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Catholic Doctrine on the Holy Trinity ^ | 2003 | Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Posted on 06/06/2009 8:01:57 PM PDT by Salvation

Catholic Doctrine on the Holy Trinity

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the most fundamental of our faith. On it everything else depends and from it everything else derives. Hence the Church’s constant concern to safeguard the revealed truth that God is One in nature and Three in Persons.

In order to do some justice to this sublime subject, we shall look only briefly at the heretical positions that at various periods of the Church’s history challenged the revealed Trinitarian faith. Our principal intention is to see in sequence the development of the doctrine, with emphasis on how the Church’s authority has contributed to the progress in understanding the plurality of persons in the one true God. 

There is also great value in seeing some of the implications of the doctrine for our personal and social lives, since the mystery was most extensively revealed by Christ during the same discourse at the Last Supper when He taught us the “New Commandment” by which we are to love one another as He has been loving us.

Trinitarian Heresies

There is a certain logic in the adversative positions assumed by those who called into question one or another aspect of the Trinity. Not surprisingly the human mind has wrestled with what God revealed about Himself in His inner Trinitarian existence. And depending on the willingness to recognize its limitations, the intellect has been enlightened by what God says about His mysterious being.

Thus we have, on the one hand, such extensive treatises as St. Augustine’s De Trinitate that show how perfectly compatible is the mystery of the Triune God with the deepest reaches of human intelligence. Indeed, the better the Trinity is understood, the more the human mind expands its horizons and the better it understands the world that the Trinity has created.

At the same time, we have the spectacle of another phenomenon. Minds that are not fully docile to the faith have, in greater or less measure, resisted the unquestioning acceptance of the Trinity. From apostolic times to the present, they have struggled with themselves and in their misguided effort to “explain” the mystery have only rationalized their own ideas of what the mystery should be.

For the sake of convenience, we can capsulize the leading anti-Trinitarian teachings of Christian history. Although given here somewhat chronologically, they are all very current because one or another, or a combination of several, may be found in contemporary writings in nominally Christian sources. There is no such thing as an antiquated doctrinal error, as correspondingly there is no such thing as an entirely new heresy. Error has its own remarkable consistency.


By the end of the first century, certain Judaizing Christians lapsed into a pre-Christian notion of God. According to them God is simply unipersonal. Such were the Corinthians and the Ebionites.

Within the next hundred years these theories were systemized into what has since become known as Monarchianism, i.e., monos = one + archein = to rule, which postulates only one person in God. In practice, however, Monarchianism affected certain positions regarding the nature and person of Christ; and these were the ones that finally had to be countered by the Church’s Magisterium.

If there is only one person in God, then the Son of God did not become man except as the embodiment of an adopted son of God. According to the Adoptionists, Christ was a mere man, though miraculously conceived of the Virgin Mary. At Christ’s baptism, He was endowed by the Father with extraordinary power and was then specially adopted by God as son. Among others, the best known Adoptionist was Paul of Samosata. 

Another group of Monarchians took the view that Christ was divine. But then it was the Father who became incarnate, who suffered and died for the salvation of the world. Those favoring this idea were called Patripassionists, which literally means “Father-sufferers,” meaning that Christ was only symbolically the son of God, since it was the Father Himself who became man. On this hypothesis, of course, the Father, too, is only symbolically Father, since He does not have a natural Son.

The best known Patripassionist was Sabellius, who gave his name to a still popular Christological heresy, Sabellianism. According to Sabellius, there is in God only one hypostasis (person) but three prosopa, literally “masks” or “roles” that the unipersonal God assumes. These three roles correspond to the three modes or ways that God manifests Himself to the world. Hence another name for this theory is Modalism.

In the Modalist system, God manifests Himself, in the sense of reveals Himself, as the Father in creation, as the Son in redemption, and as the Holy Spirit in sanctification. There are not really three distinct persons in God but only three ways of considering God from the effects He has produced in the world.


Unlike the foregoing, Subordinationism admits there are three persons in God but denies that the second and third persons are consubstantial with the Father. Therefore it denies their true divinity. There have been different forms of Subordinationism, and they are still very much alive, though not all easily recognizable as Trinitarian errors in which the mind tries to comprehend how one single infinitely perfect divine nature can be three distinct persons, each equally and completely God.

The Arians, named after the Alexandrian priest Arius, held that the Logos or Word of God does not exist from eternity. Consequently there could not have been a generation of the Son from the Father but only by the Father. The Son is a creature of the Father and to that extent a “son of God.” He came into existence from nothing, having been willed by the Father, although as “the first born of all creation,” the Son came into the world before anything else was created.

The Semi-Arians tried to avoid the extreme of saying that Christ was totally different from the Father by conceding that He was similar to or like the Father, hence the name Homoi-ousians, i.e., homoios = like = ousia = nature, by which they are technically called.

