The Word

A look at the Bible and other holy books

The “best selling” religious texts are read, but rarely comprehended. The blinders are on for many believers. They fail to see the mistakes in facts whether they be in history, science, logic or reasoning because they either don’t have the capacity to read critically, or refuse to do so.

No Morality Without the Bible?

Farrell Till

(Farrell Till was a Minister for The Church of Christ for twelve years and five of those were spent doing missionary work. He was the editor and frequent contributor to his magazine The Skeptical Review.)

Of all the arguments that fundamentalists resort to in their defense of the Bible, none is more ridiculous than their claim that the Bible is necessary for people to know how to live moral lives. They arrive at this conclusion through a series of assumptions. Their first assumption is that God exists, and onto this assumption, they pile another one: morality (and they even make it an absolute morality) emanates from the nature of God. Then, of course, they assume that their God, in verbally inspiring the Bible, revealed absolute morality to mankind. Hence, man must rely on the Bible to know what is moral and immoral. They envision life without the Bible as a moral chaos reminiscent of ancient Israel before the time of its kings when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

The whole superstructure of this argument is built upon another assumption that is incredibly cynical on the part of a group that delights in condemning the pessimism of philosophies that question the existence of God. This assumption is that man is incapable of making moral decisions without divine guidance. In other words, man must have God’s help or else he just can’t determine for sure what is right and what is wrong.

Were it not for the seriousness of fundamentalist attempts to impose this belief on society in general, it would be too ridiculous to deserve comment. We have used human intelligence to cure diseases, split the atom, and invent a technology that has us reaching for the stars, yet Christian fundamentalists would have us believe that we are too stupid to discover that lying, stealing, and killing are harmful enough to the general welfare to be considered morally wrong. That view of life is about as pessimistic as any that can be imagined, infinitely more pessimistic than the mental action of a skeptic who questions the existence of an afterlife for which he can see no verifiable evidence.

This foundation belief of Bible fundamentalism is of course erroneous. It is even contradicted by the Bible itself. In Romans 2:14, the Apostle Paul said that the Gentiles, who had not received the law [of Moses] or, in other words, a revelation from God, had nevertheless sometimes done “by nature the things of the law” and were therefore “a law unto themselves.” If this doesn’t mean that Paul believed that the Gentiles who had no divine revelation had discovered morality on their own, then pray tell what does it mean? So even if the existence of the biblical god could undeniably be proven, how could bibliolaters, in the face of this statement from their much revered apostle to the Gentiles, justify their claim that man must have direct guidance from God in order to live morally?

The fact is that no one can prove the existence of God. Volumes have been written on the subject, but no theist has yet advanced an argument for God’s existence that has not been adequately answered. Anyone who doubts this should read the information available on the subject, and a good place to begin would be with George H. Smith’s Atheism: the Case Against God. In this book, one will find logical refutations of all the major theistic arguments.

What this means is that the fundamentalist claim that there can be no morality without a god to reveal it to us is just an empty shell. It begins with an unprovable assumption and ends with a conclusion that even the Bible contradicts. What kind of argument is that?

The fallacy of the argument is obvious from its flagrant appeal to wishful thinking. It is certainly appealing to think that we will live in another world after we die in this one, and so wishful thinkers spend their lives believing in religions that offer them the hope of gods and saviors who promise them eternal life in a great beyond. Few of these wishful thinkers ever bother to subject their otherworldly beliefs to rational examination. They want it, so they assume that they will get it just on the basis of their wanting it. Nothing could be more irrational than belief based on a premise no more substantial than this, yet this is exactly how many theists reason. “I want it, and so I know that I will get it.”

If there is no God, fundamentalists are fond of saying, then there can be no standard of objective or absolute morality. Well, so what? What kind of argument is that? If there isn’t, then there just isn’t. What the fundamental- ists are really saying is that it would certainly be nice if everything on the subject of morality was already decided for us and neatly laid out in categories of black and white. This is right, and this is wrong, period, end of the discus- sion. But if it isn’t that way, then it just isn’t that way, and no amount of wishful thinking or praying or hoping will ever change the fact that it isn’t that way. We (mankind) are just in the world on our own and will have to get by the best that we can.

The thought of that terrifies most theists, but it shouldn’t. God wasn’t much help to us in discovering how to cure or prevent smallpox, diphtheria, typhoid, whooping cough, polio, measles, and dozens of other diseases. We had to do it on our own. God wasn’t much help to us in making the scientific discoveries that led to the technology that now makes life so comfortable for us. We had to do it on our own. So if we did all these things without God, surely we can make the moral discoveries that are necessary for society to function in an orderly, beneficial way.

