Discourse 78 – The doctrine of the Catholic church and the Bible ‒ a debate.


The authority of the Catholic church

Praying to the dead

The Marian apparitions in the Catholic church

The justice and the love of God

Is it possible to be saved through an "unconscious faith in Jesus"?

The stubbornness of the Jews

The sacrifice of the Mass

The forgiveness of sins

Marian theology

Marian theology is characterized by demonic influences.

Papal infallibility


In February 2002 I entrusted the translation agency Royal Line with the translation of a large number of Discourses from German into American English. For this challenging work the agency’s Managing Director, Dr Monika von Sury, called on the services of the highly qualified translator Dr John Waterfield from Hereford, GB.

It soon turned out that John Waterfield – a believing, and as he himself says, passionate Catholic – had private reservations about certain statements expressed at this discussion forum, especially those relating to the Catholic church. So in the autumn of 2004 a debate was launched between Immanuel.at and Dr Waterfield, on the latter’s initiative.

As Dr Waterfield is not just an excellent translator, but also has a gift for putting across his profound theological knowledge in a clear and comprehensible manner, I am happy to publish the ensuing discussion – in which Dr. Monika von Sury also takes part – on the Internet. As almost all the essential themes relating to the Catholic faith have been referred to and elucidated in the course of the discussion, the reader may find that this "trialog" helps to clarify a number of questions which he wanted answered.

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

John Waterfield: I find your writings very inspiring. They strengthen my faith and leave me with a warm feeling in the heart. Just sometimes you apply an ‘argumentum ad hominem’ which I think a little dubious. I have the impression that you rather enjoy controversy.

Dr John Waterfield jwtranslations@live.com / https://web.onetel.net.uk/~johnwaterfield/index.html

It makes me happy to hear that my contributions have been able to find an answering chord in you. My ‘argumentum ad hominem’ , as you term it, which strikes you as slightly dubious, has developed as the result of many years of discussion. But to say that I enjoy controversy is an exaggeration. I have got into the habit of reacting to people in accordance with the way in which they approach me. With those who are polite, I am polite; when they are obstinate, I am equally obstinate.

John Waterfield: This ‘argumentum ad hominem’ is only an occasional occurrence! Most of the time I think you are very fair. As a passionately believing Catholic, I am only sorry about your evident negative feelings about the Catholic church. I have noticed in a number of Discourses that you have ‘got the wrong end of the stick’ as we say in English – and it makes me feel somewhat as you felt when confronted with the accusations of Mr Damberger (I just finished translating Discourse 47). I found it impressive and touching, incidentally, that you managed to shift him from an initial crazy intemperance to a position where he could realize that he was being understood, and a shy wonder at what you and he had in common. Definitely looking for a father figure, I think.

Yes, I know. Monika von Sury has already told me that she had got into a lively discussion with you on this topic. As for young Damberger in Discourse 47 – I was quite simply sorry for him. I should actually have said to him that the Jews are a "God-less" people.

Seeing that Our Lord Jesus says that "No one comes to the Father but through me", the Jews - who right up to the present day reject Jesus Christ completely, seeing him as an impostor and blasphemer – have no possibility, until his Second Coming, of being in touch with their God, either through prayer, through sacrifice or in any other way. And so it is completely absurd for a person who believes in God to switch from Christianity to Judaism. But perhaps he actually was not a believer.

(See also Discourse 47: "Do the crimes of the Nazis have their origin in the Christian faith?")

John Waterfield: I wondered if you would like to engage in a dialogue – either through the website, or just by private e-mail? I would be very happy to try to explain to you why I believe such matters as the Real Presence of God in the sacrament of the Mass, the intercession of Mary, prayer to the saints and the superiority of tradition (the depositum fidei, or what Cardinal Newman called ‘the economy of revelation'); to the written word of the Bible are important and indispensable.

Seeing that at 67 years of age I am just gradually beginning to find the work a bit too much for me, I would like to bring the discussion forum to an end sometime in the course of next year. At the moment I am still working on Discourse 73 for March, and after that I hope that the series will be concluded. But I would be very happy to engage in a private discussion with you on this topic. Only with the proviso however – and I trust you will have realized this from your translation work – that it must be on the basis of Holy Scripture.

Any statements advanced must be capable of demonstration on the evidence of the Bible. If you are able to manage this, with your Catholic "tradition", I will be happy to take you up on it. But where this "tradition" relies on the transmission of human and extra-canonical ideas, and tries to make these a substitute for the Word of God, it is no longer biblically based and so cannot be reconciled with any serious biblical interpretation.

John Waterfield: Yes, this is just the difficulty, isn’t it. As I’m sure you are aware, the Catholic position is that the Church precedes the Bible and is the greater whole in which Scripture is contained. Of course Scripture is very precious, indeed invaluable, and we should read and study it constantly (your knowledge of Scripture is impressive, and I have very much enjoyed improving my own knowledge of Scripture through your writings!). All the same the Church existed before the books of the NT came to be written, and it was the Church that determined which books became part of the canon.

It is correct to say that the congregation/church existed before the definition of the canon of the New Testament. As far as I am aware, however, this was not the Catholic church at that time, but rather the original congregation – as established and instructed by Paul in the Near East in particular. If the Catholic church had remained faithful to the teachings of Paul, then it could genuinely claim to be older than the New Testament, and the schism of the churches would probably in that case never have taken place.

The authority of the Catholic church

John Waterfield: Lastly I would just like to point to five scriptural passages in support of Catholic practice: And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mt 16,16-19) [The church; the apostolic authority passed on from Peter to his successors the Bishops of Rome; the sacrament of confession].

You appeal here to the Word of God, to Holy Scripture. The Catholic Church deprived Christian believers (the laity, that is) of this same Scripture, putting it on the catalog of forbidden books in the year 1229. Furthermore, at the Council of Trent (1545-63) it rejected the Bible as the sole source of divine revelation, and recognized the Catholic tradition – i.e. the oral and written transmission of Catholic, that is to say human doctrines, dogmas included – as the main source of faith alongside Holy Scripture, so according it equal status and value.

Now it might be argued that these were errors such as occur in every religion, which in the course of centuries will be put right. But here the Catholic church is caught in its own dogmas. Since Pope Pius IX pronounced the dogma of Papal Infallibility in the year 1870, any errors committed by the church, whether earlier or later, would contradict this dogma, and so are ruled out by Catholic teaching altogether. But this is blasphemy, because infallibility is an exclusive attribute of God. Human beings are not able to be infallible – neither "ex cathedra" nor "ex" where ever.

Incidentally, Scripture tells us that Peter himself surrendered the greater part of this responsibility entrusted to him by the Lord in connection with the restructuring of the early Christian congregations. As Paul writes to the Galatians, he came to an agreement with Peter that Peter should evangelize the circumcised – the Jews, that is – and he, Paul, together with Barnabas, would go to the Gentiles.

Cephas gave the right hand of fellowship that Paul might go to the Gentiles and Peter to the circumcised.

Gal 2,6 But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) ‒ well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. 2,7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 2,8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 2,9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Gal 2, 6- 9;

So if the Catholic church really insists on being the titular successor of Peter/Cephas, on the evidence of Scripture she ought to take her mission to the Jews exclusively and have nothing whatever to do with the other nations.

John Waterfield: Well yes, of course I am perfectly aware that the Church has committed any number of stupidities in the past (like saying that the sun goes round the earth), not to speak of atrocities like the crusades (and the Albigensian Crusade above all, where the Church was definitely on the wrong side). There have also been any number of unworthy churchmen and Popes (Cardinal Wolsey, Pope Alexander VI and many more). All the same I think that the principle formulated by Augustine in connection with the Donatist controversy holds good – the office remains sacred, even if the officiant is unworthy. Or to put it slightly differently, ‘abusus non tollit usum’: the abuse of a good thing does not mean that the good thing itself becomes invalid.

If through what you say here – "the office remains sacred, even if the officiant is unworthy" and "abusus non tollit usum" - you mean to imply that for you the Popes of the Catholic church are not infallible, then you are contradicting a dogma of your own church, so apostasizing from the Catholic faith and making yourself liable to excommunication.

This is a familiar play that comes up frequently in discussions with Catholics. In private discussion they try to give you the impression that it’s not quite all as it is made out to be. But this is not a solution. Either you adhere to this faith, and then you have to accept the consequences; or else you cannot call yourself a Catholic – really you are just putting together an eclectic religion of your own.

What harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

2Cor 6,14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 6,15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 2Cor 6,14-15;

John Waterfield: Well, I would like to say here that what they have in common is the fact and the experience of being human, and therefore in need of God, even if they do not realize this themselves. Incidentally, the idea that all human desire is essentially directed to God – even if God is being sought under false forms by the individuals in question – is beautifully expressed both by St Augustine and by Boethius (whose De Consolatione Philosophiae was written in prison and under sentence of death).

I have repeatedly asked you to point to biblical passages in support of your arguments. I do not think we will be able to resolve questions of faith on the basis of philosophical and literary lucubrations. In my experience the only thing that results from this approach, as a rule, is complicated sophistry. What you say here – that "all human desire is essentially directed to God even if God is being sought under false forms by the individuals in question" – is in fact a very typical example.

Here you are presenting humanity – after all the crimes of the past millennia – as if it were white as the driven snow, on the grounds that all human aspiration is essentially aimed at reaching God, even if God has been "sought" under false forms (like murder, betrayal, crime, tyranny, war, torture etc. etc.). On this view, only a completely ignorant and blinkered biblical fundamentalist would be so intolerant as to term such people wicked and godless!

John Waterfield: Do things always have to be so definite? Does it have to be, either A or else B? Isn’t life rather more of a muddle? Can I not say, I experience the spirit and the presence of Jesus in the Catholic Church, even if there are things about it that I do not like? After all, you fully admit that there are things about other Christian congregations that you do not like yourself.

You suggest here that life is something of a chaotic muddle. For my part, I do endeavor to bring order and purpose to my life. Of course I do not always like everything that goes on in evangelical congregations. But this may be compared with a journey. If I want to go from London to New York, I book a flight, and get on the plane at London Heathrow. If I get a seat where there is a draft, if the food is abominable and there are some drunken passengers on board, these facts are unpleasant, but all the same I know that in a few hours I will be where I want to get to – in New York.

If I were to follow your recommendation of taking things with a lesser measure of exactitude, it would be as if I were to board just any plane at the airport without knowing where it was going to, and leaving it up to the cabin crew where they are going to put me, whether they are going to bring me any refreshments or whether they are not just going to throw me off the plane at the next opportunity.

You write that you believe you experience the Spirit and the presence of Jesus in the Catholic church. But you cannot know whether you meet them both there unless you examine the question in the light of Scripture.

Monika von Sury – Concerning Mat 16:16-19 (apostolic authority passed on from Peter to his successors the Bishops)

"Upon this (very) rock" (epi taute te petra) does not refer to the person of Peter but to his confession "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God". What Jesus means here is: "This true confession of thine – that I am the Messiah, that am come to reveal and communicate the living God, upon this very rock, MYSELF, thus confessed, (see also Is 28:16 "Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone") will I build my church (mu ten ekklesian), that is my assembly, or congregation, i.e. persons who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. Peter himself is built on this living foundation stone, together with the rest of the believers (see 1 Pet 2:4-8). Therefore Jesus did not say "on thee Peter, I will build my church, but changes immediately the expression and says "upon that very rock" to show that he neither addresses Peter nor any other of the apostles. So, the doctrine of the supremacy of Peter i.e. of apostolic succession from Peter to the Bishops must be sought in some other Scripture, for it certainly cannot be found in the above reference.

Dr. Monika von Sury – Royal Line info@royalline.ch / https://www.royalline.ch/d/traduction.asp

John Waterfield: As for your comment on ‘Thou art Peter’ – the passage can certainly be understood that way, and you argue very persuasively for it. But aren’t you forgetting that, as the words were originally spoken, the same word would have been used for ‘Peter’ and ‘rock’? Phrase it this way: ‘Thou art Rock, and on this rock I will build my church.’ That surely makes the reference to the person the first thing that comes to mind? Not that I think it is a very important point, because as I have indicated above, I think it is more a matter of faith than of demonstration.

As I mentioned earlier, according to the Scriptures this question does not arise any more since Peter in Gal 2,9 handed over to Paul the task which the Catholic Church claims was given by the Lord to him and so he handed over also his "supremacy" – if he ever had it.

The Apostolic Succession of the Catholic church?

Catholic priests who in thousands of cases worldwide have dispensed the "transformed" eucharist with their hands in the Mass have proceeded, with those same hands, to abuse and violate children (1Cor 6:9). Catholic bishops who earlier had blessed the "sheep" of their flock, have gone on to be arrested for corruption (Vatican Bank, see report in Der Spiegel of 6.28.2013).

Bishop blessing

Of course it is true that you find black sheep everywhere. But when the "very reverend" violators are shielded and hidden in the ranks of the church for decades, and even corrupt "shepherds" holding office as bishops have to be unmasked by the police, this shows up the organization itself as being altogether without conscience, depraved and corrupt (Mt 7:16-20).

Having the face to speak of the "Apostolic Succession", in the light of these facts, is the most egregious insult to the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John Waterfield: God searches hearts. It is not ours to judge. It is ours to hope and expect the best. To endeavor to see what is genuine, sincere, seeking and positive in those who deny and abuse God and act abominably. In this we are only doing as God does. God has endless patience. God does not condemn. God waits.

You write that God searches hearts. This is correct, but incomplete!

For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

Rom 10,9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10,10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 10,11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not de disappointed." Rom 10, 9-11;

But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father.

Mt 10,32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 10,33 "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Mt 10,32-33;

If a person does not confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, that person will not be recognized by the Lord at the end of time. Still less so if he is, as you write above, one who denies and abuses God, and even in spite of your view that we must "endeavor to see what is genuine, sincere, seeking and positive" in this godless individual. Only when a person has been converted to Jesus Christ, and has accepted him as his Lord, does he make the passage from death to life. And then there will certainly no longer be anything like blasphemy or the denial of God to be found in him.

