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When did Jesus rise from the dead?
Icon of the Resurrection

On the 3rd day – Matt 16:21, Matt 17:23, Matt 20:19, Matt 27:64, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:34, Luke 9:22, Luke 18:33, Luke 24:7, Luke 24:46

On the first day of the week – Luke 24:21

How long before that day was the crucifixion?

3 days ago – Luke 24:21

How does the Bible count from an event to the third day?

Jesus – Luke 13:32 – today, tomorrow, the third day
Paul – Acts 27:18-19 – day, next day, third day
Moses – Exodus 19:10-11 – today, tomorrow, the third day

Today [Friday] – Tomorrow [Saturday] – The Third Day [Sunday]

If it’s a longer time period, how does the Bible count?

Cornelius – Acts 10

Fasting and praying – on the morrow – on the morrow – the fourth day

What of Jonah?

“Three days and three nights” is simply an idiomatic expression. The Bible is full of those, and Jonah is full of poetry and idiomatic expressions are to be expected. See here for more details.

Examples of how to count 3/4/5 days till the resurrection
Counting 3 days – Wednesday

If something happened on a Wednesday, that is day 1, till sunset.
The next day, mostly “Thursday”, is day 2, sunset to sunset.
The next day, mostly “Friday”, is day 3, sunset to sunset.
The next day, mostly “Saturday”, is day 4, sunset to sunset.
The next day, mostly “Sunday”, till sunset, is the 5th day.

A Wednesday Crucifixion:
Wednesday event till sunset = the first day
Wed sunset to Thurs sunset = 2nd day
Thurs sunset to Fri sunset = 3rd day
Fri sunset to Sat sunset = 4th day
Sat sunset to Sunday sunset = 5th day
But Jesus rose on the 3rd day.

Counting 3 days – Thursday

If something happened on a Thursday, that is day 1, till sunset.
The next day, mostly “Friday”, is day 2, sunset to sunset.
The next day, mostly “Saturday”, is day 3, sunset to sunset.
The next day, mostly “Sunday”, till sunset, the Bible calls the fourth day. See Acts 10.

A Thursday Crucifixion:
Thursday event till sunset = the first day
Thurs sunset to Fri sunset = 2nd day
Fri sunset to Sat sunset = 3rd day
Sat sunset to Sun sunset = 4th day
But Jesus rose on the 3rd day.
No way for Wed or Thurs to work with biblical counting.

Counting 3 days – Friday

Lastly, if something happened on a Friday, that is day 1, till sunset.
The next day, mostly “Saturday”, is day 2, sunset to sunset.
The next day, mostly “Sunday”, is day 3, sunset to sunset.

A Friday Crucifixion:
Friday event till sunset = the first day
Fri sunset to Sat sunset = 2nd day
Sat sunset to Sun sunset = 3rd day
Jesus rose on the 3rd day.
This is the only sequence that makes sense according to biblical counting.

Further reading in this series:

Part 1 – 3 days and 3 nights – from when till when?
Part 2 – On the THIRD day – getting it right
Part 3 – 3 days and 3 nights – timeline charts

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Some people think Jesus died on a Wednesday, and rose on the sabbath. That means the first day of the week, which Luke says is the 3rd day since the Crucifixion, was really the 5th day, going by the way the Bible counts. But what’s two days between friends?

Some people think Jesus died on a Thursday, and rose on the first day of the week. That means the first day of the week, which Luke says is the 3rd day since the Crucifixion, was really the 4th day, going by the way the Bible counts. So what? What’s a day or two between friends?

I’ve explained here why a Friday Crucifixion and a Sunday Resurrection are required to keep the Bible accurate and consistent.

I’ve also posted here a Twitter discussion I had last year.

Here are three charts laying out the days of the week and how attributing each day to the Crucifixion affects the validity of the Bible’s statements.

Note that the gold standard on how to count from 1 to 3 days the way the Bible does – Acts 10, Luke 13:32, Exodus 19:10-11 – is compared in the charts. Luke 24:21 states explicitly that the day after the sabbath is the 3rd day since the crucifixion. Therefore we must start with the crucifixion and end with the 3rd day on Sunday. Only one of these charts gets it right.

The Wednesday Crucifixion theory:
Counting 3 days – Wednesday
The Thursday Crucifixion theory:
Counting 3 days – Thursday
The Friday Crucifixion theory:
Counting 3 days – Friday
Further reading in this series:

Part 1 – 3 days and 3 nights – from when till when?
Part 2 –
On the THIRD day – getting it right
Part 4 – When did Jesus die and rise from the dead?

