Saturday, December 30, 2006

British Law: Something We Could Learn From

A woman who falsely accused two men of rape was ordered by a judge to pay over $1 million to the true victims of crime here.

This is a good step towards justice although the woman's identity was spared while the mens' lives have been nearly ruined:

"We have had 10 years of hell, with our names dragged through the mud," said Raman Kumar. "It is grossly unfair that after a judge has found her to be a liar, she can still keep her anonymity."
Anyway, hopefully America will adopt some tougher laws on those who falsely accuse in the future to discourage this evil.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Progressive Catholics: Apocalypto Now

Tonight, I watched the movie Apocalypto. Not merely by coincidence, I read this morning in the catechism the passage that reflected on the early fathers stating that the Church was prefigured by Noah's ark. How fitting a prefiguration; through imperfect men, Christ's visible Church here on earth is made a tangible ark of salvation for those who are lost. Apocalypto (and many other movies like it) stand as strong reminders of just what that lost world was without Christ (and what it still is in many cases outside the Church).

So what does all this have to do with so called "progressive" Catholics. Well I'll tell you. First, theres certainly nothing "progressive" about those who call themselves so. I scoffed at the Catholic Church as a Protestant when I saw the liberals inside it complain when an orthodox pope was elected. If anything exposed the fraud of the Church, I thought, surely this did. But, after all... the Church DID elect an orthodox pope. That was one of the events that got me originally scratching my head.

Now as far as "progression" goes, liberal Catholics for the most part, are aiming (as an immediate goal) at three things: ordination of women priests, abolition of priestly celibacy and permission granted for contraception. I say immediate goal because leftism (or as some like to say liberalism) is itself never satisfied. If these things were to be passed, then they would start asking for abortion rights, and then condoning of homosexual behavior and so on and so on. Many are already calling for these so that shouldn't surprise anyone. The Chuch would follow in the same disastrous footsteps as the Episcopalian Church.

Now if it were ever a temptation to view these "progressive" Catholics as having any sort of sincerity and self honesty, we should remember this: since they obviously don't place too high of a value on orthodoxy then they could just as well go over to the Episcopalian church which has already apostatized to the degree which they perversely desire for the Holy Catholic Church. But yet they try to destroy the true Church. Why? Why not just leave it alone if not for evil intentions? This apostasy is not done; it will continue. Neither is rot, decay or mold ever satisfied until it has devoured everything which was once called wholesome.

God delighted in creating a world which could be understood on many levels. One of them is symbolic. Leftists have embraced a disorder which perverts their ability to comprehend the beautiful truth imbedded throughout all of reality which testifies only of the Truth. Thanks be to God for the Holy Catholic Church which exists as a visible means for salvation to all who would accept it, and in the process does itself very effectively illuminate this beautiful truth in symbolism.

This is why I can use decay and rot as imagery for leftism because they both act in the same exact way. The thief "commeth" for only one purpose, and so a "progressive" attitude only has one purpose: destruction of the righteous. It is crucially important for all Catholics to understand this truth and what kind of battle is at hand (not merely in the distant future). Pope John Paul II understood this very well and if you don't believe me, just read his encyclical: Veritatis Splendor.

All of the issues raised by leftists start with a truth and is then perverted. In light of watching a depiction of the horrible violence of the Americas in the not so distant past, I thought I would briefly touch on what I see being argued about constantly in the blogosphere now: pacifism.

I'm not going to quote the Pope and I'm not going to pull out the Catechism. We all know what it says on the subject. But each takes the words and fits them to his own agenda. The truth is that death is a horrible thing. It is the ultimate physical evil. Death is the great weapon forged by our enemy against us but which was defeated by Christ on the cross. So here we start, with a sound truth which both liberals and conservatives would agree to and the question is where do we go from this point?

A few years ago, I became interested in pacifism on reading Tolstoy's - The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You. Tolstoy was a great writer and his book contained a lot of truth that I had never been exposed to myself. It sure makes one start to question things. But let's remember, Tolstoy was in fact excommunicated from the Orthodox Church. There was a reason for that.

The problem is, he started with a truth and took it to an extreme which lead to perversion. The perversion still seems right to fallen man when he is wrapped up in it himself. It seemed right to me a couple of years ago. (Now don't get me wrong, much of it still is right, and it is true just not all of it.) Even a small error, if left uncorrected, can turn into a gross disorder.

Death is such a terrible perversion and so contrary to what we know is good and holy. We were not meant to die. It is the ultimate disorder. God delights in life not death. It is by death that we truly realize the value of life and so we all understand as Catholics, that everything in our power must be done to prevent death from occuring. Of course, non Catholics & non Christians can and do understand this as well.

Tolstoy preached non-resistance to evil by force even in extreme circumstances. There have been others who taught so as well but not many as widely known as him. Protestants and fundamentalist tend to over-react (in my opinion) to this error of Tolstoy's by nearly condoning violence by their apologetics on the subject of pacifism.

Now lest you think that I am about to contend that the truth is a graceful "middle ground" between the two extremes, don't be so hasty in your judgement. I have been delighted to find that the Church can rightly be called pacifistic in so far as that it has not merely a preference towards non-violence but an obstinate resistance to violent means when it is at all possible to solve the problem by peaceful means.

Because of the serious disorder caused by violence (even in "civil" settings), the Church's position has always been a strong one and in fact, so close to the extreme of pacifism that it is not hard to see why many have taken it one step too far. It's not that they're far from the truth at all. In fact, taking a step in the opposite direction by the same degree, I think, would result in being further from the truth than even sitting on the extreme pole that Tolstoy was.

In practical terms, there is a reason that the Popes' statements and the Catechism has always left "wiggle room" for those who arent extreme pacifists. Yes the Church passionately preaches a gospel of life and forgiveness, but it is also ours to protect and serve the cause of justice on earth. As we all know Micah 6:8 reminds us that God requires us to "do justice" but also to "love mercy" and that is why each morning I incorporate that into my prayer:

And favor my Lord, bestow on me
That I be able to accomplish these three
My hands to do justice
My heart to love mercy
And my feet to walk humbly, my Lord, with Thee.
Amen.
It would be a mistake to call it a "balancing act" to rightly incorporate both the justice and mercy which God requires of us in our life. However, God does not only require one from us. And in the real world, when the sparing of one guilty life means the destruction of many others who are innocent, we have, in a quantifiable way, neglected our duty of preserving justice.

It is always our preference as Catholics to choose life and as I said before, it is not merely our preference but a mandate. It is our preference to tell the truth and not merely our preference. But if we were hiding a Jewish family during the holocaust and the Nazis came looking for them, suddenly our priorities have changed. Likewise, when the sparing of a criminal means the death of many innocents, you needn't be a theologian to see the disorder here.

Now some have argued (and they are not totally mistaken) that with technological and sociological advancements, the death penalty is becoming, to say the least, more obsolete than it was in prior ages. This argument however, leaves out the psychological effect on the minds of all criminals knowing that they will escape the ultimate punishment even if they do get caught for murder. It is impossible to know the number of murders commited daily precisely because the criminal does not posess an adequate fear of his threatened punishment but we can be certain that it happens.

So as we, except in cases of last resort, will opt for life as Catholics, we must not neglect those who are being unjustly murdered if that may result in any way from our lax policy on punishment. If it can be proven that the death penalty does not deter other criminals from murdering, then it makes for very few cases of permissible capital punishment if any whatsoever. But to date I know of no study even attempting such a thing and let's be honest... we all know good and well, punishment and propensity to commit crime by the populace it threatens are very strongly and causally related.

Do I support the death penalty? Not when I'm on trial...

I'm not sure how I started with the theme of the movie Apocalypto, leftists creeping into the Catholic Church and then ended up here but I have a tendency to do that sort of thing. I read / saw three things that stuck out to me today. First, the reflection from the Catechism: Noah's ark prefigures the Church. Second, a "progressive Catholic" blog. And third, the movie Apocalypto. Somehow they all made sense together and made for a somewhat coherent post.