There was lastly the group of Macedonians, named after Bishop Macedonius (deposed in 360 AD), who extended the notion of subordination to the Holy Spirit, who was claimed not to be divine but a creature. They were willing to admit that the Holy Spirit was a ministering angel of God.


At the other extreme to saying there was only one person in God was the heresy that held (and holds) there are really three gods. Certain names stand out.

According to John Philoponus (565 AD), nature and person are to be identified, or, in his language ousia = hypostasis. There are then three persons in God who are three individuals of the Godhead, just as we would speak of three human beings and say there are three individuals of the species man. Thus instead of admitting a numerical unity of the divine nature among the three persons in God, this theory postulates only a specific unity, i.e., one species but not one numerical existence.

In the theory of Roscelin (1120 AD), a Nominalist, only the individual is real. So the three persons in God are actually three separate realities. St. Anselm wrote extensively against this error.

Gilbert of Poitiers (1154 AD) said there is a real difference between God and the Divinity. As a result there would be a quaternity, i.e., three persons and the Godhead.

Abbot Joachim of Fiore (1202 AD) claimed that there is only a collective unity of the three persons in God, to form the kind of community we have among human beings, i.e., a gathering of like-minded persons joined together by their freedom to work together on a common enterprise. Joachim of Fiore is also known in doctrinal history as the one who projected the idea of three stages in Christian history. Stage One was the Age of the Father, through Old Testament times; Stage Two was the Age of the Second Person, the Son, which lasted from the time of the Incarnation to the Middle Ages; Stage Three began about the time of Abbot Joachim and will continue to the end of the world, as the Age of the Holy Spirit.

Anton Guenther (1873) was deeply infected with Hegelian pantheism and proclaimed a new Trinity. Guenther said that the Absolute freely determined Itself three successive times in an evolutionary process of development as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. So the divine substance is trebled.

Post-Reformation Protestantism

The original Reformers affirmed the Trinity without qualification. Thus Luther and Calvin, and the sixteenth century confessions of Protestant faith uniformly attested to the Trinity of Persons in God. But the subjectivism of the Protestant principles paved the way to a gradual attrition of the faith, so that rationalism has made deep inroads into the denominations. The most common form of this rationalism takes the three persons in God as only three personifications of the divine attributes, e.g., divine power is personified by the Father, divine wisdom by the Son, and divine goodness by the Holy Spirit.

In this context, we may define rationalism as that system of thought that claims that the human mind cannot hold with certainty what it cannot understand. Since the Trinity cannot be fully understood, it cannot therefore be held to be certain.

Teaching of the Church

The history of the Church’s doctrine on the Trinity reaches back to the earliest days of Christianity. Our purpose here is to see in review some of the leading statements of the Magisterium, while pointing out some features of each document.

Pope St. Dionysius in 259 AD wrote a public letter to Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria in which he condemned the errors of Sabellius and the tritheist Marcion. The significance of this document lies in the fact that it paved the way for the Church’s later teaching, notably in the famous councils that dealt with the person of Christ. The popes led the way in defending the revealed mystery of the Trinity and in explaining its meaning, long before ecumenical councils entered the controversy. Even a few sentences from the pope’s letter will show the intransigence of the Church and her sureness of mind about the Trinity:

Sabellius’ blasphemy is that the Son is the Father, and the Father the Son. These men somehow teach there are three gods since they divine the sacred unity into three different hypostases completely separate from one another.
The teaching of the foolish Marcion who divides and separates the one God into three principles is a teaching from the devil, not the teaching of those who truly follow Christ and who are content with the teachings of the Savior.

At the Council of Nicea (325 AD), the Second Person was declared to be consubstantial with the Father, where the term homo-ousios became the consecrated word for expressing perfect numerical identity of nature between the Father and His Son who became incarnate.

But Nicea did not settle the controversy. Speculators, especially in the Near East, insisted on probing and rationalizing the Trinity so that in 382 AD Pope St. Damasus called a council at Rome in which he summarized the main errors up to his time. Called the Tome of Damasus, this collection of anathemas is a series of definitions on the Trinity that to this day are models of clarity. Twenty-four in number, a sample from the collection again reflects the Church’s perennial faith:

If anyone denies that the Father is eternal, that the Son is eternal, and that the Holy Spirit is eternal: he is a heretic.
If anyone says that the Son made flesh was not in heaven with the Father while He was on earth: he is a heretic.
If anyone denies that the Holy Spirit has all power and knows all things, and is everywhere, just as the Father and the Son: he is a heretic.