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Icon of the Resurrection

Over the Easter weekend last year, I engaged a few people on Twitter. I got into a friendly discussion with someone who thinks Jesus died on a Wednesday and rose from the dead on the weekly sabbath.

Think about this quickly. Jesus died on a Wednesday. He rose on the sabbath. The next day, Sunday, was the third day since the Crucifixion, which was five days previously. And Jesus rose on the third day.

Huh? That makes no sense, you say? Quite right, it doesn’t. Yet some people, especially the Church of God (CoG) movement derived from Herbert Armstrong, get it muddled to that degree.

Let’s get into the Twitter discussion.

From the Church of God (CoG) lady:

“If today is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday, then the third day is Sunday.” So where’s the third night in this theory?

If all Jesus had said was that he would rise ‘on the third day’, then a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection would be plausible. But he specifically stated that, as Jonah was in the belly of the fish *three days and three nights*, so would the Son of Man be in the earth.

In fact, seeing as it appears that he rose sometime during the night – the tomb was empty by the time that Mary arrived in the morning – a Friday crucifixion wouldn’t even give him time to complete two nights, let alone three.

My response:

Andrea del Castagno – Crucifixion

Easy – all the rest just confirms that 3 days and 3 nights is not a literal time period. If it were literal, the rest of the Bible’s clearly literal statements would be wrong.
Full explanation here – http://blog.theotokos.co.za/?p=4343

Jesus DID say he rose on the third day – Luke 24:46 – “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day”
Luke said the first day of the week was the third day – Luke 24:21 – “to day is the third day since these things were done”

The Bible itself doesn’t allow for 3 nights. The biblical timeline – today/tomorrow/3rd day (compare Luke 13:32, Exodus 19:10-11) – never, ever has a 3rd night.
Read up on the concept of idiomatic expressions here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiomatic_expression

From the CoG lady:

But it is a literal time period in this instance. Jesus drew a parallel with the prophet Jonah, the only other instance where it was literal.

He did indeed – but that was not all he said. He stated that he would be in the earth *three days and nights*, as Jonah was in the fish. I ask again: where’s your third night?

My response:

Crucifixion from Santa Maria Antiqua

You’re assuming that was literal. Nowhere does the Bible include an inspired footnote that says “This passage is literal”. What does the rest of the biblical evidence say? No way to have Sunday as the 3rd day if Thursday was day 1.

Bible counting: Today, then tomorrow, then 3rd day. See Luke 13:32 and Exodus 19:10-11.
Bible counting: Today, tomorrow, the next day, then 4th day. See Acts 10. Count the days.
Therefore, by biblical counting, Friday/Saturday/Sunday = first/second/third days.

Since we can prove from the Bible how to count till the third day, we can also prove that the 3 days/3 nights was a figure of speech, and therefore with Jonah it was a figure of speech too. Therefore no need for a 3rd night.

Wednesday crucifixion: Wed/Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun makes Sunday the 5th day.
Thursday crucifixion: Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun makes Sunday the 4th day.
But Luke said Sunday was the 3rd day.

Acts 10:3 – he fasted till 3pm, when he had a vision
verse 9 – refers to the day after verse 3
verse 23 – refers to day after verse 9
verse 24 – refers to the day after verse 23
verse 30 – occurs on the day in verse 24 – “4 days ago”
Now compare to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

From the CoG lady:

The Sacrificial Lamb – Josefa de Ayala, ca 1670

[Mark 8:31 KJV] And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things… and AFTER [emphasis mine] three days rise again.
– ‘on the third day’ and ‘after three days’ were often interchangeable.

If Jesus rose sometime shortly after sundown (the end of that day) on Saturday, he would be quite in keeping with ‘after three days’.

Nowhere is it suggested that he didn’t rise until well into Sunday morning – only that Mary, when she arrived then, found the tomb already empty.

Jesus placed in tomb before sundown, Wed
Sundown on Wed to sundown on Thur – 1 day & night
Sundown on Thur to sundown on Fri – 2 days & nights
Sundown on Fri to sundown on Sat – 3 days & nights
Jesus rises just after sundown, fulfilling ‘after 3 days’

Also from your page: “Nowhere does the Bible state clearly that there were two sabbaths that week.”
[Matthew 26:17] Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?

The Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning with the Passover, WAS taking place.

My response:

Counting 3 days – Friday

No, “after 3 days” doesn’t mean on the 4th day. You seem to read English usage into the word “after”. The Greek word doesn’t require Jesus to wait until the 3rd day is over. “Meta” refers to proximity to an event, not a preceding event, so it means “on the third day” …

“3rd day”, which is what the rest of the Bible tells us. But you seem to agree there – you say “on the third day” & “after 3 days” are interchangeable. Correct. You can’t have it both ways, though. “Once three full days were over” and “on the third day” are incompatible concepts.

So the Bible is internally consistent with Jesus rising on Sunday, and Sunday being the third day. That even works whether he rose before dawn, at dawn, or after dawn. But we agree, he rose before dawn. Still the 3rd day which began at sunset.

Counting the way the Bible does, or even if you want to count the way westerners do, there is no way Sunday can be the third day if Wednesday is the first. Wednesday crucifixion: Wed/Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun makes Sunday the 5th day. But Luke said Sunday was the 3rd day.

As for 2 sabbaths, “preparation day” is simply a Greek phrase that meant Friday. “Preparation of the passover” is how they described the Friday of passover week. That is further evidence for a Friday crucifixion, the only timing that makes biblical sense.

Passover and ULB are not called sabbaths in the Bible. It’s important to understand biblical language, and not read our own English expressions into the Bible. The only sabbath that week was the 7th day, on which the high day of passover fell.

Are you referring to days here as approx 12 hours of light? No. Days = the entire day or part thereof. Friday = the first day, which started at sunset and ended at sunset. Saturday = day 2, sunset to sunset. Sunday = day 3, sunset to sunset. 3 days. Easy.

From the CoG lady:

“you say “on the third day” & “after 3 days” are interchangeable. Correct.”
– If you agree that that’s correct, then a Sunday resurrection following a Wednesday crucifixion doesn’t make Sunday an incompatible ‘fourth day’.

My response:

Quite right. It makes Sunday an incompatible 5th day. Wednesday is impossible because that would make Sunday the 5th day. Thursday is impossible because that would make Sunday the 4th day.

If #Jesus rose after sunset & before sunrise, he still rose ON the 3rd day that began the previous sunset. Thus the Bible says Jesus rose ON the third day. The very end of the night portion of the third day. Not once in the Bible to we see anyone count days the way you do.

Counting 3 days – Thursday

If something happened on a Thursday, that is day 1, till sunset.
The next day, mostly “Friday”, is day 2, sunset to sunset.
The next day, mostly “Saturday”, is day 3, sunset to sunset.
The next day, mostly “Sunday”, till sunset, the #Bible calls the fourth day. See Acts 10.

So, a Thursday #crucifixion:
Thursday event till sunset = the first day
Thurs sunset to Fri sunset = 2nd day
Fri sunset to Sat sunset = 3rd day
Sat sunset to Sun sunset = 4th day
But Jesus rose on the 3rd day.
No way for Wed or Thurs to work with biblical counting.

Counting 3 days – Wednesday

And a Wednesday #crucifixion:
Wednesday event till sunset = the first day
Wed sunset to Thurs sunset = 2nd day
Thurs sunset to Fri sunset = 3rd day
Fri sunset to Sat sunset = 4th day
Sat sunset to Sunday sunset = 5th day
But Jesus rose on the 3rd day.

There it ended.

Further reading in this series:

Part 1 – 3 days and 3 nights – from when till when?
Part 3 –
3 days and 3 nights – timeline charts
Part 4 – When did Jesus die and rise from the dead?

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Dear Adventists. The sabbath is not God. God does not change. The Bible tells us this.
Russian Jewelled Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Malachi 3:6a (KJV) – For I am the Lord, I change not …

Hebrews 13:8 (KJV) – Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Adventists need to stop using those verses as proof texts that the sabbath doesn’t change. Those passages refer to God, and, unless Adventists think the sabbath is God, those passages do not refer to the sabbath.

How God works with humans did change.

Hebrews 1:1-2 (KJV) – God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds

Even Adventists believe this verse.

The law is not God, and did change.

Hebrews 7:12 (KJV) – For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

The Sacrificial Lamb – Josefa de Ayala, ca 1670

Not even Adventists believe the law regarding animal sacrifices remains in effect. They just choose which parts of the Old Covenant law they feel are applicable to them based on their prophet’s teachings.

