to pardon.iii

Contrast Liguori's words with those of James 5:15-16:

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.

James was not saying that priestly absolution brings freedom from sin. He was not even saying that we should confess our sins only to a priest. Rather, he tells us to confide in one another, so that we can pray for and encourage one another.

Unfortunately, the error of confession goes beyond who we should confess our sins to. James' description of confession as an act of accountability and growth is completely different than the Roman Catholic notion that confession to a priest is the path to forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 reminds us that it is to God we must confess, and that He "is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Despite what was written during the Council of Trent or by St. Liguori, Catholic penance does not bring about forgiveness from sins. There is nothing our actions or the words of a priest can do to bring salvation:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis added).

When the Bible tells us to confess our faults one to another (James 5:16), it is not advocating the priestly confessional as practiced by the Catholic Church, nor is it promoting only private confession to God while maintaining a façade of perfection. Unfortunately, in our day and age, this type of confession is common. We admit our sin to ourselves privately—sometimes going to God to ask for forgiveness—but then we go about in society with our human pride intact.

When we admit our faults in a public way, we are humbled. Humility is a good thing, and asking for forgiveness from those we have hurt can be very freeing for everyone. Accountability is something that needs to be a part of the Christian experience. This is where confession comes into play. While random, public outbursts of confession are not necessarily the best medium, we can find spiritual growth and deep human relationships when we confess to a like-minded individual who holds us accountable to Biblical standards.

Sources:
i Dom Robert Le Gall, Symbols of Catholicism, (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003): 61.

ii Rev. H. J. Schroeder (trans.), "Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance," The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Illinois: TAN Books, 1978): 102-103. 

iii St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Dignities and Duties of the Priest (1927).

 

I

Indulgences

Catholicism teaches that you can be forgiven in advance for your sins—even to this day. ...
"Indulgence" is a Roman Catholic term that is not found in the Bible. The Vatican defines an indulgence as "the taking away of the temporal punishment due to sin."i

The Roman Catholic Church defines "temporal punishment" as suffering in the fires of purgatory for venial (lesser) sins. According to the Catholic Church, mortal sin is sin only Jesus can pay for. Venial sins are lesser sins we must pay for in purgatory as a means of purification before we can enter heaven.

Through performing certain rituals or works according to specific Vatican rules, and paying money, a Catholic may obtain an indulgence to shorten the time spent in purgatory. The amount of temporal punishment that is taken away is determined by the value of the act.ii According to the Catholic Church, the primary purpose for granting indulgences is to "help the faithful expiate their sins."iii

The Pope is said to have the authority to give these indulgences to Catholics from a treasury of merit. This invisible treasury contains the infinite merits of Christ, as well as the merits of Mary and the saints. According to Catholic catechism, Catholics can attain "their own salvation and at the same time cooperate in saving their brothers."iv

History of Indulgences

This tradition began in the Middle Ages when Pope Urban II promised a plenary indulgence to anyone who would participate in the Crusades. At first, only the sins of the living could be taken away, but in 1477 Pope Sixtus IV declared they could be applied to the souls in purgatory as well.

Revenues from the sale of indulgences helped finance the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This public selling of indulgences outraged Martin Luther and sparked the Reformation in 1517. As the use of indulgences spread, there were many abuses including the "collection of unlawful profits which blasphemously took away the good name of indulgences."v As a result, Vatican Council II had to set up twenty new rules for granting indulgences, such as rule 17:

The faithful who use with devotion an object of piety (crucifix, cross, rosary, scapular, or medal) after it has been duly blessed by any priest, can gain a partial indulgence. But, if this object of piety is blessed by the Pope or any bishop, the faithful who use it with devotion can also gain a plenary indulgence on the feast of the Apostle Peter and Paul, provided they make a confession of faith using any approved formula.vi

The Roman Catholic Church takes indulgences very seriously:

Since the power of granting indulgences was conferred by Christ on the Church...it condemns with anathema those who assert that they are useless or deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them.vii

Indulgences are played down by some Catholics, but the practice is still occurring. Read about indulgences in a popular Catholic encyclopedia, find out what Pope Benedict XVI has to say about indulgences, or learn about special indulgences given to priests at the Vatican.

The Truth

Roman Catholicism teaches that Jesus Christ completely paid the eternal punishment for sin, but then states a temporal punishment still remains to be paid by indulgences. This would be like a father completely paying off the outstanding debt of his daughter's car loan and the bank insisting the monthly payments must continue.

Those who understand and believe the Gospel know that salvation is a free gift from God. Scriptures clearly state that salvation is by grace not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Grace means a free gift. No one can earn or become worthy of salvation. It is given only through faith.

Indulgences are works of humanity which nullify and oppose God's method of salvation. When Jesus Christ is exalted as the all-sufficient Saviour, He destroys the deceptive works of the devil. Jesus "appeared in order to take away all sins. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the chastening for our well being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed" (1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:4, Isaiah 53:5).

This entry is adapted from Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries' brochure Indulgences: Can Good Works and Rituals Really Save You? by Mike Gendron.

Sources:
i Austin Flannery, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (New York: Costello Publishing, 1988): 70.

ii Ibid: 74-75.

iii Ibid: 71.

iv "Paragraph 1477," The Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1995): 412.

v Austin Flannery, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (New York: Costello Publishing, 1988): 71.

vi Austin Flannery, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (New York: Costello Publishing, 1988): 77-78.

vii Rev. H. J. Schroeder (trans.), "Decree Concerning Indulgences," The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Illinois: TAN Books, 1978): 253.

