Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Shame On Tony Blair

The allies of the Catholic Church are running thin in politics these days. Tony Blair just proved his cowardice by discriminating against the Catholic Church in a move intended to force the Catholic Church to bend to the whims of liberal politics.

Turning down an appeal from the country’s Catholic hierarchy, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced that Church-run agencies will not be exempt from a new policy requiring equal treatment for same-sex couples.
In other words, Catholics will not be allowed to follow their own belief system. I'd like to see that coward try and force Muslims to eat pork or force Orthodox Jews to work on Saturdays.

Eusebius on Apostolic Succession

By the fourth century (when Eusebius wrote his account of Church History) Apostolic Succession was already a profoundly important doctrine. It is hard for some to grasp the extreme importance of this doctrine considering our present situation. After all, who needs Apostolic Succession when you have the KJV?

However, if you look at the early Church in her true, historical context - I believe you will clearly see the utter necessity of Apostolic Succession (and not just in general terms, but in a very Catholic sense of the word) just as the early Church fathers did. In this light, it is not hard to see why many fathers went to great lengths to show that the successors of the apostles were clearly ordained by and were carrying out the work of their predecessors who were in turn, carrying out the 'great commission' of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is such an exciting doctrine to me and so exciting to see how strong of a historic case can be made for it.

Not only is Apostolic Succession extremely important for Eusebius, but he (like St. Clement) starts out by building a case for the primacy of Rome having St. Peter as its first bishop and the location of his martyrdom as well as St. Paul's (the two according to St. Clement were the "greatest and most righteous pillars of the faith").

It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero. This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day.

It is confirmed likewise by Caius, a member of the Church, who arose under Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome. He, in a published disputation with Proclus, the leader of the Phrygian heresy, speaks as follows concerning the places where the sacred corpses of the aforesaid apostles are laid:

"But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church."

And that they both suffered martyrdom at the same time is stated by Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his epistle to the Romans, in the following words: "You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth. And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time." I have quoted these things in order that the truth of the history might be still more confirmed.

-Eusebius Church History Book 2
Now after explaining the death of the last apostles, he begins to set up his case for Apostolic Succession by showing who succeeded who. Now who do you suppose he started with?
After the martyrdom of Paul and of Peter, Linus was the first to obtain the episcopate of the church at Rome. Paul mentions him, when writing to Timothy from Rome, in the salutation at the end of the epistle.

...

Clement also, who was appointed third bishop of the church at Rome, was, as Paul testifies, his co-laborer and fellow-soldier.
(The Catholic Church of course affirms St. Peter as the first bishop of Rome making Clement the fourth (pope) beginning about 88 AD and not the third. He was preceded by St. Anacletus (who served roughly 76-88 AD))

Pop quiz who was the first pope who was never canonized? Pope Liberius in 352 AD. Doh! You don't want to go down in history with that record!

He goes on:
But the number and the names of those among them that became true and zealous followers of the apostles, and were judged worthy to tend the churches founded by them, it is not easy to tell, except those mentioned in the writings of Paul.

For he had innumerable fellow-laborers, or "fellow-soldiers," as he called them, and most of them were honored by him with an imperishable memorial, for he gave enduring testimony concerning them in his own epistles.

Luke also in the Acts speaks of his friends, and mentions them by name.

Timothy, so it is recorded, was the first to receive the episcopate of the parish in Ephesus, Titus of the churches in Crete.
And finally he says:
But the events connected with the apostolic succession we shall relate at the proper time. Meanwhile let us continue the course of our history.
Yes, we will come back to this subject; trust me!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Herod Agrippa by Josephus & Luke

Many New Testament critics have pointed to Josephus' lack of mentioning Jesus. While Josephus does mention Jesus in glowing terms, many believe at least part of his statement concerning Christ to be an early Christian forgery. It seems reasonable but if it happened it must have happened before the early 300s since Eusebius quotes it exactly as we have it today. Still, there are some who maintain that the entire quote is authentic.

Regardless of how much is original (I think most scholars consider at least most of the statement to be authentic), there doesn't seem to be adequate attention given to the parts of Josephus' work that affirm the New Testament. I'm just going to brush over a few points very quickly.

First, Josephus speaks of John the Baptist and his relation to Herod and Herodias exactly as portrayed in the gospel of Mark. He may even have used Mark as a source. Josephus also lists the stoning of James the brother of Jesus called the Christ (and Josephus lists Him as such - also known as James the Just or the bishop of Jerusalem). This event is not listed in Acts (however Acts does list the martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee, brother of John which occurred earlier under Herod(1))

The death of Herod Agrippa was particularly interesting though. From Josephus:

Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Caesarea [...] There he exhibited shows in honor of the emperor [...] On the second day of the festival, Herod put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a truly wonderful contexture, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment was illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it. It shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him. At that moment, his flatterers cried out [...] that he was a god; and they added, 'Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.'

Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and he fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, 'I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner.'

After he said this, his pain was become violent. Accordingly he was carried into the palace, and the rumor went abroad that he would certainly die in a little time. But the multitude presently sat in sackcloth, with their wives and children, after the law of their country, and besought God for the king's recovery. All places were also full of mourning and lamentation. Now the king rested in a high chamber, and as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground, he could not himself forbear weeping. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign.
[Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 19.343-350]
And from Luke:
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply.

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
Just thought I'd pass it along for what it's worth.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Episcopal Diocese Wisely Trying to Leave the American Epsicopal Church

Hats off to the bishop of this California Episcopal diocese for having the sense to push for abandoning the American Episcopal Church (which has long since abandoned historic Christianity).

Gay rights advocates have called Schofeild homophobic, citing Scripture passages that call for acceptance and tolerance.
Shame on the cowardly activists calling everyone who disagrees with their view "homophobic" and even more shame on the uneducated liberal who wrote that article as if the Bible taught anything resembling what the left calls "acceptance" and "tolerance". Here's a hint: try reading something before commenting on it and (as an Anglican who'd be turning in his grave if he knew where some of his fellow Anglicans have ended up - CS Lewis said) "If you cant understand books written for adults then you shouldnt talk about them"


Westminster Confession on Sola Scriptura

Check out this lengthy but interesting dialogue myself and another neophyte are having with our Protestant friend PilgrimsArbour over on his blog concerning the Westminster Confession on the topic of sola scriptura. (We ended up covering several other topics as well).

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Catholics Are Helping the Left Wing Media

I don't know, maybe it was just sheer coincidence that the anti-war protest in DC got full national coverage and they somehow missed the pro-life rally last Monday. But I have my suspicions.

And if all those "Catholics" out there would spend as much energy protesting abortion as they do protesting and complaining about Iraq and about poor Saddam being hanged, hell it might be illegal by now.

But no, many continue to focus on issues of far less moral evil (thousands of guilty terrorists being killed during times of war versus millions of innocent children being murdered by mothers with malicious aforethought) and on this flawed basis continue to vote these evil politicians into office.

Every word spoken against Iraq, against Bush, against Saddam (whether its theologically correct or not) is nothing but aid and comfort to the enemies of the Church.

As a Catholic, you may be against the war because you think there are other ways to protect America from suicide bombers without using force; fine. Its very legitimate to be against the war. What's not legitimate is to focus any amount of effort on stopping the war, protesting it, trash talking Bush or the war effort as a Catholic while we continue to murder our children right here on our own soil.

Did you protest the Kosovo conflict? Did you blog about the moral evils of that war? Did you nod in agreement as you read media reports of how many soldiers we're losing there daily and how its a hopeless lost cause? No? Whats that? You dont have any clue about Kosovo? Oh thats right, because a democrat was president at the time and the media was on his side. Well if you need an education about the war, why don't you ask my Serbian friend who's mother and grandmother were killed when Muslims (whom we aided) raided the hospital where they worked. I'm sure she would have some insight about that war that the media conveniently forgot to publish (just like they forgot to publish the pro-life protest on Monday).

