Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Over at CtC I made a comment where I talked about how Catholicism teaches that God is still with us. That what happened at Christmas is still our reality. Some others followed up reflecting a bit on what the difference is between the way God is with us in the New Testament that was not true in the Old Testament.

When Jesus was on the cross the curtain of the temple miraculously ripped in two from top to bottom. As a protestant I learned that the barrier between God and man was removed. We now could connect with God directly. That curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. It was a symbol of that separation. So how does that work? The temple is gone. It is replaced with nothing? So how does that benefit us? We can pray directly to God. But could they not do that in the Old Testament? So they had the temple then and now we don't. How is that Immanuel? In what sense is God with us now that he was not before?

Then we have the priesthood. God was present in His priests in a special way. As a protestant I learned about the priesthood of all believers. What that means is we lose the ministerial priesthood. But what do Christians have now they didn't have in the Old Testament? We are not sure but it must be something. But it sure seems that another way in which God was with his Old Testament people actually seems to have disappeared and to not have been replaced.

There were prophets in the Old Testament. People God used to speak His word to His children. They had the scriptures but they also had real live people anointed to speak God's word. Again that is supposed to be replaced with the prophetic office of every believer. Well if everyone is somebody then nobody is anybody. That is how you feel when you are told every believer is a prophet and priest and king. It means the real prophets and apostles who were significant enough to be in the bible don't exist any more. So again we have a lack of Immanuel. God is not with us in a more significant way. We have lost something and not replaced it.

The beautiful thing about Catholicism is we believe all these have been replaced by something greater. We have the Eucharist which is a greater presence of Christ in our church than the Holy of Holies ever was in the temple. We have the ministerial priesthood which is a more powerful office then the Old Testament priesthood. We can personally encounter Christ through the priest especially in the sacrament of confession. Then we have the pope and the bishops. People anointed to teach the church the Word of God.

So God was serious when He said Jesus would be called Immanuel. God is really with us now. The body of Christ is the church and it is visible on earth. If God is with us who can stand against us?


  1. Great post. There was a priesthood of all believers in the old covenant (Exodus 19:6) so I've never understood the "you can go directly to God now, but you couldn't before" kind of mindset either. I've always chalked it up to merely an effort to justify a break with Catholicism....a protestant thing if you will, which I guess it is.

  2. Thanks Brian. The priesthood talked about in Ex 19 was canceled after the golden calf incident in Ex 32. So it shows that the coming of Jesus was not required for the priesthood of all believers. But I don't know that it existed fully in the Old Testament after the golden calf.

  3. Could you expand on that a bit Randy? I don't believe I've ever heard it was canceled.

  4. The Levites are first mentioned in Ex 32. I think Scott Hahn quoted Aquinas in saying that the Mosaic covenant was scaled back due to the golden calf incident. I googled it and could not find it online. I gave away the book I think it is in so I can't look it up exactly.

  5. Thanks. Actually, I think I found it in Letter and Spirit and if its the book you're talking about, I have to eat my words (sort of) because I have read it. I say "sort of" because I don't know if I would characterize it as "canceled" but, I get what you and Hahn (and Aquinas, I guess) are saying. (on page 112, I believe.) Hahn summarizes by saying:

    "The point is that even in its fallen condition Israel is called to respond as a priestly people. Their distance from God, their desire for “at-one-ment,” is to be expressed—and effected—through the liturgical means of sacrifice.