Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Response to Joe Heschmeyer

Joe Heschmeyer wrote a response (link to response) to my previous post (link to my post) regarding Bishop Olmsted.

He raises a number of objections to my post, and I'll try to deal with them in turn.

1. The "God Hath Joined Together" Objection

Mr. Heschmeyer objects that I'm trying to separate Christ and His church. This (like most of the post) is an emotional argument, not a rational one. I didn't suggest that Christ's church should be separated from Christ. What I said was:
I was also struck by the fact that the bishop's stated identity was not Christ alone, but "Christ and the Church." What he considers to be faithfulness to Christ is faithfulness to the rules of his church. However, in following the rules of his church, he's not following God's law.
The point that Mr. Heschmeyer has missed is that for the bishop his stated identity in Christ, because it is not in Christ alone, ends up being in his (the bishop's) church. But the bishop's church is not Christ's church, and the rules of his church are not the rules of God. What the bishop identifies with is a false christ, not the true Christ.

2. The Father Abraham Objection

Mr. Heschmeyer objects that I (like Aquinas) refer to hyper-dulia as a species of worship (cf. Summa 3.25.5 "Since, therefore, the Blessed Virgin is a mere rational creature, the worship of 'latria' is not due to her, but only that of 'dulia': but in a higher degree than to other creatures, inasmuch as she is the Mother of God. For this reason we say that not any kind of "dulia" is due to her, but 'hyperdulia.'"). That's because it is worship. Mr. Heschmeyer claims that the worship of Mary is more like "honoring Father Abraham, which Scripture clearly does." Suffice that there were no first century side altars with Father Abraham's likeness in the Temple or synagogues, there were no candles burnt before statues of Father Abraham, and no one is taught to pray to Father Abraham.

Ironically, Abraham is mentioned by name in 70 verses in the New Testament contrasted with 46 verses that use the name "Mary" (at least 10 of which are references to Mary Magdalene). For those wondering, the name "Jesus" occurs in 942 verses, "Lord" is in 670 verses, and "Christ" is in 532 verses, while "Paul" gets mentioned in 159 verses, "Peter" in 156 verses, "John" (includes both the baptizer and the beloved disciple) in 130 verses, "David" in 54 verses, "James" in 38 verses, "Silas" in 13 verses, "Andrew" in 12 verses, and "Timothy" in 9 verses. (statistics based on the KJV)

Mary's a relatively minor (but important) character in the New Testament, but she's the "Queen of Heaven" in Roman theology (cf. Jeremiah 7:18).

3. The Universal Apostasy Objection

Mr. Heschmeyer takes the position that my objection to Roman latria worship of the bread of the Eucharist requires me to say that there were no Christians from the first century to the eleventh century. This remarkable claim is flawed for several reasons.

a) There is no evidence that those who called themselves "Christians" were giving the bread the worship that belongs to Christ alone from the 1st century until around the 9th or 10th century (perhaps as late as the 11th or 12th century). I should obviously point out that if Mr. Heschmeyer disagrees, he's welcome to point me to someone before then who taught that the bread should be worshiped with the worship of latria.

b) We (Reformed) don't require moral or theological perfection of Christians. In fact, we try to judge by a very lenient standard. So, we're willing to accept as Christians even those who do engage in some sin, and those who do have some theological errors. Universal apostasy would not be the logical conclusion from mere widespread error of practice.

c) Mr. Heschmeyer seems to be unaware of the debunking of Roman claims regarding the views of the church about the Eucharist. He ought to be. Cosin provided an excellent debunking in the 17th century (link to book), not to cast aspersions on the many before him (such as Ridley in the 16th century - link to work or Wycliffe in the 14th century - link to work) and after him. That debunking is not merely a debunking of Rome's eisegesis of the key Scriptural texts, but also includes a debunking of Rome's historical claims. Suffice that Mr. Heschmeyer cannot locate a single father from the 1st to the 9th centuries that taught that the bread becomes not just the body but the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. In fact, Mr. Heschmeyer would have trouble finding any father that says that the bread is no longer truly bread after the consecration.

4. The Faith/Faithfulness Objection

Mr. Heschmeyer claims that I distinguish between faith and faithfulness, but "apparently not in the way that Scripture does." Mr. Heschmeyer's support for his objection seems to take him off on a variety of tangents. It's unclear whether Mr. Heschmeyer understands the difference between trust and obedience. Proper obedience (faithfulness) flows from a true and living faith (trust) in God. Perhaps he understands that, perhaps not. His rambling objection doesn't seem to address the distinction I was making. The bishop is (according to his own testimony) faithful in his duties, but this flows from his faith in his church.

