Thursday, August 24, 2006

Going Away For A While

As if I've really been keeping up with my blogging, I'm gonna be on vacation for a couple weeks in the Philippines. Dont expect anything until mid September...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Decline of The West

I just read this interesting interview of the director of the Center of Studies on New Religions regarding the moral decline of post-Christianity Europe. America is following close behind the liberal decay we see in Europe. I forget who brought up the point but one of the most ironic things about the liberal movement is that (for example) these women protesting in favor of abortion are actually making it less and less likely that their daughters will be awarded the same 'freedom of speech' rights. This moral decay found in abortion, euthenasia and breakdown of the family are only leading to Western civilization slowly killing itself off.

The fact that children are not born is not only an economic but a moral and religious problem, and it is the sign of a terrible crisis of hope. Without hope, a civilization dies.

The moral crisis is also confirmed with the practice and legislation on subjects such as marriage and adoption by homosexual couples, euthanasia in Holland and experimentation with embryos.

Now I'm not saying Eastern culture is bad. There are good things in other cultures as well. But lets face it: the West is the only thing standing between freedom and Islamo-fascism. So the point above about abortion is that these feminists for example are only adding to the chances that their daughters will be brought up under "Sharia Law".

The interview also brought up an interesting point about each person's "religious capital".

Introvigne: According to a school of sociology born in the United States, that of religious economy, each one of us has a "religious capital" which is made up of beliefs acquired in our youth of which, even after a rejection or estrangement something remains from which one cannot be easily separated.

It's a quick read & I'd recommend it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Liberals In Love With Terrorism

Wow. Has the media sunk to a new low? Check out this headline:

Rockets Hit Lebanon Despite Cease-Fire

Sounds like Israel is breaking the cease fire huh? No. A close inspection of the article will reveal that its actually the liberal's beloved Hezbollah that fired the missiles:

"Hezbollah guerrillas fired at least 10 Katyusha rockets that landed in southern Lebanon early Tuesday"


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Just How Serious Is Sin?

This post could also be aptly named 'Sola Fide Smackdown Part 3' (Following Parts 1 & 2) since its so strongly correlated.

I heard someone say once that the Lutheran Church was like a Catholic Church without the guilt (this was a Lutheran speaking). So I guess you could say that the reformed Church is like a Lutheran Church without the similairities to the Catholic Church and without the guilt (just the core doctrines remaining). By the time you get down to mainline evangelical Churches, even those core doctrines are in danger. Some even have abandoned them. (See how the copy of a copy of a copy only degrades and never rebuilds or ahem.. reforms?)

Back to the topic at hand. Sin & guilt. Those outside of the Church see a lot of guilt in the Catholic Church. Yes. Catholics feel guilty when we sin. When I really started to understand the Church's teaching on sin, forgiveness and purgatory, I really began to understand Christ's teachings to their fullest extent. In the same way that John 6 literally came alive almost as if the words themselves were jumping off the page at me once I realized the truth of the Real Presence, His own words on sin, repentance and the afterlife really started to make sense. (Not that I was necessarily feeling confused about them before, but they were certainly marginally important to me at best since according to Protestant theology they have no real weight). Now I fully understand that they in fact do...

Let's paint the picture so we'll all know what we're talking about. Here are the two views (summarized):

Protestants (like Muslims) believe that a heart felt recital of a prayer of repentance and acknowledgment of faith is sufficient (regardless of what happens thereafter) to earn one's way into heaven no questions asked. There is no consequence (other than earthly ones) for sins commited after being born again. There is no price paid for sin since Jesus has paid the price already. (It should be noted that some Protestants, like Baptists, believe that you can lose your faith after being saved. How this fits in with faith alone I'm not really qualified to answer...) In a nutshell, Protestants believe baptism is an external sign and nothing more (even to the point of not being required) However, in the reformed branch, the Westminster Confession says this of Baptism:

V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

And basically teaches (like the Church) that ordinarily, one cannot be saved without being Baptized although it seems not quite as strong of a point in the reformed faith. Protestants believe that true forgiveness comes only when you believe in your heart. At that point, all sins past & future are forgiven. Therefore you can walk the alter on Sunday, murder someone on Monday, die on Tuesday, and be living it up with the saints in glory on Wednesday. (This is all provided that you truly felt it in your heart from the beginning). Protestants would argue that a person who is truly saved will not go out and do such a thing. And yet, we know that Christians do... The Protestants are then forced to say "yes Christians sin but they cannot live in sin and be at peace" or something like that... I think this is a fair assesment of the Protestant belief...

The Catholic Church teaches (and always has) that yes sin matters even after you come to the faith. Jesus said:

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell(1)

and again:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.(2)

Hmmm.... does it sound like sin matters?


