Saturday, July 29, 2006

Unity Within the Catholic Church

This week's reading pertain to Church unity and ecumenism. (Of course my posts are never terribly ecumenical... don't get me wrong ecumenism has it's place... just not here). I'm going to write on this topic using the unity within the Catholic Church as a piece of evidence in favor of it being the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church that we profess in the Nicaean Creed.

When deciding which religion to choose, if one had nothing else to go on, you might simply pick the largest religion to be the true religion. Furthermore, you might just pick the largest sect or faction of that religion to be the true. If you were to do so, you’d find that Christianity is the world’s largest religion and Catholicism (being Christianity in it’s original form)is the largest faction within that religion. Of course, I consider this frail evidence but interesting none the less. After all, it’s easier to deceive a few than to deceive many.

Yet more convincing than this is the level of unity that persists within the Catholic Church. Does every Catholic on the planet agree on every issue? Certainly not. Furthermore, there are plenty of so called “Catholics” out there who reject some of the beliefs of Catholicism. In recent times we are aware of Senator John Kerry who claims to be Catholic yet believes that abortion is ok. There are of course different orders within Catholicism but they don’t necessarily compete. There are minute differences from one area of the globe to another of course, but overall there is an impressive level of unity throughout the church. The entire church participates in the same liturgy each and every day. I have not been a part of the Catholic Church long enough though to fully appreciate it’s unity. I merely speak of what I have seen so far.

I am of course discussing this point in contrast to the disunity of the Protestant church. I mentioned before the shear number of denominations. While there are as many Catholics as all Protestant denominations combined, I’d say it’s significant that it’s level of unity is so far above and beyond the Protestant idea of unity (even within many of the individual sects) that it’s not even worth discussing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Different Ways God Talks To Us

Heres a fun experiment... Go out and ask 100 evangelicals to explain how God talks to them. Hell, this day in age when sentimentalism is so rampant go ask 100 American Catholics (sadly the answers wont vary much). I was a little disillusioned at first when I came to the Church and even jokingly poked at my Protestant friend that the Catholic Chuch was "like Church, but for grownups". However, going through the RCIA process has made it evident that sentimentalism is nearly as strong in the Catholic Church as in the Protestant ones. (I'm comparing Catholic andReformed here particularly since that's my background but from Catholics to say Baptists there'd be no comparison concerning the level of sentimentalism).

Ok back to our experiment. Here's what 99% of them will say "I don't hear an audible voice but its that still small voice inside me" Uh yea thats called your own thought process you should try to use it more often! (The actual distribution may be something closer to this):

Christian Men Who Believe
God Talks to them Using An Inaudible Voice: 67 out of 100

Christian Women Who Believe
God Talks to them Using An Inaudible Voice: 98 out of 100

Well we have all heard many different ways in which God speaks to us. Lets summarize a few of them. He talks through burning bushes, He talks through an audible voice that sounds close to a human voice (see Samuel's story), He blinds us unexpectedly and then speaks to us, and He uses a 'still small voice' inside our head to communicate with us. Now all of these methods have one thing in common: Biblical examples of occurances. Oh wait! Not all of them have been recorded in Scripture as a way in which God uses to speak to us. Can you guess which one has no known occurances in Scripture?

In every Biblical example of God communicating with man in which we know the means He used to communicate, it is an unambiguous (often intruding) experience in which the listener has no question in his mind whatsoever that God has spoken. Quite often in fact, His voice is accompanied by a miraculous sign (such as the burning bush or the blinding of Saul) and apparently, it's usually audible. The only uncertain occasions (and these are very few) are the post-ressurection New Testament occurances in which the Holy Spirit is said to have "told" or "led" someone to do something. With the few unknown occasions, doesn't it make sense to assume that the methods used would be similar to the methods used in the many known occasions? And what does the Church say?

'but we do not hear the Spirit himself' -Catechism 687

The danger in so many people claiming that God speaks to them through some 'still small voice' is that it put these individuals up high on their own little pedestal. Suddenly, their thoughts and opinions become equal with God's Word. (Here lies the problem with Protestantism in general but I digress.)

My uncle is a professional pianist. He told me how once, early on in his career, he had auditioned/interviewed for the pianist position at 4 different churches in one week. Each of them got back with him and told him that they felt "God was calling him to their church". So now we see the danger of where this kind of lie leads to. Without realizing it, the sentimentalist is now claiming God's authority on their own trivial feelings, opinions and desires. This is very dangerous. This even becomes a way of speaking. "I feel God leading me to... " or "I feel God calling me to..." have now become part of the sentimentalist's vocabulary to the point where there are merely replacements for what an atheist might say: "I want to do this..." but there is no supernatural in most of these cases I'm sure.

Another pathetic line I hear a lot is "you just have to learn how to listen". If you, a fallen man, can communicate to me without any problems, then why is God having such a difficult time getting in touch with me? Can't He just learn to speak how I will understand? Did God speak to Moses in Swahili and expect Moses to learn it if he wanted to understand? Did He speak to Saul in a still small voice disguised as Paul's own thoughts and feelings & Paul just had to learn to recognize those 'special feelings'? God always has and always will speak to us how we are already capable of understanding. We needn't help Him out in any way. He is fully capable of delivering His message.

Now I am by no means claiming that God cannot / does not speak to us. This article on Greg Koukl's website was pretty interesting. He writes:

I had a friend once that told me about how she really felt God wanted her to go and talk to a friend of hers who was a non-Christian that she worked with and tell him that God loved him. After much consternation and fighting she said, "Okay, God, I give in." She got up out of bed in middle of the night, drove to his house, knocked on his door. He answered the door and she said, "Well, I just have to tell you that God loves you"--she felt pretty silly. The guy broke down and cried--he had been contemplating suicide. In kind of a last ditch effort at contacting God he said, "God, if you don't stop me I'm going to kill myself tonight." Then he gets a knock on the door; this woman says, "God sent me over here to tell you He loves you." Pretty remarkable!

I reccommend reading the entire article. I have had a similiar experience myself but I wont get into it now. I certainly believe that they happen but that they are special instances... not some every day occurance. The Holy Spirit indeed leads us and speaks to us through various circumstances etc... but don't confuse His voice with your own opinions and thoughts!

Here's my conclusion on the matter: God’s voice is not a ‘still small voice’ inside you. God is not a cosmic machine that is constantly trying it’s hardest to make contact with man. Man needs no training, practice or spiritual gift to hear the voice of God and God needs no help to make His voice heard. If man be competent to communicate with another man, how much more competent is the Creator of man? Furthermore, the Holy Spirit can never contradict Himself.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Catholic Church Fulfills Scripture

I have written a little so far discussing why I believe the implications of the fulfillment of the certain Scriptures (by the Catholic Church) are significant. However, it’s not in the scope of my intentions to provide an exhaustive list of those Scriptures which I conclude fulfilled by the Catholic Church, I only focus on those highlights which I feel most important. (Although if you're interested in such a list, Dave Armstrong's book entitled "A Biblical Defense of Catholicism" may be a good place to start.

One thing I would like to say though, is that when Jesus’ disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables, He told them it was deliberately so that not everyone would hear, repent and then believe(1). Later, Jesus explained to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and make all things known to them(2). He even quotes Isaiah in saying:

They will all be taught by God(3).

This, to me is clearly evident with the tradition of the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit did come to the Apostles. Through the Apostolic Succession, the Holy Church inherited that truth and perpetuates it to this day. With the illumination of that church, I am able to read passages like John 6 and understand. As a Protestant, I read a lot of Christ’s teachings and they never really registered because I was taught to reject a priori what the Catholic Church taught about various things. Well that’s fine as long as the Catholic Church is wrong. But what if they’re right? Now that I’m assuming they’re right, these passages make much more sense. Were it not for the teachings of the church, I wouldn’t understand transubstantiation and probably many other issues.

The above are of course the highlights. Still, some would disagree for sure. Protestants have tomes of rebuttals stored up for these Scriptures and explanations for why they have no real meaning. But as I've done in the past I do again... I refer back to Occam's Razor. (The simplest solution is usually the best). I believe these passages do have meaning. I believe that when Jesus said to Peter, "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."(5) that He wasn't just speaking idle words. I believe He meant what He said.

