Apologetics

“How big was baby Jesus in Mary’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth?” That is the question I asked myself while visiting the Church of the Visitation in Israel. What I learned was quite revolutionary and amazing. This is one of the best pro-life arguments from Scripture and one I’ve not heard discussed before.

It also says a lot about who Jesus was and the “stranger than fiction” event taking place in space and time in the womb of young girl about 15 years old.

Pictures sometimes show Mary very pregnant — better get to Bethlehem fast! But in reality that is not the case. In scientific terms Jesus was just a blastocyst, a few hundred miniature cells no bigger than a millimeter (0.039 inch).

At the Visitation, Jesus was a “blastcyst” like on the top right

How big was Jesus? Read this article I just wrote and step back in time to the first days of Jesus’ life taking on a human body even though you could have barely seen him with the human eye at the time.

Here is an excerpt from my new article “How Big Was Jesus at the Visitation?”

 “When Mary arrived for the Visitation, as we Catholics refer to the her visit, she was not “showing” yet. Isn’t if funny how we see pictures of a very pregnant Mary as though the baby was ready for Bethlehem. But in reality Jesus—100% God and 100% human — was so small he was practically invisible. 

 Though this blastocyst attached to Mary’s uterus had not seen the light of day He had created with his soon-to-develop eyes, nor breathed fresh air He had created with His still-to-develop lungs, yet He was very alive and very human. The cells were replicating at a rapid rate and they were already developing distinct bodily features. It contained the DNA—the genetic code of Mary.

 The microscopic cells were not just extraneous tissue in the mother’s body—something to be discarded, a disease or something. It was human life with a soul. From conception Every baby shares in the image of God and true humanity with inestimable value long before it takes it’s first breath—right from conception. 

 These replicating cells in Mary’s body were truly human life, God himself taking on human flesh. St. John tells us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt (literally, “pitched his tent” of flesh) among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” John 1:14).

 One thing many people do not think about—what was Jesus’ size and the stage of development in the womb when Mary arrived at the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth? And, how did Elizabeth and the unborn baby John the Baptist react upon pregnant Mary’s arrival?” …

 Continue reading the full article, click HERE.

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Do Catholics Worship “Graven Images”?

by Steve Ray on July 12, 2016

Question sent to John Martignoni from www.BibleChristianSociety.com. The answer is John Martignoni’s. Check out his new audio series to the left and his excellent website.

I’m Catholic, but I do not understand nor have answers to why we use statues and blessed images in the Catholic church as opposed to God’s commandment in Exodus 20.

I’m not against this practice, i just want to understand why, and as well, know how to convince non-Catholics, because the only explanation I’ve gotten so far and can still remember is “there were statues on the ark of the covenant”. I knew nothing about “why” when a friend (Catholic) asked me to constructively explain why and not defensively.

I patiently await your reply. Thank you for your time, and God bless. 

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        Let’s begin by looking very closely at the prohibition in Exodus 20 regarding the making of “graven images” and see if it actually says what many Protestants think it says.  Exodus 20:2-5, “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before Me.  You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”

       This whole passage from Exodus 20 is all about the fact that there is one God we should worship.  It begins with, “I am the Lord your God,” and ends with “I the Lord your God am (a jealous God).”  The operative word is “I.”  One.  There is one God that the Israelites are to worship.  Furthermore, the words that seem, to Protestants, to prohibit the making of a graven image or of any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth are proceeded by: “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and they are followed by: “…you shall not bow down to them or serve them.” 

Which means, given the context, this is not an absolute prohibition upon the Israelites against the making of graven images or any likeness of things in heaven or on earth, rather they are being prohibited from making such images and then turning around and worshipping them.

        In Romans 1:22-28, we see Paul telling the Romans about men who, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshippedand served the creature rather than the Creator…And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.”

       Does Paul tell the Romans that God gave these men up in the lusts of their hearts simply because they made graven images or images of things in heaven or on earth?  No!  He gave them up in the lusts of their hearts because they viewed these images as gods and they worshippedthe images they had made.  They forsook worship of the one true God for the worship of idols. 

        So the prohibition against graven images in Exodus 20 is not an absolute prohibition against making graven images or images of things in heaven or on earth, it is a prohibition against worshipping them as gods.  And we know this is true from the Bible itself!