The most extensive declaration of the Church’s teaching on the Trinity was made at the Eleventh Synod of Toledo in Spain (675 AD). It is a mosaic of texts drawn from all the preceding doctrines of the Church. Its purpose was to assemble as complete a list of doctrinal statements as possible, in view of the still prevalent errors in nominally Christian circles, and (providentially) in view of the rise of Islam which struck with particular vehemence against the Iberian peninsula. Since the main target of Moslem opposition to Christianity was the Koranic claim that Christians were idolaters because they adored Christ as God, it is instructive to see how the faithful were prepared to resist the Moslem Unitarianism by a clear declaration of their own belief in the Triune God. The full text of doctrine at Toledo runs to over two thousand words. Only a few lines will be given to illustrate the tone:

We confess and we believe that the holy and indescribable Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one only God in His nature, a single substance, a single nature, a single majesty and power.
We acknowledge Trinity in the distinction of persons; we profess Unity because of the nature or substance. The three are one, as a nature, that is, not as person. Nevertheless, these three persons are not to be considered separable, since we believe that no one of them existed or at any time effected anything before the other, after the other, or without the other.

Two general councils of the Church formulated the faith in the Trinity in specific creeds, namely the Fourth Lateran and the Council of Florence.

The focus of Fourth Lateran was twofold, to reaffirm the faith in the face of the Albigensian heresy and to defend it against the vagaries of Abbot Joachim.

Since the Albigenses were Manichaens, for whom there were two ultimate sources of the universe, one a good principle and the other an evil one, Lateran declared the absolute oneness of God, who is at the same time Triune:

We firmly believe and profess without qualification that there is only one true God, eternal, immense, unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent, and indescribable, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; three persons but one essence and a substance or nature that is wholly simple.
The Father is from no one; the Son is from the Father only; and the Holy Spirit is from both the Father and the Son equally. God has no beginning; He always is, and always will be. The Father is the progenitor, the Son is the begotten, the Holy Spirit is proceeding. They are all one substance, equally great, equally all-powerful, equally eternal. They are the one and only principle of all things—Creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporeal, who, by His almighty power, from the very beginning of time has created both orders of creatures in the same way out of nothing, the spiritual or angelic worlds and the corporeal or visible universe.

Abbot Joachim had a plurality of gods. In his effort to explain how the persons in the Trinity are distinct, he made them so separate that he ended up making them separate deities. Joachim’s problem was transferring what happens in human generation, when something of the parent goes over to the offspring, and is thereby distinct. He pressed the analogy too far and fell into error.

In response to this, the Fourth Lateran Council used the most technical language to insist that there is no division in God just because there is a distinction of persons:

The Father in eternally begetting the Son gave Him His own substance as the Son Himself testifies, “What my Father has given me is greater than all.” But it cannot be said that He gave Him part of His substance, and retained part for Himself, because the substance of the Father is indivisible, since it is altogether simple. Neither can one say that the Father transferred His own substance in generation to the Son, as though He gave it to the Son in such a way that He did not retain it for Himself; otherwise He would cease to be a substance.

The situation at the Council of Florence (1442 AD) was different. Here the need was to state the constant teaching of the Church with a view to reuniting the Eastern and Western Churches, separated by the Eastern Schism.

One feature of Florence, however, that needed to be clarified was brought about by the addition to the Nicene Creed of the expression Filioque, i.e. “and from the Son,” which Rome had approved. The Roman Creed now read, “the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The Easterners were uncomfortable with the addition, saying that Rome had tampered with a general council. The issue at stake was the true divinity of the Holy Spirit and the true divinity of the Second Person. Consequently, the Council of Florence, in the long Trinitarian Creed that it issued, stated as follows:

The Father is entirely in the Son and entirely in the Holy Spirit; the Son is entirely in the Father and entirely in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is entirely in the Father and entirely in the Son. None of the persons precedes any of the others in eternity, nor does any have greater immensity or greater power. From eternity, without beginning, the Son is from the Father; and from eternity and without beginning, the Holy Spirit has proceeded from the Father and the Son.

Human language could not be clearer, and there the faith of the Church stands to day and will until the end of time. Since the Council of Florence, popes and councils have simply drawn on the elaborate and absolutely unambiguous teaching of Sacred Tradition to offer the faithful for acceptance what is at once the glory of Catholic Christianity and its greatest revealed mystery.

Principal Implications

As we are learning today, faith in the Trinity is the basic test of our Catholic faith as Christians. This is not merely to say that objectively this doctrine is the most fundamental. It is. But subjectively, from our side, it is also the most crucial because it represents the hardest demand on our creedal assent.

All natural knowledge leads us to see only specific unity among human beings. We have one human nature, indeed, but we are only specifically one as distinct persons. We are really distinct as persons but we are also separate realities. Not so with the Trinity. Each of the divine Persons is the infinite God, and no one Person has only a “share” in the divine nature, a part of it so to speak. Yet they are not three infinities, but only one infinite God.