The active covenant with man is not God, and has changed.

Hebrews 8:6-13 (KJV) – But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

2 Corinthians 3:3 (KJV) – Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

Old Covenant vanishes away. New Covenant takes over.

South Arabian Sabbath lamp

Old Covenant written on tablets of stone. New Covenant written on our hearts.

The sabbath is not God. The sabbath can change.

The sabbath can start and end and cease to exist for a week.

The sabbath can be abolished.

Hosea 2:11 (KJV) – I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

Dear Adventists. The sabbath is not God. God is unchangeable as an infinite eternal being. But his dealings with humans changed according to where we were in his plan.

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This table shows the 10 commandments in full, using Deuteronomy 5. Different traditions number the commandments differently, as the Bible itself doesn’t provide the division between the different commandments.

What is clear from this table is that there are no deletions by anyone. Every church uses a summary for easy memorisation, but a summary does not mean they have removed anything from the Bible.

A common Adventist summary of the 4th commandment (using the traditional Adventist numbering) uses just one verse from Exodus 20 (verse 8): “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.“

10 commandments table
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Forest Troll

In my previous post, I looked at how the Bible never calls the sabbath a day of worship. I’ve challenged Adventists to show me where the Bible says it is a day of worship. Needless to say, there were no responses forthcoming that actually provided me with biblical evidence of the Adventist claim. Also, needless to say, there were responses … I was provided with several passages that don’t say that, but which Adventists felt they had to share to convince me of their “truth”.

Adventists could list thousands of such verses – every single verse in the Bible is a verse that fails to show that the sabbath was meant as a day of worship.

Let’s look at a few provided to me (all from the KJV).

Exodus 20:11 – For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

  • No mention of worship.
  • No command to worship on the day.

Daniel 7:25 – And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

  • No mention of worship.
  • No command to worship on the day.
  • Only a connection to changing times and laws, something that fits Antiochus Epiphanes.
The Resurrection of Christ

Luke 4:16 – And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

Acts 17:2 – And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures

One Adventist closed off his response to my request: “This generation demands a miracle“

Little did he realise that by criticising me for requesting biblical references, and refusing to provide them, he was acknowledging that it would take a miracle to find such biblical references. They don’t exist.

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Icon of the Resurrection

Adventists and other Old Covenant sabbath keepers often mention a hideous crime committed by Christians other than themselves – “Sunday worship”. That is, the use of Sunday as the primary day of communal worship by going to church, and often having the day off from work (in keeping with the principle of rest). They also imply worship of a day, and worship of the sun, which is utter nonsense but makes them feel better.

What Adventists claim is the right way to do things, is “sabbath worship” – i.e. going to church on the weekly 7th day sabbath, aka Saturday. Which isn’t worship of a day (although it replaces Christ with a day of the week) and it isn’t Saturn worship.

Sabbath worship? The Jews do that, right? On Saturdays? So it must be spelt out in the Old Testament, right? And Christians use Sunday instead, for the same purposes, because Jesus rose from the dead on that day.

If Adventists are right, even remotely right, there must be some biblical instruction in the Old Testament that the sabbath is God’s decreed day of worship.

Yet there is not. Not one mention of the sabbath as a day of worship. Not one instruction to keep the sabbath by gathering together for worship. The closest we get is this:

Leviticus 23:3 (KJV) – Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

This is the only time in the Bible that the sabbath is linked to an instruction that a group of people gather together (convocation = con + vocare = to call together). And where are they instructed to gather? In their dwellings. Not at the temple or its nomadic tabernacle equivalent at the time. Not at the synagogues which didn’t exist at the time. The people of Israel rested. They stayed at home. They didn’t go travelling off somewhere. They didn’t light fires. They didn’t go to a carol service.

And the ONLY verse in the KJV that contains both the words “sabbath” and “worship” is:

Isaiah 66:23 – And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.

South Arabian Sabbath lamp

And, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, this isn’t about worshipping ON one sabbath and then waiting till the next sabbath and worshipping again, but rather it’s about continuous worship for periods of 28 and 7 days (FROM one new moon UNTIL the next; FROM one sabbath UNTIL the next). And if logic requires us to interpret this verse as indicating Christian sabbath observance, it must also indicate Christian new moon observance. So it falls apart as an argument for weekly sabbath worship gatherings.