As for the title "Apocalypto Now", I chose it as a play on words more than anything but it also does remind me of the ending of "Apocalpyse Now" where in the climax the Montagnards, or indigenous people of Vietnam, end up sacrificing that buffalo or ox or whatever it was. What we witness there is the same thing we can't help but witness in the world around us and in other movies and depictions of the world like Apocalypto: a grave and serious perversion.

In the order of the events I saw today, the Catechism reminds me that the Church is here to be the boat of salvation for all mankind - the answer to this disorder so prevalent in the world. The "progressive" Catholic blog I read reminded me that there exists even on the boat, perversion seeking to destroy from within in very subtle ways. The movie reminded me of the seriousness of the grave perversion which is anything that acts in rebellion to the revealed Word of God.

Disorder can never lead us to Christ but only away from Him. Liberalism never leads to Christ. Though liberals can and do follow Him, and liberals have been used to bring lost to the Church, liberalism itself only has evil ends. Remember what Christ told us: "He who stands firm until the end will be saved". Let us therefore be strong and defend His bride: the Church. As of late, our greatest enemy lies within so beware.

Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, and may we all join together to combat injustice and seek peace and non-violence as much as we are able without crossing over into the territory of disorder.

Nifong to be Prosecuted?

Its surprising to see something which resembles justice in our legal system these days. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

When Was the Gospel of Mark Written?

Let me start by stating the obvious: I am not a biblical scholar and I'm far from being qualified to contribute anything worth while on this subject... But when has that ever stopped me before?

In my previous post, I touched very briefly on the dating of Mark's gospel. The big question is, was it written before or after the destruction of the temple in 70AD? Every liberal source I've seen tries to suggest a post-70 AD date for the book. I (like most scholars) believe that it was certainly written before 70 AD. There have even been some who suggest that it was written only a few years after the ressurrection of Christ. Although there is some decent discussion there on the subject, many of the arguments from commenters are faulty when you assume that Mark was not an eye witness to most (or any) of the events.

In the link above, some were arguing that because Mark's details aren't exactly the same as other gospels & other historical sources that it couldn't have been written so close to the event. This is not a very convincing argument as we all know people can and do tend to get details badly confused even days after an event took place. Add in many hundreds of days along with not being an eye witness to at least most of the accounts and it makes very easy work out of explaining the discrepancies. Now I'm not saying that I necessarily believe that it was written within a few years but I wouldn't have a problem with a date as early as 42 AD (when St. Peter traditionally came to Rome).

Like I said in my previous post, I think St. Mark probably came to Rome sometime closer to 50 AD and I think that is a more reasonable date. I don't think its too terribly unlikely that he wrote it very shortly after St. Peter's martyrdom in 64-67 AD either (as St. Irenaeus also implies). But I would certainly draw the line at 70 AD. The typical argument is made that since Mark made no direct referrence to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (while other gospel authors did), his gospel most likely was written before it happened. (Otherwise, he would have made a bigger deal about Christ's prophecy since it had already been fulfilled).

After St. Peter died, there may have arisen a sort of urgency within the Christian community in Rome to put these things in writing. Before, they were very fortunate to have with them an eyewitness to the events but now with both St. Paul & the bishop St. Peter dead, they had no further eye witnesses. St. Mark was very likely a Palestenian who was at least alive and of some decent age during the ministry of Christ. As explained, it is most likely (from various Church sources) that he had little or no interaction with Christ himself but that he was very familiar with the details because of his extensive association over the years with the apostles (namely Paul & Peter).

Being Peter's personal interpreter (according to St. Papias), he would have had the story of Christ handed directly to him from Peter's perspective. If the community at the time did indeed rise up in a frantic shortly after Peter's martyrdom and request that Mark write down the words that he had been preaching all these years, it would fit very nicely with the manner in which it was written and the surrounding historical events.

It is therefore my (albeit not formally educated) opinion that the gospel of Mark was written between the years of 63 & 68 AD. Although traditionally it was dictacted by St. Peter himself, I find this hard to believe for a couple of reasons.

First there are several times where significant people in the story go unnamed (such as Mary Magdelene (as according to Church tradition it was her) when she poured the expensive perfume over Jesus' head) and St. Peter would have remembered their names and who was doing what I think had he been right there while it was being written.

Second, it is known from other gospel accounts that Peter was the one doing certain things such as in Luke 8:45 when Peter makes the comment about the crowd pressing against Jesus whereas in Mark it is merely an anonymous joint effort by the disciples. Now that particular instance is certainly weak evidence. It's not truly important to know who asked that question. It's remarkable to even remember such a question that many years later. But there are a few other examples like that and the best of which is that Mark records that "one of those standing near" drew his sword and cut of the servant of the high priest's ear while we know from other gospel accounts that it was in fact Peter who did it. Had Peter been dictacting, would he have failed to mention this? There is no reasonable way to suggest that Peter could have forgotten that it was himsef. One more interesting thing on this subject is that Mark's gospel (along with John's) fails to mention that in the account of Christ walking on the lake, Peter also got out of the boat and walked as well. Now this particular issue is not much easier to explain even if Peter had been absent at the time of the writing since (being such a huge part of the story) it would have in all liklihood been included had the author been aware of it. Had he merely been unsure of who it was (which even that would be a bit strange) he has shown elsewhere that he had no qualms about assigning the task to an anonymous disciple. The entire incident is strange to say the least and I don't really know the answer.

Now all this goes without saying, Mark may have started the gospel before the marytrydom of Peter and didn't finish until later (maybe even a couple years later). It is reasonable to assume that if (as St. Clement wrote some 30 years later) 'the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church' (Peter & Paul) were just recently martyred in their very midst, the remaining Christians at the time must have been very cautious and activities such as writing a gospel may have been by necessity put on hold for a while. So the theory that he started before Peter's death and finished within a year or two would reconcile both my personal opinions stated above and (at least somewhat so) the Church tradition that the gospel was dictacted by St. Peter since some of it may well have been.

And now for my arguments from silence. Many historians and students of history have big problems with "arguments from silence" calling them very weak (and in many cases they are). But you cant just discount an argument simply because it belongs to a category of arguments that are sometimes (even often) found to be faulty. (Since some certainly have been true).

With this in mind I want to bring up why I believe in Markan priority (that Mark was written first among the gospels). Some of Matthew's inconsistencies can be readily explained by Markan Priority. Again, most scholars hold the opinion of Markan priority although some have suggested a Lukan priority and others a Matthean priority. There is also the theory of the unknown gospel which we no longer have called "Q" which all three borrowed from. I don't think many scholars today still give that theory much credibility.

I find both Matthean & Lukan priority unreasonable mainly because of Mark's silence on several things that either Matthew, Luke or both Matthew and Luke write. It is clear, that if Matthew and or Luke existed before Mark, Mark certainly used the other(s) as sources since the similarity is so great (both in theme and in actual text). It's hard to believe that Mark borrowed from them because 1, his Greek is the worst of the three according to Greek scholars & 2 he omits details which would be extremely important.

Matthew & Luke both mention the virgin birth. Neither Mark nor John (nor any other of the authors of Scripture) do. That is significant. You cannot say "silence doesn't imply ignorance" for this type of writing. Paul's writings are understandably silent on the miracles of Christ and the virgin birth. But if Mark had known about the virgin birth, he most certainly would have written about it. He also leaves out the account of Jesus raising the widow's son in Nain (mentioned only by Luke) for example and the raising of Lazarus (mentioned only by John). Again, I see this as evidence for ignorance and therefore of Markan priority. If you're writing an apologetic gospel to the gentiles (which he was), you're not going to leave out three (or at least two) of the most incredible parts of the story: miraculous virgin birth and two seperate accounts of Him raising others from the dead.

So, I know controversial opinions are more fun but I'm gonna have to go with the majority on this one and say Mark was written first (among the gospels) and probably around 66 AD give or take 3 years. I wouldn't find it terribly hard to believe though, that Mark could have been written as early as 42 AD or so.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Gospel According to Mark Part I

I decided during lent this year that I needed to develop a quasi-expertise in one of the gospels so I would have a strong grasp on the life & teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. After all “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” or so said St. Jerome. We can’t just invent a personal Jesus in our head… Doing that, our image of Him ends up (not surprisingly) conforming to our every desire and fantasy. Rather, we need to know Him through His word.