Again, I'm not taking a stand one way or another on the war. All I know is, Im just not too damn worried about Saddam when children are surviving abortion and being murdered in cold blood by doctors here in America and it's legal. And any one voting for politicians on the platform of pulling out of Iraq is also voting for the same corrupt politicians who are fighting to not only keep abortion legal but to make it more accessible and less restrictive. Its no coincidence that the same politicians crying about the war are the same ones actively promoting abortion almost without exception.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Evolution

What's confusing about evolution to me is that it kind of disrupts the cosmology of the Christian universe.

The Christian world view is: God created a good earth but because of sin, it became evil.

If evolution were true, the above statement is not. The world was bad to begin with - thorns, death, suffering, selfishness etc...

The Catholic catechism teaches that death entered the world by sin. Whereas with evolution, death existed many millions of years before sin ever did. In other words Eve could have been mauled by a tiger before the fall and eaten in front of Adam's very eyes. Of course he would suffer greatly watching his loved one being killed and yet every time evil happens today (even natural evil) we attribute it to the fall. Think of your loved one being killed by a wild animal in front of you. Is this good or evil? Was this part of God's original design? Yet with evolution, there is no reasonable way to deny the very real probability that this would happen.

Now I guess you could argue that I'm viewing it from my own perspective where time exists.. So maybe, as God acted out of chronological order with Mary in the immaculate conception, He did so with evolution as well. That is, He inserted the evil effects of the fall of man as soon as He laid the foundation of the planet. That, to me sounds intuitively wrong. God has not been known to act that way in other areas, why in this?

Catholic dogma of course teaches that there was a real Adam and Eve- they were not symbolic. We all descended from one man and one woman. This is a probabilistic impossibility given evolution. But God directed it, by killing off every other homosapien in existence? Now the theory starts sounding a little silly.

If you can picture the pre-Adam & Eve world (given a theistic evolution approach) you would have a world populated by thousands (at least - although no population growth algorithm would allow for anything less than billions and billions at that time) of humans with an intelligence level not distinguishable from ours today and with language and culture. There would be a lot of sadness and suffering, killing each other, absolutely no moral control they would behave like... well like humans do today. Despite the massive number of humans that would have existed and their intelligence level being indistinguishable from ours today, for some reason they didn't really do anything. They left behind no traces of their civilizations. Then somehow, all but 2 must have died. Maybe God killed them. Who knows....

The two left were implanted with something called a soul. Though they were not really any different after this event except that God said don't do X and now they magically have culpability if they were to do X. They are not any smarter. It's not like they now have free will as if they didn't before (animals have free will but do not have souls). So whatever has changed is more or less unexplainable.

I dont understand this theory or how anyone could believe in it. Yet, so many extremely intelligent people do. Though still, there are many who don't. In fact, most people don't (at least in America) I'm not sure about elsewhere.

Then again, according to the above article (and I think readily accepted as common sense) the more educated someone is, the more they tend to believe in evolution. Two observations about that: #1 its not necessarily a causal relationship & #2 even if it were it's cause is a man-made education which itself can be faulty to begin with. We also find that the more educated someone is, the more liberal they tend to be. Neither of these facts are surprising considering that A) the establishments of higher education are largely overrun with godless liberals and B) people in general (in this case the students) tend to have difficulties thinking for themselves when popular consensus leads in a certain direction.

Right now, the consensus among scientists is that man evolved. Popular (even unanimous) scientific consensus has been wrong; even completely wrong many times throughout history (and even on subjects to which there was no obvious bias). However, many do have a strong bias in favor of the evolutionary theory.

Putting these facts together, along with the fact that I have yet to hear a convincing argument for evolution - I have to say I cannot accept the theory. I am no anthropologist or biologist so I can only go on what others tell me and basic logic.

Maybe my logic is flawed and maybe I'm not listening to the right people. If so, I'm all ears.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Own Personal Jesus

This is a response to a recent comment on my previous post concerning bad practices in prayer.

Publia, my sister in Christ, let me first state that I do not in any way, intend to judge you or your faith and I am not accusing you of being insincere in the least. However, for the sake of others reading and possibly your own if you're still reading, I feel compelled to take issue with what I feel are serious problems in your response. (Not that I am an authority)

I don't agree. We are commanded to "pray without ceasing" and given the Lord's Prayer. Beyond that it should not matter. As we are freed from the law, we should also be freed from laws surrounding prayer. Just pray, in the way you feel best, and I am sure God will find that pleasing.
This mindset illustrates the painful realities of what the Reformation has led to..

Oh what a holy tradition has been torn, since Martin Luther conspired to reform...

Ok so I'm not a poet; but hey I crack myself up. Seriously, this stems from a grave misunderstanding of who Jesus was. I quote Anglican scholar (one of the most respected scholars in the world) N. T. Wright a few posts ago:
"One well-worn traditional Christian position is to say that the Jewish background is a mass of legalism and formalism, and that Jesus came to teach a different sort of religion, namely, an interior spiritual sort. This is clearly no good."
First it is important to understand that Jesus didn't come to destroy the "Law" but to fulfill it as He Himself said. Secondly, the notion (which today many millions hold to in word and many more millions hold to in deed) that Jesus came to contradict the "mean ole' Pharisees" and usher in the new age of enlightened spirituality which found its truth in our inner feelings is absolutely ludicrous. Yet this is what many believe (at least in practice as we see here). When Christ speaks of the heart, He is not speaking about emotions.

We are not dead to the "Law" in the sense that we may sin or disobey without consequence. Sin is serious business. We are dead to the Law in that it no longer holds condemnation over us. When Paul wrote that he died through the law in order to be alive to Christ.. did he mean that in order to be alive to Christ we are free to disobey Him? The rich man asked how to be saved Christ said follow the Law. Later Christ said in addition to that go and sell all that you have and give to the poor.

We do have other commands from Christ concerning prayer. Thats where I got two of my points. Christ said dont pray for a show, and dont use vain repetitions. I restated both of those in different words but you disagreed because they didnt feel right to you.

That is why we have the Scripture, the Church and the Magisterium (so we dont have to rely on our feelings to know truth). "There is a way which seemeth right to a man but the ends thereof are death".

Now with all that said, lest I come across too harsh and self indulgent (too late I know), I am not saying that sinful prayers arent honored. Many people do these things I listed in my post out of no malicious intent but are literally too stupid to realize their own selfish ambitions (not talking about you Publia I dont know you and how you pray just speaking of people I've met).

Christ did not fail to accommodate for mankind's blissful stupidity though - which brings us to some other rules Christ gave us for prayer. He said go to the closet and lock the door when you pray. That way you dont have to worry about whether youre doing it for others or not.

These are not the only laws Christ gave us, but Christ and the apostles did give us several rules for praying. The Church has also laid guidelines. Before I spoke just out of common sense and things that I felt obvious - (praying a sermon to others is not going to be honored by God) so I dont see how you can take issue with what I said.

Sure prayer circles can be great for some people I am not saying that they are invalid or necessarily bad. I just dont like them and I feel like they're often abused for selfish reasons at the expense of others present.

Publia if you're reading - hope my response made sense and didnt seem condescending. I hope you understand where I'm coming from. Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to clarify if I didnt represent your views accurately.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Top Ten Ways to Waste a Prayer

In this present age of sentimentalism there are a few things that really get under my skin about various prayer methods. I was reminded about that today as I attended a Presbyterian mid-week church service for a function at work. So I came up with a little 'top ten' list of worst prayer practices (and in general I am assuming public prayer here though some of these may also apply to private prayer). Do these if you want to waste your prayer:

10 - Confuse Members of the Trinity

The Trinity is confusing enough as it is, don't add to the confusion by thanking God the Father for dying on the cross (for example).

9 - Pray in disagreement with the Church

Praying for something like the acceptance of women's ordination is a great way to completely waste your prayer. If the Bride is firmly against it, will the Groom be for it?

8 - Insert unneeded theology or doctrines into the prayer

God doesnt need to hear correct theology in your prayer to answer it and if you're putting on a show with your doctrine for those around, you can pretty much rest assured He probably wont honor it.