To the fundamentalists, of course, this is all outrageous heresy. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God. It just is, and no amount of rational argumentation will remove them from their fantasy world in which everything is either black or white. There is one thing, however, that they cannot do. They cannot open their Bibles and demonstrate just how anyone can know what absolute morality is. They will say that the Bible provides us with a guide to absolute morality, but they can’t show us exactly what absolute morality is.

Is it, for example, morally right for blood to be transfused from one person to another? Most religions permit it, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that biblical principles properly understood condemn it. Who is right? When the Bible was being written, the technology for transfusing blood didn’t exist, so the Bible did not directly address this problem. The same is true of numerous other technologies now available to us. The transplantation of body organs (including even cross-species transplants), artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, genetic mapping, gene splicing–these are all technologies that were developed after the Bible was written, so what is the “correct”” moral position to take on these issues? Through processes of in vitro fertilization and embryo transplantations, a woman in South Dakota gave birth to her own grandchildren. Was it morally right for her to do this? What does the Bible say? Well, of course, the Bible doesn’t say anything about this or any of the other technological procedures mentioned above. If we asked a hundred theologians to take their Bibles and resolve the moral dilemmas posed by these technologies, we would find ourselves hopelessly trapped in a maze of confusion when all of their answers were in.

Last summer, when the story about the Lakeberg twins first appeared in the newspapers, the article was clipped and mailed to several fundamentalist preachers known to believe in absolute morality. An accompanying letter asked them to explain what the Bible had to say about the dilemma that the parents of those twins were facing. The twins were joined at the chest and shared a common heart. Surgery would mean that one of the twins would have to die, and subsequently this was the decision that the parents made. The absolute moralists who received that letter were asked to state what their god of absolute morality has revealed to us in this matter.

Not a one of these preachers has yet answered that letter. Their silence shouts the inconsistency of their position. The Bible gives us a guide to absolute morality, so they say, yet they cannot tell us what absolute morality has to say about the difficult moral dilemmas that we must confront in our modern society.

Elsewhere in this issue, a debate on biblical morality begins. Before it is over, maybe Lindell Mitchell, the spokesman for the fundamentalist position, will try to explain to us how the Bible can be an absolute moral guide in problems that didn’t even exist in biblical times. If he doesn’t attempt to explain it, some of us just may suspect that he isn’t nearly as sure of his position as he would like us to believe.

Christian Councils: A Timeline of Christian History

Below is chronology of Councils during the history of Christianity, from the very beginning until today. Included with each, where possible, is in formation on the doctrinal decisions made there. Not all councils are “ecumenical” – i.e., accepted by all Christians denominations.

Christian Councils
325 First Ecumenical Council of Nicea was convened by emperor Constantine: established the Nicene Creed as the fundamental statement of Christian faith.

Constantine had adopted Christianity as the state religion because he sought something which would unify the people – however, a heresy had developed which threatened to dissolve that unity and Constantine would not allow it. He intended to make sure that, one way or another, the disagreement would end.

The problem was caused by Arius of Alexandria who was teaching that Jesus Christ, instead of being fully divine as was believed by orthodox Christians, was wholly a created being. Arianism was condemned at this Council and Airus was exiled by Constantine. Also as a result, the Nicene Creed was adopted – this expressly taught that Jesus fully human and fully divine.

c. 364 The Church Council of Laodicea ordered that religious observances were to be conducted on Sunday, not Saturday. Sunday became the new Sabbath: Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day.
381 First Council of Constantinople. Convened by Theodosius I, then emperor of the East and a recent convert, to confirm the victory over Arianism, the council drew up a dogmatic statement on the Trinity and defined Holy Spirit as having the same divinity expressed for the Son by the Council of Nicaea 56 years earlier.

Called by emperor Theodosius I, the First Council of Constantinople was the second ecumenical church council in Christianity. All 186 bishops who attended were from the East – none from the West and no representatives of Pope Damasus I were there.

Theodosius’ purpose in calling this council was to deal with the threat of the Arian controversy and the council’s final decisions included: the Holy Spirit is divine, Jesus Christ is fully human, and Jesus Christ is co-equal with God.

394 Council of Carthage – first council to uphold doctrines of prayers for the dead and purgatory.
431 Ecumenical Council of Ephesus denounced the teachings of Nestorius (d. 451), who argued that Christ had completely separate human and divine natures.
451 Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon> voted that Christ is simultaneously “truly man and truly God.”