Also, remember Christ told the apostles, "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."(4). What do you think He meant by this? If not for the fulfillment of this quote from Christ by the direct teaching of the Church, what meaning does it have?

Protestants have the luxury of skipping a large portion of Scripture with their sermons. The Catholic liturgy of the Word demands that the entire bible be read over the course of a few years. So normally you wont hear Protestants talk about these (and plenty of other) passages. In the rare case they do preach on such passages as John 6 or James 2, you will only hear a sermon on what the author of that passage is NOT saying. You will never hear a sermon on what that author IS saying. A good question to ask though is, ' if Jesus didnt mean that the Church would be built on the succession to Peter when Christ told Peter that he was the rock on which the Church would be built on, then what did He mean?' (Don't expect a real answer).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Have Science And Modernism Marginalized Religion?

This article entitled, "God Is Winning" reminded me of something I have been wanting to post on for a while. It talks about the fact that despite the advances of science and modernism, theism continues to grow. There are even more theists now than there were 100 years ago (per capita) according to the article and several others I've read. The article also claims that as soon as the year of our Lord 2025, 70% will likely belong to one of the three top religions (in order of their numbers: Christianity, Islam & Hinduism) It's already around 64%.

Some people think of religion as a crutch for the impoverished and uneducated of society. How true is that statement though?

Even though poverty is still a serious problem in many countries a lot people are now better off in economic terms. But as the world's population has become wealthier and more educated they have not turned their backs on God. A case in point is the rapid economic development in China, accompanied by a strong growth in religious belief.

Atheists would love us to believe that after the 'enlightenment', men began to realize that religion was nothing more than superstition and that science is what would lead us into truth. But this is based on the lie that atheism is something new or somehow related to science. Neither of these two claims have any validity. The article above (along with pure common sense) disproves the latter, and as for the former:

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."(1)

Or listen to the first 5 verses of the second chapter of Wisdom where we have a nearly exact description of the logical conclusion to all atheistic cosmologies (though atheists are usually hesitant to admit this) and this was written over 2,000 years ago:

For they have said, reasoning with themselves, but not right: The time of our life is short and tedious, and in the end of a man there is no remedy, and no man hath been known to have returned from hell: For we are born of nothing, and after this we shall be as if we had not been: for the breath in our nostrils is smoke: and speech a spark to move our heart, Which being put out, our body shall be ashes, and our spirit shall be poured abroad as soft air, and our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud, and shall be dispersed as a mist, which is driven away by the beams of the sun, and overpowered with the heat thereof: And our name in time shall be forgotten, and no man shall have any remembrance of our works. For our time is as the passing of a shadow, and there is no going back of our end: for it is fast sealed, and no man returneth.

In deed, without God your life shall be as if it had not been!

Read this post in Japanese.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Apparent Contradictions From The Pope & Curia

Hans Kung (a Catholic priest who played a major role in Vatican II) wrote a book on papal infallibility which criticized John Paul II on the basis of contradictions which is what I will be discussing here. I thought glancing at his work might be a good place to start when writing a post like this. However, upon reading the highlights of his book, one quickly realizes that you’d be equally likely to find intelligent material written on the walls of a truck stop restroom. Not all accusations against papal infallibility are as easily dismissed however.

The ‘apparent contradiction’ that has stood out to me more than others is the Church’s former (apparent) teaching that only through the Catholic Church can one be saved. If you talk to anyone who was a Catholic 40 years ago but is not now, you will inevitably find that they will tell you that the Catholic Church teaches that only Catholics can be saved. Because before Vatican II, I am quite confident that’s what every Catholic was taught and believed.

What does the church teach now?

The Catholic Church professes that it is the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ; this it does not and could not deny. But in its Constitution the Church now solemnly acknowledges that the Holy Ghost is truly active in the churches and communities separated from itself. To these other Christian Churches the Catholic Church is bound in many ways: through reverence for God's word in the Scriptures; through the fact of baptism; through other sacraments which they recognize.(1)

Since Vatican II we seem to be hearing quite a different tone. In this quote we have the church apparently admitting that the Holy Ghost is also active in non-Catholic churches. Elsewhere, the current pope Benedict (Cardinal Ratzinger at the time) wrote the following:

“it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God. Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements which come from God, and which are part of what the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions. Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God. One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments. Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors (cf. 1 Cor 10:20-21), constitute an obstacle to salvation.”(2)

This document by the Cardinal was ratified and confirmed by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000. So this dichotomy at leasts begs the question, how do we intepret each of these statements without contradicting ourselves? In one, we have the admition that the Holy Ghost is active in non-Catholic churches and whatever that entails. The other says though, that the Roman Catholic Church is not just one way to salvation. So now we have to ask what does “the Holy Ghost” being active mean? I’ll leave the question with the reader.

Now that we have some idea of what the Church currently teaches concerning other denominations, what of the non-Christian?

The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church; salvation is open to him also, if he seeks God sincerely and if he follows the commands of his conscience, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men; this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church.(3)

First let me reiterate that it clearly states that the non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church. It is only making an ‘excuse’ for those who are ignorant and not those who know and have rejected. As a man, I can see that it is unjust to require of someone something he is literally not capable of producing. How much more is God keenly aware of this concept?

Well so far so good, I don’t see too much of an issue here. I consider this merely a ‘speed bump’ with some clarifications that need to be made. But here are some Papal quotes that pre-date Vatican II that lead me to raise an eyebrow on the issue:

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins...In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism [Ephesians 4:5]. There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed....Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
- Pope Boniface VIII(4)

It [the Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart 'into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels' [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.
- Pope Eugene IV(5)

Now here I seem to be getting some very strong vibes from previous popes that you cannot be saved under any circumstances while separated from the Catholic Church. Although with closer examination and with the examination of the final statement we will view from Vatican II, it becomes more evident that these quotes had very contextual purposes within their historical backdrops. Pope Boniface, for example was writing specifically to French Catholics who were not submitting to the pope and does not directly deal with issues regarding those born outside the fellowship of the church(6). Furthermore, Vatican II aptly summarizes the issue by the following:

“The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. ...it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church."

"Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ."

"The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation."

"It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church."

"Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life- that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is 'the all-embracing means of salvation,' that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God."(7)

This clearly shows that the official Catholic teaching is that Protestants who grew up outside the Church may also be saved though their denomination is considered deficient. I have not found, even in the previously quoted popes direct evidence that the Church ever taught otherwise. Now, I think it’s safe to say that Catholics (for the most part) sure thought that way at one time, but I don’t believe that the Church ever specifically taught it.

I have addressed this one issue and I’m sure there are many more like it that I will come across and that others already have. I have a strong suspicion that other issues regarding ‘apparent contradictions’ with the papacy will follow suit or won’t even be worth debating.

References

(1) Dogmatic Constitution on the Church - Lumen Gentium. Chapter 1: "The Mystery of the church," Sections 14 to 16

(2)
DECLARATION "DOMINUS IESUS" – Joseph Card. Ratzinger 2000 AD

(3)
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: Dedicated to 'The Immaculate'

(4)
Papal Bull: ‘Unam Sanctam’ - Pope Boniface VIII 1302 AD

(5) Papal Bull: ‘Cantate Domino’ – Pope Eugene IV 1441 AD

(7) Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio – Vatican II 1964 AD

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Margaret Sanger and Abortion's Legacy Of Evil

I stumbled across this article about Margaret Sanger and thought I'd pass it along for what it's worth. I'm not sure how much of that article is true. Im sure much of it is (maybe all of it). You don't have to be a priest to realize that the moral degeneracy of Margaret Sanger (feminist founder of Planned Parenthood) easily ranks with such recognizable names as Hitler and Stalin. After reading that article though, if even 25% of it is true a sane person may be wondering if she wasn't even worse.

For now, lets stick to the facts about her that even the liberals will agree with. This article from Time Magazine praises Sanger as a heroine for all she had done for the sake of birth control, fornication and abortion. Listen to this quote:

Sanger led by example. Her brave and joyous life included fulfilling work, three children, two husbands, many lovers and an international network of friends and colleagues.