REST – that’s what the Israelite people did at home on the sabbath.

WORSHIP – that’s what the priests did daily – DAILY – in the temple, offering various forms of sacrifices. The people participated in this worship. But it was not a weekly sabbath event.

Later, people ventured out of their homes and travelled a minimal distance to the nearby synagogue. The synagogue did not replace the worship at the temple – it was not a weekly worship service. It was an educational event where the law and other things were discussed. There was never a command that came later that made synagogue meetings a form of worship, or a form of sabbath observance, or a form of sabbath obligation. That’s not in the Bible. The sabbath was simply the best time to dedicate to such an event.

To summarise:
  1. There is no command in the Bible to gather for worship on the sabbath, or to worship on the sabbath. This is a key mistake by Adventism that undermines their entire system of sabbath worship.
  2. The purpose of the sabbath was for rest, not worship.

When we look at the pattern of worship in the Bible, we see sacrifices and the temple in the Old Testament, which progresses to worship of Christ and the Father “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

When we look at the pattern of rest in the Bible, we see the sabbath in the Old Testament, and Jesus calling us to rest in him in the New Testament.

There is no place in all of this for the insistence that the Old Covenant sabbath must continue in the New Covenant as a day of worship, which it was never intended to be.

Once we accept that, there is no room for the sabbath any longer, either as a day of rest or a day of worship, except as a custom or tradition not biblically binding on those who choose not to observe that custom or tradition.

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It is heartwarming indeed to see Adventists debate and reject their own church’s historical understanding of prophecy.

Adventist Today is a site that offers thinking Adventists an alternative to the run of the mill “papacy is the little horn” idea that depends on meaningless eventless dates that the early Adventists re-engineered, with some imaginative biblical numerology, into a prophecy based on an anti-Catholic revisionist history.

US President Donald Trump

In short, the typical idea is that the papacy came into existence in 538 AD (or gained its political power, depending on which revision of Ellen White’s writings you read) and that its political power ended in 1798 AD when a pope was kidnapped by Napoleon and died in prison the following year.

As the Adventist Today articles point out, that was hardly a significant event compared to other events in the rest of the world, then and since. And as I’ve pointed out, 538 AD is a non-starter because nothing really happened that year – the events Adventist revisionist history assigns to that year really happened at different times. But they need to subtract 1260 from 1798, and so they continue to subtract it. History shows that there were popes who called themselves popes long before then (and long before Constantine too), and that the papacy was under the domination of anti-Catholic forces more than 200 years during their supposed 1260 days of supreme power. The papal states only came into existence at the end of this period, and came to an end in 1796, two years before 1798.

Adventist ideas that Constantine (300s AD) was the first pope, that the papacy began in 538 AD (150 years later), that the papacy reigned supreme under the control of anti-Catholic occupying forces … none of it adds up.

So Adventist Today is to be applauded for recognising that the traditional view is flawed and outdated, and for recommending a rethink.

In reality, I think the little horns of Daniel 7 and 8 refer to Antiochus Epiphanes. You can read more about that in my series on the prophecies of Daniel.

Trump? I doubt it. He’s certainly an interesting and entertaining character, and some excitement in this world is worth hoping for, but I still doubt he’s some evil monster depicted in biblical prophecy. He’d have to be at least equal in malevolence to Antiochus Epiphanes, and he’s nowhere close.

Fireworks!

That said, watch these dates, if you’re Adventist or if you like date setting as much as they do. They’re all 1260 days after his candidacy announcement, nomination, election, and inauguration respectively:

  • November 27, 2018
    • This has passed, and he didn’t sneeze on that day, so no big news there
  • December 31, 2019
    • New Year the next day? Will we see suicide cults appearing?
  • April 21, 2020
    • 9 days after Easter = 3×3 or 3+3+3 – is that significant?
  • July 3, 2020
    • Major fireworks expected the next day in the USA – this could be it!
Read more here:
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Adventist Today has a good article on the Adventist idea of a national* Sunday law. To summarise it, I’ll quote it:

Let us not waste energy on trying to push an unrealistic Sunday-law scenario …

The Catholic Church simply doesn’t have the influence in modern society to get such a law right, even if it wanted to. It will never happen anyway, but if it did, the world would have to change a LOT. It would be an extreme law, requiring a situation much different to that of today.