So I picked the easiest gospel – St. Mark. (I say easiest because it’s the shortest). Here, I will attempt to summarize a few things about St. Mark & his gospel for my own sake and hopefully some of you will pick up a few things you didn’t know as well.

Who was Saint Mark?

Saint Mark, also called ‘Saint Mark the Evangelist”, was a direct disciple of St. Peter. His mother was a friend of the apostles. (This is assuming that St. Mark is the same as the one named John also called Mark in Acts 12:25) She was also a prominent member of the Church at Jerusalem(1). He returned from Jersualem with Saul & Barnabas and we know he must have been a very early convert.

Mark was very likely Barnabas' cousin(7). This would also make good sense of the argument that split Paul & Barnabas up. It was over Mark, for Barnabas wanted to take him along and Paul didnt. If it was the same Mark, he must have been a bit flaky early on as he had deserted Paul in Pamphylia which is precisely why Paul didn't want to take him along(8).

Eusebius & St. Papias both state that Mark neither heard nor followed Christ.(2) Of course, that cannot be verified. There have been many different hypotheses on his identity. In the opening introduction to his gospel, the Latin Vulgate said he was a Jewish priest. St. Epiphanius said that he was one of the disciples who withdrew from Christ in John Chapter 6. (3) It makes sense to assume that some of those would return after the resurrection and realize now, by the teachings of the apostles, how the Eucharist fulfilled what Christ taught them.

And some have claimed that he was the young man who fled naked at Gethsemane(4) . It is an interesting suggestion. He must have been young because even as St. Peter writes his first epistle, he still refers to Mark as his "son". I immagine that he might have been a teenager at the time Christ was handed over. Mark's gospel is also the only one to mention the incident and it seems to have little if anything to do with the story.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia, here is a little bit of what is known of his post-conversion travels (again assuming he is the same Mark mentioned in Acts):

we find him at Jerusalem and Antioch about A.D. 46 (Acts 12:25), in Salamis about 47 (Acts 13:5), at Antioch again about 49 or 50 (Acts 15:37-9), and when he quitted Antioch, on the separation of Paul and Barnabas, it was not to Alexandria but to Cyprus that he turned (Acts 15:39).

Also, according to the same source, we have reliable evidence for St. Peter arriving in Rome as early as 42 AD. He was perhaps accompanied by Mark but not likely given the above dates for his travels unless he was not the same as the Mark in Acts. I tend to think he was the same however.

St. Papias
said the following about St. Mark between the years of 110 AD & 130 AD:
Mark indeed, since he was the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, but not in order, the things either said or done by the Lord as much as he remembered. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him, but afterwards, as I have said, [heard and followed] Peter, who fitted his discourses to the needs [of his hearers] but not as if making a narrative of the Lord's sayings'; consequently, Mark, writing down some things just as he remembered, erred in nothing; for he was careful of one thing - not to omit anything of the things he heard or to falsify anything in them.
Though some have suggested that St. Mark wrote after St. Peter's martyrdom in Rome around 67 AD, traditionally the gospel was dictated by St. Peter (and the connection of St. Mark & St. Peter is undeniable as we have so many early sources which verify it though some would like to put them outside of Rome to discredit the Chuch). St. Irenaeus though, implies that he wrote after St. Peter & St. Paul had both died(5).

With this in mind, you can appreciate some of St. Mark's personal interests coming out in his writing. He seems to be interested in linguistics (very fitting if he was indeed the interpreter of St. Peter as St. Papias asserts) and I thought that was neat and an appropriate gospel to study myself because I too am interested in linguistics. St. Mark often takes time to quote what was said in the original tongue and then explain the translation. You will notice this several times throughout his gospel.

It is also a tradition that St. Mark was the founder of the Church in Alexandria. However, neither St. Clement (of Alexandria) nor Origen make any mention of St. Mark as the founder of the Church of their city although this claim is asserted by many (relatively late) sources. The Chronicles of Eusebius states that the Church was founded in Alexandria by St. Mark around 41 AD. It's not impossible but somewhat unlikely if we are to assume he is the same Mark in Acts as mentioned before. A later date for the founding of the church is possible though(6).

Death of St. Mark

Eusebius says that Anianus succeeded St. Mark in Alexandria around AD 62-63. St. Jerome also says that St. Mark died in that year but that would be inconsistent with the theory that Mark is the same one mentioned by Paul and in Acts. Virtually all legitimate scholars also date his gospel before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. So while the date of death is uncertain, I think its a safe range to assume he died between the years of 62 & probably not much later than 70 AD.

If he was an older teen / young man at the time of Christ (which some of the theories previously mentioned seem to point to), this would probably put him in his late 50s or early 60s at the time of his death. Although we have no early sources to prove it, many later sources claim that he was martyred.

Sources:

2 - Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", III, xxxix

3 - St. Epiphanius, "Hær", li, 6

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How Literally Should We Read the Bible?

A few months ago when a Catholic overheard me debating some issues with a few Protestants, upon hearing me use the canon of the Bible and it's selection by the Catholic Church as one of my points, he asked me later "What did they teach you in RCIA? You know that the Catholic Church is not based on the bible. It is more Eucharistic based"

Now, he was right in a sense. The Catholic Church is not based on the Bible... it's too old of a Church to be based on the Bible. Rather, of course, the Bible was selected by councils empowered by the Holy Spirit in accordance with what the Catholic Church had already been teaching.

But there is something very wrong with his statement. Not the literal meaning of it, but its the sentiment I've noticed among many contemporary Catholics that I've met... The bible isn't to be taken literally. If you grew up in Catholic school you would have been taught that humans evolved. Many Catholics probably don't believe in the flood and I'm positive very few believe in a literal global flood. In fact, I get the vibes from some Catholics that maybe God never did any miracles at all.

Well it gets worse. There are some teaching that Christ never literally raised from the dead.

So let's evaluate the situation. The real question here is how literally is the Bible to be taken? Now, I'm not by anymeans implying that the Bible must be taken hyper-literally in every situation, but by in large, damnit... they meant what they said. They were big boys they (the authors) can speak for themselves. In fact, didn't the Holy Spirit speak through them? Isn't that what we believe?

The Holy Spirit foreknew how His word would be understood by the audience. Most Christians & Jews throughout the ages up until very recently have taken the bible quite literally in many of the instances which some contemporaries are rejecting. Why would God intentionally deceive all of them by such obviously misleading stories if they weren't true?

Furthermore, if Joe Bob says to me "You can't take the bible literally, there was no flood" (for example) I find myself in quite a predicament. I have been told two (contradictory) things:

1. There was a global flood

2. There was not a global flood (and #1 cannot be taken literally)

How can I believe both of these? In fact, I can only believe one of them. But if #2 is correct, and #1 must not be taken literally, on what authority can I say that #2 MUST be taken literally? Perhaps #3 will come along:

3. #2 is not to be taken literally. There was a flood.

Bottom line, either #1 is true or #1 is false. If I can be creative in my interpretation of the Scriptures, then I can be creative in my interpretation of what you (or anyone else) say.

Words have to mean something. Thats why we have them. Christians are usually a little .... let's just say creative when it comes to interpretation. Most of us have to be. Protestants have to be creative to get around John 6 & James 2, Catholics have to be creative to get around some of the things Popes have said, but when its all said and done, if the string of words which read "There was a global flood" can mean something other than "there was a global flood" then the string "there was not a global flood" can just as easily mean something other than "there was not a global flood".

I refer once again to Occam's Razor. The simplest answer is usually the best. The Bible teaches we were created by God in His image (no I don't think all of the Genesis story has to be taken hyper literally and of course there are many things that work just as well as metaphors without taking away from the meaning). The bible teaches there was a flood that destroyed humanity (I dont necessarily maintain that it MUST have been a global flood covering literally every inch of dry land but if it only flooded the Mesopotamia region then the rest of the story doesn't make sense).