So she was basically a promiscuous whore who advocated the murdering of children, free and confidential fornication, and the use of contraception (opposing the teachings of the Church) for the sole purpose of promiscuity without consequence. (At that time STDs weren't an issue like they are today) Wow. Sounds like a philanthropic heroine to me...With saintly women like these who needs mother Theresa?

Now of course she was an atheist and very anti-Catholic (what fellowship can light have with darkness) so this kind of degenerate behavior is to be expected. And indeed, at least it is consistent with her world view as was Nietzsche's. The problem with both of these people is that neither contributed anything positive to the world. In Margaret Sanger's case, she has been an indirect cause of countless deaths and the enabling heroine of more promiscuity than probably any other single person in history. Of course all of that is fine if Christianity isn't true. But if Christianity is true then well... somone's in trouble. The irony about her and atheists like her, is that if her cosmology is true (atheism) then it really just didn't matter anyway and all her work was more or less in vain.

I feel pity for the author of that Time article. (I'm being serious) Its really sad to see someone whose world view is so corrupted that they are never right about anything. Most people are on the right side of most issues. But there are those liberals who have been so thoroughly corrupted by liberalism and the lie that originally began in the garden of Eden, that they are pretty much wrong about every single issue in life. Proverbs refers to these people as "fools" lest you think that the Bible doesnt stereotype or categorize people.

Its interesting that in this and other liberal sources, Margaret Sanger's controversial views on eugenics are quite transparently downplayed. The liberals like to bring out points like 'oh she didn't like Hitler because she said such and such about his view on X". So she wasnt a Nazi who cares? She was an avowed Socialist, feminist, abortionist, promiscuous atheist....hell how much worse can you get? But to be honest I'm not really interested in her views on eugenics but its clear that she had plenty of views on the subject that would be shameful to say the least for all the folks over at Planned Parenthood if exposed.

The main reason I brought all this up was to expose Planned Parenthood for the rotten organization it is. Its also interesting that if you look at all the heroes and heroines of Liberalism, Atheism, Humanism, and Naturalism you end up with a list like this (in no particular order):

Margaret Sanger
Adolf Hitler
Frederick Nietzsche
Karl Marx

(And this is the BEST of. Im not pulling a list to try and make them look bad. ) Now the heroes and heroines of the Christian faith would be far far far too many to name. (You'd be hard pressed to find too many more well known atheists than the list above but if I were to start writing the heroes of Christianity blogger would crash because of lack of hard drive space)... So let's be fair to the 'little guy' and I'll only pick 4 Christian heroes (in no particular order) and I have no reservations in saying that each one of these made much greater contributions to society than all 4 of the above combined:

Mother Theresa
Rev. Billy Graham
Saint Paul
Saint Nicholas

Folks dont give Planned Parenthood an ounce of credibility.

Update:

I wanted to make one thing clear about this post. It may appear that Im simply bashing this woman and trying to paint her as the most evil person that ever lived. I am not. Neither am I condemning her (though Im certainly condemning her ideals). I hope she is in heaven as I write this. (I hope everyone goes to heaven). But her teachings and her behavior, though they are certainly appealing to human nature, only lead to evil and suffering never to good. That is why they are dangerous and should be exposed for what they are.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen To Us?

Martin Luther may well be the father of modern anti-semitism. Well I hope one day they consider me the father of 'anti sentimentalism' because I hate that stuff. I've already laid the smack down on such heresies as the rejection of the Real Presence, Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura but now I'd like to start opening a can of whoop ass on this flagrant sentimentalism so rampant in the Christian world today. Its gonna take a handful of posts to do so and this one may be a slight anamoly from the rest.

It's gonna sound a little cold when I say this and most people wont like it because they're living in their 'sentimental world'. But I hear people offering encouragements to others like "just remember everything that happens to you must first filter through the hands of a loving God". Well to Joe Schmoe emotionalist (didn't know that was a word... thank you spell check) this sentence sounds reasonable...even ...wise. Again, this is gonna sound cold but: that sentence doesnt make me feel any better.

You know some pretty bad things have happened to various people over the centuries. The holocaust filtered through His hands, every war crime in history did, all the martyrs who were tortured to death were allowed this death by God etc... etc... Right now as I write this, someone is being raped and will later be murdered. I dont really want any of these things to happen to me. Why am I so much better than all these others that these things wouldnt happen to me? The pretentious emotionalist unwittingly thinks in her mind "God loves me too much to let those things happen to me" as if God loved her more than others.

What gives me assurance and helps me sleep at night without worrying what dreadful torture or unspeakable cruelty is going to occur to me tomorrow is not the fact that I am a servant of a good God, but rather: the law of averages. Simple statistics. Thats right, you heard me. Horrible things only happen to a minority of the population. Winning the lottery also only happens to a minority of the population. I might be equally as likely to win the jackpot as I am to be burned to death. And if I shouldnt be any more likely to have something great happen to me (like winning the lottery) because I serve God (which Im sure we'll all agree to) then I shouldnt consider myself any less likely to have something bad happen to me for the same reason.

So next time you get worried or fear for your own sake, whip out a calculator and realize things will work out just fine (probably).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Calvinist Who Was Predestined to Become Catholic

Today's 2nd reading was Ephesians 1:3-14 which also happens to be amoung a Calvinist's favorite passages. Calvinists particularly love verse 5:

he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will

I was raised in a reformed Presbyterian church. Needless to say I've been a Calvinist all my life. The precepts of Calvinism made a lot of sense to me especially since I had a general tendency to lean towards determinism in my world view. I even went as far as scoffing at those who didn't believe in predestination. When I came to the Church I didn't know what they believed on the subject. When I found out that they rejected predestination I was a little shocked to be honest. 'They believe like the Baptists?! ' I thought...

Anyway, I put this issue on the back burner. When I found this debate between G. Brady Lenardos and Francois Tremblay (author of Handbook of Atheistic Apologetics) my viewpoint began to change a little. For the first time, I started to wonder if free will was perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of the universe and at the same time the greatest evidence for theism.
The debate is well worth the read (it's long) but I think any honest person would have to give the debate to Lenardos. (Of course I read a debate by William Laine Craig & John Dominic Crossan on the historical credibility of the gospels in which if Craig had defeated Crossan any more soundly there would have been an arrest that night and yet somehow liberals still thought Crossan held his own in the debate... I was baffled...but I digress).

Let me take this time to point out what most people don't seem to understand about Calvinism. Calvinists do not reject free will. They only insist that people are not able (as fallen creatures) to accept God without His grace being applied. This is a strong argument.

So I have been pretty surprised by the general lack of knowledge about Calvinism outside of reformed circles but especially in the Catholic church. In fact, I have yet to see anyone accurately represent it. I am no expert on Calvin and I've never read his 'institutes'. I'm not an expert on the Catholic teaching about salvation either so I don't intend to discuss in great detail the finer points of each side. I just want to make a few quick points.

I was having lunch a few Sundays ago after mass with my sponsor and his brother. Interestingly enough, his brother lives in Japan and belongs to the PCJ which is the exact church I grew up in except his is in Japan not America. Something his brother said got my gears turning over the next couple weeks. We were talking about the Catholic doctrine that those outside of the Church cannot be held responsible for their ignorance of Christ. Coming from a reformed background, this doctrine was a little offensive to me at first also.

His brother said that according to reformed theologians, it is not their ignorance of Christ which sends them to hell, but their sins to which they are rightly due eternal punishment for. This view point again is a strong position but it does have a weakness. It would be erroneous to attempt to argue this point from what might appear to be the obvious method.

You cannot accuse God of being unjust (really in anything) because of the fact that this is His creation. If God wanted to create people for the sole purpose of torturing them for their entire lives and then sending them to an eternal hell that would be just fine. Who would tell Him otherwise? This is His creation He will do what He will. There is no morality outside of Him. There is no justice greater than Him.