Relative to generation, all natural knowledge tells us that the parenthood and offspring imply a before and after generation, they imply a producer and a produced, a cause and effect. Not so in the eternal generation of the Son of God by the Father.

All natural knowledge tells us that while love is “outgoing” it does not literally give rise to a third person who is at once distinct from the two who love and numerically one with them in nature. Yet this is the case with God, where the Holy Spirit is declared by the Church as “the Love or the Sanctity of both the Father and the Son.” He proceeds from them without being another god.

But the Trinity is more than a test of our faith. It is also the perfect model of our selfless love. As revelation tells us, within the Godhead is a plurality of Persons, so that God is defined as Love because He has within His own being, to use our language, the object of love which is an Other with whom each of the Persons can share the totality of their being.

We therefore see from reflection on this Triune Love that love by its essence is not self-centered, that love unites, that love gives, and that love shares perfectly within the Godhead. Love is therefore as perfect in us as it approximates the perfect sharing that constitutes the Trinity.

At the same time, we recall that, while perfectly selfless in their mutual sharing of the divine nature, the Persons in the Trinity do not thereby cease to be themselves. Again, this is a lesson for us. We are to give of ourselves generously and without stinting. Nevertheless we are also to give in such a way that we remain ourselves and not become, as it were, something else in the process of sharing. There is such a thing as calculating charity, when a person gives of himself but “not too much” because he fears that his love may be too costly. This is not the teaching of Christ, who told us to love others not only as much as we love ourselves but as much as He loves us.

Saying this, however, is not to say that charity should not be wise. It would be unwise if it deprived us of that which God wants us to be and made us less than we are expected to be. Charity must, therefore, be enlightened; it must be guided by the standard of the Trinity, where each of the divine Persons gives and shares perfectly, yet without ceasing to be what each Person is to be. The Father does not become less the Father in begetting the Son and thus totally sharing the divine nature; nor do Father and Son cease to be themselves although they completely share their divinity with the Holy Spirit.

We thus have a confluence of two mysteries, of the Trinity in heaven and of liberty on earth. The Trinity is the pattern for our liberty. If we use our freedom to love others as we should, modeled on the Triune God, we shall reach that God in eternity. This is our hope, based on our faith, and conditioned by our love.

Father John Hardon, S.J., is founder of The Catholic Faith magazine

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; cult; trinity
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To: CTrent1564
He shed blood, didn't He? He died and was buried, wasn't He? He resurrected, didn't He? He would be the firstborn among many brethren [Romans 8:29], wouldn't He? Our Lord was a "man".....born of woman.

[I Corinthians 15:20-23] 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by "man" came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's "at his coming". i.e. the resurrection!

[John 1:14-18] 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. This was who He was prior to His crucifixion and resurrection.

Now, if you are a Oneness Pentecostal or Jehova’s Witness, then what you are saying is diametrically opposed to orthodox Christian doctrine and in fact, is objectively not even Christianity.

Well.....I'm none of those things....needless to say I'm neither a Catholic. What I'm doing is simply reading from God's word. What is it that you would consider in error?

41 posted on 06/07/2009 9:10:48 PM PDT by Diego1618 (Put "Ron" on the rock!)
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To: Diego1618


I understand you are reading God’s word, I have the same NT and read the same things. THe question is what does it mean. THe Scriptures don’t say anything, in that the Bible is not a person that can speak. It is the inerrant word of God, but needs to be interpreted within proper hermaneutical principles and in light of what is the faith.

As a Catholic, I firmly believe in the passion of Christ [shed blood], his death, and resurrection. However, Christ being the “firstborn among many brethren” is a statement about what Christ’s passion death and resurrection does for fallen humanity, rather than saying that Christ was born again, which you stated earlier.

For example, St. Paul in 2 Cor 4:4 speaks of the risen Christ as being “the image of God” and just before that, he states that believers in Christ will be “transformed into that same image” (c.f. 2 Cor 3:18). In another passage, St. Paul states that “he [Christ] will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” (c.f. Phil 3:21).

These passages allow us to accurately understand what Pope Benedict states in “Introduction to CHristianity” (p.234) that Christ is the “Last Man”, that is the exemplary man that is being taught by St. Paul in (1 Cor 15:45), that CHrist, as risen and Lord, is the “Last Adam” which is the example of a new humanity perfected by God’s Grace, which was part of God’s original plan in creation when God created man in the “Divine image” (c.f. Genesis 1:26-28).

So, as Pope Benedict notes in “Jesus of Nazareth, p. 334), Christ comes from God and he is God, but that is precisely what makes him, having assumed human nature, the bringer of a true humanity.