Now on evolution & creation, the problem is really this... Not only does the Bible clearly teach God creating man in a very personal way (in His image) and that creatures were made to reproduce "after their own kind", the Catechism of the Church teaches that death entered the world through the fall of man. (as if it could be any clearer than what Paul said):

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—(1)
Taking too many liberties with the Scriptures ends up with a Bible that doesn't mean anything and later with dogmas that don't mean anything and later with the aimless ambiguity normally enjoyed only by those of the Eastern persuasion.

Of course natural selection is compatable with Church & Biblical teachings but I dont see how evolution is. I have seen some quotes from the last two popes that seem 'leniant' towards evolution. But according to Scripture death entered the world because of sin and sin through one man not many monkeys. There was no one before Adam not even animals. There was no death before the fall. That is such an inheirant truth to Christianity.

Now some may accuse me of being a fundamentalist. I'm not and I dont take the entire bible hyper-literally. I have no problems with an old universe and an old earth for example. But say all you want about fundamentalists: "you will know them by their fruits" and while their have been some hyper-fundamentalists who have done crazy things, those are the exception. Most fundamentalists are very faithful to the original moral doctrines of the apostles. Those 'bible thumpers' still reject abortion and other issues which virtually all of the "the bible isnt to be taken literally" types have completely abandoned. Even in the Catholic Chuch those supposed Catholics who teach such liberties with the Scriptures and with miracles are the same ones advocating women ordination, permissible abortions in most cases, embryonic stem cell research etc... etc... You think thats a coincidence? Think again.

Moral of the post: don't toss out Scripture too easily... and if I don't have to take the Bible literally, I certainly don't have to take YOU literally.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

At What Point Does Randomness Become Ordered?

I have an mp3 song list of about 5200 songs and I always keep it on random shuffle. The other day i played a song and then hit next... it was the same song again (but with a different title because of a mistake). I replayed the previous song intro... yep sure enough.. those two were the same exact songs.

So I stepped back a little bit and it got me thinking. What are the odds of that happening...playing the same song sequentially like that? Well, assuming that there was only one duplication of the song the odds would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 27 million....Damn.. I could have just won the lottery but nooooooo had to play a stupid song twice...

Now using the Bayesian theorem the probability of A|B or A given B (where A = "I played both songs sequentially" and B = "I played the first of the two songs originally") the p value becomes much more reasonable once again (roughly .02% or 1/5199). In other words, if we take it for granted that I played the first song as a starting point, we have roughly .02% chance of playing the duplicate of that song (assuming that one exists and that I play at least two songs).

But now what if we didnt assume one existed? How could we figure out the probability of playing a duplicate among a remaining list of 5,199 songs? First you'd have to know how many duplicates there were.. Or to to put it more simply, how many different songs were represented in that list. Lets make things simple and just say we have a lot of duplicates - 199.. So we have 5,000 out of a possible... who knows how many millions are available to have on mp3. Of course, the liklihood would be dramatically increased (by an unknowable degree) because I already had the song once. That implies that the song probably something I like therefore its not terribly unlikely that I have downloaded or ahem, (burned it from a legitimate CD I purchased) twice by mistake. The fact that I already have the song makes it much more likely that I have a duplicate of it versus if you had a gigantic hat with all the world's songs written on different slips of paper and you pulled out one random song to see if I had that one in my list of 5200...

Nevertheless, this all goes to show that it would be utterly impossible to figure out any kind of actual probability in the grand scheme of things to duplicate that song. Suffice it to say it would be unlikely but probably not in extreme proportions (given that I had already played it once).

Hope I'm making sense so far because that was the easy part. Now taking it a step further in my thought process I just started to ponder this probability on a more.. removed and philosophical level (so to speak).

The question I asked myself was this: at what point do things cease being random and start being (apparently) brought about by intelligence? Because stepping back (far bacK) from the situation, we can see that a series of extremely complex sound waves (the song) just repeated themselves. You could not put a probability value on that happening without intelligence involved. Remember just playing 2 songs sequentially out of 5200 is 1 in 27 million and this would be like playing 10 million songs sequentially out of a possible 100 billion (and even that would be a gross underestimation).

But since in this case we have already admitted human involvement (I downloaded ... err..burned the songs on my computer and have a playlist of my own selection set up) we can see how it is not entirely unreasonable that this phenomenon occured. In fact, we have all seen it or something very much like it before. Sometimes I'll think of a song and somehow that song is played on my list at the next random shuffle.. Things like that happen all the time. But since we have a little human involvement, it doesnt seem too incredible to us. We take all that for granted.

Back to the question: from a naturalist perspective, ultimately all things must be random. If you go back far enough, everything came about from randomness (according to the naturalist cosmology). But at some point along the line, we stop thinking of occurances as random and start thinking of them as results of direct human (or intelligent) manipulation. The question I'm asking is: at what point is that? And, is there a way to legitimately quantify the cross-over?

Recently, Robert Fulford wrote an article about one of atheism's better apologists, Richard Dawkins in which he said:

G.K. Chesterton said he found it hard to believe in God but harder to believe that a swamp, if left alone long enough, will eventually build Chartres Cathedral;
And so that is really the issue I'm pondering. Because in essence, that is truly what naturalists believe in. It might be easier to understand just what is being said if you could look at the universe in a small crystal ball but as through one of those time lapse cameras where you're viewing in extreme - fast forward. You would see nothing at first, then you would see a tiny ball of light in the center that exploded and began expanding. As you focused in on the planet earth you would see it go from an asteroid chunk into a lush planet with vegetation and life springing up. It would turn green and eventually you would start seeing structures such as the great wall of China appear and later on, massive sky scrapers and cathedrals. It would cover the earth. Assumably eventually it would burn up or waste away or whatever but if you kept watching for long enough, all evidence of life would, in someway or another disappear.

The question is, was everything you witnessed purely random? Taking a look at it from that perspective and from the naturalist cosmology, any honest person would be forced to say yes. Looking from our very narrow perspective here on earth, it is easy to say "that cathedral isn't random because humans built it" but in fact, if not for divine creation of men it is random. It is the result of amino acids combining many millions of years ago in a swamp. In fact, taking it back further, it is a result of the big bang at which the universe began. Everything was necessarily set in motion at that time and nothing could be any different than it is now.

So while yes, humans did build the Pyramids, it was merely the product of billions upon countless billions of sequentially chemical and physical reactions which started with the random joining of amino acids in a swamp somewhere. The utterly incomprehensible complexity of this randomness set in a universe which has laws and rules (nevermind how or why they even exist), this randomness can appear to the untrained, uneducated and naive theist that some intelligence was involved in the universe since many things (such as the pyramids) don't appear to be results of complete randomness.

Well call me untrained, uneducated and naive.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jewish Catholic Relations

In light of the recent article in Newseek passively bashing the Catholic religion written by a Jewish professor, I was pleased to find this one in which "Salvation is from the Jews" author Roy H. Schoeman (a convert to Catholicism from Judaism) was interviewed by IgnatiusInsight.com.

Prior to my conversion, the central misconceptions I held about the Catholic Church was, of course, that it was in fundamental theological error, a misguided, naïve illegitimate offshoot of the true Judaism. I saw Catholics as misguided followers of a false Messiah engaging in a host of childish and superstitious practices.
I recommend reading the whole interview if you have the time. Merry Christmas.


Recycling - The Leftist Lie

Check out Michael Williams post & link to Pen & Teller's episode on recycling.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nifong is a Liar - Duke Rape Case Charges Dropped

Well... I told ya so. Prosecutors have droped the rape charges in the Duke Rape case (of course only after milking every drop of dishonest publicity that they could).