7 - Pray in a circle

I absolutely hate prayer circles (where one opens, one ends and anyone who wants to jumps in) though some people like them and thats fine. But whats not fine is having a prayer circle when not everyone is exactly like-minded. I have been in several sitautions where I have brought unbelievers 'curious' about bible studies (in my Protestant days) or lapsed Christians who weren't very 'churched' growing up and had them completely turned off by the discomfort caused by these. It ends up looking like 'hey we're gonna pray and any one who is spiritual enough join in'. Which brings me to the second thing wrong with prayer circles, only the extroverts participate in general. So it ends up looking like the introverts are less spiritual. They're just a bad idea in general.

6 - Use vain repetitions and cliches

The phrase "Lead, guide & direct us" comes to mind. Bonus hint: you dont have to keep reminding God that you're praying by saying "and we pray" before every sentence.

5 - Pray obnoxiously long prayers

I dont know how many times Ive been in the situation where I almost have the rest of the day planned out in my mind and suddenly hear "in the name of Jesus we pray... amen" and remember oh yea I zoned off because pastor Bob has been praying for the last 15 minutes. Long prayers should be kept in private I think.

4 - Use the word "God", "Father" or "Father God" as a punctuation mark

You know what I'm talking about. Those prayers that end every sentence with one of those three words.

3 - Explain the situation to God

"And Lord we pray for little Johnny who, is 11 years old, and after his mother dropped him off at the bus stop about 3 oclock yesterday he got hit by a car and the doctors said he had broken his leg in 4 different places and...."

2 - Pray a sermon to those standing around

This has to be one of the most egregious practices in public prayers yet it is done so often . If you're talking to God then talk to Him not to those around you. That is nothing short of sacrilegious. Those prayers usually begin like "and Lord, help us to remember that [insert mini-sermon here]" I have even been in situations where there was a disagreement among several believers and the preacher there eventually said lets pray as we close and proceeded to get the final words of the debate in the prayer "Lord, I pray for those who dont realize your truth of [insert his own personal opinion on the subject]" Don't misuse the privilege of talking to our God!

And the number 1 way to waste your prayer...

Drum roll please...

...

...

Pray to baby Jesus! (This will make sense if you've seen Talladega Nights)

The good thing about the Catholic Church is that all of her liturgical prayers are written and by default avoid all of these errors. Having these written prayers as examples, Catholics in non-liturgical settings tend to do a pretty good job of avoiding them as well.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Get Your Priorities Straight

Recently, 120 people were nabbed on the North Carolina border in Virginia for illegal cock fighting. Now, I'm not a proponent of legalizing the sport but "frankly my dear I just dont give a damn". At least not when millions of baby humans are being murdered each year by legal methods.

America needs to get her priorities straight.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pro Life Tags In Chicago

A federal judge has recently allowed license plates with the motto "Choose Life" on them. Some of the leftists are getting pretty upset that conservatives have first amendment rights.

A federal judge ordered state officials Monday to offer license plates with the motto "Choose Life," saying that the message, considered by some to be anti-abortion, is protected by the First Amendment.
Uhm, yes anything that promotes life is anti-abortion. Thats sort of the nature of the debate. Life or death. Thank you captain obvious.

Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang said Monday he believes the message was designed to campaign for a ban on abortions.

"The anti-choice folks will look for any edge they can find to push their agenda," Lang said.

My first reaction was to laugh. It's really pathetic to see the left try and demonize someone who is pro-life. The fact that most pro-life activists are women (many of whom have aborted babies in the past) disproves the whole 'womens rights' argument... and as far as choice...even mentioning that word in the debate instantly identifies you as a complete moron. (You can make an argument for the right to abortion, but there arent any reasonable arguments which have anything to do with "choice").

The leftists are so unbelievably hypocritical it's mind boggling. Just take some of the secularist's favorite 'virtues' - "express yourself" and "everyone has a right to express their own opinion" and we have to be tolerant of others right... just as long as they believe exactly like we do.

We Need Pro Active Pro Lifers

A Catholic Life has a good post today on things you can do as a pro-lifer to aid in the cause this year. I hope we all do as much as we can. I for one have been terribly lax about this.

He has a good list of "charities" and companies that support Planned Parenthood. He forgot to mention (or atleast I didnt see it) United Way. So make sure you dont support them or anyone who does if you can. It may be impractical to boycott all of those companies, but at least now if you have a choice between them and another, you'll know which one to choose.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

St. Paul - Pillar of the Catholic Church - VI

Now for the final installment of my brief series on why Paul was rightfully called a pillar of the Church by St. Clement of Rome (the 4th Pope). The overall aim of this series has not been to disprove the new beliefs which contradict the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church but rather to show how even the writings of St. Paul (which are commonly used against the Catholic Church) are clearly in line with Catholic doctrine.

To recap, Part 1 & Part 2 dealt with the book of Romans. Part 3 carried us through Galatians & Ephesians, Part 4 Philippians, Part 5 Colossians, and we will conclude with Part 6 covering both epistles to my name sake, Saint Timothy.

Celibate Priests?

1 Timothy 3:2
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach
(Again, the word overseer here is traditionally translated as bishop. See also part 4.) Some may argue that this shows that the Church is allowed to have bishops or priests that marry and therefore the Catholic Church is in error by disallowing such a thing.

First, the Catholic Church does not teach that it is intrinsically morally wrong for a priest to have a wife. Stephanie on "La Vie Catholique" did a good job handling this issue with her post "Doctrine and Discipline". Finally, in the Eastern Catholic Rite it is acceptable to marry as a priest and some priests who have been married before (ordained in other religions) when they convert to Catholicism have remained married and been ordained as priests. For new priests in the Latin Rite, part of their discipline usually contains a vow of celibacy.

By What Authority?
1 Timothy 3:15
if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
Catholics point to 3:15 in the first epistle to Timothy to show that even as early as the first century, Christians were pointing to the Church as the "foundation of truth". (Not to mention Paul is writing infallibly here).

Protestants point to 3:16 in the second epistle to show that the Bible is the only authority.

Now as for the Protestant idea that the Bible is the only authority, (or as some reformed like to say the only 'infallible' authority - which of course is not what the debate was ever about) Catholics utterly reject this belief. However, we are perfectly fine with saying all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching. We couldn't possibly agree more.
1 Timothy 4:15-16
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Again, over and over again we see the pattern - if you do A then B will happen. If you persevere, you will go to heaven. If you live like the heathen, you will go to hell. It is extremely important to notice that in all of these situations while faith is present and or the precursor, works / obedience are always cited as necessities. The entire argument usually hinges on obedience as we have seen over and over throughout Paul's writings.

Yes there are a few places (particularly in Romans) when Paul mentions faith without mentioning works / obedience and even in one or two places seems to set the two in contrast. But we have dealt with those instances and it is abundantly clear from the remainder of his writings that he never intended to portray the doctrine of 'sola fide' in any of his epistles.

Confirmation
2 Timothy 1:6
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Here is one of several Biblical passages which point to the sacrament of confirmation which is of course, one of the seven practiced in the Catholic Church today. See also Acts 8:17-18, Acts 19:5-6 and Hebrews 6:2. (I'm sure theres more but these are ones I came across recently).

Salvation by Grace
2 Timothy 1:9
who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
Ok now again, go back to part 1 if you forgot and read what the Catholic Church teaches (and has always taught) about salvation. If by now you dont see that Paul teaches the exact same thing, then no matter what I say or what verse I pull you will never be convinced.

In plain English, Paul has repeatedly stated the same thing over and over through all his epistles. Its not brain surgery or rocket science. Paul never says that we are saved by "faith alone". He never says that our faith alone justifies us and works are merely evidence of our faith. Now such a system isn't terribly different from what Scripture and the Catholic Church actually teach. But this is a reformed view; a revised view. They are merely re-wording what has always been taught.

Luther's heresy wasnt an over emphasis on the salvific qualities of faith, but on the assertion that mere intellectual assent (faith in the resurrection) was sufficient for salvation (justification by faith alone or: sola fide). Calvin came along and revised Luther's standpoint (and the Lutheran church has since modified it as well) and said that 'wait it takes more than intellectual assent but also obedience which naturally will stem from faith but it is the faith itself which actually justifies us'. (Correct me if I'm misrepresenting the doctrine). Hence, the doctrine is no longer sola fide. Faith + nothing = Faith + nothing.

