Do we have spirit, soul, and body or just soul and body?

I was at a coffee shop yesterday and I got pulled into a conversation with a stranger about metaphysical nature of the soul.

This man emphasized that we are not simply a soul and body, but that we are spirit, soul, and body.

So what is the Catholic to say?

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This the bipartite vs. tripartite debate on human anthropology. The majority position in the Catholic Church is that we have a physical element (body headed by the brain) and a metaphysical element (soul headed by the spirit). The spirit is the highest intellectual faculty of the soul.

The locus classicus on this topic is Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Tripartite advocates point here showing that “soul and spirit” are distinguished and thus separate. The problem here is that if soul and spirit are different entities then our body is also twofold with different entities, namely joins and marrow.

Soul Vocab in Scripture

Let’s review the terminology in Hebrew and Greek:

Hebrew

  • Basar: flesh or body. In Genesis, this comes from dirt, mud, or grime. It is the lowest basest element of man.
  • Nephesh: soul or life force. In Genesis this is the life of a living thing. It can be said that animals and perhaps plants have nephesh or a living force within them.
  • Ruach: spirit or breath. In Genesis, God breathes this into Adam and it is what makes human unique from all other animals. It is something we share with God – the intellectual and voluntary faculty that makes us rational animals or human.

Greek

  • Sarx: flesh. In Greek it is the body but also includes the animal passions of the body for nutrition and sex. Saint Paul typically uses sarx to include the effects of original sin in all humans. Hence sarx has a somewhat pejorative meaning in the New Testament as in the sinful “law of the flesh.”
  • Soma: body. This is a physical body and doesn’t necessarily include the passionate elements of sarx above, but it can. Used 129 times in NT.
  • Psyche: soul or life force. The Greeks explicitly stated that all living things have a “soul” or psyche, including plants, animals, and humans. Some speculated whether each star and planet had a psyche since they also had an interior principle of motion similar to life. Used 105 times.
  • Nous: mind. In Greek this refers to the highest intellectual faculty of the human.
  • Pneuma: spirit or breath. This is a spiritual or supernatural element in man. Used 385 times, but about 80 times for the human spirit, as opposed to the Holy Spirit.

The Church Father Origen (who spoke Greek) speculated that “nous” referred to the human mind, but “pneuma” referred to the human mind redeemed and filled with grace. I rather like Origen’s suggestion. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Early Gnostics (drawing from Paul in 1 Corinthians, esp. chs. 2 and 15) spoke of three kinds of people:

  1. sarkic or fleshly people. He relates this to Jews and unsaved people who have not the ability to see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior. They live according to sight and according to the flesh. For Paul, the Jewish preoccupation with circumcision is an example of them living “by the flesh.”
  2. pscyhic or soulish people. Common people in the mainstream church who have not been initiated into the deeper knowledge of the Gnostic teachers.
  3. pneumatic or spiritual people. Those who have acquired the secret teachings passed along by visions or by secret traditions allegedly derived from the Paul or the Apostles.

Church Fathers on Bipartite vs. Tripartite

The Eastern Orthodox Church tends toward a tripartite anthropology and this likely derives from the distinctions of Saint Paul, but especially from the writings of Origen and, through his influence, the writings of the three Cappadocian Fathers Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory Nazianzus. If you are interested in learning more about Origen and these three sainted teachers and their theology, please watch the NSTI video lessons on them in our Historical Theology Modules.

In the West, the Pelagian heretics wrongly taught that the soul and body were corrupted by sin, but that the human spirit remained unaffected by sin and remained righteous and good. Consequently, Saint Augustine and others blew a hole in the Pelagian tripartite anthropology showing that the moral state of the soul was the same as the moral state of the human spirit. The strict tripartite arrangement was associated with Pelagianism and was thus held suspect in the Latin West.

What and How Can We Speak of “Spirit and Soul”?

When speak of the soul by the Hebrews (nephesh) and by the Greeks (psyche), they spoke chiefly of life and motion. Oak trees, weeds, crabs, fish, squirrels, and gorillas possess this “life force” or “soul.” The Jews by divine revelation and the Greeks through philosophy were speaking of the same thing.

Even more, both understand that within the human person, there was something beyond the life force. Beyond our motion across earth. Beyond our pursuit for food and sex. It was something that set us apart. Something that made us religious and reflective. It is what made us homo liturgicus. It was the rational spirit they sparks within us the questions of “Why am I alive? What is the purpose of life? Who made us? What are we supposed to be doing? Where are we headed? What happens after all this?”

