I will be gone on vacation starting tomorrow. I'll be camping in beautiful Bryson City, NC (near Cherokee) in the mountains.
Dont expect any posts before July 8th.
Friday, June 30, 2006
I will be gone on vacation starting tomorrow. I'll be camping in beautiful Bryson City, NC (near Cherokee) in the mountains.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
We spoke about the power of God today in RCIA and the sanctity of human life. The speaker told a moving story about his child that was recently born brain dead. It was really sobering and a good reminder to why Christ came to Earth. One of the most fundamental truths of life that every human alive knows is that something major is wrong. The injustice of life, the suffering of the innocent, the shortcomings in our own lives, the malice of our enemies, the betrayal by even our friends, the heartbreaks the disappointments and the mistakes... we call these things life simply because we know that they will take place. But somewhere deep inside we all know that these things shouldn't happen and that these things are not reflective of the intended world. Something has gone terribly wrong.
The atheist who rejects God on the premise of "bad things happen to good people therefore there is no God" unwittingly admits the fact that his own heart testifies to this truth. Something major is wrong in the world! Without God, nothing is wrong. With wrong there has to be a God. It's very intrinsic in our nature to know something is wrong and therefore very intrinsic to know God is real. God has made us all theists by nature. Some of us have chosen a different path.
Thats the beauty of Christianity. It makes incredibly bold claims at having the ability to not only put a bandaid over the wounds, but to fix the wounds of life so thoroughly that it will be as if they had never happened! If you consider Christianity and all it claims, you will realize that it is quite bold indeed. A popular Christian hymn goes like this:
"How marvelous, how wonderful and my song shall ever be: How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior's love for me."
What better words are there to describe the absolute beauty of a religion that so adequately answers every single one of life's problems? Consider for a moment the possibility that Christianity is true... How marvelous would it be? How wonderful would it be? I asked an atheist friend one time, "why are you so against eternal life?" he said, "I would love eternal life. I just don't believe that it's going to happen." We musn't take it for granted. We must realize the absolute power of the message we bring to the world (as Christians). We make promises that are unparalleled in any other religion. We promise the answer to every question in life. We promise the vengeance (maybe not in the way hoped for) against every injustice. We promise the balance for every uneven scale of life. We promise to somehow, by some unconceivable method, make everything right. There will be no regrets for those who fear God. Even the smallest injustice we have suffered will be made right! That is the extent to which Christianity promises answers. Faith is the acceptance of these promises. Grace is the means given to us by which we may have faith.
For those who don't believe: just imagine for a moment, if you are able, that everything Christianity says is 100% true. Now realize the consequences of that belief. Realize that every wrong is certainly going to be made right. Think of your own life and your own sufferings. What would it be worth to you?
For those who do believe: don't forget how radical your faith is.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
With the big government bias in some of these 'research' studies on smoking I think we'd make Stalin proud at our attempts to regulate everything under the sun.
Second-hand smoke kills people and the only way to control it is to ban all smoking in workplaces, the U.S. government's top doctor said on Tuesday.
Get the full load of crap here. Now, even assuming for an irrational moment that this study had one ounce of credibility to it, it still wouldn't justify banning smoking in every workplace! The big government types just love using tobacco, education and the environment as excuses for the government to get its dirty little (inefficient) paws into everything. Its sad to see this coming from the attorney generals office when a Republican is running the show.
Now before I go any further let me just make it clear: Im not a smoker (I quit about 3 months ago) and I don't really consider myself a Republican either (hey with Republicans like these in office who needs Democrats).
Keep in mind that common sense can sometimes be the best judge of research. If someone came to me and told me that a new research study was conducted and they found that the average American male was 7'3" tall, I'd say - don't bother showing me the data, I know that the study is bogus. If Harvard conducted a study which found that the average 4 year old child weighed 100 pounds, I'd say the same thing. Of course, Id believe either of those studies before I'd believe this bs coming from the surgeon general.
Heres the common sense spelled out:
Breathing in car exhaust will kill you within a matter of minutes, yet smokers can easily spend an hour or more every day directly inhaling tobacco smoke with the intention of getting as much into their lungs as possible... they can do this for decades before it kills them (not to mention that most smokers don't even get lung cancer and the majority of smokers die from causes unrelated to cigarettes). Anyone can plainly see that tobacco smoke is no where near as dangerous as the exhaust from cars. Yet I doubt anyone could argue against the fact that the average person is subject to a comparable amount of second hand car exhaust as they are second hand smoke (especially this day in age where its so regulated).
So how can anyone believe that second smoke causes anything but an absolutely infinitesimal amount of increased cancer risk? If second hand smoke posed any real threat to our health at all, we'd all be dead anyway because of the amount of second hand car exhaust which is far more deadly.
In Japan, the adult male smoking rate is almost 50%, yet at the same time they have the highest longevity in the world! Maybe their other habits are so healthy that they make up for it? I doubt it. (Even if so that would only mean that healthy eating / lifestyle habits could quite easily negate the harmful effects of smoking and I'm sure the commies over at truth.com wouldn't like that alternative either). Of course facts like these raise legitimate doubt even about the amount of risk associated with smoking itself... how much more second hand smoke!
If you'll watch the people who are so religiously antagonistic towards tobacco, its interesting to notice that they are nearly all godless liberals. Coincidence? Hardly. (While they claim to have no religion they have enough zeal for their cause to make a Trappist monk blush with shame). By nature, people are moral creatures. When you have no legitimate moral framework (i. e. you're a liberal) you have a strong tendency to invent some kind of morality that you can 'fight' for. Thus you end up with tree-huggers, PETA, tobacco haters, big oil haters, big business haters, big government........ lovers (hmmmm........) The point being, all of these invented moral causes are so plainly transparent its hard to comprehend how anyone could adhere to them and honestly fail to see the pretension of their lifestyle.
(This is like posting a road sign in brail, the only people who will understand what I'm about to say don't need to hear it and those who need to understand it still wont understand it even after hearing it) I'm not advocating smoking. Now that I'm no longer a smoker I usually prefer going to a non smoking place to eat. I'm glad my workplace isnt smoky. But this study and those like it from liberal non profits like the American Cancer Society havent the slightest resemblance of impartiality to them. So don't be fooled.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Continued from Part 2, this is a commentary on Clement's First Epistle to the Corinthians.
Clement gives examples such as Cain & Abel to show how envy has been a source of great evil historically (this is the same sin he is accusing them of). So most of us may get the image "oh they're being covetous of their neighbors possessions" and that of course would be envy, but it doesn't stop there.
How did envy play a part in Cains sin? He wasnt envious of what Abel had but what he did and how he pleased God. I dont think its far fetched to assume that Cain probably accused Abel of being "holier than thou". And Abel didnt do anything wrong! This is such a common excuse even today for all kinds of evil and it has its roots near the beginning of the human race. Some people avoid going to church because church goers are perceived as "holier than thou".