John Waterfield: But it does come down, in the end, to being a matter of faith, not of reason. ‘Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît pas,’ as Pascal said. And here I can only say that I experience holiness and the presence of God in the Catholic church as nowhere else. This is – I would underline this – just a fact of experience. Of course this does not mean that I think it is the only path of salvation: I am sure that other Christian denominations are equally capable of leading to salvation, as well as other faiths if pursued in a spirit of selflessness and sincerity (I might have doubts about thuggee or voodoo, but that would be because of the absence of selflessness in these paths).

I am happy to believe you – and am actually convinced on this point – when you say that you personally experience the presence of God in the Catholic church. This is finally a matter of personal experience, and I have come across people who thought they could sense God in other things altogether - like flowers, trees, springs, stones, trance states or whatever. We find confirmation of this in the following authors:

Erich Seeberg: Die Religionen der Erde / Das Christentum, München 1966 [The Religions of the Earth / Christianity, Munich 1966]

"As our ancestors reverenced the divine power in a holy tree or a holy spring, so the Catholic senses God in corporeal form and experiences the numinous as a living force in the church, in relics, in the sacrament. You can take the measure of Catholicism in all its heights and depths, but you keep finding yourself coming up against this essential feature, which is closely linked both to mysticism and to magic."

Martin Gerbert: Religionen in Brasilien / Vermischung der Religionen, Berlin 1970 [Religions in Brazil / Religious Syncretism, Berlin 1970]

"I have been concerned here to show that such things were possible under the Catholic faith, and that they have been encouraged by incorrect Catholic views of the value of alternative religions and through the practices of an unchristian colonial Catholicism. Brazil is the biggest spiritist country in the world. 93% of the population is nominally accounted Catholic. Most of those who take part in spiritist ceremonies are ‘good Catholics’ on the side, or even full time. If they nonetheless involve themselves to a more or less intense degree in occult and magical practices, this is not regarded as any kind of contradiction.

The result is shocking: millions of people have had no testimony of the true path of salvation: in the last resort they have been abandoned to heathen devilry and darkness."

So much for these quotations.

But to return to the theme of our discussion. It is a matter – at least I would see it that way – not of personal sensations, of whether we are able to experience something somewhere; rather it is a question of the true foundation stone of Christianity worldwide, namely of the correct biblical teaching. And when you write that you do not take the view that the Catholic church is the only way of salvation, this makes me see you in a most sympathetic light, but you are actually at odds with your own church.

As the following article by the General Commissar of the Holy Land, Dik. St. Bertagnolli OFM makes plain, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic church (a body known not so long ago as the "Holy Office", and at an earlier date responsible for the Inquisition), under the leadership of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI,) , insists – in its declaration "Dominus Jesus" – on the postulate that "the Catholic church is the one and only church of Christ capable of giving salvation":

General Commissar of the Holy Land Dik. St. Bertagnolli OFM

The statements formulated in the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of 20 August 2000, "Dominus Jesus"

"What is the church actually driving at here? She is not motivated by self-interest, but rather relies on her mission as having been sent by Jesus, the Lord, because he is the truth that has been revealed by God. It follows from this that the Catholic church is the one and only church of Christ capable of giving salvation. In particular she wishes, and is obliged, to point to the central necessity of the person by whom she was founded. And the reason for this is to make it possible for the church really to give humanity truth, safety and certainty. The Catholic church is the only church that was founded by Jesus Christ on Peter and his successors. It therefore relies on a commission given by God, and so also has an absolute authority derived from God. The Vatican Council has indicated this with the utmost emphasis."

(See also Discourse 32: "Commentary on the manifesto ‘Dominus Jesus’ of the Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.")

So when you say, "I am sure that other Christian denominations are equally capable of leading to salvation", while on the other hand the declaration "Dominus Jesus" is a document approved by the Pope, this judgment of yours is purely a product of your private opinion – a kind of "Waterfield Catholicism" – and you may well be putting yourself at risk of Catholic excommunication.

(See also Discourse 89: "The new declaration of the Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Christian Churches.")>

John Waterfield: Well, yes indeed. But what can any of us do but take up a stand for our own personal convictions? As Luther himself did – ‘Here stand I – I can do no other – God help me – Amen’.

What we can do is to examine our convictions to see whether they are right or wrong. And that is just what Luther did! He stood up for his conviction that the Bible contains the truth, the correct doctrine, and that the special Catholic teachings based on tradition were human and false. Luther’s own conviction was based on what is written in the Bible. And this was what gave him the strength to say "Here stand I, I can do no other" – this strength of conviction did not come from just any old habits of mind and personal opinions.

John Waterfield: And the Catholic Church teaches that he was perfectly right to do so – as he could not have acted otherwise without going against his own conscience.

Well, because of Luther’s steadfastness in adhering to his convictions, the Catholic church made him an outlaw throughout the Empire, meaning that he was no longer protected by law and could be killed by anyone without fear of punishment. If he had not gone into hiding for years, he would have been murdered by the myrmidons of the Catholic church, just like many who were martyred under the Inquisition and in the Counter-Reformation.

And if, according to you, the Catholic church teaches that Luther was perfectly correct to act as he did, then she should also teach that the Pope of the time, Leo X, committed – for all his "infallibility" – the biggest mistake in the history of the Catholic church by condemning Luther as a heretic, and so bringing about the schism of the churches.

John Waterfield: I don’t like the tone or the spirit of ‘Dominus Jesus’ any more than you do. Perhaps there would be certain authorities in the Catholic Church who, if they knew all my opinions, would want to excommunicate me. I think they would be wrong – and that they are the ones who are distorting the Church out of all recognition. The fact that there are such extremists or hardliners in the Church does not however make me less willing to belong to it. I think of St Thomas More’s remark when he became Chancellor of England under Henry VIII (and of course lost his head soon after) – "that which you cannot turn to the good, that it be at least ordered so that it be not very bad".

You will permit me here to recapitulate your statements, to make sure that I have understood them. You belong to a church of which the supreme leaders advocate extreme views, which you personally do not agree with – a disagreement for which these people, if they only knew of it, would expel you from their community. Furthermore, these leading authorities completely distort the credit and the acceptability of your church. Just allow me here the question - if you, as a confessing and practicing Catholic, have this opinion of your own church, then how am I, as a fundamentalist biblical Christian, to see the matter any differently?

So if a person wishes, as you do, nonetheless to remain a member of this community, it seems to me that there could be only two possible reasons for this: either you are not able, for whatever reason, to recognize this false path for what it is, or this is the only church in the world. And neither of these, after all, apply in the present case.

Interestingly enough, your arguments quoted above have helped me to a better understanding of the soul of Islam. Here too we find the moderate Moslems insisting all the time that they do not agree with the extremists. But when we know that the prophet Mohammed personally led his people in 66 wars, resulting in thousands of deaths, in order to "convert" his neighbors to what was then a new faith, then we can see that violence has been intrinsic to Islam ever since its foundation. Incidentally, I can see parallels here too with the Catholicism of the colonial period, though I do not want to go into that in detail now.

John Waterfield: I am convinced that God is much more interested in the heart than in any kind of denominational allegiance.

If God, in your view, does not care about any particular religious allegiance, then I ask myself why you want to remain in that church, of all others, in which the leading authorities advocate extremist points of view and where you risk being thrown out on your ear, when there are actually plenty of other denominations – including Christian ones – available.

John Waterfield: I happen to think the Catholic Church is special, I happen to experience the presence of God in this particular way, thus I feel happy to be part of the Catholic Church as the mainstream Christian tradition. But I am quite prepared to understand the position of people who do not see it like this, who have other ways of approaching God or do not feel the need of approaching God at all.

There is no other way to approach God than by believing in his Son Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Savior! And this – I’m sorry – is not the "mainstream", but rather the "narrow gate", as Jesus says:

For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.

Mt 7,13 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 7,14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Mt 7,13-14;

But he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Jn 3,35 "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Jn 3,35-36;

John Waterfield: Our Lady of Medjugorje is very non-denominational. In this country riven with religious conflict, she told the children who saw her ‘There is a Moslem woman living in your village who loves God and is a very good person. You should try to be more like her."

Well, just this statement for me would constitute a proof that this "manifestation" has not been sent by God. Islam is a religion that was "cobbled together" by Mohammed from Jewish and Christian sources. "Allah" was a moon god of Mohammed’s tribe, whom he then proclaimed as the supreme God of the Islamic religion. Thus Islam is a human invention, and not a religion sent by God, as the Moslems claim. And it is absolutely unthinkable in scriptural terms that the Holy Spirit could approve of this kind of idol-worship, let alone recommend it as a path to be followed.

John Waterfield: I am often struck by the goodness of people who are not Christians. At the place where I was living before, I had a very close relationship with the people I rented from. They were completely ignorant of religion, it just wasn’t a matter of concern for them. They frankly thought it bizarre. But they were good, generous and selfless people. I did the music for their wedding, and felt privileged to do so.

Yes, those people who do good works in the absence of any belief in God may congratulate themselves on this, but this is not the way they appear in God’s eyes (cf. Rom 4,2-5). They are lost in just the same way as if they had never carried out any good actions, because their works are not the result of faith. A person who does not have faith will be finally damned, with or without works. Every human being who does not carry in himself the longing to become acquainted with God is godless, and has missed the point of his life.

Without faith it is impossible to please God.

Hbr 11,6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Heb 11, 6;

It makes no difference if such people are kind-hearted and selfless. Just as in the passage quoted earlier – if a person does not believe in the Son, he does not have the Father either, and if he does not believe, the most selfless actions will profit him not at all, he is and remains godless and is a lost soul.

(See also Chapter 13: "The Last Judgment.")

John Waterfield: When I look at myself and reflect on the majesty of God, it is a terrifying prospect, and I know very well that I have no chance of being saved except through grace and the love of Christ. When I look at other people, on the other hand, I can generally see that they are sincere and are doing the best they can, depending on the amount of the truth that they have been able to see. If they have not been able to see more, perhaps it is not their fault, but to be put down to what the Catholic church calls ‘invincible ignorance’ (a useful concept). Anyway, I feel certain that God will recognize and value their good intentions, rather than condemning them for not seeing what he was trying to offer them, when they just were not in a position to see it at all. I am speaking from a personal point of view here, as I also have friends who are followers of other paths – I know quite a few Buddhists – and I can see much of value in their spiritual practice. I am sure that in the hereafter Jesus will accept it as having been done in his name, even if they did not know that they were doing it in his name.

According to Scripture, deep insights into the truth are not a precondition of salvation. Quite on the contrary – there are many individuals who imagine they have a deep understanding, when actually they have not even begun to recognize the one thing that matters. It is not understanding but faith that saves us from eternal damnation: faith in Jesus Christ and in his vicarious sacrifice on our behalf, for our sins. For this you do not have to be a scientist or a philosopher, a theologian or a poet. It is a thing that the most simple-minded person can understand – and believe in. If he does not, this may be for the reason that nobody has ever yet told him about it.

When you write that you ascribe high significance to spiritual paths like Buddhism and other religions, and that you are even confident that their adherents are all acting in the name of Jesus Christ, then what we have is just a potpourri of religious doctrines and practices where there are no visible signposts, where everyone is right and no one’s pretensions can be made subject to criticism. And all this under the auspices of the Christian faith!

John Waterfield: But I do not, I absolutely cannot think that the conscious profession of Christianity is what saves people from damnation. If I believed that, I would have to condemn far too many people!

Our Lord Jesus Christ – whom you also acknowledge as your Lord, as you write – says to us:

He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

Mk 16,15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mk 16,15-16;

As you see, the Lord here says the direct opposite of what you would like to believe. And naturally I would rather take Christ’s word for it than yours.

Incidentally, it is not after all up to us to save or to condemn, you don’t need to worry about that – it is God who will decide. But you are quite right: there are many, far too many, who will be lost. Scripture leads us to assume that only one person in a thousand can expect salvation.

But just to throw some light on your remark above, when you say that if you were to believe these sayings of the Lord’s you would have to condemn too many people. You are an intelligent and well educated son of your father. Now somebody might come forward with the suggestion that this remarkable man should have a lot more sons. But surely this would not make you feel inclined to embrace perfect strangers as your brothers of your own blood. Nor could this be expected to give much joy to your father. You cannot declare godless people and idol-worshipers to be Christians, just because you do not want to condemn them. Nor indeed is that something our Father in heaven would approve of.

John Waterfield: I do see your point about potpourri and dilution. All the same, I think that the decisive question is this - whether the individual insists on being OK as he/she is, seeing everything from his/her point of view, or whether he/she acknowledges authority. Authority in the sense of something greater than himself or herself, and to which absolute allegiance and commitment is owed. This may be commitment to Jesus, and in my case that is what it happens to be, but there are many other forms of this acknowledgement that God would equally well recognize.

I am really pleased by your stating here that Jesus Christ is your Lord, to whom you are loyally devoted. What I respect about you as well is that you are evidently a good-hearted and open-minded person, and just this is also the base from which I am arguing. It doesn’t matter to me which of us is right or wrong. I am solely and exclusively concerned about you as a person and your understanding of the Christian faith.

In all that you say I repeatedly find you wanting to meet others halfway, not wanting to do them any injury and as far as possible trying to remain open to any kind of approach. And while I can certainly see the virtue of this, it is worth considering that this attitude may also result from the desire to avoid possible conflicts, and to escape if possible from the necessity of having to get to grips with other people’s problems.

Whether this applies to you is a matter that you must decide for yourself. But I have often found it to be the case that people who are unable to handle frustration frequently do not have any opinion of their own, but adhere to the majority opinion for fear of conflict. Now it is true, certainly, that in many areas of life we are all more or less on an equal footing. But here it is not just any issue that is at stake – it is a matter of eternal life and eternal damnation. And then I have to say that – for me at least – this is the point where empathy and the search for consensus have to stop.