In the Latin West, we call this the “rational soul” or the “intellectus.” Those terms work, but I rather like the poetic distinction between the “soul” and the “spirit” in Scripture. As Saint Paul said, Adam had for us a soul. But Christ became for us a “life giving spirit.” Here Paul doesn’t mean that Christ was a docetic or solely spiritual phantasm. Rather, he is capturing that Christ becomes for us the means by which we find the answers to the spiritual questions that I’ve listed above.

And as Origen (though not a saint and somewhat dangerous) observed, his suggestion that “mind/intellect” and “spirit” are simply two ways of referring to the same thing but from different points of view – with the spirit being the way to refer to the illuminated and redeemed mind.

It seems that the presence of the divine Holy Spirit in our soul transforms our intellect into a spiritual intellect or into a spirit. My guess is that the liturgical response “and with your spirit” is an acknowledgment of this reality in the communal life of the Church. When we respond that way, we aren’t just saying “and also with you,” but we are acknowledging the transformative power of the Holy Spirit within the celebrant.

3 Ways to Defend Immaculate Conception from Bible (plus Aquinas Video)

3 Ways to Defend the Immaculate Conception from Scripture:

Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical?

Immaculate ConceptionYes, but only if you accept typology as a valid interpretation of Scriptural texts (i.e. a method used by the Apostles and Fathers to interpret Old Testament people, things, and events as types foreshadowing New Covenant realities).

Below are three common arguments used by the early Church Fathers, the Popes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to justify Mary’s title as the Panagia or “All-Holy.” The first is straight-forward, the latter two rely on typology.

Argument #1 Mary is Full of Grace

Luke 1:28: “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!'”

The term traditionally translated “full of grace” or “highly favored” is κεχαριτωμένη or kecharitomene. This “perfect passive participle form” (Even if you never study Greek, memorize what I have placed into quotes. Burn it into your memory) denotes something that happened in the past and continues into the present. She was perfectly graced in the past and continues in that state. Luke 1:28 has served as the locus classicus for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.

When a Protestant fronts you on this, just keep the broken record approach by repeating “perfect passive participle of kecharitomene” until the Protestant grabs your Rosary beads and start praying it aloud. Works every time.

Argument #2 Mary as New Eve Having Enmity with Satan

Gen 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall strike at His heel.”

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In this verse God addresses Satan. The Seed here is Christ. The Woman is His Mother, that is, Mary. Thus Satan has perfect enmity with Christ and with His Mother. The Catholic Church has interpreted this as indicating the sinlessness of Christ and Mary. If either actually committed sin, then they would not be at enmity with Satan but actually a cooperator with Satan at times.

If you want to know more about the Hebrew debate over whether “he” or “she” crushes the head of Satan, read my post on it here: Does Mary or Jesus crush Satan’s head in Gen 3:15?

Argument #3 Mary as Ark of the Covenant

In the Old Covenant the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God on stone. In the New Covenant, the Word made Flesh was also contained – and that in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. The Catholic Church has therefore understood Mary as the mystical Ark of the New Covenant. This connection is made in the book of Revelation.

Rev 11:19-12:2 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.

The Ark of the Covenant appears in Heaven and then in the next breath (and next verse) St John describes a pregnant woman appearing in Heaven. This Woman “contains” the Messiah.

The thinking goes that if Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, then she must be “all holy”. Remember that in the Old Covenant a man was killed for touching the ark. It was holy. If the box that held stone tablets was so restricted – so also would be the woman who actually carried God Himself. And so she is all pure and all holy, without the stain of sin.

In review:

  1. Luke 1:28 “perfect passive participle of kecharitomene,” rinse and repeat
  2. Gen 3:15 “Why does Satan have a perfect “enmity” with a woman and who is she?
  3. Rev 11-12 Mary as New Ark of New Covenant

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And now for something more advanced: Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Immaculate Conception:

Did Saint Thomas Aquinas deny the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

In the theological video below I’ll share how Thomas Aquinas changed his position over time on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and share some of the nuances. Thomas may have reverted back to a belief in the Immaculate Conception after he wrote about the Immaculate Conception in the Summa theologiae. See the video below for details.

If you are already a student Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, you have this video already along with the entire “Mariology Module” as well as your entire “Intro to Thomas Aquinas Module.”