How else is the sin of envy to this day manifesting itself in the Church? Look at homosexuals who want the rights & privileges which belong only to a legitimate marriage between a man and a woman as God instituted. (I'm a single man so I am not privy to those rights either). Look at women who want to be ordained as priests and corrupt the orthodoxy of the Church. This is nothing less than pure envy and it is precisely the behavior that Clement is scolding the church at Corinth for. Humans by nature are prone to this type of attitude in life so it should come as no surprise that it is happening now in the Church as it always has but in many Protestant churches it has passed from envious thoughts to corrupt deeds. (Corruption is the fruit of envy if not suppressed quickly as Clement is trying to do here).
Catholics in particular love this chapter because Clement is so.... Catholic. Listen to what he says:
But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours, and when he had finally suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned.
Here he calls Peter & Paul 'the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church' and mentions Peter first.
He goes on to talk about various martyrs of the faith. This was a very short chapter and we basically just talked about the cost some of the 'heroes of the faith' had to pay in order to follow Christ. We too may one day have to pay such a cost. We should consider ourselves lucky (as the apostles did) if we are counted worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Continued from Part 1 This is a commentary on Clement's First Epistle to the Corinthians.
You stretched forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful to you, if you had been guilty of any involuntary transgression.
He describes how they are coming together in worship. This section is similar to the Kyrie which we practice now. This takes place at the beginning of Mass asking for forgiveness in preparation for the Eucharist which will forgive our venial sins. Notice how he says "any involuntary transgression". It is interesting to note that only venial sins (which the Eucharist forgives) are involuntary. Later he says:
Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight.
He commends them for being obedient. Notice he didn't say "every kind of disagreement" since of course there are always disagreements. He is praising them for recognizing that the answer to disagreement is not schism and for fulfilling Christ's desire for the church found in John 17:20-23:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Also throughout the 1st and 2nd chapters, we really see a sense of community already developed in the Early Church.
Every kind of honour and happiness was bestowed upon you, and then was fulfilled that which is written, "My beloved ate and drink, and was enlarged and became fat, and kicked."
This prophecy can be found in Deuteronomy 32:15. This chapter is an early turning point in Clement's epistle. Up until now he has mostly been praising them. Someone in the group mentioned that this is the imagery of a child growing in it's mothers womb and then departing and forgetting where it came from. The Corinthians grew up amoung the first of the gentiles to be converted and now Clement is accusing them of quickly losing their way.
The last line reads:
(everyone) walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world.
Here he points back to the garden of Eden and reminds them that it was by this same envy that they are practicing now which first caused death to enter the world.
During this summer, a group of guys from RCIA & I will be going through Clement's First Epistle to the Corinthians. Clement was the 4th bishop of Rome and thus was pope from Anno Domini 88 - 97 (he began 21 years after Peter). So this epistle was written somewhere in that time period. Many seem to think it was towards the end of his reign as pope but nevertheless it was first century.
'You enjoined young men to be of a sober and serious mind; you instructed your wives to do all things with a blameless, becoming, and pure conscience, loving their husbands as in duty bound; and you taught them that, living in the rule of obedience, they should manage their household affairs becomingly, and be in every respect marked by discretion.'
In the first chapter, our discussion seemed to focus mostly on this passage. Notice how the flow of this passage seems to directly correspond with Paul's letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 5 Verses 18-24): First an admonission to be of sober mind then a praise for being obedient to Paul's commands (which are apparently already seen as authoritative) by instructing their wives to be obedient. Of course this is just further evidence that the early christians were conservative in regards to family leadership contrary to the modern 'Christian feminist' movement which no closer resembles Christianity than Taoism. Furthermore this is (indirect evidence) that Pauline epistles were seen as authoritative in the Church even before the end of the first century.
Another observation the group made was that he must have been a good teacher/leader since he really intends to say some negative things in this epistle yet he begins (in the first 2 chapters) by praising them for the good things they are doing before getting into the negative.
Finally, on the note of sobriety, one of the guys in the group brought up a good point about how important this issue was to the early Church. Above and beyond the importance however, is the fact that it can also be applied to emotional 'drunkeness' as well. In the same way that alcohol or drugs can impair your judgement, emotions can distort your vision. That is why this 'sentimentalism' that is so unbelievably predominant in Christian culture today (Catholic & Protestant) is so dangerous. The sentimentalism I'm talking about deserves its own blog post and it will get one. But mainly Im talking about the kind of attitude that causes people to say things like "Its not a religion its a relationship" and "heart of hearts" (as if just saying heart once wont do because its not sentimental enough). This is a type of drunkeness and was widely spoken against in the early Church. Clement touches on it here also mentioning "serious mind". Now how common is it in our culture to hear someone say something stupid like "you take life too seriously"? Isnt life serious? Jesus apparently thought it was or else He wouldnt have gone
to such great lengths to save it.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I don't usually appreciate blogs that tell about happenings in strangers lives. Its not their life experience that Im intersted in usually. Since Im not interested in reading about others trivial experiences Im sure theyre not interested in mine so I don't like to make a habbit of blogging about things like this. However, I had a fairly interesting trip so I'm gonna blog about it anyway. If you're not interested... well then as the English say, 'bugger off' (and I did meet a couple Britains this week).
My trip was made (by car) from Charlotte to Cary (outside of Raleigh, NC) to the annual JMP Users Conference at the SAS Institute. SAS is (arguably) the worlds leading developer of statistical software. JMP is one of their more user friendly products.
On Monday I was planning to attend the Scripting Workshop but because I forgot my luggage at home and lost almost an hour of travel time, I was running late and could not make it in time for the event. Instead I stopped in at the Durham Rescue Mission for a tour (I had already arranged this anyway I just knew that I had more time now since I couldn't make the workshop anyway).
The tour was interesting and I met a lady who (after hearing that I played the fiddle) called her husband who played bluegrass guitar and invited him up. It was her birthday and she insisted that we play "Ashokan Farewell" for her. We played for about 2 hours and then I headed on my way but I thought it was very neat to have such a random, unexpected jam session.
I checked in the hotel (not the prefered hotel of the conference) and was sitting in the lobby when I noticed a middle aged man who had all the tell-tale signs of a stastistician by appearance. I asked him if he was with the JMP conference and he was. Hans was originally from Holland but now lived in South Africa. Another guy, Peter who was from Australia (now living in NY) joined us and gave us a ride to the Embassy Suites where we were to catch a shuttle to the dinner that evening at John Sall's house (president of JMP and co-founder of SAS Institute. If you don't know anything about SAS, check out the link above. They're a very intersting company.)
This was the evening of the final game in the Stanley Cup and there were a lot of Edmonton Oiler fans in the hotels. In fact, the Edmonton Oilers themselves were at the Embassy Suites while we were waiting for the shuttle and some of the people were apparently getting their pictures taken with members of the team.
On the way to Mr. Sall's house I was suprised that the neighborhood seemed to be quite middle class as we were driving through to his house but out of nowhere, we came across the gate to his estate. I have to say I was impressed, especially at the decorations inside (we only walked through briefly). I met a few people while 'mingling' in the crowd (which is not something I'm particularly good at) but one of those was Mrs. Sall who informed me of a JMP non-profit user group being put together. I think that was valuable information and I'll try to get involved with that. Of course, the food was excellent. I sat with Dr. Tom? Little (who is an independent consultant who apparently has a good deal of interaction with Microsoft) and his son (a web page designer who also happened to be studying Japanese like me) and another in the party but with a separate company, ??can't remember his name but have his card somewhere?? (who was also one of the vendors with booths at the conference). The entertainment that evening was Dulcimer Dan.