Your distinction between those people who see themselves as the supreme authority, and those others who accept an authority higher than their own, admits of a third classification – those people, that is, who while they claim that they are obedient to a higher authority, are actually following an authority that they themselves have invented. In this way they can have their cake and eat it: they are still their own supreme authority as much as they ever were, but in relating to the outside world they can make a pretence of being obedient to something higher.

That is why we have to state at this point with absolute clarity that it is not any human doctrines or recommendations, but Holy Scripture alone – the Old and the New Testament – that must be regarded as the sole foundation of the Christian faith as a whole. And Scripture does not tell us that God will recognize the value of "many other forms" of belief. On the contrary, the Lord himself says that those who do not believe in him as the Son of God and the only Savior of humanity will be condemned.

Mk 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mk 16,16;

There is just the one and only path of faith in Jesus Christ for all people the world over, and absolutely no other form of "acknowledgement of other forms of belief" that would be accepted by God. Every human being - every single one – who does not believe in Jesus Christ is a lost soul and destined for eternal damnation.

John Waterfield: Going back to tradition, may I just quote a few sentences from the Catholic Catechism:

In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways: - orally, by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word, by their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they had themselves received – whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and works, or whether they had learned it by the prompting of the Holy Spirit; – in writing, by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing.

This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.

Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine wellspring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ‘always, to the close of the age’.

We can certainly talk about this if you will only point out to me those passages in the Bible that support these statements.

I can see that we must first discuss the biblical background to the concept of the "church". The term has its origin in the Bible, where – as I am sure you know – it is derived from the Greek "ekklesia" and stands for the "assembly" or "congregation". The "congregation", then, is the community of individuals who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Redeemer, who have availed themselves of his redeeming sacrifice on the cross for our sins and confess him in word and in deed.

As sinners who have been justified in this manner and as children of God, all members of the congregation are sustained by the love of God in the same way. It follows that in terms of the Bible – by contrast with the Catholic church – there is no kind of hierarchy, nor can there be any separation of clergy and laity: instead, we find the general priesthood of all believers.

John Waterfield: Yes, of course I expected that you would take this view. I wouldn’t want to get into a lengthy discussion about how the hierarchy of the church came into existence, what the role of the bishop (episkopos) in the early Christian centuries was and whether it can be related to the situation of the early church as revealed through Paul’s letters. It does seem worth mentioning, though, that the ‘universal priesthood of the faithful’ is a Catholic concept which was strongly highlighted by Vatican II and was indeed referred to by the priest in his sermon at the Mass I attended this morning (I was visiting a strange church, as I had to take my son to a martial arts event in Ledbury – there turned out to be a christening as well – an unexpected bonus!) – even if the Catholic church does make a distinction between those who are empowered to administer the sacraments and those who are not.

The point at issue is not the hierarchy as such, but rather that in the Catholic church only this hierarchy is authorized to serve the faithful - a task which the Lord actually entrusted to all believers. The calming assurances of the Catholic authorities are not worth the paper they are written on. Is a believing Catholic allowed to baptize, teach, preach or dispense the Lord’s supper? And here I know that many Catholics in Austria share my opinion.

John Waterfield: I don’t know. Maybe some future ecclesiastical organization could be possible in which ALL believers may be more actively involved. I would not be against it. We already have Mass with lay dispensers of Communion (and without a priest). Catholic laypersons can also baptize in extremis. In principle I would like to think of the organization of the Church as fluid. I do not know what will come out of it. I would like to see much more involvement of women, certainly. Not as priests, but in a different role. I played the organ today for a Women’s World Day of Prayer service – entirely planned by and directed by women. There was no Mass – as of course women cannot consecrate the Host – but all other essentials of the Mass were there. I found it very inspiring.

You present these innovations in the Catholic church – Masses that are celebrated even without a priest, the fact that lay persons can celebrate the Lord’s supper, or that lay persons can even administer baptism "in extremis" – as if wishing to make out that these are evidence of some extraordinary progress in the development of the Christian faith.

All of this, though, is already contained in Scripture. But the Catholic church kept it from the faithful, so as to make it exclusively permissible to an elitist minority who were paid for doing the job – namely, the Catholic clergy. And now it is gradually becoming apparent that the people of today’s church will not put up with this for much longer, and so the clergy tries to save its position by releasing one jealously guarded privilege after another. But this makes no difference whatever to the fact that this church has been pulling the wool over the eyes of the faithful for practically 2000 years, and depriving them of those community responsibilities which God intended them to have.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them.

Mt 28,19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 28,20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Mt 28,19-20;

So this church forbids the laity to serve their Christian brothers and sisters, reserving divine service to the clergy alone – and this notably calls into contempt the Lord’s words quoted above. And yet you present it as if this were no more than a quantité négligeable.

John Waterfield: Well, at the time these words were spoken there would have been no distinction anyway between clerics and laity. I don’t really see the problem. Of course I would not deny the validity of a baptism carried out by a sincere layperson if accepted by the baptized person in sincerity of heart.

As I have already mentioned, I am assuming that you are a sincerely believing Christian. So it is not a matter here of what you personally deny or do not deny, but rather of the false doctrines that have been introduced by the Catholic church which you defend. And one point at issue, amongst many others, is this separation of the faithful into the "laity" and the "clergy", which has no basis in Scripture – and for good reason.

John Waterfield: In the Catholic view the original depositum fidei passed on by the apostles is something that develops in time, that changes and grows as the Church does itself. This does not involve "additions" to that original deposit but is rather a matter of seeing it from different angles (depending on the changing conditions of different periods of history) or of drawing out implications that were present in it from the beginning but had not yet been made explicit. Cardinal Newman spoke of what he called the ‘economy of revelation’ – a process of gradual unfolding, which makes me think of the unrolling of a carpet (doesn’t even the German word ‘Entwicklung’ [development] suggest a carpet?!): it remains one carpet always, but as it continues to be unrolled, more and more of the pattern is revealed.

I think the difference in our points of view can be admirably demonstrated on the basis of what you write here – where you speak of "drawing out implications that were present in it from the beginning but had not yet been made explicit". Here I am in full agreement with you, but with the following addition – those new insights which we are repeatedly able to obtain from Scripture in the course of time must always and of necessity be fundamentally based in their turn on the Word of God. On the principle of "sola scriptura", or as our fathers in the faith used to say, "Scripture is its own interpretation", any doctrinal formulation that is exclusively based on human opinion (such as Catholic "dogmas" like the Assumption of Mary) is alien to a truly biblical theology.

John Waterfield: I do not myself see the logic of making Scripture the "sole" touchstone of truth: it seems to me like wanting to stop the clock, to freeze our faith into the form it took at the time when the books of the NT were written or the canon defined. I do not think this does justice to the complexity of human life, above all to the fact that human history develops in time.

Here again the Catholic point of view shows its colors. I was delighted to meet with what seemed a sound understanding on your part of the true authority of the Bible, when I found you writing about "drawing out implications that were present in it from the beginning but had not yet been made explicit". But I see now that you must have meant something quite different.

What you say here makes it sound as if the Bible were an ancient book, written in the past once and for all, which now – seeing that the times have changed - needs to be "updated". I on the contrary assume that everything we need is already contained in the Bible, because the Spirit of God inspired its authors, not word for word, but in all the essential parts. And as our God is an almighty and omniscient God, he knew at that time – just as he did when he began the work of creation – what would happen thousands of years later, right up to our time and into the distant future, and what his children were going to have need of.

I believe therefore that the Bible, in the form in which we have it today, already contains all the significant truths that the children of God, both today and in future, could possibly require. What is called for, then, is not an adaptation of the Word of God to modern times, but the study of Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit, in order to come to understand those further mysteries which are to be revealed in our own time and to communicate them to our Christian brothers and sisters.

Praying to the dead

John Waterfield: I think it therefore legitimate that practices developed in the life of the Church (like veneration of the saints, say) which are not referred to in Scripture. A propos prayer to the saints, of course it is not intended to "replace" prayer to Our Lord, and I am sure you likewise know that to say Catholics ‘worship’ the Virgin Mary is nonsense. Let me try to explain it. We grow in the knowledge of God not just through contemplating Our Lord directly, but also through seeing Our Lord reflected in others – both in living people, and in the saints who are no longer alive on earth, but who to me are as close and as intimate as my closest living friends. To say that I should not address my prayers to God through the mediation of these friends, as well as directly, is to my mind analogous to saying that in view of the saying ’No one comes to the Father but by me’ we should abstain from all human friendships. Our Lord wants us to love Him not just in Himself, but also in others who reflect Him and carry Him in their hearts. There is a line in Dante’s Paradiso that I like – Ecco, chi viene a crescere i nostri amori - See who comes, to increase our loves! The whole of the Paradiso is full of this reflected light, the light of God that is scattered abroad and reflected back and between so many different faces.

Here I can straight away link the beginning of your statement to its end. According to Scripture, Paradise is the realm of the dead. Also according to Scripture, the "saints" are all Christian believers. The hierarchy of the "saints" and the "blessed" is yet another doctrine introduced by the Catholic church, and has no basis in Scripture. And all people who have died – all the dead – are now in the realm of the dead! A prayer to dead "saints" is therefore – from a biblical point of view – a cult of the dead. As a result, the Catholics cheat themselves with their prayers to "saints", which go forth into a vacuum and bring nothing back. The Bible tells us that we should pray to God and to his Son Jesus Christ. He is the only Savior, and the only mediator. No one else!

(See also Excursus 09: "The Paradise.")

The reverence paid to dead saints has further resulted in images and figures of these saints, made of wood, stone or metal, being set up in Catholic churches. Seeing that this was a contravention of the second of the Ten Commandments given by God (the prohibition relating to graven images), the Catholic church simply chose to delete this divine Commandment. But as it was well known that there were ten commandments and not nine, they simply split up the tenth and last commandment into two, so as to make the number of commandments come out to ten.

Thus the Catholic church has added the crime of falsification of Scripture to that of its betrayal of the people of the church.

(See also Discourse 32: "Table: The ten Commandments of God and those of the Catholic Church.")

Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands.

Ps 115,4 Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. 115,5 They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; 115,6 They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; 115,7 They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. 115,8 Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them. 115,9 O Israel, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield. 115,10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield. Ps 115, 4-10;

Is the Catholic Church a Christian church?

When the unbelieving world speaks of Christianity, in nine out of ten cases what is meant is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has become practically synonymous with Christianity in the eyes of the world. This is a massive error!

The one and only basis of Christianity is the Bible – the Word of God. But the Catholic Church withdrew this same Word of God from its faithful in the year 1229, and actually placed the Bible on its list of forbidden books!!

The Council of Trent (1545-63) likewise rejected the Bible as the sole source of divine revelation, putting the Catholic tradition – i.e. the oral or written passing on of Catholic, in other words human doctrines, including dogmas – on the same footing with Holy Scripture as the main source of faith and attributing to it equal value.

But this means that the Catholic Church has abandoned the true basis of Christianity. Through the unbiblical worship of the Catholic "Mary" (dating from the Council of Ephesus in 431) and of dead "saints", the Catholic Church has introduced the worship of idols (Ex 20:3-6; Jer 10:2-5) and the cult of the dead (Isa 8:19; Lev 19:31) among its faithful (1Tim 4:1-3).

In order to conceal the fact that these erroneous doctrines deviate from the Bible, the Catholic Church has falsified the Bible and to this day keeps the knowledge of the second of God’s Ten Commandments (Num 5:8-9) from its members – instead, it has divided the tenth commandment (Num 5:21) in two in order to make up the total to ten again (The ten commandments of God and those of the Catholic Church.)

For all these reasons, the Catholic Church is no longer a Christian church. Nor can believing Catholics call themselves "practicing Christians", in view of the fact that the Catholic Church obliges them to submit to Catholic dogmas and teachings on pain of excommunication – so in truth they are not Christians any longer, but just "practicing Catholics" to whom the Lord will say: "I do not know you" (Mt 25:12).

Cult of Lucifer in the Vatican (Video)

Jude 1:7

Pope Francis on gays: "Who am I to judge them?"

The Bible on gays:

Röm 1,26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 1,27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

John Waterfield: And I am sorry, but I do not think I agree with your view of the ‘realm of the dead’, if I have correctly understood it. I was wondering about this again when we happened to have at Mass today the reading about the penitent thief – ‘This day you will be with me in paradise’.

Seeing that what you say here does not involve the putting of a question, you will not take it as impolite on my part, if I answer with a question. The Lord spoke these words to this man just before he died. Can you tell me where the Lord (with this man) went to after his death, and where, after that, he spent three days and nights?

The Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Mt 12,40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Mt 12,40;

And what do you think is "in the heart of the earth"? The Kingdom of Heaven? Or the realm of the dead? And what do you think the Lord did, when he was "in the heart of the earth"?

After His death He went in the spirit and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.

1Pet 3,18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 3,19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison. 1Pet 3,18-19;

The gospel has been preached even to those who are dead,

1Pet 4,6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. 1Pet 4, 6;

(See also Chapter 12: "The Resurrection. / Christ in the realm of the dead.")

John Waterfield: If I have understood your position, it is that the dead are simply dead, until they are awakened in the Last Days. To me God comprehends all times and places, is not subject to time. For God, therefore, the Last Days and the Judgment have taken place already – for God all times (past, present and future) are simultaneous. So those who have died are with the Lord already. To me it is just a fact of experience that the saints are alive and that we can contact them. I see this as being due to what the Catholic church calls the ‘communion of saints’ – of which the best explanation is the passage in John: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’, etc. Because we all share in the divine life, in the love of the Lord, therefore we can also meet in it. We are not separated by time, we are living the divine life and are in heaven now – by faith at least, if not visibly.