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If you are not yet a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute and you want to study with us, our General Advent Enrollment just opened up. Here’s a free sample our theology classes: Did Thomas Aquinas Deny the Immaculate Conception?

Are you having trouble seeing this video in your browser or email? Please click here to watch it.

Not yet a Member of NSTI?

If you’re not yet a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, we currently offer 3 Certificates and will offer a fourth Certificate in 2016:

  1. Certificate in Catholic Philosophy and Thomistic Studies (Click for Philosophy syllabus)
  2. Certificate in Catholic Theology (Click for Theology syllabus)
  3. Certificate in Catholic Apologetics (Click for Apologetics syllabus)
  4. Certificate in Catholic Church History (Click for Church History syllabus)

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We are the biggest global Catholic Institute (in 50+nations) and we have the lowest tuition rates on the planet (98% lower than nearly every Catholic college). We just finished enrolling our waiting list of 200 people and have opened enrollment to the general public.

If you are not yet a Member of NSTI, please explore our valuable benefits and begin studying with us by learning more about us: Click here to learn more about Catholic classes at the New Saint Thomas Institute.

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Catholic Video: 3 Facts about Saint Nicholas!

Happy feastday of Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick. Here’s a short Catholic video giving you 3 “Catholic talking points” or facts about Saint Nicholas that you can share at the office cocktail party this Advent:

To begin watching this video, click here:

Did you find this video interesting or helpful?

Please share this on Facebook with your family and friends by clicking here:

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Looking for a Bestselling Historical Fiction Novel about Saint Nicholas? Check out my novel: Sword and Serpent (and its best-selling sequel Tenth Region of the Night) at amazon.com:

Sword and Tenth Region on wood

Orthodox Catholic Fiction Novel = #1 Bestseller in Youth Historical/Action

Dear Readers and Listeners,

In 2014, I published a historical fiction novel about the legend of Saint George and the dragon (titled Sword and Serpent) that debuted at #1 on Amazon.com in Young Adult Religious at both Historical and Action!!! I’m grateful to everyone who read it and reviewed it!

Sword and Tenth Region on wood

Yesterday I published the sequel to Sword and Serpent titled The Tenth Region of the Night: Sword and Serpent Book IIIt also has reached #1 Bestseller status in those categories as well as in “Hot New Releases.”

Tenth Region Number 1

The new novel’s cover depicts a Greek ouroboros – a snake eating itself. Evil always turns in on itself – and this is the plot of the novel. Just before daybreak (what the Egyptians call the “Tenth Region of the Night”), evil is thoroughly destroyed by the dawning light – Saint George, the martyrs, and Constantine’s conversion.

If you’d like to immerse yourself into the life of early persecuted Christians (circa AD 299) with the likes of Saint George (Jurian), Saint Nicholas (Nikolaos), Saint Christopher (Menas), Saint Catherine (Aikaterina), Constantine, and Saint Helen, then please explore these novels.

It’s what would happen if you mishmashed stories like The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, and Hunger Games with historic truths about relics, miracles, bilocating saints, popes, and self-sacrifice. What if epic adventures didn’t have in a far away fantasy world…but happened in the Roman Empire in AD 299. That’s this story…and it has something like a dragon it!

Just like last time, we are having a Launch Party to get the word out with prizes.

How To Join the Party and Get FREE Books (hashtag: #SwordAndSerpent #TenthRegion)

Here are 8 epic ways you can do epic things and win epic stuff:

1. Take an Epic #Selfie with the Book
(Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

HOW TO ENTER: Take a photo with the book The Tenth Region of the Night. Extra points will be awarded for costumes or exotic places. The more epic, the more likely you are to win. Take a photo, post it on Facebook and then send an email to swordandserpent+selfie@gmail.com with a link to your picture.

RULES:

  • This is not a random drawing. This is a performance-based contest that will be judged. Be epic. Get the family to dress up as Jurian, Sabra, Aikaterina, Menas, Helena, et al. and snap a selfie with the book. Or maybe take a photo of yourself holding the book in someplace amazing. If you get a photo of yourself standing next to Pope Francis holding the book, you win hands down!
  • Selfies with any version of the The Tenth Region count (printed, ebook).

2. Create The Tenth Region of the Night Cocktail/Beverage (Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: That’s right mixologists, here’s a contest for you! Using ideas, concepts, locations, items, people, or ingredients mentioned in the book Tenth Region (Saint Anastasia is a pharmacist in the novel!), create the official The Tenth Region of the Night cocktail or beverage. Send an email to swordandserpent+drink@gmail.com and write down the recipe, take a photo of the drink, and the explain how it relates to the book.