This is an answer to the age old philosophical problem - either right and wrong is a force outside of God (which even He would therefore be subject to and no longer truly "God" in our current sense of the word) or morality is simply a question of who has the most power. I remember apologist Greg Koukl answering the question posed to him by a caller by saying that there was some kind of a third option in which right and good were intrisically connected with God's very being and were simply part of who He was. Of course, a quick pondering of the answer will reveal that Dr. Koukl had conceeded by agreeing with the second supposition (right & wrong is simply a question of who has the most power). These are really the only two options. It is a strong basis for us to truly understand morality and I will post on this more sometime in the future. But I say all this now to show that God cannot be accused of injustice simply because we don't like something. So its quite reasonable on the surface for the reformed theologians to say God sends men to hell based on their sins.

Here is the problem, however, with the argument. Like I said before, it would be 'just' for God to create the world for the sole purpose of torturing His creation. If he had dones so, this behavior would become what justice itself is defined by. What God does is right by it's very intrinsic definition. It cannot be otherwise. But we can look at the world around us and at history and at the revealed truth from His Church and see that God didn't do that! He didn't create the world to torture us. By examining His attributes we quickly realize that He is a personal, loving and good God. He could have been anything He wanted to be. But goodness (like Dr. Koukl said) is an intrinsic part of His nature and by very definition it must be. The kicker is that we all like goodness. We like love. We like charity. We like pleasure. These things are good and what God intended for us.

So if we arrive at such conclusions (God is a good God) by observing the world and the ontological attributes of the universe, so shouldnt we arrive at conclusions about salvation by some similar methods? The reformed theologians claim that God sends people to hell because of their inherited sin nature and not because of their ignorance of Christ (therefore it is just for God to do so. My sponsor's brother said this in rebuttal to my point that even us sinful humans can see the injustice of God requiring something from someone which he is not able to produce. He was basically saying that I was looking at it incorrectly. It's not that God accepts those who are able and rejects those who are unable, but that God sends all men to hell based on their justly deserved punishment of eternal damnation yet He has chosen by special providence to save a select few; this is the heart of the Calvinistic theology). So what are the 'similar methods' I'm talking about? Just look at the Scriptures. When do we ever see God behaving in such a way? Do we see God requiring of someone something he is literally not capable of producing?

The T on Calvin's TULIP stands for "Total Depravity". Contrary to widespread misconception, this doctrinal point teaches that men are total depraved insofar as they are unable to respond to God's call [many are called but few are chosen(1)] without God's unmerited grace. It does NOT teach (as I've heard some Catholics propose) that all men are total depraved and thoroughly evil to the point that they are unable to do any good works. While this sort of theory would not be self-contradictory (such as the theory of Sola Scriptura), it does have problems. (That is, it could be true as a doctrine by itself if we didnt have a fuller understanding of Scripture and Church teaching).

In my post on the importance of symbolism, I attempted to outline my belief that God delights in symbolism and prefigurations. They say art imitates life... I've heard some say life imitates art. God uses not only logical, tangible means to convey truth but also abstract, interconnected, analogies found throughout all of creation with such an unparalleled beauty and truth to them that its hard to see sometimes how those who are outside of His grace can be so blind to the wonder of it all.

So therefore I also believe that to at least some degree, God's personal interaction with humans as recorded in the Scriptures paint us a beautifully accurate picture of how God also interacts with humanity on a broad scale. Afterall, do we not call the Scriptures 'the Word of the Lord'? How is a story about Abraham part of the Word of God? It's precicely because of this reason: God interacted with Abraham on an individual level, but this interaction is part of the message of God which reveals Himself to us. His individual interaction with Abraham is a thread woven in a tapestry of truth, the entirety of which, reveals to us the living Word. God does not change and He does not deal with mankind differently than with man (of course some details may change based on practicality).

Consider when Abimelech took Sarai from Abraham (Abram at this time) with the intentions of sleeping with her because Abram had said ‘she is my sister’.(2) When Abimelech found out through a dream that she was really Abram's wife, God said “because you were ignorant, I kept you from this sin".

God is aware of our state and our ability and this passage is a great illustration of that. God knew that Abimelech was ignorant, therefore by special grace God did not allow him to sin. This is a picture of those who are ignorant of Christ and His Church. In agreement with the Catholic doctrine, God is certainly capable of providing special grace for these individuals. Taking it even a step further, we know by observing God's past interaction with men that He is especially prone to render special grace on behalf of those who need it most. As we pray in the Rosary , 'lead all souls into heaven especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.' Furthermore, was Abimelech a 'born again Christian'? Was he even a Jew? Did he practice Judaism in piety before God? We'd all like to say "no one knows" but lets all just be honest and say "no". Yet why did God withhold him from sin? What difference does it make since (according to Calvinistic theology) he's going to hell anyway? Perhaps God provided him with special grace by withholding him from sin and this act was but a prefiguration of the special grace God would impart to him towards salvific ends (and not only for him but for the remainder of the human race who were in desperate need for this kind of special grace).

Now lest you think this is some kind of anamoly, read the entire Bible (all 73 books). You will notice that God always acts in this way. Again, yes it would be just (philosophically) for God to require whatever He wanted from men. He could condemn us all to hell without a trial. He could tortue us mercilessly from the day we were born. He could easily send all men to hell except those who had first heard of Christ and then not only accepted but followed faithfully His teachings. He could send all the ignorant tribesmen to hell without a second thought. But what we know from the teachings of the Holy Scripture and from the Infallible teachings of His Holy Church is that this is not the kind of God we serve.

Much more needs to be said on the subject and I certainly will post other things on the topic of Calvinism and predestination. But I hope this much has been helpful to some.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Annual Charlotte Japanese Festival (Bon Odori)

Every year, the Japanese Association of Charlotte puts on a huge Japanese festival. This occurs around the beginning of August which is the traditional date for this Japanese holiday of Buddhist origins. It's called a Bon Festival or Bon Odori (Odori means dance). Despite the relatively small Japanese population in Charlotte, apparently Charlotte's festival happens to be one of the largest in the United States.

In previous years, I have found that the publicity for this event has been very lacking so I have decided to use my blog to help. This post will (most likely) end up on google so at least if anyone is searching for it they can find it. I had to find out through a Japanese friend this year when it was going to be. So here is the information:

The 2006 Charlotte Bon Odori Festival will be held on Saturday, August 5th 2006 at the Wachovia Atrium located downtown: 435 S. Tryon St. I believe it will start around 11 am. They'll have lots of Japanese food from various vendors, Japanese beer, games, raffle prizes, cheap Japanese books and lots of other stuff (including music & dancing). Its a lot of fun and I'd recommend everyone (even if you're not interested in Japanese culture) to come.

Also, in the unlikely event that anyone is interested, here is my new Japanese blog.

Liberal Hypocrisy

Welcome to today's episode of Liberal Hypocrisy. Last time, we heard from the racist reverend Jesse Jackson and the liberals in the media propagating their racist agenda.

Here are some recent headlines that continue to expose liberals for the frauds that they are:

Britain insists that Catholic Charities must be
discriminated against because they discriminate. Read the article here. This is similar to the recent US case. Catholic charities feel they have the right to their own beliefs (novel concept I know) and do not wish to fund or support causes which are unambiguously opposed to the teachings of the Catholic church. Now what about this is so difficult for liberals to comprehend?

Gay pride in the Holy Land? Thats the plan.
"Chief Rabbi calls on Pope to denounce Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem" good idea Rabbi. I hope the Pope listens.

The majority of city council members - 24 out of 31 - have signed a petition against the parade. A poll indicates that only 12 percent of citizens support the gay rally and that 69 percent oppose it.

The people dont want it, yet we cant have the majority discriminating against the minority can we? Instead we should have the minority imposing their opinions on the majority. (Thats what liberals believe anyhow) Here's the full story.

In Illinois, a Catholic citizen's group is calling for the removal of one hateful liberal from a taxpayer funded 'anti-hate commission'. Anti-Hate commission? What a freakin joke! Knowing full well that probably every member on that pathetic board is probably a liberal who hates every pure thing immaginable. Oh the hypocrisy. Here's the scoop.

Well enough of hypocrisy...How about good ole fashioned 'the world's going to hell in a handbasket' headlines:

New UN agency proposed to promote women's rights

Yea thats what the world needs! Give me a break.




Friday, July 14, 2006

The Distortion of Horror Movies

On the way home from work a thought occurred to me and I'm not really sure if it makes any sense so I'll blog about it and if it still makes sense when I see it in writing I'll leave it. Then if no one seems to have any big objections to it I'll assume it made some kind of sense.