A little known statement of the Council was Canon #15 (1): No woman under 40 years of age is to be ordained a deacon, and then only after close scrutiny. This is appears to have been the last time in church history that the ordination of women was mentioned as a routine practice in any form, and certainly establishes that women did hold, at one time, important church offices.

Widely considered to be the most important of the first four general councils of the early Christian Church. It was here that the divisive question over the nature of and personhood of Jesus Christ was finally decided, leading an important confession of faith which continues in use today.

At the heart of the debate was the view of the monophysites who argued that Jesus had a single, divine nature and denied the more orthodox view that Jesus had a dual nature, fully human and fully divine. The earliest instances of monophysitism were not condemned and were, in fact, advocated by a number of prominent Church leaders, like Cyril.

With the Council of Chalcedon, however, this belief was definitively set aside in favor of the belief that Jesus Christ was a single person, but had two distinct and separate natures – one human and one divine. This has been the Christian doctrine which has remained the center of orthodoxy up through today.

553 Second Council of Constantinople, convened by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to settle the dispute known as the Three Chapters. In an attempt to reconcile moderate Monophysite parties to orthodoxy, Justinian had issued (544) a declaration of faith. The last three chapters anathematized the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Ibas of Edessa for Nestorianism.

Called by emperor Justinian I, primarily to deal with the heresy of Nestorianism. Almost all of the bishops who attended from the East and for a while Pope Virgilius was forced to accept Justinian’s condemnations.

While the charge was true of their writings to a certain extent, the Council of Chalcedon had cleared those men of any personal heresy. Justinian’s edict slighted the council and encouraged Monophysitism* (see below); it was deeply resented in the West. Pope Vigilius, resisted at first, but eventually was forced to support the edict.

Under pressure from the Western bishops he then reversed himself. In retaliation, Justinian called a council at Constantinople; it was attended by only six Western bishops, boycotted by Vigilius, and dominated by Justinian and the Eastern bishops. The council approved the imperial edict and seems to have censured Vigilius. The pope was forced to ratify the council’s work the following year. The West, in general, was slow in recognizing it as an ecumenical council, but ultimately it was accepted – mainly because of the orthodoxy of its pronouncements.

*The monophysites were an early, post-Nicea heretical group which argued that Jesus had a single, divine nature and denied the more orthodox view that Jesus had a dual nature, fully human and fully divine. The earliest instances of monophysitism were not condemned and were, in fact, advocated by a number of prominent Church leaders, like Cyril.

The monophysite view that Jesus had a single nature was eventually condemned at the Council of Chalcedon (451) which asserted that Jesus had both a Divine and a Human nature combined in a single person. Some tried to avoid being condemned as heretics by asserting that Jesus may have had two natures technically, the Human nature was so subsumed by the Divine nature that the practical effect was a single nature.

A genuine schismatic movement of Monophysites did not appear until after the Second Council of Constantinople (553) which required acceptance of the formulation decided upon at Chalcedon and some simply refused. They were the precursors of the present-day Syrian and Armenian Orthodox churches. In 1984, the patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox church (Mar Ignatius Zakka II) met with Pope John Paul II and together they signed a new declaration which stated the difference in their dogmas were more apparent than real and ultimately based upon cultural and linguistic “inadequacies.”

680-81 Third Council of Constantinople. It was convoked by Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV to deal with Monotheletism*. (see below)

Called by emperor Constantine IV because of the recent decision at a synod convened by Pope Agatho which had declared that Jesus Christ had two wills, contradicting the teachings of Monotheletism. The bishops meeting at Constantinople agreed with Agatho and reiterated the decisions made at the earlier Council of Chalcedon that Christ had two wills – one human and one divine – which work together harmoniously.

*The Monothelites, precursors of the modern Maronites, tried to evolve a compromise between the Monophysites and orthodox Christianity by postulating that Christ had two natures, human and divine, but a single will. An early and important Monothelite was Pope Honorius I (625-638) who, on the advice of the patriarch of Constantinople, spoke of Jesus as having “one will.”

This formulation was accepted in two synods at Constantinople (638 & 639), the later Lateran Synod of 649 condemned it, confirmed by the Third Council of Constantinople (680). At this Council it was declared that Jesus had not just two natures but also two wills, one Divine and one Human. Pope Honorius was excommunicated for his support for Monothelitism.

787 The Second Nicean Council met – this was the last of the seven church councils commonly accepted as authoritative by both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. The Council voted to allow the veneration but not the worship of icons.