So again, I would encourage you to see Christ as a Divine person, who took on a human nature, but always had a Divine nature, and thus a person was born of Mary in Bethlem, a person died on the cross, and a person rose from the Dead. This person is a Divine Person, Christ Jesus, with two distinct natures, Divine and Human, yet still One person, who is Christ.

So it was Christ who rose from the dead, his entire person, and at those those who die with Christ will be raised with him, and which points to the resurrection of the body [affirmed in both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds], a belief which rejects the Gnostic concept that matter [body], is evil, and spirit [soul] is good.

Christ via his incarnation, passion, death and resurrection, came to save human persons, which means the entire person, body and spirit, which is why all of the post resurrection accounts speak of Christ, not a spirit and why St. Paul in Phil 3:21 spoke of CHrist conforming us to his glorified body and why St. John stated that in heaven we shall be “like him” (c.f. 1 John 3:2). All of this speaks to Christ in his glorified state, which points to us being conformed into the image of the Resurrected and glorified Christ, who is and always is Christ, a Divine Person with a Divine Nature and human nature.

42 posted on 06/08/2009 6:18:41 AM PDT by CTrent1564
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To: Salvation

**The original Reformers affirmed the Trinity without qualification. Thus Luther and Calvin, and the sixteenth century confessions of Protestant faith uniformly attested to the Trinity of Persons in God. But the subjectivism of the Protestant principles paved the way to a gradual attrition of the faith, so that rationalism has made deep inroads into the denominations.**

The “subjectivism” by the most radical fringes of Protestants too, also led to a rejection of the holy Trinity.

Hence, in New England, the great grandkids of the stern very orthodox Calvinist Puritans—formed the Unitarians and Universalists in the 18th & 19th Century. It was Englightenment rationalism gone mad—saying since we cannot COMPLETELY understand God as Trinity, therefore He/it (since they objectified a diestic type God) cannot be that way...

Simularly Thomas Jefferson reached the same conclusion—and rejected the Trinity.

Also at the edge today, certain Pentecostal churches (called “Oneness” Pentecostals, with a real ignorance of history—and a rejection of all but their own personal authority (reading the bible, by themselves))—are monarchical modalists (see the definition above).

Many mainline Protestants today, (Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc.) while maybe officially mouthing belief in the Trinity, according to the orthodoxy of their tradition—are functionally Diests however (a bit like Jefferson) who simply cannot accept the idea of God the Son, being involved with His creation—and becoming human in Jesus.

Of course this is a problem among all Christians today—the idea of the creator God being separated (and implicitly NOT a trinity) from the World...which of course is exactly the opposite of what the Church, tradition, and the holy scriptures teach.

43 posted on 06/08/2009 6:44:54 AM PDT by AnalogReigns
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To: FourtySeven

I agree with much of your concerns—go it alone individualism—or a “me and my bible” mentality is NOT what the Church is about.

However, Luther Calvin and the rest of the early Protestant reformers thought so too—this is why these groups developed extensive creeds/catechisms (which agree on about 98% of doctrines, btw).

Submission to one man in the papacy—interpreting a whole boatload of historical beliefs (tradition) in addition to the bible though, logically, is no barrier to the subjectivism you rightly want to avoid. It does guarantee a certain amount of uniformity of belief, for sure, but, all under the direction of one man....who is certainly influenced by the times, like any other man.

This is why the Roman Church DOES actually change (albiet a large ship) through time, bringing itself into very different conclusions than it past had...

100 or even 75 years ago, for example, I know of no doctrine against the just administration of the death penalty. Nowadays, according to devout Roman Catholics—following the teachings of the current Church (especially since John Paul—and after WWII) we are told that all capitol punishment morally is wrong...and one must oppose it, like we oppose abortion, to be truly pro life.

This just HAPPENS to be, on capitol punishment that is, the position of post WWII secular Europe.

This when, if normal intelligent people—IN COMMUNITY—read the bible, we find no prohibition on the just use of the death penalty by government—just as tradition has taught us also, down through the centuries.

So, even a large group as the Roman Catholic Church can have subjectivism—coming from the papacy—on certain issues.

44 posted on 06/08/2009 7:28:19 AM PDT by AnalogReigns
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To: CTrent1564
I understand you are reading God’s word, I have the same NT and read the same things. THe question is what does it mean.

"Every Catholic is "born again" at their Holy Baptism." (Statement made in post #24)

Scripture disagrees with that statement and unless you live in "Rio Linda".....translation is very simple. Here it is:

[I John 5:18] Douay-Rheims [18 We know that "whosoever is born of God", sinneth not: but the generation of God preserveth him, and the wicked one toucheth him not.]

I then asked, "How do you square your statement with this scripture? Are all baptized Catholics non-sinners?"