You write here: "So those who have died are with the Lord already. To me it is just a fact of experience that the saints are alive and that we can contact them". Now, the basis for forming a judgment on this issue cannot be just personal experience, but must – in view of the premises established at the start of our discussion – be the Bible, which for me is the only basis of faith (for you an important component of it). If we now examine what Scripture has to say on this point, we find for example Paul’s statement in 1The 4,15-17:

The Lord Himself will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

1The 4,15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 4,16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 4,17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1The 4,15-17;

Paul is here speaking of the Second Coming of the Lord in the Last Days, and the Resurrection of the dead and their Rapture along with the living. He means that those who are alive at the time of the Rapture will not take priority over those who have fallen asleep in Christ (the dead). The Lord (with whom, according to your statements above, the dead already are) will come down from heaven (where also, according your statements above, the dead already are), and will waken the dead who have fallen asleep (although they are actually, in your opinion, already wide awake and in heaven) and will gather them to himself (although again, in your opinion, they have been with him all the time).

You write that "those who have died are with the Lord already. To me it is just a fact of experience that the saints are alive and that we can contact them". But Paul on the other hand tells us that Christian believers who have died have fallen asleep, and will have to be woken up at the Second Coming of the Lord, and not before. They will then be gathered by the Lord to himself in heaven. This proves conclusively, on the evidence of Scripture, that the dead cannot already be in heaven, nor can they be awake. So according to the Bible the Christian dead are by no means in a state in which it would be possible to communicate with them: they are asleep, and will continue to sleep until that future time. And they certainly are not in heaven either.

(See also Discourse 56: "Are Christians who have died already in heaven?")

Now I do not want to cast any kind of doubt on your assertion. But when you for your part say that communication with the dead is for you a fact of experience, while on the other hand Scripture tells us that such communications with the Christian dead are completely impossible, then the question suggests itself with what dead spirits you actually are in touch.

Franz Stuhlhofer: Zu Heiligen beten? [Prayer to the saints?] Asslar 1988.

In the New Testament we see that the disciples were closely linked in their mutual love. All the same, no attempt was ever made to get in touch with the dead martyrs. We find a great deal about prayer written there, but nowhere do we find any suggestion that it might be permissible to pray to the dead.

On the grounds that these dead saints are now living with God, and also belong to the all-embracing "Communion of the Saints", the attempt has been made (in the Roman Catholic church – FH) to get in touch with them, and to justify such contacts. But this communion of all the saints will only become a full reality in heaven – it is not up to us to try to anticipate this final state. Until that time comes, Christians too will suffer from bodily sickness (although Jesus overcame sickness) and die (although Jesus has already overcome death). The fundamental point is that Jesus has already achieved the victory, but this victory nonetheless will only be realized step by step. Until then both death and the devil still retain some part of their power, and until then we must accept the fact that even Christians will be separated from one another in death, for a period at least. It is not just that we are forbidden to make contact with the dead – the opposite applies as well: the dead do not talk to the living. God sometimes makes use of angels, to bring help or a message to living human beings, but dead saints never figure in this role.

We have to do here with a principle that we find stated throughout the entire Bible: the way by which we should make contact with the invisible world is prayer to God himself. (...)

In the Tridentine confession of faith (1564) (of the Roman Catholic church - FH) we find the following summary statement:

"… that the saints who reign together with Christ should be venerated and prayed to, that they present our prayers to God, that their relics should be venerated. I state definitively that it is right that images of Christ, of the ever-virgin (‘virgin’ even after the procreation of the brothers of Jesus! - FH) Mother of God and of the other saints should be kept and maintained, and that due respect and veneration should be paid to them."

Also the statements here above, by Fanz Stuhlhofer, Baptist theologian, Vienna, show the correct biblical view of this subject. There is only one case in the Bible where a living person was allowed to speak with a dead prophet, and that was King Saul, who desperately wanted to know from the already dead prophet Samuel how the battle to be fought the next day would turn out.

Saul commissioned a necromancer to call Saul in the realm of the dead and the prophet did indeed appear. The first thing he said to King Saul was, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?". And then Samuel announced to King Saul that the next day he will perish in battle along with his sons (1Sam 28,7-18).

John Waterfield: On prayer to the saints – I cannot believe that prayer, sincerely and selflessly offered and based on love, could ever ‘go forth into a vacuum’ or be without effect.

Dear Mr Waterfield, although I am afraid that my answer may be rather longer than you might find acceptable, I would like to try to show you what is at stake here in the light of an example. Suppose I write a letter to you, put it in a blank envelope and post it in the letter box.

When a friend points out to me that this letter is never going to reach the addressee, I answer, "I cannot believe that a letter that I have written with so much love and in such a fine hand will remain unanswered." It is rather as if you were to dial the number for the speaking clock, and then order two tickets for the opera.

Do you see what I mean? It is not principally a question of whether your prayers are sincere and selflessly offered and based on love, but rather of whether you are sending your prayers to the correct address. If the address is the right one, you don’t need to pray in any elaborate terms – perhaps all you can manage, and it is sufficient, is just to stammer, with tears in your eyes, "Father, please help". For our Father in heaven knows what we need, long before we ask him.

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret.

Mt 6,5 "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
6,6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
6,7 "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
5,8 "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Mt 6, 5- 8;

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Jn 4,23 "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 4,24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." Jn 4,23-24;

John Waterfield: No, I do not see this at all. Surely God recognizes the intention of the heart – not our conception of the address to which we think we are sending our letter (which may in fact be wrong). I would refer you here to ‘The Last Battle’ by C.S. Lewis.

If I understand you correctly, you are here advocating the view that it is a matter of complete indifference to whom I address my prayers - whether it is Allah, Buddha, the millions of gods of the Hindus or the divinities of the animists: the prayers must only be an expression of the desires of my heart, and then God will so to speak "automatically" hear them. Well, I would like to point out to you here that even the prayers of Satanists are an expression of the desires of their hearts, and according to your point of view God would thus be obliged to fulfill the desires of Satan. Where have you found anything like that in the Bible?

The author you recommend – C.S. Lewis, who was Professor of English Literature at Cambridge and whose book "The Screwtape Letters" [German title: "Dienstanweisung für einen Unterteufel"], published by the Catholic publishing house Herder, I have read – fits well with the views you advance. The blurb on the back of the book reads, "A hellish pleasure, just ‘devilish’ good." My personal response to the book was of course attended by certain reservations.

John Waterfield: I do not have any doubt myself about the dead with whom I am in contact. Nor do I think there is a very great difference between the living and the dead. ‘Die ewige Strömung / Reißt durch beide Bereiche alle Alter / Immer mit sich, und übertönt sie in beiden.’ [‘The eternal current / Pours through both worlds, bearing all ages with it, / And overpowers their voices with its song.’] (Rilke). . Modern physics seems to agree with the teaching of various spiritual authorities that time is an illusion. Then if the dead are to be with the Lord at some time in the future, they are with the Lord already – because for God (whatever the limitations of our human perspective) past, present and future do not exist.

You write, "I do not have any doubt myself about the dead with whom I am in contact", and you do not think "that there is a very great difference between the living and the dead". Even if this were to be the case, God the Almighty has expressly forbidden any contact between the two worlds, and anyone who commits such acts is abominable in God’s eyes.

For detestable to the LORD is whoever calls up the dead.

Deut 18,10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 18,11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 18,12 "For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you. Deut 18,10-12;

Since you have been so kind as to recommend certain authors to my attention, you will allow me to make a similar recommendation to you: above all, do not look to find wisdom in the wise of this world, but test their views in the light of Scripture.

The assertion by the spiritual authorities whom you quote, to the effect that time is an illusion, strongly calls to mind Nietzsche’s declaration that "God is dead". Today some people comment on this by remarking that "Nietzsche is dead". And I have similar feelings about time, when people want to make out that it is an illusion. They should look at their reflection in the mirror at regular intervals, if they want to verify their theory. – Time passes.

For God in eternity, it is true, all time is present. But for us human beings, eternity begins only after the Resurrection and the Last Judgment. And until that time it is the will of God that we should be bound to time and its laws, whether we are dead or alive.

John Waterfield: May I quote another poem – by Kathleen Raine, not a Catholic but a very spiritual person, and a great authority on William Blake (she died a few years ago). The title is a quote from Dante’s Paradiso, and means ‘you are not upon earth, as you think’.

Not upon earth, as you suppose,
tower those rocks that turn the wind,
for on their summits angels stand.
Nor from the earth these waters rise -
to quench not thirst but ecstasy
the waterfall leaps from the sky.
These streaming clouds that storm and swirl
about the mountain are the veil
that from these sightless eyes shall fall
when senses faint into the ground
and time and place go down the wind.

You can enjoy the profound writings of poets like Shakespeare and Rilke, but do not look to find answers to issues of faith from the wise of this world, for the wisdom of this world is folly in the eyes of God.

The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.

1Cor 3,19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is the One who catches the wise in their craftiness"; 3,20 and again, "The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless." 1Cor 3,19-20;

The Marian apparitions in the Catholic church

John Waterfield: Incidentally, I would also extend this idea of the ‘communion of the saints’ to great writers and artists – if we can, in the Lord, be one in spirit with St Paul, St Thomas More or Ste Thérèse, we can also clearly in the spirit experience the same communion with Shakespeare, Beethoven or Michelangelo.

Well, certainly. One thing leads to another. There are even people who have lived in spirit in Ancient Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs, and others who can communicate with the spirit of Mozart or Goethe and so create artistically valuable works. I do not have any doubt about these things, any more than I have any doubt about the miracles of Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje. We do not differ, then, in our judgment of the phenomenal form of these major manifestations, but only in our view of their origin.

John Waterfield: Perhaps some of the claims made for such phenomena might be wrong, but does that mean that the origin is necessarily evil? I would not myself have any doubts about Lourdes, Fatima or Medjugorje, all of which seem to me absolutely convincing and imbued with the spirit of Christ (by their fruits you shall know them, after all).

Particularly when assessing events of this kind, we have to be extremely cautious if we approach them from a biblical angle. We have in Luke the Lord’s saying about the only sin that cannot be forgiven either in time or in eternity, namely the sin against the Holy Spirit.

He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him

Lk 12,8"And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; 12,9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 12,10 "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. Lk 12, 8-10;

The background to this saying may be seen in the parallel passage in Mt 12,24, where the Pharisees accuse Our Lord of driving out demons with the help of Beelzebul – this is Satan – the ruler of demons. This sin against the Holy Spirit which can never be forgiven is thus found to occur when someone attributes the working of the Holy Spirit to Satan, or conversely characterizes the working of satanic powers as being from the Spirit of God.

And I am afraid that it is precisely this latter situation that we have to do with in the manifestations and miracles of the Catholic church in Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje.

In this context, the biblical passage you refer to prompts me to draw the following conclusion. We are told here by Matthew:

I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Mt 7,19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 7,20 "So then, you will know them by their fruits. 7,21 "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 7,22 "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 7,23 "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Mt 7,19-23;

Just as these Marian apparitions have prophesied, so at the Last Judgment many will come and will say, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name?" But the Lord will say to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."

John Waterfield: I am completely convinced of the authenticity of those Marian apparitions that I know anything about (Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje) and find it extraordinary that anyone should see something demonic in what has in all these cases been a message of repentance, conversion, prayer, peace and love. I have been to Lourdes twice myself (the first time I was looking after sick people, the second time I was with my wife, who died two months later) and found it to be a place where heaven is very close to the earth. As Bernadette put it, ‘For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.’

The ‘demonic’ explanation seems to me no more convincing than my son’s theory that Jesus was a conjuror and confidence trickster.

With this assertion – ‘For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible’ – you are accusing all those who cannot see these manifestations as being of Christian origin, because there is no basis for it in the Bible, of being unbelievers.

John Waterfield: Not at all. I do not criticize anybody for their inability or even their unwillingness to believe.

Quite apart from that, on this basis you can justify any kind of spiritualist practice without any necessity of proving your point of view. That is neither objective nor intellectually honest. The more so, when in the Christian world we have an absolutely outstanding tool for testing the correctness of our arguments – namely the Word of God, Holy Scripture.

John Waterfield: But why should proof be necessary? Why is certainty so important? I am quite prepared, myself, to accept large areas of uncertainty. I do not have to have everything clarified in this life. And I like John Keats’s definition of ‘negative capability’ - ‘the ability to remain in doubt and uncertainty, without an irritable reaching after fact and reason’. The wanting to have certainty, the desire to be right, seems to me very suspect and it has been the cause of much intolerance, in many fundamentalist causes.

I indicated to you at the beginning of our exchange that I am not prepared, in questions of Christian belief, to acknowledge any criteria or standards other than Holy Scripture. I don’t have any problems about your using literary or philosophical utterances as part of your pattern of belief - but then it just isn’t my belief. And as it patently appears, we are going to have difficulties in a discussion of this sort. You are not going to back off from your belief in Mary, even if – as you yourself admit – it is not grounded in the Bible.

John Waterfield: But why should Scripture be an absolute criterion? Is it set in stone? No, it is a part of the Christian tradition and the stream of life as a whole.

You write above, "Why should proof be necessary? Is certainty so important? I am quite prepared, myself, to accept large areas of uncertainty". To which I might well reply, that no one – not you either, if you are honest - can dispense with certainty when it comes to really serious issues.

I am fairly sure that if I were to tell you that I would pay you for all your translations (which by the way are outstanding) "when I can get around to it", you would not be prepared to accept this degree of uncertainty. And the question whether we are to go into eternal life or eternal damnation is after all a question of life and death, at least for believing Christians.

But the following Scriptural passages are more eloquent than any argument of mine in pointing out the dangerous consequences of this kind of attitude:

And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’ or, ‘Behold, He is there’ do not believe him;

Mk 13,19 "For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 13,20 "Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 13,21 "And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’ or, ‘Behold, He is there’ do not believe him; 13,22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 13,23 "But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance. Mk 13,19-23;

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.