Called in order to address the Iconoclastic Controversy. This controversy began in 726 when Byzantine Emporer Leo III forbade the worship of icons. According to the final decision of the council, icons merited veneration and devotion, but not actual worship.

869-70 Fourth Coucil of Constantinople. It has never been accepted by the Orthodox Church, which instead recognizes the council of 880 that supported Photius. The council of 869 was convened at the suggestion of Basil I, the new Byzantine emperor, to confirm the restoration of St. Ignatius of Constantinople to the see that Photius had resigned.

The eight ecumenical council according to the Roman Catholic Church. It was used to condemn the teachings of Photius, the former patriarch of Constantinople who opposed the inclusion of filioque in the Nicene Creed.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, however, does not recognize the authority of this council. Instead, it recognizes the authority of a separate council held in Constantinople between 879 and 880 which approved of Photius and which also rejected the use of filioque, annulling the decision made at the other council.

Photius had already been condemned, without a hearing, at a Roman synod. At Constantinople his defense was cut short, and when he refused to sign his own condemnation, he was excommunicated. The result of these councils was to intensify the bitterness between East and West.

1085 At the Council of Clermont, the First Crusade (out of a total of eight official crusades) was called by Pope Urban II (c. 1035 – 1099) against Muslims in the Holy Lands.

Attended by over 200 bishops, the Council of Clermont is basically known for only one thing: it was here that Pope Urban II made his famous call for a Crusade to liberate the Holy Lands from Muslim invaders. This would launch the First Crusade and affect the relationship between Christianity and Islam down through the present day.

The Council of Clermont wasn’t only about a Crusade, however. There were other decisions reached regarding questions about lay investiture, fasting and communion. It also forbade either bishops or clergy from becoming the vassals of any secular rulers. Finally, the Council of Clermont also decreed that a pilgrimage to Jerusalem made every other penance superfluous. Thus, a person who had committed a sin could have that sin relieved simply by going to Jerusalem – a good way to help win support for the First Crusade.

The term crusades can be used to refer to any military operations launched during the middle ages by the Catholic Church and Catholic political leaders against non-Catholic powers or heretical movements. Most crusades, however, were directed at Muslim states in the Middle East, with the first starting in 1096 and the last in 1270. The term itself is derived from the Latin cruciata, which means “cross-marked,” i.e. cruce signati, those who wear the insignia of scarlet crosses.

The first true crusade was launched by pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 when he gave a dramatic speech urging good Christians to swarm towards Jerusalem and once again make it safe for Christian pilgrims by taking it away from the evil Muslims. At this time, the Seljuk Turk forces had overrun most of the Near East and defeated Byzantine armies, finally coming to a halt outside the gates of Constantinople, the capital of Eastern Christianity.

This first crusade also happened to be the most successful of them all. The army of the First Crusade left in 1096 and captured Jerusalem in 1099. Both along the route and in Jerusalem, the slaughter of Jews and Muslims was horrifying. Cities were devastated, women were raped, and both adults and children were killed without mercy. The captured lands were divided into new principalities.

Although there were a number of distinct campaigns launched, it can be said that a “crusading spirit” swept across much of Europe. Joining a Crusade was not simply a matter of participating in military conquest, but it was a form of religious devotion, particularly among those seeking forgiveness for their sins. Church authorities used the Crusades as part of the penance which people had to do in order to repay spiritual wrongdoing.

Another factor was the proliferation of younger sons. Traditionally in European noble families, the eldest son would inherit all of the lands – thus, younger sons would get absolutely nothing. Their growing numbers posed a threat to social stability because these young men had nothing to lose and everything to gain – but redirecting their enthusiasm towards foreign lands proved to be a good means for releasing that energy. Not only were many killed and did many expend their energy, but they were able to capture new lands which could be colonized and controlled.

Some people claimed to experience visions of God, ordering them to lead a Crusade to the Holy Land. These usually ended in failure because the visionary was typically a person without any political or military experience. One sad example of this was the Children’s Crusade of 1212 which was lead by a shepherd boy named Thomas. This boy claimed that God had told him that children would take Jerusalem from the Muslims because they would have special protection from harm – most, however, died during the grueling trek or were captured by Mediterranean pirates and sold into slavery.

The Second Crusade was launched in response to the capture of Edessa by Muslim forces in 1144, but the massive army under the leadership of the French king and German emperor was readily defeated. The Third Crusade was later launched as a result of the Muslim recapture of Jerusalem in 1187, but that too was unsuccessful. The Fourth Crusade was instigated by Venetian leaders who saw it as a means to increase their own power and influence, diverting the crusading army from the Muslim foes to their allies in Constantinople. The great city was mercilessly sacked in 1204, leading to even more enmity between Eastern and Western Christians.