Ascension of Christ, by Gebhard Fugel

Nowadays, because of secularism and the lack of ease for Catholics to go to Mass during the week for major non-Sunday feasts that are not public holidays, such as Ascension Thursday, the Assumption, and, like today, the Immaculate Conception, etc., these feasts are often moved to the Sunday following. So Ascension Thursday often gets celebrated on Sunday. Long before any national* Sunday law, society would already have changed sufficiently to allow for the return of these days to their actual dates in the Church’s calendar.

Similarly, long before society can implement such national* Sunday law, the moral influence of mainstream Christianity would have to become sufficient to rescind all pro-abortion laws. Likewise, other traditional moral Christian principles would begin to appear in law long before the religious had enough power to institute a Sunday law of the type predicted by Adventists.

Currently, especially in the USA but also worldwide, there is distrust by Catholics of their bishops, and even the current pope. The only way that trust will return is if the scoundrels are publicly ousted and a return to visible holiness is experienced by the Catholic hierarchy. That would need to happen, and probably a generation would need to pass, before Catholics trusted their leaders so much that any national* Sunday law could be permitted by the people.  Even then, Catholics would be unlikely to tolerate such a law.

Likewise, significant Christian unity would have to have begun in order for non-Catholic Christians to go along with such a plan. That would require people to stop hating caricatures of each other and start listening to and understanding each other. They’d have to first abandon hate and adopt humility before any national* Sunday law could get enough support.

Some will say that cataclysmic events could lead to this in a short time. National* repentance of national* and person sin would have to occur in a large majority before differences could be put aside. Such repentance would first lead to the repeal of immoral laws such as those that permit abortion and euthanasia. Perhaps only then could they offer a Sunday covenant to God as a sign of their goodwill.

Pope Benedict XVI – Merry Christmas!

So Adventists should watch for the following, and, depending on their motives (preventing or hastening a national* Sunday law), oppose or support the following great evils:

  1. National* repentance
  2. Personal repentance
  3. A return to Christian morality
  4. A return to protection of the unborn and sick
  5. Personal holiness and devotion to God
  6. A change from hating to understanding and caring
  7. Jesus’ own prayer that we may all be one

*National – this depends on which country you live in. Insert your own country above.

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It was recently asked on a Facebook forum: “Is it morally possible for a Catholic to be anti-vaccine? Or does our faith teach us to accept such science?”

So this is my answer, as a scientist, as a doctor, as a medical virologist, as a Catholic.

My position is that the anti-vaccine (aka anti-vax) position is indeed immoral.

Vaccines and the huge benefits they have brought are a matter of science and history and fact, and there is plenty of evidence for those who are willing to look at it. I’ll briefly comment on some aspects of vaccine success and discuss some legitimate instances where vaccines are inappropriate, and I’ll give useful links below; my purpose here is to make a statement and not to provide several years worth of studying science on one page. I’ll also touch on the valid problem of vaccines tainted with a history of abortion.

I’ll start with a really harsh heading. Harsh, but true.

Anti-vax is a medical equivalent of anti-life flat earthism

The anti-vaccination belief is the modern day medical equivalent of flat earthism or geocentrism (which has its own growing Catholic support) or the idea that the moon landings were faked.

Unlike geocentrism, however, which is a belief that doesn’t cause death and disability and suffering, the anti-vax position is the moral equivalent of:

  • preventing communities from having clean running water
  • preventing people from washing their hands after going to the toilet
  • banning antibiotic use. Antibiotics do more harm than vaccines, and have more side effects – they can make you deaf, damage your kidneys, suppress your bone marrow, etc … yet they have done far more good than harm. The risk from vaccines is far less.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the anti-vax movement is not even pro-life, because the damage it causes in terms of unborn and childhood and adult death and disability is significant, completely preventable, and therefore lies squarely on their shoulders.

Simply put, anti-vaccinationism is an ideology, a pseudoscience, or a “theology” as one anti-vaxxer on the Facebook forum called it, and certainly not science. And given the damage this ideology does, it has a worse effect on the communities most anti-vaxxers live in (the USA and western Europe) than school shootings and suicide bombers.