1Jn 4,1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 4,2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 4,3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 1Jn 4, 1- 3;

The hypocrisy of liars who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods.

1Tim 4,1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 4,2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 4,3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 1Tim 4, 1- 3;

For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers.

Tit 1,10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 1,11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. Tit 1,10-11;

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

2Tim 3,13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2Tim 3,13;

We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and  by the trickery of men.

Eph 4,14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; Eph 4,14;

In their greed they will exploit you with false words.

2Ptr 2,1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2,2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 2,3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2Pet 2; 1- 3;

You see, these truths of the Last Days are not to be found either in Shakespeare or in Rilke. Nor are they fairy stories or poems – they are the pure, hard and bitter reality of this world. These are not people who are constantly searching for God, but real, living human beings such as they are, sadly, to be met with in the daily news reports of the media: seducers, liars, cheats, corrupt, unscrupulous and only concerned for their own best interest.

And at this point I could cite many other warnings from Scripture that urge us not to accept uncertainty on any account, but to examine all human statements in order to see whether they are from God or not.

If you now say, "I am quite prepared, myself, to accept large areas of uncertainty", that is your personal decision. But if you now make the same recommendation to others – "... why should proof be necessary? Why is certainty so important?" – then that is completely unrealistic. But seeing that you cannot be classified as a visionary or a dreamer, in view of your obvious intelligence, I have to presume that this line of argument actually springs in your case from quite other factors.

(See also Discourse 52: "Can the actions of Mary avert the prophecies of the Bibl for the end-time? Mary ‒ The unknown aspects of the "Mother of God".")

The justice and the love of God

John Waterfield: Scripture does moreover need to be interpreted: it is not something that delivers up its meaning plainly and unambiguously at first sight. Another reason, to my mind, for positioning Scripture within the context of the living development of the church, rather than making it prescribe the limits of that development.

Take three examples.

1. It says somewhere in the OT (maybe in Deuteronomy?) ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’. This sentence was literally applied on a wide scale in England and Scotland in the 17th century, resulting in the torture and murder of great numbers of innocent women. Surely a case where the plain statement of Scripture calls for mitigating interpretation on the part of Tradition?

2. If Paul says that ‘it is an abomination for a woman to be in church with her head uncovered’, do we regard this as a binding commandment, or do we say that this was a directive meant to apply to Paul’s time and circumstances but no longer necessarily appropriate today? Again a case of putting Scripture in its historical context.

3. Similarly, the Inquisition condemned Galileo on the grounds that Scripture states that the sun goes round the earth (as in the ’sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon’ passage). Were they not guilty of understanding the biblical statements too literally?

We do not have to put Scripture in its "historical context"; instead we must really read the Bible, and not just quote passages at random in such a way that they no longer conform with the sense of Scripture.

 - In the first case, just reading the Sixth Commandment (you shall not murder) should have been sufficient to put a final stop to the persecution of witches.

 - In the second, we should look at the context in which Paul made these statements, then we will understand why he said such things.

 - And in the third, Calvin, for example, who at that time had also claimed that "according to the teaching of the Bible the earth cannot move" – would only have had to read his Bible, with special reference to Isa 24,20.

John Waterfield: The extreme bloodthirstiness shown by the Lord in the OT (which of course led some thinkers to conclude that the God of the OT and the loving Father of the NT could not possibly be the same) again suggests to me that these biblical statements are mediated through human consciousness at a specific time in history and a specific level of evolution, and that the OT should be seen as a gradual development in the knowledge of the nature of God on the part of the chosen people - above all, of course, through the visions and preaching of the prophets.

The splitting apart of the Old and the New Testament is a consequence of the imperfect understanding of theologians. They fail to take into account that our God is a God of absolute justice, who cannot tolerate any kind of injustice (Old Testament), but at the same time he is also a God of absolute love (New Testament). The resulting dilemma was resolved by God through his letting himself be crucified, in the person of his Son, as a redeeming sacrifice for all the sins and all the injustice of humanity. This meant that at the same time full satisfaction was done to God’s justice, and his grace and extensive love were revealed to the world.

(See also Discourse 30: "Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?")

John Waterfield: I agree completely with this, and I certainly am not one of those who think that the God of the OT is not the supreme God but a demiurge who botched the job. All the same I think the story of the OT shows God revealing himself to human understanding to the extent that the latter was capable of understanding him, and that there is a process of development to be made out: God’s concern for the poor and disadvantaged being more and more emphasized by the prophets, his ‘feminine’ (creative and compassionate) side being thrown into relief by the Wisdom literature. And I find it as impossible to believe that God could have wanted the complete annihilation of the Amalekites (1 Samuel, 15) – man, woman and child, as well as the domestic animals – as to believe that he could have supported the Nazis’ implementation of the Final Solution, or Israel’s politics at the present day.

In the first part of what you say, I can completely go along with you. The presentation of God that meets us in the Old Testament is a different one from that we find in the New Testament. What is more, whereas in the Old Testament God directs his words personally to human beings, in the New Testament his Word becomes flesh in Jesus Christ and speaks to us. In the Old Testament we recognize the justice of God; in the New Testament we have the grace of experiencing the love of God in his Son Christ Jesus.

If you find it impossible to believe in God’s decision in 1Sam 15,3, could the reason for this be that you have not read Ex 17,8-16?

John Waterfield: A God who can take these tribal allegiances seriously – a God for whom Israel is more important than Amalek – is not the true God. The idea that God might be like this came from the limited understanding of the Israelites, who at this time still thought their God was a tribal God, but came to a better understanding through the prophets.

Your assertion that a God for whom Israel was more important than Amalek, the arch-enemy of the Israelites, is not the true God, is actually - not just in connection with 1Sam 15,3, but in the light of Holy Scripture taken altogether – an exceedingly audacious claim. Nor is your reference to the "limited understanding of the Israelites" of Holy Scripture likely to find much support from those who know their Bible, not even from the ranks of the Catholics. Here I would recommend you to study the Bible in its entirety.

As I mentioned earlier, God shows himself in the New Testament in his love, through his Son, but in the Old Testament under the aspect of justice: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Just as the Amalekites would have wiped out the Israelites if their God had not helped them through the agency of Moses, so it is in accordance with the justice of God that Amalek and its people are wiped out. And here I do not think we need be unduly concerned about the domestic pets - unless of course you are a vegetarian. It is always men who take part in, and bear the brunt of these military confrontations – whether ordained by God or not. What is left over is the women and children, and here especially the children..

This argument is repeatedly brought to bear, because it calls forth such strong feelings: how can God allow poor little children to be killed? Such an argument reveals, however, that the speaker has not really thought through the true factors behind this situation. Seeing that I love little children more than anything (perhaps because I have always hoped in vain for grandchildren), it is particularly painful to me to see or hear on the TV news that little children have died or have even been killed, something that in our times, sadly, happens with increasing frequency and in so many different ways. Mostly I can only sit there with tears in my eyes. But however bitter these facts are to contemplate, there is one thing that we must not lose sight of: every human being will be answerable before God for his sins. If in his lifetime he has accepted the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord, he is saved. Not, that is, for any particular holiness on his part, or because of any pious attitudes and good deeds – not even on the grounds of social commitment, or because he gives up all his possessions to feed the poor, can a person hope to be saved in the eyes of God. As Paul puts it:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

1Cor 3,11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1Cor 3,11;

And if we now see this matter in a larger context, then little children above all – and the younger they are, the more this is true – have no sins of their own. They are almost spotless, and the probability that they are saved has to be just about 100%. If we see it in this light – and if it were not something that the world finds so hard to understand – we could hardly wish people a better fate than that of dying in early childhood.

Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 18,2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 18.3 and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 18,4 "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 18,5 "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 18,6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 18,7 "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!  Mt 18, 2- 7;

Their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

Mt 18,10 See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. Mt 18,10;

So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

Mt 18,14 "So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. Mt 18,14;

(See also Discourse 55: "Why does God permit suffering?")

John Waterfield: I find this admission deeply moving. All the same, I do not believe in your God of justice. I think God is much more generous, and accepts human beings of good will, whatever their religious affiliation.

Well, that God who accepts all human beings without any kind of precondition just on the grounds of a modicum of "good will" – whatever that may mean – and quite irrespective of what religion they belong to, is not the God I believe in. But neither is it the God of the Bible. If this should really turn out to be the God of the Catholic church – which I hope is not true – then this church should no longer call itself as Christian.

Is it possible to be saved through an "unconscious faith in Jesus"?

John Waterfield: It puzzles me, actually, that you should be so convinced that the Jews have "no" way at all of accessing the mercy of God if they stand by their present faith – this because of my willingness to see sincerity, uprightness and the desire to do God’s will wherever possible. Of course I would not want to make any excuses for the Zionists or for the present Israeli regime, who are Nazis really in reverse. But I read a book recently called ‘What do Jews Believe?’, by David Ariel, and was astonished at how Christian it was. (Did I mention this before? I know I mentioned it to Monika. Forgive me if I am repeating myself).

I too am somewhat irritated here by your point of view. I think I can assume that we are both Christians. As Christians, we believe in God and in his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. We likewise believe that what he tells us in the Bible is the truth, and that the Son of God cannot lie. If you agree with me on these points, and have that intelligence and mental competence which, on the basis of our short acquaintance, I must ascribe to you, then I must ask you to explain to me how it is that you either do not understand the following statement made by Jesus or else hold it to be untrue.

No one comes to the Father but through Me.

Jn 14,6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Jn 14, 6;

What aspect of this "no one" do you find difficult to understand? But if you do understand these words, as I am sure you must, then there is no alternative to "no one". Just as today is today, and tomorrow tomorrow, so no one is no one. You just can’t equivocate with the term, or make out that you have a bit of no one here and a bit elsewhere.

John Waterfield: I think here that many people come to the Father through unconscious belief in Jesus. That is to say, anyone who acknowledges ‘authority’ – in the above sense, of admitting that there is something greater, more challenging, more perfect than himself, by which he is judged – is actually accepting and understanding the message of Christ Jesus – and Christ Jesus will see this and understand him in turn.

So you think that "anyone who acknowledges authority and admits that there is something greater, more challenging, more perfect than himself, by which he is judged, is actually accepting and understanding the message of Christ Jesus."

Now, this definition could be applied to any number of secular authorities - from the traffic police to the tax authorities or the civil courts. But more importantly, all those people who do not believe in a personal God but rather in a higher "force", a "power", in something "higher", "greater" or "better" – they could also fall under the same criteria and so would be, on your account, Christian believers.

Anyone who does not come to God through his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God has no means of access. He has no "connection". The line is dead. God, as far as he is concerned, just cannot be reached. He is God-less!

John Waterfield: I would think a God that made this regulation – based on judgment of human beings not by the inclination of their heart, but by their confessional adherence – a very cruel God. I do not think such a God exists.

Well, I believe in the God of the Bible and in his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. And Our Lord also says, speaking to the Jews ("the sons of the kingdom") and with special reference to them:

The sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness.

Mt 8,11 "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 8,12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Mt 8,11-12;

And seeing that the Jews of the faith of Moses (we need not consider unbelieving Jews, who are godless anyway) regard Jesus Christ as a blasphemer and deceiver, and on no account as the Son of God or their own Messiah, they broke this link almost 2000 years ago. So they may be as honest and upright and as willing to perform the will of God as anyone could wish, but for the moment it is too late, they have missed the bus. Rather in the same way as in the past, when they would not wait for the time appointed by God, and for Moses to come down from the mountain, making themselves a golden calf and so incurring the penalty of wandering in the desert for forty years before being allowed to reach the Promised Land, so in our days again they refused to await the time of their gathering by God and instead made themselves a "golden calf" in the modern State of Israel.

(See also Discourse 08: "The gathering of Israel: already since 1948, or not to happen until the Last Days?")

Only on the Second Coming of the Lord will their descendants again be allowed to enter the "Promised Land" and have the opportunity of receiving forgiveness for their sin, recovering the connection with their God and becoming a world power (the "chief of nations").

John Waterfield: Cannot an Orthodox Jew living today have a sincere and profound love of God? Will God refuse to acknowledge this and to respond? Would God refuse to listen to a sincere person because that person happened to be a Jew?

Not because he is a Jew, but because he refuses to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and his Redeemer – as the Jews do.

He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father.

Jn 5,22 "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 5,23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.

He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father

who sent Him. 5,24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Jn 5,22-24;

I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved.

Jn 10,9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. Jn 10, 9;

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Mt 28,18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Mt 28,18;

As you can see here, it is a matter of complete indifference what race, nation, social class or religion a person belongs to. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ and acknowledges him is saved. Anyone who does not believe in him is a reject. It’s as simple as that.

John Waterfield: Which is why I have to rely on my argument about ‘unconscious’ belief in Jesus. Anyone who knows that he himself is NOT the ‘measure of all things’, who looks for something to help him in his littleness and his helplessness, is looking for Jesus, whether he knows it or not. And Jesus will meet him halfway, and give him the chance of expressing his allegiance – whatever his attitude to religion may have been in the past, whether he has been a Moslem, a Hindu or an atheist.

I have been noticing for some time that you repeatedly refer to "unconscious" belief in Jesus. It seems here that you would like to include all human beings, of all religions of the world, under this head (in keeping with the new Vatican directive on the "world ecumenism of all religions under the umbrella of the Catholic church"). Let me try to present to you the consequences of this position in a somewhat more realistic manner. Just take the following little example:

In the justice of this world, people are generally exculpated for unconscious actions – they are not held responsible, and no blame attaches to them. And it is the same thing with faith: anyone who believes in Jesus "unconsciously", will not be held responsible for it, and so he can have no desert either. He remains without any faith.

All those who think that there is no need to choose God while on earth, because one day they will be able to get into eternity by way of this back door of "unconscious" belief, will be rejected by the Lord at the Last Judgment, because otherwise eternity would be packed full with liars and cheats.

Truly I say to you, I do not know you.

Mt 25,12 "But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Mt 25,12

Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire.