The Fifth Crusade was, again, a failure – but the Sixth Crusade achieved some small measure of success. Both the Seventh and Eighth Crusades were, once again, complete failures – and after 1270 there were no more crusades into the Muslim held territories in the Middle East.

The results of the Crusades are almost too numerous to list. The Christian stance on military service changed radically, the veneration of relics increased radically, and the power of the papacy increased even more dramatically. Of wider importance was the increased demand for trade goods – Europeans developed a tremendous appetite for cloth, spices, jewels and more from the Muslims and lands even further east, spurring an increased interest in exploration.

The extensive contact with Muslims also lead to a less materialistic trade in ideas: philosophy, science, mathematics, education, and medicine. Much of this was originally of European origin, ideas which the Muslims had preserved from the Greeks. Some of it was also later developments of the Muslims themselves. Together, all of this lead to faster social developments in Europe, even allowing them to surpass the Muslim countries.

1123 First Lateran Council. Summoned by Pope Calistus II to signal the end of the investiture controversy by confirming the Concordat of Worms (1122), it was held in the Lateran Palace, Rome, making it the first council to be held in Western Europe. Many of the council’s decrees became part of the evolving corpus of canon law.

Called for the excommunication of Roger of Sicily and a number of bishops who had been appointed by an anti-pope. Decisions reached by the council included a condemnation of usury and the study by monks of medicine and civil law.

1139 Second Lateran Council. Convened at the Lateran Palace, Rome, by Pope Innocent II, the council attempted to heal the wounds left by the schism of the antipope Anacletus II (d. 1138) and condemned the theories of Arnold of Brescia.
1179 Third Lateran Council. Convened at the Lateran Palace, Rome, by Pope Alexander III after the Peace of Venice (1178) had reconciled him with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, it included an envoy from the Orthodox Greeks. The most important legislation was the first canon, which confirmed that the election of the pope was to be in the hands of the cardinals alone, two thirds being necessary for election.

Called to settle various political conflicts between the Vatican and Frederick I of Germany. Among the reforms promoted by the council was the requirement that a pope needs a two-thirds majority of cardinals in order to be elected.

1215 Pope Innocent III organized the Fourth Lateran Council in Rome in order to discuss and define central dogmas of Christianity. It was one of the most important councils ever held, and its canons sum up Innocent’s ideas for the church. It recognizes the necessity of the Eucharist and penance as sacraments for salvation.

Here the meaning and use of the term transubstantiation was finalized and requiring that Catholics receive the Eucharist at Easter with excommunication being the penalty for those who disobeyed. This council made the first official use of the term “transubstantiation,” with reference to the Eucharist.

The Fifth Lateran Council was called by Julius II but was only attended mainly by Italian bishops. It ran from 1512 through 1517 and was used to establish peaceful relationships among Christian rulers while also calling for more vigorous military efforts against the Turks.

1408 Council of Oxford prohibited translations of the Scriptures into the vernacular unless and until they were fully approved by Church authority, a decision sparked by the publication of the Wycliffite Bible.

John Wycliffe was an English church reformer whose ideas would eventually play an important role in the Protestant Reformation. That it was Luther and not Wycliffe who actually sparked the Reformation may be attributed to the differing social and political contexts in which they worked.

Wycliffe started from the basic premise which would later inspire the Protestants, namely that the Bible was superior to the papacy, to priests, and to any human institution. Wycliffe also argued that everything was literally “owned” by God – not simply all material objects, but also all offices and positions.

Thus, when someone failed to use their office properly, they no longer deserved to retain it. This, then, was the position that most of the church was in and Wycliffe believed that most of those who held church offices needed to be replaced with more spiritual and less corrupt people.

Another doctrine of Wycliffe’s which would later be taken up by Protestants was that of transubstantiation. Like other reformers, Wycliffe believed that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist was spiritual rather than physical – thus, the Eucharist is more symbolic than literal.

The Church condemned Wycliffe as a heretic in 1380 and again in 1382. The Bible he created, the first literal translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible into English, was more a work of his followers than him but tradition still tends to attribute it to Wycliffe. It, of course, was also condemned by the Church and burned whenever it was found.

Wycliffe dreamed of a national, English church which was run by the English kind and which addressed the needs of the English people, something which would not actually occur until the 16th century. Wycliffe’s followers eventually became known as Lollards.