That was the statement that brought me to the thread. It's incorrect....according to scripture. John, very explicitly says that anyone born of God cannot sin.....but yet a poster (of your faith) blatantly says "All Catholics" are "Born Again" at their baptism.

Scripture tells us that the process (at baptism) is a begettal of the Holy Spirit.....and yes, we will be born again at the resurrection. Flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit [John 3:6]. Our Lord, Himself was proclaimed by God as his only begotten son [John 3:16]. He was not yet born again.....but at His resurrection was made spirit.....and was indeed "Born again".

So again, I would encourage you to see Christ as a Divine person, who took on a human nature, but always had a Divine nature.

So....basically, you're saying, "He had a leg up" advantage which helped him get through humanity (life) without sinning. If that's the case, then his sacrifice really doesn't mean that much........according to your interpretation.

To say one is "born again" is like saying a caterpillar claims to be a butterfly. Eventually, a caterpillar will become a butterfly....but they are not butterflies.

45 posted on 06/08/2009 8:39:37 AM PDT by Diego1618 (Put "Ron" on the rock!)
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To: Diego1618


No scripture does not disagree with my statement. My statement disagrees with your “personal interpretation”. As a Catholic, I recognize that that my “personal interpretation” of scripture needs to be consistent with the Ancient Creeds of the Church and the way the faith has been understood by the Church Fathers, and understood by the Church down through the centuries.

Now as for Scripture interpretation, I think I already responded to your statement about 1 John 5:18 and from the Catholic perspective, your interpretation can not be reconciled to who the person of Christ is and it does not in anyway reject the notion that it is through Baptism that God gives us Grace.

And I interpret the scriptures in line with Catholic hermaneutic principles, not my own. For example, in the CCC, we read as follows:

CCC 124 “The Word of God, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, is set forth and displays its power in a most wonderful way in the writings of the New Testament” which hand on the ultimate truth of God’s Revelation. Their central object is Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son: his acts, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church’s beginnings under the Spirit’s guidance.

Note above, the central object of the Scriptures is the person of Christ and thus everything in the OT points to Christ and all the NT epistles should be interpreted with Christ as the reference point. The Catechism continues,
CCC 125 The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures “because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior”.

CCC 126 We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:

1. The life and teaching of Jesus. The Church holds firmly that the four Gospels, “whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up.”

2. The oral tradition. “For, after the ascension of the Lord, the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done, but with that fuller understanding which they, instructed by the glorious events of Christ and enlightened by the Spirit of truth, now enjoyed.”

3. The written Gospels. “The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form; others they synthesized or explained with an eye to the situation of the churches, the while sustaining the form of preaching, but always in such a fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus.”

Paragraph 129 describes the principle of Typology, which is what the Church Fathers (e.g., St. Augustine) used when interpreting Sacred Scripture. The Catechism states:
CCC 129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.
The CCC reiterates the point made earlier about Christ being the reference point for the entire Sacred Scripture [OT and NT] as the Catechism states

CCC 134 All sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, “because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ” (Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8: PL 176, 642: cf. ibid. 2, 9: PL 176, 642-643).

CCC 139 The four Gospels occupies a central place because Christ Jesus is their center. So, the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition must be interpreted in light of the person of Christ, who by his incarnation, revealed God because of the incarnation, experienced the human condition, but was perfect and without sin.

Still, the Catholic Church uses the ancient Tradition of the Fathers relating to the Senses of Scripture [CCC 115-117], which are 1) Literal Sense, which all are based 2) Spiritual Sense, which includes the allegorical sense [Tree of good and evil], the moral sense and the anagogical sense. Typology is the key Biblical tool to come to the orthodox interpretation and allows us to see the Truths that God wants to teach with respect to Faith and Morals, which are what the Bible is about. As the CCC states {para 107}, the Scriptures teach Truth and quoting Dei Verbum from Vatican 2, “since therefore all the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures”

Again, the Catholic Church’s use of Typology makes sure we don’t make the Scriptures say something it not trying to say [i.e. things about physics, or mathematics, or economics, or modern science, or even geography] and that we interpret the scriptures with CHrist as the reference point. Typology thus is reading the Bible as a unified whole, with Christ as the Center. Thus the OT is pointing to Christ and Christ fulfills the old, and the NT epistles of St. Paul, James, Peter, have to be interpreted with Christ as the reference, and not the other way around as some Protestant doctrines seem to me at least, to start with St. Paul, and then try and reconcile Christ’s teachings in the context of what St. Paul wrote, which is incorrect from the Catholic perspective.


46 posted on 06/08/2009 3:49:20 PM PDT by CTrent1564
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To: CTrent1564
No scripture does not disagree with my statement. My statement disagrees with your “personal interpretation”.