RULES:

  • This is not a drawing. It is performance based. The best concotion wins.
  • The drink need not be alcoholic. It could be a kid’s milk shake or soda concoction. Or it could be “Menas Mojito” inspired by dragons, the Aikaterina Sleeper Martini, Constantine, and/or the sword of Saint George. Get epic. Get crazy. Have fun with it. Take pics.

3. Just Get the Book Contest (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: Buy just one copy of The Tenth Region of the Night and then send an email to swordandserpent+boughtbook@gmail.com simply stating “I bought a copy.” If you buy more than one copy, please send one email for each copy you bought. *If you already reviewed the novel before today and emailed me about it, you’re already entered into this contest.

You can get a copy of The Tenth Region of the Night by clicking here. 

RULES:

  • You can enter for each copy purchased. (For example, if you buy four copies, send an email saying “I bought 4” in the subject line.)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

4. Christmas Contest (Prize: an iPad Mini mailed to your house! AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

HOW TO ENTER: Several reviewers on amazon.com said that Sword and Serpent would be a perfect Christmas gift. This contest honors Saint Nicholas who is an important character in the book – it’s also his feast day this week. To win this prize, purchase at least 4 copies (1 for yourself and 3 as gifts to give away at Christmas) and send an email to swordandserpent+gifts@gmail.com. You can order copies by clicking here.

RULES:

  • You must purchase at least 4 copies to enter.
  • If you purchase multiples of 4, you can enter that many times (8 copies = 2 entries; 12 copies = 3 entries; 80 copies = 20 entries – enter how many copies you got in the subject line: “I got 8 copies as Christmas gifts” – that’s 2 entries in this prize)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24 and will receive an iPad for free.

5. Review the Novel at Amazon.com (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

HOW TO ENTER: Read the book and leave a friendly review at amazon.com. Next, send an email to swordandserpent+reviewed@gmail.com with a link to your review.

RULES:

  • Please leave a review at amazon.com before December 24.
  • Even though GoodReads is not a retailer, we’ll count GoodReads reviews too. So if you review at Amazon and goodreads, that’s two entries. Way to go! Click here for GoodReeds reviews.
  • Send an email to swordandserpent+reviewed@gmail.com with a link to your review.
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

6. Write a Blog Post about Sword and Serpent
(Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card + a promo link to your blog from my blog)

HOW TO ENTER: Write a blog post about The Tenth Region of the Night with the amazon link to the book in your review. Next, send an email to swordandserpent+blog@gmail.com with a link to your review.

RULES:

  • The post does not have to be a “book review.” It can be a theological reflection or an interview with me about the book.
  • Please include the amazon.com link: http://amzn.to/2gOQq3N
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

7. Facebook The Book (Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: Write an update on your Facebook wall about Sword and Serpent and include a link to the amazon link and the link to the book trailer. Next send an email to swordandserpent+facebook@gmail.com.

Please use this photo and this link to the book: http://amzn.to/2gOQq3N

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RULES:

8. Book Club Contest (Prize $75 Gift Card to Restaurant and Skype Chat with Me and your Group AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

HOW TO ENTER: Gather a book group of at least five friends who will read the The Tenth Region of the Night and meet to discuss. The winner will get a $75 restaurant gift certificate to pay for food or drinks for your book club. I will also sit down with you via internet interview in Skype or Google Hangout for 15 minutes to talk about the book and answer group questions. Send an email to swordandserpent+bookclub@gmail.com with a link to an Evite or other online invitation showing four or more attendees.

RULES:

  • The primary purpose of the meeting should be discussion of The Tenth Region of the Night.
  • One entry per group.
  • You can choose the restaurant, but please find one that has gift cards so I can pay for it.
  • Winner will be drawn at random.
  • I will arrange my schedule around the winner’s book club meeting to do the Skype interview. It’ll be fun!

Okay, there are the 8 contests. They all end on Dec 24 2016. Get busy taking epic selfies. By the way the easiest contest to win is #3 – Just Get the Book: The Tenth Region of the Night.

To everyone who already made The Tenth Region of the Night possible and helped it get to #1, THANK YOU!

Happy winnings and Happy Advent!