The first day of the conference (Tuesday) wasn't that great in my opinion and in fact, the afternoon was pretty much useless to me because it was all bio-tech industry and design of experiments so they just weren't applicable to my industry. (Most people who do what I do apparently use SAS Enterprise Miner which is considerably more expensive than JMP. ) Dinner that evening was at the Prestonwood Country Club.
I sat with a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and it was a relief to rest my brain cells for a little bit and talk about football! But on my other side sat a biologist and it wasn't long before I was wrapped up in a conversation with him. We talked about substance abuse (as if it were really my expertise though I do work at a rehabilitation center) and then he started talking about the cancer research he was involved with and how they were using JMP in it. I cant reproduce what he said but it was interesting to hear him talk about genetic mutation and how that comes about. I couldnt help but be reminded of the fact that observed mutations are almost always harmful as the proponents of intelligent design often point out.
The second day of the conference (Wednesday) was much better. After a traditional southern breakfast, the first speaker was from Microsoft Xbox. He didn't get very technical but was interesting. The next was a PH.D. student (mid to late 20s probably) from Georgia Tech Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory. He was by far the best speaker of the conference. He spoke mostly of how they used JMP in designing / testing / & researching for military technology.
That evening, Hans and I spoke for about 2 hours on politics (and of course I tapped into his statistical expertise a little as well. Ater all, with a name like Hans you have to be good at statistics).
I spent the final day in a class entitled "Analysis of Attribute Data" which basically went over logistic regression and recursive partitioning (both of which I use quite frequently at work). The teacher was great, although I thought the course itself could be improved on. I did pick up a few helpful things though. (Part of the problem was that I didnt have the level of statistical background that most of these people had). At lunch, I talked with a guy from Amazon.com and he was pretty interesting.
Thursday evening, I came straight back to Charlotte and without going home, headed over to my friend's house for a book study (We're studying the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians). The study was excellent and a lot of fun. I will be posting a summary of each of our discussions on the topic (this was the first of 10 or so (I'd estimate) for this book).
Posted by Tim A. Troutman at 5:50 PM
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I found this link on Jimmy Akin's blog. But I was moved when I saw it and I really wonder how heartless you have to be to be 'pro-choice' when you can see a face & life behind the (attempted) murder.
This fetus speaks out against abortion (the adult fetus) I am of course mis-using the word to prove a point. These ridiculous attempts at 'de-humanizing' the infant in the mother's womb (by calling it a fetus) are nothing more than semantics. The child is a human child regardless of what you call it. If you don't kill it, its gonna be just like you one day.
Much to Planned Parenthood's dismay, this fetus survived and how ironic that it did indeed turn out to be a human instead of a lump of tissue... It's really a moving story about this woman and I hope it opens some eyes out there.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Just saw "End of the Spear" which was released on DVD June 13th and I would highly recommend it. It's a touching story of a missionary family in the Amazon jungle. In addition to it being a great movie, half of the proceeds are going to help the indigenous people of the Waodani tribe.
Posted by Tim A. Troutman at 8:15 PM
A common accusation by religious critics such as those on the Jesus Seminar is that the author of Mark must not be the same 'Mark' who was a disciple of St. Peter. Before I get into the specifics of the argument, you decide whose testimony is more reliable: 20th century liberals who would love to undermine everything Christian or early 2nd century bishop of Hierapolis, St. Papias who said the following between 110 AD & 130 AD:
Mark indeed, since he was the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, but not in order, the things either said or done by the Lord as much as he remembered. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him, but afterwards, as I have said, [heard and followed] Peter, who fitted his discourses to the needs [of his hearers] but not as if making a narrative of the Lord's sayings'; consequently, Mark, writing down some things just as he remembered, erred in nothing; for he was careful of one thing - not to omit anything of the things he heard or to falsify anything in them.
The specific argument I will address now (which is the most prominent in the discussion) is alleged geographical errors in the gospel of Mark. Here's an example of some traditional responses to these allegations. I only intend to make a quick point that occured to me today on the subject.
There are 3 alleged errors some even claim a fourth I believe. They are all handled well in the above link but there are other traditional arguments as well. I'm not going to get into any specific instance. Now let's you and I suppose that someone wrote a story about an event that took place in your home town. (Forget about miracles for now) Its a story that could otherwise be true except that he makes 3 geographical statements that don't seem right to you (I'm being gratuitous here since I believe these 'errors' have been refuted). Now you have good evidence that some of the events in this story he's writing are true (as virtually all historians agree on it) but the question at hand is: was this man (the author) an eye witness(Or someone very close to an eyewitness? (Remember Mark is said to be the 'interpreter of Peter')
In this instance what would you think? Because they made three statements about the geography that seemed strange (or even plain wrong) to you would you conclude (solely on that evidence) that he was neither an eye witness nor close to an eyewitness and furthermore what he wrote is highly erroneous? I'd say that would be a stretch.
So what about Mark? Did he know Palestinian geography? Glancing over the gospel you can see that he made dozens of statements related to the geography of Palestine. All but three (or four) of them are unanimously accepted as accurate by historians.
The critics use the negative to argue against Mark but I will use the positive to argue in favor of Mark. (Remember even the negatives have been refuted). Which carries more weight, the few 'sketchy' remarks on geography or the dozens of detailed and accurate depictions of 1st century Palestine? These statements Mark made about the Palestinian geography would be quite difficult to know unless one of these three conditions were met:
1. Mark had access to and was using a detailed map.
2. Mark had first hand experience.
3. Mark had a huge amount of interaction with someone who was a native of the region.
(For example if he had been... oh I don't know... say... an interpreter of one of the apostles)
Now the critics don't want to admit 2 or 3 so they're left with 1. The only problem with this is, if he was using a detailed map then how did he make the alleged errors? The skeptics insist that Mark was some Roman who only knew of Palestine through hearsay and maybe a few other unreliable sources. But here are some verses from Mark that are accepted by all Historians as accurate geographically. Judge for yourself if someone with no knowledge of the area and no map is likely to have written this:
When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 3:8
This description paints a picture of various regions covering most of the Palestinian area (making a point that people were coming from everywhere to see Him). If you had never lived in Chicago or have strong first hand knowledge from someone who did, and you had no map, could you give a description like that: naming all the major suburban regions?
So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. 5:20
The word Decapolis here means "10 Cities" which was a nickname for the region. We know of a few popular nicknames for areas like that in our modern age. "The Twin Cities" for Minneapolis & St. Paul is fairly well known. How about Tri-City (I think there's a few of those). Do you know about the ones from my state: "The Triad" for Greensboro, Winston-Salem & High Point or the "Research Triangle" which is Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill or "Metrolina" which is Charlotte and the surrounding counties? I think most people outside of the state would have never heard these terms. (Of course being ignorant of the term doesn't mean you're from out of state and vice versa). Just making a point that area nicknames aren't typically well known outside of natives of that particular region.