If you include in the definition of faith, a host of other things (like works, obedience, correct doctrine etc...) it is no longer only faith. So if, when I say by "faith alone" I mean "by a life of faith and obedience alone" (because that obedience stems from faith and is impossible to separate from it) then I don't truly believe in faith alone.

The 'faith alone' which the Catholic Church condemns is the kind which St. James condemns in the 2nd chapter of his epistle. If you dont believe in that kind of faith alone, then you dont truly believe in sola fide. Martin Luther split from the Church on sola fide. He backed it up with sola scriptura. Both beliefs have changed a lot since he invented them but especially sola fide.

Now there are many evangelicals out there today who do still believe in a pure sola fide. The 'altar calls' of so many 'Bible believing' churches come to mind.

But in this final installment, I think we can honestly look back over Paul's writings and say without hesitating that Paul insisted on a gospel which called for obedience. Repeatedly, Paul exhorts his disciples to obey or face the consequences. He reminded them of what would happen if they did not obey. He told them how to live the Christian life.

It can be demonstrated that, with some clever efforts, Paul's writings can be interpreted to fit any view point imaginable. However, I think its very fair to say that the most intuitive readings of his epistles will readily lend themselves to Catholic doctrines.

I will close with a prayer from the second chapter of Thomas Kempis' "Imitation of Christ":
Moderate, O Jesus, my eagerness to know so much, and correct my negligence in doing so little for salvation, since Thou wilt not judge me according to what I have known, but by what I have done, or neglected to do, to obtain it. Can I apply my thoughts to know Thee more thoroughly, and not admire and love Thee? and can I truly know myself, and not despise and hate myself? O life unknown! life hidden in Jesus Christ, in God! what an excellent means art thou practiced amongst Christians! Grant, O Lord, that all may know, esteem, and love it, and be directed by it. Amen.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Jesus Project - Fraud in the Making

As if the Jesus Seminar didn't give us enough crap to fertilize our theological gardens for years to come, James Tabor posts on a new intellectual scam in the making:

The conference entitled “Scripture and Skepticism” (University of California at Davis, 25-28 January 2007) was called to consider comparative approaches to sacred scripture in the three book religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The conference is also a frank acknowledgement that the historical-critical method, which has enormously enlarged our understanding of the origins and development of biblical and koranic materials, needs to be asserted and defended in every generation.

At the conclusion of the three-day conference, Dr R. Joseph Hoffmann, the current head of CSER (Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, the sponsoring organization) will announce plans for a new venture called the “Jesus Project.” The emphasis of the new project is to examine the shreds of tradition which bear on the historicity—the historical existence–of Jesus of Nazareth. The Jesus Project is not “a successor” to the Jesus Seminar. The ambitious work of the Westar Institute winds on. The Jesus Project does however acknowledge a certain incompleteness in the work of the JS, since, inevitably, when the sayings of Jesus have been pared down to just under twenty, or some 18%, of those attributed to him in the canonical gospels, questions inevitably arise not just about the fate of the others, but the historicity of the man himself. The Jesus Project is funded entirely by the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, its affiliates, and private donors.

It should be stressed that the JP, contrary to some advance media speculation, is not an attempt to disprove the historical Jesus. By he same token, its goal is not to create a historically plausible figure from the bits of evidence available, but rather to assess the nature and weight of the evidence itself. Attempts in the 19th and twentieth century to discredit all elements of the gospel record were pronounced a failure, though largely by a theologically driven method of inquiry. The JP will solicit the skills of New Testament scholars, historians, and social scientists in its deliberations. It acknowledges the bias and partiality of previous efforts to address this question, but regards the question as significant and deserving of greater attention than has been given it in previous decades. The proliferation of new theories of the non-historicity of Jesus, whatever their merits, and defenses of the historical Jesus whatever their weaknesses, make this an important area of investigation in the new millennium.

CSER wishes to stress that the members of the seminar will be selected by a vetting process, to be published in the form of announcements to universities, colleges and seminaries in March 2007. The davis conference does not constitute a session of the Project and speakers at this CSER conference have no formal connection to the Project.

The Seminar will meet twice a year—once in Amherst New York, and in Los Angeles California. Other venues may be announced as its work progresses and its conclusions are documented.
What a load of crap. Why even have any meetings? We all know what their verdict is going to be.

St. Paul - Pillar of the Catholic Church - V

Only two more posts on St. Paul I promise.

Colossians 1:22-23
But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
If you know Catholic doctrine, and you read Paul, it's impossible to miss his Catholicity. Once again, how are we reconciled? By the physical body of Christ through death - to present us holy in His sight and without blemish. It is we ourselves that will be presented before God either worthy or unworthy. Not because of our own goodness which merited God's grace but because of Christ's sacrifice.

That doesnt mean however, that we remain worthless sinners devoid of any goodness. Indeed, the grace bestowed on us by God truly transforms us in order that (again) we ourselves are presented without blemish (not that our blemishes are covered up and hidden). This is another example of the beauty of Catholic teaching. I found (for me) that the whole concept of sanctification makes much more sense admitting the doctrine of purgatory (but now is not the time to discuss that).

Back to the passage at hand, also notice how there is a condition in the clause. He says this will happen "if you continue on in your faith". This tells us that we can indeed lose our salvation as the Catholic Church (and some Protestant churches) teach. How can you put a 'condition' on an "unconditional election"? Yet the Bible is more or less one giant statement of condition. Scripture from the beginning is not shy about stipulating exactly what will happen under various conditions.

In the Law & Prophets, God spoke to His people using very conditional language. 'If you obey me, I will bring you prosperity and happiness, but if you disobey me, I'll leave you in ruins'. This language did not stop in the New Testament. "lest you repent ye shall all likewise perish", "you are my friends if you do what I command you" and here again Paul says you will be presented holy "if you continue in your faith".
Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church
Catholics teach that suffering has eternal merit. For a summary of New Testament verses on the subject see this link. Another beautiful Catholic teaching is of course, the ability to offer up your sufferings.

It also seems a little hard to swallow for Paul say "what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions". How are Christ's afflictions lacking? I believe that its not that His sacrifice was insufficient, but only that: what is lacking is our participation in it. His sacrifice (for me personally) is lacking if I am not 'taking up my cross' as well.
Colossians 2:9
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
A very good Scriptural reason to deny the heresy of Nestorianism and thereby affirm the Catholic title that Mary was indeed the "mother of God". I think that understanding this issue is critical to understanding any debate on the issue of Mariology.

This passage also makes easy work of explaining the mystery of the Eucharist. (Not that it ceases to be a mystery). I have been asked before, "how can you believe that the bread & wine have actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ when you can look at them and see that they're not?" My answer is that one might have asked the same question about Christ and His divinity in the first century. We could have plainly looked at Him and seen that He was not God since God is not a man and Jesus obviously was Man. We would have been wrong. He is God. If we were to shake the hand of Christ, we literally just shook God's hand. It is not the "shell" that God chose to inhabit while on Earth. That is a heresy (see above).

In the same way, Mary literally was the mother of God. No, not the mother of His flesh alone (because to separate His humanity from His divinity is the heresy of Nestorianism). Furthermore the Eucharist is Christ. All of this is a mystery and cannot be grasped. But so is Christ's divinity itself and so is the Trinity. The beauty of Catholicism is that it allows us to accept mysteries without apology. G. K. Chesterton, in his book "Orthodoxy", refers to a mathematician (or scientist of some sort) who tries to build a bridge across an endless see (by logic) and contrasts him with an artist who builds a boat and sails about freely on it.
Colossians 2:14
having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Typically, this verse seems to be read almost as if it were saying that we no longer have any rules to be followed and that all our sins have been 'nailed to a cross' therefore we needn't worry about them. Again, in light of the words of Christ "if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out" this simplistic interpretation of Paul's message here simply will not do.

I think its safe to say that most theologians would read this passage to say that the condemnation which was directed by the Law has been 'crucified' (speaking figuratively) along with Christ. In other words, 'there is now no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ Jesus"(1).