Saint George, pray for us!
Taylor

Epic Book Trailer for Sword and Serpent, Book I:

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Saint George pray for us,
Taylor Marshall

Catholic Webinar on the Book of Revelation with Dr Marshall

This Thursday night at 8pm I’ll be hosting another free Catholic Webinar on the Book of Revelation from a biblical, traditional, and Catholic point of view. If you’ve ever had questions or confusions about the End Times of the Book of Revelation, you won’t want to miss this Catholic Webinar Event.

YOU WILL DISCOVER:

  • Why the Book of Revelation was written
  • a Catholic interpretation of Revelation based on Scripture, Tradition, and Church Fathers
  • the Virgin Mary in Revelation 12
  • the Mark of the Beast and 666 from a Catholic view point of view
  • EVERYONE THAT ATTENDS WILL RECEIVE a FREE pdf worksheet of the Webinar. Dr Marshall will make available his 16 part series on Catholic Revelation.
  • Register to reserve your spot by clicking here.

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How to Explain Sign of the Cross to Protestants

Sarah K, a Premium Member student at the New Saint Thomas Institute recently asked:

What is the history of the Sign of the Cross? How can I defend this practice to Protestants/atheists/other religions?

St Helen and the true cross

St Helen and the true cross

Many of our students responded with excellent answers (if you’re a student of NSTI, you can read them here), but here is my advice to Sarah:

Sarah,

When talking about this with a non-Catholic, you should be succinct and convincing. Protestants prefer “Scripture alone” but they can be swayed by quotes from the earliest Church Fathers. So I would recommend this line of argument:

The Apostles would place the sign of the cross on the foreheads of newly baptized people in fulfillment prophetic visions found in Ezekiel and Revelation. After baptism, Christians would continue to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, and we see evidence of it in the Bible and Church Fathers. When Christianity became legal, the larger sign of the cross made from head to stomach became adopted. But the original form is simply made with the thumb on the forehead.

SCRIPTURE
Ezekiel speaks of the “mark of the t” administered by the heavenly “man in linen” on the head of the faithful. “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”

The heavenly “man in linen” is the Second Person of the Trinity. Revelation depicts Jesus Christ as the man in linen.

So Ezekiel describes Christ placing a saving “t” or “x” shaped letter on the forehead. The Book of Revelation carries on the description of placing the cross on the forehead.

For my in depth discussion on the sign of the cross as “the mark of the Christ” in the Book of Revelation (in contrast with “the Mark of the Beast:), you can listen for free here.

CHURCH FATHERS
For Church Fathers goes with Tertullian. Writing in around A.D. 204, Tertullian explained that Christians mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross.

In all our travels and movements in all our coming in and going out, in putting of our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross. (Tertullian, De corona milites, 3)

My bestselling novel Sword and Serpent features early Christians often making the signum crucis on their foreheads. You can read a sample and reviews by clicking here at amazon.com.

Sword and Serpent

Origen’s Solution to the Predestination Debate

It’s time to talk about Origen – the third century priest that allegedly castrated himself and rivaled Saint Thomas Aquinas in writing a great number of biblical commentaries, sermons, and theological books (allegedly thousands of books according to his contemporaries).

NSTI Catholic Video Lesson on the Life and Theology of Origen, student member link here:

Origen of Alex Video

But today we are getting crazy and talking about Origen…and his view of predestination as it relates to pre-existent souls.

Catholics and the Problem of Predestination

We have often discussed the intramural Catholic debate about Predestination over at the New Saint Thomas Institute: Augustine, double predestination, Molinism, Thomas Aquinas, Jansenism, etc.

Most new Catholic students react by saying, “Well we’re Catholics. We don’t believe in predestination.” The problem is that it is in the Bible and so we have to account for what it means. Saint Paul refers to predestination:

Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).

The Greek word is προορίζω (proorizó).

To lay my cards on the table, I float back and forth between Molinism and Thomas Aquinas’s solution. If you are interested in this topic in Catholic theology and history, please use the search function at taylormarshall.com or better yet watch some of our videos on Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the topic of predestination.

Origen and Predestination

One perspective that I’ve avoided entirely is the solution to predestination presented by Origen of Alexandria. This really out there, so hang with me.

Origen, in his book Peri Archon, states repeatedly that all rational creatures were once equally ranked minds prior to the creation of the universe.

According to Origen, God created millions of minds. He then tested these minds and they strayed from God to greater or lesser degrees.

  1. Those that hardly strayed became angels and were arranged in an angelic hierarchy in accord to their fidelity to God.
  2. Those that strayed more were destined to become humans in the future.
  3. Those that strayed far away from God became demons and were arranged in a demonic hierarchy in accord to their hatred for God.