Many will tell me in that day,Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works? Then I will tell them, I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity. Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock.(3)

And if you're still not convinced, read the parable of the talents. Christ's teachings are consistent. Sounds to me like He is pretty serious about you actually putting your money where your mouth is. Sounds to me like sin really has consequence even for a 'born again' Christian. If the words 'Depart from me, you who work iniquity' doesn't strike fear into your heart, you and I are going to have trouble reaching common ground on anything. I dont understand how doctrine which deviates from the teaching of the Church (faith alone) can provide an adequate feeling of safety for those who believe faith alone saves you. Will you debate theology with God when you stand before His throne?

Now Protestants would accuse me of using 'straw man' tactics. "We believe that sin matters too!" They say this only because they refuse to carry out their beliefs to their logical conclusions. Its akin to the atheist who stubbornly insists that he/she can legitimately believe in morality.

However, Catholicism makes so much more sense to me. At Baptism you are forgiven of all your sins. If you commit further sins, you must pay for them. Confession forgives mortal sins and partaking of the Eucharist forgives venial sins.

Even St. Clement (the 4th pope still in 1st century) in his first epistle to the Corinthians said:

You stretched forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful to you, if you had been guilty of any involuntary transgression.

When describing the coming together of the early saints. So now you see the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church. In deed, your venial (involuntary) sins are forgiven at the mass. Whatever sins are left over at the time of death must be purged from you by the fires of purgatory. This also complies neatly with Sir Isaac Newton's law 'every action has an equal and opposite reaction'. Every sin must be accounted for before you enter the kingdom.

In this light, what Christ said "if your eye causes you to sin"... makes quite a bit of sense. Why, if my sins were forgiven long ago, would I even think to pluck out my eye to avoid sin? Who cares about sin when its already forgiven!!!

It would be like someone telling you to go into the mall and buy anything you want and he'd pay for it. But then also telling you "dont buy too much because it will be too expensive". These two dont make sense together. Why would it matter if its too expensive? How can it be too expensive if he is paying the cost? Likewise, if Christ told us "just believe in Me and all your sins now and forever are forgiven" and then later "be careful not to sin... in fact if your eye causes you to sin this is such a serious thing that you should pluck that eye out"... well I'd be a little confused. This is precicely what the Protestants think He said. (Yea yea im taking it out of context..... sure.... ) So you have the evidence. You can judge for yourself which makes more sense.

Of course faith alone and instant forgiveness is much more covenient. Its a much easier path. Its not hard to see why so many are drawn to it as opposed to that "Catholic guilt". But once again, logic, reason and historical credibility (not to mention the voice of the saints and martyrs) are on the side of the Catholic Church.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Decision Making for the Christian

Do we listen to God’s instruction for our lives? When God tells you to do something, do you do it without hesitation? Or do you question it? Do you complain about it? Do these questions sound reasonable to you? Are you entertaining them? (I hope you’re brushing them off because its this type of vague rhetoric that I want to express some frustration about).

These types of questions are very common in the Christian community (especially the evangelicals). Christians have developed a pseudo language to talk about spiritual matters and have evolved it using an “emperor’s new clothes” method of confusion into a language which can only be understood by those who are shallowly pretending that questions like those above have more meaning than simply “do you do what you feel like God wants you to do?” (Also see this post of mine and realize that God has probably never told you to do anything).

Another rhetorical and practically meaningless phrase that I am not particularly fond of is “just give it to God”. Yea and how exactly do you do that? “Just stop worrying about it and realize that God is going to take care of it” …. Ok let me recap: the solution to my problem of “worrying” is to “stop worrying”. Thanks for the help captain evangelical!

Let me explain why the question “do we do what God tells us to do?” is only asked by someone not wanting to address any real issues on a practical level. This a pretend scenario. For some reason, we like to think of the spiritual world in ‘make-believe’ terms. We all pretend like something is going on when it really isn’t. In the real world, when faced with a tough decision, the problem is knowing what to do. The problem isn’t knowing whether or not to do the right thing! It's to know what the right thing is! Sometimes several solutions would morally acceptable. (Obviously I am not talking about moral questions here because when faith or morals are involved, we have the Church to guide us). We want to know which one we should do but God doesn’t come out and tell us which one. Our dilemma is not whether or not to follow what He wants for us, but to know what the correct course of action is (regardless of how painful it might seem at first).

We also like to say things like “Let God be the pilot of your life”. Is that like saying “Let God be the puppeteer”? Or what do you really mean by this? God gave us free will. Our challenge is to balance free will and following His will for our life. But the real challenge is knowing what His will is. I don’t want to become a monk for example, but if God split open the heavens and cried out with a thunderous voice accompanied by a choir of angels “I want you to become a monk” then... well that would be the easiest decision I would ever have to make in my life. Problem is, He doesn’t do that very often. In fact: He’s never done it for me and I doubt He ever will. So I have to make decisions (seemingly) on my own sometimes. So what do you really do when you pray and pray every day but receive no clear answer?

I am trying to think in the past of all the big decisions Ive made and how they have affected me for good or for evil. When I think back, I don’t remember any major mistakes that I made in which I prayed a lot before hand. Perhaps I can take comfort in that.