       In Numbers, 21:8-9, God commandsMoses to make a graven image: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’  So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” 

So, not only are graven images not forbidden to be made, but God Himself commands the making of one!  And, this graven image is used, by God, in a religious context, to heal those who had been bitten by serpents after they had grumbled against God.  And, in the New Testament, this graven image is even seen as an Old Testament type of Christ: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15).  The graven image of the serpent had a religious purpose!

       Imagine that, a graven image, commanded by God to be made; used by God in the physical healing of the Israelites; and seen by the Word of God as a symbol for the spiritual healing of all people by Jesus Christ!  I don’t understand how any Protestant who is in any way familiar with Scripture could read Exodus 20 as an absolute prohibition against the making of graven or any other type of image.

       So, was the making of this graven image a bad thing?  Obviously not.  However, what happened to that same bronze serpent several hundred years later?  2 Kings 18:4 tells us that King Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent.  Why?  Because the people at that time had begun worshipping it as a god.  So, as a graven image, there was no problem with it.  As a graven image that the people were bowing down to and serving, there was a big problem.  The scriptural principle we can take away from this is that graven images, or images of things in heaven or on earth are not, in and of themselves, bad things – even if they are used for religious purposes.  It is when they are worshipped as gods that there is a problem.

       That graven images are not necessarily a problem is confirmed by other passages of Scripture.  There are a number of other places in Scripture where God commands the making of graven images, and it is always within a religious context.  In Exodus 25:18-19, God commands the making of the two cherubim of gold that are on either side of the mercy seat that sits atop the Ark of the Covenant. 

Think about that.  God commands graven images to be placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant – the holiest religious artifact in all of Israel!  There are graven images of flowers on the lampstands of the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 8:4).  Then, when it came to the building of the Temple of Solomon, God commanded the making of all sorts of graven images for use in the Temple.  We see this in 1 Kings 6:18, 23, 27-29, 32, 35; 7:18, 20, 25, 29, 36.  Graven images in the Temple of Solomon!  In the vision of Ezekiel given to him by God, there is a temple and in the temple are graven images (Ezek 41:17-20).

       Also, in the New Testament, there is a passage in Galatians that is very interesting in regard to this topic.  Galatains 3:1, “O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  The Galatians had seen an image of Christ crucified.  They had seen a crucifix!  Now, was it a live representation of Christ crucified, or was it a carved image – a graven image – of Christ crucified?  We can’t really be sure, but one thing is for sure, they were looking at an imageof Christ on the cross – a crucifix. 

       Finally, you find graven images and images of things in heaven and on earth all in and through most Protestant homes and churches.  You find them in the children’s books that have drawings of Jesus and of angels and of man and beast.  Not to mention the drawings of the Holy Spirit as a dove.  You find them in the nativity scenes that many Protestant churches and homes have.  I’ve heard of Protestants who wear pins in the shape of a dove to represent the Holy Spirit.  And what about the pictures they have of family members and friends at home and the office?  I mean, all of those things, if you take an absolutist view of Exodus 20:4, are under the ban.  They are all prohibited. 

       “Wait a minute,” someone might say, “we don’t worship those images and don’t use them in our worship ceremonies like Catholics do.”  In other words, when they are called on it, most Protestants, if not all, will agree that the making of graven images, of images of things in heaven and on earth, are not prohibited by Exodus 20:4.  It is when they are worshipped as gods that there is a problem.  Which is exactly what I have been saying here. 

       Folks, Catholics do not worship any of the statues or paintings or crucifixes or any other such images that are in our churches.  “But,” someone may protest, “I have seen Catholics kiss their statues and kneel before them.” 

So?  I have seen Protestants kiss pictures of their wife and children – does that mean they worship them?  I kneel before my bed to say my prayers every morning – does that mean I worship my bed?  I have seen Protestants kneel before Bibles to pray – does that mean they worship a book made of paper and ink?  Not at all.  If anyone who calls himself Catholic actually worships a statue, then he really is not Catholic and has absolutely no understanding of Catholic teaching and practice. 

       All of which is to say, that the Protestant argument regarding Catholics violating the Commandment by making images of things in heaven and on earth, is null and void.  It makes no scriptural sense.  It makes no logical sense.  It makes no common sense.  It is a false accusation against Catholics that people who call themselves “children of God” should be ashamed to make.

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Some might claim that Catholic teaching on relics and Sacramentals is unbiblical. Really?

Check out these biblical passages:

“So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face CLOTHS or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

“So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the BONES of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (2 Kgs. 13:21).

“They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his SHADOW might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:15).