The Inquisition

The Inquisition is an institution of the Catholic Church by which it has protected itself against incorrect teaching or doctrine. It is based on two ideas: 1) that religious belief is an objective gift of God, not something open for individual interpretation, and 2) that the Church is a sovereign society based on revelation whose duty it is to protect God's deposit of faith.i

Medieval Inquisitions (1184-1860)

What is most commonly known as “The Inquisition” is a series of official tribunals that occurred for the trying of heretics from 1184 until 1860. Before this time, there had been unofficial “inquisitions” dating back even as far as the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 1:20). But in Medieval Europe in the late 1000s and the beginning of the 1100s, new beliefs sprang up that began to threaten the sanctity of the Catholic Church. Pope Innocent III initiated the first of the Inquisitions,ii which were official tribunals held by Pope-appointed clergy officials to hear cases regarding heresy, and make judgments. These tribunals included witnesses and testimony, and were held in conjunction with the local bishop and parish priests.

At first, all of the punishments for heretics convicted in the inquisitions were dealt out by the Church, and included such things as pilgrimage, fines, the wearing of colored crosses, or excommunication. Later, however, the governing officials were given opportunity to punish convicted heretics, and burning at the stake became a popular form of punishment. While at first staunchly opposed to such extreme measures, the Church embraced torture as a viable punishment twenty years after the Inquisition began, and even went so far as to condone torture as a method of eliciting a confession to heresyiii (see The Bloody History of Papal Rome — A Timeline).

The Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834)

After the Medieval Inquisition of the late 12th and early 13th centuries, the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella asked Pope Gregory IX to bring the Inquisition to Spain to root out the Jews, the Muslims, and eventually the spread of Protestantism. The Spanish Inquisition, which ran from 1478-1834, is the most well known and brutal of the Inquisitions, partially due to the involvement of the monarchy. Many people were savagely tortured or burned at the stake, although numbers are impossible to estimate.iv

The Portuguese Inquisition (1536-1821)

After seeing the effects in Spain, Portugal's King Joao followed suit, asking the Pope for an Inquisition that would end up targeting Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.v

The Roman Inquisition (1542-1860)


The last documented Inquisition was the Roman Inquisition, which targeted heresy in Italy itself, with effects also in Southern France. It was fairly tame compared to the previous three eras.

The Inquisitions affected Italy, Southern France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, and even portions of England.vi Each era of the Inquisition targeted different groups, including Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Catharists. Sorcerers, witches, and those who branched off into twisted versions of Catholicism were also subject to trials. It is impossible to estimate how many were tried or killed in the Inquisitions, as reports range from thousands killed to millions killed.

Since its restoration by Pope John Paul II in 1981, the name for the office of the inquisition is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or more simply the “Holy Office.” It is made up of cardinals and bishops, and is primarily involved in the judging of doctrines, practices, and ideas, rather than individuals.vii Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger originally presided over the "Holy Office." Since Ratzinger’s appointment as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Cardinal William Levada has been Prefect of the Congregation.

On March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II delivered a speech in which he apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church for the Inquisition, and the injustices perpetrated during that time.viii

 

Sources:
Kevin Knight, “Inquisition,” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

ii “The Inquisition,” Jewish Virtual Library.

iii Kevin Knight, “Inquisition,” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

iv Kristin Kreger, “The Spanish Inquisition,” WebCron.

v “Portuguese Inquisition,” All Experts Encyclopedia.

vi Kevin Knight, “Inquisition,” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

vii Kevin Knight “The Roman Congregations,” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

viii “Pope John Paul II Makes Unprecedented Apology for Sins of Catholic Church,” CNN.com transcripts.

L

Lent

Lent is generally a 40-day period of fasting and prayer observed by many Catholics and Protestants just before the Easter season.

When did it start?

The beginning of Lent is rather obscure, but by 339 AD, St. Athanasius urges this fast upon the people of Alexandria by telling them they will be a “laughing stock” if they don’t practice this universally observed fast.i

What does Lent celebrate or commemorate?

During Lent, Catholics remember Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil. The fast often focuses on what can be “given up” for Lent, as a means of sharing in Christ’s deprivation in the wilderness. The giving up is supposed to be followed by putting something positive in its place, so Lent is traditionally a time of prayer, helping the poor, and fasting. The benefits are summarized in Pope Benedict’s message for Lent in 2009:


The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it...Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God.ii

Is Lent Biblical?


The Roman Church has added so many traditions to the Gospel that the basic Bible message is often buried. There is no Scripture anywhere in the Bible that commands the observance of Lent. We can learn many beneficial lessons from studying Christ’s temptation in the wilderness—one of the most important is the fact that He defeated Satan by quoting the Bible. Jesus was powerful before the enemy because He knew and trusted the Scripture.

The principle of seeking God via fasting is certainly a Biblical one. One example of this is in Ezra 8:21:

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions (NKJV).

Humbling ourselves and seeking the right way from God is always a good thing to do.

We should not fast simply because a church calendar says so. Instead, we should be really seeking God with our hearts and listening to His Word. Mark 7:9 and Colossians 2:8 both warn of the danger of following purely human traditions.