I was told by a fellow Protestant several years ago "don't let the devil hound you about that sin... when he starts accusing you just remind him that it was nailed to a cross 2,000 years ago". The advice sounds innocent enough, but that wasn't the devil; that was my conscience! There is, of course, forgiveness of sins; it's one of the final points of the Apostle's Creed.

Up next: Paul's letters to Timothy and that oughta do it for my brief study on Paul's Catholicity.

Friday, January 19, 2007

St. Paul - Pillar of the Catholic Church - IV

Having gone through the Pauline epistles (merely picking out certain verses of interest), we have finished up to Ephesians at this point. Although I regrettably admit, I had neglected to comment on the first chapter of 1 Corinthians where Paul says:

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
I had written before on unity within the Catholic Church. This was part (albeit one of the weaker points) of the evidence I observed in defense of my conversion. So needless to say, this passage is of some interest to Catholics and I see only one Church truly fulfilling such an exhortation.
Philippians 1:1
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers* and deacons:
Paul's opening remarks here are of interest because we see that a clear hierarchy has already developed in the early Church. To quote world renowned Anglican scholar N. T. Wright:
"One well-worn traditional Christian position is to say that the Jewish background is a mass of legalism and formalism, and that Jesus came to teach a different sort of religion, namely, an interior spiritual sort. This is clearly no good."(1)
It is critical for any serious look at early Christianity to realize that Jesus did not come to destroy hierarchy, legalism or tradition. He came to fulfill the Law and preach the true gospel of (to use Wright's language) "Israel's god".

It is in that light that we can appreciate the fact that St. Paul is writing to a Church which already has a significant hierarchy of some sort in place. The biblical hierarchy of the early Church is of course what the Roman Catholic Church follows to this day.

I placed an asterisk beside the word "overseer" since that word is traditionally (KJV etc...) translated as "bishop". It is the Greek word episkopos. Regardless, it is clearly talking about what we now call bishops (since they apparently operate in the same way... i.e. they're overseers). So we have in the canonical New Testament; overseers, bishops, presbyters /elders (priests) deacons and "saints". (Clearly, the word "saint" here is written in a different sense than a canonized saint of the Catholic Church).
Philippians 1:6
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Again, exactly in line with Catholic dogma: we are not saved by our works or because we are good people. God (by His grace) initiated a calling, we responded by faith out of free will, the Holy Spirit gives us perpetual grace to do His will and thereby sanctifies us.
Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Clearly Paul sees something incomplete in his life. He is working toward something. Now you can come up with whatever clever explanation you want, but in Paul's own words, he is working to "win the prize for which God has called me heavenward"... or in layman's terms: Heaven.

1) Wright 1996, Jesus And The Victory of God pg 92 (He also points to Sanders 1985 passim for a more thorough critique of this position).

How Many Books Does the Bible REALLY Have?

Catholic apologist Mark Shea wrote an excellent essay on the 'deutero-canonical' books (or so-called apocryphal) books of the Catholic bible which appeared in Envoy Magazine in 2001.

In it, he addresses the "5 myths about 7 books" (the seven that the Catholic Bible has which the Protestant versions do not):

Myth 1
The deuterocanonical books are not found in the Hebrew Bible. They were added by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent after Luther rejected it.

Myth 2
Christ and the Apostles frequently quoted Old Testament Scripture as their authority, but they never quoted from the deuterocanonical books, nor did they even mention them. Clearly, if these books were part of Scripture, the Lord would have cited them.

Myth 3
The deuterocanonical books contain historical, geographical, and moral errors, so they can't be inspired Scripture.

Myth 4
The deuterocanonical books themselves deny that they are inspired Scripture.

Myth 5
The early Church Fathers, such as St. Athanasius and St. Jerome (who translated the official Bible of the Catholic Church), rejected the deuterocanonical books as Scripture, and the Catholic Church added these books to the canon at the Council of Trent.
Reformed theologian R. C. Sproul once said that the canon is "a fallible collection of infallible books". In contrast, Mark Shea said:
The only basis we have for determining the canon of the Scripture is the authority of the Church Christ established, through whom the Scriptures came.
If you're fuzzy on the issue and not sure why the 7 should or shouldnt be included in the canon, I would highly recommend reading the whole article.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Spina Bifida Baby to be Aborted if not Adopted

I am reprinting this (without permission but Im sure they wont mind) from a comment I saw on Curt Jester's recent post. Hopefully this message can reach the right person.

As we reflect this month on 34 years of abortion under Roe, our friends at Hope for Orphans remind us that behind every abortion is a very real struggle between life and death. They have again asked for our help in finding a forever home for a baby in need.

A crisis pregnancy center in Toronto has been assisting a mom who is expecting twins next month. Recently she found out, that one of the babies (a boy) has Spina Bifida. This is a birth defect in which the spinal cord has not developed properly. According to the doctors this little unborn child's condition is severe. He is probably paralyzed from the waist down and will need a shunt because of hydrocephali (water on
the brain).

The Mother cannot face this challenge and is booked to have a selective abortion of the spina bifida child in a few weeks.

The pregnancy center feels that if they can offer this mom a promise that a family will adopt the handicapped child she will carry him to term.

If you or someone you know would be willing and able to provide a home to this baby in need, please reply ASAP for more information.

Call:
(972) 790-9044
Thank you and God bless you,
Kyleen Wright, president
Texans for Life Coalition
www.texlife.org

Christian Unity Week

Today begins "Christian Unity Week" so I hope we can all lay aside our differences for a while. (Don't worry, Protestant vs. Catholic fighting to resume on January 26th)... Just kidding.

The prayer for Christian unity, however, cannot be limited to a week of the year. The joint invocation to the Lord, to bring about, when and how he knows, the full unity of all his disciples, must be extended to each day of the year.

Moreover, the harmony of objectives in the "diakonia" to relieve man's sufferings, the search for the truth of Christ's message, conversion and penance, are imperative stages through which every Christian worthy of the name must unite with his brother to implore the gift of unity and communion.

I exhort you, therefore, to spend these days in a climate of prayerful listening to the Spirit of God so that significant steps will be taken on the path of full and perfect communion among all Christ's disciples.
- Pope Benedict XVI
Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all both now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Oscar Wilde and The Power of Orthodox Liturgy

This is reposted with permission from my fellow neophyte and good friend NotMyOpinion:

A Catholic friend of mine and I were discussing Oscar Wilde, an Irish playwright from the 19th century. He was born into a Protestant family and later became a Freemason. He lived quite a vicious life. However, throughout his life he was constantly called to the Catholic Church, thought it wasn't until his final moments that he finally sincerely came home.

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/arts/al0010.html

What I really found interesting in this biographical summary, is how many other vicious writers and contemporaries of Oscar Wilde ended up becoming Catholic before their deaths. Despite their attraction to the deepest sins (homosexuality, drug abuse, public obscenities, etc.), they were always drawn to the Mystery of the Mass and the aestheticism of the Church. I couldn't help but imagine the Liturgies by which they were so charmed. Today, our Liturgies have become so watered down, our parishes stripped of Holy statues and icons, our priests have taken the roles of entertainers rather than solemn witnesses of the Word, that there is hardly anything Mystical about it. There is nothing immediately transcendent in most American Masses today. Only when we strain our minds to imagine the transcendence is this possible, and that is as Catholics in a sincere search for Christ. I have to imagine icons on the bare walls of the Church. I have to imagine the heavens opening above and the choirs of angels singing the "Gloria". I have to imagine being present through time and space at the sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross. I am ashamed to admit it, but on most days I find it hard to truly concentrate properly at Mass. Sometimes I am guilty of losing that sense of the spiritual because of the lax nature of the Mass and because I am distracted by little things such as people waving to each other during the Liturgy, people around me breaking my concentration by interrupting the Mass to tell me that my son is cute, smiling and greeting each other in the line to receive Christ (I am guilty of this but it is only because I don't want to be rude to the people greeting me), the "kiss of peace" that has turned into a superficial community hug and hand shake session that has changed from the original sober and sincere look and offer of the "peace of the Lord" that once existed, the holding of hands during the Our Father that interrupts personal thought of the prayer to God the Father and introduces a superficial sense of communal prayer, the distraction of the Oran's posture of those who have been seduced by a charismatic movement that cries "Here I am, Lord, your sanctified servant, ready to be accepted into Your Kingdom" in the most ineffectual and pretentious way completely void of the humility and sense of unworthiness that was once observed at the solemn Mass (the sense that we aren't saved yet, as we have yet to bear our cross to the end and are in desperate need of His divine help, which is why we are there in the first place; not to declare our own personal victory over our sinfulness), and many more things that show the lack of reverence and mystery of Christ's perfect sacrifice for the Father. Many of these things are done in active opposition and disobedience to the requests of the local Ordinary and the Successor of St. Peter.