One of Origen’s favorites verses was Jeremiah 1:5:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

 

For Origen this proves that Jeremiah (and all humans) existed before they were formed in the womb – and some were already consecrated.

Another one from the canonical scriptures would be Wisdom 8:19-20:

“As a child I was naturally gifted, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body.”

This verse seem to hold that “a good soul feel to my lot” and that the soul pre-existed the body and entered into it.

Origen also states that out of the millions of minds, one single mind did not stray at all. This one single soul remained 100% allied with God’s will and so it was immediately united with the Divine Logos – the Second Person of the Trinity. This was the soul that would eventually assume a body in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

Now Origen, then claims that it appears entirely unjust for some people to be born as Moses, Abraham, David, or John the Baptist while others are born as heathens. That’s totally unfair and this is often a topic of debate in youth groups and philosophical symposia about God’s justice.

Origen, says: “The answer is easy! Everyone is given a perfectly crafted life in conformity to their fidelity to God in the test prior to creation.”

So if a baby dies early. If a person is born in idolatrous India. If a girls is born in 1873 into the Martin family in Lisieux, France. If a boy is born into the Polish Wojtyła family in 1920…All these scenarios follow from God’s judgment of a soul’s response to God before creation.

Origen states that every person’s life was designed for their salvation based on their previous inclination (or lack thereof) in the test prior to the creation of the galaxy.

Origen says that Taylor Marshall was born into a nominally Christian home in Fort Worth Texas and given all by set backs and privileges based on how my pre-existent mind behaved toward God zillions of years ago.

Assessment of Origen and Predestination

Mormons have taken Origen’s doctrine of pre-existent souls. They hold something similar. Catholics, however, reject these schema. It has, however, been held by Catholics:

  • Origen died in good standing.
  • It’s likely that Clement of Alexandria held to this view of pre-existent souls.
  • Didymus the Blind (a saint in the Oriental Orthodox Churches) held it.
  • Perhaps Saint Gregory of Nyssa held it.
  • The early Saint Basil the Great and the early Saint Gregory of Nazianzus held it. They later reject it.
  • Allegedly, Saint Jerome held to this view in his early priesthood but later condemned it loudly and insistently.
  • And there is no doubt that Evagrius Ponticus held to this view of pre-existence of souls and especially held to the role of the one sinless mind that became the soul of Christ which united to the Logos.
  • The doctrine of pre-existent souls was condemned by the local Synod of Constantinople (AD 543) then again by the Emperor Justinian in his Edict of AD 544.
  • The 5th Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II in 553) allegedly condemned this theology, but modern scholars are divided on whether the Fathers of the Council truly ratified the rulings of the Synod of Constantinople in AD 543.
  • Notably, many of the quotes condemned as “Origenist” actually come from a book written by Evagrius Ponticus.

I don’t see how a Catholic would want to follow this view of predestination by Origen. I can see why a Catholic would be attracted to it. It levels out divine justice. It’s almost like Hindu karma. It allows a Christian to say, “So you don’t like your life? Sorry, but you earned it millions of years ago in a spiritual realm where you tested and apparently you failed. If you had acted better, you’d be Saint Michael the Archangel or a cherub. As it is, you are merely you. God has given you this particular life because it is the best way for you to be saved. Offer it up!”

Despite Jeremiah 1:5 stating “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you,” Sacred Scripture teaches that we come into being in our mother’s womb. We don’t pre-exist. The mystery of why Moses was born Moses and Pharoah was born Pharaoh remains a mystery. The tension I read in Romans 8-10 seems to keep this tension and does nothing to resolve it.

For this reason, the Catholic tradition has sought to find alternate views of predestination. Augustine holding to an unconditional predestination. Molinism holding to foreseen merits. And then various versions of the two systems.

One final strike against pre-existent souls is that none of us remember it. It seems that if we are punished or rewarded, we should know. That alone seems unjust.

Question: The first time I heard, my mind was blown. I’m interested to hear your thoughts and questions on this topic. I look forward to your thoughts. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Video Class: St Justin Martyr and Tatian the Heretic

Today is the feast day of the Saint Justin Martyr of Rome. Below is a sample lesson video from the New Saint Thomas Institute featuring a brief bio of Saint Justin Martyr, an analysis of his contribution to Catholic Theology and a brief intro to one of his students named Tatian who became a heretic. Saint Justin Martyr, pray for us!