I said it before - Nifong is a fraud. Rape - the only crime where next to no evidence will convict you "beyond the shadow of a doubt" in our court system. Look at the amount of damage done to the reputation of these athletes. (Now I'm sure they're no choir boys and I'm sure a lot of immorality was going on at that party... But their behavior didn't warrant this kind of negative attention) but what consequence will that woman face? None... at least not this side of eternity.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How Statistics Can Shed Light On Human Behavior

This is a reply to Michael Williams' blog on this article in the NY Times about the "whys" of human behavior. His spam filter didn't like my reply so I posted it here. This phrase from the original article is really what I am responding to:

Research psychologists have known for decades that it is very difficult to determine causation in mental life and thus, of behavior. For one thing, we can never perform an experiment. Take my patient Karen, 50, who spent most of the 1990s smoking crack. She is certain that the decade-long binge would never have happened had her mother not died when she was 12. We will never know if she is right because we cannot rewind Karen’s life, play it again, and see what would have happened if her mother had lived.
Well its true we cannot back up in life to perform experiments, but "mock" experiments can be performed with surprising results. I know the human psyche is extremely complex but other areas of science have proven to be extremely succesful when using sound statistical methods for performing designed experiments. Even if you cannot perform a physical experiment and re enact "what if" scenarios, much can be learned.

I heard this guy from Georgia Tech's ASDL talk at the JMP user conference this year and he was talking about this exact thing. In his field, they cant exactly build missles and aircraft then go perform experiments against live terrorists to track the results, so they use powerful statistical software to run "what if" scenarios. (It's Patrick Biltgen and his podcast is worth listening to on that page as well but its nothing like his speech at the conference.)

I'm not saying that statistics can or ever will be able to figure out the "whys" behind human behavior. But you can get a pretty good idea if you know what you're doing.

So while we might feel that the 'defective father' theory of atheism (for example) doesn't adequately explain the psychological behavior of atheists, the facts are there and.. well I'm no statistician but... let's face it, poor relationship with fathers tend to lead to bad things (like atheism)... Same thing with homosexuals... Same thing with criminals etc...

People dont seem to like statistics to be accurate (because in some cases they dont fit the bill sure). But someone who has no earthly clue about statistics is very likely to reply to me and say "But wait I know a criminal with a good family" or "wait I know a homosexual who grew up in a conservative Christian family", in fact I'm constantly amazed at how 99% of people have absolutely no understanding of how statistics work. But as much as we may dislike the notion... statistics can tell us a lot about the causes of human behavior.

But then again, statistics aren't usually very politically correct. | Read this post in Japanese.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Fallacy of Solo Christo

So my Catholic friend wisely admonished me to avoid using such phrases as "smack down" in my posts. (Apparently that phrase didn't make the Vatican's list for top 100 most ecumenical slogans for 2006) And no I'm not a wrestling fan I just like that phrase. So here goes:

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who is an elder at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church gave me a CD, the first installment of 5 recorded sermons from his pastor on "the great solos of the Protestant refromation" because he knew I had converted to the Catholic Church and was apparently trying to (or at least hoping to) bring me back. It was on sola scriptura. The next was on the doctrine of solo Christo or - Christ alone.

This second CD was a little more difficult to pick apart. (While I do maintain that I did my best to listen objectively.) Since I came from a reformed background, this sermon was full to the brim of statements that were so familiar and integrated in my thought process that it was hard at times to see what was wrong with it. To be sure, "Christ alone" sounds true enough doesnt it? But the more I thought about the whole doctrine, the more I realized that the doctrine is very close to the Truth yet at the same time so very far away.

Actually, on a semantic level the doctrine is probably completely true. The problem comes with it's implications. This doctrine was used by the reformers to controvert certain Church traditions: namely praying to & the veneration of the saints but most especially the virgin Mary. They also use it to controvert involving a priest as a "mediator" (as they see it) to God.

To be sure, Catholics believe that Christ is the only mediator between God and man as it is stated quite plainly in Scripture. The uniqueness of Christ is that He is God & man of course and fully both. This is true of no one else; not Mary and not any of the saints. But Catholics do not interpret this verse to mean "Jesus is the only human involved in redemption".

Though His blood uniquely cleanses us of sins as we receive it in the Eucharist, the Church has never intepreted this passage to preclude the acknowledgement of any other being(s) used by God in redemptive history (to use some reformed terminology). Furthermore, saying that Christ is the only mediator certainly does not preclude praying to saints. Finally, priests are not mediators between man and God in the same way Christ was.

Veneration of Saints

Whether you look forward from Christ or backward in history you will notice numerous others who were involved in the redemption of man kind. God's chosen people Israel brought salvation to the world for it is written "salvation is from the Jews."(1) And after Christ, the Catholic Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit has spread the gospel to all nations and has perpetuated the Truth of the kingdom of God to this very day for it is also written:

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.(2)
So it is clear, God has certainly used institutions in the redemptive process and He has never commanded that we not acknowledge that. But in each direction we also have individuals very decisively involved as well. Starting with Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses & then the judges... next of course come the prophets and finally the forerunner of Christ - St. John the Baptist (the last of the prophets and first of the saints). We also have the blessed virgin Mary as the ultimate example of God using an individual human in the redemptive process. After Christ we of course have all the saints who were martyred as witnesses of Christ and those living who bear witness by the sacrifice of their life. These saints take part in the suffering of Christ, in His divinity and therefore also in redemption.

No Mary does not cleanse our sins. She is not the unique mediator between God and man. This title belongs only to Christ. In fact:
The maternal role of Mary toward people in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power.(3)
And so, a sincere contemplation of Mary's role in redemption will, I think, result in harmony with Catholic dogma on the subject.

Now Mary herself in Scripture and by the power of the Holy Spirit does correctly prophesy saying: "all generations will call me blessed"(4). The Catholic & Orthodox Churches do both respectively call her blessed daily as we recite the (very biblical) Hail Mary.

And typologically, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. Of course the Ark of the Old Covenant was highly revered throughout Scriptures and by the people of God. If it is not anti-Christ (remember anti means 'taking the place of') or contrary to the semantic meaning of "solo Christo" to revere an object (the work of human hands) as holy, how much less is it so concerning the very mother of God?

Now aside from Mary the mother of Jesus, we do have other examples. One powerful example which struck me recently was that of Mary Magdelene. Not many days before His death, she poured "very expensive perfume made of pure nard" on His head. While those present rebuked her harshly, Jesus said:
"I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."(5)
So if Christ Himself does not consider it anti-Christ to commemorate a saint, how then can we? Elsewhere, Christ Himself indirectly venerates Moses by saying:
For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God) then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.(6)
In this way, He contrasts what Moses said with what the teachers of the Law were teaching. Sure, His main point is that 'Scripture teaches such and you are contradicting that by your traditions' but (and maybe I'm reading too far into this) but I think the wording here is signficant. Elsewhere, in proving that the Christ is not the son of David (in so far as being subordinate to him) Jesus says:
David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."(7)
Notice here how He mentions specifically that David is speaking by the Holy Spirit. In the previous example, (while of course Moses was speaking by the Holy Spirit) Christ does not mention it. I believe this is a form (albeit indirect) of veneration for Moses. It signifies that his words hold their own authority. Moses holds this honor not because of his own goodness, but because of the role given to him by God in redemptive history. God did not consider it a distraction from redemption to incorporate Moses or the prophets in His plan and neither does He consider it so for any of those He has chosen.

Praying to the Saints

Now praying to the saints: Since we are not asking saints to be redemptive mediators on our behalf when we pray to them, but rather petitioning them to pray to God for us, it cannot be considered a violation of this principle (semantically) "solo Christo". In this sermon I listend to from the proponent of "solo Christo", he made several false accusations and perpetuated a few misconceptions. He insisted that Catholics view saints as the only means to reach God. That is untrue.

We do "rely" on their "constant intercession" as it is stated in our sacred liturgy but this does not mean that they are mediators between us and God. To be sure they do in fact take part in the mediation of Christ whereas again, He is the sole mediator between God and man. We do not, under any circumstance, ask the saints to redeem us or to mediate on our behalf so that we achieve justification by their intercession. It is God's power, God's redemption and God's grace that we seek when asking the saints to pray for us and it is Christ's mediation alone that bridges this gap between sinful man and a holy & just God (though others, solely by the grace of God, have been given a role in that mediation as part of God's salvific plan of redemption).

Now since Catholic teaching insists that we ask the saints to pray for us (and the preacher did bring up this point in his sermon) it can be justly compared to asking our brothers & sisters in Christ here on earth to pray for us. Since none of us would consider it anti-Christ to do so, how can praying to the saints be considered such?