Imagine what the Mass used to be like. A Mass that could draw active homosexuals and the most vicious anti-Catholics to become receivers of the healing power provided only by Christ Himself. The Mystery that drew them in, captured their minds, and never set them free until they left their former worldly gods behind them to follow the One True God with sincerely. The Mystery that ultimately led them to conversion.

Obviously, things have changed. There are homosexuals in the Church now who see no need to change their lifestyle. There is no mystery to the Mass anymore because our Liturgy has been watered down in most parts of the country to a Protestant "feel good" community gathering. The need to convert is no longer apparent. They obviously don't see what Oscar Wilde and his contemporaries saw. I think that reading about Oscar Wilde's conversion and his spiritual struggle, and that of his counterparts, shows just how much things have changed. A century ago, outspoken sinners steeped in sin, vice, anti-Catholicism, and misery, fell prey to the Mystery of the Mass and the search for the keys that would unfasten the chains of sin that restrained them from the happiness they sought. Now, outspoken sinners of the same type find no mystery in the Mass. The mystery escapes them so much that they feel they can change it to fit their lifestyles. You see, if we want to evangelize the sinful world full of homosexuality, drug use, secularism, and other forms of human degeneration, we must return to orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is what attracted these poor souls to true repentance, not acceptance, a coaxing pat on the back, and special ministry groups designed for their counseling. It was the Holy Spirit that emanated from the orthodox Liturgies that wiggled into the creases of their brains and could not be purged by their sinful lifestyles, not the multiple gay and lesbian lay ministries available today. There were homosexuals a century ago that weren't counseled back into the Church, they were led their by the Holy Spirit and orthodoxy. Let's put the Holy Spirit back to work in the Church and get rid of all of this liberal garbage that has turned the Mass into a weekly community gathering rather than the Mystery of Christ's sacrifice "for many".

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

He Who is Not Against Us Is For Us

Christianity has enjoyed a long period of prosperity through recent history. Any honest observation of global trends must admit that that period seems to be coming to an end. The world is baring it's teeth at any branch of Christianity that holds even a shred of resemblance to orthodox values. If you don't think its going to pounce within our lifetime, you have another thought coming to you.

From here on when I mention Christianity I am not including mainstream liberal Christianity. Those social clubs arent in any danger (and they wouldnt be concerned even if they perceived that they were in danger since they obviously dont take the religion seriously).

Christianity currently has three main enemies as I see them. The first two are the obvious ones: 1) the growing Western hatred for Christ and the rise of secular evangelicalism and 2) the liberals and "progressives" within the Catholic Church (mainly) who want to destroy it from within.

These two enemies pose serious threats. We are at war. No, I'm not talking about a physical war. As Christians, we use far more powerful weapons than guns or tanks; through peace and charity Christianity has grown from a insignificant sect in Palestine to be the dominant religion of the modern world. It is through peace and charity that we must continue to fight but also through sound doctrine and courage when doing the right thing and standing up for the right thing isn't very popular. First things first, clean up the Church. This is a task which belongs to everyone and not just bishops. In this time when vocations are at a low point, layity need to step up to defend the Church from her enemies from within (like Hans Kung and the "Keep the Faith Change the Church" liberals). These people have openly and knowingly rejected sound doctrine.

This brings us to our third enemy which we havent discussed yet. Islam. Like Bishop Maggiolini said recently, the Catholic Church's failure to confront Islam is going to have serious consequences. Meanwhile, European countries such as Germany, France and the UK are seeing enormous growth in the Muslim population not only by immigration but also by conversion.

Recently an orthodox Jewish Rabbi (Daniel Lapin) wrote an article posted on Catholic Education that was absolutely dead on. I highly suggest reading the whole thing.

Consider the long list of anti-Christian books that have been published in recent months. Here are just a few samples of more than 30 similar titles, all from mainstream publishers:

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

Piety & Politics: The Right-wing Assault on Religious Freedom

Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism

Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America

Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right

He makes a lot of great points in the article. Does anyone seriously think that Christianity poses a bigger threat than Islam? These people are like the pre-WWII Britains who thought that the Churchill was a bigger threat than Hitler. He makes another great point, change any of these titles from Christian to Jewish and see if any of the cowards who wrote them would still have the audacity to write such hate filled propaganda.

There is now no social stigma against hating Christians. Social stigmas are the only driving morality that the secular world has. Those who hate Christians dont leave Jews and blacks alone because they're good people, they leave them alone because they are afraid of how they will be lynched by society if they even suggest anything negative about them. Yet they have no qualms about trashing Christianity.
Even the recent PBS documentary, "Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence," managed to do more attacking Christianity than defending Judaism.
...

For those with a slightly more tolerant outlook, he [Richard Dawkins] asks, "It's one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children?" He suggests that the state should intervene to protect children from their parents' religious beliefs. Needless to say, he means Christian beliefs, of course.

...

Phase one in this war is to make Christianity, well, sort of socially unacceptable. Something only foolish, poor and ugly people could turn to.
He goes on to point out how succesful people have been lately with propaganda campaigns against smoking for example.
Fervent zealots of secularism are flinging themselves into this anti-Christian war with enormous fanaticism.

...

Without a vibrant and vital Christianity, America is doomed, and without America, the West is doomed.

Which is why I, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, devoted to Jewish survival, the Torah and Israel am so terrified of American Christianity caving in.

Many of us Jews are ready to stand with you. But you must lead. You must replace your timidity with nerve and your diffidence with daring and determination. You are under attack. Now is the time to resist it.

And its not just Orthodox Jews who need to stand with the Catholic Church but also conservative Protestants, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and all God's faithful because the "war on Christianity" is no longer an impending danger but a present reality.

First things first, eliminate this spirit of liberalism trying to destroy the Church. NO, what the Church needs isnt women priests. We dont need to revoke priestly celibacy. We don't need to eliminate the death penalty completely. We dont need to keep Israel from defending herself. We dont need to support Palestine. We dont need to change our teachings on homosexuality. We dont need more "praise and worship" music in the liturgy and we dont need the whole Catholic world crying over the execution of Saddam and the Iraq war. There are far worse things going on in the world than terrorists being brought to justice... Trust me.



Monday, January 15, 2007

St. Paul - Pillar of the Catholic Church - III

The last two posts under this title have been focusing on Paul's letter to the Romans (which seems to be the most commonly used epistle against the Roman Catholic Church). Let me explain briefly that I am not attempting to start a debate or even "prove" anything to anyone. This series of posts on Paul is primarily for my own benefit. This is the first time I have gone through the New Testament as a Catholic and I am writing this summary of the Pauline epistles to help gather my thoughts and reflections. I post it here in case it may be of some use to any one else. So enjoy.

We now turn our focus to his remaining epistles which shall prove to be more "Catholic friendly" (as if Romans wasn't).

Typology
I'd like to start out with a couple very general observations about Paul's writings. He is not afraid (as some seem to be) of exploring typology. I think it self evident to say that the orthodox faiths have been much more effective in illuminating typological arguments from the Old Testament. This is especially reasonable to state considering that typology never points to any non-orthodox doctrines (such as the rapture for example) and does quite often point to exclusively orthodox doctrines (such as the Real Presence). This, I suggest, is the reason why typology is only loosely advocated outside of the orthodox branches of Christianity.