1409 Council of Pisa ended the Great Schism by declaring both rival popes deposed and electing a third: Pope Martin V.

Called to heal the “Great Schism of the West,” a schism which lasted for forty years. Cardinals from both the Roman and Avignon factions came together, but without any papal approval (they argued that an ecumenical council had authority over popes, a disputed position). They deposed both the Roman pope (Gregory XII) and the Avignon pope (Benedict XIII) and elected Peter of Candia, who adopted the name Alexander V.

However, because neither of the other two popes approved of the Council, supporters of them refused to acknowledge the new election and the Great Schism was not yet ended – indeed, it was now worse because there were three rival popes instead of just two. This conflict was not over until the Council of Constance (1414-1418).

1417 The Council of Constance, largest Church meeting in medieval history, officially ended the Great Schism.

It replaced a papal monarchy with a conciliar government, which recognized a council of prelates as the pope’s authority and mandated the frequent meeting of councils. This new period was known as the Italian territorial papacy and lasted until 1517 CE.

John Hus traveled to the Council of Constance to propose his reforms for the Church. Upon his arrival at the Council, Hus was tried for heresy and burned. His death encouraged futher revolt by his followers.

Called to try and deal with the Great Schism of the West (the first was the Council of Pisa and the third was the Council of Basel). The earlier attempt at Pisa actually just made things worse – instead of getting one or both rival popes to step down, it created a third pope who claimed authority over the Church.

The Council of Constance as convened, reluctantly, by Pope John XXIII because Emperor Sigismund insisted. Those who were in charge at Constance hoped to get all three rival popes to abdicate but John refused and he was aided by supporters who held a majority at Constance. Changes in voting procedure eliminated this advantage, however, and John was forced to flee. The Council then asserted that its authority came directly from Christ and binding on all Christians, even without papal approval. John was later imprisoned and deposed for simony in 1415.

The Council of Constance also condemned 267 teachings of John Wycliffe, the English reformer, and the Bohemian reformer John Hus was imprisoned, condemned for heretical teachings, and burned at the stake – all, despite the fact that his safety had been guaranteed by the emperor himself.

1545-1563 Council of Trent, Catholic Reformation, or counter-reformation, met Protestant challenge by clearly defining an official theology

Called by Pope Paul III (1534-1549) and under pressure from Emperor Charles V in order to address the various issues raised by the Protestant reformers around Europe. For Roman Catholics, the Council of Trent is considered the 19th ecumenical council and Pius IV ratified its enactments by the bull “Benedictus Deus.”

Because of the issues addressed and context of the meetings, the Council of Trent became one of the most important in church history, leading to the creation of the modern Catholic Church. The council made a number of important decrees which established the nature of Christian doctrines.

One, in reaction to Protestant insistence on use of the Bible alone as a source of revelation and authority (sola scriptura), asserted that Christian revelation can be found in both “written books” and in “unwritten traditions.” Others include referring to the Mass as the Eucharist again, prohibiting any ordinations in exchange for money, validating justification by faith supported by good works, asserting that the Latin Vulgate with the Apocrypha constituted the official scriptures, and the reaffirmation that transubstantiation literally occurs during the Mass, rather than it being symbolic.

Another important development was the creation of an Index of Prohibited Books, a list of condemned authors and their works. This reaction to offensive Protestant writings would have repercussions for centuries as various ideas which the Catholic Church disliked were declared “Prohibited” and Catholics were not permitted to own or read them.

Devout Catholics had wanted a council called earlier and it is unfortunate that it wasn’t. Had it been called early in the 16th century, when moderates still dominated, it may have been possible to reunite the Protestants with the Catholic Church – or, at the very least, the division may have ended up more amicable. As it was, by the time the council was called, the Church had come to be dominated by conservatives who reacted harshly to the Protestants and were in no mood to compromise on any level.

1869-1870 First Vatican Council, 20th ecumenical, affirmed doctrine of papal infallibility (ie. when a pope speaks ex cathedra on faith or morals he does so with the supreme apostolic authority, which no Catholic may question or reject).

Called by Pope Pius IX, it was hoped that this council would serve as a defense against the growing influences of modernity, liberalism, the Enlightenment and even the French Revolution which occurred almost one century earlier. It ended early due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war – technically, it was never officially ended, but it also never reconvened.