The facts
  • Vaccines do not cause autism.
  • Vaccines have eradicated smallpox. In the 20th century smallpox killed nearly half a billion people. Today it kills nobody, thanks to vaccines.
  • Vaccines have almost eradicated polio. Wildtype poliovirus type 2 has been eradicated; wildtype poliovirus type 3 hasn’t been seen since 2012. Before the polio vaccine, polio killed nearly half a million people each year. Today? 22 reported cases in 2017. 27 cases thus far in 2018. Millions of lives saved, even more millions of people spared temporary or permanent paralysis.
  • Vaccines will, in the next decade or two, eradicate measles. We’re down to 100000 deaths per year from 2.6 million deaths per year in 1980, thanks to vaccination. If the anti-vax movement had its way completely, between 1 million and 2.5 million additional children would die each year from measles. As it is, several thousand children die each year thanks to the efforts of anti-vaxxers.
  • Vaccines are well tested for efficacy and safety in clinical trials. (Anti-vaxxers don’t read those studies because they prefer their own “research“, i.e. reading anti-vaxxer websites.)
  • Vaccines are safer by far than the diseases they prevent.
  • Vaccines are safer than driving a car, being a passenger in a car, or getting drunk.
  • Vaccines are cheaper by far than treating the diseases they prevent.
  • Vaccines form a very small part of the global pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical companies would benefit more from not making vaccines, because then there would be more infections to treat, and more chronic illness to treat, even with the smaller surviving population. Yet responsible scientists and doctors have made sure that vaccine production and development continues, and that vaccines are available as cheaply as possible especially to those who need them the most in the developing world.

Don’t like those facts? Feel free to make up your own – it’s allowed these days. Just please don’t say you “researched” vaccines. Be honest and say “I read something on the internet and believed it.”

A note on anti-vax individuals and moral complicity

Anti-vaxxers, as individuals, can certainly hold their opinion without personal moral guilt if they are sincerely taken in by the anti-vax mythology. People believe strange things. I don’t think they can help that. Whether it’s a fear of moths, the belief that the earth is flat, or that vaccines are evil, they can’t help that. Some experience or website spurred an irrational thought or fear that they haven’t managed to get rid of. The Catholic Church is fully aware of that phenomenon when it teaches that one of the criteria for an individual’s act to be a mortal sin, the sinner needs to know that what they are doing is wrong. Anti-vaxxers do not understand the disastrous errors of anti-vaccinationism, and so on a moral level, they are excused. That, however, doesn’t make the damage they do okay.

Side effects of vaccines

Vaccines have side effects. Of course they do.

0.1-0.2% of children who get measles die from measles. Fewer than 0.00001% of those who get the measles vaccine die from vaccine-related complications.

Any loss of life is terrible, and there are few medical interventions without that risk. It is terrible that any child has to die from a vaccine, or suffer damage from a vaccine.

However, vaccine side effects need to be put in the context of the disease they prevent, and in the context of the risk they present. Every single available vaccine, individually and overall, is safer than penicillin. Sometimes penicillin kills. That doesn’t mean we stop using it. Vaccines need to be put in the same category as any other legitimate potentially life-saving medical intervention.

People who should not get vaccinated

There are certain groups of people who should not be vaccinated with live attenuated vaccines. Every clinician and scientist knows that. Immunocompromised people (HIV, cancer, organ transplants, others) and pregnant women need to be cautious about live attenuated vaccines such as the chickenpox vaccine at critical times during their condition. If a severely immunocompromised person lives with family, those family members may need to be treated differently too. On the one hand, they should be vaccinated with killed/subunit vaccines to protect their immunocompromised family member. On the other hand, sending the children off on a long holiday the moment they are vaccinated with some live attenuated vaccines may be a fun idea … or they could be exempted – but rather vaccinated to protect their endangered family member.  Even this travel/exemption is over-cautious, because most of the live attenuated vaccines do not shed from the vaccinated person, and even then risks are extremely low.  It all depends on the cause and degree of compromise of the person’s immune system, and the vaccine involved.  SCID – extra cautious, avoid giving live vaccines to the affected child.  HIV – depends, but contacts can be vaccinated.  Vaccines may also not be very effective in immunocompromised people.

Similarly, patients with allergy to vaccine components such as eggs should be managed carefully.  There are other legitimate contraindications for various vaccines.  Legitimate ones.

These are not anti-vax situations, although they are certainly exploited by the anti-vax movement. They are legitimate medical circumstances which make some vaccines less safe at certain times. Such circumstances are rare, and should be discussed with your doctor. As a medical virologist, I advise on these cases in a professional capacity, so I know all about them, but do not email me or comment asking for advice – go to your doctor.