Now I don't watch a lot of horror movies... in fact I despise horror movies and I'll preach on that a little later... but I was thinking about the movie 'Devil's Advocate' (not that this is necessarily a horror movie) and I thought particularly about the scene where the woman has a dream and there is a baby in a room holding... something (I'll just assume you've seen the movie so I dont paint any unnecessary pictures in your mind). Theres other scenes where faces become distorted unexpectedly... Similar things are shown in many horror movies. Children seem to be used a lot for whatever reason. In the "Passion" by Mel Gibson, Judas Iscariot's demons are portrayed as children who are at first normal but then their faces become distorted and appear like old men with fangs and other weird things. Satan is also portrayed holding a 'baby' that looks like Pilate and quite distorted.

Now I'm mentioning all these things to show something and hopefully we can already see some kind of connection between these things. Granted the mood surely has an effect on it, but when anyone sees these things its usually described as "creepy" or "freaky". What is it we don't like about these things? What is it about these images that is "scary". Why should it be scary at all?
The evil about this imagery is that it is taking God's creation and distorting or perverting it.

I wonder in a naturalistic Darwinian cosmology, where do these feelings come in? Does distortion threaten our safety? Why would it arouse fear in us? (If you know of a good answer by all means post a comment) I'm just curious. We all know why monsters are scary. Even though we may not believe in him, if we saw Godzilla that would arouse justifiable fear in us (for our own safety). But why would we fear if we saw a small child who looked like an old man in the face? By any observable means, how does that threaten our safety? Why does distortion cause fear? I think anyone who has ever experienced anything like that knows that it is a different kind of fear than the type of fear you feel when you feel your health (or even life) may be threatened by some reasonable thing like a wild animal or an aggressive human.

I have stated before my belief that as beings created in God's image, some things are very intrinsic to our nature. God has written His law on our hearts. He has also made Himself evident to all men to the point where no one has an excuse. (1) When we witness such distortions and perversions of what we know to be the way and order in which God created, somewhere; somehow we know it is demonic in origin. I am curious for other theories to explain this phenomenon if anyone has any.

Now as for horror movies... let me preach on it. (I'm sure I'll be doing more of this come October) but let me express my deepest resentment for horror movies and all things that glorify gore, violence (for the sake of violence), pain, horror, terror, fear.. these things are evil! How can parents be so concerned over a movie with nudity in it (and of course we should guard ourselves and children against lustful movies) yet have no problem exposing their child to some perverse horror movie which glorifies gore, violence, terror and pain? It is a Satanic deception that this filth is harmless. You call this entertainment? It is poison. What you set before your eyes goes into your mind. What stays in your mind eventually goes into your heart. What comes out of your heart will make you unclean.

For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' (2)

Listen to St. John Chrysostom scold his parishioners in the 4th century for exposing themselves to lewd scenes at the theatre (the same thing we are guilty of today):

For tell me, if any one were to lead thee into a palace, and show thee the king on his throne, wouldest thou indeed choose to see the theatre instead of those things? And yet even in the palace there is nothing to gain; but here a spiritual well of fire gushes up out of this table. And thou leavest this, and runnest down to the theatre, to see women swimming, and nature put to open dishonor(3)

If setting lustful, pornographic images in front of your eyes is evil and causes you to become enslaved to this lust, feeding this fleshly desire... (which I think we can all agree it certainly does these things) then what does setting demonic images in front of your mind do to you? What does glorification of pain and gore and fear do to your mind? Can any possible good come of this? Are you entertained by this? You should hang your head in shame!

Whatever you want to think, set it before your eyes on televesion. Read it in books and listen to it by audio. Whatever you put into your mind is what will stay there. Whatever things you dwell on in your mind will become the intentions and desires of your heart. Now what types of things do you want to think about?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.(4)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mary the Queen Mother In Catholicism

While I'm at it, I'll go ahead and finish up my posts on Mariology with this one. This post follows a post on extra biblical doctrines which follows one on the 'full of grace' translation from Luke as support for the doctrine of the immaculate conception.

Disclaimer: I am not rejecting the 'Queen Mother' title or the Catholic churches teaching on Mariology. Just pointing out that it's not biblical (at least not nearly as much as some would like to believe it is).

This was originally written as a rebuttal to the book, ‘Queen Mother’ by Edward Sri edited by Scott Hahn.

When I started entertaining the idea of converting to Catholicism, I began reading a lot of Catholic apologetics to see if their ‘apologetic’ material held water. I was very surprised to find that Catholic apologetics were excellent. However, I anticipated that my biggest stumbling block coming into the Church would be Mariology. I was right. The Catholics I met were unable to provide any good arguments in support of Mariology and what I’ve read has been thin and weak. The book Queen Mother is well written and has a lot of truth in it. However, much of it is misleading and the over all strength of the apologetic value of the book is very weak in my opinion.

I try to be as objective as possible although I am surely somewhat biased. Though, I would love nothing more than to find some strong proof for Mariology because then I could accept completely the teachings of the Church. Let me state now that I accept the Church’s teaching and submit to it’s authority (on the strength of it’s other apologetics). However, like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bernard of Clairvaux,(1) I reject from a logical standpoint much of what is practiced in the realm of ‘Mariology’ today.

I view the issue as comparable to this metaphor: A friend of mine has a brother who says something extremely insulting to me. When I tell my friend about it, in order to protect his brother he makes an elaborate apology for why his brother meant nothing insulting at all. And while his apology in some regard seems rational and coherent… damnit I know what was said. I know that much of Mariology is somewhat historical within the Church and the teachings of it’s saints as shown in the early section of the book. But it cannot be argued that this doctrine was not a developmental belief. That is, early quotes seem to point to her as immaculate and even some (not so early) quotes seem to point to a queenship. But what the early church fathers said in no way detracted from the worship and the role of any member of the godhead. However, as we look more recently in history we some serious violations even by popes:
One can justly say that with Christ, she herself redeemed mankind.
- Pope Benedict XV(2)

Our salvation is based upon the holy Virgin... so that if there is any hope and spiritual healing for us we receive it solely and uniquely from her.
- Pope Pius IX(3)

I have problems with virtually every aspect of Mariology. While I’m willing to ‘honor’ her as the Catholic Church claims to do, I cannot place her on the pedestal that many Catholics do and I absolutely must (by order of my conscience) utterly reject such statements as those above. I have constantly observed this happening: Popes and other authoritative sources in the Church say something bordering blasphemy about Mary (in the cases cited above I fail to see how you could call that any less than blasphemy) and well meaning theologians apologize for it. I see this happening in the book as well especially the first part. The theologians try and paint a picture of Mary that is “easier to swallow” than the one that some popes and other church sources have previously painted. “When he said Mary saves us he didn’t mean that she SAVED us. Just that she was there while Jesus saved us” that kind of reasoning… That doesn’t fly with me. Just say what you mean.

However, the purpose of this essay is to specifically refute the book “Queen Mother” and not the other issues of Mariology. And I don’t even mean to refute the entire book as I agree with some of it and it brings up interesting points. Furthermore, I don’t intend to refute the doctrine of Mary as the queen mother. I just simply want to point out that such an idea is not nearly as ‘biblical’ as the author of this book makes it seem.

Before beginning let me restate that the book is well written. Being edited by Scott Hahn and from the words themselves I think I can assume that this among the best defense there is available for the “queen mother” concept. The problem with defending false concepts is that the best available apology is still very thin & weak regardless of the scholarly level of the apologist. This book has reinforced my belief that the issue of “queen mother” is far overblown in the Church.

The book is basically broken into two sections. The first section attempts to establish the “queen mother” as a prominent and very important role in the Davidic kingdom of the Old Testament. The second half is built on the first and shows how Mary fills that role queen mother since she is the mother of Christ (the king). The second half would be much more feasible if the first half weren’t so flawed.

The oft repeated Catholic sentiment on the issue: “In Biblical times the queen was the mother and not the wife.”

Despite the book’s misleading attempts at proving such a statement, there is only ONE instance of the mother being explicitly given the title “queen mother” in the bible. Let me repeat that. Despite the book’s misleading attempts at proving such a statement, there is only ONE instance of the mother being given the explicit title “queen mother” in the bible. Try and keep that in mind throughout the remainder of the rebuttal.