Sometimes I just wish I could know for sure one way or the other. (And uhh… no I don’t have any big decision coming up I’m just randomly blogging. Ahem…)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Clement to the Corinthians Part IV

Continuing my reflections on the book study that a group of guys from Church and I are doing on Clement's First Epistle (to the Corinthians). See also Parts 1, 2 & 3.

This week, we covered chapters 14, 15, & 16.

It is right and holy therefore, men and brethren, to obey God rather than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become the leaders of a detestable emulation. For we shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting strife and tumults, so as to draw us away from what is good.

These are such men as Hans Kung who have in modern times risen up in the Church with no intention other than to despise what is holy, and teach others to do evil. (Thankfully the Pope has silenced him and his comrades). The Apostle Paul said:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!(1)

And again:

If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.(2)

If a dissenter rises in the Church and begins to lead others to believe in doctrines contrary to what the Church teaches (after all it is, as Paul calls it, "the pillar and foundation of truth") then he has condemned himself. For Christ Himself said "If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown in the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck"(3)

What is the gospel they preached? Faith Alone? To reiterate what I said in my previous discussion on the topic, we know what Christ and the Apostles taught on the subject. As if their words weren't enough (see Matthew 21:28-32 or James 2:24 for the clearest example) we have extensive writings from the very students of the apostles such as St. Polycarp (disciple of St. John), Linus, Clement (successors to St. Peter) and many others. The more recent you get in history, the more Church writings we have. They have remained orthodox. They have not taught a new gospel as Paul warned against. Here we see Clement warning the Corinthians (as Paul had already done a couple times) against the heresies arising in the Church and the sin being left unaddressed. This is a great example of St. Clement exercizing his vital role (as the 4th pope) and ensuring that the Church maintain its orthodoxy as Paul warned us to do. The Church cannot tolerate anyone who teaches false doctrines and like a rebelious sheep leads others away from the flock. This is why Hans Kung was silenced. This is why Martin Luther was excommunicated.

Interestingly enough, Protestants have no problem using the "Apostle or student of an Apostle" defense for Scriptural authority such as in this apologetic article on the subject by Craig S. Hawkins. But when it comes to the full extent of what was unanimously taught by the Apostles, and the students of the Apostles, they are quick to reject certain points that they don't like.

Clement writes:

Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it.

This inspired a quick discussion on the doctrine of pacifism which I will address more fully at a later time. But a few quick points I wanted to make on the subject: Several years ago while I was still a Protestant, I read the book "The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You" by Leo Tolstoy. (Although Tolstoy's views are certainly outside of the Church's teachings and can legitimately be called "weird" in many cases, he was a brilliant writer and his book sure got my gears turning on the subject). I was very dissapointed however, to find that the Protestant community routinely and unhesitantly brushed the subject off without even a second glance. I couldnt even find any reasonable dialogue on the subject.

I posted a message on an apologetic forum regarding Christ's teaching of turning the other cheek. The replies started off like this "This is one of the most misunderstood passages in Scripture" (Immediately my BS Warning Meter was going through the roof) It is quite obvious that the Protestant world routinely ignores that passage and if they deal with it at all, they will dumb it down significantly from its apparent meaning. He was insinuating, with this opening statement, that it is common for people to read this passage and conclude that pacifism is the correct interpretation of the issue. This couldnt be further from the truth! I knew of no one who taught or believed that! Protestants think that this verse means "if your buddies at work are making fun of you because you're a Jesus freak, don't make fun back". I was extremely frustrated with the complete lack of any honest dialogue on the subject in Protestant circles. Now I am quite pleased to see that not only is there dialogue in the Catholic Church, but the Church illuminates the subject quite adequately and has taught exactly as Christ Himself did as the Apostles and martyrs also bore witness to.

I digress, but this did lead me to bring up during our discussion another great thing about being Catholic now. As a Protestant, sometimes I would quote Scripture in conversation to other Protestants just to get a debate going. (I wouldnt tell them it was Scripture I would just say it as if I were stating my own opinion). Its fun, you should try it sometime. Just say something like "we are justified by works and not by faith alone", or "To those who are on the outside everything is spoken in parables so that they might be ever seeing and never percieving and ever hearing but never understanding. Otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven" or "if someone steals some of your belongings you should offer to him other belongings as well" or "Christ's body is real food and His blood is real drink" etc.. etc.. the list goes on. All of these will cause a Protestant to get defensive because they conflict with their world view yet they are all found nearly word for word (the first 2 are word for word and the other two I dont have memorized but look it up for yourself) in Scripture.

The great thing about being Catholic is, if you see something in Scripture, (such as the above), you can unhesitantly repeat it and believe it since you can be certain the One Holy Catholic & Apostolic Church will dare not deviate from Scripture, the traditions of the Church or from the authority of the Curia (as we see being exercized by St. Clement the Pope above).