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 6:45
When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there 6:53
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. 11:1
Again Mark is pretty particular. Why would he give so much geographical information if he wasn't pretty confident in his knowledge?
I'll use some of my hometown geography for an illustration. If someone told me they "came from downtown through South Park to the University area" I would think it was strange since South Park isn't on the way to University Area. But I wouldnt discredit what they were saying. If they said they did it, I would believe them unless I had reason to believe otherwise.
If they told me they went from downtown through University Area to Harrisburg I WOULD think something was strange. (University Area is right on the way to Harrisburg) Why would you mention going through University Area since it's a given that you will do that en route from downtown to Harrisburg? It makes perfect since to mention going through a place which is out of the way however (such as in the previous example). I would think it was strange but it would indicate to me that you had a reason for doing so.
Once again, the gospels and the Scriptures hold up well under attack. I conclude that Mark, who was the interpreter of Peter and probably the same Mark mentioned by Peter, is the author of the gospel of Mark. The one piece of evidence against that theory that I have found a little puzzling is that in the story of Jesus walking on water, Matthew mentions that Peter also got out and walked on the water. Mark & John both mention the incident but neither mention Peter walking on the water. At first thought, I would think it would be most likely that if Mark was a disciple of Peter he would have surely been told about this by Peter. I would think that it would be a big part of the story coming from Peter's own lips. Nevertheless, maybe Peter out of humility refrained from speaking on his role in the story. I'm thinking out loud here as I don't really know what has been written on the subject.
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Friday, June 16, 2006
In his article titled "Sexual Symbolism", Peter Kreeft captures a thought that I've wanted to express for a while now but couldn't find the words to adequately do so.
This is a well written article touching on just one of the reasons why women shouldn't be ordained. But what I found more interesting than the specific subject per se, was the method used to defend the Catholic stand. It rings very familiar of G. K. Chesterton.
I still can't word the concept very well because it's an abstract one and my mind doesn't work that way. But I've always found it amazing how in life and the observable world around us, just about everything has it's metaphor somewhere. Everything has symbolism found in other areas of life even completely unrelated. This is how Jesus was able to so brilliantly teach great mysteries by using parables. Mark tells us that "He did not say anything to them without using a parable"(1).
Why would a world without order and inherent purpose be so filled with metaphors and symbolism? Wouldn't it make just as much (or more) sense that the world might have only a few if any prefigurations, metaphors or symbols? I view this phenomenon as one of the many hidden signatures of God in the universe; that He has created the world with parallels, symbols & metaphors interwoven into every realm of creation. I think there is much to be said on the subject, it would just require someone more able than me. I would recommend reading Mr. Kreeft's article.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
This is a follow up to my first post on the Eucharist in which I dealt with the reverence of worship and specifically the breaking of bread. I was holding off on this half of the essay until whenever but today is very appropriate since we discussed the Eucharist in RCIA tonight. (Sunday's readings will be on the Eucharist). At first, I thought the real presence was going to be a stumbling block but I was wrong. In fact this has proven to be a great testimony to the truth of the Catholic Church.
I was utterly blown away the first time I read John 6 as a Catholic. I once watched a movie where the characters spoke with a thick Hispanic accent and intermingled both Spanish & English with lots of slang. My Japanese friend watched it with me later and she asked for subtitles to assist her with comprehension. It was only then that I realized how much of the movie I had been missing. I also realized that the human mind has a tendency to ignore what it does not understand. So you can watch something, not understand 30% of it (or more) and not even realize that you didn’t catch everything as long as you grasped the over all meaning. I was completely clueless to the fact that I wasn’t grasping everything. This is precisely what had happened to me with the bible; particularly passages dealing with the Eucharist like John chapter 6.
What many don’t realize, is that the belief in the ‘real presence’ is actually a very historical belief. The early fathers were virtually unanimous in this belief. Even many of the reformers believed it. Martin Luther believed so strongly in the real presence that he even punished by imprisonment (or worse) the heresy of rejecting it. However, Luther believed in consubstantiation instead of transubstantiation like the Catholics teach. That is to say, Christ is present along with the bread & wine as opposed to a transformation. Here are some quotes from the early church Fathers on the issue:
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.
Take care then to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of his blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.
From Eucharist and prayer they hold aloof, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His loving-kindness raised from the dead.
- St. Ignatius of Antioch 110 AD
We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration, and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor as common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our flesh and blood is nourished, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus.
- St. Justin Martyr 150 AD
Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.
- St. Irenaeus of Lyons 165 AD
On the night he was betrayed out Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: ``Take, eat: this is my body.'' He took the cup, gave thanks and said: ``Take, drink: this is my blood.'' Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he himself has said quite categorically, This is my blood, who would dare to question and say that it is not his blood?
- St. Cyril of Jerusalem 350 AD
These are mere highlights of what the early fathers said on the subject. It would be quite easy to write a book on the subject (as I’m sure many have been written) due to the sheer number of writings dispelling this heresy. We see it appearing in the early church because of the many writings that the fathers wrote to refute it. It later came again in the 11th century(1) and finally with the Protestant reformation.
Consider the beauty of the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist:
The Eucharist is an outward sign of an inward grace instituted by Christ(2)
And where did Christ institute it? Refer back to John 6:25-60 but specifically verse 51:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
We are saved by grace through faith(3) as St. Paul later explained. Jesus prophesied here that the Eucharist will become an external means of receiving grace from God. This is precisely what the Catholic Church continues to teach to this day. Assuming for a moment that this isn’t the true meaning of the passage, I would have to confess I am utterly dumbfounded on the Scriptures and interpretations thereof.
Additionally, we talked in RCIA about how the Passover Feast was a prefiguration of the Eucharist. I have never considered that but it makes so much sense. Christ has become the new 'unblemished lamb' as it says in Hebrews. The significance is that they not only offered the lamb as a sacrifice, but they also ate the lamb as we now eat the body of the Lamb.
In the passage from John I mentioned above, the disciples were disturbed by what Jesus said. They even asked "how can we accept this teaching?". It must have seemed quite strange to them how they could feed on Christ's body and drink His blood.
Well now we know.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
We are called to imitate Christ. When we think of imitating Christ, the image we often get is that of a lowly, meek & pacifist demeanor. We envision the lowly birth in the manger, the life of poverty, having dinner with the lowly & the sinners, preaching a message of pacifism and "turning the other cheek" and doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. We picture the washing of the feet, the lamb led to the slaughter and the innocent Man who was silent before His accusers. These are all good images and good things to imitate. But we shouldn"t forget the other attributes of Christ that we ought to imitate as well.
Christ ate with the sinners and He forgave the adulteress of her sins. But He was very outspoken against religious corruption, the stubborn hearts of those who taught the Law, and against those who were so puffed up with pride in their own ways that they failed to recognize the very Spirit of God whom they claimed to serve. He spoke of sin and its seriousness not by saying "don"t worry, all your sins will be nailed to a cross" but by saying "if your eye causes you to sin then pluck it out!"1 & "man will give an account for every idle word"2 & "he who calls his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire"3. We are not to stand by idly while men pervert the word of God. We are to "guard what was entrusted to us"4 as Paul told Timothy to do. Each of us is a defender of that truth given to us and I have to wonder if God will hold him guiltless who keeps quiet while men teach evil doctrines.