Now I am by no means denying that there was a legitimate office for the matriarch of a king in ancient Israel. It is obvious that there was. The book however is misleading in regards to how important that role was. What we have painted in this book is a skewed picture of the Davidic kingdom.

Also keep in mind that when we say “queen mother”, this is just our translation for the Hebrew word “Gebirah” which can mean several different things depending on the context & English probably doesn’t really have a suitable word. The word means something like the feminine of Lord. (It means something similar to our word Queen but since this office (gebirah) can be held by both the wife of a queen and a matriarch, the word Queen is not suitable since that English word means specifically the wife of a king).(4)

The word Gebirah (translated as “queen mother”) is mentioned in connection with THREE different women in the Old Testament.

1. Queen Tahpenes (Wife)(5)
2. Maachah, King Asa’s grandmother(6)
3. King Ahaziah’s mother(7)

Already we should be raising an eyebrow and asking ‘is this role so important?’ being only mentioned with three women and only one of which fitting the description of which we’re trying to fit it to? Let’s get down to specifics:

Chapter 2 pg 48 says:

“In the Old Testament, gebirah is often used as a title for the mother of the king but it is never used to describe the wife of an Israelite king.”

Often? The word is used 6 total times in the entire bible!!! Of those, 2 are ambiguous (prophetic writings Jeremiah 13:18, Jeremiah 29:2) and 2 specifically speak of someone other than a mother (1 Kings 11:19, 1 Kings 15:13)!!! You can see already how the book is misleading.

He says 'an Israelite king' deceivingly. If ‘gebirah’ had been mentioned 95 times and 45 of those times were describing Israelite mothers of kings and the remaining 50 times were of other nations containing both mothers & wives or just wives then he may have a point. But this is not the case. We have only ONE example of this being given to a mothe. So it is insignificant that it is used of a mother or grandmother EVERY time in connection with Israelite kings because there are only 2 examples! It is also insignificant that it applies only to the wives of foreigners since it is only used once. However, he takes for granted from this point on that every time it mentions gebirah it is talking about the mother. This is a glaring error and easily misleads the reader.

Let’s break it down mathematically:

Here are the three different women and their relationship to the king that are awarded the title “queen mother” or “gebirah”:

1. Mother
2. Grandmother
3. Wife

We’re only interested in whether or not it’s the mother though so let’s simplify it:

1. Mother
2. Not Mother
3. Not Mother

So we can see that ratio wise: 1/3 of the time it is mentioned it's talking about mothers and 2/3 of the time it is mentioned in connection with NOT mother or someone other than the mother. So in unknown circumstances, employing the methods of probability we can safely determine that most of time, when using the word ‘gebirah’ we are talking about “Not Mother”.

Chapter 2 pg 49 says:

First, the narrative of 1 and 2 Kings views the king's mother as having such an important role that it mentions her name while introducing almost every new monarch in Judah (all except three).

What he says is true. But it’s misleading! It is interesting that the mother’s name is usually mentioned. I am sure this does have significance. But keep in mind that none of these women are given the title ‘gebirah’ or ‘queen mother’.

On page 52 he says:

"Finally, the prophet Jeremiah tells how the queen mother possessed a throne and a crown"

Again, he is basing this on the faulty premise that the word ‘gebirah’ always means the mother of a king. The 2 times the word is used in Jeremiah are both ambiguous as to whether or not they are speaking of a mother or a wife. (He is taking for granted that it must be of a mother or grandmother) since it is speaking of Israelites but this is faulty logic as I have previously shown).

On page 54 he says:

"in this section, we turn our attention to two Old Testament passages which bear witness to the importance of the gebirah in Israel's traditions: Isaiah 7:14 and Genesis 3:15"

This is highly misleading as neither of those passages even use the word gebirah!

So we have shown how he has been misleading concerning the word translated as “queen mother” but what about the word “queen”? Ah hah! We conveniently forgot about that word didn’t we. (He never mentions it). Remember the original Catholic proposition?

“In Biblical times the queen was the mother and not the wife.”

We’re interested in the word queen. This is a completely different word from the word misused by Mr. Sri. The Hebrew word for queen is “malkah”. This means (as our word does) the wife of a king of course. Which of these offices were more important in the culture? Judge for yourself:

Gebirah (queen mother - mother, grandmother or wife) is mentioned 6 total times

Malkah (queen - the wife of a king) is mentioned 35 times

(There’s also another word “shegal” mentioned twice abstractly in Pslams which according to Strong’s meant exclusively the wife of a king)

It is clear that ‘queen’ means the wife even in that culture.

And what of the Catholic apologetic: “They had multiple wives at that time how could you have multiple queens?” I’m not sure but apparently Solomon found a way:
Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins beyond number;(8)

Now that we have shown the faulty premise on which the rest of the book is built, I will make a few comments on the second half (New Testament) portion of his book while trying not to be too redundant. I believe that most of the second part is fairly coherent and some of it can stand on it’s own. But he repeats several misleading themes from the first section and several of the arguments in the second half can only have real significance if the first half be true.

Page 76 suggests that it is significant that Joseph is left out of the narrative with the 3 wise men. He also admits that:

'all throughout the narrative in Matthew 1-2 Joseph is much more prominent than Mary'

and then later quotes Aragon saying

"Her mention in this moment, along with the omission of Joseph underlines that Mary is a person especially important for the narrator"

I fail to follow this logic. He claims that since the wise men found Jesus with the mother and not with the father this has some significance and proves that Mary is “especially important” for the author. Has it ever occurred to them that the Wise men may have actually found Him with Mary and Joseph wasn’t present as the text seems to imply? I fail to see how the random absence of Joseph could have any possible connection with her being the queen mother. Furthermore I find it more conclusive that Mary is decidedly less important to the author than Joseph since he is mentioned 10 times while she is only mentioned 7 times throughout the gospel of Matthew.

Pages 78-83 are devoted to proving that Jesus is from the Davidic line and has a kingly type role to play by birth. I don’t see this proving anything as I’ve already shown that the queen mother (insofar as the Bible teaches) is of marginal importance at best. I see no strong connection simply because He was of a Davidic line.

I find the arguments surrounding the woman in Revelation 12 by far the most convincing of the entire book. (I would still fail to see any real Biblical connection though aside from the teachings of the Church).

Jumping back to the first two chapters of Matthew, I wanted to make another point. The author is making the claim that the queen mother is important to Matthew. Is she really so important to him? In the genealogy of Christ, there are four women mentioned. None of them have ever been given the title “gebirah” and none of them are mothers of a king. This is strong evidence to indicate that not only was queen mother not important to Matthew, but it wasn’t important to his audience (the Jews) either.

One final point that should be noted: The office of queen mother was supposed to be a prefiguration of Mary according to Mr. Sri. Indeed, the Catholic apology for the Queen Mother title rests almost entirely on an argument derived from a prefigurational stand point (I think I just invented a new word). However, both Israelite queen mothers were known only because of the evil things they did. King Asa’s grandmother was deposed of her office for her idolatry and King Ahaziah’s gebirah murdered the entire royal family after he died. Sound like a prefiguration of Mary to you?

My conclusion is not that I reject the teaching of Mary as the queen mother, but that the concept is almost entirely extra biblical.

Sources:

1 St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s denied the Immaculate Conception (for example) http://www.ewtn.com/faith/Teachings/marya2.htm

2 Pope Benedict XV - Encyclical Intersodalicia 1918 AD

3 Pope Pius IX - Encyclical of February 2, 1849 AD

4 All Hebrew Language information is from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

5 1 Kings 11:19

6 1 Kings 15:13

7 2 Kings 10:13

8 Song of Solomon 6:8

Charlotte Japanese Language Group

Here's a little shameless self promotion since I can't seem to get my other site on Google for whatever reason. Since my posts here usually end up on google I thought I'd plug my website which is devoted to those interested in studying the Japanese language in Charlotte, North Carolina. So if you're living in or around Charlotte, NC check out http://www.charlottejapanese.org and join in the forum. The purpose of that site is to meet others (in person or for pen pals) who are interested in learning Japanese or who are Japanese and living in Charlotte looking for English language exchange partners. Also, if you're studying Japanese in Charlotte feel free to drop me an email.