However, Paul himself establishes a hermeneutical paradigm which orthodoxy continued to expound on through the works of the early Church fathers. Paul first uses Adam as a prefiguration of Christ or Christ (as the new Adam) (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22) and then later he explains that the relationship between Hagar and Sarah prefigure the relationship between the Old & New Covenants (Galatians 4:21-31). I found all this allegory to be decidedly Catholic.

Dying to the Law - Alive to Faith Alone?
Paul wrote more than once portraying the Christian life as one which had been born anew (now dead to the things of the past). Most notable was his imagery of dying to the Law. But as was the case with Marcion, it is not difficult to allow that imagery to lead one into false doctrine.
Galatians 2:19
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Now before being too hasty and casting out the necessity of works in the Christian life, we should look back once more to the book of Romans:
Romans 7:4
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
How did we die? Through the body of Christ. Why? So that we might belong to Another (Romans) / live for God (Galatians). Christ (the one whom we are now alive to) was raised in order that? We might bear fruit to God.

This isn't rocket science; stay with me.

Why do we need to bear fruit? Because according to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the vines which do not remain in Christ are unfruitful and those will be cut off and "thrown into the fire"(1). This also gives us a fuller understanding of what John the Baptist was talking about when he said:
Luke 3:9
The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
We're talking very basic language here. There's no need for complex doctrines. If you don't produce fruit, you will be cut off and thrown into the fire. In other words, you will go to hell. If you died to the Law through Christ and are now alive to Him through faith given you by the grace of God AND you abide in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit producing good fruit, then you will go to Heaven.

Therefore, you died to the Law not to prove the necessity of faith as opposed to works, but that by faith you might produce works and if you dont you're going to hell.
Galatians 5:21 - and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Those who act according to the lusts of the flesh shall not inherit the kingdom of God. He is not advancing a complex doctrine here. He has no hidden agenda. He means what he says. He is speaking with the intuitive cause and effect pattern. If A then B or in this case: if A (you live like this) then not B (inherit the kingdom of God). (And now we're starting to see why Occam was Catholic.)

He doesnt speak this way because his audience is too stupid to understand the complex doctrine of "just believe and you go to heaven" or "just believe and you go to heaven and if you're going to heaven we'll all know it because of your good works." but rather he is advancing the more intuitive "if you do bad things you wont go to heaven (whether you believe or not)" For again, Paul is certainly not ignorant of the words which our Lord spoke:
Matthew 7:22
Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
Moving right along...
Galatians 1:8-9
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Paul does not appeal to the Scriptures. He does not tell them to search the Scriptures to see if what they are being told is true. He holds his (apostolic) authority in such high regard that damned be anyone (including an angel) who disagrees. Thats either pretty self indulgent or it says something significant about how much Paul understands about the authority he held as an apostle. Not to mention what he is writing now is infallible itself!
Ephesians 4:1-2
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
This is good. As according to the Catholic teaching on salvation which I laid out in the first post in this series, we receive an unmerited calling from God (by His grace) to which we have the ability to accept (by faith) or reject. This is the beginning of our journey. This is our calling and now Paul is urging us to live a life worthy of it. Although he is rather soft spoken about it here, we have seen in other places that there are serious consequences if we do not live a worthy life.
Ephesians 4:17
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking
His language becomes a little stronger. Changing your lifestyle is not optional. Though Martin Luther (who had taken sola fide to its logical and extreme conclusions) suggested that when the Devil tempted us to sin we should do so just to spite him, Paul seems to think otherwise. (Lets not forget Romans 6:1 either).

I thought I could lump the rest of Paul's epistles into a third and final post but I was mistaken. I had underestimated the Catholicity of Saint Paul. Hah! I'll stop here since we're at the end of Ephesians. To be continued...


Refreshing Honesty in the Stem Cell Debate

I was a little surprised at the honesty from the article of this (apparent) atheist reprinted on Catholic Education which originally appeared in the Washington Post.

As John Edwards put it most starkly and egregiously in 2004: If John Kerry becomes president, Christopher Reeve will walk again.

This kind of stem cell advocacy did not just shamefully inflate its promise. It tended to misrepresent the basis for putting restrictions on embryonic research, insisting that it was nothing more than political enforcement of the religious fundamentalist belief that life begins at conception.
...
I have long supported legal abortion. And I don't believe that life — meaning the attributes and protections of personhood — begins at conception. Yet many secularly inclined people such as myself have great trepidation about the inherent dangers of wanton and unrestricted manipulation — to the point of dismemberment — of human embryos.
It was interesting to see this level of honesty coming from someone who is pro-abortion. It serves only to remind us how dishonest the rest of the left wing crowd is being on this issue.
South Korea enthusiastically embraced unrestricted stem cell research. The subsequent greatly heralded breakthroughs — accompanied by lamentations that America was falling behind — were eventually exposed as a swamp of deception, fraud and coercion.
Yea surprise surprise...
The House voted yesterday to erase Bush's line. But future generations may nonetheless thank Bush for standing athwart history, if only for a few years. It gave technology enough time to catch up and rescue us from the moral dilemmas of embryonic destruction. It has just been demonstrated that stem cells with enormous potential can be harvested from amniotic fluid.
Unfortunately he underestimates the evil of the left wing agenda. It has been known for quite some time that stem cells harvested from methods not requiring murder are just as if not more promising (from a strictly scientific standpoint) than their less nobly gathered counterparts. Yet in spite of this, they continue to insist we destroy human life. As CurtJester pointed out recently, this debate has never been about cures in the first place.

Animus Against the Catholic Faith

The Polish Bishops have criticized the media for it's involvement airing "incomplete historical records" in their accusations against Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus which forced him to resign his post. Now I dont know all the facts about the incident and frankly I'm not interested in defending him per se. I just wonder how fair the media is really being in the situation.

I think the Polish Bishops were probably right in saying:

"public attacks on Church leaders were motivated by an animus against the Catholic faith"
That is not to say the accusations couldnt have been true or at least partly true, but it seems like an example, to me of the growing animosity towards Christianity in general but specifically Catholicism.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Margaret Sanger Would Be Proud

I ran across this disturbing article a couple days ago just running a little late in posting it. Both American & Canadian gynecologists are now recommending that all pregnant women receive screening to make sure they don't have a child with down syndrome.

“Yes, it's going to lead to more termination, but it's going to be fair to these women who are 24 who say, 'How come I have to raise an infant with Down's syndrome, whereas my cousin who was 35 didn't have to?’”
Same old song and dance. How is this going to be fair to the murdered infants? The liberal agenda rears its ugly head again. Ever since Margaret Sanger, the promiscuity industry has been focused on making the murder of infants as acceptable as possible. This recommendation isn't going to be beneficial to anyone! The only possible outcome of it is more death & less so-called "un desirables" in society.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

St. Paul - Pillar of the Catholic Church - II

This post is continuing my previous discussion on Saint Paul and his Catholicity. We remain interested in his epistle to the Church at Rome (the pontiff of which would later come to be understood by Christianity as the earthly authority for the body of Christ).

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
First, while this verse (and a few others like it) are often quoted in support for sola fide, I really don't need to make a defense for it. It says nothing against the Catholic position. Do Catholics not believe we are justified through faith? Well let's take a look at what one of the earliest collections of Catholic dogma has to say on that subject...
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,(1)
I even quoted from the NIV, but the Douay-Rheims version says "justified by faith" instead of through. Just remember, if it's in the Bible, the Church teaches it. Thats why the Church included it in the Bible because she believed and taught it already.

Now the issue one might have is, does this verse teach sola fide? Does it teach that faith is the only mechanism by which we are saved? The obvious answer is no. Is faith the only mechanism through which we are saved? You may choose to believe that, but you'll have to make your argument from other sources as Paul clearly does not say it. It is also clear that Paul doesnt have the intention of making an exclusive statement on the mechanics of justification here. That is to say: he is not attempting to prove that justification is through faith (and nothing else). Because later he says:
Romans 5:9-11
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
If he were trying to make an exclusive statement in verse one, how is it that he contradicts himself only a few verses later by saying we are justified by "His blood, through Him, through the death of [God's] Son and through His life"? If verse one was intended to be exclusive (which it obviously isnt) then it would have been contradicted four times in verses 9-11.