Christ also knew the Scriptures. It is not for the clergymen alone to know the Scriptures. St. Jerome said "ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ" yet how is it that you claim to know Christ while you are mostly ignorant of the written Word? St. John Chrysostom scolded his parishioners for being well versed in secular songs & poetry while having not even so much as a Psalm memorized. How much more are we guilty of this! Again Paul commanded Timothy "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved"5.
And what of the apostles? Again, Paul said "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ"6 We can know in which manner we are to imitate Christ by watching the Apostles. We know how they behaved by reading the Scriptures and later the writings of the Church Fathers who succeeded them and even now in person by watching the Pope, the Cardinals, Bishops & Priests who carry the same title and how they imitate Christ. Bottom line: first step to imitating Christ > Know Christ. Its not through inner feelings that we know Him. It is through the revealed Word both written and handed down by the traditions of the Church and maintained by the Magisterium and the Roman Pontiff.
catholic, christian, jesus
More evidence that Nifong is a fraud is coming to light in the Duke Rape Case.
James Coleman said Monday that statements by defense lawyers have caused him to question the impartiality of District Attorney Mike Nifong.
Well where'd you park your squad car Dick Tracy? Here is the full article with reader comments. How is it that liberals are constantly exposed for fraud, scandal and intentional libel yet are still taken seriously and have a following? Yet conservatives are frequently cleared of all charges (because they were baseless to begin with) and that end of it is usually ignored by the media. Here's an example of a story that made national headlines for months as liberals tried to undermine the president and everything Republican, yet now has been rejected. Liberals don't care (as if they had any morals to begin with) because the damage has already been done.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy
- John 10:10
Don't be fooled, liberal leadership have no good intentions. (Some of the followers are just stupid they're not evil).
Monday, June 12, 2006
How much of a beating can one false doctrine take? Apparently a lot as Jimmy Akin & his faithful readers deal another devastating blow to a doctrine which if I didnt know better I'd think anyone who believed in it was partially retarded. If you get a chance the article is well worth the read (albeit long).
Sunday, June 11, 2006
First, the short answer: No. Now, the long one:Let me begin with a quote from Jerome (found at the beginning of his rebuttal against Helvidius on defending the doctrine of the Pepetual Virginity of Mary) who wrote far more elloquently than I could:
I was requested by certain of the brethren not long ago to reply to a pamphlet written by one Helvidius. I have deferred doing so, not because it is a difficult matter to maintain the truth and refute an ignorant boor who has scarce known the first glimmer of learning, but because I was afraid my reply might make him appear worth defeating.
I share a similar attitude on the current topic. There are some among Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, & Mormons who teach certain things which I'm going to spend a little time (but way more time than its worth) refuting in case you run across this stuff. There is also a small but (apparently) growing movement calling themselves "Torah Observant Believers" probably not too dissimilar from Messianic Jews (which I don't know very much about). This is how I was introduced to these ideas by running across one of these "believers" and watching a couple videos he gave me. The most recognized name in this sect is probably the late Reggie White of the NFL who apparently got the whole thing started or at least popularized it.
I wrote a six page rebuttal to the "believer" who shared the videos with me explaining how they were so historically baseless that they weren't even worth considering. It was hard to find 'high level' apologetics defending against these accusations on the internet mainly because... it's demeaning to an apologist to even address such baseless claims. However, I'm no apologist so I have no qualms laying the 'smack down' on these ignorant ideas.
I wrote a rebuttal to these videos and wasn't sure of the author's name so I used "Mr. Smith".
Begin original rebuttal:
Mr. Smith’s hypothesis is apparently shared by a small but growing sect of believers in the modern world as I have encountered them on rare occasion before. His statement is basically that virtually all liturgical practices which distinguish Christianity from Judaism are pagan in origin and therefore are contrary to God’s law. I will be arguing that this hypothesis is wholly incorrect and incompatible with known history. I will argue from a Catholic perspective but virtually all of what I will say can be argued just as easily from another Protestant perspective.
First, we should discuss a very important spiritual matter that I believe is probably key to understanding this entire issue. Mr. Smith (that I recall) never mentioned the Holy Spirit unless he did so in reading one of the New Testament verses he quoted. I am assuming that he does not believe in the Trinity (though I don’t know his stance). I make this assumption based on three things in order of least significance to greatest: 1. He never mentions the Holy Spirit outside of Scripture (if even then) 2. He appears to reject the virgin birth based on his association of the mother & child with some former pagan iconography (again, this is speculation he may very well believe in the virgin birth) and 3. (And this one is not an assumption) His theory leaves no room for the role of a perpetually active third member of the Trinity that Christians refer to as the Holy Spirit.
The reason why this is so important, is that (as the Catholic Church teaches) the Holy Spirit did indeed fill the promises of Christ.(1)
St. John Chrysostom said it very eloquently:
That the apostles “did not come down from the mountain carrying, like Moses, tablets of stone in their hands; but they came down carrying the Holy Spirit in their hearts… having become by his grace a living law, a living book.”(2)
This summarizes some of the early thought on apostolic succession. I will not get into the defense of apostolic succession but my basic premise is this: God used apostolic succession through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (which is still active today) in order to establish His church with Peter as it’s head thus fulfilling the prophecies of Christ.(3) Christ, of course, also said that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.(3) Furthermore, he gave the apostles authority(4). What purpose would that authority have if not for succession?
So the first general error of his I am stating is the rejection of the working of the Holy Spirit in the church. Even a small amount of research will quickly reveal that the Apostles authoritatively rejected several of the precepts outlined in this video and their successors rejected others, while still the remaining precepts have never been refuted simply because they haven’t the sufficient merit to receive a rebuttal being so historically baseless.
Another consistent error made throughout the video is the lack of sources. He makes generalized statements and only gives sources to those statements which even his opponents would agree with. On the controversial subjects he makes little or no attempt at adding credibility to what he says by quoting legitimate sources. The few times that he does actually quote someone (such as Flavius Josephus), he doesn’t give the title of the work much less chapter or page number. (Not that their quotes proved anything anyway). He often makes general statements like “all of this can be verified by looking in any encyclopedia” which I’m sure that some of what he says could be verified in some encyclopedia but that proves little.
He makes frequent reference to the idea that “first century Christianity did this or that” and of course never makes any references. Why doesn’t he make any references there? Because there aren’t any to be made! There is very little extra biblical (Christian) writings that pre-date 100 AD so it would be hard to make the sweeping statements that he made without some very specific references.
The Didache is believed by most biblical scholars to be among if not the earliest surviving Christian document outside the canonical New Testament. (5) Ironically, this document (6) (along with all of the New Testament) attests to the fact that early Christians most certainly participated in the Eucharist in the very same manner in which Catholics participate in it to this very day. Mr. Smith claims that the Eucharist (among other things) had pagan origins and was not practiced until the 4th century. This is a glaring error and a prime example of revisionist history. Even outside the New Testament we have innumerable saints who spoke of the Eucharist prior to the conversion of Constantine when this ‘paganization’ of Christianity supposedly took place.