Elected Morons

I thought it was funny by sadly appropriate when Michael Williams, on his blog, called our legistlatures retards but then apologized to the mentally retarded for grouping them in with our legistlatures. This article using the same liberal line 'you can't impose your morality on me' reminded me of this phenomenon. It literally boggles my mind how stupid some of these people are.

Part of this can be explained however by taking a look at another one of my posts which explained my theory that introverts have the upper hand in life's important issues because they are adept at using their brain while extraverts (even if they're smart) are pretty helpless when it comes to clear thought. Politicians probably tend to be extraverts in order to gain the popularity needed to be succesful at their trade. This would explain their... handicap at thinking.

I still chuckle every time I remember the 2000 presidential election debate between Al Gore & George W Bush. Al Gore wanted to make a point about caring about the enviornment. He said "In my faith tradition...we have a saying... wherever are the things you treasure, there your heart shall be also"... I was baffled by his utter ignorace of the meaning of that passage. In that passage Jesus is giving us clear instructions NOT to have our treasures on earth which is precicely the opposite of what Gore was saying it meant. To this day it remains one of the all time dumbest things I've ever heard in my life and I had to think to myself, how can one of the top runners for the most powerful position in the world be such an idiot? And Bush is no genius either... I'm just making the point that politicians may be idiots because they're winning popularity contests and not actually qualifying for the positions.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Extra Biblical Teachings

I've had this post sitting on the back burner for a while now but because of my previous post I felt it would be a good time to post this and clear up some possible misconceptions about what I'm saying. In my previous post I made the statement that the doctrine of the 'immaculate conception' (that Mary was born without original sin) is an entirely extra biblical doctrine. That is: it is not implicitly taught anywhere in the 73 books of the canon. This is not asserting that it is contradictory to Scripture, just that its not implicitly taught.

At first, (especially to a Protestant) this may seem like a huge problem for a doctrine. Yet it isnt as big of a problem as one might assume. There are many widely accepted doctrines (common to all Christianity) that are extra biblical. Here are some:

1. The Trinity (this doctrine originated in the 2nd century. Paul most certainly didn't believe in (at least not the way you and I do) as is evident in his writings. Every single one of his greetings are in the name of the Father and The Son but not the Holy Spirit. Now who of us would greet someone that way?

2. Prohibition against premarital sex (though the Church has pronounced this doctrine, it is not found anywhere in Scripture) The word fornication found in some New Testaments is a poor translation of the Greek word that we also get the word "pornagraphy" from and clearly means sexual immorality as it is correctly translated to in nearly all modern versions. Some claim that this is a violation of 'thou shall not commit adultery'. This is a glaring error as A) the word adultery here has a very specific meaning in OT context. B) the punishment for adultery was death while the 'punishment' for premarital sex was having to marry the person or pay the dowry. Also, the word in question here 'fornication' is the same word used in the sermon on the mount as the only allowable reason for remarriage. Now how could 'premarital sex' be a valid reason for ending a marriage? Doesnt make any sense. So we have shown that it is not prohibited in the Law, (it is mentioned once with stipulations on what should take place if you do it and this eliminated all confusion concerning the adultery law) and the word(s) in the New Testament translated as fornication mean something much closer to sexual immorality than
premarital sex.

Now, again... I'm not advocating premarital sex. It is a sin according to the Church. In biblical times, the union was created by sex not the union for the purpose of sex. You become one flesh when you 'consumate the marriage' (before the Church, Im not really sure what the Church teaches) But now because of the existence of the Church, there exists some legitimate claims to earthly moral authority and therefore the Church has the authority to wed two individuals. Do you think Abraham had a wedding ceremony when he took Hagar? Lets cut the bs. They barely had a concept of 'premarital sex' (especially in the patriarchal period) but rather considered the act of sex the taking of a wife (or at least a concubine). Sure for important marriages there were wedding ceremonies...

The reason I brought this point up was that I was very suprised to learn that the Church taught this as a mortal sin. I found it hard to believe that a prohibition not found anywhere in Scripture could be a mortal sin. I thought that explicit teaching of the sin must be found in Scripture in order to qualify. Nevertheless, this certainly makes my list of extra biblical doctrines widely accepted in the Christian faith.

3. Prohibition against polygamy - The bible, of course, never prohibits the marrying of multiple wives. In fact, in some cases it explicitly commands it! (1) Some may ask how this is compatible with the 7th commandment. The Hebrew dictionary in my printed version of Strong's Concordance defines adultery as: 'a woman that breaketh wedlock'. It would make very easy work of explaining the 7th commandment if the word used here was gender exclusive. This explanation would also not fail to account for the fact that men also can certainly be guilty of adultery as detailed in such places as the sermon on the mount. This can be reconciled with the traditional definition of the word by noticing that each time the man is guilty of adultery by sleeping with an adulteress or causing a woman to commit adultery and therefore guilty of the same sin.

In verse 28 we see the only explicit prohibition against lust in Scripture. It could be argued (and most seem to believe this way) that any act of lust would be adultery according to this verse. However, we all will agree on at least one exception: one's wife. We all believe 'sexual desire' to be permissible within the context of marriage so we have to admit at least this one exception. So clearly Christ isn't saying exhaustively 'if you have sexual desires for a woman you have commited adultery with her' since you can have sexual desires for your wife and the carrying out of those desires certainly wouldnt be adultery. Rather, I believe He is saying 'if you lust for someone with whom sex would be adulterous then you are already guilty of adultery'. The spirit of the law is clearly - if you fantasize about a sin it is the same as actually committing the sin.

All of this is compatible with the traditional definition of the Hewbrew word for adultery (na'aph - Strong's Word #5003) as stated above. However, the online version of Strong's and (I suspect) publications of it more recent than mine apparently do not translate it as gender exclusive. I don't pretend to know enough about Hebrew to even come close to making an argument either way but I would strongly suspect that the reason for the difference in the more recent editions has more to do with being politically correct than with actual scholarship.

Regardless, I am simply throwing this on the table to illustrate how easily (with the acceptance of the 'traditional' definition) polygamy can be reconciled with the 7th commandment (thou shall not commit adultery). Now this definition of the word really only assists us in explaining why it was permissable only for men to take multiple wives and not for women to have multiple husbands. Apologist Greg Koukl explained to a caller once (who was concerned that men could have multiple wives but not vice versa) that it wasn't prohibited for either party its just that the men of the day wouldn't have it. I disagree based on the assumption of the above definition of the word. This definition makes perfect sense of the entire issue. But again, assuming the more modern definition (not gender exlusive), we can still see how polygamy is compatible with this commandment as taking of multiple wives (or husbands) doesn't necessarily violate wedlock.

We know of the great fathers of the faith who were polygamists (Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon to name a few) and they are never scolded for this. It is pretty much undebatable that before the Church we have no prohibition against polygamy whatsoever. We do see in the New Testaments that pastors and elders should only have one wife (2) (3) (4) but we still see no universal prohibition against it. Yet both Catholics and Protestants accept this.

Now those three are certainly not an exhaustive list of the extra biblical doctrines common to all mainstream Christians. I would argue that they are probably the top 3 though. There are plenty of other extra biblical teachings common to only some Christians (Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Immersion only baptism etc...) But what I'm really interested in is showing that just because a doctrine is extra biblical doesnt mean its false or that we can or should reject it based on that piece of evidence alone. Church authority has allowed me to accept these teachings and some others with some level of believability.

Now most of Mariology, I would argue, is entirely extra biblical. Here are some of the main points of Mariology:

1. Immaculate Conception - In my previous post I gave a partial explanation why I believe this is extra biblical. The Catholic Encyclopedia says on the subject: "No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture."(5)

2. Assumption into Heaven - No argument here.

3. Mary as the Queen Mother - This one actually has some very thin (but arguably legitimate) claims to a marginal level of biblical support. Here is my blog on the subject.