Believe me when I tell you.....It's not my personal interpretation. It's simply what the Apostle told us in Holy scripture. Let me show you the verse in translations other that Douay-Rheims:

Vulgate: [ John 5:18] 18 Scimus quia omnis qui natus est ex Deo, non peccat (does not sin) : sed generatio Dei conservat eum, et malignus non tangit eum.

King James: 18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

NASB: We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

Well....the Vulgate, The KJ, The NASB as well as The Douay-Rheims all say..........."People who are born of God (born again) do not sin".

Your Church evidently....from what I understand, believes that all folks who have been baptized into your faith (post #22)..... are "Born again"! Now.....I don't know of any personally, but I'll bet that there are some folks on death row in some prisons in these United States that are baptized Catholics. I'll bet they're there because they sinned. folks can dance around this issue all you want, attempting to justify your interpretation by any means available.....but when John makes the statement That "Anyone born of God does not sin" it should be clear to you that he is not referring to baptism......but the resurrection. In fact the actual Greek in [John 3:3] says this: "Young's Literal Translation" Jesus answered and said to him, 'Verily, verily, I say to thee, If any one may not be born from above, he is not able to see the reign of God'.

Now.....kick me if I'm wrong, but this sure looks to me like [I Thessalonians 4:16-18] 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. and......[1 Corinthians 15:50-54] 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (born again), 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality (cannot sin), then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

47 posted on 06/08/2009 5:38:19 PM PDT by Diego1618 (Put "Ron" on the rock!)
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To: Diego1618


Ok, I think we are on to something here. Yes, baptism does give one grace, but as St. Augustine talked about, extrapolating on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in Chapter 7, even after one has come to Christ, one still struggles with temptation. If you read St. Paul’s leter to the Romans in the context that Taylor Marshall [a former Anglican clergyman who came into full communion with the Catholic Church] puts it, I think you see the Catholic position as in Chapter 5 of Romans, Paul talks about original sin [i.e. Mans fallen nature], in Chapter 6 St. Paul talks about Baptism as the solution to original sin and in Chapter 7, St. Paul describes “Concupiscence/Flesh”, i.e. the inclination to struggle with sin even after we have come to faith. The understanding of struggling with sin, even after Baptism, was the understanding of both St. Ambrose and St. Augustine and it is obvious that St.Paul is noting that he still struggles with sin “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but do what I hate” (c.f. Romans 7:16). St. Paul makes similar statements in Romans 7:20.

I think I see where you and I may differ. This all goes back to how Catholics view justification vs. how you as a Protestant view justification, which I think is the doctrine of Once Saved always saved.


48 posted on 06/08/2009 6:35:33 PM PDT by CTrent1564
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To: CTrent1564
I appreciate your comments very much....but I'm still asking the question. Is it the position of your Church that after baptism you consider yourselves "Born Again"? Or did the poster just make an error in writing and meant to say "Begotten of the spirit?"

Actually, I'm not a Protestant either. I fashion my beliefs according to the First Century Church of the Apostles. This means that I observe the Sabbath as well as the seven Holy Feast days as expressed in [Leviticus 23].

The understanding of struggling with sin, even after Baptism, was the understanding of both St. Ambrose and St. Augustine and it is obvious that St.Paul is noting that he still struggles with sin “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but do what I hate” (c.f. Romans 7:16). St. Paul makes similar statements in Romans 7:20.

We all struggle with sin and will continue to struggle with sin as long as we are flesh and blood.....and until we are born again of the spirit. I liken the begetting process (baptism) as a sperm fertilizing the egg. Then the process of gestation begins....the growing in the word and the commitment and service to Our Lord. After the gestation is over the birth occurs and at that point the "born again" individual will be like Our Lord.....immortal and composed of spirit. And as the Apostle John mentions.....unable to sin.

49 posted on 06/08/2009 7:12:58 PM PDT by Diego1618
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To: Diego1618

The Catholic Church affirms the teaching in the Sacred Scriptures which clearly teach the doctrine that Baptism is the normative means through which God gives humanity Grace, which saves us. Numerous passages support this doctrinal point (e.g., see Acts 2:38, 22:16; Rom. 6:1–4; 1 Cor. 6:11, 12:13; Gal. 3:26–27; Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 2:11–12; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:18–22). These passages all point to a being baptized into Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, and thus a communion with God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 628, summarizes this point nicely:

“Baptism, the original and full sign of which is immersion, efficaciously signifies the descent into the tomb by the Christian who dies to sin with Christ in order to live a new life. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (c.f. Rom 6:4).”