Question: Do you have questions about Saint Justin Martyr? If so leave a comment. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Could Adultery and Fornication be Forgiven in the Early Catholic Church?

Could adultery and fornication be forgiven in the early Catholic Church? In the 200s, Christians were deeply divided over this question of mercy and forgiveness.

A major theological controversy broke out in in the Catholic Church around the year AD 217 regarding adultery and fornication.

christ-and-the-adulteress

In 217, Pope Saint Callixtus I of Rome issued a decree that the sins of adultery and fornication could be remitted by the Catholic Church through the office of the bishop.

Tertullian, who rejected the Pope for this reason, directly quotes and preserves Pope Callixtus’s decree:

I hear that there has even been an edict set forth, and a peremptory one too. The Pontifex Maximus, that is, the bishop of bishops, issues an edict:

“I remit, to such as have discharged the requirements of repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication.”

It’s notable that Tertullian refers to the Bishop of Rome as the “bishop of bishops” and “Pontifiex Maximus.” Tertullian scholars believe that he was saying this tongue in cheek, because Tertullian held the lowest esteem for Bishop of Rome and Pope Callixtus in particular.

This merciful papal decree of 217 led to general scandal because it was generally believed that certain sins could not be absolved by the visible church. According to Tertullian (a great theological enemy of Pope Callixtus), once a baptized person committed any of the seven sins on the list below, he or she could not be absolved by the visible church:

  1. murder
  2. idolatry
  3. fraud
  4. apostasy (publicly renouncing Jesus Christ)
  5. blasphemy
  6. adultery (sex with someone besides your spouse)
  7. fornication (sex outside marriage)
    (this list is found in Tertullian’s De Pudicitia*, Ch 19).

Tertullian vs. Pope Calixtus

Tertullian, citing ancient custom, claimed that a sinner could be forgiven directly by Jesus Christ for these seven sins; however, the Catholic Church on earth could not absolve these seven sins and those that committed them would and should remain excommunicated and outside the Catholic Church until death. If you were baptized and committed one of these seven sins, you could never in your life receive the Holy Eucharist. Period. End of story. Close the book.

Anti-Pope Hippolytus vs. Pope Callixtus

The Catholic Church’s first Anti-Pope (a man falsely claiming to be Pope against a valid Pope) arose in response to the 217 decree of Pope Callixtus allowing the absolution of fornication and adultery. While Tertullian was railing against Pope Callixtus’s laxity, some traditions say that a priest in Rome named Hippolytus rebelled against his Pope Callixtus and set himself up as a rival Bishop of Rome against Callixtus on the issue of absolution for adulterers and fornicators. It is unclear if Hippolytus claimed to be a full blown “Bishop of Rome” or merely a reformer set against the laxity of Callixtus. Either way we can see that even the clergy of Rome were divided over this issue.

Hippolytus writes that during the pontificate of Pope Callixtus, men in holy orders began taking wives and Callixtus did not censure them for sin or depose them (Refutation of All Heresies 9, 7). Hippolytus claims that clergy were even being married two to three times after ordination. Divorce and remarriage among the clergy!

Concerning Pope Callixtus, Hippolytus writes:

And in justification, [Callixtus] alleges that what has been spoken by the Apostle has been declared in reference to this person: “Who are you that judges another man’s servant?”

Hippolytus goes on to lament that Catholic women in Rome began to engage in contraception and abortion:

Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round [their belly], so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church!

And so there was great scandal in Rome concerning Pope Callixtus (who is a canonized Catholic saint).

Can Mortal Sins Be Forgiven? Callixtus says Yes

Center to the debate between Pope Calixtus and Tertullian/Hippolytus was the passage in 1 John concerning “mortal sins”:

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. (1 Jn 5:15-16)

Both Tertullian and Hippolytus claimed that the Apostle John taught the Catholic Church that prayer should not be made for those whose sin is mortal. Saint John explicitly says: “I do not say that one is to pray for that.” So for them, there was Apostolic teaching that mortal sins should not receive the intercession of the public and visible Church. According to Tertullian and Hippolytus, if you committed apostasy or adultery or fornication, then the Church had nothing for you. No prayer. No Eucharist. Nothing. After all, didn’t Saint John teach the same thing?