4. Co-Redemptrix - Again no argument here. St. Paul would be turning in his grave if he heard about this one.

At the risk of sounding redundant, this is not to say that these doctrines are false, just that they aren't taught in Scripture (just like the 3 above). Now of all 7 of these doctrines, all of them are pretty much on the same level except for #1 - the Trinity. The Trinity, while yes extra biblical,
is superior to all the other 6 doctrines. I am most concerned with it's superiority over Mariology however. Here are my reasons:

The Trinity is superior to Mariology because:

1. It appeared earlier (early 2nd century) and became authoritatively pronounced dogma much earlier (Nicaea 325 AD)

2. It is virtually static (that is: as soon as it appeared, it remained the same even to this day)

3. It was and is accepted nearly universally by all Christians (even today Protestants believe it)

4. The rejection of it would cause serious theological problems with the rest of Scripture & all revelation.

In contrast, Mariology is inferior to the Trinity because:

1. It appeared later and wasn’t pronounced dogma until 1854 (the Immaculate Conception).(6)

2. It’s importance & implications gradually grew (To the point of having shrines built to Mary) This becomes evident when you look at early Popes like Clement (who a group of friends and I are studying now) who never mentions Mary even once in his epistle to the Corinthians and a Pope like John Paul II who seemed to have trouble saying a paragraph without mentioning her. (I'm exaggerating of course)

3. Notable saints (like St. Thomas Aquinas) have rejected much of it and a huge chunk of Christianity rejects it to this day.

4. The rejection of Mariology (Mary as anything more than a great person) causes no theological problems whatsoever.

Just thought I would toss all this out on the table. It is signficant however, to note that many early Church fathers made some very strong statements about Mary. St. Irenaeus said the following in the year of our Lord 190:

Eve was...the cause of death...; so also did Mary...become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race...The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.

Just my thoughts.

Full of Grace

I dont know why Catholics make such a big deal about this verse. This discussion on Cor ad cor loquitur made me start thinking about it again. I found the argument tedious and largely useless as the Catholic is trying to insist (as Catholics always do) that the term MUST be rendered 'full of grace.' Now any honest person who is fluent in English (forget Greek) knows that the term 'full of grace' isnt that important. Why? Because "Full of grace" doesnt mean "immaculate conception" or else we'd call it the doctrine of "being full of grace".

Further proof of this is found in the fact is that the Douay-Rheims Bible (based on the Latin Vulgate) also translates Acts 6:8 the same way in reference to St. Stephen:

And Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people.

1. If "Full of grace" is as important of a rendering as most Catholics insist, then it must have some intrinsic meaning inseparably linked with 'immaculate conception'.

2. If 1 is true then Stephen must also be 'immaculately conceived' since he was full of grace.

3. If the phrase 'full of grace' doesn't mean 'immaculately conceived' in Acts 6:8 then neither does it implicitly state it in Luke 1:28

Now of course I'm just arguing out of the English. The Greek translated in both Luke and Acts have the same root word (what we would translate as grace) but are in different forms and I certianly don't have enough Greek knowledge to argue about the correct translation from the Greek. But those who do apparently agree with me since the majority of translations (including all the top translations) either

A. Translate both as 'full of grace'
B. Translate Luke as something other than 'full of grace'

I'm not denying the doctrine of immaculate conception. I accept it on the Church's authority. But its time for Catholics to cut the bs and admit that this doctrine is 100% extra biblical. (Meaning it is not taught in Scripture not that it is contradictory to Scripture. More on this subject to follow)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Theistic Evolution & Old Earth Creationism

This post is a reply to Doc Rampage's recent post on the same topic. Doc, let me make a few quick observations if I may. First, very few (what I call) 'high level' apologists believe in young earth creation. Most believe in 'old earth' creation (not theistic evolution). Take such apologists as Greg Koukl, William Laine Craig etc...

There is a significant amount of evidence for old earth as you stated. But like you said, theres nothing about the evidence that would indicate God couldn't have done it in six days. (In other words the evidence is inductive not deductive in nature).

I tend to lean more towards young earth (creation of the earth with the appearance of age) myself but Im pretty agnostic on that topic. To me it makes little difference whether it started 6,000 years ago or 6 billion years ago.

However evolution to me poses a huge problem to Christianity. (Im sure Christianity could survive if we were to somehow find proof of evolution) but heres the big problem: Death before the fall of man. The cosmology that Christianity paints, or the world view insists that God's creation was GOOD even to the point of no death. Even something as trivial as thorns came about as a result of the fall according to Genesis. There are some who claim 'theistic evolution would only require animal death and not human death therefore it is compatible' however I find this argument weak. I see all death, even animal death, as an unintended consequence of sin. Christianity teaches that man has dominion over animals but no one can deny that animals feel pain and suffering when they are killed. (This is to speak nothing of course of the lack of evidence for evolution)

True, evolution would be actually conceivable given divine intervention. Without God the theory dwindles to a level of silliness in my opinion.

Interesting side note about your alien analogy: Francis Chick is the famous scientist and atheist who discoverd DNA. He was so opposed to theism that when he discovered it and realized how inadquate evolution was to explain the existence of such complexity, he developed his theory that aliens planted DNA on our planet.

King Solomon Must Have Been A Republican

The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.

Ecclesiastes 10:2

See? I told you Christianity has always been conservative! How prophetic is this verse? Now in case any of you think I'm taking this out of context read the next verse:

Even as he walks along the road, the fool lacks sense and shows everyone how stupid he is.

Ecclesiastes 10:3

Well that settles it... Clearly he's talking about liberals! Yall have a good one.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Meltdown of Liberal Christianity

I stumbled across this article from the LA Times on the newadvent website (I suggest reading the whole thing). Its really a great piece. Here's an excerpt (I love this first line):

When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million).

What great news! That made my day to learn that these frauds are losing members at such a rapid rate. Many faithful Protestants would probably consider themselves closer to PC USA (Presbyterian Church USA) than to the Holy Roman Catholic Church but they should think again. A friend of mine who is an elder at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church made the comment "we have more in common with the Roman Catholic Church than we do with the mainline evangelical denominations" and he was right. It's time for Christians and especially Protestants to acknowledge what the reformation has led to.

Those Protestants still wishing to reflect something vaguely resembling orthodoxy are moving to such denominations as the OPC and others but most seem to prefer the current center of gravity in the moderate evangelical world: Baptist denominations. Everyone loves Baptists... their doctrinal level is simple and very accessible. They're good singers, they have good youth programs... they do mission work... you can express yourself in church but you dont HAVE to... No need to have a theological degree (in fact if you do have one that may well be a deterrent)... Now I am typically pretty harsh on Baptists since most of the core beliefs which distinguish Baptists from other Protestants are particularly incompatible with known Church history not to mention the fact that they are very young beliefs: (rejection of infant baptism, rejection of creeds, rejection of real presence, dispensationalism, premilenialism & the rapture etc...) And this is to speak nothing of the young beliefs of Sola Fide or Sola Scriptura which are common to all Protestants. But again, the Baptist denominations are very accessible to Joe Layperson. (Most of my family are Baptists so don't think I'm just bashing them because I do have a great deal of respect for.... some.. Baptists).

But the good thing about a large chunk of the Baptist churches is that they typically hold on to the conservative values of historic Christianity (abortion, ordination of women, homosexual issues etc...) Now of course, Southern Baptist Convention is on the way to abandoning historic Christianity as many of the other mainline denominations have as it has been ordaining women for some time now. Eventually its fate will probably be not too dissimilar from the Anglican and PC USA churches as detailed in the article linked to above. Once an organization is thoroughly liberalized it collapses. This can be said of anything not just religion. Its the very nature of liberalism itself that always leads to this. Liberalism cannot be sustained. Once conservatism is rooted out, decay sets in and its an unending downward spiral.

New Advent ends their post like this:

Note to the traditional Episcopalians and Presbyterians among our readers: As you find yourselves increasingly surrounded by an anti-Gospel mentality, we renew our invitation to read the "signs of the times" and seriously consider becoming Catholic. Not because we need you at our side in the battles to come (we do) and would welcome you with open arms (we would), but because the Catholic Church is the one church founded by Christ Himself. It might not be politically correct to state it this bluntly, but it's what Catholics believe. And in times like these, isn't such a bold claim worth a second look?