Now I feel like I've spent a lot of energy tackling an issue that was self evident. But you never know with some people... Let's move on.
Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
This verse is commonly used in support of the Protestant understanding of salvation. Protestants have the view that Christ's death is the only way anyone can make it to heaven. Ok so far so good, Catholics agree. Where we differ is with what happens afterwards. Protestants typically believe that this gift is offered freely to anyone who will accept, and once they do (by faith) the righteousness of Christ is applied to their entire life before and after. This faith also leads the Christian into good works (but it is grace alone through faith alone that justified them).

Again, this is reading more into the verse than it is saying. First of all, we notice he is speaking in general terms and not being hyper-literal. Or did Christ's death bring life literally for all men? Many, indeed most, do not receive it (according to Christ's own words). Secondly, the first step to reading this verse in the passage is to understand that Paul is contrasting Christ's good work on the cross with Adam's sin in the garden. Paul is interested in the contrast presently, not in laying the foundation for the belief that once we believe, all future sins are eliminated by Christ's act of sacrifice. Again, you may still believe in that doctrine, you'll just have to make your arguments from elsewhere.

Indeed, it is Christ's sacrifice which enables all men to enter the kingdom of Heaven. This is sound Catholic doctrine. Christ Himself said at the last supper, "this is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many".
Romans 8:29-30
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Catholics and all non-Calvinists don't like this word "predestined". Some versions say merely "destined". Whatever the case, I think we all know what the meaning is intended to be for that word. The passage (among a few others) is one of the Calvinist's favorites. As Catholics, it should be one of ours too.

Jesus Himself did not say "all are called" but rather "many are called" and even still "few are chosen". So, I think it is safe to say, those growing up completely outside of the gospel and ignorant of it (not merely having not heard of it) was never 'predestined' or 'destined' to come to full communion with Christ on this earth. There have been many millions on the earth since the time of Christ who never had even the opportunity to become Christian and there are many now who still don't have a reasonable opportunity since they live completely outside of a Christian sphere of influence. Speaking in worldly terms, it is impossible for them to come to Christ. I think its reasonable to assume Paul may be speaking of this. (This would also be very harmonious with the Catholic teaching that it is possible for those outside of Christianity to be saved since they were not 'predestined' to begin with through no fault of their own).

It is important to note, however, that Catholics do not believe in pre-destination as taught by Calvin. I was a former Calvinist and now a Catholic so I understand both (always learning).

We also see in this passage that God is doing the justification. He initiated the process by a calling and we accept it by faith (as we know from other teachings) but it doesnt end there. The justification process must continue. Paul continues to say that He also glorifies us. We will find elsewhere in Paul's writings that He will continue to work in us until the work is complete and that we must be obedient to the gospel which is what Christ repeatedly taught.

From the Catechism:
1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;
(And Calvinists would also agree with that statement). Again I find nothing in Paul's writings to be in discord with Catholic teaching.
Romans 10:9-10
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Uh oh... Looks like trouble for the Church at Rome. But wait, why not keep reading?
Romans 10:13
for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Now, is Paul talking about the "sinner's prayer" here? Is he talking about the quick prayer you mention at the altar call where by faith alone you are saved? Not by a long shot. If the proponents of sola fide can say that James 2:24 is taken out of context, then I can say this is taken out of context as well.

Here Paul quotes the prophet Joel who was of course Jewish as was Paul. Although Paul is writing to a predominantly gentile audience (I assume), he understood the context of Joel's original prophecy. In the Jewish culture and throughout redemptive history, the people of God turned to God or turned away from God not by merely believing or disbelieving but by obedience or disobedience. James makes this point in his second chapter when he talks about Abraham and it is often taken for granted in Paul's .

In this light, we can see how calling on the name of the Lord entails much more than merely believing that Christ died and raised, but by living in obedience to the gospel (thereby truly making Jesus Lord of your life). The only way to truly confess Jesus as Lord is to make Him your Lord. This understanding fits very well with the rest of Paul's writings, with the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the teachings of our Lord; namely - "he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (and not "he who is saved will stand firm to the end" and "you are my friends if you do what I command you".

Thus far I think I have reasonably demonstrated that the book of Romans can be easily reconciled with Catholic dogma. Even up to this point however, I would contest that merely saying 'it can be reconciled' doesn't do the Catholic position justice. To be more specific, the Church included Paul's writings in the Bible for a reason. That reason is that his teaching was exactly in unison with the traditions of the Church handed down over the centuries by apostolic succession.

Now on the subject of obedience, let's not forget how important obedience was to Paul (as I've already shown in my previous post a couple of examples):
Romans 1:5
Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Notice obedience and faith are not contrasted; they work hand in hand. They are not contradictory and neither are they independent. Like James said, what good is faith without works (obedience)? And Paul said (in not so many words) you cannot have obedience without faith. Remember, Paul is calling Gentiles to obedience, not to faith (alone). Faith comes first of course. Why would you obey Christ if you had no faith in Him?
Romans 1:16
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Paul cant seem to make up his mind. Is it faith or obedience?! But, we all agree that he isnt contradicting himself. We just disagree as to how he is not contradicting himself. Does everyone who believes in Christ receive salvation? It depends on what you mean by 'believes'. Does merely believing He was a real person earn your way? We all say no. How about believing in His resurrection? Now the lines start to get fuzzy and we have some splits on beliefs. Then what did Christ mean when He said 'I will spew luke-warm Christians out of My mouth'? How could they be called Christians if they didn't believe in the resurrection? (Forget so called Catholics who are denying the resurrection, calling for women's ordination and voting in politicians who are pro-abortion.. funny how its the same ones doing all three huh)

Obviously, Christ teaches that many who believed in Him (in at least some capacity) will not make it into heaven. Later on we will see some of Paul's writings that say pretty near the same thing as well. I know we are talking about Paul's writings now and not Christ's. (Because obviously if you read the gospels, Christ's words are much more explicitly anti-sola fide) But it is important as Christians to be able to read and understand what we believe to be infallible in light of what came before which we know to be infallible. In this case, it is the words of Christ preceding Paul's. Protestants have distorted Paul's writings to the point where some secular scholars have claimed that Paul founded Christianity. Indeed, many Protestant beliefs are grounded solely in Pauline teaching but not well expressed anywhere else in Scripture (which is why if you debate the subject, the proponent of sola-fide will usually quote exclusively from Paul). That is why it is extremely important to read Paul's writings in light of revealed truth (the words of Christ) and know that whatever Paul meant, he must not be contradicting Christ our Lord.
Romans 2:9-10
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Romans 2:14
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,
Paul goes back to the issue of obedience again in perfect harmony with Catholic teaching and the teaching of Christ (and the rest of Scripture). We must acknowledge the primacy of grace and the channel of faith, but we must not deny the necessity of obedience to our Lord. (For if we do not obey, we cannot call Him Lord).

And once more, notice the contrast between these two verses:
Romans 9:30
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;

Romans 15:18
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—
Paul has led the gentiles to obedience by what he has said. He did this because obedience is required as is faith.
Romans 13:1-2
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
I was particularly interested in that passage as again it clearly demonstrates the need for obedience. I suppose it could be argued that the judgment Paul speaks of is earthly judgement but I dont think that fits seeing how he is interested in showing that the authorities derive their authority ultimately from God and therefore.... if you disobey them you will bring judgment (from God) on yourself. I think it follows that this judgment is the kind awarded in the afterlife and not on earth.

Though Christianity has many paradoxes (and as G. K. Chesterton put it, 'more than any Eastern religion') the paradox of our actions not having eternal consequences is not one of them. We know by observing God's creation that 'every action has an equal reaction'. Our sins must be accounted for as Christ said:
"I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."(2)
And so Paul, Christ and the Catholic Church all teach in unison, obedience is necessary. You will be held responsible for every sin you commit. Only by Christ can you be freed from these sins. That is the doctrine of the Church. This is what Paul preached and that is what the Church shall continue to preach until Christ returns. Amen

This concludes the book of Romans. The rest of his writings are a piece of cake... I think I'm going to lump them all together in my final installment of my summary on Paul's Catholicity.