Binding and Loosing in Saint Peter’s Rome

We don’t have the exegetical response of Pope Saint Callixtus but I can make a conjecture of his orthodox response: Saint John said that we are not obliged to pray for mortal sins. However, we find two truths in the Gospels that show us that the visible Catholic Church can and should absolve mortal sins (even the mortal sins on Tertullian’s list of seven):

  1. The power to bind and loose on earth as given by Christ to Peter in Matthew 16. Saint Peter and the bishops of Rome do have the power to bind and loose sins and to modify customs for the sake of Christ’s mercy and salvation for sinners. Pope Callixtus was using the power of the keys as the Successor of Saint Peter.
  2. Peter committed apostasy on Good Friday. He was reestablished visibly and publicly by Christ. Christ did not leave Peter without prayer and sacraments until death. He publicly raised Peter back to his rank with the question: “Simon do you love me” three times.

The Catholic Church, the Pope, and the Ministry of Mercy

Nowadays it seems unthinkable that the austere rigorism of Tertullian and Hippolytus was once normative in the Catholic Church of AD 217. Back then it was generally assumed that after baptism, Catholics did not commit adultery, fornication, murder, apostasy, idolatry, blasphemy, or fraud. It just wasn’t supposed to happen. Remember, this was the persecuted Catholic Church of the martyrs. If you were baptized, you were signing up for possible martyrdom!

Origen (who died in 254), it seems, was baptized as an infant, but 90% or more of Christians at this time were not baptized as children. They made a careful and prayerful decision to follow Christ and receive baptism. Most of them had friends or family who were actual martyrs for Christ. These were serious Christians and once we recognize this reality, we see how “mortal sins” were a real issue.

In the Catholic Church, we see a theological shift happening in AD 217. The reality of Romans 7 comes alive: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” For this reason, the Church as the Body of Christ can visibly execute the mercy of Christ to mortal sinners.

Many Catholics began to report that the Rigorist position against absolving sin removed forgiveness and yet did not remove sin – because even the Rigorists had scandalous sins among them.

Repentance and Mercy

Pope Callixtus and the Catholic tradition afterward was not entirely lax, and she always required the act of ecclesial repentance for sin. “Going straight to Jesus” for the forgiveness of mortal sin has never been approved. If we commit a mortal sin, we must go and confess it to a priest in confession. We believe that forgiveness is tied to the Church and her powers that she received directly from Jesus Christ.

If a sin can be absolved through the bishop and the priests he appoints, then any sin can be absolved through the bishop and the priests. This is the great mercy and comfort of being a Catholic

Godspeed,

Taylor Marshall

PS: If you are interested in these types of topics, can get all three volumes of my Origins of Catholic Christianity at amazon.com.

* Of note, Tertullian in De Pudicitia claims that Saint Barnabas wrote the Epistle of Hebrews in union with Saint Paul. I claim that Tertullian is wrong on this point and Hebrews was written by Saint Luke and give my reasons in my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul.

 

The 3 Kinds of Faith? Which do you have?

The Latin Church Fathers (beginning with Augustine) speak of three levels of faith in God:

  1. credere Deum (“to believe that God is”): This is simply to believe that God exists. The devils have this kind of faith, as Saint James explains in James 2.
  2. credere Deo (“to believe toward God”): This is to trust God. If God says, “Jesus is God’s Son,” then you believe it. If God says, “I am your shepherd. I will take care of you.” You believe it.
  3. credere in Deum (in Latin, literally: “to believe into God”): This is more difficult to translate but it implies motion into God. This is placing faith, trust, even yourself into God. This is the highest form of faith.

Saint Augustine says that credere in Deum (level 3) is actually placing “yourself into God.” In the moments and seasons of tragedy, depression, dark nights, betrayal, confusion, bankruptcy, divorce, cancer, and death, this highest form of faith transcends simply believing that God exists or believing His statements.

Pain and Believing into God

“Believing into God” or “credere in Deum” (not “in Deo” – a huge difference in Latin) is what I often teach to myself and to others who are hurt so deeply.

In the moments and seasons of tragedy, you have to push everything and your own pain and soul into the bleeding side wound of Jesus and just camp out there. That spiritual movement of going into the Heart of Jesus is the highest form of faith. It is the only thing that can restore peace, sanity, and joy. I’ve been there. It’s true.

Caravaggio Thomas Wound Christ

Explore the three levels of faith. Where are you? Honestly I have moved up and down the ladder. Sometimes we can be satisfied with level 2 (credere Deo). Even if life is good, try to move beyond this daily and pray for the faith credere in Deum – to believe into God.

Godspeed,

Taylor Marshall