Here is a fuller explanation on the Catholic understanding of Baptism

In addition, the constant witness of the early Church Fathers stressed Baptism [quotes taken from Jurgens Faith of our Fathers]

St. Ignatius of Antioch writes:

“Let none of you turn deserter. Let your baptism be your armor; your faith, your helmet; your love, your spear; your patient endurance, your panoply” (Letter to Polycarp 6 [A.D. 110]).

St. Justin Martyr writes

“Whoever are convinced and believe that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, and professes to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water, and they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: ‘In the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit,’ they receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven’” (First Apology 61:14–17 [A.D. 151]).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes:

“If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who, even without water, will receive baptism, for the Savior calls martyrdom a baptism [Mark 10:38]. . . . Bearing your sins, you go down into the water; but the calling down of grace seals your soul and does not permit that you afterwards be swallowed up by the fearsome dragon. You go down dead in your sins, and you come up made alive in righteousness” (Catechetical Lectures 3:10, 12 [A.D. 350]).

St. Ambrose of Milan writes:

“The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed himself but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of baptism. Whoever comes, therefore, to the washing of Christ lays aside his sins” (Commentary on Luke 2:83 [A.D. 389]).

St. Augustine writes:

“It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture too” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:24:34 [A.D. 412]).

“The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of the Sacrament of Baptism, conformed to the death of Christ, they are also freed from the serpent’s venomous bite” (Also from Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin and the Baptism of Infants, 2:27:43).

“We say that Baptism grants forgiveness of all sins” (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians [A.D. 420]).

“This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us: all who attain to this grace die thereby to sin—as he himself [Jesus] is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh (that is, ‘in the likeness of sin’)—and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body. For whether it be a newborn infant or a decrepit old man—since no one should be barred from baptism—just so, there is no one who does not die to sin in baptism. Infants die to original sin only; adults, to all those sins which they have added, through their evil living, to the burden they brought with them at birth” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 13[41] [A.D. 421]).

So it is the Apostolic Tradition and thus orthodox Christian doctrine that Baptism is the “normative means” by which God gives us grace as affirmed by both the Scriptures and Tradition (i.e. Teachings of the Patristic Fathers).


50 posted on 06/08/2009 8:00:34 PM PDT by CTrent1564
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To: AnalogReigns

Thanks for the reply. I think your post is a good example of a common misconception among many Protestants (and other non-Catholic Christians) about what is commonly referred to as the “RCC”.

The Church proper has not been “subjective” over the centuries, not as far as “dogma” goes. There are no dogmas that have changed over time.

To that end, the teaching about the “just administration of the death penalty” must be viewed in such a light. First of all, the teaching against liberal use of the death penalty is not a “dogma”. It’s still a topic of debate, much like evolution. That is, Catholics are free to support or be against the death penalty just as they are free to be “for” or “against” evolution.

Secondly, the teaching of the “just administration” of the death penalty is just that, a teaching to clarify the position of the Church on the most ideal way to handle such punishment. Indeed, I’m positive (but don’t feel like searching for it now) in the Catechism it is stated that it is up to each sovereign government to decide when (or even if) the death penalty should be instituted. What is taught is that it should only be instituted if there is a “grave, immediate reason” to do so; that is, if there exist no other options, and also, other options would cause further harm to society. I believe this is a good paraphrase of the teaching in the Catechism.

The point is that the language used in the Catechism, and elsewhere where ever this is discussed is (I believe) intentionally ambiguous. It is intentionally so because again, this is not a dogma.

The larger point I’m making is that the only way it can be ever said that the Church has “changed over time” would be to point to a dogma infallibly defined at one point in history, and show that it contradicts another dogma. For clarity, there are very few dogmas infallibly defined through history. Most were in the early Councils (the Trinity for example), but a few occurred later, like the Assumption of Mary.

To further clarify (no pun intended), the teachings on the death penalty, and other controversial topics are not dogmas. They are clarifications, refinements of understanding of the original deposit of Faith. However, until a dogmatic decision is made, Catholics are free to debate such issues. This is perhaps the most important point to remember: Even if the Church were to dogmatically define the use of the death penalty as a “grave sin”, then that still wouldn’t be a “change”, since no dogmatic decision has been reached on that issue in the first place, in 2,000 years of Church history.

One final point as a side note, you may run into criticism for calling the Catholic Church the “Roman Catholic Church”. It is not technically correct to call it that, although most Catholics know what you mean when you do. The “Roman” (or Latin) Rite *within* the Catholic Church is the largest, which is why, combined with its derogatory use in Britain in the early 17th and 18th centuries, the name “sticks” even today. But it’s not correct.

The Catholic Church is just that, the Catholic Church with no “Roman” before “Catholic”. The Catholic Church has about 22 Rites in it, with the Latin being the largest. Just some helpful advice.

51 posted on 06/09/2009 8:52:59 AM PDT by FourtySeven (47)
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