Accordingly, this issue seems to be viewed by John Calvin and some others as an issue of necromancy rather than one of replacing Christ as a mediator. Now one point on that subject lest anyone start thinking that they still have a valid reason to controvert the practice of praying to the saints, let us consider a few things. First, which of us would judge a grieving widow at the gravesite of her recently deceased husband when, between tears she speaks to him as if he hears her. Is she guilty of necromancy? Is she communing with the dead?

Of course, Christ Himself makes the argument to the Saduccees to prove to them that there is, in fact, a resurrection:
"Have you not heard in the book of Moses and the account of the bush how God said to him, I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken."(8)
It is clear, these are not dead but alive through Christ's own power. In the transfiguration, Moses & Elijah also appeared with Christ. But these were not ghosts, they were living men with new, glorified bodies. Christ was not communing with the dead. John Calvin is right, talking to the dead is wrong. Necromancy is evil. We Catholics pray not to the dead but to the living!

Priests as "mediators"

The blood of a priest does not bestow grace and it does not cleanse from sin. To be short, priests cannot act as sacrificial lambs and perform the supreme act of redemptive mediation between God & man that Christ did. They were, however given special authority by Christ Himself to act in persona Christi or in the person of Christ. They carry out His authority on earth. Christ said:
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .(9)
And later to the apostles He said:
If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.(10)
Thus, the priests (through apostolic succession) act in persona Christi when they hear confession and give absolution. They are not superceeding the unique mediation of Christ. No, not by a long shot.

And just in case anyone has an objection (and does not believe that priests have that power) answer me this: by whose power are demons driven out? Can any man on his own drive them out? Do evil spirits obey the voice of a man? Of course, it is by Christ's power that they are driven out. But we know Christ "appointed 12 designating them apostles that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority over evil spirits" yet as the apostles participated in this Christ-given authority, they were in no way receiving glory due only to Christ. If anything, they only showed His power and pointed to Him.

Praise God that He has graciously chosen to incorporate us sinners into His perfect plan of salvation. Yes we venerate saints and yes we honor Mary. But ultimately, all honor and glory belongs to God. How loving of a God He is then, that He has decided in His mercy to share His glory with a fallen creation.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be - world without end. Amen.

(3) Vatican II Constitution on the Church, # 60

Nearly a Quarter of a Million Come Into the Church

Here's some great news to help get you through the rest of the work week. The Holy See has extended full communion to the Coptic Catholic Church which represents nearly a quarter of a million of the faithful.

The Holy Father, who met with the newly elected Coptic Catholic patriarch on December 15, appointed Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, as his official representative at the ceremony confirming ecclesial communion.
I dont know about you but thats exciting. Check this link out for more history on the Coptic Catholic Church. Thanks be to God.


Front Page of JMP.COM

Yay I made it to the front page of JMP.Com. JMP is a statistics software package from world learding SAS Institute.

This is what I do for a living at the Rescue Mission:

Homeless Shelter Addresses Direct Mail Challenges

I was flattered by the article. Thanks to everyone at JMP for such generosity.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Finally a Police Sting Operation that Benefits the Public

I get so irritated when I hear of all the money being dumped into police sting operations to catch retail clerks selling alcohol or tobacco products to minors. Now don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not advocating the selling of these substances to kids but the money could be better spent elsewhere. I'd much rather have some random 17 year old buy a pack of cigarettes than to have my home broken into or my car stolen. And if a 20 year old gets a case of budweiser, I'll get over it.

Well finally the police in my city seem to be doing something about it. Police in Charlotte have started setting up a 'bait' car in order to catch car thieves. I've been saying they should to this for years!.

CMPD has purchased a car- that looks like any other car- but it's not. The vehicle is equipped with a silent alarm that alerts police when someone is tampering with the vehicle. It tells police when the door has opened and when someone tries to start the engine. Police can remotely disable the car and lock the doors to trap the thief until police arrive.
Next on the list they need to have a decoy house set up. But the problem is none of this means anything or helps society out at all unless the criminals are actually locked up. In Charlotte we have such a lack of funding for DAs and prison space that our crime is really becoming a problem. Of course, this is tied up with the corruption in NC politics I have already mentioned a couple times before.

Too Cute Not to Post

Heres an unrelated post but it was just too good of a pic not to post. Can't believe I snapped this at the right time. This is my dog and my friend's daughter who absolutely love each other as you can see by this pic.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christian Freedom

True freedom is found in Christ. To be a little less specific and (incidentally) a little more... politically correct; for anyone but a theist, freedom is an illusion at best.

I recently had the displeasure of stumbling across a blog (which I wont link to) entitled "Debunking Christianity". One of the prominent authors (and I think one of the founders) named John Loftus is apparently a former Christian. To make matters worse, not only is he a former Christian but he actually studied under reknowned protestant apologist, William Laine Craig. (I am a fan of Mr. Craig's work) If you want more of a background for the issues I'm going to discuss here, you may want to visit this dialogue between him and Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong.

As I thumbed through the anti-Christian site I couldn't help but feel pity for those writing it. Their arguments aren't at all convincing (and obviously ours aren't to them either) but the most striking statements I read were in the conversion story of Mr. Loftus.

He plainly admitted that the main reason he fell away was because he had a major crisis in his life during which the Christian community he was involved with at the time was unsupportive (I'm sure I'm putting it lightly).

But what really got me was when he started talking about his new "freedoms" such as the freedom to look at a woman lustfully without remorse. He spoke about the freedom to be angry, to hate and to use violence if necessary. He spoke about the freedom to drop the whole 'meek facade'.

You call that freedom? This is one of Satan's greatest lies: that by losing the 'baggage' of morality, you enjoy freedom.

Without God you cannot experience freedom.

This statement is true on more than one level. First, speaking logically and deductively, without God, it is false to assume free will (hence freedom). For a detailed discussion on that topic, this debate on "Knowledge and the Existence of God" by G. Brady Lenardos and Francois Tremblay should prove to be an excellent resource. In a nut shell, if matter is all that exists and we are the product of the Big Bang or other such phenomenon, everything in life is determined. In fact, in such a case you may think you are choosing to read this, but really chemicals in your brain and atoms bouncing around have dictacted that you do so. You could not possibly be doing anything else in the world at this point in time other than reading my blog. Free will doesn't make any sense in a naturalistic universe.

Conslusion1: Without God, we are slaves to our genetics and to our enviornment. Free will is merely an illusion.

Now on a spiritual level, we cannot experience freedom without God because true freedom is found only in Christ. The beauty of our religion is that most of it's truths are built on paradoxes. God entered the world in the lowliest of states, achieved the greatest victory over death by dying Himself, He taught us that "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."(1) and so on... And here lies yet another great paradoxial truth: "freedom" to do whatever you want isn't freedom at all. In fact, it's slavery in the worst form!

Without Christ, it's a deception to say, 'I'm free to do whatever I want', because you should be saying "I am only free to do what I want". In that state, you have become a slave to your own lusts. And the lusts of mankind are perversion, hatred, anger, sexual immorality, drunkenness etc...

Any parent already understands this truth. A child thinks he would be free if he could do whatever he wants and not listen to his parents. He is greatly deceived yet not old enough to realize this. His parents know that to leave him to his own devices would be his destruction and the worst thing that could possibly happen to him. Mr. Loftus should know this. He has been exposed and well trained in Christian doctrine.

Conclusion2: Without Christ, we are slaves to our own sinful desires.

On the contrary, the Holy Spirit gives us the freedom we so desperately long for. You will truly experience that freedom and power of the Holy Spirit once you receive the seal. And of course Christ Himself said "you will know the truth and the truth will set you free"(2). Therefore, do not fear the truth and do not fear complete submission to God. We are mistakenly afraid that we will give up some of our "freedom" by submitting to God and yet the truth is (as any devout priest, monk or nun I'm sure will tell you) that the freedom found by submitting to Christ dwarfs the pseudo-"freedom" you experience apart from Him.