He erroneously claims that Constantine instituted Sunday worship. Constantine made it a law throughout the Roman Empire that everyone should observe what the Christians had already been observing: a day of rest on the day known to them as the day of the sun. (7) There is some debate as to whether Sunday was considered the “new Sabbath” or whether it was simply the day that Christians worshipped on. The Catholic Church, however, does maintain that it is the fulfilment of the OT Sabbath. Here is what the Catechism says:
Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ(18)
How do we know that Christians celebrated on Sunday before the 4th century? First of all, the Scriptures themselves say so! (8) Secondly, we have early verification from fathers such as St. Barnabas (100 AD), St. Justin Martyr (150AD) St. Clement of Alexandria (190 AD) and Tertullian (200AD) just to name a few. (9) A final point on this particular error, is that Mr. Smith placed high emphasis on the law of the Sabbath, while it is the only one of the ten commandments not reaffirmed in the New Testament.
Mr. Smith claims that Easter has pagan origins. However, Easter is celebrated on the First Sunday following the new moon which occurs after the vernal or Spring equinox. There is no other holiday in history that was celebrated on or even close to that date. The confusion arises with the word Easter (as even Mr. Smith unwittingly admitted). In Latin it is called Pascha (which is where we get the ‘paschal mystery’ from). So if we were merely talking about the holiday in the language which it was likely originally instituted in (at the council of Nicaea 325 AD), then Mr. Smith wouldn’t be making these claims. The title “Easter” originated much later in the 8th century AD according to St. Bede. The word is derived from ‘Eoster’ who was the Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and Spring.(10) So this is by no means changing a pagan holiday into a Christian one since A) there was no pagan holiday B) the confusion lies with the English word for the date that has pagan origins but the English language and it’s sources have nothing whatsoever to do with the council of Nicaea. English wasn’t even a language at the time of Nicaea. Furthermore, if a word having pagan origins is something bad, we’re in a lot of trouble since English is derived almost entirely from pagan sources. English is a Germanic language with heavy influence from both Greek & Latin. All three of these sources are pagan. Even the days of the week have pagan origin. Wednesday was formerly Odin’s Day & Thursday was of course Thor’s Day.
It is claimed that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday.
Update - while I originally conceded most of the factual parts of this charge, it has since been brought to my attention that the first Christian mention of using December 25th as the birthday of Christ actually pre-dates the pagan usage of the date as a holiday. See this post for details.
Mr. Smith claims that because Christians make statues that they are breaking the law of God. But what does the Law say?
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. - Exodus 20:4
Did the Jews understand this to mean not to make any sculpture of anything at all? Of course not! The Ark of the Covenant had graven Cheribum on the mercy seat! Furthermore the verse clearly speaks of worshipping false idols not merely creating images. If it meant not to create any images, then photographs & paintings would also be evil.
The Council of Jerusalem
Mr. Smith’s postulations also ignore the verdict pronounced at the council of Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15. The idea that Christians need to keep the Mosaic law is not a new one. This was a big issue in the first century. However, the council decided that no, they needn’t become Jewish before becoming Christian. (Also see Acts 10:44-48)
Burning of Scripture
Mr. Smith correctly states that emperor Diocletian burned Scripture during his infamous widespread persecution of Christians in 303 AD. However, Mr. Smith uses this well known fact as a spring board into unverifiable ‘conspiracy theory’ type concepts that we have supposedly lost what may have been original Scriptures and only have a few remaining ones or something to that effect. There aren’t any reputable scholars alive that would agree with this kind of reasoning. That's Dan Brown-level research.
Halo’s With Pagan Origins
Mr. Smith claims that halos have pagan origin. (Conveniently there are only Christian images with halos shown). If the halo originated in pagan art, how about some images from the pagans? This claim is unlikely to be completely unfounded however. There are secular sources who make similar claims (and even the Catholic encyclopedia admits it (12) ).
But what does this prove? If it proved much the Catholic encyclopedia wouldn’t admit it.
Did Christians invent every art form? Furthermore, lets remember what we’re talking about: ART! Not doctrine, dogma or theology. If the art was borrowed from Satan himself it wouldn’t undermine the church’s teachings in the least. Furthermore, did pagans invent light? Did they invent the portrayal of light in art? No. Isn’t light a biblical concept? Early Christian converts used familiar methods of portraying biblical concepts:
"the glory of the Lord shone around them" (Lk. 2:9).
The Greek word 'perilampo' used here means ‘to shine around’. (13)
Mother – Child Worship
First: Catholics do not worship Mary or Mary with the child.
The maternal role of Mary toward people in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. (14)
Second: It is a well known and well accepted fact that various pagan religions used images of a mother with a child. They also used many other various images found in nature: cows, goats, horses, eagles, lions, half men, men, women, birds etc… Now where would we think that Christians got the idea of a mother and child? Pagan sources? Or could it be from Jesus and His mother Mary? Does Mr. Smith contend that Jesus had no mother? Does he deny the virgin birth? I believe it is clear that the early Christians were depicting Christ with His mother because of the miracle of a virgin birth and not because of pagan origins. If that were so, every picture of any man or any animal would have to be considered some form of pagan origination since pagan religions made extensive use of most created things.
Sign of the Cross
Mr. Smith claims that the cross is a pagan symbol. Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross and that is why Christians use the symbol. Scripture itself uses imagery of the cross. (16)
Tertullian wrote around the end of the 2nd century:
In all our travels, in our coming in and going out, in putting on our clothes and our shoes, at table, in going to rest, whatever we are doing we mark our forehead with the sign of the cross(17)
A symbol itself is worth nothing. Only the meaning of the symbol has any significance. The meaning of the Christian cross is the Roman cross which Jesus was crucified on and nothing else.
Mr. Smith makes frequent claims about Mithraism. Yet, researching the topic one finds information almost exclusively from writings dealing with this particular issue only (whether or not Christianity is borrowed from sun god worship).
It is difficult for scholars to reconstruct the daily workings and beliefs of Mithraism, as the rituals were highly secret and limited to initiated men.(15)
Well maybe these guys need to just ask Mr. Smith... he's apparently an expert on it while no one else seems to really have any informaiton about it whatsoever..
I think I have conclusively demonstrated that the claims of Mr. Smith which are true are completely irrelevant and the rest are historically baseless.
Furthermore, on the topic of Sabbath days & keeping the Law, the following verses from the second chapter of Colossians pretty much puts the nail in the coffin:
13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.20Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Lastly, I wanted to point out that in Justin Martyr's first apology (written to the emporor of Rome) he does touch on the subject of Christian teachings and their similiarities to pagan religions. (Justin Martyr was very knowledgeable about pagan religion even for his time and I have a strong suspicion that he may have known just a little more than Mr. Smith or any of these people from the 'torah observant believer movement'). Now one would expect that if any of these claims had an inkling of truth to them, you would find them in Justin Martyrs writings... at least a mention of them. In defending the similarities, he never mentions Mithraism or sun god worship in connection with any of the accusations that Mr. Smith hurls at him except for the accusation concerning the Eucharist. Justin Martyr clearly states that the Christians were doing it first and the Mithras perverted it and adopted it as one of their initiation rites.