“When [Jesus] had said this, He spat on the ground, and made CLAY of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ” (which is translated, Sent ). So he went away and washed and came back seeing” (John 9:6-7).

OIL – see James 5:14-15

WATER – see 2 Kings 5:14

SACRAMENTALISM (Quoted from Dave Armstrong’s “One Minute Apologist“)

Objection: Matter cannot convey grace. Sacramentalism and relics are unbiblical magic

The Bible teaches that grace and salvation come through the spirit (Jn. 6:63), not through “holy objects”

 Initial reply : The Incarnation of Jesus “raised” matter, and His death on the cross was intensely physical. Protestants often speak of “the blood” (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Jn. 1:7), which is but one of many examples of sacramentalism. 

 Extensive reply 

 The New Testament is filled with many concrete examples or teachings about the “incarnational principle” and sacramentalism. Baptism confers regeneration (Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21 – cf. Mk. 16:16; Rom 6:3-4 -, 1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:5). Jesus’ garment (Matt. 9:20-22), saliva mixed with dirt (Jn. 9:5 ff.; Mk. 8:22-25), and water from the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7) all were used in healings. Anointing with oil for healing is also prescribed (Jas. 5:14). The Bible often calls for a laying on of hands for the purpose of ordination and commissioning (Acts 6:6) and in order to heal (Mk. 6:5; Lk. 13:13).

Catholics believe in seven sacraments: all of which are established on the basis of extensive biblical evidences: 1) The Eucharist: Lk. 22:19-20; Jn 6:53-58; 1 Cor. 11:23-30; 2) Baptism: Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38, 22:16; 3) Penance and Reconciliation: Matt. 16:19; Jn 20:23; 1 Cor. 5:3-5 with 2 Cor. 2:6-11; 4) Confirmation: Acts 8:14-17, 19:1-6; Eph. 1:13; 5) Anointing of the Sick: Mk. 6:13; Acts 9:17-18; Jas. 5:14-15; 6) Ordination: Mt. 18:18; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 7) Matrimony: Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-9; Eph. 5:21-33.

Even relics (remnants of the bodies of saints and holy people, and related physical items), have (perhaps surprisingly) strong biblical support. Perhaps the most striking proof text is a story about the prophet Elisha:

 2 Kings 13:20-21: So Eli’sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli’sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli’sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.

 Examples of second-class relics (objects that came into contact with holy people) are also clearly found in passages about the prophet Elijah’s mantle, which parted the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:11-14), and Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15-16) and Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12), used by God to heal sick people and to cast out demons. If all of this is “magic,” then it is a sort of “magic” directly sanctioned by God Himself.

 Objection 

 Protestants can agree with some of this. What cannot be found in the Bible, however, is the excessive veneration of relics. This goes too far, and is idolatry. We can remember the deeds of great heroes of the faith (Acts 7; Hebrews 11) and thank God for them, but we shouldn’t get into worshiping bones or pieces of hair and so forth, or go on pilgrimages to “holy places.” That’s too much like paganism or heathenism and adds nothing to our spiritual life. All places are equally “holy.”

 Reply to Objection 

 If matter can indeed convey grace and blessing, according to the Bible, then we can give glory to God for what He has done with lowly matter by venerating (not worshiping) even now-inanimate objects. Protestants themselves would not, for example, think that the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem or the hill where He died on the cross or His tomb, from which He rose from the dead, are merely rocks and dirt like any other rocks and dirt. In their own way they do indeed venerate and honor them. If the physical location were so irrelevant, why visit it at all; why not simply ponder Jerusalem and Israel in their heads, in “spirit.” 

Plenty of Protestants are also fascinated and intrigued by the Shroud of Turin, which is an extraordinary secondary relic related to our Lord Jesus. That is an object, too; a mere piece of cloth. But would any Christian treat it like any other cloth and tear it up for rags to dust with? Of course they would not, because it was connected with Jesus and has miraculous properties (like Elisha’s bones): a supernaturally produced image. Therefore it is highly regarded and revered. It all goes back to God and His great works, using matter. Sacramentalism and relics flow from the Incarnation: God Himself taking on flesh and matter and becoming man.

 St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) 

 The death of Christ is the universal cause of man’s salvation: but a universal cause has to be applied to particular effects. Thus it was found necessary for certain remedies to be administered to men by way of bringing Christ’s death into proximate connection with them. Such remedies are the Sacraments of the Church.