Mt 25,41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; Mt 25,41;

The stubbornness of the Jews

John Waterfield: A propos the most recent Discourse 47 – I would have been very interested to have had more detail about the history of antisemitism, where the antisemitism of the Nazis came from, and so on. Because it is certainly true that Christendom has to acknowledge that it was responsible at certain times and to some extent for racial hatred - presentation of the Jews as the ‘shadow’, in Jungian terms, viewing the Jews as ‘murderers of God’ – as you indicate yourself through your reference to the Crusades. I wonder if anyone has yet written a World History of Antisemitism? You would think there might well be such a book.

Yes, it is certainly surprising that there is not such a book. You find volumes of analysis written about every trivial episode of world history, but on this subject I have not come across a great deal. Maybe it is the same as with the Second World War, both sides have egg on their face and so are afraid to expose themselves further.

John Waterfield: May I say that I find your view of the Jews, and of the present-day Israel, totally convincing. The centrality of the Jewish people is apparent even if we look at the global situation today just from the perspective of politics. Clearly there will be no final peace in the world until a solution has been found in the Middle East – for which, read settlement of the Jewish issue. Your quotations from embittered and vengeful post-Holocaust Jews (in this last Discourse) were terrifying. I was pleased to find out quite recently that I do myself have Jewish ancestry – a fact I suspected, but was not until lately able to prove.

(See also Discourse 46: "Posting in the Israel-French Forum for Discussion (Guitl Zajden) / Has the Jewish-Orthodox congregation more sh..ts than any other community?")

For every Christian who loves the people of God who are of Israel, as I do, it is sad to realize that this people absolutely refuses to listen to its God. As once with Moses on Sinai, in our time too they were unwilling to wait for the time appointed by God, and have made themselves a "golden calf" in the modern State of Israel and proceeded to dance around it. And just as they had to pay a dear price on the former occasion, so this time too will they be called to account by God. One is tempted here to quote Jer 6.

John Waterfield: Yes, I completely agree with everything you say, and as always you write on this point with great eloquence. May I quote four lines from our poet Shelley (early 19th century) -

For Revenge and Wrong bring forth their kind,
The foul cubs like their parents are,
Their den is in the guilty mind,
And the conscience feeds them with despair.

That is very much to the point, as also are these lines from Scripture, addressed to the people of Israel:

You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.

Acts 7,51 "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. 7,52 "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; Acts 7,51-53;

(See also Discourse 41: "The stubbornness of Israel in the past and at the present days.")

John Waterfield: In view of the subject of this last dialogue, it is interesting that I recently read a book called ’What Do Jews Believe?’ and was amazed to find how Christian Judaism is! – quite in contradiction of Mr Damberger’s assertion that Christianity and Judaism have nothing in common.

Jews and Christians are both the people of God. They are the first flock, we are the other flock of Our Lord. They are the first, and we are the last. But because of their stubbornness we will be the first, with Our Lord, and they will be the last, with their Messiah.

John Waterfield: Beautifully put, and very convincing!

(See also Discourse 47: "Do the crimes of the Nazis have their origin in the Christian faith?")

John Waterfield: As I wrote to our common collaborator Monika yesterday (whose faith is an inspiration to me, and whose meticulousness I highly respect), I think that what unites Christians (and for that matter human beings) is more important than what divides them.

Your addition in brackets is very much to the point. In accordance with this principle, Christians could form a common cause with Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, animists, charlatans or Voodoo priests. What unites us all is religion. Do you see the difference?

John Waterfield: Yes, that is difficult. I have asked myself too what we would have in common with Nazis – Nazism can after all in a sense be seen as a ‘religion’. The Roman playwright Terence has a sentence I have always liked – Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto - I am a man (a human being), nothing human do I think alien to me. I therefore try, even with religions, beliefs or cultural phenomena generally that I do not actually find attractive, to see the positive element. There has to be something of a positive element, because all human beings are seeking God, even if they have a distorted notion of God or are going about it in the wrong way. As Augustine beautifully says, For you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until we find rest in you (et cor nostrum est inquietum, donec requiescamus in Te).

A possible line of argument would be to define ‘religion’ in such a way that it implies respect for the human individual. All religions would then have that ground in common, would perhaps all have some kind of sense that human beings are made in the image of God. This would allow for dialogue between the world’s major religions. I’m not so sure about charlatans and voodoo priests or practitioners of human sacrifice (like the Thugs in India).

Yes, as I have said already, this all fits in very well with the Vatican’s new policy of a "world ecumenism of all religions under the umbrella of the Catholic church".

Monika von Sury – with reference to the term ‘religion’, and the idea that "All human beings are seeking God"

I would like here to propose the following working definition – religion is the endeavor, on the part of humanity, to connect up with God or the divine (through prescribed prayers, obligatory fasting, offerings, pilgrimages and so on). Thus it is a ‘binding’ or link from below to above, from humanity to God. If we look at Christianity in this light, it is the absolute opposite. God comes to meet us human beings in the Son of God in the flesh, and restores the broken tie, the connection between God and humanity through the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Or to put it differently – the attempts of human beings to find a connection to God on the basis of repetitive actions (an arrow from below to above) are in vain, as human beings can never appear righteous on their own account in the eyes of God. The once-and-for-all act of reconnection with humanity, carried out by God in Jesus Christ (an arrow from above to below), makes all religious endeavors to attain to salvation superfluous: faith in Jesus is enough. I would formulate it in this way: Christian faith is not defined by a religion, but by a person – Jesus Christ.

John Waterfield: As the etymology of the Latin ‘religio’ suggests. But I think we need to distinguish here. Are religious practices an attempt to bind the powers, i.e. to make something happen (which is essentially magic), or rather to conform oneself to the patterns that are written into creation (homologoumenos tei physei zen, living in accordance with Nature – the ideal of the Greek Stoics – or following the Tao)? In terms of moral attitude, this makes a crucial difference.

Monika von Sury: The point is that our moral attitude, however commendable, can not save us – only faith in Jesus Christ can (Rom 3:23-24).
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Rom 3:23-24;

John Waterfield: Monika von Sury – I liked your comments on religion. From above to below, or from below to above. I think you can fit this in quite well with what I have written above about the ego being the critical factor. Are we trying to harness heaven to earthly purposes, or are we accepting that earth is contained in heaven (with all this implies)? To the extent that we take the latter path, we are automatically in alignment with Jesus who is the Way through which earth becomes heaven – whether or not we are conscious and professing Christians.

I can only express my complete agreement with these definitions above of Monika von Sury’s.

John Waterfield: I would agree with that completely. But I do not think that human beings are threatened with damnation, or that believing in Jesus is their only way of escaping from damnation. Certainly I agree that damnation is a fact, and possible. But I do not believe that conscious acceptance of Jesus is the decisive factor that determines whether a person is damned or saved. I believe that there is much good in human beings, and that God sees this, however confused, disordered, ignorant or selfish they are.

So you do not think that conscious belief in Jesus Christ is the only way of avoiding damnation. But then you have to classify the following statements of Our Lord’s as lies.

No one comes to the Father but through Me.

Jn 14,6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Jn 14, 6;

He who has believed shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

Mk 16,15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mk 16,15-16;

What is more, your point of view involves a denial of the Trinity. Jesus says "He who beholds me beholds the one who sent me", and "I and the Father are one". So anyone who claims that faith in Jesus Christ is not the only way to avoid eternal damnation, is actually asserting that you do not have to believe in God in order to be saved.

For me the statement that "all human beings are seeking God" is quite simply untrue. Life has taught me to draw different conclusions, though I am perfectly prepared to concede that this may not apply universally. I would also agree with you that "religion" can be defined in any number of different ways. "Religio" after all refers to a tie, a link with something or someone, without specifying who or what this may be. It may be a link to God, or it may equally well be a link to Satan.

John Waterfield: The decisive factor is the ego. Do you use religion as a means of extending your own personal and egotistical power (as many Christian ministers do!), or do you find yourself acknowledging something greater than yourself to which the only response is awe, love and worship (as is the case with many people who do not call themselves Christians)?

And when you write that you have to consider whether charlatans, Voodoo priests and even cultists who indulge in human sacrifice should also come under the heading of religion, you are of course completely right. This is precisely why for Christians the term "religion" – considered as a foundation stone of faith – comes far too low in the scale, and so is completely inapplicable. You might just as well claim all living creatures as your brothers and then say that this justifies sodomy. This approach is bound to end up at the wrong address, as Paul tells us in 2Cor 6,14-18:

What harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

2Cor 6,14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 6,15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

6,16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 6,17 "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "and do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. 6,18 "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. 2Cor 6,14-18;

John Waterfield: Of course I agree with what you say here. ‘Religio’ has etymologically to do with making a link. But you could be linking to anything, and for any kind of purpose – not necessarily a good one! To my mind, it is the role the "ego" plays that is the important factor. Am I offering myself to God, through this form of divine service, and offering without reserve (‘Nevertheless not my will, but your will be done');, or am I using the ritual and the associated trappings of faith in order to feel good about myself? It is very easy to deceive oneself here (‘For the heart of man is deceitful, and desperately wicked’ – that is biblical but I cannot remember where it comes from, perhaps you can place it for me?)

I certainly think you would agree with that, from what you have written about power games and politics in the congregation (I run the music and the choir at my local church, and I could certainly tell you similar stories about competing egos).

Here is the passage you refer to:

Jer 17,9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable; who can know it? Jer 17,9;

John Waterfield: Well, there you are. I have said it already.

Here I agree with you completely. In this context we find a great deal of self-deception – even, and especially, among those brothers and sisters who think that they are offering themselves unreservedly to God in a form of divine service based on the motto "Not my will, but thy will be done". But then they often want to define for themselves what the will of God must be.

With reference to such problems in Christian congregations, I have arrived at an interesting insight. In my professional life I became acquainted, early on, with this truth, which derives from management circles in the USA: "Fish begins to stink from the head". This means that the development of a company, in the long run, can be predicted when you look at the behavior of those in top executive positions. Their attitude will get transferred to the lower management levels and then to all the company’s employees. This will be equally true if they are superficial, sloppy, arrogant, incompetent and corrupt, or alternatively if they are well organized, socially committed, highly qualified and incorruptible.

And now I have found it to be true that this "law" applies not just to companies but also to Christian congregations. The behavior of the leaders of the congregation sets a standard, which eventually – often only years later - will shape the attitudes of all other members of the group. So if we know that many leaders of the congregation, while thoroughly efficient and successful in carrying out their tasks, have lost touch with their beginnings in that they are less and less frequently visited by the Holy Spirit (because on account of "lack of time" they have increasingly come to neglect that essential dialog with God in the privacy of their own chamber), then this accounts for the fact that many congregations today are no more than registered charities. Everything in the garden is lovely, but just one thing is missing – the Holy Spirit is no longer to be found in these congregations.

And hardly anyone notices. Those who do, and who tentatively try to indicate that they feel something is missing, are ruled out of court as screwballs and don’t dare to say a word more.

John Waterfield: This is a problem with all institutions. It is simply a matter of human inertia. Look at the way the Franciscans – who under St Francis were a really radical and revolutionary organization – came to be ‘institutionalized’. It’s enough to make you believe in the Devil. Well, of course I do!

John Waterfield: I once spent days arguing with some Jehovah’s Witnesses who visited me. I couldn’t persuade them to see things my way, and they couldn’t persuade me to see things their way. All the same they were good people.

Yes, I know all about that. In the sixties I spent two years trying to convince some Jehovah’s Witnesses that their interpretation of the Bible was incorrect. It was hopeless. When they run out of arguments, they refer to their "channel" in Brooklyn, to Russell and Rutherford. And yet – "all the same they were good people".

The sacrifice of the Mass

John Waterfield: I am sorry, but I find the teaching of the Catholic Church absolutely convincing in this respect. The Mass is the central moment of time, ‘the still point of the turning world’, the point where time past and time future do not exist but everything is always and only present. It is the intersection of time and eternity. Of course time and eternity intersect at other points as well.

According to Catholic teaching, the sacrifice of the Mass is the same (identically the same) sacrifice as Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Catholic Catechism pp. 148, 149: "When the Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist, Christ offers, in our midst, the same sacrifice as he offered on the cross. The holy sacrifice of the Mass is the sacrifice on the cross, because in both Christ is present as the priest and victim of the sacrifice (...) Because the holy sacrifice of the Mass is the same as the sacrifice on the cross, it is the most perfect sacrifice. Through the Holy Eucharist, (...) immeasurable blessings are called down on the whole world, on the living and on the dead. The Holy Eucharist is the most perfect sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving, atonement and intercession."

In this last resort this denies the uniqueness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and its fully sufficient effect for all eternity, making out that the sacrifice can be repeated, and shifting it into the sphere of mystical or magical symbolism. The words of Holy Scripture testify clearly that Christ was "offered once to bear the sins of many" (Heb 9,28). And according to Heb 9,12, Christ "through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption". So if a priest believes that in this way he can control the presence of Christ, this is getting very close to spiritism.

The Lord Jesus instituted two sacraments: baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The Catholic church not only invented five further sacraments (1439), it also completely distorted these two genuine ones. In place of adult baptism, where those baptized are making a conscious decision in full knowledge of the consequences to themselves, in the Catholic church newborn children are brought by their parents for baptism within a few days of their birth – and the parents themselves have often never so much as held a Bible in their hands.

In the Lord’s Supper, the Lord commanded us to break the bread and drink the cup in memory of his sacrifice and death. The Catholic church forbids the faithful to drink from the cup of the Lord’s Supper since 1414. It furthermore makes out that the priest’s whispered formulae are able to change the bread into the actual (!) body of Christ (transubstantiation: 1215). This is a proceeding that is not taken seriously even by the Catholics – otherwise they would have to suppose that in Communion they are eating the actual body of Christ, and so they would not be able to go to Communion on a Friday, in view of the Catholic prohibition of eating meat. This "transformation", for which the Lord gave no instruction, is thus rather to be placed in the class of occult practices.