While being mindful of the fact that it is not a God-ordained fast, if some wish to use the time of Lent as a portion of the year in which they draw nearer to God through prayer, and fasting, this can be of some use. However, the actual dates of Lent need not be observed strictly, as they are not Biblical.

Many Christians do benefit from taking time throughout the year for extra prayer and fasting. Some Christians fast one day a week in order to remember their need for God's sustenance and work in their lives. Some churches designate certain times of the year for corporate prayer and fasting. These practices can be beneficial to us individually and corporately as we draw together to seek God's face, but we need not be tied to dates set by the Roman Catholic Church for a ritual or traditional fast. As Mark 7:13 tells us, we are not to follow human tradition.

For more about fasting, see also the Fast of Tammuz and Ramadan. By Keith King.

Sources:

i Kevin Knight, "Lent," New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

ii Pope Benedict XVi, "Message of His Holiness Benedict XVi for Lent 2009," Vatican.va.

 

M

Mithra

The chief god of Persia was the sun god, Ahura-Mazda, who later became known as Mithra (also Mithras). Under the name Mithra he became the most important god in Rome.

The Iranian sun god Mithra killing the bull. This scene is alluded to in Zoroastrian ...
Historian Will Durant says this about the worship of Ahura-Mazda:

For a while, under Darius II (521-486), [the worship of Ahura-Mazda] became the spiritual expression of a nation at its height...Underneath the official worship of Ahura-Mazda, the cult of Mithra and Anaita—god of the sun and goddess of vegetation and fertility, generation and sex—continued to find devotees; and in the days of Artaxeres II (404-359 BC) their names began to appear again in the royal inscriptions. Thereafter Mithra grew powerfully in favor and Ahura-Mazda faded away until, in the first centuries of our era, the cult of Mithra as a divine youth of beautiful countenance—with a radian halo over his head as a symbol of his ancient identity with the sun—spread throughout the Roman Empire, and shared in giving Christmas to Christianity. Christmas was originally a solar festival, celebrating, at the winter solstice, the lengthening of the day and the triumph of the sun over his enemies. It became a Mithra, and finally a Christian, holy day.i

The leading gods of ancient Persia were Mithra, the sun god; Anaita, the nature goddess, and her lover Haoma, who rose to life again. Later, the dying-rising Haoma became transformed into the dying-rising Mithra, the saviour god. Learn more about the history of Mithraism

Satan twisted God's plan of salvation. He infused pagan religions with a mythical version to pervert the beauty and meaning of God's plan and to cause people to misunderstand the true Saviour and His sacrifice when it actually came. Mithra worship was a carefully contrived counterfeit of Christianity, which Satan has been using to confuse minds over the centuries.

Mithraism in Catholicism

In the fourth century AD, Mithraic and Ishtar elements of worship were incorporated into Christian worship, into what became the Roman Catholic Church:

Mithra was always shown with a solar halo around his head; so portraits and statues of Christ, Mary, and the saints also had halos around their heads.

Because Mithra was worshiped on the first day of the week, which the Persians and Romans called the sun day, Sunday sacredness—which is nowhere to be found in the Bible—came into the Christian Church. Read more about how our culture is infused with Mithraism

Mithra, the sun, “died and rose to life” each year on December 25 when the sun was lowest in the sky. Because of this, the birth of Christ began to be celebrated on that date, although it is clear from facts in the Bible that He was born in the fall. Learn more about Christmas' pagan roots

Adapted from Vance Ferrell, Christmas, Easter, and Halloween—Where Do They Come From? (Altamont, TN: Harvestime Books, 2003).

Sources:
Will Durant, The Story of Civilization Volume 1 (MJF Books, 1993).

 

P

Paschal Mystery

The Pope often talks of the “paschal mystery.” What is the paschal mystery, and is it based upon Christian or pagan ideas?

What is the Paschal Mystery?


Pope Benedict XVI says this:

The Paschal Mystery we relive in the Easter Triduum is not just a memory but a current reality...If we are prepared to suffer and die with Him...His life becomes our life. It is upon this certainty that our Christian lives are built.i

Catholicism encourages believers to relive Christ’s suffering by observing the pious exercises of the paschal mystery. In an article entitled, “Spirit is present in the Paschal Mystery,” the Vatican says this:

If the Holy Spirit's “masterpiece” is the paschal mystery of the Lord Jesus, a mystery of suffering and glory, through the gift of the Spirit Christ's disciples can also suffer and make the cross the path to light...ii

Religious exercises are practiced during this time, such as reciting the Rosary, repeating the “Our Father” prayer, or going around the Stations of the Cross. These practices relive the paschal mystery of Christ’s trial, suffering, and death—eventually celebrating the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Essential to these ritual observances is the mass to reenact Christ’s suffering and death at Calvary.

Are these Rituals Biblical?

We will search in vain to find any reference to the paschal mystery in the Bible. What we do find is Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 3:16:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The word “paschal” (made to refer to the Easter season) originally referred to the Passover. When the early Gentile converts saw Rome persecuting the Jews, they changed the observance of Christ’s death from the Passover to a time celebrating the goddess of fertility at the spring equinox, which became Easter.iii

Easter Mass

The mass is filled with pagan mysticism, as the writers of Pagan Christianity note: 

The mystique associated with the Eucharist was due to the influence of the pagan mystery religions, which were clouded with superstition. With this influence, the Christians began to ascribe sacred overtones to the bread and the cup. They were viewed as holy objects in and of themselves…

Because the Lord’s Supper became a sacred ritual, it required a sacred person to administer it. Enter now the priest offering the sacrifice of the Mass. He was believed to have the power to call God down from heaven and confine Him to a piece of bread.iv

Ancient pagans not only worshiped many gods (representing forces of nature) but desired to gain control over these forces by using magic rituals. Subtle paganism still thrives even in modern society. Christian religion may become pagan as we begin to depend on “magic” instead of the reality of Jesus Himself. This can happen in any denomination, Catholic or Protestant.