And these remedies had to be administered with certain visible signs: — first, because God provides for man, as for other beings, according to his condition; and it is the condition of man’s nature to be led through sensible things to things spiritual and intelligible: secondly, because instruments must be proportioned to the prime cause; and the prime and universal cause of man’s salvation is the Word Incarnate: it was convenient therefore that the remedies, through which that universal cause reaches men, should resemble the cause in this, that divine power works invisibly through visible signs.

Hereby is excluded the error of certain heretics, who wish all visible sacramental signs swept away; and no wonder, for they take all visible things to be of their own nature evil, and the work of an evil author. These visible sacramental signs are the instruments of a God Incarnate and Crucified. (Summa Contra Gentiles, IV, 56: “Of the Need of Sacraments”)

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Nine Truths about Purgatory: What Catholics Need to Know about Heaven’s Ante-room

June 23, 2016

Nine Truths about Purgatory: What Catholics need to know about the ‘anteroom of heaven’ By Emily Stimpson – OSV Newsweekly, 9/29/2013 (Steve Ray’s article on Purgatory HERE) Some fear it. Others hope for it. Some see it as proof of God’s mercy; others as testimony to God’s wrath. Many don’t know anything about it, while many […]

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 22, 2016

Since we are in Rome today and touring Ancient Rome, especially the Roman Forum and the Mammertine Prison where St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly after his martyrdom. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for the dead. It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. Here […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 12, 2016

I will be on Catholic Answers Live Monday at 6:00 PM Eastern. We will discuss the Miracles of Jesus with an emphasis on the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE.  In […]

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Today is St. Justin Martyr’s Feast Day – Free Apostolic Fathers Timeline

June 1, 2016

Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr, June 1   Download a Free copy of the Apostolic Fathers Timeline This amazing Timeline drives home the point of how close these men were to Jesus and the Apostles. It demonstrates how Catholic the first Christians really were!  The Apostolic Fathers faced Emperors, heretics and lions but these heroes […]

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Mary, Ark of the New Covenant & the Visitation to Elizabeth

May 31, 2016

Read my article about Mary, typology and reading the Bible with the Fathers of the Church and the Visitation. It was published in Catholic Answers Magazine. Click on the image or HERE for the whole article.

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Planets, Dr. Seuss and Snowflakes—Combined Proof That There is a CREATOR

May 11, 2016

This reflection is by Larry Peterson of the Catholic Writers Guild. It is reprinted from the guild’s blog April 5, 1016. Ten  years ago, NASA’s new, Horizon Spacecraft left our humble, little planet and began its voyage to to the edges of our solar system and beyond. After traveling 3 billion-plus miles, New Horizon finally passed Pluto, […]

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Did Jesus Ascend into Heaven from Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12) or from Bethany (Luke 24:50)?

May 10, 2016

One of our past pilgrims wrote with an apparent contradiction in the Bible and what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion. Acts 1:12  “[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.” Luke […]

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Jesus Said His Mother Had Other Sons! Really?

April 29, 2016

I was confronted with an interesting argument against Mary’s perpetual virginity. The man argued that the Bible itself proves that Mary had other children. He claimed that Jesus expressly states in no uncertain terms that his mother had other sons. He said it must have been overlooked by the Catholic Church. To read my whole response, […]

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Eternal Security: Is Baptist Pastor Charles Stanley Right?

April 8, 2016

ETERNAL SECURITY (Once Saved-Always Saved): Analyzing a Sermon by Baptist Pastor, Charles Stanley By Steve Ray Hello Protestant Friend: Even though I have watched his show off and on over the months, I had no intention of watching Charles Stanley on television last night. It was just that I was tired after getting home and […]

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Sympathy for Cradle Catholics Who Can’t Explain or Defend the Faith

April 7, 2016

I thought of a helpful illustration to explain why “cradle Catholics” are often unable to explain and defend the Catholic faith. The example has its weaknesses, but it does help get the point across. As an American I asked myself this question: if some one trained to attack America intellectually approached me on the street […]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

March 31, 2016

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it […]

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How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb? Another Contradiction?

March 26, 2016

“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” (Matt. 12:38-40) Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb […]

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Steve on Deep Adventure Radio Talking about the Early Church

March 18, 2016

Sorry about the 30 second Lowe’s commercial. Can’t get rid of it, embedded in the broadcast.  Stephen and Bear discuss the young roaring Lion of the early church and how they worshiped, what the key beliefs were in regards to the Eucharist and even Mary and how the Bishop of Rome (Pope) became significant. It’s […]

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