Answers For a Calvinist
Mr. John Jackson (who I believe is a Calvinist) has posted some interesting question for Catholics on his blog. Lets see how we can go at answering him.
1. Why do Catholics pray the rosary? Where is there precedent for this in scripture, or for that matter anything that even comes close to it?
Well, not all Catholic pray the Rosary, the practice is largely confined to the Western Church and, although it is highly recomended, no law of the churc has ever made it mandatory. That said, it is highly recomended because practical experience has shown it to be a powerful weapon which wonderfully focuses the mind on the great events of our redmeption.
As to the second part of the question, let me answer a question with a question, from where does Mr Jackson get the idea that all of our devotional practices must have scriptural precedent?
2. Why do Catholics pray to Mary as their intercessor, when it seems to be outlined in Scripture that the Holy Spirit is our intercessor? (Romans 8:27)
From the way Mr. Jackson phrases the question, it's possible that he is under the impression that Catholics look to Our Lady as our primary or even sole intercessor. Actually, we look to Jesus Christ, who is our great High Priest as our primary intercessor.
That said, we do believe Our Lady to be a powerful intercessor, this is based on a number of things, amoung them the fact that Our Lord performed His first miracle at her request, and at a time when he did not wish to do so (John 2:1-11).
As for the passage Mr. Jackson cites from Romans, that passage certainly teaches that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, all Catholics know this and we certainly welcolme His help. But if He is our sole intercessor, this is as bad for Protestants as it is for Catholics. I have never met a Protestant who didn't pray for his friends, I have never met a Protestant who did not encourage his friends to pray for him. If Mr. Jackson truly believes the Holy Spirit is our one intercessor, I hope he will be consistent in speaking out against this practice.
3. Why do Catholics add the Apocrypha into their Bibles when to my knowledge the Early Church never regarded it as equal to the rest of scripture, and some of the books of the Apocrypha were written after the Apostolic period?
Ok, some clarification is called for here. The term "Apocrypha" is somewhat vague and refers to a large range of documents written over a lengthy period. The seven books plus parts of two others which are regarded as scritural by Catholics but not by Protestants are called "Deuterocanonical" by Catholics. We regard them as cannonical because those same councils of the early church which our Protestant brethern point to as establishing the New Testament Cannon clearly state that these books are cannonical. Mr. Jackson is simply mistaken in his statements about the Fathers. Catholic Answers has a good tract here on the patristic witness to the authority of these books. It must be admitted that some of the Church Fathers did not admit the full authority of these books, but the same can be said of a number of New Testament books.
As to Mr. Jackson's claim that some of the Apocrypha was written after the Apostolic period, this is where we run into problems with the fuzziness of the term, however, I know of no schoolar who does not date the writing of all of those works which the Catholic Church calls Deutero-Cannonical to before the time of Our Lord.
4. Is the transsubstantiation that Catholics believe takes place in Communion, in which the bread and the wine become the literal body and blood of Jesus equivalent to Jesus dying more than once? (when He only needed die once)
No, absolutly not. The Council of Trent made it perfectly clear that the mass is an unbloody sacrifice. The idea that Catholics believe that Jesus dies again in the mass is a fiction invented by the likes of Jack Chick.
5. Why do Catholics believe that good works are necessary for salvation, when scripture, at least from my reading of it, seems to indicate otherwise. ( Eph. 2:8-9)
This is a subject too big to be dealt with here, although, if Mr. Jackson wishes, I'd be happy to devout a post soley to this question. However, lets look at the text given here:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no man can boast."
The key point here, is that Catholics agree that no person could possibly earn salvation by good works, indeed, no amount of natural good works could bring a person any closer to salvation. The key phrase here is "so the no man can boast". We Catholics freely acknowledge that our good works are nothing to boast of, that any good they bring to us is only a result of a totally unearned grace.
6. Do not Catholic apologetics, which center around proofs for the existance of God assume that unbelief is merely a problem of knowledge rather than one of the heart?
I don't think Catholic apologetics do centre around proofs for the existence of God. Even if they did, Mr. Jacksons claim still don't follow. An apologist is not an evangelist and the best of them know this, but this does not make an apologist useless. As the great Protestant appologist, C. S. Lewis noted, a person's will is always the decicive factor, however, when the time comes for the will to make a decicion, it will certainly help if that person's intelect is on the right side.
7. Why do Catholics believe that Peter was the first pope?
The New Testament clearly shows the leading role played by St. Peter amoung the disciples. One of the best examples of this is Luke 22: 31-32. The impact of this passge is frequently lost on modern readers because modern English (unlike NT Greek) does not distinguish between plural and singular in second person pro-nouns. What the passage says is:
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you [plural] as wheat but I have prayed for you [singular], Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your bretheren."
You see what is happening? Satan is coming after all the apostles, but Christ is praying for St. Peter, and then calling on him to Strengthen the breatheren. After Our Lord left the world, St. Peter is shown time and time again taking a leading role, his presiding at the selection of St. Matthias to replace Judas being an excellent example.
Amoung the early fathers, there is ample testimony to the fact that St. Peter settled in Rome and that the Roman Church, from the earliest of days, assumed the leadership of the church, something I will say more on in an answer to a subsequent question.
8. Why do Catholics assume that Mary was a perpetual virgin when there seems to be nothing to indicate this in scripture?
I'll answer a question with a question again, from where comes this beliefe that all Christian beliefes must be in Scripture? The protestant notion of Sola Scriptura (ie that scripture is our sole infallibke guide in matters of faith) is a late developing invention which would have been totally meaningless in the early centuries of the church before the cannon of the NT was agreed on. The beliefe in Our Lady's perpetual virginity is an early belife of the church, as can be seen here.
9. Why do they believe that she was perfect?
Once again, this beliefe can be shown to have originated amoung the early church. See here for details.
10. Why is there a doctrine of Papal infallibility in the Roman Catholic Church?
Once again, we can show the ancient natur of this beliefe. Writing around 190 AD, St. Ireneus of Lyon, in the third book of his master work "Against Heresies" posed the question of how we can know true Christian teaching from false his answer, you look to what the bishops teach. He then asks, what if the bishops disagree, and answers himself that we must look to Rome for an answer. He writes:
"With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition"
You see? Over a hundred years before Constantine, a bishop was ackowledging Rome as the church with which all other churches must agree.
There is also a question that must be asked, if the Pope is not reliable, what is? What did Jesus leave us to ensure that we could carry on His message and know His truth? I'm sure Mr.Jackson's answer will be "The Bible", yet it was over three hundred years after the death of the last apostles that agreement was reached on which books make up the New Testament. "Church Councils" will perhaps be the reply of some, yet bodies claiming to be church councils have gone so far as to anthamise each other.
In his excellent book "Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic" David Currie demonstrates how, over a period of centuries, every majour see in Christendom was held by a Bishop who actively promoted a beliefe which Catholics, Protestants and the Orthodox agree is heretical. The one exception to this was the See of Rome.