Jim Black's Betrayal of Mecklenburg County

Once again I try to stay away from politics but people need to hear this. This is a letter from Robert Pittenger. If you don't live in North Carolina, it's not going to be of interest to you.

To the Editor:
There are some additional facts that I would like to submit related to the December 14, 2006 article, "Dems Scurry to Pick Speaker". UNC Charlotte is among the lowest in funding (2nd from the bottom with $5,959/UNCC FTE – (Full Time Equivalent) versus $7,734/state average FTE) in the 16 campus UNC System. Also, you should consider the overwhelming construction funding for Chapel Hill, Eastern Carolina and other campuses.

CPCC is ranked lowest in FTE funding among the 58 community colleges, while it is the largest in size with over 70,000 students. Mecklenburg County has 10% of the court cases in the state with only 7.5% of state funding for the judicial system. Mecklenburg County receives only $.70 on the $1.00 from gas tax revenue sent from Mecklenburg to the State for transportation needs and ranks 71st per capita of the 100 counties in transportation funding - clearly not equitable as it relates to traffic count. From the 1999 $1 billion Clean Water Trust Fund “rate of return” disbursement, Mecklenburg is ranked 70th of 100 counties.

No, I don't believe that Mecklenburg County, as the economic engine of North Carolina, has received its fair share during Speaker Black’s eight year tenure. We remain a major donor county to the rest of the state.

Robert Pittenger
State Senate-District 39

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Vaccines Using Aborted Fetal Stem Cells

If you have a minute of free time this busy season, don't waste it. Spend it sending a response petitioning the FDA NOT to use the cells of aborted children to develop vaccines.

Since the FDA has invited the general public to respond through December 28, 2006, we are urging all concerned citizens, medical professionals, pharmacists and pro-life groups to let your voices be heard! It is imperative that the FDA receives a massive amount of public protest on the use of aborted fetal cell lines as your response may very well dictate the direction pharmaceutical companies will move in the future.
Please take a minute and visit this link.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Penitent Thief

This is in response to an ongoing post over at the Catholic blog - Chad Is Not Enough. (This post will make more sense if you read his first.)

The subject is salvation and whether a small amount of faith on the deathbed is sufficient. I had already talked about the necessity for baptism in the thread. I want to bring up perhaps the best example we have of such a scenario: the penitent thief. He did not receive a literal baptism of water. He was justified though and did of course enter into heaven. He did not feed the poor or go to mass or live a pious life. In fact he lived a terrible one not so dissimilar from my own. But he did have faith in Christ which is necessary. He had true faith. But he wasnt completely void of works either. His faith did in fact drive him to act.

What kinds of good works can you do while hanging from a Roman cross? The thief did in fact rebuke his comrade when he mocked Christ. His faith was not dead. He backed up his belief with works. His heart was truly penitent and he was absolved and justified then & there by Christ Himself. So in the answer to the question which I may have originally misunderstood - of course God can and does save us on our death bed through true repentance. The Catholic Church has always taught anyway that it is God alone who decides who goes to heaven or hell.

The flip side is of course, if the thief had somehow survived the crucifixion, he would be required to live in obedience to the gospel like everyone else. He would be required to go and be baptized by literal water and he would be required to 'approach his own salvation with fear and trembling'. Just a few thoughts...

Discovery of St. Paul's Tomb

So it's official now. Archaeologists have discovered St. Paul's tomb and will be displaying it in the not so distant future. Very cool.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Poor Attempt to Discredit Christianity

This article in the upcoming edition of Newsweek is a prime example of the world trying it's hardest to discredit everything Christian.

A birth is a miraculous moment, since every Jewish parent knows their baby might be the Messiah.
I'm not terribly sure that's what every Jewish family thinks..
Jesus' followers were so impressed by his religious personality that they believed he was anointed by God (Christos means "anointed" in Greek)
No the disciples weren't just impressed by His 'personality' and then started calling Him Christ...When did the disciples first start getting a clue? It had nothing to do with personality. According to St. Peter's interpreter and disciple St. Mark, it was when the storm was about to capsize their boat and Jesus literally spoke to the forces of nature and they obeyed Him. The disciples were "terrified" and asked each other "who is this? Even the winds and waves obey Him"(1)
Because Jesus became such a religious hero, the Nativity narratives in the Gospels, written long after his death, adopted mythic themes associated with the birth of special figures. Yet modern Jews believe that the birth of Jesus was not the birth of Christianity, a religion that did not emerge until after his death.
It is true that from a Jewish perspective (and really any non-Christian perspective) at least the virgin birth is very suspicious. It's only mentioned twice in the Bible and all other authors seem to be unaware of it. Anyway, these types of allegations might fly with Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses & Messianic Jews but not with me. I posted once on the refutal of sun god worship influencing Christianity, once on the Chi Rho Symbol & Anti-Catholic bias and once on general pagan practices influencing Christianity. Though there is certainly a lot more to say on that subject, I'm gonna let it go for now.
Yet modern Jews believe that the birth of Jesus was not the birth of Christianity, a religion that did not emerge until after his death.
This is a dishonest way to talk about the Christian religion. It would be like a Catholic claiming that the Protestant religion was founded in 1521. Even though as a Catholic, I believe that Protestants are incorrect and have erroneously branched off of the true Church, I at least respect their own claim of continuing the 'true' Christianity. It is the same with Judaism & Christianity. Christians view themselves as the continuance of Judaism... the "Law fulfilled" as Jesus Himself put it. You may disagree thats fine, but it is not valid to speak of Christianity as if it has its beginning after Christ's death. We view every Jewish Scripture and prophecy as pointing to Christ and therefore Christianity is really Judaism fulfilled.
The first Christians were Jews, and thought of themselves as Jews; it is therefore impossible to understand Christianity without tracing its Judaic roots.
This is true. But a quick survey of Acts will reveal the very early controversy on this subject. It was very quickly revealed to the Church by the Holy Spirit through the original Pope, St. Peter how Christianity (or true Judaism according to us) is a religion that transcended race.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Beautiful Cathedrals


Lately I've been interested in searching for images of cathedrals and have found some that were nothing short of breath taking. Hopefully I will have the privelege of celebrating mass in one of these in my lifetime. To the left is one from Spain (I believe) that I was particularly impressed by.

You can click on the image for a larger view and you can view some other images from the same site by clicking here.

There is a similar post on Crossed the Tiber that I read earlier that discusses the topic of beauty in worship from a Catholic perspective.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Evolution And DNA Similarity

This article on Science Daily explains that we humans are "more different than we thought".. Uh huh.. More different than YOU thought. Once again science is finally starting to catch up with common sense.

New research shows that at least 10 percent of genes in the human population can vary in the number of copies of DNA sequences they contain--a finding that alters current thinking that the DNA of any two humans is 99.9 percent similar in content and identity.
Anyone can look at two humans and understand that insofar as DNA is related to the final product, there is more than .1% difference!!! 10 percent still sounds low to me but its much more reasonable.

Kind of puts a damper on the whole "ape & human DNA are 95% similar" theory huh... But again, basic common sense... it doesnt take a genius to figure out there is more than 5% variation between apes & humans. Like I've always said "there's more than 5% variation between humans let alone humans & apes" and apparently scientific evidence is finally starting to catch up with what common sense would have told them in the first place....

I know the Catholic Church is very tolerant of the theory of evolution. I really dont know how though. Maybe someone can explain it to me but the whole concept is really not registering for me how there could have been death before the fall of man. That would also require thousands if not millions of (99.99%) humans without souls who died. They would have been able to reason and communicate very well. Death before the fall doesnt make sense to me. (Throw on top of this what I see as lack of evidence and a scientific community with a strong bias and bad track record.... you end up getting a non-believer like me)...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Battling a Culture of Promiscuity

I think it's key for all Christians to understand exactly what is behind the current culture of death we are witnessing grow daily before we can adequately fight it. Those who promote abortion, contraception, embryonic stem cell research etc... are fundamentally hedonists seeking to permit sexual pervesion without consequence. The problem is, regardless of what laws you may pass or what social stigmas you may be succesful in eliminating, there will never exist promiscuity without adverse consequence.