Furthermore on this topic: where are the official documents of Mithraism? Why is it that early church father documents and Christian Scriptures always stand naked before the world subject to every type of scrutiny known to man while no other religions or beliefs are held to the same standards? Its interesting how atheists and skeptics always require strong extra-biblical evidence for anything Christian, while they will accept even a passing mention in writing by anyone concerning any other thing in history. No one can legitimately say that any other set of documents have ever been so thoroughly scrutinized by every type of scholar and by every immaginable method than the Christian Scriptures. Yet in spite of these double standards, the scriptures have stood up to the test. This is similar to Elijah's sacrifice in comparison to the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Though there was a strong double standard (Elijah's sacrifice was soaked with 12 large jars of water while the other was dry), Elijah's sacrifice was burnt up from heaven and the other wasnt. Even though the world constantly applies bias & double standards against Catholicism, the truth will always prevail in the end because it is inheirantly stronger. The world is at enmity with the truth.
The Church Never Has Nor Never Will Worship the Sun.
Nor think, brethren, that the sun ought to be worshipped by some men, because the sun doth sometimes in the Scriptures signify Christ. For such is the madness of men; as if we said that a creature should be worshipped, when it is said, the sun is an emblem of Christ. Then worship the rock also, for it also is a type of Christ. "He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter:" worship the lamb also, since it is a type of Christ. "The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed;" worship the lion also, since it signifieth Christ. Observe how numerous are the types of Christ: all these are Christ in similitude, not in essence. .
- St. Augustine of Hippo
Here are some additional references on the web on this topic:
1 John , 13, John | Acts 2:1-4
3 Matthew 16:18
4 Matthew 16:19, John 20:21-23
6 Didache Chapter 5
7 Eusebius, Vita Constantine, N&PNF. Bk. II, chs. xxiv-xliii
8 Acts 20:7
11 Chambers Encyclopaedia 1970, page 538, article Christmas
13 Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament page 503
17 http://www.trueknights.org/ECFfaq.html#2218 Catholic Catechism Part 3 Section 2
Saturday, June 10, 2006
I've recently been engaged with a programmer by the name of Rod Hilton who is apparently a programmer in Colorado and a skeptic of Christianity. (Not antagonistic towards it) I believe he is theistic in general. Here is our conversation on his blog. The preceeding dialogues leading up to that are very lengthy and there is some good stuff there too.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Have you noticed the CE being used more and more instead of AD because AD comes from Anno Domini? I've come up with an idea that I think will satisfy everyone (well at least me). It may be a little lengthy but I think I'm gonna start saying (for example) 1965 ITYOOLJCONWISTAORFIH Which stands for:
1965 In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth who is superior to all other religious figures in history.
Ok on a serious note, I am going to no longer use the term AD if I can help it but rather will spell it out in plain English > In the year of our Lord 1965. It's my little way of 'sticking it to the (liberal) man'.
A large part of my blog is basically an attempt at answering that very question: Is the Roman Church the One True Church? I've made other posts already on Apostolic Succession, Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide that have given some insight on how I feel we might go about answering that question but this post is of a slightly different nature. It is a little out of order chronologically but I'd like to examine the question: why do we care? In other words, what does it mean to me whether or not the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church or not?
In my early stages of Catholicism, I am looking at what I view as evidence for and against the concept that the Catholic church is exclusively the true church.
So what are the implications of each possibility? If the Catholic Church is not the one true church, then (for all practical purposes) there is no ‘one true church’. This concept would only exist (as Protestants insist) in a general, abstract sense as applied universally to every true believer regardless of denomination. In other words, there is no ‘visible church’ or tangible representation of the body of Christ on Earth. If it’s not the one true church, then what do we make of verses like:
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
As a Protestant, I was taught to systematically toss out and ignore such passages. Protestants have no qualms about preaching on the verse, but they will only exegete what it does not mean and not what it does mean. (They do this with other passages as well such as James chapter 2 but I digress).
Next, without the Church we do not have the bible. If the Catholic Church has no authority, then it could not authoritatively declare which books were inspired. (Again there is no one true church so my opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s and I might choose to think that… say… Barnabas was inspired and Jude wasn’t).
Without the bible having any real authority (of course we’re still assuming general truth because it is valid history) then what about statements that Jesus made like the one mentioned above and others like:
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.”
What truth did He guide them into? I guess it doesn’t matter if only the apostles were privy to it. Without Apostolic Succession, apostolic authority and apostolic benefits (such as the truth that Christ prophesied that the Holy Spirit would lead them into) ends with … the apostles. That is to say: without an heir to the throne the dynasty ends. Without a survivor, the estate of the deceased is separated from the family lineage.
Now what does it mean if the Catholic Church is the same church we speak of in the Nicene creed? Both Catholics and Protestants (most Protestants) accept the creed that states:
“We believe in one holy and Catholic and Apostolic church”
Of course, Protestants believe Catholic in the sense of the original meaning of the word “Universal” whereas I’m speaking in terms of the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants don’t really have much footing to stand on when it comes to the word “Apostolic” since the apostles handed down no traditions of any value. Only the ones who participated in writing the New Testament had any contribution besides their initial evangelism according to the Protestant world view. As previously stated, without the church there is no Apostolic succession of authority or privilege.
On the other hand, if the Catholic Church that remains today is the same one started I think it has several significant implications. First, all the Scriptures above are now fulfilled and have valid meaning. That is, passages like Matthew 16: 18-19, John 16: 12-13, John chapter 6, and James chapter 2 mean precisely what is (apparently) stated. No need for advanced theological degrees or in depth exegetical study. If the church is true then we can accept (what should be obvious) that the authors were quite capable (as you and I are) of conveying their intended concepts in plain language. At this point I’d like to appeal to Ockham’s razor:
Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem or “Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.”
William Ockham was a Fransciscan Friar (c. 1295–1349) and noted logician. His famous quote above basically means:
“The simplest explanation is usually the best”
So I like to refer to that often; especially when dealing with scriptural exegesis. Without heading off topic too deeply in apologetic territory, suffice it to say we can liken this to the concept that to reject Christianity requires a lot of far fetched theories (in my opinion) when to assume Christianity as taught by the bible and church tradition is true, is so much more simple & is an adequate explanation for every aspect of life. Therefore according to Ockham’s razor, the best explanation is probably that Christianity is true.
In the same light, in the scriptures quoted above (among others), it seems to me the best explanation is that they mean what they say. The concept that the Catholic Church is the true church affirms this theory. Assume for just a minute that it is the one true church. Now go back and read those scriptures.
The next implication is that the Holy Spirit is still actively involved in a tangible way on earth. Through the guidance of the Catholic Church, man kind is being shown the true light of Christ continually. The Protestant church also has truth and displays this truth of Christ but remember, it learned every true thing it knows from the Catholic Church.
Next, if we admit that the Catholic Church has authority, we can now say with some level of honesty and intellectual integrity that the canonical bible has authority (of course we’re talking about the Catholic canon not only the 66 Protestant books). We are of course by no means affirming sola scriptura. There is no logical framework in this world or in any fictional world that would allow for such an idea. (We will discuss this more in depth later). I realized the beauty of this concept shortly after joining the church. I had struggled for so long not understanding how the bible could have any real authority but now the church makes perfect sense out of it.