The First Vatican Council resulted in two major dogmas: Dei Filius, which explained the relationship between reason and faith and Pastor Aeternus, which established the doctrine of papal infallibility. The most famous and controversial is that of papal infallibility, but the final decision was much more mild that desired by some. There were those who argued that the pope should be considered infallible in all things and that this infallibility was the source of the infallibility of the entire church. In the end, however, it was simply decided that the pope was infallible in a narrow set of circumstances: when speaking ex cathedra on maters of church doctrine.

There were, nevertheless, quite a few who opposed the doctrine of papal infallibility, largely because they felt that it conflicted with the traditional and ecclesiastical structure of the church itself. However, it seems likely that this opposition never had any chance. Those responsible for preparing this council were almost entirely those who supported the doctrine of Ultramonatism – the supremacy of the pope. Thus, even from the early days of preparation there was an interest in asserting the infallibility of the pope.

Dei Filius expressed fundamental opposition to rationalism, the idea that matters of revelation should, in any way, be subject to the judgment of reason and logic. It also denied the idea that human reason could in any way acquire religious or ethical knowledge – such results could only be had through revelation and the Church.

1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, 21st ecumenical, announced by Pope John XXIII in 1959, produced 16 documents which became official after approval by the Pope, purpose to renew “ourselves and the flocks committed to us” (Pope John XXIII).

There were actually four separate sessions: October-December 1962, September-December, 1963, September-November, 1964, and September-December, 1965, all in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was called by John XXIII, but he died after only the first session and his successor, Paul VI, was left to finish it.

This was the largest of the twenty-one ecumenical councils, with a total of 2,600 bishops from all over the world and a total of over 3,000 participants (including theologians and other experts). As a comparison, the First Vatican Council, held between 1878 and 1880 , had a total of 737 bishops who attended. It is also important to note that the participants really did come from all over the world – whereas Vatican I was dominated by European bishops, fewer than half of the bishops at Vatican II were from European countries.

Other notable facts: this council had more observers from other religions and non-Catholic Christian denominations than any other. It was the first council to have available electric lights, telephones, and other modern amenities. It was the first to receive extensive media coverage from all over the world. This council was also unusual in that it was not called to address some specific heresy or threat to the Church – instead, John XXIII specifically stated that he called it to promote peace and easy discord.

Among the more progressive results of the Second Vatican Council were declaration like that “the Church” includes all “People of God,” not simply the hierarchy of the Church and that there is a hierarchy of truths – thus, not all official Church teachings are equally binding on all Catholics or essentially to the integrity of Catholic Faith. Although traditionalists managed to limit the changes which progressives wanted to make, this council nevertheless produced the most and widest changes in the Roman Catholic Church since the Council of Trent during the Reformation.


DEAR BELIEVER. You ask me to accept Jesus as my personal Savior; yet his behavior and teachings often expose one who should be escaped, not sought.     I only ask that you read what follows in the spirit of open-mindedness taught in Prov. 15:10 NIV [New International Versison] (“he who hates correction will die”) and Prov. 12:1 NASB (“he who hates reproof is stupid”) because I seek to “Prove all things” (1 Ths 5:21).