John Waterfield: This is another of those details of superficial practice that do not in the end make all that much difference. I think that when the Church made ‘communion in one kind’ (only bred) the norm for the laity, it also stated that both the body and the blood were contained in either species. Thus it did not matter. Nowadays you find the practice varies from one church to another – sometimes communion in one kind, sometimes in two, and sometimes different depending on whether it is a Sunday or a weekday.

What would you say if I were to claim that Catholic transubstantiation "is another of those details of superficial practice that do not in the end make all that much difference", and that it is finally of no importance whether the priest with the formulae he utters puts the "body of Christ" into the sacrificial host or not? The important thing is that Christian believers should partake of the Lord’s Supper.

So on this basis you would also be able to partake of the Lord’s Supper in an evangelical congregation, I suppose?

John Waterfield: Why not? I always say to my non-Catholic (and even non-Christian) friends who go to church with me that they should have no inhibitions about receiving communion, if they feel themselves drawn to it. I do not think that Our Lord would turn them away. These divisions between denominations are in the end an irrelevance.

The Lord’s Supper is a serious commemoration, if we look at Paul’s instructions in his first Epistle to the Corinthians:

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

1Cor 11,23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 11,24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 11,25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 11,26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

11,27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 11,28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 11,29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 1Cor 11,23-29;

In this service of commemoration, the body and blood of Our Lord do not come back to life – we are however meant to recall the death of the Lord for our sins.

Given this, it is now quite plain why Paul makes the point that anyone who eats the bread and drinks the cup in an unworthy manner – that is, without faith in this redeeming sacrifice of Our Lord – is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, seeing that one who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body of the Lord rightly.

So if you invite non-Christians to take part in the Lord’s Supper without pointing this out to them, you are taking this very same guilt upon yourself.

John Waterfield: Thinking about your negative view of the Catholic church, it occurred to me that of course from your point of view – in Austria – the Catholic church is ‘the Establishment’. (Rigid opinions, routine, rigor mortis and everything else that goes with it!)

In England, of course, the opposite is the case: since the time of Henry VIII Catholics have been a persecuted minority and until quite recently were penalized if they acknowledged their faith. For us the Anglican church is the Establishment, and I must confess that my view of it is rather dismissive (I have always thought the Anglican church was best summed up by the message to the Laodiceans: ‘because thou art neither hot nor cold, therefore I will spew thee out of my mouth');, though I do have good friends who are Anglicans and I try to be charitable!

If your view of the matter is correct – that the Anglicans are neither hot nor cold, so that the members of this church are lost and outcast from eternal life – and if you then can accommodate it with the feelings of your heart and your notions of the Christian faith to let your good friends go to eternal damnation without doing anything to stop them (just for the sake of avoiding disagreement), then – sorry – I am not sure I would want to have you as a good friend.

John Waterfield: But of course I said nothing of the kind! I have many friends who are sincerely believing Anglicans. And for me damnation is absolutely not an issue, so long as the heart is in the right place..

All the same I think that what you say here, like some of your other assertions, has not been thoroughly thought through in what regards its deeper implications and above all in terms of scriptural consistency (and perhaps this is necessarily the result of the somewhat superficial form of a discussion carried on by e-mail) – seeing that in fact you are concerned to recommend your faith even to people who are not in your immediate circle of friends, like myself for instance.

John Waterfield: Well, of course. Put it this way. I have found something beautiful. I would like to share it with others. If people do not see it that way or cannot accept it, I do not condemn them in the least. I would also like to add here that in entering on this discussion it was not any of your positive statements that I disagreed with, I only wished to take issue with your negative view of the Catholic church.

John Waterfield: And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Mt 26,26-28)

This is the institution of the Lord’s Supper. According to this, all celebrations of the Lord’s Supper since have been and are commemorations, rites of recollection.

Yes, it is written here that the blood of the Lord flowed for the remission of the sins of humanity. Only in this redeeming sacrifice of the Lord can we obtain forgiveness of our sins.

John Waterfield: I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. (Jn 6,48-51)

[The Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the altar]

The doctrine of transubstantiation promulgated by Pope Innocent III in the year 1215 is based on an incorrect interpretation of Jn 6,51. The sacrament of the Lord’s supper is just a meal in commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ. The spiritual presence of the sacrifice of Christ is included as part of the sacrament. This is also confirmed in the following scriptural passages:

Do this in remembrance of Me.

Lk 22,19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 22,20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. Lk 22,19-20;

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.

1Cor 11,25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 11,26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 1Cor 11,25-26;

Let us now look at what Our Lord says in Jn 6,54:

Jn 6,54 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. Jn 6,54;

Now if we are to understand that in the sense of Catholic teaching, every believer who does not drink this blood will not be raised and will not have eternal life.

If this were really the case, then the Catholic church would have made itself guilty of the biggest cheat of all time towards its members, by excluding the laity from the communion cup at the Council of Constance in the year 1414, so that right up to the present time, Christian believers in the Catholic church are not allowed to drink this "blood".

This would mean that the Catholic church has cheated hundreds of millions of Christians of resurrection and eternal life. So if we are to understand the Lord’s Supper in the Catholic sense, then every sincerely believing adherent of this church which has taken so much guilt upon itself should immediately lose faith in the church and go elsewhere.

The forgiveness of sins

John Waterfield: Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (Jn 20,21-23)

[with reference to the sacrament of confession].

Here the Lord was speaking to the apostles. If this were to apply to all the faithful without discrimination, then we could forgive our sins mutually and would not need any redeeming sacrifice. But the Lord told us how to pray, in the Lord’s prayer:

Father, forgive us our sins.

Lk 11,2 And He said to them, "When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 11,3 ‘Give us each day our daily bread. 11,4 ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’" Lk 11, 2- 4;

If human beings can forgive one another’s sins, this prayer becomes unnecessary.

But if we want to come to a better understanding of the Catholic position, we must refer here to the "sales of indulgences" that went on in the Catholic church up to the time of Luther and even beyond. To boost the church’s finances, the Pope gave priests permission to sell what were known as "indulgences". This meant that the sinner could obtain "forgiveness" from the priest by making a down payment. It was this trade in indulgences that Luther denounced in his 95 Wittenberg theses, as a result of which he was excommunicated by the Pope as a heretic, and deprived of civic rights and branded as an outlaw throughout the Empire.

And here it becomes immediately plain – if Jn 20,21-23 had not been distorted in such a way as to imply that only the elect Catholic clergy was able to forgive sins, this trade could not have been carried on. In actual fact we obtain forgiveness of our sins when we believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as Our Lord and Redeemer and ask him for forgiveness.

Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.

Acts 10,39 "We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 10,40 "God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 10,41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 10,42 "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.

10,43 "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." Acts 10,39-43;

The biblical Christian forgiveness of sins.

If your brother sins, and returns to you, saying, ‘I repent’, forgive him.

Lk 17,3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 17,4 "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent’, forgive him." Lk 17,3-4;

Like love of our neighbor, forgiveness is another of those commandments of the Lord which have been taught to people by the Catholic church for centuries in a completely incorrect form. The Lord tells us here, in Lk 17,2-4, that we must forgive our brother 490 times a day. And this has been interpreted – and continues to be so – as meaning that a Christian must forgive all other human beings for everything, always and everywhere – according to the motto: "all people are brothers".

But if we look more closely at this statement of the Lord’s, we can recognize a twofold mistake in this Catholic doctrine. First of all, the Lord does not speak here of "all human beings", but of our brother. – And here below, in Mt 12,46-50, the Lord even declares that not even his brothers in the flesh James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Mt 13:55) are to be called "brothers" in the Lord, but only those who do the will of our Father in heaven.

For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother.

Mt 12,46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 12,47 Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." 12,48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" 12,49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! 12,50 "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." Mt 12,46-50;

So this is that "brother" whom we have to forgive. And thus all the ungodly and idolaters of this world are excluded from this commandment!

The second, and very much more insidious misinterpretation is the reversal of the significance of the act of forgiveness. An act of forgiveness is like a request: it must be pronounced, if it is to be possible for it to be fulfilled. According to the motto: "If you want to obtain forgiveness, you must ask for forgiveness". But the teaching of the Catholic church is that we should forgive everybody for everything unrequested.

Yet our Lord Jesus Christ explained to us above, in Lk 17,4 just that, when He said:

"If he returns to you, saying, ‘I repent’, forgive him".

To those who have been guilty of us, we are obliged to forgive only if they

are Bible-believing Christians and thus brothers in the Lord, and

repent and expressly ask us for forgiveness.

And this is something we are hardly likely to experience in today’s godless society. Even among Christians it tends to be the exception rather than the rule when a brother returns to us, repents and asks for our forgiveness.

Marian theology

John Waterfield: When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold they son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. (Jn 19,26-27)

[foreshadowing Mary’s role as the Mother of the Church].

With this the Lord entrusted his mother, now spiritually alone in the world, to the care and protection of the apostle John. I do not think, on the evidence of Scripture, there is any justification for seeing John as a "symbol" of the church and Mary as its "mother".

How else could we explain the fact that this supposed role of Mary’s is not mentioned once, either in the Gospels or in the Acts of the Apostles, and still less in the New Testament epistles? This completely incorrect view of Mary goes back to a misinterpretation of Chapter 12 of Revelation, where the "woman in heaven" is taken to be Mary. In fact when we consider the entire context of this passage, we find that here the Mother of Jesus is not being referred to, but it is absolutely clear that the people of Israel is meant.

(See also Excursus 10: "The woman in heaven.")

When you say "Jesus who is the Way", this is completely to the point, and above all it is grounded in Scripture! But the Catholic church takes a different view of the matter:

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

Elvira Maria Slade: Maria – Die unbekannten Seiten der Mutter Gottes [Mary – the Unknown Sides of the Mother of God], Wuppertal 2003

The Marian apparitions of the Catholic church (in 1977 in Rome, for instance) urge Catholics in the following terms:

"You must use me as a holy and unique means for coming to God and bringing souls to me".

– Where these souls will finally end up is evident.

The Marian apparitions in Medjugorje likewise put across, in a series of public messages from 1981 right into the 90s, the well-known message:

"I am the mediatrix between you and God".

Although we are told by the Son of God, and by the testimony of the entire New Testament, that human beings can only come to God through Jesus Christ, the Mary of the Catholic church asserts in these apparitions that she is the only mediatrix between God and humanity. This statement is plainly a lie. If Paul tells us in 1Tim 2,5:

"There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus".

and Jesus Christ likewise says, in Jn 14,6, "I am (…) the truth", then this Mary cannot possibly be sent by God.

With references to the Marian apparitions, the official teaching of the Catholic church does not base itself on Holy Scripture in the least. It makes use of the new "truths" promulgated by the appearances, in contradiction of the clear statements of Scripture, as a basis for the infiltration of Christian belief and adulteration of the truth of the Bible.

So the Catholic Mary is not the mother of our Redeemer Jesus as she is described in Holy Scripture. She is only an entity playing the part of Mary, one giving itself the appearance of a prophetess and assuming the name and identity of the mother of Jesus. Her name in the Bible is Jezebel (Isabel), and the origin of these appearances in the realm of darkness has now been brought to light. Their object – to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect – has been patently revealed, as a warning to those who regard the veneration of Mary as harmless, and for this reason could easily become victims themselves, as ecumenical initiatives endeavor to obscure their non-scriptural roots.

And thus even though the apostle Peter – to which the Catholic Church appeals – said in Acts 4,12:

There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4,12 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name [than Jesus Christ] under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4,12;

John Waterfield: (So far as I know, the messages of Medjugorje are still going on.)
Our Lady of Medjugorje states very clearly that we are not to follow her, but should rather worship her Son.

Well, I’m sorry you believe that. If you study the reports of these apparitions, you will find that they only emanate a spirit of peace, selflessness, faith, hope, devotion and love.

Monika von Sury: (Yes, as of date the last message of Medjugorje was brought on 25th of May 2005).
I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with any message of peace, love, compassion, praying for the sinners per se. However, the Bible shows us the true source of peace and love and the true way to the forgiveness of sins. Now, of course, if you put tradition above the Bible, you will follow the former. As for me, I have decided long ago to stick to the Bible alone.

And there indeed we find no references pointing to Mary as a living intercessor. Mary was without doubt an exceptional young girl, who experienced great joy and great sorrow. Shortly after the birth of Jesus the angel foretells her of the suffering which she will have to endure: " a sword shall pierce through your own soul" (Luke 2:35). I just imagine how I would have reacted if I was told these words at the birth of my son! The future suffering of the child will also be the suffering of the mother. Indeed, about 30 years later, the sword pierced through Mary’s soul when she assisted the crucifixion and death of her son. She suffered with him, she did not run away, she stayed with him, saw his agony, heard the mockeries, felt his pain. Which mother would not understand this suffering and identify with Mary?

Then, we see Mary once more, in Acts 1:14, together with other believers, continuing "with one accord in prayer and supplication", waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus had already ascended to heaven. Her duty as a mother had come to an end, but she continued in her role as a sister in Christ. The Bible speaks of Mary as a particularly blessed woman as she carried in her womb the child Jesus, her Savior and ours. On this point, I fully agree with you.

This contribution to the discussion from Monika von Sury shows the situation from the point of view of a woman and mother, and brings out aspects which men would probably not be likely to see so clearly.

Here are a few more comments on the way Mary is presented in the Catholic church.

Marian theology is characterized by demonic influences.

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

Otto Markmann: Irrtümer der katholischen Kirche: Die Dämonie im Marienkult [Errors of the Catholic Church: Demonism in the Cult of Mary], 1976.

