Sunday, February 3, 2008

Answers from TurretinFan to Audience Questions

Thanks to Stephen, Rich, and Paul for their questions. I've reproduced the Questions and placed the answers after each question. Since this is my last post of the debate, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank PhatCatholic for his kindness both in and out of the debate.

Question #1 (by Stephen):

  • Is approaching some sort of middle ground not possible?

    If both sides acknowledge
    1. that faith is the primary reason for the repulsion and expulsion of the demon (I include all evil spirits in that term), and
    2. the biblical evidence shows that water does have some definite symbolic value, and
    3. "God uses the things of the created order to produce supernatural effects in our lives"

then is it possible for both sides to agree on this:

    • When a Catholic uses holy water in such a way, his faith empowers it, and the water acts as a visible and effective manifestation of that faith, while when a Protestant (or Catholic, for that matter) omits the water, the faith remains sufficient without the visible manifestation of it?

Response to Stephen:

Stephen, I appreciate your attempt to conciliate. I’m not sure whether “holy water” being merely a physical manifestation of faith would mesh with PhatCatholic’s arguments. It would seem to clash by evacuating any intrinsic effectiveness from holy water, and would seem to essentially acknowledge that holy water itself is ineffective at stopping demonic forces, since it would be faith operating through the water. Let’s suppose, though, that it does mesh somehow.

Nevertheless, I don’t think we’d have arrived at your suggested proposition. The reason I don’t think we’d arrive there, is that we haven’t found a reason to believe that God does actually operate that way. I think it’s fair to say that God could act that way, just as he did – in essence – bestow supernatural powers on the water of the Jordan River. But there is simply no Scriptural or even Patristic reason to suppose that God does act that way.

In other words, there’s nothing to make the two sides of the argument connect. The fact that God could act a certain way does not mean that he does. The lack of Scriptural basis is enough for me to reject the practice of Holy Water, and the lack of Patristic evidence ought to compel, I believe, modern Catholics to acknowledge that the practice is an innovation, and not an apostolic practice.

Question #2 (by Rich):

  • My question has to do with your distinction of "Special Miracles". When I first read that argument in particular, my initial response was: "Is it even possible to have a non-special miracle?" The idea of an "ordinary miracle" is, I think, a bit laughable. I think this terminology is misleading, as miracles are all manifestations of the grace of God. Therefore, I don't think we can really get away with putting those cures via shadows or touching of tassels as a whole separate category. No, I think they're better branded as different manifestations of divine grace, and the lack of healing via shadows can simply be explained by the fact that the gifts of the Spirit no longer manifest themselves in that specific way. Otherwise, you seem to be guilty of the same type of fault of which you accuse PC: namely, when an act of divine grace supports your argument, it gets lumped in with the "regular miracles", and if not, then it's "special" and receives the brand "discontinued." Do you agree?

    (PS: If the answer to this is no, then I'd like to see the Biblical proof that "all miracles are equal, but some miracles are more equal than others.)

Response to Rich:

I was using Chrysostom’s and Scripture’s terminology when referring to “special miracles.” Acts 19:11 states: And God wrought special (Vulgate: non quaslibet; Greek: ου τας τυχουσας) miracles by the hands of Paul. So, if you need Biblical proof for the word “special” and for the application of that word to the handkerchief/apron miracles of Paul, then there you have it. I was not resting on a distinction between “special” and some other category of miracles.

One can try to explain away the absence of sensational Christian miracles as in the times of the apostles, or one can acknowledge with Chrysostom that miracle cures and the like have ceased. Frankly, that particular battle is an aside. Even if Chrysostom was grievously wrong about his history (and PhatCatholic has not offered us any reason to contradict Chyrsostom), we would not therefore conclude that “Holy Water” is effective at stopping demonic forces.

The reason I brought up Chrysostom’s testimony was to demonstrate that many superstitions arose after his day. Chrysostom is one of the three most respected teachers of the Eastern Orthodox church, and is considered a saint and doctor of the Roman Catholic church. The “New Advent” encyclopedia, for example, sates that he is: “generally considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit.” (source) He died in 407, thus making him the earliest voice (aside from Scripture) heard in this debate.

Question #3 (by Paul)

  • At Lv. 16 the Lord dictates the manner in which the Atonement ritual was to be performed. At Lev. 16:26 , we see that the Lord commanded the priest who made the offering of the scapegoat to Azazel to wash his garments and bathe his body in water immediately afterwards before he could enter the camp. Who was Azazel and why did God require the priest to bathe in water before he could reenter the camp?

Response to Paul:

Leviticus 16:26 (KJV) And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.

Leviticus 16:26 (Vulgate – old and Clementine) ille vero qui dimiserit caprum emissarium lavabit vestimenta sua et corpus aqua et sic ingredietur in castra

Leviticus 16:26 (Septuagint) καὶ ὁ ἐξαποστέλλων τὸν χίμαρον τὸν διεσταλμένον εἰς ἄφεσιν πλυνεῖ τὰ ἱμάτια καὶ λούσεται τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ ὕδατι καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν παρεμβολήν.

You’ll notice that none of the English, Latin, or Greek mention this “Azazel” that Paul mentions. Thus, the reader may think, what is Paul thinking? But in Hebrew:

Leviticus 16:26 (Masoretic) והמשׁלח את־השׂעיר לעזאזל יכבס בגדיו ורחץ את־בשׂרו במים ואחרי־כן יבוא אל־המחנה׃

… there it is “לעזאזל” plain as day!

Why the discrepancy? Azazel is the Hebrew word for scapegoat, from Az (goat) + azel (that goes). Thus, in Latin, English, and Greek it gets translated into a suitable word or phrase. William Tyndale, a Reformed Christian and martyr for the faith, invented the word “scapegoat” (a hybrid of “escape” and “goat”) specifically for this particular animal. He invented the word in the course of translating the Bible into English so as to provide the first printed English Bible.

Apparently Paul has a translation that would rather not use Tyndale’s word “scapegoat” and prefers instead “goat for Azazel,” (Darby’s) or “goat to Azazel” (New Jerusalem Bible) (cf. Nova Vulgata: “26 Ille vero, qui dimiserit caprum emissarium ad Azazel, lavabit vestimenta sua et corpus aqua et postea ingredietur in castra.” words not in previous Vulgates shown with emphasis) I’m speculating a bit about how Paul got there, but it seems a fair guess.

Paul’s taken it a step further by suggesting that the scapegoat was offered. Instead, the text states:

Leviticus 16:22 (KJV) And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

The goat was let go, it was released, in a deserted area. This symbolized the separation of the sins from the people. The sins (placed on the goats by laying hands on the goats head) were in a place where none of the people were, and consequently, God’s judgment for the guilt of those sins would not come on the people.

The “goat for Azazel,” aka the scapegoat, was a symbol or “type” of Christ, who was carried outside the city walls of Jerusalem to bear our sins in our place. It is he who bore our judgment in our place. Our sins were laid upon him. He is our scapegoat, and is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices.

The man who led the goat into the wilderness was simply “a fit man” (see vs. 21). One might expect the man to be a priest, but there was no Mosaic requirement that he be a priest.

Scripture does not explicitly give a reason, in this instance, for why the man must wash. It seems reasonable to infer from the remainder of the Old Testament system that the reason for the washing was to symbolize ceremonially uncleanness of the man because of his contact with the sin-bearing scapegoat. That uncleanness, the guilt of sin, needed to stay outside the camp so that the camp would be clean in God’s sight. So, before the man returned to the camp, he had to wash himself and his clothes.

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