Abortion-related vaccines

In the past, aborted fetuses were used to create cell lines. Some of those cell lines exist today, such as the MRC-5 line, and are used to grow viral vaccine strains in them. That is morally problematic. We’re benefiting today from the immoral deaths of unborn children. I fully support the push to create newer moral versions of the vaccines that currently use these cell lines, and the Catholic Church does too.

That said, the Catholic Church, while noting the problems with these vaccines and encouraging people to push for more moral alternatives, clearly permits their use by Catholics.

I will attempt an analogy.

  • A man gets shot in the head*. He is a registered organ donor. Is it morally permissible to transplant his organs into others?
    • The doctors doing the transplant did not kill him, arrange his death, or wish for him to be killed.
    • The patients receiving his organs did not kill him, arrange his death, or wish for him to be killed.
    • The organs have a morally tainted history, but the doctors and patients involved are not morally responsible.
      *Such a man will likely not have his organs transplanted as his body would likely wait for an autopsy.
  • An unborn child gets aborted deliberately, but not for the deliberate procurement of fetal organs or cells, but cells eventually lead to vaccines.
    • The doctors giving the vaccines did not perform, arrange, or wish for the abortion.
    • The patients receiving the vaccines did not perform, arrange, or wish for the abortion.
    • The vaccines have a morally tainted history, but the doctors and patients involved are not morally responsible.

Problematic aspects with the second scenario:

  • Researchers got hold of the body after the abortion and harvested the cells, cultured them for several generations, and got the MRC-5 and WI-38 cell lines.
  • The problem lies with the initial researchers and how they obtained the body. They could have tried other moral ways of developing cell lines. They could have used non-human animals (where we get the Vero cell line from, which is used for vaccine production, e.g. polio, rabies). If they absolutely needed a human fetus, a morally untainted option would have been a natural miscarriage, although potentially disrespectful of a human body (many people legitimately donate their bodies to science, as well as the bodies of their miscarried children).
  • It should also be noted it is unlikely that the researchers were thinking along the lines of Christian moral theology, and unlikely they were gleefully aware of the moral implications of what they did. As unfortunate as such activities were, they were likely done with good intent (much like anti-vax propaganda), within a moral framework of substandard quality.
  • Vaccine manufacturers, and others, have likewise likely had good intentions, not evil ones. (And, by the way, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” means that good intentions without action are worthless; it isn’t talking of good intentions that happen to have moral problems when examined in a perfect light.)

The Vatican, the National (USA) Catholic Bioethics Center, and I all agree – those moral problems do not mean that the use of these vaccines is morally prohibited. These are valid moral concerns, but not valid anti-vax arguments.

The National (USA) Catholic Bioethics Center’s FAQ on the Use of Vaccines has the following strong statement:

Am I free to refuse to vaccinate myself or my children on the grounds of conscience?

One must follow a certain conscience even if it errs, but there is a responsibility to inform one’s conscience properly. There would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious disease, for example, rubella, especially in light of the concern that we should all have for the health of our children, public health, and the common good.

Points to be made here:

  • Following one’s conscience even if it errs – this principle applied to anti-vaxxers means, as I said above, that they are not morally culpable for their error.
  • A properly informed conscience – unfortunately that is very hard to develop in the anti-vax community because they have chosen to look to pseudoscience instead of fact, but the NCBC applies it here to indicate that a properly informed conscience will permit use of these vaccines.
  • “the health of our children, public health, and the common good.” This is what vaccines work to produce.

A 2005 statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life is a worthwhile read.

It says (italic text that of Rome):

Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favouring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children. This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles. [Footnote 15]

Footnote 15 (emphasis mine):

This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles, because of the danger of Congenital Rubella Syndrome. This could occur, causing grave congenital malformations in the foetus, when a pregnant woman enters into contact, even if it is brief, with children who have not been immunized and are carriers of the virus. In this case, the parents who did not accept the vaccination of their own children become responsible for the malformations in question, and for the subsequent abortion of foetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed.

So. Anti-vax “theology” leads people to “become responsible for the malformations in question, and for the subsequent abortion of foetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed.”

Boy, am I glad I am not anti-vax. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the deaths of born and unborn children on the scale that the anti-vax lobby produces, never mind on the scale they would produce if they got their way.

Now go and read about the Dunning-Kruger effect.  And then the informative and educational links below.

Sites worth reading: Further information: Catholicism General Anti-vax Morality of Anti-vax Measles Chickenpox Polio Money
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