The real “mystery” is that Christ became a man to suffer, die, and rise again for us. This historical event on Calvary makes it possible to be right with God by faith in what Christ has done. We fall into the trap of paganism by detouring from historical truth to magical rites. It is not “paschal mystery” rituals that save, but Christ Himself:

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, NKJV).


By Keith King.

Sources:
i Pope Benedict XVI (address given April 4, 2006).

ii “Spirit is present in the Paschal Mystery,” (June 10, 1998).

iii Douglas Harper, "Easter," Online Etymology Dictionary.

iv Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity (Tyndale House Publishers, 2008): 194.

Purgatory

Purgatory is a Catholic doctrine established at the eighth session of the Council of Florence on November 22, 1439. It was also decreed at the Council of Trent on December 4, 1563:

...the holy council commands the bishops that they strive diligently to the end that the sound doctrine of purgatory, transmitted and received buy the Father and sacred councils, be believed and maintained by the faithful of Christ, and be everywhere taught and preached.i

The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that purgatory "is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions."ii

Catholic teaching says that purgatory is a place of purification. This cleansing occurs because salvation does not actually purify God's people enough that they can enter heaven:

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven…The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.iii

This doctrine is not Scriptural, but instead has pagan origins. Historian Alexander Hislop tells us that every pagan system from the Egyptians to the Greeks includes a belief in purgatory. He says that, "in every system, therefore, except that of the Bible, the doctrine of a purgatory after death, and prayers for the dead, has always been found to occupy a place…Paganism leaves hope after death for sinners, who, at the time their departure, were consciously unfit for the abodes of the blest. For this purpose a middle state has been feigned, in which, by means of purgatorial pains, guilt unremoved in time may in a future world be purged away."iv Read more about purgatory and paganism from Alexander Hislop, or read our article on hell and purgatory.

The Bible says nothing about purgatory, or about the concept that our souls continue to live—in another place—immediately after we die, which is reinforced by belief in purgatory. However, it does tell us that only through Christ can we be saved; there is no other way to get to God (John 14:6). His sacrifice is enough to purify us from all our sins—big or small (1 John 1:7-9). There is no need for further purification after death. Our own works or suffering, whether here or in an afterlife, can never bring about our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Sources:
i Rev. H. J. Schroeder (trans.), "Twenty-Fifth Session: Decree Concerning Purgatory," The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books, 1978): 214.

ii Kevin Knight, "Purgatory," New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

iii "Article 12 Part III: The Final Purification, or Purgatory," Catechism of the Catholic Church 2nd Edition.

iv Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons (Ontario: Chick Publications): 2.

 

Q

Quakerism

Members of the Religious Society of Friends (also called Quakers or Friends), participate in an "Alternative Christianity." The Society, which began in 1660, has a Christian background, and highlights important values such as non-violence and God's love for all people. However, many key elements of Quaker doctrine stray from true Christianity.

Pluralism

According to one pamphlet about Quakerism, Facts about Friends, "Quakers have always taught that the Light of Christ has been given to all people everywhere...Friends are prepared to receive insights from wheresoever they may come and agree that there are things to be learned from contact with other religions."i

The Canadian Quaker website tells us this:

We in Canadian Yearly Meeting still do not go to church or have a paid ministry. But we do pay attention to the ministry of others, to the teachings of other religious groups, and to recorded religious experiences, biblical or otherwise. Our own experience is basic, but in our search for Truth we accept insights from many sources.ii

This type of pluralism is dangerous and detracts from the truths found in Scripture.

Tolerance of Sin

Quakers in Britain....
Quakers highly value peace, and believe that tolerance is one way to maintain that peace.

The Society of Friends is divided into "meetings" (similar to congregations) around the world. Because the Bible is not the final authority on moral issues in Quakerism, different meetings have different views on many topics. However, in most nations, same sex marriage and homosexuality have been accepted.

According to a March, 2010, London Times article, Quakers have been calling for legal recognition of religious same sex marriage ceremonies in Britain.iii Similarly, an Australian news service tells us this:

Australian Quakers, meeting in their annual meeting in Adelaide today, called on the Federal Government to amend the Marriage Act to give full and equal legal recognition to all marriages, regardless of the sexual orientation and gender of the partners.

"Australian Quakers celebrated our first same sex marriage in 2007 and seeking legal recognition for such unions is consistent with our long held spiritual belief in the equality of all people", said Lyndsay Farrall, Presiding Clerk of Australia Yearly Meeting.iv

The Bible is painfully clear about two things regarding this issue:
1. That we are to love everyone, especially those that society rejects (see James 1:27, Mark 12:31, Matthew 5:43-45).
2. That homosexuality is an abomination to God (see Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). It rejects the way that He designed man and woman, His plan for their lives, and the system of relationships that He created us to exist in (Romans 1:26-27 NKJV).