  1. While on the Cross Jesus said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Mark 15:34). How could Jesus be our savior when he couldn’t even save himself? Those aren’t the words of a man voluntarily dying for our sins; those are the words of a man who can think of a hundred places he would rather be.
  2. Jesus said, “whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22). yet, he himself did so repeatedly as Matt. 23:17,19 and Luke 11:40 and 12:20 show. Shouldn’t he be in danger of hell too?
  3. Except for those of biased Christian writers, there isn’t one writing outside the bible in all of ancient history that clearly refers to Jesus of Nazareth.
  4. Isn’t Jesus a false prophet since he wrongly predicted in Matt. 12:40 that he would be buried 3 days and 3 nights as Jonah was in the whale 3 days and 3 nights? Friday afternoon to early Sunday morning is only 1 1/2 days.
  5. Another prophecy by Jesus in John 13:38 (“The cock shall not crow, TILL THOU (Peter) HAST DENIED ME 3 TIMES”) is false because Mark 14:66-68 shows the cock actually crowed after the first denial, not the third.
  6. How could Jesus be our model of sinless perfection when he denies his moral perfection in Matt. 19:17 (“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God?).
  7. In 1 Cor. 1:17 (“For christ sent me (Paul–Ed.) NOT TO BAPTIZE, but to preach the gospel”) Paul said Jesus was wrong when he said in Matt. 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, BAPTIZING them…” So how could Jesus be the fountain of wisdom?
  8. How could Jesus, whom the NT repeatedly refers to as the son of man, be our saviour when this is clearly forestalled by Psalm 146:3 (“Put not your trust in princes, nor in THE SON OF MAN in whom there is no help”) and Job 25:6 (“How much less man, that is a worm?     and THE SON OF MAN, which is a worm”)?
  9. How could Jesus be god when he repeatedly said he was not God’s equal; he wasn’t god. Obvious examples are: John 14:28 (“…for my Father is greater than I”), John 20:17 (“I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and TO MY GOD, and your God), and John 7:16 (“My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me”).
  10. While on the Cross Jesus said, “Forgive them Father they know not what they do.” To whom was he speaking? They say, “God.” But I thought he was God? How can God speak to God if there is only one God? That’s two gods.
  11. Jesus told us to “honor thy father and mother” (Matt. 15:4) but contradicted his own teaching in Luke 14:26 (“If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother…he cannot be my disciple”).
  12. In John 3:13 (“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man….”) Jesus erred because 2 Kings 2:11 (“…Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven”) shows Elijah went earlier.
  13. In Matt. 16:28 Jesus said, “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”     Yet, they all died and he never came.
  14. Jesus told us to “Love your enemies; bless them that curse you” but ignored his own advice by repeatedly denouncing his opposition. Matt. 23:17 (“Ye fools and blind”), Matt. 12:34 (“O generation of vipers”), and Matt. 23:27 (“…hypocrites…ye are like unto whited sepulchers….”) are excellent examples of hypocrisy in action.
  15. Even many of the staunchest defenders of Jesus admit that his comment in Matt. 10:34 (“I came not to send peace but a sword”) contradicts verses such as Matt. 26:52 (“Put up again thy sword into his place: FOR ALL THAT TAKE THE SWORD SHALL PERISH WITH THE SWORD”).
  16. The Messiah must be a physical descendant of David (Rom 1:3, Acts 2:30). Yet, how could Jesus meet the requirement since his genealogies in Matt. 1 and Luke 3 show he descended from David THROUGH JOSEPH who was not his natural father (The Virgin Birth).
  17. Jesus told a man in Mark 8:34 that “whosoever will come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” What cross? He hadn’t died on the cross yet. There was nothing to take up. That man would have had no idea what he was talking about.
  18. In Mark 10:19 Jesus told a man to follow the commandments.     Yet, one of those listed by Jesus was “defraud not” which isn’t even an Old Testament commandment.
  19. In Luke 12:4 Jesus told his followers to “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, ” but Matt. 12:14-16, John 7:1, 8:59, 10:39, 11:53-54, and Mark 1:45 show that he hid, escaped, and slinked around on numerous occasions.
  20. In Luke 23:43 Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” But how could they have been together in paradise that day if Jesus lay in the tomb 3 days?
  21. For Jesus to be executed for our sins makes about as much sense as my son telling a judge that he would accept execution for my crimes. Although a nice gesture it has nothing to do with justice. What judge would agree?
  22. And lastly, in Matt. 15:24 Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” but later told his followers to “Go ye therefore, and teach ALL nations” (Matt. 28:19).     To whom, then, are they to go? Only to the Jews or everyone.

These examples expose only a few of the many reasons I can’t accept Jesus as a Saviour. A far greater number can be found in the monthly publication, BIBLICAL ERRANCY, a national periodical focusing on biblical errors, contradictions, and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists.

Gospel Errors in Timing

If a prophet is having a vision one might expect the sequence of events to be jumbled up – much like a dream. However if an historical narrative is being given the sequence of events should be in proper order. The Gospel of John is written from a different perspective than the synoptic gospels so it might be expected that it would differ in chronological order from the other gospels. The interesting thing is that even among the synoptic gospels there is considerable difference in the order of events. You can see below that the sequences of events differ. What are the ramifications of this?

Matthew Mark Luke John
leper is healed Peter’s mother-in-law is healed



centurion’s servant is healed leper is healed leper is healed moneychangers are evicted
Peter’s mother-in-law healed paralytic is healed paralytic is healed paralytic is healed
waters are stilled tax collector is called shrivelled hand is healed


exorcism to pigs shrivelled hand is healed centurion’s servant is healed


paralytic is healed waters stilled waters are stilled


tax collector is called exorcism to pigs exorcism to pigs feeding the 5,000 occurs
shrivelled hand is healed feeding the 5,000 occurs feeding the 5,000 occurs Jesus is annointed
Jesus rides a donkey Jesus rides a donkey Jesus rides a donkey Jesus rides a donkey
moneychangers are evicted fig tree is cursed



fig tree is cursed moneychangers are evicted




Jesus is annointed


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