5. The Murder is Never Self-Defense Objection

Mr. Heschmeyer's label "Murder is Never Self-Defense" shows either a penchant for the rhetorical or a fundamental misunderstanding of the moral categories. I'd rather not pick, so I'll just explain the principles that apply.

a. All murder (properly speaking, as distinct from hatred which is a species of murder broadly defined) involves killing (killing of a human being, but we'll just refer to it as "killing" to keep things concise).

b. Not all killing is murder.

c. Killing is murder, unless there is either an excuse or a justification.

d. We will leave aside the issue of "excuse," since - in any event - there does not appear to be an excuse available here.

e. Various justifications are permitted for killing. For example, soldiers can justly kill enemy soldiers in a just war, and the civil government has the power of the sword to execute those who are guilty of capital crimes.

f. One justification for killing is self-defense. Thomas Aquinas recognized this as a legitimate justification (Summa 2-2.64.7). Hopefully, Mr. Heschmeyer does not think that Aquinas was ill informed about moral theology.

g. Double-effect always exists in the case of true self-defense. In other words, one's intent in self-defense is not to kill the other person, the intent is to save one's own life.

h. The killing, in true self-defense, must be killing the person who is going to kill you.

i. The killing, in true self-defense, must be proportional to the need. In other words, when one can save one's life very easily another way, one cannot resort to using lethal force. However, the proportionality need not be scientifically exact. Thomas Aquinas explains this at the link I've provided above.

Mr. Heschmeyer poses a series of four examples in which he says it is obvious that one cannot take another's life. In each of his examples, there is a man who is facing death (we'll call him "the victim" just as shorthand) and this victim has the opportunity to save his own life by killing someone else. However, in each case, the person who the victim is contemplating killing is not the person who is killing the victim.

Mr. Heschmeyer, however, has failed to consider that in this case (according to the evidence we have) the baby was killing the mother. If the baby was not stopped from doing what it was doing, the mother would die. No one is saying that the baby intends to kill the mother, or that the baby's actions were themselves culpable.

Mr. Heschmeyer concludes:
This wasn't a case where the hospital found itself in a morally gray area, made the wrong decision, and was immediately and mercilessly thrown out. This is the culmination of years of open rebellion, where a hospital refusing to be Catholic was finally told, in effect, "You win. You're not Catholic." It's no more offensive than my telling Turretin Fan: you're not a Catholic. He knows. And by their conduct, it's clear St. Joseph's knows, too.
Actually, what happened is that the hospital didn't cave in to the following demands from the bishop:
• Acknowledge he was right and the hospital was wrong in its interpretation of a church health-care directive regarding so-called indirect abortions.

• Submit itself to a diocesan review and certification "to ensure full compliance" with Catholic moral teachings. Olmsted wrote that the certification would be similar to other accreditations that hospitals seek.

• Agree to give its medical staff ongoing training on the Ethical and Religious Directives, a document from the national bishops council that explains Catholic moral teachings for health-care providers.
Notice that the reason was not actually the killing of an innocent child. The issue was the challenge to the bishop's ego. The bishop disagreed with the nun, Sister Margaret McBride, who authorized the killing of the child, over the interpretation of Rome's rules related to when taking the life of a child is permitted. As summarized in an article just prior to to the bishop's de-labeling of the hospital:
St. Joseph's has since argued that the case was more akin to removing a pregnant woman's cancerous uterus, which is permissible under church doctrine, than to a standard abortion. McBride remains a nun on the hospital staff.

Two months of discussions followed but, according to Olmsted, did not resolve the question of whether the procedure was allowable. In the November letter, Olmsted said that he did not believe CHW intended to change its policies.

So, no, I don't think Mr. Heschmeyer's characterization of the situation is correct. As for the "Catholic," label - it better fits me than it fits him, since my church (a reformed and presbyterian church) doesn't practice the sectarianism that his church practices, and since my church holds to the once delivered Catholic and Apostolic faith that his church has abandoned.


Wondering What Happened in Dearborn Michigan?

Here's a link to a story that provides a detailed account of the events that transpired in Dearborn, Michigan from 2008-2010, courtesy of David Wood (link to story). Interested to find out if it was persecution of Christians, harassment of Muslims, or something entirely different? Click the link and read the account.

- TurretinFan