It is our responsibility to accept all people and love them without judgment, but not to condone or encourage sinful behavior. Read one story of how Jesus practiced this type of love

Experiential Religion

Quakerism is not about beliefs, but rather about a lifestyle of experiencing God. Friends believe that "Religious knowledge, like the appreciation of beauty, is not attained by a logical process of thought but by experience and feeling."v

The Facts about Friends pamphlet explains the concept this way:

One of the most important messages that Quakers have to offer is that religion, or belief, is experiential. It is not just a matter of accepting words or practices but of experiencing God for oneself.vi 

This doctrine of experiential religion spills over into the view Quakers have on the inspiration of Scripture, the necessity and call of the Church, and the divinity and kingship of Jesus Christ.

The Religious Society of Friends was set up in part to provide a place where, "A human being can have direct communion with God, without the intervention of another human being (a minister), an institution (the church), or a book (the Bible)."vii Within the Society, "the centrality of Jesus is paramount, although his sovereignty is not unanimously upheld."viii

Friends hold that the words of the Bible should not be taken as the final revelation of God. The Books had been written by men who were acting under the power of the Holy Spirit and it was necessary to read the words in the power of the same spirit and to listen to what the Spirit then spoke in your heart. The words were active agents in the sense that, when read in the Spirit at the appropriate time, they would spring to life for the reader and take the reader forward on his or her spiritual journey.ix

Richard Foster and Dallas Willard, both leaders in the evangelical spiritual formation movement and the Renovaré network, are Quakers.x

Sources:
i Ted Hoare, Facts about Friends.

ii Margaret Springer, The Religious Society of Friends: An Introduction (1996).

iii Mary Bowers, "Peers vote for church civil partnership ceremonies," London Times (March 3, 2010).

iv "Quakers call for legal recognition of same  sex marriages," (January 11, 2010).

v Ted Hoare, Facts about Friends. 

vi Ibid.

vii Margaret Springer, The Religious Society of Friends: An Introduction (1996).

viii Ted Hoare, Facts about Friends.

ix Ibid.

x Keith Matthews, “How is it With Your Soul?,” Sojourners (November-December 2003).

 

R

Ramadan

One of the Five Pillars of Islam is the observance of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—a period of religious fasting and meditation on the Qur’an.

When did Ramadan begin historically as a fast period?


The origin of Ramadan is somewhat obscure, but Islamic tradition tells us the Prophet Mohammed received the teachings of the Qur’an on Lailat al-Qadr, or the Night of Power (610 AD), which is believed to have occurred during the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. The entire month became a fast period, and one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

What is the purpose of Ramadan’s fasting?


Islam sees fasting as a means of great blessing, as in the following quotation:

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. Whoever prays during the nights in Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. And he who passes Lailat al-Qadr in prayer with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven (Bukhari, Muslim).i

Is the fast of Ramadan Biblical?


Those who are seeking a purely Bible-based faith will not find Ramadan mentioned in Scripture. It originates from the reverencing of the Qur’an from the prophet Mohammed. Jonah 3:5-10 tells of the fasting and repentance of the people of Nineveh when they were warned by the prophet Jonah of the approach of God’s Judgment. Nineveh was a pagan city, and yet their fasting and repentance did lead to God giving them another chance.

The true God is very merciful and understanding. Peter declares this in Acts 10:34-36:

In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all (NKJV).

One of the sad facts about Ramadan is that Muslims do not recognize Jesus Christ as Lord of all—He is merely one of many prophets. Instead, Islam recognizes the prophet Mohammed as the last great prophet.

It is not Biblical to practice fasting during the month of Ramadan in order to have past sins forgiven. Forgiveness is achieved by confessing our sins to God, not by fasting (see 1 John 1:9).

According to Matthew 6:16-18, fasting can become an exercise that will bring us closer to God. But we must not trust the fast itself to bring us God’s favor. We are saved by God’s grace in Christ, not by fasting. What a great and loving God we have!

For more about fasting, see also Lent and the Fast of Tammuz. By Keith King.

Sources:
i "Ramadan," Islam 101.

The Rosary

The rosary is a tool for Catholic prayer. Similar to the mantra beads used in Eastern religions, the rosary is a string of beads which represent various prayers that need to be recited. The "Hail Mary" and "Our Father" prayers are repeated the most often.

History of the Rosary

A Catholic guide to reciting the rosary. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia....
The Catholic New Advent Encylopedia says this about how the ritual of the rosary began:

 

...when the Albigensian heresy was devastating the country of Toulouse, St. Dominic earnestly besought the help of Our Lady [Mary] and was instructed by her, so tradition asserts, to preach the Rosary among the people as an antidote to heresy and sin. From that time forward this manner of prayer was "most wonderfully published abroad and developed by St. Dominic whom different Supreme Pontiffs have in various past ages of their apostolic letters declared to be the institutor and author of the same devotion." That many popes have so spoken is undoubtedly true, and amongst the rest we have a series of encyclicals, beginning in 1883, issued by Pope Leo XIII, which, while commending this devotion to the faithful in the most earnest terms, assumes the institution of the Rosary by St. Dominic to be a fact historically established.i

The Catholic encyclopedia and other sources suggest a more organic introduction of the rosary into Catholicism, and do not deny its inherent connections with Eastern meditation practices.

In more recent history, Popes Pius XI, John Paul I, and John Paul II, among others, have commended and even commanded the use of the rosary in prayer.