We have reports of the veneration of Mary as far back as the first centuries of our era. In the development of the cult of Mary in these first centuries, the ancient heathen cult of the mother goddesses stands out in sharp relief. From the time of the Council of Ephesus (431) the cult of Mary made inroads into theology. At Ephesus the doctrine of Mary as the "Mother of God" was first promulgated. It seems from the history of liturgical development that the Roman church did not celebrate any feast in honor of Mary before the 7th century. After the 7th century a completely unbiblical veneration and divinization of Mary sets in. The Hail Mary became a popular prayer in the 12th century. From around 1140 the number of Marian feast days was increased by the addition of the Immaculate Conception. The 12th century also saw the appearance of the rosary. Already in the Middle Ages wide spheres of Christian life were inundated with the current of the Marian cult. Marian churches with Marian relics, Marian feast days, new Marian litanies, processions in honor of Mary, Marian orders and monasteries, Marian mysticism, Marian brotherhoods, Marian guilds, solemn vows in the name of Mary, helpful interventions by Mary and countless Marian miracles.

This development led to the unbiblical doctrines about Mary, with which we are already familiar: she gave birth to Jesus while still intact (this, actually, is the only accurate point) and remained a virgin, she was protected from sin, and even at her conception she remained untouched by original sin (cf. the dogma of 1854). This means that Mary was conceived by Anna her mother without original sin – a clear attempt to emulate the divine birth of Jesus Christ. Finally Mary is supposed to have been taken up into heaven body and soul (cf. the dogma of 1950). Mary is described as the "Mother of all Grace", and has even been given the title of "Co-Redemptrix".

The word addressed by the angel in Lk 1,28 to the "highly favored" virgin was translated with the phrase "gratia plena", "full of grace". As a result, Mary practically has the fullness of grace at her disposal for all who turn to her. Bernhard of Clairvaux substituted Mary’s name for that of Jesus in Our Lord’s saying, "The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John, 6,37). Ever since then Mary has been the Mother of God who never turns down a single request.

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

Fritz Viering: Römisch-katholischer Marienglaube [The Roman Catholic Belief in Mary], Gladbeck 1955.

In contradiction of the clear statements made in the Bible by Our Lord Jesus as the head of the congregation, his body, from whom all gifts of grace proceed, Pope Leo XIII formulated the following statement: "Just as no one can come to the Father in heaven but through the Son, in the same way no one can come to Christ except through his Mother." This doctrine was explained by Pope Pius X through his extension of the image of Christ as the head and the church as his body, so that in his view "Mary is the neck, without which there is no means of connection between the head and the limbs."

On 31 October 1942 Pope Pius XII, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the apparitions in Fatima, gave a radio address to the people of Portugal, which he concluded with a prayer of dedication: "Queen of the holy rosary, help of Christians, refuge of the human race, victorious in all the battles of God! We cast ourselves down before your throne in supplication. We come full of confidence that we will obtain mercy, grace and a present help in our affliction. We do not have confidence in our deserts, but only in the infinite goodness of your motherly heart. We entrust ourselves to you and your immaculate heart, and dedicate us to you at this fateful juncture in the history of humanity. (…) Grant the world peace from war, and peace of soul. (…) So we dedicate ourselves eternally to you and your immaculate heart, O mother and queen of the world."

This prayer of dedication was published in the "Kirchlicher Anzeiger für die Diözese Aachen und Köln" ["Church Gazette for the Diocese of Aix and Cologne"] on 15. 1. 1943, together with the following commentary:

"The Holy Father graciously grants to all those of the faithful who recite this prayer reverently an indulgence of three years; anyone who prays it every day will receive a plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, which can be obtained once a month."

This with reference to the assertion of some Catholic groups that Mary is not worshiped in the Catholic church, but only venerated. The above statements make it plain, however, that the Mary in the Catholic church can forgive sins (grant indulgences) – if she is only prayed to often enough.

A propos indulgences – even from the Catholic point of view, these do not feature either in the Bible or in the written tradition. So we are told that the doctrine is contained in the "oral" tradition. And of course that does the trick.

Papal infallibility

Now it might be argued that these were errors such as occur in every religion, which in the course of centuries will be put right. But here the Catholic church is caught in its own dogmas. Since Pope Pius IX pronounced the dogma of Papal Infallibility in the year 1870 – against the opposition of a group of cardinals, who pointed out the obvious errors of Popes like Vigilius, who had obtained the papacy by simony, and Honorius I, who had been anathematized – any errors committed by the church, whether earlier or later, would contradict this dogma, and so are ruled out by Catholic teaching altogether.

John Waterfield: I would myself interpret the doctrine of Infallibility in a very broad sense, as meaning that the Church cannot go finally wrong about essentials. This does not include moral theology – contraception, mixed marriages, divorce and issues like that - where the Church is trying to lay down guidelines but is not always well advised. I am afraid I do believe in the Real Presence in the sacrament of the Mass and in Marian theology, even though I am aware that scriptural support for the latter at least is slender, and I have to fall back on the position that with the establishment of the feasts of Corpus Christi and the Assumption the Church was only officially defining what had developed in the minds and hearts of the faithful over the centuries, under the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

I am most grateful to you for this indication, because it serves to demonstrate the actual objective of the Catholic system, as illustrated in the example of Marian theology.

As you rightly say, scriptural evidence for Marian doctrine is "thin on the ground" – or as I would say, simply non-existent. Nonetheless, just a few decades ago, in the year 1950, the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin was promulgated by Pope Pius XII. Not quite a hundred years earlier, in the year 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of the "immaculate conception of Mary" to be a dogma of the church. This last doctrine states that Mary was born from her mother Anna in just such a virginal manner (!) – that is, through the agency of the Holy Spirit – as that by which she herself later conceived and gave birth to her son, Our Lord.

Neither of these doctrines has any support in Scripture – which is why, of course, they had to be made into dogmas – but they serve a common aim. The Mary of the Catholic church is to be made into a copy of the Son of God, as the "Mother of God". Following her virgin birth through the agency of the Holy Spirit, as postulated by the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, in 1950 the same Resurrection and Ascension as that of the Lord comes to be attributed to Mary. Thus the Catholic church has created its own Catholic idol under the name of Mary.

John Waterfield: This is actually incorrect. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception says nothing about a virgin birth. The misconception is however common – evidently perpetrated originally by people for whom sex and sin were synonymous.

Monika von Sury: It is true that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception speaks about being exempt of original sin. But it also says that Christ, by reason of his virginal conception, escaped the general law of original sin

That is just it! According to Scripture, there is no other way of being born without the taint of Original Sin other than through being begotten by the Holy Spirit. A human couple can only bring human beings into the world, not gods.

John Waterfield: Well, it was hardly to be expected that either of us would succeed in convincing the other! Though I must say that your arguments have a great deal of consistency, and you put them with your customary force. I can certainly appreciate how it all hangs together from your point of view. In fact I had already anticipated most of your replies in thought – particularly with reference to the scriptural passages I quoted: of course I am aware that they can be interpreted in a different sense, and from your angle indeed were bound to be. I was however concerned to make the point that the Catholic position is not completely lacking in scriptural evidence.

I am far from wishing to argue that the Catholic church has absolutely no scriptural proofs to draw on. On the contrary, it is our shared background in Scripture that gives us any basis at all for discussing different interpretations of other points. But as I know from my experience, having had many discussions with Catholics, these brothers and sisters rarely take the trouble to study the Bible. If they did, they would be able to judge where their arguments are supported by Scripture and where they are simply advocating a private opinion – which is not to be found in the Bible, and is not part of the teaching of the Catholic church either.

John Waterfield: Of course that may be so in individual cases. I wish that the Catholics with whom you were engaged in dialogue had been more prepared to study the Scriptures – for what could actually be more helpful or profitable?

All the same I am inclined to think that the allegiance of the heart is more important than any form of intellectual adherence. That is, people may be thoroughly confused, or ill-informed, in matters of belief, but still love God – in that they put God first, and their own self second.

Here we are entirely of the same opinion – allegiance of the heart is far more important, certainly, than any kind of intellectual adherence. But we must not take allegiance of the heart as a euphemism for an indifferent relativism, or intellectual adherence as a pejorative term for faith founded on Scripture. What is the use of allegiance of the heart if I do not know to whom my allegiance is owed? And how can I love a God of whom I know nothing, and whom I do not know?

I would completely agree with the view that it is a difficult matter, among the many religious denominations, both Christian and non-Christian, to find the right faith and the true God. But it cannot be the right solution to say that all religions, with all their gods, have a part of the truth. Rather, we must go to the trouble and labor of looking for the one and only true faith and the one and only true God, and then we will find what we are looking for.
In the discussion between believing Catholics and Christians who believe in the Bible, it is not a question of belief in God. That can be assumed in both cases. But as James tells us:

Jam 2,19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. Jam 2,19;

It is a matter of faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as our only Savior and Redeemer. And here the Lord Jesus says himself:

Believe in God, believe also in Me.

Jn 14,1 "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. Jn 14, 1;

He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.

Jn 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies. Jn 11,25;

When it comes to the Resurrection, we will not be judged by God. God the Almighty does not judge, he has given all judgment to the Son.

He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Jn 5,22 "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 5,23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Jn 5,22-23;

The Father gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

Jn 5,26 "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 5,27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Jn 5,26-27;

It follows that the Son is the one mediator between God and humanity. There is nothing and no one else able to save us from our sin and corruption – not "Mary", not the "saints" and not the church.

Anyone who – like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its declaration "Dominus Jesus" – claims that "the Catholic church is the one and only church able to dispense salvation" and that Mary is the only mediatrix between God and humanity, is certainly not demonstrating his heart’s allegiance to Our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather is pinning his heart on idols. And to demonstrate plainly, in the light of Scripture, that this is the case has nothing to do with intellectual insistence but stems rather from faith based on the Bible and from the love to God and to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

John Waterfield: Having discussed your remarks about ‘Dominus Jesus’ and the supposed claim of the Catholic church to exclusivity with my parish priest in Confession yesterday (12.6.05), I am happy to be able to tell you that your understanding of ‘Dominus Jesus’ is a narrow interpretation and is not actually representative of the official teaching of the church.

While the Catholic church does indeed believe that God is present in a special way in the sacraments of the church, it absolutely does not deny that the grace of God is present in other churches and religions, and also in the hearts of those who do not explicitly adhere to any religious confession (for ‘the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts’, as Paul says).

And if we ask ourselves what is meant by the principle ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’ [‘outside the church there is no salvation’], we have to ask the question – as Fr Michael pointed out – what actually constitutes the church? The church is not to be identified just with the visible body of practicing Catholics and regular Mass-goers. Rather, the church should be seen as the body of all those who will be saved – and this body will undoubtedly include people who were not, in life, Catholics or even Christians, who will nonetheless become members of the Church Triumphant in heaven.

They may have been Buddhists or animists or Hindus; they may be people who simply tried to do the will of God as they understood it, or just to live a good life according to their lights. They may not have known God and they may never have chosen Christ consciously, but their human goodness will be counted to them as righteousness. In effect, their lives will show that they have implicit faith in Christ; and Our Lord will know them and reward them for it.

Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?
And when did we see You a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe You?
And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Mt 25,37-40

(See also Discourse 32: "Commentary on the manifesto ‘Dominus Jesus’: The Catholic Church is the one unique church that makes salvation possible.")

You criticize, as too narrow, my interpretation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration "Dominus Jesus". This interpretation is however not my own: as made plain by the Catholic General Commissar of the Holy Land, Dik. St. Bertagnolli OFM, to whom I referred above, it is the interpretation of the former Prefect of this Catholic Office, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. If your parish priest has information to the contrary, I would be pleased to know.

(See also Discourse 115: "Why pope Benedict had to resign.")

But if you think that at the Last Judgment Buddhists, animists and Hindus will be able to get away with the excuse that they have been "implicit" believers in Christ, then it seems to me that you are laboring under the same illusion as those pseudo-Christians who were even able to perform miracles in the name of the Lord.

And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’.

Mt 7,22 "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 7,23 "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Mt 7,22-23;

So if even people who call Christ their Lord, and who have prophesied, cast out demons and worked many miracles in his name, will fail to find grace in the sight of the Lord at the Last Judgment, because they have not done it for the honor of Christ but rather for the sake of their own, then how much more likely is it that the Lord will reject those who have not known him, and who actually have not even wanted to know him?

Here, once and for all, the principle applies which Our Lord left us when he gave his disciples the task of proclaiming the gospel:

He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

Mk 16,15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be damned. Mk 16,15-16;

Those righteous ones of the Last Judgment mentioned in Mt 25,37-40 to whom you refer, finally, are thus not people who "may not have known God and may never have chosen Christ consciously", as you suppose - rather they are believing and baptized Christians who have helped other Christians (brothers of the Lord) by showing them acts of kindness.

Those people, however, whom you and the Catholic Church hypocritically want to see among these "least brethren" are godless ones who have "never known God" and therefore will go to hell if they do not convert to Jesus Christ.

No one comes to the Father, but by me.

Jn 14,6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. Jn 14, 6;

Jn 3,18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Jn 3,18;

Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Jn 3,36;

John Waterfield: Well, we will hardly be able to convince one another, but perhaps our differences do have a positive aspect. Can we perhaps see a value in difference? After all, variety too can be seen as a divine property, and unanimity is not necessarily a virtue.

United with you in the love of the Lord,

John Waterfield

Although officially the Catholic church puts the teaching of the Bible on the same level as its own Catholic doctrines based on "tradition", when it comes to discussion with Catholics, the statements of Scripture are mostly rejected.

And yet I had really hoped, in this discussion with you, that it might be possible to reach something like a tolerably common ground on scriptural foundations. In a great many areas this has proved impossible – which leads me to conclude that evidently nothing has changed in the schism of the churches since the time of Luther.

Although I am of the opinion that such differences in Christendom are anything but a positive aspect, I share your view nonetheless that variety is a state intended by God, in order to give human beings the opportunity of testing and selecting.

On this note, I thank you and Frau Dr. von Sury for your contributions to this discussion and remain,

United with you in Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Fritz Horak