Now assuming that the Catholic Church is the true church, we of course have real Apostolic Succession. That is, Jesus directly gave the apostles authority on several occasions. This authority was passed down through the church and continues today. In addition to those scriptures above, read John 20:21-23 with the Catholic teaching of confession in mind and see how the assumption that the Catholic Church is true completely validates this reading. Again, you don’t need to be a Greek scholar, just read the text. What does it say?
This is not to say that the church hasn’t had dark times in it’s past but of course, the nation of Israel has a very tainted history as well. In fact, its very arguable that the darkness of Catholic history pales in comparison to that of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Furthermore, the Christian alternatives are basically Protestantism & Eastern Orthodoxy; both of which have equally dark if not darker histories.
It’s also not to say that the church is or ever has been without error. This is probably one of the most perpetuated misconceptions of the Protestant attack on Catholicism; that the church or even the papacy considers itself inerrant which is simply not the case.
Posted by Tim A. Troutman at 6:25 AM
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Praise God, a court rules in favor of a pro-life activist for a change.
Warren Smith is the editor of the Charlotte World (a Christian newspaper in Charlotte) and he told me something about this a few weeks ago and I guess it's just now being finalized.
This should remind everyone though, that organizations like NOW & Planned Parenthood are absolutely nothing short of evil and do not be fooled for a second. These people are in love with abortion in the most literal way. They not only want to keep it legal, but they want it to happen as much as possible. Its really sickening to realize the level of depravity these people have reached. However, but for the grace of God I'd be there too and I'm sure in other ways I'm worse.
We can only pray for their souls.
This shouldn't be funny but somehow it is. It reminds me of the joke where an atheist was about to be attacked by a bear and he cried out to God for help. Time stopped and God said, "why would I save you when you when you've been against Me all these years?" The atheist said, "maybe it's too much to ask to make me a Christian now but if you could at least make the bear a Christian..." God said "fine". Time resumed and the bear stopped dead in it's tracks and knelt down to pray, "Father, thank you for this meal which I am about to receive".
An agnostic jumped into a lion's den. Check out Jimmy Akin's blog to find out what happened.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
It goes without saying that no movie studio would have the guts to produce a "Da Vinci Code"-like movie that attacked Islam or Judaism or any other religion. Of course, it has always been Christianity that stood at enmity with the world and always will.
Why is it that Christianity comes under more attack (by far) than all the other religions combined when Christianity (again by far) has done more good in the world than all other religions combined? Why is it that the world and the Hollywood elite refuse to attack Islam in anyway (and in many cases even defend it) while they have no qualms about insulting, in the most perverse way, anything Christian?
If there were ever any questions about a double standard before, we can safely put those questions to rest.
California has allowed public schools to offer a class on becoming a Muslim.
Now why do I for some reason doubt that the ACLU is going to have any big problems with this? Where is the public outcry? Give me a break. The left are nothing but frauds.
These are the kinds of things that people need to realize are happening all
over the world on a daily basis.
Hindus in India raped Christian women who refused to renounce their faith. And as if that weren't enough, they harassed them at a press conference about the event to the point where law enforcement had to be called.
Now I'm not suggesting that its a daily thing that Hindus are raping Christians. I'm just saying that its a daily thing that Christians around the world are paying dear costs for their faith at the hands of other religions and people should know about it. That's the beauty of the internet and blogs. You can get all the news that the AP hoped you'd never see.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
With all the junk out there it's nice to have some good news for a change. The Louisiana legislature has approved a ban on abortion and apparently the governor will not veto it. I praise God for this good news. Of course, it doesn't mean much until Roe Vs. Wade is overturned but this should remind the faithful to continue in prayer.
Well I can't answer that question but I can tell you how to know if you're NOT ready. If you get in a fist fight with your fiance several days prior to the wedding day, it might be a good idea to look for a more compatabile spouse. Then again, I'm no marriage counselor.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Imagine my surprise when talking to a Protestant pastor, when upon informing him that I was converting to Catholicism we began talking about justification and he was almost entirely ignorant of the substance of James chapter 2. I didn’t really care to beat around the bush so I headed straight for the conclusion in plain terms of the whole matter which is found in James chapter 2. I explained to him that I rejected the ‘faith alone’ heresy on the authority of James when, in the only place in the entire bible to use the phrase ‘faith alone’ he says explicitly:
You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
- James 2:24
The pastor said “the bible doesn’t say that”. I said yes it does. He wouldn’t believe me. So later, I found the reference and gave it to him. He quickly replied “Well you’re taking it out of context.” But I couldn’t possibly be reading MORE in context. ‘Context’ too often becomes a theological buzzword that we toss around when we want to utterly change the meaning of a verse.
Well what is the context of James? Many have claimed that before Martin Luther no one had ever even considered “faith alone’ as an acceptable means of salvation. (Pro Luther scholar Heiko Oberman made this statement)(1) While it is signficant that no one held this view in the 14 centuries preceeding Luther, I have to disagree with the notion that it NEVER came up before then. I think it’s clear if you read James, that there were some at that time who were apparently taking Paul’s emphasis on faith (as opposed to works of the law) to the extreme and believing that faith (or belief) was all that was necessary. I hardly see how it could possibly be any more obvious:
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
- James 2:19
He says: You believe? Good for you! So do the demons. James says that faith without works is dead(2). Another way to say it: faith alone is dead. Yet Protestants believe and teach that not only is faith without works not dead, but it is the principle and only means by which you can be saved!
Ken Hensley points out that throughout the whole of Scripture, from Genesis down through Revelation, we consistently see faith accompanied by obedience. We never, not even in one case see faith contrasted with obedience. Remember, even in Paul’s writings, we never see the idea of “faith alone”. Paul does of course contrast faith with works of the law. He criticizes those who believe that since they are Jewish and keep the law meticulously that they will be justified. But he never says “you don’t have to obey like they do, just believe”. When the crowd asked Peter what we should do, Peter said ‘repent and be baptized’(3). He gave them actions that needed to be done. He didn’t say “just believe”. This case is not an anomaly.
A thorough reading of the bible will reveal time after time that justification is dependent on obedience.
The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.
The Catholic teaching is in line with the Scripture on this teaching much more than the Protestant deviation. Also see Sola Fide Smackdown Part 2.
1 Hensley, Ken. Martin Luther - The Rest of the Story
2 James 2:17
3 Acts 2:38
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Today we celebrate Pentecost which is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of our mother Church.
Previously, in my short discussion with a well educated Presbyterian, we spoke about Apostolic Succession. I made the statement that Apostolic Succession and the continued authority of the Roman Pontiff is possible only with the admission of an ever interceeding Holy Spirit.
In the Protestant faith, the Holy Spirit seemed to be somewhat marginalized (save for Pentecostals & Charismatics I'm sure). But the Roman Catholic Church makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is active in the world today through the visible Church. This active participation and guidance speaks volumes to me on the account of a personal God who is keenly involved in His creation.