The Rosary and Spiritualism

Catholics disagree with Protestants who say that rosary recitations are "vain repetitions" as condemned in Matthew 6. Their argument is that "the spirit of the exercise lies in the meditation upon the fundamental mysteries of our faith," in which the words prayed in the rosary "form only a sort of half-conscious accompaniment."ii

Half-conscious repetition of words is common in Eastern meditation and is a dangerous practice that opens the mind up to spiritualistic experiences. "Buddhists and Hindus practice the repetition of a word or phrase in their attempts to empty their minds and reach higher states of consciousness that reveal their own divinity (emphasis in original).iii Read more about the dangers of repetitive mantras, and learn healthy ways to pray and seek God

The Rosary and Mary Worship

Another key element of the rosary is the veneration of Mary. Without Mary, Catholics believe the rosary loses its power:

The Rosary thus joins the human race to God through Mary whom God chose from all time for the specific purposes of mother and intercessor.iv

According to Catholic tradition, three young Portuguese children were visited by an apparition of Mary several times throughout the early 1900s. They were told to pray for forgiveness for "sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary." Mary is reported to have also said to them, "I am the Lady of the Rosary, I desire here a chapel in my honor to be built, that people continue to recite the Rosary every day."v

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this:

The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship...The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," expresses this devotion to the Virgin Mary.vi

Rosary praying is an unBiblical, and even pagan, practice that pulls people farther away from God rather than drawing them closer. Instead of glorifying God, it exalts Mary, who, although an important historical figure, has no power to answer prayers. Mary should never be worshiped or regarded as anything more than a humble human who was willing to be used by God during her life for His purpose and glory.


Sources:

i Kevin Knight, "The Rosary," New Advent Encyclopedia.

ii Ibid.

iii Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007): 113-114.

iv Holy Cross Family Ministries, "Rosary: Explanation and History"

"Apparitions at Fatima," The Holy Rosary.

vi "Devotion to the Blessed Mary," Catachism of the Catholic Church (Liguori Publications, 1994): 253. 

 

S

Saint

Christians do not always agree on the definition or usage of the term “saint.” The Catholic Church, for example, uses this term to refer to a person officially recognized and venerated for having attained heaven after an exceptionally holy life. They teach that people who have not lived a good life can gain merit from these “saints” so that they too can enter heaven. Read a news story about a recently-canonized Catholic saint

There are several problems with this definition. First, the Bible teaches that when we die we do not go straight to heaven but rather rest in the grave until the resurrection. If we have been faithful, we will be raised at Jesus’ Second Coming and go to heaven with the living faithful (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). No dead person could give us any protection whatsoever, because the dead are still waiting unknowingly their graves. 

Second, the Bible does not teach that we can gain any merit whatsoever by other people’s good works. Everyone will gain the reward of their own works when Jesus comes again:

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be (Revelation 22:12).

Also, we are rewarded for our works, but not saved by them. No one will be saved by the good they have done, or especially not the good anyone else has done (see Titus 3:5-7). What, then, is the Biblical definition of a saint? Here are two places where the Bible uses the word:

They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD (Psalm 106:16).

Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you (Philippians 4:21).

This first text in Psalms calls Aaron the priest a saint. Aaron was anything but perfect, as the Biblical account of his life shows (see, for example, Exodus 32). Although Aaron was a sinner, he was considered a saint because he trusted in the merits of God’s Son, the Lamb who would one day come to be sacrificed to save us from our sins.

Aaron was a true follower of God and lived his life to bring honor and glory to God. He knew that he could obtain mercy and pardon for his sins if he confessed them and relied upon God for salvation. Aaron went to his death in the hope of being resurrected one day and spending eternity with the Lord.

The second text, in Philippians, tells us to salute every saint in Christ Jesus. Paul is simply referring to those who also believe in God. We know that no one except Jesus has lived a perfect life. The Bible says, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

The Bible also tells us that those that overcome, keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus will enter the kingdom of heaven (see Revelation 2, 3, and 14). These are the saints that the Bible talks about. They are not saints because of what they have done themselves but because they are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and have overcome sin through faith in Jesus.

Sanctification

Sanctification is essential for salvation. The definition of sanctification is “to set apart as holy; consecrate, to make free from sin.”

For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:2-3).

Sanctification God's work to transform our characters, so that we can keep His law. It is the ability to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). This transformation of character can only be obtained by faith and acceptance of Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins:

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).

We cannot obtain sanctification unless we have accepted Jesus as our Saviour and have His Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Then by faith and the surrender of our will to Him our characters are transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible says we must believe the truth “because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). What is the truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He also said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

We must have a personal relationship with Jesus and this is obtained through the study and acceptance of God’s Word, the Bible. The Holy Spirit helps understand God’s Word and convicts us that we are sinners in need of a Saviour. We are then pointed to Jesus who is our forgiveness if we confess our sins. Then, through His power, we undertake the change of character that enables us to keep God’s law.

When we ask God to work in us, we begin to grow into the people He wants us to be.

This is a work of a lifetime. It is not instantaneous. Jesus described this by giving us the example of how corn grows: “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear” (Mark 4:28).

Paul also describes this transformation in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This glass is the mirror that James refers to in James 1:23-25:


For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all involved in this work of sanctification for us:

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2). 



Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

God is more than willing and able to perform this work of sanctification in our lives. What is our part in all this? We must keep our eyes on Jesus and not allow Satan to distract us with the things of this world or our own past failures and difficulties. We must remain on the path where our feet can walk in safety. This is simply done by God’s word at work in our lives. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). We may claim the promises of our faithful and merciful God everyday.

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

 

T

The Fast of Tammuz (17th of Tammuz)

The Cleveland Jewish News says, “Tammuz, for whom the month was named, was, in Babylonian mythology, the son of the god Ishtar. He was supposed to descend into the underworld in the middle of summer and reappear the following spring. The myth is generally regarded as representing the spirit of vegetation, or possibly the sun, which sets each day earlier after the summer solstice.”i

 

Despite these pagan roots, the fourth month of the Jewish sacred calendar is called Tammuz. The 17th of Tammuz is the day of a special fast, which begins a mourning period that extends to the 9th day of fifth month, Av.

When did this fast start?


The 17th of Tammuz links to the fast of “the fourth month” mentioned in Zechariah 8:19, and has been observed since the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. It became more of a mandatory fast after a revolt in 135 AD was squelched by the Romans.

 

A Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion states this:

The three weeks from the Fast of Tammuz to the Ninth of Av (Tisha Be-Av) are weeks of mourning during which no marriages are celebrated and observant Jews do not listen to music...the Fast of Tammuz lasts only from early morning until sunset, unlike the fasts of Tisha Be-Av and Yom Kippur which last from sunset to sunset.ii

What does it celebrate or commemorate?


The Mishnah, or transcription of the Jewish oral tradition, describes five woes that occurred on the 17th of Tammuz:

On the seventeenth of Tammuz the stone tables were broken [by Moses when he saw the Israelites worshipping the golden calf], and the daily offering ceased [when the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple], and the city was broken up [by the Romans], and Apostemus burnt the law, and he set up an image in the Temple.iii

Is this fast Biblical?


Smith’s Bible Dictionary tells us, “One fast only was appointed by the law, that on the day of Atonement.”iv Other fasts are identified in Zechariah 7:1-7 and 8:19 by the months they were observed. So the fast of Tammuz is not an official Bible fast. In fact, in Ezekiel 8:13-14 the act of “weeping for Tammuz” is one of the “greater abominations” God points out to the prophet.

Why Fast?


The fast of Tammuz commemorates many sad events in Jewish history. Rabbi Yehudah Prero tells us, “We are assured that if we properly appreciate the enormity of our loss, we merit to share in the joy of seeing Jerusalem reestablished in all its glory.”v

Motivation is extremely important when fasting. In Isaiah 58 the Lord tells the prophet that the “fast that I have chosen” is to care for the oppressed and needy, rather than “a day for a man to afflict his soul.” The act of fasting is supported by the Bible, such as in Matthew 6:16-18 when Jesus says when—not if—you fast. Jesus upholds fasting as a means of seeking the Father in your own life, not as an empty ritual, nor a public display of reverence.

The truly sad thing about the fast of Tammuz is that the Jewish people failed to recognize their Messiah when He came. This fact remains hidden to them.

No one finds salvation by means of fasting. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul tells us we are saved by God’s grace freely given to us, and which we accept by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. After this, we can do the good works God has planned for us, because we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.”

 

For more about fasting, see Lent and Ramadan. By Keith King.

Sources:
i Herb Geduld, “17th of Tammuz a minor holiday, major impact,” Cleveland Jewish News.

ii Louis Jacobs, A Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion (Oxford University Press, 1999).

iii Joseph Barclay, "Taanit 4:6," The Talmud (1878).

iv “Fasts,” Smith’s Bible Dictionary Pyramid edition (February 1967): 188.

v Yehudah Prero, "The 17th of Tammuz: a Hopeful Mourning," Torah.org.

Transubstantiation

Transubstantiation is the Catholic belief that when a priest blesses the bread and wine of the Eucharist, it becomes Christ's literal body and blood. Catholicism teaches that Christ taught His disciples about transubstantiation, and then gave them the power to transform the bread and wine into His body and blood. This power is then passed on through ordination to priests throughout the generations.i

Catholic catechism says this:

"Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to His Church..."most especially in the Eucharistic species." The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real'...because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes Himself wholly and entirely present." It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament.ii

The Catholic Council of Trent in the 16th century determined this to be the truth about transubstantiation:

But since Christ our Redeemer declared that to be truly His own body which He offers under the form of bread, it has, therefore, always been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy council now declares it anew, that by the consecration of the blood and wine a change is brought about of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation.iii

For the most part, the bread and wine do not seem to change in form, appearance, smell, or taste while transubstantiated. Catholics call these senses the "accidents," and say that although these do not change, the "real" substance of the bread and wine become the full presence of Christ:

The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.iv

The History of Transubstantiation

Across 11th-century Europe, "discussion revolved around the meaning of the words of consecration in the mass: 'This is my body, this is my blood.' Berengar [of Tours, French theologian] held that a real and true change takes place in these elements, but that the change is spiritual, and that the bread and wine remain of the same substance."