None of the above issues ever have good consequence. The results are always negative on not only society but also on the individual. Promiscuity destroys the family unit but also reduces the worth of individuals who were created in the image of God. Pope John Paul II's encyclical entitled "Veritatis Splendor" is a great resource for a more in depth discussion on that topic.

I have been collecting over the last few weeks several articles as I came across them on these topics. I believe they are all rooted in this evil of an internal desire to be promiscuous without consequence.

In October (breast cancer awareness month), Andrea Mrozek wrote a good article on the topic of birth control pills and their known connection with breast cancer.

Eighty-four per cent of Canadian women have taken the Pill at some point, but few of those are aware that the Pill was classified as a “group-one carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2005. Far fewer still are likely aware of a new meta-analysis on the link between breast cancer and the Pill, published this month by the Mayo Clinic, a U.S.-based medical practice operated by the Mayo Foundation, a non-profit organization.
Why wouldn't this kind of information be made more strongly available? The liberals over at American Cancer Society are even suggesting that second hand smoke may also cause breast cancer(1) which I've also heard published several times. Now, there isnt even documented evidence to show this (of course common sense will tell you it's false) but yet they are publishing it as if there is good reason to believe its true. Yet for something that apparently has a strong documented connection with breast cancer (birth control pill), the world keeps shrugging its shoulders and looking the other way. Why? There's no mystery here.

Here's an eye opening article discussing the effects of abortion on individual women by the same author.

You can also expect to see more of this type of junk as time goes on:
With financial backing from the Dutch government, the government of Ecuador has begun distributing textbooks in schools throughout the country that separate sexuality from moral values, ridicule abstinence, and encourage sexual activity among teens.
The utterly false cop outs that pro-abortionists like to frequently use "but what about rape & incest" (in the tiny minority of cases that they actually happen anyway) are exposed by a group of brave women:
A group of women who know first hand the suffering caused by rape and incest have come together in an attempt to have their voices heard.
...
“In virtually every case, those people who claim to represent our interests have never taken the time to actually listen to us or to learn about our true circumstances, needs, and concerns. We are deeply offended and dismayed each time our difficult circumstances are exploited for public consumption to promote the political agenda of others.”
...
"In many cases, we felt pressured to abort by family members, social workers, and doctors who insisted that abortion was the 'best' solution," they wrote. "For many the abortion caused physical and emotional trauma equal to or exceeding the trauma of the sexual assault that our abortions were supposed to 'cure.'"
It's a very good article. I'd recommend reading the whole thing.

Of course there are tons of good essays and articles on the net talking about each of these topics (and let's not forget the fact that only adult stem cells produce significant results while the left continues to press the issue of wanting to reduce the value of life by permitting it's destruction)

I don't mean to post all this to focus on 'doom & gloom'. It's just that conservative Christians and those faithful to the Catholic Church need to be prepared for the coming attacks on the Church. And understand where the current ones are truly rooted. The world disguises these evils with much easier to swallow language "personal choice", "women's rights" etc... but none of these issues have anything to do with those. Rape is also a personal choice one decides to make, doesn't mean we allow it.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pray For the Great Orthodox Faiths to be Re United

It was encouraging to read this article passed along by a friend. I think it is important to pray for Orthodoxy and a return to more orthodox traditions within the Catholic Church as well as the re-uniting of the two great orthodox faiths - Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox.

"In the liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer," the patriarch said in his homily.

"Therefore, we kneel in humility and repentance before the living God and Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious name we bear and yet at the same time whose seamless garment we have divided," the patriarch told the pope and other members of the congregation.

"We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity," Patriarch Bartholomew said. "And we pray that the day may come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness."
Amen.

Why Be Catholic?

Here's a neat video from a Catholic explaining why he chose to be one.

Also, regardless of what you are, this onilne Orthodox radio station is awesome!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

How To Determine Right From Wrong

Before we dive into defenses for conservative morality as taught by the early Church and maintained by the Catholic Church today, I will outline my own thoughts on the basis for morality.

The nature of right & wrong is such that it is not a force outside of God, but rather it is based on God’s very nature. Good is that behavior which pleases God and evil is the opposite. Since right & wrong is not a force outside of God, it is impossible for God to ever be guilty of doing wrong. Anything God does is right: anything God tells one to do is right.

"revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but to God alone."(1)
There are three ways to know the difference between right and wrong. Firstly, as according to Scripture, God has written His law on the heart of every man(2) (we call this natural law). Secondly, by reading the Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and later, the revisions to that Law as imposed by the only One with authority to do so (namely, Jesus Christ). Thirdly, by the dogmas taught by the Catholic Church.

On the topic of natural Law Pope John Paul II wrote:
It also becomes clear why this law is called the natural law: it receives this name not because it refers to the nature of irrational beings, but because the reason which promulgates it is proper to human nature.(1)
The entire Law & Prophets are summarized, (as declared by Jesus & the apostle Paul among others) in the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart mind and soul, and Love your neighbor as yourself.(3) Thusly, if anyone suggests a sin that does not break one of these two laws, it ought to be ignored (unless it is implicitly declared in the Law or Church dogma). Those few laws within the Law that do not obviously break one of these two also ought to be carefully examined to determine if they are culturally exclusive or nullified by New Testament text (most importantly the words of Christ Himself). We should first consult the Church especially on these issues where it is not apparently breaking the laws which Christ prescribed. Don’t forget what Paul told Timothy on the subject of how to determine right from wrong:
“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.”(4)
The Law remains without error to this day and ought to be followed by Christians save those laws which were specifically nullified in the New Testament and those which pertain to circumstances no longer relevant. These include ceremonial & dietary laws(5) except those dietary laws which were reiterated in the New Testament (such as abstinence from blood(6)). A law which is relevant only to that culture in which it was given need only be followed in spirit and not in letter. Again, it is the Church alone that can authoritatively declare which laws were culturally exclusive and which ones weren’t. We do not have the right as individuals to determine that for ourselves.

Morality is objective; that is, there is a definite right & wrong for each situation (though it might, in rare cases, differ from the common understanding of morality); it does not change depending on the person’s attitude or belief towards it. For example, the Law states “Do not lie”(7), however in certain circumstances (though rare), telling the truth may in fact be a sin. (Consider the case of Rahab who’s life was spared by the people of God precisely because she did lie). This instance was not one (as some suspect) in which she chose the lesser of two evils but rather one where she did the right thing. (An action that pleases God is always right even if it be something horrendous in our minds). Consider also, that God Himself required genocide from His people on more than one occasion. In those situations, it was the right thing to do and in fact, in the instance where the people failed to kill everyone, God counted it against them as a great sin. This concept easily makes sense of the passage in Ecclesiastes that begins:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven(8)
A sin is defined as ‘missing the mark’ not ‘aiming away from the mark’. To be more direct, trying to do good and failing is still sin. Unwitting sin is still a sin. Consider when Abimelech took Sarai from Abram because Abram had said ‘she is my sister’.(9) When Abimelech found out through a dream that she was his wife, God said “because you were ignorant, I kept you from this sin”.(10) It is clear, ignorance would not have been an excuse. God called it a sin and even threatened his life. However, Pope John Paul II said:
“It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a nonculpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good.”(1)
Of course, the Church interprets the Scripture authoritatively so we have an ultimate answer for right and wrong. In my previous analogy where the husband is gone and the wife is in charge (the wife being the Church in this metaphor) when the wife says ‘its ok to do such & such’ or ‘don’t do such and such’ the children may obey without hesitating. If the husband finds error and requires an explanation, “your wife told me it was ok” or “your wife told me not to” would both suffice. Therefore in our current situation, we have no need to worry when following moral instruction from the Church. Will Christ hold it against us that we obeyed His Church instead of our own opinions on Scripture? Certainly not!

Finally, just because something isn’t morally wrong doesn’t make it a good idea(11).

So now I have shown a basic outline of the foundation which has brought me to my current beliefs. Hereafter I will get into more specifics in my ‘attack on liberalism’.

References:

1) Pope John Paul II Encyclical Veritatis Splendor October 14, 1993


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