At that time, Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, debated with Berengar, stating that while the "accidents" of the bread and wine remained the same, the underlying forms were changed into Christ's literal body and blood. "During a long and bitter controversy (1045-80) the term 'transubstantiation' emerged and took on Lanfranc's definition. Berengar was condemned and forced to disown his views."v 

Transubstantiation was affirmed officially in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council. At the Council of Trent in 1563, the doctrine was reaffirmed:

If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and the wine remains cojointly with the blood and body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and sinular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of the bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema.vi

Transubstantiation Today

Roger Oakland tells us that many contemporary Catholics do not believe in transubstantiation, "However, the Church's position on this is clear. Anyone who denies any aspect of the Church's teachings on the Eucharist is to be 'anathema'!"vii


According to a brochure by the Knights of Columbus, "Recent polls indicate that a significant number of Catholics do not have a complete understanding of the Eucharist and specifically the real presence of Christ in the Blesses Sacrament. Whatever the cause of such misunderstanding of the faith, all who approach the table of the Lord need to recognize the significance of their action and the importance of their spiritual preparation."viii

A recent edition of the Catholic magazine envoy featured an article about the Eucharist called "Is this God?" In it, author Dave Armstrong reaffirms the importance of transubstantiation to Catholicism:

Eucharist is a supernatural transformation, in which substantial change occurs without accidental change. Thus, the outward properties of bread and wine continue after consecration, but their essence and substance are replaced by the substance of the true and actual Body and Blood of Christ. This is what requires faith, and what causes many to stumble, because it is a miracle of a very sophisticated nature, one that doesn’t lend itself to empirical or scientific “proof.” But, in a sense, it is no more difficult to believe than the changing of water to ice, in which the outward properties change, while the substance (molecular structure) doesn’t. The Eucharist merely involves the opposite scenario: the substance changes while the outward properties don’t. Can anyone reasonably contend that one process is any more intrinsically implausible than the other, where an omnipotent God — particularly One Who took on human flesh and became Man — is concerned?ix

It seems that hundreds of years after the doctrine was first affirmed, transubstantiation continues to be an issue close to the Catholic Church's heart.

Is Transubstantiation Biblical?

1 Corinthians 11 is a key passage used in support of transubstantiation. But do Scriptures really say that Christ's blood and body literally appear during communion? Read verses 23-29:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

A Remembrance
Ralph Woodrow reminds us that Christ tells us to take the bread and wine in remembrance of Him. But, "If the elements of the communion become the actual flesh and blood of Christ, how could we take it "in remembrance...until he comes" if he thus becomes present in body, blood, soul, and deity?"x In other words, why would Christ ask us to participate in a ritual of remembrance until His return, if He was going to appear every time the custom was performed?

Drinking of Blood
In both the Old and New Testaments, God's people are told to avoid consuming blood (See Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:12; 1 Samuel 14:34; Acts 15:29, 21:25). God never contradicts Himself, and therefore would not tell His people to drink blood.

Symbolism
Christ constantly used symbolism to describe Himself and His Kingdom to His followers. He called Himself a door, a vine, and even the bread of life. In the Old Testament, God was referred to as a rock, a horn, and a bird. These descriptions were clearly symbolic, used to help us humans understand God's character. When Christ said "this is my body" and "this is my blood," He was not speaking literally, but rather was again using elements of the natural world as teaching tools.

Worship of Physical Objects
God has made it clear that we are not to worship idols or any physical object. However, in order to participate in Catholic communion fully, adherents must not only believe that the bread and wine are Christ's body and blood, but they must also worship those objects as they partake:

Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration to the Lord.xi

During the adoration of the Holy Sacrament, the consecrated host [bread] is presented to the faithful in a monstrance (from the Latin word monstrare, "to show"). It consists of a piece of gold or silver plate, decorated with an ornamental motif, centred on a circular base...The monstrance very often creates the effect of a gleaming sun around the Holy Sacrament.xii

The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers the cult of adoration to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving Consecrated Hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to solemn veneration, and carrying them processionally to the joy of great crowds of the faithful.xiii

So, is transubstantiation Biblical? No. As Roger Oakland reminds us, Jesus does not "tell His disciples to institute a priesthood that will consecrate bread and turn it into His literal flesh. Nor does He teach here [John 6], or anywhere in the Bible, to worship His body and blood under the appearance of bread."xiv

Sources:
i David Pearson, "Do Catholics Worship Cookies?" envoy 7.2 (2003): 14.

ii "The Celebration of Christian Mystery," The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori Publications, 1994): 346.

iii Reverend H. J. Schroeder (trans.), "Transubstantiation," The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books, 1978): 75.

iv "The Celebration of Christian Mystery," The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori Publications, 1994): 347.

v Tim Dooley (ed.) An Introduction to the History of Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002): 282.

vi Reverend H. J. Schroeder (trans.), "Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist," The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books, 1978): 79.

vii Roger Oakland and Jim Tetlow, Another Jesus? (Silverton, Oregon: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007): 48.

viii Father John A. Farren (ed.) "Questions and Answers on the Eucharist: Proclaiming the Faith in the Third Millennium" (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, 2000): 13.

ix Dave Armstrong, "Is this God?" envoy Magazine (2000).

x Ralph Woodrow, Babylon Mystery Religion: Ancient and Modern (Riverside, California: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, 1970): 127.

xi "The Celebration of Christian Mystery," The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori Publications, 1994): 347.

xii Dom Robert De Gall, Symbols of Catholicism (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2003): 96.

xii Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei—Mystery of Faith (September 3, 1965).

xiv Roger Oakland and Jim Tetlow, Another Jesus? (Silverton, Oregon: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007): 21.

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